Die Writing

The Loss of Magdalene’s Star

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on October 25, 2016

Aside
Participating in another writing contest – The Great Flash Fiction War, this time. The prompt was “I can’t leave her now. She’s already gone,” with quite liberal constraints on its use.

I’m presently reading Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, and I think her writing bled over a bit into this story. It also resonated with all those Jules Verne books I read as a kid.

CRASH

 “Get to the boat!” Captain Faulk thundered over the storm. Again and again he eyed the distance to the Ethebian Gate, two colossal pillars of ancient basalt guarding the narrow entrance to the harbor beyond. He spun the wheel, commanding the cutter away, toward the open sea. Magdalene’s Star lurched, her hull pierced and bleeding.
 “Captain, you must be away with us!” His passenger, the doctor, pleaded, wiping away the frigid brine. Around them, torn rigging beat and snapped in the wind as a host of maddened vipers. One of the sailors slashed the cord securing a tarp over the lifeboat. The storm immediately ripped the canvas away, and it flew off, flailing like a nightmare hag.
 “If she drifts, she’ll overtake and spoil the boat before it reaches the Gate.” He regarded the doctor with a level gaze. “You are needed ashore. I am needed here.”
 “She is lost!” With his free hand, he motioned toward the wounded sails and the broken booms.
 “Then I’ll follow her to Hades! Mr. Creene, get the doctor to shore!” The sailor gathered up the doctor in a heap, and clearing half the deck in a single bound dumped him into the lifeboat.
 Presently, the sea began to draw itself up. The coming swell was so massive, it seemed to tilt the horizon, as if the globe itself struggled under its largesse.
 “Mr. Aldour!” The second sailor appeared, his loyal eyes upon his master. “Cut loose on my command. Once free, race like hell. If the crest overtakes you, all will be lost in vain.”
 “Aye, captain.”
 “Get on with it.”
 The sailors leapt into the lifeboat and drew their hatchets, aiming for the lashes holding it in place. The dull grey steel glinted dimly in the early dawn. The storm thrashed and howled around them. The doctor, his pleading eyes still turned toward the captain, pressed himself into the bottom of the lifeboat, his bone-white fingers grasping tight his leather valise.
 As the sea surged upward, it drained the water away from the Ethebian Gate, revealing its treacherous and craggy maw. Magdalene’s Star, faithful to the last, rushed and sliced up the glassy slope. The crest nearing, Captain Faulk laid the cutter to starboard, shielding the lifeboat from the crest, turning it toward the distant hope of the Gate’s passage.
 “Now!” The captain commanded. One, then the other, the hatchets sounded, severing the lashes and letting the boat free. The sea began to boil all around, but in its wake, Magdalene’s Star left a brief window of calm. The lifeboat slipped into the rift of relative security, and darted into the watery gorge below. Creene and Aldour leaned into the oars with fiendish strength.
 Above them, Magdalene’s Star briefly cut a silhouette against the foaming ridge, illuminated by the first rays of the breaching sun. She listed to port, water broke over her deck, and the graceful cutter slipped onto the far side of the swell. The doctor caught one last glimpse of Captain Faulk, who stood motionless, rooted to his deck, his countenance serene, and his hands resting gently on the wheel. As the green bank rose between them, the captain raised a hand to his lips, and tenderly transferred the kiss to the rudder wheel.
 The sailors rowed with back-breaking power. The oars bent and creaked as they struggled against the water. The slope rose ever more, opening the vast chasm beneath them. With their own strength and the sea pushing behind them, the miniscule boat flew toward the Ethebian Gate with astonishing speed.
 The surface of the water around them changed, from taut to ruffled to bursting. Above them, the crest bisected the darkened sky. The swell clashed with the outward cliffs of the Gate and the surge began to collapse inward toward the narrow entry. The sea, with the madly sprinting mariners at its fore, thrust itself into the close confines of the Ethebian Gate.
 Everything became a furious roar. The sea, the very air transformed into an icy, stinging, whipping mist. Deafened and blinded, the men cried out, though not to each other, but merely giving a voice to their terror and anguish.
 The boat swept to the left. An oar was caught between the hull and the rocks. Crushed, it burst into splinters. In brief flashes of visibility, the wicked black rocks would manifest themselves, arrayed against the beleaguered travelers as battle lines of pikes, only to vanish in the foamed brine an instant later.
 Then in a moment, hell receded, and the three found themselves safe in limb and body, save for the burning salt filling their lungs and eyes.
 They turned their gazes back, toward the Ethebian Gate and the riotous sea beyond. The monstrous wave had dissipated, and momentarily, the sea appeared level. Yet no sign of Magdalene’s Star could be sighted.

