Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Announcement Coming Soon

Regarding the future of this blog.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

An Epic Tale - 19. Waiting

It was Miru's wish that I meet her father, but the servants told us he could not be disturbed.

"Important business, I'm sure," Miru told me, with a particularly intoxicating dimpled smile. "We shall see him tomorrow."

But the next day I did not meet Miru's father, nor again the day after that. After some weeks it occurred to me to wonder if there was a master of the house at all.

Not that I had much time for idle thoughts. Every morning I was dragged from my bed by an elderly domestic called Mildred, who bathed and dressed me despite my most vigorous protestations. I was then rushed off to Miru, who with a look dissolved any lingering resentment. She took my hand and we breakfasted together. Then she would always gasp, realizing there was some new part of the house she had to show me.

Not that I trusted her. I was not that naive. Still, what harm could it do to follow? I had so much power. If I had to, I could kill her with a thought.

But I didn't want to. Even Lucifer had to admit, her home was fascinating. For the first week, whenever Miru showed me something new, he drew a map behind my eyes, keeping everything straight so I would know if I had to escape. He stopped when he realized the layout was impossible - some rooms would have to occupy three or four places at once.

"We should run," he whispered darkly. But I didn't run.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Prayer

Today is my day. This moment is my moment. I can make of this day whatever I choose. All roads ahead are open to me. I will take advantage of this moment to get me closer to my dreams. I will act with integrity, purpose, and thought. I will not allow myself to be defined by others, nor force another to be defined by me. My thoughts are my own. My will is my own. My heart is my own. So it has always been. So it shall always be.

Updates coming soon, hopefully.

An Epic Tale - 18. Vision

She took my hand, and I was in another place.

It was dark. It was cold. A full moon was hanging over the sky. In the distance, I could hear someone shouting. Someone laughing. Someone crying.

Then I was gone, and there was a city. I saw men tearing great stones out of the earth, and buildings grow up from them. Then the men were dead, and the buildings were being torn down. I saw ghoulish monsters pluck babies from their cradles, and dash their brains out on the street.

The sun set, and I knew it would never rise again.

"Are you all right?"

The girl - Miru - was staring down at me. I must have fallen. Her hair hung about her face. She looked at me with a certain curiosity - less concerned than confused.

"I'm fine," I said. I took her hand and she pulled me to my feet. "What happened?"

"You fell," she said. "But then you got up."

"And now I'm fine," I agreed.

Was she actually afraid of me?

"She should be," whispered the voice in my head. "That was a powerful curse she laid on you. You're lucky I still find it useful to have you around."

I opened my mouth. Then I closed it again. It serves me right, I thought. Trusting girls only leads to trouble.

"Too true," said Lucifer. And for the first time I did not doubt his sincerity.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

An Epic Tale - 17. The Threshold

When the answer came, it was not, as I expected, some aged caretaker or hired domestic servant. It was a girl. A very pretty girl, in fact. A little younger than me, with black curls that framed her face just so. She looked me up and down, and I felt a rush of old, familiar anxiety - something I'd thought I had lost.

"Spare me," the voice said, and at once a bitter coldness pushed my feeling aside. I looked the girl in the eyes.

"Whose house is this?" I demanded. "I have traveled long and far, and I would speak to the master."

In her face, I saw a flicker of .. something. Was it anger? Curiosity? Excitement? Not that it mattered. I was hard as stone. Indifferent.

"This is Master Rohn's house," she said. "My name is Miru Rohn. May I ask where you come from?"

"You may call me Samael," I said, "and I come from -"

I stopped. My throat constricted. I could not get the words to escape my lips. Something was binding me, restraining my will by controlling my body.

"From where?" the girl asked. I strained with all my might, railing against the invisible barrier that kept me silently staring. In my mind I was screaming. Riverbed, Riverbend! I come from Riverbend! Yet the words remained locked away behind my eyes.

"Rage if you must," the voice whispered, "but in this much I can control you. Your strength would be better spent elsewhere."

"It does not matter where I come from," I said slowly. "I have left it behind me for good. Now I am here to ask for hospitality."

"Let me take you to my father." There was that spark again - the creeping edge of a smile. "He will know what to do."

Monday, February 9, 2009

An Epic Tale - 16. The Estate

"This is what I will do," I said to no one. "I will walk out of this forest and go to the first habitation I can find. If they grant me hospitality, I will accept it, repay the favor as best I can, and be on my way. If they should refuse me, I will kill them all."

I had spent the night huddled in a ball on the forest floor. To my surprise, I had awoken refreshed, as though all of my pain and trauma had been washed away. It was good to be alive, and I was. It was good to be strong, and I was.

