The Brightest Star

Anime is incredible

Back then, she didn’t know what stars were.  She was just a little girl.  Stars seemed like something far away, something literally out of this world.  They were something different, something that you could look at and just wonder.  Mysterious, and yet so simple, everyone knew of them.  But no one knew what they were.

Now the girl is standing alone before the world.  Bright and clear, the sky does nothing to hide itself.  Like an open chest of jewels poured out into the clear waters of the ocean, the treasures of the universe glow before her.  Some of the gems are big, some are small.  But they all make up a greater whole.  They all have a place in the boundlessness, the seemingly unending deepness of the night sky.

And before the stars, the girl doesn’t feel so alone.  She doesn’t know what stars really are.  But in that moment, she knows who she is.  Stars are beautiful.  Stars are bright.  Stars can be seen by all.  And, even though she’s still just a little girl in comparison to these jewels, she already knows that she is a star too.  And if she’s a star, she’s the greatest one; she’s the brightest one.  Because she’s more beautiful than the stars.  She shines brighter than the stars.  She is worth more than all the stars.

How does she know that she’s a star?  How does she know that she’s worth more than all the eternal, beaming crystals of the night sky?

How can she, a little girl, be seen by all, just like the stars?

She doesn’t know what stars are.  And she knows that she can’t actually be seen by all.  But she knows that she is seen by Someone.  That Someone can always see her.  And that Someone can’t stop looking at her.  Because that Someone knows she’s more beautiful than the stars.  She’s brighter than all the stars.  She doesn’t need to be seen by all, because she’s seen by that Someone.  And she’s worth more than all the stars.

She is worth more than all the stars.  She is worth more than all the treasures of the universe.  She is worth all of that Someone’s blood.

Because the girl knows this, she doesn’t need to know what stars are.   She knows who she is.  She knows that she is loved by that Someone.  She knows what she’s worth.  She knows that she’s that Someone’s star.

And that makes her the brightest.

Saw that picture on and I knew that I had to write something about it.  It’s crazy how something beautiful, but so simple (like a picture), can move us and inspire us to express deep feelings.  That’s what this picture inspired me to think about.

How does it make you feel?

Stay awesome,



Why We Love Anime: Top Ten Pictures

Hey everyone!  So lately, I’ve been posting a “Why We Love Anime” almost daily.

What’s a “Why We Love Anime”?  In case you couldn’t tell from the title, basically all that I do is post a picture that blatantly depicts how awesome anime is, and thus why we love it.  Today, I’m going to show you the pictures you guys Liked the most, in order from least to greatest.

So let’s reflect on how awesome the art of anime is!


Anime hug

Coming in at 10th place we have Why We Love Anime #18.  I love the emotion in this picture; it’s so characteristic of anime!


Brotherhood hug

Coming in 9th place we have Why We Love Anime #10.  Once again, the emotion and the sense of friendship that emanates from this image is so profound.  This is personally one of my favorites because it’s from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, my favorite anime.


happy anime

Coming in 8th place we have Why We Love Anime #20.  This is one of those cute, familial pictures that add a sense of child-likeness to anime.  Child-likeness, not childishness.


intense anime pic

Coming in 7th place we have Why We Love Anime #21.  This picture vividly depicts something we OBVIOUSLY love about anime: it’s epicness!   And “epicness” isn’t even a word!


Tokyo ghoul pic

Coming in 6th place we have Why We Love Anime #22.  The fantasy feel and sense of sheer, determined power makes this picture an apt depiction of the thrillingness of anime.  “Thrillingness”…yet another word that doesn’t exist!


Beautiful anime pic

Coming in 5th place we have Why We Love Anime #24.  For obvious reasons, this is one of the most Liked images.  It’s beautiful, simply put.  Everything is in it’s proper place.


Attack on Titan pic

Coming in 4th place we have Why We Love Anime #2.  Okay, undeniably this is one of the coolest pictures ever!  The sense of motion, of intensity and magnificence are so evident that it’s no wonder this image was one of your favorites!



Coming in 3rd place we have Why We Love Anime #23.  Although it’s a simple image…it’s also not.  The lucidity, the sense of wonder and amazement at the beauty of the universe…it’s a humbling, God-praising picture.


