Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Puero

     “Un-fucking-believable,” Colonel Dagon grunted while staring at the ashen-faced Ensign Balin. “You let him die because you wanted to watch the fireworks show?”
     “No,” Balin forced himself not to shout, “you misheard.” He huffed, “he’s passed out in the Break Room. He needs a doctor.”
     “Then why is he here?”
     Unable to control himself, Balin blurted, “he and his bird freaked in the hospital. Demanded to come here. Thinks he’s being hunted.”
     “He is.”
     The cousins silently stared at each other, heads tilted at matching angles.
     Balin’s shoulders slumped as the weight hit him, “war…” trailing off, his lips slammed shut forming a thin line of regret.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Reus Voti

     As the Phoenix sang, her tune turned from one of mourning to that of celebration. With each note of her song, Kaiser Archeleus Imler slowly, and though wobbling terribly, got to his bare feet. Once standing, Archel stared up at the brilliant fiery hues trailing after the Phoenix. On an impulse, he held his scrawny arm out, fore- and middle fingers extended. She swooped around his head, gently landing on his outstretched fingers where she promptly ceased singing. Archel turned to the still kneeling Celatrix, “um, could you please get up?”
     “As you command, Praeceptor Archel,” Celatrix Verna replied as she stood. The double line of now silent, previously chanting, ministers followed her cue and also rose.
     “It’s not really a command,” Archel mumbled.
     “What, milord?” she asked.
     “Uh. Nothing,” Archel said, absently stroking the Phoenix’s back. “What happens now?”

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Nomen Regis

     “Eheu! Rex morte est. Inquam, O Mercuri. Astra declive!” Celatrix Verna’s voice trembled, building as she timed her ‘declive’ to coincide with the chanters’. Holding her hands to either side of the podium, she raised them with the palms directed at Kaiser Rudolpho Imler’s wounded face as he lay in his lidless coffin. While slowly turning her upper body toward Archel, Celatrix Verna continued, “Ecce! Rex nasci est. Inquam, O Iphigenia. Sol oriens!” Her impeccable timing once again apparent as her words blended into the chanted ‘Sol oriens!’
     From the front row, Colonel Thompson and General Michaels bowed their heads, listening to the foreign words. Michaels leaned over and whispered, “you know what she’s talking about?”

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Media Nocte

     “Oh, sweet Mercury! What did you put in it, piss?” Brimley complained.
     “Yes. That’s the secret to warming it up. I piss in it,” Santos retorted.
     “Oh, now I don’t want it,” Brimley held the coffee cup away from her while looking for a place to put it down.
     “Here. Let me,” Santos offered.
     She mock handed him the cup, which he genuinely took, eliciting her to whine, “hey, give that back.”
     In the living room, Cassie whispered, “it doesn’t make sense,” to Archel who kept one enormous eagle eye on the bickering soldiers. “Do people never grow up?”
     “Chess,” Archel murmured. In stifling a yawn, all the feathers on his head and neck went ridged. “Game,” he exhaled. “Ooh,” he moaned, “I dreamed I was…” His beak fell and his lion’s shoulders slumped.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Magni Periculi

     The headquarters of Mercury’s Elite Guards, a nondescript government building created to blend into the neighborhood of government buildings, was a fortified monstrosity with two underground passages leading to opposite sides of the Templus de Ambros. The idea being that should an emergency occur, the Kaiser and his Mercs would have direct access to an adequate evacuation route regardless of where in the Templus they were at the time of need. In practice, the passages were used to move essential personnel to and from the temple compound without drawing the attention of tourists waiting in line for the official tour. From the end of the well lit block, where Balin and Kent stood, only two things indicated that the building was anything other than part of the bureaucracy. First, a giant brightly lit sign announced: Mercury’s Elite Guard Head Quarters. And, second, a series of lights shined on limply hanging, soaked flags, banners, and pennants, which didn’t have the gumption to snap in the budding thunderstorm. Though Balin tried encouraging Kent to continue on, the young man defiantly stood his ground, enduring the drizzle while gaping at the colorful spectacle that completely wasted the architect’s efforts at designing a group of nondescript public buildings.
     “I seen a place just like this on the Strip,” Kent said nostalgically. “This one ain’t got a flashing sign pointing to parking in the rear or giant windows filled with fools and slots.”

