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You learn more from your mistakes than your successes.
So here I am to try, and to fail, so I can learn.
Paul Fail. For The Win!

22 April 2011

#FridayFlash: An Eighth of Copper


Friday Flash
An Eighth of Copper
©2011 D. Paul Angel
891 Words

The metal in the Weapons numbed my hands. They were already cold. The sun was rising as we walked up the Mesa, but it had not yet reached inside. Down into the sunken arena where the Trial Ring was. I had helped my Master before many times but never with an Opponent like this. I was pulling out the Weapons and placing them by the Ring for Master's use in the Trial. I usually talked with Master while I did this. I liked tlaking with Master. But today he and the Opponent were talking to the Judge. They were speaking with the Old Words. It was hard to understand, but I could tell the Opponent looked pleased.

Master had explained to me before we left what the Opponent would say to the Judge. He would be upset that our client was a woman. He said there was no specific rule against women being clients, they were just forbidden from touching Coin. Since We were forbidden from representing someone without receiving Coin, there could be no way for a woman to be a Client. Our Client's husband had died though. He gave the Coin to Master just before he died. The Coin that Master now showed the Judge. The Opponent did not look pleased anymore. I was happy for Master. Master never looked pleased. Sometimes I had to be pleased for him.

The Opponent went back to his side as Master came to me. Each had seven Weapons they could use, but they could only use the one handed to them by an Assistant. I was Master's Assistant. The Opponent had six assistants. One for each Weapon. They would all offer their Weapon and the Opponent could choose which one to use. Master could only take what I offered, so I had to make sure I knew what he wanted. I was always scared I would hold up the wrong Weapon for Master. Master never seemed to worry about it though. He always won, too.

Our client sat behind me. Her whimperings and murmurs were distracting, but Master had told me to expect them. She was a simple woman. Her husband was killed by the Opponents client. It took him long enough to die that he hired Master to avenge him. The Opponent's Client was very mean. He was also very rich. The Coin my Master had was an Eighth of Copper. The Opponent's Client had a bag of Gold Coin between him and his wife. He looked smug. She looked arrogant. I hated them both.

Master returned from the Conference and knelt before me. He looked very old and frail compared to the Opponent. I was worried. Master told me not to be. He knew much that the Opponent did not. Master had many of the books that came from before The Fall. He spoke of Science, Logic, and Justice, but I found them very confusing. They only existed in the Old Words. Master did say that women once could handle Coin. They were even leaders and powerful individuals. But that no one trusted the Old Ways after The Fall. Master believed we would return there again. To the Old Ways. He said it would take many long lifetimes though. Master knew so much I believed him.

Master rubbed some sand between his hands. I offered him his Sword and Shield, but he shook his head. Instead I offered him his Spear. He smiled as he felt its heft. Master rarely smiled. But it always made me feel better when he did.

The Judge rang a bell and the Combat began. It would decide if the Opponent's client was guilty or not. Our client kept gasping every time the Weapons struck. The opponent had Sword and Shield, but Master pierced the shield with his spear. The Opponent had to discard it, but Master was now without Weapon. Master turned to me and I offered him Knives. I don't know why. I would normally offer Sword again, but Master liked the choice. He winked at me. Master never winks.

They moved about the fighting pit as the Sun climbed. They were sweating a lot. The opponent looked more tired than Master, but it was hard to tell. Master kept his distance. He never advanced. He never let the Opponent get too close. The opponent was frustrated.

Then the Master threw his knife. The Opponent easily ducked, but the knife flew past him. The Knife stuck the opponent's Client in the eye. He opened his mouth to shout but no sound came out. Then he slumped backwards into his wife's arms. He died quickly and she started screaming. The sand absorbed a lot of the blood but she was still covered in it.

The Opponent looked furious. Even the Opponent's Assistants glared at Master in anger. Master ignored them and held up his arms. He demanded the Judge hear him. The Judge rang the bell again. Master and the Opponent stopped and looked at him. Master spoke slowly to the Judge. I could just make out enough of the Old Words to know what Master said. Master demanded proof of payment. Just like the Opponent had earlier.

Everyone turned. The bag of Gold Coin still sat next to the dead client. His wife still cradled him. She was still crying. She could not touch the Coin.


11 April 2011

#FridayFlash Mea Culpa

Says it all doesn't it?

