duskpeterson: (tree)
"There was trouble here. He was determined to find and break the troublemaker."

Midwinter's god is as cold as cruelty and as warm as a loving heart.

Winter solstice begins the sacred season of Hell's Fast, when Hell's worshippers sacrifice food for the sake of the underworld god. But the High Seeker of the Eternal Dungeon is in no fit mood for holy rituals; duty has deprived him of the presence of his new love-mate.

Then comes trouble, in the form of an invader to the High Seeker's privacy and comfort. . . .

This story is a 2016 holiday gift fic for Dusk Peterson's readers.

Read online or download as a free e-book: Shifts (The Eternal Dungeon).

My bio )
duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
This mini-cycle of five stories is a 2014 holiday gift for my readers. It's also written in response to the 50 Darkfics challenge (prompt #79: rain). This is the final story in the cycle.

Has everyone here been able to find their way through the cycle? I had a plea for navigation help from one reader.

Five boys. Five rainy days. Five opportunities for trouble.

He knew isolation. Still, it would be nice if he could make friends here.

Happy New Year!
duskpeterson: (tree)
This mini-cycle of five stories is a 2014 holiday gift for my readers. It's also written in response to the 50 Darkfics challenge (prompt #79: rain). I'm posting one story each day through . . . well, January 2.

Sorry for being late with the fourth installment, folks. Like a lot of other people, I'm in the midst of a two-day professional crisis of dealing with VAT MOSS. I'll post the final story in this cycle tomorrow.

Five boys. Five rainy days. Five opportunities for trouble.

There was a gate there, meant to keep out the likes of him and his companion, but nobody was guarding it at the moment.
duskpeterson: (tree)
This mini-cycle of five stories is a 2014 holiday gift for my readers. It's also written in response to the 50 Darkfics challenge (prompt #79: rain). I'm posting one story each day through New Year's Day.

Five boys. Five rainy days. Five opportunities for trouble.

The essence of Liege-Love Day was giving to others, so he would celebrate the day by giving a present to his sister.
duskpeterson: (tree)
This mini-cycle of five stories is a 2014 holiday gift for my readers. It's also written in response to the 50 Darkfics challenge (prompt #79: rain). I'm posting one story each day through New Year's Day.

Five boys. Five rainy days. Five opportunities for trouble.

Ira had never beaten him, even though their pack-leader clearly found his constant suggestions to be annoying. That showed good sense.
duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
Lost Haven

"Then he remembered (on the edge of his memory, like a smudge of land on the horizon of the Bay) the reason that he and his father had lived alone on an island where once hundreds of people had lived."

Amidst a servant's nightmare, can a haven of hope be found?

Meredith has brought his beloved master to the island where he spent the happiest days of his childhood. But when danger descends upon them, they must seek refuge, and Meredith must confront the tantalizing sorrows and rewards of change.

This short story about love between two young men can be read on its own, or as a side story in Waterman, a historical fantasy series and retrofuture series inspired by the Chesapeake Bay oyster wars, boarding school rivalries in the 1910s, and 1960s visions of things to come.

A 2013 holiday gift story for Dusk Peterson's readers.


Excerpt

He saw his master's boat long before it arrived, skimming over the afternoon-bright waters of the Bay. The closer the lithe vessel approached, the deeper the sun dipped in the sky, and the more the grey clouds huddled together like cloaked guests awaiting the start of a dinner party. Meredith began to worry that his master would arrive so late in the day that he and Meredith would be trapped there overnight, with a storm approaching. Then Meredith recalled that a house awaited them, with four walls and a roof to shut out the wind and the water – a haven on an island that he had always considered a haven, since the time he left it as a child.

The Bay, which sliced like a knife between the two shores of the Dozen Landsteads, was already growing choppy from the upcoming storm by the time that the skipjack anchored, a few yards from shore. By that time, Meredith was hiding in a grove of loblolly pines, so he did not see the yawl carry his master from the skipjack to the island. However, he did hear the uncultured voice of a servant say, "You sure you don't want us to come back, sir? Looks like a rough place to stay the night, and there's a blow coming in on the tide."

