Fantasy-Drake-Rider: Call-Up

Heart of Telmerath "Ever Loyal and Vigilant"

Drill-Master Varis bent over the map laid out on the table, blunt finger jabbing at lines denoting a hill overlooking a river. “If we can push them back and take this hill it will give us an advantage.”

Horse-Captain Gale frowned and shook his head. “The problem is they hold it, giving them the high ground. If the Drake-Knights were available to soften the Tremalaine defenses, I might consider it. As it stands now…”

Varis grimaced. The war had taken its toll on everyone, but the enemy’s new ballista system, designed to shoot multiple missiles and built in massive numbers, devastated Telmerath’s aerial guardians. Now some of the kingdom’s best warriors were relegated to courier missions and ineffectual high-altitude boulder drops. “Maybe a small group, under cover of darkness-”

Gale looked at him sharply. “Telmerathian soldiers do not skulk about like some back-alley mug-hunter, Drill-Master. Is that clear?”

Varis’ lips tightened at the rebuke, but he refrained from speaking. His Majesty’s Cavaliers, comprised of nobles, wouldn’t know how to sneak in anyway. Unless the sneaking consisted of backroom deals and visiting ladies of questionable virtue. He shook his head to drive out the unproductive musing and turned back to the map, eyes searching for some thrust that could set Tremalaine on the defensive.

The tent-flap furled and one of the guards, Leftenant Wexler, poked his head inside. “Sirs, Drake-Lord Miathes is here to see you.”

Gale straightened up and smoothed out his red tunic bearing the insignia of the Cavaliers, a purple shield bearing a rearing horse. “Show him in, Leftenant.”

A tall man with broad shoulders, clad in the sky-blue tunic and trousers that marked him as a Drake-Knight, but without the purple trim that would proclaim him Drake-Lord, strode past the sentry without fanfare, a grim look on his face. “Gale,” Miathes said without preamble. “I need to call up some of your Cavaliers for my unit.”

The horse-captain opened his mouth, but the larger man slapped down a rolled parchment made of vellum, bearing the Royal seal. “Here’s the King’s writ, in case you were thinking of protesting.”

Gale frowned and turned away from Miathes. The Drake-Lord let it go; he knew no officer worth their salt liked losing men, no matter the circumstance, but especially with a war on.

Varis snatched the parchment, broke the seal, and scanned the contents. “Ten?” He winced at the tone of his question, but plowed on. “Normally, it’s one or two. Ten will put a huge hole in our lines.”

Miathes nodded at the scroll. “That authorizes you to fill your losses by shuffling soldiers in from other Cavalier units.”

Gale turned back around, eyes blazing. “Why us? This will gut our effectiveness for at least two months! Transfers, training, integration…” He tossed his hands in the air. “Why?”

Miathes scowled. “His Majesty heard about the breakthrough led by two of your men. That, plus other successes, swayed the King to the idea his Drake Knights would be wise to draft from this unit.” The drake-lord held up his hands in a placating gesture. “I know this a hardship for you, but it is a great honor for those chosen. Would you deny them that?”

Gale deflated, rubbing the back of his neck in weary defeat. He flicked his head at Varis, who took up the conversation. “Milord, we have several long-time veterans-”

Miathes shook his head. “I’m breaking protocol on this recruitment. His Majesty’s Drake Knights have been stagnant, and we need to adapt. I want…need younger soldiers. Soldiers with fire and ideas. I’ll start with the two that broke through the Tremalaine lines.”

Gale tensed again at the thought of losing his cadre of youthful warriors, but Varis murmured, “Captain, it is well-known that Leftenents Damon Forester and Yallo WindFern dream to one day join the Drake Knights. They are good men, but we shouldn’t fight to deny their goals.”

Gale’s fists clenched. “Fine. Make a list and give it to him.” He gave Miathes a short, curt nod, and said, “If you’ll excuse me,” before storming out of the tent.

Varis watched his commander leave, a pained look on his face. “My apologies Lord-”

Miathes waved away the apology. “Don’t. I imagine I would react much the same way.”

“Still, etiquette and all that.” He managed a weak grin. “You really are getting two of our best. I had my doubts about Forester, but he’s proven to be a voracious learner and one hell of a Cavalier. And Yallo is the standard to which I hold a Cavalier in this unit.”

Miathes smile came more naturally. “Good. That just leaves eight more, eh?”

