Gilead

The waters ripple, and Haskeer sees Gilead.

A gray city, made from simple stone. The towers and streets show signs of great age, and great wear. This is a place where it rains much, where the people must go to the walls to stand against an endless tide of dark. Yet in every eye, a fierce pride – a bright flame that burns against the dark. The people move about their day, and among them walk the men of the Legion. The Crusaders, the Swords of Iron – their cloaks white and blue. Their armor is brightly polished, but the paladin quickly sees the signs of steady use. Leather straps worn to fraying, dents in shields carefully beaten back to true, and burnished with care.

Pennants fly from the towers, each showing three swords bound in a circle, blue on a white field. In the streets Haskeer sees simple signs of nobility, peace and kindness. A young boy keeping his older brothers from harming a kitten, an old man doffing his cap for a passing milk maid, a portly baker giving barely stale bread to beggars in the church square. The quiet prayers at the temple of the Nameless God, the priests laying hands on their flock with the gentle touch of wise shepherds.

A king with a golden crown, white hair spilling down his collar – his family drawn close around a fine table. A plan is laid out before them, a bridge that needs building — the family laughs and argues good naturedly over the plan.

“This is Gilead.” the lady said. “The anvil where the hammer falls again and again, but the steel does not break.”

 

[Can you be sad about a place that never existed – a fictional place that you as the storyteller destroyed? I don’t know if you should be able to — but I am. I just wrote this, but I feel like an empty jug.]

DragonCon

 

Once upon a time, I had certain delusions. Delusions that I would finish my book, and have nice shiny copies to hand out to random people at DragonCon. I had this really elaborate ARG I was going to set up, and it would become a viral sensation — securing my place in publishing, and I could quit my job and eat Hot Pockets on my couch forever.

So yeah, I’m still editing, so that isn’t going to happen.

But, I will be at DragonCon! Who else is going to be there?

If you can find me, and mention Spell/Sword I will be fucking shocked — and immediately anoint you as the first Slaughter Wizards of the nascent swordpunk fandom.

Putt-Putt Potential

Two lines, drawn by mortal hand

drawn on a globe must perforce

intersect. No careful ink or

edge of steel can avoid this

casual truth, the imperfect

always converges.

 

So it was, and so it will be on

the street of elms, the street of

circumstance. Two forces,

winds of a bifurcate purpose

did meet in a way most spectacular

and strange.

 

A frog, a simple amphibian, making

its way from pond to leaf, unaware

and gullet full of river-minnow.

And a car, a humming mountain

of steel and motion.

 

In a pond, most plain

on the edge of a green field, filled o’er

with garish faces and spinning wheels,

and the quiet clink of metal against

white balls, slapping their way

down their predestined course.

 

The car jumped the curve, as the

frog jumped the leaf.

A collision most strange, even

though unremarked by most.

 

For the frog did not die, yet was spun

into the heavens by a black wheel

and came to rest on the gleaming

crimson hood of the car

goggle-eye staring into blank stare

of its pilot.

 

The frog and the man did not exchange

names, or titles or the

memories of the quiet little lives.

 

They both hopped away,  thankful

for their lives

and hopeful that their lines

would never again

intersect.

 

[Story on Demand for Jackie Jones. This is a weird one.]

Back of the Book

boy/girl

squire/mage

comedy/tragedy

hero/villain

beginning/end

murderer/guardian

madman/sage

friend/slave

true/false

hunter/prey

jonas/rime

spell/sword

witch/is which?

[Just playing around with some text – potentially for the back cover of Spell/Sword. As a young nerdling I used to spend quite a lot of time in bookstores and libraries.  I’d spend hours reading the inner jacket, and the back of every book — deciding if it was what I wanted to read next. In bookstores most of all, five bucks for a new paperback was a serious investment. Of course, I immediately became a critic. I was flabbergasted at how many ‘back cover summaries’ were totally misleading, and were clearly written without the author’s knowledge. I was still a little too young to understand about marketing, publishing, etc.

But I vowed, that when I wrote MY book, then I would make sure I didn’t have a crappy summary on the back cover. And since I’m self-publishing, I can have whatever wacky text I want.]

 

The Tiny Frog

In a tiny forest, next to a tiny pond, lived a tiny frog.

An early frost had killed the rest of his spawn-brothers, and when the lone tadpole-with-legs wriggled out of the tiny pond the other frogs were much dismayed. The Greenlord, in a fit of classical allusion, dubbed the newborn “Schadenfreude”.

The tiny almost-frog nosed forward in the mud. If its eyes could see it’s first view would have been a thunderstorm. If it’s ears could hear it’s first sound would have been the distressed wailing of the other frogs.

However, his eyes were not quite formed yet, and his ears were filled to the brim with pondscum – so, he didn’t see the storm, he didn’t hear the wailing. Schad’s only memory of his wriggle-day was a taste. Quite by accident, his nubby mouth clomped onto a fallen blackberry. It popped in his mouth and exploded with purple-sweet, a riot of spring.

