Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Finished a new indie game!

My Dream Job: How I Survived Job Hunting in Animation

I just finished creating a tiny indie game with Bitsy! 

My Dream Job: How I Survived Job Hunting in Animation


What's Bitsy?

Bitsy is a "little editor for little worlds" made by Adam Le Doux. Bitsy has a huge community of creators who enjoy making tiny stories and adventures.


You can make your own Bitsy games here inside your browser: https://ledoux.itch.io/bitsy

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Nightmare in Bonbonburg - A Tabletop-RPG Adventure for the Holidays!

My friend Ben Chaplin and I have been working furiously like Santa's elves to complete our holiday-themed tabletop adventure just in time for Christmas! I co-wrote and illustrated this adventure.

"As you fall asleep one winter’s night, you find yourself in a strange place. A small town inhabited by toys is having trouble with a nearby colony of rats stealing their chocolate harvest year after year. But the poor toys aren’t built to fight! Can you stop the rats from stealing the candy once and for all? And is that really all there is to the story?"

Nightmare in Bonbonburg is a holiday-themed wintry adventure for adventurers level 1-3.

You can purchase it here: https://www.dmsguild.com/product/339696/Nightmare-in-Bonbonburg

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Sample Chapter from: Rad Savage Wins Against the Universe (Sometimes)

 Chapter 5

Rad had forgotten all about the annoying kid after his piece of French silk pie, which was more delicious than the lukewarm potato soup had been by far. He knew he shouldn’t have splurged on dessert, but he was feeling a little low – and at times like that he was known to eat a little more. It’s okay, he thought, I’m in good shape. Although he didn’t know how long that would last without a job to keep him active. Just great, now he felt guilty about the pie. After all, he did have rent due still – and every dollar counted. He laid his head on the bar, sighing heavily, until he saw a small pair of feet.

“Hey,” the kid said, and Rad sighed. He forced himself to sit up but wouldn't look at him.

“What do you want now, kid?”

“You wanted a job. I found something even better,” he said.

“What? Free money?”

“A treasure hunt.”

Rad turned to him, his eyes narrowing. Something was wrong with this picture. This kid didn’t know him from Andromeda and yet here he was offering something he really wanted like a carrot on a string. It was too good to be true.

“What makes you think I would be interested in something like that?”

“Because you’re a pirate. Pirates love treasure hunts.” 

The kid had him there. It was a logical deduction – and it made him feel a little easier about the situation, and a bit silly for suspecting this kid. Sure, of course, a treasure hunt for a pirate. It was just a strange coincidence that it happened to be his favorite hobby, that was all. “Besides it sounds more fun than washing the dishes here.”

That sold him right away. “Alright, I’ll bite. Where is this treasure hunt?”

“I just heard a rumor about it on the internet – but they aren’t officially announcing it until tomorrow. You’ll have to wait until then.”

            “I hate waiting,” Rad said, but he didn’t say that he wouldn’t wait.

            “Does this mean you’ll teach me about pirating now?” the kid asked.

            “You didn’t find me a job.”

            “C’mon, please?”

            Rad hesitated but the kid was giving him one of those sad looks. The ones with the big teary eyes and the quivering lips. Damn this kid was good at that.

“You’re persistent, I’ll give you that.”

 The look did not let up. Rad cringed. He couldn’t take much more of that stare.

“Fine! Why not? If this contest looks legit, you’re free to come along and I’ll show you how the pros find treasure.”

            “Yes!” the kid cheered like he had just won a million dollars in the lottery. Something here didn’t make sense, but Rad was almost too tired to deal with it at the moment and he chalked it up to having a bad day.

Rad stuffed a couple bills under his plate and waved to Frankie who nodded at the cash. In the pirate community receipts were useless since things like taxes didn’t exist. Everyone paid on the honor system. You honored it or the system came collecting - to your doorstep.

“So what’s your name?” Rad asked.


“That’s a good one. You’re lucky.”

“Why’s that?”

“I’m Rad, short for Radcliffe,” he said and laughed, “Radcliffe Quincy Savage. I’ve always hated that name.”

“Yeah, I’d hate to be a loser too,” Chase said and laughed.

Usually a cheap remark like that would have made Rad upset, but Chase’s tone was different. It made him laugh instead. At least the kid had a sense of humor. That was rare in the pirate community. Too many bitter people. You couldn’t blame them though. Life was hard on Blue Moon.

“How’d you end up like this, Chase?” Rad asked, “You seem like a sharp kid.”

 Chase looked a little frightened and didn’t answer for a moment. Rad felt a little bad for being so direct. But he couldn’t help but wonder. Everyone had a story. Then again, his own was depressing enough, so he supposed he shouldn’t make the kid dredge up any bad memories either. 

He quickly added, “Forget I asked. That was a dumb question.”

The kid didn’t reply to that; he was strangely quiet now. Rad asked, “I meant to ask where you live. You’re obviously not from here. This place can be like a small town sometimes. Everybody knows everyone else. It’s part of the pirate life, I guess. Lesson number one: never tell anyone here a secret, it won’t be one the next day!” He laughed a little.

“I sort of live… wherever,” Chase replied, unable to keep direct eye contact with him.

Rad didn’t press for more. He saw he had hit a sore spot without meaning to. “The diner’s gonna close in a few hours. Do you need a place to stay for the night? I’ve got a spare guest room. I mean, it’s no luxury cruise ship bound for Venus, but it’s better than being outside all night.”

“I can take care of myself,” he replied sharply.

Rad didn’t doubt that after today’s encounter.

“If you change your mind, I’m at the Pet Shop,” Rad said and shoved his hands deep in his pockets as he got up to leave. Within a few moments he was lost in his own thoughts. He didn’t see the kid hop down from the bar stool and follow him at a short distance.

Medina Harper - Monster M.D. - Sample Chapter


Chapter One:
The King of Coins

The night sky was bright and clear, a slice of the Hunter’s Moon shining down through the sea of stars above. The moon illuminated the path of a stranger who ran down the mountain towering behind the town of Midvale. But dawn was quickly approaching, and he did not stop to rest, though he had been running the entire night.

He prayed he would make it in time.

The cloaked stranger bounded down the mountainside, clutching a shivering, naked child protectively to his breast. The boy could no longer cry aloud. He had passed out from exhaustion.

