In the time after The Black, humans battle against the onslaught of the vampire armies of the Ebon Cities.
In a desolate patch of remote wasteland, a young woman named Rooke, part of a group of prisoners held by the corrupt prison wardens called The Revengers, struggles to stay alive. Ordered to unearth a terrible chamber of ancient power and hounded by once-frozen vampire savages, Rooke's journey into darkness will reveal forgotten secrets of the conflict that has brought The Black to our world.
But will Rooke survive long enough to tell anyone?
This 9,300 word short story originally appeared as a web-fiction series at www.bloodskies.com. This newly compiled edition also features new cover art and a sneak preview of Book 3 in the BLOOD SKIES series, "SOULRAZOR", coming March of 2012!
View Steven's other works at BloodSkies.com.
Read Tales of a Blood Earth below, or download in mobi (Kindle), epub, or PDF.
TALES OF A BLOOD EARTH
Rooke saw red water and black skies.
She was dizzy. Her lips were dry and cracked.
The trees behind her formed a dark wall. Dirty golden light tried to break through the charcoal clouds, but couldn’t. Bodies crawled and toiled in the shadows on the bleak plains.
The mud was as black as coal. Shards of shattered rock and blanched bones shifted in the crumbling morass. Her hands bled. Blisters and cuts riddled her pale skin beneath the ebon muck.
The air smelled of sulfur. To the west, the dark land went on forever. They dug holes at the edge of nowhere.
Rooke closed her eyes, just for a moment. In her mind, she escaped back to the swamp, where she used to hide on hot summer days and wait for miniature crocodiles to float by in the water so that she and her brother could catch them. They were quite good at it, really.
That was before she’d become a prisoner. Chattel of Black Scar.
A rod struck her from behind. Pain flared down her back. Rooke cried out.
“I said dig!”
There were twelve prisoners in all. Rooke was one of the only humans; most of the rest were Lith, Doj, or Gol. They weren’t allowed to speak, and as far as she had guessed they came from different cell blocks of Black Scar. She’d never seen any of her fellow diggers before they’d been put on the ship that morning, and when the day was done she doubted she’d ever see any of them again.
Revengers were close by. There were two men and a woman. Rooke didn’t know their names. The Revengers never told the inmates their names. They wore tight-fitting leather armor with enameled black shoulder plates, tall boots, and leather gauntlets. One of the men paced the ground in front of the diggers, his boots slurping in the cold mud. The other two stood on the ridge just in front of the line of trees, watching, joking about which prisoner would be the first to fall down from exhaustion and drown in the mud.
Rooke was sixteen. She’d been a prisoner in Black Scar for only a few weeks, but it felt like a lifetime. It was a dank and bottomless place, a dark and subterranean hell filled with violence and fear.
It was just as bad there, on the fields of dark mud. They might have been near Blackmarsh. There was no sign of civilization anywhere. The airship had brought them there, and those that survived the day-long dig would be flown back and dumped into their cells with a few scraps of whatever hadn’t been eaten by the other prisoners.
She dug, her hands numb. She tried to think again of the swamp, and of her brother, but she was afraid if she did that the Revengers would somehow know, and she would be struck again. So she dug, and tears made black from the mud ran down her face.