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Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


in.

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Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


Sorry I just got home!

Ladysmith
491 words

She walks in on legs thick as tree trunks and an rear end that could shelter you from a storm, heralded by the creaking of the old office floorboards. Despite the burly frame, she is not unattractive. She carries herself like a model, walking towards me with a body that’s seen better days and remembers them fondly. There’s a charm to her dark, red-rimmed eyes and the way her short tousled hair frames her face. I know the story before she tells it, heard it a hundred times. The one about the violent husband, the one she lost to the work, the drink, the young girls. There is little passion in her voice. She recites her sorrows like she’s reading them off a list. It is a long list. She married young. Stuck with him through everything. I pour myself another.

One of the things you learn on the job is that a man’s soul is in his eyes. Look carefully enough and there’s nothing he can hide. I let mine wander to the desk below, and the one file left on it. It is frayed and charred at the edges and marked with rings of coffee and booze and tears. Last job I ever did.

When I left the beat for private work it didn’t take long to get tired of the bounties, the cheating spouses, the loving subpoenas. A group that found value in a man with his own gun and intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the local PD offered me an opportunity for more interesting work. Something with upward momentum. I started small. A few threats, a little extortion. Broke a few knees. Then I broke a few heads. Made my name cleaning up other people’s messes. I made some friends and some enemies and together we smeared this city in more poo poo than it can ever wash off.

When work first started getting serious I bought my wife a small Smith & Wesson LadySmith revolver for her protection. I stopped being around long before that point, making only the perfunctory gestures guilty men make and this was next in a long line of them. She had slapped me then, and not for the first time. She had pointed the gun at me, looked into my eyes and told me all the ways she hated me but she would not pull the trigger.

I took the gun as my own because it was easily concealable and the .357 Magnum rounds could open holes in men big enough to stick a fist through. They called me Ladysmith. I was really going for something more like Magnum or FistHole. I handed it in when I told them I was out. They laughed, told me to come back with the badge. Then they sent her.

I take one last glance at the suicide note and put my temple against the barrel of my namesake. This time, she does not hesitate.

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


^ sure!

I'm in.

The child's hair is white, his hands impossibly wrinkled. As he moves towards you he seems to walk, run, crawl on all fours. He is Shem, the Time Thief. Your time is up.

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


Thanks for the crits!

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


The Time Thief ft. Censiron (implicitly), Inanis & Eivali (vaguely)
1,324 Words

Shem first stole time from the Old God, whose name we do not know because time is not all Shem steals. In a time before time the Old God sat atop the clouds and watched as the men to whom he had granted dominion of the world lay in the fields and wait for a death that would not come. The rains swept over the men and snow would cover their bodies and melt and cover them again and still they would not move. The Old God came to the men and asked why they did not rise and enjoy the wonders of the existence He had given them. One man stood and told the God in a voice hoarse from disuse that they had. They had explored the lands and in His honor built great wonders and fornicated under the stars, they had swum the lakes and climbed the mountains and toiled the earth betwixt. There was no fulfillment in a journey without a destination. At this the Old God shed a single jeweled tear into the ocean, for he did love his children. He bestowed a kiss on the man who spoke and Named him Censiron and bid him to observe, for now and all time. The Old God lay his hand flat against the world and with it wiped away all that humanity had ever been. The Great Wheel turned.

Shem was a farmer because everyone was a farmer. As a boy he saw the young men dying, falling down midstride, while praying or working the fields. It was fortunate when a young man died in the fields as he would not have to be dragged far to nourish the soil. His brother Dent earned his name when their mother died with him still at the breast, crushing the babe beneath her. Stricken with grief, his father took a knife and drove it towards his heart, the force of it violently shaking his body as the blade stopped a hairbreadth from ending his life. Shem’s father stood motionless for two breaths before dropping to the ground and gasping like a man who had newly rediscovered his lungs. After a time Shem’s father stood and collected himself as to not face the shame of being seen in mourning and dragged his wife off to nourish the fields. He returned bearing a great stone and lifting it above his head stood before Shem and the maimed babe Shem held in his arms. Two breaths, and the father laid the First Stone in front of the two boys before collapsing for the second time that day.

The great domed structure of stone and wood stood anachronistic against a backdrop of thatched roofs and mud walls, and at its heart Shem raged. Two dead since they started, two ordained priestesses to the Almighty who had spent their lives in His servitude, dead after twenty five winters like those who toiled the lands and fornicated in the streets. In his anger Shem broke his hands upon the stone, blood pooling into its crevices. He cursed the stone and his father who had set it before them. He cursed the temple and the twenty winters he had spent building it and he cursed the body of the priestess who devoted her existence for the reward of being burned to ash instead of buried under corn stalks. Dent stopped Shem from breaking himself further, holding the elder brother in his arms like a babe. Dent had lost his wits but he grew large and had spent so much time hauling stone he seemed made of the stuff. The left half of his head was caved in and he always took great care to hide the sight from Shem. Carry me to the bluffs dear brother, said Shem. I would speak with God.

The path to the bluffs was clear save two young lovers showing unusual modesty in coupling this far from town, this close to the end of the world. The land there ended in a sheer cliff face that looked like it had been carved out by a great sword and gave sight to an endless sea. Shem bid his brother to stay and Dent did though he paced and worried at his tunic and would not look at Shem as he ran towards the edge. Their father had started many lessons but finished just one. This was not the first time Shem had attempted to speak with God. He had threatened himself with knives, hung himself on ropes, dunked his head underwater until his face was blue. All half measures. The knives were blunted and he stabbed with hesitation, the ropes were notched and held him for a few moments, Dent always saved him from drowning. In making the temple and discovering the wonder of his mind, Shem had developed a zest for life he could not let go. He had learned to bend stone and wood to his will when all lived under mud and reeds, had created religion when most would stare into the sun and mutter prayers until they were too blind to find their plows. How was it just that he should have as much time as those who would farm and fornicate and die, amounting to no more than food for wheat and corn. Shem neared the edge and jumped.

Dent saw his brother at the edge of the cliff, a statue frozen in half crouch. Two breaths, and his brother did not move. Dent waited on the cliff for seven days and on the seventh day something enormous and brilliant fell from the sky, casting lights of many colors as it did. As it sunk beneath the water Dent wept at the loss of it and was so stricken with grief he did not notice the awesome wave that followed until it had crashed against the cliff face, the force of it knocking him off his feet. He rose and searched for his brother, frozen at a half crouch at the cliff’s edge but Shem was gone. In his place stood a young child, his hair white and thin. As the child moved towards Dent he appeared to walk, crawl on all fours, lean on a stick for support. His gait would slow down and speed up and he would at times appear to move backwards though his dark cloak swayed behind him in constant forward motion. Approaching Dent the child reached out a hand that was all wrinkles and veins and spots, the bones beneath them visible. He passed this hand through Dent and the big man fell and lay still, the child moving past without a backwards glance. The Great Wheel turned.

