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Messages - Alex Dutson

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1
Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: Favourite Abercrombie Novel?
« on: April 12, 2015, 09:54:02 PM »
The Heroes. I found all the characters really engaging (especially the Northmen) and I liked how it was set in such a confined place/time period.

2
Quote
That tone is what typically what gets me to put down a preachy book. It's not the politics, it's the snarky presentation.

I agree that tone is the main issue and I personally didn't think Mirror Empire had that tone, but I suppose some people might have read it differently.

3
Quote
Never said don't write it. Just that being overly preachy in your writing to me defeats the purpose. Mark charan Newton I don't find preachy at all while including genders/orientations that most don't. I greatly enjoy his books and writing. It's hard to pull off say a reversal of what we witness in life without looking petty or ridiculous. Making men the slaves? A bit obvious of your feelings, which comes off petty. By all means write what you want, I mean look at 1984. Has huge political intent yet doesn't come across as preachy, as it's message is wrapped in its story. Clearly Kameron and other self described feminists aren't writing for men as a target audience and that's fine, but don't get upset when you face criticism for what you write.

I didn't find the writing in Mirror Empire especially "preachy" about gender roles. Yes it was a massive (and I think very interesting and thought provoking) part of the story but I think calling it preachy creates the impression the only reason for the book was to make a feminist point when I think it was actually a good piece of fantasy writing not merely a political point wrapped in a fantasy book jacket. I know not everyone enjoyed it and it wasn't the best book I've ever read either but I don't think that was due to the gender role changes as creating interesting, different worlds to our own is kind of what fantasy is about. Sometimes it's nice to read something that isn't medieval Europe in a fancy hat.

I don't think men should be worried about voicing their opinions about books by female authors but I think everyone should be wary of focusing on the gender of the writer rather than the ideas themselves. I'm sure a man could (and indeed has - see earlier posts) write a fantasy book with gender roles that are wildly different to the ones that exist and have existed in our society. It may be something women think about more because it is something that tends to affect us more but if people can write about dragons and wielding magical staffs then altered gender roles should be pretty easy ;)

4
[FEB 2015] Fanfic / Re: [Feb 2015] - Fanfic - Submission Thread
« on: February 24, 2015, 08:12:25 PM »
Another HP story, set before the books. I may not have got the timeline/ages exactly right so please forgive me.

His Final Summer (1080 words)
Spoiler for Hiden:
Rabastan sat on the shadowy window seat scowling down at the courtyard below. The occasional bursts of laughter that floated up to his window were worsening his already bad mood but he couldn’t quite tear himself away. He had always been prone to brooding, or “Rab’s little sulks” as Cissy insisted on calling them, but now that school was almost over he seemed to spend most of his time scowling at walls and skulking in abandoned classrooms. It didn’t help that since Cissy’s graduation last year there was no one left to drag him out of his moods. He barely tolerated his class mates, and the younger children of his parents set seemed in constant competition to see who could be the most whiny and irritating. He had almost cursed Regulus the day before when the second year just wouldn’t leave him alone. The only thing that stopped him was the thought of enduring the barrage of letters that it would result in; Rod reminding him of the importance of “connections” and “educating the younger generations”, Cissy telling him off for bullying, Bellatrix raging mad at him for daring to hurt a Black. So instead of torturing the younger years in the common room he was hiding in a dusty corridor pretending to study.

Rabastan looked back down at the open book on his lap. History of Magic. He tried to read but gave up after a few sentences. What was the point? It didn’t matter how he did on his exams, his future was decided and NEWTs were not necessary. He didn’t know why he was even still here. He should have left when he turned seventeen. Revolution was coming, his brother was in the forefront and Rab should be marching alongside him, fighting for their heritage, their birth right.  Instead he was memorising the names of Goblin kings and avoiding detention. He knew it was about maintaining appearances and upholding the family name but it wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted to join the war and prove his worth and wear it burnt black on his sleeve.

A loud laugh cut through his thoughts and Rab’s eyes were drawn back down to the courtyard. A group of his Gryffindor classmates had congregated below the window, books discarded on the bench as they enjoyed the sunshine. Rab caught a glimpse of brilliant red hair and felt his heart leap. He stood abruptly and shoved his book into his bag. Perhaps it would be better to finish studying in the common room. He had some books in his trunk which covered a more select curriculum than he could find in the Hogwarts library. 

