The Devil’s Heir- Chapter 12


A new recruit to Mabus’ army, fresh from some howling battlefield and now standing shivering and quaking in the presence of the king of New Gomorrah, being given the old “You stand in the belly of the beast…” speech would naturally have a great many questions.

What is this place?

Why am I here?

What should I do now?

Once the reality of his situation had sunk in, our new recruit would find himself beset by slightly more mundane questions;

Where can I find food?

Where shall I live?

Are there others like me in this city I can join for my own safety?

Can I survive here?

In time, all these questions would be answered, some more suddenly and brutally than others.

But perhaps the one question that would never be answered for most of the men and women conscripted into Mabus’ crusade was this:

What the hell is up with all the scorpions?

Why are there scorpion banners hanging from archways and nailed to walls? Why is there a scorpion on the back of every Gomorran talon? Why the Red, Blue, Black and Green Scorpions?   

The answer to this, Cole knew, was no great secret. It was simply not widely known.

The reason was that when Mabus’ father, Gedi, had needed to choose a totem to represent his house, he had chosen the scorpion. The House of Gedi had been one of the smaller houses in Babilu, but still wielded a considerable amount of wealth and influence. By choosing the scorpion as his symbol Gedi was displaying to his enemies an animal that was small, but could still be lethal to much larger creatures should they be foolish enough to anger it.  

To be the Golden Scorpion, Mabus had once explained to Cole, was to be the physical manifestation of the will of the House of Gedi. A shining, invincible, seemingly godlike avatar.

To be a Black Scorpion, on the other hand, meant something different entirely.

The Black Scorpions had, before their dissolution at least, acted as Mabus’ secret police. It had been their unenviable task to keep tabs on the innumerable guilds, secret societies, mobs, gangs and fraternities that had sprung up like weeds in the fertile soil of Mabus’ army. If any particular organisation seemed to be becoming a little too powerful, more often than not the leaders would be paid a visit in the night by a close friend who they had trusted implicitly, and never wake up.

But the Black Scorpions were gone now.

And it was time for something else to replace them.

“Wait here.” said Cole

Isabella looked around nervously, brushing the handle of a dagger with her thumb over and over.

The hallway, dank, dark and stinking, looked deserted. But then, in Gomorrah, it was the people you couldn’t see who were the ones to keep an eye out for. The fact that there didn’t seem to be anyone here did nothing to reassure her. Every step they had taken since leaving Mabus’ throne room to this ten storey tenement building just north of the Combat Tower, Isabella had been unable to shake the feeling that they were being followed. She glanced nervously to where Cole was dragging his finger lazily over a grimy, brown-stained wall.

“What are we doing here?” she asked, and it felt like the hundredth time.

“Ssshhh.” he whispered “Got ya.”

“What?” she turned to look at him, only to see that he had been talking to the wall, not to her.

With a low, dreary moan, the wall was sliding to one side, revealing a dark passageway.

“Let’s go.” said Cole.

They disappeared into the opening, and seconds later the wall slid shut again.

“What is this place?” Isabella whispered, her keen eyes slowly adjusting to the darkness of the room.

“Hang on. I gotta find the light switch.” said Cole, talking over his shoulder as he felt along the wall “Every tenth building in Gomorrah has one of these rooms. They’re safe houses, for any Black Scorpion who’s cover his blown and needs to lie low. He can hide out here, live off rations for weeks if he has to. There’s a weapons locker under the bed. A radio to call into the Blue Room for rescue, or just to listen in to see what’s going on outside. More importantly, only the engineers who built it, and the Scorpion assigned to it knows where his individual safe room is. And only one man in the entire city knows where all of them are.”


“If Mabus knew about this place, do you think we’d be hiding out here? Nah, I ordered these to be built, never told Mabus.”

“You knew you might need to hide from him?”

“No, actually. I just never told him. Mostly because I thought he wouldn’t care. He told me to build him a spy network, and I did it. He never really asked how. But we’ll be as safe here as anywhere. We can stay here while we look for Joriel. Then we are getting out of here, and we are not even stopping to shake the dust off our shoes. There you are…”

His hand touched the light switch and the room was thrown into a sickly green haze.

