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Dinosaurs & Dames: A Selection of Short Stories

So this is a self-published anthology of my short fiction that I recently posted for sale on Amazon.com:

Dinosaurs & Dames

This is a self-published anthology of short stories by amateur writer Brandon S. Pilcher. By and large, they are action-packed speculative-fiction tales featuring dinosaurs and other savage beasts, fierce female warriors and huntresses, and African cultural influences. So if you like adventure, strong heroines, prehistoric wildlife, and non-Western settings, these are the stories for you.

I would greatly appreciate it if anyone with a Kindle or Kindle app would be willing to spend $1 on my anthology. You won’t regret it!

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The First Lion

The First LionIt may look like a big leopard, but this is my reconstruction of how the earliest lions (Panthera leo) would have looked when their species evolved in Africa during the Pliocene epoch (5.3 to 2.6 million years ago). We know from recent genetic research that, among the big cats, lions are most closely related to leopards (Panthera pardus) and then jaguars (Panthera onca), so it seems reasonable to assume that the first lions would have also inherited a spotted coat from a common ancestor with those other species. Even today, lion cubs have faint leopard-like spots that fade away as they grow up.

The scruffy mane on this ancestral lion’s neck is only my own artistic speculation, but I wanted to get the point across that this animal was still of the leonine lineage.

African Love Divinities

African Love Divinities

I should have drawn this during Valentine’s Day, but the idea kissed me too late. Oh well, better late than never.

These would be two female divinities of love and fertility from African religion and mythology. On the left is the Egyptian Hathor, and on the right is the Yoruba Oshun (from what is now Nigeria). Sometimes I feel guilty for drawing so many more Egyptian or Kushite characters than characters from other regions of Africa, so I wanted to juxtapose an Egyptian with a West African person. Egypt was the first African civilization (as well the first ancient civilization from anywhere in the world) that I ever got into, but you can’t ignore the rest of the continent either.

Bastet the Feline Goddess

Bastet Smiles

Although the Egyptian goddess Bastet (or Bast) is best known for her domestic cat motif, she seems to have begun as a fearsome lion goddess like Sekhmet. Over time, her image softened up so that she became goddess of the home and domesticity (though she still had a protective role against evil spirits). For this portrait of her, I went with a black panther motif in reference to a recent superhero movie I saw (and enjoyed quite a lot).
UPDATE 2/17/18:
Bastet Colorized
This is the “colorized” version of my doodle of the Egyptian goddess Bastet. When you colorize pencil art this way in Photoshop (by drawing the colors on a layer with the “Color” blending mode over the original drawing), it makes it look almost like art created using colored pencils.

Confronting the Denwen

Confronting the Denwen

Our young Egyptian warrior and her lioness companion confront a giant denwen that has terrorized the countryside with its flaming breath.

In ancient Egyptian mythology, the denwen was a fiery, dragon-like serpent attested to as far back as the Old Kingdom. It was capable of destroying even the gods themselves, but could be defeated by the spirit of a dead Pharaoh. We can only hope our heroine and her pet have the same luck against this monster!

Barack Obama

Barack ObamaThis is my stab at a Presidential portrait for Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America. I wasn’t such a big fan of the recently publicized one with the flowery background, as I thought it looked too quaint and that Obama needed something more imposing and heroic. With this one, I wanted to channel illustrations of the Carthaginian Hannibal crossing the Alps on an elephant, except Obama and his elephant would be crossing the hills of Oahu, Hawaii (near where he was born). The shield Obama is carrying on his left hand is based on Luo designs, since his dad was of Kenyan Luo heritage.

By the way, I know an elephant might seem an ironic choice of mount for a Democratic politician like Obama. On the other hand, donkeys are not nearly as impressive in my opinion (Jesus got away with it because he wanted to make a point about his humbleness).

The Battle for Djakhem

Queen Rashekhu and Apekhuri

Apekhuri craned his big head upward, inhaled through his nostrils, and let out a deep rumbling growl from his mouth of blade-like teeth. The tyrannosaur’s tail swayed behind him as he sat crouched within the wall of jungle that reared alongside a moss-stained road.

Rashekhu, Queen of Djakhem, stroked the deep green scales on her mount’s neck while murmuring an incantation to calm his temper. She could hear the giant predator’s stomach grumble with a hunger for fresh meat that had grown over the past week’s southward march. With a voice as soft as that of a mother reassuring her child, the young Queen promised Apekhuri that he would have more than enough to gorge on before sundown.

