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Dreamers (excerpt)

When the man, comes ‘round…”

“What is that? Johnny Cash?”

Clinton nodded as he continued to sharpen one of his knives, keeping the whetstone in hand as he ran the blade down its rounded edge. He’d learned to do this some time ago, it was one of the few things his drunkard, drug-snorting father had actually taught him that he had wanted to keep. Everything else had gone by the wayside as much as was possible.

“Kind of a butchered version of Johnny Cash, but yeah.”

“It wasn’t that bad,” Julie sat next to him, only a foot or two of space between them.  Had she been visible to anyone else, it might have seemed like she was trying to get close to Clinton, much like a love-struck young lady trying to get a boy to notice her. That analogy almost made him laugh.

“I guess I could say you’re not my type, but I’d be lying,” Julie said, grinning as Clinton managed a small chuckle. As was normal, they were alone, off in a patch of woods just to the south of where the others had camped.  He went off on his own a lot these days, though he always stayed within earshot, just in case.

In the past three years he’d learned how to be a team player, how to stick around and make himself a part of a group. It had been an adjustment, but to Clinton, who’d only had a few support groups in his life, namely his alcoholic mother, booze-hound sister and stepfather, his own alcoholic drinking buddies, and a few grunts that had looked up to him, it was change he’d welcomed.  While he hadn’t quit drinking altogether, which, he had learned, could be fatal, Clinton had learned how to severely regulate his alcohol intake.  He only had a drink every now and again, just to be sociable, and even then he didn’t binge like he once had.

“If I thought it could go anywhere Julie, I think I might actually try.”

This caused her to chuckle.

Shaking her head, Julie replied, “We could find a way, but I’m not sure you would like it.”

At that he immediately shook his head, his grin faltering just a bit.

“No, no you’re right, I wouldn’t.”

“I didn’t say I would.”

“I know,” Clinton said, not once losing his composure, “I know.  But that’s not something to take lightly either.”

Julie knew he was right, though she still hadn’t forgotten what it felt like to have a body nearly three years before, a tingling that had reminded her just what it meant to be alive.  To be honest, it had been quite intoxicating.

But to Clinton, it had been both draining, and invasive.  He’d felt hollowed out when she had left his body, violated in a way that he had known Julie did not mean to harm him, but had happened all the same. Since that time she had vowed never again to do anything such as that without his express permission, and he meant for it never to happen again. Of course, he knew that stuff could happen, and if it did, then they would talk.  If that kind of thing happened again however, if he was damned tired that just moving his eyes hurt, then she had permission to just step in again and do something about it. Clinton only hoped it wouldn’t feel as terrible as the last time.

“You know, I kind of liked Johnny Cash, he had real twangy voice.”

“He was popular back in his time and in mine, he had real following.”

“What was your favorite song?”

Clinton had to think about this one, considering that he’d listened to a lot of different music back then.  Johnny Cash hadn’t always been one of his favorites, but a few of his songs had struck a chord.

“If I had to be put on the spot and pick a favorite, I’d have to say “Folsom Prison Blues”.”

“Really? I was always kind of partial to “Ring of Fire” myself.”

“Just how long have you been around Julie?” He knew the literal answer, but he was going for something a bit different, and Julie, being Julie, had already read that much within his thoughts. Of course, it wasn’t like he tried to hide anything anymore.  It was kind of impossible with a nosy mind-picker like Julie.

“Hey,” she protested mildly.  Clinton just grinned in response.

“I’ve been around a while I suppose, long enough to get the general lay of the land here and there.  But truth to tell, being in the USA for the last several decades was really my favorite spot in a long time.  There was so much change, so many exciting and new things happening.  From the fifties to the nineties it was all kind of a rush, you never really knew which foot you were going to land on in any given time.”

“Which was your favorite decade?”

She rolled her eyes, “Oh like that’s an easy decision.  Each one of them had their own fair share of ups and downs, but I guess the seventies was kind of a letdown, especially if you consider the fact that I could only appear to one person at a time.  Plus, there really wasn’t a lot going on, at least if you asked the common person.  It was almost like a rest period between the sixties and the eighties, and then when the eighties hit, it was almost like people were trying to get back into the sixties, but in a new and exciting way.”

“The eighties didn’t strike me as a normal time.”

“You couldn’t have been that old in the eighties, what were you, like four years old when the eighties came on full force?”

“Around there, and my memory is pretty good. From the clothes and the hairstyles to the politics that went on while I was still too young to understand them.  To be honest we still paid for a bit of what happened in the eighties when it came to the nineties.”

“How so?”

Clinton didn’t really want to go into it, though she had asked. There was one simple way to explain it though.

“The sins of those that come before almost always end up harming those who come after. It’s as true today as it was back before my time.”

“I get what you’re saying, believe me, but it’s a little short-sighted I think.”

“How so?” This might be interesting to hear. Anything she had to say usually was he’d come to learn, especially concerning the past.

