Category Archives: Speculative Fiction

New & New-ish Releases On the Way

I’m pretty excited to share that I’ve bundled the Forgotten Chronicles Trilogy into one volume and you can pre-order it for only $2.99.

If you’ve yet to try my young adult sci-fi action/adventure series, there’s no better time to try it out than now. For the cost of one book, you get all three novels in one bundle.

The Forgotten Chronicles: The Complete Trilogy features the books The Selection, Rise of ForgottentrilogyCoverthe Forgotten, and The War For Truth and comes out December 15th. If you like fast-paced action set on a human colonized alien world where the natural dangers are almost as bad as the human ones, check out The Forgotten Chronicles and pre-order the trilogy for only $2.99 (after the 15th it goes to $4.99). Click the image or link above and start a new adventure today!


Several excellent authors I know are in a massive boxed set aiming for a USA Today bestseller status. If that’s not enough to consider their books, just think of the value you get when you buy their collection of over 20 paranormal romance and urban fantasy novels for only .99! Though I’m not normally a reader of paranormal romance, I did pre-order my copy. I know several of the authors and I know they write amazing books, so I figured why not give it a shot? At .99, how could I lose? Even if one of the novels was all that I liked, it was still only .99.

image1Please consider adding your support by sharing their set or pre-ordering your copy today. It would mean a lot to me to help them out and who knows, you might find a new favorite author to read!

You can get Rite to Reign at all major ebook retailers by clicking the image above or by going here.


Call for Submissions: SciFi Anthology

Hey readers and fellow authors, some talented author friends of mine are creating a new anthology that I wanted to share. The title of the project is not yet finalized, however they are taking submissions from now through November. If you’re interested, check out the details below.

Call for Submissions for an anthology highlighting the capabilities and contributions of disabled people in science fiction. This will be a charity anthology with the proceeds and any royalties donated to the Special Olympics. We welcome involvement from disabled authors or those that would be interested in beta reading the final anthology.

PlanetsGenre: is geared toward science fiction, however, science fantasy, urban fantasy, space opera, other types of fantasy and speculative fiction are also acceptable as long as we’re focused on now or the future instead of ancient history. Other planets and non-human characters are acceptable. Dark fantasy/SF and horror are also acceptable as long as disabled heroes are not turned into victims.

Theme: The main characters must be disabled and succeed through their own efforts and without normalizing (i.e. undoing their disabilities with technology). This book is about celebrating the people who exist today and making them represented in the future.

Age level: should be no racier than PG 13 and YA is not precluded but we will not be targeting a YA or underage audience.

Length: 1500-7500 words

Deadline: All submissions should be received no later than November 30th, 2018 with expectation of a February 2019 publication date.

Send submissions to with the subject “Disabled Heroes.”

Format: Word .doc/.docx file, 1″ margins, 12-14pt Times (or other serif font), double-spaced, contact info and word count on first page, running header w/name, title, page #, etc. The usual stuff. And please include your name and the story title in the filename. I will accept reprints if you (a) have the rights and (b) it fits our criteria.

Please edit your story carefully. We’re all busy indie authors and will not take the time to help you rewrite your work into something that works for us. Please make an effort to send something in finished form that meets the criteria we’ve set.

Title and cover are not yet finalized.

You can find out more on facebook by joining:

June 2018 Author Recap

I hope you enjoyed the previous month’s worth of introductions to authors you may not know. It was my pleasure to share such talented writers with all of you.

AUTHORSYOUSHOULD KNOWI had the idea in late May to do a month long series exposing my followers to other writers who I admire and read. When I started this project, I told no one. I wanted it to be a surprise for all the authors involved. No one knew who I was going to share or when. It was pretty cool to see the surprise coming in from those whom I featured. For those writers, I do hope it was a well-received surprise. For you readers, I hope you found a new author or two to check out and sample their work.

I want to stress that there were many other authors I could’ve included. I don’t want to upset any of my author friends that may not have been included in this first series of Authors You Should Know. Please don’t take it as a slight against you or your work.

For a recap of each author, please click their name below and it will take you to the brief post I published. I encourage you to try someone new and try one of their books. You never know when you might come across a writer you’ll absolutely have to read. It’s difficult finding readers. My hope is that you found something useful through the month of June within these posts.


Jason’s Authors You Should Know – June 2018

Amy Hale                    June 1

Leland Lydecker        June 2

Donna McCarthy       June 3

Vince Churchill          June 4

Mirren Hogan             June5

Brian K. Morris          June 6

SA Gibson                   June 7

Mark Pannebecker   June 8

RJ Batla                       June 9

Simon Bleaken           June 10

F. Kenneth Taylor        June 11

Brent A. Harris           June 12

MD. Parker                 June 13

Pamela Morris           June 14

Ray Wenck                 June 15

Stephanie Barr          June 16

Thomas Gunther       June 17

Greg Alldredge          June 18

C.A. King                     June 19

PC3                             June 20

Jay Noel                      June 21

Christa Yelich-Koth   June 22

Eric Asher                  June 23

Diane Morrison         June 24

John W. Smith           June 25

Lucinda Moebius       June 26

Merri Halma              June 27

Bryan Caron              June 28

Leo McBride               June 29

Aaron Hamilton         June 30

Jason’s Authors You Should Know – Leo McBride

LeoToday’s author you should know is Leo McBride.

Leo is a super-talented speculative fiction author. He writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror from the warm climes of the Bahamas. He’s one of the driving forces behind Inklings Press, the small press responsible for such awesome short story collections such as Tales From the Underground, Tales of Wonder, and Tales from the Tower. His stories are included in all the collections and so worth TalesToweryour time and money. He’s also released a short story collection of his own called Quartet: Four Short Stories, Four Explorations of the Fantastic.

Leo is highly supportive not only of the indie community, but great writers no matter what their publishing history is. He’s been an encouragement to me from almost the beginning, reading and reviewing my first two flash fiction collections and continued support through interviews and shares on social media. He’s a great person to have in your corner and a spectacular writer in his own right.

From his Amazon page:

Leo McBride is a writer of speculative fiction – spanning the fields of horror, science fiction and fantasy. A journalist for more than 20 years, he is based in The Bahamas where he is an editor for the country’s leading newspaper.

He has published several ebooks – although Quartet is the first of his own writing. He has also been published in anthologies published by Inklings Press.

You can find out more about Leo on his blog

New Release: The War for Truth

PrintThis week sees the release of my latest novel The War for Truth on Thursday May 10th. With this book, I conclude my Forgotten Chronicles trilogy. If you’ve read the first book in the series, The Selection, now is a great time to pick up books 2 and 3 (especially since book 3 is on a special pre-order price of only .99!)

I’m thrilled to share this strange and dangerous world with you and hope you find enjoyment in the series. It was a series that I created with my son in mind. I wanted to write something he’d enjoy and so far, I’ve nailed my audience! Having new readers discover the books has been amazing and humbles me. To know someone who doesn’t know me personally has enjoyed a story I wrote means so much to me.


