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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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.

“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.

“What the Heart Seeks” – Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: Doing The Subgenre Twist, Once Again

Another week, another interesting challenge form the terrible mind of Chuck Wendig!  This week, we had to choose two story genres at random, and mix them together into a single story of subgenre-melty-goodness in 2000 words or less. As usual, I used the random number generator/recorder at Invisible Castle to keep myself honest, and came up with an 18 and a 2 – a Noir Dystopia. Shiny!

I came two words shy of the goal with the following piece, “What the Heart Seeks.”  It was harder than I thought, inserting dystopian elements into a noir world. I ended up adding a touch of sci-fi to the mix, and shook it real hard. I hope the results tickle your tastebuds.

I knew she was trouble the moment she walked in the door. Her hair was long, loose, dark, falling over her shoulders like an avalanche of black curls. Her eyes, green as a piece of fine jade. Her lips, shockingly red and shockingly full. Her skin, lightly tanned, as if the sun had kissed her ever so gently. Her clothes so tight, I’d have sworn she was shaken up and poured into them. Every bit of her, head to toe, was a violation of the Morality Code. And frankly, I didn’t give a damn. I tossed out the garnish of taboo and drank her in like a drunk at an open bar.

“Mr. Monroe?”

I must have been staring too long, because her eyebrow raised, and she cocked a hand on one of those impossibly curvy hips. I went to speak, found my jaw was hanging slack, closed it. Rolled my head and shrugged.

“What’s it to you?” I said, trying to play disinterested, though I was sure I’d blown that hand already.

“I hear you’re a Seeker, Mr. Monroe. A good one.”

I put a toothpick into my mouth, gnawed on it. I wanted a cigarette, bad, but I was out of cards for them and though they were plentiful on the black market, getting caught sucking down on one without a ration stamp was more trouble than I wanted to get in. And no matter how tempting she looked, I didn’t know this dame. Best to play it safe.

“I have been known to find things, sure. For a price.”

“What kind of things?” she asked, sauntering closer.

“Things,” I shot back. I don’t like being interrogated.

“You ever find…people?”

I paused. My chewing stopped. I reached up and pulled the toothpick from my mouth, and spun it in my fingers. I knew what she was asking, and it could get me in a lot of trouble. Unlicensed use of meta-human abilities was punishable by…well, anything they damned well wanted to do. Still, there was something about her. I gave in.

“People are tough. Not like objects. They change too much, nothing solid to focus on. Besides, most the time, someone goes missing, it’s because they crossed the Greycoats.”

Outside, a shrill whistle sounded, followed by the sound of running, cries. Punctuated my point perfectly.

“Tough,” she said, almost a whisper as she leaned in real close, “but not impossible.”

I couldn’t help but get a whiff of her, of that sweet, unidentifiable but completely irresistible perfume. I can’t deny, it had an effect. Down below, I felt myself stir in ways both immoral and illegal. Damn…this dame was trouble. Why, oh why do I like trouble so much? Still, long as it had been, much as I may be driven by those illegal, animal desires…I don’t work for free.

“No. Not impossible, Miss…”

I paused. I hadn’t even thought to get her name. It’s like she pushed every single one of my buttons, just right. I felt a flush rise to my cheeks.

“Neris. Neris Molpe, Mr. Monroe,” she said, with a smile that could melt even the black heart of a stalwart Greycoat.

“Uh, you can call me Sam.”

“Alright…Sam. So…will you take the job?”

I almost said yes. Hell, if she had asked right then, I might of walked right up to a Grey Inquisitor and pissed on his boots. But there’s one thing that drives me more than even the most primal lust.

“First, there’s a matter of cost. Seeking’s risky business, and battin’ those eyes won’t pay the rent. Or the taxman. Or bribe the Inquisitors. I need to know what you’ve got to offer before I can say one way or the other.”

Her demeanor cooled slightly.