“You know the saying ‘those who do not learn from the past are cursed to repeat its mistakes’?  It goes something like that, but my memory is a bit hazy on proper quotes these days.”

Clinton nodded, “I’ve heard variations on that same quote, and I agree.”

“You say that those who came after pay for the sins of those that came before, and its true enough, but when I pluck thoughts out of your head, and out of Ashley’s, I find that you only half-believe what you’re saying when you talk like that, while she believes it wholeheartedly.”

Ah crap, not back to talking about Ashley. After their last little interlude a couple weeks back, Clinton and Ashley hadn’t spoken much, though she had remained a part of the group, if only because she felt that she owed Sarah.  The woman had after all taken her in and given her a place after she’d been separated from her original group.  But Ashley’s views and opinions were a bit different from what Clinton believed in, and to be completely honest, he didn’t always agree with her.

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A Warrior’s Path (Epilogue)

Epilogue: War

 

 

 

Tale of War, as composed by the poet Alimsa Leyverne in the year of our lord 1102, shortly after the end of the Domain War

 

 

“Oh! Oh cry the poor orphan, lying in the streets when father or mother go to war!

  Cry oh poor widow, poor husband whose loss shall ne’er be mended, whose heart shall ne’er be whole again.”

“Be ye man or elf or rock-hewn  dwarf, may ye find no solace upon the field of blood, for therein lies only sorrow, only the shame of blood shed in the name of utter madness.  For all there is naught but death, only hatred leads to this eternal slumber, only bilious and vitriolic disregard for life will thrust the sword into flesh, sunder the limbs of the righteous and wicked alike.  No hand shall stay the blade of those who seek blood, for it is a river that cannot be dammed, an ocean that cannot be stopped.  Once the tides of blood roll into the far shores only more blood will sate the thirsting sands that cry for more.”

“Oh poor soldier, poor saddened and delusional soul who fights to kill for no reason more than insult to pride and pomp!” 

“Oh poor soldier, dying for the sake of those who desire power, who desire land, who desire coin and payment of life and limb!”

“Do not walk to war my good soldier, do not walk to certain death, to certain horror that will ne’er stop!  Walk in peace my good soldier, walk in health and happiness!  Cherish what is given, take your life and live good soldier, do not throw away life for certain death, cast certain death aside for a content life!”

“Oh to those who point at the soldier and tell them ‘Go to fight for me!’, ‘Go to fight for your country!’, ‘Die for your country good soldier, die for those who want power!’, may those who crave coin and power find the food their coin buys turns to ash in their mouth, their drink to poison, and their women to festering flesh that will corrupt even the holiest among them.”

“Oh to those who crave, may their days be as torture and their nights be spent screaming the names of those they have sent to die!”

“Look away good soldier!  Do not follow the pointing finger of those who tear you from life towards death, look away from the battlefield to home and hearth, to where children play and loved ones remain!  Look away good soldier, look away!”

 

“There is a reason the woman was excommunicated and later slain.”  Pelajin said as he worked his jaw around.  Standing in the shadows where she had chosen to read the last known work of the bard Alimsa Leyverne, Sirena chuckled softly at the both the woman’s naiveté as well as Pelajin’s reaction to the writing.  She couldn’t help but find amusement equally in both, seeing as how war had once more come to Mydest.  Smiling a little wider Sirena closed the book, speaking softly as Pelajin snorted in derision.

“Beware priest, idealism can be a dangerous weapon, as you well know.”  The fat priest sank into his chair a bit more as sipped at his goblet, his third since Sirena had arrived only an hour before.  The man had been grossly fat only a year ago, now he actually had trouble raising himself from his seat at times.  She was not about to help him, but she found it difficult not to laugh.

“Idealists are like insects Sirena, they have no true grasp of how the world works.  Idealists are often the first casualties in any war.”  Pelajin was in a foul mood, such as he’d been for the past day and a half now.  Reports kept coming in despite his order for privacy in this troubled time.  He was needed to look at this, to sign that, approve these, it was all simply too much at this moment to handle.  War should be simple, pit one army against the other and the one who could think fastest and hit the hardest should win.  He’d never imagined it could be this complicated.

“And yet dear Alimsa was not slain until after the war.  How curious.”  Sirena chuckled as she saw the sour look upon the grandmaster’s face, her mirth no doubt placing him in an even fouler mood.

“Be careful Sirena, do not invoke wrath where it is not desired.”  Her smile only deepened as her eyes became hard, expressing the anger she would not show the corpulent priest.  He did not deserve her anger, only her contempt.

“When this war is over grandmaster, we will see who learns to fear who.”  Pelajin rolled his piggy eyes towards her, doing his best to glare at the woman even as he tried to pick her out from the shadows of the room.  The soft lighting provided by the small fire in the hearth did little to nothing to reveal her, allowing the shadows their due as she hid among them as she always had.  Sirena wanted to kill the man here and now, but she would wait.  Eventually the opportunity would present itself, and then there would be no one to stop her.  Then Pelajin would know the true meaning of fear.  She would make sure of that.