Book 1, The Selection, is available for $1.99 in ebook form or you can get it as part of the 22 novel collection On the Horizon for only .99. Book 2, Rise of the Forgotten, can be yours for $2.99 in ebook.

Both are also available as an audiobook narrated by Paul Jenkins (he’s currently working on book 3 for a June release!) Grab The Selection or Rise of the Forgotten from Audible, iTunes, or Amazon.

Thank you all for your continued support and encouragement!


Master of the Drunken Fist: Chapter 26

Well, this is it. The final chapter of my 2012 NaNoWriMo novel Master of the Drunken Fist. I do hope you’ve enjoyed the story so far, warts and all. It’s in dire need of a rewrite and clean-up, but since I was going to by busy working on a new novel this month, I thought it would be fun to share this one.

By completing this novel, I gained the discipline and desire to continue writing and become a published author. After completing this novel, that’s when I decided I was going to pursue this as long as possible. I hold this story as something special because of all it represents to me. Long live NaNoWriMo!

If you missed any of the previous chapters, check out the Table of Contents.

Chapter 26

Mike’s bleary eyes took some time to adjust in the near darkness he found himself. He was face down, laying on the floor. Looking around, he thought he made out the familiar shape of his bed through the door frame. He was cold. He must have been laying there for hours, his back was aching badly, but he didn’t have a clue as to how long he was out.

Slowly, he propped himself up on his knees. Dizziness overcame him, a familiar sensation, though never welcomed. Resting back on his heels, he tried to stop the room from spinning. He failed miserably. Stretching out his right hand for support, he leaned a bit to the side as the room kept up it’s playful dance, mocking him. He tried hard not to let it consume him, but in the end, the room won and he vomited all over the floor. He wretched and wretched until he felt as though the next thing to come up would be his stomach followed closely by his intestines. Never in his entire time of visiting the void had he felt this bad.

“Oh my God, this sucks,” he said to the darkness, spittle flying from his lips. Luckily, there was a full moon out on this late autumn evening, otherwise he wouldn’t have seen a thing. He tried to move, but the dizziness overwhelmed him again. Quickly, he stopped. He was in no mood to vomit again.

“What…the…fuck…” he said. “Where are the lights and…am I at home?” Confusion gripped Mike. Always, when he came out of the void, he knew within moments where he was at and what time it was. Now, well, now it felt off to him. It was as though a twisted joke was being played.

He reached down to push himself up to his feet, his hand landing right into the pile of vomit he left on the carpet. “Damn it! That’s fucking gross,” he swore to himself. He wiped his hand off on his pants and stood up, still reeling from the spinning room. He stumbled a bit before catching himself on the couch. Looking around in the dark, he recognized the room as his living room, so he was in the right place after all.

He noticed an eery silence in the house. Nothing was humming, or buzzing, or running. Utter silence. Looking to the satellite box, he tried to read the time, but it was dark.

“We have a power outage?” he asked no one. “Where’s my fucking power?” He then realized why he was so cold on the floor. Without the power, his furnace couldn’t work. “Damn, how long has it been out?” He thought if maybe he forgot to pay the bill, but his memory couldn’t recall when he last paid the bill. Actually, he couldn’t remember the last time he ever paid a bill. Noelle always took care of that.

Noelle. Just her name brought shame and love and anger to mind. He knew she deserved better. She tried to help Mike, tried to get him better, but he had none of it. He didn’t see the road he was on, and so, he ran her off. The best thing that happened to him, and he chased her off with his insistence on drinking and visiting the void because they “needed him” there. He smiled at that thought, because they did. They needed him badly. But poor Noe paid the price for his decision. She loved him tremendously, but she was unable to bring him back from his visits. She couldn’t stay any longer.

“Yeah, but that was what, just last week? There’s no way they turned off my power that fast.” Mike started to argue with himself. He was losing his grip on the reality around him.

Mike stumbled into the kitchen, looking for some paper towels and a bucket to clean up his mess, all the while trying every lamp and light switch along the way. None of them worked.

Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his phone, thinking he could use that for some light. He clicked the home button. It was dead. “Damn it!” he yelled out loud and threw his phone against the wall, shattering the glass screen into hundreds of tiny shards. “How long was I out? Or have I forgotten this bill too?”

Looking down at his watch, he noticed it said Dec. 3 for the date. When Noelle left him, it was early September.

“What the fuck? Where have I been? That can’t be right. It’s impossible. There was no way I was out that fucking long. I’d have died if I was. And wouldn’t someone come check on me, like my boss?” It was then that he remembered losing his job. He thought that happened just days after losing Noe. No one was going to check on him. He didn’t have any friends, he ran them all off long ago so he could spend more time in the void. He wasn’t particularly close to his family, so they wouldn’t be checking on him. He was alone. In the dark.

Mike figured he must have somehow been in the void ever since just after Noe left and he was fired. But that put him at about two and a half months of real world time gone to be there. He knew he was there for some time, but didn’t think it was that long at all. If so, that meant he must have missed the bills. And his power and phone, if not more things, were shut off. He didn’t have a job anymore either, so getting back on his feet again didn’t even register to him at that moment. He was in the dark. Without his girl. Without his job. Without anything.

The words of Abe, and then of Cortez, came back to him. “Take care of things,” they told him. At the time, Mike was just surprised they seemed to know about anything other than what was happening at the moment. In hindsight, he saw now that they were trying to warn him, to tell him to get his shit together. In his blind desire to be with them, he neglected everything on this side. He was standing in a dark, lonely, cold house to remind him of his decisions.

It was too much. He fell down to the floor, curled up in a fetal position, and just laid there. He was lost.

His mind wandered to the void. He started seeing images of Abe, of Cortez, of Victor, all swirl in his head much like the room had not too long ago. They floated about, like ghosts. He could see Abe running from the Sponser. He tried to yell at Abe, but then saw himself, or what must have been himself, because it didn’t look anything like him, hack away at the Sponser with a hatchet. The same voice that told him who people were in the void was the same one that told him that’s you when he saw the man attack and fatally wound the Sponser.

Then the images swirled, showing Cortez and another man fighting Aztecs on a hill. That’s you he heard the voice again. This man didn’t look anything like the real Mike either, but he knew it was him. He saw the fight and saw how cat-like he was in his actions. Impressed with himself, he started cheering himself on. “That’s it, go on Miguel! Kick his ass!” he yelled. While watching the fight, he noticed the Aztecs started turning black, with long flowing robes and eyes of flames. He didn’t remember that happening at all. It was as though this memory was made up, not real like the others. One of the Sponsers came flying directly at him and Mike flinched, scared of what it might do to him. In the void, he was the hero. Out here, he lacked the courage to stand up to the vile creatures.

