The Cow Tribe – Book Excerpt

Here is an excerpt from my book Zootaloot. It is the beginning of adventures starring the chief of the Cow tribe. Until I can research Swahili names the way I did Gaelic names for the Pig tribe, I’ll use whatever names come to mind as placeholders.

Fabian and the Rhino Village

Three months before arriving at Zootaloot Farm, Oak stood on the periphrary of a Rhino village in on the Southern Plain. It was late spring, and it was hot, and the grasses were tall, and the crops of corn, and yams, and other delicious vegetables were in full bloom. Behind him were many of the clay brick huts of the Rhinomen, as well as many of his people going to and fro about their business. Some carrying weapons and shields, others carrying baskets of supplies. Here and there were sullen looking Rhinos, with bandages wrapped around their noses. Also going to and fro were several chocolate colored humans of the Cow tribe, some carrying buckets of water, some baskets of fruit, some had spears and swords. They all wore light, flowing robes and tunics that helped them stay cool in the hot sun of the region. A couple humans tended to the sick Rhinos, changing their bandages and washing the wasting flesh on their noses.

Two of the humans were wizards, they carried leather bound books, and their chin whiskers were twisted into thick braids that descended a foot or more, as was their custom. These two spoke with several persons: a Rhino physician who augmented his usual armaments with pouches of herb and salves; a wizard of the Horse tribe, his light, freckled faced accented with a dark and thick red beard with braids from the corners of his mouth; and last a sea elf wizard, his gaunt and petite frame decorated with assorted dried fish tails, crab claws, and other fetishes of a seafaring shaman. They all spoke Elvish, the trade dialect of the continent. “I don’t think the cause is a bacteria,” said one of the Cow Wizards. “Tree didn’t see anything unusual in her microscope.” “Could it be a fungus?” asked the Horse Wizard. “Nay, the usual anti-fungal ointments didn’t help,” answered the Rhino physician. And on they debated.

About thirty yards away, Oak stood Fabian, the chief of this group of humans. Tall, quite handsome, and hairless, he had a sincere smile devoid of stress lines or wrinkles, and wore a beaded necklace with a small golden bull head. Tied to his waist was a belt with a finely made sword, and he had a gourd of fermented punch in his hand as he talked with Oak and a large, elderly bull cow. The three spoke frankly together as old friends.

Oak said, “I appreciated your kind words at the funeral last night, Fabian. Maple really loved you.”

Fabian replied, “Let’s drink to her memory. She was a great warrior.” With that, he tilted back the gourd and took a massive gulp, and some punch ran down his chin, and handed it to Oak, who also took a large draught, and offered it to the bull.

“Nay, I shouldn’t drink alcohol,” said the Bull. “But I will instruct my cows to fertilize a coffee field in her name, as she loved coffee.”

They chatted on about this and that. The wizards and physicians were stumped as to the cause of the infection afflicting some of the Rhinos. There were healers or wizards arriving from many lands. Fabian’s people sent messages to all the tribes of free poeples, elf, men and dwarf, but none seemed to have the answer to the mysterious disease that plagued the Rhinos.

Oak had arranged to send scouts to scour the contintent for help, and would take his son and go to the land of the Pigs to find Artur.

“Artur?” asked Fabian. “I have some coffee beans for his wife. I know how much the Frogs love their coffee. Could you bring it?”

Oak said, “Of course my friend.” He caught the sight of a juvenile Rhino woman, his own daughter. “Perhaps, Fabian, you could do me a favor.” He turned and called to his daughter. “Samarra, come here girl.”

A few seconds later a Rhino female, about age 9 (they become full adults at 10), almost six feet tall, arrived. She wore two swords, two axes, and leaned on a spear. “Hello father! Hello Fabian. Hello cow?”

The bull nodded.

“Fabian,” said Oak. “I’d like you to look after Samarra, and keep her out of trouble.”

Fabain smiled, “I’ll look after her as if she were my own daughter.” And with that he put his arm around her shoulder.

