Still

The morning breaks silent and still
Rows upon rows of men stand still
Their spears gleam in the light
Like a thousand lamps
Their shields polished silver and bright

The day gains strength
Rows upon rows of men prepare
Their hands grip weapons and shields
Ten thousand men stand ready
Ten thousand men stand still

A terrible horn is heard
Than the ground begins to shake
Out of darkness they come
A steady beat of feet against earth
Out of the darkness come men
Out of the darkness comes the enemy
Bronze shield form a living wall
A forest of spears follows

A terrible sight to behold
An army greater than had thought
On and on they pour through
Ten thousand men at the front
With many more following still
Hearts are shaken
And knees tremble at that sight

One man rides before the silver host
“Stand your ground!” He cries

Today we fight not for our own
but for our families
Today we fight not for our king
But for our love ones
Today we stand and defend

With a roar the silver legion cries
A wall of silver forms agains the wall of bronze
Silent in resolve
Weapons made ready
The silver host stands still
As the enemy marches on

Ten thousand feet
Five thousand feet
Three thousand feet
One thousand feet

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Red Fire

red/orange sunset

The sun sets
The sky burns
War machines rumble
And men march
The days of peace end
And war begins
This night

Some fight for blood
Some battle for honor
Others seek adventure

The day is ending
And battle is beginning
War has come
Some battle to defend
Some battle to conquer
Who is to tell
Only history will tell

Monday Stories: Dangerous Waters – Chapter 6

Ash and Talon walks down the street. The road is silent. The birds and the insects have fallen strangely silent. The air is still and heavy. The two teens draw out long blades and holds them next to their legs. Ash raises her left hand and holds out a silver disc. She focuses on it. Her eyes glow slightly. The surface of the disc glows with equal light in a Celtic-like design.

“Do you think we should have talked to them?” Ash asks quietly.

“You are worried that they will do something foolish?”

“Yes.”

Ash frowns, “You’re worried?”

He nods his head.

“Why?”

“Because if it is what I think it is, there is a terrible damage.”

A triangle brightens at the center. It points to the upper left corner.

The light fades from her and the disc.

“I don’t like this.”

“What?”

“The idea that we are going to confront the reason behind everything that is going wrong at this passageway.”

They reach the edge of the city block. An office tower rises up in the dark. They move across the street. They open the door to the building.

No alarms sound.

No guard calls out.

“Not good.”

“You want to take point?”

Talon nods his head.

In a moment, the boy moves through the building. He becomes more like a shadow than a person. His feet make no noise against the tiled floor. Ash can barely see Talon as he makes his way across the room. After a few moments, Ash moves equally through the building.

Together, Ash and Talon make their way up to the upper floor.

Ash notices Talon standing just outside the door of a custodian closet. She arrives next to him. He pushes the door open and nods his head. Ash peeks in and feels her gut collapse in on itself.

The body of a janitor lies on the floor. His face is a frozen mask of terror. His belly has been ripped open from side to side. The edges of the wound is blackened and scorched. There is no sign of blood.

Ash kneels next to the body and hovers her hand over the wound.

“I sense blood.” She looks up at him, “Black blood.”

“His?”

She shakes her head.

“Then we must go.”

Talon leads the way back towards the center of the building. A wide and ornate stairs wind around and up towards the upper floor. Instead of walking up the stairs, the two teens leap from a lower rail to a higher one.

They reach the upper floor with ease.

They come to a stop at the top of the building. Both are perched on the railing. Talon looks around one more time before nodding his head. Ash taps gently to the floor. A low moan comes from an elegant office.

“That is the mayor’s office,” Talon says wordlessly.

“It could be her.”

“And it might not be.”

“I will be bait then.”

Talon takes up a position in the shadow.

Ash moves forward. A man lies on his back. His chest is ripped open. But like the janitor, his wound is blackened and no blood has been spilled. Ash feels her hearts begin to pound in her chest. The man tightens her grip on the sword. She finds the source of the moaning. A woman lies on her back and clutching her arm. Blood flows freely down the length of her arm.

