Saturday, October 29, 2011

Story a Week 34 - Candy Land

I've been playing a lot of Candy Land with my kids lately, so I got the inspiration to write up some Candy Land fanfic (fan fiction for those in the know).  It just occurred to me that with Halloween coming up that I should have tried to write something scary or spooky or something for the holiday, but at least the story has a candy theme to it.  Right?

My last story (The Road Warrior) received a lot of reads (it's my top read blog post now), so I hope that those of you linked from have returned to see what my Story a Week thing is all about.  I really enjoy sharing my writing with people on this blog and I hope that you enjoy my stories too.

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So, you want to hear the story of the missing King of Candy Land?  Well, alright.  It's a long tale, kids, so you'd better have a seat.  It all started while I was walking to the grocery store and I got a call on my cellphone.  The caller ID said that it was Plumpy.  I hadn't spoken to the little troll in a while, so I answered it.  "Hi there, Ap," he said when I answered.

His voice sounded different somehow, like he was worried or scared about something.  "What's going on, Plumpy?" I asked him.

"Well, Ap, it's like this," he said, speaking very quickly.  He was definitely agitated about something.  "The King's gone missing."

I knew right away that this was serious business.  The kingdom had been in a bit of trouble as it was running out of viable farmland.  Without the King and his five year farm plan, things could go downhill quickly.  "You got more information for me, Plump?  That's not much to go on."

"Yeah, Ap, I got more..."  He hesistated for just a moment before blurting out, "The castle is gone too."

I almost dropped my phone right there.  I looked around, but didn't see anyone.  I didn't want to cause a panic by someone overhearing me.  "What do you mean the castle is gone too?"

Plumpy's voice got really quiet as he said, "It's just gone.  Someone's coming.  I've got to go."

He hung up on me.  I just stared at the phone for a moment before turning and running back to my office.  My receptionist was still there.  She was startled when the door flew open and I charged through.  She said, "Wow, Mr. LePie.  You really startled me.  Something wrong?"

I internally debated on whether or not to tell her what was happening.  He was her King too, so I guess that she had the right to know.  Plus, I could trust her to keep it quiet.  "Well, Ms. Snap..."

She interrupted me, smiling as she did so, "Mr. LePie, I told you to call me Ginger."

I appreciated her flirtations, but this was not the time.  "Ginger, then.  As I was saying, the King and his castle are missing."

My revelation seemed to utterly confuse her.  "Missing?  What do you mean missing?  How is that even possible?"

I strode across the room to the door to my office and opened it.  "I don't know, dollface, but I'm going to find out."

I crossed over to my desk and pulled out a couple of items: my trusty revolver, some toothpaste bullets, a notepad and pen.  I loaded the gun and started to leave when Ginger's voice stopped me short.  "You be careful out there, Ap."

I looked over my shoulder to her, smiling as I said, "Ap LePie is always careful."

I had to hurry to the Gingerplum Tree Forest and find Plumpy.  I got there as fast as I could, but when I arrived I found that the place was deserted.  Last time I had been there, the forest had been the happy-go-lucky home of the Plumpa tribe of trolls.  Now, it was a spooky and scary place.  Not a single Plumpa troll was anywhere to be found.  There were Gingerplums scattered all over the forest floor.  That, in itself, was a sign that something was wrong, as the Plumpa trolls were very good at tending their trees and wouldn't let a single plum sit on the forest floor without being harvested.  Yeah, they were like that.

Suddenly, I heard a strange noise coming from up ahead.  I stopped and listened.  It sounded like someone was crying.  I quietly pulled out my revolver and crept closer to the noise.  As I approached, I heard the sobbing more, but it was often being interrupted by the sounds of that same person noisily eating something.  I crept behind a bush to get a clear view of the sobber so that they couldn't see me too.  As I looked, I saw Plumpy sitting against a tree, eating a Gingerplum and sobbing.  Littered all around him were plum pits and half-eaten plums.

I sighed and put away my gun as I walked around the bush to face Plumpy.  He'd always been a heavyset guy, but now he looked bloated from eating so many plums.  "How many of those things have you eaten, Plumpy?"

He looked up at me, shame and sadness in his eyes.  "Oh, who cares, Ap.  It doesn't even matter anymore."

I looked around again, where had the other trolls gone?  "Plumpy, you have to tell me what's going on here.  I want to help you, but I also have to find the King."

Plumpy swallowed the bite he'd been working on and wiped the tears from his eyes.  I'd never seen such a jolly guy like him be so glum.  "They're all gone, Ap.  All gone..."

That's when it dawned on me.  Whoever was responsible for the King's disappearance had made all the Plumpa trolls disappear too.  This was getting very dangerous.  I had to be sure though, so I asked, "What happened to your tribe?  Did whoever made the King disappear also make your tribe disappear?"

He nodded and picked up another plum.  I crouched down and held his hand before he could get it to his mouth.  "You have to give me more than that, Plumpy.  This mystery is getting more and more dangerous if the perp can make kings, castles and tribes disappear."

Plumpy sighed heavily and dropped the plum into his lap.  "He didn't make them disappear, Ap.  He turned them into Bitter Chocolate Bats."

"Bats?" I said.  I instantly knew who it was.  Only one person in all of Candy Land liked Bitter Chocolate Bats.  "Lord Licorice," I growled.

