Category Archives: Art

Inspiration Tuesday: Scouting Party by Aaron Miller

When I saw this Scouting Party piece by Aaron Miller, I instantly thought about an NPC from an old D&D campaign that was quite the hit with my players. Some disliked him, but they paid him for his guide services through The Wet Forest.

While I enjoyed the character, this is the first time he has ever peeked his head out in my fiction.


 

Another bead of sweat found its forerunner’s path and ran down Swampy McGee’s cheek. As much as he wanted to wipe it, and the others beads, he remained statue still. His fae friend Wal did, too.

A raiding party comprised of torteeze, gator-folk, and lizard men had just rounded Tristan’s Knee and were heading up east past Kellen’s waterfall. All three races of the Wet Forests’ vision were primarily movement base and Swampy didn’t want to catch their eye.

An ancient hate among the reptilian races normally kept them at each others’ neck. That rift was what kept their populations low enough for his guild of explorers get a toehold in the former elven lands.

The pinch of shredded jerky Swampy had in his cheek had lost all of its cherry-fly spice and had become bland horse meat. He resisted finishing it.

The raiding party was close enough to the waterfall that they wouldn’t hear much of anything beyond their near radius, but they were oft to glance around and it’d be a bloody shame if his chewing jaw is what sent their spears his way.

What could unite, them ‘onters? Realization made his eyes flutter. Steeling himself from excess movement, Swampy focused on getting back to being statue still. They all have similar arms and armor. Whas’sat mean? They an army? Whose der leada?

Man, the blood of his forefathers—scouts unequaled—itched. He could go back with word of what he’d seen, but he wouldn’t have all the answers.

The last of the raiding party rounded out of site.

Wal piped, “We have to spread word.”

“Of what?” Swampy chewed his jerky and looked at the small wingless fae on the back of his swamp raven mount. “They walk ta’gether. Got the same gear. And what?” Swampy swallowed. He wiped his face. “Der’s a whole-lotta more ta know and a whole-lotta more ta tell.”

“No Swampy.” Wal shook his small head. “We’re not going to trail them.”

“You mean, you ain’t.” Swampy grinned. “You run and tell what you know.” He clicked his tongue twice. His strad-lizzard mount eased down into the water. “I’ma go find out mo’.”

 

© Ezekiel James Boston


the_scouting_party_by_aaronmiller-d52f6x7©2012-2016 AaronMiller
You can find more by Aaron Miller at:
http://aaronbmiller.com/
http://aaronmiller.deviantart.com/

Inspiration Tuesday: Forsaken by Jonas De Ro

Taking in all the detail, I studied this image from Jonas De Ro for about ten minutes. I wanted to write something from within the scene and what I ended up with is something that’s going to show up in one of my science fiction stories. Jonathan will probably be a primary character with Jamaal working for an underworld kingpin.

This is 100% explore the concept. I’ll have to work in a hack scene or two prior to this that delves into this war torn setting.


 

Jamaal Miggs couldn’t make sense of it.

Through the years, he had dream-hacked hundreds of speculators, refuges, and work-seekers traveling in suspended animation to extract info he could use or sell to his contacts who would make the most of the exploit.

During most dream hacks, Jamaal would guide the temporarily unsuspended yet still deeply tranqued, traveler to various places during a typical galactic standard day. From transactions at banks during the daylight to secret indulgences under nightfall. He would find what captured their interests and what vices tempted them the most.

But this sleeper—this Jonathan Doughberg—just wouldn’t crack.

Jamaal tried all the prompts he knew to get Doughberg to actually go through his thoughts and all recreations—every single one—started with a battle-worn city. Vehicles riddled with bullet holes, buildings damaged by shellfire. Destruction and discarded furniture lined the side of the road and peppered the sidewalks: rubble, casings, casted off possessions… But the war torn streets were clear.

Hell, Doughberg wasn’t even present. It was Jamaal, alone on the streets. And for some damn reason, he was a kid.

This Doughberg conundrum had vexed him for months. A couple times a week, he hacked into Doughberg’s domicapsule to try again and again only to find himself standing in the same annihilated city.

Fuck, Jamaal actually had a dream of his own where he stood in the same spot; looking at the same shit.

He drummed his fingers on his leg. The Prism Corp neural interceptor that he bought for a hefty sum—and used without incident—weighed lightly on his hair. The Corp’s psychiatric unit used these devices to piggyback onto their deep space crews’ recollections.

