Fiction: The Merchant Ship Konteres

Leaving the desert island of Ziskra behind, the crew of the merchant corbita, the Konteres, sailed South. With each passing day, the winds brought them closer to their native home, the land of Delos. They had brought Deloan goods such as wine, olives, and the newly popular red figure pottery to sell in the Khargan Imperial city. Now, their holds were filled with items from the desert empire, which they intended to sell to their countrymen upon their return. Linen and papyrus had become popular imports in Delos, and brought a good profit to anyone willing to brave the long ocean voyage.
Eryx was sixteen, with a mop of brown hair, and olive skin, darkened by the sun. This was his third voyage on the Konteres, and unlike the rest of the crew, he was in no hurry to return home. He had no real family to speak of. His mother had died giving birth to him, and one day, when he was eleven, his father simply didn’t return home. As a result, he viewed each stint ashore as more of a chore than anything else, one he had to suffer through until the next voyage presented itself.
On this particular afternoon, he was leaning against the railing nearest the bow of the small, one masted ship, with the main sail casting its shadow upon him. The wind had been running steadily from the North for the better part of the day, and so, without many adjustments to be made , he was taking advantage of a rare opportunity to relax.
The slight vibration of the bow, coupled with the sound of a thud, caught his attention. Then he heard it again. Turning around and looking down towards the waterline, he saw one large, coiled shell after another impacting the bow, before being pushed off to either side . As the Konteres sailed ever forward, he saw that they had encountered an enormous school of giant shelsquid, all floating just at or below the oceans surface.
“Captain!” he called as he ran towards the stern of the vessel.
Otreus, a muscular man with a dark beard and short curly hair stood towards the stern, atop the cabin, using a wooden bar that ran across the deck to steer the ship via its two rudders.
“What is it Eryx?” he shouted in response.
“We’ve come upon a huge school of giant shelsquid.” the teenage sailor informed his captain.
With his interest piqued, Captain Otreus shouted for someone to take the steering bar from him, and then headed to the rail to look over the side. Sure enough, orange and white shelsquid floated by, some four or five feet across.
“Stow canvas!” the captain shouted out, immediately realizing the implications of finding such a large school of the creatures.
Eryx ran to the ships bow, where he had been standing moments before, and began to pull in the sprit sail that hung off of the bowsprit. Meanwhile, a few other crew members had climbed the main mast and had begun to tie up the main sail.
The captain ordered a sounding be taken to determine the depth of the water the ship was in. The waters they were sailing were much shallower than that of the open ocean, and if they were shallow enough, he intended to drop anchor. He knew full well, as did every man aboard, the value of shelsquid. In Delos and beyond, their shells were made into jewelry, but more importantly than that, and more valuable, was their ink sack. Located just inside their shells, it was coveted for the ink within, which was used to make a rich, purple dye. The animals were traditionally found only in the open ocean though, and as such, it was rare that they were caught. This presented an opportunity for everyone aboard to make quite a bit of extra profit.
“Ten fathoms!” a sailor called out.
“Drop anchor!” Otreus ordered.
With the ship anchored, Captain Otreus gathered the crew around and made plain what everyone already knew. They were going to capture as many shelsquid as possible.
“However, we don’t have the space for more than a dozen or so of their shells. Our fortunes today are to come from their ink sacks. That being said…” he paused, “which of you men know how to swim?”
Only a few raised their hands, Eryx among them.
“Then it is you that will go into the water, and you who will capture our tentacled trophies.”
Eryx and the rest of the swimmers were handed coiled lengths of rope, and knives, with which to dispatch their quarries, and then tow them back to the boat.
Eryx was the first over the side. After weeks aboard the Konteres, the sea was cool and refreshing. Coming to the surface, he focused in on a shelsquid a few yards away, the top of its shell just barely breaking the surface, and made for it. Approaching it from behind, he grabbed a hold of the animals ribbed shell, and pulled himself around front. He thrust his knife past the tentacles, and into what served as the animals head. First once, then twice. It tried to jet off backwards, away from him, its siphon shooting a stream of water at his abdomen. He thrust his knife into its eye, and the jet of water stopped. It was dead. Eryx tied the rope around the creatures shell, and towed it back to the ship.
He repeated this a few times, swimming up to the squid, killing them, and hauling them back to the boat. A few managed to swim off as he approached, and one submerged below a depth he was willing to try for. When he was towing his fifth kill to the ship, the captain called down from above.
“We’ve no room left aboard for their shells. Just go for the ink sacks!” he said from on deck.
As he swam back out, Eryx passed a fellow crew member named Pyrris in the water, wrestling with one of the animals from the front.
Behind him, he heard the sailor yelp in pain.”The thing bit me!” he screamed, holding his bleeding hand out of the water. Pyrris plunged his knife into the offending animals body, over and over again. As Eryx watched, the water around the animal turned black. Pyrris had burst its ink sack, making the dead animal worthless.
