Sunday, 1 June 2014

Lots of news and fiction!

Blog update 1st June 2014

This will probably be my last blog update for a while, as the final preparations for the wedding are falling into place and of course afterwards, our honeymoon J!

In between planning for the great day, I have still been writing away on Haldred Chronicles: Shade and immensely enjoying the experience. 

This novel is turning into a more complex plot, but I think readers will enjoy it more as I’m operating with now somewhat established characters.  That and I’ve developed my own style to a greater extent.

Whilst blog posts have been few and far between, I’ve continued to be active on the social networking scene.

I now have a presence on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, LinkedIn, as well as blogspot.  For those who are on these accounts, please find my links below!

Finally, I thought I would post up the below short piece of fiction.  I presented this at my writing group and they liked it, so I submit it now for all of you to see and hopefully enjoy.  It is by no means polished but can be considered a stand alone aspect of Haldred Chronicles world.

Take care everyone, I’ll be posting again maybe in a months time.  Thank you again for all your support.

* * * * *

* * * * *

“I don’t need to go clothes shopping.” said Victoria again.
Sandra and Katy, walking either side, both turned to look at her at the same time.  Their eyes scanned her up and down as if regarding a life sized doll as opposed to a living, breathing and mildly pissed off person.
“Yes you do.” The girls observed in unison.
Victoria wondered for a moment whether the two of them were twins in a previous life.

“Come on, it’ll be fun!” said Sandra, trying to infuse the situation with at least a little enthusiasm.  Sandra was one of Katy’s friends, though considering the days activates Victoria was currently labelling her as ‘co-conspirator’.  She was a short stylish young girl, Katy’s age, dressed in a fine blue dress with a flower motif across her front, complemented by a same colour tunic of thick winter material.  Unlike the blond haired Katy, Sandra had black hair, braided up in a bun at the back of her head. She’d small blue eyes and a very smiley face.  Far to smilely as far as Victoria was conserned.

Katy for her part wore a white dress and tunic, her hair as always up in pigtails tied by ribbons and a small fur around her neck for warmth in the still rather chilly winter air.

Victoria looked the most out of place of the three; she wore a burgundy tunic and black leggings, the thick leather belt round her middle bearing a Tornarian rapier and her Council of Peace badge.  Her clothing, as far as she was concerned, was perfect for her day to day activates; the girls thought otherwise.

It had started out as an innocent enough suggestion.  Sandra and Katy had visited on one of Victoria’s rare days off and suggested going out for a ‘girly day’.  Victoria had at first, naturally, suggested she would rather have her brains smashed in by an Ogre.  She had eventually consented, cautiously, to such an arrangement when the girl’s had accepted that a trip out would include visiting the Larrick City Militia shooting club, as well as passing by the National Museum’s newly opened ‘Warrior maidens of the Six Nations War’ exhibition. 

However, as they were making their way into town the girls had leaned more and more toward ‘wouldn’t it be nice’ territory.  Wouldn't it be nice swiftly followed by ‘clothes shopping’.  Victoria had valiantly resisted, but with two teenagers using both charm (“but you've got the body for it”) and manipulation (“wouldn't harm to take a look surely?”) eventually her mental defenses had been cunning breached and the teenagers had succeeded in convincing her to accompany them to parts-I’d-rather-not-go; namely the more trendy section of Larrick cities central market place.

“I’m not that kind of woman.” Victoria grumbled, crossing her arms and attempting to look as uncomfortable with the entire arrangement as she was feeling.

Now, much as a prisoner facing death row, she was being marched toward a foreboding looking (at least to her eyes) clothes shop.  Complete with clean clear glass windows, finely painted shutters and door and, most worrying of all, displays of pink and white dresses in the window.  Victoria’s stomach curled in disgust.

The sign on the door read “Madam Hendricks best flowers and ladies fashions.”

Oh just kill me now.

