Saturday, May 26, 2007

Friday Snippet

I am still not finished with what I thought was going to be a nice little short story. No Beast so Fierce is now up to about 15,000 words, and if I had any inclination at all, I could make it into a nice little novel. Who knows?

I have not been feeling well, though, and that's made the writing rough. I'm going to just add a little bit past what I'd snippeted last week. I hope you still enjoy it.


A thousand years ago. Some people you never forget.

She plainly hadn't forgotten me. Delora paused only long enough to say something to the man standing next to her. I saw his hand reach for what had to be a weapon, but she patted his arm and waved him toward the back of the lounge and the private rooms beyond.

Then she walked toward me. Well, stalked is a better term. O tiger's heart, wrapped in woman's hide. I had thought of Delora the first time I heard those words said on stage, and wished she had been there with me in London. Delora moved with the stance of a human-shaped tiger, ready to spring at anything that got in her way. People moved aside without thinking much about it, and watched her when she passed.

I moved a little to the right and leaned against the wall, a smile taking hold of me despite my better intentions. She looked good -- tall, sleek, and tan-skinned. The years had been good to her, and she hadn't changed much at all. Shorter hair, but still a lovely dark auburn color. She wore a plain black jacket and pants that looked manly, but still didn't quite hide all her curves. The style suited her. I had seen her in armor of one sort or another often enough, but never in a dress. I'd seen her in nothing at all a few times as well...but best not to think about that just now.

She had a weapon at her belt, but it had to be registered or else she wouldn't have gotten it onto the train. That made her a professional of some sort, and I wondered what work she did here. I wondered if we had chanced on this train together because we sought the same enemy.

"Anatoli," she said, finally stopping in front of me, one hand on her hip and her eyes flashing in anger. "You were supposed to meet me in Rome."

"Rome? I thought it was Athens. Ah well, here we are."

She snorted at that answer, as though a thousand years, and another world entirely, made no difference to us. A little grin played at the edge of her wide mouth and the anger melted away. "You look well, Toli. I see you still wear your hair long. It suits you."

"And you've cut your hair. It looks good. Enough small talk. Do you have a private room?"

Her eyes went wide and her cheeks colored a little.

"I didn't mean --" I began in haste, and felt myself flush with embarrassment. "We don't have time --"

"If we don't have time, then no one does."

The door slid closed behind me and I gave it a quick, nervous look, plainly not lost on my old friend. The train immediately started to move before I turned back and she staggered a little. I caught hold of her arm -- shivering at the feel of her beneath my fingers, only a little cloth between us. I thought she did as well, and I let go again in haste.

"We have a problem, Del."

"We --" She stopped, her mouth clamping shut for a moment as she shook her head. "Hell. Don't tell me you still hunt vampires."

I gave a single nod of my head. She drew breath in, a little hiss of sound between her perfect white teeth, and glanced around the room. "Do you know which one it is?"

"I know six of them. I suspect there might be more."

"Son of a bitch."

"Was that personal toward me or just things in general?"

"Both." She drew a hand to the side of her head and tapped something at her ear. Electronics; I suspected she had just given some kind of warning to her partner. I wondered, briefly, about their relationship -- but I wasn't fool enough to ask. "Let's get a table and talk."

"Here in public?" I said, startled.

"No one will pay any attention unless we draw it to ourselves," she replied and took my arm. "Don't start yelling about vampires or change and we should do fine."

I lost the ability to argue with her in that moment when she took hold of me. I think she knew I would, too, and she led me across the room and to the most secluded table she could find. I regretted when Del let go of my arm, and I dropped into the chair with a bit of a graceless thump. Emotions raged in ways I hadn't felt in centuries. Oh, there had been plenty of other women since Del. I'm no saint, after all, and wolf-bred hormones can come on pretty strong. But Del...

Del was fire and I was ice. We should not have mixed, the cat and wolf, but after our first snarling match in an alley -- Was that Persopolis? Or perhaps it had been Troy, during that ill-fated war. We soon found that we had more in common than a penchant to go wild. We had stayed together a long time -- far longer, in fact, than we had been apart.

