Armello Novella: The Heroes of Houndsmouth, Chapter 19



The next part happened so fast, Thane hardly believed he’d seen it with his own eyes.

Simon charged for a thick clump of bushes not far from the tunnel entrance.

Before he reached it though, Zeke’s bleary face popped out from the bush.

The bane saw the possum and shrieked. Prey spotted. It jutted his head for the possum, like a hawk going to snatch a gob of meat. The possum froze on the spot, but while he trembled, Stilts grabbed him up, curling his body over the possum.

The bird’s beak knocked into the shield the maned wolf had been carrying on his back, and sent them both careening into a stand of trees—one further away from the tunnel.

The bird pecked at the shield. The cloth covering it turned mothworn. The bane’s beak snipped at it and pecked again. Its beak hit the shield and rust exploded over the surface like frost over a windowpane.

It pecked a third time. The shield cracked.

The bane clacked its beak around Simon, snipping clothes and fur when it wasn’t breaking the shield apart.

Long arms shoved something white and grey. Zeke tumbled and tumbled over the ground, away from the attack, towards the tunnel. He didn’t wait for his momentum to run out, but came out of the roll on all fours and fled right into the tunnel.

He knocked into Thane before he squeezed into the darkness.

It woke the wolf up; his squire was still out there getting savaged! But the bane could easily kill them both.

I’m prince of the wolf clan. If I die, I cannot lead.

Fur flew. A flash of crimson glinted in the air.

But if I abandon my packmate, I’m not fit to lead.

Stilts—Simon—had refused to abandon Zeke. Thane couldn’t do less.

Toying with its prey had excited the bane. It flapped its wings without lift, exposing the side of its breast.

Thane exploded out of the tunnel. His claws tore up yellowed grass. He ran as fast as he knew how, the fastest he’d ever run before. In the blink of an eye, he was next to the bane’s breast. He stabbed his sword in, intending to plunge it into the creature’s heart. But though it pierced the razor-sharp feathers, it hit something inside, a rib perhaps, and glanced off at a strange angle, jarring his arm. The sword slid out of his paws, flew into the air, and landed feet away in a bush. Not a killing blow.

The bane squawked, though, and jumped back.

Thane didn’t wait to see what the bane would do next. Instead, he ran to Simon and swept him up. The maned wolf was cut open everywhere, but his eyes were bright with fear, alive with it. So when he saw Thane and felt the prince’s arms supporting him, he stumbled to and ran with Thane into the tunnel, shedding rust and torn clothes up until the moment they crammed inside again. Simon yelped in pain, but Thane kept shoving him ahead, deeper into the tunnel.

CRACK. The bane shoved its beak into the hole, brushing Thane’s tail. It shot under his belly, curling tight.

“Keep moving, Simon!” The bird was twisting its beak, wrenching the whole bigger. Thane glanced back at it. Rocks and soil fell around the beak. Its head would be in with them shortly.

“You’ve got to keep going! It’s getting in!” Thane shoved Simon again and again.

Pain made the maned wolf yelp every time, but he scrabbled and scrabbled until his legs and arms were underneath him. Muscles burning, he pushed himself forward.

Thane was right up on him. Simon couldn’t see ahead. Only darkness.

Sudden exhaustion dropped upon the maned wolf. His tongue lolled upon the bitter dirt. He’d never get out. It was too far to go. He just wanted to lie down.

At least the cubs are safe. His head grew heavy, began to sink.

Then, something glittered ahead of him in the dark. Simon stared at it, befuddled, then excited. Daylight! The exit out must be nearby!

The burst of hope made him lunge forward. But when he got closer, he realized it wasn’t the exit at all, but a shining object. He grabbed the twinkling thing up in his paw just as Zeke’s white face pop into view. The broken chain of the necklace flopped over his paw.

Zeke! It’s your shiny! he started to say, but the possum clamped his fingers around the maned wolf’s wrists and yelled, “HEAVE!”

* * *

Thane trembled. He could feel the maned wolf’s body surrendering in the tunnel ahead of him. Behind him, the bane caught a glimpse of grey fur and began chewing the tunnel entrance frantically. Thane pressed into Simon’s warm, furry body, but the exhausted wolf didn’t go any further. Thane was caught between the two. There was no escape.

So this is it. My end. Funny, I thought I’d be more of a participant—at least take my enemy with me! But it looks like I’ll die like a cork in a bottle.

Thane thought of his home in the north, his pack.

Feathers scraped the tunnel walls.

River will lead. Stupid River! But she’ll do a good job. Better than I ever did.

Thane turned. Even if he had to die like a snail in its shell, he intended to look his death in the eye, like a wolf.

Violet eyes gleamed at him, vicious, victorious. The bane’s beak gaped.

Then, Simon’s body disappeared.

Thane fell into the open space, flipped over, then thrust himself forward just in time. The bane’s sharp beak snapped down on air.

“Keep going!” shouted Thane, over the roar of the bird. He wasn’t sure anyone could hear him, but it seemed the right thing to do.

The grey wolf threw himself forward again, once, twice—then the tunnel dipped, into the U-bend. Thane glanced behind him. The violet eye seemed to burn with hate.

Thane slithered into the heart of the tunnel, disappearing from sight.

The bane screamed in frustration.

They had escaped.

Final chapter posts tomorrow.


Armello Novella: The Heroes of Houndsmouth, Chapter 18



Thane didn’t remember smelling any of this, but he kept running. Surely the tunnel was close by.

“Thane?” said Rusty. “The cubs need a rest.”

He nodded, swerving to gather them under the crown of a large tree. Fox, raccoon, and hoglet bent over, bracing themselves on their knees, sucking in air.

