Flash Fiction Friday 010 – Dabaumon

The forest was dark despite the the clear, mid-afternoon mid-skies. Torvin pulled his cloak tighter against himself to ward off a sudden chill. The old ones spoke of the Black Forest but only in hushed tones. It was an ancient place. A place still held under the sway of the old laws.

He did not like the mission that sent him deep beyond the borders of the forest. A young knight had escorted a woman into its depths several months ago and never returned. The villagers all assumed her and her escort dead. Unfortunately, the knight was from a prominent order who wanted proof of the death.

“Bloody knights and their bloody codes.” Torvin spat at the thought of Knights Protector. Easy enough for them to sit in their high towers and make demands. Poor fools like Torvin were the ones who had to carry them out.

The tracker let his mind continue to wander down it’s angry path as his feet followed the game trail. This was the most likely road they would have taken. In the distance, he heard a strange rustle. The forest had been acting stranger since the knight’s disappearance.

“Ta hell with this.” Torch spun around and turned back towards the edge of the forest. It would be dark soon and he wasn’t going to spend the night out here alone. As he turned, his eyes landed on a strange looking tree in his path. He blinked, sure that the tree hadn’t been there before. Tentatively, he stepped forward towards it.

The tree was gnarled and twisted by the wind. Jagged branches grew all over, clawing the sky in dark malice. It shifted and shuddered suddenly, uncoiling in a grotesquely humanoid shape. It’s trunk split open with a sickening creak, revealing rows of mishappen teeth and unending darkness. The eldrich horror lurched forward, the movements like that of a sickly predator. The stench of rot and decay wafted on the breeze, carrying the promise of death should one fall in it’s grasp.

With a terrified scream, Torvin clawed at his eyes, desperate to rid himself of the image lumbering towards him. His screams were cut short by the rising wind and darkness overtook him.

If you liked this, please drop me a comment or share with your friends. For more on the Black Forest and the knight Torvin was searching for, check out Salvation on Kindle Unlimited. Don’t forget to follow us here, or on Facebook or Twitter so you don’t miss the weekly fantasies I destroy my sanity to build for you. We also have our first newsletter coming out at the end of this month with an exclusive short story. Make sure you sign up and as a special thanks, you’ll receive another short story for free.

Flash Fiction Friday 009 – It’s Raining Tacos. Hallelujah!

When a magician goes to lunch, his intern is left alone in the workshop. The intern is hungry, however, and decides to use a little magic to help fix the situation. What could go wrong with that?

Jeff continued to sweep one corner of the workshop. It was a mindless task. Hell, it was a task that didn’t even really need to be done, but it made him look busy. That was important when the master was in one of his moods. Or any of his moods. Or awake. Jeff had learned that over his five years here. Look busy and don’t ask too many questions. That suited Jeff fine, and his lack of ambition often made the master feel better about his lot in life.

The mood today was good. The experiments were going well and the universe responding like it should. It was almost noon when the master cried out with joy. “I’ve done it!”

Jeff came running center dais. It was a large circle, raised by several steps. It held a small table, a stand for the master’s spell book, and a cauldron as well as the master himself, beaming in the glow of the boiling liquid. “Jeff, look! Distilled essence of will power. Just the thing to help all those college kids with their finals. Slap that in an energy drink can, toss on the FDA warning, and boom! We’ll be as big as Monster and more popular than Adderall.”

The master gave himself one final smile before placing a hand on his stomach. “But that is an issue for after lunch. See you in an hour.” With that, the master strode from the dais and disappeared into the noise of cars and humanity outside the shop.

Jeff stood there a moment staring into the cauldron. He carefully lifted the spoon that had been used to stir the mix, pausing with it just before his mouth. Surely a little taste wouldn’t hurt. After a few more seconds of hesitation, he tentatively licked the spoon…and felt nothing.

It was odd. The master was so confident, but Jeff didn’t notice any change to his mood or desires. He did notice a rumble in his stomach. The mention of lunch brought Jeff to the realization that he did not eat breakfast. He also did not feel like any of the fast food chains that were close by. What he wanted was a good taco. There were just no good tacos in the neighborhood.

