Monday, March 25, 2019

Mikey's Backstory - 2

Ok, so here's the next bit of Mikey's story. Hopefully it's gonna keep coming this week and I'll have some more soon. I'm kind of excited to see how it turns out!
-Tole

I’d been between jobs for about two months which meant I hadn’t been sober for about a month and a half. At this point in my life I was either killing a target or killing a bottle of Scotch. I hadn’t been down out of my room for a day or seven, so Bobby had come up to check on me and shove some food under my door. Only difference was this time he knocked.

“Hey Tole. Brought you some food and some coffee…oh and there’s someone down here looking for you. Do us all a favor and wash your nasty ass before you come down would ya? I can smell you from out here.” With that I heard him stomp back downstairs.

What does he mean I smell? I just took a shower the other…ok it has been awhile. Fine! I’ll clean up.

Once I had a bath and some food in me, I headed down stairs to find out who or what was looking for me. Bobby hadn’t said they were looking to hire me, just that they were looking for me. Consequently, I went armed. It’s never good to be lacking pointy goodness when that is exactly what the situation calls for.

I stepped out onto the landing outside of my room and made eye contact with Bobby. He nodded and pointed to a table where a mountain of a man was sitting in a chair that was flanked by four metallic men a uniform six foot tall. Each one of them was golden and built like a perfect specimen of humanity right down to the perfectly shaped musculature. The creepy bit was that none of them had a face nor clothing nor genitals. They looked like those faceless mannequins in the department stores back home except they seemed to be alive.

When I looked closer, I could see there were handles by each man for them to carry the chair. Then I noticed why. His legs were all but useless. Crooked things that probably wouldn’t hold my weight much less his. From the waist up though this fella was huge…nothing but muscle and bone, and not the kind you get from working out. You could even tell it through the clothes he wore. This was working muscle like the stuff you see on blacksmiths and stone masons. These muscles did shit.

There was something familiar about him though, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Anytime I’m faced with an unknown my brain starts doing that threat assessment thing it does, and I quickly decided that I would be extra nice to this guy until a time came to not be nice. Boy did I hope that time never came. That would not be a fun fight. Best to not go looking for one then.

As I walked up to the table the four automatons turned to face me, and I got the impression that they would defend their master without hesitation. I decided that was yet another fight I didn’t want to take on because I wasn’t totally sure that they even could be killed. I filed that away as a question to research later.

“I have come to understand that you are a man who solves problems,” he said before I even had the chance to speak. His voice was deep and rumbled like the ground moving in an earthquake.
I nodded, and he motioned to a seat and continued, “Well, I have one that a man of your skills should find entertaining. I am a crafter of things, weapons and armor mostly, but I also craft finer things. Someone has stolen from me and that cannot be let stand. I wish to hire you to find my things, kill the one who took them in a public and messy way as a message to any others with thoughts of thievery, and return my goods to me.”

In all honesty I was starting to get bored with the stories my clients and potential clients told me. In the end it all boils down to the same thing. They’re pissed about some perceived wrong, and they want it dealt with in the worst way possible. In all honesty I couldn’t be bothered to give two shits about their troubles, but I’d be more than happy to kill someone for their gold.  Let’s be honest with each other. In the final analysis that’s all I really want to do anyway…kill someone or something and get paid.

Funny thing was in this case I was actually interested.  Something about this guy told me that it was in my best interest to help him. It was almost a compulsion. When that realization hit my brain, I started to back pedal.  Compulsion had gotten me royally screwed before, but I had safeguards in place to stop magical compulsion. Maybe it was my hind brain telling me there was more here than I realized. I’d learned to listen to that voice by this point.  It’s probably why I was still alive.

He just kind of sat there a minute. He sat so still I wasn’t completely sure he was even still alive, but after what felt like forever he finally kind of snorted out a small laugh. He just sort of relaxed, and when he did, all of his automatons walked away from the table going to sit silently at the table next to us. I took that as a sign that I should go ahead and ask.

“Ok, so the first question is what did they steal that was so important you’re willing to pay my outrageous fee to make an example of the thief? This isn’t going to be cheap.”

