The King Who Changed

The King decided it was time to rule no longer. He cast aside his crown, dropped his royal cape to the floor and kicked it away with a huff. What one person could think themselves of sound enough mind to rule the many? Who could be in such a position of power, and think by some miracle it would fail to corrupt their heart?

The King went down, down, down the stairs to the dungeon, where his previous life slumbered. He undid his weapon belt, tacky as it was, and tossed it aside along with the accompanying jeweled sword. He ran his fingers through his hair with a sigh, and opened the door to the room he had all but forgotten.

There, upon a table of stone, lay a weapon of a life long gone. The King’s mouth became a thin line, and he grabbed the spatula, shaking off the dust and wielding it with practiced ease.

“It’s time,” he said, blue eyes burning as brightly as an ocean at dawn.

“It’s time.”

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After School Storm

Elliot walked along the river of full bloom flowers, pulling his bookbag tightly against his shoulders. He smelled the air, wondering when the breeze had become so filled with nostalgia. He figured there must be a storm on the horizon, promising sweet evenings trapped inside with nothing better to do than watch water war with windowsill.

He didn’t so much rush home, as he did travel the exact pace necessary to appease fate. Whatever is, is. Whatever will be, will be. These two thoughts cascaded outward from his left foot and his right, respectively, as they fell upon the sidewalk.

Cowbro Dance

Bart brushed the dust off his boots,

tsk-ing as the barkeep came around with his beverage.

“One for the night,” the bartender began.

“Another for the mother,” Bart finished.

It didn’t make sense, but neither of them cared much. It was something to say. The space became filled all the same, the pints emptied all the same.

Garret came around, and the two eventually got up to no good.

Soon, they were out on the dance floor, showing off to all of the bar-goers. They were widely known as having the best moves three towns wide, and played off of each other with a grace that could only be described as water on wind.

Sweat dripped over stubble, and as the beat tampered out, the two took off their hats and hooked arms, fanning each other off. This partially cooled them while also signifying that they were relinquishing the dance floor for the time being, should any be daring enough to challenge their reign.

The cheers didn’t relent until the two sat. It was another perfect, golden night.

Fox With a Name

And so the red bird sighs, swimming downward through branches who have only just begun to lose their blooms. Petals tumbling as feathers fall; rain with no rain.

Harold felt the sweet chill of spring’s end as he sat among the blue rocks, hoping to taste the weather of the next day. The night held many secrets, and did not easily give up the greatest of them all.

What follows darkness is never so gray.

Blacksmith

Remy had relied heavily on each and every member of their ragtag mercenary crew, for on his own he could never have explored the depths of the ruined woods without perishing, or becoming otherwise indisposed for eternity.

As a blacksmith, Remy’s work occurred at the outset of their journey. He forged the tools and weapons necessary for the others to carry out their various skills without worry for the quality of craftsmanship. Any blade Remy forged lasted longer, held its sharpness far beyond the average lifespan of what one could purchase from a generic smithy, one whose main goal was to provide endless quantity, with little care for quality.

But these adventurers, along with a handful of others, had found Remy. His work was slower, and his prices were considerably higher than his competition. Though this resulted in some colder nights and an occasional empty stomach, Remy cared not. He would not sacrifice quality of materials or patience in labor just to line his pockets. His work was all there was, and it had to be done right.

This is why he was out here with them, this time around. His work required something more. Something many other blacksmiths has long since forgotten, or cared not to speak of it beyond hearsay and faerie tales.

Remy knew better. He could feel it out here. It called to him.

It had been an uncomfortably long stay in the ruined woods, the tattered forest. Thankfully, his party understood his need for their continued support. He helped where he could—using his skill with tools to administer needed repairs, his strength of arm to collect what wood could still be touched by the heat of flame. Occasionally he would stand alongside the warriors of the crew with his forge hammer, crushing the foul creatures that pursued them in the deepest hour of night.

But even without all of this, even if he did nothing, he believed these brave few would yet stand by his side. His work had lengthened their lives, saved them countless times. The armor he forged caused death strikes to glide off of their chests and shoulders, leaving them light enough to then counter with a definitive blow. The pots and pans he made were crafted specifically for adventuring parties, his signature light iron holding fast and cooking cleaner than other, more crude brands.

They trusted him. Their gold never went to waste, and if he felt his best work had not been done, he would quickly and easily apply a discount. “Fairness of friendship, to all that arrive, and thus may all friends, in darkness survive.” The very thesis of his being, branded into his shop’s outer wall.

And so they were six. Remy the Blacksmith, forger in flame. Terrin the Quick, tempest with blade. Aerin of Way, seeker of light. Denter the Bludgeon, boaster of might. Then comes Sayrin, the silver-tongue dagger. Last along, Vane—hunter, trapper.

Together they journey through forest grown thick, against all foes and shadow-borne tricks. As one in pursuit, for hammer and anvil—they seek Remy’s fame,

the glamour, Mythril.

Lost Pup

The pup barked, its voice bouncing between the willows. It strained itself, attempting to morph the shrill yipes into a strong howl. None such howl resulted, and the pup shivered.