“Of course,” she said, and the chill from her lips could have frosted over glass. Oh well. So much for that fantasy. She reached into her bag, a nice, colorful thing that would have gotten her arrested in a less questionable part of town. Color incites passion, passion incited immorality. That’s what the loudspeakers said, anyway, wasn’t it? Her hand slid in, slid out, now carrying…

My jaw dropped. My heart pounded wildly beneath my wrinkled shirt and battered overcoat. I literally had to rub my eyes, to be sure I wasn’t seeing things. I even thought about pinching myself.

“Are those…”

“Reproduction licenses, Mr. Monroe. Two of them.”

She may well have said she held the contents of the Imperial treasury in her hands. Reproduction was highly, strictly regulated. It could take a couple a dozen years or more to get a license for a single child. Many who got them found that years of chemical libido inhibition also killed their ability to have children, but by some strange lack of oversight, the licenses were open. They weren’t bound to a particular name or couple. They were transferable. And very, very pricey.

I licked my lips. Didn’t want to seem to eager but I really couldn’t deny that I was. I rubbed my jaw, felt the stubble that had grown there.
“Alright, Ms. Molpe…”

“Neris, please.”

“Yeah. Alright Neris. You have yourself a Seeker.”

***

It’d been a long night. Miss Molpe…Neris…was hesitant on the details. Couldn’t blame her for that, though. These days, anyone could be a Greycoat. Even me.

We’d evaded three patrols so far, running through dark alleys and abandoned service tunnels, following the distinctive pull my mind felt towards the object of her desire. Every once in a while, the trail would start to dim, and I’d have to ask her for another detail to freshen the imprint. Like I’d said, humans are tough. Changing. Moods shift, and something that defined a person one moment might change the next.

It’s easier, of course, if the person in question has some sort of unchanging feature; a significant scar, a great hairy blemish, a tattoo…well, a tattoo would work if they hadn’t been outlawed by Imperial edict. Even then, though, the way a person views their own attributes can sway how well they can be Sought. Where I might see an angry red scar, the bearer might see a proud badge of heroism. The devil is in the details, they say.

And the devil was poking me, hard. I fingered the stiletto hidden in the sleeve of my trench coat, then sighed.

“I need something more,” I said, sucking on my teeth as I tried to pinpoint the fleeting tug of my Seeking. Neris leaned against the alley wall, trying to catch her breath. I guess we’d been moving a bit faster than she was prepared to go; hard to say. When I start Seeking, I tend to loose myself in the pursuit. She held up a hand. I nodded.

After a moment, she closed her eyes and furrowed her brow. It was clear that she was trying to find just the right detail out, that wouldn’t expose too much information but give me enough to give her a lead. A tingle of paranoia crept up my spine like a spider up a drainpipe, but with a shiver, I dismissed it. Paranoia was the norm these days, ever since the emperor dissolved the senate and handed power directly to the Inquisitors. As much as I might distrust her, she surely distrusted me.

“Can we rest a moment more?” she asked, opening her astonishingly jade eyes and batting her lashes. Those things had to be a mile long. I grunted, gave a nod. But something was nagging me, and I had to ask.

“Who are we tracking, Neris? Boyfriend? Relative?”

Her cheeks flushed the color of a cheap wine.

“No…nothing like that. He’s just…someone who…has something of mine.”

“A thief?”

She shrugged, looking away from my eyes. My jaw tightened, eyes narrowed.

And then she looked up at me again. Those eyes, those impossible eyes, gazed at me like she was drilling a hole in my soul and looking to strike gold. And damn if she didn’t.

“Please, Mr. Monroe…I can’t. I can’t talk about it more than that. Is it enough that he has something of mine? Can we work with that for now?”

I concentrated, felt the return of that familiar tug. Yes…that would work. I nodded, and we were off again, chasing the ghost of her little thief. Whoever he was.

***

We hunted most the night, when we finally came upon the end of the line. The tugging within me, the feeling I’d followed all night, released. Tension fled from me like water from a sieve. I felt my muscles loosen, relax.