Plumpy nodded.  "He knows that I called you, Ap.  He's expecting you.  He left me here alone as a warning to you," Plumpy moaned as his eyelids fluttered.

I knew that this whole ordeal had been rough on the little troll.  I patted him on the head and said, "Sleep, old friend.  Sleep with the knowledge that everything will be right again when you wake."

I stood up as Plumpy fell asleep.  I only hoped that I wasn't lying to him.  It would be a tough journey to Lord Licorice's castle, but it looked like he was making a move for the crown of Candy Land and I would have to stop him.  I knew that there were only two ways to get to the Lord's castle, the Rainbow Road and Gumdrop Mountain Pass.  Unfortunately, on my way to the Gingerplum Forest, I saw that the Rainbow Road was out, probably thanks to the errant Lord.  I would have to take the long road through the Peppermint Forest and the Gumdrop Mountains.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Story a Week 33 - The Road Warrior

So this week is a little ahead of schedule.  You can blame John Scalzi for that.  He put up a post on with several story ideas and I took one and ran with it.  It's a little different from what I normally write, but that's nothing but a good thing.  I'll save the story that I was writing for this week for next week.  Enjoy!


My name is Bob Farley and I'm a car salesman.  A damn fine car salesman too, if you ask me.  I didn't earn the name The Road Warrior for not being able to sell cars, if you get my drift.  Anyway, I've got a story to tell you about the strangest customer I've ever had.  It all happened on a fine day in July of last year.  It was nearing closing time and my sales manager stopped by my office on his way out.

"Hey Bob, I'm heading home a little early today," he said to me.

"Alright, Jake.  I'll see you tomorrow," I responded.

He turned away to leave and stopped short.  Smiling to me, he said, "Bob, I think there's a man outside who needs the Road Warrior treatment.  Looks like a tough sale, but you could sell an ice cream truck to an Eskimo."

I smiled at Jake's vote of confidence as I stood to get a look at the potential customer.  Man, this guy just looked strange.  It must have been at least one hundred degrees on the pavement out there, but this dude was wearing beat up jeans and a black leather jacket.  He had on some of those shades you saw on the CHiPs guys in the 80s.  He looked like a tough customer alright, but I'm up for any challenge.

"You'll see a sales form on your desk in the morning, Jake," I said to him as I slapped him on the shoulder on my way to the lot.

"Good luck!" he called out as he headed the other way.

The guy didn't seem to be looking at any car in particular.  Normally, when I size up a customer, I look to see what they're interested in and see if they are longingly glancing at anything else.  This guy seemed a little blasé about all of the cars.  He just kept glancing around and shaking his head.

I got a couple of feet away from him, but he didn't seem to react to my presence.  This wasn't unusual in itself; most people ignore a salesman until he speaks first.  It kind of goes with the game.  So I said, "Howdy, friend.  Looking for anything in particular?"

The guy looked over his shoulder at me for a moment before turning his head back to look at the sports car in front of him.  He had one hand on his hip and the other in front of himself.  It looked like he was holding something, but I couldn't see what from where I was standing.  When he spoke, he had a strange accent that told me he wasn't from around here.  He said, "I'm looking for a man who calls himself 'The Road Warrior'."

I smiled to myself.  My reputation must have spread for someone to be seeking me out to have me sell them a car.  I said to him, "You've found him, friend.  Name's Bob Farley."  I extended my hand.

Suddenly, he whirled around and pointed a sawed off shotgun at me.  Shocked, I raised my hands and quickly stammered out, "Look, buddy.  We don't have any cash here."

The man frowned at me and growled, "I'm not here for money.  I'm here because you're soiling my reputation!"

I quickly went from scared to confused.  "I'm afraid that I don't understand you," I said.

The man threw his arms in the air in disgust.  "You mean that you haven't heard of me?" he yelled.

"Well, partner, not by just looking at you.  Maybe if you told me your name, I may have," I replied.

"I've been known by many names, Bob," he said my name with much disdain.  "The Road Warrior is one of them.  I've also been called Mad Max, and The Man With No Name."

He looked at me with anger and a little bit of hope in his eyes.  I knew that this man didn't really want to hurt me, so I put my hands down.  "Listen, Max," I said in as friendly a tone as I could muster.  "I'm married to the job, you know what I mean?  I don't get out much.  It's mostly just home to work to home again."

Max looked dejected.  I put my arm around him and said, "Listen, pal.  If it helps you feel any better.  I'll tell everyone to stop calling me 'The Road Warrior'."

He looked up at me with hope renewed showing plainly on his face.  "You'd do that...for me?"

I slapped him on the shoulder and said, "Sure thing, though you gotta do something for me in exchange."

Now Max looked a little suspicious, though I couldn't blame him.  I was about to throw him a pitch.  "What's that?"

I put as big a smile as I could on my face and threw a little wink out there too.  "Well, Max," I said, "you're going to have to drive off of this lot in one of these cars."

Max looked a little surprised and glanced around.  "Uh, I'm not sure..."

I interrupted him and said, "Now, now Max.  Let's not be too hasty here.  I'm not even going to ask you if you're in the market for a new or previously owned car.  Everyone is in the market, Max.  They just don't know it yet."

