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Everyday Drabbles #795: The Glass Door

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The coffee shop had a stained glass door leading to a patio. I enjoyed watching the bar of rainbow light spread across the linoleum as I sipped my morning coffee.
But one day, I noticed something strange. The light on the ground didn’t match the door. The colors were off. The red panes reflected violet, and the yellows became green.
Suddenly, the glass door terrified me. I became convinced that if I were to pass through, I wouldn’t arrive in the same world as I left.
Finally, I worked up the courage to find out and discovered I was right.

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Everyday Drabbles #744: Worlds of Adventure

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The bounty hunter sat in the cockpit of his ship and looked out at the stars. A galaxy full of adventures, and he couldn’t decide where to go next.
“If I might make a suggestion,” his droid companion said. A hologram of a barren desert appeared over the instruments. “This remote planet is associated with an unusually high number of beings-of-interest. On the other hand, there is always something going on in the capital.” The scene shifted to a world of towering skyscrapers.
The bounty hunter tapped his helmet thoughtfully, then set a course for the capital. He hated sand.

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Everyday Drabbles #723: Junk Airship

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“It’s never going to fly, he said, slapping the stabilizer of the airship.
“Why not? Because I’m a girl?”
“Because you built it out of junk,” he replied. She pushed her brother’s hand away.
“It’s what I had to work with. It’ll fly. Just wait and see. Then we can get out of this miserable place and start our quest!”
He rolled his eyes. “Why are you always so dramatic? This isn’t one of your dumb stories.”
She raised the patched sail and smiled to herself. Someday he’d understand. Telling the world a story was exactly how the magic worked.

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Everyday Drabbles #703: Rocket Launch

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He brought his son to the window to watch the shuttles launch. Under rocket power, it would be days before the shuttles reached the colony, but they started their journeys today. His son, only three, put his hand to the alumiglass of the window. “Look daddy!” he said, pointing to each one. “Shooting stars!”
“Not quite, buddy.” He’d helped build the space colony, and one of the perks of that long and dangerous job was that he got to move his family up before the rush.
He held the boy and wondered if he would even remember living on Earth.

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Everyday Drabbles #502: Midnight Bargain

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When the stars were in the correct alignment, in the dead of night, she rode out on a white horse, nude except for a crown of stag antlers and oak leaves she had fashioned herself. She rode for a long time until she passed through a shadow into Someplace Else.
All around her she could see the detritus of those who hadn’t followed the instructions. The sand was littered with glasses and shoes and other scraps of clothing. But no bones.
“What do you seek?” A voice called from the darkness.
“Power,” she replied and felt herself begin to change.

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Everyday Drabbles 308: Clockwork City

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EDWinter2

They created a thriving metropolis built on steam power and machinery. They became the envy the world as they automated all their work, and lived lives of luxury among their robotic servants.
Freed from their labor, the citizens created wonders. They built a massive clocktower that became the symbol of the age. You could hear it from every corner of the city.
All those engines required power, and they built robots to dig into the earth, to pull coal from the earth and fell the forests for firewood.
When the waters rose, the clock still tolled in the abandoned city.

Everyday Drabbles #227: Crime Scene

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EDWinter2

The victim lay sprawled at the bottom of the stairwell. From the way the dust and dirt had been disturbed it was clear at a glance that they fell a long way. They were wearing some kind of space suit, with the face shield down obscuring their identity.
But the thing that really stood out were the leis. The body was wrapped in rings of tropical flowers, real ones. Based on the condition of the stairs, they had to have been placed on the body after it came to rest.
The detective sighed. They always gave him the weird ones.

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Elanterra Journal 006: The Half Elves

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Although they aren’t officially one of the Five Peoples, Half Elves represent a sizable population in Elanterra, and their numbers seem to be growing rapidly. Legends indicate that the earliest Half-Elves were scions of romantic pairings between Elves and Humans, often chivalrous Human knights and fair Elven maidens, whom they rescue from some danger or other. In these tales, the pairing is always stressed as taboo, and the couple brings disaster upon themselves by eloping. The child is left an orphan, and either becomes a great hero or, more often, a terrible villain. What historical records survive are sketchy at best, but paint a similar picture. Elves, for all their self-proclaimed Immortality, fare poorly outside of their forests. They sicken, rot, or kill themselves, usually within a few decades of leaving the Ironwood. Sometimes they simply disappear, abandoning their human spouse and children. These trysts are becoming more and more rare as the years pass, but it is not uncommon for an Elven ‘Ambassador’ to leave a clutch of bastards in his wake after his assignment is completed. These unfortunate mothers and their children are often exiled when their crime comes to light. In some Human kingdoms the children are even drowned, a practice which draws no comment at all from the Elves.

