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Twitter Poetry–Part 5

My goal was to collect all, or at least most, of the short poetry I’ve done on Twitter. I never quite caught up with it. Here I will resume the task, and in so doing, thank my muse, once again, the incomparable Susan Canary.

Susan

After a long exchange of wishes and dreams, I said:

Live in the light, my love,

And call me when you want

To live in the night!

and she said:

In the shadows I’ll welcome your strong embrace

Lips brushing a soft cheek

And leave you

With a smile when I return to the light.

And followed that with:

Would you break me

And leave me a shell

A ruin

Or just ruin me

For other men?

To which I answered:

If you have to ask,

Then you don’t understand.

If I can’t have you,

Why should any other man?

You are too strong to break,

You are too wise to fail,

You are too far to take,

A falcon, not a quail.

Her:

Not so wise

Nor nearly so strong

Pixels and distance

What I’ve had all along.

Me:

Sweet dreams are made of this,

Black canaries lying in bed,

Singing their songs, and spreading their wings,

Pretty birds with daring tongues.

Her:

The tongue not so daring

As it is eager to taste

For all five senses are

Engaged in one place.

(Unable to continue and overcome with longing, I fell silent and let several days pass. In the real world, I have a small convention I must attend, where I can play games, talk to friends, do typical nerdish, fannish things. Thinking of that I said:)

Tonight is the party before the Con

Time to get our shmoozing on

Playing poker with my friends,

Enjoying means instead of ends.

and she replied:

Won’t have a moment

To think of me

With all of that

Fun and frivolity

Hang w/your cronies

Until morning light

No time for women tonight!

But she gets no apology:

No time for women,

No women in sight.

Sometimes a man

Must do what’s right.

Back in the real world, I tried to let her know my ardor, though postponed, is undiminished.

For

Hot or cold . . .

It doesn’t matter.

I want your heart

On a silver platter.

Shocked out of rhyme she said:

I’m a bit concerned….

And I explained:

Sometimes a poem Is a metaphor,

For feelings that I can’t ignore.

But sometimes it’s A play on words,

For hungry trolls and pretty birds.

and she sent me some love:

*HUGS* I understand.

*************************************************************************

And that seems a good place to end this page.  I missed several days of poetry, and I’ll come back for it later on the next page, but this seemed like one section that was fairly coherent.

–end

Twitter Poetry–Part 4

Today’s collection of poetry is built around a series of pictures I took during the day. The poems are still terrible, but at least you’ll have some photos to look at.  🙂

***************************************************************************************************************

Everyone likes pictures, right?

& so this is my plot:

To show the pix I took today,

And ask which ones are hot.

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Please favorite the ones you like,

And just ignore the rest,

So when an hour or two has passed,

I’ll know which one is best.

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& every pic will have its poem

I saw a tree not far from home.

I took a pic to illustrate

how stories neer do run straight.

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Imagine my surprise

Looking in Diana’s eyes.

She is a Woman Wonder.

That look could put me under

Her control.

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This is not the letter S.

It’s a Kryptonian glyph,

And you should only wear it when

You do a super riff.

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I went into a comics store

And found an iron man.

They put him in a corner

Where he sat upon his can.

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If I only had a dollar

For every super bank,

I’d have enough to buy one

And put my money in it.

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He tried to duck & doge & hide.

He said he wasn’t ready.

I tried & tried & tried & tried

To photograph Fast Eddie.

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I love those secondary books

Inspired by a story.

To have this in a bookstore,

Must be George Martin’s glory.

Embedded image permalink

Long ago I used to buy

And read each fantasy I’d spy.

But now there are so many books

That all they get is passing looks.

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I’m a troll & it’s a tun-

Nel. Being in one is such fun.

Water splashes everywhere

But none of it gets in my hair.

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To the carwash I must go

Every other month or so.

I look goofy. I don’t care. This would make a groovy lair.

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And now my rhymes are ended.

I hope I made you smile.

I think I will play Hearthstone

And leave this Twitter stuff alone.

*********************************************************

I like this page. It has more structure and coherence than the other Twitter poetry pages. If you like it too, please leave a poem in the comments.

–end

Twitter Poetry–Part Three

Continuing the totally unappreciated collation of Twitter poetry from Ken St. Andre and his muse, Susan Canary.

***************************************************

Trolls and Monsters

Not all trolls are monsters.

Not all monsters are trolls.

Some like causing trouble.

Some just go for strolls.

*******

Little bridges are good for little trolls.

Twitter Poetry, Part Two

I have this impossible dream that some day, maybe after I’m dead, someone will re-discover all these short poems, and random thoughts, and WORDS OF WISDOM, and collect it all into a book.  Maybe call it TROLLGOD’S MISCELLANEA, or in a slightly more vulgar, but hipper tone: TROLL DROPPINGS.

Lately, inspired by one @black_canary02 from Twitter, I’ve been doing a lot, for me at least, of internet verse. It has to be brief to fit on twitter. I like brief. We all want to live epic lives, but the best quotes are short and sweet. Some poets write short stuff, and some write long, but nobody remembers the long stuff, or if they do, it’s just a line or two extracted from the greater body of work.

That being said, here is some more of my short stuff . . . in no particular order, and following no particular theme. Troll droppings indeed.

********************************************************************************************************************

Morning Haiku

Somnolent. Restless.

My brains says, “Get the fuck up!”

I would rather die.

******************

For NationalKissingDay

Virtual kisses

Are all I get.

That’s ok.

I’m not dead yet.

***

Curses!

Cold coffee . . .

Warm juice . . .

Damn you, Twitter!

For causing me

To lose track of

What’s important In life.

***

Waffles & Jam &

Cheese & Coffee.

It ain’t the Ritz,

But it is my life.

.

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*******

Sometimes you are not going to agree with me, or I with you.

That’s ok.

But don’t you just hate it when you’re wrong?

