Monthly Archives: September 2017

At The Noise of Battle

Sirat watched as Thennor haggled with the butcher.  “Sixteen fanad for four kilos of meat?”  The butcher nodded.

“What, will dewy-eyed maidens cook it for us?”  Thennor held their moneybeads.

“No, but I will, for a fanad more.”  An Emth merchant with heavy shoulders and back, the butcher wore a leather apron and a kilt. Meat lay on the merchant-wagon’s table in double gobbets. Above the table hung two gareep carcasses, plucked and gutted.

“Elephant-pig, you say?”

That’s too pale to be elephant-pig.  Or was it?  It was too big to be rabbit or woolbeast, and primates weren’t eaten, of course….

Sirat probably looked less than her thirty winters, her arms muscled from weapons practice, her light tunic and jerkin cool in the firstday.  Since Pendleton’s World has a day 140 hours long, folks worked, then slept, and spoke of firstday and secondday, firstnight and secondnight. It was twenty hours to the noon eclipse.  She wore linen breeches and moccasins of woolbeast-hide. Her crossbow was inside with the men, but she wore the saber beside her that was called Whiteflame. Around her neck on a chain was a little monocular, a magic seeing-thing that the wizard had given her.

“Aye, it’s elephant-pig, hauled here in the dawn.  Make you a good stew, she will. Better than when she was alive!”

Thennor’s eyes widened. “Alive?”

“Alive, the beast can’t cook at all!”  The butcher laughed. Sirat did not. She noted the scars on the man’s hands and arms and wondered if he had been a soldier before he took up cutting meat.  “Now, do you want four kilos, or five?”

Continue reading

The Armor of Ned’Var

Steel sang as Ned’Var’s sword met his opponents. This young fighter’s first strike was the most basic of attacks, a vertical cut perpendicular to the ground. Ned’Var simply smiled and raised his sword above his head to block it.

He may not be a worthy addition, but I can wait no longer, Ned’Var thought as the rogue pushed back. He took a deep breath and relaxed his posture, awaiting his opponent’s next move.

By the young warrior’s drab brown and red colored clothing, grime-covered cheeks, and dulled blade, Ned’Var knew the boy to be a peasant without proper combat training, but with no markings of any sort, he could not tell the village he once hailed from. He had spotted the youth filling his flask by the river’s edge just outside of his camp. Ned’Var watched him carefully, keeping to the shadows of the forest and looking for any companions. Fortune smiled upon him for the boy was alone.

“What’s your name, boy?” he asked, daring not to deliver a fatal wound until learning it.

“My name is of no concern to you. And don’t call me, boy!”

The young warrior’s next move came, a thrust to the center of Ned’Var’s torso, with the boy lunging forward. Before the blade could spill his intestines, Ned’Var retaliated with a tight, downward swing. The sword blocked the attack and slid the boy’s blade past him. Ned’Var angled in and caught him square on the chin with a left hook. The two combatants stumbled to the right, both caught off balance by the blow.

They stumbled and caught themselves before falling over. With their footing recovered, they stood perpendicular to each other with their swords pointed upward.

“Why do you persist?” asked the boy. “I have no qualms with you.”

“Nor I with you. You simply happened upon the wrong man’s path.” Ned’Var swung his sword downward once more, aiming for his opponent’s right leg. “You should have kept to the road.”

The young warrior swung his sword to counter. He parried the sword away from his body, but Ned’Var quickly arced his blade back, cutting him across the abdomen. The finely sharpened steel sliced through the grunge covered linen and underlying flesh with ease. The skin folded outward as tubular intestines rose forth and spilled to the ground. The boy dropped to his knees, driving the tip of his sword into the rich soil on his way down.

Ned’Var shook his head. “Terrible shame.”

“Bastard,” the boy said, blood pooling in his mouth and spilling from his lips.

“Tell me your name.”

“Christoph,” he whispered, “from Woodkade. Now you know you’ve killed the wrong man.” His grip on his sword faltered and he fell face-first to the ground.

“Where you’re from is of no importance, but your name…that is power. Don’t worry, my boy, soon you’ll be an unstoppable warrior,” Ned’Var said.

He waited for a sign of movement, the tip of his sword hovering above the boy’s shoulder, but none came. He had to act quickly.

Continue reading

95 South

Avery drove down the highway, his arm out the window and bouncing at the mercy of a seventy-five mile an hour wind. He’d survived the onslaught of twelve-hour days and long work-weekends that gathered until April 15th, when they disappeared as darkness does before the dawn. After the deadline, his office turned into a ghost town. Many of the CPAs took vacation, and Avery was no different. Halfway between Richmond and the North Carolina border, all he could think about was the next few days of drinking, eating, and relaxing at his friend Rick’s house. The dashboard clock ticked closer to midnight, and a classic Nineties rock tune strained the speakers.

He ripped his gaze from the hypnotic flash of the white stripes in the center of the road when a single light appeared, as if from a faraway distance, and quickly grew brighter. At first he thought it might be a plane, then a helicopter as it moved closer. And then the light fell from its perch and dropped down into the trees a few miles ahead. The sound of his tires hitting the rumble strips, matching the rushing of his heart, caused him to veer back on the road. Wide-eyed, he looked all around, expecting another car to smash into him, but he was alone.

He turned off the radio and flicked his eyes at the clock again. He decelerated but the ‘happy vacation’ cold six-pack and wine bottle on the passenger seat caught his attention. He hit the gas. Half a mile passed, Avery fidgeting the whole way. He looked at the clock again. “Ah, screw it,” he said.

Avery pulled over at his best guess of where the aircraft fell. He turned his hazards on and pulled out his cell as a truck barreled past. He put the phone down. How come no one else has stopped? he thought to himself. Someone had to have seen it.

He stepped out of his Benz and walked toward the edge of the grass. The full moon lit up a good portion of the periphery of the forest, enough to see thick, hanging branches flush with leaves, but any deeper and all he could see was darkness. No light from a potential fire. Then it dawned on him that he hadn’t heard a sound, either. He imagined the embarrassment of calling nine-one-one and having a cop come out and find nothing. “Been drinking, sir?” Damn it. I must be certain first. I know I saw something.

He returned to his car and pulled out a multi-tool specialty knife and a flashlight from his glove compartment. He had gotten great use out of the knife, one of the best birthday presents he had ever been given. He turned around and aimed for the trees, his car beeping twice as he locked it.

Branches, leaves, and twigs whipped at his lower legs. The crunch beneath his feet reminded him briefly of playing in numerous childhood tree houses. He looked back at his flashing hazards every ten seconds to keep a sense of direction, until the forest swallowed them up. He made a concerted effort not to veer off track, and took mental notes of specific root shapes to use as markers for his return. Just as fear began to spark terrible thoughts of getting lost, a light appeared ahead of him.

There we go! I knew I saw something, he thought.

Continue reading