March 2016


This is the story of the Age of Sparrows.

In ages past, before time was time and the world was the world, sparrows ruled all. They were great and all and proud and took what they would. They were the striders, and the striders were the sparrows: weak, scattered, prey.

Sparrows took llew rather than llew taking sparrows.

But in their hubris, the sparrows decided that they must be bigger still. So they grew larger an more fierce until they were larger and fiercer than any creature which has ever walked the earth. So much so that they could only eat other sparrows, who they slew in great battles.

The Great One saw this and was much saddened. He implored the sparrows to change their ways, but they regarded him not–they were the great ones now, and needed no counsel. So, in his sadness, the Great One hid himself from the world for a whole year. The sparrows, deprived of light and warmth, had to shrink in order to survive. In turn, the striders–free of the sparrows’ predation–grew and they themselves took on the role of llew, predators.

And that is why things are as they are today, why sparrows pay for the transgressions of our ancestors even unto this day, and why even the few of our brothers who are llew, like the hawk or the owl, feed upon us even now.

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We are the Hummingbirds
If brought to battle, we are defeated
But first we must be brought to battle
If deprived of supply, we are defeated
But first we must be deprived of supply
We move swiftly and with purpose
Against slow enemies who have none
We strike with precision and speed
Against enemies who can’t see us coming
We are the first line of attack
And the last line of defense
We are the Hummingbirds
Pray you are ready for us

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On the one side, a wide open field, urban parkland, filled with wildblossoms like unto a snowstorm of beauty, of fragrance, of joy.

On the other, the rear-engine mower, hydrocarbon haze, churning in lines because Tuesdays are scything-days, petals or no.

Between them, me, hand on wheel over idling engine, stoplight brilliant in plexiglass ahead.

It will all be gone by the time I return.

I am moved to silent tears, rolling oily down cheeks still sunburned from the last walk, sopping across nostrils aching for an iota of fragrance.

The light changes, and I see no more. A scene for my dreams thereafter, then, waking or resting, blissful or nightmare.

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“These crystals are…they’re…they’re astonishing,” said Bates, her awe audible even over the scratchy commlink in her environment suit.

Rowe scanned them with an indifferent gesture. “Quartz with impurities,” he said. “Worthless. All they tell us is how long this place has been without an earthquake or a meteor strike.”

“How can you say that?” Bates laid a hand on one of the shimmering giants, twice again as tall as she was. Her suit left an ugly handprint on the surface. Rowe grabbed her by the rear handle of her suit and hauled her away as the weakened crystal, its delicate structure compromised by Bates’s alien grime, collapsed.

“I can say that because I’ve seen bigger ones and more colorful one,” he huffed. “You can’t let yourself get hypnotized by every little thing, kid. You’ve got to grow a thicker skin. Me scraping jelly off a rock doesn’t do anybody but the underwriters any good.”

“Maybe it’s the other way around,” said Bates, crestfallen. “Maybe you don’t let yourself get hypnotized nearly enough.”

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“The Gob Legion, all ten thousand of them, deserted their posts and sailed south to Naix. We have come on behalf of the Most Serene Republic of Pexate to learn why.”

The orcish bashamalur stroked his chin. “We have seen your legion,” he said. “They helped us spread the truth of the Hamurabash to the yoxia, the men, in the city of Gaiza. You have heard of it?”

“Heard of it?” said Myn. “I can’t even pronounce it.”

“Mind your tongue,” the bashamalur said. “Hamur has set our nation forth to spread the Hamurabash, the only code for living a truthful life, free of false gods and idols. For too long have the men of the coast and the trade routes defiled these our lands with their nonsense.”

“Yes, yes, but the gobs, what about the gobs,” said Myn. “They helped you?”

“Their leader, a gob named Lodii, promised to help us take the city and to lead her men in taking up the Hamurabash among her people. Long have we sought to capture Gaiza, and longer still have we sought to break the vty, the goblins, out of their superstitions. If they would only come to the Hamurabash, you see, they would be welcomed as equals. This was an opportunity we could not turn down.”

“What happened?” said Myn. “I’m guessing Lodii didn’t keep her word.”

“The vty helped us storm the walls with their dishonorable weapons, and then marched south into the desert, following the great Intermittent River. We hold Gaiza even now, but must now seek the vty and hold them accountable for their betrayal.”

“Yeah,” said Myn. “Good luck with that.”

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“And why should this one speak to you of anything?” sneered the gob. “You mules could never understand our plight.”

Myn pressed the knife to the gob’s throat. A single drop of blood wept from the tip. “Try me,” she said.

“We gobs are created by, beloved of, and cursed by Muolih, the Spreading Darkness, the Murderer of the Creator,” the Gob squawked through the chokehold.

“Yeah, yeah. I know that. My mother wouldn’t shut up about it. He’s as imaginary as a mule father.”

“No!” cried the gob, with shocking vehemence. “He is real. Lodii, our leader…she learned of a place the orcs call Rait Tirat…the Tomb of the Rebel. There, entombed, is Nyir Rvi, the Murderer of the Creator.”

“Fairy tales,” Myn said. “I didn’t come all this way to hear bedtime stories meant for particularly dumb children.”

“Believe what you want, mule,” said the gob. “Lodii marches the Gob Legion into the heart of the ancient desert to find our creator and master. Lord Eyon may have freed us, but it is Muolih who will save us.”

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You love your land
They love your land
Both for what it was
Both for what it must be
Differing only in details
So you speak to them now
Reading from their book
Their hearts open, minds open
Pockets open
Does it matter whence help comes
When you have so few friends?
To save the land, or to redeem it
You are fellow-travelers
Ignoring the reckoning
That must eventually come

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They come by the droves to the desert
From another desert far away
These Texans, so anxious to climb
Holy mountains, holy tels
Tracing the footsteps of a man
Your people revile
They pay well, very well
They lap up the stories eagerly
Even a little bit of their religion
Thrown in like strong spice
Elicits rapture, hallelujiah
But at every turn from every group
The question eventually comes
What must we do to see you saved?
What do we have to do to send you
Home with a brand new religion?
If you take their money
You must take their wine, their bread

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Traitor they called him
Apostate from the faith
Cast out from the chosen
Banished from the elect
A powerful symbol for those
Who would see his nation saved
A powerful warning for those
Who would see it intact
As he preaches on the mount
Covered with bodies of his nation
Does he feel a twinge of regret
Or see only the gold-gilt dome
That sees both the he that was
And the he that is
As equally guilty

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Godly women are so very rare
The preachers on high proclaim
So when grey hairs crept in
Three men who had never met
Had godly women mailed to them
One from islands that had been America
One from a land America once warred for
One from America’s younger brother
It was equitable, they were saved
Shedding the Mass of youth for
Full immersion and comfort
Devout they were, devout they remained
But meeting on the holy land’s streets
While their men knelt and prayed
Talking in their adopted tongues
They wondered what might have been

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