George, Not a Wizard, Just a Dishwasher

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The Saga of Jockular, the Swamp Barbarian and George the Dishwasher Continues!

George sat at his kitchen table, head resting on his hands, staring at the butterfly he had just drawn. He waited impatiently, feet bouncing. It had been a week since his sketch of Jockular, his LARPing character, had come to life.

My life was boring! Can’t say that anymore. What the fuck is happening? This shit is crazy! Amazing! But, insanely crazy!

The shock had worn off. But, his body refused to relax. Instead, it continually idled, awaiting the next adrenaline rush. He knew he wasn’t hallucinating. Yet, he still had no explanations.

Wonder why the timing is so inconsistent. 

George had brought other things into existence; nothing monstrous as Jockular requested. He had been exceedingly judicious with his choice of subjects. First an apple, then a rose, followed by a ham and cheese sandwich and a housefly, all eventually became reality. He had googled butterflies, searching for a picture of a type common to this area. George selected the spring azure. Its periwinkle, blue wings with traces of purple had enchanted him. Peering closer, he sensed all the waiting was about to pay off. The monochrome sketch, still only shades of grey, appeared to shimmer. The perspective seemed deeper, stretched.

Yes! Come on…

Flash Fiction: Dangers of Absentmindedly Doodling

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George’s life was literally an endless, boring routine of wash, rinse, and dry. He was dishwasher at a local restaurant. 

“George! Running low on plates again!” 

Perhaps, Mr. Witherson, if you shelled out some money to buy more plates, we wouldn’t be constantly running out on a busy Friday night. 

“Right away, Sir!”

His current job at “Rodeo Ribs” was the latest in a long line of menial gigs. Never lasting, he either quit or was fired within a couple of months.

This job rots. My hands are perpetually pruned. I leave every night drenched down to my underwear and I smell like an old sponge. 

Despite being intelligent, college was a disaster. Failure to focus, when disinterested, was a constant. George dropped out after a semester. Retrieving a rack of dishes, he climbed upstairs. 

 And who puts the dish sink in the basement of a restaurant?

George wasn’t completely devoid of ambition, however. He had two passions; his art and role-playing. Drawing was intimately connected to creating fantasy characters to play. He enjoyed putting his imagination on paper. Recently, he discovered LARPing. Now, his entire world revolved around it. When live action role-playing, he felt authentic and truly alive. His alter-ego was a bold, brawny, swamp barbarian named, “Jockilur of the Murky Fens.” His character wasn’t the brightest, but compensated for this flaw with stupendous strength. The barbarian’s legendary battle-rage filled even his most formidable opponents with dread.

“George, I said plates!”

“I’m working on it, Mr. Witherson.”

George sputtered and skidded back through the hectic kitchen to the top of the stairs. Rushing, he nearly fell on the way down.

Really need some non-slip shoes or I’m gonna kill myself.

George whistled happily, daydreaming about his upcoming weekend. His LARP group was hosting this month’s regional adventure weekend. It was called, “Taming the Titan’s Tempest!”

Two whole days of play. Can’t wait to show off the new armor I’ve constructed. Good chance of winning MVP, if I effectively deliver those new jokes and taunts I’ve been rehearsing.

His barbarian’s name was a play on the word, “jocular”. Feeling particularly clever, George enjoyed explaining the name’s pronunciation accentuated the character’s ubiquitous laughter and prodigious sense of humor. Jockilur gleefully sought any opportunity to taunt his adversaries with gruesome puns foreboding impending doom. George also never forgot to mention the spelling of his character’s name alluded to the barbarian’s athletic prowess. 

Look at all these dishes! Jockilur would never tolerate having to while away the time scrubbing at dirt and grime like some kitchen wench. Ha! No need! He eats with his fingers! 

“George? Mr. Witherson is going to have a coronary. You have those plates yet?” one of the waitresses called down.

“Coming!”

Hefting a load of fresh plates, George hurried to deliver them. Taking the stairs two at a time, he failed to make proper contact with the last stair. 

“Aaugh!”

He fell with a tumultuous clatter. Plates shattered everywhere as George landed with a sickening pop on the basement floor. 

“Eeeyouch!”

“George?! Are you ok?”

The waitress clamored down.  

“Ow, ow, ow!”

George heard Mr. Witherson yelling upstairs. 

“What was that noise? Was that plates breaking?”

George racked with pain, ignored the shouting above. 

“Damn! Oh, God! Oh, God!”

“Your forehead’s bleeding!” the waitress exclaimed.

“It is?”

George swiped at his face. His hand came down slick with blood. Scrambling to get up, his right foot erupted with an agonizing explosion of pain. He crumbled to the floor and threw up.

“Somebody help! George is hurt bad!”

