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.
    "Felix."
    "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

Recovering


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.

Sincerely,

RB

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Little Island Tales - Part 14


    "Diego. Wake up, nani."
    Diego grumbled and groaned, rolling over in his spot. He glanced over his shoulder and could see the sun shining through the cracks in the walls and the form of his mother moving at the far end of the house.
    "Diegooo~" she called again.
    "Mmph."
    "Your friend is here, nani."
    "Mmph!"
    "Have it your way." his mother said with a giggle.
    The pitter patter of feet on the floor was sudden and washed away by a high pitched squeal.
    "Diego!" Tamah yelled.
    She hit him from behind, practically tackling him into the wall, and began violently shaking him.
    "Wakeupwakeupwakeupwakeup!" the younger girl said in delight.
    "Mmmph!"
    Diego rolled over and glared up at Ka'lani's sister. Her face was bright and beaming and a smile was stretched from ear to ear.
    "Hi." she said shortly, her smile growing wide.
    "Why?" was all he could muster.
    "I got you something!" she declared proudly, jutting out her chest. "Come see come see!"
    Using his back as a springboard, Tamah jumped off of him and ran back to the other side of the house. He weakly pulled himself from the bed and followed after her.
    "Tamah brought you some-" his mother began.
    "I FOUND YOU SOME BREAKFAST!" Tamah squealed, nearly bouncing up and down as she turned back to Diego.
    Cradled in her arms was a small, woven basket. Tucked into the basket were a number of different fruits. There were some mangoes, papayas, raspberries, dragonfruit, and even a few bananas. They all looked ripe and incredibly delicious.
    Without hesitation he snatched one of the mangoes and began digging in.
    "Thank you," he offered after a few bites. "But...where did you get all this?"
    "I found it!"
    "Tamah has had a very busy morning from the looks of things." Diego's mother offered.
    Diego knew well enough that none of the fruit really grew that nearby and more than a few would even require venturing into the lower forests on the mountain.
    "Did your brother help you?"
    She shook her head.
    "Ka'lani?"
    Again, no.
    "Did you really go alone?"
    Tamah beamed once more, her smile threatening to split her face.
    "I wanted to make sure you had something tasty. I know how tired you've been. And I thought it would be nice to see you."
    Diego spared a brief look at his mom who simply smirked and shrugged before busying herself with something in the kitchen.
    It had been several days since the trek up the mountain with Johanas and he hadn't really done much other than help his mother around the house since then. He had felt strangely detached after the weird conversation with the older man but he hadn't been able to really place the why. His words had really bothered him, enough so that he hadn't given much thought to anyone really, even the recent discovery of the tracks.
    Not that much came of them. he thought to himself.
    He'd heard the warriors talking in the last few days. They hadn't really been able to find anything as the trail had been destroyed along with a chunk of the forest in the night. That, combined with the sounds they had heard the same evening, made many of them believe that if their had been an intruder on the island, they were likely already dead by the hands of the aka-akua. 
    It's too bad really. Diego wondered what someone from outside of the island would have been like.
    "Thank you." he repeated himself.
    Tamah nodded enthusiastically and set down the basket. As she did, there was a soft tinkle from inside.
    "OH!" she shouted. "I almost forgot!"
    Digging into the bottom of the basket, she retrieved several strange, shiny objects. There were four in total. They were cylindrical and made of a yellowish metal. One end of each cylinder was open to reveal a hollow interior. A hole had been punched through all of them with a simple leather cord so they could be worn as a necklace.
    Weirdly, they all smelt like burnt incense.
    "I wanted to give you one." Tamah continued and offered the shiny, little cylinder necklaces. "I thought maybe we could each have one. I found them while I was looking for breakfast."
    "You mean me, you, and your brother and sister?"
    "Mmmhmm."
    Diego shrugged and plucked the cleanest one from her palm. They all had little dents and dings, but the one he picked seemed to look the nicest.
    He promptly tied it around his neck.
    "I think they're kind of pretty." she offered.
    "They are, I guess." he confirmed with a nod. "Although, that reminds me, where is your sister?"
    In the last few days, Diego hadn't really seen Ka'lani. In all honesty, he hadn't seen anyone but his mother and whoever passed by the door. She had been the one person he'd considered trying to visit but hadn't quite brought himself to do so.
    Tamah, for the briefest of moments, appeared to be crestfallen. Her smile dimmed and her eyes fell to the floor for a moment. If he hadn't been staring right at her, Diego would have missed it entirely.
Because a moment later, she was beaming again, although it seemed strangely forced and artificial.
    "She's at Grammy Koula's. She's been over there for a couple days. I was going over there after you had breakfast to give her one of these." she said, holding up the cylinders again.
    "Can I come?" he asked her.
    "You should." Tula said from the kitchen. "As fun as it is to use you as my own personal slave, I think you need to get away from weaving and cooking for a little while."
    "Ok!" Tamah offered. "I'll make sure to take good care of him!"
    Before Diego could ask what that meant, the smaller girl had shoved a few raspberries into his hand, grabbed her basket, and was pushing him out the door into the warm sun beyond.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Little Island Tales - Part 13


    SCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAACCCCCCCCH!
    The roar, if that's what you could call it, was utterly inhuman. Defeaning at best, heart stopping at worst, it grew in fervent intensity as the beast came out of nowhere. It barreled through an entire grove of trees as easily as a scythe through a single stalk of wheat and didn't so much as slow down.
    And she couldn't even see the damned thing.
    It was like fighting the void of space itself.
    The gunshots roared in her ears and she bellowed her own roar of utter defiance. She heard something pop and blood openly ran from her pounding ears. Her entire body ached and her knuckles rattled with each shot, but that didn't stop her from unleashing a torrent of hell against the monster that dared challenge her.
    Unfortunately, the bullets didn't seem to do much.
    Only the tracers, flashing flares jutting out every few rounds, even seemed to make an impact. The burning red pyrotechnic charges seemed to burn the thing's flesh for a moment before vanishing inside the pitch-black beast.
    At least it was something.
    Not enough though.
    Not enough to stop it.
    Her hearing fading with each boom of the heavy rifle, she was forced to use drastic measures. Using the disappearing rounds as a judgement for distance, Jaelyn dove out of the way a half moment before the monstrous creature reached her. She felt her hip and leg bounce off its body as it roared by, sending her scrambling as her lower half was flung hard against a nearby tree with a disturbing crunch that seemed to echo in her failing eardrums.
    "Merde." she cursed weakly under her breath
    She clawed desperately at the forest floor for her gun, her mind doing all it could to focus on anything but the blooming pain.
    She had to fight.
    The beast was already coming about face, having cleaved out another chunk from the forest in a single sweep. Everything about it made her want to scream and hide in a hole somewhere. Aside from the monstrous roars, it was dead silent but for the forest it destroyed. It was just so big. So fast. And she couldn't see the putain de chienne! Once again, she brought her gun up and she didn't hear as much as feel her least favorite sound in the world.
    click
    "No. No! NO!" she heard herself scream, her words distant and echoing.
    She shook the useless firearm, quickly checking the clip and finding that it seemed to be jutting out at a strange angle. She tore at the jammed piece, but her panicked attempt to right the broken weapon was interrupted by a strange sound that made it through the haze. Weirdly, to her addled mind, it sounded like a dragon throwing up.
    Jaelyn, more on instinct than sight, flung herself away as something wet and acrid splashed across the forest floor where she had been only seconds before. She could feel some of it hit her boots and pants and felt a distinct sizzling sensation as whatever had been thrown her way started to melt through the hardened polycarbon.
    Well that's fun. She thought as something slick, hot, and wet started to pool in the bottom of her boot.
    Probably her melting foot if the smell was to be any indicator.
    Taking off at a run, fire running up her leg as her nerves burned with pain, Jaelyn slung the rifle and was about to go for her sidearm when she felt the thing coming at her again. Felt the ground shake as earth was displaced and trees were ripped asunder. She waited as long as she dared, til it was just on top of her, not inches away with its hot, stinking breath warming her neck, before snapping into a hard left and diving through a particularly thick grove of trees.
    And off a cliff.
    "MERDE!!!"
    Open ocean and fresh salt air lay before and under her with nothing else to catch her. In front of her, a massive pillar stuck out of the ocean and behind her the cliff she had come from. Underneath? Nothing.
    She clawed at the open air, reaching out for anything to grab hold of. To find purchase in anyway. If only she'd still had her pack.
    She had just enough time to look up, to see the beast's face poking out of the treeline, and scream up at it in fury.
    Jaelyn hit the ocean at the bottom of the cliff with a sickening crack from her back. Her body spasmed in shock and she didn't feel as much as see the air expel from her lungs into the cold, salt water. A moment later, darkness enveloped her and she blacked out.

    Some ways down the mountain, the village stirred; awoken by the sounds of battle from the forests unseen. They knew they roars of the aka-akua but not that strange popping, booming sound that hid risen to challenge them. When nothing further came of it, Diego, like many of the other children, rolled over and went back to sleep.

====

(A short entry today, but potentially critical. If you'll forgive the length, I felt that this entry was important to introduce a few things into the world of Little Island Tales. I hope you enjoyed and will join us for more soon.)
   

