Category Archives: Stories

The Merchant and the Afrit

Tomas looked at the Afrit, though his eyes burned to do so, like staring direct at the great Sun in the sky above. “You shall serve me, you say? You can make all that I desire, all that I wish manifest?”

“I can do as you command, to the extent of my powers.”

“You can make me a King then?”

“I could, though not with such a command. I cannot simply snap my fingers and make it so. I am powerful, old and ancient, but even my power has limits, and I do not trouble my mind to search for methods for mortals. You must command me to a task, not a desire. You say ‘make me a king?’ This is not a task. You tell me to kill a specific king perhaps? This I could do. Or you tell me to take you here or there, to bring you this or that, to do battle with him or her.”

“I could command you, then to bring me a thousand gold coins? Or a million?”

“If you did not care from where they came, yes. Though I will surely get them from someplace that suits my liking. Perhaps a sultan with three million coins to his name finds one million missing. Perhaps they bear his mark.”

“Then I could tell you to kill him.”

“You could. I would. Then you would have a million gold coins and a dead sultan. Perhaps his heir would forgive you that.”

“I could have you kill the heir.”

“You could. I’ve destroyed whole lineages of kings for masters in the past. Chopped down families and clans from wizened grand uncles to squalling babes, to babes yet unborn mere quickenings within a mother’s womb.”

“No. No, I think I should not like to order such a massacre.”

“Perhaps you do not truly desire a million gold coins then. Or to be a king.”

“You have told me you can carry and can kill, but what else can you do? What magics are at your command?”

“The magic of the Afrit, mortal. You know of us. Our magic is smoke and fire and flame and ash. We are the king of Jinn.”

“I know the stories, yes, I know the stories. In them the Afrit carried magic swords that spit fire as they slashed. You could make one for me?”

“I can lay in the enchantments, call out the flame in the blade, and set it ablaze, but I am no swordsmith.”

“My blade then? My falchion? You could transform it to one of these?”

“If you so command.”

“Yes, I do. Afrit, make my falchion into a great fire weapon as your kind carried in the tales of old.”

The Afrit held out his hand, and the falchion flew to it. He examined the blade for a minute, then his hand ignited into a white hot flame. He ran his hands down the length of the blade, the rust and wear scouring away at the merest touch. A solemn chant in an ancient tongue Tomas had never heard before flowed out of his mouth.

The blade began to glow, white hot. As the Afrit continued chanting, continued rubbing the sword it ignited in flame, burning bright and hot. The Afrit gripped it by the hilt and tested three quick swings, lofting it in circles in a single fist as easily as Tomas himself might swing a much smaller, lighter blade. Then he passed his hand across the blade and quenched the flame.

The Afrit offered the blade up to Tomas who took it tentatively. He examined it now, restored to its new forged brilliance and beyond, a series of scrolling runes running its length, its steel nearly looking silver. He tested it in a swing—still too heavy to hold one handed as the Afrit had done, but lighter to swing, swifter yet Tomas could tell no less powerful for it. He imitated the Afrit’s motion of passing his hand across the blade and nearly dropped it when the flame lit anew.

Tomas was awed by it. So long as he held the hilt of the blade the flame did not hurt him, he could not feel the heat at all. He passed his hand across again and the flame winked off then back on again. “A marvelous wonder indeed,” the fat Pitr muttered, his seaweed-like whiskers shaking as he nodded his head.

“A merest trifling trinket of my power,” the Afrit replied.

Tomas stood tall now, setting aside the newly enchanted blade. He looked the Afrit in its burning orange eyes, locking his own to its. They looked like fire and ocean set against each other there, the Afrit magenta and burgundy with flames of orange and red and Tomas with his blue skin, green hair and pearl teeth. “If you are so powerful that this is but a trinket to you how is it you came to be trapped in this iron ring?” Tomas asked.

The Afrit eyed him warily, “I could tell you the tale. . . If you so command.”

“I do,” Tomas replied.

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The Judge and the Hermit in the Corridor

Papa Sizwe muttered under his breath, twisting his staff in his hand, waking the snake spirit within it, the staff hissing and writhing in his hand. “The Great Truth Sayer.”

