Skip navigation

Tag Archives: war

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:

This is my entry for the February’s Fight Scene BlogFest.

Enjoy!

——–

The afternoon sun beat down on Hadrian’s exposed skin. The harsh light glinted of the naked steel of his sword. The roar of the crowd washed over him. He was their favorite, their champion. He ignored it all by counting the clanks as the portcullis rose before him. Each metallic bank of the hidden wheels counting down to the engagement. Each one bringing him closer to the fight.

Clank

“If you want her, you will have to buy her,” said the jealous lover.

Clank

“Five hundred talents at least, my boy.  Enough to make your dreams come true,” exclaimed his manager.

Clank

“Yes, I will leave with you, where ever you want to go my love. Beyond the mountains where the summer’s are cool and the winter’s quite,” said the woman he loved.

Clank

“Not this time. This time you will meet your match. My beast will feast on your bones,” exclaimed the exultant rival.

Clank

“Make it a fight for the ages, and your debt to me will be repaid in full,” said the petulant Duke.

Clank

All the reasons why he was here. One way or another this would be his last fight. Hadrian walked into the arena. He felt the sand between the toes of his sandals. The Duke sat high above him across the oval, surrounded by guards and war wizards. His girth a product of his opulence. He kept the bread and gave his people circuses instead.

And for the last ten years, Hadrian was the main attraction.

No wind blew this summer day. The red main of horse hair on top of the gladiator’s round helm lay limp.  Droplets of sweat came down his arms racing down highways of nicks, muscle and cuts. He reached the center of the arena and bowed to the Duke. The fat man smiled back and raised his hand in salute. The motion quieted the crowed. The Duke stood from his bejeweled chair. “Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor and pleasure to present to you the Champion of our glorious city, Hadrian the Unconquered!”

The crowd exploded in wild adulation. Hadrian raised his arms, punching the air with steel sword and bronze shield.  “In this most glorious of days, the day our our city’s birth, Hadrian has consented to face his most dangerous foe. A great beast of the North, a Lyndwyrm!”

A hush descended upon the crowd. Once slaves battled beasts but gladiators fought other men. The Church tried to outlaw the games but they only managed to “reform” them. Gladiators rarely fought to the death and fighting animals was rare. Fighting such a dangerous beast could very well mean Hadrian’s death, and they did not want to see that. Not their beloved champion. But Hadrian bowed once again to the Duke and when he raised his head he gave the crowd a wide smile a smile that hid the fear that consumed his thoughts. Faint cries of “No” turned to screams of adulation.

The Duke smiled in turn. “Let the match begin!”

A panel slid open on the arena floor. A gigantic worm slithered from within the bowels of the arena with lighting speed. It’s beaked head raised to the heavens. It gave a ear splitting screech. Hadrian stared his at the dun colored, slime covered opponent.  “Not the brightest idea you ever had,” he said at loud.

The beast turned down toward Hadrian. It’s beak like maw split open, spitting twin streams of viscous liquid that met in mid air. The gladiator raised his shield in time to block the attack, but saw in horror as the sun came though the wholes left by the corrosive spittle.  He dropped the disintegrating shield just in time to see the wyrm descend upon him. He rolled to his left. The razor beak snapped in the air, spraying sand everywhere.

Hadrian stood with a kick stand, just to be battered by the powerful stroke of the wyrm head. The strike sent him flying against the masonry wall of the arena.  Hadrian shook his head, trying to clear his clouded vision before the wyrm’s beak snapped him in two. He danced around the wyrm, using his size to stay under the wyrm body. But his attacks had little effect. The combination of the slime and the beast thick hide turned body piercing stabs into glancing blows.  He drew thick, putrid smelling blood where the sand clung to the underside, neutralizing the ooze. Yet each strike only made the lyndwyrm angrier. Hadrian ducked and weaved careful not to slip in the trail of slime left by the wyrm. He ran until he reach the wall beneath the Duke’s seat. The wyrm charged him. At the last second Hadrian moved out of the way. The stadium shook with the impact. The beast reared it’s head, then spit anew. A pair of war wizards gesticulated wildly over a burning brazier. Columns of fire intercepted the acid raining down on the crowd.  A guard stepped forward, crossbow in hand. The Duke glanced at him. The guard stepped back but kept the crossbow at the ready.

