Sunday, June 30, 2013

Flash: To Slay a Dragon

Sir Albert watched as the great beast soared through the air like some kind of terrible hunting bird. It was larger than the chestnut horse he was mounted on, easily twenty feet from fanged maw to barbed tail. Its scales were a deep, earthy brown mottled with forest green. Great membranous wings kept it aloft. It bore neither crest nor spines, but did have two swept back horns. A powerful flap of its wings caused it to speed onward toward him.

It had been a week back when Sir Albert and his squire, Orson, had come across the first signs of the dragon’s ravages. An entire village of peasants had been razed to the ground. From there it had left a swath of destruction. They had found two other small villages that had been raided. They had survived, but their livestock was devoured.

Rogue dragons would come out of the wilds periodically. Usually young males looking for territory. This one looked to be an adult, though barely.  Albert would have preferred something younger, and smaller, for his first time facing a dragon. Maybe only the size of mastiff. His mother always told him that He Above called men to where they were needed, not to where they wanted to be.

Albert raised his crossbow and took aim. It was a long shot, but then again it was also a big target. Letting out slow breath, he loosed the bolt. It sailed towards its target and struck the dragon squarely in the chest. Steel proved no match for thick scales, though, and it bounced off. Albert had expected as much at this distance. The shot was more to make sure he had the dragon’s attention. He already had his horse turning about and racing towards a sparse copse of trees before the spent bolt had hit the ground.

His mount galloped across the field. He could tell that the horse was eager to distance them from the dragon. Stonefoot was both obedient and powerful. Albert had ridden him into a dozen battles. The horse had not shrunk away from conflict. No amount of training could truly prepare a horse for the kind of fear a dragon inspired though. Instinct told the horse to flee and given rein he was doing just that.

As they neared the copse’s edge, Albert was finally able to load another bolt. Looking back he could see the dragon still pursuing, and closing the distance rapidly. As Stonefoot carried him between two oaks, Albert fired his second shot. More by luck than aiming, the bolt earned a roar from the dragon as it pierced the soft flesh of the belly.

The copse was made up of ancient white oaks. The giant trees ruled over the grassy field, casting a dark shade on the ground. Each was thick enough that it would have taken at least four men to wrap their arms around the trunk. They were tall and their branches spread out wide. Even set so far apart from each other, their thick canopies intertwined. The trees were just far enough apart for a dragon to fly through, but it would find itself trapped under the net of branches, unable to soar any higher.

The dragon would have had them for sure if it had not been forced to slow its flight around the trees. If not for the oaken giants, Albert would have found himself plucked from his mount and meeting an ignoble end in the beast’s gullet. He had planned on this though, and led the reptilian monster on a winding path through the sparse grove. He slung the crossbow over his back to hang by its strap and drew forth his sword.

It was not easy to slow Stonefoot down with the dragon ready to land on them, but Albert pulled on the reins to slow the horse’s half-mad dash. He needed the dragon in close for what he had prepared. Riding close to one of the great oaks, he slashed a rope that run up the tree. As Albert rode on, a log swung loose above his head. The mass of wood struck the dragon in its side, knocking it from the air.

Albert forced Stonefoot to a stop by a gnarled old tree. Orson stepped from around the tree, holding forth his master’s lance and shield. The boy looked on with awe and terror at the dragon as it stood and roared its fury. Albert had to rapp the boy across the head to remind him to take cover.

Albert wheeled Stonefoot about and spurred him forward. The horse was reluctant, but obedient and galloped at his master’s bidding. As Albert lowered his lance, the dragon readied itself to meet his headlong charge. Its maw opened and let loose a ball of flame. Albert pulled hard to the right and still had to throw up his shield to protect his side. The shield held, but burned. The oak heraldry turned to ash, and heat washed over him. Flesh baked inside plate armor. Stonefoot whinnied, yet carried on.

With the distance closed, the dragon reared up and prepared to slash the knight and horse. Albert gritted his teeth and braced himself. The first strike was the victor. Pushing past pain and fear, Albert struck true before the dragon could catch him in its claws. Steel parted scales and several feet of sturdy oak sunk in deep to piece the beast’s heart.

Albert dropped his shield to the ground as he surveyed his kill. Orson was coming at a gallop on his own horse, shouting victory cries. Albert took one waterskin from his squire to quench his parched throat while he instructed the boy to remove all of Stonefoot’s barding and soak any burns he may have. Albert tended to removing his own armor, letting cool air sooth red skin. He did not boast, but a dignified smile formed as he thought of how the bards would soon sing of Sir Albert Oakheart, Dragonbane.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Update: Editing, Origins, and more!

