Category: Fiction

Short pieces – character interviews, world-building exercises, short stories – that may, or may not, be related to the works in progress.

Dorthund’s ‘On Magical Artefacts’

ON MAGICAL ARTEFACTS1 Translator’s Note: This text, though incomplete and containing many lacunae, is still of immense interest. From what remains, and the hints we can garner from what was vandalised, we are able to determine a great deal about the state of, and attitude towards, magical objects in Dorthund’s world, and thus a great deal about what should be possible in our own. There are several distinct types of magical artefact, those common objects bespelled to perform specific functions, objects of power, and possessed objects. Many of you will already have assumptions about the nature, use, and construction of magical artefacts, but few, if any, of those assumptions will be accurate, and those that are, are of only limited validity. [Unknown number of paragraphs, or even pages, missing.]2 A magical artefact is any object that has been bespelled or enchanted to perform a particular task, whatever the task, whatever the form. From this, we see that all Objects of Power, and all Possessed Objects, along with every form of common tool carrying a ‘never dull’ or ‘fly true’ enchantment, falls within the category of magical artefact. The extreme inclusiveness of this definition has caused many scholars to attempt the creation of subdivisions within it, the most common of which use the distinction between possessed artefacts and magical artefacts, that is, between those objects that contain a governing awareness and those that do not. This is disingenuous. There are objects that have awareness that are not possessed and possessed objects…

On The Berserk-Gift

[Translator’s Note: The first part of this book was damaged beyond the recovery of anything that made sense. All that was left was individual words and fragments of words. Fortunately, most of the section on the Berserk-Gift, short as it was, remained largely intact. It made for fascinating reading.] Even as recently as forty years ago, it was believed that the Berserk-Gift was a unique talent derived from the gods, and that it was entirely homogeneous. Hersmann’s1 great study, delving as it did into the particulars of all the known gifts, revealed both of these assumptions to be false. Her study showed that the Berserk-Gift is of the same type as both the Mage-Gift, which allows the mage to summon magic, or the Shifter-Gift2, which allows the shifter to change their form, and can, with proper training and the correct trigger, be turned to either of those ends. (See the sections on Mage Gifts and Shifter Gifts for a more in-depth discussion on the nature of those particular Gifts.3) The Berserk-Gift is unique from Divine Frenzy (see ‘On the Nature and Origin of the Gods’4 for more on this), though the two were, and, all too frequently still are, mistaken for each other, a fact which led to the misapprehensions surrounding the Berserk-Gift. The simplest way to differentiate the two, and the proof used by Hersmann, is that in a case of true Divine Frenzy the possessed loses all control over their own actions, and all awareness, not only of…

Interview with Strikes-With-Venom

This is an interview I did with Venom some time after writing Battle Pits… I mean, Gladiator. The publisher re-titled it. I left the first part in because, though it’s not really about Venom, it does indicate the sort of situation I was in when I did the interview. Also, some people complained about the sparsity of the description in Ba… Gladiator. So here’s a description of the town where I met Venom, written by me while I was… let’s say, a little the worse for drink. Enjoy.   Strikes-with-Venom hasn’t shown up yet and I’m bored. I’m also soused. I’m sitting in a stinking little tavern in a smelly little town in what can only be called, by an immense effort of imagination, the last civilised country on the western edge of the D’nuran Empire. A couple of days west of here lies the escarpment which marks the actual border, but there’s nothing between here and there but empty rolling hills occupied only by the occasional shepherd. Beyond the escarpment lies the High Plains, barbarian country. The land of the Marauding Tribes. Venom’s people. Given the history between the Plainsfolk and the Empire, you’d expect there to be a strong Imperial presence along the border. You’d be forgiven for thinking there was a chain of fortifications of impressive size and strength here. No one would laugh at you for believing that the border was garrisoned by highly trained legionnaires who are constantly patrolling. The lack of laughs wouldn’t change…

Identity Thief

“What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you?” asked Pin Wei. Reaper leaned back against the rock and drew deeply on his pipe. He held the smoke in while he thought about it, then sent up a long plume of smoke that broke up in the breeze that was whipping over the top of the narrow gully they were taking shelter in. “I dinna ken ifn it be th’ strangest, but t’were unusual, an’ all th’ fault o’ a young minstrel what liked ta embellish me stories an’ make ’em more… palatable-like.” Pin Wei snorted. “You’re always blaming minstrels for the way people treat you.” Reaper chuckled. “An’ ye dinna think tis all yer fault, eh lass?” “It’s not!” Reaper nodded. “Mebbe ye be right.” Pin Wei smiled. “But then ag’in, mebbe ye be wrong. Ye tell me.” He took another pull on his pipe and this time sent a flurry of smoke rings sailing away out of the gully. “So, this were a long span back, afore anythin’ what happened in Ishmek. I’d been out an’ about in th’ world some years, mostly fightin’ as a mercenary in one war or ’nother. People was startin’ ta know me name an’ ta want th’ glory o’ havin’ killed me, but dinna yet know th’ futility o’ tryin’.” Pin Wei snorted. Reaper quirked an eyebrow at her but when she didn’t say anything, he kept on with his story. “I’d just finished up a contract fer a bunch o’ merchants…

