Sword and Sorcery Adventure
ALTRO EVO, Artbook illustrations
Property Copyright ©2016 Mala Spina
All rights reserved by law and international conventions. No part of this ebook may be reproduced and re-sold using electronic systems, mechanical or otherwise without the written permission of the author.
First Edition 2016 Graphic Project WorkOnColor.Com
A Couple of words on Altro Evo
STARTING FROM THE COVER
THE WOMAN OF MYSTERY
THE LÓNG HOUSE
TEA WITH THE DRAGON
Chapter 1 “The Day of the Dragon”
Mala Spina Biography
A Couple of words on Altro Evo
When I started writing the stories of Altro Evo, I also planned to draw some digital illustrations to drive the readers through the streets of the old city.
Each story moves into a fantasy world Sword & Sorcery in which the common elements are humor, irony, action and mystery.
The whole series was thought to have a graphic pulp look, so I opted for pictorial drawings.
Another choice I made was to only use digital tools as a matter of convenience: using a drawing software is faster and convenient respect traditional painting. The Wacom pen has done the rest.
Each illustration has required two to three working days.
So this is my style, below there’s me with my creative monsters and this is the collection I did for the ebook “The Day of the Dragon”.
STARTING FROM THE COVER
The first illustration I made was the cover of the first ebook, and it was also good way to experiment if a style like that could work
I have used more layers of textures to get the vintage effect and many layers of brushstrokes. I did a prior research and studied many images of reptiles to be able to give a good scale effect.
Someone told me that the white hairs between the scales were a bit weird, but that dragon was an eastern dragon, so it has to be a little furry.
The decision not to show the whole monster is due to a good reason. The mystery of the dragon, around which the whole story is built, does not properly refers to the creature.
Under the dragon claw, there is a sheet of paper with the symbol that will haunt the protagonist throughout the adventure.
My intention was to not clearly show the characters of the story. I thought that the reader would like better to imagine the main characters with own imagination… but I made some exceptions.
In this case, I wanted to show the alley where is one of the “key” places of the story.
The man who passes his hand over his mouth is the star of “The Day of the Dragon”, he is a sailor, anything but heroic.
The two men of the shadows in front of him are not at this point of the story, but I needed to enliven the scene.
For this illustration, I first studied a good collection of photos of the streets of Cairo, Casablanca, and Marrakesh.
The light was blinding and it reflected off the whitewashed buildings, confusing him even more, if that was possible. He was in an unmarked narrow street, and the houses, a couple of floors high, hid the sun’s position, making it impossible to understand which side the sea was. Above the door he had exited there was a colorful wooden plaque with a drawing of a dragon clutching a mug and a simple inscription: The Drunk Dragon. Gil stared at it for a few seconds and started thinking that the strange vision of the monster that he’d seen before didn’t look anything like the one on the tavern sign.
I was going to describe a dramatic moment and, above all, a beautiful sailing ship. The rigging has made me crazy, but this is the result.
To view a larger image, go to the next page and turn horizontally the reader.
The first thunder hurt his ears and he felt the wooden boards shake under his bare feet. He looked outside and was struck by a freezing rain, cold like only the storms in the bitter north can be. The deck was empty, the warning bell clanged with every wave, and the wind whipped the sails out of control. He was alone, with the ship swept up in the storm and currents, moving dramatically from the force of the waves on the hull.
A lightning bolt cut the dark sky in two, lighting up the left side of the Qader Witch.
THE WOMAN OF MISTERY
With this illustration I broke the rule of not showing clearly the characters, because the temptation to describe one of the main characters was too strong.
The woman had to have asian features and a “not reassuring” look. Yes, she was a little uspet to see Gillean.
He had just finished cursing the crazy idea of being so hung over that he hadn’t had the time to escape as he had hoped, because the woman was quicker and drew near, moving sinuously among the people as if dancing, with her almond-shaped eyes fixed on the sailor. He could imagine the muscles of her perfect face turned up to form a benevolent smile and erasing her expression of absolute astonishment. Judging by the icy stare it would take a titanic effort.
Do I know her? Pray to Enkili I know her!
Petite and with a rounded figure exaggerated by her tight dress, she was a beautiful mermaid swimming through the crowded street, and Gil felt like a petrified little fish in front of a shark.
THE LÓNG HOUSE
I wanted an illustration for describing the mysterious house in the Red Garden, it would also evoke horror elements. I have imagined this way the entry of the wealthy family home of Lóng.
For this illustration, I used the highest number of brushes.