Here we are, halfway through the year and I think things are going well. So far I have gotten a new flash fiction piece out each month. Unfortunately I have fallen a bit behind in some of my other writing. It has been a busy few months and quite trying at times. I have had some big changes in my life, a mix of good and bad.  

I want to focus on the good news that slowed my production last month. I was given an opportunity to edit monsters for a Pathfinder RPG compatible book being produced by RKDN Studios! That means I will soon enough have a real editing credit to add to my resume. It is not a job I will be making a fortune off of, but I hope it will help give me some street credit for getting other work.

So, a little background on what is going on is in order. RKDN  started a Kickstarter to fund a book they were planning, The Reliquary. It was funded, along with a mess of stretch goals. I was one of the backers. Well, one day I get an update stating that they need another editor for one of the pieces they are working. I volunteered and was chosen for the task. What I found was a list of thirteen monsters. Each had a picture and a description or background information (some more detailed than others). My job was to come up with stats for the monsters to be used in the Pathfinder game system. Now, to be fair, two were already worked out, so I really only had to do eleven. I am working on two expanded versions of monsters that have been completed though.

It was tricky work. Some of the monsters were very vaguely described. I did not have a lot of points of reference such as a desired CR (challenge rating for the non-gamers). I dove into it though and got most of them done over a two week period. I am rather proud of some of the designs I came up with and look forward to throwing them at my own unfortunate players. Some additional good news is that I think I made a good impression and that RKDN will be tapping me for some more work.

So, that is why May saw less writing done than might have been desired. There were some other reasons though. The first weekend was eaten up with a search and rescue class. The last weekend was taken up by my sister’s wedding. There were some other bumps mixed in as well. June is going to be another busy month. This week I will be doing more search and rescue training. Next week I will be at Origins Game Fair. There will likely be some more bumps in the road of course.

Origins deserves its own mention. It is a yearly convention held in Columbus, Ohio. While I mainly go to play RPGs such as Pathfinder, Arcanis, and Witch Hunter, there is a lot more going on. I look forward to attending some good panels on writing and design. I will be attending panels by Michael A. Stackpole, Timmothy Zhan, and Aaron Allston among others. I am a big fan of all three and have gotten great advice from their seminars in the past. It also provides an opportunity to network. I will get to meet designers of some of the games I play. Who knows, maybe they will be needing a freelance writer? A guy can hope. I look particularly forward to meeting the designer of the Kaiden Campaign Setting (another Pathfinder compatible campaign funded by Kickstarter).

I will be working hard to get in more updates this month even with all the running around I will be doing. As soon as I get some blessed free time I will be finishing up the first part of my story about survival on an alien world. The next issue of Night Raider is in the works, but I am not going to promise him as a June arrival just because things are so hectic. I am also going to to be aiming for more updates and expect to see essays and other fun pieces popping up. Keep reading, and I’ll keep writing.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Flash: The Choice to Stand

Jordan walked along the street with his eyes cast down. The hood of his jacket concealed his face. His hands were in his pockets. Everything about him shouted to the world, “Ignore me, don’t pay attention,” and that was exactly what he wanted. He did not want people looking at him or thinking about him. So long as he minded his own business and did nothing to attract attention to himself no one would even take a second glance at him.

That was how he wanted it. He just wanted to be another nobody that no one paid attention to. It was not that hard in this part of the city. He called a rough neighborhood home. It was run down and everyone was too worried about themselves to care about some guy they did not know. As long as he did not do anything that would draw attention his secret would be safe.

He came around the corner, a block away from his apartment and safety. Then the shouts started. Three men stood around a woman. The thugs had her scared, and for good reason. She was going to get mugged at the very least, probably worse. There were other people on the street, but they all turned a blind eye. They were like Jordan, they did not want to be noticed. They did not want to be the next victim.

Shopkeepers were heading back indoors. Some even turned their signs to closed. Any blinds that were not already shuddered were being so now and Jordan could hear the volume on a few TVs go up. People on the street just averted their eyes and kept on going about their business. Someone might call the police, after it was over. One man even walked right by the ally that the woman was being coerced into. He looked at his watch, apparently he was late for something and could not be bothered with the fact that someone was in trouble just feet away.

In a way it shocked Jordan. So much of his time was shut off from everyone else that he never had to look it in the face. He knew crime happened and that people suffered. It was a rough place, but he never realized just how callous people were about it. This woman was about to be raped, and everyone was just going to pretend nothing was happening. That is when it hit him, he was about to do the same thing. He was trying to avoid being noticed, so he was going to walk across the street so that none of those people took a closer look at him.