She ordered tea for both of us. Professional -- we were both on the job, and though I would have gladly bought the finest wine this crate on wheels had to celebrate being with her again, I knew it wasn't wise. As I settled in the chair it conformed around me and I let myself relax into it. I did like some of the modern conveniences of life. Comfortable counted for a great deal after the years I'd spent out in the northern wilds, sleeping in caves.

And as I thought that, the train surged up out of the long underground tunnel and into the bright light of day. Windows brightened on the right and left, and a long line of skylights ran through the middle of the room. I blinked, looking out the window at the long stretch of open ground. I wanted to run, just then. I really wanted to let loose and run with the wind.

Or just run away. Stupid feeling, since I had put myself here. I mentioned that problem with stupidity, didn't I? I gave a quick look around the little area and spotted two of my prey. They appeared to be scouting out the appetizers. I saw one lick her lips and wondered how the hell the humans missed that look of hunger.

A man came to the table and settled too glasses of tea before us. Del nodded her thanks and he slipped away again, but I watched, unsettled. I'd grown too used to the modern age and robos. The live service unsettled me.

"Okay, Toli," she said, her voice dropping. "Tell me what's going on."

I filled her in on everything I had heard, seen and gathered over the last few days -- all of it bringing me to this train, following a gaggle of vampires out on a romp. She didn't doubt any of it. She also didn't look happy.

"I'm sorry I didn't see you earlier. I could have warned you off --" I said.

She shook her head and gave a little flick of her long, thin fingers. "No. My employer would have demanded a really good reason not to take this train, and I suspect 'a bunch of vampires' wouldn't have done it. I suppose I could have changed... but then I'd be out looking for new work. Or more likely a new world. I'm going to go talk to my people --"


"Five others. I'll tell them that you... you're a private guard, like me. And you recognized some gang members. That'll at least give them a reason to stay on their toes."

"You can recognize vampires. Can they?"

"No, but they can be careful of everyone until I can get them cued to which ones. I'll tell them they're probably hypered and very fast."

"And that they kill for fun."

She swallowed that time and looked back at me, nodding. "They're not used to those sorts here on Terra Nova. They haven't lived in the darkness like we have, back at the edge of civilization. They aren't ready for this, Toli."

"Humans never are. That's why we're here."

Del nodded and lifted her tea, sipping at it. I knew that look -- the little distance in her eyes as she considered other things. I wondered if she thought about the work at hand, or if she remembered other days and other jobs we'd done. I thought of both in those heartbeats while the train sped on.

"I better get back before people think I'm fraternizing on company time," she said, sipped more of her drink and then stood. "I'll see you later."

I nodded and watched her walk away, an alluring view of hips moving with just the right motions. Del disappeared too quickly, but I could mark her path for a while longer by the turning of heads. Two at least were vampires. They had no idea what she was. In the old days scent would have clued them that we were not normal humans, but we lived in the age of soap, perfumes, colognes and even gene enhanced deodorants that masked all the immediate signs. It was all Del and I had going for us.

Del worried about her people, and with cause. They were not ready to handle vampires. A good thing I hadn't come on board counting on their help. I had Del, though, and that was an unexpected boon.

I needed to know how many we were going up against, since I suspected more than six. I had counted seventeen in the gang in the city -- a rather larger than normal congregation. Vampires in large groups never lasted long. They drew too much attention.

Contrary to old myths, vampires are born, not made. It is a gene passed from the male -- and they're promiscuous little bastards. They usually capture human women, hold them until the child is born, and then in quaint little vampire custom suck the mother dry and feasting on her flesh. The child is handed over to a female vampire to raise. The females are sterile and so have no children of their own.

Sometimes the babies don't inherit the gene, and those children are immediately abandoned at some appropriate spot. It's not done out of sentimentality or kindness. Chances are the gene will resurface in a few generations, and the descendant's nature will manifest at puberty. They feel the call and go to their own kind.

It's bad timing. A few more years and the child would have learned some manners. Instead, most vamps never grow out of the tough kid, punk stage. They also have no trouble eating and drinking human food -- though getting drunk is a problem, eventually overcome with enough liquor. They cannot, however, get any real sustenance out of regular food. They need human blood and flesh to survive.

They were here to feast.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday Snippet

The picture is called Catfish

I never used to be this busy, you know. I do wish I'd find time to post here more often!

