Short Story: Koldunya and the Bear

Finally finished one of these short stories. I need to find a way to keep it briefer. Got much longer than I anticipated but I’m happy with it. Enjoy! Cheers! 

Koldunya was not a woman to be trifled with. She was a deadly as she was beautiful. Though the folks of the town knew that she was treacherous and wicked, their fear of her outweighed their desire to run her off. So she remained, relatively near a small town named Odenwald and busied herself with whatever manner of witchcraft she desired without the interference of the timid townsfolk. While they preferred to stay clear of her always, in this instance, they lacked options unfortunately.

The town hero, Langford, died of plague the year prior, and the only other viable option was a man named, Granger, but he had taken to drinking so much that he was hardly awake long enough to get drunk again, let alone deal with a threat to the town. So, after much deliberation, the folks of Odenwald decided they would ask Koldunya to look into a threat for them. There was some concern that engaging the witch might be more dangerous than facing the savage dire bear that was attacking farms, but they decided it was worth the risk.

It was agreed that three of the men, led by a man named Kreg would approach her. Their wives were not happy about it in the least as Koldunya had a reputation for enchanting and ultimately destroying men, but the witch almost never responded to women so that was not an option. The three men crept carefully towards the witch’s cabin hidden in the dark trees beyond the town.

The cabin was small and one would easily walk past it if you were unaware of its location as it was covered in moss and overgrown bushes, almost as if it were concealed by enchantment in the first place. In reality it was a combination of magic and neglect as the Koldunya did not maintain her own home but instead relied on men she lured to make necessary improvements. It apparently had been a long while since she managed to snare a victim to perform labor for her.

It was still and quiet as the three men approached. They looked from one to the other for some sense of encouragement but each was as afraid and concerned as the others. The edged forward slowly and with great care as if they might have stepped wrongly and triggered some calamity.

Feeling close enough, the trio halted and the accompanying pair looked to Kreg and gestured at the cottage. Kreg swallowed hard and cleared his throat.

“Um, excuse me, Miss Koldunya? May we have a word with you?” Kreg stammered. There was no answer and no sound. He tried once more, “Hello? Miss? Are you there? We need a word with you?”

“Go away!” Came a screech from inside.

The men stepped back, but then Kreg inched forward with the tiny amount of courage he managed to muster, “But Miss Koldunya, we are in need of your help.”

There was a long silence. The door to Koldunya’s cabin opened slowly and she was standing there posing against the frame with a long flowing dress cascading down her small frame and her dark hair circling her round face with dark eyes staring out at the men.

“You came here to seek my help?” Koldunya began. “What are you offering me in return?”

“Offering?” Kreg stammered transfixed by the enchanting creature before him.

Rage rose up in the witch’s throat but she pushed it back down, “Yes,” she continued, “If you are here to ask something of me, what is it that you are offering for my help?”

Kreg looked to his companions for guidance but found none, “But, don’t you want to know what we need help with first?”

“Not at all, I’m far more interested in what you’re going to give me before I even consider your request.”

“Well, we didn’t bring anything. I’m not sure what we could offer you.”

This time the rage in Koldunya’s spirit burst from her body and she quickly looked more like a wild wind than a fair maid, “You thought you could come here and just demand I do something for you without anything in return? Get away from here before I curse you for all eternity!” She turned and slammed the door, somehow shaking the very ground the men stood on from her cottage.

“But Koldunya? We are desperate and we need your help. We have no other options. Please, we can arrange something.”

Behind the door, the witch stood with her back to the men resting for a moment and allowing her elaborate ploy to work. It was almost too easy for her. She smiled, then slowly opened the door once more and appeared much returned to her more peaceful self.

“Very well, since it sounds as though only I am able to resolve whatever the nature of this problem is, I require that the three of you do some work for me in return.”

The men looked to each other with blank faces and a hint of fear in their eyes. “What sort of work?” Kreg inquired.

Koldunya threw her hair back and shook her head from side to side like the main of a majestic horse, “Well my cottage needs repairs and my garden needs tending to and I can think of a few more things that I need done around here that you can help me with once we’re through. Does that sounds agreeable?”

“Kreg,” whispered one of the other men, “this seems like a trap, and I don’t think our wives would appreciate this in the least.”

“What choice do we have?” Kreg whispered in return. “Very well,” he answered the witch. “We will do some work around your cottage if you will save us from a bear.”

“A bear?” Koldunya spat. “That’s what you came over here for? To ask me to get rid of a bear?”


“But what did the bear do to you?”

“Well it has killed many of our livestock and then yesterday killed a child.”

“Perhaps the child should not have crossed the bear.”

Kreg swallowed hard. “Well regardless, the bear is creating a lot of fear in the town and we are not sure we can kill it. We thought perhaps you could do so.”

Koldunya considered the quest for a moment. Her eyes were narrow as she stared at the men. “Fine, but you three need to come with me.”

