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Strength and Honor (an excerpt)

Prologue

 

 

 

The showers began around midday and lasted well into the night, threatening to scour away anything that was not firmly rooted to the ground.  The thatch huts of the small village had become damp and then increasingly sodden as the hours had gone by without a reprieve from the torrential downpour.  Many of the occupants of the shoddy huts worried whether their homes would remain standing by the dawn of the next day as they huddled near their fires for warmth and to remain in the few dry spots that were left.

Had they looked outside they might have been inclined to cock their heads in confusion at the figure that dared to walk about in this deluge.  Some might have found the kindness to offer what meager shelter they had, while others would have most likely hurried back inside, their curiosity quickly sated in the face of the storm.  A peal of thunder ripped across the sky as the figure entered the hamlet, her slight form seeming quite small when compared to the storm that raged within the heavens.

Through the muddy streets that had reached ankle depth hours ago and were nearly as slick as an ice flow, the figure’s step remained as sure as though she were walking upon dry, well-placed flagstones.  Neither the biting wind that tore at her clothing nor the numbing cold, brought on by the constant rain seemed to faze her in the least.  Her gaze never wavered for an instant as she passed among the small huts, her purpose unknown to all save herself.

There was a reason she had come to this place, a reason known only to her and a few others.  Her purpose had long ago become moot, for she was bound by only by honor and a horrifying vengeance to act as she must, and nothing short of an army would stop her.  So firm was her resolve that even such a force would be hard pressed to stand between her and the goal she now traveled toward.

Despite this she could still feel deep inside her being, past her training, past her beliefs, past even the damaged presence that was her soul, a stirring that had been growing for some time now.  This feeling gnawed at her day by day, threatening to escape the bonds she was constantly forced to place upon it.  If allowed to run free it would no doubt spread throughout her entire being like wildfire, burning all that lay before it until she was no more than an empty shell who knew nothing more than the heat of battle.

Despite the tempting desire to succumb to her own inner darkness, she had kept it idle, forcing it back time and again in favor of what she had been taught to believe.  Her training, both mental and physical, had allowed her to not only keep the wilder feelings of her heart at bay, but to begin to understand them as well.  As understanding had come so had curiosity, and eventually a mild desire to test her limits of self-control.

Such tests had come with a high price each time as she was quick to realize that in

order to understand the intensity of such feelings she was required to give up a certain portion of herself in the process.  Such occurrences had left her drained both mentally and

spiritually.  The last time she had seen fit to test the limits of her control she had nearly lost herself to the urges that had come unbidden to her heart and had been forced to end the test prematurely in order to retain her honor.  What had been stripped away however, or rather replaced, was the price of her curiosity.

The event had taken place no more than four months prior and was still rather fresh in her mind.  Her transition had been brought on by the knowledge of a betrayal so vile that the mere thought of the act ignited a spark of rage that she would not dare to show upon her face.  Yet her eyes, what some called the windows to the soul, could not and would perhaps never be able to contain such a hideous secret, as it ignited a fire that burned with a ferocity that threatened to consume all that she was, her honor not the least of these things.

With these thoughts in mind she hardly noticed the furious squall that vented its rage upon the small village, threatening to wash it away towards the cliffs that lay a few miles off.  The fat, stinging raindrops had been replaced by a storm of hailstones the size of skipping rocks.  Despite this uncomfortable fact she did not flinch as they pelted her small frame, leaving small red welts where they struck her exposed skin.

The silver scarf that was tied around her neck had ceased flapping in the harsh winds and was now plastered against her slender throat like a second skin.  It was a mild irritant, though she didn’t bother to peel it off.  The sash that was knotted around her waist, normally rather nondescript and adept at hiding things, was now revealed for the storage space it was as the outlines of several vials and small objects could be seen.

The shirt she wore was a simple garment of woven fibers and had long ago turned a dark brown, allowing her to keep a certain if not quite adequate amount of modesty.  The garment hung on her small frame not unlike a horse blanket with small openings cut for her arms and head.  The wind and rain had conspired to press the front of the shirt against her body snug enough to show off her trim build, while the back of the overly large garment was left to flap in the fierce winds like some humble banner, proclaiming her apparent lack of station.

She wore simple cloth breeches that had been quickly saturated by the downpour and were pressed tightly to her legs, showing twists and cords of muscle that would have made a fully grown stallion blanche.  Her boots were of simple make, crafted for one such as herself who was destined to wander both long roads and longer days.  Though they had no grip to their soles she walked with a sure and steady stride, never once faltering in her determined gait.

Her objective was no more than a few hundred feet away now, an elaborate stone building which seemed far out of place amongst its poorly constructed surroundings.  A feral light gleamed within the depths of her eyes, her normally docile gaze burning brightly as she gazed upon the building.  Many would have cringed or stared in fascination at the eyes this woman possessed, some would even perhaps make the signs to ward away evil.  Broken chips of ice blue were shot through with bright golden veins that seemed to alight in the darkness, making her gaze all the more unusual.  Hardened warriors had been easily unnerved by a mere glance from her eyes, finding that intensity

within her gaze was far too much to stand.

Hair the color of a raven’s feathers lay coiled against the back of her head and

upper back, the single long braid having been looped three times in the fashion she had enjoyed since girlhood.  The remainder of the braid was extended out far enough to hang in the center of the loops, dripping water down her back as it too absorbed much of the rain.  When left unbound her hair would extend all the way to her ankles, the result of growing it long since she was nine years old, the age at which her life had changed.

The huts surrounding the temple, which were still standing through the worst of the storm, began to decline in number as she neared the building that was now identifiable as a place of worship.  The temple had been built by the order she had been raised to revere since the tender age of nine, and was now one of the places she would rather not enter.  It was only a three story structure, though in town such as this it easily towered above the huts that were set a respectful distance from its walls.  Its exterior was covered from corner to corner with carvings which depicted great warriors and benevolent priests, and the common folk who had been so graciously saved by both.  Looking upon the scenes set into the stone she could barely suppress a snort of disgust at the hypocrisy she knew to be buried within each carving.  Coming closer she could make out the temple’s most prominent feature, the symbol of the order’s patron.  A fiercely burning sun sat above a long sword crafted from pure silver had been set roughly ten feet above the massive double doors for all to see.  It was sign of nobility, courage, honor and justice.  For one such as her, the gleaming polish of the symbol had long ago failed to inspire.

As she traversed the three wide steps that were carved deeply into the slight hillside that led up to the front doors she lowered her hand to her right hip.  Hanging beneath a sodden cloth shroud was an item that she knew would be most useful before the night was through, hidden from the elements and any curious eyes for the time being.  Its weight at her side had become one of the only comforts she felt these days, as though it was a constant reminder of her own resolve and indomitable sense of honor.  It would never leave her, never betray her, and would always be ready to defend her.

With her right hand she managed to shift the item from her hip to behind her left leg, where it nestled quite well.  The act was familiar after so long, both weapon and wielder so completely bonded that it at times it felt as little more than an extension of her body.  Its presence when behind her not only gave her heart a warming sensation, but also served as a firm reminder of the path she had chosen to walk.

