Clickspell’s 11 True Confessions of Wizarding School Dropouts: #6 Will Blow Your Mind

Interest in magical schools have skyrocket thanks to the tales of the early life of the Chosen One after his defeat of the latest Dark Lord recently serialized and published. But what of his classmates—not the ones with whom he was friends in his youth, and whose exploits were recounted in the great tale, but the ones who didn’t go on to fame and fortune—where are they now? Clickspell—your source for all things wizarding related—has uncovered 12 confessions of students of magic who didn’t quite make the cut:

  1. There are all manner of jobs you can get in the magical world that don’t require an advanced degree. You just need to master a few basic, specialized spells. Me? I’m a sanitation sorcerer. Even wizards need someone to take out the trash—Garbage_Mage
  2. I shot a fireball at one of my professors. He was a total jerk. They expelled me. I still say he deserved it #sorrynotsorry—Hotheaded9
  3. You sit in all these classes with these famous wizards, but how did they become famous? By going on quests and fighting in great wars, not by sitting in a classroom reading from textbooks. I kept skipping class to research every lost magical artifact in the world, trying to find one that was worthy of a quest. My grades suffered, and eventually I dropped out after months on academic probation. Didn’t matter to me, I was going to make my name in the real world. It’s 10 years later, and I haven’t been able to find one damn relic. Now, I live in the subway and perform street magic for coins. I guess my teachers were right, but at least I took my shot—impossible_dreamer
  4. I was pretty good at potions, so I became a bartender at the pub in the university town. Some of my old professors come in for drinks from time to time. I laugh a little, inside, because I make more money than they do—darklordofdrinks7
  5. I remember one class where we had to hypnotize an elephant. Tell me when the hell I’m ever going to need to do that in real life?—Reallifeskillz14
  6. It was the night of the winter prom. My date and I found a secluded place in the gardens. We had just learned engorgement spells. Suffice it to say that neither of us can ever show our faces there again—Bootleg_Cassanova
  7. If you think drugs are a problem in a regular high school, you should check out what goes on in a magical one. You have all those potions and poisons lying around, you can only imagine what the dealers come up with. It took me years of rehab to get clean, and by that time, I was way too old to go back to school—emogrl12
  8. When you really think about it, magic is ancient and inefficient—all those incantations and spells in ancient languages no one understands. After I dropped out, I enrolled in a regular university, majored in engineering. I build things that work, using modern science. It’s far easier than magic, twice as reliable, and you don’t need any special skill to use it. I would challenge any of my former classmates to contest—my machines against their spells. I know whom I would bet on if I was you—Science_Sorceress
  9. Is it really any wonder I dropped out? I had some talent, sure, but I was the first person in my family’s history with magical talent. There, I was competing against students who come from long lineages of wizarding families. They can get help from their parents, practice magic all summer, and all sorts of other advantages. I had to hide my abilities, figure out everything for myself, and then deal with bullying and persecution from these children of wizarding royalty. Statistics show that first-generation sorcerers drop out at a higher rate. That’s what happened to me. I fell behind, believed I wasn’t as good as my peers. It was only a matter of time until I gave up and left the school—Doomed2Fail
  10. I was against the blatant, unrepentant, cruelty to animals. Every witch’s brew uses ingredients like frog’s legs and lizard skin. Who cares about the poor frogs? The helpless lizards? I did, and because of it, I failed Cauldron Potions. I tried explaining it to the administration, but no one would listen. It got to the point where I had to leave on principle—S8credLife
  11. I got pregnant during my sophomore year. It happens to us magical folk too—MagicMom16
  12. After I dropped out, I didn’t have a job, so I used my meager skills to sell myself as a magician who entertains children at birthday parties in the non-magical world. Every family that hires me says I’m the best magician they’ve ever seen. Little do they know how bad I am compared to all the kids I went to school with. It’s all relative, I guess—ChaztheMagnificient

This story first appeared on Rejected Manuscripts. It received the second-most votes in the 2018 competition, and was published in their Winners Anthology.


