Jake Savage and the Field of Battle – New Flash Fiction

The field between the manor and the church had once held a crop of wheat, but all the yellow stalks were bent and trampled destined never to become bread. Instead they were weighed down by the bodies of the dead, the blood of French and English soldiers blending to blacken the crop and the soil.

Jake grasped a handful of wheat stalks and tried to pull himself to a sitting position. But he couldn’t. There was a weight on his stomach and legs. He levered himself on his elbows and regarded the obstruction—the heavily armoured corpse of a French knight was sprawled over him. With a jerk of his knees Jake was able to shift the armoured corpse enough to move it. The body rolled away. Jake didn’t want to look, but he couldn’t help seeing the face of the Frenchman—he’d worn an open bascinet, no visor to protect his face and he’d been paid back for his recklessness. The knight’s face was opened from top to bottom by a knife that had been jammed in there and twisted so hard that the face’s features were distorted like a lump of dough that had been kneaded by a baker.

And then Jake remembered that it had been his knife and that he had done the kneading. He felt his head. It was sore and tender. Someone must have hit him. But not hard enough. He had been lucky, unlike this knight he’d killed. If he’d been a knight and able to afford a bascinet with a visor, he’d have bought one. No matter what if you could get so terribly injured like this knight. But for an archer like him the cost was beyond his reach and besides the visor would get in way when drawing the bow.

Without the weight of the Frenchman on him he was able to stand. He did so and looked around. He wondered where the rest of the retinue were. He couldn’t see anyone around apart from the field littered with bodies.

That was Ralph de Chester there he realised—the decapitated head of his ventenar stared up at him. Poor Ralph, he’d not been a bad leader to the archers. And near him lay more in the colours of ??, Old Cob, John the Snake, Hugh, Richard. On and on the names came to Jake’s mind. He stalked across the field, using his sword to prod at the bodies and turn them if he couldn’t see their faces. They were all there. Even Sir Robert himself and his son, the young Robert. They were all dead. The whole retinue.

He was the only one living out of all of them. The French must have won. Jake went back to each body looking for signs in life, in case like him some of them had only knocked been knocked cold by a blow to the head. But no, the wounds were ghastly and all mortal—deep cuts from swords axes or skulls smashed by hammers and maces.

The fighting had been bloody, brutal, fast and violent when the two forces met. Jake thought that neither had known of the other in the vicinity until each one came across from the opposite side of the field—the English from the church side and the French from the manor.

There had been about forty of the French—and the English had numbered thirty two. Jake counted the bodies. He was careful not to count any twice. Sixty five. Could there have been any survivors apart from him?

He shuddered. The day was darkening. The sun had sunk behind the clouds over a wood in the West while he had been counting. Long shadows of the trees lurched across the field and Jake imagined that the spectres of the dead were getting up to walk—to leave their bodies in the night.

And who would they haunt? Who else would they pursue, but him, the only one who survived the encounter of the bloody field?

Jake turned and ran.

Fast.

New Game that I’m in to: Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game

Recently my 8 year old son and I visited our local Games Workshop – he was really excited to see that they had Hobbit and Lord of the Rings miniatures – being an avid collector of Lego for both these films. So we’re mulling over getting into the game! I used to play Warhammer when I was a teenager, so know a bit about gaming with miniatures and painting them up. Before we take the plunge and get a whole set of figures – we’re thinking about the Hobbit Escape from Goblin Town starter set – I ordered 3 dwarfs just to practice painting. I did the undercoat and then my son did the dry-brushing beards, armour effects and the blue tunic bits and the boots – I worked on the more detailed bits like flesh tones and helped tidy things up a bit. They’re not the best painted miniatures ever, but I think they turned out all right!

Onto the game itself, Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game is a bit like Warhammer but more skirmish orientated – I managed to find a copy of the rules at my local library and we’ve had a couple of games using my son’s Lego figures – we found the rules simple to pick up but also with enough nuances to make it interesting – I think we might be getting that starter set soon!