“In mine own most eminent flesh,” the pair stood completely still. While others might circle in the grass or the dirt, they stood their ground watching one another. Asala bin Qalam raised an eye brow, cocking his head to the side, “The serpent strike staff? A hermit then?”

“In the south I am known as Papa Sizwe, though the spirits know me by other names,” Sizwe snatched a guard from the end of his snarling staff, cracking it open, running the red liquid inside across his face, tasting the fermented blood on his tongue, feeling the strength of the spirits flow into his veins, “Me estes la bestoj de la nokto.” I am the beast of the night, Papa Sizwe beseeched the spirits for guidance, asking them to fill his body, to ride his soul into battle with the legendary warrior.

Asala bin Qalam raised his scimitar above his head, humming an ancient Dokkaebi hymn under his breath as he backed a step further down the hall way, “You appear to be under the impression that these ululations and incantations would impress some shred of terror and horror upon my person. A peculiar impression which you hold in a state of absolute falsehood.”

“We shall see.” Before the words had left his mouth, Papa Sizwe’s snake strike staff struck, slipping suddenly sunward, sinking fangs shallowly into Asala’s side. The Judge struck back, bringing his great scimitar down onto Sizwe’s muscled arm, biting deep into the sinews, spraying his own blood across the corridor, splatters of it joining the purpled blood that decorated his face.

The two quickly paced backwards, retreating from one another in tandem. No words now, only near animal snarls at their lips. Sizwe held his wounded arm tight to his side to try to staunch the blood flowing from his opened veins.

Asala shifted his scimitar to his left hand, drawing out his wand, the club like weapon that all Dokkaebi made from their own tail’s which they cut off ritually upon adulthood. Then he strode forward, slashing with the scimitar, a blow basely blocked by Sizwe’s staff. Then the club clocked the Hermit on the head, a ringing beginning in his ears.

Sizwe struck back, three lightning quick staff strikes that met with scimitar, club, and finally skin. Once more the serpent staff sunk fangs in, venom piping forward into the Dokkaebi Judge’s blood. bin Qalam called out in pain, in shock, in swift setting agony. Then thrust his scimitar forward at the Hermit once more.

The dance of blade and wand and staff went on. Sizwe swung feebly several times, long arcing strikes and limp jabs, his blood trailing down to the floor from his mangled arm. bin Qalam swung his scimitar like a scythe in long level swaths, jabbing with his club, backing him down, buying time for Mettel to escape the tunnel’s end with the Truth Stone.

“You are slowing, Truth Sayer.” Sizwe smiled, showing his brilliant teeth.

“This may be as you say,” Asala responded, brushing his grayed fur aside from his face.

“Can you not recognize a truth when it is spoken without your stone? Can you not feel the venom from my staff? Can you not feel your blood slowing? Soon I will strike a final blow and finish you, old man.”

Asala laughed a hearty laugh, “How many years since you’d the occasion to use that particular epithet?”

“More than I can count,” Sizwe smiled as he dove forward, driving his staff into the Truth Sayer’s shoulder.

The Judge and the Spy in the Corridors

Mettel heard the sound of drums on the walls of the castle behind him– the Truth Seeker’s stronghold was under assault.  He skittered forward, along the thin, cramped winding corridor. The secret passage would be a tight fit for a larger person, but Mettel was slight even for a Parua, agile and lithe. He glanced behind him at the Truth Seeker who loped along, clutching the Truth Stone. “This passage leads out?  To where exactly?”

The Dokkaebi Judge ran his clawed fingers through his grayed mustache, “A place wherein we can assuredly exit from this place with the safety of our personages intact.”

“Who, or what do you think is following us?” Mettel asked, hopping forward as Asala bin Qalam stayed a half step behind, his tall shoulders hunched to allow his much taller frame through the corridor.

“I dare not hypothesize as to the identities of our assailants.”

“Heh,” Mettel snorted, “Seems to me that it must be the Rezgari, who else would it be?”

“By your own tale, verified by the Stone the Rezgari are assaulting your tribe at the present.”

“Yes.”

“Then we must assume that the Rezgari are not currently available to threaten violence upon my vestibule.” The Dokkaebi stroked his long white mustache a moment, then nudged Mettel with his toe, “Perambulate rodent.”