*****

**********************

Too Much Good Stuff

I see all these new games announced.

They all look so awesome.

If only I had the will to play them.

One man can only grok so much . . .

When I don’t want to write, really write,

And I don’t want to fight, pixel fight,

Then Twitter’s in sight, day and night.

****

Magic Swords

Long ago, I fancied myself something of a poet of the fantastic in the mode of Clark Ashton Smith, and I wrote a few fantasy poems.  There was no place to publish them back then, or if there was, I didn’t know about it, so I wrote them and tucked them away with other manuscripts.  Going through boxes tonight, I found these two.  The first ties into my lifelong interest in King Arthur–I identify with Gawain in that cycle, but have always had a great interest in Arthur, Merlin, Lancelot, Kay, Balin, Tristram and other knights in the saga.  The second ties into the earliest beginning of Tunnels and Trolls, and my fascination with the word: Shancinar, which came to be associated with elvish homelands in Trollworld.  I had some fancy formatting for when I wrote out the Arthurian poem, since I believed that the form of the poem was almost as important as the words, but WordPress won’t let me easily duplicate that without some html that I don’t know, so all you get is the words.  I wrote these two poems myself, sometime in the early to mid 1970s.

Arthurian Legend as Science Fiction

And it hung there

Half sunken in a block of stone

Awaiting the one starry-eyed urchin from the wild

Who alone

Could liberate it to flourish in the cheer-filled air.

*

And the young king,

With enchanted blade and dauntless hope,

Turned to his task, restoration of a troubled planet,

Forging peace with sword blows . . .

No small thing.

**

And there were strange

Beings, events, legends, mysteries.

Meet them with courage, Arthur.

Fear not the green-haired and the fey

That lead you into danger.

***

Arthur, leader of true

Knights, men, ladies, humanity–

You put down, stamp out the false and alien

Giants, trolls, dragons, witch-dealers of insanity.

And glory grew!

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

I love wordplay.  I especially like exotic poetic forms.  The sestina is pretty exotic and forced.  I tried my hand at creating some a couple of times.  I thought fantasy would go well with the sestina.

The Song of Shancinar (a sestina)

The sword called Shancinar

Was brought to the tower,

Black spire of the white moon,

From sea-bottom bed far,

To save elfin power,

Or so goes the old tune.

*

The war harps played their tune,

War-song of Shancinar,

While trolls in their power

Attacked the old tower,

And beast-things from all far

Places howled at the moon.

**

Then the ears of the moon

Heard that high and strange tune

That the Elves sang so far,

War-song of Shancinar,

Defending the tower

With sorcerous power.

***

Well seen was its power

By the sons of the moon.

Beneath the black tower

Rang the terrible tune

Of sea-sword Shancinar

That had come from afar.

****

The earth spirits ran far

To flee the sword’s power.

They all feared Shancinar!

Storm clouds hid the sad moon,

The wind played a death tune

Around the black tower.

*****

The trolls fled the tower

And scattered to caves far

Away from the death tune.

Broken was Troll power,

Strong sons of earth and moon

Could not face Shancinar.

******

Envoi

The grim tune of Shancinar

Neath white moon had power

To slay far from tower.

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

Well, it’s doggerel, but it preshadowed my idea that Shancinar was connected to the Elves in some way.  I had fun writing it back when I was a young and foolish poet as opposed to now when I’m an old and foolish poet, and perhaps if you read it aloud and revel in the absurdity and repetitions of the rhymes, you’ll get a smile out of it too.

********************

If you ever wrote fantastic doggerel, go ahead and leave a comment. In rhyme, please.

–Ken St. Andre

The Evil Adventures of A. Paco Llyps

(Before you get upset and sic Homeland Security on me, I want to say this story is simply fiction.  I am not now, and never have been a crazed terrorist.  I have no plans or desire to blow up anything.  I don’t own any plastic explosives, and have no idea how to get any, and wouldn’t if I could.  I just thought it would be fun to write some stories from the villain’s point of view.  After all, I did create Monsters! Monsters! back in 1977 so we could see things from their point of view.  The A. Paco Llyps stories were written back in the 1990s, and this may be the only one that has survived, although as I recall, I did half a dozen of them.  At the time I was running a play-by-mail game called Crossover Earth, about a world full of superheroes and supervillains, and I had about a dozen players/writers including Michael Stackpole who wrote about a hero called Revenant.  It was a story writing game in a superhero world.  If I find any more of the stories, I will publish them here.)

Coming Out Party                                                         Ken St. Andre

(copyright April 2012 by Ken St. Andre.  All rights reserved.)

Adam Paco Llyps sat alone in a rental car parked off to one side of a busy Chevron station not far from LAX International Airport. A small black box with an extending antenna lay beside him on the seat–a box with no instrumentation except a round red button. Built into the dashboard was a short-wave receiver, tuned to a frequency near the high end of the non-commercial band. Some kind of radio drama seemed to be playing–the radio wasn’t turned up loud, but a steady stream of sound like crowd noises and people talking and sometimes an announcement–will passengers holding tickets for flight 897 please line up at gate 17C.

It wasn’t a hot day, but Adam was sweating. If there had been anyone to look at him, they might have thought he was having some kind of seizure–so rigid were his features and so dilated were the pupils of his hazel eyes. The few attendants at the Chevron, however, were much too busy pumping gas to worry about anyone parked out of the way of traffic.

“I’ve got to do this,” said Adam. “I’ve been planning this moment for over five years now, ever since the goddess told me her will.” He didn’t realize that he was speaking–almost chanting the words in a low, monotone voice. “The Apocalypse must begin! It is time for Apocalypse Now to introduce itself to the world.”

Adam Paco Llyps knew that today’s mission was only a gesture–that he would have to start thinking bigger if he was to fulfill his mission. Ten bombs in an airport–maybe a couple thousand casualties if things went according to plan. It was trivial really–more children would be born in the United States in an hour than this bombing could possibly kill. He’d still be losing ground . . . but at least he’d have started.