Meredith did not hear his master's reply, but it must have been reassuring, for when he peeked out again, he saw that the little yawl was being hauled aboard the skipjack, while his master stood on the shell-strewn beach, his back to Meredith, his hand waving farewell to the crew who had brought him to the island.

The anchor came up, the rising wind bellowed the sails full, and the crew began the painful job of turning the skipjack and tacking their way back to the Western Shore from whence they had come. They would be eager to return home, Meredith knew, for tonight was the final day of the festival week of Spring Manhood, when servants would feast in honor of their masters.

Meredith had never attended such a feast, either as a master or as a servant. He never would, he knew. He would be embarrassed to be toasted by servants who believed him to be a master, and as for receiving the joy of toasting his own master . . . It was enough that he finally had a master, after so many years spent masquerading as one.

Or so he told himself.
 

Available as a FREE DRM-free multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc) or as online fiction: Lost Haven.


duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
Re-creation

"He could not leave this room without his father's permission. And he could not imagine going to his father and saying, 'Please let me go gather moss so that my slave can have a proper New Year for once.'"

What can you give a slave who, by law, can own nothing? That is the question faced by Peter, the teenage heir to the throne of an empire. Despite his father's desire that the imperial heir maintain a formal distance from servants, Peter finds himself drawn in friendship to the younger boy who serves as his slave.

But a shocking revelation on the eve of the New Year forces Peter to confront his own motives for keeping the slave close by. And that in turn will help him understand the deeper meaning of the gift-giving festival.

This novelette is a holiday tale that can be read on its own or as a side story in The Three Lands, a fantasy series on friendship, romance, and betrayal in times of war and peace.

A 2008 holiday gift story for Dusk Peterson's readers. This is a reissue of an older story.
 

Reader reviews at Amazon

"Wonderfully written. A harsh tale told by the slave to a boy too young to really understand it at first. Over a few days a boy grows up and learns just how unfair his world is." —Gina.

"This novelette was a compelling read. It inspired thought, evoked emotion (sympathy, pity, anger, and ultimately a bit of happiness). . . . The story (for me) showed a glimpse in time when a boy became a man." —Christine Staeven.

"When I started reading, I had no idea where this would go. The prince was very naive. The slave a bit too hardened. But it all became clear and a friendship developed. . . . Such a short tale left me with much to think about." —Lee Phillips.

Full reviews at Amazon.


Excerpt

"Well," said Peter uncertainly, "it looks a bit like a Balance of Judgment."

He glanced over at his new slave-servant to see whether he agreed. Andrew was kneeling on the floor, carefully rolling bits of clay and attaching clay crossbars to them so that they held a vague resemblance to the Sword of Vengeance.

For a moment, Peter thought Andrew would not reply. It was becoming increasingly hard to tell which comments the other boy would reply to. If asked a direct question, Andrew would of course respond; that was part of his training. But slaves were also trained not to speak to free-men unless spoken to, and Peter had not yet figured out a way to convey that he wanted to hold ordinary conversations with his slave.

Could any conversation be ordinary, when the other person had  no choice but to speak if bidden to?

Andrew said, without looking up, "I suppose that we'd need an Arpeshian to tell us."

Peter laughed. "And I don't know any Arpeshians. Do you?"

"A couple. They were young children when your grandfather, the Chara Anthony, suppressed the first rebellion in the dominion of Arpesh."

Peter started to make some light-hearted remark about Andrew being well-versed in Emorian history; then he bit his lip. No doubt all of the inhabitants of the palace slave-quarters were well-versed in the parts of Emorian history that related to wars in which the Emorians had taken slaves. Andrew could almost certainly give a detailed account of the Border Wars between Emor and Koretia.

To cover his chagrin, Peter said, "The Balance is hard enough to make." He gave another doubtful look at the object in his hand, made up of scrap bits of metal joined together by sticky sap. "I don't know how we'll manage to make the Book."

"You needn't worry about that." Andrew reached over to gather a bit of clay, and as he did so, his back came into sight. He was wearing a slave's tunic, of course, which meant his back was bare . . . except for the bandages there. "I know how to make books."

