Tuesday, February 11, 2020

One of Those Days on Amazon

When I first wrote the original version of this short story, I kind of glossed over the section where Tole goes out and learns about his target. I just didn't give it much thought. When I decided to publish the story, it kind of hit me in the face just how slap-dick that section was. Add to that the fact the story was short, even for a short story, and I felt a small rewrite was in order. 

I'm still not completely happy with it, but I have come to discover that I'm never really happy with most of the things I write, draw, compose, or build. I eventually have to stop touching it up and just put it out, otherwise nothing would ever get done.

If you pick it up, I hope you enjoy it. If you do drop a review on it on Amazon. Hell, if you don't do the same. I need feedback to improve.  Cover and link below.


Wednesday, February 5, 2020

To Kill a War Leader Pt 10 - Back in My Element

The next morning Shala and I headed into the jungle of Orta'ahn to scout a village of relatively peaceful orcs for an attack they had no idea would come. I really needed to be scouting my way into and out of Na'Guk's hut, but since he decided I shouldn't go alone on this first mission, I guess that'll have to wait. All things considered I guess I could've been stuck in the jungle for a few days with someone much worse than Shala. 
The village we were to recon was a solid two-day hike through the jungle. We packed some dried fruits and meat along with about a gallon of water each. Shala also had a sling that she said would be suspended from a tree to sleep in. I asked her where I should get one. Apparently, it sleeps two. That should be...interesting. I would think it could be difficult to react to danger all wrapped up in a cocoon, but it's worked for them for as long as their history recalls. Who am I to question history?
Valsh met us at the gate on our way out. He gave us some healing salves and gave a blessing on our journey. Whatever. Shala seemed grateful, so I didn't give him any hell about it. He also handed me one of the short swords his tribe carry. On me it was closer to a full-length, two-handed thing. I handed it back and told him that thing would likely get me killed. I was carrying what I know, and that was good enough for me. Besides this is a scouting mission. If we get into a situation where I'd need something like that, shit would have definitely gone nine kinds of pear shaped.
Just before we walked out the gate Valsh took me aside and said, "Take these as well. They are for you. Shala is going to be moving quickly and you will likely be burning more calories than you would should you go alone. These are very potent, so do not eat more than one a day." Then he handed me a few bars of what looked like dried fruit, grains, and some congealed white shit that held the whole thing together. I took them and put them in the pouch at my waist. Then I turned and headed out the gate to join Shala who was waiting just at the edge of the jungle. Once I was there she turned and led us into the underbrush.
"We will need to keep alert," Shala said as she pushed aside some foliage. "Even though we aren't traveling far, the Great Jungle is still a very dangerous place to be. It is probably best that Na'Guk sent me with you. I know you are capable of taking care of yourself in a fight, but surviving the Great Jungle is another thing entirely."
I hadn't had a chance to tell her that I was perfectly at home in the jungle before she stopped walking and turned around," Tole, are even you listening to...what in the frigid depths of the Seven Hells are you doing?"
"Shhh," I scolded. "You'll frighten it." I gently took the leaf viper free from where it had wrapped itself around my arm and set it down on the jungle floor. Once there, it promptly slithered back into the underbrush. I looked up to see Shala staring at me with her mouth hanging open. "You should close your mouth before something dangerous gets in there. What? The snake? Happened all the time when I was out here before. I guess they sense the kindred spirit. Who knows?"
She whispered, "Just when I think I know the world, the gods see fit to remind me that I am really just a babe in a very old place." She finished with a touch of her forehead to mine, and then she turned and, shaking her head, continued our journey to the village of the Green Mountain Tribe.
As we traveled through the jungle on what I can only loosely describe as a path, I began to notice sounds in the underbrush to either side. Mostly it sounded like something running along beside us, but it was occasionally broken by a snarl usually followed by a screech of something dying. Every time that would happen Shala would halt and her head would snap in the direction of the sound. After several hours and the fourth or fifth time we heard something die just off of the path, she stopped and stood up straight.
"What's wrong?" I asked her stepping in close enough that I could smell her.
"I've never gone this far into the Great Jungle without having to defend myself at least once from a predator," she said looking around slowly. "Those sounds usually lead up to an attack, but nothing has happened. I'm more than a little perplexed. It's almost as if something is shadowing us and keeping us from harm. It is very disconcerting."
"Valsh told me he and the jungle have an understanding that lets him travel safely. Maybe some of his juju rubbed off on me while we were at his camp when I first got here. He said your gods brought me here for a purpose. Maybe they're watching me to be sure I finish my mission. Who knows? More importantly, who cares? All that matters to me is having a path relatively free of trouble. Let's keep moving."
