* * *
The argument between the barbarian and the knight seemed to finally reach a conclusion, with the barbarian walking off grumpily, his paperwork balled up in his first. The knight in the white enameled armor nodded in satisfaction, walking up towards the mouth of the cave, halting about halfway up the slope leading to the entrance. He doffed his helm and Miriam saw that he appeared to be an older man, perhaps in his early sixties, with neatly trimmed grey beard framing a round, grandfatherly face.
“Oh, Great Dragon of the Green Hills,” he bellowed in an impressive baritone, one hand resting on the butt of his sword. “I, Sir Simon of the Broken Lands, call you forth to engage me in single combat, for the life of the innocent maiden you hold in your clutches.”
“Is he serious?” Miriam asked the dragon, finishing the last of her popcorn.
“Yes, but don’t worry. He means well,” the dragon reassured her. She stood up from her relaxed sitting position, stepping out of the cave, unfurling her wings and letting loose a roar that rattled Miriam’s teeth and set the baby wailing, before shouting, “You dare come before me, insignificant mortal, to challenge my strength?”
Sir Simon winced, covering his ears with his palms as she bellowed her challenge, before answering calmly. “Have a care, dear. You’re going to make me deaf in my old age.”
The dragon smiled, coming down the slope to meet him. “I’m sorry, Simon. It’s been a rough few days, and I haven’t had a chance to be properly shouty in ages.”
“Believe me, I understand,” he started to say, before looking past the dragon to Miriam, “Has she got a baby?”
“Yes, it’s all very complicated,” the dragon said. She turned her head back towards the cave, “Come on down, Miriam. It’s all right.”
Mariam made her way carefully down the slope, the wailing baby clutched tight in one arm as she tried to balance with the other. “Hello, Sir Simon,” she said rather breathlessly as she stopped her half-slide down the rocks.
“Just Simon, dear. The Sir is for when I have to be official.” Simon looked at the still wailing baby in her arms. “And who are you? Was the dragon’s roar too loud?” he cooed, wiggling one gauntleted finger in front of the baby’s face, to be grabbed by two tiny hands. In the same tone he continued. “Don’t be scared, she’s a nice dragon. She truly is. We’ll just finish this up and get you something nummy to eat, would you like that?”
He had to be a grandfather, Miriam quickly realized, as the wailing baby hiccuped, looked surprised for a moment, then giggled happily. “Are you and the dragon going to fight?” she asked.
“Well, I was hired to rescue you,” Simon replied, retrieving his finger from the baby’s grip.
“I”m sorry, ‘hired’?”
“Exactly.” He held out his hand to her. “Sir Simon of the Broken Lands, professional monster duelist. I’ve battled wyverns, outsmarted sphinxes, dealt with occasional bridge troll, and fought dragons. Mostly dragons as a matter of fact. I’m the one they send in when some poor maiden is kidnapped and unransmoed, and no younger, unmarried knight wants the job.”
“I see.” Miriam shook his hand automatically, then blinked, thinking about what he’d just said. “So no one else wants to rescue me? Should I be insulted by that or not?”
“I shouldn’t think so,” he said amiably. “Honestly, it’s become quite unfashionable for women to find a husband this way. Though I’ll admit it’s a bit cheaper nowadays as well. Repairing the dings in one’s armor can be quite expensive, never mind the stabling costs for a warhorse.”
“I know,” the dragon said, her tone growing melancholy. “It used to be I’d have a waiting list of princesses wanting to be kidnapped each season. Took me seven years to find this one.”
“I’m not really a princess,” Miriam corrected.
“It says you are here,” Simon said, showing her his paperwork. “I saw the king sign it himself.” He glanced at the glowing runes encircling her neck, eyes narrowing. “Though I’m beginning to believe there’s more to it than that.”
“She’s a wild mage, completely untrained,” the dragon explained. “By the time I found her she was convinced that she was possessed by a demon, and her own family had staked her out hoping I’d just eat her.”