***
Rabastan trudged down the stairs to the Entrance Hall.

“Stop it!”

He glanced over towards the doorway of the Great Hall. Three Gryffindor second years were levitating a book above the head of a tiny Slytherin first year that Rab couldn’t quite remember the name of. Every time the boy jumped to grab it the Gryffindors raised it higher, laughing. Rab gave a longing look towards the dungeon before turning back to the Hall. It wouldn’t do to leave a housemate in trouble even if it was a snotty little first year. He pulled on the glower he had spent hours practicing in the mirror and strode across the entrance hall.

“That’s enough.”

Rabastan didn’t shout but the boys all whipped round and went wide eyed at the seventh year glaring down at them.

“We’re not…”

He turned his scowl on the boy who had spoken and his voice faded away. The book fell out of the air nearly hitting the first year on the head on its way to the floor.

“Leave.”

Rabastan’s voice brooked no argument and the three boys slunk off towards the door muttering darkly but not so loud that Rabastan could actually hear the whispered complaints. The first year kept staring at him until Rabastan shooed him away with a flick of his hand. The boy blushed, clumsily retrieved the book and mumbled his way through a thank you before rushing off towards the dungeons. Rabastan turned to follow, his thought turning to the books hidden under his least favourite set of robes.

“Rab!”

The books vanished. The imagined mark on his arm faded. The revolution slunk away to the shadowy edges of his mind. Everything was bright and warm, filled with dizzying possibilities and barely dreamt of futures. The longing that shot through him was one thousand times worse than his earlier desire to escape the drudgery of Hogwarts. He turned back to meet his classmate.

Fabian Prewett stood smiling at him, his read hair ruffled from the wind, his skin tinged pink from the sun. Rabastan couldn’t stop the answering grin that spread across his face.

“Fab. Studying hard I see.”

Fabian laughed and looked down at the grass stains on his shirt. Rab’s eyes followed, tracing the lines of the muscles on Fabian’s chest before he caught himself.

“You know me, never out of the library,” Fabian said, still smiling, “Do you want to meet up later to go through Herbology?”

Herbology was how they had met. Well not actually met, they had shared various classes since first year, but conversation had been limited until they had been paired together for a project in fifth year. Now they could almost be described as friends. Studying together, complaining about teachers, debating the latest Quidditch matches and the ridiculous antics of the younger years. 

“I suppose so. I don’t know why I’m doing the bloody subject.”

He knew.

“Great! See you in the library after dinner.”

Fabian was already turning away, heading back to his friends.  Rabastan stood in the entrance hall, his hand clenching and unclenching around his bag strap.

Sometimes when he lay awake in the early hours, his housemates snoring around him, Rab could admit he was scared. Scared of the uncertain future, Lucius’s seductive words, the ever growing fervour in his brother’s eyes. He didn’t know where it would lead but he knew he was going to follow. Go with his family, stand with his blood, defend his heritage. It was familiar. Safe. Certain. Everything the other path wasn’t.  However much the dark scared him nothing was as terrifying as the feeling that he got from looking into Fabian’s eyes. Hearing his voice. Daydreaming about a future that would never, could never exist.

Rabastan walked slowly down the corridor and down the dungeon steps into the darkness. 

5
Maybe not a very "science fiction" science fiction story but I find coming up with sci-fi ideas really hard.

Progress v Morality - 960 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
They crouched in the dark, Dad clutching Billy too tight to be comfortable.

“Everything’s ok. It will be ok.”

Desperate whispers, as if saying the words would make them real.

You’re real Billy.

The shouts from outside got louder. Hands were thumping on the door. Billy started to cry. He didn’t want to be real anymore.

***

Mum and Dad were arguing again. At first it had just been whispers, sharp angry whispers, but the volume had built up and up until they were both red and screaming. The scientist had sent them out of the lab but Billy could still hear them in the corridor outside. He sat on the table swinging his legs while the scientist with red hair ran the scanner over him and the scientist with yellow hair tapped away on the screen.

“-your son. Why can’t you see-”
“Because he’s not! Billy di-”
“-the same, exactly the-”
“-wires! Electronics! Micro-chi-”
“-embers before the-”
“-not real!”

Billy put his hands over his ears.

***

“Mrs President we really need to get on top of this. It’s not a minority issue anymore; it’s becoming a law and order problem.”

