Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Primal Frontier free short story

Since I haven't gotten any major work done, I thought I'd post a quick little freebee Primal Frontier story, a little exhibition to give ya'll a taste of my writing style. Have fun!


A scale-draped figure crouched close to the ground, peering intently upon the muddy track. The long tawny hair upon the back of his neck and beard bristled like the mane of a lion.

The splayed, three toed print was the first good sign Ansgar had cut all day. His booted foot easily fit inside its center. A feral grin touched his lips. It was a big predator. The depth was perhaps two inches. Weighed two tons maybe? Two and a half? Ansgar guessed it would be around 22 feet in length and nine feet high. A formidable predator. A horned jakura. Or bull jakura as the white men called it. The hunter's pulse quickened in his veins at the thought of it.

The sign was only a few hours old. The beast might be within only a few miles. Ansgar lifted his head and began following. His tread was swift and silent. The weight of his rifle was reassuring in his hands. The hunt had begun.

The fronds of innumerable ferns brushed against his legs like an ocean of green while sunlight trickled through the branches of the towering conifers. He inhaled deeply, enjoying the smell of living wood and damp earth. It wasn't at all like the musty stink of towns and cities with cobbled stone streets and oily buildings. No, this was the smell of a vibrant landscape filled with life. Ansgar smiled. 

The sun rose high and beat down upon the lone hunter. A single bead of sweat trickled down the side of his face and into his tawny beard. The sign led him to the crest of a hill, the ferns gently bowing towards him in the wind. Good. The wind was in his favor. If the animal was near it wouldn't scent him. He walked in a crouch up to the hills, the trees thinning out and gazed upon a meadow of sorts. The ferns glittered radiantly like emeralds now that they were no longer shut out by the trees. Lizards skittered through the underbrush as they foraged for insects.

To the left of his position he saw a thicket, and beyond that the curve of a creek snaking it's way through the landscape. Taking a brass telescope from one of his pouches, the kenwari examined the thicket closely. In this heat most animals took to the cool shade. He noticed that many of the dwarls fluttered about in the upper branches. None were occupying the convenient lower ones. Keeping out of bite range most likely. It was a safe bet that the big lizard was taking a nap in there at that very moment.

The Finn closed his eyes and inhaled through his nose slowly, letting the wind bring him it's subtle messages. He had a snout that put most hounds to shame. He smelled damp leaves. Fecal matter from the flying reptiles. And the acrid scent of a jakura.

"Ahhhh, there you are," he whispered. Sure enough, the creature was in that thicket, enjoying the shade during the midday heat. Now to coax him out into shooting range. He estimated his position to be around a hundred and fifty yards away from the thicket. He crept to a nearby tree and settled behind it, still peering at the shady tangle beyond. He worked the lever of his gun until the ejection port was half way open. A finger-sized brass cartridge lay nestled inside. Loaded. He closed the action with a solid clack of metal.

He reached into another pouch and pulled out his ocarina, a ruddy brown instrument of curious craftsmanship. Touching it to his lips he covered the proper holes and seemed to cough into it, producing an awkward, throaty squawk. He made the sound twice more at short intervals. It was the sound of a wounded katatonda. It was a trick he'd used many times to lure predators from their hiding places. The promise of easy meat was often too much to resist.

He put the instrument away and watched the treeline with breathless anticipation. For a minute nothing happened. Then the dwarls began squawking and shrieking, taking flight from their perches and gliding away. Ansgar felt the hair on the back of his neck prickle with excitement. And then he saw it, the blunt snout of the predator poking out from the foliage, looking around. The scaly upper lip hid all but the very tips of its sharp knife-shaped teeth. Above each eye was a thick horn.

Ansgar sucked in his breath as he saw the size of them. He'd seen plenty in his day, but these were among the largest horns he had ever seen on such an animal! His heart began beating faster, the adrenaline slipping into his blood. He took a breath to calm himself. A fast heart would spoil his aim. The jakura warily looked this way and that, trying to detect the source of the cry it had heard. It lifted its snout into the air and sniffed deeply, trying to catch the tell-tale scent of blood.

