Category Archives: Fiction

What Is Life

“Is this life?” Frida asked. The stars above the couple extended into the horizon. They were plainly visible everywhere except for the space directly above them; the pair was under a vault of palm leaves, which swayed slightly in the sea breeze, a sweet-smelling breeze that was neither warm nor cold that night.

Her companion was not ready. Silas needed clarification: “This what?” He asked.

Frida sighed and gave the wineskin another go. A drop of wine almost as red as her long, wavy hair streamed down her chin. Then the warrior offered the drink to her mate.

Silas accepted, and Frida watched him drink.

He was so different from her. He didn’t swallow the wine with passion, wouldn’t let it drip down his chin and cascade down his throat. No – he smelled, that was how the analysis began. Then – she knew, they had been together for so long – he would catch it in his mouth and not swallow it immediately, but would bathe his tongue, slosh it in his mouth. That was what Silas did: explore, understand, catalog, explain. That was who he was.

And her?

She saw, she decided, planned, fought, conquered. That was who she was.

Frida let out another sigh.

“It’s part of it, no doubt.” Said Silas.


“It’s the valley, isn’t it? We have everything we could ever want right here right now. It’s a moment when there’s nothing left to want. It’s a moment that’s eternal. But the value of the valley comes from the mountains – from the climbs, from the struggles, from the conquests. Everything we could ever want, we have right now, but we were not made for this moment. We were made to be in motion, not for eternity. “

Frida looked at Silas’s round face, at his short black hair that shone with the reflected moonbeams, at the remnants of his badly shaven beard. And she smiled her wicked smile.

“You, fights and conquests? Your fights are fought between scrolls, and your conquests sealed with the pen. Where is this movement you speak of? Your life could be this.”

Silas returned the look, and the smile.

“But Frida, I have yours.”

The warrior leaned her head against Silas’s shoulder and stared at the reflection of the moon in the ocean.

The valleys and the mountains, she thought. Yes, life is this. It is neither one thing nor the other. It is the movement from one to the other. I will not fear the mountains, nor will I miss the valleys left behind. We will always have the movement, it is in the movement that we find eternity.

Blood And Fire

This is the final part of a short story. Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Eregar was tired, yes, but he didn’t want to let it show. He did not trust the sorcerer and did not think it wise to rest near him. He soon found that his words had been more truthful than he had thought, for the way down was indeed much easier. Evening was still a ways from falling by the time they started walking beneath the trees. 

The wizard touched his staff to the floor with each step, but he didn’t seem to have any trouble walking.

It was not long before they reached the place where Eregar had found the wolf on the night before. The smell of death permeated the air, and swarms of flies were already buzzing over the corpses. The squire felt bad for having left without giving his brothers a proper burial. He decided he would build a funeral pyre over the next day.

“Foolish pup! It betrays!” The roar came from all around them, but this time Eregar was able to raise his shield in time, for he saw the wolf – fast as an arrow – launching toward the sorcerer.

The squire kept his promise: with a battle cry, he threw himself at the animal. He bumped into it with his shield, just as the sorcerer turned to face the attack. As the shield struck the beast, Eregar felt its mighty muscles pushing him back, but the wolf also felt the impact and was disoriented for a few moments. It lost its balance, and the squire pushed it sideways into a tree.

“Flaeel sumpus garr!” Shouted the sorcerer, gesticulating in the air with one hand as he pointed the staff held in the other in the beast’s direction. A torrent of flame flashed into existence, burning everything in his path. The wolf, agile as it was, managed to jump away, and the flames crashed into the tree, turning it into a flaming wreck.

But the flames did not stop flowing from the staff’s head. To Eregar, it looked like water coming out of a fountainhead. But the sorcerer directed the stream, and the torrent of flame consumed everything in its path as it chased the wolf. Its gray mane was already starting to catch fire, and the creature howled in pain but kept running and jumping around the bushes and tree-trunks.

“Wait!” Cried the young warrior. “You’re going to burn the whole forest down! And with it will go the village on the edge of the woods! “He said, grasping the wizard’s shoulder.

But when the mage turned to him, Eregar retreated. His companion’s face was jet-black, and from his bald head sprouted two black horns. He was just like the statue at the top of the mountain, and his eyes were black balls that shone with the reflected flame, without a trace of humanity.

“Too late, child! For they will all burn; from their ashes I will raise my castle!”

The sorcerer turned his staff to Eregar, who raised his shield against the flame. The metal shielded him from the blaze, but within moments he felt it heating up. The fire seemed to have a certain push, a solidity to it, it felt just as if he were fighting against a stream of water. The torrent pushed him away; it would not let him close the distance to the demon.

The shield was growing hotter. Eregar felt the heat starting to singe his hand, he could feel the sweat running down his body, but he knew that if he dropped his shield, he would die. If only he could get a little closer…

A roar, a scream, and Eregar staggered forward, almost tripping over. The force that pushed him was gone. The warrior risked lowering his shield to observe what had happened.

In front of him stood the devil and the wolf. The wolf had its enormous maw closed around the demon’s chest, and the demon, his hands on fire, was trying to burn its face and eyes, to pry himself loose.

Eregar drew his sword and sprinted up to the pair. As the wolf let go of the demon with a howl of pain, its muzzle on fire, the squire’s sword descended.

The blade of the young warrior’s weapon was the last thing the devil’s black eyes reflected. The cold metal crept into his neck, and his eyes dimmed. Before Eregar, without a single sound, the prostrate demon turned into black stone, and then crumbled into ashes.

The young man rushed to his knees beside the wolf, who was lying on its side, smoke rising from the burns that covered most of its body.

