Blood Feud

369dcfb476e6cc4cdce440f3af82e7d5

Hunyad Castle, Hunedoara, Romania – 1453

They’re going to let me go today.

After a decade in this dungeon, my captors are granting me a pardon.

Apparently because they think I’m no longer a threat to them. Whatever. I’m watching the sunrise sneak through a small vent in the tower’s ceiling. It’s bathing me in its glow.

I heard one of the guards yesterday say they were letting me go because they thought I was crazy, and would never be able to contest for the crown. My royal blood was the only thing that kept them from murdering me.

This castle tower once held Vlad III of the Wallachian empire, called by some Dracula. He stayed here for seven years. I’ve seen traces of his writings scratched onto the rock walls. His broody presence stills stalks this hell hole.

I’ve held long conversations with Vlad the Impaler during the many nights I slept on the cold stone floor. He comes to me in my dreams and sometimes during the day, whispering strange things into my ear.

Who am I, you may ask? Just a bastard son of the noble Hunyadi family who restored this ancient castle. My mother died giving me life, and my noble father, King Albert of Hungry never officially acknowledged me. My name is John.

I’m a wart in the family line. No one wants to kill me, but I’m treated like a stray dog. And today they’re letting the dog go.

I know what my enemies see when they look at me; a frail old man with a long beard and balding head. They think I have no life left in me, and that I will wander off and die somewhere alone, unknown to future generations.

I’ve had a lot of time to think about this, and I know it’s a good thing they underestimated me so much. It led to my freedom. It’s gave me a chance to wage a blood feud against my own family.

Wait! Here they come now!

One day later.

I’m not use to walking so much. My weary body is being forced to move by sheer will power. I know the cave isn’t far from here. Vlad told me where it was in a dream.

The cave was my key to immortality, and revenge.

I was crawling by the time I reached the entrance to the cave. It was partly concealed by bushes. If I would have been stronger, I would have stood up and walked in. Instead, I had to crawl in like a worm into the darkness.

I have no idea how long I crawled. Resting against a wall, I summoned my remaining strength. I listened. I wasn’t afraid. Vlad assured me the final pain would be quick, then I would enter the new royalty of bloodsuckers for eternity.

When I heard the bats, I sat still and waited for them. Vlad was right. The pain of death was sharp. But when I woke I felt like a new man. A strange woman sat next to me, allowing the cut on her arm to drain its crimson content into my open mouth.

Her hot blood surged through my veins, and I felt a power like nothing a human could even imagine. I could see clearly in the darkness. Everything was crystal clear. When I stood up I was dizzy for a moment, but it passed.

It was exhilarating flying through the night. When I reached the castle it was still dark and the inhabitants, including the guards, were sleeping. Now, a thing of the night, I glided through the corridors until I reached my uncle and his wife’s bedroom.

The guard outside their door slept with a sword across his lap. I couldn’t resist starting my feast with him. It was over quickly.  I took his sword, and cut his head off afterwards.

When I went inside I could clearly see their bed. I went up to the side my uncle was on and fed. Not too much blood, however. I wanted him to suffer. It was just the beginning. I had plans for my damned family.

Plans that would carry through future generations, and that would be referred to in the Family Bible as John’s Curse.

As It Stands, family feuds have long been the fodder of fiction writers.

The Liar Legion’s Last Stand

K2

Andromeda Galaxy – Westrah, Ursae

The leader of the once unchallenged Liar Legions looked down at the valley below at the armies assembling against him and his warriors.

Arken was the legion’s last surviving  general. As he stood atop Mountain Purn his mind wandered. He remembered when he joined the legions as a mere boy of sixteen. Now, 30 years later, he and his men were all that stood between the Truth Teller hoards and his way of life.

He recalled better days when there was no penalties for lying. Just the opposite, a good liar moved up quickly in the legion leadership ranks. It had been so for uncounted centuries.

But the new century saw the rise of the unrelenting Truth Tellers. They based their beliefs on the truth – no matter how hard it was to pursue. For decades they infiltrated the government and quietly took it over – a bloodless coup…at first…

That changed after the riots in Tel-Pa city when a crowd of Truth Tellers killed two of the government’s legionnaires. In the ensuing crackdown, four Truth Tellers were arrested and later executed.

That was the moment when the Liar Legions saw the writing on the wall – they were no longer in charge because of their beliefs. Three legion generals gathered all the warriors who were willing to fight and die.

The chronicles say that many of the legions men surrendered and took oaths to always tell the truth. The hard-core that remained assembled in the nearby mountains. They picked the highest point, Mt. Purn, for their headquarters.

