An Excerpt from 'Venomous'

I feel kinda guilty about not having the sequel to Vessels done like I said I would. Here’s a little excerpt from Venomous.


When Mwarthes arrived at the city, he didn't remember what it was called, but in his long years, he had learned that names of things didn't really matter. A positive outlook and a zest for life...those were more important than names. Mwarthes could finally go where he wanted, when he wanted, and he would never be called away by the Master again. He would never have to go back to the Obelisk to be subjected to either punishment or improvements. He would never have to lose entire decades again. He was free to live his life how he wanted, so now that the whole world was open to him, he did the first thing that came to mind.

He went to a party. Whatever the name of the town was, it was holding a massive city-wide festival celebrating the holiday of some god or another. Garlands of flowers were strung up along walls and streets just like at any other celebration, but also countless braids of garlic dangled from every available surface. Men wore belts of garlic garland, and women draped them around their necks and wrists. Children ran through the streets wearing elaborate garlic bulb-shaped hats. People gathered to watch men on a pavilion try and eat as many bulbs of garlic as they could within the time limit. Down another street, farmers stood by their colorful displays of the biggest garlic bulb they had grown that year.

He tied his camel to a post, checked the ropes tying the jar shut, and carried it into town on his back. Music played from every corner, and beer flowed from huge urns standing along the streets. In the city square, a whole ox roasted over an enormous fire. Honeyed figs were sold in little wicker baskets and everyone's face and hands were sticky with the festival treat.

A woman stood by the doorway of a two-story tavern. Her thick black hair ran to the middle of her back and was styled into thin braids, each tipped with a glinting red bead. Her gauzy white dress contrasted against her dark skin. Her lower face was covered in a white veil, but her amber eyes grew wide at the sight of him.

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“Did you bring that for me?” she asked, pointing at the jar. “How sweet.”

"No, love. This isn't for you," he said. "But I have plenty of other things to give you if you'd keep a man company tonight."

"Come with me, then."

He followed her into the tavern. Men lounged on low couches and chairs as they talked and smoked long thin pipes that filled the air with a thick fragrant smell. Lavish dishes of roast duck and pigeons, sweetened with honey and figs, lay on little tables. Lithe, nearly-nude women danced to the slow beat of the music while the patrons talked amongst themselves. Occasionally, one of the men would flash a coin and catch the attention of one of the dancers. Together, they would retreat to one of the many back rooms.

The girl led Mwarthes to one of these discreet side rooms. A bed sat on the floor along with a little low table that held a flagon of beer. Mwarthes set down the golden jar in a corner, checked the ropes again, and returned to the girl whose name he never took.

"What's in the jar?" the girl asked. She flipped her braided mane over her shoulder and wrapped her arms around him.

"Oh, it's not important," Mwarthes said. He slipped a strap of her dress down her shoulder.

"But it's all tied up," she said. "There must be something valuable in there."

"I'll tell you why I have it, if you keep it a secret," he said.

"Ooh, I love secrets," the girl said. "I won't tell a soul."

"There's nothing in that jar," Mwarthes said. "Absolutely nothing until I steal the stars from the sky." He ran his lips down her slender throat. Giggling, she pushed him away.

"Why would you do that?" she asked.

"Because then I'd have all the stars," he said. "And the moon, too, if I can fit it in there."

"You're a lunatic," she said.

"You're not wrong."

She took the heqa scepter from his hands and studied it, until he slipped off the other strap and felt her small, high breast.

"Why are your hands so cold?" she asked.

"I traveled a long way tonight," he said. "You should help me warm them up. I'll give you a star from the sky."

“I’ll give you something much better than that,” she said.

“Oh, will you?”

"I will give you death.”

She tossed her hair back and let out a strange whinnying laugh. She ripped off her veil with a dramatic flourish and glared at him with eyes that blazed with pure bloodlust. “You didn’t think you’d see me again, did you, Mwarthes?”

Mwarthes blinked. “What?”

“I’m so lucky I get to be the one to kill you! It’s only fitting after what you did!” Her teeth were suddenly huge and sharp. They glinted in the low lamplight.

Mwarthes shook his head. “I’m sorry. Who are you?”

The girl grimaced at him. “What?”

“Am I supposed to know you?”

“We worked together!”

He blinked again.

“In the Eclipse!”

“You’ll have to elaborate,” he said.

Rage twisted her face and made the muscles in her neck bulge. “You son of a bitch! I had to hide in a cellar for three days before I could sneak out of town. I found you back at the Obelisk, drinking and having a good time!”

“I’m not saying that I don’t believe you,” Mwarthes said. “That sounds like something I would do. I just don’t remember you.”

She snarled. Her teeth closed around his ear, and with a quick jerk, tore it from the side of his head. Blood gushed from the wound as she chewed the fresh prize and gave a bizarre, whinnying laugh. He staggered back, pressing a hand against the gore, but he could not stop the river of blood. His vision swam, his knees buckled, and he fell to the floor in a crimson puddle. She held up the heqa scepter and bit it in half, her teeth crunching though it with ease. She held the jackal head top to her mouth, snapped it off, and spat it onto Mwarthes. From underneath her dress, she pulled out a long, thin knife. She bent over him, careful not to get his blood on her sandals.

He gripped the jackal head and prayed that it still worked. "Hapi! Dinner’s ready!"

The jar behind her rattled and shook until it fell over. The girl turned around to see what the noise was, and she saw one of the ropes snap off the jar. The lid pushed itself open and hungry black ooze flooded out towards her.

Hapi was quick about its business, and the girl didn't have time to make a sound. The room filled with a sweet rotten smell as the black mass dissolved and absorbed her body. Mwarthes didn't watch. He clenched his teeth as he felt his ear start to grow again. The girl, whatever she had been called, had been wrong. Just because he left the Eclipse didn't mean he could be killed as easily as other men. He still lived under a covenant, but it was a different kind.

One his new master could afford to be a little faster in remembering.