Thursday, August 22, 2019

A Quick Thank You

I just wanted to take a second and say thanks to everyone who picked up the short story from Amazon. It was my first attempt at using that service, and it went much better than I expected.  I'll have another short up soon, and hopefully a dead tree and kindle version novelette or novella of Tole's backstory by the end of October (just in time for Christmas! LOL).

Seriously though, heartfelt thanks to everyone. Oh, and if you have the time and are so inclined, a review would be greatly appreciated.

This has been an adventure and one that I hope to keep going.

Friday, August 16, 2019

So I Did ANOTHER Thing

Yesterday I finally opened a bank account for my eventual (I hope) self-publishing money from Amazon and other formats. That was my last excuse for not having pushed anything out, so last night I put my first short story out on Amazon. Again I have to give a big thanks to OldNFO for helping me set it up. It's good to have friends with experience so I don't have to reinvent the wheel.

It's Kindle only. Here's the link and a view of the cover.  I'll take the blog version down this weekend, and change the link on the post that lists everything to point to the Amazon page as well.

Onward and upwards. 

Oh and I guess I'll start signing this stuff with my name instead of as Tole.


Here There Be Pirates

Friday, August 9, 2019

Costly Revenge...The Sequel

Follow up to yesterday's post. Apparently you can no longer tape the envelope to a box. The post office will just throw it away. You still can stuff them as full as you can though. Maybe not as gratifying as mailing a box of bricks, but still gratifying just to a lesser degree.

Here's the new rule...

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Revenge is Costly...for Them

Once upon a time a friend in law enforcement told me, “the jails are full of stupid people because we seldom catch the smart ones.”

On the way to work this morning, my wife and I were discussing something related to that observation, and I detailed how certain tweaks could be made to different crimes to make them harder to stop.

She then tells me that my son and I both would make great detectives because we both have brains that are just plain devious and understand the criminal mind. Something along the lines of the character Dexter who was great at finding serial killers because he, himself, was a serial killer. 

I said yeah, most people really have no idea what goes on behind my eyes because I hide it behind a fa├žade of mirth and kindness.

I say all of this to tell this story. I have a long history of despising junk mail. It’s pointless and costs me time and makes crap in the landfill. Back in the 90’s I adopted a practice for handling junk mail, and I do it to this day. It’s cathartic; it puts a smile in my twisted little heart; and  it has made me giggle every time I’ve done it for over 20 years.

This is the deal. One of the pieces will inevitably have a business return envelope in it. That is the key part of this equation. Take it and set it aside.

Go through all of the junk mail and black out all of the offer codes, personal information, and the little hashed bar by your name and address on everything that has it.

Once you’re happy that’s done. Fold and stuff everything you can into the return envelope. It doesn’t matter if it is the mail sent by that company or not. Just stuff it all in there; tape the envelope shut; and drop it in the mail. The offending company gets charged for the postage, and they get to dispose of your junk mail for you. Since most national companies have mandatory recycling programs you know that the paper isn’t going in a landfill. The best part is it’s all on their dime.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “I get WAY more stuff than will fit in one envelope.”

Never fear. Those envelopes are usually good for up to 75 pounds and can be taped to a box. I have shipped boxes of shredded paper, cut up cardboard, and even some old shoes.
It’s really a lot of fun and costs me nothing but some time. Oh and I do write “No Thanks” on the actual offer slip and even occasionally add a smiley face.

I’m not completely evil.


Monday, August 5, 2019

To Kill a War Leader Pt 5 - Into the Jungle

Last time we saw Tole in this storyline he'd just killed his first orcs, but had paid a price to do it. He was headed to the hut in the jungle to sleep off the healing Valsh had done to the injuries Tole received. Now it's time to head to Valsh's village and get this job underway.

Feel free to comment and/or critique...especially if I blow a plot hole the size of a freight train in my story.

