Top Ten Things I would (NOT) do if I were a Royal Squire (#2)

Catch up on the adventures of the young Squire Roche  here.

  1. You wouldn’t see me excited over the prospect of becoming part of the Guild of Assassins. Just because Prince Kholin got himself into trouble doesn’t mean I sho–oh, who am I kidding, if I don’t go along with His Highness, he’ll end up in a ditch!
  2. There’s a stark difference between your common thug and the members of the Guild. The thug is less prone to stabbing you in the face with a dagger when you bump into him.
    If  Kholin hadn’t shoved a fist into that assassin’s face, I’d be a dead man.  Lesson learned: Never say ‘sorry’ to a killer. They’re really not into that.
  3. Not crawling back into that dung hole. To be honest, I’m not even sure I could find my way back to the Guild’s den if I tried. The slums, from which Kholin and I only now were led out of, are labyrinthine in the truest sense of the word. Dozens upon dozens of bleak, dust-covered passageways, which can barely be categorized as streets, lay the groundworks for the most miserable place I have ever seen. Dusty, soot-covered and grey-eyed urchin move like tiny apparitions in-between crowds of people who walk as if they’ve planted one foot firmly in the grave.
  4. No word from Kholin about why we had to go and join the Assassins’ Guild. I haven’t felt so…uncomfortable since Father sent me on my way.
  5. The Second Prince tends to jump into all sorts of messes before he’s taken the lay of the land. I try and make sure that his back is covered, but him keeping me in the dark half the time doesn’t help. We’ve been together for six months, but it feels like six years. Just thinking about what we’ve done during that time…
  6. Five months ago: I didn’t think I’d ever be in the position to gamble His Majesty’s signet ring at a game of cards in a seaside tavern. Imagine my horror when the bauble Kholin had thrown my way one hand back turned out to be one of the most precious pieces of jewelry in the kingdom.
  7. Three months ago: Outside the city, about ten leagues, is an abyss. So of course Kholin insisted that we had to go exploring. Jump forward one lousy, wet expedition later, and we and a pair of royal guards had to bolt as fast as our horses could carry us, chimeras thrice the size of the best-bred mares rushing after us.
  8. Six weeks ago: After the whole chimera debacle, both of us ended up cleaning the cutlery thanks to old Master Arbrus’ guiding, arthritic hands. The old Master of Ceremonies is like a rotten fruit – he’s only getting more rotten the closer you get to him.
    If I never have to polish another silver spoon in my life, it’ll still be far too much.
  9. Four weeks ago: We spent a month shining, cleaning and spitting spite and vinegar towards old Arbrus every time he turned his back on us.
    The King finally shooed the ancient hound away from our scent. Kholin demanded we celebrate by going back to exploring the city from above. I wasn’t about to go jumping up and down ceilings first chance I got…but you can’t exactly say no to a prince, can you?
  10. That’s how we met The Thief. He was a bulky man in his twenties; not the kind you’d imagine when someone screams ‘Thief!’ I would never have killed him…if he hadn’t tried to steal from Kholin. Turns out, that’s what got us an audience with the Assassins’ Guild Master.
    The Thief broke the rules. I killed him. Only members of the Guild can dispense justice like that. Maybe Kholin’s motivation isn’t all that complicated, after all.
    Maybe he’s just trying to protect me.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this little tidbit of fictional imaginings, leave me a comment, press that follow button and come back for more!

If you like the adventures of Roche and Kholin, let me know and I’ll write more!