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Rei Militaris

     With a heavy exhalation, Jessup sat down on the concrete bench inside the away team’s dugout. He stared at the tobacco stained floor. No one spoke. Steele stood with his enormous bulk blocking the short stairwell leading onto the field. Slowly inching toward the back of the dugout, Musgrove unconsciously put distance between himself and Dante who nonchalantly reclined against the chain link with his back to the field full of Hellions. 
     “Can’t be done alone,” Steele spoke deliberately. “Can be done. Needs to be. Needs a crew…ain’t a one man affair.”
     “Who you work with is your business,” Dante said. “Tell them nothing that might compromise the job.”
     “The pay?” Jessup asked.
     “As many Bits as you want on your RFIDs,” Dante answered.
     “Crazy Man,” Steele shot, “we’re outside the Bits line. That train don’t stop round here. Crews don’t work for cred. So, what’s the pay?”

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Cui Bono

     The blond nurse lightly knocked twice on the door to Kent Wheelock’s hospital room. After waiting thirty seconds, he pushed the door open, saying, “I talked to the doctor about giving you something for the pain…” Confused, the nurse stepped back into the hallway and verified the room number, before reentering the room and checking the bathroom. When he approached the bed, he found a pile of discarded bloodied gauze and other random medical supplies. “Son of a bitch,” he muttered. Back at the nurse’s station, he jotted down a quick note about the missing patient as well as a reminder to make a complaint to the Mercury’s Elite Guard liaison stationed in the hospital. He then continued his rounds, nearing the surgery wing where he was forced to jump out of the way of the swinging doors as Doctor Conway angrily shoved through, cussing up a storm.
     “…no right to interfere! I don’t care who he is. That man fucking dies it’s on General Whistler’s head. Don’t think I won’t inform the Kaiser!” Doctor Conway practically shouted over his shoulder at the pair of Regulars who stood just inside the swinging doors. For their part, the two Regulars ignored the surgeon’s outburst and maintained their posts.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Sua Sponte

     A buxom woman sat in the shadow of the Pissing Puppy Statue just outside of Sentinel Cemetery on the edge of the Forum Publicos. From her vantage point she could see the heavy foot traffic going in and out of the forum shops while also maintaining an ever watchful eye on the cemetery passage. She chewed her bottom lip as she waited.
     “I’ll never understand why you’d risk a public meeting,” a man whispered as he sat down in the shadows next to her.
     “The bigger risk is meeting you in private,” the woman answered. “You’re lucky I waited.”
     “I had no doubt that you would,” the Inquisitor laughed.
     Ignoring his laughter she asked, “do you have it?”
     He sat a small beige tote bag on the cement next to her, saying, “everything you need to start over.”

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Dum Vivam

     Sergeant Caspian stood in the kitchen of Goldie’s Revenge arguing with the bar owner as blocked the doorway to the basement stairs. The woman stared up at him, shoving her forefinger into his chest. “I know what I heard. And, I’m telling you, it’s going to stop right here and now.” She shoved the point of her half-inch fingernail into his sternum. He grabbed her finger and held it in place. She struggled to pull it back, “let me go.”
     “Ma’am. You will stop,” he practically threw her hand away.
     “I don’t care who’s down there. This is my bar. Not a torture chamber. Either you go down and put an end to it or I will.”
     “My orders are clear. Back away from the door now, ma’am,” Sergeant Caspian ordered, his body tensed.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Fide Indigni

     Pointing to the stolen cargo van, the Inquisitor ordered Jougs to pull in behind it. By way of acknowledgement, Mr. Jougs jerked the steering wheel hard to the left. The Inquisitor gave Jougs a dirty look, but said nothing as the car slammed to a stop near the discarded shipping containers.
     “They’re gone,” Mr. Vorant murmured from the back seat.
     As the men congregated next to the cargo van, the Inquisitor said, “get your boss back on the line. The rest of you, spread out. Find them.” When the loader passed over his silver phone, the Inquisitor said to him, “go.” Into the phone he growled, “we missed them. Explain why you sent us the wrong way.” He listened for a moment, then said, “enough. We’re not your errand boys, Top. As far as I’m concerned we delivered the cargo on time.” Gripping the little silver phone tightly, the Inquisitor hissed, “that’s your problem. I expect payment as arranged. Don’t be late.” He hung up the phone, then shouted, “Misters Jougs and Vorant, attend me.”

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Mihi Inimicus

     From the backseat of the Iago Citadel, Commander Dante calmly watched his surroundings. The drop-off center’s rear loading dock doors gaped open, though the dock was completely empty. Lieutenant Musgrove disappeared into the warehouse. A few minutes later, he exited, clothes laden arms topped with two pairs of shoes. When he reached the car, he tapped the backdoor with his foot and nodded. Dante pushed open the door and was nearly buried in the stink wafting off the pile as Musgrove dropped it in the seat.
     “Not sure if I got you the right size, sir. Not a fucking tailor,” Musgrove said.
     Dante grunted. He dug through the offensive pile, holding up various articles before dropping them. “We need a place to hide the car and prep.”
     “Got two options. There’s a bridge with some abandoned buildings west of here. Plenty of privacy, longer walk to Hell Hill. Or, a couple blocks north, there’s a car park, less privacy, shorter walk. Up to you, sir.”