Hope you enjoy it.  - T

When I woke up, it was dark outside, and the smell of cooking meat drifted into the hut. My stomach started letting me know that all the healing I’d done had burned up my reserves. Ravenous wasn’t a strong enough of a word. I was ready to eat just damned near anything. Luckily I was pretty sure Valsh would have something hearty waiting on me.

Valsh chuckled to himself in that basso voice of his and said, “That took longer than I expected. I guess you were injured more gravely than I first thought.”

“How long was I out?”

“Almost two full cycles of the sun. It is only about two hours until day break. Come. Sit down and eat something. I can only imagine how hungry you must be.”

Valsh carved off a fist sized piece of meat from whatever the hell the thing on the spit was. He dropped it on slice of hard bread on a wooden plate, added from sort of boiled and mashed root vegetable, ladled on a gravy he’d made from drippings from the meat, and passed it over to me. It was amazing, and I tore into it like I hadn’t eaten in...well...two days.

He sat staring at me while I ate, like he was trying to figure out what I was. I stopped mid-chew and asked, “Wha’?”

“Have you given any consideration to how you will enter and exit my War Leader’s home to carry out your task?”

“Portals,” I replied.

Valsh shook his massive head and said, “No, you cannot. His home is warded against it. A portal cannot be opened within the walls of the building. Even if you had a passkey that will allow it, there are alerts that will sound to announce the arrival of a guest.”

“Fuck my life,” I said swallowing that last of the mouthful I was chewing on. “Shit’s just never easy is it? Dammit! Oh well, I’m nothing if not flexible. I’ll figure something out after I have a chance to get a look around your village. On the upside, it will make it more believable that he was done in by an angry god.”

Valsh started carving up the rest of the meat and tossed the carcass back into the jungle with a small prayer of thanks. When he finished he said, “I hope you are right. Now eat the bread and hand me that plate, so I can refill it. You’ll need it. After we are finished, we begin the journey back to my village.”

I was not about to turn down more orc barbecue. I mean, those folks can cook some meat, so I passed him my plate to refill. While I was eating, Valsh went into the hut and came back out with his tattoo and branding kit. At first I thought he was starting to gather up his shit for the hike...that was until he came and sat beside me and started unrolling it on the ground.

“Um, Valsh buddy...whatcha doin’?” I asked trying really hard to not let him hear the trepidation in my voice. I failed...dammit.

He just kinda chuckled under his breath and said, “Not every orc is as educated as I am. Most only speak our native tongue. Given your utter failure to grasp even the most basic communication in my language, I feel like I should at least give you the ability to understand when one of my people challenges you to a fight...and they will. Many of our more formal interactions must be done in orcish lest I insult my War Leader and forfeit my life in the process. I am going to give you an inscription that will allow you to understand orcish. Speaking it will still be an issue, but at least you will know what is being said. I could not do this while you were injured, but you seem healthy enough to withstand it now.”

“Now I understand why you were buttering me up by feeding me all this food,” I said giving him my best stink-eye. It didn’t work. Again I say...dammit.

He just chuckled again and nudged my head to one side so it sort of rested on my right shoulder. I felt him laying the ink in a small spot just behind my left ear. This one went much faster than the previous sessions had, and he set it on fire, so to speak, about five minutes after he started. No screaming this time, but it still hurt like a sonofabitch.

Valsh went on prattling about this custom or that while he packed up his kit and went back to the hut. While he was gone I wiped the water out of my eyes that the tattoo process caused. No they were not tears...I swear. When he came back outside, I could see him again, and he was still talking. Something was different now though, and it took me a second to realize what it was.

Even though I was still hearing common, Valsh’s mouth movements didn’t match his words. It was like watching those English dubbed movies from China or Japan when I was a kid. It was a little disorienting at first, but my mind adjusted quickly. It was about this time that I realized he had stopped and was looking at me with this quizzical look on his face.

“Did you understand any of that?” he asked.

“Yeah, every word. It was damned odd for a second though until I realized what was going on. Pretty fucking cool man. Does it only work for orcish?”

