27 October 2008

Sorry To a Friend

Posted upon this 27 October 2008
Copyright K. S. Wood

This is the first half of a story that I wrote one lonely night while listening to Edwin McCain


He was sitting in the bar, drinking a bottle of cheap beer, and talking to the dude sitting next to him about the evening news. The conversation ceased as soon as it began. He chuckled and stared into space, rubbing his thumb over the lip of the bottle.

Something said reminded him of her, and he let his mind wander.

She was a girl he knew as a young man. She was the girl he could never forget. He let her into his heart, and she never left, though she was out of his life now for the past five years. It was a girl he loved completely.

But it wasn’t a love in the romantic sense of the word. His love for her was like that for a best friend or a favored sister. She was the one friend he could always count on, and he let her slip through his fingers in a single act of carelessness.

They tried dating, but there was no romance between them. They were best friends, and they spoke of their futures and their loves. They assessed each other’s new romances and spent hours debating over the tiniest things. No one would ever win these debates, but each would leave with a big grin thinking they had won.

They knew each other so well, and that scared him a bit. He never let anyone get that close before. She was the only one who knew almost as much about him as he knew himself. Sometimes he didn’t even have to say anything and she would understand him anyway.

No matter what he did, she would forgive him too. He was always doing silly things like forgetting to pick her up for work when he said he would, or calling her at four in the morning asking if he could crash at her place when he lost his keys. Sometimes he could be an insensitive jerk and do things she didn’t like. Yet she always welcomed him with a smile when she saw him, and then she would happily remind him she didn’t like the things he did. Even when she was annoyed with him she brought a smile to his face. She was the one person he felt truly cared about him, and he was fortunate he was able to call her his friend. He hoped they would always remain so.

But it wouldn’t work out that way. He did the unthinkable by leaving.

It all culminated the day he decided to go cross-country on a road trip with a friend of his. At one stop, he saw a girl and started to make conversation with her.

She fascinated him. He thought it was love at first sight, and when she offered to take him with her, he made the stupidest mistake of his life. He said good-bye to his buddy, pulled his luggage from the car and took off with the girl.

Not once did he look back, for he was having the time of his life. He called his uncle, with whom he had been living, and told them he wasn’t coming back home. He partied with his new found love and found work and lived wherever he could, enjoying the rush of living on the edge. He threw away his money in wild parties and big-ticket items, as if he didn’t have a care in the world. Never once did he call his friend and let her know where he was.

The fun and games ended fast though. It was only a year before his new fling found a more exciting man and dumped him. He lost his place to live because he was living with her friend, who didn’t want anything to do with him after that. His friends dried up quick when he realized he lost his taste for partying. After all, he only did all the “fun” because his girl did them.

Within a year he had lost everything.

He managed to scrape by. He found a friend willing to let him rent a room, and worked three jobs just to get the money together to pay off his debts. He started to face life with a cold heart and a hardened attitude. He had to if he wanted to survive.

He gave up on life, so life gave up on him. He was just wandering through life aimlessly. He wore down to nothing.

It was three years before he started to realize the effect of his actions on others, particularly her. He was so wrapped up in his own thoughts and miseries that he couldn’t see what he had done to his true friends.

One day an old buddy ran into him, almost by surprise. This buddy was passing through town on his way east to visit family and stopped by the gas station he worked at. They chatted for a bit, and his buddy let him know how she was doing.

“She’s doing great. She’s just about to graduate from college and has a new boyfriend now. They may even get married one of these days,” his buddy said. “She was upset with you the last time we talked about you. I think she may even be mad still. You did leave without saying anything.”

The words stung, though outwardly he showed no emotion. He said good-bye to his old friend and went about his day.

He didn’t reflect about the words and why they stung until that night, when he was alone in his room. He lay on his bed, his hands tucked behind his head, and he stared up at the ceiling for a long time, thinking clearly for the first time in months about her.

