Month: June 2014

“The Measure of a Man” – Turn-a-trope #4, #WOEGTTT

This one was incredibly tough! Were it not that I refused to be beaten by my own challenge, I would have tossed in the towel. That said, I think the following tale does a decent job of skewering the trope, “A Man is Not a Virgin.”

Enjoy.

Tomas rode with the fury of a man possessed. The gates of the ancient temple of Kalziban lay behind him, and in his wake, the bodies of a legion of slain hellions. Ahead, he could see the door that lead to the inner temple, and the Pool of Tears. He knew that he would find her there. Lillian. His sworn ward.

As the Knight of the cloak, it has been his responsibility to protect her. And he had, through countless dangers, countless attempts on her life. She was the last of the purest bloodline, and her death would profit many an evil man. He had fought dozens to defend her, and bested them all. Sir Tomas of the Cloak was, perhaps, the greatest knight who’d ever served.

She had vanished in the night, despite all precautions. Tomas knew this time would come, had since the moment of her birth. Tonight, the moons above aligned with the Dread star, the Blood Eye of Kalziban. He knew that whoever took her, would take her here. His horse stumbled, fell. Tomas leapt from its back as it went, tumbling to the ground in clash of steel and leather. He cried out as he struck a stony pillar. His horse, ridden far beyond exhaustion, cried out, and expired. He rose to his feet, and ran up the stairs and through the temple’s doors.

“You’re too late,” Alcyon cackled. The dread summoner held up his hands, dripping with blood. “Too late, hero, too late to save her, too late to stop the summoning!”

Tomas fell to his knees with a sob. Before him, splayed across the pentacle carved into the ground, was Lillian. Sweet, innocent Lillian. The last of legal heir to the kingdom of Tancreath. The Virgin Princess. The Keeper of the Barrier. His sworn ward.

Tears fell from Tomas’ cheek. He cast away his shield as he took her hand in his own, felt the cold lifelessness therein. Her body, a ruin of blood and savagery, her thighs, a spectacle of disaster and debauchery.  Tomas’ sword slipped from his free hand, and reached, tenderly, for her cold staring eyes, unfocused and staring into the void. He closed them, softly, and brushed away a lock of coal black hair.

“It would have been enough,” the knight croaked hoarsely, “to have just killed her. ”

“Oh,” the summoner spoke, his voice filled with sarcastic mock pity, “yes, it would have. But then I would not have gotten to see this, would I have? The undefeatable Sir Tomas of the Cloak, brought to his knees? Not by a sword, not by a lance, not by an army of men…but by a man. A single man, with nothing in his hands…but blood.”

Alcyon continued to laugh madly. Tomas felt his head swim. A strange, numbing wave crashed against his nerves, his face, his limbs tingling. He rose, slowly, a final sob given to his fallen ward as he raised her up in his arms. He turned, looked to the Pool of Tears. Slowly, he walked towards it, heedless of the summoner and his madness. Around him, lights began to grow, strange, glowing, otherworldly emanations that rose from the ancient runes and sigils carved and cast throughout the hall.

“Too late!” Alcyon cried, sobbing in mirth, “She is dead!”

Tomas didn’t listen. He continued to the pool, till he stood overlooking its pale, milky waters. A drop of blood fell from Lillian’s outstretched arm, and slipped into the pool, an angry red swirl on a sea of pearl.

“She is dead,” Alcyon repeated, but his laughter cracked, slowing, “It is over, fool! And besides…”

The summoner nodded at the pool.

“It takes the life of a virgin of royal birth to halt the summoning of the Dread Lord Kalziban. She was the last. It is over!”

Tomas, silent still, lowered the girl’s body to the pool, then watched her slip beneath the surface. He stood then, turned to the mad summoner.

“Do you know the measure of a man, summoner? Do you know why I took up the Cloak?” he asked, his voice almost a whisper. Alcyon’s grin faltered.

“The Cloak is not an easy burden to bear. Its wearer must be good and strong. Generous and just. Compassionate and merciful. Swift of blade, swift of defense. Trustworthy and…pure.”

The knight turned and looked at the summoner, his eyes rimmed with red, stained with tears, but cold, so cold.

“Pure. Untouched by the hands, the lips, the body of a lover.”

Tomas ran a hand through hair as black as pitch, the same color as Lillian’s.

“I took the Cloak because I was born a bastard. And now…”

Tomas stepped to the edge of the pool. Alcyon stumbled forward, slipped in blood. He crashed to the ground, then looked up, his eyes wide with something they had never known.

