Chapter 11: Breakfast and company

Hello dear readers

Chapter 11 of Lead Heart is up, please enjoy!

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Leliana grabbed Antros’ hand and let him haul her up.

“C’mon kid, let’s get this room picked up. If you thought the hooligans were tenacious, wait ’til you see aunty Em get fired up.”

They shared a laugh under a withering gaze and set to work putting things in order. Shattered wood to the fire pits, bodies tossed to the gutter, bandages for the cuts and scrapes, and boiled water for the bloodstains.

“I must say, I’m a little impressed. The only injuries in that entire raid were to you and the idiots with the window.” He looked thoughtful a moment, “The gutter trash too, I guess. They had it coming.”

Leliana smiled. “Thanks. Never doubted myself. There weren’t enough of ’em.”

“Seriously though. Where’d you train? I’d be interested to pay them a visit sometime. Or at least know if I need to worry about more of you.”

She looked away. “Er.” Then brightened, raising a finger “monks in the icy mountains. They raised me and sent me out to complete my training.”

She bowed.

He stared.

“C’mon, that’s a good one. My mentor guided my training until the day I beat him, and he set me out on the world.” Leliana mimed a series of what she imagined to be exotic fighting stances.

“There are no monks in the icy mountains, I’ve been through there a hundred times.” He stopped scrubbing blood to wave questioningly.

“Well of course. Masters of stealth, we are. You’d probably never see them if you walked right through the village.” Leliana nodded.

They paused to provide some details to the police who’d made their way around. The officers promised Em to have the corpses picked up by dawn, but ler her know they likely didn’t have the manpower for a full investigation.

“Fine, gentlemen. Thank you for your time.” She slid one of the deadbolts home, then stopped and looked to the gaping window and sighed. “Thank you Antros. This place is as good as it’s going to get tonight, go on home and get some rest. And you,” she eyed Leliana. “You’re the only one who paid for a room and didn’t run into the night, so I suppose you can take your pick.”

Antros hopped out the broken window to the streets below, calling over his shoulder. “Meet me here tomorrow at noon then, I’ll give you an introduction to the cap at least. Remember, you’d be stuck with me and some dirty sailors in close quarters for weeks.”

Leliana turned to head upstairs, almost knocking over Em in the process. “Ah! Woops, sorry. I uh..”

Ahem

“My thanks girl. Ye kept a lot o’ people safe tonight, whatever the reason. I reckon it’ll be some time before I see another full house, but least I can do is put you up for the night.” Em flipped a coin Leliana’s way and headed presumably to her own room. Leliana considered the coin for a moment. One she hadn’t seen before, a woman’s face made of gold set into a flat silver disk.

“Wait, I-”

Slam

Too late. What even was this? Ah well, it was pretty cool at least. She dragged herself up the stairs, trudged through the first door she came to, and was asleep before she hit the pillow.

***

The next morning, Leliana groggily sipped a strong tea with milk and honey while Em busied herself readying the days’ meals. She burnt her tongue in surprise when the door slammed open behind her.

“Hello lovelies! I ‘eard this was a grand place for a bite and a fight. Tell me, am I right?” An unshaven monster of a man bounded through the doorway spouting some odd poetry, spinning on one heel at the end and stopping with a flourish.

Leliana stared.

“Pay no heed to the thespian dears, it only encourages him. Is your kitchen open yet mum? I’m starved like you wouldn’t believe.” A busy woman, curly black hair threatening to engulf her at any moment, hurried into the common room and plunked down at Em’s bar. The big guy moved behind her, but Leliana caught him stealing glances her way.

Aunt Em pulled the woman into a big hug, “Jovi, how wonderful to see you! Breakfast is just finished, let me take care of that one first.” She plopped a bowl of sweetened oats and milk heaped with fruit onto Leliana’s table, then retreated to the kitchen and did the same for the newcomer.

“Oh thank the almighty, you’re a dear Em. Can you get my friend one? A triple, he can eat all day.” Jovi and Em gossiped over the counter while the big guy practically inhaled more food than Leliana had ever seen someone eat at one sitting.

Her attention wandered, sipping at the tea and cereal in front of her. She made some tentative plans for the day. Definitely needed to swing back around to that candy shop, money was tight but priorities were priorities. Also-

A huge face slowly materialized over her shoulder.

She stared into his eyes. “….Hello.”

“What’s your name?” He jabbed her a couple times with a giant finger.

“Excuse me,” she chimed to the chatting women. “I think your thespian is touching me. Can you, uh, call him off?” She thought about just elbowing the wind out of him, but that felt a little like kicking a dog or something. She wasn’t a monster.

