Mark Hurley

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Hannanian Civil War: Chapter 4

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(Art by Meghan Schroeder)

CHAPTER 4
The Great Hall in the Palace of Hannan, One hour past noon

The anticipated day arrived with force, the sun bright and hot the moment it appeared above the Everquakes, as if it were as impatient for this meeting as the nobles that had been waiting for it for almost a fortnight. Today the nobles’ audience with the Queen was to take place, and though it was swelteringly hot and muggy – and though most of the nobles that now filed into the court considered their long compulsory presence in Bastion to have been no better than incarceration – most of the highborn present had decided that the bright sun and the end to their travails was reason enough for high spirits. At risk of predictability, Barticus Bloodbrood did not concur.

“I know that I am going to have a few very pointed questions for Tyrahav, I’ll tell you that,” said a Jerial passing through the high doors of the Great Hall. Pilik, his piece having been offered the night of the debate, had resumed his usual place of anonymity at these events, reading on a bench along the wall, with a clear route to the exit should the proceedings prove as asinine as he predicted. Barticus was more than happy to oblige the boy, leaning himself against a wall by the door where he might get an accurte forecast of the coming talks.

Aside from the benches that lined the walls, there was no accommodation for the nobles’ derrieres, a fact one particularly loud Guadin saw fit to point out. “No chairs, I see,” the old man said to his wife. “You know this meeting will run overlong, and I wore my good boots. Should have known I’d regret it.”

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Written by scumbagstyle

August 3, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Posted in Fantasy

Hannanian Civil War: Chapter 3

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(Art by Meghan Schroeder)

CHAPTER 3

The Knightly Cell of Flynt Latomere, well past midnight in the Palace of Hannan

Flynt Latomere paced his cell, scratching absently at his irritated navel, a look of consternation furrowing his fair brow. Something was not rubbing him in a comfortable fashion, and it was not merely the strangely symmetrical and curiously itchy rashes he had developed all over his body since he began to don his new armor daily. Something just outside the reach of the tendrils of his mind whispered forebodingly at him, urgently, like the cries of a man with empire rocking information after the cover of the tunnel to the deepest dungeon had been closed on him. But so deep was this… something, that the language of it – if there was any at all – was all but indecipherable.

He was aware, of course, that his knightly cell was becoming more immodest, almost by the day. It was difficult to ignore the constant appearance of indulgences about the room, some of them voluntary, some of them contrived as personal gifts from the Queen. The red velvet curtains, with the Latomere Panther embroidered into them, had been Flynt’s own idea, a well-earned gift to himself for his hard work and for inhabiting a room along the East wall of the palace, where the sun encroached unnaturally early, especially on his mornings off. But the carpeting he was currently engaged in wearing a hole through; the carved oaken shelves that held autographed first editions of the old romances; the almost embarrassingly suggestive silk sheets on his cot – all were found on separate occasions on his return from duties. All were obviously from Tyrahav; none were the sort of extravagancies he had ever seen adorn the cell of any true knight he had ever known, save perhaps an untried Guadin pretender.

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Written by scumbagstyle

August 3, 2010 at 9:08 pm

Posted in Fantasy

Hannanian Civil War: Chapter 2

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(Art by Meghan Schroeder)

CHAPTER 2

Preparation Suite of Nobleman Prowse Gregor, et al, The Overcourt Courtyard

“You look… stunningly noble,” the young Ptollack said. “Downright imposing, at that.”

The compliment was not lost on the elder statesman Prowse Gregor, nor was the beauty of the woman that surveyed him now, watching as he made some final, nit-picky adjustment to his fineries. He knew, of course, that such flattery was the most innocuous form of patronization, the kind young women slathered on old men like so much sweetened jackalope butter on bread past its prime. As Prowse retied the Green Statesman cord he had wound through the loops on the neck of his dress vestments, he marveled that Sammy Ptollack could paralyze the discerning eye with her comeliness, even despite her very best efforts.

