You are invited to read Marcus of Abderus and the Inn at the Edge of the World, a fantasy adventure novel available at Barnes and Noble Online.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

American Terrorist-

Tommy Carlos stood on the darkened rooftop, overlooking the village square. Born Tomas Ignacio Carlos, he had assumed many other names over the years. This, however, was a night for reflection. Tonight he was Tommy Carlos, an American in a foreign land.

He gazed at the darkened village square, with the well in the center. The well tapped the aquifer that supplied nearly two thousand rural Pakistani people with water. This well was the target, and tonight was the culmination of seven months of work. Possibly the culmination of Tommy's whole career, as well. He had lived a lot in his twenty seven years, and knew that he might not have many years more.

The government of the United States had not been hesitant to use Tommy's facility with language. He had grown up in a family that valued both English and Spanish, and he had shown a knack for using those languages. The government had valued his genes, as well. Tommy had an appearance that would let him blend in. He could appear Middle Eastern, Asian, or Hispanic with little more than changes of clothing and hairstyle.

At this point in his life Tommy knew English, Spanish, two dialects that served him in Iraq, and a dialect that had opened doors in Afghanistan. He had been trained by the Army to assist special operations teams in quite a number of places. He had applied those skills for the government of the United States through two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.

When he separated from the Army he had been offered jobs by the CIA, the FBI, several specialized Homeland Security teams, and half a dozen "private contractors." A number of less legitimate offers had come his way, as well. It was an obscure little group with a small presence on the Internet that had captured his attention.

Several shadows separated themselves from the dark walls surrounding the village square. Right on time. They moved into position, and all was quiet for a time. Tommy returned to his musing.

It had taken him months to get to this village. He had to contact drug dealers. He had to contact smugglers. He had to pay off petty warlords and a few politicians. He had learned who grew the opium poppies and who controlled the sales. Months of work had netted a nice little stash of the raw materials for making opium in a small warehouse just a stone's throw from where he stood.

That had all been a cover. Once he had most of his stash established his unnamed contacts had hidden tightly sealed containers in the warehouse. It had amused him that opium, a substance that was usually hidden in something else to be shipped, was itself a hiding place.

Twice since the containers were put in place his warehouse had been inspected by local authorities. They had not looked twice at the poison he was collecting to ship out of the country. They would have been quite troubled at the more immediate death that hid within the bundles.

Men began moving back and forth across the square, from his warehouse to the well and back again. They were silent, and hard to see, but Tommy knew that they were emptying the containers into the waters below. It would not be long, now.

The opium dealing was actually just a cover for this operation. A way to hide in plain site, a way of doing what needed doing for a higher end. His drug dealing connections would probably be hunting him, after this night was over. Quite a number of people would be hunting him.

The men appeared to have finished, blending back into the darkness. The night was very dark in this part of the world. Tommy climbed down from the roof and gathered his pack and other gear. He began the long trek toward the border. Afghanistan was a long walk away, and he was already adopting his next persona.


Arnie Kendricks sat at his computer, probing the Internet. He had really enjoyed his new career, reading and reporting on Internet activities for a branch of Homeland Security. He really didn't know just what branch, or how it fit into the scheme of things. He just liked the job. It was almost like his period of extended unemployment. He had done a lot of the same things, but didn't get payed.

Now, however, he was not so sure about his sweet gig. The website was a terrorist website, that was for sure. However, these were Americans conducting terrorist acts in foreign lands. Oh, and what acts! Twelve hundred Pakistani villagers killed by some kind of poison. The images were horrific. Men, women and children who died a slow and painful death.

Moving past the images was hard, but he had to read further. The group gave their name, and claimed responsibility. They promised more of the same, unless Pakistan delivered the leaders of Al-Qaeda to American authorities and drove Al-Qaeda out of Pakistan and into Afghanistan where American forces could deal with them openly.

Arnie could already visualize the reprisals that would come from this. He checked the links and found several other sites showing the same images and what he assumed was the same text in other languages. Tracking the links he could see that this was going to go viral.

He linked the site to his boss, whoever that really might be, with a quick note indicating that this was important and advising that his report would follow. Arnie wondered just how secure his homeland might prove to be, after this.


Out of the hills of northern Afghanistan a lone figure walked. He looked harried, as if the ghosts of innocents dogged his heals. Another figure arose from concealment and greeted the lone walker. The two turned and walked down a path, far from quiet American streets. They made their way to a cave, and entered without a word.