They walked through those streets until they came to a large, carved wooden door painted gold and dark red. The little street was dark, apart from the light coming from the lanterns hung on the sides of the entrance, which was reflected on the broad strips of shiny fabric stretched out at the sides. From a distance they could hear the muffled echoes of the crowd and animals.
TEA WITH THE DRAGON
Finally, I had to draw the dragon without revealing too much the real appearance and neither what will be his role in the story.
I noticed that the message I wanted to pass on the contact points between “The Day of the Dragon” and the famous film “Big Trouble in Little China” has been successful.
The dragon is the last digital drawing I made before closing the project.
All illustrations have been used in the paperback edition of “The Day of the Dragon”, in black and white.
His eyes slid down the sides, becoming rounder, and the pupils contracted until they were vertical blades.
Altro Evo is a series of adventures in an alternate fantasy world (some sort of Sword & Sorcery magic-punk).
Every ebook has a different hero, the story is independent but closely connected to the other episodes. All events take place over the same day, within the walls of the same old city, like a jigsaw puzzle.
The series can be read in any order and each one is a self-contained ebook.
[_Nothing seems easier than going back to the port and reach the rest of his crew, but Gillean Conroy, merchant sailor on the fastest ship of the South Seas, has two major problems: an amnesia, deep as a bottomless pit, and the aftermath of a huge hangover. _]
Gillean will cross the labyrinthine neighborhoods of the old city, trying to get away from bizarre characters and surreal or dangerous situations. He is going to make a terrible discovery: he is the only one who can resolve the mystery of the dragon symbol. He’ll have to do it fast because time’s running out and he needs to piece together his memory before dawn.
[_Jelicho is a bounty hunter who has begun to feel the burden of his age and all he wants is one last job that would let him settle down. Finding a phoney like Kafra will be a breeze and the reward will be in his pockets before dawn! _]
[_What Jelicho doesn’t know is how mistaken he is: killing Kafra is easy, but making him stay dead is a damned problem. In the old city nobody is ever safe and plans never go the way you want. _]
[_In a frontier town, depraved and lawless, life is harder than elsewhere and the situation can’t get any better if you’re as ugly as death. _]
[_When Zira, the barmaid in the worst tavern on the port manages to find a new job, she has no idea she’d be the only one to know when the destruction of the city and its inhabitants would occur. _]
To make matters worse, she has to deal with a deadly and uncontrollable trunk, a crazed alchemist and creatures with whom the barmaid would never want anything to do.
[Chapter 1 “The Day of the Dragon”
A WONDERFUL BEGINNING]
The stink of vomit and stale beer bombarded his nostrils. His mouth was pasty with a horrible taste, bitter as poison. The vague pain in his head, which he had woken up with, quickly got stronger, becoming a full-fledged headache. It was hard to even form a rational thought except for a string of curses aimed at random gods, or to remember anything at all from the previous evening. In spite of it all, the worst part of waking up was the usual sense of confusion that he had felt every morning since becoming a merchant sailor. It was one of the burdens of not living in the same place for more than a few days and not having more than an off-hand idea of his next destination.
“Where the hell am I?” Gillean Conroy muttered, trying to open his sleep-laden eyes.
It was the wonderful beginning of a new day, wherever he was.
The world seemed to whirl around him and his stomach clenched tightly just as it did when he was going through a storm on one of his journeys. Judging from the horrible state of his insides, he had to be tossing on the waves, on the ship of Captain Fahd.
“It’s going to be all right…” he said again.
Millions of dots of light swirled furiously around him, darting in every direction, so fast that he barely understood where the top and bottom were. He managed to open his eyes enough to make the lights flash stronger and stronger, turning into a single blinding beam. When the dots broke up, a central dark spot appeared in the shape of a reptilian head with gaping jaws. His eyelids felt scratchy with sand, and only with the flow of tears caused by the bright light was Gillean able to focus on what seemed to be the inside of a tavern, the walls black with soot. He was lying on a floor of unevenly laid wooden boards, on which a heap of rickety tables and stools stood. He planted his palms on the ground and heaved himself up, fighting back the waves of nausea. He struck the back of his neck against something hard, with a deafening thump that echoed inside his skull, from one side to the other. He fell back to the ground dizzy, realizing only in that moment that he was under one of those heavy wooden tables.
“Drunks! Drunk sailors everywhere!” yelled a female voice. The pleats of a long dirt-colored skirt marched closer to him with every step.
Gil got back whatever was left of his balance and managed to crawl up from under the table with his head lowered, and once up, he looked for the most stable position by sitting down. He looked up, rubbed his sore neck, and what he saw almost made him faint.
