posture

“Jurt, I need to talk to you,” I said.

Jurt put down the gun that he was cleaning, wiped his fingers on a paper towel, and stood up and followed me to my office. It was the same size as Sam’s, and it looked as crowded. I stood with my back to the desk. Jurt, after surveying the room, leaned against the wall to the side of the door. He left his arms in a neutral posture, loose at his sides.

Damn, he was tall.

“I need you to know something,” I said. “You need to understand.” I’d rehearsed it in my head, of course, but as long as we hit all the correct high notes–“I’m grateful to you. I will never forget what you did for me.” Now and without hesitating: “I want to not harm you. Not ever. If it’s within my power. I can’t guarantee that if you if you stay here.”

Jurt waited a minute before he said: “You wouldn’t be able to guarantee that if I left.”

“I don’t know how to protect you. I don’t know that I can. I just want you to be forewarned.”

He was staring intently at me, goddamn it. I was having enough difficulty looking him in the face already and the long goddamned pauses were not helping. He chose his tone very, very carefully. “What are you going to do?”

This time when we locked eyes it was him who flinched and flicked his own gaze aside. His hands remained loose and easy, but he had thought–there, for an instant–about raising them.

I said: “Don’t get in our way.”

Who Would Win? A Unified Theory

Ashok Vadal vs Harry Dresden.
Yikes, I have no idea what would happen here, except that Harry is going to run his mouth and Ashok is going to be suspicious and grumpy. Thing is, I can’t see these guys continuing to fight after they’ve both figured out they’re on the side of the Good Guys. In my opinion, most of these Who Would Win matches end with both parties having a drink and swapping yarns somewhere.

Thera and Murphy…mind you, I’m pretty sure they’d actually get along excellently, but if it’s a matter of either of them seeing their boys in trouble, they’d definitely wade right in. Normally I’d say that Murphy has the definite physical combat advantage (multiple black belts and all, y’know), but if it’s post-Skin Game Murphy with a bad leg, and if Thera can’t throw a knife worth a damn because her hands are messed up, the odds would even out a little bit more.

So, hey, maybe the boys aren’t going to fight at all, maybe they’re just busy dragging their ladies apart…

Harry Dresden vs John Carter, Lord Greystoke.
Are you kidding me? There isn’t going to be a fight. Harry is going to be fanboying so hard he gets caught off guard when the Pelluciderean Neanderthal ninjas get teleported in by the vengeful Therns of Barsoom (who allied with the insane Russian) and a bundle of hired thugs from the south side (probably ghouls in disguise) who tried to jump him earlier and are now aiming to kidnap the womenfolk.

Murphy gets kidnapped on account of being a blonde female in the company of the heroes and thus obviously a damsel.

Murphy has strong opinions about this.

John Carter, Lord Greystoke vs Conan of Cimmeria
Like I said, no matter how this begins, this is only ever going to end with them having a drink somewhere with their respective ladies (whom they have just finished rescuing.) Conan is probably going to pay, because he also pinched the jewels from under the evil altar on the way out.

Ashok Vadal vs Benedict of Amber
Oh, wow. If it did come to a fight, Benedict is going to win hands-down, and the most Ashok is going to do is make him raise a sweat. But realistically, Ashok lucked out in this one, because it’s quite obvious Benedict isn’t there for a fight. Benedict has come back, after an unavoidably long hiatus–

–perhaps he was imprisoned in Chaos; perhaps he was guarding another relation and dared not leave; perhaps an enemy or a jealous lover interfered with the flow of time and kept him for ages past his intent–

–to see how his children fare.

Ramrowan is obviously Benedict.–the greatest strategist, or tactician, or combatant who ever lived, but who has learned the value of peace through his who also realizes the horror of war and the worth of a human life. He’d have some answers for Ashok, and then they’d go off and fight the demons of Chaos together.

Solomon Kane vs Corwin of Amber
Solomon Kane, the solemn, fanatical Puritan avenger, has been on the trail of an evil man like a starving wolf follows the scent of blood. From one end of the world to the other he has been at this cur’s heels, and yet somehow stumbles into an ambush anyway. (This always happens).

