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Category Archives: short stories

 

Do you get writing ideas from your dreams?

I sometimes do. Vivid ideas that seem to scream “WRITE ME DAMN IT, WRITE ME!”

Had one this morning.

FBI Team in a Urban Fantasy world with no masquerade (fantastic elements are out in the open).

Two MCs- Agents Andrew Holt and Terrence Raedner.

Holt is an empath (actually he is a telepath but he suppresses that aspect of his powers). he suffers from extreme color blindness. He literally sees the world in black and white, except for those colors that highlight emotions on objects or persons.  His mind processes vivid emotional input as dashes of color, such as scarlet lips of the woman he is chatting up at the bar (she is aroused) or sickly green of a bed occupied by a couple cheating on their respective spouses. Due to his condition (and the mechanics of telepathy) he is withdrawn and careful.

Raedner is a telekinetic. He can manipulate objects large or small from a distance, fire off any loose items at incredible speeds, project powerful TK fields for protection and levitate. He can also enhance his strength and resilience through the use of his TK powers.  Outgoing and playful but with a keen mind for esoteric details and encyclopedic reservoir of  seemingly useless facts.

Da chief- Andrew Bolton. Baddass normal who carries his great-grandfather Colt Single Action Revolver, blessed by a member of the Ghost Dance. It can harm most fantastic or supernatural creatures with a corporeal body. He has seen it all, from ravenous packs of vampires to Centaur serial rapist in his 15 year career in law enforcement.

The Harpy- Special Agent Vanessa Mills. Exactly what it says on her dossier.  First non-human graduate from Quantico with high scores and a chip on her shoulder. Appears completely human, but her suits are tailored to accommodate her transformation. Her shirts and suits have slits in the back for her wings, she wears loose trousers that will accommodate the feathering, prefers heels that will slip out the moment her feet turn to clawed talons and the front of her shirts are padded for modesty, since she can’t  wear a bra. Powers include imitation of any sound heard, enhanced strength/flight (in harpy form) and can stun/disable with her voice. Works twice as hard as her male counterparts due to fantastic racism/sexism.

Sparks- Special Agent Jenny Carter Lewis. Unit cyborg and heavy weapons expert/sniper. Can interface with all kinds of tech in the field and packs a Denel NTW-20 (as in 20mm) anti-materiel rifle to hunt down the big game, such as rampaging dinos in downtown L.A. or an angry troll in the middle of a anti-fan demonstration (short for anti-fantastic). Carter is jovial otaku of all things electronic and guns, with an emphasis on gaming, working out and big guns. Former member of Marine Recon Teams and Cybercom. Studying to get his Juris Doctor and is big on privacy and rules of engagement.

That’s all I got for now. Who knows if this brainstorming, early morning dreaming will lead anywhere.

 

 

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Another month, another Blog Chain. Since this is one has a Masquerade theme to it. I though it would be best if I hosted here. This short serves as a prequel of sorts to the main SuD storyline. Enjoy.

The rules of the Blog Chain are as follows:

Hello everyone,

A new month is about to start and I am taking on the role of blog chain host for the first time. I’ll be stealing shamelessly from my predecessor hosts so I hope you’ll give me a pass for the blatant plagiarism in this post.

This month’s Halloween inspired prompt is Masquerade.

I call it a prompt because I don’t want to limit the directions you bloggers might choose to take it. You can apply it (masks, costuming, sleights of hand, etc.) to a scene involving a character, write a short story using it, apply it to yourself as a writer, whatever. Just have fun with it!

If you are interested in participating this month, scroll down to the reply box and enter your blog’s address so I can add you to the list!

Each participant posts when his number is up. The first one will go October 1st.

Even if the blog chain has started, you can still be added to the end of the list until the month is over.

When it’s your turn, you have two days to publish the direct link to your blog post in this thread. I will remind you when it is your turn two times (after your predecessor posts and, ideally, 24 hours before your deadline both here and by PM). If you are unable to publish your entry within two days, the chain will move along to the next person. You will be moved to the end of the chain if you request it (here or by a quick PM to me), deleted if you do not.

Your post must include the list of the blog chain’s participants with the link to each blog.

The aim of a blog chain is twofold:

a) Have fun
b) Discover new blogs
This means that a true chain blogger reads and comments on the entry of the other participants.

Finally, two friendly pieces of advice:

a) Visit this thread regularly or use the subscription feature to make sure you don’t miss your turn.
b) Try to keep your post under 1,000 words. Longer post tend to receive less attention.

——
The three brothers walked down the narrow streets of London’s old city. If any of the passersby cared to take a closer look at them, they would have noticed the striking similarities among the three under their plumed, wide brim hats. The walked among the crowd, dodging vendors, horses and general effluvia that filled the streets.

“Are you sure that are guest are going to show up, Javier?” said the triplet walking on the right.

“Yes, Julian, they will come. The stench of Puritanism will drive the Lords and Ladies to decadence like flies to honey. A perfect introduction to London society. I even convinced Bloodworth to show up,” said Javier, taking the lead.