“Ah, sorry about that. He gets like this when he sees someone he likes. Gib, hands to ourselves please.” The tired woman turned back around without a second thought.

Ugh.

He raised his hands as high as they’d go and sat opposite her at the table. “I’m Gib, I’m a real big guy. My friend likes me to go places and carry big stuff. I’m real good at carrying big stuff. I could carry you too probably, you want me to try?”

He didn’t even pause for breath. What the.

“Hi Gib. I don’t like being carried, but I’ll bet you could.”

He sat up straighter, wiggling his hands at the tops of his arms.

“You bet I could! What’s your favorite color? What do you like to eat? Have you ever been to Melgrave? They have amazing chocolate!” A torrent of words washed over Leliana as she accidentally opened the floodgates. An amusing way to finish breakfast.

“Mmhmm. yeah. Oh. Okay. Yeah I like pink, but my favorite is-”

Clink

Leliana’s hand gripped a small arm as a squeal hit the air. She raised a small boy up by the arm, plucked her coin from his fingertips, and put him down. She stared through narrowed eyes as the flustered boy backed up a few paces, and bolted through the door.

“-and I threw him over the rail. HA! Hahaha!” Gib wrapped up a story, gesticulating wildly as the door slammed.

The big-haired lady took the seat next to Gib.

“Leliana, I presume?” She offered a hand while the big guy crossed his arms.

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Chapter 8: Tears

Hello internet friends

I’ve got chapter 8 of Lead Heart for you, drop me a line if you have any comments!

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The sizzling of burning flesh tickled the still night.

The cries of his new victim were delicious and he felt tingly all over. Sadly, this one was broken now. The acid finally too deep in its own hunger.

A skeletal shadow rose to its full height in the darkness between two buildings and flung its head like a wet dog. He wiped his eyes on the dead guys’ shirt and lumbered out into the road and back home.

The trip through the poors was as melancholy as ever. His giddy smile dwindled after just a few minutes, slumping into a grimace as a waft of sick bodies hit his nose.

Disgusting.

He tripped over something…some*one* in the street and the dog gnawing its former owner growled up at him. His nostrils flared, lashing savagely, kicking the dog in the face and stomping the body on the ground. Stupid, sniveling, rat-infested excuse of humanity. He was beyond this, beyond *them*. How dare they force him to live in destitute poverty. Grrr.

His grimace curled into a feral sneer as he opened the door to the crumbling shack. He resisted the pulse inside him that wanted to rip the rotten door apart and set everything on fire.

He closed his eyes.

Breath in.

Breath out.

Footsteps.

“Hey Babyface, er, boss, you feeling okay?”

He snarled, wrestling with himself, before flashing his underling a crooked smile. “Hahahaha. I’m fantastic Kay, fantastic. Thank you.” Was he still growling? He unclenched his jaw. “Has Harley brought me anything since I’ve been gone?” He stepped into the small candlelight, pale skin aglow. The itch under his eyes was unbearable. His eyelids twitched.

“Um, not yet I’m afraid. He said he had a good feeling tho-”

“I DON’T CARE ABOUT HIS FEELINGS.”

Breath in.

Breath out.

He closed his eyes.

“Forgive me Kay. I understand your brother places a great emphasis on his feelings.”

He opened his eyes, unclenched his jaw.

He smiled, though his voice still trembled.

“You know how I get when I want something, I just can’t control it sometimes.” He hefted his hands apologetically. His breathing came quick and ragged and his hands curled slowly inward. “The mutt took our brothers, Kay. He took the money. He took everything from us. We can’t allow this Kay. We can’t let him get away with this.”

His eyes blurred again, his smile trembled.

“We can’t just let this monster run free Kay.”

He felt the tears burning the whites of his eyes.

“I can’t let myself rest easy until I BURN HIS EYES FROM THEIR SOCKETS AND EAT HIS DISGUSTING MUTT BRAINS WHILE HE CRIES LIKE A BABY DASHED ON THE WALL” The small room echoed the screeching into his own ears. He felt the scabs on his cheeks being dissolved by the freed tears. Tasted copper as blood oozed out of his chapped lips. Rage exploded when he caught the fear in his subordinates’ eyes.

After all they’d been through this little bastard was still afraid. Everything they’d shared together. How dare he. How dare he.

“Do you WANT TO BE FRIGHTENED KAY. DO YOU NEED SOMETHING-”

A ragged gasp tore from Kay as he unsuccessfully dodged a long swipe. He tore at the bloody fingertips biting into his wrist, but those hands were like iron.

Babyface forced Kay onto the ground, face-up. Gibbering incoherently, he pinned him down with misshapen hands and knees. Kay was gasping, averting his eyes. Where were the others?