Suddenly, the scene shifted again and he saw snow on the ground. It was bright outside. He heard voices, Russian ones, and knew where he was at. There were screams as four Russian men and one woman appeared before him, fending off an attack from about twenty or so Russian men. “Hey, they were Sponsers, not men. I was there!” he said aloud to his knees, still tucked in the fetal position. He noticed how three of the men were cowering and the woman, Anya, was holding her ground. The fourth man, that’s you again the voice in his head told him, was decimating the men one and two at a time. His fury was such that it frightened the rest of the attackers and the defenders as well. He saw how they backed away from him while in his full fledged attack mode. Still, he admired the work he did. He was brutal and efficient in his killing blows. Where the ability came from, he didn’t care. It was just a thing of beauty to watch him hack and slice his way through the enemy. He couldn’t remember why he was fighting them, but that didn’t matter. He was doing really, really well and he enjoyed the show.

Once again, everything shifted. Now in front of him stood Abe, Cortez, and Victor. Mike was taken aback at the sight of all three of them standing there together. He didn’t think there was any link between the three, not that he could tell anyway.

“Mikey, we dun told ya to take care o things back here, didn’t we? Now look what ya dun did,” Abe scolded him.

“Yeah, but you needed me Abe. You told me yourself.”

“Mikey, ain’t you got no bit of sense?”

“No he doesn’t Abe,” Cortez interrupted. This was getting to be a bit much for Mike as now they were all talking to each other. “He has so little sense, and now look at him. He’s pathetic.”

“What? No. No I’m not. I saved all of you!” Mike realized that he was speaking in his normal, everyday English and not the native tongue of either of these two.

“Mikhael, you didn’t save a thing. What did you think was going on?” This time, it was Victor speaking, and he too was speaking not in his native Russian, but in English, though with a heavy Russian accent.

“I thought you needed me, all of you. Each one of you said it yourself. Without me, you wouldn’t be able to succeed. I was there for you!”

There was silence in the dark house except Mike yelling. He stayed on the floor, though by now he had uncurled himself and started moving about while arguing with the air.

“No Mikey, we all dun told ya ta take care of things here. And what did ya do? Tell me Mikey, where are the lights? Where is your phone, ya got service in that damn thing? You ignored us Mikey.”

“He’s correct Mikhael, we all tried to warn you. What you did with that message, it was all up to you. We couldn’t do it for you. That’s what we meant. We said it was something only you could do. And it is. It was,” he corrected.

“No, you’re wrong. That’s not what you meant and you know it!” Mike was starting to lose control of his head. He didn’t know what was right, or wrong, or real, or not. Confidence in his own sanity wavering, he had enough of this. Standing up, he meant to confront all of them on equal ground, but they were gone.

“Oh my God, I’m losing it. I really am losing it.” He no longer saw images swirling in his head, they all disappeared into nothingness.

Mike was lost in doubt as to whether what he just saw was real or his imagination working against him. The more he tried to work it out, the more it slipped through his fingers like grains of sand. He finally gave up. Working through mental problems was not one of his strong suits, it tended to only cause him more grief than anything else.

“I don’t have a problem damn it! Why can’t anyone see it? There is nothing wrong with me!” Exhaustion took over and he sunk down on the nearest chair. And fell fast asleep.

Sunshine warmed Mike’s face. The bright light woke him from his slumber. He’d been sleeping hard, no dreams, no void, nothing. His body thanked him for it, as though it hadn’t had a restful nights sleep in what seemed like forever. He found himself slumped over the kitchen table, sitting in one of the mismatched chairs he used for company. How he slept so soundly like that, he didn’t know. But it didn’t matter, he felt refreshed and ready to take on the day.

It didn’t matter to Mike anymore if he had Noe, or his job, or even if he had power. None of that bothered him this morning. What did attract his attention was the fact that he knew the void was his playground, to go in and do as he liked. As long as he drank, he got there. And he was fine with both.

He giggled while he sat there. A maniacal, evil giggle that would have scared anyone had anyone been there. “I can’t believe it took me so damn long to figure out the connection with alcohol. I’m an idiot at times,” he scolded himself before giggling a bit more. His hold on his sanity seemed to slip, and he didn’t care. He had a place he could go and escape from all this shit. This world held nothing but ridicule and monotony for him. He found true life in the void. Adventure was found there, and he was the hero.

He thought about the void a bit longer and the more he did, the more it made sense to him. More sense than this world did.

Suddenly, he had a revelation. “Hey,” he said, “What happens if I mix the drinks? What if I make a cocktail with more than one kind of alcohol?” Excited by the prospect, he ran to the liquor cabinet and found several half-empty bottles of liquor. There was vodka, rum, whiskey, tequila, some various flavors of schnapps, just a random assortment. “Oh, the ‘shine!” he said and ran into the other room, where he kept the secret stash of moonshine. He ran right through the vomit on the floor, but in his ecstasy, he didn’t even notice the path he made through it on the carpet.

In the silence of his powerless house, Mike mixed the various alcohols together. There wasn’t a recipe he tried to follow, just as much or little of each as he felt necessary. He looked around. His house was filthy. Vomit on the floor, and by the looks of things, it wasn’t the first time there was some on the floor. Bottles lay everywhere. But he was happy. He had the secret of the void. He thought once more of Noe, but dismissed it. “She doesn’t care anyway man, she’d never understand your need,” he said out loud. He was right. He had this wonderful blend of alcohols, his very own “super-cocktail,” and it looked beautiful.

With no one around, in the cold, lifeless house he used to share with Noe, he took a seat at the table and raised the glass to his lips. He couldn’t stop smiling thinking of the wondrous adventure that awaited.

Thank you soooo much for reading my novel Master of the Drunken Fist. I know I wasn’t entirely happy with the ending, but for now it is what it is. If you’ve read along all month, please drop a comment below to let me know your thoughts. What worked? What didn’t work? What would be your ideal ending? Let me know! I want to hear from you.

Thanks again!



Master of the Drunken Fist: Chapter 25

Welcome back once again to the next chapter of my 2012 NaNoWrimo novel Master of the Drunken Fist. The end is almost here! If you’ve missed any chapter, please check the Table of Contents to catch up.

Chapter 25

Mike took off on a dead run. He knew what was going on by now, he was a pro at the void. He ran as fast and as straight as he could go. Before long, he found what he was looking for. There was an orange glow off in the distance. Spotting the color, he went straight for it and went right on through without a care in the world. He knew where he would be.

Stepping through, he was definitely in Russia by the sound of the conversation around him. He was in the common room of the inn, with it’s fire blazing warmly at the end of the room. Victor and the others were sitting at a table near the fire with another man Mike didn’t recognize. “Hope I didn’t miss anything boys,” Mike said as he sat down with them.

“No, no not at all Mikhael. Please, join us. You need to hear this. As you were saying Pieter,” Victor nodded to the man sitting with them.

“Well, yes, um…oh yes, as I was saying. The “mayor” as he calls himself seems innocent enough, but our men tell of him exacting fierce vengeance on anyone he considers an enemy. If you get in his way, he will cut you down. Either himself, or with one of his many followers. He is very, very dangerous. He rules this town with that fear. Not many are willing to openly stand up to him, however if we can get things started, let the townspeople know he will not win, then they will jump to our cause. We just have to take the first step.” He finished speaking and swallowed the last of the brandy in the glass in front of him.

