Category Archives: Fiction

Eli Eastwood: Undercooked Fish

UNDERCOOKED FISH

Dinner that evening had been either humbly magnificent or magnificent in its humility: Salmon, lightly-cooked with ginger and garlic, damp, white rice and heated spinach from a can. Tim had placed the plate in front of him and gone back to the stove, and Eli, waiting for his host to to sit so they could begin eating together, leaned in to smell the meal. The potency of the seared ginger and garlic hit his nose like a pungent hammer fashioned from warm air and vapor and he leaned in further, inhaling deeper, smiling.

“Oh my God, this smells amazing.”

“I cooked the fish with ginger, garlic, sesame oil and soy sauce.”

Eli leaned in again. Yes, he could smell the soy sauce now, almost forming itself around the ginger and garlic like walls. It was like the garlic and ginger were two people co-habitating a space only to have a soy house with sesame windows spontaneously erected around them with the prevailing principle of design being to perfectly complement and facilitate the daily activities of the inhabitants.


This was the house that soy built and whether mortgaging, renting or squatting, garlic and ginger had made it their home.

Tim sat and began to say grace. It wasn’t the grace of a Christian, but rather the grace of a “Far-East Space Cowboy, Rosicrucian, spirit-walking, sovereign.”

“I’m really glad we have this meal and I’m very happy to have you here to share it with.”

“Samesies,” Eli thought, smirking inwardly at how gay the sentiment of reciprocity sounded.
“Me as well,” he said with outward solemnity.

They dug in. It was incredibly satisfying, and Eli found himself eating very slowly and deliberately even though he was usually inclined toward gulping his food down mindlessly. Such mindlessness would profane this meal though; This meal symbolized brotherhood and acceptance into one’s world that transcended the financial costs and the small (though commonplace) miracle of eating fish in the mountainous reaches of the Sonoran desert.

They’d had fish (sole) the night before and the night before that also (whitefish…tuna… he wasn’t sure) and in all cases Tim had cooked the fish gently which had made it juicier and more flavourful.

One could almost imagine themself a bear in the Pacific Northwest catching a salmon right from the river and biting into its still-living flesh with relish while eating fish cooked so non-committaly.

Over last night’s meal of near-raw sole, their pre-dinner conversation about women and meeting them on other planes of existence than this prompted Eli to tell Tim about the one girl he’d been dreaming about -V, a significantly younger and very naive former conquest. She wasn’t the one he thought he should be dreaming about, which might present problems down the road, but right now he was more concerned that his dreams of her had been scenes of violent fuck-making. He vividly remembered slapping her in the face in the midst of a sexual struggle, then turning her over and sodomizing her while pinning her arms behind her back (he woke up with damp shorts for his troubles). All the while she seemed to be enjoying the degradation, and the pain and most of all enjoying the…

There was one more thing she was enjoying but the realization hadn’t reached his conscious mind during last night’s meal because Tim began responding to Eli’s dream revelation with his peculiar brand of paranoid/enlightened stream-of-consciousness and the monotonous gravitas took over Eli’s thoughts -not effectively enough as to imprint its content on his memory, but enough to distract him from the mystery of V’os implacable enjoyment of being roughly, even “sinfully” taken. Instead, while Tim droned on, Eli’s mind had wandered to the thought of how appropriate it was to be having a conversation about hatefully defiling a sweet young girl while thoroughly enjoying a piece of undercooked fish.

Last night’s conversation about his dreamed depravities with this young girl had also been something of a milestone in his relationship with Tim. He had spoken openly and vulnerably, not attempting to humble-brag when describing that the dream girl was actually someone real he had slept with, and someone who was furthermore almost every bit as pliant and submissive in real life as she was in the dream (God bless her heart). But tonight was a little different; Tonight they were talking about ____________ and the young man felt compelled to talk about Mindy, a story he couldn’t relate without a modicum of humble-braggadociousness.