* * * * *

“This one’s nice.  I think it would show off your curves nicely!”
Sandra, sadly, didn’t catch Katy’s frantic ‘No! No! No!’ hand gestures from behind Victoria.  Sandra immediately shrunk from the look that Victoria shot at her, as sure as a sniper crossbow bolt.
“I do not need to show off anything.” Victoria growled, eyes having already narrowed.  The young girl took the hint, quickly placing the leggings back when she found them and backing away, so as not to antagonize the Council of Peace investigator further.

Katy, more used to the lioness’s methods of conversation and opinion, was more careful.
“What about this?” she held up a light blue ladies tunic.  “It’s not pink.”
Despite the rather simple statement, this was a fine endorsement for Victoria; especially considering most of the clothing in the shop was various shades of the same off putting colour.
Victoria nodded, keeping a none-committal face but looking the garment over
“I think it would be quite pretty on you.”
Katy caught herself too late.  Victoria’s glare returned.
“I mean in a ‘don’t touch’ kind of way.” Katy hurriedly added.

Sighing, Victoria put the garment onto the rather sparse ‘maybe’ pile and returned to casting her head around the disgustingly cutesy shop and keeping a hand on her stomach in a vain attempt to prevent herself throwing up.

This is just too much she thought, observing the interior and fellow customers.  Dresses that were far too short, leggings that were practically see through and the whole damn facade for the most part edged or coloured in damnable pink, or variations on.  She had, up until entering this store, never thought that there could be so many shades of that particular colour but apparently, there were.  And they were all here, paraded before her for her despair.  Whilst she was a woman and was more than happy to dress stylishly this…well this was just wasn’t right.

The customers were, for the most part, no better.  A variety of young girls clucking to each other in clandestine groups, looking over cloths with shop sell’s people fretting round them and observing how ‘pretty’ they all looked no matter what they tried on.  Nearby, worried looking mothers and fathers in what Victoria considered normal looking clothing, observed from the side lines wearing expressions similar to Victoria’s, looking around the shop trying to disguise their horror.

Kids these days. Hell who am I kidding, adults these days!

There were indeed several trendy adults about the place, cooing at various garments in overly excited manners and grinning too widely once they tried them on.

Whilst Victoria’s brain may have been offended by pretty much everything on offer, it was still a Larrick City Militia trained brain.  One more than capable of noticing things that appeared a little out of place. 

Such as a very out of place looking bearkin.

Victoria frowned.  Yes, that was a bearkin, hard not to miss a 8 foot tall furry combat monster, it’s back to her and slightly hunched over; apparently looking over a variety of women’s dresses.  This was doubly odd as it appeared to be male.  Her curiosity raised Victoria started to wonder over, Katy and Sandra otherwise engaged in complementing each other’s dress choices, apparently having forgotten that Victoria was even there.

As she drew closer, she got a better look at the creature.  The bearkin was clad in leather utility battle plate, one of the few types of armour capable of being fitted to such large creatures.  This would have looked out of place for any other creature in a cloths shop but then bearkin tended to walk around armed and armoured all the time. 

It’s fur was dark grey, and well groomed.  Evidently a bearkin who took care of it’s appearance.  He’d broad shoulders and muscular arms, confirming that he was indeed a fighter.  A long sword was attached to his back on what looked like a custom sheath.  The sword was very familiar looking.

No, it couldn’t be.

“Ralgar?” she inquired hesitantly.
If bearkin could look scared, Ralgar’s expression as he spun round at Victoria’s voice, nearly knocking several dress display’s over, could definitely be read, across the span of race, creed and simple biological makeup, as utterly terrified.
Victoria!” he exclaimed, his black beady eye’s having widened extensively.  “Wah…what are you doing here?”