“With fear you say, huh? Pieter, those are the men most easiest to bring down. It will take some, how would you say, physical persuasion, but it can be done easily enough. That’s what I brought my boys for, especially this one,” as he points to Mike. “He can handle himself well enough. And the rest of my men, they too are capable of leading this insurrection. Though I hesitate to call it that since this “mayor” has actually gone against the wishes and mandates of his majesty. But for lack of a better word, we can call it as such.”

“Liberation Victor, we can call it that,” Mike said. It was as though he were completely sold out to this world in Russia. He secretly hoped he never left here to go back to the real world. There was so much more promise for him here.

“Yes Mikhael, liberation is much more appropriate. The people can rally behind that, right Pieter?”

“Well, yes, of course Victor. They don’t really care what we call it, just so long as we rid them of the bastard mayor.”

The two men laughed together as they raised their newly filled glasses high. “To liberation men!” Victor toasted, and the two of them clinked their glasses and drank their brandy down. As cold as it was outside, that drink looked invitingly warm to Mike, but he thought better of it. What would happen if I got drunk here in the void? What would that do to me? he thought. Then he figured that was a question to better try later on, maybe when he was done with the work here in Russia.

The conversation went on for several more hours, though mostly about family and friends and how the latest harvest went. It seemed this city, Vostok, was doing quite well with trade and such. Their main source of trading partners were the folks living out to the west of the city and the Chinese merchants from the south. They were doing quite a bit of business with them, and those trade routes were the major force behind the king wanting the city back in his control again. Otherwise, all those taxes would continue to go into the hands of this “mayor” who used the funds to keep his control tight on the city. He bribed merchants and built a small mercenary force to act as guards to the port and the main gates. Mike had to admit, he sounded like a man that was in control and knew what he was doing. How they were going to bring him down, he wasn’t quite sure.

Pieter assured Victor that his men were ready, so not being one to waste the moment, Victor decided they would act the next day to get things moving in the direction he needed them to go. The conversation turned more mundane as he drinks kept flowing. As the evening wound down, all the men returned to their rooms to rest up for what was going to happen the next day.

Waking early, Mike walked to the common room to find Victor already there, sitting by himself near the fire.

“Mikheal, you are up early.”

“Like always Victor. Are we ready for today?

“Yes, of course. Once we get a good belly full of breakfast, we move out into the city and begin our work. I’m glad you came down here, I needed to talk to you.”

“Sure, what’s on your mind.” Mike had a brief panic attack, as though he was a caught spy and was now about to face the punishment.

“Mikhael, the others don’t seem to notice this, but I do. You seem…different than the rest of us. When we started back in Moscow, I don’t ever recall you being able to understand Chinese, but when we met those sailors a while back, you knew their every word. And then, every once in a while, you seem to disappear. I’m not sure where you go or what you are doing, but I know there is something else there. I know there is another life you lead Mikheal. I can sense it. I also know that there is something wrong there. I’m not exactly sure what that is either, just that it has brought you to your knees. I suspect a woman to be involved, it almost always leads back to that. Whatever it is Mikhael, you take care of it. I’d say right now, but we need you here. You can do things which we cannot. Your physical strength, your knowledge of language, is something none of us have. We need you to be successful in our venture.”

“Victor,” Mike began slowly, “I do have something to confess. I, I am not from here.” He was ready to spill it all, and why not. He figured there was nothing to lose by doing so. “I am from a different place Victor. My name is Mike, not Mikhael. This is some sort of alternate world for me, one in which I am needed and wanted. I’m actually from America, and I think from a different time period. I go into these trances and get teleported to strange lands and adventures. This one, here in Russia, is just one of three different places I’ve visited since I started this teleporting.”

Victor just looked at him, his glass of juice raised halfway to his lips. “Mikhael, that’s not what I meant about you being gone. This…teleportation you speak of is amusing, but I don’t buy a word of it. I meant you had a problem back home in Moscow!” That wasn’t the reaction Mike expected. He felt foolish for saying it. It sounded so delusional once the words left his lips. How could he have expected Victor to handle it? He wasn’t entirely sure, just not in this way. In any case, he stopped talking about it. It was clear Victor didn’t believe him and he didn’t want to lose the trust Victor and the others had in him, so he let the topic die. He so wished he had a drink at that moment to calm his nerves.

In time, the other men filed out of their rooms, sleepy and staggering from the previous night’s drinking. They sat down with him and Victor and they all ate heartily. It was hard to tell, but Mike thought they might have felt this could be their last meal. They were silent and savored every bite of the food. It was an odd turn for Mike, as normally they joked, and laughed, and wolfed down their food. The gravity of the days events must have weighed heavily upon them.

Finishing their meal, Victor got up and they all followed him out of the common room. They went back to their rooms to gather the necessary items for the day, namely their weapons and monkish robes. After getting their supplies, they met Pieter out in front of the inn. It was still early, the sun barely over the horizon and the cool of the morning washed over them.

“You men ready for this?” Pieter asked the four of them. Victor nodded and they followed Pieter down the street. He took them several blocks to the east and north until they came to what Mike thought was an old warehouse. It was large and when they walked in, primarily empty except for racks on the western wall full of blades of all kinds. There were sickles, spears, long knives, and even a few bows with quivers of arrows. It looked like a farmers collection of implements, but that was going to have to work for their liberation as there was nothing else available to them. “These are what we have Victor, it’s not much but it should work. As much as the mayor is ruthless, he’s never faced serious opposition before and I think we will surprise him.” Victor scanned the items carefully. Some had rust, others looked dull, but Pieter was right, they would do.

“Great Pieter! I think this will work well.” Pieter smiled, feeling confident he had done well.

“My plan was to ambush him at his home while he’s sleeping and kill him. We could then parade his head on a pike all through town so the people would know not to be afraid anymore,” Pieter said.

“I like the way you think Pieter, but how easy is it to get to him? Surely he’d have guards keeping watch. Men like him have to always watch for exactly what we intend. It won’t be that easy.”

“Of course not Victor. However, I do have a loyal comrade working as one of his trusted night watchmen, and he can grant us access to the mayor. It took some coin, but he is on our side all the way.”

“Hmm, a bribe you say? That often doesn’t lead one to be loyal.”

“Trust me Victor, he’s loyal. I have been planning this for some time now. This is the time to strike! We must overthrow him.” Mike noticed a hint of annoyance on Victor’s face while Pieter spoke. It was slight, but noticeable.

Just then, Anya came running into the warehouse. “Victor! It’s a trap! Pieter…” and then Pieter slapped her hard, knocking her to the ground. “Shut up you. I should have killed you long ago,” and he raised his hand to strike her again when Mike caught his hand, twisting it and bringing Pieter down with the pain.

“Leave her alone Pieter!” Victor growled as he raced to her side. Pieter broke free from Mike’s grip and started making his way to the door where Anya appeared from.

“She’s right Victor,” he sneered, “This is a trap. The mayor pays quite well, and you, well you are just an idealist. A dog at the foot of the king. You obey, but for what? Because he says so? Good bye Victor. You should never have come here.” And he slipped out through the door. There were shouts coming from all sides of the building, confusing them and not giving up what direction the ambush was coming from.

