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in a land not so far from here there were dreams; of beauty, wonder, terror, triumph, and heart ache. These dreams had names and faces, lives and places. They lived, they breathed, they loved and lost, they died only to be reborn again. Time and again they came and went, their comings and goings marked the world, shaped it, and as often made it better, or worse.

Their time has come again, dragged screaming back into the world, forced back into the cycle, left to live in the world again and wander while they wonder at world. They are dreams, they are nightmares, they are children; at once wise beyond measure and painfully, heart achingly naive. They will learn, again, to love, to hate, to cry, to rage, and to hide it all in the fertile soil of their very beings so they can reap the power of those feelings when they need it most.

They come from beyond rational thought; they defy imagination while being shaped by it; they are OUR dreams and OUR nightmares. Homeless for so long, they have found somewhere to call home, at least for now. These precious few are our children, our ancestors, our saviors and banes.

They are the students of the Concordian Academy.

 

Lost In Our Footsteps

The city is not as old as some, older than others, and like all cities it’s falling apart. Crumbling at the edges, rotten at the core, decay has its way with our wounded lady and only thin, unstable band of order caught between entropy and corruption holds things together. I’m watching them all, sure that I was once the one being watched, and I hope they managed it better than my friends and I did. Oh, we were ‘heroes’ of a sort, don’t get me wrong, but we ultimately failed. We weren’t strong enough, bold enough, and worst of all we didn’t trust one another to play our parts. We might have made due with what we had if we’d only been able to trust.

I can’t see their faces yet, these new ones, they aren’t close enough. If I had to wager though they’ll look familiar enough once they pass the first gate. One of them will be dangerous, another strong as an ox, the third nimble and deadly quick, the fourth divided at their core, and the last wise and frail. Not a single one of them will really trust any of the others or the assorted hangers on that will come with them.

That they’ll come I have no doubt. They have to, they’re compelled to. They’ll march on that tower and storm it’s gates, whatever form they take this time, and that’s when the bleeding and the dying will start just like last time. First the friends, then the allies till there’s only the five of them left. That’s when it will start to fall apart. There will be five again and there should only ever be four. That’s the joke you see. There’s always one too many invites sent out to the party, and every time that last one is sent to the bastard that makes sure the music stops before the dance is done. View full article »

He started life as a helpless, harmless little sprite, a twinkle of mischief in an elevator where the plating looked like a face. Someone noticed him one day and thought “isn’t that cute”? That was where it started, a stray thought, a random smile, which was all it took. From that point on other people started noticing him, thinking similar thoughts, leaving his elevator home with similar smiles. Time passed, who knows how much, he was just a sprite after all but soon rather than later our little friend was the recipient of enough happy thoughts and gentle smiles that he woke up.

The first day our new friend was awake and aware he spent learning about the parts of his new body. Thankfully one of the passengers on his elevator that day was a parent, and spent some time riding up to the 14th floor singing softly to himself.

“Head, shoulders, knees and toes….” The man sang softly with a smile, he loved his little son and daughter very much and was happy that he could teach them about their world. Our little friend would learn about fingers, those wiggly things on your hands, and toes, those wiggly things on your feet, and his eyes, those things you use to see, and ears, those things you use to hear.  After listening to the man, and many other passengers talk about their bodies our friend decided he needed one of his own. It was a good thing that there were so many spare parts stored near the bottom of the elevator shaft because those things let our friend fashion himself what he called his ‘walking suit’. Gears for feet and springs for legs, bolts for arms, and wire for fingers, he collected them a piece at a time for his suit. He found light bulbs for eyes and a small metal grill for a mouth so he could smile.

Our little friend soon learned that you use your feet for walking and your toes to keep from falling over. He learned that your hands and your fingers are for holding things and picking things up. Eyes are for seeing all kinds of things but colors and shapes and numbers were his favorites.  His ears let him hear people talking or the elevator humming along. His mouth was for talking and best of all smiling.

Prologue

It was a night like any other, the wind cold, the moon high and full. Bird song and wolf howls in the darkness, leaves blowing gently in the frigid winter air. There was no one in the clearing at the center of the grove and yet a fire danced merrily in the center of a ring of ancient stone trilithons melting snow and banishing the cold. Pipes played from nowhere and the shuffling of feet could be heard on the carpet of brittle grass and fallen leaves.

