Some context and backstory

This scene originally took place in the middle of Havoc’s Moon, as a break between a minor action scene leading up to the big boss fight.

My goal was to build more drama and increase the tension between the characters but the more I revised it and the surrounding scenes, I felt it more dragged the plot down than helped anything. I hated making the decision to cut this scene because this fictional band has been with me forever and I really wanted to plug them in somewhere. This scene might turn into a stand alone Slaughter Chronicles short story later or I might move it over to my Heart of the Forest Cycle universe. It’s about Regina meeting one of her idols, a fictional lead singer of a fictional band I wrote into my very first NaNoWriMo manuscript all the way back in 2005.

As always, this is a deleted scene so it did not make it to the final editing stages. There will be grammar mistakes and the writing is not as polished. Please keep that in mind as you read and don’t judge me too harshly 😉

There are some “spoilers” but nothing that gives away key plot points.

(Context from a previous chapter)

On the wall by the door was one lone Burning Bitch poster.

Burning Bitch was a local punk rock group and, while the band toured all over the East Coast, the lead singer, Lorelie The Siren Sierra, was coming here, to Silver Wolf Stills, for her Halloween solo-tour show. Lorelie’s solo stuff was more acoustic, more folk-rock, than Burning Bitch’s usual repertoire. But her punk roots pumped new life into sea shanties and pirate ballads that Regina could not help but love.

It had taken Regina a solid year of begging Atlas to ask Tony, the Beta and distillery manager, to reach out to Burning Bitch and book a show. She would have asked Tony herself, but she knew he would automatically refuse any request that came from her because that’s how he was.

A dick. About everything.

Atlas said Regina was too judgmental, that Tony might surprise her and say yes. But Regina knew better. The feud between Regina and Tony was older than the malice she felt for all of Atlas’s girlfriends.

Before Regina went back to Dark Home this last time, Atlas finally had enough of her whining and gave up on trying to teach her about diplomacy and positive communication. He asked on her behalf. Sadly, Burning Bitch was booked solid until next summer, but The Siren herself agreed to play the Halloween Special of her solo tour here, at Silver Wolf Stills.

(Fast forward to the night of the show)

The singer on stage wore a red dress and a half-mask of black feathers, just like the girl she sang about. She was in the middle of Regina’s second favorite song. It was about a ghost ship and the ghost captain’s ghost daughter venturing onto land once a year to meet up with her still living lover at a masquerade ball. Regina was almost sure ghosts weren’t real—she had seen none yet—but the melody was soothing, as only an acoustic banjo could make it, and Lorelie Sierra’s voice was melodic and mournful.

The stage wasn’t really a stage, just a stack of wooden pallets bolted together for stability, but Lorelie The Siren Sierra of Burning Bitch rocked the precarious structure as if it were the grand stage of Carnegie Hall. A tight cluster of humans and werewolves—all in costume—crowded the back half of the bar. A few outliers, mostly pack members, sat at the bar content to just drink and listen.

Regina hovered by the front door, hesitant to go in. She was muddy, bloody, and pretty sure she’d make everyone high from the gasoline fumes wafting off of her person. Her (right) eye swelled shut, but pink fluid still leaked out of the corners. That whole side of her face was a bruised dark red and there were red pin-pricks where each of the Vermin’s twelve little legs dug into her cheek.

She had never been more thankful that tonight was Halloween. Her bloody clothes and well-chewed face could easily blend in with the Instagram-ready ghouls and devils and kitty cat faces of the bar’s patrons.

I am a Deadite, Regina thought. I am a zombie. I am—

“What the Hell are you doing here?” A sharp voice tore Regina out of the song like a fish snagged by a hook.

Fuck.

Tony’s nose wrinkled, “You smell horrible. What did you get into? Is that gasoline? Regina, I swear if you ruined another vehicle I’ll put you on administrative leave for a whole year.” There was more hazel than blue in his eyes.

“Calm down,” Regina snarled, more angrily than she intended. “There was a Vermin infestation. I had to set it on fire.”

“Did any get away?” Tony asked, suddenly all business.

“No, I made sure.” Regina held up her arm for emphasis. Tony frowned at the red bite marks and inflamed flesh.

“You can’t come in here like that,” he said.

“Oh, thank you, Regina. I appreciate you taking care of a threat to all my human patrons, Regina,” she mimicked. “Why, no problem at all, Tony old pal.”

“What happened to the wards in that area?” Tony asked.

“I don’t know,” Regina said snarkily. “What happened to the vampires promising everything was clean?”

