The Iron Writer
2014 Winter Solstice Open
The Adam Johnson Bracket
A grieving boy
Growing up and growing old
An imprisoning life
An adventuresome journey
Calob sat on the stoop with his head in his hands. The grief of losing his father gripped him to his breaking point. His mother’s arms gently enfold him into her hug. “We will survive this and many other sorrows we will have to face in this life. Together we will endure. One day all will be good.” His mother predicted.
That scene had been repeated throughout Calob’s life, through the passing of his Grandparents, friends and even his wife. Now at 40, he was sitting here again. The years were both good and bad, growing up was difficult. After losing his father at such a young age, he and his mother had been left to struggle in a life that was imprisoned in poverty. They struggled every day to keep mind, body and soul together. Calob fought hard and was able to break the chains of poverty that had gripped him and his Mother during his childhood and early adulthood. He was now a successful business man.
This was the day he had worked hard towards all his life. As he stood up from the stoop he saw his mind’s eye that boy with head in hands. Now, he would be able to leave that grieving behind. He was successful and here to pick up his mother. What a surprise he had for her. The hard work and sacrifice that she had endured to give him all that she could was about to pay off in a greater way than she could ever imagine.
As he entered the apartment that had seen him grow into adulthood, he smiled at his Mother. “Are you ready for the big surprise?” He asked.
She smiled at her son, “Anytime I am with you is all that I ever need in my life” she replied.
“Well, we are going to embark on the greatest adventure this world will ever know. For tomorrow, we will leave here never to return. I am now in a position to give you the greatest life of travel and adventure. We will be seeing all the places we dreamed of in this small apartment. Life is going to be better than we could ever imagine.” beamed Calob.
Leaving the small apartment and everything behind, with the exception of a few small treasures, Calob and his Mother walked out the door and into a new life. The next years were filled with an adventure of seeing all the beautiful places that they had once seen only in the books they had poured over during Calob’s childhood.
Eventually the life of adventure came to an end. Calob site by his Mother’s bedside holding her hand as her advanced years took their toll on her body. She whispered “Thank you” as she closed her eyes in death. Once again he felt the same as he did as a small boy on the stoop grieving for his father. However this time there was no Mother’s arm to gently enfold him in comfort. But as he held her hand he felt his mother’s comforting hug in his heart.
Brett A. Paul
It was the first time I had been to my home town in years. Last time was to lay my mother to rest. The place hadn’t changed a bit, though in some ways it seemed smaller than ever. I walked into the funeral home, this time for my brother. Though we were identical twins, we looked nothing alike, least of all with him in the casket. We were both tall, but he had always hunched, which turned into a stoop. I have dark hair. What little he had left is gray. He spent his days in whatever weather the farm offered, while I was in my city office. Our differences didn’t stop there. Any time I would try to help improve his life, we fought. It didn’t matter if it was helping him meet outside suppliers or trying to get internet out to his farm. He wanted nothing to do with me. If we spoke of religion, we fought. Sports? We fought. Family? We fought.
My nephew sat up front, nearest the open casket. He stared at the only man he had known his entire life, his face streaked with tears. He had grown, both up and out, filling out the borrowed suit he wore. He was just getting to an age where he would have rebelled against his old man, and now he wouldn’t get to. I was in for a rough road, but he was my blood. With luck, he would appreciate a change in scenery. After all, the world is a much bigger place. He was about to discover how much bigger.
I sat next to him. “Hello, William.”
Without looking at me he said, “Uncle.” After a deep, shaky breath, he turned to me. “You here to sell the farm?”
“My daddy always said you weren’t no good at running things. He figured once he got sick that you’d swoop in like a vulture and cash out. I guess he was right about you.”
There was so much of his father in him, it made me wonder about myself. Before I could stop myself, I said, “Tell you what. You show me how to run things and I’ll give it a year.”
“You mean that?”
I looked at my late brother, then at my nephew, my pulse racing. “I believe I do. I’m up for retirement anyway.”
William nodded and stood up. “We better get to it, then. There’s a lot to do before the sun goes down.” When I stood next to him, he offered his hand. “Call me Bill.”
The stone floor was cold against the boy’s knee, pressing against the bone, reminding him of its presence. Lightning flashed through the cathedral’s stained glass windows, followed shortly by thunder’s throaty growl. He let loose a sob, hoping the rumble would drown his cry.
An aged priest, shriveled and grayed, loomed over the boy as the sobs shook him helm to boot. A wrinkled hand rested against the boy’s shoulder.