The President frowned down at the briefing and rubbed her eyes. She was trying to get the budget past an unfriendly Congress, she did not have time for this.

“So these “clobots” are the source of the conflict? All these “morality marches”?”

“Yes Mrs President. A large, and growing, section of society is opposed to their existence on mainly religious and ethical grounds. As well as the marches they’ve been holding sit-ins and started online petitions and email campaigns. Recently their activities have grown more violent with labs being attacked in-”

“What sort of stupid name is “clobot”?”

“It’s a slang term Mrs President. An amalgamation of clone and rob-”
“Yes, yes I’ve got it.”

She slumped slightly in her seat. It was going to be a long morning.

***

The tension in the television studio had been steadily rising since the show began.

“-our dead are being desecrated! Their memories are being stolen and implanted into these robots-”
“The programme is entirely voluntary! It is saving lives! It is making them better! No parent now has to bury a child. No child has to grow up without a parent.”
“Lives shouldn’t be extended past their natural-”
“You didn’t complain about cancer treatments or mechanical hearts. No one is advocating eternal life-“
“You think wires and microchips are the same as flesh and blood. They aren’t. These machines are not real people-”
“You have an electronic eye, does that stop you being a person?”

The show descended steadily into chaos and personal abuse.

***

The scientist was checking the wiring in Billy’s arm. Something was making his fingers jerk without him wanting them to. Dad had gone to find the other scientist. It was very quiet. There hadn’t been any shouting since Mum left. Billy was glad he was in the lab, the house was too empty now. He watched the scientist solder the loose wire back into place.

“Am I real?”

He couldn’t ask Dad because he knew he would say yes. He couldn’t ask Mum because she would say no. And she was gone.

He’s not Billy. My son is dead.

The scientist finished soldering.

“You’re a mechanical system in a specifically designed body with a core of stored memories and the capacity to grow and learn.”

The scientist folded Billy’s skin back down over the wires.

“But am I a real person? Am I really Billy?”

“How am I meant to know? Ask a philosopher.”

***

The crowd surged at the police line. They were beaten back with batons and riot shields.  The loud speaker warned them that water cannons would be deployed if they did not desist and go home. The crowd surged forward again in response. This time a few broke through and, as the police turned to catch them, more followed.  The grenade was hidden in his pocket, its weight a reminder of what he was there to do. Save souls. Save the concept of souls.

In the next surge he was through. An officer grab the corner of his jacket but he ripped it free. They had to be stopped. There was no guessing where it would lead. No souls, no heaven, no god. Satan’s work complete.

The others had already started breaking the lab windows. He could see the scientists inside panicking. Running for cover.  They weren’t so smug now they were facing God’s wrath. He hoped there were clobots inside. The grenade sailed through the glassless window and the world exploded.

***

“We’ll be next.”

They were sat in the lab kitchen watching the protests on the television screen. A lab in the next state over was burning.

“You’d think people would be a bit more grateful. Since people have existed they’ve wanted a way for their loved ones to stay with them but when we finally find a way they protest. It’s ridiculous.”

“Fukcing God Squad.”

There were murmurs of agreement from around the room.

“They always have to bring morality into it. And nature. “As nature intended”. Why can’t they just accept fucking progress?”

***

The sounds from outside had got louder and louder. An army of people beating at the door. Billy tuned them out and listened to his Dad’s mumbles instead.

“Not again, not going to lose you again, no, no, no, going to be ok…”

Billy didn’t remember being hit. He could remember the road but nothing else until he woke up in the lab and Mum wouldn’t look at him anymore. Maybe if he wasn’t real, wasn’t a person, wasn’t Billy, dying wouldn’t hurt.

Billy shut his eyes and prayed he wasn’t real. He could hear the door frame breaking.

6
[DEC 2014] Mirror Empire / Re: Mirror Empire - Week 4: Finished!
« on: January 01, 2015, 10:43:08 PM »
I really enjoyed the book and I'm quite intrigued to see where it will lead in the sequel. I particularly liked the different societies and how the mirror worlds worked. Saying that some of the changes and the story developments near the end seemed a bit rushed and I'm not sure if they fitted perfectly with my reading of the characters. I'm particularly thinking of Lilia and Roh's story lines.  I managed to get the hang of the different names etc though I'll certainly need a refresher by the time the next book comes out.

Sorry for not being hugely detailed in my response and not getting hugely involved in the discussions, it turned into a bit of a busy month!