Inside they joined two dozen expatriates, to plan together and see if small actions by a few dedicated people could change the course of nations.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Knight's Tale-

Sir Claudus of Humbleshire awoke, his head ringing and rather filled with pain. He checked himself, finding he was a bit singed and rather bruised, but generally all there. His sword lay several feet away, broken in two and useless. He could not find his mace.

Looking up he could see the dragon. Long and sleek, with shiny scales glinting like fine silver and gold. The woman Claudus had tried to rescue was held in one great claw. The dragon’s eyes were upon him. Meeting those eyes, Sir Claudus glared his deepest hate. The dragon snorted a bit of smoke, nodded his head in seeming satisfaction, and leaped into the air.

The woman dangling from that great claw did not scream, or call for help. She looked up at her captor with mingled fear and awe. It almost looked like love to Sir Claudus, but that could not be right. The beast had held her captive for years, and over the years her letters begging for rescue had been circulating in the hero trade. “Save me from the dreaded dragon. Princess Mallow.”

“She does this all the time.” said a voice from behind him. Claudus turned, still on the ground, to face the source of the voice. His bruises screamed, but he used his knightly discipline to force his bruised body to respond. It was an old woman, sitting on a rock. He did not let down his guard, such as it was after his bruising, and eyed the strange creature.

“Who are you?” he inquired. His head hurt, and the sound of his own voice was like thunder between his ears.

“Her Fairy God Mother.” replied the old woman.

“If she has a Fairy God Mother, why does she sneak missives out of the dragon’s lair begging rescue from knights?” asked Claudus. “Why haven’t you just whisked her out of there? She has the Heroes Guild in a tizzy, I must say. Longest damsel in distress case on the books.”

“I have, several times.” said the FGM, with a sigh. “She always sabotages rescue attempts. She has issues. You know, psychological problems.”


“Oh, sorry. In the future they have this thing called psychology. I have been studying it in my spare time.”

“In the future?” asked the knight. “What are you talking about?”

The old woman whisked a crystal ball out of her sleeve, holding it up to catch the morning light. “It’s a part time gig.” she said. “County fairs, carnivals, that sort of thing. Being Fairy God Mother to a confused young woman who won’t be rescued leaves me with a lot of time to fill.”

The knight shook his head, and then wished he had not.

The ball vanished up the old woman’s sleeve, and she produced a pouch from her belt. Extracting a few herbs she rolled them together in a leaf she plucked from a bush next to her rock. She handed it to the knight and said, “Chew on this. It will ease the pain in your head and help you with managing those bruises.”

The knight popped the packet into his mouth and chewed slowly. It was bitter, but he felt a bit better right away.

“I don’t even recall the beast striking me.” he lamented. “Did I even get in a decent blow?” He glanced at his broken sword, hoping that it had been damaged in a mighty combat.

“Nope.” said the old woman. “The girl built up the fire you banked last night when you both went to sleep. She made it bright and smokey. The dragon flew in on this beacon, and sat with his captive until you stirred. He tapped you lightly with his tail, and gave you a hint of dragon’s breath. You went out like a light.”

“My sword?”

“You dropped it. The dragon stepped on it.”

The knight sighed, and stood up. He looked back in the direction of the dragon’s lair. The beast was just a dot in the sky, almost out of sight.

“Will she ever be free?” he asked, as he picked up the broken pieces that had been his sword.

“Perhaps, someday.” said the Fairy God Mother. “Or, she might just be absorbed into the dragon itself. Perhaps, should the dragon die, she shall become a dragon herself.”

“Why the rescue notes?” he asked, as he wrapped the broken sword in his cloak. He was going to have to find someone to reforge the broken blade. He glanced around, looking for his missing mace.

“All part of her illness.” said the FGM. She was really enjoying having the opportunity to talk about the things he had learned, peering into the future through her crystal ball. “She and the dragon feed each other’s deepest needs, in some way. I haven’t studied that far, yet. Crystal balls aren’t easy to read. Anyway, part of her thinks she really longs for rescue, but the dominant part wants to continue the relationship with the dragon.”

“Maybe I’ll just become a monk. You know, one of those hermits.” said the knight, giving up on the mace. “Well, I guess I will be off, to look for a hermitage.” He waved and began wandering off through the woods in the direction opposite the dragon’s lair.

The Fairy God Mother took out the crystal ball, and pulled up her schedule. “Ah, a nice little county fair just two days away. I guess I better get ready.”

She glanced longingly in the direction the dragon had taken her young charge. Shaking her head, she turned away and lifted the edge of her cloak. Spinning the dark cloth around herself, she turned ninety degrees from everything and returned to her home in the netherworld.

The missing mace lay deep in the shadows, under a bush not far from where the knight had been. Having little else to do, it rested there quietly, and began to rust.