“You were the only one to understand me,” he wrote in a letter he would never send. “You were the best friend I could ever have, but I couldn’t stay there. Even with you as a friend I didn’t have much left for me in our old neck of the woods. I had to go. I hope you understand that. I will always remember you. Don’t forget that, please.”

After he put the pen down, he crumpled the letter up and threw it across the room. He then curled up in his bed, pulled his pillow over his head and cried himself to sleep.

They were the tears of a broken man.

He continued to wander through life aimlessly, but now he was consumed by shame. There was a battle going on inside of him, there had been for years, only now he was able to realize that. He wrestled with the guilt of letting her go, the fear he had of commitment. He was frightened of even committing to be a friend to someone, and that is why he had left, or so he reasoned with himself. But at the same time, his shame at letting her go was a curse to him. It ate him inside to feel it.

He wished he could tell people what was going on inside of him. He was angry with himself for walking out on the best friend he had ever known. He was angry with her because it felt as though she never tried to find him. He felt so vulnerable and hurt and angry and depressed. He wished he had someone, anyone to talk to. If only he could find someone to help him sort out what he was feeling. If only he knew what he was feeling.

“It’s only in your head, dude,” his friends told him when he tried to talk to them about it. “You got to let her go.”

But he couldn’t. He loved her. She was the only one who would ever understand him. But it was too late to go back to the life he once knew, wasn’t it?

21 October 2008

The Story of Drachon and Alesar

The Story of Drachon and Alesar

Posted upon this 21 October 2008
Copyright K. S. Wood

Since the beginning of time, as long as any man or beast could remember, the land of Rioaght Fiorahren existed. From the time of the ancient days, its resonance abounded greatly. From the Lake of Reflections in the west to the Great Sea in the east, the Crags of Dusk to the south to the Forest of Dawn in the north, the kingdom was splendid and prosperous, as were the peoples that were permitted to live in such a kingdom

And, for as long as anyone could remember, Alesar himself had been king. He had descended from the last of the ancient ones of the olden days, and thus did not age, as did mere man. He was taller than any man, and stronger than any lion. It was said that he was also handsome in coloring, more so than even the fairest maiden. Those that could remember told of the long ruddy brown hair that glistened like fire in the sunlight and hung across his shoulders regally. They also spoke of the eyes that held no one solitary color, but had the ability to change from pale gray to the fiercest blue and the darkest green with the moods of the king. They talked of the face that was as rugged as the mountains, but yet as smooth as the sea.

King Alesar ruled wisely and firmly, as had the ancient ones in the world that had passed. The land had known no injustice or dread, for the fairness of the king was unparalleled. There was only one threat, and that was why King Alesar kept his eyes fixed to the south.

To the southwest lay the Ophel Heolstor, the great tower in the Ream Heolstor that belonged to the Lord Drachon, lord of the shadows. His realm was not as big as that of Rioaght Fiorahren, but it was formidable and strong.

Drachon came from the same ancient race as had Alesar, and some had spoken of their kinship as being closer than just that of being of the same race. Drachon was a beautiful and tall creature, with black hair that shone in the sunlight and colorless eyes that carried the glint of diamonds. He was fair of face, and almost as handsome as the King himself, but his carriage was darker than Alesar’s.

Drachon’s power was less than that of the elder king, and he had a hatred for King Alesar because of the greater power Alesar held. Yet, try as he might he could not overcome the power that surpassed his realm to the southwest. He could not overtake it in one battle, but he knew that if he continued to try to overtake Rioaght Fiorahren little by little, he would succeed. Thus he sought to add control over it to his unyielding grasp piece by piece.

He was pleased with himself for creating allies of the men of Alesar, for he could whisper secrets to them that would turn their loyalties from their king, and help him in increasing the gains of the realm of Ream Heolstor into the land of Rioaght Fiorahren.