A drop wet his cheek. White, hot fire seared nerves as the skin was eaten away.

Drip. Drip.

The smell of his own flesh cooking.

The door to the small room slammed open. A thick boot lowered to the ground as the newcomer entered the room calmly. “Boss. Get off Kay.”

Blood, acid and his own real tears mingled on the dirt floor as Kay wept openly. His brother’s appearance elicited both relief and shame, and he squirmed out of Babyface’s disgusting hands. He fled to the interior of the house.

“Kay, I’m so sorry. Kay forgive your big brother. Kay do yoU HEAR ME!” Babyface trembled violently as the young man scrambled away, but Babyface didn’t follow. He knew Harley wouldn’t let him kill that little-

“Boss. Get control of yourself”

Babyface’s sickly limbs curled under him as wracking sobs rocked him. He shrieked and sobbed and choked on his own blood. Finally, the room fell silent.

“I already brought you something to play with tonight, boss B. Why are you hurting Kay.” Harley moved slowly and dabbed the open wounds on the scarred face.

“He was looking at me like I was a freak Harley. I’m not a freak. I’m not a freak.” His voice thick with emotion as he repeated himself over and over.

“Kay doesn’t think you’re a freak big guy, he looks up to you. We all do. You can’t hurt people who look up to you, we’re your family.” Harley kept the irritation out of his voice, but he was thankful the other man was still closing his eyes. “Alright, we’re back buddy. You got this, you’re ready.”

“Ready for what?” The tall figure rose up to his full height and shook his head like a wet dog. The pitted wall gained a few more holes as his tears splattered and hissed. His eyes opened wide. “Did you find him. Did you find the monster that broke my pets.”

“I just watched him walk into the Cakewalk Inn on the other side of town. I left some guys to tail him if he left but they ain’t gonna touch him. They know he’s yours. Let’s go get him, huh?”

Seven feet of pale, scarred flesh hopped on two feet, giggling giddily. “Let’s go, let’s go, LET’S GO!”

Chapter 5: Camping

Lazy smoke curled around the campsite as Leliana’s eyes slid lazily down. She slumped a bit and then jerked up, slapping at her cheeks to help wake up.

“Smoking meat is so boring, ugh, why does it taste so good.”

Three of the legs she’d swiped from the tiger the day before hung from a makeshift wooden rack to dry and smoke so she didn’t have to waste any. The last one had been devoured, having been the first meat she’d seen in months. She stood to yawn and stretch, jumping a bit as the fire crackled behind her.

Dammit fire.

The dense forest was a cacophony of freaky noises as it turned out. She almost wished something would show up to fight just so she could stop jumping at her own shadow. Well the campfire seemed to keep most of the irritating things at bay for now, so she tried to relax. She cast her eyes around for something to do. The small pile of debris next to the dead tree she’d used as a chair reminded her that she already crafted as many sniper shots as she had material for, another 10 or so. It wasn’t a lot, but she didn’t need a lot.

She ran her hands across her pockets briefly, and discovered a shattered glass tube in a small leather pouch fitted to her belt. Well scrap, there went the last antidote she’d taken from the lab. With an irritated sigh, Leliana realized it was about time to try her luck in town to refresh some supplies. Hopefully a small town. Bigger cities were cheaper by far, and had access to more variety, but that convenience was nestled among too many police for her taste. The only “family” she’d ever had used her as a convoy guard during their regular trips to the nearest towns, and the police were by far the worst part of the trip, pushing and shoving and demanding her about while the quartermaster sat in a steambuggy lying about on pillows. Well, okay they were all bastards.

Though, she recalled the disgruntled mercenary earlier and his…advice? Being a muscle for hire would probably be pretty easy money. It was probably more likely to find that kind of work in the bigger towns. More people, and more need. Though in her experience, a lot of people underestimated just what she could do based on her outward appearance., so she may not even find any buyers. Antros’ bulging muscles, scarred eyes and gravelly voice probably got him all kinds of work.

 

Then again. If she were still in reach of the facility, she couldn’t afford that kind of leisure.

She’d run for a week after she slipped out, and had kept moving the same direction ever since. The mountainous path was her best bet due to the limited driving space for the buggy, meaning they’d have to follow on foot. Not many people back there would expend the effort of walking on their own legs, not while they could invent something to do the work for them.

Leliana snorted and laid her dirty blonde head on the now-empty bag. It smelled like crap, but at least the sand from the river had done a good job removing the viscous blood.

Come to think of it, she could probably dye her hair with blood, would that just make her smell like a snack out here though? She felt herself drifting, crackling fire and the buzz of the insects dragging her into unconsciousness.

