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Monday, April 8, 2019

Tales of Vinoli Masterpost

All chapters of my on-going serial, Tales of Vinoli, gathered under one roof, for your convenience. Its my hope that you'll find it an enjoyable read.
Please note that some chapters contain material unsuitable for younger readers. Furthermore, keep in mind that this is a work in progress and that as my writing improves, I will go back and update old chapters.
My most sincere thanks for your interest and your attention.

Introduction

Short-story: The Fox and the Dragon

Excerpts

New: Chapter 38


Chapter 1






















Monday, January 21, 2019

Chapter 38

"Pirates" Rufus muttered, gazing through the spyglass Eramus had handed him. "That's just what we need and this is usually such a peaceful route."

By now everyone on the ship was awake, though some of them were still drowsy from the sudden awakening and so, several yawns could be heard across the deck.

Rufus turned to Eramus.

"You are our leader, what do you suggest we do?"

The Faun tugged on his goatee as he looked with serious eyes on the approaching menace.

"I say that our most apt course of action would be to try to shake off our pursuers."

Rufus nodded and turned to the others.

"You heard him" he said, voice rising. "Heave the anchor and hoist the mainsail! We are getting out of here!"

At once, the members of the troupe discarded their weariness as though it was an old coat and scrambled to their positions. Soon, the theater-ship was riding on the waves again,with Rufus at the helm. However, the pirates were not willing to let such a choise morsel slip out of their grasp so easily and gave chase.

"We have to scare them off" Eramus said. "Hopefully, a warning shot would suffice."

Among other things, the theater-ship also happened to be outfitted with a small cannon. Eramus now headed down the hold where the cannon was located, accompanied by Isso and another member of the troupe. Shortly thereafter, a thunderous noise could be heard and a black object came flying through the air, nearly hitting the broadside of the pirate ship.
Unfortunately, this did not deter the pirates and they answered by firing off a shot of their own. However, whereas Eramus had only fired the cannon in order to frighten their pursuers, the pirates had done so with the full intention of hitting their target. It was only thanks to Rufus' skilled captaining that the theater-ship was able to escape any damage. But how long would he be able to evade their antagonists and which side would run out of cannonballs first?

The Chase continued for what seemed like an eternity, with both pirates and actors caught up in a dance of endless attacks and evasions. Eventually, Eramus emerged from the hold and walked up to Rufus. They talked in hushed voices for awhile and then Eramus called for everyone to gather around, while Rufus kept steering the ship.

"My friends" he began. "We don't have much time and so, I shall be brief: Our situation is dire, we are almost out of ammunition and our pursuers seems intent on following us to the very end's of the World."

"Yeah, they're on us like flies on shit" muttered Leorin.

"Don't be so vulgar" Risha admonished him. "Where did you learn such an expression anyway?"
The Black kitten gazed up innocently at his sister.

"I heard you use it once" he said, in a matter-of-fact tone.

"Yes, well" Risha replied, flustered, feeling her cheeks turn red. "You should do as I say not as I do."

"Once they've caught up with us" Eramus continued, paying no heed to the sibling's whispered conversation. "Who knows what the pirates will do? There's a chance that they will show mercy and will only strip us of our valuables and then let us proceed on our way. If we are lucky, that is. However, I somehow doubt that we'll be that lucky. Rather than stay still and wait to be boarded, we have tried to escape the pirates and have even fired upon their ship! I think its more likely that once they reach us, they will either slaughter us, or sell us as slaves."

"Then let us fight" growled a canine member of the troupe. "We have working weapons aboard this ship, besides the canon and even if they haven't been used in awhile, we've always kept them in good shape."

Everyone agreed to this and with their leader at their head they went into the captain's cabin. There, a large cabinet filled with various weapons were being kept. Eramus hastily opened it and began handing out the weapons in questions. Just then, a voice spoke up:

"One moment."

It was Griselda. Eramus turned to her.

"Yes?"

"Surely, dahling, you can not mean for the youngest among us to risk their lives as well?" She pointed with her sun-feather, first at Leorin and then at the youngest member of the troupe; a female porcupine about the age of ten.

"You are quite right" Eramus agreed and turned to the girl. "Cara, do you remember where the hidden compartment in the hold is?"

"I do."

"Go there and hide. Lock the compartment from the inside, do not open until you hear a knocking like this..." Eramus knocked twice in rapid succession. Paused, and knocked once more.. "Understood?"

Cara nodded, her face serious. She walked up to Leorin and took him by the paw.

"Come" she said.

"I want to stay and fight" he said, petulantly.

"Don't be silly" his sister said. "You are going to stay where its safe."

"I don't want to" Leorin whined. He stomped his foot and seemed to be on the verge of crying.

Resisting an urge to slap her brother, Risha crouched in front of him.

"Leo, this is not a game, this is real."

"I know that..." He began, but his sister cut him off.

