Short Story: Wild Ride

Ride like the wind, your Highness!

Those words cycled in her mind, overpowering the thunder of her steed’s hooves as she rushed toward her destination.

Ride like the wind, your Highness! Save yourself, so that the other kingdoms may know of the approaching darkness.

Princess Annette, of the Kingdom of Landfall, knew she was on borrowed time and it wouldn’t be long before the Shadows caught up to collect their debt. It was an inevitability that nothing she could do could stop. Only an hour ago had they wiped out an entire nation, felling its army in one fell swoop. What possible chance could Landfall’s sole survivor have against them?

Annette’s horse seemed to understand the gravity of the situation as well as she did, and didn’t slow in its ongoing sprint toward the neighbouring land of Blackcliffe. Not a single hoof went wrong, even as both steed and rider were being lashed by wayward twigs and branches on either side of the autumn-paved road. The princess afforded herself a glance behind her. All seemed clear. At first.

The distant wail was the first warning, and the only one she needed. Within seconds, two forms advanced on her, and by no means was it a gradual approach.

It was as if they had appeared behind her in a puff of smoke: two black steeds, if they could even be called that. Annette only had a quick glance, but she recognised their form all too well. These beasts possessed no visible means of ambulation or flight, yet somehow, they hovered effortlessly just a few feet above the ground, their approach one continuous, unhindered motion. Their bodies didn’t seem natural at all. What should have been flesh seemed to be more metallic in nature, its armour bearing a gloss that she couldn’t identify.

Riding them were the monsters that had destroyed her realm and slain her family, her friends, her people. Creatures clad in black leather armour and strange helms as glossy as the plates adorning their steeds. The obsidian visors masked their faces, masking any sign of life or humanity. The Shadows were no humans, Annette decided long before their approach. No human could be capable of the evils committed on her soil.

The Shadows are approaching fast. It would be an hour before she reached Blackcliffe, but they would be upon her in seconds. She reached for one of the two muskets she had managed to pick up before her escape and drew it toward the closest of her pursuers. A thunderous crack conquered all other sound and the pistol erupted with the force of a volcano in miniature. When the smoke cleared, however, the Shadows were still closing in, unaffected by the blast. She’d missed her shot. Annette was determined to slow their advance and reached for the second musket. Another deafening explosion, but it was no good.

The Shadows took their turn and responded in kind. Beams of green light, something that Annette could only describe as magical, streamed from the nostrils of their war beasts. The ground erupted wherever they struck, leaving the princess powerless to do anything but hold onto her steed as tightly as possible until she could hold on no longer. The final shot struck the horse and, in its final throes, tossed Annette to the ground. Though her landing was painful, she was quick to find herself grateful to the leather armour that prevented a moment of back pain from receiving a twig into her spine.

Annette recovered quickly and scrambled to her feet. The Shadows had left their own beasts behind to finish the job they started by hand. The princess drew her own longsword, ready to make a final stand, but soon realised that she was not very long for this world when her assailants drew their own weapons. They were black as coal and had no blades, but she could tell from the lights adorning them and the manner in which the Shadows raised them toward her that they didn’t need blades.

“Get it over with.” Annette sighed, resigning herself to fate. The princess dropped her sword to the ground and held her arms out. “And may the gods, and my people, forgive my failure.”

It was then that the wind changed direction. No, Annette realised, it was moving of its own accord, it seemed, circling both herself and each of the Shadows, throwing leaves around one another like nature’s confetti. Then came another roar. A beastly, unnatural, guttural roar that tore through the air, making that of the Shadows’ own steeds seem pitiful in comparison. A roar accompanied by an wail, no two… no! The same wail, alternating between the two notes of its personal battle cry. The noise distracted the Shadows long enough for Annette to make her escape into some nearby bushes, though she did not flee any further.

