Carl has been back in the groove of podcasting and he recently offered me a spot where I could write a short story and he’d read it. I’m publishing the story here today, but you can listen to it on The Carl King Podcast:

Part I

There was no way his eyes would adjust anymore. After standing in one spot for what seemed to be an eternity, Cantau realized that the darkness in the tunnel was all-consuming. It was surely created by magic, and he was confident that if he cast any spell now, it would dissipate instantly, and he would have wasted what little energy he had left.

He steadied his breathing. Even though he could see nothing, he closed his eyes to gain higher precision with his other senses. “Yes… there we go…” he thought to himself as he focused on the faint echo of slowly dripping water coming from ahead.

He took a step and his battle-beaten body reminded him of the fracture he had in his ankle. And even though he didn’t wince audibly, he was sure his face was showing the pain. Well, if anyone could see his face right now.

As he progressed down the tunnel, he withstood the urge to reach out to his side to feel the walls. He knew that the tunnel was made of damp, sometimes mossy stone by the way it felt under his boots. And by his own sounds lightly bouncing off the walls, he could tell there wasn’t a lot of room to maneuver. Maybe a meter to the left and right. Not ideal for drawing his sword, if it came to that.

“Ah, wait.” He stopped walking and his ears opened up. He was at a junction point. Left, right, and forward. He turned is face side-to-side and then down to the floor.

Cantau quickly realized that he could use this to his advantage and reached to his belt where he retrieved a sinched pouch. Yes, there was the Calzamite. He could feel how lumpy and crumbly it was even though the leather hide.

He stopped and strained his ears again. There were new sounds. Not close, and not loud, but there was something down these corridors. Scurrying sounds maybe? Definitely breathing.

He thrust his hand in the pouch and with his arm outstretched to the right, he pirouetted around while releasing the Calzamite. As it hit the ground, it started to emit a pale, ghostly blue light. And as he came back around to his initial position, he could see that the circle he just deposited perfectly touched each of the four corners of the intersection’s walls.

“Eel support-aunt-hey thigh-rye effort-oozium de zaal.” Quietly left his lips. And immediately the dim dust circle brightened by one hundred-fold, forcing Cantau to throw his forearm over his eyes and drop to one knee.

After a moment, he could feel that the protection spell had fully cast, and he was able to slowly peer out from behind his robed arm. The darkness had lifted, but his eyes took a moment to adjust.

But as soon as his sight returned, he wished it hadn’t. Outside the circle – to the left, right, ahead and back from where he had come, Cantau saw something he hoped to never see again in his life: Pure evil.

Part II

Evil stood all around him. The first thing Cantau noticed was how the boiled flesh was sliding off the infant’s arm onto both the cobble of the tunnel floor as well as the pus-engorged blacked, burnt flesh of a demon’s foot. Re-focusing, he looked up and saw It was Chol, one of the most powerful demons Cantau had ever fought. The putrid skin sloughed off his body regularly resulting a disgusting trail of carnage wherever he went. Body parts, skin and sinew dropped off the half-eaten baby Chol carried around,

A clicking sound caught Cantau’s attention and he tuned to see Tertex, the most successful of all of the Minotaur gladiators. The beast measured almost two and a half meters tall and was hunched over in the tunnel. Tertex held a one-meter wooden club in one hand and in the other, his prized Death Sticks. Even though he had never seen him fight in the stadiums, Cantau knew the power of those Sticks and feared them more than the man-bull.

Yet another corridor revealed a large, gelatinous object had filled the hallway from side-to-side and top-to-bottom. It was there, waiting to dissolve Cantau’s flesh, and probably his bones as well.

And from behind him, from the way in which he had come, Cantau heard a familiar chortle of a laugh. He turned and was surprised to see a familiar face.

“Three moons have past, Cantau. Three!” The anger in Pilmar’s voice grew. “I would have thought you’d have come back for me by now.” He posited while slowly bringing his hand up to touch the protection spell that encased Cantau in the middle of the dungeon intersection. As couple of small sparks jumped from it to Pilmar’s fingertips.

As the air lightly hummed of magic, Cantau spoke softly. “Pilmar… We had all presumed you dead. After that fall from that bridge, we went down into the crevasse, and searched until we were weary.”

“Weary!?” Pilmar burst out. “It took me three days to dig myself out of the rubble! Any magic I could conjure only lasted for a short time. Many bones were broken. I was frequently passing out due to the blood loss and pain not to mention all of my fingernails had ripped off from clawing through the boulders. I DO NOT want to hear about your weariness…” he trailed off as the features of his face twisted into utter rage.

Cantau could feel the danger rise in that instant. The creatures behind him were restless and they began to probe his arcane shield for weakness. Trying to calm Pilmar, he uttered a phrase that comes all too naturally from a cleric’s mouth.

“My friend, please. You must understand…” But he was not allowed to finish. Pilmar’s entire body grew by three or four inches as he leaned forward toward Cantau. And at that time, a red glow emanated from his hands. Pilmar raised one of them and began slowly, arduously forcing his hand into a fist.

The bluish sphere around Cantau jolted for a second and shrunk three inches. The force was so violent that it caused a slight tremor in the ground and Cantau fell to one knee. Small pebbles rained down on top of the shield and rolled down the sides to the ground.

