Up in the northern mountains, a handsome rake tries to learn to be human.

This is a work in progress.

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  • Heartburgh: Episode 1 Part 1

    Duke Percheval stood on the steps of Heartburgh Castle and looked down on the town green in front of him, where half-a-dozen wagons were lined up and discharging cargo and passengers. He imagined that he looked like King Henry the Eighth, but he had a fondness for primary colors and looked more like a clown,… [… more]

  • Heartburgh: Episode 1 Part 2

    Geoffrey found Flame Bunyips in the stables, brushing one of the horses. “There you are,” he said. “Who, me?” said Flame, turning around. “No, the horse,” said Geoffrey, and stroked the animal’s neck. “The stablehand said there’s nothing wrong with her.” “Then I’m sure she’s happy that you’re here with her instead of him,” said… [… more]

  • Heartburgh: Episode 1 Part 3

    The atheneum turned out to be a drafty old library. Geoffrey arranged the stack of books on the table in front of him. He couldn’t find any military strategy books, not in the 30 seconds he spent looking, but did find a copy of the Krim terms of service, and an encyclopedia of ancient Krim… [… more]

  • Heartburgh: Episode 1 Part 4

    “General Dungerame! The new military strategist is here.” General Dungerame turned around in his seat. “Hello, Geoff.” He dismissed the page with a wave of his hand. “Sit down.” “Hi, Luke.” Geoffrey walked out through a set of heavy wooden doors onto a stone balcony that overlooked the training field. Below, Heartburgh’s army was doing… [… more]

  • Heartburgh: Episode 1 Part 5

    Geoffrey’s lodgings were located outside the castle proper, in an inn not too far from the castle entrance. He headed for a side door, instead, to avoid bumping into anyone he knew. He opened the door and walked right into Flame Bunyips. “What the hell!” Heartburgh’s alliances and outreach coordinator staggered to keep her balance.… [… more]

  • Heartburgh: Episode 1 Part 6

    “General Lukomendrius Dungerame is in here,” the page said, opening the door. Hot, steamy air washed over Geoffrey and he stepped back. “Is that you, Geoff? Come on in!” The general was soaking in a large tub, one leg hanging over the edge, in a small, wood-paneled room that smelled of eucalyptus and juniper, probably… [… more]

  • Heartburgh: Episode 1 Part 7

    “Wait, you can’t go in there…” the page said. Geoffrey shoved him out of the way and threw open the door. The general was climbing out of the bathtub and his derriere, glistening with water droplets, was pale and flabby. “Hey!” The general grabbed for a towel and turned around. “What’s the meaning of this?”… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 2: Part 1

    At Castle Heartburgh, breakfast was served buffet-style, in the great hall on the ground floor, on the north side of the castle. The food was on sidebars on the west side of the room, directly across from the staircase. Windows opened out over the training yard. There was porridge, and bread, and stew left over… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 2: Part 2

    Geoffrey lay on the couch with his eyes closed, waiting for the raw egg to take effect. Back on World of Battle, healing potions started taking effect instantly, and there would be a health meter showing him that it was working. Here on Krim, there were no indicators. All he had to go by was… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 2: Part 3

    Olav nudged Geoffrey awake. “Mr. Napadayushyi? Mr. Napadayushyi?” Geffrey propped himself up on an elbow. “Did we have a meeting scheduled? We did, didn’t we?” “No, no, I mean, yes, you wanted to talk to me today, but this is about something else. Duke Percheval would like you to come up to his suite.” Olav… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 2: Part 4

    Geoffrey walked out of the front entrance of Heartburgh Castle with his overnight bag. A couple of changes of clothing, a few jars of skin care products, hair pomade — just the bare essentials. He hoped that Flame would bring anything else they would need for the trip. After all, she’d been on Krim longer,… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 2: Part 5

    As Geoffrey walked down to the Drunken Pie Inn, he thought about his strategy. He didn’t quite have the power to run full simulations — he’d have to wait until he was off-world and had access to more than just the human brain that Krim saddled him with. He’d paid extra to max out his… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 2: Part 6