Shem stole time from his brother because the world needed smart men and Dent was not a smart man. Walking down the path to the village Shem came across the two modest youths once again in the tangles of their lovemaking. From the young man with soft hands and a hard member he stole ten winters. His lover screeched and wept over the body and Shem stole twenty five winters from the unborn child within her and he gave to the woman enough time to make many more children. He swept through the village, giving time to the virile and the innovative and the hard working and taking from those he found wanting. He appeared to his remaining priestesses and told them his tale and stole death from them that they might tell it forever. The name of the Old God was erased from the temple, His symbols replaced with that of the Pendulum. The people were fearful of his wrath but the Old God was not a vengeful God and instead continued to grant pieces of Himself to His children until once again we find ourselves with our backs to the fields, eyes glazing over as we wait for death.

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


in

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


Golden
1,171 words

I cover the distance to the middle of the ring in two lunging strides. The kid is smiling and holding out his glove in solidarity and I slip under and hook him in the liver. The kid goes down and I get docked a point that doesn’t matter. The judges know who I am and why I’m here; winning the decision isn’t an option. I pace in my corner and scan the crowd but Rich only ever watches me fight from behind his gloves and this last time should be no different. I’d meet him in the finals and he would have the best seat in the house. The crowd is meek this year and I only hear a few scattered death threats over the ref’s count. The kid is on his feet at 8 and he is no longer smiling. I slip the jab and catch the hook and the force of it knocks me off balance. My hands are already at my chin, ready for the upper when my head explodes. Clever gambit or lucky punch, the second hook does its job and I’m on the ground watching two copies of the kid raise their arms and pose for the cheering crowd. I was like him once, young and angry. I’d come out the gate slinging fireballs and now all I’ve got left is smoke and old embers. The ref races through his count as I stand on shaky knees. It’s been seventeen years. This kid was cum when I started boxing. We meet in the middle of the ring and he bounces from foot to foot with his hands down, grinning until the first jab wipes it from his face. I pepper him with quick lefts thrown from the shoulder and it’s like prodding a sleeping bear. He puts all his weight behind the overhand right, body corkscrewed behind it, but my left is already there. I touch his chin and end the fight. Rich taught me that one when we were young. Before he taught me to hate.

The ref moves to raise my hand but I’m already making my way out of the ring and towards the bleachers. I feel like black Moses as the crowd clears a path for me. I take the gloves off with my teeth, but it feels like the headgear is all that’s keeping my brains from falling out so I leave it on. They cut off the periphery like blinders. The roar of the crowd was overwhelming for a small time tourney like this. I didn’t need to look to see Rich was making his way to the ring. People know him and many had been there for his sixteen losses and reviled him for it. Still, others remember his father’s name. The old man won his Golden Gloves right here in Alabama and went on to be heavyweight champion of the world. Rich had been trying to follow in his footsteps ever since. This was his last shot.

Rich runs the biggest gym in town but shows up alone every year. He doesn’t bring a corner. He doesn’t bring her. I try to chew through my own teeth as he steps into the ring. He’s not matched up against a kid. This guy is a veteran, thirty-four years old like Rich and I. One of those guys content to sandbag the minor leagues until they tell him he’s too old to keep picking on the kids. He came prepared for his last showing, looking twice as big as Rich at the same weight. Rich had settled into his 165 pound frame since we were kids and never bothered to cut. Made it easier to match his weight class. Rich stands there impassive, looking up at the ceiling and tapping his glove against his thigh. They sound the bell and the two men touch gloves in the middle of the ring. Rich’s hands drop and the man takes a reserved swing to measure his distance, a sign of his discipline. He’s already lost. Rich closes the distance instantly and slips a cross through the small opening. He is already making his way out of the ring as the ref starts his count.

This is how all of his fights go, except the ones against me. I figure I got into his head that first year he met me in the ring, after he broke my heart. Or maybe it was the second year, when he realized I’d always be there to take his Gloves. Either way, it stuck. I was looking forward to the finals. Truth be told, I never really liked boxing, it was always Rich’s thing. I exit, the crowd giving me wide berth, headgear and experience muting the whispers and jeers.

****

Rich is in the red corner this time. That was always his favorite when we were kids, said the good guys like his dad were always in the red corner. Looks like the crowd agrees. They know all the best words for me and won’t miss their last chance to say them. It can’’t be easy sitting there, watching me beat the son of their hometown hero for the seventeenth time. Didn’t help that I’d never accepted their Gloves, the few times they deigned to offer. That I would be gone already had Rich and I met earlier in the tournament. Bell rings. Two lunging steps and Rich and I meet in the middle. As always, he looks at me like I’m a kitten with a broken leg. Jab to get his chin up. Like a dirty child without shoes. Right cross to follow. Like I wasn’t someone who had spent a lifetime kicking his rear end! He counters mid hook, same right I saw fell a giant yesterday. Barely knocks my head gear off kilter. I’m invincible when I’m like this. I’ve never felt a punch he’s thrown, not since-

He wipes the blood from his nose before putting up a lazy guard and swinging a jab to the right of me. I feel tears welling in my eyes. My mouth guard falls to the canvas and the ref stops the fight and snaps his fingers in front of my eyes. I can’t hear the crowd any more but I see the angry faces and the empty seats as people begin to leave in disgust. I put my guard back in and nod to the ref and put my hands up. Rich comes in and throws another lazy jab and I clinch. I tell him I understand and I’m sorry and I thank him for trying. Before the ref separates us, I tell him to win. I hope he hears me through the rubber guard and muffled sobs. That last part would be easy for Rich; he had experience beating up fags for the pleasure of a crowd. I grin and throw a left, a reserved swing to measure my distance. Rich smiles and disappears. The cheers are comforting as the world goes black.

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


thanks for the crits. one day i will write the good words

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


in

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


Split Second - 1,160 words

Abstract Speed + Sound by Giacomo Balla - 1138 words

“Pack it up, boys.” said the first fisherman to see Jake make his way down the pier in his faded spandex. The material bulged across Jake's midsection and was a motley array of crossed-out corporate logos with only the blue and green of the International Shipping Company left unmarred. Jake tightened the strap on the satchel slung across his shoulder and ignored the grumbling of the fishermen as they pulled in their lines. He stepped over the commemorative plaque bolted to the wooden planks. A couple years back some clever hooligan had chiseled it to read “Takeoff Point of Jake Ausburn, the Fattest Man in the World” along with what looked to be one-half of an erect penis, which Jake had finished etching himself after it seemed like the original artist would not return to finish the job.

