Saturday, July 30, 2011

Dominions of Glory: 6

It's going to start coming slower, folks. My buffer is drying out as I'm posting faster than I'm writing. But here's the next little bit.

Dominions of Glory: 6

Dilirian didn’t change out of his armor until just before dinner, which meant Baelin wouldn’t have time to head over to his farm and replicate it before coming back tonight. And he would have to come back tonight. Forden simply wouldn’t allow him to be out there alone while he was still recovering. Still, Dilirian let Baelin give the armor a look over, his chest puffed out, an annoying grin glued to his face.

Baelin examined the scales that made up the armor. They were thin and roughly triangular. He checked to see how they were attached, since he’d likely have to do that part by hand. These had several small holes for string to be looped through, which were then attached to a leather jerkin beneath.

There didn’t seem to be much else to their construction. Even with Magic, making a scale shirt and pants would be extremely time consuming.

Satisfied with looking the armor over, he gave it back to Dilirian. “It’s not bad,” he said. “Wait until you see mine.”

Dilirian’s smug smile faltered, but he quickly put it back in place. “We’ll see,” he said.

Baelin hoped he could make it properly. He knew he could make the scales better than what Dilirian had, but attaching them to the shirt would be tougher.

“We’re going up into the mountains tomorrow,” Dilirian said, carefully laying his scale out. “It’s a shame you can’t come. I bet you’d like to get revenge on a few of those little devils.”

“I had my revenge,” Baelin said. “I killed the ones that attacked me.”

“You know what I mean,” Dilirian said. “Finish off their family! Wipe them out of the mountains so people can feel safe again. I wish you could join us.”

“Me too,” Baelin said, though in truth, he didn’t. He certainly wanted the devils gone. He didn’t want to spend all winter worrying they might show up while he was cutting fire wood. But at the same time, he didn’t want to fight them. He wanted to take care of his farm and finish stocking up for winter. If winter came anything like last year, he’d be snowed in as often as not.

“Kelly’s here,” Forden called from the front of his small house.

Dilirian rolled his eyes. “She’s all yours, Baelin. Try not to get the pox. I’m not sure this one’s clean.”

Baelin reached over and punched Dilirian as hard as he could in the arm without even thinking about it.

“Ouch! Hey!” he cried, rubbing his arm furiously with his left hand.
“You should listen to Forden,” Baelin said firmly. His legs both burned from the sudden shift in weight.

He walked out of the back room and found Kelly sitting patiently in Forden’s smooth, oak rocking chair. As he entered, her face lit up in a smile, and he was pretty sure his did as well. They spent the next two hours awkwardly fumbling through a conversation, both sharing in an abundance of blushing cheeks and general embarrassment. When Kelly finally left, Baelin never knew how happy he could be to see her go, if nothing else because he didn’t think he could handle making a fool of himself any longer.

“That went well,” Forden said dryly as he entered the room. “You two seem the perfect pair, you have as much to say to one another as two rocks from different rivers.”
Baelin frowned as he tried to figure out what Forden was implying.
“A joke, lad. It was a joke. And not a good one, apparently.”

“I don’t like it when you pick fun at me.”

“You can like it or not as you will,” Forden said. “A man needs to grow some tough skin if he’s to make it in this world. You’re better off learning to laugh at yourself or shrugging it off.”

“Just because your old skin has turned to stiff leather doesn’t mean I want mine to,” Baelin said. “I like that my skin doesn’t look like it’s sat in the sun too long.”

Forden stared at Baelin in silence and then burst into laughter. “I do believe you caught my meaning. Next time though, try giving some verbal hints that you’re not out to actually wound my poor old heart. I may have dried out leather for protection, but what’s underneath is as fragile as glass. Now, go to bed. You still need rest, and I imagine you’ll want to be up to see everyone off on the hunt.”
“You’re not going?” Baelin asked.

“I’m too old to be traipsing about the mountains, and far too old to be seeking out trouble in the form of devils. This old sack of bones is just happy when the piss drips out like it should.”

“I didn’t need to know that,” Baelin said.

“Deal with it,” Forden said, and he blew out the lantern in the room and left Baelin to the darkness.

In the darkness, Magic spoke to him most clearly. Or rather, Baelin’s mind tended to be freer so he was more apt to hear Magic’s never ending drone. Right now it was begging to be used to make the armor Baelin had been thinking of, to sharpen the edge of his sword, to turn Dilirian’s sword to pudding, just to see the look on his face. To kill the devils.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Dominions of Glory: 5

If you haven't read the previous sections, please go back an do so. I suggest starting with part 1 revisited...

Dominions of Glory: 5

Baelin was feeling well enough the next morning to get up and anxious enough that he needed to find something to do. He meandered outside, his leg and ankle not as sensitive as he’d been expecting. Dilirian was already in the open field beside Delvary’s inn, training about ten people how to use the tools they’d brought.

“Baelin!” he shouted and then sprinted over. “Up and at um’ already, I see. How’re the legs?”

“Surprisingly good,” Baelin said, subtly testing both by shifting his weight. “I’ll be back to normal soon enough.”

“Taken a look at the ear yet?” Dilirian asked.

Somehow, Baelin had forgotten about the ear. “I haven’t. How’s it look?” He gently unwound the bandage that was wrapped around his head. The last bit took a bit of extra care because it was stuck on with dried blood.

Dilirian grabbed Baelin’s head and shifted it back and forth as he examined the ear. “Huh… stitching took well,” he said. “The thing was mangled before, or looked it anyway; must have been all the blood. Shouldn’t be too bad of a scar. Plus, your hair will hide most of that. I’d say you got away lucky.”

“I’ll have to see about getting a helmet,” Baelin said. “Though I don’t know where I will…” He didn’t need to buy one, but he did need something to model one after when he made it with Magic. With Magic, it was all about the details. He still wasn’t certain how he would make the armor. He’d need to get a good look at Dilirian’s sometime soon.

“You know,” Baelin said. “I have some old family armor. It looks a lot like yours. Maybe sometime I can take a closer look for a comparison.”

“You’re not trying to steal it from me are you?” Dilirian said, dead serious. Then he broke into a smile. “I’m just joking. You really got a suit? I never would have guessed it from you! I bought me some common, er, work clothes from Miss Taylor. I can’t be wearing armor all the time. You can give it a looking over when I’ve changed later. See what true craftsmanship looks like.” His tone saying he obviously thought Baelin’s suit would be a rusted old piece of junk.

A necklace hung outside Dilirian’s armor, a small clear gem grasped in an eagle’s talon on the end of a silver chain. “What’s that,” Baelin asked, pointing to the necklace.

Dilirian looked down. “Oh,” he said. “Thought I took this off. It was a gift from my mother. I promised I’d wear it always. She’s sentimental. That’s a real diamond,” he added. “I bet you’ve never seen one of those before.”

“Diamond?” Baelin had heard of them before, but he’d never actually seen one and knew nothing about them except that they were valuable.

“Seriously?” Dilirian gave an exasperated sigh. “You really don’t know about much, do you?”

Baelin shrugged.

Dilirian pulled the necklace off and held the chain forward so the diamond dangled right in front of Baelin’s face. “Diamonds,” he said with great emphasis, “are the most valuable gem in the world.”

“Looks like a crystal,” Baelin said, failing to see the value.

“A bit,” Dilirian said. “But mine’s perfectly clear. Plus, they’re unbreakable and can’t be scratched.”

Baelin gave Dilirian a frank look.

“No, really. Look.” Dilirian grabbed a stone and tried scratching the diamond with it a dozen times before holding it up for Baelin to examine. Like he said, the stone looked good as ever, minus a bit of rock dust on it.

“They really are strong,” Baelin marveled. He quickly got an idea, grabbed the stone as if giving it a better look, and called upon Magic in his mind. Duplicate this, he said, and then indicated a pebble on the ground to use. The pebble instantly changed shape and became clear. Happy with the result, Baelin let Dilirian’s necklace go and shuffled a foot over the one he’d just created.

