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Tuesday, November 27

Hand of the Master - Conclusion

“Perhaps we all owe our gratitude to you, Kham,” said Beldin. “Jarel has been quite a boon.”

Sebastian nodded in agreement. “He revealed all he knows of the Reavers. Many dwarves are still angry at the Reavers for twice attempting to kill Elabac, but nothing can be done until they are found again.”

“Jarel finally seems to have found peace,” said Beldin. “And what about you, Kham? Did you find what you came to Solanos Mor for?”

Kham took a deep breath. “I wouldn’t call it peace, exactly.”

“What did you find then?” asked Bijoux.

“War,” said Kham, patting the hilt of Fleshripper. “I found war.” [MORE]

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Monday, November 26

NaNoWriMo: Awfully Familiar...50K Done!

Well, I did it, faster than ever before. I finished my 50,000 words. Interestingly enough, although this is the fastest I've ever written 50,000 words, it's also the first time NaNoWriMo ended and I still had so much story to tell. For those of you following along, Scrap eventually escapes Black, goes on a secret mission to steal a key from the Pied Piper (an important plot point), and then ends up in the March of Carabas, where he tangles with an ogre wizard, a phantom cat, a well-troll, and a will 'o the wisp. I only just introduced the well troll.

All that, and Scrap hasn't even gotten to figure out who turned him into a rat yet!

I'll keep on this project, although there's several waiting in line so I'm going to step away from it for now. But just to celebrate, here's the certificate of proof that I wrote 50,000 words. Woohoo!

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Awfully Familiar Update

Switch reared up on his hind legs. "I will not do this."

"Fine, suit yourself." Truth was, I was terrified of being alone in the maze. But I was convinced that I was right. Or at least, that it would give me a leg up on that awful toad of a goblin.

Switch padded off down the corridor. His thin black form got smaller and smaller.

"You'll end up just like the other rat skulls!" I mentally shouted at him. "You ever wonder why there's only skulls left? It's cause they eat your whole body in one gulp!"

Switch turned a corner and then he was gone. I was alone again in the maze.

The silence was awful. I could occasionally hear movement above us on the mesh. Sometimes I heard talking, although I couldn't make it out. I was convinced we were being observed.

Suddenly, Switch's black form was visible around the corner. He was coming back!

I tried not to betray the excitement in my thoughts. "You changed your mind?"

Switch wasn't just padding back towards me -- he was running full tilt. "Run!"

I turned and started running, but Switch was already flying past me. And behind him was Hack, utterly silent with deadly glittering intent in his wide eyes.

Hack looked a lot like Heave, only he was a scarecrow of a goblin. Where Heave had heavy-lidded eyes, Hack's looked as if they had been peeled back permanently. There was no pot-belly on Hack, just a sunken stomach. Hack's long tongue flopped out of his mouth as he ran, trailing saliva. He loped like a gorilla down the corridor on his knuckles, galloping at a pace far faster than I thought goblins could manage.

That was enough to lend speed to my steps. I picked up the pace.

I could hear the heavy footsteps of Hack gaining on us. He was much faster than we thought. Which meant that all along, he had been toying with us.

"We must split up," thought Switch, now running beside me.

"But he'll catch one of us!"

"Find Heave," said Switch. He slowed to a stop at a four way intersection. Hack started panting and giggling as he saw easy prey, an awful combination.

I paused. I couldn't just leave Switch at the mercy of that awful thing. "He'll eat you!"

Switch nodded. "I had no purpose. You do. Find Heave. Beat the Maze."

He slapped at me with his tail. I reflexively jumped backwards, out of Hack's line of sight.

Switch turned to face Hack. Then he ran off in the opposite direction, away from me.

The goblin didn't hesitate. He skidded around the corner, bouncing off of walls, and continued his pursuit.

I was pretty sure I would never see Switch again.

I turned around, determined that Switch's sacrifice not be in vain.

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Saturday, November 24

Hand of the Master - Part 5b: Vengeance is Mine

As the Gem of Sarish’s Oath was set into Fleshripper, it seemed to expand to fill his whole consciousness. The many facets of Kham’s world shattered into a smoky image within.

Through the haze and mist of what he was sure must be centuries, Kham could see a barrel-chested dwarf, his face contorted in rage and hate, his body taut with muscle from years of passionate training and denial. Fleshripper was in his hands.

Before him, hordes of Reavers came, and Fleshripper slew them all. Fleshripper almost glowed with what seemed to be a holy light at is cut through the ranks of the evil Reavers.