As she arrived at the large oaken doors she noticed a pale yellow light spilling from beneath the gap between door and stoop.  It was a soft light, much like that cast by a candle, indicating that there was someone still awake within the temple halls.  Had she possessed any faith in the patron she’d once followed she might well have thanked him for such luck.  If the priests were still in the process of offering their nightly prayers her task would be all that much easier.

The doors were of simple make as opposed to their adornments.  A knocker cast from pure silver and shaped in the same holy symbol as that which hung above the doors, though the long sword that hung beneath the sun was used as the knocker.  A silver plate lay beneath the door handle, allowing whoever wished entry to knock without marring the precious wood.  Wide iron bands ran north to south on both doors, a flourish to the

temple that supposedly a penitent order, devoted only to its patron and the common folk.

Instead of first reaching up to knock upon the doors she made one more

adjustment to the item against the back of her leg, placing both hands in her armpits shortly after.  To complete the effect she hunched over slightly to indicate a deep chill.  She began to shiver, which was not terribly difficult considering her current location and allowed her jaw to loosen so that her teeth would chatter, further adding to her pathetic appearance.  Allowing her eyes to reflect how truly cold she was became the final addition so as to insure that whoever opened the door to observe her from a safe distance.

The chill she feigned had become real by the time she heard a pair of slipper-clad feet from the other side of the door.  There was the sound of a bolt being slowly drawn back, and then the creak of the door as it was eventually pulled open wide enough for a small, mouse-looking man to poke his head through.

His appearance was that of a person who’d just been roused from a deep slumber, the drowsiness still apparent in his eyes and the remaining wisps of his hair floating about his head like a halo.  His face was deeply lined with age yet his eyes held none of the years that had so ravaged his face, remaining bright and energetic.

He was only a few inches shorter than she, making him just a hair over five feet tall, which made it necessary for him to peer up at her.  Thankfully the light from the candle inside was not enough to penetrate the shadows that clung to her person, leaving her eyes in deep pools of darkness.  Had he seen the broken appearance of her eyes she might well have been denied and even set upon by whatever guard might be stationed here.  Priests were nothing if not cautious.

“Na na my child!  But what are ye doin’ out in this cursed gale?  Not right, not right I say fer a young lass such as yerself t’be sufferin’ so, na na!”  The man pushed the door wider to admit her, grinning as he did so.

“But come in, come in my child!  Come in and warm yer bones by th’ hearth.  Ah me, I should need t’ light it first eh?  Come, come child have seat by the hearth and I shall go and fetch some kindling so we can get the chill out of yer bones eh?  Yar, ye set here a spell and I shall go and fetch ye some fresh clothes and a blanket, and then p’rhaps  something t’ warm yer bones eh?”

She did not speak once as the old man prattled on, leading her to a large fireplace that sat ten feet to the left from the front doors.  It was a large fireplace indeed, spanning a good ten feet across and six high, large enough to fit at least four or five grown men comfortably.  He guided her gently towards a large, velvet lined cushion that had been set near the hearth, instructing her to sit there and wait for him to return.  She did as he bade without comment, sitting carefully upon the cushion so that she wouldn’t disturb the item that lay behind her leg.  If the old man noticed he said nothing, going on his way to obtain the items of which he’d spoken.

As soon as he left she let her gaze roam about the rest of the temple, taking in each and every detail.  The depictions carved upon the outer walls were tame when compared to the epic battles and scenes of worship that were so vividly displayed inside.  Upon the eastern most wall, behind the pulpit, were two such visions that had been commissioned by the church.  On the left side an eternal war raged between a serpentine

creature of colossal proportions and the three founding knights of the order, each of them depicted in all their glory, their blades made of silver set into the stone and their patron deity set on high, watching over and seemingly guarding his followers.  To the right the

scene displayed a single priest sitting amongst a circle of worshipers that ran too many heads deep to easily count, the stonemason’s rendering so lifelike that he’d caught each individual within the stone as though he’d known each person intimately.  A silver sun was portrayed above the priest’s head, the representation of their patron as the priest’s voice was augmented to reach the masses.

What truly drew her attention to this wall however was not either scene, but rather the engraving that lay above each of them, set between the two so as to encompass each.  A wooden pulpit stood between the main floor upon which sat double rows of pews, each having been painstakingly carved from stone.  The words carved into the eastern wall were an inscription that could be found at each and every temple within the many lands they’d built upon, every single syllable having been burned into her mind years ago.

Aryaeion us Solyndae, Jiswaet sa Svrevet: Honor Above All, Justice Be Served.  These were the founding words that had spawned the order and had been a part of her being since the age of fourteen, when she had taken the vows of knighthood.  Thunder rolled across the sky outside as she closed her eyes, willing herself to remain still despite the lack of heat.

The words still sent a slight shudder down her spine as they reminded her not only of the duty, but of the reason she had seen fit to betray in kind those who still adhered to the code.  Once, when she had faithfully served those who raised her, she had known pride, a sense of purpose, and had looked to her superiors as a child looks to a parent.  Now looking upon the visages of those who had laid the foundation for the order she likened them instead to snakes who posed as men, heartless and ultimately uncaring.  Their promises were akin to treachery laced with golden honey, sweet at first and souring quickly as the price of their kindness was swiftly revealed.

Looking from the wall she shifted her gaze to the source of light within the chamber, a large wax candle that was nearly as wide around as her body.  Set upon an ornate iron stand it was placed relatively close to the hearth, its light easily reaching the front doors.  She could see that its three wicks were set equidistant from each other and had burned down enough that only the flames were visible, melting the wax so that it ran down the iron stand.

Her musings were interrupted as she heard the rush of slippers coming swiftly down a staircase that lay behind and to the left of the altar.  She could easily guess that the steps led up to the living quarters and other rooms of the temple, which if this temple was like others would house two dozen or more priests, half as many initiates, and half again that many warriors.  No temple was ever left undefended, be it a single soldier or more.

While the warrior sect was a mixture of men and women from around the continent, all priests were strictly male.  No woman in history had ever managed to attain the title of priest in the order and most likely never would.  Men of different ethnicities were allowed only if sponsored by an existing priest in good standing, but women were

only allowed to become servants, aides, or knights, never to preach to the masses.  Thinking back upon her life she would not have had it any other way.  She saw the pulpit

as a place for those who liked to talk and for those who craved politics and men, at least in her estimation, were a perfect mix of both.

She locked her thoughts away as the old man approached her, arms laden with clean clothes and a large woolen blanket.  He had changed from a cotton nightshirt into a simple brown robe and tucked several tinder twigs and what looked like a well-used flint into the rough length of rope that secured his garment.  His head was barely visible above the linen and clothing as he was forced to crane his neck to see where he was going.  How he managed to find his way down the stairs without falling was amazing, but then most likely he had not resided anywhere but the temple for some time, and most likely knew every step from one corner to the next.

“Na na my young lass here we are now.  The robes and breeches might be a wee big, but if’n that be th’ case then I have here a length o’ rope that’ll remedy that fer right sure!  If ye’ll just go ahead and relieve me o’ these things then I shall attempt t’get a fire burning in yon chasm.”

Doing once again as he asked she carefully took the clothing and the blanket from his grasp, allowing him to walk over to the fireplace with tinder and flint in hand.  He then knelt slowly by the edge of the hearth where he began the attempt to start a blaze.