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Little Island Tales - Part 12


    "Johanas?" asked a familiar voice from beyond the foliage.
    The older man visibly relaxed as Joun, one of the warriors from the beach, pushed through the underbrush. He was bare chested, his shirt tied around his pants, and he was holding a spear tightly in his right hand. His face was flushed red and he was soaked with sweat from head to toe, no doubt from the growing, steamy warmth of the jungle.
    "And Diego." the warrior quickly added, glancing past Johanas. "The hell are you two doing out here?"
    Before Diego could respond, Johanas spoke for them.
    "Felt like going for a little walk." Johanas he said casually. "Little Diego here wanted to come with so it seemed like a good chance to show him a thing or two about tracking."
    Joun's eyes narrowed more in confusion than suspicion and he very plainly glanced down at the cripple's damaged leg and his cane. The older man, in turn, simply smiled wider.
    "Ain't that right, boy?" he said, glancing over his shoulder.
    "Eh...yea. That's right. My mother wanted to make sure someone was with him so I went with." Diego confirmed the half truth.
    Joun nodded.
    "That wasn't you we heard then, was it?" the warrior asked.
    "That popping sound? No. We were wondering ourselves." Johanas confirmed as he took a drag from the cigarette.
    "We think we have an intruder on the island." Joun stated flatly.
    "Explains the tracks." the older man said with a nod. "Was wondering why they looked so weird. Diego pointed em out to me."
    Joun glanced back at him again and looked a little impressed.
    "Really now? I would have figured it the other way around. Maybe you've got the workings of a hunter in ya, Diego."
    Diego shifted uncomfortably.
    "Maybe." he muttered.
    "Alright, you two head back to the village. We don't need anyone wandering around here while we're looking for someone, particularly not someone...eh..." Joun seemed to get stuck on his words for a minute before finishing. "...as venerable as yourself."
    Johanas burst out laughing which quickly broke down into a mild coughing fit.
    "Venerable! Ha! Yea, alright. Come on, Diego, let's get my old ass off this mountain."
   
    "Why did you lie to him?" Diego asked as they broke through the tree line and they stepped out into the blazing sun of the open beach.
    "What?" Johanas asked indigently. "Well I never! Ain't never lied in my life."
    "You lied to Joun, though."
    "Nope."
    Diego ran out in front of the cripple, stopping him from walking any farther.
    "You told him I showed you the tracks."
    "You did, didn't you? I didn't know about 'em til you told me."
    Diego faltered.
    "And that you were out for a walk."
    "And I was!" Johanas confirmed. "You even said it yourself: your mother didn't want me going alone. After all, he didn't ask why I wanted to go for a walk or what I was doing while walking."
    "But..." Diego stammered, not sure where to go with this. "You know there's an intruder!"
    "I figured there was based on the tracks and what you told me." the older man said, his grin threatening to split his head in half. "Joun only confirmed my suspicions further."
    Diego was speechless.
    In the moment, he had felt confused and even a little ashamed that Johanas had seemingly lied to the warrior. Now, with him plainly explaining how expertly he'd gotten around the man's questions, he couldn't decide if he actually felt better or not.
    "Listen, Diego, let me tell you something." Johanas said, his voice taking on an air of sincerity. "You're smart. You always have been. I blame your mother personally."
    The older man punctuated his statement with a short, barking laugh.
    "Problem is," he continued. "Most people think they are smart. Now this can mean that someone who doesn't know any better than you is going to make a decision that might effect whether you live or die. But, in return, it also means you can also use that same lack of smarts against em."
    Johanas tapped his head.
    "Make 'em think what they think is actually the case. People will always presume something. It's natural. Tell 'em what they want to hear and they'll believe it. Even if you tell em the truth to their face, if you tell em the right way, they'll do the lie for you."
    "I don't understand."
    "I know. But give it some time."
    Diego couldn't accept that.
    "But....why?"
    "Because..." Johanas began, his expression growing dark and distant. "Sometimes it's easier to let people believe one thing than face the pain of having to correct them. Sometimes people are scared to admit something to themselves as much as they are to others."
    Diego stared at the older man, stared at the normally vacant, smiling face, and how stern it had grown in a moment. The weary, sweat soaked lines and wrinkles and a horrible weight that seemed to lie across his entire being made him seem eternally older and more abused than he'd ever seen before.
    And, all at once, he wasn't sure they were still talking about the same thing.
    "So the tracks-?" he asked slowly.
    Johanas' face lit up again once more.
    "The tracks are fine. If we told em we were just following em, they'd get upset and worried. Easier to let em think we were just walking."
    The older man's smile returned in full force but Diego was still picturing the darkened facade from a moment prior.
    "Okay." he agreed softly.
    "Now come on." Johanas said with a pat on the boy's shoulder. "Let's get back to the village and see about stealing another bowl of stew from your mom."
    Johanas started off and Diego followed him down the beach. Occasionally, he found himself glancing back towards the woods where they'd come from, his mind chewing on the strangely cryptic and bizarre lesson that the older man had just imparted. He couldn't put his finger on it, but something about 'people too scared too admit something' continually rolled about in his head even after he'd gone to bed that night.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Little Island Tales - Part 11