“Don’t mention our neighbors.” Tony glanced behind him, clearly more worried about any humans who might have overheard than her actual injuries.

“It’s Halloween, they’ll think were talking about ordinary people,” Regina said. “Now excuse me, I’ve been looking forward to this show for three months.”

“Oh no,” Tony barred the way. “You’re not going in there like that. You’re a mess.” 

“Come on! No one else can tell,” Regina said. “There’re no rules against me watching the show.”

“There are when you’re covered in mud and blood.” Tony said.

“It’s Halloween,” Regina repeated, exasperated that he was still talking while Lorelie was finishing up possibly her last song. “Let people think it’s a costume.”

When Regina watched previous concerts in other states on the Burning Bitch live feed, Lorelie always ended her solo sets with the ghost song. But the audience could sometimes persuade her to do an encore. And Regina would not miss it just because Tony didn’t like how she looked.

“You know the rules,” Tony said. “No one allowed up here unless they look presentable.”

“I didn’t have time to change,” Regina begged, more tired than angry. “Come on, you know how much I love her.”

“No.” Tony insisted.

“I’ll stay out here then, just shut up and let me listen to her. The show’s almost over, anyway.” Regina took two steps backward and leaned against the outside of the doorframe. From this angle she could only see half of Lorelie’s head and her hand on the banjo’s fret board. It would do.

The crowd at the stage cheered. Regina lost sight of Lorelie as she took a bow.

“Alright guys! You’ve been great! Since it’s Halloween, I’ll play one more song.” Lorelie tuned her banjo to the sound of applause.

“Yes!” Regina gave a triumphant hop and stumbled sideways when her ankle rolled. “Fuck,” Regina muttered. She cast a quick glance at Tony, but he appeared to not have noticed. Still too busy scanning the crowd for traumatized humans.

“Please be the death song, please be the death song,” Regina chanted under her breath as she bounced unsteadily on the balls of her feet with nervous excitement despite the pain. If she could just keep moving, her system would work itself back to normal and she’d finally start healing properly.

Tony was silent for a moment, his lips pressed in a frustrated line. “People are going to see you there when they leave. Come here.”

“Where?” Regina took a panicked step back. If he pulled her into the light, he’d see her face, see the rest of the damage. Little granules of bloody mud scraped against the raw skin of her arms as she crossed them protectively over her tattered chest. “I’m not missing the encore!”

Tony let out a frustrated growl, “Just come here. You can wait over by my office. You’ll get a better view too.”

“Wow,” Regina didn’t bother hiding her shock. “That’s really nice of you.”

“I’m not doing it for you. Now come on, before she starts,” Tony moved away from the door. Regina pressed a hand over her swollen eye and followed.

Lorelie launched into the story of the song she was about to sing, giving the crowd teasing tidbits without telling them the song’s name. Regina loved that about Lorelie. Not only was she a wicked musician and a brilliant lyricist, she was a master storyteller. Even though Regina re-watched every recorded show on YouTube at least a hundred times and could recite every single one of Lorelie’s stories by heart, Regina never tired of them.

She ran her tongue over her teeth and fought the urge to spit bloody saliva on the floor. Excitement bubbled in her chest and took some sting of her punishment away. Yes, she missed the concert, but at least she got one song. One and a half songs, really. She could be happy with that.

Tony moved through the press of human patrons and members of the werewolf pack effortlessly. Regina had to work not to bump into people. The humans were oblivious to who she was, but the werewolves she passed gave her more room. Regina was an unfamiliar sight this far out of the woods, and their expressions ran the gamut from curious to cautious. To them, usually her presence meant trouble. 

But that night, Regina had taken care of all the trouble. She even repaired the ward Thane crushed at the beginning of her punishment. And she was just in time to hear her favorite Burning Bitch song.

“The Death Song!” Lorelei growled huskily into the microphone.

“Yes!” Regina pumped her fist in the air. The motion almost sent her stumbling into the path of two unsuspecting humans on their way back to the stage from the bar, full drinks in hand. Tony grabbed Regina’s arm and pulled her the rest of the way to his office. He let her go when they reached the door, his hand almost throwing her arm away instead of just letting go. Regina staggered and had to hop a step to catch her balance.

“Are you drunk or something? What’s wrong with you?”

“Nothing.”

Lorelie started playing and Regina forgot all about Tony. She let her attention float away with the music. Her blurry vision darted from the light fixtures above Lorelie’s head to the silver statue of the wolf on the bar. As the song continued, Lorelie’s voice brought Regina out of her daze and she started scanning the crowd. Regina could identify the humans but didn’t know if they were bar locals or just here for the concert. The bar wasn’t her territory.