I let him soak on that as I turned him around to face the sports car that he was looking at earlier.  It was a two year old Corvette that we'd had trouble offloading because of how many miles it had on it.  "Now, take a look at that beauty right there.  What do you think?"

To his credit, Max really did check the car out before replying.  He said, "I don't think that this is the car for me, Bob.  It doesn't have any storage space, though I like how fast it looks."

At that moment, I knew that I was going to sell a car today.  He didn't outright refuse and he gave me some ammunition.  I fired away with, "Alright, Max.  Not enough storage capacity, eh?  How much do you need?  I've got some mid-sized and luxury cars around the corner, if you're interested."

I started to guide him towards those cars, but he wouldn't budge.  He shook his head and said, "No, I'll be travelling for quite a while, so I'll need to be able to haul a lot around with me.  Maybe a pickup?"

To this day, I'm not sure if I successfully suppressed the wince that wanted to fight its way onto my face, but either way, he didn't seem to notice.  The problem was that I'd just sold our last pickup the day before.  The dealership is in farm country, so we never keep good pickups for very long.  I thought quickly to try to figure out a way to spin this.  "Well, Max, I hear what you're saying, but I think that I have an even better idea for you, if you'll follow me."

He shrugged and nodded then followed me as I led him over to where our minivans were parked.  "Now, Max, if you're going to be on the road a lot, hauling things...sure, you could have a pickup, but there are a couple of problems with that."

I paused to let him soak on that and to make him ask, "What problems, Bob?"

"Glad you asked, Max.  One, I'm assuming that from day to day, hauling your goods, you're not going to be able to park yourself in a garage of any type, right?"  He nodded and so I continued, "Right.  Well, with a pickup, your goods would be right out in the open for just anyone to come by and scoop up while you're sleeping.  Am I right?"

Max stood there thoughtfully for a second, then nodded and said, "I guess so."

I smiled.  This was like shooting fish in a barrel.  "The next problem is the elements.  In an open bed truck, you've got rain, dust, hail, all sorts of weather getting all over your goods.  In an enclosed van, you don't have those issues."

Max nodded and looked over the minivans that were parked in front of him.  He looked unconvinced and said, "I see your points, Bob, but I just don't know.  A minivan?  Won't I loose style and cool points?"

I chuckled and said, "Shoot, no.  Just look at these beauties, Max.  The new style of minivans are sleek, stylish and have great gas mileage to boot!"

I saw that I had piqued his interest.  "Really?" he asked.

I nodded and guided him towards one of the pricier model's sticker.  "Heck yes," I said.  "Look at that.  You can't beat that with a stick.  You certainly wouldn't get that kind of mileage with a truck."

Max looked it over and I opened the doors for him.  He sat down in the driver's seat and said, "Can I test drive it?"

With a big smile on my face I said, "Sure thing, Max.  Though you're going to have to put that pea shooter away.  Don't want anyone to think you're car-jacking me."

He blushed as he looked down.  He must have forgotten that he was carrying it.  "Oh, yeah.  Sorry about pulling that on you earlier, Bob.  You know that the damn thing isn't even loaded?  Hard as hell to find shells for it these days.  Even if it were loaded, damn thing misfires more often than not."

As confusing as he was, I knew that this sale would be closed within an hour.  During his test drive, I steered him towards a buddy's gun shop to pick up some 12 gauge shells for him.  He was elated.  My buddy even cleaned and fixed up the gun for him.

As he was leaving with his new minivan a little later he stopped and said to me, "You know what, Bob?  Keep the 'Road Warrior' nickname.  It suits you better anyway.  I'll stick with Mad Max."

I just laughed and waved as he drove off.  Strangest customer I've ever had.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Story a Week 32 - Propheteering 14

Welcome to yet another edition of Story a Week.  This week's story is clocking in at ~2400 words.  I wasn't meaning for it to make up for last weeks shortfall in word count, but this one just flowed out of me in a matter of a couple of hours.   I didn't know that it had gotten that long until I copied it into Word to spellcheck it.

It was nice to have the words flow like that again.  The last story I had to fight hard to get out, but this one the words seemed to write themselves.  As far as overall plot goes, I'm not sure how many stories are left before the conclusion, but we'll see.  I hope that you all enjoy the ride.


Rixi saw Cuddlington tackle Melbrid as she dodged to a corner of the tunnel away from the opening to the dragon's lair.  Meentha went the other way and Rixi couldn't see how she fared as she shielded her eyes from the heat and light of the dragon's fire.  A short time later the fire dissipated and Rixi helped Melbrid and Cuddlington get up.

"Here's the plan," she said as Meentha rushed over to join them.  "You three charge out and head left to distract the dragon.  I'll try to stealthily go right to try and sneak up on the dragon.  Cuddles, I need to know its weakness."

The dwarf bristled a little at the sound of the nickname he hated, but quickly calmed down.  "Me god told me that there's a break in its armor where its legs meet its torso."

Rixi nodded with a big fierce smile on her face.  "Good," she said.  "I can get there without much trouble, but you three will be in grave danger.  Please be careful."

They all nodded and without another word, Cuddlington let out a battle cry and charged out the door and broke for the left.  Rixi heard the dragon roar and a couple of stomps as Meentha growled and, with her bow drawn, charged out firing arrows.  Melbrid gave Rixi a weak smile as he walked out of the doorway chanting a spell.