    Despite the encroaching heat, the pair pushed forward through the forest; Diego leading the way and moving aside branches and underbrush while Johanas did his best to hobble along as fast as he could.
    "Anything?" the older man asked through a soft cough and a very clear wince of pain.
    "No."
    It had been thirty minutes since they heard the poping noise come from the mountain side but hadn't managed to find anything in the thick groves of palms and plants. Aside from the tracks, the most exciting thing they'd seen were a few wild pineapples.
    Diego wanted to take them with but Johanas encouraged him to grab them on the way back.
    "Won't do to carry it til you need to." he told the boy.
    As they walked, the older man continually pointed out things about the trail of footprints. Not only did he comment several times about how leisurely of a pace their mystery man seemed to be moving at, but also that this person wasn't just out for a simple stroll.
     With a stick, he pointed at a few tracks that were weird to Diego. Ones that were twisted or deeper into the mud. Prints that showed caution when they were moving and that moved slower than the majority of the trail.
    Prints that showed their man was checking his surroundings.
    "In short..." Johanas winced. "He's probably some kind of warrior. Or at least a hunter of some kind. He moves quickly but he's not oblivious to how dangerous the forest is."
    "But the warriors don't know about him?" Diego asked with a tilt of his head.
    "Not one of our warriors. Someone from somewhere else."
    "Like another island?"
    "Could be." Johanas said through a strained smile.
    They kept walking, kept following the tracks, but the heat and the frustration were started to get on Diego's nerves.
    "There's got to be something around here." he whined.
    "There is..." Johanas panted weakly. "And we'll find it..."
    For the first time since they started, Diego stared back at Johanas and really took stock of what he was seeing. He knew the man was a cripple. Anyone with a pair of eyes could see that. But the energy he had always shown despite that had made him seem, well, beyond that somehow. Now, as the man panted and fought against his broken body, it was readily apparent that wasn't completely the case.
    His concern ebbed his enthusiasm.
    "Yea." Diego said thoughtfully. "Maybe we could rest? I'm pretty thirsty," making up a quick excuse.
    Johanas, face red and sweat pouring down from his brow, still managed that same grin as he always did.
    "Okay. In that case we need water." the old man chuckled weakly. "So here's what you look for..."

    To Diego's amazement, it was only a matter of minutes before they found themselves in front of a small, burbling waterfall. The little spring bubbled out of the side of small cliff-face and poured down into a crystalline blue pool some feet below.
    With Johanas' instruction, it had been incredibly easy to find the pond. First, he started by pointing out a number of tracks that Diego hadn't even seen: animal tracks. After following them for a moment or two, he made the boy stand perfectly still and listen for, of all things, the buzzing of insects. They repeated this several times until on the fourth attempt, Diego didn't hear insects, but the splashing of water.
    "Incredible." was all Diego could manage as he stared at the idyllic scene.
    With the exception of a wild boar snoozing nearby, the pool looked untouched. The little pig, a young male based on the size, snorted as it woke and quickly scampered into the forest with a squeal as they approached.
    "Of course, running water should always be your first try. Green-water can make you really sick. Just like how you don't drink ocean water." Johanas said as he sucked hard on his cigarette. "But the plants and stuff have water in 'em too. I'll show ya later."
    They both drank deeply of the pool and, to Diego's surprise, the water was almost ice cold. The chill both shocked and refreshed him and it seemed to have the same effect on Johanas as well, who now seemed to be regaining a little of his composure. After drinking their fill, they both plopped down in the moss and sand next to the pond.
    "How do you know all this stuff?" Diego asked.
    His mind was still wondering at the sounds they'd heard earlier, but he had never really been into the woods before and with the old cripple showing him so many new things, it was hard not to get caught up in the moment.
    "Used to be a warrior." Johanas replied simply.
    "No. I know that."
    "And do you know it's not always lookin' pretty with fancy hats and spears down in the village then?"
    "I...no?"
    Johanas' smile only grew larger, his pain seemingly washing from his face for the moment.
    "The warriors that venture away from the village have to know how to take care of themselves. When we train up, we learn to hunt and fish and track and just survive out here. It's kind of necessary."
    "But don't the hunters do that?"
    "They do." the older man said with a nod. "But what good are the hunters if you're alone in the woods?"
    Diego thought about that for a moment before nodding in understanding.
    Johanas, in turn, took a long draw off his cigarette and blew it up and away from the boy. Diego was getting used to the smell in a way but was thankful all the same for the consideration. The smoke made him feel weirdly light headed if he smelt it too long.
    "Hell," Johanas continued and held out the cigarette for inspection. "That's how I found out about this stuff."
    "You found it out here?"
    "Yep. Big field of it on the other side of the mountain. Plus it grows quite a few other places too. It's like a weed. But it gets the job done."
    "What is it?"
    "Dunno, honestly. Found it because of a pig. Saw him eat it and, a little while later, it was really chill and calm. Gave me a laugh at the time. After I got hurt, Kaula was describing an herb that pretty much matched so a few of the other guys helped me get some and start growing it. She always just called it Pakalolo."
    "Does it help?"
    Johanas smiled bigger. "Decently. Not for the worst though. That's just good ol' suffering."
    Diego dipped his head, feeling a mix of pity and shame for the older man, but quickly got a soft pat on the shoulder.
    "Hey. Stop that kid. Ain't nothin' to look so sad about."
    "I just...I'm sorry you hurt all the time."
    "Ehh, me too." he said, taking another drag before letting the cigarette once again dangle precariously from his lips. "But you get used to it in a way."
    Diego offered him a smile and Johanas returned it with a wink.
    Shhishiishhh
    They both glanced up quickly at one of the bushes near the edge of the pond. It was still softly shaking from the moment before.
    Exchanging a quick glance, Diego stood and wrapped his hands around the older man's arm. Together, they struggled to slowly pull him up off of the ground, Diego groaning from the sheer weight and Johanas from the pain of the quick motion.
    "Shh." he hushed Diego as he hobbled in front of him.
    Johanas moved slowly, keeping himself between Diego and the bush. To Diego's surprise, as he moved, the older man seemed to lean to one side, his good side, putting more and more weight on his non-crippled leg. And, as he did, his hand wrapped threateningly around the base of his cane as though he might start swinging it like a sword. For the first time ever, the man didn't seem calm or even pained, but rather like the warrior he supposedly once had been.
    And, as if in response, the bush rattled once again followed by the sound of heavy footfalls moving towards them.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Little Island Tales - Part 10