Then her slow healing gaze fell on Atlas. He tucked his bulky frame away at the corner of the bar. Regina raised her hand to wave at him but then saw Marianna glued to his side and she lowered her hand quickly, brushing her fingers through her dirty, tangled hair to hide the gesture. Tony noticed.

“You don’t like her?” Tony asked as if he read her thoughts.

Regina snorted. “Nope.”

“Tough shit. She’s not going anywhere.” 

Regina couldn’t tell if Tony was being sarcastic or harsh. “Says you,” she spat under her breath. “They never last longer than six months.”

“She’s different.” 

Was it Regina’s imagination, or was Tony’s voice a little kinder? A little sympathetic? Nah. “You’re so helpful. You gonna watch my back on missions now, too?”

“Just stay here and don’t come out until everyone leaves,” Tony stalked toward the bar. “I don’t know why I bother with you.”

“Neither do I, fuck face.” Yes, I am the pinnacle of Void hunter maturity.

The Death Song ended and Regina clapped and whooped with the crowd, leaning on Tony’s doorframe for support. The werewolf staff herded the humans out and Tony took the drawer out of the register. Regina slid along the wall, away from his office door so she wouldn’t have to talk to him again.

She was so focused on keeping her eyes on Tony, she didn’t notice the stage and cracked her left knee into one of the pallet’s corners.

“Ouch,” an amused contralto voice chuckled, and Regina came face to face with The Siren herself. “You okay?” Lorelie asked.

“Y-yeah,” Regina’s hand flew over her eye again, hiding the wound. “I’m good.” Her leg from her knee to her hip was numb and tingly. The knee itself screamed as if caught in the claws of the Volcano Scorpion again.

“Great costume,” Lorelie said, oblivious to Regina’s pain. “I love zombies.”

“Yeah, me too,” Regina cautiously dropped her hand from her face. “That’s why I dressed like one. Hissssssss,” she raised her arms, pantomiming the movements of a hungry, dead thing. Lorelie laughed as she bent down to lay her banjo in its case. 

Regina cast a nervous glance over her shoulder to see if anyone else saw her being silly. And, of course, there was Tony with his jaw clenched like he was trying to bite through steel, gripping the edges of the register drawer like he wanted to throw it at her.

“Do you need help with anything?” Regina asked, ignoring him. “I’m the owner’s sister.” It was one of her cover story lies that actually had some truth to it. Or would have if Tony wasn’t such a dick.

“Oh, that would be great,” Lorelie smiled, showing off her dimples. “It’s just me tonight, as you can see, and these amps are kind of a bitch to wrangle.”

“Bitch! Because of your band,” Regina giggled. “I gotcha. No problem!” She followed where Lorelie pointed and started picking up equipment. “Your set was really awesome, I’m sure. I only got here at the end, though. I had to work.”

“Aww,” Lorelie pouted. “Sorry you missed most of it. But thanks for coming at the end when you could have just gone home.”

“I will literally drive up a river and through a blizzard to get to the last five seconds of one of your shows,” Regina hoisted an amp.

“Okay, crazy zombie.” Lorelie laughed again.

“Sorry, that came out wrong,” Regina blushed and was thankful neither Lorelie or anyone else could see it under the congealing blood and dim lights. “I just really like your music. And Burning Bitch too. You’re my second favorite band.”

“Who’s your favorite?” Lorelie asked as they walked out the back entrance and crossed the employee parking lot.

“Bowie!” Regina beamed. “He’s my—uh—dog’s favorite, too. We can listen to Bowie for hours every day.” (Author note: the “dog” is Squee)

“That is so sweet,” Lorelie smiled back at her. “Can I see a picture?”

“Of what?”

“Your dog?”

“Oh! Right,” Regina palmed her back pocket. “Oh man, my phone’s in my car. Sorry.” In reality, it must have lost it when she was digging up Danny or setting the Vermin on fire. That last involved a lot of running around and whacking things with a flaming tree branch.

“Next time,” Lorelie shrugged. “Well, this is my rig. Thanks for your help.”

Lorelie’s van was a beat up blue monstrosity covered in stickers that ranged from political slogans to music brands and coffee companies. There was a glittery pink mermaid stuck to the driver’s side window and a silver trident above it. Regina gathered herself to spew fond farewells all over her musical idol.

“Regina,” Tony’s voice rose sharply behind her. Regina turned and wobbled again as her abused ankle twisted yet again.