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Umeris Suis

     “Rector Jameson, why haven’t you been relieved?” She listened to his answer while bobbing her head up and down, “I see. Unfortunate. Can’t be helped. Have the Order assemble in full garb along the route. Send my attendants with the duty Scribus and Clericus to Sentinel Cemetery. Tell them to bring everything. That’s all,” Celatrix Verna said into the handset. Hanging up the old fashioned phone, she smiled to the Silvans and whispered, “too soon, you know? Weren’t we just here with his father?”
     “Seems like it,” Jason whispered back.
     Marcia bowed her head and gripped Jason’s sleeve, she softly added, “I get the physics of how. I don’t understand the why.”

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Pluere Mysteria

     “Officer Brimley, for the last time, put that gun down. You are seriously trying my patience,” Celatrix Verna ordered from the morgue doorway. “We don’t have time for games. Mercury’s Elite are required to patrol. You are not to challenge them every two minutes. Your task is to observe and, if necessary, to defend. Not to attack.” The Celatrix exhaled her frustration.
     “But, Celatrix, it’s not what you think…” Brimley’s plea trailed off as she holstered her weapon. She pointed at the kneeling soldier, “he…nevermind,” Brimley huffed.
     “He refused to listen,” she blurted, “I told him no one was to enter while you were examining Kaiser Imler.” Celatrix Verna waited. Ensign Osborne smirked looking up slightly from where he knelt in the foyer. “I ordered him back, but he ignored me. I didn’t pull my gun until he tried to shove me. Well, actually…uh…I threw him onto the ground and then pulled my gun.” Brimley stared beyond Osborne, hoping the Celatrix would understand.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Certa Arcani

     Karman Tunnel ran parallel to the currently dry Paradise Aquifer, in which generally flowed the runoff and floodwaters from Iphigenia. The highway and the aquifer flowed on an east-west axis through Sanctuary City toward the old capital. Staring over the aquifer, using the highway lamps to see, a kneeling Commander Dante carefully watched for any sign that he should abort the night’s maneuvers. He followed the 5 minute rule by waiting an extra two minutes before making his way through the brush alongside Paradise Aquifer. He staid in the shadows of the great water oaks, the natural sound barrier was meant to dull the noisesome traffic but actually served as walls in a corridor for the winds rushing down from Iphigenia. The early evening brought a chill that intensified each gust of wind that cut through his jacket. For the umpteenth time that day, Dante cursed the unsavory politics forcing him take covert actions. The commander of Camp Polkner, the desert hell of Poterit Dan’s military-prison system, was sneaking through roadside brush on the way to a clandestine meeting on the outskirts of Sanctuary City. He ground his teeth, but kept moving. He had a schedule to maintain.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Liceat Mihi

     Whipping the Iago Citadel through Sanctuary City’s evening traffic, Lt. Musgrove watched the mirrors for signs of a tail. He used every evasion method he could recall from his questionable youth, and after 30 minutes of borderline reckless driving, he resumed his regular driving habits. As ordered, he drove into eastbound traffic headed for the Karman Tunnel. Once inside the tunnel, Musgrove hit his emergency flashers and slowed down. At the midpoint of the tunnel, he stopped the car, and popped both the hood and the trunk. He waited for a break in traffic, then climbed out. From the trunk he removed two emergency triangles, which he spaced out behind the car to give oncoming vehicles a warning. He tapped on the rear driver’s side window, nodded to Commander Randle Dante, Sr., and then went about the business of tinkering with the engine. The moment Musgrove’s head disappeared behind the hood, Dante slipped out of the passenger side of the Citadel. The commander walked against traffic toward the nearest emergency exit. While Dante disappeared through the tunnel door, Musgrove recovered the emergency triangles, closed up the Citadel, and then drove off. Musgrove had his orders: drive around aimlessly and in two hours return to the drop off point.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Manus Iniectio

     Spinning around a bit too quickly, Ensign Sebastian Balin wobbled on his feet. His eyes locked onto a hysterical Kent Wheelock and the ridiculous scene in the bed of the old militia truck. Tears rolled down Kent’s right cheek while he unseeingly stared beyond the gathering of onlookers and he absently petted a dead falcon. Hopping around in the truck bed next to Kent was a second falcon that occasionally used its beak to nudge the dead one’s head. Finally, a tuxedo cat with half-closed eyelids, lay sprawled out in the truck bed, watching the falcon’s grief dance. Though his mouth dropped open, Balin’s eyes narrowed. Approaching cautiously, Balin attempted to use his body to block the view of the truck bed. Even over Kent’s laughter, Balin could hear the not-so-soft whispers of the retirees.
     “That boy’s got two birds.”   
     “Reckon he’s a baby Bard?”

