Defending Arrakeen

As you are no doubt aware, I have been contending with a persistent yet elusive enemy. Somewhere within the palace, he was waiting for the opportunity to present itself. Now that some form of protection has been established (blankets), the only thing to do was find the pilot and kill him before he could complete his mission. I am pleased to report at this noble hour that the Atraides forces have located the pilot and have disabled his Hunter-Seeker. The pilot was taken to the deep desert and dropped there with a thumper stuck to himself. Good luck pal.

Intelligence suggested we might throw off the Hunter-Seeker with a post that claimed I was dead. This deception has proved successful, and as of that post, the Hunter-Seeker is gone, clearly fooled into thinking I was already taken care of. This lapse allowed the pilot to be found and a new, less likely to survive circumstance become his primary concern.

A proud day for prosperity on Arrakis that’s for sure. No filthy Harkonnen traitor is going to kill me from behind a wall. You little fucks are tricky, but not as tricky as I am. The spice must flow.

So, the suspense of the last few days where I have felt the presence of an active hunter is finally over. I am free to come and go from the palace as I see fit. The stress that has been lifted from my shoulders is quite a relief. Nothing like knowing a nearly unstoppable enemy is closing in on you to create a little anxiety.

I will stay in the sanctuary of softness until the new day is here to greet me. Then, I will rise and see what challenges await me. Hopefully not assassination.

Long live House Atraides!

The Hunter-Seeker

Those of you familiar with Frank Herbert’s Dune know this little contraption is usually death to the one it is trained on. I have come to this determination through a several-days long evidence collection effort. I know now that one of YOU out there have trained this thing on me. I am still looking for the pilot, but to no avail.

The Hunter-Seeker is following my posts closely (first at intervals of 10 minutes, then less and less). It has been narrowing down its response time, and I do believe it is nearby somewhere, lurking. Soon it will be within a few meters of me, at which point it will move at supersonic speed to inject me with a toxin that will render me into jelly. Unless…

This may be my last post ever, as the weapon of my demise is only a few moments away after this post goes live.

To whoever out there in the blogosphere desires me dead, please know that I may yet be able to defend myself from this thing, and if I do, I’m going to come looking for YOU. If you are a Harkonnen traitor hiding in my wall, time is running out. I’ve got my Fremen warriors right here and we are going to Voice your ass to smithereens.

Maybe more blog posts to come, maybe not. We shall see.

 

 

I’m no Paul Atraides, but still, apparently, worthy of assassination.

A Story of Realm

This is inspired by the novel I am writing, Kingdom of Realm which is a high fantasy fiction epistolary narrative. Below was a piece I worked on in preparation to start writing the novel itself, to see something in my mind and be able to describe it for someone else to read and also understand. So I guess the point here is simply to entertain. If you find the little short story enjoyable, just know there’s more down the line.