Anya was able to get up with a little help from Victor. “Are you alright dear?” he asked her. She shook her head yes in reply. She was visibly shaken up, but seemed to be ok. “Yes Victor, I’m fine. We need to get out of here. There are twenty or more men outside. The mayor is with them. They are going to kill us.”

Victor thought for a moment and seemed settled on a plan. “We must get some of those weapons. We are going to have to prepare for a battle with these men. I know they are mercenaries, but I also know we are more to handle than a normal man. I think if we coax them in here, we stand a better chance. We bring them to us, not us leaving to be picked off one by one.”

The others nodded in agreement and grabbed whatever tool/weapon they felt the most comfortable with. Mike was surprised to see Anya grab a bow with a couple quivers of arrows. She noticed the look on his face too. “It’s ok Mikhael, I’m quite used to these. My father had me learn to hunt when I was young. We all had to help.” He seemed pleased by her answer and left her to the bow. The rest of them gathered together, waiting for the enemy to come storming in.

Their wait was short lived. Several of the mayors men came through the same door as Anya, while a couple others came in from a rear door. All of a sudden, the enemy turned shape. They transformed right on front of them from men to the black, hooded, wicked shrieking Sponsers with flaming red eyes. Mike just stood there, dumbfounded by the transformation he witnessed. The others however seemed to not see a thing. “Come on Mikhael, fight on brother!” Victor called out to him. “These men are ready to die at our hands today!”

Mike could hardly move. Shock gripped him. For the first time in the void, he froze and couldn’t move from his spot. He wondered why the rest of them didn’t notice the change. “Victor, he stumbled out, “D-d-d-did you see what happened? The men…they…changed.”

“What? Come on man, get it together. Fight or die!!”

Mike swore all the men coming at him were no longer men, but the menacing Sponsers. They must have come here to seek revenge for what he did to their others when with the brothers. He broke from his stupor. Rage filled him. He hated the Sponsers. It was time for them to die.

In a flash, Mike whirled the sickle he picked from the collection of tools and wielded it like it was an extension of his body, as though he always had this tool of death at his side. He moved quickly and swiftly, darting in and out of the coming blows from the Sponsers. They tried to catch him with their spears and blades, but with his speed and deftness, they struck at air. He spun around, catching one of the Sponsers on the back of it’s legs, knocking it down. As it fell, he sliced with the blade, severing it’s head from it’s body in a spray of black blood. The sight of the dying Sponser only fueled his lust for more.

He spun and sliced and carved through three more of them before he noticed the others with him had stopped. He was in a blind rage-filled fury up until then, working carefully to dispatch the Sponsers one at a time, making sure they felt his blade.

All was quiet in the building. Victor looked at Mike cautiously. “Mikhael, are you…what you did…are you ok?” He asked hesitantly. The killing display put on by Mike was something to behold, and Victor and the others were astonished by it.

Out of breath, Mike replied, “Yes, I’m fine Victor. Those things must die. All of them.” His body heaved with each laborious breath.

“Mikhael, they stopped. Your flurry of blade scared them off. I think they turned away. Or maybe they went for more men. I don’t know and I don’t care. We need to leave now before they decide to return.”

They crept up to the door, careful to watch for more men attacking them. Once there, they found the outside deserted. There wasn’t a sign of any left outside. “You must have scared them off Mikhael. And to be honest, you frightened me as well. I knew you had the instincts, but I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Mike shrugged it off. “It’s nothing Victor. I knew they were weak and I was strong, that’s all. Now, where do we go from here?”

Anya pointed to a building high up on a hill, north of them. “There,” she said. “The mayor would go back there, his stronghold. If you keep up what you did back there, we will have no problem stopping him.”

Mike liked the sound of that. He was the hero, the one stories would be told about for generations. As he thought of how it might go down on history, he suddenly found himself falling fast down to nothingness. He started spinning wildly, faster and faster. Finally, he hit the bottom. And woke up. He wasn’t sure where he was at.

Thanks for reading! If you’d like to comment, please do so below. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts. Come back tomorrow for the final chapter of Master of the Drunken Fist.

Master of the Drunken Fist: Chapter 24

Welcome back to the next chapter of my 2012 NaNoWriMo winning novel Master of the Drunken Fist. If you need to catch up, check out the Table of Contents.

Chapter 24

“No, no, no. Dammit.” Mike said laying on the floor. Things were about to get exciting in Russia, and he fell out of the void. There was no way telling when that would happen and he had no control over it, as far as he could tell. He was so close to being part of something greater than himself.

Slowly he got up, the hangover really working on him this time. His head throbbed. He was dizzy. The floor was soaked in piss. How long was I out? Damn! he thought, staring at his own urine on the floor. It was still a little bit sunny outside, so it wasn’t night, but how long he actually was gone he didn’t know. Right now, he needed something for the pain in his head and…on his shoulders? He rubbed them and felt ridges, as though he were clawed by something. He ignored the nausea building up inside him and ran to the nearest mirror.

Looking at himself, he couldn’t believe what he saw. Clearly visible marks were on his shoulders, as though clawed by an animal. A bear? he thought. Confusion washed over him as the thought of the bear he faced in Russia came to him. “But how can this happen? That was in the void, not here in real life! What the fuck is going on?” He honestly had no idea and was scared by it. There were too many instances of something happening in the void making an appearance here in the real world and it made him uncomfortable.

He sank down to the floor, holding his shoulders, rocking back and forth. “What’s real? What isn’t? What the hell is going on? I just wanted to be someone, to be something more than what I am here. How can this be happening? That wasn’t real, was it? Surely it’s not. There has to be a good reason for this. Did I do this to myself? Did the bear hurt me in a more real sense than I knew? Oh my God, I am going crazy!”

Mike sat there, for a couple hours, unable to move, unable to give credence to his thoughts. They were too outlandish to fathom, and he just stayed on the floor babbling incoherently.

Slowly, the effects of the hangover wore off. He began to claim control over his mind again. The fog of dizziness and nausea started to lift, revealing a much more coherent Mike. Finally he moved from his spot on the floor and cleaned himself and the kitchen floor. After getting some food in him, he felt like a brand new man.

With Noelle gone, he didn’t have a good baseline of time anymore. Looking at his watch, it said it was Monday at seven thirty six. “Holy shit! I’ve been out for two days! Damn, I hope I still have my job.” Just as he said that, he noticed there were two messages on his phone, both from work. Reluctantly, Mike listened. The first was his boss, asking where he was. The second was his boss again, much more irate. If Mike didn’t show up within the next half hour, he was fired, no more leniency. “Well shit, I blew that, didn’t I?” Mike said.

Frustrated with himself, he sat down on the couch, running his fingers through his hair, trying to calm himself. “What do I do now? I’ve lost Noe, I’ve lost my job. What the hell do I do now?” He didn’t have an answer for himself. He was so wrapped up in being in the void, he forgot to care about the things of this world that needed his attention. He felt anger. He felt guilt. He hated himself for what he became. He couldn’t believe what he did to himself. Yet, he still couldn’t shake the feeling that he needed to finish something back in the void.

