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Messages - AlanBrenik

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I'd recommend Chris Wooding's The Braided Path series, which begins with The Weavers of Saramyr.

And I'll also give a shout to Garth Nix's Old Kingdom series. The first one, Sabriel, works as a standalone but the following two are worth reading and verge deeper into 'epic' territory.

Wow, you read really quickly!!!
Or have you been reading as they get posted? I always wait until the thread is closed, because the writer might still go and change something in their story.

I read as they were posted, then had a binge read of them all just before voting. I'm glad I did too, as it made me change my original top four slightly.

My votes are in! I've really enjoyed reading through all the entries this month, and it's been great how many different approaches there have been to the theme :)

Thanks for the heads up! I recently submitted to the Hodderscape Open Submissions but it's worth knowing Angry Robot are opening their doors again. I completely agree that they are a great publishing house with some of the best SFF novels in recent years. Roll on December :)

I can't believe its already 10 years old,I brought it when it first came out it only feels like yesterday since I read the book.

Wow. I'm the same, I can remember picking it up on release in Waterstones. I feel so much older now ha.

Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: 2015 Debuts
« on: September 16, 2015, 12:59:09 PM »
Just added to my Amazon Wish List. My birthday is coming up, ya'll. Just saying.

Haha I'll keep that in mind.

There's quite a number of books above that I've put on my wish list. I read an excerpt from Becky Chambers' The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and that grabbed me in particular. Looking forward to working my round to some of these titles.

Introductions / Re: Hello everyone!
« on: September 16, 2015, 12:55:09 PM »
Thanks guys.

And yeah, I can envisage spending a lot of time in the top section :)

Introductions / Re: Hello everyone!
« on: September 16, 2015, 10:23:44 AM »
Thanks Henry, I appreciate it!
I've read a few entries so far and am really enjoying the different approaches to the theme.
Good luck with your own entry, too :)

Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: 2015 Debuts
« on: September 16, 2015, 09:16:43 AM »
The one that took me by surprise was Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace. It's a bit of a hybrid, a cocktail of genres that produced something that felt fresh. It leans heavily on the YA genre though, so that might be off-putting to some, but I found it delivered a rich, emotionally-resonant story. Worth a read in my opinion.

Introductions / Hello everyone!
« on: September 16, 2015, 09:06:18 AM »
I've been reading the FF blog for a while now and have only just joined the forum. I'm looking forward to getting involved with it, and I've already entered the September monthly writing contest. Great fun!

As for me, I'm currently studying Creative Writing at university in the UK, pursuing my dream of becoming a published author. I'm a lover of fantasy fiction primarily, though I find myself reading more and more SF as the years go on. And I have recently completed my first novel, an urban fantasy story, and am currently working toward getting it published.

No doubt be seeing you guys around the forum. Great to meet you!

This is my first submission (1,497 words including title).
@AlanBrenik (Twitter)

Politics and Bloodshed

Spoiler for Politics and Bloodshed:
Mikhail shifted in his seat but fought the urge to loosen his collar. The heat was ungodly; it always was during the election month. He clicked his fingers and the slave fanning him increased their tempo, to little effect.

Despite sitting high above the commoners in the arena stalls, their baying was giving Mikhail a migraine. And the only thing worse than the noise was the smell. The press of so many unwashed bodies below was making itself apparent in the back of his throat, and his stomach was almost ready to mutiny. He retrieved his kerchief from his belt and smothered his nose and mouth, hoping to quieten his bowels.

It seemed the entire city was in attendance for this particular election contest. Not that he could blame them. The race for the office of Aedile was always of utmost importance to the commoners. The victor was responsible for organising public games, after all. A business that was as corrupt as it was lucrative, hence Mikhail’s own vested interest.

A collective gasp threaded through the crowd before subsiding into groans and bellowed curses. Both electoral candidates were competent fighters, and time and again the crowd had been cheated of first blood now. Perhaps it was the city’s insatiable appetite for public spectacle that caused the elections to culminate in gladiatorial combat, mused Mikhail, or perhaps it was the other way round. So it often went with politics and bloodshed, in his experience. It was difficult to trace where one necessitated the other.

The whisper of cloth over stone heralded his expected visitor. Mikhail tucked his kerchief into the sleeve of his doublet before rising. His delicate stomach was a weakness, and he knew better than to show weakness to a fellow moneylender.

He acknowledged her by bowing at a gratuitous angle, chin flush to his chest. His head throbbed at the sudden movement but he ignored it, just as he did the flicker of pride that protested within him at bowing to old money. In his business, pride was a weakness he refused to be burdened with.

‘Well met,’ said Lady Domitia.

Mikhail straightened and echoed the greeting. He had never understood how she could walk the city in so many layers – especially during the summer months – and yet appear so unflustered. It was only one of the reasons he held such a deep mistrust of her. Her hair was coiled and stacked atop her head in what might, by a cynical mind, be thought of as a crown. Few dared to so openly parade their power and influence in the city, though few had as much of either as Lady Domitia.

Mikhail aspired to become one of them – new money or not.

