My Darling Dead: Bastards Episode 3/ Council Rules

Orteg’s favored tavern was situated in the forest proper. A small dirt road led from the stone-paved thoroughfare to its front doors, the road flanked by huge trees older than time itself. A bird familiar with cartography would see the tavern at the center of a hundred little paths wending their way towards it through the forest, like the center of a spider’s web. It was down one of these paths that Zavier and Orteg now walked, away from the main thoroughfare. 

Orteg gaped. “Who are you? How do you know of all this?”

“I am the son of the counsel to King Wendell, the wizard Sapius was my father and shared with me your entire pathetic history,” Zavier said, waving a hand impatiently. “I have long been searching for you to tell you this, and to tell you: you must be made king!

“When the princess Alasin, your half-sister, was born, she was the recipient of a dreadful curse by a fairy at her christening ceremony. As revenge against the king for two-timing the fairy, the princess was doomed to continually suffer the loss of the one she loved most, which, at the time, was the king. He died as a result and the steps the queen took to preserve her own life ultimately drove the princess mad, though she was none too stable, to begin with. 

“Alasin took a love potion before looking in the mirror beside her mother, and, falling in love with both of them, sealed their fate. The curse dispatched them that night but was never broken by her dying a natural death. Which is the plague, the rat creatures, rampant filth, all the side effects of the curse, are going to continue on and on until a new king is christened, properly. You are that king!”

Zavier halted, breathing heavily, staring at Orteg with hot, unblinking eyes.

“So…what am I supposed to do?” asked Orteg, feeling foolish. 

“You must get to the castle. The council which has attempted to govern in light of a real king will be gathered. In their presence, I will perform a spell which shall reveal your lineage. They will have no choice but to crown you king!” Zavier cried, spittle flying from his mouth in his ardor. “The entire kingdom will fall under your rule, with your divine right as Wendell’s heir a new era will come to the kingdom, one of lawful productivity rather than the dark squalor of insanity, a strong, new…”

They continued down the path, Zavier extolling the upcoming Orteg Era of the kingdom as its namesake listened in a daze, only catching half of what was being said. As the wizard’s voice began to fade, in the foliage of one of the branches looming over the forest path, what had once been a human female crawled from a tree limb. Her eyes glowed with a crazed fire and her matted hair was crusted with dirt and sticks. She had long ago lost the power of speech, but her subconscious retained enough of the language skills she had learned as a child to understand it. She knew the information she had heard would be worth something to the council, and that meant food. After waiting for the sound of footsteps to die away, she slithered headfirst down the tree and set off in the direction of the castle, giving the two men a wide berth. 

The Honorable Prefect Mosh Barris sat at the head of the long council table in the courtroom of the castle, pulled up to the table as close as his ample stomach would allow. Three of his six chins wobbled as he chewed the mouthful of roast oxen with relish. Six men sat to his left and six women sat to his right, making up the government of the kingdom. All were well-fed, though none so well-fed as Barris himself, all were wearing wigs and all were staring down their noses at the little man cringing before them, wringing a filthy hat in his equally filthy hands.

“Farmer Ellis,” Barris rumbled after swallowing, taking care to keep the smile from his meaty features, “The effects of the rat creatures upon your farm is not the concern of this council. The pestilence is your responsibility to control to the best of your ability and is not to interfere with your tithings. Therefore, your request for an extension on your land tax is denied.” 

“But… Your Honor, my entire family has been taken by the pox or the rat plague. It is only me to care for them all and to maintain the farm.” Tears were coursing down his gaunt cheeks as he fell to his knees, beseeching each member of the council in turn. “I beg of you, have mercy.”

“Exceptions cannot be made,” said the woman immediately to Barris’s right. “Any exception would result in the same request being made a thousandfold.”

“Quite right, Agathas,” said Barris, favoring her with a thick-lipped smile. “At any rate, the kingdom needs taxes, not excuses. You may go, Ellis.”

The farmer got to his feet and jammed his hat on his head. Turning to go, he was halfway to the door, before he spun around and threw his hat to the ground.

“Barris! You and your council of toads are nothing but bloated bags of gas feeding on the misfortunes of others! May you one day face the same mercy you have shown!” Ellis shouted, his voice shrill. “There will be others, and before long, you will be buried by them! Selfish pigs—”

“BAILIFF!” screamed Barris, crashing to his feet, his own large features turning a dark purple. “Take this man away and execute him for treason! To speak against the governing faction of the kingdom is to speak against the kingdom itself.” He slumped back in his chair, breathing heavily. 

Before Ellis could react, his arms had been pinioned behind his back by a hulking man in a gray smock who had been standing unnoticed in the corner. The hulking man gave a sharp jerk upward and a wet popping sound filled the room as the farmer’s arm was broken from its socket. Ellis screamed still louder. The woman Agathas watched with rising color of her own, her tongue moistening her lips. Barris could feel himself getting aroused. 

“On second thought, bailiff,” Barris said with a grin, watching Agathas. “Execute him here, for our amusement.”

Ellis began to blubber through his tears and screams, begging and pleading, words about his family, sick and dying without him. The hulking man stunned him with a rap to the back of the head. “As you wish, sir. Would you like it to be quick, or slow?”

Barris looked at Agathas and raised his eyebrows inquisitively. 

“Slowly,” she said. Her hand was already between her legs and her breathing ragged. “But not too slowly.” 