In front of him stood a woman brandishing a knotty broom handle ready to hit him over the head. “We’re closed, for Sheriamon’s sake! Will you leave already?”
That unpleasant voice grated on his ears, but even worse was the woman’s face. The sagging cheeks, the flat nose, and teeth that protruded from her massive jaws as if escaping made her look embarrassingly like a pig.
The woman frowned and went on ranting. “Did you hear me? Get over your hangover somewhere else!” She screamed, with no compassion for his eardrums.
The sailor’s memory was a dense, dark stream of molasses from which his memories re-emerged sluggishly. Like the night before when, as soon as he had entered the tavern, he was shocked by the appearance of the horrible barmaid behind the counter. She had quite a knowing expression on her face, as if she could read every one of his thoughts.
Gods of the seas, how ugly could she be!
It wasn’t as if the sailor was in such great shape; just the opposite. Considering the violent nausea he felt, his face must be ashy and his burning eyes made him think they were bloodshot. On the whole he was very far from being the respectable young man that the Conroy family had raised. He ran his fingers through his fine blond hair, which was plastered to his sweat-soaked skull, trying in vain to improve his sorry state.
The sailor raised his hand in surrender and managed to pull himself up by leaning on the edge of the table. The bar’s door, the only opening in the room that let in daylight, seemed to be a very distant destination. Under the soles of his sandals, the floor creaked with broken plate shards and spilled beer, together with other bodily substances that were much stickier.
Gil held back a wave of nausea and widened his eyes. In that moment he felt a painful twinge at his ribs which made him double over and his sandals slipped on a greasy spot on the floor. The sailor turned his arm, looking for a place to hold onto so he wouldn’t fall, while slipping backwards. His back was up against the counter’s edge, and with a sinister screeching and a tinkling of silverware, he found himself face to face with the owner, a powerful man covered in tattoos and with a beard that went down to his chest, intent on organizing the few intact pitchers that had survived the night.
“Listen, buddy,” the owner said in the deep, hoarse voice of someone who’d had a hard day at work, “last night you and your pals had a good time. All of them have been gone for some time, so you’d better get your legs moving if you don’t want me to grab you by the collar and slam you out into the street with my bare hands. You’re lucky the gentleman in the hat paid your bill!”
“Who?” Gil asked in a choked voice. After seeing the owner’s scowl he knew it would be wise to follow the order straight away and keep his mouth shut, especially out of fear of throwing up on the tavern floor and provoking the wrath of the owner and his horrible barmaid.
He staggered to the exit, his hand pressed to his side. Once outside he felt revived by the fresh air of dawn. “One step at a time will get me back to the ship.”
The light was blinding and it reflected off the whitewashed buildings, confusing him even more, if that was possible. He was in an unmarked narrow street, and the houses, a couple of floors high, hid the sun’s position, making it impossible to understand which side the sea was. Above the door he had exited there was a colorful wooden plaque with a drawing of a dragon clutching a mug and a simple inscription: The Drunk Dragon. Gil stared at it for a few seconds and started thinking that the strange vision of the monster that he’d seen before didn’t look anything like the one on the tavern sign. He shrugged and went back to studying the street, trying to figure out how to get back to the ship. Another time he would have guessed the direction to the port in no time thanks to his unerring instinct for the salty smell of the sea. Sometimes in his past journeys it had even been essential to find the road to the coast and these were the moments when he felt in a state of grace. Unfortunately, this wasn’t one of those moments.
It had been his first chance for shore leave since the ship’s arrival and the powerful liquors of this frontier town had knocked him down before the night was over. The long months at sea, without being able to touch a drop of alcohol, hadn’t helped him with this gigantic hangover and the real trouble was he couldn’t remember how he had found himself under that table in the first place.
“I swear that is the first and last time I’ll drink like that.” He sheltered his eyes with his hand, trying to block the sunrays and to figure out where the hell the sea was.
He couldn’t believe he was in such awful shape and, until that moment, he would have sworn that he wasn’t the type of man who would get drunk in such a degrading way. Perhaps the solid values of the white cliffs from which he came were not so strong and his morality had been subject to a modification thanks to the boiling hot climate of the frontier lands. He searched his memory for some clue that would explain what could have led him to that point and he could only sense a vague feeling of anxiety, a vise-grip at his throat, and as the northern man he was he immediately realized it was an undefined sense of guilt.
He seemed to hear the voice of his father, old Conroy, and to see his face, so hard and inexpressive it seemed as if it were carved in granite. “You want to leave, Gil? You’ll turn into a degenerate like the rest of them or end up with your throat cut in some alleyway.” And that was the longest dialogue they had ever had.
