Less than a week to go until THE BLEED: RUPTURE is released. Here’s a glimpse into the third and final story strand…
When the grandfathers to the grandfathers were young, the race of gods stepped through time and space, appearing in the North. Fleeing an ancient, world-eating evil they called the Bleed, they came to build anew, in peace. Other than strange hair and eye colors, they appeared similar to normal human beings—but they were taller, stronger, and smarter, and were ripe with powers from their home world. They brought unheard of learning and experience with them; they built their Endless City from one edge of the North to the other, with its mile-high walls and towers of stone, steel and wood soaring above that. They ruled the world from afar, without war, or even effort, ever watchful for the signs of the Bleed, their unending, ever-hungry foe.
They took husbands and wives and left thousands of half-breed children behind when the enemy they fled bled through the fabric of the worlds. Deep in their city, servants of the evil ate at their new home, one bloody soul at a time. They made their stand at the edge of the world, almost a score ago, and not one god has been seen since.
Without their vibrant presence, the gods’ city crumbles. The common folk wander through the world, aimless, as the world at the city’s feet awaits their victory, or defeat, at the edge, where the seas turn to ice and fall into night’s oblivion, where only gods dared tread.
“Why are there no more fish?” Arridon Gray muttered as he threw the nets down on Mercy Point’s last remaining rickety pier which jutted out over the sea’s edge. The sea’s agitated waves rolled in, foamy and cold, and smashed against the shrinking village’s stony shore wall.
Fishing under the summer sun off the docks with his father’s old nets had yielded Arridon no fish for the third day running. The young man wasn’t the only person with empty nets either; none of the other men standing on the shores of the Dawn Sea had catches that would fill a belly come dinnertime. After sitting on the pier’s end, boots dangling over the brackish waters below, lamenting the fortune he’d received over his twenty short years and the fortunes of all the other people struggling to feed themselves in the village of Mercy Point, he got to his feet. He packaged the old net back into his father’s large canvas bag and began the trudge inland to the home he shared with his father and younger sister. He walked carefully on the aged planks, using the golden eyes his mother had passed down to him to watch for rotted boards, perishing from disuse. The weight of the bag over his shoulder cut into his skin, but the calluses fought back.
He walked past the old fishery warehouses that no longer smelled of the day’s catch—and hadn’t for years—and then past the almost abandoned inns that used to cater to merchants coming and going on boats that no longer came or went on the Eastern Sea.
They were too close to the gods’ war at the world’s edge, or so the traders claimed.
Arridon believed in the war at the edge of the world, even though he couldn’t see it and didn’t know anyone who had. He believed in the gods fighting that war, including his mother, though she’d been gone for over a decade now. Worrying about his drunken father and protecting his little sister occupied all the anxiety he could work up in a day’s time. The gods’ war against the Bleed would come to them, or it wouldn’t. He had no say either way.
He passed through the village’s central courtyard, with its long-unused guillotine and trio of freshwater wells, and took the slight turn towards the street he and his family lived on. Several buildings ahead, he saw his sister leaning against the side of an abandoned home, surrounded by several of the local boys. Her eyes were narrowed into dagger slits of anger as she looked from one boy to the next.
“Shit,” he whispered, and picked up speed to get to her before one of the boys did something they’d regret.
They were arguing with her when he arrived.
“Why won’t ya?” one of them asked her, taunting. “You don’t think he’s good enough for ya, ya golden-eyed freak?”
“No, actually, he isn’t good enough for me,” Thistle shot back as she put her long brown hair up in a ponytail. “Not a soul in this godless village is worth so much as my freakish kiss, and at the bottom of that wretched, worthless pile is all of you and your friend Sebastian especially. Now kindly, you can all go walk off the edge.”
“Come on now,” the one Arridon knew to be Sebastian said. “No harm meant. Just one kiss. A plump, wet one, and I’ll be off.”
“Seb, you heard her,” Arridon said, approaching the four teenage boys harassing his sister. “Her lips are hers to decide what to do with. Now be off or I’ll drag each of you to the pier and throw you in, one by one. Let you float to the war and right over the edge of the world.”
“Oh, we was just having fun with Thistle, Arridon. You both get your halfsie panties twisted over nothing,” Sebastian shot back.
It wasn’t the first time he’d been called a halfsie, but it stung just as bad every time. Arridon’s blood boiled. He dropped the heavy bag filled with netting on the cobblestone street and shot a hand out at the throat of the kid who’d called his sister and him such a terrible name.
“Say that again,” Arridon dared him. “Call my sister and me a halfsie one more time.”
One of the boys stepped forward to intervene, to rescue his friend from the older, stronger Arridon, but the “halfsie” man stared at him with his golden god’s eyes, and the bully froze in his footsteps.
“But that’s what you are,” Sebastian choked out. “Dirty half-people. You think the two of you would add up to one worthless person but you don’t. Your two good halves are gone and the halves you got left don’t add up to nothing.”
“We are both more than half a person, thank you,” Thistle shot back. “Our mother was a god from the Endless City, and at least we know what man mounted her in the dark, you fatherless bastard.”
Sebastian slipped into rage and struggled, but the deceptively strong grip skinny and tall Arridon had on his neck held him from attacking Thistle. He resorted to grunting in anger at her, and foaming at the mouth like the angry surf, or the mouth of a rabid dog held barely at bay. After several seconds of that, Sebastian gave up the struggle, and stood, arms limp at his sides.
“Listen to me,” Arridon said, leaning down into the bully’s face. “All of you listen to me. I won’t say this again; next time I’ll save my breath and just punch you in the face.” He looked to each of their scared faces, and when he knew they were paying attention, he continued. “My sister and I are good people. Whole people. We didn’t choose that our mother was one of the god-kind, and I’ll be honest: I’m glad she was, no matter what the haters say. Now you say what you will about the other gods, and where they went when they left, but our mother was a good person, and so are we. Now pay close attention. I’ll stop being a nice person if you keep harassing my sister and me, you understand? I’ll use the part of me that came from her, and I’ll shrivel your little dicks so small they’ll turn inside out. And then, I’ll lay a curse upon your fields and your harvests, and your children—if anyone ever willingly touches your shriveled cocks. None of you will ever be happy again if you cross my family, and none you know will be either.”
THE BLEED: RUPTURE, written by MARK TUFO, CHRIS PHILBROOK and myself, is released on 14 July as an ebook, paperback, and Audible exclusive audiobook narrated by SCOTT AIELLO. THE BLEED: RAPTURE follows next March, with THE BLEED: ARMAGEDDON to finish the series in September 2021.