Sammy, like all the high-born guests at the impending ceremony, wore the ubiquitous fripperies of state events; but it was clear she had taken great pains to look the pauper. Her expensive dress fit her improperly, like a sack a fat child had cut a hole in to play princess in, and there was already a grease stain from the pre-ceremony luncheon on the bodice. Ever ready – frothing even – to take to sea, Sammy’s hair was cut short – with a blunted steak knife, if Prowse was any judge.  Her attention to detail in the destruction of her appearance belied the protestations to mere seaman’s practicality she made to the gossipy, clucking noblewomen that surrounded and chided her daily at court. Still, only a fool would call her homely, and the subtle suggestion of power beneath that ill-fitting dress – – well… Prowse glimpsed his own bookish son in the corner of his looking glass, and wondered if a healthier match could be made for the boy. What was lacking in age proximity, she was some six years older, would surely be made up for in the positive influence she would exert on Pilik.

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Written by scumbagstyle

August 3, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Posted in Fantasy

Hannanian Civil War: Chapter 1

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(Sketch by Britt Scott)

CHAPTER 1

The Palace of Hannan, Overcourt Ward of Bastion, 521 HC (Approx. 100 yrs before the events in Intrepid)

The hint of steam seeped through the self-consciously faux-Voxian ornamental cracks at the bottom of the door as Flynt Latomere raised his gloved hand to knock on it. He paused, and for the briefest moment, he hung a mildly amused grin in the air with his loose fist. The prolonged absence of the king had not fostered an avid devotion to modesty in the queen, at least as far as Flynt could discern. As he announced his presence in professional staccato, he did not allow himself to imagine what he would find on the other side of the door.

“A moment!” the saccharine authority of the queen demanded from inside her chambers. Flynt would not have been surprised to learn that her voice was ever-so-slightly tinged with a subtle auromancy, a spell that recalled a young but matronly governess from the listener’s childhood. He calmly pushed from his head the association congealing in his mind between Queen Tyrahav and his own childhood nanny, the sinuous arm and the capable switch of whom he remembered with earnest vigor on his ubiquitous weekly nights of lonely vigil. Still the very act of dismissing his peccadilloes left him unprepared when the queen eventually called, “You may enter.”

He grasped the meticulously antiqued latch, and pushed the scrupulously rarified, heavy door inward. He was met with the familiar lavishness of the queen’s chambers, the expected still-hot bronze tub that could fit six, and the queen herself. Her auburn hair was wet and tied back, her neck and shoulders exposed above an alluring garment that Bastion’s most ardent lechers would be hard pressed to call a nightdress. It was unusually white for the macabre tastes of her majesty, and gossamer erring on the side of the ribald. The faint outline of the sides of her breasts and the hint of their darker tips appeared and disappeared as she approached the staring knight.

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Written by scumbagstyle

August 3, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Posted in Fantasy

Intrepid: Chapter 6

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(Art by Britt Scott)

The Final Battle

In and around Bastion, the Human capitol city

Kennet Bertolus walked the system of parapets along the walls of Bastion as the sun rose and looked down into the city. He was doing the best he could to fix as many problems as he could and prepare the city for still more war, but Bastion had lost all hope. He grinned; the Human spirit had a way of transcending tragedy, and would continue on in some manifestation or another. The temporary hospital ward was still on fire in many places, burned to rubble by what all evidence suggested was Orc work, which was impossible, as an ambling, graceless Orc infiltrator would have been noticed in these times of defensive vigilance. More than likely the Orcs were framed by the Dark Elves; they were not known to be above such trickery.

The injured littered the streets in all of the wards, as yet mostly untouched, but still heavy with the hardships of war. Medics skittered amongst the dead and dying, and soldiers and knights with anachronistically gleaming armor ran marching drills in the filthy alleyways that had been untouched by civil service for months. Bertolus saw his city dying before his eyes, but he knew in his heart it would be rebuilt into something far more formidable than its current potential could envision. Looking out beyond the walls he saw the world that was against his people, and swore that they would pay.

He also saw a small band of individuals traversing the plain outside the gates of Bastion, heading for the city. He ran to the nearest parapet and consulted with one of the sharp-seers as to the identity of the approaching party. “Humans, m’lord,” the soldier answered, “weapons drawn, though no one that I recognize.” Bertolus left the parapet and headed for the gates, yelling orders that they be thrown open.

