Tag Archives: fantasy

More Mia

Continued from last month’s project, here are two more snippets from Mia, Descendent of Monsters.  I should figure out a way to number these so it will be easier in the future to start from the beginning. . .

Also a BIG thanks to my Facebook weapons nerd friends!  I think once you read this, you’ll know which weapon I needed help finding ;)

Also also, yes, I realize that I refer to my husband as M Fox and the name of this character is Mia Fox.  I have a thing for foxes and apparently no imagination, okay?  Sue me. ;)

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An Old Dog

After decades of mercenary work, Colin Skydance earned a reputation as the best, and his other titles included unapologetic scoundrel and great lover of women.  Colin was fortunate enough to have been hired by the winning side of the Horde War, but those in the know were very much aware that it could have gone either way.

After retiring, Colin had settled in a remote wooded area in a self-made cabin.  One storming night, just as he was musing how the sound of rain was preferable to the usual silence, he heard a knock at the front door.  His daughter was visiting her brother up north, but even if she was in town, she would never knock.  Intrigued, Colin slid aside a small panel next to the door, undetectable from the outside, and appraised the visitor.

Drenched with rain, chest heaving.  Tired, but excellent posture — a warrior.   Shorter and younger than himself, long black hair tied back, robes.  Thick blade tied to his waist.  A Nishen warrior.  Colin threw open the door.

“Well come in, come in, don’t be shy,” he said cheerily. “Just because you’ve been sent to kill me doesn’t mean all civility should be thrown out the window.”

The visitor stood awkwardly in the door frame for a moment, taking in the legendary mercenary.  Colin had managed to keep a full head of curls, now the color of steel.  Thick black eyebrows brooded over his light blue eyes, striking even in the dark and the rain.  He still had the body of an agent, lean and tight.  Colin made a grand sweeping gesture toward the hearth and the visitor entered, taking care to wipe his flat shoes on the “Grandpa’s House” doormat.

It was a solitary man’s cabin.  There was one large room with a rug and some seating, a simple stove, open shelving.  Lamps still running on oil hung off sconces on the walls, the sticky smell mingling with the scent of burning wood. Above, a dark loft with a wooden ladder.

“You can sit if you like, though considering your damp state, I’d prefer you stand.  Oh, and not on the rug.”

“This is very hard for me to say,” said the visitor, his voice husky, on the brink of becoming hoarse.

“I can imagine.  Who sent you?”

“No one sent me.”

“Revenge, then?”  Colin meandered to his liquor cabinet and thoughtfully selected a bottle and a glass.  “I suppose I’ve killed someone important to you.  I am very sorry for that.  Whiskey?”

“No. You haven’t killed anyone I know or care about.  I’m here because of your daughter.”

Colin’s face remained impassive as he steadily poured himself another drink.  “Elin can take care of herself.  Go after her if you wish.”

“You misunderstand.  She saved my life.”

A smirk tugged at Colin’s cheek and he raised his glass, careful not to show his relief.  “That’s my girl.”

“She said I should pay my debt to you.”  The visitor unsheathed his sword, made of black metal with a divot down the center, painted red.  He held it flat in front of him and knelt before Colin.

The old mercenary slowly finished his second drink, his blood warming.  Upon his last swallow, he hurled the tumbler at the visitor’s head and kicked the offered sword into his own hand.  The visitor caught the glass and back flipped into a fighting stance.

Colin’s voice was smooth and low.  “You know who I am, what I’ve done, and what I can do to you, yet you knock on my front door with little to no proof of what you claim.  That’s pretty damn remarkable, if you ask me.”

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Marion of the Lists

Here is my second writing assignment!  The theme was “First Day.”  This character is from an old D&D campaign, but I like her so I’ll keep reusing her!  Ten points if you spot my very obvious Tamora Pierce reference (although, I guess Marion, by virtue of being a red-haired lady knight, is sort of an homage all of her own. . .)  Enjoy :)

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“Damn him and his toasted arse!  If it’s not the slags, it’s the swill!”

Gilder hurled his cap to the ground and did a war dance on top of it, cursing gloriously.  The nervous page shifted on his feet while the short man finished his tirade.  The boy had had the unfortunate duty of reporting to Gilder that one of his jousters was passed out at The Mutton Chop, and the keeper wouldn’t let him leave until his debt was paid.  While he wasn’t unused to delivering bad news, sometimes the receiver got a little carried away.  Gilder, who ran the jousting in town, was mostly the good sort, but any man could get mean when someone messed with his coin and the page preferred to leave without a black eye.