Be sure to check out the links page to read some of my published writing, and to follow me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

Rules, What Rules: Dialogue Tags

In the first post I published on this blog, I bemoaned the reductive nature of writing advice. “If you write like everyone else,” I wrote, “your writing will read like everyone else’s. I have gotten away from that theme over the years, but today I wish to return to it. Over the next few months, I will present a series of blogs that deal with common pieces of writing advice, and then present a famous work by a successful author which breaks those rules. My aim is not to criticize these authors—I enjoy all of them, that is the point. Rather, I present their works as examples of successfully writing, which might cause you to reexamine the writing “rule” critically. I am not advising you to ignore these rules, rather to take control of your own craft, and consider your choices actively. As always, I believe there is more than one path to success, more than one formula for great writing. Consider these posts synecdochally. The specific rule is not the point; it speaks to a general attitude which is prevalent within the contemporary writing community.

In each blog post in this series, I will give a brief summary of the rule, followed by a case study of a successful author, work, or series that breaks that rule. Finally, I will provide some analysis of the rule and the alternative techniques the featured author makes. Since the posts in this series will not necessarily be consecutive blog entries, I will link each piece to previous entries.

The Rule: Invisible Dialogue Tags

One of the more common pieces of writing advice is to try to make your dialogue tags invisible. Write “said” rather than a more descriptive tag such as “exclaimed,” “lamented,” “cried,” etc. Theoretically, the word “said” is invisible; the reader does not notice it because it is so common. Moreover, the content of the dialogue should be sufficient, along with your descriptions of your characters’ actions and facial expressions, to “show” the emotion inherent in the statement. You should not have to “tell” the reader how your character feels.

Case Study: Timothy Zahn

By any measure, Timothy Zahn is a successful science fiction author. His Stars Wars novels created the Extended Universe, and his most famous character, Grand Admiral Thrawn, is one of the few characters to survive Disney’s recent retcon. Zahn also won the Hugo award, the most prestigious award in the science fiction field, long before he started writing his Star Wars books. On a personal note, I have read and enjoyed Zahn’s books since high school. I have probably read more pages by him than any author except for Terry Pratchett.

And yet…

Zahn has achieved this success despite not following the convention of invisible dialogue tags. As you will see from the examples below, he uses descriptive tags regularly, and even—and this so-called rule will be the subject of the next post in this series—the dreaded adverb.

Here is a page from early in his latest book, Greater Good, which is part of the Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy. The relevant dialogue tags are highlighted.

Page from thrawn Ascendency, by Timothy Zahn

The dialogue on this page includes “growled” (twice), “countered” and “said stiffly.” Although it does include a few traditional “said” tags as well. It would seem that Zahn does not always use “said,” and he certainly does not use the extent recommended by the “writing experts.”

Perhaps, you may be thinking, that as a best-selling, famous author, Zahn can get away with things that you or I can’t. I thought that might be the case as well, so I took a look at some of his earlier works. As it turns out, the dialogue tags on the above page are fairly typical of his writing.

Consider this page from Heir to the Empire, Zahn’s first Star Wars book:

page from Heir To The Empire, by Timothy Zahn

If anything, the dialogue tags are more varied. Zahn uses “asked,” “reminded him,” “insisted,” “snorted,” and “agreed.”

You can see the same style in the following page, from Zahn’s 1984 novel Spinneret, which features tags like “frowned,” “groweled” (again), “interrupted suddenly,” and “agreed.”

Page from Spinneret

Clearly, Zahn has been using varied dialogue tags throughout his career, and clearly it has not affected his ability to get published or his book sales.

Analysis

Why is Zahn able to write successfully despite flouting the conventions of dialogue tags? I think the answer is pretty simple: He writes great characters and great stories. The fact that he created a lasting, memorable character like Thrawn is way more important to his success than whether or not he follows some minor craft convention, such as sing invisible dialogue tags.