A breeze came from behind, causing the young creature to stumble. Whistling through the wood, it caught the attention of a large, full grown wolf. She cocked her head at the odd sound of the twilit wind, and only then noticed she was short one child.

She released a frightful whine, leading it into a distressed howl. Echoing, it died out, falling and dissipating among the dusty underbrush.

She swallowed…waiting…

A strong, high pitched howl rang out in return.

The mother took off in the direction of it, the pup’s kin stumbling along behind her, playful still in the autumn chill.

Car Ride

TW: abuse

I remember riding in the car with Zane, thinking what a fantastic gift it would be to have him as a father.

With his bright blue eyes, receded hairline and prominent mustache, he looked plucked from the very ether of the 70s. I’ve never met a man since with such a distinct combination of quick wit and sure fists. His tongue could cut your mind into pieces, and if that didn’t dissuade you from whatever crime you were committing against him, Zane wasn’t afraid to take it outside and settle it the old fashioned way.

He would teach his sons how to box, how to play basketball, chop wood, work on cars. But there was a balance to him as well—he also taught them how to garden, and how to cook simple meals. He would share his love of gardening with confidence, in such a way that you could tell his words were an invitation, a more subtle way to stick his chin out, daring any to take a swing at his masculinity. If they did, he’d be sure to challenge them on their notion of manliness.

In that way, as well as others more generic, he was rather progressive. I loved him for that. I felt as if my small world was safer when Zane was in it. I imagine many felt that way, even his sons who had experienced Zane’s darker side.

Certainly with so much anger, even one so gentle and balanced as Zane had to have some issues. He would get wound up in his rightness. So confident he knew how his children should be spending their time, such that their disobeying, their rebellious teen nature…well. His tongue did not suffice. He knew no other recourse beyond his fists.

Soon though, his sons became strong. He had taught them as much. I remember one day, John telling me how he had fought his father and this time had won. There was a mix of unease and relief about him as he relayed this to me. Finally, that much of his nightmare was over. As much as he respected his father, and as much strength Zane had instilled within him, there was that darkness. When it crept up, it would leave him scared and in pain.

People like John and Zane don’t like to be made to feel helpless. It can be said that no one enjoys that, which is certain. But these two had no coping mechanism. Especially John, only ever brought down by the one man who taught him to never be brought down.

John would call me when he was scared. He would only ever cry over the phone if he could help it. Maybe he didn’t hold me in as high regard as I held him at the time, but there was a trust there. A knowledge that I had been through enough to help him process these emotions. Enough to be able to confidently tell him that it would be okay. Maybe not right away and maybe only in a way that is slightly less violent, but it would be okay, and a greater light was waiting for us beyond the confines of our familial entrapment.

I enjoyed when he trusted me in that way. He only ever had to reach out further when it was explicitly clear he needed to share with someone who had abusive father issues. It was difficult for me to relate with that in more concrete terms of shared pain, since my father took a more long distance approach to his neglect.

I asked Zane about his day. Trying to glean anything I could from such a brilliant man. (Forgive my younger self, for abuse was all he knew. The terrible acts of this man were no different than, I assumed, those of every adult.)

Zane was upset. He told me he had a court case to go to, because he had fought with a referee at a basketball game and charges had been pressed. He knew it was foolish and that he had to stop acting like a child. He had kids and a wife, he has a teaching job. People depended on him, and he couldn’t get himself thrown in jail at 47 for fighting over a bad call.

What is it with men and sports?

I remember that moment almost as well as Zane housing me, yelling about how he was going to beat the shit out of Bob for hurting my mom. Such an array of emotions I felt. Yearning for that fight to occur, the ecstasy I would feel when that piece of shit I lived with finally got his. Anger at myself for not being strong enough to do it on my own. Sadness that, deep down, it was all talk either way. No one ever did anything.

Three men threatened to do something to Bob throughout my teens and three men did nothing. Even when I called the police when it got too terrible, too violent, my mom and I had already fled the scene. Even when I prayed for Bob to die in his sleep, old fucker that he was, nothing happened. I was trapped forever in this eternity of anxiety and fear and sadness, and no being would lift a finger to make it stop.

I remember listening to Zane talk about his failing, in that voice of weakness and self-hatred. I remember thinking that, just because he was stronger and more confident with better hand-eye coordination, it didn’t mean he was someone to aspire to be.

I felt lost in that moment, but also glad. I knew I could never really be a Zane and it became more clear why in that moment. I thought too much. I thought about the consequences of killing Bob. I thought about how he would get more violent if I jumped into the fray, and would cower in angry fear if I called the police instead. I thought that I was weak, but really I was just an abuse survivor, doing the only thing I knew how to do—survive.

Last I heard of Zane, he had beaten cancer, and continued to teach history at my old high school. That was years ago. Since then the closest I’ve been to him was my falling out with John, who drunkenly revealed his racism and wanted to fight when called out on it. Instead of driving 50 miles to fist fight someone from high school, I ended our friendship.

Naturally, this inadvertently cut off the closest thing I had to a father during my teens, which is probably a good thing.