Thane sheathed his sword and leapt up into the tree. He climbed to the top, stuck his head above the branches.

Armello Novella: The Heroes of Houndsmouth, Chapter 17



“Zeke!” cried Simon, skidding to a halt. “He’s fainted!” He dodged back, grabbed the possum’s limp form, then caught up to Thane again.

“Poor chap, must have thought we were out to eat him.” Thane sniffed the air. “They’re just ahead—and hey presto, they’re almost at the tunnel. Fellows, it’s us!” he called.

Armello Novella: The Heroes of Houndsmouth, Chapter 16



Zeke wheezed and panted, tearing through the underbrush. His new shiny bounced up and down on his neck. Hard to believe a bear could move so fast, even with a groggy hoglet riding his broad shoulders. Zeke had stumbled a couple times and his hoglet, the older one, had had to help him stay upright. The hoglet was racing ahead of him now, spines bouncing.

But at least being behind meant he knew where Rusty and the raccoon kit were. The pair of red and striped tails were easier to keep track of in the dense forest where branches tore at sleeves and roots tripped tender paws.

He had no idea where they’d wind up, just that the bear had crashed out of the forest during their flight, had bellowed, “Follow me!” and everyone had obeyed.

Lucky for them the bear had waited up while Zeke got the hoglet free of the raspberry briars. And that Rusty’s scream-singing—which he’d only heard before in pubs—could stop a bane dead in its tracks.

Too bad the bear can’t cast or fight for us anymore. Zeke had glimpsed the bear’s blistered paws, noted the war club idle on his back, and figured that must be why even the mighty warmage had turned tail with them.

A branch grabbed Zeke’s sleeve. He punched his shoulder forward, tearing his shirt but not breaking pace.

And I don’t have any more shirts in this color!

Assuming he survived, Zeke was going to make four new—no, scratch that. He was going to hire a tailor to make him four new shirts, in this color. He’d always wanted to have a bespoke shirt, but something had always gotten in the way before.

Stupid stuff. His tongue lolled. You gotta do what you want while you’re still alive to enjoy it!

He stepped on a slimy mushroom and slipped. He floundered, arms circling in the air, but didn’t fall. Glancing back behind him, he noticed a nearby stand of mushrooms, well picked-over.

Didn’t I harvest those earlier? Where was the bear taking them?

Behind him, the bane screamed. That was enough to send ice up the possum’s heart, but then he heard a rustling coming up beside him. It was coming up FAST.

The panic almost made him sick. What could that be? That crazy baroness? What kind of nasty tricks would she have in store for them?

The rustling crashed in his ears. It was upon him. This was it. He’d been caught! HE WAS GOING TO DIE!

His vision narrowed. Black edged in, and then the possum dropped to the ground.

The newest chapter arrives at tomorrow at noon. The game Armello and its characters are property League of Geeks. Buy it today!

For previous chapters, click the tag “Heroes of Houndsmouth“; older chapters are towards the bottom.

You might also like to watch this four minute video because it shows off more special possum talents.

2017 Yearly Wordcount Goal beaten! 78K words written!


This year I thought I’d start tracking my writing habits. And for the first time ever, I set myself up with an easy-peasy daily writing goal: 250 words a day.

Here’s the math: 250 words a day, six days a week, for 52 weeks comes out to 780,000 words.

Today I beat that goal writing a short horror story:



The tracker is originally from this page, with the colors modified to suit my garish tastes. I also have another hourly tracker in the same file, on a separate thingie, taken from this page.

Keep in mind that prior to this year, I just wrote whenever I felt like it and never kept track of my progress. I had no idea I could output that many words o’ fiction. (I don’t count blogposts.)

And it’s not even 6 months yet. Whoo!

Armello Novella: The Heroes of Houndsmouth, Chapter 14



Simon checked over his shoulder. Rusty had already fled. Nubine had stopped trying to scrabble up the smooth spire and had turned to them, back against the wall.

Thane and Simon surrounded her. The smell of smoke on the air was getting stronger. Their shadows lay hazily over the ferret, outlined in orange.

“Don’t get too close. She could bite,” said Thane in an undertone. He picked up the torn band of Rusty’s skirt, which had fallen on the grass during the ferret’s struggle to climb.

“Come quietly,” said Thane. “You are no empty-headed bane; the lives of the people of Houndsmouth are at your feet. You must be brought before justice.” He held up the torn fabric. “You will be muzzled.”

Armello Novella: The Heroes of Houndsmouth, Chapter 13



A strange sight met Thane, Brun, and Simon as they came up the hill. Baroness Nubine was at the top of the hill, weaving and jumping about in a weaselly war dance. She paused a second to gulp down more of the cursed wine. She hadn’t seen the wolves and bear behind her yet. They ducked low to hide in the grass, watching.

Rusty, Zeke, and the cubs were over the hill, backs to a sheer spire of stones they hadn’t seen on the way in. They were throwing rocks at the baroness, except for Naomi, who whipped them out of Zeke’s bird-hunting sling.

She’s not a bad shot, either, thought Thane. She knows how to lead her target!

One shot looked like it would land for certain, blurring straight for the ferret, right between her eyes. But a foot or so before it landed, green shimmering light flashed in the inferno-lit night, and the rock ricocheted off it.

Armello Novella: The Heroes of Houndsmouth, Chapter 12



It wasn’t the most unfair fight Thane had ever been in, but it was in the top five. The worst three, of course, were always instigated by his sister River. But she was a dirty cheat who always surprised you with an arrow across your nose. At least they’d been clan-regulated bouts, so she hadn’t wound up killing him. Or vice-versa.