But the wind was against it. It cautiously began to emerge from the thicket, revealing the rest of its carnivorous bulk. Ansgar's blood grew hot with excitement. No matter how many times he beheld these animals, these dragons, they always took his breath away. He watched as its lizard torso became exposed, its back and flanks studded with bony ostoderms. Its body was held horizontally, balanced upon a pair of muscular legs and a stiff tail that bobbed with each step. Its body was ivy green with rivers of creamy yellow running between its scales. At its chest dangled a pair of pathetically tiny arms. They reminded Ansgar of the limbs of a newborn child, underdeveloped and useless. A swarm of insects buzzed about its mouth, trying to get at the pieces of rotting flesh stuck between its teeth.

The beast began heading towards the hill, swinging its great head back and forth as it sought to spot the supposedly wounded animal. The Finn licked his lips. Placing his left hand upon the trunk of the tree and extending his thumb he rested the barrel of his rifle and took aim. It was a remarkably sturdy shooting rest. His body and brain became flooded with ice-water as his shooting instincts took over. He placed the brass bead of the front sight onto the barrel-chest of the jakura where he knew the vulnerable heart and lungs were. It was an awkward angle, but he knew that his hardened 56 caliber bullets would find their mark. They always did.

The rifle cracked like a peal of thunder. Five hundred grains of hardened lead slammed into the jakura's torso, bullying through muscles and ribs and boring through the blood-filled organs inside. The animal staggered and let loose a terrific roar of surprise and pain. The head swung around, searching for the source of its torment. Ansgar worked the action of his rifle and sent another bullet crashing into it. Blood oozed from the pair of thumb-sized holes in its chest, less than a hand's breadth apart. Shrieking with pain the bull-headed beast whirled around and thundered back into the safety of the thicket. A third bullet followed it, striking it at the base of the tail.

And then it was gone, swallowed up by the thick tangle. Ansgar ejected the spent shell and began feeding fresh rounds through the loading gate. All his shots hit home, but it looked like this jakura wouldn't be going down so easily. Some dragons had astonishing vitality. But that made it all the more fun. He sat for a minute, thinking over his options. Ideally he would wait for the blood loss to do its work. His bullets had cut deep and it would inevitably die from its wounds. But that might take hours. Dragons bled slowly. Besides, waiting wasn't as sporting.

No, he would follow it up. It was dangerous to go into such close quarters after a wounded animal, where it could rush him from only a few yards away, but that was part of the appeal. Facing a deadly predator on its own terms? The thought made Ansgar's skin tingle. He slunk down the slope of the hill, the butt of the rifle tight against his shoulder as he watched the fringe of the thicket. The wind was still in his favor. At forty yards he halted, rifle at the ready. At any moment he expected the horned devil to burst from the foliage. But it didn't. He gave a shout, hoping to coax the animal into charging and giving him a clear shot.

Still nothing.

The hunter grunted in mild surprise. Horned jakuras were prone to blindly charging threats. Perhaps it didn't see him, but surely it had heard him. Had it bled out already? Or was it hiding ? His keen hazel eyes struggled to penetrate the woven branches and leaves before him. He couldn't see anything. He then began to follow the blood trail inside.

Ansgar weaved his way through the grabbing branches, moving as silently as a wraith. His eyes continued to fall upon the ruby droplets. Oh yes, it was hard it. At any moment he expected to come upon its lifeless body. Then the wind shifted. Instead of blowing into his face, it now came at his back, blowing his scent forward.

A bone-chilling roar rocked the air as the jakura began thundering towards the hunter. Its muscular legs propelled it with irresistible force, the blunt snout held down as if it intended to gore the hunter. It was only eight yards away, tearing through the foliage. Instinct took over. Ansgar's rifle seemed to raise of its own accord. The brass bead settled upon the serpentine neck, seeking the throat. The gun snapped. A blue-edged hole suddenly appeared in the animal's windpipe. A strangled wail of agony oozed from its mouth, staggering and losing its forward momentum.