SAO pic

Coming in 2nd place we have Why We Love Anime #8.  I think I know why this picture came in second place…it’s just got so much swag!  Everyone loves a douse of boss-sauce!



Coming in 1st place we have Why We Love Anime #1.   How fitting it is that #1 is #1!

This picture got the most Likes out of any.  To explain why, I’m going to quote what I said when I originally posted this picture.

First of all, I love this image.   It beautifully depicts what love looks like.  You can see how both Emiya (the boy) and Saber (the girl) are giving of themselves to each other.  Emiya is obviously giving himself entirely to Saber; he doesn’t even have the strength to stand.  His lifeless body is falling into her.  And she’s receiving him.  Both of them are covered in Emiya’s blood, embracing each other through the blood.  Love exists even through the pain.  That’s exactly how love between a man and a woman should like.

And look at the scenery around them.  What’s flying around in the sky? Crows.  Maybe vultures.  Either way, both of those birds are symbols for evil and death.  But look at Saber’s face.  Even though they are seemingly surrounded by evil, the sky dark and the world decaying around them, they are both at peace.  Because they’re holding each other, and real love exists between them.

I don’t know who drew this, but I tip my hat to you!

This is just another reason as to Why We Love Anime!

My dear followers, enjoy these pictures!

All art has the capacity to praise God.  And I believe anime can do that too.  That’s what I’m attempting to do with my book series.  I hope you can agree!

Stay awesome!

Dominic (Aul)

TGL Episode 5: The Compassion of a Beloved


If you missed any episodes, go to my page Embark on the Journey: Volume 1 Episodes for a complete list of episodes.



I open my eyes.  The first thing I notice is that I am indoors, a white painted ceiling above my head.  The next thing I notice is how comfortable I am.  I’m lying in a bed with white sheets, and a pillow is under my head.  For a few moments, I consider closing my eyes again, since the bed is so warm and soft, and I feel so exhausted.  I feel like putting questions and curiosity aside.  Few people almost die twice in only a couple of days.  I don’t know why, but I honestly feel impressed with myself.  My reasoning and mind dull from weariness, I plan on slipping back into my quiet, dreamless sleep.

Then a thought strikes me; what if I am in a room in Tarsh’s house?  What if I am some sort of captive of his?  I grunt with determination, fully opening my eyes and rising from the bed.  “Ah!” I say to myself as my back seems to light up like a torch.

The room is simple.  There is a dresser in one corner to my right, and a lamp sits on top of it.  In the opposite corner of the room there is a strung bow and a full quiver of arrows.  Directly in front of me is a table with a loaf of bread and some fruit sitting on it.  In front of the table is a doorway, closed with heavy curtains, and on the either side of the doorway is a window from which light flows through.

I get off the bed and stand.  As the sheets of the bed leave me, I look down and see that my torso is bare, as are my feet, but I still have my breeches.  I note with gratitude that someone has bandaged my back, having wrapped a tight cloth around my torso and tying it at my left hip.  I frown and grunt, pain racking my body.

“Where’s my sword?” I suddenly think.  I look about the room, not seeing it anywhere.  Then I turn around to search on the opposite side of the bed.  I flinch in surprise.  There is a girl sitting in a chair on the opposite side of the bed.  She is sitting erect, resting her head against the wall, and when our eyes meet she smiles.

  She raises my sword from her lap and says, “Looking for this?”

“How long have you been watching me?” I ask, still surprised.

“Pretty much the whole time,” she replies.  “I thought you would be waking up soon, so I wanted to be here when you did.”

“Why?” I ask suspiciously.  Could she be a friend of Tarsh’s?

“To help you if you needed anything,” she says simply.

I am confused, both by her kindness and in general.  “Why?  Were you the one who bandaged me?”

“Yeah, I did.  And you were lying half-dead in the middle of the street.  Of course I was going to help you.”

I swallow, and I don’t know what to say.  I know I should be outrageously thankful to her; she saved my life.  But I’m not sure I’ll be able to repay her for all that she’s done.  “Well…thank you,” I say.

She nods her head once in acknowledgement.

There is a moment of silence, and then she asks, gesturing at my torso with her head, “How did it happen?”

