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Thread: "Book"

  1. #1

    6 "Book"

    Sorry to jump from story to story...

    Yeah, it annoys me too...

    Anyway, this is my current project:


    Chapter One

    Snake made his way through the streets and alleys. He was no stalker, but he’d mastered a certain amount of stealth over the years.

    He was twelve years old and only barely weighed sixty pounds. No one had ever taught him to be brave, so he survived by evading and fleeing confrontation whenever possible.

    Snake was always hungry.

    He had talked to the strange trio of men twice before and he didn’t trust them.

    The master was obviously rich. Both his giant bodyguards wore the finest of silks, soft leathers and had elaborately engraved and silver plated conchos reinforcing their leather armor.

    One servant had an amethyst ring and the other had a big ruby ring.

    The master though, was an odd man who dressed in black denim from head to foot and eschewed ornament. It was very odd to see a man spend more on his servants’ raiment than he did on his own.

    Snake knew about men who wanted to use little boys like women. Perhaps he was lucky, but he’d never experienced that humiliation in his short life. That was no reason to start now.

    Still, he didn’t think the men were trying to recruit him to play meat games. It wasn’t anywhere near that challenging to find a far more experienced and willing partner.

    That didn’t mean that they weren’t trying to con Snake into something almost as bad.

    Snake’s attention was behind him, watching for the strange trio, when he ran straight into Liss the capador head-on.

    The man was bigger than either of the master’s bodyguards. He wore a brightly colored beggar’s coat sewn from multiple scraps of brightly colored fabric. Liss wore a big sword and he had a black eye-patch over the empty socket where his right eye had been.

    “What’s this? Are little boys running to me to be geld now?” the capador said.

    Snake twisted to the point that he was in danger of tearing the muscles of his arm, but it was to no avail.

    “We were stalking that young man ourselves,” the drably dressed master said.

    “That’s your problem,” Liss said.

    Liss had six of his men with him and they laughed uproariously at his wit.

    “They capture young boys and turn them into eunuchs,” the bigger guard, the one with the big ruby ring on his left forefinger explained to his plain master.

    “I thought slavery and castration were both illegal in this kingdom,” the master said.

    “These fellows don’t really care about the law,” the ruby wearer explained.

    The drab master hunched his shoulders forward timidly while wringing one hand with the other in a servile manner.

    “I’ll give you a gold coin for him,” the man said.

    “Screw off!” Liss spat at the man.

    Snake never saw the black clothed man draw. One moment he seemed to be kow-towing to Liss. The very next instant he had a slim cap and ball revolver in his right fist.

    The pistolero went for headshots only.

    Liss’ brains showered Snake. Then the man started working his way down the line.

    The larger guard drew his huge leaf-bladed scimitar. He chopped one capador diagonally from the middle of his left collarbone almost to the upper edge of the pelvis bone on the man’s right. Then he viciously yanked his blade loose with a single jerk and then beheaded the man next to the first.

    His companion drew his huge seven-shot, fifty-caliber cap and ball revolver—the type heavily favored by palace guards—and shot a huge capador with three hyper-rapid shots.

    By then the drab master had already killed the other four—leaving his bodyguards looking a bit foolish.

    “Grab the boy,” the master said.

    “He still doesn’t want to come with us,” the second, smaller guard said.

    “Dude,” the master addressed Snake, “You are in my debt. You’ll dine with us tonight. You can leave tomorrow if you still want to go then. I’ll even give you a gold coin, a dagger and a big breakfast—what say?”

    ************** ************** ********************

    There were a dozen other children at the compound the master took him to. As the newest arrival though, Snake sat at the table with the master.

    “My name is ‘Book’,” the drab master told Snake. “The big man is ‘Yamane’ and the smaller one is his cousin ‘Amat’.

    “I can see that you’re not used to eating all you want. Eat slowly and give your stomach time to tell you that it is full.

    “Puking is no fun and besides, it is wasteful,” Book said.

    “You’re very lucky,” Yamane told Snake. “The capadores grabbed my older brother when I was three years old.”

    “What happened?” Book asked.

    Yamane shrugged.

    “He killed his new master and escaped three years later, but his stones were still gone. He became a very large and powerful man, notwithstanding his disability.

    “Today he is the head harem guard for a rich foreigner who chooses to live in our kingdom. He is fairly wealthy, but no whole man will break bread with him.

    “I would like to kill every capador in the kingdom—and in kingdoms all around too,” Yamane spat.

    “Would you break bread with your brother if he were here?” Book asked.

    “He is my brother,” Yamane snapped defiantly.

    “Ask him if he’d like to join my household,” Book said. “I doubt that I can equal what the merchant pays him.

    “But should he choose to serve me, he will dine here at the head table with you and Amat as well as me and Snake—should Snake chose to join us.

    “You’re not too proud to dine with a gelding are you?” Book asked Snake.

    “If I stay, what will I be required to do?” Snake asked.

    “Required? Nothing is required. Eat and loaf in your bunk or lollygag around the compound all day if you will.

    “Expected? I can’t properly describe what we’re doing. Maybe you’ll have the gist of it in three or four years.

    “Or at least, perhaps I will.

    “It is the two-fold way of the sword and the pen.

    “You are invited to become a warrior, a scholar and a priest. As warriors, we aren’t expected to soldier. As priests, we take no vows of celibacy.

    “You are free to go anytime that you choose to and you are always free to return if you decide that you’ve left unwisely.

    “In the meantime we eat well and try to have some fun.

    “Can’t get any more fair than that—can you?”

    “I’ll tell you after breakfast,” Snake said.

    “You’re cautious. That’s good!” Book commended him.

    *********** **************** ***************

    The brothers stripped Snake naked.

    “Is there anything precious to you in that pile of filth?” An adolescent brother asked him.

    “I have a knife and three copper coins,” Snake protested.

    The brother examined Snake’s knife dubiously. It had a slightly rusty three-inch blade and the wooden grips were partially splintered.

    “Burn the rest,” the brother commanded.

    “Sit,” a servant demanded.

    “Why?” Snake demanded.

    “I’m going to shave your head and any body hair that you may have,” the servant said.

    “I don’t want my head shaved,” Snake objected.

    “You can let it grow back, but we don’t want you bringing fleas, ticks or lice into our home.”

    “These dudes are shaved headed,” Snake pointed out suspiciously.

    “Many of the brothers find a shaved head comfortable and choose to keep up the practice,” the servant said.

    “Why do they send a slave to shave me?”

    “I’m a free man and I work in the kitchen—but I have a steady hand. If you’d rather be scalped by one of the brothers…”

    After his shave, they insisted that Snake climb into a very large tub full of cloudy medicinal smelling water.

    “Book said that I could leave in the morning,” it occurred to Snake to protest.

    “Indeed, but we can’t have you contaminating our beds and blankets in the meantime—now can we now?”

    “Drink this,” a brother demanded.

    “What is it?” Snake demanded while smelling the foul-smelling cup.

    “It kills worms,” the brother said.


    The brother brought over a jar filled with salted vinegar water and a thick rope of round worms.

    “One of the brothers shat that out after the worming. The worms sneak into your gutty-works and steal food from you.

    “Some of them are smaller and harder to see. If you’re to grow and become strong, it helps a great deal to be parasite free.”

    No one bothered to tell Snake that some of the wormer’s foul taste was from a generous dose of opium. The wine that they gave him to wash the wormer down with was rather strong as well.

    Snake forgot his understandable but unfounded paranoia as he drifted off to sleep.

    The senior brother carried Snake to a guest bed and carefully tucked him in.

    ************** ***************** **************

    The senior brother woke Snake the next morning, by poking him from beyond arm’s length with a pole.

    Snake was shocked beyond words to find himself strip-stark naked.

    “Those clothes are yours,” the brother told him. “If you choose to stay, we’ll issue you work clothing more suitable for hard training.

    “Those are a bit fine for that.”

    Snake had never owned such a fine set of clothes.

    The brother had a small leather bag.

    “We don’t steal from brothers. We take care of our own,” the brother said.

    He showed Snake his three copper coins—they having been highly polished in the meantime—as well as five slightly larger silver coins. That way there could never be any question of them having cheated Snake somehow.

    Snake’s knife had been ground to a sharper edge and the ragged wooden handles had been replaced with shiny bone.

    There were two knives slightly smaller knives, though of much higher quality, along with a small Bowie with a six-inch blade. All the new knives had stag handles and were shiny and razor-sharp.

    “You’re not large enough to wield a full-sized Bowie well. But that knife will serve you well, even when you’re full-grown.

    “Size isn’t everything.

    “Wear the big knife openly while here. Conceal the other two, wherever it pleases you.

    “Wear your knife too, if you choose. The steel and workmanship is inferior—but even inferior weapons can serve a purpose and more weapons are always to the good.

    “Is the knife a gift from a loved one?”

    “I found it amongst some trash in a back alley” Snake shrugged.

    “Well these knives are gifts from brothers who love you,” the brother said. “My name is ‘Clay’.”

    “You don’t know me!” Snake’s paranoia flared.

    “Jesus said that we’re all brothers and to love your neighbor as yourself.

    “Even if you decide to go, remember Jesus. Research him diligently.

    “Of course, if you stay, you’ll learn plenty about him, without half trying.”

    ***************** ********** **************

    Yamane’s eunuch brother was sitting at the breakfast table.

    Snake had thought Yamane was very large.

    Liss had been a half head taller than Yamane—and thicker too.

    Sturm was a head taller than Liss. His arms and shoulders, along with his bull neck were epic. He was more than a little thick through the middle—but that often went along with being castrated young.

    Sturm didn’t carry anywhere near the fat of a typical sumo though.

    Food was too precious to Snake to worry about who he ate with. Anyway, Snake thought of himself as the lowest of the low. He could fall no lower.

    He had no strong feelings about eunuchs one-way or the other—outside of the fact that he very definitely didn’t want to become one.

    “After breakfast, you’ll need to go through the shaving, bath and worming,” Book told Sturm.

    “I assure you that I’m not dirty,” Sturm replied hotly.

    “Seventy-two years I’ve walked the Earth Sturm.

    “That is, I’ve walked this world and my own world for a combined total of seventy-two years.

    “I have never backed down from a challenge.

    “If you wish to challenge me, do so. Omit the challenge and reach for blade or gun—or scream and leap.

    “You can disagree with me. You can slander and insult me. You can even spit on my shadow.

    “Never, ever raise your voice to me. Do you understand?

    “I will kill or be killed before I will endure being shouted at.

    “I don’t give a rat’s derrière how clean you are. The cleansing is a ceremony that all my people go through.

    “The boy beside you isn’t ashamed to eat with a eunuch. Are you ashamed to be shaved and be bathed as he was?”

    Book turned to Snake.

    “Here is your gold coin. Stay or go—It is yours to keep either way.

    “Sturm, I’m not angry with you. I loose temper very quickly when folks boost the volume of their speech. It is a fault that I strive against.

    “Please forgive me.

    “Now I have duties to attend to.”

    Snake was left alone with the giant eunuch.

    “Would you be my friend?” the big man asked him piteously.

    “When they cut me, they held my head under water until I passed out. When I woke, I was already cut and cauterized with fire.

    “I shower but I fear more than a cup of standing water.

    “I’m not sure that I can pass this test—and I’m ashamed to tell my brother, or my cousin or Book,” Sturm said.

    “Wait here,” Snake said.

    ***************** ************ ************

    “There was opium in the wormer,” Snake said. “I have tasted it before, though it didn’t come to me until later.”

    “So?” Clay said.

    Snake held up his gold coin—a large gold coin.

    “You’ve seen the eunuch. Sell me enough of your opium to make him very happy and I’ll give you this.

    “I could buy twenty times that much in town, but time is short,” Snake said.

    “What is the deal?”

    “It is a secret,” Snake said.

    “We brothers don’t betray each other’s secrets,” Clay said. “Share and update.”

    ************** *************** *****************

    There was no particular reason for Snake to witness the big eunuch’s shaving—but neither was there any real reason to exclude him.

    Sturm’s mind seemed to be on grander things throughout the process. He even nodded off a few times.

    When it was time for Sturm to bathe though, Clay and Snake ran everyone else out of the room—much to some of the brother’s total mystification.

    Snake coaxed the tranquilized giant into the tub and held his hand and soothed him while Clay made sure that he was thoroughly bathed. That part of the ceremony was not optional.

    “I don’t know about worming him now,” Clay said. “He’s already swimming in opium.”

    While he was ruminating, Sturm took the pitcher from him and downed the entire contents and then burped loudly.

    “What was that all about?” one of the brothers asked Snake as he left the infirmary.

    “The big man is mighty shy about who sees his private parts—or lack thereof. We all have flat sides to out wheels,” Snake lied shamelessly.

    After that, the three of them shared a special bond.

    The bond between the eunuch and Snake was the strongest though.

    Snake was Sturm’s brother and the son he’d never have, and an annoying and endearing pet—like a Rat Terrier.

    Snake felt loyalty and solidarity for all the brotherhood eventually. Sturm was the only one that he loved like family. His mother had been his only family and love, but she’d died when he was seven.

    Sturm was all the family that he’d never had, all rolled into the giant’s grim looking body.

    ************* ************ ***************

    Snake weighed in at sixty-two pounds—stunted and starved, and from a relatively small-statured race to boot.

    They put Snake on a relatively undemanding weight training régime.

    Monday and Wednesday and Friday mornings he did squats, bench presses, bent-over rows, and presses behind the neck for five sets of five.

    Then he did straight-legged deadlifts for three sets of eight, and dumbbell curls, triceps extensions and leg curls for two sets of eight.

    He hardly worked up a sweat the first few weeks. But the weights he used were increased very gradually, but relentlessly.