Thanks to our unseen guardians we actually made really good time. When it finally got dark enough that Shala signaled a stop for camp we had covered right at three quarters of the distance to our destination. Valsh was right about one thing. Shala was moving fast, and I was spent despite having eaten almost an entire one of his special snack bars. They aren't bad by the way although I have no idea what the white shit is that holds them all together. It's probably best not to ask.
"We will camp away from the path. It would not be good for us to be discovered while we slept," Shala said as she led me through the brush to a small clearing about fifty yards into the jungle. She cleared a patch of earth and started a small fire. Once she was happy that it wasn't going to burn out she stalked off into the underbrush with a small bow in her hand.
She came back about ten minutes later with two small critters about the size of a big rabbit which she set about skinning and cleaning. She pulled a small pouch of what I guess are seasonings out of her small pack along with two long metal skewers. In short order, the little beasts were roasting and dripping fat into the flames which made a little sizzle every time one fell.
Shala sat on her haunches scanning the edge of the clearing like she was expecting an attack at any moment, so I asked her, "What are you watching for? No one knows we're out here, and we haven't seen another orc all day. Relax."
"Relaxing in the Great Jungle is a good way to become food. Besides, it's not what I am hearing that worries me. It's what I don't hear. The jungle is never this quiet. Something is always killing something, so the sounds of predator and prey are almost constant. Not here though. Not around you. It is very unsettling."
She was wrong of course. There were lots of sounds happening all around us. Maybe it was my training as a scout or maybe it was my complete inability to tune out sound (thank you ADHD), but in the time it took her to complete her thought I heard three things die within ten yards of our camp. The only difference was instead of a dying scream, these things died with a small whimper or maybe a quiet yelp like you'd make from getting stung by a bee. I'm guessing my reptilian friends were on guard duty.
I finished my...whatever that was...and settled back on a fallen tree limb. I drank some water and looked at her as she sat there scanning the foliage and cocking her head trying to hear what she was missing. Her braid was laying over her shoulder and was loosely attached to her top to keep it from snagging on random branches and to keep it close in a fight. 
She wasn't beautiful by Terran standards with a wide flat nose and prominent brow plus that green skin, but still there was something about her that I found enticing. Maybe it was that she could snap me like a dry twig if she took a mind to. Whatever it was that caught my attention, I was most definitely smitten. Not love though. I'm never going down that road again. Besides I'm not entirely sure Shala's people viewed it the same way we did back on Terra. You chose a mate by their strength and prowess in battle. There were many in her tribe better suited by that criteria. We enjoyed each other's company, and for now, that was enough.
I had gotten lost in my thoughts and hadn't noticed that she had stopped scanning around and was looking at me just as intently as I was looking at her.
"What are you looking at, Tole?"
"Huh? I was looking at you. You are fascinating to me. You're not like the females on my world at all. I'd be willing to bet you're not quite like the others on your world either. None of them even spoke to me much less had the heart to take me to their bed."
"If you'll recall, we really didn't spend that much time on the bed," she added.
"It's a figure of speech...oh, never mind. I forget that I can be plain spoken here. I'll work on it," I promised.
"Is it so different on your world? Do your women not wish their mates to be mighty and honorable?"
I shook my head and said, "There was a time when it was like that. Now, though, it is very different. It's almost as if the men of my world have surrendered and the women seem to prefer to have men that are cowed and compliant. I find that I am glad to be off of my home world. Don't get me wrong there are still warriors, but they are not the norm."
"Sounds like a very soft place," she said as she rose and came to sit beside me. "So, you're saying that sex on your world is, what, docile? Sounds boring."
"Oh, it's not boring, we just seldom need the skills of a healer afterward to put broken shit back together," I said with a light chuckle.
She just made a sound like she didn't believe a word of it and sat back on the log. We sat there for a good five minutes in silence before she stood and dropped her clothing on the ground and said,          "Show me."
"Here? Wouldn't that be letting our guard down in the 'Great Jungle'?" I asked throwing a little sarcasm in at the last.
"The gods seem to have an interest in keeping you safe. I trust them."
A little while later we were sitting by the fire using her sleeping sling for a blanket and watching the fire burn. She had slid down enough to lay her head on my chest. I could feel her tusk pressing into my pects and her breath blowing across my stomach.
"That was interesting," she said, "but I think I prefer my way. Your way left me with too much pent-up energy!" She ended that by rolling and throwing me to the other side of the clearing and coming up into a fighter's crouch. "Bring it little man!"
"I didn't hear you complaining about my size a short while ago," I yelled as I charged.
The rest of the night was a lot more interesting, and I doubt anything with an ounce of instinct for self-preservation stayed within a hundred yards of our camp until we had fallen asleep.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Hair On Fire? Check

I'm running in feverish circles and have been since mid-December. Ah the life of an accountant at year-end. W2s, 1095s, 940s, 1099s, and a thousand other forms with odd alpha numeric designations keeps rearing their ugly heads and reigniting the flames in my hair just as I thought I had them out.

