Monday, November 28, 2016

The Sleeping Tyrant

So this first year of stories is winding down to a close, and there will be a few more, and then it will be time to start a new year. Rather than a series of loosely-connected tales like this year (as every story this year has taken place in the same world, just at widely differing places and times) next year I will tell a unified story. The idea is to do four story arcs that take up about three months – six installments – apiece. They will be self-contained stories, but they will all come together to tell one larger, book-length tale:

In a grim, frozen age, when clouds cover the sun and glaciers march down from the poles to conquer the earth, a young warrior will be forced to fight for his people, to rise and become a great chieftain in a dark land. When he dies he will be buried in a forbidden valley among ancient menhirs, and blood-sworn warriors will live to kill any who trespass upon the sacred lands. In ages to come, he will be unearthed, and a cult will rise about his name. Armies will march and nations will die in the wake of The Sleeping Tyrant.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Claws of the Sea

The storm-crowned ships rode the tormented sea, their brazen prows splitting the waves like axe-heads. Lightning lashed and beat against the water, shattering the ice that everywhere churned upon the surface. The storm clouds loomed high overhead, and the wind tore and screamed at the spars as the oarsmen struggled to drag the powerful craft against the heaving waters. There were three great ships, one greater than the rest, the center of it piled high like a tower with flame-lit windows.

Drune, the master of the ships, looked through the ports to the wracked sea and smiled. On such a night would his vengeance at last be accomplished. He had bled and hungered and suffered for this last, terrible day, and he would not be cheated of his fury.

Behind him, his ship-thanes gathered at the table, all of them hard men scaled and armored and with swords and daggers of steel belted at their sides. They were sailors, used to dangerous voyages and terrible seas, but even they looked hesitant to be at sea on a night like this. They gripped sword-hilts and axe-hafts and muttered prayers to the monstrous gods of the deep, pleasing and hoping to be spared.

There was a deep howling from belowdecks, and all of the men tensed and looked from one to the other, and Drune smiled. His power was his lack of fear. Revenge drove him, and so he had no fear of death. He stalked to the long table and leaned on it, the lantern-light reeling as the ship pitched down into a long wave-trough and then heaved upwards. They all felt the shudder as the prow split another wave, and Drune laughed.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Red Sonja

I mentioned the film version of Red Sonja in my article on the character, but in thinking about it, I realized I remembered very little about the film itself. I had not seen it in probably 25 years, and then only once, and I didn’t remember much in the way of details, so in the interest of fairness, I put it in my Netflix que and subjected myself to it, and yes, that is pretty much the right term. Any hoping that this was an underappreciated film was quickly dispelled.

Red Sonja was put together in 1985 – the year after the underwhelming Conan the Destroyer had gone a long way toward killing the film franchise, and this movie was pretty much the final nail. It was intended as a starring vehicle for Danish model Brigitte Nielsen, who had never acted before. She went on to a moderate film career after this, mostly in the 80s, but she never achieved any kind of real success after this misstep.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Black Queen's Grave

(This story is the prequel to "The Red Sword's Lover")

In Anshan, the ancient city at the heart of Aru, the palace was lit by a thousand lanterns, and the scent of myrrh laced the air. Nitocris, only daughter of King Uresh, was to wed this night, and the city was dressed in its greatest finery. Kings of far lands, allies and foes, had all sent gifts to bless the marriage. There were fine silks from distant Gandara, gold and rich spices and resins from Maracanda. From Tyra came the famous blue dye, and from the Emperor in the north came a herd of six hundred fine white horses.

In her chamber, the dark-eyed princess was the center of a maelstrom of slaves and maidens. They hung her with silks and draped her with gold, and jewels gleamed in her hair and at her throat. The work of goldsmiths and jewelers crowned and bedecked her, and she looked lovely as a fever dream.

Her father came to see her as the sun lowered in the sky, dressed in his great robe of many colors. His hair was white and his beard rich and curled. He looked upon his daughter and smiled. “You are a vision of beauty,” he said. “The Goddess herself shall be envious, and Artabanus shall be lucky if Bal himself does not descend and carry you off.”

She looked on herself in the long, gold-rimmed mirror. Her dark hair was wrought into serpentine coils; her kohl-darkened eyes looked enormous. She was tall, with golden ornaments on her wrists and ankles. She was a strong girl.

Nitocris smiled at him. “My only regret is that mother did not live to see me wed.” She looked out over the city as it glowed in the sunset, the towers and domes lit golden as the sun lowered, shining on the river. “I would trade any or all of my fine rich gifts if she could be here for just this day.”

Uresh smiled and touched his daughter’s hair, his only child. “I would as well, my beloved. I would trade all.” He folded his hands behind him and looked out the window at his city. “I know this is not easy for you. You are of an independent mind.”

“I have chosen Artabanus,” she said. “He has respect, and grace. He will make a good husband, and a good king.” She looked at herself again, the mirror distorting her features just a little, so that she did not seem to be herself.