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Gideon Shaw
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PostSubject: New Ideas Sounding Board   Sun Mar 11, 2012 2:10 pm

Okay, the playing with aliens idea got booted out by another idea that's kind caught my attention, and it's slightly more original, I think.

Which leads me to starting a "sounding board" thread. If you have an idea outside our usual categories, this is where we can come and brainstorm.

So, let me start with what kinda came to me. I've read Westerns, and I've read fantasy stories, but I've never actually read a Western fantasy. Now, I'm not talking about Tales of the Weird West that are set in the historical American West where ghosts or zombies or aliens show up in some out of the way town and wreak havoc on the townsfolk, and I'm not talking about an alternate Earth with fantastical elements or even a traditional fantasy story that was inspired by a love for Westerns (kinda like the John Carter books). What I'm talking about is a world like LOTR taken forward into the equivalent of the 19th Century. Cowboys would look and talk like cowboys, but they might be elves or orks. They'd be dealing with Indians, but the Indians would be goblins or "wild" elves. I even think there's room in this mash-up for elements of Steampunk.

Thoughts?

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PostSubject: Re: New Ideas Sounding Board   Wed Mar 14, 2012 5:03 am

Not a bad idea. Three things:

First, you can reimagine the world with fantasy races as is (which is kinda cool).

Secnd, the inclusion of Steampunk means effectively that diesel was never discovered or refined (thereby replacing coal).

Third, is there magic?

Another really cool option might be to just write a SoMag western that doesn't include Gideon and Matt. Have it be a town of hidden critters and a lone wanderer walks in on it. Insert storyline of choice and voila, a western with goblins, elves, were-spiders, and more. After all, the Society can't be everywhere.

The reason I suggest this is otherwise you have to world build a history where fantasy creatures have been there all the time. You have to decide who has what stance to the monstrous, the gorgeous, and the mundane. You can still include Steampunk as a kind of magic-tech that gets ignored after it loses vogue in the 1920s.

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PostSubject: Re: New Ideas Sounding Board   Wed Mar 14, 2012 8:42 am

First, I kinda am reimagining the world with fantasy elements already there and alway having been a part of the fabric of the world.

Second, "steampunk" isn't necessarily "steampunk" in my imaginings. Diesel could be in the picture, but it would just be a more effective fuel for the "steampunk" stuff, which leads me to...

Third, yes, there is magic, and "steampunk"-style technology is a part of that magic. I'm envisioning a system of magic based upon inherited Talents, and one of those talents involves creating artifacts that interact with a magical field called "aether". Simple artifacts, i.e. magical weapons, magic mirrors, etc, are powered by aether. Complex artifacts, like magical engines, require an additional power source to work, i.e. a steam engine or a water wheel or a windmill. The primary magical engine is the Aetheric Motivator, which, when spun properly, makes airships fly and turns Difference Calculators into artificial intelligence devices.

Here's one of my "steampunk" ideas: Aetheric Motivator + Difference Calculator + Clockwork Automaton + an axe = the tin woodsman, a Clockwork Lumberjack.

I've got no problem with world building. I'm actually just taking my old Fantasy World That Does Not Suck out of its box, dusting off the cobwebs and modifying it. I'm basing the history of their world on the history of our world, but with tweaks here and there. For example, my version of Rome, Archonia, was an Atlantis-like island, and the Archonian Imperium crumbles when the island gets blowded up and gets swallowed by the sea.

The "English" of my world are the Augustines, and it's their Empire that the "new world" colonies rebel against to form something like the U.S.A. I'm even thinking there'd have been a Civil War of some kind, but not necessarily over slavery because I'm thinking indentured servitude might still be in use.

I'll post some of my ideas for races later.

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PostSubject: Re: New Ideas Sounding Board   Wed Mar 14, 2012 5:53 pm

The furthest I ever got with a NaNoWriMo story was having the Great Ghost Dance (1890) have the effect it did (will have?) in 2017. The story dealt with the 10th anniversary of the splitting of the US.

I lost a great deal of interest in it when I found out about Orson Scott Card's Red Prophet books. Not quite the same, but close enough to make me put it on a back burner.
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PostSubject: Re: New Ideas Sounding Board   Wed Mar 14, 2012 10:35 pm

Yeah, that's nothing like what I'm thinking of. I'm not doing an alternate history. I'm doing a fantasy that has elements of Westerns and steampunk, but it's not our world. It's a mash-up.

Okay, I'm gonna start posting some of the ideas I've had about intelligent species...

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PostSubject: Re: New Ideas Sounding Board   Wed Mar 14, 2012 11:24 pm

The Children of Man (Homo sapiens)

  • Human (H. sapiens astutus): The oldest of the Children of Man, at least according to the most popular of creation stories and scholarly theories, and certainly the most numerous. Humans outnumber the combined populations of elves and orks by a factor of three to one. Humans vary greatly in height, weight, and coloration.

  • Elf (H. sapiens pulchra): Elves are arguably the most beautiful of the Children of Man. Generally speaking, elves tend to be of slender build, and while they come in the same variety of colorations as humans, elves tend to be "brighter" of shade than a human of the same coloration. The most distinguishing feature of elves is their upswept, pointed ears.

  • Ork (H. sapiens fortis): Orks are roughly the same size as most humans, trending toward stockier, stronger builds. Their coloration tends to be somewhat darker than that of humans with similar coloration. The most distinguishing feature of orks is their slightly elongated head, heavy forehead/brow, and strong jaw.


All three subspecies of H. sapiens are capable of interbreeding. There are several "pure" bloodlines throughout the world, but most people have some mingled blood, human and elf and ork, to varying degrees. Several genealogical societies exist throughout the world to track the purity of familial bloodlines, and these societies have come up with some common terms to explain the intermingling of bloodlines.

"Half-Blood" is a person who has one parent who is human, and one parent who isn't. "Quarter-Blood" is a person who has a "Half-Blood" parent and one human parent. A "Two Quarters-Blood" is a person who has two Half-Blood parents (in the same combination, i.e. two half-elves or two half-orks). A "Three Quarters-Blood" is a person who has one Half-Blood parent and the other parent is either an elf or an ork (specifically, this refers to a half-ork breeding with an ork or a half-elf breeding with an elf). If a Quarter-Blood ork or elf breeds with a Full-Blood human, their offspring is considered a Full-Blood human. Likewise, if a Three Quarters-Blood elf or ork breeds with an elf or ork, respectively, their offspring would be considered a Full-Blood elf or ork, respectively.

When a human breeds with an elf, the offspring is considered a "half-elf." Half-elves generally appear to be human, but with the upswept, pointed ears of their elf parent. Likewise, when a human breeds with an ork, the offspring is considered a "half-ork," and the half-ork generally appears human but with the pronounced brow and jaw of the ork parent. A quarter-elf or quarter-ork can usually pass for human. Similarly, a Three Quarters-Blood elf or ork can pass for a Full-Blood elf or ork.