Mr. Witherson begrudgingly allowed a busboy to drive George to the emergency room. An x-ray confirmed his ankle was broken. George was sent home, sulking with a cast and a bottle of prescription painkillers.

Once home, beginning to feel the dull throb grow, George defeatedly collapsed on the couch. Reading the instructions on the prescription container, he tossed it on the cluttered coffee table in disgust. 

Ugh. Next pill in about four hours.

Rummaging about George found his sketch pad. Gingerly propping his foot up, he began to draw.

Thank God, I didn’t break my hand. I’d die without being able to draw. 

As the charcoal pencil danced across the paper, a figure gradually emerged. George sketched a burly man clad in furs, wearing a scaly, green, armored breastplate. Elk antlers protruded dramatically from either side of the barbarian’s helm. His face was ringed with a golden mane of unruly blonde hair. George smiled down at the image he had created of Jockilur blithely, brandishing a bloodied, double-bladed battle-axe. Gradually, he retuned to thinking about this weekend and all the fun he was going to miss. George frowned.

Damn! Whole weekend is ruined!

Disgusted, George threw the notepad and pencil across the room. The sketchbook skidded to a stop just outside the kitchen. Breathing heavily in anger, he closed his eyes, listening to the grating sound of his pencil roll across the linoleum. 

Ugh! I hate my life!

Lying still, feeling sorry for himself, George heard something. It was the sound of rustling paper. Quietly listening, attempting to identify the source, he was startled by a loud crash from the kitchen. His foot adamantly protested as he sat up quickly. 

What the…?

Glass shattered. 

“Dragon’s Piss!” someone whispered loudly.   

Alarmed, George painfully hobbled toward the kitchen, arming himself with a pillow. Reluctantly, he edged closer to the muffled commotion in the next room. Pausing, just around the corner, panic took over. He froze. 

Oh, God! Oh God! Come on George! You need to look!

He managed to peep, ever so slightly, into the other room. He was instantly paralyzed again by the sight. In the middle of his kitchen was an unnaturally large beast, back turned to George, doubled over, picking up the shards of glass from a broken pickle jar. The refrigerator door was glaring, wide open. Food littered the countertop. Initially, mistaking the figure for an animal, he realized it was a man dressed entirely in an assortment of furs. Regaining control of his body, George stepped backwards, placing the entirety of his weight on his bad ankle.

Eeeeeyy.” he squealed involuntarily. 

The man spun around. 

“What ar ya doin on yar feet? Ya’r suppose to be restin!”  

Disregarding his pain, George skittered backwards, bumped against the wall and slowly slid to the floor. This hulking man standing before him was exactly how he imagined Jockilur. The fur, the long hair, the antlered helm, even the green, dragon scale breastplate; it was all there. It was as if Jockilur had climbed straight out of George’s drawing. The man sighed with exasperation. 

“Now, I was fixin’ to whip ya up a thing, a healin’ thing. Does me ever so much good when I find meself feelin battered and bruised from battle. Trust me! It’ll work ya wonders. Ya’ll be on yar feet in no time.” 

The stranger folded his arms and laughed loud and long. George stood stock-still, gawking. Catching George completely off guard, the huge man lunged forward, his hands outstretched. 

“AHh!”

Effortlessly, he plucked George up off of the floor and schlepped him back into the living room. 

“Quit yar belly achin’ lad.”

Depositing him onto the couch with care, the giant stuffed a pillow gently underneath his injured foot. Grasping a nearby blanket, the stranger then clumsily tucked it around George.

“Thar! Snug as a bugbear.”

He chortled to himself, striding back to the kitchen. Stopping abruptly, the behemoth bent down.

“Oh. Ya dropped this.”

Holding up George’s sketch pad and pencil, he walked back over.

“Har’s yar quill n parchment. Oooh! That quill looks magical. Gives me the heebie-jeebies just touchin’ it. Mind ya, I ain’t afraid. Seem to remember haring of things such as this. Is it a quill of eternal ink?”

George lay staring up, eyes wide as saucers. He was in shock. Receiving no response, George’s new and unexpected caretaker returned to the kitchen.

“Ya’v cared for me many a times, Georgie. My turn to return the favor. I don’t spect ya’ll thank me none too soon tho. This ol’ shaman’s recipe, me Mam taught me, tastes of pig shit.”

The man snorted and guffawed as he returned to the kitchen. 

Coming to his senses with the giant out of view, George dared to quietly flip his sketch pad back to the page he been working on.

The sketch was gone.

The page was completely blank.

“Balderdash! Ya seem to lack some of the necessary ingredients. Not to worry! I’ll forage about. Shouldn’t be hard findin’ some goat snot. Course, now that I think on it, Mam did say I can always use me own.”

“Jockilur?” George whispered to himself.

Jockilar leaned his head suddenly back into the room. 