Dilirian tucked the necklace inside his armor and nodded. “So, did you want to come train today?”

Baelin shook his head. “I need to take care of a few things back at my farm. Plus, I don’t think my body is quite up to that yet.”

“Of course.” Dilirian offered a slight bow of his head and then headed back to the field where his trainees were awaiting him.

Baelin smiled to himself and bent down to pick up his diamond. Most people would think he’d made himself one to get rich. But he had something else in mind entirely. He pocketed his precious gem and decided to go find a mirror and take a look at his ear.
His ear was fine, Baelin decided after having washed away the caked on blood. A few thin lines were stitched together, and half of it had to be sewn almost completely back on, but the stitches seemed to be taking well and it looked to be healing nicely.
“That’s not as bad as Dilirian made it sound,” Kelly said from behind him.
Baelin spun, regretting it as he did so. Fire lanced up from both his stab wound and his ankle. He grabbed the wall to keep from falling.

“Oh, sorry,” Kelly said. “I didn’t mean to…”

“It’s not your fault,” Baelin said through gritted teeth as he waited for the pain to subside. “Who let you in?”

“Nobody,” she said, giving a coy smile. “I just thought I’d come see if you needed anything.”

“I’m okay,” Baelin said, not sure what Kelly could possibly do for him aside from cook him lunch. “I still can’t do too much, so I mostly just lay around, waiting for the wounds to heal.”

“Sounds awfully boring,” Kelly said.

“It’s not so bad,” Baelin said. “I’m used to being alone on my farm. I don’t have anything to do now, but I’m used to living inside my head.”

Kelly giggled. “You’re funny.” Baelin couldn’t see why. “Well, maybe I can come keep you company later on if my mom says I’m done with my chores.”

The thought of needing permission to do something sounded intolerable to Baelin. He vaguely recalled those days, but he’d been as free as was humanly possible since his mother had died. More free in some senses, since Magic gave him certain allowances to which other people didn’t have access. “That would be fine,” Baelin said, not knowing what else to say.

Kelly beamed and traipsed out of the room, then turned back to say goodbye and rush off again.

Baelin found himself beaming as well. He’d hoped to catch Kelly’s attention for some time, and now she was coming around asking what she could do for him. What more could a boy ask for?

The throbbing of his leg answered his question. Oh yeah, being fully healed and healthy would’ve been nice, too.

Dominions of Glory: 1 Revisited

Okay, my inner editor wouldn't let me leave the beginning alone until I at least attempted a restructure and edit of the opening section. I realize it still needs work, but, hopefully, I fixed some of the bigger issues that were making it weak. So here it is.

Dominions of Glory: 1 (Revisited)

Baelin sat in the broken room of a crumbling stone cottage, his back against the wall, his knees drawn into his chest while his head hung and tears fell. He knew he shouldn’t cry, his mother had told him so many times not to cry, but he couldn’t help it. In the entire world, nobody knew or cared that he existed, and though the first thaw had come, he knew he wouldn’t survive. His mother hadn’t.

The sky had been crystal and blue, with a high, beaming sun on the morning that Baelin’s mother died. He was seven. She left behind little of value; she’d sold off what she could to buy them food, in hopes they’d last the winter. She’d almost made it until the first thaw before succumbing to starvation and cold, leaving Baelin alone with no prospects and no hopes.

He forced the tears to stop and looked up. Upon the wall in the back room--and there were only two rooms, each equally small--mounted on a termite-eaten piece of black wood, hung a rusted, leaf-shaped blade; a relic of ages past, his mother had told him. The blade caught his eye, and for an instant he imagined it immaculate, gleaming and honed to a razor’s edge. In that instant he could actually believe the blade was something special, as if he were to wield it everything would be different.

His mother’s voice came back to his mind. He could clearly see the gentle twist of her lips as she explained the blade was from the time of Magic and a gift from Baelin’s father before he’d been called away to important duties. He thought of her and smiled a bitter-sweet smile. Her words about the sword played over again in his mind, and he wondered why.

As he continued to stare at the sword another image of his mother came to mind, assuring him repeatedly that he was born of special blood, and that if his father could’ve, he would have stayed. His father had left the sword behind for him, for when he was in need.

But as much as Baelin wanted to believe his mother and the stories she’d told, he knew they were lies. He couldn’t escape the whispers he’d heard when they’d gone into town. People spoke quietly, but only enough as to appear as if they’re trying to be polite as they named his mother a whore, slut, and many other things he did not understand. She had no friends in town. He had no friends, not out on their isolated farm, miles from the road.

So when Baelin’s mother died, he knew nobody was coming to help him. His father was years gone, a story his mother had told him, not even a memory.

And then, as in so many times before, his eyes and thoughts were drawn to the sword. He felt that if he would perhaps just wield it… but no, that was a foolish thought. The sword was a worn-out relic, as useless as the stories of Magic that accompanied it. But still he found he was drawn to the leaf-shaped blade. He considered the impossibility of what he imagined, not just with how the sword might change, but how the whole world around him could change, for once, for the better; how he’d no longer have the gnawing, burning hunger eating away at his insides.

He wanted desperately to believe his problems could be fixed by simply taking up the blade, but he couldn’t convince himself. But then, as quickly as that, he realized he had nothing to lose. So what if he took the blade down and nothing changed? What had he lost?

Baelin stopped day-dreaming and rose to his feet. He walked across the pathetic room towards the sword. The floor boards beneath his feet were rotten to dirt as often as not.

With nothing to lose, he gave up what he knew and put his hope in the sword on the wall. He tentatively stretched out a hand, but the blade was out of reach. Still, he thought he felt something open up inside of him. He searched the room for something to stand on, but there was nothing; his mother had sold the chairs and table, and the few little items they’d had left had been used for firewood.

Despite having only a tattered shirt and pants to cover him, he risked the cold of the morning and went outside to find a stone which he might step upon. The frost of the dirt bit at his feet and his soles burned at the icy touch. Most of the stones he found were stuck in the ground and he could hardly dent the frozen soil. Long after his feet had turned numb he found a large enough stone that was loose and he hauled it inside the broken cottage, into the back room where the beaten old sword rested.
Lacking the strength or energy to lower the stone gently, he dropped it to the floor where it cracked a floorboard. But Baelin didn’t care. He eyed the sword above him hungrily, desperate for the promises he hoped it held.

Carefully placing one frozen foot upon the stone he’d found, he pushed himself up, stretching to his limits. His middle finger just grazed the sword and he felt a tingle of warmth tickling its way through his body, freeing his feet from their numbed pain.
His desire for the sword was feverish now, beyond logical explanation, and he knew as much. Like a starving dog gnawing the last bit of meat off a rotten bone, Baelin stretched up again, this time, with his feeling in his foot, his fingers just reached the blade, enough to knock it off the placard and sent it tumbling to the ground.
With great care he bent over to pick up the sword, worried he might do something wrong, that his vision would erode before him if he were careless.

The handle was dried and cracked leather, and felt as such as he picked it up. He expected... something, but he felt nothing different. There were no bright lights and no miracles to save him.

He collapsed to the ground, letting the leaf-shaped blade fall beside him.
In that moment the last of his hope abandoned him and he cried in a way which only a child can, fully lost, but with a keen maturity of insight into the bleakness of his situation.
And yet, as he gave in to dispare he felt compelled to take up the sword again. With his eyes closed he stretched out his hand. Cold bronze met his finger tips and suddenly he felt as if a flood-gate opened within him. He felt as if, for a moment, he had access to an endless-burning furnace. But furnace door closed, the heat dissipated through his body and he sighed.

He opened his eyes.

Outside, the sky was crystal and blue, sunlight filtered through a sheet of glass far more perfect than Baelin had ever seen. The room was flooded with color, not just the mundane shades of brown of death, and of things dying and dirty.

