Thief and Book

More world-building today. Last week’s episode can be found here. Hope you enjoy this!

Prince Hygasie loved being heir apparent to King Hyrdon of Lanuman. He went everywhere with his father, visiting all the cities and castles of the kingdom. He loved especially the castles, with their tall towers and wide walls and intimidating appearance, but he loved more the call gardens, where there was not a sound save for the occasional twitter of birds or squeak of some rodent as it scuttled through the hedges. There was peace there, in an ever-busy life as his father prepared him to inherit the throne.

Hygasie was completely content. If one were to ask if he desired anything, he would be hard-pressed to think of something, for he had a hundred servants at his beck and call, the endearing love of his father, and the praise thousands of subjects. He spent most of the day doing nothing in particular, merely walking around the palace grounds, or riding across the country, or else fencing with his friends.

He had many friends, and there was always a couple of them that would accompany him on his travels with his father. They were the sons of lords and dukes, and they made sure there was never a dull moment for the prince.

One day, he rode through the country with only a single companion, Corval, son of the Lord Amorin Karkomin. Of all his friends, Corval was perhaps the most mischievous, but at least he had enough sense never to do irreparable damage – largely because Hygasie and his other friends restrained him. They came into a village just over the hill from the palace where the king was staying this month. They had arrived only recently, and the prince desired to get a lay of the land, since one day it would be his.

As they trotted through the village, passing between small buildings and people going to and fro on business, Hygasie espied a shriveled, shrewd man behind a cart pulled by a farmer’s horse. The farmer was speaking to some neighbor, and the man behind the cart stealthily took advantage of the situation to take some of the fruits and herbs from the cart.

Hygasie beckoned Corval, and they followed the man behind one of the buildings. He drew his sword and, coming up behind the thief, pointed his sword at his throat.

“I would return those, if I were you,” the prince hissed.

The thief turned around. “Oh, Prince Hygasie! We did not expect to see your majesty in our lowly village! What an honor!”

“Silence! Again, you had better return what you have stolen, or else I will cut your head off where you stand.”

“How about not,” replied the thief, his tone changing suddenly. “I have need of these, and I would buy your pardon at a price.”

“There is no price that could buy off justice.”

“Perhaps. But I have something of great value, that could make you more powerful than even your father. And only I know where I put it.”

Hygasie regarded him suspiciously, but could find no lie in the man’s eyes. His other concern was whether it would even be worth taking such an object.

“Do you think we should trust him?” asked Corval.

“He has it, I’m sure,” replied the prince. “But if it’s really worth his life is another story. Lead on.”

The thief bowed, and hurried away, the two riders close behind him. They left the village, taking an old road toward the forest near the village. Hygasie looked at it, feeling a chill emanating from its dark depths. There was some malice in it, he was sure.

“What do they call this wood again, Corval?” he asked.

“Tormorzen Forest,” replied his friend. “Few ever enter there – it is a wicked place.”

“Wicked, ha!” laughed the thief before them. “At least the rumors give one a little peace and quiet.”

He led them to the very eaves of the forest, where they came upon a small, dark hut. Dismounting, they followed the thief inside. There, he showed them the fireplace, and spoke something in a strange tongue. At once, the stones about the fireplace shifted, protruding forth until they formed a sort of table, upon which lay an ancient book, marked with strange runes.

“I have only learned a few pieces in there,” remarked the thief. “But I’m sure a wise man like yourself could unlock the full potential within it.”

“Yes,” said Hygasie, picking up the book. “Even now I recognize some of these runes. I shall take this, but if I ever catch you again, it will be your head.”

“No worries, sir. Thank you.”

 

Back at the palace, he spent his time locked up, brooding over the new text. Slowly, he learned what it all meant, page by page. The first chapters concerned simple spells, allowing him to move objects with his mind for example. Later chapters were more difficult, and grew steadily more disquieting, as the requirements of their powers became more sinister. But it was a very gradual slope. The ninth chapter required a live squirrel, by the twenty-first every spell required some live sacrifice. But he had to stop, for a time, at chapter twenty-six.

That was largely because it required not some animal part, but a real, human skull. Had he read this chapter three months ago, when he had first obtained it, he would have blanched and tossed the book aside. But now he was immersed in it, and he was becoming quite powerful. He would not back down now.

However, his friends had noticed a change in him. Most were utterly perplexed, but Corval knew the reason, though he spoke not a word of it. But as the weeks and months passed, he grew to fear Hygasie more and more, especially since the prince was in the habit of showing off his new powers to the friend who had seen him take the book.

He got cold feet just as Hygasie ruminated on finding a way to obtain a human skull. The king summoned his son to the throne room, his guards all about the dais, Corval sitting nervously beside the king.

“I hear that you have been practicing the dark arts, my son. Is this true?” said the king.

“Of course it isn’t true!” lied Hygasie. “What would I have to gain from them? You have given me all I need!”

“Then why was this found in your room?” At this the king produced the book, which had doubtless been given to him by Corval. Hygasie leered angrily, turning to his former friend.

“Curse you!” he snarled. “I should have dealt with you a long time ago!”