A strange thing happens, though, when elves and orks breed. Their offspring is indistinguishable from a human. Many elf/ork crossbreeds simply pass for Full-Blood human and never report to any of the genealogical societies that they are anything else. Most genealogical societies simply go ahead and record any elf/ork crossbreeds they discover as either Three Quarters-Blood human or simply human with an asterisk. The fact that elf/ork crossbreeds are, for all intents and purposes, human, has led some scholars to theorize that humans are actually the youngest of the Children of Man, the result of elf-ork interbreeding. Other scholars theorize that sometime in the prehistoric past, human mages worked a great magic that split humans into two new creatures, one bright and beautiful, elves, and one dark and strong, orks. When elves and orks breed, they're simply re-merging back into the original species.

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PostSubject: Re: New Ideas Sounding Board   Wed Mar 14, 2012 11:44 pm

Aww, I wanted to play an elk. Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: New Ideas Sounding Board   Wed Mar 14, 2012 11:45 pm

The Children of Man are not the only intelligent hominid species in the world. Three others are found throughout the world: gnomes, goblins, and trolls.

  • Gnome (Homo extortus) The gnome is the closest relative to the Children of Man. Some humor-impaired scholars will jokingly refer to gnomes as the Cousins of Man. Gnomes are a species of diminutive humanoids, averaging between three and four feet in height. They have wide shoulders, large bellies, and surprisingly spindly arms and legs. Gnome hands have long, thin fingers that end in thick, claw-like nails. Their feet are large with stubby toes that also have claw-like nails. Generally speaking, gnomes have big, outstretched ears, small, close-set black eyes, large, hooked noses, wide, thin-lipped mouths, and crooked, jagged teeth. All gnomes are fair-skinned with white hair. Their typical habitat is underground where they dig large, complicated warrens. Gnomes are highly intelligent, and despite their fierce, twisted appearance are actually very social and peaceful creatures. Some gnomes are known to leave their warren cities and take up residence within human communities, where they will take on jobs that no other creature really wants. A few gnomes have even been known to rise to positions of wealth and power through hard work and an innate sense of timing.


  • Goblin (Homo troglodytes) Goblins are a species of carnivorous ape-men. They stand approximately five-feet-six-inches tall on average with some males of the species as tall as six feet. Their bodies are covered in coarse, black hair, and their skin color is greyish brown. Goblins are physically capable of human speech and have a language of their own, but their minds are not very highly developed and have trouble with abstract concepts. Their culture is limited to furthering their primary survival goals. They are clever enough to learn to make tools or to use tools that are beyond their ability to comprehend. In other words, they can make their own tools from stone, but they depend on smarter creatures to gain tools made of metal. They can make bows and fletch arrows on their own, and they can be taught to use firearms, but they are intellectually incapable of caring for weapons more complex than simple muzzle loaders. Some scholars theorize that goblins were a created race, made by some ancient sorcerer or enchanter for use as troops in some forgotten war.


  • Troll (Homo daemonium) Trolls are horrid beings that are obviously not of a natural origin. Ancient texts speak of an evil priest who summoned demons to serve as his army, and the trolls are the offspring of that army. The demons mated freely with humans, elves, and orks. The offspring were effectively infertile, except among one another. The inbreeding among these mutants produced what is now known as a troll. The troll typically stands between six and eight feet tall. Their arms are proportionally longer than their legs, and they can move on all fours nearly as fast as a cantering horse. Troll skin is typically thick, leather-like, and either sickly green or dark red in coloration. The most striking feature of troll physiognomy are the horns that grow from their heads. These horns vary greatly from goat-like spikes, to large, recurved, ram-like horns. Troll facial features are usually misshapen, different sized eyes, missing or partially formed nose, mismatched, jagged teeth, etc. Troll features are usually further marred by scars as they age, either taken in battle or self-inflicted for decorative purposes. Trolls form tribes. Some tribes are nomadic, surviving through a combination of herding and raiding. Other tribes are sedentary, surviving through a combination of agriculture and raiding. Trolls can live peacefully, though. Some tribes have become civilized to the point that they trade with the humanoid nations, but most troll tribes are unfriendly, if not downright evil.


It should be noted that H. sapiens cannot interbreed with any of the other hominid species. First of all, Men and gnomes are pretty much mutually unattractive to one another. Second, even if a Child of Man were to manage to engage in sexual relations with a gnome or goblin or troll, and conception occurred, the product would be stillborn. Biologically speaking, conception is unlikely. Third, trolls are only fertile with one another, and then the odds favor miscarriages half of the time. The only reliable way to breed trolls is to summon a demon and unleash it on a room full of slave girls.

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PostSubject: Re: New Ideas Sounding Board   Wed Mar 14, 2012 11:47 pm

Smilingotter wrote:
Aww, I wanted to play an elk. Very Happy

I'll come up with some magical talent that covers shapeshifting, and write you an elf that turns himself into an elk.

Actually, in my world's version of the American West the Indians are either elves or goblins.

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PostSubject: Re: New Ideas Sounding Board   Thu Mar 15, 2012 9:44 am

Actually I meant a half elf, half ork. Which I suppose could also be an erk, olf, or orf.
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PostSubject: Re: New Ideas Sounding Board   Thu Mar 15, 2012 10:09 am

Yeah, those are humans, btw, and it's perfectly acceptable. I'm actually thinking of having a hero who has both elven and orkish grandparents.

I'm also thinking that a classic Western plot would work here, too, like the search for the Treasure of the Sierra Madre, or maybe a cattle drive threatened by goblin savages or a rogue dragon. Just like an episode of Gunsmoke or The Rifleman.

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PostSubject: Re: New Ideas Sounding Board   Thu Mar 22, 2012 2:02 pm

Yeah, so, world building is going really good. Got the equivalent of Europe and the Med pretty well mapped out, and I'm working on "America" at the moment. I'm even building in a version of the Civil War called the Reunification War, but it's a three-way affair. I also have what I believe to be an interesting core of characters for a "treasure of the lost civilization" type quest.

So, here's kinda how the world breaks down: Long time ago there was Archonia, a Rome/Atlantis, and when Archonia went the way of Atlantis, a lot of chaos ensued. Out of the chaos arose the nations Grynmaros, Novarchos, Synquelle, the Axian countries, and Augustonia. {Respectively that's equivalent to Spain/Portugal, Italy/Greece, France, Germany, and England).

The Augustines are the most powerful nation in the world at the time that the story will start, with a world-spanning empire, but that empire is in decline, and it began with the Novamundan Rebellion.

Novamunda is the equivalent of North America. South America is Guifartyr, but the two continents are not connected by a land bridge like North and South America. Novamunda was heavily colonized by the Augustines, who planted eighteen colonies. Fifteen of those Colonies joined the Rebellion and formed the Federated Commonwealth of Novamunda. The FCN is fast growing into a rival of their parent nation, Augustonia, but the hickup in the road to greatness was the Disunion and the Reunification War.