Cole turned and froze.

“Oh you’re smart Joe. Got it all planned out. But let me ask you this: How fast are you?”

Isabella’s eyes stared at him, terrified, over the arm that was wrapped across her face. The silver muzzle of a Colt single action Army was pressed to her neck.

And the eyes that stared at Cole over her shoulder were as pitiless as they were desperate.

Cole almost burst out laughing. Of all the safe houses in the city, he had chosen the one containing New Gomorrah’s most wanted citizen; Ezekiel Holtz, the man who had raised the riot with Thomas, and shot Mabus himself. For a mad second, Cole considered how capturing Holtz might just be enough to put himself back in Mabus’ good graces. But he dismissed the idea almost as soon as it came to him. They were getting out. That was the end of it. At least, they were if could convince Holtz to let Isabella go.

“Hi Holtz.” said Cole as nonchalantly as he could.


The Hangman’s Daughter-Chapter 19



There was a great yellow moon sewn into the black and grey fabric of the night sky and the path ahead of the two men was a golden thread, leading them home.

“I hear there was a murder.”

“Yes.” Luke replied “Our magistrate.”

“I’m sure you’re all distraught.” said the youth tonelessly.

Luke did not reply, not wishing to lie, but not wishing to show disrespect for the dead.

“Did they catch the murderer?” and again the words were passionless.


“Do you think they will?”

“I don’t know.”

The youth snorted at this, as if it amused him.


The Hangman’s Daughter- Chapter 10


She lay there in the mud for a few minutes, not quite sure if she had gone mad. After all, she had seen some incredible things when she had had the fever. But the figure in front of her was real. She was seeing it before her eyes, not in her head. Slowly, she clambered to her feet, rivers of muddy water running off her now thoroughly soiled white night-dress. She took five steps, and stood at the right hand side of the figure. From where she was, she could just about see the tip of an elegant chin, the end of a nose, but everything else hidden by the folds of the hood.
“Hello.” said Marie quietly.
The figure started, and Marie realised that she had taken him by surprise. If this person was what she thought he was, then how was that possible?


The Hangman’s Daughter: Chapter 9

                                                                                                      CHAPTER 9: ANGEL IN THE RAIN

The front door was bashed open with a thunder clap, and Marie shot upright in bed.
From behind her bedroom door she could hear raised voices, something heavy being carried, grunts and curses, and she felt a stab of ice in her as she thought the cottage was being robbed. Then, her door swung open and she screamed as the grizzled face of Sylvie’s father, the blacksmith D’Arbe, shot into her room like a jack from a box.
She screamed and he shouted in fright before realising who she was. Then he muttered to himself “Wrong room…” and was gone as suddenly as he had entered, leaving the door to slowly close of its own inertia.
But right before it closed, Marie could see through the rapidly shrinking opening a mob of townsmen carrying her father into his bedroom, behind the, Toureil barking orders “Lay him down on the bed! Careful! Careful you asses! He’s not a sack of potatoes!” And she had just enough time to see her father’s face, white as marble save for the hideous red scar running down his nose and his blue eyes lolling sightlessly, and although she did not actually hear herself, she screamed at the sight of him. And then, with malicious relish, the door clicked shut, cutting her off from the kitchen, and leaving her in the darkness again.


The Hangman’s Daughter-Chapter 8

                                                                         CHAPTER 8: THE BATTLE OF THE STONE BRIDGE

There was a great yellow moon sewn into the black and grey fabric of the night sky and the path ahead of the two men was a golden thread, leading them home.
“I hear there was a murder.”
“Yes.” Luke replied “Our magistrate.”
“I’m sure you’re all distraught.” said the youth tonelessly.
Luke did not reply, not wishing to lie, but not wishing to show disrespect for the dead.
“Did they catch the murderer?” and again the words were passionless.
“Do you think they will?”
“I don’t know.”
The youth snorted at this, as if it amused him.


