Dockside

“You’re a villain Danny, plain and simple.”

Danny’s grin spread as he watched Stephanie nod in agreement to her own words and pluck an apple from the open crate next to her on the dock, juice spitting from the skin as her teeth crunched in.

“You wouldn’t have called me that three years ago,” he said, his mind wandering back to the image of her sprawled across his cabin desk, her scars and marking open to him, her cheeks flushed by the kisses he pressed into her curves.

Stephanie examined what was left of her apple, scowled, and chucked it into one of the empty slips.

“Three years ago we were on the same side,” she said, “but you changed that Danny, not me.”

NewFSFBadge-1.jpg

It’s been ages since I’ve written anything for Five Sentence Fiction, but I felt in the mood for it today. Probably because I should be doing other things, and partly because I’m trying to make sure I write at least a small paragraph for Darkened Daughter every day at the moment. With my dissertation and research projects looming, uni work has got to be my focus right now, but everyone needs a break from time to time and writing is my was to relax. So why not try and get some jump off points set up to work from for when I have more time to look at Darkened Daughter.

Some of you who may have seen older pieces for the novel will know that Stephanie and Danny are old characters, and I was debating cutting at Stephanie altogether. However, I’m going to see how she plays out and decide her fate once she’s done a few chapters and run an errand or two for my darling pub owner Molly. She won’t have the primary role she had in the first few attempts at a complete draft, but she and Danny will still have their wonderful, slightly insane relationship at least.

Family Traits

My FingersI have really long, slightly bent fingers. According to certain family members, this is a Swinnerton trait. My sister on the other hand, hehe, pun not intended but anyway, has hands from my dad’s side of the family. She is Forrester hands. This means one thumb stubbier than the other (not that you can be sure with my dad since he chopped the end of one off) and a middle finger the same length as the two beside it. She’s lucky. Some of dad’s relatives have this on both hands and on both feet aswell. I have it sort of, but only on one of my toes.

I posted this photo on facebook yesterday, and one of my friends commented that despite knowing me for quite a while she’d never realised how long my fingers were. It started me thinking about how much of our family we carry around in ourselves that our friends put catagories as ‘us’.

A five foot nothing I take after my Granny Kitty more than my mother. Yet every time I see my great gran she comments on how tall I’m getting, “a real Swinnerton” with long fingers and legs. (She’s not a Swinnerton I’ll point out, just that side of the family tend to all be fairly tall.)

It just goes to show though, we are all a mixture of those before us. An eye colour here, a set of wonky fingers there and a hight limit that doesn’t always match with your parents. What we look like is generations worth of mixology and we’re just the surprise cocktail that gets served at the end.

So she says, trying to think of a way to make this random posts have some sort of link to creative writing. If there are family traits like bent fingers in reality, why not have them in writing. Why shouldn’t I give Tara [Darkened Daughter] the same ears as her great aunt Gelifid. [Made that name up on the spot, no idea who Gelifid is, a witch maybe. Executed by her coven for marrying a human… and enslaving the Kingdom of Lise to her every command. Allegedly.]

See, I’ve been barely able to write a word for Darkened Daughter in the last three months due to Uni work and in two minutes I’ve worked out a new chunk of history for my fantasy world, a new kingdom name for the expanse of unnamed land currently lurking on all my attempts at map drawing, and created a new character who may prove useful when writing about Tara’s interactions with witches. I suddenly feel all productive. Yay me.

Darkened Daughter Extract – Rickets Den

You did not got to the Purple Pig to drink. You went there for whores and information.

Before the new King’s reign Molly’s tavern had been one of the most successful in Dondara. Now it was nothing more than a crooked sign and a few worm eaten tables crammed into the darkness.

“Are you sure we’ve got the right place?” Mole kept close as his Captain hurried down the city streets towards Rickets Den. Behind them the stone houses of the wealthy seemed to glow softly in the moonlight, oil lamps dotted along the cobbled streets to ward off the shadows.  Rickets Den on the other hand was a mass of shadows, curling and twisting around the wooden buildings which tumbled into one another and disappeared into the depths of the old mining pits. Mole wasn’t a brave man. He was really quite timid by all accounts with a thin reedy voice and a thick, short stature that left many confusing him with a child. Danny found him useful for sneaking into tight spaces but it took some encouragement to get Mole to agree.

“Just stay behind me and keep you voice down,” Danny warned. “We’ll be fine.”

Mole nodded and picked up his pace, determined not to be left behind. If he’d dared he would have caught hold of the tails of Danny’s coat, but he doubted the pirate would appreciate it so he kept his hands where they were. Quickly the cobbled street ran out and instead they were picking their way across mud slick boarding. Mole tried to swallow the bad feeling bubbling up in his throat as he heard his footsteps echoing beneath him. When he was much younger he’d asked his father how deep the old mining pits in Dondara were,

“Deep,” his father said, and left it at that.

