Gypsy Assassin

He smiles.

It’s a simple upward twitch of the corners of his mouth. It’s barely a movement, yet it turns him from stranger into friend.

The baron watches him flip a card and lay it on the table between them.

The gypsy taps it. It’s the eighth card in the cross. The last one to be played. It depicts a man, rotting into skeleton. He holds a scythe. His face is mostly concealed by the hood of a black robe. Only his teeth and chin are seen and the subtle glow of two round hollow eyes.

“La Mort,” the gypsy says. “Changes coming for you mister.”

“What changes?”

The air turns in the little wagon, one of many in the royal convoy, from warm congeniality to cold impartiality. “Nothing personal mister,” he says with the slightest hint of sadness in his voice.

The gypsy shifts in his seat. The movement is subtle but quick.

The baron wishes to ask, what, but can’t seem to get his tongue to form the words.

Then hot pain in his throat.

He places his hand there and pulls it away wet and red with blood.

He gurgles afraid.

The gypsy gathers his cards, wraps the deck in a colorful scarf and places them in his satchel just in time to watch the Baron’s head slam against the little wooden table.

He stands, stretches his arms up to the ceiling and grabs the lantern burning there casting a yellow light.

He tosses the lantern onto the Barons bed and waits for the flames and smoke to consume the mattress before slipping away into the dark night just moments before the camp explodes with the excitement of the fast spreading fire.

 


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Art: Basano – Gypsy Assassin

By; narthyxa

 


 

On a Battlefield

Elizabeth is dead. There was no other thing this could be. She remembers what was. The moment past. She was in the heat of battle, thrusting her sword through the abdomen of a hookman and the next she was bathed in this white light. The smell of death and blood soaked sod, the excrement of the dying and heady pulse of her own adrenaline still fresh in her nostrils, but the fear was gone. The fear that fed her fight. The fear that made her step beyond the line and blindly attack foe after foe. The fear that swung her blade over and over again marveling at the ease of bone cleaved from bone, the orgasmic spurt of arterial blood as she ended life after life. With no fear to keep her fist clasped around the hilt of her weapon she feels her grip loosen and the blade fall away. She watches it fall, disappearing into the white endless mist. Next she shakes loose her gloves and unites her breastplate and with each and every article of war that touches her body falling free she feels ever more weightless. Almost naked she feels light as air. Her hand grips her undergarment, a thin rough cotton slip. As she pulls on it to lift it over her head she suddenly feels the pull of gravity. It’s crushing. She falls fast. The battlefield approaches. She sees fighting. She hears the clang of steel on steel. The scream of injury and death. Then her body laying on top of her last kill. A spear jutting from her back. A priest hovers near his mouth works the words of his God and then she crashes into her body. With a gasp all the pains of her life return.

 


elizabeth_28small_version29

 

 

Art:

Elizabeth

by:  Dave Paget


 

Rom’s Choice

The sun is a disk of silver in the slate colored sky. The air is cold and filled with the beating drum of ceremony.  The drum is beat by a small female with a calf by her feet. She wears the ornaments of a tribe shaman.

A small band of twenty Red Minotaur circle a ceremonial fighting pit. More minotaur would have enjoyed this pit fight, but this is all that remains of their clan. Only a mile or so away is a smoking village not more than two years old with the bodies of seventy fallen minotaur warriors piled on a brightly burning pyre.

The bodies of ten dead dwarfs are piled a bit down the slope. Their blood leaks into a small creek staining the water red before taking it away down stream. They were the captured remnants of a command of young dwarfs that sought to rid their mountain of the minotaur infestation.

In the deep pit chiseled out of the bedrock is a giant beast named Trakken. He faces off against a Dwarf captured during his own raid into the village.

He did not come to rid the mountain of the minotaur. He came to rescue his son.

This dwarf is old. He wears full dwarven armor made of beaten adamantine. The armor is freshly scarred from battle. No dwarf would let his armor get to this condition unless he wasn’t able to find a forge to repair it and this dwarf is far from hearth and home. He has a lean and hungry look to the face under his long braided grey beard. His eyes are tired. He whispers a prayer and readies his mind for death.

