Several weeks ago I wrote a few posts about a dual-writing exercise that my writer’s group completed. (Dual Writing Exercise) We each started a scene and then another member of the group completed it. (Dual Writing Exercise – Part Deux) It was a fun exercise. However, being a bit of a control freak where my writing is concerned, I thought I would finish my own scene the way it was morphing in my own head. I admit I cheated in that I took longer than 30 minutes to write my ending. But, it was finished in one sitting with very little editing. Rough though it may be, a like the way it played out and can see some interesting future possibilities. So, here is my version of the scene.
The stench of stale beer and bad cigar smoke burned my nose and stung my eyes as I entered waterfront dive called the Broken Tankard. Tears filled my eyes from the smokey irritation. I blinked several times before the room came into focus.
A swirl of faces turned in my direction and quickly returned to the interests at hand. I walked toward the dark stained bar that ran along the back wall. My boots stuck to the floor as I picked my way through the jungle of tables and occupied chairs. Stains from semi-dried beer, blood, and other noxious fluids covered the floor. I tried to step around the worst of it. But, there were few dry spots to find. Two women stood on the stairs that led to the second floor. Wearing little more than undergarments, they tried to catch the eye of the patrons.
I continued to the bar but refrained from touching it as it was no cleaner than the floor.
“What do you want?” asked a small wiry man from behind the bar. His beady eyes never left mine as he carefully replaced a bottle beneath the bar.
Through the stench of the smoke and beer, I smelled the distinct chocolate aroma of magic coming from the man behind the bar.
“I’m looking for this woman,” I said as I handed him a faded photograph. “I was told she used to work here.”
The man looked at the picture of young woman wearing a wedding dress. She had a crescent-shaped birthmark on her neck. He glanced to the women on the stairs and then handed the picture back to me.
“Maybe I have seen her. Why are you looking for her?”
I stuffed the picture into my shirt pocket and said, “She’s my mother.”
A shriek from behind me drew my attention. I looked over my shoulder and saw a tiny bedraggled sprite take to the air from one of the tables. Across the table sat an equally bedraggled ogre who, until a moment ago, had been playing checkers with the now airborne sprite. The sprite drew what appeared to be a large darning needle from its belt and flew up to attack the huge ogre. Even seated the ogre was nearly seven feet tall.
“Die cheater,” the sprite screamed as it lunged up at the ogre’s face.
The ogre calmly swatted at the enraged sprite. The ogre’s massive hand struck the sprite and launched it towards the wall. The sprite hit the stone wall with an audible spat. Its crumpled body slid down the wall until it lay unmoving on the sticky floor. No one lifted a finger to help.
”Nice place you have here…,” I said as I turned back to the bartender. “…Mom.”
Standing where the wiry bartender had been, was the woman from the picture. She looked the same even though the picture was a century old. In place of the wedding gown were jeans and a black tank top.
“I see you still prefer to hide in plain sight,” I said. “Your illusion was nearly flawless.”
“Simpler is usually better,” she said flatly. Her forehead showed several small furrows as she looked at me.
“Yeah. You’ve said that a time or two.”
My mother was a powerful wizard, capable of holding her own with anyone or anything that wandered into her territory. Why she was hiding out in this flophouse was anyone’s guess. Her right hand was still out of sight beneath the bar. That made me a little nervous. She was still alive because she trusted no one. That she held no trust for her only son was not that surprising. I slowly took my hands out so she could see they were empty.
“Why are you here, boy,” she asked.
“First, the name you gave me was Derek. I’ve grown accustomed to it over the past one hundred and thirty-four years.”
Her eyes narrowed slightly and I couldn’t help the slight upturn to the corner of my mouth.
“Secondly, I have a message from your husband.”
“So what does your dear old stepdad have to say?”
“He passed through the Veil two weeks past. He asked me to find you.”
“So you have, out with it. What did he want to tell me, I have work to do?”
“He still loved you. Why I can’t explain.” I shook my head slightly as I continued, “That’s what he wanted me to tell you.”
“The man was a fool,” Mom said.
“That…” I cut her off before she could say anything else. “…is the first thing you’ve said in a hundred years that I agree with. He should have run when he saw you coming. You treated him like shit even though he worshiped the ground you walked on.”
I took a step forward. She responded by leaning back away from the bar and I saw the orb in her right hand.
“Leaving us was the best thing that you ever did. Good-bye, Mother.” I turned and began walking for the door.
“You spoiled brat. Do you think you can come into my territory, insult me, and then just walk out? Turn around you little son of a bitch!”
I waved my hand as if brushing her comment away and kept walking. The next second, a blast of energy washed over me as a wave crashes over a rocky shore. Tables, chairs, and patrons went flying before her spell, crashing into the far wall of the bar. I stopped in mid-stride and turned slowly to face the most powerful wizard on this half of the continent. She stood behind the bar and her eyes were at first, wide but she quickly recovered her composure. Her arm stretched over her head. The orb streamed red and orange flashes between her fingers. She flicked her left hand and I heard the front door slam. She looked at me from head to toe.
“I see your stepfather taught you a few things.”
“One or two.”
“Are you challenging me?” she asked. The light from the orb began to throb with power.
“I have no intention of challenging you mother,” I said as I began walking slowly toward her. I had waited a long time for this moment. “I just have a bit of advice for you.”
“And that would be?”
“Stay out of trouble and do not give me cause to return here.”
I stopped a few feet sort of the bar and she began to laugh.
The laughter stopped and her face took on a dangerous look, “And what if I don’t?”
I pulled back my jacket to expose a pin on my shirt the size of a half-dollar. The shape of the pin was that of a silver circle with two interconnected crescent moons within it, the four-moon phases device worn by the wizard king’s marshals.
“I will come back and I will kill you,” I said without emotion.
She stared at the pin in disbelief. Without waiting for her to comment, I turned and walked toward the door. I called on the device as I approached the door and the wards mother had placed there melted away. Then, just for spite, I walked through the door without opening it. As my body coalesced out on the street, I couldn’t help smiling at the thought of my father and stepdad looking down and laughing.
“Thank you. That was almost worth it,” I said aloud.
I stepped into my jeep and headed north out-of-town. A warlock in Taos was stalking a famous actress and the Wizard King liked her movies.