From there, they conducted raids against the ever-swelling ranks of the Truth Tellers. A year passed, before the combined forces of the Truth Tellers were able to overwhelm the legion’s outposts.

They still faced a formidable climb to get to the top of the mountain. Arken’s warriors set traps everywhere. It was winter and the freezing winds lashed out like a living thing. Yet, the legionnaires all knew it was just a matter of time before they died defending their beliefs.

Arken looked down at the base of the mountain where tens of thousands of tents were pitched. They were color coded by divisions. Their brilliant colors reminded Arken of when he was a child playing in the flowery fields of Danber, his birthplace.

It was there that he leaned how to properly lie, and when to lie. There were rules. He was schooled in them before being allowed to join the legions. There was a time for white lies, and a time for outright lies.

The right to lie was his inheritance. Being a patriot, he happily joined the legions and rose through the ranks. He could think of no greater honor than to die defending his beliefs.

As his mind wandered one of the warriors came running up to him.

“It’s started,” he said.

Arken tore himself away from his thoughts and followed the scout to the south side of the mountain. They looked like ants below. An endless line of ants slowly working their way up to them.

By midday the ants were working their steady way up from all directions. Hundreds died in the lethal traps his men set, but the others just pushed on relentlessly.

Arden wished they’d have had more time to fortify their headquarters. The outer wall was only five-feet tall. Not enough to stop a determined warrior.

When the first of the attackers finally hacked his way up and over the wall, he was met by a shield wall of grim veteran legionnaires. Others followed. Spears stopped the first wave of Truth Tellers.

The second wave battered the sword swinging legionnaires but their shield wall held fast. The enemy had to clear thousands of bodies out of the way to resume the attack. The depleted ranks of the Liar Legions prepared themselves for the third wave.

Despite the carnage Arken was still alive and leading his warriors. His armor was battered and covered in gore, like the others. As they waited for the next wave it began to snow.

That’s when the final assault was launched.

As It Stands, this tale is an opportunity to examine the validity of belief systems.

Swimming With Sharks On Saturn

23831UNILAD-imageoptim-shark-fb-thumb

Saturn – Newil Intergalactic Air and Space Center

“Be careful you clumsy idiots! If you drop that tank I’ll have your hairy hides for lunch!” the loading dock foreman shouted.

The four giant Ujit laborers from Uranus growled to themselves as they slowly walked down the ramp. The glass cage was covered with a black tarp. Inside, a Great White shark slept, dreaming of easy prey.

The Ujit’s were met by a lifter robot. It took the cage with ease and rolled off to a special receiving area for earth’s sharks.

Newil City – The Temple Of Meat 

“And I say to you my children, there are many pathways to Heaven. Swimming with sharks is one of them,” the preacher said.

The congregation of 500 worshippers all tapped their feet in unison and chanted, “We are meat! We are meat! We are God’s chosen elite.”

As they chanted, a line formed next to a massive aquarium. A ladder led to a small platform at the top where worshippers jumped off and swam for their lives. A school of sharks instantly descended upon the first swimmer.

The water quickly turned red as they tore the worshipper apart. Meanwhile, more worshippers were jumping in and swimming for a safe platform set up on the north side of the giant aquarium.

The congregation watched in fascination as the sharks mauled, mutilated, and ate their fellow worshippers. On this particular day, one worshipper actually made it to the safe platform unharmed.

A roar of approval went up as he raised his arms in triumph. He was a saint now, joining the others who successfully made it before him.

Newil City Hall

The city elders were having a special meeting to decide what to do about some of the religious cults that were luring innocent Saturnians away from their civilized society and beliefs.

Some, like The Temple of Meat, slaughtered their own parishioners, but were able to get away with it because all religions were allowed to practice their faith in any way they saw fit.

It was the law.

The city elders argued for hours about possible solutions to stop the dangerous trend. Cults were popping up in the city like poisonous mushrooms. Something had to be done. They had no way of knowing that an answer was coming soon.

It started when the earthlings decided the declining population of sharks demanded an answer. An international, and intergalactic, message was sent out by authorities, “Earth’s sharks can no longer be hunted, or imported.”

The House of Meat maintained an enormous underground habitat for it’s sharks. A dedicated staff fed and took care of them. Despite their best efforts, all attempts to breed them failed. So, they did their best to keep them alive for as long as possible.