“He’s here,” I told her, nodding towards the abandoned storage buildings across from us. “He’s inside one of them – sorry I can’t be more accurate, but this is as close as I can get with people.”

Neris nodded, and started to walk briskly towards the buildings, when that wave of paranoia hit me again. I reached out, stopped her.

“Wait. Something’s wrong.”

My eyes narrowed, searching, not Seeking. It was quiet. Too quiet. No sounds of whistles, no barking dogs. No signs that an Imperial patrol had been through here, no sign that they were coming. And where there are no signs of Imperials, there are almost always signs of crime. This place was clean. I pulled Neris back behind me, reached into my jacket, pulled my unlicensed revolver.

“It’s a trap,” I growled.

“I know,” she said, and I felt the cold, round touch of a barrel against the back of my neck. Every bit of me cringed. I’d been had. Hard.

“Your gun. Drop it.”

I considered, briefly, resisting. I’m no slouch when it comes to using a gat, and my impression thus far was that this dame wasn’t used to getting her hands dirty. Not this way at least. And then, the Greycoats came. A whole squad, swarming out from the storage buildings. I may have been able to take her, but my gun was at least a dozen rounds shy of taking the rest.

“Excellent work, Mrs. Molpe,” the lead Greycoat said. “We’ve been after this Seeker for some time now, but he has always proven too slippery a fish.”

Mrs. Molpe? Fuck me.

“Stop, Donovan,” she said, her voice cracking in what almost sounded like sorrow.

He slapped her, hard.

“That’s Captain Donovan, you dirty little Enticer.”

An Enticer? They sent an Enticer? It all began to make sense. The loose details, the feelings of paranoia, the way I set aside my usual distrust so easily. I looked at Donovan. Shit. He was the one I was Seeking the entire time.

I looked over my shoulder at the apparently married Neris Molpe, and sneered.

“Don’t,” she pleaded, “Don’t hate me, Sam. They have my husband. I didn’t have a choice.”

“Everyone has a choice, Neris.”

“Not true,” Donovan said pointing his gun at me menacingly, “You are out of them, Mr. Monroe.”

I smirked. Couldn’t help it. I  had a choice.

I lunged, and as I did, pulled the stiletto from my coat sleeve. Donovan’s eyes widened; guess he’d never had anyone resist before. He tried to bring his gun to bear, but I was on him to quick. I buried my blade in his throat. He gurgled, gasped, fell backwards.

I felt the first shot that hit me, but I didn’t feel the rest. My body became suddenly heavy, and I slipped to the ground. I heard Neris scream, and a moment later, felt her arms wrap around me, cradling my head.

“Sam! Oh, Sam…I’m sorry Sam!” she said, sobs wracking her body. I tried to move, couldn’t. Hurt.

“S’ok, dame. I made my choice.”

Coldness swept over me. My sight began to fail. I looked at her, at those impossibly green eyes, and smiled. Imagine that. Me, in the arms of a beautiful dame, her eyes heavy with tears for a cagey old Seeker. I tried to laugh, coughed blood instead.

There were worse ways to go.

A quick little character study…

In response to another blogger’s post about being annoyed when she’s messaged on dating sites by old men on their second wives with a bunch of kids (I won’t call her out here, but she’s welcome to post :) ), I decided to write a character study into the mind of such a guy. It turned out fun, so I thought I’d post it here as well.

