Saturday, July 20, 2019

Alone I Walk - Chapter 1

    Cecilia's eyes snapped open in a start, her breath hitching in her chest.
    The world was black.
    And cold.
    And wet?
    Come to think of it, the black, cold, wet world seemed to smell distinctly of road tar and asphalt. Maybe just a hint of tire rubber too.
    Pushing up off the street, Cecilia sat up and looked around her. From the looks of it, she was on a back road somewhere, a darkened forest pushing in on either side of the slick two lane blacktop. The sky above was still and black and a gentle fog creeped through trunks nearby.
    Nothing moved.
    "Hello?" she called out, scanning the trees beyond. "Is anyone there?"
    No answer.
    Glancing around again, it occurred to Cecilia that she couldn't seem to remember how she got here. Or really even where here was. It didn't look completely unfamiliar; at least it didn't seem she was far from home. Unfortunately, once you've seen one North Carolinian back road, you've seen them all.
    Standing up, she tried to find something to follow. Some sign of civilization or where she was. Some person or place or thing or...something. Any noun might suffice.
    Where was she?
    Last she could remember, she had been driving home with her sister. They had been out that evening drinking and then...Nothing. She tried to think, to remember where she had been, but it slipped away like water in her hands.
    Had she been drugged?
    "Hello?" she called again.
    No answer
    "Guess I'm walking."
    Reaching into her pocket to fish out her phone for the GPS, but she came up empty handed. Just a hint of panic started to boil up. She couldn't find it.
    Where was her phone?
    And where was she?
    "Ok, calm down." She whispered to herself. "Just follow the road. Get to a gas station or something, figure out where you are, get a ride home..."
    A piercing howl split the silence of the night. It was long and forlorn, carrying on the wind interminably, spreading from one side of the road until it echoed and mingled off every tree trunk all around her. Just as quickly, it cut off and faded into nothingness.
    Cecilia had never heard a cry like it before. It sounded almost like a wolf howl from movies, but there was about it. The cry didn't seem entirely animalistic. Almost like a person doing a disturbingly good impression of a wolf howl.
    "Ok, maybe a little less calm. Get to a gas station sooner rather than later."
    She glanced up and down the road again and, with no direction in mind, took off at a jog.
    The asphalt felt slick beneath her shoes and they squeaked and squicked with each footfall. The sound echoed off the trees and only added to her anxiety. What was that howl? Was something following her? What if she couldn't hear it coming?
    And what are you gonna do about it? she thought to herself.
    It's not like she knew what to do if she ran into a wolf in the middle of the night. She was a dental assistant barely out of college. Hell, she didn't even have her phone on her. If she ran into a wolf, the best she could hope to do would be to climb a tree and hoped someone drove by and saw what was happening.
    The thought pushed her on and her jog soon became a run. Maybe it was the adrenaline, but she felt good. Strong. Her lungs weren't even burning. She hadn't run since high school but apparently it stuck with her.
    And, soon enough, she could make out a faint light over the treetops.
    A few minutes more and the woods parted suddenly on her right to reveal a 24 Hour Diner. The iridescent sign buzzed in the still air, a few moths flitting and zipping around it, claiming "Best Waffles in Town". A couple cars sat out front and she could make out someone moving inside through the windows.
    And then the howl.
    It came on again just as suddenly and frighteningly closer. It seemed almost like it was directly behind her and Cecilia jumped in surprise. However, when she turned to face the creature, it cut off sharply.
    There was nothing there.
    She sprinted the remaining distance to the diner door and slammed the door behind her, staring out through the glass to the woods beyond.
    Nothing moved.
    "Miss?" a soft voice called from the dining room.
    Cecilia pulled her eyes away from the darkened woods to look at the man who had spoken. A thinner man, a waiter, was standing there. He was middle eastern by the looks of him. Maybe Egyptian? A little gaunt but a nice enough smile with dark hair and eyes.
    "Y'all right?" he asked.
    "Did you hear that thing?"
    The man approached her to look through the glass to the woods beyond. As before, nothing moved. He glanced back down to her with a sympathetic smile. A nametag on his chest read "Ammon."
    "Can't say I did." he confessed. "What'd it sound like?"
    Cecilia shook her head.
    "No idea. A wolf or something."
    "Ain't no wolves in these woods, ma'am." He said with another soft smile. "C'mon. Let's get you warmed up. Coffee?"
    She glanced outside again. She wasn't hungry, but she felt safer being in here. She wasn't going to say no.
    "Y-yea. That would be nice. A phone as well?"
    Ammon lead her back into the sitting area and quickly poured a cup of coffee in a plain white mug. He set it in front of her and then reached back to grab a wireless phone of the ringer, setting it next to the mug.
    "Break down?" he asked.
    She shook her head, grabbing up the phone and starting to dial her sister.
    "I...I honestly can't remember."
    Ammon looked at her with worry but asked nothing further as she held the phone to her ear.
    Ring. Ring. Ring.
    "Hey this is, Sarah! You know the deal. BEEP"
    "Sarah! It's Cecilia. Hey, I think something happened. We were driving home last night and I just woke up in the street. I'm at a diner on..." she turned to Ammon. "Where am I?"
    "Chapel Grove. Outside of Gastonia."
    "Chapel Grove, outside of Gastonia." she parroted. "I can't find my phone either. I'm gonna try and get a cab or something. I'll see you soon. Bye."
    Hanging up the phone, she handed it back to him.
    Ammon took the phone and hung it up. As he did, she noticed a single tattoo on his inner arm. It was solid black with hard edges and looked almost like an Egyptian hieroglyph of a dog or something.
    "Thank you." she said.
    "Of course. Lost yer phone too?"
    Cecilia nodded.
    "Yea. I think something happened. I just don't know what to do."
    "Bad luck. Where ya coming from?"
    "Lincolnton. We were at a bar in Gastonia." she commented. "I remember driving home but nothing else. I'm-I'm wondering if someone gave me something but I can't remember past that."
     Ammon nodded.
    "Well, yer not far from home but seem like yer headed in the wrong direction. Why don't we get you sorted out and we'll get ya a ride back home."
    "I can take her." a new, third voice added from directly behind her.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Chronicles of Jhool: A Hero twice Born, Once Dishonored | Chapter 3