Lelianas eyes snapped open after the cracking of a twig all too close.

The cold remains of the fire and the ever so slight brightening of the sky hinted at the time passed while she slept. The crisp air felt good and she filled her lungs quietly, holding it in for a second before jumping off her back into a crouch. The atmosphere was pleasant, the early morning birds chirping and a slight breeze rustling the canopy above was normally a nice wake-up.

The guttural growl behind her, however, THAT wasn’t her favorite.

Frozen in place, she slowly formed a plan, casting her eyes around the vicinity and making a checklist.

Knife? Check, she couldn’t sleep without it.

Something for cover? This big log she was using as a chair seemed fine. Check.

She heard up a faint scuffle as whatever it was eased forward in the tall grass beyond the clearing. Nerve to fight off a scary forest monster?

That was a negative.

Clawed feet scraped against rock as the animal leaped from its hiding place, carving a jagged gash in the soil she’d been sitting on moments ago. She felt the breeze of the swipe against the nape of her neck, heard the snapping jaws as it tried grabbing onto her while she darted away. Leliana tucked the blade in her left hand safely under her arm, vaulting over the fallen tree and turning just enough to toss her throwing knife from a vest pocket before raising the knife as she landed. The knife dug into the terrifyingly close face of a gigantic black cat, which halted its charge and sprang back in surprise. The panther had gorgeous, jade-green eyes and narrowed, slit pupils looking hungrily through her. A line of sharp, bony spikes dotted its spine through the velvety black coat, which itself looked clean and smooth.

The clean coat was bad sign for her. This one was either too young to know when to back off, or good enough at killing not to care who it went after.

She kept the 30-inch blade between them, the log protecting her lower half. The cat was pacing on the other side, waiting for a gap in her defenses to open up. Though, that didn’t seem quite right. It wasn’t advancing or prowling or stalking, it was just walking back and forth…directly between her and the smoked elk legs hanging over the fire.

“Ohhh, that’s what you want.” She giggled and stood a little straighter. This slag sucking-

Swapping the knife to the other hand, she took a few steps back and plucked one of the newly made bullets she made yesterday. The barbed point stuck out an inch or two from the tip of the narrow, 5-inch bullet. Hopefully this cat had never been stung by the giant fire wasps further south and this was going to be a big surprise, enough at least to run it off. She made a mental note not to throw all her weapons away or have them stolen in the future.

Her grip tightened on each weapon, and her stocky frame launched over the fallen tree. “No! Bad kitty!”

A feral hiss set her hair on end, but therewas no way she was giving up this much meat. She caught a heavy paw with the flat edge of the knife, deflecting those sharp claws away from her face once, but was forced to retreat as two new swipes breezed by less than an inch from her eyes. She feinted in and jumped back, leaving a deep cut between two clawed toes. The scariest sound she’d ever been subjected to leapt from the cats’ mouth and she went on the defensive under an angry onslaught. She wouldn’t have called it holding her own, but she did manage to just avoid a brutal death by mauling as she slipped out from under leap after leap of a snarling hellbeast.

She ducked right again and again, the panther seemingly getting faster each time, until they were actually just running in a circle. She sliced at it with her own blade, cleanly cutting the air as the cat let the swing go by.

Those beautiful green eyes watched the sharp knife in her right hand as she hefted the rifle round in her left, then chucked it as hard as she could. Barbed wasp stinger pierced deep into its left eye as it turned back to face her and the cat went wild. Spitting and clawing and screaming in a fit to dislodge the bullet.

Leliana bound behind the dead tree to avoid the maelstrom of murder going to town on the campsite, though she couldn’t help feeling a little bad. The fire wasp venom wasn’t going to kill this big, beautiful hunter, but it sure was going to hurt. Well, it was trying to steal her food, she couldn’t feel that bad. The panther probably got to eat meat everyday, but it had been months for her. The yowling grew more frantic and panicked, the smoke rack and campfire in shambles, and the leopard smashed through the thick underbrush as it fled.

That was a lot of noise and blood she just threw out into the wilderness, and she had learned that to be a good way to meet new friends. Friends with teeth and claws and appetites. The sun was basically up, so it was time to go. She tossed the weapons where they belonged and crammed the legs into the bag, sealing it tight. A once-over of the camp confirmed she wasn’t missing anything, she took a step to leave when-

“What the hells!?”

The clearing around her turned black again, just a few seconds before brightening again. She watched a patch of inky blackness move away in confusion, before realizing it was just a huge shadow. Unable to fight the curiosity, Leliana climbed the tallest tree to check it out. She popped out of the canopy and blinked in the early sunlight, eyes adjusting just in time to watch a ship smoothly gliding over the top of a huge hill.