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Me Miserum

     Plan B, like the Inquisitor’s original Plan A, depended as much upon adequate personnel as it did proper timing. With Gasoleo and Butano out of the equation, the untenable Plan A had been ditched. The Inquisitor and Jougs split up to search the outside of the warehouse, while Vorant took the inside. So far neither of his men had let out the tale-tell whistles meaning they’d located the woman. Glancing at his wrist watch, the Inquisitor cursed the last hour. The pickup crew would arrive on the docks any minute. They expected six shipping crates filled with six dosed and unconscious women. Time for Plan C. The Inquisitor returned to the warehouse front entrance and let out one long shrill whistle. A couple minutes later Jougs and Vorant ran up to meet him.
     “Any luck?” Vorant asked.
     “You hear two long whistles?” the Inquisitor roared.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Proelio Lacessere

     The perfectly manicured lawn, well-tended vegetable garden, and mature orange trees sat in stark contrast to the overgrown hedges in front of Patrick Field’s house. After 15 minutes of pacing the backyard, Santos’ stomach made the decision for him. He chose the plumpest, juiciest looking orange he could reach, and ripped it out of the tree. As he began the annoying task of peeling it, Brimley popped her head around the side of the house.
     “What are you doing, soldier?” she yelled in the deepest voice she could manage while stifling laughter.
     Startled, Santos nearly dropped the partially peeled orange. He spun around, holding the orange down by his thigh. “I should ask you the same thing,” he growled. “You’re supposed to be guarding the front.”
     She glared at him. Aside from a couple bullies in grade school, she’d never wanted to beat the crap out of someone like she wanted to beat Santos. “Orders change. We’re moving out. Your Colonel wants to see you. Now. Looks like you’ll have to save the snack for later, sweetheart.” Brimley relished throwing the word, tone, and inflection back in his face.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Suis Moribus

     At the door to Patrick Field’s house, 1st Lieutenant Santos addressed the two women he’d escorted from the Templus Ministrae, “one moment while I inform Colonel Dagon that you’re here.” Turning the knob and pushing the door, resulted in nothing. He shoved again, then looked over his shoulder and half-heartedly smiled as he knocked.
     When the door opened a crack, Santos declared, “tell Colonel Dagon I’ve returned with the Celatrix and one of her officers.”

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Ne Desperemus

    Celatrix Julianne Verna would have passed for a school teacher, if not for adornments of her office. She wore blindingly white robes, a silver and gold gryphon necklace, and a silver circlet holding down her slightly grey and exceedingly curly brown hair. Her role as Celatrix of the Ministrae meant she kept the secrets of Mercury’s Indigimenta, a book which included all the rites and names of gods met during Mercury’s travels. However, hers was a dual role, for she was also the Archeireus of the Templus de Ambros, charged with maintaining the spiritual health of the kingdom. She monitored the Ignis Fatui and taught the rites of Mercury. She had a bad habit of thinking before acting and nearly always acted rationally. Both behaviors caused problems during her ascendency. Problems which magically disappeared once she’d assumed her role as Archeireus et Celatrix Ministrae. All in all, she was a busy lady, laden with heavy responsibilities, and quite unaccustomed to receiving orders. At the opening of the gallery doors, she was blasted with the unbridled hostility emanating from Brimley and openly reflected by Santos.
     “At ease,” Celatrix Verna ordered.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Me Piget

     “You are late,” the Inquisitor said without looking up from the solid oak desk in the warehouse manager’s office. He flipped a paper over, before entwining his fingers, and resting his forearms on the edge of the desk. Slowly, he turned his attention to the two men, “explain.”
     The duumviri hazarded a glance at each other, silently deciding on who would respond. Jougs answered, “we met trouble.”
     “Took care of it,” Vorant added.
     The Inquisitor waited, calm brown eyes boring into them.
     “We were followed…” Jougs hesitated, “by a bird and some Mercs.”
     “Got away, though, didn’t we?”
     “Firebombs and a smokescreen,” Jougs said.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Omnium Opinionem