He reached up his hand, tightening Corval’s throat. The boy choked for air, clutching his neck in surprise at the power taking hold of it. But before the prince could finish him off, there was a slash through the air, and the spell was broken. Hygasie stood in shock, staring at a man before the dais, holding a red sword that flickered like candlelight.

“Thank you, Endremzo,” said the king, breathing deep. “I had feared we would have difficulty without the Casecaron.”

“Yes, sire,” replied the guard. “Now what shall we do with this boy?”

Hydron sighed. “I cannot bear to slay my son, my only son. But he cannot stay here, and he would break from any chains that we put on him. Therefore, let us send him to exile. Endremzo, escort him out!”

“Yes, sire!” Endremzo walked forward, sword at the ready. But he needn’t have bothered with it. Hygasie was on his way out. He just had one final word.

“You will all rue this day!” he said. “I curse you all!”

“That’s enough!” snapped the guard, and he escorted him out of the palace, though the garden, and into the wild. He set his sword in the ground. “Go, and never return.”

Hygasie didn’t need to return, though he would have liked to. No, he was sure that he was now powerful enough to make his own nation. Then his lieutenants could take back Lanuman. One day.

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Stone Heart

I really do have a stone heart from a beach. However, that is the only connection between my life and this. In fact, the entire idea was largely inspired by another heart-shaped stone (though this one was more Valentinian) and the memory of that one myth where the guy turns to stone from unfeeling. I hope you enjoy this story!

It was about a year ago last summer that I first discovered it. I was walking along the beach, as I often do during cool summer mornings, picking up rocks and skipping them over the water. As I went, I happened upon a rather strange specimen: a rock in the shape of a heart. Not a cupid heart, mind you, that girls put over their “I”s and on St. Valentine cards. No, this was shaped like a real human heart, and it seemed as though it were ready to start beating at any moment.

It was a good red color, too. If you’ve never seen a real heart, it’s rather ugly, like most of our insides, but this rock was red. I supposed it was due to all the iron in its composition. Anyway, it was a beautiful color, complimenting the strange shape very well. So I decided to pick it up and bring it home to put on my shelf.

Now, my home is really a private bar on the lake shore. I live in the apartment above. My shelf is really a series of display cases on a wood plank screwed to the wall so that people can admire the things on the beaches. I’ve got all sorts of things there: seagull feathers, clam shells, mussels, and other interesting rocks. One is in the shape of Harrison Ford’s face.

I really doubt that managing a bar is any boy’s dream as he grows up (it certainly wasn’t mine), but I grew into it. This was largely due to an appreciation for life, and there is sure a lot of life at a bar. Everyone has a story to tell, if someone will just lend an ear, and sometimes even if they won’t. Sure, I have to deal with the occasional drunk who calls anyone anything he feels like, but that’s why I have a bouncer. Though they are giving me business, I don’t encourage them to return.

I’ve had some plenty strange customers in my day, but the strangest of all certainly has to be this one fellow. He came in not too long ago, all gloomy and the like. Now, this wasn’t particularly odd – I’ve seen all sorts of men in this mood coming in and going out. Knowing that the best thing for men in that situation to do is for them to talk about their problems, I asked him what the matter was as I took his order.

“It’s nothing,” he replied. That’s the answer I usually get.

“Well now, I know that’s a lie,” I said. “What happen to you? Lose your job? Friend die? Girlfriend break up with you?”

“I broke up with her.”

“You feeling guilty then? Think you might have hurt her?”

“I think she hurt me more than I hurt her, but I definitely deserved it.”

“What did you do?”

It’s a general rule of thumb that everyone wants to share their story, especially when it weighs heavy on their hearts. All most need is an excuse to tell it, and I had just given this fellow that excuse.

“Well, you see,” he began. “I used to be a very different person than I am today. I thought I knew everything, I was king of the world. I could get away with just about anything. No one would dare challenge me in anything, even my girlfriend.

“You see, while I was with my girlfriend, I was having a relationship with another woman. I thought I was so clever at hiding it from my girlfriend, and that the only time she found out was when I decided to finally break up with her. Needless to say, she was not happy.

“I didn’t realize for the longest time that anything was wrong with her. I was young and dumb, and I thought she could get over it. She did, after a fashion. Instead of loving me, she hated me with a passion.

“After about a month, she confronted me on the whole thing. We were on the beach, bordering this very sea. I was feeling rather bad at this point, since my new girlfriend had just broken up with me for some other guy. I had planned to ask my ex out again, but she had different intentions.

“’Do you ever care for anyone but yourself?’ she asked me.

“’I care about you,’ I told her, though I’m certain I was lying.

“’If you did, you wouldn’t have cheated on me. You have a stone heart, Connor, a stone heart!’

“At these words, I could hear a tightening in my chest. It seemed as though my heart was turning to stone, because I felt my pulse drop to nothing. Then my ex walked up to me and shoved her hand into my chest. Like in Temple of Doom. Only, instead of a beating heart, she was actually holding a heart-shaped stone. But it was black and disgusting.”

“Wait a minute,” I said. “So your ex ripped your heart out of your chest? That’s not possible. How did you survive?”