“It will work for all languages spoken on this world. It will not work elsewhere as the magic it employs is specific to Orta’ahn. Remember, magic is just a tool like any other. Do not expect it to solve all your problems,” he said like the teacher and elder he was.

“Preaching to the converted, man,” I replied. “If it’ll help me cool. If not, fuck it. When it comes down to it, my most effective weapons have always been my mind and my own two hands. Everything else is just gravy. Speaking of gravy...anything left in that pot? That is damned tasty.”

He laughed and stuck out his hand to take my plate saying, “Still hungry huh? Your stomach is as big as your warrior heart! You eat as much as a full-grown orc. Want a third portion of everything?”
“You’re goddamned right I do!”

After he set me up one more time, Valsh went to packing up for the journey in earnest this time.

I ate.

After I finished my food, I washed up my plate and left it by the fire to dry. Valsh would pack the dishes away before we left. After he came out with his kit all packed, I went into the hut to pack mine. Before I let the snakes go, I thought to get in one more venom milking session to replace the dart I’d used a couple of days ago. It took me about twenty minutes to work through the five snakes I had in my sack. I could hear Valsh shuffling around outside like he was getting impatient.

I stuck my head out the door still holding the last viper and said, “Hey man, could you calm the fuck down? This is delicate work.”

When Valsh saw the viper, I swear his green skin got a couple of shades lighter, and he sat down on a log. I chuckled and went back to work. I could’ve sworn I heard him say something about me and my sanity and the shit he had to put up with from his gods to save his people. Here I thought I was minding my manners.

Finally satisfied that I had enough venom, I carried the snakes out into the jungle with the sack in one hand and the last viper in the other. I set the first one free in a tree and it crawled away without a second glance at me. What can I say? We’re birds of a feather or some shit. I tossed the other sack a few feet away and let the others crawl away on their own. While I stood there watching the snakes depart, something shot out of the underbrush, grabbed one of the vipers, and disappeared again. Everything is prey to something. 

Man, I am really getting to like this place.


When I got back to camp, Valsh was standing next to our gear with an approving grin on his ugly green face. He doesn't smile much so I asked, "What's got you grinning like that?"

"Before I answer that, will you tell me a couple of things?"

"Sure, you're the boss."

He nodded and picked up his grip and motioned for me to get mine. Once we were loaded up he continued, "Just two questions are all I have. First, why let the snakes go? Why not kill them?"

"Because there was no profit in it. They weren't a threat to me or you, so why do it? Besides, they were being helpful, so I kind of owed it to them."

"Fair enough," he said rubbing his chin. "The other thing I would like to know has been bothering me since I first saw that you had them. How in the name of the War Father did you manage to catch them? They almost always strike first. It is in their nature. You should be dead."

I laughed and said, "Man, I couldn't count on both hands the number of fucking times something that should have killed my ass didn't. As for the me man. I was standing in the brush taking a piss, and one just kind of crawled out of the foliage and coiled up at my feet. After I put my snake away, I decided to try and catch it. I just kind of reached down and picked it up. It went something like that every time I went out of camp. There'd be another fucking snake. To be honest it kinda started creeping me out after the third one."

Valsh stopped dead in his tracks with the orc version of an incredulous look on his face. He bent at the waist so he could look me right in the eye and asked, "You just picked them up? Grabbed them by the neck behind the head and picked them up? You are not feeding me a plate of shit are you?"

"It's load of shit, and no I'm not. Hand to Heaven man, I just picked them up and carried them to camp. I found the sack in the hut, so I kept them there. I mean they seemed docile enough, but I'm not fucking stupid."

Valsh stood back up and continued on the path. He went back and forth between looking at me and looking down the path for the next few minutes. I finally stopped him when I said, "Ok big guy,I answered your questions. Time for a little quid pro quo. What was the look about when I came back into camp?"

"Huh? Oh, because I saw you release the snakes unharmed only to see one die as prey. You turned back to camp with this look of contentment on your face, I found it amusing is all."

Now who's feeding a load of shit to whom?

No point is aggravating the big, green killing machine. I decided to let that go for now, but I had a question of my own.

