YouTube Tuesday: The Dragon Slayer

Okay, I’m going to say it right at the beginning: I am not a performer. There was a time when I was in primary school and one of the other kid’s mothers said that I was going to grow up to be an actress. Well, I may have been a bit of a drama princess (I’ve certainly never been a queen) at times, but I’m no actress. So proceed with some caution and a good sense of pessimism (it’s good for you!).

I’ve started to put a few of my poems on YouTube, as spoken pieces. So far, there’s been next to no interaction, which I’m not exactly unhappy about (YouTube comments are notoriously unhelpful). As time goes on, I’m sure my performance skills will improve, but I’m going to share all of the poems here on Let it Come from the Heart anyway. The first one is “The Dragon Slayer”, which I wrote in February 2015.

Here is the original poem, with the spoken version at the bottom.

The Dragon Slayer

Across the fields and hills
Where hungry cattle graze
Moves a true and noble rider
T’wards a city set ablaze
By a creature filled with hatred
Of the gentle people’s ways
Which in a foul and wicked temper
That great city set ablaze

On his trusty, strong companion
On his brave and loyal steed
He rides up to the flaming homes
To end the dragon’s greed
In answer to the call of
The people’s desperate pleas
His sword and shield ready to
Destroy the dragon’s greed

Scaly armour on the beast;
No one has pierced its hide
Not fearing this, he swears
To avenge those who died;
His steed he leaves in safety
Thankful for this gentle guide
And goes to face the beast that
Extinguished those who died

The creature rounds him fiercely
As the warrior draws near;
He approaches the great monster
So bold; no hint of fear
It roars with mighty dominance
It bellows with a sneer
Yet he holds his head up high
Showing no hint of fear

A tail that brings down buildings
Collides roughly with his shield
Though the beast is far stronger
The warrior will not yield
They circle; they attack with force
One of their fates is sealed
Though until that fateful moment
The monster will not yield

A weakness in its armour
Beneath its giant head
Gives the warrior the chance
To strike the beast down dead
To destroy the wretched creature
That the city folk have fled;
When their fierce battle is over
He pins the beast down dead

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The Troll

The troll stooped down low enough to fit under the arch of the humpback bridge. One giant hand reached up to grasp at the bricks above its head, anchoring the troll, the dark grey skin blending well with the faded red. It was not difficult to believe that this was where it belonged, hidden amongst the overgrown plants and forgotten junk of yesteryear that had been dumped and abandoned off the road.

His face was rough, with deep grooves and scars, and it might have been carved out of stone. When he spoke, his voice was gravel grinding underfoot. His slow movements were far from a sign of limited intelligence; instead, caution was evident in his every motion. He hid in the shade beneath the bridge, his hand and his long nose sticking out into the sunlight.

‘It has been a long time since I was last approached by humans,’ he said. He did not add that it was a bad idea to approach him, but the implication was there within the grumbling sound of his voice.

Mia swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat at the sight of the great hulking beast. It had seemed like an innocent joke at first, to walk under the so-called Troll Bride in the dilapidated part of town. A dare that had only been dangerous in the imagination. She wanted to say something, but she had no idea what the correct thing to say to a troll whose territory one had just invaded was.

Radek said, ‘It’s a good joke.’ Mia knew that he meant a good prank. She was not so convinced.

The troll swung its head around to face Radek, two beady eyes squinting at him. If Mia had not been in shock, then she might have thought the troll was being deliberately dramatic in an attempt to scare them. Hardly necessary, when the mere presence of the troll was enough to make Mia question whether that nice old lady who they met on the way might have slipped something into those cookies …

‘I make no attempt to jest,’ the troll replied. A long silence followed. It weighed down on Mia’s shoulders like the weight of the old brick bridge.

‘And neither do we,’ she said quickly, one arm sweeping around to smack Radek in the middle of his chest to stop him from saying whatever he had been about to say – probably something along the lines of well, you can’t be real. Mia did not want to have to save Radek from a troll he had insulted by insisting it wasn’t real.

She pushed as hard as she dared to push on Radek’s chest, and he looked at her in bewilderment, far less subtly than she would have liked. She jerked her head backwards, up the hill from where they had come.