Prophecy’s End (Epilogue)

Epilogue: A World to Change

 

 

 

            A fair wind blew upon the lands as Sanu’te’ looked upon the far horizon to the north, their intended destination still as of yet unknown.  She managed the ghost of a grin as she heard those behind her trundling forward from the keep, a few of them no doubt quite sorry for the lateness in which sleep had claimed them last night. 

            The coronation had been followed shortly by what could only be described as a hearty and boisterous revel, one that any kingdom should have been proud of.  People had turned out from as far as beyond the Gala’Dey Mountains to usher in the new queen’s reign, bringing forth in great quantites food, drink, and merriment that had spread from the keep and into the streets of the city beyond as the whole of the kingdom had rejoiced in their new monarch. 

            Sanu’te’ had kept herself reserved for the most part, partaking of just enough food to remain comfortably full and enough drink to wash it down.  She could drink with the best of them, though she knew upon the next day that she would desire a clear head and sharp wits, for their journey would no doubt be long and arduous, no matter that she knew it would be far more full with the friends who would be at her side. 

            “Must we leave so early?” she heard from behind her, recognizing Vanerian’s pained voice as the woman held one hand to her head, “And will someone please tell the band to stop playing already?”  Again, that ghost of a smile came to her lips, knowing full well that not a one of them, not even Tirekan, had missed out on the night’s revels.  It had been curious however, she’d not seen the she-dragon from just shortly after the feast had begun until this morning, making her wonder where she had wandered off to.

            The dragon was in her natural form, her scales glimmering in the morning sunlight as she shook herself upon coming to stand near, or rather, over, Sanu’te’, her wings flexing and her long, sinuous neck craning around so that she faced the warrior woman.

            Sanu’te’ could not help but note the glimmer in Tirekan’s eye this morning, a rather strange look that she could not decipher.  It was almost as though the dragon was, strangely enough, glowing. 

            “Are we ready then?” Tirekan asked, her booming voice rolling out upon the landscape as she and Sanu’te’ looked back to find the others meandering forward, the two garoks standing near the keep, where Sanu’te’ and Seykara would mount their feathered backs before departing shortly after. 

            Sia and Adelyn would ride upon the backs of the great birds with Sanu’te’ and Seykara, while the two Brya Maidya and Vanerian would tak their place upon Tirekan’s strong back. 

            The revelers had remained throughout the night, paying homage to their new queen through song, dance, and gifts lavished upon her, gifts that she had accepted and vowed to put to good use.  Sanu’te’ knew in her heart that Linnae would be a good queen, she understood the people far better than most.  Sia and Adelyn had made a wise choice.

            The druids had decided to remain for awhile, save for Seyla, who would gather her councilor, the Jundar halfling Cooya, and depart for Rastoleth in another day or so.  There was much to be done, much to be discussed, and a kingdom to be run.  It was a bit comforting to know that Linnae had decided to keep the Lainstone name, if only to honor those who had ruled before her. 

            Sanu’te’ was content, knowing in her heart that matters had turned out for the better upon Ivim.  Whether they would do so within the  lands of Mydest remained to be seen, though now she had faith that at the very least, those in power would seek to help the people rather than subjugate them.  For all that he had once hearkened to the order of Khoranthus, Amner was a man who seemed inclined to follow what he believed was right, and not what the archaic laws of an outdated order might claim were just and righteous.  That was why he had made such a fine bakan, and why he would rule well as mayor.

            They had already said their goodbyes, seeing no need to prolong them any further.  This kingdom would prosper under the guidance of its queen and those who stood at her side, of that there was no doubt.  As Sanu’te’ walked silently to her mount, she noted as Seykara and the two former princesses joined her, striding forward purposefully as they exchanged glances with her.  As Seykara and Adelyn came to stand beside Cerek however, her student called out to Sanu’te’ before climbing the garok’s back.

            “Where are we headed to?” Seykara asked with a grin.

            Sanu’te’s eyes sparkled briefly as she looked to Sia, and then back to Seykara, “We follow the horizon, and whatever comes after.”

            It seemed as good an answer as any.

Home

We know where we came from

Didn’t know where we’d go.

We knew that time would pass and life would go on

But in what way only time would show.

We traveled wide and far away

Making tracks from our home to distant lands.

Yet never once do we forget or sway

From this home where our heart still stands.

Descendants (conclusion)

 Origin

 

            He stood in his customary spot, looking out upon the horizon as always.  Every word that had passed his lips he meant, every syllable had carried the promise of the threat, and his actions would show the truth of them.

            This isn’t wise kid, you need them, and they need you.

