Thursday, December 30, 2010
(an excerpt for In The Shadow Of His Nemesis)
Al Bruno III
Shirtless in spite of the cold morning they stood on Laurel House’s front lawn. The stared at each other, fencing foils at their sides. At an unspoken signal they saluted and stepped forward; Zeth was muscular but beginning to soften with middle age, his skin was so dark it was almost purple He had his graying dreadlocks pulled back and tied with a ribbon. They sized each other up and tensed. Jack smiled, his hair hanging lose and wild. Zeth thrust with his foil.
Jack swiped the blow aside and retreated from a second attack.
Zeth's breath hissed out from between his clenched teeth as his opponent became more aggressive. He parried a trio of blows. Their foils rasped and clinked as they dueled beneath purple sunrise. Jack tried to strike low but Zeth evaded the glinting metal with a leap and followed with a counter-thrust.
Looking down at the red-tipped foil poking his chest Jack laughed "Oh. Very good.”
“Hell yes.” They stepped back and saluted.
They returned to their starting positions, "Engarde!"
Jack drove Zeth back a dozen steps with as many blows. The attacks blocked more by blind instinct than skill. "Two can play at that." Zeth grunted and launched a wild attack of his own, realizing only too late that he'd fallen into a trap. Jack's foil tapped his forehead, "We're one for one."
"Keeping score are we?”
Again they returned to their starting positions. “By the way, are you having fun?"
Zeth smiled, "Yes, I am. You know when you invited me I almost turned you down."
“Lots of reasons.” Their blades clashed once more, this time each man was cautious and cagey, their blades glancing.
"Is he coming today?"
"God willing." Zeth replied his eyes darkening, "This place is a bit to… sedate for my tastes.”
“I thought as much.” Jack thrust and blocked, "I think that’s why I was surprised to find a man like you on our doorstep.”
“Magwier asked me to keep an eye on Galen.”
“Do you always do what Jason Magwier says?”
Zeth's guard dropped at that, letting Jack land another blow. "Oh, I’m sorry. That wasn't fair, we'll start over."
"I believe in what he’s doing. The Cause is more than what the name implies. We can save the world.”
“I think that the world can take care of itself.” Jack said, “It always has.”
Zeth smiled, “An optimist.”
“What about Isobel and her brother?” Jack asked.
“What about them?” Zeth said.
Sig stepped out the front door. He was wearing a light jacket, jeans, boots and a flannel shirt. He had a knapsack over one shoulder and a cane in the other.
“Heading into town?” Jack asked.
Sig nodded, “Angie needs more pills. Do either of you want anything?”
Zeth said, “A few newspapers and a TIME magazine.”
“Of course.” Sig turned to go.
“I have to ask you something.” Zeth said.
Sig stopped but didn’t turn, “Yes?”
“Aren’t you afraid to go into town? You haven’t been forgotten you know.”
“Let them come.” Sig’s laugh was almost a growl.
Both men watched him disappear into the tree line; then they returned to their stances.
“Engarde!” Jack said.
They danced back and forth, steel flashing, their faces livid with exertion. “Those trips of his are dangerous.” Zeth said.
“He knows what he’s doing.” Jack delivered a savage riposte, “Besides Angie needs that medication.”
Zeth’s foil caught his opponent in the stomach, “All that means to me is that you’ve got two liabilities.”
They stepped back and saluted, the duel continued.
Abner Deggent was captured by a band of pirates that only wore soft fabrics but he vowed to escape the Cotton Swabs.
With its vibrating controller and interactive storyline the video game 'Action Masseuse' kept people playing for the happy ending.
On a dare she ate a DVD of an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, 8 hours later she became the first person to die from 'Going Commando'.
Chuck had never been to dinner party hosted by a porn actress before. He had to admit she had quite a spread.
John tripped, stumbled and fell the dalmatian he was walking. He always was Johnny on the spot.
The worst blow to his self esteem was when he was spied skinny dipping and people left him extra clothes.
“Some people think creating an Anti-Flatulence Defamation League was a great idea, others think it stinks.”
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Singer/songwriter/Neil Gaiman fiancee Amanda Palmer made a short version of the movie Labyrinth, starring Gaiman as Jareth the Goblin King. The reason the couple did this is unknown, but given what I've heard about both of them, my money is on "foreplay."..
In The Shadow Of His Nemesis
Chapter Ninety Six
By AL BRUNO III
Saturday, December 4th 1996
The crash was followed by more gunfire, it sounded as though the entire forest had become a battle zone. Which Isobel supposed was all too true.
The figure moving out of the doorway of the Great House looked like her brother, it wore his face but the muscles were slack and empty like those of an embalmed corpse. Hao had called the creature she was summoning the Dread Lord Chayot. A being born of sacrifice and vengeance.
Isobel’s brother’s clothes hung in tatters that had almost become shroud-like in their ruination. The wounds his body had suffered, both before and after death, were still visible but had become filled in with a kind of watery solidity that refracted and churned.
