Hello, friends. It has been a while. I could make excuses for my absence. I could make excuses for my silence. But I am lazy and therefore will not.

I decided to do something a little different with the blog today. A quote danced in my head while I took a short break from the library earlier. I explored that quote and this little piece of flash fiction was born as a means of escape from dusty research.

The story is set in an original universe that has surfaced a time or two on the blog before.

Without further ado, here you are treated to ‘Thunder at Seasbury Moor’.

He was alone. The air was humid, rife with clogging warmth. The gentle drone of ambitious midges flitted through the still air of the tent. Seasbury Moor. The name made the place sound pleasant. It conjured images of a pleasant bit of flat land near to the sea. The reality was anything but. It was a blasted heath, coated in gently waving heather, thick thorny spinegorse. The ground was split by boulders and by defiles. Now it played host to a few thousand soldiery of the Glorious Union.

The maps before him were sodden lank things. He stared at them and swigged from a flask, hoping to derive some meaning, to gain some insight. They were ill-drawn things. They were crafted by some hand nearly a century before, the work of a missionary seeking to spread Reason’s holy light to these benighted places. In short, nothing you’d want to plan a campaign from.

But that is what Lord Captain-General Benedick Shrewe was forced to do. Thunder rumbled in the distance. It had done so at this time for the past twelve nights. It made the regiments nervous, ill-disciplined and superstitious. That was the problem with troops raised from the slums of Shack. They were barely better than the thrice-damned Inlanders they hunted. Shrewe wished the thunder would go away. He wished he would go away. Away from this misty, humid upland region at the back-end of the Union. But the Inlanders had risen and Reason called.

Alas, he was trapped, bound by the duty entrusted to him by the Inviolate Council of the Glorious Union. So Lord Captain-General Benedick Shrewe stared at a map made by a missionary who had never been within a hundred miles of the Inlands.

The thunder rumbled again. Shouting cut underneath the deep rumble. Shrewe ignored it. Damned Shack savages. They jumped at everything.

He stared until the lines became squiggles, until the thunder became a constant rumble.

Something tickled at his consciousness. Something to do with the sounds. Someone kept shouting outside. Someone else screamed, high and wailing. Shrewe had half a mind to go out and berate his men, but there were loftier things to attend to.

A thunder-clap sounded perilously close and now there was the sound of branches breaking, of little twigs snapping over and over.

Sweat trickled down Shrewe’s forehead, reaching into his mustache, dripping onto the map spread before him. The ink, cheap, mass-manufactured stuff ran in blotchy circles. He tugged at his collar and removed his cap, the feather drooping in the air. He puffed out a breath and hoped for the damn storm to break and take away the heat.

Light bloomed in the tent as a little hole peppered its way through the canvas. A zipping sound cut through the air near his ear, followed by another. Something punched Shrewe in the gut, where a speckle of light poked at his stomach. He looked down. He felt hurt, bewildered.

He felt like he had been shot, but that was patently ridiculous. Lord Captain-Generals were not shot inside their tents.

He reassured himself that there was no blood, not that he would have been able to see it against the deep red of his uniform. There was a little hole in his coat though. That would require mending, he felt the thought blunder into his brain. The thought brought pain, deep and lancing.

The tent flap opened and an unfamiliar man stepped in. The man was bald and filthy. He wore no uniform. The man raised a hand in half-hearted greeting. Shrewe noted through the pain that the man had no fingers on his hand, just a solitary crooked thumb.

Shrewe fell backwards, flat on his arse. The other man made no attempt to help him up. He just cocked his head and stared. His eyes were shit-brown. The man stepped towards Shrewe.

The Lord Captain-General tried to scramble backwards but found himself unable to move. The ground felt wet around him, like he sat in a puddle of water. That made no sense though, since it wasn’t raining.

The unfamiliar man spoke, ‘You know who I am?’ His accent was rough, thick with the slums and guttural with the affectations of the Inlands.

Shrewe couldn’t answer. He could barely see and a sudden thirst clutched at his mouth.

The man sighed. ‘They never do seem to know,’ he mused to himself.

Shrewe’s mouth filled with wet iron. ‘Who?’ he might have spluttered if his voice hadn’t been stolen by coughing.

The unfamiliar man flashed an ugly grin, lopsided and filled with missing teeth. ‘Me?’ He said. ‘They call me No Luck Jaq. I’d say I was pleased to meet you, but I would hate to lie.’

The thunder outside ceased but Shrewe couldn’t hear it. He couldn’t hear anything past the laboured thunder of his heartbeat. The unfamiliar man, No Luck Jaq, came forward and put his foot on Shrewe’s gut. He leaned down close to Shrewe’s face and gusted a rotten breath out.

Shrewe coughed little red flecks all over Jaq’s face.

Jaq cursed and walked away, whatever words he’d meant to say abandoned. He left the tent.

Shrewe closed his eyes.

He was alone. The air was humid and muggy and still. He could see a map, inscribed in the bursts of light that danced in the darkness.

His last thoughts were of thunder.