Speakeasy #145: Her Majesty’s Ranger-The Hunt

Cezanne-cardplayers1

Cezanne-cardplayers1

I have spent years chasing the tail of my darkness. The murderer of my mentor, Mallais, ever eludes my grasp and the Queen’s justice.

He shall not do so again.

Hidden like a common cur, I stride through the dust of Hope. A ‘free’ village, the peasants shuffle with an absence of their community’s namesake. A lift-skirt eyes me, suspicion and warning mixed with desperation. I bury myself deeper within my cowl and hurry on, uninterested in losing my cover due to worries over lost business.

You need to change your walk, Izzy, vibrates in my ear. Even disguised you scream “Ranger!”, and you know what they say.

Rangers hope for hot glares instead of cold steel in Hope, I sub-vocalize. My hound companion, Keats, waits on the outskirts, his distinctive appearance a detriment instead of boon during this excursion. Maybe Cezanne will be drawn out by rumors of-

Two figures, dressed in royal blue-gold livery, halt my advance with their presence farther up the street. Plas-sheets adorned with my visage flash at uncooperative villagers. “Artemis’ ass,” blurts out of my mouth.

I bolt inside a tavern, murmuring, “Forgive me, Goddess, my blasphemies.” A haze of pipe-smoke sears my senses as I inhale my new surroundings. Silence, broken only by the soft flap of cards shuffled, holds sway. Villains stare at colored shards of plas with cold intent, my presence unregistered as they attend their sport.

Izzy?

QueensHands. Later. I sidle up to the bar and signal the tavern-master for ale, unsure of how to proceed. The Royal Guard of Her Majesty, known as the QueensHands, draw worthies from across the special forces wielded by the kingdom. Those few accepted are augmented by arcane sciences held secret for centuries.

Mallais served with them, only to die at the hand of his partner, Cezanne de Paulo.

I imagine the same intelligence about Cezanne’s whereabouts graced their path as it did mine. Fear, not a foreign emotion, but distant enough to be mere acquaintance, announces his presence within me. I fear not the punishment for leaving without authorization on my hunt, nor do I fear the QueensHands, formidable foes, but also fair.

No. I fear justice delayed and vengeance denied.

With my movements hindered, I find myself at a loss. It feels as if the Silver-Maiden turns away her favor.

Thoughts of surrender race through me. I stand, ready to face the Queen’s judgement, when a quick tug upon my cloak halts my despair. A small boy grins and motions me closer. I lean down and the scamp whispers, “I know who you seek.”

Child-wisdom senses my disbelief. “Cezanne the Darkhand, he resides at the Planetfall Inn.”

Gold flashes between my fingers, and disappears with alacrity inside his tunic. I ruffle his hair, though he sends me to a trap. He runs off, no doubt to call my arrival. “Forgive my doubts, Artemis,” I whisper. “I shall see the hunt through to fruition.”

Keats!

Izzy? The QueensHands can monitor these frequencies.

I hope they do. Meet me at the Planetfall Inn.

***

My Goddess smiles upon me as I reach Cezanne’s den without meeting my pursuers. Tabanca fills my hand as I throw off my cloak. Concentrated plasma explodes the door into splinters, and screams betray those hiding in ambush. “DARKHAND! I, Isabella Florentine, have come. Face me.”

A slow clap answers my bravado, and thugs encircle me in a moon of filth. “You are a persistent one, young Isabella.” His voice echoes from a communicator on a table. “Too persistent. Ah, well.”

His timbre hardens. “Kill her.”

My eyes swivel to each man. “I offer you one chance. Leave now. If not…”

“What?” one of them asks.

“Then you will learn a poet’s sting strikes down the mightiest of mortals.” My whistle pierces the evening. The questioner falls, throat missing from a black flash. Tabanca sings, sending to eternal sleep one, then another.

The last piece of my trap falls as blue-gold blurs descend upon my would-be slayers. Monofilament-blades sparkle as foes fall. In moments bodies litter the streets of Hope.

I stride to the communicator. “Hear me, Cezanne. You may hide, but I will find you. This is not over.”

His laughter mocks me. “I shall enjoy the pursuit, dear child. Fare thee…poorly.”

“Ranger.” A Hand approaches me, eyes glittering. “By order of Her Majesty…we are to aid you in your hunt.” He smiles. “If you’ll have us.”

I glance at Keats, who nods his blood-muzzled head. “The hunt continues.”

Word Count: 750

Speakeasy #145. Her Majesty’s Ranger, Isabella Florentine, and her faithful hound, Keats, 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 because I think Cezanne kicks gluteus maximus as a bad guy name.

The prompts this week are Cezanne’s CardPlayers-1, to be referenced in some way, and the sentence “I have spent years chasing the tail of my darkness”, to be used as the first line.

