Tuesday, 2 February 2010

teaser tuesday rises from the dead

This week’s teaser is another early scene from IRONBANE. Last week Anjen rescued a child, who survived long enough for new friend and fan of thematic naming Summer to dub her Winter, then died and resurrected as a zombie.

(Here be violence against children, zombie and human.)


They faced the dead child across a canvas of snow spattered with footsteps. Anjen clutched Summer’s arm, heart hammering against her ribs, fear and horror rising in her throat. He drew God’s threefold sign in a reflexive ward against evil.

“If you panic I will strangle you.” Frankly she could have done some panicking herself.

Summer said “Is this,” cleared his throat and had a second go at casualness. “Is rising from the dead a marcher tradition?”

“Must have forgotten to mention it.”

The child shambled toward them, tiny and intent. Please God, not this again. Anjen lifted a shaking hand and -- of course her throat was bare, he’d stolen the damn talisman. And she’d given her iron knife to him. And she’d run out of salt fighting the White Hunt. “Iron.” It was a croak. She swallowed. “The knife.”


“Cut it up. So we can burn it.”

“You want me to kill her?”

“It’s already dead!”

The child stumbled and fell. Snow hissed beneath it; steam curled up from under the edges of its body. It twitched and curled in the snow, like a puppet whose strings had tangled.

“Bollocks to your marcher customs,” Summer growled, took two quick steps toward it and bent to pick it up.

A hand shot out. Blackened fingers dug into the snow like a five-legged spider.

Anjen started: “What in God’s sweet name are you --“

It erupted out of the snow.

It crashed into him. He staggered. It locked one tiny arm around his neck, unhinged its jaw and bit into his throat; his yelp strangled off. Summer dug his fingers under its face and clawed it away. The child clung to him, spattering blood, the rune hissing in the ruin of its stomach. Summer tried to peel it off him, cursing and shaking, feet sliding in the snow, the child a squirming, bloody demon in his hands.

Anjen slapped her pockets, remembered she had no weapons and snarled “Iron, you fool!” He pried Winter off him and threw it away. It hit the ground and skidded, bones cracking. Frost feathered outward from the point of impact. “Iron,” Anjen shouted again. The child peeled itself off the ground in a sinuous slither.

“I don’t kill children,” Summer said through his teeth.

“It’s just wearing her skin!”

“I don’t care why, I’m not doing it!”

“Oh, for God’s sake,” Anjen snarled, stalked the two steps to her house and kicked the door open. She leaned in and reached above the door. Cold metal met her fingertips. She curled one hand round the hilt and drew the iron sword, the marcher’s friend, the last defence against evil.

It felt heavy in her unskilled hand. Sunlight glanced off its never-used shine. She remembered covering bloody hands with hers as together they drove a sword through -- No. She was never going back there.

The child fell back from the iron blade. Anjen levelled the point on its face. She’d killed more things of winter than she could even remember, she could add one more.

Summer yelped “What are you doing?” and stepped between them. Winter peeped around him, twinkling frostily.

“My job.” Cold stung her hot face. She could do this. This was what she was for.

The ironwar child had been born too early, a tiny thing Anjen could hold in her cupped hands. It had cried and cried, and she’d cradled it against the warmth of her body, taken up her knife and --

“Are you insane?” Summer demanded. “Do you have a secret thing for killing children? Because I’d like to suggest that we not butcher her in the street!”

“You idiot.” Her voice shook -- even the point of her sword shook, which was stupid. She tightened her grip. “It’ll kill and keep killing, and everyone who dies will rise again, unless we cut it down with iron. Get out of my way.”

Summer crossed his arms, colour high in his cheekbones. “Let me think. No.

Move,” Anjen snarled, and he took the tip of her sword delicately between two fingers and pushed it down. For some stupid reason it completely undid her: she couldn’t seem to think past his serious face.

She didn’t want to do this, God, she didn’t. Maybe he was right, maybe there was another way.

Summer held her eyes. “We’ll find some way to save her, I promise. We can --“

Winter pulled the iron knife from his belt.

Its fingers melted to the hilt. It shrieked. Steam hissed. When that knife flashed out in a searing arc Summer caught its arm, hooked its legs out from under it and dumped it in the snow with a crunch. It snarled at him, the rune hissing and spitting, ice melting and God it could have killed him.

Nobody else would do it. It always happened this way.

Anjen drove the iron sword through the child’s heart.

Sword point hit frozen ground in an impact that jarred her to the elbow. Winter thrashed and screamed and spattered blood that burned, and finally went still.

Anjen took a steadying breath and for a second the air tasted of smoke and blood, of the failed rune in the choking confines of her house. Her hands were shaking. Summer looked at her as if she were the inhuman thing, the one in need of killing. Maybe she was.

She wrenched the sword free and wiped the blade with a handful of snow. She’d nicked it. If this kept up it’d be as battered as she was.

“Congratulations,” Summer said bitterly behind her. “Good work. Still time to kill more children before lunch.”

She was going to punch him in the face.


Other teasers: Dystophil, firedrake, Mad Hatter, pixydust ...


  1. Awesome, gut-churning-awesome!
    Your descriptions are brilliant with a little twist that really makes them stick in my mind.
    I love the dynamic between Anjin and Summer. For some reason I'm reminded of Cherryh's 'Chronicles of Morgaine' in a very good way.
    Your imagination is amazing. Moar,moar, moar plz!

  2. Awww summer is such a do-gooder - in an awesome way! Love the way you bring out Anjen's inner conflict and how she keeps clashing with Summer, can't wait for you to be done revising so I can read the full draft :D

  3. I love Anjen, and I respect what she had to do. Summer, I'm not so cool with. I understand he's good, but come on, some things must be done. Can't he understand that?

  4. I'm really loving your excerpts from this story. Great description and action here. More!

  5. I forgot to add: I love the title of your blog - The University of Fantasy

  6. Anjen and Summer play off each other SO WELL.

    I also love the last line. So much epic rounded off with punching her cohort in the face... tee hee. :)

  7. Your descriptions are chilling. i was having Chuckie flashbacks. I love the dialogue between the two as well. Lovely tease :)

  8. I personally like the contrast your two characters have, they seem to balance one another. Really like the scene when the kid jumps Summer, very vivid and *shudders*. Keep it coming!

  9. This is so dark. Really gave me the creeps. Awesome.

  10. wow, creepy and really kept me reading to see what would happen. you've really gotten the characters down here. nice.

  11. Yes! Violence! I'd have to echo everyone on this, 'cause it's creepy and dark, and that's totally my kinda thing. It feels like I'm there, in the scene, experiencing everything! Great Teaser!

  12. Creepy! Plus I love the setting.

  13. The two characters work really well together. And I loved the creepiness factor. Your writing always sucks me in from line 1.

  14. *shudder* The bit about it unhinging its jaw gave me shivers. Great snip! :)

  15. Very vivid. I did have a little trouble keeping the characters sstraight, but it's just because this is a teaser I'm sure. Otherwise good combination of dialouge and inner thoughts.

  16. I would buy this, not even kidding. :) these teasers are amazing! I love your writing style, and your characters are ridiculously vivid...