    “When you get to Cleig Grijan, look for Quarta Pappa.” Flame handed Geoffrey a packet. “She’s the village elder.” “Her house is right next to the church on the village green,” added Abigail. “You can’t miss it.” “Fine, I’ll go,” said Geoffrey. “But just to Cleig Grijan. I don’t want to go to the sex… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 2: Part 7

    Geoffrey rode in silence next to the driver at the top of the coach. It was chillier up here, but he didn’t have to deal with Bartram’s constant chatter. The previous hour had been peaceful, as he watched the scenery crawl by. “It that it?” The coach had followed the road around a curve, and… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 2: Part 8

    “I guess he’s not going to have his soup then,” said Jim, and sat down in Bartram’s chair. He leaned over it and breathed in the scent. “Beans and… turnips?” “Skirrets,” said Quarta Pappa. “And garlic and onions, a little fennel.” Jim slurped up a spoonful. “Tasty.” “Is your friend really planning to walk all… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 2: Part 9

    Geoffrey was very good at riding horses. Sowing hatred and discord usually required lots of travel. He was even better at riding dragons, since they were the faster mode of transportation on World of Battle. Krim, unfortunately, had no dragons. That was a pity, because it could have significantly reduced the time it took to… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 2: Part 10

    “And then what happened?” Flame poured gin over the wound on Geoffrey’s shoulder. He flinched away. He’d had antiseptic poured on his wounds before, back on World of Battle, but it hadn’t hurt as much. The level of pain allowed by Krim’s basic bio avatar simulation was excessive. If this was supposed to teach him… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 3: Part 1

    “Well, this is exciting,” the Duke said. “Our first official after-action debriefing.” For the purposes of the meeting, the atheneum had been turned into a war room, with a large map of Krim hung up on one of the walls, completely covering the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. A slate slab was propped up against the shelves on… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 3: Part 2

    “This isn’t going to end well,” Bartram told Geoffrey. “You’re right, Flame is going to find out.” Geoffrey could see how it would play out. Flame Bunyips, Heartburgh’s alliances and outreach coordinator, would find out that Geoffrey hadn’t been injured in battle at all, and that she had provided medical care under false pretenses. She… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 3: Part 3

    “This is your army?” Ohoudulus The Unliving’s hands were at his waist, elbows sticking out, as he looked over the two dozen men and women on the training ground below him. They were all on the wide stone balcony at the back of the castle. Ohoudulus was wearing long shorts and a sweatshirt. “He looks… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 3: Part 4

    “I appreciate what you’re trying to do here,” the Duke told Ohoudulus. “If we don’t improve morale, we’re going to lose the few soldiers that we do have.” “And we have a heart enough time recruiting people to come out here as it is,” added the general. “If fighters go back to Krim City and… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 3: Part 5

    Ohoudulus stood with his hands on his waist, watching the troops try to organize themselves into teams. “Watch and learn,” he told Geoffrey. “Watch and learn.” He walked to the first team. “Your ties are too loose,” he told them. “If they come undone, you’re disqualified.” He walked around behind the team, sniffed, and continued walking… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 3: Part 6

    By the time Geoffrey found and returned with four raw eggs, word of the competition had spread. Several villagers were camped out on the edges of the training ground, placing bets. The soldiers were no longer competing just for the gold stars. They were now competing for an audience, which meant that Ohoudulus might well survive… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 3: Part 7

    “This would be a good time for bandits to attack us,” said Ayoob, eating eggs in the great hall the following morning. The room was almost entirely empty. Besides Ayoob and Geoffrey, the only other person who made it up for breakfast was Abigail Yaxley, who was sitting at a table in the corner, working… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 4: Part 1

    Geoffrey Napadayushyi, professional drama stirrer-upper in exile, walked into Heartburgh’s finest dining establishment, the Drunken Pie Inn, located just outside the entrance to Heartburgh Castle. Flame Bunyips, the Duke’s alliances and outreach coordinator, looked up from her breakfast. “Looking for a fast horse out of town?” “No, I’m actually just here for breakfast,” he said.… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 4: Part 2

