Posted by: lordkyler | October 18, 2014

Iron – Minecraft Short Story

This is a Minecraft based story, and I suppose that it is technically fanfiction, although the game it comes from has no real narrative. If you are familiar with the game, you will probably get what is going on, and if not, I think you may still find it of interest. Enjoy.

His was the way of iron, a path followed since the creation of his kind. Many believe iron to be cold and unfeeling, devoid of love. But that was wrong. It was love that made him.

He watched as he was called forth from nothingness, forming in an instant. Bones of iron and sinews of steel coalesced from sheer possibility. He was built after the pattern of Them, though he was different. He was taller, that he might see danger from afar. His arms were long and strong, that he might crush the monsters in the night. This was good. This was right. That was his purpose, after all, to protect Them.

Protect. The thought echoed endlessly though his head like the peal of a bell. Where were They? He looked to discover his surroundings. At first he thought his eyes were not working, for he could see nothing. But no, it was only dark. He felt a leaden thrill. Darkness! Danger!

Read More…

Posted by: lordkyler | October 4, 2014

Building the Armada – Sketchup Models

I have recently mad a couple of additions to my virtual fleet. Although the ships are very different, I like both of them, and may incorporate them into a suitable story. Even if I don’t, it was a pleasure to build them, and I am very pleased with how they turned out. You can click for larger views.

Punch It.

This is the ThunderFlash, an atmospheric craft. It looks like something that could fit in Firefly. The name comes from the massive, thundering engines and the flash drives that inspired the design.

Read More…

Posted by: lordkyler | September 20, 2014

A New Age – Short Story

The third addition to the tale begun here and continued here.

•••

Eliza couldn’t take it any more. With a cry of frustration, she threw the covers off herself.

“We’re going,” she said. “C’mon, let’s do this.”

Dustin propped himself up on his elbows. “Seriously?”

Eliza was getting dressed hastily, in dark clothing. “You said tonight, right? We don’t have much time.”

Still Dustin did not get up, even though she could see his desire in every line of his body. “You don’t have to do this for me, babe,” he said. “Your happiness is more important to me than anything else, okay?”

“I’m not doing this because you want to, I’m doing this because you’re right.”

Dustin was agape. “Has the impossible occurred? Has the moon fallen from the sky and set the ocean on fire? Did you just admit I’m right about something?”

“Do you want to go or not, dummy?”

Dustin grinned an enormous grin. “You don’t have to ask me twice,” he said, and threw back the covers to reveal he was already dressed in dark clothing and wearing combat boots.

Read More…

Posted by: lordkyler | September 6, 2014

Rusty – Short Story

This is a short story taking place not long before the events in the snippets I posted last time. It is set in the same universe of shapeshifters, elementals, and techno-wizardry, although it features a few different characters. I’m rather pleased with how it turned out, and I think it helps build the world well. It could perhaps form a secondary plot or flashback sequence of some sort if this ever turns out to be a book. Enjoy.

•••

The warehouse seemed quiet, but appearances could be deceiving, a fact I knew all too well.

I had scouted the location for several hours beforehand, but there was still no guarantee that it was deserted. When your enemies can glide on the wind or burrow underground, it’s practically impossible to cover all the entrances.

Ambush or not, though, I couldn’t afford to wait much longer. One last check, just in case, and then I would go for it. I pulled out my scopes.

A quick optical scan revealed nothing. I tried thermal and piezoelectric, but the warehouse walls were too thick to penetrate from this distance. I could send in drones, but that would reveal my presence as well. It annoyed me that with all this technology, sometimes we were still blinder than bats. Read More…

Posted by: lordkyler | August 30, 2014

Radiance Part VII: Sal’s Shop

In our last installment, Aria and Lilly visited Sweetwater’s Emporium to spend some of their loot. They ended up with some new items and a couple new pets. Meanwhile, Connor, Ian, and the newcomer Drake proceed to a rather different part of town searching for a mechanic’s shop.

The three men stepped off the trolley, and retrieved their recently-obtained motorcycle from a platform on the back. One of the purposes of their trip was to have the machine inspected. Ian had the knowledge to do it himself, but he didn’t have the tools, and so he had recommended a mechanic’s shop known as Sal’s.

Their trip had brought them to the eastern edge of the island. The shop was located in the transition area between the poorer section at the middle of the island and the moderately well-to-do southern end. The area was largely populated by tradesmen and craftsmen that were inexpensive enough to cater to one group but skilled enough to service the other.