He glanced at his watch, an expensive Rolex. Another twenty minutes to go until detonation–if things went well. Time for his ten loyal men in their black suits and Michael Douglas masks–a cute touch that, imitating an actor who had just made a film about a man in a homicidal rage–to plant their briefcases full of plastique, children’s jacks, and Apocalypse Now flyers all over the airport and then to calmly walk away from it.

He looked at the traffic zooming in and out of the airport. They were like ants or bees going in and out of their nest. Humans were such insects, such lice upon the skin of the goddess that was the earth. And it was up to him to destroy them–sometimes he thought the task was impossible.

Still he had come so far since acquiring the Purpose. From rags to riches literally, from being a pauper in India his luck and drive had turned him into a wealthy man in America. He had built a worldwide organization, and he had done it secretly enough that only a very few men and women knew him for the boss. He had created a dozen aliases, mastered a kind of mind control utilizing hypnosis and drugs, built secret bases all over the world, devised a score of plans to cause mass destruction and death. And today it began, the beginning of the end.

He felt like laughing maniacally. He felt like weeping like a spanked child. He did neither–just sat there looking at his watch, waiting for the moment to push the button.

“Boss, it’s Blur!” said one of his men with alarm in his voice.

Adam Paco Llyps didn’t know who or what Blur was, but he knew it was trouble. Without hesitating, he pushed the button, sending a radio signal to detonate the plastique.

The force of the explosions broke glass and rattled everything not nailed down more than a mile from ground zero. Plumes of smoke and debris soared up from six separate locations at the airport. Six, not ten, something had gone wrong. As the sirens began to sound, he eased his car into traffic and drove away, taking surface streets, working his way north and east, leaving Los Angeles behind.

Now that it was all over, he felt relieved. It was a pity that his agents had to die, but it must have been instantaneous and painless for them. And if some of them survived, they’d soon go back to their cover identities and take up a normal life once more, at least until the cataclysm that would sink California forever. He hadn’t really thought that anything could stop him, not when he so clearly had the favor of the goddess, but he had planned for the contingency anyway. His agents would forget everything, including their names and what they had done if they heard someone read them their rights.

Still, the fact that the coming out party hadn’t gone perfectly troubled him. How could anything have gone wrong when the goddess so urgently wanted the destruction of the human vermin that troubled her? Could something be protecting the humans? Something evil that wanted the Earth itself to be destroyed? Something that would interfere with him and his mission again and again? The more Paco thought about it, the more he came to believe that there was some hostile force working against him; some force that protected humanity.

He resolved to find out what a Blur was, and to plan all further actions of Apocalypse Now with backup plans in case anything went wrong. The resolution calmed him. Things may not have gone perfectly this time, but next time would be different. In the meantime, the explosions at LAX would signal his followers all over the world to commence their activities. Apocalypse Now had been born–born in blood and fire and the pain of the vermin called man. He allowed himself just a hint of a maniacal chuckle–time enough to laugh when people were dying by the millions instead of the thousands. Yes, he would laugh loudly then.

. . . to be continued

If you’ve ever written superhero or supervillain fiction, or even thought about doing so, you could leave a comment here.

end

A Chapter Translated from Amadis of Gaul

When I was young I used to think that world literature would be full of fabulous tales of magic and adventure from the Middle Ages in the form of Romances and tales of chivalry.  I read as many as I could find in English translations, usually done some time in the 19th century, and hopelessly turgid in style and pacing.  And I thought there must be more in other languages if I could only find and read them.

Then Lin Carter told me about Amadis of Gaul, and finding an edition of it became a personal quest.  Well, I found one, in Spanish, in the University of Arizona library stacks while I was Library School student there, getting my Master’s degree.  I read as much of it as I could, and I translated some of it.  Going through some old papers, I found this translated chapter.  Maybe I thought I could turn it into a short story.  So the following translation is kind of crude, but I bet I could rewrite it into something more interesting if I tried.

Eventually I found a translation of the whole book by the English poet Robert Southey.  Reading it pretty much killed my desire to do anything with Amadis of Gaul.

Who is Amadis of Gaul?  Let wikipedia tell you more about him.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amadis_of_Gaul.

It appears that someone named Sue Burke has also rediscovered the Amadis of Gaul story, and has been translating it into (mostly) modern English for the last two years.  She has finished Book 1 (of 4), and is offering it for sale.  If your interest has been aroused by this, you can start your own researches into the tale of a knight as famous as Lancelot at this location: http://amadisofgaul.blogspot.com/.  I took this painting from one of her blogs, as it was far superior to the other pictures of Amadis that I found on the internet.

Amadis, of course, would be riding the white horse. He was always the pure-hearted good guy.

And now for our story:

Book One: Chapter 25  The Abducted Damsel

Amadis overtook the knight who was mistreating the damsel and said to him, “I advise you to leave that damsel.”

“I advise you to go back where you came from,” the knight answered.

“Now we’ll see.”

They lowered their lances and struck each other’s shields  The knight fell to earth.  Amadis, who was still mounted, was about to hit him again, but the knight begged for mercy.

“Well, promise that you’ll never go against the will of lady or damsel.”

“I swear.”

Amadis approached him to take the oath, but the other, who had sword in hand, struck Amadis’s horse and made it fall.  Amadis sprang free from the falling horse, drew his sword, ran at the man, and struck him on the helmet, splitting the man’s head to the nostrils.  The knight fell to the grass.  Still angry, Amadis then cut his head off.

Gandalin took the damsel on her palfrey and started for the nearest castle.  Around midnight they arraived at a beach, and as the girl was sleepy, they decided to stop and sleep there.  Gandalin put his cape on the ground.  Amadis took off his helm and slept on one side of her with Gandalin on the other side.  When they were asleep, another knight approached and  rested the point of his lance on her arms.  She came half awake, and believing it was Amadis, asked, “Do you want to go on?”