The thought occurred to Jeff that there was a solution to his taco problem sitting on the table next to him. Picking up his master’s pointy hat, Jeff put it on his head as he thumbed through the spell book. It was the first time he had ever really read any of this book so it took him a few moments to get used to the format. Once he got the hang of it, it was a few more minutes of searching until he found the spells that he needed.

Jeff put a lid on the cauldron to act as a tray and lifted his hands into the air. He began to rattle off the spells that he had seen, his voice floating through the warehouse like the many particles of dust he swept. When he was done, he stared expectantly at the cauldron’s lid.

Nothing appeared on the lid. Jeff dropped his arms in disappointment and placed the hat on the table. Before he stepped down, however, a tortilla floated from the ceiling and landed on the cauldron. It was followed by some shredded beef, a sprinkle of cheese, and a glob of sour cream. Laughing, Jeff lifted the taco and blissfully began to eat.

His laughter faded after two bites. Another tortilla was falling from the sky. And another. And another. Each one was followed by shredded beef, cheese, and sour cream. Before long, the workshop was filled with the flurries of tortillas, the patterings of beef, the drizzles of cheese, and the plops of cream. He did not know what he had done, but he had created a tortilla storm.

Shock gave way to fear as the storm continued. What would the master say? There was only one thing to do. Jeff quickly picked up several tacos and ran for the door. He did not stop until he was two cities away and looking for a new job.

Meanwhile, the master returned after lunch to find his workshop caught in a downpour of tacos. At first, he was angry at what was going on. As he carefully picked his way through the showery fiesta, he saw the book and hat were not as he had left them. A few moments of investigation gave him all the hints that he needed. The potion apparently worked and his unmotivated assistant had apparently created the storm for lunch.

Placing the hat on his head, the master lifted his arms in the air and began to chant. He shrank the storm to a tiny cloud that he sealed in a jar. Another enchantment was placed on the jar to pause the storm whenever the jar was closed. In addition to a new motivating energy drink, the master also had the start for a food truck business now. All in all, today was a good day.

If you liked this, please drop me a comment or share with your friends. Don’t forget to follow us here, or on Facebook or Twitter so you don’t miss the weekly fantasies I destroy my sanity to build for you. We also have our first newsletter coming out at the end of this month with an exclusive short story. Make sure you sign up and as a special thanks, you’ll receive another short story for free.

Flash Fiction Friday 008 – Hugs, Not Wands

All ages face difficult questions. These questions always need a lot of thought and logic to figure out. Can a father help his daughter understand the challenge of answering these questions?

“Why do we hate protesters so much daddy?”

Torvin blinked, his mouth slightly agape as he turned to look at his daughter. “What do you mean sweetheart?”

“My news feed is full of people talking about how protesters belong in jail or that they are wasting their time. How it must be nice not to have real jobs.” Trina didn’t even loft her head from her crystal, one finger casually flicking up to show more of her feed. “No one seems to want to talk about the issue.”

Torvin cleared his throat while rubbing the back of his neck. “Well, baby…I suppose that’s because it’s easier to talk about protests than issues.”

“Why?” She turned her eyes up towards her father, her brown orbs bright and inquisitive in the way only a child could have.

“Because a lot of people see magic as a right and when you start talking about more education and limiting what people can do, they get angry.”

“But isn’t magic dangerous?”

“Of course it is sweetheart. So are a lot of other things, though. It gets complicated real fast.” Torvin’s brain was already hurting and he wasn’t that deep into the explanation.

“So people make fun of protesters to avoid trying to figure out answers to the problems.” Trina’s lips turned down slightly.

“Maybe. No. I don’t know.” Torvin grunted slightly. “It gets complicated. Some people don’t want to talk about the issues. Some people don’t like seeing these protests all the time. So people just want to be mad at others wanting to change things.

“And that’s why it’s so hard to do anything. You have to wade through the reasons why people are resisting and address their concerns. That’s why we have the Conclave.”

“Ok daddy.” Her voice was distracted, absent any interest or attention. Torvin loomed down to see her back on her crystal watching some video or another. That was the problem with young centaurs today. Not enough attention span to finish a simple conversation.