It’s hard not to feel for them though, isn’t it? Some poor schlub out there, aging but he doesn’t feel it. He wears it, sure, those thirty plus years since he was 18, but damned, he doesn’t feel it! Why, he still feels just the way he did when he was 18. Wiser, maybe, a damned sight better at judging, so he thinks. He could probably even go back out and play ball again, I mean, after a little cardio, a month or two to get in shape. He thinks back to his first wife, the one you look so much like, and when they were kids and young and horny and free. And he thinks forward to his second, and their raft of kids and bills and illnesses and all the tiny stresses that being a grownup brings, that nibble away at your soul, your libido, your life like a billion scrabbling ants. Smack one and two more take its place, all of them more pissed off for the effort. The weight of it gnaws at him and he just can’t fucking take it anymore, not when he sees you, so young and pretty and just like his first wife, when they fell in love, before they got broken and she ran off with the younger version of him. And a part of him, a tiny part of him, whispers in his ear and tells him that hey, he won “you” before, he could do it again. Because it’s what’s inside that counts, right? Sure, he’s at least twenty years past your age range, but he’s young at heart, and those younger guys, they’re just going to treat you like shit anyway. After all, he did that to her when he was younger, right? But he knows better now. He knows how to treat you, to respect you, to admire you. So he might as well write you. He knows what’s best. If only you could look past the thirty plus years, the sagging belly, the wrinkles.

 

Duke Lazell’s Missing Finger – A flashback flash fiction!

So, this is a flash fiction I did a couple months back, but I wanted to share it here because it was a fun exercise. The deal behind it was this – my buddy sent me a text with a title and the first sentence of a story, and I had to come up with the rest of the tale, in under an hour. This is my result.

That fucking bird didn’t know it, but it had seen its last sunrise. It wasn’t even properly dawn, for light’s sake, but the bloody thing was there, just outside the window, caw-cawing away at the great threat it perceived rising in the east every morning, a threat that even now was only thinking of creeping over the horizon. And this bird, this loathsome little jackdaw, overly impressed with its size and ability, thought that its mere voice could keep that great fiery bird from infringing on its courting territory. Enough.

The hangover, of course, didn’t help. My head throbbed with the beat of a thousand swords against a thousand shields, a relentless thump-thumping that alone could drive a man to madness. When combined with that shadow-sworn bird and its ceaseless melody of avian chest thumping, it was a cacophony that even I, Galmor the Great, newly appointed wizard supreme of the court of King Phalian the Kind, could not endure. And trust me, normally, I can endure quite a lot. You have to when you’re a wizard.

I stumbled from my bed in a wobble, a half-stumble, half-fall towards the washbasin. Thank the light that the porter had seen the pitcher filled, and a touch at its side confirmed that it was at least still lukewarm. I chanted a brief incantation, and the copper that formed the pitcher glowed. In moments, steam rose, and I poured a bit of the now hot water into the basin, splashed it upon my face, and tried to wash away the remnants from last night’s feastings that still remained in my beard. The bird continued to screech, and my face in the looking glass sneered.

“Bloody bird,” the image spat, “I really wish you’d see to that beast.”

I sighed, irritated that what I had previously wished was now being demanded of me. Like most wizards, I have a deplorable dislike of authority, and it took nothing more than the vocalization of my own desire from someone other than me, no matter how incorporeal, to spark a thought of resistance in me. And then the bird called, and my resolve returned.

“I intend to,” I growled, and the me in the mirror gave a smug little smirk of satisfaction. Shadows take me if I didn’t think seriously then about breaking the glass, but such things bear ill fortunes and clearly my day was full enough of those as it was. Right then, to the bird.

Storming over to the window (literally storming, I might add, for a small cloudburst had formed over my head in my wrath, and even now was growing in size and darkness), I flung back the curtains and immediately closed them. Blast, but the sun was growing bright already, despite the desperate efforts of that damnable bird! A flicker of lightning danced within the cloud over my head, and the air filled with the scent of pending rain. I reached over, grabbed my staff, and pried the curtain back more slowly, letting my eyes adjust to the brightness, wincing through the pain it caused behind my much abused and still slightly inebriated optical nerves.