He leaned forward in his chair and looked me right in the eye. I could see the anger that was boiling right beneath the surface. I had obviously struck a nerve because when he answered his voice was even lower and there was an edge to it that even set me on edge.

“It’s not what they stole from me. It’s the fact that they dared to do it! I want their guts strung up as banners as a warning to any one foolish enough to consider repeating the act. I cannot allow this to stand. Your fee, however outrageous, is irrelevant to me.” With that he settled back into his chair and drained his mug and before he could set it down one of his drones was there with another full one and another carried away the empty.

Now that is damned handy shit.

That’s when it happened. That process that had been running in the back of my mind trying to figure out why this guy looked familiar finally locked onto it, and I knew who he was. Deciding to be nice was the right call when you’re sitting across a table from a god. That made my second question a little different than I had first intended, but it was far more important.

“I can definitely understand where you’re coming from on that point. If you let one scumbag take advantage of you, they all will. I get that, but here’s my second and I think more important question. What can I do that a god can’t, Hephaestus? That is your name isn’t it? I mean it’s been a long time since I had a class in Greek mythology, but you certainly fit the bill.”

I caught him mid-gulp from his new mug of what I now knew was wine because he sprayed it all over the table and one of his minions. He slowly turned to look and me and then did something I never would have expected…he laughed. It was a huge, heartfelt belly laugh too. I let a little of the tension in my shoulder slip away.

“I haven’t been called a god in a very long time. In our early days of trans-dimensional travel a group of us did take up residence on a backwater world and play the part of gods to a primitive people who called themselves the Greek.  It got old though, and we eventually left. Power is an intoxicating thing, but eventually you do sober up or else you get consumed by it and perish.”

“To answer your question though, yes, I and my people are powerful. The problem is if I go to my people for help they will see me as even weaker than they already do,” he said gesturing to his legs. “That would not be the healthiest of choices for me. The second aspect of this problem is that the thief has somehow masked himself from my power. He…or she…has also hidden my creations from my view which is damned hard to do. The things I create carry some of my power and are therefore linked to me. I cannot imagine what it would have taken for the bastard to confound that link. That is why I am here seeking your help.”

This job was going to require me to find the target not just put something pointy in them. It had been a long time since I had a challenge like this. Hunting someone who didn’t want to be found and was doing a good enough job of hiding that a very powerful being couldn’t find him was going to be tough. This might be worth staying sober for a while.

“I’ll find your thief and end them in the messiest way possible. It may take me a while since I have absolutely no idea where the hell to start looking, but I will get it done…what?”

I noticed he had glanced at me and had done a double take like something caught him off guard.

“Huh?” he started. “Oh, nothing…for a second I could have sworn your face changed…darkened like it was under a veil.  There is something about you that is vaguely familiar, but I just can’t put my finger on it. You carry a touch of power in you…but I just can’t nail it down.”

I waved my had dismissively, “Whatever. Look can you tell me what was taken? I’m thinking that a thief only steals for one reason…profit.  They’ve got to sell that shit, so they’ll look for someone to make that happen. I’ll find the fence and backtrack from there to the thief.”

“Well, most of what was taken were things of minor power…jewelry and such, but there were some very powerful items taken as well. Weapons and armor that I crafted not only for my kin in the Pantheon but also some items that were made for heroic humans back in our days on Terra. The armor for my kin would be of no use to anyone not of my race, but the things I made for the humans…those could be worn and used by anyone. I will have an inventory drawn up and given to you. I could also provide you with one of my assistants who should be able to identify my creations. He seems to have a gift for sensing them. I think once he is within a short distance of them he should feel my touch regardless of any masking done by the thief.”

He opened a portal beside our table as easy as thought and called into it, “Mikey, would you join me please if you’re not too busy?”
At first I thought it was odd that he treats these automatons with such deference. Then I remembered that they are all sentient beings with individual personalities. They’re not his equals by any stretch, but they do help him to do things he otherwise could not.  I guess a little respect isn’t too much to expect him to show.

What came through the portal was not at all what I expected. I was expecting another of these sleek automatons. What came through was…well, it was Mikey. He stood about four and half feet tall, had a body that looked like an old potbellied stove with a bucket on top for his head that unlike the others actually kind of had a face on it. His arms and legs that looked like flat bar steel with rivets at the joints. I was not impressed…not in the least.