Fear.

“…now I will see my sister safely to the Underworld.”

Tomas dived into the pool. Alcyon shrieked, raged, as the knight’s heavy armour pulled him quickly downward. The summoner scrambled to the pool, plunging his arms in, staining the water pink with blood. But the knight was gone, the pool empty.

Around him the walls began to shake. The sigils began to glow a violent red.  A sharp smell of ozone filled the air, and the crack of the barrier, the gateway between worlds, slammed through the air. Alcyon howled as the dissipating energies tore about the room. The ceiling quaked, and pieces began to collapse.

Then bitterly, he laughed, as the temple collapsed around him.

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Not gonna get caught up, I fear…

The biggest disadvantage to having such an insanely busy weekend is that I am just not going to be able to catch up on all the reading I’ve missed! To all my friends that I follow, I hope you’ll forgive me, but I am still slammed with work and painting, and while I am going to do a bit of writing (the whole reason I started this blog) I am going to be, truly regretfully, unable to catch up on all your wonderful stories and posts from this weekend. I will read where I can, but I just fear there’s too much to catch up on.

That said, if there is something you think I’d particularly enjoy, please, send me a link here in the comments! I’d love to have a reading list, and it will make it a bit more manageable than scrolling through the reader!

Thanks!

Just a quick post today…

Well, that was fun.

I went to work yesterday morning earlier than I normally go in, getting in around 7:30AM. I knew I had a long day ahead, based off the week’s previous workload, but I had hoped I could get in early and then buzz out the door for a lovely Friday afternoon off. Maybe take a nap, maybe take a motorcycle ride and enjoy the weather.  Instead, as the day came close to where I wanted to leave, I had a huge stack of priority work dumped in my lap. When you work for the government, priority work means PRIORITY. So I stayed, I worked. I struggled with uncoded manuals and others that just didn’t want to compile. Some took hours on the compiler, leaving me unable to do any other work. I finally got home at 4:30AM this morning. It took me a while to fall asleep – but I finally did around 5:15AM or so.  And then I got up at 8:30AM. I had classes to teach today. A history class on the role of the medieval bard, a class on performing arts, another on medieval forms of poetry. Lots of work, but I finally did get home.

Any way, point is. I’m fairly exhausted. I don’t think I am going to post more today, or perhaps this weekend. I have so many projects piled up and so little time to do them in. The wee one returns on Tuesday. I have to have the rest of his room finished painted, his furniture painted, and the awesomesauce mural by C.E.Coburn done before then.

Catch y’all on the flip side!

 

 

Awesome Mural by C.E. Coburn!

I am so stoked! I commissioned the insanely talented C. E. Coburn to help design a mural that I’m painting on the wall of the bedroom my two 8 year old boys share this weekend. The idea was to take the boys, turn them into chibi-style cartton characters, and put in similarly designed caricatures of five each of their favorite cartoon characters. This is the black and white line drawing of the result (sorry for the pixelation, but I had to shrink it a lot to fit here). I’ll also take a pic once we have it painted, in color, on the wall!

muralsmall

 

 

The Wicked Mother

Feeling poetic today. Enjoy!

Oh sweetest maiden…or is it mother cruel?
At times you seem as both, and others, neither.
For smothering, your embrace would kill the fool,
As suckling, you give nurse to water’s breather.
Yet knowing, we fools still prod within your womb,
Probing for treasures, so deep within your salt.
Oh wicked lady, your bed becomes our tomb;
We lust for your bounties, then die within your vault.
With waves do you beckon and sweetly caress,
With your promise of pearls in a lusty embrace;
With such calls to our souls, we must soon acquiesce
Till we’re one with the dark in your deep, briny place.
Would I could ignore you, oh murderous mother,
But the song that you sing is lodged deep in my brain
As it was with my father, my uncles, my brothers,
Written fast in the blood that flows through every vein.
So I come to you, lover, my killer, my queen,
Though I’m damned to the depths as my fathers before;
For my soul is too willing, my body unclean,
And I’ll never find peace while I stand on your shore.

Free – An older villanelle

Since a lot of my poetry these days is written to my other blog, I thought it’d be nice to share here some of my less erotically themed pieces. I don’t write them as often, as I am one who finds his poetic skills work best with passionate play, but some of them I am very fond of. This one, a villanelle written shortly after the finalization of my divorce, is such a piece. I was at the time a bit overwhelmed by the feeling of freedom, much, I imagine, as a prisoner might feel when first released after a long, difficult sentence.