The woman notices the girl.

“Help me.” She says in a hoarse voice.

Ash kneels next to the woman. “Talon. It is the mayor.” She looks at the middle-aged woman, “What happened?”

“He attacked.” She gasps out, “I didn’t even know it was able to change its shape.”

The girl glances over towards the door then back at the woman. Talon stares at her, his face pale in the weak light. Ash begins treating the wound while Talon keeps watching on the woods.

“Who?”

“I don’t know who.” She says as she cradles what is left of her arm, “It came years ago. My great grandfather made a deal with it. That it will have a safe harbor as long as it never killed any of the citizens.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. But my whole family has been carrying on the agreement.”

“What changed?” Talon asks.

The woman starts at the sound of his voice.

“It’s okay.”

“I don’t know. It only killed once a year. Always a stranger.”

“Then it started to kill multiple times. What. Three years ago?”

Her eyes flicker between the two teens, “How did you know.”

“Research. We know what… this is. But why did it attack you?”

“I don’t know.” She whispers, “I didn’t know it could change shape. I thought it was… someone working for me.”

“It is changing its skin.”

“Then that settles it.” Talon’s eyes harden, “Where does it nest?”

“What?”

“Where does it nest?”

“By the lake.” She leans up against the wall, “But why? Why did it attack me.”

“Because it needed your blood. It always needs the blood of its host.”

“I don’t understand.”

Ash helps the mayor to a sitting position. Talon punches the number into the phone for the emergency services.

“Do you know what it is?”

Ash glances at Talon. He gives her a short nod as he speaks to the emergency dispatcher on the phone.

“What is it?”

“The creature has a mate and it has begun to spawn.”

The woman’s face pales. A second later, she slides over to her side and passes out. Talon joins Ash.

“Probably shouldn’t have told her that.”

“Maybe.” Ash stands up, “But she is partially at fault for what is happening.”

“Maybe.” Ash looks off into the distance thoughtfully.

“What is it?”

“Do you think Chloe tried to fix it herself?”

Talon nods his head, “She was the elite guard.”

“And she wouldn’t have known that it was mated.”

Emergency sirens begin to wail in the distance. The flashes of the red, blue, and white lights dancing off the walls of the office.

“Let’s go.”

X

Talon moves along the edge of the lake. His breathing is heavy but his hands are steady. The lake looks almost peaceful. The full moon gives plenty of light to walk by. His blade is held steady. The young teen waits in the shadows of the trees.

He can see Ash standing near the edge of the lake. Her body’s markings are fully aglow. Her green markings are a strong contrast to the blue-white moonlight.

Her eyes scan the lake’s surface.

Out of the opposing treeline, another Ash appears.

The first Ash turns towards her. The second Ash flicks her wrist, allowing a blade to appear in her hand.

They leap forward and attack.

Both blades clash and ring through the night. As the swords sing through the air, they trace out green lines of light through the darkness. Asides from the sound of battle, Talon doesn’t hear any other sound.

Talon’s hearts twist in his stomach as he watches the battle unfold next to the lake. The second shadow rises from the water. The attack catches Ash off guard. The second attack slams into her back, pitching forward and slides across the ground several feet. His friend lies still, unmoving. The second Ash and the second attacker study Ash.

Together, they drag Ash into the nearby woods.

“Be safe my friend,” Talon whispers in the dark. He carefully stands up and moves across the field. His hearts pound away while his hands grip his sword.

X

Ash groans as she wakes up. Although her torso aches, her arms and legs are numb. Only the slight tingling sensation gives her the confidence that she hasn’t suffered permanent damage.

The young teen winces in the memory of the fight. It was disturbing to battle herself. It felt less like an opponent and more like her own subconscious. The fight had taxed her skill. Even if Talon had fought beside her, the ambush of the second attack would have negated the advantage of numbers.

In all likelihood, Talon would have been captured as well.

Ash shakes her head, “Focus girl. You gave a job to do.”

Her eyes adjust to the darkness. She barely sees the stone outcroppings. The air is damp and a foul odor hangs in the air. In the distance, she can hear something heavy work its way through the cavern.