The world around me was still completely silent, yet somehow it no longer bothered me. I was freed by my aloneness. What future the forest once held, was no locked inside me. Mine to do with as I wished.

When at last I left the corpse of the woods behind, I was sad to see it go. In a sense, the forest had given birth to me. I was its child as much as my human mother's. I wondered what she would say if I saw her again.

I did not let myself think about that for long.

The first house I came to was an estate at the top of a hill. I could hardly have picked a more grandiose location to start my work. I felt certain what I would find there - an aging absentee landlord, trusting his fortune to a dishonest caretaker, who would, of course, refuse me hospitality unless he saw a profit in me.

It was a long trudge up the hill to the master's house. Snow lay softly on the ground, but I imagined that in the summer months the land would be covered with the sweat of laborers, breaking their backs for the master's gain. My footsteps crunched as I walked.

It occurred to me to wonder why I no longer felt the cold. Perhaps it had something to do with my newfound powers, but perhaps not. I had heard that people who froze to death often lost the ability to tell. Should I hope that this was one more side effect of Lucifer's hold on me? I did not welcome that much connection with the way I felt.

At last I knocked upon the door. I ran through the plan one more time in my head.

Either they invite me in, and I repay them, or they rebuff me and I kill them, I thought. It's best this way. I will teach them a lesson.

I waited for someone to open the door.

Friday, January 23, 2009

An Epic Tale - 15. Plans

It was a long walk out of the dead forest. I had plenty of time to think.

The voice had given me great power, but there was weakness there as well. Its influence had made me emotional, foolhardy. I would have to learn to control my impulsiveness if I was to -

What, exactly?

I had spared no thought for the future in the rush of the moment. What was I to do? What did I want for myself? With this power -

But no, I reminded myself. That way lay madness. I needed control.

Lucifer's soft laughter grated inside my head.

"Do you think yourself so strong, to gain dominion over me?"

I clenched my teeth and shook it off. I didn't need to outmatch the voice, only to claim some room for myself.

The voice cut at me, stripping away my defenses.

"Perhaps you are confused," the voice said. "You are not a mighty warrior. You are a puppet. Your strength comes from me, and to me it will return. Your thoughts are my thoughts, and your plans are my plans."

As he spoke, my mind burned. His displeasure was like acid, burning at my brain. He was scouring me, ripping my mind apart to get at my one spark of hope - the single, perfect grain of certainty that he was wrong.

I was no man's puppet.

At once, the pain ceased. "Very well then," said the voice, dissatisfied. "Enjoy your shred of freedom. You are lost without me anyway; had you considered that? Without your power, you are nothing but an ugly burned boy."

I said nothing, but a smile tugged at my lips. I had won something, that much I was sure of. How much it would prove to be worth, I would learn in due time.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

An Epic Tale - 14. Survival

It was done. I was alone.

I fell to my knees, coughing. The magic of the forest was too much for me all at once. Its power was seeping into me, but so too was its rage. I felt its anguish, its disbelief at being so suddenly ended. And the voice was unhelpful.

"This is why," it said, through what I imagined were tightly clenched teeth, "when I tell you to kill someone, you kill them, then and there. You do not wait for his strength to grow, and you certainly don't do anything so abysmally stupid as this."

"I'm sorry," I gasped. I was panting, fighting for air. Who was I talking to? What was I sorry for? The killing? The waiting? Ever being born?

"Do you feel this pain? This is what happens when you disobey me. Learn what you can from it. Mark it well."

"I feel it!" I shouted back. "I feel it! Make it stop!"

The voice continued to rage, but it knew nothing. The pain was nothing. It was a horrible sensation, true, but nothing compared to the guilt. The loneliness. I was acutely aware that I had just killed every living creature in a ten-mile radius. The sadness of that death - the sorrow of every insect as it passed away forever - was mine now, and always would be.

It was some time before I was able to think clearly.

I had thought the forest quiet before, when the winter snows had frozen it into slumber. I knew now what real silence was. The groaning of the growing trees, the faint skittering of insects working deep under the soil, the lightest brush of a bird's wing as it settled into its nest - all these were gone now, felled in a single touch.

At that moment, I swore I would never use my powers again, not even if my life depended on them. The consequences were too great, the price too dear to pay.

I brushed my hand against the tree, the one I had foolishly chosen to test myself with. I was shocked to see how raw my skin had become. Could I call it skin if it no longer covered my flesh? Then, too, was it truly flesh on my bones any longer? One thing was certain - whatever I might be, I was not mortal. No mortal could have attained such hideousness as I had, and live.

"You were beautiful at first," the voice whispered. "Then pride showed its face. Look at yourself now. That's pride."