Jake looked over his shoulder at the fishermen, who had either hastily gathered their belongings and made a dash for beachfront or sat down on their tackle boxes with their hands over their ears. The next stretch of pier turned into a thing of burnished steel extending out into the horizon. The sun was rising over the ocean and the beauty of it was not lost through the blue tint of Jake's goggles. He would have made a big show of this before, back when people would mob the shoreline or get up early to take up privileged positions along the edge of the pier just to watch him work. He would stretch and huff and bounce from foot to foot and slap his own face like a prizefighter. No one was looking now, though. No one had really looked for a long time. Jake got into his sprinter’s stance at the starting line, a section of the steel pier that had dented and warped with frequent use. He exploded forward and began his run across the ocean.

Jake knew he would never be completely used to this. His ears still popped and every time he felt the cool rush of water under his bare feet he was afraid that someone on the pier would drown in the waves he kicked up. It was a dumb concern now, since it had been years since people had crowded close enough for it to matter and the few old salts left on the pier could probably do with a good drowning. Still, he had made marked improvements. The first time he had heard the air behind him explode he tumbled into the ocean, shat himself and nearly drowned. He barely did any of that now.

He checked the compass on his wrist and orientated himself north-east to London. He’d brought a map on the first trip. It disintegrated as soon as it left his bag and forced him to take a detour through Greenland and the small, mostly unchartered islands between it and the UK. He had arrived in Belfast five hours late and found his client dead from thirty-six stab wounds to the back, his suicide note citing ennui. The Company had not been happy, but Jake had thought himself irreplaceable then.

The stream of water speeding towards Jake was enormous and threatened to intercept him soon. Jake looked at his compass and adjusted his course and by the time he looked back up, Steve was there running backwards and smiling. He was saying something and pointing to the satchel on this back. The kid was too green to know Jake would have to sprint back a few miles to have a chance of hearing what he said. Instead, Jake pushed forward and fell back, ran in zigzags and around islands but the kid stuck to him like glue. Jake slowed down, skipping across the ocean like a pebble before coming to a clumsy stop on one of the few islands around with fairly level ground. The kid followed shortly after, skidding across the whole island like a meteor then suddenly appearing in front of Jake, not a speck of sand on him. He stood taller than Jake by a foot and wore a newer version of the same outfit with the corporate sponsors still in proud display. His goggles were red and his body was slim and muscular.

“Hey man, sorry to bother you like this.” Steve said. “I think I’ve got your bag.”

“gently caress you, Steve.” Jake said. “I’ve got the right bag”.

Steve ignored the slight and emptied out the contents of the satchel. Wedding invitations. The type of thing the obscenely rich would pay top dollar to deliver to the other obscenely rich in the quickest most extravagant method possible.

“I don’t run things like this.” Steve said, still smiling. “That’s more, well, your game.”

“I’ve got the right bag.”

“Jake, there is no time for your macho bullshit right now. You have no idea what’s in that bag. If you give it to me now I can still square everything away and no one will be the w-”

“I know exactly what’s in this bag.”

Steve paused at this, and licked his lips.

“If that’s the case, you know you’re going the wrong way with it. The dangerously wrong way.”

“Yep.”

“Jesus, Jake. You’re defecting? Why? The Company gave us all this!” Steve gestured.

“Gave you all this. I’ve been poo poo on the bottom of your shoe since they made you. Do you know what I was before you came along? How I was treated? Now I’m the slowest fastest guy in the world!”

Steve’s veneer cracked. “Maybe all that poo poo happened because you’re a lazy fat drunk who rested on his laurels for too long.” Steve pointed at the yellow and orange TIDE logo that was emblazoned on his shoulder. “You seriously think TIDE wouldn’t sponsor the second fastest man in the world? They’re on every loving NASCAR, Jake! You’re bad business! Who’s going to stick with you after that statut-”

“ALLEGED!” Jake yelled as he punched Steve in the face and retreated into the thick foliage nearby.

Steve put his hand to his nose and it came back bloody. He paced back and forth and nodded the angry nods that come naturally to young men considering violence. “That was hosed up Jake, but I’m willing to not straight up donkey slam your bitch rear end if you give me that bag. I found you in an ocean, Jake. I can find you on an island.”

Jake climbed down the tree slowly, as a normal man might. In one hand he held up Steve’s satchel, and in the other his closed fist. He slowly, unblinkingly raised his middle finger at Steve.

Steve charged. It only took him a split second for most of him to reach Jake, momentum carrying his other half further into the island.

Jake left Steve’s satchel by his body. He ducked under the fishing line and carefully placed the invitations back in his bag.

He had a delivery to make.

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


In.. I'll try not to write this one in three hours

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


Reaping - 1,200 words

Elle admired the city a dozen miles away and hundreds of feet below as she turned the crank, putting what little weight she had into each gyration. It was well after midnight and still she noticed lanterns in every window and street corner, denizens moving about in their shifting light. It had another name once, but now it was Thievesbane, city-that-never-sleeps. Thankfully, what they planned to steal today was elsewhere.

“Mm. Wonderful device. Next iteration, more speed.” Said Otto, from everywhere. Elle set her jaw.

“You could help, you know.” She said, voice strained with effort. The tower was impossibly tall and without other points of entry. She had been cranking for the better part of an hour.

“Can I?” said Otto, his voice like the sound of a scythe reaping wheat.

Elle turned and looked, keeping Otto at the edge of her vision where it was easiest to make out the shape of him. He stood on the edge of the parapet across from her, like a cloak hung on a high post. Otto’s claws looked like the long shadows cast by fingers near sunset and there was menace even in their idle swaying.

The hood covering Otto’s head seemed to shift, leaving an emptiness that was dark even in the black pitch of night. For a second, the emptiness grinned at her with a mouth too wide bearing teeth too sharp.

She collapsed on her hands and knees and retched.

“You did it again you blurry gently caress!” She said, sputtering and grabbing the parapet for support. It grabbed back. The limb was long and segmented and held her arm with countless spiny, furry fingers. Two massive pincers appeared on either side of her, digging into the stone wall where they gripped. They pulled behind them an enormous being, all chitin and spines. It pulled itself over the wall and held itself there, looking at Elle through six black eyes the size of fists.