Rixi took a moment to steady herself.  She was trying to be calm and confident for her friends, but her heart was pounding and her hands were shaking.  She slid over to the entrance and peeked out.  The dragon had Cuddlington pinned in one corner of the large room, but Meentha and Melbrid were trying to get its attention so that it wouldn't try to take a large bite out of the dwarf.  Rixi saw that this was her best chance to sneak out and she quietly crept out and to the right.

Rixi knew a little about dragons from her parents.  They had come to Telquirk not long after it was founded and there was still a green dragon living in the forest nearby.  Some of the townspeople banded together and eventually killed the dragon, but not before many of them died.  As such, her parents told her that the chromatic dragons, such as the green and red variety, were smart and ruthless, but not any smarter than the average person.  Rixi wasn't sure whether the dragon saw her in the tunnel or not, but it was likely to have forgotten or dismissed any sight of her when just three people came charging out of the tunnel.

That didn't mean that she could recklessly charge under the dragon and stab it in its belly though.  Its tail was moving about and that thing could do some damage if she couldn't avoid it.  She glanced over to the other side where the main battle was occurring and saw that Cuddlington had managed to get out of the corner and was trying to fend off the dragon in front of Meentha and Melbrid.

She saw that they had broken off many of the scales around the dragon's head and neck and she was happy to see that they were making progress.  However, Rixi knew that the three of them wouldn't be able to hold the dragon off forever, so she had to hurry if she was going to have a positive effect on the outcome of this battle.

From behind the dragon, Rixi watched the tail and saw that it was moving predictably from side to side.  Once she had the pattern down, she moved into position just out of reach of the tail.  She watched it pass once, then twice, and then ran for the underside of the dragon.  After five or six steps, she spotted some gore left from the dragon slaughtering the orcs.  It was too late though and Rixi's right foot slipped in the gore and she fell.  Luckily, the dragon didn't seem to notice her fall, but Rixi's ankle was sprained.

She was about to stand when the dragon's tail whipped by and almost struck her in the head.  Rixi decided that it would probably be best if she crawled the rest of the way and carefully began crawling towards the underside of the dragon.  She nearly got slapped by the dragon's tail a couple of times, but after a few moments, she was between the monster's hind legs.

Rixi checked on the progress of the main battle.  She saw her three friends still standing, battling the dragon, but she also saw a whirling mass of air and dust and she remembered that Melbrid had a gem that could summon an air elemental.  Things must not be going well if he'd had to do that.  She must hurry to help her friends before they ran out of tricks.

Gingerly, Rixi stood up on her feet.  Her ankle was in pain, but she could walk on it.  She looked up to see the dragon's armored belly was right above her head.  The armor here wasn't as heavy as on its back and tail, but she couldn't puncture it with her short swords or daggers.  She drew her swords and cautiously approached the dragon's left hind leg.  She immediately saw the break in the armor that Cuddlington was talking about and studied it for a second.  She knew that once she stabbed the beast, it would know she was there and try to kill her.  That either meant that it would simply lie down and crush her, or that it would try to strike her with its tail.

She thought a moment to come up with an escape route when an idea popped into her head.  She smiled at the thought and steadied herself to stab into the dragon's leg.  Quickly, she plunged her swords into the dragon's tender flesh two times and jumped out from under the dragon.  She ignored the loud roar that the dragon let out and sheathed her swords.  She saw that the dragon's head turned towards her as she quickly climbed the dragon's leg and got onto its back.  She saw the dragon open its mouth wide to release its breath weapon.  Rixi was shocked and didn't think that the dragon would do that to itself.  Then she remembered something that her parents told her about dragons.  They were almost always immune to their own breath weapons.

She had to think quickly and saw the dragon's wings up ahead of her.  Her ankle was very painful, but she sprinted up to hide behind the wing as a gout of dragon fire reached her.  As she had hoped, the wing blocked the fire from hurting her.  The fire dissipated and she heard the dragon roar twice as loud as it had before.  She fought to hold on as the dragon turned its body and head around.  The head tried to reach her, but she was still protected by the wings from its gnashing mouth.

The dragon realized this pretty quickly and smiled wickedly at her as it said in the elven tongue, "I hope you can fly, elf."

Rixi didn't have long to wonder what that meant as the dragon jumped into the air and its wings started beating.  She had trouble holding on as the muscles underneath the armor she was holding on to moved more and more.  A few moments after the dragon started flying, her grip slipped and she desperately clung on with one hand.  She saw that the scale she was gripping was starting to lift up so she quickly grabbed a short sword from its sheath and stabbed it under the scale.  The dragon roared again and its left wing couldn't keep up with its right.

She smiled in triumph, but that smile was short lived as the scale that she was gripping slipped off of the dragon.  She began to fall, and saw that the dragon was struggling to keep its height itself.  Even though she knew that she was falling to her death, she smiled to herself, knowing that with the help she had given them, her friends would be able to defeat this dragon today.

Suddenly, her fall slowed to a stop and Rixi found herself floating about a foot above the ground.  She looked upwards to where her friends were standing and saw Melbrid smiling at her through a look of concentration.  Cuddlington yelled, "Get moving girlie or that dragon's gonna come down on top o' ye!"