    "Hey there, kid." Johanas said with that same, massive smile he always had.
    His cigarette bobbed up and down precariously as though it might stumble from his lips at any moment. The man's almost surreal grin was so wide that it looked like it might split his head in half at any moment and the words came with puffs of pungent, stinky smoke.
    Diego politely tried to ignore the smell.
    "Uh...Hi, Joe." Diego responded uncertainly.
    "You know," the older man began, resting heavily on his cane, a distinct look of mischief in his eyes, "I was thinking about what your mother said and figured she's right."
    "About what?"
    "About the fact I should take someone with me to go investigate those tracks you found."
    Diego found himself staring blankly at him. To start, he was already baffled about why the man was here in the first place and now this? What did any of this have to do with him?
    "I think that's a pretty good idea," Johanas continued. "Don't you?"
    "I...guess?"
    "So. Wanna come check them out with me?"
    Realization dawned on him and excitement began to build in Diego's chest, but something inside told him to stay his hand.
    "Yea!" he said with more joy than he meant to let out. Quickly doubling back, he asked, "But I don't think that's what mom meant. I think she meant someone older and more experienced."
    "Naaaah!" Johanas said with a long exhalation of smoke. "She didn't say who I should take with. Just that she wanted someone. And who better than a strapping young lad like yourself?"
    To punctuate the point, the older man laughed and patted Diego on the shoulder.
    He felt his compunctions drain away and a smile grew across his face that could easily rival the ever-present grin that Johanas wore. The excitement that had been welling up in his chest burst and he could stop himself from practically jumping up and down.
    "Ok!" he nearly shouted. "Let's go!"
    Diego nearly bowled the older man over as he shot past him and into the sand beyond. Johanas chuckled hard and, slowly and carefully, hobbled about-face to follow after the overeager boy.