All he had to do was take a step off of the street corner and he would be safe. It was not his problem what happened to that woman. He certainly would not expect anyone to do anything for him. One step and he was free of this problem.

“Hey, let her go!” Jordan said, surprising himself with how loud his voice was.

The men turned and looked at him, surprised and annoyed by the interruption. The woman looked at him with pleading eyes. Some of the people on the street or behind windows looked at him as well. Some were surprised, others just shook their heads. Jordan knew what they were thinking, some fool had just thrown his life away.

“Get out of here and mind your own buisness,” One of the men said. He glared at Jordan thinking he could stare him down and intimidating him into looking away. Jordan was not afraid of any threat the man could make. He feared only losing his anonymity, and he had already sacrificed that.

“Not until you let her go,” Jordan said in a firm voice. An odd sensation swirled around in his stomach. A mix of fear and excitement maybe. He knew the men would not just let her go. He wished they would, but that was a fool’s hope. His body was bracing itself for what he knew was about to come.

“You’re a dead man punk,” said another one of the men as he held up the switchblade that he had been using to threaten the woman. “I’m going to cut you stupid--”

The man never got to finish his sentence. Jordan leapt into the air twisting his whole torso back before swinging a powerful haymaker at the man’s jaw. Corded muscles like woven steel contracted to bring around a punch that shattered the man’s jaw. With bones four times denser than a normal human’s, Jordan barely felt a thing.

Jordan swung at another one of the men as soon as he landed. He caught the man in the abdomen and doubled him over. As the man fell to the ground, the third man attacked. He had his own switchblade and stabbed at Jordan’s kidney. The blade sliced through fabric, but skidded along tough skin, unable to penetrate into Jordan’s body.

Jordan turned and backhanded the man, sending him reeling. Lost in his fury, Jordan picked the man up, lifting him over his head. He threw the screaming man down the alley where he crashed into the side of a dumpster. Jordan stood there looking at what he had done, panting from the exertion.

He turned to the woman, but she looked at him with more fear than she had shown the men. Some people down the block were pointing now, with voices of fear or anger. In the fight, the hood of his jacket had come off to reveal his inhuman state. The excitement had caused his skin to flush to a bright, bloody red. His eyes flickered and fangs protruded from his mouth. He knew he looked like a monster.

The woman had good reason to be afraid. Mutates were feared. Another leftover from the war. Jordan had tried to hide, blend in. That was gone now. He did made the choice though, and he was tired of hiding like everyone else.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Flash: War Medals

Luke pulled the box out from under his bed. He kept everything he had from his dad in the small, black trunk. Around his neck was a chain with the key on it. The key opened the lock with a click the resounded through the room. Luke opened the truck with all the solemness reserved for prayers and funerals.

At the top were photos, every one that Luke could scrounge up. He had gone to relatives and his father’s friends. They painted the story of Lieutenant Brandon Young from his childhood on a Florida farm to his career in the army. Luke knew a story to go with each photo. The one he kept on top was the most important, a picture of his father and mother together. It was the last picture taken of his father, before the Incursion War.

The Incursion has arrived eleven years ago. No one knew for sure why they came or what they wanted. His teachers taught the theory that they had arrived from a dying world and wanted to colonize ours. To that end they invaded the earth and started a campaign of extermination. Most of Earth’s armies were wiped out in the first week.

Under the photo albums was a tray of miscellaneous items. There was a pocket knife and some unit patches. There were little souvenirs and coins his father had collected. Coins from countries that did not even exist any more. His father had traveled around the world during his time in the army prior to the Incursion War. He had fought in Afghanistan and Pakistan. After becoming an Army Ranger he had missions in both the South China Sea and the Middle East.

In the final level rested the most important mementos of all, his father’s metals. Brandon Young had been a very decorated indeed. There was a Purple Heart with five oak clusters, the last posthumous. There were two Medals of Honor. Luke’s father had been the first double recipient in over a century. There were medals for various acts and battles, among them the awards for the fight against the Incursion. Shining most brilliant among those was the Medal of Global Sacrifice. It was awarded to all of the men and women that had died as part of the last ditch assault on the alien forces.

In school they said that if the invasion had come twenty years earlier the world would not have been ready for the invaders. Even then, many said it was fortunate circumstances. Luke, and other children whose parents had died fighting the invasion did not care for that assessment, feeling like it diminished the sacrifice their families had made. The facts remained though, that it was a desperate fight.

