Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas from The Bar

On behalf of Tole, Bobby, Serilla, Valsh, and all of the other voices in my head, here's wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

When Sinuses Attack

I've woken up with drainage and a throat that felt like someone's been working it with a bottle brush for the last couple of days. I tend to get bronchitis very easily and my wife loves to point out when I should have gone to the doctor sooner, so today the sore throat and what not was bad enough I actually went to see the local saw bones.She looked in my gullet and took a step back saying, "Ima swab you."

Strep tests suck. I managed to not yack on the pretty lady with the sadistic q-tip and luckily it wasn't strep or anything else bad yet. So I take my Z-Pack and Mucinex and wander through my hazy life for the next few days.

In the meantime I went back and looked over Working on Terra. Lawdog has been nudging me to publish it but there are just too many parts of it that are dependent on previous material. So my illness addled brain decided I could sort that out. Three hours and six hundred more words later I now have a 5,000 word short story all so I could use the word "dearth" in a sentence.

I had planned to give it to my primary grammar editor tonight since she's done with grad school for the semester.  I can even remember thinking, "Don't forget the thumb drive." as I was packing my shit to come home. 

Guess what? It's still in my other pc. Being sick is awesome, but it's even better with a little ADHD thrown in for fun. I'm gonna go lay down now.


Friday, December 7, 2018

A Drowning Pickup

This just in from the Isn't That Interesting Department...

But first some backstory.

The area I live in suffered an ungodly drought from 2010 through 2015. We were literally about to start deciding who could have water today when the rains came. Everything flooded. We went from having lakes that were about gone to lakes that were running over their spillways in literally a couple of weeks. It was amazing.

During that time I developed a habit of looking over the side of a bridge I cross every day on my way to work to see just how close it was to the bottom of that bridge and to see how far up into the flood plains it had gone.  It's been over three years since and I still look every time. I probably will for the rest of my life.

All that being said I was not prepared for this...

Now that old boy is a good ways out into the water.  A helluva lot farther than he could have driven. Especially when you consider that this was the second day after I saw it. The first day the water was over the hood, but I was too awestruck to stop and take a photo.

That part of the river is surrounded by pastureland not roads, so they couldn't have been going THAT fast. Could they? I mean if you were driving through the countryside and were surprised by the sudden appearance of a river brakes would come into play.  It did prompt a conversation among some friends about exactly how he got that far into the water.

Here is the winning suggestion:

Has to be the case. I can almost hear the "YEEEEEHAAAAW!"


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

To Kill a War Leader - Pt. 4 - Ambush

Sometimes as I write I have these "forehead slap" moments when I realize I needed to give Tole something to accomplish his job, and I forgot to do it.  That requires me to go back and do a little more editing. This bit is a shining example. Tole needs a blowgun and darts. Tole did not bring one in the original equipment load out, so I had to go back and find a way to get him one.  Part three now has that bit of story added. I was also told I'm a "seat of the pants" writer by some friends (specifically Lawdog and OldNFO) and this just drives that point home for me.  Hope you enjoy it.

The next morning I was awakened by shouting. I couldn’t understand a damned thing being said, but the tone was clear enough. Someone was most unhappy with someone else. I’ve heard yelling like that before, albeit in English and not orcish, and it usually precedes someone doing something decidedly lethal to someone else.

Peering out of the door of the hut where I’ve been sleeping and being very careful not to present a target, I assess what’s going on. The sight that greets me is a group of four orcs surrounding Valsh.  The one whose face I could see had a look in his eye hatred and barely contained violence that I knew all too well. They also had a slightly different hue to their skin. Where Valsh was as green as the foliage of the jungle he lived in, these fellas were a sandy brown like the color of a desert. That combined by the way they kept glancing into the undergrowth around the camp told me these boys were a long way from home.

Valsh said something to the one with the most adornments on his face…piercings, tattoos, and such…that I am guessing was the orcish equivalent of “fuck off” because that fella lost his shit. He roared like an angry bear and hit Valsh in the breadbasket with his club. That was all the incentive I needed. I’m not saying Valsh can’t handle himself in a fight.  One-on-one or even two-to-one I think he’d have as solid shot at coming out on top. Magic is a helluva of an equalizer, but four-to-one is just a lot to ask. Besides, a dead employer can’t pay his debt. I guess it’s time to show Valsh what he’s paying for. Besides it would be good to test this snake venom on something resembling my final target anyway.