 

~~~~~~

Story 4
By Sea

It was dawn on the calm and temperate waters of the Trader’s Bay. The Merciful’s Jeshan Shifter was crouched on a short platform projected over the port side of the ship. He was clasping a vein of Stream in his hand firmly, held over the deep ocean and the pulsing ribbon of light disappeared far underwater once it was outside of his fist. Atop the mast, the Bessan scouting in the Crow’s Nest was silent and watching the horizon through his hand lens. The sun’s light was beginning to fill the sky with an orange glow as the deck bell rang out one chime and a sailor yelled, “ahead full speed!”

 

The Jeshan held the Stream constantly while on duty and also used his Shifting to send a branch of it up the mast, within snapping range of the Bessan. This task alone required a fundamental commitment of mental energy, not to mention his additional responsibilities and requirements. The two Shifters fell into their morning duties and the Jeshan opened the water and pulled the ship through it with the power of the Stream. Soon, the sails were flush with a wind that was being empowered by the Bessan in the Nest and the vessel raced through the water of the Bay with unnatural quickness. The Jeshan, sprayed with hissing water as he parted the low swell to ease the passage of the bow, felt the Stream tugging on him to be released back to its natural place on the floor of the Bay. He had to keep his mind focused on holding it or else it would snap away and he would not be able to retrieve it again. If the Stream was to return to where it would normally be on the seafloor, it would be too far away to call back. The ship would need to return to shallower water under its own power so that the Stream could be retrieved. Aware of those things, the Jeshan continued concentrating and passed the wooden ship through the sea with haste as the Merciful patrolled on the open Bay.

 

Their ship was a member of the Blue Fleet, an extension of the Last Knights of Realm. They operated an elite peacekeeping armada on the middle and east Bay to stifle some of the flagrant criminality and piracy. Their home port is located at Naruna, but they also have well-established presences at Cheed, Greenwall Port and Teayl. It was essential for the land and sea to both be secure in the free and independent region of the Fold, as this too was a part of their Old Way. They and their seafaring counterparts in the south (the Royal Navy of Realm), patrol the waters of the Trader’s Bay and secure it from rampant danger.

 

The mast alarm of the Merciful rang out as the ship raced through the open sea. “Column of smoke, zero nine zero!” He shouted, pointing over the starboard side to the distant horizon with his hand lens. The Jeshan turned due east but saw nothing. Clearly scouting not being his strongest skill.

“Make your heading zero nine zero.” The Captain on the bridge said, and the ship turned. “Ahead flanking speed!”

 

The call went out and the Jeshan Shifter poured his energy into parting the waves for the ship to slide through smoothly to its target. The Bessan blasted the wind into the sails and accelerated the ship with a torrent of air. The Merciful raced across the Bay to the column of smoke with remarkable alacrity. Once their ship got close, they could see what remained of the burned passenger vessel slowly sinking into the sea. The Merciful slowed and began to rescue those already in the water. They took the crew and passengers they saved below deck as the stranded ship sank. The sailors confirmed they had been viciously attacked and boarded by a much smaller, faster ship which flew a black flag and may have had a Shifter helping them.

 

The sailors hurried about climbing the mast again and setting the rigging for fast travel. Men darted about on different jobs, all working to bring the ship to readiness. Having come to a complete stop to collect survivors from the attacked vessel, the Merciful turned itself about.

“Mast sighted bearing zero nine zero!” The Bessan signaled down from the Nest while holding the Stream.

“Bessan!” The Captain shouted from the deck. “Is that them?”

The Bessan in the Crow’s Nest could feel the Stream being tugged in the direction of the ship, but he could not see anything more. “That one probably has a Shifter on board!”

“Understood.” The Captain said. A Shifter at sea is a dangerous weapon, not to be abused.  “Let’s hunt these pirates down!” The Captain shouted, and his crew let out a hearty roar in agreement.

 

As the pirates sailed out into the open eastern ocean, the Merciful began her chase far to the west. The Blue Fleet vessel lurched forward, then gathered speed rapidly as the Shifters and crew labored. The Jeshan Shifter held the Stream firmly and concentrated as the crew unfurled the sails. He opened the path for the ship to be guided through with little resistance. The Bessan churned the wind fiercely as the wood groaned against the strain and the Merciful surged towards the horizon.

 

From the Crow’s Nest of the pirate ship, the lookouts spotted the Merciful coming up from the west and gaining speed rapidly. He sounded the alarm and men began to scramble about the deck of the ship readying themselves for potential combat. Some of the sailors took their bows and their quivers and lined up on the sides of the ship, igniting their torches; hoping to get a chance to set their enemy ablaze.

The pirate Captain looked wildly up at the sailor in the Nest. “Blue Fleet?”

The sailor nodded.

“Scum,” He grunted angrily to himself. “We’ll show these Knights how we do things in the Trader’s Bay! We will not run today men! It’s them, or us!” A great cheer went up amongst the crusty criminals. The pirate Jeshan Shifter turned their small vessel about and the men at the helm began to charge straight at the Merciful. The pirate Captain had a smile on his face which grew larger as the two ships settled into a collision course. He pulled his fancy Captain’s hat lower on his head and stared forward menacingly. The Jeshan could not bring the ship close to the same speed as the Merciful, but could ease its journey through the water while the wind carried it, and at least that was in their favor.

 