The scene became smoky again, and Kham could see the dwarf, surrounded by the bodies of his enemies, finally succumbing to his wounds and falling. A female val walked up to him; Kham was certain she was a paladin.

The paladin kneeled, tears running down her cheeks. She closed the lifeless eyes of the dwarf. Though Kham could not hear her voice, he was certain she was performing last rites.

Then she looked at the last Reaver killed, Fleshripper still impaled in the dwarf’s chest. It had driven a hole through his welded armor. With a look of determination, she took Fleshripper, lifting it high, as it hummed with holy power.

Then the scene became smoky again and Kham was back in Solanos Mor.

”Great,” said Kham. “More baggage.” [MORE]

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Friday, November 23

Game Geeks #35 Delta Green: Eyes Only by Pagan Publishing

I got mine on order, hope it arrives here soon!

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Thursday, November 22

Hand of the Master - Part 5a: Vengeance is Mine

Jarel looked at each of them, then at Elabac. His eyes filled with tears and he threw himself at Elabac’s feet, overcome with grief.

“Forgive me, Master!” he cried. “I see now. I see now what I’ve done!”

Elabac looked at Beldin, Sebastian, and Kham. “We shall have…to do something…about him. He seems… to finally…have discovered…true sorrow…for his wrongs. Perhaps…he could be brought…to Illiir’s light. What do you think…my friends? What shall we do…about Jarel?”

Sebastian frowned. “He betrayed all of us under the guise of repentance.” He avoided looking at Beldin. “He used Solanos Mor’s people against itself and nearly caused a war. If that doesn’t deserve death, I don’t know what does.”

Beldin shook his head. “Illiir is a merciful god. If Jarel wishes for a second chance, then he should have it.”

Elabac turned to look at Kham. “That leaves you…Kham.” [MORE]

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Awfully Familiar Update

"How long have you been in here?" I asked Switch.

"Many cheese shifts," he said.

"You define your whole universe by cheese, huh?"

"Is there anything else?"

I tried not to laugh. "I suppose not."

Switch's attitude had improved since he ate. Though he wasn't much a conversationalist, he was clearly a survivor. A few times he smelled something I didn't and took a detour.

"Why aren't we going that way?"

"Traps," said Switch.

"Traps?" As if this place wasn't bad enough. "What kind of traps?"

"It depends. Blades, mostly."

I squinted. Rat vision was blurry. But there was something metallic and oiled on one side of the wall, in the wood. I slowly moved my whiskers up to it to get a sense of what exactly it was...

A vertical blade sprung out of the wall, slashing downwards with a SHING! Just as quickly as it had come, it retracted into the wall.

One of my whiskers floated slowly to the ground. I hopped backwards.

"Told you," said Switch without rancor.

"Wow, you weren't kidding." I vowed to follow in Switch's footsteps from now on. "Where are we going?"

"To Heave's lair."

I stopped short. "What?"

"Heave's lair," Switch said, twitching his nose. "He moves slow. We can sleep there during a cheese shift."

"By cheese shift, you mean when the cheese gets inserted into the maze?"

"Yes," said Switch. He resumed his sniffing and walking.

"How much time does that buy us?"

"Enough time to rest," he said.

"Why don't we rest in shifts?" I offered. "That way, if one of us smells Heave coming, we can wake the other."

"Fine," said Switch as he turned the corner to the lair. "I will sleep first."

Before I could protest Switch's sudden choice to sleep first, I realized that it didn't matter. I'd be lucky if I would ever sleep again.

There, piled high in Heave's lair, was an enormous hill of rat skulls.

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Wednesday, November 21

Cloverfield Monster Revealed?

Back to one of my favorite subjects, it's looking more and more like we now know what the monster looks like. Basically, there are two major themes we've seen from the trailers: 1) the monster infects people (slow the frame down and watch what happens to the woman's shadow) somehow, and 2) it is tied to a web site called Slusho which involves eating nasty stuff and becoming a whale. The latest trailer shot matches the monster's description. So what is it?

This is probably it:



My guess: the giant monster has parasites, the parasites can be caught from a soft drink (slusho), and they eventually burst, turning into giant crabs. In the mean time, this giant whale thing starts walking around. So you've got two monster movies for the price of one!

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Tuesday, November 20

Awfully Familiar Update

"This is all your fault!" shouted Switch. "We could have had the cheese!"

I sighed. We'd been over this. "There's no way a big slob like Heave could have found the cheese so quickly. So there's a pattern to when it appears."