Beneath him the rotted floorboards were now immaculate and polish oak boards, a table rested in the corner, simple, but sturdy, far nicer than the one his mother had pawned up in the fall. And upon the wall gleamed a black wooden placard with two notches on which to rest a blade. And at his finger-tips he felt the warmth of his gleaming, bronze, leaf-shaped blade. It had a plain bronze cross-guard, a simple handle of formed leather and solid ball of bronze for the pommel.

Baelin sniffed away the last remnants of his crying and stood, wide-eyed, unable to fully comprehend or believe the changes he saw.

In his mind he thought he heard a voice say, I give you this, and you can have so much more.

Baelin nodded as if in response to the voice in the back of his head. He reached out and took up the leaf-shaped blade, a relic of an age where men believed in Magic. A relic made anew by the Magic man had forgotten, which Baelin would use to forage a new world, free of the uncertainty and helplessness he’d felt for so long.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Quick Update

I have the next couple thousand words of Dominions of Glory ready. But before I post them I'm going to go back and tweak section 1, just to satisfy my own need to be relatively satisfied with what I've written. I won't be doing this with all the sections (Yet. I'll always do a lot more editing/restructuring etc...), just part 1 for the moment, since getting the beginning right is so crucial, and since it's nagging at me and I'm having a hard time ignoring it!

Hopefully I'll have a rough post of the revision up soon!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dominions of Glory: 4

Because I have an impatient friend, I present to you:

Dominions of Glory: 4
(forgive the shoddiness, it's a first draft)

Baelin was alone when he woke, his body oddly free of sensation. He couldn’t feel his wounds, but he also couldn’t feel anything else. He might as well have been floating in nothingness. But at least he could see and hear. “Forden!” he cried, but the name came out a jumbled mess.

Dilirian walked into the room.

“Forden will be back soon,” Dilirian said. “Just stay in bed. Your stitches need time to set before you go walking about, and your ankle doesn’t look too good either.”

“I hate you,” Baelin said, or tried to, but his tongue got all mixed up and his words came out a slur. He didn’t mean it of course, it was just a bearer of bad news thing.

“I found them,” Forden said gravely as he walked into the room, a sack in his hand.“Looks like you said: devils of some sort.” He pulled one of the leathery bodies from the bag to show Dilirian, and then to Baelin. “I take back what I’ve said in the past, Baelin. You’re no fool for wearing that sword about. I’m glad you had it on you. No, you stay put!” he said as Baelin tried to shift. “You’ll be fine, yet. But you’re going to need a few days before you get back on your feet.” He then turned back to Dilirian. “Where do you reckon they come from? I never heard of the things before and now we’ve had three within walking distance of our village. It rattles my nerves a bit, I will admit.”

“I don’t know,” Dilirian replied. “Mine attacked me up in the mountains. Maybe that’s where they’re from and they’re coming down because winter’s coming.”
The brief image of the cave and the brooding man came to Baelin’s mind, and he tried to tell Fordin about them, but his words came out as little more than barely audible grunts and moans.

Forden looked down at Baelin then back to Dilirian and shook his head. “It’s no colder than normal, and I’ve known plenty who’ve gone up into those mountains over the years, aint never seen anything like that. Got to be something else, I reckon.”

Dilirian shrugged.

“I suppose I ought to get everyone together, let them know what’s happening. People will need to be prepared,” Forden said. “Harriet will have started enough gossip about it already, I’m sure. It’ll do good to set people straight on what happened. Stay with Baelin, would you? This will probably take a while.”


Three days passed before they let Baelin out of bed. Both his legs hurt like hell, but he wasn’t going to let that keep him cooped up. He limped outside and into the brisk fall air and breathed deep, Dilirian and Forden each to his sides. “I’m not going to fall,” Baelin insisted.

His heart started thumping.

Across the way, Kelly was coming, her long brown hair swaying behind her. She was beautiful. Baelin had had a crush on her for over a year now, but she never gave him any notice other than a glance.

“There’s a plain one,” Dilirian muttered.

Baelin shot him a venomous glance, then turned back to Kelly, wondering how anyone could call her plain. She was perfect. A strong jaw, wide of hip, but not too wide, starting to come into her curves, and with a quick smile and a sharp tongue; the type of woman a man should appreciate.

“It true,” she asked without any preamble when she reached them, “you killed two devils, all by yourself?”

Baelin felt his cheeks go flush and could hear his heart pounding in his head. “I got lucky,” he said bashfully.

“You would have been fine if I’d been there,” Dilirian said putting on another of his arrogant smiles.

Kelly leveled Dilirian with a stare and then turned back to Baelin. “That’s awful brave of you. Like Gorgeth the Warrior, huh? Only this is real. I wish I could have seen. I bet it would have been something. And then I could have cared for your wounds,” she said coyly.

Baelin thought he saw Dilirian roll his eyes and wished for anything that he could have kicked him then. “I would have liked that,” Baelin said, shy as ever. He didn’t know what else to say, and left it at that.

Kelly stood there for another few second in silence before excusing herself and scurrying away.

“That one seems to have taken to your new fame,” Forden commented.
“You don’t think she likes me?”

Forden placed a grandfatherly hand on Baelin’s shoulder. “I think she likes the thought of what you’ve done. But sometimes that leads to the other,” he added hastily, after seeing Baelin noticeably deflate.

“Don’t see why you’d care,” Dilirian said. “She looks like her mother mated with a boar.”

Baelin was about to retort when Forden beat him to it. “I won’t hear that kind of talk about anyone. And you’d do good to remember people deserve better, young man. I don’t know how they raised you in Silverbrook, but here in Shadyridge, we take to respecting everyone. You’ll hold your tongue the next time a thought like that comes into your head. With any luck, maybe someday they’ll stop coming.”

Dilirian looked furious for being scolded, and as if he were about to jump into a tirade, but he noticeably schooled his emotions and gave a polite bow of his head instead. “As you say.”

“Good,” Forden said. “Now, let’s get going. People are expecting us.”

“I thought you already had the meeting,” Baelin said.

“Aye,” Forden said. “But they wanted to hear it from your mouth, too. Folks are skeptical about anything out of the ordinary. And this is about as far from ordinary as things get.”

The meeting took place in Delvary’s inn, since the dining area was the only place big enough in Shadyridge to house everyone who’d come. The inn was typical for the area, river stone base up for a few feet, then the rest of the walls and roof where finely cut and planed timber. A painted sign out front highlighted Delvary’s creativity in naming. The sign simply said: Delvary’s Inn and Common House. The script wasn’t even particularly nice, since he’d refused to cough up the money to have someone do it properly. As he often said, it’s not like travelers had another option.

The common room was overflowing. At the sight of Baelin the crowd became a mass of jumbled conversation, combined with all the pointing and whispers you’d expect. Forden and Dilirian had to shove a space wide enough for Baelin to move through without being jostled. There was a stage of sorts, just a few empty crates turned upside down. Baelin looked to Forden, who helped him up.

Thankfully, Forden took the lead, because Baelin didn’t know what to say. “Okay everyone!” he shouted and people quieted down. “Quiet, quiet,” he said and waited for the rest of the noise to die down. “We can’t rightly have everyone just shouting out questions, so let’s stay calm and organized. If you have something to ask, raise a hand and Baelin will call on you.”

A wave of hands rose. Baelin felt his pulse racing. He gulped, looked through the crowd and picked at random. “Gretchen?”

“Did you see any other devils?”

Baelin shook his head and called on Farmer Dan next.

“We don’t all got swords. What do you think we should do if we come cross any?”
Baelin didn’t know. “Grab a club, a pitch fork, anything. They’re quick as lightning. They were on me before I knew they were there.” That brought a bunch of concerned whispers.

He picked Kelly next. “Were you afraid?”

Dilirian rolled his eyes.

“I don’t think so…” Baelin said. “I didn’t have time to be afraid, really. I was just trying to get them off me.”

Kelly’s eyes lit up and Baelin thought he heard Dilirian actually groan.