Pearls Before Swine

(I do love me some Pearls Before Swine, too)

There's been a push on the Web towards content. If you want people to read what you have to say, you have to have good content. That's the way the Proprietor of a site can reward their faithful visitors, right?

Except writing is a bit different. We don't write for just ourselves because the stories on paper are always a pale shadow of what was forged within our imagination. It's this desire to share that pushes us to write, and to wait and hope that someone reads it.

I have struggled with consistently posting because, well, there never is enough time, is there? So what time I do have, those little niches here and there throughout the week, I've spent on writing. Then, come Friday the post goes up, I tweet it, list it, and then struggle to get back on top of the little things here and there that were pushed aside to make way for the story.

So what I have been very bad about is being an audience member. I see the stories and their titles and as fascinating and intriguing as they all are, 50 something week in and week out is just daunting. So, as the mind has a wont to do, I've "compromised" by reading none. I've come to realize that that simply will not do. It is not enough to just write, I have to read and give feedback as well.

So what I am going to do now is read the two stories above mine and the two stories below in the #FridayFlash List. I also have made it habit to read the story of one Mr. "Smooth" Tony Noland each week as well. Were it not for him I would not be posting these at all, so there's a special affinity there for me. So while I will fall well short of the 50 stories out there each week, I should, reasonably, read 10%. And, a 10% that varies by title each week as well.

Such is the extroverted hermit life of the Writer's Club, eh?

09 April 2011

#FridayFlash: Yea Though I Charge into the Valley of the Shadow of Death




[Author's note] I was fortunate enough to participate in my first #5MinuteFiction this week over at Future-Nostalgic. It was a lot of fun and I decided to use my entry there as the kernel for this weeks #FlashFriday. My entry, as it appeared, is at the end. I would also encourage you to not only read the other #5MinuteFiction entries but to take the challenge!


Friday Flash
Yea Though I Charge into the Valley of the Shadow of Death
©2011 D. Paul Angel


The haggard band grimly marched through the sparse birch forest. It was getting late in the day and shadows were starting to creep through the scant underbrush. The trees were thinning, and with most of their leaves gone, there was little left to protect them from the cold, constant drizzle. Their uniforms, once the deep forest green of his Majesty's Archer's, were now mottled by dirt, blood, and tears. At least it helps them blend better into what little cover remains thought Merrill, surveying the third of his regiment that survived.

"Snow soon." Merrill's laconic second in command Jeffers commented.

"Aye. And we have at least three weeks march through hostile territory left."

Jeffers grunt in reply served both acknowledgement and assessment.

It wasn't long before the scouts returned. After ordering a halt, Merrill and Jeffers were conferring with the scouts when Prince Aeol rode up. His armor, like his horse's, still gleamed brightly. As he stopped, his personal Guard formed a circle about him; their polished halberds at the ready. They were from a southern clime and their darker skin would have already made them stand out, but their scarcely concealed contempt for the archers insured a deep rift between them and the archers. That the Guard remained well nourished, and that the gaunt malnutrition of the archers was starting to slow them created further animosity.

"Why was I not immediately summoned to this council," Aeol demanded. Merrill flinched at the voice. The prepubescent pitch was grating enough, but the haughty, spoiled tone was beginning to wear down his patience. The scouts said nothing but stared at the ground. Merrill said nothing while counting to ten and gathering his thoughts. He also had to nudge Jeffers to stop out-staring individual Guards.

Diverting away from Prince Aeol's whine he filled him in on the situation. Their presence was no longer a secret, and a larger force was gathering near a bend in the road ahead. There were more trees in the area, and they were to be trapped from both sides as they passed.

"That will NOT do!" said Aeol furiously to Merrill's plan of cutting through the forest. "I will not tolerate the King's men slinking away from battle like a, like a bedraggled beaten mutt. Everyone of his men are worth three of the vile enemy's."

"But when there are five of the enemy, your Highness, it is no longer a battle but a slaughter," Merrill replied, determined to not let the Prince's righteous ignorance get to him.

"Well, if you had outfitted your men with horses as I recommended, we would already be past this. But, since you did not we're left where we are." Merrill distinctly remembered the "discussion." He also remembered the slap he had received from one of the Guard for having the audacity to ask the Prince exactly where he should find several score horses in an isolated wood, deep in enemy territory. Merrill counted to ten once again but no longer attempted to stop Jeffers silent indolence.