Elle punched it in the closest thing it had to a face. It buckled and fell, rolling in on itself and wheeling past her to collapse against the wall opposite them.

“Oh poo poo, Greg-” Elle said, shaking the pain off her hand as she ran to kneel beside the creature. She ran her hand in circles over its exoskeleton. The punch couldn’t have hurt it. Nothing could have.

“Come on, don’t sulk.”

It uncurled itself and there was a horrible clicking noise at it wildly flailed its six limbs. “You can’t be such a drama queen” Elle said. She ran her hands along the prickly feelers under the eyes of the beast. “I’ve never met a queen with such a fine mustache.”

It slowed, then ceased its failing, wiggling its feelers in Elle’s hands. She pulled one of several knives from her belt and cut the rope harness off Gregory. They would find another way down.

“Yelling, crashing, bug scraping and scrambling his way up tower. Many will sleep tonight.” Otto said. He had set up in front of the tall oaken door leading into the tower, dark arms outstretched beyond human proportions.

“Relax, place isn’t guarded. Why would a dead Wizard need guards? Hell, why would a live one?” Elle said, moving to inspect the door.

Otto’s arms retreated into his cloak and fell to his sides. “Still. We are terrible thieves.”

“That’s why we cheat.” Elle backed away from the door. “Gregory!”

The creature stopped nibbling on a bit off moss growing through cracks in the stone. It moved to the door and stood upright before it on thick angled legs. It rapped twice on the door with a long prehensile midlimb, then brought back a claw and punched. The door of wood and wrought iron a foot thick exploded under the blow, only bent hinges and splinters left to block the entryway. Gregory raised his claws in the air and clicked them rhythmically as they made their way into the Wizard’s lair.

***

The tower was full of sundries and lesser thieves might have spent time filling their pockets to the brim with anything that shimmered or looked sufficiently Wizardy. They moved from room to room after cursory glances. A Wizard’s Focus would buy the tower and everything in it ten times over. This did not stop Gregory from picking up items as they progressed through the tower. Elle would feel a nudge at her back every floor or two and turn to see him holding baubles, glass figurines, lengths of colorful cloth. She had chiseled small compartments into the sides of his shell and would put the items there for him. Gregory shoved passed them and awkwardly ambled down the steps to the next floor.

There was a crash and the air grew wavy and thick like that of a summer heat, but Elle was cold and she could see her breath before her coming faster now.

She peeked around the corner to the next floor and saw Gregory suspended in darkness, claws outstretched to his sides, other limbs flailing wildly, his great black eyes looking out at her. She heard a sound like a tree being felled and both claws broke violently in a spray of green ichor. Two massive yellow orbs appeared on either side of Gregory’s now limp form, glowing with a dull light. A small black dot appeared in each and focused on Elle where she hid. They blinked.

Elle scampered backwards up the stairs and stopped next to Otto.

“Oh God, Gregory.” She said, breathing heavily. “Does that kill him? I don’t know whether to be sad or not.”

“Thing what nixed the bug,” Otto said. “Know what it is. Wizard broke rules. Thing is.. Otto-kin”.

“gently caress does that mean?”

“We die.” Otto said, sitting next to her.

“gently caress that, let’s get out of here” Elle said, rising and starting back up the stairs. A giant yellow eye blocked the path behind them, and the stairs they were on were bordered with red twisted flesh like the jowls of a wild dog.

“Right then.” Elle said. “We fight.”

“Fight, die tired.” Otto said, laying back on the stairs, claws crossed behind his head.

“We fight. Together.” Elle said, words barely a whisper.

“Little Elle said she’d die before letting me in again. She stood on two dirt mounds and held her shovel at me like a blade and said it again. Loudly.” Otto rose. “Take it back?”

Elle nodded and a grin spread across Otto’s face. Mouth too wide. Teeth too sharp. Elle stood firm and did not look away.

***

They arrived at Thievesbane at dawn, the crumpled ruins of the Wizard’s tower far behind them. Gregory ambled awkwardly, his legs still growing used to his sudden weight loss, two small pincers having sprouted at his sides. His shell was incandescent with the light of the Focus tucked into one of its compartments. They made their way through the town, careful not to step on any of the denizens as they lay snoring where they had stood.

“We’ve done a good thing today” Elle said as they began to loot the town dry, her voice like the sound of a scythe reaping wheat.

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


in.

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


i'm having my own series of worst days and have to bow out this week, sorry!

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


i think im gonna have to write this on my cell phone while I poop but luckily i poop well and often. in.

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


Kinnison James - 1494 words


I first met Kinnison James in a cave of wood and rust in Chicago back in ‘77. I’d call it a bar because it had a few chipped stools and served a dark brew you could run your car off, but there were no welcoming neon lights outside, no rows of bottles behind the counter. The door was propped open by the prone form of a man and I stepped over him not knowing if he was passed out or dead. It took my eyes a few moments to adjust to the flickering glow of lit trashcans. Dark forms dressed in rags huddled over mismatched glassware and looked at me with yellow eyes. Some lay on their backs gaping at the ceiling like goldfish, pipes in hand. Two that were still alert enough to notice eyed me up and down, licking and biting their lips like I was their next meal or lover.

“I’m looking for Kinnison James.”, I said.

No one heard. Trying to stop your piss and poo poo and tears from coming out all at once doesn’t lend itself to projecting your voice and my declaration was little more than a whisper. I cleared my throat and steeled my bowels and set myself to try again, but a big hand gripped my shoulder and pulled me backwards into a booth I hadn’t noticed.

“Now why would you be doing a dumb thing like that?” said Kinnison James in a subtle southern drawl as he sat down opposite me.

He was a tall man, broad-shouldered and wiry, his forearms corded with muscle. He also looked more out of place than I did in his white business shirt, black vest, pinstripe slacks and dress shoes. His dark arms and hands were covered in scars from the tips of his fingers to where his sleeves were rolled at his elbows. He had a shock of black hair and long sideburns and wore his grin like a mask.


“I’m writing a story.”

“Are you a reporter?”. He said it like he meant it, like a fourteen year-old kid in rags could really be a reporter.

“No,” I said. “But after this, I will be.”

***

Kinnison James was born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1944. It was very hard to piece that together. He told me things like he was raised by circus bears, that they snatched him from the crowd when they bit through their chains and escaped and taught him the don’t-give-a-gently caress ways of the animals. His parents died when he was ten years old. Depending on when you asked either they died in a car accident or Kinnison killed them as fodder for his satanic rituals. He did a few years in ‘Nam and described his role as “professional truck sitter-inner”. He was dishonorably discharged for incapacitating several superior officers when they tried to raze down a village that had surrendered. The military would not disclose any information on this, but Kinnison’s eyes went dark and distant when he spoke about those times, and there was no humor in his voice.