“But the political risks, Javier. The Mayor is a Republican, while the Lords are in King Charles’ camp,” said Johan on the left.

“Watch yer heads!” screamed a woman from above. The trio dodge a stream of sludge dumped from a second story window.

“The King is losing power Johan. This is an Empire of merchants, not landed aristocrats. From the African slave trade to the sugarcane plantations of the West Indies, new colonies in the Americas and just look  how the Dutch are pushing for more control of the trade routes. Kings are reaching their twilight and burghers are taking over.  Coin equals power and that is nowhere more true than here in London,” said Javier with a triumphant smile.

“Brother, could I have some coin?” asked Johan, looking in the direction of a nearby alley. Johan glanced in that direction and saw a young mother covered in grime, begging for scraps along with her two children. The older, a girl, was not more than five.

“We don’t have time for that. Maybe later,” said Javier.

“But…”

“But nothing. Control, Johan. Control!” said a stern faced Javier.

“Easy for you to say,” said Julian, covering his mouth witha perfumed handkerchief as they turned the corner near the banks of the Thames.

Carriages made their way deep into the Old City. They stopped in front of a series of shops. Groups darted from the carriages, their faces covered in elaborate feathered carnival masks. Down rickety stairs they went, into a ancient hollowed space that looked like an old roman theater, deep in the bowels of the City once known as Londinium.  There music played and couples, all wearing pearl white mask with dashes of intrepid colors dance the night away in the brightly lid center, while others gossip in the darkened corners away from the candlelight.

Javier wondered about the edges. He stopped to talk to a guest here, laughed at a joke there, winked at a lady that passed by. Unlike his guest, he only wore a dark half-mask around the eyes.  From the corner of his eye he saw his brother Johan smacking his lips. He noticed him earlier dragging one of the servant boys away. He also lost sight of Julian.

He tapped a merchant on the shoulder, “Good sir, have you seen my brother?”

The man swayed under the influence of wine, “He is wearing the fanged mask, right? Julian, yes, I saw him leave with the baker’s daughter. Pretty thing.”

“Thank you.”

He left the party through the kitchens. The streets were empty at this hour. He reached the bakery on Pudding Lane. He saw a flicker of candle light through a upstairs window. The backdoor was ajar. Javier slipped inside. He followed the familiar scent of blood. Inside the baker daughter’s bedroom he found what he expected. Johan, his features feral standing over the torn body of  the woman in question.

“You couldn’t resist, could you brother.”

“When the Hunger calls, one answers. You know that,” said Julian. He pulled a change of clothes from a bag. “I leave the rest up to you, dear brother. Time for you to indulge as well.”

Julian left Javier alone in the room with the mangled remains. The sight of a single burning candle caught his eye. The way the flame flickered and danced. The merging of the colors blue, red, yellow and white.

Fire.

His heart beat faster.

Yes, fire. To cleanse my brother’s sins. To burn away the stench of this place. To feed my soul.

He found a nearby lamp and poured the contents on the bed. The thick oil mingled with the congealing blood. Then came the long candle. With a flick of his wrist it flew until it landed on the oil soaked bed sheets, setting them alight.  He watched, entranced by the growing flames. Then he walked away, with careful steps, afraid to give in to the thrill that coursed though his veins. The old blood, the blood of the Fallen calling out to him.

The bakery burned behind him. Flames leapt to nearby buildings.

Cries of alarm filled the air.

He smiled while the City of London burned.

In the Year of Our Lord, 1666.
——-

Hope you enyoyed it and  sorry for the delay

Here is the running list of the October Blog Chain participants:

Auburn Assassin http://clairegillian.wordpress.com/ and direct link to her post
Hillary Jacques http://hillaryjacques.blogspot.com and direct link to her post
Aimee Laine www.aimeelaine.com/writing/blog and direct link to her post
Ralph Pines https://thewonderingswordsman.wordpress.com/
Veinglory http://erecsite.blogspot.com/
Laffarsmith http://www.craftingfiction.com
PASeaholtz http://paseasholtz.com/
Madelein.Eirwen http://madeleineirwen.blogspot.com/
Amy Doodle www.mindovermullis.com
Aheila http://thewriteaholicblog.wordpress.com/ (early second half)
CScottMorris CScottMorrisBooks.com
Orion_mk3 http://nonexistentbooks.wordpress.com/
Dolores Haze http://dianedooley.wordpress.com/
FreshHell http://freshhell.wordpress.com
IrishAnnie http://superpenpower.blogspot.com/
Lilain http://www.abigailschmidt.blogspot.com/
Semmie http://semmie.wordpress.com (near end)

——-

Another Character Write Up/Short.

——

File Name: Alpha-357

Subject: Stephen Barclay Dalton

Psychological Evaluation #7

Interviewer:Alpha India- Pepper

Format: Free-Flow Q & A

Loading Record Logs……

Initiating Playback…..

Question #1: Mr. Dalton, what is your political affiliation?

<<Interviewer notes Non-Verbal/Facial Expressions showing annoyance at the subject of the question>>

Answer: Independent.