            Tyler didn’t want to listen, he didn’t want to be reminded.  Too much had been lost already, he’d done his part and it had gotten him nothing but sadness and pain.

            Let it go Tyler.  There’s more for you to do out there, and these women mean to make it happen.  Don’t be a hypocrite man, you’ve done more in the recent past than you’ll admit to.

            The voices wouldn’t stop, wouldn’t relent, and wouldn’t cease to hammer at him this time, each one of them coming quicker and making a more definitive point than they ever had. Worse than their mere presence though was the fact that they were right, but he wouldn’t tell them that.  In life they’d been his friends, his family, but he wasn’t about to give them the satisfaction that they were getting to him. A small curl of his lip indicated his amusement at past events, how they’d lorded over being right when he’d been wrong, though it had been all in play.  If they realized what he was thinking now there would be absolutely no end to it.

            “I’ve made my decision,” he said quietly to the air, his eyes never wavering from the horizon.

            It’s the wrong decision, said the next voice, causing him to look down as the pain of losing her hit him yet again.  Our granddaughter is asking for your help, as are the descendants of our friends.  It’s your responsibility to take charge and return to the world.

            “I won’t,” he growled, not wishing to alienate the spirit of his wife but not wishing to continue this any further, “I gave everything to the world, we gave everything, and nothing came of it. We’re reviled, called betrayers and villains, and nothing’s changed. The Dark is still on the rise and those that try to fend it off are as mistrusting as they are misguided.  This world doesn’t need me anymore, and it certainly doesn’t want me.”

            Are you certain you’re the same man? The older voice almost made him grin, but the next words didn’t.

            The man I knew wouldn’t piss and moan and carry on like this. He’d have already welcomed those young ladies in and done what he could to convince them to stay and make this old world a better place.  Might want to look in a mirror sometime soon kid, just to make sure you didn’t swap skins with someone else.

            “I have made up my mind,” he growled, “They don’t belong here, and the world is no longer my concern.”

            “Maybe it’s you that no longer belongs here,” said an infuriatingly familiar voice, standing far too close for Tyler’s liking as he turned around slowly.  Beholding the newest incarnation of the Creator he couldn’t help but snort in derision as he looked upon the face of Joseph Williams, a favored teacher at his old school and a man whom Tyler had looked upon with great respect during his high school years. 

            The wizened old face of his former coach looked at him with something between frustration and expectation, as though attempting to scold and prepare for trouble at the same time.  It was a wise move in Tyler’s estimation, but one that could easily backfire on him at any second. All he had to do was say the wrong word.

            Turning to face the Creator fully Tyler squared his shoulders, ready for anything should it come. But instead of looking to fight the divine being stopped only a few feet shy of going nose to nose with Tyler. His dark, rheumy eyes sought to bore into the Champion, perhaps seeking to weaken his resolve.  It didn’t work, and wouldn’t so long as the Creator was in his presence.

            “These women are here to help Tyler, and you need to let them.”

            “I recall the last time you tried to tell me what to do, and it didn’t go over very well.”

            The old man’s face pinched slightly as though in annoyance, “That time I didn’t account for what, and who, I was dealing with.  I won’t make that mistake again.”

            “Then you should walk away now,” Tyler said, “Even if you help them it won’t matter.  My mind is made up, and they’ll be leaving soon.”

            “Not if I protect them.”

            Tyler raised a single eyebrow, hardly surprised by the audacity of the arrogant being.  He didn’t truly give a damn what happened so long as the women were removed from his place of serenity.  They could wipe the southern portion of the peninsula clear of the hellcats and claim it as their own and he wouldn’t bat an eye.  All he cared about was being left alone.

            “You’re jumping into the middle of something that doesn’t involve you,” Tyler said, “If you want a repeat of the last time I’d be happy to oblige, but dragging these women into it with you is just shy of being a coward.”

            “Tough talk from a boy that runs from his responsibility.”

            Tyler shook his head as the barb failed to sink in, wondering just how the Creator had managed to get by this long when he obviously knew little to nothing about the beings that he supposedly lorded over.  Be it as it may that the being was responsible for the lot of them it was more akin to an absentee parent than a true caretaker of all races and species.  He’d expected a great deal more from a supreme being in his youth, but those illusions had faded greatly throughout the years, and for good reason.

            “Help them as much as you like, it won’t make a bit of difference.  You’ll fall, they’ll fall, and if I have my way you’ll be exiled from this place as well.”

            The Creator went absolutely silent as he glared intently at Tyler, his jaw clenched so firmly shut that Tyler could almost hear the human teeth inside grinding together.  Pain meant nothing to this being, it would simply keep coming and coming, utilizing one form after another in order to meet its own ends.  Tyler didn’t care, he’d dispense the pain again and again in order to make his point. 