The silver barrel swung downwards and lined up with the knee. Another crack and a fat bullet annihilated the jakura's kneecap. Like a tree it began to topple forward. Ansgar dove and rolled out of the way as the horned head thudded where he had been crouching. Droplets of blood spattered on his back. The Finn spun around and pumped another round into the writhing creature's skull, just below the eye. The head bucked under the impact. Chunks of red mixed with white sprinkled across the foliage, but the beast moved no more.

With a gurgle it lay still. It's reptilian eyes glazed over and stared without seeing. Ansgar took slow steady breaths, still watching the animal, unblinking. Dragons died slow. The scars on his wrist had taught him a long time ago to be cautious even with dead dragons. He worked the action of his rifle and put one last round in the neck where he knew the spine lay, severing it. A spasm rolled through the hulk. The muscles quivered violently and then went still. One of the tiny arms vibrated as death reflexes kicked in.

The hunter's heart began to slow its war-drum beat until it returned to normal. He calmly began reloading his gun. One never knew if another predator might show up. He then drew his hunting knife and set to work skinning his latest kill. It was time to add another trophy to his already heavy necklace.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The problem with sacrifices...

This is a quick joke story I came up with when driving with friends to an event and thought ya'll might enjoy it. Take a peek!
And for the record, I have been to the below mentioned con, so I'm throwing myself under the bus too. ;)

A dozen robed figures stood about a brazier, casting lurid shadows upon their shrouded countenances. The room in which they stood was as dark as night. Feathers of smoke weaved through the slots on the brazier and into the air. The twelve figures chanted ominously in words no outsider could understand, bodies swaying from side to side like the swinging of a man in the gallows. On some unseen signal the group stopped and all heads swiveled to a thirteenth man who stood upon a podium. His chalky, gnarled fingers curled around the edges of the wood.

"My brothers, welcome. I have summoned you here today for a subject of great importance. The time of the Ascension rapidly approaches. But we have one massive obstacle yet to overcome." Murmurs passed from mouth to mouth. The thirteenth raised his hand.

"Yes, the final obstacle must finally be overcome. It can wait no longer. We need to find a thousand virgins to sacrifice for the Ascension."

"But where could we possibly find a thousand virgins?" balked one of the followers.

"We have so little time! How can we gather them?"

"I don't know, but we must think of a way! The Ascension waits for no one!" the leader boomed. A fourth figure raised his hand.

"Do the Rites say what manner of virgin must be sacrificed?" he asked in an inquisitive tone. A silence settled over the congregation as they looked to one another.

"They don't..." the leader admitted slowly.

"Then I perhaps know of a place where we can acquire a thousand virgins with ease!"

"Where? When? How?" the group demanded. The fourth who spoke reached into his robes and pulled out his i-phone. The screen glowed with brilliant illumination in the dark room. The device beeped and clicked as his fingers danced over the screen until at last he held it up for all to see. And there on the screen lay an advertisement for the Star Trek Convention.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Ark: The Evolved, super fun game!

Have you ever come across a game that felt like it was tailor made just for you? That's how I feel about Ark, the new Steam game. Survivalist games are nothing new. You build your own house, gather resources, build tools all from the ground up. Minecraft is perhaps the most popular currently. Rust is another pretty big one, and from all accounts they are pretty good. They're just missing one thing: Dinosaurs!

Ark provides an absolutely insane level of fun. I was excited for The Stomping Land which had even gone to the trouble of hiring the awesome artist Rodrego Vega for concept art before pulling the plug on the thing after they had nabbed a thick wad of cash.
Ark is nothing like that. Although still in Beta, I'm amazed at how much I can do. Before I got my souped up computer I couldn't even boot it up and feared that it was a crudely cobbled together monstrosity that couldn't even start without dying. Thankfully this is not the case. It requires some intense hardware, but it's worth it!