Move. Back. Now. Flee.

Radek was at least smart enough to recognise what that jerk meant. He took another look at the troll, then nodded.

‘Little humans should watch where they put their feet and leave my home alone,’ the troll grumbled.

‘Well, what a coincidence!’ Mia exclaimed, taking a half-step back. ‘Because leaving your home alone is exactly what these two little humans were just about to do!’

‘Yes,’ agreed Radek, nodding his head vigorously. Perhaps the stare of the troll had started to get to him, too. ‘We’re just going to go and put our feet somewhere else, far away from your home, where they’re wanted.’

‘Yes, yes we are!’

The troll’s frown told Mia that he did not believe their flustered excuses – she couldn’t blame it, she wouldn’t have believed herself either – but when he poked his head out further from under the bridge and saw the wide open space around him, the troll seemed to become discouraged. He sunk back into the darkness, until only his eyes – two beady yellow dots in the undergrowth – could be seen.

‘Little humans who return make good soup for hungry trolls,’ he warned.

Soup for hungry trolls was not something that Mia intended to become in her life. She looked at Radek, who was looking back at her, and said, ‘No more dares.’

They spun around at the same time and broke into a run.

‘No more dares,’ Radek agreed.

[Flash Fiction] Fire & Air

A great piece of flash fiction that has all the signs of an exciting longer length story.

Jade M.Wong

He trudged through the courtyard, as his fellow students scurried out of his way. He was stupid for thinking this school would be different than the others.

Plopping down on a bench near one of the courtyard’s stone lanterns, he jumped when a girl fell out of a tree next to him.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you.”

“You didn’t scare me. You just…caught me off guard.”

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The Cybernetic Pope

What a strange and fantastic story! Brilliantly written.

The Book of Hangman

Jean_Paul_Laurens_Le Pape Formose et Étienne VII _1870“Le Pape Formose et Etienne VII” by Jean-Paul Laurens (1870)

Here is a short story about, well, a cybernetic pope.  You know what they say: strange and bizarre tales are good for the soul.  They don’t say that?  Well they should.  Written on the 4th September 2016.


The Cybernetic Pope

Pope Formosus, the Cybernetic Pope, raised his arm and commanded the swarm of mechanical wasps. They descended upon the sacrificial children and within minutes had converted them into pulp. Their screams recharged Formosus’ cerebral batteries, and their juice flowed through the channels into his abdominal cannisters, enabling him to continue his papacy for another month.

Smiling, the reanimated head of the Catholic church activated his hypersonic heel boosters and blasted across the tiles of St. Peter’s Basilica. He was due out on the balcony in a few minutes to let his loving followers know that the cycle had…

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Three Wishes

The genie appeared from out of the spout of the lamp in a wisp of smoke, his upper body large and muscular, but his lower half little more than a tail of blue and purple vapour. He had a circle of black hair on his head, the centre bald and revealing the top of his shiny head.

Miles took a long drag on his cigarette and put it out in the ashtray before he spoke. He wanted to act as casual as he possibly could, considering there was a magical being in the middle of his kitchen.

‘As I said last time,’ the genie said, ‘I can grant you three wishes – no more. Have you selected your first wish?’

Miles nodded. ‘I have,’ he replied. In fact, his first wish had been the only thing that he had thought about for days, ever since he had pulled that dirty lamp out of the trash. After several long nights spent debating the ethics of wishing for something to improve his own life versus something to improve the rest of the world, he had made his decision.

‘I wish for world peace,’ he said.

The genie grinned, showing a full set of yellowing teeth. ‘I can do this,’ he told Miles, ‘though only as much as is possible without affecting the will of humans. Though I have great power, I can do nothing that impedes upon their freedom.’

Then he snapped his fingers, and disappeared back into the lamp.

*

The world’s weapons were destroyed overnight. Wealth was shared out equally, to the extent that it could be, to reduce and limit jealousy. Health came became available to all free of charge. For a while, it seemed as though there would be nothing left for people to argue or fight about.

The genie had done well, so Miles summoned him for his second wish.

‘I wish I had one hundred million pounds,’ he said. It seemed like a reasonable enough amount to ask for.

The genie grinned his yellow grin, snapped his fingers, and returned to the lamp.

