Swords, Soldiery, & Demons: This Month’s Story for You

I’ve started posting my first serialized story to my Patreon page: The Prince of Luster and Decay.  I’m going to use Patreon as a fiction portal, a way to tell stories week to week.  This is in exchange for the generous support of Patrons, who donate a benevolent weekly or monthly amount (as low as a single dollar) to provide for some of their favorite creative content.

I see on Patreon now there are people who actually make a living from doing podcasts or Youtube vids about playing video games, doing sketch comedy, painting, etc.  Make a living purely by virtue of the thousands of people who contribute to their efforts.  By making videos of them playing video games!  Never thought I’d see the day.

So I figured, What the hell?  If they can get support from strangers to do that, maybe I can  get some help with the expenses of producing quality fiction and novels.

So far, almost no one has noticed.  And I”m not going to kill myself trying waving my arms about trying to get attention.  If I spend my time doing that instead of writing, I’ll be missing the whole point, right?

So if this is something you’d like to support, by all means, please, check out my Patreon page by clicking here.  I’ll be supplying quality escapism on a weekly basis.  And I’ll greatly appreciate every single penny that any fans see fit to donate to my cause.

I’ve already posted the first chapter of The Prince and am about to post the second.  Most of this second chapter (it has four scenes, I think), and all the subsequent chapters, you’ll only get by joining the cult–I mean, community.  Or by buying the book outright.  But here’s one scene that I think sets it up nicely:

The officers’ tent was one of the last still standing as the camp was being dismantled.  It smelled of pipe smoke and coffee.  That blackest tea was a rare luxury in these lands, though Knox had had some before.  It reminded him of the Stewards’ Inn back home and of the treasures that kind couple had brought to Redfield as they retreated from the war.  The Inn had become the warm heart of his hometown, a place to rest and share stories with neighbors.  Then the violence came south enough to threaten even Redfield and the nobles and officers of the north came asking for volunteers.  What choice did he have?

He pushed the memory from his mind.  The time for reflection had ended and duty called once again.

Knox came to attention at the tent’s open flap and waited.  Inside, the company’s last two officers sat on sturdy wooden chairs around a collapsible table.  Chaplain Kane sat silently smoking his pipe and stroking his mustache, no doubt reviewing the vast wisdom of his sermon.  Lieutenant Rosenthal studied a map on the table.  To his left was the portable iron stove where the coffee brewed in an ornate pewter kettle.

“Come in, Sergeant,” Rosenthal said absently.

Knox came two paces into the tent and waited.  He noticed the captain’s crest pinned on Rosenthal’s chest, the bronze hawk’s head shining against the red of his tunic.  Captain Rosy? Knox thought.  It was true then: Captain Brighton had been killed in last night’s attack, and that bastard had promoted himself in Brighton’s place.  The honorable captain must have been buried alongside his men that morning without an official word being uttered.  And Rosenthal, naturally, became his successor.

Being of privileged blood doesn’t make you a leader of men, Knox thought.  The words nearly escaped his lips, but he didn’t feel up to arguing with the young nobleman today.

“I’m thinking of renaming the company,” the new captain said, talking to the chaplain, not the lowly sergeant.  “Rosenthal’s Rose Thorns has some poetry to it.  Maybe even change the heraldry from ‘Brighton’s blue’ to a sharp scarlet.  What do you think?”

Chaplain Kane just arched an eyebrow and blew smoke.


The officer’s expression expected high praise.  Knox was pleased to disappoint: “Sounds like a terrible idea, sir.”

“Excuse me?”

“These men earned the name Stormwalkers.  They’ll tell their grandchildren about breaking that siege against the wind and rain, and every time they do the weather will get worse and the battle more desperate, and it’ll be the one thing they have to be proud of against all this other dismal scruff.  Don’t take that away from them.  Sir.

Rosenthal’s face showed disbelief at the sergeant’s audacity, but the old priest was slowly nodding.  “He has a point, Captain.  Today has been eventful enough.  I’d recommend holding any more changes for the time being.”