Samarra was about to return the gesture, when a cow galloped around one of the huts at high speed, kicking up a cloud of dust. Standing atop the cow was Fabian’s fourteen year old daughter K’Tanga, a cute, hairless girl with round cheeks, and she let out a whoop as she approached. “Zootaloot father! Whoa!” and lost her balance as she passed the four persons, and tumbled into a gorse bush, laughing hysterically at her own clumsiness.

“Like that daughter?” Oak laughed. They all laughed, even the bull, who mooed his amusment. “If my beloved daugher can avoid standing on charging cows without a harness, I think she’ll survive.”

A Snowy, Icy, Rocky Hillside

I took a jaunt in Fox Forest and found myself pondering a hillside that would be foolish to climb.

So I decided to climb it. After all, I had my pack, and my favorite stick, I thought I could do it. More importantly, I decided I needed to learn to climb a cold, slippery, treacherous hillside.

So I trudged through a frozen swamp and started on my way up.

Past the swamp, at the base of the hill.

The snow was crunchy and hard, so I had to dig my heels in and rely heavily on my stick for support. I had a lot of fun checking out the trees that grew on this hillside. In the distance some bird was making a honking noise: not a goose, maybe a duck?

Fattest beech tree I have ever seen.

I neared the top, and stopped to admire a beech with a hollowed out spot. I wondered who lived in the hole.

Looking down from the top. It doesn’t look so bad.

At the top, I took a moment to look down and reflect on my journey. Now that I was at the top, it was time to look around a bit.

No animals? No Bernie Sanders taking a nap?

There was a snow covered boulder at the top. If I had written a fictitious story about my ascent, there would have been an animal prophet or oracle to congratulate me. Alas, I found no one.

a mix of hemlock and beech at the top of the hill.
more hemlock and beech

I was cold, so found a spot under some little hemlock that was sheltered from the wind, and with lots of dry leaves to rest on. I set my gloves in the sun and drank a tallboy hard iced tea.

The trek down was perilous, and I could not take any photographs as I needed both hands to keep me from falling into the rocks. I found a rabbit trail, and slid down on my butt most of the way. My butt was cold and I had some snow in my boots, and the wind was bitter.

At the bottom, I quickly found the park trail and made my way back to the parking lot.

All in all it was a great little adventure. I gained some experience ascending and descending a snowy, icy hillside (+1 to wilderness rolls), and got some inspiration for my stories as well.

Do your adventures inspire your writing and gaming?

Tribute to my son, Peeps

On Wednesday, 11/18/2020, I had to euthanize my cat Peeps. He was in kidney failure. Peeps lived with me for almost 15 years. He was an impressive creature. At times he seemed almost human. He raised two younger cats from infancy, his younger brothers Pumpkin and Pickles.

He was patient with me when I was less than a good father. He always loved me even when I was wretched. He comforted sick cats at the Veterinary clinic. He grazed on grass while I foraged for dandelions and plaintains and sorrell.

When I moved into my new home, there were four Yorkie dogs here. He led his younger brother Pumpkin in a battle with the Yorkies. It was like something out of a fantasy film. Nobody got seriously hurt. From then on, the dogs and the cats lived mostly in peace.

There are so many tales I could tell about Peeps, but it would take forever. He was my son, and now he’s gone. On our American holiday of Thanksgiving, I miss him greatly, because I always made a plate of food for him and his siblings. Peeps was cute in that he made sure to eat his vegetables (all veggies were ones healthy for cats) as well as his meat.

His three siblings are sad, and seem lost without him. He was their father, leader, and king. Hail to the King. King Peeps. May he rest in peace.

Thank you – I found a home

A big thank you for your prayers and well wishes. I moved in with a friend of mine who had a spare room. It’s been a difficult journey but thankfully my feline children and I have a place to live. We moved in two days ago, and today the cats had their first encounter with the four Yorkie dogs who live here. There was a bit of a skirmish with my oldest two taking the lead in confronting the dogs, but they established their boundries. Over time all parties will adjust.