“Yes, I desire it,” answered the stranger.

He took her by the arm and lifted her up behind him on his horse, and then spurred it to a gallop.  She realized her mistake and screamed, but he galloped on.

The screams woke Amadis.  He put on his helm, took shield and lance, and galloped in the direction where the knight had vanished.  He soon found himself among some thick trees, far from the road, and although he was the most suffering knight in the world, he was very angry with himself.

He went on part of the day through the country until he finally heard a horn blowing.  Attracted by the noise, he arrived at a fair castle situated on a small hill.  The wall was high, the towers strong, and the gate well shut.  The guards on the parapet  said they had seen no damsel.  Amadis circled the castle, and found on the other side a small door that was open.  The kidnapper was there inside the door.  Amadis challenged him to come out, but the knight said he would not, and if Amadis wanted to enter, he would have to submit to the custom of the castle, and that he should return on the following day.  The knight closed the gate.  Amadis and Gandalin made camp and waited under some nearby trees.

At dawn they opened theg ate.  Amadis approached and saw an armed knight on a big horse.  The porter said, “Knight, if you wish to enter, the custom is that you first fight with this knight.  If you are beaten, you must do the command of the lady of the castle, or be put into a hard prison.  If you win, you must fight at the other gate with two knights, and within the castle, you must battle three.  If you conquer all, in addition to winning great praise or arms, we will concede whatever you demand.”

“You buy it dearly,” said Amadis.  “More than anything, I want to recover the damsel that I had if I can.

Amadis entered the first gate and jousted with the first knight.  Amadis overthrew him, and broke his right arm.  With lance on the man’s breast, Amadis said, “You are dead if you don’t yield.”

The knight begged for mercy and showed the broken bone sticking out of his arm.  Amadis went on to the second gate where he met two knights.  Covering himself with his shield, he lowered his lance and charged them.  One he threw down, man and horse, and left senseless on the ground.  And, returning toward the other, Amadis’s lance struck the man’s helm, and knocked it off his head.  Both drew swords, and Amadis said,  “Knight, it is madness to fight with a bare head.”

The other retorted, “I’ll guard my head better than you guard yours.”

Amadis struck over the shield so hard that the knight lost his stirrups and almost fell.  When Amadis saw him so embarrassed, he struck with the flat of his sword and left him stunned.  Approaching and putting his hand on the man’s shoulder, Amadis said, “Poorly do you guard your head, knight, that if I had not struck with the flat, you’d have lost it forever.”

The beaten knight didn’t want to do any more folly.  He dropped his sword and let Amadis pass.  Upon arriving at another gate, Amadis saw above the wall ladies and damsels who were saying, “If this knight passes this point, he will have done the best deed in the world.”

Amadis faced three more knights.  They were all well armed, well mounted, and fair to see.  They called upon him to yield himself prisoner or to accept the commands of the lady of the castle.

He answered, “As long as I can defend myself, I will never submit to an unknown command.”

Amadis fought and killed one of them.  The other two fled before him until he reached a door where there were twenty ladies and damsels waiting.  One of them spoke to him.  “Wait, knight who has done so much.”

“Lady,” said Amadis, “your knights are defeated.”

The lady asked what he demanded, and he told her he wanted the damsel that had been taken from him.

“I will send for the knight who brought her so he can tell his reason, and you can tell  yours.  Each of you will have his right.  So, dismount and sit down.”

Soon, an armed knight arrived, but his head and hands were uncovered.  He was a large man, and obviously very strong.  He spoke, “Knight, they tell me that you demand the damsel I brought here.  She wanted to come with me, and I will not give her up.”

“Well, show her to me.”

“I don’t have to.  And if you say that she shouldn’t be mine, I will prove the contrary in battle.”

“That pleases me.”

The lady, whose name was Grovenesa, and who loved Angriote de Estrevaus, wanted to avoid the battle. The knight was Gasinan, her uncle.  But, he didn’t want to give up the damsel.  They brought him a big horse.  Amadis mounted and took his weapons.  The ladies went aside.

The knights encountered at full gallop with lowered lances.  The lances broke on the shields, and they collided.  Gasinan fell off his horse.  He arose, drew his sword, and climbed on a pillar of stone that was in the middle of the courtyard.  Amadis approached, and then Gasinan wounded Amadis’s horse on the face.  Amadis, with great rage, wanted to strike with all his might, but he missed his target and struck the pillar instead.  That broke his sword into three pieces.  Amadis saw himself in danger of death, and dismounted as quickly as he could.

“Yield the damsel to me or you die,’ said Gasinan.

“That will never happen if she doesn’t tell me that you please her.”

Gasinan began then to strike on all sides, but Amadis covered himself well with his shield and sometimes struck with the hilt of his broken sword.  This went on for a long time, and the women marveled at how Amadis could defend himself.  But, his armor was also so broken, and his shield so diminished that he was put in danger of death.  Then Amadis hurled himself with great rage against Gasinan and wrapped his arms around him, trying to throw him.  They were close to the column of stone, and Amadis, who had more strength than can be imagined, although he was not of large body, took all that he had, and threw Gasinan against it, leaving him stunned on the ground.  Amadis took the sword, cut the laces of the helmet, and when Gasinan recovered his senses, he said, “You have done me great wrong for no reason, and now I will avenge myself.”

He raised the sword, but Grovenesa began to yell loudly, begging mercy, and she started weeping.  Amadis made a motion of wanting to cut off his head, but then said, “Lady, in this world there are only two things that will keep me from killing him.  You will give me the damsel, and you will swear as a true lady that  you will go to the court of King Lisuarte and there you will give him the gift I demand of you.”

Gasinan recovered his senses, and on seeing his danger, cried “Oh, niece, do not let me be slain!”