     “Can I help you?” Colonel Dagon asked in confusion. “How?”
     Leaning close to the colonel, Cassie whispered, “we’ve never done this before.”
     Perplexed, the colonel’s eyes darted back and forth from the young griffin king to the adolescent messenger. After thirty seconds, he sighed, “I see!” Nodding, he contemplated the best way to break the news to them, he finally said, “I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. My liege, how old are you?”
     “Uh. I,” Kaiser Archel shrugged his furry golden shoulders and ruffled the eagle’s feathers of his neck, “thirteen. I think.” His irritated python tail twitched. “Why?”
     “Law, my liege,” Dagon answered.
     “Law?” Cassie asked.
     Turning to Archel, Dagon said, “you’ve got two years to learn.”
     “Learn what?” Archel asked.
     “How to rule your kingdom,” Dagon responded with a bow.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Me Taedet

     Peeking out a slit in the window blinds, Jougs stared up the empty street. He ran a hand over his cropped hair and exhaled heavily through his nose. When he turned from the window, he found Vorant watching him. “What?”
     “Just sent the old boy a message.”
     “Plan A is a go,” Vorant said.
     “Still? Okay. He hear from the others?”
     “I didn’t ask. He didn’t tell.”
     “We’ll know soon enough, won’t we?”
     “Without doubt.”
     “Should we get moving?” Jougs asked.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Intersum Consiliis

     In the span of 24 hours, Goldie’s Revenge had gone from tavern to recovery operations to temporary court for the Antigone. From the alcove left of the entrance, Justice Frederick Mayfield addressed his colleagues, “we’ve gone in circles for two hours. Without more information there is nothing for us to discuss. This day began with our debating the legitimacy of declaring war in the Kaiser’s stead. We were then sent here to meet and advise the Kaiser, who has not graced us with his presence. Here we stand, ordered to the seat of the attack and still no Kaiser. How certain are we that that missive was genuine? If the Kaiser is going to meet us, shouldn’t he have been here already? If he’s not going to meet us, how long should we stay? I say that after our meal, if the Kaiser is still a no-show, we demand General Tomlyn make ready for our transportation back to Ambrosia. Do I have a second?”
     “I second,” Justice Travis Scott practically shouted.
     “The matter of leaving has been moved and seconded,” Chief Justice Fraunx Adonis said, hiding his delight behind mundane procedure. “We are adjourned. Finish dinner. After which, we order the general to prepare transport.”

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Patris Interest

     “Did you hear that?” Balin asked, his face pasted to the passenger window.
     “For the last two hours I’ve heard nothing but the road and our rumbling stomachs,” Dagon answered, still staring at the lines on the blacktop in front of them. His ass and gas foot both ached. By his calculations, if he continued up GV-17 to the Templus Center exit, they’d make Merc Head Quarters within 10 minutes. Considering they’d be driving through downtown in the middle of dinner, Dagon was fairly certain they wouldn’t meet with heavy traffic.
     “There,” Balin jabbed a finger at his window, nearly shouting, “smoke.”

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Auxilio Egent

     The quaint groundskeeper’s cottage that had felt too large after Janice’s death was now stifling hot and much too small for Patrick Field’s liking. As a simple man who’d never longed for intrigue or life in politics, Patrick couldn’t believe that his young friend, Archel, the servant boy, was really a griffin, much less the new king. How in Mercury’s name did I get mixed up in this? Patrick wondered while staring at the trio blocking his doorway. Yesterday, the boy helped me bury Meranti in that open grave back of Sentinel. Today, I’m acting guardian and the boy’s my king. Oh, Janice. Would that you could tell me…what should I do? He sighed to himself and sat heavily into his recliner.
     “My help?” Santos asked in confusion.
     Archel answered, “the Kaiser trusted you. It’s a chance I gotta take, too.”
     “But…it’s true. You’re a griffin.”

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Potiri Rerum

     The ensign panted while standing before 1st Lieutenant Santos. His curly red hair danced in the light breeze as he caught his breath, one hand in the air giving that universal wait sign. Santos impatiently tapped his foot, staring at the ensign.
     “Com-mander Fe-elis,” the ensign gasped.
     “Just breathe,” Santos ordered.
     Nodding, the soldier took a deep breath, “sorry, sir. I ran.” After another deep breath, he said, “Commander Felis is on the way. Has an investigation team. He’s pissed.”

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Ea Condicione

     Jougs and Vorant timed the first smoke bomb for a few seconds after the first explosion blew up the shed in the backyard of the light blue one story house where they’d taken refuge. With the shed in flames and excess smoke billowing, they were certain the stalker bird would fly to the back. Any nosy neighbors would be sure to run to the side of the house to get a better look. The second explosion and smoke bomb would require precision timing and the perfect targets. Jougs carefully slid open the living room window overlooking the side of the house where the backyard gate stood slightly ajar. From the window he could see the edge of the flaming shed as well as any neighbors daring enough to investigate. Vorant knelt near the front door where he watched the street through the hole in the pane he’d broken earlier. The two men breathed easily, while they confidently waited.        

