Fetish.

©2021 Michael Raven

From the trees hung trinkets and talismans, bone fetish and feather. Was it red paint or scarlet blood splashed in the trees and on the scattered dead leaves? Laura could not tell, though the cinnabar stuff was far to viscous to be paint, she knew, which left scant few other options as to what those slaughterhouse hues might mean.

The wind shifted, rattling the bones hollow, the devil’s own xylophone playing on the wings of air. She felt, rather than heard, the subvocalized growl forming from the perimeter. The sound permeated the thick air and came from everywhere and no place, trapped in the amber moment. Laura knew she should run, but was trapped indecision, though she knew her chance at escape was evaporating. The only movement was the bones settling back, the clickclack song fading into the night as she stood there, frozen before the cacophony erupted and she screamed.

Into the mists.

©2021 Michael Raven

Normal caveats apply here:

Published with minimal edits and revision. 
Totally draft (and, likely, daft). I'm unapologetic about that.
May contain errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, logic.
This is more an exploration than finished piece.
A "study" of approximately 1000 words.

These are the foglands, the mistlands, he thought, walking towards diffuse lights that might be towns, wraiths, will-o-wisps or swamp gas. There was no purpose to the thought. It rose like that swamp gas, formed a bubble of thought and burst, and nothing remained of the thought after it flashed though his brain, escaping to the ether. He wearied, and it took too much to think much of anything more than putting one foot in front of the other and focusing on forward momentum deeper, so very much deeper into the turgid wetness of the moor, the roughshod earth, the shadows and shapes moving in the eternal twilight.

It was this or… death. And he wasn’t ready to die yet — or so he told himself when he still had the energy, the capacity to think.

The hunters pursued still. He’d not heard the wolves for a long time. How long? Oh, time had no meaning in these lands. No sun, no moon. But it had been a while, if one could divine time from forgotten heartbeats pounding in his chest. But not long enough. The old man, the Fisher King, they called him with chuckles and laughter, in that shithole town at the edge of the mists.

It was obvious inbreeding had gone on in that town named Daylight, which would have been a laughable name for that mire-clotted and rotting collection of shanties. It may have been named thus because it was the last sign of day (or the first) one saw in the mists. Had to be. But there were signs that the town needed new stock, but couldn’t be bothered to inject new blood — the sloping foreheads, slow wit and frog-like features were all he needed to know that place had grown decadent with the infrequent contact with the larger world. They knew little, but the Fisher King, a man not from their little cesspool, but an immigrant from the mists, he knew, they said, and they chuckled behind filthy hands as they said his name, though it wasn’t clear why.

Lan had expected the man to have crowned himself, wear battered robes, or something to give himself the appearance of royalty. Instead, he encountered a half-mad man, bare-chested and wearing the rags of a makeshift loincloth hobbling along the thickening perimeter of the moving shades and suggestions of shape cloaked in white just beyond his cabin. He carried a feather-tipped lance and lowered it upon Lan’s approach, but quickly raised it upon recognizing a fellow human.

“You’re hunted,” he said, inflectionless and dead.

“Yes.”

The Fisher King tilted the lance towards the swirling clouds floating over the moors. “That’s your sanctuary,” he said without emotion, “Though you might wish you’d let the wolves bring you to ground before you find the succor you seek.”

“I have no choice. I made a promise…”

“What? To live? Break that oath, let the wolves have you. You’ll thank me as they rip out your throat.”

“I may, at that. But I’m no oath breaker. Tell me — what can I expect?”

The Fisher King considered, eyes drifting to the fog and then the ground by his bare, muddied feet.

“Madness.”

“And?”

“And? And you’ll walk until your legs give out, and then you crawl until you knees give way, and then you’ll claw with fingers bloody from scrabbling at stone as you pull yourself ever further into Her lands. And… If you’re very lucky, She will find you before you turn to a corpse, then bone, then ash. If she doesn’t want to find you, you will not find her.”

“How far?”

The Fisher King grunted and turned away.

“How far, dammit — my time runs short and I need to know how far before the wol–“

“As far as you need to, dammit!” Fire burned in the Fisher King’s eyes now, a suppressed anger rising molten to the surface. “And it will still not be enough! Did you not hear me? If She doesn’t want to find you, you… will… not… find… Her… Give yourselves to the wolves, boy. You’ll thank me as you breathe your last.”