“Friend!?” Pilmar’s voice boomed. “You are no longer a friend of mine. As I struggled to find you…”  Pilmar closed his fist more and the shield crushed down another few inches. “… as I struggled to rejoin my friends, the hate for all of you grew inside of me.” He crushed the bubble down more and the gelatinous being began to creep over the top whilst the demon laughed, punching the shield with the baby. The minotaur pushed his club into the magic as if a spear.

“And you see my NEW friends here.” Pilmar motioned with his free hand. “I need not worry about their loyalty beyond that of a few coin and some simple sorcery to fulfill their contracts.” Pilmar smiled as he closed his fist further. Cantau pushed upward against the ceiling of the bubble. “No!” The cleric uttered as he struggled against the shield. “Yes, my old friend. Yes. This is where you die.” Pilmar beamed as he closed his fist further.

Part III

The collapsing energy shield surged and Cantau could feel the cobblestone under his boots crush to pebbles. The heartbeat in his ears grew louder, and more sweat tumbled down his face.

A whisper and his free hand started to glow blue.

Pilmar’s face switched to worry as he noticed that Cantau had cast another incantation. Pilmar struggled to crush Cantau with his own protection shield.

The monsters all roared as the shield vibrated with their every hit. Cantau was pushed more toward the floor.

He reached down through the stone floor as if nothing was there. He pushed the arm deeper. To his wrist. Then, to his elbow. He stopped and jerked his arm up an inch or two, then with all of his might.

The cracks between the cobble began to glow yellow. At first it was gentle, but it quickly escalated into streaks of light. He tugged at his arm to release his wrist. The ground shook so violently that it threw the blob off the shield and the minotaur to the ground.

An ear-splitting roar thundered through the halls and everything went white.

At first, he saw and heard nothing; just white everywhere. Then appeared a washed-out visage of huge white and yellow arms ripping the demon Chol limb from limb at a supernatural speed. Roars erupted.

The quiet white returned. And another roar.

The white and yellow arms shot beams of white light. Such was the power that they evaporated the gelatinous foe.

Again, quiet. A view of the arms. A roar.

Tertex was crushed into a pulp, his eyes popped out and brains spilled to the floor.

Another moment of peace, quiet, and stark white came and went.

Before Cantau stood a Lesser God of Light. He strained to see the being, but all his eyes could see were blurred features, as if he were not meant to know its form.

Pilmar had been knocked to the ground. Cantau stood just a few feet from him, the same light emanated from his own flesh and from the god’s. With confidence, he dissolved the shield.

“Do not.” Cantau calmly said as Pilmar angrily began casting another spell. He chose not to heed the cleric’s words, and red mist enveloped his hand. In the old tongue, Cantau spoke to the god.

White light blinded them all. The arms of the god ripped into the wizard’s stomach tearing and removing his entrails. Pilmar screamed and colored light erupted from him as the arcane he once controlled, spilled out of him. Ribs cracked and splintered as the deity pulled each one to the side. Some of them separated from his spine with a crack. Pilmar’s body flopped against the wall. The god continued by forcing his fingers up though the soft skin under the human’s jaw.

A twist. Bone snapped and teeth popped out. Pilmar’s tongue wagged to the side.

A gurgle. The wizard’s eyes rolled back as he fell unconscious.

The god then reached through Pilmar’s lifeless body and tore out a length of spine. With that, Cantau knew that the deity’s usefulness had ended. A burst of magic, and it was swept away.

A soft glow of light still hung in the air as Cantau turned to the wizard’s body. He placed a silver medallion on the carcass.

“I am sorry, my friend. I truly am. Bless thee.” Cantau stood and blinked out of existence leaving the dungeon corridors pitch black once again.


Post-Ian, Pre-Dominican Republic

I figured I’d finally post up here to let everyone know we made it through hurricane Ian just fine. Since the storm shifted trajectory at the last minute, we dodged the majority of the winds and water. As a result, there was no damage to the house. The only mishap we had was that several trees in the preserve out back fell over in a domino effect, with the last tree landing in our back yard. Since we have nothing in the backyard, there was no damage to anything. The tree still needs to be removed, but since it originate from off-property, the CDD is expected to remove it. I reached out to them on October 9. I suspect it’ll be a little bit before they can make it around.

A view from the treeline.
The opposite view, from the lanai.
The trees covering the walkway in the preserve.

Carl flew out from L.A. on Oct 3rd to help his mom, who lives down in Venice. She was without power and water (she has well water and no electricity for the pump). He used my place as a sort-of base of operations for a week and went back to California on the 10th after her power and water came back.

This weekend was pretty busy getting small tasks done around the house. I’m back into using a detailed Excel spreadsheet to plan out blocks of my personal time, so several thing were able to get done. I also have gotten tired of way I feel and have decided to go back to Keto to lose weight and combat how terrible I bottom-out when I eat carbs. I’ve been good the last few days, but had some rice tonight with dinner. Back on track tomorrow. I intend on tracking weight up here publicly at some point, but I need more momentum first.

I bought and watched Clerks III today. I think those movies are a great little trilogy, but this third one really had me on an emotional rollercoaster. Hat’s off to Kevin Smith on a fun one!

Lastly, this week and next is shoring up nicely. Becasue of all the hard work during the hurricance, my boss is forcing me (oh shucks!) to take off Thursday and Friday this week. This is even with the knowledge that I’m off all next week as Cari and I and another couple travel to an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. So, after I “clock out” on Wednesday, I’ll have eleven days off. The plan is to really relax in D.R. and reboot myself physically and mentally. I hope this makes up for the debacle that was Christmas time.