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Amicis Confido

     Placing the microphone back in its holder, Santos sat back in the driver’s seat of Colonel Dagon’s Iago Comet. He stared into the empty parking lot as he exhaled and wondered, who the hell comes up with these lame ass codes? Crowing cocks…there’s a completely inappropriate dick joke just waiting. I can’t believe he’s really dead. Okay…Okay. The Colonel is on the way. The Kaiser—um, the Kaiser’s body—and the Rose are under guard. I’ve got two teams following the Bards to where ever their birds lead. Oh, for Mercury’s sake! I owe that damn child an apology. But, it’s not like I knew he was the next bard. They could have told me. There was plenty of time during the ride up. This. This is why I hate cemeteries. I should increase the guards on the Rose and the Kaiser. The boy. I’ve got to get protection to the boy. I’ll believe that boy’s a griffin when I see it. This is too much. We’ve gotta get a team in to collect the evidence. I need to send someone to HQ to lead the Colonel down here. Do I move the body? The body. The body. Santos slammed both fists into the center of the steering

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Manus Revinctus

Not only had Goldie lost her town and had her bar turned into recovery operation headquarters, but now she was being forced to cater to the Justices of the Antigone Courts. If this hadn’t happened because of mass destruction, she would have forced them to take a group picture to add to her wall. Most of the pictures were of locals, taken during town celebrations. A few, Goldie’s favorites, were prominently displayed behind the bar, over the rows of alcohol. These celebrity photos included sports heroes, authors, and one of her with Fintan the Bard. She, like most of the women her age, had once pined for the young one-eyed rascal. It wasn’t his way with words, oh, no. As an adventurer, he’d seen and done things. His worldly manner was majorly attractive. Goldie stared at the picture, fondly thinking of better days. Captain Prescott pulled her from her reverie.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Plus Auctoritatis

     Goldie’s Revenge, the last standing tavern in Avalona, had officially seen more people come through its swinging doors in the last two hours than in the six years since opening. Goldie, the owner—a middle-aged divorcee who had used monies received in the divorce settlement to open the bar her ex-husband had always dreamed of—stood at the main bar chatting with a Regular Militia captain that arrived with a retinue carrying the General of the Plains Region. Goldie watched General Willard Isaac Tomlyn as he directed soldiers with the calm certainty of one accustomed to giving orders. On occasion he would indicate action using only his head, pointing his dimpled chin in one direction or the other, and observing with detachment as soldiers about-faced and strode off intent on fulfilling his commands.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Ne Omittamus

In order to watch each other’s backs, Locos and Machine sat on opposite sides of the small aluminum table in the middle of the main room of the bunker. No familial decorations adorned the gun metal grey walls. Behind Machine was a double bunk bed with each bunk attached by thick hinges riveted into the wall; the opposite ends were secured in place by two steel chains looped onto giant welded hooks that jutted out of the ceiling. The bunks were apparently made to rest flush against the wall when not in use. If the top bunk was put up, the bottom could be used as a couch or daybed.
     Every time Carmel reached across the table, Machine caught delicious whiffs of her light vanilla perfume as it mingled with the buttered honey nut bread. He watched Praline sashay around the kitchenette behind Locos. Out of one of the cabinets, she took mugs into which she poured shots of spiced rum while waiting for the coffee to percolate.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Re Vera

Standing at the edge of the grove surrounding the Heart of the Seven Faeries were a handful of Mercs summoned there after Patrick Field had rushed the Phoenix Rose. Private Mack’s incapacitation by the cries of the Phoenix kept Field alive long enough for the groundskeeper to report everything he’d seen to Santos, who didn’t want to believe it but was duty bound to investigate. As such, Santos had run at top speed to the barracks north of the Heart where he grabbed the first men he saw, all Mercury’s Elite. The Regular Militia had been dispatched after the attack to protect Avalona and to maintain the borderlands.
     Santos stared at the seven bronze faerie statues forever dancing a circle around the fountain. Their right hands held up a giant carnelian stone shaped like a heart—not a cutesy Cupid heart, rather an actual bivalve human heart—and their left hands all held ancient bladed weapons: a cutler, an ensis, a ferrum, a gladius, a mucro, a pugio, and a sica. He saw nothing out of the ordinary, at first. Motioning to two of the Mercs nearest him, they cautiously approached the sacred fountain. The men circled it, looking every which way yet seeing nothing. Santos was about ready to call the effort off, when one of the Mercs stopped, tilted his head, and raised an eyebrow.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Atrox Animi

