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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:

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:

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 Tuesday, another story, (of sorts). I’m thinking of switching to Friday’s so I don’t crowd Amy’s stuff (please go check it out, it’s pretty good stuff). Maybe call it Flash Fiction Fridays. I don’t know, will see.

But now we rejoin our friend Jaymes somewhere in the Free City of Greyhawk, the Geml of the Flanaess:

—-

The Shady Dragon Inn was full, as usual, for this time of night. Pipe smoke, stale ale and nervous gossip roiled the air.  Strange happenings, strange even for the City of Thieves, had occurred in the past months. Rumors of kidnappings, attacks on trade caravans and Iuzian attempt to desecrate Rigby’s grave were just the tip of the iceberg.  The disappearance of two important people, Loris Raknian  and the chief priest of the Heirnonean order in Greyhawk merged with the raw nervous energy coming from the masses gathering around the temple of St. Cuthbert to mourn Rigby’s death.

This meant little to Jaymes, who found himself short on coin. Hopefully an old friend would come through with an good offer.

“A pence for your thoughts young man” said a man passing by Jaymes table.

“Your coin, your questions, although I really got nothing to say” quipped Jaymes as he looked up from his drink.

The other gave him a lopsided grin. Peralay sat down and ordered a round for both of them. “How about work then?”

“If you got something worth doing, speak.”

“Aren’t we a grouch this night?”

“No money and no Home will do that to you.”

“If you do this for me you could have both.” Jaymes stared back at his interlocutor and waited. “A friend of a friend is looking for men of skill. Evil is afoot.” Peralay’s tone betrayed no irony.

Jayme’s reply brimmed with it “Evil is always afoot in this world of ours. Got any particular person or thing in mind?”

“My friend has the specifics, but suffice it to say that what happened at Rigby’s funeral and Raknian’s disappearance are related, that much I know to be true. If you want further proof, you can stop by the hamlet of Diamond Lake on your way to meet our friend in Magepoint. Ask around and see what we are up against.”

“Work is fine, but you know what I really want” Jaymes said.

“Yes. Help us and we will do whatever we can to open the Ways for you.” He tossed a small pouch on the tabletop. It crashed with the sound of coins. Jaymes took it.

“That should cover your expenses. Time is of the essence.” With those words Peralay stood up and disappeared into the Inn’s noisy crowd.

—–

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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