Hadrian traced the slime path way back to the wooden door from which the wyrm entered the arena.  Once he felt wood underneath his feet, he angled his sword to catch the sunlight. The reflection shone on the wyrm’s black eyes. Enraged it dove down on Hadria. He rolled to his right. The worm struck the door, destroying it in a shower of splinters. It thrashed in sheer desperation. Hadrian crouched nearby waiting his chance. As the beast liberated it’s head, Hadrian slashed at the exposed eye. The dark eyeball exploded on contact with Hadrian blade.  The beak missed Hadrian’s head by mere inches.  Hadrian moved back and forth, taunting the creature by darting away at the edge of its damaged vision. It came down, again and again until Hadrian saw his opening. On the last attack, he rolled on his back and the jumped, holding his sword in an overhead two handed strike. This time the blade sunk deep into the wyrm’s head. The creature tried to pry his tormentor by shaking its head from side to side. Hadrian held on as much as he could. Then he slid down on the wyrm’s back.  He landed with a thud on the ground, covered in blood, sand and slime. He turned in time to see the lyndwyrm collapse in a heap a feet away.

He calmly walked to the beast, retrieved his sword and raised it defiantly. The crowd went wild. “Hadrian! Hadrian! Hadrian!”

Every bone in his body ached, but he had won. He would miss the adulation and the excitement, but not the fear.

Undefeated.

Unconquered.

And for the first time in ten long years, unchained and unafraid.

——

Well that’s my entry. I hope you like it.

Or ancient weapons as status symbols in fiction and mythology. The short answer is that Asskicking equals Authority but there a bit more to it, of course. I’ll talk about a few of these weapons, their history and how they can apply to your next work of speculative fiction.

1. Swords:

From Excalibur to Lightsabers, swords rule supreme in fantasy and science fiction. Part of it comes from the strange mixing of anime, D&D and Star Wars, but these sources simply barrow from earlier mythology. Almost every mythic arc known to man has at least one sword of legend Roland had Durandal, Japanese Hero Emperor’s had Kusanagi, the Persians had Shamshir-e Zomorrodnegar and so on.

Swords appeared in the bronze age as the first true weapons. It has always been associated with elite warriors for multiple reasons. The first is cost. Other weapons do not require as much metal, time or expertise to craft. The second is skill. While other weapons cost less  swords are wasted on anyone not properly trained to use them.

Their status grew  (ironically enough) as firearms made them obsolete on the battlefield. Calvary men (successors to the mounted knight) still used them until the onset of WW1 as did the Samurai (who traded their mounts and composite bows for katanas) until the Meiji/Restoration period.  Swords also became linked to dueling in Europe and Japan as well as symbols of authority. Only noblemen/gentlemen could afford to carry and train in the use of the rapier family of swords and in Japan only Samurais could carry the two blades as a symbol of their authority. Which such a rich history connecting swords to figures of authority is no wonder that they remain the number one weapon of choice in speculative fiction

2. Spears

While the sword goes hand in hand with nobility and authority, the spear predates it by several thousand years and it reaffirmed itself over on the battlefield even as guns broke the back of  the sword. Spears were popular for a variety of reasons. Made mostly of wood they were cheap to make. Almost anyone could wield one (pointy end toward enemy) and it served as  a melee weapon as well as a projectile.  Plus it doubled (and it some cases) tripled the reach of the wielder.  As an added bonus they could be set against a mounted charge. Horses maybe animals but they don’t like to rush into obstacles (thanks to their I’m-not-that-stupid gene), they must be trained to do so.

Several mythic figures have favored the spear above the mighty sword, among them the Celtic hero Cú Cuchulain (the foot launched gut wrenching Gaé Bulg),  Odin (Gungnir), and the Spear of Destiny (or Holy Lance/Spear of Longinus).