As a community, I think we have become too obsessed with the minutiae of craft, fueled by the cottage industry of writing advice. It is much easier to critique someone’s dialogue tags after a superficial read than to get into the weeds and examine why the storytelling and characterization work or don’t work. I also believe that as a community, we discuss craft on a sentence and technique level to a far greater extent than we discuss basic storytelling and characterization. Like JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis, I blame the modernists, but that’s a subject for another blog post.

To this point, I never noticed that Zahn broke convention when I read him in high school. I only began to notice it when I became a “writer” and began to be inundated with advice proclaiming conventional writing rules. It is important to realize that the majority of readers are not writers and do not read with an eye for such things.

Moreover, in doing this analysis, I realized that I tend to notice these breaks in conventions early on in a novel. The first example I chose was page 11 of a 400+ page book. This caused me to think of other unconventional dialogue techniques, such as the decision of certain “literary” writers such as Cormac McCarthy and Junot Diaz not to use quotation marks. Like Zhan’s descriptive dialogue tags, the unconventional use of dialogue trips me up toward the beginning of the novel, but I tend not to notice it as the work goes on.

It is my contentions that, with consistent usage, most styles of writing dialogue become invisible over the course of a longer work.


Be sure to check out the links page to read some of my published writing, and to follow me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

Publishing News: Galaxy 2 and Poetica 3

It’s release day for two anthologies in which I have work published.

Poetica 3 includes my poem “A Monster Lives Inside Of Me”. It’s a dark, speculative poem, kind of like Poe crossed with Terry Pratchett.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B094CWJNR8/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_awdb_imm_EGHVX5YQFS09768XK1QX

Galaxy 2 includes “The Wishing Well”, a fairytale horror micro fiction. It’s a story to which people react really strongly, in a positive way.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0949H4JDC/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_awdb_imm_90REDJX319R3ZMQ4MFVD

Both anthologies are published by Clarendon House Publications.

Get your copies today.

Comic Book School Flash Fiction Challenge, Step 2 Begins

For the second straight year, I am editing the Comic Book School Flash Fiction Challenge. The challenge just entered step 2 (but it’s not too late to join), and here is the column I posted for this phase of the challenge on the CBS site, which includes my advice for writing Flash Fiction.

I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one instead—Mark Twain

Writing succinctly is hard. You must say what is essential—and only what is essential, remain laser-focused on what you wish to convey, and avoid digressions. You must drill down to the pure essence of writing, and tell your story in its purest, most distilled form. It is a task that writers like Mark Twain, Blaise Pascal, and Cicero all lament takes time, often more time that writing a longer piece would. For those who are participating in the Comic Book School Flash Fiction challenge, that time is now.

The drafting step of the current challenge begins today on our message boards for Flash Fiction #2, and first drafts are due in fourteen days. Here are three suggestions for how to approach this particular challenge:

1. Consider writing a One-Twist Story:

When writing flash-fiction you don’t have space for complex plots. Eschew all sub-plots, and focus on a single problem in a single dramatic situation. Build suspense around one question, situation, or antagonist. Try to build toward a logical, but unexpected resolution, and hide this resolution from the reader for as long as possible. If you are successful, the reader should be both surprised and satisfied by your story’s conclusion.

The Twilight Zone is the gold standard for this type of writing. Think of the episode, Time Enough At Lastin which Henry Bemis, a bookish man who wants nothing as much as to read finds himself with all the time in the world, surrounded by books. Unfortunately, his glasses are permanently broken. The powerful ending is built on one twist. All of the characterization focuses on Bemis’ love of books and his frustration with a society that won’t let him read. From the opening scene in which Bemis reads David Copperfield at his job, to the scene where Bemis’ wife setting him up for ridicule by first asking him to read poetry to her and then frustrates these attempts and destroys his book, each scene stays laser-focused on the single aspect of Bemis’ characterization that will be important to the resolution. If Bemis had been a character in a novel or a movie, he would need to be characterized more fully, but in the shorter medium, focus is essential.The single twist ending can also be pulled off in comedic form.