She looked very carefully at the clothing he’d brought.  The breeches and robe were indeed a few sizes too large, leading her to believe this place housed far more men and women, if it had any of the latter at all.  If so then they were very large and robust maidens indeed.  The rope he’d brought would encircle her waist at least twice before being tied off and upon closer inspection the blanket smelled of dust long since settled and ground into the fabric.  She cast the whole lot to the floor, gently, without even bothering to look at the shirt and instead fixed her stare upon the elder man’s back.

He was nearly sweating with exertion from trying to strike an adequate spark, the flint almost dropping from his fingers several times as she watched.  Finally however, perhaps thanks to some benevolent force, a small spark struck the tinder and began to smoke.  Giving a content and very much out of breath sigh he rose to his feet, brushing dust and soot from his knees before tucking the flint in between his rope belt and his body once more.  Upon turning to face her he frowned slightly after noticing the pile of clothing at her feet.

“My child, they canna be that big now can they?”  The old man cocked his eyebrows in apparent disbelief, clearly not understanding her desire to remain in her sopping wet clothes.

“No, they are fine.”  As she replied her voice was barely above a whisper, making the old man lean in so that he heard her correctly.

“Then change dear child, afore ye catch yer death.  I’ll turn me back whilst ye do, no need t’ fret about me none.”

“Do you have tea?”  Her cultured accent was still light as she inflected a hint of weakness into it, keeping the act of the pathetic wandering waif quite easily.

“Tea?  Oh aye lass we have plenty o’ tea, we also have warm cider and ah, if it serves ye, we’ve still a bit o’ the old vintage left in yon cellar if ye ken.  It’d do the body a bit o’ good so it would.”  He kept his voice low and added an almost comical note of conspiracy to it that she found utterly ridiculous.

“Tea please.”  She placed just a hint of iron in her voice, alerting the old man to

the fact that she was not amused.  Obviously hearing the slight change in her tone the old man opted to scuttle off once more, his footsteps padding lightly lest he wake one of his

brethren.  She lowered her eyes to her hands as he left to find the refreshment, taking note of the calluses and scars that had accumulated throughout the years.  Her fingers were both dexterous and strong, never having been meant to live the life of a noble or even a farmer.  Life had ever deigned to offer her the hardest of trials, the most arduous of tasks.  The years of her life while not evidenced by any other part of her body could be mapped out in the deeply tanned and worn lines that crossed her hands from palms to fingertips.

“Ah here we are, a soothing eckleberry tea fer you m’young lass and ah, if’n ye don’t mind none, a wee dram fer me’self, just a wee bit t’ warm me old bones if ye ken.”  She eyed the wooden mug that he cradled in one hand, the strong smell of spirits wafting from it depths.

She nodded, a grin that did not reach her eyes spreading across her delicate lips so as to allow him to think that she did not mind his indulgence at all.  The revelation had donned upon her before he’d returned that this man was a servant, not a priest, but a peasant who’d been made caretaker of the temple.  His rough speech had been the first giveaway and the late night libation had only confirmed her suspicion.  Nonetheless her revulsion was almost too great to hide as she quickly took the warmed cup from his other hand, savoring the sweet fragrance the steam brought to her chilled nostrils.

Inhaling deeply of the tea’s spiced scent she allowed herself to relish the enticing tartness of the berries that had been mulled to produce the beverage.  Obviously he’d thought her worthy of the trouble it took to prepare such a luxury, which was all the better for her purpose.  Luxuries usually meant a lack of appropriate respect for the unknown that could and did occur from time to time, such as now.

“So do ye have a name t’ ye lass or shall I simply call ye young maid and have done with it?”  A slight grin spread across his weathered lips as he asked this, only a few shades shy of a leer.

She said nothing at first, simply stirring her tea with one finger, feeling the warmth spread from the one digit downward into her hand and then further into her arm.  She could feel the heat reviving muscles that had been chilled by the trek she’d made to this place, the feeling of pins and needles easily repressed.  After taking a polite sip she swiveled her eyes, which were now lit by the warm flames that had been kindled, towards the servant, curling her upper lip into the ghost of a smile.

Upon seeing her strange gaze the servant sat back a little as though unnerved, not quite sure if he had seen what he thought he’d seen.  For if it were the drink, well then come the morrow he was laying the cup aside in favor something that didn’t cause one to see things.  If not the drink however then perhaps it was time to tell the young lass that if she had regained at least a small measure of warmth then it was best that she be on her way.  Maybe though, just maybe, he’d been mistaken.

“And what would you do with my name good sir?”  Her tone became stronger as

she spoke, though still little more than a strained whisper.  The servant appeared to have nothing with which to respond at first, pondering this strange young woman who had shown up of nowhere on the back of such a horrendous storm.  After a few moments however he shrugged to himself, thinking that maybe she was simply a lost child, trying

her best to seem mysterious by keeping others at bay.  It was a rather common attitude among young people these days.  He saw no harm in indulging her just a little.

“Why young lass, I simply ask the honor o’ whom I am sharing a cup with this night ‘tis all.  There be nothin’ sinister within these walls, for ye walk under the roof of a god whose very name is sacred among the many lands.  Yes lass, nothin’ ill shall befall ye here, for all within this place would rather flog themselves afore they’d allow an innocent t’ come t’ any harm.”  The old man waved his mug about emphatically as he spoke, keeping his words soft enough so that he would not wake those who slumbered upstairs.

She grinned again as she took another sip of her tea, taking her eyes from the servant to gaze yet again into the fire.  The flames licked at the remains of the tinder that had been nearly consumed and were in danger of extinguishing.  Apparently seeing this, the old man stood despite the creaks and protests of his body, clucking his tongue at the smoldering fire.

“Ah but that isn’t any good at’all now.  Here now girl, let me fetch us some more wood that we might continue our conversation eh?  Don’t go movin’ now, I’ll be back.”

With that he quickly toddled off once more to find some more tinder, or perhaps a log or two in the rear of the temple.  Once again looking to her hands she remembered each lesson that had been taught to her throughout her life, the training, the schooling and the wisdom of ages that she had been deemed worthy of receiving.  Closing her eyes she reached behind her left leg, procuring the item she had hidden there.  Carefully unwrapping it from the sopping rags she brought it to rest in her lap.  Once revealed in the rapidly fading firelight it proved to be a weapon unique in design as well as construction.  The core of the weapon was the body of a longsword, its leather wrapped hilt and silver pommel standard among the knighthood.  The cross guard was of silver as well, painstakingly carved along both faces with the same words that were carved into the eastern wall.  The blade and the four individual flanges that were placed into both edges and both flats of the blade were the unique portions of her weapon, carrying the blessing of several high priests within the order.

The special properties carried upon the blade and the crescent flanges were such that not a single one of their edges would ever chip, break, or dull.  No matter how much she used the blade, and she had used it extensively in her life as of late, it would never once need the touch of a whetstone.  All four flanges were crescent moons in design, placed halfway along the three foot blade and made of pure silver.  The points of the moons were faced outward, enabling her to catch any opponent who let their guard down in a vicious hooking motion that would tear through flesh to bone like a hot knife through a haunch of meat.  Running one hand lovely over the blade she remembered the face of the one who had presented it to her, the pride he’d shown in her abilities and the tasks they had laid before her once she had come of age.

