Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Black Legend

Submitted for Project # 12: "By the Numbers"

About this Project:

Back in 1995, Wizards of the Coast, Inc. published ‘Everway’, a game by designer Jonathan Tweet. It was an interesting blend of collectible card game and roleplaying game system. Although it has faded into obscurity since then, the mechanics and artwork of ‘Everway’ are still fascinating to those who follow the ebb and flow of the gaming industry. Along with the other game components, ninety “Vision Cards” were included with the original game. On the back of each Vision Card is a number printed in miniscule font and a few questions pertaining to the illustration on the front of the card. 

Before the announcement of Project #12 we were asked to choose a number from one to ninety. We did not know the number we chose would represent the Vision Card that would be the basis for our story, poem, or artwork for that project. We could use the questions on the back of the card to help form ideas for our own original work, or we could ignore them and provide answers to other questions, but the heart of the work had to be based on the illustration on the card having the number we had chosen prior to the start of the project.

 I chose #72 and this was the card which went with that number:

(Illus. Martin McKenna)
And the questions on the back:

  1. What sort of magic is he calling up in his right hand?
  2. Does his staff have any special power?
  3. Where does the stairway lead?
  4. From whom did this mage learn magic?

Based on this image, I wrote the following story: The Black Legend.

After long lamentations [Queen Elizabeth Wydville] kneeled down and cried to God to take vengeance [for the murder of her two young sons by their uncle].
—Sir Thomas More

When King Edward IV of England died in 1483, he left as his heir a child of twelve. The King's brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, was declared Lord Protector of the Realm and charged with control of the kingdom until young Edward reached his maturity. But ambition led Richard to covet the crown for himself. Together with his allies he moved against the Queen who fled with her children to Westminster Abbey. Richard then kidnapped the young heir to the throne and imprisoned him in the Tower of London.

♦   ♦   ♦

The boy leapt to his feet when the elderly man entered his chamber. “Oh, Lord Hastings! Terrible things have happened! Uncle Richard has arrested Uncle Anthony, Lord Rivers! Then, in my very presence, he arrested Sir Haught and my faithful Vaughan! He's brought me here to the tower against my will and what's more, he's dismissed my servants—good men provided me by my father—and replaced them with dreadful men; one called "Black Bill" Slaughter simply frightens me to no end!”

“That's not all he's done, your Majesty. He's summoned troops from the north who march to London even now. He plans to seize your throne and has the support of Lord Howard and the Duke of Buckingham.”

The twelve-year-old king slumped to the bed. “And what of you? Does he have your support as well?”

“Never, your Majesty. True, I helped him against your mother's relatives, but my loyalty remains as always with you and if any head but yours be crowned I swear it shall be that of your brother, the Duke of York, who remains in the safety of sanctuary with the Queen.”

“Sanctuary? Has Mother left me then?”

“She has taken your brother, your half-brother Dorset, and all five of your sisters to Westminster Abbey where the abbot protects them.”

“What about Uncle Edward? Surely the commander the fleet can—”

Lord Hastings interrupted. “I'm afraid your uncle Richard has disbanded the fleet. Sir Edward has fled to France with one or two ships. It seems your mother's family has been rendered powerless.”

“Woe is me! Is there no one who can put a stop to Uncle Richard's plans?”

“He has called the Council to a meeting on the morrow, supposedly to discuss your coronation. I shall discover the extent of his treachery then.”

“Thank you, Lord Hastings. You've only ever showed me loyalty and kindness.”

The elderly lord managed a low bow. “My family has served the House of York for four generations. It is my pleasure to serve you, Sire.”

Young King Edward never spoke to old Lord Hastings again.