    "What do you think?"
    "I think it looks like the trail is starting to get a little cold." Johanas responded to Diego's inquiry.
    He wasn't wrong either. At this point, any tracks that had existed on the lower beach were completely gone; washed away with the tide and the rolling waves. The ones that still existed in the rich, white sands of the upper beach were also starting to fade as the gentle noon-time breeze whittled them away to little more than divots among the dunes.
    "They were heading to the mountain!" Diego declared excitedly as he ran alongside the faded tracks, his eyes locked on the large, singular peak that dominated the island's horizon. "I got a good look at em earlier! Remember?"
    "I remember." Johanas said with a laugh.
    "Then come on! Let's go!"
    The older man nodded in agreement and followed after him. He moved even slower in the beach sand, the cripple's cane having trouble finding any real purchase and making it difficult to move in a straight line, but Diego was willing to slow down. Luckily, despite Johanas' pain, his smile never faltered and he didn't seem to get tired.
    Walking past the village, they soon found themselves rounding the bend to the little box canyon where their home was hidden from the elements. Sand soon changed to dirt and dirt gave way to a host of palm and coconut trees that sprouted here and there. After an hour's combined walking and hobbling, their trail had reappeared in the wet mud and the landscape had begun to incline.
    "Now those are pretty interesting." Johanas commented as he stared at the first, intact boot print they'd found on their walk.
    Diego had to agree.
    Unlike before on the beach where the track was either in soft sand or where the ocean had begun to wash away the details, Diego could plainly see every intricate detail of the boot mark. The mark was surprisingly large, easily rivaling most of the biggest warriors in the village, but that wasn't the odd part. The mark was filled with ridges cutting deep cuts into the wet dirt, running the length of the print, forming strange shapes and patterns. While he'd seen a hint of them earlier, here they were plain as day.
    "What are those?" Diego asked, indicating the deep ridges.
    "Don't know." Johanas replied with a shrug as he fished a fresh cigarette from his pocket and let it with one of the tinder-sticks the man always carried. "Some sort of fancy cobbling, I guess."
    "Why?"
    Again, a shrug.
    They were both resting on the remains of a fallen tree, staring at the thing. The tracks continued on deeper through up the mountain and into the thick groves and woods. Into the greenery and the darkness.
    "I'll tell you what, though..." Johanas began. "Whoever made these probably didn't run into any demons."
    Diego spare a quizzical look as if to ask "Why?", his mind drifting back to the massive aka-akua tracks he'd seen around the first set of prints.
    "He's moving too slow." the older man continued. "He wasn't running. The tracks aren't cutting deep or nothing like that. Just smooth and steady."
    "So he didn't come through at night?"
    Johanas, yet again spared a shrug.
    "Guess so. On top of that, there aren't any tracks following after it. See? All smooth except for our mystery man. And it's not like a demon moves quiet like."
    Diego, his attention now drawn to it, regarded the near perfect mud with new understanding. He'd seen the beach enough to know the aka-akua tore up everything they touched. Unless they could fly, there was no way they wouldn't notice that it had been there.
    Hell, if one had followed the boot tracks, there probably wouldn't be much to follow to begin with.
    And so, they sat a while longer in silence.
    The edges of the forest were beginning to heat up with the midday sun, the air thickening as it always did near the trees; a wet, heavy feeling that clung to your skin and made you thirsty despite your clothes being soaked. As excited as Diego was to find something new, he was starting to get a little tired from the walk and had just opened his mouth to ask when they might go back when they heard it.
    PoppopopopPOP!
    Diego jumped up in surprise and Johanas glanced around in confusion.
    "What was-"
    Popopopopopopopopop!
    The sound came from higher on the mountain, deeper into the forest, and reverberated off every rock and tree trunk.
    Diego spared a glance at Johanas who was pulling himself to his feet, his confusion drying up some of the man's permanent grin.
    "What was that?" Diego tried to ask again.
    "That?" Johanas said, regaining his smiling once again splitting his face. "That was a clue."

 ===

(Back by popular demand, we return to the world of Little Island Tales! I'm actually amazed by the number of requests I got both randomly in the comments sections and DM's/Emails. With that said, while there may be an interjection of a short story here or there, I intend to continue Little Island Tales for a while. So strap in and, as always, I hope you enjoy. See you again soon, Lovelies.)

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Dragon's Maw (Final) - The Chronicle's of Braum Stormforge

http://dragon.images3.org/picture/913-scary-dragon-breathing-with-fire-by-oustins/