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[DEC 2014] Religion / Re: [Dec 2014] - Religion - Submission Thread
« on: December 11, 2014, 10:35:30 PM »
Ordination - 1,249 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
Apostle Meric had his mission. The High Priest had chosen his name from the book of apostles and the bone priests had called him to their sacred hall and told him what he must do to prove himself worthy to serve the God of death. Success would mean he could finally don the long black robes of a priest and paint his face with the white bone chalk. He would move to new quarters and begin to learn the higher arts of the priesthood: poison and weapon-less murder.  He would be shown worthy to serve Iras and to carry on his work in this glib, pathetic world.  Failure would mean service of a more immediate kind.

Meric looked into the mirror and didn’t recognise himself. Instead of the normal drab grey he wore robes of bright yellow.  The colour would have given him a sickly hue but for the red rouge he had rubbed into his cheeks.  His hair had been allowed to grow and curl so the small ringlets bounced when he moved.  Meric pulled his lips upwards, practicing his smile. He looked like one of the farm boys that passed the temple on market day.  It was the perfect disguise.

***

The cart finally rolled to a stop by the gates of the temple of Siru, God of Hearth and Home. Meric climbed down, practiced smile firmly on his face, and joined the group of waiting apostles, their matching yellow robes marking them as guests of the temple.  Soon the gates were pulled open and the twenty-strong group spilled inside.

“Welcome friends! Welcome to the temple of Siru. May your hearth stay warm and your home stay safe.”

The man speaking wore robes of deep gold and had with him three apostles dressed in deep yellow. He raised his arms wide and bowed deeply to welcome the group. Meric suppressed a sneer.

“Too long have the priests of the Gods been warring among themselves rather than celebrating the glory of the faith. This will be the year that the rifts are healed.  You all serve your own Gods but today you come here, dressed in the colour of Siru, to foster understanding between us all. As the High Priest of Siru I do give you safe passage and warm welcome.”

Meric clapped with the others but his eyes did not leave the High Priest’s face. This was the man he had come to kill.

***

They were taken on a tour of the temple complex by the three apostles. Meric tried to follow the High Priest but one of the apostles slipped her arm through Meric’s before he could slip away.  She chattered to him about the temple songs and the special feast days they celebrated as they slowly walked through the halls. Meric smiled and nodded while desperately looking for a way to escape. Her grip was like a vice and it was not until the tour was finished that he managed to get back his arm.  The temple had set out food and drink for the guests and the apostles of the other Gods gratefully filled their plates, marvelling at the excess of sweetmeats, fruits and fresh bread.  Meric was disgusted; the priests of Iras had no need for frivolous extravagance. Porridge, bread and water were enough to keep them strong and ready to serve.

For appearances sake, Meric half-filled a plate then slipped quietly towards the back of the room looking for an entrance to the inner temple.

“There are some cushions over there if you’re looking for a seat.”

Meric jumped and bit his tongue to stop the curse already forming in his mouth. It was the girl again. He turned and smiled.

“Thank you, I’m quite tired.”

He walked over to the cushions hoping it would be enough for her to lose interest. Instead she followed him, settling herself down next to him and giving him a friendly nudge.

“Do you like our temple?”

Meric forced another smile.

“It’s lovely.”

The girl’s smile widened and she leaned into him, her voice lowering to a whisper.

“There’s plenty of parts you haven’t been shown. I could give you a more private tour. The library, the offices, the bedrooms...”

Meric tried very hard not to smirk.

“I think I would enjoy that.”

The girl might be harder to lose when they were alone but Iras would not mind meeting one more soul before he greeted the High Priest.

***

They snuck through a hidden door and down the winding temple corridors, ducking into rooms whenever they heard the sound of footsteps.  The girl giggled and pointed things out to Meric in a theatrical whisper,

“That’s where the canton keeps her robes.”
“This is the smallest library.”
“Through there are the novice dorms.”

Meric thought about how he would kill her. A knife through her lung would work. No screaming but it should still be slow and painful. There were plenty of rooms to hide the body in. She could die slowly, gasping for air, hidden under a pile of unwashed sheets. But first he had to know where the High Priest was.

They reached the bottom of some stairs and the girl paused.

“That’s the way to the High Priest’s rooms.”
“Let’s go up.”

Meric gave the girl his most winning smile. She frowned,

“It’s forbidden.”
“Just a quick look.”