 

 

Book Review: Lilitu: Memoirs of a Succubus by Jonathan Fortin

Review by Daphne Strassert

Content Warnings: depicts graphic violence and sex

In 2017, HorrorAddicts.net ran the Next Great Horror Writer Contest. Over the course of the season, the writers (myself included) submitted horror writing of various types and competed for the top spot and the final prize of a book contract with Crystal Lake Publishing. The winner was Jonathan Fortin and the book was Lilitu: Memoirs of a Succubus.

I have waited literal years for this book to come out. Jonathan Fortin embodies the heart and soul of what it means to be a horror writer and I’m absolutely privileged to have competed against him. Lilitu shows the countless hours of hard work that he put into crafting his story.

HorrorAddicts.net helped to find a truly gifted author and bring a wonderful work of horror out into the world.

In 1876, Unbeknownst to the masses of Victorian England, humanity is about to change forever. The immortal denizens of the Earth—the vampires, the lilitu, and the necromancers—are tired of hiding in the shadows of the night. They’ve hatched a plot to take the world for themselves.

Maraina never felt as if she belonged with her aristocratic family. She never felt pretty enough or charming enough. She was stifled by a future that held no hope for her. That changes with The Nightfall. When the demons rise to take England, Maraina faces a choice: renounce her humanity and become a succubus, or remain human and die a slave.

She is introduced to the world of demons by Salem, a powerful incubus who is fascinated by Maraina’s strength of mind. But the new society brought about by the immortals is just as cruel and evil as the one that they overthrew. Maraina may have forsaken her own humanity, but she won’t turn her back on it entirely.

Soon she finds herself at odds with Salem, as both he and the world spiral further into darkness. Maraina must find a way to save everyone from evil on all sides, in a way that only a demon can.

Though Lilitu is a long book, it never feels that while reading it. Scenes flow together seamlessly, each action leading to the next in a manner that pulls the reader along. Fortin lays the groundwork for plot twists early without giving too many clues that would reveal them. The result is a gripping story that keeps the reader engaged throughout.

The heart of the story lies with Maraina Blackwood. Maraina is a feminist icon trapped in the Victorian era. Plagued by the restrictive values and burdensome expectations of her time, Maraina is often her own worst enemy. Watching her grow to discover her potential is satisfying. She explores what true humanity means outside of mortality and damnation. Though her understanding of the world is turned on its head, she finds the core of who she really is.

Salem is a fantastic antagonist. At first, he’s sexy and alluring, his dark nature luring Maraina in. As the book progresses, the very things that made Salem appealing begin to lose their shine. Salem changes throughout the book, but it is not a fall from grace, rather a reveal as the scales fall from Maraina’s eyes. Salem becomes more purely himself in all his sinister glory. He becomes a more powerful enemy as Maraina herself comes into her own power.

In Lilitu, Fortin has created a wholly unique and fantastical world. The elements of the Nightfall perfectly highlight the injustices faced in Victorian England (and today). It’s clear that Fortin did his research. The details of Victorian society are seamless, creating the perfect backdrop for the horror elements that are introduced. The mythos of the immortal characters is thorough. Fortin hints at a much deeper world than the one that’s presented in Lilitu, making the reader hope that there will be more to come.

Fortin’s writing is deliciously gruesome. He strikes the perfect balance in his descriptions between the beautiful and horrifying. The emotions of the characters come through clearly and the horror to come creeps up slowly, giving the reader a sense of dread that can’t quite be explained.

The story is a delight to read but provides more substance than a shock-and-awe horror thriller would. Lilitu explores the nature of sexuality, war, and morality. Fortin lays bare themes about prejudice and justice that are just as timely now as they are for the characters.

In Lilitu, Jonathan Fortin has created a horror masterpiece that defies many genre expectations. He weaves together elements of social commentary, coming of age triumphs, and Lovecraftian horror with ease, packaging them neatly in a story that leaves no room to put the book down.

 

Chilling Chat: Episode 178 | A.F. Stewart

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A steadfast and proud sci-fi and fantasy geek, A. F. Stewart was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada and still calls it home. The youngest in a family of seven children, she 91998279_2985631954792617_8123098902787260416_nalways had an overly creative mind and an active imagination. She favours the dark and deadly when writing—her genres of choice being fantasy and horror—but she has been known to venture into the light on occasion. As an indie author, she’s published novels, novellas and story collections, with a few side trips into poetry. 

A.F. is a wonderful lady with a very dry sense of humor. We discussed writing, folklore, and villains.

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, A.F.! Thank you for joining us today!

AFS: Glad to be here.

NTK: How old were you when you first discovered horror?

AFS: Good question. I suppose my first introduction to horror was through local folklore and the Nova Scotia ghost stories when I was growing up. Also Grimm’s fairy tales with witches and cannibalism. Probably elementary school age, around age eight to ten.

NTK: Ooh! What kind of ghost stories? Can you give us an example?

AFS: There are so many ghost stories in this province and around all of the Altlantic Candian provinces. One of my favourites is the story of the burning ghost ship that appears off Mahone Bay.

NTK: Cool! Did this story inspire you to become a horror writer?

AFS: No, although the folklore certainly influences my writing. I actually started writing horror by accident. I wrote a nice, sweet short story for a writing group, but it threw my rhythm off and I had writer’s block after that. To bring back the deserted muse, I decided to write a horror story about Jack the Ripper. I’ve never looked back.

NTK: Awesome! Speaking of influences, who is your biggest influence in horror writing? Who is your favorite author?

AFS: I say Ray Bradbury is my biggest horror influence. I know most people think of him as a sci-fi writer, but quite a few of his short stories, like “The Emissary,” are very creepy. And Poe as well, was an influence. My favourite authors are fantasy though, with Neil Gaiman and Guy Gavriel Kay in a tie for first place.