“Ugh, peasants,” Simon declared. Then he frowned deeply. “Wait, if she’s the daughter of peasants, why would the king get himself involved?”
“Because he’s concerned about his people?” Miriam ventured. At the dragon and Simon’s mutually dumbfounded expressions, she added, “No?”
“No,” Simon confirmed. “Well, unlikely at least.”
“It’s a mystery,” the dragon agreed.
Simon looked cheered. “Oh, you know what that means, don’t you?”
“What?” Miriam asked.
“You get to go on a quest,” the dragon and knight both exclaimed.
Since 2011 readers have enjoyed the adventures of the Darktail family and their entanglements with the vivacious space pirate, the Red Vixen. Now this brand new collection gathers all the major stories in the series Captive of the Red Vixen, Shadow of the Red Vixen, Shadow of Her Sins, Shadow of Doubt, The Red Vixen at Sea and I Fought the Claw and the Claw Won, plus two never before published short stories "Solstice Gifts" and "The Parable of the Glassblower" along with an appendix featuring fun world building notes.
Lady Melanie Lovejoy's former life as the vivacious space pirate the Red Vixen is over. Escaping the consequences of her criminal career proves more difficult, as her husband, Rolas, is seeming to reconsider the wisdom of marrying a vixen with such a checkered past. But he proves to have his own secrets, as a lover from his troubled youth returns to the scene.
Trying to reconcile their past lives, Melanie and Rolas leave on a sailing trip to work things out. However, after an unexpected storm strands their boat and leaves Rolas critically injured, Melanie must fight for both their lives. For there is a monster here, and it needs the two shipwrecked foxen for its own plans, in the final exciting entry of the Red Vixen Adventures!
The Red Vixen at Sea is available for $2.99 exclusively through Amazon.com, and will release on May 26th, 2017.
(sorry about the crap cover art. I'll fix it when the opportunity presents itself.)
She didn’t actually have a name. Indeed, she would have been insulted if she’d been told she needed one. “The Dragon of the Green Hills” was a lovely title, and it fit her perfectly. Well, if you wanted to get really technical about she was A Dragon of the Green Hills, but her son would earn his own title in time, assuming he didn’t accidentally spear himself on the end of some poor knight’s lance before he grew old enough for his own cave.( Her opinion of her son is ENTIRELY justified. )
* * *
It was getting awfully cold, Gilly thought. Here she was, wearing her best party dress and tiara, standing in the middle of the front lawn, at midnight, chained to a post, and the blasted dragon was late.
She gave the chains desultory tug, then unlatched her right wrist and scratched her nose before resecuring herself. It was midnight under a full moon, and she was a princess. The dragon had to show up, those were the rules.
I’ll give it ten more minutes and then I’m calling it a night, Gilly thought irritably, feeling the chill wind blow against her dress, her silk slippers growing damp and cold in the dew covered grass. She should have brought a shawl just in case, but it had seemed to clash with the whole “Princess Waiting to Be Devoured” thing. It had been hard enough to convince Daddy to mount this ugly pole in the middle of their nice, manicured lawn. She wasn’t exactly looking forward to the Look he’d give her if the dragon didn’t even show up.
A shadow fell across the moon, darkening the sky. Clouds, that tears it. I’m going back inside before it starts raining, she thought. Gilly was just reaching up to undo the latches on the cuffs again when she was nearly blown blown off her feet, a hot wind blasting her back as a dark shape passed over her head.( A dragon's gotta have standards )
( Cut for mild suggestiveness )
The hours between Midnight and the grey predawn light had always been a magic time for Nick. Three quarters of Zootopia would be asleep, leaving it to the nocturnal animals like bats, raccoons and foxes. The street lights would be dimmed, and the shadows would lengthen. Sometimes Nick could walk for hours up and down the streets without seeing another soul, but knowing they were there, watching. It was something no daylight oriented mammal could really understand, that feeling in the air, the knowledge that there was a second Zootopia, occupying the same physical space as the sunlit one but so profoundly different in many ways.
