Jason Cosmo: Royal Crush preview (Chapter 1)

Greetings, Loyal Reader!

I realize it has been a long wait for Royal Crush. Even I am impatient! I thought you might like to see a sneak preview of Chapter 1. (Disclaimer: still a draft and you may find a few typos because I haven’t done my proofreading yet…feel free to report any errors and feel smug about it.)

For those who read my 1990 book Royal Chaos, you’ll immediately see a few differences, reflecting the events of Noble Cause. And if you haven’t read Royal Chaos…at this point I recommend you keep it that way. It’s one big spoiler for Royal Crush.

Excerpt begins after the break… Continue reading

Jason Cosmo: Noble Cause – Chapter 2 (pt 3)

Greetings, Loyal Reader!

Continuing our preview of Noble Cause with the third section of Chapter 2.  If you missed Chapter 1, start hereThe first part of Chapter 2 is here. All caught up? Great! We rejoin our story, already in progress:

I skidded to a stop just short of the ursine colossus. Glancing back over my shoulder, I saw a bespectacled potato sack of a man with fussy beard and a bad comb-over scurry my way. He wore a dull green robe. Pinned to his scrawny chest was a leaf-shaped badge.

“Don’t hurt the bear!” he repeated.

“Why not?” I demanded. “Is this a friendly magical bear that is not truly violent, just misunderstood?”

“No,” said the new arrival. “It’s a vicious man-eater, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Carathans, numerous foreigners, several head of cattle, a prize camel, and a shipload of rare birds from the Cycloon jungles. Not to mention thousands in property damage and unpaid bar tabs.”

“The bear drinks and doesn’t pay?”

“Yes. It prefers spiced rum, brandy, or mead. The occasional daiquiri. And of course it doesn’t pay! Nor do the fleeing patrons of any bar it enters.”

“Gotcha. But is it really an unfortunate prince transformed into a dangerous bear by an evil sorcerer?”


“An escapee from the circus, where it was cruelly mistreated, who now lashes out in blind fury against an uncaring world?”


“Family pet of a rich eccentric?”

“Are you mad?”

“Then why, pray tell, should I stay my hand?”

“Because, you fool, that’s a Long-Snouted Specklebacked Indigo Mountain Bear, one of the last of its kind!”


“And that means it’s an endangered species!”


“So you can’t kill an endangered species!”

“I can’t?”


“Even to save this poor, crippled, crying beggar girl from being torn apart and eaten?”

“Yeah!” said the poor, crippled, crying beggar girl. Cute as a bucket of buttons, she had stringy red hair, big blue eyes and a constellation of freckles across her dirty face. She was also missing her left leg below the knee. “I think it wants to eat me!”

“It matters not! By the Laws of Caratha, the Long-Snouted Specklebacked Indigo Mountain Bear cannot be harmed!”

“What kind of man would sacrifice an innocent, though admittedly disheveled, child to this murderous beast?” I cried.

“I am Chief Inspector Cierrus of the Ministry of Environmental Services and Sanctions. It is forbidden, on pain of death, to engage that bear with a deadly weapon of any kind!”

The bear grinned at me, drooling blood. It cracked its bear knuckles with a loud series of pops. The beast obviously recognized Cierrus. This was not the first time the M.E.S.S. inspector had intervened to save the animal from well-deserved extinction.

“Then how do we stop its rampage?”

Cierrus shrugged. “Once he’s had his fill, Chompy will wander off somewhere to take a nap.”


“That’s what we call him.”

“You allow this beast run loose in the city, eating whomever it pleases and give it an affectionate nickname to boot?”

“People should stay out of Chompy’s way if they don’t want to be eaten!” said Cierrus.

“What about those who can’t get away?”

“Yeah, like me!” said the poor, crippled beggar girl. “I’ve got one leg! Rats ate the other when I was but a babe.”

“I’m not concerned with filthy beggar girls,” sniffed Cierrus. “My sole concern is the bear.”

“My sole concern is defending the defenseless,” I said. “I will not let this bear eat poor little——what’s your name, dear?”

“Saka, kind sir,” supplied the beggar girl.

“I’m not going to let Chompy eat little Saka here.”

“You have no choice,” said Cierrus coldly. “Meet the M.E.S.S. Squad!” He snapped his fingers. A squad of green-uniformed crossbowmen rounded a corner and assumed firing positions. Their weapons were aimed not at the bear, but at me.

This could get ugly fast. I decided to try a compromise.

“Listen, Inspector.”

“Chief Inspector.”