NTK: Bradbury has a distinctive style, almost poetic. You’re a poet as well. Which do you prefer, poetry or prose?

AFS: Poetry, definitely. I love writing both, but poetry is closest to my heart. It’s also a lot of fun to combine horror with poetry and write wickedly dark poems.

NTK: What gets your creative juices flowing? Are you inspired by dreams?

AFS: Strangely enough, I’ve never had a dream inspire my writing. Maybe they’re just too weird. My inspiration comes from many things, usually odd or mundane stuff. One of my recent short stories was inspired by the loud roar of a plane, and a couple of days ago I was contemplating whether you could dispose of a body in the garbage after seeing the recycling truck. And for the record, I decided it was not a feasible method of body disposal.

NTK: (Laughs.) What inspired you to write “Blood on the Looking Glass?”

AFS: That came from a prompt in a writing group. They posted a picture of a woman standing on top of a giant skull, wearing these striped stockings and a pinafore-like dress. It struck me with this Alice in Wonderland kind of looks and the first line of the story, “We’re all mad here,” said Alice, popped in my head. The rest of the story flowed from there.

NTK: Do you outline your stories when you write them? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants?

AFS: With short stories, I generally don’t outline. I usually start with a beginning line or a paragraph and an ending, either in my head or written down and then join the two together. For novels though, I do scene outlining, character backstories, worldbuilding, maps, and all the fun stuff.

NTK: Do your characters have free will? Or do you direct their every move?

AFS: My characters are stubborn and refuse to listen. I have nice plans all laid out, and then they come along and make announcements that change everything. That’s what happened with Edmund in Chronicles of the Undead; he refused to stay in Oxford and I had to rework part of the plot to set things in London. It happened with the Nightmare Crow as well, who gave me a new motivation halfway through the series. A couple of characters have announced sexual preferences and one decided she was on the villain’s side. They are very irksome, my characters.

NTK: Your characters sound awesome! Which do you like writing more? Heroes or villains?

AFS: Villains! I love writing villains. That’s probably why I have two books of stories from their point of view. The villains get to have more fun, but sometimes they try and take over the book. I had to rein in my pirate in Renegades of the Lost Sea because my main character wasn’t getting enough page time.

NTK: Do you enjoy villains in the movies too? What’s your favorite horror movie?

AFS: I love the movie villains, though I am a bit of a chicken when it comes to horror. I tend towards the more psychological stuff like The Others and Crimson Peak.

NTK: Favorite horror TV show?

AFS: I’m a huge Supernatural fan and I loved Penny Dreadful, and as a big Bruce Campbell fan, the Evil Dead series would be on the list as well. And the Hannibal TV show; I loved that.

NTK: Favorite Horror novel?

AFS: I haven’t read too many horror novels, but Something Wicked This Way Comes would be a favourite.

NTK: Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

AFS: A favourite curse? Interesting. I like the idea of cursed objects, things that bring the owner bad luck or misfortune. I also like the idea of the Celtic geis, which is a prohibition against doing a certain thing. If they break the prohibition they usually bring terrible calamity or death upon themselves. And of course, the mummy’s curse is always a fun one to play with.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What books and poems do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

AFS: Right now I’m working on finishing up my contemporary Arthurian legends series, The Camelot Immortals. But I’m also writing a historical paranormal/fantasy series set in Venice that will have a lot of dark Italian folklore and dead bodies. Plus I have a steampunk horror series with vampires on the backburner. And recently I’ve been toying with the idea of a standalone horror novel.

It’s also National Poetry Month, so no doubt some dark poems will pop up on my website.

NTK: Awesome! You’re keeping busy. Thank you for chatting with us, A.F. It’s been fun!

AFS: Thanks for having me, I enjoyed it and yes it was great fun.

My Darling Dead : Bastards – Episode 1 The New King

 

Orteg slammed open the door of his hut, a gust of cold wet air following him into the sitting room. The meager fire his wife Dashani had managed to coax from their remaining splinters of wood was almost extinguished by the blast. Orteg, groping with his foot, managed to shut the door behind him without dropping the armful of wood he carried. His three children huddled beneath a moth-eaten bearskin rug beside the smudge of fire. Their mother looked up as the door latched and Orteg stomped over to the fireplace, leaving muddy footprints in his wake. He dropped the pile of soggy logs and wiped his hands on his dirty trousers with a disgruntled sigh.

“Could you get no more?” Dashani asked, her voice sharp and accusatory. She prodded at the pile of wood with a finger. “These’re soaked through.”

Orteg didn’t answer. He had gone into the corner of the sitting room which served as their kitchen and appeared to be tearing it apart, tossing things from their places onto the floor where they rolled until his feet kicked them aside. The children withdrew further into their bearskin sanctuary, becoming little more than brown lumps as the clankings and crashings continued. Dashani pushed herself to her feet with a sound of exasperation and limped toward him. Her leg had been savagely gashed in a fall and the infection was beginning to smell. Orteg attempted in vain to withdraw from her even as he upended a basket. 

“What in the devil are you doing?” she snapped, leaning against the counter as he reached behind a cupboard. “You know no whiskey remains after you drank it all last night. Is this ache not enough to remind you?” She reached up and rapped her knuckles on his skull.

“Devil take you, woman!” he snarled, slapping her hand away and stepping back. “Curse your infernal tongue, why not use it to clean out that festering hole in your leg, that you might stand a prayer of it remaining, and leave me in peace?”