Instead of merely being able to observe whatever random thought sleepers had during transport, the mods Jamaal built into the syncpads allowed him to guide the sleeper. To manipulate the sleeper. And–in some cases–even control the sleeper.

And it had always worked.

Until this guy.

“Shit.” Jamaal’s voice came back to him and it sounded weird. It sounded all growed up and he had used a dirty word. “Whoa!”

Jamaal flung the neural interceptor from his head. Its pendulum mount squeaked as it rocked back and forth. He was an adult and he used profanity all the fucking time. He wiped his face. Something about that scene had twisted his thoughts up enough and regressed him so that he actually thought from the point of view of his own youth when shit was the dirtiest word he knew.

He eyed the helmet of thin wires.

There was something new in the dream. He hadn’t noticed it until he ripped out, but there was a red ball. A red ball right as his feet. He was going to pick it up.

Jamaal bolted out of his chair to pace the narrow walkway in front of Doughberg’s domicapsule.

That damn red ball was going to haunt him for days. But there was no way he was going to go back into Doughberg’s sleep. While he hadn’t come across anything like this before, something at the edge of his conscious understanding warned that while he was trying to hack Doughberg; somehow, someone was hacking him.

© Ezekiel James Boston


jonasdero_forsaken©2014 www.jonasdero.be
You can find more by Jonas De Ro at:
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Inspiration Tuesday: Magic and Jordan by CG Felker

With automation being the future, there will probably be one or or two things humans will still want/need to do themselves… And that’s only because it’s tied to your survival as a species.


Since this inspiration is based upon real people, I’ve decided to remove it. You know, just to be on the safe side.–EJ–

magic_and_jordan_by_cgfelker-da662e1©2014-2016 ianllanas
You can find more by Ian Llanas at:
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Inspiration Tuesday: Water Elemental Redux by Ian Llanas

This is the ‘now’ part of a then and now challenge completed by artist Ian Llanas. The challenge is to take a piece of art done several years ago and “redo” it with your current skill level.

The idea behind the challenge is solid and brings to mind a story I wrote a few years ago about a bound air elemental. That was then. Let’s do a now.

**Okay. So the plan got away from me. Before I could start, I had to understand the elemental’s point of view. After a few hundred words, I discovered its motivation and now I’m off to write the story.


 

There were centuries of nameless beings flowing together in a realm that held only one element: water. Without the air, there was no horizon. Without the earth, there was no muck, mud, or grit.

The one that ripped him from that blissful state of being was named Tabbo Treespeaker.

Tabbo Treespeaker was nothing like It had seen before. It could sense the water in Tabbo, but the water was diluted. Mixed. Not pure. Though mostly composed of water, Tabbo’s form never switched. Some kind of casing kept everything and in a fixed flesh form.

It was willful with a wild spirit. Tabbo broke both and named It Warden. Told It to form itself like Tabbo; a man. Told It that Its duty was to keep all men who weren’t Tabbo from delving deeper into Tabbo’s swamp. And it had done so faithfully—even using the name Warden—while Tabbo was alive.

It could feel two-leggers, men, wading through wastes high swamp water, and they were coming Its way. It used to keep men out because that was what Tabbo wanted. Now, It killed men because every single one of them looked like Tabbo.

And It could never kill Taboo enough.

© Ezekiel James Boston


water_elemental_redux_by_ianllanas-d6qgkzp©2014-2016 ianllanas
You can find more by Ian Llanas at:
http://ianllanas.com
http://ianllanas.deviantart.com
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Inspiration Tuesday: Temple Lagoon by Jonas De Ro

With what is going on in my life right now, I need to go with something a bit more serene. Temple Lagoon by Jonas De Ro has everything I’d look for in a place to unwind: beauty, water, and hints of a simple life amid a small community.


Inspiration removed for use in my fiction. Sorry. –EJ–

jonasdero_temple_lagoon©2014 www.jonasdero.be
You can find more by Jonas De Ro at:
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Inspiration Tuesday: Patience by Ian Llanas

In honor of the tax season that just passed, I present to you Patience by Ian Llanas. Having known a couple of people who had issues with their taxes, I advocate knowing the rules and playing by them.


 

I became a made man so I had ‘made’ tattooed on my hand. Every time I wanted to open my mouth about what I’d done to earn my stripes, to keep my stripes, prove my stripes, I glance at the ink.

It gives me pause.