Lan sighed. “Which way. then?”

The Fisher King mirrored the sigh and calmed, stony once again. He waved his hand in the general direction of the mists. “Take your pick. All paths lead to Her. If she wants. Walk until the wolves howl no more, then walk more, and when you cannot wal–“

“I know,” interrupted Lan. “Knees, then fingers, then waiting for Her to decide to find me. If She wants to find me.”

“That sums it up, yes.”

“And I’ll know I am close when I can no longer hear my pursuers?”

“You’ll know nothing of the sort. But you’ll be closer than the wolves, and they will not hunt you if they’ve lost your scent, and that’s all that matters.”

“Thank you,” Lon said, though he’d not learned as much as he’d hoped and didn’t think it would be useful.

“Don’t thank me,” Fisher King said and returned to his patrols of the mists outside his home.

And now, Lan felt gravity pulling him to his knees these aeons later and he decided it was time to surrender and so he fell, though not as gracefully as he’d intended upon making that decision. He realized, then, that the Fisher King had been right. Lan would be forced to crawl and he wasn’t sure he could do even that much, so he kneeled there for a spell, considering if he should lay down, knowing he’d not rise again if he did.

Instead he listened for the wolves as he had for as long as he could recall. When had he last heard them? How many heartbeats? How many breaths ago?

He closed his eyes, just to rest them, mind you. When he opened them once more his face was against the broken granite carpet, the mists forming tendrils and snatching at his jerkin, his trousers, his… it didn’t matter. He didn’t care.

Then — a boot-clad foot.

“Well, what have we here?” She asked, towering above him.

Lan smiled and let his eyes close. She had found him he thought. And if it wasn’t Her… well… he didn’t care anymore. He fell back to sleep.

The woman leaned over, picked him up effortlessly and carried him away from the place she’d found him. There were wolves about. She’d heard them on the mists. They were hunting, quite possibly hunting the man in her arms.

Pooh Sticks.

©2021 Michael Raven

With running rivulets developing from the snowmelt of the cloudless day, Sean thought it might be time to paint up some toothpicks and teach the kids a modified version of Pooh Sticks. He thought he might even let someone else win most of the races…

Clocktower.

A bit of fiction from 2012. Not the best and very loosely based on the world of a MMO that I played at the time. I scrubbed references for the game in my minor edits below. A few reworked passages, a few spelling errors, but the tale is largely as-written. I think I imagined a novella at the time, but probably got distracted. I have no firm memory of what the intent was aside from this bit of writing; however, it was labelled “Prelude”. Also, the larger piece was titled “Dancing the Ghost”.


Tick.

Tock.

Tick.

Tock.

Lucretia flipped her cloak over her head. She knew that doing so would be largely ineffective, as the cloak was little more than a scrap of oiled cloth and provided very little in the way of disguise, but the largely symbolic act couldn’t hurt either. She risked peeking out between the folds of her cloak, hoping the small, furtive motion would not drawn any attention to the place where she hid.

Tick.

Tock.

Tick.

Her pursuer burst into the room, a nervous ferret glancing around the unkempt room, seeking his prey. Lucretia started, almost revealing herself, as his fierce eyes fell upon the door she’d left ajar to check on who may follow. She forced herself to remain still, her only motion being to reach for the hilt of the dagger on her hip, her hand masked by the shadows, floating dust motes, and her upturned cloak.

Tock.

Tick.

Tock.

“Girly,” he said, as he looked closer at the crack. “C’mon out and play, Girly. Ol’, Berund was only kidding about beating the shit out of you. What’s a few coppers, lass, eh? Nothing to get angry about, right?”

He looked around the room, ear bent to the silence, waiting for an answer. Lucretia let out her breath silently. He’d not discovered her yet, there was still hope it wouldn’t come to blood. And if he intended to beat her, she didn’t plan to take the beating without extracting some blood in return.

Tick.

Tock.

Tick.

Tock.