“Do not be speaking to me that way, Orteg Bluenote,” Dashani shrilled, waving a finger in his face. “If you had been better than a no ‘count lazy good-for-nothing drunk you would have seen the morning’s sunrise and I’d have not needed to be crossing the ravine to check your traps, that we might have food for another night for the children you were so keen to put in me that you now scarcely look at! This is all your doing and don’t you forget it!”

Orteg’s hand moved like lightning, connecting with Dashani’s face and sending her sprawling. The lumps under the bearskin let out small cries, mixing with her own cry of pain as her back collided with the bed frame in the other corner of the hut’s single room. Tears rolled down her face unbidden as she cowered on the floor while her husband advanced on her, roaring “SILENCE! By all the gods that are, woman, you will give me peace or I will take it!” He raised a hand again and when she flinched but said nothing, he grunted in satisfaction. 

“Snake-tongued devil bitch,” he flung over his shoulder as he left, allowing another cold blast of wet air into the hut. This time, the fire went out. The children began to weep in earnest, their cries joining in with their mother’s as all four sobbed into the uncaring darkness. 

Orteg stumped through the woods, his feet following the path they had made with no conscious thought required from him. The palm of his hand stung where it had collided with Dashani’s face and he flexed it, relishing its sting. It was difficult for Orteg to remember the fiery young peasant girl he had fingered in the hayloft and impregnated that same summer. Though it had been less than three years ago it seemed as though a lifetime. Now, all he could think was…

He heard the sound of laughter and music up ahead and hastened his footsteps, his mouth-watering. The tavern was well lit, cheery and inviting. Orteg slipped into its comforting bosom and once again, all his cares evaporated. 

Hours later, Orteg stumbled up to the bar, nearly losing his footing and catching himself on it. “Barkeep, more whiskey,” he slurred, rapping his mug on the bar. Holding it out, his bloodshot eyes roved around the bar, taking in its clientele and sifting them for availability, desirability, ease of access and past experience. There was the usual menagerie of rough trade; farmers with dirt crusted so thick on their faces that what lay beneath was a mystery, hags seeking companionship, tavern wenches looking pretty but resigned, the usual riffraff. Further down the bar, a trio of dwarves were laughing uproariously at something. A table of what appeared to be elves were deep in conversation at a table in the corner, a beautiful blade on the table between them. 

Orteg dismissed them as immaterial as his eye made contact with one of the tavern wenches he had known many times, frequently when Dashani’s less than welcoming nature had sent him to the tavern. Sarina had just returned to the main room from the upstairs, where private business was transacted. She straightened her bodice as a man followed her, a silly grin on his features and walking unsteadily. He went to kiss her and she turned her head with a smile, deflecting it to her cheek as she winked at Orteg with one soft brown eye. The man chortled and pecked her on the cheek before stumbling to the bar. Behind him, Sarina beckoned to Orteg, sliding a finger down the center of her décolletage and licking her lips. Draining his glass, Orteg stood and lurched toward the girl, bouncing off another patron with a curse. Attempting to bypass the stranger proved impossible, for he moved to block Orteg. 

“Away, fool,” Orteg muttered thickly, attempting to walk through the man. “Can’t you see what awaits?”

“I would speak with you, Bluenote,” said the figure from beneath its cowl. “What I have to say to you, I daresay you will find more engaging than pleasures of the flesh.” 

Orteg, who could think of no such thing, grunted laughter and attempted again to pass the figure. “I doubt that very much, sir.” The tavern wench grinned, lifted her skirt a little and turned to mount the stairs. 

“Son of Wendell, you must heed me!”

The dead king’s name floated before Orteg’s bloodshot eyes for a moment before vanishing. Sarina smiled prettily, lifting her skirt still higher. Calf gave way to thigh and Orteg felt his own member responding. She grinned and rubbed a hand over her crotch. 

“Outta my way,” Orteg grunted, shouldering the figure aside. The world had dwindled to the tavern wench and Orteg smiled oafishly at her. “‘m comin’ with you.” 

“It is so,” Sarina said with a musical laugh, dropping her skirt to take his hand, rubbing her other hand under his nose. “You like this?” Her smell overwhelmed him. 

“Yuh,” he said, his tongue thick and his hands busy. She slapped at them. “Come,” she said, and turned, ascending the stairs. In a stupor of lust, Orteg followed, panting. 

She slipped into the first door at the top of the stairs and with a giggle ran to the bed. Flouncing upon it, she looked at him prettily as he stumbled through the doorway. He shut the door behind him, turning the key in the lock as he grinned, absently rubbing his crotch. 

“Aren’t you coming?” she asked, her voice demure as she patted the bed beside her. 

“Sure am,” he slurred, and with a stagger, fell onto the bed atop her. 

As he did, the door shuddered as it was splintered by a savage blow. Orteg floundered on the bed, the girl beneath him, unable to get his balance. With another mighty crash, the door caved inward and three scrawny figures on all fours scrabbled into the room. Orteg screamed, trying to get his feet underneath him and stand but Sarina held on, her fingers clutching at his back with sudden needlelike claws. She grinned at him, and Orteg felt a whole new level of fear. Her teeth were now long and sharp, her eyes feline slits. Her expression made him feel like prey.

“Son of the king, I have long awaited my day of reckoning with you,” she rasped, in a voice unlike her own. 

The next moment, he was forcefully yanked off of her and thrown to the ground by two of the thin figures. The third stepped hard on his chest, knocking the breath from him, as the other two held his arms out to his sides. Orteg thrashed his lower half around for a moment until the increasing pressure on his chest compelled him to cease. 

