Monday, October 13, 2014

The Final Plug

My new collection of short stories "Forever and ever, Armageddon" is now available from Amazon in both physical and kindle versions (which will work on any kindle or the free kindle app available for most kinds of Smartphone and tablet).  It contains 24 stories (three added just before the deadline) with themes ranging from satire to horror and science fiction and I'd love it if you'd give it a read.  I'd love to know what you think.  If you liked "The Shadow Cast by the World", and a few of you seemed to, it's more of the same - although I think my writing has improved considerably as a result of finishing the novel and honing my craft, as it were.

On a personal note, I'm really pleased with "Forever..". The physical copy looks great and it's nice to have something that looks more like a book (with writing on the spine and everything) than the essentially very thick pamphlet that was "The Shadow Cast by the World".

The short story below, ThriceSlain, is one that just missed the deadline for publication as there simply came a time when I had to stop work on it.. Now I know how George Lucas feels when he can't help but keep tinkering with Star Wars.


The door flew open and Prince Braxis fell into the room and collapsed against the wall, clearly exhausted and in some distress.

"Wizard-" he spluttered, a tired trembling finger pointing at High Magus Winslow.

"Get your breath back first, boy" the Mage interrupted. He looked at the door to his chamber which had been pierced by a volley of a dozen or so arrows. Winslow shook his head mournfully and sighed – it had only been varnished a few days before. With a gesture from the mages' hand, the door slammed shut.

"I can clearly see from the damage to my door that the enemy are at our gates. In your father's absence tradition dictates that you should be out there leading the charge to repel them, but instead here you are in my chambers. Why is that, exactly?"

The Prince looked up at the mage with an expression of both guilt and sorrow. He looked to the wizards feet, ashamed of himself.

"My father was a great fighter," he muttered, "whereas I am not. I'll be honest with you, sorcerer, in that I am
scared. In this, our cities darkest hour, I have need of your assistance. There are rumours of a magical arsenal in your chambers – weapons or armour with enchanted qualities that could help those such as I with.. less combat experience."

The Mage looked down at the terrified boy and smiled, patting him on the shoulder. He stepped towards a ornately carved wooden chest that sat in the corner of the room and flung the lid open. He reached down into it and with a glint in his eye, his hand re-emerged holding the grip of a mighty silver blade.

"On your feet, Prince" said the Wizard. The young man clambered up to his feet and stepped towards the wise old man.

"This is the fabled blade ThriceSlain" intoned the Mage, "a blade said to be forged from the very metal of the armour the War God wore in his final battle against the Obsidian Mass. It grants the wielder the bravery, strength and stamina of the fabled War God himself."

He handed it to the boy with the care and reverence one would pass the most fragile and valuable of porcelain. The Prince stared at the gleaming silver blade, its reflective surface inscribed with the most arcane and eldritch of forbidden runic symbols.

The mage stared the Prince in the eye and placed his hands on the boys shoulders.

"To war, my Prince."

A look of determination formed on the face of Prince Braxis. With gritted teeth he opened the door to the chambers and stepped outside into battle, the sword gripped tight.

The cold winds of the Northern wilds that would freeze the blood of a normal man meant nothing to Braxis as his hands grasped around the hilt of ThriceSlain. His assembled soldiers in the courtyard of the castle looked on in awe as this boy prince walked towards them with the bearing of a true warrior. Howling a powerful and terrifying battlecry Braxis held the sword aloft and ran towards the enemies at the gate, his soldiers following suit – all suitably inspired and bloodthirsty.

Winslow stepped out onto the battlements and watched as the Prince tore into the front ranks of the enemy. Severed heads bearing surprised faces arced through the air as ThriceSlain sliced and stabbed a bloody path through the overwhelming forces.

The Mage smiled as the triumphant shouts from Braxis and his men drowned out the screams of the dying. The full moon glinted off the perfect silver blade as the Prince stood his ground as the enemy captain – a beast of a man – strode defiantly towards him. Blade met blade and Winslow gasped in horror as ThriceSlain was knocked from the boy's grasp, spinning its way into a pile of bodies.

"My prince!" screamed Winslow from the top of the castle. "Use any sword! I lied to you! ThriceSlain has no magical properties at all – the power was within you all along!"

His heart racing, the Prince grabbed the hilt of another sword that lay at his feet. With a howl of defiance he leapt towards the surprised enemy captain who, with a single swing of his sword, sliced the Princes head clean off his shoulders.

The battlefield fell silent.

"Oh," said Winslow to nobody in particular. "That might have been a magic one after all then. Whoops."

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