I raise a clenched fist and lower my gaze.  “It was a guy named Tarsh Landid, and some of his scumbag friends,” I answer.  “They’re a real group of bastards.  They ganged up on me.”

Her eyes squint, “I’ve heard of Tarsh; almost everyone knows him.  Yeah, he’s not very nice.”

I snort at her mildness.

Looking up at her again, I say, “You’ve been really kind.  I wish I could repay you, but I really need to be going.”

“But you can’t just leave!” she exclaims, leaning forward in her chair.  “You need to get some rest.”

“You’re probably right, but I need to see if I can get answers from the sheriff about something.”

“If you don’t mind me asking,” she objects, “what is so important that you would leave in your current state?  If you ran into Tarsh again, you’d be helpless.”  Her eyes become soft and attentive, and her voice becomes suspicious, but also concerned.  “You know, by the looks of that wound on your stomach, I’d say this wasn’t the first time you’ve been in such a situation like this before.”

I frown.  I don’t deny what she says, but however kind she’s been to me, she’s still a stranger.  I don’t need to explain anything to her.  “Look,” I say, “thanks for everything.  But can I please have my sword so I can be on my way?”

She sighs, standing and approaching me with my sword.  “You can have your sword and leave,” she states, “but you really should get some more rest.  Will you at least eat some of the food I got you?”

I look at the food on the table and sigh.  I know she’s right.  “Okay,” I nod.  I extend my hand, “I don’t think you’ve told me your name.”

She shakes my hand, “Faith Pinck.  Yours?”

I pause.  I have not said nor heard my true, full name in a long while; years, in fact.  “John,” I say, “John Hedekira.”

I draw the table over to the bed so that I can sit on the bed while eating at the table and Faith draws her chair over from the opposite side of the bed.  We sit across from each other, and as she distributes food to me and herself, I study her.  She has longish, dirty-blonde hair and round blue eyes that give her a friendly appearance.  Her build denotes that she is frequently physically active.  Her skin is slightly darker than mine, but my skin is very fair.  She’s a pretty girl.  “Do you hunt?” I ask, eyeing the bow in the corner of the room to my left.

“I do,” she answers.  “That’s how I get most of my food.”

“Do you live alone?” I am curious to know what a girl my age is doing out in the world seemingly by herself.  I silently wonder if she has had the same trouble with parents as I have had.

“Yeah,” she says, simply, “but by choice.  My parents live in a town west of here.”

“Why’d you leave?”

She pauses and averts her gaze.  I look away, and my cheeks sting; I didn’t mean to pry.  It seemed like a fair question to ask.  “To make a difference,” I hear her say.

I look up.  She now looks pensive.  Still looking away, she continues, “I’ve noticed that people lead boring, unfulfilled lives.  I wanted to find something better, and maybe help others to look too.”

I nod and say thoughtfully, “Well, I can’t argue with that.”  I think for a moment while we are quiet, when suddenly I realize something: Faith is a huntress.  Maybe she has seen the Evil that took my siblings.  And if not, maybe she would be willing to help me track them too.  I have to ask.  “Faith,” I say, “you haven’t by any chance seen a group of Evil in these parts, carrying with them two children?”  My heart jumps when I realize that the Evil may have already eaten or killed my siblings, but I hold my tongue.

Faith’s eyes grow wide, and her expression serious, “I did!  Two days ago, while I was hunting, I saw a band of Evil run through the forest with two kids tied up with them.  I ran back to Aran to ask if anyone would help me hunt them, but they all laughed at me and said that Evil didn’t exist around here.  It’s not the first time I’ve seen a group of Evil in the forest.  It kind of scares me.”

“Yeah, me too,” I say grimly.  My face has grown tight and I stare downwards angrily.

I hear Faith breathe, and I can tell she’s watching me.  “What do you know of this band of Evil?” she asks in a cautious, quiet voice.

“They’re cowardly, ruthless bastards,” I say through my teeth, all of my rage returning.  “They stabbed me while I wasn’t looking and left me to die slowly.”  Then I add more simply, “And the two kids are my younger sister and brother.”

“I’m sorry,” she murmurs.

