Ulrich – An Old English Style Epic

Over on Twitter (you can follow me @steelstashwrit1. Been a while since I promoted that), an auther (@ulzaorith) I follow posted some amusing definitions of various literature styles. This got my mind working and I thought it might be fun to try some of those styles out, especially since I am waiting for beta readers to get to me.

The first style is Old English. This style has a fair amount of alliteration and a somewhat poetic feeling. It also has a lot of Vikings which made sense since Old England also had a lot of Vikings. The stories of Old English tend to fall into two camps, religous and epic. Hopefully, I managed to be just epic enough.

Amidst the austere landscape he sat, watching
and waiting as the sun slipped past the shore.
In the deepening darkness, his mind
sought refuge from the demons.
Thrice they had traveled to his home.
Thrice they have trespassed against his people.

Screams shattered the peace of Ulrich’s
meditations with their savage fury.
He rose to his feet and ran towards
The raucous din of battle. Light flashed.
Along the ground, green flame burned
and snaked its way towards the walls.

With a barbarous bellow, Ulrich lunged
at the closest demon to him, a meaty
paw shoved into the mage’s maw, choking
off the prayer of power it
attempted to cast. Ulrich tore the jaw
from the invader, blood bathing
his chest in a crimson coat. The throes
of death where loud, but they failed
to mask the mob surrounding him.

“Thane!” a voice from the crowd called.
“Surrender and save your life.
We demand only five bushels of grain
plus ten silver for the mage you slew.”

“I am Ulrich! Son of Ulfinn!
I am the champion of Tyr!
Thrice I have slain your kind. Thrice
I have killed Pictusing pirates.
Who are you to make demands of me?”

“I am Galan, who raided the
city of Celcamoth, who razed the
fortress of Alba. Your village
is nothing to me but supplies.
Do not barter your breath for bread.”

Ulrich sneered at the crowd before him.
“Bold words for one who hides
like a sheep in the flock when
facing the wolf. Wrestle me like a man!”

Galan stepped forth and dropped his
hammer to the ground. The earth
shook from its weight. “As you wish
Ulrich, son of Ulfinn. Die as you see fit.”

The two men circled and stalked, each
sizing the other, studying how
the other moved. When they embraced,
the clap of hand on flesh was thunder.
The two men stayed locked, frozen in
effort. The moon rose with silvery
light while neither man was able
to oppress their opponent’s strength,
each holding the other still.

Ulrich smiled suddenly, slipping an
arm low. Galan was caught by
surprise as he was lifted
into the air. With a mighty heave,
Ulrich threw the Pictusing
into the village wall ten
feet away. Dust and debris
drifted down. Ulrich ran forward and
straddled Galan.

His formidable forearm fell
onto Galan’s chest. The crack of bone
Broke through the falling stones.
Galan wheezed with weak effort
to seize Ulrich, but the harder
he struggled, the deeper forearm and
bone shards drove. With a spasm of
pain and a racking cough, the speck
of blood on pursed lips heralded the end.

Ulrich rose and turned to face
the remaining Pictusings.
“Go now, and tell of the fall
of Galan. A mighty mountain thrown
to the earth. Mourn his passing
at my hand. Warn your brethren
to leave this village alone.”

The Pictusings fled Tyr’s
favored fighter. Ulrich turned to
the village gates and entered as
the scriba came out to inventory
the fallen foe for Lord Caesarium’s tax.
The Romulean would see to the
administration while the Thane
would see to a bath.

Let me know your thoughts. You have any old epics you enjoy? Tell me below. And as always, I mustache you to stay fantastical.

Random Thoughts – Worldbuilding Through Architecture

Worldbuilding can be tough. Creating new cultures and civilizations. I’ve talked a little before on how to add a little flavor with the 3 Ms (Merchants, Mercenaries, and Mauraders), but today I want to look at how architecture and environmental design can inform the reader about your society.

There were a few books that made me really think about this. The Bobiverse series has an alien species that build massive ships with large cargo holds and compartmentalization. In Children of Time, the spiders build with silk and their structures are in a constant state of change. But what really made me think of architecture as a worldbuilding aid was in Space Team. In that book, when the main character first arrives on the alien ship, he sees what he describes as “chairs and not chairs.”