“Only relevant questions please,” Forden said, after which a most of the crowd snickered and Kelly’s face turned bright red.

Baelin answered a host of questions as best he could, from how the devils moved, to how he thought best to defend against them, and a great many questions he had no answers to, like where the devil’s came from, or if they should get a hunting party together to wipe them out before they became a problem. All in all, he felt he was largely useless, and he got the impression that the important details had been covered while he’d been stuck in bed.

The meeting closed and he thankfully got off the crates that made his little stage, leaning heavily on Forden because both his legs were still tender, and left the inn.
Forden and Dilirian flanked him all the way back to bed, making excuses for him and otherwise keeping him from being bothered.

“They treated me a bit like a hero,” Baelin noted once they were back inside.
“You killed two devils,” Forden said. “None of them can claim as much.”
“I killed one without taking a scratch,” Dilirian said proudly.

“Aye,” Forden said. “But you and that fat head of yours were fully armed and armored.
Baelin was in the middle of working his fields. It’s hard to make a comparison. And as you said, you killed one. Baelin got himself two, no matter the damage he took in the process.”

Dilirian didn’t seem happy about that, but quieted down and shortly excused himself to go “prepare the villagers,” whatever that meant.

“Interesting lad, that Dilirian,” Forden said once Dilirian was surely out of earshot. “It’s probably good he’s here, when all’s said and done. He’s actually been trained with that sword of his, and he’s graceful as a swan, too. If his head wasn’t stuck so far up his ass, I think I could like him.”

Baelin chuckled. “Does seem a bit full of himself.”

“A bit…” Forden said. “He’s like a jester, desperate for attention. All his talk of adventure and excitement… I don’t think that boy’s done a bit of honest work in his life. Which means he’s probably some wealthy merchant’s son.”

“I guessed noble,” Baelin said.

“Ah, couldn’t be a noble,” Forden said. “There’d be all kinds of fuss about him, he wouldn’t be trying to make a name for himself in any way he can.”
Baelin conceded. “So, what do we do now?”

Forden thought on it a minute, pulling up a chair and sitting down next to the bed in the process. “I imagine they’ll decide to have Dilirian lead them up into the mountains on a hunt. He’s been showing anyone who wants to learn how to fight with what they have. He’s actually pretty resourceful, adapting techniques to fit whatever people are deeming weapons.”

“Hmmmm,” Baelin said. “Still has his head up his ass, though.”

Forden agreed and excused himself.

Baelin spent the while until he fell asleep pondering over what he ought to do. It seemed Magic would get its wish to be used, because Baelin was definitely going to need some armor, and he doubted he’d be able to buy any without traveling all the way to Riverspan. He also figured he’d have to see what he could do to make it easier for his sword to cut through the devil’s leathery hide. His sword was already sharp, but even then, it’d had a rough time.

He fell asleep going through the details, and all the while Magic spoke to him in the background, offering up possibilities and suggestions, waiting to be used again.

Domiions of Glory: 3

Dominions of Glory: 3

Okay, so nobody gets confused: Dominions of Glory: 1 and Dominions of Glory: 2. Read up folks, we're going to be here a while.

The amber sun hung a hair above the eastern horizon and Baelin had been out in his fields for a solid two hours and was exhausted. He wasn't exhausted because the work was too difficult, but because he hadn’t been able to sleep. Part of that he attributed to anxiousness, brought on by Dilirian appearance, but mostly, it was due to Magic. Magic called loud and frequently in his mind. And when he was about to sleep, its voice was especially clear to him. It begged to be used for something, anything. The pleading was more fervent than Baelin could ever remember, aside from possibly when he’d very first used it, unwittingly.

And here he was, day upon him, and Magic’s voice still droned on in the background, giving him glimpses of how it might be used. Today, it showed him a cellar full of fine foods for the winter, which was odd, since Baelin had learned long ago that making food with magic was all but impossible. He could make grain –one at a time– but that was about it. Anything else, especially meats, looked the part, but tasted… well, wrong. He could find no explanation for this. It just seemed Magic had issues dealing with stuff that was supposed to have been alive.

A squeal like a butchered pig came from the stand of grain ahead of him and before he could put his eyes on its source, a blur of black was on him, gnawing at his ear. He bumbled around, groped for his sword with one hand as he tore the creature off his head with the other. His sword made a metallic ring as it pulled free and he swiped as he flung the creature away, leaving a gash across its middle.

For a brief moment he got an image of himself, standing there bleeding from his ear, but the vision was red, filled with pain, and from a lower view.

A warm trickle of blood ran down the side of his head, flowing then onto his shirt. The little bugger he’d thrown off him looked like something of a cross between a bat and a very large squirrel, only much more sinister. Its head was unmistakably the same as the one Dilirian had shown him the night before, with a jutting crimson horn protruding from the chin.

Baelin, still reeling in pain lashed out again, his lunge taking him just far enough forward that a second creature flew right past where his head had been. He made a clumsy stab at the devil he’d already injured, and missed. He stabbed again, twisting his ankle on a loose stone in the process, and killed the devil, his sword wide enough to nearly cut the body in twain.

As the thing died, a vague impression of a mountain cave came into his mind, as well as the impression of incredible, sweet pain. He couldn’t feel the pain, and he certainly would never have called pain sweet, but that was the feeling that entered his mind.

With his ankle twisted and suddenly throbbing, he fell to his side, pulling his sword free and rolling away, desperately looking around for the other devil. It found him first.

He shouted as he felt a deep stab in his leg, the uninjured one. The second devil had its chin horn stuck firmly into the meat of his calf, its clawed hands already in motion to shred what was left.

Baelin rolled again, the horn stabbed deeper into his leg, and a wave of red washed over his vision, but he bore the pain and used his leg to keep the devil pinned. Mustering all the steadiness he could, he jabbed with his sword at the devil, piercing its side and jiggling the blade about until it stopped moving.

Again a vision came into his mind, a handsome man with brooding eyes sitting beside a fire. He looked displeased and was muttering something under his breath. The vision came and was gone in an instant, but remained solid in his memory.

Convinced the devil was finally dead, Baelin twisted and pulled the creature off his leg, revealing a neat hole that was pulsing blood into the field. It was a matter of careful and painful minutes until he had his head and leg bandaged with what had been his shirt. He stood up –barely– using his sword as a poor crutch, as it dug into the dirt. He wobbled and his vision blurred momentarily, but he righted himself and took off limping back to his home.

Walking on a leg with a hole in it and a twisted ankle was almost enough to black him out, but he held on, knowing he was likely never to wake up if he fell over out in his own fields. If anyone found him, it would likely be after he’d turned to bones.
He reached his house and stumbled inside, groping along the walls to keep him up until he found a wine bottle. He uncorked it with his teeth and poured the strong liquid onto the right ear and on his leg. The alcohol burned fierce, combined with the ache in his ankle and the almost uselessness of his leg, he fell into a heap on the floor, breathing heavy. The wine bottle tipped on its side, its contents leaking onto the perfect, polished wood. He grabbed the bottle and quickly drank the rest of its contents.

And then he sat, panting, aching, vision fading. His vision was becoming hazy and black when Dilirian walked in. Baelin had never been so happy to see another person in his entire life.


“Baelin!” Dilirian gently grabbed Baelin’s face and shook it. “Baelin! Look at me.”
Baelin tried to focus his eyes, but everything was going in and out of focus. Suddenly nauseous, he vomited the only direction he could with Dilirian holding his head in place, which was on Dilirian’s chin, and all over the front of himself.

Dilirian moved back, going out of focus. He made a lot of noises, Baelin couldn’t make out what they meant, if anything. His head lolled to the side and he sat, rancid and bile filled drool seeping from the corner of his mouth.

The next he knew, he was being hefted up, the ground swayed beneath him and he retched again.