The void. The land beyond the void. All of it weighed on him. He was so caught up in being there. He felt more alive there than at any other time in the real world. How could he leave all of that? He had a gift, a spectacular gift of travel and understanding and heroism. There was no way he could give that up, no matter what happened here in the real world.

He sat there, thinking deeply about the void and what it meant. He hadn’t yet really tried to figure it out, just accepting it for what it was and not questioning it too much. But now, the urge to think, to discover overwhelmed him. It wasn’t like he was going anywhere anyway. He had no girl and no job to turn to anymore.

The first thing that bothered him about the void was how he got there anyway. He knew it was from the alcohol, he had no doubt about that. What he was unsure of for the longest time was how did he get to the various places. He had been to each place a couple of times, and there had to be a method to it. He thought about what he drank.

Before he found himself with the brothers and those vile Sponsers, he had some of Gene’s moonshine. It was the roughest stuff he ever drank in his life and after a few they went down smoothly. But he was positive it was moonshine before the brothers. The second time he met the brothers, it was after drinking the ‘shine again. He got pretty lit up off the stuff and the next thing he knew, Abe was bringing him out of the clearing into the treeline. Regardless, it was moonshine he had before the brothers.

And then there was Cortez. He was drinking margaritas at the party with Noelle before finding himself on the deck of the ship with Cortez and his crew. He distinctly remembered margaritas because those were Noe’s favorite, and there was plenty to go around. The second time he met Cortez, what had he been drinking? He didn’t remember at first. Then it came to him. He mixed some tequila with soda. He had tequila. That was the alcohol that took him to Cortez.

Finally, there was the Russians. Mike recalled clearly that it was vodka both times before going to visit them. He still had the empty bottles from the last visit in the trash can to confirm his theory.

So, he figured, the type of alcohol dictated where he was going. He smiled to himself as he thought of the drinks he had and the places he visited. “How fucking stereotypical! ‘Shine for the hillbillies, tequila for the Spaniard going to Mexico, and vodka for the Ruskies. Oh my God, this is unbelievable!” He laughed a lot more, mostly about himself for not catching on to it sooner. It was so obvious once he reasoned it out. “How did I miss this? It was all right in front of me!” With that part of the puzzle seemingly solved, he figured he could now control where he went just by the type of drink he concocted.

The next part still stumped him. How did he end up in the situations he found himself in once he got to the void? At first, he thought maybe there were multiple exits from the stark whiteness of the void, and if he walked around enough, he’d find those other places. He remembered trying that once, and it still led him to the same place as before. So they places he visited weren’t random, but were selected by some unknown process. Why he went to those places, he wasn’t entirely sure. He did think that in each case, his presence was necessary for a positive outcome to occur. More than once, he was told that he had some power or ability that the people there didn’t have. Once he exercised this ability, he became the hero. That feeling was the strong pull Mike felt to the void and the worlds beyond. It gave him such a rush of adrenaline and confidence that he couldn’t resist going there.

He couldn’t help shake the feeling that somehow, those scenarios he found himself in were meant for a reason. It was like he had to be with the brothers. That was his destiny. That was the name for it, it was his destiny to be in those situations, and no others. He was meant for the brothers and Cortez, and the Russians. He thought about that last group some more.

He just returned from the Russians, and he didn’t feel like he closed out that adventure just yet. When he left, he was on his way to taking care of business, and then he was suddenly gone. With the brothers and Cortez, he felt like there was some closure there, as though he was done with what he was called to do in those situations. But with the Russians, he didn’t have that same sense of closure. There still felt like work to be done.

However, that brought another line of thought to him. He started thinking about how it was that he left the void and why. Those events felt random at best. There was no rhyme or reason to them as far as Mike could tell. At least he knew that drinking a certain kind of alcohol brought him to certain places. But leaving those places never felt like it followed a certain plan. One moment, he was knee deep in the adventure, and the next he found himself spiraling down until he awoke in the real world. Unlike entering, there didn’t appear to be a trigger as to when he left. If he could figure that out, maybe he could use his time there a bit more wisely. If he knew he was going to leave after a certain event or amount of time, then he could better control how things happened in there. And, he could control how it affected the real world, getting him out of any future trouble.

He still was no closer to figuring that part of the equation out when he decided to give his theories a try. He decided there was still work to be done with the Russians. Going to the liquor cabinet, he found an unopened bottle of vodka. “Ohhh, there you are,” he said affectionately. He hadn’t been out of the void for longer than six or seven hours, but he didn’t care. There was nothing holding him back in the real world now. Better to take chances living out adventures in the void instead of dying a slow boring death here in the real world he thought as he knocked back the bottle and started drinking it straight. The comforting burn returned, almost worse than the moonshine, but he didn’t let that stop him. He was on a mission. Burn or not, he would endure it to do what needed to be done. Before long, he found the white nothingness of the void once again. He was home.

Thanks so much for reading! Please feel free to leave a comment below. Come back tomorrow for the next chapter of Master of the Drunken Fist.

Master of the Drunken Fist: Chapter 23

Welcome back! Here’s the next chapter of my 2012 NaNoWriMo winning novel Master of the Drunken Fist. If you’ve missed any of it, check out the Table of Contents to catch up.

Chapter 23

Mike stayed with the Russians for what felt like forever. He hadn’t spent so much time there consecutively as he had at this point. He was there so long that he started to think it was his real life and the life he lived back in that boring, small midwestern town was the fake. It became a distant memory to him as he was more and more involved in the daily activities of the Russian life.

Victor took them on a long winding trip around the city where they were going. At first, Mike didn’t see the need to stay so far away from a warm, soft bed. It took him a day or so to figure out his plan. Apparently, he felt they were being followed by some of the locals, and not to share recipes. He had received warning ahead of time that they were not ready to bow to the king. They were ready to take out his “special envoy” as Victor was called by them. It surprised Mike to think that the king would only send four men to subdue an entire region, and this city, when a squad of his soldiers couldn’t hold it.

One evening, the night before they were to sneak in to the city and do what needed to be done, Victor received a visitor from the city. She was a fine woman with long curly hair. It had been so long since Mike had seen a woman in this side of the void that it surprised him at first.

“My lovely Anya! It’s so good to see you. How did you know I was here?”

“Come Victor, you are easy to spot. When the townsmen start scurrying about in silence, gathering some of the best hunters, then something tells me you had come back. They want you dead you know? They have a bounty on your head. For all of you, but most of all you Victor.”

He smiled. It was a warm smile. She was beautiful. “My dear, they can’t take me alive. I’m too good for that. Besides, we have might Mikhael with us, not even a bear let alone some farmers with pitchforks can take us in.”

“Victor, that’s sort of the plan. They don’t care if you are alive or not. As long as they present your head, then they get the bounty. A rather large sum too.” And Anya looked at him salaciously, as though she had thought to collect it herself.

“But that is not why I’m here. You know I pledged to assist you for what you did for me so long ago. I’m not a woman to take those things lightly. I came here to help you get inside. There is a growing number of townsfolk ready for your arrival. They are anxious to be under the kings command rather than that of these warlords. They keep the people under harsh rules. They are ruthless in their justice. The things they do are…despicable. You have a force inside ready to back you.”

