I got PUBLISHED! ……And a update on up an coming stories going into submission


Wanted to mention this earlier last week but it slipped my mind…I got Published!

I want to keep this in perspective however. The publication is a small fledgling non-paying online Magazine called Quail Bell Magazine who saw my Flash Fiction story, Flight through the Forest  and wanted to showcase it in one of their sections of the magazine entitled  The Unreal“.

The Ast. Editor over there emailed me and asked my permission to put into their online magazine and  said it was just what they were looking for! She also said to keep them in mind for anything else I would care to to share with there publication because my stories seem to be a good fit for their magazine!   Cool Huh!

Well to say the least it is an encouraging turn of events. It is always nice to be noticed and appreciated for your work.

Speaking of my work… I have just finished the final draft of a 8,000 word  Light Sci-Fi Dark Fantasy story I am also hard at working trying to finish a 5000-8000 word short story which will be a dark Urban Fantasy/Horror Story set in Chicago.

Hope to showcase both  stories or excerpts from those stories here  on my blog at the same time submitting them to some publishers and maybe a contest or two.

I am trying to maintain a pace of at least two new stories a quarter while at the same time starting my first NOVEL to hopefully be finished in its rough draft form by Dec 2012 of this year. The working title is called “The Thing under the Bridge”  but the title may change in time I’m sure. I have outlined the Novel barebones wise but I am looking to fill in some details  as I progress.  I have written the first 4,000 words with it and so far I am satsified with my progress.  I hope to write  a  book measuring 50-80k words that I can be proud of for my first Novel.  Looking to popping the champagne when the first draft is done.  Wish me luck!

Special Note:  As always I am re-submitting my other finished work that has been rejected by publishers numerous times already such as:  The Devils in the Details a Speculative Dark Fantasy Story of 3,300 Words,  or my Novella Roadkill”  a Dark Urban Fantasy Horror Story  at 23,000 Words, and “Flight through the Forest” the Heroic Flash Fantasy story  of only 1800 words.

If anyone knows of any Publishers Accepting Open Submissions for these types of stories and lengths please comment on here  or email me direct. Thanks!

In a Dark Cave


In a Dark Cave

I see the unseen

knife twist in your gut.

It slices into me as well,

a pale shadow to yours,

but I feel it just the same.

If I could take it all I would,

to eliminate what you feel.

from sunrise to sunset.

I admire your strength,

I cry at times

I love it so.

Your torments deserve accolades but instead you

just get more of the same pain

day after day.

I wish I could name your enemy,

put form to the intangible,

call out your pain to the floor

and wrestle it into submission.

I dream of being a knight,

riding out to the field to slay the dragon

that breathes its fire into you

from afar.

I would cut off its head and stab it

through its evil heart.

But your pain is hidden,

in a dark cave it dwells deep.

I have no torch bright enough

to enter its depths to pull the

foul beast out.

So I will sit,

I will watch,

I will console

The night with you

next to the fire in your embrace.

and I will simply wait.

By Philip Wardlow

The Opposition


The Opposition

I think I could see the good in you

If I slapped you hard enough

for it to fall out,but I think my hand would break first.

I hate your smugness, your arrogance,your assuredness

that resides in your countenance and the flippant careless words you fling.

You’re a lumper, a categorizer, a generalizer,A stereotyper.

All to isolate and perpetuate the status quo.What am I then, I ask?

A fucking asshole that hates you?

But I’m oh so much more.

I am your opposition, your reflection you look away from,

the child you have stomped into the ground, I am your forgotten regrets,

your hope, your Jiminy Cricket with a baseball bat held high over your head,

and I will always be there to beat you back from the massacres

you wish to inflict,

because you can only cheat death for so long.

 

by Philip Wardlow

Pooh to Piglet


Pooh to Piglet

By Philip Wardlow

“Why do you suppose we are such good friends Piglet?” asked Pooh as they walked down the road together.

