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Harold the Ardently Knight of Battynannas: Part 1
By: Daniel Machal
Copyright © 2009 by Daniel Machal.
Published in electronic form in 2009 by DannyMachal.com.
“Stop him!” The shouting of the Guard was barely audible over the iron shoes of Harold’s horse clapping on the tile floor. The tassets of his cuirass clinked in rhythm with the oscillation of the white steads trained trot. There was no mistaking the sound of a fully armored knight on your path.
“Call the police, this lunatic is tearing the place apart.” The Manger shouted the command to his subordinate as he went to confront Harold. The Manager was not sure if confronting the Knight was bravery or stupidity, but as a loyal employee to The Chamber Book and News he would be damned if this tin can was going to go unchallenged by anyone. Books were hitting the floor in waves as Harold rode down the aisles, the flanks of his horse knocked down displays with every turn as he navigated through the maze. The broadsword he wielded swiftly cut the air around any customer within range. The Manager headed Harold off at the end of New Age and Religion, half of New Age was already on the floor.
One of the Guards stood in front of him blocking his path. No doubt the Captain of this outfit. He was no match for a knight trained to a mastery skill level in hand to hand combat. However Harold thought it best to hear what the Captain of the Guard had to say, least it help him in his quest.
“Sir, get off the horse please and put down the sword, you are scaring everyone in my store. I have called the police and no one needs to get hurt here. I don’t know what your intention is, but if it is money, than we can accommodate you at the front registers. Whatever you are going through, this is not the way to handle it.” The Manager of the store stood fast in front of Harold, and waited for a reaction.
“Money? I have not come for your useless currency. Tell me where your Master is, and you go home to your wife tonight, your head still affixed to your shoulders.” Harold threw a heavy iron leg over his saddle and dropped to the floor. Towering over the Captain he flipped up the visor of his helmet revealing a rough face with a thick black mustache. Harold’s blue eyes glared into the expanding pupils of the solider before him. With a heavy leather gloved finger he poked the middle of the man’s chest, nearly knocking him off balance. The Guard turned in a panic to run away but the strength and speed of Harold prevented the escape. He was pulled back abruptly by the neck of his tunic. Harold threw him to the ground with such force, that he slid face first into a kiosk of books, and blood began trickle from his nostrils.
“Now, knave, tell me what I need to know or I will bleed you out into the very earth upon which you now sit.” Harold was threatening, and anger swelled in his eyes. He feared the uncharted course his task was taking. His sources mentioned nothing of guards, just that his prize would simply be here, juxtaposed next to another, he was to choose which suited him best. They must not have known the place was already over run. He needed to see the man in charge – surely a leader of distinguished honor would grant him a fair audience.
“Look man, I don’t know what you are talking about. Please don’t kill me. I don’t want to die. I have a wife, and two beautiful daughters. Melinda she is eight, and Dezy she is ten. Please let me go.” The Captain of the Guard began to weep at Harold’s feet. He took pity on the poor soul and spared him. Bright torches of blue and red flickered from the front entrance of the Fort. A mob did approach on him, the Master’s Knights hath no doubt been called to arms. Harold would finally able to prove his worth, in a battle that would echo in every tale of victory ever told. The Captain of the Guard scurried away while Harold was distracted by the assembling army outside.
“Drop your weapon and come out with your hands up.” The source of the voice boomed from the mob, amplified by some manifest of demon magic. He had not expected a Mage encounter, he hadn’t really expected any fight at all for that matter. Harold had no intention of dropping anything but the visor of his helmet, to shield his face. Harold sheathed his broadsword and went back to his horse. The massive claymore would require all his strength to wield, but it enabled him to devastate his enemies. He gripped the leather wrapped handle and pulled it from the sleeve tethered to his horses back. Crouching behind one of the heavy wooden bookshelves he knelt, closed his eyes, and prayed.
“My lord, protect me in this battle, but if I should die, watch over my lady, my king, and my land, with your righteous hand,” his eyes flashed open behind the steel grate of his helmet. He got to his feet, his heart and soul filled with renewed courage and strength. Gentling patting his horse, he removed the reigns.
