07/24/2024 Snippet, THE REAL THING.

More fights!

And the naked lizards had been whittled down to something almost manageable. Most of them were worrying at the meager flesh of their fallen packmates; the rest had learned wariness, at least. “How smart are these heconnar?” ‘Bob’ snarled as we scrambled past the half-cleared hedge that was our major defense. “Because they don’t act too stupid!”

“How would I know?” I snapped back. Then I paused. “Dammit. They’re not sapient. Their heads are too small and they don’t have hands. These things are here to eat, not think.”

“That sounds like good news!” Either Elanor was mad, or just wanted to get in the spirit of things, because she was being loud, too. “Why is that a problem?”

“It’s not!” I grimaced, and lowered my voice. “It’s not. I just hate it when I have to correct myself. I did know, after all.”

07/23/2024 Snippet, THE REAL THING.

Magic!

I don’t like casting spells outside of the Kingdom. The magic is so slow out here, like I’m running through syrup, and it smells/tastes weak, too. More than one Virginian mage has gotten into a lot of trouble by trying to pull in magic that just wasn’t there, or tough enough to be pulled, so I had to be quick and gentle in absorbing the local the energy… I’m sorry. This makes more sense to mages. Try to imagine that I was pulling a tablecloth off of a table without disturbing the dishes and glasses, only the tablecloth was really tissue paper. You can still do it without everything ripping, but you need to do it right.

I got it right. Mostly. Well enough that the difference didn’t matter. It’s actually no big deal when your nose bleeds. Anything can cause a nosebleed, right? You only really have to worry when it’s your ears or eyes. The important thing was, I had the power I needed by the time I jumped through the ring of fire. So obviously it was time to start using it.

I started out by taking over the flames, fueling them from some of my own gathered power, and the magic still remaining in the area. That wouldn’t last forever, either, but I didn’t need forever. I steadied that spell in one hand while pulling together a cloud spell with the other. It sounds harder than it is; most simple magics can be done one-handed, and we train ourselves to use both, from an early age.

07/22/2024 Snippet, THE REAL THING.

Fights!

The protection spell helped, too. It turned gutting swipes into slashes and bone-splintering chomps into bites, and the party could fight back. You hear stories about elven archers? It turns out they’re all true. ‘Bob’ in particular was a whirling dervish, leaving three knives in three naked lizard eyesockets in four seconds before buckling down to shoot in the suddenly-cleared space around him. He emptied his quiver in moments, but that didn’t matter; I saw him plucking arrows out of the actual air as the archers tumbled and dodged their way around the fight. The elves call it the nurulilte, the Dance of Death, and seeing it made me very glad that Virginia and the Elf-Lands were at peace.

I was doing some cavorting on my own, looking for the team. The fighters were fine on their own; the Carver brothers had lived up to their own name, spraying lizard blood and guts about them as they hewed a way to the fallen archer; and Elanor — dammit, Elanor was in a circle of flame, surrounded by a ring of angry, scorched naked lizards. Worse, the flames were flickering. Alchemy is wonderful, and sometimes even better than magic. It just doesn’t last long.

Anyway, I know a hint when I see one.

07/20/2024 Snippet, THE REAL THING.

Naked lizards! …The horrible kind. Not the weird Skyrim mod kind.

Our best bet was to move west, and track down what the old maps called the Chattahoochee River. 

I have no idea what that word means, by the way. I’m assuming it meant something like ‘hidden,’ because we had spent a day trying to find it, and failing. And it was hot, and it was dry, and the air was also somehow greasy, and every fly and mosquito in Georgia was trying to make our acquaintance.

That last, at least, I could do something about; I used a cantrip from the Second Republic to suck the life force out of every bug that came within twenty feet. It worked fine, but that meant the party had to try to stay within twenty feet of me, too. That made our travel a little crowded, with people jostling each other as they tried to stay in range. I’m not a fan of being crowded, especially when nobody’s bathed enough to suit me, including me. Very much including me.

But it was just as well. If the naked lizard pack had attacked us while we were all spread out, things would have gotten even messier. As it was, three of them had jumped one of the archers and had him down in the dirt screaming as they swept at his body with their red-dripping fighting claws.

07/19/2024 Snippet, THE REAL THING.

I have a pretty good idea of how this is going to go now.

“Sounds fine to me.” I paused. “Ah… anything vile in those camps?”

“Nah. Or nothing that made me throw up,” Finglas replied. “No human bones in the stewpots, no black-glowing idols, none of that crap. The only skulls I saw were deer and pigs. Oh, and they got a dog-god around here, looks like. Saw a shrine or two in the camps.”

Nellas narrowed his eyes. “You didn’t…”

“Didn’t do nothing except light an incense stick at each one. Didn’t touch nothing, either.” Finglas snorted. “I ain’t some penchannas stripling, brother. You meet a god at the side of the road, you give it a friendly nod and leave it the hell alone.”

As it happened, we never had any trouble with the locals around Lost Atlanta, either coming or going. Maybe their dog-god liked the incense. Or maybe his worshipers just didn’t want any trouble.

07/17/2024 Snippet, THE REAL THING.

God, I can’t wait for this heat to become more manageable. It’s downright enervating.

Elf-Lands

Kentuckians may not have a King, but they definitely know how to put an expedition together. By the time I arrived at Fort Savannah, Mary-Jo had already gotten our team assembled. There was me, her, Finglas and Nellas for the scouting, a dour-looking healer named Elanor Dawnflower, and an entire squad of grizzled, hard-eyed elven archers led by one ‘Bob Jones.’