Hopefully come February my world will sort itself out enough to devote brain matter to something other than work...like writing.  Meantime here's a chunk of the next chapter in "Dragons." Hope you enjoy it.


Training...Kind Of

        I sat there inside of a circle I'd drawn in the dirt with my dagger staring at an orcish rune I had also scribed in front of me inside of the circle. Valsh tells me it should help me focus while I try to reach my gift. All it's done so far is give me a headache. Every time I stare at it another image jumps into my mind and distracts me. I've never been able to concentrate for very long. I'm just too easily distracted. I'd harnessed that tendency to help build situational awareness, but I've never been able to turn it off. Consequently, my head is fucking killing me from trying.
        "GODDAMIT! This is just not going to work! Valsh, I'm just not gonna be able to do this. Every time I just start to concentrate on this scribbling a crescent moon keeps popping into my mind."
        I stood up and stepped forward to leave the circle and smashed my face into the invisible barrier. Valsh almost fell off of the log he was sitting on when he saw that.
        "Well," he said around choked laughter, "you can obviously close a circle. You can control the magic in The Bar to get where you want to go...most of the time, so you touch magic, believe it or not. Break the circle with your dagger before you break your nose."
        In spite of his confidence in my ability, I wasn't convinced. What he didn't mention was that it had taken me the better part of a morning to be able to close the circle. The other side of it was that I really wasn't interested in learning this shit. If Valsh was right, I really didn't have a choice. According to him, once that tap is on it doesn't turn off. It would continue to open and eventually drown me if I didn't learn to control the flow. Fuck...my...life.
        "What I do not understand," he continued, "is why the symbol isn't working. It is a meditation technique that has been used for millennia by my people."
        I looked him square in the eye and said, "Maybe that's the problem. You remember how well trying to train me like you'd train a pup worked last time don't you?"
        That brought another round of his raucous laughter as I took my dagger and broke the circle. I picked up a dirt clod and bounced it off his rock head. He stopped laughing for a second and then burst out even louder than before.
        "You are right, of course," he said once he calmed down. "I should have learned then that I cannot teach you using our ways. Try it again, but this time draw the symbol that keeps presenting itself to you. I am beginning to think that maybe it is your gift trying to tell you to do it your own way."
        I walked over to my packs and said, "After lunch. I'm starving like I've been working out all morning. I would never have guessed that this shit would be so much fucking work."
        We spent about an hour eating and talking. Food and water helped my headache go away, at least until Valsh started talking about magic and his theories on exactly what was going on with me. That put the pain right back in the old brain bucket.  When I finally gave the “migraine salute” by pinching the bridge of my nose, he stopped talking. That’s when I realized I could feel tension in the air that wasn’t coming from me.
        I looked up to see Valsh sitting stone still and staring behind me. If I didn’t know any better I would have thought he was afraid. Nah, not Valsh. Then I noticed he was chanting under his breath, gathering power to himself.
        “Tole. Do not move if you wish to live,” he said as he rose and unleashed a strike at something behind me.
        Then he sat back down with a look of complete and utter disbelief on his face. Now he was afraid. His hands were shaking, so I drew my daggers and spun.
        Serilla was there in her true form. Something in my mind told me she was getting ready to eat Valsh. I put my daggers away and started walking to her. I heard Valsh trying to move. That was when I realized she had countered what he had thrown at her and locked him in place. He was completely at her mercy, and I am willing to bet that was a new sensation for him.
        “Valsh. Meet my employer,” I said gesturing to Serilla. “Serilla, this is Valsh. Please don’t eat him.”
        She shimmered into her human form and walked towards me saying, “Are you sure, Killer? I’ve never eaten anything like him before. He might be delicious.” She smiled at me.
        “I’m sure. Why are you here?”
        I heard Valsh draw his first deep breath since this all began as she turned to me and said, “In all truth, I was watching you through the link from our Communion. I could tell you had not moved yet, and then I felt you touch the magic of my world. I did not know what that meant, so I came to make sure you were unharmed. I arrived to find you sitting and talking to that. What is that? It is NOT of my world.”
        I tried really hard not to laugh...I swear. I didn’t do a good job, but I tried. Serilla raised an eyebrow at me, and I got myself under control.
        "That is Valsh," I said with a flourish and a bow. "He is an orc and the shaman to the Deep Valley Tribe of the world called Orta'ahn, and he's one of the very few beings I've met in the multiverse that I consider a friend. We have been through a scrape or two since my first job for him almost...shit...two years ago. Has it been that long, Valsh?"
        "It has indeed," he said as he got to his feet. "What manner of creature are you? I have never been at anyone's mercy like I was just now. It was a truly memorable experience, but not one I would like to repeat."