Only a few minutes prior, the stranger had nearly given up hope searching for this, his youngest son, who had not come home for the evening meal. He had tracked his son’s scent across the entire mountainside, barely recognizable in the dampened autumn air from a fierce afternoon downpour. He scolded himself for ever wanting to turn back to his castle. If he had turned away a moment earlier, he never would have found him until the spring thaw.

He had discovered the young boy under the shade of a towering pine. He had tried to dig some kind of makeshift burrow but failed and laid naked there for at least a few hours. A pool of his own blood spread from the iron trap crushing his foot. One look at the wound confirmed the stranger’s worst fear. It was no ordinary snare. The parts that weren’t covered in dried blood shined with the glint of polished silver. It ate into the young one’s flesh like acid, his eyes wide with fear. He could only whimper, raising his fingers towards him. The stranger didn’t dare remove the trap himself, lest it poison him as well, so he pulled on a glove and ripped the entire device from the ground, the chain rattling loudly behind him as he barreled headlong down the steep slopes between the towering blue fir pines.

He could not take him home, though he yearned to bring him to safety. No one at the castle would be able to remove such a trap. None of his kind could. But a human, if this one could truly so kindhearted as the rumors said, perhaps she could.

Of the two human doctors known in the valley of Midvale, he knew only one of them would treat his son. Although he did not wish to take him there, he knew he had no other choice. If left untreated, his son would perish before the dawn. That is, if he wasn’t already dying now in his arms. The boy’s lips and cheeks had taken on a pale, ghostly color and his breaths came in shuddering wheezes.

The stranger did not linger as he approached the railroad tracks, slowing only to check for the on-coming trains which frequently thundered by with little warning at best. He slipped down the steeper slope beyond them, turning towards the town before he got too close to the river below, where he knew he would not be welcomed. He knew his territory by smell and could almost see the exact border where the autumn air hung heavy with moisture and the smell of dampened, moldy ground. He dared not take the main road into the town either, keeping close into the protective shadows of the forest, holding his hood down in case he was spotted by an enemy lurking nearby. If the frequency of those traps on his mountain were any indication, there were indeed enemies lurking everywhere.

He came upon the town proper and slowed, his bare feet skidding in the wet mud covering the ground. He kept to the shadows, watching the buildings warily. Most of the windows in the brick buildings were dark, but the gas street lights blazed with flames, marking the ground with sharp angles of light. He skirted these like patches of quicksand, his ears ever alert for following footsteps. Once he reached the edge of the last building in town he paused.

Ahead lay Harrington Manor, separated from the town proper by what amounted to a few blocks of empty space, the cobblestone street the only indication that it had ever been part of the town at all. As the road neared the manor, its upkeep decreased, the stones turning loose or missing completely, weeds sprouting from all the cracks. He hesitated in crossing this space. He could be plainly seen here. Taking another look at the lit street behind him and then again at his son’s pale face, he sprinted forward, not stopping to pull back his hood as a blast of wind blew it loose, his long black hair flowing behind him.

Iron gates protruded from a high brick wall that circled the entire estate. They were wide open, revealing the grounds of the estate just inside. He passed through them without hesitation, slowing only as he ducked into the underside of bluefir pine larger than the manor itself. He rested here, spying on the Manor proper between the swaying branches, just a short sprint away at best.

Unlike the town buildings, the lights were all on inside the Manor, casting long rectangles of light onto the ground just before him. He couldn’t wait until he was sure the other patients had left. He would have to enter now and hope for the best. He approached the two-story manor, keeping an eye on the windows for any attack. She had restored much of the exterior in the time she had arrived, putting on new shutters and several fresh coats of paint that he could still smell. Curtains prevented him from seeing what lay inside, only the shadows milling about behind them. The gilded letters drawn artistically across the front windows reassured him he was at the right place:

Doctor of Supernatural Medicine and Paranormal Psychology

He leapt onto the porch, and winced when the old boards creaked under his weight. He moved forward slowly, examining a gilded sign hanging behind the glass of the front door’s small window with a tilt of his head:

Autumn Hours:

            Monday through Friday (5:00pm to 7:00am)

            Saturdays & Sundays (8:00pm to 7:00 am)

He adjusted his hood low over his face as his knuckles rapped heavily on the door, his gloved fist leaving a dent in the softened wood before he realized it. When the door opened, he frowned as he sniffed a familiar scent. He snarled, bearing his sharp canines to the gentleman who answered the door.

“Fritz…” The stranger snarled in a low voice.

Although the young man wore a tidy suit and stood with elegant posture, his eyes betrayed his true identity. The irises were orange like burning embers in a dying fire. Even as he spoke, one could see how his canines appeared sharper than any man’s really should; especially since the moon was out, though it was not full enough to show anything more. He wore a coat with long sleeves and black gloves over his hands. Hands and arms that would be thick with coarse hair. How cunning, the stranger thought.

“Good evening,” Fritz said, though there was no welcome in his tone.

“Breathe a word of my name and our pact is broken,” the stranger whispered.

“As you wish,” he replied, motioning for him to enter, bowing deeply to him as he opened the door for the stranger. Fritz shut the door behind him, the three brass bells tinkling in his wake.

“Where is this doctor woman?” The stranger’s eyes also reflected the orange light flickering from the gas lamps on the walls. He kept a hand on the hood of his cloak.

“Dr. Harper is currently treating another patient, but will see you shortly,” Fritz replied, keeping his voice even, but his stare said something more.

“She will see us now,” he roared, “Look!” The stranger thrust the child’s foot towards his face, the dirty wooden stake dangling from the trap’s chain. The wound smelled of death. It had swollen, oozing with puss and reddened with irritation. Fritz’s nostrils flared sharply, but he did not flinch at the sight of it. “He cannot wait!”

“Please have a seat, sir,” Fritz insisted, “As you can see there are others waiting here as well.”

The stranger turned slowly, holding his son close. At first he hadn’t noticed any of others in the waiting room where he stood, but could feel all their eyes upon him now. He pulled his hood down further, hoping no one present had recognized him in his fearful haste. They had all been so quiet, sitting like porcelain dolls among the hodge-podge collection of faded armchairs, chaise lounges, and sofas scattered about the waiting room.