“They are charging us Captain!” A deckhand of the Merciful at the bow shouted.

“Good.” The Captain said confidently. “This should be over quickly.”

He looked up at the Crow’s Nest and shouted, “do they have a Shifter?”

“Yes,” the Bessan said. “One Jeshan. On the port side.”

“Okay then.” The Captain looked out across the deck with steel in his gaze. “All hands to battle positions, and ahead ramming speed! Prepare for starboard side attack! We turn on my orders! They have a Jeshan so men, be ready!”

 

The pirate Captain’s grin was changing to a snarl as the Merciful continued on a collision heading at ramming speed. He noticed the distance between the two ships was closing rapidly.  The pirate Captain then entertained the possibility that this might be his very last mistake at sea. I will break this man. He thought to himself in a bold sort of delusion.

He turned to face his crew and bellowed, “Notch your arrows sea rats and prepare to fire starboard side! Turn the ship to port on my signal! Let’s burn these fools! Ready the oil at the railing! Drench them in burning death!”

 

“Prepare yourself for what they may do Jeshan and react,” the Captain of the Merciful shouted. “Bessan, once we pull broadside, light them up. All hands brace! Hard to port!”

 

The Merciful broke from its ramming course and so did the pirate ship, just as they began to come perilously close to colliding. The Bessan in the Nest struck his flint and ignited some frayed paper as he huddled with the Stream in his hand. Both vessels turned and exposed their starboard flanks to each other for a few moments as he rapidly created a small fire in his palm. The Bessan stood up as the ships came broadside and channeled the raw power of his ethereal elemental mastery. The archers on the enemy ship fired a volley of arrows with perfect placement and timing, while they readied the hot oil to be launched on their next pass. The Bessan unleashed his fire into the space between the two ships in a violent, expanding blast wave. He cast forth a scalding arc of devouring death which incinerated the arrows in flight before they found their targets. The colossal burst of flames lashed the pirate ship, burning men on the rails, who were rendered to ash or fell overboard screaming. The oil ignited in the cauldrons and exploded in a devastating, concussive blast. The starboard deck of the pirate ship was gone and the hull had been breached below the waterline. Fire was spreading all over the ship as flung oil set the sails ablaze. Men were cast about in the blast, pulverized by splintered wood and many more had thrown themselves in the water to escape burning to death. The power of the ignited oil had blown the pirate Captain’s hat overboard, which he took as a bad sign.

 

The Jeshan on the pirate ship acted quickly and used his Shifting to splash water up and over the starboard side and the sails, but the damage was done. The ship did not sink immediately, but it could not escape and now drifted away from the Merciful helplessly. Its sails were little more than singed tatters and many of the crew were dead or no longer aboard. The opportunity to strike back was fading rapidly for the pirate Jeshan and with what he had left of his strength, he blasted the stern and rudder of the Merciful with a column of displaced water. The powerful concussion split the hull below the sealine and shattered the rudder and the Merciful pivoted away, wounded and hobbling.

 

The Merciful was rapidly taking on water in the lower stern hold as sailors ran up from below decks to deliver the news. “We have enough time to abandon ship sir” one of the deck crew said. The captain looked forward at the closing distance between his ship and the pirates’.

“How much time?” He said.

“Five minutes or less before the stern is underwater sir.”

“Ahead full.” The Captain leaned forward. “Move the ship to firing position. Jeshan, you snap that ship in two on my order.”

 

The indignant and crisped remaining crew of the pirate ship took to the stern of their crippled vessel and fired more arrows as the Merciful as their enemy coasted within range. The pirate Captain on the deck of his charred ship rallied his men to fight. “Stand with me and we will take that ship right now!” He screamed desperately, having become less inspiring since he lost his hat. The Captain truly had nothing left to lose as he shouted, “give them a volley men!” To what was left of his crew.  

 

“We are within range Captain!” The Bessan in the Nest shouted.

The Captain of the Merciful turned to the Jeshan on the port side of the ship, “do it!”

 

The Jeshan used his power to whip the Stream in his hand across the surface of the water like a white hot rope of raw energy which sizzled and hissed as it raced towards the pirate ship. The Stream collided with the hull, which disemboweled the ship in a ferocious blast that sent splintered wood fragments flying out in all directions. Water rapidly poured into the gaping chasm amidships and the pirate ship sank violently, folding into two sections.  Archers on the rapidly listing stern deck continued to fire on the Merciful, but soon fell into the sea along with the flotsam, unable to hold on. Within a matter of moments, the pirate vessel had vanished beneath the surface of the Trader’s Bay.

 

The Merciful itself listed heavily as the stern of the ship sank. The Jeshan worked quickly to mend the broken hull and repair the wood so the Merciful no longer took on water. They were disabled for the foreseeable future and it was going to take them many hours to empty the lower sections of the ship. They would have no rudder as they limped to port in Teayl because that was something even a Shifter could not repair at sea.

 