Only the Good … Die Young – my new Science Fiction novel

Well it’s not written yet, but this is what I’m planning to work on over the next few months. The planning is done in enough detail for me to start writing and I’m planning to start tomorrow. This is a fun SF novel with a few nods to Star Wars and Traveller RPG.

Here’s a taster of the plot:

science-fiction-441708_1920The Galactic Emperor wants to live forever and the crew of the Diamond Fury have the mission to find the secret of immortality and bring it to him.

The crew of the Diamond Fury are in trouble – well the captain, Malkius, is at least and that means so too are the rest of the crew if they like it or not. This time he owes more than money. He’s seriously offended Haich Lissinger, the Crime lord who controls the Marcher Rim—a local warlord who acts as a satrap of the Imperial Governor—but is a gangster by any other name. You see Malkius stole his wife, and that’s a debt that Haich can’t forgive. Haich’s henchmen catch up with Malkius and the Diamond Fury, but he’s rescued—by another gangster—someone even more dangerous and extreme. This one, Phena Leblanc (”the orphan-maker”) offers Malkius a deal he can’t refuse.

January Sale

I hope you had a great Christmas and New Year. As it’s January, the time of sales, I’m offering discounts on 5 of my books. All of them have been cut to $0.99/£0.99/€0.99 or equivalent. I hope you’ll find something that you’ll like.

Hell has its Demons
$7.99 cut to $0.99
Buy Now

Tales of Magic and Mayhem
$4.99 cut to $0.99
Buy Now

The Return of the Free
$4.99 cut to $0.99
Buy Now

Through a Distant Mirror Darkly
$4.99 cut to $0.99
Buy Now

By the Sword’s Edge
$3.99 cut to $0.99
Buy Now

Verdun – Realistic WW1 First Person Shooter

I just wanted to mention a great game that I recently started playing – it depicts trench fighting in the First World War with great accuracy and is good fun to play. It’s a first person shooter, but unlike silly FPS where you blast everyone away, you have realistic weapons and like WW1 you can die easily – often getting sniped with no idea where your killer is. Gas attacks are truly scary – if you don’t get your gas mask on you’re dead. I think one of the best bits though is that you need to work as a team to be successful. Each player is part of a four man team with a designated role. The NCO of the team can issue special commands such as calling in artillery or gas. The game seems to work best if you follow your NCO’s directions on where to attack and make a concerted effort to work together to clear enemy trenches.

Here’s the video trailer. If you want to pick it up you can get it on Steam.

Medieval Remains found under Abbey Toilets

Remains of at least 50 people, all believed to date from 11th and early 12th century, discovered during demolition work to make space for new tower.

They probably pre-date the construction of Westminster Abbey and were probably moved by the workmen in the 13th century building the new building.

Many of the bones, including skulls and leg bones stacked up into dense piles like firewood, were found under Victorian drainage pipes.

Very macabre!

Source: Westminster Abbey lavatory block gives way to medieval burial find | Science | Th5760e Guardian

Goodreads for Short Stories?

55 Short Stories from the New Yorker
55 Short Stories from the New Yorker (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m a fan of Goodreads – even before the website came out I was toying with a similar idea – not so much for the social networking aspect of it – but more as a way to record the books I’d read. Previously I’d done such things by the use of spreadsheets, but obviously a website and app that you can access everywhere and has a database of published books makes that take a lot easier.

Why record what you’ve read?

For me it’s because I’d forget what I’ve read otherwise and be doomed to start reading or even buy something that I’d already read before. I tend to read quite a few books from the library, so a quick glance at a bookshelf doesn’t always solve the problem.

Also I think its good to be able to rate titles – for instance if you’ve read a book by one author and did or didn’t like it then the next time you’re tempted by another book of their’s you can see what you thought of their previous stuff.

I tend not to write long reviews though – usually just a simple rating suffices for me. I’m more likely to leave a brief note for myself on Goodreads if I really hated a book and why so I can remember to steer clear in the future.