“I was leaving Florence a few weeks back, heading to Phoenix…” Eli related how he’d found Florence depressing with its surfeit of correctional facilities and sleepy population, and after spending one evening and one morning

NOT IN JAIL; JUST VISITING

in the town he had set out hitch-hiking toward Phoenix. En route, a woman had reached out to him and made conversation. She was Hispanic, and had a cute, round face. She asked him about where he was from and what he was doing dressed like a paramilitary. He explained that he was a film-maker and told her of his journey, and she suddenly asked if he was hungry.

He knew what this was and had mixed feelings, but also had personally challenged himself to always say “yes” to new possibilities. They walked 10 minutes to her small one-bedroom house in the ghetto outskirts of an already ghetto town, all the while talking about her recent abandonment by her boyfriend. When they arrived she entered first to calm her dog, a yappy chihuahua named Chili. ‘Yappy chihuahua’ he mused; a redundancy if there ever was one. He supposed his general dislike of the breed went back to his teenage years when his Salvadorean girlfriend at the time had babysat a couple of them for a few weeks. It was bad enough to have to wait for her parents to go upstairs before making a move, but when the dogs alerted her parents to every shift of his ass cheek with a shrill series of barks…well, he didn’t like the breed. However, he felt he could get past his dislike today as he suspected that there were no parents here to be alerted and maybe there never had been.

“This is caldo,” she had said indicating a pot of hearty-looking soup on the stovetop.

He glanced in: potatoes and meat.
He looked at her: same.

He smiled at this thought and she smiled back as she began serving him.

The soup, caldo, was quite good on its own but he poured in some of the offered hot sauce. She watched him while he ate and talked about her life, and circumstances, and kids, and plans to leave this town. He put his bowl on a side table when he’d finished and then moved to the front porch and began packing his corncob pipe with some tobacco he’d purchased from a Circle K mere minutes before meeting her. It was a rough smoke; he should have expected as much when the teenage, skater townie joking with the clerk reassured him that he smoked this brand all the time. Still, it was tobacco, and he let her take a hit off his pipe which they both realized on some level was an overture toward some greater sharing, if not an escalation.

“It’s hot as a fuck out here” he observed, benevolently, if profanely. He moved back into the house onto the love-seat where he had been sitting for the meal. She sat beside him and started talking about _______. He cast her a series of sidelong glances, meeting her eyes a few times but mostly observing her in profile. He could tell she was kind and decent and tried to do well. He knew too that her kindness had been wasted upon sleepy people who had been cruel or indifferent to her. She wasn’t lovely but she had a loveliness about her, and she needed something from him. What though?

Some dick?
Maybe, not primarily.
She needed intimacy that was kind. It didn’t have to be deeply satisfying, earth-shattering or even lasting; just kind intimacy with a kind person.

He needed something too. But he was only prepared to give so much of himself. He knew he didn’t want to kiss her and he knew he didn’t want to make love to her, but his libido had been piqued and a blowjob sounded just fine.
Knowing now what he wanted, he struggled with how to broach such an indecent proposal.

“I wanna ask you something but I don’t know how to say it.”

“Just use your mouth.”

“That’s what I was hoping you would do.”

She looked over at him a little surprised and he grabbed her left hand and placed it on the bulge in his fatigue trousers. She seemed a little flushed and a shiver went through her. “Hold on,” she said and went into the kitchen to pen the dog. He unbuckled his utility belt and undid his pants, still very much locked into his rig -a tactical vest laden with pouches, secured to his belt and pants with keeps -but his dick was free.

She came back into the living room and her eyes widened. Sitting beside him she started stroking.
“This is the biggest dick I’ve ever seen.”
He smirked at this observation and attributed it to her lack of sexual experience. He knew he was average-sized and when women said this kind of thing he knew they were being kind and took it for what it was.

She went down on him.

He applied gentle pressure to the back of her head as she did so. It wasn’t the best blowjob he’d ever had but it was the best one he could remember at this moment.
Something about the whole situation was primal and visceral and greasy.