"A...pattern?"

"Yes. I thought all along it was Hack writing on the walls. But it was Heave. Hack's too stupid to find the cheese, that's why he keeps hunting us."

For once, Hack was quiet. Heave's presence must have cowed him.

"Things always change," said Switch. "We have to focus on getting more cheese."

"That kind of thinking is what's keeping you here," I said. "It's not about the cheese. It's about Black's game. And right now he's trying to teach us a lesson. So we have to figure out what it is. It's the only way to get out of here."

Switch sniffed the air. "We can smell out the next cheese." He began climbing up one side of the corridor and then another, sniffing as he went.

"We have to stop thinking with our stomachs!" Switch was really getting on my nerves. "Heave's better at the cheese game and he's eating it all. Do you want to end up like Hack?"

Switch looked at me questioningly. "But if we move now, we can find the cheese before it moves again."

I decided then and there that there was something different about me. This rat was a complete moron. But then, I was beginning to suspect that most rats were.

"Yeah, sure. Let's keep moving."

But I couldn't stop thinking about what Black's game was. What was he trying to teach us?

Jacko had said something about breaking into houses. The cheeses were in the shape of keys. That he wanted us to find keys was obvious. I didn't imagine a genius like Switch would distinguish between the shape of the key and the fact that it wasn't cheese.

It was about that time, with a suspiciously silent Hack and an increasingly frantic Switch, that I stumbled across the skull.

It was a rat's skull.

I froze. Switch walked right past it.

"Doesn't that bother you?"

Switch looked at me questioningly. "What?'

"The skull you just walked over."

"Oh that's been there," he said, as if it weren't a rat's skull.

I looked closer. The skull had gnaw marks on it. Gnaw marks that looked like sharp goblin teeth.

"So this is commonplace?"

"Yes," said Switch. "The skulls are everywhere."

"You're awfully calm about this." We had both stopped in the corridor. Switch managed to face me, but I could tell from the twitching whiskers that he wanted to keep sniffing for cheese. "You do realize these are RAT skulls, right?

"So?"

"So? That means Hack or Heave have been eating rats just like us!"

Switch resumed searching for the cheese, the rat equivalent of a shrug. "We won't get eaten if we keep moving."

"If we keep moving we'll starve to death. We're going to need to find a place to sleep soon, anyway."

"I know a place. Follow me." Switch took off down the corridor, oblivious to the bleach-white symbol of imminent death that was tucked into edge of one of the corridors.

I looked more closely at the wood. There were rat claw marks all over. The poor bugger had put up a fight. And then lost his head in the end.

Spooked, I ran after Switch.

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Sunday, November 18

Hand of the Master - Part 4d: Blade and Scythe

Vlad yanked his blade out of Lorund’s corpse.

“Now that I know about these soul shards,” Vlad placed Lorund’s soul shard on the log where Alsef’s had been shattered, “I’m going to be sure that the next time I kill a dwarf, he stays dead.” He raised his sword overhead.

“Please,” wheezed Elabac. Sebastian worked to free him from the chair. “Haven’t we had…enough…carnage?”

“Take their shards,” said Beldin. “We will hand them over to the Solanos Mor authorities.”

Cal pawed through the bodies.

Bijoux’s head poked into the tent. “I do not mean to alarm you, but the Reavers now know of our presence.”

Kham rose unsteadily to his feet. “Maybe the sight of a flying cat gave us away.”

Bijoux seemed unflustered. “Perhaps they noticed that the screaming had stopped.” She looked with sympathy upon the old dwarf. “I know I did.”

“No time to debate,” said Vlad. He slashed open the back of the tent. “Let’s go.”

Kham stepped through the opening. “You wanted blood, Fleshripper? You got it.” He cut his palm on Fleshripper’s blade. His hand dripped with blood.

Then he pull out the red stone from his pocket and they were gone. [MORE]

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Saturday, November 17

Awfully Familiar Update

I bumped into Switch entirely by accident.

I was following his scent trail, when I started to notice that Switch's trail was looping back and around again. He had gotten very good at avoiding dead-ends. When I followed my own inquisitive nature, I ended up at a dead end.

"Rat scurries, but what a waste
He gets so lean and loses fat
Hack can't wait until he taste
Rat in forty seconds flat."

Fortunately, Hack didn't seem to understand the notion of sneaking up on anyone. He wasn't in a hurry.

"Shut up!" I mentally shouted.

