Tag Archives: writing

The Augurwraith by Craig Comer – Part II

As she spoke, two other men emerged from the guildhall. They wore the simple vests of craftsmen, and the mark of the Tanner’s Guild emblazoned their arms in red ink—a scraping blade resting upon a stretched rawhide. The first tanner mumbled some rude comment, and the others laughed.

Saja seethed. She silently cursed her father again, and the Tanner’s Guild, and the Sultan, who allowed lechers to prey upon the desperate. She felt a chunk of sandstone under her palm and grasped it, eyeing the three men. She pictured the tanner clutching his nose and howling in pain, but then thought better of hurling the stone. She could perhaps outrun two, but three certainly pressed her luck. Besides, she still held a small hope the guild would take her in. Maybe if she came again later and spoke with someone else.

The tanner saw the stone as she dropped it, and his eyes went cold. Saja did her best to ignore him. Rising, she scraped off the silt and muck that clung to her dress. In the Tanner’s District, buckets were kept to collect the leavings from animal and man alike, for use in the tanning process, but the slop of refuse still soiled the ground. And in the air, baking under the noonday sun, the stench of the vats hung thick.

As Saja strode away from the guildhall, she passed a few peddlers hawking pottery and craftsmen’s tools from the backs of their carts, while wagons of fresh skins and rawhides trundled along. She dodged one of the wagons and almost collided with a beggar who shuffled by with his arms tucked into his robes, mumbling to himself. She heard giggling from a shadowed corner between two squat buildings, and spied a pair of harlots watching her. They wore sheer linen dresses, with paint caked upon their eyes and cheeks. They know, Saja thought with a shiver. They can see I will soon be one of them. The notion plunged her heart into her gut, and her eyes welled.

A year ago, she’d been in love with Tarim, her father’s apprentice. A year ago, she thought she’d never dream of another man. Her entire life lay before her, scripted like the sweet tales from a mummer’s stage. But then the winds had changed, and her father stole her future.

One of the harlots stepped forward, but the other caught her arm and flicked her gaze at something behind Saja. The first altered her step into a graceful pivot, so that her back faced the street. Saja frowned. She peered over her shoulder and gasped. The tanner and craftsmen followed her, trailing only a few dozen paces away.

For a moment, she only stared. An icy hand of fear gripped her spine and wouldn’t let go. Then, with a gasp, her knees buckled and she lurched forward. Weaving through the street, she quickened her pace, her mind racing with what the men would do to her if they reached her. When she glanced backward again, the tanner gave her a mocking grin.

She stumbled in a wagon rut and heard the two craftsmen laugh. She was only sport to them, she told herself, something to pass the afternoon. Soon they would tire of their chase. She just needed to keep moving.

But she felt them edging closer. The hot sun melded with the imagined heat of their breath upon her neck. The gentle breeze was their fingers reaching out to clutch her dress.

The street forked, and Saja darted down an alley pressed between a salting house and a dyer’s shack. The footsteps slapping the dirt behind her echoed louder, coming closer until they seemed like they were her own.

As she broke into a run, a shadow flittered across the corner of her vision. Only it was higher than it should’ve been, as if a giant hawk had suddenly swooped down beside her. A loud grunt sounded, followed by a thud.

Saja heard the tanner curse, then the shriek of another man. She stopped and spun around, shocked at what she found. A lithe man in a shirt of green silk had his back toward her, blocking the alley. He balanced on his toes like a dancer, with a dagger held in one hand. Even Saja could tell the man was dangerous.

One of the craftsmen clutched at his arm, blood weeping through his fingers. The other was crumpled upon the ground, moaning softly.

The tanner sneered and brought his hands up in fists. “This is unwise, thief,” he said. “We are guildsmen. We are protected. The Horned Man will hear of this and string you from your toes!”

The silk-shirted man shifted his dagger so it pointed toward the ground but remained silent. The tanner lunged at him. To Saja, the punch was as quick as an asp’s strike, but the thief danced to one side and brought the butt of his dagger into the man’s temple. The tanner grunted and was struck again. This time he fell to his knees.