If you liked this, please drop me a comment or share with your friends. Don’t forget to follow us here, or on Facebook or Twitter so you don’t miss the weekly fantasies I destroy my sanity to build for you. We also have our first newsletter coming out at the end of this month with an exclusive short story. Make sure you sign up and as a special thanks, you’ll receive another short story for free.

As always, I mustache you all to stay fantastical.

Random Thoughts – The 3 M’s of Worldbuilding

World building is hard. So is figuring out how to have fantasy creatures interact and engage with that world. But how do you introduce those creatures early if they don’t play a role until later in the series? The 3 M’s answers that question.

So I am in this awesome writer’s group on Facebook. The people there are great. They are also super helpful, always willing to offer help and advice on story issues. Occasionally, though, you get some random jackass who has never published a book who tries to speak with authority and offer their two cents…Well, not being content with being just a jackass on Facebook, I have decided to expand on one of my ideas here for you fantastical people.

There have been a lot of question on Fantasy Writer’s Support Group on worldbuilding. Not just how to create a new world and populate it with interesting peoples and creatures, but also how soon or late to introduce these elements. Many of these writers have plans for a multi-book series, and they want to keep book one very mundane and ordinary with barely a hint of fantasy creatures, only to introduce these different races in later books.

Initially, my advice was always to get the creatures out there as soon as possible in book one. It’s fantasy. Fantasy creatures are allowed to be there. Besides, you don’t want to have book one feel like some type of historical fiction story only to do a genre bait-and-switch in books two or three.

Now, this is still my advice. To quote Martin Luther (the theologian, not the civil rights leader) “Here I stand. I can do no other.” I never really gave a lot of thought to how to actually do this, though.

After all, it is easy to say “toss those creatures in there.” It is harder to do. Where do you put them? What if you have a xenophobic government? These were questions I did not have an answer to…

Until now.

The 3 M’s of Worldbuilding:

Merchants, Mercenaries, and Marauders was the answer I needed.

There are certain groups that are pretty much ubiquitous in every society, especially medieval based societies. These groups are merchants, mercenaries, and marauders. Let’s break it down.

Merchants are one of the few groups of people who are pretty universally welcomed. They bring new and exotic items from across the globe…or a new tray to bake bread on. Either or. Either way, merchants have a lot of freedom of movement. They are also a group that is easy to have other races fill.

After all, in our own history, you could get raided by a Viking ship today and tomorrow another Viking ship will show up to trade with you. (Ok, it wasn’t that extreme, but you get my point.) Merchants can show up anywhere and be accepted. Maybe not trusted, but accepted.

Mercenaries are another group that is all over history. There is the famous story of the Anabasis where 10,000 Greek mercenaries traveled to Persia to fight for Cyrus II. They typically tend to show up more in later history as gunpowder led to strong, centralized governments capable of raising the taxes to pay for them, but fantasy loves its mercenary bands.

Historically, these mercenary bands travel all over the place. The Vikings (geez, again!?) sent a group of mercenaries into Asia, these mercenaries became bodyguards, then these bodyguards took the crown and established Russia. (Slight exaggeration on the timeline, but still a true story.) So it is easily possible to have a mercenary group of a different race, especially if your fantasy has a war going on.

Finally, we have marauders. These are your raiders and pillagers. (Vikings strike again!) But in this sense, I use marauders more to represent criminal organizations because I am an author and alliteration is awesome. (Also because MMCU or MMG doesn’t quite flow off the tongue.)

Any xenophobic society is going to attempt to push outside races away from good, societal jobs. This leads those groups to have to find some means of surviving. Raiding, stealing, and selling secrets are all good ways to earn money for those who don’t have the burden of living up to a society’s moral codes. (Granted, it also leads to stereotypes, but that’s not the point here.)

Now, the other awesome thing about the 3 M’s of Worldbuilding is that you don’t have to focus on these groups. There doesn’t need to be a whole lot of explanation behind them or a deep dive in their cultural history. These groups are just there. They form the background.

They also get your creatures in the story easily. You can explore them later at your leisure. They can impact the plot whenever you want. But they are already there and you don’t have to worry about them coming out of nowhere.