The men wanted to protest, but before they could find the words she cut them off, “It isn’t a request, if you want me to get rid of this bear, you’re going to come with me. How dare three strong men demand a woman kill a bear for them and not be willing to go as well. Perhaps this is waste of my time then.”

“No!” Kreg shouted, “We will come with you. Just let us go get equipment first.”

“No need for that. See that chest over there?” the witch pointed to a well concealed mound at the edge of her yard. “There’s plenty of equipment in there. Go take what you need.”

Alarms were ringing in the hearts of the men, yet the orders from the Koldunya seemed irresistible. Something in the manner in which she spoke made it very difficult to avoid obeying. The witch ducked back into her home in a flash and the men were left looking around for some sense of direction. With the lack of any leadership from among them, they followed the witch’s orders and looked to the strange chest in the brush by her home.

The chest appeared to have been there for some time but was fashioned from hardened wood and reinforced with metal so it was resisting the elements well enough; although it had grown some moss on it and was faded a bit. It opened easily enough and the men began to sort through the contents.

There was a myriad of weapons and armor inside. There were a few swords as well as some battle axes and even a mace hidden inside. The men each selected a sword and even found scabbards to attach the weapons to their waists. They also found two tunics of hardened leather and one chainmail shirt. Kreg pulled on the shirt while the other two protected themselves with the leather tunics. There were also several bucklers in the chest and the men each strapped one to their arms.

Feeling oddly prepared after arming themselves, one of the men still expressed the thought each of them had, “Are we really going to work with this witch to kill the bear?”

Kreg searched for a profound thought but none came to him, “Do you have a better idea?” Both men merely shrugged their shoulders and then gripped their sword, apparently ready for battle.

They waited for the witch, assuming she would be as quick as them. She was not. The men stood outside her cabin for a while. They briefly discussed where all the equipment came from and they each agreed it was no doubt from victims of hers which reminded them that they were not in the least bit safe.

Eventually they could wait no longer. Kreg decided to call out to see what was the matter, “Koldunya? Are you ok? We are all waiting.” There was no response. He called again and again there was not an answer.

As Kreg was about to inquire yet again, the door to the witch’s cabin flew open and she stood before them once more as if a storm was blowing from behind her and the men stepped back although they were not even close to her.

“If you do not like waiting for me then feel free to go attack this bear without me!” she shrieked.

The men shook their heads and they planted their feet as though preparing for an attack. “We were worried is all,” Kreg explained.

“Oh were you? Worried about me or worried about yourselves?” the witch riddled. Kreg stood frozen; desperate to find an answer. “Nevermind,” Koldunya interrupted. “I can tell you know you were wrong to question me. Now you’re the one wasting time so lead on already.”

The men snapped from their stupor and jogged towards the suspected cave of the bear that was tormenting the town. Koldunya was dressed very much the same, in a black, flowing dress that reached to the ground and covered her form. She carried with her a sack; the contents of which was a mystery to the men and had a short blade attached to her hip.

The men lead on the journey and said nothing on the way. Koldunya followed behind the group humming to herself though it was not a tune the men recognized. The song was somehow soothing however and the group found that the nagging fear in them regarding the witch and even the bear subsided. They felt good about the quest before them as they marched towards the liar of a massive bear.

It was only about an hour before they reached the hill side suspected of being the home of their nemesis. Indeed, there were large tracks about that lead to a tight and dark opening in the hill which was no doubt where the animal rested.

It was nearly noon and the bear was likely sleeping, typically preferring the search for food in the morning and evening and avoid the high sun. The men stopped and looked back to Koldunya as she reached them.

“What should we do now?” Kreg asked the witch.

“How should I know? This is your quest after all,” the witch answered sharply.

“I thought you said you were going to help?” one of the men pleaded.

“I am helping aren’t I? Didn’t I come all this way after all?” Koldunya spat. The man recoiled and lowered his head as her dark eyes judged him.

A long silence hung over the group. “Fine, I suppose I have to do everything then,” Koldunya sighed. “One of you needs to go in there while the other two wait outside ready. When you find the bear, wake it, even make it angry, then run from the den out to your friends and then the three of you can take it down.”

There was another pause. Finally Kreg asked, “But what will you do?”

“Me? Obviously I will be out here as well.”

The men nodded as if that were enough to satisfy them though they did note that she did not say anything about what she was going to do to assist them in killing the bear. The witch flipped her hair and cursed how warm it was then wandered off just a little ways and sat on a fallen tree which lie near the entrance to the den. She seemed to be muttering to herself but the men couldn’t make out what she was saying.

Instead of worrying about what the witch was doing, they huddled together to try to sort out how to get the bear out of its den. Koldunya was right, they had to get the beast out of the confined space if they were all going to be able to attack it. Besides, they assumed that since Koldunya wanted them to get the bear out from the den, she had some sort of plan for when it was in the open. They looked back to her but she was paying them no mind in the least and was digging through her bag.