The streets here were decently maintained, if a little worn, and the signs out front were large and blunt. Cobblers, printers, tailors, and the like all advertised their wares, using the word quality and value with an almost suspicious frequency. Posters plastered many fences, but they were accompanied by some slightly wilted shrubs. It was a nice enough place, by all accounts. Most buildings were several stories, shops on the ground floor and dwellings above.

Ian led them confidently through the wide streets and among the tightly packed buildings, hailing several passers-by as he went. Before long, they approached a brick building with an extensive series of garages and a large, paved yard. The sign out front proclaimed it to be Sal’s without any attempt at modesty.

They entered the front door of the shop, and a small bell tinkled, barely audible above the muffled mechanical sounds coming from the garage. Still, the sound attracted the attention of a man who was placing bolts in their appropriate bins.

The man was extremely tall and heavily built, even more than Ian. He had a broad face, made broader by an impressive set of muttonchops that stuck out from his face like a lion’s ruff. He had a bowler hat perched atop his head, tilted at a slightly rakish angle, like a bird perched on the unruly nest of his hair. He wore a shirt with the sleeves rolled up, revealing hands and arms blackened with grease and soot. Remarkably, the shirt itself was spotlessly white and freshly pressed. The world’s ugliest suspenders completed the ensemble.

“Hey there, cousin!” the man proclaimed loudly. “What brings you here today?”

“Hello Sal,” Ian replied. Before he could explain the purpose of his visit, Sal stepped up and crushed him in a massive bear hug.

“Been some time since I’ve seen you!” Sal said.

“Does that mean I don’t get the family discount?” Ian said with a slight grin.

“Of course not. But if you want your friends to qualify, you’d better introduce us.”

“Oh, of course. Um, this fellow here in the black is Connor.”

“Connor,” Sal drawled, as though committing the name to memory. “That looks like a pair of Ibring .227’s you have there.”

Connor tugged his jacket closed over the pistols, but gave a lopsided smirk. “Good eye.”

“Good choice,” Sal replied. “Well-constructed. A man can squeeze off a half-dozen rounds in about three seconds with those beauties.”

“Two and a half,” Connor grunted, and Sal laughed.

“Who’s your other friend?”

“Drake Weaver,” Drake said, extending a hand. “Pleased to meet you.”

“Weaver, eh? I know some Weavers. Where are you from, lad?”

“South end of the island,” Drake said.

“Ah, so do you know Thomas Weaver?”

Drake’s face twitched ever so slightly into a grimace. “My father.”

“Ah, I can see that. You have his jaw. He’s a good man, Thomas. I service the boilers at several of his hotels.”

“We’ve come to get some equipment, Sal,” Ian said. “We’re engaged an a rather… unusual job, and we could use a few surprises, if you know my meaning.”

“Ah, you’re looking for the… special bargains,eh? Just give me a moment to finish with a couple of customers and we’ll go right up.”

“We also brought a bike,” Connor said. “Need you to take a look at.”

“I’d do it myself, but I don’t have the tools,” Ian said.

“Not a problem. We’ll look at your special equipment and then come right back down and look at your ride.”

Sal went up to the remaining customers and sorted out their issues quickly, laughing all the while. When the last of them had left the shop, he put a sign in the window saying that he was out to lunch, and turned back, rubbing his hands. “All right, let’s go take a look.”

Ian smirked. “You taking a lot of lunch breaks these days, Sal?”

“Of course,” Sal said. “It’s great for business, believe it or not. Why sometimes, I spend nearly the whole day at lunch, and yet somehow the bills manage to get paid. Funny thing, in’it?”

They headed up the stairs. The second story was composed of apartments belonging to Sal and a few of his family members and employees. They passed this and headed to a small closet, which turned out to have a false back with a ladder behind it.

The inside looked almost more like a museum than a shop or an armory. Items were stacked and neatly labelled, many in glass cases.

“It’s not all weapons,” Sal said by way of explanation. “Also get some rare art and valuables in what I like to call a transfer of markets. You wouldn’t believe the things people misplace around here, you know.”

“I could use a crossbow,” Ian said. “Something smaller and quieter than a gun.”

“Ive got a neat spring loaded model over here,” Sal said. “Less bulky than the traditional bow types.”