He is ready to fight till the last breath leaves his body.

He imagines his brethren died one by one over the night and days since their raid on the Minotaur clan that took up home on the mountain.

He was captured later. His intent failed. His son is among the dead.

The Mountain Dwarves had much debate at the discovery on the minotaur clan on their mountain.

Years worth.

Finally, “Let them be,’ was the consensus. ‘They will build their labyrinth and worship their violent God and we shall stay hidden in our mountain.”

But of course a few young warriors took no heed of such level headed thinking. Instead a small group decided to make war.

Trakken snorts and raises his axe above his head calling loud to his God, “Baphomet I fight for you, bless me with savage rage.”

Then with a battle scream the heavily muscled Minotaur attacks.

His axe high ready for a killing blow.

The distance between him and the old dwarf disappears quickly, but the dwarf holds his ground.

His name is Rom the Grim, first of his name and his line and in the second the minotaur is about to cleave him in two he moves just so out of the way.

The minotaur’s strike pulls him to the ground with its ferocity.

And Rom slides free a small hidden dagger from the depths of his ancient armor. He shoves it into the base of the Minotaurs skull.

After a few small twitches the monster stills.

Rom pulls his three inch blade clear and wipes the blood off on Trakken’s dirty loincloth.

A cry of blood lust stirs the air as the shock of seeing their leader die settles in on the remaining Red Minotaurs.

Rom grabs the battle axe from the loosened fists of his foe and readies for the onslaught.

One minotaur slips into the twenty foot hole then another. Rom faces off with them. The oversized weapon held expertly in his battle hardened fists.

He has no doubt he got lucky with killing Trakken.

The minotaurs took his weapons, but did not find his dagger, the piece he molded a special place for in his armor. But his luck was about to wear out. This was not suppose to be fair combat. Combat he had a chance to win and maybe these heathens had a right to kill the young dwarfs that came looking for trouble, but Rom the Grimson was among their number and he could not just walk away from his own kin being slaughtered. He was owed a revenge and he planned to take out as many of the minotaur as he could before that happened. He left his home in the mountain knowing he might never see the forges again, but he will die happy knowing his little one man war will put a lot of regret on this particular minotaur clan for killing his kin.

If he hadn’t fallen into a rope trap he wouldn’t be facing pit combat and they all would be dead.

One stupid mistake of an old warrior.

With a downward crushing blow he dispatches the first minotaur to reach him and pivoting he takes the second’s head. Recovering from his second attack he is confused. There are no more minotaurs pressing him.

The blood quiets in his ears and the sounds of combat above drift down.

A horned bull head flies into the pit.

“For the Hammer of Light.” a female dwarf cleric screams as she briefly appears above the crest of the pit, hammer in mid swing.

Soon things quiet.

A rope ladder is lowered and Rom stiffly climbs out. Around him are a platoon of soldiers from his order the Hammer of Moradin. They mill around stabbing any surviving minotaur. Two old warriors pull the young dwarves off the pile of dead preparing their bodies for transport back to the Mountain. The families of the fallen will be happy to have a death ceremony and be able to say their goodbyes properly.

Rom sees the face of his child.  “Leave him. I will burden myself with his remains.”

Two warriors lift his son’s body and place it at his feet.

His eyes blur. He cannot yet look upon his son yet. After his wife died in battle a few decades back he was his only family.

He finds himself lost debating what comes next.

Before enduring the trek back home his brothers and sisters in arms take turns to stop and give him their condolences before heading off back down the mountain. Maybe they know he could never join them there again. Maybe they know his time at the home hearth was at an end.

The adrenaline of battle pours out of Rom’s muscles.  Exhaustion replaces it. It has been many days on this trek to rescue his child. And he failed. The failure stings his pride

A broken arrow shaft found the spot of vulnerability in the arm groove of his armor. His face was twisted in battle rage. Rom is certain he fought on until the wound made it impossible.

The Grimson was only fifty, so much life was before him.

Rom strikes the ground with an armored fist, his son was stupid even if brave. He should have listen to the clan and not come here to do the work of older warriors.