Mettel hopped forward, apprehensive, scared more now than before of what might be coming for them. Light streamed into the subterranean corridor through barred windows, solid, safe– no man nor even the smallest Parua could slip through those cracks.

They continued forward in silence for a few dozen steps, then the Judge paused, cocking his head, setting a hand on Mettel’s shoulder, “My auditory senses detect an intruder.”

Mettel turned, looking back– a raven standing in the filtering light, shaking its wings. “Caw!”

Asala bin Qalam pressed the Truth Stone into Mettel’s claws, “Continue to the conclusion of the passageway– I shall follow presently, once this flea ridden creature is dispatched.”

Mettel watched in disbelief as the raven shifted forms, twisting, standing up into a human form. An ebony skinned man dressed in a tattered, moss covered robe, a gnarled staff, gourds hanging from the end.

The Judge unlatched the great scimitar which hung at his waist, turning to face their attacker. Mettel ran, hopping in the four legged lope of his people. He heard talking behind him in a tongue unfamiliar, recognized the Truth Bringer’s voice and that of what must have been the unknown dark skinned man.

Mettel saw light ahead, the end of the tunnel at last, sprinting forward as the sounds behind him changed from speech to the clash of sword and staff. When Mettel burst forth into the light, he stopped, skidding into the ground, pressing his fingers into the sand, tears of relief welling in his eyes, the Truth Stone clutched to his chest.

“Ahem.” Mettel looked up from the dirt to see a smiling human figure looking down at him, olive skinned like the people of the Five Tribes. Beside him a Dokkebi female crouched, snarling, her sharpened teeth glinting in the twilight Sun.

“He has the stone,” the human said, looking back over his shoulder to talk to an unseen figure.

“Excellent,” the voice responded with a sibilant softness, its bearer seeming to glide forward over the sand, “Well, little mouse– you seem to have the most interesting of timing.”

The Ghul Queen smiled down at him, and Mettel gulped.

Mother, Daughter, and the Bold Scout

Maba stared into the eyes of Dread Anna. He stood nearly on tip-paws, trying to bring himself to her height, his lip quivering as he stared into the eyes of the greatest hero and worst villain both in the history of the Peshga tribe, no in all the history of the Parua.

Maba knew he had a choice to make– he could walk away now, could stay safe from the ire of Dread Dead Anna, but he knew that if he did, the Peshga Tribe was doomed. Silently he prayed to Padaga for courage, then spoke, channeling the bold forebears who had come before him, from the first mouse who pulled the thorn from Padaga’s foot don to the strongest and bravest of the gigants.

Then he opened his mouth and spoke. “You won’t leave me here in the Sill. You won’t hop off on your own business or go on ahead to the story circle. You would never abandon the Peshga tribe in a time of true need, and–”

Annika snatched the younger Parua by the nape of his neck, hefting him off the ground by an inch, the muscles in the thin hand straining as she pulled him close, “What makes you think I’d consider this a time of true need? Mercenaries? Rezgari mercenaries I suppose?”

Maba nodded.

“You mean to tell me Old One Eye, that salty Pitr whose built his career robbing caravans and guarding them in turns means suddenly to make a brazen assault instead? Him who prefers to be bought out of any assault he has been bought into? It was the Rezgari double cross, after all.”

“Old One Eye is out. The Rezgari have a new leader.” Maba peeled her fingers apart, restoring himself to his feet, steeling his courage against his fears, “You haven’t heard?”

“No. Who is this new leader then?”

Maba looked once more into the eyes of the famed Peshga heroine, “She came upon the Rezgari on the edges of the wastes two years back, or so the story is told. She put Old One Eye’s head on a pike, poked out the eye that remained. The Rezgari answer to her now, and to her lieutenant, formerly of the Pingara, a human man known as the Bane of Backalore.”

Annie’s eyes narrowed at the name. “Someone has brought the Bane to heel?” Maba nodded. “This woman, who killed One Eye, cowed the Bane, and rules the Rezgari then, who is she?”

“No one knows her true name. But she is called the Gray Queen.”

Even Mitzia shuddered as the scout uttered the words.

The Brothers and the Statues

Gellian dodged back as the giant stone mace of the statue collided with the ground where he had stood. Even with the shared strength of the Sun his brother had imparted to him he could do little but dance round, his kukri of little use against the stone guardians. “Ten of these?”