Greasy. That word kept going through his head. A kind of catch-all term for debauchery he’d picked up watching The Trailer Park Boys, but also greasy in a more tangible sense. He hadn’t showered in about 24 hours (not his longest unbathed stretch to be sure) but he’d done some hard-marching in that time and she was paying especial attention to the bits of him which would become unpalatable quickest of all. He felt vaguely bad for her in the same way Al Swearengen must have felt vaguely bad for his whores when he stripped down to his dirty long-johns and got a blowjob from them after a long day of running the Gem. Eli wondered idly if those feelings of pity only turned Al on more like they did him in this moment as the meat and potato woman paid his dick the highest respect one can pay a thing (to put it in one’s mouth).

“Mmmmm…you’re the best” he muttered. She stopped sucking and lifted her head to face him.

“You can say what you want but you don’t have to lie to me.”

“I’m not lying.”

She looked at him skeptically for a moment then resumed her veneration.

“Poor girl,” he thought to himself, “She doesn’t believe me.”

At length she’d finished, they’d talked some and he carried on north. Later that afternoon when he’d arrived in Phoenix as a result of some fortuitous hitch-hiking, he found a note Mindy had tucked into his bag while searching for his journal:

“Her note said I was the highlight of her year,” Eli said as Tim sat listening with an ambivalent, though attentive expression. The expression didn’t change and so Eli elaborated.

“She fed ME and sucked MY dick and I was the highlight of HER year.” A smirk developed on Tim’s face upon Eli’s articulation of this realization, implying that he too had been the highlight of the year for many women before his self-imposed exile into the remote reaches of the Sonoran desert.

Eli withdrew into his mind not wanting to think about Tim getting his dick sucked. He focused on his own experience; he liked the idea of being the highlight of someone’s year simply by allowing them to feed and blow him. It satisfied his ego. He thought there was something Christ-like about it (“Take this all of you and eat it; this is my body…”). Perhaps his Light was so strong that contact with him -“helping” him actually elevated others. By that rationale he had made Mindy better, elevated her, by allowing her to partake of him.

And at this thought he realized what he hadn’t the night before, what V, the girl from the from the dream he’d discussed had enjoyed so much beyond the pain and the degradation.

“I slapped and anally raped her and it was the highlight of her year because in the dream (as in real life) she believed I was better than her and any contact with me elevated her.”

Eli’s eyes widened while squinting at the pleasant discomfort of this thought. This was powerful. Some cult shit. He had a fondness for these women (though no admiration) but they idolized him and wanted to partake in his Light, even if the illumination apparatus was a greasy, average-sized, non-consensual dick.

He looked down at his somewhat diminished plate of undercooked fish.

Perhaps last night’s comparison of defiling a young, pliant girl to devouring a piece of undercooked fish could be taken even further into a metaphysical conceit of Donne-esque proportions, but Eli had no inclination to do so.

As if on cue, Tim’s voice began to register and he listened to the old hippie’s deconstruction of reality with a quiet mind as he cleaned his plate.

@dreguan

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Midnight at the Pier

Friends,

This story was inspired by the following prompt from r/writingprompts. Enjoy!

Times are tough and the world is not what it used to be. You have no choice but to become an illegal pokemon trader.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

Midnight at the Pier

Mirko stood on the dock watching as the crane loaded the last seacan onto the ship. The dull boom it made as it was set down was met with his cathartic sigh. They wouldn’t be out of the woods until they were in international waters but Mirko always felt better when the loading was done. It meant the worst was behind them; the deed had been done and now they just had to slip out undetected. As the crane pulled away and the deckhands started strapping down the last of the cargo, he texted his client:

“LOADED. DEPART IN 5”

He allowed a smile and pulled a pack of Marlboros out of the left pocket of his leather jacket, withdrew a cigarette with his lips and pulled out a lighter from his right pocket while his left hand returned the pack. He lit the cigarette with his left hand covering the flame and took a long inhale, allowing the smoke to fill his lungs and waited for the head rush and euphoria to hit before exhaling through his nose.