In perhaps the most famous episode of The Honeymooners, the 99,000 Dollar Answer,  the seeds that hint at the twist ending are sown throughout the early part of the episode. The writers engage in a classic misdirection framing the story around Ralph Kramden’s appearances on the gameshow, partially to hide those seeds, but there is still only one dramatic situation that leads to a perfect surprise twist ending.

In The Duel, my flash piece for the last anthology, I tried to affect a single twist ending. Reader have told me that were surprised by the ending. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it’s only 500 words. Read it and see if you’re surprised, then read it again and try to isolate the techniques I use to affect the suspense and hide the ending.

2. Consider putting your own spin on a traditional trope or cliché.

One of the hardest aspects of writing flash fiction for writers who are used to longer form writing is the lack of space for worldbuilding and backstory. When writing flash fiction, you must build a believable world quickly. Why not let the reader do some of the work for you? By using a trope with which the reader is already familiar, a writer can rely on that reader to do the world building for them. If you write what appears to be a classic fairy tale, a traditional horror, or noir crime story, half the work is done for you. The reader already knows where they are and what is supposed to happen.

The same can be said when using a seemingly cliched or trope-y character. Certain character types are supposed to act in certain ways: Prince Charming, the tragic hero, the undead monster, etc. Moreover, setting your story within a cliched trope allows you to subvert that trope to affect your twist ending. Consider Neil Gaiman’s masterful short story, Nicholas Was. (If you have not read it yet, read it before the next sentence. It’s only 100 words; I’ll wait) At the end of the story, Gaiman relies on the reader’s familiarity with the Santa Claus myth to affect his twist ending. The last three words of the story—”Ho, ho ho”—carry so much weight because the audience is already familiar with Santa Claus before reading the story. Gaiman has used something cliched and familiar to create something surprising and original.

In “The Duel,” I combine two common tropes, the duel at high noon from spaghetti westerns and the traditional high-fantasy wizard archetype, to create a new and different world. Because readers are generally familiar with the Western movie archetype, I could quickly establish the setting with details like the old-west saloon, the tumbleweed rolling across the road, and the townsfolk shuttering their windows. Because readers are familiar with the wizard archetype, I do not have to explain an elaborate magical system that allows the wizards to shoot magic from their staffs. The tropes have done that work for me. But, because I mash-up two unfamiliar genres, the story still feels fresh and new.

3. Consider using an unconventional or experimental narrative technique.

Because flash fiction is so short, it affords the writer the opportunity to experiment with form and language. An unconventional storytelling method can set your story apart and grab the reader’s attention. Readers will stick with an unconventional technique longer in shorter-form fiction, and this gives the flash fiction writer freedom to try out new things.

In her famous short story, The Birthday Party by Katherine Brush uses multiple point of view shifts—including the dreaded second person—to affect the dramatic distance of the reader to the story. In “The Duel,” I use present-tense narration to create immediacy and build suspense. These techniques work better in short form writing than in long form writing. They make the reader uncomfortable, which has the contradictory affect of hooking them in the short term (hmm, this is new and interesting, I’ll give it a shot) and alienating them in the long term (This is just weird/difficult; I don’t want to put in the work to deal with it).

Flash fiction offers you the opportunity to experiment with unconventional techniques and forms without alienating the reader. Take advantage of that opportunity and be creative. Surprise yourself by writing in an unfamiliar way, and you will be sure to surprise your reader.

The drafting phase is the perfect time to experiment with these unconventional narrative techniques. If you write your draft in, say second person, and you don’t like it, it is easy to revise your narrative perspective in future drafts.