“I’ll take a look,” Ian said, walking over to a rack of weapons. He was clearly familiar with this room. Sal looked at the other two. Connor was trying to appear aloof despite his obvious interest, and Drake looked nearly ready to devour the displays, though he kept tapping an obviously-empty coin pouch.

“Why don’t I show you some of our specialties?” Sal said. “We have all the standard ammunition and the like, but we have some unique items I think you’ll like.”

He led them over to a trunk and gently lifted the lid. Inside were a large assortment of utilitarian swords and knives in matte black. “Machine produced,” Sal said. “We specially designed some of our parts to leave these in the punch outs. They’re cheap, they’re sharp, and we coat ‘em in a special mix to hide fingerprints. Disposable and untraceable, for the discerning gentleman.”

Connor raised an scarred eyebrow. “Intriguing. I’ll keep them in mind.” Drake looked at the swords, then back to his pouch, then at his staff, and sighed.

“No thanks,” he said. “I think I’m well enough off with my staff.”

Sal eyed the sword on Connor’s back. “I know what you’d like,” he said. He shuffled over to one of several safes set in the wall, and set the knobs twirling with deceptively agile fingers. The vault opened smoothly, revealing an Oqidan blade in deep crimson.

Sal removed it reverentially. “This is a genuine Makara blade, boys. Hand-forged, quenched in blood, sharper than my ex-wife’s tongue. Had a warrior around here a few months back got into some trouble. I ended up with this.”

“May I?” Connor asked, his voice hushed and husky. Sal handed him the blade. Connor took it, hefted it, and unsheathed it a few inches. Then he sheathed it again and handed it back.

“I’ll take it,” he said.

Drake looked at his coin purse again and sighed.

“Excellent choice, sir,” Sal said. “Let’s see… Anything else you might like? We have a variety of alchemical vials, including some slippery compounds that are difficult to get this time of year. No? Ah, I know what might interest you. Another speciality of ours.”

He crossed the room to another display case and opened it, revealing what appeared to be a large variety of monocles.

“As you may know, certain elements have a strange effect when in contact with magical forces. Lead absorbs it, gold reflects it, and so on. Well, some of my acquaintances have found that certain structures of glass and other minerals can store magically-induced energy for a short time. Hence our unique and exclusive combat lenses.” He picked one up. It was a disk about the size of a large coin, cut with a peculiar pattern, and looped with thin wires of gold and silver.

“Should you know of any evokers – which I certainly do not, officer – then you could tell them that all they need to do is charge this lens with their abilities, and then throw it at the target. The lens will hold transfer the charge for several minutes, until it touches something or breaks. Much more efficient then using powers from a distance, I’m told.”

“I’ll take some of those, too,” Connor grunted.

“A most discerning gentlemen. Now, is there anything else I can do for you? Anything at all?”

“I found a crossbow,” Ian called out. “I think everyone else is finished as well.” The others nodded.

“Fine and dandy. Thanks for your business.”

“We still have a motorcycle for you to check,” Drake said.

“Ah, but that will be my pleasure, boys.”

“Does that means it’s free?” Connor asked skeptically. Sal looked caught slightly off guard.

“Well, maybe we’re not completely finished with business, though I do love working on machinery.”

“Don’t mind him, Sal,” Ian said. “I think he just likes keeping folks uncomfortable.”

“I like to do the same. Just wait until you get the bill!”

He laughed to himself and descended the stairs. Soon enough they had the motorcycle in the shop. Ian joined Sal in the work with apparent satisfaction.

“Where did you say you got this bike?” Sal asked.

“We didn’t,” Connor muttered. Ian rolled his eyes.

“Used to belong to the Blades.”

“Strange. They usually only have the best of the best. You know, driving Palanquins and Cirrus cruisers that they wouldn’t let a mechanic like me lay a greasy finger on. But this thing looks as though it were dragged through a brickyard and left to rot in a tar pit.” The others had to agree. The motorcycle appeared to be in decent shape, but it was far from pretty.

Sal and Ian continued to check parts, but grew more and more puzzled the deeper they delved. At last, Sal uncovered something in the engine, then stepped back and let off a series of calm curses.

“What?” Connor asked. “Did you find the problem?”

“Yeah,” Sal said. “There isn’t one.”

“What?”

Ian chimed in. “Not a thing wrong with it. In fact, this is the best-looking machine I’ve ever worked on. Custom built, perfect precision.”