    They added a pound to his 5x5 exercises every week for six weeks. The seventh week they cut his weight in half.

    His body needed time to rest occasionally, they told him. It rested better lifting half weights than it would stagnating completely.

    When he started the next cycle, it was always with the fifth week’s poundage from the last cycle.

    The eight repetition exercises had their weights increased less often. They were mainly for assistance and if the weight on the earlier exercises rose, then doing the same movements with the same weight afterward was still working harder.

    No one put much emphasis on his weight training, because the brothers didn’t want Snake to be obsessed.

    Strength—real exceptional strength—could only be built slowly over a period of years.

    They fed Snake a steady diet of rich protein laden food. They encouraged him to top off each meal by drinking more milk than he really wanted.

    No one would call Snake strong when he started.

    He weighed sixty-two pounds and bench-pressed only thirty pounds for five sets of five.

    A year later Snake was four inches taller. He weighed seventy-eight pounds and he bench-pressed seventy-five pounds for five sets of five. And arguably, he was no better able to prevail in a back-alley street fight, even against other youths, than he would have been a year earlier.

    Every morning the brothers started their day with swordplay.

    For Snake that meant swinging a stick endlessly. They swung to build strong wrists, the type that it takes years for a good swordsman to develop. They practiced parrying techniques—though without partners. And they practiced thrusting the practice swords through rings and batted at small bags suspended on strings to develop pinpoint accuracy.

    And all the right handed, including Snake, were turned into left hand swordsmen.

    There was wrestling and while the boys and girls never struck each other, there were boxing drills, rope jumping and heavy and light bag striking drills.

    There were sand pits both inside and outside. There were also tatami type mats in other indoor practice rooms as well as exercise stairways that led nowhere and where some limited drills were done.

    It was very hard to scuffle safely on stairs. The idea was to build skills, not cripple or maim the boys and girls for life.

    All the brother’s wore a twelve-foot long rope on their left hip. The rope was made of braided leather and very flexible. There was a ball of steel perhaps an inch and a half wide with a hole drilled through it on one end of the rope.

    At the other end was a ring just big enough to easily pass the ball through and make a lasso.

    The rope had many functions. It could be used as a meteor hammer or a lasso. It could be used as a garrote, or to trip or hang someone. It could be used as a whip of sorts or to bind and gag an opponent.

    It could even be used to climb short distances, though the brothers were taught to be very reluctant to abandon their rope.

    Book told him that elite soldiers called “Rangers” from his homeland had once carried and used such ropes as weapons, though the practice had died while Book was a small boy.

    He freely admitted that he knew only the rudiments of flexible weapons and no one on this world used them to any great extent.

    He showed them some basic ways to use the Ranger rope for joint-locks and throws. He told them of skilled folk who would bind you hand and foot while you fought them.

    He encouraged the children to find new applications for their ropes and when fighting in earnest, to always be ready for a chance to bring the rope into play suddenly and unexpectedly.

    Ranger ropes would not replace revolvers, or swords or even knives—but they gave the brothers an edge.

    Snake learned to read roman style printing his first year at the school and how to write it too. They taught him how to count and to add and subtract.

    The teachers read stories to the students, both from the King James Bible and from children’s Bible stories.

    The brothers were big on memorization and they taught mnemonics. The children began by memorizing the names of the books of the Bible. Then they memorized a brief summary of each book.

    Eventually they’d be expected to know how many chapters were in each book and give a brief description of each chapter’s contents. But as with the weight training, that was a long-term project.

    The brothers taught them to draw and paint. They taught anatomy in ever-greater detail through the years. As time went on, they acquired a nice set of skeletons, including a few human ones.

    Taulin and Rye were also spoken in the kingdom and each had its own distinct alphabet. Rye was based on rather rigid and square-edged pictograms while Taulin writing consisted of long interlocking series of loops and scrolls.

    Book could neither speak nor write either language and learning to read or write either script took much longer than mastering English writing.

    He brought in scribes to teach the languages and the writing to his pupils during Snake’s second year.

    The brothers also learned to read Braille and to speak sign language as well as to read and write a code that used its own alphabet and was peculiar to the brotherhood.

    Herb doctors taught the students how to do simple healing and surgeries. An assassin came by for a month every year to teach them about poisons.

    Book sent each of them to work part time in a small abattoir, because he didn’t want them to be strangers to blood, gore and death—not to mention the exquisite feel of a sharp blade parting flesh.

    ************** *************** ****************

    After three years, Snake weighed one hundred and twenty three pounds. He could bench-press one hundred and thirty five pounds for five sets of five—more than his bodyweight for multiple repetitions.

    At fifteen years of age, Snake was on the small side, but stronger than most boys his size.

    He was starting to accumulate enough skills to make a difference in a fight.

    They had expanded Snake’s martial art training. Part of the training had been becoming skilled with nunchaku and morning star type weapons. Book had little use for such weapons as weapons, but he was always seeking ways to strengthen wrists.


  2. #2


    They added judo and jujutsu type throws and joint locks along with punching and kicking to Snake’s repertoire.

    They added climbing walls, jungle gyms and numerous balancing devices to the ever-growing training yard. Meanwhile the outer wall around the compound grew higher and thicker.

    Horses were very dear, but the school managed to acquire a few old and/or second-rate steeds. They sufficed to teach basic horsemanship. Unless one was very rich and travelled with grooms and squires, being able to take care of one’s mount was about as big a part of successful horsemanship as was riding.

    The schools horses were lovingly maintained. Prime warhorses would not have eaten or been treated better.

    Each brother was also expected to select a puppy and raise it as a constant companion and train it to track and to be the brother’s personal bodyguard.

    There were some giant herd-guarding breeds in the country, but it was an uphill battle to get the city-bred brothers to quit thinking of dogs as a source of food and think of them as brothers instead.

    As Snake entered his fourth year, he started doing solo exercises with a real sword for the first time. The trainers had started him on archery, spear throwing and throwing knives, spikes and stars with either hand.

    Snake had learned all about the theory of marksmanship and he’d shot revolvers several times but he was astonished to find that one of his fourth year challenges was to learn how to build his own trio of revolvers along with a few other guns, in the small armory the school maintained.

    ***************** ************ *************

    When Snake was eighteen, he was five-foot seven and the others told him he was unlikely to grow much taller. He weighed one hundred and seventy pounds and could bench press two hundred and thirty pounds five by five.

    He could also squat three hundred and sixty pounds for twenty repetitions, going down as low as he could go each time, until his hamstrings were compressed against his calves.

    There were over two hundred “brothers” both male and female, in the school now. The new ones always sat at Book’s table the first few days.

    Somehow Snake had kept his seat at the master’s table all these years. Probably because Sturm would have insisted on eating with Snake and the giant eunuch would have looked ridiculous sitting with the children.

    He’d never questioned his good fortune—at least not to the other brothers.

    “Back home, I once asked a master which was the stronger art: wrestling or judo,” Book good-naturedly lectured the youngsters at the table.

    “He asked what rules that they’d fight under.

    “I was puzzled. Granted that fights to the death are rather strenuous on the trainees, but in theory—so I thought—you’re seeking the best preparation for a man who is going to be thrust into a medium-sized empty room with another man and told that only one can emerge alive.”

    “Okay”, the master said. “Are these two men going to be naked or clothed for winter?”

    “Wrestling is good training for summer when sweaty people go bare armed, even shirtless. Judo is good training for fighting dry folks in winter coats.

    “And there are many overlapping skills and real-life tricks that can’t really be adequately practiced,” Book said.

    “You often mention being from another world master. What is the story there?” Snake asked.

    Snake had heard all the master’s stories many times, but he knew the shy newcomers would appreciate the prompting—as would Book.

    “Not much of a story. I came from a world that is much more technologically advanced than this one. I’d heard learned speculations about alternate worlds—but they were only far-fetched theories back home.

    “Then one day I found myself instantaneously transported to the marketplace here.

    “People pop into this world from my home and other worlds too apparently, with some degree of regularity here. The king had folks out watching for travelers.

    “Yamane and Amat spotted me within half a day and they had ushered me into the king’s presence.

    “The king asked me what skills that I had. Somehow the idea for this school came out of our talks.

    “The king subsidizes us rather generously. What exactly that he expects in return has never been clear to me.

    “Sovereigns can be decent and generous just like anyone else, but they seldom go to such pains without some definite motivation.”

    “Were you a great warrior and hero back home?” one of the newcomers asked Book.

    “Interestingly enough, no. I was no one and I doubt that I was very much missed back home. I had no family and only the most casual friends—and I was poor.

    “I’d dabbled in fighting arts all my life, but I’d never been a master.

    “The king seemed most interested when I told him that I could teach the poor to read and write. He became far more interested when I told him that I could teach algebra.

    “Then I proposed a total school for warrior-scholars and he offered me a royal commission and generous funding.

    “Thank God that I didn’t mention calculus. None of you must mention it outside of these walls. I only know the barest rudiments—but apparently it is a very hotly sought lost body of knowledge here,” Book said.

    “You say that you’re well-funded, but the brothers say that our horses are inferior,” another child asked.

    “Good question!” Sturm interjected.

    “Look at this compound, including the thick stone walls twenty feet high, all around. Look at your clothing. Look at the food on the table.

    “Hell, look at the tables. Someone had to be paid for the lumber. Today we’d get brothers to knock the planks together, but back then I paid a carpenter to build these tables.

    “Our weapons are worth a fortune—though we make more and more weapons ourselves.

    “Our library is worth another king’s ransom…

    “We run our own small press too now—and we run day schools for any poor—or rich for that matter—who want to attend.

    “We turn out twenty-five or thirty literate for every warrior scholar we create—though our first crop of brothers is just now coming to fruition.

    “We are blessed, but one always craves more.

    “Horses can be bred. Half lame mares can still foal. Many old stallions can still sire. It is an old trick to buy many cheap mares and one expensive stallion.

    “Then a few years later one buys another top stallion to breed to his crop of half blood mares. Then the next generation of horses is three-quarters blood.”

    Esmeralda the cook interrupted the brother’s talk to make sure that everyone was well served.

    “Remember Snake, when you’re on a bulk and doing the twenty rep squats, you need to drink at least a gallon of milk per day—and cream and butter besides,” She said.

    Esmeralda was well over six foot tall and she didn’t seem to have ever needed to do a bulking phase herself. She probably weighed close to three hundred pounds and she was the head cook.

    “Have some more fried chicken Sturm. I saved you some wings because I know that you favor them. A man your size has to eat enough to keep up his strength.”

    She seemed to fuss unduly about the big eunuch eating enough.

    Sturm seemed somewhat embarrassed and nonplussed by any female—even a twelve year old brother (since by proclamation, even females were “brothers”.)

    “How are the children?” Book asked her.

    Esmeralda had nine children—no two of them shared a common father. The youngest was nine years old.

    When she’d worked in an inn, by her own confession, she’d been a very loose woman. Now, in her mid-forties, she had found God and self-control and she lived in the compound and all her children attended the school.

    Asking about her children was one tried and tested way to distract her from pestering the eunuch.

    *************** *********** *********************

    Sturm and Snake practiced with wooden swords on their own time.

    Almost all the city-born children would grow up to be rather small statured, whereas most guards and warriors were recruited from the extra large mountain folk.

    Book had managed to recruit several of the large fighters as instructors and sparring partners for his students. It was handy to have practice going against full-sized right-handed swordsmen.

    Sturm overtopped the six and a half foot troopers as much as they overtopped Snake. Snake worked out with him often to get the feel of battling giants and monsters.

    Sturm brought his wooden sword down hard enough that it broke through Snakes defenses and drove him to his knees.

    “The day that I face a man your size for real, will be the day I die,” Snake said with a shake of his head.

    “Don’t be discouraged,” Sturm said. “You become ever better practice.”

    “I’m not discouraged. Dying by the sword isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” Snake said.

    “Remember what Book says:

    “Live or dies as your geas directs;
    “But cheat whenever possible.”

    “You don’t want to see me cheat,” Snake told him. “I might injure you.”

    “No, go ahead and cheat.”

    Sturm knocked Snake’s wooden sword clean out of his hand. Snake’s rope coiled three times around Sturm’s ankle and he pulled as hard as he possibly could.

    The big man fell heavily. Snake kept his hold on the rope, stepped close and went through the motion of hamstringing the leg with his wooden dagger.

    Then still keeping hold of rope, he backed up until he could retrieve his sword.

    “That was well done, but it is a low-percentage desperation move.

    “Do you think that you could learn to do it one-handed while retaining your sword in your left hand?


    “We need to work on it. I need to learn to defend against it. You need to perfect it. It is probably your best chance against a very large swordsman—but we also need to upgrade your swordsmanship,” Sturm told him.

    “I think I can get my bodyweight up to two hundred pounds or a bit more and still be reasonably lean,” Snake said.

    “Snake, go for it. Keep in mind though, at two hundred pounds or even two hundred and fifty pounds, you’re still a runt in the fighting world.

    “Get stronger if you can, but speed, quickness and skill are going to be your key advantages—that and deviousness.”

    They sat on the stone benches to catch their breaths and just to enjoy each other’s presence.

    “I have a dilemma,” Sturm began. “Esmeralda says that she wants to marry me.”

    “And why would you even consider such a thing, even momentarily? Snake asked him bluntly.

    Sturm blushed and looked at the ground.

    “I like her. It would be nice to share a bed with her and wake up beside her. I like the children. I could give them an honorable name.

    “I don’t know.”

    He looked at the ground with ever more intensity and he started to cry.

    “But you aren’t a man, are you? Do you think she has forgotten that?

    “Maybe it would make her happy too, to wake up next to you in the morning.

    “You are a fool. Do you know that there are women who lust after other women? They get their assignations done with no more equipment than you have,” Snake told him.