The lady swore, and then Amadis left the knight.

“I have kept my promise,” said Amadis.  Now keep yours, and do not fear that I will ask anything against your honor.”

The lady made the stolen damsel come forward.  She fell on her knees before Amadis.

“Lord, much anxiety have you borne for me, and although Gasinan took me by deceit, I see that he loves me well.”

Gasinan cried out to her, “Darling, I beg you to remain with me.”

“I will do it if it pleases this knight.”

“You choose one of the best knights that  you could find,” said Amadis.  “But if he is not to your liking, tell me now, and do not blame me if I avenge you.”

“Lord,” she smiled. “I consent that you leave me here with him.”

(The chapter ends rather abruptly here.  It reads as straight chivalric romance although there is a supernatural element to it.  The Castle of Maidens with its champion knights that must be defeated is surely more than it seems.  It is interesting to note that the original tale of Amadis is a piece of Spanish chivalric romance, and the Spanish take care to set their wild and improbable adventures in distant lands like England, Africa, and Byzantium.  These kind of wild and improbable antics would never happen in Spain.)

–end

A Use for Nulls

[Though I always wanted to be a writer, I actually wrote surprisingly little back in the seventies before I did Tunnels & Trolls.  The following short story is very loosely based on a brief romance I had with–I kid you not–a  young witch named Ellen.  Writers are advised to “write what you know”.  The romance and break-up are real.  The rest is imaginary.  You shouldn’t have any trouble identifying the young Ken St. Andre in this story.  I thought it was good.  I submitted it for publication, though I no longer know where.  It was rejected.  I’ll share the rejection letter at the end.]

Kevin Strand was a null, a once-born, and bad news for any witch.  For one thing, he was immune to magic; no charm or spell could affect him directly.

Elena wouldn’t listen to me.  “You must be wrong,” she insisted.  “You know how rare nulls are.  Not one person in a million has a soul that has never been incarnated before.  (That’s what a null is–a sould that has not existed long enough to accumulate any measurable amount of psychic power.)  He’s only dormant.  Besides, I love him.  He’s so handsome, so humorous, so amorous.”

“Amorous!” I retorted.  “He should be!  He is a double Taurus.  Both Sun and Moon were in the House of the Bull when he was born, and so was Venus.  If that didn’t make a lover out of him, nothing could, but Elena, it’ll never work.  You’re a double Scorpio.  There’s not a poorer combination in all astrology.”

“Astrology be damned!” she flared.  “You’re just a cat, Sam.  What do you know of human love?  Do I tell  you which tabbies to chase?'”  She was really angry with me.  Her green eyes fairly blazed.  Her thin oval face had gone so pale that her freckles stood out like stars on a clear night.  “I love Kevin and he loves me, and that’s that!  All the powers of Heaven and Hell couldn’t break us up now!”

I preened my silky white fur for a moment before replying.  Personally, I thought she overestimated her own strength and the force of Kevin’s emotion by quite a bit.

“Diana doesn’t like it,” I told her.  “You’re spending too much time with that human and not enough with the coven.”

“Diana can go to Hell!” Elena screamed.  She picked up a glass of water from the kitchen table and threw it at me.  I decided not to continue the discussion, and fled for the back yard.  Being a familiar isn’t all a bowl of cream.  Sometimes witches are just as unreasonable as ordinary women.

Me?  My name is Mahasamatma–after the Lord of Light–but everyone calls me Sam.  Most of the time I’m a blue-eyed pussycat, Siamese style, with a silky white body and a playful disposition.  Sometimes, I’m a clouded sapphire worn pendant style around Elena’s fair neck and dangling down on a soft breast.  Once in a while I have to be something noxious, like a toad or a bat, but Elena doesn’t go much for the perversions of sorcery.

Elena?  She’s a woman (she whips me with a newspaper if I call her a girl.) of twenty-one, an art student at Aziroon College, a lithe and exciting danger, and a White Witch.  She’s slender, but well-formed, pale without being pallid, and she has fine honey-colored hair that flows to her waist.  She tends to dress and act a little like a nymphomaniac, but that’s just her naturally flirtatious nature showing.  She ranks third in her coven, and is a princess of Cyrene, which is a nice little city-state on the Dream Plane.

And she deliberately left me behind when she went out on her date.

She got back at two in the morning, and she looked worried.  The vivacity had drained out of her elfin features, and she looked downright drab.

I sprang up into her lap with an inquiring meow.  “What’s wrong, Elena?”

Her thoughts came haltingly.  “I’ve been attacked, mentally attacked by Thuron.”

The wind howled in the tv antenna; the elementals were boisterous tonight.  “You should have had me with you,” I scolded.  “Thuron is a mighty warlock, every bit as talented as you in magic, if not quite as strong.  Where did it happen?  When?  Did you have help in repulsing him?”

She was recovering control of herself.  “We were relaxing in the Fireside Lounge.  Kevin was nibbling at my ear and saying pretty things, when suddenly, my soul seemed to freeze with fear.  The hate-contorted image of Thuron’s face materialized before my eyes.  He taunted me, insulted me, screamed at me, and all the while I could feel slimy  tentacles of force tearing at my mind.  I tried to draw extra strength to resist from Kevin, but nothing came.  I almost passed out.  Kevin sat there wondering what was the matter with me, a queer look on his face.  He couldn’t feel the miasma of evil that hung over us, though people at nearby tables grew apprehensive and alarmed without knowing why.”

“What happened?”

“Diana heard my despairing cry for help.  She came to me in astral form and joined her strength to what was left of mine, and Thuron fled from this plane.  But he’ll be back.  What can I do?”

“I don’t know,” I admitted.  “There are two good possibilities though.  You can call on the sisters of the coven; ask Diana for her help and advice, or you can summon a spirit to protect you from Thuron, if you can master one who’s potent enough to handle that black-hearted warlock.”

