Myth Taken (formerly Monkey Wrench)

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I could start this story anywhere, but things only got really weird when the knife sank into my shadow and I found that I was pinned to the spot. It was at that point that I really knew that I was more screwed than I had ever been.


But that's too far forward. Consider that bit a promise that things get weird in a little while, okay? I had been having fun but nothing really exceptional was happening. I had a free weekend. I was twenty-three and single, and my friends weren't, so it was a perfect recipe for me doing something stupid. Since I prefer not to endanger myself or others – normally, at least – and I live in a small town in the American Midwest, that meant a little jaunt into my old hobby.


I like to explore. As a kid I'd gone spelunking a few times and found it neat, but not quite to my taste. I prefer abandoned structures; old farmhouses, boarded-up factories, anything I can get into unnoticed without damaging anything. I get in, I sketch things – with a few embellishments, sometimes – I explore, and I leave. If I don't intend to go back, I'll find an out-of-the-way corner and leave a little souvenir – a coin from my Grandfather's collection. He was amused by the idea of making the collection hard to reassemble, and left it to me as a private joke between us.


I know there's a larger internet community about that, somewhere, but I've never really looked into it. I'm not into it for glory, I just enjoy making stories about the places I'm intruding on. I suspect I'd have a lot more choice of target if I lived in Europe. Nothing here that I'd sneak into is really that old.


Most buildings like this one will get a local reputation. You know, the neighborhood haunted shack. Not this time. It was exactly as I'd heard from Todd – a building out in the forest. Old timbers. Sturdy-looking door. Now, there are no old-growth forests in my home state – everything got clear cut before environmental concerns were a thing – so I know that this house (well, I assumed it was a house) once sat in a clearing. It had to – one of my criteria for figuring out something was really old (by local standards) is if the timbers used to build it are too large to bring through the woods surrounding it.


Definitely the case here. This building was in a ravine, a three-mile hike from the nearest road according to satellite maps. Since Todd told me about the house's existence I'd poked about to find an owner (so at least my apologies could be personalized if I got caught sneaking about) and had found nothing. It wasn't public land – as far as I could tell the paperwork for it had been forgotten, and it didn't officially exist.


I was ready to about-face immediately if I came across any kind of squatter or survivalist; my suspicion was someone with connections in local government had built themselves a secret getaway cabin in the woods. Then everyone who knew what was going on had died or forgotten about it and it wound up a ripe-to-be-explored ruin.


I'm not really good with architecture. It looked like some kind of extra-large log cabin, with a shingled wooden roof. No windows that I could see. The shingles made me suspect it couldn't have been neglected for that long, but there were no trails. In fact, there was quite a thicket outside. A place this far out wouldn't be plumbed; anyone inside would have to leave to use an outhouse or privy or something. No, it was clearly abandoned.


I had to squeeze through the thicket, taking rather a lot longer to clear than I'd like. That's one of the reasons I like to limit my explorations to man-made structures; they are by definition made for humans to pass through. The door was actual a set of iron-bound double doors straight out of a video game.


The lock was easy. Well-maintained, which was unusual to me. I eased the door open – I kinda like squeaky hinges – and for a moment I saw the dark-but-mundane interior that I had expected.


Then everything lurched. I was no longer standing at the threshold of an old house in Wisconsin. Something hit me in the back – my backpack took the hit but I was still flung prone in a brightly-lit room. I skidded – briefly and painfully – across a hardwood floor, like polished mahogany floorboards. I heard the door shut behind me as a huge-but-unseen bell rang.


This had not been in the cards for today. I regained my feet, slowly turning around to take in my surroundings, still not quite understanding what I was seeing yet. The room I was in now was bigger than the entire building that I had been about to enter. There was a grand staircase ahead of me, like a palace staircase or one of those wannabe-palace Southern mansions. Trophies hung from the walls, and for a moment my eyes just skipped over them – I have relatives who are very into hunting but it could never really hold my interest. I did a proper double-take a moment later. Deer don't have spiral horns; also, they have two of them.


That was when I saw the knife drop at me from the upper level, hitting the ground in front of me, point-down. I reacted with remarkable aplomb, screaming only once and avoiding soiling myself, but my belated attempt to dodge drew me up short. As I said earlier, the knife had struck my shadow, buried itself in it, in fact, and when I jumped away, I felt a fierce tug back towards the knife. My shadow was unnaturally stretched out, as if pinned in place.


Not yet having thought enough to realize how much I should be panicking, I looked up to see if another knife was coming. The man looking down from above was short and heavily muscled. He was naked (at least his shoulders were – he was on the upper level) but that didn't disturb me as much as the fact that he was apparently made of stone. Granite, I think.


He nodded, then spoke. “You will wait there for the master. Then you will serve.”



BREAK: Out of character time.  


Thanks for reading, and I hope you liked it.  I've been in a long writing slump and am trying to get back to my roots.  My first short stories were serial posts written on a message board; those were so easy to write compared to what came later.  


I'll try to spend an hour a night on this, if I can.  Don't be afraid to critique me on anything I'm messing up, continuity errors, spelling mistakes, or general critiques of tone, relevance or the like.  Updates will be put at the last post in the thread, but if discussion overwhelms I'll start attaching the latest version to the first post (if I can).

Edited by Talanic

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Huh, what's the name of the main Character?


And what's a Legal dead zone?


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The main character will have a name, gender, etc. revealed in the next update.


And the sentence about the 'legal dead zone' has been changed to : It wasn't public land – as far as I could tell the paperwork for it had been forgotten, and it didn't officially exist.


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I'll admit it. I very nearly shut down entirely, then and there. I stammered a bit before rebounding. “No. Wait. What master? Where am I?” I asked.


The stone man had disappeared over the railing, but his voice carried back to me. “The master is Shamasun, son of Enkidu. Do not pretend that you do not know; his home is never found by accident. You came here like all those before you, to take vengeance upon him. Instead you will add your power to his.”