Basically, Novamunda has three regions on the eastern seaboard: North, Central, and Southern. The three Southern states were heavily settled by Augustine Wildlanders (Scots and Irish sorts) who were also strongly Orthodox Yeshavites (essentially Protestant Christians). The Northern region was more heavily colonized by Dachaidian and Danaan Augustines (basically Brits and pagan Irish) who adhere more to the Novarchan Church of the White Lord (pseudo-Catholism) or to the Cult of Dana (pagan goddess of the Irish elves) or to a number of other religions. The Central region is the most egalitarian of the three regions. So, the South is opposed to wholesale impressed servitude aka slavery, but the North's economy is built on cheap labor for their fields and mines and factories. So, the South starts raiding the North's slave shipping. Then, both the South and the North secede from the Commonwealth, leaving the Central region and the Free Territories to the west. In order to fight one another directly, North and South have to invade through through the Central region. The Central region of the Commonwealth, though, is where the Capitol lies, and in the capitol are all the magical academies. So, with magic at their command, the Central region is secured. So, the Southern Republic and the Northern Confederation do an end run around the Central region through the Free Territories.

The Free Territories have raised an army as well, but they call on the support of their parent government, the Commonwealth. So, the armies of the Central region march into the Free Territories. All four armies meet in a three way battle in a valley called Shepherd's Hollow, and between magic and steampunk technology, turn the green landscape into a Blasted Wasteland. All three sides call a truce and negotiate a Reunification.

It's in the aftermath of the Reunification that I will set my story. Thoughts?

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PostSubject: Re: New Ideas Sounding Board   Thu Mar 22, 2012 2:13 pm

These are some of the characters that I've come up with so far:

Sir Padraig Bloodworth, Earl of Questershire

Professor Hieronymos Grimboldt, Adjutant Professor of Natural History and Ancient Mysteries at Bullford University.

Lady Maighread "Maggie" Gilroy, Professor Grimboldt's research assistant

Willowby, Grimboldt's free gnome manservant

Colton Payne, a former Federal Army cavalry captain and currently trying to destroy his liver with as much collateral damage as he can get away with.

White Elk, a former Federal Army scout and Payne's only friend, but that's mostly out of habit these days. White Elk is half Vernig Teg (native Novamundan "wild" elf) and half Augustine ork (Mom is an ex-slave who escaped to the Free Territories). {Tom, he does NOT turn into an elk, but your comment inspired me.}

This is what I have so far. If you can think of a classic Western or Fantasy archetype or even a Steampunk-style character, give me a holler. I'd like a name, too. I can come up with a history to fit them into my story. Oh, the first four characters are all from Augustonia. So, they're like Victorian-era Brits on an archaeological expedition.

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PostSubject: Re: New Ideas Sounding Board   Fri Apr 06, 2012 12:11 am

I've written a couple of short scenes kind of as test beds for the setting and for characters. They're not complete, and they're not particularly what I would call "good" although I've got stuff in both that I think I want to save for the "real" story. Anyway, I thought I'd post these test scenes here and see what you guys think.

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PostSubject: Test Scene 1   Fri Apr 06, 2012 12:11 am

Robins and finches were singing in the trees that lined the cobbled lane as Sir Padraig Bloodworth, Earl of Questershire, strolled toward the brownstone townhouse of his good friend and oft-times collaborator, the Honorable Professor Hieronymos Grimboldt, Doctor of both Natural History and Ancient Mysteries, sitting adjunct professor in the Department of Ancient Mysteries at Bullford University. Padraig smiled to himself as he recited his friend’s titles and accomplishments. A man was often judged by the caliber of his associates. Grimboldt was a classic stereotype of an academic, absent-minded yet brilliant, socially awkward yet intricately tied to the aristocracy through patronage and acquaintance.

Sir Padraig stopped at the door to the townhouse and double-checked his appearance in the reflection in the frosted glass window. At five-feet-ten-inches, he was taller than average with a good, sturdy build, the kind of build that came from a lifestyle of hunting, horses, and fencing. In other words, the outdoor activities of an Augustine aristocrat. He had the looks, too: dark hair cut short yet with enough length for his natural curl to show, fair complexion yet tanned from his outdoors lifestyle, eyes of blue, clear yet dark enough to evoke the mysterious, clean shaven yet with thick, full sideburns and a little patch of dark hair beneath the lower lip that had recently come into fashion. Sir Padraig brushed off some imagined lint from his grey leisure suit, straightened his red silk necktie, making sure that the diamond stud pin was shown to best effect. He reached into a pocket in his waistcoat and checked the time on his pocket watch. Satisfied that he was neither early nor late, Sir Padraig doffed his top hat, raised his cane, and rapped the handle against the door frame.

The cane was a clever bit of accessory. Within the malacca wood shaft was a narrow, strong, single-edge sword blade. A twist of the wrist, and the sword could be drawn, but that really wasn’t the clever bit. The pommel piece cleverly concealed a compass that could be unscrewed and held in the palm or laid on top of a map. Then, once the compass was detached, the hollow hilt could be used to store little bits of useful things. Sir Padraig kept a length of fishing line, a couple of hooks, and a little cork bobber. He could cut a fishing pole with the sword, dig up some bugs or worms with the folding knife he always kept in his front pocket, and then, catch a meal in any convenient stream or pool. The earl didn’t expect to have to fish for his next meal any time soon, but he believed in preparation.

The door opened. Sir Padraig glanced down into the face of Willowby, Grimboldt’s gnome manservant. The creature was of a species related to the Children of Man, but was not himself a Man, at least not beyond the gender aesthetic. Gnomes were small folk, barely bigger than four feet tall. They tended to have big ears, big noses, and small, beady black eyes. Willowby was no exception. The morning suit he wore disguised nicely the bulging belly and spindly arms and legs that gnomes were commonly known for.

The gnome glared up at the earl for a heartbeat. Then, he swung the door open wide. “Welcome to my master’s home, Sir Padraig,” Willowby said in a surprisingly deep, grumbling voice, and waving his free hand in welcome.

“Good to see you again, Willowby,” the earl grinned stepping into the foyer. “Will you take my cane and hat, or do I have to put them away for myself?”

The gnome held out his hands after closing and locking the front door. “My service in the house is part of my master’s hospitality,” Willowby grumped. “Don’t abuse my good humor, though. My lord.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it, old chap,” Sir Padraig laughed as he handed the gnome his hat and cane. “And where shall I find the Professor?”

“In his study. I’ll bring lunch shortly,” Willowby said. “You remember the way or do you need me to announce you?”

“I do believe the only thing shorter than your stature is your temper, my good gnome,” Sir Padraig observed. “I’ll show myself in.”

Willowby stomped away grumbling something under his voice that Sir Padraig was certain were thinly veiled threats and curses. The earl smiled to himself and mounted the stairs to the townhouse’s first floor. Half of the dwelling’s second level was dedicated to Professor Grimboldt’s personal study. The rest of the floor contained an infrequently used dining room, a butler’s pantry, a water closet, and a salon that Grimboldt used to additional storage. The top floor held Grimboldt’s master bedroom suite and a couple of guest rooms. Sir Padraig knew that Willowby dwelt on the ground floor of the townhouse, or, rather beneath the ground floor in the root cellar, but gnomes were most comfortable when surrounded by earth on all sides.