“I am free. Man-pup… Do what you must.”

“I don’t want to. You saved me.”

“It’s late. Will you prolong… My… Suffering?”

The warrior closed his eyes.

“No. This, I do not wish. Forgive me.”

Eregar drew the knife he carried on his waist and stuck it into the heart of the dying wolf. He waited until he saw the spark of life leave its eyes, until he felt its body stop shaking, until he witnessed its last breath. Then he rose, and with his eyes burning, he ran from the flames that surrounded them.

As he walked away, the sky began to cry, and as he looked back, the squire saw the flames fading away. The scar would persist for years, but the forest would survive.

“Forgive me,” repeated the warrior, as he walked in the direction of the inn from the previous night.

Enjoyed this tale? Consider buying “A Silvery Moon,” my novel set in the same universe.

Photo Credit: Kaibab National Forest Flickr via Compfight cc

The Sorcerer

This is the third part of a short story. Part 1 | Part 2

The young warrior sat on a rock, and let out a sigh. He put his hand to his chest, over the symbol of the Order of The Tower that was engraved on his tunic. What to do? It was obvious that it would take him weeks to get back to the Tower, and in the meantime, the monster would find new victims. And even then, how could he be sure that the next group of his brothers would fare any better than his? Even if they came armed with the knowledge he would impart?

Before he knew it, he was making his way to the south, sword and shield in hand. The wolf must have been talking about the Razor-Teeth Mountains. In their west-most foot, the rocks shared the color of the sunset. And indeed, the farther he moved in that direction, the more he seemed to hear the song of the owl.

A sorcerer! Eregar had never met any, nor did he know anyone who had. From the stories, he knew that this caste communed with demons and read of forbidden texts. Having to deal with someone like that would be almost as bad as dealing with the wolf-demon.

It was already dawn when Eregar started up the mountain slope that the woods embraced. The red dirt road forked regularly, but he decided to always stick to the broader branch. He did not see rabbits, but here and there he saw holes that looked to play the part, so the squire assumed he was on the right track.

By the time Eregar looked back to gauge his progress, the sun was near the top of the sky, and the youth confirmed that he was already above the treetop line. The white blanket of snow covered almost everything as far as the eye could see, but here and there lurked some tufts of green. Straining his eyes a bit, he could make out the handful of houses that surrounded the little inn from which he had run the night before, far away, across the woods.

Where he was, the snow had begun to melt. The border with the Holy Kingdom of Lohander’s was relentless; in these mountains, the Ice only imposed its dominion during the night. The people of the South had never known the bite of real cold, and so they were fragile and accustomed to living in comfort. Eregar decided that he would be cordial to the sorcerer, but that if he did not want to cooperate, the warrior would have no problem in imposing his will on him.

Not long after, Eregar saw the stone man. It was a statue at the top of the mountain, a man with open arms, his back to the sun. No, not of a man – men had no horns. He was a demon, and in each hand he held a torch, as if it were signaling toward the rising moon. It was large – taller than a two-story house, and as wide as a mill. Once again, Eregar felt a shiver run through his spine. Nothing good could happen in a land cursed by this type of monument. Still, the young man continued on until he reached the foot of the statue.

There was a man sitting in front of the remains of a fire, poking the hot ashes with a broken branch. Next to him were the smoldering carcasses of two wolves, a little smaller than the one that had attacked Eregar and his companions. But not smaller by much.

The man, bald and very dark-skinned, his body almost completely covered by a long robe – in the style of those worn by the monks, but with a deep red color that blended with the mountain stones – raised his head and fixed his penetrating gaze on the warrior. His eyes seemed darker from the dark circles around them, as if he had been awake for very, very long.

“Welcome, traveler!” He said, smiling from ear to ear, a smile that seemed to be unusually wide. “Sorry, I don’t have food to share, anymore. What brings you here?”

“I’m looking for a sorcerer. I was told one lived on this mountain. Are you he?”

The man laughed before replying:

“Who wants to know? A wizard rarely reveals his art, unless he has good reason to do so. Simply asking, young warrior, will bring you little luck in your pursuit.”

“He who wants to know is a Knight of the Tower,” Eregar said, trying to straighten up and look taller, to make himself seem more impressive, but not daring to give his name to a potential wizard. “And the reason is this: there is a great wolf, thirsting for blood, longing to kill the people of the valley to the north. I was told the sorcerer could cure that thirst.”

“Ah, young man, but you were deceived. The thirst you speak of can be cured, yes, but such is the cure.” He said, gesturing toward the carcasses. “It seems we share an enemy, you and I: a fierce demon. And I guess he sent you to me in the hopes that we would act hastily and attack each other. What do you say, perhaps, of joining forces to rid the world of this abomination? “

“So if you killed these two, sorcerer, why do you need me to help you face the other?”

“Young man, these two I killed here, where there was no refuge, nowhere to hide, no bushes to go around and attack me from behind. The one you met was the pack leader, more malevolent and clever, and it fled to hunt where he knew I could not pursue him. But with you, I have an extra pair of eyes, one to watch my back!”

Traveling with a sorcerer was not something that pleased Eregar. But it seemed a better bet than following the orders of a demon.

“Come on then, sorcerer. If we start down the path now, we could be there before nightfall.”

“Do you not want to rest here, by my fire, young Knight of the Tower? You must be at your best to face this demon.”

“The path is always lighter going down. Do not worry about me, sorcerer. Let’s rid the forest of this monster.”

“Yes,” said the sorcerer, again with that smile, “let’s.” He stood up and grabbed a walking stick made of burnt black wood, which he used as support as he began to walk down the path.