“Because we have been on such great adventures together?” asked Piglet

“Yes, and they were all very frightening but wonderful adventures to say the least, but it’s more than that I think.”   Pooh said very seriously as if in deep thought.

“Well, maybe it’s because we look at the world together and agree about what we see.” said Piglet.

“That is true but we don’t see eye to eye on everything. You often think my pursuit and love of honey gets out of hand at times while I think it can never be enough.”  Pooh smiled and patted his nice round belly absently as he said this.

“Hmmm…you have a point Pooh, there are times in your dreaming and your wonderings where I have come close to my wits end with you.”  Piglet bemoaned to himself as he kicked a small pebble out of Pooh’s path as they walked.

“Yet still we are friends, in all these hundred acre woods we found each other and continue on.” Pooh mused to himself as he walked the road with Piglet.

“Why do you ask anyway Pooh?”  Piglet  turned  to Pooh looking worried.

“Oh just a butterfly of a thought in my brain I get sometimes when I realize how lucky I am.”  Pooh said smiling again.

“Oh.”  Piglet said and smiled with him as they continued their walk down the road as he took Pooh’s hand in his.

Devils in the Details – Short Story – Hope you Enjoy!


Below you will see a short little story perhaps meant to be go on in serial form or as a full length novel perhaps . This might be what you call an origin story somewhat. Let me know what you think. It has been rejected a few times by publishers. I will be submitting it to other  publishers soon, until then I just wanted some opinions of what others think of it. I will give you my thoughts on it after a few people  have read it so as not to interject my opinion of the story  into your thinking of it. I think I know what a good story is so  I try to be objective with my work but it’s hard to be after editing, and revisions and reading it over twenty times.  Honest constructive criticism is ALWAYS wanted and valued. Thanks!

 

Devils in the Details

He saw the old woman enter the library, a silver haired little lady, the real grandmotherly type, the kind that spoils the grandchildren when they come to visit.  She didn’t look to weigh much over a hundred pounds, string bean and lean at five foot-four inches tall or so. He could picture her sitting in her creaky rocking chair, doing her knitting or cross-stitching and humming a forgotten tune from years gone by while her cat laid next her.  He had been following her for quite some time now, waiting for his chance.  Time to pay the piper milady; you are going to break like a cheap piece of lumber, he thought with no pleasure behind it.

His name was Willie, a slim but well-built wiry young man with dusty blonde hair, a young man with a future; or so he had been told by much older, wiser men who said they knew the score in life.

***********************

The score to him was beaten into him at a much younger age by his father and a few of his father’s perpetually drunk friends he had hung around with on occasion.  His father and his friends found it entertaining to see how far they could push a kid around before he snapped.  It hadn’t taken Willie too long to snap but not in the way they had intended.  Willie was a survivor to the core and he knew he couldn’t just go crazy on them one night as they started to wail on him because they would have just kicked his ass more than they already had. So he did the clever thing. He broke into a liquor store one night and made off with as much alcohol as he could stuff into his school backpack. The next day, on a Saturday night, with his dad and all his buddies sitting around playing poker out in their garage at the card table he presented them with his little gift bag of ‘time to get wasted’.  They thanked him and sent him on his way and drank well into the night. Willie found it easy pickings when he finally ventured out into the garage, asleep like babies they had been, even after he had kicked a few in the ribs as hard as he could for payback for all the beatings he took from them. That night they all had contributed to the Willie get the hell out of town fund. His dad’s little bank under his mattress had made the biggest contribution to that fund. So at the not so tender age of fourteen, Willie had taken a cab to downtown Grand Rapids and jumped on a Greyhound straight out of Dodge and never looked back.

He wandered a couple of years through life not knowing what job or town he would wind up in next after the money had run out.  A man by the name of Jacob Ward took all his worries away when he had caught Willie hitchhiking in the dead of night along a lonely stretch of road.  Ward had asked him almost nonchalantly if he’d liked to make a few bucks by doing a little a job for him. Willie remembered Ward hanging out the side of his car with one hand holding  a lit cigarette like he could care less if Willie helped him or not.