Rixi got her feet on the ground and limped over behind Cuddlington.  She turned just in time to see the dragon come crashing to the ground.  A moment later, it tried to stand, but its left hind leg wouldn't support its weight.  It roared and reared its head in the group’s direction.  Cuddlington charged forward with a roar of his own and Meentha began to fire arrows into the bare spot of back where the scale that Rixi had torn loose had been.  Melbrid pulled out the dark death ray wand and pointed it at the dragon's head.  Rixi, a surge of pride and adrenaline rushing through her, pulled out her hand crossbow and began firing.

Melbrid yelled out, "Down, Cuddlington!"  The dwarf threw himself to the ground as Melbrid yelled out the trigger word for the wand.  The black ray of energy surged out of the wand and struck the dragon straight in the head.  The dragon let out a final roar as its head staggered, then fell to the ground.

Cuddlington stood up and turned to Melbrid.  "Nice shooting!" he shouted and let out a victory whoop.

Rixi put a hand on Melbrid's shoulder and smiled at him.  Meentha walked over and examined the dragon's body.  "It's still alive," she said.  "Barrely, but it’s still breathing."

Melbrid smiled back at Rixi before moving over to where Meentha was standing.  "Dragons are powerful creatures and this one is no exception.  I'm not terribly surprised that it survived a Death Ray.  It won't be awakening anytime soon to be sure.  We should get out of here before it does."  He turned away and took a couple of steps.

Cuddlington and Meentha looked at each other and Rixi noted a slight nod exchange between them.  Cuddlington said, "Not so fast there, Melbrid.  We need to finish off the dragon."

Melbrid turned back and said, "What?  We defeated the dragon.  We can move on without having to kill the creature."

Rixi saw Meentha and Cuddlington glance in her direction to see which side she was going to favor.  Rixi decided to keep quiet and see how this discussion unfolded before she would chime in.  Seeing as such, Cuddlington plodded on.  "Melbrid, this is a chromatic dragon.  Such creatures are widely known as incredibly evil beasts.  All they do is eat, sleep and pillage.  Do ye know what they eat, young sorcerer?"

Melbrid was obviously startled by Cuddlington's ferocity.  He meekly said, "No, not really."

Meentha took this opportunity to chime in and said, "Everrything.  Literrally everrything.  People, livestock, buildings, animals, trees.  They eat for days all the while looting whatever treasure they can get their claws on.  When they've built up a large pile of treasure they use slave labor to bring it back to their lair, and then eat the slaves.  After that, they sleep for a couple of hundred years and do it all again."

Cuddlington let out a short laugh that was anything but mirthful.  "Yer lucky if they sleep that long.  The young ones sleep for a year or two then do it all again.  Their period of sleep increases as they age."

Melbrid gulped and stared at the dragon.  Even though he was a smart man, he let his naiveté show through when he asked, "All dragons do that?"

Meentha and Cuddlington smiled.  The dwarf opened his mouth to speak, but Rixi beat him to it.  "No, my friend, not all dragons do that.  There are good dragons in the world and there are neutral dragons in the world, though those are rare.  The good dragons often hunt their evil cousins and keep the loot for themselves."

Cuddlington and Meentha looked startled and confused that Rixi knew that fact.  Rixi smiled at being able to show her older friends a bit of her knowledge and past.  "My parents helped fight the green dragon that terrorized Telquirk when the town was founded.  I asked that same question to my parents when I was young."

Rixi looked towards Melbrid and saw that he was struggling with the decision.  She moved over to him and placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder.  "It's alright, Melbrid.  You don't even have to be around.  One of us will take care of it."

The sorcerer took one last look at the unconscious dragon and solemnly nodded.  He weakly smiled at Rixi and turned towards the tunnel and walked to it.  Rixi turned back and looked a question at Meentha and Cuddlington.  Without any hesitation, Meentha said, "I'll do it.  You two may head to the tunnel."

Cuddlington nodded at the ranger and took Rixi's arm and guided her to the tunnel.  As they walked, he quietly said, "Ye surprised me back there, young lass."

A smile as wide as Rixi's face showed as she said, "In a good way, I hope."

Cuddlington smiled too and said, "Yes, lass.  In a good way."

Rixi took a step through the door to the tunnel and was startled as the tunnel transformed from the tunnel they had come out of to the dining room of the mansion that they had met Yif in.  Melbrid was standing not far from where Rixi and Cuddlington came through.  Rixi turned around and looked through the doorway they had come through and only saw the room beyond.  "Where's Meentha?  What just happened?"

She recognized the sound of Yif's voice as he said, "She'll be along momentarily.  She just finished off the dragon for you all."

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Story a Week 31 - Propheteering 13

 So apparently I posted this last night and didn't remember doing it and didn't put my normal heading paragraphs in.  Silly me. :)

Here's another segment of the Propheteering storyline.  It's a little shorter than the others in the series.  Next week, unless I have inspiration for a different story, I'm planning on posting the next part of this storyline.  Enjoy!


Cuddlington heard a very quiet scuffling sound behind him.  He whispered, "Rixi, is that you?  Where did ye go lass?"

He saw her finally when she turned towards him thanks to the light from the dragon's chamber.  Before he could say anything further, Melbrid said, "Where did you get that?  It's practically glowing with magical energy."