Rules:

  • Your post must be dated January 19, 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 have spent years chasing the tail of my darkness.”
  • 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 #145 post is found in the sidebar. Add the code to the html view of your post before publishing.

Hope you enjoy this foray into the planetary kingdom of Gliese and my delve into sci-fantasy.

Happy Reading and Writing!

J. Milburn

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Sunday Photo Fiction: “Rolling Stoners” Epizodo Ses

42 01 January 12th 2014

Rick stirred, opening his eyes to see a metal gate with a rusted chain and lock keeping it closed. A rotten smell hit his nose. “Agh! God…Terry!”

“Wakey-wakey, asshole.” Terry’s mug peered down at him. “Remind you of that time in Tijuana?”

“I told you that donkey show looked shady.” A soft purr caused him to sit up and glance around the cell. A creature that looked like the tiger-woman they’d spied on slept curled in the corner.

Terry followed Rick’s gaze. “Heh. Our own naked alien. These guys rock!”

Rick glared at him. “You ever stop to think we might be this…whatever’s dinner?”

“I don’t eat junk-food,” floated a soft growl. “Especially that provided by the Leono sedimento.” Tiger-woman stretched, arching her back, then started licking her fur.

The “cat-bath” mesmerized Rick. He turned his head…his eyes taking in Terry’s pants pointing. “Dude!”

“I can’t help it, dick.”

Curious green-gold eyes watched. “You two are strange. Not like the others we’ve found.”

Rick kept his gaze averted. “There are others?”

“Yes, though I’m afraid our execution will keep you from meeting them.”

“E-execution?” Rick glared up at Terry, who leered at the alien. “Sometimes I really hate you.”

Sunday Photo Fiction

Another chapter in the ongoing saga of Rolling Stoners, for Sunday Photo Fiction. The host of Sunday Photo Fiction is creating a new blog for a new challenge: Haibun. He’s after photos and artwork, so if you are interested head over to the Sunday Photo Fiction page, leave a comment and he’ll contact you.

Hope you enjoyed this week’s installment of Rolling Stoners. Now I have to figure out how to write myself out of the execution corner 😉

By the way, some of the language is Esperanto.

Happy Reading and Writing!

J. Milburn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Photo Fiction: Greetings

Sea King Rescue Helicopter and Lifeboat at a Coastal Display July 2011

Sea King Rescue Helicopter and Lifeboat at a Coastal Display July 2011

Rick pushed his way through the thick under-foliage, the strange colors of the plants now wearily familiar. Quarter-remembered Boy Scout lessons about direction thrust the guide position on him as he and Terry searched for the city seen from the tower. Terry walked silently, his normal complaints absent. Rick hoped it would stay that way.

“Heh. Remember that time the Coast Guard had to rescue you, dumbass?”

Rick sighed. “That was you, Terry. You saw those girls nude-sunbathing and decided to stand up in the boat…without your suit on.”

Terry chuckled. “Good times.”

“I’m sure that nice blue-haired grandma walking with her grandkids along the beach thought so. Along with everyone else that saw your bare-ass when the chopper pulled you up.”

“What can I say, I’m a giver.”

Rick sighed again and turned to unload. “Those kids crie-”

A thick maned lion-man, nude except for weapon straps, appeared, stopping him short. Terry whirled around. “I got this, dude.” He stepped forward, holding his fingers in a V-shape. “Take me to your leader.”

The lion-man pulled a sleek-looking gun and red light buzzed out, engulfing the two boys. Lion-schlong. Why does my life suck so hard? Rick thought as darkness engulfed him.

Word Count: 200

Sunday Photo Fiction

Will our heroes survive? Why does everyone seem to be naked? Can I keep shoehorning totally unrelated pictures into the story? Stay tuned to “Rolling Stoners” on its new home: Sunday Photo Fiction! Every week, the shadowy over-lord, known simply as “Al,” posts a photo to lash his minions into creating works he collates and stores to use in his nefarious plans to take over the world!

Head on over and join the fun! I’m sure Al will bequeath you a sizeable land grant as he establishes his dark reign!

Hope you enjoy.

Happy Reading and Writing!

J. Milburn

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!

Daily Prompt – Interplanet Janet: Pangaea

Daily Prompt: You get to design your own planet: tell us all about your planet — the weather, the seasons, the inhabitants. Go.

I’m going, I’m going! Sheesh!
 
So I get to design my own planet? You  couldn’t make this a weekly challenge where I could focus on one or two aspects a day? Ugh. Okay, settle in folks and let’s do some planet building.
 
Type of planet: Gaseous giant? Post-apocalyptic style blasted landscape? Ice world? Forest world? Earth-like with various temperate zones, geography and geology? Tatooine? Swamp World? Each has possibilities for stories told.
 