"You do?" Peter asked, surprised. He had turned his eyes away; he still could not stand to look at Andrew's back, even though the bandages hid what Lord Carle had done to him, barely a week before.

If Peter had been beaten nearly to death, he thought he would have spent the next six months moaning in his bed. Instead, Andrew seemed determined to rise from his sickbed. Peter wondered whether Andrew believed that he would be sold back to Lord Carle if he did not immediately show his worth to his new master.

Peter would have as soon impaled himself on the Sword of Judgment as give Andrew back to the master who had ordered an eleven-year-old boy to be beaten so harshly. Lord Carle had meant well, no doubt, but Peter still could not imagine why the council lord had found it necessary to go to such measures. As far as Peter could tell, Andrew was an extremely obedient servant.

Perhaps too much so. Peter looked down once more at the pathetic little object in his hand that purported to be the Balance of Judgment. Judgment weighing vengeance and mercy.

"We've forgotten about the Heart of Mercy," he said suddenly.

"I know how to make that too," Andrew replied, inspecting the tip of the clay sword in his hand.

"You're a wonder," Peter said, setting the lopsided Balance aside and rolling over onto his stomach. They were in his chamber, of course, which meant that the only places to sit were some stiff-backed chairs, the bed, and the floor. Andrew seemed to prefer the floor, though Peter had invited him onto the bed each day since the younger boy became his slave. Peter supposed this was due to some Koretian custom; he resolved inwardly to ask Andrew about that. After all, Peter's ostensible reason for having Andrew as his slave was to familiarize himself with his empire's southern dominion of Koretia. Peter's father – who was legally Andrew's owner – had said that mastering Andrew would help Peter learn how to rule his subjects.

"How did you learn to make crafts?" he asked Andrew.

"From a friend."

Peter waited, but no further details emerged. Finally Peter said, "Was he a craftsman?"

"He was a boy. But he lived with the priests, and they trained him at artisan work, in case he should need such work when he grew up and—" Andrew shut his lips tightly. He bowed his head, as though concentrating all his thoughts on the clay he was flattening with his fingers.

Peter felt then that he deserved the beating Andrew had received. A friend. A boy whom Andrew had known in the Koretian capital. Probably the boy had been enslaved during the final battle there, if not killed outright. And Andrew had been forced to speak of him.

To Peter, Chara To Be, son of the ruler who had conquered Andrew's native land.
 

Available as a FREE DRM-free multiformat e-book (epub, html, mobi/Kindle, pdf, doc) or as online fiction: Re-creation.


duskpeterson: (tree)
Cover for 'Hunger'


"By now, the hunger pangs had subsided, leaving him feeling as though he were floating effortlessly through the cycle of death, transformation, and rebirth. He wondered whether this was what it would be like, when he reached the end of his fast."

Some hungers can only be satisfied by reaching out. As a prisoner struggles to find the right path, a foul-mouthed guard and an uncommon torturer will open a door . . . but stepping through a doorway with blackness beyond requires courage.

This short story can be read on its own or as a side story in The Eternal Dungeon, a historical fantasy series set in a land where the psychologists wield whips.

A 2012 holiday gift story for Dusk Peterson's readers.


Excerpt

He had no reason to speak, and every reason not to. He was in the Eternal Dungeon. He was amidst torturers and cruel guards – members of the elite, whose mission was to oppress commoners. Who knew what they might make of any single word he spoke?

But the hunger in him was greater than he had thought.
 

Available as online fiction and as an e-book (HTML, PDF, Kindle, ePub), with an online sample: Hunger.


duskpeterson: (tree)
Two guards. Two prisoners. A multitude of problems.

Parental supervision is strongly suggested for this story.

He knew what his prisoner's expression would be before he saw it: a mixture of apprehension, wary hope, and the expression he had come to fear most of all – determination.

This is my 2010 holiday gift story, posted in celebration of Midwinter's Eve, marking the beginning of Hell's Fast. (I trust that you've all had your merrymaking in preparation for the long winter deprivation.) The story is in response to this prompt by [livejournal.com profile] shadowsonthesun (though your name really should be shadowonthemoon tonight, you know).

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