“That’s better,” Sarina said, rising to her feet and moving toward him. “Many years ago, your kin did away with me. Your sister, to be precise. She stabbed me and I bled to death, or so she thought. Now I shall have the pleasure of doing away with the last of her bloodline.” She raised a hand, clawed fingers reaching for Orteg’s throat. 

From the doorway, a firm voice said “Not while I breathe, Esemli, Fairy of Darkness. Stand away from the king’s rightful heir!” 

Orteg jerked his head to the side, seeing the hooded figure which had attempted to detain him on his way upstairs, even as his brain sought to interpret the words he had heard and make sense of them.

King’s…heir?? But…

The fairy wench spun, hissing. “Fool! Leave, while you are still able. This does not concern you.” She pointed a clawed finger at Orteg. “The man is mine!”

“It concerns us all, and he belongs to the kingdom. Now begone!” thundered the hooded man and made a downward slashing gesture with both hands. The figure standing on Orteg’s chest was knocked back against the wall. Blood spurted from its nose and it made desperate moaning noises, eyes bulging before slumping over onto its face. 

Orteg felt the other two release him as air flooded back into his lungs. The fairy wench screamed and leaped for him just as Orteg felt something pass him with frightful speed and strike the woman between the eyes. They met Orteg’s as she flew backward, he seeing the feral slits return to their normal soft brown and her teeth retreat from their sharp points just as she hit the wall with a sickening crunch. Sliding to the ground, she did not move.

With fierce chattering noises, the other two shapes charged at Zavier. The latter raised one hand before him and shut his eyes, screwing up his face in concentration. The air grew very hot, stinging Orteg’s face, causing him to screw up his eyes as the two shapes halted as though they had been frozen. When Orteg opened his eyes again, they were gone, leaving only shimmering air where their bodies had been.

 “They are gone,” Zavier said, breathing hard, “But they will return. My power will only remove them for a short time.” He gestured. “Now, come. We must go. There are things to be said which should not be said here.” Swirling his cloak around him, he was out the door and gone before Orteg could do more than gape. 

After a moment, Orteg blundered to his feet. Trying not to look at the two dead bodies in the room, he stumbled to the door and looked out warily. Down on the main floor, immobile in the sea of bodies in motion, stood the hooded man, staring at Orteg. 

His mouth formed words:

Follow.

Orteg followed. 

Book Review: Thrones of Blood Volume #4: Savagery of the Rebel King by Nancy Kilpatrick

Review by Daphne Strasert

Content Warnings: Savagery of the Rebel King contains graphic depictions of rape, abuse, and torture.

Savagery of the Rebel King is the fourth book in the Thrones of Blood series by Nancy Kilpatrick. You can see my reviews of the first three books here:

Revenge of the Vampir King

Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess

Abduction of Two Rulers

Centuries ago, King Necros learned that he could trust no one but himself. Opening his heart to love would only leave it vulnerable to assassins. He rules his vampir stronghold with iron determination. Mistrust, treachery, and betrayal are his constant companions. It keeps Necros alive and in power, but is a grim way to live through his undead eternity.

Queen Guin’s kingdom has a problem: there are no children. For years, the women of the city have been unable to conceive. Desperate, she seeks the help of King Necros and the vampirii.

Necros is fascinated by the tenacious Sapiens Queen but he will not allow himself to trust her. He lashes out in anger, subjecting her to the most horrible kinds of abuse. Things go from bad to worse when Guin’s rule is overthrown and she is left to die. Necros takes her in—though not even he understands his motivation.

They struggle to trust each other, but with mounting threats across all the kingdoms, their lives and those of their subjects depend on their cooperation.

The stakes are higher than ever in Kilpatrick’s fourth Thrones of Blood novel. In Savagery of the Rebel King, we see the complex web of intrigue deepen even further. Kilpatrick weaves in threads from previous novels while also creating compelling stories that stand on their own.

With Guin and Necros, Kilpatrick explores depths of emotion that she hasn’t previously touched. The extremes of the character’s personalities make for a wild adventure.

Guin is a firebrand of a woman (more so than even the previous female protagonists) and will not let herself be overrun. She maintains her sense of self throughout, even using her apparent submission as a weapon.

Necros is so damaged by previous betrayals that he can hardly tell which direction is up. His softening toward others is a delight to watch and his setbacks on the road to betterment are heart-rending.

As the world of Thrones of Blood grows (now encompassing four Vampir strongholds and three Sapien kingdoms), Kilpatrick still keeps each new setting vibrant and original. The motivations and challenges of each are unique, which gives the stories more flavor and authenticity. Though she works with a niche concept, she doesn’t allow that to create narrow storytelling.

Kilpatrick’s unfussy writing makes way for the reader to get immersed in the story. Her vivid descriptions bring both characters and settings to life without detracting from the flow of the narrative.

The Thrones of Blood series is not for the faint of heart. Far from a typical romance story, it blurs the lines of violence and romance in ways that may make some readers uncomfortable. However, if you’ve enjoyed the series so far, then you will love Savagery of the Rebel King. It will leave you anxiously waiting for the next.

Guest Blog: 25 of the Most Metal Films (That Aren’t About Metal)

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The world’s first heavy metal band, Black Sabbath, took their name from Mario Bava’s classic 1963 horror film. In the years since, horror and metal have continued to have an ongoing conversation, from horror-themed metal bands (such as Cradle of Filth, The Great Old Ones, or Carach Angren) to metal-themed horror films.