*

Miles would not have known what to do with two hundred million dollars, so one hundred million dollars blew his mind. He bought himself everything that he had ever wanted, and realised that it had barely even made a dent in the amount of cash he had.

As the rest of the world’s money had been dished out between the entire human race after Miles’ first wish, his second officially made him the richest man on the planet. It got him plenty of attention.

His neighbour approached him one day wearing a dark expression, and attacked him, then stole his wallet. In comparison to Miles’ bank accounts, there was not much in it, but when he looked around he saw that there were many angry people who were all out to get him.

Upon this realisation, he returned to the genie.

‘I don’t understand why this is happening,’ he said, nursing his bruises with a bag of frozen peas. ‘Whatever happened to world peace?’

‘You made your second wish,’ the genie replied.

‘So, if I wished that nobody could dislike me …’

‘I cannot do anything that would affect free will. It would have no effect.’

Miles scratched his chin in thought. He did his best to shape his sentence in a way that would have no adverse side effects for himself, though he knew that he would not have been able to guess every possibility.

‘I wish that I could influence people’s free will,’ he said.

‘Now that,’ said the genie, ‘I can do.’

He grinned, and he snapped his fingers, and he returned to the lamp, all for the final time. Then the lamp vanished in front of Miles’ eyes, probably to reappear in somebody else’s unsuspecting bin.

*

Miles cursed the genie. He cursed it when he woke, and he cursed it before he went to sleep. World peace, as a concept, was great – but it had done nothing to eradicate people’s greed or their thoughts of self-importance.

His own greed and sense of self-importance had only ruined the flimsy, temporary peace that the first wish had created.

As for his third wish, Miles discovered the genie had been true to his word. He was a powerful influence over other people. His every sentence, his every gesture, his every expression encouraged people to speak, to move, or to behave differently. Everybody wanted to look like him, and to live as he lived.

His power of persuasion was unending, and it bored him to death. Miles came to realise that everybody who loved him, whether family, friends or fans, only did so because he had persuaded them to love him.

Fairies

I’m telling you, my friend,
I saw them.
It was a warm summer night
And the moon was full:
A huge, glimmering orb suspended
In the patient sky.
The world waited for them,
Anticipating
Their joyful songs, that promised
To fill the air with magic.

I’m telling you, my friend,
To believe me.
They danced and twirled, making patterns
With their bright clothes
And delicate wings
That stole my attention.
Their voices were so beautiful
Tears formed
In my eyes,
As they would have in yours.

Yes, my friend, the fairies come
To those of us
Who still believe.

Prompt: Spell

Prompt: A spell that let you complete all your errands at once works, but now, you can’t remember doing anything.


I ran my hand over the photographs in the tired album, my eyes flickering over the pictures in desperate attempts to find something I recognised.

There are many things that must be done!

The words spin in my head. I remember those and little else.

A photograph of a pleasant looking family; another of a happy couple holding a newborn baby; a third of an expensive wedding ceremony. None of them mean anything to me, but I know they should.

I raise my hands to examine them. The fingers are long, slender and feminine; the skin young and firm. They tremble as I place them back down on the album to touch the photographs once more.

There are many things that must be done!

The things were done. I know that. As time has gone on, that has been the only thing I have been able to cling to, the only thing that I can remember. For everything else, I have my photographs, but who I am in the pictures and where the other people are is beyond my comprehension.

They could feasibly be images of a family I have never met.

There are many things that must be done!

I recall thinking those words over and over again. There were too many things to do and there was too little time to do them in. I remember I found a way to make them all disappear – to complete them in the blink of an eye.

Nothing more.

I ran my hand over the photographs in the tired album, my eyes flickering over the pictures in desperate attempts to find something I recognised. My fingers are long, bony and stiff; my skin pale and wrinkled.

Still I stay there, because there are no more things to do.

Revenge

This was originally a prompt on Tumblr. Prompt: With this spell, the more he drinks, the thirstier he will be. Finally, you have your revenge.

Revenge

It happened a long time ago. The world was a brighter place back then and I had been happily ignorant of some of the things people could do. Magic was something that belonged in fairy tales and fantasy; witches and wizards had been poor, unfortunate souls who had been unpopular in an age of misunderstanding.