The Merciful rounded up the survivors who were swimming in the water where the pirate ship went down and shackled them below decks in the bow to be taken back to the port. They did not locate the pirate Shifter once the ship had sunk, but the Captain was confident the danger was over.  “All hands stand down,” he shouted, marveling at the fine hat his men had given him that they pulled out of the wreckage. “We sail for Teayl where these criminals will be brought to justice. You all performed admirably today. We are going to be rotating in new duties this afternoon until we empty the hold of seawater. Let’s work together and get ourselves ready to sail as soon as possible.”

 

The Jeshan used what was left of his stamina just to hold onto the Stream as his duty relief came in to take over and the crew of the ship started to form a line to pass buckets. He handed the Stream vein to the second Jeshan, who would assist in the removal of the water from the hold as well. The Bessan in the Crow’s Nest was also relieved of duty and would need to rest before he could render his Shifting again.  

As they came back to their quarters, the Jeshan looked out of his cabin window at the sun now climbing high into the sky and the midday hour nearly upon them. Just another day on the Trader’s Bay. He thought to himself.

A Curse Upon Fishes!

I googled “A curse for fishes,” and surprisingly, there is nothing of substance. What… there isn’t 1 fucking witch or shaman who fishes? If I had magical powers, I’d be helping my fellow anglers! Priority numero uno.

So please, internet, if you know of a curse, or have a list of reagents for said curse, send me an email.

You might be wondering why I have “stooped” to invoking the dark powers in order to catch a fish. I view magic as a grey area as far as it applies to being a fishing technique. It’s pretty much still a skill thing, so it’s kinda okay. You can’t be just some Schmendrick and have a go at the fish curse. It takes talent, mastery and alertness to be a successful angler, and some sort of discipline to wield the dark powers as well (I imagine).

HOWEVER.

I am being incessantly berated about not using live bait or the infamous “cheese ball” to procure a fish faster I have also been told by anglers in the area using, and seen the effectiveness of, live bait. I’m telling you blog, just one time, right here right now. There is only one true angling law:

Saltwater = anything goes because fish is meat

Freshwater = ONLY ARTIFICIAL LURES, FISH ARE (almost always) SPORT NOT FOOD

Any Mooper can get on a boat, go out to the islands with a bucket of anchovies and catch dinner. A TRUE GOD LOVING JESUS GUY angler only needs his wits, arms, ears and eyes. It’s my job to deceive the fish, not tempt it beyond resistance with something it normally eats anyway or is too hopelessly tempted by to be irresistible. Boo. No blog, the SPORT is the act of trickery, so you can see how there is little or no skill involved in cheese ball.

 

I’m always making things harder then they have to be… but GOD DAMN does it feel good to earn that fight once you trick some poor fish into thinking that little scrap of plastic was edible. Muahaha.

So today I’m going back out with my last ditch technique for catching a Bass. When I come back, I’ll be expecting one of the 800+ of you could come up with some fucking spell or seance I can do to improve my odds. I’m willing to harvest odd ingredients for a curse if need be. Anyway, here goes nothing!

 

Shameless Plug

My creative project has a home now, and a dedicated domain: http://kingdomofrealm.com

This is a high-fantasy narrative/epistolary 3 book epic, with the first content to be released this winter 2018.

Check out a teaser right here if this sounds like your sort of thing

Currently, a D&D game is the device that is moving the plot forward, and I’d say we’re about half way through the campaign, in terms of plot. Still so much more to go. 4 players, 1 session a week since late mid November 2017. Awesome.

Thanks, plug over.

 

Story 4: By Sea

It was dawn on the calm and temperate waters of the Trader’s Bay. The Merciful’s Jeshan Shifter was crouched on a short platform projected over the port side of the ship. He was clasping a vein of Stream in his hand firmly, held over the deep ocean and the vein disappeared far underwater once it was outside of his control. Atop the mast, the Bessan scouting in the Crow’s Nest was silent and watching the horizon through his hand lens. The sun’s light was beginning to fill the sky with an orange glow as the deck bell rang out one chime and a sailor yelled “Ahead full speed!”

 

The Jeshan held the Stream constantly while on duty and maintained a branch of it to grow up the mast, within range of the Bessan. This task alone required a fundamental commitment of mental energy, not to mention his additional responsibilities and requirements. The two Shifters fell into their morning duties and the Jeshan opened the water and pulled the ship through it with the power of the Stream. Soon, the sails were flush with a wind that was being empowered by the Bessan in the Nest and the vessel raced through the water of the Bay with unnatural quickness. The Jeshan, sprayed with hissing water as he parted the low swell to ease the passage of the bow, felt the Stream tugging on him to be released back to its natural place on the floor of the Bay. He had to keep his mind focused on holding it or else it would snap away and he would not be able to retrieve it again. If the Stream was to return to where it would normally be on the seafloor, it would be too far away to call back. The ship would need to return to shallower water under its own power so that the Stream could be grabbed again. Aware of those things, the Jeshan continued concentrating and passed the wooden ship through the sea with haste as the Merciful patrolled on the open Bay.

 