“Just thought you might need some extra money by the looks of you.” he had said to Willie.

He had looked harmless enough to Jake at the time. Willie’s radar for trouble had served him well the last couple of years on the road, probably saving his ass from a handful of pedophiles and thieves looking to take advantage. It wasn’t pinging inside his head as he looked at Ward. He had always been good at sizing up people just by looking at them.  It was the eyes, it didn’t matter whatever else they said or did, it was always the eyes that told the story. Ignore all the rest of the bullshit.

So Willie had said rather enthusiastically, “Sure, what the hell,” and jumped into his car.

Had Willie known that the job would have entailed help in burying a dead body that just happened to have ended up in the trunk of Jake’s car, he probably would have ran quicker than a Jake rabbit and never looked back. They had driven for awhile when Jake had come to a dirt road overgrown with weeds to his right; he turned the wheel sharply and drove on until the road had ended abruptly at a field of sparsely populated grass and sand. He beckoned Willie out of the car towards the back where the trunk was.

“It’s in here,” was all Ward had said at first. What’s in there, was Willie’s first thought.

“Take a good look at death boy, and see how pretty it can be,” Jake said as he turned the key to open the latch on the trunk, revealing his gruesome cargo.

Willie reluctantly approached the vehicle and fearfully peered into the trunk to check out the contents.  The body had been wrapped in a big clear plastic bag tied with a neat bow of rope much like a present would be under the Christmas tree. Willie couldn’t see the face or much of the body due to the fact that the blood from the person was smeared everywhere, only an opaque likeness of the person could be imaged through it all. He knew it was a young woman due to the long dark hair and shoeless feet covered with tan silk stockings.  The body seemed to be cut up into many pieces. A detached leg lay over the woman’s head blocking her face from view. When the full horror of what he had seen finally reached his brain, he felt like he was going to vomit.

Willie had fallen to his knees.  “Oh God,” he had exclaimed in a cracked voice that had not yet fully changed. “I think I’m gonna be sick!” waves of nausea ran through him as he fought to control the twisting his stomach was taking.

Suddenly Jake had slapped him hard across the face and sent him reeling across the ground. Jake had then picked up Willie like a sack of nothing in his hands, and dug deep into him with his fingernails as he gripped Willie’s upper arms like a vise with his own. Willie let out a loud yelp filled with pain and fear, not knowing if he’d also be another body wrapped in a plastic bag buried somewhere in a field of weeds.  Never had he felt so afraid in his whole life; not even when his own father had beaten him had he felt such terror as Jacob Ward instilled in him.

“Don’t cry for the likes of her, she ain’t even human. You might think she is by the look of her but you’d be wrong.  So boy, yur gonna dig this hole and bury this damn body and yur not gonna say one damn word while yur doing it, and when yur done, yur gonna git the hell out of here and forget this ever happened.

“Git it?” He said this all with an insane scowl spread across his face as he held Willie close to him with his foul dead breath washing over him making Willie’s nausea even worse.

Willie helped dig the hole, and Willie helped bury the body, but Willie never did forget what happened and he never did leave Jacob Ward

************************

For some reason all this had been running through Willie’s head as he had followed the old lady into the library. He guessed it was one of his usual pangs of guilt that he got every time he did a job. What a nice way to put it, he thought, a job, like he put on a suit and tie and went off to the office every morning. He had often wondered what life would have been like if he had walked down a different road those many years ago.  What’s done is done, can’t change the past, he was the stupid shit that got messed up in it all anyway.  Willie shrugged it all off like he usually did and concentrated on what he was here for; to kill a person. No not a person, something else.  He was told this several times by Jake and a few others in the business not much higher up than himself. It always left him confused and wondering what the hell they meant. He was always told he wasn’t ready to know just yet.

The old woman, whose name he knew was Madelyn from the contract he was given last week, had just pushed the button on the elevator. He approached her from behind and came to stand two feet to her right. She turned and gave him a quick soft smile and a glance through her spectacles which were perched on her face. She looked back towards the elevator and adjusted the blue shawl draped over her thin bony shoulders and continued to wait for the elevator’s arrival.