War being the ultimate social Darwinian experiment (with ever predictable results) that while the spear started as an adaptation of a primitive hunting tool it dominated the battlefield in the hands of elite warriors such as the Spartans (of 300/Thermopylae fame) and the Swiss mercenaries (who still survive as the famed Swiss Guard of Rome).  The sword may be the weapon of nobility but the humble spear was the weapon of choice for the hardened combat veteran.

3. Axes, Clubs, Daggers and Hammers:

I put these three distinct weapons together because they have one thing in common,weapons that double as tools.  Stone axes and clubs separated the  hairless apes from their ancestors. Not only could they wield multipurpose tools but manufacture them as well.

Axes were the first tool created to shape the landscape which also served as a handy weapon in case of an emergency. Feeling trees gave man a source of fuel, arable land and building materials. Didn’t take much to time or energy to master an axe and it’s combination of weight and broad blade meant that while not as precise as sword where ever it hits it would hurt.  Minoan priest’s used the double headed axe (labrys) as a religious symbol.  You can thank the Vikings and the Saxons for the image of the axe wielding barbarian.

Clubs maybe have being the first improvised weapon, but gave way to a wide variety of blunt instruments from the basic polished bone to the modern police baton. Heracles was famed for carrying a club which he used to slay the Nemean Lion. Smaller clubs were easy to use and pack quiet a punch due to the relative speed of impact. They can also ignore armor, as the concussive force transmits directly from the armor surface to the body withing (with perhaps the added bonus of metal plate armor breaking and slashing the skin beneath, ouch).

Daggers are the direct ancestors of the sword and are still in use.  A good all around tool for skinning, eating and killing. Although seen as the preferred choice of the assassin due to it’s small size, it has also served as a back up weapon for soldiers since the dawn of time. Knights would pummel their opponents with swords and then deliver the killing blow with a swift knife thrust to the eye or neck. The lowly dagger did what the gun could not by putting the spear out of business as a practical weapon of war and turning the musket into the Swiss army knife of the battlefield (short spear with the bayonet, plus firearm and club).

Hammers are close cousins of both the club and the axe. Another entrenching tool that served as a weapon on the battlefield. Thor swore by mighty Mjolnir. Although not as glamorous as the sword or feared as the dagger or axe it still proved a potent weapon in its own right.  Due to their construction they could deliver even more force than a club/mace and with a pick like back drag an armored opponent to the ground and serve as a dagger to attack weak points.

As you can see there more to weapons than just the slash and hack of a blade. Next time you’re thinking about arming fantasy army think beyond the sword.

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.

Read More »

So, the Big Bad has set up shop in the entropic Kingdom of Doom and now his armies march across the plains to enslave all of mankind.

Wait, what?

Where did all these guys came from?

And why are they marching across the plains to enslave all that is good?

What is their motivation?

The Answer: because Evil Lies in the Heart of Men!

Let me count the ways:

  1. Fear: Now the obvious way fear works as a motivator is that the minions would be afraid of their leader. But what if they are afraid of something or someone else? A neighboring country, a minority (or majority) within their own borders, a race of people (or in fantasy/sci-fi a species). Their leader could promise them that he will lead them over victory against their oppressors (real or imagined) if they follow him.
  2. Greed: Until fairly recently conquering armies got to plunder their enemies territory. Soldiers shared in the booty of coin, art and slaves. Going on campaign might be worth it for a poor peasant if the rewards merit them.
  3. Tribal loyalties: Us vs. Them. Morality may be defined not acts but by who is doing them (and who is in the receiving end of said acts). If the target is anyone not part of the group/tribe then they do not deserve the same consideration as members of the tribe. You shall not kill or steal from your clansmen, but that would not stop you from doing the same to others who are not within that select group.
  4. Ideology/Philosophy/Religion: People show a willingness to lower their cognitive dissonance in the service of  metal constructs such as an ideology/philosophy/religion. What they would normally recoil from doing by themselves they are ready to do in the service of a set of beliefs. They are willing to accept and support acts that would repulse them if directed at them. Works well when mixed with a charismatic leader who exploits fear and tribal loyalties.
  5. Vengeance/Playing the Victim: A variant of fear induced loyalty. The core of the villain’s army is made of people who have being historically abused, butchered or regularly invaded and enslaved. They got good reasons to be pissed and now the bad guy (at least to us) promises them a chance at revenge. Can generally lead to an endless cycle of violence where the acts of one side set offs a chain reaction of victimization/revenge, especially when you add a strong dose of tribalism.
  6. Altruism/Utopia/Golden Age: Tends to be a variant or the logical result of following a given set of beliefs. The world as the followers of the villain see it is lost, there is no hope except to wipe the slate clean and start all over again. Yes, a few misguided souls will protest, but the greater good demands unwavering action in the face of existential moral decay. Questions are not allowed. They are at best unwanted distractions and at worse a base betrayal of the Truth that awaits at the end of the journey. Hallowed are the Ori!
  7. Conscription: Service is the law, citizen! Worked for armies and navies for centuries. Still used by some military forces (child soldiers are common among rebel groups in parts of the world, mostly Africa). Even the U.S. has the selective service. Simply put, it is the LAW. The sovereign has the right to assemble an army for the defense of the realm and we all know that the best defense is a good offense. The Romans complemented their forces with auxiliaries from recently conquered lands and the Turks created an elite military force made up of slaves. Add a promise of treasure from conquered territories and you got yourself an army.