Now many creatures have the ability to change their environment to better suit their needs. Any creature capable of creating a complex society would have to have this as well as the logistics of providing for large numbers require it. This environmental change can be as complex as creating weather machines, or building cities, or it can be as simple as irrigation or making a boat. Even making a chair or not chair is a level of environmental change.

But the question is how do these changes and designs inform the reader about society? Well, let’s look at some of our previous examples.

In the Bobiverse series, the aliens use giant ships with compartmentalization. They also travel from planet to planet, stripping it of its metals to return to their homeworld. The function of the vessel is to carry large amounts of raw material, hence the size. The compartmentalization is reminiscent of life we find here on Earth…insects. Bees and ants tend to have compartmentalized structures. They are also hive minds, a trait shared by the Bobiverse aliens. That little detail draws a parallel that the alien physiology did not.

In Children of Time, the spiders build their structures with silk, a material naturally produced. They designed their homes as large chambers to house several members of a peer group. They also change the layout of their homes and other structures at will and as necessary. This shows that not only is their society based on biological technologies, but it is also highly adaptable. At several points in the story, the spider’s society changes completely to adjust to new developments.

Even in our own history and societies, we can see examples of how building design can inform us about a society. When I think of ancient Greece, I see open plazas and forums that promote the exchange of ideas and thought. The courtyards and lack of walls, while not historically accurate, give a sense of community.

Rome was a mix of military function and highly developed social forms. A vast bureaucracy and military power, many of its buildings were designed to be standardized. A Roman fort was a Roman fort, regardless of if it was located in Germany, Britain, or Carthage. Its temples, however, were quite elegant due to its observances of highly developed rituals.

The Roman Catholic Church has amazingly designed cathedrals full of some of the best paintings and sculptures in the world to both show glory to their God and to display its wealth and power. American skyscrapers reach towards the heavens as a symbol of industrial might and independence. The Japanese developed intricate joints to connect support beams due to a lack of metal for nails that offer the feel of precision and discipline. Russian towers have a distinctive bell shape to prevent snow accumulation, hinting at their hardiness and resourcefulness.

How you design your world’s buildings and furnishings can offer a lot of insight into the culture and can give the reader clues as to what that society generally feels. But what other examples can you think of? How do you use building design to add not just distinctiveness, but character, to your world? Let me know in the comments, and as always, I mustache you to stay fantastical.

Book Review – Raze by Dakota Krout

Book: Raze

Author: Dakota Krout

Genre: Fantasy, LitRPG

Part of a Series: Yes, The Completionist

Summery:

Raze is the third? Fourth? Book in the Completionist series. (Technically, the third book, Rexus, follows Jaxon, one of the supporting characters.) Joe has successfully revived the king of Ardania following the Wolfman War and is continuing his quest to unlock the mysteries of the ritual class.

Unfortunately, back in the real world, monsters start to appear and attack people. President Musk orders everyone to transfer their minds to a data core and be transported to the world of Eternia. This mass influx of new people leads to many problems, the most pressing being the supply of basic necessities such as food and housing.

Aten, guild leader of the Wanderers, asks Joe to figure out a way to feed the town that the guild is trying to raise. This quest takes Joe to the other side of Ardania as he seeks a solution in the form of a magical greenhouse. The surviving members of the Wolfman race have fled to that side of the kingdom and are in possession of the blueprints for just what Joe needs, but they ask him to clear out a nearby temple before offering him the plans. Unfortunately, the temple is controlled by a powerful player whose mind was trapped by a mage during Joe’s time in the city dungeon in Regicide.

While all of this is going on, the guild is trying to increase their rank by improving their town with more than just a greenhouse. Their building efforts, however, draw the attention of members of the kingdom, and plots are put in place to end the Wanderers growth.

In addition to all of this, Joe finds himself the target of more assassins, this time from the city Zoo who are holding a grudge from way back in Ritualist when Joe sold a unique bunny to a pet store. This threat to their entertainment cannot go unanswered. Failure to find the zoo a rare animal will result in continued attempts on Joe’s life. Success, however, will grant Joe access to the Zoo’s main income, the black market of unique items from its Bloodsport Arena.

Luckily, Joe is not alone anymore in his ritual study. With the help of a new team member, Jess, Joe is able to recruit several members of the guild to become ritualists as well. With a ticking clock, though, will this new coven and Joe’s team be able to solve all of the issues facing the guild and Joe personally?