So what’s the focus? Do we delve deep into what it means to grow and evolve on a single biome planet, exploring the challenges inherent in surviving any single climate and creating a society? Or do we want a hosting environment that lends itself to a multitude of stories, that can encompass a range of environments and cultures? Maybe a fantasy world, the square Earth of Bizarro, that defies physics and we can make our own rules?
 
I prefer the multitude of story possibilities inherent on an Earth-like world, where where you live shapes who you are. Various cultures can arise, leading to clashes, shocks, and lessons.
 
English: Hypothetical "super earth" ...
English: Hypothetical “super earth” next to Earth for comparison. (Earth texture courtesy of NASA’s The Blue Marble: Land Surface, Ocean Color, Sea Ice and Clouds) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Earth-like it is.
Geologic features: Do we want a planet that is geologically stable? No earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic activity, etc? Is this Earth-like world still in its Pangaea stage, one super-continent? If so, is it still stable, or on the cusp of separating? Mineral rich or mineral poor?
 
I’m thinking I like the Pangaea stage idea. One relatively geologically stable super-continent. There are volcanoes, earthquakes, and the like, but Pangaea (I’m keeping the name for the continent and world) is in no danger of breaking into various smaller continents anytime soon. I’m making it extremely mineral rich.
The supercontinent Pangaea surrounded by the s...
The supercontinent Pangaea surrounded by the superocean Panthalassa. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Geographic (physical) features: For this I’m just defining a starting point, for what is a world without exploration? Boring is what it is.
 
Do we want a rainforest? A less-densely populated wooded area, clear-cut for habitation? What about something near the equator? A desert area? A Siberia-type area? Are there rivers, lakes, and other water sources?
 
I picture an extremely mineral rich world makes arable soil for farming a scarcity, but let’s make that our starting point. The wooded area, clear-cut serves that purpose. Let’s put a river nearby to open up various travel possibilities. The flora and fauna will have adapted, and I’m picturing trees with small veins of metal, their leaves covering the metallic color spectrum. The local fauna I’m picturing with a denser bone structure, their digestive systems designed to funnel the high mineral content into useful adaptations.
 
Weather Patterns: With our geography defined, I’m going to base the weather patterns on what is conducive for that environment, although I’m going to throw in mild winters because I really don’t like snow. So, varying seasons, but only three: spring, summer, and fall.
 
Inhabitants: What kind of inhabitants populate this world? Are they humanoid? If not, what do they look like? Is there more than one species considered “intelligent”? If so, what are the relationships between the two species? Does our species fall into a narrow phenotype, with little variation among their characteristics? Or are they diverse, the various environmental factors shaping adaptations? Do they share a common language, or do various dialects crop up? How do they reproduce, sexually or asexually? Are there differing genders? Do they cycle through genders based on need?
 
What about culture, same or varying? Do we want an advanced society, something more in line with what we know, or maybe something along the historical axis? Do they have nations? Can they conceptualize an entity such as the “State”?
 
I’m intrigued by the notion of two “intelligent” species forced to coexist. Let’s make one humans, genetically adapted to survive and thrive on such a mineral-rich world. That sticks them firmly in the “advanced” category, but who says they have to follow what we would consider a linear progression forward? Let’s incorporate a little medieval flavor, with kingdoms and feudalism. They’ve been adapted, but still need Earth-like crops, also modified, to survive. The available arable land that will support these crops is scarce, lending itself to the feudalism idea.
 
So, medieval with high-tech trappings. The leaders of the first settlements became the royalty of future generations.
picture found at: crunchyroll.com
The second species is a native species, evolved from avian stock instead of mammalian. The humans call them Aviars. They attained a society on par with Rome in our own history. They are expansionist and relations, formally cordial with the human colonists, have turned hostile. Early diplomatic exchanges of culture and information have let the Aviars integrate human technology into their culture, and engineer their own designs.
 
The Aviars are not quite as diverse as humans, but they are by no means homogeneous. They keep slaves and are ruled by an oligarchy. They are gendered, but the females hold most of the political and economical power.
 
Finished Result (Pangaea): Mineral rich Earth-like world dominated by a super-continent. Varying geographical features, but our story starts in a kingdom built around a river near a wooded area with only three seasons. Humans rule this kingdom, clashing with their Aviar neighbors, while battling the local flora and fauna for supremacy. Knights and Rangers, armed with plasma rifles and monomolecular blades, patrol the borders against Aviar Centurion incursion.
 
I created this world as one I could tell stories about, not where I would want to live. These few questions I asked barely scratch the surface in world-building. This is just a basic outline, and I’m sure others could come up with other questions they feel should be answered before starting. For me, this is enough. I’ll fill in the details through story.