While unable to step into the land of King Alesar because of the power of the king, Lord Drachon could send his minions, in the guise of the servants of the king, into the land, and that he did. Many within Rioaght Fiorahren fell under the control of Drachon’s ways, and many mouthed words of uprising and rebellion against the king that they had been loyal to for so long. They started to teach false praises to their children, and began lies and deceitful tales that soon spread throughout the kingdom.

The seven warriors of Mach Coyral, the loyal warriors of the king and also of the ancient ones, heard these stories, and their hearts became blackened by the false tales. They felt betrayed by their king, and they soon began a terrible plan to overthrow their ancient king.

King Alesar knew these stories were underfoot, but he chose to do nothing to stop them except continue to reign as fairly and justly as he had since the beginning of age. He was aware of the plot to overthrow him set in motion by the lords of Mach Coyral, and his heart became saddened, but he chose to do nothing, for he had hoped that their hearts would be able to see through the evils guises of their kinsman to the southwest.

But the work of the Lord Drachon prevailed, and the seven attacked the palace in Cathair Alesar with their large army, made of the men whom had been turned from loyalty to the king by Lord Drachon, demanding his death.

The captain of the guard of the army, still ferociously loyal to the king, became alarmed, and rallied his soldiers to protect their king, but Alesar stopped him.

“This battle is not between you and your fellow men, Raimond. This battle is solely between the Drachon and the Alesar,” he spoke. His eyes were the fiercest blue as he spoke, and the noble guardsman knew that a parting was soon to come.

Armed solely with a solitary sword and dressed in his simplest raiment, the king mounted his steed and pressed towards the southwest, and the ensuing mists of darkness that loomed in the far reaches of his kingdom. Past the lands of Mach Coyral he rode, galloping closer and closer to his doom in the distance.

At the edge of the plains, he dismounted, unwilling to let his noble steed step into the terror that he alone was to endure. He took the beast’s head in his hands, pressed his face to its cheek, and kissed him goodbye.

“Fare thee well, Ethelstodd1. May you remain true until we meet again.”

The horse tossed back his head and shed a tear, for he knew it was a good-bye that would last for ages. Alesar took from him the saddle, the lone piece of equipment that was needed by the noble steed and released his mount, who turned back for the city, never once looking back at his master.

For the first time since the beginning of time, Alesar stepped into the realm of Lord Drachon and came to face him.

“I have come, Drachon, just as it was foretold so long ago by our brethren.2 I have come to fulfill the condition put upon me when I received my kingdom. I will give you my life, in return for the peace of our kingdoms.”

“You will choose death, then, Alesar?” Drachon asked, his voice as clear as the morning sky.

“I will choose death, if it were to mean that my subjects be left in peace, and that the Mists would not increase more to swallow up all that the Fiorahren choose to remain in light.” He withdrew his sword and held it in his hands. He knelt and offered it up to his adversary in surrender.

“Do with me as you please,” he said.

Drachon accepted the sword in surrender. “I will gladly accept your terms, and make some of my own.” He fingered the sword before continuing.

“I will accept your life, as well as your kingdom for my own, and I will continue to increase my kingdom until all is encompasses and Fiorahren sees that I can be as truly powerful as you, my brethren Alesar. You fool, did you honestly believe your precious kingdom would be left out of my realm. Ha! Too bad you will not live to see the Ream Heolstor at its finest hour. With that, I say good-bye, King Alesar.”

He flicked Alesar’s sword into his hand, raised his arm out, and in one quick swoop, brought the sword down across the neck of the still kneeling individual.

With that, King Alesar fell. It was the Kingdom’s darkest hour.

Darkness fell over the city, and the deep cry that accompanied the death of an ancient one followed. All of the loyal subjects fell to their knees in sorrow.

The seven warriors fell silent and were stricken with remorse, for though they voiced for the death of Alesar, in their hearts they did not wish so, and now he was gone, stricken by the hand of Lord Drachon. They fell to their knees as the army they led began their advance on the city.

The seven of them were killed in the crush, and died the deaths of cowards.