The aliens had far more advanced technology. Shields protected their ships from conventional and nuclear assault. They had terrible energy weapons that could wipe out tanks and aircraft with ease. They did not have to fight themselves either. Instead they sent robotic ships to attack human bases. They wiped out major population centers in the blink of an eye.

The key weakness was found when someone made realized that the shields were not always active. They were only used for defense against major attacks such as nuclear strikes. Some researchers believed that the aliens had used up their energy reserves on the journey to earth and lacked the capacity to use them without imminent need. A plan was formed to attack the control ships. A small aerial attack was launched against the hive ships. It was not enough for the Incursion forces to raise their shields. Instead, they just shot the planes and helicopters out of the sky. The human forces did not bother shooting back, instead they headed for the ships on a crash course. It was too late for the ships to raise their shields. The modified aircraft half crashed, half landed on the ships to deposit elite teams. Luke’s father had been one of the team leaders.

The details of what happened inside were sparse. There were very few survivors of the World Wide Offensive. What was known came from the few first hand accounts, transmissions inside the hive ships, and studies done after the war. Luke knew that his father had led his team of rangers into the core of a ship and that they had been pinned down. Whatever happened after that, they overcame it and destroyed the core of the ship, bringing it down. What happened was a mystery to most, but in his minds eye, Luke could see it all clearly.

Lieutenant Young fired at the aliens, tearing them apart with a hail of bullets. He dashed from one piece of cover to the next, working his way through the corridors. His men followed after him, inspired by their brave commander. They forced their way to the engine chamber with a deadly force close on their tales. They were cut off and outnumbered. Young watched as his men fell in the hopeless struggle. He took out the picture of his wife and young son that he kept in his breast pocket to give him courage. Grabbing a bag of explosives he charged through the alien weapons fire and leapt over the railing to the reactor bellow. With a victorious yell he activated the bomb and destroyed the ships core.

Thinking about his father’s sacrifice and looking at his medals always filled Luke with courage. He closed the box, and put away his sacred treasures then hid the key behind his shirt again. The eleven year old boy that was the son of a hero marched down stairs and out the door. There was a bully down the street that had been picking on him and all the other kids. He was big and frightening, but Luke would be like his father and stand up to the menace. He held his head up with pride and courage as he walked down the street to face his enemy.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Flash: The Justicar's Judgement

Cade watched the three men from the shadows of the forest. They were sitting around a campfire and making dinner. They were all dressed in armor that was dented from battle. Two talked back and forth, while the third that seemed to be the leader was silent. He was one of the largest men Cade had ever seen, enough so that he wondered if the man had some ogre blood in his veins. He was certainly ugly enough for it with a lopsided face, bloated lips, and a tangled mass of hair.

Cade stepped out from the trees like a spirit materializing from the forest. “Hail!” he called to the men. They looked up in surprise to see the man that seemed to have appeared from thin air. The first two stood and put their hands on their swords. The largest man stayed seated and took a bite of travel bread. He did not reach for the large bearded ax laying against the log he was sitting on, but his eyes focused intently on Cade.

One man who had short, curly hair and scars across his face snarled, “Who goes there and what is your business?!” The man had the ready stance of a veteran, but his eyes darted about nervously.

“Me, I’m just a just a ranger passing on my way through. There are dangerous men about. Thought I would investigate when I saw the fire,,” Cade told them. He held up his hands to show that they were empty. He took a few steps closer till he was in the light cast by the fire.

The men seemed to relax some. The other man that stood, this one with a haggard beard, spoke this time in a nasally voice, “Yea, and ain’t no men more dangerous than us. Now get your arse out of here. We ain’t interested in sharing our camp or dinner with anyone.”

“Fair enough,” Cade said with a shrug. His eyes narrowed slightly as he said, “Before I go, I need to ask if you passed by a farmstead about three days ride back?”

“We did. What’s it to you?” asked the scared man as me moved back towards his seat by the fire.

“The family that lived there met an evil fate. A group of men stopped there one evening. The family let them share their meal and offered them a roof to sleep under because one of the men was a knight. However, the men were not happy with that. They each raped the mother and daughter. Killed the father and his young sons when they tried to intervene. They locked the women in the house and then set it on fire. Didn’t even wait till they were done screaming to ride off,” said in a stoic voice despite the rage that boiled inside of him.

