Ian H. McKinley

Ian H. McKinley is a retired Canadian diplomat and writer of “fantastic realism,” fantasy that escapes the tropes of pure good versus ultimate evil. Rather, Ian’s narratives are driven by alignments and/or collisions of human interests and values. He is also an avid Blood Bowl player having won the prestigious 2021 Border Princes tournament as well as the Championship of the Longueuil Conference of the mighty Kasse Gueule. He is currently notorious for his offensive contributions to the Ottawa-Gatineau Blood Bowl League Facebook page. WHERE TO FIND IAN’S BOOKS Harbinger: Book One of Northern Fire (Amazon.ca) The Broken Dream: Book Two of Northern Fire (Amazon.ca) The Gallows Gem of Prallyn (Amazon.com) Hard copies (ask Ian directly) (Full biography)

26: You fear me, weak woe-men!

The bellowing came from an Orc blocker lumbering forward, punching the palm of his hand, searching for a foe and finding them in abundance. Well, yeah! Jacyntha hauled Qispi out of the path of the Orc and pushed her towards the right flank. She herself had to dodge and roll away from the blocker, but then Pillcu and the other linewomen closed ranks, giving Qispi and her protection. She caught up to Qispi, the Xonyxa so nearly sent home by Coach Karsgaard but who he subsequently trained up as the Militantes’ best tackler. “There! See him?”

Art of Up and Under webseries' characters by Meunier

All the Story so Far

Welcome to Up and Under, the tale of a rookie team playing its first season of “footy” in the Sommer Sea Football League. You’ve missed a lot and you’ll find it both informative as well as entertaining to go back and read the earlier episodes. But in case you just want to dive right in, look over the who’s who graphic. Once you’ve done that, here’s what you need to know:

25: You want how many tickets?

Neuvil couldn’t help but snarl at the obtuse Dark Elf, “By the thirteen sweet hells, man, how did you come to run the Matadoras? Is it really so rare for a visiting team to buy tickets for their fans?”

The stadium direktorus grew angry. “Ah, the notorious politeness of foreigners. Perhaps now you understand why we pen you up in your own quarter instead of letting you run loose around our city.”

Umberto nudged Neuvil out of the way. “Honourable sir,” he said, “forgive Coach Neuvil. He’s not well.” The direktorus gnashed his teeth but didn’t send them packing, so Umberto continued, “Yeah, it’s an awful lot. But we want ’em, see, and we have the coin.” He untied a heavy pouch from the baldric lying under his coat and set it on the counter between the Dark Elf and himself.

The direktorus emptied its contents onto the countertop and slid precise groups of coins into a new pile, counting as he went. He quickly tallied the gold and said, “I shall say this for you, foreigner, you were brave to walk with so much gold through Halos. The sum is adequate. The puzzle for me is, why? To deny our locals entry? To weaken our witchcraft? You know that Dwarrig, the League Officer for Conduct, will not want a near-empty stadium. It does the league no good. It does my masters who own the stadium no good.”

24: Agony’s got the ball!

Ellpay was right. The Mongrel’s striker, Mik Mangenain, who had scooped up the ball after the kick-off, had shovel-passed it to the thrower Jacyntha had been watching toss sixty-pace long bombs during warm-up, Agony Muerevarg. The star striker then covered the flank, ready to pounce should an opening appear in the line. On the other flank, the Jesters had jumped the whistle and now flooded around into the backfield. But on the line of scrimmage, it was muscle on muscle. Havoc Warriors receive the blessings of Havoc Demons and become receptacles of the demons’ hatred and cruelty. The resultant mutants were every bit as big and savage as Orc blockers, who they now faced in the ruck. The Jesters had two such warriors and had positioned them on either side of their star Minotaur, Goriada. But although their teammates might have jumped the whistle to perfection, Jacyntha could see as well as all the other fans that the Jesters’ muscle stood right across from the Mongrels’ rock solid core: three blockers flanked by a lineorc on each side to give added support.

23: Hand him over or die!

Shocked, Neuvil instinctively stepped back, away from the caped and hooded person who had just dropped from the stars and landed on the cobblestones in front of him. Umberto grabbed his arm and pulled him back, stepping between Neuvil and the assassin. “Coach,” Jacyntha said. “Behind us.” Her voice was calm: calmer than his would have been. A glance confirmed that two more caped and hooded assassins had dropped into the lane at their back. He knew there were likely more on the roofs above.

22: Time to grow up

Thordwall had ordered him early on – after the first pre-season match – never to yell at the women. Unlike the thick male brutes drawn to footy, she had said, women were smart enough to have other options in life and thus could easily walk away from the team if they didn’t like how they were being treated. So Neuvil didn’t bellow out his declaration. He said it as though he were commenting on the size of a longship or the height of a fjord: dry and factual.

21: The All Was War

“Xonyx the Strong rose to become a fine general and an inspiring leader. She outwitted her enemies and provided succour to those who sought her protection. From the ancient fires she forged the sword that could fall trees with a single stroke: the Edge of Hope. She led her folk to victory after victory and in the doing brought the refugees, the lost, the enslaved to her bosom. She forged a queendom out of the Jungle of the Night Cats, what some now call the N’Itgat Jungle, and she gave her folk her name, making the Xonyxas, a people strong and resilient.

20: He’s got a knife!

Jacyntha, trotting over to celebrate Ellpay’s touchdown with the catcher in the end-zone, turned around in shock upon hearing Qispi’s shout. Their back-up linewoman stormed past Coach Karsgaard, who lunged in futility to prevent her from invading the pitch. Qispi ran onto the field and leapt onto the back of a Duskdagger crouching above the crumpled form of Occlo. A whistle shrilled and the ref went running off towards the sudden tussle but he and the other match officials were too late. The Duskdagger substitutes had already lunged from their bench and had also invaded the pitch. They tore Qispi off their teammate – who did, indeed, have a dagger in his hand – just as the rest of the Militantes’ arrived en masse, starters and substitutes all.

19: Fangs on a smile

Karsgaard Neuvil studied the buildings forming the outer burghs of the Dark Elf city of Halos as they slide past the Menace’s starboard rail. Outwardly foreboding and starkly forbidding, the architecture was a clutter of abutting fortresses with low towers, some capped with terraces that featured prominent altars, all adorned with upwardly arching spikes. Spikes were everywhere: they surmounted walls, adorned the flanks of buildings, guarded gateways. And yet, the spikes weren’t the worst of it … his eyes couldn’t help but dwell on those altars on the terraces atop their spiky towers. He preferred not to think of them but; he knew that witches conducted their ritual sacrifices up there, so that the blood of their victims would pool in the moonlight and so that the gods of the stars they worshipped could behold the hearts held aloft to them.

18: I Can’t Protect You From Stupid

Cassandra Thordwall’s eyes narrowed and pivoted to take in Umberto’s face. He was watching the darkened doorway and obviously didn’t catch the warning in her glance because he added, “Boss, you pay me to protect you, and I have done, but this … I can’t protect you if I’m locked in the Almenara and they’re dragging you off to get hung. This is stupid.”

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