Posted by: lordkyler | July 12, 2014

Frostbite – Short Story

The metal felt colder than ice, stealing the warmth from Josh’s fingers. He gritted his teeth and drew a deep breath, feeling the cold scour his lungs. Then he resumed his climb up the ladder, rung by rung.

The wind was fitful, one moment a gentle spirit with a frigid caress, the next a shrieking banshee that threatened to send him to his doom. Overhead, the sky was glowering and dark, forming a black ceiling over a stark white world, and hiding any hint of the moon.

Josh kept moving, knowing that to stop now would mean death. His heart was pounding and his chest and arms burned with exertion, but none of the warmth reached his fingertips. He looked up. Still nearly a hundred feet to go. He redoubled his efforts. The sweat would soak into his ratty furs and chill him later, but for now he was more concerned with losing his grip. It was a long fall, and the constant winds here at the mountaintop had swept away any cushioning snowdrifts.

A harsh growl from below caught his attention. He glanced down and saw three pale shapes crowded at the base of the ladder, looking up at him. Wolves.

Shit, Josh thought. He exhaled heavily, causing fog to creep around the edges of his goggles. Then he shook his head. It wouldn’t make much difference anyway. Climbing the tower was a one way trip. So long as the chopper arrived on time, he would be okay.

He was halfway up the ladder when the wolves started snarling again. He looked down briefly, only to see them slinking off into the swirling snow. Only the white circle of the spotlight remained, as if to highlight their absence. There were only two things in this part of the world that could dissuade hungry wolves with a meal in sight: polar bears and soldiers. Polar bears wouldn’t present a problem. Soldiers would.

Josh went still for a moment, straining his hearing. It was difficult to hear anything above the wind, but he thought he heard a few rocks clicking as they bounced down the mountainside.

The silence was ruptured by the bark of machine gun fire. The spotlight exploded in a shower of sparks, leaving the area in darkness. Josh’s grip tightened as his heart leapt. Hooking his elbow around the ladder, he fumbled for the pistol strapped to his leg. His bare, numb fingers struggled with the latch, trying to move quick and quiet. Likely it wouldn’t make much difference though. The enemy wouldn’t waste ammunition if they didn’t know he was here.

The clouds overhead shifted, allowing a weak beam of moonlight to shine down. Below, the light reflected of the goggles of three… four… five men closing in from the west. They wore white, but the American stars and stripes were just visible on their shoulders.

Damn it, Josh swore silently. The last thing he needed was the bloody Americans. Ever since the New Ice Age, America had been the most aggressive in claiming valuable resources, hoping to come out on top of the proverbial dog pile. If there were five men assaulting this station, it was a sure bet that a lot more were close behind.

Josh squeezed off a couple of shots with his pistol. The gun nearly wrenched itself from his frozen grip with the recoil, and the sound was deafening, but it had the intended effect. The American troops dove for cover, leaping behind rocks and the abandoned machinery of the camp. Josh used the opportunity to gain ground, managing to make it another ten rungs before the soldiers spotted him and opened fire.

Their guns were old and unreliable, but they could put out a lot of bullets. Josh felt one hit his leg, like a hot lance driving through the muscle of his calf. He gritted his teeth in pain, and for a moment it was all he could do to cling to the ladder until the pain subsided. Muzzle flashes from below lit up the area like flickering lightning. His jaw clenched and his eyes streaming with tears, Josh popped off a couple more shots, causing a brief respite from the onslaught.

This wouldn’t last forever, he realized. He was already wounded and had at least thirty feet to go, and only about ten more rounds in the pistol. He was going to need something more. Where was the damn helicopter?

He stuck his pistol in his mouth like a cartoon pirate with a knife, feeling the icy metal bite back, and reached for the grenade at his belt. Scanning the area below, he picked out a rock that had three soldiers huddled behind it, then stuck a finger in the ring attached to the pin. Before the soldiers resumed fire, he tossed it, keeping hold of the pin.

His aim was slightly off, and instead of landing on the far side of the rock where he had intended, it struck the rock itself, and promptly exploded, sending a shockwave of stone shards and powdered snow across the ground. He did not hesitate to see whether any of the Americans had died. The pain in his leg had dulled to a mere excruciating throb, so he drove past the pain and hauled himself to the top of the tower.

