The College of Mithria

Teeth

Varsania, a fantasy world currently under construction…

The College of Mithria’s red stone walls rose above the squat stone terraced villas and shopfronts of the city. Its bloody façade standing out in contrast with the emerald and topaz haze of the sprawling Muthril Delta.

It drew Kogur like a rag-winged moth to a quivering flame. The steeples, domes and jutting finger of the clock tower shimmering in the ponderous humidity. Hawkers spat at her feet when she passed, as if her grubby, shuffling presence was enough to drive away their custom. You think it’s easy being a slave? she imagined challenging them in her frail voice. I’ll wait until enemy hordes come and drag you from your home… See how you like the kiss of the lash. 

The skeletal alleyways of Mithria held no secrets from her. She threaded her way between rag-and-bone beggars, slaves with hollow skin sagging from their cheeks and the blundering girth of gluttonous citizens; the clock tower was a constant compass point guiding her bare feet in their weary pursuit.

Sanctuary, the word was a beacon drawing her on. What if the gates are locked? she thought, steeling her heart against the anguish which accompanied doubt. I can’t walk forever. I won’t be free much longer. The master will come for me… His guards, his snapping hounds, the dreaded lash. 

Somehow, the college seemed to hear her voiceless words. It wavered into existence through a pall of dust kicked up by feet tramping down the main street, petitioners making their way to the imperial palace under a weight of injustice and expectation.

There were thousands of them; their bodies formed a swift-flowing moat standing between her and the promise of sanctuary. Hope turned to despair as hobnailed boots clattered down the alleyway behind her. The coarse yelps of the master’s hounds as they caught her scent chilling her blood. Kogur ran and abandoned herself to the marching throng.

Follow the links to find my books on Kindle: VikingrServants of InfamyFirequeen

Advertisements

The Cannibals

Teeth

-The beginning of something new?-

The corpses lay one on top of another in a grisly tower of butchered flesh and twisted limbs. Shadowed echoes of their screams seemed to chill the surrounding air. The topmost man had been decapitated, a deer’s head sewn onto his neck, mouth open in a grotesque imitation of human surprise. Eldris staggered back and fell against the trunk of a tall pine. His bowels loosened in fear and he felt a damp warmth spread down his legs. The fragrant scent of the pine needles which carpeted the clearing wasn’t enough to stifle the sickeningly appetising smell of flesh roasting over a cooking fire. Human flesh, he realised.

Continue reading “The Cannibals”

Hilda of the Salt Marsh

tree-and-storm-2

‘Can you hear it, girl? Or are your senses dulled by that shiny trinket?’

The whispered words of the spirit weren’t hissing with venomous threat as they had been before. There was a pitiful, keening note to their song. Hilda strained her ears and listened closer. It was a mournful howl. Spinning around her on the wind. Where was it coming from?

Whatever the sound was, it died in a series of sorrowful yelps. She notched an arrow to the string of her bow and carried on through the morass. Ears and eyes straining through the screen of long grass.

‘Are you deaf, child?’

There it was again. A bark of fright and a rustle in the thick shrubs to her right. Hilda turned and dashed towards the noise. Drew the string back to her ear and loosed an arrow into the shadows. A wet thud and a heavy splash. One last howling moan.

Got you!

The seal was only a pup. It still hadn’t lost some of its soft white down. Hilda straddled the plump grey mound and sawed through its belly with her knife. Blood stained her hands crimson as she worked them into the wound. Feeling through layers of hot flesh. Fingers probing for the prize within.

Hilda almost shrieked in surprise as her hands grasped the seal pup’s heart. It was still beating. A faint tremor. Her shock subsided to joy and a smug pout played on her lips. One hand retrieved the knife and worked it through the cut, feeling for and slicing away the tubes which fed blood into the trembling muscle.

It came free in her hands. Hot, wet, blood dripping from its bulbous sides. She bit into it and savoured the thick, iron taste. Felt juices wash down her chin. Savoured the smell of it and the contented feeling in her gut.

Thank you, spirits. Praise you, Allfather.

Follow the links to find my books on Kindle: VikingrServants of InfamyFirequeen

Byrnsword Prologue

tree-and-storm-2

And now it has a prologue!

Prologue

The toll of the monastery bells rang out over sea and land. An harrowing clang which roused the people of the mainland from their beds. Nothing could be seen in the deep black of night. No fires burned on the Holy Island. All was dark and silent save for the ringing of the bells.

Six horsemen rode down onto the tidal flats, their horses’ hooves sending up showers of sand and spray. They were tall men, fierce men. Bundled in thick furs against the evening chill with broad shields on their backs, spears in hand and swords at their waists. Men ready to confront whatever demons had brought death to the island that night.

There was only one thing the bells could mean. Their noise rolled on and on without pause. Each booming clang was a word. The same word repeated over and over. With it came a command.

‘Death. Warriors of Christ, come to the aid of the faithful. Death stands at the doors of God’s house. Death.’

Their leader swung down from his mount and lifted his shield. Glanced back at the men behind and saw the fear in their eyes. He couldn’t blame them. Ahead stretched an endless rolling expanse of black before the grey hump of the Holy Island. They were God-fearing and Christ-loving men. But even a fanatic would shudder to cross the causeway by night. Sea and sand became one beneath the moonless sky.