“Whatever. Suppose I fight the bear without my sword?”

“You would face Chompy unarmed?” said Cierrus doubtfully.

“On your promise that your men won’t shoot me, I’ll put away my sword and wrestle the bear instead. For the girl.”

Cierrus laughed. “You want to wrestle a Long-Snouted Specklebacked Indigo Mountain Bear?”

“Of course not! I want to kill it with my sword. Do we have a deal?”

Cierrus shrugged. “No law prohibits suicide by bear! Go right ahead!”

I sheathed my blade.

Chompy growled and shrugged his barrel-sized shoulders, as if to say let’s get on with it.

Young Saka tugged at my sleeve. “You’re crazy, sir, but thanks.”

“Thank me later. If I live.”

The bear stepped forward. So did I.

Warily, we circled each another, with Saka between us. Chompy had the advantage in weight, height, speed, and reach.

But maybe not strength. For I had the Blessing of Rae.

Every hero needs a patron deity. Mine, for better or worse, was divine Rae, Goddess of the Sun. As a sign of her luminous favor, the Bright One had granted unto me the strength of eleven men, possibly twelve, whensoever the rays of the sun touched my skin. It being a sunny day, I had at least a slender hope against Chompy.

“Okay, Chompy, let’s dance!” I raised my fists.

Without warning, the bear lunged and hit me with a combination of two left jabs, a strong right and an uppercut. I landed flat on my back, staring up at the morning sky.

Great. Just great.

Someone had taught Chompy how to box!

Here ends Chapter 2! Questions and comments are welcome!

Best regards,
Dan McGirt

Jason Cosmo: Noble Cause – Chapter 2 (pt 2)

Greetings, Loyal Reader!

Continuing our preview of Noble Cause with Chapter 2.  If you missed Chapter 1, start hereThe first part of Chapter 2 is here. All caught up? Then, let’s join the action, already in progress:

It was only a bear. But that was like saying the sun is only a bright light. Or the Great Eastern Ocean only some water. Lumbering along on all fours, it stood six feet tall at the shoulder. Its fur was deep purplish-black with a pattern of white spots on the back. Its ears were the size of garden spades. Its snout was unusually long, more wolfish than ursine, and slick with fresh, red blood. A torn sleeve of rich fabric containing a fleshy arm hung from its mouth.

I knew I could not reach the girl before the bear did. Waving my sword, I shouted to divert the monster’s attention from her.

“Hey! Giant bear! Over here!”

The beast swung its massive head around and regarded me with baleful orange eyes. It growled a stone-rattling warning and rose to its hind legs, stretching its enormous body up, up, up, until it reached a full height of more than fourteen feet. No bear had a right to be so big. The girl cowered beneath it.

This would not be easy. But perhaps I could cut the fight short with a single accurate thrust to the bear’s heart. I would have to jump to make the shot, and risk a swipe of those platter-sized paws. But it was worth taking the chance if I could take down the bear with one blow.

Then again, a bear this big might have a spare heart near its spleen. You never knew. Dragons have three hearts, making them especially hard to kill. Why not overgrown bears? That was just the kind of natural history trivia that could trip you up.

Well, if I had to stab twice, I’d stab twice. Sword ready, I trotted toward the bear, gathering speed for my leap and thrust. Ignoring the girl, the beast dropped into a half crouch. Dagger-like claws extended from its massive paws.

I rushed on, zigzagging to confuse the animal. Closer came the moment of truth. I steeled myself to spring and strike.

Then a strident voice behind me commanded, “Don’t you dare hurt that bear!”

(Read the conclusion of Chapter 2 now!)

Best regards,
Dan McGirt

Jason Cosmo: Noble Cause – Chapter 2 (pt 1)

Greetings,  Loyal Reader!

We now continue the preview of Noble Cause with Chapter 2. If you missed Chapter 1, start here. All caught up? Great! Here we go:

Chapter 2

“Run! Run for your life! He’ll kill us all!”

I sighed. It was going to be one of those days.


Caratha was a proud metropolis of blue rooftops and whitewashed walls spread across the golden hills where the swift-flowing River Crownbolt meets the wine-dark Indigo Sea. Back in my humble village of Lower Hicksnittle, in dismal Darnk, I dreamed of someday visiting this City at the Center of the World. Now I was here, passing daily by the fabulous Alcazara Palace, the Consolidated Temple of The Gods, the Grand Bazaar, and all the other wonders I once knew only from The Impressionable Lad’s Picture Book of Caratha and Its Many Marvels.