Diana was leader of the coven, an older, far more experienced woman than Elena, and a bit pushy and arrogant in her power.  She and Elena did not get along together very well, but I knew that Diana, as coven leader, was responsible for all the sisters’ safety and would gladly help Elena if asked.

“I don’t want to go to Elena if I can avoid it,” said Elena.  “She bosses me around too much already.  On the other hand, no spirit weaker than Garmanshiriel could harm either Thuron or myself, and I don’t trust my control enough to summon him.l”

Who is Thuron, you’re asking.  Approximately 250 years ago in Scotland, a previous incarnation of Elena first learned to do magic.  She and a lad named Thuron were both chelas to an adept named Stephen McCalister.  A romance bloomed between them, but it fizzled almost as quickly as it began when Elena became enamored of a handsome Scottish soldier.  Thuron never forgave her, and he turned more and more to the left hand path, becoming a Black Magician.  When he began causing great harm to the simple people of the countryside, McCalister and Elena teamed against him, and slew his body.  However, Thuron was already leagued with the Powers of Hell, and his soul lived on, remembering all, vowing destruction and doom to his old enemies.

You get the picture.  Thuron is one of those twisted souls that do all they can to make the universe a poorer place in which to live, and he’s had a grudge against Elena for a long time.

“But why has Thuron attacked me now?” Elena puzzled.  “He’s always been afraid to before.”

I wondered if I should tell her, but decided not to, hoping that she would see it herself.  After the scene earlier that evening, how could I tell her that her getting involved with a null was weakening her witchy powers?

“You’d better keep me with you as much as possible,” I told her.  “Without me to act as a focus, you’re twice as vulnerable as you should be.”

“You’re right, Sam.  Let’s go to bed.”

Saturday night a week later, Kevin was taking Elena out again.  Thuron had not manifested himself all week long, and Elena seemed inclined to forget the incident.  Kevin had brought candy and flowers.  He inquired about me in my cat form, admired me where I hung on Elena’s breast, chit-chatted for a moment with her parents, and then guided his prize away with a strong arm.  Elena had, of course, told him that she was a witch, but hadn’t mentioned that I was her familiar, or that I could take more than one form, so he didn’t recognize me in my jewel form.

Later, in the car, I telepathed a thought to Elena.  “I’ll prove he’s a null.  Press me against his eyelids; try to give him the witch sight.  He’d get a real laugh if he could see those two gremlins hitch-hiking in the back seat.”

“He’s just a mortal,” she protested in our silent conversation.  “He might get frightened if he could see how many supernatural beings share his world.”

“I don’t think he will,” I countered.  “He’s very well informed about magic for a common mortal.”

“Ok,” she agreed.  “I’ll do it.”  Then out loud so he could hear her, “Kevin, stop the car for a moment.  I want to give you something.”

Obediently, he swung the car over to the side of the road and halted.  She swung me up, brushed me across his eyelids while muttering a word of powerd and the words see all, see true in the old language.

“What’s going on?” Kevin asked.

“Just this,” Elena answered, pulling him over and giving him a kiss.  “Darling, don’t you see anything special?”

“Just the prettiest witch to ever wear white here beside me,” he answered.

“Nothing in the back seat?” she asked.

He threw a puzzled glance over the seat.  The gremlins were thumbing their noses at him and telling him to get moving.  “No.”

“See,” I gloated silently, “he’s a null.  You can’t even give him the witch sight, and you can never share your dream kingdom of Cyrene with him.”

Elena was finally forced to agree.  “Still,” she sighed, “we have tonight on Earth.”

They went to the swank French Quarters Club.  It was very dark inside, and the walls were hung with French portraits of famous courtesans au natural.  A good band played soft, romantic music.  They had a drink, danced, had supper, had another drink, danced, had one more drink, and left.  It was already past midnight.  They walked very close together across the parking lot, stopping once in a while for a long slow kiss.  Kevin drove to an isolated spot beside a river, where the ground was soft, and the flowers were fragrant.  A gentle breeze kept the balmy summer night from getting sticky.  I looked into Elena’s mind; she was very happy, very relaxed, very much in love.  No inhibitions left at all.

They sank down on the soft grass together and made love.  Kevin took me off and laid me to one side.

At the moment of climax, Thuron struck.  He was strong, much stronger than I thought he could be.  Elena screamed as she felt  his destructive spells battering like a tidal wave at her mind.  Kevin jerked away from the strangely convulsed woman as if he had been shot.  Elena groped for me, but didn’t find me.

“Hold on, Elena!” I shouted to her mind.  “Help is coming.”

Because I had expected Thuron to strike and had made plans without Elena’s knowledge.

Twelve women in plain white robes suddenly appeared in a circle around the lovers.  Teleportation was Sister Friga’s specialty.  Kevin couldn’t see them.  Their voices rose in a shrill chant.  Kevin couldn’t hear them.  “Achata, Thuron!  Kevala ochotines, achata!”

Thuron’s spirit tried to flee from this plane at the moment of their appearance, but the sound of his name delayed him long enough for the spell of the twelve witches to take effect.  He was powerful, powerful enough to have destroyed Elena–making her his eternal slave if he’d had a few moments more to work in–but he was not powerful enough to stand against twelve White Sisters.  And afterwards, he was helpless.  If the gods permit, he shall be helpless for many years to come.  Diana and the others dejparted as swiftly and magically as they had come.

Elena pleaded a fearful headache, and demanded to be taken home at once.  Puzzled, Kevin complied.

Not too long afterwards Elena and Kevin broke up.  It wasn’t Kevin’s fault, but the spark just wasn’t there any more.  Elena found it unpleasant to be in his presence.  He was hurt for a while, but a double Taurus never stays heartbroken for long.