There it was, my tormentor, my torturer, my morning nemesis. There, perched upon the outstretched hand of a statue of Duke Lazell, father of my king (and current employer) and to my unceasing consternation, a great lover of all things fowl. Indeed, the wretched squawker that so constantly irritated my mornings was no doubt one of the many specimens the late duke had collected in the palace gardens, with the assistance, no doubt, of the former wizard supreme. Much to my displeasure, when the two accidently blew themselves up (and the previous king, to whom the Duke was heir) several years prior to my employment, the explosion didn’t take the damnable birds with them. And doubled to that displeasure was the fact that Phalian the Kind, earning his name, took a soft-hearted liking to all the things his father loved (at least, the things his father loved that suited him), and had declared that all things feathered protected under kingdom law. To kill a fowl was to foul the king’s law, and the punishment, surely, would be far less kind than the king’s sobriquet implied.

But I was wizard supreme, and damned if I was going to suffer one more early awakening. Thunder rumbled over my head as I took aim upon the blighted beast, pointing my staff in its cursed direction, and with a fury equal to any demon of shadow, I muttered my lethal curse at it. Lightning struck from the cloud above my head, coursing down to my staff and then arcing outward towards the bird. There was a sharp snap, the deep, tangy smell of electrical discharge, and shortly, the lovely scent of roasted bird. And then, a crack, a thud, and a gasp.

I rushed to look out the window to see the cause of the latter. There, on the ground at the feet of the statue of Duke Lazell, lay a great stone finger. I glanced to the statue’s hand, and winced when I saw that perhaps my fury had been a bit over exuberant. For in my need to unalive the beast of my disdain, I had added a bit too much umph to my spell, and it had severed from the stone effigy the rocky likeness’s middle finger. As for the gasp, that likely belonged to the manservant who even now scurried off towards the king’s guard. Lovely. Great. Just what my morning needed. I had better think quick.

“Good morrow, and light be praised!” I exclaimed when, very shortly thereafter, the door to my chambers was kicked open by said guard. And who should be there with them, but his Majesty, still in his dressing robe, and his seneschal, his chief royal advisor, and if some were to be believed, his lover.

“GALMOR!” the king bellowed, “What is the meaning of this?”

“The meaning of what, your Majesty?” I asked, my voice the essence of calmness and civility.

“You know damned well what!”

I shrugged noncommittally. The king sighed, and pointed out the window at the statue of the duke, framed perfectly through that portal.

“Ah!” I said, as if it had just occurred to me what he was speaking of, “You’ve noticed my improvement to your father’s statue!”

“IMPROVEMENT?” he roared.

“Yes, your Majesty. You see, I noticed upon taking residence in this tower that the statue of your father was…imperfect. The middle finger on his outstretched hand was clearly too short. And as any learned wizard can tell you, a too short middle finger is a sign of bastardry. It has bothered me since my appointment to this position, and I could bear the insult to your name no longer!”

The guards glanced at each other, clearly confused. The king looked to his seneschal, who shrugged. The great advantage to being a wizard was that no one ever questioned your logic. The king harumphed a bit, as the seneschal shifted nervously from foot to foot, and the guards continued to stare in evident confusion.

“Well then,” the king said, clearly still angry but unable to justify punishing me for removing any doubt to his lineage, “There is still the matter of the bird!”

“The bird?” I asked innocently.

“Yes, the bird, shades curse you! You killed one of my father’s birds!”

My face took on a look of abject horror.

“Light, no!” I cried out, “Alas, the poor beast must have seen what I saw, must have meant to cover the insult with its own presence, and alighted just as my spell was cast upon that wretched finger!”

The seneschal sniffled suspiciously, but I ignored him. The king harumphed again.

“Then you did not intend to kill the fowl?”

“Your majesty, I assure you,” I said extending my middle finger, “I aimed but for this. I never in my life intended to shoot the bird.”