    “But I have no sexual feelings,” Sturm objected.

    “No, I wouldn’t imagine that you would. If she ever needed that kind of relief though, you could give it.”

    “People would laugh at a eunuch marrying,” Sturm said.

    “You’d be a fool for caring. They’d be fools to laugh at you. I’d be a fool for challenging everyone that I heard laughing at you to fight me to the death,” Snake said while cuffing Sturm across the back of his head.

    “Book always says that getting in a sucker punch is generally worth eighty pounds. Don’t challenge—attack, attack, always attack,” Sturm chided him.

    *************** *************** *************

    Snake was just over nineteen years old at Sturm’s wedding. He was still a bit short of his two hundred pound goal at one ninety-five, but he was far stronger than he ever had been.

    A brother came to Snake.

    “There are three swordsmen here. They said that they’re Liss’ brothers and they’ve come to avenge him. They waited long enough,” the brother said.

    “It’s the celebration. It brings everyone with any pretense of a grievance out of the woodwork like moths determined to suicide against a flame,” Snake said.

    Many of the big fighters tended to think of smaller men as effeminate.

    Snake liked the idea of over-confident foemen. He’d cultivated a light step, a soft voice and wrists that often broke as he spoke. He’d seen the master Book do a fair imitation of a coward once.

    Snake had no issues with playing the pouf.

    He had made up his mind that nothing would mar his friend’s wedding if he could possibly prevent it—even at the cost of his life, if need be.

    “Sturm didn’t kill your brother, Master Book did,” Snake told them. “If you’ll follow me, I’ll take you to see the good master. I’m sure he’d be willing to recompense you generously for your bereavement.”

    As they followed Snake’s swishing bottom across the yard and into a narrow gangway, one of the brother’s spoke to Snake.

    “I generally hang out at Billy’s Brewery. Come spend some time with me,” He said and then added some more explicit comments.

    They came out in a small courtyard that was generally used to hang up laundry.

    Snake came uncoiled like his namesake and ran the stag handled Bowie that Clay had given him on his first morning in the brotherhood right up to the hilt in the leftmost brother’s chest.

    He had to thrust hard to penetrate the thick leather cuirass, but the man seemed dumbfounded by the left hand attack.

    Snake pumped the handle of the Bowie a half a dozen times and left his blade stuck in his client.

    He disappeared behind some of the hanging sheets.

    When the second brother came blundering through the sheets like a bull in rut, Snake severed his right Achilles tendon with a short precise chop from his sword.

    As the man crawled across the ground, Snake stepped on his sword and drove his own sword into the gap between the neck and the cuirass, penetrating at least ten inches-more than enough to penetrate the subclavian artery Snake thought.

    He drew the sword’s keen edge along the man’s throat for a bit of insurance.

    Snake stepped over to the wall and severed a clothesline.

    “You brothers are dead,” Snake said. “Your best shot at surviving would be to cut down the clotheslines. I’m better at using extemporaneous obstacles to my advantage than you are.

    “I give you truce till the yard is cleared—although the laundress will be pissed,” Snake continued.

    Snake himself cut down two more lines when the hulking swordsman severed a line in the middle and blundered into the center of the now open courtyard.

    Liss’ kinsman had a two-handed sword and a dagger that was longer than many short swords.

    Snake’s sword was intended to be a Westernized version of a two-handed wakizashi. The blade was straight, double edged and cross-hilted. The blade was twenty-four inches but the handle had ample room for both hands.

    He held it negligently in his left hand while his right hand held a double-ended spike.

    Snake cast the spike straight into the brother’s eye very early on. While he’d hoped to penetrate into the brain, he was content to cost the client binocular vision at the outset of their session.

    All Snake had to do to make the man duck from then on, was to feign with his empty hand.

    He stepped close and knocked the short sword from the man’s left hand.

    Snake backed way off and raised a warning finger.

    “Be nice,” Snake said as he sheathed his sword.

    The man grasped his great sword with both hands. When he made a great downward cut at Snake, Snake moved behind him and took him down from behind using the Ranger rope as a garrote.

    He had the man hog-tied before he knew what was happening.

    “I want to know one thing before I kill you. I’ll know if you lie. Are you a capador like your brother?

    “You are? Well then I owe you for what one of your kind did to my friend Sturm—and for what your sissy of a brother tried to do to me.

    It was the work of an instant. Snake’s knife was sharp and he was a skilled butcher.

    “There, you needn’t suffer any longer,” Snake said. “Unlike you, I wouldn’t leave someone alive in that condition.

    “You’re about to meet Jesus. You still have enough time to request a pardon. He never turns down a request—unlike me.”

    Snake severed jugulars, carotids, sternomastoids and windpipe with a single slaughterhouse slash.

    Snake didn’t realize that he’d been wounded until he walked into the reception, still carrying the last brother’s head. A sword cut had loosened a big piece of his scalp.

    It actual fell forward far enough to obstruct Snake’s left eye—but the blood loss, the blood lust and the adrenaline blocked his perception.

    “You’ve taken a head?” Sturm asked him with a frown.

    “It was that or have your special day disrupted,” Snake snapped back in some irritation.

    *********** ***************** ***************

    It was ten days after the wedding when Snake presented Sturm with a small glass jar filled with salty vinegar and something shriveled.

    “Now you have one—and a pair too,” Snake said.

    “Snake, you didn’t!”

    Then seeing the mischievous look on Snake’s face, he burst into laughter.

    “You’re brother has a score to settle with the capadores for what they did to you.

    “My grudge goes back to what they were about to do to me, when Book intervened,” Snake told him.

    ************* ************* ******************

    A few days later, Snake was told that he and a couple dozen of his brothers were going to move to the palace and form a Praetorian Guard for the king with Snake as the Captain of the guards.

    “The other shoe drops,” Book told Snake. “Time to pay the rent, so to speak.

    “They asked for twenty-five men, including you.

    “I can finesse that to thirty, maybe a couple more male brothers along with perhaps six or seven of your full-sized training partners.

    “And a few servants and I’ve managed to get a couple dozen of the girls into the palace under the guise of being ladies in waiting and chaperones.

    “Always go in with the maximum strength possible.

    “Trust no one—including the king. I know that you’ll keep up your physical training, but don’t forget your mind. There is more than one library in the palace and scholars and mages to learn from.

    “Listen to everything that you can. Eavesdrop as much as possible. Create networks of informers and let the king pay for it—it goes along with being proper bodyguards.

    “Every bribe and payoff that goes through your hand, take a piece of it—a generous piece.

    “Send some here. Stash some for your command and stash some for your own emergency use.

    “Gold is power and it is a powerful weapon. Stockpile some.

    “Be aware that if you or the king should need us, the whole school will come to your aid you—or to die with you.

    “You said not to trust the king,” Snake objected.

    “Snake, if you were fighting and your dog was killed fighting beside you…

    “Would I blame you?

    “But what if you sold your dog to the butcher shop?

    “You may be the king’s dog. Fight and die for him as a warrior. Don’t let him sell you and especially your command, to the butcher shop—not for any reason.

    “He may not be the type to sell out an ally. He may simply never come to an earnest opportunity to sell you.

    “If you’re ever being sold, there is bound to be a bit of ambiguity in your mind. Act with honour and then live with it.

    “Sturm will want to go with you,” Book concluded.

    “He should stay here with Esmeralda and the children. All children love him,” Snake said.

    “That shows wisdom. Sturm said that he wouldn’t have wed without your persuasion,” Book said.

    “I pointed out a few things to him. I had no idea that what I said weighed that heavily,” Snake began.

    He was ready to hotly defend his actions.

    “Thank you,” was all Book added.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    State WA
    Love it thank you.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Dallas, Texas
    There is so much of your phrasing I don't understand. What does " We all have flat sides to out wheels,” Snake lied shamelessly." mean?

  5. #5


    Sorry. Typo.

    "Flat Sides to Our Wheels"


    Picture a child's wheeled toy with wooden wheels. One of them has lost a small piece and has a small flat facet.

    When you pull the toy on a flat hard surface, every time the flat part hits the ground it goes "Splatt!!!"

    Anyone read "Game of Thrones"

    I really liked the character "Strong Belwas"...

    And I recently was gifted a great big Neutered Black and Tan (don't hold with neutering. Ain't the Dog's fault someone castrated him though...)

    At any rate, I really like my new Dog—the first Eunuch that I ever owned...

    So I wanted to write a story with a big strong Eunuch in it.

    Attached Images

  6. #6
    Good story. I feel that there was a time that was like this in our history, not so long ago. Maybe coming around again in our near future.

    "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently and die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."---- Robert A. Heinlein

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Thank you for this one. Looking forward to more!
    The word RACIST, and the ability to debate race-related issues rationally, are the kryptonite of white common sense.

    After the first one, the rest are free.

  8. #8

    6 Chapter Two

    Chapter Two

    They measured and weighed Snake the day he left to go to the palace.

    He was now five foot nine inches, with a good half-inch start on attaining five-ten. He weighed two hundred and seven pounds and though his stomach was a bit smooth, he could still clearly see each abdominal muscle.

    The palace was only across town, but they herded Snake and his entourage into the presence of the king as if they had been envoys from a vague and distant shore.

    One of the regular guards addressed Snake and his following.

    “You kneel when you come into the king’s presence. You arise only after he bids you to. Speak only when spoken to. Address the king as ‘Sire’ or ‘Highness’,” the towering swordsman said.

    Snake bent over and hawked upon the ground for effect.

    “Dude, it is like: you are under a misapprehension here. We are here to do you a service and it is you who should be grateful.

    “I am both a king and a priest in my own country and I bow only to God.

    “As to using titles, my order forbids them.”

    “Where are you a king?” the king asked snake.

    “In the Kingdom of God: Heaven. Now make up your feeble mind. Do you wish us to stay and help you?

    “Because I have things back home that I’d much sooner be doing sirrah.”

    The guard reached for Snake and drew back a forearm broken at both the radius and the ulna.

    “Just this once I was tolerant. Don’t ever go to lay hands on me again,” Snake said. “Next time I’ll cut it off.”

    Snake pointed a slim revolver directly at the king’s face. Most of his people faced off the rest of the king’s guard with a revolver in each hand, A few who truly were servants or were still partially trained, limited themselves to one revolver or a short double barreled blunderbuss.

    The king laughed uproariously and ordered all the guards out of the room—except for the man who’s arm Snake had broken—and he demanded that his own personal physicians be sent to splint the man’s arm.

    “Forgive me. I had to both test you and send some waves through the power cliques.

    “Word will quickly spread and they will wonder what use that I intend to make of such insubordinate allies.

    “Ronald was acting under orders to be rude and provocative.”

    Ronald offered Snake a mocking salute with his left hand.

    “That’s a good move. I’d like to practice with you sire,” Roland said.

    “My name is ‘Snake’. We eschew titles,” Snake told him.

    “You have your masters.”

    “ ‘Master’ isn’t a title. It’s a description. I myself have been awarded this distinction—though prematurely, it seems to me,” Snake explained.

    “I trust Ronald completely and my physicians. There are very few others. I’ll introduce you to them in time.

    “Many of the others are at least reasonably loyal, but the problem is that there is no way to be for sure of any particular person,” the king said.

    “So why are you afraid of your own court?” Snake asked.

    “Do you understand primogeniture? The crown goes to the eldest son, in theory. It’s a good system as a general rule. But occasionally the first-born is a congenital idiot, or a sadist.

    “Occasionally a younger brother gets placed on the throne despite custom and tradition—but once you admit the principle of exceptions…

    “Sometimes ambitious folk use those with some tenuous claim to the throne—sometimes a very tenuous and far-fetched claim indeed, to further their agenda.

    “Sometimes the advisors and guardians of a boy king insinuate themselves so strongly into power, that the king also has to go—though it is throwing the baby out with the dirty diapers,” the king lectured.

    “My firstborn Jethro is heir to the throne. He is a good lad, but nothing exceptional. My wife Jamilla supports our youngest son Gregory. The court eunuchs would probably choose one of the two middle boys.

    “I have a half-brother who’d love some pretext to grab the throne.

    “There are other factions, but that should suffice for the nonce.”

    “Why do you have court eunuchs? I thought that you outlawed castration of man or beast in your kingdom?” Snake demanded.

    “I do forbid creating eunuchs. Nonetheless, a large kingdom cannot function without a large and literate bureaucracy. I pay triple prices for eunuch scribes from other countries—paying twice for my scruples,” the king said.

    “Twice?” Snake prompted.

    “I pay more than homegrown scribes would cost because of my morals, and I compromise those principles in the end anyway,” the king said.

    “We turn out many scribes at our school—at least young men and women qualified to be scribes. We don’t have to de-nut any of them to get them to learn,” Snake shot back at him.

    “That is one reason that I financed Master Book’s school. I’ve hired quite a few of his scribes. They are some of the more loyal to me—but they’re still a minority among the scribes—a despised and scorned minority,” the king said.

    “Why do you say that the court eunuchs probably favor one of your middle sons?” Snake asked.

    “They’re scholarly and bookish,” the king said.

    “May I examine your revolver?” the king asked.


    “It looks small.”

    “Few of us have the stature to carry one of the big seven-shot fifty calibers well. Book says that a .44 or .45 caliber ball would hit harder, with more anchoring power.

    “But the thick leather cuirasses almost everyone wears—and some wear chainmail underneath that—takes enough ‘Zip—Ah—Dee—OO—Dah!” out of the round balls that headshots are the best bet. A .40 caliber ball will split a skull about as well as a .44, and it kicks less and can ride in a smaller package,” Snake said.

    “You wear mail,” the king commented.

    “It’s aluminum. Its light and doesn’t rust. It does offer some protection. It leaves me fast, but makes a certain number of potential clients think that they have to slash and stab at me like someone trying to kill a snake in high weeds.