Corwin of Amber pauses in his hellride when he sees a half-familiar form in a desperate fight, one man against many, cut and tattered and blooded with many wounds: staunch, undefeated. He turns aside in his journey through Shadow, even though he knows in his heart this can be but the shadow of a man he once knew ages before: in the days before the court of the Sun King fell, in the time when the days were new and the nights bright and deadly.

Kane recounts his tale of woe and vengeance and his mission of Godly vengeance. Corwin rides with him to see it done and fights with him, side by side, one last time.

Kane invites the stranger to stay and ride with him a while, but Corwin demurs. He has a brother to murder and a multiverse to conquer, and, with a courteous salute and a reckless laugh, spurs his horse. And yet the words his once-companion calls after him ring on the wind, strangely to his ears: “What profitteth it a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul?”

eight years

It had been difficult, at first, to take the patrician lords of Nodens seriously: to see fish boiled alive for their changing colors or birds roasted in flight, caught by swooping serve-droids, to be prepared and eaten while still hot from the targeting lasers.

She had even laughed, one day, when Rufin Taurias sent out a troop of slave children dressed as gladiators to fight with a gaggle of rotund, white-furred beasts for his guests’ dinner entertainment. Eight years had not dulled that lingering shame, but she had not realized, she had not known–

Kharamaneh still remembered the screams, the stares of laughing contempt, and the splashing gray flood from a fighting-beast’s heart when its own master struck it down mid-lunge. She remembered Taurias bellowing in alarm; the shriek and cringe of the other beasts, shying from the whips yet scrabbling with pathetic thirst for the blood of their own kind on the floor. She remembered the frail heat of a boy’s thin body in her arms, and the fear, and the hate, and the feral wonder in his eyes.

Eight years.

It seemed that he, too, remembered.

rules

The group seemed to confer with resigned exasperation (they really were remarkably sophisticated for sparring robots.) One, human-sized and human-shaped, veiled with clothlike folds that folded across its faceplate and revealed only the glittering optics, advanced to take position on the practice floor. It was unarmed, but Khara was prompted to ask, “What are your limitations for sparring with a civilian?”

“Bruising. Bleeding. No breaking. No gushing.”

She chose a long stick before stepping onto the practice mat.

Flowers

I had seen Ajax rearing up on his hindmost legs to pluck a sprig from the top quadrant of my cherry tree, and I heard his dragging step as he rounded the house. So I was prepared when he summitted the front step, holding a spray of blossoms in his mouth and using his remaining frontmost limb for balance.

As was polite, I waited for him to get all five legs on solid ground. He straightened himself out and limped toward me, pausing just a few feet away to drop his gift on the deck at my feet. He raised his head and eyed me carefully.

“Why sir,” I said. “You are an alien and a gentleman. I would be flattered to accept your gift.”

kinda is

“….Boots.”

The mud-covered, shuffling figure halted. Swiveled. Blue eyes, entirely too innocently, blinked out of the grime. “Yeah?”

“What happened?”

Another blink, but zero hesitation: “You know that old Indian trick of hanging off the side of your horse so the cowboys can’t shoot you?…it’s harder than it looks.”

Heaven-Shaking

The fire of the shining ships faded
Steel crumbled and the soaring gantries fell. 
The far-shadowing suns were forsaken
And little men mocked them amain.

The empires of space have crumbled
As the dreamers who drew them died.
The songs that they sung were smothered,
The tales that they told, forgot.

The fire in the skies rekindles--
Our songs are renewed now, remembered.
They howl to the storm-winds, the Puppies:
Heaven-shaking, Dragons reply.

Lupercalia drabble

“This,” said the Chief—it was a hard to understand through the clenched teeth—“Is not acceptable.”

“Uh-huh,” said J. Eden.

“It’s outrageous.”

“Yup,” said J. Eden, smirking.

“It’s illegal,” snarled the Chief.

“Um…” Konstantianos said.

They looked at her.

“They…may have gotten a permit.”

They looked at her.

“Traditional religious observances,” said Konstantianos, sidling.

“On Terran property,” Theodore observed.

“Traditional route.”

“Naked?”

“They…may have paid a nudity tax.” Said Konstantianos.

They looked at the runners. Some of them were painted.

“Per capita.” Said Konstantianos.

“Still,” Theodore mused, “It’s hard to not see this as a deliberate insult.”

“It…may have been pro-rated.”