It was decided which man was going to venture into the bear’s lair and the other two readied themselves on either side of the opening to the hillside and prepare to attack the bear. The witched seemed to pay no attention to them at all. She had pulled a mirror from her bag and was looking at her reflection and making strange faces.

The men steadied themselves and blessed the one who was heading into the bear’s den then waited.

It took far longer than they anticipated. The man who ventured into the cave found himself stooping pretty low, much of the way and couldn’t see at all, so was fumbling along blind, feeling the walls and moving at a crawl. He was listening for the beast and was trembling so much his senses were nearly worthless. At last he heard deep snoring and figured he was close.

The brave soul looked back and could see the light coming from above. He shouted then began crawling his way as quickly as possible back to the sun. The shaking man moved swiftly; his heart racing and blood pumping. He reached the entrance and burst forth into the open air covered in dirt and fell to the grass before reaching for his sword. He scrambled to his feet and drew his weapon.

All three men braced themselves, ready to pounce on the bear the moment it sprang forth from the hillside.

Long moments passed and there was no bear and no sounds that the bear was coming.

“Did you see it?” Kreg asked.

“No I didn’t see it, I couldn’t see a bloody thing.”

“Well how do you know it was there?”

“I heard it.”

“You heard it?”

“That’s what I said, I heard it.”

“Then what?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, what did you do when you heard it?”

“Well I shouted.”

“You shouted?”

“Yes, didn’t you hear me?”

“That’s what that was? You shouting ‘hey’ before you crawled up here?”


“And did that wake the bear?”

“How should I know?”

“Because we sent you to wake the bloody bear.”

“Well I couldn’t see it!”

From her perch on the fallen tree, Koldunya laughed high and quick. “You morons. You couldn’t even wake a bear from its nap, how pathetic.”

The man who went in after the beast swung around eyes filled with fire, “What have you done after all? We came to you for help and you haven’t done a thing. Why don’t you go wake the bear if you think you can do better?”

“Oh sweetie,” Koldunya purred, “I’ve already done more than you deserve.”

As the words left her lips, a snarl shook the side of the hill and a gigantic brown bear burst from the hillside flinging dirt in every direction. The creature was by far the largest bear any of the men had ever seen but they did not have time to think about it. The animal rushed directly at the poor soul they sent to wake it. With paws as large as his head, a massive slap from the beast, crashed into the side of his body; breaking his sword arm immediately and cutting through nearly all his ribs. The poor victim flew to the ground unable to make a sound with a lung punctured and his flesh splayed open on one side, he merely gasped for air as his mind tried to come to terms with his fate.

The other two men rushed towards the beast when they realized they were under attack. Koldunya shrieked with joy as she watched with a odd smile on her face.

The bear leaped on the fallen man like a fox on a hare and bit at his face and shoulder. The poor man screamed and tried to protect his face with his buckler-clad arm but was only able to slow the bear’s assault, not stop it. Just as the fatal bite tore the man’s face from his skull, his friends plunged their swords into the bear’s sides.

The huge animal swung to its right, swiping at Kreg but the townsman managed to fall away in time to avoid the sharp claws. The other man pulled his sword and plunged it once more into the beast’s side. The bear roared and it nearly blew the attacker from his feet then spun again and faced him. This time the bear, bleeding from multiple wounds paused and faced its attacker. The simple townsman held his buckler out and his sword back, stuck between his desire to run and his anger at the savage death of his friend.

The bear refused to wait for long, and when his foe didn’t immediately back down and flee, the massive creature lunged at his opponent. A mighty paw swiped at the man who raised his buckler to block the blow, but was still crushed under the weight. His arm broke instantly but the small shield was enough to deflect most of the damage including the claws of the beast but the shield was shattered into splinters.

Kreg leaped onto the bear’s back as the blow landed on his friend’s arm, and he drove his sword into the beast’s thick neck. The animal wailed as it attempted to stand, which threw Kreg onto the ground leaving the sword in his foe. Unarmed, Kreg could only crawl away on his back while he watched the massive bear stand on its hind legs well over twelve feet high and attempt to roar. The sword was stuck in its throat and blood poured from its mouth. After a long moment, the beast crashed to the ground.

“Awww, you killed it,” Koldunya pouted. The two men left alive looked over to her, panting and ears ringing. She was seated like a child might be, swinging her legs.

“No thanks to you,” the wounded man spat, blood trickling from his mouth, arm dangling from his shoulder.

“Me? You would never had succeeded if it were not for me!” Koldunya taunted. She stood on the log then leaped from it, landing softly on the ground. She twirled and then skipped her way to examine the slain man. The living pair dragged themselves over as well, wounded and worn.

“Wow!” exclaimed the witch. “You folks were right. It was pretty big.”

The men looked to one another, then Kreg decided, “I don’t think we should take him back looking like this. We should bury him here. His wife does not need to see him like this.”

“We don’t have to tools,” the other replied.

“We will have to return to town then come back and put him to rest.”

“Wait,” Koldunya interrupted, “Didn’t you agree to do work at my cottage?”