He turned slowly, taking in the other figures. A chill ran through him figure barely visible as a whitish tint in the air passed. She faded in and out of vision, drifting through anything in her way as she paced in mid-air. He stepped swiftly out of the ghost’s way, spying another woman in the far corner. Upon making eye contact, she pulled her own hood down as well, turning away to the wall. A vampire. He could smell the blood on her. He turned more and spotted the last occupant, an elderly troll, who stared openly at him from his armchair, his bulbous features still as a mountain as he held a thick book between his chubby fingers. Did this one recognize him? He did not think so. Anyone who did know him wouldn’t dare stare so freely unless they were engaged in mortal combat.

“Imogene!” Fritz called as he kept an eye on the stranger.

A moment later, another ghostly head poked through the ceiling, looking around. It was the face of a young girl with two long pigtails that swung gently as if caught in a gentle breeze. She smirked at him. “You called?”

“We have a medical emergency. Can you tell Dee?”

She nodded and pulled her head back through the ceiling. Footsteps echoed above them, but the talking was muffled by the floors.

            “The doctor will be down shortly,” Fritz said as he made his way to the receptionist desk, sitting down behind the counter in a leather-backed chair. “Please take a seat,” he indicated vaguely around the room.

The stranger could have left then, and he almost considered it until his son coughed, opening his eyes wearily. He looked at him a little blankly, almost not recognizing him. But then he began to cry softly, possibly from relief. The stranger nuzzled his son’s forehead. He noticed the others were openly watching him, so he growled a brief warning as he stalked about. He finally chose a red velvet couch framed with carved dark wood. Honestly, he mainly chose it because it was the furthest seat from the receptionist’s desk. He and Fritz avoided any eye direct contact, although they both were watching each other carefully. It had been a long while since the stranger had seen him last, and though his looks were more human, he could never hide his true scent. The other waiting patients sat in silence as well, save for the occasionally flip of a book page or soft sigh from the ghost. As he waited, he gripped the edge of the couch arm, digging his fingernails against the wood, wishing they were his claws and that he was sharpening them.

There were many books scattered around, stacked on short side tables and even some spilling onto the cushions and many more abandoned on the floor. Human literature, ha! Even if the stranger felt so inclined to read anything he wouldn’t touch the stuff. The floor beneath him was littered with a stack he had swept off the couch before sitting down. As he shifted uncomfortably, his son still cradled in his arms, he used a stack of them as a footstool, muddying the covers with his bare, hairy feet. At the very least it was warm and dry in this place, and his son’s shaking had abated slightly, though he feared that was only a sign that his condition was worsening.

All eyes turned to the door as it opened. A long, pale face peeked out of it. Dark circles underlined the young woman’s drooping eyes. Her hair was carefully pinned back in a large bun, but a large strand had come loose, drooping into her face. She brushed this bit back with her gloved hand as she scanned the room methodically.

“What’s the emergency?” she asked Fritz.

The stranger leapt to his feet as he carried his son towards her. “Treat him immediately!” He stumbled over the books he had been resting his feet on, nearly dumping his son onto the floor in his haste.

The woman noticed the long chain with its muddy stake dangling from the man’s arm and hurried out, shoving aside the door as it banged against the wall. She knelt down, her skirts brushing against the mud dripping on the ground from the both of them. She reached towards the boy and prodded the trap carefully, examining it. The boy flinched at her and whimpered softly.

“Another silver one,” she mumbled and then spoke up, “Yes, I must see to this wound immediately. Follow me,” she said, standing up, “Fritz,” she turned to the receptionist, “Can you fetch the tool box from the supply room? I’ll be up in room three.”

 “Oy! I’m next!” the troll shouted, standing up from his seat, “I’ve been waiting for over an hour already!”

Medina bowed to him, “And I do appreciate your patience Mr. Burr, but I must attend to this emergency first or this boy could die.”

“Bah,” Burr replied, “Don’t know why I ever bother showing up on time.”

The stranger followed her into the hallway and found it hard to keep up with this young woman who darted up the stairs so quickly as if every step were already familiar to her as her own two feet. Even though the halls were dimly lit, she knew her way well for a human and ducked into an intimate room with only enough space for a metal hospital gurney, a wooden chair beside it, and a sink embedded in a stand with cabinet space above and below. The stranger maneuvered into the small room and laid his son down onto the medical gurney, taking a seat beside him in a wooden chair.

Medina removed a flashlight from a pocket on her black doctor’s coat, which buttoned all the way up to her collar. Printed on a patch was the name HARPER stitched in bright white letters. She shined the flashlight into the boy’s eyes, which reflected back the light in a soft glow. She replaced it in her pocket and gently poked and prodded along his face at different points, pressing a spot under his chin, her fingers feeling around the back of his head. The boy winced. “Does it hurt here?” She asked.

“Can’t you see his foot?!” The stranger yelled. 

“Please refrain from shouting in my clinic,” she replied calmly as she continued her examination. “I’m checking him for additional injuries. He appears to be suffering not only from exposure but a mild concussion as well. He also has a bruise forming at the base of his skull – I’m assuming from tripping into the trap on an incline and losing his balance in the mud, falling onto his back. Thankfully something cushioned his fall – probably bluefir needles this time of year. Is that how you found him, on his back under a tree?”

The man stared at her. How did she know? Perhaps this woman was a witch after all?

“What’s your name?” she asked the boy.

“My son does not speak,” the man replied quickly.

He sniffled and looked to his father, holding onto the man’s arm. He was still shivering slightly. She reached into a cabinet and pulled out a blanket, offering it to the stranger who wrapped it around him, save for his injured leg.

“His name is Caleb,” Fritz replied.

They turned to see him standing in the doorway, holding the tool box. “You haven’t changed much, Father.”

Medina’s eyes widened.

“You are not my son,” the stranger replied, a growl rising in his voice.

“Fritz, if you cannot be civil with the client, please leave.” Medina scolded, glaring at him.

Fritz’s hands shook as he stared at her. Her glare did not let up as they stared at each other intensely. Finally he snuffed, dropping the tool box loudly onto the table. He disappeared back into the hallway. They could hear his boots echo down the stairs.

“You must be Fenris, I presume,” Medina said, “King of the House of Coins.”

