Friday, October 30, 2009

I've Been Published

We interupt this short story for a surprisingly appropriate announcement: the first story I ever sold has finally been published. It's been almost six months since I received the acceptance letter, and was beginning to wonder if I would ever see it. The folks at Mindflights Magazine finally got back to me and explained they wanted to use my story "Shinkyo Bridge" for their Halloween Special, which went live today.

In case you're wondering, it's appropriate that I make mention of this because it was the precursor to "A Mother's Love" that I've been showcasing this last week. It follows around Miyamoto Musashi as well, but in this case it simply puts forth an old legend surrounding one of the oldest standing bridges in Japan.

It occurred to me once I finished writing "Shinkyo Bridge" that there was still alot to be done with this character. He had tons of adventures still ahead, so I started thinking I would do a book of short stories following him. As if my tendency, that idea changed quite a bit by the time I started putting pen to paper. I'd researched the life of Miyamoto Musashi, identified important times of his life, and figured out a plot and six sub-plots which I could make into a book, incorporating ghosts, the supernatural, Japanese religion, and belief. Hopefully I'll have the time someday to actually write more than just the first story.

Anyway, check out "Shinkyo Bridge" here.

I hope this is just the beginning, and that my next publication will end up on paper. Thanks for reading, all.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Berserker Part 61

“Open the gates!”, Marhault screamed to his men, his sharp eyes making out human figures amid the ash and smoke that obscured the fields. He had made a grevious error and prayed desperately that he was the only person to pay for it.

With bolstering cries the men ran to the gates, grunting and swearing as they removed the heavy logs bracing the gates shut. Finally managing to wrestle them aside, two more teams of men hauled desperately on thick ropes attached to the doors. Their muscles strained and veins bulged beneath their skin as they dug into the churned earth and pulled with all their combined might. With a horrible shrieking of unoiled hinges the gates ponderously swung wide open to reveal a rabble of smoke-stained men and women determinedly forcing jelly-like muscles to carry them through the flaming gauntlet.

While the leading members of the group gained entry to the walled haven, this was not so for all of them. Just as their goal was upon them and relief was in sight, the smoking hell behind them belched forth more horrors.

The remaining orcs and goblins streaked to the slow moving humans, the clothes on their backs smoking and angry red burns raised on their pebbly skin lent their flat slapping feat wings. Quickly catching up to the lagging members of the group the frenzied goblins swarmed over them and pulled yet more struggling victims to the ground where they were swiftly dispatched.

Seeing the travesty before him, Marhault screamed his men into line the wall. The
archers quickly nocked arrows and took aim, their eyes blurred by tears from the stinging smoke. Hearing the order to loose, they sent their darts winging forth to stick five of the enemy to the ground like pincushions, most of the shots going wide to miss the still vulnerable men and women. yet the fallen’s places were taken by more Goblins and orcs surging toward the open gate, no longer caring about the fleeing humans and only thinking of saving their own hides.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Berserker Part 60

Fleek struggled to his feet. Free at last! Joyously he danced away from the accursed wagon, only to dropped to his feet a few seconds later in growling anger. The harness the humans had put on him still chained him to the overturned wagon.

Seeing the approaching Goblins and Orcs he cried out to them for help. They all passed him at a dead run, not even bothering to glance at the shackled Gnoll. Curious to see what would make them ignore an ally in distress, he looked up to see what they had been fleeing from.

He whimpered upon beholding the raging inferno sweeping through the fields. The fire growing and strengthening as it fed greedily on the dry hay, gouts of flame shooting high into the air, blocking out the sun.

Was it his imagination or was it coming closer?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Berserker Part 59

Millienya had already rounded up all the surviving members of the caravan when Lars finally reached her. Maybe forty refugees had survived. They had started out with easily twice that number, the sickly sweet smell of cooking flesh filling the air leaving no doubt in the minds of those assembled their as to what terrible fate befell the rest. Realizing the origin of the stench a few of the more emotional or less dazed adults retched uncontrollably. Somehow Kyle had managed to avoid the explosion that rocked the lead wagon and was participating in the sick display.

With the wagons either on fire or tipped over they all would be forced to travel by foot, abandoning their possessions in exchange for their lives. They had trudged perhaps a qaurter of the way back to the city in the smoke when a stragglerin the group fell to the ground. A goblin ripping avidly at his back, pulling up great strips of clothe and eventually skin before his cries attracted the attention of the rest. The goblin was swiftly cut down and friends kindly helped the wounded man to his feet.