The men of Drachon ravaged Cathair Alesar, destroying the once grand buildings and slaughtering any who chose to oppose them. By nightfall, the city was in ruins.

Raimond had snuck out of the city, and with the help of some of the men, dared to venture into the mists to gather the body of their beloved leader to bring him back to the city. With tears running down their faces, they mourned for their king, laying his body in the darkened tomb beneath the ruined city in the dead of night.

Three days passed, and Lord Drachon prepared to take control over his new kingdom. He stood on the blackened steps of the ruined palace and held up the sword which slew the king, the sword known forever more as Thanatos Ethel Arsalan.

“Subjects of Rioaght Fiorahren, now known as Rioaght Heolstor Drachon, hear me! I am now the king. I have slain the Arsalan! I have won!”

A loud rumble shook the palace foundation and the sound of stones moving could be heard. A flash of lightning cracked across the sky, and all became silent.

“No you have not, Drachon!” cried a loud voice, one that rolled across the rubble that once made up the city with a deafening noise.

Drachon lifted his eyes to the top of the rubble that once made up the tower. A look of terror mixed with amazement came across his face, and he gasped.

There, standing more brilliant than ever, a crimson scar gracing his neck as if it were a scarf, stood King Alesar. He was larger than ever, and his eyes shone with the most intense blue anyone had ever seen. He wore raiment of the finest sort, and his hair shone as if it were intense with fire.

“I have returned, Drachon.”

“How? Why?”

A stern smile crossed the noble one’s face. “Did you not realize that if I were to give myself willingly to you in death, that you would have no power over me?”

Drachon’s colorless eyes flashed. “How is it you have become stronger in death, Alesar?”

“It is now Seanalesar, Drachon. Ethel Seanalesar Ben Fiorahren.”

Drachon gasped. “You have become the Fiorahren and have taken his power.”

“No, Drachon, Fiorahren has become Athal Alesar. Did you not know that Fiorahren and Alesar were one in the same, and had been since the beginning of time? Did you not know that you too could have become as one like us, Drachon, had you so chosen?”

Lord Drachon could only stare angrily at Seanalesar, his colorless eyes gleaming with ferociousness. He could not find the mortal words to speak what his eyes were voicing clearly, but Seanalesar could understand him all the same.

He looked deep into the colorless eyes and spoke quietly, yet his voice still deafened all that were gathered.

“Drachon, for your part in this, I condemn thee. You will continue to have your power over all you so desired, but you shall not be able to physically enjoy seeing all your madness, nor will you ever be able to control those who have remained loyal to me!

“You shall not be allowed out of your abode in Ophel Heolstor until I come again, though you will not know when or how I will return. Go now and enclose yourself in your darkness, for only it will bring you comfort.”

Seanalesar turned to the seven women of Mach Coyral, mourning over the solitary grave in which lay their husbands’ bodies. His eyes glowed dark green as he faced them. “For your husbands’ part in this, which you did not stop, I condemn you as well. You will neither diminish in power nor in body until I come again. Your home will be that of mourning, and you shall be seen as ancient until the end, for you chose not to condemn your husbands as the betrayed their lord to the dark. But fear not, for your time here upon the land will come to an end, and you shall be free to depart as spirits when I return.”

Seanalesar then turned to the people, the kinsmen who surround the rubble of the great city. “For your part in this, those who have betrayed me, you to shall be punished. You shall live in the land knowing that you could have chosen a life of justice and encouragement, but have chosen to live without. You will continue to be ruled, though by men, rather than by those of old. Fear not, for I will come again to rule you once more, and I will leave you with guidance and comfort.”

He called for Raimond, and put his hands on the guardsman’s shoulders. “You shall become the noble watcher, as will your descendants in times to come. To you I give the title Heathweard, for you will be the guardian of the ancient city. I beg of you to chose from among these men guardians of the cities of the kingdom, and allow them the right to call themselves king, until the day when I shall return.”

