Friday, April 29, 2005

COM Prelude # 1: Ariadne

The bright red sun was setting over the desert as Ariadne finished loading up the camels. She had to work quickly - Jereck would want to leave as soon as the moon came up. Like most humans who lived in the badlands, he prefered to travel at night - sure, the risk of bandits increased, but everyone knew heat stroke killed more people than any outlaw or marauder.
In some respects, Ariadne was far from the perfect person for the camel-loading job. She was a house gnome (gnomus domesticus), and like most of her kind, stood only about 2' 11", short even compared to other types of gnomes. She was also quite young, at fourteen - the equivalent of a child of seven in human years. So, in order to load anything onto the ten foot camels, she had to climb the small portable staircase that had been constructed for that purpose.
Inconvenient as their stature is, in all other respects house gnomes are the perfect servants - they're strong, cheerful, hardy folk, and most importantly, they have the ability to derive happiness from anything. Once a house gnome has worked at an assigned task for a certain amount of time, he or she begans to believe that that task is the world's most enjoyable activity. After that it is very difficult to get him or her to do anything else.
And so, Ariadne was happy. The loading of her master's camels, and their unloading at each oasis, was to her the most supreme bliss - until she was asked to do something else, that is. As she loaded that last bundle onto the creatures back, she breathed a sigh of regret - this was the last time she would get to do that for several days.
As she climbed down the steps, her master emergewd from the small inn where he had been staying.
"Come, Ariadne," he said, "Let's get moving,"
Her master, Jereck, was a tall, slender man with a thin beard, who wore the flowing robes of a desert merchant. She had been traded to him by a party of goblins who had found her as an infant. It was a spot of luck for her that they'd happened upon him - they had been planning to eat her. He had been a good master, teaching her reading and writing, and even basic sums so she could do some bookkeeping for his shop, a job she loved nearly as much as loading camels. He would talk to her as they rode and, in most respects, he treated her as more like a daughter than a slave.
They were headed for Kamrock, a mining town inhabited mostly by dwarves. Dwarves liked beer, and these ones had diamonds they would be willing to trade for it. Luckily for Jereck, a towmn not two days away had a decent brewery, and was always willing to trade it's fruits for leather garments, which a tanner in a city three days from that imparted in exchange for grain. And so on, all throughout the badlands and briefly into the ogre lands, completing a circuit in about 8 months, then starting over again.
Ariadne was looking forward to returning to Kamrock - house gnomes still retain the gnomic love of jewels and precious metals, and she was no exception. She hoped Jereck would let her keep a small trinket. Thoughts of her new diamond necklace filled her head as they tied up the camels at the post outside the cave entrance.
Unfortunately, things were not right. The two guards at the mouth of Kamrock's cave entrance failed to give Jereck the traditional greeting. It didn't take him long to figure out the reason for this - one had had his head smashed in, the other was nowhere to be found. There was a lot of screaming from inside the cave. Ariadne recognized the harsh, gutteral tones of Dwarvish, but the other language was unfamiliar to her. It was loud, and sounded more like roaring sometimes than shouting.
"We're leaving," Jereck announced. He took Ariadne by the hand and turned back toward the exit. Then he froze, horrified.
Four hulking, blue-skinned ogres were standing around the camels. Each stood about 9 feet high, with long tusks curving out of their enormous jaws. They were rifling through Ariadne's carefully loaded and organized saddlebags, yelling at each other in their rough language.
Slowly, Jereck's head cleared enough for him to decide on a plan of action. He drew the curved scimitar at his side and walk purposefully towards the ogres. That's when the crossbow bolt hit him in the back.
Ariadne was confused. She knew she should be trying to save the store and her master, but didn't know what to do. As Jereck fell beside her, she dropped to the ground as well, thinking it the right thing to do.
"Run," wheezed Jereck, "Run towards Canderlass. They don't want you. Don't worry about me, save yourself,"
You never have to give a house gnome an order twice. With a look she bid farewell to her master, her camels, and her favorite jobs and ran out into the desert.
Oner of the Ogres saw her and made an attempt at pursuit, but he didn't get very far before his superior barked an order for him to come back - they had a city to loot, there was no time for chasing little gnome girls.
On into the night she ran, and into the sunrise the next morning, her Auburn hair playing against the bright red sun. She was tired, and very thirsty, but she knew stopping would do no good - Canderlass was the nearest Oasis, and it was a good days journey away. As she ran she began to wonder things- if she would ever see her master again, who her next master would be, or if she'd even have a new master - or die of heat exhaustion long before she reached Canderlass. After about six hours of running and wondering, she could run no more, and collapsed in the sand.
She woke up in an unfamiliar tent, on an unfamiliar cot, looking up into an unfamiliar face. She was a full-blood elf, with the thin, beautiful face associated with that race, and long, bright red hair.
"You're a very lucky little girl," she said, "If we hadn't stumbled on you when we did, you wold have died out there. My name's Emiletha, but you can call me Emmy,"
Emmy, it turned out, along with the other people in that camp, was a wytch- not a "bubble, bubble, toil and trouble," witch who lives in houses made of candy and eats German children, but a wytch with a y, one of the notrious Red Wytches, defenders of wo manhood throughout the badlands. And so Ariadne came to be their disciple. She didn't like it much at first, as there were no accounts to manage and no camels to load and unload, but intime she came to view combat as a sort of very complicated equation.
By the time she was fifteen, she was already a powerful warrior and a respected sorceress, and was chosen by Queen Tezra for a very important mission.