“Ten either side brother. Who thought the merchant would fail at sums where the warrior succeed!” Remian charged two steps forward, his two handed falchion’s long curved blade impacting heavily with the statues arms, the enchanted metal rending the stones apart. A swift kick knocked what remained of the statue to the ground, once cracked its magic leeching from it out into the air. “Nine and ten now though, brother!”

Lumian sat cross legged in the center of the fray, somehow ignored by the statues, somehow sheletered from the fray, chanting a prayer in the ancient Padagan tongue, a series of glowing runes floating before him. One statue began towards him, but reaching a barrier set in place it turned its attention towards Remian instead.

Remian parried the statue’s mace, then barked forth a single word, “شلیک” A burst of flame leapt from his palm, burning the face of the guardian to ash in an instant. “Ten and eight. Brothers? Perhaps some help?”

“I am helping. You think protection comes quickly? I am setting the final wards.”

Gellian broke in, “I think, Lumian, what our youngest brother means is that perhaps something more, ah, offensive is in order?”

Lumian stood slowly, drawing out the flail, its heavy chain and ball glowing with a faint blue shimmer. Eyes still closed he strode out of the circle of glowing runes, flashing left and right with the flail in a series of quick motions, his steps and his strikes guided by a force outside himself. Three statues fell in his wake. “Five and ten. Gellian– I think you are falling behind my brother and I!”

Gellian dodged one statues strike, then ducked a second, a quick strike of his Kukri doing little but clanging off the hardened stone of the statue. He danced round, nimbly in a way that belied the apparent age he wore on his brow; leading one statue behind on either side. As he moved  the two statues maneuvered out to flank him, then both raised massive maces on either side as Gellian stopped for a moment.

“Crash!” the impact as the statues’maces collided with one another, Gellian running for a half second up the wall which had looked to corner him a second before and two swift kicks tumbling the statues which had destroyed one another, “Three and ten!”

Gellian found himself now back to back with his brothers, thirteen statues looming over them. “You could end this, Remian.”

“I could, but I can wear the Lion’s mask for only the briefest moment, and not again for many days if I do.”

“We can carry on like this, then, wearing ourselves down in bodies and magic. Thirteen to one is not so bad as twenty to one.” Lumian prodded his brother verbally as only an elder brother could.

“As you wish.” Remian stepped forward, snarling his lips, then let forth a roar.

As he did, the room about them quaked. Lumian and Gellian closed their eyes and sunk both to the floor, prostrating themselves before their brother as he took on the visage of the Great Lion of Padaga.

Remian shone bright, bright even as the sun when it hung in the midday sky, his body superimposed by the image of a lion near as large as the room itself, and he seemed to lunge forth, great fire-y claws striking down the statues in motions swift beyond eyesight.

Then it was done. Thirteen melted and crumbled statues before his feet, Remian collapsed to the ground exhausted as the spirit of the Lion left him.

Lumian knelt beside his brother, wetting a cloth and touching it to his freshly sun burned skin. “I only wish this was the last trial to enter the tomb-”

“And not the first.” Gellian finished his brothers thought.


Mother, Daughter, and the Bold Scout

“I asked what brought you here, youngling?” Annika stared at the male Parua. Taking in the way he clutched at the scimitar at his side, the subtle way he rocked from paw to paw and buried the sight of his eyes into the grey dirt beneath their feet to avoid their red eyes locking onto one another.

“I was trying to reach my tribe.”

“Which tribe?”

“The Peshga, mother.”

Annika snarled at the honorific, “Don’t patronize me, pup! Only one Parua calls me mother now, and she the flesh of mine own flesh. I am not of the Peshga any longer.”

“But you were? You were a Peshga, you were a soldier?  A scout?”

“Spy.”

“Oh,” Maba dropped his eyes which he had let drift up towards Annika’s he instinctively running his claws through the fur on his face.

“You recognize me then? You realize I wasn’t a spy, but rather the spy?”

“Of course.”

Annika flitted her tail out, bopping the mouse man on the cheek to draw his gaze back up and locking her blood red eyes on his, “So you know the tale of Dread Dead Anna? Traitor to the tribe? Thrice cursed? Once with dishonor, a second time with death, and a third with life anew?”

