Blood Ink Tattoos by Tony Lane

I saw a competition being run by Dark Fiction Magazine. Writing an epic fantasy in a thousand words sounded quite interesting so I thought I’d give it a go. I didn’t get short-listed but I at least got a polite rejection email. I will definitely being checking the site on Wednesday to see what delights the winners produced. Below in my effort.

 

******

 

Being the only daughter of a clan chief is no fun. While my brothers get to mess about and prove themselves in battle I have to sit here and crochet with a bunch of weak-willed soppy idiots.

The seasons change, as do fortunes.

I glance up and see dragoons gallop past our tent towards the rear of our lines. The rest of the girls gasp and watch as the guard by our tent is run through. In an instant I am on my feet, reaching for the horn tied to the bloody belt of the fallen guard and sounding it.

In slow motion I watch my father turn and understand the threat. Swathes of my clan are cut down in a few heart beats. I make my decision, hitch up my skirts and retrieve a sword. I will not be the spoils of war for any man, my life is my own, and I choose revenge. Fear adds clarity of thought to my actions and I turn and face an onrushing outrider. I see his face twitch into a smile of pleasure, he sees some easy sport. I wait with the stillness of a hunter, but he sees only frozen prey.

His mistake.

Sliding past the expected strike allows me to slice open the horse, spilling my attacker. Enraged he charges.

His final mistake.

I stand there, waiting for him to make his move. He comes in hard and high, relying on power and momentum to cleave through my defence. He hasn’t fought a dancer before. I slide in under his guard close enough to breathe in his ear. With a two-handed lunge I drive the blade through him, and flow away. Before he can gather his wits I draw by belt knife and plunge it into his neck. Standing on his corpse I heave the sword free, looking for my next victim. I will not give in easily. I see a squad dismount and fan out, no longer seeing me as easy prey. Knowing that to be taken alive is to be defiled fills me with cold fury.

Suddenly a horse stops in front of the men, causing them to step back.

“I claim the girl, she is mine. Go find your own loot.”

The tall warrior leaps down and removes her cloak. The sight of a female warrior shocks me, especially one who obviously commands.

“So, my pretty, I have a choice for you”. She oozes with a confident ease that scares me to the core.

“I will not be a slave to an old hag like you”. My scorn is real, the words calculated to insult the stunning woman in front of me.

“Here is my offer. Fight me. Cut or knock me down and you go free. If I get you to admit defeat you agree to join me of your own free will.”

I stop, trying to understand. “I can survive?”

Grinning she loosens her neck muscles “I may take your head yet, if you are not worthy.”

I settle into first position as my dance instructor taught me, sword held loosely in my hand and pointing to the ground. As the blood drips into a widening pool I smile at the confused cant of the head my position elicits. Half closing my eyes I listen to the music in my head and wait for the moment. Slowly, almost sensuously we circle, mountain cats staking their territory. Then it is time. We both launch at each other. In a blur of motion I match fluid blows with the warrior in a form borne from years of dancing that comes from deep inside. My life is here and now, nothing else exists. In a dreamlike state I almost become one with my opponent until suddenly my world is flipped and I am on my back with a blade at my throat.

“Do you submit to my will and agree to be my ward and apprentice?”

“Apprentice?” I stammer.

She raises an eyebrow in a manner that suggests she will not ask again.

“I accept and pledge myself to you until my apprenticeship is complete”. Glancing up I can see the stunned crowds of warriors. I didn’t even realise we were being watched, let alone by so many. A cheer erupts and I raise my aching body from the ground.

“I am Queen Claritia, ruler of the Seven Tribes. You will address me as Preceptor. What is your name child?”

“Adela, Preceptor.”

“Good, you can obey. Keep this up and you may survive. Guards! Clear that tent. Captains! Take your tenth and secure the camp, we stay for three days.”

Things are moving so quickly, that numbly I follow Queen Claritia into the tent that used to be my father’s. I stand alone waiting for direction, for the first time taking in her beauty.

“Sit down child. We have many things to discuss. First though it is time for you to receive your first tattoo. Do you know about Living Tattoos?”