Crude, metal bars block off the small crevice that she is trapped in.

Carefully, the fae leans towards the opening.

In the weak light are dozens of nests. Each one holding at least fifty glowing spheres. Moving among the nests are two figures. Each has four thick limbs, a muscular tails, and massive jaws.

At the moment they are more interested in the spheres than anything else.

The only other thing that Ash can make out is the presence of at least one other light source. However, the bulk of the creatures prevents Ash from determining what that source is.

“Hello?”

Ash is startled by the noise. She turns her head and sees another girl peering through her own bars. Her brown skin is streaked with mud. A scar runs across her forehead to her chin.

“You are Fae?”

She nods her head, “Ellia of the Northern Frostlands.”

“Ash of the Southern Woods.”

“Did they capture you as well?”

She nods her head, “In a manner of speaking.”

“Has the council not noticed?”

“I was sent by them.”

Ellia breathes a sigh of relief.

“How long have you been here?”

“A year or so.”

Ash stares at her wide eyed, “How many have been taken?”

“Since I have been here? A dozen. They take whoever they can get their hands on.” She shudders, “There were others here longer but they took them.” Her voice cracks and the Fae covers her mouth.

A low growl from the opposite side of the chamber puts a stop to their conversation. One steps forward, careful not to hurt the eggs. After a few moments, it turns back towards tending the eggs. The teens relax slightly. They lean closer so they can whisper.

“I thought they were extinct.” Ellia whispers.

“They’re supposed to be. We weren’t sure what was happening until recently.” Ash replies, “Some did not believe, even with the evidence of cycles and manner of disappearances.”

“But then how did you get here?”

“One of the Fae who choose to remain in the human world. She was one of our more constant writers. Then she sent word that Fae passing through were not reaching the portal.”

The cave shakes slightly and the two creatures rise up. For a moment they chitter at each other. A moment later, they assume the shape of two humans. Without a noise, they disappear through the caves.

“Ah good. Time to go.”

The second Fae stares curiously at Ash.

“Came with a Guardian.”

Her eyes grow wide in surprise.

“I thought they were…”

“So did I but they called one back.”

“I knew… they were evil. But to call out a Guardian?”

Ash nods her head, sober by the thought.

“Are you…?”

“Come on. We need to leave.”

“What about the others?”

“Others?” Ash frowns.

“Yes. They are more.” The Fae’s face pales, “I think they feed on them.”

“Let’s go.”

X

Talon waits, perched in the treetops.Two humans appear out of the cave. They walk slowly into the open field. Their eyes scan the field. One slowly moves across the field. The other remains close to the cave entrance.

Talon takes a deep breath and steadies himself.

Without warning the tree shifts.

He looks down and sees one of the humans. However, a large scythe has replaced its arm. He howls and slashes again. The tree tilts crazily to the side.

Talon leaps free with ease. As he spins in the air, he lets his power flow. Energy crackles around his forearms. The Fae hits the ground. The earth peels back from his landing point. The human’s flesh rolls and writhes across his flesh. In seconds, the creature’s true form appears. Thick limbs with an armored body. Its tail hammers the ground.

The creature leaps forward and with claws held out.

It howls, a chilling cold voice.

Talon sets his jaw and charges forward. Energy swords explode outward and forms a pair of long blades in his hands. In an instance, they clash. They exchange blows in rapid succession. The creature’s powerful tail swings, falling three trees in quick succession. However, Talon is able to block the attacks.

The creature flexes his limbs and tosses Talon fifty feet across the field. Talon lands easily. Symbols burn to life along his lower legs.

He suddenly accelerates, faster than any human. He sweeps underneath the other’s attack. The creatures howl. It spins back with an attack towards his head. Talon falls to one knee. He flexes and leaps to the sky.

Then the battle begins.

The creature spins and reels back on his hind legs. Its tail slams into the ground. The motion sends the creature upward.

Talon slashes down. The blow sends the creature back down, creating a crater.