“Just in case old friend. You make for the homeland if I should fall.” The white stallion scraped the floor with its front hoof and nudged Harold in affection. Harold turned to face the gathering mass. He hoisted the mighty sword in the air as he charged the combatant Mage Knights outside.
“Here he comes. If he gets past that police tape, take him out.” The order was direct and by the book. Harold was a threat to the city and needed to be subdued. It was amazing he hadn’t killed anyone yet, just destroyed a book store. He obviously had to be on drugs, but it was strange that he had the ability to put on a full suit of armor, ride a horse, and actually wield these weapons with considerable skill. Chief James Worth had never seen anything like it in his thirty years on the force.
Harold raised a knee and braced himself as he leaped through the large front window of the store. He hit the pavement with a clink, and an equally audible thud. It sounded like a tank had been dropped from the sky. Bits of the shatter proof glass littered the ground and found there way into the open spaces of Harold’s armor. His thick canvas padding protected his skin from evisceration.
Officer Danison stood at the left side of Harold at the end of a semi circle of Police Officers, that intended to stop him from advancing any further. Danison’s hands trembled and his palms were moist under the weight of his taser. His finger impulsively reacted, pulling the trigger. Two darts shot out and struck Harold behind his unprotected knee, piercing the canvas pants. Danison kept hold on the trigger sending fifty thousand volts of electric current into the suspect.
Harold felt the fangs of a conjured serpent strike the back of his leg. The venom was powerful, and bolts of lighting shot through his body impairing his ability to move. The tight grip upon his Claymore loosened, and he fell to the ground. So much pain, and then nothing. His eyes grew dark as he drifted off to a deep sleep. He made one last silent prayer and heard shouts as loud as whispers.
“Get him cuffed and into the van, he has a lot of explaining to do.”
By: Ashley Redden
Opening the door, the plainclothes officer known only as Simmons invited the gentleman to enter and be seated. The man entered the room and accepting the proffered chair, sat. Two other officers entered the room, one male the other female, both dressed in slacks and shirt much like Simmons. All three of the officers seated themselves across from the gentleman.
“So,” began Simmons, “as you know my name is Simmons. This is officers Gentry and Eddings.”
“Do any of you people have first names,” asked the gentleman casually rolling one of several bejeweled rings on his right hand?
Said Simmons, “for the purposes of this meeting the answer is no. As I was saying, this is Gentry and Eddings. The reason that we asked you back today, uh, Mr. Thomas Johnson,” said Simmons opening and referring to a manila folder she had brought with her into the room. “We would like to go over one more time your part in the incident at the Hanscom Book Club.”
“Why,” answered Thomas Johnson, “I’ve been talking about it till I’m blue in the face. It’s not like anything’s changed. Oh, and call me Tom.”
“We would just like to get a few facts straight before closing the case,” offered Gentry her deep voice not quite matching the image of the female officer’s somewhat petit build. Eddings sat arms crossed eyes fixed on Tom across the table.
“Like what,” asked Tom?
“Like the fact that neither you nor anyone else is going to turn the largest bookstore in the city into a brothel. Not now, not ever,” said Simmons carefully controlling her voice as she unconsciously moved an unruly sprig of blond hair behind her ear. “We’re going to get a few things straight or we, most especially you, will not be moving on. Don’t forget that you waived council in lieu of prosecution for a litany of crimes that at this point I will not repeat.”
“It’s okay,” said Tom, “I like hearing my accomplishments.”
“Don’t push it,” warned Simmons, “And don’t try me. I’ve had quite enough of you already.”
“Just why exactly did you move your, uhm, business into the bookstore in the first place,” asked Gentry?
“After all the hookers started getting tagged,” began Tom.
“You mean killed,” added Simmons.
“Yeah, that’s what I said, tagged. You know, tagged and bagged then shipped to the morgue.”
“So these hookers are getting tagged all over the place, right. So I figure the safest place for my investment to ply the trade as it where is that big bookstore the HBC downtown,” said Tom looking from one officer to the other.
“With all this craziness going on I got to take care of me, you know. It’s bad enough during normal times, but with me being a minority and all that only makes it worse when things are going bad,” said Tom with both hands open as if looking for support.