The Hangman’s Daughter- Chapter 7

CHAPTER 7: Cain the Farmer

“Bernadette, can I tell you a secret?”

“A good secret?”


The two were sitting alone on the wall where the thief had passed by four years ago on his way to his appointment with Marie’s father.

They were sitting shoulder to shoulder, Marie’s red hair mingling with Bernadette’s blonde, something now possible since Bernadette and her odour had parted company some years back.

“So what’s the secret?” said Bernadette.

“I think I’m evil.” said Marie quietly.

“Really.” said Bernadette “What’d you do?”

“Do you remember when they told us that Monsieur Nogaret was dead?”


“When I found out, I was glad. I was happy he was dead.”

“Were you happy he was stabbed?”

“What?” said Marie, surprised by the question.

“Well, I just want to know how bad it was. I mean, being happy someone is dead is one thing. Being happy that someone broke into their house and cut them up and turned all the walls red and made it so they still haven’t cleaned it up and it’s probably going to be haunted forever

“That’s what happened?”

“You didn’t know?”

“No, I just heard he died!”

“So, how do you feel now that you know how he died?”

“I dunno. Kind of bad, I suppose.”

“Well, there you go. Not so evil.”

There was a brief pause. Bernadette kicked air.

“So why were you happy when you heard?”

“I hated him.”


Marie kicked herself mentally and realised that she had talked herself into a corner. To tell Bernadette about her encounter with Nogaret all those years ago she would have to explain why Nogaret had visited her father’s house. Then she would have to explain why her father was in Nogaret’s employment and not only would her father’s identity be exposed and his life at risk, but she would be exhausted from more explaining than any human being should have to endure. This would take some brilliant excuse, something to completely throw Bernadette off the scent.

“Just did.”


Disaster narrowly averted.


The Hangman’s Daughter: Chapter 6



Months passed, and the small village of St Anne draped itself in the yellow of summer, the orange of autumn, the white of winter and the green of the new spring like a child trying on her mother’s dresses and then discarding them as she loses interest. Little changed in the village. News of the war with the English came in peaks and troughs. One day a  terrible defeat, destruction imminent, the next a glorious victory, London in three weeks. But this distant war did not even cause the slightest real ripple in the still lake that was St Anne. Of notable events perhaps the greatest was the death of Doctor Toureil’s wife. The woman who he had so often berated, teased and insulted, had in her last days watched her husband work like a scourged slave to save her, toiling with bottles and jars, resorting to ever more outlandish and bizarre cures to halt the disease that he knew had no interest in ceasing its rampage through her body.


The Hangman’s Daughter- Chapter 5



Marie swam languidly through a black sea of sleep that was deep, warm and mercifully dreamless.

When she awoke, the fever was gone and her bed was once again cool and soft.

Seated on a stool by her bedside, Doctor Toureil scrutinised her with two small grey eyes that were cosy beneath great white bushy eyebrows.

“Good morning.” he said quietly.


The Hangman’s Daughter- Chapter 4


If you were to meet Doctor Toureil, your first impression of him would be that he was a farmer. He had the broad red face of a man who spent his days tilling fields, or clumsily trying to catch agile sheep on misty mountains. His hands were huge, pink and covered in a sandpaper of calluses. His clothes were shabby, and had probably not left his body in ten years. This, of course, was one of the reasons why the villagers of St Anne trusted him so much. He wasn’t some polished outsider come to sneer at the simple little country bumpkins. If anything, Doctor Toureil was more of a bumpkin than anyone else in the village. He was also an excellent doctor.


The Hangman’s Daughter- Chapter 3


She had run home after the hanging, tears burning in her eyes like lime, her chest trying to wrestle breaths between sobs. But when she got home, the house was empty. She wandered the three rooms, hers, her father’s and the kitchen again and again, hoping that he would leap from behind some nook or cranny, or slide out from behind a picture on the wall. She could not accept that he was not here, in this moment when she needed him as she never had before.

She was still young.