Review (Spoilers!):

Raze is another solid addition to the Completionist series. Joe continues to be a fun and engaging character who seems to constantly draw the short end of the stick when it comes to getting along with people.

The threat to Earth in the real world is a little whatever. The one effect that it does have is that it means no one is able to log out from the game. This is their new reality. Of course, this was never an issue for Joe as he sacrificed his body back in book 1. Heck, it hardly matters to the rest of the team as well. Alexis was drawing in debt in the real world, Bard fell hard for Alexis so being “stuck” in game was no issue for him, and Jaxon was an old man who found a new body. The only member really affected was Poppy who ended up leaving his three-year-old daughter back in the real world. Luckily, the game communications to the outside world still work and he was able to have his parents get her and themselves into the game.

The biggest “threat” that the sudden influx of people poses is the issues of supply. Food scarcities become a danger, prompting Joe’s determination to find the magical greenhouse. His motivations to try and continue to help everyone are the biggest reason he agrees.

The city building quest that the guild starts does offer some nice tension. While the guild is intent on growing as quickly as possible, they use Joe’s ability to make better buildings faster. Luckily, some laws on the use of magic were changed following Joe’s actions with the Mage College in Ritualist, circumventing previous laws that enforced a monopoly of the Architect’s Guild. This helps because it offers a counter to Joe’s protection as being considered “extended family” to the royals. There is still a way for the NPCs of the world to get back at the players.

The Zoo storyline was the only real meh part of the main story. Finding the black market and discovering that it was being run in an arena that artificially elevated rare loot drops was a neat addition. The ultimate conclusion of it, though, just felt a little rushed. There was plenty of other things going on in this story to really not need that one aspect. The major effect of this side quest was a massive changing of laws at the end of the book that will likely have major repercussions later. Still, it was kind of a weak addition.

Despite all of that, Raze is a great book. It was fun, light, and never took itself too seriously. It didn’t slow itself down with building harems, including random sex scenes, or too many side quests. Dakota Krout continues to write tight storylines that are a real credit to the litRPG genre. All in all, I award Raze the Silver Stash.

What are your thoughts? Have you read it yet? Anything else that you think I should check out? Let me know in the comments and as always, I mustache y’all to stay fantastical.

Friday Flash Fiction 013 – Raise the Black Flag

The trail of greenish light cut through the night sky. It was always the same when they came. The light was the messenger of their arrival. Before long, their ships would land, their troops would depart, and Miriam’s people would be forced to empty the warehouses that they had so diligently stocked up.

Miriam swung down from the treetop perch and landed on the forest floor. Leaves crunched under bare feet as she ran towards her village. She paused at the tree line just before the clearing. Beyond stood her village, a small collection of huts clustered around a bend in the river. The dock was nestled in the bend, though it was only used for the Romanus.

The other villagers had seen the green lights in the sky and had gathered outside, staring up towards the heavens. Miriam followed their gaze and watched as the wooden Romanus ship descended from the stars. It landed gently in the waters of the river as several men from the village ran to extend the walkway from the dock to the deck.

Once the ship was tied off, a Romanus official stepped forth, flanked on either side by a Praetor Guard. Their bronze breastplates shone in the moonlight while their capes fluttered in the gentle summer breeze, the red of the official contrasting with the purple of his guard. Miriam was too far away to hear the proclamation that the official was making, but she assumed that it was the standard address.

Every month since anyone could remember, the Romanus descended among them demanding tribute in the form of ore and precious gems. Something was off about this month’s visit, however. The villagers seemed tense as they listened to the official. Miriam also realized that the Romanus only brought one ship as opposed to the several they normally used to carry off her people’s hard earned goods.

The official had finished speaking and stared down the walkway at the surrounding villagers. There were shouts of confusion and anger from the small crowd. He listened with a look of mild disinterest before turning and stepping back onto his ship. As soon as he cleared the walkway, soldiers moved down the wooden path from the ship to the village. Cries of panic erupted as the soldiers began entering houses and villagers ran off in any direction they could.