All three men laughed. It was the large man that spoke this time with a deep, rumbling voice, “That would be our handiwork. Would have let ‘em live probably if those boys hadn’t thought to try and stop us from having at those whores. Neither one was a decent fuck. What I’m wonderin’ though is how you be knownin’ all this?”

“You left the cat alive,” Cade said as though that were plain and obvious. Confusion flashed over the faces of the two that were standing. The large man though, he smiled a vile grin of understanding. He steeled himself as he spoke his next words in a grim voice, “My name is Cade, last of the justicars. I am here to sentence you for your crimes. Do you offer any defense or repentance? If not, the sentence is death.”

“I don’t care what you call yourself,” the scarred man snarled, “but the only death sentence here is yours.” He drew his sword and started towards Cade.

Cade gave a sharp whistle. A half heartbeat later a grey wolf burst from the underbrush and leapt at the scared man. It drove into his side and knocked him down. The man screamed as the wolf’s fangs tore his face from his skull.

The bearded man had drawn his sword as well and the large man picked up his ax as he stood. Cade did not wait for them, instead drawing his own sword and charging forward. Hidden in his hand was a small pouch of alchemical powder that he tossed into the fire. The flames flared high with a loud pop and belched forth heavy smoke. The men were disoriented as Cade closed the ground.

Cade stabbed into the bearded man’s shouldered. He kicked the man hard in the stomach to free his blade and sent the man reeling backwards to fall into the flames. The man rolled about bleeding and on fire with no hope.

The giant man swung his ax blindly. Cade did not bother trying to parry the juggernaut blows. He ducked and dodged the powerful swings. The man roared as he swung the ax down, but Cade was already gone and the ax cut off the leg of the bearded man that had just put out his flames.

Cade slashed the giant’s face causing him to howl. The wolf bit into the man’s leg from behind and took him to the ground. A two handed chop from Cade took off the man’s hand that held his ax. It took three blows from the pommel of Cade’s sword to knock the man out.


The sun was starting to rise when the men woke. Cade had tended to them enough to keep them alive and stripped them naked. They were bound hand and foot with ropes running up to the horns of their saddles. Their horses pawed the ground.

Cade looked down at them as he said, “Those people died in pain and terror. You will too. By the way, your horses really didn’t like the way you spurred them.” Cade gave a whinny and the men's horses took off dragging them down the road.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Gladiator and the Beast

Gal gripped his gladius tight as he waited for the door above him to open so that he could make his way up the ramp into the arena. He hated the waiting, it was the worse part. All he wanted to do was get out there, have his match, kill whoever or whatever was up there, and get back to the cells to wait for dinner. He could not deny the excitement of battle, but fighting for his life for the entertainment of a mob of onlookers was a chore forced upon him, not a choice he was given. That could sour a lot of things.

This would be his twelfth match, making him a rising star in the arena. That was no small accomplishment for a half-ogre bastard. The organizers usually made sure the likes of him died early. He was fairly sure that his mother would have paid them off to remove her little embarrassment. She had kept him around as a slave until he had made the mistake of asking for the truth. Now he was just a disgrace to be removed.

Gal stood head and shoulders over most humans, though a head shorter than a fullblooded ogre. His skin was tanned from long labors under the sun with the olive tone of his mother favored over the sallow color of his father. Arms like carved granite stretched down towards his knees. For the match he pulled his tangle of black hair behind his head in a loose ponytail. Most of the scars he had earned were readily displayed, the most impressive was a jagged white line slashed across his back.

He was normally only allowed a loincloth as clothing, but for the match he was given his usual armor. A manica of segmented plates covered his left arm. It was spiked and had a single claw at the end coming over his hand. His feet were covered with armored greaves. In his right hand he held the gladius that had gotten him through his matches so far.

A crack of daylight spread above him as the doors parted. He walked up from the cool, dank depths of the holding area and into the simmering afternoon sunlight. The crowd gave a cheer and he raised his sword in salute. He did not give a damn about their applause, but it was good to have the spectators on your side. They might well determine life or death at some point. As well, crowd favorites could earn special perks. His rising status as a champion had earned him such a boon just last night.

He had not slept nearly as well as he would have like, especially with a match the next day. However, two noblewomen had paid his trainer handsomely to have his company last night. It was an open secret that the women of the aristocracy liked to take gladiators as temporary lovers, including ogres and half-bloods. They might never talk about it in public, but the hedonistic women whispered of their sexual adventures in private, sharing the lurid details. When he was a servant he had overheard tales of some of the trysts and now he was one of them. He had made the duo howl with pleasure and was certain that they felt the gold had been well spent. Remembering them was making him turgid as he waited for his opponent to be announced.