Millienya could see in the distance the remaining few Orcs and Goblins charging forth to escape the flames. With the enemy’s mode of retreat cut off they desperately ran after the refugees, just as intent on escaping the flames as any creature. She was not the only one to have spotted their plight, a number of grim faced veterans turned around and planted themselves firmly to face the oncoming monsters.

Continuing onward the tide of frantic creatures crashed against the thin wall of resistance the stubborn fighters provided. For the time it took the greenskins to dispatch the valiant men, the refugees had gained a few hundred more strides. At the very cusp of the city walls, where the large ditches dug around the city created a chasm which the fire could not cross, the group ran desperately, breaking coughing and choking through the thick cover of smoke to a small window of fresh light provided by the ditch.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Berserker Part 58

Jarn saw the the comet whistle its way to the ground and explode, ending the lives of dozens and sending the world into panicked confusion. Silva shrieked in terror as the wagon they had occupied moments before caught fire, the oil treated canvas sizzled and popped with strikingly blue flame.

Their path back to the city blocked by the flaming wagon, Jarn grabbed hold of Silva’s wrist and plunged into the tall grasses. Regaining his bearings in the closely packed foliage, he set out back toward the city. After a few strides he wondered how the orcs could’ve possibly navigated in the thick plant life. At his great height his head just poked above the stuff, allowing him to keep an eye on his goal. Silva, however, was lost in the confines of the greenery and required that Jarn constantly stomp down a path in the stiff grass for her to follow in his wake.

After a few moments Jarn noticed the distinct odor of burning grass. Looking around, he saw that a great amount of the catapults’ payload had landed in the grass. The extremely flammable substances contained within those clay urns combined with the very dry grass which had yet to be scythed for cattle-feed created a flashfire.

Seeing the great fingers of flame racing across the ground sent a jolt of fear through him. Gripping Silva’s arm firmly he broke into a run. Crashing through the cursedly dense growth while pulling along a full grown woman despite her protests and carrying an extra twelve stone he could only manage a fast trot.

They were within five hundred strides of the city walls when the raging fire caught up to them. Jarn felt the increasing heat for some time before Silva cried out, the hem of her skirt had begun to smolder. She continued to run, knowing full well the extent of the danger they were in.

Flames arced out from either side of the fleeing three, passing them and arcing inward as if conciously trapping them. Meeting a wall of flame they were forced to angle to the right and began threading through a hellish maze of searing flame and shimmering heat.

Finally they came to a dead end. The two concious persons’ eyes tearing for the utter futility of their endeavor rather than because of the thick acrid smoke or choking ash raining down on them.

Jarn, saw that the wall before them was not more than a foot thick, bracing himself for the imminent searing agony he charged forth. Never reaching the wall, instead the ground dropped out from under them and they tumbled into darkness with Silva at his side and poor Selenne on his shoulder. The image that Jarn carried with him into the blackness was a scene of utter Stygian horror. A world dancing in flame, twisting and contorting as waves of heat distorted the world while ash and embers rained down to the blasted earth below.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Berserker Part 57