A gentle shake of my head is all I can manage as I pay attention to Queen Claritia’s tattoos that gently flex as she moves.

“This will be my first gift to you, a sign of my good intent. More than that, a reward for being the first person to provide me with sport for too long. Part of my being will be infused into my ink.”

“What design are you going to apply, and where Preceptor?”

“I could see the spirit of a Lynx as you fought, even now I can see the shape of it on your back. This will enhance your natural abilities, like the Lynx you will strike from the shadow with infinite patience.”

I didn’t scream, but I cried as I lay on the floor for hours. That was the start of my new life.

That was her mistake.

Advertisement

Angry Robot Books Subscription

I caved. After looking at my bookshelf and my Kindle I realise that I have bought and read nine Angry Robot books so far. That’s a lot by one publisher, and about a third of my reading so far this year.

It is all the fault of Matt Forbeck. It all started with a tweet of his talking about his new book Amortals.  Like any good fan I looked at what else Matt had coming up and saw Vegas Knights. I thought I’d have a look at what else the publisher was putting out. There seemed to be a theme of past-paced action. Great, just my scene as I have the attention span of a gnat.

I haven’t been let down yet, and am looking forward to several title they have coming up. Particularly Adam Christopher’s Empire State (already pre-ordered on Amazon).

I succumbed to the cunning marketing ploys that the robot overlords have employed. A tweet with a link is irresistible right? My next thought was an expletive as I realised they only release their books in epub format. So being a twitter whore I asked the question about how well they translate to mobi for my precious Kindle (yes I am stroking it right now).  The answers came back and I decided to try the Amazon Kindle Previewer. It is free and seems to have worked perfectly. There is so little effort involved, that even I could do it without getting bored.

It looks like Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis is suddenly next on my reading list.

If you are the type of person who is fine with manually moving files around between devices and installing a piece of software then doing this will not represent a challenge. If not, then it is about time you gave in to the robot overlords and did it anyway.

Oh and if you have an iPad I hate you! OK so I am jealous of you, and it is much easier for you to make use of this great deal.

Don’t hit send!

I was watching ESPN America just now and they cut to a segment of Herm lecturing some rookie NFL players on how not to be a complete idiot (somebody needs to run that course over here for Premier League players).  The last clip they showed was talking about social network and texting. Don’t hit send! In other words stop. Take a deep breath. Maybe even have a cup of tea. Then read it out loud to yourself. Is it still OK? Now you can hit send.

This advice is not just important for burgeoning sports stars. You’ve seen the Facebook examples where people rant about their boss whilst forgetting that their boss can see the post. Twitter can be even worse as it is public. You realise that means every bugger in the world can see it right?

Do not EVER slag off anyone at work on a social network. That is what spouses and barkeeps are for. Do not EVER say anything that could bring your employer or your clients into disrepute. Just received a snotty email at work? Going to reply with a cutting and slightly abusive response? STOP! Go back to paragraph one.  Sounds simple right?

This aligns very nicely with a lot of writing advice. Always read everything you write out loud. You will catch a lot of errors that way.

I still tweet or facebook about work sometimes. I may complain about extra hours or how hard I am working. I may even say people are driving me bonkers at work. I don’t name anybody, I don’t explicitly state my employers name. It is just a normal person having the normal frustrations of a working life. If you are not sure about posting something after reading out loud it is quite simple, DO NOT POST IT!

I should point out that I am quite lucky and have always worked for managers who are quite sensible and just want the job done. Usually they are way too busy to micro-manage and let me get on with doing my job. If my boss wasn’t like that you certainly wouldn’t read about it here.

See, easy right? It isn’t. The temptation in the heat of the moment can be immense. Be strong, keep your job, feed your children/cat hordes. Back to Farmville with you.

A quick edit to say that Erik Lundqvist suggests staying away from sending anything whilst drunk.

An Unexpected Guest by Tony Lane

Chuck Wendig makes me laugh, makes me think, and inspires me to try and write. Below is my little attempt at one of his Flash Fiction challenges on his Terrible Minds site.