Half-Elves are tall, thin beings whose appearance draws about equally from their heritage. Half Elves are especially long lived, aging at about a third the rate of a normal human once they reach puberty. Half-Elves can usually be found in the great cities, where they band together for mutual protection. They are considered monstrosities by their Elven kin, and far less than Human as well. Half Elves are effectively a slave caste in many Human kingdoms, ranking even lower than serfs. Since they are stronger than they appear and live long lives, they are often used in the most dangerous jobs, such as mining and sailing.

Even with their high mortality rates, Half Elves reproduce at a similar rate to humans, but remain fertile for most of their long lives. It is not uncommon for a Half Elf matron to be caring for five or even six generations of grandchildren. Humans try and tightly control Half Elf families, for fear that they will be overwhelmed by sheer numbers.

“Free” Half Elves in the great cities still find themselves to be the victims of prejudice, since they are the product of a taboo pairing. Higher education and skilled labor are usually denied them, and many turn to underground or criminal organizations for support. It is said that a Half Elf, given enough time, can get you anything, if you pay their price.

Compiler’s Note: The Half-Elves have suffered greatly over the centuries, bing the arrow fodder of every army, working the most uncomfortable and dangerous jobs, and suffering innumerable degradations. It is distasteful to say, but a Human who disdains a Half Elf for the ‘unnatural acts’ of her parents will often not think twice of taking one against her will as ‘spoils of war.’ The Half Elves wait, and maintain their population. And those outside the Human kingdoms wonder when the Half Elves’ anger will turn to violence.–G. B.

 

Elanterra Journal 005: The Elves

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The Elves, the Forest People, dwell almost exclusively in the massive Ironwood, a sea of trees which dominates Elanterra’s South-Eastern peninsula. Very few outsiders have ever stood at the heart of the Elven holdings, and their stories are often contradictory. What is known for certain is that the Ironwood is a natural fortress of maze-like trails, bloodthirsty animals and plants, and wild magic. To enter their domains without Elven guides is fatal.

The Elves are taller than a human, but usually very thin. Their features are delicate and beautiful. They claim to be ageless, although little proof exists to support this claim. Elves are greatly skilled at magic, but only practice the skill with other peoples reluctantly. Their use of magic is highly religious, and they claim that other practitioners somehow misuse ‘the gifts of the Mother.’ Whether this refers to the earth itself or to their mysterious Goddess is unclear.

ALthough they are not welcoming hosts, some Elves have engaged with the rest of Elanterra. They are strong supporters of the Alliance, and dutifully send ambassadors across the Island. The nature of these diplomatic visits causes the Elves to be seen as haughty and intrusive to the other Peoples.

There is a great benefit to these travels, however. Elves have laid roads across the island that are strong, wide, and easy to navigate. Trade and travel flourish along these byways, and banditry is almost unheard of. They even engage in some trade with Ferros, selling their Ironwood, which is said to have many great qualities, to the Dwarves for precious metals and gems.

Elves have the dubious distinction of being the only people able to mate successfully with Humans. The Half-Elves, as they are called, are shunned by both societies, and Elves known to consort with Humans are exiled. They rarely live long outside of their forest homes, but Half-Elves are becoming more and more common in the Great Cities.

Compiler’s Note: Aside from their seat on the Council of Five Peoples, the Elves have completely retreated beyond the reach of other Peoples. Even then, they say little and do nothing more than watch. The reasons for their withdrawal are unclear. Some sages theorize that a plague or some other catastrophe has struck the Heartwood. Others claim a political shift. In any case, There have been no corroborated sightings of an Elf outside of Isleheart Castle in more than a century. The Half-Elves only grow more and more common, however, and most sightings of ‘True’ Elves are likely scams perpetrated by their base-born kin.