“How much does that red-faced bilge drinker owe?!”

“Not sure, Mister Gil,” said the boy.  “But prolly lots, seeing how the keeper’s got him locked in the back.”

“More than his bout in bets, then.  Curse his soaked hide!  You get out of here now, I’ve got some thinking to do.”

After the grateful boy left, Gil turned to his three other partners in the tiltyard — the armorer, the weapon master, and the head of the stables.  They stared back at him in tired resignation.  Sir Duncan was a disgraced knight, but he had been a damn decent jouster once.  Or at least he won more than he lost, which was all that was needed of him.  These last few months had been particularly irregular, though.  It used to be that paying your tilters was enough to keep them on time and sober enough to ride.  Not with Duncan.

“That bastard’s cost us three bouts this week already, Gil,” said the head of the stables.

“Yeah, when’re we going to cut him loose?”

“When you figure out a way to end the wars and keep the young men around, then we’ll talk about cutting tilters,” sneered Gil, unfairly.  He knew the armorer was right.

“I can do it.”

Gil turned around.  A female wearing breeches and a smock stood in the opening of the tent.  She was tall for a girl and dirty, like she didn’t sleep inside.  Her red hair was completely untethered.  She looked him straight in the eye.

“‘Ere, what’s this!” Cried the weapon master.

“Yeah, throw the baggage out,” said the armorer.  “We got a problem to figger out!”

“I know you,” said Gil, engaging her against his better judgment.  He motioned for the others to be quiet and they obeyed.  Although they each helmed a vitally important part of the operation, there was no doubt that Gil was the head of the snake.  “You’re the one the men have been complaining about, the girl hanging around the yard trying to have a go with the lances.  Don’t you have a husband or something?”

“Duncan’s always half-drunk for these bouts,” she said, unphased.  “Everyone knows it!  He’s the laughing stock of this yard.”

“You think I don’t know that?”

“I can ride ten times as good as him.  And I can win.”

Gil sighed.  He blamed those modern scribes, always writing those damn romances about swordmaidens.  Now every slip of a girl fancied herself the next Lioness Rampant.

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A snippet

This is a bit from a larger piece I’m working on, but I really like it.  My tip of the hat to Terry Pratchett.

For all intents and purposes, Rudolph “Ruddy” Cobb, Angel Carrier sailor for three years, was a good man.  Sure he cursed and he drank and he sometimes even took a bite of his mate’s biscuit when he wasn’t looking, but Ruddy felt pretty confident that he deserved a good life, and a sailor’s life was a pretty good life.  Three hots and a cot, as they say, although it would definitely depend on a man’s definition of “hot.”  In Ruddy’s world, a closely related and practically identical word to “good” was “simple.”  Simple like when you put on an extra pair of socks, your feet stay dryer and warmer.  Like when you have too much beer, you belch.  Simple like how men, such as Ruddy and his mates, sometimes have to fight other men, like those scurvy, thieving raiders, to protect their stuff.  And sometimes their “stuff” included their women.  Women were sweet little things with lots of skirts on who wrung their hands and made sure that there were no raw bits in the middle of a cooked chicken or that your boots made it off before you hit the pillow after a long night at the pub.
Women were not–and Ruddy, while not an expert, could be very certain about this–arrow-shooting, battle-ready killers who sniped blood-thirsty raiders from hidden perches all around the deck.
Ruddy had just cleared his blade of an enemy who had the stones to swing onto the deck dressed like a vibrantly colored bird, when the first arrow found its mark in the chest of another air-born raider, who plummeted into the ocean below with a scream.

Marion: Origin Story

More nerdiness revealed.   The origin story of one of my characters from a D&D campaign.

When her brother Maddox left Brookshire as a journeyman, Marion turned to the castle guard to continue her sword training.  Learning from the guard captain wasn’t quite the same– Maddox was a patient teacher who believed in her natural ability, whereas the guard captain merely humored her until she left him alone.  Despite this, by the time she was thirteen, her skill with a blade earned her a reputation amongst the soldiers that actually garnered her father’s attention, though not in the way she hoped. Immediately Lord Barinor threatened less pay for anyone who continued to train his daughter with a weapon. “What man wants a wife who can defend herself?!” he bellowed. Undaunted, she went every day to bully someone, usually a wet-behind-the ears recruit, into giving her a lesson. Threats and withdrawn meals didn’t stop Marion from stealing a pair of breeches, tying her long red hair back, and heading for the garrison whenever she could.