He came down the stairs, carrying something. I edged as far away from him as I could – my pinned shadow limited that to about six feet – as the object proved to be a folding chair, which he set up next to me. The granite man was wearing pants – black jeans with a thick belt and wide pockets – and a pair of sneakers which looked to have seriously compressed soles.


“Feel free to sit,” he said. “You may be my prisoner but that doesn't mean we can't be civilized. Would you like some refreshment?”


For three whole seconds, we just stood, facing each other as I processed what was going on as capably as I could. Finally I raised my hand and beckoned him closer.


“Is it okay if I touch you?” I asked as he approached.


He shrugged. “It's fine. You can't hurt me.” This close, I could see the flecks in the stone that comprised him and the pattern that it imparted to his movements. He didn't look like a machine or a doll, but like a man with an inorganic exterior – along with what little I could see of his interior, including his teeth and eyes.


I reached out a finger and poked him in the belly. He was cold, polished stone that was somehow moving. I couldn't help it. I chuckled. The granite man cocked his head to one side with a quizzical look on his face, but it only set me off more. Soon I was laughing out loud, unable to stop.


“Nobody's ever reacted quite like that before,” he said. “What's so funny?”


“You – ” I had to gasp before forcing it out. “You have chiseled abs.”


He smiled and laughed once. Cold stone, perhaps, but there was a genuine warmth to the smile. “It's not that funny, really,” he said.


“No.” I was still fighting giggles, but I managed to explain. “It's not that funny. But this is too weird. There's unicorns mounted on the wall, I've no idea where I am, you're a golem or something...I'm so far out of my depth that I can either laugh or cry.”


“I'm not a golem,” he said. “Golems are Jewish, and a good bit younger than I am. I mean, they can be fine constructs, I'm just not one of them.”


“What are you, then?”


“I'm Greek. You could say I follow an old pantheon, in a rather literal sense. Shamasun carved me from Cronus' beating heart.” He paused, as if expecting a reaction.


“I didn't know titans were made of stone.”


“Not all of them were. He was. But now you know what I am. What are you?”


I took a moment to choose my words carefully. “So far as I know, I'm not anything mystical. I'm human.”


“Can't be. A human wouldn't have been able to cross the threshold. To anyone without a trace of magic, the door would have led to what's really on the other side, instead of to here.” He ran a hand across the smooth, polished surface of his head. “You can't be human. A god, a demon, a fairy, or some other form of monster, perhaps, but not human. Or not fully, at least.”


“If I am, it's news to me.” Rather inconvenient news at the moment. “Can you tell?”


“Not really. I'm made of too much magic to get a good view of it, myself – and it's all used to keep me alive and functioning. It's like asking a fish to tell you if something's wet. I could make a few guesses, though.”


“Guess away.”


“Between looks and accent I'd guess you to be American of mixed European ancestry. So we'll start with some obvious ones.” He ticked off his fingers. “Faerie blooded. That's actually easy to test, but exceptionally unpleasant for you – iron poisoning tends to be rough. It's the most common among people who don't know it, but you look more Scandinavian, so I'd guess troll, svartalf, or maybe even Vanir. I'd expect us to have found any existing Vanir bloodlines, though. Those are just guesses, though; you could be anything from Aesir to Wendigo as far as I can tell. But...” He squinted. “I think I can see just the tiniest aura. Looks lucky. Maybe leprechaun?”


He paced around behind me, then stopped. “Crud. Would you mind handing me that backpack?”


My faint escape plan was in that backpack, but I didn't think it would do me much good. I slipped it off my shoulders and offered it. He carried it away, set it down, then paced back and forth between me and the pack several times.


“Well,” he said, “The good news is, I don't think you're an invader anymore. Whatever magic was with you is in that bag. I can't be sure you're entirely human but you're no demigod, and it'd take something of that caliber to threaten us. So the situation's changed. You're human, not here to hurt me or the master. You're not an enemy – you're a guest, and I have been remiss in my application of xenia.” He gave me a sheepish smile and extended his hand. “My name is Hewn.”


I took the hand and shook it. “I'm Sam.”


“Sam. You are welcome in this house, traveler. I must apologize - I'm afraid nailing your soul to the floor wasn't the proper duty of a host. And worse, neither you nor I can actually get you loose – because the knife pinned you inside a home, only the master of the house can pull it out.”




Turns out an hour a day doesn't always provide me with anything worth posting.  Going to keep it up, try for at least one update per week.  Hopefully this is entertaining - it's going in an entirely different direction than originally planned.  Funny how that happens sometimes.

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I am entertained. I like the it so far. It feels like something from a Kevin Hearne Novel. Keep writing!


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“I wish I could tell you when he was coming back,” Hewn said as he set up a small table next to the chair. “I left him a voice mail. He's in the sewers of New York – had a hydra cornered, was working on killing it. You know how it is.”


“Not really.”


He smiled. “Sorry. I haven't really had a mortal here since...Bartholomew? Think that was his name. Nice fellow. His golem talked me into letting him cut through on his way out of central Europe.”


“Let me guess. 1930's?”


“No, no. Some time back in the 1600's. A good time to be in here. Not so good to be most anywhere else, really.”


“Huh.” I mentally fumbled through a list of questions before settling on one. “So what is your master, anyway?”


“Well. For one, I don't usually call him master unless I'm being formal. Or intimidating. But he's a hero of the ancient ways.” He bustled about as he spoke, climbing the stairs and rummaging about where I couldn't see.


“Which means?”


“A lot of things.” He returned with, of all things, a big yellow phone book. “Slayer of monsters. Defender of civilization. An explorer whose trips don't always stay on the same planet, whether he realized it at the time or not.”


“Okay.” I mulled it over for a second before continuing. “But how is he still alive after – what, five thousand years?”


“Thereabouts. But I just told you. That kind of hero just doesn't die.” He paged through the phone book, then grimaced. He pulled a wallet from his back pocket and consulted its contents, frowning. He sighed. “I'm afraid that we have a little situation.”