“Silence!” His eyes widened as he grabbed her wrist. She winced as he clamped down harder, growling. She struggled and looked up as the hood on his cloak fell back, revealing more of his features. Most noticeable was his tanned complexion and the curly black hair that covered nearly all of his face, his mouth and chin lost in a sea of thick beard. A face that was remarkably like Fritz’s with the exception that he was clean-shaven and kept his hair cut short. Through his snarl she saw fangs that could bite and rip flesh. His eyes showed a fierceness that all his race carried, his pupils large and deep like the mouth of a cave. She could feel him searching her for any weakness.

 “You tell anyone of my visit this night and I shall—”

“Sir,” she replied loudly, “All my patients’ identities and their subsequent illnesses are kept strictly confidential.” She gently placed her hand on top of the one nearly crushing her wrist. “Now kindly release me so I may release your son from this abomination.”

He hesitated, looking again to his son’s face. The boy looked frightened.

“If you hurt him…”

“The only way he will get hurt is if that wound is left to fester. I must extract the silver and cleanse the wound or he may lose his foot altogether… or worse. He may have were-blood, but this is no normal injury. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, it’s not healing.”

Fenris released her, looking down for a moment.

“If you like,” she offered, “you may assist me with the procedure.”

Fenris considered her for a moment before replying, “What must I do?”

“Once I have it pried open, you must extract his foot from the silver teeth. It will be painful for him but you must remove it quickly while I have it open. Do you understand?”

Fenris nodded.

The little boy began to cry again. Medina bent down to him and took his hand.

“Hello Caleb, My name is Medina,” she said softly to the boy, and he watched her carefully, sniffling. “Your father and I want to remove this nasty trap off your foot. It’s going to hurt, but I promise you when I’m done treating it you’ll feel much better. May I do that?”

The boy nodded, more tears rolling down his already reddened cheeks.

“Just lie back and relax, there you go,” she said. She unsnapped the hinges on the tool box and dug around for her crowbar. She pulled it out and angled it into the trap. With enough leverage it wouldn’t be a problem. She just hoped Fenris was quick enough or the boy would suffer greatly if it should close on him again.

A few moments later the boy’s screaming howl could be heard all the way down in the waiting room and even out in the street if there was anyone there to hear it. Everyone who did hear it felt a shiver down their spine and shifted uncomfortably.

Every stabbing pain the boy felt reflected in his father’s eyes. He watched the young woman set to work, amazed at her knowledge of were-folk physique and her ingenuity as she managed to extract the silver and seal the wound, finishing it off by rubbing a salve over it and wrapping his foot in bandages. When she finished the boy had grown so tired from the stress that he passed out completely, breathing quietly as he slept.

“I need to speak with you,” he said, indicating the door.

She nodded and took him outside the room, shutting the door.

“Tell me,” he said, “Will he live?”

“Yes,” she said, “But he has a long way to go. I would like to keep him here a few days for observation until he recuperates enough to stand again.”

“What!” Fenris snapped at her, Medina stumbling back just out of his reach. “I won’t let you experiment on him!”

“I’ll do nothing of the sort! Listen to me, he’s in shock. He needs to be kept in a quiet, sterile environment and rest. He’ll also need a fresh change of bandages every couple hours and he’ll need to drink a special medicine to counteract the silver poisoning his blood.”

            “I can do that for him!”

            “I’m sorry, but you cannot. The medicine must be fixed fresh and contains ingredients that are very potent. A little too much of one or the other could do more harm than good.”

“You removed the trap. I’m taking him home,” he started to open the door but she put her small hand on top of his.

“Please, you can’t move him in this state! Do you want him to lose his foot?”

Fenris growled but this time not at her. He leaned his face on the door, breathing heavily, trying to consider all his options.

“If he is to stay, than I must stay as well.”

“Oh, so you have no obligations to your House then? Considering you came here alone, I’m assuming no one knows where you are.”

“You speak the truth. They await my return.”

“Why don’t you trust me with your son?”

“Why should I? You’re human!  How do I know you won’t treat him like all our kind is treated?”

“I should think my efforts tonight have proved my loyalty. Your kind and mine don’t have to be enemies. I believe we can be friends.”

“Then you are foolish and naïve.” He jerked his hand, trying to remove hers. Medina glared at him, grabbing his wrist with both arms. He raised an eyebrow at her.

“Perhaps I trust you to some extent. Tell me though, how can you, a mere woman, protect my son from others who are not as… courteous as you? I have many enemies, many that are far from human. They might visit here, feigning illness just to get at him.”

“No one will know he is here. I will house him in my guest bedroom far away from the other patients.”

“And what if that information should come to light? What if you are attacked suddenly?” He snatched her wrists, shoving her up against the wall, baring his teeth close to her neck. He was shocked that she had not soiled herself and still kept that glare on her face. But no matter her spirit, she was just as frail as any other of her species. “How will you protect him then?”

“Fritz will protect him, just as he protects me.”

“Ha! Then you are twice as foolish. He will betray you just as he betrayed his own pack.”

An animal-like growled echoed in the hallway. They turned to see a pair of blazing orange eyes. Only until the figure came closer into the light did Medina recognize him as Fritz. He was like another being now, his proper posture gone, leaning down low as if he were about to spring, baring fangs that reminded her he was far from human himself.

“Release her. Now.”

“You want a fight, boy?” He threw her away and she fell down.

Fritz rushed towards her, but paused for a moment to glare at Fenris. Suddenly, the two of them snarled and snapping at each other.

“I won’t fight you in a place of healing! But neither will I allow you to hurt her!”

“Fritz! I’m fine! Please stop!” She scrambled to her feet, heading towards them.

“Are you a dog now? You take a human’s command?” Fenris grinned.

“What did you say!?” He snarled.

“I said, where is your leash, boy?” He laughed.

Fritz nearly jumped at him but for Medina’s pulling him back.

“Please,” she leaned towards him, whispering into his ear, “Don’t.”

He took long, deep breaths, still staring at his father, his breath hissing out of him. Fenris just folded his arms, smug in his apparent victory as he saw it. The boy was just the same as always, prone to emotions. In that way, he was every bit like his mother, Fenris mused.

“My loyalty lies with Dr. Harper now,” he said at last, “She took me in when my pack abandoned me. I would give my life for hers.”