Follow-Up #1: Why?

Answer: Because I look to leaders to solve problems, not feed me ideology. Not that it matters which side of the Uni-Party system they claim to come from.

Follow-Up #2: Uni-Party System?

Answer: Yes, two party, one agenda.

Follow-Up #3: Which is?

Answer: To pay off their supporters and stay in power as long as they can manage it.

<< Subject displays a tendency to see conspiracy in the higher echelons of power>>

Question #2: Would you describe your ideological position as, a) Libertarian, b) Liberal, c) Social Conservative, d)Anarchist,  e) Neo-Conservative, f) Neo-Liberal,  g) Communist.

Answer: None of the above.

Follow Up Question #1: Why?

Answer: Why what?

Follow Up Question #2: Why None of the Above.

Answer: I don’t follow any ideology per say.  Pretty words don’t impress me, actions do. Most of the time politicians say one thing to sucker punch the electorate and do then do whatever the hell they want anyway.

<<Subject shows a high distrust of government and perhaps of the democratic process>>

Question# 3: Do you believe in democracy?

Answer: Of course I do! Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

<<Note subject defensive posture, raised voice and use of sarcasm >>

Follow Up #1: Yet you have reservations about the current administration.

Answer: That goes without saying. It should be a government for the people by the people and Osborne just shot the concept to hell and back.

Follow Up #2: And what would you do about it?

Answer: Whatever is necessary.

Follow Up #3: So the ends justify the means?

Answer: No, that’s how we got into this mess to begin with. You have to see the situation for what it is and use the necessary measures to restore democracy.

Follow Up #4: Such as?

Answer: Defend the weak, serve as an example to the people and support those who fight for a better future. I’m a soldier, I’ll do the fighting,someone else will take care of the politics. Once this war is over, I’ll be going home.

Interviewer: Thank you Mr. Dalton.

End of Session…..

—–

As much as I don’t like writing prompts, I do like to write up shorts around new RPG characters concepts. They sort of serve as writing prompts in their own right. I’s a way to for me to flesh out a character beyond the numbers and rule set. Give it and the world/universe he inhabits some life, not to mention a perfect excuse to write. I’ve already posted one about my current character in our group’s Freeport campaign, and this one deals with a new char for an upcoming Marvel/Mutants & Masterminds superhero campaign (not a crossover, just using the 2E rules). This one is on the Darker and Edgier side of the scale. It is in the near-dystopian future after Marvel’s Civil War with elements from Marvel’s Ultimates universe thrown in as well (and a bit of Prototype/inFamous).

It also contains violence and adult language.

—–

Sgt. Jacob Plum Martin moved down the ruble strewn main street of Wounded Knee, South Dakota. At either side of the street, burning buildings lighted the summer night’s darkness. Most of the town’s inhabitants had fled up the hillock, to the monument that marked another massacre more than a century ago. Behind them, lay the ruins of a museum that had taken thousands of man-hours to build and millions of dollars in donations to keep open.

The stone crosses that made up the monument provided little cover from Martin’s unit eyes in the sky, several recon drones and an armed helo. He and his men walked slowly, with a shark nosed Stryker between them. Five other squads did the same, closing the circle around the hilltop. The plan was simple, once they reached their objectives at the base of the hill, direct and indirect fires would finish off the defenders. A mix of CS/White Phosphorous rounds from the battalion mortars and cannon fire from the Strykers. After that, it was a simple matter of sweeping the top of bodies, and sending them to the portable ovens.

No need to send prisoners to the detention camp in Pine Ridge so they could mix with college kids protesting the government’s “abuse of power”, and no need to worry about the “embedded” press either, they were dutifully reporting this as an attack by native extremist on federal law enforcement. Jacob had done this a dozen times before, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and in Somalia. “Sweep and Burn” the troops called it as in “sweep the battlefield” and “Burn the bodies”. No mass graves left behind to embarrass higher ups, no abused prisoners to damage political futures.

The unit came to a halt. He swept the hillside with his enhanced night vision lenses. He could see the huddled masses of the natives taking whatever cover the terrain offered. They formed a tight oval, armed men in the outer perimeter, women and children in the center.

The bastards shouldn’t have brought kids into the fight. They should have taken the money. I mean five-grand apiece is more money that they would ever see. But no, they had to protest against the uranium mine. And their sheriff got shot when the BIE officers showed up to break up the protest. Not to mention shooting at us two days ago and setting up an IED that took out one of our Strykers. When will they ever learn that a few idiots with AKs are no matched against well trained troops with armor and air cover. If I had a dollar…

“Bravo 1 checking in!”, the voice that blared through his ear piece pulled him out of his revelry. He checked the terrain before him. The virtual map overlay synchronized  with the terrain before his eyes. A floating dot told him that they had reached their assigned map point.

He keyed in his mike, “Bravo 2 on point!”

‘Bravo 3 we are good to….”