As in every Danian military building, pictures of President Scrub Thicket, Vice President Bonnie Peters, and the five regional CEOs adorned the wall opposite the main entrance. Commander Randle Dante, Sr. sat in the waiting room of Sanctuary City Medical Center. He wore his civilian clothes—a pressed grey polo tucked into starched black slacks with a thin black leather belt and polished steel-toed boots—as stiffly as he sat in the sea foam green chair. Draped in the seat next to him was a black trench coat, also in the seat was a grey canvas messenger bag topped with a plain black cap. He read through a stack of papers brought from Camp Polkner. Just because he’d been ordered for evaluation did not mean his work was done. The papers contained reports from every soldier involved in the incarceration and search efforts regarding escapee Kent Wheelock, AKA Prisoner 318.
     A wide-eyed young man, with a high-and-tight so high it was nearly a Mohawk, sat a few seats away drumming his fingers on the arms of his chair and alternating the bounce in both his legs. He watched a mute TV perched in the corner of the waiting room above a motivational picture of an enormous oak tree being struck by lightning, its caption read: POWER – With great power comes great responsibility.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Caput Mortuum

     “ARHHH!” Cassie screamed until her throat ached. In a bright green flash she was whisked out of the Heart of the Seven Faeries. She wobbled when she landed in front of Archel who was transforming in Patrick Field’s living room.
     “WHAT’S HAPPENING TO ME?” Archel bellowed. Tears streamed down the boy’s feathery cheeks. Blonde fur rose from his pores. Scrawny pubescent muscles filled out, elongated, and bent in abnormal directions. Archel bucked as a python tail ripped out of his lower back. He fell onto four paws, stared at the ground a moment, and then let out a terrifying eagle’s screech.
     The groundskeeper, Patrick Field, stood in the doorway between his living room and kitchen. His bottom jaw hung open, his eyes were wide, and arms had gone limp. Although he had managed to maintain his grip on the two lunch plates he’d been carrying, the sandwiches and granola lay in heaps on the floor beside him. A small part of him wanted to back out of the doorway, to pretend he’d never seen the girl appear and the boy change. The rest of him was frozen in place gawking.
     “A—a—” Patrick stammered, lifted one plated hand and pointed it at Archel, “a griffin.”

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Cadit Quaesito

The Bard’s Quarters, located in the west wing of the Templus de Ambros, were the furthest quarters from the kitchens and closest to the Forum Publicos in Ambrosia. During the daytime, the sounds of citizens and street vendors haggling in the Forum echoed off the walls, whereas night brought forth catcalls and drunks from the nearby bars. For Fintan, the noise was a reassurance that all was well in Ambrosia. He hoped that Kent would acclimate, after all, the young man was the next bard and one day these quarters and a couple others spread across the kingdom would belong to him.
     When the two falcons, Fulco and Aeolus, brought Kent through Sentinel Cemetery beyond the Pissing Puppy Statue and into the Forum Publicos, Fintan was ecstatic. That excitement faded the moment Kent saw Fintan and let loose a string of curses that would have shamed the heartiest of sailors. Fintan had kept his temper in check, saying nothing while attempting to remember how he’d felt when his father had forced the bardship upon him. The rest of the night had passed slowly as Kent refused to hear anything Fintan said. The elder bard had hoped that sleeping in and brunch would change Kent’s mind, but that had been wishful thinking. Mid-morning they had walked in silence through the Gryphon Gardens, near but not close to the armed guard pacing in front of the Phoenix Rose, to the kitchens. While the bards were eating breakfast, the two falcons took the opportunity to fly through the gardens.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Ex Curia

     Kaiser Rudolph Imler sat in the passenger seat of Colonel Dagon’s Iago Comet while 1st Lieutenant Santos drove. The three youths – Archel, Cassie, and Kent – were seated in the bed of the truck with their backs to the toolbox. Santos took the direct route on Gryphus Via 17 (GV17) which connected Markt, Morley, Avalona, and a series of tiny villages to the City of Ambrosia. Two hours after leaving Avalona, at the Kaiser’s behest, Santos pulled off GV17 onto Faith Gryphus Lane, where he took a series of small side streets that ran close to the Templus de Ambros. When they reached Sentinel Cemetery which abutted the southern wall of the temple compound, Santos was instructed to park.
     “Sir, I understand the cloak and dagger stuff. But, I don’t understand why we’re parking here,” Santos said. What he left unsaid was that graveyards creeped him out.
     “Lieutenant, have patience,” Kaiser Imler replied.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