This is not an exhaustive list (by far) but it should give you a hosts of real world/logical reasons why would anyone follow/commit acts that are by definition EVIL. Better than “the pay is good” or “I was just made that way”.

That’s all for now.

(H/T To Marian, Again 😀 )

My contribution to Teaser Tuesday. This is an old character write-up in short story form:

I have trouble sleeping ever since the war. I use music to relax. Most music will do. I just fire up my laptop or MP3 player and let it cycle through the playlist. I donned my wireless earphones and lay down on the hammock.

Carry on my wayward son

There’ll be peace when you are done

Lay your weary head to rest

Don’t you cry no more.

It only takes seconds before I dose off….

Once I rose above the noise and confusion
Just to get a glimpse beyond this illusion
I was soaring ever higher
But I flew too high

Sometimes I am conscious of dreaming, that is I know I am dreaming. Like right now I am traveling through a dark wood. I hear a howling. A dog, maybe a wolf. I think I see a figure darting between the trees, a shadow moving fast.

Though my eyes could see I still was a blind man
Though my mind could think I still was a mad man
I hear the voices when I’m dreaming
I can hear them say

I reach a clearing. There I see a man, a giant of a man wearing Norse armor. Opposite him a large Wolf, a monster, jet black fur that swallows what little light that shines upon the clearing from the half moon above.

Carry on my wayward son
There’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry no more

The Warrior charges the beast. They grapple in a vicious embrace. The Wolf tries to bite and claw away from the Warrior’s hold, to no avail. Then I hear chains in the distance. The Wolf howls and whimpers, trying to run away, but the Warrior holds fast.

Masquerading as a man with a reason
My charade is the event of the season
And if I claim to be a wise man, well
It surely means that I don’t know

From beyond the clearing’s edge, chains shoot out like bullets, wrapping themselves around the great black beast. Like tentacles they bind the head and legs of the great Wolf. At that moment the Wolf bites down, vice like on the Warrior’s left hand, but he does not flinch. He throws the beast down and with his good hand wraps the chains around the muzzle. The beast lets go as it dragged into the darkness. The Warrior’s stands alone in the clearing. He then takes his sword from his scabbard, a long flat blade and with a single stroke cuts away the mangled piece of flesh that was once his hand.

The Warrior’s turns around, toward me. I know that face.

Dad…

On a stormy sea of moving emotion
Tossed about I’m like a ship on the ocean
I set a course for winds of fortune
But I hear the voices say

The Warrior’s tosses his sword at my feet. The scene changes. The forest becomes a vast plain, filled with broken bodies and weapons. The sounds of battle fill the air. I look around and I see my grandfather looking down at me with his one good eye, perched above me, bird like on a huge boulder.

