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 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 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 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.


The Hangman’s Daughter- Chapter 2


It was exactly nine months two days and ten hours later when Marie learned that her father was not a soup maker. She was sitting on a wall on the outskirts of the village, watching horses galloping in the sun, as polished and brown as chestnuts. Marie had decided long ago that she was going to be a horse when she grew up. Perched with her on the wall were Olivia and Sylvie, and the three sat so close together that Olivia’s jet black hair ran off her shoulder and intermingled with Marie’s red, whereas on Marie’s opposite side Sylvie’s nut brown tresses mixed with her own. Four feet further down the wall, in compliance with the unspoken rule, sat Bernadette-who-smelt-of-cack. It had often seemed a shame to Marie that Bernadette always had to keep a distance, which she did amicably and without bitterness, because on the whole she preferred Bernadette to the other two. Olivia could bully and be patronising, and Sylvie had a tendency to be sullen, but Bernadette was very sweet tempered and pleasant to be with.
Just not too closely.


The Hangman’s Daughter- Chapter 1

Hi guys, okay, so firstly thanks so much for all your kind words and support. I honestly expected to announce this to the world to deafening silence and maybe a polite cough in the darkness, so the fact that so many of you have said you’re willing to follow this story means the world to me. So, starting from today I’m going to be posting one chapter every Thursday that’s not a review day. But to get the ball rolling I thought I’d do three chapters so that we can actually get pretty far into the story and establish the setting and a few of the main characters, particularly Marie and Luke, the daughter and the hangman (seeing as they are kinda important). Alright, so, here we go.

Aaaaaand…deep breath.