A ship? What the FU

Time for Triple S (short story Saturday)

Hi team, Kris here

My amazing wife hung out with the silly six year old so I could hurry and finish this story she definitely stole and I hadn’t lost earlier this week. I’ve been working on an RPG system that I can use to play some steampunk games with and I had to get the flying airship out of my system somehow before that’s done! Not as much of a kids read as there are some “bad” words, but it’s not too bad.

The Nightwatch
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Mando’s vision blurred as his eyes sank backward. Hand slipping from its perch, his knees finally gave way and he collapsed.

Face-first into his undisturbed cup of coffee. Steaming black liquid catapulted into his face right as his jaw made contact with the wooden floorboards.

“AAH! OWWW!”
“AHAHAHA”

Mando rolled around the floor clutching his burning face while his partner doubled over laughing, nearly losing his grip on the ladder. The old man gave the wooden floor a hearty punch to distract his mind from his face. “Leeroy you bastard, don’t just stand there and watch!” He removed his greasy shirt and was fanning his face to cool it. Thankfully he’d finally gotten around to shaving.

“Ha! Watch? You’re lucky the coffee did it this time. After the captain’s reaming I took by myself this morning I was about this close to nailing your ass to the nest so you didn’t sleep all night again.” Leeroy’s rippling muscles sprang him lightly onto the platform from the ladder as he glared daggers through the smaller man.

Mando didn’t believe the uptight youth would actually nail him to the tall lookout platform, but sometimes there were risks in life it was best not to argue with. “What’s the big deal? It’s the first time this week don’t be such a-”

“It’s the FIRST day of the week!”

The two watchmen growled at each other a few minutes longer, exchanging accusations and lame excuses.

“Why are you even up this late? I thought you went to bed before the children to get your beauty sleep.” The older man glowered at his peer while sucking on what was left of the bitter brew from his cup.

“You’d go to bed at a reasonable time too old man, if you weren’t sleeping through every shift.” The young man hopped to his feet and went through a brief but vigorous workout to help him wake up. “The geezer said we almost hit a mountain last night, woke up to a goat staring at him through the window. Took me off days and told me to babysit your ass all night.”

Mando chuckled at the mental picture but then frowned. He’d expected to have been taken off the night watch eventually for his neglegent behavior, not to be put in the command of a young punk with a try-hard attitude.

“What about Cow? How many people really need to watch a boat drift along at night?”

Leeroy hopped up to the spotlight above them and shone it into the blackness. Twinkling waves reflected up from the choppy waters far below, but all else was still. “CAL,” he began, emphasizing the pilot’s name, “was relocated to the AM so they could yell at him all day. Honestly you two picked a helluva time to drink yourselves under. Cap abandoned the job since we were too far off to make any money, we’re going to see if we can get some value at the flats instead.”

Mando’s grizzled face broke into grin as he was filled in. “Serves you all right. I’m a poor old man, I need comfort food and soft women to live out my twilight.”

Leeroy thumped onto the deck next to the hatch. “You’re a lazy middle-aged has-been with no useful skills, you can at least watch for danger while the rest of us sleep. If I get back from checking the rounds and you’re asleep I’m throwing you overboard old man. Maybe over the water.” He tossed the hatch up a bit and slid through it, forgoing the slowness of the ladder to drop the 15 feet soundlessly. He made a quick survey of the gauges on the bridge and compared the course log against their current speed and direction. They all looked fine, but he needed physical activity if he was going to survive working these hours.

Running slowly along the deck, each of the float fans was checked for noise and friction meticulously. Leeroy rigged himself to the balloon cage – a series of interwoven thick ropes securing the thick, gas filled balloon that provided most of their buoyancy – and climbed around it looking for holes and checking the patches already in place.

He paused for a few minutes to stand atop the massive inflated balloon to relax. Standing alone in the blackness, twinkling stars overhead. Nothing but the sounds of the wind almost therapeutic swish of the rotors. This was the most peaceful place he could think of during the day, but he never imagined it could be so tranquil overnight. He breathed the night air and let his body relax, just for a minute.

Sighing, he shimmied his way to the fore of the elongated balloon to spy on his counterpart. The old man sullenly stared into the darkness and sipped from a flask, laying over the rail to stay awake. Alright, time to get back to work before I have to make good on that promise. Leeroy quickly made his way to the deck below and finished the above-deck checks. Snapping a glowstick, he descended into the inky blackness of the ballast hold at the very bottom of the ship. Giant, steam pressured tanks all registered an even weight except the few at the fore of the ship. They were a bit heavy so the ship was probably moving faster than they should overnight; he went ahead and leaked the tanks back into the main so the ship would lose a bit of forward momentum over time.