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Jackero and the Mule

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on February 13, 2016

Aside

Been watching the Dollar Trilogy and listening to its music on repeat.

Wa wa waaaa

The sparse plaza was circled by a few squat white-washed buildings, Jackero, and the Mule. And of those, the men were the immovable ones. Across the hundred-mile gap between them, they were locked in each other’s steady focus. Discolored by the sun, Jackero’s leaden eyes tracked on the Mule’s outline, which shimmered falsely in the heat.

A wind swept across, a desiccating crest the width of the valley. The two of them leaned imperceptibly into the gale, while the  buildings just shrunk deeper into themselves. The hands of time suspended, and the thin shifting sand whispered across the open void. The desolation stung with the smell of heat.

The tempest wind tore at them, tried to grit their eyes out, but the two mountains did not yield. Over and over, guns would ring out in the stillness of their minds. Meanwhile, the crawling, crackling sand was the only one to interrupt the peace in the zocalo.

The Ranger’s last stand

Posted in Ezra Haley by erdaron on August 27, 2012

The orcs piled into the room. The Ranger stood at the other end, blocking the door to the next passage. His longsword was drawn, with its tip pointed down, touching the rough stone floor. With his other hand he held his cape. The orcs formed a semicircle around the ranger, packed almost shoulder to shoulder in the small room. The cleric followed the orcs, standing behind them at the other end of the room.

“Stand aside, ranger. The bounty is ours. You cannot stop us.” The cleric spoke with mocking confidence.

“We’ll see. All that separates me from your throat is a few soldiers.”

The cleric laughed.

“It used to be hundreds of miles and tall castle walls. This is easier,” the Ranger replied.

The melee broke out without any warning. One of the orcs launched at the Ranger, whose blade cut him down in an instant. The wave of soldiers’ steel then thrust forward, but the room was crammed and they constantly blocked each other. The Ranger bound and leapt in the tight space, weaving a deadly arc. His cape flashed a momentary obscuration, and his blade cut and sliced against his enemies. Several more fell away, but still their number remained great against the lone vigilante.

Then for just one instant, he broke the wave of black armor that rose around him. The thrust forward with his gleaming blade, striking at the cleric, who froze in disbelief. Yet the Ranger was not quite accurate enough to find his enemy’s heart, not quite fast enough to evade all of the cleric’s bodyguards, not quite powerful enough to brush them aside. The blade did not strike true, merely wounding the sorcerer, yet the attack left the Ranger open. A warhammer landed squarely on his chest, tossing his broken body back against a wall. His convulsing hands dropped the sword. His body whizzed as he tried to suck air into his crumpled lungs.

Though the Ranger was dying, the orcs surrounded him with their weapons still drawn, and did not approach his body.

“Bring me his badge,” the cleric growled, clutching at his shoulder in an attempt to stem the flow of blood. Two soldiers knelt down and started searching the ranger. He was still alive, but could do nothing to resist. A minute later, the orcs stood up, empty-handed.

“That is impossible,” the cleric spat. He shoved the orcs aside and stood over the broken Ranger. “Where is it…” he said. He stared at the dying Ranger. Perhaps it was the odd, shifting lighting, but to the cleric it seemed that the man’s lips curled in a grin. The cleric looked up, and turned his gaze toward the door through which he came in, then back at the Ranger. “Open the door,” he ordered, motioning toward the door that the Ranger was guarding.

One of the orcs moved toward the door. It was stuck, so he used his shoulder to force it open. Beyond it was a tiny room filled with broken dusty furniture. There were no other exits. There was no one in it. The Ranger was guarding trash forgotten in this cave for centuries.

The gambit was not for the Ranger to draw the cleric into close quarters and kill him. The Ranger must have known he could not overcome the guard. The gambit was to lure the cleric deep into the underground tunnel, while the woman who was worth more than the Ranger’s life could slip away to freedom.

Silent, the cleric took a sword from one of the orcs, knelt beside the Ranger, then stabbed him in the chest several times.

The berserker’s end

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on August 17, 2012

Anger came easily. He let it wash over him like a purifying rain. The fury liberated him, turned him from a mere man into an element of nature. He was a river of death, broke loose of its banks, swallowing and demolishing everything in its surging wake. The cause of the anger disappeared under the crimson waves rolling over his mind. The madness itself became the focus, and he gladly let it blind him. His blade sang and danced with wild abandon, as only those with a free heart can. He crushed and slaughtered in ecstasy.