I quickly learned that my ability to project my thoughts extended only as far as my line of sight. If I couldn't see it, I couldn't speak to it and vice versa.

It was just as well. Whatever thoughts Hack had in his mind he immediately shouted at the top of his lungs.

I was at another dead end. Switch's scent had gotten so strong that I had lost track of everything else. What I didn't realize was that it was a trap.

A pair of beady eyes glittered back at me from the opposite end of the corridor.

"Cheese?" came the whispered voice in my mind.

"You must be Switch," I thought back.

Switch took a slow, painful step out of the shadows. I was sorry I could see all of him.

Switch was a skeletal husk of his former self. His black form looked like a shrunken piece of wood, his hair coming out in patches.

"Cheese?" he asked again.

I shook my head. "I was hoping you'd know where it was."

Switch froze and suddenly turned around. "Cheese!" he mentally shouted with joy. The starving rat took off at high speed.

I followed him. "Where are we going?"

"Cheese!" he shouted back at me. "Can't you smell it?"

I sniffed the air. The scent was so strong that it couldn't have been there before.

"Now I can...but why is it here?"

"What?" Switch kept running. "Who cares why? It's cheese!"

We skidded into the room. The room looked just like the other slab I saw before, with a key-shaped indentation in the center.

Switch dove through the air and landed on the cheese key, tearing through it with a ferocity that belied his skeletal form.

I tripped over a slight gap in the ground. There was an indentation in the floor.

"Cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese!
Rats may find it, but not for long!
Hack will eat some, feed me please!
So Hack will sing more pretty songs!"

"Black," I said. "He must be adding and removing the cheese." It looked like the room was a removable chamber, made for easy insertion into the Maze.

"Hmm?" said Switch. But he was too busy eating to say much more.

"Hack's coming," I said. "We can't stay long."

"I'm not leaving," said Switch. "There's cheese here!"

"Didn't it ever occur to you that this cheese comes from somewhere? Black is toying with us!"

"Black?" Switch had eaten half the key. "Who cares? It's cheese!"

"No you idiot!" I was struggling to not go after the cheese myself. I was getting hungry. "We're being manipulated. Don't you want to figure out why?"

I caught sight of something on the wall. It read: FEAR IZ FOOD.

"I think we better go, Switch."

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Friday, November 16

Hand of the Master - Part 4c: Blade and Scythe

The moment Fleshripper pierced Lorund, the world around Kham faded away.

Kham felt as if he were rushing very fast, the wind whistling by him, stinging his eyes. Fleshripper was the only thing that felt solid anymore, its weight secure in his hands, anchoring him in its reality. He found comfort in its presence.

The blood from the dwarf was still wet upon the blade, and yet Fleshripper called out for more.

Kham could hear its voice in his ear, goading him to rid the world of the evil creatures. He felt new power, almost an awakening surge from Fleshripper.

Then, with a jolt strong enough to almost throw him to the ground, he found himself exactly where he was before. On the battlefield, with scarcely a moment having passed. [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 7:13 PM | 0 comments links to this post


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Awfully Familiar Update

I kept running. Where was I? Why was Black putting me in the Maze? It didn't add up. If he wanted me dead, he could have killed me at any time.

Think, think, think! Jacko had mentioned something about breaking and entering. This had to be a test, some sort of bizarre training he was putting me through.

"Goblin Hack and goblin Heave," came the high-pitched voice.
One day found they moved the cheese.
One got thin and one got fat!
So thin one eats the tasty rat!"

I couldn't recall having ever met a goblin, but then being only a few days old, it was understandable that there were gaps in my memory. Judging from Black's reaction, they were bad news. And given that Hack seemed intent on sharing his entire philosophy about eating me, I didn't want to ever meet a goblin face to face.

My heart was racing. I suspected I was having a full-rat freak-out, where I wanted to be everywhere and nowhere at once, and my muscles became so overloaded with commands that I ended up just cowering in fear. Even though I could think for myself, I was still a rat with rat instincts. If I kept this up, I would become a goblin snack for sure.

That was it! I was a rat, right? There had to be some advantages to being a rodent. If I'd been a rat my whole life it should come as second nature...

I twitched my nose. I hadn't really focused on my rat senses up to this point, because most of the time I was overwhelmed by them -- usually it was the stink of people. Too many hairy, smelly men in one room, all shouting at me, made it difficult to focus. Although I would never forget the smell of serpent.

