Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chain Story: The Colossus




This story is part of Michael Stackpole's Chain Story.  The Chain Story is a series of free fiction from accomplished writers tied together by the common frame of The Wanderer's Club.


What follows below is the first part of "The Colossus".  It is available now for the Kindle and the Nook.  You can also get the ePub on Goodreads.

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f you like this, you should check out my books "Lost at the Con" and "Man Against the Future".




The Wanderers’ Club has always been the best place to listen in on the latest happenings in the world of adventuring, and today was no exception.  Sometimes, one could just sit, snifter of brandy in one hand, cigar in the other, and just open one’s ears.


There was not a thing more tranquilizing than closing my eyes in that immense red, leather chair in the back corner of the club’s main room and listen to the stories being told around me.
“That was quite the tale, Billy,” a voice to off my right said. “It must have been frightening for one so...young.  Train bandits are nefarious and, for a pair of children to get involved, you're braver than you look.  But to tell the truth, the story I want to hear is his."  The old wanderer, decorated in a waistcoat and smoking a cigar, pointed at a man tucked by himself in the shadows at the far end of the room. 

Though everyone else was dressed in a manner befitting the stature of the club, the man in the shadows wore a tattered ball cap and cracked leather aviator jacket.  He didn't look quite at home in the club, sitting there, lost in thought, nursing three fingers of oak-aged scotch. He was built lean and had an air of working class about him.  His dark eyes scanned the room, but not for someone to tell a story.  Truth be told, it seemed as though he was looking for a customer.
The attendant brought a fresh brandy to the old wanderer and offered to  light his cigar.  "Thank you for the light.  Do you know anything about that fellow skulking in the corner?"

“No, sir.” 

A voice from behind the attendant cleared his throat, making himself known.  "I have had the distinct pleasure of fighting side-by-side with that man.”

"And whom might you be?" the old man asked.

"Dr. Thaddeus Quentin at your service, sir.” With a flourish, the gray-bearded man with steely blue eyes produced his card. “Archeologist, scholar, adventurer and student of the unknown.  It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance."

"Likewise, I'm sure, but you really know that ruffian?"

"Indeed.  And as I said before, I've had the pleasure of fighting by his side.  That, sir, is Jack Smith--"

"'Cracker' Jack Smith?  The infamous barnstormer turned international soldier of fortune?" 

"The very same."

"And you've adventured with him?"

"We fought the Colossus together.  That's my tale to tell, really.  Like one of those adventure serials Burroughs writes."  His voice changed, tinged with equal notes of nostalgia and sarcasm, "The Astonishing Tale of Dr. Thaddeus Quentin and The Colossus." 

"And how does this Smith character fit in, then?"

"Well, I was standing in just that spot, a bit tipsy from an evening of research and listening awe-struck by the sort of tales one is apt to hear in an establishment with a membership as exclusive as The Wanderers’ Club boasts, wondering how I would get to South America and back with no bodily harm and in possession of an artifact I had the opportunity to acquire, by dubious means, via my contact in the black market in La Paz.  That is when the redoubtable Mr. Smith caught my eye, much as he's caught yours."

"I'd always imagined him a bit less gritty and a bit more..."
"Heroic?"

"Perhaps."

"Well, I can assure you, sir, that despite his disheveled appearance, his salty reputation, and uncouth manner, he's one of the most valuable men in a pinch I've ever met."

"Do tell." The old man said, inviting him to recount his tale.

To read more:   It is available now for the Kindle and the Nook.  You can also get the ePub on Goodreads.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Hero and The Horror


This is but a sample of this story.  The complete version is available in my print collection Man Against the Future.  From there, you can order signed copies, or buy it for the Kindle or the Nook.

            "Order!  We will have order!" the town elder shouted over the din of his panicked townspeople.  They had gathered at the town's hall, an immense room with high echoing ceilings, thick beams, and a thatched roof.  In better times the town and it's people would have been celebrating their idyllic lifestyle, the kind a community of simple dairy farmers could do.  But now, a darkness had descended over them.
            "One at a time, one at a time," he shouted again.
            He pointed to one man, giving him permission to speak, "She's dead already.  Let's just finish it."
            A woman stood up, babe in arms, "But he said he'd kill us if we hurt her!"
            "All of us!"
            "But what do we do?"
            "What can we do?"
            "If we do nothing, this will go on forever and we'll live under his thumb."
            "He'll kill us all, one way or the other."
            "Cowards!" came one young voice.  It was full of steel and resolve and did a better job to silence the crowd than the elder could do.
            All eyes were on him.  The elder narrowed his gaze and invited the boy to explain further.  "And what should we do, young man?"
            "We fight.  We fight him and make a stand.  We fight him while there is still enough of us left to resist him."
            He dodged a piece of fruit thrown at him, "You're the coward!  You only say such things because it's still the day time and it's safe."
            "When the sun goes down, none of us will be safe!"
            The afflicted girls mother sobbed loudly and the hall broke out into shouting once again.  The village elder raised his hands, requesting quiet from the crowd.  A hush fell over the townsfolk as soon as they noticed their leader calling for that quiet.
            Slowly, he lowered his arms, timing the utterance from his lips for maximum dramatic impact, hoping that his words would resonate with his flock like a tuning fork.  "We will hire a vampire hunter."
            A few of the old maids gasped, but by and large, the audience sat in stunned silence.  A few more in the back muttered things like, "We can't," and, "No," and, "It'll be the death of us all!"  But they al knew that the elders word was the law and a hunter would be hired from community funds and it would have to happen quickly.  There were only two nights left before the girls turn would be complete and the villain would be back to collect her.  And now that an aggressive course of action had been decided on, every one lived on the edge of fear.
            It was never wise to draw the ire of a vampire, and the townsfolk didn't know if there were any familiars among their number loyal to the vampire, and they didn't know if they'd even be able to find a vampire hunter, let alone one knowledgeable enough to vanquish an immortal.
            The town spent the next night unable to sleep for fear of attack.  They were still uneasy from the last attack waged against them.  The moon was full and the night was crisp and cool with the approaching autumn.  It began as a low howling and a foul smell on the wind, and the howl turned into a shrill shriek through leafless tree branches.  And on the wind came the sound of leather wings flapping toward them in the night.

The complete version is available in my print collection Man Against the Future.  From there, you can order signed copies, or buy it for the Kindle or the Nook.