***

“I want to tell the story right, because I know the rest of them won’t.” I said. “I saw you save that white couple. I know you’re a good man.”

He stared at me, deadpan.

“Kid, this was very poorly thought out and you could quite possibly be dumb as hell.” he said. “Out of curiosity, how did you find me here?”

“I asked some guys that run with Big Tim’s crew. They’re pretty mad about what you did to Derek. I guess Crackhead Sammy figured that out and sold you out.”

“Yeah, I figured that out. Never trust anyone called ‘Crackhead Sammy’, by the way.”

“What are you gonna do to him?” I said, pulling out a small notebook and a pencil sharpened to little more than a nub.

“You probably noticed him on your way in. He’s a doorstop now.”

I wrote vigorously.

“What are you going to do to Big Tim’s crew? They’re coming here tonight”.

He raised an eyebrow.

“Kid, that seems like a pretty appropriate conversation starter, real pertinent information.”

“How do you spell ‘pertinent’?” I said. “Also, what does it mean?”

“It means it’s very important to our current situation.” He said, standing up and moving besides me, hand held out for the notebook.

“Why? You’ll just take care of ‘em like you did the rest.”

“Huh,” He held on to the notebook a while before handing it back to me, the word corrected and the last few lines now decorated by a surprisingly good depiction of an enormous penis. “Guess I will.”

***

Kinnison James began his nomadic lifestyle after he came home from Vietnam. He was angry and he was poor and was surrounded by angry poor people doing the things that angry poor people will do. He didn’t mind the crime and violence so much, but he had returned home an apex predator and found himself disgusted at the idea of the weak praying on the weaker. He broke up a few muggings, stopped a few purses from being stolen. They even called him a vigilante for a while, in Little Rock and Memphis. But Kinnison was not a subtle man and a lot of the criminals he encountered ended up crippled or dead. Most of the good fighting men were off in the war then, so Kinnison was able to cut a swath through the petty underworld with relative ease. They tried to even up the odds against him with guns but the Vietnam veteran carried a .44 that he could draw in the blink of an eye, and he was a better shot than most. He never escalated the violence and fought fists with fists, weapons with weapons, guns with guns. He moved from place to place often, avoiding the issues that arise from your enemies knowing where you sleep. I called him a hero, and part of me still does. I thought he was Batman, and wanted to be his Robin. He told me I didn’t want to be anyone’s Robin, because Batman was definitely loving Robin.

***

“What about that one?” I said, pointing to a shady-looking kid on a street corner.

“That kid’s just selling pot. He’s not hurting anyone. You could have been that kid, if you had better business sense.” Said Kinnison James. I had been tailing him for two weeks at that point, longer than he ever stayed in one place. He liked hearing the things I wrote about him, I think. Liked having a friend. He had been in five more “disagreements” as he called them, since Big Tim’s crew. I had been there for each of them watching his chest heave with exertion as he stumbled across the bodies looking for goods.

We turned into an alley looking for the sort of customer that could use a good dose of Kinnison and a small army waited for us. We had been scouting the same streets for a few nights now. Stupid.

“Bigger Tim, I presume.” Kinnison said to what looked like the lead hooligan. No response. The men were carrying sticks and chains and black masks covered their faces. Kinnison mumbled while he counted.

“Nineteen.. Twenty.” He said. “Kid, there’s a pay phone at the street corner. Dial 9-1-1, tell them we’re going to need twenty ambulances for a group of armed males, all with moderate-to-severe cases of ‘hosed up’.”

I didn’t hesitate. I turned and I ran and I heard him say “Atta boy,” before the screaming of men and the sounds of breaking flesh filled the air. I got to the street corner and there was no phone there. I had known that. I stood there for a long time, shaking and reading over my little notebook. Eventually the man in me decided that I couldn’t end this story on “P.S. research selling pot for $$$” and followed my trail of piss back to the alley.

Kinnison James was there, holding his knees and leaning on a wall for support. Around him lay twenty bent, broken and bloodied forms. Kinnison was red all over and there were shivs and knives and what looked like the handle of a ninja sword sticking out of his back like the quills of a porcupine. I gaped in equal parts fear and awe.

“Hey,” he said, his voice a low rumble, eyes fixed the ground. “Don’t take this so seriously. Look around, it’s like one of your comic books. Batman, surrounded by twenty ‘ex-men’. Ha!”.

Kinnison James fell dead amongst his peers. He died unclaimed, John Doe number twenty-one.

I’ve spent years trying to finish-to start, this story, but Kinnison James was one name amongst many for this man, a mantle to be picked up by a much better and much worse man than I.

This is all there is, and I’m sorry for that.

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


i have a secret:

i killed a man

also i'm in

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


bowing out, in for next one w/ toxx

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


in.

e: forgot to :toxx:

Wangless Wonder fucked around with this message at 01:45 on Apr 21, 2015

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


Broenheim posted:

:siren: I am offering 3 line crits for anyone who wants them. Any week, any story, I don't really care. Also, placing a :toxx: that these crits as well as the line crit I promised skwidmonster will be finished by next sunday (5/3) :siren:


edit: 2 taken, 1 more available

I'll take one for the week before last or any week really, thanks!

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


does this mean i can't send you a clay molding of the story i chiseled onto slabs of granite

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


Sigil - 1300 words

"Your power depends on how many sigils and symbols you can place in public view. If you can pepper a whole city with your signs, you can do great works. Too bad city officials and property owners don't like graffiti. "

The rattling of the paint can echoed through the dark alleyway as I shook more magic into it.

“I found it in an old book as a child and was drawn to the look of it, drew it on my wrist next to a happy face and a lovely rendition of the Pepsi logo.” I said, spraying black paint onto the wall. I didn’t need to pay much attention, the Sigil knew what it looked like and wasn’t about to let me gently caress it up. “ Washes off walls much easier than flesh.”

I let the can spray itself and held my wrist up for the police officer, the robe’s wide sleeve falling to my elbow.

“I know, doesn’t seem like much. Just a little stylized eagle, bladed wings outspread. Looks like it should be screen-printed on a mass production t-shirt or tatooed on some hipster’s bicep, right?”

He stared at me, face frozen mid shout.

“That’d make my job a lot easier.”

I moved past the gun in his outstretched hand and dug through his pockets.

