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Flash Fiction – Glass Menagerie April 30, 2011

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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As promised, here’s a quick update on the e-book for A Story for Japan.  I’m currently over 12,000 words.  I could have wrapped it up more quickly, but it felt like I would be short-changing the readers.  So, I’m writing the story out the way it ought to be done, rather than hurrying to get it published.  It’s probably going to end up a 20k novella when it’s finished.  While I’m working on it though, I thought I’d share a scene from the story with one of the villains. Enjoy!

-Angie

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The Morning Lord had only visited the House of Ice once, and found the harsh austerity of the mansion not at all to his liking. The only features he admired were the black marble floors, polished to such a high degree that the reflections of those walking over them looked like figures trapped inside. That had inspired him, and he charged his best glassworkers to find a way to match that effect.  In the end, they found that live models worked best and he took great pleasure at walking over the results.  Each of his defeated foes had their bodies enveloped in glass and burned away, leaving their cowering, terrified effigies immortalized for all time in the floor of his throne room. Only the Storm Queen, Rhianna, had remained defiant to the end, and he had her placed face-down in front of his dais so that he could step on her neck each time he ascended his throne.

His advisors shuffled in, taking their places to either side of the hall.  He scowled at them, causing a few to send nervous glances at the figures in the floor.  Several had defected to his nephew’s camp in recent months, and he had made it clear that any others who tried to leave would be added to the decor.

A herald was the last to enter the hall.  “My Lord, a messenger from the expeditionary force has returned.”

“Send him in,” he said, with an irritable wave.  They should not have contacted him for at least three weeks. If this was another failure, he would have to find himself another technomancer.

A battered member of his New Dawn movement limped in, wrapped in tattered scarlet robes, and the side of his face was mangled and bloody. The fact that he could walk at all was a testament of his devotion to his Lord.  Balor stood up from his throne as the grotesque figure moved to the front of the hall.

“Great Lord of the Morning Sun,” he rasped from between cracked lips, “I bring news of a tragedy, and a great triumph. Your faithful technomancer, Dieter, is gone. He perished in a blaze of light in the wilderness while attempting to tame the gate between dimensions. But his death was not in vain.” As he spoke, a fanatical gleam lit his one remaining eye.  “The abomination that was the Ice Lord’s daughter is dead, and her demonic servant turned to dust. They were destroyed by Dieter even as they celebrated their triumph over him.  Her death drove your nephew mad, and he roams the countryside in a dragon’s form,” he said, and gestured at his ruined face. “I am the only survivor of our expedition. We tried to stand against the Dragon, my dear Lord, but we were weak.”  He made a painful attempt to abase himself, but only managed to collapse in a heap at Balor’s feet.  “Forgive us, Lord!”

“Bring a stretcher. Make sure you give this man the finest care.”  Balor put a hand lightly on his servant’s shoulder.  “You will be rewarded, my child.  Know that I am well pleased, and that the sacrifices of your fellow men will not be forgotten.”

Brennan, the representative from House Ember, took a step forward. “Can we trust his report, my Lord?  I find it hard to believe that the hound is gone.  How does one kill a spirit?”

Balor gave his youngest advisor a disapproving look.  “I trust his word more than your own. Dieter had been tasked with finding a way to dispatch the beast, and he has accomplished it. It is regretful that he perished in the attempt, but he was only a human.  I have no more need of him.”

“But what of the Ice Lord’s wife, Serenna?  You have no human sorcerers now to counter her.”

The frown deepened.  “I sometimes wonder why I bother with advisors, when all you do is ask questions.”  He returned to his throne, and let his gaze wander across the nervous crowd.  “Well? Do you none of you have anything to offer?”

Vonn, a defector from the renegade House Vulcan, stepped forward and bowed low.  “With your permission, my Lord?”  He glanced up from beneath a mane of dark red hair, and waited for Balor’s signal to stand up. “The sorceress is a healer, not a fighter.  Once word gets out that the Dragon has lost his senses, the Convocation will throw out his claim to your throne.  Declare open war, and drown Serenna in a sea of blood.  The Ice Lord’s allies will demand his aid, and she will have no time for other pursuits.”

“And what of the Dragon?” Brennan demanded.  “You would let him murder our own people?”

“More questions, Brennan?” Vonn said, his voice dripping with scorn. “If you have no ideas of your own, do not waste our Lord’s time.”