“What's that?”


“By laws more ancient than I am, as your host, I am bound to offer you food, drink, and a bath, if you need it. That last one, I'm offering but I'm pretty sure we'll skip, considering the circumstances. Water, I can provide no problem – purest water you've ever had, scraped as frost from the waters of Sylgr. Purer than any water that's flowed upon the Earth. It's food that's the problem. See, I don't eat.”


“Can't, or don't?”


“Don't. I like to, but I don't need to. So Shamasun and I don't keep a stocked kitchen.” He disappeared up the stairs, presumably putting away the phone book, then returned with a far sturdier-looking chair for himself. “He usually brings back enough for himself when he's staying in-house for a few days, but sometimes he's gone for months. We can't keep the place stocked – and while I'd order some food, I'm afraid I'm broke.”


I glanced around the hall around me. It was larger than my entire apartment. “Broke?”


“Yup. I know, I know, size of the house is impressive, but it's at a Threshold. Between worlds, space and time are looser concepts, and the better-off heroes would rather live somewhere where they can get electricity and internet, and don't have to worry about things trying to break through.”


“Things? What kind of things?” That had grabbed my attention, but Hewn was still caught up in the food situation.


“Life's getting more expensive these days, and the boss and I made some bad investments. Great Depression, Betamax, stuff like that. I'm afraid I'm failing in my duties as a host.”


“I have some food to share. Would that help?”


He nodded slowly. “It'll have to do. I'm very sorry. The etiquette of xenia was drilled into me since before I really had the hang of talking.”


I retrieved and unzipped my backpack. Inside I had a water bottle, a sealed bottle of soda, half a dozen granola bars and a sandwich. I hesitated for a moment, then offered Hewn a granola bar. “I don't know xenia, but if you want, you can have one.”


He hesitated, but I pressed it at him. “I'll get sick of these before we run out of them.”


Hewn smiled and took it, but set it down on the table. “May I see that backpack? Now that xenia has been addressed, it's proper for me to see about what got you sucked in here.”


I handed it over, then conspicuously took a bite from the sandwich. Hewn looked satisfied, then started to rifle through the pockets. He stopped on the outermost pocket, then pulled forth a coin.


“This'd be it,” he said. “Lucky coin.” He held it forth for me to see. It was one of Grampa's coins. It looked like nothing more than an old half-dollar coin from 1937, with Lady Liberty on it. He regarded it as if it were some kind of beetle. “Look closely at it where I'm touching it. Actually, this will help.” He retrieved my flashlight and illuminated the coin from behind as he circled it with his fingers.


I squinted. Light was coming through between his fingers and the coin. My eyes were telling me that he was both touching and not touching the coin at the same time.


“It's not what you see,” he explained. “It's faerie make. Glamered to look like something unremarkable from your world. If we just sprinkle it with some salt...gimme a moment.”


He rushed off and returned with a pinch between his fingers. On contact, the coin vanished, replaced immediately by what looked like a clay disc that was slightly larger than the half-dollar had been.


“That's what it really is.”


I took the disc and studied it, enraptured. Something of my own had been made by creatures of myth. The side facing me bore an intricate design of an immense palace. Despite having nothing to compare it with I had a sense that it was far larger, far grander than any building on Earth. The other side held the face of a sleeping man – but not a man, no, just subtly different. An elf.


I flipped the coin back to the palace and showed it to Hewn. “What is this place?”


“Don't really know firsthand. It's a palace of Faerie, which means it's not meant for people like you or me to visit and come back from. Not sane, at least. Faerie's not a nice place.”


“I know. I've read Terry Pratchett.”




I gave him a flat look. “You like to read?”




“Then when I'm able to move about again, I'm going to bring you my collection and you'll be going on a magical journey the likes of which you've never seen before.” He laughed out loud as I turned the coin back over. “And who's this? Oh!” The sleeping elf's eyes were open and he was looking out from the clay with a sharp, hungry smile. “It moves!”


Suddenly Hewn was moving with a speed I'd never expect as he grabbed the coin and flung himself – and it – away from me.








I haven't actually read Kevin Hearne.  Will put him on my to-check-out list.


Also, this story has gone in an entirely different direction from where I'd expected, and the title is no longer right. 


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It's still a good story. keep writing. Is the master a Hero that's know of? Like Jason or Hercules? Or a Hero of your own Invention?


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"Crud" sort of seems a little informal for the voice that I was giving to Hewn. 

I'm liking it though... I hope to see more in the future!


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He moved with speed but not particular grace, instead flopping on the coin with enough force to shake the chair I was still sitting in.


“YOU DARE!” He roared, but not at me. “This place is forbidden to your kind!” There was something under him now; silver-clad arms and legs flailing.


Suddenly the fight turned. Hewn's opponent managed to get both legs together and kick the stone man off him – towards me, essentially annihilating the table and sending my backpack flying as I retreated behind the chair. Hewn regained his feet quickly, but his opponent was already up.


It...was beautiful. Not in a sexual manner – although I could tell that that could spring to life in an instant if the creature wanted. No, it provoked a fascination, like a fireworks display or a grand wonder of the world. It reminded me of an erupting volcano: something singular, beautiful, powerful, and attractive, but best seen at as great a distance as possible.


Hewn faced towards the invader and edged towards the stairs. The elf smiled and pulled forth a long bronze blade. It was dressed all in what looked like silver mail. Made sense – I remembered something about them hating iron. I wasn't sure what the blade was supposed to do against Hewn, but the stone man looked cautious, so I wasn't going to make assumptions.


I wasn't going to do much at all, in fact. I was still pinned to the floor. My best course of action right then was to stay out of this entirely. But that option was taken from me as the elf smiled at Hewn and leveled the blade at me.


“Can't be leaving your guest, can you?” The elf's voice was sweet, like honey oozing down silk that was wrapped around a knife's blade. “That would be ever so rude, to let someone in your protection die so very painfully.”