“Fritz…” Medina whispered as she felt his hand close around hers, removing it from his shoulder gently.

“Gentlemen,” she said, slipping between them, “I urge you please. Caleb needs peace and quiet. It will only upset him if he hears fighting. King Fenris, I swear to you as his doctor that we will protect him with our lives. If any harm comes to him… then… Then you may harm me as you see fit in compensation for any injury he receives while in my care.”

“What!?” Fritz raged, “No! Medina, you--“

She shushed him whispering, “Please, it’s for the good of Caleb.” Fritz backed off, but fidgeted, keeping his head low, still breathing too hard. It would be a while before he would calm down to his usual self.

Then she turned back to Fenris, “Do we have a deal, your majesty?” She extended a hand to him.

Fenris stood there, considering everything. He had to admit there was something about her he liked. A fierce loyalty he did not know a mere human could possess. Even though she was physically weak, she showed no fear in his presence and even offered him her own life should she fail. There was something to admire there indeed, even if she was a mere woman.

He extended his own hand and she took it, squeezing his hand as tightly as her feeble hand could. He smiled, surprised at her audacity, trying to show him a bit of strength. This small gesture, if nothing else, showed him he had made the right decision.

“I must wake him and explain to him the situation. Then I shall take my leave.”

“Of course,” she released his hand and opened the door for him, “Do give him my apologies for the noise.”

“Hmm,” Fenris said, shutting the door behind him.

Before she could compose herself, Fritz had her by the arm, guiding her into the room across the hall, shutting it behind them silently.

“Why did you do that?!” he yelled.

“The walls are thin here. Please, keep your voice down.”

He took another deep breath, huffing out through his nose. “Forgive me.”

“Fritz, I had to. It was the only way to convince him. At any rate, no harm will come to the boy here, so he won’t harm me.”

“He will claim abuse when he returns just to hurt you.”

“He will do no such thing!”

“You don’t know him like I do,” he glared.

“Fritz, please,” she took his hand, squeezing it, “This is my chance to foster a good relationship with the Pack. He is the first werefolk to come here. And you know as well as I do they’re in need of a doctor - especially with all of these traps popping up everywhere. Who knows how many of your kind have had to suffer a slow painful death, trapped on their own mountainside so close to rescue? Are you so hardened against them that you wish that death upon them?”

Fritz stared down at his feet. He shook his head at last.

“Perhaps through this kindness he will want to welcome you back.”

He pulled back his hand. “Maybe I don’t want to go back. Have you ever considered that?”

“I don’t mean to intrude,” Imogene leaned through the door, part of her arm leaning on the door frame as if it were wide open, “But the chickens downstairs are getting restless. They don’t even like my jokes!”

Medina groaned. “You told them puns, didn't you?”

Imogene giggled and nodded, covering her mouth with her hands. She floated into the room, doing a somersault mid-air, her giggles overtaking her.

“We'll discuss this later,” she said softly to Fritz. “Imogene?”

“Yeah, Sis?”

“Tell them I’ll be down in a moment.”

“Sure thing!” She dove straight through the floor like a high diver, immediately followed by chorus of frightened yelps. One of these days she was going to get her sister to stop doing that and use the doors like everyone else.


Medina was shocked to find King Fenris was waiting for them as they returned to the waiting room.

“Is there something more you need, sir?” She asked quietly.

He hesitated, but finally asked, “How much do I owe you?”

Fritz slipped back behind the counter, sitting down in his chair, setting immediately to work. “Nothing, sir. All Dr. Harper’s services are given free of charge.” He lowered his voice, “Though I know that’s a difficult concept for someone like you to understand.”

This time, they stared at each other in silence. Neither of them snarled this time, not even Fenris, but their eyes reflected their true nature, pupils narrowing to slits.

Imogene’s wispy head popped up between them through the desk, and they both leaped back in fright. “He’s right you know, you’re free to go now! Have a nice day!”  Her hand extended up through the desk and waved at him, “Thanks for stopping by! Oh, and tell your friends!”

Fenris recovered from his surprise rather quickly and turned away with a grunt, yanking his hood down over his face. He did not look back as he swiftly crossed the room. He wrenched open the door and let it bang shut behind him, the bells rattling, as he ran headlong back into the fading night. The illusion of his human clothing hissed away into clouds of steam as he ran, stretching down to all fours. His foot prints shifted to paw prints in the wet ground, and he was more than happy to trade his clammy skin for thick fur. He did not look back as he leapt atop the gated wall in a single bound and disappeared into the night.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Checking Out

I glared at the book on my floor. This is all your fault, I said, wanting to kick it, but remembering that would probably cost me even more money than simply returning it overdue. I had been avoiding returning the book for about three weeks now. Three weeks, and yet, I still hadn't even cracked it open. All it was now was a constant reminder. A reminder of a promise I had failed to keep.

"Read it, you'll like it," She had said, tossing the novel at me before I could say no. I nearly juggled to catch it, snapping the hefty tome out of the air before it hit the ground, wincing at the loud clap accompanying the cover as it slammed shut against my sweaty palm.

"I don't know," I said, trying to avoid the stares of a few people who had looked up in my direction, tucking it under my arm as if I could hide it, wishing I could hide too.

I couldn't even keep eye contact with her. Especially not her. Not now. Not when my face was so red that it burned. I tightened my backpack strap, fiddling with the loop at the end of the strap. I wrapped it tightly around my fingers until it pinched sharply. I could feel her eyes on me, and I wasn't sure what to say. What do you say?

"Come on," she pleaded, "Please read it? I know you'll really enjoy it! I promise!"

"I promise," I said, before realizing I was only half paying attention and I had just simply repeated what she had said. I was about to take it back but then--

"That's the spirit!" Her hand brushed against my arm and I froze in place. "I know the first few chapters are slow, but trust me, once you get halfway, you won't be able to sleep until the end! It's a page turner!"

There was a certain conviction in her voice. She made you want to believe. She was like that. When I was around her, I wanted to believe in a lot of things. But the one thing I couldn't believe in was myself.

And now, as I picked up the book, I understood why. I held the open book in my hands as a tear dribbled down my cheek. I hurriedly tried to keep it from hitting the pages, but it was too late. The tear splashed down, instantly bleeding through the worn page that had been likely turned by many hands before mine. I picked up the page and noticed it had bled through to the next page as well. A few of the words were blurry.