I grunt.  It’s not as if Soror and Frater deserve to be saved.  I’m just doing it to get back at the Evil for stabbing me and because I know I ought to rescue my siblings. “Let me help you,” Faith suddenly says.

“Why?” I question.  Not every person, let alone a Beloved, would want to hunt a group of savage beasts.  “I thought you came here to look for something fulfilling, and to make a difference.”  Almost immediately as the words leave my mouth, I wish I wouldn’t have asked such an honest question.  If she’s offering to help me, why would I say anything that would discourage her?  I want her help, after all.

“Well, this is something fulfilling,” she replies.  “Saving two children from a band of Evil is definitely fulfilling.”  She pauses and then adds, “I feel bad for them.”

I admire how caring she is, but I have to ask, “Are you sure?  You just met me.”  It’s only right that I question her integrity, and I don’t want to seem too desperate.

She smiles softly, “I could always use a friend.  And besides, this isn’t about me, it’s about your siblings, and making sure this band of Evil never does something like this again.”

I find her motives cute.  “Whatever,” I say, “thank you, then.  I don’t know how to repay you.  But if it’s all the same to you, I’d like to get moving.”

“Of course,” she says, rising from her chair.

She begins packing food while I retrieve my sword from where she placed it on the bed.  I behold the blade with an air of dissatisfaction; my sword is a mere double-edged piece of metal with a brown oaken handle.  It has no cross-guard, no name, and it’s probably not as sharp as it should be.  While I am staring at the blade, I think, “I could’ve sworn that sometime ago, this sword had a cross-guard, and even decorations.”  This sword was my father’s before me, and he must have forgotten it when he left, or whatever happened to him.  All grown Knights are supposed to have a sword, whether it’s handed down to them or they find a way to have one made for themselves.  Why every man needs a sword, I don’t know, but I guess that, in my case, I should be thankful to have one at all.

Next, I properly dress myself, garbing myself in my shirt and cloak, wincing as I irritate my wounds.  Traveling, I realize, is going to be much harder now, let alone fighting.  Once I’m done dressing, I leave the house through the curtain door so Faith can change into more athletic attire.  I wait in the bright sunlight outside, enjoying its heat, all the while looking into the deep, dark blue sky.

A minute later, Faith emerges, her bow and arrows on her back, and she says, “Ready?”

I reply, “Yeah.”  Hefting my sword, I say, “Faith, is there anyone you need to say ‘goodbye’ to?  This is going to be dangerous, and you’re leaving on such short notice, you might never see any of your friends again.”

She pauses, deliberating, and then she nods, “Yeah, if you don’t mind, I will say goodbye to some people.”

We leave her small dwelling and visit two houses, where Faith says “goodbye” to two of her friends, each one residing at a different home.  Both her friends are girls, and they seem to be unaware that Faith is about to do something dangerous.  They don’t ask her where she is going; they just hug and say goodbye.

Then we stop at a third house.  Faith knocks on the door from where she is standing on an elevated wooden porch, and above her is a wooden roof.  I stand off the porch and to the side.

The door opens and a teenaged guy steps out onto the porch.  He smiles and says cordially, “Hey!”

“Hey,” Faith says in response.

“What’s up?” asks the guy.

“I’m leaving to help a friend with something,” she answers.  “I just wanted to say ‘goodbye’.”

“I see,” he nods.  Watching him closely, I see him frown, and his eyes assume a suspicious glare.  “Who’s this?” he asks Faith, gesturing with his chin at me.

“Oh,” says Faith, “this is John Hedekira, the person I’m helping.”  I nod at her friend as she introduces me.

Her friend looks at me and then back at her.  “Okay,” he says, squinting at Faith, “what’s really going on?  Where are you going?  And don’t lie.”

Faith looks at me and frowns.  I can tell she’s asking if she can tell her friend the truth.  “Listen, Bernard,” she begins, stalling, still waiting for me to answer.  I nod, and then she continues, “John’s younger siblings were kidnapped by a band of Evil.  I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true.  I’m going to help him rescue them.”

Bernard opens his mouth in protest and says, “But—”

“We don’t have time to waste,” Faith cuts him off.  “We’re leaving.  If you’re worried about me, I’m sure John wouldn’t mind if you came with us.”