It turned out he was going to be a bestiarus today. The announcer said something about an accident changing the matches. Gal sensed his mother’s hand in that. Steeling himself, he faced the gate at the opposite side of the arena where his challenge would come from.

The heavy grate raised up like a monster opening its maw. Prodded out was a huge creature with scaly black skin. It stood half again as tall as Gal. The front legs were clawed while the back were hoofed. Its head was a mix of bull, bear, and serpent. Another misbegotten experiment of the fleshwarpers being used as entertainment.

The beast did not take long to set its sights on Gal and charged. It roared as it barreled across the dirt floor, kicking up clods of dirt. Gal waited till the last second before leaping to the side, narrowly avoiding impalement on by the wicked horns, and slashing the creature’s flank. The beast howled in rage as black blood oozed from the wound.

The creature turned quick to make another lunge. Gal was ready, diving under the attack and thrusting up at the creature’s chest. The stab was shallow, the scales stealing the power from the thrust. The snarling monster swept its claws at Gal. He blocked the first with his armored arm but the second raked across his chest leaving four bloody lines. Gal backpedaled away as the creature lowered its head for another charge.

Gal dodged the beast’s charge by ducking low under its horns. However, at the last moment he reached up and grabbed at one horn with his free hand. Kicking off of the ground he arced up through the air as the beast found its head yanked to the side. Gal’s arm was nearly torn from its socket, but now he was straddling the monster’s back.

The monster bucked trying to throw Gal free. He held on, though, with powerful legs and by digging the claw of his armor into the abominable creature’s shoulder. As it swung its serpentine neck around so it could bite him, Gal stabbed down with his sword. Again and again he thrust until the monster stumbled to the ground. With a two-handed chop, he severed its head.

The crowd roared its approval and Gal gave them the expected salute. He then walked back to the holding area, standing tall and proud until out of sight. He slumped, the excitement gone, while attendants saw to his wounds. He would need to rest for his next challenge. He intended to keep living to spite his mother.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Night Raider: Issue 3

Clarence watched as the drug dealer surreptitiously handed over a packet of crack in exchange for a handful of cash. He had been watching the dealer for an hour now. Each time he made a sale, Clarence snapped a picture with his camera. The zoom lense captured a clear shot, even from a roof half a block away. It was getting late though, and the dealer would be surrendering his spot to another gang member soon.

Before the next shift showed up a police cruiser came around the corner. The dealer did not run or even try to look like he was doing something else. He knew the police were no threat to him, not here, not in Crown City. Instead, the dealer waits until the cruiser pulls up next to him and leans in to talk casually with the officers inside.

Johnson and Axelrod were both scum so far as Clarence was concerned. They were the kind of slime that other filth is disgusted by. Even among cops that take graft, those two had pushed the line. Its not just bribes and extortion, they actively worked with the gangs. Watching as the gang member handed over some of his cash to them, he wanted nothing more than to smash their heads in and rip off their undeserved badges. He wanted to scream to the world about their corruption and oathbreaking, about how they are not fit to wear the uniform. He wanted them punished and made an example of. None of that was going to happen though. They were to well shielded. So instead he pressed the button and catches it all with the camera.

As the cruiser drove off, Clarence left his post and changed into his new “uniform” to go “talk” to the dealer. Over the last few weeks he had been refining his gear. His entire outfit was black. Black tactical pants and shirt over his bulletproof vest. Instead of a plastic domino mask he had bought an imitation leather mask that would not flip from his face. He pulled the hood of his black duster over his head. His baton, OC spray, and other tools were stored in pockets or on a body harness. He slipped on the tactical gloves as he headed towards the edge of the roof.

He started to run and leapt the short distance to the next roof, sliding a bit but staying on his feet. Clarence had done a bit of freerunning as a teenager. He was never that good with the flips and other fancy stuff, but he could get up and over most obstacles and was a pretty good climber. A little practice and it all seemed to come back to him.

He moved over the roof to the other side and climbed down to the alley below. Quiet as death, he moved through the shadows as the world slid into twilight. He darted down an abandoned street then down another alley. He found the one he knew the dealer would head down on his way home. As easy as a spider he climbed up a wall and hung from a fire escape that was half ready to fall from the side of the building.

Clarence watched as the dealer came down the alley at a brisk walk. As soon as the dealer passed under Clarence’s hiding spot, he dropped down onto him. They went down with a heavy thud. Clarence’s arm was around the dealer’s neck before he could cry out. The man tried to fight, but the chokehold was too tight. A few seconds later he was passed out and Clarence drug him off to a waiting car. A touch of chloroform to keep him docile then Clarence shut the trunk.