De Jure

Avalona’s tavern, Goldie’s Revenge, was one of the few buildings that had remained unscathed by the attack, it was saved by its location on the far west side of town. Colonel Gawain Dagon sat on a tall stool at the main bar. Four sheets of paper were laid out before him, each held down by empty shot glasses. By the time Dagon arrived, the Regular Militia had already surveyed the damage; in the process, they found and treated three severely wounded but still living villagers. Emergency crews from the city of Ambros put out some of the fires, cordoned off dangerous piles of rubble, and continued the search for Avalona’s 1,000, or so, missing villagers. Dagon angrily stared at the four sheets of paper, under the bar, his hands clenched and unclenched quickly. His fists matched the rhythm of his grinding teeth. The tendons in his neck stuck out an inch. A vein pulsed on his right temple while his carotid artery echoed its beat. Three of the papers were taken by Militia Medics describing where the survivors were found and each was accompanied by testimony from the survivors. The fourth paper was found by the first team to arrive on scene; it was recovered from an abandoned makeshift camp located just outside of Avalona. The plan detailed the destruction of Avalona, Markt, and Morley, with an eventual inward push towards Ecirava. If those four towns were destroyed, the citizens of Ambros would be pinched between North Iphigenia and hostile forces in the southeast. They’d be able to call on some of the southwestern towns like Dervishaw, Hank’s Grove, and Baroport, but even with the quickness of the Bell system, troops would arrive late. Likely, too late. The Kaiser had to be notified. If only they could find him.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Retegit Draco

     Every citizen within ear shot of the Templus Bells gathered south of the Heart of the Seven Faeries in the Ambrosian Fields, a 2000 year old amphitheater usually used for sports and plays. Chief Justice Adonis stood center stage, twitching nervously, in his grape and gold priest garb. Royal procedure dictated that the Kaiser announce the attack and the necessity for war preparations. However, the Kaiser was missing and in his absence the Antigone Courts had unanimously decided that the responsibility rested on Adonis’ shoulders. 
     “People. People,” Adonis said as he raised his hands and patted downward in that universal ‘sit down and shut up’ gesture. “Quiet, if you’ll hear my words...”

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Casus Belli

The war cry of the Phoenix Rose sounded through the ancient passageways of the Templus de Ambros. In surprise, Kaiser Rudolpho Imler stood up from his giant office chair. As per the regular maintenance of the Kingdom of Poterit Don, Imler had been going over public project reports with his Public Works advisor, Craig Archer. The two men stared at each other, neither quite knowing what to make of the noise. In Kaiser Imler’s many years of living in the Templus de Ambros, he’d heard the war cry only once when he was eight years old. The hair on the nape of his neck rose as he rushed to the window to look into the Gryphon Gardens. Craig Archer dropped decorum and stood on Imler’s right, also staring out the window. Through the dark, they saw the Phoenix above the Rose screaming as she flew in fiery figure eights.
     “What’s she doing?” Archer asked.
     “Calling us to war,” Imler said while still staring at the pissed off Phoenix.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Dies Infaustus

     Fulco never had the chance to finish telling the tragedy of Rex Gryphus. Though it was still a bit before moonrise, Avalona and its surroundings were ablaze. Another fiery blast rocked the hillside just below Kent and Cassie, sending flaming tree detritus flying. The bird halted in mid-air and spun rising high above the forest. Kent, lunged for cover, barely avoided losing his good eye as a burning stick flew at him. He saw a huge branch land where the girl had stood. He never saw her move, but found her hunched beside him. She dug meticulously through her satchel, pulling out the ornate athame. She ran her fingers over the sheath, before handing the blade to Wheelock.
     “What do you want me to do with this?” Kent asked.
     “That’s my village,” her hazel eyes pleaded, “we’ve got to go,” her face remained stone.
     “You need a weapon,” Kent said, he was shocked at the sudden explosions, and bewildered that this rag-a-muffin girl would want to run into whatever danger awaited them, “you take the knife.”
     “I have this,” she held up her left arm.
     “Girls,” Kent sighed, “what’s a bracelet going to do?”
     “You’ll see. Let’s go.”

Saturday, January 2, 2016

De Profundis

     When Kent woke up, he found Chondee and Bonnie leaning over the large dining table discussing directions on a beat up map of the underground system. Spread out on the opposite side of the table was the contents of a medkit. Kent’s left eye ached and his head pounded. Out of habit, he raised both hands to his face to wipe the sleep from his eyes, “ow, dammit, that hurts,” he grumbled as his left hand slapped his missing eye. The bandage and the pain reminded him of his recent loss. The young man fought back the urge to scream.
     “Morning,” Kent said, slowly swiveling out of the bunk bed. His stomach rumbled as the smell of fresh breakfast and coffee traveled up his nose.
     “Actually, it’s afternoon,” Chondee pleasantly replied.
     “Yeah, we got a bit of a late start today,” Bonnie said.
     “Where’re the other two?” Kent asked.