This is not from the novel I've been snippeting the last few weeks. I've been taking part in FM's short story challenge in May, and though I'm only on my fifth short story, I still feel I'm doing pretty well.

This is first draft, rough, and I think it's going okay. This is the opening. I hope to get a chance to finish it up in the next couple days. Okay, maybe sometime next week.

It's been fun to write.

No Beast so Fierce

There are times in your life when you know you're doing something really, really stupid. When you have lived for an extraordinarily long time, you can even see those moments of stupidity coming with more clarity than the normal, short-lived human might.

It's never stopped me from going ahead and doing something stupid, anyway.


I passed through the turnstile at the Port Nova Center and looked toward the fastline train that would take me half a world away in the next twelve hours. I remembered when it would have taken that long to get from one town to the next... ah, but that was on another world and a long time ago. Terra Nova has turned out to be a boon for me. I had grown tired of Earth a hundred years ago. When the chance to immigrate arrived, I took it, and disappeared off into the alien back country for as long as I dared.

Sanity always drove me back to the company of man, on whatever world that might be. My condition requires that I have certain medications in order to stay sane -- common enough medications, found in any small town, and meant to treat occasional hormone imbalances. I like being sane, and having the beast within me tamed and called out only when I want him, and not worry that some emotion, some scent, some stray thought will set it loose. I've had control for so long it has made me indolent in some ways. I don't want to run too wild and risk never coming back from the wolf.

But I'm babbling aren't I? Getting on the fastline train doesn't look so crazy or stupid, right?

Except I had already seen a band of vampires in the line before me. Oh yes, werewolves, vampires -- and worse -- are out in the stars, just as they were back on Earth. We're just more subtle about our presence these days. Besides, humans have grown too mature to believe in the old horror tales of Earth, and that suits some of us who would rather not bring back the age of witch burnings. For others the disbelief in things that go bump in the night only makes humans easier prey.

And prey is what these six were looking for and why they went by train. People would disappear on this journey, just as they had disappeared elsewhere of late. Word was starting to spread, and I had heard it in coffee shops and hotels, where people gathered to gossip and pretend that they weren't worried. The fools were already drawing far too much attention, including the notice of government officials who had begun to ask questions. None of us wanted the humans to start investigating things. But these were young, pompous fools who thought themselves superior to any human who might try to catch them. Maybe they were right.

I'm sure they didn't count on me.

They slipped aboard, laughing -- a good looking group of four women and two men, tall and perfect. They'd use that charm to lure humans to them. And fool that I am, I headed straight after them because someone had to stand between the monsters and the humans. Someone had to stop them.

Just as I stepped into the long lounge I saw something that almost made me back right out again. In fact, if a rather large man hadn't blocked the way, I might have slipped off the train before Delora saw me, vampires or not. She would survive, I knew without a doubt. I needn't worry about her, and I started to step back -- but she had that extra sense, my Delora did --

Not mine anymore. Not in a long, long time. As Delora looked up, her jungle green eyes gone wide, I tried to remember the last time I had seen her. Constantinople, I thought. Just before the fall, when we were both scrambling to get away...

A thousand years ago. Some people you never forget.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Snippet Friday!

This is from A Plague of Rats again, but earlier in the story. I hope I get a chance to work on it again!

Cedric The Benevolent, The Most Holy High Priest of the Ten, slammed his beefy fist down on the table top with a resounding crash that sounded like the very doors of paradise slamming shut. His bloated face, already red, had turned nearly purple, and bulging eyes fixed on the young priest across from him.

"You will be silent!" Cedric ordered, his voice a rumble of power and hatred .

"I will not."

A full twenty other priests sat at the table. They had been silent during the tirade between Cedric and Koya, but now Koya heard an audible gasp. He paid it no attention, his own gaze still fixed on the man across from him -- the Most Holy, The Most Wise... and the Most Blind. He had hoped for better.

"There is trouble coming," Koya said, and not for the first time, even in the last hour. Cedric's mouth clamped shut, but it wouldn't stay that way for long. Koya rushed forward, repeating -- all-Gods, if he repeated it enough, maybe someone would hear him. "There is a great welling of magic to the north and west, and it does not come from any good --"

"No one else has seen this trouble!" Cedric reiterated and his beady eyes nearly closed as he glared. "And we have priests always tuned to watch the Dragon Clans and the East, boy. We're not stupid."