The warmth of fresh sunlight crossed over him. He ached and burned and felt cold all at once. And how he hurt, his side hurt, like something was jammed into it, and his head was rolled to the side and bobbing quickly up and down. The world passed by in a blur of green, brown, and blue, all hazy and indistinct except for a few moments of clarity when he could clearly make out the road, and later when he saw some building ahead.

And then he was set down on something soft, fluffy. He thought he might sink into it, but he didn’t. Despite the pain, a smile crept to his face and he muttered a, “Thank you,” before nestling up to what he presumed was a pillow so he could go to sleep and escape the pain.

“No,” a misty voice said. “You can’t sleep now, Baelin.”

Cold liquid covered his head, bringing him momentarily and violently back to his senses, the burning, the cold, and the aching, all at once. His eyes snapped back into focus and he saw Dilirian standing over him again.

“Forden’s grabbing someone to help,” he said, his glaze locked onto Baelin’s. “You need to stay focused until they get back. Okay?” Baelin was too exhausted to respond. “Baelin, stay focused on me, okay?”

Baelin grunted a yes and kept his eyes locked on Dilirian’s. My, he had a pretty face. Exactly the type of face a girl would fancy. It wasn’t fair. Baelin didn’t have a face girls fancied. None of the girls he’d met ever paid him much attention.

“You’re drifting,” Dilirian said, bring Baelin back with a small slap. “Sorry,” he said. “Just stay awake.”

Baelin nodded and absently put a hand to his head, feeling the blood and wine soaked shirt he had for bandaging. He thought he could feel his ear beneath it, torn and ragged, but maybe that was just his imagination.

Magic spoke in the back of his mind, letting him know he’d be okay. Baelin found this funny. Magic was so silly; it wasn’t as if it could heal him. At that thought he felt a warm rush come and go through his body, just for an instant. His eyes shot open wide and he lost all his senses and was floating in black.

When his vision came back Forden was standing beside Dilirian, they were both a step back as an older woman he knew he should know leaned in towards him and unwrapped the bandage about his head.

“Oh dear,” she said, gingerly touching his ruined ear.

Even the gentle prods sent fire lancing through Baelin’s head. “Don’t touch it,” he mumbled.

“No more than I have to,” she said. He saw with horror that she was pulling out a needle and thread.

“Best drink this,” she said, offering him a small clay jar, maybe half a pint. He drank it without hesitation, hoping it was something to kill the pain. A few minutes later he realized it was going to knock him out, and he wondered why he’d had to try so hard to stay awake…

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Dominions of Glory: 2

For those of you who missed it, or who simply don't care about me enough to have seen the last post, here's post 2 of a YA fantasy novel I've started. Read it. Love it. Seriously. Love it. (You might want to read part 1 first...)

Dominions of Glory: 2

An amber sun was setting over the jagged line of the Desper Mountains. Baelin was ambling through the woods in the foothills, foraging for whatever he might find.

Seven years had passed since he’d first used Magic. Seven years of experimentation where he’d been unable to duplicate his first, results. Magic seemed to be a fickle thing, and Baelin still felt years away from any true mastery of its use. And so he still lived, in many ways, a very mundane life, filled with a few friends, and many long, hard hours of physical labor.

Over his shoulder was a sack a mix of nuts, small berries, three apples, and a few mushrooms which he’d collected on today’s mountain journey. He wore his leaf shaped sword at his waist, as always.

Lush aspens and oaks clogged the forest, their branches tightly packed and leaving only tilted rays of sunlight streaming through. Beneath the green canopy, the forest floor was overgrown with ivies and honeysuckle and a hundred types of bushes, each and every one making a trek through the woods a dangerous affair for unguarded skin.

A startled doe appear in a rustle of brush. The small creature turned its head back and forth. Its eyes were wide, looking for danger. The doe’s gaze matched Baelin’s for an instant, as if it was trying to tell him something, and then it bolted down the mountain, neatly bounding a thicket back to a game-trail.

Baelin looked after the doe and wondered what predator had it spooked. An unskilled woodsman might say Baelin was the source of the doe’s fear, but many solitary years in the mountains had taught Baelin how to travel without causing alarm.

A shift in the breeze brought the sound of whistling to Baelin’s ears, a clear answer to doe’s behavior. He perked up and looked around. Mountain cats that would scare a doe were rare enough in the foothills at this time of the year, but people were almost non-existent, not including himself, of course. The farmers in and around Shadyridge had little cause to venture into the mountains come late fall, since the valley was farm land with plenty of cattle, sheep, and pigs.

Baelin abandoned his foraging to find the source of the whistling. In the back of his mind Magic was begging to be used; he hadn’t needed to use it for a long time, and as always happened, Magic’s pleas grew louder and more frequent the longer it sat idle.
Currently, Baelin was surrounded by nettle brush and sweet sugar vines, leaving only a handful of game trails that could be easily traveled. He followed the whistling on one of these trails, around a stand of oaks and found a boy, roughly his own age, sitting in scale armor and pulling off thick boots with thin metal plates atop them.

“Oh, hello!” the boy said. “I didn’t hear you coming.” His words came out in careful control, flowing and sweet as music, as if he’d practiced exactly how to speak them.
“Years of practice,” Baelin replied, and then continued bluntly, “Who are you?”

“I, um,” the boy scratched the back of his head and looked away and then turned back with a bright, if somewhat crooked, smile. “My name is Dilirian Malistar, of Silverbrook.”

Silverbrook was a town on the opposite side of the mountains, Baelin had heard of it, but had only ever met traveling peddlers from there. “Dilirian,” Baelin mused. “Interesting name. I’m Baelin, from here. Well, just over there.” He pointed down the foothills in the vague direction of his farm. “Just outside Shadyridge. What brings you over the Despers?” Then Baelin noticed the thin long sword at Dilirian’s side, not that he was surprised, since Dilirian was wearing armor.

“Ah, my sword,” Dilirian said, following Baelin’s eyes. “Beautiful, isn’t she?” He pulled the sword from its sheathe and held it up. The handle, pommel, and hilt were carefully crafted steel in the shape of a maiden, her hair swooping out to create the guards.

“Remarkable,” Baelin agreed though it was too fancy for his tastes and too long and light by far. He preferred his leaf shaped blade.

Dilirian’s eyes caught on Baelin’s sword. “You have one of your own. I didn’t know they made Baristan swords anymore.”

“They don’t,” Baelin said abruptly, though he didn’t know if that were actually true. “It’s an heirloom. What brings you here?”

“Interesting story,” Dilirian said, putting his boots back on and standing up. “And at the same time, very boring. Suffice it to say that I grew weary of my life in…” he hesitated for a fraction of a second. “Silverbrook. And decided to make a new life for myself, see what adventure I might find.”

“You’re a noble’s son?”

Dilirian looked taken back. “What, no! Of course not. Why would you think that?”

Baelin shrugged. “Expensive sword, full suit of armor. Most people can’t afford to spend money on those. So either you’re a noble’s son or you’re a deserter.”

“I’m not a deserter,” Dilirian said firmly and then turned the topic. “What brings you into the mountains?”

Baelin pulled an apple from his bag and held it up. “Got tired of bringing in wheat.” He put the apple back.

“Ah, escaping the boredom too,” Dilirian said. The he reached for a small sack he had tied on the back of his belt. “Well, here’s something to think about.” He opened the sack and pulled out a little, black head, barely bigger than a rabbit’s head, but with leathery skin, little barbs spread about the face, and a single polished, crimson horn jutting from the chin.

Baelin tripped backwards over a vine and nearly fell. “What’s that?” he asked, curious more than anything.

“It attacked me about an hour ago,” Dilirian said, holding up the head and looking at it before putting it away. “Thing was fast, big razor-like claws.” He motioned to the scrapes on his armor. “It looked like nothing I’ve ever seen. Like a devil from the Old stories.”

“Yeah,” Baelin said, running through in his mind what type of creature it might be, and how it fit into the natural order. “What do you think it is?”
“Who knows? It’ll make a good trophy, though. Not a bad start to my adventure.”
“How’d you kill it?”