Miriam watched in silent horror as fires lit the summer night. Screams of pain filled the air only to be cut off suddenly. Forcing herself to back away further into the tree line, she turned and ran. She did not stop running for seemed an eternity. The screams had faded away, but the glow of her village burning still glowed in the night.

* * *

Dawn was less than an hour away. Miriam had finally forced herself to calm down and turned back towards what was left of her village. Smoke still drifted lazily from the charred remains of huts. In the center of the village, several tents had been erected. The soldiers seemed to have made camp in the middle of their carnage.

Miriam felt her blood boil at the sight. How could they be so callous?

She was pulled from her thoughts by the sounds of people nearby. Silently, she crept towards the sound and discovered a few survivors from the village.

“Liam? What happened? Is there anyone else?”

A tall lad, barely younger than Miriam but still not old enough to hunt alone, sighed heavily. “They said that the empire no longer needed us. Our land is to be given to a new Proconsul who would settle it with citizens. We were the only ones who made it out.”

Miriam was shocked at the news. With a simple declaration, her people were killed in order to make way for a new settlement. All that was left of her village was a small group of barely more than children.

“Very well. If they think that we can be gotten rid of so easily, I guess that we will have to show them their mistake.” She nodded to herself as much as the band of survivors. “Listen up. You all can stay here and try to hide from the Romanus or you can come with me and fight back.”

“But how?” The question came from a smaller lad in the back. “There are thirty soldiers out there and only eight of us.”

“It’ll be ok, Sean.” Miriam smiled at the boy. “We only need to get to their ship. With that, we can get others, like us, and strike back at them at our own choosing and when they are weak. The soldiers are all asleep, so we can easily board the ship and take care of whoever is left on board.”

There was a murmur of agreement from the group before Miriam turned and led them back to the village.

She was surprised how easy it was to move past the sleeping soldiers. By the looks of the empty wineskins lying about, they had celebrated their “victory” over her people. Miriam silently pointed at Liam and then at the weapons left near the tent’s entrance. Nodding, Liam took Sean to gather the gladii and spears before joining the others on the dock.

Boarding the ship, they found only a handful of sailors. They were all asleep on the deck and were easily taken care of by the newly armed group. There was a little fumbling as Miriam’s new crew tried to make ready to sail. Their boats only traveled the waters, not the stars. Fortunately, the process of raising the ship into the air was intuitive enough and done without raising an alarm from the soldiers on land.

As they sailed into the morning sun, Miriam turned towards the cabin. Surely the official who brought the news was in there. She approached the door, gladius in hand. Little did the Romanus official know that he was not to survive the maiden voyage of The Galiani Revenge.

Miriam opened the door to the cabin and found the official still asleep in her new bed. She walked slowly towards him, a moment of doubt crossing her mind. Looking over her shoulder at the shrinking image of her village, Miriam tightened her resolve. Sometimes, one just needs to raise the black flag.

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Flash Fiction Friday 006 – Terrors of the Deep

The Viribus sails the cosmic seas. But there are dangers that lurk out in the dark expanses. Can the Viribus survive or is it doomed to be consumed by the universe?

Crow’s nest duties were always the worst. It was supposed to be done by convicts, but the trip had been long and there were no convicts left. A quarter of them were back in their cells below babbling incoherently. The rest had disappeared.

The crow’s nest needed to be manned, however. So it was that Marius was sitting in the small wooden circle atop the mast. He had shown a little too much disrespect to his section lead. Normally this was punishable by a little extra duty and a forfeiture of pay. Given the need for lookouts, though, he was ordered up to the top of the mast instead.

He shivered as he stared out into the darkness. There was no real day or night out on the cosmic seas, but it was the twenty-third hour. The decks below were as silent as the cosmos surrounding Marius as the majority of the crew slept. The solar winds provided no warmth and only heightened the feelings of isolation.

Out in the distance, a sole balaeic drifted through space, its massive body undulating and writhing on unseen currents. The Jues Nebulae glittered beyond the bow, a red and green beacon that signaled the final leg of their journey. With a little skill and a little luck, the Viribus would be back at a friendly dock within a week.

From the shadows below Jues, a glint of light caught Marius’ eye. He fetched his looking glass and lifted it in the direction of the flash. The image of another ship jumped into his vision. The vessel was thin and sleek, bearing a single mast, and its bow was carved into a strange shape. While it was still too far to make out the design of the bow clearly, the shape of the ship was unmistakable.