“Every Peshga knows the tale.”

“I expect it would be sung this week at the Rock in more versions than one.”

“Or parts of it would—the taking of Darbo, the Battle of the Gold Coast, the Rezgari Double Cross? Yes, those parts would be sung. Then perhaps the Risen Rain? Perhaps they end with Dread Dead Anna walking away into the sunset the skulls of her enemies lined before the Peshga Mothers and Grandmothers on spikes, never to be seen again.”

Annika paced away from the scout, smoothing her own fur as she stalked over to the corner of the building where Mitzia watched, her child’s eyes wide with confusion and wonder, “But, but, my scout—would they sing of the ten tasks in the land of the dead? Would the sing about Anna meeting with the Lion in the Court of the Sun? Or tell a tale that comes after? Dead Dread Anna—cursed with life itself, walking off into the sunset but to where?”

“No one knows. Dread Anna was never seen again.”

“Six years. It’s not so awful long, even for a Parua. The Grandmothers now, how old are they?”

“Some are nearing twenty.”

Annika scooped up Mitzia and rested the child against her hip as she strode back towards Maba, “And you?”

“Four nearly. And chief scout just this year.”

“And the gigants?”

“I heard there was one in the City that was over thirty.”

“And the next gigants? Who can say? Six years isn’t so overlong, especially for never seen again. But its best perhaps that never seen again stands—so I can leave you then with a choice, little scout—should you forget that you ever found Dread Anna in the wastes and scurry off on your business? Or should Dread Anna show you why she earned her name?”

Mitzia bit her lip as her mother spoke, suddenly more terrified of her mother than she ever imagined she could be.

NaNaWriMo Pitch: A Summoner’s Chronicle

Today’s pitch comes in the form of an outline– no character names yet, just types, so here it is–

A Summoner’s Chronicle

A servant boy, one of three triplets works in castle held by a city state in “Italy”

Book opens with him training swords with a mercenary knight.

The Princess of the castle, a girl close to his own age talk to him–

She has an imaginary friend, a piskie she says and he gets covered inadvertantly in pixie dust.

Later that day an army is storming the castle– Black Faustus’s men, a demon summoner.

The boy goes to hude, he ends up in the library and his eye is caught by a book on Faerie summoning.  He takes it.

The pixie dust has granted him super speed, allowing him to escape the castle.

Later he meets the mercenary knight in the woods outside the castle grounds– the castle has fallen to the Faustians and there is no sign of his brothers.

The Princess is with them, and they begin travelling North to seek refuge in a neighboring country.

On the way they battle ogre’s and goblins and the boy learns to treat with Faeries– he becomes a Summoner.

They arrive in the North. Here they find a kingdom beset by foes on three sides–

Faustians to the West, the Ogre to the Sought, and the bloodthirsty Fire Giants to the Northeast.

The old king is dying & his son is bold– with giant’s blood in his veins.

The Bold Prince calls his banners, and calls forth the pact with the storm giants to the North.

The storm giants and the remnants of the mercenaries help the bold prince repel the fire giants.

Then the Bold Prince turns to repel the Faustians.

The storm giant king declares their oath fulfilled, having won the day.

The Bold Prince asks any giants who will come and promises a boon to those who do.

Three come– two younger sons of the Giant King and the King’s daughter.

The Summoner has fallen in love with the Princess, and grown to a powerful summoner warrior.

The Summoner asks the Princess to marry him, but she rejects his offer due to his low birth.

He assists the Bold Prince, the Giant King’s children in taking back the North’s capital.

When the dust has settled the old king has died; the Bold Prince calls in those to whom he owes favors.

The youngest son of the Giant King asks for a Lordship.

The middle son of the Giant King asks for no boon, but is granted a great forged weapon and suit of armor.

The Giant King’s daughter asks for the Bold Prince’s hand in marriage.

The Princess asks for a force to take back her city.

The Summoner asks for a strip of the marshland and a lorship.

The Summoner, now a lord ass again for the Princess to marry him and is again denied.

The Summoner returns and asks the Bold Prince for another boon– that if he kills the Ogre he can take the whole of the marsh and name himself king.

He does so. Once more as a King he asks for the Princess’s hand and is again denied.

End Book 1.