Image Credit currently unidentified. Unable to find original artist at this time. All rights to original artist.

The Chronicles of Jhool
Chapter 3

    With the adventurers making their way further into the darkness beyond, it was not long before a deathly silence settled over the city's entrance. The silence of the tomb that it had once become fell back into place.
    Light faded.
    Dust settled.
    The only sounds that infiltrated the darkness was an occasional boom from somewhere deep below, where the adventurers fought and bled against the unknown they had sought to find. And, infinitesimal to the veritable thunder-claps of far off combat, a soft chittering and scratching noise coming from the road leading in.
    A ferret, lithe and furred, chipped, chittered, and squeaked as it moved along the hard stone road. Its fur was patched with blacks and browns against a dirty ivory and it moved with the uncertainty of any wild beast in a new world. It had never been in this city before, this cave of sorts, and it wished to take no risks of being discovered by something larger and more ferocious that might have a taste for mustelids.
    Earlier in the day, it had seen the three humanoids, strange and goblin-like in their tendency to stand on two legs, pry open what the ferret had believed to be a sheer cliff-face. It had ignored the action as little more than a curio, an oddity the little weasel couldn't quite make sense of, in favor of hunting down something to fill its aching belly. But he was curious by nature and, once sated with a rather unfortunate field mouse, found himself returning to the scene a few hours later.
    He was hesitant at first to enter the hole the creatures had made in the cliff. While it didn't mind the dark of the cave, there was something distant that lingered in the air that he couldn't quite identify. Something smelled wrong about the air.
    Something dark.
    Something far below.
    The ferret's nose worked wildly, often catching a whiff of whatever it was that sullied the world of darkness, but occasionally finding something new and interesting. Very little smelled like food here. The most interesting thing thus far that didn't make his hair stand on end was the splattered remains of the elf's fists on the semi-broken statue.
    After a brief moment of investigation, the little mustelid considered that he was a fan of the hole left in the statue's side and that the elven blood tasted strangely sweeter than the mice he normally fed on, but that the statue offered little else.
    He moved on quickly.
    Doing what he could to avoid any contact with the offputting smell and the sounds of screams and explosions from down below, the ferret followed a branching path off of the main road that led away from the stench and the noise. The path lead down and away, curving smoothly past any number of closed doors and sealed portals. Every now and again he'd slither or snake his way through the occasional ancient skeleton or over a pile of debris, and soon found himself at the end of the road.
    The portal before him gave him pause, if only due to the ferret's attraction to shiny objects.
    The end of the hall was mostly blocked by a massive set of double doors that appeared to be made out of a forged tapestry of golds, silvers, and blues. Gems glittered and shown, accentuating the edges of the doorway in sapphire blues and ruby reds. In its hay-day, the little weasel could never hope to get through the nearly foot-thick metal, but gave little thought to the door short of a quick and valiant attempt to pry a gem from its socket before passing through the cavernous hole that rent most of the doors' base inward.
    What did it care of the obvious destruction? It knew nothing of the force required to cause such a hole. It just knew that the way was open.
    Better yet, there were other shiny things inside.
    With an excited squeak, he scampered through the destroyed door and promptly clambered up a glittering pile of gold coins and gems. He was so overwhelmed by his discovery that he tried to hop and accidentally rolled back down the loose terrain, buried in a tiny avalanche of gems.
    The ferret held no understanding of the colossal wealth before him, but his excitement was baser than that. While it wasn't food, he had a love of shiny things, and this room fit that love quite nicely.
    For as far as the ferret could see from the top of his little gold mound, the world around him shimmered. He could see golds and greens and blues and reds everywhere he looked, piled in veritable mountains that rivaled the hills and trees from the world outside. Everything seemed to buzz with an energy that, though he didn't know it, was the magic of thousands of different enchantments and items of untold power.
    The ferret didn't know what to do with himself.
    All thoughts of the sounds and smells from outside were gone. He lost himself running over, around, and digging through the different piles. He picked up and dropped coins and gems and baubles, replacing each with a new, more interesting one seemingly every moment. This world was overwhelming and he wanted all of it to take back to his den.
    The cycle repeated itself countless times as he worked his way further back. While he was unaware of it consciously, he knew that he had to find something. The perfect something.
    A green something.
    Yes, he agreed with the thought, something green.
    Something green as the trees. As deep as the forests. As alive as nature.
    That sounds good.
    The ferret snuffled and hunted. Sniffed and prodded. Licked and bit. Ran and scampered. The romp had become a hunt.
    He had to find it.
    Find me.
    He had to find it.
    Were the ferret paying attention as he had when he'd entered the city, the scent leaking through the walls might have given him pause or maybe even made him run back the way he'd came with the first shiny object he could find clamped in his teeth.
    But his attention was elsewhere.
    Find me!
    Why would he pay attention to that squishing noise? He had to find it. Whatever it was.
    Green as the trees. the voice whispered in its mind. Deep as the forests. Alive...
    He cared about the green of the thing after all. Not the black oozing through the walls. That didn't remind him of forests at all. It looked like tar. Tar didn't matter.
    FIND ME!
    Only it mattered.
    And find it he did.
    The green something, a strange smelling green gem unlike any the ferret had seen, was buried at the base of one of the many piles of treasure. Staring into the starry center was like staring into the deepest grove of oaks at twilight. The green seemed to glow but the dark core glittered with unseen starlight.
    Carefully, gingerly, the ferret closed his mouth around the iridescent green gem and felt a soft buzz of energy running through his body. It tingled and made him feel happy.
    And then the mountain of treasure before him exploded outwards, a mass of black tar and shadow filling the space before him, reaching for the squealing ferret as he was thrown backwards into the air.

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Chronicles of Jhool: A Hero twice Born, Once Dishonored | Chapter 2

All Rights to Elder Scrolls and Bethesda for their wonderful Artwork.
The Chronicles of Jhool
Chapter 2