…to be continued

Originally published in Pulp Empire Volume IV.

© Craig Comer

The Augurwraith by Craig Comer – Part I

Saja gagged as the tanner’s breath washed over her in warm huffs that reeked of fish and ale. The man leaned forward from his perch upon the stoop of the guildhall, and pulled her close, his hands fumbling along her waist and rump.

She considered for a moment to let him have his way. Her father had left her with few choices, and almost all ended with her lying upon her back. She cursed her father for the thousandth time that day, wishing him dead, and at the same time wondering if he still lived. She hadn’t seen him for three days, since the Feast of Raast, where the denizens of Kuthahaar had celebrated those of the Sultan’s royal blood, the Kitame, the Children of Light.

blog_treeThe tanner forced his mouth to her neck, and its warmth broke her from her stupor. She shoved at the man’s chest. He raised a hand to strike her, and she quickly lowered her head, staring at his sandaled feet in meek submission.

“Please,” she said. “My father’s always been loyal to the guild. It is said you protect your own.”

The tanner smirked, revealing rotted teeth that pointed like daggers. “But your father’s not in the guild, no more than the boys who collect dung for the vats.”

“He sells you oak bark and lye, gathered from across the Seas of Abthinar. You need him!”

“Phaw, forget that doddering fool. There are a dozen others who would give us as fair a price for their bark and lye, and they wouldn’t squander it all in cups at the taverns.” The tanner rose. His eyes roamed her body. “Come inside, and we’ll find work for you.”

He grabbed her arm, and she slapped it away. Staring up at his leering face, she knew whatever work the tanner would offer, it was his bed he wanted her in. She took a step back, and his smile dropped.

Jerking forward, he snatched her close again. His fingers dug into her shoulders; his chin crushed down on the top of her head. She shrieked and tried to bat him away. He growled and threw her to the ground.

“Leave, then!” he barked.

Saja glanced about, but though the street was busy, no one stared at her. No one cared. The Immortal City of Kuthahaar was never kind to those without wealth or power, and less so to those without family or guild to protect them. Despair bubbled in her gut again, but she pushed it down. Her father had always taught her that panic during a negotiation produced only two effects: a spoiled stomach and an empty purse.

She settled her shoulders and drew her face blank. “I will find him,” she said, though the words brought little comfort.

…to be continued

Originally published in Pulp Empire Volume IV.

© Craig Comer

The Fey Matter continues…

Happy Halloween, everyone! It’s been a great October for The Fey Matter. Edits from City Owl Press are almost complete and we’ve started discussing a cover design for the book.

I’ve started writing the second book in the series, and the rough draft of the first chapter is already complete. I can’t wait until readers are able to follow Effie on her adventures!

For now, here is a rough sketch of Effie done by my friend (and INCREDIBLE artist) Ben Thornton.

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Last, if you haven’t already, the Bards & Sages poll is open until the end of the month. Head on over and vote for your favorite story! (click here) My short story, “The Tomb of Jorem’bel”, is in the January issue.

Shaolin vs Vikings: an anthology of weird fiction!

Want awesome stories of high fantasy, steampunk, and horror? Want them for FREE? Then check out this collection from Ahimsa Kerp!

…from a steampunk world where the Burmese Empire still rules most of Asia, to Japanese death dogs, from the real reason no writings of Socrates exist, to an ancient Sumerian sage corrupted by the modern world stalking the fjords of Oslo, from a town full of women eagerly desperate to avoid sacrifice to a Dragon, to a German cat who really just wants to play a DJ set at the local Techno Festival, these stories span the breadth of the speculative fiction field.

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#FF – The Machine Stops

I thought I’d do a little #FF here, though technically it’s a few hours until Friday. If you’re looking for some great mash-ups of fantasy, steampunk, horror, and sci-fi you should head over to The Machine Stops, the blog of author Garrett Calcaterra. He’s best known for his Dreamwielder series (the ebook of vol 1 is on sale through Sept 13th) but his recently released anthology, Dreamrush, is equally worth checking out. It has tales of air pirates raiding the California coast during the Gold Rush, a tie-in story set in the Dreamwielder ‘verse, and other weird pulp adventures.