The dwarf couldn't see the item that the sorcerer was talking about.  Rixi said, "Um, I found it here.  One of the orcs must have dropped it."

Her friends all looked at each other doubtfully.  Cuddlington dismissed it all with a wave of his hand.  "We have bigger problems.  Did ye see what's waiting fer us out there, Rixi?"

Rixi gazed out at the dragon.  It seemed to be sleeping after it finished slaughtering the orcs.  She said, "Yes I did.  I think we can defeat the dragon."

Cuddlington closed his eyes and shook his head.  He was about to spout out a witty retort when he opened his eyes and noticed that he wasn't standing with his friends any longer.  He was still in a tunnel of some sort, but instead of unnaturally bright white light coming from behind him, it was instead a dim golden glow.

Startled and wary, Cuddlington turned towards the glow with a hand on his axe.  He was startled to see a dwarf sitting on a glowing golden throne.  He immediately knew that this must be Kilzan Thunderhammer, the god of all dwarves.  "My lord!" Cuddlington exclaimed as he dropped to one knee.

"Oh fer Ur's sake, rise," Kilzan replied.  He spoke in a voice that was at the same time booming and quietly reassuring to Cuddlington.

Cuddlington, uncertain of himself, rose and looked in Kilzan's direction.  The throne he was sitting on was very ornately decorated with some of the most well-known exploits of the god while he was a mortal during the Gods' War around 1400 years ago.  Kilzan was smiling down on Cuddlington as he said, "Yer in fer some rough times comin' up here, young 'un.  That Yif has some plans fer ye and yer friends, that's fer sure."

Cuddlington nodded, he said, "Yeah, that's what I figured.  He hasn't been hiding that."

Kilzan laughed heartily and stepped down from the throne and approached Cuddlington.  "He ain't exactly subtle, is he?"

Shaking his head, Cuddlington replied, "Nope.  Subtle as a battle axe."

The dwarven god laughed heartily again.  "Well, I can't tell ye fer sure what he has planned for ye, but I can help ye on yer way a bit.  For instance, I can tell ye that one of yer friends has gotten assistance like this."

Cuddlington wondered which of his friends he was talking about, but couldn't think about it long as Kilzan was still talking.  "Also, the dragon has a weakness.  If ye can hit it, there's a join in its armor where its legs meet its torso."

"That certainly will help," Cuddlington replied.  Something was puzzling him though and he said so, "I don't really understand why ye're helping me.  The Gods aren't known for their direct assistance to individual followers."

Kilzan put a hand on Cuddlington's shoulder.  "Ye're a little different, Cuddlington.  If I might be a little blunt, I also have plans for ye and I'd like to see ye survive this ordeal that Yif is putting ye through."  Kilzan's smile disappeared and was replaced by a solemn look.  "There's a lot of stuff brewing up right now, Cuddlington.  Storms, hurricanes and... beer!"

Kilzan laughed again and Cuddlington followed suit.  Kilzan slapped him on the back and said, "I really wish ye luck.  Ye're gonna need it."

There was a flash of light and Cuddlington found himself in the darkness of the tunnel outside the dragon's chamber.  He felt a little disoriented.

He was startled when Rixi said, "Cuddlington!  You had disappeared!"

Cuddlington turned to where his friends were standing near the opening to the dragon's chamber.  "Yeah, it was strange.  Kilzan Thunderhammer took me somewhere and told me about a weakness that the dragon has."

When he paused, Melbrid burst out, "Well, what is it?"

Suddenly, Cuddlington heard movement in the chamber.  He looked and saw the dragon looking directly towards them.  To him it seemed like he was staring straight into his soul.  A hiss from Meentha startled Cuddlington, "You fool!  You've woken the dragon!"

Cuddlington looked back at the dragon just in time to see the dragon open its maw to release its breath weapon.  "Look out!" Cuddlington yelled.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Return to Java

 If you read my blog, you'll know that I just started a new job last week.  The new job is using Java and I've spent the last week getting re-familiar with the language and tools.  It's been a week of reading a lot of text books and using Eclipse heavily for the first time in several years.

The first thing that I've noticed again is how versatile Java is.  This week, I've played with some server side code, technical layer type code (API to a database) and client side code (web servlets, okay, not really client side, but web side anyway).  I get more and more excited about using Java again every day, even every hour it seems sometimes.  I've already got big plans to build a game engine and other stuff like that using Java.

When I started with Wyde, I had those same big ideas, but it just wasn't viable with the tools available.  First, just to develop with the IDE, you need a license.  That's fine if I'm using my work laptop, but I don't think that Wyde would have liked me getting a limitless license on my personal computer.  Plus, I'd have to compile it down to C++ using Visual Studio, which I didn't have access to on my own PC.

Man, Java is so much easier.  The best IDE (Eclipse) is free.  Most of the other good tools and frameworks are free.  Google has server space for your apps that is free.  Once again, I can't state how exciting this is.

Now, don't get me wrong, working for Wyde was one of the best experiences in my life.  I learned a lot about projects, business, insurance and myself during my time there.  I know that I can lead teams, run and participate in projects and design components in a larger application.  All of that I learned at Wyde.  Even if my knowledge of Wyde's proprietary language isn't particularly useful, the technical, personal and management skills that I learned there are invaluable to growing my career.