Title change

Taking a page from Marten's book, I have retitled my blog. The old one was creeping people out anyway. My URL will remain unchanged.
That said, I'm going to start running other stories concurrently. Maybe up to five. I will be careful not to neglect any already in progress unless they are, in my opinion, total crap.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Chapter 24:Isolation

My parents seemed altogether too interested in my day that evening; I had to make up a lot of stuff, and as I've already said, I'm a horrible liar. Even my well rehearsed anecdotes of a non-existant self-defense class felt flat and full of holes. Whatever my misgivings, though, they seemed to buy it; at least my mother did. My father... well, there was something off about his response. Hard to define, really - just something different in the way he looked at me.
That night I lay in my room, trying to fall asleep. It was impossible. I kept thinking over everything that had happened in the past two weeks. I could barely believe it myself. Keeping all this a secret was going to drive me insane. I needed to talk to someone. And there was still only one person who knew anything already.
I called up Zhong. This was probably a mistake since it was about 11:00 at night, a fact which had unfortunately slipped my mind. After about five minutes of being screamed at in Chinese, I muttered a "sorry to bother you," into the reciever and hung up. I was glad she hadn't answered. It would have been very easy to take this the wrong way. I hoped she didn't have caller ID.
At least an hour later, I finally fell asleep. I don't remember what I dreamed about, but I remember it was something really weird. I remember this cause for a little while after I woke up I couldn't remember which was the dream and which had actually happened last night. The reality was actually stranger.
When I got to school the next morning, still exhausted, I caught up to Zhong and Fay in the hallway.
"Hey," I said.
"Hey," answered Fay.
"Hey," echoed Zhong, then more quizically "Did you call my house at 11:00 last night?"
"No," I blurted out, before I had time to think.
"You sure?" she asked, "My mom said some guy called for me at eleven,"
"Well, yes," I said, changing my story, "I had a homework question. I didn't realize how late it was,"
"Okay," she said, "I just wanted to make sure I didn't have a stalker,"
"I gotta get to class," Fay interupted, "See you two around. And keep trying to figure out that writing,"
As soon as she was gone, I moved up to Zhong.
"Hey," I said, "Are you free this afternoon?"
"I think so," she answered, "Why?" She seemed a bit confused.
"I'd like to take you up on your offer," I said, a little uncertainly, "I need to talk some things over,"
"Ok," she said, "Any time,"
"After school?" I asked, seeming perhaps a bit too eager. "We could go rollerblading,"
"That sounds good," she said, "I'll meet you at that bike trail we went to over the summer,"
The previous summer the four of us had consented to a rather superflous excercise program to help Jason shed a few pounds. It was fun for a while, but quickly became a drag.
As I walked away from her, I couldn't help but feel she somehow had the wrong impression. Still, it lifted my spirits to have some one to talk to.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Real people in stories

Not because of anything especially cool about them, or because of anything they did for me, so much as because I happened to meet them while in story-planning mode, two of the Grease techies have incorporateds themselves into my stories: Ariel and Matt.
I was talking to Ariel today, while doing intensive mental planning for COM, and I decided she should be one of the Red Wytches. It just sort of popped into my head, and she was perfect, so now she is. Her name is still Ariel, but I may spell it differently.
While I was watching Matt work, an idea occured to me that I can incorporate into the dragon story. Matt is not so much the template for one character, as for an entire race of Golems.
More people in COM are loosely based on real people then in any other story I've attempted. Zach Dzuba as an eccentric druid and Evan Boggs as an elven Rune Specialist are two more who have weaseled their way in. I think anyone with a strong. distinctive personality is a candidate.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Chapter 23: Riding Home with Teresa