    The sound of the statue's head exploding reverberated through the empty city with a baritone Tarver could feel in his bones. It was promptly followed by a sprinkle of gravely bits raining at the stone man's feet and the shiiiiiiiiink of cold steel drawn from the now decimated neck hole where the warhammer sat partially embedded.
    "Wow." the little halfling commented through food stuffed cheeks.
    Lenna didn't even bother to acknowledge him.
    Instead, the well-built, elven woman, warhammer firmly grasped in both hands, strode several feet down to the next stone effigy. She looked it in the eyes, spat, and swung again.
    This time the head didn't powder as much as before. Instead, the sprinkle of gravel and bits was accompanied by a soft rush of air as a large chunk, a good half of the stone head, quickly soared several yards backwards past the limits of the road, over the the precipice, and into the darkness below.
    "Yea!" Tarver cheered as he ripped off another far-too-large bite of jerky. He was gnawing at it and opening his flask when something caught his attention. "Looks like Bron's on his way."
    Once again, Lenna didn't bother looking up, intent still on destroying the next in what Tarver thought was a bizarrely long line of humans, notably the same human, for what was supposed to be a Dwarven city.
    That didn't much matter to Bron though.
    "Whit th' bugger is wrong wi' ye?" the massive brawler demanded in his near indiscernable Truskin accent. "Urr ye trying tae wake th' deid, ye dumb boot?"
    The larger man openly growled, baring his teeth and reaching out to grab the hammer's hilt. But before his meaty fingers could wrap around the cold steel, he found the head of the weapon pointed directly at his face, Lenna's eyes narrowed into vicious slits.
    "Don't tell me what to fucking do, dirtwhore!" the generic insult for Truskins was literally spat through a snarl just as menacing as the much-larger man's but with far more ferocity and venom.
    "Whoa!" Tarver exclaimed in surprise, a dribble of whiskey trickling from his lips. "Calm down. No need for that."
    "Shut your face, Tarver!" Lenna barked, her ire stilled locked on Bron who was bristling at the challenge. "It's neither of your fucking business!"
    The two stood there like that for far too long, their eyes locked; each one furious and daring the other to move. Luckily, neither made the first move.
    "Calm down." the little halfling repeated, having set down his lunch and moved slowly up to the duo. "Len'. You wanna destroy a bunch of statues of....ehh..."
    He glanced at the line of stone humans, each in a different pose.
    "Whoever that is than I'm sure that Bron-"
    "WHOEVER THAT IS?!" the elven woman roared, spittle spraying as she glowered down at the halfling.
    Whatever the next words were supposed to be, it was lost in a moment of rage as she turned away from her adventuring party and roaring again, swung the warhammer like an oversized baseball bat, slamming the head of the weapon directly into the chest of the nearest statue. The statue's entire torso was rent from its legs with a crunching and grinding sound. Stone flew backward into the chasm beyond while mithril rebar glittered in the pale torchlight, bent and broken in a dozen different angles.
    The three of them watched the granite soar into he darkness below for several seconds. Lenna's chest heaved with anger and Tarver backed away slightly, but it was Bron who spoke first.
    "Urr ye dane destroying hings noo, ye doolally wifie?" his anger with Lenna the moment before quickly turning to exasperation.
    Lenna screamed again and threw down the hammer, carving a chunk out of the road below, and began pummeling the next statue down the line with her bare fists. Her blows landed with far more purchase than any flesh really should against a stone anything, however a brief universal misunderstanding of physics and biological fortitude didn't stop her from caving a rather large hole into stone man's chest and side along with leaving behind more than a few chipped dents scattered about his torso.
    "Fur th' loue o' th' gods, let me ken whin this doolally witch gets her heid oan straecht." Bron groaned. "A'm aff tae scout ahead."
    "Yeah. Okay..." Tarver nearly whispered, his eyes still locked on the elven woman whose breath was now hitching in her throat. She wasn't quite cradling her hands, but he could plainly see blood dripping from shattered knuckles and gouts of the crimson liquid staining the glittering mithril rods in the freshly opened holes in the stone. "We'll catch up."
    But Bron was already gone, muttering something the little halfling couldn't make out as he wandered off into the darkness of Bhar-al'Jhool.