Lars continued his swordwork, wondering briefly if his heart would pop before his arms fell off. It seemed he had been fighting for hours his only moment of respite was during the magic display. He wasn’t sure who or what committed such a feat but as long as it kept killing goblins he wasn’t going to waste time and energy worrying about it.
Seeing a large orc in the rear shaking a club covered with porcupine quills at him he snarled in return, baring his teeth. But inwardly lars groaned, knowing they would be the death of him if something didn’t happen soon. The excessive numbers had been overwhelming at first, but now only a score of the goblins remained and maybe three dozen orcs all told. He would’ve given his side a fighting chance under normal conditions but the defenders had taken casualties as well, losing almost half of their original number. Also the footing had become treacherous, Lars had seen a number of men’s feet or ankles siezed by enemies they thought had been vanquished but still clung to life. Not being able to get free from the death-grip they were stuck were they were and quickly cut down by the rest of the enemy that still stood.
And like him all the rest of their group were worn, every thrust sent burning agony through their arms, every blocked attack felt as if their fingers would be wrenched from their sockets.
Tiredly managing to parry the clumsy thrust of a goblin, his other blade reflexively snaked forth, skewering it. As he withdrew his blade the orc that had been eyeing him decided to make good his threat. Charging Lars from his left, the arm which still grasped an outhrust saber.
With deceptive speed the orc brought its club down in a blurring arc. Lars, wishing to keep his arm, abandoned his left sword and dove rolling hard to his right, the huge club missing his head by inches and pounding heavily into the dirt. He came out of the roll and sprung to his feet before the Orc had recovered from its overlunge. Forcing his screaming muscles to respond, he in turn charged the Orc bringing his blade down at the thing’s neck.
To Lars’ dismay, his blow was stopped short by the leather wrapped haft of his opponents club. Lars was astonished at it’s sheer strength, despite his opponent being down on one knee holding his weapon high overhead it didn’t budge. It was like trying to move a mountain.
Coming easily to its feet the Orc pressed forth inexorably forcing Lars’ sword back face to face the Orc grinned horribly at Lars. With malice kin its eyes it jerked its head up, intent on using its sharp tusks to its adavantage in such close combat fighting.
Surprised by its move, Lars stumbled back and tripped over the corpse of a goblin. Like a hulking angel of death the Orc strode haughtily to the prone figure. It stopped with its club half raised for the killing blow, looking around curiously for the source of the high pitched whistling that had become more shrill for the past few moments.
Finally looking up it saw the flaming meteor hurtling straight toward it from the heavens. It barely had time to register that it was in danger before the missile struck a few feet behind the Orc. Upon striking it burst into hundreds of burning shards, sending sheets of flame in all directions.
The object’s placement was both useful and horribly damaging. Having dropped almost in the center of the fighting, both friend and foe alike were awash in fiery agony. Hair sizzling, lungs crisping from superheated air, the poor torches ran crazzily about seaching for an end to the pain.
The horses,which had been barely under control during the fighting, bolted madly. Spooked by the flames they no longer heeded the shouts or reins of their masters as they ran in all directions, breaking tack, dragging wagons, and flinging out terrified passengers.
The Orc that had stood so triumphant before Lars in it’s imminent kill saved his life, taking the brunt of the fiery blast and shielding Lars from harm. Rolling aside to avoid the flaming carcass from hitting him as it fell, Lars took the time to utter a few small prayers to the spirits of his ancestors that had most assuredly save him from death.
Stumbling to his feet, Lars looked around dazed from the sudden change of events. He saw that the fireball was not alone, having at least a dozen of its kind rocketing from the distant city. Momentarily he fancied that the men at the battlements saw him in peril and took action. Shaking himself to his sense he realized the utter stupidity of such a thought. The only other possible reason for their catapulting surfaced unpleasantly from the persistant fog his head seemed wreathed in. They were being sacrified in exchange for the deaths of the invading Orcs and Goblins.
Lars ran as quickly as the laws of physics would allow him, looking for his sister. She would know what to do.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Berserker Part 56

Millienya smiled to herself, after seeing the display of mystical power, the enemy had lost heart in their attack. Goblins ceased flying through the air, they most likely refused such a risky manuever after witnessing a friend exploding. Orcs still lurked around the edge of the grasses, becoming more daring by the moment. They realized that if the goblins were scattered to the winds then the human defenders would turn to the Orcs next.

With this in mind a few had slunk from the grasses to aid their diminutive comrades. Finally in daylight they all took on an olive green coloring.

The tallest standing only five and a half feet high they seemed like no large threat. However they compensated by being almost three feet wide at the shoulders with muscular arms and a barrel chest that tapered down to a thin waist and short skinny legs.

Unlike their cousins they possessed thick manes of black hair braided in all manner of styles. Below their heavy sloping brows were widely set red eyes with a flat nondescript nose in between. All these combined with a thick protruding lower jaw which sprouted two massive tusks gave the feral creatures a truly wicked visage.

They wore plain cloth or badly cured hides draped over them and tied at the waist for makeshift clothes. A few wore tightfitting shirts or leggings they had apparently taken from former battles. Additional armor was not necessary due to their inhuman ability to absorb damage. Pain just forced them into greater savagery. Millienya had seen an Orc with one arm and half of its face in bloody ruin rampage through four attackers before being spitted by spears.

Thankfully they were just as susceptible to Millienya’s poisons as any other living thing. She busily sent arrow after arrow into Orcs pressing the milling Goblins toward the defender, neither too keen on being the next victim to sorcerous powers .

She only hoped she could deplete their numbers sufficiently before the full number of the Orcs abandoned cover in the long grasses lest they be totally overun. Working with such a speed that coherent thought about the task was too slow, Millienya redoubled her efforts to aid the defenders, her hands seeming to work by reflex alone as the battle raged.