After I got dressed, I realized I was exhausted and famished.
"It'll do that to you," said Teresa, handing me another banana, "These things are real life-savers. I think you've had enough for today. I'll take you home,"
We headed back downstairs. Pat intercepted us in the hallway. I had the strange feeling he'd been waiting for us.
"How'd he do?" he asked excitedly, "He was a natural, wasn't he? Just like his mother,"
"I wouldn't know about his mother," answered Teresa, "She trained me, remember? But he did fine for his first time,"
"I'm sure he did," said Pat. He turned to me, "You're gonna lead us all to victory some day, kid. The day is coming. I can feel it,"
"Pat..." growled Teresa as she led me away.
"Long live the Brimmers!" he yelled, giving a funny sort of salute as we walked off.
"Don't let the loyalists get to your head," said Teresa as we climbed into her car, "The last thing the MLA needs right now is a civil war. You can come to power the way anyone else would - by making a name for yourself and being elected,"
"I'm really not planning on running for office any time soon," I answered, truthfully. Then I decided to change subjects.
"How old are you?" I asked.
"It's not polite to ask a woman her age," she replied with a wan smile, "Besides, I couldn't date you anyway, it'd be a conflict of interest,"
I was somewhat embarrassed she'd taken it that way. "No, " I answered, "Not what I meant at all. I was just thinking if my mother trained you, you must have been a lot younger than me when you started,"
"Not too much younger," she said, "You're, what, fifteen?"
"Sixteen," I corrected her.
"I was twelve," she said, "But then, girls mature faster than boys. I was a bit of a special case, though,"
"What happened," I asked.
"My father was an operative with the NA," Teresa began, "Somehow he let his real name get out and a couple of dragon hunters came into our house one night. That was when I found out. You can imagine how terrified I was, as a twelve year old girl, watching my father turn into a monster and burn two men to death. The third one got him, though. They killed my mother too - she was a civilian, probably with as much idea about dad's day job as me. I hid in the cupboard under the sink - he never found me. The police we had called never showed up - the vamps had the sherriff under their command by then. Quentin's family took me in, and Lisa volunteered to train me. A year into that she was captured on patrol,"
What do you say to something like that? I had no idea that's what her like had been like. There was an akward silence.
"I'm sorry," I said, after a while.
"Why?" she answered, "It all happened before you were born. I'm over it now. It's been a few years,"
The rest of the trip was pretty quiet. I couldn't think of much else to say. Eventually, though, something did come to mind,"
"What was she like?" I asked. "My mother, I mean. I've heard about her from my father, but I'm starting to get the feeling he didn't know the whole story..."
"Oh, Wallace knew far more than he ever let on. He's a smart guy. But don't talk about Lisa like she's dead. I maintain hope we'll rescue her some day. As soon as we figure out where "Camelot" is, we have people in every faction ready to storm the place,"
"Camelot?" I asked
"The secret facility where they hold part humans and other magic users. We've managed to access a number of secret files, but none that help us ascertain it's location. It's one of our major goals,"
"I thought my family wasn't terribly popular right now," I asked, "Why would rescuing my mom be such an important deal?"
"Because Lisa's not the only one being held at Camelot. Our top geneticist and at least twenty-three other operatives are there. The personel boon alone is enough to make it a target. Now that I think about, I probably ought to stop discussing this with you. Your security clearance is about two levels below mine,"
"Ok," I answered. I'd absorbed just about as much as I could that day anyway. As we got out of the car, Teresa handed me a cassette tape and a plastic card.
"Listen to the tape," she said. "You won't understand a word of it now, but it'll help you later. That's your security card. Show it to any one of our people, but only after you've seen theirs. Otherwise, keep it hidden,"
The card had my face in one corner and a purple background with a silver stripe diagnolly across it. It did not appear to have any writing on it.
Teresa drove away and I came inside, prepared to tell my parents about my first day of self-defense classes.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Chapter 22: Through Dragon Eyes