“Not at all,” I add.  I can tell that Bernard would be very helpful in fighting the Evil we are tracking, based upon his size.

Bernard frowns, “I can’t.  I still have to work for Old Man Vinny to pay off a debt.  I’ll be about a week.  But I’ll come after you after I’m done.”  Faith and Bernard hug, and Bernard adds, “Be safe.”  Then looking at me, he adds, “Don’t let anything happen to her.”

“I won’t,” I say firmly.

Bernard nods, seeming satisfied, and then he says, “Good luck.”  And turning away, he walks back into his home and shuts the door.


Sneak Peek at Volume 6’s Cover

As you know, I always place the cover of the next book in the back of the immediate book.  So, since I’m about to publish Volume 5, my sister and I have been working on the cover of Volume 6.

We’re close to being done…just not quite yet!

However, benevolent blogger that I am, I decided to give you a sneak peek of Volume 6’s cover to get you pumped up!!!

Here it is!

Volume 6 cover sneak peek

A masterpiece in the making!  Can any of you guess which character this is???

Volume 5 is almost here!   Stay tuned!

Dominic (Aul)

Why We Love Anime #24

Beautiful anime pic

Showing you how awesome anime is…with gorgeous pictures!

I wish this image were bigger…

As always, I find it exceedingly fitting when a girl is depicted among the beauty of creation, but with her as the focal point.  It is simply yet another indication of how God created women to be the “crown of creation”.  It gives women the honor due to them.

Excerpt – Legacy of Truth

Check out Christy Nicholas’s upcoming book!

Historical fantasy, time travel adventure, and urban fantasy

Legacy of Truth is set in Ireland around 1800. It’s a prequel to Legacy of Hunger, and the second book in The Druid’s Brooch Series, but it serves as a stand-alone novel as well. It should be on pre-order in May, and published in June 2016.
The following is an excerpt from the novel. The main character, Esme Doherty, is a young woman growing up on her parents’ farm in Ardara, County Donegal, Ireland.

        As she approached the tumbled ring stones, covered in reeds and grasses on the modest hill, she saw Alan, waiting for her. She smiled to see her friend. She treasured her time with Alan even more than her solitude.

Alan was her best friend and closest confidante. He helped out at the farm a lot. Though he was twelve, he was stronger than any of the girls and her father appreciated his help with…

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TGL Episode 4: Thugs of Aran


Visit my page Embark on the Journey: Volume 1 Episodes for any episodes you missed!



The light is dim and hazy.  I walk, without expression or emotion, towards a door I know very well.  But my mind is blank.  I have no other senses than sight and hearing.  I am like a mindless body, devoid of thought and reason.  I can only watch, helpless to whatever will happen next, and I do not possess the aid of any memories at that moment.

Then I receive a sense of familiarity, an understanding of my surroundings.  I am in my home.  Slowly, I watch the distance between my parent’s bedroom door and myself grow shorter and shorter.  It is dead quiet, and everything is utterly still.  When I near my parent’s bedroom door, it opens on its own, croaking loudly as it does.  My eyes fix on one thing; the empty bed in the corner of the room.  All of a sudden, knowledge flows into my mind regarding what the empty bed means, and I receive a simple emotion: fear.

I continue staring at the bed, when, as I blink, the light flickers, and when I see the bed again, my parents are sitting there, watching me.  Yet I do not experience comfort; their stares are empty, their faces are white, their eyes are lifeless.

The light seems to twist and turn, and the room grows darker.  The eyes of my parents begin to glow white, and between them, two faces, translucent like a ghost’s, begin to flash in the air, appearing and then disappearing again and again.

I gasp; the faces are of two Evil, each one black, dripping with blood and grime, and horrifying.  But as they appear over and over again, and I am forced to watch, I feel like their faces are familiar.  The realization sends a pang of terror through my stomach.  Their faces resemble my parents’.

Suddenly, the light in the room grows unnaturally bright.  My vision is utterly corrupted by the white light, and the room, my parents, and the faces disappear.

An instant later, I find myself lying on the ground outside.  It is dark, darker than any sunset in the Golden Lands.  And it is cold, wind howling around me, rushing over my limbs and making me shiver.  As I stare up at the deep, dark blue sky, I see raindrops plummeting for me.  They land on my face, heavy and cold.  I flinch as they hit me.