    “Listen, the brotherhood takes over the training of your oldest son as of today.

    “There are any number of mental tricks that we can teach him to make him seem much smarter and imposing. We can almost certainly improve his physique too.

    “I’ll have training gear sent from the brotherhood—but such stuff costs. You’ll recompense the school threefold.

    “I need gold and silver—a good bit to start and more as needed. One doesn’t start a network of spies and informants without money.

    “You can’t trust people like that. Many of them will be double and triple agents—but neither can you afford to ignore them completely.

    “Do you have trustworthy eunuchs in your employ?” Snake hesitated momentarily. “Are any of your trusted eunuchs…shall we say, effeminate?

    “Your guards and soldiers seem to believe that we’re barely one step above some simpering scribe. I’m willing for my men to play into the role, but they’ll need expert coaching and help selecting clothing.

    “No, Hell no! They aren’t going to be guarding your corridors in drag. I just want the next person who buts heads with one of my people to think he’s going against a sissy and a weakling,” Snake concluded.

    ************** ************* ****************

    Snake sat brooding in his chambers gathering together everything that he knew about the labyrinthine politics of a royal court.

    He’d read Machiavelli, “The Book of Five Rings”, “The Hagakure”, “Principles of Personal Defense”, the Bible and “Le Morte d'Arthur”.

    Most of what he knew was self defense on the personal scale. Machiavelli laid down some sound strategic principles. Several of the Bible stories from the kingdom days were suggestive.

    The tales of Arthur were fiction, most likely, but they showed how things could go to Hell in a hand basket in a royal court.

    ************ **************** *****************

    “I am offering you a chance to be a brother,” Snake told Jethro.

    Snake repeated the invitation largely as it had been given to him.

    “Our path is the two-fold way of the sword and the pen.

    “You are invited to become a warrior, a scholar and a priest. As warriors, we aren’t expected to soldier. As priests, we take no vows of celibacy.

    “You are free to quit anytime that you choose to and you are always free to resume training if you decide that you’ve quit unwisely.

    “In the meantime we eat well and try to have some fun.

    “Can’t get any more fair than that—can you?”

    “I am already a prince and heir to the throne,” Jethro said dubiously.

    “But are you a worthy heir? Are you a better for king than your brother Gregory?”

    Jethro pouted.

    “I didn’t say that you weren’t the better choice. But you don’t know. Do you? What can you do better than your dear little brother Gregory? Are you even as smart as your two bookish brothers—much less smarter?

    “We’ll build you swordsman’s shoulders and a firm, strong grip. You’ll learn to walk with grace and to commit large numbers of facts to memory,” Snake said.

    “You talk like a sissy and you smell of perfume like a eunuch—but you’re going to teach me to be a better man?” Jethro said in a voice that became angrier the longer he talked.

    “Everything isn’t always what it seems,” Snake said.

    He pulled off his cloak and the paired .40 caliber cap and ball revolvers beneath. He doffed the light aluminum mail and then his shirt. He flexed for the prince.

    Then he walked across the room on his hands, and then duck-walked a circuit around the room.

    He gestured to a brother and they fought back and forth across the room with swords for over twenty minutes.

    “That is rehearsed,” Jethro objected.

    “Of course it is. This is live steel.”

    Snake ran the tip of his sword very lightly across his palm. When the keen steel slashed him, he laughed and then licked the blood from his palm.

    “Seems a shame to waste it,” he half apologized.

    “I was twelve when I started training,” Snake told him. “You’re young enough to start, but you may not have as many years to train as I did. Circumstances can force one’s hand.

    “Yet nothing good is ever done in haste. Still, there is no time to waste.

    ************** **************** ********************

    “Jethro, I told you to do five squats and you do twenty. You can push too hard,” Snake said.

    Snake had fitted Jethro a mouthpiece early on. The boy ground his teeth fiercely as he lifted.

    “I’ve seen you do twenty,” Jethro said sulkily.

    “I’ve built up to the twenty repetition squat. I don’t use it in every cycle—but when I do, the rule is that you must eat plenty of meat and cheese, along with cream, butter and fresh fruit…

    “To get at least nine hours sleep every night…

    “And to drink at least a gallon of milk every day.

    “Can you do all that?” Snake concluded.

    “What image drives you? Why are you always angry? You only seemed to tune into this obsession since you joined our brotherhood,” Snake asked.

    “I see my mother,” Jethro said.

    “That’s where you’re wrong. Your mother prefers your brother for the throne. Who has wronged you?

    “Your brother wrongs you. His fault is entirely passive and quite conceivably completely outside his control. That doesn’t mitigate his guilt in the slightest.

    “He is guilty of being chosen over you. There is no way that he can ever atone for this great wrong that he’s done you.

    “Your mother is no more than a conduit.

    “The Bible says to forgive your enemy and then to love him. You can’t forgive or love your brother until you fully realize what a great wrong that he has done you.

    “I’ll set you up on the twenty repetition squat if you’re so determined. You’re much bigger and better fleshed than I ever was at your age. You’ve never gone hungry.

    “First we take the day off for you to see something,” Snake said.

    ***************** **************** ***************

    “Where are we?” Jethro asked.

    “In the slum where I spent my early years,” Snake said.

    “And what is this place?” Jethro persisted.

    “It is a brothel specializing in young boys.”


    Snake backhanded him.

    “We’re not here for meat games, now pay attention. Look all around you. Learn!”

    Guards—brothers—took up stations up and down the street. Others stationed themselves at both entrances and some went in back looking for exits.

    Snake walked as if he was anxious for his clothing and particularly his hands to touch nothing.

    “How old are you?” he asked a tiny boy.


    “Perfect. Disrobe and show Jethro your body,” Snake began.

    A madam came running up to demand payment from Snake. He casually poked her in the gut with the rubber tip of his walking stick. Then he held her casually at bay, pushed up against the wall with the crutch tip in her eye.

    “Patience. I’ll deal with you properly in a moment.

    “Show him.

    “Jethro, don’t misunderstand. I was never a prostitute, but that is almost exactly the body that I had when I started. The muscle buildng won’t work a fraction as well if you rush.

    “Give him a good looking at.”

    Snake tossed the boy a gold coin that was six months or even a year’s earnings for him.

    “Get dressed,” Snake told him.

    Snake took the stick away from the woman’s eye. As she straightened, he ran her through, starting low. Perhaps he took a trifle more satisfaction in twisting the blade around in her gutty-works than he should have.

    “Kill all the adult employees and patrons. Round the children up,” Snake commanded.

    ******************* ************** **************

    “You did what!?!” Master Book shouted when Snake turned up with a couple dozen refugees.

    “I don’t like pederasts. I especially don’t like homosexual pederasts,” Snake shrugged.

    “Take this,” Snake said while pushing a generous bag of gold into Book’s hand. “More when I can get it.”

    Some of the children were already making friends with the giant Sturm.

    “Three of them are eunuchs like Sturm. Some of the meat gamers prefer them that way. Tell me that I shouldn’t have gutted the lot of them. Anyway, he will be a good guide for them,” Snake said.

    “One of these days you’ll meet a superior adversary,” Book warned.

    “Then he’ll kill me. For now, look at the children.”

    **************** ************** *******************

    “You what?” the king said to Snake.

    “Those two bags—the bag of gold and the bag of silver—I need another of each,” Snake repeated. “I can draw you a diagram if you need.

    “Look, I know that should have lasted awhile, but I ran into a situation.

    “I have to educate your son,” Snake concluded. “Ask him what he learned.”

    Snake hadn’t even touched the fat bag of silver yet, so he figured that he was coin ahead.

    After the king talked to Jethro, he sent four bags of gold to Snake. He didn’t even clown around with silver.

    Snake wasn’t sure if it was the glimpse of the slum, looking at the young starveling’s physique, or spending a few days at the school seeing some real virtuosos at work.

    Perhaps it was watching the enthusiastic way that Snake shoved a blade into someone’s guts.

    Whatever the cause, Jethro became a much more tractable student.

    ************** ************** ****************

    A eunuch walked up to Snake as he stood guarding a door.

    “They say that you hate capadores and that you shoved your steel into fat Dolly’s guts,” the eunuch said.

    Snake covered his mouth with one hand and rolled his eyes.

    “O my! Are they saying that about me?” Snake said.

    “Fat Dolly sold me to the capadores ten years ago now. I thought that my little brother was dead, but word comes to me that he was still in the brothel and whole,” the eunuch said.

    “You don’t need to act. I came from the same streets as you—and I understand subtlety and subterfuge…

    “Though you seem to take too much delight in breaking character.

    “If I can ever help you, I will.”

    “Actually, I’m trying to set up a spy network,” Snake handed the eunuch a small gold-filled sack.

    “See what that will buy me. Be sure and help yourself to a generous taste and come back for more when you need it,” Snake told him.


  9. #9
    .RVM45 great start to to what looks to be a fantastic story.

  10. #10
    Great story. Ready for more. Thanks for sharing.

  11. #11

    6 Chapter Three

    Chapter Three

    The man wore the livery of the royal kitchen staff, but the fineness of his clothes made it obvious that he was high enough on the scrotum pole that he didn’t sweat over any steaming pots of turnips.

    Snake surreptitiously placed a few folded papers into the man’s hand and he handed Snake a small leathern bag.

    Shortly afterward, Willon the eunuch walked up to Snake.

    “If you see me with that fellow again, pretend not to notice us. He’d undoubtedly be embarrassed to be caught bribing the Captain of The Guard,” Snake said.

    “He bribes you?”

    Snake shrugged.

    “He wants to know dispositions of the guards—something he could find out a half a dozen other ways and unless he’s as buck stupid as he acts, he probably verifies such things more than once.

    “Occasionally I throw in a scrap of gossip for him.”


    “Someday I may need to promulgate a dubious proposition as fact. He can’t ask me for information without telling me something about what he looking into.

    “Besides. I like his silver. Would you like to share this silver with me? I’ll give you half,” Snake said while laughing.

    “The worm! I throw away more coin in a day than he does in a year.”

    “I’m surprised that you haven’t had him followed, investigated—you know—find his source,” Willon said.

    Snake raised one lined eyebrow in such a startled and exaggerated arch that the eunuch burst out laughing.

    ************* **************** ****************

    The palace was huge—it had to be to accommodate the apparatus of state. Meeting rooms of all sizes and descriptions were necessary.

    Once a group found a good conference room, carefully checked and double-checked for both priest holes and the far more subtle listening holes, they liked to keep it under their control.

    The palace was a great ad hoc labyrinth anyway. There were any number of obscure or even hidden meeting places that one needed a savvy guide to find.

    The room where Snake met a Wildon and a dozen of Willon fellow eunuch-scribes was just such a place.

    “Wherefore this hatred of the Guild for the brotherhood trained scribes?” Snake asked them.

    “They aren’t cut,” a eunuch named Muley said in a tone that brooked no argument.

    “Did you choose to be cut? Can you honestly say that if you had the power you’d order these scribes castrated? Would you?” Snake said while leaning over and staring hard into Muley’s eyes.

    “No! I wouldn’t wish that on any man,” Muley finally admitted sulkily.

    “So?” Snake persisted.

    “Their skills are inferior,” Muley added.

    “Aren’t you a Guild? Don’t you provide structured advancement through fair testing, continued training and support to all members? Get them up to speed,” Snake insisted.

    “They’re not members,” Muley said.

    “Admit them to your Guild,” Snake persisted.

    “They’re not eunuchs,” Muley insisted.

    “Willon, you have no idea how fatiguing it is to do other’s thinking for them,” Snake sighed.

    “Strive not to stab or shoot anyone,” Willon said, and not without a trace of misgiving.

    “You will call a general assembly of your voting Guild members. You will change your membership requirements. You will admit all of the brotherhood-trained scribes and the other de facto secretaries, as bottom level journeymen.

    “Then you will open your own academy, where bright children of no means can train to be apprentice scribes, maybe more than one such academy,”

    “Who would apply to such a school?” an old eunuch scoffed.

    “Well, if one could eat well and learn a trade—without having to have their nads amputated—people would line up to apply, for themselves and for their children.

    “You remove much of the motivation for the foreign kingdoms to turn out armies of eunuch-scribes and you strengthen the Guild.

    “A man who has a cousin, or who hopes to have a son in the Guild will favor your Guild,” Snake.

    “It would mean the end of our kind,” Muley said sadly.

    “Yes, it would,” Snake agreed.

    Though he barely knew the large eunuch, he laid his hand on his shoulder in solidarity.

    “We’ll have to hash this out ad nauseam,” Willon said. “But I think we can push it through. Your arguments are persuasive.

    “Right now, it’s time to eat.”

    “Fine. What is on the menu?” Snake said.

    “Whole men do not break bread with eunuchs,” Muley said.

    “Whore’s spit!” Snake said. “I have eaten uncounted meals with my brother Sturm, who is a complete eunuch.

    “Unless you mean to tell me that you’re going to eat sex organs or that somehow your food will cause my stones to sneak off and hide somewhere—quit being miserly and bring out the grub!” Snake insisted.

    Snake was interested to note that the eunuchs seemed to have their own specialized cuisine. It featured a lot of heavily smoked and cured pork and fish, bowls full of strong-tasting beans and lentils, fiery hot sauces and peppers and various peach, apricot and cherry wines.

    Since it was most convenient to have separate cooks and mess halls for the scribes, the scribe’s cuisine had developed apart too.

    And Snake sitting cross-legged—not on a chair beside the banquet table, but upon one end of the banquet table itself…

    Sampling everything, over eating, guzzling wine and belching like a lout did more to win the eunuch’s qualified and grudging trust than anything he’d said to them.

    ****************** *************** ************

    Eighteen months had made a big difference with Jethro, the royal heir.

