18 April 2020

My Hero

A stronger wind picked up outside of the tower, and even with the shutters closed, some draught got through to the already chilly chamber. The maiden, stripped naked and chained to an altar of ancient, runed stone, shivered.

"Oh," the warlock said, snapping back to reality. "Sorry about that... Gilda, was it?" He went over to the vaulted windows and drew the heavy curtains closed. "The nights are getting a bit cold, right?"

Gilda watched him with wide, frightened eyes. She had stopped crying and pleading hours ago.

"I'd give you a blanket or a nice cup of hot tisane, but unfortunately, there are traditions to be upheld and expectations to be met. Magic is just so slow and needlessly complicated. I mean, virgin blood, new moon, bones of three sinful priests? It can be a real bother."

She didn't smile back.

"But don't worry, I won't be taking up your time for much longer. We can more or less begin."

He took a pouch from the table overflowing with open books and boxes of ingredients, then went around the altar, leaving behind a circular line of bone ash while whispering in a language that seemed to contain way too few vowels. As he closed the circle, the outside noises were muffled, as if some oppressive silence has crept into the shadows of the room.

Gilda swallowed a silent sob and half-heartedly tried her bonds once more. They held as tight as ever.

The warlock returned to the table and rummaged for a while, until he found a long, wavy dagger and a bowel made from a human skull. He renewed his chanting, slowly picking up both the pace and volume. The flickering of candles made the shadows on the walls dance, and they all added their own silent theme to the chant.

As the warlock stepped over the circle of ash, a distant thunder rolled. Gilda was sweating and breathing hard, nearly drowning on air. The warlock was shouting now, the dagger raised high above his head. Gilda cried out as he looked down at her, his eyes as black and endless as the night, and-

-the door flew off their hinges, crashing on the floor.

"Stop at once, minion of Evil!" exclaimed the newcomer, his voice mighty and pleasant to the ears. Clad in shiny imperial steel, his sword drawn and pointed menacingly at the warlock, he stroke a magnificent pose. He took off his helmet, golden hair spilling out, and revealed his noble, clear-cut face. His brow was furrowed and his sky-blue eyes held a promise of safety and justice.

The warlock put down the bowl with a loud clack. "Do you know how impolite this is? My alarm spells triggered at least ten minutes ago! Were you just waiting in the hallway to-"

"Silence!" The knight advanced towards the altar. "Abolish your fears, my fair dame, for I am here! I am glad I was able to arrive in the nick of time for your rescue from the filthy clutches of this wretch of a man!"

"Milord," Gilda cried out, "beware of his wizardry! He might-"

The knight laughed out loud. "Worry not, my delicate flower. He is toothless and defenceless. His magicks may be dark and terrible, but the rituals take time and he has none left in this world. Tonight, warlock, you shall perish by the blade of-"

With a flick of the warlock's wrist, the knight disappeared. A strong scent of brimstone flooded the room.

"Unless you waltz into a mage's tower, where he had years to prepare, dunderhead," the warlock frowned, then glanced at Gilda. "Pardon my language."

"Anyway, I hope you won't hold this interruption against me. I'm trying to be a professional here, but sometimes the Fates just conspire against you and you have to make do with whatever hand you are dealt, right?"

"Now, if I could have a request," he raised his dagger again, "would you mind screaming for a bit? It'll help rebuild the ambiance."


5 April 2020

It's Not the End of the World (Just Yet)

The Sun was already setting by the time the couple reached the highest peak of the Hammer Island. They looked over the lush forested hills, over their beachside bungalow and the turquoise sea down below, towards the evening horizon. Huxley took out a bottle of champagne and a pair of cups from his backpack, while Lola sat down on the warm rocks, eyes fixated on the sky.

"Here it comes," she whispered, her voice nearly breaking.

A shooting star emerged, careening from east to west, all bright and beautiful. For a few seconds, the whole world was silent.

Huxley sat down next to Lola as she blinked away tears and handed her one of the cups.

"Hey, look at it like that," he said in a strained voice, "we had the best honeymoon we could ever ask for. If we knew sooner, nothing would change except our honeymoon would be, well..."

She was sobbing now, softly.

"And we saw a star falling, so we should make a wish," he tried to smile, then kissed her on the tear-streaked cheek. "I wish to spend the rest of my life with you."

"You're fucking stupid," she started to laugh through the sobs. "I love you so much."

"I love you too."

They clinked their cups and slowly sipped the sparkling wine, watching as the horizon grew bright and ever brighter, even drowning out the Sun.

The shock wave got them a few seconds before the firestorm.