            “Think this over Tyler,” the Creator said finally, his voice grave and serious, “I will not-“

            “Oh go away already!” Tyler snapped, “You’re not telling me anything interesting or new!  You want to fall with them? Fine! I’ll knock you down like I did before, and then later you can come back and tell me how much of a fluke it was!  You think I asked for this? You think I wanted any of it? NO! I would have rather died along with my friends long ago, with honor!  Instead I get to stay here and listen to you, that damned overgrown snake, and anyone else with an opinion tell me how I’m doing it all wrong!  I’ve got news for you, I’m sick of it!  Take your damned purposes and destinies and cram ‘em where the sun doesn’t shine, I’ve had enough of it!”

            The Creator was silent for a moment, the wind passing between them as the fading sunlight glared dully off the bald pate of his assumed form.

            “Are you done?”

            Tyler glared at the Creator so intensely that he saw the being tense, no doubt readying itself for a blow. 

            “I’ll be done come morning.  I’d advise you to find a new form by then.”

            “And why is tha-aah!”

            Tyler didn’t give any warning, didn’t even bother to speak as he reached for the power within, finding it came easily to his call as he reached out with one hand, crossing the distance between himself and the Creator in a blink as the snapping and crunching of bone reached his ears.  The Creator, or rather its body, slumped and then collapsed as Tyler allowed it to fall, the flesh and blood form fading even as he watched. 

            “This one’s broken,” he said to the empty air, knowing the Creator could still hear him.  Inhaling deeply Tyler looked out to the far horizon again, exhaling into the coming night as he thought of the battle to come. 

Children

Having kids is hard, there’s no doubt about it. But overall, children are worth more than they will ever cost.  Their value cannot be given a monetary value, and in this sense they are, for all intents and purposes, priceless.

Think about it this way:

If you live alone, your home is likely to be empty, devoid of any noise save that which you make.  Children create sounds that will melt your heart and fill the largest of spaces with the smallest of sounds.

Life is hard, and adding mouths to feed only makes it harder. But children enrich and sustain much more than your stomach. The smile of a child can warm your heart and keep you going for much longer than anything else.

It is very possible to become stressed out and take life too seriously. Children remind you what it is to wonder and to see the world in a new, exciting way that makes no sense and doesn’t have to in order to be fun.

Sometimes love is a hard and uncertain thing to find. Kids give you love without condition, and without reservation. They are there to be kept happy and secure, and in doing so you will  find that their love is without limit.

So the next time anyone says kids are too much work or aren’t worth the effort, do everyone a favor and disagree.  Kids are worth the trouble, no matter how much they get into.

And 6 Shall Come (excerpt)

Some think that striking is to strike.  Tyler held his weapons lightly as he faced his enemies, falling into the silent mantra that had carried him through many a battle in the past.  For the moment the six humanoid creatures regarded him warily, no doubt wondering how any human could possibly be so fast and so destructive.  He had been vastly outnumbered, placed into a position where he should have by all rights been cut down by one or more blades before he’d done more than down a few of them  Instead he had devastated their numbers, moving through the creatures as though they were made of little more than smoke.

But striking is not to strike, nor is killing to kill.  They were fugly creatures, that was for sure.  They were shaped like men, though their skin was a pale green, almost yellowish color.  Where their flesh wasn’t covered by armor he could see small protrusions that almost looked like bone as they stuck through the flesh. Tyler wondered if the protruding pieces hurt at all, though he found that he didn’t really care. Any pains that the six creatures felt at that moment would soon be a thing of the past.

They who strike and those who are struck.  Tyler watched each of the six warriors carefully as they began to surround him, breathing normally as he had learned so very long ago.  Hundreds of years had passed and not once had he forgotten the lessons that had been given to him so long ago.  He knew the balance between life and death, he knew that killing was at times the same as living and vice versa.  The thought of ‘do no harm’ was a fantasy that no single race had ever truly mastered, no matter their illusions of pacifism.  Tyler had come to realize that in order for balance to occur each side of the spectrum was necessary.  There could not be peace without war, nor could there be war without the desire for peace.  One could not kill without being killed in a way, no one could take a life without losing a bit of themselves in the process.

They are both no more than a dream that has no reality.  Tyler had killed many in his time, staining his soul in the blood of enemies even as he had burned with the fires of both the wicked and the righteous.  Long ago he had fought for what he believed in, blazing a trail of redemption and retribution alongside his family.  That trail had ended when he had gone into exile for what he had thought would be the final solution.  He had cut himself off from the world with no intention of ever going back.  He’d taken himself from the grand equation of the All, or so he had thought.

There was no escaping destiny it seemed, it was as tenacious as any force within the world that had ever been devised.  In the scope of the All there was no hiding away from that which must come to pass, no matter how much one wished it.  A part of Tyler had known that somehow even when he had set foot upon his home once more.  He’d known that one day he would no doubt find it necessary to emerge into the world once more, no matter how detestable he had come to find the realm he’d once fought so hard to preserve.