It makes me think.

Think about freedom. Think about choice.

Think about what I would say if I had a voice.

They took my tongue, blinded me, and threw me in an off-the-books cell. Not the cushy kind where Dons and billionaires lounge. The kind that mind you wish that had just placed you in the ground.

To get me to talk, they cracked my face, but I’m a made man and I know my place. Here I only know vague light and pure dark. For every week that goes by, I make a mark. Because after ten years, the day will come when the magic in the ink will be undone.

I will still keep my vow of silence.

But I’ll completely shatter the one against violence.

© Ezekiel James Boston


patience_by_ianllanas-d6vqmlz©2014-2016 ianllanas
You can find more by Ian Llanas at:
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Inspiriation Tuesday: Dragon Poachers by Jonas De Ro

Work had been rather busy, but this piece by Jonas De Ro washed the real world away as Jerus Dragonfriend–at a later stage of life–popped into my head. I’m not so sure of him as a main character, but he definitely has all the qualities of being a story’s catalyst.


 

Aduk snatched the halved silver coin from Xul and sized up the rotund drunk face down at the nearest table. Stone asleep, the codger had a death grip on what remained of a turkey leg. His loud snores came in spats and he reeked of soured wine. Aduk shook his head and stashed the coin.

“Hey!” Xul whispered, “That’s mine. Give it to him and ask.”

Aduk shook his head. “That guy wouldn’t know that turkey bone in his hand from his own pecker.”

“That is The Great Bard Jerus. I’d give him the fee, but he knows me and hates my order.

Aduk brandished the half-coin at Xul. “If he pukes on me, you bleed.”

Xul nodded. “More than fair.”

“Witch tits.” Regarding his companion, Aduk stood. “You talk me into dumber shit…” He sat next to the mess of a man. The oder made the fine dinner of venison and rice almost rise. Aduk swallowed hard to keep it down. “Jerus, here’s pay. Tell me of the Taumil Dragon Slayers.”

The snoring stopped. Jerus’s plump hand released the turkey leg and rotated palm up.

Taken aback, Aduk dropped the coin in the center of the fat hand.

Jerus closed his hand. He slurred, “Ssso, The Taumil, hmmm?” Forehead still on the table, he rotated his head to face Aduk. His words became amazingly crisp. “Their last run was against Flamesage the Red.” He opened his hand again. A full gold coin with the perfect edges the Taumil were famed to make sat on the doughy flesh.

Aduk licked his lips. To the right buyer, that coin–that relic–would fetch a lord’s ransom.

Jerus cleared his throat. “You can either hear about the Dragon Slayers or take this coin.”

Aduk rubbed his chin. He and Xul already had a map that led to the Slayers treasure hoard. The only need a Taumil coin to judge distance.

Xul would be pissed, but Aduk made his decision. He said, “Give me the coin, old man.”

“Take it then.” Jerus rested his cheek back on the table. He slurred. “Be gone and let an old man shleep.”

Aduk snatched it and rushed back to show Xul. “Look.”

Xul hung his head. “You dolt.”

“What?” Aduk turned the mint gold coin over in his hand. He checked around for thieves only to find Jerus sleeping and the tavern man peeling potatoes. He still chose to keep his voice low. “It’s an Taumil coin. Exactly what we need.”

Xul thumped his worn leather map case on the table. “Don’t let me stop you.”

Without a word, Aduk snatched it up and rushed from the tavern.

Xul hurried across the room to slip out the back. It wouldn’t be long before Aduk stopped and opened the case to compare the coin to the map. The dullard would be doubly pissed to find that he had an empty case and the same half silver Xul had given to him.

Minding his path on the loose cobblestone roads of Lomka, Xul wondered how’d he missed Jerus casting the illusion; hell, the man had barely moved.

© Ezekiel James Boston


I was a little surprised that Xul (from here and here) made an appearance. Puzzle pieces are coming together as well as a timeline. This is Jerus as an old man while the other piece had him as a young man heading out from home. And, this would be just before Xul met up with Carmen and company.

jonasdero_dragon_poachers©2014 www.jonasdero.be
You can find more by Jonas De Ro at:
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Inspiration Tuesday: Kobald Dogs by CG Felker

Not sure why, but I’ve always like gnolls. LIke so many other DMs, I sued them to fill in the ranks in lower tiers of armyies without giving them much of their own agenda. Perhpas it’s the atypical hyena look that gnolls typicall have… Don’t know.