She looked harmless enough, but he had not caught her eyes when she looked at him. Every contract he had done always had that same look. She would be no different he was sure.  Still, it was small consolation. Who would want to put a hit on a grandmother, he thought almost bitterly to himself. He didn’t know, he never knew, he was just directed to do a job and do it right. That was it. Put it out of your mind, Willie kept telling himself, she’s probably as wicked as the rest of the world is, probably more as Jake always said.

He heard the audible ding of the elevator, the doors of the elevator open and the old lady enter.  This was his chance, just me and her.  I’ll take her down hard and easy like I was taught.

***************************

“Wrong, wrong you idiot, you jab with the right but you deliver a cross with the left. They hardly ever see it coming. How many times am I gonna haf’ta tell ya til ya git it right? Jesus, sometimes I wonder why I ever took you on with me in the first place,” Jake said as he circled Willie to keep him off balance. Jake smiled at him and Willie eyed him warily. He always did when he smiled like that.

“I’m trying Jake, I’m trying,” Willie breathed in deeply from the exertion Jake was putting him. Willie’s eyes warily followed Jake as he circled him in the backyard.

                “Well try harder, boy. You wanna be rich and famous someday don’t cha? Jake snorted and threw another punch at him.

Jake had been in Special Forces with the marines back in the eighties, real hush hush as Jake always told him. Things you couldn’t tell your momma else you’d have to kill her. Willie was never sure if that was just a figure of speech or if Jake really meant it. Willie never asked.

Willie had stayed on with Jake after the incident because in the end he discovered Jake wasn’t crazy, at least not certifiable and was hooked up with a big organization in some far off place that paid him well, very well to take on certain contracts. Why had they picked Jake, who seemed a buck shy of a dollar? Well to hear Jake tell it you would think he walked on water with the people who did the hiring.

“They love me man. They know what I see. They need me man. There’re so many of them out there man they can’t keep up.  It was either kill me or hire me and so here I am doing the lord’s work.”

Willie always asked him what he meant when he would say those things but he never explained it much beyond that.

That’s the way it had been with him and Jake, and Willie guessed it would have probably remained that way forever if he hadn’t killed him just two weeks ago, just another job.  Funny thing is Willie had liked Jake, even for all his gruffness and being rough around the edges, he had liked him more than he had his own father by a far margin. Willie might be a killer but he had an integrity that his father never did.

They had given him Jake’s name though and he had done his job. Besides, Jake had started to change as of late and not for the better, like something dark had dug into him deep and wouldn’t let go. Jake had never been a picnic to work with but in the past few months he had been a different person, colder, more distant, dark was the last word that came to mind, and his eyes had changed.

*******************************

He noticed he had been lost in thought, because he had to practically leap into the elevator before the doors closed on him. Not very professional, he thought. He saw the old woman give him a flat stare.

“Same floor?” the old woman asked him looking over at him, as the doors to the elevator went to close again.

“Yeah sure,” he half mumbled to her, not wanting to talk anymore than he had to. Not wanting to hear her voice. Not wanting to hear the voices in his head when he went to bed tonight. The voices which always asked him why….why? He didn’t have an answer to give them. The voices knew why, but he was the one afraid to ask the question. Sometimes he saw shadows dance on his bedroom walls as he tried to sleep and it scared him. In his dreams they taunted him with the question. The answer to the question hid from him, wanting to be seen, but not wanting to be caught.

His mind returned from the dark place that it was in, back to the situation he had to take care of now.  So why was he hesitating, why did he feel immobilized?  He had to do it; she was nothing to him. He tensed his muscles in anticipation and breathed in deeply through his nose as he relaxed and prepared to do what he had come here to do.

The old lady did a strange thing just then, she flipped the stop button on the panel and the elevator came to an abrupt halt somewhere between the second and third floor.