"Then you must know that people are going to die. I don't want there to be any possibility that you will be among them."

Leorin looked at Risha. For a moment, he thought about arguing further, but then his more mature side won out.

"Fine" he said, nodding and as he did, a terrible thought came over him. "Just, promise me something."

"Whatever you want."

"Don't die." Leorin then turned to Merees. "Look after my sister" he said, with a serious look on his face.

"I will."

****

Moments later, everyone stood on deck, weapon in hand.

The Pirate ship approached slowly, as if to draw out the tension. The Pirates were grinning menacingly, brandishing the tools of their trade. Towering over them was their chief. He was a huge walrus, terrible to look at: The Coat he wore was the color of blood and one of his long teeth were made out of steel; the original had been lost many years ago in a fearsome battle with another buccaneer.
Now, the pirate captain inhaled, put his flippers at the side of his mouth and bellowed in a voice which caused the sails to shake.

"So, you've decided to quit running?! Good! Surrender and we'll promise that we shall only kill half of you for having inconvenienced us!"

"Go to Hell! Came the answer.


"So be it" the captain said, his voice was lower now, but no less menacing. Quite the opposite, actually.

On deck, Risha could feel Merees fingers brush against her own.

"Are you ready?" The Dragon asked.

Risha took a deep breath. Whatever happened, she was glad that Merees was by her side and that Leorin was safe. Before entering the hold, he and Cara had taken some biscuits and fruit from the galley's stores, so the two of them wouldn't go hungry.

Assuming a stance her father had taught her, the lynx-girl took a firmer grip on the blade which had been issued to her.

"Ready as I'll ever be" she replied.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Goodbye 2018

Although I know that, depending on where you are in the World, the new year has already begun, up here, where I live, its still 2018 for about one more hour. As such, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone who has stumbled upon my blog a Happy New Year. Hopefully, you will find your way back here in 2019, you will always be welcome.

Happy New Year.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Chapter 37

Night on the ocean, the ship which served as transport for Eramus and his theater-troupe had cast anchor for the night. It was a warm night and most members of the crew had decided to take advantage of the good weather to sleep on deck, instead of in their usually cramped living-quarters. By sunset, they had all picked out a suitable spot upon which to lay down their pillows and soon enough, the whole ship was fast asleep.

The whole ship? No, two people on deck had not yet joined their comrades on their journey to the Dreamworld. These were two of the newcomers whom had temporarily joined the troupe; a lynx and a dragon. The Lynx, feeling a bit peckish, was chewing on an apple which she had taken from a nearby barrel. She held the apple's twin in one of her paws and she now offered it up to the dragon.

"Thank you, I am not really hungry."

"Suit yourself" Risha said.

Having finished the apple she threw the core overboard, into the vine-dark sea.

"Just think, "she said. "The Day after tomorow we'll arrive in Tiraliros."

"And not a day too soon" Merees muttered.

Risha moved closer to her girlfriend, putting a paw on her shoulder.

"You've been tense ever since we came aboard" she said. "And I think I know the reason why: Its because of that creep Isso, isn't it?" The Lynx practically spat out the ocelot's name as though it was something she found disgusting.

Merees sighed.

"Risha, he frightens me. I know; someone like me being afraid of someone like him? Even I think its absurd."

 The Dragon shook her head, her lips twisted into a self-mocking grin.

"I don't think its absurd" Risha said, with sincerity. "However, I don't think you'll need to worry about Isso. He wouldn't dare do anything to harm you while we're on the ship and once we get ashore, we don't have to have anything to do with him again. Besides, if he tries anything..."

Risha left the unspoken threat hanging, but she assumed a stance taught to her by her father and took a few jabs at the air.

..."He wouldn't know what hit him" she finished, placing a paw on her hip with a confident smirk on her face.

"My knight in shining armor" Merees said, giving Risha a peck on the cheek, her cool lips pressing against the younger woman's soft fur. "I'll be counting on you to have my back. Just like I hope you'll count on me to have yours."

"Of course" Risha said, returning the kiss in kind.

"And we both have to look after your brother. Speaking of, there's someone who has really been enjoying this voyage."

This was true, Leorin had taken to life aboard like a fish to water, performing each task that was given to him with unbridled enthusiasm. Now, he slept peacefully on deck; his sister having tucked him in for the night.

The Couple stood in silence for awhile, gazing out at the moonlit sea, their arms wrapped around each others waists, Risha resting her head on Merees' shoulder.

"Do you know what day it is?" Merees asked suddenly.

Risha hadn't really kept track of the days ever since they had fled Vinoli and so, she had to think for a few seconds, before she could give the answer.

"Why do you ask?" She wondered, curious as to where this could lead."Is there something special about this day? Can it be...?"

As if she had read Risha's mind, Meees nodded in confirmation.

"Happy Birthday!" Risha squealed excitedly, prompting a nearby crewman to tell her to pipe down. She hurriedly apologized and turned back to Merees, there was something she needed to ask.