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

To Kill a War Leader Pt 9 - Dining with a Madman

I know...I know...it's been a long time. Life has just been crazy, so that's all I'll say about that.  The bathroom remodel is done and a post is coming about that. Also the local high school is in the playoffs and with a kid in the band that eats up quite a bit of my time.  Anyway, here's the next bit in the book as it slowly leaks out of my brain.  Let me know if you see anything that's just terribly out of place.  One thing that is bugging me is that there is a lightness creeping into Tole's character, and I'm not digging it at all.  It actually worries me that my brain is plotting something bad for him, and I'm just not in the loop yet.  We'll find out together I guess.


I woke up in clothes so stiff from dried blood that I could barely move. My hair was matted with it, and I could feel it pulling at my skin when I tried to move. I decided I definitely needed to cleanup before our next meeting with Na'Guk. 
I don't think this shit is going to wash out though. Guess that means a trip back to The Bar.
"Hey Valsh," I say coming out of my room. "I think I'm going to go back to The Bar and swap out my clothes and check in with Bobby to make sure he hasn't sold my shit and rented out my room. I shouldn't be long. Besides, I've been wanting to try out this ink work you did on my arm. Valsh?"
A quick look around told me that I was talking to an empty room. Well, he is the village shaman with responsibilities to everyone under his care. I figure I'll probably be back before he is anyway, so I touch the runes on my forearm and a portal appears right in front of me. I can see my room at The Bar just on the other side, so I step through and close the door behind me.  My head swims for a second from being in two dimensions at once. It clears relatively quickly, and I start stripping off the nasty shit I'm wearing.
I step into the wash basin that's set into the floor in one corner of my room and activate the portal that serves as my shower. Warm water cascades down from just above my head and the last couple of weeks of dirt, sweat, and blood flow away down a drain portal to somewhere else. I had almost forgotten what it felt like to be clean. A bonus was that the warm water was soothing on my sore muscles. Rest is good, but a warm shower is the next best thing to heaven.
After I was dressed and felt almost human again, I headed down to the main room to grab some food and a drink and just check in with Bobby. He was behind the bar like always, talking to the few customers sitting there and wiping the top of it with the rag he usually kept tucked in his belt. He looked up as I came down the stairs and excused himself from the conversation. He got to my seat about the same time I did.
As I was taking my seat Bobby asked, "You done already?  I figured this one would take longer than that. From what Valsh was telling me when he was here, this wasn't going to be a sneak up, stab, and get out kind of gig."
"I'm not, and it isn't. Why can't this shit ever be easy like that? Always some fucking complication that makes it harder. Long story man.  I just came back to clean up and gather a few more things I might need. Can I just get some Scotch and a bowl of stew? I've been missing that stuff. Then I've got to get back."
Don't get me wrong, Valsh's cooking is good, but he's not Bobby. If I thought the shower was the next best thing to heaven, the food and that Scotch was like eating on the right side of the Pearly Gates. I took my time working through two bowls of the stuff and three glasses of Scotch. While I ate, I told Bobby the story so far. He threw lots of "uh-huh" and 'hmmm" and even an "interesting" type of comments at me in all the appropriate places.
When I finished he said, "Sounds like you've got a lot of work ahead of you. You'd better get back to it. Oh, and a piece of advice from some one with a few more years in the multiverse than you. Find a way to make Shala break it off herself. If she's attached herself to you at all, it won't be an easy thing for you to walk away. Orc females can get rather possessive of men they believe they have a claim to."
"Noted," I said rising to head back upstairs, "and thanks." 
"Hey Tole, before you go someone left this for you," Bobby said and then he pitched me a token. Nice to know the multiverse gonna keep me working for the foreseeable future.
"Never seen 'em before.  They said just rub the center of the token when you’re ready to talk, and they'll come back. Must not be too desperate."
Oh goody. I love surprises. 
I nodded and headed back up to my room. I dropped the token on my table beside my bed and gathered up another couple of changes of clothes. Then I opened a portal back to Orta'ahn trying to land it close to the time I left and in Valsh's hut...I missed. I got the timing right, but instead of Valsh's place I stepped through into Shala's hut. She was sleeping, and she looked like she wasn't hurting. I let myself out quietly. She must've been on my mind, and the magic of The Bar put the portal where I was focused.
I found Valsh leading a ceremony over a new orc pup. He blessed the child and prayed for him to be a strong and worthy warrior plus a lot of other orcish bullshit. It took quite a while, so I kind of hung around and watched. It was interesting. The last part of the rite involved cutting the palm of both parents and the pup and mingling their blood in a small cup. Valsh then painted runes on the pup's forehead and chest and gave one final prayer.
Once he was done and they had left, he walked straight over to where I was sitting and plopped his rather large orcish ass down on the log bench next to me. We sat there for a few minutes before he said, "You look better. Where did you find time to bathe and clean your clothes?"
"Cut the bullshit and ask me what you want to know. You want to know why I jumped the wall like a fool and took on those orcs risking the entire reason I am here."
"The question has crossed my mind," he said.
"To tell you the truth I didn't even realize what I was doing until I was in the middle of the fight. I'm not sure what happened. I saw her being carried and wanted the ones responsible dead, plain and simple."
"To hear the ones on the wall tell it you fought like nothing they had ever seen. Some even say you moved like a ghost among the raiders making their movements look slow and clumsy by comparison. I knew you were skilled, but what are you?" he asked.