Kreg snorted, “We agreed to do that for your help. You didn’t help.”

“Didn’t help? What on earth do you mean? You would never killed that poor bear without me?”

“Without you?” the wounded man cried. “Without you? What did you do? Nothing! You sat there and watched my friend die! You didn’t do anything!”

Koldunya jumped towards the man and landed at his feet stretching upwards to come within an inch of his face then she screamed, “You would be dead right now if it were not for my help, my leadership, my plan and my spells. You are nothing and I should never had helped you, weakling. You are not worthy of my help but you agreed to work for me so before you go about tending to this mess of a carcass, you better stick to our agreement.”

The force of the screams and the proximity of the witch startled the man. Plus her taunts boiled his blood. He shoved the witch back. She fell to the ground, “Listen to me, witch! You didn’t help us at all. We killed this bear and it killed my friend while you watched so we owe you nothing!” The man spat the blood from his mouth as he turned his back to the witch and stepped towards the massive slain beast.

Koldunya screeched and leaped from the ground and onto the man’s back, burying a dagger into his shoulder. He screamed and threw her from him then turned with his sword drawn, other arm hanging uselessly.

“How dare you! Now you’ll die too and we’ll finally be rid of you witch!” he screamed as he raised his good arm and stepped over the prone woman who simply smiled.

He coughed as foam flooded his mouth. His sight blurred and he stumbled, dropped his sword and clutched his throat. He fell to the ground next to the witch legs kicking and body writhing. It only took a few more seconds before he coughed his last and was still.

Koldunya stood, laughing to herself. She looked over to Kreg, “So then, my roof needs to be repaired; I have some leaks, and I want the garden cleaned up. You can plant some flowers for me. They bloom so brightly when they have human blood to feed them. Ready to get to work?” she smiled with a strangely innocent look.

Kreg’s head spun. He heard her words but they were echoing as if from some plane far from him. He didn’t understand what she was asking him but somehow he knew the answer was yes.

“Yes, Koldunya, I will do as you say.”

“That’s a good boy, as long as you please me, you will be fine. You may even get a reward if you make me really happy, but few have ever been good enough for that. What do you think? Do you think you can make me happy?”

“Yes, Koldunya, I will try.”

“Perfect, let’s go then, I have a lot for you to do,” Koldunya teased. She was already thinking of how far she could push her new pet before it breaks. They should never had bothered her. It’s their own fault, the witch decided.

The Story of the Bad Little Boy

So trying to translate my verbal humor into written. Who should I emulate? Why not the master? Mark Twain!

If you haven’t read this story, it’s absolutely hilarious.

The Story Of The Bad Little Boy 

By Mark Twain, 1875

Once there was a bad little boy whose name was Jim – though, if you will notice, you will find that bad little boys are nearly always called James in your Sunday-school books. It was strange, but still it was true that this one was called Jim.

He didn’t have any sick mother either – a sick mother who was pious and had the consumption, and would be glad to lie down in the grave and be at rest but for the strong love she bore her boy, and the anxiety she felt that the world might be harsh and cold towards him when she was gone. Most bad boys in the Sunday-books are named James, and have sick mothers, who teach them to say, “Now, I lay me down,” etc. and sing them to sleep with sweet, plaintive voices, and then kiss them good-night, and kneel down by the bedside and weep. But it was different with this fellow. He was named Jim, and there wasn’t anything the matter with his mother – no consumption, nor anything of that kind. She was rather stout than otherwise, and she was not pious; moreover, she was not anxious on Jim’s account. She said if he were to break his neck it wouldn’t be much loss. She always spanked Jim to sleep, and she never kissed him good-night; on the contrary, she boxed his ears when she was ready to leave him.

Once this little bad boy stole the key of the pantry, and slipped in there and helped himself to some jam, and filled up the vessel with tar, so that his mother would never know the difference; but all at once a terrible feeling didn’t come over him, and something didn’t seem to whisper to him, “Is it right to disobey my mother? Isn’t it sinful to do this? Where do bad little boys go who gobble up their good kind mother’s jam?” and then he didn’t kneel down all alone and promise never to be wicked any more, and rise up with a light, happy heart, and go and tell his mother all about it, and beg her forgiveness, and be blessed by her with tears of pride and thankfulness in her eyes. No; that is the way with all other bad boys in the books; but it happened otherwise with this Jim, strangely enough. He ate that jam, and said it was bully, in his sinful, vulgar way; and he put in the tar, and said that was bully also, and laughed, and observed “that the old woman would get up and snort” when she found it out; and when she did find it out, he denied knowing anything about it, and she whipped him severely, and he did the crying himself. Everything about this boy was curious – everything turned out differently with him from the way it does to the bad James in the books.