He could never know that his body now housed two souls, his own, and the raging, raving impotent spirit of Thuron the Warlock.  It did unpleasant things to his aura, and gave him occasional nightmares that he couldn’t understand.  The twelve white witches had imprisoned Thuron like a wasp in a bottle in the mind and body of Kevin Strand, and being null, as completely impervious to spiritual and psychical and magical forces as it was possible to be, Kevin never knew.

But sensitives know for sure, and witches, and all the magical brotherhood.  Even most ordinary non-null mortals feel uneasy in his presence.  Kevin finds it a bit harder to make friends nowadays.

The End

_____________________________________________________________________

I can see several ways to improve the story now.  All the he said, she said stuff could go away.  Better word choices in some cases.  Less telling, and more showing.  Less use of passive voice.  But even with those flaws, which I did not notice when I wrote it back in 1971, I thought it was a pretty good story.  Here’s the rejection letter which was handwritten on a piece of lined stationery with white and yellow flowers–maybe daffodils–in the left margin.

April 11, 1971

Dear Ken:

I hope you don’t mind my informality, but we’ve heard from you so often you’re like one of us.  It is with a good bit of regret that I return your story, “A Use for Nulls.”  It was one of the four finalist stories, but you were edged out by “Vintage Brew” by E. C. Krupp, a fairly late entry.  However, we are glad you took the time to enter our contest.  We hope to hear from you again soon–and we hope you’ll be watching for “Vintage Brew”.

Sincerely,

Susan M. Patrick

Assistant Editor

Needless to say, I as crushed by the rejection, and they never heard from me again.  I did not get the magazine and read “Vintage Brew” by E. C. Krupp.  A Google search reveals an E. C. Krupp, born in 1944, who went on to have a distinguished career in astronomy and to write several books.  Is it the same person? I don’t know.  He has a Facebook page.  Perhaps I should go there and ask him if he ever wrote a story called “Vintage Brew”, but I don’t really want to know.  As for Susan M. Patrick, a Google search found too many for me to even venture a guess as to who she really is/was or what she is doing now.

If you ever came in second in a story-writing contest, or any other event, why not leave a comment?

–end

Ssssss

[The following story poem was something I worked quite hard on, and I thought it was actually good enough, different enough, to submit professionally.  It was a gimmick.  It is meant to  be read, almost sung out loud.  Not too fast.  There is a refrain–almost a spell of the words Sim Sham Shancinar!  These words are an invocation–of what I’m not sure.  The original typography has each line dropping down a line to form a kind of staircase or lightning bolt effect of words across the paper, but I can’t easily do that here on WordPress.  If anyone would like to have the original manuscript, let me know.  Better yet, if anyone would like to actually publish it in any kind of zine or book, be sure to let me know.]

Sim Sham Shancinar!

Stars shine silently.

(Sim)

Simple citizens snore.

(Sham)

Spears seek; shadows shelter Sar.

(Shancinar!)

Serpent satrap’s city,

(Sim)

Slimy sable citadel.

(Sham)

Sorcery simmers

(Shancinar!)

Shadow-shielded, Sar sneaks, stalking supreme sorcerer Sargon Silverfang.

Sullen, solemn, sable, silk-swathed snake-lord  sits, shrined.

(Sim)

Succubi sing sad siren songs.

(Sham)

“Silence!” shouts Sargon. “Seek soothing slumber!”

(Shancinar!)

Singers scatter.

Sargon sits solitary.

Standing sentry slumps.

(Sim)

Sanguined sword shows.

(Sham)

Sar slithers shrinewards.

(Shancinar!)

Suddenly, seven soldiers see Sar.

Shouts!

Sorcerous Sargon senses something sinister.

Spear shrieks, sword sings!

(Sim)

Sar slashes sidewise, sundering shoulder.

(Sham)

Slain soul screams skywards.

(Shancinar!)

Sim Sham Shancinar!

Sickening slaughter.

Serpent-swift, Sar slays Sargon’s soldiery.

Shields shatter!

Sar slips.

Seventh soldier’s scimitar strikes Sar’s scale-armor, slashing Sar slightly.

Sar’s stilletto stabs.

Sim Sham Shancinar!

Sim Sham Shancinar!

Sar sights Sargon.

(Sim)

Son sees sire.

(Sham)

Shocked sorcerer stares stupidly.

(Shancinar!)

Sinful Sar smiles serenely.

Sim Sham Shancinar!

Scintillating serpent sword slashes!

(Sim Sham!)

Sar shouts secret sorcerous syllables!

“Shancinar!  Sim Sham Shancinar!  Simcinar Shamcinar Shancinar!”

Sargon Silverfang, supernal, superior, supreme, sinister, sorcerous, serpitic satrap spews sour saliva.   Shrivels.

Soulless,

Shambling serpent-sire stumbles strickenly.

Sim Sham Shancinar!

Salutations, Sar, snake-skinned sorcerer slayer!

–St. Andre

__________________________________________________________________________________

It occurs to me that you might want to know what happened to this story.  I submitted it to the The Magazine of Fantasy and Science in 1974.  The postmark on the letter that brought it back i Nov. 28, 1974–that’s how I can date something I did so long ago.  The envelope included 2 copies of my manuscript and the following note on a small piece of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction stationary–the standard rejection note.  It says:

Thank you for showing us the enclosed manuscript.  We regret that it does not fit the present needs of the magazine.

Your submission has been read by one of our editors.  Unfortunately, the large number of manuscripts received does not permit us time for personal comment.

Sincerely,

The Editor

(all the above was typed.  What follows is written in cursive in a small, neat hand in blue ink)

Hank Davis

asst. editor

Sorry this is so late–it was mislaid when my apt. was burglarized in Sept. (OVER)

I do apologize for this–it’s a shameful way to treat a long time F & S F reader!

The story poem must be returned to you, unfortunately. It’s an interesting study in alliteration, but the constant “s” reiteration grows monotonous, even when not read aloud.  And the story line is old-hat sword and sorcery; nothing new, I’m afraid.

