Category Archives: writing

randoms xi: arena fighting

The sword swings—too slow, too high—and Lake needs little effort to avoid the arcing blade

“Not good enough.” 

Nemeric grunts. His tunic darkened by sweat, eyes wide and wild, his breath hard and ragged. Not pacing himself at all. 

“Like we practiced,” Lake tells him. “One-“ 

Lake pivots from the hip, weapon raised, sweeping inwards. A clash of his sword against Nemeric’s, the shock of it felt in the fingers and forearm. 


Lake pivots into a high, fast backswing and Nemeric dances away to avoid the speeding sword point. 


Nemeric is recovering as Lake thrusts forward, a quick jab, no danger of it reaching Nemeric but he oversteps backwards, stumbles, falls flat on the sand as Lake moves in. 

“Better,” he says. 

The crowd roars in the high stands around them. Not for Lake and Nemeric. The main action is taking place on the broad wide expanse of the Square—in fact a rectangular plateau of bright white marble in the centre of the stadium—whilst Lake and Nemeric shuffle and feint and make a show of struggle, in the shadows near the edge of things. 

Nemeric is flailing around with his sword as he struggles to rise, red faced and gulping air. 

“Quickly, man, quickly,” Lake tells him. “Much longer and they’ll think your heart’s not-“ 

A howl from Lake’s right and he spins.  Continue reading

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randoms x: ‘alienist’

“I had some school days. Back at the start. Little bits and pieces anyway. There wasn’t much book learning to be had when I was growing up. On account of my situation, you know?” 

I’ve read the files. Understand all that’s been recorded about her circumstances. The next steps involve a deeper apprehension.

“Remember the Crusades,” she says. Continue reading

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randoms ix: ‘sind’

“I torched an orphanage one time,” she says. “None of the kids were harmed. We just stood outside and watched and laughed whilst the deep-red bright-yellow flames took the whole of that horrible place down to the ground.” 

I don’t have anything to offer. 

“When the constables arrived—after the fire brigade and the one unnecessary ambulance—everyone said it was me. The kids all bold and happy with the fact, you know? Proud that I had rescued them from everything that went on there. They thought the grown-ups would understand. Be grateful.” 

A pause while she lights another cigarette. No matches. She just holds it between her fingers and the end sparks and catches just-so. If there’s a trick to it I don’t see how it’s done. Something chemical or…  Continue reading

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randoms viii: matchbox signs

What did he look like?



I don’t understand what you-


Like a French actor maybe. One of those ones from the seventies or eighties? Unshaven, rail-thin and scruffy at the edges, but cool with it in a rumpled blue suit, black lace-up shoes; like he’s been out all night and doesn’t care who knows it. His nails were clean and long. That’s all I remember. I didn’t get a good look.


What was he doing when you saw him?


Walking and watching, mostly. Step a few paces from here to there, stop, and then wait and look around, like that, you know?


And that’s all you-


I saw him reach into an inside pocket of his jacket. He took something out—a few times—put them in his mouth. You could imagine the crunch. Continue reading

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randoms vii: waste ground poppies

“You can’t walk up and stick a bullet in this guy. That’s just-”

Albrecht knows better. “I’m a pretty good shot.”

“Ain’t what I mean,” Mato says. Shakes his head. His face is hard to read in the dimness of this makeshift bar. “That’s not it at all.”

Albrecht sighs, runs a slow hand across her buzzcut hair; she’s got bandages and splints on a couple of her fingers, bruises fading across her knuckles. “Okay,” she says at last. “Let’s have it then. Everything you know.”

Mato gives her nothing.

Albrecht uses her good hand to push a full bottle of bourbon across the table. Backs it up with two packs of cigarettes, still sealed, Prime quality. “Tell me about Topper.”

This story will be a sequel to this oneBroken Rooms: Observe & Report

Broken Rooms RPG

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randoms vi : caddy’s call

This one time. No, no, you aint heard this one before. I’m waiting up at Loop, you know where the big eastern rail sweeps round in a circle and there’s a whole town all crammed and jumbled up in the middle?

You aint been there yet? Sight to see, boys, sight to see. They haul all kinds of stuff out of the deadgrounds and malts. Weld it up, nail it together or rope it down to make a house or a hotel or a what-have-you.

Anyways, I got a crew out buying and selling. We’re packing up the long train for the run that afternoon. Had some troubles coming in, I can tell you. Threshers, wrigglers, sulks and that. Aint important what, though, point is I’m sitting out on a sun lounger with a third of a warm beer left, enjoying the high bright heat of the day, half looking to pick up some new blood if I can. Replacements, you know?

Figure slides up out of the salt-flat haze.

“Hear you’re hiring,” says this voice. Light enough but it’s got that deep down burr of the dust. This one aint a stranger to salt and desert, that’s a true bill.