The song began as a dirge and set the forest around it to singing, the stones to vibrating. The dirge carried on, turning in on itself, reversing its course of death, loss, and pain. It built to a crescendo and exaltation of life, rebirth, and strength. The final notes of that pipe song played and whirled among the branches of the trees that surrounded a long forgotten grove, the pushed back autumn, and gave rise to a brief, glorious summer. Then the music died away and the icy clutches of winter wrapped their knotted, unforgiving hands around the grove again, killing off that too short summer.

As the last of the grasses and flowers wilted, as ice and snow blew back in to cover the stones that sheltered the fire a voice could be heard in the darkness though its source remained obscured by shadows.

“Well,” that voice said to an audience of none, “it’s a start.”

Six Gun Love

Slip it open.
Slide it out of belt.
Roll it between your fingers…

Slide it in the chamber,
Give it a spin around.

Slam it in,
lock it.

Get  a grip,
tight, but not too hard.

Squeeze it slow,
feel it kick…

Lift it to your lips,
And blow…

Door

Don’t open that door my dad always said or the faeries will use your bones for their bread…

******

I was five or maybe six when it happened. Mom and dad were downstairs, working on some new home improvement project. That meant I was alone upstairs, my small world an oyster – TV, computer, all my toys. I could’ve gotten into all kinds of trouble. Like so many children I was an idiot and went after the biggest no-no I could get my little hands on.

Mom and dad had an antique dressing screen in their bedroom, all black and gothic, dark varnished oak and wrought iron. The entire thing covered in tiny relief carvings, snowflakes, bare trees, the suggestion of snow drifts, and cold winds. At the time I would have sworn that there were figures dancing around on it as well, dodging out from behind the trees or drifts, winking, laughing silently, or even beckoning.

I can’t tell you how many times I’d been in mom and dad’s room, goofing off, jumping on the bed, or watching their TV and feeling the “door” in the center panel of the screen calling to me, begging to be opened. It seemed like every time it happened dad would appear as if by magic and give me the same old speech, “Don’t open that door, son, or the faeries on the other side will use your bones to make their bread.” View full article »

The Ghost

It all started with a hat, travel stained and worn, covered in dust from the road. He drug himself wearily through the double doors of the saloon and hung that filthy bit of haberdashery on the rack nearest the bar. Tossing the tail of his duster out behind him he slumped onto a stool.

“Whiskey,” he croaked in a voice as rough as a freshly broken trail. The barkeep nodded, his hand slopping something that passed for whiskey into a glass that hadn’t been completely clean since the day it was first put into service.

“I’ll see your coin, traveler,” the weasel barkeep prompted as he deposited the whiskey on the bar.

As the ragged traveler placed a small stack of coins on the bar a meaty hand grabbed his wrist and pinned it to the rough wood. View full article »

Welcome to Around the Fire

The act of creating, of writing, of telling stories. Three of my favorite things and three things I don’t do nearly enough of. The muse, as most anyone will tell you, is a fickle bitch. She comes and goes as she pleases. For a long time I thought mine had deserted me entirely. I’d get flashes, little snippets of inspiration when I heard a song or read a particularly interesting story. I’d promise myself I’d write down whatever bit of doggerel floated through my brain at the time, refine it polish it into something worth reading.

Invariably those little snippets got away from me because of work or family or sheer bloody minded laziness. Mostly sheer bloody minded laziness. I’m the one who let the fire go out. I’m the one who let the muse leave and when she tried to come back I willfully ignored her. I’m trying to break that nasty little habit. I’m tired of not creating. Since I jumped neck deep back into a hobby that demands creativity I’ve been happier than I have been in a long time. I’m creating again, telling stories, and this time I’m going to keep the fire lit for as long as I can. I’m also not going to let my hobbies suck me dry. I’m not going to dump everything I’ve got into work that will be forgotten in a week or month.

My wife set this blog up for me an age ago, I think it’s high time I used it. I’ll get to learn the ins and outs of Word Press and maybe produce something I’ll be proud of.

That being said there’s one more anecdote I’d like to share for my opening post. When I was growing up my friends and I would always ponder what we wanted to be when we grew up. I always used to joke that there was no more room in the world for my ideal profession. The first time that always drew a quizzical look that I’d answer with a smile and an explanation that the world doesn’t have any more room for itinerant storytellers. In a way, it’s true, but if I can’t wander myself then maybe the stories I’d like to create can. So I named my blog ‘Around the Fire’. Welcome, and I hope you enjoy the tales I have to tell.