Dilirian smiled. “I took its head off on my second swing. Pretty easy, actually. It looks much more fearsome than it was. I could have easily taken half a dozen of the little devils.” He stuck his chest out as he put on a smile that was all bravado.
Baelin frowned. A little bragging might be in order, but he got the feeling Dilirian wasn’t about to be the humble type, regardless of circumstance.

He needed to change the topic, wanting to avoid disliking Dilirian too quickly. “You’re short on supplies,” Baelin said after a frank appraisal came up with only a small pouch and a mostly deflated water skin.

“Ah, yes,” Dilirian looked abashed. “I was hoping to buy more once I reached the other side.”

“Our side.”


“Bad luck,” Baelin said. “Duke Daraden’s men came through just yesterday, bought up near everything there was to spare. That’s the other reason I’m here; all the apples were taken.”

Dilirian’s face tightened momentarily at that. “That doesn’t make any sense. Why would the Duke send men out this way? And why hasn’t anyone on the other side of the Despers heard of it. There wasn’t even a rumor of mobilization in Silverbrook.”

Baelin thought there was something odd in the way Dilirian mentioned the Duke, but what it meant, he couldn’t guess. “Forden mentioned something about Gaulder,” Baelin said with a shrug. “None of my concern; I’ve got my winter stores in place.”

Dilirian cleared his throat and looked off into the distance, roughly in the direction of Gaulder, Baelin figured. “Don’t think you’ll see anything,” Baelin said. “Gaulder’s another fifty leagues off, still, give or take. On the other side of the Toothed River.”

“Toothed River?”

“It’s got sharp rocks shaped like teeth, or so I hear,” Baelin said, growing restless and ready to continue his wandering, but unsure how to excuse himself, and knowing it was impolite, even if was what he wanted. “I don’t mean to be rude but I need to get going. Still would like to see if I can’t find more. Winter stores will last, but they’re bland. I’d like to find what’s left to find while it’s there to be found.”

“Well I’ll come with you!” Dilirian said with a grin. “Yet another adventure! Foraging in the wild wood. Who knows, maybe we’ll run across another devil!”

Baelin felt like putting up a protest, but his better social judgment stopped him, that and the little black head tied at Dilirian’s waist. Baelin had had his sword for years, but he’d never used it for fighting. He’d swung it around of course, what kid wouldn’t, but practically, he doubted he’d be of much use if serious danger arose. “Alright,” he said, then thinking himself clever added, “But you must stay quiet.”

“What for?” Dilirian asked, looking genuinely puzzled.

“Don’t want to draw attention to ourselves,” Baelin said. “There’s all manner of animals that’d love to have us for dinner.”


Baelin nodded. “Bears, mountain cats, the like.”

“Why didn’t you say something sooner!” Dilirian asked in a whisper. “We might’ve been attacked already.”

Baelin wasn’t actually worried, but the threat worked well enough to quiet Dilirian a little. Of course he wouldn’t know that he’d been in far greater danger of those animals as he’d crossed over the mountains than he was in the foothills. Baelin didn’t rightly know what Silverbrook was like, but the rich of the area were not schooled in many of the basics of wood lore, it appeared.

The silence lasted all of a minute before Dilirian promptly dove into whispered, idle chat about the girls he fancied back home, none of which sounded the least bit appealing to Baelin, all idle nonsense with not a shred of practicality. He nodded and made little noises in response, but otherwise tried in vain to enjoy the solitude of nature.

Foraging went relatively well. He ran across another stray apple tree that still had several of the fruits which hadn’t taken to rot. Most of the berries they found were withered, but still edible. The big treat was a trove of sour nuts, which, despite their taste, were actually quite edible and would make an excellent addition to a few stews.

The sun was a sliver over the mountain’s edge when Baelin led the way out of the foothills. He opted to bypass his farm, figuring one of his friends in town would be more suited to offering hospitality.

Once it was clear they were into the valley and presumably clear of danger, Dilirian switched back to a normal volume. “Where exactly are you leading me?”
“Town,” Baelin said.

“But you said there were no provisions there, and I’m hungry. Perhaps I could share what you’ve collected. I could pay you.” He jingled a purse on his hip.
“I don’t need the money,” Baelin said, thinking of the full purse he had hidden beneath his shirt.

“Of course you do!” Dilirian said. “You’re poor.”

Baelin stopped and turned to face Dilirian and size him up. The boy was a good three inches taller than Baelin and probably had an extra twenty-five pounds on him. But, he wasn’t likely to have the sinewy strength of someone who lived off the land, like Baelin. Then again, there was the matter of the devil he’d killed and the sword at his waist. “I’m not poor.” He said at last, then turned and continued on.
“Yes you are,” Dilirian insisted. “Why else would you dress like that?”

“This is how everyone dresses.”

“Hardly!” Dilirian said with a snorting laugh. “The lower peasants, maybe. Even the poor villagers in Silverbrook wear cleaner clothes of a finer cut. Yours look like you’ve made them yourself.”

As it happened, Baelin had made the outfit he was wearing. After dozen of attempts, this was the first suitable set. But, once he knew how to make the clothes, he could replicate it with Magic, easily. Unfortunately, Magic didn’t improve upon the quality any. “We can’t all dress like dandies,” Baelin muttered to himself.

“Who says I’m dressed like a dandy? I’m wearing armor, if you hadn’t noticed.”

Baelin rolled his eyes. “I wasn’t saying you dressed like a dandy. I was just saying, ah never mind.”

“Ho, Forden!” Baelin shouted. He’d led Dilirian to the outskirts of town, to the back fence of Forden’s property, avoiding the roads so he wouldn’t have to be seen with Dilirian. The last thing he needed was gossip.

Forden was a withered old cobbler, spritely for his age, or older than he looked, Baelin wasn’t sure which. He had a full head of white hair and a thin frame that had never been thick to begin with. He opened the door with a quizzical look and held up a lantern to the growing darkness. “Baelin? You honor me! Twice in two days. I never thought I’d see the day. Decided to take me up on my offer of a room for winter?” his last word was noticeably cut short and he paused to take a breath. “Who’s this, then?”

“Forden, this is Dilirian of Silverbrook. He’s not prepared to spend much time outside at night and I thought you might give him use of Becca’s old room. He can pay.” Then he added, “Quite well.”

Dilirian smiled at the last bit as if Baelin hadn’t just cost him an extra penny.
“Of course, of course,” Forden said, motioning for them to come in. “Any friend of Baelin’s is welcome,” he said, looking to Dilirian. “Honestly, didn’t think he had many aside from me.”

Dilirian gave Baelin an odd look before responding. “I can’t imagine why you say such a thing. He’s made an excellent companion and we’ve had some rather intriguing conversations.”

“That so?” Forden replied with a chuckle. It wasn’t. Baelin hadn’t actually been a participant in the conversations to which Dilirian was referring.

“Oh yes,” Dilirian insisted. “It’s been quite some time since I’ve had such a good conversation.” He quickly turned the topic before Forden could reply. “If it wouldn’t be too much trouble, I am quite famished and in need of sustenance.”

Who talked like that? Baelin wondered, definitely born rich. Not a deserter then. That still left noble or rich merchant’s son. “I’m heading home,” Baelin said before crossing the threshold.

“Not going to stay and chat? I hear you’ve suddenly become quite the conversationalist.”

Dilirian frowned, clearly missing the humor. Baelin wasn’t a mute by any means, but he certainly was of a quieter nature. He attributed that to the long time he’d spent alone after his mother had died.

“I ought to get home,” Baelin said. “Got an early morning. Still need to finish bringing in the wheat.”

“Alright, off with you! Seems all you’re good at is leaving! One of these days you’ll stay for more than a moment and humor me with one of these fabled conversations Dilirian mentioned.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow, then,” Dilirian said to Baelin as he turned to go.
“Soon,” Baelin promised to Forden, though he suspected Dilirian might take the answer as meant for him. He gave a bow of his head and made for a brisk pace back to his home.