Ten Things I’d do if I were a royal squire

  1. There’s a few things a near-bankrupt nobleman hates more than a fourth son. I’m that son. Guess who got the boot, with only twenty pieces of silver and a letter to the royals’ far-off court. That’s right, this here lad.
  2. On the road, I — displaying the uncanny luck of the Roche family — get mercilessly beaten up by illiterate thugs. They steal the coin; the letter, they show no interest in.
  3. It is only thanks to the goodness within an old bard’s heart that I get to the city of Srava, where I am to do my duty as Roche and serve as squire. Here does my story begin.
  4. Dusting. That’s what I do, hours at an end. The Master of Ceremonies is as uptight as his title suggests. I don’t much enjoy his company.
    On the bright side, when I’m not cleaning the citadel, I serve at the Second Prince’s behest. He is kind and warm, and seems glad to have the company of someone his own age. We’re very proper and official, of course – the difference in rank between us is too great for anything else.
  5. It has been a month since I began my new life in Srava. It might be that me and Prince Kholin did something stupid to celebrate the occasion. It’s…not outside the realm of possibility that the two of us snuck into the kitchens during a small, entirely harmless fire that someone started, and we added something extra sweet to the bread.
  6. I believe we just invented an entirely new kind of dessert…Taking credit will be difficult, on account of the King being furious. It would appear that the King really likes his morning breakfast. He’s been fuming and foaming, and it doesn’t look like he’ll stop anytime soon.
  7. The funny thing is, the sweet bread’s really good. The King doesn’t know what he’s missing.
  8. The Prince is fearless. I chase him around all day long now, making sure he doesn’t slip from one of the buildings he loves climbing so much; a broken neck would hardly suit his princely visage.
  9. It’s been a wild few weeks since I got here, but I’m happy with how things are going. Life is good, even calm…well, when I don’t slip up and almost fall to my death, trying to follow His Highness.
  10. It’s been six months. Me and Kholin might’ve joined the Guild of Assassins. Not where I thought the day would go.

 

When I was a kid, I loved reading about the adventures of Jimmy the Hand, Prince Arutha’s Squire from the Riftwar Saga. Something reminded me of him today, and I thought that a tribute to Raymond Feist’s classical fantasy series would be fun to write!

Thank you for reading, and if you enjoyed this – leave a comment behind, start a conversation! I love talking about all things fantasy, and it’d be loads of fun to talk shop with y’all!

Sunday Flirt Vol. 04

Another Sunday passes as the hour of exam judgement falls ever nearer.

On that note…Sundays are for avoiding responsibility! Avoiding responsibility and flirting with fantasy characters! And here’s this week of fun fantasy pick-up lines’n’banter.

  • “You’re complicated AND extremely thick, aren’t you?”
    *This works best for books, but also for…*
  • “Honey, don’t say that…This spell does wonders for your breasts!”
  • “I’d never throw the wedding band you gave me in a volcano, not like that ungrateful hobbit.”
  • “Are you a famous scholar? Because I would love to get schooled by you!”
  • “I can see why you’re named Soulcatcher – you’ve certainly caught my soul!

Gosh, these become more and more desperate every week. I really need to get out more.

Thursday Spotlight: Martin Eden

I haven’t read many books about writers, but amongst the ones that I have…this one is my favorite. It tells the story of a simple young man who, having saved a member of the upper class’ live, is introduced to a young, well-educated lady. He, of course, falls in love with her immediately and realizes just how unworthy he is. Thus Martin Eden decides to learn to read, and to write; all so he can be closer to the lovely Ruth, that he can talk with her and be worthy of her. His mind is like a sponge — fertile land to the roots of knowledge and of ideas, complicated, conflicting ideas about man’s nature; and soon enough, he decides on becoming a writer.

But it isn’t an easy road, is it? No, it’s not, and no novel could show the hardships of that road–the dangers–better than Martin Eden could.

But what else is this book?

Martin Eden is, in some ways, an autobiographical work which incorporates a number of Jack London’s experiences, with Ruth Morse – Martin’s love interest – being modeled after the author’s first love, Mabel Applegarth. It also serves to illustrate London’s disillusionment with the publishing industry of his time.

Martin Eden illustrates the clash between individualism and collectivism, with the eponymous character being a firm believer in Spencer and Nietzche’s philosophical views. The novel is, nevertheless, a very stark criticism of just these views, which eventually lead Eden to losing his very ability to enjoy life, to feel alive.

Martin Eden is, also, a story of wrong and misguided perceptions, and the toll of consequent realizations – it’s a simple thing to chalk it off as a tale of failed romance, but I never read it like one.