Perfect.

His footsteps rang hollowly as he climbed the wooden ladder to the crow’s nest again. Might as well make peace with the old guy if they were going to be stuck together. Might be able to talk him into doing something useful if he were promised an early release, who knew? Leeroy’s head peeked through the hatch slowly, expecting the slumped figure of a sleeping old bastard. No?

Twisting his head this way and that, Leeroy expected for a moment for Mando to leap out and try surprising him, but the leap never came. “Mando? Where you at buddy?” He hopped up into the spotlight seat to check it out, but the night was silent. “Good one man, where’d you get to hiding?” This old son of a… Probably fell asleep and fell out of the nest. Ha, good. Except there’d been no impact, no screaming.

Leeroy finished sweeping the parts of the deck he could reach with the bright light and gave up. The glowstick had a good few minutes left of usable light left so he whipped it out and started looking in the usual napping spots. Not in his bed, not in someone else’s bed, not under the wheel. Hmmm. The old man was getting creative.

“Damn useless garbage.” He tossed the dim glowstick overboard, doing his best not to stomp while crossing the ship to get another. Useless glowsticks. Useless crewmates. Next thing he knew one of the damn float fans woul-

WOOSH

The two fans at the fore of the ship suddenly spun-up madly, jerking the front of the ship upward.

“I take it back!” Leeroy scrambled for a handhold to keep his footing and raced back to the entrance of the ballast hold. He snapped three glowsticks and grabbed an oil lamp, wedging himself into a corner to maintain his balance and hit the wick with a striker. Bursting into a strong yellow glow, the lamp lit quickly. Luckily the ship seemed to have stabilized in angle, but it still made walking difficult. Leeroy ran to the stairs and damn near fell headfirst down them over the unexpected body he kicked in front of the first step.

“Mando? What the hell are you doing!” Setting the lamp carefully to the side, he shook the old man ferociously. The thought of tripping down the stairs and the lamp oil scattering everywhere. The entire ship burning up with the sleeping crew inside. He successfully did not hit his unconscious partner, but it certainly wasn’t off the table. “I’m putting you up for auction the second we hit the flats you forsaken mother of-”

The light of the glowstick twinkled off a stream running down the stairs and caught him short. In a panic he grabbed the lamp to keep the flames away from the stream of oil before he realized he was an idiot – the dark stream was on the far side of the old man from the lamp, there’s no way leaking oil could….Blood? He grabbed Mando and checked for breathing and a pulse. He was alive. His head was gashed in the back and blood was freely running running in a little river down the stairs. Leeroy’s mind raced a moment for the best course of action. The ship came first, he knew.  Mando would have to wait. He rolled the older man into a corner where he wouldn’t slide off into danger and rushed below.

The almost dazzling light of the lamp led him to the ballast hold and he ran to the fore-tanks. Full? He’d just evened these out not thirty minutes ago, there’s no way.

A floorboard creak set his nerves on edge. The flame wavered violently as he about-faced to confront the noise. The eerie quiet of the hold had a different feel than during the day. Almost sinister. He took a few steadying breaths and wiped the sweat from his eyes. First things first he, thought. The hissing steam passed out of the tank with a ghastly screech as it emptied. He reached overhead and did the same to the fan valves, which were similarly set. He let himself fall against the tank as the ship righted, felt the pressure ease up as it slowed.

His narrowed eyes darted as he slowed his breathing and tried to hear something over his drumming heart. Someone on-board had followed him in earlier. Someone had altered these tanks.

There was no way they weren’t staring at him right now.

Leeroy tossed a glowstick to where he’d heard the sound a minute ago. Something flashed out of the way just as the small stick bounced off the wall. Coiled muscles reacted and flung him toward the middle of the ship instinctively, hurlng another glowstick ahead of him before he’d realized what was happening. He caught sight of someone jumping out of the way again, further back this time. Leeroy sprinted to the stairs and chucked his last glowstick at the heavy thudding above, bouncing it against the head of whoever was running away.

“Get back here!” Heaving himself up the stairs two at a time, he caught up to the figure as it busted onto the equipment platform, his massive leg smashing them in the back and sprawling them across the floor. “You better have a damn good reason to be down with the tanks, sailor.” Leeroy’s fingertips sizzled as he put out the lamp. He strode across the room.

Rolling to its feet, the shrouded figure threw a tiny ball at his face. Before he could move out of its way his vision flashed, a sound like a mast snapping but a thousand times louder assailed his ears. He cursed as he clutched at his eyes. He’d been flash-banged before, but not at night.

