Tag Archives: speculative fiction

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.

Corners

I drag a finger along a wall as I walk around the room. I can feel the grainy surface of drywall and paint. Approaching the corner, my fingertips lift off the surface slightly, pulling further away as I draw closer to the junction of the adjoining wall.

“Why’d you do that, Linds?” Jubal is watching my progress, at my request. I need a witness.

“Just watch,” I breathe quietly. I step closer, and the laws of physics break and bend. The closer I step the further away the corner gets. My hand draws closer, but the corner pulls even further away.

“Whoa,” I hear Jubal say from behind me. I can hear the shock in his breathless tone. It mirrors my own the first time I experienced this.

I press closer still, and now the space between hand and corner visibly distorts. My fingers twist and the walls warp, and no matter how hard I try, I cannot touch that corner seam. Nor any other. They are all beyond my reach.

“What. The. Hell,” Jubal whispers.

I pull my hand back and rub my fingers. “An excellent question.”

ɹəɥʇᴂN

Grey mist sails past his face, and it is enough to shake him from his reverie. His mind is sluggish, slow, as though he is awakening from a dream. Perhaps he is, but then he has woken into a nightmare.

He looks down at his hands, outstretched before him, palms up. His skin is grey, wrinkled, gnarled. He doesn’t remember being old, but he understands that there is much he does not remember.

Past his fingers, the ground is an even deeper shade of grey. Anywhere else, it would be green, but here the grass, like everything else, holds no color at all.

At his back a dark building looms, blacker than shadow. This he knows — somehow — without even looking. Entry is forbidden, and impossible. A fence of smoke encloses him in this tiny yard, and again he knows, without quite understanding how, that to cross that line would expose him further to the nightmares of this place.

But cross it he will, eventually. He must. There is… SOMETHING… out in those mists, and its call will allow him to do nothing else.

Everywhere I Go

You’ve heard the expression, “Everywhere you go, there you are.” Well, I’ve got a variation for you.

“Everywhere I go, there you are.”

Frankly, I’m getting tired of it. At first I thought it was just me. You know, how you see a familiar face in a crowd, only to look again and it’s not who you thought at all and the resemblance is only passing. Thing is, it was clearly your face.

It happened infrequently at first, then with increasing regularity, to the point where it was unsettling. And I don’t get unsettled easily. But you already know that.

I tried catching up to you once, to confront you, but by the time I got to you, you were gone.

And then things got really strange.

I had a day recently where I saw you, through a glass storefront, then glanced to the side and saw you again, across the street. Moments later, I saw you twice, walking side by side, holding hands with yourself, having a conversation.

Has the world gone crazy, or have I? All I know is this:

Everywhere I go now, there you are.