I cowered behind the chair, but the elf advanced, dipping the tip of the blade towards the floor. I didn't know what it was doing until it hit the hilt of the knife and shifted it. The pain was immediate, deeper than a broken bone. I couldn't help myself; I cried out.


“damnation you,” Hewn hissed, but the blade was already pointed towards him. The pain had ended the moment it left the knife.


The elf had made its intentions clear, essentially breaking through my panic. I was still afraid, but the fear spurred me to do something, anything, no matter how stupid. So I took the chair – my one piece of cover, behind which I had been cowering – and hurled it at the elf, while yelling, “Run, Hewn!”


The elf didn't even bother to dodge the chair, swatting it out of the way one-handed with enough force that the wood splintered on impact with the wall and one of the stuffed unicorn heads dropped to the ground. Hewn charged at the same time, but he wasn't fast enough, taking a thin gash across his left arm, leaving behind chunks of granite. The elf kicked him back and for a moment he had a hold on its leg, but it managed to push its way free, leaving behind a handful of silver mail.


The elf flashed me a heart-melting smile. “His name is Hewn? Thank you. I needed to know that.”


Hewn didn't let up, dropping the handful of mail and closing with his foe. For a long moment they stood equal, Hewn blocking the blade with his hands and forearms, losing chips of his skin but going no deeper. Suddenly there must have been an opening, because the elf ran him completely through with the bronze sword. The granite man simply smiled, grabbed the elf's wrist, and twisted upward, leaving the weapon impaled in his stony flesh.


But the elf was not merely smiling back – it was grinning broadly as its other hand came up with what looked like a shard of solid chrome, which it stabbed into Hewn right above the breastbone. Its sword had had little effect, but the bite from the shard caused him to recoil and roar in pain, then topple backwards with a push from his opponent.


The elf bent in and gloated. “I understand completely what it's like to have one thing in all of creation that happens to be your weakness. We'll explore that more thoroughly later.” It kicked Hewn in the side, launching him up against the wall, where he writhed in agony, the shard – which looked like it was melting – and the sword – which had turned from bronze to brown – still embedded in his chest.


The elf shook itself and stalked over, looking me up and down. I still could barely look away from it, and the closer it came the more overpowering its presence was. It leaned in and sniffed once, eyes half-open, then kissed its gloved pointer finger and pressed the tip of its finger against my forehead. “Later,” it breathed. Then it ran into the mansion, straight up the stairs, leaving me with the stricken Hewn.



The Master, Shamasun, is very loosely derived from the Epic of Gilgamesh.  There are other Heroes of the Old Ways (some of which you may have heard of), but whether or not I continue this long enough to meet them or not...well, that's becoming more likely the more fun I have.
There may be another update today.  Wife is home sick, so we'll see how it goes.  The funny thing is, mythology, faerie and other similar legends are more her forte than mine; this is more the genre she writes than my typical fare, which trends far more towards sci fi.

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I've been looking through Greek Mythology, and I can't find any Stone Men. Where did you learn about this stuff?


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There were animated statues in ancient Greek myth, namely Galatea and Talos (the latter being bronze), but Hewn's my own creation.  I'm likely to stick to established mythology with a bit of bending if it's from real tradition, and make up sensible rules for things that I've made - or at least sensible by mythological logic, a la the shard that disabled Hewn.


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“Hewn!” I tried to reach him, but I couldn't. Straining against the knife went beyond simple pain and into the knowledge that I would damage something fundamental if I tried any harder. “Hewn! Talk to me!”


He spasmed, then jerked upright for a moment before curling into the fetal position. He looked at me again but his face was barely recognizable. It looked rougher, with less defined detail in his features, but there was still some intelligence in his eyes.


I took a different tack. “Hewn! My backpack! It's right there; throw it to me!”


He looked at me for a moment before he seemed to comprehend. He dragged himself to the bag. It didn't look like his legs worked anymore, and his fingers were fusing together, but he managed to hook his hand inside the pack's straps and slide it feebly towards me.


It was enough. I tore into the main compartment and ripped free my emergency tools. Backup cell phone, extra flashlight, screwdriver, hammer and mini crowbar.


“Noodly lord, Jesus, Buddha, and whoever else might be listening? This had better work.” I seated the crowbar's prying end against the floorboard that I was pinned to and slammed on the other end with the hammer. I felt a twinge but nothing like what had happened before, so I hit again, then pushed hard on the upper end of the crowbar.


The board shifted as I pulled it up. It wasn't easy, but I kept at it, working frantically, shifting to the other end of the board and finally ripping it loose from the ground. I was scared to pick it up, but when I did, nothing happened, so I rushed to Hewn.


He looked like a rough stone mannequin; while his head was still lolling to one side, there was no detail to his eyes and his mouth no longer looked like it could open. I wasted no time and grabbed the shard, cutting my hand shallowly as I tore it free and tossed it aside. Hewn relaxed immediately, but I still grabbed the elf's sword, only to find that it was just a brittle bundle of sticks, crudely tied together. It snapped off as Hewn regained part of his old definition.


He moved ponderously, gesturing clumsily at his chest. I grabbed the backpack and used it to wipe at the remaining mercury, dabbing it away as best I could.


“Blaa,” he said.


“Blood?” I said.


He nodded and pointed at the shard. “Crana blaa.”


“Cronus' blood.” He nodded again. Features were seeping back into him, but slowly. “Hewn, what is the elf doing? It ran deeper into the house.”




“Stall? It needs time?”


He shook his head. “Thtaaal. Take. Make faaree.”


“Steal.” He confirmed. “Make...faerie?” Another nod. “He can turn the house into part of faerie?” I was new to all of this but even I knew how bad that could be.


He put his hand on my shoulder and pointed the other at the exit. “Raaan. Go.” He seemed to swallow and continued, his voice gaining some clarity. “Naat you. Naaat yur fight. Go.”


I can't say I wasn't tempted. I still had my soul nailed to a board but I could take it with me. Figure something out with that.