And had he been right after all?
He smiled and rubbed his eyes again, trying to focus. He had wanted to hop on a ship for the other side of the world, mostly to get as far away as possible from the suffocating atmosphere of the High Empire, but he had also been fascinated by the boisterous and hot-headed foreigners and by the exotic stories they span. Captain Fahd, with all his tales of adventure, his powerful laugh, and his ready jokes, embodied what Gil had always wanted. He had signed up with the crew without looking back. Soon he had accepted the fact that the discipline and pragmatism with which he had grown up were so deeply rooted in him that they couldn’t be wiped away in a mere few months, and thus he couldn’t understand the superficiality of his companions, who ran into the arms of prostitutes or threw their money away on drink and gambling. At least it had been like that up until that day.
Gillean came to the conclusion that the most irritating thing about his feeling of guilt was the awareness of having done something that, where he was from, was considered a horrible act and not in the least worthy of the Conroy family, who had always been known to be honest workers.
What the hell! My conscience is clear. They might have given me some rancid concoction.
Something pushed him roughly to the side and he felt a pain in his side, so sudden and violent that he almost lost his already precarious balance. An old man covered in rags, who stank as if something had died in his pocket, supported himself with one arm while with the other hand seemed to be giving him paternal slaps of encouragement.
“Excuse me young man, is everything all right?” A mouth full of pitch-black teeth was smiling at him. “My eyesight isn’t what it used to be,” the beggar added a high-pitched laugh and pointed to the filthy rag that was covering his eyes.
Gil had a hard time catching his breath and pushing away the mass of bright dots that had started dancing before his eyes once again. “Every…thing is fine,” he mouthed while trying to free himself from the old man’s grasp.
“Are you sure? Can I do something to ingratiate myself?”
“Yes, it’d be enough if you tell me which way to the port.”
“Over there, straight ahead!” The beggar broke into a falsetto laugh and fled limping in the opposite direction, together with the clacking of his crutch.
The road was empty again and the tavern door was locked shut. What’s more he had the distinct feeling that something was amiss, but he didn’t have the strength to think further than that.
Inside the tavern, the barmaid had already begun sweeping the litter left by the customers, forcefully pushing the broom with an annoyed huff.
Through a small window, the tavern-keeper was still observing the sailor who was standing in the middle of the alleyway whirling aimlessly, looking to his right and left, clearly trying to get a grip and remember where the port was.
“Sailors! In the evenings they come waltzing in as if they were all admirals, spinning more tall tales than a politician, then in the morning we have to pull them out from under the table. May I be damned if I have to spend another night like this one.” The huge man shook his head and placed a chipped mug on a shelf. “Bah! Zira, have you ever seen anyone so pathetic?”
The barmaid stopped her work to glance outside, towards the blond sailor, with his sharp-featured face and evident dark shadows around his light-blue eyes, visible even a meter away. He was tall and skinny, and his sloped stance with a curved spine after the bad night suggested he hadn’t gotten back his balance. She saw him disappear, weaving down the street, and then she answered back with a grimace. “Yeah, myself, every morning, after I’ve finished cleaning up this place.”
Gillean began going uncertainly in the direction pointed out by the old man and hoped the sun would be up shortly. Maybe Captain Fahd was still not aware of his absence on board. That day something big was happening for the whole crew, something he couldn’t miss. If only he could remember what.
Dreamer of adventures and dauber of digital canvases.
I love fantasy and action literature, Altro Evo project is my way to come out of all the stories that are buzzing in my head. I’m also passionate about graphics and digital illustration.
On my website www.AltroEvo.com you will find more content!
Keep in touch and don’t miss next episode!
Nothing seems easier than going back to the port and reach the rest of his crew, but Gillean Conroy, merchant sailor on the fastest ship of the South Seas, has two major problems: an amnesia, deep as a bottomless pit, and the aftermath of a huge hangover. Gillean will cross the labyrinthine neighborhoods of the old city, trying to get away from bizarre characters and surreal or dangerous situations. He is going to make a terrible discovery: he is the only one who can resolve the mystery of the dragon symbol. He’ll have to do it fast because time’s running out and he needs to piece together his memory before dawn. "The Day of the Dragon" is the first adventure of Altro Evo, fantasy stories of Sword & Sorcery, self-contained adventures. The other episodes of Altro Evo, "Kafra the Magnificent" and "Ugly as Death" are already on Amazon! Follow the series on www.AltroEvo.com and discover other content!