“Have your cry boy. Your father was a great man. His deeds are legend.”
The boy released a sharp, clipped wail then gathered his resolve. As he choked down the last of his pain he turned his eyes, moist above tear stained cheeks, toward the priest.
“I am ready”, the boy said with all the courage he could muster.
A house steward stepped forward, handing the boy a broadsword. His father’s sword. Candlelight danced from the freshly polished blade as the boy took the hilt in both hands, set the point into the soft mortar between floor stones, then bowed his head.
The priest spoke, his voice quiet but strong.
“Simmon of Atreus, first son of Donnan, on this day, the eighth of Tarasakh, following the untimely yet heroic death of your father as he battled a dragon, you are to inherit the title Cathatch.”
The priest’s voice grew louder until, booming with power, it filled the cathedral.
“Since before words first found paper, the Cathatch have been the King’s warriors. Theirs is a solitary life, imprisoned by the responsibility inherent in great power.”
The priest paused, then glanced at the boy.
“Do you accept your charge?”
Terror seized the boy’s heart. He grabbed ahold of the fear, embraced it, put it back in its place.
The boy focused his gaze on the sigil stamped into his father’s sword.
The priest started to chant. Words from before time, in a tongue understood by few.
The sigil glowed blue.
First was the steel. Cold as a winter storm, it bled from the blade. Ice gripped his bones, traveled from hands to trunk to legs. From the bones it spread to the muscle. As it reached the last of him the steel hardened.
The steward stepped forward, longsword in hand. He struck down against the boy’s shoulder. The clang of steel on steel echoed across the room as the blade bounced away.
The sigil glowed red.
Next was the flame. Hot as the mill’s furnace, it bled from the blade. It crawled across his skin, covering him from head to toe. When it covered the last of him it melted inward. Every fiber of his being glowed with power.
The steward stepped forward, holding a thick candle before him. The boy stretched out his hand. Flame leapt from his fingertips, stopping inches from the steward’s face, leaving the candle alight.
The priest’s voice boomed again, “Simmon, first son of Donnan, you are a boy no longer.”
“Arise anew, with steel in your veins and flame in your heart.”
The man stood. The priest clasped his shoulder.
“Simmon, Cathatch of Atreus. You have a dragon to kill.”
A King’s Greed
Growing up and growing old was a luxury I once believed I would never experience. I was only six when they took my parents away. In the early hours of the morning, before the sun graced the sky, the King’s Guard forced their way into our home and hauled my parents from their bed. I remember trying to run after my mother and father as the Guard loaded them into the back of a cart, but someone held onto me tightly, making it impossible to reach them. Other adults were also being dragged from their houses and the air was filled with the terrified wails and shrieks of children.
All of the children who had been left behind were gathered in the village hall, as the elders tried to figure out what to do with us. I’ll never forget how Gideon, a beast of a boy who normally was a bully, held his head in his hands and sobbed uncontrollably. It was watching this grieving boy that I understood just how bad things were. Later that day grandparents began to take their kin home until there was only a handful of us. We spent the night on makeshift beds in the hall, an elder woman watched over us. I stayed in that hall for three more days, waiting for someone to come and claim me.
It was late afternoon when a man who bore a striking resemblance to my mother came to the hall with one of the elders. They came over to me, and the man held out his hand. I hesitated; even though he looked like my mother I didn’t know him.
“Brayden, this is your uncle Kelsey. He has come for you,” the elder man stated. The expectant looks on both men’s faces indicated that I should be satisfied with the information. I still felt unsure about my uncle but I took hold of his hand and we left the hall. My uncle bundled me in front of him on his horse and we left the place I called home.
Though I didn’t know it at the time, as my uncle and I galloped away from the village, we were at the beginning of an adventurous journey. My uncle had learned that my parents along with at least a 500 others had been charged with treason against the King. Usually such a charge was met with death but King Gifre had ordered the accused to an imprisoning life, working in the newly discovered gold mines. Whispers of Gifre’s greed and gluttony spread, and many believed that the charges of treason were false. My uncle had already joined a group that planned to rebel against the King. The fighting started shortly after my uncle came to claim me and continued until my 15th year. I played my part in the rebellion, starting as a ‘look out’ when I was eight, then aiding in combat when I was 12. We eventually freed those who had been wrongfully imprisoned, my father included. Unfortunately my mother was among those who had perished in the mines. She had died to satisfy a King’s greed.