Every object, every surface, had different smells and information. The walls smelled different from the floor, the floor smelled different from the air, the air smelled different from whatever the stains on the floor were, and I even picked up the faint smell of what must have been goblin. It smelled a bit like wet leather. Even the cage had a smell, although Black had since removed it; I could almost taste the metallic tang of the bars. But no scent of cheese. Cheese was pretty smelly, so I was surprised to not detect it.

Black had walked away and taken a seat somewhere high over the Maze. He was observing me.

I tried to ignore the fact that a cutthroat thief was watching my every move, that there was a goblin making up rhymes about eating me, and that somewhere in the rooms beyond was a one-eyed dog who really didn't like me all that much. I sniffed again, deeper, using my second scent organ, the vomeronasal. I didn't even realize I had it.

I picked up the scent of something else. Another rat! That must have been Switch.

Judging by the scent-marks he left behind, he was a young male like me. And he was stressed out of his mind. Like me.

I charged off in the direction of the rat. Maybe Switch would know where the cheese was.

If he was even still alive.

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Tuesday, November 13

Hand of the Master - Part 4b: Blade and Scythe

Elabac was stripped from the waist up and tied to a wooden chair. On either side of Elabac was a dwarf holding a hot poker. Burns on Elabac’s flesh testified to the torture.

A sinister-looking dwarf stood in front of him. His ruddy brown skin was encrusted with grime and ash. He was shaven and beardless. A scar ran down the back of his scalp. Two more dwarves flanked their leader.

Kham recognized him. It was Lorund Ranenor, a Nol Dappan dwarf.

Lorund cleared his throat. “I tire of your stubbornness. It is obvious your ages spent over the forge have toughened you. How willing would you be to allow one you loved to be sent to oblivion? Will you craft a trophy for me?”

Elabac looked up, defeat in his eyes. But still he wearily shook his head.

“Pity,” said Lorund. As he pulled his arm back, Kham could see Alsef’s soul shard on an upright log before him. [MORE]

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Awfully Familiar Update

Eventually, the relative warmth of the fire and Jacko's labored breathing lulled me back to sleep. But my senses were no longer dulled by Modav dust when Black returned. I watched with growing anxiety as he oozed out of the darkness.

"All right my pet," said Black. He grabbed hold of my cage. "It's time to for you to run the Maze."

The wind whistled through the cage as Black swiftly carried me through darkened corridors speared by the occasional ray of sunlight. The sunlight became more and more infrequent, replaced by crackling torches. The air got colder. We were going underground.

Deeper and deeper we went. I caught a brief glimpse of a great maze covered by a tightly woven mesh. It was a vast network of twists and turns, all of it structured to create a labyrinth of seemingly endless complexity.

Black lowered the cage into the entrance of the maze.

He undid the latch to the cage and the opening yawned before me.

The corridor walls were splintered, wooden, and stained. Strange, dark stains patterend the stone floor. Above it all was the metal mesh. Every footstep of Black's shuddered throughout the maze, the sound echoing off of every surface despite the damp wood. Given the duration of the echo, the place must have been huge.

I didn't move.

"I knew you were smart," said Black with a wry laugh. "The wisest decision you could ever make is not get into the Maze in the first place. But life doesn't always give us such choices, so I'm afraid we'll have to give you some encouragement."

There was a high-pitched, rhythmic giggle from behind the cage. "Eh heheheh heh HEH heh!"

The sound burrowed through my stomach and curled into a hard knot.

"That'd be Hack. I'd start running if I were you."

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Sunday, November 11

Awfully Familiar Update

"He's going to make you a fagger," said Jacko.

"Excuse me?"

Jacko's huge, ugly head bobbed. "Yep, a fagger. Thieves who break into homes through windows and unlock doors."

"How exactly am I supposed to do that?" I looked at my paws. "It's not like I can turn the latch."

"Don't need to. Just find the key."

"Oh." I glanced at the door, shadowed in the darkness where Black had disappeared. "And what if I don't?"

The hound looked at me with his one good guy. "You will. You're a survivor, like me."

"So," I squeaked, "you're not going to eat me?"

Jacko's head jerked backwards in disgust. "You? I'm no rat-eater! I kill rats because I have to. Because I…" he lowered his head. "I don't even remember why I do it anymore."

"Survival," I said.

Jacko padded back over to the fireplace and lay down, his back to me.

Feeling a little bold and having nothing left to lose, I asked, "When did you get tired of your job?"

"When I lost my eye," came Jacko's unhesitating response.

"It must be tough. But you have to consider that the odds are pretty good that if you kill enough rats, one of them was going to get to you eventually…"

Jacko lifted his head, just enough to spare a glance at the gaping doorway that had swallowed black. "I didn't lose it to a rat."