“Bravo!” Eryx called out sarcastically, before continuing on his way towards another target.
Pyrris left the dead animal floating where he’d killed it, bits of its mutilated body floating amongst the mixture of its ink and blood, and swam back to the ship.
Though by far the largest shelsquid he had seen, Eryx dispatched his target in the same manner as he had the previous five. The difficult part was trying to find the ink sack while the animal was still mostly submerged. Holding his breath and submerging, he reached in past the animals tentacles, and located its beak. Coming up for air, and submerging again, he used his knife to cut the beak off, and plunged his hand into the animals body. It was cold and slimey, even as the seawater filled its insides. Unable to immediately locate the ink sack, he resurfaced, inhaled again, and submerged. After rooting around inside the animals body for a few seconds, he thought he might have found it. Grabbing it in his hand, and cutting away the flesh around it, he opened his eyes for one burning second, to see himself holding a dark, teardrop shaped organ. Got it, he thought. He carefully cut it away from the animals innards, and came to the surface, gasping for air.
Something wasn’t right. The last of the crew that had been in the water were practically clawing at the side of the merchant vessel, trying to get out of the water as quickly as possible. Upon seeing Eryx, everyone on board began to shout at him. Then they were waving, beckoning for him to come back. With all the noise, he couldn’t make out what anyone was saying, but their intentions were clear enough, so he began swimming. As he did, he noticed that, aside from a few dead specimens floating at or just under the surface, the rest of the shelsquid were nowhere to be seen.
Halfway to the ship, he caught his first glimpse of it. It was a large, lithe creature, black in color, and thirty feet long, swimming just below the waters surface. It crossed between him and the Konteres, its back arching out of the water ever so slightly, the sun glinting off its scaley black skin. The end of its tail sported a vertical tailfin. A fish-lizard.
It propelled itself forward with side to side undulations of its tail, making course changes via tiny adjustments to the position of its flippered limbs . It’s four foot long head surfaced as it approached the butchered shelsquid Pyrris had dispatched. Its jaws opened, revealing rows of long, conical teeth, and then closed around its armored prey, crushing it in an instant. With a splash and a spray of foam, it took its meal below, and Eryx lost sight of it.
A few minutes passed. The crew was silent, and the only sound was that of the wood creaking aboard the ship, and the water splashing against its hull. All Eryx could hear was the sound of his own breathing. When everyone was sure the animal was gone, they once again began calling for him, urging him to return to the ship, but he couldn’t move. He felt paralyzed, and was afraid of drawing the beasts attention yet again. Some part of him was convinced it was still nearby.
“Come on boy, get moving!” Captain Otreus called out to him, but, at least initially, it was of no use.
After a few minutes though, Eryx was finally able to muster up the courage to stop merely treading water, and he once again made for the ship. The swim felt like an eternity. As he got closer, he began to be able to pick out details of the wooden hull, barnacles along the waterline. Each new detail he noticed brought a sense of comfort. He was almost there. Just as he was within reach, however, he was pulled under with tremendous force.
There was an immense pain in his knee and calf. He opened his eyes, and through the sting of saltwater, he was able to make out the four foot long scaley jaws of the fish-lizard, clamped around his leg. A surge of panic gripped him, and he struggled violently for freedom, to no avail. Instinct kicked in, and he began to wildly beat his fists against the huge animals face, with little apparent effect. Then there was an audible pop, and suddenly, Eryx was at the surface again.
Following its tail fin as it trailed back and forth across the surface, it seemed the fish lizard was moving off. Momentarily confused, and more than a little disoriented, Eryx could find no trace of the Konteres.
Then, from behind him, he heard someone call out, “There he is, to the stern!”
Turning around, he realized his attacker had dragged him a considerable distance. Blood saturated the water all around him, his blood, turning it a dark reddish brown. Worried the animal would come back to finish him off, he started swimming towards the ship, kicking frantically. Though he was obviously injured and losing blood, he was surprised at how much slower he seemed to be moving than usual, but the thought quickly faded as his attention turned completely towards survival.
When he reached the ship, the color had gone out of him. He felt weak. He knew he wouldn’t be able to pull himself aboard. His fellow crew members reached down and pulled him on deck with ease. As they pulled Eryx from the water, it became quickly apparent as to why his color had so faded. His right leg was nothing more than a bloody stump, torn off below the knee.
As he was laid on deck, his vision began to blur. Everyone gathered round, unsure of what to do. Someone grabbed a length of rope, and tied off his leg above the knee, hoping to staunch the blood flow. It proved to be too late. His breathing slowed, as did his heart beat. Eryx, the sixteen year old sailor, lover of the sea, died that day, in a puddle of his own blood on deck of the merchant ship Konteres.