And so, despite the bleakest of omens and the most dire of beginnings — Schad hopped into the world with a vague, unformed idea that the world was wonderful.

Despite all that he learned afterwards, and much effort to convince him of the contrary – the tiny frog never abandoned this precept.

When the older frogs pushed him down, and took the juiciest mosquitos for themselves — he would swim to the quiet bank by the willows, and make up silly songs about water and hedgehogs.

When the summer grew hot, and the pond nearly dried up — he took great delight in building castles from the cracked, drying bottom-mud.

When the winter ice came, he was the last to dream in the mud — dancing a jig in the bitter air, as the other frogs looked on in disapproval.

When the time of spring-love was through, and he was alone and unmated — he sang his pond-songs to the new tadpoles, and danced a solemn air across a broad oak root.

Schad danced and sang and built and dreamed – the world turned, and a plate of sorrow was his constant diet. But it never erased the first sensation of his soul, the taste of fresh blackberry.

And then the snake came.

Sliding from beyond, from the dark forest — black and gray, with eyes like white river-stones. Long as a mile, and wide as a river. It gobbled up a brace of frogs in an instant, then wound itself around the pond once, twice, thrice. The few frogs to escape had fled to the pond, and piled one on the other – croaking and groaning and smacking in terror.  The looked to the east and the west, to the north and the south — but the enormous snake filled the horizon. Then one old-frog saw something, and shouted and pointed — his yellow eyes goggling.

Schad was dancing along the snake’s back.

In pure shock, the trapped frogs fell silent. Above the hiss of the snake’s scales they could hear.

Schad was singing. A silly song about hedgehogs and water.

The snake saw the tiny dancing frog too.

The diamond-head of the snake moved towards the tiny singing frog, and then came to a stop. It was too far to hear, but it seemed as if the snake was speaking to Schad.

Schad made a handsome bow and said something in reply, green face beaming with delight.

The tiny frog hopped into the air, and landed squarely on the snake’s head. Schad cupped two green hands to his wide mouth and called across the pond.

“It seems I was left out again, just my luck I suppose.  You were all in a cluster, an easy meal — while I was alone, sleeping in the briar. As for you, I’m afraid that this is a water snake.”

Schad laughed and did a little jig, and then the snake popped it’s head and snapped Schad up – less than a bite.

“Well.” the old-frog said. “At least that asshole went first.”

[Story on Demand for Patrick.]

Headphones

The girl with the headphones pinched her nose and closed her eyes. The bus and the people roared around her, her thumb cycled the volume up and up.

She opened her eyes, and the bus was hers. The people were back behind the glass where they belonged. The girl with the headphones coiled a finger through the wire, and leaned her head back against the window. Frost and steam did battle behind her, in the gray streets.

The old steel worm chugged along, bending in the middle – armor rippling around a corner. A tall boy with corkscrew hair dangled from a white pole. His eyes were black and curious, making a naked cartography of her shape.

The girl frowned, and her thumb moved.

The boy let himself hang from the rail, his body making a triangle between the floor and the roof. He smiled at her, and refused to get behind the glass where he belonged. His shirt was a grimy green, and had a mermaid printed with blank ink.

Her stomach crawled and she turned her face toward the front of the bus.

The mermaid boy twined around another moment, then thudded to the floor when the bus screamed to a stop. The girl with the headphones gritted her teeth in satisfaction.

He hooted and grumbled, then pulled himself to the doors of the steel worm and was gone.

The glass reformed, and the girl was alone and satisfied.

A block later and she forgot the mermaid boy. She did not think of him  again.

[Story on demand for Leigh — her suggestion too me in a weird direction, as it often does — mainly because I was thinking more about my last trip to Chicago, the City of Ice. Thanks for the idea!

For those of you playing the home game, I did write another “mermaid” themed SOD, click here to be underwhelmed. Suddenly, Mermaid.]

Sitar

I play and she dances.

That is how it works. That is it.

The heat of her day, and the hat on her head, and the crease of her waist and the slight boredom in her green-green eyes.

I thump down on the strings and an eruption of trees – pines today. Green like her eyes, but I place them outside her reach with petty twangs. She spins faster, catching the rhythm. A few coins clatter. It’s hot.

I throw gold notes at her feet, but her steps erase them – Nena the Cruel, the Cat Dancing. Give her a heart, and she will return a hard-scrabble scrap rat-tat-rattling around your rib cage.

She makes the devil jealous. The sun weep.

I fill the plaza with water, my fingers on the strings. She steps onto the waves like a birthright, her hem dry.

The crowds pass, but they do not see. This marble and stone corner of the world full of spite and spiders — full of amaranth and ambrosia. At the end of the day I will slide my hand under her elbow, and she will jerk it away. My desire-sweat drips, and she kills me again with green-green daggers.

I bring a spirit of fire into the forest, I build a wall of earth — it is never enough to hold her. A snake winds around the base of my spine and I want her and want her. I scream down into my hands, and the strings do their best to answer.

My hands move. Nena dances.

I play and she dances.

That is how it works.

[Story on Demand for N.E. White]