Short Stories?

Which brings me onto short stories. If you read a short story collection or anthology, or even an issue of a short story magazine, there’s no way on Goodreads or similar sites of recording what you think about individual short stories. You can only rate the whole book. You could then write a detailed review of each story, but that’s quite laborious and also wouldn’t enable you to search your reading history by author or story title to see if you’ve read a story before and what you thought of it. Given that short stories can pop up in different anthologies I think it would be very useful to do so.

What’s to be done?

I think for short stories there needs to be some way to have short story level meta-data so you could actually tag a short story once you’ve read it and provide a simple rating or a review if you want to. Ideally this should be linked to your ereader software if you read ebooks – then you can just rate a story as you read a collection and update your database that way. I’m sure Amazon must be thinking of linking Goodreads in that way at a book level – how about at the short story level?

What do others think? Do you come across this problem as well?

The Dragon of Borvoli – new Historical Fantasy Short Story Published

The Dragon of Borvoli coverI’m really excited to tell you about a new short story that I have just published as an eBook on Kindle.

The Dragon of Borvoli is all about a young boy who’s the only inhabitant of his village to fight the ‘dragon’ that has been terrorising his village. The story is set in a Dark Ages world – probably something similar to Cornwall – St Michael’s Mount certainly features for instance, but the setting isn’t very specific. What I was going for was more the atmosphere of the Dark Ages where belief in monsters – think Beowulf – was still strong.

Here’s the blurb for the book:

It takes a lot of bravery to fight a dragon. So imagine how brave the nine year old Boult is when he takes his father’s sword and enters the barrow near his home where tales say the dragon lives—the dragon that has been terrorising their village.

Yet not all is as it seems in this atmospheric historical fantasy short story. Boult meets Gustinus, a Christian priest, who promises to help him in his quest to slay the dragon. But Boult discovers that men can be worse monsters than creatures of legend.

Its currently available for just £0.99/$0.99 or 0.99 Euros from Amazon:

Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de

I hope you like it – let me know what you think!

Mystery of the Medieval Sword Inscription

This 13th-century sword with a gold inscription was likely made in Germany, but was found at the bottom of the River Witham in 1825. Credit: The British Museum
This 13th-century sword with a gold inscription was likely made in Germany, but was found at the bottom of the River Witham in 1825.
Credit: The British Museum

To be honest I thought that the inscription of swords was just something that happened in fantasy books and role-playing games – but it seems not! Most inscriptions were invocations to God to help out the person bearing the sword.

But a certain sword that is currently part of a 1215 Magna Carta exhibit at the British Library has got all the experts stumped, as no-one knows what the following means:

+NDXOXCHWDRGHDXORVI+

I must say that I certainly don’t – the signs of the cross that top and tail the inscription are standard for medieval spells as well, so maybe its a magical inscription – and perhaps that’s why it is so hard to decipher?

You can read the full story at livescience.

 

Medieval Hospitals had funding crises as well!

imgID33026727Just when you might think that the funding crisis in the NHS was a thoroughly modern problem, it seems that hospitals in the Middle Ages struggled too! A dig at a medieval lepers hospital near Winchester shows that funding could run dry and mean the withdrawal of services too, just like services in the NHS are being cut back at the moment due to budgets not keeping step with demand.

In the case of the hospital of St Mary Magdalen near Winchester though it seems that the problem of leprosy was going away so the money dried up:

But by 1334 bailouts were being paid to keep the hospital going, perhaps because leprosy was declining as a problem. By the 16th century it was operating more as an almshouse and looks to have avoided closure in the Dissolution of the Monasteries ordered by Henry VIII that saw the end of establishments such as Hyde Abbey in Winchester and Netley Abbey near Southampton.

If you didn’t have leprosy then the options were limited – and of course most lepers hospitals were really intended to keep those afflicted away from the rest of the population rather than treat them.

You can read the full story at the Daily Echo’s website.