He winked and she giggled again, her frown breaking into a smile.  Slowly she led the way up the stairs. Meric slipped his hand into his robes, searching for his knife. They were almost at the top. He slid the knife out and moved forward. The girl turned.  Meric lunged but she caught his arm.  Their eyes met and for a moment neither moved. Then the girl slammed her foot into his knee and Meric tumbled back down the stairs.

***

Meric swam back to consciousness in a brightly lit room with a painted ceiling.  He was spread eagle on his back, his arms and legs tied tightly to the table with rope. Meric tried to struggle free but found he could barely move.

“Seems they don’t teach you escape tricks in the temple of death.”

Meric turned his head. The High Priest was there, still dressed in his golden robes. His smile was no longer jolly and welcoming but dark and coldly amused.

“I’m not-”

“Yes you are. Those that serve Iras can never hide as well as they think they can.  You came here to kill me, to keep the wars going, but you failed.  Your priests will pretend they never knew you and the faith will get the chance at peace, at least until their next ridiculous plot.”

The High Priest turned away,

“I leave him in your hands. Show him how Siru teaches us to treat those who come into our homes with ill intent.”

The girl came forward into Meric’s eye line. She wasn’t giggling anymore but stood very close and watched him with a mocking smile.  Meric sneered at her,

“I serve Iras, God of death. He is in my blood and my soul. Do you really think there is anything the God of hearth and home can do to hurt me?”

The girl smirked at him.  She stood and moved to the edge of the room out of Meric’s sight. Something crackled and hissed. She stepped back into view. The end of the poker was glowing white with heat.

“Shall we see what the hearth does first?”

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[DEC 2014] Mirror Empire / Re: Mirror Empire - Week 1: Chapters 1 - 15
« on: December 06, 2014, 05:57:27 PM »
I'm really enjoying it now I've got into it but I agree it was quite hard to keep everything straight at the start (and to be honest I still forget who some of the minor characters are). I've been reading it on my kindle which makes it more difficult because it is much harder to skip to the map/glossary/back a few pages if I want to check something. The world is very complex which I love, especially the mirror worlds idea, but I did have trouble working out exactly which world each of the characters was in and where in the world they were, though I think this would have been easier with a real book.

I really like the gender dynamics. It's great to see a fantasy world that isn't just a copy of the roles in our society/history/our perception of history.  I'm also glad it wasn't just a reversal of our society; the extended family groups and multiple genders made it much more interesting. I think the Zezili/Anavha dynamics feel much more shocking because of the gender reversal and this is an interesting challenge to the readers preconceived notion of gender roles.  Even for those of us who don't really agree with the construction of rigid gender roles it is a little alarming that our understanding of the concept is so shaped by the society we grew up in. I'm not sure their relationship would be something people would even comment on if the roles were reversed which is quite sad. 

I particularly liked how gender wasn't the same in all the different parts of the world but varied between societies as it does in reality. I think there is just the right balance of complexity without Hurley giving us an overload of information.  This goes for the whole world not just the gender roles as I loved the trees and the animals, especially the bears, and the hints of how each of the societies is structured.

At this point in the book I just remember wanting to know what was really happening with the mirror worlds and how all the different parts could fit together.  I'm still confused with quite a few things but hopefully it will make sense as I read on.  I also like all the characters which is pretty unusual for me as I'm normally irritated or bored by a least one point of view character if there are a lot of them. I particularly like Zezili, even if she's not exactly the nicest person in the story so far!

9
Writers' Corner / Re: Do books ever just toss at you?
« on: November 26, 2014, 11:12:49 PM »
I'm not sure if this is exactly what you mean but I have found that some of my old ideas from school have combined into one story or characters have shifted into new universes. I suppose character and ideas are quite universal so it shouldn't be that surprising that they fit with other ideas. I find that characters especially can go beyond plot ideas, though maybe I'm just better at characters than plot!

Can I also say as a Brit with a slightly immature sense of humour I found the title of this post hilarious.

10
[NOV 2014] Joker Month / Re: [Nov 2014] - joker month - Submission Thread
« on: November 20, 2014, 10:42:08 PM »
This is based on "Apprenticeship". The title is Idle Thoughts and it is 1,020 words.