♦   ♦   ♦

At the council meeting the next morning, convened in the Tower of London where the king was being held captive, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, Lord Protector of the Realm, who had, with the help of Lord Hastings, broken the power of the Wydville family, announced to all present that Hastings was a traitor. Richard slammed his fist on the table and shouted, “Treason!” At that signal armed men rushed in from an adjacent room, arrested Lord Hastings and dragged him outside to the courtyard where he received no trial and no mercy. He was executed with neither priest nor lawyer present. From the window of the royal apartments high in the tower a young sovereign watched the beheading with horror.

♦   ♦   ♦

“Your, Majesty, there's someone here who's been anxious to see you.”

Before the king could reply, into the room burst a child of ten. Richard, Duke of York, rushed headlong into the arms of his elder brother. His escort, the Duke of Buckingham, followed him into the chamber.

“It seems he was bored at Westminster Abbey and it is only proper that he attend your coronation.”

The king shot Buckingham a hate-filled look. He held his brother at arms length. “Oh, poor fool! You've no idea what you've done! You have left the safety of your mother's bosom for the uncertainty of your brother's prison. Don't you know, now he controls the fate of us both?” He pulled the boy close and wept. Buckingham quietly backed out of the room.

♦   ♦   ♦

“I've come to tell you that Lord Rivers is dead.” Lord Howard's announcement received no reaction other than downcast eyes, so he went on. “Executed along with Earl Grey, Sir Haught and Sir Vaughan.” At this news tears welled up in Edward's eyes and his lips trembled. He clenched his fists. Sir Thomas Vaughan, his chamberlain, had cared for him since birth. Lord Howard, amused by the king's dismay, added more fuel. “Also, it seems your parents' marriage was illegal.” This earned him nothing more than a blank stare. “Oh, yes, I'm afraid it's so. Your father was quite popular with the ladies and he apparently entered into a precontract with some Butler woman before he married your mother. Do you know what that is?”

“I do not.”

“Well, you are a bit young to understand, but suffice it to say that you and your brother are bastards and not eligible to inherit the throne.” He paused for effect. “In view of this the Duke of Gloucester has had himself crowned at Baynard's Castle. Even now he sits upon the King's Bench at Westminster Hall.”

King Edward looked down at his shoes, tears falling. “Alas, I would my uncle would let me have my life yet, though I lose my kingdom.”

Lord Howard started turning to leave. “You know, there was a prophesy that 'G' should follow 'E' to the throne. Your father always thought it meant your uncle George, the Duke of Clarence. It seems that it refers instead to his other brother, Richard, the Duke of Gloucester. Fancy that.” He departed, cuckling.

♦   ♦   ♦

The youthful king cowered before the hulk of a figure who entered his chamber. "Black Bill" Slaughter was one of those chosen by Richard to replace the boy's loyal servants. His great size and dark demeanor, coupled with his gruff manner, struck fear into the heart of the pale and delicate boy.

“Your uncle is furious. Your mother's relatives tried to get your sister away to safety. Everyone knows she's next in line for the crown, after you and your brother. And she has sworn if harm comes to you she will marry any foreign prince willing to raise an army to challenge Richard to the throne of England. The Wydville's thought if she were safely out of his reach Richard would not dare harm the two of you, but they have been foiled. The fools asked the Duke of Buckingham to help and he told Richard about the plan.”

The king, sure that Slaughter had been sent to kill him, made no reply. After a moment Slaughter continued,
“As I said, he's furious and it's probable that you two are now in very serious danger.” The big man looked intensely at the boy which only made him tremble more. “There's another plan, I don't know who's behind it, but a man is coming with orders for Constable Brackenbury to hand over the keys for one night. This man, along with Forrest and I, are to take you and your brother to safety; I don't know where.” While he waited for the king to say something, it finally occurred to Slaughter that the young boy was afraid of him. As he departed, he tried to comfort him. “Don't worry, King Edward, we'll see you on the throne, yet.”

But the king would not trust that man and continued to fear for his own life as well as that of his brother.