The day she turned fourteen years old, a knight named Sir Garth, hailing from southern Brookshire, arrived at the manor. Marion was excited by the prospect of a real-live knight—they rarely came this far north and if they did, they never stayed long. Marcus, the oldest of the five Barinor children, made sure of it. He excelled at making people feel unwelcome, and ever since he was denied knighthood, he didn’t much like anyone who had won his shield. Fearing the knight’s visit would be short, Marion waited diligently by the stables, dressed in her brother Mathen’s clothes (Maxim, his twin, promised to beat her into rubble if she took his again), her fingers curled around the pommel of a guard’s sword.

“You’re pathetic.”

With a sigh, Marion turned around to face her brother.  “Marcus, do you spend your whole life waiting around a corner to say something smart?  Don’t you have anything better to do?”

“I could ask you the same question.” Marcus unfortunately took after their father, which meant that even if he did manage not to stoop like a hyena over prey, he could only charitably be described as five and a half feet tall. He wore a black cloak with large shoulder pads and a stiff collar, his hair, more orange than red, spiked and wild. “You know why he’s here, don’t you?”

“Because Father thinks his own sons aren’t worth shit?”

Marcus tried to grab her by the front of her jerkin and missed. Marion backed away and brought her sword up. The darkness passed from his face and he laughed. “Go ahead. I hear Sir Garth likes women with a little fight in them.  It’ll make it all the more fun for him.”

“What are you talking about?”

Marcus turned away with a dramatic twirl of his cloak (she hated when he did that) and walked briskly toward the manor, calling over his shoulder, “Oh nothing. How many days do you think Father will lock you up when I tell him where you are and what you’re wearing?”

“Marcus, you dripping pile, I’ll-”

“Mari, don’t.”  A strong pair of hands gripped her shoulders, keeping her from a charge. “Let him go.”

Marion grit her teeth, but obeyed, watching her brother jauntily head inside. “Pom, he’s going to tell on me!”

“Let ‘im,” spat the stableboy. “He’s a coward and yer father’ll prolly give him a smack for being a snitch.  He’s over twenty for Lord’s sakes.”

“I just wanted to spar that knight, just once, and he’ll probably leave tonight and I’ll never have the chance!”

Pom shifted uncomfortably.  At first glance, he seemed typical stableboy fare: tall, gangly, straw-haired.  But under the bad haircut, the maddening acne, and the faintest whiff of horse, he knew things. There was only one reason why a single knight with a lot of land came to a manor that happened to have one daughter just turned marriagable age.  He watched his dear, earnest Marion, taking practice swipes with the stolen blade.

“Why is Mucus such a bastard?” She ranted. “I can’t do a damn thing around here without him interfering in my business. He’s supposed to be the lordling, you’d think he’d have better things to do than prance around in that sissy cape.”

“Seems to me he’s doing exactly what a lordling should be doing.”

“Ha!”

“Anyway if you ask me, I’d be less worried about Mucus and more worried bout what’ll happen to you when Maxim finds you’re wearin’ his breeches.”

“They’re Mathen’s. ‘Sides, I think I look better in ’em than he does.”

“I think you look prettier in a dress.”

Marion sheathed her blade with a smirk. “Oh what now? You gonna kiss me again?”

“Only if you deserve it,” he said, smiling back.

“Only if you can catch me!” Marion took off across the courtyard, tossing her hair, beckoning. He chased her, the girl with breeches and a sword on her hip.

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Marion

My nerdiness revealed.  Here is a little character sketch I wrote based on a D&D campaign.

The lady knight rubbed the balm on her cracked and weathered hands and thought of her mother. Her mother’s hands were calm, cool and soft, except for that sewing callous on her index finger. Once, Marion bought her four silver thimbles for the Harvest, one for each finger. She was six years old. She had had to win a lot of races against the boys to get the coin for those thimbles and when she gave them to her mother, wrapped in a colored scarf, her mother had laughed. That was before Martin.  All the silver thimbles in the world couldn’t cover what the knight had done to her own hands and she had a feeling that they wouldn’t have had much effect against who (and what) Marion had had to kill.