A gout of fire explodes out of his mouth. The flames reach but encounter a transparent shield formed by Talon. The shield divides the flames and he drops towards the creature. The creature snarls and rolls away. Talon leaps towards him and slams the blades into the creature’s chest. The animal howls in pain.

The animal lets out one last ragged breath as it falls to the ground.

As the creature falls to the ground, the second creature howls in anger and grief. Talon spins and sees the creature charging across the open field. Halfway across, the creature has changed into its true form.

Chunks of earth toss up into the air.

Talon releases more power into his body. The energy crackles around his body as he begins his attack. They meet fifty feet shy of the woods.

The resulting the clash sends shockwaves rippling through the air. The resulting tears apart the earth. The earth is torn apart. The scythe and the swords clash. They move back and forth across the clearing. In moments, the once lush meadow becomes little more than a torn field. The attacks are brutal with no holds.

Talon struggles to block the clawed arms, barbed claw, and armored feet. As quickly as he can, he lashes out with his blades singing.

A sudden blow sends Talon skipping across the ground.

He rolls back onto his feet ready for an attack.

However, the creature rolls to its side. From numerous wounds black liquid pours. The creature’s body compresses as it breathes its last.

With a groan, Talon picks his way through the mauled ground. He eases way into the cave opening. As his eyes adjust to the darkness, the cave slowly becomes brighter. To a human, it would seem as if the light of a full moon filled the cavern.

He walks deeper into the cave system.

A hideous smell fills his nostrils. Talon feels his stomach lurch at the horrid stench. As he rounds a corner, he feels something crunch underneath his foot. He glances down and realizes that it is a piece of bone. It glitters in the dark.

He bends down and he realizes that it is a Fae bone.

Talon continues, passing bones of animals and humans. Occasionally, he finds a Fae bone mixed in with the rest.

Talon hears soft noises coming from the end of the hall.

Wolves

Shadows move over frozen hills
And broken stones
A whisper of fur
A low growl
And the shadows pass out of sight
Between rock and stone
Between tree and shrub
They follow a trail
Seen by non-human eyes
They race against each other
Against their hunger
Without warning
They split.
Three leaps over the hard ground
Straight and true
Five sweeps from the left
Beneath empty tree limbs
Four from the right.
Under moonlight
They leap and strike
Against a beast
Twice as tall and a third longer
Dirt flies and flesh collide
Beasts howl and wail
Then with sickening crunch
The giant falls
The shadows howl
Their victory echoing across the land

Monday Stories: Clash of Words

Artillery batteries bellow in the distance. Moments after their throaty bellows, there are sharp whistles that end in a roll of thunder. A soldier stands on the edge of a ruined building. A silver sword is held in his hands. A long trench coat flutters in the weak wind.

His eyes wander across what is left of his birthplace. The square where his father once sold fresh baked bread is bordered by the remains of gutted buildings. Across from him, the city’s library is now a crater. In fact, the broken down wall he is standing on was once the front of the candy shop where he spent many days as a child.

The young man feels anger at the people responsible for destroying his home. His fingers twitch. The teen realizes it. He tightens his grip on his blade.

His quiet muses are interrupted by soft crunch of stone.

He turns towards the source of the sound.

A young girl with dark hair and fair skin walks towards him. Like him, she holds a blade in her hand. A cloak rather than a trench coat wraps her body.

“Synth.” He says to her.

A roll of thunder from a distant battery punctures his words. The girl draws even with him but remains on the street.

“Synth.”

“You know what must happen.”

He sighs and looks up. Clyde allows himself to be distracted by the field of stars overhead. Clyde wonders for a moment. What kind of fate would allow a terrible battle to be fought underneath the beauty of the stars? Why should such beauty be destroyed by battle?

“Surrender?” He asks, grasping one last hope.

“I cannot.”

“Why must we fight? We are the same, you and I. We both want peace.”

“But at what cost? You and your people see to bring everyone under one kind of rule. Your rule. To follow your rules and your beliefs. If anyone challenges it, they disappear. You kept pushing that we follow your way. Instead, you choose to resist the greater good. We could have accomplished so much– if you just accept it.”