“Mayhap,” I says. “If you got a skill worth paying for that is.”

I stand up then. Move a little so I can get a better look at her, out of the direct blaze of the sun above.

First off, it dint look good. I could lie and spin it so I knew right ways what I had here but, shit, Caddy’s call is a straight shout and if I aint got that then what am I, yeah?

So here’s the truth.

Stood real tall, so there’s that, bit skinny to my mind, delicate, know what I mean?

Dressed up fine. Brightland chic. Heavy boots and grubby jeans, one them high collared jackets with way too many buttons, long duster coat down to the ankles. Unruly black hair trapped and tied back out of the way. Pair of goggles and a wide brimmed hat in one hand, pistol at her belt.

Really, dint look like much. Looked like a costume more than anything, like a kid at play. Young enough to be my own daughter, hells sake.

Still. Brightland grows you fast, don’t it?

Continue reading

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things of the past iii

Third in an erratic series of references to things I have written in the past:

“Under the Green Witch” from the Fox Spirit Books Girl at the End of the World anthology, volume 2.

girl at the end of the world volume 2

This is the second of two epic volumes containing tales of all manner of apocalypse and the varied stories of the women and girls who have to deal with what’s left.

Full details and links here: Girl at the End of the World

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things of the past ii

Second in a sporadic series of references to things I have written in the past:

“Phased” from the Fox Spirit Books GUARDIANS anthology.

This little book contains a number of excellent short works in various genres, and is a part of the Fox Pockets line of compact and bijou short fiction collections.


“Phased” is a story about love. Sort of. Ish.

Available for cheap at Amazon: Guardians (Kindle Version)

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randoms v

First thing Malley thinks when she hears the sound of a child, crying:
Is this a trap?
Has to wonder, given the state-of-the-world and the way-of-things because, no question, there are some out there who’ll trick and trip and snag the unwary anyway they can. That’s just being a sensible rat, isn’t it? That’s just being safe.
Quiet, and slow, Malley shuffles forth on soft paws, shoves her gleaming sword back over her shoulders (where it hangs loose and close to hand on a twist of waxed twine). Narrows her eye and takes a peek.
She’s only got the one eye, these days, on account of not being careful some years before, but that’s a different tale.
Malley looks out from a hiding place under a damp jumble of discarded planks and plastic sheeting.
In the shadow of the grey stone arches of the eastern bridge, a stretch of churned earth riverbank, smeared with muddy snow and frozen solid in the chill of a winter not ready to leave the stage.
The river surface, at the water’s edge, still showing white and solid; the ice so cold and firm you could walk on it, if you fancied, if you didn’t mind the dark depths beneath.
Malley hears that sound, like a baby, mewling in frustration and fear.
A sudden movement-
Just ahead, something grey and murky shifts and squirms, a few steps out upon the ice.
A bag of some kind, Malley reckons, and within the bag a shivering shape is moving, crawling, struggling. Malley hears it crying out again, trying to get free. Not a baby after all then, but something else in need of help.
Something dangerous.
Help the helpless, her old mam used to say, didn’t she?
Even if-
Yes, her mam would be telling Malley now, ‘cos you don’t know if one day you will be the helpless one. Right?
Malley looks at the quivering bag on the icy river.
She looks back towards the tumble of planks and plastic that covers an entrance to her current home; safe, warm and secure.
Malley rubs the patch that covers her lost left eye.
“Right you are, mam,” she says, and she goes to find some string.
Continue reading

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randoms iv

“How did we build the Crow Boy?” Mourne said.
Elgar considers this for a moment.
“That’s a very good question-”
“Rhetorical,” Mourne told her.
Elgar nodded like she understood. There’d been a lot of that.
“Adding a shade of drama to the affair, see?” Mourne continued. “A touch of the old theatric, you follow?”
Elgar—just an apprentice—not really following at all, but she kept it quiet. Eyes open, beak shut. Just here to learn. That’s the way.
“This is just rehearsal,” Mourne went on. “They like a bit of palaver, up at the Parliament.”
He nodded his dark head and cast a glance around the crowded, cluttered jumble of his—being polite—laboratory. Mourne tutted and sighed to himself for a heartbeat or two.
“How did we build the Crow Boy,” he said.
Tap of his talons on the grey stone floor, Mourne answered his own question: “We crafted with blood.”
Collected from a human child, Elgar knew, gathered up with a square of silk on a summer’s day. Raised voices, running feet, a harsh and desperate wailing; quite did her ears in, that did.
Another tap on hard stone. “We worked with breath,” Mourne said.
Stolen from a different, sleeping child, Elgar remembered, and captured cold in a bright crystal globe.
One last tap. “We built with bone.”
Mourne’s tone serious, solemn, and the words faded slow into dead air.
“Well,” Elgar said. “It weren’t quite so straight as that…”

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