Tag Archive: fantasy


Just stumbling upon this story? want to know how we got here? Go check out the pervious 2 installments here and here.

Just as with everything on this blog, this story is copyright Emily Rush on the day of publication. All rights reserved… yada yada yada.
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He shakes his head like a child with a snow globe, attempting to shake those memories loose from his brain. It’s a moment that chilled him to his very core, the split-second where he failed to act.

But that was only for a split-second.

His fingers curled instinctively around the cold metal shaft of his lance. He pulled it out of its resting spot in the snow with the sound of crunching snow on metal. He’ll never let a moment like that happen again. He’ll never have such an unfortunate lase in judgment happen again. It’s those lapses in which people die, towns destroyed. It’s something he can no longer let happen again.

He ponders these thoughts as he hears the hard crunch of the snow beneath his feet. The rhythmic crunch, crunch, crunch of the snow beneath his feet starts to drown out the thoughts of the massacre and lulls him in to a kind of meditation. His mind calms. It is no longer racing through all the horrendous thoughts that it was earlier.

He stops and takes a deep breath. His nose is filled with the scent of various beasts. Most of the smells are common of the ones that tend to frequent this area, the various sprites and rodents, occasionally there might be a baby drake. Underneath the common smells of the area is a bloodier, muskier smell. The scent of the creature he seeks.

“Ha!”, he thinks, “I might get him yet.”

He lets out a chuckle as he takes a little jog until his muscles fatigue. The weight of his armor pushing him further in to the snow, leaving heavy foot prints behind. If one was to track him, he would be quite easy to find. Thankfully he is the hunter and not the hunt.

Once he tires, he takes a moment. His breath heavy, creating steam rising like smoke from a dragon. It almost seems proper given the title of what he does, dragoon.

Suddenly he realizes the thickness of the air. It sits heavy on him. He thinks he knows this feeling before. Can this really be the day? How long has it really been? Days? Weeks? Months? How long has it been? How much time has passed? When was the last time he noticed this air, heavy and thick?

Did I climb higher than I meant? He’s never seen the beast travel this high. While the area is largely mountainous, he’s never seen him start to hit the snowy peaks of this ice-cold wasteland where there isn’t a lot of natural life. The higher up you go, the less hospitable it is.

While the air felt heavy and oppressive, it also felt alive with a certain amount of electricity.

He stands up and looks around, trying to take in his surroundings; seeing if he could find his quarry. The more he looks, the more he only sees the vast fields of white before him. And while the pureness of the snow should be somewhat comforting, it also feels largely unnerving.

He shakes his head, trying to clear it of any negative thoughts. Something feels different about today. It feels as though something’s going to happen today.

He takes a deep breath of the bitter cold air. It feels crisp inside his nose.

“Today… Yes.”, he thinks, “Today will be the day.”

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Missed the first two parts? You can find them here and here.

This story is copyright Emily Rush, 18.April.2014. All rights reserved. Yadayadayada.
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He grabs is lance and begins the trudge through the snow.

Crunch.

Crunch.

Crunch.

His footfall breaks the freshly laid snow. He is the lone beacon of humanity in this godforsaken place. He knows that others will inquire if there has been any sign of the beast. He’s not sure if the asking is out of sincere interest or to mock him as he stands lone sentinel in the cold and snow, waiting patiently.

He sighs deeply, taking in some of the ice-cold air. He shivers a moment as he takes another step forward. It’s a daily vigil where he stands guard.

He looks up to the sky, what was grey and drab the day before has become a brilliant blue and bright with the long absent sun that he’d been missing for many a day. The snow’s surface reflects the light like a brilliant frosted mirror making this otherwise drab canyon vibrant. For the first time in… well, sometime as he couldn’t quite recall when, he heard the chirp of birds, awakened from their chilly and dark slumber into this vibrant bright winter morning.

He sticks his spear in to the snow. It was much deeper than he thought it was. He didn’t remember it being so deep the day before.

“It must have been quite the snowfall last night..”, he aloud to himself.

He sucks in some more of the frigid air as he thinks about if he missed the creature again last night. Once again his brain raced, trying to think if he might have missed any clue, any bit of visual information as to whether the beast had moved in the night. His eyes dart back and forth looking for any little clue, any shred of evidence that this creature did indeed still live in this cave.