“I don’t know,” Connor replied. He peeled back his jacket, and then his shirt, revealing a large hole in his chest, the dark cavity showing a lung and ribs, but no beating heart. It really was gone.

“Anyway,” he continued. “I was so shocked, that I didn’t try to stop her as she threw the stone as far into the sea as she could. And I never saw her again after that.

“At first, I thought I could manage without a heart. But then I realized that I couldn’t feel anything. Nothing stirred my emotions, except for the sadness of this revelation. It’s hard to feel excited when you don’t have a heart to beat any faster, or to pump adrenaline in you.

“So eventually I knew I had to find my heart. I searched all over the sea, and all the beaches, but I’ve never been successful. And now I despair of ever finding it.”

I listened with pity. This man could certainly use some help. And I thought that I had just the right thing. I went over to the shelf, taking out the red heart stone. Back at the counter, I presented it to the man.

“Is this what you’ve been searching for?”

“I don’t know. It was black when I lost it – but this is the right size and shape.”

“Try it. See if it fits.”

He took the stone and put it in the cavity. Almost immediately, after I blinked my eyes, the stone was gone, replaced by a real heart! I smiled, and so did he.

“Thank you!” he said. “Oh, thank you!”

“Don’t worry,” I replied. “I’m always ready to help a friend in need.”

Now, I don’t know what became of this man when he left, although that heart was beating quite fast as he left. But wherever he is, I’m sure he’s happy. God bless him.

Lump of Iron

I’m going to be trying something for the next few posts — how long it’ll last, I don’t know. I’m going to try some spontaneous world-building, just by writing a bunch of stories and connecting them in the same universe. I think each one will attempt to reference a previous episode at least once. That being said, I hope you enjoy this, the first installment of that attempt!

It’s really hit or miss to find a community that has one of the works of the smith Adenso of Theslin. Some of his projects could be found in tiny villages in their own corner of the world; others had traveled over entire continents and vast seas to rest in places the smith had never even heard of before. He had made all sorts of things: orbs that could light up; self-filling drinking horns; mining equipment; farming supplies; telescopes; ships; even a strange, mechanical being which could move about on command. It was really a testament to his skill, that anyone, anywhere could find a use for his creations.

“Of course,” he would often say to those who inquired about his craft. “Sometimes the purpose is to merely sit on a shelf and be beautiful. Certainly it’s not very practical, but the purpose of impractical things are for when nothing needs to be done.”

Whenever he said this, though, the visitor would embark upon an odyssey of questions about the various items that he kept to himself in his little shop. What was its purpose? Why did he keep it? Why not use his works to build up his own empire? His answers were always quick and precise.

“That is a special kind of clock – it not only tells me when it is tea time, but serves the tea to me.”

“That is a golden elephant model, a particular favorite of mine, and no one has ever bothered to ask me to part with it.”

“I have no intention of making my own empire. I don’t need power. I just need the satisfaction of knowing my work is useful, and the joy of making things.”

After all these questions, the visitors would always end with the same one. They would point to the lump of dull iron metal on the smith’s worktable, shapeless, like some kind of art project that was angrily crushed and thrown aside. What purpose did that have? It was not beautiful, it had no practicality.

“It has a purpose,” he would always reply. “I just haven’t been informed about it yet.”

Thesule, Adenso’s apprentice, wondered even more than the visitors when the smith spoke these words. This was probably because he had heard them a thousand times, and because he knew some of the skill and power that went into each project. But while he could see the purpose in some of his master’s strangest, most abstract creations, he couldn’t see any in this lump of metal. He had even tried to throw it away on a few occasions, though Adenso quickly realized its disappearance and demanded its return.

For a very long time, the two of them lived in peace, freely distributing their creations over the entire face of the earth. But, as others would have it, time changed and so did lands, passing from the hands of a good king to those of a tyrant, King Hygasie of Evorion, who peopled his army with men like himself who were angry, spiteful, capricious, and above all greedy. While the war that had effected the changing over of lands had passed around Adenso, he quickly caught the eye of Hygasie, who sent men immediately to his shop.

Of the tyrant’s soldiers, these were some of the most angry, the most spiteful, the most capricious, and the most greedy. They arrived on six tall, arrogant horses, and swaggered into the shop, weapons proudly displayed at their sides.

“Hail, Adenso,” said one, who was clearly the leader, having the largest sword. “The great smith, maker of the swords Casecaron and Esglasa! King Hygasie greets you warmly!”

“It’s rather ironic that you should address me by mentioning my two least favorite creations,” replied the smith. “But carry on. What is your purpose here?”

“The king commands that you serve him alone, and make nothing for any other! Then you are to turn over all your creations that he sees fit to his own hoard.”

“Well, that may be arranged. But, pray tell, what exactly does your master desire me to build for him? Certainly not silver dolls or copper clocks, since he would prefer to keep such things in his vaults, where they would do no one any good.”

“He wants weapons! Not just swords or spears, though, but big weapons to kill many of the enemy! Surely you could provide him with them?”