“Hey, Tony!” With supreme effort, Regina plastered the fakest smile known to man across her face and willed her open eye to stop watering. No matter how she felt about him, she still followed pack rules. And pack rules said never fight with each other in front of the humans. “What’s up?”

“This gracious lady needs her cut for the night. And there’s one more speaker by the bar. Go get it, please,” Tony said.

“Sure thing.” Regina tried her best not to limp. Damn fucking ankle, she whined to herself. Damn fucking paralysis.

Inside, the bar was pretty much dead. Atlas and Marianna moved to the middle of the bar now that there were no more human patrons to worry about. They filled their glasses with one of Tony’s seasonal, flavored moonshines left over from Summer, Peach Lemonade. 

The solid silver wolf dominated the bar. If any of the humans ever asked, Tony would joke that it was hollow, and not even silver-plated, but none of the werewolves would ever touch it. Silver burned worse than fire. Almost worse than Volcano Scorpion blood.

Regina hauled the remaining speaker toward Lorelie’s van and passed Tony coming in as she was going out. She smiled at him, just in case Lorelie was watching, but didn’t speak. And the smile dropped as soon as he was behind her. All the way down the hallway and in the silent bar, Regina heard him sit down heavily next to Atlas, and the low hum of their conversation faded into the background as Regina stepped out the back entrance again.

“Thanks a lot,” Lorelie said as Regina loaded her speaker into the back of her van. “This is for you,” she tossed a small white bundle at Regina. “For helping me pack up.”

Regina caught the bundle and shook it out. It was a Burning Bitch t-shirt with Lorelie and the rest of the band posing in a punk version of the Artemisia Gentileschi painting Judith Slaying Holofernes. Lorelie was Judith, of course, wearing a red tartan corset, a spiked collar, and safety pins in her ears.

“Thanks!” Regina waved as her second favorite singer hopped into the driver’s seat and backed out of the Bar’s parking lot. “Next time bring the whole band. We’d love to have you back!” Regina kept on waving as she drove down the highway, into the crisp Halloween night.

Satisfied Lorelie was truly out of sight, Regina locked the back door with the chain and padlock the bar staff hid under a plastic bucket behind the air conditioner.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

A BIT OF BACKSTORY

The Slaughter Chronicles takes place in a fictional universe where there is the “everyday world” (which 21st Century humans on Earth are familiar) and then there is another reality underneath that called, by some, the Void where giant creatures and celestial monsters float around in “space.” 

The bigger creatures are home to Void-Born humans and smaller creatures. Sometimes these smaller creatures exist in a symbiotic relationship with the larger ones, other times it is a parasitic relationship. The largest of these is a giant snail-like creature the Void-Born who live atop it have named Dark Home (because of the shell…there’s no light inside the shell and the snail’s home is the shell…accept my giant space snail!).

THE MAGIC SYSTEM

In the Void, Magic is the actual manifestation of one’s intent. Depending on the intentions, everything will have a different outcome based on what type of catalyst you are using and what strain of contamination you have.

The most efficient magic users are, of course, Mages. Two mages casting the same intention will never have the same result because of their Void Creature strain. Life experience influence the intentions which influence the results of the magic.

Mages can generate energy internally or externally, depending on their strain.

Internally, the energy for the magic comes from within the Mage themselves. Externally, the Mage must draw on the energy of the thing/person they are trying to effect.

CATAYSTS

Mages can use catalysts instead of their internal or external resources, however, catalysts are not preferred because the intent of the catalyst can influence the results of the magic. If the catalyst is a living organism, that organism will influence the magic. If the catalyst in not living (a magical item) it has to at least be organic, be organic. Anything like metal or synthetic cannot be a catalyst.

The non-living item carries the intent of the living thing it was made from. Sometimes they carry the feelings from the day that they died and using them can be pretty traumatic.

Practice and intense training can force false intentions or intentions contrary to the Mage’s or the catalyst’s personality/character. But these efforts always yield mixed results.

MAGIC FOR NON-MAGES

For the Void-Born werewolves and vampires, using magic takes years of training and grueling effort. Because their Void Creature strains are not innate (not born with Void Creature blood) non-Mages have a harder time successfully manifesting their intent. Instincts gained from the experience of contamination can affect the vampire or werewolf’s intent in negative ways. Sometimes a non-Mage user dies if they try.

But it can be done.

A GENERAL WARNING

When ego warps intention, there are disastrous consequences.

SYLLABARY

Magical items and non-Mage magic users can employ special symbols to focus and manifest their intent. Their internal/external energy fuels their intent and their intent psychically activates the symbols of their everyday language and can turn their words into tools or weapons.