Ralgar was a mercenary bearkin, often found in Council of Peace employ and one Victoria was familiar with; he was known as an effective tracker and formidable warrior; not exactly the type to be found in a woman’s clothing shop.
“I’m shopping.” Victoria replied, coyly.  She cocked her head to one side, studying Ralgar with a practiced eye.  “And you?” she asked after a deliberate pause.
“Ah…nothing.” he replied lamely.
Oh come on Ralgar you can do better than that. Victoria didn’t say.
“Nothing at all?” she pressed further.  The detective part of her brain was taking over, relishing the distraction Ralgar had unwittingly provided.
“Yes, nothing at all.” Agreed Ralgar.  Unfortunately for him, Victoria was not so easily taken in by blindingly obvious lies.
“So what’s that in your paw then?” she enquired innocently.
“There’s nothing in my paw.” Ralgar replied a fraction too slowly.
He held up his left paw as if to emphasis his innocence.
“The other one.” Victoria ordered.
Ralgar, hands behind his back rather too blatantly transferred what was in his paw from right to left, before raising his right paw.
Victoria shook her head, hands moving to her hips.
“Alright fine it’s…” the Bearkin paused.  “It’s a handkerchief.” He added as a last ditch effort to conceal the truth.  Victoria was ahead of him.
“Handkerchief in the shape of a woman’s dress?”

Ralgar, defeated, just glared at Victoria.  It was an action that would have caused a fight or flee response in anyone else.  For Victoria, it was just a confirmation of her vindication; that and mildly amusing.
“Great ancestors I do hate you woman” he growled.
Victoria smirked just a little.
“Do tell us your tale Ralgar.”
“It’s my eldest.” He said in a lamentable tone.  “She…she wants to look pret-tay.”
“Pret-tay?” queried Victoria, frowning.
“Pretty” Victoria corrected him.
“Whatever.  She’s been attending a new private school that’s been opened to select bearkin.”
“How select?” enquired Victoria, crossing her arms business like; the distraction had turned very interesting.
“Best I can determine that involves bearkin with money.  So, my mate has indicated that our eldest join up.  Four months later and her head’s filled with all sorts of modern…things…”
He practically spat the last word.
“I know what you mean.” Agreed Victoria, looking around at the parade of, to her eyes, awful dress sense that continued to exist across the shop displays.

“There you are.” Said Sandra, coming up behind Victoria.  “oh, and you met a friend!”
“Friend?” queried Katy as she followed Sandra.  She stopped dead, eye’s immediately widening.
“Oh dear.” She managed in a tiny voice as she regarded Ralgar with a look of simple, complete terror.
“Oh come on Katy.” Victoria remarked, seeing the youngster immediate reaction when being confronted with a bearkin.  “you know Ralgar.”
Ralgar was indeed one of the few bearkin Katy was familiar with; he was a friend of Gretna the dwarf’s and hence one of the few bearkin known at the Elks Horn tavern where Katy worked. This, however, didn’t seem to help her primal fear of the race as a whole.
“That’s why I’m not screaming.” Katy replied slowly.  “But you’ll have to accept me still being…” she trailed off.
“Believe me.” Victoria replied.  “Ralgar and I are the terrified ones,”
“Got that right.” Agreed Ralgar, not bothering to hide his shudder as he looked around the shop again and let out an audible grown of discontent.

“What?” Sandra asked but Victoria waved her query away, knowing better than to try and explain. 
“Ralgar is here to get a dress for his daughter.” Victoria indicated.
“She wants to be pret-tay.” Ralgar added by way of explanation.
“Pretty?” queried Sandra
You’re going to get a lot of that Ralgar Victoria didn’t put in.
“We’re trying to make Victoria pretty too!” Sandra said absentmindedly.
Katy snapped out of her shock, and accurately jabbed Sandra in the ribs, making the girl at once winch and realise her mistake.
“I mean ah, prettier.”
Katy, forgetting Ralgar for a moment, just turned to look at Sandra with an expression that could be read as saying the word ‘seriously?’ without the need to vocalize it.

Whilst the two young girls were preoccupied, Victoria leaned in, or more accurately up considering Ralgar’s height, to whisper in his ear.
“Want to get out of here fast?”
“Me too.” Victoria confirmed.  “Follow my lead and you’ll get a dress for your daughter quickly and we’ll both get out of here.”
“Ladies.” Victoria timely interrupted. “perhaps, we should continue?”