Turn-a-trope Tuesday #4: “A Man is not a Virgin” – #woegttt

It’s time again for Turn-a-trope Tuesday, where we take a standard trope and attempt to tell a story that turns it on its head! What does that mean exactly? Well, essentially, it means to take a common element of fiction and to do something unexpected with it. As you can see from past entries in this series, sometimes that means a complete reversal of the trope, and other times, it means a small subversion, a slight alteration that still leads to the unexpected. Why do we do this? Because it’s good for a well balanced writer to be able to spot and break cliches, and to learn how to surprise a reader while setting them up for something else entirely.

But first, let’s have a big round of applause for last week’s entrants in the “Resigned to the Call” challenge! Check out their stories, and see how they twisted that trope to delight and surprise you!

The Guardians, at Helen’s Ramblings on This Thing Called Life

To Ask or Not To Ask, at rhonwynalyna

To Heed the Call, at Woegman’s World of Witty Wonder

Now, on to this week’s trope – A Man is Not a Virgin

From TVTropes.org:

“While teenagers Can’t Get Away with Nuthin’ , and characters in slasher films often suffer Death by Sex, it is understood that the leading male must be sexually active. A guy who has never Done It, or even just does not Do It often, is simply Not Man Enough to save the day, solve the mystery or whatever. It doesn’t matter whether sexual experience is in any way relevant to the skills needed in the plot, he just has to be Man Enough so he has to have Done It and preferably Do It Regularly. That’s How It Is. Don’t Argue.

Establishing the character’s sexual competence varies from seeing a beautiful blonde, who has nothing to do with the plot and no lines to speak, crossing or leaving his bedroom early on in the film, to references to his ex-wife or old flames. Generally, however, the more macho Action Heroes don’t have wives or steady girlfriends when the adventure starts, because that would stop them from hooking up with the female lead. We just have to be made aware that she is far from being the first beautiful woman he’s had (Direct-to-DVD movies often get much lazier about this and combine it with the requisite sex scene, and will often have the male protagonist have sex with a few girls on screen while he’s in the process of falling for the female protagonist).

It also, of course, serves to make the audience absolutely and totally sure that their hero is ardently heterosexual. After all, while homosexual or bisexual characters are becoming more and more common, the number of them that are leading characters can probably be counted on one hand. Establishing the male lead’s heterosexuality assures the majority of the audience that it is thusly safe for women to want him and men to want to be him. Note that the term “virgin” originally meant “a female who has not had sex with a man”, and thus literally no male was ever a virgin — which sort of underscores the trope. The definition became more vague as language evolved.

This trope is NOT simply for examples where a male is expected to have sex and/or teased until he does so. This trope is for when a male is portrayed in-universe as feeble, pathetic, and poorly adjusted, with his virginity as an implicit or explicit cause. “

As usual, you have 1000 words to turn this trope on its head. Have fun! :)

 

 

(Edited to fix a typo – you get 1000 words, not 100!)

“To Heed the Call” – response to Turn-a-trope #3! #woegttt

On time this week is my entry to last week’s Turn-a-trope challenge: “Resigned to the Call”

Did you take part in the Turn-a-trope challenge? Reply with a link to your story in the comments below!

Just under a thousand words, here is, “To Heed the Call.”

“You don’t want me for this.”

Galyon sighed, his lips a tight line of resolve.

“We have no choice,” Galyon rumbled, his voice deep and graveled and as scarred as his body. “There is no one else who can face the coming threat of Eldinia and her minions. Already, they overrun the outer territories. Soon, they will reach the Realm.”

Hethian stared into his cup, swirling the dregs that remained slowly, thinking. He was a hard man, and his visage showed it. Sharp angles creased his face, hard muscles worked beneath his thin tunic. Unconsciously, he rolled the shoulder of his sword arm, feeling it crack and pop. He was getting too old, too worn, to be the hero.

“I say again,” Hethian muttered, “That you don’t want me for this. Are there no others you can ask?”

“Who remains?” Galyon asked, desperation causing his grumble to crack. “All our greatest warriors are gone. Dead from previous campaigns, or lost to mad adventures. There are none, Hethian, to heed the call of the King Felrick. Will you deny it as well?”