    Lenna, on the other hand, collapsed to her knees. Each breath brought either a racking sob or a furious, albeit small, roar.
    "Easy, Len'. Easy." Tarver whispered, trying to comfort her. "It's okay."
    Once again she glared at him but this time it was plain to see the tears bubbling at the corners of her eyes.
    "It's okay." he repeated, trying to muster a smile.
    Lenna glanced back to the bloodied statue before finally speaking, her voice a rasping whisper.
    "I'm not okay."
    "Sure, you are. I mean, you made that statue know what's-what, am I right?"
    "It's not the statue, you stupid fu-"
    "Let's not start that again now."
    She glared at him for a moment before a new fit of rage gripped her. She stood and swung again. However, her fury was quite short lived this time as her roar was instantly replaced with a scream of pain. Despite her keening wail, Tarver could hear the crunching of her splintering knuckles and saw the bone shards jutting through the back of her hand as she collapsed to her knees once more, one hand gripping the bloody meat.
    This time there were only sobs racking the woman's chest.
    "Yea. I pretty much figured that would happen." he said, already digging through his hip satchel. A moment later the halfling fished out a small vial with a glittering red liquid inside. Popping the top, the smell of dust was immediately replaced by a whiff of summer blooms and cherries and he couldn't help but feel a little giddy even smelling the concotion.
    "Drink, stupid." he said cheerfully.
    Lenna shook her head hard from side to side, tears streaming down her face, cradling her openly bleeding compound fracture.
    "Driiiiiink." Tarver said again with a smile in a sing-song voice, softly shaking the red liquid. "Tastes goooooood. Makes the pain go away."
    The elven woman let out one more heaving sob before tilting her head back and letting the little halfling help her drink the elixer. A wash of warmth ran through her body the instant it touched her lips and a buzz of pleasure ran through her very being that replaced her cries with a hushed moan. Her eyes roll into her head and closed a second later as her bones began to reknit and the lost blood quickly replaced itself. Within moments, the healing potion had made the horrific injury nothing more than a distant memory that, through the intoxicating effects, she couldn't quite recall. A passing thought about a nightmare lost in a dream.
    "Beeetter?" the halfling asked cheerfully, a smile still played across his lips.
    She nodded.
    "Wanna tell me about him?"
    She shook her head.
    "Why not?" he jidedly softly as he tucked away the empty vial.
    Lenna stared at the bloodied statue in response. She sat like that for a long time unblinking. Far too long. Her eyes slowly unfocusing as her eyes met the cold, granite ones above her.
    "That's Jhool..." she finally rasped through a raw throat.
    Tarver's eyebrows shot up in realization. He should have put it together sooner. The stories the elven woman had told him about the Liar God-Bourne. About the things he had done. About the things his cowardice had caused. Had taken away from her.
    "THAT'S him?" he asked, more out of shock then needing confirmation. After all, she'd been mad enough to break her own fist on a statue of the man.
    Lenna gave a small nod.
    Now Tarver found himself staring at the statue, disbelief and horror washing away any semblance of cheer or joviality in an instant.
    "I'm sorry..." Tarver whispered after a long moment.
    And he meant it.
    The elf was much, much older than him. She had lived so many more lives than any one of his race could ever hope to achieve. Been so many things. Seen and felt and experienced so much. But with that age, certain things that were nothing more than legend to him today could still burn bright hot for those that lived near to it. For those that were children when it happened. For those that lost so much that even millenias later, their fury was insurmountable.
    "Come on..." he whispered, very gently coaxing her to her feet. "Let's go."
    Lenna sobbed again, all rage gone for her, replaced by an overwhelming sadness he'd never seen in his lover before. Despite her powerful frame, she shook like a leaf on a dead branch and felt weak beneath his palms.
    "Let's go see what Bron found. Get out away from these ghosts." he cooed, his voice soft. "Don't forget your hammer."
    The elven woman nodded one last time and reached down, drawing the weapon up to her from the dent she left in the road. As they walked, she seemed to cradle the weapon like a child holds a toy to protect themselves from the dark; leaving behind the damaged statue, her blood still wet and dripping from the broken hole in its side.