    The last kobold hit the ground with a resounding thud.
    For half a moment, Braum just stood there, his breath coming in short ragged gasps. His head was spinning and his fingers were numb. Despite this, he could easily feel the liquid collecting in extremities of his armor; the combined blood and sweat from the fight pooling and sloshing about in the metal gauntlet's fingertips and at the base of his boots.
    Some of it was theirs. More of it was his.
    With a crackle and sizzle of electricity, the eidolon settled next to him as Ember made his way down the stairs, stepping gingerly over the corpses.
    "Well that was fun." the summoner commented.
    Braum could do little more than scoff as he brought his hand to his chest, the palm growing a distinct golden hue. A warmth spread through his body as his god's divine blessing touched him and, while he would need actual rest to properly heal, he felt the blood from his wounds stop flowing as the flesh began to knit itself back together.
    He let out a sigh as the burn of battle began to be replaced by a wash of relief.
    "Yea." Braum agreed with a half-hearted nod before turning his attention upwards towards the orb. "But at least we found the o-"
    The entire room shuddered with the force of a small earthquake.
    "-rb." he finished and quickly added. "What was that?"
    Boooooom.
    Another shake and shudder, the echoing explosion could be felt in their bones and Braum could actually see the shockwave run through the walls; sending dust and bits of loose debris skittering about.
    Ember's eyes narrowed and Braum, his body still burning from the battle moments before, wearily lifted his hammer again, ready for a fight.
    Unfortunately, they weren't ready for what came.
    A jet of flame, blazing blue with tinges of red and orange, exploded through the wall on the far end of the room. The solid stone didn't fragment as much as it did turn instantly to molten rock and splatter like liquid wax from the sheer force and heat of the blast.
    Half a second later, what wall hadn't been liquefied by the flames collapsed as the head and neck of dragon came crashing through. The beast was larger than any creature Braum had even dreamed about; a mountain turned monster. It's bright red scales shone brilliantly in the firelight and the gargantuan creature, quite literally large enough that it could likely use the entirety of Wyrmshorde as a nest, was quickly followed by a bolt of lightning that struck it across its face from somewhere beyond the wall's precipice.
    "GRAB THE ORB AND RUN YOU FOOLS!" the magically enhanced voice reverberated off the walls, echoing from the room the beast had just broken through from.
    While the speaker was unseen, both men knew instantly who it was. It was the priest of Bahumut. They very man who had sent them on the quest.
    And so they ran.
    Sparing an extra few seconds to climb the small pillar in the center of the room, Braum snatched the orb and tucked it away in his bag before sprinting for all he was worth. In that time, several more blasts of flame had turned the walls, ceiling, and a number of nearby treasure piles to boiling slag and at least a dozen bolts of lightning had ricocheted off the beasts glittering hide.
    "Just remember the old Elvish proverb!" Ember called back as they barreled up the stairs and away from the chaos. "One does not need to outrun the dragon. They just need to outrun the dwarf!"
    Braum could do little more than growl as the summoner laughed at him. The taller, lither man quickly picked up speed but, to his credit, used the headway to open the magical armoire at the far end of the hall instead of simply leaving him behind.
    With Ember at the front, Braum behind, and the mage's Eidolon taking up the rear, they quickly navigated the twisting stone tunnels and didn't stop running until they were a half mile out the cave's entrance and down the road.
    Once there, they both collapsed in exhaustion; their faces and bodies drenched in sweat as they openly wheezed.
    "Th-That was..." Ember started.
    "Yea...
    "And the priest..."
    "Yea..."
    "Why?"
    "Don't know."
    Nothing else needed to be said. The two sat there for a minute, trying desperately to catch their breath while watching hesitantly up the mountain road at the cave's entrance. Nothing followed them out, although Braum doubted that such a beast as they'd seen would use the cave. Based on its sheer size, it very well might take the mountain with it if it decided to pursue them.
    Weakly, he stood up.
    "Let's get back to town." Ember said, his words barely a whisper through his hoarse throat. "I'm not sure what we're supposed to do with this damned orb if our payday is in their with a dragon, but I'd rather not wait around here."
    "Agreed." Braum said with a nod.
    And so, after another minute of collecting themselves, the pair began their trek back down the mountain. He noted that the necromancer seemed to be missing but thought little of it at the time. There were other things on his mind.
    Braum was thinking about the glowing orb in his pocket. He was thinking about how strangely heavy it was and how it felt in his palm, a slight sensation of energy tingling through his nerves at every slight touch.
    He was also wondering. He was wondering what he was supposed to do with this thing now that they had acquired it and whether the priest, who very likely saved their life, would be able to collect it from him.
    What he was not doing was thinking about the future.
    He wasn't thinking about some sociopathic mage with a love of dead bodies. He wasn't thinking about the implications that such a man, with an entire troop of dead goblins, was no where to be seen. As he was not a fortune teller, he wasn't thinking about how this one act, this one little quest they had just performed, would change the world forever. And finally, he certainly was not thinking, wondering, or really had any way of knowing that this orb and its quest would not only lead to his death, but his rebirth, and how the wheels that were now turning would strip him of his title in the eyes of his god and his position as a paladin.
    Instead, his mind was on the orb and no where else.

===

(Hello Lovelies. I hope you enjoyed 'The Dragon's Maw'. While I'm going to be stopping here for a little bit, worry not, Braum will be returning later. More of his story exists and hopefully the ending gives you a hint at some of what is to come. For now though, I'm going to be returning to Little Island Tales as well as a few other new pieces. Some of them will be a return to the classics and heavily horror oriented while a few others will be attempts at branching out my talents. Check in soon for more and I hope you have a wonderful day.)