Once he climbed up in Farmer Acorn’s apple-tree to steal apples, and the limb didn’t break, and he didn’t fall and break his arm, and get torn by the farmer’s great dog, and then languish on a sick bed for weeks, and repent and become good. Oh! no; he stole as many apples as he wanted and came down all right; and he was all ready for the dog too, and knocked him endways with a brick when he came to tear him. It was very strange – nothing like it ever happened in those mild little books with marbled backs, and with pictures in them of men with swallow-tailed coats and bell-crowned hats, and pantaloons that are short in the legs, and women with the waists of their dresses under their arms, and no hoops on. Nothing like it in any of the Sunday-school books.

Once he stole the teacher’s pen-knife, and, when he was afraid it would be found out and he would get whipped, he slipped it into George Wilson’s cap – poor Widow Wilson’s son, the moral boy, the good little boy of the village, who always obeyed his mother, and never told an untruth, and was fond of his lessons, and infatuated with Sunday-school. And when the knife dropped from the cap, and poor George hung his head and blushed, as if in conscious guilt, and the grieved teacher charged the theft upon him, and was just in the very act of bringing the switch down upon his trembling shoulders, a white-haired improbable justice of the peace did not suddenly appear in their midst, and strike an attitude and say, “Spare this noble boy – there stands the cowering culprit! I was passing the school-door at recess, and unseen myself, I saw the theft committed!” And then Jim didn’t get whaled, and the venerable justice didn’t read the tearful school a homily and take George by the hand and say such a boy deserved to be exalted, and then tell him to come and make his home with him, and sweep out the office, and make fires, and run errands, and chop wood, and study law, and help his wife to do household labors, and have all the balance of the time to play, and get forty cents a month, and be happy. No; it would have happened that way in the books, but it didn’t happen that way to Jim. No meddling old clam of a justice dropped in to make trouble, and so the model boy George got thrashed, and Jim was glad of it because, you know, Jim hated moral boys. Jim said he was “down on them milk-sops.” Such was the coarse language of this bad, neglected boy.

But the strangest thing that ever happened to Jim was the time he went boating on Sunday, and didn’t get drowned, and that other time that he got caught out in the storm when he was fishing on Sunday, and didn’t get struck by lighting. Why, you might look, and look, all through the Sunday-school books from now till next Christmas, and you would never come across anything like this. Oh no; you would find that all the bad boys who go boating on Sunday invariably get drowned; and all the bad boys who get caught out in storms when they are fishing on Sunday infallibly get struck by lightning. Boats with bad boys in them always upset on Sunday, and it always storms when bad boys go fishing on the Sabbath. How this Jim ever escaped is a mystery to me.

This Jim bore a charmed life – that must have been the way of it. Nothing could hurt him. He even gave the elephant in the menagerie a plug of tobacco, and the elephant didn’t knock the top of his head off with his trunk. He browsed around the cupboard after essence of peppermint, and didn’t make a mistake and drink aqua fortis. He stole his father’s gun and went hunting on the Sabbath, and didn’t shoot three or four of his fingers off. He struck his little sister on the temple with his fist when he was angry, and she didn’t linger in pain through long summer days, and die with sweet words of forgiveness upon her lips that redoubled the anguish of his breaking heart. No; she got over it. He ran off and went to sea at last, and didn’t come back and find himself sad and alone in the world, his loved ones sleeping in the quiet churchyard, and the vine-embowered home of his boyhood tumbled down and gone to decay. Ah! no; he came home as drunk as a piper, and got into the station-house the first thing.

And he grew up and married, and raised a large family, and brained them all with an axe one night, and got wealthy by all manner of cheating and rascality; and now he is the infernalist wickedest scoundrel in his native village, and is universally respected, and belongs to the Legislature.

So you see there never was a bad James in the Sunday-school books that had such a streak of luck as this sinful Jim with the charmed life.

TBT: Meet Daelysti

Buried in the hills there were many things that humans and other civilized beings chose to avoid. Monsters and creatures of savage natures and evil intents ruled the remote areas. One of these were the orcs. Terrible and savage creatures they were violent and cruel. They were born in blood and died in blood. They were only ruled through force and threat of violence. They only respected might and strength. Such was their kind.

Sworn enemies of the elves which were once of the same ancestors. They lived to see elves slaughtered, but lacking the sophistication and intelligence that the other races possessed, they never succeeded in much more than some surprise raids on undefended farming communities or exploration parties. So it was strange that an elf would seek them out, but in fact one did.

Daelysti was not like most elves. She did not belong to any of the several elf communities that dotted the land. She was a recluse. Short and lean, little about her suggested any strength. Darker than most of the elves seen in the world she had a wildness about her with her hair flowing in various directions as if moved by the wind even when there was none. She wore little, only covering the more intimate parts and carried with her a long spear with an obsidian blade on the tip. The shaft of the spear bore many runes and markings undecipherable by any but the most educated scholars of the time. Her body too was marked by a pattern that resembled lightning. By far the most intimidating feature however was her eyes. Nearly all white they looked like blizzards and just as dangerous. She was no ordinary elf, if there was such a thing.