Though this piece by CG Felker is called Kobold Dogs, I feel it breathes a bit of new life into the usual worn rolls that gnolls fill.


“Barron Talis!” Barely able to keep up with his feet, Rex burst into the main hall. “They’ve taken Fort Dawn.”

Rex caught a quick glimpse of the Barron’s large pink and lilac chair. Empty. He doubled over, rested his hands on his knees and huffed. His lungs burned. The newly earned longsword on his hip pulled him to lean more on his left, but the weight of the weapon was nothing compared to the suit of chainmail and large shield on his back. For a brief moment, he wished he hadn’t been promoted from runner to guard.

The scent of roasted turkey, scalloped potatoes, and corn registered sweetly. Whispers and utensils on dishware filled the small gaps between his heartbeat pounding in his ears. He managed to bust in during Barron Talis’s afternoon respite. This perceived violation would be worth the month in the kitchens.

“And?” Disdain dripped from the Barron’s sole word.

“And the Dogs of War–” Rex gulped air. Reflexively, he stood to counter the stitch growing in his stomach. He knew better than to lean over, but the armor was so damned heavy. “They’ll be–“

Barron Talis opened his hand to let his silver fork fall from his slender fingers. Fingers that had never known dirt or the hilt of a sword.

Shit. Preparing for the stitch to take hold, Rex grimaced and bowed as customary. The stitch bit hard and kept him doubled. He fought through it to stand at attention.

The Barron dropped his frilly napkin onto his plate. “And tell me, if you know…” The Barron flicked his ear.

Rex had seen the motion several times before. The Barron was going to ask him three questions and expected accurate answers. Every I do not know would equal jail time. Three insufficient answers meant execution. Why’d he have burst in?

“If you have a brain, use it now — since you didn’t use it a moment ago.” The Barron raised a finger with each question. “Who is Barron over the land that Fort Dawn occupies? How many times has said Barron spread false information? If your report is accurate, to whom do these so-called dogs of war owe their allegiance?”

Rex knew the first, had a good guess for the second; he bit his lip. Barron Talis would never believe reports of independent gnolls.

© Ezekiel James Boston


1601-cgfelker-kobald_dogs_by_cgfelker-d5rddca©2015 cgfelker
You can fine more by Clinton Felker at:
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Inspiration Tuesday: Entombed by Jonas De Ro

Talk about your epic fantasy… This piece by Jonas De Ro establishes so much about the world in which this kind of formation grows. As soon as one thinks about how it came to be, a true exercise in world building begins.


Jerus Dragonfriend stopped at the crest of Aver Hill. The giant iron oaks that formed the forest line were rumored to be old forest guardians from a time when trees ruled the land. A time before man mastered the crafts of fire and magic.

True or not, he had made a spring tradition of coming to the forest line to sit in its cool shade to breathe in the sweet air full of blackberries and honeysuckle. With the calls of the emerald parrots echoing each other, he would stare at Bark Bones; the colossal testament to Oulst’Dar the Ancient Gold Dragon, The Last Great Dragon of Knowledge.

Having taken winter lessons from his great grandfather’s specter on this very spot, habit made him turned to take in Bark Bones one more time. It might be years before he could return. What would his great grandfather’s spirit do without a student?

“A piece of history for you, Marco.” Jerus motioned his head to Bark Bones. “Ten generations ago, my ancestor made Bark Bones from Nar’Dast’s remains.”

“Blood of a dragon slayer, huh?” Marco Direwind turned mid-stride to look back. “Tend tell me great boaster of deeds no one can verify, how did your family come to be Dragonfriend?”

Jerus smiled. “They’ll be time for that story any many more–“

“Spare me.” Marco cast his eyes skyward. “Just to be clear–” He leveled his gaze upon Jerus. “I’m not here to be your friend or earpiece. I’m being paid to take you to the Suntouched Stronghold and that’s it. I don’t need your tales of old. I don’t want your sagely reflections. I only want the purse offered for delivering you.”

Jerus mouth gaped open. How dare he?

Marcus moved past him into the iron oaks. “And save your indignation. You have the spark, but you aren’t a mage, kid. Not yet. So, do us both a favor.” Marcus strode ever deeper into darkening the woods. “Shut up and keep up.”

© Ezekiel James Boston


1512-jonasdero_entombed©2014 www.jonasdero.be
You can find more by Jonas De Ro at:
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