There are, of course, many more ways to approach Flash Fiction—many more than I have space for here—and I encourage you experiment with them all. If, however, you are having trouble getting started with the challenge—or if this is the first time you are attempting to write flash fiction—I hope you find these suggestions helpful.

As always, I look forward to seeing your creations, and I will see you on the message boards for Flash Fiction: Step #2.

How to Participate

Register for the challenge, review the creative prompt, and start brainstorming on the boards.

We hope you will take on the flash fiction challenge. We’ll see you on the boards…and in The Time Inn.

Next Steps

Read the announcement for the 8-Page Challenge and fill out the startup form.

Questions? Contact our editor A.A. Rubin on the Flash Fiction Forum.


This article first appeared on the Comic Book School page. Comic Book School runs the flash fiction challenge.

Moby Click

“Call me Ishmael,” the three-pawed mouse squeaked to his comrades, as they hid behind the door of the seldom-used darkroom . “I—”

“Why would we do that?” asked his second-in-command. “That’s not your name.”

“Because, Starbuck, the cat who guards this photography studio knows me well,” the leader replied. “If he knew who was coming, he would be on his guard.”

“But, he’s a cat!” Starbuck shook his head. “He’s always on his guard. I will continue to call you Ahab.”

“Call me what you wish,” spat Ahab. “But, that will be your last dissention. We must be united if we are going to capture the White Wheel.”

“What the hell is the White Wheel?”

“Cheese,” Ahab responded. “All my life, I’ve been pursuing it. I lost my right front paw to a trap, trying to get just a small chunk.”

He raised the stub leg for effect, and continued.

“The hair on my back was torn out by an alley cat who wanted the same discarded slice as me,” Ahab continued. “But, still, I continue, undeterred, in pursuit of that perfect piece of cheese: The white wheel.”

“But why is that cheese so important to you?” a small mouse cadet asked.

“All that maddens and torments me—the humans’ cunning and the cats’ physical superiority—are practically assailable in the cheese,” Ahab, the mouse, said. “To get it, I must outwit the humans’ trap and outrun the cat, proving the superiority of rodent-kind over its two greatest tormentors. It has been my focus for a long time.”

“I prefer peanut butter,” Starbuck mumbled.

“Peanut butter?” squeaked Ahab. “What use have I for peanut butter? Cheese is substantive. If I were able to acquire my wheel, I wouldn’t eat all of it. I would make sure to leave a slice on my mantle as a symbol of my victory.”

“What makes you so sure that the cheese is here in this photography studio?”
            “I’ve been scouting this location for some time,” Ahab explained. “I’ve run up and down the walls of this building since I was a small child. Every time I pass this studio, I hear people yelling, ‘Cheese!” All day long, I hear ‘Cheese!’ Sometimes, it is preceded by the word, ‘say’.  I don’t know what that word means, but the word, ‘cheese,’ is unmistakable.

“I snuck out of the wall one time while the head human was eating his lunch,” Ahab continued. “I crawled out over him on one of the boom sticks, and hid behind one of the flash cubes so he wouldn’t see me. I observed the contents of his sandwich. Sure enough, a glorious slice of cheese. I followed him for three days, and each day, more cheese. He must have access to a massive supply, maybe even the White Wheel itself.”

He paused and looked over his troops.

            “On the fourth day, I got greedy,” Ahab recalled. “The smell of the cheese overwhelmed me. The human fled the room, but the cat attacked. I wasn’t able to secure the piece of the cheese, but I did manage to get this.”

He held up a toothpick to the assembled troops.

“This stick fell from the human’s sandwich. It was strong enough to hold the whole thing together, and light enough that I can manipulate it with my one good front paw. With this stick, I will be able to trigger any trap that guards the wheel without putting myself in danger. It is your job to locate the cheese, distract the cat, and scare away the humans long enough for me to get to the cheese. If we succeed, I will give you all a piece to display in your homes so you can boast of our victory.”