The study was just as the earl remembered it from his last visit. Floor to ceiling bookcases filled every square foot of wall in the room not already taken up with a window or a door. The windows were tall and maximized to take in daylight, but the professor had invested in those new fangled “gaslights” that were getting to be all the rage in Augusta. Those bookcases were crammed with books, artifacts, souvenirs, and mounted specimens of various animal species the professor had encountered in his travels. In one corner was a desk with a wingback chair, the desk piled with books and stacks of papers. In another corner was a wide sofa, quite comfortable in Sir Padraig’s memory, flanked by matching over stuffed armchairs. In the center of the room was a chart table that had been taken from a decommissioned battleship in His Majesty’s Navy when they had started switching from sailing ships to steamers.

Grimboldt was bent over the chart table, fiddling with some artifact. Sir Padraig smiled at the sight of his friend. The professor was of average height, about five and half feet, somewhat chunky around the middle, his hair gray and thinning, a thick bushy mustache that gave him a slightly walrus-like appearance, and bright grey eyes, sparkling with the man’s native intelligence. Padraig had met the professor at Bullford, when the earl had been a young man getting the education that was expected of a peer of the realm. Despite his scholarly bent, Grimboldt had the soul of an adventurer, often haring off on research expeditions to the wildest parts of the world.

“Professor!” Padraig announced himself.

“Ah! Ah, Sir Padraig!” Grimboldt guffawed in his rich orator’s voice.

Padraig strode into the room and grabbed Grimboldt’s offered hand, giving a vigorous shake while slapping the older man on the shoulder. “Oh, Professor! So good to see you, my friend!”

“Tish-tosh, pish-posh!” Grimboldt snorted, but he grinned broadly nonetheless. “Oh, Paddy-lad, I have brilliant news. Simply brilliant!”

Movement out of the corner of his eye caught Padraig’s attention. He turned toward the desk and saw a young woman rising from behind the professor’s desk. The earl was impressed with what he saw. Firstly, she was tall, taller than himself by an inch or so. Secondly, she was quite lovely, a redhead, pale skin with an attractive dusting of freckles, dark green eyes, and a willowy figure. Thirdly, she was an elf, or, at least, a half-elf. Padraig guessed that from her height she was more likely a half-blood than a full-blood elf, and her coloration suggested strongly that both of her parents were of purer Kethic bloodlines than Augustine.

“Well, hello,” Padraig declared with a charming smile.

“Oh! Paddy, this is my research assistant. Brilliant lass, quite! Gifted linguist, this one, couldn’t have gotten this far without her,” Grimboldt blithered happily. Then, he paused and slapped a palm to his forehead. “Egads, man! You’re getting ahead of yourself yet again!”

“Calmly, Professor. Calmly,” the redhead chided in a rich Wildlander brogue.

“Of course, my dear, of course. You are right,” Grimboldt said. Then, he cleared his throat. “Uh, Sir Padraig Bloodworth, Earl of Questershire, may I present the Lady Maighread Gilroy of Cadboll Isle. Her father is the Earl of Cadboll, sort of a peer of yours, yes?”

“Indeed,” Padraig replied. Cadboll Isle was part of what the people of the Kingdom of Augustonia thought of as “the Wildlands.” The region was composed of the northernmost end of Dachaidia, the main island of the kingdom, and the chains of small islands that extended northward from there nearly to the North Pole. The folks who lived in those wild places were the last pure Kethic peoples in Augustonia, mostly human, but with a fair number of ork and elf clans as well.

“I must say that it’s a pleasure to meet you, milady,” Padraig said, extending his hand to the young woman. When she placed her hand in his, he raised it to his lips and kissed her knuckles. While he had her hand in his, he noticed the ring on her finger. “You’re a sorceress?”

“Yes, does that bother you?” Maighread replied pulling her hand back to fidget with the signet ring that identified her as registered with the Royal Academy of Mages.

“Not in the least, my dear,” Padraig replied. “Just surprised that a sorceress is working as an academic’s research assistant. Shouldn’t you be, say, in a cushy billet with the Foreign Office or in the entourage of some potentate?”

“Well, the Professor is academic royalty, are you not, Professor?” Maighread pointed out.

Grimboldt barked a laugh. “Ha! That’s droll, Maggie dear. Quite. Yes. Ahem, well, introductions made, what? Let’s to the business at hand, shall we?”

“Certainly,” Sir Padraig exclaimed, reluctantly releasing Lady Maighread’s hand.

“Tell me, Paddy, do you know where the Archonians came from?” Grimboldt said as he stepped back over to the chart table.

“One would assume Archonia,” Padraig replied with a winsome smile.

“Quite, but where did they come from before then, hm?” Grimboldt insisted.

Padraig frowned. “To be honest, I’ve never really given it any thought. Up until the time of the Cataclysm, the Archonians just... were, if you catch my meaning.”

“Yes, the Cataclysm,” Grimboldt mused. “Well, the explosion and subsequent sinking of the island did destroy all the wonderful archives and libraries that our legends say existed on that wondrous land... or did it, hm?”

Padraig frowned as Grimboldt swept aside the nicknacks and books on the chart table to reveal the map inlaid into the top of the table. The chart centered on the islands of Augustonia, but it included the continent of Bratusa, the Archonian Sea, and the upper half of the continent of Negronos. Grimboldt stabbed a chubby finger at the center of the Archonian Sea, an area labeled: DANGER! REEFS!

“The, erm, remains of Archonia lie here. Shipping tends to avoid the area because of the jagged, rocky reefs left behind by the Cataclysm, but! Yes, but, you see, local fishermen, in small boats, still ply these waters, and their nets will, betimes, dredge up more than just the best mackerel and sea bass in the Archonian Sea,” Grimboldt said. He grabbed an artifact from the pile on the edge of the table. “They bring up pieces of the past!”

“Yes, well, I have heard of fishermen making their fortunes selling baubles from the deep, but what about this bauble has you so excited? It just looks like a... box to me,” Padraig said.

The item in Grimboldt’s hands was a cylinder, apparently carved from ivory, both ends capped with what appeared to be golden disks. Undoubtedly a beautiful piece of art and priceless as an historical artifact, but still just a box.

“Oh, Paddy, my boy, it is a box, a most wondrous and ingenious box!” Grimboldt laughed. He stroked a hand almost lovingly along the scrimshaw carved into the ivory. “We often forget just how advanced the Archonian civilization was because they kept the very best of their magic and their technology safely hidden on their island, and this lovely box is an example of that technology and magic at work, my young friend. See these markings here and here?”

Padraig nodded as he examined the runic carvings that Grimboldt indicated. “Enchanters marks, yes?”

“Quite right! Yes, this box was enchanted for durability and to preserve its contents from the outside elements. Now, watch this,” Grimboldt said as he twisted one of the disks on the end of the cylinder. The disk was a screw top. Grimboldt showed the open end of the cylinder to Padraig. The inside of the box was empty.

“I’m not seeing anything,” Padraig said.

Grimboldt chuckled. “Oh, of course not! I’m sorry, lad, but we’ve already removed the contents. No, what I wanted you to see was the material around the lip of the box and on the inside of the lid.”

Padraig took the proffered lid and examined it closely. “It’s rubber!”