No matter how much she stared Isobel couldn’t place the color of the substance occupying the body It reminded her of something chemical- like liquid mercury.
“Warren?” Isobel said. She knew it wasn’t him but she couldn’t help herself.
Dread Lord Chayot stopped in front of Isobel and regarded her indifferently; regarded her with eyes thick with veins the color of tarnished silver.
“This is Isobel,” Hao explained as she joined them, “you must protect her.”
“I am not a protector,” Chayot said.
Hao shook a finger, “Her survival is part of my revenge. You will rescue the Monarchs’ prisoners and then you will kill the one called Piers Sauno. The one born of persuasion.”
Chayot nodded with understanding.
More gunfire, growing closer. A thin buzzing had filled the air, a sound that reminded Isobel of a summer afternoon thick with the songs of cicadas. Hao turned her gaze to the old Vlodek, her one eye was familiar, the other the color of moonlight.
Everyone’s eyes have changed. Isobel thought, Everyone but mine. Unless being bloodshot counts.
“And you Sig,” Hao said, “you know what you have to do.”
At that the wounded Vlodek turned and bounded away.
“Just us now,” Hao said.
The buzzing sound was growing closer. Isobel felt her gut twist, the automatic pistol felt heavy and cold in her hand.
The Dread Lord Chayot stepped in front of the women, tendrils of the strange tarnished silver substance began to drip from its hands.
Isobel asked, “What is that?”
“It’s me,” the Dread Lord answered plainly.
“Let’s get moving,” Hao started walking. Chayot followed.
For a crazy moment Isobel was sure she wouldn’t be able to move, that all she would be able to do was fall to her knees.
But then she thought, Galen needs me, and that was enough..
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Price Breaks and Heartaches
A journal of retail and failed romance
Paper Hearts And A Red Haired Tart
Of course Kevin K. Hanson’s crew wasn’t the only friends I had. There was my D&D group but spending my afternoons pretending to be a dwarven level 12 fighter was starting to lose its appeal. I wanted girls, I wanted my glory days to begin, I wanted wine and roses instead of soda and Cheetos.
...there was a dragon in the dungeon, at least that was what the legend said. The semi-noble, mostly famous adventurers known as the Swashbuckling Fellowship had decided to venture into the vast system of tunnels and traps in search of treasure.
“After all,” Thad the dwarf commented as he lead his companions through the catacombs, “what else is there to do in this lousy kingdom? It isn’t like there is any political intrigue, notable individuals with any kind of personality or even a viable economic system. Even the weather seems to be completely random and nonsensical...”
... “I swear to God Al,” Adrian glared at me from behind his Dungeon Master’s Screen, “all you do is complain.”
“I am just saying, that this could be so much better,” we were in Adrian’s parent’s basement as usual. There were new Boris Vallejo posters on the wall but the same old stains on the carpet. We sat in rickety chairs around an equally rickety card table. If you leaned something was going to come crashing down. “We’re supposed to be role-playing, this is like a computer game.”
“Interesting talk,” Daniel said, “coming from the guy that can’t afford a computer.”
That was a very interesting and clever observation so I told him, “Shut up.”
“Can we just get going here? I’d like the last game before I head off for basic training to be a little more fun,” Gordon shifted uncomfortably in his seat and then pitched over to the left, “GAAAAAA!”
“Are you sure you want to go through with joining the Marines?” I asked.
Harry looked up from the Doctor Who novelization he was reading and then buried his nose in the book again.
Gordon righted his chair and sat gingerly back down, “This is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. I want to join the Marines and then work my way into special forces. The SEALS could use a guy like me.”
“Uh,” I said, “I don’t think you’ve got that quite right. The SEALS are...”
“Don’t,” Daniel silenced me with a gesture, “just don’t.”
“We’ve all tried already.”
...the battle with the hobgoblins left the Swashbuckling Fellowship bloodied but unbowed. Thad the dwarf cleaned his blade and surveyed the dank dungeon hallway, “I think we’ve lost our bearings again.”
“I thought dwarves had big bonuses,” Chemlar the elven thief’s voice became a scream has a level of experience was burned away, “Nooooooo! Not the piano lessons!”
Bruce the ranger shook his head pityingly, “What are these ‘bonuses’ you speak of? Is it some kind of elven metaphor for a penis?”
“Oooo,” Thad said, “I like the sound of that.”
“Yes, that’s what I meant,” Chemlar said expectantly.
“This way!” the Wizard With No Name pointed back the way they had come. He tossed his fifteen foot multicolored scarf over his shoulder and started walking.
The other’s shrugged and followed but Thad wondered aloud, “When did he get that?”...
... “I just thought it would be cool,” Harry K looked up from his copy of Doctor Who And The Giant Robot, “I like to imagine my character looking like Tom Baker.”