“What the hell is that?” I asked, the words coming out before I really even thought. “I seem to remember that you created all of your helpers. Did you have an off day or something?”

“What did you say meat-sack? Did you just insult the Master? May I kill him for you Master?”

I couldn’t help it…I laughed.

Apparently Mikey was every bit as twitchy as I am because he produced a blade from…I’m still not sure where it came from...and leapt to the table while thrusting it in my direction. I didn’t survive as long as I have by being slow, but I only stopped his strike with the stiletto up my sleeve by millimeters. We sat there for what felt like an hour staring at each other over the locked blades before Mikey finally broke the stalemate by withdrawing his weapon.

“Oh, I like him!” we both said in unison.

Mikey climbed back down off of the table the weapon disappearing back to wherever it was he stored it. Once he was down and settled back in beside Hephaestus he asked, “I know you didn’t call me out here to pick a fight with...what’s your name meat-sack?”

“Tole.”

“To pick a fight with Tole over there, who by the way is damned quick…kudos on that.”

Hephaestus chuckled under his breath and shook his head saying, ”No I  did not call you out here to defend my honor, but thank you for that. I have hired Tole to retrieve my stolen things and to deal with the thief. I want you to go with him to identify the things that are mine. You are to do as he asks for the duration of your time together, or I will be most disappointed. Do you understand me Mikey?”

Mikey answered him  with, “Sure Master. I get it. Tole’s the boss until you say otherwise. No problem.”

Something in the way he said it though made me a little uneasy. There was something in the way he emphasized that bit about until Hephaestus said otherwise that triggered something in the back of my mind. I may just watch my back a little closer than usual.
“Now to your price,” Hephaestus continued. “I understand that you are customarily paid in gold and gem stones, and that is acceptable to me. What are your terms?”

Now this is the point where I carefully weigh the perceived difficulty of the job, how long I think it’s going to take, what my client can afford versus their willingness to pay. It’s a very complex process unless, that is, the client is wealthy beyond caring and highly motivated to have the job done. In those cases I tend to just get ridiculous. If they say no, I always have a bottle of Scotch waiting, so I went for broke.

“Tracking the thief and ending his ass plus recovery of as many items as I can locate…I would think my weight in gold, an equal volume of diamonds, and a favor should cover it nicely…plus expenses of course.”

“Of course.”

Wow, he agreed to that way too easily. Maybe I shot too low. Dammit!

“That brings up another question though. What about items that have already been sold? Do you want me to recover those things as well and how shall I deal with a new owner who is reluctant to give them up? I don’t have a problem leaving more bodies on the floor, but I never kill for free.”

He sat there quietly for a full minute which when it’s spent under the gaze of a being as powerful as he was seems a helluva lot longer.

Hephaestus finally shook his head and said, “You are a brazen little malakas aren’t you? If you should have to forcefully retrieve something that belongs to me, I will compensate you, but not nearly like I will for the thief. I should think a gold bar per would be fair, BUT I will expect you to justify my payment.”

I stuck out my hand  and said, “Fair enough. I think we can do business.“

He gripped my forearm and I gripped his to seal our bargain. Before he released me he pulled me closer and stared hard into my eyes. He looked like he was gearing up to threaten me not to fuck him over…they all do that…but before he said word one, his visage changed from stern to questioning. He released my arm and said, “Bargain struck. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have things that need my attention elsewhere.”

He opened a portal behind him and his four companions lifted him and carried him through with him facing me the entire time.

Odd.

“So Boss, where do you want to start?”

Mikey’s voice caught me off guard, and I MAY have jumped a little.  Honestly, I was so distracted by Hephaestus’ exit that I had forgotten he was there. I turned to look at him wondering if maybe I had undercharged again. I should have asked for something for having to put up with a tag along. Crap.

I spun on him and said, “We aren’t gonna do shit until I get a lead on the thief, so unless you have a suggestion where I should start, you can just make yourself at home here. I’ll come get you when I need you to check out things I find.”

Mikey somehow managed to furrow his metal brow and say, “Okay! Geez, you don’t gotta be such a jerk about it. Truth be told I’m really not an ‘out in the world’ kind of guy anyway. You go do what you have to do, and I’ll gladly wait here. I’m sure I can find some way to amuse myself.”

