Antietam

The old man sat polishing his armor with a faded white cloth. It was evening, late summer – the wind idled through the flaps of the tent but he gave it little notice. The cicadas were loud, but he gave them less. All of his attention went into the final corner of his breastplate, even though the dull iron would benefit little. All except a sliver of mind for the wheezing youth who lay dying in the cot near the entrance.

His armor was old, the stink of sweat and linseed oil inescapable. The leather scar-tissue that bound it all together had been replaced dozens of times, was due to be refit again. The old man made a note to seek the proper skill at the next city of note. The boy on the cot gave a snore that was half-choke and half-gasp. The old man kept polishing without hurry.

The hand holding the cloth constricted of it’s own accord and the cloth slipped free. The old man sighed. He was growing used to his hands and knees and even eyes and mind turning traitor. He leaned forward to snag the cloth from the floor and the wind idled through the tent flaps again, with more force this time as if it had remembered what it had forgotten there. It brought with it the smell of the fire from outside, the chicken and barley in the stew his men tended, and undeniable and soft at the end: the smell of pine and cold, the smell of home. He forgot the cloth but still felt the breastplate’s weight on his knees and breathed in deep.

“This is what no one will tell you, young man.”  His words were careful, pitched where only the wind and boy in the cot could hear. “You are alone. You can fill your life with noise and faith and toil and love and drink and battle, but it always goes quiet. It’s never real. Not even your memory is lantern enough. Stumbling in the wind and dark…”

The boy gave a noise that could have been a sob or just another wheeze. The old man shook his head and stretched his aching arm to pick up the cloth he had dropped. The cloth was faded white, but it was daubed pink and brown and darker crimson. At least the armor was clean.

The old man stood up with a spider’s care. He put each part of his armor in its proper place on the stand, then moved to the dying youth’s side. The old man gave his full attention at last and laid a firm hand aside the boy’s bloody face.

“At least you may rest now. You kept faith-or didn’t know the tale I needed. And still you keep breathing though you are empty and broken and choking on your own end. What honor there is in that, I give it to you gladly. Travel on, Child of the South.”

It was the work of a few moments to join his two old hands on the boy’s throat and close them tight. They did this job well, they did not betray. And then there was only the old man and his clean armor. And the idle wind bearing the memory of cold.

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Asteroid Made of No Dragon Award

 

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Did I win the Dragon Award for Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)?

No.

Did I want it?

Yes.

Did I expect to win it?

No.

Do I hate the person that won it?

No.

Do I have larger thoughts about the state of the genre, the context of this award with other awards, and awards in general?

Yes.

Are any of them important?

Uh..no?

Is this format becoming needlessly hostile?

A little…yes.

 

Why haven’t I written anything in a while?

Hey! What?!

Do I only write weird rap lyrics now?

Um.

Am I ever going to put Spell/Sword and The Riddle Box on iBooks like that nice man on Twitter keeps asking?

Shit.

Where are the audiobooks for The Riddle Box and AMOD?

Uh, see–it’s–

Why have I stopped using my FitBit?

Look, now you’re just —

No one likes you anymore.

Hey, that’s not even a question. And you – I? – changed pronouns.

Bold-face you is ashamed of regular-face you.

Well, I suppose there’s plenty of reasons to feel a little —

No one finds you funny.

Okay, that’s just a lie. I am hilarious AND a delight.

You’ve been drinking too much.

I – that – could be argued.

Where is this going?

I – don’t know?

Rap battle?

Okay, rap battle.

. . . .

Swing around the street lights

Remember why you stay up nights

howl down the wind and be sure

your ribs are zipped up tight

Calling down the hallway

Surely must be a better way

to hide in the hollow of too many years

black earth, red blood, and those things you say

scamming programming and spamming the blueshell tears

hound of the west comes to die in the south

words are the only thing you have left in your mouth

words are air and time is dust

End is the lover you can always trust

to forget and forgive and bury you clean

silk coffin so tight you can’t even dream

sing in your bones, stand in the fire

plateglass warrior lives to die at the spire.

 

Sing what you wish, this kid has moves

inevitable correctable which my clockwork symphonic proves

hoarding up my void points and waiting for turns

when the black trumpet is quiet and the midnight burns.

Hum down the wire and come meet me in the spire

I’ll help you remember which of us first confounded Fire.

Astounding, unlikely but already true

it’s only meter that matters when blank notes unspool.

uncork the bottle of already gone

lets see what’s left to cobble up this song

i serve at the mercy of the undying Gray

which means i’ll keep spitting until that witch has had her say

untouchable for now, my broken-heart vow

is the lyre the liar or did I forget a final bow?

burn up the curtain and break down the arch

no lovers can linger when Open and Shut is on the march.

. . . .

That was a pretty good rap battle.

I agree.

Who won?

I did.

Clever. I see what you did there.

I’m glad someone does. Let it never be said I won’t follow my muse to the bitter end.

But then there’s this weird part at the end that trails off. How do you land this?

Only one way:

horsedragon

Nice.