“There’s a Sama motor in there,” Sal said. Ian’s eyes grew wide, and he shoved past Drake to get a look at it.

“By gum, there is,” he said, whistling.

“There’s some strange wiring and pistons in here too,” Sal commented.

“Yep, something’s going on. Connor, Drake, come see if you can find anything out of the ordinary. There’s more to this machine than meets the eye.”

Together, they searched the bike. Connor discovered that one of the handgrips could slide back and forth, and Drake found a pedal disguised as a footrest. After some experimentation, they found that by pressing on the pedal, they could then slide and twist the handgrip. As they did, two panels on either side of the front chassis fell open, and two miniature machine guns followed.

“Definitely more than it looks like,” Sal said. “Best hope the Blades don’t find out you got ahold of this.”

Connor pointed the bike at a blank wall and twisted the handle again, prompting a series of clicks from the guns. “I have some ammunition that’ll fit that,” Sal said. “Throw it in with the cost of the inspection.”

Ian thanked Sal as Connor performed the engaging sequence in reverse, causing the guns to fold back into the body of the bike.

“I’ll wager there’s more secrets here, if I know the Blades, but we don’t have any more time to pry them out,” Ian said. “We’ve got a meeting to attend.”

Connor paid Sal for his work, and shook hands, followed by the rest of the crew. Then they were off back to the safe house, to see what the news the Mongrels might have for them.

•••

A bit more occurred at the end of this session, but it is best left for next time. We got through things a bit better than in past sessions. Our heroes are starting to get tangled up in some pretty sticky webs… We shall have to see how things unravel. At least they’ll have a pretty boss motorcycle at their disposal.

I think I will be discontinuing the Radiance Info section for the time being, as anything else worth knowing will likely be revealed in the story. If not, I’ll be sure to include it when appropriate. Thank you for reading.

Posted by: lordkyler | August 23, 2014

Shapeshifter – A Random Work in Progress

So, I wanted to just write something. This happens from time to time.

I didn’t want to work on one of my official projects, just something unplanned. I decided to write in a style I haven’t really done before, a highly-informal first-person with a lot of personality showing. I had also wanted to try something cool with shapeshifting for a while because shapeshifting is cool.

So I started writing snippets from a vague idea, with no real plan of where it will go, although that begins to take shape in the snippets. It involves a kid getting caught up in an ancient war between shapeshifters, element-controllers, and technologists, due to the fact that his father is kind of the chosen one. In any case, I now present a series of random snippets with no real consequence, from which a plot may be roughly surmised. I am totally open to suggestions, constructive criticism, and cool ideas. I give you: Shapeshifter.

•••

“Come with me or you will die,” said the wolf standing in front of me. This was not a common occurrence. I live in Iowa. I do not live in a fantasy world with unicorns and talking dogs. But a wolf was crouched in front of me, talking. Its lips moved and everything.

“Brandon! We need to leave!” it said. How did it know my name? I had to be dreaming. It didn’t feel like a dream, but I’ve had that thought before, usually just before I woke up. I turned and started to walk away, hoping I wasn’t delusional, hoping I’d be able to drift into another, more normal dream. I made it about three steps before the earth exploded under my feet.

I was thrown backward by the force of the explosion, hit the sidewalk, ears ringing, coughing from the sudden clouds of dust in the air. I felt definite pain. Maybe this wasn’t a dream. I tried to stand up, but the blast had thrown off my sense of balance, and I fell back to the ground.

I lay there, dazed and confused, staring at the massive crater in the center of the Mikkelson’s driveway, like the world’s worst pothole. It looked like a meteor had struck. Did the Mikkelsons keep land mines in their driveway? As I watched, a mottled black and red substance began to bubble up from a crack in the center, a thick liquid, like honey. I had played enough video games to recognize it as lava: instant death. It began to flow of its own volition, uphill and over the lip of the crater.

I scrambled to try and crawl away from the lava flow, but I was not fast enough. It flowed in a river, like an anaconda slinking up to a mouse with deceptive smoothness. Already I could feel the heat warming my face, singing my shoelaces. I awkwardly crab-walked away, groping blindly for each step, unable to take my eyes off the stream of lava. I felt grass beneath my hands, then gravel, and then I hit my head on the fence that separated our house from the Mikkelsons. Good fences make good neighbors, said my dad.