"Mine or yours?" I whispered back, and laughed when it had no answer.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Epic Tale - 13. Connections

The goblin and I walked together in silence.

I reached out with my mind, trying to contact whatever had given me this power, but it was nowhere to be found. Had I bothered it so much with my display of independence? What if the voice never returned?

A chill ran through me. I had to test my power. I had to be sure I could fend for myself.

I reached out my hand and brushed it against a tree branch. It was an old oak, tall, strong, and powerful. Though it lay dormant, I could feel the life force inside of it, biding its time, waiting for spring.

Somewhere inside the tree a family of birds had made its home, tiny creatures huddling together for warmth, sharing what little warmth they could find. Depending on each other for survival.

And then, with a breath, they were gone. Tiny wisps of potential wafted up from the old oak's insides, only to disappear in the foggy morning.

I pulled harder. I would have to be stronger than that to survive on my own. It was not birds I was after, though their tiny frozen bodies would make a poignant addition to the hollow of the tree. As I strained against it I could feel the old oak's spirit fighting back, desperately clinging to the earth it was rooted in so deeply.

It was not enough. I ripped the tree's spirit from its body, holding it away from the forest that enfolded it. In my mind I could feel it struggling in vain against the force of my will.

And then, suddenly, a blast of fire - a physical sensation that wrenched me back inside myself. The goblin's flames were scorching my flesh. I could smell the acrid stench of burning skin.

To face the goblin I would have to let go of the tree. But the tree, I was sure, would give me great power - its ancient frame held secrets beyond imagining. Secrets that I would lose, unless I held onto its spirit until it was dead.

So I held on, though my body burned.

"So you wish to know if you can stay alive without me?" the voice whispered mockingly. "Here's your answer. Power you have, and more, but wisdom? You will need to depend on me for that."

"Unless," I replied through gritted teeth, "I can find a way to take some for myself."

In its last second of life, the oak tree's spirit released a scream of agony - so pained, so penetrating, I thought for a moment it was my own.

I had tapped into something primordial. The tree's roots ran deep into the ground, where they entwined with the rest of the forest. I had thought I was killing one individual tree, ancient and mighty though it might be. When I consumed its soul I realized my mistake.

This entire forest would die now. I had killed it.

For a moment the fire goblin stopped his attack. He had no choice - his machinery was choking, clogged by thick, dark smoke. It was everywhere, erupting in billowy waves from the ground, the trees, the air - everything I had touched, everything I had come near.

It was all dying at once, and giving up its potential all at once. Clouds of it were escaping into the air, choking and suffocating the goblin as well as his device. I suppose I was choking too. The horrible searing pain from the burns made it hard to concentrate on.

"You can't do this!" the goblin coughed. "This forest - my home! You've killed my home!"

I shook my head, sucking in the magic of nature. The magic of its end.

"And now it's time to kill you, little goblin."

"Do it, then!" the goblin snarled. "I've done my duty. I've burned you. Marked you! Now everywhere you go, they will see your hideousness. Someone will destroy you!"

"Perhaps," I said, "but not you."

And then I killed him.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

An Epic Tale - 12. Conscience

"So," said the fire goblin. "We're alone now."

I turned to face him, letting the corpse of his servant fall from my hands. He still wore that infuriating smirk. I reached out to punish him for it.

"Don't." A blast of orange flame dissuaded me. I might have been filled with the eldritch power of a being that defied comprehension, but fire was still hot.

"I killed your friend," I said.

"So I see."

"I could kill you, too."

"I would ordinarily hesitate to put it so bluntly, but not if I killed you first."

"Want to try?"

"Don't." The goblin put up a hand of peace. "We seem to have gotten off to a bad start."

"That would be the one where you took me prisoner, or the one where you were about to kill me?"

"How about the one where I saved your life? Or had you forgotten? Cold can be just as deadly as heat. Speaking of which - where were you thinking of going, now that you've dispatched your tormentors? You weren't exactly getting on on your own."

I hesitated.

Kill him, Samael, the voice whispered. Kill him now. I will provide for you.

"Be quiet," I whispered back.

"Sorry?" The goblin said. He seemed to sense there was something going on. Something he was powerless to affect. I think that angered him more than the death of his fairy.

"What do you propose?" I asked the goblin. I could feel a proud anger rising from my chest, and was sure that the voice had sent it. Let it rage. I had spent enough time chained to one master or another. This voice would soon learn that Samael was slave to no one.

"I.. propose a truce." The goblin was becoming more nervous. Whatever he could see in me was frightening. Good. I forced a cold smile.

"What kind of truce?" I asked.

"I know where to find shelter. I can lead you out of these woods, never to return."