She made no attempt to hide the weapon again as she heard the old man returning,

his arms undoubtedly full of kindling as his shuffling, unsure gait revealed.  He blundered by her toward the fireplace, oblivious to the instrument that now lay upon her lap as he proceeded forward to stoke the flames.

“Here we are now.  This should last us well onto an hour at the least.  Then we’ll

perhaps be ready to turn in eh?”  The old man shoved one fistful of kindling into the fire, pursing his feeble old lips as he tried to make the flame catch.  When she still made no

reply he frowned slightly as though she were an impertinent child.

“Come come lass, ‘tis rude to not introduce oneself after having received sanctuary as ye have.  My own name is Ceouvus, and I am the caretaker here at this temple.  Now that I’ve introduced myself, what is your name?”  He arched his snow-white eyebrows at her to emphasize the question, looking at her over his shoulder, somehow still missing the weapon in her lap.

“I apologize for my rudeness.”  She laid one hand upon the hilt of her blade as she swiveled her eyes back to the servant, the appearance of a pathetic waif slowly melting into the stony visage of the warrior she was.

“My name, if it would please you to know, is Sanu’te’.”

At the mere utterance of that name Ceouvus recoiled as though she had suddenly transformed into some venomous reptile, ill-tempered and poised to strike.  She made no move towards him, simply sitting where she was with one hand upon the grip of her sword, her eyes never leaving the old man’s.

“You have heard of me then.” Her voice was still maddeningly soft in the quiet of the temple, further unnerving the old man as he slowly backed away.

“You, you are the sacker of temples, the heretic, the one who was once one of the greatest among us and then turned on the order like a mongrel dog.”   At the end of his sentence her gaze intensified tenfold.  Rising quickly from her seated position she allowed her head to turn in the direction of her eyes, her rapt attention now toward the old man.  The smaller man paled visibly as she shuffled a few meager steps backward, as though thinking he could possibly escape this witch who when done with him would no doubt seek the higher levels.  If she were allowed to do this he knew in his heart that she would slaughter anyone and everyone in her path.  Thinking it was better to die a hero than a coward Ceouvus opened his mouth wide and inhaled deeply to let forth as tremendous a shout as he could.  It was at that moment that Sanu’te’ struck.

Expecting to be gutted from groin to sternum with the strange blade she now brandished he did his best to shift his hips backward, wind-milling his arms so as to keep his balance.  Unfortunately luck was not with him as he found to remain upright he was forced to bow his head forward, exposing his throat even further as he recognized his mistake.  Realization hit home as he felt the sharpened point of a flange pierce not only the soft underside of his chin, but his tongue as well.  So hard was the traitorous knight’s stroke that the upper half of the flange with which she had struck was instantly pinned to the roof of his mouth.  He squeezed his eyes shut against the pain he felt his tongue flop madly about in his mouth like a fish upon a gaff, blood running freely down his throat and chin as he struggled madly to escape.

As quickly as she’d struck Sanu’te’ withdrew her blade, taking care to drag the

sharpened edge of the flange across his throat, neatly severing his vocal chords along with the tendons, arteries and muscles that lay beneath his aged flesh.  Gasping anew Ceouvus fell to his knees, watching in terror as his own lifeblood began to pool around him.  Desperately, he attempted to stem the flow of blood within the hem of his robe, succeeding only in soiling the rough garment.

Sauntering by the wounded servant Sanu’te’ let her gaze roam once again to the staircase behind the altar where she knew the priests and warriors of the temple slept.

She flicked her blade lightly, shaking droplets of the old man’s blood upon the floor near him as her eyes found his.

“You shall meet your false god soon, as shall the rest of your order.”  She still kept her voice to a whisper, her words sharp and condemning in the stillness of the temple.

Ceouvus never saw the blade descend, never felt as it parted his flesh once more.  The last thing the old servant would ever see were those eyes, feral and filled with a hatred that promised he would not be the last of his order to die this night.

*                      *                      *

 

The storm had not abated in the short time it had taken for the unknown traveler to enter the temple, but nonetheless sounds could be heard above the squall, sounds that brought to mind to the mind scenes of mayhem and carnage so vile that the mind quailed to think of them.  Folk who heard these sounds dared not venture from their sodden huts no matter how overwhelming their curiosity.  Not so much as a single head poked out of an opening in the huts of the small village as over the rain and through the hail the horror- filled sounds of pain could be heard to pierce the night.  The screams coming from the temple were undoubtedly human, yet as they rose together they formed a cacophony so great that it seemed as though a multitude of injured and dying animals were being systematically slaughtered.  When at last the first rays of sunlight peeked through the darkened clouds the screams within the temple had gone silent.  One last mournful cry dogged the heels of the single figure that made her way out of the village, a lament to whatever horrors that had been committed within the temple.  The tears that stained her cheeks had begun to dry as she’d left the temple, making her way back into the wilds.  The silence that fell upon her departure was, at least in the minds of the villagers, a decided blessing.

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A Night at The Dead Rabbit

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A Night at The Dead Rabbit

 

    “Honey?”

    “Hmm?”

    “Honey?”

    This time there was no response, save for the sudden eruption of a grating, grinding snore as he opened his mouth wide, his head tilting back as she could see up his nose and smell his breath.  Instantly the last glass of punch she’d downed was there in the back of her throat, attempting to abandon ship as she moved away just in time. Clapping one hand over her mouth she collapsed next to her husband on the padded sofa in the private room, doing her absolute best to not vomit all over the sofa, the plush carpet beneath her feet, or the dress that had cost her way, way too much for a singe date night.

    It took some doing, but she kept it down, gasping as she took her hand away from her mouth, looking around desperately for a way out, or something that she could use to her advantage.  It was no use though, there was nothing in sight that she might use as a weapon and anything she might have thought about throwing was either bolted to the floor or too heavy for her to lift.  They were going to die and her husband, God love him, was too drunk to even notice.

    A loud snort, followed by an eye-watering explosion of gas that wafted up cheerily from the cushions, caused her to retch again as she was forced to stand up.

    “Well I’m glad you’re so concerned,” she muttered, still looking around the room. Wringing her hands she couldn’t help but smile at her husband as she tried to look back and envision just how things had gone so horribly wrong tonight.  Only a few hours ago they’d been on a lovely date, laughing and enjoying themselves and all but forgetting the rut they’d sunk into over the years.  It seemed almost too tragic to believe that they were about to end it here, in a pub named after a dead mammal and run by a bunch of thugs.  Of course they hadn’t know that coming in, they’d just wanted a night out on the town, a chance to be free and wild without their three children. 

    Her husband shifted in his seat, the cushions shaking again as he farted loudly once more.  Shaking her head she held her nose as she attempted to find another way out of this mess.

                                                         *                        *                       *

 

Earlier that day….

 

    “Mom! I can’t find my socks!”

    “They’re in your drawer,” she called out from downstairs, “Where I put them!”

    “Why did you put them there?” called her eldest child, Miranda, sounding put out that her mother would actually do something right.  Instead of replying out loud again she muttered, “Because I’m a mom, and how dare I do anything that makes sense.”

    Hair disheveled, wearing clothes that hung on her like rags, Mackenzie Morris was the stereotypical house mom, or at least appeared to be.  In truth she was continually busy each day, from the moment she and her husband, James, woke their three wonderful, caring children-

    “Mom where did you put my books?!”