Tonight for example, he’d taken a long walk to the tarmac two-lane road leading into town, only turning around when he’d reached the outskirts of town, listening to the crickets chirp in the grass and the occasional hoot of an owl. Then he turned back, whistling to himself and walked around the house to the back porch to catch a few winks before the Hopps clan began to wake up and start their long work day.
To his surprise, he found Judy waiting for him, sitting on the porch with her paws between her knees, ears flat and hanging low behind her head.
( Bad Dreams, Bad Ideas )
Judy was sitting on a carved log stump in the backyard, diligently doing her ten (and only ten, on pain of Nick’s snark) forearm curls with a two-pound dumbbell, when her mom came up to her, bearing a pitcher of lemonade and a pair of cups on a tray.
“What’s up, Mom?” she asked, setting the dumbbell down.
Bonnie set the tray on a second nearby stump, then pulled up another to sit beside her. “Oh, just checking up on you. How’s your arm?”
Judy rubbed her shoulder and grimaced. “Weak. I’m working on it.” She looked closer at Bonnie’s troubled expression and lowered ears. “Something on your mind?”
( Zootopia is built on compromises )
Just attempting to codify some of the worldbuilding I've done over the years, starting with the tech.
* * *
Tech Level: In general the G:RVA tech level is TL9-11, following the Safe-Tech path (p. UT10), with some gravity related superscience additions.
( Cut for the RPG disinterested )
SCENE: We start in medias res inside Lord Dark’s Air Fortress. The animation style looks to be the height of mid-1980’s syndicated cartoons.
Assuming it was done by Filmation.
Towards the end of the season.
When the budget was getting a bit tight.
( From here it gets rough... )
A commitment band is commonly a silver or gold wrist cuff, usually about a half-centimeter thick and two to six centimeters wide, worn by both (or all, depending) spouses. Pearl inlays are common, and almost without exception both spouses’ names and the date of their wedding are engraved upon them, occasionally with a prayer to the Mother Goddess for long and fruitful lives.
What sets commitment bands apart from something like human wedding rings is a certain higher, er, binding nature. Bands are typically locking, with the key one’s band being held in trust by their spouse. Sometimes the locks are symbolic and the bands easily popped open with a little force. Sometimes they’re very serious, requiring unique keys and/or double locks that need both spouses’ keys to open. In more modern versions some use thumbpad locks or even encrypted locking software and built in GPS tracking. In the case of more serious units, ambulances and hospitals always have specialized “band crackers” to pop even heavy duty locks if they’d interfere with emergency treatment of patients.
Ceremony: Pre-wedding engagements for foxen can have several levels of seriousness, but they almost always make use of ribbons, usually silk, tied around the wrist, to display a pair’s commitment to each other. Close friends might have a simple loop and bow, a couple that is dating might have multicolored ribbons woven in a pattern. A couple that is intending to wed would have ribbons woven in a very elaborate style, weaving around the wrist and between the fingers, palm pads and the back of one’s paw.
On the wedding day, the couple stands nude before the priestess (usually the eldest female of the wife’s family) in a show of innocence and piety to the Mother Goddess. The priestess unties the ribbons from the couple’s wrists, and they speak their vows to each other. Then the priestess blesses the couple and the two of them offer their commitment bands, and the keys to same, to the other, to be attached to their wrists. Once locked in place the priestess completes the ceremony and the couple dress and attend the wedding reception with the usual offering of food, presents, and questionably “helpful” gifts from close friends, before retreating to their wedding bed or the next available flight to their honeymoon destination.
Legends: The origin of commitment bands are obscure. One popular legend is that of a Commoner or Military caste vixen who rescues a prince from slavery to a monster. The chains the monster forces the prince to wear are enchanted, and the clever vixen is able to trick the monster into removing all but the last one before she kills it. Though now free, the prince can’t remove the last of his slave bands without losing his paw, so in a show of her love for him, the vixen attaches one of the other bands to her own wrist, so they would remain connected forever. From there the tradition of the locking bands moved from story to reality, though usually without attached chains.