My short story Requiem in Frost continues this tradition, telling the story of a Norwegian girl who moves into a house haunted by the ghost of a black metal musician.

To coincide with its release, I’ve decided to make a list of movies that, to me, feel “metal.” However, I’m not going to limit this list to horror, and I’m going to avoid films that are specifically about metal. This is because every other list of “Most Metal films of all time” take it literally, all of them focusing exclusively on the same 10 or so movies to have explicit references to the genre. The internet can only withstand so many posts containing Deathgasm, The Gate, The Devil’s Candy, and Lords of Chaos. So instead, I’m going to focus on movies that feel like they capture the essence of metal.

Here’s my criteria: do the images in the movie feel like they could be metal album covers? Could you put metal on the soundtrack and have it feel right? Does the story feel like it could also be that of a metal concept album? Does it feel powerful and meticulously constructed in the way that good metal does?

Obviously, everyone will have their own view on what does and doesn’t belong on this list. These are my choices, and I’m sure that your own are perfectly valid. That’s why these are 25 of the most metal films that aren’t about metal—not the 25 most.

Black SabbathHere we go. Organized by year:

  1. BLACK SABBATH (1963): Let’s just get this shoo-in out of the way. It honestly doesn’t feel that metal to me, but the fact that it inspired what many consider to be the first metal band ever makes it retroactively metal.
  2. WIZARDS (1977): Ralph Bakshi’s animated feature establishes a world in which, following a nuclear apocalypse, humans have all died or become mutants, and fantasy races have taken over in the meantime. An evil wizard uses Nazi propaganda footage to inspire his troops; a robot finds redemption, and fairy tits jiggle. It’s a strange, over-ambitious film, but the subject matter and imagery would feel right at home in a strange, over-ambitious metal concept album. Bakshi’s Fire and Ice might also be a suitable pick, but I haven’t seen it so I can’t put it here.
  3. HEAVY METAL (1981): A token inclusion, this adult animated anthology feature contains aliens on drugs, women with big swords, and copious amounts of sex and violence. It’s rather dated, particularly in the treatment of its female characters, but there’s no denying it is as metal as its name.
  4. CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982): Look, the poster for Conan the Barbarian looks just like a Manowar album. It opens with the forging of a sword. It’s full of Vikings. It has to be on this list.
  5. LEGEND (1985): When you get down to it, a lot of metal is quite geeky, full of fantasy tropes and looming apocalypses—much like Legend. Plus, Tim Curry’s Darkness is such a perfectly iconic heavy metal demon that it would be sinful not to include it.
  6. HELLRAISER (1987): Clive Barker’s squirmfest is undeniably metal, if only for the aesthetic of the cenobites and for the film’s obsession with pain, pleasure, and Hell. Hellraiser was also a huge influence on the band Cradle of Filth, with Pinhead’s actor Doug Bradley making regular appearances on their albums.
  7. EVIL DEAD 2 (1987): The Necronomicon. Ash’s chainsaw hand. The bleeding walls. The soul-swallowing, flesh-possessing demons. Evil Dead 2 is as metal as it gets.
  8. THE CROW (1994): While it’s arguably more of a goth film than a metal film, The Crow is nonetheless filled with such metal-appropriate themes as coming back from the dead to avenge your frigid lover. It’s also one of the rare movies where both the protagonist and antagonist have longer-than-average hair. Kaw, kaw.
  9. DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE (1994): Also known as Cemetery Man, this underrated dark comedy stars Rupert Everett as the keeper of a cemetery where the dead come back to life after burial. It features a romance with a severed head, a zombie on a motorbike, and Death himself, as well as amusingly cynical quotes like “I’d give my life to be dead” and “At a certain point in life, you realize you know more dead people than living.”
  10. VAMPIRE HUNTER D: BLOODLUST (2000): One of the most beautiful animated films of all time, and also one of the darkest. There’s vampires, giant flying manta rays, strange monsters, dark magic, zombies, and more. The first Vampire Hunter D film is good, but Bloodlust just gives the audience one incredibly metal scene after another, and it’s filled with shots that look like they could be metal album covers.
  11. LORD OF THE RINGS (2001 – 2003): Just look at this meme. I think that demonstrates pretty clearly just how metal these films are.
  12. HELLBOY (2004) & HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY (2008): Guillermo del Toro’s fantastic Hellboy films follow a demon who fights Nazis, tentacled Eldritch abominations, faeries, and more. The fact that we have a demon as the hero of the story is pretty significant, but the films’ hellishly lush imagery also demand their inclusion. Particularly metal is the Angel of Death we meet in Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
  13. 300 (2006): I’m including Zach Snyder’s divisive “300” here because the whole movie just feels like a mosh pit to me, with its fetishization of big men with big swords fighting in big groups. It has stunning, brutal, beautiful violence, and plenty of images that feel like metal album covers. Lest you think metal can only be from Scandinavia, check out the amazing Greek metal bands Rotting Christ or Septicflesh, and the Mesopotamian metal band Melecesh. All three bands would feel right at home on the 300 soundtrack.
  14. PAN’S LABYRINTH (2006): Another beautiful Guillermo del Toro picture, Pan’s Labyrinth is both a grisly fairy tale and a story of rebellion. The Faun and the Pale Man, both played by the incomparable Doug Jones, are stunningly dark creations, and this list would be incomplete without them.
  15. SILENT HILL (2006): Pyramid Head’s scenes. ‘Nuff said.
  16. MARTYRS (2008): Extreme metal is like extreme horror: enjoyment often requires a process of conditioning and desensitization. Just as you can recommend some extreme metal only to people with the ear for it, you can only really recommend Martyrs to people with the stomach for it. Somewhere out there, a goregrind band is writing lyrics about a woman’s skin being removed in honor of this grueling film.
  17. VALHALLA RISING (2009): Nicolas Refn’s surreal Viking picture stars Mads Mikkelsen as One Eye, a man who resembles Odin and goes on a transcendent journey. It’s bloody, somber, drenched in pagan spirituality and black metal as Hell.
  18. HELLDRIVER (2010): This bonkers Japanese splatterfest contains a car made out of body parts, an eight-armed zombie holding eight assault rifles, a plane made out of zombies, and…look, it’s just nuts, okay? I might have also included similar Japanese bonkers films like Tokyo Gore Police, The Machine Girl, or Robogeisha, but I feel like Helldriver belongs here the most.
  19. DRIVE ANGRY 3D (2011): Nicholas Cage escapes from Hell to take revenge on someMandy evil cultists by driving…angrily…in 3D. While being pursued by a demon accountant…who is also, yes, in 3D. There’s also a sex scene gunfight…which is, you guessed it, also in 3D.
  20. BERSERK: THE GOLDEN AGE ARC (2012 – 2013): While it isn’t nearly as good as the manga it’s based on, this anime film trilogy is nonetheless quite metal. Set in a medieval fantasy world, Berserk has big swords, big battles, and big demons, culminating with the infamously hellish “Eclipse” sequence. But really, read the manga instead.
  21. KUNG FURY (2015): This 30-minute long Swedish crowd-funded film manages to pack more metal stuff in it than most films can manage in a feature-length. In Kung Fury, a Kung-Fu Cop must fight Hitler, but accidentally goes too far back in time and ends up in the Viking Age, where Viking women ride dinosaurs and fight laser raptors. In other words, it’s amazing. You can watch it for free on YouTube.
  22. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015): This movie contains a man playing a fire-spewing guitar on top of a stage that’s on a moving big rig, and if that’s not metal, then I don’t know what is.
  23. THE WITCH (2015): The Witch kicks off with the ritualistic sacrifice of an infant, and from there only continues to bombard us with Satanic imagery. Of particular note is Black Philip, the sinister goat who apparently terrorized the actors as much as he does the characters in the film.
  24. MANDY (2018): Nicolas Cage makes a bat’leth and fights a shitty cult in this surreal film that’s destined to be a cult favorite. Like some great metal albums, I can think of, Mandy starts off slow and atmospheric, lulling you with hypnotic beauty before exploding into an orgy of batshit violence. Also, like many great metal albums I can think of, it feels like it was conceived while on drugs.
  25. AQUAMAN (2018): Okay, hear me out. James Wan’s Aquaman makes Jason Mamoa’s Aquaman look as metal as possible, and he makes the rest of the film as metal as possible too. The scene where Aquaman bursts from the ground while riding a giant crab? Metal. The Lovecraft references? Metal. The Trench sequence with its creepy fishmen? Metal. Amber Heard’s jellyfish dress? Metal. The fact that Aquaman fights a giant tentacle monster that’s voiced by Mary Poppins herself, Julie Andrews? Oh, so metal. There’s even a cute scene with the cuddly metalheads at a bar. This movie is a treasure.