But thanks for thinking of us.

Best,

Hank Davis

———————————————————–

Imagine him at half this age when he rejected my story.

F & SF held my story so long that I actually thought it had a chance of being accepted.  The very things that Hank points out as weaknesses were what I thought were my strengths.  I had retold a classic swords and sorcery tale where every word begins with an “s” sound.  The rejection crushed me.  I never submitted anything to F & SF or any of the other SF magazines again.   The story went back into its envelope along with the rejection note, and there it has remained all these years.

However, the idea of Sar of the Serpents, and the name Shancinar stayed with me.  Shancinar became a forest name and the name of the capital city of the Elves on Trollworld.  Many years later, Sar became the Patron God of rogues and thieves, and he is still referred to as Sar of the Serpents.  It’s just a tiny note in the Chronology of Trollworld that I published a few years ago, but as you can see the idea endured, even if the saga sank like a stone.

If  you’ve ever been struck by a serpent, sacrificed to a sorcerer, or sung a song of sixpence, please leave a comment.

end

Ferocity, two poems from Moorish Spain

Long ago, I used to haunt college libraries, looking for obscure legends and tales from the Middle Ages.  In 1975 I was in library school at the University of Arizona in Tucson.  I found the following prose poems and thought they were striking enough to translate and arrange in English.  You will see some archaic English forms, and I used them because the Spanish I was translating was rather archaic in its own form.

I am going through some of my old papers and salvaging everything I ever wrote that I don’t think was total garbage.  I fear that  these translations don’t do much for my legend as a game writer, but I was always more than a one trick pony.  I write fiction, poetry, essays, biography, criticism, and nonsense.

Two Poems of the Hero, Suar Ben Hamdun

by Said Ben Suleiman Ben Gudi

(fl. 890 A.D.  in Arabic Spain)

found and arranged by Kenneth E. St. Andre

(Suar Ben Hamdun and Said Ben Suleiman Ben Gudi were two rebel captains fighting against their lawful king, Abdallah Ben Muhamad in late 9th century Arabic Spain.  After the death of Suar, Ben Gudi quarreled with the rebel leader and nearly slew the traitor.  He then returned to the service of the king where he was held in much honor for his abilities as both warrior and poet.)

In Victory

Already the dust has inspired terror in the hearts of our foes.

The whole heaven has become darkened,

And the vast cloud uprises itself with menacing frown.

See!

From the power of our lances they turn in fear.

Trembling, they show us their backs,

And the hot sword quenches its thirst in the blood of the flying!

Ah, the dark drops!

Rain all crimson!

They moisten the dust of the plains.

How they fly!

Hill and valley are all too close for them.

Yea, too close!

And we bring them back now, breathless,

And loaded with chains.

See!  See the pale slaves, how they shake at our gaze,

How the fears of their hearts blanch their cheeks

As they throng the dark way ‘neath the feet

Of our horses and slaves.

Ask of the hero Ben Hamdun how went the glad fight!

Suar shall tell how the edge of our swords mowed the heads

And tore forth from the turbans their jewels of pride.

Ask of Alhambra’s brave son, when the moment had come

To his wish, how he  plunged on the ranks of the foe,

As do eagles that rush from their rocks–nay!

As mountains that fall on the plains,

And turn all to the dust of the grave.

Thus has God done to the false ones that fled from our banners.

Over all came the dark wheel of Fate that none living may flee,

And behold they are not!

Even the trace of their lives is no more;

They are now as if they never had been.

Us and ours did they combat with wiles,

With the craft of the coward and slave.

Horsemen and footmen alike, with vile arts and machines

They assailed us.
But the sons of Adnan and of Cahtan!  What marvels they work!

Their leaders are lions in fury that pounce on their prey–

Red lightning the flash of their swords!

And the guerdon they seek, those high chieftains,

Is the glory that hallows the brave!

See!  See!

Tis the noblest of Captains–

Tis Ben Hamdun whose blood-dripping blade now flashes

Aloft through the heat!

And mark!

With the noblest and highest he has sprung to the summit of all!

In Defeat

The sword of the hero is broken!

O hills of Elvira, you saw him laid low!

Yea, the weapon whose flash has brought tears to the brightest of eyes;

Yea, the lanes that clothed you in mourning,

Ye fairest of maids,

They lie broken and low.

He presented one cup when he came to the noble and the lowly–

To the master and the slave did he give it.

That cup!  Twas of death!

For his weapon never failed.

He has gone, and with him there fell thousands–

Yea, and those of our best!

For thousands avail not to fill up the place of the lost

When the lost is as Suar Ben Hamdun,

The pride of his race.

And of ours, one lance shall be but poorly rejpaid by the foe with their thousand–

But poorly!

The fight is never equal between us, save when we take tens for each life that we give.

But we quench the fierce drought of our swords

In the blood of their hearts,

And the bright sheen departs

In the river of crimson that flows as we ride o’er the slain.

Or say that Dark Fortune has frowned

And has humbled the ranks of the brave.

Do their columns not waver?  Yea, do they!

The craven foe falls to the dust!

Now hear Abi Sidqui:

“Of slaves doth the blood ever rise up in redness. *

Vile fluid, in vain is it spilt!”

But the blood of our brethren cries vengeance,

Though deep in the grave!

_______________________________________________

*  The poet here alludes to an Arabian superstition, according to which blood, if noble, when spilt and unavenged, rises up redly and with an aspect of freshness, however long it may have been dried, when they whose duty it was to avenge it appear.

________________________________________________

Both of these poems were taken from Conde’s HISTORY OF THE ARABS IN SPAIN, c. 1854, in Spanish, translated, modernized, and arranged by Kenneth E. St. Andre, May 20, 1975.  I was a bit more formal about my name back when I was only 28 years old.