Balor lifted a hand, and both fell silent.  “The northern Houses have all chosen to support my nephew.  They will now learn the folly of their decision.  Let them see the boy for what he is – a dangerous, weak-minded fool who cannot control his own powers.  Soon enough they will beg for my aid.  Then, and only then, will I bring the Dragon to heel.”

“As for your other plan, Vonn, I find some merit in it. Take the New Dawn garrisons in the Storm territories and stage raids across the border into the lands of Hail and Sleet.  Burn their homes and fields, drive them before you like cattle. Let us find out if a mere human sorceress can measure up to the healers of old.”  He sat back down on his throne, treading on the Storm Queen’s effigy once more.   “I believe those territories were once ruled by Storms. Since Rhianna’s unfortunate demise, we must look after the interests of our watery cousins, and return their ancestral lands to them. We will, of course, deal harshly with any outlaws that oppose us.” A cruel smile crossed his face. “Oh, and Vonn?  Bring me their rulers, alive. My glass menagerie is far from complete.”

The young volcano kindred bowed low again.  “As you command, my Lord.”

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Flash Fiction – Peep-Pocalypse April 22, 2011

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
15 comments

I totally blame @thefourpartland for this one. Heheheheh.  Happy Easter!

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Everybody knows that if the zombie apocalypse happens, the first place you go is the S-Mart.  I watched the Evil Dead movies, they should stock everything you need to blow those brain-munching bastards into paste. So I slewed my old Ford Fiesta into the parking lot, wheels squealing and smoke belching from the tailpipe. The tiny engine howled like a chihuahua being neutered, and I gunned it one last time to jump the curb. The zombie hordes were still shambling their way across the far side the lot.  I had made it in time.

The doors swished open and I rushed in, expecting to find an arsenal of galvanized steel lawn care implements waiting just inside.  Instead, I found a wall of pastel boxes.  In all the chaos, I had forgotten it was Easter.  There were no hedge clippers, bill hooks or garden hoes anywhere in sight.  All they had was an eight foot pile of marshmallow peeps. I couldn’t get past them either – the stock boys must have brought the pallets inside, and run off before they could get them on the shelves.

Meaty thunks against the glass behind me announced the arrival of the deadites.  It was only a matter of time till one stumbled on the pressure plate and the doors slipped open again.  I had to think fast. A quick scan of the impulse buys lining the entry turned up fifteen varieties of gum, a rack of gift cards, boxes of no-name breakfast cereal and half a dozen cheap lighters.

Another bang and a crackling sound made my guts clench in fear. They were too stupid to move five steps to the left to trigger the door, but that wouldn’t stop them from bashing straight through the glass. I needed a weapon, anything…

Movies saved my life that day. Don’t ever let anyone tell you TV rots your brains, kiddies. Army of Darkness got me there, and Ghostbusters got me out again.  Marshmallows burn, they stick like napalm, and I had a whole mountain of them.

I ripped into the boxes like a madman, tossing heaps of cute little bunnies and peeps into a pile. I ripped open the lighters, and started screaming, “Say Hello to my Little Friends!”  Sugar coated firebombs whizzed out through the broken glass and stuck to the moaning freaks in a multicolored light show worthy of a KISS concert.  You know, back in their heyday, when they still wore the makeup full time.

The first row of deadites went up like dry wood. They must have been from the old section of the graveyard. While they were frying, I stuffed peeps into a couple Dora the Explorer backpacks I found half-hidden under the shelves, and put the last of the lighters in my pocket.  I grabbed a box of choco-puffs too, in case I got hungry later. Hey, no-one survives the end of the world on an empty stomach. Don’t judge me.

By the light of flaming, carmelized bunnies I saw an opening and ran for it.  I survived that horrible day, thanks to the peeps available in every mini mart and corner store. Eventually, the National Guard stepped in and pulled the survivors out. Every one of us had our pockets stuffed with marshmallows.

Forget chainsaws and boomsticks. When the walking dead come to call, I have only one thing to say.  Give me some sugar, baby.

Book Review – Must Love Dragons April 20, 2011

Posted by techtigger in book review.
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I’m a huge fan of Monica Marier’s  “Skeleton Crew” comic – it has vampire chimpanzees, how can I resist? 🙂  So when I heard she was publishing a book, I had to have it.  Remember the elves from the Dragonlance novels? You know, haughty, snotty, and generally too busy contemplating their navels to be of much use?  Now imagine them as teenagers.  That is what the hero, Linus Weedwhacker, has to deal with.