The radio went dead. No static, no sound whatsoever, note even a click. His map overlay froze. From experience he knew that happened when it stop receiving updates from the battalion battlenet. He depressed the button, channel surfing through the assigned frequencies but nothing happened.

A bad time for the net to go tits up.

He heard the whine of twin turboprops overhead. The chopper was making a final run before pulling back to a safer orbit. Airspace deconfliction. He had to double check, lest the mortar start pumping rounds down range and end up showering the wrong targets, i.e., he and his men, with explosives. A flash of light to his left got his attention.  Something had blown off the helo’s tail and it crash-landed on top of Bravo 1 troops, exploding in a fireball that consumed men and machine alike. The turret of his own Stryker exploded, showering the men around him with shrapnel. More bolts from the sky hit the other vehicles in succession. Martin hit the deck and lifted his gaze from the hard packed soil to see Pvt. Simmons chest explode. Whatever was happening, the gunmen on the hill took it as a sign to open fire down at their tormentors. Another flash of light, this time behind him and a plume of white smoke, highlighted with what looked like bright red fireworks rose into the sky. The other mortar section began to fire, but in their confusion launched their bombs far too short. Tear gas shells and white phosphorus rounds pounded the ground around him, mixed with more bolts from the sky. The mix of gas, heated smoke and dry dust chocked his throat, forcing him into a tear soaked coughing spasm.

He screamed into his headset, “STOP FIRING DAMMIT! STOP FIRING! PULL BACK INTO TOWN!” but heard no reply. He ran back down Main Street, looking for some kind of cover from friendly and enemy fire. He skidded to a halt in front of the high school, a red brick affair. Then a nearby car exploded. The shock wave lifted him off his feet. He saw the world spin around him until he landed on his back, the wind knocked out of him. Martin felt his neck sting. He clutched at his throat and found a sliver of metal had pieced the skin, but done no significant damage. He pulled it out with bloody fingers. His body armor had absorbed most of the fragments. The earth shook beneath him. He turned around, saw, and armored figure approach him. He pulled out his 9mm and fired, each shot in synch with the enemy’s heavy footfalls.

One…two…three…four…five….

One hand seized Martin’s wrist, reliving him of his pistol, the other lifted him up from the ground though his armored vest. Martin tried hard not to piss himself, however or whatever this was had just wiped his battalion. The hand that disarmed him, pointed at the flag sill flying on the school’s flag post. A deep, metallic voice  filled his ears.

“I pledge allegiance to flag of these United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under the Faith of Our Fathers, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for ALL!”

The armored figure threw Martin back to the dust, “To the Patriots, the Time has Come to set aside our Differences and Fight for the Republic. To the Citizens, The Time of Fearing One Another is Over, and to All Americans, regardless of Color, Race or Creed, it is Time to Take Our Country Back!”

With those words, the armored figured rocketed into the night sky, leaving Sgt. Jacob Plum Martin, of the 1st Internal Security Brigade ™ Incorporated, choking in the dust.

——

And now for a cool little vid, which in its own way reflects some of the themes expressed above. In Japanese.

Love is War:

Art by somniturne. Click on the image for more of this artist work.

My cousin is once again at the helm of our gaming group and he has offered to run two different campaigns (alternating between them every few weeks). The first is a return to Scion, an urban fantasy game where the characters play demi-gods while the second is an offshoot of the 3E (D&D) Freeport campaign using the Rune Quest rules (Pirates, Guns and Cosmic Horrors lurking in the shadows). In order to get a feel for the characters, he sent us a series of questions:

Swords against Sorcery: Character Questionnaire

Character’s Name:

Nicknames, If Any:

What do you look like? Eye color, hair color, ethnicity, distinguishing marks or features, clothing, jewelry, and gear…

What are your hobbies?

Who and where is your family?Where are you from?

Do you have any secrets, and what are they? Why do you keep them?

What do you believe in ? Explain.

Do you live in Freeport? For how long?

If you don’t live in Freeport, why did you travel there?

What motivation do you have to stay in Freeport?

What was your Background event?

Did any other character tied to your Background event? How did he tied his fate to yours?

What is best in Life?

And I could not but answer in the form of a short story.

—–

From an article by Jonathan Jacob Tryst, for the newspaper The Swift

I made my way through the summer night’s haze inside the Salty Sailor, made all the more redolent by the thick smoke that clung to my clothes. Dodging wenches, sweeping tankards and puking drunkards I arrived at the back of the tavern. A cubbyhole sheltered a rickety wooden table, two simple wooden chairs and the subject of my piece. I convinced my boss that the paper needed an exciting story that didn’t come from the merchant side of the street. A peek at Freeport’s underbelly and to my surprise he agreed. I pushed aside the low hanging angler’s net.

“You’re late, mate,” said the stranger from under the hood of his cowl.

“Sorry about that,” I said.

“Well, let’s get on with it, shall we.”

I slid a small money pouch across the table, covered by my interlaced hands. In Freeport, few will pass the opportunity to snatch gold or silver if they see it. The bag disappeared into the folds of the stranger’s cloak. I took out a roll of parchment with a tiny ink bottle and pen, “Right then, you work for The Swift, eh?”