Instead, the princess watched as both roar and wail grew louder, heralding the arrival of something she could only hope was her saviour and what she feared could be a greater threat than the shadows, both in equal measure. Eventually, the source of the war cry appeared out of nowhere, fading onto the road as if it had rolled in from another world. This was no beast, but instead appeared to be more of a large chariot without any horses to pull it. The black chariot roared toward the Shadows and without warning, swung itself into a sideways slide as it reached their war beasts, which bore no signs of concern at the abomination that had stopped just short of a few inches from them.

The chariot was covered overhead and seemed to have doors to either side, each a contrasting white against the rest of the vehicle. The door facing Annette’s pursuers opened, revealing low seats made of leather, and its rider, a woman with shoulder-length blonde locks and clad in unusual clothing, stepped out onto the road.

No! Annette wanted to scream, but fear for her own life had kept her silent. The woman slammed the door without a care and sauntered over toward the Shadows with an air of confidence not seen in anyone who would, in their right minds, be aware of the danger before her. Run away, now! FLEE!

“Hi there!” the woman cheerfully waved toward the Shadows as if greeting friends. Annette wondered if this woman was in fact in allegiance with these monsters. “I seem to be a bit lost, I wanted to be somewhere near, ooh, Blackcliffe, I think. You know how it is. The GPS is awful around here. Someone want to point me in the right direction?”

The woman’s words were lost on the princess, and from the confrontational reaction of the Shadows, who raised their weapons on her instead, it was lost on them as well. They opened fire, green light erupting rapidly from their strange muskets that never seemed to require reloading. However, they seemed to have no effect on their target, who merely crossed her arms, leaned to one side and let out a somewhat unimpressed yawn. When the Shadows were done, she bore no wounds and remained still, as if either oblivious or uncaring of the volley unleashed upon her.

“Okay.” She uttered calmly. “That’s how it’s going to be, then.”

The Shadows looked to one another, puzzled by the woman’s reaction. Before they could open fire again, though, a thunderclap erupted before them and knocked the pistol from one of the monster’s hands sending it airborne towards the princess’ hiding spot. The woman fired her own pistol once again, an impeccable silver piece of weaponry almost as small as her own hand, piercing a hole in the disarmed Shadow’s leg and sending him crashing to the ground with a scream not unlike that of a dragon. Another shot disarmed the second Shadow, another struck its helm, doing little more than disorient it momentarily. The woman stepped forward as she unleashed a few more shots, all without reloading, and each shot glancing her foe’s helm. The Shadow stumbled, unable to recover before the woman was upon it, and lifting the creature from the ground with one arm.

“That wasn’t very nice, now, was it?” she asked the Shadow as it struggled against her unbelievable strength. “And that was silly of me. Of course, you can’t talk, you can’t answer that. But you can tell your masters this: whatever it is you’re up to, now might be a good time to abandon those plans and skedaddle on out of here. You know who I am. You know that this realm is under my protection. You know what to do. Got that?”

The Shadow gave not even the slightest of gestures, but it seemed clear enough to the woman that it understood everything. She lowered it to the ground and gave a curt nod toward their war beasts, watching the Shadows with care as the wounded one was carried over to its steed. When they turned back the way they came and fled, she directed her attention, with great precision, toward the princess.

“You can come out now.” She smiled, slipping her strange silver musket into a leather holster hanging from her belt.

Annette crept out of the bush, her hands held high. “How did you know I was here?” The woman silently pointed to her fallen steed. “Oh.”

The woman smiled as she turned to approach her chariot. “Well, the Shadows had to be here for some reason, after all. It’s not in their nature to stand around in the middle of nowhere for no reason. Princess Annette of Landfall, right? Sorry, Queen Annette, now.”

“I’m the queen of nothing.” Annette mumbled.

“And I’ve met many great leaders who’ve managed to make something out of nothing.”

A furious princess stormed over and grabbed the woman by the wrist as she was halfway back into her leather seat. “How dare you! I’ve just lost my family, my friends… my entire kingdom has been reduced to ash, yet you speak as if it’s little more than spilled milk!”