    He was fifteen years old now and he’d built muscle faster than any brother that Snake had ever seen. Of course, the prince came from a larger race than most brothers and the brothers had all started as starvelings.

    Part of the credit for the transformation was the cross-eyed intensity with which the prince attacked his training. Generally that wasn’t an answer. Doing too much training halted strength gains for most, but a few seemed able to recover from most anything.

    He was five inches taller. The training for a “Command Voice” had dropped his voice a half an octave—before his voice had even started changing through puberty. His shoulders were noticeably wider and his grip firmer. The time in the exercise yard had given the prince a pleasant tan.

    The prince’s fighting skills had lagged behind though. The blind ferocity that built his muscles wasn’t serving where skill and control were at a premium. Still, he was becoming a competent horseman and pistol shot. He was raising himself a giant Bloodhound bodyguard after the manner of the brotherhood…

    And he was quite capable of being dangerous in his berserker mode.

    Book was a firm believer that the mind was a mental silo. One packed all sorts of things into it, but it took awhile to ferment into something worthwhile.

    He believed that the subconscious mind often synthesizes complex results from all sorts of seemingly unrelated data.

    Book also believed that while the mind was quite good at extrapolating and seat of the pants navigating, that every numerical or other solid fact that it held was a valuable hook to hang suppositions on.

    Snake and some of the other brothers had been busy pouring facts into Jethro’s mind.

    He could draw excellent and detailed maps of his country and its subdivisions freehand without reference.

    There were lessons in mathematics, geometry, logic and rhetoric of course, but much of what the brothers stressed was large-scale and relentless rote memorization of facts and figures—though they made extensive use of mnemonic systems.

    They poured Jethro full of long lists of facts about his country. He learned its geography. He memorized many names and dates from history as well as detailed genealogies to tie things to the present. He knew the genealogies of many animals as well.

    There were bores that would talk about the pedigree of their horses or hunting dogs for hours on end. There were gentlemen farmers who were just as tiresome discussing the pedigree of their cattle, or sheep or fancy laying-hens.

    Jethro could have talked most of those fellows to boredom and complete stupification, had he chosen to.

    Jethro learned how one prospected for iron or copper or gold, how one mined it and how it was smelted and forged.

    He knew the rainfall, crop yields and taxes paid in each county and province in his country, going back for generations. He knew every bone, muscle and muscle attachment in the human body. He memorized small healing herb guides and long lists of prime numbers.

    The brotherhood also stressed memorization of Bible Verses and facts.

    The brotherhood took Jethro on excursions into town, to the brother’s compound and on hunts and camping trips.

    But in all honesty, any real mental fermentation was still rather anticipatory in Jethro’s case.

    Then they discovered that Jethro had a gift for both chess and poker.

    **************** *************** ******************

    Jethro and his next older brother Reed sat in a secure room that the eunuchs had procured for them. In all probability the scribes were eavesdropping, but in this case, it didn’t matter.

    “They say that chess is a good way to learn military strategy,” Snake said. “Be that as it may. It turns out though, that Jethro is good.

    “He doesn’t have to win, but playing in some tournaments and playing reasonably well will raise his stock in some circles. And it may help make him wiser and better able to rule.

    “Reed, you are a Grandmaster. Will you coach your brother and serve as his second?”

    Reed yawned. He’d known that eventually he’d be asked to take a side in the palace intrigues.

    “We bend over backwards to make Jethro into a chess player. No one does a blessed thing to turn Reed into a warrior,” Reed said.

    “Do you want to train with me Reed,” Jethro asked. “Since you’re my brother and second in the line of succession, I assumed that they’d asked you.

    “This is very annoying,” Jethro said.

    ******************* ************* *************

    “We eunuchs have a fighting system,” Willon told Snake. “Would you like to learn?”

    Snake grabbed himself and made a sick face.

    “No, you needn’t be cut to learn,” Willon laughed.

    “Clowning aside, I’d be honored,” Snake said.

    ********************* ************** ***********

    “This art goes back centuries,” Willon began very formally.

    “Our motto is:

    “Nothing more.”

    “Do you understand? They don’t maim people anymore—but long ago, when they did…

    “No eunuch ever lost toes, eyes or fingers. We weren’t flogged or executed either.

    “We have our own internal discipline and not even a king dares lift a hand to a scribe.

    “We can shut this damned kingdom down anytime we choose to—though at considerable cost to ourselves.

    “We stand willing, rather than lose any more.”

    *************** ************ ***************

    The eunuch’s chosen weapon was a sickle measuring perhaps ten or twelve inches from cusp to cusp.

    Training began with the weapon—or heavy-duty wooden practice sickles. The theory being that many of the eunuchs were physically weak and that only an elite few would ever master unarmed combat enough for it to be a terribly useful skill.

    Snake started showing up for duty with broken fingers, black eyes and busted lips. The eunuchs were sorely testing him with their sickle-shaped clubs.

    For his part, Snake was enchanted by the idea of learning yet another martial art—even one of rather limited application. Once he mastered the sickle, he had complete faith that some of what he’d learned would go to making him a better swordsman.

    The eunuchs also started instructing the two princes at Snake’s request.

    When Snake reached advanced training, he found that the eunuchs had small-sequestered pools and they trained fighting in both knee-deep and chest-deep water.

    “Grand idea Willon. You must share the pool idea with the brotherhood!” Snake enthused.

    “Why the sickle?” Snake finally asked.

    “A scribe needs some sort of edge against a swordsman. The sickle is different enough—and what arrogant aristocrat insists on learning to defend against eunuchs?

    “But it isn’t too intimidating.

    “My sickle gives pause, but won’t incite paranoia,” Willon said.

    “Do y’all carry?”

    “Some of us do. I do,” Willon said.

    “I need to talk to you Snake—as a friend,” Willon said. “I’m not a complete eunuch. Few of the scribes are.”

    “I’m happy for you. Being able to urinate while standing is a useful life skill,” Snake said noncommittally—having no idea were the conversation was going.

    “I’ve been with women—many women,” Willon said.

    “Well, you’re one up on me then—by one way of looking at it. Amongst the brotherhood we believe in marital commitment and largely frown on sex outside marriage,” Snake said.

    “You are fighting me at every turn here. Let me put my case before you,” Willon said.

    “Please, don’t tell me that you love me. Our friendship couldn’t survive that,” Snake said.

    “I do love you, but not that way,” Willon choked out between chuckles.

    Snake frowned abstractedly and wracked his brain wondering where the bizarre conversation was going.

    “I fancy one of your brotherhood’s women. Like you, she says:

    ‘Not without a wedding ring’.”

    “Do you want my blessing?”

    “Would you give it?”

    “Of course,” Snake said.

    “That makes me very happy. What I really want though…

    “Have you ever heard of ‘artificial insemination’?

    “I’m asking you to sire my children,” Willon said.

    “Why not your brother?” Snake asked.

    “You are my brother as much as the brother that I share a mother with.”

    ************** ************* *******************

    At the age of sixteen years of age, Jethro was a reasonable prospect to achieve the title of Chess Master soon, though he might never be a Grandmaster.

    Reed and Jethro sat in the room along with a couple of Snake’s trusted lieutenants. Lately, Willon had become an almost a constant presence.

    There were three fairly skilled gamblers that Snake had recruited, along with a couple of royal scholars who specialized in probability.

    “The goal with chess was to recruit a few scholars to Jethro’s cause as well as a few of our military strategists—and anyone else who’d be impressed by good gamesmanship.

    “Poker—I am no poker player. I understand that even some reasonably successful players aren’t fully conversant with the best strategies mathematically.

    “Nonetheless, thoroughly knowing the math helps.

    “But reading the other players is what really separates the good from the very good.

    “Learning to read other’s bluffs is a good skill for a king and the mathematics is good mental gymnastics.

    “But I want you to play poker to make friends and gain influence.

    “You are mainly playing to showcase to a select handful of players, the poker playing characteristics that prove that you’d be a wise and prudent ruler.

    “You need to be pretty good, but you won’t always play to win.

    “Play for relatively high stakes occasionally, but never for enough to make it seem that you’re a wastrel.

    “A few fellows may see you as a semi-regular and fairly reliable source of income. That’s okay—but don’t let anyone think of you as a stupid hick.

    “These guys will coach you,” Snake said.

    ************* ***************** ****************

    “Here is some gold, so that you can expedite starting up your second school,” Snake said to Willon.

    “Damned nation dude! You do know that when I wheedle money out of the king for a school, the scribes are competing for limited resources with the brotherhood,” Snake said.

    “There are still places right here in this Sodom, where children are abuse and where little boys are geld,” Willon said.

    “And your point?” Snake said.

    “Let us mask ourselves and hit them hard and fast—like you hit Fat Dolly’s brothel. Kill the grown ones. Burn the whole place to the ground.

    “Any children that the brotherhood can’t absorb will be admitted to one of the scribe academies. It will positively swell the ranks of your brotherhood,” Willon said.

    “That is reckless as all Hell. It exposes us to all sorts of downside risks and complications with no corresponding strategic benefits…

    “Okay, I’m in,” Snake said.


  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    State WA
    Thank you . Nice treat after picking beans.

  13. #13
    Ok, I'm in! as INto this story! I think this is shaping up to be my favorite of yours. I can at least follow it and understand it best. lol! thanks!

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    I liked that line too. Ok, I'm in!
    The word RACIST, and the ability to debate race-related issues rationally, are the kryptonite of white common sense.

    After the first one, the rest are free.

  15. #15
    RVM45 as I posted long ago withe one of your first story's just keep writing and you will have readers, I think that you have a fantastic story going hear. As kaijafon said Ok, I'm in! as INto this story! I think this is shaping up to be my favorite of yours. I can at least follow it and understand it best.

  16. #16


    Well Hell,

    My coffee has just hit me and I'm ready to write and I get a phone call from my "House-Sitting" Sister...

    Look for her at 2:00 PM...

    And God knows that she spends every waking hour in front of the computer when she's home.

    I HATE to waste good inspiration—but there you have it.

    {2 hours is a tiny block of time to spend writing...}


    I thought that I wrote simple escapist fiction.

    What do y'all find hard to follow?

    This isn't Tolkien...

    Or even Stephen King...

    or Jacquelyn Bisset...


  17. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    I think we're all following the story just fine. We just need MORE to follow. Hint, hint.
    The word RACIST, and the ability to debate race-related issues rationally, are the kryptonite of white common sense.

    After the first one, the rest are free.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Vtshooter View Post
    I think we're all following the story just fine. We just need MORE to follow. Hint, hint.
    I second that more soon would be a real good thing!!!!!!!!!!

  19. #19

    6 Chapter Four

    Chapter Four

    Snake made his way back to his chambers. “Captain of The Guard” had turned out to be a very inadequate description of his duties.

    He served as the brotherhood’s envoy at court. He liaised with the eunuchs and scribe’s guild. He served as a coach and mentor to the king’s two eldest sons. He ran a small but efficient network of spies and he was also a force in the city’s underworld.

    He was coming from one more late night meeting. He never got drunk, but he’d been almost two days without sleep and wine was a constant at meetings. Maybe he was a tad less alert than a man in a dangerous place like the king’s palace should have been.

    Snake heard one of the big .50 caliber cap and ball revolvers fire and then the big lead ball went “Splat!” against the smooth marble pillar not four inches from his head.

    Snake did a dive forward roll behind a massive stone urn and drew his short sword…

    Dozens of shots rang out from all around. Apparently there were several assassins. At least some of them had managed to get themselves into what Book had always called “a Kentucky firing squad”—meaning that they fired at Snake from both sides and were at risk from each other’s crossfire.

    The thought that he might not survive the ambush intruded itself into his mind. He looked forward to his last battle with every bit as much anticipation as a young debutante looked forward to her coming-out ball.

    He struggled to thrust the ecstasy aside. It was okay to rejoice but it shouldn’t interfere with giving a workmanlike performance.

    They fired themselves empty quickly.

    If Snake had trained them, a couple would have kept their horse pistols in reserve for when he rushed them. Even if they did have loaded revolvers in reserve, a full-out charge was still an aim spoiler.

    The leather cuirasses that many wore varied between being purely ceremonial, no thicker than a thin riding glove, to being almost a quarter inch of thick leather, reinforced in strategic spots with boiled leather rings, steel or brass washers or scales, decorative cords and oval conchos.

    Any of them would necessarily be somewhat thinner through the midsection—otherwise bending and sitting would quickly become a chore and mobility would be compromised.

    Mainly though, Snake was an inveterate gut stabber. He liked the angles and he liked the thought of the special gift of pain that it brought to those richly deserving fine gifts.

    Snake thrust his sword left handed—as he always wielded it—through one attacker’s lower bowels. As he dragged the blade free, he just had time to bring the ball on the sword’s hilt down hard on a second friend’s head.

    It wasn’t calculated to accomplish any good work on the client’s skull, but it was as much luck as skill when the skull was crushed giving an instant kill.

    Then Snake was through them. He dove through a wide doorway into one of the countless little furnished anterooms that proliferated through the palace.

    Snake’s little .40-caliber cap and ball was less than ideal against heavy leather cuirasses and headshots were problematic in the dimly lit corridors when travelling fast.

    He set up behind a heavy-duty couch though and took aim at the doorway.

    Snake hit the first fellow through the doorway right between his eyes with the .40-caliber lead ball. He grimaced in agony as the muzzle blast tore at his eardrums.

    He had very sensitive ears and the brotherhood believed in sparing the ears as much as possible in practice. He ignored the sensation of having an ice pick shoved through each eardrum and managed to get a good solid “middle of the face” hit on the second pistolero.

    He thumbed the Gun and got three torso hits on yet a third assailant and one lone shot into the torso of a fourth.