I tried to push myself upright, using the walls for support, but there was no way I could escape in time. Already the flow had broadened into a syrupy wave of death, glowing red and gold as the scabs cracked on its surface.

I’m going to die by lava, I thought. Pretty cool way to die. In a video game it means you sucked, but that’s because there’s always a way out in video games. I wish there was a way out now.

Something descended on either side of me and picked me up like I was a stuffed animal in one of those arcade claw games you can never win. But unlike the claw game, I was not dropped to my doom. Instead, I found myself bouncing along, slung over the shoulder of somebody apparently wearing a fur coat.

Definitely a dream, I thought. A weird one too. It started out normal enough, wake up to alarm, shower, eat Fruit Loops, wait for the bus with my iPod. Then wolves and land mines and lava. Maybe if I think hard enough, I can still change this dream into something involving significantly more flight powers and cheerleaders.

I focused as hard as I could, squinting at my rapidly receding house. It seemed to work for a second. A man in a red bathrobe was standing in front of my house doing tai chi or something. But nope, there was the crater from earlier, and a ribbon of magma hung suspended in the air around him like a giant tentacle. He appeared to be fighting a biker gang decked out in post-apocalyptic gear and Christmas lights.

I didn’t see any more, as whoever was carrying me reached the end of the block and turned a corner. I gripped the fur coat to keep my balance, and heard a grunt from the person carrying me. I looked over my shoulder to see I was being carried by a gorilla. Of course I was.

“I told you to come with me,” said the gorilla, who I guess used to be a wolf. An unmarked white van pulled up and slid a door open.

“I’m not supposed to take rides from strangers,” I said.

An unseen voice came from the shadows of the van. “He’s in shock, and we’re out of time. Sedate him and move out.”

A bee stung the back of my neck and I decided to take a nap.

•••

I wake up in darkness, drenched with sweat. What kind of dream was that? I lay there for a few moments trying to sort everything out, but it’s hard to think. My mind feels foggy, sluggish. I try to sit up to get my blood moving and clear my head, but I find that I can’t move anything but my eyes and maybe a finger or two.

Suddenly, a light comes on, blindingly bright in the darkness. I squint, trying to protect my eyes while still seeing what’s going on. Above me, I see plain white metal, not my bedroom ceiling plastered with old glow-in-the-dark stars from when I was seven. The thought takes a moment to find its way through my muddled mind, then the conclusion reaches me. I am not in my bedroom. The dream was real.

I force my eyes open, and a face appears in front of me. It’s somebody I’ve never seen before. His hair is long and grey, and he has a scruffy beard that looks like a tangle of steel wool. His face is wrinkled, his eyebrows are bushy, and he’s wearing a patterned headband. He looks like an old hippie. Then he looks me in the eyes, and I change my mind. Those were not the eyes of a stoner or a beatnik. They are a vivid gold, and seem illuminated from within. There is some sort of primal power in those eyes, the gaze of a predator, calculating whether you’re worth the effort of chasing.

He seems to decide I’m worth it. “The sedatives will wear off soon,” he says. His voice is forceful and sharp. “I apologize for the inconvenience, but we were in desperate circumstances and had need to take whatever actions were expedient.”

I try to speak, though my throat is incredibly parched. “What’s going on?” I croak. “Who are you?”

“A friend,” he answered. “As for your purpose here, all will be revealed in time.”

“If you’re a friend, why am I tied up?”

“Technically, you are tied down,” he replied. “Our ride has been a bit… chaotic, and since you were sedated, we thought you would be safer if you were kept secured.”

“I’m awake now. How about untying me?”

The man narrows his eyes. “You are not very patient, Mr. White.”

I return the glare. “Are you going to let me out or not?”

“In good time,” he said. “You still have not fully recovered. We are nearly at our destination.”

“And where is that?” I ask. He places his fingertips together and stares up at the ceiling as if considering the question or perhaps praying for patience. I keep staring, and eventually he sighs and looks down.

“I could tell you, but I doubt you would listen. No, I will wait until you can see for yourself where and what we are.”

I’ve got a raging headache, and I would gladly trade front-line Superbowl tickets to be able to massage my temples, but no luck there. I’m strapped down in the back of a van with a complete stranger, I still don’t fully remember how I got here, and nobody will give me any answers. Only the feel of the straps on my wrists and my piercing migraine convince me this isn’t a crazy dream. I bite back the urge to let off a long string of muttered curses.

