One Dark Night in Sepharad

Time slipped away from me yesterday — working, mowing the lawn ahead of the supposedly approaching rain, working some more (paperwork in the afternoon, ugh), checking out new things online (especially a great new note-taking program, for free). So the evening was upon me with nothing even invented to put in a post for today.

I had even hoped to advance the Mantorville story some (which last appeared more than a month ago), because traveling to Bellevue on a regular basis as summer sets a green hand on everything has given me some ideas (as I suspected/hoped earlier that it might). But no go on writing anything, leaving me with a hole instead of a post.

To cover the gap, Iʼll break a vow to myself and put up a bit of the Sepharad story (with Nathanʼs name changed, although you donʼt get to know that in this portion which starts the still untitled tale). When I started a NeoOffice document for the story (before I got introduced to Scrivener), I called it “Mistakes by Moonlight, but I donʼt think I am sticking with that working title. This blog postʼs title does cover the events that are about to unfold, however.

I would be interested in reactions…

the infamous Sepharad story

I — an alley in Toledo, which is not the city in the story

As the big man turned the corner of the two dark alleyways, the noises that had drawn his interest resolved into definite sounds of a struggle, as suddenly a voice cried in the native tongue the Northman was yet struggling to master, “Ajudame!” Help me. He couldn’t understand what followed; indeed with all the harsh gutterals it didn’t seem to be the same language.

Only starlight and a waxing lunar crescent illumined the blackness of this dead end, but the big man made out four or five dim figures closing on the solitary shadow that cried again for aid.

The giant Northerner had been in the city for eight days, gradually growing more desperate. He had sought out the Duke’s military immediately, offering his considerable services. But his thick accent and limited supply of the local tongue, Aragon, along with the Duke’s newfound preference for soldiers less imposing of stature and mostly Arabic by descent, left him rejected. He had little enough coin remaining and found his supply completely depleted before nightfall a day later. Since, he had wandered, seeking some kind of employment fruitlessly, gradually working his way into worse and worse sections of the city, surviving by stealing infrequently food from stalls in the markets, even from homes left illsecured by night — infrequently successful, as a seven-foot sneakthief is merely a contradiction in itself. He slept on the streets, catlike in his barbaric awareness of danger, confident his very size intimidated local hoodlums and muggers.

Without hesitation, the near giant tossed his long yellow hair behind his head and right shoulder as his right hand dragged the old three-foot sword from its scabbard on his back, and he rushed forward into the mêlée.

In an instant the blade crushed through the neck of one man and with some difficulty twisted off the spine to rebound against the skull of a shorter neighbor, spraying blood. Both went down without a sound. Immediately the big manʼs left fist rang on the ear and jaw of a third assailant turning to investigate why one of his fellows had fallen. Two others — there were five — continued their assault on the sole victim, who, however, perceiving instantly that the forces had somehow evened, rose brandishing a vicious poniard, which he thrust at the rightmost of the duo while dancing himself into the space not occupied by the three dropped by the blond giant. The former victim screamed some anguished words in the harsh language the barbarian did not know. Neatly the Northman pivoted to pierce the fifth man directly into his chest. Five were down.

The little screamer now turned savagely at his savior, eyes blazing in the darkness, bearded lips writhing with violent syllables. The blond man stepped back, aware something was wrong with the smaller fellow, who shouted now a raucous, coughing sentence — gibberish to the northern ears which had learned to accept and understand many new tongues in his long wandering. The poniard point danced in the vague illumination, and the Northerner began to fear he would have to put down the man he had arrived to rescue.

The victim glared up at the big man — his face distorted, eyes deranged — and leapt at him as at a foe. But in that instant the mad light in the dark eyes of this unexpected adversary wavered and dimmed. In midair his expression altered, a new look on his suddenly slackened face, puzzlement on his brow, and he dropped his aggressive arm and landed in a strangely defeated pose, breathing raggedly.

The man glanced uncertainly away, noticing the five bodies, and he stepped back again, his blade lowered, defenseless. He looked from corpse to corpse. One groaned softly.

“You saved me,” he panted, speaking Aragon again, his head jerking from the blond man to the bodies to his bared blade and back to the Northerner. “Not one of them. —My …apologies.” He sounded breathless.

Carefully, the savior phrased a question. “Should they all… —sleep …forever?”

The victim, a little guy, although everyone seemed small next to the blonde giant, grunted, “What?”

“Uhh,” the Northman hesitated, the word for kill escaping his combat-fevered mind, and mimed plunging his sword at one of the groaning bodies, saying, “Muerte?”

“Dead,” the other echoed. “— Kill them? …Don’t bother. Let nature take its course.” The small guy bent low, wiped his blade on a stilled attacker’s tunic, so the Northerner cleaned his own weapon on a cloak beside the still-moaning figure. “And we’d better disappear quickly before anyone comes this way.” The little man started out of the cul-de-sac, changed from all three of his former attitudes — agonized victim, maddened fighter, bewildered stranger. “Come on, big fella, I owe you a drink after saving my life.”

The first chapter goes on from there, but thatʼs the opening action sequence. What do you think?

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

2 thoughts on “One Dark Night in Sepharad

  1. The action sure begins right away. I’m intrigued about where he is and where he’s from. A viking in Byzantium? Makes me want to read on. I like that he has physical challenges (extraordinary height) which can also be obvious advantages in a conflict. Very imaginative.

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