    The last four shots were fired so quickly, they sounded like a single loud roar.

    There couldn’t have been many left at that point, though he hadn’t paused to count them.

    He holstered his revolver as he jumped to his feet. He vaulted the couch and then drew a big Bowie right handed to go with his left hand sword—all the while never pausing his impetuous rush back through the door he’d only recently dived through going the opposite direction.

    There was a curtain that could have concealed a swordsman behind it. Then the curtain was on the floor, though Snake’s sword had been momentarily tangled with the vicious slash he’d given the curtain.

    Slowly Snake realized that his joyously anticipated moment was still in the future and that he was alone with the dead and the dying.

    Snake cautiously withdrew behind cover and waited until a number of his people were on the scene before exposing himself.

    ***************** **************** ****************

    Snake and Willon were summoned to the brotherhood’s headquarters to meet with Book.

    The two men were almost constant companions and the brotherhood and the reorganized Scribe’s Guild were interconnected on many levels.

    Book was ill and taken to his bed. Yamane and Amat—his original servants, attended him.

    When the king had offered to sponsor the strange academy Book envisioned, the two men had been standing guard in the king’s court and Book had asked them if they’d like to come with him.

    Many would have preferred the luxury and acclaim of being in the king’s service, but both had their imaginations stirred by the things Book promised to do.

    Book had been both an indifferent martial artist and a rather indolent scholar back home. He did have a very solid grasp of weight training, nutrition and mnemonics.

    He recruited children who would be grateful just to have a roof over their heads, food to eat and new clothing to wear—but Book had turned the school into a home for them too.

    If he could only demonstrate the most basic of the techniques that he wanted his children to learn, he also stressed that they spend many hours sparring, experimenting and building their own skill set.

    Book had never driven himself to memorize anywhere near as relentlessly as he taught the children to—but then no one had mentored him so early in life.

    When Book came to a skill that he did not posses but coveted for his students, he hired expert outsiders to come and teach in his school.

    The first crop of graduates were far better fighters and scholars than Book had ever been…

    But wasn’t that a master’s job, to turn out better men than him?

    The second and third waves, having the advantage of the superior alumni masters had surpassed Book even farther.

    Despite his shortcomings, almost every one of his past and present students loved and revered him.

    Book had been old when he started the school. Now he was ancient and his life was drawing to a close.

    “Snake, I know that you and Willon are behind the reign of terror falling on the children’s brothels.

    “I can’t say that I blame you, but it is time to stop. All the capadores have relocated across the border. No one dares run a brothel offering children—not openly.

    “But the poor you have with you always.

    “Filthy perverts you have with you always as well..

    “You’re reaching the point of diminishing returns. You keep things stirred up and you divert time and resources.


    Snake voiced his assent.

    He was intractable, inflexible and inclined toward bitterness—but he wasn’t big on vengeance. Once someone is wronged, it became an unalterable part of the universe.

    All the vengeance in the world could never “make it right.”

    Which was why he’d rather fight to the death than accept even the smalles injustice.

    Snake was hard but brittle and no one expected him to achieve a graceful old age.

    Willon grooved a bit more on vengeance, but he’d had his fill and achieved his main objective.

    Book didn’t mention Yamane’s involvement, but neither was he unaware. Yamane felt far more driven to avenge his brother’s neutering than Sturm himself did.

    “Snake, I’m sorry. You have accomplished a great deal for the brotherhood at court. You have recruited thousands of students with your constant canvassing the king and your scorched earth warfare on the pederasts.

    “Where we had a single compound, we now have five much larger ones—in this city alone.

    “You were a large factor in our growth—probably the largest single factor.

    “But I’m passing leadership of the brotherhood to Sturm,” Book concluded.

    Snake grabbed the old man’s hand and tears flowed from his eyes.

    “O thank you! I thought that you were working up to dumping the whole sordid mess in my lap! Thank you,” Snake said.

    ************* ************* ******************

    Sturm had a rather extensive family. Three generations in the city, they were still mountain folk—and they believed in the bond of kin.

    Sturm had wealth aplenty—from inheritance, from his years working as a palace eunuch for wealthy polygamists, from accepting futures in mercantile ventures in lieu of immediate remuneration for his services and from investing his own coin when the time was right.

    He had a shrewd business sense.

    The mountain folk looked upon being childless as one of the gravest possible misfortunes—but they also accepted adoption whole-heartedly and without the slightest mental reservation.

    Sturm had nine adopted children and they were busy siring or giving birth to grandchildren who were in turn, working diligently on great-grandchildren for Sturm.

    Young men came from the mountains to court Sturm’s daughters—their nominal cousins if they hadn’t been fictive kin.

    Sturm’s daughters came with outlandish dowries and brought alliance with the house of Sturm.

    He paid outrageous bride prices to get his sons married to their first “cousins”. Once they were wed, he helped his children at every turn.

    Sturm might have been a severed strand in the clan’s genetic rope—but by marrying his adopted children to his cousins, nieces and nephews, he was splicing and reweaving clan genes in every which way once more.

    As far as the hillbilly clans were concerned, having been castrated at a young age was simply a personal cross that Sturm had to bear.

    So when there was a power struggle within the clan, no one objected too strenuously to Sturm being chosen laird.

    Being head of the brotherhood and a clan laird made Sturm a force to be reckoned with.

    He spent gold freely and soon there were two brotherhood compounds in the mountains among the clans.

    The mountain builders loved Sturm for the coin he’d paid them.

    Ambitious clan heads jockeyed to get their children admitted to the schools. There were poor and impoverished children in the mountains too—for all the talk of kin and blood.

    Alumni of brotherhood schools taught many of the scholarly classes as well as the martial arts training.

    Sturm prevailed on several court astronomers to relocate to the mountains. He’d told them how the astronomers on Book’s home world preferred to stargaze from the mountains because the air was thinner there.

    Since Sturm was neither astronomer nor even a scholar, he didn’t fully convince the learned gentlemen.

    When Sturm learned that the biggest telescope in the kingdom, or anywhere else for that matter was a twelve-inch refractor, he went to work.

    Glass workers and opticians could be bribed to move to the mountains—all it took was enough gold.

    The mountain observatories soon had three different fifteen-inch reflectors of unusual clarity with a twenty-five inch refractor and a four-foot reflector under construction as well as a plethora of lesser scopes.

    And in between building stargazing telescopes, his opticians turned out top quality mountain binoculars, reading glasses, magnifying glasses and riflescopes.

    The mountain university libraries were soon second to none. The scholars ate well and were well paid and highly respected and soon they started to draw more of their kind.

    Sturm was no grand tactician, but some of the brothers were. Gold upgraded several mountain roads, widened passes and built bridges and made internal movement in the region noticeably easier.

    Sturm also liked to search far and wide outside the mountains for superior livestock. He’d buy a very good stallion or bull and let it stand at stud, free to any who cared to use the animal’s service.

    With sheep, goats, pigs, rabbits, pigeons, turkeys and laying hens he usually just gave them to various farmers as gifts.

    There was long waiting list to breed to Sturm’s champion livestock. Sometimes they had to cast lots, for everyone couldn’t be served.

    But as cows gave more milk, hens and pigeons laid more eggs and horses pulled larger loads the whole country became more prosperous—an not only did Sturm reap gratitude, he also was paid more taxes.

    All the brotherhood compounds had armories and almost any brother could manufacture himself a cap and ball revolver, given time.

    Sturm started gradually arming the mountain folk with firearms. He started his chemists to working the kinks out of large-scale manufacture of extruded nitrocellulose—smokeless gunpowder.

    He also had the brotherhood armorers working on tubular black powder carbines that fired semi-automatically from open bolts—essentially black powder Stens.

    The word “Sten” meant little to Sturm, but Book had showed him the prototype drawings and explained the concept.

    Sturm shared Book’s misgivings. “Firepower” is hitting what one aims at. Peppering the landscape with near misses rarely contributes much to the cause.

    But a five to seven shot revolver was labor intensive to make and single shot and double-barreled long guns were the general rule and if anything, it was even harder to turn out a really good rifle.

    The Sten would be far easier and cheaper to manufacture than a good rifle. The advantage of adding six Sten-toting militia men to each ten man squad of single-shot riflemen or twelve man squad of archers or swordsmen might make a big difference in a pitched battle…or not.

    Sturm kept the black powder machine carbines secret but he made a big production of the new nickel electroplating that he’d had reconstructed from Book’s extensive notes.

    Nickel-plating the black powder Sten’s bores should help preserve them some. Revolvers would look far prettier.

    It would also introduce electricity, in a small way, to their world.

    ************* ************** *****************

    Snake found that disengaging from the underworld wasn’t at all easy.

    When he and Willon had led their vigilante raids on the child brothels and capadores some of the gangs with vested interests had took exception.

    Snake had used his forces to crush the gangs, but then there was a power vacuum created and he’d been sucked in.

    Snake had only the most scathing contempt for whores—but he didn’t feel led to start a holy war on brothels—so long as they served only adult heterosexuals.

    But since he inspected them regularly, he became the de facto “Minister of Whore Houses”. He specified when and where they could operate in a general way.

    And whether Snake hated whores or not, he felt called upon to weigh in when they were killed or maimed.

    Bad alcohol killed people, or worse yet, caused them to go blind.

    Snake couldn’t allow that to happen to “his” people—so some rot-gut bootleggers got to feel Snake’s steel in their bowels.

    Snake wanted all the drug users to go on their merry way—but unless he kept the arrogance of the higher-level dealers in check, they’d soon grow to challenge his authority.

    He started collecting modest amounts of “shake-down” money from all and sundry, because paying tribute was an ancient and time-tested method of enforcing and confirming fealty.

    Although books travelled from Book’s original world to Snakes with surprising regularity, Snake hadn’t gotten around to reading many of them.

    Some of the references would have escaped him, but he was part shaolin and part ninja, part peace core, and part yakuza or mafia and part local political boss.

    Simply picking up and going “home”—wherever in Hell “home” was—would have left his constituents out to dry.

    Then everyone got the word that the king was taken suddenly ill and might not recover.


  20. #20
    RVM45 Thanks for the new chapter, great story.

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    State WA

  22. #22

    6 Chapter Five

    Chapter Five

    “They’ve managed to poison him somehow,” the king’s physician told Snake. “He may make a partial recovery for awhile, but his liver and kidneys are both largely shot. He is not long for this world.”

    Snake seldom spoke to the king. They weren’t close.

    Snake was close to the king’s two eldest sons though and the king had been a huge benefactor to the brotherhood. The brotherhood was Snake’s family, clan and primary allegiance—so he was not blasé about the king’s situation.

    Within the hour, Snake had the chief master chef and a dozen underlings brought bound to one of the Scribe’s Guild hidden chambers.

    Snake’s old contact was secured spread-eagled, head-down against a wall.

    Snake cut every last vestige of the man’s clothing loose with one of the brotherhood’s razor-sharp blades.

    “I castrated a man once, right before I killed him. Would any of you eunuch’s like to watch the procedure from a spectator’s perspective?” Snake said conversationally.

    “Don’t worry, I promise to kill you afterward,” he added primly.

    He might stand ready to be cruel and to torture, but he didn’t want the reputation as a maimer, not even momentarily, in the mind of an enemy.

    “I’ll talk!” the cook shouted. “Would you like me to tell everyone how you’ve been a traitor and have been working for me the last few years?”

    “If you really feel that you must include that information for clarity’s sake,” Snake told him.

    “But I think that we can safely omit that,” Snake said. “Time is limited and we all know about how I’ve been taking your silver and feeding you disinformation.”

    Interestingly enough, it turned out that Snake’s spymaster hadn’t been responsible for, nor involved in the king’s poisoning.

    The plotters had tried hard to liquidate everyone even peripherally involved. Snake’s people managed to secure a couple low-level operatives only because they moved fast, ruthlessly and outside regular palace channels.

    “I promised to kill you if I maimed you,” Snake told the kitchen steward. “I don’t really consider removing two postage stamp sized chunks of skin from the belly as a ‘maiming’.

    “I’m going to turn you loose—unless you feel that I owe it to you to kill you…” Snake paused suggestively.

    “No, you don’t have to kill me, please don’t,” the cook stammered.

    “Okay. I don’t think the palace will be too healthy a zone for you. You may not even be safe anywhere in the kingdom,” Snake told him.

    “Get him some discrete clothing. Escort him out of the palace and to the edge of the city. Give him a horse and enough gold to set him up somewhere and set him free,” Snake ordered.

    “Why?” one of the scribes asked curiously.

    “An occasional mercy isn’t a bad thing. I’ve been playing him for a fool for years. This puts us even,” Snake said with a shrug.

    ************** *********** *********************

    Dhage was a member of the brotherhood. In theory, she served the palace as a lady in waiting—more than a servant—a sort of best friend, confidant and chaperone for her royal charge.

    She did all that and more, but as a trained fighter she stood ready to augment the brotherhood contingent of Praetorian Guards in the event of large-scaled insurrections.

    The women brothers couldn’t bear as much armor as the men. They were weaker and both their lesser stature and strength made them less effective as swordsmen.

    They were quick and devious. They could often catch potential foes off-guard. They could fire their .40 caliber cap and balls every bit as well as the men.

    Some concentrated far more on their shooting than many male brothers.

    Dhage was married to the eunuch Willon as well and she had three children by the surrogate he’d chosen.

    Artificial insemination was relatively simple in principle, once the concept was understood and the kingdom was relatively advanced in that particular line of endeavor.

    At any rate, Willon and his constant companion Snake not only thought much the same, but they looked enough alike to be brothers. The three boys—so far—should grow to be credits to both their fathers.

    During the uproar following the king’s poisoning, Dhage had been impressed to guard the hallway leading to her lady’s bedchamber.