He had introduced me to something more. At first, it had been exciting. In fact, it had been romantic. We spent decades together, doing nothing more than what we considered right, helping those who needed and deserved good health, money or whatever else we could provide via magical means. Our children received the greatest gift we had to offer: abnormally long lives. They, too, became like us.

I have no idea what changed within him, or exactly when he changed, but I do know one thing: it is tiresome to live for hundreds of years. We had to look after ourselves very well. Neither of us were immortal and we were both fully aware of that. I have to watch my back all the time now, because he’s no longer the man he once was.

I’m thankful that he taught me a lot, but I’ve been suspicious for a while now that he didn’t teach me everything. It may have happened a long time ago, but the death of our eldest son is still clear in my mind. His father had been trying to kill me, but I’d taken to wearing powerful symbols of protection and so he went after someone close to me in the hope that it would draw me out into the open. Our son never wanted us to fight; he had always believed his father would change. He had been wrong.

I’ve lost count of how many years I’ve spent looking for some weakness in his protective symbols and enchantments. We’ve both had those moments when we thought we were victorious – and when we thought we’d been defeated. Now I think, at last, that I’ve found a way to end our feud.

The spell I’m using isn’t a difficult one but it is rather old. I’ve been searching for a way to get my revenge for so long that I know weapons and poison are useless; I know that if I truly want to make him pay for what he’s done, I have to be patient. I’ve been over everything I know. I’ve sought help and advice from those I know I can trust. Using magic in this way is frowned upon, so I’ve had to tread carefully. At last, I’ve found something I believe will work. He won’t know he’s dying until it’s too late.

His protection was the hardest thing to overcome. Perhaps, after all the time I spent with him, loving him, I didn’t want to find a way to harm him; sometimes I wonder if he feels the same. Nonetheless, I know it must be done.

Without first breaking down the strong defences he’s established, any spell would be useless. I searched for many years to find a way to weaken him, but I think I’ve always known what it would cost. I have to sacrifice something dear to me to get my revenge. I’m tired, though. I’m ready.

Which brings me to where I am today. I’ve lost the greatest gift I ever had to offer; I’m dying. It gives me great pleasure to know that none of this is in vain: he, too, is dying now. I’m not sure whether he recognises this yet, but my spell is going to kill him. Every time he drinks, he will become thirstier and thirstier – and by the time that he realises what I’ve done, there will be nothing he can do about it.

Revenge is sweet. The cost is more than worth it.

May 4 – Heroes

Here is the first story that I have written for Story a Day’s May challenge (I was busy this weekend so I did not get to do the weekend prompts – I may use them in the future). Today, the prompt is to write a story with a hero protagonist. You can read the full prompt here.

I have decided to write this based on a ballad I wrote about a hero for Writing 201. You can read that poem here.


Fire and smoke. The noxious air filled the lungs of those who were there, trapped in the city as it burned around them. They could taste the flames on their tongues and felt a sting as the smoke passed through their throats. Homes and possessions were obliterated together by the fierce fire, which spread faster than anything the city folk could have accidentally – or otherwise – set themselves.

It was dragon fire.

Nothing could be heard over the sounds of people screaming and the roaring flames. Those who had managed to escape from the city were crying for those still left inside, few of them brave enough to enter again to save their friends and families. It was rare to see the dragon these days, although when their grandparents and great grandparents had been young it had been a common sight. Though the people had feared it for an age, it had been known to brood and isolate itself from the rest of the world. Unless provoked, it had not been violent.

Something had changed this time. Perhaps it was the years of loneliness, building up within the creature until there had been nothing left but hatred. Until it had seen how the city people lived, how happy and peaceful they were, and had decided to destroy them for their pleasant ways.

They had seen it exit its mountain cave early in the morning, circling in the sky for an hour or so before it moved closer to the city. Some had decided to leave the city as soon as they had seen it; though others had chuckled at their fears, they had been the smart ones. They had food and water and their families were intact. Just because the creature was not known to be violent did not mean that these people could sit and wait to see whether it would snap.

‘There aren’t many dragons left in the world,’ some of those who had stayed had argued, ‘they don’t risk their lives like they used to. They don’t attack us and we don’t attack them. That’s the way it is.’

