This sci-fi war story averages 4.7 stars on Amazon. Check it out!
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Elsewhere, on a forest path toward seaside ruins, MAHKYEL, the Prince’s scoundrel uncle rides with two guards and his weakling aspiring sorcerer cousin BOORYEL. Both are Eastern (Asian) and are dressed well from royal ties and ride with confidence. Booryel sneezes as they approach the ruins.
When they dismount, they are met by the chief kidnapper, HEDDAHNTON. He is a very fit man in warrior’s armor and has the look of a successful mercenary. Some of his thugs and captured women mill about the ruins, now a makeshift base.
Mahkyel approaches Heddahnton with caution. “Well done, Heddahnton. I trust the little rat is safe?”
“He is, Your Highness.”
Mahkyel wags a finger at him. “Not yet. There will be a time when others call me king, but I expect no such respect from a mercenary.”
Heddahnton leers. “Guilty. Like all men of deeds, I respect sword and coin.”
“Understood,” Mahkyel says, strolling through the camp. “A bonus. Booryel?”
The weakling cousin strolls up, pulling an amethyst necklace from a robe pocket. He holds it out for Heddahnton.
“Did you charm this?”
“Nay,” Booryel says, disappointed. “Simple stones from the queen’s closet. No magical potential.”
“Nonetheless,” Heddahnton says, snapping a finger. A thug comes up and looks at his boss. Warily, he takes the necklace in his gloved hand.
Mahkyel smiles. “I’m the kind of liar you can trust, Heddahnton. There’s more riches to come.”
“What about your giant?” Booryel asks.
“Charmu?” Heddahnton wears a satisfied expression. “Like me, he does his job. My men fulfill his craving for mares.” He looks at Booryel. “And what of your craving for magic? If I remove your hand, could you regrow a new one?”
Booryel swallows hard, taking a step back. “I…uh…”
Heddahnton laughs as Mahkyel intercedes, annoyed. “Save your charms for the ladies, High Warrior.” He takes Booryel by the sleeve and they head for their mounts.
Nearby, there are cliffs above the sea. Several individual jail cells have been built into the cliffs, 50 feet above a rocky beach. Most of the cells are occupied only by skeletons in rags.
In one, along with an ancient skeleton, sits THE PRINCE OF ENDLESS. He is an Eastern (Asian) boy of ten dressed in simple if regal pajamas. Sitting on the rock floor, he is adjusting a dirty wool blanket around him to keep warm. At the bars are two buckets. One is dirty (for bathroom use) and the other contains stale bread. Sea breeze ruffles his hair, and he’s trying not to cry.
The ground shakes, accompanied by heavy splashing sounds, and dust falls from the rock ceiling. Beyond his cell door, slowly and malevolently, appears CHARMU.
Charmu is a 60-foot giant in simple clothes and with a braided beard. He peers into the cell, sneering. The prince scoots back, fearful.
“Prince,” Charmu scoffs. “Mighty prince.” He turns to go.
Blame the onrush of autumn–Halloween, the sudden cold temperatures, the yard turned orange from wind-stripped tree litter–but my thoughts have recently been bouncing to the issue of mortality. I’m not a morbid person by nature, but I certainly ponder the end often enough. Given the preponderance of auto-accident fatalities (37,000 annually in the U.S.) and mass shootings (also far too numerous), a random ‘untimely’ death feels less unlikely than it used to.
In the Arts
Artistic reminders abound. Dave Matthews’ So Damn Lucky describes a bad car accident (where the narrator disregarded his partner’s cautionary advice). The last four minutes of Pink Floyd’s Shine on You Crazy Diamond seems like the ultimate statement on ‘moving on.’ John Lennon‘s “Watching the Wheels” always makes me think of my wife’s late brother Eric, as I heard it soon after his funeral and it made me weep. (Perhaps there was something about Lennon’s voluntary ‘quitting’ the music business, only to be tragically murdered several weeks later.) The events feel tied together.
In the film Glory, Colonel Robert Shaw is given a moment to gaze at birds flapping above the South Carolina surf. He has volunteered his 54th Regiment (Massachusetts) to charge an important Confederate fort (Wagner), even though losses will be heavy. Shaw senses he’s going to die that very evening. We aren’t told what he’s thinking–we just have to imagine it for ourselves.
One of the stark exercises journalists are asked to go through is to write their own obituary. How would you sum up your life in 400 words? Space is limited, and difficult choices have to be made.
Contrast that with Steven Dalt, the hero of F. Paul Wilson’s The Healer. Thanks to a symbiotic relationship with an amazing, all-learning creature, Dalt lives (in the story) some 1,200 years. While this longevity and his godlike ability to heal people (through knowledge and psychic abilities) sounds grand, it also comes with terrible costs. He outlives everyone he meets, including his wife and subsequent partners. In the end, given the chance to rule Humankind (being victorious over its far-away nemesis), he ponders the meaning (or meaninglessness) of existence. If you could go anywhere and do anything, what would be the point of it all? Even hedonism would get old. Wouldn’t it?
Immortality and limitless pleasure are not problems any of us have, of course. While there’s a part of me that’s fine with being an entertainer (how best to describe a writer?) that doesn’t seem like enough. Neither does making heaps of money (though this could be used in various beneficial ways).
So as I embark on a website design path, and hope for success, I’ll have my eyes on several prizes (doing solid work, employing people, fulfilling others’ wishes). When I look back, at least I can say I tried some cool things (besides raising great kids and supporting noble causes). Without better answers to the big question, these attempts seem good enough.