Ahab edged toward the cracked opening of the darkroom door, as the mice lined up in formation behind him. As they charged into the front room of the studio, the humans were just sitting down to lunch. Upon seeing the charge of the mouse brigade, the humans fled the room, leaving scraps of meat, vegetables, and, yes, slices of cheese, scattered over the counter and floor.

In a flash, the cat jumped out from behind a sand bag right in Ahab’s path. Ahab was cornered as the great predator zoomed in on him leaving no escape route. The cat stretched, languidly, and slowly, framing the mouse in his steady gaze. Ahab inhaled deeply. The smell of the scattered cheese filled his lungs. As the cat’s paw struck at him, he thrust the toothpick into its center.

“To the last I grapple with thee,” he proclaimed. “From hell’s heart, I stab at thee.”

The cat recoiled in pain, as Ahab beat a hasty retreat. The mice all fled back into the hole in the darkroom wall pursued by the cat, who pawed the wall in frustration. The humans had long since fled the scene. The last scout that Ahab sent, who eluded the cat by creatively using some cinefoil he found lying around the photography studio, brought back the following report:

The studio is empty; the cheese stands alone.


Be sure to check out the links page to read some of my published writing, and to follow me on twitter, instagram and facebook.

Is Marvel Making A Mistake By Not Re-Issuing Truth: Red, White & Black in Conjunction With The Falcon and the Winter Soldier?

Marvel’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has received plenty of praise—and justifiably so—for addressing the issue of racism in America. It is rare for a mainstream, popular television show to deal seriously with social issues, especially within the comics or action-adventure genre (Watchmen is a notable exception as well). The show looks both at the issue from both a macro perspective, with its discussion of whether the United States is ready for a black Captain America, and a micro level, with touching personal scenes, such as the Wilson family’s struggle to get a loan. It has dealt with the issue from both a historical perspective (addressing medical experiments on black prisoners) as well as a current-events perspective (Sam’s encounter with police in Baltimore), but perhaps the most compelling storyline in this vein is the story of Isaiah Bradley, the first black Captain America.

After seeing the second episode of the series, I immediately looked up the comics in which Isaiah Bradley first appears. That research led me to the miniseries: Truth: Red, White & Black (Morales/Baker). I had not known about the series previously, which isn’t surprising since, for a while now, I’ve most of my comics as a trade paperback, and, as of right now, there is no trade paperback—or any print version of the comics—currently available.

I believe Marvel Comics is making a mistake by not releasing Truth: Red, White, & Black as a trade paperback. I can’t be the only one interested in reading it, after seeing the Isaiah Bradley character on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. I stopped by my local comics shop today and asked for it, and they said it wasn’t issued as a trade, and that obtaining the single issues would be “very expensive.” A quick search on eBay revealed I would have to spend a minimum of $100 dollars to purchase a complete, readable set. Now, there is an electronic version available on Amazon for kindle, but I prefer to read comics on paper, and I know I’m not the only one.

Given the popularity of the show, as well as the current events of the day, I would assume that a miniseries about the first black Captain America with a tie in to a current, popular show would do very well. I would pay 20 bucks to read it. I’m interested in the concept, as well as in the plot point when Bradley encounters the medical experiments the Nazi’s performed on Jews (mentioned in the plot summary). As a person of Jewish descent, that type of storyline is one that I not only find interesting, but with which I empathize. I also believe that many Americans who might not have been taught about the US government’s experiments on black prisoners have been taught about the atrocities of the holocaust, and that this story line would help them empathize as well. It seems like a great teaching opportunity, and a great choice by the creative team, one that can show how comics can be used as medium to address serious issues and affect social change.

I am not in position, however to spend 100+ dollars on a comics series, much less on one by a creative team whom I’ve never read.

