December 20, 2003

By Michael Strickland

Finwin's Last Will & Testament

The year's final "rerun" day. This is an excerpt from my first published short story, which represented the very first time I got paid to write.

As they tarried, a monstrous phantom suddenly appeared at the far end of the corridor and began to approach the three sojourners. Clothed in a rusty suit of plate armor, it held a tarnished, decrepit sword in its bony hands. The visor of the helmet stood open, revealing a rotting, maggot-eaten face. From ragged lips, it released a spine-chilling shriek of pure evil.

Tahshwin soundlessly screamed and bolted out into the wide, moonlit courtyard. Dorwin, with a desperate yell, followed him. Instantly, a myriad of skeletal, decomposing hands extended themselves from the cold earth and seized hold of Tahshwin's legs. The old dwarf fell to the ground, victim to the malicious appendages, and was slowly being dragged beneath the topsoil. Dorwin, in fear of being caught himself, extricated himself from the hands assaulting him and returned to the open doorway. He looked back in time to see his uncle's jutting arm sink beneath the earth.

Meanwhile, the demoniacal phantom had joined battle with Gorbel. The man's sword strokes seemed to pass right through the fiendish ghoul's form. He was constantly forced to avoid the demon's weapon by leaping and dodging from side to side. It would not be long before Gorbel would be stricken, fighting in such a manner. On a sudden impulse, the warrior again drew out his gilt cross. This time, he touched the razor-sharp edge of his weapon to it. Instantly, the entire blade became white with hot fire. With one quick motion, Gorbel cleft the demon's figure in twain. In a split second, it was consumed by the holy fire and was gone. Exhausted and soaked with sweat, the man collapsed against the wall.

After a moment, Dorwin suggested, "Gorbel, let us get out of here. I have a few flasks of holy water in my pouch. Perchance if we sprinkle them on ourselves the evil hands in the courtyard will not touch us."

Before Gorbel could reply, the stern figure of Boris appeared, coming down the stairs. He approached them and spoke.

"My dear guests, what has happened? I was awakened by the sound of many heart-rending screams. Upon investigating I found all my visitors brutally murdered! What has transpired here, gentlemen?!"

Dorwin began relating the grisly occurrences of the night to the grim-faced host. When he mentioned Gorbel's use of his cross, the man removed it once again from inside his shirt to show the placid host. At the sight of the blessed device, Boris' entire visage appeared as if it had been splashed with scalding-hot water. His body went into frenzied spasms and a bizarre metamorphosis began. His teeth became the dagger-like fangs of a canine. His fingernails grew to a dreadful length and became razor-sharp. Short black hairs sprouted over the entire surface of his body. His high cheekbones and nose grew outward, causing his face to sink inward. Finally, he enlarged in size and stature until he towered over the two terrified onlookers. As he spoke, his voice creaked like rusty coffin hinges, and his mouth expelled the foul stench of the grave.

"Rash intruders! You should never have come! But you shall never leave, at least not alive!" The creature cackled. "Old Finwin was a fool, thinking he could defeat me! You, too, are fools! For I am Staarshale the Invincible!" With a gloating laugh, he sprang at Gorbel.


©2003 Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year (almost), I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

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December Columns:

12/31: Happy New Year
12/29: Return of the Oscar King
12/28: The Year in Travel
12/26: Trial by Piranha
12/25: Merry Christmas
12/22: Red Squares
12/21: Havasu Falls
12/20: Last Will & Testament
12/19: Bah Humbug
12/16: Newsworthy
12/15: The "Strick" Dialogues
12/14: Animal-Animal
12/12: Old Memories
12/7: Letters to the Editor
12/5: Greed Strike
12/4: Another Day at the Office
12/3: The "Back" in Quarterback
12/1: Sixty-Four
Previous months in The Archive

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