Gunfire erupted around the lip of the upper platform, but the platform was made from thick steel, and the bullets ricocheted off in a chorus of pings and clanks. Once they realized that he was out of reach, the soldiers quickly stopped shooting. Josh risked a quick peek down. One of the soldiers was hunched over a dark, misshapen bundle. Josh didn’t like the looks of that.

A dull thumping noise began to distinguish itself over the incessant wind. The helicopter, Josh thought. But if the Americans were preparing an RPG or SAM as he suspected, they were done for. He would have to stop them for at least long enough to get away. But how? He only had a few rounds left in his gun, and one more grenade, which he couldn’t depend on to take out all the soldiers.

The wind blew wildly for a second, causing him to cling to the platform to keep from being swept off. He could feel the tower swaying beneath him. That gave him an idea. It was insanity, of course, but he had left sanity behind when he signed up for this mission.

The helicopter grew louder and louder until at last it crested a nearby hill, a grim black specter hovering over the blank and barren landscape. One of the Americans hefted a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher onto his shoulder and spun to face the chopper. Josh carefully lined up a shot and pegged the man in the shoulder.He stumbled backwards and collapsed in the snow, blood staining the snow crimson. One of the other soldiers broke cover and dashed to the side of his fallen comrade.

The helicopter was growing closer. It would be at the side of the platform within thirty seconds. Time to set his plan in motion. Scanning the ground below one last time, Josh took his last grenade, pulled the pin, and dropped it straight down the ladder shaft he had just climbed up. It struck the ground at the foot of the ladder and promptly exploded. The force of the explosion tore at the brittle, frozen steel of the platform, warping and shattering it beyond repair.

Josh felt the platform buckle and stagger underneath his feet. With agonizing slowness, it began to tilt, going faster the further it tipped. The helicopter was still some twenty feet away, but he didn’t have time to wait. He took three steps and leapt into the void.

Seeing him fall, the pilot dropped the helicopter to compensate, and Josh slammed into the side of it violently, half his body hanging out over the edge. The impact drove the air from him, and he gasped for breath, the ice searing his lungs as he did so. He managed to find a handhold, and after a moment catching his breath, hauled himself up.

“You alright?” asked the pilot. “What the hell is going on here?”

“Bloody Yanks!” Josh yelled back over the roar of the rotors. “They’ve got a rocket launcher!” The pilot wasted no further time on questions, instead pivoting the chopper around and flying away at top speed. Josh watched as the tower collapsed behind them, falling the same direction as the Americans had been. The crash was accompanied by the ear-piercing shriek of twisted metal, and the tremendous clang of steel on stone as it hit.

“Did it take them out?” asked the pilot, whose back was turned to the destruction. Josh waited a moment before replying. The scene was already fading away as the wind kicked up sheets of snow between them.

“I think so,” he yelled. But at that moment, a flash lit up the snowstorm, accompanied by a rapidly-approaching spark. Warning alarms buzzed in the cockpit, indicating an imminent missile strike. The pilot swore loudly and began evasive maneuvers. Josh felt his stomach drop out from under him as the helicopter pitched and rolled, heading downward. The spark curved to follow them. Seconds before the missile caught up, the pilot suddenly reversed direction and spun. It almost worked.

At exactly the wrong moment, the wind gusted, resisting their sudden acrobatics, and the rocket struck the tail of the chopper. A wave of fire swept past the doors as the shockwave sent them lurching forward. Josh was deafened by the noise, disoriented by the movement, shell-shocked by the force of the blast. It was all he could do to cling to his seat as the chopper spun crazily, like an out-of control top. Thirteen seconds later, they crashed.

•••

Josh awoke in darkness lit by then fitful glare of fire. This far north, night lasted half the year, so there was no telling how long he’d been here. Squinting, he looked around to find himself in a deep snowdrift surrounded by wreckage. He must have been thrown clear of the crash.

He struggled to sit up in the powdery snow, although every fiber of his body screamed at him. He was grateful to find that all his limbs still worked. The burning wreckage had been enough to keep him from frostbite, though he had little sensation in his extremities.

Moving through the snowdrift was difficult. He could get through the powder easily enough, but the snow underneath was deep, and his feet simply punched through, leaving him immersed to his waist. He opted to roll on top of the snow instead, spreading his weight enough that he was able to make it to an exposed patch of black rock nearby.