I present to you a transcript of what generally happens when I play a tabletop RPG and Mr. J is the DM…

Mr. J: Okay, so Regina’s walking in the woods. What is she doing?

Me: What kind of trees are there?

Mr. J: They’re trees.

Me: <Knows I’m not going to get a deeper explanation> is it hot or cold?

Mr. J: <Rolls dice> cold.

Me: But it’s summer, isn’t it?

Mr. J: Yes.

Me: Is it cold because that’s what the dice said or is it cold because something’s making it cold?

Mr. J: Roll to check.

Me: Intuition Check! <rolls dice> Two!

Mr. J: You have no fucking clue.

Me: Can I make an Observation Check?

Mr. J: That’s not going to help you.

Me: Why?

Mr. J: Because you’re more concerned about how cold it is than where [insert character in peril] is.

Me: Oh! Where is [character name]?

Mr. J: Make a fucking roll, Jessa!

End transcript.

What we know: 1) There’s someone in trouble. 2) It’s Regina’s job to help them.

In the game, Mr. J didn’t want me to focus on the setting, he wanted me to get on with the objective of the game. But in a book the setting can effect how Regina approaches solving the problem.

Read Part 1 of Turning an RPG Campaign into a Book Series HERE.

If you’re interested but you’re not sure you’ll like my work you can sign up for my monthly newsletter and get a copy of one of the stories for free (Harbinger of Havoc).

If you don’t like it, all you have to do is unsubscribe.

Pulling Teeth and Other Stories is OUT NOW!

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THROUGH OTHER EYES, an all worlds wayfarer anthology, is also out now!

[links here]

*

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Magic in The Slaughter Chronicles.

Demon Tooth was the first Slaughter Chronicles short story I ever published (originally titled Demon Moon back in 2019) because I wanted to share Squee’s backstory and explore how magic works in my imaginary world.

Usually humans with supernatural abilities can do what they do because they have Void Creature DNA somewhere in their genetic makeup. Even though most Mages look human on the outside because their Void genetics is usually extremely diluted, they are still classified as non-human threats by HADES and Sanctum.

I don’t specifically say it in this story but I hint at one of the characters having a Mage in his family so he himself might have had special talents that helped open the portal.

This story specifically deals with opening a portal into the Void Dimension, something that doesn’t necessarily require a Mage to do. Any normal human can acquire Mage talents and perform feats of “magic” if they have the right tools. Void Creature bones and blood can open portals into the Void dimension and, for example, give a normal squishy human the ability to see the future. Or one version of the future. But there’s a price. There always is.

There aren’t necessarily “spells” or words of power in these universes but there are a lot of rituals that revolve around sacrifice. As the great Terry Pratchett once wrote, “[T]he very oldest stories are, sooner or later, about blood.” (Hogfather) In order for a non-mage character to perform these rituals or acquire Mage talents, they have to pay for it. Sometimes they can use their own blood, their own life essence, and hope they don’t die in the process. But big rituals, big tasks, require a lot of blood.

Which is why the big rituals rarely get performed and if some idiot tries, they usually don’t do it right. How do I know? The world hasn’t exploded yet…YET.

So, what exactly is Squee?

Squee is a Void Creature that toddled in to our dimension when the four teenage friends in this story opened up a portal into the Void dimension. Now, this story is called Demon Tooth because *spoiler alert* there is a Void Creature artifact that is, yep, you guessed it, a tooth. Is it Squee’s tooth? It was a pretty big tooth in the story and Squee is the size of a soccer ball…was Squee just attracted to the portal and got caught accidentally? Or was Squee the actual creature the four friends were trying to summon and something go horribly wrong?

You’ll have to read the rest of the series to find out. Hopefully I’ll be able to finish more stories for you soon.

You can find Demon Tooth in my short fiction collection: Pulling Teeth and Other Stories of the Slaughter Chronicles. You can get a copy of this collection for free if you sign up for my mailing list OR you can buy it at your favorite ebook retailer for 0.99 cents.

FARROWTHORN

HADES BLACK SITE

JUNE 4, 2006

17:33:33

They called themselves hunters because hunting was their job. They wore uniforms like fake soldiers in movies—all black like they wanted to blend in with the night itself—but they never turned the lights off, so they stood out against the white cinderblock walls and concrete balconies like dead trees and a winter sky. They all had a special badge on their shoulders with a skull, two smoking guns, and some scribbles underneath it. The skull was a wolf skull. Like hers, her real skull anyway. Having two bodies, Doctor Gregor said, was complicated.

Continue reading “Dead Girl Moon Chapter One”