"Valsh. Something ‘s been bugging me. Mind if I dig into your business about something that's been eating at me for a couple of days. I mean, I let you. Seems only fair."

"Ask, and I will answer if I can," he said with a glance in my direction.

"Why hasn't anything attacked us? I mean that damned viper didn't make it sixty seconds after I let it go before something ate it. We were in that camp for almost two weeks and nothing so much as wandered through. Hell, we're walking through the heart of probably one of the most dangerous jungles in the multiverse like it's s stroll in a garden. What gives?"

"This jungle and I are old friends. We have an understanding or rather my gods and I have an understanding. I cannot do their work if I am dead, so they speak to the jungle for me. Their influence allows me to pass unharmed. You are their guest, and it would damage their honor if harm came to you. While you do their work, you too are protected. I did not think they would protect you from your own stupidity, so the vipers are confusing to me.  I shall pray on it when we get to my village."

That was all he seemed to have to say on the subject because he just stopped talking and walked in silence for almost two hours. To call the path we were walking on a path at all was being generous. I'd tracked deer through forests on better trails. We had to walk in single file and pushed foliage out of our faces almost constantly. I was glad Valsh had his understanding with the jungle because I'm pretty sure it was all that stood between us and lots of things deadlier than I am.

After almost three hours of trudging through the jungle the path finally opened into a small clearing. Valsh motioned for me to stop as he stepped into the clearing. After a little less than a minute he returned and said, "The clearing up ahead is empty and will be a good place to stop and eat. We are a little more than half way to my village. We will take a break and then continue on. We should reach my village just after dark. My people will be celebrating the coming of the Warrior's Moon. It is the time when our moon is closest to our world and the light it brings is close enough to daylight that, when at war, fighting can continue through the night. Since we are not currently at war we celebrate. For my people that means drinking, fighting, and mating...sometimes all at once. I think it will be safest if we go to my hut until tomorrow morning. I will mask your presence, so you do not draw any undue attention."

While he was talking, Valsh handed me another big chunk of the meat he'd cooked that morning, a bar made of dried fruit and berries, and a waterskin. We ate in silence for about ten minutes. Valsh finished first and while I was choking down the last of my orc powerbar, he dug out his tattoo and branding kit.

"What fresh hell are you planning to put me through now?" I asked him.

"Well, I have been trying to decide how to tell you this for about an hour. I really have not found a nice way to say it, so I am just going to lay it out for you. You smell weird."

I'll admit it. I laughed...loudly.

"I smell? Brother, you have the entire fucking market cornered on funkiness."

He shook his head and continued, "I mean you do not smell like you belong on my world.  I had hoped that would change as you spent time on my world and ate the food here. It has not. You smell weird, but I can mask it. I can give you a tattoo that will camouflage your smell. It does not make you smell like you belong. It just takes away your aroma altogether. Hold out the arm with the stone in it."

Half an hour and a blinding white pain later I had a new tattoo on my forearm with a tail leading to the scar containing the power stone just like the tail on my portal tattoo. After I was steady on my feet again, we continued our journey to his village. True to his word we reached the outer defense wall just after dark. Also true to his word there was one helluva fucking party going on. I'd just like to say that naked orc women are every bit as sexy as human women are...maybe even a little more so. They are all warriors so their physiques are very impressive.

Valsh showed me how to activate my new stealth runes and then he cloaked me so that I couldn't be seen or heard also. It took us about twenty minutes to get to his hut at the center of the village. It's not that the village was huge. It wasn't small either, but you could probably walk from one side to the other in ten minutes if the streets...such as they are...were clear. We just had to dodge partiers almost the entire way.

Once we were finally at his place, he shut the door behind us and said, "I will go grab food for the both of us and then you had better get some rest. We meet the War Leader in the morning."

He disappeared again for about half an hour and came back with food and something resembling beer. I ate until I felt like I was going to pop open and then passed out on the floor. The last thing I remember hearing was Valsh starting to chant his nightly prayers.

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...