It seemed to be a another routine shipment. This was good. This was expected. They had bribed the right officials. They had operated at night and they had acquired their merchandise without incident.

Well, mostly without incident. There had been that one Lopunny a few days ago. It’s trainer had come home just as his men had finished bagging it. Luckily the sentry by the door had been able to knock him out with a pistol just as he pulled out a pokeball which contained a Charmeleon. In the early days they would have taken the Charmeleon too, but the years had shown that to clientele of more …discerning tastes, Pokemon had value beyond just battling. They were willing to pay a higher price for Pokemon which were less of a liability to transport, less of a liability to own, and less of a liability to keep as…pets. Mirko willfully abandoned this train of thought as quickly as he had set upon it. He preferred not to think about what his clientele did with their acquisitions. To him it was all business and he used that rationale to stay detached.

250px-428Lopunny
Pokemon #428: Lopunny

“They should have killed him” he thought to himself dispassionately of the Lopunny’s trainer. From a strictly pragmatic perspective it made sense. Stealing from trainers was certainly a more consistent means of acquiring merchandise than trying to capture in the wild, but it also carried the risk of trainers tracking them down and coming to retrieve their property in force. One of the reasons Team Rocket had collapsed was because it grew too big, got too caught up in its own notoriety and made too many enemies. Sure, they had procured some of the strongest Pokemon, but they were so flagrant about it that the most powerful trainers put aside fierce rivalries and united to stop them. Giovanni had tried to play both sides: he wanted to be the bad guy and the legitimate gym leader. At one point he had even tried to reinvent himself as a Robin Hood of sorts.

“Doesn’t work that way though. You are what you are. Piss enough people off and one day there’ll be no peace for you anywhere in this world. Better to operate this way” Mirko thought, “No making a name, no uniforms, no trying to go legit. Better to be shadowy, amorphous and adaptable….like a Ditto.” He chuckled at this last observation, but  this drew him back to a train of thought he didn’t enjoy as much.

250px-132Ditto
Pokemon #132: Ditto

“Christ! There’s even a Ditto in the manifest,” he reflected. “Seems that some clientele are more discerning than others in their tastes.”

The most in-demand merchandise he dealt in were the small, furry and more feminine mammals; Vulpix, Lopunny, Eevee, etc. And while he found those predilections distasteful he could at least understand the interest on some level. He’d gotten to know some of his clientele and they seemed well-adjusted (by eccentric millionaire standards) so maybe it was some faulty wiring; who was he to judge? Even Ponytas and Rattatas he could understand when push came to shove. But Ditto just seemed bizarre to him. Sure it could turn into whatever the client wanted, provided they already had one on hand, in which case it was a moot point. But its cost was so prohibitive that it made more sense to just buy one or more of the desired species.

“Unless the client has a taste for a pink gelatinous blob” he thought. His reverie was interrupted by the arrival of one of his men.

“We work while you stand and smoke, is that it?” the man asked in a jovial, familiar way.

“Ah but Zdravco there is a visible labor and an invisible labor, and just this moment I am thinking,” Mirko replied.

“Please enlighten me as to what a two-bit smuggler philosophizes about” Zdravco asked while reaching out his hand for a smoke.

Mirko reached into his pocket for the pack of Marlboros and extended it toward Zdravco as he smiled and leaned in close. Zdravco grabbed a cigarette but Mirko waited for him to lean in as well before he spoke.

“Would you fuck a Ditto?”

Zdravco responded without missing a beat: “Not even with your dick.” Then, “You have a light?”

Mirko chuckled while retrieving his lighter and lit Zdravco’s cigarette.

“Are we ready to disembark?”

Zdravco took a long inhale and sighed a large volume of smoke while going over the clipboard he carried. The smoke lingered above and between the two men for a few long seconds before dissipating into the chill night air.

“Yes….”

“But?”

Zdravco gulped slightly.