Josh took a few moments to work his muscles into life and get his bearings. Looking around, he could see that most of the wreckage had plowed through the snow until it hit a small cliff some fifty feet away. A trail of debris littered the ground in a trail leading to the site of the crash.

He was able to find a pathway to the wreckage across the rocks, avoiding the snow until he reached the point where the chopper had plowed a path for him. The skeletal remains of the helicopter lay crumpled against the base of the cliff like a beer can after a party. Burning chunks of wreckage cast leaping shadows all around, surrounding him with ghosts. Several rotor blades were broken, and the remaining ones swung listlessly back and forth in the wind, as if wagging their fingers at him. See what’s happened? they chided. You never should have come here. Josh ignored them.

The pilot sat slumped in his seat. He was cold and stiff and all-too-clearly dead. Josh didn’t have the time or the resources to bury him, but he took the icy dog tags from the man’s neck to pass on to any relatives later. Assuming he made it back. The pilot’s name, he saw in the firelight, was Michael.

“Well, Michael, looks like it’s just you and me now,” Josh said, tucking the dog tags inside his shirt. “Just you and me to save the free world.”

He searched the wreckage for supplies. There was a lot of wreckage but not much he could use. By the time he was finished, he had collected a small sackful of MREs, cobbled together a makeshift spear out of a length of pipe, some zip ties, and a field knife, and gathered some flares and a pair of snowshoes. The biggest treasure was a rifle, though the stock was twisted and broken. He took it anyway. He had only two shots left in his pistol and no other weapons.

He pulled back his sleeve to check the micro GPS on his wrist. The display pointed north and showed the time. 0600 hours. A ring of lights surrounded the display, one of them flashing to indicate the direction of his destination.

Josh suddenly grasped at his pocket. He was relieved to find that the access card was still there. That was the reason he had been at the outpost in the first place, retrieving from the Norwegians who had starved there. If he had lost that, everybody was doomed. Except maybe the wolves.

He stopped and took a moment to gather his thoughts. So, all he really had to do was cross ten miles of mountainous arctic terrain, defend himself against wolves, bears and the American army by using the damaged dregs of his crashed helicopter, then force his way into the Global Seed Vault and retrieve the samples. And then escape somehow. Also he was alone and it was dark.

The consequences: If the Americans won, everyone but the Americans would starve. And if he messed up bad enough, everybody would starve together.

“No problem,” he said to himself.

He strapped on his snowshoes, loaded his rifle, and began walking. Somebody had to save the free world. Might as well be him.

Posted by: lordkyler | June 28, 2014

Great Resources Every Minecraft Player Should Have

Usually this blog is about my creative projects and ideas, but occasionally I will diverge onto other topics. Today, I’ll be covering some essential helps and references that can help any Minecrafter to improve their experience with the game.

  • Minecraft Wiki
    • The primary source of detailed information about any aspect of the game.
  • Mojang Website
    • Official Website of Minecraft’s creators, Mojang.
  • ChunkBase’s Apps:
    • Need help finding a slime-spawing chunk? How about a desert or jungle temple? Maybe you’re looking for the nearest Nether fortress, mineshaft, or witch hut? Well, look no further than ChunkBase, which has a variety of tools to help you find all this and more in whatever Minecraft world you have. They also have other tools, such as a super-flat preset generator.
  • Enchantment Calculator
    • Trying to snag a tool with that elusive silk touch or fortune enchantment? The enchantment calculator can give you the best odds on getting any specific enchantment you desire.
  • Potion Brewing Flowchart
    • An easy-to-follow reference chart for brewing Minecraft’s many potions.
  • Perfect Circle and Arch Reference
    • Sometimes you simply grow tired of squares, and just want some nice, organic circles. This site will allow you to make perfect circles and arcs out of your favorite cubes.
  • Perfect Sphere and Dome Reference
    • Likewise, who isn’t impressed by a perfect dome? Building your perfect observatory or underwater base begins here.
  • List of Minecraft Mods
    • As varied as Minecraft is, the world of mods can utterly transform the game. Everything from small tweaks to near-overhauls can be found here.
  • Optifine
    • An indispensable addition to Minecraft, allowing for faster and smoother gameplay in addition to much more detailed graphical settings and enhancements.
  • Rei’s Minimap
    • A mod that I’m a particular fan of, Rei’s Minimap makes navigating the infinite world of Minecraft that much easier, by providing you with a mini-map and waypoints to help with your navigation.
  • Sethbling’s Redstone Tutorials
    • Redstone can be incredibly useful but also tremendously daunting in its complexity. In this series, one of best redstone mechanics teaches the basics.
  • Minecraft on Reddit
    • A great site for inspiration, news, humor, and community based around Minecraft.
  • MCEdit
    • A powerful application that allows user to make custom terrain, copy, paste, delete or alter huge portions of their Minecraft world.
  • AMIDST
    • This application gives you access to many of the same tools as Chunkbase, as well as giving you access to a detailed overhead map and other features.
  • MCMap
    • If you’re using a Mac to play Minecraft, MCMap allows you to generate an isometric view of your Minecraft maps, similar to many older games.
  • Chunky
    • Allows you to make beautiful renders of your favorite creations, with support for texture packs, camera controls, and more, all without needing shaders.
  • YouTube
    • YouTube is one of the main hubs of the Minecraft community. Looking for a mod spotlight? They have it. Want design inspiration or detailed tutorials? Watch your heart out. Simply looking for people playing the game? They have more than you can dream of. Be careful, lest you end up trapped for eternity.