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Gondolend sketch dump, part 1

If there’s one thing Gondolend needs more of, it’s concept art. With millions of species of animals and hundreds of ethnic groups, there’s a lot of stuff there to draw.

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A Patient Steed

A Selbok , sporting a covered carriage of wood and blankets, waits for its driver and passenger at an Oasis, in the Khargan desert.

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Fiction: Hunting Ground, Chapter 7

Thaddeus Whittington’s office could not have been any more stereotypical of an established university zoology professor. Thick, deeply varnished shelves lined an entire wall, populated by all manner of books, animal bones, and preserved specimens in jars. Perched atop a filing cabinet next to the window a taxidermy bird of prey glared across the room with glass eyes, while the mounted skeleton of a negren was frozen in mid-leap at one corner of the shelf hutch that stood above the desk. All over were photographs, some of them quite old. Mounted prominently near the door was an old black and white picture of a much younger Whittington, standing with two other men knee-deep in ferns and rushes, broad smiles on their faces. In the background rose the dark hard line of the Barrier; the picture had been taken nearly fifty years ago on the Havaania, the vast prairie that lay out beyond the wall that cut Gondolendia off from the rest of the supercontinent. Justin recognized one of the men as Gina’s uncle Stanley Pike, but he had no idea who the other one was.

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The World of Rakateia

RakateiaMap

 

Rakateia is a world I’ve been toying with for years, and it’s seen a couple different incarnations before I buckled down and got a little more serious about it just recently. It’s set in an alternate reality of sorts, in a universe in which Earth never existed.  This is a world in which mankind evolved in the shadow of dinosaurs, and spread far and wide across the planet. Though Homo sapiens are currently the dominant species, their dinosaurian neighbors still populate the planets cities and wildernesses, and often serve to remind Rakateia’s human population of how tenuous their grasp on planet wide domination really is.

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Fiction: All Quarrels Be Settled Ashore, Chapter 2

Clambering up the side, and over the railing, as the smoke cleared, Jack noticed that the deck of the Gazela was empty, save for the bloodied corpses of the the Portuguese sailors. Sword drawn, and at the ready, Jack looked to Colton and Martin, standing next to him on the deck of the ruined ship. Colton tightened his grip on his boarding axe.

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Fiction: Sturm und Drang

Max Harper still wasn’t quite comfortable around Sturm and Drang. They seemed harmless enough now, even if they were rather wary of him when he’d first arrived, but they were still raptors. Or rather, they would have been called raptors back home. Here they were called tercels, and they didn’t particularly look like he’d always imagined raptors. He supposed that meant all the scientists were right, because the two animals looked nothing like the scaly, lizard-faced monsters of the movies and instead resembled nothing more than shaggy, long-tailed birds with short, powerful wings. It was those wings, and their feet, that worried him. Both bore large claws, wickedly curved and very sharp-looking.

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Parasaurolophus walkeri

A lone male Parasaurolophus approaches the river for a drink, in the Laramidia area of the park.

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Fiction: The Messenger

This is another short vignette piece that will probably be expanded into a larger story in the future. The time period of this one is rather vague and undefined since I’m still hammering out the details of this particular part of Gondolend’s history, but it probably takes place before the Cult Wars.

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Fiction: All Quarrels Be Settled Ashore, Chapter 1

 1705

He awoke, bleary eyed, to the sound of the ships bell ringing. Lying in his hammock, his eyes focused upon the wood planking above him.
“Welcome to the waking world, Jack.”
To his right, his friend Colton was sitting on his sea chest, buckling his shoes. His boarding axe was sitting next to him.
“Not exactly nice to be here.” he replied groggily.
Colton laughed a bit, “Too much rum last night?”
“No such thing” he insisted, as a faint smile flashed across his face.

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