Studying the boy, Rom takes pride the arrow is his only wound. He trained his son well, only luck failed him in the end.

He spends time chopping wood and building a platform to lay his son’s body on. After a small effort a fire catches and quickly engulfs the remains.

Rom whispers prayers to Moradin to take his son spirit so that one day he can be with his family again.

The fire burns through the night and into part of the next day.

As it dies the quiet howl of mountain air whips about him. If he wasn’t a crusty old dwarf and capable of crying he would have no tears left at this point.

His soul feels spent.

As the wind takes the ash that is all that’s left of his son he find himself wondering what will his life be now?

He debates whether it’s time to hang up his armor and find other pursuits.

Maybe it’s time to explore the world outside the clan. Dwarves do that occasionally, sell their swords and hammers to foreign armies for coin. Maybe Rom can make a life as a mercenary, or blacksmith, or even a lowly brewer. With so much mystery surrounding his future he knows one thing, there is no way he can go back to his clan now though having failed so badly to save his son.

Deep in thought he mistakes the soft mewing sound as just the wind whistling through the rocks and crags around him.

After awhile it begins to distract him from his thoughts and he gets up to search for its source.  

The female shaman was in the middle of casting a spell when the dwarven throwing axe caught her in the middle of her horned forehead. She collapsed straight down her rough wool gown billowing around her.

Within its folds he finds the calf.

He has bright red fluffy fur and small patches of white dotted here and there. His small black horns are still sheathed in velvet. His large brown eyes are reddened by tears and sorrow.

Rom guesses the child is only three years old. He briefly thinks maybe bashing it against a boulder is the most honorable thing to do and even touches briefly at its cloven foot to do just that, but then another thought strikes him.

“Let me tell you about Moradin little one,” and he lifts the lad up wrapping him in his cloak and begins the long walk to Riverdon, the nearest human city.

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A Marine

 

He enlisted in the marines on the ninth of December 1941, two days after Pearl Harbor, while still drunk. His buddy Carl was so blasted the recruiter made him wait a day before joining up saying “This boy’s just too primed.”

Peter McGrew joined the Marines not because they were the best, because they were the best, but because they would have him the quickest.

That night he tried to get drunk again, but no matter how much he drank he seemed to get more sober. The men at the sawmill bought him round after round, Carl got too drunk again and still had to wait a day when he went down the next morning to join up. Every person in that bar bought Peter drinks but he just remained sober with a smile on his face that did not fade, under it was fear and a desire to run and hide. Every shot, every slap on the back, every atta boy just reinforced the fantasy of the future to come.

Death.

He was going to war. Roosevelt said the day after the attack “all measures” and he was all measures.

Years later, he doesn’t know how close he got to running.

He also does not remember her approaching him either or him approaching her, but that eventually, she was there. She smiled and her soft hand on his made him feel able and capable. Her blue eyes twinkled like she was already in love. Maybe those sparkling pools of azure just mirrored his look.

They talked all night. He would be hard pressed to remember what they talked about. Maybe God. Maybe the idea life was fleeting. Maybe that death was inevitable. Maybe that he did not want to be a hero, just good enough to do his part. She said stuff also. Maybe. Maybe it was that she just listened. Maybe she knew he had a burden that needed to come out. Maybe she saw the twenty year old kid who had never been more than twenty miles from home about to go on the biggest adventure of his life.

Eventually the sun rose and the time for his train to depart rapidly approached.

She drove him to the station. She gave him her address.

She kissed him slowly and tenderly on the lips.

He thought about that kiss the entire way South.

A day after joining, he was on a train heading to Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island and he had nothing else in his head accept a girl her friends called Charlie.

When the sign for Parris Island stopped outside his window, he felt hungover. More hung over than ever in his life and then he was in uniform learning to be a marine. Four weeks of brutal forced discipline and classes on history and  esprit de corps and he thought of her kiss and wrote her letters. Every night, he would scribble words in sentences and block them in paragraphs and he would wonder how his teachers back in grade school could have failed him so readily. He told her about training and how he wasn’t that bad at being a marine and how they made him squad leader and how the other boys looked up to him.

Discipline was being a marine and he discovered he was good at discipline.