"Really fucking lucky," I replied. "How long until our meet up with Na'Guk? Is there anything I need to know to do or not do?"
"No, this meal is informal. I think your actions today have won you some favor with him. He will likely give you your first task as a scout. We will gather in the Great Hall in about two hours, just after sundown."
"Good," I said and we got up and headed back to his hut.
Valsh and I entered the Great Hall together, but Shala rose and met me at the door and led me to a seat beside her that was directly to Na'Guk's left. Valsh found a spot across the table from me to Na'Guk's right. He looked a little uneasy. We neither one knew what the War Leader was going to ask me to do, so I guess I can understand how he felt. I wasn't worried. After the things I had done for Command in my previous life, there really wasn't much that could shock me anymore.
I don't know what I expected, but after the festivities a few nights ago what I was not expecting was a civilized dinner. There was a nicely set table surrounded by cushions. Oh, and cutlery, there was cutlery. Other than carving knives, that was not something I had seen up to that point. Don't misunderstand me, by formal dining standards back on Terra they had a long way to go, but it was nice.
While it was nice, I was in a room full of warriors with short fuses. My brain kicked over into threat assessment mode without me even wanting for it to happen. First thing that caught my eye was that, except for Na'Guk's personal guard, no one was carrying. Pointy things were surrendered at the door. With the exception of the cutlery, the room was "safe."
Speaking of the guard, they were every-fucking-where. There was the standard pair by the door, inside and out, and a couple behind Na'Guk. There was also one standing at ease about every four feet the entire way around the Great Hall. A quick head count gave me a total of thirty of the fanatical bastards. Can you say paranoid boys and girls? I knew that you could. Having to fight my way out of this would rank very high on the suck-o-meter. Right, play nice.
The only other really odd thing was the pup sitting right next to Na'Guk. It wasn't until we started eating that I figured out his place. He tasted everything set before the War Leader. I wouldn't think that the orc honor-based society would allow for poisoning, but if what Valsh had been telling me was true, paranoia was trumping history and heritage all over the place.
The meal lasted for hours. Shala spent quite a bit of it feeding me and nuzzling her forehead to the side of my head. Her breath in my ears sent little waves of electricity down my spine. Could have been the little sublingual growl that accompanied each exhale I'm not sure. What I was sure of was her intention once this meal was done. I don't really think either one of us was paying much attention to anything but each other through most of the festivities.
Once the party started to wind down, Na'Guk raised his hand and brought silence to the room. When everyone was quiet and focused on him he said, "Today one of our hunting parties was attacked, unprovoked, by our new enemies from the Green Mountain tribe. Fortunately, tragedy was avoided, and the invaders were dealt with by our adopted brother." He turned to face me and continued, "You may be small and not of this world, but no one here can deny you have the heart of an orc and the prowess or a warrior. Welcome Little Brother to the Deep Valley tribe."
The proclamation was met with a roar and a cheer from everyone in the room. Once that quieted down again Na'Guk continued, his anger continually building until spittle flew with every word, "We cannot let this attack go unanswered! I will see them all dead! Every warrior, every huntress, every pup! The villages will be burned and the earth where they stood cursed to never bring life again! The scourge that is the Green Mountain orc will vanish from the face of Orta'ahn!"
This proclamation is only met with cheers from the War Leader's guard. Everyone gives a half-hearted agreement. Don't want to be the one he suspects isn't behind Na'Guk one hundred percent. I looked over at Valsh who had lowered his head in defeat. He slowly raised his gaze to mine and the look in his eye told me everything I needed to know. He shook his head slowly and lowered his gaze back to the floor.
A large hand clamps down on my shoulder just as I turn my head from Valsh. Na'Guk lowers his face down to mine and says," Little Brother, I have a task for you. Valsh says you were sent by the gods to help us prepare for this battle. It is time for you to fulfill your role."
Brother you have no fucking idea how right you are. Your crazy ass needs to die.
He looks at me from under his thick brow and continues, "I want you and Shala to scout the jungle between here and the nearest Green Mountain village. Find weaknesses in their village defense, maybe even create more, and then come report back to me. I want the first village destroyed within the week." Then he turned and left the Great Hall through a door in the back wall I hadn't noticed before.
After he was gone Shala furrowed her brown and said, "I am afraid our War Leader is confused and innocent orcs will die because of it. Those were not Green Mountain orcs. They were from a coastal tribe we attacked without cause last year. He is the War Leader though, and where he leads we follow."
Valsh walked up about this time and congratulated me on being adopted by the tribe, even if it was under the cloud of the declaration of war form Na'Guk.
At the mention of my 'adoption' Shala perked up. "Oh, that reminds me. Since you don't have any tusks to display your beads, I made you something. I hope it honors you. The tusk is from one of the four you slew protecting me."
In her hand was a leather thong threaded through the base of a tusk. The tusk itself had two rings through it with four beads on one and two on the other. I turned and looked at Valsh who said, "For the ones you killed at my camp." He finished with a nod then turned and left Shala and I alone.
I took the thong and placed it around my neck dropping it inside my shirt. Then I looked Shala in the eye and said, "You honor me. Thank you."
She lowered her head to look me straight in the eye and curled her lip and let a quiet growl escape. I returned it, and we broke into a run for her hut. I fell asleep bruised and bleeding a little, but I was at peace for the first time in a couple of years. I dreamt of the blood and death to come.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Tingling Fingers - The Return