“Very well.”  Rosenthal eyed Knox coolly before turning away to refill his cup.  “I’d offer you some coffee, Sergeant, but this is the last of it.”

“Save it, sir.  Already had some this morning.”

The captain’s thin lips curled into an ironic smile.  “Certainly you did, Sergeant, certainly.  Always quick to crack wise.  I hope you’re as quick on the march.”  He hooked the air with a finger, calling Knox like a dog, then planted that finger on a cluster of trees on his map.  “Take your Head Knockers back east.  Our scouts have found a village about here.  It’s likely the source of last night’s attack.”

“Sir…”  The word creaked from Knox’s throat.  “There are only four Head Knockers left, including myself.  We lost three last night: Moss, Harrison, and Mueller, my three best men.  Surely you don’t expect us to sack an enemy camp—”

“Certainly Brighton’s favorite squad,” Rosenthal sneered, “even at half strength, can handle any assignment given to them.”

“Fear not, Sergeant.”  Chaplain Kane stood.  “It’s no enemy camp.”

“We suspect,” Rosenthal continued, “that the ratling creatures that attacked us were residents of that town, twisted by the evil magicks of the enemy.  Your mission is simply to investigate and determine if we are correct.”

“And if you are?”

Kane spoke around the pipe in his teeth: “If we are correct then the town will be abandoned, its population buried here: man, woman and child.  I will send one of my acolytes with you to consecrate the village square and purify its water source.  By Raeph’s blessings, that is all that should be required.”

Man, woman, and child…  Most of the dead in those trenches had been inhuman at the moment of ambush but became husbands and wives, mothers, fathers, and children again once met by sword or spear.  Knox felt the weight of guilt again but refused to slump in the officers’ presence.

“It should be all that is required,” Kane added, “though I must admit, there is another possibility.  It could be that the fountain of this poison is still hiding in the village, in which case it would fall to you to root it out and destroy it.  Such a source of evil could be a blasphemous sorcerer, an artificer of devilish devices, or possibly… the Prince.”

Knox had no patience for riddles.  “What prince would that be, sir?”

“The Prince of Luster and Decay.  The evil metamorphosis of these victims indicates a corruption indicative of just such a demon.  The Prince is fully capable of creating that horde of beasts from its own foul nature.”

“And if we encounter such a creature, sir?”

“Kill it,” Captain Rosenthal answered sharply.  “And then quickly catch up with us.  I’ll be taking the rest of the company north to Rivertree.  We’ll resupply, reinforce, and check in with the command post there.  I intend to join Colonel Farnsworth’s brigade in the retaking of the Denbury mines.”

Even the thought of leading three soldiers barely old enough to shave against an actual demon was somehow less aggravating than this.

“A noble cause, sir,” Knox growled, “especially since I’ve heard that Colonel Farnsworth has promised ten years of profit sharing from those mines to all officers involved in the operation.”

Rosenthal flushed as red as his tunic.  “Where did you hear that?”

It must be true, then, Knox thought.  Gizzard had overheard the conversation while on watch last night.  “Amazing the benefits that war provides a privileged few, wouldn’t you agree, sir?  Lucky for some that wars exist at all.”

“I can assure you,” Kane said, “that the mines’ value in this war effort far outweighs any personal gain to be had.  And the scriptures teach us: ‘The only reward of value is the blessing of the One God.  It is as grain to the starving and breath to the drowning.  It takes no strength to bear yet outweighs even a hundred bricks of gold.’”

“Reminds me of something I’ve heard, Chaplain,” Knox said.  “‘The desire for wealth is as a rat burrowed deep in the hearts of men: the more it feeds, the larger it becomes and the greater its hunger.’”

Kane arched his eyebrows.  “Impressive, sergeant.  Not a scripture I’m familiar with.  Are you a learned man?”

“No, but Moss was.  Of course he’s dead now.  Too bad he couldn’t stick around long enough to fight for your hundred bricks of gold.”

“Enough!” Rosenthal huffed.  “Just do your job, Sergeant, and bring my men promptly back to me.  You are not to dawdle.  Dismissed!”




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s