Other than the normal chorus of bird squawks, insect chirps, and monkey hoots, the jungle lay silent on both sides of the road. Even from atop the saddle behind her tyrannosaur’s neck, Rashekhu could see little of the force she had laid out before her. Armed men and women lay beneath the cover of undergrowth and creepers, as did the packs of feathered deinonychus hired to protect their flanks. Only the tiniest glint of bronze weaponry and jewelry of gold and copper could betray anyone’s presence.

It was as Rashekhu had planned. The forces of Nekhubta would not know what struck them until it was too late.

Perspiration streamed down the Queen’s dark brown skin and stained her halter-top with dark wet spots. Even under the shade of the treetops, an unrelenting muggy heat permeated the depths of the jungle. Again Apekhuri growled with anxious hunger, and this time Rashekhu did not bother to stop him. She too had wearied of waiting.

The forest’s tranquility ended with the growing rumble of war drums from further south. Then came the cracking of the road’s stony pavement underneath the beating of heavy feet, the chanting and whooping of warriors, and the barks and hissing growls of deinonychus. Further away echoed the bellowing of an ankylosaur, a creature as sacred to Nekhubta as the tyrannosaur was to Djakhem.

Since the two kingdoms shared the same Ta’Sutjan heritage, the Nekhubtan army that marched northward up the road resembled Rashekhu’s own for the most part. The men wielded bronze spears and sickle-swords, the women bows and javelins, and both sexes oval shields of tough saurian hide as their protection. Serrated bronze blades capped the talons of the deinonychus cantering alongside the human soldiers.

However, it was not a tyrannosaur whom the lanky King Montukep of Nekhubta rode. Instead, he had his saddle perched on the broad, spiky back of the ankylosaur which lumbered on its four legs within the army’s central rank.

Even from a distance, Rashekhu could see the vain grin on Montukep’s boyish face. No doubt, like any Ta’Sutjan king on the warpath, he imagined himself and his minions sacking and plundering the towns on Djakhem’s southern frontier, if not breaking into the heart of the kingdom and conquering it all for his own glory. And if he was like most men, Montukep probably awaited to hold Rashekhu’s hand in forced marriage, as a token of his victory over her people.

The Queen of Djakhem bared her teeth in a vicious snarl. Whatever delusions of grandeur and stolen wealth her enemy entertained, she would shatter them in an instant.

She raised her bow straight up to the air and shrieked the war cry of Djakhem. “Onward, we attack!”

On her command, Apekhuri blasted out his most thunderous roar while her warriors burst out of cover, reciting their Queen’s battle scream. Bows twanged and gold-bangled arms swung in arcs as the Djakheman women rained arrows and javelins upon the stupefied Nekhubtan flanks, many of whom fell before they even had time to lift their shields overhead. After this initial volley, the men of Djakhem hollered with bloodlust as they stabbed and hacked through the loosened enemy ranks. Even more piercing were the screeches of the deinonychus as they sprang into a frenzy of slashing and biting.

The acrid stench of gore and spilled entrails swamped the once musty air. Rashekhu made no effort to restrain her tyrannosaur as he stormed into the clamorous fray. Bones, weapons, and shields crunched as Apekhuri trampled the Nekhubtans under his three-toed feet and swept them away with his thick, long tail. Those were the ones lucky enough to escape the crushing grasp of his jaws, the most powerful of any beast ever to walk on land.

In addition to the carnage her nine-ton steed wrought, Rashekhu picked off those further away with a rapid succession of arrows. The muscles of her forelimbs stretched and blazed from constant exertion as she shot. Yet any strain the Queen of Djakhem might have felt was drowned under her gleeful fury.

She heard the wet crack of something piercing through flesh and bone. Apekhuri lurched back with a shrill roar of pain, almost knocking Rashekhu off her saddle. Only by tugging onto a leather strap around the tyrannosaur’s neck was she able to stay on.

“You got carried away and forgot about me, didn’t you?” King Montukep cackled as he waved his lance, which dripped red fluid from a puncture wound he had inflicted on Apekhuri’s shoulder. His ankylosaur swatted away a gang of Rashekhu’s deinonychus with its club-tipped tail.

Rashekhu snarled a curse as she snatched one more arrow from her quiver and sent it towards the King of Nekhubta. With a backward tilt of his body, he dodged it, and the arrow plunged into the ankylosaur’s coarse back. The armored plant-eater honked with rage as it hurled its tail-club into Apekhuri’s thigh. As the tyrannosaur jolted in recoil from this second assault, Rashekhu fell off and landed on the blood-slicked road below with a splash.