"And in exchange I spare your life?"

"I could not expect that. You've been touched by some powerful evil. Whatever it is, it's nothing I've seen before. It will never let you let me live."

"Perhaps you misunderstand whose body this is."

The goblin and the demon laughed in unison. It was the eeriest thing I had ever heard.

"If you think I'm going to kill you," I said, "then why help me leave?"

The goblin smiled. "I think you're going to try. But maybe - just maybe - if I pick my moment, I can kill you first."

"Sounds like the basis of a firm friendship."

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

An Epic Tale - 11. Power

I was in pain. Such pain as I had never known. My mind, my very soul was on fire.

I must have screamed; I must have fallen. All I knew was the pain. It blinded me. It pushed me. I was a guest in my own body. The pain was in control.

And then the voice, cool as an autumn breeze, whispering into my consciousness.

"The pain is necessary," it said. "Some parts of your soul must be killed, in order for new ones to grow."

"You never told me that!" I screamed. "You never told me the cost!"

"It was necessary," the voice said.

I was on the ground. The snow was red, sticky with blood flowing from a gash in my head. Had I hit a rock?

Belinda was next to me. "Are you all right?" she asked. She tried to lift my arms. She tried to see where I had fallen.

"Get away from me!" I snarled. I raised my hand to strike her, and in that moment, I saw the horror on her face. Belinda was the first to know what I was.

She tried to escape but I was faster. It was easy - even in my weakened state, newly born as I was, it was a tiny leap to grab her, the merest gesture to wave away her magical attacks.

"Please," she said. "Have mercy."

I took her in my hands and snapped her body in half.

I had killed before. Jerek the cowherd had, at any rate. Predators would threaten the herd, and Jerek would kill them with rocks and a sling. Sometimes a cow would need to be slaughtered before it could be taken by the butcher. Like most jobs on the farm, that was Jerek's.

This was different. When Belinda's life ended I felt something - a wispy tangle of energy. It floated out of her and disappeared into the air. I wondered what it was.

"That's her potential," the voice said. "When you kill a person, you kill a thousand people that first one might have become. You will get used to it in time."

I shook my head. The pain was beginning to fade.

"I don't want this," I said. "I didn't know what it meant. I don't want to be a killer."

I could swear the voice was laughing at me.

"Yet a killer is what you are. I have made you and I have named you - you shall be called Samael, and by your will, the world will be created anew."

"Samael," I repeated. I could feel it binding me, restricting my potential as surely as I had destroyed Belinda's. "It is a good name."

"It is yours."

Friday, January 2, 2009

An Epic Tale - 10. Escape

Who was I?

I had been Jerek, the cowherd. I had lived and I had loved and I had died as Jerek. My resurrection had altered me, but I had still come from Jerek, reborn from him like a phoenix. Would a phoenix change when it was reborn? Would it suffer a crisis of identity?

I had nearly died a second time, when the fire goblin rescued me. And now that same goblin planned to kill me. I needed to change the game.

That's when I heard the first whisper.

"This is a harsh world, youngling. Would you rather not be killed after all?"

From deep in my chest I felt a sudden screaming panic - a terror unlike any I had ever felt. And then, an instant later, it was gone. Not dulled - gone. A part of myself peeled off and left me. I felt a clarity that had been missing since my fall in the river.

"What did you do?" I whispered.

"I killed," the voice whispered back. "That river spirit was needless baggage. He thought to use you for his own short-sighted ends."

"And what do you seek to use me for?" I asked.

"I am older than the river and its petty games. I don't want to adjust the balance of power. I want to overturn it. I want to remake the world."

"And with my help you can do it?"

"On the contrary," the voice whispered. "With my help, you will do it. And the new world will be born in your image. All you must do is accept my power. Become my proxy, and wreak my vengeance upon the world."

"I would have to kill?" I said. For the first time, Belinda seemed to notice my whispering to myself. She flew to the goblin's ear and began conversing with him, urgently, in hushed tones.

"Of course you would kill," the voice said. "You will kill a whole world. An entire existence will wither under your touch. Men will amass themselves to fight you, and women will scream and hide their children at your approach. That is the price."

I considered. The fire goblin was waving Belinda away as he would a mosquito. Try as he would, she could not attract his attention.

I thought of Amanda. What would she say if I turned into a killer? Could I have saved her from the butcher, with this kind of power?

"Of course you could," the voice whispered. "This is your world. You can destroy what you like, and save the rest. You may find little enough worth saving, however."

I looked at the trees, dark and laden with snow. I looked at the goblin, face full of hate, swatting at his most faithful companion. I thought of my parents.

"I accept," I whispered.