“Got a job?” Bobby asked as he came up to the table with a big mug of coffee and a plate of food in his hands.

I nodded at him, took a pull at the coffee, and said, “Looks that way. Hey Bobby, you have any idea where a guy could move powerful magic items without drawing attention to himself? Maybe a discreet re-seller of items who doesn’t place a lot of value on where they came from? He’d have to be able to scramble efforts to track them and maybe even keep them hidden after they were sold. Sound like anyone you know?”

“Why?” he asked. “You thinking of adding thieving to killing and be a double threat?”

I gave him my best ‘quit fucking around’ look and took another drink of my coffee.

“Wow. You really are in a mood huh?” he asked as he took a seat at the table next to me. “I can only think of about three guys who have the skills and the power to do what you’re talking about. I’ll put out some feelers, and see if I can get a sniff of anything for ya.”

I set the cup down and thanked him as I got ready to dig into the food he’d brought.

"Don't thank me yet...you haven't gotten my bill," he said laughing and went behind the bar.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Because It's Texas Dammit!

This showed up on my FaceBook page today. I just wonder if they had to do something to cover the hooves to keep from tearing up the floor. If nothing else, it's a day the employees will remember for quite sometime.

Texas Rancher Brings Steer Into Petco

In other news, writing is as writing does.  I was plowing right ahead on the Mikey story when suddenly I found myself working on the next chapter in The Affairs of Dragons...still have no idea how that happened. Huh.

-Tole

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Writer's Group

Lawdog and OldNFO drug me to a local writer's group meeting in November of last year, and even though I was reluctant to go, I really enjoyed the discourse. Everyone there writes something different, and I found it interesting how everyone has a personalized approach to how they write.

It's an eclectic group to say the least. There are a couple of authors whose material would fall into the young adult category, but they all go at different genres in that category. There's a poet or two and a couple of Christian authors as well. Like I said before...it's a diverse group.

One of the aspects of the group is that we all take turns bringing something for the others to read over and critique. Last night was my turn.

It took me quite a while to decide what to take that would just send a few of our members into fits, and I finally settled on the long version of the Pirates story.

As I laid it on the table I made a point of mentioning...more than once...that it was violent and contained strong language. To my surprise they all took a copy with the exception of Lawdog and NFO since they're both alpha readers for me anyway.  They've seen it...more than once.

Next month's meeting should be interesting and my dark little heart just can't wait. 

-Tole

Friday, March 15, 2019

Mikey's Backstory - 1

This is the story that is beating me to death. I originally set out just to write the story of how Tole and Mikey met and how Mikey came to work for Tole.  It has slowly blown up into something so much more. It makes my head hurt.  I just want to write a 3,000 word or so short for you guys to read and go on to the next idea, but I guess my muse has other ideas. The bitch has already made me re-write the Pirates story to double it's original size and the Working on Terra short is about 30% bigger than it originally was.  

Was that a whip crack? Damn I guess I need to get back to work, but here's the intro to the beginning of the start of Mikey's backstory...crap.

-Tole


It was quiet in my room for the first time all night, and I was just about to drift off to sleep. You know that feeling when the world is kind of detached, and you know that blissful unconsciousness is only moments away? Yeah, that’s where I was, and it was awesome. Well it would have been if Serilla hadn’t laid her hand on my chest and whispered in my ear.

“Killer, there is something not right about that cabinet in the corner.”

When a creature with centuries of experience and magic as strong as Serilla has makes a statement like that, you should listen. I do, and it brought me straight up into full consciousness again with all thoughts of sleep flying away. I sat straight up in the bed, started gathering pointy things, and asked her, “What cabinet? What’s not right?”

“Peace, Lover. Nothing is trying to kill us…yet, but that armoire in the corner where you keep your clothes is enchanted with magic I do not understand. It irks me. I tried to open it the other day and that damned wooden snake bit me. I was able to expel the poison before it did any serious damage, but I was never able to open the doors. I do not like there being something in this room that I cannot protect you from.”

I sat back down on the side of the bed and relaxed. I should have realized that she would eventually notice the enchantment on my wardrobe/weapon locker/safe room. I started putting all of my emergency weaponry back into the locations where they are stored around my bed. No point in being pointy right now.