Something about the cubby door held his attention, though, and Berund started towards her, the air kicking up the thick dust of the room in its wake, but his roaming eyes belied his ignorance of her whereabouts. She gripped the dagger’s hilt tighter, knowing the sorry blade would only likely serve more to surprise more than injure her hunter, and she likewise hoped the surprise and pain would be enough for her to scramble away to the next hidey hole she could think of. Stupid, stupid, stupid, she scolded silently. It had been a dumb move to choose a hiding place without an exit, but she hadn’t had much choice.

Tick.

Berund’s hand reached for the edge of the the door.

Tock.

Lucretia tensed, readied herself to pounce, blade quietly slipping free of the sheath.

TIck.

And then… the din of metal upon metal descended on them both. cacophonous and painful. Berund quickly covered his ears and roared in pain as he stumbled to the door by which he’d entered this room, cursing at the noise filling the room.

It was noon in Ravenswatch and Lucretia had, in classic mockery of the phrase, been saved by the bell. Her cloak draped over her head did little to deaden the noise of the bell above, and neither did her hands after she had let the dagger slide back into it’s sheath and covered her ears — but she endured, hoping the disruption would give her a chance to escape to a better hiding place until Berund calmed down. Sure, it had been but a few coppers, but coppers all the same. Berund hated to lose even one, and she’d abandoned nineteen when the guard asked for her begging papers, which she’d not renewed for lack of funds. That alone would have been easy to hide, but for that damn Mouse who’d made sure to tell Berund about the coin she’d left behind. They’d been close once, but now he seemed determined to torment her.

She’d have to hide for several days before Berund’s demeanor would revert to merely perpetually surly. What had been lost was a full evening’s worth of drink, by Lucretia’s estimate. Until he’d gotten his alcohol levels back to normal, it was best to avoid Berund unless she wanted a broken arm, or worse.

She huddled there in the darkness of the shadows once the bells ceased…. watching….. waiting.

Tick.

Tock.

But Berund didn’t venture back, probably thinking she’d not survived the clamor with her senses intact and that’d be punishment enough; or he’d thought to look for her in less noisy places.

Tick.

Either way, Lucretia deemed it was safe after a spell and snuck out to find a spot to hide near the farms of Landenshire, perhaps the caves she’d explored when the city became too oppressive to her, as it had on more than one occasion.

Tock.

The sound of the clocktower counting away the seconds faded as she made her way to the main gate of the Watch. Yes, she told herself, she was overdue for a vacation. Staying the shadows on her way to the gate, she left her problems behind her, like an old shirt or a trinket, of which she’d grown weary. Lucretia kept her face hidden under the hood of her cloak, avoiding any attention from the guards as she slipped past the tall doors leading to the farmland beyond the city walls, unaware she was being watched from shadows darker than those she’d used to her advantage.


Mouse took note of where ol’ Lucky went, fairly certain of her final destination. When they were younger the two of them, along with some of the other guttersnipes, often went to the small cave just outside of the Watch to play monsters and warrior as break from the normal begging and petty theft that filled the rest of their lives. As they grew older, the guild expected them to contribute more to the common coffers, leaving scant time for puerile heroic games, but Mouse had watched Lucky follow the same worn path they had used to reach their childhood sanctuary more times than he cared to remember and it didn’t take many brain cells to figure out this was where she’d go again.

He followed her as far as Landenshire to be certain and, having convinced himself his assumptions were correct, he contemplated how much Berund might be willing to pay to learn this news. Considering he was still likely enraged about his lost coin, Berund would probably pay at least as much as he’d lost in exchange, possibly more. Worst case, Mouse would still be a couple of coppers richer and his prestige with the guild would increase.

Turning back towards the city din, Mouse smiled at his fortune. As far as he could see it, it was a win-win situation for everyone involved — everyone except for Lucky, and she ranked low in his hierarchy of the world. Collateral damage.

She shouldn’t have left him behind years ago.


© Michael Raven

Philosopher’s couch.

There, in the tall grass growing wild under the bridge arcing over the railroad rail, rock and ties, was the old couch losing its stuffing and with a dangerous spring if you didn’t know how to plop down in it properly — his sanctuary against the insanity of the city scurrying just above his head. Just another cigarette, he told himself, kicking a used condom someone had deposited near where his roughworn boots dug into the earth. And so he smoked, the insect hum of traffic passing over his head.

© Michael Raven