A heavy thud and loud shouting jerked him back to the situation at hand. He swung a tentative fist at the air, keeping the attacker at bay. The sounds were slowly becoming more clear and yet, further away. Looking around the white spot in his vision, he realized he was alone.

Arms flailing, eyes watering, Leeroy felt his way to the main deck. He caught sight of a greasy bundle of clothes rolling about on the floor. His adrenaline-fueled legs shook with every step. He could see Mando now, wrestling with the mystery person for control of long knife that clattered out of reach. The old man’s face was swollen and bleeding as he took punch after punch. Too late the figure heard his approach, its head dragging the body sailing through the air. Leeroy shook his hand in pain, stomping loudly forward in hopes of waking the rest of the crew.

A beautiful face with a huge bruise popped out of the heavy clothing, listing to the side for a second before shaking her head clear. She flung herself to the railing and heaved the rest of the disguise to the ground. Leeroy leaped headfirst and caught a handful of shirt.

“Ah hahaha! This won’t be the last time we meet you beefy mancake.” The silky voice flowed over Leeroy like water.

“Shut your mouth and grab my hand, we can spend some quality time together.” He ground his teeth as he tried getting a better grip, but with a fluid motion, the shirt was cut free and she waved up at him as she was swallowed by the night. The dull snap of cloth in the still air told him a parachute had opened below.

Leeroy grumbled and lumbered over to help Mando to his feet. “You alright old man? You look like hell.”

“Mind your manners whipper snapper, you’d be sprouting knives if not for me!” The old man…smiled? Through the swelling on his face, slobbering all over himself in the process.

“When you’re right you’re right.” Blinking furiously to fix his vision, Leeroy had to admit the lout had probably saved his life. “Don’t let it go to your head, you still got trounced by a girl, after all.”

The two sat in silence. Finally, Leeroy rose.

“Better go wake the geezer, get some rest old man. You definitely need the beauty sleep now.” Leeroy grinned at his partner as the old man guffawed and shambled off to bed.

Kris’s random totally-not-procrastinating blog about a dream

Kris here,

I’m a big fan of scary stuff. Movies and games, stories, creepypastas, SCPs. Not the gory stuff, that’s actually terrible and I hate it, but if you throw me at a spooky world filled with ghosts or monsters lurking beneath, chances are pretty good that I love it. I think it’s because I accidentally watched one of the Poltergeist movies as a 4/5 year old after everyone had fallen asleep. Sitting in the dark listening to some tiny lady talking about some ghosts and go to the light child, it gave me nightmares for about a decade. Which was great!

I’ve actually spent a good while seeking out good nightmare stories on the internet over the years, so if anybody knows a fabulous one, go ahead and throw it my way.

I don’t really mind the scary dreams though, I kind of prefer them. I’ve had a bit of a recurring dream recently. Well, more like a recurring place. I’ve dreamt about this big spooky, dilapidated mansion 5 or 6 times in the last few months – but every time I do, I remember stuff from the last time I was there. Once I even brought Tina for some reason, and she was like “oh well we have to bring Nik” and dream Kris was like “are you crazy this place is haunted we can’t bring a 6 year old!” Obviously we did bring him and he gets lost and I wake up while my dream haunted mansion slams a door in my face with Nik on the other side.

Thanks dream, I really like a good adrenaline rush to get going in the morning.

For anyone out there like me, surrounded by people who hate being scared, here are some classic fallbacks I recommend:

http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/Anasi’s_Goatman_Story – This one might be hard to read if you’re not a fan of the greentext style, or the more casual (read: bad words) style of storytelling. I don’t let things like that get in my way but I understand we all have our sensitivities.

http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/The_Smiling_Man – This is a pretty brief story, nothing extravagent but still a good read.

http://www.scp-wiki.net/scp-087 – Man this story is super classic, I’ve read it like 5 times. It’s just fabulous. The entirety of the scp-wiki site could honestly be featured here because there’s a lot of good writing, but not all of it is spoopy and I’ve only read about a hundred or so.

http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/Ted_the_Caver – I don’t have a particular affinity to creepypasta wiki or anything, but it’s a convenient aggregate of stories that I’ve read over the years so why not keep it simple? Ted the caver was such a sinkhole of amazing when I read it a few years ago, I can’t not recommend that everyone just take some time to read the whole thing right now.

Leave a comment and share your favorites, let’s make sure we sleep with the lights on for a week!

That *one* time Kris skipped school to read

Kris here,

Long ago when the world was still young, I attended high school. I was thinking about it recently for one reason or another and I was reminded about the time that I accidentally skipped a week of school to read a couple of books I’d stumbled upon.