"So, tell me" she said. "How old are you?"

"Sixty" came the answer. "Well, I will be later today; I was born at noon."

Risha thought back to what she had learned about dragons at school. She knew that they aged at a different rate from most creatures. Still, it seemed almost unreal  that the person standing next to her had been alive longer than both of her parents.

She hadn't really thought about it before, but Risha suddenly became acutely aware that when she had grown old, with wrinkles around her eyes and gray fur, Merees' appearance would likely not have changed that much and what would happen then?

"Risha, what's the matter?"

The Princess' voice brought Risha back to reality. She looked down at her paws and noticed them trembling.

"Mer..." She began in a hoarse voice.

"Yes, love?"

"When I am old, will you still love me?"

Merees said nothing at first. Instead, she took a firm but gentle grip on Risha's shoulders and gazed into the lynx's eyes with a serious look on her face.
"Risha, there's  something you should know: I've dated other girls before you. I even tried dating a boy once, but that didn't last long. Mostly because of me. That's not important though, this is: Whether male or female,  I never felt for any of them the same way I feel towards you. Risha, you are not just some fling to me: I love you and I will always love you, no matter what you look like or how old you become. So, stop worrying about stuff like that, OK?"

Risha looked at Merees, the dragoness had not said it, but the lynx realized from the look on her face that her feelings had been hurt. Suddenly, she felt ashamed.

"You are right" she said apologetically, ears drooping. "Deep down, I know you will always love me and I feel awful for doubting that in any way. Its just...I guess I'm a bit insecure: I've never had a girlfriend before and when I look at you...Well, I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of people think that you are out of my league."

"Why would you care about what other people think? Besides, they are wrong anyway. As far as I am concerned, you are definitely in my league."

With that, Merees pulled Risha close and kissed her passionately on the mouth.
Risha could feel her legs turn into jelly. She closed her eyes, not wanting to be conscious of anything except for the kiss. At that moment, the lynx-girl's entire World consisted of Merees' tongue filling her mouth.
Neither Risha nor Merees knew exactly how long the kiss lasted. All they knew was that their lungs had felt like they were about to burst and so, the two of them reluctantly separated and stood leaning against the rail, gathering their breath.

Risha was the first to speak.

"That..." She gasped. ..."Was our best kiss yet."

"Just wait" Merees replied."Once we are ashore, we will celebrate my birthday properly. I hope you are ready for that?"


"I can hardly wait. So, any ideas of what you want me to do to you when we are alone?"

"I think I'll leave that to you and judging from the blush on your face, I can tell that you have something in mind already. What is it?"

From the moment when she first became aware that it was her beloved's birthday, an idea had begun to take shape in Risha's head. However, now that that idea was fully formed, she almost hesitant to share it.

"I do have something in mind" she began, feeling the inside of her ears grow hot. "You may think its a bit weird though."

Merees leaned forward, an eager look on her face.

"Now you are making my curious. What is it?"

Risha looked around, everyone else was fast asleep. Still, she did not want to risk everyone overhearing something so intimate. She motioned for Merees to move closer and whispered something in her ear.

The Dragoness' eyes grew wide.

"Really?" She said.

"I mean, only if you want me to" Risha replied hurriedly.

"I do and do you want me to do the same to you on your birthday."

Risha  could do nothing but nod eagerly.

"So, I guess this will be a birthday- tradition between us. Speaking of birthdays, when is yours? Or has it already come and gone?

"No, there's still four months left....Hold on, what is that?"

"Where's what? What are you looking at?"

"Look!" Risha hissed, pointing out at the wine-dark sea. "There's something, can't you see it?"

Merees looked in the direction Risha was pointing. At first, she saw nothing, but then her eyes began to make out a shape in the distance.

"Its probably just another ship" she said. "After all, we are hardly alone out here on the ocean."

"I think its heading towards us".

Indeed, the mysterious shape slowly and steadily drew closer to the theater-ship. Now, Merees too was getting worried.

"I'll go wake Eramus" she said.

Moments later, she returned with the troupe-leader in tow. The Latter was dressed in a morning-robe and carried a spyglass. Despite having been chased out of bed, he showed no signs of being tired.

"Very well" the old faun said. "Let's take a look at what we have here."

He brought the spyglass to his eyes.

"It is indeed a ship and its coming our way" he muttered and then suddenly, he cursed loudly and almost dropped the spyglass.

"What is it?" Risha and Merees both asked with one mouth.

"See for yourselves" Eramus said through clenched teeth.

He handed the spyglass to Risha, the lynx took it and brought it to her eye. Through the lens, she gazed at the approaching ship and the figures, dressed in colorful rags roaming its deck. Then she saw the flag and a fist closed over her heart.
It was a flag that the lynx-girl had previously only seen in books: It was black as night and on it, lit up by the moon, a white skull grinned maliciously.