“Good, good Anya. What you say brings me great joy. I had hoped to have someone on the inside helping us. How many do you think you have loyal to the crown?”

“I’d say a good forty to fifty, maybe more. For a city of this size, that is more than enough of a force to bring about a change. They await your direction. But you must be careful getting inside. That’s why I sought you out. I have a way for you to get inside. Hurry, I have some clothes hidden over there in that thicket,” she pointed off to the right. They followed her to find four brown monks cloaks laying in a heap under some leaves.

“Here,” she said to the men. “Put these on over your clothes. You will look natural enough. If we wait till the sun goes down, there are fewer guards and with me trying to, um, distract them, you should be able to slip by the gate without a problem. Once inside, I can send out a messenger to gather the men. Within a day, we will have you in place.”

“How efficient of you Anya. You do have your ways about you, don’t you?” Victor replied to her. “Just do as I say, and you will get in the city without a problem.”

The men dressed in the woolen, brown monks robes with a large rope cord around the waist to keep it tight. Looking at the other men, Mike could hardly tell they carried packs on their backs and lethal weapons under those robes. They were just large enough to cover everything but not too large to really raise suspicion.

Until that point, the other three men were silent. They followed the directions of Anya just as Victor had. Apparently she was a close ally of some sort. Mike could only guess as to what kind of things Victor did to get her in his debt like this. It was that or maybe she couldn’t live under the harsh conditions she alluded to any longer and saw Victor as her only way to a better life. Or maybe both. In truth, he didn’t care. He saw this as an opportunity for the hero inside of him to be released once again. If he could really liberate this city, he would be a hero to thousands. He enjoyed that thought. He was ready. He felt the courage building up inside of him.

“Victor, do you trust this woman?” Sergei whispered as they began their way towards the city gate. “I mean, she could be leading us to our death. How much do you know about her?”

“Trust me, she is no angel of death. She has no malice within her. I took care of her the last time I was here, and she is indebted to me. Besides that, she believes in the cause of the king. The men leading this city are tyrants. They are worse than the king could ever be, and that says a lot. She does this out of love of her people. No Sergei, she doesn’t lead us to death.”

They carefully walked in the snow making their way to the gate. Finally they approached two guards at the small gate. This was not the main gate to the city, but a smaller one used by the clergy to enter and leave as their faith took them.

“Stop, who are you?” Anya answered for the men. “They are monks from Moscow, making their long way here as a pilgrimage to the shrine at the church.”

“They are huh, how do we know that?”

“Do you honestly think I’d lie about something like that?” Anya sounded a bit put off by their questions, no doubt a ploy to get them to let them pass.

Just then, Victor walked past Anya and with the swift movements of a stealthy cat going after it’s prey, he reached out with both hands and stabbed the two guards right in their throats. The sudden move startled them, and the placement of the knives was spot on as the two men fell instantly silent. They clutched at their throats, but Sergei and Alexsander knocked both to the ground while stabbing them repeatedly until life left their bodies.

“Victor! I said I had this under control! You didn’t have to kill them, they were good boys doing their job!” Anya really looked upset by what he did. As much as she talked about having to change the leadership, she didn’t seem too ready to take it to the extremes that Victor was willing to.

“They were asking too many questions. Besides, two less men we will fight later on. Come, take us where we need to go.” All niceness and pleasantry left Victor’s voice then. He was here on business. They walked a few blocks down the street and came upon a small inn. Mike couldn’t read the sign outside telling the name, one of the only few drawbacks being in the void had. They opened the door and stepped in.

When Mike set foot on the floor inside, he found there as no footing and he began falling fast. “No!” he yelled as he began spinning quickly. His speed built up as the spinning grew more and more furious. He fell farther and farther down, until finally he hit the bottom. Opening his eyes, he laid on the floor of his kitchen, staring at the linoleum floor in a growing pool of drool and piss. He was home.

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the story. Feel free to leave comments below. Come back tomorrow for the next chapter of Master of the Drunken Fist.

Master of the Drunken Fist: Chapter 22

Welcome to the next chapter of Master of the Drunken Fist. If you’re behind, check out the Table of Contents to catch up.

Chapter 22

Mike rifled through his cupboards, looking for any and all alcohol. He needed to get back to the void, things were getting too serious, too confrontational here in the real world and he felt powerless to do anything about it. If he could get back to the void, he could at least be someone again. After some searching, he finally found a little over half a bottle of vodka. He didn’t even bother with mixing it, just opened the bottle and drank away. It burned, but it was a familiar feeling, one that told him all was well.

It didn’t take him long, at least he didn’t think so, before he found himself in the friendly confines of the void. Brilliant, blinding white engulfed him. He tried, in vain, the see his hand again. He wondered why it was always like this, but didn’t think on it long. He started to walk straight ahead, looking for his exit. He noticed it far ahead. It was a blue color, mixed with a little green. As he got closer, he saw some white there too. Is this Russia again? he thought. He didn’t care. As long as it wasn’t back in the real world, with Noelle getting pissed at him, he was fine with it.

Mike stepped through the hole, finding himself on a small ship, gliding down a river with snow covered banks. In a way. he was excited to be in Russia. The last time he was here, he hated it at first and then he killed a man, a real man, for the first time ever. It gave him an odd feeling knowing that he killed a man, but he got over it. It was something he had to do. He was trying to preserve his life and that man was trying to take it. Of course, that man had every reason to. They were raiding his ship and killing the rest of his crew.

Sergei, Alexsander, and Victor were all there on the ship. Victor was at the helm, steering the small sailboat down the river, going east. It seemed like they hadn’t gone too far from their last time together. He wondered if while he was gone, if they’d notice at all, or if there were some other “Mikhael” that took his place while he was gone. It was a legitimate concern. How would they react to him if all of a sudden he was there one moment, and then gone the next, and then there again.

“Mikhael, here, take the helm for a moment. I gotta piss,” Victor said to him. Apparently there were no issues with him being there and gone and back again. Mike tentatively took the wheel, unsure of how to pilot a ship. He’d never done so before and this was definitely not something he was comfortable with. Victor stumbled away, going to the side of the ship and began pissing into the river. He seemed…drunk to Mike. The Russian sailor laughed as he relieved himself. Finishing, he came back to Mike. “You did good boy. Now let me take that back. We got some ways to go. We gotta get to the east. We are going back to the Kamchatkan district. I’m told by his majesty to take control out there. Things have gotten out of hand. You ready for this Mikhael?”

Mike wasn’t sure what to say. He thought for a moment. Was he really ready to stay here in the world beyond the void, helping to rule some far out Russian province? He smiled. Yep, he was. There was a reason he was here. There had been in the other places too. He was meant to be here. There was something only he could do that his comrades couldn’t. He didn’t know what it was, but when the time came, he’d know. “Yeah Victor, I’m ready. Let’s take care of things. I could use some excitement in my life.” Victor just laughed and mumbled something about damn Chinese stirring trouble. His laugh was low and hardy exactly like what Mike thought Russians sounded like.