Monday, March 25, 2019

The Chronicles of Jhool: A Hero twice Born, Once Dishonored | Chapter 1

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The Chronicles of Jhool
A Hero twice Born, Once Dishonored

    It is said that the Dwarven clan of the Cragbourn, despite their legendary works of steel, gold, and mithril, held a special regard for the majesty of stone. Cut and hewn from the hard grey granite, every young dwarf of the clan, be them future craftsman or warrior alike, worked a single piece of stone as a symbol of their transition to manhood.
    Legend has it that the stone was both their mother and their child alike. That the rocks and crags bore them and they, in turn, bore the stone and metal they were recognized for. And, within that towering mound of rock and ice lost within the Pehrmaroust Mountain Range, they toiled and lived within the womb of the world.
    Bhar-al'Jhool was one of the seven great cities constructed by the Dwarven people during the Age of Th'uun the Builder. It was an immense work of military might and artistic mastery built by the Cragbourne.
    Its construction within the mountain's berth honoring the God-Bourne hero Jhool Grayscale-Cragbourne and his adventuring compatriots rivaled any city known then or now with its stone halls easily as grand as the Elven capitol of A'na'katal or the Human metropolis of Placid Lake. It was a marvel of engineering, dedication, and talent that housed hundreds of thousands of men and women, merchants and diplomats, dwarves, elves, and men.
    But that was before the fall of the Age.
    Before the treachery of man and their broken promises.
    Before the arrogance of the elves and their ceaseless warring.
    Before the greed of the dwarves and their hunger for riches.
    And it was before darkness.
    Like many tragedies in history, one only has clarity for the events to come when they already know the events that are coming. As the old gnomish precept goes: "Hindsight is clear as crystal, but foresight is but mud only to be divined by witches and charlatans." It is by that same unfortunate truth that the peoples of the land, mired in their own selfish matters, never realized the dangers that pressed in until they were drowning in pools of their own blood.
    Historians often spin fanciful tales of the great darkness that quelled the Age of Th'uun. Their favorite metaphor is that of a tankard of ink poured across a great map; of liquid blankness spreading and boiling across the surface of the world, marring and engulfing all that it touched.
    In reality, it was nothing so obvious.
    It started with the disappearance of the little town of Gold Fields. A human farming town on the outskirts of any map, no one took heed when the twenty three men, women, and children vanished without a trace. It was explained away or ignored. Who cared for peasants? Perhaps monsters got them.
    The scene repeated itself in Ogre's Bend. The village mattered to nothing and no one short of the few farmers that lived there, scraping together a simple life far from the clatter or chaos of crowded cities. Who was to care at the disappearance of another twenty some six months later?
    Who would even think such events, separated by time and a hundred miles, were even related to each other?
    Unfortunately, only the historians would see the pattern.
    As time rolled on with crops sprouting and harvesting, snow falling and receding, and the stone of Bhar-al'Jhool ever unchanged short for the addition of new statues, halls, and homes, very few realized first hand that anything was happening. The world is, after all, a very dangerous place. Monsters are a vicious sort and lives come and go.
    Only when the Golden Gates of Kana'ka'Loe, hidden within the Emerald Sanctuary, were broken in by hundreds of thousands of walking corpses, flanked by monstrosities of bone and monsters from the depths of the Forgotten Darkness, did anyone truly take notice.
    And by then it was far too late.
    The creatures of darkness washed over the lands in a flurry of blood, chaos, and death. Many of the great cities and even some races, now forgotten, were wiped away, sometimes overnight. Adventurers and heroes great and small stood before the flood and nearly all were washed away, many joining the very ranks they sought to defeat, with only a select few leaving a wake behind their bravery and sacrifice for the races of light to survive in. Pools of safety surrounded on all sides by unending, unyielding death.