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THE FEY MATTER finds a home with City Owl Press!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, but I’m happy to return with the exciting news that City Owl Press has agreed to publish my new alternate history / gaslamp fantasy novel, THE FEY MATTER!

Set against the backdrop of 1882 Scotland, the novel follows a young, orphaned fey as she eludes the crown’s minions, matches wits against greedy lords, and battles an auld enemy of her people.

I’m super stoked to be working with City Owl Press and their great staff! More details to come, but now it is time for a happy dance!

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The Tomb of Jorem’bel by Craig Comer

“Gavane peered from beneath a shadowed hood, scowling at the iron-bound door. His shoulders scrunched around a neck thicker than Ffyordland timber. Beside him, Mior leaned casually against a shepherd’s cart. Her limbs were relaxed, the fury in her blood simmering in a slow burn, as it had for a fortnight—a blasted fortnight!—the time spent ranging the streets of Emberdeen seeking out a mage. She glanced up the crowded street again. There was still no sign of the death-slinger they’d hired. The man had better show. They’d spent the last of their coin and had no chance of opening the tomb of Jorem’bel without aid. A warded door blocked its entrance, the temple erected around it buried deep beneath the city of lost kings.”

My short story, “The Tomb of Jorem’bel,” is now available in the January 2016 issue of Bards & Sages Quarterly.

A tale of vengeance full of pulp adventure and dangerous magic, the story follows Mior and her companions as they risk everything to reclaim the talisman of their forefathers.

Get it here from Smashwords. Or here from Amazon.

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Delayed Drift by Craig Comer

Gravel crunched as the private shuttle pulled into the viewing lot. Below, a lazy stretch of water meandered farther than the eye could see in either direction. “We’re here!” said Joe. “Put that away.”

“Great, a river,” mumbled Derek, tucking his gamepod into his jacket.

“Nope,” said Joe. “Not a river.” He killed the engine and hopped out.

Derek rolled his eyes. “Come on, Suze, let’s see what dad’s manic about now.”

“Mmpf,” came a sleepy groan from the backseat. Derek hated that they looked alike. But then, everyone looked alike when you really looked close. Hands in his pockets, he trudged over to the cliff’s edge where Joe stood whistling.

“Must’ve been a big one,” said Joe.

“What’s that, dad?” Derek scanned the shore hoping some girls were around.

“The earthquake that caused this rift. Millions of years of expanding and contracting pressure, then about 40,000 years ago—BAM!” He whistled again, more dramatically. “Water’s full of salt, too, just like an ocean.”

“Oh?”

“That’s because it is an ocean.” Joe grinned like a kid in a candy store. “Scientists announced it last year. Just amazing—they say that under the topsoil the earth is made of these giant plates that can break and drift apart. Some even argue it’s happened several times before. Crazy, huh? Like Gaul might’ve been near Medina. The Dagbons might’ve not existed at all.

“Uh-huh. Neat, dad.” Derek thumbed his gamepod.

Joe rolled his eyes. “So who’d have unified the tribes? Defined the Emperor’s Tongue? Would farm parceling have worked with different landmasses floating around the surface of the planet, completely separated?”

Derek shrugged.

“The opposite shore over there will be miles away, someday,” said Joe, “like the volcanic islands out in the Far Waters.”

“Seems stupid to build a bridge over it, then.”

Joe laughed. “Well, it’ll take time before that matters. The landmasses—they don’t have names for them yet—only move an inch or two each year. But just think, folks will have to cross an ocean to get across the empire. The world will be separated into chunks.” Raising his arms, he shouted, “An Earth divided!”

Suzy slumped into Derek, eyes still glazed. “Why’d we stop?”

“Some river,” said Derek, pulling out his gamepod.