A Nekhubtan spearman loomed over her with a fiendish laugh, ready to drive his weapon into her breast. If he succeeded, she would lose not only her life or the battle. She would lose her people’s freedom.

The image of their suffering at the hands of these invaders was enough to spark the Queen back to full strength. She jumped back to her feet, punched the brute up his jaw, and tore his spear from his clutches as he collapsed to the ground. After finishing him off with a thrust into his abdominals, Rashekhu spun around and fought her way through the chaos until she reached her steed’s shadow.

Apekhuri and the ankylosaur had begun to circle each other, exchanging growls and bellows while taking turns to evade the other’s lunging attacks. The King of Nekhubta laughed with cruel delight as he tortured the tyrannosaur with more pokes of his lance. Once Montukep jabbed into the very spot on his thigh that the ankylosaur’s tail-club had hit earlier, Apekhuri staggered away with a whimpering groan.

Montukep drew his lance overhead for a throw aimed at the wounded carnivore’s breast. “Soon, we shall see how you fare without your trusty tyrannosaur, Queen of Djakhem!”

Rashekhu replied only with a wordless smirk before chucking her captured spear all the way into the King’s chest.

The impaled Montukep yelled a final curse as he flew off his mount. The ankylosaur moaned with shock as it turned its head to see where its rider had fallen. It could not have counted on Apekhuri seizing the opportunity to dig his snout under its neck and push up against its weight. With a series of shoves, the tyrannosaur managed to overturn his adversary onto its spike-studded back, exposing the softer-skinned belly to the light of the noontime sun. It took only one bone-shattering bite to slay the ankylosaur once and for all.

“Our King has fallen!” a distressed cry rang out from the surviving Nekhubtans. Trumpets hewn from ceratopsian horns blared around the battlefield, and the once proud force that Montukep had commanded started to break away from the fight and stampede southwards to whence they had come. Their panicked screams, and even the screeches of their deinonychus, died away with their disappearance, leaving only the jungle’s usual birdsong and buzzing of insects.

Rashekhu, Queen of Djakhem, fell to her knees and panted under the burden of exhaustion. All around her stood what remained of her warriors amidst the carnage, their bodies and loincloths speckled with gore. Between a quarter and a half of her army must have fallen in the fighting, much more than she had hoped. Gazing up to the sun, Rashekhu whispered a prayer that their spirits would return to a blissful reunion with their ancestors in the Afterworld.

Despite the heavy toll they had suffered, the men and women who had fought for Djakhem brandished their weapons and shields with triumphant vigor, chanting a song of celebration while stamping their feet. Even the deinonychus seemed content as they feasted on the surrounding mess of corpses, much as Apekhuri gorged himself on the ankylosaur he had slain.

Rashekhu walked over to her tyrannosaur and stroked his blood-soaked snout. “You fought like a champion, mighty Apekhuri. We all did. The people of Djakhem shall sleep well with the knowledge that they are safe again.”

Hunting Partners

Hunting Partners

Some hunters like to bring dogs with them to help with tracking and chasing down their quarry. This Egyptian huntress, on the other hand, is more of a cat person. A BIG cat person, to be exact.

I drew the lioness on a separate piece of paper from her human counterpart before I combined them into one file using Photoshop. Thank Adobe for the wondrous power of layer masks!

UPDATE 2/9/18

Hunting Partners

Added some colors and a background, as well as fixing the huntress’s crouching pose.

Crocodile Along the Nile

Crocodile By the Nile

A crocodile of the species Crocodylus suchus warms itself up on the dark silty floodplains along the Nile River in Egypt. Originally thought to belong to the Nile crocodile species (Crocodylus niloticus), the crocodile that were venerated and even mummified by the ancient Egyptians are now recognized as their own, separate species that is also found across West and Central Africa today.

I should draw crocodilians much more often, as they are fierce and quite magnificent predators.

Angry Allosaurus

Angry Allosaurus

I had a bit of a bad day elsewhere on the Internet. To chill out and distract myself from online drama for a few moments, I doodled this Allosaurus rearing up in some kind of threat display. I think they’re trying to scare intruders away from their territory or something.

Beauty of Nok

Beauty of Nok

This is a young woman from an ancient culture known as the Nok, which dominated the northeastern corner of what is now Nigeria in West Africa between 1000 BC and 500 AD. This culture of iron-working farmers is best known for the large number of terracotta sculptures they produced, which depict human subjects with elaborate coiffures and jewelry. It is possible that the Nok culture was ancestral to the Yoruba people who today constitute around 21% of the Nigerian population.