    It was late in the cataclysm that the monstrosities reached the guilded gates of Bhar-al'Jhool. Of the original six heroes that once called that place home, only Jhool Grayscale-Cragbourne, weathered by the centuries and old age, and his Elven partner Ava Quihana stood behind the shuddering, crumbling doors of stone and gold. One hundred thousand Dwarven warriors in armor of mithril and wielding weapons of silver stood with them. Unfortunately, Jhool knew better than to believe they would make a difference against the millions of slathering monsters pressing in.
    Jhool had lived far too long and far too comfortably for far too many years. Though he was human in appearance, his God-Bourne lineage, also known as a demi-god to some for his father's divine standing, had blessed him with long life only rivaled by the near-immortal elves. He had been honored as a hero by the Dwarven people for centuries in the halls of Bhar-al'Jhool and it showed to even the most casual of passerby.
    His lustrous hair was long since grey and thinned. His hardened physique turned to a doughy pot belly. His glittering eyes dull and drab. Everything about him that had once made him a hero had been weathered away except for his smile and his tales.
    Stories turned to tales as time goes on. Tales to legends. And legends to myth. Unfortunately, when the focus of such myth lives within your city gates, very few remember or realize that many of the stories told before their transference to lore were told by the very same man that they recognizing.
    Were Jhool ever questioned, he'd always deny it, but only the Elven woman at his side remembered the truth of the story spinner. She remembered the battle with the Hundred-Headed Hydra and that is was not Jhool, but her compatriot that slew the beast. She also remembered the Lion of Alza'jam and how it was not Jhool, but actually HER that tamed and conquered it. She remembered all of his falsehoods and lies that led to his remembrance and good standing.
    For many years, Ava let the story spinner weave his webs of exaggeration and fancy for all that would listen. She didn't care for the glory Jhool always demanded to be surrounded by. Nor did any of her compatriots. Perhaps, she pondered, with the failing gates before her, that's why the lying demi-god had a city named after him for all the good it did.
    No. With age came the failure of the handsome young man's looks. The dwindling visage and years of placation had given way to a fat old man who stood terrified in piss-soaked britches before crumbling stone and the hordes of monsters beyond. The only thing left was a smile white as a freshly polished pearl and gilded words that fell from his lips as a viper might drool its a noxious green venom.
    And, it was with that same smile, still painted on his face like a playwright's mask, that Jhool turned and walked away from the failing gates, stating he would gather reinforcements to make their last stand.
    A hundred thousand warriors watched him slither away like the snake he was.
    Their anger was short lived though. As were the remainder of their lives in general.
    While the city of Bhar-al'Jhool fell along with many others before the darkness was vanquished, those few survivors did not forget the cowardice of the Liar God-Bourne Jhool Grayscale-Cragbourne. Like a fire in a dried thicket, the tale spread of the man who abandoned his city, people, and partner to the slathering hordes. Jhool found no purchase and no home ever again, dying alone in the woods hated and despised; eaten half-alive by a large snake just looking for a meal and finding the nice fat story spinner.
    So hated was Jhool Grayscale-Cragbourne that many families remember his name and the anger is palpable still today. While, in the scope of offense, a single coward in the face of overwhelming adversity is not as exceptional as many make it out to be, he stands out among the crowd. Maybe it had to do with the centuries of stories that he himself weaved into the world. Maybe it had to do with the fall of the great city that held his name. No matter the reason, many historians have realized a rather unfortunate truth for the legacy of the Liar God-Bourne:
     Stories turned to tales. Tales to legends. And legends to myth.
     Now the only thing that remains outside of anger for Jhool Grayscale-Cragbourne are his effigies. The stone statues, carved from the hard stone granite deep in the heart of Bhar-al'Jhool, have survived several millennia and would have survived several more were it not for the intruder into the dead city: a wicked smile on her thin lips and a massive warhammer across her shoulders.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Still Here