“One and the same, sir,” I said.

“Your money, your questions, your time, and your drinks if you’ll pay for them,” he said with a smirk.

“Oh, yeah.” I ordered ale for me, and rum for him. “Name?”

“K, just K.”

“Kay?”

“No the letter K.”

“But my readers will want to know who you are?” I protested.

He raised an eyebrow with a tiny diagonal scar that matched the light brown hair that spilled from under his hood, “Those that know me, will know who am I. Those who don’t, don’t need too.”

“K it is. Well how would you describe what you do?”

“What is it that you think I do?”

He was playing games, perhaps trying to coax a few more drinks from me, although he only sipped his rum, his grey eyes darting to and fro no doubt looking for trouble. “You are a thief.”

“Gentleman thief and explorer, thank you very much.”

“A gentleman thief? I didn’t know there were different categories to thieving?”

“Of course they are. Just like no two pair of tits are the same, so it is with thieves. You have your cut purses, your merchants, your pirates and your thugs and then you have me.”

“And what exactly sets a gentleman thief apart from the rest?” I asked.

His smile widened, “You are a writer alright! Well, I liberate riches from those who have too much too give to those who have too little,” he said pointing at himself, “and do so while leaving them with a smile. Smiling men rarely give chase, mate.”

“And besides liberating wealth, what else do you do?”

“Gamble, travel, read, and romance the loveliest women my charms, rum and gold can buy,” he poked the parchment with a gloved finger, “and you can quote me on that, in that exact same order, if you please, sir.”

“And where are you from?”

“Form where else but here. I learned all that I needed on the streets of Freeport and at the gates of the Temple of Knowledge.”

“And do you have family in the city?”

He squinted, “Now that is an awfully personal thing to ask, mate.”

“I don’t need any names, Master K, just something to give the piece some depth.”

“Well, The Swift is nothing if not thorough, eh? Not like that rag, the Captain’s Logbook, eh? Nothing but filthy gossip in those pages, wouldn’t wipe my arse with it even if they paid me.”

“Of course not, about that family, sir?”

“Oh yes. Eight brothers and sisters, Me Mum died young, Dad remarried twice and well he tried his best to provide for all us, but I have that many cousins, aunt’s and uncles too, so, oft I went, to the streets, to the Temple and then to sea.”

That was an interesting tidbit, “So you traveled beyond the Dragon’s Teeth?”

“Of course, can’t know the ways of the world unless you traveled them.”

“And how many enemies have you made along those ways?”

“Enemies…” he rested his chin on his right hand while twisting his half-empty mug with the other, “few, maybe. A rival here, a competitor there, but enemies, no, I’m not in the business of making enemies, mate.”

“Few people are, but Freeport being what it is, it’s bound to happen.”

“Indeed, but I take care of my enemies right quick, mate. That’s why I pack powder and blade. Slash keeps my enemies at bay, Hellhound shoots them down at ten paces and Kidney’s Stone silences the rest.”

“And those are?”

“My rapier, my pistol and my dagger, names are clear enough, I think.”

“Of course. But why do you stay in Freeport?”

“No better place in the World, none by far. Sure, you got your whores, your robber barons and your killers, but you got your gold, your ladies and your odds here too. Life is a gamble from the moment you’re born, mate. Don’t you forget it,” he said with a wink and a nod.

I was getting somewhere, “Have you met anyone of interest in your travels, Master K?”

“I met sailors, pirates and escape criminals, although it’s kind of hard to tell the difference between the first two and the last was wrongly accused, or so he claimed. The lady on his arm was oh so very lovely, by the way!”

Another evasion, but I had just enough to fill in the blanks, “And what do you think is best in life, Master K?”

“A life well lived, mate!” he raised his tankard and downed the last drops of rum.

——

And now for some music:

Almost didn’t make it, but here is a sneak peek at something I’m working on right now. This is not game related, at least not in its current form, although it has its roots in some very vague campaign ideas from yesteryear.

I hope you enjoy it and I welcome your input.

——

Maximilian looked down at the valley before him. Thousands of campfires as far as the eye could see. He walked down from the summit of the hill that overlooked the plane. Groups of warriors huddled around each fire. They worse many types of armor from leather, to bronze and even steel and were armed with bows, swords and shields. Some turned toward him. The long distance stares betrayed centuries of war and suffering.

He spotted an opening in one of the circles and sat on a log. His hands reached toward the flames seeking the some comfort from the cold night’s air. A voice spoke from across the undulating waves of heat that emanated from the embers.

“Hail brother, it has been awhile,” said the man. His features were gaunt as if he had not eaten in days. His black eyes reflected the glow from the fire.

“Hello Airell,” Maximilian said.

“So Bevan, or should I call you Maximilian?”

“You can call me whatever you want.”

“You did the right thing.”

“Did I? You,” Maximilian wrung his hands, “called me brother and I…” Maximilian averted his eyes.

“Killed me. Better by the hand of my blood brother than the enemies and if you had not done so neither you nor I would be here right now.”