I felt strangely at home in Caratha. It no doubt helped that I was, for now, one of the richest men in the city after pocketing the outrageous price the Dark Magic Society put on my head. And that my true love, Sapphrina, was the most beautiful woman in all the Eleven Kingdoms—or at worst tangled in a two-way tie with her twin sister Rubis. Mercury was right: I prospered.

Yet all was not well in the Shining City by the Sea. Along with the Society’s money came the bitter fruit of their lies. Most of the world believed I was Arden’s Archvillain—a thief, a reaver, a slayer, a pillager of towns, despoiler of virgins, stealer of candy, and kicker of puppies. Some called me a Demon Lord in human form, who ate babies for breakfast and drank blood by the bucket. Others swore I could steal souls at a glance. Many whispered I was Death’s own cousin. Or Death’s nephew.

Possibly an in-law.

My bad reputation preceded me everywhere, repelling most decent folk. Otherwise sensible people fainted or fled in panic at the mere mention of my name.

This made it tough to be a hero. But The Gods never said being their Champion would be easy. In fact, I distinctly recalled them saying it would be extremely difficult and most likely fatal. Even so, I took the job, and I meant to do it to the best of my ability. My mission was simple: defend the defenseless, fight for justice, and prevent the Dark Magic Society, Demon Lords, or other infernal powers from turning the Next Age of Arden into a thousand-year reign of darkness and despair.

That last one was tricky.

As I told Merc, I indeed spent my days wandering Caratha’s endless streets, seeking wrongs to right and innocents to protect. I punched out purse snatchers, found lost pets, rescued orphans, picked up litter, and directed the lost. I fought zombies, wererats, and other urban menaces as needed. I felt I was getting the hang of the hero business.

But I was also frustrated. Because my name inspired such terror, I dared not reveal it to those I aided. I usually went by My Name Isn’t Important or some other alias. In the guise of Only A Concerned Bystander, A Friend of Those in Need, or Just a Man Who Hates to See Anyone Burn to Death in a Tragic House Fire, I was highly regarded. But this didn’t improve my standing as Jason Cosmo.

I also wondered if my good deeds were good enough. Trouncing  thugs did little to loosen the grip of Reorganized Crime. I smashed the odd demon cult or undead outbreak, while the Dark Magic Society lurked in the shadows, unseen and out of reach. And while I chased petty thieves, freedom was stolen daily from Caratha’s four hundred thousand slaves. That slavery was now tolerated in a city the Mighty Champion founded as a home for the liberated slaves of the Empire of Fear made my heart heavy with astonishment and grief. The Mighty Champion’s battle cry Freedom For All! was the city motto, stamped on every coin. The irony of using this currency to buy people seemed lost on Carathans.

Such were my thoughts as I strolled down the aromatic Street of Meat Pies, one of the hundreds of twisting cobbled lanes winding their serpentine way through the Grand Bazaar. I was polishing off a savory lamb pastry when a tumult got my attention. A fear-crazed crowd of several dozen men appeared, surging from a narrow side passage at a dead run. Most wore the plain dress of laborers or servants, but there were gentry in the mix. The men ranged from swift-footed youths to stooped graybeards hobbling along with canes. Some fat, some skinny, some lean, some stout. All moved as fast as their legs allowed. They ran close, each careless of his fellows, arms flailing, eyes bulging, chests heaving. One unfortunate stumbled to the ground as he rounded the corner. The pack did not slacken their pace, but trampled him into the paving stones. When they passed, he climbed to his feet and staggered on, bruised and bleeding.

Coming three or four abreast, the men were a flash flood of flesh flushing down the street like a mountain stream swollen by the melting snows of spring, sweeping all before it. The swell of runners crashed into a pushcart piled high with succulent sausage pastries. The cart went spinning, fell, was smashed to bits. The mob left in their wake naught but splinters and greasy smears. Shoppers and vendors ahead of the heedless herd had either to join the flight or suffer the same fate.

Thus my sigh. How many times had my presence triggered such a senseless stampede? But something set this panic-propelled pack apart from its predecessors. I could not quite discern the distinction, though I wracked my brain trying.

Then it hit me.

Literally. The crowd bumped and jostled and flowed around me as I stood my ground. But they weren’t running from me. They were running toward me. This had never happened before.

I grabbed the next man to pass. He was a burly fellow, wearing a laborer’s brown tunic marked with the yellow badge of the Upstanding Brotherhood of Fetchers, Getters, and Lifters. The frightened fetcher flailed as my big hands gripped his shoulders, but I was too strong for him to escape.