“It’s a conduit for the old power, you see.” I said, taking the cash from his wallet. “ The stuff that keeps the seas wet and the deserts dry and the loving moon from landing in your back yard every night. It demands to be seen, even gives me a little taste of the old stuff for my troubles.”

I gestured and his belt snaked down his legs, looping itself around his ankles.

“So you have to understand my frustration,” I said, voice straining as I forced the waistband of his underpants as high as the material would allow. “When your people scour my Sigil off the walls and come at me with your little guns.”

“Your frustration is palpable, friend, but this is getting a little weird for me.” The man’s voice was deeper than his boyish looks hinted at. He was tall and wore a white coat that went down to his ankles and a silver band kept his blond locks off his face.

“It’s not what it looks like.” I waved him off. “You’ve been drinking tonight. You lost a bet and had to wear that prom dress and stumbled into this alley to work out a way to piss without getting any on you. It didn’t work.”

The can of spray paint clattered against the floor, my work here was done. They had been cracking down on my more public works as of late, and I had to resort to placing the Sigil on the back streets and alleys of the city. Not the best ad campaign, but there was power anywhere a stray soul might wander.

“That’s no fun.” The man’s voice startled me. “At least he had a, what was it you said, ‘sexually-enlightening run-in with the hunkiest group of hard-bodies this city has ever seen’.”

I waved, more vigorously this time. He raised an eyebrow. I looked from him to my hand to the sigil and shook my hand at him, fingers flailing with the force of it.

“OK. Who are you?”

“I am the Paladin James Alexander,” he said, standing a little straighter, his voice free of the laughter it had shown previously. “or I will be, after this. I am here to kill or capture you.”

“In that order?”

“It’s more of a ‘play-it-by-ear’ type of thing, though it’d be great if you could make this quick and easy so I can move on to the real threats”.

“What’s that supposed to mean, ‘real threats’?” I shook my hand at him with extra vigor.

“Look I don’t mean to insult your wizard honor or whatever but, you’re wearing a bath robe.”

“It’s only a bath robe if you wear it after a bath.”

“Certainly can’t accuse you of that.” he wrinkled his nose. “Look, are you going to come quietly or what?”

“How are you standing there all big-dicked? Do you even know what I can do? What if I can melt skin or rain thunder from the sky?” I glared at the Sigil, gesturing my head towards the man.

He shrugged. “My skin isn’t melted, no thunder raining down.”

“Risky.”

“I tailed you for a night, didn’t see anything too concerning. I’ve got some academy records to break here, can’t do that without taking a few risks. Why are you so against coming with me anyway? For all you know it could be great.”

“Is it?”

“No, but you don’t know that.”

A storm passed through the city shortly after I had found the Sigil. I watched it pass from a high window, saw it pluck the big oaken sign to St. Mary’s orphanage from the ground like a carrot and fling it miles down the road. I held that memory and ran my hand over the Sigil on the wall. It lit the alleyway in the pale blue fires of the old power.

I held out my hand and blew the Paladin James Alexander on his rear end with a gust of wind. It wasn’t quite what I had hoped for but this was not a facet of the old power I was practiced in, and it was enough for me to have muddied the kid’s coat.

He clicked his teeth and got back on his feet. He pulled what looked like a small marble out from a small pouch at his side and threw at at the Sigil on the wall besides me. It shattered and covered the wall in a white paint that bubbled and hardened.

“I was starting to think those were just a compulsion or hobby,” he said. “Glad I went through the effort of nixing the others you’ve done tonight.”

From a sheath at his side he drew a sword with a rectangular blade that looked too thin and blunt to do much damage, until he cracked it like a whip and covered the blade in a roaring white fire.

I ran, smacking the police officer out of his daze on the way out of the alley. He had a lot to work through, between the implanted memories and the kid with the flaming sword and the mysterious, terrifying pain in his rear end. I heard him empty six rounds by the time I reached the manhole, but if any had gotten the Paladin, he showed no signs of it as he ran at me, sword burning a path through the asphalt at his side.

I dove into the sewers and started running, grazing my hands along the grime of the walls as I made my way through the familiar darkness. It faded quickly as he made his way down after me. I was never good at running. I had never had to run. I stopped, put my back to the wall, and held my knees while I caught my breath.

He didn’t take long to meet me. He was not breathing hard or sweating, but the flames illuminated his features and his anger had an intensity to match them.

“You are making this so unreasonably difficult!” he said. “Do you know what happens if I bring you back all scorched and covered in poo poo? They deduct points for that!”.

He raised his sword high, looked about him and stopped.

“Oh.”

The Sigils on the wall were countless, and they lit the tunnels in their pale blue glow as I stood upright.

I held my hand out and the silver band on his head snapped and fell to the ground. His face was frozen, eyes wide, mouth agape.

“You killed your quarry in these tunnels. Not a big enough chunk of him left to bring back,” I said. “What you do have for your people is his symbol of power.”

I marked the back of his white coat with the Sigil.

“Tell them it’d look great on a t-shirt, or tatooed on a bicep”.

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


Ironic Twist posted:

I will provide graph crits in the style of week 115 to the first ten people that ask (someone else can share an example of said crits via a link). First come first served.

I'll take one, thanks!

thanks for the crit broenheim

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


Hank the Barbarian - 199 words

Hank’s deep scars and bulging veins looked like a road map leading to some horrible unknown beneath his leather harness. The cadre of wizards lay dead at his feet before a single ball of fire or bolt of lightning was cast as the barbarian’s magic was axe-based, powered by tendon and muscle and requiring only the short guttural incantations of his people. He went about the massacre collecting blood from each corpse into the polished skull of his father and he drank deep from it, blood dripping in tendrils from the edges of his lips and staining his face with a red grimace.

“WAS THAT OKAY?” he said to me in a terrifying growl, the most gentle voice he possed.

“Not really, no.” I said looking for signs of a map amongst the bodies. “Doesn’t get us any closer to finding our way home.”

“I WILL CRACK THEIR HEADS AND BOIL THEIR JELLIES AND FROM THE SOUP DIVINE THE WAY.”

“Look, we have boiled a lot of jellies and look at where it’s gotten us.”

“ADVENTURING IN THE PLAINS AND THROUGH HARDSHIP DISCOVERING THE TRUE MEANING OF FRIENDSHIP?”