Every blow, whether dealt or received, filled him with a gleaming light and added to his delirious intoxication, right until the moment of his own death.

The spirit

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on May 14, 2012

He stood outside the bar on the wet street. The unique bar fragrance of booze, tobacco, and sweat was slowly draining off his clothes. Hands stuck deep in the pockets, and shoulders drawn up in the cold air, he stood and stared down the street. The cobble stones meandered between aged colonials and dim street lights, dissolving in the shadows just a few blocks away. His eyes were fixed on the fuzzy darkness.

She followed him a few minutes later. The drunk air and the buzz of the music clung to her. She carried it along. She clasped his hand, he barely reacted, and she tried to follow his gaze. It was merely an empty and crooked street.

“Are you ok?” She asked.

“I came here looking for the spirit of this city,” he said, surprising himself with the revelation. He thought that in jest before, but now it seemed completely serious. “This whole time, I knew it was here somewhere, some place in this city. But now I can see it, just a block away.”

He paused. This sounded insane, but he also knew that it wasn’t. He could not really decide whether he was speaking in metaphors or not, but it also seemed irrelevant, like this wasn’t the sort of thing that could be neatly divided into “real” and “not-real” categories.

“I want to go to it, but I know it will just move on the moment I take a step. I could keep wandering these streets all night,” he felt, knew even, that if he did chase the spirit, the night would never end. “But it would just turn into more alleys, slip through more arches and shadows until I find some terrible end of my own. And I still would be no closer to it than I am now.”

This town of ours

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on September 4, 2011

Aside

I think depression is better for my writing productivity than happiness.

Slingin’

The blinding sunrays filled the dusty street. They lit up a generally dull street. Gray houses. Gray dirt. A rare glint in the scene is a tiny speck of brass casings.

A man is sitting on a porch. Hat’s brim shifted low over the eyes that are narrow slits. His posture is casual, relaxed. There is no tension, just a the dull black steel of pistols in his lap and calloused fingers on the triggers.

Death doesn’t stalk this town. It takes up residence on Main Street.

Lord Kuerich

Posted in Ezra Haley by erdaron on July 26, 2011

Aside

Man, what if I actually put one of these categories into a full story. That’d be something.

Enter

The heavy door creaked and swung open before Lord Kuerich. His tall, gaunt stature and movements, so precise they seemed mechanical, gave him a marionette-like appearance. His manner was exact and deliberate. Commanded, the guards left and closed the door behind them.

Ezra could just barely see him in his side vision. He tried to turn his head, but the restraints and the searing pain in his neck stopped him.

Slowly, gracefully Kuerich walked into Ezra’s view. He set down his doctor’s satchel. Something sharp and metal clanked inside. Then he carefully sat down and directed his gaze at Ezra. Kuerich was stretching, savoring every moment of the long pause.

Panic was rising in Ezra. He could feel it come up from his stomach. A churning, suffocating ball of fear was filling his chest.

“My name is Kuerich. What’s yours?” He sounded polite and gentle. He gathered his hands, leaned back in the chair, and smiled.

“Ezra… Ezra Haley…” Words came with a struggle.

“Right. Pleasure to meet you, Ezra.” Kuerich continued to smile and leaned forward, studying Ezra’s eyes. His expression was focused, as if he meticulously studied an artifact rather than a living person. His long fingers vaguely traced over Ezra’s facial features in midair.

“Are you frightened by me, Ezra?” The boy said nothing, and Kuerich smiled even wider. “You are rather frightened. That fear… this panic.” He pointed at Ezra’s chest. “It is quite alright, though. You have every right to feel this way. I am a frightening creature.”

Kuerich sat on the edge of his chair, leaning even further forward, just inches from Ezra, his long fingers almost touching the boy’s face. Ezra shut his eyes, tried to sink himself into the hard back of his chair.

“My my my…” Kuerich mumbled to himself and stood up. He closed his eyes for a second, and began to slowly gesture, speaking quietly in an ancient tongue. His fingers left traces on the air, lines of thin black smoke. In a few stroke, he wove a symbol. Its lines solidified for a moment, and then the symbol dispersed.

Smoke began to pour out of the sleeves of Kuerich’s robe, pooling around Ezra’s legs, climbing up his body. The boy struggled helplessly in his binds.