The decision not to release a print edition—and not to market the digital version—is even more puzzling considering that with proper marketing, Marvel could, most likely make money of the rerelease. The story sounds compelling; it’s tied in to a popular, current show, and it deals with a character about whom many fans probably want to know more. Moreover, it would allow people to further explore the important issues raised by the show, and direct them back to the source material, get fans of comic book-based properties to read actual comic books. I can’t be the only one, right?  

What am I missing?


Go to the links page to read some of my published writing, and follow me on twitter, instagram and facebook.

Moonlight Sonnet

In honor #NationalPoetryMonth, I am, once again, sharing my Moonlight Sonnet. Enjoy.

A. A. Rubin

In honor of the rare occurrence of Halloween falling on a full moon, I present my poem, “Moonlight Sonnet,” which originally appeared in the Prompting The Moon Anthology.

When I gaze up at its dark, inky gloom,
The sky reflects my sorrows back at me–
Like the vampire’s victim, I’m fit to swoon,
Surrendering to my melancholy.
The burdens, heavy, of my working day
Weigh down on me and hang like darkening clouds,
Which hide the bright orb’s stately face away
Obscured by night’s aphotic, murky shroud.
But with the glimmer of her tender light,
A sliver of hope in my heart doth grow–
Waxing gibbous, though not yet full tonight,
Beneath Selene’s benevolent, pale glow.
Like the werewolf by her light’s transformèd,
By moonlight, my self to me’s restorèd.

If you enjoyed this sonnet, and you’d like me to write one for you, check out The Great Command Meant

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Forthwith Flies The Mage

There is a city on a hill
A beacon burning bright
A model of the great and good
A citadel of light

The enchanted forest lies below
Behind it mountains rise
Where darkness lurks inside the caves
And evil waits and hides

The city’s ringed all around
By a wall both tall and stout
It glistens brightly ‘neath the moon
And keeps the demons out

But Lo! The prince of devils stirs
He wakes, his power grows
He plots and plans his sweet revenge
The city does not know

He gathers spirits to his side
On that fateful day
And sends a sortie swiftly out
The town to make assay

The wraiths are whirling all around
Above the city night
Attendant shadows do they bring
Quelling all the light

Forthwith flies the mage
On a dragon does he ride
Forthwith flies the mage
Through the dark and dusky sky

He brings his glowing staff to bear
And trains it on the shades
The dragon flaps its massive wings
Beating back the raid

The mage he speaks the sacred words
An ancient holy spell
The wraiths they writhe beneath his might
Banished back to hell

A raucous cheer, it rises up
From the city streets
Hosannas for the hero mage
Their enemies he beat

But deep inside the caves of hell
The demon king does rage
He stamps his foot and gnashes teeth
O’er the failure of the wraiths

Sworn swords and lords he calls to him
He gathers up his hosts
A massive army to command
Of monsters, orcs and ghosts

They rise up like the living dead
And with a steady thrum
March to the heavy sound of doom
Beat out on their drums

The goodly people gather round
They cower in their homes
They pray to gods most tearfully
But fear they’re all alone

Forthwith flies the mage
Resplendent in his power
Forthwith flies the mage
In the city’s darkest hour

His dragon swoops with wings unfurled
It dives on down eftsoons
Towards the city’s citadel
Silhouetted by the moon

Into the fray, callooh callay
Like Zeus’ thunderbolt
He is the storm, Mjolnir thrown
Until he feels a jolt

His dragon’s mighty scales are pierced
A bolt has found its mark
Shot blindly by a demon’s bow
Lucky, in the dark

The dragon rears up suddenly
The mage from off him thrown
Falls straight down into the field
Through the Sturm und Drang

With magic does he slow his fall
And through the wind does float
And hovers lightly in the air
Above the city moat

Forward walks the mage
With a steady tread
Forward walks the mage
And faces the undead

He stands alone before the gate
His staff of yew in hand
The last best hope to stop the spread
Of shadow through the land

A silence settles o’er the field
The mage and the commander
Stare silently across the sward
Like figures trapped in amber