The six warriors circled him slowly as Tyler could feel their heartbeats within his mind, the familiar beat telling him much of their intentions as he listened very carefully.

Who will it be? he thought to himself, keeping his eyes straight ahead as he paid attention to each one of the warriors without moving his eyes or even a single muscle of his body.  For all the six knew he could have been made of stone as he stood absolutely still, never twitching once as their blades whirled or shook slightly in their hands. Tyler almost smiled as he could feel their nervousness through the air, transferring to him as though it were a palpable scent.  He continued to listen, watch and feel as they circled like buzzards awaiting to alight upon a meal.  Unfortunately for them Tyler was far from dead.

Oh yeah, there’s my bitch, Tyler thought as he sensed the frantically beating heart of one of the warriors behind him.  The telltale thumping of the warrior’s heart gave away his heightened state of alert as well as the fear that was pouring from every pore.  Tyler felt as his fangs seemed to sharpen just a bit in his mouth as he growled low in the back of his throat, tensing just barely as he tightened his grip on his blades. His mind cleared of anything but the moment and all that lay in it, the sensations of those around him and the storm above filling his every thought with the need to focus, to center upon what was needed now.

Tyler reacted quicker than any of the hunters could possibly track, spinning to his left as he brought his right knee up, continuing his spin as he then lifted his right leg on its next swing around.  His right foot connected hard with the face of the first hunter he attacked, breaking the male’s jaw and sending teeth flying as Tyler continued to move. The stricken hunter reeled to the ground as his weapons went flying, hitting hard as Tyler crouched low to attack the next male.  His left blade raised high to block the downward stroke that the alien attempted to catch him with while his right slashed hard against the thick armor that the creature wore.

Composed of pure energy, the weapon parted the armor and the flesh beneath easily as he did not stop to watch the being fall.  Tyler was not focusing at that moment, moving so swiftly that he could feel the energy pulsing within his veins, fueling his every movement as though he were a part of winds that tore across the roof.  Lightning stabbed through the clouds above as he moved aside just in time to avoid the thrust of a long, serrated blade, catching it midway down its length with his own weapon before trapping it with the other.  The creature could not retrieve the weapon, nor could the serrated edge be raked along Tyler’s body as had been intended.  Instead Tyler yanked forward, shoulder blocking the hunter as the male was sent stumbling backward, bereft of his weapon and almost doubled over as though he’d met a brick wall.

The hardening of his skin was a natural effect that had been given to Tyler unknowingly long ago, a quality he had never wanted but had learned to live with.  As the other three hunters came forward he quickly utilized the massive amounts of energy within his body to cause the weapons to disappear.  The weapons shimmered briefly before fading away entirely, becoming little more than wisps of ionized air as Tyler grasped the handle of the weapon that remained.

It was a heavy, cumbersome thing, but Tyler knew little of weight or discomfort at this point, relying upon the awesome power that flowed throughout his body in order to drive the remaining three hunters back with massive swipes of the blade.  The three backed away just a few steps as they once more regarded Tyler with undisguised awe.  Tyler did not attack, nor did he pay attention to the two hunters he’d already taken down, keeping his eyes upon the three as his focus continued to swirl about like the clouds above.

Passing the Torch

By Tom Foster

A lot of us might have fictional characters that we idolize and have looked up to as kids. As the years go by we might forget about them as we grow up, maybe even lose track of their story as we start noticing the wider world around us. But for those of us that were weaned on comic books and stayed faithful to the overall feel of the world within the page it became an absolute treat when we our patience was finally rewarded with the appearance of those heroes in the flesh.

One such character is James Howlett, aka Logan, or as many fans the world over will know him as, the Wolverine. Ever since he came onto the scene the ferocious mutant with the badass attitude and distinctive claws sprouting from each hand managed to grab the attention of many readers and never let go. It’s almost hard to imagine a comic world with Wolverine any longer, as he’s been a pervasive figure throughout many different stories.  He’s the working man’s anti-hero in a way considering that knows what he does isn’t very nice, but he still strives to remain the best at it.

Throughout the decades Wolverine has undergone many changes, from his appearance to the softening of his tough-guy demeanor. There’s always been something lurking beneath the animalistic side, but Logan’s always been good about keeping it hidden.  That could be why he’s been such a popular draw for so long, largely because he identifies with the crowd despite his oddities. Logan has for the most part attempted to get along with society, but still remain apart from it.

The newest installment of Logan’s story depicts the man that couldn’t be killed finally showing a bit of wear and tear as his advanced years and the continued exposure to his unbreakable skeleton finally cause his body to start wearing out.  He’s distanced himself from almost everyone, but still remains a part of society out of necessity. His relationship with his fellow mutants, those that remain, is sketchy and even a bit argumentative at times, but it has become something to cling to and, in some cases, cherish.