♦   ♦   ♦

A few days later Brackenbury handed the keys of the tower to Sir James Tyrell. Having been informed by Forrest that Slaughter could not be trusted, Tyrell dismissed him. “The princes are being relocated and your services are no longer needed. You are to remove yourself at once.” Believing the boys were being taken to safety and having no desire to face the wrath of their uncle, Slaughter left the tower.

That night, Tyrell stood watch outside the door while Miles Forrest and John Dighton entered the chamber in which the king and the duke were sleeping. The boys struggles were no match for the burly men who dispatched them easily, smothering them in the feather beds. They carried the lifeless forms down a little-used staircase, the base of which was filled with loose stones. Here the three men hid the small bodies.

Amid rumours of their disappearance, Slaughter pondered his dismissal. Why wasn't Forrest sent away? I was a better servant to those boys than he was. Why, he didn't even like them.

The verity of the situation hit him like a brick.

♦   ♦   ♦

It took the better part of a year for Slaughter to track Forrest down. He finally found him at St. Martin le Grand where, burdened with remorse, he had sought sanctuary. Slaughter fought to control himself. “What have you done, you miserable wretch? You killed them, didn't you?”

Forrest, a sorrowful and broken man, closed his eyes and nodded. “King Richard's orders.”

“Don't you know we could have saved them? An army would have risen up to restore the rightful king if we had only gotten him away from the tower. We could have saved England from that tyrant. Why did you do it? What did he give you to kill your king?”

“I was given a post at Baynard's Castle.” Forrest looked up at the cloudy sky.

“So why are you here? Wasn't that enough?”

Forrest finally looked the other man squarely in the eye. “Nothing would have been enough. Nothing would be worth the torment I suffer. I can't sleep a night without seeing the face of that boy. He haunts my dreams, looking at me as if to ask, Is it any wonder why I never trusted you?

Slaughter's voice softened. “Tell me: Where are the bodies?”

♦   ♦   ♦

It took another year for Slaughter to find the Sorcerer. The Sorcerer had learned his craft from a man whose mother had been a protégé of the famous Dame Alice Kyteler of Kilkenny who had come to England in 1324. He was also the father of Ankarette Twynho, who did not practice witchcraft, but had nevertheless been accused of it and executed for it in 1477. Her accuser had been none other than the Duke of Clarence, brother to kings Edward IV and Richard III.

The Sorcerer told Slaughter, “I have already taken my vengeance on that family. Clarence was himself dead within a year of my daughter, executed on the orders of his own brother, King Edward.”

“Yet his other brother sits on the throne of a murdered king. Who will speak for him?”

“King Richard has answered for him. Remember his son, Edward of Middleham who died in April last year?”

“But one child can't answer for two. Think of their mother, the Queen, whom your daughter served. Surely you've heard her cries for vengeance.”

“Have you any proof her sons were murdered? Their bodies have never been found.”

“Rumour has it they've been moved, but they were originally interred at the foot of a staircase under a heap of stones. The staircase leads to the Chapel of St. John the Evangelist in the White Tower. It was used to gain private access to the chapel from the royal apartments.”

The Sorcerer sat in silence for a long moment. Then he nodded his head. “I will go there and if the bodies lie where you say, I will use my powers to grant them justice.”

♦   ♦   ♦

The Sorcerer appeared in the shape of the Duke of Buckingham to gain entry into the tower. He shed the disguise when he reached the staircase which led up to the Chapel. With his staff he tapped the heap of stones at his feet. The black orb at the top of the staff turned the color of blood. In his mind's eye, the wizard saw the fate of the two boys. Using the ancient power he had been taught to wield, he began to speak:
Rise, gentle sleepers,
From your unhappy slumber
To save a kingdom
By a tyrant torn asunder.

Sworn by your father
To protect and defend
He decided instead
To devise your sad end.

He murdered you children,
A duke and a king,
As if Divine Providence
Would forgive such a thing!

Rise, sweet sleepers,
For the time has come
To remove a pretender
From the royal kingdom.