"You're right of course, your Majesty, what do you recommend?" In his silent deliberation the Prince did not notice his Guards uneasy shifting. They sensed a danger his hubris was blind.

"The King's men give way to No man. No where. No time. We shall march forward. And, if they summon the courage to attack, we shall fell them."

The Scouts mouths hung wide open, and were only closed at a kick from Jeffers. Although not left with his mouth hanging open, did end have to slowly circle away from the group. Merrill nodded in hearty agreement. "Of course Your Highness, there is no other way."

Jeffers stopped mid pace to look at Merrill, trying to determine if he were truly mad. Merrill ignored his old friend's eye and continued. "My men are tired and drained, and I do not think they would follow me down such a path. But," he interjected before the Prince could demean them anew, "If one of the Royal Blood showed them the way, I know it would once again fill their hearts with courage."

Jeffers only just managed to keep his mouth closed. He turned once again towards the Guard, showing them a placid face, with only the slightest of smirks.

"Of course! That's has likely been the problem all along. You kept your greatest asset in reserve almost too long Commander."

"Of course, Your Highness. Might I also suggest that, as you get close to the bend, you and your Guard charge them. They will not be expecting that as they cowardly hide in the shadows."

"Yes of course. Their cowardice shall be our surprise! We ride at once! For King and Country!" Merrill long remembered the burning hatred on the faces of the Guard as they charged headlong towards their death.


As mentioned above, my #5MinuteFiction entry from 5 April 11 follows...

Addegan looked at meager forces below. They could well not survive the week it would take to get back into friendlier territory, much less the month march to the nearest fort.

"It's a trap, sir," his Second, Kajer said.

"I know. I just know that there's much we can do about it. We haven't the time or stores to go around."

"Then through."

"Yes."

Addegan marched at the head of the column. the men were warned, and they could easily see know that the ambush lay just ahead with enemy forces to both sides of the valley.

"For the King!" shouted Addegan, his beloow echoed by his men. Swords drawn, spears out, they charged they desperately charged enemy in a hopeless cause.

"As long as we're going to die," thought Addegan, "we die on the offensive..."



01 April 2011

#FridayFlash Excelsior Deus



Friday Flash
Excelsior Deus
©2011 D. Paul Angel

His Highness, Lord Admiral Jennar Excelsior, stood rigidly still in the center of the bridge. Awash in the cascade of blinking lights and undulating system sounds, he was the living embodiment of human nobility. Only the minor twirlings of his cape at the capricious fingers of the ship's AC gave an indication he was real and not a statue of Man's highest ideals. His eyes, steeled by the smoldering hatred of revenge, and burning with the intense fire of command, focused on the view screen. The twin stars of the Avajj 9 system, A and B, were no longer specks now, but near enough to appear as motionless disks. All around him the crew's tension was like the taught strings of a Grand Piano. And Excelsior was the Composer, Conductor, and Pianist of it all.

"Helm. Time to H'Rung Tertiary." Such was the Lord Admiral's voice that even the simplest of questions was spoken like a command from God himself.

"Three Days yet, My Liege," The Helmsman answered as sharply as he could, overpowered as he was by merely being in the presence of the Lord Admiral's force of will.

"Generals Bakker and Gmion, with me."

"Yessir," his two top Generals answered in unison.

The strode out of the Bridge and into the heart of the ship. Down a labyrinth of corridors bathed in the dull red glow of the artificial night time lights, they passed through bays of clever machinery, Knights still practicing their skills, and, of course, the housings of so many of their orbital weapons. It was at the last that they stopped. Excelsior removed his gauntlet and ran his bare hand along one of theVengaza's plasma laser tubes.

"God himself brought us here, Generals, you understand that, do you not."

"Of course my Liege!" the Generals both said, bowing before him.

"Understand, Generals, Understand. Not know, but 'Understand,' you must understand." The Generals gave each other the slightest of glances. This might not be a new question, but it was certainly a more intense version of it.

"God spoke to my father, and told him of the coming of the comets. How for 40 days and nights they would scream through our atmosphere." Excelsior regarded them with hooded eyes. "yes."

"We know this, My Liege," they answered just off syncronicity.