For him being a marine was easy.

Then they gave him Baby, his M1, all glowing wood stock and shiny black metal. He aimed. He shot. He aimed again. He learned that he could shoot.

He was made to be a marine.

He earned high marks on the range. He earned respect from his instructors for always being squared away. He was a leader and the men followed his example. He earned a stripe after recruit training and quickly earned another one on top of that waiting to be deployed to the far reaches of the Pacific.

The men called him Corporal.

He was called corporal when just 16 weeks ago he was nothing but a laborer at an upstate New York sawmill.

And he thought of Charlie’s kiss. In his memory the kiss was silk on skin used to only rough burlap, was water to the parched.  

She sent him letters also. He read them over and over. Her words were written in expressive cursive.

He would hold them to his chest and think of kissing her and talking the words of their letters to each other in person.

He was in love and told her so in a letter he wrote on the night before getting on a navy ship.

He told her how she made him feel, but he never mentioned how much he feared death.

The ship rolled over a rough sea for months. The taste of salt in the air flavored everything. Coffee was salty, waking was salty, taking a shit was salty.

Their cloths seems to grow salt.

And the funny thing as they neared their destination was, they couldn’t wait to be free of the ship and then they were.

Green, lush tropics waited and they were told when the transport ships dropped the rear door, death would come with Japanese bullets.

“Most of you men will die, but for country and for revenge. God bless the Marine Corp, God bless America,” said a four star general.

And then they battled for 3 years, 8 months, 3 weeks and 5 days.

Six million people died.

And Peter McGrew did his part. He was a warrior, and his job was to kill. He killed and lead his team. He took over the squad when the Sergeant Hawkner got five bullets and bled out. Then the men called him sarge. He took over the platoon when Platoon Sergeant Fawks threw himself on a grenade and with still-warm juicy parts clinging to his uniform, McGrew got a rocker under his three chevrons. He got a battlefield commission when officers were few and far between. The men called him LT and the higher-ups gave him a butter bar for  his collar and a forty-five to wear at his side but he did not need it. He directed others to fire their weapons and no longer needed to fire his.

Some time late in the war, he wrote Charlie a letter. He did not write about how the day to day fear made him want to jump into the ocean and swim home to her. How on his first transport to a beachhead on August sixth, he pissed himself in fear, or how once the sand was under his feet he was ready to be a marine from that day forth.

He never told her about the bodies. About his buddies and enemy that just seemed to stack up in his memory like perfectly fitting numbers of dead. About finding Carl among the dead. How he was rail thin and shitting bloody water from his ass.

No; he told her the kiss she gave him was a special paradise he could take refuge in, even in the roughest moments of his fight against the Japs.

He told her how every night when the stars would shine and the moon would wax and wane when the palm trees rustled in the breeze she would be there with him and they would share in a small moment of peace and hope for a world to come.

Then three years to the day after his first fight on the island of Guadalcanal, a huge bomb was dropped destroying a city in Japan he couldn’t pronounce. Than nine days later another one was dropped and Japan surrendered.

The war was over.

He was asked to hang around another six months but eventually got his discharge papers and transport home.

His war was over.

He boarded a ship and it took him to San Francisco.

There he mailed the last letter he would ever write and two days later boarded a train to New York City.

At Grand Central he grabbed his duffel, smoothed out his class A jacket, shook some offered hands and disembarked.   

The he saw her. She looked the same. Her lips pursed in an ecstatic smile. She had tears drifting from her eyes. Her makeup ran in dark lines. She shook. Her hands trembled as she reached out for him. He dropped his duffel and ran to her. She opened her arms and he could feel the warmth of her body and the fluttering of her heart and they kissed. They kissed and kissed and kissed and in a moment where breath was need to be caught she whispered in his ear “of course” and from that day until he died, she was his and he was hers.

 

Medusa

This tale begins with a war between the God Poseidon and the Goddess Athena. They fought for the land of Athens. A beautiful place on the Myrtoan Sea. Their bloody war was almost endless. They threw their worshipers against each other until the sea was red from blood. They killed off so many people that in the end the last battle had to be fought between Poseidon and Athena themselves.

