Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Defense of Irkutsk

The last monster of summer had shoved its way through thin arctic ice, and begun its journey south. The hole in the ice had frozen-over before being spotted, and the tracks covered by wind-blown snow. The thing had wandered in its fugue of hunger and adrenaline for weeks before being spotted and called in by a militia outpost, already much too far south for comfort. The hunter-killer Hind squadrons were unavailable, protecting Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Valdivostok, or else receiving necessary maintenance, and so militia groups were hastily mobilized and assigned military officers.

Five tanks along a ridge. All had their hatches open with men standing in them. Most manning DShK heavy machine guns, but two have binoculars. Mist blankets the land.

The lieutenant had been gazing through his binoculars since dawn, as had the militia sergeant. The lieutenant was restless, occasionally taking his focus off of his binoculars to take in the landscape, or glancing at the sergeant. The sergeant was diligently scanning the fog, making a point of paying the lieutenant no mind.

"Silhouette, twelve o'clock" said the lieutenant .

"SILHOUETTE, TWELVE O'CLOCK" screamed the sergeant. The lieutenant winced in spite of himself, and the five tanks pointed their guns north. The lieutenant and the sergeant both focused on the shape in the mist.

The mist cleared briefly and revealed a tree.

The sergeants face remained carefully neutral. The lieutenant and the sergeant returned to scanning the landscape.

"Movement, eleven o'clock."

"MOVEMENT, ELEVEN O'CLOCK!"

The guns of the five tanks shifted left.

The fog shifted in the morning breeze. Nothing moved. The sergeant began to smirk. Then there came an echoing call, halfway between a scream and a trumpet, and the monster came charging at them.

"FIRE!" screamed both the lieutenant and the sergeant, and the call of the creature was met by the crack of the guns. The shells hit around the creature, some traveling too far, some coming up short. Shrapnel tore into its legs and belly and it began to bleed, but it continued its charge.

"FIRE!" the officers screamed again. This time the guns were loaded with APFSDS rounds, tungsten darts designed to pierce armor. They zipped through the creature as though nothing were there. It stumbled, and struggled to get up.

The lieutenant waved the line of tanks forward, and signaled the machineguns to open fire. The combined sound of five heavy machine guns is felt as much as heard. Fifty heavy bullets per second began tearing apart flesh, sending up eruptions of black blood.

Up close, it looked almost like a mammoth. Almost. It had too many trunks, and they were too long. It had too many tusks, and they were too sharp.And, as something tore its way out of the monsters belly and charged at the nearest tank, the lieutenant realized it had been pregnant.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Intelligent Design

Humanity was created for a purpose. We are vessels, with just enough soul to be possessed. We are servitors, with enough intelligence to do work but not enough to understand. We are clay, substantial enough to be molded but not so substantial that we pose a problem for the potter. We are neotenic, children who can become something greater. We were made to be transformed. We were always meant to something more.

There are older beings, mature beings who were once like us, but whose forms have stiffened. They envy our youth and our adaptability. They peer at us from great distances, from around angles in spacetime, and from the distant future. We must beat them to the punch and decide for ourselves what we are to become.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Pheonix Fire

The flame of a pheonix burns things back together. It burns things into health. It burns wood into trees, sickness into health, and metal into magic. If you light a funeral pyre with a pheonix's flame, it will even burn death into life.

This story is from the ancient days. Before all things had been created, before all things had taken their places, before the people built cities and organized their affairs. Across the land there was only death and those that feed on death. The people huddled under unrotting logs, fought with jackals for scraps of unrotting carcasses, and those that spent the night away from the warmth and light of a bonfire were never seen again.

One youth declared that the world could be better, and so he would make it better. The people had heard talk like this before, and knew that it always ended grand promises and a brave soul wandering away from the fire, never to be seen again. So they discouraged him, telling him about all the others who had failed, and when they saw he was determined to go, they wished him well, although in their hearts they knew they would never see him again.

 The youth wandered the lands for an uncounted period of time, stealing meat from jackals and sleeping in what shelter he could find. He found only mud, carcasses, and maggots. Nothing that could make a change or give him hope.