“You are a shade.”

Airell looked around at the faces of the others sitting in the circle, “We are all shades. All those who take up the spear know that this is their fate. That is why you swore never to take it again. But you did, and here we are.”

One by one, the men and women around the campfire looked up into the moonless sky. “The stars are aligning brother,” Airell said. He pointed upwards with a long skeletal finger, “Fate beckons.”

Maximilian looked up to the sky. He saw the familiar constellations: the Tree, the Chariot, the Hunter, the Dragon, and the Warrior. Their arrangement caught his eye. They seemed to be grouped in a circle around the center of the sky. Each one had a corresponding star, separate but also equidistant from each other.

All but one.

“Stars and omens, is that why am here?”

“You are here because the play has already begun Bevan. Almost all the players are on stage and the second act is about to begin.”

Maximilian stood. His voiced boomed across the valley attracting the stares of the others, “No! I make my own destiny.”

“The play will go on, with or without you Bevan. Your choice is simple, actor or choir, player or spectator.”

A dense fog rolled across the valley swallowing the soldiers within it. Their voices drifted back across the ether, “The choice has been made, the spear taken.”

“There are but two ways to end this now, at least for you. Yield the spear by blood or face death itself,” Airell said.

“What? Face death itself, what d you mean?”

But the fog obliterated his sight and he received no answer.

——-

And now for a blast from the recent past-Fable by Robert Miles:

Some writers write without titles. Titles seem something you slap on your manuscript after the fact. As you have guessed (by the title of this post) I don’t work that way.

Well, usually….

But not this time.

My current WIP is going well, as in, I’m writing it, but it doesn’t have a tittle. I really don’t know what exactly this WIP is. Among the possibilities are:

  • A novel. A single manuscript from beginning to end.
  • A short story. It begins and ends as one.
  • A short story collection/serial.
  • A (gasp) book trilogy.
  • The seed of a NaNo.

Whatever it is (or will be) it has not title.

OK, I have a title, of sorts.

Age of Iron

An alternate history/fantasy “work” based on the European Dark Ages (500 CE-1000 CE).

But…it sounds so generic, so much of a ripoff. Yes, I know, you can’t copyright titles, but still, doesn’t feel right.

I done the research.

I’m working on the world building.

I have a good idea of the general plot points.

It feels like a gone diving without checking how much air is in my tanks. I’m all for discovery writing but I need a clear starting point just in case I get lost. That navigational point that allows me to navigate the unknown waters of imagination. A beacon in the dark night of creation. Up the proverbial creek without the proverbial paddle.

So, what am I to do?

And because you actually read through an entire post full of wangst here is a video to make all better:

Yeah, I caught the research bug. It’s a mutation of world building disease where you are trapped in an endless cycle of research material. In my case, wikis, lots and lots of wikis. I go off in an endless wiki walk.

What is a wiki walk?

I’ll show you.

For example:

Xenia: The Greek concept of hospitality. Simple enough, but then there is a link to Zeus, which leads to Mount Olympus which in turn leads to the Twelve Olympians.

Looking at ways mortals become gods leads me to Apotheosis, divine (divinity), theology,Imperial Cults, Ancient Egypt and on and on.

The end result looks something like this.

Not pretty, not at all.

And what am I doing spending the balance of my weekend trolling wikis until the explode all over my browsers tab section like shrooms on cow shit?

Data mining. Looking for concepts, names, that sort of thing. This is not in-depth research (I mean wikis, really). I just want enough to give my current project some depth beyond the standard Medieval fantasy fare.

The risk of all of this is that I start “showing my research” or worse show that I did not do enough of it.

Oh well.  At least I am writing while I research otherwise I get trapped in world building and get nothing done and that would be a real shame.

I decided to switch dates (and titles) from Teaser Tuesday to Flash Fiction Fridays to reflect the fact that these shorts are not teasers in the traditional sense.  Besides this stories are based on copyrighted material, so they won’t see the light of day otherwise.  I hope you enjoy them:

A murder of crows circled over the ship as it made its way to port of Alhaster. They were a dark portent of what was to come, or so Jaymes thought. Nightmare visions of undead armies marching across the central Flanaess consumed his dreams. If everything the Archmage Tenser told him was true, and the evidence he presented was hard to refute, thousands of souls could fall to Kyuss worm ridden undead. How exactly could he stop all of this, he did not know but he would do his utmost.

As soon as the ship dropped anchor a man with a giant sword strapped to his back walked up the gangplank. “Ahoy Captain! Is Jaymes Feywind aboard?”

Jaymes look askance at the boarder. He fitted the description Tenser gave him of Kane but he had to be careful. The Bandit Kingdoms were not know for their hospitality. Jaymes removed his blasting rod from his belt ring and secreted it among the folds of his cloak. “Aye! And who you may be?” he shouted back.

“Good, Kane be mine name.” He turned to the crew “We leave immediately!” the newcomer hollered back.