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Hand of the Master - Part 4a: Blade and Scythe

It appeared that they were still in the Corlathian Mountains, though they were outside in a secluded rocky gorge. The narrow path before them opened into a natural clearing amidst the jagged peaks, just large enough to hold a small Reaver camp. Their tents were visible, and every so often they could catch a glimpse of one walking to and fro.

Bijoux clasped her claws over her ears and closed her eyes.

“What…?” asked Vlad. Then he heard it too. Screams. [MORE]

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Friday, November 9

Awfully Familiar Update

I ran around the pit, zig-zagging as I went. And even as I ran, a trail of death followed behind me. Rat after rat was finished by Jacko. At the rate I was going, I'd be responsible for the death of an entire colony of rodents.

"Stop moving!" barked Jacko. "I'll never beat Billy's time at the rate you're going!"

"Stop moving?" I inadvertently shouted back. "You're trying to EAT me!"

Jacko froze. The crowd booed.

"What?" One eye blinked. "You can understand me?"

"YOU can understand ME?" I said, panting from my exertions.

"Finally, a challenge!" Jacko began to growl. I realized he wasn't really speaking, per se. We were hearing each other's thoughts. I just directed my thoughts at Jacko, and he heard me. Likewise, I felt like I was picking up Jacko's thoughts out of the air.

I skittered to a corner I had visited five times already. I was running out of places to run, and there was no forked branch to save me this time.

Jacko snapped at me again. I leaped into the air, grabbed hold of his tail, and bit down hard.

"Is that the best you can do?" I mentally shouted. Which was kind of neat, given that my mouth was busy.

"Yeah," said one gap-toothed moron in the crowd. "Is that the best you can do?"

I suddenly realized that I couldn't just understand everyone else. They could all understand me. Even humans.

Jacko flicked his tail, sending me flying into the side of the pit. I slammed to the ground, stunned.

I caught sight of Spindle and Corwin. They were cheering me on, pointing and laughing. That's when I noticed there were no other rats left.

"Just me and you, little one," said Jacko. In my head his voice sounded almost kind. "I'll make this quick."

Jacko advanced, growling again.

I leaned back and, mentally broadcasting at the top of my…err, mind, I guess: "Spindle and Corwin are cheating! They gave the rat Modav dust!"

The crowd gasped. Jacko lunged through the air, slobber trailing from one yellow tooth. All I could see was his long, wet tongue. I closed my eyes…

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Hand of the Master - Part 3: Mountains from Molehills

Kham spat. “You’re not the brightest tool in the shed. You told Beldin, of all people, about your plans.”

“I intended you to hear about how Reavers attacked us in the tunnels and killed Elabac,” said Jarel. “Once Solanos Mor found out, and especially if outsiders like you,” he nodded towards Cal and Bijoux, “knew about it, Solanos Mor would be forced to wage war on the Reavers. The Reavers would be wiped out in the process and Solanos Mor would be weakened.”

“But the Reavers were one step ahead of you,” said Beldin.

“They disguised themselves, and now I have brought doom upon my own enclave! The Encali enclave is not strong enough to resist Solanos Mor.”

Cal sniffed in Jarel’s direction. “I haven’t eaten in awhile,” he said. “Let’s kill him.” [MORE]

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Tuesday, November 6

Hand of the Master - Part 2c: Shadows in the Night

Kham flipped the cork off of a vial and lifted it to his lips.

“Can’t you save the drinking for later?” asked Sebastian.

“Very funny,” said Kham. “But this isn’t alcohol.”

Vlad drew his sword. “What is it then?”

“Something way better,” said Kham. “Just stay out of my way.”

With a bellow of rage, Beldin barreled into the midst of the dwarves. He batted one dwarf aside with the flat of his axe and shouldered into another. Vlad ran behind him, following up on Beldin’s momentum with his own flurry of blows. Cal looked around, shrugged his shoulders, and waded in after them.

“Beldin fights like a man possessed,” said Bijoux.

Sebastian stepped forward, palms spread outwards. “If Elabac dies, it will be on his head. Fuco aspergo!”

A coruscating cone of colors sprang forth from his palm, encompassing the dwarves. Two went down, clutching their eyes.