Victoria’s plan was rather devious.  She had accurately determined that the primary reason for the girls entering the cutesy shop was not to get Victoria a variety of new cloths, but actually to get themselves a variety of new cloths.  Having studied their habits, she had determined a cunning plan of action that hopefully, would result in her leaving the shop quicker than originally intended and with her wallet not quite as light as she feared.

She had, likewise, a very specific task for Ralgar.

The opportunity to advance came quickly.
“Oh Sandra, that looks lovely.” Victoria commented on seeing the girl examining a nearby dress.  Sandra was surprised.
“Oh?  You really think so?”
“Oh yes, very flattering and you’ve the figure to pull it off.”
The statement was accurately constructed to immediately entice the girls interest.  Sandra wasn’t stupid, indeed far from it; but she was predictable.
“Oh, thank you.” Beamed the girl, looking over the garment.  “Katy, what do you think?”
Katy wondered over and almost immediately adapted a concerned expression.  “Oh Sandra, I…”
“I think it looks just lovely.” Said Ralgar’s voice, appearing behind Katy at the most opportune time and with the most appropriately menacing tone.
Oh nicely done remarked Victoria to herself.
Katy had the predicted reaction, going completely pale and stiff as board at the bearkin’s unexpected close proximity.  It was a cruel and hideously unkind action, and Victoria surmised Katy would probably be giving her an earful later.  But, if the rest of the plan went well, it would result in leaving the shop; a stated and much required objective.

“What was that Katy?” asked Victoria.  “You thought it was nice too didn’t you?”
Katy managed to look over to Victoria.  The sharp little youngster knew exactly what was happening but wasn’t really in a position to argue.  She nodded slowly, defeated, trying to glare at Victoria but unable to effectively with a bearkin uncomfortably close.

“Well, that really saved some time.” Sandra agreed.  “I’ll get this then.  Victoria, what about…”
“Oh I’ve got what I need.” Victoria held up several winter leggings and the only practical tunic she’d been able to find in the store; they were easily the least cutesy looking garments.  They were a small price to pay considering the amount of time and patience saved.

Sandra wasn’t completely taken in Victoria could see, but with Katy’s opinion effectively neutralized and no shop sale’s people about, Sandra had no choice but to take what she had purchased and conclude business; just as Victoria had planned.

All of them headed toward the nearest purchase point, Sandra leading the way confidently with Katy in toll and Ralgar keeping is position just behind the blond haired youngster; just close enough to keep her quiet.

As part of the deal, Victoria whispered in Ralgar’s ear her instructions from behind him.
“Extra large shoulder width, two twenty four, that one over there.  You’ll need to modify for her hips I’d say but play your cards right and you’ll be on her right side and your lady’s for a long time.”
“Nicely done Victoria, appreciated.” Concurred Ralgar
“All in a days work Ralgar.”

Sandra and Katy were waiting for her at the door, disappointed expressions prepared and hands already on their hips.
“That was so mean!” Sandra declared, glaring as best she could at Victoria.  “Poor Katy told me what you did.”
“I didn’t do anything.” Victoria replied innocently.  Katy was glaring at her as well but sadly the two youngsters were not yet skilled in that particular regard; the glare from Katy in particular looked down right adorable.
“That wasn’t very nice.” Katy settled on, crossing her hands and seeming to huff.
“Look, no harm was done.” Victoria advised.  “I got my cloths, Sandra got hers.  Everyone wins.”
The girls remained silent.  They’d probably be huffing with her for a few weeks.

“Anyway, I’m off.” Victoria said, her adventure done for the day.  Or so she thought.
“Where do you think you’re going?” asked Katy rather suddenly.  Victoria turned, frowning.
“Well, home.  We’ve been cloths shopping.”
Both Sandra and Katy suddenly adapted the most devilish looking smiles Victoria had ever observed.  She actually found herself stepping back as the two youngsters approached and with a speed that took Victoria completely off guard, hooked their arms into Victoria’s.

It was Katy who indicated why the change in attitude
“We’ve been to one shop yes.” She said, grinning.  “Let’s see what’s next!”
Victoria gave herself a very serious mental kick as she was lead away.

What a brilliant start to the day…