‘It’s not safe,’ one of the men said, sounding for all the world like a coward. His leader knew better. He had seen each of them earn their scars. They were loyal men and brave. But even brave men feared to walk out into the unknown. ‘Whatever ails them can wait ’til morning.’

Continue reading “Byrnsword Prologue”

Byrnsword

tree-and-storm-2

I came up with this first chapter for historical fiction set during the Viking invasion of Anglo-Saxon England.

What I want to know is would you like to read more of Hilda’s story? If so, let me know your thoughts and I’ll keep writing it!

Chapter 1

Hammer on anvil. The crash of heavy iron striking immobile stone. One blow after another, each one followed by the roar of sparks showering the air. Howling wind from the blacksmith’s bellows. A deafening, pounding rhythm of crash, roar and howl.

Hilda sat up and threw the sealskin cloak from her face as the thundering beat throbbed in her ears. ‘Curse you, Woden Allfather,’ she spat. ‘Can’t you let me sleep?’

She stood in the entrance to her perch and lifted her face to the sky. A dark mass of clouds had gathered, stretching to every horizon. They consumed the sun, tearing its light from the heavens. Only a trickle of dawn’s warmth reached the narrow crevice in the high granite bluffs where Hilda made her hunting den.

If it weren’t for the din of the waves striking the rocks and sending walls of salt spray into the air around her, she might have slept for hours. The gods responded to her hissed profanities with the booming impact of a tidal surge against the broken cliffs below. She felt the tremor in her feet.

I won’t lodge here again. This cave might not be here when I return, if I hear the spirits rightly.

They spoke to her through vibrations in the rock, the sweep of foaming waves and the swirling clouds above. She called it the Otherworld, but it had many names. What did names matter? Spirits had no use for them, so why should she?

It was a whisper which could always be heard by those who chose to listen. Now its voice was loud, shouting an insistent warning in her ears.

‘We’re coming. We’re coming to drag down your walls of rock. We’re coming to drown your houses of stone. Your bones will be crushed to bloody meal beneath our might.’

Continue reading “Byrnsword”

A New Historical Fiction Release!

SOI3

At long last, it’s here! Servants of Infamy is now available for purchase on Amazon Kindle. I realise I’ve been yammering on about this ex-work-in-progress for a while now, so you may have forgotten what all the fuss is about!

You can find the introduction, premise and blurb in this post. Extracts are available here and here. There’s also a pre-prologue which I wrote exclusively for readers of this blog, Darkness Approaches.

Download the free sample on Kindle and let me know what you think. If you enjoy it or think someone else might, recommend it to a friend, family member, colleague or arch-nemesis.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

You can find it here on Amazon US: 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01BKWKCUE?

And here on Amazon UK: 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01BKWKCUE?

Darkness Approaches…

Oswald had tilled the fields around his home for almost five decades. Over those long years of honest toil he saw his home grow from a pitiful hamlet to a prosperous village. There was always a flock of newborns each year, their squalling cries disturbing his sleep.

But Oswald did not mind. His family was old Saxon stock, they had been warriors in their time. As far as he was concerned, his ancestors tilled the fields for their descendants to enjoy the bounty they produced. He was an honest man and a strong man.

Even so, his blood chilled in fear when he heard the garbled cries of the lad running through the village. It was the depth of night when even the wolves retreated to their dens. The cries rose again, carrying swift and far on the silent, still air.

‘Murderers! Villains! Help!’

He raced out of the cottage, leaving his ageing wife with a swift kiss on her pale cheek. The village had emptied onto the small common of green pasture, grey in the midnight darkness. Every man among them was armed with hoe, scythe, hammer and axe. They were many, but each showed terror on his face.

There had been foul rumours touching the fringes of their small village these past days. Rumours of wickedness, the Devil’s minions at large in the country.

‘What is it, boy?’ Oswald asked, cornering the babbling youth who they had set to watch the fields by night. ‘Is it thieves, bandits, Frenchmen?’

The lad gasped for breath and snuffled, wiping away loose tears with the grimy sleeve of his tunic. ‘Yes, mister Oswald.’

‘Yes to which?’ He slapped the boy and the youth wailed in shocked pain.

‘All of those, mister, and worse. It’s them!’

‘Who, you damned fool?’

But he knew before the boy even spoke the name. Oswald felt it in the chill which sapped the strength from his broad shoulders, saw it in the slithering arms of grey mist creeping through the village. Terror wrapped their homes in its bitterly cold embrace. The Devil’s work.

‘It’s the Black Two,’ the boy said, his voice falling to a hushed whimper.

Mutters of fear, shouts of anger. The crowd erupted around him and voiced their terrified rage. Oswald held up his muscular arm for calm and the villagers fell silent. Not one of them met his eye, every glistening orb fixed on the far end of the common.

Oswald turned and saw them. The Black Two. A pair of indistinct shapes stalking out of the mist and darkness. Their bodies wrapped in black leather, chainmail shining on the breast of a tall warrior. Cruel weapons held firm in their hands.

‘They’re coming,’ Oswald whispered as the last trace of trembling courage fled from his body. ‘God help us.’

SOI2
Coming very soon…