I think that I'm getting a little off topic, so I'd like to conclude this post by giving you all a link to my AppSpot and saying that you should check back there often.  Right now it's just a little "Hello world" app, but soon it will be so much more.  I'm planning something big that I hope you all will enjoy.  I will, of course, keep updating my blog with updates to the app that I'm building, but more frequent updates will come from my Twitter or Facebook pages.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Job Change

Those of you who know me personally probably have heard the news already, but here it goes: I've started a new job!  This time it's for real, unlike last time.  :)

The decision to leave the company that I'd been with for nearly five years was a difficult one.  There have been many frustrations over the years there, but the number one reason that I chose to leave (at least at the start of the process) was travel.  I've been travelling almost constantly for work for five years now.  I've had a couple of slow periods where I would get to stay home for a month or two, but overall, I'd say that I have spent about fifty percent of my time with Wyde on the road.  By itself, travelling isn't that bad.  I do enjoy visiting new places and meeting new people, but with a family (and especially two small children), travelling is very taxing.  Now, don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying that my family makes it hard to travel; I'm saying travelling makes it hard on my family.  I just couldn't live with it any longer.

The other thing to understand is that I wasn't looking for a new job.  One of the things that I hate the most in life is job hunting!  When I graduated from college, it took me ten months to find a job in my field!  Ten months!  Granted, that was at a particularly tough part of the recession, but the hardest part is getting your hopes up and then being rejected.  I couldn't count how many times I heard, "we're very interested," or, "we'll be in touch," or any other saying that leaves a candidate with hope just to have it all come to nothing.  A couple of times I had been told that they wouldn't give me a formal offer right away, but that I would get one within the week, but never heard back from them.  Well, I'm getting a little off topic here, so I digress.

My point is that I wasn't looking.  I've been getting a call from headhunters about once a quarter for the past year or two and I would go through the motions, maybe have an interview or two and then not hear anything.  I took it all in stride, not getting my hopes up for any of it.  This last time, about a month ago, I had another head hunter call that went a little differently.  The recruiter handed me right off to the interested company and they wanted to interview me right away and in person.  I was, unfortunately, out of town, but they were cool and we scheduled for the next week.  They acted fast and got me an offer the same week that I had the second interview.  Now, I'm not going to go into the details of what happened next, but there was a counter offer and then a counter-counter offer and I ended up accepting the new company's counter-counter offer.  That's another thing that I wasn't trying to do (get a bidding war over me going), but it's nice to feel wanted!

So, what's different now that wasn't when I'd gotten other interviews?  Well, for one, the new company has a different outlook on what it takes to be a good developer.  They feel, similarly to how I feel, that if you know the theory/concepts of object-oriented programming that a language is easy to learn.  It's surprising to me how most other companies don't grasp that.  I hadn't done Java programming since college and this company was willing to take the risk based on my interview and hire me as a Java developer!  I was amazed!  Another reason is that I am more experienced now than I was out of college.  Duh, right?  Well, I didn't really fully realize that until I started talking to this company and they asked me certain questions that a newbie might not know about.

You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned the name of my new company.  The reason is that I'm not sure how they would take me writing a blog about this whole thing.  Maybe after I've worked here for some time I'll share with you all that information, but for now I'll keep it quiet.

Another main benefit to switching jobs is that I get to work using Java again.  I've been reading training manuals now for a while and the more I read the more I remember why I liked Java.  It's also made me realize how important a good design is to having a successful product.  I'm just going to leave it at that.

So, it's exciting news!  At the same time that I'm sad about leaving Wyde and leaving the friends that I made there, I'm happy for this new opportunity to return to Java and do something different.  It's a good opportunity to grow my skillset and to see how other companies do this consulting thing.  Also, yay for no travel! :P

PS: It still amazes me that Word likes "travelling", but Firefox wants it to be "traveling".

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Story a Week 30 - Vesta Bound 2

 Hello everybody.  Been a couple of weeks since I've posted.  I've got some personal news that I'll share in a separate post.

This is the second story in my Vesta plot line.  It's a little shorter.  I had some trouble with it, I'm not quite sure what the next steps will be at this point.  I know where I want the story to go, but I'm not quite sure how to get there yet.  I'll figure it out eventually though.

Next story will be in the Propheteering plot line.  Hope you enjoy the story!


Jeff carefully guided the Memphis towards a docking port of Vesta Station.  He was very apprehensive about his upcoming meeting with his grandfather.  That, coupled with his sorrow and guilt over his father's death, had him on edge.  That was why he jumped and yelped when his cousin, Devon, popped his head in the cockpit to ask if they were docked yet.

"Devon, you startled the crap out of me!" Jeff exclaimed.  "We'll be docked shortly.  If I don't crash us into the station because of someone distracting me!"

Devon mumbled an apology as he backed out of the cockpit.  Jeff concentrated on the docking procedure.  A few moments later, the Memphis was secured to the station and Jeff went through the post-docking routine.  When that was finished, Jeff sighed.  He knew that he'd overreacted to Devon and that he'd been on edge since... he didn't want to think about that right now.  Or ever, for that matter.

He finished locking down the cockpit and left it.  He just hoped that it wasn't the last time.