Sunday, December 23, 2018

Chapter 36

It is unknown whether any of the soldiers or officers of the Vinolian army had imagined the welcome that awaited them upon returning to their nation's capital. As the troops led by General Jeraddin made their way through the cobblestone streets, rose petals were strewn across their paths, while thousands of men, women and children, waved tiny flags and cheered loudly. 
Although knowing what we now know regarding the Conquest of Frigonia, it would be unfair of us to blame the Vinolians of the time for this collective display of patriotic fervor. After all, they had just trampled into the dust, a nation that had been their rival for so long and besides, they needed something to make them forget the terrible fire which had ravaged the oldest parts of the city and despite the best efforts of the fire brigade, had claimed a not insignificant number of lives and a decisive victory over an old enemy would therefore seem as good a reason to celebrate as any..."

- Excerpts from The Reign of Argath I by Pelagius.

******

As he lay soaking in the hot bath that had been prepared for him, Jeraddin's mind drifted back to a few hours ago, when he had been standing on one of the palace's balconies, looking down at the masses below. After she had pinned a medal to his chest, the Queen had given a speech, praising the superiority of the Vinolian way of life, which was proven by the courage of her soldiers.

"And as your Queen we promise you" she had continued, voice booming. "That those who did not make it home will not be forgotten. They are the greatest of heroes and a monument shall be erected to their honor, so that their names can live on forevermore!"

The crowd had gone wild, cheering both Jeraddin's and the Queen's name at the top of their lungs.
Had the circumstances been different, this proof of his countrymen's admiration for him, would have caused Jeraddin's heart to swell with pride, but the circumstances being what they were, the lynx could find no joy in it. Still, he had waved his paw in greeting, hoping that his smile would not appear to forced.

Once the crowd had gone silent, the Queen had ordered the King of Frigonia and his uncle to be brought forth, along with a wooden chest. The two ermines had been dressed in plain, brown clothing, making them look more like peasants than members of a royal family. Nevertheless, despite the defeat they had suffered and the humiliating terms they had to accept, the two of them had held their heads high, ignoring the disparaging words that the crowd had shouted at them.

As he reached for the bar of soap, Jeraddin recalled how much he had admired the courage and dignity with which Frigon and Orloff had faced this ordeal.
The King of Frigonia and the Queen of Vinoli had stared into each other's eyes. Then - his face briefly contorted by rage and humiliation - Frigon had knelt down, opened the wooden chest and from it, had removed the silver crown of Frigonia. A tear had gleamed in the young ruler's eyes as he had gazed upon what had once been the symbol for his authority. With a deep sigh, he had reluctantly offered the crown to Argath. She had accepted it and after showing the crown to her people, had placed on her own head.

This gesture actually caused the crowd to cheer even louder than before; something which Jeraddin had not thought possible and it was with a ringing in his ears that the lynx had taken his leave of the Queen and headed for home.
Home, yes, but only for a few hours. Later in the evening, wearing his gala uniform, Jeraddin took farewell of Albert and left for the palace, where a Victory Feast was to be held, with him as the guest of honor.  Since his new home being located closer to his destination than the previous one had been, Jeraddin had opted to walk there, instead of taking a cab.

It was not just in the palace that a feast was held. Indeed, the entire capital was busy celebrating the capital. From every tavern and every private house loud noises and cheers could be heard and the streets were filled with people, leaving one party to head for the next one. Frequently, some of them would recognize Jeraddin and ask him to join them for a drink, but the lynx politely rejected their offer.

Soon, he arrived outside the palace. He gazed up on the majestic building, as he had done many times before. It looked the same and yet, there was now something ominous about the edifice. Despite there not being a cloud in the sky, Jeraddin half-expected the roar of thunder and a lightning bolt to tear the sky apart.

Oh, well, he thought. At least there's one person in there that I want to see again. In spite of everything.

****
The day after Felix' and Lucinda's dinner with Cornelius, a servant knocked on the door to their domicile and informed Felix that the Queen had invited him over for tea.
 Until recently, Felix would have accepted such an invitation gladly. However, the things he had learned from his older colleague had only solidified his suspicion that Argath had orchestrated the King's death and he feared that he wouldn't be able to be in the same room as the Queen without giving himself away, thus putting himself and maybe his family in danger.

Still, Felix realized that it would be even more suspicious if he rejected the hospitality of his monarch and so, a few minutes later, he found himself  seated in a large, overstuffed armchair, with the Queen herself pouring him tea.

"One lump, or two?"

"No sugar, thank you" Felix said. "Your Majesty" he added, quickly.
Argath shrugged and immediately put three lumps in her cup and proceeded to stir it with a tea-spoon whose handle was shaped like a dragon's head.

"Its good to see that you have recovered from your illness" she said.

"Thank you, Your Majesty. You are too kind."

Felix stared at the light-brown liquid in his cup and inhaled its fragrance. The tea smelled delicious. He was just about to sample it, when a terrible thought struck him: What if the tea was poisoned?