Raimond Heathweard wept as he kissed his sovereign goodbye, and went on his way, searching out from among the mortals though noble enough to be called the new sovereigns of the city-kingdoms.

As he turned to look back once more at the king, only a dimming brilliance remained, as dusk was falling over the city. The citizens of Rioaght Fiorahren returned to their lands, wondering if all had been a dream.

Heathweard did as the king bid him. He went out at once, searching out from among the men of the kingdom-cities for the ones among them worthy to guard their part of the kingdom3. After doing so, he retired to Aritorre, the tower of the guard, and remained there until his death, watching and waiting for the Ahedah Seanalesar.

1 Ethelstodd was born of the horses of the ancient ones, and was as ageless as his rider. It is said that he was whiter than the purest white, and could ride faster than the eagles could fly. He was larger than any other horse.

2 See the story of the ancient ones to understand why it was foretold.

3 From the city of Hallberg, he chose Halvard and made him guardian over the crags and mountains. From the city of Rosemaris, he chose Meredyth, and made him guardian over the sea. From the city of Clarimond, he chose Wordhyll and made him guardian over the hills. From the city of Challeigh, he chose Coileach, and made him guardian over the forest. From the city of Solana, he chose Lochtarian and made him guardian over the lake.

06 October 2008

Zatanar - The Island

This is part a collection of stories I am writing about a secret Island that the narrator lived on as a child. the stories are being collected under the title Zatanar:
Back again, grandchild? What is that, you will have to speak up. My hearing is not all that it used to be. You want to know more about the Island itself? I guess I could share. Keep in mind though that much of this was not told to me until I was years older, and that much of this was collected from the animal storytellers years down the line.
The island itself was elusive, for from the beginning of time no map had ever been able to chart it. No one officially explored it. It did not even have a name.
It wasn’t that people had not want to explore it. It was just that the island was kin the middle of nowhere, a lonely stretch of ocean that few ships even ever came close to exploring. Very few people even had the slightest idea that there could ever be an island in that part of the world.
For the longest time only the animals of the sea knew it existed. The dolphins told their children and grandchildren how to swim to it. Whales gave birth near its shores. Fish swam playfully in its lagoons. A flock of seagulls came to roost in the luscious palm trees, having been blown off course by a fierce storm. They took a liking to the island and never left.
The island was also dangerous. A giant reef surrounded it, a reef that was larger then even that of the famous large continent. It was a formidable barrier to getting to the island. Only small boats were able to maneuver through the reef’s treacherous tentacles. Larger vessels were caught tight in their grasp.
The reef was also dangerous because it could not be seen easily. It was an invisible hand that protected the isle from intruders, for once a ship spotted the island, it was too late, for the hands of the reef would cling to and hold fast the hold of any ship. Only the strength of a rare ocean storm’s waves could free any such imprisoned craft, but it was at the cost of that craft.
Such was the case of the so-called circus ship. The vessel had embarked from the orient laden with treasures destined for the markets of Europe. It also carried a collection of animals intended as gifts for foreign rulers. Crudely fashioned cages lined one hold of the vessel. They were full with apes, cheetahs, bears, lizards, birds and other exotic creatures anticipated to become curiosities in the aristocratic societies of Europe.
A fierce hurricane blew three days after the ship had left port, blowing the old wooden craft back and forth on the water. It rattled the poor thing, throwing cage doors open and dumping animals out as the waves tossed the ship about.
The crew was too busy trying to save the ship to notice that the animals had been released from their cages. It was not until the ship had run aground upon the reef that one of the ship’s crewmen had sounded the alarm.
The crew recoiled in terror as first the bears, and then the cheetahs and apes emerged onto the deck from the hold. The men went for their firearms, but in their haste they forgot to load them. Within minutes a majority of the crew had been killed. Soon, all that remained of human life aboard the ship were the captain and his cabin boy.