Lady Domitia took the seat beside him, settling the many folds of her dress about her with arachnid exactness. Mikhail followed suit and motioned for one of the slaves at the back of his private platform to offer his guest refreshments. Lady Domitia plucked a grape from the slave’s out-held platter and popped it between her teeth, allowing the juice to trickle down her chin and onto her dress. He averted his eyes, clenched a fist. She knew uncleanliness bothered him, and he had spent a lifetime affecting the appropriate reactions to cultivate such a belief. Mikhail dealt in falsehoods as much as he did gold.

Mikhail turned his eyes to the two candidates some distance below. Both had been elected to fight for office, only one could leave the arena alive. Mikhail had witnessed many such contests, and he knew it couldn’t be long before the sand tasted blood. Fatigue was beginning to show. 

Lady Domitia smacked her lips as she finished another grape. ‘I must confess; I had not anticipated your candidate making it to the arena.’ Every word poured from her mouth, slow and deliberate.

Mikhail ignored the subtle accusation. He had lied, cheated and bribed his candidate’s way onto the ballot, then rigged the vote. Not that he would admit it. Instead he schooled his features with a practised blend of surprise and delight. ‘Quite the unexpected pleasure, I assure you, Lady Domitia.’

She ran another grape across her bottom lip thoughtfully, touched her tongue to its ripe skin and then returned it to the platter. ‘An honour, for certain. Though there will only be one victor today.’

Mikhail heard the threat behind the fact. He twisted his fingers over his heart in the holy sign for luck. An empty ritual, but it served a purpose. ‘It is in the hands of the gods,’ he recited. That, he thought, and the poison staining his candidate’s blade. Nothing overt, just a simple concoction to hasten a victory. If only his man would get on with it and bloody his sword.

‘Of course,’ agreed Lady Domitia. ‘The gods.’

She was smiling. A true smile.

Mikhail’s already delicate bowels twisted sharply. Something was wrong.

No sooner had the thought occurred to Mikhail than a fanfare of trumpets sounded from the arena’s edge. The two candidates broke apart and the crowd fell silent, their shouting replaced with a hungry, palpable anticipation.

Tactus Dei,’ whispered Mikhail.

‘How fortunate we are,’ said Lady Domitia, reclining in her seat, ‘that the gods have seen fit to take a hand in this contest.’

‘Yes, fortunate,’ said Mikhail distractedly.

Holes were already opening in the arena floor, sand raining down out of sight. It was a tradition rarely enacted, where the augurs would determine the contest merited divine intervention in the form of lions or boars or worse.

Mikhail inwardly cursed Lady Domitia. He didn’t doubt that she had arranged this turn of events, and it galled him that she had accomplished what he couldn’t. The augurs had been singularly unresponsive to his overtures.

He heard the crowd stir as something troubled the sand around the newly opened holes. He leaned forward, shading his eyes with one hand and squinting down into the arena. It took a moment for his eyes to make sense of what he was seeing.

‘Vetrian Spiders?’ he muttered.

‘Is it?’ asked Lady Domitia with faux interest. ‘How awful for our candidates.’

The spiders were flooding from the arena floor now, each as big as a chicken and armoured in chitin as tough as metal plate. Although not poisonous, they were lethal predators. And there had to be a score or more of them. Mikhail surmised that Lady Domitia had donated the spiders to the augurs herself, and that they had been trained to ignore her own candidate. Treacherous harpy.

But Mikhail was not so easily defeated.

Where there was disaster, there was also opportunity.

Mikhail stroked his earlobe with the thumb and forefinger of his left hand, twice. He didn’t turn to watch one of his slaves slip from the platform in response. He had ploughed an obscene amount of money into his candidate, an investment he was determined to reap once the man made office. And once committed, Mikhail had not skimped on any aspect of the campaign, including his most expensive purchase of all – the one that had left him as close to destitute as he had been in years.

While he waited for his slave to activate his contingency plan, Mikhail turned to Lady Domitia. ‘This feels like an auspicious day, indeed.’

She regarded him from behind steepled fingers, a wariness souring her smile at its corners.

The crowd were almost beside themselves as the spiders hounded the candidates. They were pack hunters, intelligent, and within moments they had the two men encircled. The possibility of a double death was thick in the air, an electoral rarity.

As one, the spiders charged. Within seconds they bypassed Lady Domitia’s man and headed straight for his own. No doubt it was meant to be a divine endorsement of her candidate, one the crowd would eagerly digest. Indeed, her man appeared relaxed, confident.

But Mikhail had not haemorrhaged gold importing a bonewitch from across the sea to watch his candidate fall so easily. And she was quick to show her worth. As the spiders neared Mikhail’s man, each one burst into violent, purple flame. They fell one by one, legs contracting in the sand as their joints whistled and popped from the blistering heat.

There was a moment of stillness, broken by Mikhail’s candidate skewering his unprepared opponent through the chest, leaving his sword swaying like a victory standard as the man fell back, dead.

‘The gods have spoken, it would seem, Lady Domitia,’ said Mikhail, careful to appear shocked rather than boastful.

‘Yes,’ said Lady Domitia through clenched teeth. She stood, collecting the skirts of her dress in both hands and turning sharply. ‘And they shall speak again,’ she called over her shoulder.

Mikhail leaned back in his seat once she’d left, retrieved his kerchief from his sleeve and brought it to his face once more. He smiled behind it.

Politics and bloodshed.

He wondered which tomorrow would bring.

Edited due to formatting issues.

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