Sunday, March 25, 2018

When Imagination Calls (Story Excerpt)

Like all writers, I will go to my grave with more stories unwritten than completed. Ideas come to me daily and I have learned that if not written down they are soon buried under the continual tidal waves of fresh vision.

This afternoon while waking from a late afternoon nap, in my mind's eye I saw an elderly man and his younger companion in a fantasy tavern, sitting at a rough wooden table, their backs to the wall. A woman enters.

So, this evening I sat down with my hand on the keyboard and I told myself the story, allowing it to unfold as I followed the events that transpired on the movie screen of my imagination.

What follows is a very rough draft that I may revisit in some far future and continue the story of Master Ayras and Min if time allows.

NOTE: This excerpt contains a short, but graphic scene of violence. Caveat emptor and read responsibly.

Source of Graphic Unknown. Please Advise.

Untitled Fantasy
by Alan Loewen

I was nursing my watered down beer when Master Ayras nudged my shoulder.

“Observe the woman who just entered and tell me what you can surmise.” I put down my mug on the rough-hewn table top and looked up to see a young woman standing in the doorway of the Three Stones Tavern looking over the crowd as if searching for someone.

A striking beauty, she wore a hempen, knee-length robe over simple tan-colored blouse and pants. Her brown leather boots came to mid-thigh. Around her waist she wore a dark-green sash with a sheathed sword carried on her left hip. I could see from across the room her eyes were a brilliant green and when she pulled the hood of her robe back, her brown hair was pulled back into a tight bun.

The entire tavern went silent at the sight of her and I nervously felt for the dagger I always carry concealed in the sleeve of my robe, more for the feeling of safety than a desire for open conflict. At establishments like the Three Stones, the presence of a woman always brought out the worst from a number of patrons and I had seen men die for less.

Master Ayras shook his head. “Do not make a move. Just observe.”

The woman strode over to the bar where a man, rough and muscular, nursed a huge mug. “You are Orr of Crayburg,” she said, her statement containing no trace of a question.

The man spun about, his hand darting for his own sword, but he stopped when he saw the woman standing before him. His grin split a scarred face, showing off a mouthful of teeth cracked and twisted from conflicts past.

“Aye, my beauty,” he said. “I am.” And he lunged for her, his arms outstretched.

The woman moved at a speed I never knew humanly possible. Stepping backwards out of the man’s grip, the woman’s sword flashed from its scabbard and flew across the man’s face, the point drawn directly across his eyes. Blood and fluid sprayed and the man’s jaw opened in shock before he covered his ruined face with his hands and fell to the tavern floor screaming.

“Compliments of my sister,” the woman said calmly, ignoring other men about her jumping to their feet and drawing daggers and swords.

She assumed a fighting pose. “Do you gentlemen wish to die for this wretch?” she asked. The men looked at each other to see if any other man would attack first, but after a few tense moments, they began to slowly retake their seats.

With blade at ready, the woman backed slowly toward the entrance. When her shoulders touched the woodwork, she used her weight to push the door open and she disappeared into the night.

As the barkeep tried to assist the blinded man on the floor, Master Ayras smiled at me and took a gulp from his own mug. “Tell me what you saw. What do you make of the woman?”

“She’s a very good swordsman?” I said.

Master Ayras clucked his tongue. “Come, Min. Look deeper. Remember.”

I paused as I remembered, searching my mental image of her. “I suspect she is a woodsman,” I said after a moment’s reflection. “She was dressed for travel through the wild. She is no stranger to killing, but her taste for revenge is sophisticated.” I nodded toward the brute groaning under the ministrations of the barkeep. “She could have killed him, but she knows there are states of being far worse than death. Mercy is not one of her virtues.”

Master Aryas smiled at me and patted my hand. “Very good, Min. Yet did you not observe how clean her clothes were? They had no signs of travel on them at all, not a particle of dirt or a stain.”

My jaw dropped in surprise. “I...I did not see that, Master.”

“Never mind, Min. In time you will be able to tell a person’s entire story from their glance alone. Let us leave.”

I followed Master Ayras as he made his way toward the door, I avoiding looking at any of the other men in the bar in fear that one of them would see the secret I kept for my own protection, a secret known only to Master Ayras.

In the streets, the night had settled and I followed my master and mentor who always had an uncanny ability to see in the dark. With my hand on his arm, he led me through alleyways as if on a predetermined course. I had learned never to question him. Master Ayras' sense of direction bordered on the mystical.

Before long, we entered another street where light poured through doors of inns and taverns not yet bolted against the night. “Master!” I said, but he hushed me.

“Yes, we have been following her,” he said softly. “The woman intrigues me.”

He quickened our pace until we were some ten paces behind our quarry. I watched her in fascination as she moved gracefully through the filth of the streets, her hand on the hilt of her sheathed blade.