Suddenly, the van pitches forward, as if descending down a very steep slope. The blood rushes to my head, making my headache that much worse. I decide to indulge in the curses after all.

A few minutes later, the van levels out, then comes to a stop. The stranger stands up. “We’re here,” he says.

“I still don’t know where ‘here’ is,” I snap. “I don’t even know who you are!”

“My apologies,” he says. “I was hesitant to divulge too much until we had arrived in safety. My name is Calvin Hunt. Welcome to the Wilds.”

He opens the back of the van, and I am greeted by the most remarkable thing I have ever seen.

It was like the freaking Garden of Eden.

Imagine a cavern the size of the Superdome. Great. This cavern makes that one look like a cubbyhole. The cave was so large that at first I didn’t notice we were underground. The place had its own freaking climate. Clouds hovered near the roof, birds hovered on the breeze, a storm was brewing on the far end. I couldn’t tell where the light came from, but it was as bright as any summer day.

The bottom half of the cavern was simply covered in wilderness. Any kind, you name it, they had it. It was like a display of Earth’s Greatest Ecosystems. A tropical rainforest dominated the center of the cavern, giving way to deciduous forest as it spread. The forest was surrounded by a color wheel of different biomes: grassy plains and savannas, sand dunes, red mesas, an enormous lake, swamps… It was as if all the earth had been scrunched into one space.

“Come,” says Calvin. “We shall take you to the Heart of the Wilds, and then I will explain what is happening and who we are.” I make a move to get into the van, but he places a hand on my shoulder and shakes his head. “No vehicles within the Wilds. We use technology as little as possible.”

That didn’t bode well for me. I tend to have difficulty breathing without wifi. At least, when I’m not busy being abducted. I ignore this for the time being. “You expect me to walk? It’ll take hours to get to the middle.”

“That will change after the induction,” Calvin smirks, “but for now, we can accommodate your… fragility.” I scowled, but Calvin either didn’t notice or else he didn’t care. He continues, “Have you ever been horseback riding?”

Seriously?

•••

“This is your first form,” said Calvin. I’m looking down at a dog, like a husky or a malamute or whatever. A sled dog. Then it curls its lip back and reveals its teeth. Nope, not a dog. A wolf.

“I want you to stare deep into its eyes,” he continues. “You must understand the animal to become it. Much of that understanding will come with practice and experience, but it is important to learn as much as you can before shifting.”

I nod and kneel down. My face is inches away from this animal’s head. I notice I am shaking a little. Why shouldn’t I? All I can think is that I must look like a chew toy to him.

“Hey boy,” I say, but as soon as I look into his eyes, it sounds wrong. LIke snuggling up with a shark.

The wolf’s eyes are yellowish gray, and they are bright. They are intelligent. This is no droopy-eyed basset hound or bug-eyed pug. These are a hunter’s eyes, calculating and piercing. And yet the wolf exudes a sense of serenity, of power under control. I feel like it understands me, in some ways better than most of the people I grew up with.

I know I should study the wolf more broadly, examine the thick, sleek coat, the taut, trim muscles, the sharp gleaming fangs, but I can’t. The eyes draw me in and hold me like they are magnetic, as though we have connected as strongly as two electric wires, filling me with new knowledge. The wolf is dangerous but not arrogant. Strong but not invincible. Tireless, faithful, intelligent. I can feel it all resonate with my mind and soul. Calvin has chosen well for my first form.

A hand brushes my back and startles me out of my trance. Instinctively, I snap at the intrusion, but my fangs click closed on empty air. I immediately spring to my feet, feeling the hair on my back bristle in response to danger. My brother responds likewise. In front of me, a strange creature standing on its hind feet holds up its forelegs.

“Calm down, Brandon,” it says soothingly. Brandon? Oh.

I look down and see paws instead of hands. As the realization hits me, I rear backward from surprise, and this time feel the change as my body twists and reshapes itself like clay, ending up in my human form. As myself.

“What the hell was that?” I snap.

“You shifted,” Calvin says, again using the soothing tone. “And quite well for your first time. Don’t be alarmed.”

“Don’t be alarmed?” I repeat. “Don’t be alarmed? I just turned into a freaking wolf!”

Calvin cocks his head to the side in curiosity. “Well, of course. That was the point.”