When the first quake hit, it was like an atomic bomb had gone off beneath the city of Newil. Huge fissures opened in seconds. Then a pause. Then a series of lesser quakes that shook domes, bridges, and towers for minutes.

Among the devastation was the shark habitat. The waters had drained away leaving broken glass and slowly dying sharks.

Among the survivors were three “saints” from the Temple Of Meat. They realized that they could no longer practice their religion on Saturn. With heavy hearts, but with hope, they took the next commercial flight to earth.

After reading all they could about earth, they decided to go to the United States of America where everyone was guaranteed the right to practice their own religion.

As It Stands, this piece is an off-beat comment on religions, and people’s rights.

Comes An Asteroid On A Starry, Starry Night

Asteroid3

Nolis, Neptune

The mass exodus had begun.

When the scientists said that a giant asteroid was going to hit the planet and there would be no survivors, panic ensued.

The wealthy and elite were the first to fill the space buses to Jupiter – a longtime trading partner.

When the space buses returned to get more passengers they were hijacked by armed and desperate inhabitants. Only the strong and armed made the second wave to Jupiter. Then the space buses were grounded.

The remaining Neptunians had no way to leave the planet.

They clustered together in like-minded groups. Neltics gravitated to their kind, and Ulrians did the same. Some groups were new cults that sprang up a month earlier when the word about the impending asteroid became public.

Only two people on the planet were not worried about the imminent asteroid.

The wizard, Na-En Ree, and his young Neltic apprentice, Pit, knew a secret. Because they were outcasts from Neptunian society, they lived far from the big cities. In the frozen tundra near the Kper Mountain range.

Once wizards were universally respected and no civilized city went without at least a dozen offering good advise. They were respected. That changed however with the rise of the scientific elite.

At the turn of the new millennium, a scientific cult became increasingly popular. The inventions they came up with awed the masses. Advances in weaponry and space travel opened up their world. Then trade with Jupiter was established, forever cementing their leadership.

The old ways were soon forbidden. The power of the wizards was broken. They were hunted down all over the planet in one day of terrible reckoning. There was only one survivor… Na-En Ree.

He escaped the terrible purge with the help of a young Neltic runaway. He led Na-En Ree to his crude cave in the frozen tundra near the Kper Mountain range. The boy had been on his own for months, and missed having company.

The boy, Pit, was a clever lad and Na-En Ree soon made him his apprentice. He took Pit outside every night to observe the stars and planets in the starry, starry skies. The wizard read the stars just like a Neptunian could read a book.

One night he took the boy outside as usual, but this time he told him to record what he saw. Pit saw the planet Jupiter, its brightness like a thousand stars in its weekly orbit. Hours went by when suddenly a giant flaming asteroid slammed into Jupiter instantly pulverizing the planet and lighting up the galaxy.

The boy recorded the time and duration of the brightness until the growing dawn brought light to Neptune’s clear blue skies.

“As I told you Pit, the scientists were wrong about which planet was going to be destroyed by the great asteroid. This is important for people to understand. The old ways are best.

Go now, to Nolis, and spread the word my son, that someday I may return and share my wisdom until my last days in peace.”

The Chronicles of Pit and the Wizard tell us they succeeded in restoring harmony among the remaining Neptunians within two short years.

As It Stands, the conflict between science and magic is eternal.

A Tale Of Forgotten Heroes

1a-spartan

404 BC. Greece

I’ve seen my death, and it’s coming soon.

So, I need to tell you a story, not just about me, but also about my brave comrades who gave their lives fighting the monster Chaos.

If I don’t share what happened, the world will never hear of the epic fight waged between the cruel beast Chaos, and the Spartan heroes who defied him. There were no witnesses to our great deed.

Only me. It wasn’t supposed to be so. A city that promised immortality lied to us.

I’d try to write my story down if I could, but as you can see, I’m missing an arm and the other is dangling uselessly beside me. So please, kind sir, listen closely and share our tale with the world.

My name is Ajax. No, not the famous Ajax from the from the Trojan War. Just a common Spartan raised from birth to fight the state’s enemies. My eleven comrades and I were returning from the Decelean War when we camped outside a city one night.

It was dark when we arrived and none of us wanted to be mistaken for an enemy by a jittery night guard at the city’s main gate. We could see bonfires inside the fortified compound as we settled in for the night.

My eleven comrades names were; Aegues, Alecto, Caedmon, Darragh, Fausto, Isai, Maarku, Ondrej, Rehor, Ujarak, and Vadik. We were all from the same city, Lacedaemon. We were all on our way home after years of fighting.