I hurriedly pressed my shirt against it without thinking and gasped when the page tore.

That was all it took for me to really let go.

When I finished, I had to use a few tissues to wipe the snot and tears from the plastic dust jacket covering the novel, feeling more disgusted with myself than ever before. This book was tearing me apart.

I couldn't just let it sit here. If I didn't take it back, I would never be able to check out anything else from the library, and I needed to check out books for my classes. If I put it off any longer they may as well think I've stolen it! Then what would happen? Could you get expelled for something like that? I didn't know for sure, but my first thought was using the book as a pillow while living out of a cardboard box and that made me make up my mind.

I shoved it hurriedly in my backpack and left the dorm behind. There was no turning back now. I would have to own up to it. One way or another. Good or bad, I just couldn't take it anymore. I was going to get rid of it, and pay whatever I owed, even if it meant a few less meals for the month.

I began to lose my nerve the moment I caught sight of her, sitting behind the counter. My backpack suddenly felt heavy and my stomach felt bloated and tight - like it could burst like a balloon.

I almost turned to leave when she looked up, grinning when she saw me. Why, oh why me? Her hand absently pushed a stray long of long blonde hair behind her ear, her fingers tracing down her neck.

She mouthed my name and I knew I had to go. My feet almost moved robotically, propelling me to the checkout desk. I couldn't look at her though and pulled the book out of my bag, placing it gently on the table.

"You must have really liked it!" she whispered, "That's what happened to me too!"

She beeped it with her scanning wand and grimaced a bit at the computer screen beside her, "But it is late. You maxed it out. Would you like to pay the fee now or later?"

"S-sure," I said, fishing out my wallet, hearing every tiny rip as I peeled the velcro apart. It sounded like snapping firecrackers in the silence of the library.

"Eight dollars," she said holding out her hand.

I gave her my student ID and she scanned it, beeping again. She then took the book and set it on a rolling cart behind her. I was glad she couldn't see the relief on my face. Only eight? I thought it was at least three times that, if not more.

"All right, that takes care of it. Your account is reinstated so you can check out any media you like again."

When she turned back she had a sympathetic smile on her face, as if to say that she knew how I was feeling and it wasn't a big deal. But this was a big deal to me. It was a very big deal, and when I saw how kind she was being in spite of everything, I mumbled out what I had been keeping in for so long.

"I didn't read it..."

She tilted her head slightly, trying to heard what I had said.

I spoke a little louder, but not loud enough to draw attention. "I'm sorry. I just... I thought about reading it a lot, but I never got around to it," and then the words began to flow, running like a waterfall, "I keep putting it off and then it was collecting dust on the floor and then I realized it was due and then I couldn't, because I hadn't, and I thought you would be... So I just said I would hold onto it another week and then... Now it's today and I..."

I had finally run out of words to tell her and my gaze fell to the desk. I didn't realize I was gripping it so hard with my hands, leaning on it for support. I could feel tears rising in my eyes, but I knew I couldn't hold them back this time. I was done.

"Hey, are you okay?" I heard her voice ask as I saw her hand reaching out to mine. Her touch was so gentle. I couldn't look at her and simply gazed at her long fingers. That's when I noticed her painted nails had what looked like tiny pages of words on them and somehow that made it even worse. I took in my breath sharply and turned to leave, my face burning like someone had thrown acid on it. I just wanted to go. I could check out digital books, but I would never show my face here again.

I pulled away and began to walk, my eyes fixed on the blurry carpet in front of me as I blindly made my way to the doors. Within moments I had pushed outside and a refreshing winter wind cooled my cheeks. I placed my hand on a rail when she appeared in front of me, blocking my way.

"Hey!" She had the book in her hands. The book I had been trying so desperately to get rid of. It was the last thing I wanted to see.

"Hey, it's okay, you can borrow my copy!" She offered it.

I looked down at it. I realized this wasn't the hardcover one I had returned. This copy was a paperback with the same cover, but old and worn, the spine had the tell-tale creases that indicated it had been opened and closed many times, shoved onto shelves and into bags and set down just about everywhere.

I shook my head, "No, I'll forget to read it again... Besides, this is yours."

"Then you can have it! I'll buy another from the used book store. Then there's no pressure!"

I really did want to read it. I looked at it again. I began to remember what she had told me about it.

"You shouldn't feel bad about not reading it," she continued, "I shouldn't have asked you to read it over midterms, for one thing!"

I managed a bit of a smile and that seemed to cheer her up even more. She took my hand and placed the book in it, pressing her hand on top. I wondered if she painted those nails herself or if they were stickers she put on top. Maybe they were actual pages... My mind began to drift.

"Please, unless you don't want to read it, then that's fine. But I don't want you to miss out because it's worrying you. So no worries with this copy okay? It's yours."

"I couldn't possibly..."

"You absolutely, possibly can!" She said brightly. "I want you to have it."

"But," she said, "You don't have to read it! I just want you to know that it's okay, all right? I know you've been under a lot of pressure lately and... Well, I recommended this because I thought it would help you escape from all the chaos around here. But if reading it is stressing you out, then you don't have to right now."

"I'm sorry."

"No, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be so pushy! I do that a lot. I'm sorry I made you upset."

"You didn't, it's just... classes, I guess. Pressure."

"I've seen you check out some manga, do you like anime too?"

That had been several weeks ago. I couldn't believe she remembered that far back. I have trouble remembering what I had for lunch.

"Rurouni Kenshin, right? It's a classic."

"Yeah, that's right."

"Have you seen Cowboy Bebop?"

"Uh... No. I'm not really into cowboys."

She laughed, really loudly, and I felt my face turn a little red again.

"It's actually more like space bounty hunters, no cowboys. It's a weird name, I know."

"Oh, that sounds more interesting."

"You want to... come over and watch an episode? I'm done with my shift in about 10 minutes."

"I-is that okay? I don't want to intrude..."

"Oh no, you're fine. Unless you have something planned tonight?"

"Nothing. I was..." I was just going to sit in my room and surf on the internet like I did every Friday night. "I don't have any plans."

"Then you should come over! I'll even order a pizza! As long as you don't have any pizza-related allergies?"