“Miro should have been here by now with a Jynx, but he is late and not responding to my calls.” Mirko pondered this. Miro had with them for only a few months and didn’t know too much about the operation, but he had proven himself reliable. Still, they had a deadline.

“Miro will have to catch up with us elsewhere. Tell everyone to get aboard. We leave in 2 minutes.”

As Zdravco began barking out orders over his walkie, Mirko saw a quickening of activity in the floodlit darkness, and he smiled at this. All of these men he commanded were “Pokemon Masters” in their own right. They had, as a minimum, obtained all of the badges in one league or more. Some of them had even beaten the Elite 4. Imagine their surprise then when they had had achieved such status only to discover that it didn’t amount to much. With so many trainers, gyms, and upstart leagues popping up over the last 20 years, the profession of “Pokemon Trainer” had lost some of its lustre. Now every bro with a backwards hat and a SILPH muscle-T claimed to a trainer. And the so-called masters? They were no longer those who had won league play but instead became those who could market themselves best on instagram and youtube.

This state of affairs might be lamentable if not for the opportunities it afforded a man of vision. Mirko considered himself just such a man. He never owned a Pokemon himself nor got caught up in the associated culture, but he had seen how others obsessed and decided to capitalize on their obsession and lack of opportunities. He tapped some of his boyhood friends first, those who had gotten starry-eyed about becoming trainers and ultimately been unable to build a life for themselves. He employed them to train Pokemon as pets for those with neither the time or inclination to go down the ruinous career-path of Pokemon Master. As his client base grew he started getting odd requests for specific Pokemon, usually the small, furry ones, to be trained in …particular ways. These requests typically carried an offer to pay more, sometimes double, the market rate. Initially these peculiar requests were a source of lucrative amusement, but as 10% then 25% of Mirko’s staff began specializing in this kind of training…this, pleasure training, he realized that this was the market he should focus on.

He had done well over the last ten years.

“I’ve built an army. An army with allegiance to no nation. An army which rivals that of most countries. The enlistment numbers of a superpower and the dynamic fluidity of a guerrilla band. Highly organized and responsive to my commands.” This thought brought a smile to his face. He took a last drag of his Marlboro and threw the half-smoked cigarette into the filthy harbour water below.

He walked up the gangplank and into his quarters.

The whore was waiting for him naked on his bed as he had requested. A big-titted, anorexic slut from Prague bent over wearing nothing but heels. She was laying face-down, ass-up, fingering both of her holes with curious hands.

“Fuck me, Niantic!” the whore moaned emphatically as he entered.

“What!?” Mirko demanded, “I didn’t hear you, slut!”

“Ooooh…fuck me, Niantic!” The whore repeated in her thick Czech accent as her body convulsed due to the work of her hands. Mirko could tell she had no idea what she was saying but she had learned perfectly the three words which she had been paid to learn. Mirko smiled. He was a practical and disciplined man with few indulgences, but one thing he liked was fucking Czech sluts while they called him by his underworld name.

He unzipped his fly and grabbed the whore’s forearms while entering her.

“Say it again, bitch!”

“Fuck me, Niantic!”

“AGAIN!”

“FUCK ME, NIANTIC!”

He smiled from ear-to-ear as he used up this young girl: “If everyone wants to be a well-known pokemon master, better to be an unknown ‘master of masters.’

THE END

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Filed under Fiction, gaming, pokemon, technology, Uncategorized

Mikael the Green

Friends,

The following story was inspired by the following prompt from the Reddit subreddit, r/writingprompts:

[WP] In a world filled with magical weapons, you encounter a grizzled, old veteran with nothing but a simple iron blade by his side.

Enjoy!