We planned to buy more food for our journey in the morning. Because we were military men we always posted a revolving guard around our perimeter.

In the early dawn hours, when most people slept, there came screams of terror within the fort. They got louder and soon everyone in our camp was standing, armed and ready for whatever may happen.

As we watched we could see bodies flying off the ramparts near the main gate. Horrified screams tore the night apart as some terrible thing attacked the people inside. Suddenly the main gate shook and came crashing down!

The thing that came out was from a nightmare. It was nearly twice as tall as me, and I’m the tallest in our little band. It’s massive arms and chest bulged with corded muscle. It’s long legs were equally muscled.

It was carrying a huge axe and wore a belt of human heads around its massive girth. The creatures long blond hair was soaked in human blood that dripped onto its face and dyed its beard red.

In the light of the full moon we watched it lumber off in an easterly direction. We were all thankful it didn’t see us. We watched the pandemonium – people with torches at the main gate – from the top of a gentle slope near our camp.

We got up early the next morning and walked down to the fort’s entrance. Men were already working on repairing the heavy metal door and putting it back into position as we rode up to a guard.

A row of bodies with shrouds over them lined the street.

He was a talkative fellow and filled us in on what happened. Apparently the monster, he said his name was Chaos, had been extracting a horrible tribute from this city and another east of it for two years.

No one had been able to stand up against Chaos. The city first fought back against Chaos’s demands of human sacrifice every full moon, but when the beast killed fifty of it’s best warriors in a single battle, they knew they were defeated.

The reason Chaos attacked them was because there were no sacrifices waiting for slaughter. Instead they dared to try to ambush him, and paid the price.

The guard led us to the city father’s who were gathered around a bonfire and arguing among themselves. They grew silent as our little company approached. They quickly shared their story when we asked.

In the end, we agreed to kill the monster Chaos in exchange for each man’s weight in gold and statues of us all in the main square. What can I say? We were virile warriors who feared nothing, having defied death daily for most of our lives.

A guide was assigned to us, a freed slave I believe. His name was Xander. He led us to Chaos’s lair in the nearby mountains. We only knew one way to fight…and that was head on! We called out to the vile creature and mocked him as a coward.

When he came out of the cave he was rubbing his eyes in the bright sunlight. In that moment we surrounded him and attacked! It’s strength was unbelievable as it tore off arms and heads with gruesome ease.

Everyone of us wounded Chaos, but he was impervious from pain despite the deep slashes our swords were making.

Finally, it was just brave Aegues and I fighting. Chaos tore my arm off, and I fell. But even as I fell, Aegues did what no other man could…he pierced the creature’s black heart and killed it!

Before it died however, it tore his head off! As I lay wounded, Xander appeared and treated my wounds. My right arm was gone, and the left broken in two places. He took me to an old woman who lived alone in the mountains and was thought to be a witch.

She treated me as best as she could. I’m broken up inside as well as out, and there’s not much to do about it. As I rested at her hut word came of a celebration in the two cities freed from Chaos’s reign of terror.

There was no talk of my comrades and I saving them all. No talk of statues to be built-in our honor. We were forgotten, like we never existed.

I talked the old lady into hiring you Zack, to take me home in your cart. You see, my legs are useless too. The old lady said it was because of my broken back.

But, I fear I’m not going to see the green fields surrounding my childhood home. So, I humbly ask you to tell our story to everyone you meet.

“Of course,” Zack said.

Two days later, Ajax quietly died in his sleep. Zack buried him in a nearby field with no marker.

On his way home Zack tried to remember everything Ajax told him. Unfortunately, Zack was a simple man with a poor memory and by the time he returned home he’d forgotten the whole story.

As It Stands, this tale is for all forgotten hereos.

Have Prophets For Hire

 

rift-starfall-prophecy-expansion

Headquarters for Prophet Inc.

 El Hierro, Canary Islands – 2064

Sergio Martinez, the front office supervisor at Prophet Inc., was going through a stack of requests from countries all over the world. The demand for prophets was endless.

Because there were only six prophets, the price to hire one was astronomical. They could only be rented out for 12-hours. Most requests lingered for years without a response.

The prophets were a result of a temporary experiment conducted two decades earlier by three determined scientists who died in a mysterious fire.

They had infused a newly discovered DNA link from a famous psychic who passed away at 124 years-old, into six embryos.

With loving care they were nurtured in the Prophets Inc. lab, then transferred into a world of their own, where only three Board of Trustee members, and two servants, had access to them.  They were provided with every need from the crib to adulthood.