"No, I don't have any food allergies or anything like that..."

"Great, then it's a date!" It was her turn to blush. I couldn't believe my ears.

"D-do you... Do you 'like' like me then?"  I asked, my heart beating so loudly, I could barely hear my words, "Not just friends hanging out?"

"Then I wouldn't call it a date, then would I?"


"Yes, I do 'like' like you. I'd like to date you, if that's okay? No pressure?"

An excitement welled up in me, one that I hadn't felt in a long time.

"No pressure," I repeated, but this time, I didn't feel bad about it my nervousness. I was grinning.

"Just let me get my stuff and we'll head over!" Before I could reply, she was running back inside.

I was left standing there stunned, holding the book in my hand as if I had just met a ghost. I clutched the book to my chest. It was my favorite book now. It had belonged to her, but now it was mine.

This whole encounter did not go the way I had thought it would in my head. Not in the slightest! Not only was I no longer worried about being expelled and living out of a cardboard box, but the girl I had admired for so long sitting behind the library check-out desk had actually been checking me out the whole time and I had never noticed. Not even once!

I suddenly wondered what else I hadn't noticed, and that thought made me laugh, for once.

She came back almost as quickly as she left and before I could say anything, she grabbed my wrist, gently pulling her along with me. My stomach was no longer bloating, but almost floating or even humming with energy. I broke her grip and she looked confused for a moment until I held her hand in mine. She squeezed gently as we walked back to her dorm side-by-side.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Bringer of Blue Dawn

The planet is the light of my life. I wake to it every morning as I open my eyes, staring up at the expanse of space through the wide skylight over my bed. I wake as it crests over the foot of my bed, it’s brilliance stunning, only amplified by the twinkling stars that seem to caress it on its journey. I never rise from my bed until it passes completely over my head and disappears beyond the skylight. When I was little, I would reach my arms to it, as if I could hug it close to my chest. As if I could love everyone and everything that lived and breathed and moved upon its surface. I’d always hear a loving voice, the voice of a mother, calling out to me. Come with me. Come dance upon me, and feel the wind brushing my scalp. That’s how I always imagined it.

My own planet was never so majestic. I was taken from its savage lands as it languished in the death throes of an expanding red sun. Though I was not even old enough to speak, whenever I smell something burning I see in my mind’s eye a molten landscape bereft of life and tranquility. Sometimes I hear the screams, though their words take on no meaning. Even the sky was red, bathing everything in an eerie light. When I see red now I close my eyes and turn away. Perhaps that’s why I admire the blue of the planet before me. So much of it is blue, like a faceted crystal buried deep within a planet’s core.

But though I long to feel the planet beneath my feet I cannot go. It is forbidden by the council. No matter how I badgered Elder Hildebrandt, he rejected my every request. “They do not know our ways,” he repeats, “they would kill you before you ever touched its surface.”

Our station hovers above the single moon that orbits the beautiful planet, but it is like a common river stone compared to the beauty of its planet. This moon is dead, never changing, forever white and still and silent, like a statue. But as I look up at the planet before me, the slowly swirling clouds prove that it is alive.

“How do they not see us up here?” I asked him once.

“Their eyes are blinded because they choose not to see.”

“I do not understand.”

“One day, you will.”

But many cycles have passed since then, and I am still no closer to understanding, until now, as I see the planet once again pass overhead. Sometimes I can only see part of it, as it waxes and wanes, but this morning it is full and I behold its full majesty. I reach up to it and clasp it with my fist.

Today, I will walk upon its surface.

The morning rushes by as I prepare, my eyes constantly darting about for any sign that someone knows, that someone has discovered my plan. I have been careful to cover my tracks as best I can, but there is always a chance. Once every 28 days, we send a scouting ship to the planet, to collect samples, monitor experiments and venture further than the last expedition.

Today’s expedition is heading into the middle of what the natives call the Pacific Ocean, though I have never understood how they can separate a body of water that is connected to most of the water on the planet. Nevertheless, it is the ocean that I wish to see the most.

We have enough water aboard our station, but never enough to swim. I gaze at the planet above and I wonder what it would be like to be in the middle of that ocean. To turn and see nothing but water all around, and at night to look up and see the stars above. I have always imagined that I could see the stars reflected all around me and that I could swim through the universe, silent and smooth, turning one with the planet, bathing beneath the open universe.

The sentient natives appear to keep mainly to the land, which seems odd given how much life and mystery they will never see. Compared to the lands, the oceans were filled with silence and peace. When they do venture, they mostly glide upon the surface, very few bothering to go deep.

But we travel deep and below, where they fear to go, where it the waters are as dark as space itself, an inner universe contained within this single planet. Today, in the darkness of the Earth’s ocean they are sending a ship down, and it is today that I will be aboard.

I make sure to report to my usual stations, checking in with the appropriate leaders, seemingly making everything appear to be just another day, but I secretly carry my pack with me, hiding it behind my back as my elders pass, though no seem to be the wiser.

I expect a blaring alarm to bring my adventure to a halt, but even as I step into the ship bay, there is nothing and no one to greet me, exactly as I planned. I stick to the walls and shadows, avoiding the cameras that I do know about until I reach my destination, the Bringer of the Blue Dawn, aptly named for its beautiful metallic sheen meant to represent the white and blue gradient of our home planet’s sky, a symbol of hope for the future of our kind.

It all seems too easy as I slip aboard and climb into an unused cargo crate shoved behind a shelf. I leave a crack open so I can watch, but I soon grow bored and my eyelids droop.

When I awake, it is with a loud hum, vibrating against my face. I sit up and bang my head upon the lid of the crate, then cover my mouth to make sure no one heard me. I look and see no one here. I turn behind me and gaze out one of the nearest portholes just in time to see something amazing unfold before me.

Our ship rapidly descends into the planet’s atmosphere. I crane my neck but cannot see anything below, until the ship slowly rotates and part of the sky is filled with an inky blackness devoid of stars. My breath is caught in my throat as I see this black mass rush up to meet us and within moments the ship turns again and I can see something different, the black ink below, the starry sky above, and beyond, like a tiny beacon is what I realize is one of the planet’s many islands, illuminated at night and twinkling in the sea.