“You! Why do you run?”

“It’s huge! Let me go!”

“What is huge? What is it, man?”

His eyes rolled wildly in their sockets. “It tore a man in half! For the love of all The Gods, let me go!”

I released him. Whatever was coming would be here soon enough. All along the street, meat pie sellers slammed the shutters of their shops. I drew my sword.

Soon I stood alone. I studied the terrain with a practiced eye. The roadway was wide enough for a wagon to pass. There was ample room for swordplay if need be. But the pavement was cracked and full of potholes. I’d needs mind my footing.

A tremendous roar startled me from my observations. The beastly challenge echoed down the street, rattling windows and kicking up little whirlwinds of debris. It sounded not unlike a barrel of rabid wolverines with bad coughs rolling down a mountain during a thunderstorm, followed by a pallet of bricks, several kegs of rusty nails, and a large temple bell.

Only louder.

The hair on the nape of my neck went stiff as the bristles of a scrub brush. Whatever it was, it was big, mean, and angry. A dragon? No, I had heard before a dragon’s dreadful roar. This was no dragon, thank The Gods. Gorgoratops? Bullsmasher? A pearly-eyed horngrim? Perhaps it was only the hellacious hobcat, small in size but terrible in its cry. But I doubted I’d be so lucky.

At the second roar, my fight-or-flight reflex was leaning heavily toward flight.

Then I saw her. A one-legged beggar girl staggered from the alley, wide-eyed with terror. She lost her balance, dropped her crutch, and tumbled to the pavement, blubbering and crying.

I started to her. She struggled to stand.

A monstrous shadow passed over her.

The monster itself followed, coming now fully into view.

The little girl screamed like a little girl.

So did I.

On to Chapter 2, part 2!

Best regards,

Dan McGirt

Jason Cosmo: Noble Cause preview, part 7

Greetings,  Loyal Reader!

Continuing our preview of NOBLE CAUSE, Chapter 1. If you missed the earlier episodes, start with part 1 and follow the links.  Here we go:

“Thanks. Who’s next?”

“Haakon Hookhand. Haakon!”

No one stepped forward. I scanned the crowd, spying a sturdy sailor who was missing his right hand. In its place was a wickedly sharp steel hook.

“Are you Haakon?” I asked.

He glanced around nervously. “Who me?”

“Yes, you. With the hook. Haakon Hookhand?”

He hid his right hand—or hook, rather—behind his back. “Maybe. I mean no! That is to say…it’s not what you think!”

“What do I think?”

Haakon laughed nervously. “Funny story really. You see, me and me mates were down at the Sassy Seahorse the other night, drinking rum and boasting, as we sailors will do. One thing leads to another and next thing you know I’m saying as I could take on Jason Cosmo himself.”

“Do go on,” I said.

“I didn’t mean nothing by it! It’s more like a figure of speech. Like I’m so hungry I could eat a horse! or I could arm-wrestle an ogre! More of an exaggeration than a declaration of one’s true intent. But then Seamus said as how you were taking all comers. He called me out! I couldn’t back down! I’ve been at sea for months. I had no idea you were in town or I’d have kept me fool mouth shout, and that’s the truth!”

“No doubt,” I said. “But signed up to kill me.”

“That I did,” said Haakon resignedly. “But it was the whiskey talking, I swear!”

“I thought you said rum.”

“Rum did most of the talking, but I’m pretty sure it was the whiskey as convinced me! Oh, I should never have turned to drink. Me mum said it would be the death of me!” Haakon fell to his knees. “I repent of it all! I swear by all The Gods, never will I touch another drop, just please don’t kill me, Jason Cosmo!”

He clasped his hands together in desperate supplication, forgetting that one of his hands was, in fact, a hook.

“You just hooked your own hand,” I said.

“Yes, I noticed.”

“That has to smart.”

“Aye,” said Haakon, through gritted teeth. “The pain is considerable.”

“Well, I can’t fight you now. So I guess you’re off the…er, list. Perhaps another time.”

“Oh, thank you, sir! Thank you!”

“You should have a surgeon tend your hand before it gets infected.”
Haakon scowled. “The last time I let a surgeon tend an injured hand of mine I ended up with this bloody hook! I’ll just pour some rum on and apply a bandage. It will be fine. Thank you again, sir, for your mercy and kindness!”

“You’re welcome. Be a good fellow and spread tales of my mercy if it wouldn’t be too much trouble.”

On to part 8!

Best regards,
Dan McGirt