“Yes, a material that the ancient Archonians should never have known about, much less been using in the manufacture of ornate boxes, what!” Grimboldt exclaimed. “Yet, they used it to make an air and water tight seal on this box! Then, the box was enchanted for durability and preservation. What does that tell you?”

“That whatever was in this box was very important. What was it? Jewels? A magical artifact? A weapon?” Padraig demanded.

“Actually, it was a scroll,” Grimboldt replied. “And before you ask, it wasn’t instructions on how to build anything powerful or wonderful. It was a story. A history!”

“And someone thought it important enough to stuff in a magic box?” Padraig exclaimed. “That must’ve been a really good story!”

“I think so, old boy, because, with Maggie’s help, I’ve translated the scroll, and it is the... the legend, if you will, of the origin of the Archonian people. You see, the Archonians did not originate on Archonia Island! They were colonists from somewhere else, and I believe that this scroll contains clues that will direct our path to the remains of that lost civilization,” Grimboldt exclaimed.

“How can you be sure?” Padraig asked.

“Ah! A good question, that! Well, you see, I, too, was skeptical at first. This scroll reads as nothing more than a legend. I believe that at the time the original owner of the scroll placed it in the box, the Archonians themselves had forgotten their origins in favor of their own burgeoning legend in our world. Then, I remembered it!” Grimboldt exclaimed as his face took on a dreamy expression.

“Remembered what, Professor?” Padraig prompted.

Before Grimboldt could answer, the study door swung open. Willowby stood in the doorway with a somber expression. “Luncheon is served, Master.”

“What?” Grimboldt exclaimed. He rummaged through the coat pockets of his tweed suit until he produced a pocket watch. Then, consulting the timepiece, he strode over to one of the windows to look outside. “Well. I suppose it really is noon time, isn’t it?”

“The Professor and I have been up all night translating the last bit of the scroll,” Lady Maighread explained. “Professor, perhaps a break to eat is in order?”

“Oh, yes, I suppose that would calm the excitement in my belly, wouldn’t it? I don’t think I’ve even had breakfast, have I?” Grimboldt said turning toward Willowby.

“I tried to get you to eat breakfast, but you were engrossed in your studies, Master. You did manage to drink an entire pot of tea, though,” the gnome pointed out.

“Oh, and that explains my sudden need of the water closet. Uh, Maggie, take Paddy to the dining room, and I’ll join you both shortly. Feel free to start without me. Send Willowby for me if I’m not out in five minutes,” Grimboldt instructed as he toddled off down the hall to the water closet.

Padraig chuckled and offered his arm to Lady Maighread. “May I have the honor of escorting you, madam?”

“Not necessary. I know the way,” Maighread replied and strode out the door.

Padraig frowned slightly. He wasn’t exactly used to being rebuffed by women. By the time he followed her into the dining room, Lady Maighread had already seated herself and was waiting with her hands primly folded in her lap.

“You seem a little out of sorts, Your Excellency,” Lady Maighread teased.

“Your... independence took me by surprise,” Padraig admitted.

“I’m afraid that’s my father’s fault. He claims it comes from my mother, but really, it’s him indulging his children in their own pursuits, I believe, that has produced this... I believe you called it ‘independence’, yes?” Maighread explained.

“And your lady mother, the Countess Cadboll?” Padraig prompted. “If I’m permitted to inquire, that is?”

“No harm in asking questions, Sir Padraig,” Maighread replied. “My mother is Princess Siobhan Reilly of the First House Conchur of the Danaan Sidhe.”

Padraig couldn’t contain the shocked expression that came over him. The First House of the Danaan Sidhe was royalty-level peerage. For a Wildlander lord, of any rank, to have wed a princess of the First House was... Padraig lacked the words to express his surprise.

“It was a love match,” Maighread said into the expanding silence. “Once Mother had done her duty to the First House, she married Father. I’m told it was a lovely ceremony combining Kethic Kirk Yeshavite and Cult of Dana traditions. The contract actually sets the marriage’s time limit as ‘until we are parted by death’. It was a bit scandalous among Mother’s family, of course, but Father is wealthy, and virile if my numerous brothers and sisters are an indication.”

Padraig cleared his throat, a flush creeping into his cheeks. The Danaan Sidhe were notorious for their willingness to share the intimate details of their sex lives. Considering the fact that their patron goddess, Dana, was a deity of fertility and physical love, that openness shouldn’t have been surprising, but Padraig had been raised in the somewhat more repressed traditions of the Augustine version of Yeshavitism.

“Have I made you uncomfortable, Sir Padraig?” Maighread asked with an impish grin. “Well, I suppose that since we’ll be working together for the foreseeable future, you and I should be friends, yes? Call me ‘Maggie’ if you like.”

Padraig smiled. “I’d like that, Maggie, and you should call me ‘Paddy’.”

Maggie grinned back and shook her head. “No, I think you should be ‘Padraig’. It suits you better.”

“Fair enough,” Padraig said.

Professor Grimboldt bustled in, poured water into a washing bowl, and quickly scrubbed his face and hands. Then, still drying his hands on a towel, he sat at the head of the table. “You may begin serving, Willowby.”

“As you wish, Master,” Willowby replied, disappearing into the steward’s pantry.

The gnome returned a moment later with a young boy bearing a tureen of soup. Padraig had always admired how the diminutive gnome managed to serve Man-sized guests, but today Willowby was directing the boy.

“The cook’s oldest boy,” Grimboldt explained. “With a little tutelage from Willowby, the boy will be able to go into the service of any good household. Who knows, the lad has a good head on his shoulders. Perhaps you’ll go into business for yourself, eh, Toby?”

The boy shrugged. “Whatever you say, Professor.”

“Good lad,” Grimboldt chuckled as the boy finished ladling soup into the Professor’s bowl. The Professor tucked into the dish with gusto. “My compliments to your good mother, Toby. The soup is delicious as always!”

“Agreed,” Padraig said, “but, Professor, you were about to say something before Willowby intervened to announce lunch. Something about a memory that relieved you of your skepticism concerning the legend you found in the box?”

“Oh, yes! Yes, you see, I once had the pleasure of reading a paper published by a Novamundan, a lad attending the Enchanters Guild Academy in Draigtyr City. You see, the lad was raised in a frontier province, what they were calling the ‘Free Territories’ before that recent unpleasantness occurred. Well, seems the lad’s grandfather was an explorer who made a practice of befriending the Vernig Teg tribes he encountered in his travels, and from those savage elves the grandfather gathered the most amazing tales, which, in turn, he related to his grandson, who, in his turn wrote a paper on the similarities between the creation myths of the new countries and the old countries, we, of course, being the ‘old’ countries,” Grimboldt laughed.

He paused and slurped several spoonfuls of soup before continuing. “Well, the lad had included, as an appendix, several examples of the stories that his grandfather had collected, including a tale mentioning a ‘City Above the Clouds’, and that, Paddy-lad, is what caught my eye. You see, the legend contained in that Archonian box also mentioned a lost city, a city that was either ‘in’ the clouds or ‘above’ them. Even the descriptions of the cities match. Quite remarkable, what!” the Professor exclaimed before dipping into his soup again.

