Sorrow Part 11: The High Bloods – Latest in the Epic Fantasy Series

Fantasy Sorrow Part 11: The High Bloods

“To find the truth, seek the High Places.”

Sorrow Part 11: The High Bloods is now available from Musa Publishing. Here is a brief synopsis and an excerpt.

An uneasy peace has descended over the World Apparent. The Winter Realm and the Old Kingdom are recovering from the cataclysmic events of the Twelfth Reconquest, while in the south, the Djanki and the Sharib retreat to lick their wounds from the battle at Temple Rock. To the east, the divided Empire of Temeria is nearing the end of a long civil war, in which rival Generals have fought like mad dogs to seize the long-vacant Imperial Throne.

Sorrow leads Bail into the mountains in search of an ancient relic, escorted by the savage tribe who dwell there. Colken’s path leads him onto higher ground where he is met by someone, or something, unexpected. Meanwhile the infamous pirate, Captain Wade, has a meeting with the Raven Queen that could go either way…

Excerpt:

Up, and further up. The Heartstones had been buried somewhere in the highest, remotest, and most inaccessible regions of the High Places, above the snow line, where even the mountain goats and snow lynxes preferred not to tread.

“It couldn’t be easy, could it?” panted Bail, though he knew it was folly to waste breath. The air was becoming lethally thin, and his lungs burned with the mere effort of expanding and contracting.

For the third time that morning he stopped and leaned against a handy tree for support. He closed his eyes, fighting against the pains in his chest and preferring not to see the contempt of his companions.

Amkur Beg had sent eight of his best warriors to accompany Bail and Sorrow on their quest for the Heartstones. Tall, rangy, lean ruffians in gray robes and goatskins with long hooked knives stuffed into their belts. They chewed and spat and scratched themselves, careless and leaning on their spears like negligent sentries after too many illicit brandies.

“These are the best I have,” said Amkur, “and will see thee safe. I cannot give more, for greater numbers might attract the attention of the other clans.”

Bail could not argue with that, and Sorrow said nothing. The boy had been very quiet since coming to the tower, watching events unfold with his bland, owlish expression. Bail was convinced that Sorrow was capable of sorcery, especially since Amkur had nearly choked to death at such an opportune moment. Bail had always felt uncomfortable in Sorrow’s presence, which was one reason he had tried to sell the boy into slavery.

Thus he set out from the tower in an uneasy state of mind, troubled by fear of knives in the dark and magical fingers clutching at his throat. A suspicious and vengeful character himself, he had no doubt that both Sadaf and Sorrow wanted to exact revenge on him, and would do so at the earliest opportunity.

“We must push on,” insisted a familiar childlike voice. Bail opened his eyes and looked wearily down at Sorrow. The boy didn’t seem affected by the altitude, and in the three days since they left the tower he had kept up a steady uncomplaining pace that impressed even the hard-bitten clansmen. By contrast, Bail feared he would soon have to be carried, even though such an admission of weakness would destroy any respect the High Bloods had for him.

Had he more energy, he would have snapped back a retort. As it was, he played for time by admiring the view. Below him the broken ground dipped steeply, leading precipitously into the heavily misted forests the party had spent days climbing out of. Rows of lesser peaks spread out far to the south, putting Bail in mind of jagged teeth or the spine of some monstrous skeleton, and brooding giants dominated the central mountain range. Green forests clung to the lower slopes of these ageless peaks like mossy growths of beard, and layers of snow and ice crystals shimmered at their peaks.

“Come, we have no time to stop and stare,” Sorrow said irritably, plucking at the hem of Bail’s jacket. The boy trotted away, clambering up the loose shale and pebbles as nimbly as a mountain goat. Sadaf and his warriors followed in silence, though one or two glanced sideways at Bail. He took a moment longer to gather himself for another effort, and then trudged after them, sucking in lungfuls of the thin air and breathing slowly.

“Three days,” Bail managed to croak. “Three days. That is all I give you.”

Advertisements

Sky-Birth – a 900 Club Short Story

The 900 Club

Original short fiction from five very different authors

The 900 Club has published its five short stories for June. Once again we have five very different stories so please check it out for some original writing from five diverse writers.

My story for June is below, if you like it why not have a look at what my esteemed colleagues are doing over at The 900 Club.

Sky-Birth

Tracy watched the dustman from her window, one hand caressing her swollen belly, the other holding a cigarette. Jason, his name was, she had told him she was on the pill, but she had lied. Jason ought to have been handsome – he was so good looking in school – but the years of fags, kebabs and lager had expanded him and stained his once perfect teeth. Jason was as oblivious to the tragic waste of his own life as he was to the life he had created inside Tracy’s womb on that rainy morning eight months previously.