“I take back everything bad I’ve ever said about you,” said Kham to Sebastian. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go get my life back.” With a mighty leap, Kham launched himself into the air. [MORE]

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Fred Durbin in Fantasy & Science Fiction

Just a shout out to my good friend Fred Durbin, whose story "The Bone Man" was recently published in Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine. I have an autographed copy. Go Fred! [MORE]

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Awfully Familiar Update

Torches illuminated the center of the cellar, a ring enclosed by wood barriers. It was an arena of sort, comlete with wooden bleachers, arranged one over the other, rising stepwise nearly to the ceiling. The floor of the pit was oddly stained. I tried not to think about it.

The sweaty, smelly giants were back, shouting and hooting, just like they had when I was fighting Big Bertha. Only they weren't wizard school students, but drunken louts. They were all pretty much the same to me.

The man's attire mimicked a ringmaster. Only it was a very different kind of circus. And he was disgustingly fat. "Today's match is Billy versus Jacko!"

Instead of a whip, he lifted a wineskin. It sloshed around, spraying the audience, but they didn't seem to notice. Probably because they were drunk too.

"Billy, at twenty four pounds, comes all the way from Laneutia to compete in today's fight!" The owner brought the most disturbing beast I'd ever laid eyes on, worse even that Big Bertha. At least Bertha was clean and deadly. Billy was a slavering mass of fangs and drool. He had folded, crumpled ears, short stubby legs, and a bug-eyed look of perpetual ferocity. He barked ferociously as his handler, a stubby little man, jerked on Billy's chain.

"Gonna kill me some rats!" Billy shouted.

I looked around. Did anyone else hear him?

Spindle looked on while Corwin put in his bid for a tag with the ringmaster. But it wasn't time yet, so Corwin got brushed aside when the next dog came out.

"Weighing in at twenty six pounds, our reigning Calximus champion…" the ringmaster took a deep breath. "Jackoooooo!"

Jacko made Billy look like a poodle. The dog was bigger, stronger, meaner.

Jacko had sharp, pointed ears, a stubby nose, and a white stripe of fur running down the center of his broad head. Jacko's fur was mostly white, with brown spots along his back. His tail was all brown with a white tip. He wore a spiked collar. And worst of all, he had an eye patch.

What in the world was a dog doing with an eye patch?


10579 / 50000 words. 21% done!

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Monday, November 5

Awfully Familiar Update

“Right, so it’s like this,” said Spindle. “There’s two dogs competing tonight, Billy and Jacko. Billy's the favorite, so we’re gonna bet against Jacko. All of it.”

“All of it?” asked Corwin skeptically.

“All of it. We want to turn this little bag of gold into something larger, right?” Spindle jingled a purse. “So we gotta think big.”

“And in between Billy and Jacko, we give Scrap here a bit of the Modav dust."

"You sure he can handle it?" asked Spindle, concern tingeing his drawn features. "Don't want to waste our best rat right out of the gate."

Corwin barked out a laugh. Spindle didn't join in. "Oh wait, you're serious? I don't think we can keep 'em around, honestly. They'll catch on."

"Well, no use in wasting a good rat…"

"All he's got to do is survive," said Corwin. "If he can do it for long enough we'll be golden."

"But he's just one rat…" began Spindle.

"Nah. We'll tag 'im," Corwin said with a note of finality.

I didn't know what "tagging," meant but I suspected I wouldn't like it.

"But that'll draw attention to 'im!" exclaimed Spindle.

"That's the point. Otherwise he'll just get lost in a sea of rats. Besides, I can't tell him apart from the rest of 'em, can you?"

It was a good point. I took a look at myself, as much as I could, anyway. And I discovered…

That I was pretty much your average rat. Brown fur. Pink tail. No revelations there. I was secretly hoping that I was all black, or maybe all white, or black with a white streak, or flaming pink or something. But no. Just me. Scrap the brown rat.

So much for being different. Not that it mattered, I wasn't long for this world anyway.



7473 / 50000 words. 15% done!

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Sunday, November 4

Blood, Blade & Thruster #3

Just wanted to give a shout out to my new friend Nicholas Ozment whom I met at World Fantasy Con. Nick was recently published in Blood, Blade & Thruster #3. Check it out!





BBT #3
After many long and sleepless nights, we are proud to announce the arrival of our final issue, #3, for you reading enjoyment. It’s free, but you will find a donation button below to help assuage some of the financial pain this endevour has cost yours truly. If you have ever enjoyed an issue of BBT or found us a joy to be around on the website please use that little donate button - we’ll use the money to get out of this financial hole and into another when we start the anthologies in the winter.