Hethian’s eyes burned, narrowed. He stood, and even Galyon, no stranger to combat, gasped. Hethian was a giant of a man, towering at least two heads above even the tallest man Galyon had ever known. The mass of angry muscle stalked towards a trunk at the end of the room. He flipped the lid, gazed inside a moment, then reached down. Gently, almost as if cradling a child, he raised a long package wrapped in old blankets. He unfolded a corner, and looked at the gleaming steel within. The blade caught the fire within his eye, and glinted. A very slight smile formed on the warrior’s face.

Galyon did not care nor question why Hethian had hung up his sword. The wars had been hard, the losses great on both sides. He knew only that the great warrior had returned to the capital, walked up to the king, and resigned his commission, forfeiting all titles and rewards his service had granted him. He was stripped of all; land, uniform, titles. The king, though, granted him his sword. The war had been hell, yes. King Felrick understood that, and though law may require the rest, the king could still grant him the right to bear arms.

“When have I ever denied the call of the king?” Hethian said, almost in a whisper. The blanket fell away, revealing the massive blade beneath. Hethian slung it over his back, adjusting the leather belts that secured it to his heavily muscled torso.

“Very well. You have asked me. I have tried to deny you, but you will not have it. I will go and meet Eldinia on the field.”

Galyon breathed a sigh of relief.

***

The kingdom was shattered, the forces of King Falrick, routed. Galyon, his face bloodied, his body weak from wounds deep and soon, deadly, lay propped near the throne. Falrick himself lay beside it, his eyes staring emptily towards the ceiling.

Eldinia approached. She wore no armour, no protections. He clothes, cut scandalously, hugged her curvy frame and swayed as she walked. In the distance, the sounds of screams and clashing swords grew less and less vivid. The battle would be over soon, entirely. The kingdom was lost. Behind her, a heavily armoured warrior kept step.

She paused, looking down at Falrick, and for a moment, Galyon saw a hint of sadness fleet across her face. It made his stomach churn. Don’t, he thought. Don’t pity him.

She turned, as if she had heard his very thoughts.

“Ah, you must be the noble Galyon. Seneschal to the King, steward of his hall.”

She looked about, gestured to the bodies fallen within.

“I fear we’ve made a bit of a mess…but do not worry. I do not think your position will last much longer.”

“Shut your mouth, witch!” Galyon roared, summoning the last of his reserves. “We have not fallen yet! Hethian remains! He will find you and avenge us, if nothing more! He will see your corpse rot beside our own!”

Her face softened. She kneeled, coming closer to the dying man.

“Sweet Galyon. Have you not heard?”

She gestured towards the armoured beast behind her. The man approached, his hands raising to unclasp the straps that held his helmet, his breastplate. As they fell away, Galyon sobbed. Hethian stood there, his face, stony.

“Hethian,” he sobbed, “Why? You were our greatest…”

The warrior held up a hand, stopping him.

“I was never yours,” he said, bluntly. “Never once. Did no one ever question how I survived when all other heroes fell? Did no one ever wonder why those who remained sought out dangerous quests from which they did not return? It was I, Galyon. I whispered in their ears about treasures to be found, powerful artifacts to save the realm. One by one, I ensured that every hero fell…till I alone remained.”

Hethian reached back, unstrapping his great sword.

“I did find pity for you. I tried to resign. Tried to remove myself from a position of power. But in the end, you came back to me. You begged me. You insisted that I must fulfill my destiny.”

The sword hissed softly as it slid from the metal rings that bound it.

“I tried to resist, Galyon. I tried to back out. You brought this. You brought me.”

The sword swung. The seneschal, to his credit, did not make a sound. Hethian dropped the heavy blade, and turned.

“It is over, my love,” he said, sorrow heavy in his voice. “The kingdom is yours.”

Eldinia smiled, took his face into her hands, and kissed him.