“Excuse me,” said Gentry somewhat taken aback. “Did you say that you are a minority?”
“But…but you’re a white male.
“Yeah,” responded Tom, “a white male pimp. Just look around out on the street lady, pimpin is a dark man’s trade, at least in this city anyway.”
Gentry sat back from the table and sighed disgustedly.
As something of an afterthought, Tom looked at Eddings and said, “No offense.”
“None taken,” replied Eddings deepening his scowl but never looking away from Tom Johnson. Both of Eddings parents were obviously from African descent.
“So, you moved you’re operation into the bookstore for safety,” asked Simmons?
“That’s right; I figured with all the light and activity the girls would be safe. I also figured that all those nerdy people reading books could probably use a little companionship. Nothing like killing two birds with one stone, eh,” said Tom. “I was thinking that we might open up a whole new market.”
“And then what,” prompted Simmons finding it harder to hide the look of distaste.
“Then that stupid murder showed up and the girls took him down. Seems he does better work in the back alleys than out in the open. They said something looked fishy about him. So the girls decided not to take any chances. They maced and beat him pretty good,” smiled Tom. “That scum had it coming, killing healthy girls like that. I’m just glad they got the right guy. It’s bad for business to go beating up decent customers,” said Tom with a smile. “How many did he kill anyway?”
“At last count, twenty-three.”
“What a waste,” said Thomas Johnson, but the three officers didn’t immediately agree with him. They were each pretty sure that his meaning of the turn of phrase was quite different than theirs.
“Then you moved your, operation out of the library?”
“Yeah, we moved out,” answered Tom. “With a little help of the local police department,” he added with a toothy grin.
“Okay,” said Simmons, “the DA has agreed to not press charges against you or your ladies in thanks for helping with the apprehension of this killer and with the express promise that you will no longer operate in or near any bookstore within the city.”
Tom said, “No problem.”
“Well, we’re done here then,” concluded Simmons. “Mr. Johnson, you’re free to go.” Simmons walked to the door and opening it, stood to one side. Both Gentry and Eddings stood waiting for Thomas Johnson.
“If you don’t mind me asking,” began Gentry, “where will you move your operation? Surely someone else has moved into your old territory by now.”
“Oh, probably, but they can have it. I’m making other plans. I’ve just recently found a backer to begin building bookstores in the suburbs.”
“What,” asked Gentry visibly shocked? Simmons just grunted. Eddings recrossed his arms and continued to stare at Thomas Johnson.
Eddings added,” I suppose that there will be a motel attached?”
Tom smiled his biggest smile yet, “you know it.”
“And,” continued Eddings, “I also suppose the rates will be by the hour?”
Tom blinked as if shocked by such a stupid question, “of course.” He got up to leave, but hesitated then turned back to Eddings and added,” we’re going to call the franchise the reading companion.” Then paused in introspection for another moment and added, “You know, if this thing works out like I hope, I may even break down and learn how to read myself.” And with that he left the room.
“God, I think I may need a drink,” sighed Gentry running both hands through her hair.
“Make mine a double,” agreed Eddings.
Simmons only grunted and with a slight shake of her head, followed the other officers out and closed the door behind her.
The One Book
By Guy David
The store was almost empty. Lines of books where neatly stacked around the walls as if in a hurry to fill up the place, compensating for the emptiness. Behind the desk stood a young woman, reading some book or another. She had short black hair, pale skin and she wore round glasses. She looked as if she haven’t seen daylight in a long time. She looked as if she belonged there, as if she came with this place, was a part of it. I walked passed her. She glanced up at me for a second then went back to her book. I walked passed several shelves of books and entered the second room. It was a small book store, but I knew there was more to it. The man that guided me here said it would be bigger on the inside, and I knew by inside he meant through the secret door. I found the cupboard, just like he said I would. It was full of books and I had to take them off their shelves first, then I could see the little door hidden behind them. I quickly and quietly took out the shelves. It looked almost as if they where barricading the door. I opened it and went inside. I closed the door behind me.