Spoiler for Hiden:
It was a good night. The moon was barely a slither in the sky, the air was crisp but not freezing and the wind only blew enough to tickle the leaves in the trees.  Sometimes it was best to have the wind rattling the shutters.  You might have to cling to the rooftops with your fingernails but there was no danger of being overheard.  Tonight they would have to walk softly, silent shadows flittering through the city.  Leeka fastened her hair up and banished her musings from her mind. Idle thoughts are for the fire, outside your mind has to be as sharp as the knives you carry.  Her teachers words, words she had passed on to her own apprentices.  They waited in the dark next to her, Megi, Saree and little Fon, all still and silent. Good. Leeka moved gracefully forward, avoiding the lamp light, and headed into the Steps.

The city had many districts from the wide expanse of the Parade, to the dirty scrawl of the Docks and the towering spires of the Libraries.  Leeka’s work took her to all of them.  People died as easily in a feather bed as in a tavern or a busy square on market day.  Tonight, however, her business was in the Steps.

The Steps were a warren of stairways and archways.  Some led to homes, taverns and shops but you were just as likely to find a sudden drop into nothingness.  You paid attention in the Steps unless you had a sudden urge to try your hand at flying.  It had once been the worst neighbourhood in the city but the poorest had long since been pushed out leaving those who were poor but not truly desolate.  Including the man they were here to kill.

Their route took them up a twisting set of steps. They were worn down with use and cracked with age.  Houses rose up high on both sides but no one looked out.  Even if they had the lamp light was too easily swallowed by the twisting of the pathway and Leeka was too used to walking in the darkness.  Make day and night your friends because death does not sleep.  The stairs ended abruptly but Leeka was already turning up a smaller passageway.  More stairs leading them higher, deeper into the Steps.  They were close.

Finally they reached a half broken archway beside a tavern. The battered sign proclaimed it The Silver Hare.  Laughter and shouting floated out of a half open window.  Leeka turned away from the sound   and used old hidden hand holds to effortlessly climb the wall and slide onto the roof beside the tavern.  Her apprentices followed.  Leeka heard a gentle thump. Saree.  She always missed the first foot hold. Perhaps another lashing would help her remember.

Leeka crept over the roof, slowing her pace to accommodate her three shadows.  Soon she would present Megi to the Guild and there would only be two.  Leeka almost laughed at the sorrow that thought produced in her.  How she had raged against taking an apprentice. Her joy came in the feel of the knife sliding into soft flesh, seeing the poison dart hit its mark, hearing the crunch of bones under her boot, not in teaching scrawny infants an art few could master.  And now Megi had mastered it and she almost longer for the day when the girl hadn’t known how which side of an axe to hold. Leeka shook her head.  Tonight her mind seemed inclined to wander.  Her musings would have to wait, a man who should have been cold still breathed the night’s air.

They had reached his home.  A rented room at the top of a dilapidated house with holes in the ceiling and rats in the walls.  As good a place to die as any other.  She should have sent one of the children in, it was an easy kill, a learning opportunity. But Leeka was in the mood for death.  She wanted to see the life drain from his eyes and hear his final breath.  Quickly she slipped through one of the roof holes and dropped into the room. She landed silently, crouched in case of attack. He slept on.  In a few swift smooth motions she took out of her knife, shook the man awake and slit his throat before he could even register waking.  He gave one silent choke and then his eyes were empty, the life draining away faster than water down a drain.  Leeka smiled.

That was when the half sword slid between her shoulder blades.  She had never been stabbed before but she knew what it was as surely as she knew the names of the muscles it cut through and the blood vessels it opened.   She turned, reaching down for her own sword.  That was when the axe hacked off half her arm.  She reeled backwards but somehow remained on her feet.  Megi stood in front of her, bloody sword pointed at the floor. Saree held the axe, her face impassive as she looked at Leeka.

“Why?”
The word burst out of her even as she struggled to stay upright.
“You have enemies in the Guild, enemies with money.  Anyone can die for the right price.”
Her words parroted back at her.  The pain, hurt and betrayal began to recede as anger raged like a fire through her.  She had taught these children. She had shown them how to carry death on their fingertips, how to slip like shadows through the city, how to strike faster than a man could blink.  And they had betrayed her.

Megi must have seen the fury in her eyes and known Leeka would rather kill them all and die than try to escape and live. 
“Finish her Fon.”
The knife slashed against the side of her throat.  Leeka hadn’t even noticed him in the shadows.  Pride bubbled up inside her as she slid down onto the floor, gagging on her own blood.  The last thing she saw was the three of them staring down at her as the world turned black and faded away.