Well, I was looking and other than blog posts I really haven't written anything in just over a month. I didn't realize it'd been that long until I stopped and thought about it.  Life has been coming at me non-stop and now my carpal tunnels has decided it's a great time to come back. JOY!

We're closing in on the launch of our new service at work. Probably about a month or so to go. Right now I'm wrapped up in interviewing prospective supervisors and finalizing the list of services we will offer. 

Finally we're in the process of remodeling a bathroom at home and that is not something I would wish on an enemy. Remodeling is a painful process.

Ok, I'm done with the poor pitiful me bit. I am working on a new chapter in both To Kill a Warleader and The Affairs of Dragons as well as a small rewrite on One of Those Days, which is on deck to be the next short story for Amazon release.

Oh wait! I forgot the truck I'm working on. It should be coming home from my friend's shop in the next few weeks. His place is just over 3 hours away, so I don't get out there as much as I'd like.

Hang tough everyone. I'm not dead yet.


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Working on Terra on Amazon

I really don't enjoy doing covers, but they're a necessary evil. I have literally been trying to find a cover for this story since I wrote it almost a year ago. I got my first check from Amazon and it was enough for me to buy a picture I liked for the cover. 

All of the editing has been done for a LONG time, so once the cover was chosen it was good to go. Since I'm finally happy with the cover and  the story, I hit the submit button.

Like the first two, it's Kindle only. Here's the link and a view of the cover.  I'm planning to consolidate all of these into a dead tree version once there's enough of them.

If you pick it up, I hope you enjoy it. If you do drop a review on it on Amazon. Hell, if you don't do the same. I need feedback to improve.  Cover and link below.


Monday, October 28, 2019

To Kill a War Leader Pt 8 - Letting the Killer Out

Sorry this has been a such a slow process. I just looked up and realized it's been almost two weeks since I posted anything. Work has gotten all kinds of crazy as we get ready to launch a completely new service offering, and guess who's been tapped to be on the development and implementation team. Add to that spending the last 4 days in a snot dripping near-coma and well, not much writing has been getting done.

I do have a challenge in front of me. The writer's group is doing an exercise with a deck of cards with writing prompts on them. Lucky me drew a 'writing outside your genre" card and have to do 100-500 words of a romance. This will not end well.

I'm close to pushing out "Working on Terra" to ebook. Hopefully have it done by the end of the week. I hate doing covers.

Oh, I changed a bit of canon from a previous chapter to this one. I changed the beads on the orc tusk rings to one per kill instead of two. It got confusing. Hope you enjoy it.


