Category Archives: Stories

Bearers

Olivia hits the ground with a sickening crunch, but she barely feels it. Her vision is swimming, her ears ringing, and it takes her a moment to realize she’s landed left hip on the pavement, her arms supporting her upper torso. Her jaw throbs with a dull ache, the site of the punch that sent her sprawling. She shakes her head slowly, lightly, trying to clear the disorientation. It helps, some, as her vision snaps back into focus. She is relieved to see Petalbloom still held securely in her right fist.

Slowly, carefully, she pushes herself up to her knees and then to her feet. Petalbloom’s Weight resists the motion, but only slightly, as if to remind her of what it is. She hefts it reflexively, sunlight glinting along the length of the 12-inch blade. With her free hand, she wipes a dribble of blood flowing from her burst lower lip down over her chin.

That should not have happened, she thinks, staring at the blood glistening on her fingers. Then aloud, “That should not have happened.” She turns to face her assailant, who stares her down mere steps away in the alley, smug expression fixed on his face.

“You,” she says, a puzzled tone to her voice. “You’re a Bearer?” His response is to spread his arms wide and grin even wider, as if to say, So? Only one of his hands is gloved, and she realizes, too late, that the glove itself is an Object. It is wrapped in that unmistakable aura of Weight that all Objects possess.

Which only confuses her further. “You’re a Bearer,” she repeats, incredulity replacing confusion. “And you fight me?” she asks. “Why?”

He laughs, dropping his arms and tilting his head back, roaring at the sky with obvious delight. Then he looks back at Olivia, his eyes cold and hard, all traces of a smile wiped from his face. Olivia notes a glimmer of madness in those eyes and feels the flesh on her arms prickle.

“Why not?” is all he answers.

“But, Bearers are supposed to be heroes,” she stammers, that note of confusion returning to her voice. “We don’t fight each other. We fight monsters. We fight evil. We push back the darkness wherever we find it. That is our purpose and our calling. No Bearer can claim an Object without first accepting those terms.”

His face turns suddenly angry, livid with rage, and she feels a cold fist of fear in her belly. His next words are even colder, like frost on a mid-summer’s day.

“Go be a hero, then, Olivia Childress,” he spits, and she tries not to let the shock that he knows her name show on her face. “Not all of us are meant for such things. Maybe some of us are meant to be something else. Maybe some of us meant to be antiheroes. Maybe some of us are meant to be Breakers.”

He turns on his heel and begins to walk away, and Olivia feels that cold chill of fear on her skin once more at that word she has never heard before but immediately recognizes as somehow being fundamentally wrong.

One final question escapes her lips.

“WHO ARE YOU?” Her own voice is deafening, enhanced by the Weight she bears. It thunders down the alley, bouncing off the walls. The ringing returns to her ears, nearly drowning out his answer.

“You’ll know soon enough, Olivia child!” His laughter drifts back to her even after he turns a corner and disappears from sight.


Weeping in the Willows

The child sits at the base of the tree, silently weeping. Her arms are crossed over her upraised knees, her face buried in her arms. Tears fall from her cheeks, staining her pants and the soil on which she sits. A few even land on the tree roots.

A gentle touch on her cheek startles her, and she looks up. She is alone, the canopy of the willow sheltering her.

The tree itself rustles, its branches gently swaying. The child’s misery turns to puzzlement. There is no wind, and yet the tree sways of its own accord.

More tears slip from her eyes. Another gentle touch, this time on her opposite cheek, and she turns to catch sight of a branch brushing a tear away. A single, salty drop rests on a leaf then drips to the ground as the branch pulls away.

The child is in wonder, her pain momentarily forgotten. She looks up at the tree, amazed to see a face there, sad but compassionate.

Her tears flow anew, her grief given release. She leans her head against the willow as its branches envelop her in a tender embrace.

My Defiance

It soared out of midnight, all gas envelope and aerosolized Nightmare, propelled by only God knows what. It carried a tiny bomber bay, loaded with a lethality that would have made any nation quake to its roots, if any knew it existed.

The airship was black as night and quiet as death. It harbored no pilot, guided only by an intricate clockwork array designed to get the ship from Point A to Point B. No living navigator could have survived such close proximity to the payload for the duration of the voyage.

And so the vessel sailed on, unheeded and unnoticed.

Until…

A klaxon sang out somewhere far below. Spotlights lit the night, sweeping the sky for a target. One swept past the airship — then back. Others joined it, until the whole thing was lit from the ground.

The beam of one light narrowed, focusing on the bay, searching for… something.

There! A name.

My Defiance.

A question as much as an answer, neither of which would ever be known. The torpedo doors opened, and death fell from the sky.

A Warm Glow

This entry is part 16 of 18 in the series The Rusted Blade

Orthael watched the child raise her weapon to point at him, felt the Judgement shiver slightly in recognition. Through it, the All-Consumer whispered of times long past, when demigods and archangels had come to the lands of men to fight darkness.

The triple-flamed shield of the Paladin Guard emblazoned on his golden shield seemed to vibrate with power, tugging the tip of the Judgement to face a threat. No, he whispered to himself, feeling his pastoral pendant under his armour. No, she is a child and the Flame welcomes her into its embrace.

With a gathered effort of will, he put away the Judgement for a while. He drew upon the warmth within and spoke a greeting imbued with the power of the Church.

“The Fire be with you, child. Its warmth comfort you, its light guide you, its purity inspire you.”

Orthael’s voice was quiet, but he knew the words would carry – just as he knew tears would dry and hearts would lift. There was no flash of light, but it was magic all the same.