Martin Eden is a tale of madness and sacrifice and of success, and of what comes after. A gripping narrative that will hold you fast and hold you tight until the very last page. It will be worth it.

The Unintentionally Helpful Villain, Vol. 04 – Here Comes the Sun

Diary Entry #0110

Ten days of warring within thine splendid walls of blackness, my capital, my glorious Fulcrum. Blood – demonic and human and other, besides – clogs tiles of soulstone. Even more than is normal, in fact!

Mine annoyance knows no bounds. If only I could find the body of my esteemed generals…they would get quite the stern shaking, they would!

Alas…they dead. So dead. Perchance I have killed several of mentioned generals, myself.

On the dark side, the libraries and the children within them seem to have been swollen by the earth. Most perturbatory, even if my darkened heart sings in joy at the news. I will send a squadron of kobolds to investigate the soft soil where the libraries stood.

I have received word of one of my remaining commanders. The kobolds blew themselves up. Some newly-minted captain gave them real dynamite instead of the chocolate stuff. Poor tiny abominations…they can’t help themselves.

Well, at least they buried half the Council of Darkness’ army beneath obsidian and rubble. The best part is — they won’t ever pester me for more dynamite again!

Diary Entry #0113

The Dynamite Catastrophe of 1ADL shall remain in the memory of my various peoples for many, many years. Much obsidian did break, and even more was broken by these invaders who would end me…Do they have no respect for the work put into Fulcrum? Ten days did it take me to create, and ten more did I need until I filled it with men and women and beasts and monsters, and even with kobolds.

In hindsight, I might’ve exercised more wisdom in my choice.

Diary Entry #0114

I have spent the day and night on the frontline, fighting and collecting shards of obsidian. Well does it cut the skin of dragons, and even better does it cut their hearts.

Which I know purely out of some volumes of forgotten lore. Never would I kill these nearly extinct creatures in such a clearly unethical way…

Very well, I mustn’t lie…I killed several dragons today in revenge for mine obsidian.

Please don’t inform DEMD*.

Diary Entry #0115

A small victory at the price of a great loss. On this day I, the Dark Lord *******, have destroyed the enemy’s greatest sorcerous creations – great constructs of liquid metal, cursed to extinguish mine life. Alas, they were not up to the task.

I am distraught to say, however that to destroy them, I had to break down the great dark clouds above Fulcrum…the sun is shining down on me as I write these words, and slaughter orcs and goblins. I do believe I am getting a tan, and also, that strange organisms are spawning unto the soil.

Grass, my experts believe it to be. Food might also grow eventually, if nurtured with something else than a tincture of orc and man-blood.

I positively loathe the idea already.

(*Demons For the Ethical Murder of Dragons.)

Thank you for reading. The Dark Lord’s adventures will continue next Wednesday!

Writing Advice: The Basics of Sci-Fi

To take some liberty with a quote by the great Philip K. Dick, fantasy is about things that are conceivably impossible, whereas science fictions is all about the conceivably possible. Both genres are about writing, discovering and experiencing new things, but science fiction takes on these three objectives with a different toolset; it is ideas that drive sci-fi.

Science Fiction originated as a didactic genre — meaning that many of the earlier SF books sought to instill certain moral standards in readers and to instruct them; indeed, one such example can be seen in the face of Frank Herbert’s Dune, which has been hailed as the single greatest work of literature to popularize the disastrous effects and fallout of climate change.

Where didacticism is one side of the coin of early SF works, the other is optimism. Take a look at Jules Verne – a true visionary and a champion of technological advancement, whose works have undoubtedly transcended dry page and ink and the world of imagination, and have become reality. Tales of wonders made flesh; such is the power of science fiction.

Sci-fi has come a long way since the publishing of Verne and Huxley, Orwell and even Bradburry… although, I admit, the point I’m about to make easily allows a place for both 1984 and Fahrenheit 451.