“Then, there’s the matter of the first clue,” Maggie said. “From what I have managed to interpret, the first ‘doorway’ to finding the lost city is located somewhere in central eastern Novamunda.”

“First doorway?” Padraig repeated.

“Yes, the City Above the Clouds is... Well, it’s either invisible or out of phase with the rest of reality, one of the city’s many magical defenses, and the only way to get to the city is to follow a series of doorways or guideposts. The word can be interpreted either way,” Maggie explained.

“So, Padraig, my good friend, we need to mount an expedition to Novamunda,” Grimboldt declared. “I must follow these clues to their conclusion!”

“A lost city?” Padraig mused. “Surely, it will be lucrative to find it.”

“Of course, but also academically fascinating,” Grimboldt chuckled. “I do have one request, though, as you are planning our expedition.”

“Name it, Professor,” Padraig said.

“We must find the lad who wrote the paper, the young Enchanter. Surely, he would like to see his grandfather’s tales proved true, and, coincidentally, he is from the same region where we should find our first guidepost,” Grimboldt said.

“I’ll need to know his name,” Padraig said. “We can arrange to ship from Port Smith and arrive in Draigtyr City. Then, we can inquire at the Enchanters Guild Academy for...?”

“Oh! Uh, his name is... er, Colton Payne!” Grimboldt said. “Odd name that, what?”

“More odd than ‘Hieronymos’?” Maggie teased.

Grimboldt guffawed. “Good point, Maggie-dear. Good point, indeed.”

“One question, before we start celebrating this new endeavor, where will we begin our search for this guidepost?” Padraig asked.

Maggie stood and left the dining room to return in a moment with a map of the continent across the Dragon Sea from Augustonia. She tapped her finger on a spot. “Here.”

Padraig sighed. “I was afraid of that.”

“What? Afraid of what?” Grimboldt asked.

“This place,” Padraig replied.

“Shepherd’s Holler in Frithlam?” Maggie said, reading from the map.

“After I returned from our expedition to Negronos, Professor, I took up temporary service with the Foreign Office, and my assignment was to Novamunda... to observe their civil war,” Padraig explained.

“I believe they’re calling it the War of Reunification,” Maggie said.

“Yes, and the last battle of that war, the battle that forced all three sides to the negotiating table took place here, in Shepherd’s Holler. The most terrible magics were released in that battle, alongside some of the most devastating weapons ever used in the history of the Children of Man. It... mutated the valley,” Padraig said. “They don’t call it Shepherd’s Holler any longer. Now, they call it Shepherd’s Horror.”

_________________
Ragnar Lothbrok wrote:
Power is only given to those who are prepared to lower themselves to pick it up.


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Gideon Shaw
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Posts : 1041
Join date : 2009-12-30
Age : 47
Location : Magee House

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Concept: The Kicker of Asses
Race/Origin: Hybrid (Fae/Dragon)

PostSubject: Test Scene 2   Fri Apr 06, 2012 12:12 am

The sound of his name being shouted woke Colton Payne to a world that was too bright and a head that was too small for his brain. An empty moonshine jug rolled away as the tall man climbed to his feet. Straw rained down as he shook himself and realized that he’d climbed into the hayloft again before passing out. Colton stumbled over to the open loading hatch where bales of hay were lifted into the loft. He looked down. Then, he squinted against the sunlight. He also realized that the ringing in his ears was actually the sound of the church bell, the school bell, and the bell out at the fort in Gaptooth Pass all being rung at once.

“Colton! We got some crashers!”

With a shake of his head, Colton forced himself to focus through the hangover on the man shouting up at him, his old friend Elk.

“What?” Colton managed to mutter around the cotton in his mouth.

“Crashers, Colton! They broke past the fort,” Elk shouted.

Colton took a deep breath. Then, he took stock of the world around him. The haze of the hangover gave way as he started noting details. Elk was a little taller than average, just about six feet, an inch or two shorter than Colton himself. Elk was dressed in his usual attire of soft hide boots, buckskin trousers and tunic, a wide leather belt cinched around his waist, and a wide-brimmed hat decorated with a colorful drake’s feather in the band. Elk had a big, falchion-like steel knife, a pair of bronze hand-axes, and an ammo pouch hanging off the big leather belt around his waist. The belt was decorated with bronze studs that formed a pattern popular among the Vernig Teg bands that used to frequent the area. Colton also noted that Elk had stuffed bronze throwing knives into the tops of his hunting boots, two in each boot, another Vernig Teg thing like the belt and the hand-axes.

Elk was a fairly average-looking human, though, not a wild elf, even if he dressed like one. He had hazel eyes, a strong nose, and good cheekbones that he’d inherited from his Augustine mother. His father had given him hair a shade too dark to be called blond but too light to be called brown and the physique of an outdoorsman. Cradled in Elk’s arms was his Sharpes & Warwick Model 1383 Taranis big game rifle. The weapon was patterned after the S&W Model 1380 Aeris, a seven-round .45-70 repeating rifle that had been the standard long arm of the Federal Army at the time of the Disunion. The Taranis, though, upgraded to a .45-110 bullet, which could take down a bison or a smaller dragon with one shot at five hundred yards or more. When combined with a spyglass sight, the Taranis had been a favorite of marksmen in the war, as well as snipers like Elk.

“What are you doing, Colton?” Elk demanded.

“Contemplating,” Colton replied, his voice rough but quickly gaining strength.

“Well, hurry it up!” Elk shouted.

“Be right down,” Colton said.

He took two steps back. Then, with a rush, he leaped from the hayloft, landed with bent knees next to Elk. For all of a second Colton felt a surge of pride that he’d managed the feat with a hangover. Then, he remembered what his parish priest used to say about pride before falls as he stumbled and fell on his face.

“Ow,” he muttered into the ground.

“Gee, that looks like it hurt,” Elk said with mock pity.

“Surprisingly, not as bad as the hangover,” Colton admitted around a wad of dirt that he spit out as he climbed back to his feet. “Uh, where’s my boots?”

“You left them on the porch. With the rest of your clothes,” Elk sighed.

Colton glanced down at himself and realized that he was not only barefoot, he was just plain bare. “Well, that’s embarrassing.”

“Hurry up and get dressed,” Elk sighed, giving Colton a push toward the house that they shared.

Colton quickly slid into his black trousers, left over from his Federal Army days, an off-white cotton shirt, and some woolen socks. His boots were the kind worn by Federal cavalry troopers, another holdover from his Army days. He pulled his suspenders up before cinching on his gunbelt and picking up his duster and his own broad-brimmed hat. His suspenders were heavy leather braces that held a small holster under either arm, and the gunbelt had three holsters attached to it, two big cross-draw holsters on either hip, and a long, thin sheath hanging down along his right leg. Twenty-four bullet-filled loops circled his waist on the gunbelt, and another twenty-four rounds hung from his suspenders, twelve on either side, but all five of the holsters were empty.

“Where’d you put my guns?” Colton asked.

“Same place I always put your guns. It amazes me how a man with eidetic memory can never remember things while he’s basting his brain in moonshine,” Elk said.