To Bosworth Field fly, fly away!
Mighty "King Richard" answers for you this day!

♦   ♦   ♦

King Richard III was at that moment preparing to face the forces of Henry Tudor at Bosworth Field. He had no idea he would be facing the forces of the Sorcerer as well. From Ambien Hill he could see that Lord Stanley did not intend to join his forces. He had prepared for such a contingency by holding Stanley's son captive. He dispatched a messenger.

“Lord Stanly, King Richard has instructed me to tell you your son will lose his life unless you take the field.”

Lord Stanley looked upon the silent apparition of a young blond boy. Then he turned to the messenger. “Tell Richard that I have other sons.”

Upon hearing this, the furious king ordered Stanley's son killed. His subordinates trembled with fear but flatly refused to obey. “The two Princes from the Tower stand before the young man.”

King Richard grunted. “So, you see the ghosts. I have seen them too.”

Next he called upon the Earl of Northumberland to engage the enemy. But the earl, seeing that a ghostly young duke held the reigns of his horse, simply shook his head.

Abandoned, Richard realized he could not win the battle, but he determined to kill the man who would have his throne. Along with a small group of followers, he charged toward Henry Tudor. Before reaching his objective he came face to face with his own brother, the dead King Edward IV.

The ghost roared. “Lord Protector of the Realm! You would sit on the throne of England by declaring my very self to have been a bastard child, even while our dear mother is at hand for the coronation of her grandson! Failing that, you disinherit my children by declaring my marriage illegal, something you would not dare do while I lived. But it wasn't enough to steal their kingdom, you had to deprive them of their lives as well! I gave you everything and trusted you completely and this is how you repay me—by destroying my greatest joy, whom you swore to protect! Behold how I now repay you!” With that the ghostly king swung his stately sword and struck off his brother's bewildered head.


Weir, Alison. The Princes in the Tower. Ballentine Books, NY, 1992.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Magic Lamp

Submitted for Project #11: "Careful What You Wish For"

I wish I never laid eyes on this lamp!

Of course that one won't come true. I'm all outta wishes. The name's Defoe and I'm a thief—at least I was a thief—but not just an ordinary thief. I was a specialist; I dealt in antiques; mostly merchandise that was difficult to move and not just because it was heavy or fragile. It's a very tight market. Any fool can steal and resell TVs or watches but how many buyers can you find for a crown that belonged to a Czar of Russia with a price tag of $75 million? And how do you keep such a sale quiet? First thing everyone asks is 'Where'd you get it?'. “Well, uh, my grandfather was a guest of the Czar and it was traditional in 1914 for the royal family to give away an heirloom to people they entertained at the Winter Palace.” Riiiight.

Most of the customers know the stuff is hot but they've got reputations as fine, upstanding citizens who can't be caught receiving stolen goods so you gotta convince 'em there's no possible way they coulda known. Once you've done that they're happy. You can't beat human greed.

Collectors are the best. They get so obsessed with their collection that they stop asking questions. You got a piece they need? They don't care where it came from; all they care about is how much it'll cost 'em to have it.

One such customer came right to mind as soon as I spotted the Bastard. I'm not talking about the child of an unwed mother here; Bastard is a type of sword also known as a hand-and-a-half. It was developed when people realized the two-handed broad sword was not really useful in battle. Anyone who could move at all could usually get outta its way and it left the holder unable to carry a shield. They needed something they could wield with one hand but would give 'em a two-handed grip when they wanted to deliver that final blow. I had a customer who was specifically looking for one of these. If I was lucky the owner of the shop would think it was just another long sword. I could steal it without actually stealing it.

One look at the price tag killed that hope. I'd haveta get it the other way. The next question was whether it was authentic or a knock-off. As I was looking it over the proprietor of the store started heading my way. I pretended to be very interested in the small brass oil lamp sitting on the mantle shelf just below the sword.