“I wasn’t sure if you were the one until you had entered, your smell is ever so slight” The old woman said not looking over at him but still staring straight ahead. A small quiver of a smile crept into her mouth. The old woman adjusted her shawl again.

“Now in this enclosed space you reek of death. Do you enjoy killing?” This time the old lady did look over at him when she asked the question.

Willie turned to look at her and was taken aback as he looked her in the eyes. She was alien to him, just like Jacob had been, cold and distant.

“Aah, I see you recognize me. You must be getting the sight; not many do, especially as young as you. What color do you see? By your perplexed look no color as of yet. Well I assure you, mine are green but that means nothing to you, does it? It will become stronger in time and then we will be everywhere to your eyes. You will be very valuable to them in time. Maybe more than they even know.  I asked you a question, answer quickly before my patience wears. I have no love for your kind and what you do.” She almost spat the last part as she said it.

Willie was numb, lost. He knew he should kill her, but he couldn’t.  Not yet anyway, he had to know the truth.  “No, it sickens me” was all he said to her.

“Hmmm….one with a conscience, that is a first.”  The old woman’s eyes relaxed then and became less distant, less cold it seemed, but still alien.

“This body killed three hundred twenty four before we took hold of it. Some were honorable kills but most were off contract and some were children too young to know themselves in the light. She took pleasure in what she did.  No matter if it was right or wrong there should never be pleasure in it. It disgusts me to inhabit it but I must. It is a duty which holds high honor for one so foul. It is lucky the red eyed ones did not find her first.”

“I don’t understand.”  Willie muttered. He reached slowly into the pocket of his coat and gripped the knife within.

“Understanding only goes so far, but know my death serves no purpose today. Tell your betters

Tristol has taken command and they will understand.”

Willie moved like lighting in a bottle pinning the old woman into a corner of the elevator with the blade pressed deeply into her neck almost drawing blood.

“You don’t give me orders you simply die. I have a contract simple as that. No more bullshit. You’re like all the rest I’ve killed, cold, distant, ev….” Willie couldn’t finish the last.

“Evil you were about to say.”  The old woman, who named herself Tristol, moved faster than a humming birds wings as she grabbed Willie’s hand holding the knife against her neck and turned it on him, shoving him back across the elevator floor towards the opposite wall until his back slammed hard against it sending stabs of pain into his shoulder blades.  How can she be so strong, none of the others were like this, he thought.

“I see the turmoil in your heart. Do not worry you do a good thing young one. One day you will understand this, but some things must be even hidden from ourselves for a time.  I will say this much, there are such things as demons in this world but the trick is knowing the right ones to let live and the wrong ones to kill. Choose wisely.”  The old woman looked at him deeply as his pulse raced not six inches from his face with the blade held against his own neck. Willie thought his heart would explode in his chest. Was this how he was finally going to die? He looked into the old woman’s eyes deeply as she held him there tight against the wall. Suddenly the dark shade of brown of her eyes swirled around her black pupils and faded to be slowly replaced with bright flecks of green that swirled in the opposite direction around her pupils. When the swirling finally stopped her eyes were a bright neon green color.

“Now you see young one as many do not.  Continue to see.” She disengaged from him and stepped back.  She started up the elevator by flipping the switch to its previous position.

The elevator dinged and the doors opened. The old woman exited but Willie didn’t follow.  He just stood there in the elevator. She turned around and looked at him over her glasses.

“Wrong floor Maam, I need the fourth, not the third. Have a good day.” Willie said.

“Thank you dear, you have a good day as well” she said almost motherly as he found himself nodding to her just as the elevator doors came to a close.

Willie walked through the double glass doors of the library to a sunlit street speckled with gold and orange fallen leaves.  He gave himself a little smile and decided to go for a long walk to see what he could see.

The End…..or to be continued?

Alchemy


Alchemy

I’m trying to capture

a lit bit of magic.

Distill out the mundane,

filter out the impurities,

and infuse a little energy

into this tired body and brain.