No matter how hard he searched, he found nothing. Just the pristine white snow marred only by his footfalls. He couldn’t recall any bellows in the middle of the night, no sounds of loud crunching… everything he recalled when the beast had stirred and reared his gruesome head, baring red, barbed fangs and acrid breath, everything that stirred fear in men. It was a brutal day of carnage, one that he had never experienced before or since.

Just to get the legalities out of the way. This is copyright Emily Rush, on this day of 26.March.2013. All rights reserved. Yada yada yada.

If you’re just coming to this story, here’s the first part.

Enjoy!
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He slowly pulls on his undergarments, thinking about whether he will see the beast again. Is this really going to happen today? Doubt started crawling in to his brain.

He picks up the pieces of his armor. Slowly putting them on, piece by piece. Putting each piece as though it were a quiet meditation. Slowly breathing as he attached each piece of armor. As if the act of dressing was itself was meditation.

After he took his morning meditation. He took a moment to look around his small, local abode. It’s not nearly as palatial as the home he is used to.When one gives in to obsession, comfort is often a casualty. The only thing that is important is the hunt, the pursuit of this beast.

He takes a long, forlorn sigh as he grabs his lance.

“I will get this beast. I will get this beast.”, that phrase has become his daily mantra for as long as he can remember.

As he thought back about when this first started, he found it difficult to recollect. When did this come about. When did this creature infect every thought and every waking moment. Has it been one month? Two months? A year? The more he thought about it, the more confused he became. He could never pin point the day it happened. Perhaps this thinking was like a disease, slowly creeping in to the incorporeal edges of other thoughts until all that was left was this beast.

He swings open the door on the hovel that he now calls home, only to be welcomed by the bright white glare of the morning sun reflecting on the powdery snow that fluttered to the ground the night before.Ad his eyes adjusted to the bright light of the morning, he could still see that snow was drifting in on each gust of wind.

He sighs as he realizes that it will be a very long day.

“Sitting and staring won’t get us anywhere.”, he says under his breath.

(To be continued)

Here is the beginning of a new short story. I know that I said it would be up last night, but a meeting that ran too long had prevented me from posting it. As with all my writing here, copyright the date of the post. All rights reserved… yada yada yada. There will be more of this story, but not as much as the short story I’ve been posting recently.

Enjoy!
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He wakes in the morning, the world around him seems a little grayer, like the dusty edges of a long forgotten room. He rubs his eyes as if to clean the cobwebs away that form every night from the further reaches of his brain.

He knows what he needs to do.

“Today is a good day for a hunt.”, he says aloud to no one except the sparse furnishings that dot the room.

He can’t remember a morning where he wasn’t thinking about this hunt, about ending the life of this creature. He thought about it compulsively, like Ahab hunting the great white whale. He felt that his very existence was for this moment.

He sits up in his bed and stretches. He looks around his hovel. It’s small and a bit dank. Every day he looks out his window he sees the same white, fluffy ground. He used to remember there being a spring or a summer, but now it’s only the snow.

He sighs forlornly as he gazes out the window. His brain devoid of all but one thought. I will kill him today.

He stretches out his muscles, feeling the begin to circulate to his extremities that laid dormant for the evening’s slumber. The process of waking up, while tedious helped remind him of his limitations.

He sighs deeply as he struggles to remember what his life was prior to this godforsaken hunt. What did he do day-to-day without this monster?
(To be continued)

Okko: Cycles of Water and Earth

To start, these are volumes 1 and 2 of a planned 5 volume series. They were originally published in French (in France!) and Archaia is republishing them in English. The end of volume 5 hasn’t been released in French yet, so it will be a bit before the series concludes in English. Each volume is self-contained, so don’t worry about cliff hangers, but there is character continuity.

The books take place in the mystical kingdom of Japan. I mean Pajan. Sorry, I switched a couple of letters there. So we have the mystical kingdom of Pajan which is eerily similar to Japan but with magic. And power armor.

The artwork is good with a slight woodblock print feel. The character personalities are clear and consistent. Maybe just a bit too consistent – they all act according to their type no matter the situation. The stories are told from the perspective of the “new kid”. He is picked up at the beginning of the first book and he then narrates. This could be used to explain away some of the way the older characters are presented if we were to analyze the psychology of the characters. The rest of the group are experienced soldiers/adventurers.