She took another pull on the cigarette and inhaled deeply as he tossed another black bag of rubbish into the back of the truck. The bag split open, spilling beer bottles and shitty nappies onto the pavement. Jason ignored them as he banged his fat fist on the side of the truck and it moved on down the street, leaving a trail filth and detritus behind it. She watched him disappear up the street and wrinkled her nose up at the sight of what he had left behind. The man disgusted her, but it wasn’t the man she had desired, it was his seed.

She would love her baby of course, after all, it was the perfect accessory, and she was looking forward to the sky-birth. Sky-births were expensive but they were all the rage. The money had to cover the hire of parachutes, the photographers, the midairwife and the doctor, and of course the specially-made, tiny parachute for the baby. There was also the fee for the specialist Sky-Birth instructor and the equipment which would be thrown from the plane alongside them. She had had a chat with the Sky-Birth instructor, signed the papers, and now all she had to do was give them a call when her contractions started and she would be picked up by the special Sky-Birth Ambulance service and driven to the small private airfield for take-off.

Tracy had made a short list of names for the baby, but her plans had been scuppered when she found out she was having a boy. She had wanted a girl so she could dress it in pink velour and parade it around the estate like a noisy, puking doll. But now she was stuck with a boy. She had whittled down her new list of names to two, and she was struggling to decide between Daviator and Ryanair.
She turned from the window and laid down on the couch. Jeremy Kyle was on telly, he was talking to a greasy looking lump of gristle with a beard that looked like it had been drawn on with a biro and a pink, low cut, skin-tight t-shirt. His sleeves were rolled up to reveal a tattoo of a Golf GTI on his right arm. The footer at the bottom of the screen said CONNOR, 19: My out of control pitbull babysits my premature triplets.

Tracy stubbed out her cigarette and lit another. She liked his tattoo, maybe I’ll get one for the baby, she thought. Suddenly she felt a strange sensation in her stomach, her muscles involuntarily tensing, moving like a wave up her abdomen. She wondered if that was a contraction or just the result of last night’s Lambrini. Soon the feeling repeated itself, and continued to do so more frequently. It was time to call Sky-Birth.

* * * *

“Ok Tracy,” said the doctor, “try to relax, we’re going to get you into your parachute and we’ll be taking off shortly.”

Tracy lay on a stretcher in the back of the aeroplane. Her contractions were coming more frequently now and she knew it wouldn’t be long before the baby came. The midairwife held her hand and smiled reassuringly while the doctor strapped her in. All the time the two photographers moved around her, one filming, the other taking photos. As she had specified in her Sky-Birth plummet-package, the voices of Westlife sang Flying Without Wings on a permanent loop in the background as they took off.

“Now, let’s just go over the procedure one final time,” said the doctor, his voice raised over the drone of the engine and the drone of the boy band, “once the baby is out, the midairwife will hang on to it while I slip it into its parachute. Then I will cut the umbilical cord, as soon as I have done that, I will give you the signal to release your parachute. It is important not to get your parachute cord and your umbilical cord confused.”

Tracy nodded at the doctor, unable to speak due to her oxygen mask. The photographers continued filming and snapping. The next thing she knew she was hurled from he aircraft.
The air rushed past her as she fell through the sky from four thousand feet, her legs spread wide, the doctor holding up a card with the word PUSH written on it. She pushed with all her might, the force of the wind at her back seemed to help, and suddenly little Ryanair gazed at her with a bewildered expression.

The doctor cut the umbilical cord and gave her the thumbs up, and she pulled  the cord on her harness.

“Bollocks,” she said aloud, as the baby, the doctor, the instructor, the midairwife and the photographers disappeared high above her, and she plummeted to her death.

New Cover Art: Robyn Hode (III) by David Pilling

Historical_Fiction_Hode_III_CoverV3Here is my latest piece of cover art. Robyn Hode (III) is the third in the series that tells the tale of Robin Hood with more graphic realism than ever before and is available on Amazon.

An outlaw haunts Barnsdale…

Robert Hode is now a fully-fledged member of the outlaw band that plagues the roads and forests of South Yorkshire. His popularity with the younger members of the band is growing, and soon he must challenge their leader, Gilbert Whitehand, for power. First he has to engage in mortal combat with the insane Sir Gui de Gisbourne, who has been dispatched to hunt him down.

In London, the aged knight Fulk Fitzwarin is engaged in a furious row with the King, and is banished from court after refusing to serve on a doomed military expedition to France. Disgraced and heavily in debt, Fulk has to make friends where he can. He falls in with the outlaws of Barnsdale, who show him unexpected generosity, and an unlikely alliance is formed…