Nothing could be heard but screams and roar of flames, but further from the city was another, distinct sound. A horse, covered in dirty armour, and rider, dressed to match his horse, raced with desperate haste towards that city.

As they hurry across the fields, the dragon circles and lands, crushing houses beneath its gigantic feet. Yet more screams; yet more death; yet more anguish. It screeched at the sky, its tail smashing more buildings as it thrashed around in the centre of the city.

The rider drew his sword, holding his shield closer to him to protect himself as he entered the city. The dragon did not see him at first, busy continuing its destruction of the city, but as he drew closer it spotted him, its beady eyes glaring down at him with a look of madness in them.

All around the rider and his horse, people plead for assistance. Many of them beg him, as the only one dressed to face the thing, to destroy it. He saw the devastation around him as his horse slowed and walked up to it, as bold as the rider and unafraid of the monstrous beast. The city crumbled under the dragon’s gaze, flames lapping at the horse and rider without deterring them from their path.

When it had stayed hidden in the mountain, it could have been dead. There would have been no need for him to seek it out and destroy it, as that would have put him and his steed at great risk. Now that it had come out of that fortress to wreak havoc on the city folk below, it was asking for the destruction that this knight could provide.

He climbed down from the horse, despite how bold it had been, and sent it back to safety. It looked back once, though it continued on towards the edge of the city; as brave as the hero, trained to follow his every command. Once certain that his steed was safe, he advanced towards the dragon, his sword and shield drawn.

Its armour was strong and scaly, too powerful to pierce. He searched with eager eyes for a weakness in that armour, a point for him to strike and take this creature down. He was only too aware of his own weaknesses in the face of the fire breather, and even more so that time was not on his side.

The dragon stepped sideways. Timber creaked then snapped under its weight, the shrieks of those inside silenced within seconds. The hero made noises to draw its attention back to him, and upon spotting him it threw its head up in the air, roaring as loud as it was able. The sound carried across the derelict city and further than the gathered crowd of fearful onlookers, into the fields beyond; the hero stood his ground nonetheless. When it noticed that this had failed to frighten the man who dared to stand up to it, the dragon spun on the spot and threw its mighty tail at the knight.

His shield took the blow, sending tremors through him that brought him to the ground. He was up on his feet again before the dragon could hit him again; they began to circle slowly, though the warrior tried to prevent the dragon from causing further damage to the city. One after the other, they struck at their foe, though neither man nor dragon risked a full out attack in case it would leave them vulnerable. Though the dragon was far larger and stronger, it was not foolish: it knew that others who had been in its position before had been killed by humans.

As it raised its head again, fed up of the game, he spotted a weakness in that solid armour. The dragon went to burn him as it had burned the city down, but the warrior was swifter; he jumped upon the debris of a nearby home, where still the faintest sounds of injured victims could be heard below, and swung his sword to slay the creature. They fought and tumbled to the ground together, crashing down as one and sending shakes through the ground.

The warrior’s steed, obedient as always, trotted over to the unmoving bodies. It stood proud and noble, waiting for a sign of movement from either the man or the dragon; the knight emerged victorious to screams and applause from the crowd of onlookers.

He climbed upon his horse to speed off, away from the sound of their cheers. Their recognition was not his prize for slaying this monster.

Lights Across the Marsh

This was originally written for a prompt on Tumblr. Prompt: Separated from the tourist group, you find yourself in a marsh. Soft lights glow in the distance. Is it a town?

When she had been a small child, Becky’s parents had labelled her ‘inquisitive’. Out of the five children they had, she had always been the one to wander off – sometimes taking another sibling with her. In supermarkets, they would find her eating sweets from the pick ‘n’ mix section. At fairgrounds, she would make her way over to the bright lights and enchanting music of the merry-go-round. Come Christmas time, she would always go to Santa’s Grotto, wherever they happened to be. Getting into trouble had never deterred her: there was still so much out there to explore.

It was therefore of little surprise to her when, distracted for some time by the beauty of the natural world around her, she was left behind by her tour group. As if coming out of a trance, she slowly returned to her present and, upon realising that she was alone, looked around for any sign of the other tourists or their guide. There was nothing to suggest where they were and wherever that was, it was too far away for her to hear them.