You have always been that

catalyst, that additive, that chemical,

or heat to speed the reaction.

Give me just a dash of you and

I will change this lead to gold

or this chunk of coal

to a diamond that

sparkles like your

eyes do.

Your kiss may be the final

ingredient  to the elixir of life

that I have long sought.

Oh how elusive that magic is

at being caught

and wrangled like

lightning in a bottle.

But I am an alchemist, and

with my books, my bottles, my studies

my mythos, my faith, and you…

I shall wrestle with the five mysteries of life;

air, earth, fire, water, and the

elusive aether…

and condense their natures down into

a malleable creature from which

I can ride with you into the night.

by Philip Wardlow

Warrior’s Quilt



Warrior’s Quilt

My fortune has forsaken me for I am stranded in this cold wasteland

next to a flickering flame about to die.

All I have are my fears, a quilt to keep me warm and the labored breath of life.

The thick heavy fabric enfolds me in warmth from my head to my feet.

It is a comfort as I try to calm my restless mind and fall

to sleep.

I feel warmer yet still as I pull it closer to me in the night.

This warmth seems to come from a different place as I hold

the quilt to me tight.

Like a close friend it is a barrier against the bitter cold that wants

to suck the life from my chest with every stolen breath.

I began to reflect in my minds wanderings

Does this quilt have a story, a past to explore?

I picture strong delicate hands, patient hands,  cutting and sewing in

endless hours to reach an end.

A quiet anticipation to see the job done with  the reward of creating

a piece of art as a gift for a friend.

Did her mind wander while she worked? Did she daydream and get lost

in a world of mystery of her own design while her fingers danced from

seam to seam with the passage of  time?

From mind to hand, to hand to cloth, did these wanderings, these dreams  seep

into the fabric?

Is that why I feel as I lay on this cold hard ground like I could float up to the

dark heavens above  me and touch the stars that twinkle down.

Is this quilt that I’m wrapped in imbued with a magic that I cannot see for it seems to

be reaching  inside me and guiding me to a place where I can be free.

I dream  of a woman and see her smile. Is she the one who has sewn this quilt for me?

Am I now part of her wanderings and fancies?

Is that why my heart is so light?

 Is that her embrace I feel as the quilt consoles me in the night.

My mind is not restless , my body is at peace.

I lay wrapped in my quilt next to a fire long

gone out and forever asleep.

by

Philip Wardlow

Ray Bradbury – Something Wicked this Way Comes


Hello Readers of the fantasy realm.

You may already know this but I wanted to mention this very important current event,  Ray Bradbury, the great Horror,Fantasy, Science Fiction writer  died this Tuesday June 5th 2012 at the age of 91.  I heard coincidentally it was during the time Venus was in transit across the sun as viewed by us Earthbound aliens. So I think that is fitting.  Venus won’t transit the  Earth  for another 100+yrs as viewed by us down here and we probably won’t get a writer to come along like him for just as long.

I’d say he lived a pretty full life,  filled with magic, love, good friendships, and genuine appreciation by his critics and readers. What more could you ask for in a life as a writer.  His legacy will live on for many years. He has certainly influenced me in what I see I want to be as a writer.  I grew up with a lot of his stories.  From the aforementioned title of this blog  – Something Wicked this way Comes”  a  little Horror/Fantasy horror yarn about a diabolical carnival coming to a small town,  to Fahrenheit 451  – a dysotopian story so many other writers have tried to illuminate often  in their own writing.

What I love I about him as a writer, was that he was so electic.  He could go from writing  a short love story like the “Laurel and Hardy Love Affair”  to  a fantasical endearing friends epoch little adventure set on the night of Halloween in the story called  Halloween Tree.”  to his Science Fiction piece – Martian Chronicles”  and do them all so convincingly with new ideas never before explored, along with new perspectives to be pondered.

You believe the characters. You believe the fantastic situations. You believed the emotions. You believe the possibilites. He will simply be missed as a voice in all these genres.