Colton brushed past his friend. “That’s why I baste my brain in alcohol, partner.” He walked over to the barn and lifted the lid on a grain bin. After a second of sifting through the oats, he fished out a cloth-wrapped bundle. Inside the bundle were four revolvers: two Drake Arms Ranger-Dragoons and a pair of Sharpes & Warwick Model 35-45s. The Ranger-Dragoons went into the cross-draw holsters on his gunbelt. They were big, heavy, single-action, metal-cartridge weapons, designed for cavalrymen. The S&W 35-45 was a short-barreled weapon that had become popular among big city plain clothes police. Colton placed his 35-45s in the holsters under his arms. All four weapons were chambered for the .45 Long Drake cartridge and a quick check assured him that all four were still loaded.

With his handguns in their places, Colton fished around in the oat bin again until he came up with a larger cloth bundle. This bundle contained a lever-action Duncan Model 1389 repeating rifle. The Duncan’s butt-stock and barrel had both been cut down to make it usable with one hand. For some reason, folks called such a modification a mare’s leg. Nobody knew why, but Colton didn’t care because the mare’s leg gave him a rifle-sized bullet in a really big pistol-sized package. The Duncan went into the holster on his right thigh, which he tied down above his knee to keep it from bouncing around.

“Are you coming?” Elk shouted.

“No, I’m not. I’m gonna stand here in the barn all day and play with myself,” Colton shouted back. He snapped his fingers. “Dawg! Let’s go.”

A massive beast that was in no way canine came trotting out of one of the stalls. The creature was roughly the size of a horse and had roughly the same four-legged shape. Those legs, though, were more feline in form, ending in bird-like four-toed feet surmounted by wicked, curved talons. The monster’s head had a narrow, saurian muzzle, filled with sharp, curved teeth, but the eyes were a warm, sparkling amber, and big, triangular ears surmounted the thick, rounded skull. From its hindquarters grew a long, serpentine, prehensile tail tipped with fan of blade-like bone spurs. The beast’s entire body was covered in a leathery, scaly hide that was somewhere between reptilian and mammalian, yet a ridge of brightly colored feathers ran down its spine.

“Who’s my good boy?” Colton asked the monster.

The creature barked, a bluish tongue lolling between razor teeth, its serpentine tail swishing back and forth. It fairly pranced from side to side, eager to go.

“Then, let’s go,” Colton laughed as he rubbed the beast’s snout. He glanced around, noticing that the other stalls were empty. He strode out and joined Elk. “Where are the horses?”

“Still in town. You insisted on walking home last night,” Elk complained.

“Gah, I’m stupid when I’m drunk,” Colton grumbled. “How much damage did I do?”

Elk shrugged. “Not as much as usual. There was this really big, and I mean big, Northie ork that was running his mouth, but you kinda gave him a lesson in manners that he won’t forget. When he wakes up.”

“Well, at least nobody died this time,” Colton sighed.

“Hey, that guy had a weak heart, and he was a rapist. So, it wasn’t like he didn’t deserve it to begin with,” Elk said.

The two men strode into the town of Gaptooth Junction, Frithlam Province. Gaptooth Junction was named for the pass overlooking the town. The pass was a large, easily-crossed opening in the Sawbuck Mountains. In fact, Gaptooth Pass was the only way across the mountains year ‘round for a distance of a hundred and fifty miles north and a hundred and twenty-five miles south. Most of the traffic heading west from the central Eastern Seaboard came through Gaptooth Pass. At least, it used to before the Final Battle.

On the other side of Gaptooth Pass was a valley called Shepherd’s Holler. The Holler was a good twenty miles wide and fifty miles long nestled between the Sawbuck Mountains on one side and the Skytower Mountains on the other side. The only way out of Shepherd’s Holler, other than Gaptooth Pass, was Lincoln’s Door to the north or Daisy’s Maze to the south. The Final Battle of the Reunification War had been fought in Shepherd’s Holler. In that green, fertile valley, three great armies had clashed. The mightiest weapons that science could imagine at the time had been fielded that day, and battle-mages had worked the most devastating magics their crafts could devise. In the end, though, magic and science had combined to create something that was horribly, horribly wrong. The only unharmed survivors of the battle had been the soldiers themselves. Not a single man at that point of the fighting died. Every civilian in the valley, though, died horribly in their places. Animals went insane, either escaping into the chaos or having to be put down. Strange gases boiled up out of the ground, which drove the survivors out of the valley.

After that, nobody went into Shepherd’s Holler. While the three sides sat in Gaptooth Junction negotiating the Reunification of the Commonwealth, the first of the crashers came down through the pass. “Crasher” was the generic term used by the locals for the monsters that were spawned from what the valley had become. Sometimes the things that crashed through the barricade were reanimated corpses of people and animals. Other times they were chaotic, mutated monsters, chimerical amalgams of different animals or even animals and plants. Once, an army of cherry trees had crashed the barricade.

A fort had been hastily built by the Federal Army to keep the barricade manned and to alert the town below that crashers were breaking through. Similar forts had been built in the Lincoln’s Door and Daisy’s Maze passes, but they weren’t sufficient to keep crashers from breaking through and wreaking havoc. So, the government had decided that a ward should be erected to contain the crashers, but a ward that would cover a thousand square miles was a massive undertaking. Then, a brilliant enchanter had suggested using the railroad lines to anchor the ward.

A direct line from Draigtyr City had run up and into Gaptooth Pass. Secondary rail lines from the north and south had connected in Gaptooth Junction, hence the town’s name. On the other side of the pass, the Draigtyr Line had split north and south toward the other two passes out of Shepherd’s Holler. Other east-west railroad lines intersected that line, and a north-south railroad line followed the Skytower Mountains on the other side of the valley. So, it had been decided that these rail lines would all be interconnected, the rails enchanted, and a ward empowered that would keep the residents of the valley safely ensconced, away from everybody else. Of course, the rail lines within the valley had to be repaired for the ward to work. So, crews went into Shepherd’s Holler everyday now to fix those lines, and they went protected by heavily armed soldiers and men like Colton and Elk. Officially, they were employed as “Warden Rangers,” charged with scouting the valley for signs of danger to the rail workers. Unofficially, they were paid to kill crashers.

“Any idea what kind of crashers these are?” Colton asked.

“Not a clue,” Elk sighed.

A group of children came running toward them, a mixture of human, elf, ork, and half-breeds, boys and girls both. None of these kids had parents, other than the school marm who ran the orphanage in town, but for some reason they all loved Colton and Elk, and for some reason that Colton didn’t quite understand anymore, he loved them right back.

“Colton! Colton! They’s shamblers!” one little elf boy shouted. “They done got to the train depot!”

“Okay, you kids get to my house and lock yourselves in the storm cellar, and y’all don’t come out ‘til me or Elk gives you the all clear,” Colton ordered.

Elk worked the action on his rifle to chamber the first round. “I was kinda worried that it might be walking trees again. Maybe apple or pecan this time.”