Danny led them further into the wooden city, dropping them further into it’s depths ladder by ladder until Mole lost count in the gloom and found himself stood outside a lopsided shack with no windows. Rickets Den was a feat of engineering. It had started when the poor began building their homes near the edges of the open mine, steadily moving closer and closer until their houses jutted out over the edge. It continued that way until eventually half the city seemed to hang in the air above the endless pit, each building pinned in place by timbers, completely interconnected. Mole wondered what would happen if just one beam snapped. Perhaps the whole thing would crumble.

“Stay alert,” Danny warned, fist raised above the door closest. “This may not go as smoothly as I hope.”

Turning away from Mole Danny rapped on the door three times and then retracted his hand quickly, his fingers wrapping around the handle of his sword as he waited for a response. For a long moment there was nothing but silence and the creak of wood as the whole place heaved and sighed around them.

“No one home?” suggested Mole.

“So it would seem.” 

“So we can leave then?”

Danny shook his head and took three steps back, something of a luxury since most of the streets in Rickets Den were barely wide enough to walk down.

“Here,” he said, shrugging off his coat and handing it to Mole. “I need you to hold this.” 

Doodling Character Sketches

So here you go, my own attempts at drawing Tara, one of the Demon Men and Mormonth (so far.)

Let me know what you think.

Tara Hardgraves

Tara – by Carol J Forrester

 One of The Demon Men

One of The Demon Men – By Carol J Forrester

 

 

Mormonth

Mormonth – By Carol J Forrester

(I am wondering if I should change his name to Thomas Gravel…)

A Friday Freewrite – Obscurite Extract

Battle Plans

It was cold on the Witch Moors. Wind seemed to sweep in from every direction, cutting through the canvas tents and chilling Tara to the core. She pulled the wool cloak tighter around her shoulders and jammed her chin into her chest to keep her teeth from rattling out of her jaw. She tried to focus on Mormonth and Ilia, their heads bowed together as they plotted out the best way to steal into the Grey Castle break Lord Turnkay’s defence from behind.

Curse the Lords and their stupid taxes Tara thought. Could her father have not waited until summer and then sent his armies to demand dues owed by the Northern territories? Why did he have to send her, and why now of all times?

“Milady?” Ilia was looking at her now, forehead creasing with concern. “Milday, are you quite well?”

Tara shook her head and wished again that they could have built a fire. They had three hundred men with them, all of which lay shivering among the ferns waiting for morning to arrive so that they might attack the Grey Castle and allow the blood lust to drive out what was left of the moor’s chill.

“I’m fine,” Tara said, stepping closer to the wooden table that occupied most of the tent. “Do we know how we will breach Turnkay’s defences?”

Mormonth coughed and tapped a spot on the centre of the map closest to her on the table.

“The Western Gate is their weakest point,” he told her. “We breach that and there will be no way that they can keep up out.”

“I see,” replied Tara. “That seems rather convenient.”

“Exactly,” spat Ilia, tossing her hair as she spoke. “It’s all very convenient. Half of Turnkay’s house guards are in Port Layrowen escorting the Lady Turnkay to her mother’s home in Abawist and the ones that are left have barely a year’s training between them. If we break through that gate it will be a massacre on their side.”

Tara could almost hear the pieces clicking together in her mind.

“I believe,” she said slowly, “that may be exactly what my father wants.” She stepped away from the maps and turned her back on the other two people in the tent. They were both older than her. Ilia at twenty-six by five years, and Mormonth by another forty. Both had grown up in her father’s service and when Tara had turned sixteen she had been handed over to the pair for training.

“You will learn to use a sword,” her father instructed, looking down on her from his ebony throne. Tara had fidgeted at that, twisted her hands into knots behind her back as she thought about sparring Thomas, the son of one of the palace guards. “I want you to be able to kill a man with a single blow,” he’s told her, back as poker straight as always. Her father never seemed to show any emotion. Sometimes she had wondered if perhaps his skin had petrified in that throne, preventing his from moving even the smallest of muscles. The thought of him being unable to rise had given her a twisted sort of comfort, but even if her father did not act then there were others more than willing to act on his behalf. So she’d learnt how to use a sword, and daggers and crossbows and any other weapon that Mormonth could find to place in her hands. Even her own body became a weapon.

Ilia was chewing the skin from her bottom lip when Tara turned back to face them. Her silver eyes were fixed on the map but Tara didn’t think that they were really seeing what was there. Ilia had a tendency to drift away into her own thoughts, snapping back when someone came close enough to touch her.