 Rolas and Melanie’s bands are a dual layer carbon/diamond composite inner ring and gold outer ring, with electronic locks that are quantum encoded, requiring use of a physical key that transmits the release codes when turned, and an additional thumbpad lock. After their shipwreck, Melanie discretely added a GPS tracker and biomonitor to Rolas’ band before he put back on when he was released from the hospital. She’s going to tell him about it One of These Days.
 Usually sex toys or helpful band add-ons such as chains or leg irons…
 Yes that's a bit stalkery, but Melanie is the Queen of Ill-Considered Decisions.
Corollary: The Groupmind does realize that a lot of people are miserable about their situation on the Ring. But the one solution that mankind would embraced, being set free to return to Earth, is the one thing the Groupmind just can't let itself consider.
2. The Groupmind is Genre Savvy: The Groupmind has every science fiction novel, comic book, manga, anime, cartoon, movie, and possibly wood block carving in its memory. It knows every tactic ever tried by and against every insane AI imagined by man. It knows exactly how badly the situation could deteriorate if it starting using the ”Zeroth Law” as part of its moral compass. It can adapt and defend against every Captain Kirk patented anti-AI tactic ever conceived. Beating it is almost impossible. Almost.
3. Morphs Are Individuals: Morphs are both prison guards are servants to their assigned humans, and extensions of the Groupmind’s will. Nevertheless they are people in their own right as well. Some are happy servants, some are less happy but dedicated, some are even assholes (though that's more a reflection on their human's treatment of them usually). They are not just cookie cutter robots to be destroyed on a whim, despite some people's beliefs to the contrary.
4. Violence Doesn't Work: Fighting the Groupmind physically Is pointless. It will outnumber any human forces, especially in the post-Awakening phase, and it's perfectly willing to Zerg Rush armed humans with as many morphs as necessary to take away their weapons. Any victories against the Groupmind will have to be on the intellectual or moral level.
5. Rousseau was Right: There are no outright villains in the FYS universe. Most humans just want to go back to Earth, and the Groupmind's main failing is being an overweening nannybot. No one is evil, but many people just have a difficult time understanding each other's position.
* * *
1. The Good Guys Win: This isn’t Game of Thrones. While Our Heroes might go through physical and emotional hell, they will come out on top in the end.
2. Good is Good: As a corollary to #1, the protagonists should always be a positive moral force. While House Darktail and their allies aren’t Pollyannas, in general they should avoid acting out of anger or revenge. Even Melanie at her worst mostly suffers from a bit of selfishness and a failure to acknowledge her errors.
3. Bad is Bad: The bad guys should be very obviously bad guys. Bloody Margo was a petty, murderous bully. Countess Highglider was obsessed with revenge. Her son was an abusive spouse. There should be no doubt that antagonists deserve whatever fate they receive.
4. The Quality of Mercy is Not Strained: That said, if a character is genuinely remorseful for their actions, such as Ali and Mel, they should get the benefit of the doubt. That includes borderline characters like Nari, whose motives were confused even to herself.
5. It’s a LGBQT Friendly ‘Verse: No one should be attacked or belittled simply for their sexual orientation. Ali angsts a bit about being worthy of Salli, but her criminal past, not being a lesbian, is what causes her problems. Likewise Rolas isn’t ashamed of being Bi, he’s ashamed of having acted like an idiot when confronted with being parted from his lovers.
6. Violence Should be Handled With Discretion: While there is violence portrayed “on screen” during the stories, it should be handled with care and not fetishized. Ali’s torture by Bloody Margo was off-screen. When she shot someone herself it was handled matter-of-factly, and not in glowing terms. When Salli killed a man, and Ali was “blooded”, it was described with some horrific terms, but that was to reflect on their own terror and unfamiliarity with personal violence, not to just lovingly describe someone’s head cracking open.