What point, you ask? Science fiction has moved past it’s didactic origins, Filip answers gladly, and has become a far more reflective genre. A genre steeped in the issues our modern world faces or could face in the near-future. Not only that, but it is a genre that takes on these issues bravely and attempts to tackle them, to offer solutions,

If, at this point, you’re furrowing your brows and trying to figure out where your favorite sci-fi series fits in all of this, you may relax and read further!

While I believe that the explanation above can help towards defining where current SF stands, there are many subgenres that either don’t concern themselves with reflection, or do it in an off-hand, secondary way. Let’s take a cursory look at those, shall we?

  • Space Opera: I view this particular subgenre as a bridge between science fiction and fantasy; like fantasy, it is the journey, the adventure that is most important. Science takes the back-seat and while it still plays part, it’s far from realistic.
    Examples such as Star Wars, Dan Simmons’ Hyperion, and the (fairly campy) Warhammer 40k universe well display the tendency of the subgenre to start off with science and introduce a variety of mystical elements later down the line.
  • Hard SF is the antithesis of Space Opera. The science has to be correct, it has to be serious, and it is most often the genre in which actual scientists write. If you want to write in that one – know your science, people! Arthur C. Clarke is probably the most well-known of the Hard SF writers, and I do believe that Stephen Baxter is also in that particular clubhouse. It’s a restrictive subgenre because of the sheer amount of knowledge necessary, and the fact that people who read hard SF will call you out on your bullshit, if you try to write unprepared.
  • Cyberpunk…is awesome. I’ll admit that I have barely read anything in that subgenre, for which I am very sorry; I have, however, played a number of different cyberpunk video games, and the themes are often very similar. Cyberpunk stories take place in the near-future, at a point in time when governments are no longer relevant and corporations hold the true power. The line between man and machine (or technology as a whole), is blurred and the genre has a lot in common with Dystopian Sci-fi.

This is where I’ll wrap up, but before I do…one last piece of advise.

There is greater continuity within sci-fi. To write in the genre, you need a better understanding of those authors that have come before you, than you’d need with fantasy or crime novels, for example. Whether that is owed to the fact that ideas in sci-fi are built and reiterated upon, I can only speculate but it is true, regardless. The message can be distilled to: “Read more Science Fiction!”

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this short look at the basics of science fiction, please click the Follow button and maybe leave a comment. I’d love to discuss this topic further — and indeed, plan on doing so next Tuesday!

The featured image is not mine, it was taken from the site ‘project-nerd.com’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If I were an occultist in a Lovecraftian world…(Ten Things, part 1)

Today’s post is written in celebration of the release of the Darkest Dungeon’s DLC – The Crimson Court. Brilliant game, narrated by the wonderful Wayne June (perhaps the most atmospheric narrator of Lovecraft’s works).

In seeking knowledge, I enrolled into that most prestigious of places for higher learning…the Miskatonic University.

Though this repository of knowledge has many a volume of coveted lore, there exists  great difficulty into procuring these wondrous books of arcane and occult writings. Such hardship did I encounter in laying my hands on these idolatry works that I found myself desperate for aid; and, even worse…for understanding.

I discovered that I was far from alone in my unsavory fascinations with otherworldly tales and myths of creatures, ancient and godlike and grotesque. My pursuits did not remain unnoticed for long; a group of men and women, all older than I — and well on their road out of the philosophical school of Miskatonic University — cornered and spoke with me at great length. I had been dodging this group for some time, for they awakened in me a primordial fear.

They had prepared with great care and — with the use of a young and attractive acolyte I knew nothing of — baited me into an abandoned wing of the university, closed down for renovation. Their organization, so foolproof as to give me no way of retreat,  was sure sign of a primal, predatory streak that bespoke of experience in such matters.

So it was that I found myself cornered on all sides by the scions of the most powerful men and women in America; young as they were, I was younger, and they did not take no for an answer. Their demand was that I join them, and do so without question. My destiny forced upon me, I had no choice but to concede.