Let's start with the animals. It's not just dinosaurs alone. There is a huge selection of animals from different time periods. Everything from trilobites in the Permeian Era to Gigantopithecus long after the dinos bought the farm, you've got around 35 different animals to start off interacting with, including some of our classics like the ever present T-Rex which is legally required in anything dinosaur themed. But thank Odin, we have some far lesser known cast members in the line up! One that really surprised me was Sacrosuchus, the Super Croc. A big dino eater from Northern Africa back in the way back when, this sucker is a super predator prowling around by the water and is a real wake up call.

There is Spinosaurus, but to my intense delight it's actually scientifically accurate! Not a biped, it's actually a water-dwelling quadraped that owns the shallow rivers and water ways and is a spectacular sight to behold: Slicing through the fresh water as it prowls around in search of prey, which includes anything smaller than itself, which is almost everything.
Then again, the Dilophosaurs have frilled necks and spit venom, which will undoubtedly drive the paleo-nuts into fits of rage, but you can't have everything, eh? I'll take what I can get!

I had to laugh at Titanoboa though. Although history's largest snake, this one isn't a constrictor but also has a frill around the neck and has venom! I think this is actually because animating a snake coiling and constricting other animals or players would be a headache that would kill half of the programming staff, so I'll give them a pass on that one.

And they have WAY more animals coming! Including one of my favorite animals, Kaprosuchus! Oh heck yeah! Can't wait for that one!

Everything has it's own behavior and predictability, making them feel more alive. And the skins aren't all the same. There are a lot of different color patterns that really set the animals apart. And the textures! Good grief! I'm not one for graphics, but this game is gorgeous and the scales on these beasties are unreal. They look amazing. I can spend a ton of time just looking them over as if they were real creatures. It's fantastic.

Of course, you can tame and ride them, which is all sorts of fun! The taming is a hassle, requiring you to first knock them unconscious with either blunt force trauma or slipping something in their drink, usually on the end of an arrow and keep feeding them drugs to keep them in a stupor until they somehow trust you.

... Man, when I type all that out, it sounds pretty terrifying. You're getting these poor animals to like you through Stockholm Syndrome! Using drugs and forced feeding until they do your bidding? I think I'll stick with the cheats to make them trust you instantly.

The crafting is darned fun too. It requires a lot of resource gathering, but it's fairly fast if you're even half decent. Unlike most games where you have a leveling system, this game doesn't ask you to perform 500 quests or build 10,000 ice cream cones before it will grant you the privilege of leveling up. Here you get XP for doing just about anything, including not dying! As long as you're doing something, anything, you're slowly gaining experience. It's nice, because it doesn't make you choose between having fun and leveling up.

So many games handcuff you to the escalator of level grinding by making it so that you have to perform certain tasks to get XP. That makes it feel more like a job than a game. This solves that problem nicely in that you're doing whatever the heck you want and you level up anyway. Hooray!

Anyway, back to the crafting itself, I'm actually very impressed by how versatile it is. Many games only let you operate within a pretty narrow field of building. Often it's just a building already that you can only place in a certain location and can't modify. This lets you build from the ground up, allowing you to tailor your structure to your preferences with everything from lockable doors, windows, ladders, ramps, pillars and other goodies. You can make anything from a single room hut to a multi-story mansion to bridges to towers or even an obstacle course if you have the time and ingenuity.

I was even able to make a few shooting platforms where I was able to hunt from with relative safety. Those were fun! But it's not just stuff like wood and thatch you can build from. When you get the resources and levels, you can make far more advanced stuff like fabricators, metal strutwork, electric lights, generators, radios, GPS, and even automated turrets! This game is like a sped up version of human history, going from the stone age to industrial age.