    “Mom I need my shirt ironed!”

     -to the moment they came home, when she began to imagine strangling them one by one.  She loved her family dearly, but living with three teenagers and a husband that was at times more like a stranger passing in the night had begun to wear on her only two years ago.  She hadn’t said anything for so long that it felt like she too was beginning to fade into the background. Her own business, a freelance writing site that she’d begun just three years prior, had taken off and become a lucrative idea that she no longer had to run on her own, which was one of the few upsides to her life. It was run primarily by those she had hired, placed in charge, and instructed not to screw up her business. They were people she could trust and easily monitor as she did each day.

      Her family, on the other hand, was not so easily handled.

     “Your books are on the living room table where you left them Jarred, and you know how the iron works Jamie.”

     “But mom,” came the answering reply, which was eerily close to sounding like a chorus of the damned as she closed her eyes, standing near the staircase of their two-story home and raising her voice just enough to be heard by all.

     “So help me children if I have to repeat all that verbatim I will be forced to go Full Goonie on all of you! Do you want the Full Goonie??”

     For several seconds, blessed silence reigned. Then the front door opened, and her husband, short, dark, and pleasingly handsome, walked in with a gentle smile as he stepped close, going hip to hip with her as she smiled in return, giving him a small kiss as he gently swayed back and forth, their rhythm calming her just enough that she felt harmony for that brief moment.

    “Full Goonie?” he asked, to which she nodded.  “Must have been a good day then, the kids aren’t hanging from the ceiling yet.”

    She closed her eyes. “Yet” she mouthed silently. “Full Goonie” was a term that they had developed when the kids were still little.  What it meant was kind of goofy, but as it had developed over the years it had come to mean that mom and dad were about to blow their stack and take drastic, over the top measures to insure that their home didn’t become the madhouse it usually threatened to be.  Only once in the past few years had she been forced to go Full Goonie, and that had been highly satisfying, but a lot of work.  She had in effect taken a page out of the 1985 film, “The Goonies” for which their family threat was named, and concocted a brilliant scheme to wake the kids up without having to be in the room to shout at them over and over.

     It had been complicated, but effective. Now whenever  the term “Full Goonie” was uttered, the kids fell into step without question.  Unfortunately, that had been the high point of their lives for quite a while, as she and James hadn’t been away from their kids for more than a single night in three years.  They attended social functions, birthday parties, and even family functions, but it wasn’t the same. She hadn’t gotten him alone and to herself for so long she was beginning to forget what dating was even like. 

     “Hey honey can I see you in the kitchen?” James called out, causing her to frown in confusion. Normally when he came home from work he would grab a beer, head for the couch, and only move again if she needed something or when dinner was ready. Intrigued, she made her way into the kitchen, but almost stopped when Miranda called down.

     “Hey dad?”

     “Full Goonie!” James thundered from the kitchen, startling Mackenzie even as she smiled. Miranda, predictably, did not call out again.  As she walked into the kitchen she discovered that her heartbeat was elevating just a bit, though she couldn’t figure out why.  James was there, beer in hand, but in the other hand…

      He was holding out a glass of wine. This was so mundane and so out of the blue that she couldn’t help but gape at him as he offered her the glass. He was smiling at her as he raised his eyebrows up and down in a suggestive manner.  It was still early evening, neither of them was drunk, and he was making a move?  Mackenzie quickly took the glass and clinked it against his bottle, raising her own eyebrows as she moved closer to him.

      “What’s the occasion handsome? You know I can’t resist alcohol and eyebrows.”

      He grinned at her as he took a swig of his beer, “We, my dear, are going on a date.”

      She didn’t know how to respond at first, it had been so long, but as he wrapped one arm around her Mackenzie didn’t fight it, grinning warmly as she put her free arm around him. 

     “Mmm, how nice.  Where is my husband and what have you done with him?”

    James grinned wide, “Well, for tonight Missus Morris, your husband is away, and Mr. McManus wants to play.”

     She stopped, only an inch from kissing him as she frowned, still smiling, “Come again?”

     James’s grin widened as he pulled back just enough to view her fully as he said, “I got this great idea from Josh at work-“

     “Josh, the I’m-a-pervert-and-proud-of-it Josh?” she asked sarcastically.

     “Yeah him,” James said, going on despite the look she gave him. “He gave me the idea that we could spice up our marriage a bit by playing out these different roles,” he was still grinning, “We meet as strangers in a bar somewhere and just start talking and see where it goes.”

     “Spice up our marriage?” she asked incredulously, “Are you serious? You took advice from a guy who thinks monogamy is a type of wood?”

     James looked just a bit crestfallen, though she wasn’t buying into it. A tiny spark of something, an idea, or maybe hope that she could go along with this, was pulsing in the back of her mind, but she couldn’t commit quite yet.  It was almost offensive to think that James would feel the need to be someone else with her.  But then, they hadn’t been the same people for a number of years now. So why not?

     James was trying not to look dejected as he continued, “I just wanted a night out, a night where we don’t have to be ourselves.  I wanted to do something, a little different.”

    “What’s wrong with being ourselves?” she asked, though she was quickly trying to see the upside of this. It might even be a little fun.  But making him work for it was fun too.

    “I dunno,” he said, now looking fully dejected, “I just thought, you know, it might be fun to play a role. Just to see how it goes and all.”

   She sighed, shaking her head as she looked away. On one hand her husband was being spontaneous, something she loved and did not get nearly enough of, but on the other, it almost seemed insulting that they couldn’t just love each other the way they were.  But if she was going to be honest, who they really were had been kind of dulled down around the edges ever since the kids had been born.  James had tried, but over the years their sex life had kind of, fizzled, for lack of a better word. So really, what could be the harm?

                                                         *               *                *

 

    They were out the door only a few hours later, the children being given explicit instructions on how to behave, where the food was at, and that they were not to call unless someone was near death or otherwise in mortal danger.  The threat of “Full Goonie” had been firmly laid down, and the kids knew better than to challenge this. 

    The trip into the city took only a short ride from their home, and before they knew it they were there.  Despite being a pub, The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog Shop was quite an attractive site from outside, and once inside Mackenzie could definitely see the allure of the place. It was old-fashioned and hearkened back to simpler days when New York had been much different, but the atmosphere of the place was quite lively.  It would appear that this place was a favorite hangout of Wall Street brokers as the place was teeming with them. 

    James disappeared as they had planned, making his way to the upper room that he’d discovered online, presumably to wait for “Ms. O’Toole” who was supposed to be joining him shortly.  Dressed now in a slinky evening gown that accentuated her figure, earned after years of constant jogging and fitness routines, Mackenzie was getting appraising stares from many of the younger men in the crowd, which she didn’t mind to be honest. She and James had prided  themselves on staying in shape throughout the years, and it obviously agreed with them.

     More than one younger man attempted to buy her a drink, but she politely declined as she made her way upstairs, feeling positively sexy now that so many men were paying attention to her.  Mackenzie felt a flush rise to her cheeks as she wondered just how far James was willing to play this, discovering that she felt almost sure that she might be up for anything, or at least, whatever her husband was comfortable with. As she neared the bar she could see James, no, Mr. McManus, appear as though he was waiting on someone. Time to make her big entrance then.