Their ship was a member of the Blue Fleet, an extension of the Last Knights of Realm. They operated an elite peacekeeping armada on the middle and east Bay to stifle some of the flagrant criminality and piracy. Their home port is located at Naruna, but they also have well-established presences at Cheed, Greenwall Port and Teayl. It was essential for the land and sea to both be secure in the free and independent region of the Fold, as this too was a part of their Old Way. They and their seafaring counterparts in the south (the Royal Navy of Realm), patrol the waters of the Trader’s Bay and secure it from rampant danger.

 

The mast alarm of the Merciful rang out as the ship raced through the open sea. “Column of smoke, zero nine zero!” He shouted, pointing over the starboard side to the distant horizon with his hand lens. The Jeshan turned due east but saw nothing. Clearly scouting not being his strongest skill.

“Make your heading zero nine zero.” The Captain on the bridge said, and the ship turned. “Ahead flanking speed!”

 

The call went out and the Jeshan Shifter poured his energy into parting the waves for the ship to slide through smoothly to its target. The Bessan blasted the wind into the sails and accelerated the ship with a torrent of air. The Merciful raced across the Bay to the column of smoke with remarkable alacrity. Once their ship got close, they could see what remained of the burned passenger vessel slowly sinking into the sea. The Merciful slowed and began to rescue those already in the water. They took the crew and passengers they saved below deck as the stranded ship sank. The sailors confirmed they had been viciously attacked and boarded by a much smaller, faster ship which flew a black flag and may have had a Shifter helping them.

 

The sailors hurried about climbing the mast again and setting the rigging for fast travel. Men darted about on different jobs, all working to bring the ship to readiness. Having come to a complete stop to collect survivors from the attacked vessel, the Merciful turned itself about.

“Mast sighted bearing zero nine zero!” The Bessan signaled down from the Nest while holding the Stream.

“Bessan!” The Captain shouted from the deck. “Is that them?”

The Bessan in the Crow’s Nest could feel the Stream being tugged in the direction of the ship, but he could not see anything more. “That one probably has a Shifter on board!”

“Understood.” The Captain said. A Shifter at sea is a dangerous weapon, not to be abused.  “Let’s hunt these pirates down!” The Captain shouted, and his crew let out a hearty roar in agreement.

 

As the pirates sailed out into the open eastern ocean, the Merciful began her chase. The Blue Fleet vessel lurched forward, then gathered speed rapidly as the Shifters and crew labored. The Jeshan Shifter held the Stream firmly and concentrated as the crew unfurled the sails. He opened the path for the ship to be guided through with little resistance. The Bessan churned the wind fiercely as the wood groaned against the strain and the Merciful surged towards the horizon.

 

From the Crow’s Nest of the pirate ship, the lookouts spotted the Merciful coming up from the west and gaining speed rapidly. He sounded the alarm and men began to scramble about the deck of the ship readying themselves for potential combat. Some of the sailors took their bows and their quivers and lined up on the sides of the ship, igniting their torches; hoping to get a chance to set their enemy ablaze.

The pirate Captain looked wildly up at the sailor in the Nest. “Blue Fleet?”

The sailor nodded.

“Scum,” He grunted angrily to himself. “We’ll show these Knights how we do things in the Trader’s Bay! We will not run today men! It’s them, or us!” A great cheer went up amongst the crusty criminals. The pirate Jeshan Shifter turned their small vessel about and the men at the helm began to charge straight at the Merciful. The pirate Captain had a smile on his face which grew larger as the two ships settled into headings would bring them hull to hull. He pulled his fancy Captain’s hat lower on his head and stared forward menacingly. The Jeshan could not bring the ship close to the same speed as the Merciful, but could ease its journey through the water while the wind carried it, and at least that was in their favor.

 

“They are charging us Captain!” A deckhand of the Merciful at the bow shouted.

“Good.” The Captain said confidently. “This should be over quickly.”

He looked up at the Crow’s Nest and shouted, “do they have a Shifter?”

“Yes,” the Bessan said. “One Jeshan. On the port side.”

“Okay then.” The Captain looked out across the deck with steel in his gaze. “All hands to battle positions, and ahead ramming speed! Prepare for starboard side attack! We turn on my orders! They have a Jeshan so men, be ready!”

 

The pirate Captain’s grin was changing to a snarl as the Merciful continued on a collision heading at ramming speed. He noticed the distance between the two ships was closing rapidly.  The pirate Captain then entertained the possibility that this might be his very last mistake at sea. I will break this man. He thought to himself in a bold sort of delusion.

He turned to face his crew and bellowed, “Notch your arrows sea rats and prepare to fire starboard side! Turn the ship to port on my signal! Let’s burn these fools! Ready the oil at the railing! Drench them in burning death!”

 

“Prepare yourself for what they may do Jeshan and react,” the Captain of the Merciful shouted. “Bessan, once we pull broadside, light them up. All hands brace! Hard to port!”

 