Hey Lovelies,

I just wanted to provide a quick blast: I AM still here. As previously mentioned, I started with Hodoshi to kind of get the blood flowing, but I'm having a small issue with the upcoming scene within Little Island Tales. In short, the scene is actually going to be pretty noteworthy to several character developments, and I seem to be having trouble making it right. It's actually going to define how several things will move forward and, to be blunt, I'm not satisfied with it.

So, I promise that there is actually new content to come and I haven't just dropped dead again. The delays have to do with my dissatisfaction with a very specific scene. It has not felt natural, it has not felt organic, and the exposition and story crafting feels extremely ham-fisted. I promise, more is to come soon, I just need to make sure it feels correct.

I don't often do anything more than first drafts, but I simply can't hammer down this single piece.

Talk to you all soon.

- RB

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Hodoshi (Working Title) - Part 1

    "It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Mr...?"
    Hodoshi quietly stared at the massive, grease stained man before him, his hand extended to shake.
    The big man wore heavy leathers, an off-colored shirt that, before the years of brown and yellow stains, might have been called white, and thick, well-worn black motorcycle boots. The smell coming off of him was some combination of machine parts, probably motor oil based if Hodoshi were to guess, and overwhelming body odor. On top of everything else, he had a glaze in his eyes that suggested he was either drunk, high, or both.
    He was thick, burly, stupid, and everything about him came off as just dirty.
    It made Hodoshi want to spit.
    Hodoshi did not shake his hand.
    "What is it that you want, Mr. Duante?" he asked with plain annoyance.
    The big man stared at Hodoshi in confusion but his associate, Cooper, was quick to translate.
    "The fuck was that?" the big man asked stupidly.
    "My employer would simply like to know why you requested his presence, Mr. Duante." said the slender man to Hodoshi's right.
    "I'm sorry?"
    "I'm Felix. Ain't nobody called me Mr. Duante since school." the bruiser said wit a sneer.
    "And I'm sure that was quite a long time ago, wasn't it, Mr. Duante?" Hodoshi asked, his face dead pan.
    "The fuck is he doin?" the big man asked, jabbing a finger in Hodoshi's direction.
    For just the briefest of moments, Hodoshi considered snapping it off at the knuckle.
    Only for a moment though.
    "He merely is expressing a brief apology and asks we get down to business." his associate mistranslated, a well-practiced smile tickling at the edges of his thing lips. A subtle, disarming mannerism Cooper had perfected long ago.
    Not for the first time, Hodoshi openly ignored the thug in front of him and glanced around the room, taking in his surroundings with a lingering sense of disgust.
    The little dive bar they were in looked like it hadn't been visited by a Health Official in years. He had seen a sign but didn't really not the name. "Rosie's"? "Roxie's"? "Robby's"? Some sort of name that started with an "R".
    It didn't matter.
    The faux wood paneling was hidden beneath a marbling of oily, black tar stains, likely from cigarettes or something similar, that creeped up high on the walls and covered the ceiling. The bar itself, a long, single piece of mahogany that was probably the only real piece of wood in the place, was notched and splintered from untold bar fights, knife contests, and general disarray. Lights, barely strong enough to illuminate a fridge, lined bleak looking sitting areas and a few, ratty, ancient billiards tables.
    Worst of all, the whole place stank just as much as the big idiot in front of them from untold eons of cheap whiskey, grease monkeys, and the inevitable vomit of putting too much of both in the same place.
    Hodoshi sighed, glancing at the dozen other men that littered the room at various points. As his gaze passed over them, each one looked even bigger and dumber than the next. They were all openly staring, their eyes filled with suspicion, hatred, and mistrust.
    He shrugged and glanced back to Mr. Duante.
    "-get the job done?"
    "I assure you, Mr. Felix." Cooper said in an obviously placating manner. "My employer is the best. If not, we would not have been sent here. Now if you please?"
    "What. Is the job. You fucking imbecile." Hodoshi said, his annoyance beginning to flare hotter.
    Mr. Duante stared at him for a brief second before flatly declaring, "No. I'm not working with this fucking crip'."
    The man appeared to have more to say, but made the mistake of turning his back to him.
    You're right. Hodoshi thought to himself. We won't be working together.