“What about you?” I couldn't possibly drag him out with me. “You wouldn't leave me. I won't leave you.”


“Youuu can't fight it.”


“That was an elf, right?” I hefted the crowbar. “Iron. I'll go Gordon Freeman on its chull.”


Deep, partly-formed eyebrows furrowed in confusion. “Azeem?”


It took me a moment. “That's Morgan Freeman. And not his best movie. But I need to know. Will iron work on that thing?”


Hewn nodded, but tightened his grip on my shoulder. “Not jusst an elf,” he slurred. “Journey warrior of the lower courts. Out of your leeeague. Iron or not.” He didn't seem to be getting more defined anymore – or perhaps it had just slowed down.


“And if I leave? He'll steal your home, but what else will he do?” He opened his mouth but hesitated. “Tell me the truth. Would you be in danger?”


He looked away. “Things like Crronus can't really die. They can be driven dorrmant but if the pieces are brought together, they can wake. Come back. I was made...given life...to help prevent that.”


“The elf would use you to reassemble Cronus?”


He shrugged. “Prolly not. Prolly sell me to someone who would.”


I sighed. “I can't just let that happen. So help me. How can I fight it?”


Hewn shook his head. “Luck. Guts. Iron. Saalt? Would protect from glamer.” He waved up the stairs. “Try to sneak up. Will head to heart of manor. Hearth. Can make himself master of house. Ritual of conqueror. He finishes that, is too late. You should run. Mortals don't escape faerie. So hurry. Run or fight, but do it now.”


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Just read this, can't wait for more.


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I didn't have salt. I've never really been known for having guts. I had some iron – well, probably steel, which I hoped would work just as well – and I really, really hoped I had luck. I didn't really feel lucky – especially not after the events of the last twenty minutes.


It didn't matter. I was doing what I had to do. I tucked the board into my backpack, sideways so that neither the hilt nor the pointy bits were angled towards my back. It was too long, and stuck out near the top.


I put the screwdriver and crowbar in my pockets. None of my tools were really weapons, and despite the Gordon Freeman factor of the crowbar, the hammer was probably my most likely shot.


I ascended the staircase, and my dread was quickly at war with fascination. This place was even larger than I'd realized so far. More than that, the further I went, the more easily I could tell that its inhabitant had a fascination with things grand, old, and mythical.


No more stuffed unicorns, but one of the walls was scaled. Each scale was easily the size of my fist, and no two adjacent looked to have been from the same creature. I didn't try to count them but there had to have been hundreds at least, and a section of empty spaces left open, presumably, for further trophies.


There were statues – mostly of men, some of women, and some of inhuman things. One was of a great bear-creature, at least eight feet tall. It was wearing spectacles and a coat, and had a scroll in one enormous paw. I could read some of the inscriptions, but recognized no names.


I spent a moment disoriented, realizing that even finding the elf in this strange house would be a daunting task. This place was huge. Where would the hearth be?


I looked over the statues again. There was ivy about the bases of some, and one's arm was crusted with moss. It looked out of place, and I had no other leads. I followed the trail of green.


There was something here that I couldn't quite place. A warmth, perhaps. I felt as if these statues had a personal factor to them; they were perhaps Shamasun's own work, memorials of people that he'd known and admired. If so, he put my Facebook to shame; there were thousands of statues. As I went, I picked up my pace; I could tell now that the ivy was actually a trail rather than spread throughout the whole statue hall, and some of the statues were being consumed by the moss, as if chosen for destruction. One – with the inscription of Qatrikias – even fell to pieces at my approach.


The trail was approaching a wall, but this place was unleashing havoc with my sense of scale. The statues were older, too – there was less practice in the hand, and while the first ones I'd seen had been marble, some of these were clay. Some of them bore heavy wear – the print of a hand on a shoulder, possibly repeated once a day for four thousand years had left a permanent mark on one.


I broke through the statues and found myself facing a wall set into a wall – like the smaller one had been the beginning and remained when the place was renovated. I could feel the weight of years, here. The floor was dry earth and stone, arranged in steps down towards a fire pit that was set up against the wall.


The elf was down there. It danced between the rows of stones, chanting, touching each rock in turn. Where its fingers had rested, things sprouted. This might sound like something out of a Disney movie, but in person, it was scary. Rocks cracked as roots burst out of them. Steps that might have doubled as seats sprouted brambles and thornbushes. I saw the elf scatter seeds with one pass of a hand, and with the other the ground erupted in small trunks and something slithered away.


The elf was working its way up and down the stairs; the left side looked like a small stand of jungle at this point, and the creature was nearly to the midpoint. I had to do something – fast.


No, not 'something' – no sense in denying it. I'd have to kill the elf.


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I circled towards the right side and stepped down towards the fire pit. Despite my attempt to be inconspicuous, the elf slowed its dance as I approached, then settled into an annoyed posture, hands on its hips.


“Do you mind? I'm taking over a realm here.” It would have been funny, but the elf was looking at me like a stain on a rug. “Why, if you unstuck yourself, did you come after me?”


Of course I've had my action hero fantasies; everyone does, right? Well, I was in a situation where following those fantasies would probably kill me. I'd seen the capabilities the elf had unleashed on Hewn – tossing him about despite him weighing probably five times what I did. On top of that superior speed and strength, it was armed and armored. And, to be honest, I didn't really know how to fight; a ten-year-old green belt left me with just enough skill to throw a punch without breaking my own fist.


Right then, those fantasies whirled through my mind in a blur, along with half-thought plans of drawing the elf into some kind of riddle contest or attempting to stall it until Shamasun returned to kill it.


I opened my mouth, and words came out. “I couldn't leave Hewn.”


The elf looked puzzled. “Why not? He's weak.”


“He was nice to me. And he needs my help.”


“As I said. Weak. Tell you what, though.” Its hands began to move again, resuming the dance. “Throw away that iron. Swear to serve me and I'll let you amuse me for a thousand years. A far longer life than you would ever have in the mortal realm.”