That’s when I see them.  My parents, or not my parents—I can’t tell which—are standing over me.  Their faces are unearthly, eerie, dead.  Their eyes are mere glowing white spots in their black, terrifying faces.  My mother’s face is thin and streaked with blood, her nose long and crooked, and her ears twisted and pointed.  My father’s face is wide and bulky, with a huge, round nose, horns instead of ears, and white fangs protruding from his mouth.  Beside me, in my peripheral vision, I see two pairs of hands reach up for my parents—my Evil parents.  The hands are small and round, cute and chubby.  Then I hear two loud cries, and they are the cries of babies.  They scream louder and louder, and I realize that they are coming from either side of me.  The hands reach higher, when suddenly my two parents, silent and gruesome, slowly turn away and slip into the blackness.

The screams of the babies grow louder and more frantic.  I feel new emotions now; anxiety, confusion, and rage.  I feel tears begin to well up my eyes, prepared to gush forth like the rain from the dark clouds overhead, when I see a figure appear out of the blackness.  It swoops towards me, flying with long, narrow wings, and I see its face.  It is the leader of the beasts who took Soror and Frater.  I shrink away, and he opens his mouth to swallow me when—

I wake up.  As if I am still in the dream, I strike at the winged creature with my right hand.  Instead of my fist striking the beast, my sword stabs into the rock I’m sleeping under, sliding to the left on account of the rock being rounded.  The sword rings as it scrapes against the stone, and bright, yellow sparks flash in the darkness.  My heart is pounding rapidly, I have broken into a cold sweat, and I feel tears on my face.  But I am not sad.  My face is tight, I am huffing serious breaths, and my eyes are glaring.  I am angry, and afraid, and confused.

I lay back down.  I have removed my cloak so that I could use it as a pillow, but when I put my head down I am surprised to find that it is wet both from sweat and the light rain falling over the forest.  It is early morning.  Last sunset, after walking a couple miles from the spot where I killed the two Evil, I found this rock overlooking a bed of moss and decided to rest here for the evening.  I still feel tired from traveling yesterday, but my dream has left me uneasy, so I have no desire to sleep again.  Consequently, I get up, breathing in the cool, moist air.

I keep on heading in the direction I’ve been going the whole time: North.  There is a town a few miles from my location, North-East of my home.  That’s the first place I’m heading.  I have decided to track Soror and Frater, but, though I have done a fair amount of hunting, I have no idea how to trace these Evil.  Therefore, I’ve decided to go from town to town, farm to farm, and ask if anyone has seen a band of Evil.  It seems like all I can do.  And besides, I will welcome detours, because, while I’m traveling, I might as well enjoy the places I see.  But also, if I do chance upon other beasts, I will gladly distract myself from my original quest to give them what they deserve.

I know I am near a town because I have been to it before with my father.  Sometimes, we would trade for things, other times we would borrow things, and other times we would visit friends.  I have also not forgotten, though, that we also had enemies there.

As I step out from under the overhang the rock provides, I frown and glance at my sword.  The rain could make it rust.  I mean, I don’t know for sure, because I don’t know a lot about swords, but it seems possible.  Taking my shirt from my back, I wrap it as best I can around my longish sword.  Then, I don the wet, cold cloak.  I will have to sacrifice my comfort for my life, I think, if I want to survive.  If something happens to my sword, then I’m as good as dead if I encounter any more Evil.

I move through the forest with a quick stride.  Even after I have woken, my dream still haunts me.  Did it have a purpose?  Was it merely something random, something my mind created that possessed no meaning?  I can’t be sure about any of these questions.  Yet, the questions raised by the dream itself are still worthy of my attention, and they refuse to leave my mind.  What happened to my parents?  Did the Evil have something to do with it?  Did my parents leave me, Soror, and Frater?  Why did my parents look like beasts?

I always thought that my parents had left me and my younger siblings.  Life was hard, times were tough, and work seemed to be fruitless.  I recall that dreadful, fateful morning when I noticed they were not awake and I went to find them.  The dream, I realize, replayed that part of my memory; me walking to their room, opening the door, and finding their room empty.  Of course, the dream was different from what really occurred on a number of levels, like my parents didn’t suddenly appear, and there was no presence of the Evil whatsoever.  But the fear in the dream, that was the same.  The confusion, the lack of knowledge, and the deep-seated anger—that was all real.