Last Stand

  I’d never given death much thought, never had much reason to despite the fact that I kill people for a living. When you’ve been killing people for as long as I have, you’ve seen it all. Death isn’t some mysterious thing to be scared of, it’s some guy in a bar sticking a rusty knife in your guts while you try to throttle him, or a guy with an axe knocking your brains out as you lie in the mud, or any number of other scenarios. I’d been death for enough people that I’d grown comfortable with the idea that, some day, someone I met would be mine. After that I guess I just put it all out of my mind and got on with the work of being other people’s death. I didn’t think about dying, not until that last day when I knew it was inevitable. I know, I’ve often said that nothing is impossible, nothing inevitable, but I lied. Some things are. The Captain told us that General Borgensen had chosen my mercenaries to be the rear guard. We were to hold the pass as long as possible and give the rest of the army time to retreat and regroup. That was shaite, and we all knew it. The general’s feet hadn’t touched the ground once between him hearing that the enemy was coming and him clearing the edge of camp. The regular army, mostly green recruits who couldn’t hold a spear straight let alone use…

Vampire Hunter

    Jonathan saw the demon’s eyes glaring balefully through the dark and the snow while he was still only half-way up the path. Their glow, glinting off the heavy brass ring in the demon’s mouth, followed him as he stepped carefully though the snow drifts towards the front door. He stopped at the bottom of the portico stairs uncomfortably aware that the demon could probably see the steel barrel of the Remington derringer through the heavy material of his right coat pocket. He had to screw up his courage before he could approach the demon any closer. With every step he took its grin grew wider, its eyes more sardonic. By the time he stood in front of it, his shirt was soaked with nervous sweat. The demon was even uglier and scarier when seen up close. He stared in fascination as the demon strained, soundlessly, to work itself free from the heavy oak door in which it was buried up to the shoulders. Its skin was covered in bronze edged black scales that seemed to ripple in the lantern light. After staring at it for several long moments, Jonathan grasped the ring clenched between its teeth and raised it. The demon’s tongue rasped across his fingers and he jerked his hand away, releasing the knocker which fell onto the demon’s fore claws with a heavy clanging thud that echoed through the house. Jonathan jumped away from the door. His fingers, already burned from where he had carelessly handled…

Yukihime

  Long ago, before mortal foot had touched the earth and Fuji-sama was still shaking the ash from his head, Yukinomau-O-Kami, Goddess of Winter, and Kitanokaze-O-Kami, the God of the North Wind, sported amongst the islands of the blest, dancing together in the swirl of the blizzard-tossed snow. In those days of endless dance the love Yukinomau and Kitanokaze held for each other knew no bounds, and neither did their joy in the icy storms with which they played. There came a time, however, when Amaterasu-O-Mi-Kami called together all the deities of heaven and earth and proposed the creation of mortal beings. The proposition was greeted with acclaim by many of the gods, for they sorely felt the lack of worshippers. Kitanokaze and Yukinomau, however, laughed at the idea thinking that they had no need for mortal playthings when they already had the mighty blizzard with which to play and no need of the love of mortal beings when they already had each other’s. Amaterasu was not pleased with their laughter, however, and, concerned lest the two cause havoc with her plan, she conspired with Susano-Wo, the mighty Lord of Storms, to entrap the two troublemakers in mortal forms until her plan had reached fruition. The Lord of Storms agreed for he believed that Yukinomau and Kitanokaze had stolen the great blizzard and unleashed it unseasonably upon the southern lands, for which the other gods had blamed him. Susano-Wo called Kitanokaze and Yukinomau to his great palace, feigning sympathy with…

Why would anyone want to be a mage?

Why would anyone want to be a mage? It’s a dangerous profession, barely one in twenty survive the apprenticeship, and fewer still survive to a ripe old age. The competitiveness of mages is well known and the attrition rate of their competitions is higher than that of birds at a duck-shoot. Is it any wonder, then, that mages are cantankerous bastards, suspicious to the point of paranoia, who have higher body-counts than most great heroes? Why, I ask you, would anyone want to subject themselves to such danger, loneliness, and fear? And what do you answer? Nothing. You answer nothing because you’re not a prat. Only prats answer rhetorical questions posed by authors. But if you were here, and if we were face to face, and if you didn’t feel that you’d be forced into pratdom by answering the question, you’d still have trouble with it. After all, you’re not a mage, and therefore you are, supposedly, and of reasonable expectation, at least moderately sane; so how could you know the answer? That’s right, you prat, you couldn’t. That is, after all, why you are reading this, if you still are. So, why would anyone want to be a mage? It’s an obvious question that hasn’t been looked at with any degree of seriousness for at least seven millennia. [Don’t get me started about the ancient records. They’re there if you know where to look, and know how to read them.] This monograph is an attempt to redress this egregious…

Golden Kangaroo

We hated the road even before they made it, but there was nothing we could do. A big shot in the city decided the track we had wasn’t good enough so the graders and steamrollers came leaving the scars of progress behind in a stinking black oil slick that cut through my fields. It was a long time before we learned to live with the rush and roar of the late night trucks. The house always shook when a particularly heavy load went past and plaster would fall from the ceiling into our breakfast, or into our eyes. We sometimes saw them with little red kangaroos painted on their doors, like the fighter pilots in the war, proud of their kills. The garden was never the same. The flowers didn’t like the fumes any more than we did, and our kitten was roadkill before it was a cat. That should’ve been a warning, and it was, though we didn’t see it that clearly at the time. We kept the critters indoors after that. We should’ve done the same for the kids. “Go out and play,” we said, “but keep away from the road.” And they did, usually. But a garden is no place to learn to ride a bike, so our son went out on the road. The first we knew of it was our daughter’s screams and we thought, “Just another fight,” but it wasn’t. We went out and found his bike — squashed flat, wheels bent at odd…