It focused on the dance. “Why not? Oh, right. I forget mortal sentiments.” It turned to me and gave me the most genuinely benevolent look I'd yet seen from it. “Do a good job as my slave and I'll collect your family too. I'll need slaves.”


I think it took my shock as agreement, but at last I understood – at least a bit. I might consider the elf evil, but more than that I thought of it as utterly alien. It honestly didn't understand what was wrong with its offer.


I cleared my throat. “No. No, I have a counter-offer.” It perked up as I continued. “Stand down. Leave, or if you're unable, surrender, and I swear I will intercede to get you out of here, free and safe. But if you continue, I will have to destroy you.”


“How dare you – ”


“No, how dare you. I don't know magic but I think I know what you did. You sent a coin into the mortal world, made it lucky so it would be carried around by a hapless human. Sooner or later it would find somewhere magical, get pulled in, trip whatever traps were there to be tripped. After that, you jump out or teleport or whatever you did to get here. You used me.


“Fool,” it said. The elf glared at me, then reached a hand out towards the trees that it had grown around the hearth. A branch dipped down, snapped off, and became a magnificent sword of the same silvery material the elf was wearing. “That's what mortals are for.”


I hefted the hammer into what I hoped was a guard position. I would probably only get one shot at this. Less than that, probably; the elf was coming at me already, with the grace and speed of a real warrior.


I tried to feint right and pull left instead. The elf responded by slashing its sword straight through my right arm, halfway between my wrist and elbow.


I couldn't help myself; I shrieked as the hammer fell free and the blade lashed out again, biting my left knee. I fell, clutching at my arm, which was surprisingly, still attached.


Not even bleeding. There wasn't even a cut on my sleeve. But the muscles of my arm were knotted tightly and my wrist clicked and ground viciously if I moved. My knee felt like it would barely support my weight; I could feel something vital gone there as well.


“What's the matter? Didn't know about elf weapons, did you?” I was still cowering in pain but I could hear that evil smile in his voice. “You have names for them now. Arthritis. Jaundice. Dementia. But putting names on them didn't take them out of our hands.”


Don't just cower. Think. There's no way I could face that silvery blade. Even if I won in the end – though I couldn't see how – I would be a wreck of a human being. Look for weaknesses.


I bit down hard on my tongue. It had used a different blade on Hewn. Bronze, that one. I suspected that I knew why – the bronze blade had acted more like a weapon, but the silvery blade was for use against mortals. It was a slim hope but it was all I had.


The elf's hand clamped down on my left shoulder and it hauled me upright. “Resist more and I'll keep hurting you. I'll keep breaking you. But you'll still serve me for a thousand years or more before I dump you back into the mortal realm. And when I do, I'll forget you – everything about you, except how you made me laugh at the end.”


I looked him in the eye and spat my blood in his face. There was a single shocked moment where I wondered if I was right – that there was a reason it had only attacked me with a weapon that didn't spill blood – before it tossed me back with a shriek.


The iron in my blood proved even more effective than I'd dared to hope. For a short time, it buried its face in its hands, then threw itself into the newly-grown bushes and started grabbing handfuls of leaves, scrubbing its head and hands repeatedly. It was all the time I needed to try phase two. I only knew of one object that could suppress an invader's power; I was keeping it in my backpack.


The elf looked up just in time to see me slam the board, dagger-point-downward, into its shadow. Enraged, it kicked me in the chest. I felt something snap twice – once when it hit me, and again when I hit the ground about ten feet away. The elf, on the other hand, probably felt something tear, as I had managed to keep hold of the board.


Pain blurred my vision, but I saw the elf coming towards me. As it moved, the silvery metal it was wearing decayed. The sword became just a stick; the mail turned into handfuls of leaves and fell with each lurching step.


“You.” It snarled. “You have...ruined me.” It kicked me again, but the force it had had was gone. It didn't matter much; I was hurt enough already.


Whatever magic it had been using was gone now. It still had an inhuman beauty to it but before its anger was that of a tiger; scary but still fascinating. Without the glamer to accent it, its wrath was just wrath, naked and ugly as usual.


It knelt on my chest, grinding one knee into my broken ribs. “You don't get to win,” it said. “You think yourself a hero? No. You die here. On a forgotten hearth.”


I'm sure it had more to say, but that was when I finished retrieving the screwdriver from my left pocket and jammed it into the elf's back, somewhere around the area of the kidney.


I was in a lot of pain, so I don't remember much. I remember that its blood was blue. That it hurt to use my right hand, but I did anyway. I remember that I didn't stop stabbing it until I passed out.





So there's the maybe-thrilling fight scene.  Hope it was worth the wait.


Should be just one update to wrap up this specific tale, but there may well be more stories out of Sam.

Edited by Talanic

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I'm liking it so far. What does the blood do to the elf though?


As for the Disease Sword, that was Awesome!


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Sorry.  Editing for better flow wound up removing the clarification.  Elves are vulnerable to iron, even in such minute amounts as found in blood - although not permanently harmed by a splash of blood, they find it quite unpleasant, along the lines of getting shampoo in your eyes.  When out to hurt mortals, they only use weapons that won't actually cause those mortals to spurt out a liquid elf deterrent.


And the sword's actually semi-historical; my writing in of a weakness down to blood was an attempt to justify its existence in myth.  Elf-shot is an archaic term which refers to someone suffering a disease with no known cause, usually something internal and debilitating.  It was usually attributed to elven arrows, but ancient doctors did essentially say, "Eh, must've been elves," to particularly difficult cases.


Aaaand I still need to come up with a better title for this.


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 It's always seemed weird to me but the sense of smell is the first to kick in when you're waking up. So I was aware of the smell of flowers before I realized that I had, somehow, survived.


More than that. I was in a bed, tucked in. It was warm, but not especially soft. Consciousness flowed back into me and most of my senses took a back seat to the realization that I was alive – and I felt fine. I was in a moderate-sized bedroom – honestly, it was easily twice the size of my room in my apartment, so huge in comparison, but I've seen bigger.