I always thought they left us.  I always credited them in part with my suffering.  I credited them in part with Soror and Frater’s detached, depressed dispositions.  I have always been confused and angry.  Were we not worth enough to our parents?  Did they ever really love us?  All those times we thought they did, when we seemed to feel their love the most, was it all fake?  That’s what hurts to contemplate the most: whether or not they really loved us, whether or not they were the people we thought they were.  I loved them.

That was before they disappeared.

These questions fill my thoughts for the few hours it takes me to come upon my destination.  I am cut short in my musing when, just beyond a short slope covered with trees, I spy a large clearing, and in that clearing is the town I’m heading towards.  The town’s name is Aran, and already I can see the cluster of townspeople moving about, talking, laughing, shouting, trading, bargaining, eating, and playing.  They appear to be living happy, undisturbed lives.

Too bad I might just have to disturb their happiness.

It has stopped raining, but by now I am soaked.  My hair is wet and plastered down on my head and my pants are soggy.  My sword is only damp, for which I am thankful, but I still think that I will need to find the means to dry it properly.  So as not to look like a complete weirdo, I remove my shirt from my sword and put it on, and then wrap my cloak around me.  I hope I don’t look like an outcast too much.

I make my way down the slope to the road that leads to Aran.  Then I walk at a swift pace to the front gate of the town.  Aran is fortified by a wall ten feet high, constructed of wood—walls in the Golden Lands are usually only present to protect people from wild animals, not other humans.  The gatekeeper, a man named Turk, greets me heartily.  I remember him from previous visits, and he remembers me.  It feels good to be remembered by someone.  We exchange greetings and I am admitted into the town.

I feel very different from the crowd of Knights and Beloved around me.  They are all so absorbed in their own business, no one even acknowledges me.  Despite the feeling of exclusion and loneliness I feel, it is still exciting for me to be surrounded by other people, whether they notice me or not.  I find myself slipping away into the folds of all the commotion around me.  I eavesdrop on a conversation here, smell the food from a bakery there, and try to catch the eyes of a few attractive girls passing my way.

I snap out of my daze and remember why I am here.  “Where do I start?” I think to myself.  I came here to ask if anyone has seen a band of Evil pass this way.  The problem is, I don’t know who to ask.  I am also in no mood to be thought of as a fool if I ask the wrong person.  I don’t want to be made fun of.  The wisest thing to do, I reason, would be to go to the center of Aran and visit the sheriff.  Surely, I will be able to find answers there.

There are no kings in the Golden Lands.  A region might possess a castle, but the ruler of the castle is no ruler of the people around the castle.  The Golden Lands is a place of complete, harmonious anarchy.  No large bodies of people quarrel, and there is plenty of land and food to go around.  There is no wealth; if you want something, you trade something for it, or you learn to make it yourself.  Figures of authority only exist to help regulate systems.  That’s what every area of civilization has: systems, and people who regulate them.  But there are no rulers.

I am about a hundred yards away from the sheriff’s building when I hear someone say to my left, “Well, if it isn’t little Johnny!”

It has been years, literally, since I have heard my name.  I hardly realize that the words—or the taunt—were directed at me.  I see a group of teenaged guys my age approaching me.  I am both large and small; some of them are bigger than me, some smaller.  I immediately recognize the person who spoke: Tarsh Landid.

Tarsh Landid was always something of a bully.  He is not broad or muscular, but he is tall.  Everything about him denotes his cockiness and his deviousness.  He grins with his teeth at me, his comrades gathering around him, and he says, “You’re looking awfully nice.  It’s been a while since you’ve shown that big chin of yours around here.”

For the record, I know my chin is not big.  “I see you’re still rude as ever,” I return.  I notice him place his hand under the tunic he’s wearing and grip the handle of a sword he was concealing.

I take a step back; is he really going to attack me for saying that?  He grins again, “What’s the matter, afraid of me now that your daddy is no longer here to protect you?”

