John Clark following up on a Facebook post from earlier this month that got a couple interesting reactions. I’m in the editing mode on my current book, needing to cut about 20,000 words as well as wrap it up solidly. When taking breaks, my mind has been hopping in the Wayback machine all too often, leading me astray. One realization has been with me for a few years now. No matter what, there’s not enough time left (or energy for that matter) in my life to do all the stuff I thought I’d get to do. I hardly think I’m unique in that belief, but as a writer of fantasy and magic, That got me crafting a plan for my next life. Talking about it was the gist of my unsettling post. I understand that belief in subsequent lives isn’t held by the majority in this country and when I used to tell patrons at the library that was my expectation, some were really uncomfortable. Of course, I wasn’t wild when they tried converting me to the Baptist and Mormon faiths either.
Anyhow, in the course of contemplating a next life, I’ve not only had fun creating myself anew, but I came up with a dandy short story I’ll get to sometime before snow melts. It has a dandy gotcha at the end. Much of my future plan has been influenced by my years immersed in role playing games on the computer. After a two year hiatus, I started loading some of the games that were languishing on my shelf, ignored and unplayed when we renovated the geek cave. The first one was a dud, but Two Worlds, after I downloaded and installed a huge patch, was one of those I can jump into and can play for ten minutes or ten hours without any learning curve and no boredom. Exploring the world in this game was the catalyst for my going back to planning, or at least imagining a completely new life.
First off, it ain’t happening here. Earth is a disaster zone, made more so every day by hatred, denial and lack of respect for differences. Reappearing elsewhere is not a bad thing by any means. I had plenty of practice when I not only created a couple entire planets, but reworked the universe and even what’s beyond it before setting Berek Metcalf in motion ten years ago.
I begin completely anew, being born in a small village to parents who are intelligent and will pass on their mage and quick learning abilities. I’m not sure what they’ll name me, but I’m sure it will be interesting and roll comfortably off the tongue. Since the village will be remote, my curiosity about the rest of the world will grow as I do, leading me to drive the village mage and sorceress to distraction with endless questions. However, their recognition of my willingness to do whatever they require in order to learn will mean that by the time I’ve turned fourteen, I’ll be their equal, not only in terms of spell casting, but in my ability to find magical herbs and gems as I explore ever farther from the village. Here’s a peek at some of what unfolds.
During one of those adventures, I met a rider a few years older than myself. He was exploring and trying to evade bounty hunters who had been after him since he rescued two of his cousins just before they were to be hanged. A local noble, envious of their standing in the town, framed them for killing a stag he shot. Quill had no choice but to flee, although as an accomplished swordsman, doing so left a foul taste in his mouth. These and other aspects of his life I learned the afternoon we met. His horse was lame and he was unsure of the cause. I had considerable skill at diagnosing animal ailments and had the ingredients in my pouch to make a salve that had his mount good as new an no time. We had been talking while I worked and developed a kinship over a shared sense of humor and curiosity about what lay beyond that part of our world we knew.
Quill liked our village and decided to stay a while. We spent considerable time together, he training me in swordplay while I taught him as much as a non-mage could learn about herb and gem lore.
Several months after his arrival, the village was attacked by the bounty hunters who were now allied with bandits. None of them had an ounce of humanity. Much of the town was burned and my parents and more than a dozen others, including my mentor the mage were killed. That night, my newly acquired weapon skills stood me in good stead and I killed for the first time, not once, but four times and not by choice. Had I not wielded a long sword like I was possessed by an insane fury in the terrible firelight, more would have perished, including myself. Quill and I were able to save the sorceress and drive off the remaining attackers. The village was a sorry sight when the sun rose. After tending to the wounded and burying the dead, I gathered what was left of my belongings, paid my respects to the bereaved and took one of the few horses in the village as I followed my brother in blood into the wilderness.
Over the next several weeks, we followed the attackers, killing them as the opportunity arose. Why they didn’t speed away for reinforcements, we knew not, and when we interrogated the last of them before ridding the world of his evil soul, all he would say was that the lord had a fitting fate in store for us. We puzzled over that cryptic message, but could not make sense of it as we moved south ahead of the growing cold. Satisfied we were temporarily free of pursuers and curious about rumors we’d heard of a valley where powerful gems were to be found, we relaxed a bit, taking what work we could find in the towns and on farms that became more numerous the further south we rode.
Our quiet interlude was interrupted one night as we sat in a tavern, eating our first hot meal in ages, while warming our backsides by a roaring fire. A young woman sat at a nearby table, eating and sipping ale. I watched her as she continually scanned the room as though expecting trouble. It found her while we were debating whether to spend the last of our coin for a hot bath and soft bed.
The door opened and three evil looking men, all towering over the rest of us, strode in and made for her. She wasted no time, grabbing something from a pouch on her belt and flinging it in their faces as she grabbed a nasty looking short sword in her left hand and pulling an obsidian throwing knife from her belt with her right. Quill and I gave each other a quick look. We had come to communicate quite often in such a manner and he and I knew we were about to willingly step into someone else’s mess.
What a mess it was, indeed. She’d tossed a flaming powder that ignited on contact with skin. I had the wits to look away as soon as the first grains hit the lead attacker, but even so, the flashes, coupled with their howls of rage would have frozen me in my tracks not so long ago. She hit one of them in the eye with her knife, dropping him to the floor, but I could tell the others weren’t seriously incapacitated by her magic, so I edged to my left as I drew my sword. I knew nothing about the combatants, but my gut said that she deserved our help. Even so, it was touch and go. Both attackers wielded four foot blades that had a greenish hue, telling me they were imbued with poison magic. I used a spell of my own creation that blurred the air around me, making it difficult for an assailant to hit me or see my own blade movement. It probably saved an arm or my life, allowing me to duck under a sweeping slash and slam my own blade upward, severing the muscles above his elbow.
While he was trying to switch hands, the mystery girl buried her sword in his belly at an angle, tearing a bloody hole that ended his involvement. Quill was barely holding his own with the last man, but was able to distract him long enough for me to make a chopping swing that sliced his hip open. As he turned to defend himself, Quill finished the fight, nearly severing his head.
He and I were trying to catch our breath when we realized she was hardly winded and unscathed. She gave us a smile of thanks and waited until we had regained our composure. That was our introduction to Sylvaine who was seventeen, part human and part fey, the first of that race I’d encountered. Her mage skills were much better than mine, while her swordsmanship was something Quill envied openly. Over mead and a sweet pastry that was so rich it curled my toes, both her treats, she explained that she was not only a sorceress, but had apprenticed as an assassin for a noble far to the north. When she realized that he was sending her to kill people who had done nothing save stand up for themselves, she murdered her employer, cleaned out his stash of gems and fled south.
Thus began an odd partnership that danced about on the edge of romantic attraction between Sylvaine and me. Quill was immune to her charms and was, I believe, secretly amused at our emotional parrying.
What happens next in the life to come, is yet to be written, but so far, I’m more than happy with my future. So, good readers, are you pondering a next life and if so, wow and where will it happen?