“Oh! Georgie! When ya’r feelin’ better, perchance ya’d draw me some trolls er goblins to practice me fightin’ moves with. Whatcha ya think?”

George fainted dead away. 

“Ah, lad’s all plum tuckered out.”


Word Count: 1500

Courtesy of Prompt Titled: Absentmindedly

By THESOLITARYWORDSMITH at PROMPTUARIUM.

Great sources for writing prompts! Please go visit and subscribe to their website!

Gary Gygax Day Flash Fiction!

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In honor of the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, Gary Gygax. Most gamers try to do something special on July 27th, Gary’s birthday. How does one throw a party for the late, original, consummate dungeon master? Gather together with fellow RPG geeks and dive deep into an adventure for the entire day! Well..that’s what I did. The game has evolved over the years with several edition. I still prefer AD&D, first edition. This year my DM decided to run a later edition module. I created a greenancestry, dragonborn paladin to play, which was really going out of my comfort zone. Interestingly, this adventure was recently finished posthumously for Gygax by his two sons, who used notes he made, but never got around to using.

My penchant is to play wizards, magic-users, druids, illusionists or any other arcane force weilding character. Consequently, I definitely had wizards and dragons on my mind when I decided to put out a piece of flash fiction inspired by my love of Dungeons & Dragons.

The resulting 1500 word (just small enough for some to still classify as flash fiction) story has been rattling around in my head for months. The characters Garv, Bryndis and Amin feature prominently in a fantasy book I’m developing. The scene is from deep within the middle of the plot. So…treat it like a trailer for a movie.

Music also fuels my imagination. I recommend listening to “Fix You” (The cover of the Coldplay song.) by Danny Olson with Jadelyn.

I must have replayed this hundreds of times while visualizing the scene in this story when dragon fire starts flying!!!

Please follow the link below to read the story, “The Dragon Eyrie”.

Magical Economies (Part One)

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Why Can’t It Be Easy?

“You can’t get something for nothing.” is an old familiar saying. Consequently, anything worth having in this world is only gained with hard work, sweat and even a few tears. If one is lucky, the work required is well-suited to one’s sensibilities and becomes a joyous labor. Yes, there are people who live easy, by subjugating others or perhaps on inherited wealth. This is the exception though rather than the rule. Until limitless energy, endless supplies of raw materials and free labor (without any human cost) is discovered, everyone must exert effort and spend time to receive material gain. No matter how small the desire, it necessitates some form of sacrifice. Yet, the setting of a fantasy or science fiction story distorts, weakens or altogether negates this maxim. Readers can enjoy immersing themselves in a world full of magic or advanced technology (and with a willing suspension of disbelief) feel as if anything is possible. For example, the replicator, from Star Trek: Next Generation, is an interesting story element often paid little heed. With ample supply of energy this device allows humanity to instantly order up any form of matter desired. Viewers see the characters use this technology primarily in the storyline to order food or beverage at a moments notice. But, I don’t see anything limiting this ability, so long as the desired specifications for an object are inputed. In this futuristic, utopian setting, humans now have no need for money. There isn’t anything to be bought. There is an endless supply of essentially anything, provided the technology is available and sufficient energy. And there it is! The limiting factor remains. My musings have brought me back full circle. “You can’t get something for nothing.”

Let us contemplate how magic is typically portrayed in a story and think about the rules governing its use. There is almost always an economy of power dictating, when, how often and in what fashion magic is used. It is a very rare to find an example of a character with unlimited magical powers. Effortless use of magic tends to be found more often in tales written for youth or when the story’s purpose is to entertain. Consider Bewitched, a 1960’s sitcom featuring the character, Samantha, a good-natured witch living as your average suburban housewife. She can do practically whatever she wants with only a twitch of her nose and pointing her finger.  I Dream of Genie replicated this format, simply replacing the witchery with the all-mighty power of the jinn. Of course, it was necessary to have some limitations to their powers, otherwise there would be no struggle to drive even these simplistic plots. The shows were light-hearted comedies. The audience wasn’t looking to see “under the hood” at the magical engines. There was not mention of how the magic worked. It just did. 

Magic begins to be more reflective of real life attitudes and values when encountered in highly developed fantasy settings. Ultimately, the existence of magic, supernatural powers or sci-fi technology gives an author great fodder to be used in tackling heftier topics. But, before dipping our toes into a more serious discussion, let’s look at the motif of magic as an arcane study. The Harry Potter series veers closer to a more believable rendering of magical power with the J. K. Rowlings’ fabrication of a “school for magical arts”. In Harry’s story, the magical world is able to perform great feats, but only with intensive study and lots of practice. Genetics is a bit of a wild card for Rowlings’ characters. Not unlikely in sports, some are just born with more raw talent. 