Quickly strapping on my two long daggers, I grab my blowgun and one of the syringes filled with venom. So far I’ve only managed to milk enough venom for three, so I don’t want to use more than one in the job takes more than one. I head out through the back door of the hut to look for a position to strike from. Well it’s not a back door per se. It’s more like a scuttle space I dug under the wall beneath my bunk as a bolt hole in case I needed it to get away from Valsh. What can I say? I’m a realist and all that.

Skulking around the hut takes a minute, so I use the time to put together a plan of attack, or at least as much of one as I ever do. I’m considerably smaller than even the smallest of our four visitors by a solid foot. I’ve got to bring them down to my level if I want anything even close to an advantage. Luckily most bipeds are similar in the way we’re put together. We all have something like a hamstring, and we all have something like an Achilles tendon. I just hope that once I make my move, Valsh picks up on what I’m doing takes out his share.

Once I have a clear view of the group again, I assess the situation. The orcs are arranged in a four point circle around Valsh. One has his back to me. One is to his left, and one to his right. The fourth is out of my field of view on the other side of Valsh. My target for the dart will be the one to my left. Second target will be the one with his back to me. If I have to engage a third it’ll be the one to my right, but hopefully Valsh will be in the fight by then, and I can focus on just the two.

In order to make sure I would know where to strike when I kill the War Leader , Valsh has been kind enough to teach me about orc physiology. Here’s hoping these new orcs are built the same way. The attack will have to be fast, so I am going to follow my shot and assume I hit what I’m aiming at. Drawing the dagger for my left hand, I turn it point down. That way I can use that hand to steady the blow gun while still having it ready to use.

Blowgun loaded, the familiar sensation of adrenaline slams into my brain and everything slows down as I draw in a deep breath and hold it. Once I am sure I’m on target I give the blow gun a quick, hard puff of air and drop it. Before it has even hit the ground I am sprinting into the clearing while drawing my other dagger with my right hand. I see the orc I fired the dart at swat at his neck just behind and below his ear as my shot hits home. He gets a confused look on his face that freezes in place as he falls over backward, stiff as a board.

I reach my second target at about the same instant that the first one hits the ground. He has broken down into a fighter’s stance and has his head on a swivel scanning to his left. The stance opens a pretty good gap between his legs, so I drop into a slide dragging both daggers across the back of his heels. I bounce to my feet on the other side and come around in a slice at about his knee level.

Have I mentioned that orcs are tough? Don’t ever doubt it. This guy was falling to his knees and obviously in a lot of pain, but he still managed to hit me as he fell. It knocked me to the ground in front of the third orc. I lay there with the world out of focus waiting for death. When a second or so had passed and I was still alive, I decided to get back in the fight shaking my head to clear my vision. I could feel the heat of the blood running out of my ear and down my neck, so I knew he’s probably fractured something and likely given me a concussion.  I’d just have to worry about that later.

Halfway back to my feet, I promptly threw up.  Yup, definitely  concussed. As I looked around I could see Valsh just wailing the fuck out of the big orc that hit him earlier. The one I expected to hit me was laying on the ground with a smoldering wound in his chest where Valsh had apparently applied a healthy dose of orc battle magic. The one I had hobbled was working his way towards me on his hands and knees with murder in his eyes. Right, first thing’s first then.

I stagger toward him like I’d been drinking all day. This should be fun. He reaches out to grapple with me, like I’m stupid enough to let that happen, and I put a slice through the palm of his hand that’s deep enough to sever most of the tendons in his palm. He roars in frustration, and I step inside his reach to drive the twin daggers through his eyes. Well, that’s what I intended to do anyway. He managed to turn his head, so all I really did was slice open his forehead and the back of his skull. Don’t’ think I even scratched the bone, and he caught me in the back with his good hand knocking me clear of him again.

Fighting orcs sucks eight kinds of donkey dick. They are some damned tough critters. Getting back to my feet, I make a mental note that in the future I will only fight an orc if I can cheat like hell. I turn back around to find that bleeding, angry pile of meat is closing in on me again. This time, I’m going to go at this a little differently. The plan now is to not let this fucker touch me again…mainly because I don’t know if I can take another shot and live.

Despite the concussion and the now likely fractured rib or three, I’m still a little faster than he is crawling around on his one good arm. I back away from him to give me time to assess. Nothing I do is going to put him down instantly which means I’m going to have to take another shot if I go in hand-to-hand. File that as the last resort. Sure would be nice if I had some help.  Where the hell is Valsh?