“Last week you said he looked like Merlin from Excalibur,” Daniel snorted with disgust and crossed his arms. Somehow this caused his seat to topple over, “EEEEEEEEEEE!”
“Guys!” Adrian stood and leaned on the table, “Be careful with the damn chairs-”
And it was at that point the table flipped over...
...the tremors stopped as suddenly as they had begun. Dirt fell from the stone roof but it held. The members of the Swashbuckling Fellowship stepped away from the walls they had thrown themselves against- all of them save for the Wizard with no name, he hadn’t moved. In fact, he was still standing casually in the middle of the passage and studying his book.
“I don’t think we’re even close to the dragon,” Chemlar said, “let’s go back to the town.”
“No way!” Bruce the ranger said, “I’m here for an adventure, not to twiddle my thumbs while you try to steal everything that isn’t nailed down.”
“You guys could help.”
“How?” Thad asked, “It’s not like we’re double classed... oops!”
Arcs of power bled from the dwarf in a kind of agonizing reverse Quickening, leaving him a sobbing, urine-stained wreck. “Really?” Thad said in disbelief, “I soiled myself?”
“Who soiled themselves?” the Wizard With No Name looked up from the tome he was reading.
Once the dwarf had cleaned out his armor the band of adventurers began marching again. Their path took them across more and more hobgoblins that they dispatched with a combination of swordplay and magic- assuming the wizard was paying attention of course.
Just as they were about to give up hope they found the first real signs that they were getting closer to their goal, yet it was also a terrible setback...
... “A dragon turd blocking the hallway?” I said, “Really?”
“Really,” Adrian insisted.
Bruce had been looking at his character sheet, “How the hell are we going to get past it? Can we climb over it?”
“Too slippery,” Adrian laughed fiendishly.
I wasn’t done complaining, “Pee and poop. Is this what the game as come to?”
“Bitch. Bitch. Bitch. I should call you Bitchy Bruno.”
Daniel grinned, “Bitchy Bruno! I love it!”
“We should dig a tunnel through it.” Harry K suggested.
“Ew!” Daniel said, “My character is too cool for that.”
I looked back down at the sloppy map we had made to trace our route through the dungeon, “Maybe we can double back.’
Now it was Daniel’s turn to laugh fiendishly, “I have a better idea...”
...before anyone realized what he was doing Chemlar pulled the potion of mind control from the Wizard With No Name’s back pack and took a gulp. Mystical power flowed through him, “Now I command you Thad to burrow through that dragon turd.”
“You assho-” the dwarf began to say but then all resistance faded from his features, “Eep.”
The other members of the Swashbuckling Brotherhood watched him start digging with cruel glee, disgust or disinterest.
“Eep,” Thad the dwarf said as he pawed doglike through the muck. Occasionally he would come across the bone of an unlucky adventurer or hobgoblin and toss it aside, “eep.”
Finally the ranger had seen enough, “All right, that does it! I’m going to put a stop to this.”
“Oh hey Bruce,” the Wizard With No Name said as another mind control potion was pulled from his pack.
Mystical energy flowed through Bruce The ranger and he said, “I command you Thad the dwarf to throw crap at Chemlar!”
“Oop,” the dwarf did as he was ordered. He grabbed a fist full of dragon poop and sent it flying at the elven thief.
Chemlar’s lightning fast reflexes saved him from a face full of feces but some of the brown muck landed on his feet. His features, much like his boots, darkened. He took another drink of his mind control potion and ordered the dwarf, “Lick my boots clean!”
Not one of the members of the Swashbuckling Brotherhood noticed the five Neo-otyugh drawing closer and licking their foul lips...
...as you can imagine things went downhill from there and our characters died once again. Gordon started packing up his books and papers, “This was the worst game ever.”
“It certainly left a bad taste in my character’s mouth,” I said with a shudder.
“Not my fault you guys are such crappy players,” Adrian tried to sound smug as he crossed his legs but doing so caused his chair to fall over, “GAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!”
I helped him up, “Well I think we were doing fine until Daniel started screwing around.”
“I was not screwing around! I was playing my alignment!” Daniel banged his fist on the table for emphasis, causing it to collapse spectacularly.
“Well,” Gordon said, “this is it for me for a while anyway. I’ll try to come by after I finish basic training.”
Harry K finally put his book down, “Yeah. Good luck and everything.”
“Yeah, good luck,” Adrian said dismissively, “and now I have to find a new player.”
“I’m going to have to bow out of the game for a while too,” I explained.
“I’m starting college,” I said, “and a new job.”
Adrian wrinkled his nose, “Hey! I’m working, going to school and getting more pussy than you’ve ever dreamed about.”
“I dunno about that, I can dream a lot.”
“Anyway...” Gordon took this moment to shake each of our hands, “I figure I’ll finish basic training early. I’ve been practicing my push ups and reading Mac Bolan novels.”
I cleared my throat, “I don’t think...”
“Don’t,” Daniel silenced me with a gesture, “it’s not worth it.”