I must've looked pissed because everyone gave me a wide berth on my way back to the hut. I got there without having to say a word to anyone. I mean I was pissed, so I guess that makes sense. I went straight to the beer keg Valsh kept there and drew myself a big tankard of the stuff.  I drank about half of it in the first pull, refilled it, and went to the cushions to sit and drink the rest. My adrenaline was still up from the fight, and I needed to calm down. 
By the time I had finished a second tankard and found some food, my mood had greatly improved, and the world had taken on this kind of hazy glow. I had also had time to reflect on the trial and realized how lucky I had gotten. If that orc was half the seasoned warrior I took him to be he should have beaten me bloody. The only reason I could think for his stupidity was over-confidence.  He just flat hadn't seen me as a threat. That particular fuck up has cost more than one person their life. Lucky for Gujek I hadn't been paid to kill him, or he'd be laying in a puddle of blood and shit right now.
"Sorry I did not get back here sooner," Valsh said as he opened the door. "I had to stay and make sure Gujek was not going to die from the blow you gave him to the head. The stubborn ass refused healing. He always does. That is why he still has that limp and the crooked jaw. It will be significantly more crooked now I fear. Oh, he sent you this."
The tusk I had knocked out of Gujek's head landed at my feet with the beaded rings still attached.
"He said you had earned it, and he deserved the beating you gave him. That was a magnificent blow. I thought you intended to kill him," Valsh finished as he drew his own tankard of beer.
"Never would've happened," I replied. "I only kill who or what I'm paid to unless it's to save my own hide. I didn't get the feeling he wanted to kill me...just disgrace me and maybe test your skills as a healer. That's why he lost. He didn't take me seriously. No one here will make that mistake again."
Valsh nodded slowly and said, "True enough. We meet with Na'Guk again in the morning. I see you've eaten. If you don't need healing, it's time for my evening prayers."
I told him to go ahead and got up to go to my room. About halfway there I heard someone approach the door to the hut. I opened it before they had a chance to knock and found Shala standing there with a platter covered in meats and fruit which she offered to me.
"You were there?" I asked.
She smiled and said, "Fierce for one so small. I never doubted you, white skin."
"Tole," I corrected. "My name's Tole."
"Tole then. Would you like to come to my hut for the evening meal with me?"
"Lead on, Shala."
I could've sworn I heard Valsh say, "heart of an orc" before he began his chanting.
When Shala left to see to her duties for the village the next day, I wasn't nearly as beaten and bruised as I had been the last time. Don't get me wrong; I still hurt. It just didn't feel like I'd gone through an eight-round cage match this time. I've been a fighter all of my life, but sex by combat is definitely something different. I'm still not fully decided on how I feel about it, but I'm willing to keep trying until I can make up my mind.
I was making my way back to Valsh's hut, massaging a sore shoulder, and thinking about smooth green skin stretched over muscle when a horn blast broke my reverie. I looked up to see orc warriors, weapons in hand, running toward the outer walls of the village. I found Valsh about half a minute later coming out of his hut.
"What's going on?" I yelled as we turned and headed towards the main gate.
"The hunting party was attacked by another tribe and are being pursued back to the gate. We go to defend their escape and keep the attacking force from invading our village."
When I got to the wall above the gate I could see a party of about five orc females running down the path from the tree line towards the main gate. One of them had a sixth over her shoulder. The female being carried had several arrows protruding from her back and wasn't moving. I recognized the dagger on the side of the one being carried as the one Shala wore. That realization shifted my focus. Someone is about to die...horribly.
I realized that the pointy things on me were for stealthy killing and not suitable for this kind of fight. I wanted something with a little more heft to it. I quickly looked around for something I could use to invoke death and mayhem. 
The orc to my right was wielding a sword in one hand and a club in the other. He also had a reasonably good dagger on his hip which I pulled from the sheath as I leapt over the wall. As I ran towards the orcs pursuing the huntress group, I started my threat analysis. There were four of them carrying bows, each with a mostly full quiver of arrows at their hips. I could see the pommels of the short swords on their opposite hips as well. They didn't expect to have to go hand-to-hand, or they would be carrying something bigger. They really didn't expect to meet me, or they wouldn't have come at all.
As I passed the orc carrying Shala, I jumped up and pulled the dagger from Shala's waist as well. Once I hit the ground again, I picked up my pace. I wanted to hit them on the first pass at a dead run. They haven't even noticed me yet, or if they have they've dismissed me as a pup and not a threat. Big fucking mistake, and it'll be the last they get to make.
One of them finally realizes I'm actually charging them and fires an arrow in my direction. Adrenaline rushes headlong into my blood, and everything slows down. I can see the tip of the arrow as it comes towards me. I could have counted the number of times that the shaft flexed as it flew. When it reaches me, I feel like I could have reached out and caught it in my bare hand. Instead I flick the tip Shala's dagger at it dismissively and bat it out of my way.