“It's functional.” The old man was smiling like an idiot. “Made of heavy brass. The wick length is adjustable. The opening is large for easy filling and it uses ordinary lamp oil.”

I was glad he was talking about the lamp. Maybe he hadn't seen me checking out the sword. For fifteen dollars I couldn't go wrong. I asked the man to gift wrap it for me, which gave me time to prepare his store for my evening visit. His locks were child's play. There was an alarm, but the wiring was in plain view. No problem. I paid the man for the lamp and went on my way.

♦   ♦   ♦

At 2:00 A.M. everything was dark and quiet. I worked the lock on the front door and slowly pushed it open. Silence. I didn't figure anyone woulda noticed the alarm wire I'd cut earlier, but you never know. My penlight provided just enough for me to avoid tripping over stuff as I made my way across the floor to my prize. I carefully lifted it from the wall.


I didn't need anyone to tell me what that was. “How long have you been sitting here in the dark?”

“Oh, a while now.” The old man spoke very slowly. “I saw you eyeballing that sword and knew you didn't care a hoot about that lamp you bought. After you left I had a look around. When I spotted those wires you cut I figured you'd be back.”

For a brief moment I considered that I held in my hands what was possibly the most dangerous type of sword ever made. This thought was quickly replaced by the realization that it would be extremely unwise to pit a blade, however deadly, against a gun. I let the heavy thing clatter to the floor.

The next sound I heard was a gasp followed by the shotgun hitting the floor. I turned around to see the old man clutching at his chest, a look of pain and horror on his face. He needed medical attention, but I had no time for that. I grabbed the ancient sword and ran out of there.

♦   ♦   ♦

“Sixteenth century German.” My customer looked the sword over carefully. “Here's the mark of the smith, Melchior Diefstetter of Munich. How much?”

“Seven Gs.”


“Six and a half.”

“Sixty-three hundred.”

“Sold.” We shook hands and he paid me. In cash.

♦   ♦   ♦

Not long afterward I was sitting around not doing much of anything when my eye was drawn to the lamp which I had placed upon the mantle. I thought it might shine nicely if polished so I picked up a clean rag and began running it over the brass.

I nearly dropped the thing when smoke began coming out of it. I put it down on the coffee table and watched as plumes of white smoke poured forth from the lamp. I moved to open a window because the room was filling up. I turned around again and collided with something that knocked me backwards to the wall and onto the floor. I blinked my eyes and sat staring as the fog cleared to reveal the image of a giant.

At first all I could see were these ridiculous slippers that curled upwards at the toes. Gradually his legs came into view. They were enormous and covered with loose silk which seemed to change colors between pink and red. A gold belt around his waist led to a muscular stomach. Huge arms were folded across his massive chest. A Moroccan fez adorned the top of his bald head. I got the feeling he could break me in half like a twig.

“You've got to be kidding.”

When I could finally make out his face I thought he might actually be thinking about breaking me in half like a twig. He scowled and his eyes seemed ablaze. “I can hardly believe it myself.” His voice was the deepest I ever heard. “But I am free from that lamp and apparently have you to thank for it. I have the power to grant you no less—and no more—than three wishes.”

“You've got to be kidding.”

“I am not.”

I briefly thought about the old guy from whom I'd bought the lamp and whom I had left in all probability to die. But only briefly. “Okaaaay; I want to be rich and idle and to live many years.”

“Those are your wishes?”

“That's them.” I thought they were pretty good wishes.

“They shall be granted.”

“When?” I was not buying any of what I was hearing.

Just then there came a pounding on the front door, followed by a booming voice. “Police, Defoe! Open up! We've got you on film for that robbery! The old man died, Defoe; You're looking at hard time!”

I looked with astonishment at the giant. He pointed at the lamp. “Quick, change places with me. You'll be able to hide in there. It's your only chance!”