She appeared from nowhere, just seemed to step from the woods and stood before the entrance to an orc camp before any noticed her. A scrawny orc on guard looked up and yelped before charging the frail elf. Without a word she stood still until it looked as though the orc guard would run her through with his serrated blade. In a movement as swift as a breeze she lifted her spear, plunged it through his throat and removed it again.

So fast was her movement that the orc stepped twice more before realizing that he found it difficult to breath and was light headed. He looked down to see his life pooling at his feet before it all went black.

Many orcs were charging now from various tents and huts recognizing their intruder as an elf, and eager to steal her life away in retaliation for generations of ridicule and disdain. Still Daelysti stood as motionless as one of the trees from which she appeared. Finally she spoke some words that the orcs could not understand. They were words powerful enough to command the air and as she whirled her spear above her head it gathered electricity before spewing it toward the elf’s enemies like bolts of lightning.

Charred, singed and burnt the orcs fell back. Some collapsed from their wounds, some were struck dead by her might and others cowered in fear.

“Bring me your chief!” she shrieked in a high voice that sounded like that of a child. “I wish to speak to him.”

“Orcs don’t talk to elf!” one of the larger orcs growled.

Daelysti closed her eyes and focused her thoughts. She murmured more foreign words and when she opened her eyes she pointed her spear at the brave orc. Lightning flew from the tip of her spear and gripped the orc’s heart, crushing it in his chest. He fell to the ground, smoke rising from his body.

The rest of the group ran off to get their chief. Daelysti smiled weakly, “Good little orcs,” she chuckled.

What’s that sound?

Ever wake so slightly in the night? When it is far too dark for you to see? What is it in the dark? While everything else is deadly quiet, except for the scratching in the wall? Or the tapping on the window? What’s that howling in the night? What do you do? Do you try to go back to sleep? Do you attempt to ignore the sound and calm your nerves? But it persists doesn’t it? And you simply can’t ignore it? Doesn’t it seem much louder than it ought to be? What on earth is it?

Is it a simple rodent crawling in the walls? Could it be nothing more than a tiny mouse, searching for a bit of food? That isn’t so scary is it? But how close is that mouse to you? Why is it so loud after all? A very large mouse perhaps? Would that explain the sound in the dark of night? Have you ever heard a mouse make that much noise? I thought the term goes “as quiet as a mouse?” This tiny mouse isn’t very quiet though is it? What if it’s something more?

Maybe it is only a rat then? Aren’t rats larger? Wouldn’t they make more noise than a mouse? But are you afraid of rats? Why? Do they seem more frightening than a mouse? Are they more dangerous perhaps? Will they sneak into your sheets and bite you in your sleep? Will you scream? Will you ever be able to rest after that? Will you always think of the rat in your bed? Could you ever get that feeling out of your head? Maybe it isn’t a rat?

What if it’s a ghost? Is it haunting your house? Is it the ghost of someone murdered? Or could it be the killer himself? Can he still torment the living? What if he can kill from beyond the grave? Was he sent by something more sinister? Is he there to torment your spirit? Perhaps he brought friends? Are they going to feast on your soul? Is there anything you can do to fight them? Are you helplessly alone in bed? Shouldn’t you investigate? Or would you rather be dead? But ghosts don’t exist do they? Isn’t it something else? But if it’s not a mouse or rat or ghost, what is even left?

Could it be a monster? Are monsters even real? Perhaps it lives in your nightmares? Does it stalk you in your dreams? Does have sharp claws and teeth? Does it snarl or snap or howl? Can it devour people whole? Or perhaps tearing you limb from limb is its goal? How many arms does it have? How many eyes? Does it look like a massive spider? Or maybe it is more like a reptile? Is it really scary? Are you frozen with fear? Can anything save you from this monster? How often is it here? Has it followed you from your childhood? Has it been there every year? Is your heart pounding? Are you breathing too fast? Or are you holding your breath? How long can that last?

It’s probably not a monster is it? Or anything to fear? A lot of things scratch in walls don’t they? Couldn’t it be anything? Or nothing at all?

But what if it really is the thing you fear? Will you face your fear once and for all? Or will you let your fear continue? Will you let it have control?

Grigor’s not-so Mirror Images

Far to the north, near the Spine of the World, a party of adventurers trudged through the frozen landscape in search of giants who attacked one of the Ten Towns. The group consisted of a mighty, yet simple, barbarian, a devoted dwarven cleric, a noble human and a very clever and studious mage named Grigor Marsk. Prior to leaving town to track the giants, Grigor spent hours upon hours by daylight and candle light pouring over scrolls and tomes ever searching for new spells and strategies for defeating the beasts who plagued that land. With a twinkle in his eye and a sly smile he anticipated the next encounter with the giants. He sorted out a plan that would make quick work of even those formidable foes.

With huge tracks left by the giants, the trail was not difficult to follow. A trio of the monsters camped against a short cliff and the heroes approached from above. Hearts filled with confidence, they did not hesitate to engage their enemies. Grigor cracked his knuckles arrogantly as he began his work. The mage spoke the words of an ancient spell and energy suddenly surged through their loin clothed barbarian who flexed his swollen muscles and gripped his massive maul before shouting an enraged battle chant and leaping into the giants’ camp. Grigor smiled. So far so good.