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

Mikael the Green

Mikael trudged his way through the undergrowth of the forest. The spongy dirt was further softened by the fallen pine needles and he took satisfaction in feeling the earth give way ever-so-slightly beneath him with each step. The bramble was thick and he cleared it as efficiently as he could with only his gauntleted, right hand. His left he kept by his waist gripped on the hilt of his ancestral sword, DOOMSBANE. He’d studied swordsmanship since he was a child and had trained with many different enchanted blades. Some were said to be a boon to valor; others were said to be imbued with light so that they might more effectively smite the mythical forces of dark -should they ever rise again. He had settled on this particular sword some time ago and it was said to ward off death for the wielder. That the engraved leaf motifs on the blade and the green reticulations on the hilt pleased him on an aesthetic level was an added allure that was simply coincidental. Wielding DOOMSBANE, he had allowed, even gently encouraged his bannermen, squires, and subjects to refer to him as THE IMMORTAL KNIGHT, or, more poetically, HE OF THE ENDURING VERDANCE in reference to both the sword and the green cloak he wore over his emerald-encrusted plate.

 Mary-Soon-Lee_prince-and-the-dragon
Illustration by Mary Soon Lee

He trudged on with a sense of purpose as if on some great mission or undertaking. In fact, he was on a mission of some import, even if only in his own mind, for he felt powerful in these woods and feeling powerful was important to him. “What better place to cultivate a regal presence”, he thought “than in these guarded woods where my family rules and where I am the mightiest denizen? Were anyone to surreptitiously observe me on this expedition could they but doubt my might? For, clad as I am, I appear less a man and more similar to the forest, were it to take the form of a man.” This thought brought a smile to his face and a further enthusiasm to his trudging. The smile spread wider across his face subverting the practiced stoicism of his visage somewhat to his chagrin. But this childish delight in fanciful imaginings he rationalized: “One mustn’t be stoic all the time, lest life become less joyous. Besides, all legendary knights were ordinary men whose legends were embellishments. Still, their well-wrought legends served to inspire subsequent generations and I can do the same.” Thinking this reassured him and made him feel that he had a good understanding of how the world worked, an understanding which hadn’t soured him with cynicism. At length though, the novelty of these thoughts wore off and the stoicism returned to his face.

He decided he would head to the clearing in the center of the woods with the tall pine he had played in since he was a boy, and from there he would loop back to his home. As he came upon the clearing he heard the dull yet brassy sound of metal plates falling to the ground. He froze and his right hand quickly moved to DOOMSBANE. Slowly his left hand moved to the enchanted dagger, SWIFTWALKER, sheathed in the small of his back. The latter was said to grant swiftness and stealth to its bearer and at this moment he was glad to have brought it. Making his way furtively closer to the clearing he espied the figure of an older man through the boughs and observed him in silence while the man finished unburdening himself of his armor then sat drinking water from a skin. Mikael observed the man thusly for several minutes. Nervous as he was to approach this interloper, his impatience for some definitive result finally reached a crescendo and impelled him forward. Before he knew it he was walking boldly into the clearing heedless of the noise he was making.

“Hail fellow!”, Mikael called out with a confidence he didn’t completely feel. The man turned to him without surprise and allowed a benevolent half-smirk. He attempted to rise but Mikael stopped him.

“No, pray rest. We needn’t stand on ceremony in this private place.” The man nodded in appreciation.

“Much thanks M’Lord….You are the young master of these woods?”

“I am.”

“I require only a brief rest before continuing on my way.”

“Peace, friend -there is no impetus here for a hastened departure. Take such time as you will.” The man nodded and smiled in appreciation again and took another drink from his skin. As he lowered it he wiped his mouth with the tattered sleeve of his worn tunic. The boy studied the man; He wore a patch over his right eye which couldn’t completely cover a vertical scar that ran from forehead to cheek. His left eye was a small and narrow slit with a piercing dot for a pupil and was sunken into his head to a degree that it made his forehead and features seem to protrude. His hair was grey and seasoned, the same color as his bristly beard which was neat and medium length. His body, though worn and tired, alluded to previous might and ferocity, his gaunt hands still looked as if they carried the strength to kill a man.