    “Mr. McManus?” she purred, going so far as to allow her fingers to drift seductively along the back of his hand.  The man of her dreams turned with a gentle grin upon his grizzled features, one eyebrow rising slightly as he replied, “Yes. And you are?”

     “Bethany O’Toole,” she said softly, her eyes alight with excitement. So invested in her role was she that Mackenzie did not take note of the bartender’s slight frown, nor his silent signal to someone in the near distance. “Care to buy a lady a drink?”

    “Barkeep,” he said without looking, “a Scotch for the lady, neat.” He held up two fingers, still grinning as he continued to face her.

    “Oh my,” she managed to blush, “How did you know?”

    “I have a way with people,” he said in a seductive tone, “Women especially.”

    She managed a girlish giggle as she turned away demurely for a second. Oh yes, this was so much fun! But then she gasped as she looked at his ring finger, deciding to up the ante just a bit to see what he would do.

     “Oh, it’s too bad,” she said, pouting slightly, “I didn’t know you were married.  Perhaps I should wander along now…”

     “Nonsense,” he said, picking up immediately as he winked.  She had him, and it was good. “What my wife doesn’t know won’t hurt us.” 

    She made a shocked O with her lips, though her eyes still sparkled. Any other woman might have belted him across the mouth just then, but deep down she was thrilled.  His wink had already alleviated any concerns over whether or not he was playing the role, and at that moment she felt an electric jolt of excitement that demanded they continue.

     “Mr. McManus,” she crooned, “You are a naughty, naughty boy!”  She moved closer, licking her lips as she could see that he was getting good and excited.  It was just then that the bartender cleared his throat to gain their attention, a development that caused them both to turn towards him, faces still pressed in close. 

     “Did I forget to tip?” Mr. McManus asked, looking absolutely perturbed.

    “No sir, not at all,” the bartender smiled warmly, “I just thought that you and your companion might be better served to visit one of our private rooms, with our compliments to you Mr. McManus.”

    James’s mood changed swiftly to one of gratitude, though Mackenzie felt just a mild stab of uncertainty.  Before she could voice a concern however the bartender spoke again.

    “Don’t worry over your drinks. We’ll have them brought right up, along with a complimentary treat reserved for esteemed guests.”

    “Well,” James, Mr. McManus said with a smile, “I thank you my good man. I believe a tip is in order.”

   “Not necessary sir,” the bartender smiled, “It’s a pleasure to serve men such as you Mr. McManus.”

    Perhaps it was just part of being a parent, but alarm bells were ringing in her head as Mackenzie followed her husband without another word as they were led from the bar by a tall, dour-looking younger man.  She wanted to say something, but she didn’t want to ruin the evening either.  So, following behind, she hoped and prayed that her misgivings were completely off kilter at that moment.

                                                         *                      *                        *

 

    There were moments she really hated being right.  They’d been shown to a private room as the bartender had said, which was quite lavish in design and comforts.  The large, sectional sofa that dominated the wall to the left of the door was very nice, and the open bar across the room was stocked full of vintage alcohols that their guide had informed them were there for their pleasure.  

     When their drinks had arrived, they had also been given a medium-sized punch bowl of some colorful, fruity concoction that Mr. McManus had thoroughly enjoyed. In fact he had enjoyed it so much he had promptly passed out after his second glass.  Finally dropping the Ms. O’Toole persona, Mackenzie had attempted to make herself feel better by curling up beside James, who had been fast asleep, sacked out on the couch much as he might have done at home.  A faint smile had creased her lips as she lay against her husband, feeling his warmth and reminding herself that no matter what, the roles they played and the reality they shared were what she wanted the most. 

    Of course, much as it happened in the movies, such tender moments spent in a strange place with one of the characters already experiencing feelings of unease were meant to be shattered.  Just as she had been about to fall asleep on her gently snoring husband, the door had crashed open and no less than six hardened, very dangerous-looking thugs had filed into the room, one of them, obviously the leader, staring down at them with obvious disdain.

    “This is McManus?” he asked the others, one of whom happened to be the bartender, “This weak puke? And who is she?”

    “Some broad he was meeting,” said the bartender, glaring openly at her, and the dozing McManus. 

    It was absurd, but Mackenzie was suddenly rooting around in her small purse, opening the clasp and searching for her wallet. “I knew we should have tipped you,” she said quietly.

   “Keep your money whore,” the lead man said, forcing a shocked O to form on Mackenzie’s lips again as she frowned in displeasure.

    “I am not a-!”

    “Just shut it!” the lead man said, looking as though he might soon smack her.

    “You shut yer…zzz…filthy…zz..pie-lickin’…”  James jerked slightly where he lay, but did not wake as snorted and then went back to snoring.

     “He’s three sheets to the wind,” the leader said in disgust, turning on the bartender, “I told you to keep him subdued, not plowed!”

     “It’s not my fault!” the bartender cried, “Normally people only take one glass of punch. Most people think it’s too sweet and don’t bother with more! How was I going to know they’d drain the whole thing?”

     “Rugger’s not gonna be pleased,” the leader said, “He wanted McManus awake and alive to see what he was gonna do.”

     Mackenzie seemed to have been forgotten, but as she spoke up she did her best to keep her voice from quavering.

     “Sir, I don’t know who you think we are, but I-“

     “Oh shut it,” he said with a growl, “We know too well who this lump of nothing is,” he pointed at James, “He’s the bookie that cost our boss a whole ten grand on last month’s race, and the boss wants to make an example of him.”

     Her mouth formed a shocked O again, but this time it was terror that stained her gaze, not anger.

     “Nothing to do for it,” the leader said, shrugging with disgust, “We’re going to have to wait until he comes to.” With that he motioned for the others to leave, following after with a snort of disgust at Mackenzie and James before slamming and locking the door behind him. 

       And with that, they had come to this present moment, stuck in a room with armed thugs who would eventually return with their boss in tow. 

       James snorted, coming awake suddenly as he tried to sit up and groaned from the headache he was no doubt suffering at that second. 

      “Ooooh.  I’m sorry honey, that last one really put me out.”

      “James we’ve got to get out of here,” she said hurriedly, “We need to leave, now.”

      “Well Ms. O’Toole,” he began with a sordid chuckle.

      She pursed her lips, “Honey I appreciate the gesture and everything, but Ms. O’Toole has gone off to soil herself for the moment and Mrs. Morris is desperately in need of her husband.”

       He frowned, not understanding, but as she told him what had just transpired only minutes before his eyes went wide, and his jaw dropped as the implications quickly set in.  His eyes scanned the room, doing the same she had done when she had been debating what to use as a weapon.  The bar was the obvious answer, as the bottles could be used as ranged and up close weapons if pressed, but she was certain that the thugs had guns, and so would their boss.  Still, it was better than nothing.

       “Get behind the bar,” he said quickly, joining her as he grabbed two heavy-looking bottles. She did the same, looking at him then as he looked back at her.

       “Honey, whatever happens, I love you,” she said, her voice strong even as tears threatened to spill down her cheeks.

       “I love you too,” he said, “And I’m sorry I got us into this.”

      She smiled, shaking her head as she said, “Oh Mr. McManus. You certainly know how to show a girl a good time.”