This concludes my list of invaluable resources for the incredible game known as Minecraft. If there’s a resource you find particularly handy, feel free to post a link below!

Posted by: lordkyler | June 14, 2014

Sculpting with Play-Doh

Not too long ago, I came into possession of a large batch of homemade Play-Doh. Having some very minor sculpting experience, I decided to try and make something, even though Play-Doh is far from ideal as far as materials go. However, I’m rather pleased with how it turned out:

Here Be Dragons!

The model is of a wyvern/dragon as I imagine them. This one is an infant, because the Play-Doh wasn’t strong enough to support the proportions of an adult. Image has been spruced up in Photoshop.

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Posted by: lordkyler | June 7, 2014

Radiance: Part VI – The Emporium

Last time, our heroes helped the Mongrels raid the warehouse of a rival gang. They met Drake Weaver, a new player character, acquired some loot, and received a warning from a mysterious man. They have spent the night in a Seven Sisters safehouse and are now awaiting information from the Mongrel’s informants.

The crew awoke in pleasant conditions. This particular hideout of the Seven Sisters was in a middle-class part of town, and housed in the small but cozy attic of a chocolate shop. Bird sang, trucks trundled down the street, and outside a shopkeeper was sweeping his sidewalk and singing the soprano line of a popular opera.

Once they had all awoken, the members of the party held a meeting to discuss the recent events.

“So what about that guy last night?” Aria began. “What were your thoughts?”

“Forget him,” Connor growled. “I’m not about to be kept away from my payment because some goon in a trench coat tries to scare us off.”

“Agreed,” said Ian, echoed by Lilly and the newcomer, Drake. Aria nodded as well.

“Still,” she said, “I think we need to be careful. He seemed pretty serious about his threat.”

“Let him try to enforce it, and he’ll find himself facing cold steel,” Connor said. “The real question is what we plan to do next.” Read More…

Posted by: lordkyler | May 31, 2014

Silent Siege – Old Short Story

I thought this week that I would post one of my old snippets. This story was written when I was probably around fifteen. I didn’t intend for it to be much of anything, just an exercise at vivid prose, perhaps. It’s a bit awkward, but it’s not much. As a very short piece, I think you may enjoy it.

Silent Siege

The wind shrieked like some unearthly demon, ripping invisible fingers across the trembling forest. The very trees seemed to shrink back from the unseen menace. Then, like the mist stealing across the ground, they came. There was no sound. It was as if they were simply an imagined apparition, an ethereal foe,  in the frightened imagination of a child. but this was a living nightmare. They were coming, an unstoppable force, gathering. Read More…

Posted by: lordkyler | May 17, 2014

New YouTube Channel: Cinematic Addict

I have been a fan of video game cinematics for a long time. When I say cinematic, I’m not referring to cutscenes or footage made within the game itself. I’m talking about the trailers that look like CG from a blockbuster film. The kind of movies made by Digic Pictures and Blur Studios. Stuff like this:

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Posted by: lordkyler | May 3, 2014

Dragonslayer – Lithra Short Story

The following is an exclusive look at a short story from The Legend of Lithra II: The Knives of Aesur. While unconnected to the main plot, it serves to expand the story universe and provide a good tale in its own right. This story will be released on the official Lithra website a year from now.