"I never said you were. And I don't know that it's trouble from the Dragon Clans," Koya replied. That statement won a snort of derision this time. "I can't tell you exactly where or how... but the trouble is growing, leaching magic from the land, and growing stronger with each day. It pulses --"

He had lifted his hand, but at the start of a response from the Most Holy, he lowered it again. He had lost himself for a moment in the feel of that wound, growing still. It made him ill -- the more so since the Most Holy was not listening to him.

Kenning had told him it would happen this way. Kenning had said there would be problems, but he hadn't believed the man could be this blind --

"It's out there, Most Holy. It's going to be trouble, and we should prepare as best we can."

"And you -- you alone of all of us -- can feel this trouble." Cedric's fish eyes blinked in a face grown round and soft with too many easy years as the Most Holy.

"Maybe if you tried --"

"I do not take orders from a Nort bastard priest!"

Koya visibly flinched backward. He hadn't expected that attack, though he should have, he supposed. Was that the real problem here? That he came from the magic-less north, but that he had been blessed by the gods with more magic than many of the southern priests, had been a problem for him on both sides of the border. To the north he risked being killed by those who thought magic sent by demons, and to the south he found people who treated him like a demon for having been born in the north.

Cedric's taunt had not really surprised him, though he hadn't expected it so openly. It had drawn looks of shock and dismay from some of the others, though, who probably thought the Most Holy above such mundane, pettiness. All it won from Koya was a snort of disgust, and that didn't help the situation at all.

Nothing would.

"There is a problem growing," Koya said. "And if you can't feel it, that isn't my fault."

"You have come here," Cedric said and caught himself from saying something impolite again. Koya could see it in his face. "You have come here, bringing your northern ways to our temple, demanding our attention, fabricating trouble --"

Koya leaned forward. "You really can't believe --"

"You will be silent!"

So, they were back to that again, were they? Koya felt his own lips draw back in a sneer and though he saw a look of warning from Kenning, he knew it had gone beyond any hope of a quiet understanding. Though the head of the local temple, Kenning had always been at least calm in dealing with Koya over the last four years, even when he did seem to get into a lot of trouble.

Cedric leaned forward again, his right hand in a fist and pounding on the table, obviously not ready to give up his tirade, even though Koya had stopped arguing with the old fool.

"I will not have this behavior in the temple," Cedric said. "I will not have your contamination ruining the sanctity of this place. You have brought nothing but trouble --"

"I have not --"



Koya felt the anger boil up in him, a rage that he hadn't felt in years. He'd found peace here, mostly, but this damned bigoted priest stripped it all away in a meeting that had hardly taken an hour. Koya rose to his feet, and he saw priests all around the table move as though to stop him from leaping over and attacking the old fool. He had no intention of doing anything of the like. He had intended, in fact, in walking away.

"You are crippling the Temple with your bigotry. You are blind to the truth, not because you can't feel what's out there, but because you won't look."

"Only you can see this trouble? Only you have the gift? You lack the humility needed to be a true priest --"

"Well, I'm not going to learn it from you, am I?"

He heard the gasp of several people along the table, but his eyes stayed on Most Holy Cedric whose face had gone another level of red, and who, he feared, was about to have some kind of fit. All-Gods, he had not meant --

The High Priest stumbled to his feet, his mouth as though he gasped like a fish, his hands coming up in fists. Others reached for the priest to try and calm him --

And Koya realized he was in trouble just a moment too late.

The High Priest was not having a fit. His hands moved, the fists opening, and the magic swept over Koya before he could even yelp in protest, let alone bring up any kind of defense --

His legs gave way and he tried to grab at the chair, but he tangled in his own robes. He fell, his head swimming, the world moving out from under him. More priests shouted, but Most Holy was louder than any of them.

"I will not be insulted by norter rabble! I will not have this piece of trash, flung out from his own people, to curse us -- "

"Sir -- Most Holy --" Kenning protested.

"I will teach the bastard humility!"

They were drawing the Most Holy away, his white robe conspicuous in the cloud of sky blue priest's robes. Koya could hear them going, could see the robes and sandaled feet heading away toward the distant door, voices soothing the Most Holy as they led him out of the room, and left him lying their on the floor, stunned, hurt, angry and very much afraid.