When I was done I lay back down beside her, kissed her forehead and said, “You have nothing to fear from that armoire. The snake is simply the security system. It protects what’s inside. I should have expected you to notice the enchantment, but every time you come to my room I always seem to get…distracted. It was a gift from a client…well part of his payment actually…kind of like a tip. Frankly, I think he was trying to get rid of it.”

“Why do you need something so well protected to house your clothing?” she asked cocking an eyebrow at me.

“Oh it does a lot more than that Lover. Let me show you.”

I walked over and started to disarm the security and open it to my weapons room. I think she’ll find Mikey interesting. Just about the time I reached for the door I remembered I was naked, and so was she. Mikey would never stop talking about it if I walked in there nude. He’s fascinated with non-mechanical beings and loves to point out all the ways in which we can be killed. Last thing I need is being subjected to examination by my weapons master…again.

“Maybe we should put our clothes on first,” I said pulling on my trousers and tunic.

As I got dressed, a devious thought entered my mind. I wonder just how sensitive she is to the magic around the armoire. I mean, I know her magic is potent, and her race are intrinsically magical in nature. What I don’t know is just how far her skills go. This thing was created by a being beyond even her abilities. It would be interesting to see how much she can discern. I know, it’s a dick move, but I never claimed to be a nice guy.

Once we were dressed, I walked over to my armoire and motioned for Serilla to join me. Every time I open it I have to stop and look at the carvings on the doors. One door shows Perseus’ battle with the Kraken and the other depicts Hercules’ battle with the lion. The center of the two doors has a snake carved into it that begins on the leftmost door, winds through the handles, and ends on the right hand door. The snake not only locks the handles together, but it is also the security system that prevents forced entry. Touch the snake and it will hiss as a warning to the would-be intruder. Pull hard on a handle or try to break the snake, and it will pull its head free of the door and strike. The venom it carries is deadly and fast. Once its job is done the head will reattach to the door, locking them tight once again.

Since she was bitten, my guess is Serilla tried to force the door. I reached out my hand and touched the head of the snake that is wrapped around the handles on the doors. When it hisses, I speak the Greek word for clothes, “Roúcha.” As soon as the word finishes leaving my lips, the snake crawls out of the handles and across to the carving of Perseus and settles onto a log on the beach in the foreground of the image.

I opened the door and showed Serilla the inside. A clothes bar spans the left half of the space inside and is filled with clothes on hangers. The right side is all shelves, some with folded garments in them and others with jewelry or weaponry or both. She carefully inspected everything in the armoire. Some things she touched. Some things she just kind of hovered her hand over. I had the distinct feeling that no matter how it looked, it was all a magical examination.

“There is more to this than a simple armoire,” she said once she was finished poking around in it
.
“Yeah there is. There’s a portal in the back that opens to a place on Terra where I keep the few things from my old life…a car, some Terran weapons, and some mementos from my youth.”

“Oh, I saw that. That’s not what I meant, and I think you know it. There is a deep magic here. Older than even my kind I think and on a level few of my kind have ever achieved. This is a thing of great power, Killer. You need to treat it with care and respect. Much as you SHOULD be treating me instead of dancing around the subject and testing me.”

I kissed her on the cheek and held my hands up in surrender. “Guilty. The client who gave it to me told me to protect it well and it’d never fail me. I just wanted to see how obvious his touch was in the craftsmanship. Let me show you the rest. I feel like I should warn you though. Mikey is a little…quirky.”

“Mikey?” she asked me with a slightly raised eyebrow. She’s just so damned cute when she does that.

“Yeah…Mikey,” I said shaking my head as I closed the door again.

While still holding the handle, I speak the Greek word for peace, “Eiríni.” I always found it ironic that my weapons are concealed behind that word. I guess it makes sense when you know the one who made it. For him, a place that crafts weapons and armor would be a place to find peace. As the last sound of the word ends the snake crawls off of the log and across to the other door. There it coils itself on a rock in the carving of Hercules. I take a deep breath and open the door onto my weapons cache and the workshop where Mikey does his thing.