She made the decision to go on alone, confident that she could find her way. She was used to travelling on her own; she could get back to the group before the guide totalled up the number of people following him and realised that he was one short. Becky was regularly lost in unfamiliar places, after all: it was a consequence of being so inquisitive.

It did not become immediately apparent that she was heading in the wrong direction. There was not, in fact, a lot of places for her to explore. The tourists had been brought across to the island on a boat, and it was the only way that they would be able to get back to the mainland. It was only a small island; if all else failed, she could always make her way back to the boat.

When she took a step without looking where she was going and her left leg sunk a couple of feet into the ground, Becky realised that this was definitely not the way that the others had gone.

Her leg was soaked. Water rippled around it playfully and she was about to pull it out of the marsh to head back the direction she had come when something on the other side of the marsh caught her eye. Three lights flicker at her, hovering at about waist height. It wasn’t too far away from her position and it could have been a small village or a resting place, but she couldn’t tell how deep the water got between the land on her side and that on the other. Torn, Becky paused, one foot still in the marsh as she considered her options.

She could have turned around, gone back and continued to look for the tourist group, which would have been the sensible option. On the other hand, those lights across the marsh could be coming from inside buildings, where she would be able to telephone for help.

The seconds ticked by. Becky felt herself sink a little further. The longer that she hesitated, the more confident she became that she could make it. She glanced backwards over her shoulder, listening for any sign of anyone who might be looking for her, but on encountering only silence she decided to take the plunge and swung her other leg forward into the marsh.

She waited until she stopped moving before pushing forwards, her arms held above her to keep her balance. The lights, which had seemed so close when she had been stood on solid ground, did not seem to be getting any closer as she made her way through the water. Thankfully, she sunk no deeper and it was this alone that encouraged her not to turn around to go back.

Once she was halfway across the marsh, it became apparent that the lights were somewhere further off in the distance than she had originally predicted. Becky stopped and stared at them, blinking furiously; from this position, they were brighter than they had previously been. As she watched them, she noticed that there was something strange about the lights: one of them blinked slowly at her, gradually becoming faster until the others followed suit.

For a few moments, she thought it was the marsh. The absurdity of her situation, stood with her legs deep in the muddy water, was causing her to imagine the lights as unwelcoming and even sinister. She knew that if she could only get across to the other side then she would discover a building or perhaps even a village where she could get warm, a change of clothes and access a telephone.

These thoughts were ripped from Becky’s mind when a low, long sound came from across the marsh. It was a single hum that echoed around her threateningly; the lights moved upwards, beginning to spin in the sky. Her breath caught in her throat: she could not breathe. She heard the noise again, and with it came a powerful wind that knocked her backwards into the water.

Her head was immersed under the dirty water. She splashed uselessly, flapping her arms in an attempt to surface. Once the initial shock had worn off she was able to gather together enough sense to push herself up and climb out of the water. Soaked, she spluttered and coughed, her head moving rapidly back and forth as she attempted to figure out which way was which.

There were lights on her left and her right now. The ones on her right were advancing; she moved as fast as she could away from them, tripping over her legs in her hurry and landing on her face in the water again. Even through the water, she could hear that awful humming sound. Becky splashed and flailed, swallowing mouthfuls of the filthy liquid.

In the middle of her panic, something grabbed her on the back of the neck; she fought against it, taking a hold of it and attempting to tug herself away from it. She was dragged backwards out of the water, a light shining in her face as she gasped for breath, panting heavily.

The light was lowered; once her eyes became adjusted to the lack of light, she could see her tour guide leaning over her, his trousers and shirt covered in dirty water. Becky span around frantically, trying to locate the lights that she had seen before, but there was nothing within sight and the sound had gone.

‘What – where –’ she asked in an attempt to string a sentence together.

‘Don’t wander off,’ the tour guide scolded her. ‘We almost left without you.’

‘Did – did you see them?’ she asked him. ‘Did you hear the noise?’

He pulled a face at her, disbelieving. ‘You can play games when you get home. Come on.’

Becky did as he instructed: she didn’t want to be left behind again.