Eventually he resolved to climb to the peak of a mountain and see what he could see. Clambering upwards, he began to hear the sound of laughter. When he reached the top, he saw a great bird made of blue flame, laughing at the state of the world from above. The youth picked up a branch and held it aloft, lighting it from the bird's belly as it passed. He then began to descend from the mountain, to bring back to the people this new thing he had found.

As he descended, he noticed that the branch was becoming heavier. When he looked at it, he was astonished. Out of the bottom of the branch were growing pale white roots, seeking the earth. Out of the top of the branch were growing bright green branches, seeking the sun. The branch burned, but as it burned it grew.

The branch grew so heavy that he could not carry it. He planted it in the mud, where it grew faster and faster. The fire spread from the growing tree to the branches, logs, and stumps that littered the earth. As it burned them, they sprouted green branches of their own. The fire spread from wood to flesh, burning the carcasses that had lain in the mud for longer than memory, and as they burned they began to stand and run. The fire grew into a wildfire that covered all land, and it burned all day and night.

Next morning, the sun rose over a grand forest, through which wandered now-living wildlife. It was the most beautiful thing the youth had ever seen, but as he stared he realized he could no longer spot see any of the landmarks he knew. He was never able to find his way back to his people.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Ooze Cyborgs

Ooze slime is a translucent yellow-green substance with the consistency of honey. It is a complex material, capable of regulating virtually any organic chemical reaction, as well as acting like a muscle. When young, oozes are simple scavengers, slowly squirming their way through tunnels and caves, eating whatever they find.

As they grow, they get smarter. Sooner or later, a young ooze's dreamlike sentience will direct their body to preserve, rather than dissolve, useful organs.

Most common are bones. Incorporating the skeletons of animals it has eaten allows an ooze to sustain a discrete shape, with useful features like limbs. Ooze skeletons are always unique, created by mixing and matching bones from many creatures. If an ooze is lucky enough to find a set of plate armor, it will wear it like an exoskeleton.

Oozes are also fond of glands. The powerful stomach of an owlbear might be re-purposed as an acid spray, the venomous sting of a wyvern might be implanted at the end of an "arm", and the flame glands of dragon hatchlings have obvious uses.

Oozes are translucent enough that incorporated organs can be seen from the outside. Those familiar with oozes, and with the interiors of local monsters can guess at the capabilities of a mature ooze.

Friday, March 9, 2018

12 Rewards for Quests that are not Gold

1. The local priest will say prayers in your name.

2. A puppy, ready to be trained.

3. Your name will be entered into the annals of the city as a hero.

4. Past crimes will be forgiven.

5. A local hedge wizard will cast a spell of good luck on you.

6. Access to the Lord's library.

7. A mule, old but healthy.

8. A portrait by a visiting artist.

9. A reserved seat at the local pub.

10. A letter of introduction to the local Lord.

11. A charm that will ward off illness.

12. The whole community made donations, and the reward is a dozen eggs, 2 chickens, half of a bushel of barley, a basket of apples, a newly forged knife, a keg of ale, and a fine new hat.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Oxpeckers

Oxpeckers feed on blood, suckling at wounds and staining their yellow beaks red. They pull out soft, half-dead flesh for their chicks to swallow, then tear at healthy muscle for themselves. They can smell blood on the wind from miles away, and will converge on even the smallest cut. Where they range, no open injury is allowed to heal but is pecked and torn and pulled apart until the animal dies from infection, weeks later.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Blackflies

From spring until the first frost, the wetlands of Canada swarm with blackflies. Some feed on nectar, others feed on blood. Most lay their eggs in water, some lay their eggs in flesh. Most of those that lay their eggs in flesh prefer dead flesh, but there is one species that prefers the flesh of the living.

The flies are small, so small that their ovipositors cannot pierce skin. They therefore lay there eggs in whatever soft tissue they can access: open wounds, open mouths, your sinuses, your lungs, your stomach. Throughout summer moose and deer wander the wilderness, snorting blood and larvae.