She could hear the rest of the band outside her tent, settling down after a day’s journey. Bahb was swigging beer, loudly clearing his throat and hoping to drown out Isis’s wretched fiddle-playing. Leah was gently, patiently trying to play along on her lute. Marion really didn’t understand elves’ tolerance. If she had tried to play that cursed instrument that way at home, her brothers would have put her face through it.  Zefania had started taking long walks since Horace joined the group.

Horace may be an extraordinary bastard, but the man knew battle tactics, weapon technique, military discipline. King Dominic’s gracious bestowal of knighthood was more than Marion could have ever dreamed for herself, but it wouldn’t replace the training in the palace that she missed as a wandering warrior, learning the sword from those she paid. It wasn’t that Marion had no compassion for Zefania—the thought of her own mother’s body, cold and bloodied, made her hands itch for her blade.  Martin had taught her a lot about men, more than she would ever learn as a woman, and Horace was a different breed, to be sure.  More disciplined, less rash.  But Marion knew arrogance when she saw it and his religious fervor made him self-righteous (second ear down from Bayon, donchaknow).  All the better.  Let him show her up, again and again.  Beat her with his practice weapons, cluck when she failed.  In between the humiliating illuminations of her lack of formal training, she was learning.  Oh, was he good.  She would get faster, stronger, better.  Sometimes the best way to beat your enemy is to become him.

Replacing the lid on her balm, Marion quickly rose and immediately regretted it.  Suppressing a yelp, she forced herself to stretch her protesting muscles.  She could almost feel the bruises on her arms, legs, and middle coloring deeper.  Horace had obliged her a sparring lesson during the midday break.  She perhaps should have paid attention to the rest of her companions’ warnings (blah blah blah treaty blah blah).  She also probably shouldn’t have called Horace a grub-eating priest-licker.  She was paying for it now–his teaching skills went into serious decline when he was angry.  And sitting on that damn horse across a rocky beach for the rest of the ever-loving day really didn’t help her soreness.  What a bastard.

The salty air soothed her sun-scorched face as she emerged from her tent and slipped her feet into her boots.  She squinted against the sharp wind and sun’s last rays glaring off the choppy ocean.  Leah was attempting to explain music theory to the wizard, which had convinced Horace to join Bahb in drinking.

Marion watched Leah, her slender hands caressing her instrument, her silvery hair cascading down her shoulders instead of tied up neatly as usual. The elf’s lips betrayed a smile at Isis’s humor, her eyes creasing in silent merriment.  The men eyed her, though they pretended they weren’t.  There was just something about a pretty female, Marion supposed, no matter what you did in this life, that’s what everyone noticed first.

Annoyed, Marion turned her gaze back down the beach to the small fishing village.  They had passed it earlier before deciding to camp upwind, a decision finalized after witnessing the fishwives gutting the day’s catch.  Rubbing her fingers into her rough palms, she headed toward the cluster of buildings.

“I’ll be back,” she called over her shoulder. She hoped that Horace hadn’t noticed her favoring her right leg.

A particular shop had caught Marion’s eye when they passed through earlier.  Women in dresses streamed inside, and out wafted the scent of cinnamon and secrets.  She knew it was the sort of shop that her mother would have visited to buy perfume, after expressly promising her father she wouldn’t.  Now Marion stared into the window, her hazel eyes filled with the beautiful things that lined the walls—hats, scarves, and shifts made of velvet, linen, cotton, dyed in all the colors. There were racks of feathered hairpieces and cloaks. There were mirrors and shells everywhere.  You won’t beat Horace wearing one of those dumb bonnets, thought Martin treacherously.  The shop was mostly empty except for three women, maybe sisters, who were laughing and chatting.  One was playing with another’s long black hair.  Marion watched them for what felt like a long while.

“I’m just going to look,” she said finally.  She secured her belt and sheath and straightened her green linen tunic.  Steeling herself, she opened the door, which jingled.  Marion inhaled the scents of perfumes, candles, and potions.

The three women turned and looked at her.  Three sets of eyebrows raised.  One of the women, who wore a magnificent purple robe, wrinkled her nose.

“Can I help you?” The woman with the long black hair sounded like chocolate.

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