“Oh, I certainly could, were I ever to desire to build such a monstrosity. But I shall not, because I will never desire to build anything so ugly.”

The soldiers narrowed their greedy little eyes, utterly shocked that someone would refuse the offer. But they weren’t quite so desperate yet as to use force.

“Perhaps you desire payment?” they asked. “The king is willing to give up to a third of his kingdom to you for this.”

The smith laughed. “As if I cared for payment! I do this because I find joy in it, not because anyone has forced me to do anything!”

Now the soldiers were really angry. “Then if you will not serve King Hygasie, you will serve no one!”

With that they drew their swords, advancing on the smith and his apprentice. The two hurried away to the back wall, where some spare weapons stood should a situation like this arise. Thesule was worried, though, since neither he nor his master had any real training with the blade – he hoped Adenso had some other machines to protect them.

As a matter of fact, he did, but they required some time while Thesule continued to keep his distance and the soldiers knocked over the workbench, sending creations, including the lump of iron, clattering to the floor.

“Ready!” Adenso called out, carrying a long tube and a lighted match after his apprentice, who stood opposite the soldiers, the overturned table lying between them all. The smith placed the match in front of the tube’s opening, and fire spewed forth from within, scorching the soldiers. But now the soldiers charged, evading the flame, rushing on at the two men.

Four came at the master, two at the apprentice. However, as they ran, one tripped over something and the other tripped over the first soldier, so that they both landed down on the ground, where they did not move further. They had been in mid thrust as they fell, and Thesule had fallen back as the tips of their blades came within inches of his chest.

The apprentice looked in surprise at the fallen soldiers, realizing that they had both died, having fallen on shards of glass and other tools. But what stunned Thesule the most was that what had tripped them up was the lump of iron. It had saved his life.

And then he realized he heard no sound of battle at all. He turned, only to find the other soldiers dead, burned by the tube pumping gas, and his master, now slumped to the ground, a sword shunted through his chest.

Thesule hurried over, cradling his master’s head in his arms.

“I told you everything had a purpose,” Adenso whispered. “I don’t make junk. But now I must leave, and leave it all to you. Go, and make me proud.”

He closed his eyes, and his apprentice cradled him and wept.

NaNoWriMo — Psychic

This post is part of a blog chain that will be discussing plans for NaNoWriMo. What is NaNoWriMo? Well, it stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is commonly called November. Every year, hundreds of crazy people try to write a 50,000 word novel, with the best getting the promise of publishing. So, yes, I do think I can write 2,000 words a day in addition to working on college homework. So today I’ll be discussing what I’m planning, where it came from, and how I might write it. Enjoy!

 

I find that the best way to come up with things to write about is to just write down all the crazy, random ideas accrued during the day. I have a notepad in my back pocket, just for this purpose. And boy, do I have some crazy ideas.

The story, which “Carrie”s the temporary title of psychic, originated in two ideas, or rather, inspirations. The first was the age-old trope of a woman disguised as a man that intrigued me after watching “As You Like It”. The second was about genetics, namely, the idea that a person might be able to have purple eyes naturally. Initially, I had two different stories for these, one about a married couple hiding out in an enemy castle, disguised both as men (don’t ask – it was even worse than it sounds) and the other about a commando princess from Hungary with special eyes (purple eyes).

However, none of these stories were developed much, and I decided one night to scrap them. But I still liked the concepts, so I tried to see what I could do with the original concepts. Ultimately, two stories were born that night: Dragonslayer and Psychic. Dragonslayer (a tentative title and given before I learned about the Disney film) combined the aspects of a woman disguised as a man in a very tough role. Psychic took the idea of special physical features and combined it with two other ideas, one about exploring telepathy, and the other a desire to break the cliché of the “evil government” trying to take back a stolen human experiment.

There are essentially four main characters to this novel:

The first is, naturally, the experiment, Ennoia, or Ariel. She has long, red hair and violet eyes to make her distinguishable for her “creators”. She has telepathic powers, but only by contact or short range metal contact. The nature of her experimentation, though, makes her unable to speak. She’s not mute, though, she just doesn’t know English, or any language for that matter. Rather, she speaks in ideas or concepts – what I suspect language would look like without words or sounds. You might have, at some point, become aware that your thoughts are really just yourself speaking in your imagination. Ariel doesn’t speak in her imagination when she thinks.

The second character is Ariel’s escort. I think his name is Anderson, but it’s been a while since I’ve done any work on this story (which is one reason I’m doing it again in November). Anyway, he picks up Ariel after her escape and accompanies her on her adventures. In a sense, he’ll act as her love interest, although I feel that’s rather cliché, and I think a sheltered, psychic girl on the run would prefer more platonic relationships.

The third character, Al Anszlough is a government official who will act as viewpoint of the scientists who created Ariel and the police and special ops forces tracking her down. Chief for this perspective will be Doctor Hanson, the head scientist who sees Ariel more as a daughter than an invention, and an unnamed police chief.

The last character is a member of the terrorist organization that originally attempted to capture Ariel, providing the perspective of the villain(s) and their interactions with Ariel and the government. I’m not sure if this character will be redeemed at the end or not. We’ll see where the symbolism leads me.