The Merciful broke from its ramming course and so did the pirate ship, just as they began to come perilously close to colliding. The Bessan in the Nest struck his flint and ignited some frayed paper as he huddled with the Stream in his hand. Both vessels turned and exposed their starboard flanks to each other for a few moments as he rapidly created a small fire in his palm. The Bessan stood up as the ships came broadside and channeled the raw power of his ethereal elemental mastery. The archers on the enemy ship fired a volley of arrows with perfect placement and timing, while they readied the hot oil to be launched on their next pass. The Bessan unleashed his fire into the air between the two ships at the same time in a violent, expanding blast wave. He cast forth a scalding arc of devouring death which incinerated the arrows before they found their targets. The colossal burst of flames lashed the pirate ship, burning men on the rails, who died instantly or fell overboard screaming. The oil ignited and exploded in a devastating, concussive blast. The starboard deck was gone and the hull had been breached. Fire was spreading all over the ship as flung oil set the sails ablaze. Men were cast about in the blast, pulverized by splintered wood and many more threw themselves in the water to escape burning to death. The power of the ignited oil had blown the pirate Captain’s hat overboard, which he took as a bad sign.

 

The Jeshan on the pirate ship acted quickly and splashed water up and over the starboard side and the sails, but the damage was done. The ship did not sink, but it could not escape and now coasted away from the Merciful helplessly. Its sails were little more than singed tatters and many of the crew were dead or no longer aboard. The opportunity to strike back was fading rapidly for the pirate Jeshan and with what he had left of his strength, he blasted the stern and rudder of the Merciful with a column of displaced water. The powerful blast split the hull below the sealine and shattered the rudder and the Merciful pivoted away, wounded and hobbling.

 

The ship was rapidly taking on water in the lower stern hold as sailors ran up from below decks to deliver the news. “We have enough time to abandon ship sir” one of the deck crew said. The captain looked forward at the closing distance between his ship and the pirates’.

“How much time?” He said.

“Five minutes or less before the stern is underwater sir.”

“Ahead full.” The Captain leaned forward. “Move to the ship to firing position. Jeshan, you snap that ship in two on my order.”

 

The indignant and crisped remaining crew of the pirate ship took to the stern of their crippled vessel and fired more arrows as the Merciful as their enemy coasted within range. The pirate Captain on the deck of his charred ship rallied his men to fight. “Stand with me and we will take that ship right now!” He screamed desperately, having become less inspiring since he lost his hat. The Captain truly had nothing left to lose as he shouted, “give them a volley men!” To what was left of his crew.

 

“We are within range Captain!” The Bessan in the Nest shouted.

The Captain of the Merciful turned to the Jeshan on the port side of the ship, “do it!”

 

The Jeshan used his power to whip the Stream in his hand across the surface of the water like a white hot rope of raw energy which sizzled and hissed as it raced towards the pirate ship. The Stream collided with the hull, which disemboweled the ship in a ferocious blast that sent splintered wood fragments flying out in all directions. Water rapidly poured into the gaping chasm amidships and it sank violently, folding into two sections.  Archers on the rapidly listing stern deck continued to fire on the Merciful, but soon fell into the sea, unable to hold on. Within a matter of moments, the pirate vessel had vanished beneath the surface of the Trader’s Bay.

 

The Merciful itself listed heavily as the stern of the ship sank. The Jeshan worked quickly to mend the broken hull and repair the wood so the Merciful no longer took on water. They were disabled for the foreseeable future and it was going to take them many hours to empty the lower sections of the ship. They would have no rudder as they limped to port in Teayl because that was something even a Shifter could not repair at sea.

 

The Merciful rounded up the survivors who were swimming in the water where the pirate ship went down and shackled them below decks in the bow to be taken back to the port. They did not locate the pirate Shifter once the ship had sunk, but the Captain was confident the danger was over.  “All hands stand down,”  he shouted, marveling at the fine hat his men had given him that they pulled out of the wreckage. “We sail for Teayl where these criminals will be brought to justice. You all performed admirably today. We are going to be rotating in new duties this afternoon until we empty the hold of seawater. Let’s work together and get ourselves ready to sail as soon as possible.”

 

The Jeshan used what was left of his stamina just to hold onto the Stream as his duty relief came in to take over and the crew of the ship started to form a line to pass buckets. He handed the Stream vein to the second Jeshan, who would assist in the removal of the water from the hold as well. The Bessan in the Crow’s Nest was also relieved of duty and would need to rest before he could render his Shifting again.

 

As they came back to their quarters, the Jeshan looked out of his cabin window at the sun now climbing high into the sky and the midday hour nearly upon them. Just another day on the Trader’s Bay. He thought to himself.

Story 3: The Kindred of the North

Ra’Kesh, an older and grizzled Nomadic Barbarian, was taking the long road home after an unsuccessful hunting trip further to the south. He was hoping to chance upon something before arriving back home in the mountains as he trudged towards his stopping point for the night. Ra’Kesh was aware that the land  had emptied itself of life in the once fertile hunting grounds. There were no flying birds racing overhead anymore, no animals to pursue through the woods. The only residents now were poisonous creatures, beasts and the Brown Harpies that circled the dead as they lie rotting in the thin snow.

 