Overall I like these books. Part of it may be because the attempted perspective of an Asian culture makes it a little different from the “standard” in the US. Part of it may because I have a fondness for Asian cultures myself. The world of these stories has obvious similarities to Japan (besides the name..) but it is “fantasized” enough that I can ignore the inaccuracies. I am curious to see how someone from Japan would react, however.

I was amused when I realized that all the names could actually be written with Japanese kana. I’m curious how much they were changed in the translation from French, if at all.

I’ll pick up the other books in the series eventually (sale or not) but I’m not running out to grab them immediately.

 

Critical Millennium: The Dark Frontier

I’m going to quote the book cover here. “Decadence and overindulgence has led to the extermination of most animal and plant species, as well as Earth’s ability to support human life. The only solution is to find a new home for mankind, one that the government is too self-absorbed to contemplate. Critical Millennium is an epic sci-fi romp, rife with brutally realistic and sober portrayals of humanity – not in blacks and whites, but in all its various shades of gray.”

This is one of the bleakest books I have ever read.

The story of this first book is about a dying Earth and some “revolutionaries” who believe that the only hope for humanity lies in FTL travel and making it to another planet. The book ends with their ship finally taking off. It should be a story of hope.

The beginning of the book, however, seems to show that same ship and everyone on board it coming apart in hyperspace. So you know from the beginning that the hope the story is trying to build up is false – you have already seen them fail.

The artwork is well done but not a style I like. Some of the scenes have very fine details but I the general ‘watery’ look is difficult for me. I end up not seeing or looking for the details.

In terms of humanity being shown in shades of gray .. well, I agree with that. There were no heroes in this book. This plays into the story being one of false hope set in a dying world. The very concept of a hero is corrupt and decayed.

The story is primarily about the general debauchery of the world and the social/political intrigue surrounding the “heroes” trying to build and launch their new ship. I know this type of story appeals to a lot of readers but, again, it is not for me. I don’t need SF/F for intrigue, debauchery, and politics. I can just open the newspaper.

I can understand why other people like this book. The graphics, as I said, are well done and there are many scenes with fine details. The characters are distinct and have plenty of “character”. The plot has several twists and turns. It just isn’t for me.

There is one aspect that gives me pause beyond my personal preferences. In this future dystopia the unquestioned world ruler is an Indian woman and Caucasians (Ghosts) are an oppressed underclass. I would applaud the creators for creating a world with such a different social structure that what we have now. But other aspects of the story make these differences seem like they are supposed to be indicative of the corruption in the world – they are negatives. The prime minister is first presented slaughtering one of the few remaining dolphin pods as part of a supposed Japanese ritual. The “heroes” are Caucasian males who inherited their fortunes and spend all their time partying. It all comes across as a white male power fantasy.

Overall this is the antithesis of Miranda Mercury for me. I would be curious to talk to someone who likes both books, as to me they could not be more different.

(The final part to be posted on Monday)

The Killer

Have you seen Leon: The Professional? That was how the book was pitched to me when I asked about it. Good movie, by the way. Like Leon (and Okko below) this was originally made in France. There are 6 volumes in French. The fourth English volume is due out fall 2012.

The story is pretty standard for a story about a hitman – flashbacks to how he got into the business, a job goes wonky, he decides to retire, gets betrayed, gets even, decides to find out more about what is going on.

What makes it different is that it is all told from the main character’s perspective – there are no cut aways. Much of the progression is also through internal monologue. The focus isn’t really what he is doing but what is going through his head at the time. The real point is getting inside the hitman’s head as he struggles with paranoia, isolation, his past, and his future.

This is the strength of the book. Seeing what is in his head as he struggles to not fall apart.

The art supports what is going on in the character’s head. There are few details not relevant to what is going on. When the character is cracking up, the image is cracked as well. When the character is relying on his killer instinct, his ‘spirit animal’ is shown. The art and internal monologue play together well.

Overall I like the psychological bent to the story and how the artwork reflects it. But the story itself doesn’t grab me. I finished the book easily but I’m not rushing to get the next one – I was amused but not enthralled. I am curious about how the character will deal with things but I don’t really care what happens to him. So this is one to wait for another sale.

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152

I happened to catch the author, David Petersen, during a lull in autographs so I took the opportunity to ask him a few questions. I opened with what I’m sure is what he hears the most, “Was Redwall an inspiration for Mouse Guard?” I haven’t read Redwall but it is part of the reason I hadn’t read Mouse Guard. Because I associated Mouse Guard and Redwall and I think of Redwall as a YA book, I put Mouse Guard in the same category. David replied that Redwall was actually a counter-inspiration. He thinks of Mouse Guard as the anti-Redwall. He appreciates the fans who come from Redwall nostalgia but he is telling a different story. He also expressed amusement about how many other mouse related comics and toys have come out since Mouse Guard became popular.