11
Currently reading Embassytown by China Mieville. I never tended to enjoy SF that much but I might have to try some more after this because it's really good!

12
I normally read a review and then read the blurb to see if it interests me. If I'm just browsing in a shop it's mainly on the blur and perhaps a sneaky read of the first few pages. Unless I know the author and have read the before it is definitely on the book rather than the name as people do like different types of books.

13
[DEC 2014] Mirror Empire / Re: Mirror Empire - Who's reading with us?
« on: November 17, 2014, 11:37:06 PM »
Just bought it so I'm in too.

14
A bit of a light fantasy month due to having a rather long non-fiction book to slog through.

The Broken Empire Trilogy by Mark Lawrence - Finally got around to reading these and very glad I did. I really liked how they were structured the time gaps between books and the present day/past split.  It was also fun to try to work out all the references to our time (e.g. the Tall Castle) which made a change from the normal quasi-Europe fantasy world.  I was also surprised by how much I liked Jorg, not because of his less than charming traits but because I normally can't stand first person.  Definitely recommend. 

Graveyard Shift by Angela Roquet - I found the story idea interesting (good take on the afterlife) and enjoyed reading it. It is pretty light and doesn't take long to get through but if you want something easy and fun then I'd give it a go particularly if you can get it cheap on Kindle like I did.

Non-fantasy:

Confessions from Correspondent-Land by Nick Bryant - An interesting account of his time as a foreign correspondent.  Not the best journalist memoir I've read but he does go into quite a bit more detail about the politics and culture of different places even if this makes certain sections slightly long winded.

The Victorian City by Judith Flanders
- This was well written and had lots of interesting information in it. It took me rather too long to get through it (I haven't read a proper history book in over a year - think I've lost the knack) but I'm glad to have it to reference if I need and to dip back into.  Particularly found the parts about street traders interesting as it matched things I've seen in other countries today.

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I chose the Tristram Cathedral by Peter Lee though I loved all the photos and might try to include them in some other writing. I couldn't really think of a title so I am just going to go with 'Hell or Earth'.  The word count is 1347.

Spoiler for Hiden:
The ruined cathedral loomed out of the darkness, its remaining roof tiles glowing eerily in the silver moonlight.  Swirling mist hid the surroundings except for a few twisted branches reaching out like claws towards the path.  Red light, too bright and eerie to be ordinary flames, shone through the broken walls and windows.  From within came the sound of chanting, too low for the words to be clear even in the silence of the forest.

All in all, Mortem could think of quite a few places he would rather be.  The inn they had passed in the last village had looked nice.  Warm fires, plentiful amounts of ale, probably a thick stew of some kind to gorge himself on.  He suspected there would also be a distinct lack of people who wanted to drag him down to the underworld for an unending life of pain and servitude.

The group finally drew to a stop just outside the arched doorway.  The cathedral didn’t improve much on closer inspection. It seemed highly likely that a stiff breeze would send it tumbling down.  Mortem contemplated how easy it would be to pass off a well-placed fire ball as an accident.  By demonic standards he was pretty useless at magic.  But even his parents weren’t quite that idiotic.  Mortem also doubted the creepy shadow figures on the roof would be hugely impressed.

At the front of the group his father turned and pulled back his hood,
“The time is nigh my friends! Through this door is the gateway to our salvation! We will be returned to our true home where the fires have burned since the dawn of time and human souls cower at our feet!”
You could say one thing for his father; he wasn’t bad at delivering dramatic speeches.  Though, Mortem thought sourly, that was probably due to the years of practice. 
“It has been one hundred years since we left the hell fires…”
Since they had been thrown out.
“…stuck in this desolate human world…”
With its wine, opera and horse drawn carriages.
“…soon to be back among our own kind…”
Demons whose interests didn’t extend much past torture, killing and power.
“…our home awaits!”
The lesser demons in the group fell to their knees crying out in their joy.  Mortem shook his head in disgust. Lesser demons were just so pathetic.  Mortem’s mother stepped forward to embrace his father,
“It is time my love,” she glanced back at Mortem and motioned sharply with her head.  As slowly as he dared he followed his parents into the cathedral, the other demons hurrying in his wake.