 

JonathanFortinAuthorPhoto_SepiaJonathan Fortin is the author of Lilitu: The Memoirs of a Succubus (coming December 2019 from Crystal Lake Publishing) and Nightmarescape (Mocha Memoirs Press). An unashamed lover of spooky Gothic stories, Jonathan was named the “Next Great Horror Writer” in 2017 by HorrorAddicts.net. He attended the Clarion Writing Program in 2012, one year after graduating summa cum laude from San Francisco State University’s Creative Writing program. When not writing, Jonathan enjoys voice acting, dressing like a Victorian gentleman, and indulging in all things odd and macabre in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can follow him online at www.jonathanfortin.com or on Twitter @Jonathan_Fortin.

 

My Darling Dead: Episode 12/The Fairy’s Return

For years, Hespa had been plagued by stories of the rat people. She had forbidden their mention in her court, but updates and rumors still flew through the castle in spite of (or perhaps because of) her edict. She knew, for example, that the rat people were taking over her kingdom at an astonishing rate, replacing her subjects with feral monstrosities which fed on death and decay and were eager to spread their disease. She knew that the rat people now outnumbered those not so afflicted and that within weeks if not sooner she would be the head of a kingdom consisting of nothing but rat people. Already several had been found inside the walls of the castle, one of them only a few floors down from her private chambers. Hespa shuddered and drained the wine from the glass she held. She extended her arm and immediately the empty glass was replaced with a full one by her handmaiden. 

“Leave me,” the queen snapped. The handmaiden was happy to do so.

Hespa also knew that the humans still under her rule were muttering and that their mutterings had grown loud enough to be heard clearly by spies and castle guards. The word “rebellion” had not yet been uttered, but any fool could tell that it was on the minds of many. Hespa had witnessed castle guardsmen holding her eye contact longer than was proper, staring back at her insolently until she was forced to drop her own eyes, hating herself as she did so. She had never felt so vulnerable as these past months, surrounded by inhuman things and resented by those in whose hands she placed her life. 

The mid-morning sun reflected from the armor of the guard on duty at the front gate of the castle. He belched and squinted into the sun, straining to discern mirage from reality as a figure approached the castle gate. Or was it two figures? No, just one. 