Many RPG gamers, from the 1970s and 80s, undoubtedly feel familiar with what is presented in J. K. Rowlings’ books. The magic-using character classes designed for play in Dungeons and Dragons also follow this path. Magic-users must travel and adventure in order to gather treasure and experience to make their magical studies worthwhile. Just like Hogwart’s students, these imaginary characters shop for magical items, gather spell components and commit to memory obscure knowledge. They too, early in their careers, are limited in terms of the magic they can successfully perform. Further constraining their power, once a spell is discharged it must be painstakingly prepared again. The cycle of study, researching, memorizing, and obtaining additional magical component is never-ending. The rules and mechanics of the game are complicated and at times frustrating, yet they give it life and purpose. 

The source of power in our world is readily attributed to science, technology and other educational endeavors. But, what does one resort to when the mundane ways of getting something we want fail? Depending on how important it is to us, we might find ourselves turning to a faith-based solution. After all, the miraculous requires the intervention of something extra-ordinary; better yet, supernatural. Thus, we pray, beg, plead and bargain with any higher power, we feel might listen. Perhaps, skepticism is high and faith low. Submitting our laundry list of requests, we already expect disappointment. In small matters, we accept the silence, thinking “something” beyond us must know better.  We console ourselves, proclaiming the ill we endure will ultimately lead to a better opportunity unasked for. Yet, what happens when the request involves grave or dire circumstances? One may desperately offer to sacrifice anything for an answer to their prayer. This need causes people to recite or perform lengthy religious formulas, fast, abstain from all-manner of things, exorbitantly give alms, devote all their time to charitable works and even subject themselves to pain, in an attempt to cajole from the heavens speedy, effective aid.

Religions evolve from the desire to ward against and make sense of the evils and misfortunes of this world. Proffering a sacrifice to buy salvation is the ultimate result. It is here one finds the crux to why humanity invents and tells stories. We use fiction, as a means of mulling over our circumstances, as mere mortals, and in the process map out a remedy for it. Our favorite characters, settings and plots help us to cope with the ravages, this indifferent life can put us through. A vivid fictional portrayal of this is found in the popular television series, American Horror Story. The Coven season depicts, Marie Laveau, a voodoo priestess, performing a powerful fertility spell. A component to the ritual requires Laveau to ingest, straight from the fire, the hottest type of chili pepper in existence. The character professes her belief that displaying a willingness to suffer will cause the spirits to “sit up and take notice”. Watching the scene, one wonders what circumstance in the real world would make us willing to suffer so greatly. It’s only a story some might say, but cultures in the not-too-distant past ceremonially slaughtered individuals as offerings to obtain a greater good for the many. Modern society abhors the notion of human sacrifice, but elements of the practice remain. We have offered to the gods the choicest animals, other valuables, arts or the best share of harvested goods. What was presented mattered not as long as it was the best, the most beautiful and invaluable. 

The idea of only gaining great power through an immense sacrifice is central in many high fantasy plots. A well-known example from current pop culture is the story of the arch villain, Thanos, from the Marvel Universe. He seeks an unimaginably, powerful artifact. The bearer of this item is able to alter the very fabric of time, space and existence. His goal is to reorder all life in the universe. Thanos has an interesting perspective of the known, physical world. He is haunted by the suffering of those too weak to grab their fair share of what they need to survive. He sees over-population throughout the universe and resulting scarcity of resources as the root cause of war and conflict. In order to ensure a more peaceful future, he embarks on a quest to gain the power to eliminate half of all life in the universe. Interestingly, the notion of wanting to bring an end to warring over resources and providing all with ample living space is a noble one. But, his willingness to sacrifice trillions or more is misguided to say the least. It is an evil plan of immense proportions. It is worth pointing out, one can readily identify shades of this scheme within our own human history, which is full of instances of ethnic cleansing and wars for living-space. The implement Thanos is seeking is a gauntlet powered by “magical” stones. They must be collected and inserted into the glove. One of the stones needed, to complete his plan, can only be obtained by sacrificing someone he loves. Knowing her father to be cruel and always self-serving, his daughter believes Thanos has failed. She is convinced he is incapable of love. Any villain, worthy of the title though, is complex and harbors within good intentions long laid aside; even love. To everyone’s dismay, Thanos does gain the stone because does love his daughter. In a perverse fashion, he is committing a great act of love, self-denial and sacrifice. Tragically, Thanos’ ability to parse good from evil is eclipsed by his fanatical devotion to his belief that he is actually saving the universe.

 

Next time…I will explore characters, who gain magical or supernatural power by making sinister bargains with the darker forces in fiction.

Please Comment!

Do you enjoy fun and comedic characters who absurdly can do just about anything?  Know about other stories of magic/power involving characters who study and refine their craft at a school, academy or as an apprentice in a guild? Lastly, share with me your favorite story-lines in which a character must sacrifice something they hold dear or someone they love to access magic/power.