He hoped Dilirian didn’t come to find him. It wasn’t that he had anything against Dilirian, truthfully, that was why he hoped he didn’t become over-exposed to him. Dilirian’s manner just wore on him a bit. The oblivious entitlement and condescension he bore with too much familiarity ran against the tough lesson’s Baelin had lived. Of course, maybe it would be good to have a friend who knew nothing of his life. A fresh slate with no judgments, well, aside from the obvious pre-conceptions Dilirian had about poor people.

He was almost at ease with his conclusion on the topic when he remembered the black little head tied at Dilirian’s waist. Through the dim blue light of the rising moon, Baelin looked up at the Despers and wondered what dark secrets his ancient friend held.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Dominions of Glory: 1

Okay, so I'm trying something out and hopefully someone is interested enough that this doesn't end up as a complete waste of my time!

I'm starting work on a young adult fantasy novel, which means I probably won't be posting as many smaller pieces or short stories as I'd like. But, since I want to keep posting something I'm going to post the novel in short(ish) chunks. If you feel like giving me some feedback, I certainly wouldn't mind! Without any further ado, I give you:

Dominions of Glory: 1 (a tentative title...)

The sky was crystal and blue, with a high, beaming sun on the morning that Baelin’s mother died. He was seven. She left behind little of value; she’d sold off what she could to buy them food, in hopes they’d last the winter. She’d made it until the first thaw before succumbing to starvation and cold, leaving Baelin alone in a disheveled and crumbling stone cottage.

Upon the wall in the back room -and there were only two rooms, each equally small- mounted on a termite-eaten piece of black wood, hung a rusted, leaf-shaped blade; a relic of ages past, his mother had told him. A blade from the time of Magic.
Supposedly the blade was a gift from Baelin’s father before he’d been called away to important duties. His mother assured him repeatedly that he was born of special blood, and that if his father could’ve, he would have stayed. But Baelin knew it was a lie. When they went in to town to sell their belongings for food, he heard the whispers: whore, slut, man-thief. These were the kinder names.

So when Baelin’s mother died, he knew nobody was coming to help him. His father was years gone, not even a memory. And nobody in Shadyridge would think to check on him, for they were none of them his mother’s friend, and the little cottage was miles from the road.

He sat in the broken room, his back against the wall, his knees drawn into his chest while his head hung and tears dropped from his eyes. He knew he shouldn’t cry, his mother had told him so many times not to cry, but he couldn’t help it. In the entire world, nobody alive knew or cared that he existed, and though the first thaw had come, he knew he wouldn’t survive.

And then, as in so many times before, he heard a voice in the back of his mind, calling to him. Use me, it said. Baelin knew this voice, it claimed to be Magic. But he’d learned long ago that Magic wasn’t real. If it were, why did he have a hunger so strong it burned his belly? Why was his mother lying in the other room, stiff and cold, an empty husk? But still Magic called to him, promising him many, many things. But none of what Magic showed Baelin was of any value, not without his mother, not being all alone. It promised a warm room, fields of wheat, friends to dance and play with, but what it did not promise him was food, right here, now, real and able to stave off his own impending doom.

Release me! Magic cried again. For you, I will do anything. I will give you anything if you but release me.

Baelin wanted to believe in Magic, wanted to have all that it promised, but even if it were real, what could he do? He didn’t know the secret words of Magic his mother had told him of. In all stories there were secret words, learned only through long, careful years of study and practice.

No, Magic said, it’s simple. And then it whispered the secret to Baelin’s heart.

Baelin stopped rocking back and forth, his tears dried up. He lifted his head and scanned the pathetic room. The floor was rotted boards and dirt, and the room stunk of sweat and an un-emptied toilet bucket. He wanted so badly to believe Magic was real… But he knew it could not be, certainly not with a secret so simple. Why, if it were so easy to use, and Magic wanted so badly to be used, why didn’t everyone use Magic? It made no sense.

Set me free, Magic begged him again, and I will show you a beautiful world.

With nothing to lose, Baelin gave up on what he knew and willed Magic to be free. There was no incredible moment, no flashes of light; he simply felt something warm slip from him, just a little. He looked about, but nothing had changed. He hung his head and cried again, knowing he was foolish.

In his tears he felt something open up inside of him again, a door he’d just barely cracked. Each tear opened the door wider, and a bit more warmth slipped out, flooded through his body, comforting him, making him feel well. After a few moments of this he stopped crying and opened his eyes, confused.

Outside, the sky was crystal and blue, sunlight filtered through a sheet of glass far more perfect than Baelin had ever seen. The room was flooded with color, not just the mundane shades of brown of death, dying and dirty.

Beneath him the rotted floorboards were now immaculate and polish oak boards, a table rested in the corner, simple, but sturdy, far nicer than the one his mother had pawned in the fall. And upon the wall gleamed a black wooden placard, upon which rested a gleaming bronze sword with a blade in the shape of a leaf and a simple handle of formed leather, at the base of which a solid bronze pommel finished off the piece.

Baelin sniffed in the last remnants of his crying and stood, wide-eyed, unable to fully comprehend or believe the changes he saw.

I give you this, Magic said, and I can give you so much more. Use me… Use me

Baelin nodded as if in response to the voice in the back of his head. He would. He reached up and took down the leaf shaped blade, a relic of an age where men believed in Magic. A relic made anew by the Magic man had forgotten, which Baelin would use to forge a new world, free of the uncertainty and helplessness he’d felt for so long.

Monday, July 18, 2011

What's Wrong with Hollywood?

What’s wrong with Hollywood? I’ve had times in my life where I’ve gone to the movies almost every week, and other times where I’ve barely gone a few times in a year. Like most people, I get frustrated with the incredible ineptitude Hollywood often displays. With so many incredible books and stories out in the world, how do so many terrible or poorly done movies still get made?

A little over a year ago I went to see Clash of the Titans. I’d seen the original, I knew the story. I was excited to see what they would do with a good budget and modern special effects to a story that’s managed to last thousands of years.

I don’t know who wrote the screenplay, I can’t even be bothered to check. It was that bad. What makes someone so delusional that they believe they can take an ancient story, which has obviously survived so long for a reason, and make it better? It doesn’t need to be made better! It’s incredible! And yet Hollywood writers decide they can make it more dramatic by changing the story to accommodate more fight scenes that have no emotional build-up. Oh, and they kind of forget that people like stories for characters. The only character that had character in this incarnation was a side-line character. So disappointing.

I’ve been thinking about Hollywood’s penchant for messing with a good thing since seeing the closing volume of the Harry Potter saga. A part of me loved the movie, it was intense and gripping, most of the time. But, to me, the end fell so extremely flat. I haven’t been able to decide if it was simply poorly done, or if it was because I knew how much better the ending had been handled in the book.

I still can’t decide what the reason is that the ending felt so anti-climactic, but my gut feeling is that Steve Kloves, like so many other writers in Hollywood, saw something incredible and decided they could make it better. Perhaps he thought the book ending wasn’t viable for film, but I don’t get that feeling. For one, many of the important elements of the book’s ending could have been repeated in the movie verbatim without any extra work. There were genuinely needless changes made to the end that seriously weakened the largest climax of the series.

Harry Potter didn’t kill Voldemort while standing alone in a courtyard. He didn’t do so in silence either. There was a dialogue and they were circling each other with many people around. The importance of every detail of wand lore and specifically with the Elder Wand were overlooked or cast aside as a side note, hinted at, but never given significance they deserved. While the movie gave the casual watcher enough to get the gist of what happened, it certainly sapped the victory from Harry, the moment where you realize that Harry isn’t winning by dumb luck or because of prophecy. No, he actually knows more than Voldemort, he figured it out, he understands, and that’s why when it comes down to it, Harry wins because he took the time to learn what Voldemort overlooked in his pride (another fact which was pointlessly left out of the movies and which added greatly to Harry’s character and the climax).