So what do you think? Are the 3 M’s helpful to you? How do you like to build your worlds?

If you liked this, please drop me a comment or share with your friends. Don’t forget to check out the latest Flash Fiction Friday post. Follow us here, or on Facebook or Twitter so you don’t miss the weekly fantasies I destroy my sanity to build for you. We also have our first newsletter coming out at the end of this month with an exclusive short story. Make sure you sign up and as a special thanks, you’ll receive another short story for free.

As always, I mustache you all to stay fantastical.

Flash Fiction Friday 007 – A Wizard’s Duel

Two wizards meet in a forest clearing and challenge each other to a duel. Thrill as they display their power and seek to gain the upper hand. Will raw strength succeed or will cunning conquer?

“A wizard’s duel?” Orpheus raised a brow in surprise and intrigue, a small smile playing across his lips. “What a fascinating thought. Rules?”

“Elemental based att-”

“Boo! Booooring.” Orpheus chuckled the look on Maliek’s face at being interrupted.  “Come now Maliek. Don’t frown so.” A sigh escaped from Orpheus’ lips. “Fine. Fine. Elemental it is. Really, you Mariesian mages need more creativity.”

Just as Orpheus finished, Maliek stabbed the ground with his staff. The earth shook and rumbled beneath Orpheus’ feet, and he was forced to reach out to a nearby tree for support. Before he could fully regain himself, Maliek slashed upwards with his staff. A blade of air burst from the staff’s path, causing the tree to explode.

Orpheus dove out of the way, rolling into a kneel. Splinters and bark rained down around him. He saw the blur of Maliek’s staff as another blade of air shot towards him. He did not dive away this time but clapped his hands together at the last moment, catching the airwave. With a twist of the wrists, he turned the wave and flung it up into the sky.

Bringing his arms down, Orpheus directed a bolt of lightning towards Maliek. The larger wizard shielded his eyes from the blinding light while spinning his staff to scatter the bolt’s power. Orpheus took advantage of the momentary distraction to rise. A spinning of the finger caused a wind to swirl about Maliek, surrounding him with a thin layer of dirt and leaves. With a snap, Orpheus called forth a clap of thunder.

The clearing was filled with a deafening sound as wind and thunder mixed. As suddenly as it began, the noises stopped, and all was silent. Maliek stood alone in the silence. His vision was still spotty from the lightning and his hearing muffled from the thunder. Cursing, he spun about as he searched for his opponent.

Movement behind a tree caught his eye, and Maliek thrust his staff towards it. Instead of the flame flying from the end of his staff, Maliek’s instrument exploded in his hands. The ground beneath his feet rose in the air and tilted, spilling him to the ground below. Vines rose from the exposed earth to bind his wrists and hold him fast to the ground.

“I yield.” The surrender was more a growl from the large wizard.

“Poor Maliek,” Orpheus said as he stepped from behind a tree. “Always thinking that your magic flows from your weapon. A flaw in the thoughts of the Mariesians.” The vines binding Maliek retreated and Orpheus offered the man a hand up. “Come on now. It is time for lunch.”

Maliek took the hand and rose with a grunt. “You owe me a new staff.”

“Of course, of course.” Orpheus smiled. “I was thinking mutton stew. I’ve been wanting to try the mutton stew at that new tavern near the academy.” With a flick of the wrist, Orpheus opened a gateway to the city gates. “You’re buying by the way. Victor’s rights and all.”

Maliek’s growl was a halfhearted attempt to keep from smiling as he shoved Orpheus through the gateway.

If you liked this, let us know and share with your friends. Remember to follow for more stories and musings on storytelling. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. We also have our quarterly newsletter you can sign up for with the link on the sidebar. Sign up for exclusive short stories and news about our projects. And remember, I mustache you to stay fantastical.

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.”

If you liked this, let us know and share with your friends. Remember to follow for more stories and musings on storytelling. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. We also have our quarterly newsletter you can sign up for with the link on the sidebar. Sign up for exclusive short stories and news about our projects. And remember, I mustache you to stay fantastical.

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.