Don't be ridiculous! He admonished himself. Why would the Queen poison your tea? She can't possibly be aware of the things you've found out yesterday and besides, you're both drinking from the same pot.
This reasoning seemed sound enough, but, as we all know, fear is seldom ruled by logic. The Idea that his hostess, or someone else, had tampered with the tea was still firmly lodged in the iguana's brain, refusing to depart.

"Is the tea not to your liking, Councillor?" He heard the Queen ask.

Felix hurriedly shook his head, as he desperately tried to think of an excuse not to drink.

"No, Your Majesty, it smells divine, but its a bit hot for me, I shall wait a few minutes until it cools down."

"There's no need for that" the Queen said and, turning her head towards the door she bellowed a name, which almost made Felix jump out of his seat:

"Nasari!!"

Footsteps could be heard outside and soon, the door opened and Nasari entered the room. She stopped in front of Argath, her gaze lowered submissively.

"Yes, Your Majesty?"

"The Councilor's tea is a bit hot. Blow on it, will you?"

The presence of General Jeraddin's wife in the room had temporarily rendered Felix speechless. He had never really paid my attention to Nasari before, but now, he felt compelled to take a closer look at the female cat standing in front of him. She was quite attractive, Felix had to admit. Not as much as Lucinda, of course, but enough for one to sit up and take notice.

Nasari bent down, picked up the cup and blew; her breath making tiny ripples on the tea's surface. Having done this, she put the tea back down on its saucer.

Felix wanted to say something to Nasari. He wished there was a way he could let her know that he was on her side, but he knew that for the moment, such a thing was not possible.

"Thank you" he said and, praying fervently that the tea contained nothing dangerous, took a sip.

"Delicious" he said with sincerity.
To his surprise, Nasari thanked him.

"You made this?" Felix asked, feeling a wave of relief wash over him.

"I did."

Feeling quite sure now that there was nothing wrong with the tea, Felix took another sip. It tasted as good as it smelled. For a moment, the Iguana forgot where he was and in whose company and he closed his eyes as a wide smile lit up his face.

"Excellent" he murmured.

Just then, he was abruptly brought back to reality by the Queen telling Nasari that she could leave.
Bowing, Jeraddin's wife left the room.

On the table stood a tray, made of silver, upon which a pyramid made out of buns had been arranged. Fluffy, golden-brown and sprinkled with cinnamon. The mere sight of these treats could cause one's mouth to water. Having taken two buns, Argath pushed the tray towards Felix.
"Have a bun, Councilor. They are freshly baked", she said and bit into one with relish.

Felix thanked the Queen and took a bun, which he dipped in the tea. Truth was, while there was no denying the quality of the baked goods, the iguana did not have much of an appetite. Although the tea had soothed his nerves somewhat, being in the same room as Argath was enough to make him feel on edge.

Unexpectedly, Felix found himself thinking back to the time when the two of them had first met, in the summer the year after Felix's father had died. It was at that time, that Argath had unexpectedly decided to pay a visit to her old friend, Maja; Felix' mother. The future Councillor had only been a child at the time, but the Princess had spoken to him as she would to an adult. At the time, Felix had found this flattering. Now, though, he could not help but ask himself what had been going on in Argath's mind, behind her genial smile and affable disposition?

The Queen wiped the remnants of her seventh bun from the corners of her mouth. She then slung her left arm over the back of her chair, while fixing her eyes on her guest.

"I understand that you and Lucinda visited Cornelius recently" she said in a casual tone.

"Your Majesty is well informed" Felix replied, managing to keep his voice - and hands - steady. "Its true, he did invite us over for dinner?"

"I'm surprised that you accepted the invitation."

"Truth be told, it turned out that Cornelius had an ulterior motive for his sudden hospitality."

"Indeed, and what may that have been?"
"Well, knowing that Your Majesty has for many years honored me with your favor, Cornelius sought to ask me to persuade Your Majesty to allow him to return to court."

"Is that so? Well, should you have the chance to meet Cornelius again you can tell him that his request has been denied. Old relics like him have no place at my court. They belong in museums, don't you agree?"

"Absolutely" Felix said with enthusiasm. "Your Majesty took the words right out of my mouth."

As he uttered these words though, accompanied by an ingratiating grin, Felix could not help but recall the fact that, in terms of years lived, the 'old relic' in question was actually younger than the Queen herself.
Argath chuckled, pleased with his answer. She picked up her now empty cup and turned it around in her hands, studying the craftsmanship.

"When you were a child, I asked you what your favorite subject in school was. You said it was music, am I correct?"

"You are, Your Majesty" Felix replied, wondering where this question would lead to.

"I thought so. As for me, my favorite subject was history."

Argath put the cup down and rose from her seat, Felix was just about to do the same, but the Queen gestured for him to remain seated.