He crouched on top of an old barrel as he watched the dealer slowly come too. He stared at the man dangling upside down by his feet the same way a hawk eyes a mouse. Nothing would have pleased him more than to cut the drug dealer open the same way a hawk’s tallon’s shred a field mouse. He could probably forgo eating the man afterwards though.

“Wake up to your nightmare skum,” Clarence said as the man’s eyes started to open. He practically growled the words, his voice filled with malicious intent.

“What the fuck is going on?!” the dealer demanded. The dealer tried orient himself he shouted up at the masked man looking down at him, “You better let me the fuck go! My boys are going to cut your head off you stupid cocksucker.”

Clarence hopped off of the barrel then drove his booted foot into the man’s stomach. The dealer swung about on the rope gasping for breath. “Watch your language punk. You don’t get to make demands here. Your friends aren’t here. You have no weapon, no way of escape. I do not have a problem with taking a lead pipe to you like an overgrown pinata. If you aren’t cooperative I may well do just that.”

“Fine, what do you want then?” the dealer gasped out.

“What do I want? What do I want?!” Clarence snarled at his prisoner. He grabbed the man’s pants leg and gave a shove so that the man went spinning around. “I want to be able to walk down the street without having to worry about getting mugged. I want kids to be able to walk home without getting hit by stray bullets from a gang shootout. I want people to be able live their lives without some piece of crap drug dealer peddling dope to them. What I want is to rid my city of people like you!” As he said the last part, Clarence crouched down so he could grab the man in the throat. Choking the man with a vice like grip he said in a very low voice, “And you, you are going to tell me things I want to know so I can do just that.”

“What if I don’t?” the dealer asked weakly when Clarence released his throat.

Clarence gave him a vicious smile. He reached down and pulled away the metal plate covering the floor below the dangling man. Revealed below it was a dark pit reeking of the sewers. Scurrying and squeaking of rats reverberated up through it. “Simple, I’ll drop you down in there and go find someone more talkative. The water is too shallow to drown in so I hope you like having your face gnawed off by rats.”

“Oh God! Oh God man, you can’t do this,” the dealer begged as started to thrash about.

“No, I can, and its as good as you deserve,” Clarence said as he stood up, “Its as good a fate as you have given to a lot of people. Last year an infant died from being gnawed on by rats on the block you were selling on. The mother was strung out on drugs, and she probably got them from you. I’ve seen children walking that street to prostitute themselves for drug money just down the street from you.”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I’ll stop, I won’t sell to anyone else,” the drug dealer said as he started to cry, “Please, just don’t put me down in there. I’ll tell you anything you want!”

A grim smile formed on Clarence’s face. This was what he was waiting for. He took out a notebook and started to question the dealer, taking detailed notes on everything he heard. Much of it just confirmed what had already known, if could not prove when that mattered, or confirm things he suspected.


Clarence opened the trunk of the car and pulled the drug dealer out and dropped him roughly to the ground. The man moaned with pain, his broken arms tied to his body at awkward angles. He knelt down and forced the man to look up at him. The dealer looked up in fear when his eyes met the eyes full of righteous fury behind the dark mask.

With a low, growling voice that bordered on bestial, Clarence told the crippled drug dealer, “Someone will find you here. My suggestion is that you go to the police, make a confession of all your crimes, and spend some time in jail rethinking your life, because that is the only place where the likes of you is going to be safe. Your friends are going to ask you what happened and who did this. Tell them that vengeance has come to this city and that a cleansing fire is going to burn away the corruption. Tell them that the darkness is no longer safe for them, that someone is policing the night. Tell them to beware the Night Raider, because he will be watching and he will deliver justice.”

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Flash: To Hungry to Escape

I run hard as I try to out pace the men behind me. My legs ache from the exertion as I coach more power from them and my lungs burn with exhaustion. Now is no time to curse not working out more. Several hours sitting on hard steel is the has left my muscles cramped and cold. Hunger is my biggest enemy. The growling in my stomach means that I do not have enough fuel to go far.

The men behind me are FTRA, a violent gang of homeless freighthoppers. I had stumbled on them while looking for a squat for the night. I should have been more careful, but I was in a hurry. Not only do I need to loose them, I still have to find a place to hide for the evening.