Carry on my wayward son
There’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry no more

I see winged figures filling the sky, grey ethereal shadows moving swiftly across the grey sky. My grandfather points at the sword resting at my feet. I pick it up Runes move and rearrange across the flat side of the blade. I know these runes, each one spelled out one name after another, Hrunting, Durandal, Joyeuse, Curtana, Tyrfing, Dainleif.

Swords of power, weapons of heroes, pick up the sword and welcome your Fate!

Carry on, you will always remember

Carry on, nothing equals the splendor

The center lights around your vanity

But surely heaven waits for you

At that moment a man armed with spear and shield, attacks. I parry his attack, but his spear lances my side. I tumble away and I feel something wrap around the stump that on my left arm. I rise to face my attacker, a shining golden gauntlet sits comfortably where my own hand used to be. The enemy attacks again. This time I strike his shield with the gauntlet and it shatters into pieces. Stunned my enemy steps back, but it I who is now the hunter. A swift stroke under his chin cuts his throat open. He falls among the detritus that litters the battlefield. At that moment I step back, time slowing down around me. A musket shot flies inches from my face. I turn to the sound of the guns and I see a line of redcoats preparing to fire. I leap forward.. I land among them, slashing and punching my way through their ranks. As the last one falls I snap his musket like a twig.

Then a light that shines brighter than the sun itself blinds me.

Carry on my wayward son
There’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry (don’t you cry no more)

Surtur!

A giant, some 30ft tall, his hands and head wreathed in fire, steps forward to do battle. I shout an ancient battle cry and charge him….

I wake up and rip my earphones from my head, nearly breaking them in the process. I never felt more….alive! Then the tapping on my window, those damned crows again. But this time it comes from my grandfather old studio. The crow is perched atop an old bookcase. I try to shoo away the pest, I stumble and crash into the bookcase. That’s when I notice that what I thought was the bottom drawer was in fact a small trunk. I pull it out and open it. Inside I find…a sword and a gauntlet.

Could they be….


Stealing an idea from Amy I present to you a teaser from my current project. And yes, the character name sounds familiar, but I borrowed it from a wiki.

You can read more about SuD here:

flame___the_envoys_by_anikakinka

Trinity Dance Club, Boston,  Massachusetts, U.S, November 16, 01:34hrs

Blue flames warmed her hands as she danced to the music. She bent and twisted to the electronic rhythm.  The motes of light burned afterimages into the retinas of surrounding onlookers.  Senses, dulled by sound and intoxicating substances, could not see the truth behind the images.  She didn’t care. As the tempo changed so did the color of the flames, from cool blue to a furious red and then to bright white. The girl extended her arms, palms outward. The motes jumped from her hands and broke into smaller flames swirling around her like disembodied candlelight.

The lights on the dance floor went out. The music slowed down  to a slow somber tone. The beats matched the palpitations of the crowd. The only source of illumination came from the pinpoints of light around the girl. They glowed a faint orange and pulsed to the beat.

Inside his booth, the DJ smiled as he slowed the music an unnerving crawl. Then he punched up the volume and switched on the giant screens surrounding the dance floor.  Geometric shapes moved in sync with the heightened beat. The flames spun faster around the girl as her body gyrated to the pulsating music. The mix reached a crescendo and then transitioned to another song.

Her eyes opened, flashing an intense amber, while the fires evaporated. Applause broke around her. She smiled and made her way to the bar. The bartender handed her a frosty bottle of water and winked at her.  Amy thought that Mario was cute but he went through girlfriends far to fast for her taste. Sure, she found it hard not to melt when he flashed those pearly whites firmly anchored on those incredible dimples but so did half the girls at the bar even those who planned to go home with their girlfriends.

But he was not on the many tonight or for that matter any time in the foreseeable future. They hooked up in the past and he performance to date was nothing to complain about. He certainly played the strong silent type well. But he was looking for the girl he could bring home to Mama and she was not it.

Poor kid! Talk about looking in the wrong place.

If some other girl wanted to sit at the end of bar waiting for his shift to be over, nursing her free drinks and guarding her man from the pack, that was not her problem.  Her front pant pocket vibrated. She pulled the cell phone out and looked at the screen.