“Pictusings! Pictusings below the Jues!”

In response to Marius’ cries, the bell on the deck below began to ring out its alarm. A flurry of motion erupted below him as the crew was woken. They rushed to their battle stations as the Pictusings ship approached.

It wasn’t long before the Pictusings were upon them and the battle was made. The clash of swords and the thud of clubs exploded around the two ships. Screams of the wounded and dying pierced the air. Even though the Viribus was a larger ship with a skilled and hardened crew, the Pictusings were known for their fierceness, dragging the fight on longer than it should have. Longer than was prudent.

Out from the depths of the cosmic seas, a shadow moved. It was drawn to the sounds of pain and scent of blood. There was no form to the shadow as passed by the battling ships, only an indescribable sound. The sound bore into Marius’ ears like a screw digging into wood, removing shavings of sense and sanity. His screams were echoed by those below until a fog passed over his mind, blurring out reality.

* * *

The Viribus drifted into the port of Helenesopia. Once secured, the dockmaster strode up the gangplank, notebook in hand, ready to record the declarations from the ship’s logistician.

“A little more trouble than normal on this run Heraclon,” the logistician reported. “We lost all our convicts about eighty percent of the way through. Mindeaters and the like seem to be growing in the Adriomos region. Had a little run-in with the Pictusings near Jues as well. I recommend you put a notice out on those two spots.”

Heraclon nodded absently as he made the notes. “Of course. We will also start the paperwork to refill your stock of convicts. Any thing else to declare?”

The logistician tapped his chin a moment in thought. “No, not that I can think of. Cargo is all accounted for and our paperwork is in order. All in all, I would say it was a fairly successful trip.”

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Random Thoughts – Protagonists vs Antagonists

So I’m watching Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark today, and I was struck by something. First of all, it is still a great movie. There is so much visual storytelling in there, it is crazy. Go rewatch it, and if you haven’t seen it, go fix that flaw in your life. It’s one of the only flaws you can fix within two hours, especially because spoilers for….37 year old movie? Good night.

Anyway, I’m watching Raiders and the interaction between Indiana Jone and Belloc, his rival archeologist. There was a scene towards the middle where Belloc is rather blunt with the view, but Belloc says that he and Indy are the same. It would only take a nudge for Indy to become like him. Of course, almost 30 years later, we get another example of this as I realize Nolan’s police room interrogation between Batman and Joker was a rip off of Speilberg…kidding. The two scenes are different, but not, but are.

That’s beside the point. Belloc is so confident that he knows Indy that later in the movie, the Nazis and Belloc have the ark. Indy tracks them down and threatens to blow it up with a bazooka. And what does Belloc do? Use the many Nazis with automatic weapons to shoot Indy figuring that he couldn’t get a good shot off? Nope. Dude tells the Nazis to clear out and calls Indy’s bluff. “Blow it back to God,” he says because he knows Indy won’t.

Indiana Jones is standing on the high ground pointing a bazooka at a group of Nazi and a potential holy weapon that the Nazis now possess. His love interest is nearby, but she is also far enough away by Hollywood standards to survive the explosion. Just a squeeze of the finger and the Nazis lose. We are sitting there as an audience, watching Indy, wanting him to shoot that bazooka. But what does Indy do? He drops the weapon and surrenders because Belloc was right. He couldn’t bring himself to destroy a piece of history like the Ark.

And that is why Belloc was such a good antagonist for this movie. He really was like Indy. They ran into each other all the time. They searched for the same items and got there about the same time. Yeah, Belloc sold them on the black market. Indy sold his to a museum. Makes Indy better right? Except when the museum curator basically calls Indy out for questionable practices.

So there are a lot of similarities between the two. That is what made their interactions so fun. That one little line that separated them. Just a slight difference that showed the contrast between the two. They had the same goals and similar motives, just a difference in motivation and method.

Of course, those always make the best protagonist/antagonist pairs. I joked earlier about Batman and Joker from the Dark Knight, but they were also very similar. Both used theatrics and fear to pursue their goals. It added more to their interactions and helped elevate them to an iconic opposition.

So what protagonist/antagonist pairs do you like and why? And remember to like and share. Finally, I mustache you all to stay fantastical.