When presented with the reality that there is another mutant like him however, Logan is loathe to take on yet another responsibility. This is the Wolverine that we all know and love, the tough guy that wants no part of a fight that isn’t his to start, but the same guy that will stand up for someone when pushed.  The passing of the torch in this movie is quite touching and more than a little hard to absorb considering that it means saying goodbye to a character that has been around for longer than several others, and is without a doubt one of the most relatable to many people.

It might seem odd to say goodbye to a fictional character, but as a writer and a fan I must say this: godspeed to you Logan, you were and always be a fan favorite and one of the best characters to ever grace a comic panel. “Logan” was an awesome tribute to a spectacular character, and he will be missed.

Just Run

Just Run

There were plenty of exits, but there were also plenty of them. The memory of what had already happened to Drew made a thin sheen of sweat pop out on his forehead and his guts to cramp in a knot just thinking about what lay in wait for him. A perverse part of his mind couldn’t help thinking about when someone might possibly think that the guy in the bathroom stall wasn’t just taking the world’s longest-

“Turn around Stephen.”

He whirled around, only to come close to colliding with a young woman that backed away suddenly, a drink cup sloshing in one hand and a slice of pepperoni pizza almost falling out of her other hand.  She gave him a scathing look as he wiped at his forehead, muttering a muted apology as she moved away.  His throat was parched at that moment and the clatter of ice cubes jostling against one another almost made the nauseous feeling his stomach give way.  Almost, but not quite.

There were people all around him, standing still, moving about, and otherwise engaged with the stalls and merchants that made up the greater portion of the comic-con.  The space in which the convention was being held was nothing compared to the main show that was held in San Diego, but Portland at least knew how to cater to the geeks and freaks that enjoyed such shows.  Despite the fact that the voice had been right behind him, Stephen could see nothing, not even a hint of someone that might be waiting, or watching too closely.

To be fair he wasn’t a cop or even fully aware of his surroundings most of the time. He

was a game analyst that was paid to attend these shows to see what kind of new product and

ideas might be hitting the market soon.  He and Drew had managed to get here early every day of

the event, which had started on Friday.  They’d attended panels, taken their turn testing their

hand at the gaming stalls located in the far northwest corner of the cavernous space, and had had a good time in general on their company’s dime. It was good life, but sometimes it had its pitfalls.  For instance, the crazies that already explained their rhyme and reason for wanting him and Drew dead.

They’d caught Drew slipping obviously, but then the overweight, self-absorbed game designer had never been that aware anyway.  Where Stephen was careful and at least humble enough to admit that he was hopeless in many ways, Drew had always been a little reckless and didn’t think through what he said or did all the time. Maybe that was why their latest venture, a first-person game titled “Silent Nation” had elicited this type of reaction from those that were even now stalking him.  The material that Drew had insisted upon putting in the game had almost gotten it banned in more than one country, but the team of lawyers their company kept on retainer were the type that could convince a person that “Nightmare on Elm Street” was a kid’s fairy tale, and so “Silent Nation” had gone global with a vengeance.

The first reaction to the game and its graphic violence had been as expected. Fans had either loved the disturbing visuals, no-holds barred sequences that entertained torture, mutilation, and crimes against humanity that were never shown but were implied. They’d eaten it up despite the next wave of reactions that had included shock, horror, and outright anger levied by groups that had attempted to file lawsuit after lawsuit against their company.  Freedom of speech had won out time and again however, and “Silent Nation” had continued to roll.  It was only when the most disturbing letters started arriving that Stephen had found reason to believe that what they were doing wasn’t right.

He’d received a handwritten letter nearly a year ago telling him that if the game wasn’t

pulled that eventually the only silence he would enjoy would be that of the grave. It was simple,

cheesy, and to the point, but it had struck a chord he hadn’t been ready to ignore.  Drew of course had laughed and waved it off as another nut job making the obligatory death threat.  Such things did happen in their business, but nothing ever came of it. No matter how much someone didn’t like the games they produced, they were either too afraid of legal actions that could be taken or were all bluster.  But still, this had felt different, and now he knew why.

He’d already thought about telling security about his friend’s death, but for some strange reason he hadn’t done so. It wasn’t a need for vengeance, Drew had been a jerk in his opinion and probably gotten what he deserved. But somewhere in this convention was a killer, or many killers according to the letter he’d received, and he couldn’t be sure of who was who.  It was paranoia, it was fear, and it was working.  For all he knew the costume his killer would wear would be something completely innocuous. They could be dressed in street clothes and he wouldn’t know until the blade slipped in between his ribs.

Stephen knew his overactive imagination was messing with him, but looking around at the press of people he knew it wasn’t the only thing that was making him nervous. He had no idea who his attacker might be, or where the attack might come from. In front of so many people it seemed unlikely, but just as in the game he’d helped create, there were too many choke points that could offer a tempting opportunity.  The mere fact that Drew had been killed in the men’s room attested to the bold nature of their assailants.

“Just run Stephen,” said a voice from his left, forcing him to gasp as he turned in that direction.