Briefing- D.C. 08:00hrs sharp

P.S. Business Attire- Mason

So much for sleeping in on a Saturday. Amy waved goodbye to Mario on her way out the front door. She didn’t bother with a coat even though the snow fell thick and heavy around her.  She put the hood up to protect her hair from the falling flakes. As she walked back to her apartment she left steaming puddles in the ankle deep snow.

*Local Time

—-

If you wondered what song she was dancing too, here it is.

This post expands on a recent Writing Excuses podcast on fight scenes. This is my take on the subject which I think deserves a bit more attention than just fifteen minutes (although the guys did a good job within their time limit).

I broke down my “answer” (for a lack of a better term) into two post. The first deals with how to approach fighting scenes. Fighting scenes are essentially descriptions of actions and will tend to reflect your style of description. Somebody who prefers laundry list types of descriptions (“she had blond hair, blue eyes, a red shirt, short skirt…ect.) may do a blow by blow narration of the fight scene, while writers (like me) who are highlighters (descriptions focusing on key elements, a minimalist approach) my choose a hard hits/killing blow approach (I explain these terms below).

Here are the different styles from the more concrete to the most abstract:

  1. Blow by Blow: Have ever heard a baseball game or a boxing match narrated over the radio? That is a blow by blow description. Since you are not seen the action, the sportscaster has to fill you in on all the relevant details. Works great on radio, but sucks on page. Why? Because it tends to slow down the action and focuses to much on the minutia of a fight. The worse offender of this is Michael Stackpole in his Battletech novels. Great political action, shitty combat scenes. Although he is trying to convey the tabletop feel of the source material (Battletech tabletop/RPG) it kills the momentum of the fight scene. Avoid this whenever you can.
  2. Hard Hits/Killing Blow: My preferred type of fight scene description.  Instead of describing every dodge, shot or swing you concentrate on those actions that have the most dramatic impact, such as the killing blow. Very useful when the Hero/MC is fighting Minions/Henchman (more on them in Part 2) or showing the killing blow that finishes off the villain. Its like watching a boxing match instead of listening to it. Your mind ignores most of the punches but it registers particular hard hits and of course the final knockout. This method gives the right amount of detail without slowing down the action.
  3. Snapshots: The snapshots technique is great when you want to show the chaotic nature of large battles. Remember the two scenes in Saving Private Ryan where the Tom Hanks character zones out and the camera cuts from one close up to the next? A wounded soldier dragging his arm, another taking a shot to the head, a third one cowering behind a wall.  These snapshots give you a sense of the action within the maelstrom of battle while at the same time showing how wild and chaotic war really is. Great for mass battles (5 or more combatants).
  4. The Battle Map: This is the most abstract of all the fight scene description methods. Like the name implies, the action is described from a distance, as if seen on a battle map. The character could be standing on a hill, watching down from an airplane or remotely by some electronic means. This method concentrates on tactics and strategies of mass formations: ambushes, charges, flanking, maneuvers, etc. Think LotR or 300. This approach shows combat on a grand scale. But if you want to focus on the actions of individuals, you will have to shift to one of the other methods mentioned above.

While I share the podcasters distaste for the Blow by Blow, it should not be dismissed out of hand.  In fact a climatic battle scene (popular in fantasy and military sci-fi) can include all of these methods. You kick off the scene with the Battle Map, showing the reader the big picture composed of army formations, terrain and the like. As battle is joined you switch to Snapshots of the battle. A sword thrust here, a horse brought down there, several men felled by arrows somewhere else. Then as you focus on the MC you do a bit of Hard Hits/Killing Blow action to show how much of a bad ass he really is. Then he meets his opposite number and you dip (don’t go into the deep end, you will drown) into the Blow-by-Blow, showing how evenly match they are. Then you pull back from Blow-by-Blow and cycle through all the way back to the Battle Map as the situation turns and you show the fight aftermath.

Well I hope this helps. Next is Part 2, The Combatants.

