It’s that time of year again – November, when National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo) becomes the focus of a great many writers. Including me. And I’ll be working on Laeccan Waters, a name that might be a little bit familiar to people around these parts. Yes, it’s the same story as the last time (two years ago), because it’s still not done and still needs at least 50,000 words. Even though it’s already at 117,000. Apparently, I tend to write long books.
I’ve just finished rereading all of the material I’ve got in place for my story, and I’m sort of hoping today is a really really long day. Like the rest of my life long. For some reason the nerves are quite bad with this whole picking a story back up thing. With luck, it’s just anticipation being a pain in the ass. Either way, we find out tomorrow.
Wolven Kindred is a setting that’s been nagging at me for a while, sitting in the back of my head and poking away, always cropping up at odd moments of the day. And last month, I was able to get enough of it down on paper to create a 22,000 word short story, which was a nice way to get back into writing after spending the summer editing Chloddio and Ancient New. It’s a story I went into without a plot, just with the intention of getting my mind back into the writing groove. Below is a little excerpt of what resulted.
Nietan glanced up at the banner fluttering overhead. Death before Dishonour. His company’s motto, supposedly. One they had long ago ignored. Dishonour had come in many forms, but mostly taking bribes and violating contracts. Honesty was a paltry thing to cast aside for money.
The Wolven Kindred had once been better than that. They had made kings, affrighted armies and shattered empires. But that was long ago, when the Kindred numbered five thousand or more. Now, they were down to a paltry two hundred, at best. A number that was only lightly bolstered by the sixty wolven still with the Kindred. Once, there had been one of those great predatory beasts for each brother-in-arms, but like the Kindred themselves, the wolven had diminished.
“At least I have mine.” Nietan ran his hand along the thick fur coat of Ær, the wolven who had fought by his side for more than sixteen years.
Ær glared up at him. You don’t have anything. I chose you just as much as you chose me.
Nietan chuckled as Ær’s thoughts rippled across his mind. Despite the outwardly bestial qualities, wolven were almost as bright as the humans they partnered, and often larger. Certainly, when both human and wolven were covered in the banded scale armour that had long been their hallmark, most opponents would say they feared the wolven more.
Would have. These days the Kindred had such a poor reputation that they were only paid to fight bandits. Or by the desperate.
The skirmisher wandered through the Kindred’s camp, Ær at his side. Around him was a desultory mess of tents, camp-fires, and refuse heaps, the layout haphazard and crowded. What little discipline there was in the camp could be seen on the edges, where the wolven were left to rest. There, the Beastmaster had organized the company’s stores, and the little pens that housed the wolven.
The men that sat in front of the tents stank, of drink, of filth, of encrusted blood. They had fought that morning, driving raiders away from a village at the behest of the local noble. For once, they had won with no casualties, although that had been more to do with the poor quality of the bandits than any skill on the part of the Kindred.
Yet victory had not brought peace, but was instead a reminder of the legendary history of the company, and how it had fallen. And so the brothers drank, and gambled, and played idle games doing whatever they could to dull their minds. Many of the soldiers simply flopped about, trying to sleep.
Despite his status as one of the older heads in the camp, Nietan did not remember the beginning of the fall. That had happened long before he had joined the Kindred, although in the years since he had seen further degradation and despair. The Packmaster of that time had harboured grand thoughts of revitalizing the Kindred, of growing the ranks and making of them once more a force, but he had bet poorly on the victor in a war, and the Kindred had been broken on a battlefield, remade, and broken again. When the remnants had fled, and reformed afterwards, they had numbered perhaps four hundred. In the decade since, they had shrunk to their present number, through death, desertion, and all manner of leave-taking.
Nietan yelped as teeth closed around his palm. If you keep this up, I’m going to wet your bed in terror. Ær’s eyes held a twinkle, but one with too much depth to be called happy.
“What do we do, then?”
Ær shrugged. Your race plans ahead. Ours does not.
Nietan knew that to be an out and out lie, at least as far as Ær was concerned, but he let it slide, as he had ever since they had been pair-bonded almost two decades ago. Although at the moment it appeared that neither race planned ahead, for now that the bandits were defeated, and pay received from a grateful earl, the Kindred had no plans, no road ahead.
Eventually, one of the packs of wolven would decide to strike out in a direction. Their companions would follow closely. Other humans would then bestir themselves to march after friends, and thus would the camp slowly disintegrate and stream in a certain direction. But it would be uncertain, loose, and poorly organized, and one or two would wander off along the way, or decide not to bother.
But that was all some days in the future. Until then, the Wolven Kindred, kingmakers, would sleep in their own filth and vomit.
To celebrate, and to welcome people to their new website, Deepwood Publishing has made Bloodaxe, my Viking-based fantasy short, free for this week only. It takes place in a northern fantasy kingdom, and the main character is the deposed former ruler of that land. He’s a villain with a wicked sense of humour, and a mum who’s even more skilled than he is, so Bloodaxe lets her rule while he goes a-conquering.
It’s not often that we get to revel in the villain. Bloodaxe is a delightfully misogynistic cad, whose observations about life and people are surprisingly direct and spot on.
I love reading fantasy but I’ve never encountered anything like this. It’s a quick read, under an hour, but is so full of win!
Bweeheeheehee! This is the best book summary I’ve read in a while. Mr. Tallett, please take my dollar.
And with that I shall leave you with the blurb itself, and a link to download Bloodaxe for free!.
Bloodaxe thought he was in for a nice relax. He was, after all, dead.
And then some jumped up prick of a god told him he had to rescue a kingdom. His own kingdom, in fact. So Bloodaxe grabbed his, well, axe, and leapt back into the fray.
First, though, he had to be born. And learn not to crap his pants. Then he could get to the killing. Lots and lots of killing.
This is his story.