Speakeasy #140: Her Majesty’s Ranger

John Everett Millais: Isabella, 1848-49..

Isabella by John Everett Millais

I found the tracks in the deep snow between the trees. My hand caressed a solitary salmon thread, ripped from its owner. My hound, Keats, growled as Lorenzo’s scent grew ever stronger. “Go, boy.”

Keats bounded away in the winter twilight, a silent messenger of savagery for whatever filthy kidnapper crossed his path. Fingers tightened on my most trusted friend, Tabanca, riding low at my side. Hardened muscles, honed from years of training and patrolling with the Rangers of Artemis, exploded into motion.

Keats’ prints dimmed as the gloom grew, but the further into the forest we traveled, the more sign I discovered. A broken branch here, a dangling cobweb there, all processed automatically as I ran in the easy rhythm pounded into me by Ranger Mallais. My focus narrowed as visions of justice gaoled my thoughts.

Like the rankest amateur.

A low growl broke free my foolishness for the Goddess to gaze upon. Keats circled a badger-like creature with golden fur, silver eyes, and eight viciously clawed paws. An aurumvorax. Tabanca filled my hand, ready to strike for the glory of the Goddess, the Queen, and the Rangers.

As I crept closer to flank the beast, a whiff of smoke performed its own assault on my senses. Taboo and decree declared this wood off-limits to all but Rangers, punishable by death. I reasoned my quarry lay near, which cast my current battle in a new light. I could not risk the sounds of dispatching so dangerous a beast reaching my true prey.

Tabanca disappeared back into her sheath, replaced by several golden coins all Rangers carry for emergency purposes. Fortunately, gold served as a delicacy to the aurumvorax, and my dilemma certainly qualified as an emergency. The Goddess’ light twinkled off the flying treasure as it scattered in the snow.

The creature hesitated, torn between fresh meat or that which made it so deadly. In the end, the promise of increased power won out and it started rooting through the banks to find its metal muse. I grunted at Keats, and that faithful hound and I resumed our hunt.

The stench of unwashed villains soon mixed with the ever-increasing smell of smoke. Voices, borne upon Aeolus’ grace, reached my straining ears. I communed with Keats and we slowed our advance, seeking refuge behind a rivenoak. Shadow became our ally as we darted from tree to tree. A quick flick of my fingers sent Keats slinking off so we may encircle our game.

I peeked around the great bole, my gaze falling upon a large, bearded ruffian gnawing on a piece of meat, drippings matting chin-hair into a tangled mess. His companion, a thin, pinch-faced fellow, guzzled wine from a leather bladder, red rivulets echoing his nature.

I saw no sign of Lorenzo.

A small subsonic yip vibrated in my cyber-ears. Tabanca rang with joyous abandon as concentrated plasma burst forth, exploding the fire and sending the fiends scrambling. Keats cybernetic legs propelled him onto the back of the fat one, chromed teeth rending flesh. I pointed Tabanca at the drunkard. “Where is Lorenzo?”

His Adam’s apple bobbed as I watched lies race through his eyes. A quick glance to the side of the clearing bespoke cruel truth, but I reined my fury and did not kill him.

Yet.

“Who hired you?” I gestured to his unmoving companion on the ground, swimming in a pool of crystallizing red. “Before you speak lies, know that you have only two choices. A quick, painless death,” I lifted Tabanca, “or death by poet.” I pointed at Keats, tongue lolling and Hades own grin on his face. “He will make your death a work of art to be marveled at by enemies of the Crown for centuries. What say you?”

After I garnered what information I needed, a blast to his head fulfilled my bargain. Keats sniffed out Lorenzo’s shallow grave, and I reclaimed my lost love’s head, as custom demanded.

***

“Thus is the testimony of Isabella Florentine née Boccaccio, Captain in Her Majesty’s Rangers of Artemis, independent planetary kingdom of Gliese, year of our lord 2343. I serve the Goddess and Her Majesty at their pleasure.” My face is expressionless as I shoot my lover’s killer in the stomach and leave him to die slow, writhing like a worm.

“And that pleasure is your doom, Giovanni Boccaccio, former head of the Bardic Society and former beloved brother.” I pat Keats on the head as we walk out the door and back to our duty.

Word Count: 750

Genre: Sci-Fantasy

Speakeasy time again! This week’s prompts: The painting Isabella by John Everett Millais, based on a poem by John Keats, who based it on a work by Giovanni Boccaccio. Get it? Got it? Good.

Our sentence, to be used in the first line, comes from the very talented winner of last week’s Speakeasy, EA Wicklund. The sentence: I found the tracks in the deep snow between the trees.

Head over to Speakeasy and check out some very good writers as they all put their own spin on the prompts. Entries are posted on Tuesdays!