“Hey Mikey! You still active?” I know he is, but I like to give him shit about forgetting to wind himself up. Truth be told, I have absolutely no idea what keeps his metal ass moving.

There’s a rattle from somewhere in the back of the workshop followed by the crash of something metal falling over. That’s all followed by Mikey yelling, “Hey Boss! I’m back here gathering some pieces for that silver lined dagger you were asking about for that job with the lycanthropes. I’ll be right there. Now where did I put that… ” His voice just kind of trailed off as he mumbled to himself. He does that a lot.

A few minutes later he came walking up from the back of the shop with what I assume was a dagger blade blank and a brick of silver. He was looking at the blank in his hand not really paying much attention to what was going on. I expected him to be a little shocked when he saw Serilla because no one but me had been in here since the armoire was given to me. When he looked up, he just stopped dead in his tracks. He dropped what he was carrying, grabbed a sword that started humming when he picked it up, and took an en garde pose.

“Boss! That’s a dragon! Why is there a dragon here? Do you know she’s a dragon? They’re dangerous you know? You really need to be more careful about who you hang around with!”

“Mikey calm down. This is Serilla, and she’s my…friend. Put the damned sword down would ya? It’s fine for fuck’s sake.” The pause and calling her my friend got me a pinch on the ass from Serilla, but I didn’t let it show. Well, I tried to not let it show, but she pinched me hard dammit.

“If you’re sure Boss,” he said as he slowly put the sword back on the table, and it stopped humming when he released the grip. “But I still think you should be more careful who you hang with…OH MY GODS! You’re in love with her. I can see it in your aura. It’s a gift the Master’s wife blessed me with to be able to see people’s emotions. Holy shit piles…you’re in love with a dragon. Humans…hang on a second, oh that’s just perfect! She’s just as smitten with you. That’s something you don’t see every millennia. Although there was that one time when the Master’s uncle and a kraken…”

“Mikey…Mikey…Mikey!” I finally had to yell to get his attention. “Meet Serilla. Serilla, this is Mikey. He’s my weapons master, and the one who made those scales you gave me into my armored shirt.”

“Hmm?” he said coming out of his mumbling and musings about the past. “Oh…hello.”

Serilla looked Mikey over and nodded in greeting, and Mikey returned the nod although the way he’s built it almost qualified as a bow.

I turned back to Mikey and explained, “I brought her here to meet you because she is important to me and so are you. I want you two to play nice. Get it? Now, how long before that dagger I wanted is ready?”

“It’s ok Boss,” Mikey said. “You each hold a piece of the other’s soul now. She’s welcome here anytime. As for the dagger, it’ll be ready in a couple of days. I need to check into placing an enchantment on it in case they have magically reinforced skin. I’ve seen the Master do something similar before.”

When he said that I felt Serilla tense. Something was bothering her. She gave my sleeve a tug and threw a look at me that said she’d like to go back to my room, so I gave Mikey the go ahead on the dagger and let him know I’d be back to check on his progress later.

As we walked back out of the armoire and into my room, Serilla stomped over to my side table and got a glass of water. I closed the armoire and touched the snake’s head whispering , “ Prostatévo,” to reactivate the security system.

“What was that all about?” I ask her. “I thought you wanted to know all about this thing.”

“Did you not recognize the symbol imprinted on Mikey’s chest? Does it not stand out in your mind?”

She is very clearly upset, so much so she’s trembling. I walk over to her and put my arms around her waist.

“Of course I know that symbol. The hammer and tongs crossed on an anvil is the mark of the guy who made Mikey, quite a few of the weapons in there, and even the armoire itself. They’re all his handiwork, though carpentry and woodworking weren’t his primary craft…”

She rounded on me with her eyes almost literally aflame and smoke curling up from her nostrils when she said, “They are also stamped into the armor and weapons that you took from the dragon hunter I hired you to kill when we first met! My search to find the one that mark is associated with has always left me frustrated. It was as if the one who made the armor and weapons was purposefully thwarting my efforts to track them down! Now I see you have things created by the same being!”

Oh shit.

In the history of forever no male of any species has ever gotten the female of any species to calm down by saying “calm down.” Why is it then that those words just jump out of our face like we honestly believe that this time it’ll work? What was that definition of insanity again? Maybe it’s panic induced hysteria or a complete loss of control to the hind brain due to imminent death and destruction. Who knows? All I can say is it happened so fast I never saw it coming.