In a panic, I hastily agreed. Smoke filled the room again and when I could see again I was wearing the ridiculous Arabian outfit, all the way from the fez to the funny shoes. My room had become like the great hall of a palace lavishly furnished. A huge oriental rug covered the entire floor. I beheld treasure chests lining the walls, overflowing with riches: gold and silver, rubies and emeralds, diamonds and pearls. I stared at it all with wonder.

Then I heard a tremendous crash, followed by a rush of footsteps and a flurry of voices. “Where is he?”

“Give it up, Defoe!”

“Check upstairs!”

“Nothing here, Boss.”

“Empty here, too.”

Soon everything was quiet again. The police apparently went looking for me elsewhere. I'm sure they've given up the search by now—I mean, it's been almost three hundred years.

I wish I never laid eyes on this lamp!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Keepers of the Light

 Submitted for Project #10 "The Wuthering"
Off the New England coast near Minot's Ledge

Many a passing ship was wrecked.

A lighthouse was erected there to warn

Of the deadly force of a Northeastern storm.

In April, 1851, up the coast there came

The tremendous fury of a hurricane.

The tiny lighthouse was battered and bashed

As huge waves all around it crashed.

Antoine and Wilson wrote to say

The lighthouse swayed two feet each way.

They feared they wouldn't survive the night--

Still, the keepers kept the light.

Kept it burning so ships were warned

Of the deadly force of the Northeastern storm.

Suddenly iron pilings began to break.

The house itself the ocean would take.

Frantically the lighthouse bell rang

But the violent storm swallowed its clang.

That night two men stood alone

Against the awesome force of a New England storm.

Then the keepers and the light slipped into the sea

And disappeared for eternity.

They that go down to the sea in ships
Look to the Light that the Keepers keep lit.


For the full story of Minot's Ledge Light click here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Great Confederacy

Submitted for Project #8 "The When that Wasn't", this is an alternate history piece.

The beach is strewn with bodies and ships burn in the harbor. A boy, no more than thirteen, disturbed by what he has seen, walks away from the battle alongside his father. He has been courageous this day and knows the man is proud. Still, he is bothered by what he has done and the question burns within him. As they walk alone down the wooded path away from the bloody beach he finally asks. “Why? Why do we kill them?”

“We didn't always. There was a time, long, long ago, when we welcomed them.”

“We did?” The boy wrinkles his brow.

The tall man gives him a sidelong glance. “Don't you pay attention at the Nikommosachmiawene?”

The boy looks to the ground, embarrased. “It's so long; by the end I forget the beginning.”

Smiling, his father agrees “It is long. The history of our people goes way back.” He pauses, then continues. “Over four thousand night suns have come and gone since that time. When they first came, they were few in number and knew not the ways of survival. The great sachem Ousamequin, whom they called Massasoit, took pity upon them and was like a father to them. He gave them food to eat and space upon which to live and he showed them how to plant food. Many powaws warned that more would come and they would take all the space from the Wampanoag and make him to obey their laws and practice their religion. They urged Ousamequin to destroy them before they became many and powerful—before it was too late. But the great sachem said the white men knew much science that the Indian did not; that they raised cattle and grew fruit. And he said there was plenty of space for all to share.”

The boy looks around. “It seems to me there is enough.”

“There should have been, except that the English always wanted more. It is true that they often paid a fair price for the land, but not always. They would charge a large sum of money as a penalty for some wrongdoing, and when the Indian could not pay they took his land instead. They would let their livestock run wild over the Indian's fields until he gave up trying to plant in them. And sometimes they used violence to take what they wanted.

“But still Ousamequin kept the peace and when he died his son, Wamsutta, wanted to show that he too intended to keep the tradition of friendliness between the white man and the Indian. He asked for English names for himself and his younger brother, Pometacom. He was given the name Alexander. Pometacom they called Philip.

“But the white men did not trust Wamsutta and often accused him of dealing with the Narragansett in plans to attack English settlements. Finally they forced him at gunpoint to go and face their charges. Under their care he died, the English said from disease, but our people believed he was poisoned.