“The Hell we will!” shouted Captain Bans. “This here is my ship and it comes and goes and I see fit. You better have a good reason other than a big mouth to order it around!”

Kane drew level with the Captain. He was a head taller than the ship’s master. “My Captain, I need your vessel for speedy travel.” He leaned into the Captain and in a carrying whisper added “And my coin speaks louder than my mouth.”

The two fell into negotiations while the rest of the deck crew watched with anticipation. After a few minutes Bans turned around and bellowed “Turn her about! We sail!” The crew set off to their tasks.

Kane stood in front of Jaymes and shook his hand. “So you’re an elf?”

Jaymes noticed Kane features and saw that the other was not exactly an elf, not that he cared either way. “That I am.”

“I see no sword or mace on you, unless you count that wooden stick your trying to hide in your robes as a weapon of some sort.” Kane laughed.

“A bit more useful than a sword, at least when it comes to spells” Jaymes replied with a impish grin.

“Really? A wizard then. I traveled with one of those once, that is until the fool decided to jump through a strange portal. Never knew what happened to him. A bit arrogant if you asked me.”

Which Jaymes did not, although he was not surprised by Kane’s words. Elven folk had a well earned reputation in the Flanaess for arrogance especially when it came to their half-elven brethren. “And what happened to the rest of your company?”

Kane looked down. “A misunderstanding. Stupid fools tried to have me kicked out of the ship they took. Mind you, I could have taken the lot with a swing of my sword. Besides that canoe was not fit to travel the waters deep. I doubt any of them made it ashore.”

“Hope this ship is made of sterner stuff” Jaymes replied.

But they would not be able to find out. On the second day of the voyage, storm clouds gathered on the horizon. Captain Bans stood his ground “I will not send my ship into that storm!” he yelled.

“I’ll double your payment” Kane said.

“And what will I do with the gold if fishes are devouring my rotting innards.  You want to go there, then you will have to swim.”

Jaymes thought about swimming an unknown distance through a ranging tempest. But failure was not an option. “Time to take the plunge.”

“Don’t worry wizard, if you drown, I’ll make sure to drag your carcass to shore and give you a proper burial” boasted Kane.

“Says the man wearing heavy armor plus has a oversize sword strapped to his back” Jaymes replied. “Captain, please take us as close as you dare, we will do the rest” Jaymes said to Bans.

“That’s crazy, that is! No one can survive that!” he said.

“That’s for us to worry about!” This time Kane he put his height advantage over Bans to good use.

“Very well. On your heads it is.”

——

All copyrights belong to their respective holders. D&D, the Greyhawk Campaign Setting and all related copyrights belong to Wizards of the Coast (WotC).

Another RPG inspired piece for Teaser Tuesday. This is part of my current character’s background.

The Dwarfs held their positions among the ruble of the north wall. Around them, nervous militia men waited for the impending onslaught. The sound of orcish drums filtered through the morning mist. Then they heard the wild mutterings of the clerics of Iuz, summoning their dread lord’s power. The orcs marched forward at the beat of the drums, their footfalls matching the hollow beats. Closer and closer they came. In spite of the morning chill, the defenders of Algernon Tower felt their clothes dampen with sweat. Three days of continuous combat had reduced their numbers by a third. Only one thing could save them now.

Sir Aymond heard the drums in the distance. The mist would dissipate soon, but with luck he would catch the enemy unawares. His brother, Baynard, rode to his side “Do you think this is going to work?”

“It will, brother. Of course if you have a better idea, now would be the time.”

The sound of a distant horn interrupted them “Too late for that.”

Aymond wheeled his mount around. “Men of the Shield Lands, Knights in good standing, servants of Good. Our land is in peril, it’s need dire. One more time we ride for lord and country and the survival of all free people! CHARGE!”

The Dwarfs poured a relentless stream of bolts into the approaching mass, but while some fell, others took their place. The militia horn blew once more. Even the steady fire of three ranks of elite crossbowmen would not be enough to halt the enemy. At the center of the horde, a dark cleric of Iuz danced wildly, holding a burning bowl of offal while he screamed obscene chants to the Lords of the Abyss.

“Graz’zt, unholy father, gives us your strength. Gives us power to smite your Zion’s enemies. For the glory of the Abyss—“ The thunder of charging hooves drowned the cleric’s insane rant as Aymond’s cavalry smashed into the enemies flank. Momentum and determination drove them forward, their spears piercing mail and flesh as they went. Lances gave way to swords as the knights slashed their way to the hear of the orcish mass.

In mid trance, the foul priest did not hear nor see his minions scatter or the black stallion charging toward him. With one downward stroke, Aymond’s sword decapitated the priest. A fountain of blood showered his acolytes who fled at the site of their master’s death. Dwarfs and men poured from Algernon Tower to finish the fight, leaving none alive.

Aymond shouted to his men “The Day is Ours!”

“HUZZAH! HUZZAH!” they shouted back, all except Baynard.

He approached his brother and whispered as he pointed behind them “But not without loss.” A score of knights had fallen amidst the charge and as Aymond raised his visor he could see that at least one orc had scored a vicious hit on his left calf.