“Do you hear yourself!?” She yells. Her words echo through the empty ruins, “You demand peace by demanding we all march to the same tune. And that is why we fight! You won’t look at anyone else’s opinions or beliefs. Only your own!”

“You refuse to accept diversity. You just want to look alike and not be discomforted by someone who thinks differently. Or acts differently.”

“And you don’t? You may look different but all your people think the same. Is there really any difference? At least we admit that we think alike. But we also work to understand each other and choose the path that is best of all. You just want it your way.”

Clyde drops in front of Synth. “You just won’t give up.”

“I can’t. I believe what I believe and you won’t accept it.”

“But is it worth the bloodshed.” He says angerly, “Is your opinion so important that you will kill others? Have killed others!”

“You started this by passing laws that silenced us.”

“You were spreading hatred.”

“We were telling the truth about your leader. And you wouldn’t accept it because he was the first. Because he was making history and represented all you thought were minorities.”

The two stare at each other for a moment.

“But you are outnumbered.” Clyde snaps his fingers. Out of the shadows

Out of the shadows step more warriors. Men and women dressed as him. Their blades glisten in the starlight. Synth chuckles. From behind the teen, more cloaked figures appear. Like his own force, they are a mixed of men and women. They hold their own blades.

For a moment there is silence.

Then the distant batteries howl once more. As the artillery rounds cross through the night sky, the two sides leap across the distance. The only sounds made by them are the sounds of their booted feet and the whistle of the wind against their blades.

Union Jack

She breaks the waves
With grace and ease
White sails dance above her
While her skin glistens gold
She passes across the ocean
With only the creak of wood
The crew is hard at work
but there is a calm and peace

Then a lookout shouts

Another ship has been spotted
Tensions mount as eyes strain
To catch sight of that ship
Then a shout rings out
“Pirates!”
the order goes out to the crew
The ship turns with silence
Cannons are run out
Ready to fire, ready to fight

The two ships close the distance
Beneath the black and white
Of the Skull and Bones
Men in ragged clothes
Raise their swords
Their voices cry for blood

Beneath the Union Jack
Men in white and blue
Wait in silence for orders
They answer raucous cries
With silent patience
Swords and gun held steady

Then the ships close
Captain stare hard at one another
One with a scarred face but
Clean uniform
The other tattooed
And sports those he killed

“Fire!”
“Kill them!”
The orders are given
Black barrels
Bellow and roar
Spitting fire and iron
Cannon balls tear holes
In hull and men
Pistol shots
Sing and dance

An hour passes by
Gray clouds hang
Between the ships
As a thin curtain
Both are battered
both have suffered
Yet both continue

Then a shot
Fired by the Union Jack
Slices through the hull
Of the Skull and Bones
Deeper and deeper it goes
Shattering a man
Destroying a gun
Then its lands among barrels

They explode beneath the impact
Scattering black powder
And hurling shards of wood
For a moment the hot ball
Sits quietly on top of wood
Then the ship lurches
It rolls off its perch
And lands among the powder
A second later, it explodes

The Skull and Bone
Once magnificent and equal
Screams out a tortured cry
As its back is split in two
Fire rushes up
Consuming wood and men
The guns fall silent
As men scream

In minutes, the Skull and Bone
Vanishes into David Jone’s locker
With only dead and debris
To make her passing
“Stand down! Pick up survivors!”
The order goes out
Cannons are secured
Repairs begin
And the Union Jack
Survives one more tiem

Monday Stories: Defense

Passing through one burned out building to the next, a young man moves like a shadow. Encased in a black combat suit, he appears little more than a bulky robot. Inside, a slender helmet displays bio-feeds, suit status, tactical map, and important alerts to him. Extra clips for his sidearm and rifle are attached to his chest. Throwing knives and other tools are attached to his belt.

He comes to a stop next to a crumbling wall. The man peeks over the edge. It was once a child’s room judging by the faded wall design and broken toys.

The man shakes his head and focuses on the crater ahead of him.

“Charlie Four. In position.” He whispers into his mic.