With the barbarian swinging his mighty maul in an absolute fury below the ledge, the noble among them took aim with a musket he crafted his self and fired off a shot at one of the giants but the shot sailed helplessly wide of any adversary. The dwarf called upon his god for favor in battle and his spiritual hammer appeared and began to smash the giants along with the barbarian. “Excellent, this is going well,” Grigor mused.

The giants roared, toxic breath from their hateful mouths, picked up their enormous clubs and searched for targets. Two decided to batter the barbarian to death while one elected to climb the cliff and look for the being that fired a shot at them from the mysterious mechanical weapon.

The barbarian took some savage hits but stood tall to the onslaught and howled back at the beasts defiantly. He swung his maul with extra speed and might curtesy of his mage companion. From his vantage, Grigor the mage could see the giant climbing the cliff and would have none of it. Mages do not survive blows from a giant’s club. That is for the duller and sturdier adventurers. Grigor did not fret however, clever as he was, he closed his eyes to concentrate and recited the words of a new spell that would protect him. Moments later mirror images of conjurer appeared around him; four images in total. This was intended to confuse his enemies and protect him from attacks. Grigor smiled.

The noble gun slinger fired at the giant climbing the cliff and missed yet again. Grigor shouted at him to shoot the others but the nobleman would have none of it. Who was a dirty mage peasant to tell a member of the aristocracy what to do after all?

The dwarf battle cleric was not about to allow his friend the barbarian take all the glory so he too leaped off the cliff and into the fray wielding his hammer, swinging it at his hated enemies. Together the pair smashed the giants, cracking bones and bruising bodies.

The giants pounded the enraged barbarian, badly beating his body as he pummeled them in return. The third, however, pulled a large bolder from a massive bag and took aim at the mage, Grigor. The mage just smiled knowing his mirror images would give the giant enough targets to consider that the chance of him choosing the actual Grigor was small. The giant reached back and hurled the boulder directly at the unarmored mage smashing him hard on one side. Dazed and wounded, Grigor shook his head and looked at his mirrors who seemed to look back blankly at their conjurer.

The battle raged on. The rifleman fired at the giant on the cliff hitting him, bullet penetrating the giant’s flesh deeply. Grigor shook his head, dismayed his party was not following his expert strategy. The dwarf prayed to his deity and channeled some healing energy into the savage barbarian who did nothing but smash the giants before him with speed and precision. Grigor shouted words of power and magical energy flew at a giant, pelting him with the magic missiles. Satisfied, the mage remained confident that the battle would be one.

With bellows of hate, the giants would not relent and again their heavy clubs pounded the brave barbarian who dared oppose them. The rock heaver took aim once more at the mage and his mirrors. As the dull monster considered his target he was momentarily confused by the number of identical mages that stood beyond, yet in the next moment it seemed as though four of them pointed to one. Not one for thinking, the giant hurled the bolder once more, at the actual Grigor, knocking the poor mage nearly from his feet and injuring him further.

Head spinning and body aching, Grigor fell to one knee and tried to reason out what was wrong. He looked around him and in fact his mirrors were still there, yet the giant had not been fooled by them in the least. They even seemed to shrug at him as if to suggest they also didn’t know what was wrong.

Below, the barbarian smashed one of the giant’s knees bringing him low while the cleric blasted his war hammer into his face, caving his skull and ending his miserable life. They turned to the other giant next to them and started hammering away at him. The noble marksman took aim and fired again at the foe on top of the plateau, once again hitting the beast, bullet burying deeply into the creature’s chest causing him to wail in agony.

Sensing that his life was nearly over, the badly wounded giant drew another boulder from his satchel and looked to take one of his enemies with him to the grave. The mage watched as once again the monster took aim at him, hoping his mirrors would finally confuse the beast. The giant glared at the group of copies and noted that four appeared to gesture towards one yet again. The giant, strength failing, launched the rock at the mage. Grigor’s eyes grew wide and he froze while he watched the rock hurl towards him. His mirrors watched as well, unconcerned. The mage held his breath and closed his eyes anticipating the end. A deafening crash rang in his ears and he was certain the boulder had smashed him. Another moment passed however and the sounds of battle below continued so he slowly opened his eyes. He was still living. The rock lay next to him and his mirrors smiled at their master and raised their thumbs simultaneously in approval. Grigor was not impressed.

The mage decided he could not remain on top of the cliff and was convinced his mirrors were in league with the giants. He slid down the cliff on his rear end so as to prevent the fall from killing him and remained prone while he cast yet another spell to injure the giant below.

Another blast from the rifle ended the giant on the plateau and with his friends dead and his body badly beaten the final enemy chose to flee from the heroes. He turned tail and ran away only to be chased down by the hasty barbarian and smashed once more with the heavy maul, splitting his spine and bringing him face down into the frozen ground.