Gifu Prefecture, Japan, March 23, 8:09hrs

Ethan waved to the truck driver as he drove off.  A one lane road split of from the mountain highway. Below him laid a sleepy village nestle between the imposing peaks of Kiso mountains. Known as the Japanese Alps, villages like this one are a popular tourist attraction for those who want to ski in the winter or escape the city heat in the summer. The cherry trees blossoms filled the air, a clear sign of spring. As Ethan walked down the branching streets of Hitoshirezu village people bowed and waved hello. Anywhere else in the country his height and facial features would  mark him as a gaijin, but not among these people. They remembered the quite, respectful grandson of the shrine’s priest.  Ethan noticed how little the village had changed since he spent his summers here. Most of the homes where of wood with stone lined thatched roofs.  Few modern buildings existed here, except for the local hotel and bathhouse.

He stopped briefly at that place and made a few inquiries. The manager pointed to a nearby home at the edge of a placid lagoon.  Adjusting his jacked and rucksack Ethan tried to knock on the front door but at the moment his knuckles where about to touch the wood, it opened and a young woman leaped into his arms.

“Oniichan!” screamed the girl. She had long raven locks with a single pink and white stripe running the length of her hair. A small cat with wide eyes and floppy ears stood on it’s hind legs and peered out the door.

“Mariko! How many times have I told you not to call me that!”

She pouted and stuck her tongue out. “Always the downer.” She grabbed his rucksack and tried to carry it, but merely managed to drag it a few feet over the polished wooden floor. Ethan shook his head. He thought about helping her, but that would simply anger her and he was too tired to get into a fight. Abandoning the bag Mariko dashed to the kitchen. “Do you want anything? Breakfast?”

“Sure, why not” said Ethan as he left his shoes on the mat beside the front door and hung his bomber jacket on a rack.  The house has of modern design. Two stories and painted in earthen colors. Large glass doors lead to the patio and exposed a stunning view of the lagoon. Water trickled down the side of the mountain, feeding it. The cat followed him around, his eyes in perpetual surprise. Ethan scratched it behind the ears, which cause it to stand on it’s back legs reaching for more petting.

“Oh Linda, stop that! Now she will not leave you alone” said Mariko.

“I don’t mind. What happened to the other cat?”

“He died shortly after we moved.”

“How come you’re not at the Inn?”

“I sold it. It was to much for me with Mom and Dad gone.”

Ethan remembered how Mariko came to be a member of the family. His grandfather took her in when a fire destroyed most of the inn taking her parents with it. The insurance money covered the damage but no amount of money would bring the Yamashiro’s back from the grave.

“The house looks nice” Ethan said as she served breakfast. “By the way, where is he?”

She pointed toward the a path that lead up the mountain side “Where else?”

“Of course.” As he ate Mariko bombarded him with questions about his travels. Ethan demurred as much as possible between mouthfuls. “I’ll go and see him.”

“Right now?”

“Yes.”

“But…but, you must be tired. I’ll prepare a room for you. You should rest, he will come back down for lunch.”

He was tired from all the traveling. But he wasn’t done yet. Something compelled him to keep going. “I’ll be fine. Thank you for breakfast.”

Mariko eyes narrowed but she said nothing. He walked along the path that lead to the shrine. A steep staircase, the one he dubbed the million and one stairs to hell back when he lived here meandered all the way to the hilltop. He took his time. Wooden boards lined both sides of the stairs. On them the faded remnants of prayers twisted in the wind. The stairs ended on a wide patio. Nestled among the trees was the Shrine of the Mountain Wind. The mid morning sun filtered through the branches casting the building in undulating waves of light and darkness. A young boy swept the floor in front of the main entrance. He stopped suddenly when Ethan approached.

“The shrine is closed” he said. He tried to inject as much authority as he could muster into his words but his voice betrayed him as it shifted wildly in pitch.

“I know, I came to see Priest Toru”.

“He is busy at the moment.”

“Busy sleeping I suspect. OJIISAN!”bellowed Ethan.  The word startled the boy. The man before him did not look Japanese, not exactly, yet his accent was local. He knew that his master had other disciples in the past, but none that called him grandfather. “OJIISAN!”

“I’m coming dammit, I’m coming!” the front door slid open revealing a man in his sixties, yet fit.  He adjusted his kimono as he spoke “Who the hell–”

“Hello grandfather.”