“I expected I would know when it was happening! One second I was kneeling on the ground and the next I’m ready to roll over and drink out of the toilet!”

“It is largely an instinctive process. In fact, the fact that you did it without conscious thought is an excellent indicator of talent. A talent that will likely save your life sooner than later.”

“Listen, it’s great that I’m a part of your little club now, but that was not what I had in mind. No matter how cool it might be to fly around or whatever else you do here, if I can’t control it, I don’t want it.”

“I assure you that within a short time, you will be in complete control of the process,” Calvin says.

“Will I? For a second there I didn’t even remember I was human! How can I be sure I won’t turn into a caterpillar and spend the rest of my time munching leaves because I forget who I am?”

Up until this point, Calvin has been projecting this whole ‘wise mentor’ image as if he were Yoda or something, but at this last statement, all that drops away. His eyebrows shoot up and he leans toward me. His expression changes from regal and wise to sharp and suspicious in about a millisecond.

“You forgot?” he asks, his voice a strange mixture of incredulity, awe, and accusation. “What do you mean?”

I am a bit pleased to have cracked his facade, but his sudden interest frightens me a little. Angers me. He drags me into this and doesn’t even bother to explain the risks?

“I mean that until you said my name, I WAS a wolf. Inside and outside. I didn’t even recognize you. Like, as a species.”

Calvin puckers his lips and turns away. He strokes his chin and taps his foot. I stare for several seconds, feeling like I’m staring at a computer loading screen, a little beach ball spinning around in his head as he computes. One thing is clear. This is unexpected news to him. Again, I feel that strange mixture of triumph that I do not fit neatly into their plans and fear that everything has gone terribly wrong. Or gotten worse, anyway.

“That is… most unusual,” he says. I hate it when people use weaselly words like that. “This… condition… is not unheard of, but neither is it common. I’m will have to discuss this with the council. Please wait here.”

I stare incredulously at him as he scurries away, stupid robes dragging on the ground behind him until he gets outside, shifts into a bird, and flaps away. Without telling me a thing about what’s going on with me. What a tool.

I hear a strange growl, but the wolf is no longer in the room. He was taken out when I started shouting with Calvin. I hear it again, and this time I feel it too. It’s me. I am growling. I run my tongue along my teeth and find they have all changed into ivory daggers. The rest of me is still human.

More confused and angry than before, I burst out of the room, through the same door Calvin used. I spy a crow perched on the edge of the roof and stare at it until I can shift into a close approximation. Then I take to the sky.

It is clumsy and unpracticed, but it works well enough. I am flying, and is a thousand daydreams come true, but I am too focused on my task to feel excitement, too angry to truly become the crow. I am going to this meeting, and I will be getting some answers, one way or another.

•••

Some time later…

“The elements slumber, content to lay dormant and react only when acted upon. But we can awaken the elements and command them to do our bidding.” David demonstrates his words by waving his hand and causing wind to swirl around us.

“Why are we in a parking lot?” I ask, but he ignores me.

“The shapeshifters rely on their own power,” he says. “They transform themselves into whatever shape they need. However, relying on their own strength limits their power. What is the most powerful beast they can channel? An elephant? A bear? A whale? Ha! What elephant can conquer an earthquake? What bear could defeat fire? What can a whale do against the ocean? By awakening the elements, we control the power of the earth itself, to which all things must submit.”

He kneels down and places his fingertips on the asphalt. “All we need is to ask.” He closes his eyes, then stands up, pulling off a chunk of the asphalt with him, a perfectly spherical piece of blacktop the size of a basketball, ripped out of the parking lot with his bare hands. He blinks, and the sphere begins to glow from within. It is heating up.

“So, if you want to be one of us, cast away your foolish shapeshifter ideas, and embrace the power of the earth.” The asphalt sphere is glowing like a coal now, smoke pouring off it like a comet’s tail. He looks me in the eye. “All you have to do is ask.”

In a flash, he lifts the sphere and sends it flying toward me. There is no time to shift. Not even enough time to think. Only time enough to act without thinking. Acting on an impulse I cannot understand, I clap my hands together.

A wall of air rushes forward, catching the fiery sphere in midair and sending it back towards John. In a smooth motion, he leaps into the air, cutting through the sudden gale like a diver through water. As the sphere passes, he snatches it out of the air, does a perfect flip, and lands like Iron Man, smacking the glob of asphalt into the hole it came from. I stand there, bewildered, and he smiles at me, like he was expecting it.