Colton shuddered at the memory of animated cherry trees flinging their fruit like buckshot. Pecans, hell, any kind of nuts, would be worse. “Let’s not linger on that thought, shall we?” He unlimbered the mare’s leg Duncan and chambered the first round. Up ahead he saw the Tongue Saloon and still tied to the rail out front was his big, black horse, Obsidian.

Obsidian shied away as Colton approached.

“Aw, now, don’t be like that Sid!”

The horse sidestepped away from him again.

“Now, Sid, if you keep acting all coy like that, I’ll have to let Dawg chew on ya for a bit.”

Dawg’s blue tongue lashed out, licking his chops, as a low growl built up in his throat.

Obsidian obediently held still while Colton retrieved a full-sized Duncan 1389 from a saddle scabbard and unhooked a sheathed sword from the saddle horn. Colton slung the sword across his back by a strap on the sheath so that the hilt peeked up behind his right shoulder.

“Feel better now that you’ve got half a dozen guns on your person?” Elk teased.

“Yep,” Colton replied. “Feels... natural.”

Elk snorted a laugh.

Colton racked the lever on the Duncan. The full-sized rifle held fourteen .45-70 rounds as opposed to the six rounds in the mare’s leg Duncan holstered on his right thigh. With twenty rounds of rifle ammunition between his two Duncans, Colton paused long enough to rummage in one of his saddle bags until he came up with a box of .45-70 cartridges. The box held fifty rounds. Colton took two rounds out to top off the magazine in both Duncans as he and Elk continued down the street toward the train depot. He stuffed the box into one of the big pockets of his duster.

“With all that ammo, why do you bother carrying that pig-sticker?” Elk asked.

“Bullets run out. Blades don’t. Learned that from a friend of mine,” Colton replied with a nod toward the hardware hanging from Elk’s belt.

Gunfire was already ringing out around the depot building. The men and several of the women of the town had come out to defend their homes. They were armed with a variety of handguns, rifles, and shotguns. A few even had axes, oak barrel staves, and one woman, the town’s heavy-set ork baker, was armed with a rolling pin.

“Hope Annie washes that thing ‘fore she starts rolling more dough with it,” Colton quipped as he raised his rifle and shot the shambler that was about to fall on the baker’s back. Annie turned with a gasp, bloody rolling pin raised in one hand. Then, she saw the shambler. With a nod of thanks to Colton, Annie the baker went back to smashing heads with her rolling pin.

Shamblers were odd things. They had a humanoid skeleton, like the bones had been reanimated, but the muscles and sinews were thorny vines. It was as though a creeping vine had decided that it needed to stand up and walk and had co-opted the bones of the dead to give itself form and structure. However, it wasn’t an animate plant necessarily. It had internal organs, heart, lungs, intestines, and a brain that were all, more or less, humanoid. Just like a person, if you shot a shambler in the brain or heart, it died instantly. Lung and gut shots would kill them, too, only a little slower. The name came from the shambling way that they moved, like they were just getting used to being able to walk. They weren’t intelligent. Shamblers had only one instinct: to kill.

Colton and Elk both picked their targets and started firing head and heart shots with their rifles. Elk’s more powerful rifle allowed him to shoot further away, but the five round magazine had him reloading more often. Colton kept his friend covered during those lulls, but he had to stop and reload the Duncan at one point, too.

“I’m out!” Elk exclaimed.

“Here,” Colton said passing over his Duncan and the remaining .45-70 shells.

“What about you?” Elk asked, accepting the rifle.

Colton reached inside his duster and came out with either hand full of a Ranger-Dragoon. “I got extras. Get in closer. That Duncan don’t have the range of your Taranis.”

The two men rushed forward, joining the defenders at the depot. Colton worked the single-action revolvers as fast as he could one-handed, shooting shamblers in the face and chest at close range. The horde had converged on the train depot for some reason. Colton could make out the sound of Vulcan guns firing from the fort. At least the townsfolk weren’t having to deal with the whole mess themselves.

Each of Colton’s Ranger-Dragoons clicked empty, but he didn’t have time to reload. Instead, he used the heavy barrels as simple bludgeons to club a shambler to death. In the bare bit of breathing room that he had, Colton holstered one of his revolvers and reached for the sword.

The weapon was beyond ancient. The blade had survived the Cataclysm that destroyed Archonia. The hilt had changed over the centuries as it was passed down from father to son, uncle to nephew, generation upon generation until it had come into Colton’s keeping. The blade was in the style of an Archonian spatha, the long sword carried by their cavalry as opposed to the shorter gladius carried by their infantry. It was double-edged with a sharp point that made it handy for both thrusting and hacking. The current hilt featured a brass crossguard with a slight downward curve and a matching brass pommel. The grip was bone that had been wrapped in silver wire and then further wrapped with black leather.

Colton stabbed the tip of the blade into a shambler’s chest, and the creature burst into flames for a mere second before turning to dust. Colton made a sweeping gesture with the blade, slashing at several shamblers nearby. The blade touched each for an instant before the creature burst into flames and turned to dust.

“Why didn’t you start with that?” Elk shouted.

“It’s like ammo. Only got a couple of shots, and they only work up close,” Colton replied as he slashed at another cluster of shamblers, immolating and dusting them as well. He’d put away his remaining Ranger-Dragoon and drew one of his 35-45s. “That’s it for the fire magic for now!”

Even without the blade’s fire magic, Colton’s sword was still sharp and strong, and between it and swapping between his remaining guns, he was able to kill or drive back the remaining shamblers. With the aid of his neighbors, the creatures were shortly dispatched. At last, Colton stood at the foot of the hill leading up into Gaptooth Pass, sword in one hand, mare’s leg in the other. Elk was at his back, a hand-axe in either hand. Both men were breathing hard and covered in the sappy ichor that served the shamblers for blood.

“We really need a sorcerer to deal with messes like this,” Elk said.

“I’ll make you a wand,” Colton said.

“No, thank you,” Elk spat. “I’d rather have a sorcerer. Give him the wand.”

Colton holstered his mare’s leg Duncan. “Yeah, sure. We’d best get started cleaning up this mess. Big bonfire tonight.”

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Kenzia Lamwald
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PostSubject: Re: New Ideas Sounding Board   Fri Apr 06, 2012 9:26 pm

I LOVE DAWG!!!!

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PostSubject: Re: New Ideas Sounding Board   Fri Apr 06, 2012 10:05 pm

I wrote that second scene in such a rush that I forgot to include Dawg's contribution to the battle. For the record, Dawg is a Lupine Drake, and some cavalry units in the Federal Army actually tried riding them into battle, but the ride proved too rough for most people. Lupine Drakes don't so much run across the landscape as over and through it.

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PostSubject: Re: New Ideas Sounding Board   Fri Apr 06, 2012 10:32 pm

Maybe a bit generous with the descriptions, but good stuff. The two chapters tie together quite well.
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PostSubject: Re: New Ideas Sounding Board   Wed Feb 19, 2014 3:17 pm

I've started another thread for my various noodling, which I've gone and renamed "Various and Sundry Applications for Phlebotinum." Give it a peek. Tell me if the superscience technologies that I'm describing hang together or do I need to add even MORE Phlebotinum to the equations.

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