"As a girl, I studied history passionately and it did not take long until my knowledge in the field eclipsed that of my tutors. I studied not only the history of our country, but also the history of others and soon, something became clear to me. Do you know what that was?"
"No, Your Majesty."

"It was the realization that Vinoli is a superior nation, one that deserves to stand above all others. Look at some of the other nations in the World, with their barbaric customs and unjust laws. For example, in some kingdoms, people such as old Cornelius or myself are either locked up, or executed. Do monarchies like that really deserve their independence? No! They and the rest of the World would  be far better off if they were to embrace the Vinolian way of life and its our duty to make sure that they do!"

As he listened to the Queen's passionate tirade and watched her pace around excitedly; gesturing with her arms, while her crooked tail swayed back and forth like some malformed snake waiting to strike, Felix thought back on what he had found out at Cornlius' place. When he had listened to Cornelius reading from his father's journal and learned about the existence of Argeron, the iguana had found himself empathizing with the long-deceased prince's sister: From what had been written in the journal, it was clear that Argath had loved her older brother deeply, idolizing him even and Felix could certainly understand that his early death had left her with deep emotional wounds that, in her mind, could only be healed by punishing those she held responsible for his death.

Then and there, although he did not condone her actions,  Felix had understood, why Argath had taken them. Here and now though, seeing the Queen talk about the plans she had for her Kingdom, Felix could not help but wonder: It was clear that this idea of making Vinoli into an Empire had been an obsession of the Queen's for ages.  If so, what would have happened if Argeron had lived and succeeded his father on the throne? Would he have been in line with his sister's plans or would he have rejected them outright? In that case, what would Argath have done?

The sound of Her Majesty's voice brought Felix back to the present. Argath had stopped her pacing and was now standing perfectly still, one hand lying flat on the table.

"And I promise you this" she said, speaking just as much to herself as to Felix. "Those who stand by my side will not find me ungenerous. Indeed, they shall be the ruling elite of the new order, with lesser rulers kneeling before them. However, those who try to prevent Vinoli from fulfilling its destiny, will be shown no mercy: Their flesh will be burned by my fire and their names will be erased as though they had never even existed."

As she uttered this threat, Argath's voice dropped a few octaves and a snarl momentarily distorted her face.

"Which is no more than they deserve, the traitors" Felix said, talking loudly in order to drown out the sound of his heart beating, which filled his ears.

Argath smiled. It was a warm, friendly smile and no-one who saw it would be able to guess that the owner of said smile was capable of ill intent.

"I am pleased to hear you say that" she said, looming over Felix, one hand resting on the back of the armchair. "Before she met your father and had you, your mother and I used to be close. Sometimes, you remind me of her. Perhaps that is why I've always had a soft spot for you and with time, that has to come to extend to Lucinda and the boys as well."
"We are all deeply grateful and honored to have Your Majesty's friendship", Felix said.

"I know that you are" Argath's smiled widened while her eyes narrowed slightly. "And it would cause me much pain if I were to learn that my trust in you had been abused.
Felix squirmed in his seat, but not just because of the implied threat, the tea had gone straight through him.

"Have no fear on that account, Your Majesty" he said, managing to keep his voice from shaking. "We are all your loyal servants."

The Queen nodded, apparently satisfied.

"Good" she said and extended her hand, the one that wore the ring with the royal insignia. Felix immediately rose, got down on one knee and kissed the ring. "Then you may leave us, we shall see both you and your wife at the feast celebrating our victory over the Frigonians."

Felix left the Royal apartments on unsteady legs,  gritting his teeth and hoping that he would find his way to a lavatory in time.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Chapter 35

Risha woke up convinced that during the night, a tiny demon had entered her head and was now busy using her brain as a drum. Sitting up, the lynx-girl gazed around the room through heavy-lidded eyes. She turned her head slowly toward the other side of the bed, excepting to find Merees there. To her surprise, there was no-one there. Two alternatives presented themselves: Either, Merees had woken up early and Risha had been so deep in sleep that she hadn't noticed. Or, she had never been in the room at all.

But why would that be the case? Risha wondered. Did something happen yesterday?

As she washed her face, Risha wracked her brain, trying to remember the events of the evening before. Yesterday, Doctor Hieronymus had hosted the farewell-party for his guests and the theater troupe.

Everyone had been there. Well, everyone except one person; that disagreeable ocelot had not been present, though Risha vaguely recalled that one other member of the troupe had headed of to their ship with a plate of food, no doubt meant for the jerk. Anyway, the party had been splendid. Their host had really gone all out and as a result, everyone present had had a great time. At least, as far as Risha could recall.

Moments later, Risha now fully dressed, left the guest room and went downstairs. The demon was still there, though its drumming had grown less persistent. As she traversed the stairs, the smell of coffee filled the lynx-girl's nose, causing it to twitch in anticipation.

Coffee! Sweet nectar of gods! At this point, she would have killed for a mug. Scratch that, just a few drops would suffice.