I give you “Free.”

How strange, the way that freedom seems to feel,
No longer shackled to miseries past
When once I suffered ‘neath another’s heel.

For when no more my will is made to kneel
On hurtful deeds that grind like shattered glass,
How strange, the way that freedom seems to feel!

Now freed, I find I can at last reveal
The inner scars I thought would ever last
When once I suffered ‘neath another’s heel.

No more these mortal wounds must I conceal
That e’en my will to live, nearly surpassed;
How strange, the way that freedom seems to feel.

But aired and breathing, now I find they heal,
No longer poked, where formerly harassed
When once I suffered ‘neath another’s heel.

Divorce, I fought so hard against, in zeal;
But now I see my efforts were miscast.
How strange, the way that freedom seems to feel,
When once I suffered ‘neath another’s heel.

 

 

 

#FFC52 – 2014 Flash Fiction Challenge Week 26 – “A Subtle Streak of Red”

Image

Howdy all! Time for week 26 of the lovely Thain in Vain’s Flash Fiction Challenge! This week, I return to a world I touched on briefly in “A Little Bit of Magic…” with this week’s theme, ”Do you notice anything different about me?”.  I thought it apt! Here we are, right at 500 words, with “A Subtle Streak of Red.”

Magic is a squirrely thing. The universe doesn’t like it, but it’s willing to accept it, so long as it stays quiet and unobtrusive. Kind of like that weird kid who sits in the corner and hums all the time; you can pretend he isn’t there, until he does something shocking.

But there’s nothing wrong with him. His reality is just different from yours, the two don’t agree with each other. He does little things; rearranging the pieces on a chessboard repetitively. No one cares. He stacks books on each other. No one cares. It’s not till he’s jumping on tables, flinging objects and howling at the top of his lungs that we react. Depending on the intensity of his outburst, we don’t do anything at first. We sit there, shocked, watching as he screams obscenities and beats his chest.

It may take a moment but eventually, someone snaps, tries to settle him down. They straighten up the mess, shush him, and guide him back to the corner, humming. Then, everyone pretends it didn’t happen, and goes back to doing their thing. But things have changed. The books he threw are damaged, torn. The plates, shattered. The nick-knacks all unbalanced and rearranged. Everyone pretends like it’s back to normal, but it’s not.

That’s magic. Either you work your casting carefully, making tiny changes that the universe will ignore, or you do something drastic, and accept that parts will fade as entropy forces itself upon reality. If you know what you’re doing, things won’t be the way they were before the reset. You’ll make big changes, even if they weren’t what everyone thought they were. Like a stage magician, it’s distraction, making a big show with one hand while carefully doing the real work with the other. It’s harder than it sounds. Or, wait…maybe it’s exactly as hard as it sounds. Because it doesn’t sound easy, does it?

So I’m practicing. A subtle change, a streak of color in my hair. The kind of thing that someone will look at and double-take, but then make excuses for having missed. Small magic, to get the hang of the basics. I close my eyes, concentrate. I recite softly the incantations that let me exert my will over reality…and there. A streak of red sprouts from my bangs.

I turn to the guy next to me on the bus. He doesn’t know me, but I made sure to chat him up when I got on, made sure he got a good look at me. That’s important. I get his attention.

”Do you notice anything different about me?”

He looks at me, friendly at first, then his brow furrows. His eyes glaze slightly. I can smell the faint hint of ozone, that indicates that the universe is about to rebel. Damn it!

And then…

“No, sorry. Should I?”

I breathe out, just becoming aware I’d been holding my breath.

“No, thanks man.”

He nods, turns back to his book.

The color stays. Just like magic.

So, working late sucks, but it can have its upsides…

Without delving too far into all the details of my mundane world, the job I do sometimes requires me to stay for long hours, watching and waiting for a compiler to finish gargling the code I threw at it and then spit out something that is hopefully usable. Unfortunately, while said compiler is churning away, I seriously can’t do anything else on my machine.

Thankfully, have laptop, will travel. So while it sucks to be here two hours past my typical time already, I do get a little time to write, to think, to listen to Cake on Pandora really loud on my headphones with no one telling me it’s going to damage my hearing or bugging me to do something else. It could be worse, right?

And fuck yeah. They Might Be Giants, Istanbul (Not Constantinople) just revved up.

Why did Constantinople get the works?

Just Me…

Just Me...