So, if I were to start this story, it would probably look something like this:

Someone was getting fired today. Anszlough knew it wasn’t him, fortunately, he was essentially only an innocent bystander, but he knew someone was getting it. A band of terrorists doesn’t get into a top secret government laboratory and release valuable secret property without someone getting the axe. He hoped it wasn’t Doctor Hanson – if there was anyone who would do anything to fix the problem, it would be him. Anszlough could remember the passion in the scientist’s voice as he brought him through the facility, earnestly describing the project.

He sat back in the chair on the first floor of the building that, a mile below, contained the secret laboratory he had been touring only an hour before. The building was swarming with media and police and the streets outside was filled with curious pedestrians, all vying for a glance at the white outlines of the dead security guards killed either by the terrorists or, here Anszlough shuddered, the girl.

It seemed that action was the only thing that worried Hanson. He didn’t seem to care that his experiment had escaped and might be in the hands of malevolent terrorists (perhaps he was confident of her abilities) – no, he was fussing over the fact that she had shot someone.

In her defense, it had been self-defense, since the security guards had been rather aggressive in restraining her. But that didn’t seem to matter to the scientist. Anszlough sighed, recollecting his thoughts.

Two hours ago, he had come down the long elevator with Hanson, passing a dozen security checkpoints as they descended. Frankly, it was surprising the terrorists had been able to get in as fast as they had, what with all the requirements for entry.

The laboratory itself was probably about the size of a football stadium, which Hanson explained was necessary for a growing girl.

“She needs room to run around – we can’t keep her cooped up in one room all the time.”

“Well, who’s she?” Anszlough had asked.

That was before they entered the heart of the facility. Outside, there was plenty of evidence that there was a growing girl present, from the dark bedroom with a door slightly ajar, to the long track with all sorts of physical equipment. But none of it compared to the heart.

Anszlough opened his mouth in awe when the doors opened, revealing the inner sanctum of the laboratory. There, in the center of the room, stood a large plastic tube filled with some blue liquid. And, suspended in the liquid, floated a young girl who Anszlough estimated to be about seventeen. Her long, red hair floated eerily about her, and the thin dress she wore was absolutely still. She looked like some alien creature, something beautiful, yet terrible.

“Who is she?” Anszlough asked.

“That, sir,” replied Hanson proudly. “Is Ennoia, our psychic.”

 

So that’s that, for now. If you’re interested in other stories, be sure to check out either the rest of my blog, or these other blogs, who are also covering their NaNoWriMo ideas this month.

October 5th – http://www.lilyjenness.blogspot.com  – Lily’s Notes in the Margins

October 6th – http://realityisimaginary.blogspot.com – Reality Is Imaginary

October 7th – http://onelifeglory.blogspot.ca – One Life Story

October 8th – http://gabrielletheauthoress.wordpress.com – Of a Writerly Sort

October 9th – http://towerofplot.blogspot.co.uk – The Leaning Tower of Plot

October 10th – http://insideliamsbrain.wordpress.com – This Page Intentionally Left Blank

October 11th – http://whatupdates.blogspot.com – What Updates?

October 12th – http://miriamjoywrites.wordpress.com – Miriam Joy Writes

October 13th – http://cinderscoria.blogspot.com – Between the Lines

October 14th – http://weirdalocity.wordpress.com – Inside the Junk Door

October 15th – http://musingsfromnevillesnavel.wordpress.com – Musings From Neville’s Navel

October 16th – http://kirstenwrites.wordpress.com – Kirsten Writes!

October 17th – http://mirrormadeofwords.wordpress.com – A Mirror Made of Words

October 18th – http://theteenagewriter.wordpress.com – The Teenage Writer

October 19th – https://platonicpencil.wordpress.com – Platonic Pencil

October 20th – http://markobrienwrites.blogspot.com – Mark O’Brien Writes

October 21st – http://amandafoody.blogspot.com – It’s All In My Head

October 22nd –http://incessantdroningofaboredwriter.wordpress.com – The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer

Between Violet and Gold

This started as a sort of free-write, and ended up as a prequel. If you don’t care for spoilers, you can read the original here. I know that I shouldn’t do this, but a name in here might seem a little hard to pronounce (unless you know how to use accent marks). It’s pronounced “id RAR gir os”. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this!

It was just the time when the yellow sun was sinking into the horizon, stretching its fingertips against the impeding violet sky, which had not yet turned to the black color of night. Black trees, darkened by the long shadows of the vanishing sun, stood bleak over the hard, black earth, and the grey, extra difficult, compacted stretch that, after its long popularity of use, had been called road. The wind whistled through the bare trees, like Mercury coming swiftly to warn some poor soul of the coming of Jove himself, in his fullest wrath and anger.

Down this road came a certain man, whose name was Zolfo. Nerastro Zolfo. He walked with a proud stride, his dark boots asserting their dominance over the petty specks of dirt they tread upon. His violet cloak blew with the wind, and it was said to be a violent blue cloak, which had grown darker with the blood of Zolfo’s enemies, which were ever fewer in number. His violet tunic was stainless and clean, and he had the most gentlemanly appearance, from his wide, feathered hat, down to his rapier, which he kept ever at the ready should he find some unfortunate person to exact his will upon.