“Hey Valsh,” I yell as I take another shaky step backwards. “You about done over there?”

“I’ve been done for a while now. I just didn’t want to interfere in your fight. You started it. You finish it,” he said with a tone so serious I knew he meant it.

Well fuck me. Nothing to do it but to do it, and if I die, I die.

Breath is the first thing to get under control. Unchecked adrenaline will cause bad decisions, and the only way to burn it is with oxygen. Next get the fear back in its box. Fear is healthy. Fear will keep you alive, but uncontrolled fear is a weakness. With all of that done, I feel like a killer again. This guy is just a wounded animal fighting to survive. That means he’s probably doing all of the bad things I just mentioned, and I can use that.

I feign an attack at his good arm which he instinctively pulls back exposing that side of his neck. My foot sliding as I stop has built a pretty big pile of dirt at the leading edge. I drop to one knee, releasing the dagger in my off hand as I do and scoop up a handful of dirt flinging it in his face. I follow it in and sink the dagger into his neck in the same spot I put the dart in his buddy a few minutes ago. I pull the dagger out in a slicing motion and fall back out of his reach. The gout of blood is spectacular. Adrenaline means accelerated heart rate which equates to bleeding out at a helluva rate.

It takes less than thirty seconds for his face to settle to the ground in the center of the growing pool of blood. I stand there panting watching him die for a few of those seconds before I fall on my ass as the last of my adrenaline burns away. My head swims and I almost throw up again. What the hell? I’ve never had adrenaline put me out before…oh yeah…concussion. My vision starts to tunnel and everything goes quiet and dark.

The sound of Valsh chanting pushes back the darkness and I feel of his hand on my forehead. I open my eyes and find the my vision is surprisingly clear, and my back and ribs hurt a lot less than they should.

“Ah, you’re awake,” he says in his contrabass voice. “You took a pretty solid shot to the head. I am impressed that you were able to finish that fight.  Heart of an orc indeed. I have healed almost everything.  You might need a day or so to work the stiffness out.”

“Who were those idiots?” I ask sitting up. I’m still right where I fell.

“Desert Reaches Tribe,” he said with a tone of regret. “They are one of the many who have been attacked without cause. This will not be the last time something like this happens…even after the War Leader is dealt with. That one with the facial markings was my counterpart for his tribe. It is regrettable for a tribe to lose a shaman…even more if the death was unnecessary. He thought he had countered my magic, and, truth be told, he had until you acted. It seems I owe you a debt.”

“You don’t owe me shit. I only attacked to make sure you’d be around to finish paying me when I was done.” The last living member of this little attack party was still on the ground to my left and was still breathing. “Oh…hey…it looks like the venom is going to work like I expected.”

“So it would seem. His people have no exposure to the leaf viper, so it worked more quickly than it is likely to against one of my tribe. You should plan accordingly,” Valsh said while helping me to my feet. Still a little dizzy, but at least I’m not gonna barf again.

“Noted,” I said as I gathered up my discarded dagger.  I walked over to the paralyzed orc and wiped the blades clean on his tunic. I look over my shoulder and ask Valsh, “Mine?” He nods, so lean down and open the poor bastard’s throat to let him bleed out. When I stand back up, a wave of dizziness and nausea rolls over me.

“Tole, you should go lay down and rest so the healing magic I’ve woven onto you can finish its work. Before you do, take the tusk-ring from each of those you defeated. It will show you have defeated orcs in honorable combat and will earn you respect with my tribe when we arrive in my village. I’ll see that these warriors are dealt with and given the honor they deserve. Take some water.”

I pull the ring from the tusk of each orc. Each one is slightly different. They have little gold beads on them, and each bead has small markings carved into it. The one I poisoned has one and the orc I fought has four. I look at Valsh and notice his is almost completely covered in them.

“Hey Valsh, what’re these little gold beads for? They mean anything?”

He turns and looks at me and says, “Each bead represents a battle that they fought in and claimed at least two enemy lives. If you were an orc, you just earned your first one. Now go lie down before you fall down…idiot.”

I turned and went back to my bunk taking a water skin and some jerky with me. I was out before my head hit the pillow.

Twenty Four and Counting

Monday was my 24th wedding anniversary and I was given yet another shining example that I chose well. How did we spend the day you ask? Play...