“Even so, Pometacom pledged to keep the peace with the white man. But the English would not trust him either. They accused him of conspiring with the French and the Dutch. They accused him of conspiring with the Narragansett. They made him sign a treaty and took his guns away, sending him back to his people without them.

“A very bad thing happened when a man whom the English called John Sassamon was found dead under the ice at Assawompsett Pond. He had been a member of Pometacom's council until he tried to trick the sachem in a land deal and was sent away. Three Indians were accused of killing him: Tobias, his son Wampapaquan, and Mattachunnamo. There was no proof but an English court sentenced them to hang. Thus it was proven that the Wampanoag could not trust English justice.

“The real trouble broke out when some Wampanoags decided to raid the village of Swansea and one of them was killed by a boy with a gun. When asked why he had killed the Indian, he replied that it did not matter. He saw nothing wrong in what he had done. The next day nine white people were killed in retribution and the Great War had begun.”

They walk in silence for a short while, the man recalling the story he has heard told so many times, the boy pondering the bodies at the beach.

Finally, the man resumes the telling. “The English thought they could trap Pometacom on the peninsula, but with the help of Weetamoe he was slipped across the Titicut River and escaped from Pocasset Swamp to Nipmuc territory. The Indians who were left behind and captured, mostly women and children, were sold into slavery.

“Pometacom was almost caught again when Oneco, son of Uncas, and the treacherous Mohegans sided with the English and tracked him down at Nipsachuck. After a fierce battle, Pometacom escaped along the Blackstone River and went north to Menameset. Weetamoe went south to Narragansett country to join with Ninigret and the Niantic people.

“Pometacom was able to enlist the help of the Nipmuc and soon the white man's settlements of Brookfield, Lancaster, and Springfield came under attack.

“Sometimes the English themselves helped Pometacom gain the support of other Indian tribes. They attacked the peaceful Norwottock and Agawam people, which brought them into the war. An act of cruelty turned the Abanaki sachem, Squando, against them. His wife and infant child had been travelling down the Saco River when their canoe was capsized on purpose by some English who wanted to see if the baby would swim. His wife tried frantically but was unable to save the child.

“Some Indians converted to the English faith and lived in settlements within their communities. But the English did not trust these "Christian Indians" anymore than they trusted the others. In Marlborough, one such group was rounded up and when a squaw with her baby started to run away, her brother and husband tried to catch her and all four were shot by the English; even the child was killed. The rest were tied together by their necks and marched off to Boston.

“But the biggest mistake the English made was to attack the Narragansett. They wanted Ninigret and Canonchet to give up some of Weetamoe's people who had gone seeking refuge. Finally, they sent a thousand soldiers into the Great Swamp to force the Narragansett to comply.

“Had it not been for a traitor called "Peter" they would have never found the village of the Narragansett. Had the work on the fort been completed, they would never have taken it. As it turned out over 600 Indians were killed as the English set fire to the wigwams trapping and burning old men, women and children.

“The Great Swamp Fight was a turning point. Pometacom was in the Mahican village of Schaghticoke on the Hoosic River trying to convince the Mohawks, leaders of the mighty Iriquois Confederacy, to join him in his fight against the English. But the Mohawks were bitter enemies of the Algonquin and they were planning to kill Pometacom when word reached them of the massacre in the Great Swamp. The incident helped them realize that the English were the enemy of all Indians.

“So it was that Pometacom was able to unite the Algonquin tribes, Wampanoag, Narraganset, Massachusett, and Pawtucket; the Iroquios tribes, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayga, and Seneca; the Abenaki tribes, Pennacook, Pigwacket, Sokoki, Penobscot, Casco, Sheepscot, Passamaquoddy, and Androscoggin; and the Nipmuc tribes, Nashaway, Nonatook, Quaboag, Quinsigamond, Nipnet, and Pegan; along with others, into the Great Confederacy.