The two men huddled closer to the table, intent on their task. Neither noticed Wexler, third son of Pelias, Earl of WindFern, narrow his eyes in hatred at the praise heaped upon his elder brother.

***

For the rest of the story so far, click here or go to the sidebar and click Fantasy: Drake-Rider. For Yeah Write’s Moonshine Grid. Head over and check out some great writers!

Fantasy – Drake-Rider: Yallo

Damon groaned as he eased down next to the crackling campfire, waves of steam wafting from the bowl of thick stew he cradled in his callused hands. A stiff breeze stirred the flames and rattled a loose tent flap. He concentrated on the snapping sound, allowing it to drown out the screams of wounded horses and men being butchered or put down.

“Horse-meat stew again, eh?” Yallo pulled up a free log and perched next to Damon. “Wonder which poor bastard’s it was?”

Damon scooped a heap up with his fingers and plopped it in his mouth. “I try not to think about it,” he mumbled around a hunk of meat.

Yallo grinned and tapped his friend on the arm with his fist. “Manners, Forester. Your mother would be appalled right now. We’re not peasants.”

Damon glared at his friend and fellow Cavalier. “No, we’re not. They are on the front-lines without armor except for a few scraps of half-rotted leather scrounged from the dead, wielding swords not fit for the Barbarians of Klanda, and dying in droves as their spears are more worthy of a child’s toy than a warrior.”

The slightly older man’s lips furrowed beneath his bushy mustache and he studied the contents of his bowl, shoulders slumped. Damon flinched and opened his mouth to say something, but the words died like so many men during this war. The two battle-brothers sat in silence for several minutes, the shouts and bustle of the base camp fading before their insistent thoughts.

Yallo broke the silence first. “You have the right of it, my friend,” he clapped his hand on Damon’s shoulder, “and I apologize for my thoughtless words. Tremalaine blades care not if Talmarathian blood spilled is noble or base-born, and neither shall I.”

Damon glanced sharply at Yallo, who caught his gaze and held it. “Know this; any who may speak ill of brave Talmarath soldiers, whether they be high-born or low, shall deal with Yallo, son of Pelias, heir to the Earldom of WindFern Valley.” He nodded, eyes still holding Damon’s. “This I swear before Anais, Mother Protector of Talmarath.”

Damon’s throat tightened and he turned his head. “How long have you known?” he murmured.

Yallo’s grin resumed its normal place. “For certain? Not until now, but there have been hints.” He laughed as Damon’s head whipped around, eyes wide. “Peace, brother,” he said, holding up his hand. “Your secret is safe, I believe. It has only been since our friendship has grown to include the realm of social interaction that I have noticed.”

A ragged roar rose from the assembled men of the rear-area, echoed from the passing figures gliding overhead. The Drake-Knight squadron dipped their wings, a salute to their horse-riding brethern, as they flew to the front.

Damon craned his neck as they zipped by, watching their flight path far after the horizon took them, lips curved upwards hard enough his cheeks ached. Yallo chuckled when Damon returned to earth. “What?”

“You and I share the same dream,” Yallo said, eyes twinkling. “And I have every faith we shall make it.”

Damon downed more stew as the camp returned to its normal dull wave, his shoulders a bit more relaxed.

Click here for the preceding stories of Damon and his character sketch. Hope you enjoy!

Happy Reading and Writing!

J. Milburn

RSR Genre Haiku Challenge – Epic Fantasy: Only Recourse

James killed wtih the sword

Rise against the king!

tyranny flows from high-born

swords our only hope

Another genre haiku for Rob’s Surf Report’s Genre Haiku Challenge. The genre for the month is Epic Fantasy. Head on over and check out his site. If you feel a haiku coming on…gesundheit 😉 Join in the fun by creating your own!

Hope you enjoy.

Happy Reading and Writing!

J. Milburn

 

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

RSR Genre Haiku Challenge-Epic Fantasy: Top Of The Food Chain

Overlook

Overlook (Photo credit: raveller)

rage flows from the sky

angered the mighty beast roars

we are his kindling

Genre haiku for Rob’s Surf Report’s Genre Haiku Challenge. This month’s genre is Epic Fantasy. It doesn’t get much more epic than dragons! Head on over to Rob’s site for more haiku fun. Join in if something strikes you.

Hope you enjoy.

Happy Reading and Writing!

J. Milburn