“Serilla, calm down. Let’s me think this through. There has to be a rational explanation.” At least that’s what I meant to say. All I got out was, “Serilla, calm d…” and then the world turned upside down and the lights went out.

When I came too, I was in the floor and my head was in her lap. She was stroking my hair and apologizing. I could feel the tender spot where she’d used magic to stitch something closed on my forehead. I sometimes forget that while she looks like a human woman, she is still a dragon with everything that brings with it. She has dragon magic, dragon strength, and oh boy does she have a dragon’s temper. I have to say I do prefer it when all of those things are pointed at some other unlucky bastard.

When I opened my eyes she exhaled and said, “Thank the Great Mother. I was afraid I had killed you. I was so blind with anger that I lashed out, but I was not angry with you Killer. All I could think about was the corpses of my kin and the fact that whomever that stamp represents is responsible for many deaths. I was angry and confused, and I lost control. I swear it will never…”

“Don’t make that promise,” I said interrupting her apology. “Your temper is a part of you. You could no more honor that promise than I could promise to stop killing. It’s part of who we are. I forgive you though, and I should have known better than to try and placate your anger. This is not the first time I’ve been the victim of a female’s wrath, and it won’t be the last.”

She laughed at that and kissed my forehead.

“Killer, you are a wonder. It is no mystery why I love you so.”

“I am very lovable…in my own way. I’ll tell you this much though. If I find out that the guy who gave me that armoire was responsible for creating that dragon hunter, or if it’s all some part of a long con, I’ll gut the fucker and dance in his shit. I don’t care how powerful he is.”

She helped me up, kissed me gently, and said, “I believe you would and consequences be damned. Maybe you should tell me about this client and how you came to have that cabinet and the being who lives inside, but you should do it downstairs while we eat. I’m sure you had burned most of your reserves with our activities earlier, and the healing I did on you will have taken even more.”

She was right. I was a little wobbly on my feet. Food would definitely be a good idea, and the rumbling in my stomach told me my guts agreed. We headed downstairs to eat and talk. I leaned on her most of the way. Magical healing or not, she hits like a freight train, and I’m pretty sure there were definitely the remnants of a concussion lingering in my skull. The stairs down to the main room damned near did me in. The sonsabitches kept moving on me.

We finally got to the table by the fire where Serilla and I met. We always sit here. Bobby locked in his official title as “My Hero” because he was already there with food in his hands. What can I say? This isn’t the first time I’ve stumbled out of my room and down the stairs. He’s actually the closest thing I have to a best friend. I thanked him for the grub and set to eating with a passion.

While I was shoveling, Serilla lit one of her cigarillos and sat back in her chair patiently waiting for me to slow down. She had taken to blowing smoke rings, and I was well into my third bowl of stew before I paused long enough to speak.

“Well Killer, do you plan to tell me this tale or shall I rattle your head again and see if it will fall out of its own accord?”

I looked up at her from my food to find her smiling at me. Good thing too, because I’m not totally sure she couldn’t do it. It is definitely a sign of her affection for me that she didn’t use her magic and compel me or just drag the memory out of my mind by force. She very well could have, so I figured I should get on with it. I signaled Bobby for another refill on the dark beer I was drinking and sat back in my chair still chewing the last bite of bread and butter.

“So do you want the short version or the long version?” I asked her.

“Usually I enjoy it when you take your time and linger on the details,” she said while smiling at me and cocking an eyebrow. “However, why don’t you tell me who this person is, and then I’ll decide if the story is worth hearing.”

“Fair enough. The short version is that the symbol you saw belongs to a being named Hephaestus, who in the lore of my world was a god to a people called the Greek over three thousand years ago. In reality he was just part of another group of interdimensional travelers who decided they could rule over the simple folk of that time. They set up shop and threw around a bunch of magic, and the Greek people fell for the con completely.”

“Don’t get me wrong; they are some damned powerful beings. Probably as close to actual gods as my planet ever had. The more I learn about the multiverse the more convinced I am that almost every divine being in my planet’s history was just another schmuck with big mojo subjugating people less advanced than they were…the pricks.”