I can see the realization set in as I leap out of the grass at the orc who fired it. I put a dagger through each eye and my feet firmly in his chest. My momentum carries him over backward, and I jump and roll as he hits the ground. I complete my roll coming to my feet and thrusting both daggers hilt-deep into the chest of the orc behind him. I can feel the pulse of his heart through the blades telling me I struck true. I pull them both free as he falls. 
That's two. Who's next?
I hear the roar from behind me that answers my question, so I duck my head and pivot to the left as his sword cuts the air where I was standing. I step inside his arm's reach and drive Shala's dagger into the artery in his thigh and slice outward opening the entire inside of this leg to let the blood out. The arterial spray covers my arm and thoroughly wets the chest of my shirt. He roars in pain and drops to a knee giving me a clear shot at the bottom of his chin. I drive the other dagger up and into his brain and watch as his eyes roll up into his head.
The last of the group yells something about a white skinned jungle demon and heads for the tree line. I am not inclined to let him leave, so I gather a bow from one of the fallen around me. It was almost a short bow to these gorillas, but for me it's bordering on a longbow. Doesn't matter though because I have enough adrenaline rushing around in me to body slam an elephant. I knock an arrow, draw, and find my target. The back of his head snaps into focus and looks about the size of a beachball. I pick a target at the base of his skull where his brainstem should be and let fly. My ears are met with a satisfyingly wet "thok" as the arrow hits home, and he falls limply to the ground.
Putting the two borrowed daggers through my belt, I take one of the short swords and then set about the process of finishing my work severing each of these mother fucker's heads from their bodies. I tie their top knot braids together and fling them over my shoulder and start back to the village. The fog of combat finally starts to clear and my thoughts settle on Shala. By the time I get to the gate, I'm almost at a sprint again.
As I enter the village, I drop the heads on the ground. Valsh is knelt over Shala chanting, and I can see the glow of the healing magic he is weaving. There are four arrows on the ground next to her in a small puddle of her blood. The other huntresses are watching Valsh intently, and finally Shala draws a ragged, wet sounding breath.
Valsh sits back on the ground with a weary look on his face. "She will live," he says. Then he turns and scans the crowd. I'm pretty sure he's looking for me.
"I'm here Valsh," I replied.
"Are you hurt?" he asked, getting up slowly. That's when I realized that other than the huntresses, everyone else was staring at me. Most of them had their mouths open. Some were whispering something about gods touched. That is also when I realized I was covered almost head-to-toe in blood.
"Relax Valsh. None of it is mine," I assured him.
He looked over my shoulder at the heads on the ground and asked, "What did you do? I saw you go over the wall, but I was called to heal Shala. Tole...what did you do?"
"I handled it," I said.
A weak voice said, "Tole. Come here you fool."
I turned and went to Shala's side. I found a relatively clean spot on my pants leg to clean her blade. I held it out to her and said, "It served me well."
She took the dagger, slipped it into the sheath, and pulled my forehead to hers and said, "Thank you." Then she lay back again and fell asleep while the others carried her back to her hut. I watched them until they rounded the corner, and then I turned to go back to Valsh's hut. I was met by the prodigious ass of Na'Guk, but I managed to stop before I ran into it. He was barking orders to his warriors about gathering the corpses and burning them outside of the village as a warning to any who would dare try this again.
Once he was done he turned to me and held out his hand. In it was a golden ring and four gold beads with holes through the center. One for each orc I had killed. I took them and bowed slightly at him.
"The heads are yours. What would have us do with them?" he asked.
"Whatever your tradition demands. I don’t have any use for them," I replied.
He ordered them hung from the walls. I was ok with that decision. We exchanged another nod, and I left to make my way back to Valsh’s hut. I needed food and a drink and possibly some sleep.  Any time I let the killer out like that it burns a lot of calories. I usually end up drunk and sleeping for a couple of days as well.  After two days in a row of fighting like that plus the night I had spent with Shala, I was completely fucking exhausted.
Once I got back to the hut, I started to shake. Adrenaline is a bitch and the crash afterwards can be extreme. Couple that with the emotions I had felt and I was tired to my soul. I barely managed to drink two tankards and eat two plates of meat, cheese, and fruit before I passed out on the cushions in the “living room” of Valsh’s place. Valsh came in some time later and woke me up.
“I have just come from checking on Shala one last time,” he said. “She is going to be fine. She was the last to run, making sure that the others were safely away. The cowards shot her in the back as she fled. The party leader went back for her against Shala’s wishes. I told her what you did. She wanted me to tell you that she wants to see you as soon as she is well.”
The haze was starting to clear, so I went to get more beer. Once my mug was full I said, “I’m glad she is going to be ok, but I don’t think I can see her again. My emotions got away from me today, and in my business that is a fast way to get killed. I need to get this fucking job done and go.”
“That is your decision to make and will be your responsibility to tell her. Just let me know when you plan to do it so I can be elsewhere. Oh, Na’Guk wants to see us in his hut for tonight's meal. You made quite an impression on him today. In the meantime, get some rest. You have earned it.”
I took my drink and headed to my room. I hate when shit gets complicated.

One of Those Days on Amazon

When I first wrote the original version of this short story, I kind of glossed over the section where Tole goes out and learns about his tar...