Jeff walked through the ship in a half daze as he made his way to the airlock.  He didn't know how his grandfather would react to what had happened, but he knew that it wasn't going to be pretty.  The light on the airlock showed green for equalized pressure and Jeff opened the door.  He was surprised to see his grandfather and two of his uncles waiting for him on the other side.  His two uncles had their own ships and they weren't scheduled to be back at Vesta until next week.

"Hello, Jeff," his grandfather said.

Jeff could feel his blood pressure rising already.  "Hello grandfather," Jeff responded.  "I wasn't expecting you to be here, I was heading to your offices."

His grandfather gave him a smile full of pity.  "Jeff, you must be beside yourself with grief.  We didn't want to extend your wait by making you walk all that way."

Jeff knew that something was amiss now.  His grandfather, Matthew Watson, wasn't particularly known for his empathy.  Jeff cautiously replied, "Thank you, grandfather, but that's not necessary.  We can go to your office."  Jeff tried to push his way through the three older men, but his two uncles stopped him by lightly grabbing his arms.  They weren't rough with him, but they made it clear that they wouldn't be letting him through.

Jeff sighed and looked to his grandfather.  "What's this all about?"

"Well, Jeff, I'm afraid that I'm going to have to give command of the Memphis to Devon," he said.

"What?!?" Jeff yelled.  "You can't do that!  The ship was my dad's and it should go to me next!"

Matthew shrugged.  "Doesn't matter, really.  I can assign the ship to whoever I want.  It's apparent to me from the reports I've gotten from the others on the ship that you're not ready to captain it."

Jeff shrugged off his uncles' grips and took a step back.  "You think Devon is?  He's younger than I am!"

Devon's dad, Bartholomew, said, "Only by a couple of months!"

Matthew made a dismissing motion and said, "Enough!  The decision is made, Jeff.  You can stay aboard the Memphis as First Mate, if you like, but Devon will be Captain."

The thought of staying aboard the ship with someone else at the helm made Jeff feel sick, even if it were his best friend.  Well, former best friend at any rate.  Who else would have "given a report" to his grandfather.  He looked at his two uncles and his grandfather.  It was obvious that they weren't going to let him win this fight.  He would have to come back and fight this battle another day.

"You don't know what you're doing, grandfather.  This is a big mistake," Jeff growled.  "I'm taking my things and leaving the compound."

Surprise showed on his grandfather's face.  "Wait, wait.  Don't go overboard, there, Jeff.  I don't want to drive you out, I just think that you need some time before you're ready to captain."

"The die is cast, grandfather," Jeff said.  "You made your play and I'm making mine.  Maybe I'll come back one day, but I don't think that it will be anytime soon."

Surprise was replaced by a look of respect on Matthew's face.  "What will you do out there?" he asked.  "I can't protect you once you leave the family, you know."

Jeff nodded.  He knew that people without one of the large families to back them had a rough life on Vesta Station, but he had an idea that might make it all worth it, in the end.  "I don't know for sure, yet," he lied.

Matthew sighed.  "Well, kiddo.  I can't stop you."  He took a step forward and put a hand on Jeff's shoulder.  "You're welcome back at any time, Jeff.  I mean that."

Jeff nodded again and turned to go back into the ship.  I just need to pick up a few things."  Jeff went in and his uncle Bartholomew followed to make sure that he didn't take anything that wasn't his.  After gathering a sackful of his items and all of his money, Jeff left the ship.  His uncle walked him through the family compound and to the exit that lead to the common area of Vesta Station.

Jeff paused just inside the door and took one last look back at the compound.  It would probably be a while before he returned.  He sighed and left the compound.

He glanced around.  The common area was part market and part roadway.  It linked the compounds of the major and minor families and served as a neutral ground for meetings between them.  Because of this it was also the most dangerous place on the station.  Muggings and stabbings were quite common.  No one knew if it was due to the families sniping at one another or desperate criminals without a family to support them.

Either way, Jeff was prepared.  He had taken a blade and a pistol from his room before leaving the ship.  He headed towards the right, away from the more prosperous part of the station towards where the smaller families had their compounds and where the general quarters for anyone without a family were.  It wasn't long before he reached the only temporary quarters that the station boasted.  He entered and went to the desk on the inside.  The man behind the desk had one hand below the table, obviously holding a weapon at the ready, while he spoke to Jeff.  "Good afternoon, young man," he said.  "How can I help ya?"

The man's tone was anything but friendly.  He might as well have said, "If you don't belong here, get out."

Jeff cleared his throat and said, "I need a room for a couple of days."

The man looked Jeff up and down.  "Ya sure, rich boy?  This ain't exactly the best place for someone like you to stay."

Jeff looked down at his clothes and realized that they probably gave away his place as a member of one of the high families.  He sighed and thought that he'd have to get some more conspicuous clothing.  "Yes, I'm sure."

The man shook his head and brought set both hands on the desk.  "Alright then.  Just so you know, people play for keeps here.  If ya lose something, it's gone for good, ya understand me?"

Jeff nodded.  "Yep, I can take care of myself."

He got to his new room a few minutes later.  It wasn't anything special, basically just a bed and bathroom.  Jeff got the room organized as he wanted it to be and went to bed.  Tomorrow, he would try to find some pirates.