Linus works hard and pays his union dues to the ranger’s guild – it shouldn’t be too much to expect for him to work with professionals.  Unfortunately, his assignment is to babysit a bunch of young elves through their first adventure.  Instead of guts and glory, he’s dealing with teen-aged angst and hormones.  Oh yeah, and don’t forget the dragon. He has to keep everyone from getting eaten, too.

The thing I really loved about this book is that Linus is just so down-to-earth. You can believe the guy has a gaggle of kids underfoot back home, and seeing him wrangle a bunch of high elves the same way is a riot. I kept waiting for him to yell, “Don’t you make me turn this adventure around, young man!”  Monica did a wonderful job of skewering the fantasy genre, and if you’ve ever played Dungeons & Dragons, it’s even funnier.  (Kobolds. *snicker*)

You can buy Must Love Dragons as an ebook, or paperback from Lulu.com and Amazon, and check out Monica’s web comics at http://www.tangentartists.com

Tales from the House of Winds – Aradann, Evergreen April 8, 2011

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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The main Nox and Grimm story is still on hiatus while I work, but I’ll be posting some shorts based on the rhyme in the beginning of A Story for Japan – stories of the Elemental Lords who lived when the House of Winds still stood, and fought its war against the Shadowkin. I hope you enjoy them!

If you are new to Nox and Grimm, you can Click Here to read from the beginning.

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2000 years ago, in the heart of Zephyra, city of the Air kindreds…

Grimmalkyn paced around the castle garden, snapping and snarling at the voices that plagued every waking minute of his day. It was only a few weeks since his fellow Wind Knights had rescued him from the Shadowkin, but any chance that he might be freed from their enchantments was fading along with his memories.  Even now, his shape wavered between the man he was, and the demonic hound they would have him become. He rounded a bend past the fountains, down the stepping stone path, past the lily pond, around the arbor and back up the side of a babbling stream to a resting bench, and then started all over again.  Lord Galen had hoped that some time spent in this peaceful spot might bring him relief, but there was no peace for him.

Back around again, restless and unsettled, he almost missed the man sitting quietly on the bench.  The dark brown skin, long braids and leaf mail armor of the Forest kindred blended with the garden around him.

“Aradann, you should not be here,” Grimmalkyn said, his voice carrying the hint of a canine growl in it.

“Why not, Captain?  I do not remember any rules stating that you should be cut off from your friends.”

Grimmalkyn crouched down, resting his weight on one hand and a knee, his head bowed low.  “They would have me kill you all, you know. I can hear them even now.”

“I know they will try. But I do not think they will succeed today, hmm?  And what sort of friend would I be, to let you wear the garden path down to bare rock all alone?  I can at least walk with you.”  He got up and clasped Grimmalkyn’s forearm, forcing him to stand up with him.  “If it is hard to walk, lean on me. Goodness knows we have staggered back from the bars often enough this way.”

“It is not so hard to walk, as it is to remember that I should.”

Aradann grinned.  “Well then, let me remind you. What was that song we were singing for Gilraith’s batchelor party?”

“I don’t think that’s proper music for here at the castle,” Grimmalkyn said, but a hint of a smile crossed his face.  “I still don’t know where Jurda found all those dancing girls.”

Aradann started laughing, setting the wooden beads in the ends of his braids clattering like a bamboo forest in a storm.  “Don’t forget the krumhorn!  I believe you took a turn playing it.”

“It sounded like a dying cow, how could I forget?” Grimmalkyn’s shape settled into that of a tall, broad shouldered man with black hair and grey eyes.  He still wore the tabard of the Wind Knights over his plain, homespun shirt and trousers. “It was a wonder that Gilraith made it to the wedding the next day.  I have never seen a groom looks so green.”

“I think his bride was half afraid to kiss him!”

They had made it back to the bench again.  A horn sounded in the distance, and the smile faded from Grimmalkyn’s face.  Aradann clapped him on the shoulder.  “They are playing my song. I will stop back later with some cards and a few friends. I am sure you have not forgotten how to cheat your men out of their hard-earned pay.”

“I never cheat. And they are your men now.”

“Just until Lord Galen straightens you out. Do not think that I will let you saddle me with that bunch so easily,” Aradann said. “You will be answering the horns again soon enough. Have faith, my friend. Do you think the Shadowkin would be so insistent, if Lord Galen was not close to finding a solution?” He made a smart salute, and disappeared into the foliage that lined the path back to the castle.

Grimmalkyn sat down on the bench, and thought long and hard on those last words.  Maybe Aradann was right.  If nothing else, he was still here, and willing to fight. There was always hope.

 

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