It was quite inspiring to observe the tactics my cats used in dealing with the tribe of dogs living here. There is a tribe of cat people (actual hybrids) in my story, so the behavior of my cats inspires the in-story actions of the major cat-people characters. My oldest cat, cancer stricken, aged 15, led the charge and was so brave. He was like a King leading his people. Theoden charging out of Helm’s Deep. His brother, only one year younger, joined him as soon as he let out that infamous feline devil moan. It was glorious. There were no real injuries, just some cuffing, lots of barking and hissing, chasing and retreating. And I must say, part of me was glad my tribe of cats came out on top, though I bear no ill will toward the dogs. They are sweet creatures.

Another revision of Zootaloot

I finally took time that should be spent sleeping to work on the book a bit.  I revised the last two chapters, “First Blood” and “Konnor’s Trade Post.  I chose to have Naranbaatar live, so as to illustrate, through his interaction with Artur, the respect that the different tribes of men have for each other, though their customs are different.

I’ll revise them further, I think, to give greater character depth.

Attached is the latest copy of Zootaloot!

Zootaloot69

 

I’d also like to ask you to pray for me – if you are willing – as I’m trying to find a new place to live.  My landlord is going to renovate the building and radically raise the rent, and I must find room mates or move out.  I need a home for myself and my four cats. They are my children.  If that is outside your spiritual tradition, then I place no burden on you.  Peace.

 

RPGs, Life, Unexpected events

This whole pandemic has blown up my gaming group.  Most of my gang was in seclusion in fear of catching this bug.  This is not a political blog judging pro or con, it just was the fact that my group was in seclusion.

I’m grateful in a way, because I was getting tired of my out of control Sci Fi game.  My hope is when they feel comfortable enough to at least meet outdoors at a distance, we can play a different game together.

What I want to play is Pits & Perils or Blood of Pangea    but instead if I have a hacked up version of D&D 3.5 and all the skill inflation bullshit that goes with it. No matter how much I tried to simplify it, it got out of hand.  I forgot to put the Master in Dungeon Master.

I worked part time for a month but didn’t touch my book during the whole time.  Troy hasn’t left for magic school, but I did write a story of Tana’s first Orc kill, and how she felt about that.  I fleshed out a little how the different tribes of humans communicated with post riders travelling long distance.  With how the world is going, I doubt I’ll ever finish this book now.  It almost seems futile.

Short Story: The Rejected Pilot

trans pilot

Click the link to download the story.

Another friend challenged me to write a story about a trans-gendered pilot who was kicked out of America’s new Space Force and then sought revenge.

I wrote a piece of revenge fiction. Be forewarned, there’s explicit violence, swearing, sexually explicit descriptions, racism, politics, terrorism, and other R rated content not really suitable for young readers. If any of that bothers you, please do not read it.

This is not a political blog nor will it ever be. Nor is this work of fiction out to prove a political point. I merely work with available trends in political and social thought and weave them hopefully into an interesting character who does interesting things. In the end, whether you love or hate my hero/heroine, I hope you find the story entertaining.

Trans Pilot

Short Story: The Dog Detective

After my surgery in December, my friend called me and gave me a one hour challenge to write a story about his dog. So I did. I was glad of the challenge, as I had no substantive pain medicine. It was nice to focus on something creative.

There are inside jokes, such as Huck taking a slice of pizza from Oden half asleep on the couch. But if you look past the inside jokes, I hope you find it entertaining. Click the link below to download it.

HucksPoop2

Example Of Revising – Artur and the Forest Guardians – Story Fragment

I set out to revise a chapter I wrote previously here:

Mushroom Hunting

 

I did not like how the first version came out.  I wanted to evoke more mystery and awe with the Forest Guardians.  And yes, I’m pretentious, they are male and female to represent the two aspects that create life, and I tried to play with that in this bit of writing.  So below is a revision of the above chapter.  I paste in from the fight scene onward.  The beginning of the chapter is largely unchanged…

After a couple hours the basket was about half full, and they reached a swamp. Artur sat on a fallen hemlock to relax and let Borussa do his thing. The pig wandered for a bit, and just as Artur felt a nap coming on, there was a crack, a crash, and a loud squeal. In Artur’s mind he could feel Borussa’s broken leg, and he sprung to his feet.