Four waits quietly. His breathing comes evenly and steady, a sign of a seasoned warrior. Overhead, a lighting storm plays out against a turbulent sky. No rain or thunder comes from the sky above her.

“Charlie Two. In position.” Two’s soft voice belies her strength.

“Charlie One. In position.” A deep bass voice. “We got a lot of targets.”

His heart rate begins to beat faster. Not out of fear or anxiety but out of excitement. Only one more person needs to get into position.

“Charlie Three. In position. Let’s light this party up.”

That’s it. He relaxes his arms and prepares to engage the target.

“Firing flair.” A fifth voice comes, cold and hard, ”Standby to engage.”

A red ball of light cuts through overhead. A terrible screech fills the air. Is cuts through his armor and body and straight to Four’s soul.

He grits his teeth and shoves the feeling away.

A slender body leaps out of the crater. It has long black hair and decaying gray skin. Its teeth are narrow. Red eyes stare at him with hatred. Another screech fills the air as more dead things begin streaming out of the crater.

“Engage.”

Four pulls the trigger on his rifle. Bullets shred through creature’s thin body. The rounds knock the thing back. It struggles to stand back up but Four puts another burst of rounds. The creature falls.

He has no time to enjoy the victory as he switches to another target.

Two begins to pick off targets with deadly ease. Heads explode under her attention. Three’s presence becomes apparent. His rounds rip apart the targets. One’s own rifle cuts down targets as easily as Four’s.

“Help! Help!” A cry comes out.

Four glances where Three is standing. He is walking backward. His heavy cannon burns through dozens of creatures. Two’s sniper rifle picks off enemies. Four growls as he adds his own firepower. A terrible crunch fills the radio. Three’s body goes limp as the creatures break through the armor.

“Tell my family. I love them.”

“Three!” Two yells.

Three vanishes in a flash of light. Four stares where his teammate once was. A smoking crater is all that is left. Before he can articulate what happened, Four is knocked to the side. He turns to face the creature.

The creature’s dead like form. Rotten flesh hangs off its body. It slashes at Four’s armor. The helmet cracks under the attack. The creature’s skull-like face howls. He grabs his side gun and fires it. The back of the skull explodes. The creature’s face grows slack. Four watches as her body changes. The decayed flesh fades away, leaving behind a young woman.

“Target Zone Secured. Standby for pick up. Drop ship inbound.”

“Well done Charlies.” One’s voice is thick, “We need to evac.”

Overhead, a craft appears. Four stubby wings are extended from the boxy fuselage. Each wing ends in a powerful engine. The craft drops down to a nearby open area. The stern of the fuselage drops open.

Four glances down and notices the remains. Each creature’s decay has vanished, leaving behind normal human remains.

“Hard to imagine.” Two whispers, “That they are just human. Intelligent, cunning humans.”

“Drop Seven to Charlie Team. Let’s go home.”

They board the dropship. A taller man is already on board. He is watching a display mounted to the side of the hull. Four sits down next to One. Two sits across from him. Although they are silent, their attention is drawn to the empty seat next to Two.

Four settles down in his seat. The ship begins to rise into the air. He thinks back to the fight. How the humans who have been turned.

“What are you thinking?”

Four looks at his team leader, “I’m just thinking about all those activists saying that we shouldn’t be killing the infected.”

“Oh. Yeah.”

Four looks out of the window. The dropship is moving through the air. At this height, Four can see two different cities. One is made of ruins. The other is a gleaming citadel. The infected creatures writhe around in long lines.

The drop ship lands in the city. Charlie team steps out. Four takes in the scene in a single glance.

Protesters line the left. He can hear their cries for the death of soldiers and the rights of the infected. To the right are small groups of families.

Four can see One heading towards a mother and two children. Already she is falling to her knees as One approaches them.

“It would have been their wedding anniversary.”

Four glances at Two.

“What do you mean?”

“Jordan. His wedding anniversary would have been today.”

Four glances at the protesters cheering as they burned an effigy of a commando unit. Two takes the lead as she joins One. Four takes a deep breath and goes to his friend’s family.