Mary 2 (2)

His armor told a similar tale: The plates were dull and unpolished, bearing scratches, dents and stains, though no rust. The leather of his armor bore holes which had gone un-mended for some time and the straps looked like they might give way. The man’s sword however, seemed to be faring slightly better. Certainly it was chipped and pitted in places but it still had the shine and edge of a well-maintained implement of war. It sat sheath-less on the grass beside the man attached to his doffed belt through a loop around the base of the blade near the hilt.

Mikael took this all in and it troubled him on a level below his conscious thoughts. He began to resent this man without even knowing why. His very existence was simply not congruent with Mikael’s outlook on life and the world, and his presence stirred up Mikael’s most repressed insecurities.

“You’re green.” -The man’s abrupt question pulled Mikael out of his thoughts. Or was it a question? It seemed to him almost accusatory.

“….yes…” Mikael responded warily. He decided not to elucidate upon his more poetic appellations.

“It’s good,” the man responded. “A good color for these parts.” He made a small gesture with his right hand, indicating the woods around them.

While Mikael appreciated the utility of his green garments in the woods, this utility had been at best an ancillary benefit and at worst an afterthought. This grizzled old man brought this useful quality of the clothing up as if it were the most important aspect of it though, and being praised for the wrong reason made Mikael feel like a fraud, a pretender at war. Also, the man’s seemingly willful overlooking of the impractical gems which adorned his plate felt like condescension.

“I care little for concealment; it is but a coward’s way to prolong his miserable life.” Mikael dismissively responded.

The man became suddenly, sharply attentive and sat there studying him. He made no especial effort to divert his gaze from Mikael’s, but instead looked searchingly into the boy’s eyes. While this might have been construed by some as impertinence, Mikael found himself more aggrieved by the man’s calm and dignified exterior. He went on:

“I announce my presence boldly where I go because I fear no man or beast and welcome all challengers. You yourself bore witness to how well I met you here in this clearing. Yet you insinuate that I wear these noble colors in order to hide myself?”

The man stared a moment longer and then sensed that further silence would only be taken as condescension by this young lord. He averted his gaze and spoke:

“Begging your pardon, M’lord, but I meant no insinuation of any such thing. I only applied my own rationale and logic to what I observed in your lordship. Your lordships’s own reasoning however is apt to be more sublime than that of a common soldier. ”

This almost satisfied Mikael and his body momentarily relaxed, but he noticed that the man was still seated holding his skin. This too could have very easily been perceived as further evidence of the man’s impertinence toward his betters, but Mikael saw it as a greater insult: The man was not intimidated by him and felt the situation didn’t merit reaching for his sword.

“STAND!” Mikael commanded.

The man stared a moment longer and then rose slowly, helping himself up with his left hand. He was still out of breath but the look on his face was the picture of amused tranquility. He stood motionless staring just below Mikael’s gaze with his hands at his sides, the right one still holding the skin.

“PICK UP YOUR SWORD!” Mikael yelled shrilly.

The man met Mikael’s gaze and Mikael thought he saw a slight smirk.

“PICK IT UP!”

The man attempted to speak: “M’lor—”

His words words cut short by Mikael quickly drawing DOOMSBANE and sticking its point toward the man.

“I WON’T ASK YOU AGAIN.”

For a second which seemed like an eternity for the man and longer still for the boy, he kept staring. Then, as he sensed Mikael was about to react to his inaction he dropped the skin from his right hand, averting for the moment Mikael’s next outburst, and bent to pick up his sword. He bent slowly at the waist and grunted slightly at the effort. As he bent Mikael instinctively stepped back several paces out of fear, although he told himself that giving his opponent space to compose himself was the chivalrous thing to do.

Mary 2 (1)

“Is this how it all ends?” the man thought to himself as he slowly bent. “A lifetime of fierce campaigning, attaining justice for widows and children, and punishing those who would prey upon the defenseless, only to be struck down by this young fool whose father’s army I served in so well?

The man allowed a slight smirk at this thought but made sure it was out of the boy’s view.