Grandfather and grandson looked at each other and both saw something in each other eyes that only men with similar experiences could comprehend. Toru Ichijo walked toward his grandson and gently patted him in the arm “Welcome back Ethan.”

“Good to see you again grandpa.”

Ichijo turned to the youth holding the broom. “What are you staring at boy, keep at it. You still have to clear the garden before lunch.”

The boy bowed “Yes sir” and continued to sweep the patio.

“Come in Ethan, come in. Its been a long while” the older man guided the younger inside. After taking their shoes off the walked behind the main altar, past the inner garden and into one of the backrooms.

“It has. How things going with the shrine?”

“Oh same old same old. We still get our goverment grant, you know from the historical society and summers are busy of course but right now its a matter of keeping the place in one piece.”

“And you got yourself a new assistant.”

“Yes, he is Homaru’s youngest. Hard working, but has a problem following instructions.”

“If I remember well grandfather, your ‘instructions’ where not very helpful.”

The priest looked up with a faint smile “You rascal! Nothing wrong with my instructions, nothing at all. Of course young men who prefer to while away the time in front of the television playing video games never have time for proper work. But enough about old times, sit down. Would you like something to drink?”

“Beer?”

“That’s the American in you talking” gripped Ichijo.

Ethan sat crossed legged on the floor mat “Oh like you hate it so much. I remember dad bribing you with a case or two from base.”

Ichijo rummaged through a mini fridge in the back of the room “Thank Anheiser-Busch for the fact that you’re here today, boy! No beer, no marriage I told your father. The beer never stopped flowing, until-”

Ethan words filled the awkward void “I’m sure that you got a new supplier.”

“Oh yes, a friend of your fathers stationed in Okinawa”. Grandfather handed the grandson a cold bottle of beer. “Here you go. So what brings you to this lonely corner of the Japan. I would have thought that you would be already in Iowa, or where ever the Army sent you to.” He asked the question not as a beloved family member but as his former teacher, his sensei. A question that demanded an answer.

“I resigned my commission ojiisan. I’m retired now.”

Without looking up Ichijo took another swig from his bottle “I see. I expected that you would be promoted after winning that medal.”

“The offers came, but I had enough of the Army.”

“War is a harsh and cruel mistress. What we must do to protect the flesh tends to scar the soul.”

Ethan was about to ask what did his grandfather knew about war, but he kept his mouth shut when their eyes met again. “I believe the Americans call it the Thousand Yard Stare, do they not?” his grandfather said.

“We do.”

“Get up” Ichijo said gently.

They moved to the back of the temple, to a second shrine. Upon the altar laid a sword in its scabbard. Ichijo took the sword and handed it to Ethan “You are ready.”

Ten years ago Ethan had entered this room and dared touch the same object. When his grandfather saw what he was doing, he merely took it from him and said “You are NOT ready”. He spoke then with the same monotone as he spoke today.

Ethan could not believe what his grandfather was doing “But the sword belongs to the shrine, I can’t take it.”

“The shrine was built to honor the spirits of air and storm that inhabit these mountains. Seven hundred years ago those spirits helped the first of the Toru clan in crafting this blade. Ever since” Ichijo removed a curtain behind the altar “every generation of the our family has wielded the blade. Now it is your turn.”

“I can’t” gasped Ethan. He looked up at the mural on the wall. Fantastic scenes of battle made up the mural. Different men and women battling all kinds of monsters, but always wielding the same sword.

“Whether you wield Tasumaki or not, that is entirely up to you. But it belongs to you.”

Ethan shifted his feet, putting his right foot forward, leaning on it while his left leg slid backwards. His left thumb pushed on circular pommel. He heard the sound of thunder in the distance and smell dampness in the air. Without thinking he said “Its going to rain” and pushed back the sword inside the scabbard.

Toru Ichijo nodded sagely “Indeed it will.”

Well, the course is set and we are lock and loaded. As of midnight we start sliding down the crazy chute to NaNoville!

Here is a hint of what my novel will be about:

Enjoy the ride!