“Oh, Hank.” We picked a direction at random and kept walking.



also i am ~bad~ but will crit up to 3 goons tonight if they ask for it

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


Dr. Kloctopussy posted:

:siren: :siren: PROMPT: Smells Like Dome SPirit

in for whatever this means.

also :toxx: to submit at least 12 hours before the prompt is due. I need to stop writing these at the last minute

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


Sitting Here posted:

WIZARD WEEK CRITS PART TWO

some high school notebook-caliber doodle

the Sigil aint nothing to gently caress with



thanks for the crits

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


I cannot in good faith navigate that website, please flash me a smell

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


Broenheim posted:

Here's some crits for the people that asked (Entenzahn, newtestleper, Wangless Wonder) two weeks ago:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/11cHxiht6RTSYEDjodldTTQsOrdne9oVu9ns4QSHL9rE/edit?usp=sharing

Also, Wangless, I gave you an offer at the end of your crit. If you choose to accept it, I will do it for your next entry after this week since this came late and I don't expect you to change your story this week to fit my criteria. This will ONLY be applied for the next time you enter though, so if you gently caress it up, and will not offer it again. Make me proud.

ehehehe finally my master plan of waiting till the last day to write the thing comes into fruition. I accept. thank you for the effort.

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


stopwatch - 1017 words



The stopwatch read point-oh-one as I wiped the drop of morning dew from its screen. Was it dew? Maybe it was sweat, I felt so stuffy in these work out clothes. It was good that I was sweating already, wasn’t it? Maybe I could skip the warm-up and just start jogging. Or, I could be dehydrated. The articles all said you had to keep hydrated. My lips did feel dry.

I turned and walked the couple of steps back home to pour myself a glass of water. I walked on tiptoes, something made difficult by the new running shoes. The people at the store had told me my feet were flat and overpronated and I bought the shoes they suggested even though they were stiff and dug painfully into my arches. She was sitting on the couch, but she always was. I listened for the crinkling of a plastic bag, the crunch of potato chips, the shrill yelling that meant she needed food or drink or my help turning over to avoid sores. I had read about a woman that sat on a couch so long that she fused to it. I wished that would happen here. Getting rid of a couch was easier than getting rid of a mother.

My chest heaved as I got back outside and I almost sat down to rest on the porch before remembering that physical exertion was the whole point of this. I made sure the shirt-under-the-shirt was tucked and that the shirt-over-the-shirt was untucked and hoped that together they could keep me from jiggling horrifically through the neighborhood. The stopwatch beeped as I started the timer, took a deep breath and set off at a brisk walk. Had to warm up. All the articles agreed on that.

It was one of those days that Bob Ross teaches people to paint in watercolor. The birds were singing happily as the newly-risen sun dried up yesterday’s puddles and this did nothing to distract me from the fact that I was dying. I walked like I had skis on and gulped big breaths of air and was sweating so much that whoever found me would have to peel the clothes off my bloated corpse like a band-aid. The stopwatch read three minutes.

A hollow opened in the pit of my stomach as I heard footsteps behind me. They were coming fast and made none of the scraping sound my feet did as I slid along like a slug. My heart beat faster, which was impressive considering the it had been making its best efforts to burst from my chest for the last three minutes. I held my breath and moved to the side of the road and looked down while I waited for the steps to pass.

“Sydney?”

I froze. His knees came all the way up to his chest as he ran in place besides me. He had a big smile on his face and breathed like his body was a carriage and his head was just along for the comfortable ride.

“Hi Brett,” I said, trying to calm my breathing. He was beautiful and I was a slug leaking fluids in a shirt that could have been a dress on a smaller girl. I bit my tongue until I tasted copper.

“Haven’t seen you since you left school. Thought you moved,” he said, still running in place. I sort of wobbled from side to side to keep pace.

“Yeah, my mo -- I’m freelancing. Finally making something of my art,” I said. Not a total lie. I had submitted several t-shirt slogans to a screen printing website that paid royalties.

“Cool. I didn’t know you ran. Can I tag along? Gets lonely out here by yourself.”

My lip twitched. It happened when I talked to people now. Not sure when it started, not sure if they noticed, but it felt like a corner of my mouth was doing all it could to make a break for it.

“I’m just finishing up, actually. Been at this for hours,” I said. I had been. I had made a dozen trips from the porch to the full-length mirror in my room, re-read the articles talking about how to check my stride and runner’s etiquette and avoiding shin splints. Sometimes on the way back up to my room I wouldn’t heed the creaking of the stairs, or I’d close the front door a little hard, or step on an empty can or bag on the floor. Each time I’d look over to where my mother sat, expecting -- hoping she’d turn around and see what I was wearing and guilt me into staying with her the same way she always would.

“Sounds like you’re done then. I’m here most days if you change your mind,” He turned with a wink and took off. “It was nice to see you again!”

He was already down the block and rounding the corner when he said it.

The stopwatch read just over five minutes. Warm-up was over.

I walked back home, not briskly.

The sweat and tears ran down my face in salty rivulets and I could not tell which was which. Maybe I wasn’t sweating. Maybe my body found new places to cry from. My mother would love seeing me come home like this. She would laugh and tell me about the things that aren’t for “women like us” and pat the couch next to her, all covered in trash and bits of food. I had done a lot of sitting on that couch. Maybe one day I’d sit down and never get up again. Just like that woman. Just like my mother.

My breathing had slowed down to normal as I reached the house, though I thought it never would. Paint fell off the wooden fence in chips as I ran my hands alongside it, and soon there was no more fence, just the neighbor’s open lawn and a street winding down into forever. I reset the stopwatch then started it from zero. I took a deep breath and ran down the street.

Warm-up time was over.

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


Kaishai posted:

We will not hand out song assignments any earlier than Thursday.

you have played right into my hands. in.

thank you for crit & promise-of-crit SM & bro

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


Sundance Shot posted:

I was too nervous to post. :toxx: failed.

believe in you are self. tell me the tale of the smelly wizard

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


Broenheim posted:

Wangless Wonder here's your crit

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1AnQhTH9OFpKZKBDUq9E3on4m01gxCD-65TweAv0Yvd8/edit?usp=sharing

Once again, great work! I really did love your story.

thank you so much! I was worried this one would flop because I ran out the clock on it even more than usual and submitted after like 4 hours of writing without even a re-read. you guys show a great amount of effort that I will try to match by submitting my first ever second draft this week. :toxx:

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


:siren: Spinning da wheel! :siren:

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


i won't be able to submit in time, mother's day weekend really complicated stuff. i promise to post my story about russian urban climbing & the granny cabal at some point.

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


i'm in

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


i'm in.

Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


im in

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Wangless Wonder
May 27, 2009


The Ballad of Einar (1398 words)



The sun’s glare reflected off the sword’s razor edge and onto Einar’s eyes, clouding the kneeling form of the herald that held it solemnly before him. Einar slammed the door shut. There was no need for locks or bars on the doors of the Lord of the Northern Reaches, so Einar tipped over a nearby barrel of mead to block the herald’s way. The barrel promptly burst open, spilling its contents over the floor and coating the prone form of Einar’s loyal guard Dolf in thick golden ale that he proceeded to instinctively lap from the floor in between bouts of snoring.

Einar ran.

He was out of breath by the time he made it back up the steps to his chambers and considered his options. Too fat for the window. Too fat for the wardrobe. Too many whores under the bed, and only children hide from their fears under beds and Einar, Lord of the Northern Reaches, was a man. Men, they faced their fears head-on, killed them with a deft ax throw before they had a chance to react, and buried their bodies in a tree hollow in the Forest of Meek Hauntings before anyone was the wiser. Hearing footsteps echoing from the wooden stairwell behind him, Einar picked up Brynjar, Ax That Split Mountains and Slayed Dragons, mighty relic of his forefathers, and removed half a lemon from its rusting edge before hefting it above his head and and aiming it towards the doorway, arm shaking under the weight.

The footsteps came slowly, as if the herald knew the fear their sound struck in Einar. He wore bells in his beard like a southern rear end in a top hat and he was far enough up the steps that Einar could hear their chime. That beard would be jingling in hell soon, Einar thought. He tensed as he saw the herald coming through the doorway. He was young, handsome and had broad shoulders that made him sidle through the doorway sideways. He still held the sword before him on open palms. Einar roared and let loose the ax. It flipped majestically through the air once and fell embedded to the floor a few feet away from Einar, bits of lemon and onion scattering the wood between them. Einar froze, looking at the ax with wide eyes. The herald looked from the ax to Einar with a raised eyebrow. The whores woke and screamed and covered themselves in Einar’s fine furs and linens as they filed out of the room. Halvar, Einar’s donkey, awoke with a frightened whinny and Einar met his eyes and silently begged him to please, pummel this man with your hooves, distract him with your beautiful mane, but the beast always looked out for number one, it’s why Einar respected him. Einar locked eyes with the herald, and smiled with quivering lips.

“Welcome to the Northern Reaches!”

The herald pursed his lips. “Right,” he said, beard jingling as he shook his head. “Einar Einarson, Lord of The Northern Reaches, I come bearing the sword of King Erik the Great, Uniter of Clans, and with a a pro-“, he paused as Halvar trundled past him on unsure legs and crashed loudly down the stairwell. The herald cleared his throat. “A proclamation: We are at war. All lords will gather at the hamlet of Kadvarag and from there stage an all-out assault on-“

“Look, I get it, there aren’t many other reasons why a strange man with a jingly beard would come to my door to offer a sword,” Einar said, a button popping off his robe as he stood. “I will send Erik some men.”

“Your presence is required, Lord.” said the herald through gritted teeth.

“That won’t do. Who will look after the Northern Reaches? What if we’re attacked?”

“Attacked by whom? For what? The Northern Reaches have never known battle under our banner for a reason. You boast no resources, natural or man-made, you are an indefensible staging ground, your women are hideous; all you have is an old name and an older ax.”

“Careful, boy.” Einar said, stepping close to the herald. “I love every cold rock and hideous bitch in these lands, and will not see them insulted in my home!”

The sword’s edge was red with blood where the herald gripped it. “My Lord, you swore the oath. You knelt before the King and kissed the sword. Need I remind you what the punishment is?”

Einar grew pale. He had kissed many things in his time, and that damned sword had the second worst repercussions of them all.

“What is to be my role in this war?” he said.

“Soldier.”

“That can mean a great deal in these times.” Einar said, recalling his Hallucinogen Testing and Human Flight Engineering special force. They had dashed themselves nobly against the rocks at the bottom of End-Of-All-Things Cliff, and Einar was willing to order more men to the same for the war effort. “What, exactly, is my role?”

“You will take this and stab our enemies with it.” the herald said, gesturing with the sword. “Lords lead from the front.”

Einar clicked his teeth. “And I would be with.. my own men?”

“Absolutely,” said the herald. “If your man in front fights as furiously as he sucks mead from the floorboards, this war will be over in no time.”

“You forget yourself!” Einar bellowed. “I am lord of the northern reaches, herald!”

“I am no herald,” the man said. “I am Erik Erikson, and I have come as my father’s eyes, ears, and sword.” He brought the point of the blade to Einar’s throat, and followed it downwards as Einar collapsed to his knees. “I see a man who has not been dragged through the streets and burned as fuel in his own lands only because he controls the wheat and mead. I see a man shrouded in corpulence leading an existence of excess and degeneracy. I see a man abandoned by man, beast and ax. Bow your head, I will end a dirty life with a clean death.”

Einar’s face burned and his heart pumped in his chest and his britches would have moistened were he wearing any. For three generations, no one had spoken to an Einar this way. His grandfather had won the north by the strength of his ax and his father had ruled with an iron fist and boiled all dissidents alive in their own soup and he, Einar III, had set up a very beneficial trade agreement with local tribesmen for huge quantities of incredibly strong booze, which he shared openly with his people, sometimes. He knew didn’t respect him, but they liked him, probably, and for Einar that had been enough.

“You are right.” Einar said, bowing his head. “But do my people the justice of seeing this work done. They deserve that much.”

Erik paused for a long time, sword hefted in a warrior’s stance over his head, then nodded. “Pick up the ax, if you still can. A Lord should still be given a warrior’s death.”

Einar stood and picked up Brynjar, and allowed himself a small smile at seeing the prince still keep a safe distance between them. They made their way down the steps and through the door and were met by a large crowd, drat near the whole town by the look and smell of them.

“Good people,” said Erik. “I have come to rid you of your p-“

His words cut off in a startled shout as Dolf clubbed him over the head like baby seal. Sven, a hard-faced leatherworker, raised a pint glass to Einar, downed it, and dragged the prince off into the woods by his feet. "We didn't see nothin',” he said.

The townsfolk looked excitedly to Einar. He stood, raised Brynjar, Ax That Split Mountains and Slayed Dragons, mighty relic of his forefathers, and brought it down on a fresh cask of ale. The contents gushed out all over the townsfolk in a misty drizzle, and they opened their mouths and held up their flasks to collect it. More casks were opened and a whole barrel was poured out for Halvar, and Odin and his Einherjar were there blasting casks open with bolts of lightning, and no one was unceremoniously decapitated in the room they shared with a donkey, least of all Einar.

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