Alora Duchene marched confidently through the gates of Bastion, with a band of Human fighters numbering in the hundreds behind her. The fire of battle was alight in her eyes, and her weapon was still drawn, crusting with the blood of countless enemies.

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Written by scumbagstyle

August 2, 2010 at 10:09 pm

Posted in Fantasy

Intrepid: Chapter 5

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(Concept Art by Britt Scott)

Waiting Is Torture

I. At Fort Mercygiver, a multiracial penal colony run by the Humans outside Bastion…

The thick, thorny brush of the swampy jungle surrounding the prison cut Konduz’ limbs as he tried to creep soundlessly toward the coast, and freedom. The Humans certainly knew what they were doing as far as maintaining prison population, even if they did not know what to do with prisoners while they had them. The barbed underbrush was painful and scarring, and Dark Elves were not known particularly for their endurance. If even you managed not to howl in pain, the barking Krin’hees bird, revered for their mythological wont to loudly proclaim secrets and supplanted from Konduz’ own homeland by the hated Humans, were sufficient warning to the guards that an escapee was creeping about in the jungle. Konduz tried not to think of the physical labor aspect of trudging through dense underbrush. Instead, he preferred to consider it torture, which he could definitely handle.

Konduz was less concerned for himself than for his fellow escapee. Dark Elves preferred to work alone, but on this particular venture, the Dwarf Nitpik was an essential tool. Konduz suspected that it derived from the Dwarves’ cultural propensity for expertise in locks and keys, but Nitpik had an entire escape route planned by the time Konduz arrived in the city. A couple of bribes and a round of information gathering by Konduz (a Dark Elf specialty) and the two were ready for escape within days. The escape itself proved flawless, a simple combination of timing and strolling out through the sanitation infrastructure. But now, Konduz was developing doubts in his partner.

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Written by scumbagstyle

August 2, 2010 at 10:04 pm

Posted in Fantasy

Intrepid: Chapter 3

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(Illustration by Britt Scott)

… Of Orcs and Men

In a hotly contested mining settlement in the undertunnels

Bickbeard heard a crunch and an insectoid squeal, and knew by the sound that one of his men had crushed the skull of a Goblin with the flat of his axe. Thus fell Grimor, son of Grimwet, Rider of the Rockeaters, his essence is of the underground again. After so many years in one heated battle after another, Bickbeard could distinguish the variety of sounds associated with different deaths, and this kept him sharp. He had served under the mighty Dwarven hero Cergold himself, and had trained his men in similar fashion: It was not always the efficient kill that mattered, but the mélange of techniques that not only focused the mind in battle, but also provided the respected enemy with an honorable demise. He made a point of memorizing the names and histories of his more famous opponents so that this could be carried out in poem, later.

Bickbeard’s men were true disciples of the Cergold school of fighting. Like their recently lost champion, they charged manically through the labyrinthine Undertunnels on pure instinct, cutting down Goblins as they ran. Rimlet, hunter of moss beetles; Frinto, son of Frindy; their courage was as the gods’. Bickbeard’s scribe mind, honed in the writing of Cergold’s personal opus, respectfully composed the account of his enemys’ deaths, even as he charged on his own victim. He swung his axe, and the many keys woven into his beard, that singular status symbol of the Dwarves, tinkled pleasantly.

As the tunnel broadened, Bickbeard recognized the telltale signs of a sprawling vertical mineshaft that would encompass the entire floor of the upcoming tunnel. He looked about and thrilled with pride that none of his men had slowed. With practiced ease and not a small surge of excitement, Bickbeard leapt recklessly over the chasm when his foot touched the lip. His men followed unhesitatingly, in synchronized bounds that may have appeared choreographed to the stunned Goblins waiting on the other side.

Each man hit the ground running. The fastest of them outpaced their leader easily, and that was alright with Bickbeard, as enthusiasm was often a greater weapon than a handy pickaxe. Unlike many armies of Raan, and indeed several units in the Dwarven Army, recklessness was encouraged in Bickbeard’s camp. The Dwarves took to this policy nicely, throwing caution and personal safety to the wind for the sake of victory.

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Written by scumbagstyle

August 2, 2010 at 7:40 pm

Posted in Fantasy