His trip to the south had disturbed and he’d seen very few game animals. He walked past many gutted carcasses, and fading bones. To him, his homeland felt  more desperate; in fear of not surviving the winter having held onto too little food. There was a panic in the air. Now the North was stripped bare of its resources. For a Barbarian warrior like Ra’Kesh, he knew that grim times were ahead for his people unless some of the other hunting parties that had gone out from the tribe had been more successful. Somehow, Ra’Kesh knew that they were having just as little luck finding food as he was. This land is more dangerous now than ever before. He thought to himself.

 

The lumbering Barbarian plowed forward through the deepening snow which was now only about as high as the midway point of his shin. He knew, however, that the snow would deepen as he made his way to the top of the valley.  Ra’Kesh was a skilled Nomadic Barbarian, and unlike the Humans that ventured through these lands, he had no fear. To him the North was his ally; his home. He was at peace with the outcomes of his life yet he was not ignorant to reality.

 

In Ra’Kesh’s mind, there is no fairness in his people being deprived of food for the cold season, but it was a fact of life in the North. It was hunt, or be hunted. Ra’Kesh did believe that his ancestors would not let their people die of starvation this winter, but he did not know how it would come to pass. He held his axe in one hand and his shield was over his shoulder as he continued to march forward through the narrowing valley. The snow fell densely as he gained altitude and the sun sank lower to the horizon.

 

One more night out here. He said to himself as he unpacked. Ra’Kesh made camp here many times before after much more fruitful trips south. Tonight, he had no meat to bring home and an aching belly of his own. He insulated himself with a little snow-structure to, hopefully, prevent much of his smell from escaping his camp area and trap warmth. He did not light a fire as this was a bold action to take when traveling alone and a way to bring on unnecessary attention. Instead, Ra’Kesh laid his rolled furrs out over an area he had cleared, revealing the cold frozen dirt beneath. He tore into some jerky as twilight neared an end.  The swirling stormclouds above were veiled in darkness by the onset of night.

 

Something had been following Ra’Kesh for a portion of his trip home from the hunting grounds. Earlier in the day, it had stalked while the Barbarian marched up the valley slowly. Its prey had been unaware of its presence in the woods not far off his pace. It had watched while the Barbarian took to the side of the valley and established a place to set up camp. Now, as dark had come on, the creature went from observing, to hunting.

 

The clouds overhead could be heard to whisper as they moved with the furious northern wind. Somewhere in the darkness above the valley, they roiled. The temperature plummeted and Ra’Kesh tried to rest. The cold was penetrating his thick skin, but he could still fall into sleep. Just before Ra’Kesh had fully relaxed, there was a sudden clap of thunder.

 

The creature approached from the north coming down at his camp from behind his pile of snow he had made around himself. This monster relied on many senses, formulated plans and weighed options. It waited in the shadows, slinking low, still many feet away. The creature could smell his stink clinging to his clothes and furrs.  The creature salivated, crouched, recoiled and sprung into action. It hurled itself through the air and onto the camp at astonishing speed and with near perfect silence. The creature being of such significant size that when it landed it created a massive plume and blasted frosty snow thrown out in all directions. It tore at the bundle of rags, but found no one in them. Much to its surprise, Ra’Kesh had somehow known it was coming.

 

It was only then that, to the great shambler, the conspiracy became apparent. The suddenly stormy sky above unleashed a blast of lightning upon the Abominable as it lurched in the clearing of the devastated camp. It was struck with white-hot energy as it stood to its full twenty-five feet. Scalded and screaming, it raised its fist and let out a roar that echoed across the valley. It spun about, looking for its enemies while its flesh crackled and crisped across its left flank and back.

 

Scarred from the startling shock of the lightning, the creature whirred about and spotted Ra’Kesh. The Barbarian had  run far out into the open valley, but then turned around to face the creature in a combat stance. The Abominable squared up on the Barbarian and pounded its fists into the ground, galloping to a raging charge with its mouth gaping wide.

 

Ra’Kesh set his feet, and calmly recoiled his axe back behind his shoulder. As the massive creature advanced, the Barbarian aimed carefully and waited. He stood his ground as the lumbering colossus bore down on him at a fatal speed. Ra’Kesh hurled the axe with deadly precision. The twirling hand axe sank deep into the Abominable’s face, shattering its eye. The wound rocked the creature and it frenzied in wild agony. It swiped forward with extraordinarily vicious rage as it fell to the ground and flailed its massive arm across the open valley floor. The Barbarian was broadsided where he stood and was cast into the air like a thrown doll, disappearing into the night. It cradled its injured face with the other hand as it tried to stand, fumbling about, disoriented and in writhing pain. The creature pawed angrily at the axe and knew it still had an enemy out there somewhere. It peered into the darkness with its good eye.

 