So, this is me at my desk. This is how I look pretty much every day – a jaunty cap to keep my unruly hair at bay, motorcycle goggles on my head because otherwise I forget them and get expensive tickets, and the soul-crushing glare of fluorescent lighting. For those who were interested in seeing what I look like. There’s what, three of you? ;)

“Paying off the Debt” – A new Pinky Black story, inspired by a post by Kate Loveton!

This one isn’t part of any challenge. This week, Kate Loveton posted and awesome story about an eviction – make sure you read it here!  I found the story so good that I wanted to punch the antagonist right in the kidneys…and realized that, being a fictional character, that’d be kind of hard. So it inspired me to wreck a little fictional justice at the hands of my favorite thug, Pinky Black.

“Johnny, I need your help. Ma needs your help.”

I looked across at the man that was talking to my boss, Johnny the Gent, and saw the look of worry on his face. His eyes flitted nervously from the Gent, who sat in a nice, big, comfy leather chair, to me. Big, burly. Angry looking. I’m sure it made me look more intimidating. It was meant to. Johnny steepled his fingers, and breathed in deeply through his nose.

“What I don’t understand, Henry, is how things got this far in the first place,” Johnny said after a moment’s consideration. “You dad, Mr. Pauley, he passed, what, three, four months ago?”

Henry nodded, his hands worrying themselves together.

“So how is it that your mother, dear old Mrs. Pauley, hasn’t paid her rent in three months?”

Henry swallowed, hard.

“I…I guess it’s just not something she ever thought about, Johnny. Pa always took care of those things…”

Johnny’s hand slammed down on the rich, mahogany wood desk in front of him. Henry jumped. I didn’t flinch, didn’t even blink.

“You knew your father took care of these things, and not you, nor one of your five brothers bothered to step in and check on it?”

Johnny was pissed. Family…family was about the most important thing in the world to the Gent. Disrespecting one’s family was one of the quickest ways to get on his bad side. And his bad side was enforced by thugs, like me. I guess it was because Johnny never had a family, really. He was an orphan, and came up through the system a hard, bitter man. But family…family was his soft spot. And his sore spot.

“I…I…I…” Henry stammered, but Johnny waved him to silence. The Gent reached up, rubbed the bridge of his nose, then sighed.

“Who’d you say the slumlord is that runs her tenement?”

“J-Jamison. Jacob Jamison.”

Johnny nodded. Jamison was a sleazebag, sure. He was also competition. He’d edged Johnny out of some prime turf, and Johnny didn’t forget things like that. He’d never had a legitimate reason to lay down the rough on the guy. Till now.

“Something like this, Henry…it’s a big thing. I mean, it’s your ma’s home, right? She don’t know anything but, right?”

Henry nodded.

“Ok. I’m going to make this right. Not for you, Henry, you miserable shit. But for your Ma. And then, you’re going to owe me. You and your brothers. You understand that? This is an open ended favor, Henry. You ask of me a great thing. I may ask great things of you in return.”

Henry’s eyes shot down to the floor. This was no small thing Johnny was asking. If Henry agreed, he’d be owned. Obligated. He wouldn’t have a choice, unless he wanted hell to come up and visit him personally.

“I understand,” he said softly. Johnny nodded, dismissed him. The room was quiet.

“You know I’m not happy with you, Pinky,” he said softly. I almost winced. It’s when Johnny talks soft that bad things get done. “I asked you to do one thing, one fucking thing, Pinky. One little trial. You fucked it up, bad. Cost me a lot of money.”

I said nothing. I’m not saying I wasn’t scared. Only a fucking idiot isn’t scared when the Gent gets quiet. But I’d be damned if I was going to go down like a blubbering Henry.

“This Jamison guy, you know him?”

I shrugged.

“Heard of him.”

Johnny turned, looking at me. Cold. An auditor looking at an asset.

“I want you to take care of this for me, Pinky. I want you to make sure Jamison understands that Mrs. Pauley is to be relieved of her outstanding debt, and restored to her residence. Punctuate the point, with your fists. You aren’t getting paid for this. You owe me. I don’t like being second guessed, no matter what the cause. If we didn’t have history, I’d have had you shot. You need to make amends. This is a start.”

I gulped. Couldn’t help it.

“Sure thing, Johnny.”

I headed for the door.

“And Pinky?”

I paused.

“Make sure he feels the message for a long time.”

I nodded, went out the door.

Poor Jamison. He was about to learn just how protective an old neighborhood could be.