Despite the fact that I was in an entirely new body, the first thing I noticed after I stood up was that I was naked. so I bent down and pulled on my boxers. The first time I tried this I missed - my arms were slightly longer than I had expected. About the third time I got them, but for some reason, I couldn't get them to fit. This is when Teresa started laughing.
"You'll never get those on," she said, "There's no hole for the tail,"
She was right. I hadn't yet connected that the thing coming out of my butt was a tail, but having realized this, I was left with a bit of a dilemma. That's when I realized that the thing I normally wear boxers to conceal was not there. This panicked me slightly, but Teresa, seeing where I was looking, reassured me.
"Silver dragon males fertilize the eggs after they're laid, under water," she said, "It doesn't take the same external equipment. Which is why your particular species doesn't have to worry about finding clothing for your new form. You're lucky in that,"
"You mean I can just run around naked?" I tried to ask. Unfortunately, my mouth was a completely different shape than I was used to, so what came out was "Yuor rour rie rang ruj ruh ruh ruh rahruh?"
"You can't speak English in Dragon form," said Teresa, "Because you can't form most of the syllables. Learning Draconic is one of the first things we'll be focusing on. But right now, you need to practice just walking around. Your proportions are slightly different, plus you have the tail and wings providing an unusual counterbalance ou're probably not used to. You're going to be very clumsy for a while,"
She was right about that. Just turning towards the door I nearly fell over. But halfway there, I encountered the mirror.
I was somewhat taller than I'd expected, with Silver scales running the legth of my body, except for the front of my neck and my chest and stomach. My head was bizarrely shaped, elongated with little ears like webbed feet coming out of it. And lots and lots of teeth. Two in particular came up like tusks, which was contributing quite a bit to the difficulties I was having talking.
My wings were beautiful, even folded as they were - big, sparkly things. I wondered if I was going to fit through the door with them.
"Like it?" asked Teresa.
"Yergh," I answered.
She laughed again. "Let's go see what you can do," she said.
Slowly and clumsily, I walked out of the bathroom. As I had predicted, I had to bend down to get my wings through the doorway. And I fell down my share of times on my way around the apartment. But after a while, I thought I was starting to get the hang of it. I was exhausted, so I sat down on the couch. At least, I tried to sit down. Of course I'd again forgotten about my tail, and to make a long story short, the whole couch ended up flipping over.
"Okey," said Teresa,"I think it's time for you to try changing back. It's a lot easier the second time. Focus on something different about your old body - some aspect of it that you prefer. Ok?"
I focused on not having a tail - I thought about sitting down without knocking things over. It didn't seem to have any affect.
"Just close your eyes and focus on what it's like to be a human," she said, "Think about having smooth skin instead of scales, about hair, and no cumbersome wings or tail. Hands without sharp claws, a mouth you can speak from - " she hesitated, "Yes, even the equipment you men are so fond of. Think about it, and imagine you are back in your own body,"
I was imagining as hard as I could. I could almost feel my neck shrinking, my tail receding, my wings folding in - and then I realized I was feeling it, and I was standing in the middle of Teresa's apartment naked. I blushed, and ran to the bathroom to get dressed.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

What will become of the Doom Pixies?

Since I started the dragon story, I've been trying to decide whether or not I was ever going to go back to the Doom Pixies. The problem was, while I loved the Pixies as characters, I did not love the plot of the story, and it takes both good characters and a good plot to make a story fun and exciting. So their it sat, for a long while, until recently, when I was working on a new story idea. Some of you have heard me talk about the story I'm calling "City of Mages". One charcter in COM is an enigmatic, god-like figure named Thurigen. The idea was that Thurigen, though powerful, was not especially precise in excercising his power and needed a right hand man (or woman) for more detail-oriented work. As I was planning this, I decided it should be a sprite or pixie. Then it hit me: why not make it Simile? And she could bring the rest of the doom pixies along for support. I liked it. So I'm doing it. I guess this post can pretty much be summed up like this: the doom pixie story will not continue, but the doom pixies themselves will be incorporated into the supporting cast of City of Mages, an anthology of stories in it's own right. COM will began after the conclusion of part I of the dragon saga and, once it's gotten on it's feet, will run parallel to part II.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Chapter 21 (for real): On Ice