“Very good,” he said. “I thought your pride might overcome you, but you submitted and asked Gaia for help. Very good indeed.”

I didn’t ask anybody for anything. I just acted, and it happened without conscious thought. I had a sudden flashback to Calvin’s reaction during my first shift, when I hadn’t fit into his expectations. I know in an instant that David will react the same way, or worse.

I don’t trust myself to come up with a lie right now, so I stifle my questions and switch to another emotion I’m experiencing again. Anger.

“You think you could have managed this without chucking meteors at me?” I snarl. David merely shakes his head as if this has all been a harmless practical joke.

“Desperation leads to desperate measures. This was the fastest way to determine whether or not you could become one of us.”

“And if I couldn’t have stopped it?”

He pats down the edges of the still-steaming asphalt. “Then we would have no need of you,” he says matter-of-factly. My stomach lurches. How many have failed this test? He continues, heedless of my disgust. “But that’s irrelevant, because you passed. Welcome to the family.”

He holds out his hand, grinning, and I shake it and smile back. But inside I’m wondering if this is really the kind of family I want to be in.

•••

Later Still…

Lightning flashes. There’s a single moment where Calvin is perfectly silhouetted against the stormy sky, already shifting into the form of a bear. The crash of thunder is louder than I expected. I’ve become the wolf again. More sensitive hearing. Not the best  choice to fight a bear. But I didn’t choose this form.

It chose me.

Calvin roars, a deep, throaty sound. Then he charges. Maybe you haven’t seen a bear charge. Maybe you think they’re all roly-poly like Winnie the Pooh. They are not. They can run faster than you. Much faster. Having a bear charge at you is like having a truck coming at you. Or a tank on nitro.

But wolves are faster still. More agile. And so I charge at him, too, and when he swipes a paw the size of a frying pan at me, I duck underneath it and shoot past. He wheels around, but I’m shifting again. Gray hair retracts, leaving only skin that is quickly turning grey. I am growing larger, and fast.

By the time Calvin has spun around, I am the size of a car. He can tell by my skin that I’m going for something large, like an elephant or a rhino. So he changes his game. The grizzly seems to shrivel up, like a grape left in the sun, collapsing in on itself, fur seeming to melt like wax and harden into scales.His legs shrivel up as his body transforms into a living whip. By the time I am fully elephant, he has become a cobra. I try to step on him, to crush him like a strand of spaghetti, but he has slithered off, and I cannot see him through the pounding rain.

I have to transform, and quickly. Not even an elephant can ignore a cobra bite. My first instinct is to transform into a bird, but with the weather, there’s no way I could fly. I decide to take the fight to him. What is the perfect counter to a snake? A mongoose.

My elephant form deflates like a circus tent with the poles removed. Within seconds, the transformation is complete. The mongoose is full of energy, like a squirrel, but all focused, like a laser. A flicker of movement catches my eye amidst all the raindrops, and I make for it. My sensitive nose suddenly picks up a strange scent that is definitely not a snake.

Another flash of lightning illuminates a large form in front of me, and I realize I have made a terrible mistake. A lynx bursts out of the downpour and snatches me. Instinctively, I begin another shift, growing larger.

To be continued if and when I feel like it.

Posted by: lordkyler | July 26, 2014

Minecraft Renders

Minecraft is an addicting game. For good reason, it is often compared to legos, in the sense that a few basic blocks can be combined to create practically anything you can imagine. Minecraft is also noted for having very simplistic, and basic graphics. While this helps with the somewhat cartoonish aspect of the game and is a blessing for those with older computers, sometimes this means that your epic creations sometimes just don’t look quite as majestic as they should. Texture packs can freshen things up, and some folks with beefy computers can install shaders to make their games look gorgeous in real time, but for the rest of us, there is Chunky.

Chunky allows you to take any Minecraft world you have, and then compose and render a scene from it. It has a variety of options including camera adjustments and texture pack support. Best of all, it is free and fairly simple to use! I just thought I would take the opportunity to show you some renders of things I’ve built (or am currently building) in Minecraft. More may follow someday.

Mountains may not be purple, but they are majestic

These are some crazy hill formations near one of my bases on my single player/LAN world map.

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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. Read More…

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.

Read More…

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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