“My pardon, my lady,” Master Ayras said, and then stepped back as a blade swept across the air just a few hand breaths away from his throat. Immediately, he put up his hands, palm outward to show himself unarmed.

“Again, my pardon,” he said. “I am unarmed. My companion and I only wish to ask a question.”

The woman sneered in contempt. “What business do you have with me?”

Master Ayras nodded and spread his open hands further. “We saw your sword work in the tavern,” he said quietly. “Min and I need to travel to Hisk and a person of your talents would guarantee us safe journey. We need a guard and I say there may be none better in this town.”

Again, she sneered at us. “I have no need…”

“We will pay you 200 satins a day,” Master Ayras said quietly.

The woman paused and motioned with her sword. “And how do I know you are not simply robbers who will kill me in my sleep just so you can take my weapon?”

“Min and I are scholars of the Golden Academy. Surely we are nobody you should fear.”

The woman looked at me and, for a moment, I saw her eyes flash green and change. The transition from green-slitted eyes back to the green eyes of a fellow human occurred so rapidly, I doubted my own senses. She appeared to sniff the air. “The little one is a girl child,” she said.

“Yes, Min travels as a boy. I’m sure you can appreciate the reasons. So you have nought to fear from an old scholar and a young girl who has not yet experienced her first bleeding.”

I blushed at Master Ayras’ comment. At fifteen summers I had still not yet participated in the Passage, but I confess I felt resentment that he mentioned it to a stranger.

The woman paused a moment in thought. “Hisk is only a two day journey,” she said. “For 400 satins I will take you there, but I will have half the money now. Now follow me for there is an inn where honest people can sleep in safety,” she turned her back to us and began walking. “And you are paying for the room,” she said over her shoulder.

“I do not know your name,” Master Ayras said.

Again the woman turned to look at us over her shoulder, her expression a withering glare. “There is no need for you to know,” she said.

Closing notes: When I write, I tell myself the story allowing it to unfold at its pleasure. When I first wrote the opening paragraphs I only knew of Master Ayras, his ward, Min, and the strange swordswoman. I also knew the mysterious woman was entering the bar specifically for an act of vengeance. The rest came as a complete surprise to me and some fellow writers understand the experience when I say that I did not know Min was a young girl until Master Ayras revealed it! 

Where does the story go from here? Well, time will tell. I have far too many projects in the hopper that must be completed, but someday I hope to return to the adventures of Min and her Master and we shall see where imagination leads them.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

First Draft of In Search of the Creators is Finished

The oldest legends say that when the Creators left blue-green Ur to explore the stars, they found themselves alone in a cosmos without boundaries. Grieved at their loneliness, they returned to their world, took their animals, and gifted them with sentience, hands, and a bipedal stance. The Creators then scattered their progeny across numerous stars and today, they patiently wait for their children to return and ease their solitude.

At slightly over 4,700 words, the first draft of In Search of the Creators, a short story written specifically for Fred Patten's upcoming anthology, is finished.

Now comes the hard work: revision and editing.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

I Don't Take Facebook Seriously ...

Does it show?

This did not actually happen. I just have an overactive imagination.

The last entry refers to my three sons. :-)

Joan of Orc!

By the bye, if you want to get involved in the fun, my Facebook account is here.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Book Reviews!

If you follow me, you know I long for book reviews, even if three star, one sentence reviews. The reason is not for stroking my own ego, but that Amazon's algorithms ignore books unless they reach a certain number of reviews.

Anyway, I was asked what type of reviews I would not want to receive.

Well...that's a loaded question for a guy who also writes humor.

"If the man who invented writing knew what Alan Loewen would have produced, he would have broken his own fingers, and we would all still be using hieroglyphics today." ~ Emma Plushbottom (Buford's Armpit, Arkansas)

"I read Alan Loewen's latest collection and I want to know if he'll reimburse me for my sudden onset of bleeding ulcers." ~ Bitsy Squattwist (Gas, Kansas)"

In comparison, Alan Loewen makes James Patterson sound like Charles Dickens." Sandy Rollo-Coaster (Bugtussle, Kentucky)

"My saddest thought is that someday, the shelves of used book stores will be choked with Loewen's works representing all the poor slobs that actually bought his stuff." Ima Looney (Burnt Porcupine, Maine)

"The phone book has a better plot." Ben Dover (Mud Butte, South Dakota)

"Best book I own. I use it to brace the leg of my wobbly dinner table."  Bita Dogg (Chug Water, Wyoming)"

After reading Loewen's latest, I would like to think that in a previous life I did something to deserve this." Jed I. Knight (Ketchuptown, South Carolina)

Trivia note: Except for Buford's Armpit, Arkansas, all the town names are real places. And, believe it or not, a few of the personal names are real as well.

By the bye, I could really use some real, honest-to-goodness book reviews on Amazon. Just don't steal mine. :-P