Koya tried to sit up, and got part way before his right arm gave way with an agonizing pain that left him hissing for breath. But he tried again, and fell. And again --

"Careful, careful," Kenning said as he knelt beside Koya and helped him sit up. "You fool -- didn't I tell you not to annoy the Most Holy? Didn't I tell you it would land you in trouble?"
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Friday, May 04, 2007

Friday Snippet

This is a section from A Plague of Rats

I posted an earlier section a while back but I haven't had time to work much on the story since then!

Slade looked back at Malin, the rune in his hand. "I'm going to try to call a fox, but I don't know if it will work. I'll have to do it softly, because there's something else out there that might hear the magic, and I don't want to draw it. If it does come, the fox and I may talk for awhile, but it will mostly look like we're just staring at each other and making odd noises."

"I'll be still, sir," Malin said. He thought he saw something unexpected in Malin's face just then -- a little curiosity and a touch of excitement.

He hoped this worked.

Slade tried to settle more comfortably on the ground, sitting cross-legged and cupping the rune in his hand. The first step had to be forcing calm into his thoughts, and he did that with relative ease this time. It must have been the exhaustion.

Next he had to think himself into fox terms. He had to see the world through a fox point of view... low to the ground, not bound to trails, the scent of life everywhere. Slade carefully reached out, first toward the camp of the enemies, hoping to find something along the way... but he dared not go too closely in that direction. So he turned from the northeast to the east, and moved slowly, slowly along the ground. It was long, tedious work, even though he didn't stretch out more than four miles.

The day was passing into twilight.

And he found the fox. It startled them both.

"Come to me, friend fox," he said aloud, his voice a mere whisper. It helped him to concentrate, though, after nearly losing the touch in that moment of surprise. "Come to me. I wish only to converse."

The fox didn't want to leave off his hunt. Food had been scarce with the others here.

"I wish to know about the others."

A feeling of revulsion, a hint of fear... and the fox turned and started darting through the brush, heading straight for him. Slade wanted to tell Malin, but he didn't dare let go of the little thread that brought the fox to him. He only gave a nod, and hoped Malin understood.

The fox came quickly, at least. In due time the brush beside the tree parted and a fox, molting from winter grey to red, stepped out into the small trail. He spotted Malin, and his head went down and his back up.

Friend. A boy. No harm.


Not him. But me.


I wish to know the others. I wish to see them.

It might have been too many words for the poor fox, who made a yipping sound of annoyance. Malin apologized without words, and then carefully, with the rune still in his hand, laid his fingers on the fox's head.

It wasn't pleasant to try and fit human thoughts around fox perceptions. He could see things differently, and he could sense things that were not natural to his world. It made understanding what the fox had seen an annoying mishmash of information that was not important to him.

Except the fox had been hiding in the bush when the enemy went by.

He caught onto that memory and watched -- the tramp of feet mostly... but there, the blue of a soiled robe. The fox looked up at the priest, feeling a bit of kinship with the person who went by. Koya was on his own feet, but looking haggard, bruised and miserable.

And just behind him walked someone from a Dragon Clan. At first Slade thought that meant the others were Dragon Clan as well -- but no, they were human and northers from the looks of it. Another prisoner. Perhaps it was that touch of magic that Slade could feel, out of place and unsettling --


And then, just off the side of the trail, came something else.

Huge, earth-colored, a face that turned toward them -- not right and it startled Slade out of his contact with the fox, who yipped and whined, and then quickly retreated again.

He sagged back against the tree, trembling and not certain if that came from exhaustion, the work, or what he had seen. It had been a nightmare, that creature.

"Slade?" Malin asked very softly.

"We have a problem, Malin. The northers are traveling with something... something magical, and out of place, and I don't even know what it was. But I did see Koya, briefly, in their ranks. And another prisoner, it seems. Someone of the Clans."

"Making enemies of everyone."

There was an interesting observation, and Slade gave the boy a quick nod of agreement as he tried to pull back his thoughts and figure out what they should do next. The thing was what he could feel in the woods, full of latent power, darker and tainted with blood. Not the blood of the hunt, a normal feel... but of something given to him. Sacrificed.

They had to reach Koya and get him out of there.
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