There was another squeal, and Artur homed in on it, and ran as fast as he could over the mushy, rooty ground until he found a hole. Someone had dug a pit and covered it with sticks and leaves, and Borussa was in the bottom some seven feet down. “Father! It’s a trap!”

From the north and the east came the sudden rustle of leaves and the crack of twigs, and then heavy rapid footsteps. Artur drew his sword and looked about, and saw several hairy, apeish, pig faced looking orcs charging through the foliage. They wore animals skins, and had crude spears and clubs. Their elongated yellow canines glinted in the sunlight. Their cries were not unlike pig squeals, but a mockery of pigs.

“Go father.”

“No.”

Artur prepared to meet the oncoming creatures, and quickly counted them. He could see five. He charged the lead orc with a roar, and let his sword fighting instincts take over. It was Artur’s fight to lose, and he didn’t. He slew four with relative ease, and the fifth managed to dodge a decapitating blow, but tumbled headlong into the pit. Borussa sunk his teeth into the creature’s neck. It lost its bowels.

“Father I’m in a pit covered in orc shit.”

“That rhymes.” There was a distant crack, like someone stepped on a thick, dry branch.

“Father?”

“Shh!”

There was another crack. Artur spun about, scanning around the swamp and the forest, and then an arrow whizzed by his head and stuck into a pine tree. Then another arrow from another direction. Then there was a great roar, and from all sides came another dozen orcs, some firing arrows from crude bows, and others twirling their weapons. Some emerged from the trees on the other side of the swamp, slowly slogging their way through, and others from behind distant trees on dry ground.

Five were doable, twelve were not. At least, not if Artur had to maintain defense of the pit. Artur whirled about, trying to pick targets, and dodging arrows all the while. “Father, go now!” urged Borussa from the bottom of the pit. Artur could not bring himself to leave his son, and could not fight all the orcs coming from all directions.

No harm in calling for help when you need it, he thought. So he did. “Help me!” he shouted, and the orcs replied, “Oh we’ll help you to your grave, warrior!”

Suddenly the plants in the swamp grew longer, and entangled the orcs, and pulled them down into the water, drowning them. The trees in the forest bent over and plucked weapons out the orcs hands. Bewildered, they lept and snatched at their spears and bows and clubs, but to no avail. Pines, and hemlocks, and birch trees all ensnared the orcs and choked the life out of them. One screamed, “It was a blood trap! Damn the rats!” All but one were slain, and the last and bolted for his life.

Artur was bewildered but grateful. Never had he seen such a thing. So he looked about at the trees, and said “Thank you?”

There was a sudden ripping sound, like ripping roots from the ground. “You’re welcome.” said a masculine voice. Artur whirled about and saw a man looking creature about his height, with bark-like skin, and long hair and beard like moss. He had antlers like a deer, and was naked. Artur didn’t feel threatened.

There was another rip, and Artur whirled about again, and there was a naked female figure, with a darker, bark-like skin akin to beech, and long hair like curly dried red and orange leaves. She smiled, gently, and her amber eyes met Artur’s.

Borussa called out, “Father! What goes on?”
Artur felt mesmerized for a moment, and then called over his shoulder, “it’s okay. The orcs are gone.”

“Well get me out of this pit then. This orc stinks!”

The male figure said, “Don’t worry Artur. We will help your son.” And he and the female walked over to the pit, and their feet seemed to make no sound at all. The knelt down and whispered to the ground, and the roots from the trees pushed through the sides of the pit and under the pig, who panicked again, thinking he would be crushed by the roots.

“It’s all right sweet pig.” And suddenly Borussa was calm, and the roots lifted him out of the pit, and then he lay atop a bed of entangled roots. Artur ran over to him, dropped his sword, and shoved the dead orc off.

“Oh Borussa, I’m so sorry.” And then Artur looked to the two strange people, and said “Thank you sir, and madam.”