I know many other authors and writers who followed his work have probably benefited from his many teachings whether they realized it or not when trying to translate their own stories from their inner minds to pen and paper. I know I have greatly.

I hope to do him and writers like him justice one day. Thank you Ray Bradbury for being a part of my life eventhough you didn’t know you were.

Flash Fiction Story – ‘Flight through the Forest’


Marek ran hard through the thick underbrush, wary of outlying limbs or wet patches of dew covered  grass. No need to go down in a tumble, then he would should surely be dead. Almost there, he thought wildly.  Almost there, was still not near enough.  Do these things ever tire? The gods know I am, he thought.

He could hear their caterwauling screeches all around him as they communicated  to each other in some inane language he couldn’t began to understand, cooperating, trying to box him, trying to trap him. Intelligent little bastards, he wouldn’t have thought as much. Out the corner of his eye he saw a flit of shadowed forms appear and then disappear suddenly out of the darkened mists which collected in clumps on the forest floor like a rolling wispy snake crawling across the ground.

They were gaining on him.  If they surrounded him he would be hard pressed to fight through them.  One creature no problem,two no problem,hell not to boast but ten would probably be no problem for his strong sword arm,  but to his estimation there were hundreds. So he ran like the dog he was.

It didn’t help that as he ran he was hindered, with one hand having to hold the large package that he was hired to steal back from a temple of zealots buried deep in this god forsaken forest he now ran in. Half his job was done, now he was entrusted to return the package to its rightful owner, King Erris; whose contract he had  foolishly taken on. The second half of the deal was looking to be harder than the first had been.

Knowing of his reputation as a cunning fighter and fearless warrior they had offered him a payment of  twenty thousand in gold, literally a Kings ransom indeed! How could he refuse! The few meager coppers he had in his pouch along with the pitcher of ale in his hand when the King’s men approached him in the bar had been his only possessions besides the sword and the clothes on his back. The meager coin and ale looked more inviting at this moment, not to mention the big hipped serving  wench who had been giving him the eye all through the night while he drank his weight in spirits.

Let this be a lesson learned if he survived. Some jobs were just to big for any amount of gold to be had.

The King said the treasure stolen by the religious fanatics was more priceless than anything, worth more than a thousand kingdoms he had told him. If this treasure was not returned, kingdoms would fall, men would die, destinies would be denied. What was this treasure that the King had stolen from , Marek had asked. The King would not say even when Marek had pressed him. Only that he would know it  when he came upon it. Four other contracts such as him had already failed, some individuals like him, others who had went in teams of three or four.  Only one man had returned of them all, empty-handed and had died three days later from his inflicted wounds but not before giving them the valuable information of where the treasure was being held inside the temple.

Know it Marek soon did , as he had crept into the inner sanctum of the black veined marbled temple after scaling up the almost vertical walls to the uppermost parapets where he was told it would be housed in a circular chamber guarded by the blackest of demon dogs you never would wish to encounter. The three dogs surrounded its circumference , all clad in steel mail over their entire body with the color of the darkest pitch stealing the  light as it hit its surface.  Sharp canines dripped spittle from their massive muzzles to burn like acid upon the stones they walked.

Marek had quickly rushed one catching it by surprise sending it  over the edge to tumble and bounce against the hard stone far below.  The other two well, they had been a little tougher to deal with not being caught by surprise.

Luckily they had never been trained to work together against a common foe. As they advanced on him they actually more than once snarled and bit at each other to see who could get to kill Marek first.

He had used their dislike for each other to his  advantage by keeping one always in front him with the other behind its companion  causing the rear dog to lash out at the other dog’s heels in frustration.

He had  taken the front demon dog in the eye with the point of his sword when it was distracted sending it into a wild spasm as his sword entered into its brain and scrambled it like eggs in a frying pan.

The other dog had advanced on Marek slowly, weary now that its two companions had been so  quickly dealt with by this new adversary.

Marek knew he had to dispatch this thing soon before any others came along, but he didn’t dare go in for a strike to the thing’s mailed body and risk the creatures bite or even drippings of its spittle on him which could cause him to lose the use of his arm in an instant. So he did what he was good at, he ran.