Don’t worry, I caught up with my schoolwork. In fact, I’m pretty sure my teachers at the time were relieved for a momentary reprieve.

And yes, my mother did in fact try making me go to school. I told her I was sick and how irresponsible would it be for me to be selfish and go to school. It wasn’t a lie technically, I was sick of not having read those books already.

But I digress.

The books in question were specifically The Belgariad and The Mallorean by David Eddings. I loved the characters’ personalities and conflicts, as well as just the entire everything about Belgarath. I didn’t even actually like the main character of the story for about 80% of the story, but the world was so fleshed out and all the other characters were written so amazingly. I didn’t necessarily hate the MC, more along the lines of him just being so underwhelming next to everyone else.

Okay yeah he was like 15 or whatever and my favorite character was a thousands-of-years-old sorcerer who literally drove the direction of the world. I guess I have to give him a year or two to mature before he fits in with his traveling companions of sorcerers and royalty.

Now that I’m older and better read, I’m able to recognize the hilarious number of tropes and cliches written into that story so brazenly. I’m almost positive Eddings sat down one day thinking, “I bet I could just mash together every fantasy stereotype and everyone would buy it. I’m not going to even hide it, fight me world.” He made it work, so I can’t complain.

The story itself revolves around a kid named Garion who lives with his aunt Pol on a farm for a decade and a half or so. One day a super important orb is stolen by the evil main character to awaken the evil god and we all gotta go stop it. The journey is long and dangerous and explores the world in question through some pretty diverse backgrounds. It’s also one of the first stories I read that spans a time of years, instead of everything happening quickly and immediately.

It isn’t an in-depth, complex look at humanity or anything like that; good guys are GREAT, bad guys literally sacrifice to their god by cutting the hearts from living victims. So the bad guys are BAD. There’s a prophecy and some interactions with a few gods and all in all, it was amazing. I recommend it whole-heartedly for any fantasy fan. It’s a bit of a lengthy read, but I’m not sure why that would put a damper on anyone.

I actually started reading the series to my 5 year old for a week or two before remembering that, oh right – there are some pretty descriptive death and murder scenes written in. Nothing gory or crazy, but almost guaranteed to give the child nightmares for a while. I had to give up on it for now, but we’ll resume in a few years.

In which Kris reads children’s books

Kris here,

It’s been a while since I talked about something I liked reading instead of rambling on about writing every week. I figured this week I’d talk about The Ranger’s Apprentice. This is actually a pretty recent series as far as stuff I’ve read goes – I read it a few years ago, but it was just published less than 20 years ago! Okay it’s not that new, but a lot of the books I like to revisit frequently were all written in the 70’s, 80’s and..well the 1800’s. I’m into older stories you could say.

The Ranger’s Apprentice I believe has a target demographic of something like 9-14 year olds, so I actually just read the first book to make sure it was alright for my then 6 year old and whether I could keep it around to read Nik at bedtime. Five or six books into the series and I’m thinkin’ “wow this is pretty good” – as evidenced by the fact that it took me about 3 days to read each book. The writing is surprisingly easy to digest for something written for such a young age; to be fair, when I was 10 I read Animorphs, Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe and Dragonlance. So I guess kids aren’t as bad at reading as all that.

I don’t want to spoil the actual story here, they’re relatively short and easy to pick up, but it’s essentially a coming-of-age tale of a young orphan named Will who got picked up as a …Ranger’s Apprentice. And he’s all like “pfsh no way!” and then later he’s like “This is amazing!” Honestly the main character is relatively likeable, but is by far one of my least favorite characters. I don’t hate the guy, I just like all the others better. Especially Halt, which is the “Ranger” part of the series title. He’s a rough guy who knows how and when to help, and he fills in my need to have a badass dude who can stand up to the evil guys while the smaller good guys are still doing jumping jacks or whatever so they don’t get stomped.

The series romps through a few topics I wasn’t really expecting to see – befriending bullies, beating drug addiction and killing a guy with a longbow arrow through the face, but were written in a way that I’m definitely adding them to the stuff-to-read-Nik list. Check out the first book if you have a few days to read a fun story, I can honestly say my copies are chopped up between physical books and e-books (self-control, what?!) so it’s available in whatever form you need.

Also the wiki says Mr Flanagan originally wrote the story as a way to get his own child into reading – I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but I’m 110% down with that.

(the first book is here)

ruins_of_gorlan
Source: Link

Tina chiming in here,

According to my research, The books have been slated to become a movie and started production in fall of 2016. I have not heard anything new but here is the New York Times article with more information if you want! (Link)