Guided by her nose, Risha entered the dining room and found it empty. No doubt the others had already finished their morning meal. She went into the kitchen and immediately helped herself to what was left of the morning coffee. Sitting down at the table, she brought the cup to her lips, blew on the coffee's surface and swallowed a mouthful. She closed her eyes, savoring the feeling of the divine black liquid surging through her system. Another mouthful and the demon was silenced. Forever.

Feeling a lot better, Risha thought that she should try to eat something. In the kitchen, she found some leftovers from yesterday's party, which she took with her and began to consume. She ate slowly at first, still unsure if she would be able to keep the meal down, but with every bite her appetite gradually came back, until finally, she ate with relish.

Having emptied the plate of its content, Risha decided that she should go and see what the others were doing on this, their last day on the Island. She headed out to the veranda, where Merees was busy teaching Leorin how to play Xecho. Both of them were deeply engaged in the game, staring intently at the board.

Let's see, Merees thought to herself. If I move my knight over there, it should allow me to take out Leorin's tower, but than I'll leave my wizard unattended...

The Dragoness' deep concentration was abruptly broken by two arms wrapping themselves around her. Surprised, the Princess turned her head slightly, to see who it was.

"Good Morning, Sweet-Scales" Risha said, as she lovingly nuzzled Merees' neck.

"Oh, its you" Merees said, distractedly. "Good Morning."

Having expected a bit more than that from her girl-friend, who had now turned  her focus back on the board; Risha found herself a tad disappointed. Very well, if she wasn't in the mood, so be it.

With a sigh, Risha removed her arms from around Merees' chest and walked over to Leorin.

"How's my favorite little brother today?" She asked and feeling affectionate, she reached out to playfully tussle the fur on the cat-boy's head.

To Risha's surprise, Leorin turned and glared angrily at her.

"Don't touch me" he hissed, his ears flat on his head.

With those words, Leo stood up, almost knocking his chair over and, before his sister had time to react, stormed off into the garden. For a moment, Risha remained frozen on the spot, completely taken aback by her brother's reaction.

What's gotten into him? She wondered, shaking her head in disbelief. With a shrug, she glanced at Leorin's side of the board.

"Hey, Mer?"

Merees, who had been playing with one of the pieces, put it down.

"Yes?"

"Did Leo get annoyed because he was about to lose or something? I swear, he can be such a baby sometimes."

She shook her head at her brother's childishness, but stopped  when she noticed the stern look on Merees' face.

"Why are you looking at me like that?" She asked, her head tilted to one side, left eyebrow raised.

"Let me ask you something", said Merees. "How much of the party do you remember?"

Risha shrugged.

"Not much, but I did wake up with an awful headache." She smiled nervously. "I guess I didn't go easy on the liquor, huh?"

"That's putting it mildly. Sit down, please. I think we should talk."

Risha swallowed, Merees did not look angry, nor had she raised her voice. Still, there was something in her tone which made Risha feel as though a pit had just appeared in her stomach. Swallowing the lump in her throat, she sat down and listened as Merees recounted everything that had happened last evening.

*****

Leorin sat on the beach, staring out at the ocean. A tiny crab scuttled by, stopping near one of its kitten's toes and studying it, trying to determine whether to pinch it or not. A stone which landed close to it, made it think differently and it disappeared as quickly as its tiny legs could carry it, angrily snapping the air with its claws. At first, Leorin considered throwing another stone at the crab, but thought better of it. Instead, he turned his gaze back toward the ocean, his mind drifting back to home and to his parents, especially his mother. How he wished she was here now, instead of his stupid sister. Who needed her anyway, or girls in general for that matter?

"Risha, you jerk" Leorin sniffled. A fresh tear appeared in the corner of his eye and made its way down his cheek only to be stuck dangling in his whiskers. He brushed it away, but no sooner had he done that, before a new one appeared to take the place of its fallen brethren. Soon, the tears were streaming freely down both sides of Leorin's face, while his small body shook with anger.

Suddenly, Leorin's ears picked up the sound of  two distinct pair of footsteps approaching. Then, he heard a voice above his head:

"Leo, your sister has something she wants to say to you."

Leorin did not turn around.

"What?" He muttered in a surly tone.

"I'm sorry."

The words caught Leorin's attention. Slowly, he turned his head slightly and was face to face with Risha and Merees. The former was standing up, but the latter had dropped to her knees, her eyes were red and puffy, proof of the tears that she had shed not long before.

This sight caught Leorin with surprise. During the short time he had been alive, he had seen his sister look at  him in different ways. Sometimes, her look had described affection, other times frustration, but the emotion that was no stamped over Risha's features, was one that Leorin had never seen before. At least, not in relation to himself:

Shame.

Staring at this image of remorse in front of him, Leorin felt all the frustration and anger he had carried with him melt away, like the final remnants of winter in springtime. Before he knew it, he had thrown his arms around Risha, his tears running down her neck and the collar of her shirt.