“No, I speak as if it’s not the end of your world. Well, not yet, anyway.” The woman yanked her hand from Annette’s grasp. “You’re the last of your kingdom, but you don’t have to be forever. Don’t squander what you have left and let the destruction of all you’ve held dear be in vain. Don’t surrender to extinction. Now, are you getting in, or what?”

“Where would you take me?”

“Well,” the woman smiled. “I was trying to reach Blackcliffe, and I figured you might be heading there too, given the direction the Shadows ran off to and its proximity to Landfall. Don’t forget to buckle up.”

Annette blinked as she worked her way around the horseless carriage. “Sorry, buckle up?”

“Yeah, use the seatbelt.” The woman pulled out a strap that seemed to clip securely into a socket near the base of the seat. “This is going to be a wild ride.”

Annette slipped into the passenger-side seat and fastened the seatbelt into place. Only then did the chariot roar into motion again, wailing toward the Kingdom of Blackcliffe.

Author’s note: Someone linked me to The Timelords/KLF’s ageless “Doctorin’ the Tardis” and, in watching the vid, thought the idea of someone driving an old US police car, sirens blaring, between universes would be pretty badass. Not quite as badass as traversing space and time in a police box that’s bigger on the inside and saving the universe while wearing a bow tie, but still badass in my book.

Creative Commons Licence
This short story is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Short Story: LFG