My eyes widen, and I grimace, clenching my fist.  “I’ve never been afraid of you, Tarsh,” I say, “and you have no right to say anything about my father!”

“Sorry,” Tarsh replies with mock concern, “I thought you wouldn’t care.  After all, you really can’t like your father that much, seeing how he left you.”

“We don’t know if he left!” I shout, raising my sword.

“Oh, that reminds me,” Tarsh continues, “didn’t your mom walk out on you too?  I guess you really must not have been worth it to them.”

“Shut up!” I yell.  All at once, any past anger I had for Tarsh resurfaces, and I scowl at him, baring my gritted teeth.  He’s drawing the line…

“Or who knows?” he shrugs, “Maybe they just got bored.”

…And now I’m going to cross it.  Crying out, I charge Tarsh.  Tarsh draws his sword, laughing, and his comrades also draw swords from beneath their robes.  I clash with Tarsh and we parry, our swords locked.  We stare into each other’s eyes, mine furious, his taunting.  As we push against each other, I see the other guys with him spread out around me.  “Come on,” I growl, “don’t you have enough honor to fight me without help?”

“What are you gonna’ do about it, you parentless, little bastard?” he sneers.

I roar at him, shoving him away.  He staggers backwards, but quickly regains his balance, and he regards me with more sincerity.  “Well, what do you know?” he says in an overly loud, exaggerated voice.  “It seems like little Johnny has grown up!  He’s finally starting to fight like a man!”

“Unlike you!” I return.  His gang has fully surrounded me.  In quick succession, I block a sword coming for me at my left, then I stab—forcing my foe to shy away—and then I bat a jab away at my right.  I slash twice more at the Knights beginning to surround me, quickly but forcefully, urging them to keep their distance.  I feel sweat run down my forehead, and my eyes are constantly switching from one guy to the next.  I tense, ready to attack during the pause in their strikes.

Then Tarsh suddenly charges me.  He runs at full speed, his sword pointed at me as he runs.  I step to the side and slash.  He raises his sword so that it faces the sky and blocks my attack.  Before I can strike again, he quickly turns towards me and follows with another stab.  This one cuts my right arm at the tricep.  I grit my teeth and breathe deeply through my nose.  In response, I swing horizontally, crying out, but he blocks again and then cracks down on me with an over-the-head attack.  I catch his blow just before my head can be pierced.  My arms quiver under the weight of his rap, and I scowl.  That’s when I notice his stomach is completely exposed.

I cut sideways, and he jerks away, but not before my sword can slice his abdomen.  He hisses, “Dammit, you bastard!”

I delight for only a short moment in my victory.  In dealing with Tarsh, I forgot about his friends.  White-hot pain erupts in my back as a sword cuts my back from kidney to kidney.  I fall to the ground, my mouth open in silent exclamation.

I breathe in heavily, gasping in pain, thinking, “How many times will I be left to die?  How many ties will I be wounded by an unfair attack?”  My hatred grows evermore for the Evil and all that do evil.  That’s when I see Tarsh approaching me.  “Let this be the day, you worthless clump of dirt,” says Tarsh, looking down at me with evident delight while clutching his stomach, “that you remember how you were beaten, like a dog, by Tarsh Landid!” And drawing back his foot, I see his boot fill my vision a moment later and everything goes black.


Just. Write.

Fortune Soul

Sometimes, all you need to do is write.  Sometimes, that’s really what you NEED.

As some of you already know, I’m a home-schooled high school student.  That means that I sit upstairs at my desk for several hours a day doing my school work.  And let me tell you: sometimes that can be pretty boring.

As I write this, I should be doing school work.  But I’m starting to realize that sometimes, we just can’t do the things that we should do…unless we do the things we want to do.  That, or we learn to want to do the things we should do.  Yeah, that’s complicated!

Sometimes, on days like this, when my mind is bored with school, I just need to write.  There’s no other explanation, nothing else that will get the gears rolling.  It takes imagination to do school, and even more to be homeschooled.  Writing is that spark that starts the fire; the fuel for my flames.  I can’t operate unless I have that sense of excitement and imagination that writing gives me.

So I’m writing right now.  Because sometimes, that’s just what you have to do.

Stay awesome!

Dominic (Aul)