Excelsior struck both General's across the face with his gauntlet. "I didn't ask if you knew it," he said coldly, "I asked if you understood it. Do you?" The added inflection of the question warned the Generals of the its direness.

They looked at each other, and looked upon the fresh red pain on each other's faces before answering. "I do not, My Liege," General Bakker answered finally, summoning up the courage to almost look the Lord Admiral in the eye.

"Nor I, my Liege," added Gmion, remaining bowed.

Excelsior turned and walked to one of the few portholes in the ship. It was the last of all redundant guidance systems for the tubes, and a small reticule was etched into the transparent molybdenum. It wasn't accurate enough to target anything smaller than a Moon, but the weapon immensity meant that there wasn't anything much smaller than a moon that would be targeted.

"God warned my father to build an Ark with the most truest of believers, and DNA samples of every living thing necessary. Both Male and Female. God knew that the comets would destroy us completely otherwise, but he knew something else." Excelsior turned to the Generals still kneeling, bowed, on the ships ultrasteel grating, "He understood.

"When we return, our civilization will be destroyed. The only advanced technology will be the Ark, whose dedicated systems will be repopulating the Earth with randomly mutated clones. All else, will be gone. We will be back to to scratching our food from the very dirt of the Earth. Yes dirt," he added to the grimace on the General's faces at the thought of eating something grown from something so unwholesomely unclean and unengineered, "and it will taste the same.

"Our mission is different. We sail the Stars in the Vengaza because we are His people. And the blow, once struck, must be returned. Stronger! Let me be clear. Our mission is not one of simple destruction; it is of conquering. We go to the H'Rung to take the planet, and make it our own. For Him."

Excelsior watched their faces with satisfaction. They were, in their own narrow minded, zealoted way, quite intelligent. But they could not see the Forest for the trees. That this mission was beyond mere retribution; was far more than a return blow, had been deliberately held back from all so as not to weaken their ferocity. It was too late to change the strength of their focused hatred now, but he could certainly bend it. Ever so slightly, as the Master Pianist at the keys.

He left hem abruptly to deal with the Enchantress in a decidedly different, but equally effective, manner.

~ ~ ~

It was three days later Lord Admiral Excelsior stood ready in the Bridge as the Vengaza tore through the H'Rung atmosphere. Their welcome waited in a savage, purple plain far below. Behind him, all at attention, were his senior commanders. The Air General Bakker in his finest dragon skin flight suit, goggles at the ready with his atomic dragon goad in hand. General Gmion stood replete in the shining ceramosteel exo-armor of the Grand Knights, and bewtween them both stood the demure Enchantress. Her robe of translucent silk barely contained her otherwise naked, heaving breasts.

With the flames of entry into the hostile atmosphere finally dissipating Excelsior dismissed them to their charges. General Bakker climbed the towards the Dragon roost atop the ship, his thick, toughened riding boots dully echoing as he climbed. Gmion saluted once more in a way that seemed to foretell his own soon death. Excelsior had not thought Gmion would make it, but was pleased to know that Gmion knew it, too. He would fight all the harder to bring glory to his posthumity. The Enchantrass glided more than walked towards the Unicorn hold in the Vengaza's nose. Her bosoms swayed rhythmically with her stride, momentarily enchanting even the iron discipline of Excelsior's Bridge.

Tension filled the air.

Smoke still rose here and there from the hull as it touched down in the alien field, singing the undulating violet grasses. A ring soon formed a quarter mile from the ship: the H'Rung waited. Watched.

Through the view-port Excelsior looked out and quickly espied his counterpart. The large, offish looking H'Rung were both stronger and faster than the average man. Their thick, tough green hide was easily the equal of the lightly armored human foot soldiers. He could feel the blazing blackness of the enemy General's eye; almost smell the decaying meat still coating his tusk-like teeth.

It was time.

Excelsior's fist struck the console as he bellowed, "ATTACK!"

The top door to the Vengaza and three entire Legions of Dragons emerged. Intentionally semi starved on the trip, they saw a ready meal before them in the H'Rung, and swooped onto them breathing fire almost immediately.