The Abominable huddled in the snow, screaming from its wounds and franticly searching about. Behind it in the forest, a tree was uprooted swiftly and was brought down hard on top of the Abominable with choking speed. Branches snapped over it’s body and the trunk squarely clobbered the creature over its head. The force of the impact flattened the monster into the ground, while the tree then slid down and pinned the Abominable to the earth. Stunned by the sudden brutality of the attack, it groaned and tried to get back up. The clouds opened and a new bolt of lightning came down from the sky. This one, however, was much more pinpoint than the previous in its accuracy and it struck the Abominable directly on the top of its head as it lie flat on the earth. The force of the lightning upon the Abominable’s skull was like a savage weighted hammer brought to bear on a pumpkin. The tree then fell naturally to the ground, and silence reestablished control of the valley once more.

 

From out of the shadow of the woods several hundred feet away, a Jeshan Shifter emerged from the forest and began to trudge across the valley floor over to where the Barbarian had been flung during the battle. As he walked closer, he discovered the Ra’Kesh had been impaled against sharp rocks to the side of the valley where he had landed. The broken fragments of his wooden shield still hung onto the straps around his arm, which was sprawled lifelessly beside his mangled body. The Jeshan removed his hood and met the Barbarian’s gaze.

“I’m sorry,” The Shifter said. The Barbarian looked back at him with tired eyes. They both understood.

“How long had it been hunting me?” The Barbarian asked.

“At least since yesterday,” the Shifter said. “It is dead.” The Barbarian looked up at the sky and saw no stars, but could feel the cold breath of the North stinging his cheeks as the last drippings of life escaped from his body. “You didn’t have to help me.” .

“Yes I did,” the Jeshan said in reply. “We are kin of the North together, and you would have done the same for me. We all must protect each other in these dark times.”  The Barbarian smiled a little at that. My hope is not fading after all. He  mused to himself as he grew more tired.

“So,” the Barbarian said gruffly. “I always knew I would meet a Shifter one day. Your kind our the link between our world and the world of my ancestors. You have the light of my kin in your eyes.” The Jeshan said.

The Jeshan smiled, “you Barbarians, wasting your last words to wax poetic.”

A long silence passed as they looked upon each other, and the snow fall thickened.

“Thank you,” his voice beginning to fade. “The ancestors saw you tonight.”

“Soon, you will be with them. Become one with the Stream.” The Jeshan then pulled a vein of Stream out of the woods, knelt beside the broken warrior and passed it over the Barbarian’s outstretched hand. “The Stream sees everything,”  he said softly. “Tonight, you dine with the greatest warriors of your tribe in the grand Hall of Bones. Feast, my friend, and rest well on a full belly. The days of battle are over for you. I will take the Abominable’s flesh  back to your people. They will not starve this winter. They will live because of your sacrifice. The creature could not have been defeated without you and you die with honor tonight.”

“By the light of the Stream be bound!” The Barbarian said his eyes charged with intention, despite those being the words spoken by the Shifters who graduate from Naruna, not of anyone who comes from the Frozen North. The Shifter smiled and passed his open palm over the eyes of the Barbarian.

“May it show us the way.” He said in formal reply, and with that, Ra’Kesh was dead.

 

The Jeshan took about the grueling duty of skinning, gutting, cleaning, and packing a great deal of abominable meat into several bags and carryalls that he had. He used Ra’Kesh’s furrs to pack more flesh and the snapped limbs of the tree he used to pummel the Abominable to make a large sled.

 

The Jeshan Master was true to his word and he carried a great deal of fresh meat back to the Barbarian’s tribe, walking all night and arriving early in the morning. They were a famished lot that had been waiting for its few warriors to return from the hunt. The Jeshan told them that one of them would not be coming back. “He gave his life so that you all could live.” He said aloud as the tribe listened. “Let me tell you of how he died in battle.”

 

The Jeshan spoke of how Ra’Kesh the Slayer had, attacked and defeated the Abominable, and then fed all his people with it’s flesh. Ra’Kesh was a skilled warrior, and a brave Nomadic Barbarian and the Jeshan described his axe flying through the air and impaling the creature in its eye. He made sure the stories they will tell of Ra’Kesh the Slayer will go on through the generations.

 

Though they cried that their father, husband and friend would not come home, he would never be forgotten in the tales the tribe will tell that would pass down from the parents to their children. Ultimately, the Barbarians understood that this was the way of the North, and that death comes for everyone, in time. There are many more who die then there are who live to do great deeds. Now these Barbarians had a warrior of their tribe who had done both. The Barbarians gave some meat to the Jeshan and he accepted gladly. He gathered his belongings and prepared to go, having shown his honor to the Stream and to the tribe.

 

“We are all here together,” the Jeshan said before them. “We must all remember that we are kin of the North, not just kin by our race, and that we must protect our land and each other so that life may go on as it always has. I have always been here. I will always be here, watching.” With that, the Jeshan vanished into the night, as the wind started to increase and the snowfall around their homes deepened.