The creature thought him scared and running for his life so it had become emboldened and ran after him. Marek ran faster and gained some distance on him and then he suddenly stopped. The creature’s momentum carried it forward and with blade held at eye level, Marek jumped high into the air toward the creature as it came in its headlong rush at him. He came down in a stabbing arc to the top of the creature’s head to bury his blade in deep dead center between the dogs ears punching through  the black mail covering its skull. It quivered and died.

With the last of the beasts dispatched he had entered through the bronze doors to the inner chamber.  There inside on a raised dais made of white marble inside a crystal bowl of the palest blue was a baby wrapped in a red silk blanket. Nothing else had been in the room chamber save that. So he knew what the treasure was as the King said he would.

These creatures that chased him now were different than the foul dogs he had faced. These things seemed almost human in nature but twisted with thin whip like bodies and elongated distorted  limbs propelled them through the forest after him. He only caught glimpses of them as he ran but that had been enough to spur him to a faster pace.

Through it all the baby had been as  quiet as a mouse not saying a word. It just looked up at him as he had run with its deep blue eyes with all the confidence in the world it seemed, that Marek would carry him from out of this place, safe and sound back to his home. For very personal reasons  one being his own neck, Marek didn’t want to let the little imp down.

The day was coming up fast as the sun was just breaking the horizon ahead through  the trees. Soon he would be able to see clearly what was chasing him. The trees were becoming more spread out and the vegetation less dominate in places. He was nearing the edge, he may yet have a chance. These creatures he was told, feared the desert, that was why the other man had made it out and back to tell the tale. He just had to get there first.

Then the thing happened he did not wish to have happened, his right foot caught the edge of a wet moss-covered rock throwing him off-balance. He instinctively rolled into the fall across the ground smothering the baby in a loose  but tight protective cocoon with his arms and hands as he did so. Marek ended up on his back looking up at the nighttime sky  through the forest trees, it was a dim blue with a wisp of white creeping in.

He heard the chattering of many voices draw near. Marek tried to stand but was met with pain in his left ankle. It felt like he had twisted it. Gods that ale would taste good right about now, he thought idly.

They drew in closer, from behind, to the left, right and now they closed the circle, in the front. His exit to the east was closed.

He forced himself to stand. fighting through the pain and drew his sword, leaning against a nearby tree for support. He saw an army of them crawling over the ground to him. Their eyes started to glow gold in the burgeoning light of day as they neared.

He looked down at the baby he held still with its eyes blue and confident in him. The treasure to topple Kingdoms the King had said, for destinies to be lost or made.  What will they say of me little one?

Marek reached out a finger to touch the little one’s cheek. The babe held up its to  little hand to grab it. Marek noticed a tattoo, better yet a birthmark it seemed on its small forearm in the shape of a Crescent moon with a pale mist of cloud passing in front of it.

Marek made a sharp intake of breath. Could it be. The Redeemer?

He had heard the prophecies but he had never thought to see it come in his lifetime.

He gripped his sword tighter in his hand and looked out at the horde. They were all but twenty feet away in tight circle about him. They had stopped. They were waiting for me to turn him over to them.

They stood motionless shoulder to shoulder. A hair could not have slid between the space they allowed.

Arms ending with three sharp talons rested on the ground twitched occasionally, perhaps in anticipation of his imminent death at their hands and the fulfillment of their task the creatures had been sent for..

They did not chatter at each other or at him.  They just looked at him with cold dead stares. Their thin slit likes mouths were all closed tight in a devilish grin as if to say game over my friend.

He did the only thing he could. He tigtened his grip on his sword and the little one and grinned right back and said,

“Come on.” He whispered softly.

The babes tattoo began to burn bright against its  flesh, the moon glowing on its skin as if set high in a nighttime sky.

The pain in his ankle was gone, his strength had returned tenfold.

He raised his sword high and came at them with a growl…