Inside, everything was different. I was in a large chamber full of book shelves and indeed, many books. The books where somehow alive and they where watching me with menacing eyes. I could swear I heard an owl in the distance and a few bats cast shadows on the walls. “It’s not real” I mattered to myself, “they are only books, not the one book”. The shadows stretched and they now resembled tree brunches. In the dark I noticed a pair of bright yellow eyes looking at me. A wolf howled in the distance. I suddenly realized what it was. I was in the chamber of horror fiction. I moved on, looking for the door to the next room. I knew what I was looking for wasn’t there. I found the next door and moved on.
The next room was painted in bright colors and the books where much thinner and bigger there. There was the sound of child laughter and a short giggle, though I couldn’t discern where the sound was coming from. A book rolled off his shelve. It grow wheels and started driving around in circles, honking merrily. Another one slid off the shelve and started spinning around it’s axis, growing into a carousel and playing carnival music. It was clearly the children books chamber. A part of me felt like staying there, becoming a child again and riding the marry go round, but I had to move on. What I was looking for wasn’t there.
As I stepped into the next room I was seized by a sudden vertigo. It looked like I walked right into space. Various books where flouting about seemingly in zero gravity. The Science Fiction chamber. I felt myself lifted off the ground and flouting in the air. Little green aliens where flying around in ridiculous tacky UFOs. I could see a space station up ahead, made entirely out of books. I realized everything in the chambers I was visiting was made of books. This did not surprise me. It was what I expected. This was clearly not the main Science Fiction chamber though, but the second rate one, the one with books by people that considered Ed Wood and obscure comics with half naked nymphs on the cover to be their guide. I found the next door and moved into the next room.
At first, I thought the room was empty and dark, then I noticed the single beam of light, shining on a small chair in the middle of the room. On the chair there was a single book. I knew immediately that was what I came here for. I walked over, took the book, set in the chair and started reading. It was my book, the book of my life. The girl at the counter barely glanced up as she passed the book through the electronic reader. I left the store with the one book. I knew now I could write anything in this book. It had many empty pages.
The Basement Room
By: Norval Joe
At the largest book store in the city there is a basement where nothing is stored. The books go right onto the shelves, if it is stored away, no one can buy it. There is dust on the basement floor, no one goes there to clean, why clean a room that is never used?
There is a trail through the dust where many feet have walked from the bottom of the stairs to a room at the far end; there is a little window in it, that slides open when you knock and wait long enough.
I went there once, that room in the basement. I knocked at the door and waited. Ancient eyes with deep crows feet peered through the and asked the questions that I couldn’t answer. He just closed the little window and I walked away, back along the path through the dust.
Someone called out to me as I reached the stairs. He invited me back to enter the room.
The room was filled with the smell of decay and old men in strange hats. Some wore robes and one man, apparently, wore nothing but long hair and beard. His eyes twinkled.
Cackling, the man at the head of the table stood, thrusting his finger at another, coughing, spittle sprayed from his lips. “Roll the dice,” he shouted, his laughter raising in fervor and pitch. “You’re dead”, he shrieked gleefully, even before the dice tumbled to a stop, “You’re all dead!”
All the men at the table screamed; some jumping to their feet to lean hunchbacked over the table, others too week to stand just swayed and howled from their seats, the intensity of the argument increasing by the moment.
My escort turned to me and winked, “Twenty five years we’ve been in here. Longest game of D&D in history.”
I nodded and left the room as he turned back to the assemblage, “Order some more pizza, and roll new characters, it’s my turn to be Dungeon Master.”
Ice and Death
By Justin Lowmaster
When the weather had turned to ice and death, they found shelter inside the biggest bookstore in the city.
They needed to stay warm. They started a fire inside a fireplace inside of one of the reading rooms.
It hadn’t been easy, burning all those books. Some fought, but in the end the threat of cold won. They did their best to not burn anything that looked too old or important, but in the end, they burned piles of books.
At their rescue, the leader of the rescue squad asked how they survived. When they told him, he looked around, confused.
“I can see using some books for kindling, but, why didn’t you burn the chairs and bookcases before burning more books?”