The male and female both chucked. “I haven’t been called sir in ages,” said the male. The female said “You’re welcome, Artur Zootaloot.”

“How do you know my name?”

The female now approached, and put her hand on his shoulder, “We heard the animals speak of you. And we’ve seen you come year after year to collect mushrooms. So…we like you.”

Borussa winced with pain as Artur studied the broken leg. There were two breaks. “Don’t worry, Artur,” said the male, who then scooped up some clay from the ground and molded it into a bowl. He breathed on it, and the clay dried instantly. He then gave the bowl to the female, who squeezed a sap from her breast, and filled it. She then went to pour it into the pig’s mouth.

Artur held a hand out, “Stop. What is that?”

“Come now, Artur,” said the male. “We wouldn’t save your lives just to poison you and your son.” Artur hesitated, but he let the female proceed and she poured the sap into the pig’s mouth. Suddenly the pig convulsed, and he squealed, and then Artur could hear a crack as the leg snapped itself back together.

“Why, that feels better,” said Borussa. “Thank you madam, and sir.”

The male laughed, and his mossy hair seemed to rustle gently. “I’ve been called sir twice in one day. You can call us Moss and Leaf. We’re Guardians. Though I think you figured that out now.”

Indeed Artur had heard rumors of the forest Guardians, but never met one, or known anyone who met one. He stood, and Borussa rolled over and got up on all fours, and grunted contentedly as he walked about the forest floor. “I’m in your debt,” said Artur to the two Guardians.

“Nay,” said Moss. “There is no debt. Let us be friends.” And Moss and Leaf each held out a hand, palm open, and Artur put his hands in theirs.

“Friends.” He withdrew his hands and went to studying the orc bodies. For orcs, they seemed rather unremarkable. They had crude hides, primitive weapons, and necklaces strung with human ears and fingers. Some had short handled spades for digging. “I’m concerned how they got this deep into our land without being noticed.”

Moss and Leaf stood over Artur as the man studied the bodies. “They didn’t come overland,” said Moss. “Yesterday, we were about the forest when we felt a tingle, like the air in a thunderstorm.”

“Only there was no storm, of course,” said Leaf.

“And then Orcs were here,” said Moss. Artur noticed how the two Guardians seemed to continue each other’s thoughts.

Artur dropped the Orc trinkets and stood up, brushing himself off. “And you let them wander here?”

“We were more concerned with how they got here,” said Leaf. The two Guardians then went to each orc body, and they whispered together, and from all about, flies gathered, and the carrion picking beetles came out of the leaf litter, and the earth worms tunneled out of the soil and began sniffing about the bodies, and lastly some crows arrived to pick at the dead flesh. Then a vulture landed nearby and startled the crows, but it went to its own orc to pick and tear. Unseen, the bacteria and fungi of decomposition multiplied far more rapidly than normal, and the bodies of the dead fermented at an increased rate.

After they finished working, Artur asked them, “How did they get here?”

Moss said, “Wizardry of some kind.”

Artur was disturbed to hear this. He didn’t like the thought of Orcs traveling unchallenged in his country, or in anyone’s country for that matter.

Suddenly Borussa said, “Well Madam, yes! Thank you!” Leaf knelt down and offered a puffball mushroom the size of a football to Borussa, who greedily began chewing away. Artur and the Guardians chuckled, and they waited for the pig to finish his meal.

The day was getting on, and so Artur once again thanked the Guardians for their help, and with Borussa at his side, set off for home. The two Guardians watched the bald warrior and his pig leave. Then they turned to each other, holding hands, and dissolved into the ground. Their essence traveled the roots of plants, the tunnels of ants, the burrows of creatures great and small, the ripples of water in the swamp, and the tangled networks of mycelium in the soil. They fell with every acorn, leaf, chestnut, walnut, and beech nut. They took flight with every gnat that emerged from the swamp mud. They wiggled with every worm, and pushed up slowly with every mushroom, and with every moss they broke up stone at an infinitesimal pace. They were in one place at some times, and another place at some times, and sometimes every place in the forest.