Before the H'Rung could even finishing bracing for the Dragon's attack, the nose lifted and a thousand strong herd of Unicorns bearing the Enchantress and her Sisters across the plain in their silken robes. Their Unicorn's horns were shod in gleaming steel and their hooves in polished platinum, but no Unicorn would allow any cover to their silvery white hides. They rode across the plain forming a wedge aimed at the H'Rung General himself at the very heart of his Death Guard.

Behind the Unicorns the normal war horses rode. Clad in the same ceramosteel plates as their riders, the knights split into two to drive a wedge into the H'Rung. Their rider's lances shone in the midday light, glistening with their sharpened points so eager to extract the death of their foes. They, with their General, rode towards almost certain Death. Death, but for the Glory of God and Earth. Behind them came the lesser fighters. The Archers with their plasma infused, grenade tipped arrows, the men at arms with their atomically charged Halberds, and the lightly armed skirmishers who used their Shrieking Spears to sow confusion in the enemy ranks.

The Earth's mightiest of calvary was finally ground to a halt by the overwhelming mass of the H'Rungs they had slaughtered. General Gmion's Knights were soon pulled from their horses and, stripped of their armor, eagerly killed by uncivilized green hordes. Even though they took twenty or more of the savage H'Rung for each of their own killed, there were simply too many of the enemies. And being in such close proximity, not even the deadly accuracy of General Bakker's Dragon flames could effectively be used in their aid.

Instead, as planned, the Dragons split the barbarous defenders into thirds. The front third, although the most strategically important, but was deeply entrenched with the charging Knights and Unicorns. It was to the rear that the battle would turn, just as Excelsior had foreseen. He emerged in from the ship in a Chariot towed by twin Balrogs to marshal the foot soldiers to victory. Emboldened by the mere presence of their Liege, Lord Admiral, the foot soldiers, feeling the very will of their Commander and God course through them, could abide naught but victory either.

The rear left and right thirds were soon overwhelmed by the bravened foot soldiers and, so far from their own General, the Shrieking Spears soon broke the enemy's ranks, even as the plasma arrows rained down exploding, searing splotches of plasma amongst them. It was the these two rear flanks that eventually broke, just as Excelsior knew they would, running away in panic. Excelsior himself grabbed a bow and plasma arrow from a humbled foot soldier, and, from near half a mile away, aimed for the heart of the enemy General.

It was at that moment that the Enchantress herself, riding bare back on the lone remaining unicorn, stood on his hard, rippling back. She looked towards the H'Rung General and opened her arms to the air. Just as her Unicorn succumbed to a score of harsh swords, his golden blood spraying glitter across the trampled plain, she lept into the air. Her deep red hair swirled in the wind around her, enrapturing the H'Rung General in her beauty. Even as he stopped fighting and let his guard down that he could gaze longingly upon her unfettered, Lord Admiral Excelsior's plasma arrow fell from the sky, burying itself deep into his heart before exploding with a heat rivaled, only just, by the Sun.

The twin dawn of Avajj 9A and 9B cast a pale, cleansing light over the harsh battle scarred scene. The Unicorn's death throes had scattered glitter far and wide, and rainbows sadly swept to and fro, seeking for the lovers who would never return. The dragons too were dying, poisoned by the richness of the H'Rung's coppery blood. With the violence over, the Balrogs soon dissipated back into Shadow and Malice, leaving only the living humans and the dead of both Worlds. If not for the complete capitulation of the H'Rung after their General's prominent death, the Human's position would have been untenable.

As it was, Lord Admiral Excelsior alone knew just how close it had been as he walked the field. But he knew as well that God was truly on their side. General Bakker, as expected, had survived, but was morning the losses of his Dragons. It was in many ways an even harder blow after such a desisive victory for them. Excelsior had also found the body of General Gmion, alone save but for hundreds of dead H'Rung surrounding him. He ordered the General's body to be given great honors, and a statue to be erected on the spot of his death proclaiming his great deeds.

He was most pleased, however, when he found the Enchantress, alive but stunned, "I am sorry for the loss of your Unicorns and Sisters, but victory would not have been without them." She smiled at his compliment, and now that the battle was over, allowed herself the freedom to blush.

"I know, my Liege, I may also, finally, be a full woman, if you would do me the honor," she added, blushing even deeper.

"And so you shall, my Queen, and so I will," he said to her surprised face.

As they kissed, amidst the sullied ground of the purple field, the hope in their union overwhelmed the men, and it was long before the cheering ceased.