“Just run,” said another voice, feminine this time, from somewhere to his right.

“More fun if you run,” said a voice in a singsong manner that left chills running down his

spine. They were all around him evidently, watching from every angle possibly, and constantly

on the move. Figures moved by in full costume, many dressed up to represent their favorite movie characters, others depicting popular television characters, and more than a few dressed in regular attire. He couldn’t look in any direction without seeing people, and continuing  to turn around in the midst of the crowd would surely draw people’s attention in a way that would not help him.

“Are you okay man?”

Stephen spun about, sweat glistening on his brow as he felt the pack he was wearing shift with the sudden movement. The person standing in front of him couldn’t have been out of his teens, but the look in his eyes denoted an intelligence that was far beyond his years.  Stephen found this an odd thought to have, but as the young man, dressed in a faded Star Wars t-shirt and equally faded jeans, opened his mouth again, Stephen felt his blood turn to ice.

“Don’t draw attention, don’t look out of sorts, and definitely don’t get any funny thoughts. Wherever you go, we’re watching.” The younger man said this with a friendly smile on his face, as though he and Stephen were old friends just catching up. It made the words that much more jarring in Stephen’s opinion.  “Shake your fat butt to the exit and we’ll see it. Exit the convention before it ends and you won’t make it home.  Draw attention to us in any way and you won’t make it two steps to the exit.  For now just know what we have you, and you won’t be going anywhere until we say so.”

Stephen was about to protest, to say something, but as he opened his mouth he felt a light tap on the back of his left shoulder.

“Run Stephen.”

He spun about only to see that no one was there. His heart was hammering in his chest

now as he turned around to speak to the younger man again. But he was gone, much as Stephen

should have expected. It should have been impossible to move so fast and without notice, but in a crowded space such as this Stephen found that he could easily explain how it was done.  After all, wasn’t that one of the main premises of “Silent Nation” that you could disappear with the proper misdirection?

Licking his lips Stephen did the one thing he’d never done in his life, he made a quick and decisive choice to simply go for it. He’d heard the warning quite well, and believed the young man without a doubt. But he didn’t want to be here anymore. If what had happened to Drew was any indication he wouldn’t be making it out of here alive if he went by the rules of those stalking him. They were playing with him much the same way that the assassins on “Silent Nation” were designed to play with their prey, and fortunately he knew a way out of the system that they might not have accounted for.

So thinking he began to make his way for the nearest exit, keeping his peripheral vision sharp and his ears perked just in case. He wasn’t an expert tracker or even a good fighter, but he knew how to listen and how to pay attention.  There were two security guards, a man and woman, conversing with one another as he came close, and by the third step he could see motion in his left peripheral vision. He kept going anyway, daring the fates to deal him that next card that he could play, hoping for his chance to pull the ultimate trump card to stymie the efforts of his would be killers. He was a game analyst after all, he knew all the secrets and how to stack the deck.

He could sense motion on both sides of him as he approached the security guards, who had finally noticed his approach. At his smile the woman, nearly half his size and quite pretty, stepped forward and held up a hand, her dazzling grin stopping him cold as she spoke.

“You were told to run.”

What I Have

I don’t have all the answers. In truth I wouldn’t want to. It’s better to enjoy the uncertainty of life no matter how frightening it might be. Why? Because it is a part of being human, and a part of life that is meant to remain as a mystery that must be unveiled before we can come to any realizations of the truths and falsehoods we live by.

I don’t have the most intelligent mind in the world. Would I like to? Not really. I’m pretty happy with what I have. There are moments that spark within my head an intelligence that is canny and quite cunning, and that is what I am comfortable with to be quite honest. There’s no need for me to be the smartest or even wittiest person in the room, as I am confident that I am as smart as I need to be on many occasions.

I am not the most charming or persuasive person around. I will be the first to admit that I don’t particularly like a lot of people and prefer my solitude at times. But overall, I know when to get along and when to back away from society.

So what do I have?

I have a family that cares for and depends on me. No matter how crazy they drive me, or how gray my hair might get in the next decade or so, they will always be there, and I will always be there for them. I have loved ones that care for me and in turn are cared for by me.

I have one hellishly good imagination when it comes to writing. I’ve designed entire worlds that need only the right push to be exposed to the readers I would like to see my work. Yet for all that I am content in the creation, and do not grasp and scheme to place my works over others. It would be nice to be known, but I am just as happy in the writing.

What I have is, overall, a sense that no matter how insignificant one life is to the world, and no matter how lost I might become in the overwhelming crowd of humanity, the sense that my life does have meaning. It means no less or more than anyone else’s, and in that I find comfort. The meaning we affix to our lives is the only real distinction that exists when claiming that one person is more important than the next. If you believe you are important then believe it, but do not deny the worth of another.

I have made a point that invites a wide variety of arguments, and in this I have served my purpose.