Equally matched, they fought for centuries.

They shaped the coast of ancient Greece. The knocked into each other making mountains and  valleys, their heavy footsteps made lakes and rivers. But nothing can kill a God, not even a God and in the end, exhausted and defeated, Poseidon went back to the  sea and slept.

The seas turns black with his depression. The skies rolled with storm clouds formed from his anger. The Earth shook with his tears. Volcanoes erupted with his frustration

While Poseidon healed Athena rebuilt her land and people came and erected temples for her and worshipped her and named their cities after her. They loved her. They called her the Goddess of wisdom. The Goddess of war. The Goddess who defeated the sea.

But the sea does not stay defeated for long. Poseidon understood the futility of fighting another God and instead turned his attention to mortals.

He sought to create demigods. People who could rule in his stead. People of magic and power that the race of men would come to fear.

He took woman after woman and made them with children. He set his kin onto the world and they did deeds that honored their father and this made Poseidon strong.

In his covert war against Athena, he put machinations in play he made a mess of the Earth.

One such mess was with a woman named Medusa. A priestess of Athena.

Maybe Medusa was a woman of questionable decision making abilities. Beautiful? Yes, very. She turned heads that much is sure. She captured Poseidon’s attention and maybe that’s the moral of this story: attention by a God can lead nowhere good.

She lay with Poseidon in Athena’s temple.

In Athena’s temple!

Maybe it was rape. Maybe when a God wants sex there is nothing to stop them.

How Athena discovered her temple had been besmirched is anyone’s guess. Maybe she watched the whole thing. Maybe a little bird whispered it to her. Maybe sex with a God is a messy affair. Maybe Medusa came to her to confess.

Athena, the Goddess of wisdom who rumors say was slow to anger got angry

And Medusa was cursed.

Poor Medusa lost her gorgeous hair and beautiful face and was shunned to a cave where even if pleading to be seen, if begging to be treated like a women, to be loved, or wanted, needed, cuddled, or fucked, the results were the destruction of life, the men who sought her were turned to stone.

While in the end Athena punished her priestess, Poseidon cared little for the mess he made. A mess that infected. A mess that yielded monsters, death and destruction.  

Sometimes the messes God’s make join and become catastrophes.

Sometimes blessings.

Depends on one’s perspective.

The issue of Poseidon’s affair with a woman named Cerebia was the tyrant king Polydectes.

Polydectes killed mercilessly. He hung men by their own intestines. He raped any woman he desired. He grew power and influence. He expanded his kingdom. Every deed was for his father. He built temples for him. He went to war in his name.

But he couldn’t have everything, because Poseidon wasn’t the only God mucking things up.

He wanted a woman named Danaë but she was being protected by her son Perseus the issue of Zeus.

To protect his mother, Perseus offered to bring Polydectes anything he desired.

Polydectes saw this as an opportunity to get rid of an embarrassment to his father.

No clout is gained from having lain with a gorgon.

“I wish for the head of Medusa.”

So Perseus killed Medusa.

He took her head and gave it to Athena who put it on a shield and gave it back to the demigod.

Maybe.

This is what’s said. The story is muddled.

Regardless the power of Medusa’s head remained even after her death and is the seat of the Perseus legacy.

Perseus used it to gain power.

He turned Polydectes stone.

He turned the Kraken to stone.

He turned anyone who dared face him to stone.

He became rich.

He founded city states.

He became a legend.  

This is what’s been accounted for by the Gods and the Gods have no reason to lie.

Homer agreed. He wasn’t involved so his version is suspect. He did corroborate that the head was mounted on a shield. He also said the effigy of Medusa, with boars-tusks and puffy cheeks and her writhing snakes for hair, would forever mark the entryways to homes owned by wise men, because no one but a demigod could handle her gaze .

Medusa was evil in her ugliness, but her legacy is that in her ugliness she will ward off evil, for eternity.

But none consider the gorgon herself.

The poor mortal who lay with a God and helped defeat the sea one last time.

 

 

  

 

The Grand Assumption

am born

know nothing

live blindly

die assuming

everything

learned is wrong