“Time to rest, young Haley,” Kuerich uttered. Ezra began to lose consciousness.

Ezra Haley

Posted in Ezra Haley by erdaron on July 10, 2011

Aside

Actually, a DnD character I wrote up a long time ago. Kind of rewriting from memory.

Such dice

It is a cheery morning drenched in bright sunlight, and there is a loud knock at the front door. Both the mother and the elderly maid move to get up, but the young boy is quicker.

“I’ll get it!” his voice rings, and his feet rush across the creaky old floors.

He grabs the heavy iron handle on the door with both hands, and puts his full weight into pulling it open. Sunlight pours through the doorway, silhouetting a dark figure.

“Ezra Haley?” asks the figure grimly. As the boy’s eyes adjust to the light, he can see a heavy black cape draped over the man’s shoulders. A wide-brimmed hat covers his head, set low over the eyes. Under the cape, the boy can make out thick straps and rivets of leather armor. Within the folds, the dull glimmer of heavy brass pommels of two swords, one at each hip. Everything on this man, including the rough skin on the face, looks worn and weathered.

“Yes… yes sir…” the boy answers unsteadily.

“This is for you, then.” The man hands the boy a small box wrapped in an old, oily rag. It’s heavy in the boy’s hands, and it smells of something old and terribly familiar. He weighs it carefully, feels its texture. Then the shock clears from his mind. The smells connects to a memory. The memory connects to a person, that connects to other memories and certain unresolved facts of the boy’s short life. A sequence of events snaps into shape in his head. He looks up at the stranger.

“Is this from my father?”

“Yes. On his passing.”

Presumed passing.”

“Not presumed, lad.” With that, the stranger turns around sharply and in one easy leap mounts his horse. Before galloping off, he gives the boy one brief look over the shoulder and slightly tips his hat.

Ezra turns around. His mother, pale as a sheet, is leaning on a stair railing, hand over her mouth, eyes red and welling up with tears. The maid rushes toward the boy, offers to take the box for safe-keeping, but he yanks it away from her. “It’s dad’s,” he says sternly to no one in particular.

Contents of the package.

A small wooden box, not three inches across, with a hinged lid and a spring-loaded latch. It’s made of stained fine-grain wood and features a simple relief of a castle on the top. A dragon hugs the sky above the castle. The box is quite old, and shows its age – there are scratches and dents on its edges.

Inside, wrapped in a piece of soft leather is a steel badge in the shape of a five-cornered star. Its dull gray surface also has lots of small dents and marks on it. The front side features the same castle as the wooden box, sans the dragon. The words “Serene Castle Officer of Justice” circle the castle.

On the reverse side, a short verse is etched into the metal.

Through ice and fire
Pursue without tire
A shoulder for the weak
A voice for the meek

Blood and rust

Posted in Uncategorized by erdaron on May 30, 2011

The fog on the silver marsh parted, revealing a group of heavily armored knights. It clung to them with its wispy tendrils, hanging off the dull gray metal, catching the tattered capes. Stark moonlight drew them in sharp shadows, glistened on the dew set on the armor plates. The group glided noiselessly, moving between clumps of trees and towering waves of fog. The forest’s darkness and the dense fog billowed behind them like raven’s wings.

The men were hunched over in their saddles, exhausted by the endless ride. Their tired eye scanned the surroundings again and again, over every tree, boulder, twig and leaf, each familiar and remembered in exact detail. The black horses trotted heavily on.

“One last time, then, sire?”

“Yes. One last time, soldier.”

“Until the next time, then, sire?”

“Yes. Until the next time, soldier.”

The soldier’s voice resonated with faith and loyalty. The king’s voice had cracks in it, heavy with a painful burden.

The knights crossed the clearing and once again were swallowed by the shadows underneath the ancient trees. Their ride of the damned will never end, bound by a broken promise so many lifetimes ago.

Can’t kill me

Posted in Guns of St. Michael by erdaron on April 7, 2011

The Young Man stood, swaying. His right eye was swollen shot. The busted lips were caked with blood. Crushed bone and dirt ground on his teeth. He tried to focus on the demon in front of him. It wasn’t easy. He tried to spit, but couldn’t; he merely drooled bloody spittle on his chin.

“I was thinking…” The voice was hoarse. “During this little friendly exchange…” He grinned, baring his teeth in a painful grimace, had to pause to catch some breath. “Rage all you want, but you’re too much of a pussy to actually kill me.”