I am very pleased with how this turned out. I think it is one of the best things I have ever written, at least so far. Hopefully it is indicative of things to come.

Dragonslayer

Denfold leaned over the carcass, or what was left of it. All that was really left were a few bones and bits of gristle. They wouldn’t have found it at all if not for the blood which stained the snow for several yards around the grisly scene.

“Third one this month, Kal,” Denfold said grimly.

“I know. He’s getting bolder.”

“What are we going to do?”

“This can’t be allowed to continue. If this thing keeps taking the livestock we won’t last long out here. And Eitra forbid it comes after one of us.”

Kal nodded. They knew without speaking what needed to be done. Both Kal and Denfold were tough, hard-bitten men. Who else would sign up to colonize a new town on the northern frontier? The two had been attracted by the prospects of a fresh start and virgin land. But they knew the area was full of dangers. Freezing weather, hostile Karod, and, as they were seeing now, dragons.

Denfold arose from inspecting what was left of the cow and idly kicked its fractured skull. It flew apart into shards.

“Gather the men. We’ve got a dragon to kill.”

Read More…

Posted by: lordkyler | April 26, 2014

The Legend of Lithra: Prep for Book III

Greetings! Readers who are new to the blog may not have heard of my other blog, the Legend of Lithra. The Legend of Lithra is a free series of fantasy adventure books being released online in serial form. I use it as a way to practice my writing and spread my work.

So far, I have written two books in the series. The first book, The Legend of Lithra, is the story of a young innkeeper’s son named Selane. Growing up, he heard stories of the great enchanter Lithra, who forged a powerful magic weapon, only to have it stolen from him by his treacherous apprentice, Resca. However, nothing could have prepared him for the day when Lithra himself passes through and asks to take Selane as his assistant. Selane is swept along in the quest, traveling the world and facing numerous foes. But will they be able to stop Resca before he can complete his devious plans? Read More…

Posted by: lordkyler | April 12, 2014

Gunslanger – Short Story Week

Horatio Hughes adjusted his cards with trembling fingers, then reached for the fat cigar that hung awkwardly from his thin lips. He thought it unnatural to keep a burning ember mere inches away from his heavily-greased mustache and muttonchops, but he was trying to learn about the culture here, and as he had always said, the best way to learn is to do. Dust hung thick in the afternoon heat, and the saloon rumbled with the conversations of cattle drovers on their way through town. Somewhere, a man played an off-key fiddle, but nobody seemed to pay much attention.

Trying to avoid the sour stench of the unwashed masses, Horatio accidentally inhaled through his mouth and gagged on cigar smoke, then tried to sooth his throat with his untouched tumbler of whiskey. It burned like fire, but he choked it down, not wanting to appear weak. He wished for some tea.

“Made up yer mind, fella?” asked the grizzled old cowboy across from him. If one of their own had taken this long to decide whether or not to fold, they would have been annoyed, but as it was, the Englishman was proving quite the gold mine. Horatio realized how badly he was losing, but he considered it money well-spent in order to get an intimate view of the fabled cowboy. They were nicer than he had been led to believe, he decided. That wasn’t to say he was comfortable with them. They were hardly what one would call polite. Or clean. On top of that, most men carried firearms, wielding them with the same speed, ease, and precision as he did his pencil. Read More…

Posted by: lordkyler | April 11, 2014

Nightfall – Short Story

Men have always feared the dark. Night is the realm of monsters and vile deeds, darkness the cloak of deceit and treachery, blackness the very essence of danger and death. It is the palette of horror films, the backdrop of nightmares, the aura of fear. And yet, the night is just another time of day, darkness merely empty shadows. The world spins on, and a wide variety of creatures suited to the darkness go about their business. What man truly fears in the night is the darkness within themselves.

In the dark, men cannot see, and so they are anonymous. At night, men sleep, so those who stalk the midnight hour are given the cloak of secrecy, and power over those who slumber. Such things bring out the worst in men, and so they blamed the shadows for their sins.

Night and day were stronger then, darker and brighter each. The darkness spoke to some, who understood its power. They understood that the dark was neither good nor bad of itself, they understood the powers that came from the darkness; strength, secrets and silence. But they did not last long. Read More…

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