Aside from essentially robbing Harry of any true personal victory of Voldemort, Nevil’s victory was extremely diminished. I remember reading the last book and thinking, “Nevil is a bad ass!” Why? Because he stepped up, told Voldemort off, and killed Nagini all while in a position where he was extremely likely to die. In the movie he was relegated to hopping in on the side and killing Nagini from a position of no real danger, and about five minutes later than it was supposed to have happened, I can only assume to add to the drama.

The movie destroyed any chance of you really knowing of caring when Ron’s brother dies, or when Mrs. Wealsey steps up to kill Bellatrix. You can’t offer the climax of smaller scenes if you don’t provide the build-up that made those moments poignant in the first place. I’m not saying there was no emotional build-up or significance there, it was just so much less than it could have been.

The last Harry Potter, like all the movies before it, was an interesting story, but came nowhere near doing the books justice. I was left underwhelmed and wondering yet again, who lets some of these Hollywood idiots ruin a good thing?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

MMA: Sonnen vs. Stann

A lot of guys are into traditional sports: basketball, football, etc. While I follow most of the major sports, keeping an eye open for major players or important games, I’m not emotionally involved until playoff time comes, usually, and not even always then. But then there is MMA.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve sat at the edge of my seat, be it at a sports bar or at a friend’s house watching the PPV. My adrenaline gets pumping like it never has when I actually participate in sports myself. I’m emotionally invested in these fights. I know these fighters. I know their backgrounds, how good their records are, their strengths and weaknesses. I’m ready to root for someone and know exactly who and why I’m rooting for them. Most often, I have a clear favorite, but sometimes I run into a dilemma.

The Forrest Griffin and Rich Franklin fight was one such dilemma. Both guys are so likeable it wasn’t fair to match them up. Who was I supposed to root for? No matter how the fight played out it was going to be bittersweet for me.

I’m running into a similar problem at the moment, but for very different reasons. Chael Sonnen recently got slated to match up with Brian Stann . I love both of these fighters for very different reasons. I don’t know how many people would say Chael Sonnen is straight up likeable. He talks trash, a lot of it. He calls out everyone and everything, saying as many insulting and derogatory comments as he possibly can. For some people this behavior makes Chael an easy person to hate. But to me… well, it’s just too funny! Not because he’s overly clever in his approach, it’s the absurdity of it all. The guy has an ego and balls the size of Texas. I can’t help but root for him, despite the fact that I usually root against the smack talkers of MMA.

Brian Stann is socially (or at least in the media) about as much of a polar-opposite from Chael as is possible. Stann is a former Marine Captain who received a silver star for his service in Iraq. If you’re patriotic –and I am- this guy is impossible not to cheer for. He’s got major talent and an entertaining fighting style. He oozes genuine respectability. I haven’t met Brian, but from everything I’ve heard or read, he’s as genuine as people come. A lot of sports figures try to act respectful -they want to keep up a certain persona- but with Stann, it really doesn’t seem like an act. He actually and effortlessly appears to be what he’s portraying, no if ands or buts.

The interesting thing I’ve found, so far, is that Chael hasn’t yet come out with a single negative, backhanded remark about Stann. In fact, in the only comment he’s made that I’ve found… well, I’ll just let you read it:

I ask Brazil for a fight, and Machida answers. I ask for a REAL fight, and a Marine steps up. I see you hiding Lyoto, and I won't forget this.

He’s insulted an entire country, and a champion caliber fighter, in just a few sentences, but he actually seems to be showing respect for Stann. Am I surprised? A little, but not really. Even a guy with a mouth bigger than… well, Mouth from the Goonies, has a line he won’t cross. Maybe he’s reached that line with Stann. Chael Sonnen is an American. He’s run for public office. It’s hard to believe he doesn’t have respect for the man he’s slated to face later this year. So instead of the usual trash-talk, I wonder what Chael will say leading up to the fight. I have no doubt he’ll say something, it’s just a matter of what.

To the average person I’d have to say Stann is the man to root for. But I’m torn. Part of me hopes he can avoid being taken down at will like Sonnen did to Silva. Part of me hopes he can use the same power and precision he used against Santiago and Leben… But part of me wants to see Sonnen pull it off and get another crack at Silva.

This fight is months away and my blood is already racing and I’m clinging to every bit of news about it. Some guys breathe football. I breathe MMA.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Advent of the Misunderstood Analogy

The Advent of the Misunderstood Analogy began due to frustrations with a boss who shall go un-named. As situations go, this one started innocently enough. A misunderstanding here, a plea for help and change there, anger, grief, spite, burning rage… Everything you might expect when it comes to work related issues that you’ve managed to let get under your skin. You might say the innocence was lost in an elevation of emotion.

But all other details aside, this story is about an analogy which I believed was quite clear, but which somehow missed the mark. Let’s begin, shall we?

A sad, frustrated, and somewhat disgruntled employee sat across the table from his boss, a glassy-eyed woman with the best of intentions and an infuriating smile on her face that said, “I hear you, but I don’t understand.”

“Have you ever done any research or study into work place motivation? Essentially, what you’re doing is exactly what every study, and every expert on the subject, says to avoid.”

“Well,” the boss said, her voice aglow with practiced honey and an underlying stubbornness. “We’ve done it that way for two years. We aren’t going to change that now.”

The employee drops his head and looks at the table in front of him. What can he possibly say? Looking up halfway through his words, he responds, “But if it’s wrong, and most signs point toward this being a negative form of employee motivation, wouldn’t you want to stop and try for better results using proven methods?”

“Well you see, we’ve been doing it that way for two years, and we’re not going to change now, just because of you,” the boss said, her head titled to the side, a look of both confusion and resolve equally at play on her face.

“I’m not saying this for me…” the worker said, again dropping his gaze and wishing he could will her to understand.

(On a complete side note, unrelated to the story… A bird just flew into the window two feet away from me. Quite literally flew, full speed into the window, bounded off, hit the ground, got up, looked around, and then flew off a bit wobbly. Nice.)

“Let me try and hit this from a different angle,” he said.

“Okay,” the boss said, “I’m open to your feedback.”

No you aren’t, he thought. And you couldn’t grasp it even if you were. Still, he had to try. “Okay. So you said you’ve had that up for two years.”


“And that’s the base of your argument to keep it up.”

“I don’t see a reason to take it down,” the boss said.

“Other than that all experts agree it is the type of thing that fosters an unhealthy working environment,” the worker points out.

“But we’ve had it up for two years,” the boss responds with a smile, as if striking the killing blow.

“Yes…” the worker says. “I could punch myself in the face every day for two years but doesn’t mean I should keep doing it.”

The boss pauses for a moment. “Of course not, we don’t endorse violence.”


Wait a moment. Did I just hear that correctly? Maybe this is just me, but I thought that was pretty obviously an analogy. You know, when you compare two ideas/actions to highlight a point you're making? I am wrong in thinking I that this was obviously an analogy? At this point, I’m stuck somewhere in-between extreme frustration and being incredibly amused. Surely nobody could think… but no, she obviously did. It’s like she turned on manager training mode. She had the right words and phrases to handle any situation… unfortunately, there seemed to be a disconnect between trigger words and the meanings and intentions behind them. All else is explosives and primer cord. In one sentence she has initiated the detonation.

If this particular event hadn’t happened to me, I would be laughing outrageously, and to most people, quite unjustifiably. This is the type of event that sets my funny meter to overload. “…we don’t endorse violence.” Classic! But I was there… I experienced this. This is MY boss, a person who, while obviously nice, caring, and even willing to try and tackle concerns and my frustrations, seems to be lacking the competence to grasp a simple analogy.

I’ve chosen to call this The Advent of the Misunderstood Analogy, but perhaps it would have been better to call it The Beginning of the End of My Workplace Sanity. And should she see this, perhaps The Short-lived Waiting Career of Brandon Orgill