My word was not, they said, strong enough binding. More was needed — nay, demanded — for the compact to take hold. They spoke to me, then; not individually but as one, their voice serpent-like and seductive as no other, and they closed the fingers of my palm around a blade, and they held her there, as she thrashed and screamed to no avail.

The rest of the night, I can not recall, or do not wish to, except when I close my eyes. Then do I recall the taste of iron upon my lips, and a sweeter taste, by far…

Come the next day, my life continued as it had before — the life of a poor philosophy student, lucky enough to be part of the acclaimed Miskatonic University.

One difference persisted, of course–my continued contact with the coven I had been forced into. While my fear persisted, and indeed, grew to heights I had hoped unattainable, so did a perverse, ghoulish thrill at being involved with such unique individuals.

These events took place five full years ago. Much blurred from my mind once my fellow occultists went their own ways into the world. I continued my studies; both into the realms of philosophy and theology, and those studies that threatened my expulsion from the university and the taking away of the lifeline that was my scholarship.
That I would’ve put these events behind me, of that I have no doubt…if it wasn’t for the call that I received late last night. A call in a serpentine voice, one that suffered no objections…

To Be Continued!

I’ve wanted to write something with a Lovecraftian edge, theme and so on and so forth for the longest time. Seeing as I decided that I would give the recurring wizard/lich/demonic slave, Hyperius, a little break…well, I just couldn’t resist the opportunity! I hope you had fun reading this wee exercise!

Sunday Flirt, Vol. 03

Sundays are for…wandering through an abandoned metro and shooting at Nazis and Reds; They are for solving thirty-fifty corporate finance problems; Sundays are also great for stuffing yourself full of pizza. When in Italy… and you might as well watch the season finale of American Gods while you do that. Gods, I’ll miss that show.

Today’s dreadful pick-up lines are, in fact, inspired by American Gods!

  1. “As sure as water’s wet and days are long, so am I. But don’t take my word for it!”
  2. “And I know a nineteenth charm, and that charm is the sexiest of them all, and that charm I can tell no man…but you, my lady, are certainly no man. That I can tell, even with the one eye.”
  3. “Look at you! So buff, so strong – just ready to be bled dry for the glory of Odin!
  4. “Girl, I’d hang from a tree for nine days if it meant getting another kiss, and a coin-sized moon!”
  5.  “My dear man, no matter how much knowledge you discover from the deep waters below Yggdrasil, it won’t prepare you…for me.”

And that’s that. Awful, aren’t they?

Ten Things I would NOT do if I were reborn as a demonic slave

  1. Movement’s difficult with so many arms. You wouldn’t think it was by looking at all those naked statues of four-handed sex goddesses, but it is. It really is. I wouldn’t be doing much of it at all; not properly, anyway.
  2. I WILL NOT give the fat demon lord massages. No, I do not care how many yugoloths will point their tridents at me, I refuse! A man has got to draw a line somewhere! Oh, wot? Demons are gender-neutral? Oh, I see, they can be made gender-neu–you don’t mean…? You do? Oh, dear.
  3. In my anger at cleaning up boots from human blood, I will take it all out on the very reason for those stains — humans. Yes, you heard me right. These stinkin’ no-good person-people are not getting away with staining any more of my master’s spiky boot pairs!
  4. I would not admit that the slaughter of innocent wee man-people by my hand is a big reason as to the perpetual bloodstains on the master’s boots.
  5. I really wouldn’t.
  6. No ignoring my weaknesses this time. No matter how many shiny, strange sources of energy I disc–ooh, why is that undead butterfly engulfed in sorcerous ene–Focus, Hyperius!
  7. No alliances with humans. Plot as I may, but I’m not going back to that stage of development…
  8. I would not go mano-a-mano with the boss-man. Fat and lazy as he might be, he’s still head demon poncho of the whole shebangin’ demon invasion. Head poncho, for those of you who might not be aware, is a specific term in demon culture, meaning…most wonderous demon who wears a particular type of clothing, for none other fits on his voluminous body.
  9. No ice magic. Much as I loved it in my good ol’ lich days, it simply does not help. Leaves one hell of a burn. Who knew that ice could burn a demon so bad?
  10. No more choking on demonic boots! Never, ever again! It took me four days to remove every single piece of metal I crunched down when I was eating the demon lord. Four weeks, in fact!