I took a breath and looked at Serilla for some indication as to whether that was enough information or if she wanted more. Her brow was furrowed, and I could tell she was deep in thought. After a second, without even looking up, she motioned for me to continue, so I did.

“Hephaestus was the god of the forge and of craftsman and artisans. He made all of the weapons and armor for his fellow gods as well as jewelry and even the thrones they sat on. It’s totally within his power to craft the things we took from that dragon hunter back on your home world.”

At this point she held up a hand and stopped me.

“Three thousand Terran years ago?” she asked incredulously. “Are these beings immortal? My kind can live for a millennia or more but three? How powerful are these creatures?”

“They’re ridiculously powerful, but no…they‘re not immortal. They are long lived and also really good at exploiting the time differences between dimensions, but they can and do die. Most of the time it’s at each other’s hands too. They fight amongst themselves like nothing you can imagine. Probably from all of the inbreeding.”

Serilla took a long drag on her cigarillo. She sat there in silence, but I could see the thoughts racing through her mind. Finally she looked back up at me and said, “Maybe you should tell me the whole story Killer. If we are going to hunt this Hephaestus, I should know as much about him as possible.”

“I’ll tell you the story, but WE aren’t hunting shit. If he could equip a plain vanilla human well enough to kill your kind in safety, just imagine what he keeps back for his own use. No, if any killing has to be done, I’ll do it alone. He won’t expect it, and surprise is the only way I win this one.”

I meant for my tone to say that there was no room for discussion on the subject, but she just smiled and said, “You’re stalling again. Tell me the tale Killer, and we shall see who hunts what.”

Dammit! Women are a pain in the ass no matter what species they are.

“Fine,” I agreed, “but I won’t let you die for me.”

“Nor will I let you die needlessly for me. Now…the story?”

Telling Serilla a story isn’t the same as sitting down and telling someone else, like say Bobby for instance. I don’t get to sit and spin an elaborate yarn full of colorful language and intricate plot twists. That would be far too tedious for a creature like Serilla. If we hadn’t shared Communion, she would just have to be patient while I did exactly that though. However, since we have blended our minds and spirits, she can experience memories right along with me…if I let her in. I’m still skittish about opening my mind to someone, but after our time together I’ve learned to trust her. She’s just as open to me, and that helps.

I told her I was ready and let down the mental defenses I have built, both psychological and magical. She entered my mind, and I called up the memories of working for a god.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Her Moment of Clarity

I never realized just how well my wife knows me.  I thought I was clever, and I thought she had no idea. It was quite the shock this morning when we had this conversation. What prompted her to start isn't important. How she finished it was what caught me off guard.  I'm still not sure if she was kidding or not.

Her (smiling):  You are evil.

Me (also smiling): Through and through. I just hide it beneath a clever facade of kindness and compassion.

Her (suddenly serious): Until you write and then it all comes out.

Is it bad that in that moment I could see her on the news saying something like, "Oh, I'm not at all surprised. I always knew he had it in him.  I just never expected him to use (insert odd weapon here)."

I swear I'm not a psychopath. I just write about one.

Promise.

In other news, everything I am trying to write is fighting me tooth and toenail.  My muse, who has some very good ideas, is making me earn every word.  There is more coming. I swear.

-Tole

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

There Can Be Only One...

Let me preface this random piece of nonsense that my brain coughed up by saying that I was a big fan of the original Highlander movie with Christopher Lambert and later the television series with Adrian Paul. That's all that needs to be said about that.

I was driving...somewhere...the other day when I saw a dead goose on the side of the highway. It had very obviously lost a fight with a motor vehicle of some sort. I was no sooner past the corpse when an odd thought hit me. What if every time a goose dies any goose that is nearby experiences a quickening and all of the spite and hatred from the dying goose is passed to those nearby? What if myth warns that if too many geese die at once that we risk creating a super goose that can bring about the end of the world? Worse yet, it could become the ruler of the planet and subject us all to it's hate for all eternity!

Gives me the creeps.

-Tole

Pickup Progress

So I spent last weekend out at my friend's house and shop.  When we moved my truck, it would just flat fall on its face and die. I knew ...