“Elfin scum,” hissed a man who Tara didn’t know. He was a trader from the lower city, petitioning the council for something or other which is why he was inside the Palace. Ilia had wrapped her arms around his neck and snapped it within moments, allowing the body to drop to the corridor floor with a dull thud.

“I don’t like this,” said Ilia, releasing her lip and returning to the frozen tent with Tara and Mormonth. “Something just seems off about this.”

“There’s nothing off about this,” Mormonth snorted. He was probably the warmest of the three with layers of fat and muscle bulging beneath his furs to keep the heat in his bones. “Forbeath’s just being the usual ruthless bastard that he always is.”

Ilia looked unconvinced.

“This seems vindictive, even for him. Turnkay could not garrison the castle properly even if he wanted to. This feels akin to butchering the helpless.”

Mormonth scowled and scratched at his chin. He’s shaved the day they’d set out from the capital three weeks ago but not since. Unfortunately this meant that his beard had reached the point where the hairs were beginning to curl back on themselves, creating a forest of white hair that seemed to tickle him endlessly.

“If Forbeath want Turnkay dead then Turnkay’s a dead man already. I’ve got no problem putting my seal on it if you’re turning squeamish on my Ilia.”

“I’m hardly squeamish you old goat,” Ilia scowled. “I simply don’t like the idea of risking men on needless slaughter!”

Tara released her cloak and laid her hands against the table, spreading her fingers so that she could see the map between them.

“Clearly my father wishes to send a message,” she said. “Since Lady Turnkay will be spared from this slaughter I’m assuming the message is for her.”

“What’s this got to do with that hag,” asked Mormonth. “Last time I saw her she was nothing more than some shrivelled up prune. It’s no wonder Tunrkay doesn’t care if she disappears to see her mother for months at a time.”

Tara resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Mormonth could be a brilliant tactician and in his prime there were few who could stand against him in combat. Politics though, were often lost on him.

“She controls the money,” said Ilia. Explain so that Tara did not have to. “Turnkay’s father almost bankrupted the family and it was only Turnkay’s marriage contract that prevented them losing everything. There was a catch though. The Tunkay’s have no control when it comes to the money that the marriage brought in. Lady Turnkay must validate every monetary decision and on her death that responsibility will pass onto her daughter who is married to Lord Dawson’s eldest son.”

“Lord Dawson with the army three times the size of my father’s,” added Tara. “We kill Lady Turnkay and we hand a fortune over to an angry, bereft daughter with a powerful husband, we kill Lord Turnkay and my father can command her Ladyship to marry whomever he chooses. Most likely someone that he believes can control her.”

Mormonth let out a snort.

“Bloody complicated all of it,” he snapped. “It used to be simple. Kill those who opposed you, terrorise the rest into submission. When did everything become so political?”

“It’s always been political Mormonth,” said Ilia. “You were just too stupid to notice.”

Tara heard him growl in response but decided to stay out of that particular spat.

“When do we attack,” she asked. “First light?”

“Before,” Ilia said. “I’ll wake the men an hour before dawn, I’ll only need two of them to plant explosives around the Western Gate but the rest need to be ready for battle as soon as the rubble settles.

“It won’t be a stealthy entrance,” Tara warned. “The Western Gate is narrow, four men across at most. Turnkay’s guards, as few as they may be, could still pen us in.”

“That is the problem which has haunted us all night little one,” chuckled Mormonth. “We have the numbers and the tools to break through any attempt they may make to pen us, but it will cost lives.”

“Then we need another plan,” Tara concluded. “We need to ensure that Turnkay’s forces are defeated before we break through the gate.”

“And what exactly would you suggest,” Ilia asked. “Can you see another way into the castle?”

“Not for an army no,” said Tara. “But perhaps for one person on their own.”

“You want to send a scout?” Mormonth’s face split into a grin. “How quaint.”

Tara shook her head.

“A scout would be useless,” she said. “We need sometime more pro-active in approach.”

“You mean you want to send an assassin,” said Ilia, catching on to what Tara was suggesting.

Tara nodded.

“One person goes in, kills Turnkay and displays his head to all within his castle walls.”

“Sounds like suicide,” Mormonth grumbled.

“No, not necessarily,” said Tara. She watched as Mormonth’s eyes bulged forward out of their sockets.

“Under no bloody circumstances are you going in there my girl! Do you hear me! No! It would be my head on display if word got back to your father.”

Tara’s lips curled upwards slowly as she looked to Ilia who was standing silently, arms folded across her chest.

“Ilia?” she asked.

“I don’t doubt your capabilities,” said Ilia. “But if you fail then we all suffer. Your father is not a forgiving creature.”

“Then let’s make sure there is nothing to forgive,” Tara grinned.