The environment itself is breathtaking. The plants, rocks, landscape, everything feels alive. I've kept mostly to the coast and thinner forests where you can see the critters coming at you, but I have delved to some level into the thick forests. In there it feels like the world is closing in around you, cutting out the sunlight and swallowing you in shadow. Now that is when you feel like you've stepped into another world, and you react accordingly. Playing there I've felt my tendons tighten like piano wires with tension, looking around for signs of danger.
And gosh, the sound! I thank whatever deity that answers to game makers for the sound in this game. Every animal makes unique and realistic sounds. The burbling rumble of a trike, the tittering of the reptiles, the shriek and roar of the predators, the bass rumbling of the crocs, everything. Crap, it just swallows you up!

So do I like this game? Let's pencil in a yes. Like I said, it's like this game was made just for me. It hits all the right notes. I can't wait for the next update when we get more dinos. I just hope we get a little bit more weapon variety. Not that I hate what is already present. I really like the longneck rifle, which is a single shot lever action falling block rifle, not terribly unlike a Sharps 1874 or Winchester 1885 but with a full lever instead of a tiny one. I'd like to see some other weapons between the very old cobbled together guns and the more advanced automatic weapons.
Heck, some modders have done a few things already. I'm just hoping for a lever action repeater! My love for those things borders on being a fetish. I could also do with a big double rifle or harpoon gun. That'd be all sorts of fun! :D

Anyway, I recommend taking a good hard look. It's worth your time if you can play it! I'll upload screenshots later to convey some of my disastrous forays into this strange and savage world.

Update! As promised, here are some screenshots!
Riding a carnotaurus and enjoying the view of the red river.

Delving into the humid swamps upon the back of my sarcosuchus!


No dinosaur is a match for a good rifle and steady aim!

Me stalking the rare nose-bearing boulder. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Brief Update

Sorry folks for the lack of action here. Crazy Town has gotten crazier, but for the better. I just got myself a brand-spanking new computer powerful enough to handle Fallout 4 when it arrives, which has me all sorts of excited! I'm now indulging in games my system wasn't powerful enough to handle before, and it is FUN! :D

On the downside, I've had to reinstall ALL of my old programs, which means writing has been stalled. I'm in the midst of editing another Primal Frontier story, and right after that a horror western which I think you all will enjoy quite a bit. :)

After that it's onto finishing up some other stories I've left unfinished, and then making some new ones! I've got other horror and weird westerns on the brain and am hoping to begin work on a steampunk series, The Xenogenesis Chronicles, so stay tuned!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Now THAT is a collection!

I'm always amazed at some of the things people manage to collect, but this guy puts everyone else to shame. You'd perhaps expect him to have some cars, coins, or something mundane in his basement in Germany, right? Nope!
This fella somehow had ahold of a sodding Panther tank from World War 2!!! Nor is that all: He apparently had all other sorts of weapons, including torpedoes. By the Power of Grayskull! How he managed to stash these away in his basement I have no earthly idea. Some of the oddest items have an uncanny way of making their way into the oddest places. It reminds me of a French bathtub somehow finding its way into the heart of Marajo Island in a jungle hunting camp.

Pretty darned impressive overall, take a look! https://www.warhistoryonline.com/war-articles/ww2-panther-tank-recovered-from-a-cellar.html

I also can't help but imagine that the police raid went something like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cun-LZvOTdw


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Darkstar's Creation

A few months ago I had the pleasure of meeting a fantastic artist at a Star Trek convention. Although her booth was small, the quality of her work took my breath away as well as being an awesome conversationalist.
In particular I was drawn to her tile work. She actually carved some amazing Predator and Alien murals. If I'd had a bigger supply of cash, you can bet I'd have bought some! The Predators are actually my favorite alien race out of any scifi out there, being some of the only hunter types I've ever seen, and wow this was worthy work. I mean, look at this!

That's amazing. I want this hanging from my wall surrounded by bone shards and the skulls of deadly beasts!

Give her place a look! And who knows? Maybe you'll get lucky and meet her at one of the many cons she attends! :D