He was a villain, and the men following him knew this very well, having participated in his many deeds, which none would ever bring to light; but they instead laughed about them in private so that they might keep the face of justice and dignity in public. They imitated the proud steps of their master, at least until the black bushes shook around them and seven men stood out from the forest, surrounding them.

These men were dressed in the orange of the King, his special guard that sought the kingdom for evil-doers. Their chief had drawn his sabre and stepped into the middle of the road, his golden sash marking him above the others as he confronted the villains.

“Zolfo,” said the chief, whose name was Frederick Idrárgiros. “We meet again, and for the last time. Did you really think your villainy could escape the eye of the King, or the watch of his guard? You are summoned to appear at the royal court to account for your crimes.”

Zolfo laughed. “I must give the King credit, that he is braver than I anticipated, merely sending seven men to recover what I took from him at last! I thought he would send an army to return it!”

And he reached under his cloak and brought forth a glowing orb, pulsating with hidden energies waiting to be unleashed. It was white, and its glow cast faint shadows upon the black trees, turning some of them silver, while high above the black clouds swallowed the sky.

“Look, Idrárgiros! The Stone of Power, the Ruisbaren! Tell me you have not seem a more perfect jewel in all the world! A greater power!”

“It has been said that the power lies in the possessor, not the possessed,” replied Idrárgiros coolly.

“But I do have power!”

Zolfo laughed, and a bolt of light burst from the orb, careening to a tree, which it disintegrated upon impact. “And it can do so much more!”

“Your insanity knows no bounds,” said the chief guard. “Men, take him!”

The guards came forward, drawing silvery swords that reflected the orb’s light. In response, Zolfo’s men came around their leader, two for each of Idrárgiros’s men. And they were still severely outmatched.

As they fought, small snow fell from the sky, slowly lightening upon the trees and the ground and the men. The guards easily held off the men, dispatching some quickly, and others after a longer time. But every time one advanced upon Zolfo, one of his thralls leapt in the way. Idrárgiros watched the fight, staring intensely at his enemy, his violet cloak untouched, his dark rapier undrawn, his gloved hand unflinching as it held the Stone, which illuminated the grin on the villain’s face.

At last, there were no longer enough thralls to protect Zolfo from the guards. One brought his sword sweeping down at Zolfo’s head, but then the villain turned and let loose a blast from the orb, smiting the guard’s face. The guards withdrew for a moment, startled at the death of their comrade, but Zolfo only laughed, turning again to Idrárgiros.

“Stay back,” ordered the chief. “This is between the two of us.”

They shook off the white snow that had accumulated on their shoulders as the King’s guards dragged away the surviving thralls. Finally Zolfo drew his rapier, holding it in one hand and the orb in the other. Idrárgiros’s golden boots made soft crunching noises as he stepped forward over the white snow to do battle with his mortal foe.

For a moment, they circled each other, like two dogs, like two lions assessing the strengths of the other. But these lions had fought enough to know the other’s strengths, though the Stone certainly changed the dynamics of what went through the mind of each.

Idrárgiros was the first to move, thrusting his sabre at his enemy, who blocked as only a long studied master of fencing can do. But the chief guard was also a master of the sword, and knew the proper way to continue this fight. And so they fought.

As they fought, the snow continued to whiten the ground, illuminated by the faint light of the orb. Their feet shuffled through the new snow, kicking it about and sending it back into the air, which was becoming white itself with the traffic of the precipitation.

However, as long as they fought, which began to stretch for some time, neither could gain the upper hand, not even when Zolfo at last used the orb out of desperation. Idrárgiros was not the chief of the King’s guards for nothing, and he proved it tonight as he used every once of strength and courage and skill to battle his most deadly foe. But it was still not enough.

If only Zolfo did not have the Stone, Idrárgiros might be able to defeat him. But it would be first necessary to defeat him to take the Stone. The other course of action was, naturally, to wrest the Stone away, but that would require just the right moment. And then it presented itself.

The two dueled fiercely and close, but suddenly Zolfo slipped, his foot making contact with red snow, where the blood of his thralls had mixed with the white snow, melting it some so that it was not safe to tread on. But being a quick fighter, the villain quickly regained his balance, but at a cost. For Idrárgiros found his opportunity and reached out, taking the orb in hand. But Zolfo was not so weak or unbalanced as to let go of the orb, and his grip remained like iron upon it, like a tongue frozen on metal in winter. And the chief guard found he could not dislodge or force his possession of the orb.

Suddenly, he realized that he had to use it. And so did his enemy. Their eyes made contact, stating unspoken exactly what they both knew and intended to do, as only two long enemies can do. They screamed in fury and anger and triumph as the orb glowed even more brightly before. The surviving guards and thralls watched in fascination and horror as red light streamed from the orb light lances of light, only intensifying as they reflected off the white, crystalline snow, till all the world seemed red.