I was also naked under the sheets, except a bandage on my right hand and, strangely enough, a pendant. I lifted it for a look; it was a bronze disc engraved with a twisting snake. It reminded me of something but I wasn't sure what – and, as I looked, it gleamed strangely at me. I did a double-take before realizing that nothing was there if I looked straight at it, but in my peripheral vision I could see strands of something, threads that didn't seem to really be there. My fingers could pass through them without resistance, and they seemed to lead into my own body. Was that what magic looked like?


“Sam!” It was Hewn, poking his head in the door. He immediately retreated for a moment, calling out, “She's awake!”


I pulled the sheets up around my chest and started to sit up, but Hewn beckoned me back down. “No, no, no. You might feel well but you're really just pasted together. Exert yourself and you'll – well, the easiest comparison is tearing stitches. You'll wreck the amulet and be right back where you started. Sit back, take it easy, and in a few hours you'll be good enough to go.”


Another man rushed through the door and skidded to a stop, a huge grin on his bearded face. Shamasun, no doubt – a muscular Middle Eastern man. He threw his hands wide and boomed, “Well! Look who's the heroine of the hour!”


I turned towards him and -


A face, but not a face; a head containing a mind, yes, but not a person; a malevolence that walked on two gargantuan legs, granite hands that could tear their way from the Outside Between -


I came to, gasping in horror, to find hands on the sides of my head.


“Sam! No, Sam! See me as I am now! I'm not that thing anymore.” My eyes focused on Hewn's face in front of me. There was an echo of what I'd seen. I looked over at the frowning Shamasun, standing helplessly by the bed. Out of the corner of my eye I could see flickers of the thing, but when I looked back it was just Hewn. “You with us, Sam?”


I flicked my eyes away. Monster. I looked back. Hewn's worried gaze. The intensity had faded, though. I nodded.


“I'm sorry,” Shamasun said. “I was going to try to work into it, but we should probably just come out with it. You'll be fine, but your fight with the elf had some effects on you. You'll never be quite normal again.”


I closed my eyes as he spoke and tried to bring my heartbeat under control as Hewn backed off. “What – what did I just see?” I thought I knew.


“In all probability? An echo of Cronus,” Shamasun said. “You've got some magic in you now. You can see auras on powerful enough objects and creatures. But your magic isn't the same as my magic...No. We're going about this all wrong. I'm going to start at the beginning. Well, okay, not the beginning, I'm going to start at the things you need to know. What happened to you now has happened before; it happens to different people in different ways so we didn't know you'd have a reaction to Hewn, but we're not lost in the woods, either. The reason it's different is, well, between you and the elf.”


I met his gaze. “Is it dead?”


He nodded. “Good kill. Thorough. But...here's how it goes. You know Newton's laws?”


“Think so.” I could remember them fairly well.


“Magic follows at least one of them. It's not created or destroyed. Magical creatures can die. Magic users can die. But magic itself doesn't die – not ever. If something magic dies, usually the magic just returns to the world it's from, disperses among the creatures there, or attaches to the next soul out the gate. Like when Straun – never mind, getting off topic. The mortal realm. Your home. It has no magic.”


Hewn was nodding along, so I nodded too. I didn't know exactly where it was going, but I thought I understood so far.


“That means humans have no magic. And when a human kills a powerful, magical creature – like an elf, or a djinn – the magic starts to leave, but the human's the nearest empty place. So that's where it goes.”


I swallowed hard. “So I have the elf's magic now?”


“Yes. But it doesn't manifest in any two people in quite the same way, so we're not sure what power you'll get from it. Immortality's pretty common, though – when the elf is reborn in two, three hundred years, he'll be after you to get it back.”


“And I'll be alive then.”


“You could be. You won't age – much. Might take a few years to reach the point you stabilize at. But you can still die.”


I slumped back onto the pillow. It was too much. Shamasun patted me on the shoulder. “Get some rest; I'll get you something to eat. Your clothes will be clean in a couple hours. And if it helps – for me it was a giant, and nobody was there to teach me the rules. You're a heroine of the ancient ways, now. Good luck.”





This is the technical end of the tale.  But I don't think it's the end of the story.  I am seriously considering making a longer story out of this into a NaNoWriMo project.


Also, the new title: Myth Taken.  I think it makes sense on a few levels.


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I Like the name, though I would point out that there is a Book series that uses Myth-Taken Identity as a Title.


And I just realizedthat Sam was a Girl. I thought she was a guy the entire time. How old is she?


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I know - that's Robert Aspirin's Myth Adventures - and although I'd like to avoid confusion, when the title fits, not much I can do.  Unless someone comes up with something that's better, this story fits that title too well.  I don't plan on having anything further in this series having Myth in the title like he did, though.


I intentionally left Sam's gender vague throughout - until the end there really was no difference between a guy Sam and a girl Sam, but she says she's 23 early on.  I've got a few more details about her life straightened out already (job, degree, place of employment, rough level of college debt, etc).


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Myth Taken really does Work for it. And I like the Newton's Law of Magic thing. It makes it seem more real. Do you have any other Laws written up?


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I have some ideas on the general shape of magic, but I've put more work so far into the different realms that make up this setting and how to get between them.  Magic from different areas has different potential - the power of an Aesir is entirely different in effect than the power of an elf.  For example, giants are not truly immortal, but a human with a giant's power ages like a mountain does; Shamasun could easily live for millions of years.  


The realm of the creature you first kill is the one that determines the type of magic you get, while the creature determines the specific type.  Also, killing more creatures adds to the hero's power, but does not add different realms of power.  If Shamasun kills an elf, his existing powers grow somewhat stronger, but he does not gain elven magic.  But if he kills a frost giant as well as a fire giant, he gains immunity towards heat and cold as well as getting a bit stronger.


