• ERIC BUTLER

What's next?

Updated: Dec 2, 2019

I find myself stuck in a time trap. I finished the book, fell down the self-publishing rabbit hole, got stuck like Winnie the Pooh in the how-to advertise window, and am now waiting for the release date to finally get here. While all this was and still is going on I have to wonder "What's next?"


I wonder this in the same way my wife asks a question she already knows the answer to...an answer I better get to quickly. I need to write, and while I have 12000 words completed on the next novel, I'm not feeling it. Of course, I'm not sure if by not feeling it, I mean I'm having an issue with the storyline, still overwhelmed with all the non-writing issues I'm dealing with, or I'm just so excited to write and I have so many ideas I am becoming storytelling cluttered. Unfortunately, Marie Kondo can't just slip in and straighten up my mind...she'd most likely run away screaming if she did. So I guess I need to do it, and housecleaning is not one of my strong suits.


I'm planning to produce 5 books, novels and novellas, and then reassess. Book 1 is in the bag, so now I tell myself, get your butt in motion. I hope to have something tangible to share soon. But for now, I want to share a short story to introduce a character I'm thinking about writing a series of books about. I'm still struggling with the overall theme of this one, as it seems to be leaning more towards dark fantasy than horror but I still plan on filling it with monsters and horrible things...




Image by Hilary Clark from Pixabay

Nadya Unger poked a thick branch into the roaring fire. She sat in a circle of trees, her back to the widest trunk. Her gear sat within reach, and she stared at the dancing flames. She was the last of her kind, although honestly she knew them only in stories. Nadya often wondered if the stories were real or just exaggerations to make her try harder.


As the heat from the fire washed over her in waves, Nadya, a smile forming on her lips, almost allowed herself to relax when a branch snapped to her left. She sighed and gripped the hilt of her dagger. She had hoped for a quiet night, maybe staying an extra day. Not now. The thought of traveling again so soon upset her.

"Ah," a deep voice called out, "I was wondering if you and your party would be open to sharing such an inviting fire?"


Nadya slipped into a crouch. It wouldn't do to have someone rush in if she wasn't ready. The cold handle warming either by the fire or her tight grip. She didn't know or care. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly.


A man burst from the right of her, barreling toward her at a breathtaking speed. He held a short stubby sword high as he charged forward. Another man appeared from the other side of the fire. He was tall and thin, his weapon of choice, an ax on a rather long handle. Nadya wondered if the weapon had any practical application. She shook her head after studying the weapon a moment. Not in his hands.


Nadya shifted her weight to the right a fraction, twisting at the waist and flipping her wrist. The dagger flew through the air with a hum, striking the man in the throat. Dropping his sword, the man reached for his throat pulling the blade out with a gurgle. Blood sprayed outward and Nadya swore as she darted back.


The tall man was to the fire and stepping over it to take her by surprise. She studied him for a moment, counting the many ways to disarm him or kill him. She really did not want to feed another mouth, so she slipped closer to him, and the fire. Her boot caught the end of a burning branch and with her toes; Nadya flipped it at the tall man. It spun end over end before striking him in the forehead. As the flames burned his flesh, the tall man began to screech.


"Fool, you'll attract the whole forest," Nadya hissed as she stepped around the fire and jabbed her knuckles into his throat. His cries cut short as he now struggled for breath.


"Much better," she said nodding to herself.


Her leg kicked out, driving her heel into the man's left knee. She smiled at the satisfying crunch. The man fell forward into the fire, his clothing quickly began to smolder. His muffled cries became sobs as the flames consumed his flesh.


"What in bloody hell have you done," the owner of the original voice said as he stepped into the circle. He made sure to keep his distance and without realizing what he was doing, got between Nadya and the rest of her supplies. She eyed her sword, still sheathed lying against her pack.


"I've defended myself," Nadya said matter-of-factually. Her lips pulled back, showing teeth.

"Are you smiling or growling at me, girl?"


Nadya stayed quiet but started to slide to her left, forcing the man to mirror her movement. She did it slowly, keeping his attention on her and not the subtle movement.


"Why smiling of course," she said with a voice suddenly sweet. "Now that those two are out of the way there will be more time for us to get better acquainted."


The man's eyes widened at her statement. Nadya knew the effect she had on men. This one would be no different. She straightened to her full height, a few inches less than six feet and shook her head; her long dark hair falling loose past her shoulders. Having taken off her armor before starting the fire, Nadya wore only a loose white tunic, tight black breeches, and her cloak. Her black boots laced up to her knees and ended with a solid point that protected them from direct attacks.


She paused for a moment, her head cocked slightly and her hands out in front of her. The man licked his lips and smiled. She could see the bulge forming in the front of his trousers, and she hoped she hadn't miscalculated. With her sword or an ax, the man would be no issue, but he was easily double her weight. If he was able to lay hands on her she might truly discover what was on his mind at that moment.


"However, I'll make you a deal," Nadya said as she hopped quickly to the other side of the fire. "You leave now and I promise no harm will come to you."


The man let loose a roar of laughter before pulling lose his belt and letting his trousers fall. "Or you can get over here and fill your whore mouth or I promise I will hurt you...very badly." He no longer smiled his face tight with lust.


Nadya frowned. It would do no good to let a man like this free in the woods. If he could not feed his craving with her flesh, he would find another. Unacceptable. She reached back and flipped up her hood. The man's erection wilted and he gasped.


"Oh no," he stammered, each word coming out quicker as he scrambled to pull up and secure his trousers. "Please, I'm sorry. I didn't know. I'll leave."


Nadya's smile widened as she stepped closer, her red hood shimmering in the fire light, "I find you guilty and I sentence you to death." Her voice was soft, calm.

The man turned, scrambling to escape. Roaring, a dark blur sprang from the night striking him to the ground. His screams filled the air as his flesh tore open and his bones splintered and cracked.


"Damn it, Kane," she snapped as she slipped back her hood and grabbed the exposed boot of the tall man. She dragged him from the clearing before returning for the first attacker. She glared at the large wolf licking his chops as blood stained his fur darker. "Do not think for a moment you can leave that there."


The wolf glanced at the mess before him and back to Nadya. He threw his head back and howled. His normally mournful cry sounded happy and playful. Nadya shook her head, pointing towards the dark.


The wolf stood and shook but eventually grabbed his kill by the shoulder and dragged the body away from the fire. Nadya returned to her spot and leaned back against the trunk. She cleaned her dagger before slipping it back into its sheath. Kane returned and pranced around the fire before pulling up next to her. She reached out and rubbed the top of his head.


"You know I had him," she said returning her blank stare at the fire. "But thanks."

The wolf showed his teeth, still stained with the man's blood and Nadya laughed. Kane curled up next to her and rested his head on her thigh. Her fingers scratched through his rough fur, and he closed his eyes with a sigh. Nadya resumed staring at the fire.


"Better watch out for the girl in the red hood and her big bad wolf," she whispered as Kane's soft snores came almost instantly. "

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