Mary-Jo had warned me about that, ahead of time. “Some of the elven families still hold onto what human mages did to them, back before they got loose. Bob knows you’re not one of those, but he’s not going to give out his True Name to you anyway.” I had still spent half of the two week trip up to Lost Atlantia wondering if Bob really did know I wasn’t one of those Mage Alliance bastards, but he never said or did anything except keep one eye on me at all times. Eventually I decided it was his problem, not mine, and I needed to concentrate on actually getting to Lost Atlanta.

Damned if it wasn’t properly lost, either. It was so lost, the locals from Savannah said that even bandits couldn’t find it. The way they said that, I gathered that I was supposed to be impressed. I did my best, but we don’t have bandits in Virginia. I had to take on faith their supernatural ability to find lost places.

07/14/2024 Snippet, THE REAL THING.

There is a summer cold in Chez Lane, we fear. Been dealing with that all day, not to mention more naps than usual.

I’m not going to lie. Mary-Jo Carter barely had to sell me on the expedition. She gave me the whole pitch anyway. 

“Lost Atlanta is one of the few major cities on the Eastern Seaboard that hasn’t been picked over, or fully destroyed.” Carter looked barely old enough to be a Congressman’s aide, let alone a Congressman herself, but the rules were different in Kentucky. She certainly sounded like she knew what she was talking about. “The post-Discovery plagues bit very hard there, and there were a cluster of thaumaturgical spikes that disrupted recovery efforts, at just the worst time. That would make it valuable, on general principles.” She smiled, for a moment looking even younger. “But there’s also a special prize to be won.”

I considered the wine rack with a critical eye. We were having this meeting in my family’s Potomac river-house, which is a lot fancier than it sounds. I may be so far down the line of succession that my name was simply scribbled on the back of the page somewhere, but I was certainly welcome to use House Barod’s various manors. Within reason, obviously. The family wouldn’t care if I popped open another house red, but I’d have to pay to replace any of the really good vintages.

07/13/2024 Snippet, THE REAL THING.

I decided that it was time to tell the story about how the Fermi Resolution world got their Coca-Cola back. I was aiming for one thousand words today, but… stuff happened.

Ruins of Atlanta, Georgia
2256 AD

The kudzu screamed, and leapt.

I’m not going to lie: I flinched, slightly. Not as much as I did the first time I had heard the scream of a feral kudzu hunting bloom, but it’s definitely something you have to get used to. Or I guess… not.

Now, Finglas Carver didn’t flinch. He just whirled, quick as lightning, and shoved his spear smack into the middle of the kudzu bloom. It immediately snapped itself around the spearhead, trying to suffocate it like it would a squirrel, but instead tangling itself up in its own questing tendrils. Before it could unscramble itself, Finglas’s brother Nellas weaved his fingers around in an intricate pattern that collapsed into a jet of fire.

Kudzu smells shockingly good when it burns. Sort of like sandalwood and pine — but Finglas waved me away. “You don’t want two lungfuls of that smoke,” he told me as he maneuvered the burning kudzu to a clearing. “One lung, sure is good. Two lungs, that’s too good.”

I nodded my understanding as I carefully looked behind me. They’d told me feral kudzu didn’t hunt in packs, but then they’d also told me that they didn’t go after humans. Clearly the creatures weren’t entirely predictable.

There weren’t. Just the usual wild riot of the Old Georgian countryside. But there were probably going to be other things. Vicious. Nasty. Maybe even deadly.

I grinned. I couldn’t wait.

07/12/2024 Snippet, PICKMAN’S MODELS.

Time to buckle down on some stuff.

“Anybody got a suit that’s still got a working translator?” Tobias looked around, grimacing at the irregular chorus of head-shakes. Apparently the Euros had cannibalized all the ‘useless’ circuits and chips from their suits, too. And why not? He snorted. Everybody speaks English up here, because we won’t speak anything else. “Well, maybe we’ll find somebody who does speak it. Until then… we got a trail to follow, Buckley?”

Buckley was crouched over some of the furrows. “…Yes, I think we do. It’s faint, but our, ah, suits can track them. We’ll need to take it slow. Nice and careful, no messing around.”

“Understood. We’ll proceed until we find somebody. Squaddies up front, and we all keep together. Buddy up, and yell if your buddy’s gone, even for a second.”

“Understood, sir.” Reithner paused. “Assume hostile intent now, sir?”

“No,” Tobias responded, “but be prepared for it.”

Snippet, the second additional excerpt to VERDICT OF HISTORY.

You’ll find the full thing on my Patreon.

— From Annals of the Damned: A Chronicle of the most Perfidious and Infamous ruling Scoundrels of the dastardly Universal Dominion, from Its Blasphemous Rise to the Current Day. The 2900 AD Commemorative Special Report of the Hershey Consortium, Complete with edifying Narrations and Illustrations for the Discerning Employee.

Peregrine the Steady of the Black Pool (2399-2454)
Universal Dominion Supreme Archmage, 2442-2454. Born to slaves and taken at an early age, Peregrine grew to a Woman’s estate steeped in Malice and Cruelty, never showing any signs of anything but the liveliest Contempt for her origins. She had a name for Wanton Cruelty, even in an Age that delighted in such Inefficiency and Vile Waste. Her conquest of The Kingdom of the Lakes (2445 AD) was marked by acts of Self-Destructive violence that never bore anything but the Bitterest of foul Fruits.