|ir0nbard has entered the channel
Prince4lyfe: Sup ir0n
ir0nbard: the sky
Prince4lyfe:
DeirdreMasters:
ir0nbard: srsly tho theres another dragon about u guys wanna come slay it with me
Prince4lyfe: Not really, no.
ir0nbard: …no?
ir0nbard: what do u mean no?
DeirdreMasters: You need this explaining iron? After the last time?
ir0nbard: guys we slayed that last dragon without a hitch
DeirdreMasters: Without a hitch? That dragon only went down because of your leggings.
ir0nbard: that wasn’t a hitch
ir0nbard: guys
Prince4lyfe: Those leggings were effective for one reason and one reason only…
ir0nbard: IT WORKED FIVE DAMMIT
|ir0nbard has been kicked by PKbot – reason: no need to shout!
|ir0nbard has entered the channel
ir0nbard: it worked Five dammit
DeirdreMasters: Heard you the first time.
DeirdreMasters: Well. Read you.
Prince4lyfe: In any case, no. In fact, we’d rather you’d leave this one to professionals
|imawizardmary has entered the channel
Prince4lyfe: Preferably ones with single-purpose weaponry, too
imawizardmary: see were back to bitching about ir0ns guitar-rifle again?
|Prince4lyfe sighs
Prince4lyfe: Yes. Yes we are.
ir0nbard: whats wrong with my guitar-rifle?
ir0nbard: guys
ironbard: WHATS WRONG WIT IT>>
|ir0nbard has been kicked by PKbot – reason: no need to shout!
|ir0nbard has entered the channel
imawizardmary: ir0n
imawizardmary: chill
ir0nbard: what
ir0nbard: oh
imawizardmary: seriously though, your axecannon or whatevers fine
imawizardmary: just needs some enchanting is all
Prince4lyfe: Wiz…
ir0nbard: i dont want it enchanting
Prince4lyfe: Aren’t you forgetting something?
ir0nbard: enchantings for cowards
imawizardmary: am i?
|ir0nbard has been kicked by Prince4lyfe – reason: We don’t call people cowards, ir0n
Prince4lyfe: Yes. Yes you are.
|ir0nbard has entered the channel
|Prince4lyfe glares at wiz
imawizardmary:
imawizardmary: oh
imawizardmary: oh yeah
imawizardmary: what happened with that anyway?
Prince4lyfe: Had to shell out for a new rifle, thank you very gods damned much.
DeirdreMasters: The warranty didn’t cover modification damage, basically.
DeirdreMasters: Including magic-based.
imawizardmary: oh
imawizardmary: sorry
imawizardmary: ill pay you back for it i swear
|Prince4lyfe rolls his eyes
imawizardmary: what?
Prince4lyfe: Nothing.
Prince4lyfe: Just see to it that you do.
DeirdreMasters: Daddy’s pissed.
Prince4lyfe: …Thanks, Dee.
DeirdreMasters: Welcome!
ir0nbard: wiz
imawizardmary: what?
ir0nbard: u wanna help me slay a dragon
ir0nbard: use the reward to pay for Prince’s gun
imawizardmary: i dont know…
imawizardmary: ooh good idea iron
Prince4lyfe: Woah, hey, wiz. I’d prefer it if you lived long enough to pay me back, yeah?
imawizardmary: ill be fine.
DeirdreMasters: You, wiz, who manages to blow the wrong things up, and incontinence bard…
DeirdreMasters: Against a dragon.
imawizardmary: ill be fine!!
DeirdreMasters: That’ll end well, I’m sure.
|Prince4lyfe sighs
DeirdreMasters: Stop abusing the emote command, brother.
Prince4lyfe: Stop telling me how to use MY channel, sister.
|DeirdreMasters pouts
Prince4lyfe: Okay, fine. I’ll come with you, ir0n.
ir0nbard: woot
Prince4lyfe: But I’m bringing some backup this time.
ir0nbard: srsly
ir0nbard: we dont need backup
Prince4lyfe: And I don’t need to be greeting the gods soaked in your fear-pee.
ir0nbard:
ir0nbard: fine
Prince4lyfe: Good.
Prince4lyfe: Now that that’s clear, I want as good a description of the dragon we’re about to going up against.
ir0nbard: why
Prince4lyfe: Description, ir0n.
Prince4lyfe: Now.
ir0nbard: all i know is that its big it flies and its red
DeirdreMasters: Uh…
Prince4lyfe: Last sighting?
ir0nbard: what
Prince4lyfe: Where was it last sighted, ir0n?
ir0nbard: north of jaunty rock
ir0nbard: greenhawk mountains
ir0nbard: i think
imawizardmary: joining dee in uh-ing here.
Prince4lyfe: Yeah, okay.
ir0nbard: lets go kill it already
Prince4lyfe: Just one thing, ir0n.
ir0nbard: what
Prince4lyfe: We can’t kill this dragon.
ir0nbard: why not
Prince4lyfe: WE JUST CAN’T!
|Prince4lyfe has been kicked by PKbot – reason: no need to shout!
|Prince4lyfe has entered the channel
|Prince4lyfe has disabled PKbot rule: noshout
Prince4lyfe: That didn’t happen.
DeirdreMasters: Yes it did.
|DeirdreMasters has been kicked by Prince4lyfe – reason: It didn’t.
|DeirdreMasters has entered the channel
DeirdreMasters: Hey!
ir0nbard: why cant we slay the dragon
Prince4lyfe: We have an understanding.
ir0nbard: what
imawizardmary: hes a cool guy ir0n
ir0nbard: hes a dragon
ir0nbard: dragons are bad
ir0nbard: remember
DeirdreMasters: Yeah, that’s like saying all humans are bad because a few of them turn out to be bloodythirsty serial killers.
DeirdreMasters: See where I’m going with this?
|Switchfyre has entered the channel
ir0nbard: ALL DRAGONS ARE BAD
ir0nbard: ITS IN THERE NATURE AND EVERYTHING
Prince4lyfe:
Switchfyre: I came online at a bad time, didn’t I?
Prince4lyfe: Five preserve me…
Prince4lyfe: Don’t mind ir0n, Switch. He’s a little…
Prince4lyfe: …well…
DeirdreMasters: Dense?
Prince4lyfe: Dee!
Switchfyre: This got awkward fast.
ir0nbard: wtf
ir0nbard: the dragons here
imawizardmary: ir0n…
ir0nbard: the dragons here on this channel right now wtf what is wrong with you
Prince4lyfe: ir0n, calm… down.
ir0nbard: WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU
Prince4lyfe: ir0n…
|ir0nbard has left the channel – reason: screw you guys i’ll go slay him myself
DeirdreMasters:
Switchfyre: Guess he’s after me, then.
Prince4lyfe: Yep.
Switchfyre: You really need to choose your friends more carefully.
Prince4lyfe: Yep.
Switchfyre: And correct him on my gender and all when he gets back.
Prince4lyfe: Yep.
imawizardmary: wait.
imawizardmary: youre female?
Prince4lyfe: Yep.
Switchfyre: Yep.
imawizardmary: that i did not know.
|imawizardmary changed their name to imanidiotmary
imanidiotmary: also how are you even typing?
imanidiotmary: your arms are your wings.
Switchfyre: Speech dick taters.
imanidiotmary: 0_0
Switchfyre: Five donut.
Switchfyre: Five damn it.
Switchfyre: Speech dictation.

