Oprichnina and Zemshchina

I sit in the chill alone, another mile further down the road, staring up at the sky and watching my breath as it forms puffs of vanishing clouds. The air is the way only winter can make it, sharp and crisp, cutting at my lungs as it goes down my throat. Clouds are gathering, distant on the horizon, foreshadowing the storm I know is coming. Wind, snow, and tumult; the storm of our humanity will not even register.

I hope he feels as tired as I do, as hopeless and alone. Is he worn out and ready to quit, the strength to keep fighting drained by these endless hardships? No, not him. For him, the privations and difficulties are merely proof of his righteousness. The blood on his hands only demonstrates the justness of his cause and the lengths he will go to stand by it.

For me, I do not enjoy the apocalypse that he and his kind have wrought. That it is him, of all people, that I am forced to reckon with only makes it all the worse. If it were someone else, someone I did not have such a history with, it would be another matter. It would not cut so deep.

As these thoughts flit through my mind, I finger the sepulchre tome that I carry with me. It has only the dead in it now. The incantations here that my kind once worried over are now only the words of a dead tongue. He and his kind have seen to that.

He has the silver and the gold, and our lives, so many I cannot even bear to count. And now he will take this last thing too, to bring an end to this all.

There is no sense waiting further, and so I get to my weary feet and make my way to him.

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In A Flash

Every Thursday, a new story, published here at Circumambient Scenery. From horror to westerns to far-flung space opera and all points in between.

A door that has never been opened. What lies behind it? An inquisitor sets out on a journey to find a monster. Two radicals on the run for their lives come to the end of the line in an olive grove at the end of a long night. A living ship comes to give birth on the edges of space.

In A Flash is a new series where a new short story will be published every week for a year, starting January 2016. The stories will be short, 1500 words or less, and unique. None of them will be part of an existing universe or an overarching story. At the end of the year the collected stories will be published in a volume.

The stories published in the last two months are a teaser of what is to come beginning in January. Stay tuned every Thursday for more!

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Now Available: Dance of Shadows

War with the Shadow Men looms in both realms as the consequences of the Gvers’ Council in Craitol begin to make themselves known. A war that could end in glorious triumph or bitter disaster.

Doubt shadows everyone’s steps, for they know there are no certainties in the desert. Especially now the Shadow Men have made the art of alkemya their own.

No one has more questions than Vyissan, for he is working in service to a cause he is no longer sure he believes in. And now he must undertake a journey with those who both loathe and fear him. Before the first sword is drawn, his life will be under threat.

But his will not be the only one, for somewhere in the desert the Shadow Men lie in wait…

Dance of Shadows is the final volume in The Shadow Men.

Available at Amazon, Kobo, and Smashwords

The Supreme Effect

Morning light crept along the horizon, expanding further with each passing moment its domain, revealing the outlines of trees. There was a trail leading through the trees into a meadow, well-worn by the shepherds and the cattle and sheep they brought here to graze. They were absent this early, not yet stirring in their beds miles away. The grass was heavy with moisture and even as the light grew, the air turned misty and a bank of fog settled over the landscape, obscuring the trees and making the trail difficult to pick out.

Four figures emerged from the fog and stood across from each other. No one spoke or moved for a time, all of them staring at each other with a mixture of unease and disdain, bravado and fear. As the fog began to dissipate, an unspoken signal passed between them and two of the men stepped together to stand between the remaining two, bowing formally to each other. The two solitary men backed away from the pair in opposite directions until they were almost lost to each other in the murk.

“Brach wishes to commence?” one of the pair said.

The other nodded, his mouth formed into a thin grimace. They both wore dark robes, similar in cut and design. Their heads were shaved and their faces clean-cut. Their age was indeterminate; they appeared young, but something about their youth was edged with the entropy of years. The only thing to distinguish them was that one had blue eyes and the other brown.

“Hjesch as well,” the one with the blue eyes said.

“Then let us commence,” the brown-eyed second said. “We agree that the duel shall be without assistance? There will be no implements or engines, no familiars, and we, of course, shall remain observers only.”

“Agreed. As Hjesch has chosen the place, Brach can choose the element.” Continue reading

The Bare Scent

Richard shot Matthews once, in the neck, and stood and watched as he crumpled to the floor, his breath coming in gurgles as the blood leaked out of him at a frightening pace. The sound of the shot had startled him. It had been both louder and quieter than he had expected. He stayed watching as Matthews bled out, his eyes blinking rapidly while he tried to speak, thinking only that he had been aiming for the head, not the neck.

Finally he remembered himself and, dropping the gun beside the dying man, he turned on his heels and walked out of the room, down the hallway, to the stairs. He moved at a steady pace, as though he had a purpose and was on his way somewhere, but he encountered no one. It was two flights to the main floor where he exited the stairwell into the hotel lobby and calmly walked out past the bellhops, desk attendants and guests, drawing not a single glance, through the revolving door and out into the glare of the sun.

There were two cabs parked out front and he got into the first one, giving the man an address—the first one that came into his head, a restaurant he had looked up the night before. The cab pulled out into the flow of traffic and Richard sucked in a deep breath, what felt like his first in a long while. He looked down at his hands and saw that they were shaking, and then realized that no, that was an illusion. It was his vision itself that was unsteady. The whole world was vibrating. Continue reading