Then the screaming ended and the light faded. When the guards could at last see again, they blinked their eyes and looked to where their chief had been fighting their fiercest foe. The greatest of them, Idrárgiros’s lieutenant, stepped forward to the spot. There sat only the orb in the snow. It was no longer white, but flashed a series of colors. First, it rested on black. Then it came to white again. Finally, though, it became red, ruby red. The light emanating from it faded, until only the jewel-like stone remained.

Later, this lieutenant would return it to the King. But it was no longer the Stone of Power – no, something had changed about its nature since it had changed in color. Instead, the King gave it a new name, and it was called the Roserote.

The Face of Evil

No, this isn’t about the Doctor Who episode — though I suggest that anyone interested in the show check it out. This is much more…well, you’ll see. I hope you enjoy this piece!

Charles sat in his history class, bored to death. Well, not literally bored to death, not yet. A student a couple rows in front of him had already died from boredom, and was rotting away in the seat. And yet the teacher droned on and on. Even as the dead student raised his head and began moaning, reaching for the blonde girl in front of him. Charles figured that the Apocalypse could happen, and this teacher would still keep droning on and on.

In fact, that wasn’t far from the truth. The dead student had soon converted the blonde girl, and they shuffled around the classroom, groaning “Brains! Brains!” to the terror of the students, some of whom screamed and others of whom opened fire right away.

But all this was in Charles’s peripheral. He was largely focused on the teacher, who kept droning on and on, like some bumblebee from Hell. And as Charles focused on the teacher, he realized that her beehive hairdo was really the antennae to an enormous insect, and that the droning was the buzzing of her wings masking a demonic cackle.

“You’re mine, Charles!” boomed a voice straight from the ninth circle.

The classroom door burst open and a heavily armed commando stepped into the room, unloading a machine gun into the bee’s face.

“Come on, Charles! Quick!” the soldier shouted.

Charles found he could move, and leapt to his feet, hurrying out with the commando, away from the monster, whose roars ceased as the door closed.

“So who are you? Some kind of commando?” asked Charles as the soldier led him away from the door.

“Well, I am going commando,” winked the soldier. “But I am part of the resistance.”

“Resistance against what?”

“That creature we saw in there is only a minor soldier in the war we’re fighting. We were hoping that we could find you before they did, and we were lucky to find you before they finished you off.”

Charles looked about him, realizing now that they were in a long tunnel, lit only by a string of Christmas lights hung from the ceiling. Wondering, he pointed this out to his escort, who only laughed.

“Silly me,” he said. “We forgot to take down the Christmas lights!”

At once the lights went out.

“What happened?” Charles asked, hearing some kind of strange scuffling around him.

“Oh, sorry! It’s just if you say ‘Christmas lights’, they turn off.”

The lights flickered back on, revealing just what the scuffling had been all about. Spiders of varying sizes had come up and covered the tunnel wall. With a shock, Charles realized that the soldier beside him was covered in webbing.

“Run!” he ordered.

Charles ran. And he ran, faster than the wind, so fast that he kicked up the wind behind him and sent it spiraling into the spiders, knocking them all away from their pursuit. He turned a corner, and then stopped.

He had come to the base of some gigantic tank, some enormous barrel. A bright white light shown from the very top.

“Hello?” he shouted, the sound echoing all the way up the top and fading away. There was no answer.

He walked around the edge of the wall, looking up and down to find absolutely no way up or out. In fact, he wasn’t entirely sure the way he had come in here was still in existence. However, there was an odd panel, and it fell into the wall when he pushed it. There was a click. And then shuffling.

He turned around, noticing at once two things: first, that his entire history class had become zombies; second, that there was a low level of water on the floor. The zombies moaned as they splashed toward him, and he recoiled, realizing that he was unarmed.

However, he had to fight; there was no where to run, and he wasn’t going to take this sitting down. So he sloshed toward them, wondering in the back of his mind where the water had come from. He approached the first zombie, swinging at it hard, so that its head bent back with the force. But the others came on.

Charles punched them as well, packing so much power into each punch that, had this been a party and not a fight for life, he could have danced all night. He couldn’t use his legs to fight; the water was so high that all he could do was stand. In a moment though, the only way to remain on the ground was to be on his tiptoes. The zombies were slowly disappearing beneath the waters.

He tread the water, rising with it, until his feet tangled over the heads of the soaked zombies. And then he rose some more. The white light came closer and closer, till it was all he could do not to look at it, or avert his eyes from the brightness.

Then, with the sound of a cannon, he rocketed up, the water somehow propelling him away. He soared through the sky, out into the starry void, flying through space. He passed the moon, and continued in his soaring. And soon he saw his destination: the red planet, Mars, slowly growing bigger and bigger.

However, just as it grew so large that it covered his entire view, it spun. And turning toward him came the face of Hell itself. Two bright, malevolent, red eyes frowned at him, but the mouth was open in a grin, a laugh, a sound that seemed like the joy of evil torment combined with the cries of the tormented. Charles screamed in horror as he fell, fell down toward the gaping mouth, which had opened just to swallow him.