       Just at that moment they could hear the lock being disengaged on the door, and as it opened a single figure entered, followed by the six same thugs that had been there earlier.  The newcomer though was about as imposing as a teddy bear, his height seeming to be the only part about him that might seem capable of making him a threat. Otherwise he had a great big belly, a walrus-like moustache, and eyes that sparkled with mirth as he looked around the room.  He saw James and Mackenzie instantly, and frowned as he spoke.

     “You idjits,” he fumed, “That isn’t McManus.”  The leader of the group quailed a bit as he backed away. The older man, Ruggers presumably, looked back to Mackenzie and James. “Folks, if you’d please lower the bottles I believe we might be able to sort this out.”

      “We just want to leave, peacefully,” James said quickly, still tensed to throw if it came down to it. 

      Ruggers held up both hands, “And I’d like to let you, preferably with that 30-year old bottle of Balvenie unharmed. It’s rather expensive you know.”

       James, who hadn’t known, placed the bottle gently on the bar with wide eyes and as much care as he might have shown while setting down a bottle of nitroglycerin. He mouthed the word “wow” as he let go of the bottle. 

       “Yes wow, on many accounts,” Ruggers said as he aimed a cross look at his small group, who were now filing out of the room in response to his glare. As he turned back around however he offered the couple a disarming smile as he crossed the room.  “Now, if I might implore you to grab us three glasses miss? I believe we can sort this out over a nice bit of that drink.”

                                                         *                    *                   *

 

       As it turned out being McManus wasn’t the wisest idea, but Ruggers had let them off with a friendly warning, and a promise that if they came into his pub again that they would be treated like royalty, with one request.  They could never, ever, ever, repeat anything they’d seen, which was very little, to anyone.  So far as anyone knew, The Dead Rabbit was and had always been a legitimate place of business, and would remain so.  It was an agreement that James and Mackenzie had made quite readily.

       “So,” Mackenzie asked as they walked along the waterfront, having decided to take a nice, relaxing stroll, “Do you think it’s a good idea to befriend a mobster?”

       “It’s better than telling him no,” James said, inhaling heavily through his nose as he continued to pay attention to his steps. They were walking by a large park that was draped heavily in shadows, the playground equipment swaying gently in the mild breezes that came off the water.  

       “He made us an offer we couldn’t refuse,” she said, using her best impression of Marlon Brando, which was truly horrible. It made James laugh though, and that was worth it. 

       “It’s too bad they came crashing in though,” she said ruefully, “I was almost there.”

      “Would you have really?” he asked, knowing full well that she knew what he was talking about.

      “Oh honey, you act like I never have!”

      “So that’s how the kids were conceived…” he said, earning a laugh and a playful punch on his arm.  He looked around as they kept walking, “You know, no one’s around now, and I’m wide awake…”

      She stopped, frowning as she clucked her tongue at him, “Honey, we’re in public.”

      “So?” he said, “There’s no one around, and ah, I do owe you a pleasant end to a messed up evening.”

      Instead of continuing to argue against it she did a quick sweep of the area with her eyes. There was indeed no one in their immediate vicinity, and to be honest, there was a nice big play structure with plenty of room for two….

      “I suggest then, Mr. Morris, that you stretch first, because it might be a tight fit…” she said suggestively, starting to walk off towards the structure, swaying just enough to be enticing.  James grinned as he watched her go, undoing the buttons of his shirt as he began walking towards her.  After a few more steps she broke into a run, at which point it became a race to see who could make it to the structure first.  Giggling all the way, Mackenzie found that she couldn’t have asked for a better end to

 

Star Wars Opinion

Star Wars: What is Canon?

 

There have been a great number of arguments over what is official canon in the always popular Star Wars franchise ever since the prequels were released into theaters.  Those dedicated fans who have been faithful to the franchise since its inception have stuck by the original films, citing them as the true history of the franchise. Many would agree that George Lucas’s vision should in fact be kept as the basis behind the Star Wars universe, no matter how expansive it might be.

However, there are those who have transcended the movie by reading the books, the comics, and the graphic novels, absorbing what many upon many authors and artists have added to the story. The prequels did a fairly reasonable job of explaining a number of questions that were presented in the original trilogy, but the schism thrust between fans who are loyal to the original trilogy and those who were awaiting a new spin on the Star Wars universe was made noticeable after “The Phantom Menace”.

From that point on the rift between fans only grew wider as the prequels continually changed the universe and answered more questions than had originally been asked.  As the Star Wars universe continued to expand, the ideals and expectations of Lucas’ creation began to shift.  The books that were written after the initial trilogy, masterfully written and detailing a story for the original characters that was compelling and even pleasing to the readers, became moot.  Even a galaxy-wide invasion by a marauding alien species that could not be stopped by the vaunted and revived Jedi Order was scrapped when Lucas sold his creation to Disney. From that point on, the canon of Star Wars shifted for good.

While it can be said that the direction the franchise has taken is in fact quite interesting and engaging, it is also a very hard slap in the face to the literary fans of the story.  Just imagine if Disney had picked up a series of books that came after the original trilogy, just to see what readers had become enamored of, they might have had a far easier time moving forward. Just imagine if the story in the books had been unveiled, such facts as these would have garnered far more films than have already been conceived.  Here are just a few bits of information from the books:

 

1) Han and Lei married and had three children. Jaina, Jacen, and Anakin Solo all became powerful Jedi, and eventually would reshape the Order.

2) Luke Skywalker married an assassin, Mara Jade, formerly the Hand of the Emperor. They had a son named Ben Skywalker.

3) Chewbacca died saving Anakin Solo’s life. He was crushed, along with the planet he was on, by a falling moon.

4) The entire Yuuzhan Vong invasion could have spanned another trilogy if not more, as these fierce, warrior-aliens were more than adept at destroying planets. They could even fight the Jedi to a standstill.

5) The Jedi Order is renewed under Jedi Grandmaster Luke Skywalker, and includes many talented Jedi of all species.

The Darkness

You Make the Darkness

By Tom Foster

 

 

Woke up, fed up, so sick of this scene                       Woke up fed up can’t do this anymore

Wandering two steps forward, fallin’ back three       Just waiting for the end

Finding there’s no time to sit between.                      No longer need to settle the score

-The darkness rises-                                                     -The darkness is here-

Livin’ day to day with the sickness deep inside         You’ve fallen prey to rage

Goin’ crazy wanting to know                                     You’ll never be the same

Is there somewhere safe that I can hide                     I’ve locked you in my cage

 Before you slip and I just blow.                                The darkness knows your name.

 

You let the dark roll out of me                                   You made the dark come out of me

You make it boil inside                                               It swallowed up my mind

You break the bonds and set it free                            Now you will have to see

Your ignorance I won’t abide.                                    And then be left behind.

 

Through the days I walk

And the nights I crawl

Going out of my mind as the thoughts I stalk

Just to withstand it all.

-My darkness is straining-

The hatred seeks its mark

You stand in the path alone

It will see you in the dark

Go on admit you’re gone.

 

You make the dark rise out of me

You make it strain and pull

It’s out for all to see

It’s filling up my skull.

 

-Let it go-

Don’t wanna feel no more

-Give it back-

And even up the score.