“Elanterra Journal” is a look into the People, Places, and history of the Island of Elanterra, the setting of the Freelance Hunters stories.   “Glory’s Gauntlet,” an ebook collection of four Freelance Hunters shorts, is available from Amazon and Smashwords.

Elanterra Journal: 004-Dwarves

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Elanterra Journal

004-The Dwarves

 

Although it is not possible to get a full census of their numbers, it is believed that the Mountain Folk, more commonly called “Dwarves,” represent the third-most populous of the Five Peoples in Elanterra, behind the Humans and Hillfolk. Dwarves are thick-set, hairy humanoids standing roughly four to five feet tall. Underneath their extremely thick hair and beards, which can be just about any color, they are extremely pale, with large eyes and ears, and surprisingly dextrous hands and feet. These features are found on both males and females and it is considered impossible (and also, rude) for outsiders to determine a Dwarf’s gender by sight.

The two main Dwarven settlements are in the Ferros in the North East, and Paladine in the South. Dwarven sub-communities are also common in most surface communities. In Human kingdoms in particular, they are welcomed as merchants, craftsmen, and bankers. Outsiders have difficulty living in Dwarven holds because of the extremes of the environment. While some settlement areas are quite comfortable, and cater to outsiders, the true dimensions of Dwarven holdings cannot be explored by outsiders, and the subject is for some reason taboo.

Dwarves are well suited for their environments, which include the surfaces and interiors of most of the mountains in Elanterra. They are capable of surviving extreme cold and heat, and their senses are extremely sharp.

Dwarves are extremely community minded, often forming large stable households of adults when living on the surface. Dwarven children are not reared in foreign lands, and any pregnant Dwarves are sent with great speed to the nearest homeland. At the same time, they are surprisingly private creatures. They have a strict religious culture which is politely but firmly closed to outsiders. Their patron deity is known by many titles, including “Earth Father,” “Divine Craftsman,” and “Protector.” Some speculate that these are separate gods rather than aspects of the same divine being.

Ferros is the center of Dwarven industry, and the seat of The Mountain King, the terrestrial ruler of all Dwarves. Although Dwarves living on the surface are bound to the laws of whatever settlement they dwell in, they remain subjects of the Mountain King, and are bound by his laws. A strong sense of honor and fair play ensures that both masters are satisfied.

Paladine, a much more temperate settlement built into a volcanic island and stretching an unknown depth underneath the Bay of Storms, is a smaller, settlement, and the center of Dwarven religion. Dwarves will make pilgrimages to Paladine as often as they are able, to give offerings, get advice, or make penances. Paladine is overseen by the Papal seat.

Up until very recently, Dwarves also maintained a stronghold in the Icy Mountains. It is now abandoned, and the reasons for this migration are unknown. Legends of gold-filled ruins draw treasure hunters, and rumors of monsters pouring from the earth draw monster hunters.

In truth, Dwarves live remarkably austere and simple lives. Their value of the community above all makes them dedicated tradesmen, soldiers and laborers. While slander often paints them as usurious, and great lovers of gold and gems, the truth is usually opposite. Dwarves value practical items, particularly wooden objects and fruits and vegetables, which are difficult to obtain in their native lands. Inexperienced Dwarven traders will often pay in pure gold at incredible sums, which may be the source of these legends.

Compiler’s Note: Much is still not fully understood about Dwarven culture. In modern history, Ferros has often come into conflict with neighboring kingdoms over resources, and the result has been a general migration of Dwarves back to the two main Holds. Dwarves are frighteningly efficient militarists, and even claim that they have waged secret wars below the surface for generations. When pressed, they become evasive on the subject, however. Dwarves are honorable but fierce in combat, and their military seems to be exclusively male, although how this can be managed without any visible difference between the sexes is unknown. Due to their extreme modesty, the actual form of a female Dwarf is unknown. Some experts theorize that Dwarves are in fact hermaphroditic. Other experts (and their heirs) have learned that Dwarves respond with extreme violence when this theory is suggested to them. As to the truth of Dwarven anatomy, the outside world may never know.–G.B.

“Elanterra Journal” is a look into the People, Places, and history of the Island of Elanterra, the setting of the Freelance Hunters stories.   “Glory’s Gauntlet,” an ebook collection of four Freelance Hunters stories is available from Amazon and Smashwords.

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