I leap over an overturned barrel then dodge between two old, rusted box cars. I try changing directions and even crawling under a train. No evasion tactic convinces them to give up. I find myself running into a maze of freight containers. My one saving grace is that they do not split up, using their numbers to head off my escape. In the end, it turns out that they do not need to. I run myself into a dead end. Freight containers form a box canyon that I cannot climb out of or even try to climb under.

I turn to face the three men stalking up on me. They know I am trapped, they may have known I would end up here from the start. I back up till till my back is pressed to hard metal. I ball up my hands into fists, instincts switching from flight to fight. The worse part is I can feel my blood growing warm at the thought.

“Leave me alone,” I shout at them lamely, “I don’t want any trouble.”

“Yea, well you got it you little piss-ant,” one of them says as he pulls a hammer out of a loop on his pants, “No one steals our squat.”

“I wasn’t trying to steal it, I was going to leave as soon as I saw you there,” I plead. They do not care about what I have to say. They’ve made up their minds on what my crime is.

The first one steps forward and swings at me with his hammer. I jump back and hit the cargo container. This makes the other two laugh. He comes at me again, swinging the hammer down. Instinct, and I’m not sure it is my own, moves me forward. I throw up an arm to block the downswing, catching the handle on my forearm. It hurts, but less than a ball-peen to the head. I punch as hard as I can, catching the man on the jaw. I follow with a kick to the gut that knocks him backwards to land on his ass at his buddies’ feet.

I cradle my left arm. Good money says the bone is cracked if not broken. The men are not laughing now. As the first man stands up, cursing vehemently, the others draw out knives. The weapons and violent intent do not frighten me though. Instead, it makes me angry, makes bare my teeth. We have passed the point of return as the moon peeks over the shipping crates and illuminates the scene in its pale light.

As they move in for the attack, I let out a scream of pain and double over. They for a moment by the unexpected reaction, watching as I fall to the ground in pain. Their shock wears off though, probably thinking it is just some ploy on my part. They surround me and start kicking at my body, intent on stomping me to death. Part of me wishes that they could. I do not feel their blows. The only pain that registers is the deep twisting inside of me. Everything burns as though my blood were replaced with acid.

If they had bothered to look closer they would have seen the start of the change. Even with my eyes closed, I know what is happening. I can feel every little bit of it. My head starts to reshape, bones crunching and moving, new ones growing. My ears slide up my head while my mouth extends into a muzzle. My legs twist and reshape to be more like a dog’s legs. It feels like they are breaking, and maybe they are, only to be knitted back together once they are in the right position.

Distantly, I can hear one of the men shout and the kicking stops. They must have finally realized that something was not right, seen that I was undergoing an unnatural transformation. My skin itches as if every square inch of it was being gnawed on by an army of fleas as thick fur sprouts from it. My eyes finally open and I can see my attackers backing away. I once watched the transformation in a mirror and know that my eyes are now an luminous yellow.

My body start to swell. One bicep balloons out with new muscle then a calf. None of the transformation happens in a predictable order. Fangs feel my mouth as claws sprout from one hand then the other. This is what finally sends the men fleeing. It is too late though and they will not be able to run far enough or hide well enough. As the last of the transformation sets in my mind finally fades from consciousness to blissful darkness as the other takes over.

It is the next morning when I wake up, the sun ushers in dawn over the horizon. I am naked and cold, laying in a field outside the train yard.. Blood stains my hands and face. I am not hungry now, and that thought sickens me. There is nothing to do about it though. I head off in search of clothes and shelter. I must weather two more nights of this.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Starting the New Year

The first year for The Word Crafter's Lair has gone pretty well. I have kept up a pretty consistent pace through 2012. I plan to see that pace pick up more for 2013. 

The first important step will be putting up a flash story every month. Coming up with enough new ideas will be a fun challenge. In addition I will try to have several on going stories as well. Currently that is the superhero story Night Raider. An important personal goal for me is to get my writing pace up. By the time NaNoWrMo rolls around again in November I want to be able to put out 2000 words a day easy. Learning to focus like that will not be easy, but nothing worth doing is.

Of course there are hindrances to all of this as well. As I like to say, life has a way of getting in the way. I managed to make some life leaps last year and want to make even bigger ones this year. While writing will be a big part of that, it is not the only thing that has to be done. 

The last bit of news in writing is my plan for finishing the novel I started in November. The goal I have set for myself is 3000 words each month. That really is not a lot in and of itself, but that will be competing with my monthly flash story (so a minimum of 4000 words a month) and other writing projects. I will be working hard on a lot of gaming material as well. A lot on my plate. Good thing I have a big appetite.