    The door to the athaneum popped open. “The Duke is going to be a few minutes late,” Olav the page told the waiting council members sitting around the conference table. “He’s probably meeting with a foreign ambassador,” said Hephziba Primrose Livilla Massey. “Running a small kingdom in the middle of nowhere must be very challenging.”… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 4: Part 3

    Author’s note: I removed the book Bartram was reading in the previous installment and replaced it with a catalog. A very special catalog. “So this is where Flame’s faith healer is staying?” General Lukomendrius Dungerame asked Geoffrey as the two approached the Drunken Pie in. “Steuan Raollet, yes. And he’s staying in the room right… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 4: Part 4

    The Heartburgh market was a square of bare ground where local farmers and crafters sold their wares. Most of the stalls were empty. “It’s busier if you come early in the morning,” Flame told Steuan. “Or on the weekend.” She led him to one of the farmers’ stalls. “Though most of the herbs you’re going… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 4: Part 5

    “You want me to go with you on your vision quest?” Geoffrey asked Abigail. “Why?” “Isn’t it obvious? There are bears up there, and wolves, and bandits, and who knows what else.” “I’m not sure what help we’re going to be,” said Ayoob. “Unless you want someone to talk the bears to death. Maybe you… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 4: Part 6

    Geoffrey slowly eased Steuan’s door closed. He’d managed to get in and out without getting caught, without making a sound, or attracting any attention. He didn’t normally engage in breaking and entering. When he needed to have anything stolen on World of Battle, he had plenty of thieves he could subcontract to. Unfortunately, he hadn’t… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 4: Part 7

    “I have a feeling that things are starting to come together,” the Duke told Geoffrey. From where he stood at the top of the castle steps, the two of them could see down into the town. The sun was setting, and people were starting to light street lanterns and oil lamps. “It’s like a scene… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 4: Part 8

    The following morning, Geoffrey stayed at the castle for breakfast. It wasn’t because he was avoiding Flame and Steuan. It was just that the food was better at the castle. They had eggs, and bacon, and sausages, and pastries, and a chicory coffee that was almost like the real thing, especially if you hadn’t had… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 5: Part 1

    “This is exciting,” said Hephziba. She looked around at the other members of the Duke’s advisory council. “Come on, why is everyone so glum? The Duke said he had something important to talk to us about. Maybe we’re about to be attacked. I know it would be awful, but, honestly, it’s been a little slow… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 5: Part 2

    “You looked very different on Emura,” Flame told Handel. “You were… taller. And…” “I know, I know, I was a lot more handsome,” said Handel. “But one thing I learned from that experience is that when you’re choosing an avatar, you’re better off picking one with a brain instead of just going for looks. All… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 5: Part 3

    Geoffrey left the atheneum and spotted Olav the page in the hallway. “Where did Flame go?” “She’s in the north tower,” Olav said. “Hold on, I’m coming with you.” Abigail came out into the hallway, followed immediately by Hephziba, Ayoob, and the general. “I’m sure we won’t even need a hearing if she just explains… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 5: Part 4

    Geoffrey, Abigail, Hephziba, Ayoob and the General all followed Flame back down the stairs, arguing with her not to quit just yet. “Let us talk to the Duke,” said Abigail. “We’ll convince him to drop it.” “Or Geoffrey will put up an amazing defense and the Duke will never bring up Emura again,” said the… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 5: Part 5

    Abigail clutched her file to her chest. “Even if we burn these files, what’s to stop the Duke from ordering the same kinds of background checks that Ayoob did?” “I came to Krim to get away from all my mistakes,” said Hephziba. “I didn’t think I could get any further away from Heartburgh.” She glanced… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 5: Part 6

    Geoffrey knocked on the door to Flame’s room at the Drunken Pie Inn. “Go away.” Her voice was muffled. “It’s me,” he said. “We need to plan your defense.” “I said, go away.” “I’ve got your file,” he yelled through the door. “I know what happened on Emura.” “What the…” Flame swore then stomped to… [… more]

  • Heartburgh Episode 5: Part 7

    The hall grew silent. Even the soldiers at the back of the room who’d been taking bets on the outcome of the hearing stopped arguing about the odds. “I don’t know what to say,” the Duke finally said. “I’m disappointed. I was lied to when I first hired you. And then I was lied to… [… more]

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