They sailed on the river for several days. He never once saw another person besides his fellow sailors. Through their conversations, he figured out that they were in Siberia moving east, going to the far northeast part of the country to a far off province that apparently Victor had “discovered” some years back. It seems that Victor started falling out of favor with the crown because he had a penchant for raiding vessels. One too many complaints reached the crown and he was put in prison for a bit before being let out to go and subdue the Kamchatkan region. And that was where they were headed. A small group, almost a suicide mission Mike figured, going to rule over a large region far from the capitol. Just his luck. He leaves the real world only to find himself in a very dangerous situation.

It wasn’t too much longer that they came to port in a small town just outside the province they were to subdue. They unloaded their cargo and kept a sharp eye out for anyone that looked suspicious. They had a lot of gold and silver coins and were not willing to part ways with them easily. They found a small inn that had two available rooms, and settled in for the night.

It was getting colder outside. Miike guessed it was the dead of winter, and in Siberia, that wasn’t the best of times to be there. Inside the inn, there was a large common room with a blazing fire in a fire place at the end of the room. The four Russians gathered there, warming themselves at the fire.

“Sergei, do you think you can find the supplies we need here?” Alexsander asked. He was sipping on a cup of warm tea the inn-keeper had ready for them after getting settled. “Yeah, I think so Alexsander. I saw a few shops on our way here that should have all we need.”

“If we have to, we can sell the ship,” Victor said. “We don’t need it any more. Where we are going, the ship cannot take us. We go on foot from here. It’s cold. It’s hard. It’s the only way up there. That’s why no one went there but me. And what I found was astonishing. They had a large city up there. His majesty didn’t even know it was there until I told him. He sent troops in to take over and claim it for the crown, but after they left, they had a weak man take over the administration of the city. He couldn’t handle it. That’s why there are problems there. That’s why we go there. You boys wanted adventure, well it doesn’t get any better than this,” and he laughed at that last part. He was fearless. Or stupid. Either way, Mike was following him because adventure seemed to ooze from him. His demeanor, his way of carrying himself all told Mike this was a man to stay close to.

Sergei sold the ship. They stayed a few more days at the inn before packing up and setting off towards their destination. They got some mules to help carry their gear. It was frigid outside, but they had blankets on their backs and were bred for such a thing.

Victor took the lead. He seemed to have a keen sense of direction, because all Mike knew was that everything looked the same to him. It was all white. And it was cold. The wind blew fiercely through the trees as they trudged their way north and east. They would set up camp, get a large fire going, and then the next morning, pick it all up and go on again. That was their life for the next week.

One night, just before they reached the outskirts of the city Victor had talked about, Mike heard a noise outside his tent. The temperatures were brutally cold, and he was reluctant to go outside to check it out. However, Victor yelled at him inside their tent. “Go out there and check and that Mikhael, it’s your turn.” Mike grumbled some, but grabbed his knife and bundled up before opening the tent flaps, revealing a sky full of stars. The cold smacked him like he’d never felt before. He shivered and closed the flaps on his coat a little tighter. The fire was almost out. The other tent looked fine and the mules were in place. So far so good.

He heard the sound again, coming from behind him and on the other side of his tent. He turned around and there was a large figure staring at him. It rushed at him, crunching over branches and brush. It got closer and Mike realized it was a bear. A large brown bear. He thought it was a grizzly, but he didn’t know his bears, unless it was a white one. This bear roared as it charged at him. Instinctively, Mike pulled out his knife to defend himself. The bear lunged at him. Mike stepped aside, bringing the knife down on it’s back. It roared in pain before turning on Mike, swiping with it’s large claws. It caught Mike on his side, but with such a heavy coat on, it didn’t dig too deep in him. Mike pulled the knife free to more growls of pain from the bear.

He stepped back to brace for another charge from the bear and wasn’t disappointed. It came at a lunge, trying to maul him with it’s sharp claws while growling, revealing it’s large teeth. Mike stood his ground, and when the bear lunged, it’s front paws landed on Mike’s shoulders while it’s mouth tried snapping at him. He took his knife and struck upwards, going right for it’s heart. He plunged the knife in, making the bear scream in pain. It tried to swipe at him, but he ducked and all it got was air. It tried to bite at him and caught him on the shoulder, bringing instant pain. Mike tried to strike with the knife again, but his weakened arm wouldn’t give him the strength he needed. Filled with adrenaline, Mike jumped back, then raced in at the bear, bringing his knife down hard on it’s skull. The long blade pierced the bear’s skull, entered it’s brain, and killed it instantly. It collapsed dead on the ground with a large thud.

By then, the other three had left their tents, near naked, frightened by the sounds they heard outside. They were all so terrified, they were unable to move to Mike’s defense, figuring he was doomed and they wanted no part of it. He looked around and saw six scared eyes staring back at him, wide and full of fear. They had never seen a man kill a bear like that before in their lives. Mike did what they never could do, and they were aware of it. Victor in particular seemed aware that there was something off about Mike, though he said nothing. It was something in his look at Mike, something in the way he leaned and took in the whole scene that told Mike there was more in his head than looting and carrying out whatever it was the crown wanted him to do.

“Mikhael…are you…are you alright?” Sergei asked. He seemed truly frightened by all that happened. Mike guessed they missed most of the fight, but were able to see the last part of the dance, the one where Mike took a beating and came out on top. He didn’t recall seeing any of them while the bear attacked.

“Yeah, I think so,” Mike replied breathlessly. It was a struggle to fend off that bear, but he did it. He smiled at his efforts, but even that seemed a little tough. He didn’t remember being this tired after the Sponsers or the Aztecs. Leave it to a fucking bear of all things to get to the mighty Mike, he thought.

The other men then ran over to him, noticing the blood from the bear’s strikes on his shoulders. He had shredded more than what Mike thought he did, and when Alexsander tried moving part of Mike’s coat out of the way, he screamed in pain. “Damn it man, that hurts,” he snapped at him. “Sorry Mikhael, I was trying to help,” he replied.

“No, that’s ok. It hurt, that’s all.” And that was a lie. It was throbbing ruthlessly. It worried Mike a bit. He never had pain like this in the void. He was always the one to come out on top, and pain wasn’t part of the deal. He did get hit some, but for whatever reason, it usually didn’t linger long. This was something entirely different, and it concerned him.

They spent the next hour or so patching Mike up. He didn’t enjoy the primitive medicine and methods of getting his wounds taken care of, which was at least one thing he didn’t like about being there. Other than that, the courage he felt while there, the feeling of invincibility, was something he relished. He didn’t ever want to give this up. Noelle was wrong in trying to get him to stop. If only she saw what he was like here, how badly he seemed to be needed, then she wouldn’t be so mad and would come back to him. Until then, he had to keep it up. There was a reason he was here, and he would see it through. It had to be better than being a janitor.

Thanks for reading! I hope you’re enjoying the story. Please feel free to leave a comment below. Come back tomorrow for the next chapter of Master of the Drunken Fist.