Writers Are Crazy

   Writers are a step above many individuals when it comes to being disturbed, mentally unstable, and even the dreaded “C” word, crazy.  On the outside many writers seem quite normal, even friendly and outgoing. It is on the inside that many upon many writers, particularly freelancers and fiction writers, are absolutely unhinged. While there are many reasons why, there are several listed here that can better explain the disturbing inner workings of a writer’s mind.

1) We destroy whatever we create.  Admittedly every writer pulls their main characters from the ether just to send them back to whatever oblivion they came from.  The purpose of creating a character is rarely ever to keep them alive and around indefinitely. Readers would eventually get bored and ask when the next big thing is expected to come along.  In order to save our creations we must eventually destroy them.

2) We are essentially insane.  No matter if a writer is a “nice person” on the outside and even boisterous and friendly at most times, on the inside our minds are typically as chaotic as the stories that make it to the page.  The controlled madness that is given to the readers to peruse and judge is only the dried out portion of what awaits within the tortured hallways of our minds, while the juicy stuff continues to replenish itself.

3) We have to write. It’s not a mild yearning, nor even a wistful longing. It is a COMPULSION. If you have ever spent hour upon hour staring at a lit screen with small type attempting to discover the ins and outs of your own insanity you have likely come to realize that writing is no longer just a hobby. It is a burning need that pulls at the heart strings and cramps the guts until the idea that is almost physically stuck in your body is finally allowed its freedom. There is no halfway point between not wanting to write and having to at this point, you must write or descend into your own madness.

4) Caffeine and alcohol become your best buddies.  It’s true, so true.  If you don’t prefer the hard stuff then you will likely turn to the go-juice that has sustained so many college students and writers alike throughout the years.  The lifeblood of a strung-out, manic writer is the same nectar that millions cannot start their morning without. 

5) There is little if any easy, REAL money in writing.  Forget what you see in the advertisements about stay at home moms making thousands of dollars a week, and especially forget the idea that you might be that one in a million writer who gets a lucky break and becomes an overnight millionaire. It takes roughly twenty years to become an overnight success, and even then nothing is assured. You will work for pennies on the dollar and find new ways to live on what seems only enough to purchase a kids meal at the local drive-thru.  Why will you do it?  Because you have crossed the threshold and no longer recognize the term “sanity”.

      There are a great many reasons why writers are perhaps some of the most insanely unbalanced individuals walking the world today, but these are just a few.  Remember though, if you happen to know a writer, just assume that the inside of their head is a dark and twisted place you would pay to avoid. It’s better that way.

Being Human

It’s a bit of statement, right? Being human, it can mean so many different things, from being kind to one person and being a complete and utter prick because necessity demands it.  Being human is being as complex and simple as could possibly be at any given moment. It’s loving your neighbor and wanting to stab them in the back should the situation call for it.  Being human is different and adaptable for each individual.

We’re made up of the same things, we operate the same on the most basic levels, but once you get past that, once you reach the surface and start looking around, we are very different. There are cultures, races, ethnicities, habits, politics, religions, and any other number of differences that we use to separate one another. We seem to excel at listing our differences and keeping apart from one another in our little cliques and groups that celebrate our differences without taking into account how alike we really are.

But there’s a silver lining, like there always is. Human beings aren’t wholly evil, and we’re not wholly good.  As was said above, we’re complex in our simplicity.  We love, we hate, we stand to the side and we go on personal crusades in an attempt to make lives better.  So then what does it all mean?

We’re imperfect beings in an imperfect world, that’s what it means.

Why become a writer?

You might do it for the money, hell a lot of people will when they hear they MIGHT be able to make more in an hour than some people make in a day.  Anyone would jump on that, right?  As someone who’s been writing freelance for almost three years I can tell you now, if you want to make top dollar just walking in, walk away.

Just like any other job, if you work at it, if you pay your dues, and you put in the time, it is entirely possible to make a good living writing. But if you want to get paid just by walking in, then don’t bother. The rare individual will find the dream job when they walk into it, but the majority will need to find a way to make it work. If you’re educated, experienced, and know what the hell you’re doing then you’re likely to find a decent job writing.  But if you want it just because it sounds easy, stay away.

Those of us who have done this job know that writing doesn’t just come to you most times. You need to have a background that allows you to pull information out of thin air at times. There is a definite benefit to being the type that daydreams, that picks up information like change on the street, and can fire it back at a moment’s notice.

So why in the world would anyone want to become a writer?  Maybe you should ask one of us.  You might be surprised at what you hear.

My reason, my purpose.

Some people go through life searching for their purpose, their reason for being here on this earth. A lucky number find it, while others settle and accept that life had something better in mind for them than what they thought they wanted.  Sometimes though it doesn’t matter what we want or what we decide to settle with, that reason, that purpose, remains.  I had no idea when I was younger that writing would call to me the way it has in the past several years, or that I would have enough ideas to fill so many books and hundreds of articles, blogs, and academic papers.  It came so easy after a while that I finally had to sit back and realize, “This is my purpose for being”.

I am a writer, and I say it proudly.  Where others do, I chronicle the story of those actions. Where others speak, sing out, and give voice to life, I seek to make it last for the generations yet to come.  Writing isn’t an antiquated practice, it’s an art that is very much alive and still just as capable of bridging the gap between one generation and the next.  We are the ones who will tell the story of the past, of what could be, might be, and will be.  Writers are the ones who will ultimately tell of the world when what has come before is truly gone.  Throughout history there have always been chronicles laid down in one form or another, and as writers we continue that proud and noble tradition.

So why am I here?  I’m here to write, plain and simple.

The Ode

Ode to the Writer

By Tom Foster

 

We are the lords and ladies of creation, yet we are still just players.
In the beginning we are as in the end.
We do not aspire, we simply do.
There is the dream, tempered by the reality, and given form by the thought.
By our thought, by our dreams, and by the reality we impose.
It’s a madness of the sort that only poets and writers can truly understand, and even among those only a few can comprehend.
Comprehension, that is a truly frightening thing.
We play with words, we are those that can immortalize, and those that can do what must be said and say what must be done.
It is confusion, this comprehension, and in the midst of it all, it is the single word that carries power, the one among all that is ever elusive, ever there, always waiting for us to return to, to remind us what it is that drives us, what keeps the fountain flowing.
Every last soul that has ever put ink to paper, ever put finger to key, every vague idea that swirls inward from the maelstrom we call the world, the universe, and everything in between and without.
For everything that could come, for everything that has and will come, we are there. We are the ones that do not deny the voice that tells us, “this must come to pass”, or “this must be remembered”.
It is who we are, what we do, and through everything, it is the lifeblood of those who cherish this timeless art form, this undeniable urge to say, in their own manner, “I AM”.
We are not gods, we create, and yet in the process, we are created. It is our words, penned and copied throughout the ages that have helped to shape the world, to say that, “WE ARE”, that “WE EXIST”.
Whether tyrant or savior, good or evil, saint or sinner, the words that are put to time’s test are those that will come to define the world we know. Memory is not enough, though it serves.
As do we.
We are the lords of creation, the ones whose words will last and echo into the ages, for all to see, and all to remember.
Is it truth?
The better question is: Does it matter?
We are the lords and ladies of creation, and by our words, the world we know is shaped, molded, and given to the next generation, and so on and so forth until the whole mess ends, only to be rebuilt, and to crumble again.
We are the lords and ladies of Creation, and this is our legacy.

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