And suddenly, he awoke. Charles clutched his chest, containing his fast paced heart, realizing it had all been a dream. He sighed, laying his head back on the pillow. He really needed to stop eating Lucky Charms before bed.

Writer’s Block

Deb, I told you I’d write about you — oddly enough in another five-word challenge. I would have it known that only some of the characterization in this story is parodied. Other parts are entirely false for entirely fictional purposes; for example, coffee.

Anyway, I hope you all enjoy this piece.

Deb walked down the street, her coat tight around her, considering how much the neighborhood looked like that thriller mash-up she had seen the night before as she passed a group of beggarly old men and a man advertising pentacostal relativism. Must have been a philosophy major. Deb herself was on the hunt for a story, a detail, a fact, that would help her with her writings. That was what she was – a writer.

There was just one problem. She had been writing her novel for months and months, with a year of planning, with dozens of drafts, all culminating in…ugh. There was just something wrong with it. She couldn’t figure it out at all, spent nights unable to sleep worrying about what was missing. And then she showed it to her brother, and it took him about three seconds to figure out the problem. She had timed him.

“Your protagonist just isn’t compelling.”

Deb had left him in a heap by his overturned sofa. Curse him for finding it so fast. Now she was on a journey to find how to change the character, how to resolve him without utterly destroying the entire story. She soon stood in front of her destination, the wind blowing through her thick coat and her long hair as she stared up at the place that would answer her question: Starbucks.

She walked in and bought a coffee before making her way to one of the high tables by the window. She sat and pondered life while sipping black coffee. She really wanted to bang her head against the table in some vain hope that shaking her brain like that would some how conjure up an idea, but she had already spent an hour doing that at home, and she still had some residual pain from that. Instead, she stared at the bubbles in her coffee, hoping for some inspiration.

Her brother was right of course, he always was about this sort of thing. She knew the popular thing to do was to have the character change over the course of the story, but that archetype just didn’t apply. How would it apply to a dashing prince who was confident in his skills and abilities? His only challenge was really defending the kingdom against the hordes of enemies closing in around it.

Finished with the coffee, she left the shop and strolled down the street again to her apartment. Along the way, she passed through an alley which had several holes of water from previous rainstorms. She loved rain like a brother, which meant it was good if it held its distance, but woe to the one which started while she was out walking and made her miserable and cold. Then even the Devil himself fled in terror.

As she went through the alley, she heard an odd sound. Instinctively, she stopped, reaching into her coat for the knife she had, just in case. She had never used it – anyone dumb enough to try attacking her was subjected to The Stare, which her brother told her was like looking at pure rage while it burned with a thousand fires emanating fury that even Hell couldn’t contain. Victims had one of two responses to this: either they turned to stone instantly, or they ran as fast as they could, trying desperately to flee The Stare that had become implanted in their minds until it consumed them and they were left in asylums, screaming during nights when The Stare came after them again.

Deb slowly inched forward, hand on her knife, her eyes darting all over the alley. Suddenly, out of a building, came a white, translucent being, screaming like a banshee. Deb started, hand drawing the knife as she collected herself and administered The Stare.

“Wow, that is scary,” said the voice of her father. “No wonder your siblings went insane.”

“Dad?” she stared at what was most certainly her father’s ghost. “Why are you a ghost?”

“Because you need help, and you need advice,” he replied. “You know, you’re lucky I’m already dead – otherwise you probably would have killed me.”

“Then you shouldn’t have snuck up on me like that. Seriously!”

Her father chuckled. “Can’t I have a little fun? Anyway, I’m here to give you some good, sound advice, maybe sing a song, and tell you to follow your heart. Or, I could rewrite your story as I would have done it and mark it up for all the mistakes in each sentence that are largely stylistic preferences on my part. So what’ll it be?”

“Do you have to do a song?”

“Of course, darling! Otherwise it wouldn’t be right!”

Deb rolled her eyes. “Do you at least know what is wrong with the story?”

“Yes, I did. The protagonist isn’t compelling. I figured that out after about a second of looking at it.”

“Well, you beat my brother,” Deb muttered.

“How long did it take him?”

“Three seconds.”

“Goodness! I expected better of him.”

“So are you going to tell me what to do?”

“Only if you let me do the song.”

“No!”

Her father sighed in disappointment. “Fine. Don’t worry, though, you’ll find the answer you seek soon enough.”

And then he went back into the building. Deb, rather confused by the event, continued on her way. She knew she had several options with the character. She could make the enemy much more menacing, but that would only have so much effect, since there was only so much she could do in that regard. She could shake the character’s confidence, but that would also damage his credentials, and those were essential to his position in the world. She could kill him off at the end, but that was very cliché.

She came to her apartment complex, entering and passing through the long red hallways to the elevator at the end. Along the way, she passed an open room, where a woman was showing a laser at her tabby cat while several visitors laughed. Stupid cat. Didn’t it know it would never catch the laser?

Now this gave Deb an idea. The cat was fated never to catch the laser. What if her hero was fated to die? But, like the cat, he strove to find any way possible to survive, to continue on, not necessarily for his own benefit, but so that he could help his people – then there would be a sense of real loss. Now that could be compelling.