    The poleaxe she held ready should make up for quite a bit of lesser armor and reach.

    A serving girl approached Dhage shyly.

    “Halt! What do you want?” Dhage demanded.

    “We have your children,” the girl said. “Look.”

    She slid a small leathern sack across the polished marble floor. Inside was a ring the eldest wore. There was a lock of the middle boy’s hair and a small patch of skin with a small but distinctive wart that the youngest had.

    “A small delegation will arrive later tonight, to take possession of your mistress. You will stand aside and raise no alarm…

    “That is, if you ever want to see your children again,” the mysterious girl said.

    The brotherhood taught their members to never give in to threats of violence.

    They also believed that a straightforward frontal attack always had a number of things to recommend it.

    It took less than a minute for Dhage to hog-tie the mysterious girl with her Ranger rope and call for back up.

    While Dhage’s charge was moved somewhere safe, an ambush was set for any assassins that came by later.

    Dhage carried her captive into her lady’s bedchamber and began to flay her alive to find out what could be found out about her children.

    It wouldn’t have been prudent to share the children’ whereabouts with the courier. It would serve no good purpose and it would have been a security risk as well.

    But the wan girl, now the bleeding, sobbing and screaming girl, did have contacts.

    Grim black clad assassins and torturers stormed their way up the rebel’s table of operations until the children were located.

    Rescuing hostages was a good thing. Bringing death and destruction to hostage takers was a far more excellent thing.

    ************ **************** **************

    Dhage fired an arrow through the corridor guard’s throat. Bows were silent—and Dhage’s takedown bow could even be semi-discrete.

    Bows killed by hemorrhage. A thirty-pound bow had more than enough power to drive a three-bladed razor-sharp arrow completely through a man—even a man with a heavy cuirass—at twenty-five yards or less.

    More draw weight might give flatter trajectory, or better penetration against large game. Although it might, in theory, have carried a wider broad head, more power would largely serve to slow down one’s rate of fire without corresponding advantage.

    In an uncertain world, an arrow through the windpipe and major arteries and veins in the neck was reasonably certain to drop someone silently.

    Of course, Dhage’s arrow wouldn’t have been very effective at silencing the second guard. The arrow her companion fired simultaneously was. Both of the women drew and fired an insurance, bodkin pointed arrow into the skull.

    The second arrow hit each guard before he could begin to fall.

    A score of brothers rushed into the room, slashing right and left.

    “No wait. You don’t understand!” a woman lying on the floor pleaded.

    An axe had been aimed at her head and only her interposed wrist had saved her from immediate death. She thrashed and begged as her rosewater fluids ran out onto the polished floor.

    “O, I understand perfectly. You are the one who didn’t understand the consequences of your actions when you kidnapped my children,” Dhage told her before she lopped off the woman’s head with the thirty inch shamshir in her left hand.”

    ************ ***************** ******************

    Within hours, large numbers of non-combatants and dependants had been moved to safety as the palace erupted into bloodshed and violence.

    Snake, Willon, Jethro and Reed—along with more than three-dozen brothers and a couple dozen regular guards attended the king in his chambers.

    “Snake, take my sons to somewhere safe. If they’re lost, then everything is lost,” the king said.

    “Not without you father,” Jethro sobbed.

    “I’m dying. I’d only slow you down. Go!”

    As they left the palace proper, the small entourage came under attack.

    As revolvers were fired back and forth, a lead ball struck a skimming blow to Reed’s temple. As he fell half conscious, a dozen swordsmen charged him.

    “My brother!” Jethro screamed.

    The confusion of the battle had managed to separate him from his protectors by a few yards, though the bodyguards still had a clear view of the young man.

    Jethro entered the berserker state and strode into the thickest of the fighting like a swordsman determined to slay a roomful of housecats.

    He blocked blow after blow aimed at his kneeling and bemused brother’s person.

    He cleft skulls. He severed arms, legs and necks. He cleaved folk damned near in two with his great two-handed sword…

    All the while he fought, he chanted the death-song he’d composed.

    And in his frenzied determination to save his brother, he didn’t noticed that he’d been dealt a half a dozen thrusts that probably wouldn’t be survivable individually. In the aggregate they were most certainly fatal.

    Finally a man with a battle-axe with a four-foot long handle severed Jethro’s right hand.

    Jethro dropped his two-handed sword and used a cavalry style draw to get his big .50 caliber revolver into play.

    He sent a ball through the axe-man’s skull and drilled another six of the assailants—one shot through the sternum each. The bigger .50 calibers having more than enough penetration to pierce a man and both sides of a very thick leather cuirass as well with power left over.

    The brothers who survived did so by attrition. The entire opposing force was dead or fled—mostly dead.

    A couple brothers helped Reed to his feet.

    “Jethro…” He gasped out.

    “He’s dead my friend,” Snake said.

    “Jethro’s hand, I want it,” Reed gasped.

    Snake shrugged and put the hand in his shoulder bag, though he had no idea why Reed wanted it.

    “He was my brother,” Reed told Snake. “He loved me enough to die for me. I never felt that close to him—though I should have.

    “He was my brother. At least the training bonded us somewhat tighter.

    “Is someone skilled enough to skin the hand and keep it intact? I want to make a glove from it,” Reed asked.

    “Whatever for?” Snake asked.

    “Do you believe in Destiny?” Reed asked.

    “In broad outline, not in exhaustive detail,” Snake said.

    “And do you believe that men can cheat Destiny—live past their appointed day, for instance,” Reed continued.

    “Occasionally some men can cheat Destiny—though always to their great misery and ruination,” Snake conceded.

    “It was my brother’s Destiny to rule this kingdom.”

    His tone brooked no disagreement.

    “Cowards and thieves derailed my brother’s fate, but when I sit on the throne and wear a necklace of my brother’s finger bones around my neck and use his handprint for a royal seal…

    “Part of my brother’s destiny to occupy the throne and to rule will be fulfilled.”

    “About that—I’m not at all sure that we’ll survive long enough to place you on the throne,” Snake said.

    “You taught me not to fear pain, not to fear death and not to shun discomfort.

    “I order you to place me on the throne. It isn’t a fear that I have of dying. It is a matter of honour and overwhelming expediency that I fulfill my brother’s Destiny,” Reed commanded in a regal tone.

    “We’re being pursued by a much larger force,” a brother rode up to tell Snake.

    “Now my joy is almost complete,” Snake grumbled.


  23. #23
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    State WA
    Ah man I was sad Jethro died.

  24. #24


    Yeah, but if someone that the readers like doesn't die occasionally it makes for a dull and predictable story...

    Like most of mine—but mine are dull and predictable for other reasons.

    The beauty though—The father had given up completely on the middle two boys as potential Heirs to the Throne.

    And Reed only got to train and become involved with the Guard due to an off-hand remark he made.

    Had he chosen another item to express his sense of being passed over completely—perhaps he'd never have been asked to train—and had no chance of surviving/ruling.

    Case in point is the Next Brother in line, who unless I have a major revelation, will be lucky to have another 200 words dedicated to him.


  25. #25
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    State WA
    I know sometimes a character has to leave the hard way. Thank you.

  26. #26
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Thank you for the new chapters. Very good story!
    The word RACIST, and the ability to debate race-related issues rationally, are the kryptonite of white common sense.

    After the first one, the rest are free.

  27. #27

    6 Chapter Sixteen

    Chapter Six

    “They will catch us soon,” Willon said.

    He seemed more pleased by the prospect than not. He’d been in a smoldering rage since word had gotten to him of the assault on his wife and children.

    The death of Jethro and some of the scribes hadn’t sweetened his disposition.

    “Let us form up and await them on the crest of a hill and catch our breath. That way we can be well rested and charge them on a downhill slope.

    “I groove on the sentiment,” Snake said. “But as much as I’d like to make a brave last stand, our primary responsibility is to deliver the prince—probably the king by now—to Sturm’s mountain province,” Snake said, however reluctantly.

    Half a day’s worth of hard uphill travel later Snake said to his friend:

    “I guess I should have listened to you earlier. We’ll try to form a line at the top of the next crest.”

    Once the men—and women—were assembled, Snake addressed them.

    “Life is short. It is full of misery, pain and degradation.

    “Nothing matters.

    “Nothing matters because win or lose, we’ll die.

    “Very quickly the remembrance of our lives is lost.

    “Life is composed equally of foul lusts that burn like acid and a futile longing for purity.

    “But there is one pure and chaste and glorious thing in this world:


    “You are chosen people. For a brief moment you can strike back against everything that sucks in this world and the puppet masters who instigate all the suffering.

    “And I almost hate to remind you, since it seems to demean the value and significance of our last battle to a degree…

    “But if a man dies, nonetheless he shall rise again.

    “To be absent the body is to be present with Christ.

    “Take as many down to the grave with you as possible.

    “That is our only tactic and our only strategy.”

    The royal forces outnumbered them almost five to one, but they were only the fastest moving vanguard of a much larger force.

    Over half the mounted contingent of the royal army had been dispatched to capture and destroy them and they ranged from a few hours to a few days behind the force running point.

    It was only good game theory. Reed was the only one with even a half-vast potential to impede Queen Jamilla and Prince Gregory’s imperial aspirations.

    Snake ordered his troops to charge and prepared to meet his destiny. Unfortunately outside forces were all set to intervene between Snake and the object of his heartfelt desire.

    The brothers hadn’t yet closed to revolver range, though a few undisciplined early shots rang out, when a much larger force appeared from over a ridge and fell on the royal vanguard’s east flank in great force.

    The flankers outnumbered the vanguard and were more heavily armored and armed. The royal force was no match for them even without the morale destroyer of having their flanks turned.

    They ripped through the royal army without encountering more than token resistance and they didn’t try to impede the survivors from fleeing.

    ***************** **************** ***************

    Sturm raised his helmet and greeted Snake.

    “I can’t say that I’m thrilled at your interference,” Snake told him sourly.

    The huge eunuch raised his eyebrows in an unfeigned expression of bewilderment. The expression was so comical that Snake was forced to laugh and it was hard to stay angry.

    “I rescued the king,” Sturm said.

    “There is that,” Snake allowed.

    *************** *************** **************

    Sturm escorted King Reed to a nearby mountain castle.

    King Gregory assembled the largest army on the planet, perhaps seventeen thousand musket, revolver and sword carrying men—along with two or three times as many conscripts armed with everything from fine muzzle loading hunting rifles and howdah pistols, to companies expediently armed with hoes and sickles.

    Snake was elected to meet the rival king and discuss a truce.

    “Surrender my brother to me,” King Gregory demanded.

    “Why would I do that? King Reed is the eldest brother and should be king,” Snake said.

    “I have evidence that the prince poisoned his father and had his brother assassinated. I intend to have him tried and executed for treason,” Gregory said.

    “Whore’s spit! If you decide to pursue this one-sided battle, and if you survive, Reed may be inclined toward mercy.

    “However I intend to feel both you and your scheming mother’s life force flee your bodies…

    “While my sword’s blade lies piercing your bowels.

    “Even against the King’s orders, if necessary,” Snake promised the chubby-cheeked monarch.

    “I could order you executed this moment,” Gregory threatened.

    “You could order it. I’d die. You’d die. Messy,” Snake said.

    “Your giant eunuch has the bulk of his forces arrayed outside of the his castle. How much military savvy does it take to understand that sieges are best defended against from inside one’s protective walls?

    “You’ll see the idiocy of his battle plan once swords are crossed, but by then it will be too late,” Gregory gloated.

    “Fool!” Snake addressed him and his arguments.

    *************** ***************** ***************

    The attack began the next day at dawn.

    There was no cavalry charge. There were enough pits, spiked barricades and concertina to rule that out.

    Snake was happy that at least the horses would be spared the worst of the carnage, since he felt that the horses were innocent of any malice or wrongdoing.

    The royal army used .80 caliber smooth bored and heavily bayoneted muskets similar to the Brown Bess.

    They would halt and fire volleys from standing or kneeling, in between lockstep marching advances.

    Sturm’s forces used .58 caliber rifled muskets similar to the Sharps rifles used in The War of Northern Aggression. The rifles used minie balls and were accurate to a very modest minimum of one hundred yards.

    Sturm’s forces were firing from supported positions and were largely behind cover. Since they didn’t have to interrupt their shooting and loading to advance, they were getting off perhaps four or five rounds to the royal army’s one.

    They were also superior marksmen with superior weapons.

    They turned the regular columns of the enemy into tattered remnants by the time they reached the barricades. Then the defenders had far more revolvers than the attackers when the attack became close-range and personal.

    Though there were some good revolvers and skilled pistoleros among the attackers, all of the highlanders were first-rate pistoleros armed with top of the line revolvers—often three or more, while many of the attackers had at most one or two.

    Many of the royal army soldiers had no revolver at all, but must needs rely on their musket-mounted bayonet.

    Sturm’s forces beat the first wave back very easily, with minimum casualties.

    The capability to make caps implied the ability to make internally primed fixed cartridges, but hardly anyone in the kingdom, or anywhere else on the backward planet for that matter, had worked much on cartridge development.

    That is, until the brotherhood’s mountain armorers started large scale development.

    Sturm had hundreds of sharp-shooting snipers armed with falling block, long-range .50-140 rifles equipped with cross-haired scopes.

    The trumpets and the battle semaphores only ordered them to start firing after the first assault had been soundly beaten back.

    The snipers wiped their bores down quickly between shots to keep the black powder fouling to a minimum. Every ten shots or so, the muzzle was plunged into a bucket of water to cool it and the bore was scrubbed a bit more thoroughly.

    Still, the royal army was encountering far more accurate long-range fire than any army in the planet’s history had ever had to deal with.

    Some of the snipers aimed at small unit leaders like senior NCOs and lieutenants while some worked from behind the lines aiming at the commanders and top brass.