“Order the men to regroup. Tell the garrison to move out as soon as possible. We must move south at once.”

“Yes M’Lord.”

At nightfall the group camped for the night. Few tents went up, except for the Commander’s tent. Inside, Aymond worked feverishly to finish the last bits of paperwork before he put his plan into action. Inside the tent others waited for their commander’s instructions.

Aymond first missive concerned the fighting around Algernon’s tower:

Day 1

Encountered enemy supply trains northeast of the tower. Destroyed seven wagons and scattered the human guards. Took no prisoners. Orcish troops made a frontal attack on the tower. Repelled with the help of dwarven crossbowmen and sorcerer’s help inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy.  Orcs carried their dead from the field. The reason for this unusual behavior became clear later that night. Undead attacked the battlements, including several shadows. Brother Cristoff of the Order of the Platinum Bolt (Heironeous) assisted in the defense.  Losses few, but we lost our war wizard.

Day 2

Enemy resumed their assault with siege weapons. Managed to breach the North wall of the outer bailey. Led  knights in an assault against the siege engines and destroyed several of them. Second assault repulsed as well. Friendly losses where heavy. A score of knights fell and so did fifty of the militia. Again, the enemy resumed nightly assault with undead using war drums to keep us awake.

Day 3

Enemy continued their assault. Led charge against main body of the enemy scattering them and killing the commander. Could not hold the Tower indefinitely. Valuables have been removed and forces evacuated. Fear that this is just the tip of the spear. The east is wide open to attack. Larger bands of humanoids lead by followers of the Old One raid an pillage at will. If nothing is done, forces will capture Admuntfort and lay siege to Critwall. Forces must be shifted or be trapped in a pocket. The enemy asks and gives no quarter.

Time is off the essence.

Your Loyal Servant

Sir Aymond Marhaus, First Lance of the Order

Aymond sealed the letter with his signet ring and gave it to his fastest rider. As he left he got up to talk to the assemble leadership. He cleared the table, which had a map of the Shield Lands engraved on the tabletop. The table was supposed to be magical, but Aymond did not have the time or the inclination to divine its mysteries.

“Gentlemen, our situation is dire. The enemy  commands the field and we do not have the forces at hand to stop them. I fear that even the combined might of all the Knighthood would do nothing but yield to this evil tide. However, the enemy does have one vital flaw, lack of cavalry. My men will ride north and harass the enemy as much as we can, buying you sometime to complete your tasks. Baynard—“

“Yes brother?”

Handing him a sealed letter and a small leader bound book Aymond said “Take this to Chateau Marhaus. Evacuate the family and get them to Critwall, from there sail to Greyhawk and safety. We have a modest home there, one that I hope to use as part of a future business venture, but alas.”

“Leave you here! But you need us! We need to regroup and defend our lands against the humanoid scum! We must fight!”

Sergeant Walpole and Leftenant Wilkins nodded, but Duarte, long time family friend (three generations past and counting) knew better “And where lad, do ye think we will hold them? The tower was the last fortification before the walls of Admuntfort. There is nothing but their greed to slow them down, and nothing will stop them.”

“Indeed my old friend. And that is why you have to take this.” Aymond handed him a ram’s horn. “This is Algernon’s horn, take your stalwarts and march to the coast post haste. Take the horn to a safe place away from these abominations. It must not fall in their hands.”

“Aye, that we can do.”

“Sergeant, you and your men will accompany Baynard south to Critwall. From there you will take this.” He handed him a large pouch and a letter “Do not open it, what is inside is not meant for your eyes. Your men will stay in Critwall with Baynard while you go to the College of Wizards in the city of Greyhawk. Ask for Aspertas of Kent, he will know what to do with it. As for you Leftenant, prepare the men, we ride north as soon as we are able.”

“Understood.”

All left except Baynard “Brother this is madness. Divide our forces now, in the face of the enemy? There must be another way.”

“What forces you speak off? Fifty militia men, about the same number of dwarvern bowmen and our riders. The infantry will slow us down and if we are caught in the open we will perish.”

“We will take as many of the bastards with us as we can!”

“And then, who will protect our families. Death will come for all us soon enough. I’ll keep the priest with us. We will surely come in handy. Besides unlike you he has more courage than sense. At least I think he does” he said with a sad smile.

“Send another if word if what you need them to have. I will stay with you” Baynard pleaded.

Aymond stood tall looking at down as his brother who was a half head shorter than him “Baynard, what is the calling of a warrior?”

“To Fight so Others don’t Have to, and to Die so Others may Live.”

“Then if that is the case, others need of our service, one more time. Rachel and the boys need their uncle now more than ever. At least make sure that they board a reliable ship South. If battle you want, I am sure the enemy will be breathing down your neck soon enough.”

“May St. Cuthbert protect you” said Bynard as he hugged his brother goodbye.

“May Pelor’s blessing shine upon you brother”.

Aymond opened the tent flat and yelled to his charges “We Ride!”

Battle would be joined one last time.

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