******
Santiago de Flapwings turned up for dinner tonight. Unannounced of course.

Blustering away like a pompous idiot and somehow managing to charm my wife into a giggling mess.Doesn’t he realise she is my wife, not his? He lost out on any chance of that with his philandering and general not giving a crap about anyone else attitude years ago. Still he seems to turn up and try and turn my Brigitte’s pretty little blonde bob in his direction. Part of me wants to leave now as he flirts and compliments his way into a dinner invite, but that is almost like inviting him to sleep with her. I can’t have that, I will fight for my marriage. I will not give in like mum, I will not let somebody else come between us, and I sure as hell will not stand there as somebody else kisses the love of my life. So I will stay, and I will be calm, and I certainly will not be sitting here trying to decide whether the baseball bat or the meat cleaver would be a more satisfying weapon to use on him.I am the jealous type, I guess it is part of being an aggressive competitor in sport and work alike. It is only natural that this applies to my personal life.

I watch in stark horror as Brigitte leans over and whispers in his ear. Soft and sultry whilst glancing in my direction. I see Santiago’s eyes widen just slightly, and his grin. His fucking punch me in the face because I’m a Cheshire cat grin.

I start to rise, feel my fists clench at my side. I breathe out, not realising I was holding my breath. I sit and slowly relax my arms, concentrate on slowing my pulse. Anger management issues my arse, look at me. I am the king of control. Where’s that single malt?

Birgitte walks away and gets what looks to be one of our very expensive bottles of Rioja from that beautiful Bodega we visited a couple of years ago. I watch her walk slowly on the balls of her feet, she’s like a cat sometimes. The way her hips articulate is more expressive than I can explain. She opens the bottle and pours it for Santiago to taste. He understands the implied snub of my masculinity as well as I do. I don’t even get offered any at all. Instead Brigitte walks over to me and hands me a glass of Scotch, a nice little twelve year old blend from Skye.

Not a word, not even a glance as she hands me the glass. I am starting to envision all kinds of violence. All of them involve wiping that smug look off his face with some kind of bat.
As I sit there in my own little world I hear a noise that brings me back to the room. Annoyed at the interruption I look up to see what is happening. A glass is laying there gently rolling from side to side. The tiny amount of wine dregs slowly rolling around and making abstract patterns on the glass.

It is then that I notice Santiago has face-planted the table and is obviously out for the count. I look up to see Brigitte standing there grinning like a cat about to pounce. I am lost for words, stunned into an almost catatonic state. Hypnotised I watch as this gorgeous creature that I call my wife slowly slips out of the summer dress she was wearing to reveal some kind of Mesoamerican outfit.

“Remember that Inca ritual blade I bought at auction?” I could only nod.

“It is more than a blade, it is an instrument. It is sentient.” She seemed to grow.

“I have been planning this for months, a present for you, a gift for The Blade.” Her voice was becoming a strange lilting chant.

I’d always liked a bit of role-play, and this was getting me hard in a big way. The confirmation that it is me she loves, me she wants. At that moment I would have done anything and everything for her, and I did.

“Put him on the butchers block.”

“That’s it on his back”.

Like an automaton I carried out her commands, transfixed and excited as never before. I attached the chains to the loops I’d never noticed at the bottom of our custom stainless steel butchers block.
Once Santiago was securely stretched out over the block I was bid to cut off all his clothes and place them in the open hearth. Thus was his fate sealed, and my life changed forever.

I still remember that first cut, to be honest I remember all of them. I remember the taste of heart, liver, unused and useless brain. More than that though I remember the passionate and violent sex that followed the first of many meals. Soaked in blood not our own, savouring every fluid, imbibing his very essence.

The Blade is an eager teacher, a demanding master, but most of all it takes me beyond this realm. To a place where only the Ascended can hope to be. It is a place where ideas are shared, where the secrets of elongated life are swapped and shared like cards on the playground. It is my home and a place I will do whatever it takes to continue returning to.

I miss Brigitte, but The Blade can only have one master. She was chosen that I might Ascend. I hear her sensitivity for The Objects is still strong. After two hundred years their gifts to her have allowed scores more to be uncovered. None of our order may harm her, and for that I am truly pleased as I know that eventually she will be mine.