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Dragon's Maw (Part 7) - Chronicles of Braum Stormforge

Artist Unknown - If Identified, please let me know - http://www.misucell.com/WDF-158230.html

    CRACK~
    The sound of the kobold being crushed under the weight of Magna was sickening. Worse yet, it came down cleanly on top of his head and split it like an overripe melon, spraying its contents across Braum and the other kobolds. In a heartbeat, the creature was snuffed out of existence only to be replaced by two more of the little dragon-kin, their blades flashing and searching for purchase beneath his steel hide.
    Fortunately, he didn't have the time to think about the implications.
    With his shield in his left hand, he knocked away a spear that was aimed for the slot in his helmet, bashing the beast backwards. A half moment later, a sword came from his right, seeking to cut out his knees from below him. That monster met the still gooey head of his hammer and was sent sprawling, its ribs shattering beneath the blow.
    But for each one blown away, more seemed to seethe from all around.
    And for each one that appeared, a blow landed on his armor. A blade slipped beneath a plate. A wound was cut into his flesh. And he fell back, bellowing in rage as much as pain.
    "ANYTIME NOW!" Braum roared and spared a half second to glance back at the summoner at the top of the stairs.
    None of the kobolds had been able to surge past him. Those few that had were brought down with utmost ferocity and their broken bodies now littered the way, blocking others from making the journey easily.
    But they still needed more time.
    The eidolon could clearly be seen in the runic circle now. The summoner's eyes were open but where irises would normally have been, Braum could make out nothing but a hollow, iridescent glow.
    And so he fought on.
    One kobold was kicked square in the chest only to be trampled by its compatriots.
    Another was sent sprawling by a well place shield blow.
    He had just taken out several of the little blighters in a great swing of his hammer when two things happened. First, he felt the bite of pain and the warm outpouring of blood as a spear slipped into a crack in his armor. The hard ridge of the blade bit into his flesh and rested just between two of his ribs, lighting his chest ablaze with pain and causing him to let out another bellowing roar.
    Second, a group of kobolds uncovered a very functional, very deadly-looking ballista some hundred yards away.
    For half a moment, Braum just stared. Through the haze of the pain and the shock of the massive bow-and-arrow like machine, he felt himself just go numb. Had it not been for his steel, he likely would have been killed in that moment of surprise.
    It was only when the ballista started being aimed towards Ember, the still unfinished summoner, that he was brought to his senses.
    "HEY!" he bellowed, trying to get their attention.
    But they weren't looking at him. They were getting ready to fire.
    And he had to do something.
    Using his considerable bulk and his massive tower shield, Braum plowed through the kobolds that were still in front of him. He moved through them like a bulldozer and ran as hard and fast as he could. He still had one problem...they were too far away and he had no ranged weapons.
    Think, Braum, Think. I just need a moment. Just need...
    He laughed out loud as the idea hit him.
    While he might have simply used some of the debris lying around him, Braum didn't want to slow down and possibly be caught by the horde that was now following on his heels. Instead, he quickly sheathed his hammer and reach back into his bag.
    A moment later, in a single, seamless motion, Braum drew out the cast iron pot that he'd taken from the priest's room and threw it for all he was worth.
    The great, black cauldron soared with an elegance and grace that no cookware should ever really see, particularly when thrown at another person. It struck true. The lead kobold, a little monster slightly larger and more scarred than the others who was just settling in at the controls of the war-weapon, didn't even see it coming. The pot hit dead on, slammed him to the ground, and lodged itself to the little dragon-kin's head with a resounding KLONG!
    It struggled and screeched and clawed at the pot, trying desperately to get it off, but by the time he and three others had managed to pry it from his crooked skull, it was already too late.
    A wall of steel and blood and fury descended upon them, hammer first, bellowing in a rage that even the Dwarf had not known up to this point.
    He roared and screamed and swung his weapons, decimating everything in front of him. While many still fought on, some began to back away in fear of the ferocious display that Braum was putting on. Bodies were broken, the ballista was crushed, and, just as more of them decided to back away in favor of their lives, a new threat emerged.
    It started low; a soft grumbling that quickly built up to a rushing boom. But half a moment later, the entire far end of the room lit up with arcs and bolts of blue and white electricity that shot this way and that, shattering stone and violently tearing a crater out of the platform where the now complete eidolon hovered; its deep blue eyes narrowed and sparking with energy.
    With Braum in front and the Eidolon behind, the kobolds turned tail and began to run, but it was already too late. The sound of lightning and thunder from the magical beast coupled with Braum's screams of defiance and rage drowned out their cries; the only thing louder being the sound of Ember's laughter as he watched the destruction from his perch above the stairs.

===

(Alright, so I misjudged the length of Part 7. There's only one more entry into Dragon's Maw before we switch back to a few other pieces. Promise. ;P )