The rules:

  • Your post must be dated December 15, 2013, or later.
  • Submissions must be 750 words or fewer.
  • Submissions must be fiction or poetry.
  • Your piece must include the following sentence as the FIRST line: “I found the tracks in the deep snow between the trees.
  • The Speakeasy is for submissions written specifically for the grid. Please don’t submit an entry if you intend to showcase it to another blog link-up. Such posts are deleted without notice.
  • Please don’t post long explanations before your post. We want your writing to be the star of the show. If you need to clarify anything, feel free to do so at the end.
  • The badge for your speakeasy #140 post is found in the sidebar. Add the code to the html view of your post before publishing.

Hope you enjoy this week’s offering.

Happy Reading and Writing!

J. Milburn

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35 thoughts on “Speakeasy #140: Her Majesty’s Ranger

  1. Oh wow….I should say I got all the Keats stuff before the explanation. I am a HUGE Keats fan. 🙂
    This is feels like a novel but only in 750 words. I will have to read this a few times. Bravo my friend.

    • Thank you, Anja! I’m finding myself intrigued by this world and think I may expand it. Maybe my second actual novel length story (my first needs so much editing I may as well rewrite it wholesale and is so far from publishable that I’ll save the editor’s the effort of rejecting me 😉 ).

      • Oh you have written a novel? Hurry up and publish it so I can read it…and expect an autographed copy. 🙂

      • From what I understand, everyone that tries novels has several early manuscripts gathering dust. Sadly, the one I’ve written falls into that category.
        But I do have two of my pieces being published and a third under consideration that I just wrote and received interest in tonight, a short story not posted and two flashes (which can be found under Western) so I’m getting out there! 🙂

      • Wow. So I’m getting in before you become all famous. Lol. That is really amazing! I’m not shocked because you are very talented.

      • Thank you! Not sure about the fame part, and not being shocked makes one of us 🙂 I’m glad I started blogging because I’ve gotten so much positive feedback. Of course, when I read others I still feel like a hack 😉 But I’m getting better at believing in my own work.

      • You really do write very well. Not just saying that. Trust me, I do not write mini novels of yay on everyone’s work. Blogging really helps and exposes you to many styles.

      • Oh, I realize that. Some bloggers you kill off in your stories (you say self-defense and I’ll back that story 🙂 ). I really do appreciate your comments. I look forward to them now on every post!

      • That AnElephant is a crafty one. I had to defend myself. He knows it!!!
        Ha…I look forward to your posts. When I get the email you created something I read as soon as I can.

      • Well, if I ever disappoint, don’t be afraid to let me know! Hopefully that day will be far, far in the future, when I’ve sold out to the corporate machine and start writing pablum while rolling on piles of money from the movie rights to the year’s worst reviewed film 😉

      • Ha I am very honest. 🙂
        Avoid becoming Nicholas sparks. Lol

  2. I very much enjoyed this story. Great job!

  3. “Death by poet” – hahaha! (I would not choose that one 🙂 ) Great work on this story. I like how she hunted them down and we didn’t really know it was a “she” until near the end.

    • Thank you! I wanted readers to think that maybe Isabella was the queen so I kept the identity of the Ranger hidden until near the end. Since I used the names of the poets and characters, “death by poet” was just too fun to pass up 😉

  4. Wonderful story. Poor Boccaccio I feel for him.

  5. Great story, I loved how it started off feeling as if it was set in the past, and then ended up being set in the future.

    • Thanks, Mandy! I tried to establish the fantasy feel before springing the sci-fi. Probably falls into the “space opera” genre, but I like the name Sci-Fantasy. I appreciate your reading!

  6. This is fantastic! I love the lilting language of this one. The choice: quick, painless death or death by poet, was brilliantly imagined. I can’t heap enough praise upon you for this brilliantly imagined piece. Just extraordinary!

    Oh, and Aurumvorax? It seems someone knows his monster manual.

  7. Wow, I love the surprise at the end that Isabella was the Ranger. This really suites the prompts. Fun!

  8. I love this! So creative. And I love Isabella’s reveal at the end. Awesome use of the prompts! And you can add me to the list that hopes you revisit this world. 🙂

  9. What a fun bit of fantasy! I thought it was at first difficult to follow, but as I got into the story it really came together. I thought was really entertaining, thanks for sharing 😀

  10. You have a nice knack for alliteration – moves the story along with sound. And I like the Sci-Fantasy idea!

  11. Haha, you caught me by surprise with ‘death by poet’. I had to reread that a couple of times to know that I wasn’t seeing things 😛
    Interesting take on the prompt, love it 😀

  12. gaoled my thoughts… Seriously? Wow, lots going on here. This was a hell of a lot better than Keats’ poem, that was… ‘Death by Poet’!

  13. […] are back with a new enemy and some new allies. If you missed their introduction, you can find it here. In keeping with the previous story, I incorporated the artist’s name into the story. Mostly […]

  14. ‘The stench of unwashed villains’… ‘as I watched lies race through his eyes’….- I absolutely love the way you build your sentences, a ton of intensity, brimming with reality, howling off your fingers and burning their way onto the pages. Wicked. Looking forward to more.

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