“It’s a hard life being a fish.”

And other things my wife says on the phone.

Anyways, I was going to do a bit about one of my characters this evening, but instead, you can have a sample of the second Order of Britain book, Stone of Madness!


She was dragged into the room by one thin arm, and tossed onto the bed. She sat in the same position she always did, her dirty blonde hair hanging in unkempt strands across her face. She sat back against the headboard, and wrapped her hands around her knees, pulling them up to her chest.

The dress she wore may have once been white, but had faded to a filthy grey. The hem was torn, threads pulling from the line of the dress as it continued its long path to being unravelled.

The man who’d tossed her into the tiny attic room looked at her in contempt as she stared off into nothing. He spat on the floor, then walked over and slapped her across the face.

The girl’s head snapped backwards, then slowly came around to stare forward once more. She showed no other reaction – her expression was neutral, all but the swiftly reddening skin on her cheek.

Pathetic.” The man said, and turned away.

He walked from the tiny room, closed the door, and turned the key in the lock, before heading downstairs.

The girl sat staring, the stinging sensation in her cheek slowly fading in the still air of the empty room.

And then it wasn’t empty any more. The man in the long coat stepped from the shadows near the door, and reached a fleshless hand out to stroke the girls hair. She didn’t move, just continued staring straight ahead.

They’ve hurt you, haven’t they, my dear? Beaten you, ruined you, driven you to this…” He tapped her on the forehead with his knuckles. “Driven you somewhere inside there, deep where they can no longer reach you.”

A rictus smile crossed his skinless face and he reached into the pocket of his coat.

But if I know anything – and I do – then part of you wants to make them hurt back. Part of you wants them to pay for what they have done. And that’s where I come in.”

When his hand came out of his pocket, it was closed around something that shone light through his fleshless fingers. He opened one of the girls hands, and slipped the object into her palm. Her fingers slowly closed around it, and went still once more.

In her hand, the light began to pulse, a steady thrumming that lit the room in flashes of illumination.

The skinless man smiled, and stood.

Have fun my dear. I look forward to seeing your accomplishments.”

He turned, and walked back into the shadows. There was a sound like wind blowing, and then he was gone.

The girl sat staring, her hand clenched around the glowing jewel in her hand. Deep inside her mind, she felt her psyche begin to expand, creeping into the corners of the room. Like a cloud, her mind filled the available space, then began to leak outwards, travelling down the stairs towards the floors beneath. Her awareness travelled down to the lower floor, seeking out those who had locked her in this room.

***

Down in the servants quarters, the Butler was staring moodily into the fire. The palm of his hand burned from where he had slapped the girl, but not as deeply as the shame burned in his soul. He was a portly man, his sparse white hair having long since faded from it’s youthful black. He sat back in his chair, and sipped from the cup of tea the Cook had handled him.

It didn’t go well then?” The woman asked.

No. She’s not improved.”

And what did you do?”

The Butler glared at her from underneath heavy eyebrows, then ran a hand across his tired eyes.

Nothing that we haven’t all done. The girl’s a bloody nuisance to us all.”

The Cook shrugged, and began to make up a tray of food.

That for her?” The Butler asked.

Aye. I’m used to feeding her by now. What the master did to her…”

Her voice tailed off at the Butler’s warning glance. When he was sure she wasn’t going to continue, he turned back to the fire.

There are things we don’t discuss. You know that.”

The Cook shrugged again, and lifted the tray. Opening the door to the back stairs, she began the long ascent up to the attic, the lanterns leading her way.

As she got to the landing beneath the attic, she paused. Was it her imagination, or did the shadows seem somehow deeper… darker, even?

She shook her head, clearing the fears from her mind, and progressed up the stairs, disappearing into the darkness of the attic.

The shadows closed behind her like mist. A listener would have heard the movement of the lock and door as she entered the room, and the clink of plate and cutlery as the tray was set down. Then there was silence.

***

The Butler had begun to clean his shoes when he heard the sound of the Cook re-entering the room. The stiff brush scraped across the black leather as he cleaned off the dirt of the day, and he glanced up at her.

Everything alright? That was awfully quick.”

The Cook ignored him, and headed for the counter. The Butler shrugged, and turned back to his work.

In the kitchen the only sound was the scrape of brush on leather. Behind him, The Cook took a cleaver out of the wooden block. She hefted it a couple of times for weight, and turned towards the Butler. She walked across the room towards the fireplace. Instinct spoke to the Butler, and he half-turned towards the Cook. The Cook took pride in her tools, and the Cleaver was sharp. It sliced into The Butler’s skull as if it were a ripe melon, splitting bone and digging into the man’s brain. The Butler stiffened, then went limp, his body slumping in the chair. The Cook raised one foot, planted it on the former Butler’s chest, and pulled the blade free of his skull. The body tumbled to the floor, where it lay bleeding. The Cook returned the stained cleaver to the block, and withdrew a carving knife. Slowly, she raised the steel blade, and drew it across her own throat.

***

Up in the drawing room, the master of the house sat reading a text on the behaviour of wild cats in deep Africa. He reached up without looking, and tugged the bellpull to summon the Butler.

When non-one appeared, he looked up, his brow furrowing. He raised himself from his armchair, and walked to the door. Pulling it open, he shouted down the corridor.

I say, where is everybody?”

He glanced up and down the hallway, frowning at the darkness.

And why are all the damned lanterns out?”

He stepped back into the drawing room, grumbling to himself, and walked over to the bar. Pouring himself a brandy, he turned back to his armchair.

He stopped as the lantern by the door sputtered and went out. The glass fell from his hand as the darkness poured into the room like a liquid thing, tentacles and strands reaching out towards him. He backed into the corner, his eyes wild, and reached for the hunting rifle that stood there. Raising the gun, he fired wildly into the encroaching darkness. The black tendrils flowed around him, enfolded him, and pulled him into it’s depths.

There was as single scream.

Then silence.

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