There was little left from its days as a holy site.  The broken walls and ceiling seemed more of a mockery, a fake façade surrounding a bare expanse. Or what would have been bare if it was not for the glowing red portal covering half the floor.  There were a few of the creepy shadow men hanging around the edges chanting in a foreign tongue but the only figure who paid the newcomers any attention was the woman sitting at a rather out of place desk. She held her quill above her record book as her eyes swept over the group.  A demon, Mortem realised. A demon who could quite easily squash him like an ant under a boot if the power rolling off her was real. If she was just the gatekeeper hell had suddenly become even less appealing.

“Lord Pravus, Lady Hirudo.”
The woman leant back over her book, the scratching of the quill audible in the near empty room. Her voice was a bored monotone. No respect, no welcome, merely a fact to be stated. 
“Lady Sica.”
His father seemed rather put out.  Evidently the Lady Sica was not someone he had shared a deep  friendship with.
Mortem’s mother covered her husband’s discomfort.
“We have come to return home.  The century has passed.”
“Oh yes, the banishment.”
Both his parents bristled at her words despite the dispassionate delivery. Lady Sica ignored them, her eyes sweeping over the rest of the group. When Mortem met them he could see the fires burning, the screaming souls, the darkness. He managed to repress his shudder but the sick feeling in his stomach grew. 
“I don’t believe I’ve met this one.”
“Our son, Mortem.”
His father had found his voice again.
“Mortem…how original.”
Mortem could hear the smirk in her voice and bristled. He might think his name was stupid but that didn’t mean he took kindly to other people pointing that out. Even if they were powerful demons who could probably peel his skin away with a flick of the wrist.  His anger smothered the sensible part of his brain as he plastered on his most fake smile,
“Evening! Lovely place you have here.  The holes are really… decorative.”
He felt the group stiffen around him but Lady Sica merely smiled coldly. 
“This was a place of God before the humans abandoned it.  We have more power in places where he has lost his.  I would think any demon worthy to walk in the fires of hell would know this.”
“Well in that case…”
Mortem half turned trying to decide if he could reach the door before someone realised he wasn’t joking.
“We shall all be going home.”
His mother’s voice was deceptively calm, though whether she was angry with him or Lady Sica Mortem couldn’t tell.  Lady Sica raised an eyebrow but then sighed and rolled her eyes. 
“As you wish.  The portal will open on the hour.”
She went back to her papers.  The group began to shuffle forwards, excitement and longing written across every face.  Mortem stayed where he was. This was it. A few minutes and he would be leaving the human world for the first time. Probably for the last time.  Sixteen years of sunlight, wind and raindrops.  Perhaps it wasn’t very demonic to admit it but that sounded a whole lot nicer than the darkness and fire that awaited him.  He should have run.  Lady Sica seemed to have seen the indecision on his face,
“I don’t know why you’re bringing that weakling with you. I can’t see him lasting very long among real demons.”
“Do not insult my son.”
His father’s voice was cold and flat.  Mortem was rather surprised.  His parents had never been particularly, well, parental.  Demons and protectiveness didn’t tend to go hand in hand.  Lady Sica raised an eyebrow mockingly,
“Defending the weak, how very human of you Lord Pravus.”
With a bellow of fury his father threw a ball of purple flames directly at Lady Sica.  She deflected it sideways into the wall and suddenly the air was full of fire and lightning.  Mortem threw up a shield as magic and rocks rained down on them.  He could see his parents fighting Lady Sica and the lesser demons being blasted apart by the shadow men.  A huge slab of rock crashed to the floor in front of him and Mortem stumbled backwards.  Somewhere in the fighting a cry went up,
“The portal!”
Mortem turned and ran.  Rock crashed around him, some of it bouncing off his shield.  He could feel the red heat of the opening portal on the back of his neck.  His parents’ voices called out but Mortem was through the door and still going.  His foot caught on a grave stone and he tumbled into the mud.  Silence reigned. 

Gingerly Mortem got to his feet.  The cathedral was gone.  Its rubble lay scattered over the grass.  The portal had also gone and so had everyone else.  No demons, no parents, no creepy shadow figures. Just him and a lot of old pieces of rock.  Perhaps by the end of the next century someone would have cleared it up enough for the portal to open.  Or perhaps he would just have to be stuck here for ever.  Either way, Mortem thought as he brushed the dirt off his breeches and started off down the path, now was a good time to find out if that inn had any stew.

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