As we headed into the bathroom, Teresa turned and went into the kitchen.
"Almost forgot," she said. She returned holding a banana. "Eat this,"
I was a bit confused. "Ok..." I answered, peeling it. "Why exactly?"
"We're not sure why," she answered, "But Potassium seems to enhance magical abilities. It's just a small boost, but it's best to be on the safe side. I always eat one before I transform,"
I ate the banana. It was good - a little mushy, but not too much.
"Ok now," said Teresa, "Let's go,"
It looked like a perfectly normal bathroom. It was a little odd that the bathtub was filled up. I walked over to it. Looking closer, I could see it was filled with ice. Also, there was a large piece of metal on the back rim of the tub, leaned up against the wall.
"Strip and get in," said Teresa, "I'll look away if you like,"
"That water's freezing!" I protested.
"Exactly," she answered, "Silver dragons can withstand incredibly low temperatures - and breathe under water. Submerge yourself in there for a little while, and your body will realize it has no choice but to transform,"
"You're certain about this?"I asked
"It's safer than what they made me do," she answered, "At least you can't suffer permanent burns,"
"I could get hypothermia," I argued.
"Look," said Teresa, somewhat frustratedly, "Do you want to do this, or not? It's dangerous, ok? We never said it was safe. But your mother, your grandfather, and five Brimmers before that all went through the same thing. This is probably one of the least dangerous parts of your training. If you want to back out, now's the time. You understand?"
I did. You couldn't do something like this without risking your life. I took off my shirt, then noticed Teresa still standing there.
"Would you mind looking away?" I asked
"Of course not," she said. She turned her back.
I undressed the rest of the way and climbed into the water. Or at least I tried to. As I dipped my toe into the tub a shiver went through my body and I quickly pulled it out again. Then I tried going in hands first. It was worse. I couldn't bring myself to put more than a finger or a toe in - it was just to cold. I stood there, balanced on the edge of the tub, looking down into the icy water, pondering if my mother and grandfather had gone through the same thing. Or was I just too weak to face this? Was this stupid little test going to bring down the Brimmer family? This is what I was thinking about when Teresa pushed me in. Before I could pop out she had slammed the slab of metal over the tub like a lid.
It was frigid. Immediately my whole body was filled with stinging pain, like being poked with lots of little needles. The everything starting to go numb. At the same time, I realized I was drowning. I hadn't had time to get a breath of air before I'd been pushed in. I hadn't even been able to close my mouth to save what oxygen I did have - it had all been exhaled before I thought to.
Suddenly I was in severe pain, and I couldn't quite figure out why. The cold had numbed me already, and drowning didn't cause pain in my neck, shoulders, and butt. Where was that coming from, I wondered. Then something very odd happened. Feeling started returning to my extremities - first my legs, the my arms, then - what was that? Something I'd never felt before - as in, a limb I'd never felt before, almost like a third leg, but with no foot. And two extra... arms? No, too wide to be arms. Very wide. In fact, they were feeling quite cramped in here. They need to....
As I extended my wings to their full size, they threw the slab of metal off of the tub. I stood up and looked around. The bathroom looked different somehow.
"Congratulations," said Teresa, "You've taken the first step,"

Saturday, April 02, 2005

April Fools!

As most of you probably guessed from the date, the last post is a joke and not meant to be taken seriously in any way. There will be a new chapter 21 soon which will replace this one. No information revealed in the previous post should have any bearing on the actual story.
What you probably haven't guessed is that I didn't actually write that post. My brother did. To read what I wrote, head over to his blog.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Chapter 21: An Unexpected Test

After we were both in the bathroom, Teresa locked the door, and turned off the lights. I was confused. Were dragons afraid of the dark or something? Pretty soon though, she lit some candles. It must be some kind of magic thing, I thought.
"Now," she said, with an odd tone in her voice, "You're a virgin, right?"
I certianly hadn't expected that question.
"Well, yeah," I replied, too shocked to say anything more
As I watched in shock, she began slowly removing her top as she went on. "The morphic gene is almost always triggered the first time, provided it's hot enough." She winked. I was too amazed to say anything. Getting her shirt off, she grabbed my face and...
Yelled "PSYCH!!" She put her shirt back on and turned on the lights.
"Sorry," she went on in her normal tone, "I just saw the opportunity to mess with you and, it being April Fool's day and all I thought it would be fun. Let me show you the real test."
We walked out of the bathroom, and Teresa ran off, returning a moment later with two large rubber mallets.
"Being hit over the head with a mallet 85 times works a lot of times on people your age," she said, "So I thought we'd try that first. We'll take turns."
I was pretty sure she was yanking my chain again, and I wasn't gonna fall for it twice.
"Hold on now, I know you're kidding."
"Fine then," she replied, "Don't be a dragon. It's all the same to me."
Sighing, I decided to play her game. 85 whacks and a nasty headache later, I was still human.
"Mmk," she said, "There are still two things we haven't tried."
Next she took me down to the basement where several shady looking characters were playing poker.
"Two more for this round," she said, and we sat down. We played poker (at this point I'd given up on questioning her) for about three hours, at which point I'd lost all of my money and property and the shirt off my back. And I'd lost it to Teresa.
"Well," she said, getting up, "I guess that's not gonna work either."
"So, can I have my stuff back?" I asked.
Next she took me out to the street in front of the building.
"The last thing to try," she said, "Is outright danger. Just run out in front of a car. "
I was terrified. Everything else hadn't worked, why should this? And if this didn't work, I was dead. Nonetheless, I ran out in front of a big SUV. Lying broken and mangled in the street, I heard Teresa say "You know, maybe he's not a Draconic after all..."