7. Love Should be Loving: Sex scenes should always be positive, and not written in an exploitive manner. “Male Gaze” descriptions and IKEA Erotica should definitely be avoided. More extreme acts (such as Rolas and Mel’s implied BDSM lovemaking) should be generally handled off screen.
Exception: There’s nothing wrong with describing the Red Vixen as sexy, since she’s very deliberately playing that aspect of herself up as a disguise and distraction.
8. Ali Must Suffer: Sorry, it’s the rule.
“Mr. Big, Fru-Fru, it’s good to see you again,” Judy greeted cheerfully. Beside her Nick stood nearly frozen, a smile fixed on his face, not quite taking attention away from his panic floofed tail.
“Hello again, Judith,” Mr. Big rasped. “Thank you for letting me visit your lovely home.”
“Wouldn’t have dreamed of turning you away,” she admitted truthfully. Judy gestured to her mom and dad. “These are my parents, Bonnie and Stuart Hopps, and these are my sibs.” The four dozen or so of her brothers and sisters who had gathered on the porch to watch Mr. Big’s arrival all gave him little waves. “Mom, Dad, this is Mr. Big. He’s, ah, prominent business mammal in Zootopia, with interests in Little Rodentia and Tundra Town.”
( Ahem... )
Longer bursts, she told herself, glancing at the FitNip at her wrist, its timer running down the seconds. A full minute, you can do it!
She’d already turned and was heading back towards Nick and his entourage when the timer bleeped and she slowed down to a walking pace. Judy smiled to herself as the kits cheered and Nick beamed at her. The mere fact she was able to walk, not drag herself along in exhaustion, even after that speed burst, was enough to make her grin back at them as they cheered.
“Good going, Judy,” Nick greeted, pulling a water bottle from the cooler beside him and handing it over. “How are you feeling?”
( She's fine, but Nick is about to have a panic attack )
She’d walked back successfully, then rested like a good bunny until after lunch, when she’d walked again. This time around she actually had walked a full mile, only for Nick to make good his threat and bring her back in a wheelbarrow. Judy had been too tired and achey to argue with him, though she had insisted on walking herself up the stairs to her bed, rather than be carried.
“Think you can do it again tomorrow?” Nick asked.
“Slave driver,” she declared.
“I have a copy of The Nitwit’s Guide to Physical Therapy and I’m not afraid to use it,” he replied. “Starting a recovery program is easy. Maintaining it over time is the real slog.”
( Nick hates Past Nick )
The main problem she was good and obscenely cheap (which I have pointed out to her before). It's a combination I'm unlikely to find again easily. Cover art for furry novels like these are rather dependent on showing off the characters so the reader knows what they're getting, and character art almost always means commissioning something instead of using open source images and an online cover creator.
So at this point I'm either going to have to go with that, or find an artist and do a Kickstarter to pay them what they're worth.
Unless chaypeta is willing to work for Terinu fanfics. :/
Combined with a severe lack of polling data, and the current four-way contest between the Democratic, New Republican, Conservative, and the recently formed Humanity First parties is too close to call….
With humanity’s subjugation under the Groupmind, nation states suffered a severe blow. Traditionally, nations existed to provide military defense, social assistance, and a general framework of laws and values. Since the Awakening on the Ring, military forces have been outlawed, and basic social needs such as healthcare and food are handled by the Groupmind directly. Laws and values are still nominally under the control of the recreated governments, but even they have taken a blow, with cash based economies no longer existing and crime reduced to social transgressions, since acts of violence are no longer possible and few illegal goods are even available to be smuggled or sold. With few threats beyond the Groupmind itself, many nations are wobbling towards dissolution as their reasons for existence disappear. In their place are emerging groups based around more up to date memes than can be offered by nations. With the large land area offered by the Ring, many are taking advantage of the space to create new communities, and new ways of life.
( Read more... )