Flames of the Fire

This entry is part 18 of 18 in the series The Rusted Blade

“Orthael!” she spat. “Protector of life, servant of the All-Consumer.” Her voice dripped disdain. “Summoned by a local parish, no doubt.” Orthael nodded. “To protect us.” He nodded again.

“Well, holy man, where were you when my village was destroyed by one of the Greater Dead? Where were you when everything and everyone I loved and cared about was ruined utterly?” Malika was weeping openly now, her grip tightening on Morduth’s hilt, its blue flames traveling further up her arm with each spoken word. “Where were you when we needed you, when I needed you?”

She lowered Morduth, bringing the sword into a ready position, and when she spoke again, her voice was cold, empty, bereft of grief and rage alike.

“Defend yourself, holy man, if you can. I would know the strength of your resolve — and the power of your god.”

And with that she charged, raising Morduth to strike even as the sword voiced a single word of alarm and objection:

MISTRESS!

And then blade crossed blade, blue flame mixing with orange.

An Introduction and a Challenge

This entry is part 17 of 18 in the series The Rusted Blade

“I ask you again,” Malika said. “Who be you, and how be it you come to be here, just at this very moment? Be you a final test, holy man or not, to confirm my resolve, to baptize me in the fire of purification against the forces of Ashmar?” She could feel her tone rising with every word, feel the heat of anger warm her face, feel the wetness of the tears sliding down her cheeks once more. “What be you, holy man? I would know, else I cut you down where you stand.”

Mistress… Morduth cautioned, but he was cut short as the other man spoke.

“I am Orthael, young swordmaiden,” he replied, “Paladin, holy warrior of the All-Church, servant of the All-Consuming Fire, wielder of Judgement versus the demons of Ashmar.”

He was silent then, and Malika took a long a moment to evaluate this man who stood so calmly before her. The rage and despair welled up inside her once more, and when she spoke again, she found herself shouting, her rage and grief now full and complete.

Of the Dark, Of the Light

This entry is part 15 of 18 in the series The Rusted Blade

Malika brought Morduth up so it pointed at the newcomer. Blue flame flared up bright and tall along the blade’s length, spilling over the hilt and onto her hand and wrist. She didn’t notice. All her attention was on this man of the cloth standing before her and on the weapon he carried.

Strangely, his sword seemed to call to her, not with desire to be wielded by her hand. It was clear it belonged well and truly to this holy man. Instead, it was more a voice of camaraderie, of kindred spirits, of alliance.

Morduth seemed to feel it as well. Mistress, that weapon he carries is no mere sword.

“I can see that,” she murmured back, watching the orange flames licking along the edge of the sword.

No, you misunderstand, Mistress, Morduth continued. That sword is easily as old as I am — and possibly even more powerful.

Malika nodded. She felt something else, too. The power of her blade was born of darkness and pain while the power of his was clear and bright like a blade-shaped window into a summer’s day.

Servants of Fire

This entry is part 14 of 18 in the series The Rusted Blade

Malika wiped away the tears from her eyes with the palm of one hand and gracefully rose to her feet, turning to face the newcomer.

“Be you friend or foe?” she asked. “Morduth insists you be friend, but I be not so willing to trust in his judgment just yet.”

Mistress, replied the sword, I am hurt. The sword’s tone in her mind was more amused than injured, and so she ignored the jab. She had eyes only for the stranger before her, who remained cloaked in shadow at the edge of the clearing.

“Step forward,” she commanded, “so I may determine for myself. I have no fear of either man or beast.” She gestured to the dozens of dead and torn lycander bodies littered around her. “I have no fear of you, for Mardain blesses me this night.” At this the sword in her hand flared briefly again, as if to confirm her claim.

The man stepped forward, and Malika saw that he was robed in the vestments of the Church — and carried a sword of his own.

“Be at rest, child,” he said, “for I believe we both fight for the Fire.”

Uncomfortable Silence

Jimmy set his lunch down on the break table and plopped down in a chair, heaving a huge sigh.

“Man, what a day,” he said, picking up his sandwich and taking a bite.

“Uh…” Frank said, looking at Jimmy then glancing quickly away to catch Seth’s eye, sharing a disturbed expression.

“Whampf?” Jimmy asked around a mouthful of bread and bologna.

“Nothing,” Seth said.

Jimmy swallowed and looked between his two friends, studying their expressions. “What?” he repeated.

“It’s nothing,” Frank said, sounding uncomfortable. “Just, uh, have you looked in a mirror today?”

Jimmy tore another bite from his sandwich and chewed silently for a moment while nodding. “Of course. I had to comb my hair and shave this morning, like usual.”

“Ok,” Seth said. “We were just wondering.”

Jimmy set his sandwich down and looked again at his friends. “Seriously, guys, what’s got your dander up?”

The other two were silent for a moment. Finally, it was Seth that spoke.

“Well, you might want to look again when you get a chance.”

Blood Rain

“There is blood in the rain,” stated the Deep One, matter-of-factly. He stood at the deck railing, staring out over the city spread out below.

“What do you mean, sire?” Kolster asked, looking up at the imposing figure looming over him.

“There is blood in the rain,” the Deep One said again, as if repeating his previous statement automatically lent it additional clarity. “Someone has broken apart a rain god and sewn it among the clouds.”

Kolster looked puzzled and turned his attention to the cloudless sky above. The moon was full this night, lighting the landscape in white light.

“But sire,” Kolster said, “it’s not even raining.”

“Nevertheless,” the Deep One said, turning away from the railing and walking back toward his chambers, “it is raining somewhere — and there is blood in it.”

Kolster sighed and followed after his master.