    "You are aware the police are coming, Mr. Hodoshi?" Cooper asked as they walked down the side alley, weaving casually by large cardboard boxes and overflowing rubbish bins.
    "Wouldn't surprise me."
    "No concerns then?"
    "They won't find anything interesting."
    "We made quite a mess. It wouldn't surprise me if the entire block heard the commotion."
    "Good for them."
    Cooper stared at him for a moment before realizing his perceived mistake.
    "I apologize, sir."
    "Don't be an idiot. I know what you meant by it."
    Hodoshi took a moment to wipe the remaining blood off his hands along with a few specs that had flicked across the cuff of his suit before continuing.
    "Your statement was correct and nothing to be ashamed of. I was not exactly quiet."
    "You were not." his associate confirmed.
    They moved through alley without further comment until they reached a street several blocks over.
    "Alright, what now?" Hodoshi asked, his gaze wandering across the surprisingly busy area. It seemed they'd found some manner of open-air market. People were wandering too and fro and the entire place was lined with hastily constructed shacks selling all manner of different items under the haze of marijuana smoke and bead lights that ran the length of the street.
    "Well, I don't think Adolpho will be particularly thrilled about the Horsemen..."
    "He'll get over it. We can just call it free advertising."
    "All the same, I suppose we should report it and see if there's someone less taxing to deal with."
    "I don't doubt he knows already and there's no job pressing enough to go running off to. Let's get dinner. My treat. Then we'll deal with the golden haired prick."
    "Of course, sir."
    "What do you think? Ramen or Southern? Could definitely go for some Carolina Short Ribs." Hodoshi asked as he glanced around at a number of shacks near the end of the road that seemed to all be selling different foods. He could easily make out Bar-B-Que in sprawling, maroon letters across the banner of one.
    "Frankly, I'd prefer something with vegetables."
    "Surprise. Surprise." he snarked the thinner man. "We'll look. Maybe there's somewhere with some vegan options."
    "Thoughtful as always, sir."
    "Well, mom told me that if I wanted a bunny, I'd have to take care of it."
    Cooper, a smirk playing off his lips, wiggled his nose and upper lip slightly, and Hodoshi let out an unrestrained laugh. They disappeared into the crowd a moment later, their mind set on food, just as the police arrived to find the eviscerated corpses of a dozen, heavily armed bikers several blocks away.


(Hello Lovelies. I wanted to thank you all for being so patient. The last month has been a hell of a rough ride, but I'm finally back on the wagon. With that said, I wanted to open up with an idea I've been playing around with. I'm not sure how long lasting it will be, but it's been in the back of my head and exploring it seemed like a good way to flex my writing muscle again. Don't worry, my Little Island Tales are soon to come, but I figured I'd warm up on a newer project rather than produce garbage when it comes to continuing L.I.T. Keep your ear to the ground, more to come shortly. Love you all.)

Sunday, February 25, 2018


Hello Lovelies,

So, as you're aware, I've been kind of missing in action for the last half a month. As it turns out, the reason for this is I've been sick as a dog. I won't go into the finer details, but I ended up catching the flu that was going around and said flu ended up developing into a really nasty case of bronchitis and eventually pneumonia that pretty much put me out completely.

With that said, I'm sick of doctors, I'm sick of medicine, I'm sick of beds and tests, but I'm finally recovering and returning to normalcy.

I intend to return to my normal posting schedule and continue Little Island Tales later this week. After being not only out of work, but out of life in general, I have been having to recover a few things and get life back in order. Thank you for being so patient and I promise more is to come very soon.