If Sam, on the other hand, somehow managed to kill a giant (I dunno, maybe with a tank?), her elven magic would become stronger, but her bench press would not improve.  She would, however, wind up somewhat faster than before, with some level of diminishing returns.


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This is the essential shape of the setting in which the story Myth Taken takes place in.  It's a draft, written as a loose history of events that touched on Earth's history but usually was poorly understood at the time.  I'd considered making it into a new post but decided to put it here instead.


There are four core worlds. They are known as Earth, Primal, Faerie, and Asgard. Once, they were identical in geography and development. Once, they were separated; kept from each other by the dimensional barriers.


Once, there were five of them.


The fifth was known as Jotunheim, and its inhabitants were as powerful as they were enormous. The giants were the first to intrude upon other realms, finding that the beasts of Primal could speak. They learned that the people of Asgard (then called Olympus) were strong and wise, and the beings of Faerie (then known as Mhian) were elusive and mystically gifted. None could truly stand against the giants; most bowed, in the end, or hid in deep, dark places. On each of those worlds, the giants built themselves homes, bending the local powers to their whim.


But Earth...Earth they could not find, for it has no magic. For a long time, they thought their worlds were alone, but something – some mathematical trickery, some intelligent but sadly unwise philosopher decided that they would seek out the place that they were missing. When they tried, they instead intruded on the Outside Between, realm of such creatures as Titans and Kraken. And when they found the monsters within, the monsters found them back.


The giants, technically, succeeded in finding a way to Earth, as the tattered shreds of Jotunheim are now the Gateway Realm. Anyone who wishes to enter the magicless realm can do so by passing through – although what remains of the giants, and others who have taken up residence in the remains of their homes, often resist. The process is draining, and difficult to maintain, as creatures must touch base with their home world occasionally in order to recharge their magical energies – and many of them are to mystical to survive running out entirely. Regardless, as the three mystical worlds built their own civilizations, they began to war with each other over dominion of Earth, as the people of Earth could not fight back.


The Primals envied human form; some of them lived with the humans peacefully and attempted to adopt it, while others thought through curses and spells to dominate men as their slaves. The people of Olympus warred almost as much with themselves as with the other worlds, as battle is in their blood, and the Aesir, Vanir, Olympians, Mesopotamians, and many others clashed with each other repeatedly. The creatures of Mhian found opportunities in mankind, though; tractable slaves with no defenses against magic, who could easily be tempted into bargains for all eternity. It was as easy as asking them to make a wish.


The Djinn of Mhian were winning the war – until an unexpected twist. The people of Earth fought back. None are truly sure what the great Solomon did, but suddenly the Djinn were no more, and Mhian was out of the fight; as the Grand Queen rose to power, Mhian took on the name Alfheim. This was enough to finally get the Olympians' attention; they made vicious warfare upon the Primals. The structure of the realms, however, made it easier to fight each other on their home planets, as magic is always stronger on the realm from which it originates, and the trek through Jotunheim is perilous and exhausting.


After centuries of battle, peculiar chance led to the Olympians intercepting some intelligence from the Primals. Curiously, they realized that some of the Primals' most crushing defeats had had nothing to do with them – or with humans, or anyone else they knew of. Similarly, several of the most devastating Olympian losses could only have come from someone else being in the game.


The jig was up; now that the Olympian sorcerers knew what to look for, the wandering world of Pandemonium was easy to spot. Unlike the other realms, Pandemonium, realm of monsters, does not intersect with Jotunheim. Instead it cycles among the other realms, overlapping them, sometimes two at a time. When Pandemonium is in contact with a world, creatures can slip through, possibly passing straight past Pandemonium and into the other realm. Mystical creatures have to expend significant effort to do so, but in an unexpected twist, powerless humans in the wrong place at the wrong time can slip straight in – and out.


The enigmatic monsters of Pandemonium were not the source of the extra casualties, though. Instead it is the dread realm of Dis – an abscess in reality – that orbits it. Scholars wonder if Dis is truly a realm of its own or a fragmented gateway realm like Jotunheim. The creatures of Pandemonium move in uncanny ways, aping the mortal realm, though in mockery or longing it is impossible to tell. Some are hostile, some are friendly, but they are mostly simply alien. The things in Dis are often just as alien, but their malevolence is unmistakeable; they are the Hungry Ones, who feed on anything from any other realm, other than Pandemonium.


The Olympians, after formalizing relationships with the creatures of Pandemonium, sent a punitive expedition to Dis. This is why Olympus is now known as Asgard; the Olympians never recovered. The Aesir learned a different lesson from Dis as well; their sorcerers were able to create a pocket realm out of the skull of the great giant, Ymir; in it, they made the realm of Midgard as their personal playground.


In the midst of all this, barely noticed by anyone else, humans were rising as heroes. Understanding that, if humanity at large realized that murdering magical creatures was a one-way ticket to immortality, and not generally understanding (at the time) how to open gateways to other realms, the heroes decided to let the other mortals think that it was all simply myth.


One of them – a man named Tam Lin, who had gained the favor of the Great Queen and slain her champion, Au Brenn, in battle – became a great leader for the other heroes. Time and again he repulsed enemies, protecting Earth from the ravages of Dis and the predations of feral Giants and gaining power each time.


Then came the time, three hundred years since Tam Lin had slain the Queen's champion. None know why it happens, but the champion returned to challenge Tam Lin for his power. What none expected was the champion's victory, and Au Brenn claimed not only his own power but that which Tam Lin had harvested from thousands of others over the years. Au Brenn, now calling himself Oberon, achieved power that had never been seen before, and seized Alfheim, renaming it Faerie.


Rumor has it that Faerie has its own sub-realm, its own feral Midgard, but none outside of Faerie know.


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That's seriously cool. You've put a lot of work into this, And I hope you do eventually write and publish a book in this Universe.


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I really this universe. Very mythic feel to it. I love how it blends lore from various different sources in mythology, but you can tell that all those myths were just based on human misunderstandings, which is really cool. I'd love to see the same story continued, or another in the same universe. 


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