The events on this list are entirely fictional. Far be it for me to imply that demonic lords and slaves have access to the Internet… 

Thursday Spotlight: Sins of Empire

Sins of Empire is one hell of a ride.

Never had I touched a Brian McCllelan book before this one, although his Powder Mage universe has received critical and fan acclaim alike–enough of both, anyway, even for someone like me, still too bloody busy reading classic works of fantasy (like the wonderful Black Company series.

I’m not certain how I ended up purchasing Sins of Empire for my Kindle; was it an AMA by the author, whose promise of gunpowder, blood magic and political intrigue caught my attention immediately? Or rather, was it simple word of mouth from the Fantasy community on Reddit?

Either way, I chose to take a risk and pick Sins of Empire up, electing to ignore the preceding trilogy; hoping that it wouldn’t cost me much in the way of entertainment and deeper meaning amongst characters and events to come.

I am happy to report that at no point in the book did I lack enough context to the events within Landfall (the city within and around which action takes place for the entirety of the novel), numerous as they were.

We follow four different points of view, excluding the prologue, and I can’t admit to anything but adoration for each of the major characters in the novel; we’ve got Michel, a spy in the employ of the Lady Chancellor’s Blackcoats — secret police of the nasty variety; Styke, a wrongly-imprisoned cavalryman, maimed and crippled by a failed execution; and Vlora Flint, my favorite character and the only returning major POV from the original trilogy. She’s a powder mage, and one hell of a badass — and a general of her own private company, the Riflejacks.

And we all know how I like mercenary companies…especially ones with certain principles guiding them.

The secondary characters are a fairly diverse cast of memorable arseholes, with the Lady Chancellor Lindet’s ruthless pragmatism and Fidelis Jes’…peculiarities. But if anyone takes the cake, that’d have to be Vallencian, the Ice Baron; a man with a silver tongue and a heart of liquid gold. Loved that guy.

But don’t take my word for it, have a quote or two!

On Lindet: “The Lady Chancellor was a thin woman of medium height with blond hair and a pair of spectacles that she removed every so often to rub on her sleeve. The newspapers often described Lindet’s eyes, and Vlora waited for some time for a good view before Lindet turned to face her. Vlora’s light powder trance allowed her to see Lindet as if they were standing nose to nose. Lindet’s eyes did not disappoint. Deep-set, darkened by makeup, Lindet’s gaze moved across the crowd again and again over the shoulders of her Blackhats. They were studious, critical, like a master craftsman checking her tools. Vlora remembered Taniel’s letters mentioning how Lindet might easily be mistaken for a librarian if not for those eyes, and how they had made his throat go dry every time they lit upon him.”

On Fidelis Jes, the commander of the Blackcoats:  “In Michel’s experience, everyone had at least one peculiarity. Powerful people tended to have more extreme peculiarities because of their wealth. Some of them were hidden, some out in the open. Fidelis Jes’s was extremely public; even advertised. He had a standing invitation for anyone to try to kill him in single combat. No sorcery, no guns, no quarter.”

McCllelan’s prose, as you might’ve noticed, is clean and easy to follow; his style is pleasant, and Brandon Sanderson-esque in those most wonderful ways, if you will, without shying away from cussing — as Sanderson is prone to do.

Gunpowder adds a very welcome feeling of swashbuckling and adventure and adds a uniqueness to the Powder mages’ universe, which is rightfully the reason for the cult status the first trilogy received.

It’s a great piece of fantasy literature, and I’ll be looking forward to going more in-depth with a review over the summer; for now, though — this is one 2017-published book that is certainly worth your attention, dear reader.

I just can’t wait for the sequel.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this book morsel, feel free to follow me for more in the realm of fantasy, comedy and all-around ridiculousness.