No…

His eyes widened. 

“Halt and be–”

Esemli raised her left hand and the guard was thrown into the nearest wall with such force that his breaking bones were heard hundreds of feet away. He screamed and she winced. 

“No,” she said, and waved her hand again. The guard continued screaming but no noise came out, eyes bulging as he attempted to cradle his broken parts and give voice to his hurts. The other guards stampeded each other trying to get out of Esemli’s way. She swept through the gate and past them without a look. In her right hand she held a leash and to her leash was attached one of the rat people, a woman who had perhaps once been plump but now appeared emaciated to the point of death. 

Her skin was caked with filth and blood was smeared around her mouth. Her clothes were rags, held together mostly by luck. Her eyes darted this way and that and she never seemed to stop licking her lips. Part of her bottom lip was gone from a time when the woman had been so desperate for meat that she had begun eating her own face. Half of her teeth grinned through her cheek at anybody who looked at her. On all fours, she scuttled behind Esemli like a dog which has been beaten often enough to fear its master but not often enough to attempt escape. 

Esemli did not appear even to notice the creature in her wake. She mounted the stairs to the queen’s chamber with the rat woman at her heels. Raising her left hand, the queen’s chamber door slammed open with such force that the metal handle cracked the stone wall. Hespa whirled as Esemli let the leash go and snapped a word in a strange language that meant nothing to the queen, but the rat woman clearly understood. Still on all fours, she made straight for the queen, a horrifying grin etched on what remained of her features as she snapped her teeth. 

Hespa was frozen only for a moment before countless hours on self defense spent with Bortix the Captain of the Guard leapt to the forefront of her mind. The queen whirled, seizing a long metal spike from beside her window and as the rat woman leaped, Hespa extended her arm and set her feet. The rat woman collided with the spike, the force of her attack impaling her upon the spike through one of her crazed rolling eyes. 

The fairy laughed. “Well done, Queen Hespa. Perhaps you should be standing guard over your castle rather than the bumbling fools currently there.” 

Hespa did not hear. Her eyes were locked on the rat woman’s face, overcome with horror as the woman’s eye ran down her hollow cheek. She had heard of the rat people, yes, but she had never seen one, much less this close. The humanity she could still detect beneath the dirt and waste was worst of all. Now that the woman was dead, Hespa could see the peasant woman who had once resided behind those eyes. Her face was relaxed, her eyes no longer rolling. But for the spike through her eye and half her lip being gone, she could have been asleep. 

Esemli closed the door behind her. “Queen Hespa, you forget your manners. I have brought you a gift, the least you could do is offer me some of your wine.”

This time, the words sunk in. Hespa tore her eyes from the rat woman with an effort and dropped the spike. “Fairy, your presence here is less welcome than the plague. I would sooner spit in your face than offer you wine.” Pasting a sneer on her face, Hespa moved to where her goblet stood and drained it before refilling it from the crystal decanter. 

A flicker of annoyance flashed across Esemli’s face and she moved her left hand, ever so slightly. The decanter overbalanced and splashed wine all over the queen. Hespa swore and drained what was left in the decanter before throwing it out the window in a blind fury that abated as she heard the crystal smash on the stones far below. She did not look at the fairy, sipping her wine from the goblet as she wrestled back control. 

“Decades I have been gone from your eye,” Esemli said, her voice quiet but with an intensity Hespa could hear across the room. “But I have not been gone from this realm. I have watched your daughter grow from innocent child to petulant woman, never able to love her mother because you have made it impossible. I have witnessed your subjects regress and devolve until the wisest of them is merely a few steps above yonder wretch.” She gestured at the rat woman’s body which lay in a puddle of her own blood, eyes still open, one staring at the spike which had impaled its mate. “Your husband’s disrespect was not forgotten and as your daughter was cursed, so was the entire kingdom, to descend slowly into bestial madness. The suffering of the monarchy and the collapse of the kingdom have been a pleasure to behold for all of my kind.” The fairy laughed. 

“Why did you bring that…creature, Esemli?” Hespa asked, staring at her kingdom. 

“Bringing you what hath been wrought, Your Highness,” the fairy said, and sank into a deep and mocking curtsey which was wasted on the impassive queen. “This is one of your subjects with all the trappings of décor stripped away, exposed for what they are. Nothing but a pathetic, slavering, mewling–”

The door slammed open behind Esemli. Her eyes widened and she was halfway through turning toward the door before Princess Alasin’s poisoned dagger buried itself in the fairy’s throat. The blood which spurted from the wound was not precisely red but nearly purple and seemed almost to glow. 

The queen turned just in time to see her daughter lunge through the door. The goblet of wine fell from Hespa’s numb fingers. Her feet seemed rooted to the spot. Her glass shattered on the stone floor as the fairy fell, her throat gushing strange blood.

Esemli sank to her knees, one hand reaching to the handle in her throat. The glowing purple blood coated her fingers and she grimaced as she touched the blade. 

“Guh…” she said and wrapped her fingers around the handle sticking out of her throat. She pulled, the sound of the blade sliding through her flesh sending the queen’s skin crawling as fresh gouts of blood poured from her mouth. “Guh…” she said again, her hand dropping from the handle with the blade still buried in her throat. 

“Isss… too…toooooo…” she said, her words obscured by the blood which flowed, faster now, out of her mouth. The color was draining from her face. “Toooooo…” she moaned and fell forward. She landed on the handle of the dagger and with a horrid squelching sound the point of the blade stabbed out the opposite side of her neck.