Imagine my surprise when our ship splashes down and begins to turn. I realize, with growing horror that this was not the intended flight plan of the ship. We are heading towards the island of lights, closer to the native species that call this planet home.

I fully climb out of the crate and press my face against the window, straining to clarify if my fears are true. We speed across the water so quickly that the island begins to grow and I realize that the light was actually many lights, spread across the island, as it becomes bigger and clearer the closer we come.

I stumble out of my hiding place and head for the ship. It’s possible the auto-pilot has made a mistake, but I fear that we will crash into the island. We would be discovered for sure, and all of the fear that Elder Hildebrandt instilled in me over my lifetime bubbled to the surface, threatening to drown me in absolute terror. We would crash, and even if we lived, we would be found. We would be experimented on. I would never again see the station or my bed or reach my hands to this planet each morning.

Suddenly, all I wanted was to be home, curled up in my bed, but then just as quickly as we had accelerated, we had stopped and I fell forward, scraping across the deck. The hum of the ship died down and I heard someone coming my way.

I scrambled in my daze and stumbled back to the crate, nearly getting out of the way just in time as the cargo bay doors opened, flooding with the soft moonlight. I gazed with open eyes and open mouth at the site before me, the beautiful white sands of the planet spilling onto our ship, almost like it was going to take a mouthful and close again. The ship gently settled, the engines still softly whining as they ground to a halt. The figure rushed past me, nearly stumbling as I had down the gang plank.

I realized with another gasp of horror that I was breathing the air of this world. It smelled like nothing I had ever beheld before and I quickly panicked, worrying that these would be my final breaths.
But a fire rose up within me. I could not die until I did what I had always dreamed. I followed seconds behind, stopping as I reached the white sand beach spreading before me.
I reached out one foot and it sank into the sands. I pulled it back, afraid, but then saw the tracks of the figure who had rushed out.

I stepped again, and this time leaned forward, sinking but then stopping. I yanked the other foot forward too fast and fell forward, any possible scream muffled by my face hitting the sand. It tasted gross and I spit it out, wiping my mouth. I was not sinking, I was upon the ground, the ground of the planet I had gazed up upon for all of my life.

I dug my hands into the sands. They were warm and like a thousand tiny particles. They felt smooth against my scales. I dug up to my elbows and laughed a little in spite of myself. I threw my arms up and the white sands rained around me, giggling as some of it landed on my head, because it tickled as it slid off.

It was then I felt someone staring at me. I looked to my left and saw someone I had never expected to see. It was Elder Hildebrandt standing nearby. He had what I imagined was the same look I had on my own face when I had beheld this beach. His mouth was wide open and I could fully see the milky blue around his pupils. But he wasn’t the strangest part. The Elder was standing there with a human, and they were holding each other in their arms, very closely, and staring straight at me.

I gaped upon them, unsure of what to say. They stared at me, I suppose thinking the same. I had never seen a real human before. Only as usually blurry movement on video screens or captured in still images. This human had skin that reminded me of the moon’s surface and it had long dark hair that framed its round face.

We stayed like that for a long moment, frozen in each other’s gazes.

The Elder moved protectively, as if to the shield the human from me, but the human, gently pressed his lips against the Elder's cheek in a strange gesture, whispering something, and then came forward slowly, towards me. I tumbled back onto my tail, curling it around myself.

The Elder spoke a language I did not understand, and it took me a moment to realize he was speaking this human’s language, for the human turned and said something quickly and then continued forward slowly.

I couldn’t move, my hearts beating wildly in my chest. I felt like I would faint as the human knelt just inches away from me. I took in a shaky breath of more of that strange air and I began to feel nauseous.

But the human gently pulled an arm across its chest and bowed before me. A sign of respect. Both my hearts fluttered in confusion.

“Men-wan-jo,” He said, which I knew was him trying to pronounce our word for greeting a new friend.

I continued to stare at this human, which was now so close that I could hear its single heart beating. How could they live with only a single heart? So many questions arose in my mind, but they were silenced when he spoke again.

“You must be Sophine,” the human finally spoke in a pleasant but alien tone, “Brandt has told me all about you.”

“It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”

The human reached out and took my hand gently. Its skin was smooth and thin. I could almost feel the bones beneath it. They really were so fragile.

“Sophine,” I didn’t even notice that Hildebrandt had come to my side. He put one hand gently upon my shoulder and knelt between the human and I, adding his hand on top of the human’s. He spoke in the same soothing voice that I had known my entire life.

“This is Akamu, my star-mate.”

The pressure became too much and I fainted on the spot. My body fell towards the sand, but I never felt myself hit…

I dreamed of the future, as my people often do.

In my dream, I saw myself standing on a long, brightly-colored board, that glided smoothly above the inky waters, as if the planet’s own hand was lifting me and drawing me to its white shores. I was gazing up and saw the moon as I never had before. It was paler and perfectly round, itself like a bright star in the night sky, before a wispy cloud blocked it from view. I could smell that thick air as it rushed by me, the stars reflected around me at my feet and above me hanging like a dome over my head. I held out my arms like I was flying through the night wind, and my laughter echoed across the ocean waves into the universe. From that moment on, I knew that everything would be okay.

I embraced the light of the planet I had once loved from afar.

Author's Note:
This story was inspired by a prompt from the writing prompt generator on Seventh Sanctum:
and from three random Magic: The Gathering cards drawn from: 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Reborn" - Last One Standing Tall

A fantasy-western serial

Episode 15: “Reborn”

Reed wandered through a forest with trees so tall that he couldn't see the sky. But he could feel the sun. He held up his hands. Sunlight penetrated the canopy, yellow rays illuminating the new seeds of life blowing on the wind. Regeneration had begun. He could feel it deep within himself.
"Plant the seed!"

Reed spun around, but there was no one there. That was impossible. He had heard someone!

The dream faded as he regained consciousness, although the words echoed in his mind as if they had been shouted directly into his ear. He could feel fingers pressed against his neck. Reed could understand the words being spoken near him again.

“How do you even know if he has a heart? He's not like us.”

“He does. It may not be exactly like ours, but it’s there. I’ve felt it before.”

“Shush! He’s coming around. Give him room.”

Reed opened his eyes and found his two companions staring down at him. Sam promptly cuffed him on the side of the head. Reed grimaced at him.