Category: Seventh Son

Seventh Son: Chapter 27

Dinner, when it was ready, turned out to taste like nothing Caleb had ever encountered before. 

He knew, logically, what had gone into it – he’d recognised most of the ingredients, and the twins had done their best to explain the more esoteric and odd spices and herbs they’d been adding in – but what had emerged when the cooking was done and Tam had started dishing up seemed to bear almost no relation to its constituent parts. It tasted… hot, somehow, in a way he couldn’t quite place, and homely without being in any way familiar, and left a feeling like a glowing coal in his belly, warming his rain-chilled body even as the night closed in and the temperature plummeted. 

The twins must have noticed the expression on his face, because Alak grinned and clapped him on the shoulder, nearly making him spill his second helping of soup into his lap. “You like it?”


Seventh Son: Chapter 26

They stopped later than usual that night, pitching tents and tethering horses in the gathering dusk while the rain continued to pour. The forest had become deeper and darker as they’d travelled further south and, when the tents had been set up, Talan brought several lanterns from their wagon to light the corners of the camp.

The canopy here was thick enough to keep the worst of the water out, and the younger members of the company lost no time in getting a hearty fire burning in the centre of the cleared space between the wagons. Alak, true to his word, disappeared off into his and Kala’s tent to retrieve the boxes of spices, leaving Caleb, Kala and Tam to unload the other ingredients from the wagons and get started on the preparations for supper.

Or rather, it turned out, leaving Caleb to get started on the preparations. Kala and Tam started off being involved in the chore, true, but Tam was obviously feeling the need to make up to her girlfriend for having ignored her all day, and Kala wasn’t exactly about to stop her. Which, in practice, meant that while the two of them were still technically helping, between them they were managing about one-and-a-third of a person’s worth of work.

Seventh Son: Chapter 25

It was raining when they set off the next day, pale sunlight barely piercing the thick grey clouds that rolled across the washed-out sky. Heavy droplets pelted the arched roofs of the wagons, running down the brightly-painted ribs to spatter onto the clinging white mud of the roadway, and even the green light filtering through the trees had taken on a sickly cast, blotching the faces of the company with bruised-looking smudges of shadow.

They’d spent the morning finishing the job of clearing the road, and Caleb’s boots and trews were splattered up to the thigh with mud and muck from the task – though he’d fared better than Kala, who’d slipped and fallen in the rut left by the tree and ended up covered head to foot with filth. She’d made an attempt to get the worst of it off her face and hands, but her leathers were stained several shades lighter, and before she’d mounted up she’d been shedding flakes of dried mud with every step, even in the downpour.


New Year’s goals and a writing game update

As might be obvious from the lack of posting here and on my Twitter, I’m currently on holiday, which has been wonderful for my brain and rather less so for my wordcount.

However! As a result of having got slightly tipsy last night, I did manage to finish up the #sensationalWIP questions for December, thus closing off the last bit of ‘I need to get this done before January’ I had hanging over me. Which, in turn, clears the decks for setting some goals for 2019, as follows:

– finish the first full draft for Blood on the Snow. That’s not as daunting as it might sound, given I’m currently about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way through and most of that was written in 2018.

– start the first proper draft for Silver in the Ashes (sequel to Blood on the Snow, surprising no-one. I have a theme with this trilogy). See above.

– win NaNoWriMo 2019, because it’s been a bloody long time since I’ve actually won one.

– actually get more done on Seventh Son. 2018 was mostly porting already-written chapters over to this site – 2019, ideally, should see some new material.

– write more short stories, because they’re not something I’m confident with yet and I need the practice.

–  on that subject, get 100 rejections. This one comes from a friend of mine, but as a way of looking at the submission process which doesn’t make you want to curl up and hide in a hole, it’s definitely not a bad one.

– actually start writing poetry again.

– and, finally, get a damn sight better at introducing my worlds and characters to people. In this, at least, I have a distinct advantage in that one of my partners is a bloody good artist and (because they are amazing) has promised me character portraits for Argentum at some point in the future.

I don’t know how many of these I’ll actually end up getting done – life has a habit of jumping up and biting me when I start making plans which involve spending significant amounts of time not paying attention to it. But y’know what? I’m excited to find out.

Seventh Son: Chapter 24

For a brief moment, Caleb felt as though his heart had stopped beating.

He stumbled backwards, holding Kitten tight against his chest, until the heel of his boot met sudden resistance and he lost his balance, going sprawling backwards onto the floor with an impact that drove the breath from his lungs and sent a wave of stabbing pain and nausea flooding through his body as the girl’s entire weight landed on his already-bruised ribs.

The bright colours of the wagon’s interior swirled and blurred around him, and for a horrible moment he thought he was about to pass out again. But the dizziness passed more quickly this time, leaving him aching and sick but clear-headed, and all too aware of what he’d seen on Kitten’s hand in the moments before the fall.

Seventh Son: Chapter 23

“It’s nothing bad,” the apothecary added, hastily, as Kitten ran towards them. They crouched down, picking up the child and swinging her up onto the footboard of the wagon with a slight hiss of indrawn breath. “Ariane and I need to borrow the fire for a while, and I’d be happier if the two of you were inside while we do.”

This didn’t make all that much sense to Caleb, but then again, he was neither an apothecary nor a mage. And, he realised, getting to his feet, he had been sitting in the same position for most of the evening. It wasn’t nearly as cold as it could have been, but his knees and hips were still locking slightly, and getting inside was starting to sound more and more like an appealing proposition.