The captain was a sorcerer of sorts. He had the ability to change his form, though only the cabin boy knew of his ability. He stared at the animals from the door of his cabin, watching them as they feasted on the remains of his crew.
One of the bears turned towards the captain and stood on its hind legs. It looked at him with menace in its eyes.
Animal friends!” the bear growled. “We have missed not one, but two of the humans that have so woefully oppressed us. Let us kill them and be free of our imprisonment.”
The animagus took his place in front of the boy, intent on protecting him, for he could understand every word the animals spoke.
The young ape, which had already established itself as the spoken leader of the small band of apes that had been captured, could sense the power of the captain. It drew back, slightly afraid of the powers of the man, but in awe as well.
The cheetah female growled. “No one touch this man, for he has shown me kindness. I had injured my paw, which had led to my capture. When I was brought on board this ship, he saw my injury and cared for it himself. It was as if he felt my pain.”
Other animals voiced their own opinions as to why the captain should be spared. Only the alligators were allied with the bear in their opposition, but fearing the wrath of the apes and cheetahs, they backed down. The bear had no choice but to concede and spare the captain’s life.
At least let me kill the young one,” he roared. He took a step closer to the boy.
At once there was a ferocious growl. The man doubled over and landed on all fours, his body changing rapidly from human to another form. Within a few seconds the man no longer stood in front of the boy, but a brutal, muscular tiger. He positioned himself in front of the bear and let out another fierce growl.
Lay one claw on the boy and you will pay with your life.”
The ape fell to the ground in revered fear. “Lord Shinglesh,” it whispered.
The Tiger Lord stood before them.
The other apes and the cheetahs followed his lead, as did many of the other animals. Only the bear remained standing, though it had lowered itself back down onto all fours. It glared at the tiger as it backed away, trying to remain ever defiant, even though it was fearful for its own life.
Lord Shinglesh crouched down and allowed the boy to mount his back. With one leap he soared over the side of the ship and landed in the water with a graceful splash.
Upon touching the water, the boy himself began to morph. His feet fused together in a single powerful limb. His hands and arms became sleek and efficient for swimming in the water. His body grew in size until it was as large, if not larger, then that of the tiger. He took a great breath and then submerged completely into the water, finalizing his transformation into the great dolphin king Opsindino.
The ape looked at the bear. “You would have killed a lord!” he shouted.
The bear glared at him and turned, walking away from the side of the deck, where the animals stood mesmerized as they watched the lords swim away. The tiger swam to the deserted isle whilst the dolphin swam to join his kin in the lagoon.
After both had disappeared from the animals’ line of sight, the ape organized them into a rescue party and proceeded to lead them off of the ship, for it was beginning to creak and shift as if it were about to fall apart. Those that could not swim or fly away were loaded onto the backs of those who could and carried to shore. For the extent of the rescue operation, it appeared that the animals could work together in harmony.
The spirit didn’t last long, however. Once they were all safely on land, the animals scattered. The smaller ones ran in fear of their lives. Some of the larger ones smacked their lips in anticipation of a snack after their swim and went chasing after them. Only the cheetahs and the apes remained on the beach once the majority of the circus ship spread out. They stood on the beach, watching the waves pull the ship off the reef and into its watery grave.
Once it disappeared, the cheetah female turned and bowed low to the young ape.
You are very wise for one so young,” she said.
The ape bowed in return. “Thank you, dear friend, but I am not so wise. I have merely paid attention to the elders of my clan.”
The cheetah smiled. “Even still, you are wise, for you have chosen to listen to them. Because of you, we have recognized a lord of the land and a lord of the sea. Because of you, we all have survived the great wreck. I am honored to be in your presence.”
With that she bowed again and offered her friendship.
Now normally cheetahs and apes would not be friends, but rather mortal enemies. But on that mysterious island, they not only became allies, but fast friends who would eventually be willing to die for each other.
It is lunchtime now, child. Let me eat and gain a bit of my strength back, and then I shall continue to tell you the story of how the clans became established.