The demon lord’s in disbelief
Have they just sent but one,
Hero ‘gainst his mighty hoard?
They couldn’t be that dumb

The devil lifts his fist of doom
And gives the dread command
And thus the static silence breaks
At the falling of his hand

A volley from his archers flies
Into the sky of night
Eclipsing pale Hecate’s orb,
And quashing out the light

The arrows fall, a deadly rain
Toward the mage’s person
The people groan behind the walls
His death is all but certain

The shafts they dot the city gate
Haphazardly they land
A raucous cheer now rises up
From the demon band

But still the single figure stands
When the air does clear
The mage, unscathed for all to see
Inside a glowing sphere

Another volley is sent forth
This one all-aflame
But when the arrows reach their mark
The outcome is the same

The demon prince, the lord of hosts
Rides up and down his ranks
His soldiers shout and beat their plate
Armor loudly clanks

And all at once the horde does charge
The wizard to engage
A cavalry of nightmares filled
With berserker rage   

Forthwith flies the mage
Forward cross the field
Forthwith flies the mage
With just his staff to wield

He cuts on through the charging line
Breaking their formation
But round they move, from the flanks
In retaliation

In the deadly circle stands
The mage with staff of yew
Surrounded by his evil foes
Whose vigor is renewed

Wave after wave they fall on him
In a constant motion
But break like water on the rocks
Which jut into the ocean

A ring around the mage does form
A pile of the dead
A mound of lifeless bodies grows
Even to his head.

They battle on past midnight
And still the bodies rise
A mountain there before the mage
Reaching toward the skies

The enemy indefatigable
Can smell the mage’s blood
As he begins to tire
Drowning in the flood

The demon prince strides out perforce
To land the final blow
He gloats above the fallen mage
But little does he know

The injured dragon has returned
Seeking out his master
He swoops upon the hellish hoards
Reigning down disaster

Beneath their heavy plates of steel
The cavalry does burn
And with the fire of his breath
The tide again is turned

The mage’s vigor is renewed
By his beast’s return
Like the phoenix from the fire
His courage is reborn

He plants his staff and rises up
Trying to hide a wince
And looks into the demon’s eye
Staring down the prince

The devil wields his ancient sword
Forged in the pits of hell
He swings it wildly at the mage
With an evil yell

The mage dodges dips and weaves
Avoiding every blow
But his leg is injured
And he drags behind his toe

The demon’s rage redoubles
He sees the mage is lame
He focuses his efforts
On the limb that’s maimed

But still the mage eludes him
Though each stroke by less
He wills his foot to movement
And curses ‘neath his breath

The two contend throughout the night
The duel goes on for hours
They dig deep trenches in the dirt
Trampling all the flowers

The devils nicks him with his sword
The mage’s hand drips blood
Which falls on down, to the ground
It’s soaked up by the mud

The demon spins his spectral sword
His is the day to win
But mid swing his blade is frozen
The mage begins to grin

He’s drawn some runes in the dust
With the leg he lagged behind
Tracing symbols in the dirt
Which the demon bind

And with the sacrifice of blood
Dripping from his hand
He locks the devil to the ground
Roots him to the land

The demon’s hellish blood runs cold
He is a block of ice
The mage taps with his staff the ground
And mutters something thrice

The ground below does open up
It swallows the prince whole
He sinks on ever downward toward
The pits of ancient She’ol     

The remnants of the demon horde
In confusion flee
The city gates thrown open with
Hurrah’s and shouts of glee

But the field is empty
The mage he isn’t there
He’s mounted on his dragon and
He’s flying through the air

Whenever he is needed
Wherever evil reigns
Take a look up to the sky
Forthwith will fly the mage

Note: this poem originally appeared in the Organic Ink Poetry Anthology, (volume 1, now out of print), and was reprinted in the now defunct Kyanite Publishing’s Healing Words.


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