 

Author’s note: What? Those fantasy realms aren’t going to remain on the same level of technology for the rest of their existence, are they?

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This short story is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Short Story: Pulling a Fast One

He was getting tired now. The fighter’s strength was diminishing by the second, and he could feel the drain on every swing of his greatsword. His self-healing abilities were all used up and too far away from fully recharging in time to save him. In spite of this, however, he pressed on, hacking away at the small army of critters that had surrounded him at all sides, determined to end this increasingly hopeless battle in his favour. There were only a few left, he noted. Victory was fast becoming within reach.

The fighter hefted his weapon high above his head and brought it down upon the crab-like monster before him, splitting the accursed thing in half like a hot knife through butter. A second crab charged him with alarming haste, only to run straight into the heel of his tarnished steel boot, a blow which knocked it back onto a nearby fire that had been kindled some time before the hero’s arrival. He turned to the third monster, realising all too late that it had crept up on him unchecked. Obsidian pincers snapped at the mail protecting his lower torso and tore it apart like wet parchment, as it did the flesh beneath. Undeterred by the new wound, even as his once-silvery leggings turned a glistening red, the fighter hopped back to bring himself alongside the greatsword he had embedded in his first foe and, grabbing the hilt, yanked it from the corpse and lifted it above his head again.

Just as he was about to strike, however, a blue flash caught his eye. Both man and monster halted on the spot to observe another human, draped in muddied robes befitting a field mage, fleeing with the speed of a cheetah. Soon they both discovered what he was running from: another herd of crab-like creatures rushing by in hot pursuit before finally giving up the chase. They turned, as if ready to return to the natural routine they observed before the wizard had disturbed them, but soon laid what passed for eyes upon the fighter. Man and monster alike watched one another for a brief moment before the grim realisation of his situation finally dawned upon the hero: he wasn’t getting out of this alive.

The hero respawned at a nearby checkpoint, just at the mouth of the cave where he met his demise. He took a moment to check his equipment, which sustained a little damage in his fall and, as a result, had lost some of its effectiveness. Determining that the loss was no reason to return to town for repairs, he headed back into its deep dark depths again. The mage rushed by him once more, followed by yet another group of infuriated crabs.

She was getting tired now. The fighter’s strength was diminishing by the second, and she could feel the drain on every swing of her axe. Her self-healing abilities were all used up and too far away from fully recharging in time to save her. In spite of this, however, she pressed on, hacking away at the small army of critters that had surrounded her at all sides, determined to end this increasingly hopeless battle in her favour. There were only a few left, she noted. Victory was fast becoming within reach.

The fighter lifted her axe above her head, but before she could bring it down upon the crab-like monster before her, a voice from the distant darkness unleashed an almighty string of profane language that echoed across the cavern, distracting the hero just long enough for her foes to strike before she could realise the fatal error.

Whoever that bastard was, she thought to herself as she returned to the respawn point, he was so getting the repair bill.

Author’s note: Just something that’s been sitting in my head after a few daft experiences in Guild Wars 2. It’s probably better suited to a webcomic, but I barely have the patience to draw a sloppy bar chart these days.

Creative Commons Licence
This short story is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.