    When the second wave started in earnest. It was hard for the snipers to pick out the leaders when whole companies were in motion, so they simply aimed at targets of opportunity and upped the death toll for the attackers.

    The second wave broke much like the first—but with more casualties for the attackers this time.

    Sturm brought his next innovation on line.

    He had whole companies—two-hundred and forty shooters per company, each shooter with an assistant or two—stationed on distant hills and trained for massed volley fire with the .50-140s.

    Two hundred and forty riflemen directing their massed fire to an area was a force to be reckoned with, even from a quarter mile or more away.

    As they got the range, death rained on the rear echelons, the troops held in reserve, the kitchen and hospital tents and the command headquarters.

    Sturm had far more fractious highlanders than he could readily bring to bear; yet they were all anxious to take some part in the battle.

    He had twenty-four of the volley-fire companies armed with the new .50-140 falling block rifles…

    But the hills also bristled with informal militias firing volleys with .58 caliber muzzleloaders; old smooth bored muskets, .45 caliber squirrel rifles, and even one startlingly optimistic group of crossbowmen.

    Sturm figured that firing at the foemen from far away would keep his people from worse mischief. Who knew but that an occasional .45 caliber ball or crossbow quarrel might—against all odds—make a minor contribution to the cause?

    After several wave attacks, late in the afternoon, the massed volley-fire ceased completely. The snipers were largely silent. The defenders became very sparing with their fire.

    King Gregory concluded that Sturm’s forces were running short of ammunition.

    He committed all his forces to a final, all-out assault.

    Sturm’s forces fell back in disorder.

    Then as the royal troops charged in howling like wolves on the trail of an elk…

    Hundreds of concealed troops popped up from spider holes and other places of concealment.

    Each spider hole contained two men armed with the new black powder Stens, backed up by three riflemen armed with carbine-sized .45-70 falling blocks functionally identical to the bigger .50-140s.

    The armorers had based their cartridge on the time-tested .45 Colt. It seemed a waste of perfectly good stopping power to use round-nosed bullets—so each cartridge consisted of a hard-cast 260 grain truncated-cone lead bullet backed by twenty six grains of black powder in the slightly lengthened .45 Colt case (that was also modified slightly for better feeding and extraction from a magazine-fed action).

    The .45 caliber bullets from the twelve inch barreled Stens were powerful close-range fight-stoppers.

    The black powder left beaucoup filthy residue in the open bolt machine pistols, but they had broad tolerances and could generally be relied upon for several twenty-four round magazines before jamming became a serious problem.

    There are various degrees of “unaimed” fire. The Sten gunners fired short controlled bursts at concentrations of foemen. The carbine bearers were there to watch for purposeful threats to the Sten gunners and to dispatch them with fast aimed fire.

    All of them were generously equipped with as many revolvers, Bowies and short swords each man felt was essential to be in good battlefield fashion.

    Some of the riflemen died. Some of the sten gunners died too despite the riflemen’s protection.

    Far more of Gregory’s forces fell to the totally unexpected attack by men wielding the uncouth weapons.

    ***************** ************ *******************

    “I wish to formally surrender,” King Gregory said.

    “No, no,” Snake chided him. “I told you what I was going to do to you if you persisted in this attack.

    “Give him a good long sword—as well as a short sword and/or a Bowie if he wants it.

    “Fact is, give him a poleaxe or one of those battle axes with the four foot handles, if he’d like.

    “Arm yourself,” Snake concluded.

    “Please no! I beg you,” King Gregory said.

    “I fight as I stand,” Snake said.

    He wore only his short western Wakizashi and a Bowie, but he had his Ranger rope in his hand.

    Gregory slashed at Snake, but Snake easily avoided him.

    He brought the steel ball on the end of the rope down across Gregory’s face several times.
    Finally Snake seemed to tire of playing with Gregory.

    He broke Gregory’s sword arm across his knee and then drew his short sword and shoved it into Gregory’s lower abdomen.

    “Feel that pain and know that it is the last thing that you will ever feel in this life,” Snake said as he twisted the blade.

    “No one touch him!” Snake commanded. “Let him die all alone and in agony.”

    When Gregory was dead, Snake cut his hands off with two precise slashes.

    “What are you going to do with those,” Willon asked.

    “If King Reed is going to have a glove made from a king’s skin, and a necklace made from human finger bones, then I deserve gloves and necklace too,” Snake opined.

    “You’re getting awfully blood thirsty,” Willon commented.

    “Me?” Snake said in amazement.

    “You played with that poor fool with your rope,” Willon said.

    “I wasn’t playing. He wasn’t a warrior by any stretch of the imagination.

    “If I hadn’t gotten his adrenaline flowing from the pain of being whipped, he might have slipped into shock straightaway when I stabbed him,” Sake explained.

    “But why did it matter?” Willon said.

    “I promised him that experience. Should I break my solemn word to a monarch?

    “Anyway, you’ve sent a many a capador or children’s pimp to Hell,” Snake said.

    “Listen to the wives and mothers and lovers wail in mourning tonight. ‘Twas Gregory that brought that about,” Snake said.

    “Perhaps Gregory meant well,” Willon said.

    “Meaning well isn’t a mitigating factor, but a highly aggravating one.

    “If King Gregory tried to seize the throne from greed or ambition, I spit on him.

    “If he did it for some high minded purpose, then I spit on his shadow,” Snake said.

    “Why would I care if someone spit on my shadow?” Willon asked.

    “Outdoors on a windy day, you might urinate on my shadow without offense—

    “But to deliberately spit upon it…

    “Don’t you know that your shadow is your soul?”

    “But your corpse will still have a shadow,” Willon objected.

    “The shadow of a corpse is a mere artifact of interrupted light. The true shadow, the soul, will be with God, or roasting in Hell,” Snake said.

    “The king may be angry that you’ve killed his brother,” Willon said.

    “Let him. He’s only a king. I, on the other hand, am master of myself.”


  28. #28
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    State WA
    Good one thank you.

  29. #29
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Wow, thank you.
    The word RACIST, and the ability to debate race-related issues rationally, are the kryptonite of white common sense.

    After the first one, the rest are free.

  30. #30

    6 Chapter Seven

    Chapter Seven

    King Reed’s forces prepared to head back to the capital. Gregory was dead and over half the royal army was in tatters. There was nothing to prevent them.

    All along the way, military units of various sizes joined the entourage and swore allegiance to the new king.

    By the time they reached the city, the city had already opened to them.

    Reed held court and one of the first petitioners was his younger brother Michael.

    “I swear fealty,” Michael said. “I have no desire to sit on your throne. I only wish to study my books—as you once did before the brotherhood corrupted you.”

    Michael looked sick and feverish. His eyes were sunken and his short hair was plastered to his skull.

    “What is the matter with you?” Reed asked.

    “I had them make me a eunuch. That way you have no need to fear that I might usurp your throne,” Michael stammered.


    “I was afraid of you,” his brother responded.

    Before the king could say, “Yea; nay or hey!” Willon had cut Michael’s throat from ear to ear with the scribe’s sickle that he carried.

    “What was that about?” the king asked wearily while wiping his brows with one hand.

    “He chose…” Willon began.

    Snake and most of the guardsmen came out with revolvers in either hand.

    “I’m not going to arrest Willon—or try to,” King Reed said and sighed.

    “And I know this show of force is in support of Willon and not the king.”

    “Snake, I assume that you mean to track down my mother and give her the gift that you gave King Gregory?


    “I have to make command decisions. You are of use to me. I hardly know my mother and I have little doubt that she’d continue to plot against me.

    “Try to be at least semi-discrete and report to me when you’re satisfied.

    “And if you must wear my brother’s finger bones around your neck in court, at least tuck them inside your tunic out of sight.”

    The king shooed Snake out of his royal presence with a sweeping motion of his hand.

    *************** ************** *************

    It took Snake a few weeks to track Queen Jamilla through the labyrinth of shanties and ad hoc hovels that comprised the poor section of town.

    He prepared to go to sleep in his quarters in the palace with a clear conscious.

    He had warned the woman and to his mind, the fact that she was half a kingdom away when he issued his ultimatum to her son on her behalf, did not make her any less responsible for what her son subsequently chose.

    But before sleep claimed him, crackling and dry spitting noises startled him to wakefulness.

    There was as shining golden sphere of fourteen or fifteen inches in diameter floating about five foot high in his bedroom. Sparks like the ones the brotherhood produced on the static generators that they used to teach science, but monumentally larger, played all along the ball’s surface.

    “Snake,” he heard his name called—not from the sphere, but in a reverberating way that made the voice seem to come from everywhere and nowhere all at once.

    “Who are you?” Snake demanded.

    “Would you believe ‘God’?” The voice asked.


    “Why not? God spoke to Moses from a burning bush,” The voice continued.

    “You aren’t Moses,” Snake pointed out angrily.

    “I didn’t claim to be Moses. Just for the record: I didn’t claim to be God either—just asked if you’d believe that I was.”

    “Whore’s spit! Do you have a point?”

    “I’m a sphere.”

    “Cool dude. You just feel free to use my chambers till your heart is content. I’m going somewhere that I might be able to sleep,” Snake said.

    “Wait!” the sphere expostulated. “I’ve gone to some pains to contact you.”

    “Then get on with it.”

    “Do you know what the Internet is?” the sphere began.

    “I’m familiar with the theory. Book mentioned it more than once. There are references in the many of the cross-time books,” Snake said.

    “There are parts of the Internet that reach through time and space and connect alternate worlds,” the sphere said.

    “I’m happy for you,” Snake said.

    “Some of us call ourselves ‘Watchers’—not a terribly original name or concept—but we sit at our monitors and watch worlds like yours develop.

    “The source of the ‘window’ to worlds like this one, without the slightest trace of the Internet is obscure. The math is—but it is beyond either you or me.

    “But in a nutshell, your world is stunted. You only have one major kingdom with a half a dozen smaller satellite states and maybe a score of minor principalities.

    “There are less than a quarter of a million people on your world.

    “You have been circling the beginnings of fairly advanced technology for centuries—but you never advance…

    “Or rather, you advance for a few decades and then crash back.

    “And you have libraries full of books from other cross-times pointing the way for you—not to mention a steady stream of cross-time travelers.

    “Much of the hard work has been done for you—but you stay stunted,” the voice concluded.

    “Something interferes,” Snake hypothesized.

    “Yes. We have no idea who they are. Their motives are obscure as well. We have never come across direct evidence of them—only secondary effects.

    “We have never found a people who take such rare delight in castrating their fellow men. A startling percentage of your men are eunuchs.

    “And you also have a startlingly high prevalence of Pederasty.

    “This world is in a very privileged position to get personnel and materiel to from outside.

    “And we Watchers can ‘nudge’ something or someone occasionally—not nearly as often or as selectively as we’d like-but still…

    “We thought Book had a high potential to start a Shaolin style warrior school—with his own twists of course.

    “We thought that one of the school’s graduates might lead a crusade against the children’s brothels. You turned out to be much more than we’d hoped…

    “Book was too, so far as that goes.

    “By the way, Willon is your twin brother. The mid-wife stole him and your mother was too delirious to realize that she’d bore two,” the sphere said.


    “Do you have to ask? Children have value to those who love to hurt and abuse them.

    “Anyway, we think we have a way to put the capadores in check.

    “Listen carefully, my time here grows short.”

    **************** *************** *****************

    Snake grimly filled the syringe and injected himself in the big vein in his arm. A simple intramuscular injection would have sufficed, but Snake was flashy.

    “Roll up your sleeves,” he told Willon and Sturm.

    “What will it do?” Sturm asked.

    “To me, little or nothing. I just wanted to show that I trust the injection.

    To Willon, it will cause him to grow a new pair of stones. For you, a pair of stones and a yard is in the offing.”


    “It’s a genetically engineered retrovirus that alters our genes enough to make regeneration far more likely: stones, yards, fingers, toes, eyes, tongues…

    “Most folk couldn’t re-grow a whole foot or hand—but there are occasional exceptions—or should be.

    “I want to line up about two-score of the scribes and fire them up…

    “As well as all the cooks—both scribe guild cooks and the regular cooks,” Snake said.

    “The cooks aren’t eunuchs. Shouldn’t we give it to people that it can help?” Willon asked.

    “It is contagious,” Snake said. “In fifteen years it should have spread to almost every human on Earth.

    “Giving it to the cooks spreads it more effectively at the outset.”

    “What do you expect to gain from this?” Sturm asked.

    “Outside of making my friends whole?

    “Who would bother to make someone a eunuch if they have to repeat the process every couple years?

    “Besides, the stimulated ability to regenerate, even mildly, should add ten to fifteen years to a man’s life—at the very least—thirty years or fifty for some.

    “And old folk’s minds will stay noticeably sharper.

    “Sharp minds are going to be at a premium.

    “Things are going to get interesting soon,” Snake said.

    I may add to the Story Line as I'm moved—but other projects call and this is a good Ceasura.

    Last edited by RVM45; 08-28-2013 at 01:36 PM.

  31. #31
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    State WA
    Thank you for your story I enjoyed it.

  32. #32
    thanks for the ride RVM45, good stuff

  33. #33
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Thank you for this story. It's a fun read, and it would be nice to see additions to it when the "inspiration" hits you.
    The word RACIST, and the ability to debate race-related issues rationally, are the kryptonite of white common sense.

    After the first one, the rest are free.

  34. #34
    Thanks for the story RVM45 Keep Writing

  35. #35
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Ontario, Canada
    Thank you!

  36. #36

  37. #37
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    SE Louisiana...
    Quote Originally Posted by john70 View Post
    Please...a continuation of this story would be fantastic!

  38. #38
    Again Thanks for the story RVM45 Keep Writing


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