Victorious yet bloodied, the heroes celebrated. All except Grigor, who glared at his innocent looking mirrors, wondering why his illusion was so unsuccessful in confusing his foe. There would be many more hours studying his scrolls and tomes to try to understand why his mirrors were so disloyal to their own conjuror. Perhaps some team building was necessary to bring them together?

Sarah’s School

Sarah shifted in her reclined chair, suddenly aware of cramps in her neck, arms, legs, back. Her eyes hurt and it was difficult to see the screen in front of her, gripped in her hands. She tried to look around the room and get a better sense of her surroundings. She could see other people but could not see much beyond the glow of other screens and the reflection in their users’ eyes. She whimpered like a puppy as she wiggled to try to get free, but the chair did not allow for much movement and was designed to keep her, and those like her, seated and in the best position to use her phone.

Before long an attendant strode up to her chair. “Is something the matter Miss?” the attendant asked in a high cheerful voice.

“I just don’t feel right,” Sarah explained.

“Oh I see. Do you need something to eat or drink? Perhaps an energy drink? Some more lava chips perhaps?”

“I don’t know,” Sarah whined. “I just don’t feel right. I feel like something is the matter. I just don’t know what’s wrong.”

“Is there something wrong with your phone? We just upgraded it to the latest model. Isn’t it pleasing to you?”

“No, it isn’t my phone. I don’t know. I’m just not right.”

“Hold tight then dear, I’ll call someone who can help. Please remain seated. School isn’t out for a few more hours yet.”

“Ok, thank you,” Sarah murmured and watched as the attendant walked away from her. Sarah thought for a moment. She looked around but that didn’t seem to help her. She looked down at her phone. There were already dozens of notifications scrolling one after another. She saw a notification that Diego sent her a text. She opened it.
Hey! You there? it read.

Sarah read it a few times. It didn’t quite make sense to her for a moment. It was as though she had fallen asleep and just woke up from a dream. Then she remembered, Diego was her friend.

She texted Diego:
I’m here
What’s going on?

What do you mean?

Where are we?

In school
Where else would we be?

What are we doing here?

Are you ok?
You’re acting weird.
Hey, it’s your turn on Battle Words, I’m still crushing you lol

Sarah stared at her phone. There were constant notifications about messages and games and updates but they seemed suddenly overwhelming. She didn’t quite know what to do with them all. She began breathing rapidly and her heart was racing. She tried to get up but didn’t seem able to sit up in the chair, reclined as it was, and couldn’t seem to move her arms or legs enough to gain any leverage. Worst of all she didn’t seem to be able to put her phone down. She twisted her head left and right and screamed.

Just as she started screaming a technician arrived at her chair. “Miss Sarah, please calm down. Here, take this,” the technician held out a pill and a glass filled with a colored beverage. “It’s sweet, it will help you swallow and this will help you relax. I’m sorry you got so upset. I’m here to help,” he assured her in a soft and soothing voice.

Sarah took the pill slowly and examined it carefully before placing it on her tongue and swallowing. Already she began to breathe a little slower. She closed her eyes and everything was black for a moment before her senses returned and she was confident that she was indeed at school. The technician noted her breathing and knew she would be fine.

“There. Much better now,” he began. “For the report however, I need to ask you a few questions. What is your name?”

“I’m Sarah.”

“That is correct.”

“Do you know where you are Sarah?”

“Yes, I’m at school.”

“That is also correct. Very good. And what were you feeling when you had this short attack moments ago?”

“I’m not sure. I felt very strange. I felt like I wanted to get up. Or that I should be somewhere else. I didn’t really even know where I was for a moment and I didn’t know what I was doing here.”

“That must have been terrifying for you.”

“I was.”

“But you know where you are now? You know what you’re doing here?”

“Yes, I’m at school.”

“Yes of course, we covered that, but what are you doing here? What is your purpose here?”

“I’m here to play and use my phone.”

“That’s right. Very good. Is everything ok with your phone? We recently upgraded you to the newest model after all.”

“Yes. I like it very much.”

“And is there anything you are dissatisfied with? I see here,” the technician was studying from a tablet he held in his hands, “that you have downloaded several apps that you haven’t used yet.”

Sarah looked at her phone. The notifications continued to scroll by. “Oh, I’m sorry. I’ll make sure I use those. I just got confused for some reason and didn’t know where I was or why I was here. I remember now though. I’m at school, and I’m here to use my phone to play games and chat with friends.”

“Very good. All is well. I’m glad you are ok now. Continue to relax and please go back to using your phone. The country needs you at your best you know. A break in usage could mean a break in our economy or heavens forbid, make us vulnerable to attacks from foreign governments.”

“I know. I’m very sorry.”

“No worries, Sarah, everything is back to normal. Enjoy the remainder of class.”

“Thank you, I will.”

Sarah settled back into her chair and gripped her phone with both hands and began to pound the brilliant touch screen with lithe fingers, desperate to catch up with the missed messages and neglected games.