By Jeff Hite
When I was younger, and was just starting to understand why we went to church on Sundays, I remember hearing the term bible thumper. As I got a bit older I found out that the origin of this term was a less than polite way to describe some of the more evangelical Christian religions. The term was kind of like hitting someone over the head with their religion or in this case their bible. We have all met people like that.
As I grew even older I got the chance to visit Europe. For those of you who have never been there, I suggest you find some way to go, and visit. See some of the castles, hike around some of the small towns, and this one is important, sample the local cuisine. Ask for the specialty, and try it.
Back to my point. While I was there I got to visit a number of places, but one of them was a museum that had one of the original Gutenberg bibles alongside one of the presses that was used to create this masterpiece. For those of you who don’t know, these things were huge. Each Gutenberg was massive, one volume was the size of a small coffee table. They were not, in any sense of the word, portable. The instant that I saw this thing a new image of bible thumper popped into my head and has stayed there ever since.
Up to the moment I saw this, the mid-western preacher in the cheap suit had dominated my view of the term and I now saw something a bit different. The drawn pictures at the museum near the bible and press were of monks in robes working the press to create the bible, placing each block letter, rolling the ink on, placing the pages one at a time and then pressing it down. I now saw one of those monks, with a finished copy of the bible held over his head, hiding behind the monastery door, waiting to thump the next person to walk through. While this person was out cold they would, in true comic fashion, shave their head, put them in a robe and when they woke up convince them they had been a monk all along and that it was their turn to work the press.
This was the image that I held in my head every time I walk through the stacks at a college library and I see the over sized books. I carefully look around the corners to make sure I will not get thumped. That was until a few weeks ago.
I was in the local mega-coffee-book and movie place when I saw him the first time. At first I thought I had imagined him, because you don’t see many Franciscans walking around in public in their robes these days. But a few minutes later I saw him again. He was in the personal growth section. This particular mega store didn’t have a religion section so all the bibles and other books of that nature had been put into the personal growth section.
Being a curious person and a Catholic to boot I thought I would go over and say hi to him. As I walked over I noticed that he had a rather large hard bound copy of the King James Bible in his hands. This was rather odd since that is not the one most Catholics use.
“Good afternoon Father.” I have learned that it is always better to refer to them as father, they will correct you if they are a brother.
Rather startled he turned around a looked at me quizzically. “Good afternoon.” he said finally.
“I saw you walking around in here and I just thought I would come over and say hi. It is not every day you see a Franciscan in his robes.”
“Quite right, most of us have shed our robes, but I still like to wear them.”
“Ah I see. I noticed you had a copy of the King James bible, doing some research about the other side of the fence?” He looked down at the volume in his hands as if seeing it for the first time.
“Ah well yes, but mostly I like the feel of it. The bible should have some heft to it, pretty weighty words in there don’t you think?” I nodded my agreement, and since he seemed to be rather distracted excused myself and headed back to the coffee bar.
That was when it happened. A solid knock to the back of my head that was not quite enough to knock me senseless, but was enough to drive me to my knees. That is I think what saved me because a second blow glanced off my back as I rolled to the floor. I looked up to see the Priest standing over me with the book held over his head. He had a sad expression on his face. I quickly got to my feet and scrambled a few feet away.
“I am sorry my son.”
“You hit me.”
“Yes, I am afraid it was not as effective as I would have hoped.”
“You see they would not let me bring my book in so I had to substitute and it does not have the weight necessary.”
“What?” I repeated in total disbelief.
“No one visits the monasteries any more, so getting new recruits is very hard. So I have had to relocate my efforts to the bookstores. It is not the ideal way you understand and I am very torn by my vocation, but this had worked in the past.”
“Knocking people over the head?”
“Yes, but we used larger copies that were more effective.”
“And then what?” This was too surreal
“Then we take them back to the monastery.”
“Let me guess, you shave their head and tell them they have been there a long time.”
“We don’t shave out heads any more,” he said pointing to his own crop of thinning but not shaved hair. “But, mostly yes.” I carefully took the King James bible from him and then we walked out together, me making sure to keep him in plain sight, and talked about other possible recruitment methods.