This first story follows 3 members of the titular Mouse Guard. They are like the Rangers of the mouse world (too much B5 on the brain). The Guard are wandering fighters who keep the land clear of enemies and safe for the common .. mouse.

My favorite part of this book is the world-building. You understand the dangers the mice have to deal with, how they try to cope with things, and how the mouse civilization works.

The artwork is good without too much complication. Some of the darker scenes were a little difficult for me to figure out what was going on. That could just be my eyesight. The wide-angle scenes give you a great idea of the scope of the mouse world.

The characters have individuality and personality. There are no scenes were the characters feel like they are forcefully scripted.

And I like that each book is a particular season. This goes back to the world-building and the scope of the mouse world.

Overall this is a good book. I think I’d still classify it as YA though. The plot is straightforward. The heroes are heroes. The bad guys are bad guys. There is very little moral ambiguity and no “discussion points” for the kids outside of the main plot.

I might pick up some of the other books if I find another Archaia sale, but I’m not feeling a need for them.

Over the next 5 days I’ll be running this guest blog, with the exception of tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll have a special Halloween post (which I have yet to decide if it’s going to be a special short story or a write-up of another anime). Hope you enjoy!
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Archaia

Since they started in 2002 I’ve closely followed Archaia’s publications. Despite that, I haven’t actually read any of them. I’ve just been keeping an eye out for any new Artesia stories. Mark Smylie, who created and writes Artesia, started Archaia to self-publish his comic but since then he has been too busy being a boss to get his own stuff out. Several things converged at the con to convince me to pick up some non-Artesia stuff: Brandon Thomas talked about his book Miranda Mercury at the racebending.com panel, I got to bug Mark Smylie after an Archaia panel about getting more Artesia out, and (perhaps most importantly) a too-good-to-pass-up 5 for 2 sale. I picked up Miranda Mercury, The Killer, Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, Okko: The Cycle Of Earth (second volume .. I already had volume 1, Water), and Critical Millennium: The Dark Frontier. New titles weren’t included in the sale, so all of those are titles that have been out for a bit. Here are my reviews/impressions of those titles.

I want to preface these reviews by saying that I am very picky about what I like. I love SF/F and good fiction in general, but I often despair of finding something unique that speaks to me. See my previous Comic-Con posts for the serial comics I currently read.

And pick up Artesia. Seriously.

 

The Many Adventures Of Miranda Mercury

This is an easy book to jump right into. The artwork is uncluttered and colorful. The writing tells you all you need to know about the characters and their personalities without going into digressions or unnecessary details.

The book is designed to seem like various issues from the lifetime of a 300-issue run. There are time skips between each story but they all fit together into an arc and you don’t feel like there are parts missing.

This is a book that you don’t want to finish. That is a tribute to the writing. It is clear where the story is going to end and, like the characters, you don’t want it to happen. As I saw the remaining pages diminish, I started reading slower. I’d read part of a story, then put it down. I’d come back a bit later and start the story over because “I may have forgotten something” .. and repeat.

The over-arching dialogue is about doing what is right regardless of the cost to yourself. Along the way it covers racism, what it means to be friends or family, what incredible things someone might be capable of if given the opportunity, and attempting what others think is impossible because you never know until you try. And, if you don’t blink, there is a very brief mention of same-sex marriage.

Covered obliquely is also asking for help from those who care about you. On this point I disagree with the approach the Mercury family seems to use. For me, keeping information from your friends and family shows a lack of trust in them. That is a difference of opinion though and not a flaw in the story itself.

Overall, this is an awesome book.

I have only 2 issues with it:

  1. I want more. It is presented as part of a 300-issue run. The cover has a 1 on it. I want to see what the rest of it could be. There are references to past deeds of the characters and I really want to hear more about them.
  2. I didn’t like the feeling the last story left me with. I understand why it was there. It showed important sides of Miranda and her family and there is nowhere else it could go in the book. The rest of the book shows Miranda at her strongest. The last page is Miranda at her weakest. It felt out-of-place and I didn’t really want to see it. That is part of the reason I really want more.

    (part 2 to be posted Thursday)