******

Finally, the moment had come for Risha, Leorin and Merees to leave the sanctuary of the island and journey out into the World. Everyone had gathered aboard the ship, where words of farewell took place.
"You will always be welcome here" Hieronymus said, as he took Risha's paw in his own and shook it.

"Thank you for everything, Doctor" she said. "You too, Amelia."

The otter-girl, released Leorin from the hug she had caught him in and looked up.

"Come back soon" she said.

"You're absolutely certain you want to stay?" Merees asked Luke. She was wearing her cloak, which was now repaired. She and the siblings had picked it up from the tailor and while they were there, Merees had also brought new clothes for the three of them.
Luke shook his head.

"No thank you, I've had quite enough of sea-faring. I wish to stay here and learn from the Doc. Besides" he added, his paw brushing against Amelia's. "There's another reason why I wish to remain."

And so, having said all that needed to be said, Doctor Hieornymus, his adopted niece and Luke, all disembarked as the ship set sail.
Risha, Merees and Leorin stood in the prow watching and waving, until finally, the island and the friends they had made there had vanished from sight.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Final Space

Sorry about the lack of new content the past few months. It was not my intention to let the blog go on hiatus for quite this long, but unfortunately, sometimes these things happen. Nonetheless, I offer you my apologies.

Anyway, not too long ago I wrapped up the eight season of Friendship Is Magic and originally, I had intended to write something about it. However, nothing I wrote really satisfied me, so I decided to put that idea on ice. However, I will briefly, give my opinion on this; the show's penultimate season, before we move on to the main event. 

Basically, while season 8 did feature several episodes I really like, I can't deny that MLP at this point is getting a bit long in the tooth and I don't feel as strongly for the series as I used too. Still, I will probably watch the final season, if only to see how the show ends.

But enough about miniature equines, its time to talk about another cartoon I watched fairly recently: Final Space


For those of you not in the know, Final Space is an animated series, which aired earlier this year., created by Olan Rogers. 

I first became aware of this series thanks to a video by Youtube cartoon reviewer EyeofSol, titled Final Space And the " Adult" Animation Myth (found here, in case you are interested), which piqued my curiosity in the show and upon seeing that it was available on Netflix, I decided to give it a go.

Set in the distant future, Final Space is the story of Gary Goodspeed, a young man who, due to certain circumstances, is currently serving a five year sentence aboard the prison ship, Galaxy One. Gary's routine is abruptly shattered when an adorable green creature crashes into him. Taking a liking to the critter, Gary names it Mooncake and adopts it as a pet. 

Unfortunately, it turns out that there are other people interested in Mooncake and soon, Gary finds himself caught up in a mission to keep his new friend out of the clutches of an alien warlord known as the Lord Commander and save the universe from complete destruction. You know, the usual stuff.

That's the basic plot of the show. So, what did I think of it? 

Well, I'm going to start by touching briefly on what is, in my opinion, one of the weakest aspects of Final Space: The Comedy. Now, of course I know that comedy is one of the most subjective things ever and if you found this show to be hilarious, than good for you. Personally though, I found the humor to be very hit & miss. Does that mean I sat through the first season of Final Space more stone-faced than a peeved Clint Eastwood? No, not at all; there was the occasional moment that made me crack a smile, but for the most part, the comedy of Final Space didn't tickle my funny-bone: I knew I was supposed to find certain scenes or exchanges funny, but they did not do it for me. 

Another aspect in which the show falters a bit is in the depiction of its main character, Gary. Voiced by Rogers himself (who also does the voice of Mooncake), most of Gary's dialogue consists of him either yelling in a high-pitched voice, rambling and otherwise being pretty obnoxious. In fact, watching Final Space I got the feeling that Gary could have stepped out of a web-comic and not one of the good ones either. 
To be fair, Gary gets a bit more tolerable as the show progresses and he has his moments that prevented me from completely disliking him, but there were still plenty of times when I wished he would shut up.


That's pretty much all the negative stuff I have to say about this series, because when push comes to shove, Final Space has far more strengths than flaws. 
The show's comedy may be uneven, but it definitely succeeds when it comes to its more serious and dramatic moments.  For example, I may not really be a fan of Gary as a character, but that doesn't change the fact that an early scene showing us his loneliness and isolation made me feel for the guy. Other moments, such as the death of a major character are handled very well. Furthermore, the plot is consistently engaging across the ten episodes that makes up the show's first season.

Finally, the voice actors all do a good job bringing their characters to life. The stand-out among the cast must be David Tennant, whose performance helps make the Lord Commander one of the more memorable villains to appear in a cartoon recently.

Despite a few quibbles, I do genuinely recommend Final Space and am looking forward to the second season and hope that it will prove as entertaining (or more) as this one. If you are in the mood for a serialized space-opera adventure, I say check it out.