The underground complex where they lived in El Hierro only had one way in and out. It was constantly guarded. Teachers taught the children that they were gods. That their powers of prophecy were unmatched by mere humans.

They were taught to have complete loyalty to the company. They learned how to focus their powers and, most amazingly, they were never wrong in their predictions.

They were the sole source of income for the company. A board of trustees had to okay every prophet rental. Every prophet could only be rented out once a week. The prophets were always accompanied by a group of special forces mercenaries.

There were three things the company didn’t know about the prophets.

The first, was they were able to communicate with one another telepathically since birth. The second was they wanted to be free. The third was nothing forced them to tell the truth about what they saw in the future.

The company never had to advertise its services.  Everyone in the world knew of their perfect reputation for predicting the future. The three male prophets names were; Elias, Samuel, and Jeremiah. The females were, Mary, Deborah, and Hannah.

The fact of the matter is they were all inclined to tell the truth. It was in their DNA along with their “god” gene. They were not dupes however. They were capable of independent thought.

Samuel was the first one to have doubts about who he was predicting the future for.

The company, a mining conglomeration, wanted to know what would happen if they worked in a known seismic area before bad things started occurring? How many years did they have?

The inhumanity of the request troubled Samuel. He knew that it would take 10 years before catastrophic changes would happen. He considered that and made a decision when they asked him.

“In two years you won’t want to be there. It’ll be unsafe,” he predicted.

When he returned to El Hierro he gathered the other five up and told them what he did. They all decided there was nothing wrong with him saving the earth from more destructive pollution.

But, Samuel’s act opened a Pandora’s Box.

The others began to exercise their judgements when asked questions. During the next two years customers started complaining – especially the mining company when it found out working conditions were still safe in the area they left on Samuel’s recommendation.

The Board of Trustees was worried, and confused. What was happening to their prophets? After analyzing hundreds of contracts the board came to a conclusion; the prophets were cheating the customers.

But why?

When the board brought the six prophets before them they came right to the point, “Why are you cheating our customers?” one of the members asked.

Silently the six polled their answer and Hannah spoke up for them, “Conscience. We have a sense of right and wrong,” she replied

Her reply baffled the board. How had they developed a conscience in their sequestered world? It was a defect no one counted on. They could no longer be counted on to give straight answers.

Sensing the time was right, Elias spoke for them; “We wish to be free to use our powers for all people at no cost. You can kill us, continue to hold us captive, or let us go with your blessings. We will no longer tell the future for money.”

The board buzzed like angry bees as they tried to decide what to do. The discussion went on for hours. Finally the president of the board delivered their consensus, “You may go free. But we ask one favor in return…will you tell each one of us our personal fortune?”

As It Stands, perhaps the most god-like thing about the prophets was their sense of fair play.

The Eternal Writer’s Saga

counter-writers-blockI am a writer.

I record human successes, failures, and follies.

I’ve been writing since Mesopotamia was the cradle of civilization in 3100 BC.

My words can be found scribbled in the earliest Egyptian hieroglyphics, and ancient Mesoamerican mounds.

I’ve been called Petrarch, Aristotle and Plato. My words have brought down mighty countries, and inspired people to die for freedom. Ships were sunk and castles stormed to protect my words of wisdom and hope.

Names are meaningless to me. I have to change mine every century.

You can find my deepest thoughts written in the Indus script of the Bronze Age in ancient India.

I’ve written lists on papyrus using the Phoenician alphabet, and carved scripts like the Runes into stone tablets, using their complex Cyrillic alphabet.

My name changes with every culture. Every era. Egyptians once called me Ptahhotep, and the early summerians called me Enheduanna.

I was William Shakespeare, Thomas Jefferson, Ernest Hemingway, J.R.R. Tolkien, John Steinback, Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Words weave picture stories like Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Tom Sawyer. Words written by influential visionaries, like George Orwell, warn of future dangers.

My mission is to record it all. To give every culture, and nation, a voice. A history.

Words can be worth their weight in gold. They should not be used as weapons. Instead, words should be used to guide civilizations, and bring order to chaos.

Words separate mankind from all the other life forms on earth.

The ability to read words from our past gives us insight into who we are now. What mistakes our predessors made can be recorded as future warnings.

Likewise, many of the things our ancestors did right, are still right today.

Every civilization has a story to tell, and writers to save it for posterity. Words are building blocks that create firm foundations for all nations. They should be used wisely.

The gods are watching…

As It Stands, writing has always calmed my soul, regardless of the subject.