“Thank you,” Ariane said, stepping out into the night air and offering her own hand to pull Caleb up. She was stronger than he’d expected, easily taking his weight, and her slim fingers were warm and rough with callouses.  “We’ve had an idea on something that might work to alleviate whatever’s going on with him a little – I’m almost certain it won’t actually cure or reverse it, but if we can at the very least get him conscious again then we might be able to find out a little more about what happened when he was attacked, and whether he recognises the type of blade. I think it might be a curse-blade, but there’s precious little about those in any of the books I actually have with me, so I’d have to raid Aster’s library when we get there.”

Caleb nodded, though between how fast Ariane was talking and his own tiredness, he’d caught all of about one word in five of the explanation. “Why do you want us to be inside, if it’s alright to ask? Is it dangerous?”


Seventh Son: Chapter 22

Caleb had never considered himself a particularly good storyteller. He could remember most tales he’d ever heard, true, and he’d a fair gift for mimicry of tone, but he wasn’t particularly educated, or particularly good at keeping rhythm, or particularly… well, anything, really. But the Captain’d asked him for a story, so he’d told one.

And then another.

And then another, and another, and another, letting the tales lead naturally one into the other through character and place and theme. And even when he’d stumbled, or been wrong in the details, or forgotten the thread of the narrative, his listeners had followed him through, brushing off any attempts to apologise with laughter and half-joking pleas for the continuation of the tale.

An hour or so into the telling Kitten had emerged from the shadows which hid Talan’s wagon, hovering quiet and unsure on the edge of the circle of firelight until Alak noticed her and waved her over. Her face was wet from crying, eyelids puffy and eyes red and sore, but she managed a small shaky smile at the assembled older members of the company and, once she’d been soundly hugged and tousled and nose-booped by the twins and given a mug of warm apple and a place by Caleb’s knee to sit and listen to the stories, she was almost back to her usual animated self.


Seventh Son: Chapter 21

“He’s not waking up.”

It was evening again, and the company still hadn’t moved from the clearing where they’d camped overnight. There’d been a few mutterings about setting off later into the day, when they’d recovered enough to start making plans, but the light had gone faster than they’d anticipated and Dana had point-blank refused to drive Rethan’s wagon until he was conscious again.

Kala and Tam had got a fire going, with Caleb’s help, and Alak’d set a pot of stew cooking over it, but the cold darkness around the camp seemed to press in closer than it had before, stifling the laughter and companionship of the previous evening’s meal. They’d eaten in near-silence, broken only by muttered conversations, and it hadn’t been until Talan had stepped out of their wagon and addressed the assembled company that anyone had raised their voice.

Dana was the first to reply, getting to her feet with hands clenched tight against her sides. When she spoke, there was a low, growling tone to her words. “What d’you mean, ‘not waking up’?”

“Just that.” The apothecary ran one hand through their short, fair hair, and sighed. “He’s stable, and not likely to get much worse, but he’s still unconscious. And I’ve not been able to remove the blade.”


Seventh Son: Chapter 20

Dana reached them first, dropping to her knees beside Rethan’s still form and pushing back his sleeve to press her fingers against one bloodied brown wrist. Her hand was shaking, Caleb noticed, but when she spoke her voice was calm and steady, pitched to carry to the others who’d yet to make it to the mid-point of the tree. “He’s alive.”

Caleb let out a breath he’d not realised he’d been holding, and hugged Kitten tighter to him. The girl’s face was buried in his shoulder, her small hands tangled in the rough material of his shirt, but she seemed calmer than almost any of the adults there (with the exception of Rethan, who was unconscious and thus didn’t count).

“Don’t touch anything,” Talan warned, leaning heavily on their staff as they made their way towards the group. “Not until I have had a chance to examine him, at least.”

Dana growled something under her breath, the fangs in her lower jaw seeming suddenly much more prominent for a brief second, but did as she was bid, sitting back on her heels and watching the slow almost-imperceptible rise and fall of Rethan’s chest, an unreadable expression on her broad, scarred face.

Tam, walking close behind Talan and burdened down with what seemed like half the contents of the apothecary’s wagon, muttered something to her companion. Caleb didn’t hear what was said, but Talan’s expression softened a little and they raised their voice again. “You’ve done all you can for him, Dana. And I’m sure he will thank you for it, when he’s awake.”


Seventh Son: Chapter 19

Rethan looked up as Caleb approached, the lines of his mask catching the light in a way that horribly mimicked the shard of metal protruding from his belly. “Don’t worry. It’s not- ngh! -as bad as it looks.”

Somehow, Caleb doubted that. But he wasn’t about to argue with the other man right at this moment. “What happened?” Daft question, probably, but if he could keep him talking until Talan got back then he’d at least know that he was still conscious. It wasn’t as if he could tell from his face, after all.

Rethan laughed, or at least, made a sound in his throat which was probably meant to be laughter. “I got stabbed.” He nodded downwards towards his abdomen. “You’d think- ah! -they’d be able to afford swords which didn’t break.”

Caleb winced, his over-active imagination all-too readily providing him with a mental image of exactly what might have happened to cause that particular wound. If he was right, he was surprised the older man was able to carry on a conversation, let alone make sarcastic remarks.

No time to wonder about that now, though. Keep him talking, that was the key. “Who’s ‘they’?”

“Couldn’t say for sure.” He shifted position slightly, hissing in pain as he did so. “I’ve a damn good guess, though.”