OK, enough with the fundraiser, onto the good stuff - This issue is indeed a doozy! it ways in at over 100 pages and is chock full of literary & satirical goodness:

Simply click on the cover image to view straight from your browser, or right-click and "save as" to download to your computer (recommended!) [MORE]

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Awfully Familiar

“Sure it is, since we’re the only ones who know how to make it. I seen what Modav done to the other thirty rats before Scrap.” He pointed a long finger at me. It was like being poked at by a dead branch. “I may be forgetful but I’m no fool.”

“Scrap?” Corwin snickered. “You named ‘im then?”

“Aye,” said Spindle indignantly. “He’s a scrapper, he is. I thought it appropriate.”

“To name ‘im?”

“Well we’ve got t’ give ‘im a name if we’re gonna enter him in another contest.”

“What?” Corwin took a step forward towards Spindle. “Are you daft?”

“I’m not daft,” said Spindle. “I’m smart. Maybe not smart enough t’ beat that exam, but smart enough to take those high-flyin’ blokes’ money, with their good families and their silk shirts.”

“He was a fluke!” Corwin said, practically shouting.

Spindle shushed him.

“A fluke,” Corwin repeated, a little quieter. “You just said yourself about how many rats we went through. And I don’t think I have to remind you that I lost a lot of money on ‘em too.”

“WE lost a lot of money,” interjected Spindle.

“Aye. And with that hole burnin’ in yer pocket I’d think you’d be a bit more stung by it all.”

Spindle took out a small bag from his belt pouch. The man fairly bristled with things hanging from his belt. “Not anymore.” He handed Corwin the lumpy contents. “We just made it all back and then some."

Corwin opened his mouth, then clamped it shut. He rifled through the contents. As he did so, his eyebrows knitted, making his nose look like a bird about to take flight. “People lost a lot of money. And a rat killed Big Bertha. Wouldn’t be surprised if they want to check into ‘em.”

“Aye, we’ll have to keep him under lock and key. But I think he’s our ticket to success, mate. Maybe we buy a round o’ drinks at th’ Dirty Scroll. The other students’ll come around.”

“And what of the Professor?” asked Corwin. “Big Bertha was a dragon analogue, the Professor tested all his spells on her.”

“She died eatin’ a bad rat. It happens.”

“He’s gonna be suspicious.”

“Of course he is,” said Spindle. “And we’re gonna be calm and collected, but let ‘im think that maybe we poisoned his pet snake. So long as he don’t suspect the truth.”

“That th’ two students he flunked made some super rat juice?”

“Aye,” grinned Spindle. “And that we’re gonna make a pile of gold off of Scrap here.”

They both looked at me.

“What you have in mind, then?” asked Corwin.

“Three words,” said Spindle, ticking off skinny stubs of fingers, “Rat. Baiting. Dog.”

They looked at me. And that’s when I discovered that rats have no control over their bowels.




5330 / 50000 words. 11% done!

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Hand of the Master - Part 2b: Shadows in the Night

As the Encali dwarves cut off all avenues for Elabac to escape, one turned to Jarel. “Good work. This will be a great victory for the Encali.”

Jarel looked white as a sheet and shocked. “What is the meaning of this? This was not part of the plan!”

“Plans have changed,” the Encali dwarf said with a chuckle. “Kill the apprentice, take the master.” [MORE]

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Friday, November 2

Hand of the Master - Part 2a: Shadows in the Night

Beldin gazed at the ground. “I hardly know where to begin. I took an oath not to speak of this, but in light of recent revelations…I think perhaps there is a danger to Master Elabac. If my suspicions are correct, I must speak, regardless of promises made.”

“What?” asked Sebastian. “You knew something and didn’t tell me?”

Beldin couldn’t look Sebastian in the eye. “I swore an oath,” he said. “And I stood by it, but Bijoux’s suspicions have confirmed my worst fears. Jarel has been gifting Elabac with his gems, but there is one, his finest, that is still in Encali. He said he would retrieve it tonight and meet Elabac and Alsef in the tunnels between Solanos Mor and Encali to deliver it.”

Kham jolted out of his chair. “He’s doing that for me,” said Kham. He looked around at the others, a little sheepish. “I need that gem.”

“I can’t believe you would not share this with me!” said Sebastian. The dark-kin’s hands curled into fists. [MORE]

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Thursday, November 1

NaNoWriMo: Here We Go Again...



I'm off to World Fantasy Con, but while I'm there I'll be working on my next novel, tentatively titled "Awfully Familiar." Wish me luck! [MORE]

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