“Life and its cruel ironies. Oh well, I’ve benefited enough from irony, cruel or otherwise throughout the years. I may as well die as I lived. This boy is a fool if he thinks his father’s archers encircled around us are going to allow a duel-the young imbecile probably doesn’t even realize they’re there. I’ll be dead on the ground with five arrows in my chest before I can stand back up. Still, better that than to disobey him further and incite him into striking me down unarmed with his pretty sword. I doubt he’s killed anyone yet, and I’ll be damned if I’ll be his first. Breathe Deep, Old Man; Peace Soon Enough.”

The man gripped his belt with his left hand and the hilt of his sword with his right. He paused for a second and the feeling of the sword in his hand stirred something in him which had been repressed for years by unquestioning obedience and fealty.

“Let’s give him a thrill” he thought,  “and go out the way we lived: In a screaming, murderous rage.”

At this thought the man swiftly pulled his hideous sword from the leather loop on his belt and lunged toward the boy with unexpected speed, both hands wrapped around the hilt as a primal and savage war cry issued from his lungs.

The first arrow hit him in the stomach and his screaming became incredibly painful yet didn’t abate. He proceeded forward and kept closing the distance between himself and the boy, who at that point had turned white and had dropped his sword and perhaps more.

The second and third arrows came in close succession piercing his throat and just underneath his right shoulder-blade respectively. He stumbled at these strikes and his screaming became a frothy, hissing, gargle which sprayed the boy with blood and sputum as the man dropped to his knee and fell forward still clutching the sword with both hands. The fall snapped the arrow in his stomach, and the arrow in his neck acted to turn his head grotesquely to the right as it made contact with the ground, leaving the patched eye pointed upward, covered but somehow still staring at the boy above a bloody and contemptuous grin.

The arrow in the man’s back stuck straight up and seemed to serve as a grave marker grimmer than grey granite.

The boy was stunned and stared at the dying body of this once fierce man. He could hear the man’s death rattle; or was it air escaping from his pierced throat? It terrified Mikael either way and he was glad when silence and three members of his father’s elite guard filled the clearing. As the three scouts approached the boy from the surrounding woods, he regained some of his composure.

“You alrite, M’lord?” the captain asked. The boy gulped involuntarily.

“I’m fine.” The boy looked at the three men each in turn, and then with overreaching confidence asked, “What are you doing here? I don’t wish to be disturbed during my training.”

The two junior scouts looked at each other and then at their captain who never turned his attention from Mikael.

“We were on a routine patrol, M’lord and heard shouting,” he responded flatly.

Mikael knew it was a lie and knew that these men had been assigned to secretly follow and protect him. He was insulted by this and took it as an affront to his valor. He wanted to berate these men for interfering in his duel and threaten them with reprimands but he suddenly felt very tired. The clouds had cleared and the sun was beating down on him. His breastplate felt heavy and his cloak was causing him to sweat. His mouth too felt dry and he looked thirstily at the dead man’s still-bulging water skin.

“No.” he thought. “He would just smirk at me from beyond.” He looked to the captain and indicated to the body with his hand.

“Take care of this mess and don’t follow me home on pain of death.” He turned around and began walking abruptly away. He hadn’t gotten more than five steps when the captain addressed him.

“M’lord?”

Mikael whirled on him exhausted and irritated, with an expectant look in his eye.

“Your sword,” the captain continued in a quiet and meek tone with his eyes cast downward.

Mikael saw that he had left DOOMSBANE on the ground and that its fine blade, now sullied with blood and dirt, was pinned down under the rough sword of the dead man. Mikael steeled himself and walked over to the sword, grabbed the hilt and pulled it up off the ground causing the two blades two rub together and issue a piercing and unsettling grinding shriek.

Mikael stood up and sheathed DOOMSBANE without wiping it clean. He noticed the looks of discomfort the men wore on their faces and decided he would attribute it to similar revulsion at the sound of the blades rubbing together.

He turned around and walked home.

The End

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