“With this powerful force he was able to attack and destroy English settlements from Rhode Island to Maine. First he burned the frontier outposts like Groton and Mendon. Then he gradually moved on to the larger towns like Marlborough, Sudbury, Concord, and Andover, pushing the white man closer and closer to the seacoast. Finally big towns like Providence, Hartford, and Boston came under attack, the people besieged until famine and disease eventually claimed them.

“All along the coast the white man was banished from this land. And still the ships come from across the sea. When Providence was burning, the great white man, Roger Williams, told Canonchet, "Massachusetts can raise thousands of men at this moment, and if you kill them, the King of England will supply their place as fast as they fall." Canonchet replied, "Well, let them come. We are ready for them."”

The man reflects for a moment. “And still they come. And still we are ready for them.”

The boy walks on in silence. Ships burn in the harbor.


Leach, Douglas Edward. Flintlock and Tomahawk:New England in King Philip's War. 1958. Reprint: Parnassus Imprints, 1992.

Schultz, Eric B. & Michael J. Tougias King Philip's War:The History and Legacy of America's Forgotten Conflict. Woodstock, VT.: The Countryman Press, 1999.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Memory Preservation Project

Submitted for Project #6: "Oz Never Gave Nothing to the Tin Man"

“My goodness! What happened? Let me help you up. Here, step into my office and have a seat.”

“I'm really not sure what happened.”

“Well, I see you've met one of our products.”

“One of your products?”

“Yes, indeed. Here at the Robotics Institue we create robots of all kinds. If I'm not mistaken, you're here about our memory preservation project.”

“Actually, yes. Yes I am.”

“You never checked in with the receptionist.”

“No. She was busy and I was late, so I thought I'd just come on up.”

“Ah, she would have given you a visitor's badge which the IG-12 would have recognised. You would have saved yourself the encounter with the stun gun.”

“I'm glad it was only set to stun.”

“Oh, my, we couldn't equip the unit with anything capable of deadly force. It doesn't know good guys from bad guys, so to speak.”

“So that was the IG-12, huh?”

“Yes, the Intelligent Guard series number twelve.”

“You say it's intelligent?”

“Yes, meaning that it can learn, not just function and perform menial tasks. For instance, now that it has seen me bring you into my office it will not tag you again. You're a friendly face in its memory bank now.”

“Well, thank God for that.”

“No, thank us for that. You can well imagine that it takes a lot of work to create an intelligent being. Most of the time, when a unit does something that seems unintelligent the cause can be traced back to human error.”


“Oh, yes. We had a scientist here once who decided, when he quit, to steal some information. He broke into the lab and was confronted by a unit on guard duty, an IG-10 I believe. He should have been captured, but he proceeded directly to a chess table. The unit took up a position opposite him and moved its first piece. The man then moved two pieces at the same time, creating an illegal formation on the board. We found the unit in the same position in the morning, still pondering its next move, unable to proceed because it couldn't understand the board configuration. The human error in this case was our neglecting to ensure that a unit on guard duty did not switch roles to that of "chess player".”

“I see.”

“Here at the Robotics Institute, we believe that the sooner we can eliminate the human error factor, the better. For example, let me demonstrate some of the problems we've had in our consumer division with the Intelligent Task Master series of robotic units. We sent an ITM-3 to the grocery store with a list of items. We instructed it to get 2 pounds of potatoes. It put them on the scale and continued switching potatoes in and out until it had exactly 2 pounds. We told it that we wanted 2 pounds of ground beef. Again, it failed to understand that 1.98 or 2.03 pounds would have been sufficient to satisfy our request. And it didn't know how to get half a cup of rice, because rice isn't sold that way. These are all examples of human error, not lack of intelligence. We were able to adjust the programming such that all these problems were solved. There was much celebration when the unit successfully traversed the grocery store and returned with all the correct items.”

“So you've fixed all of its problems?”

“Not exactly. We sent the unit back again with a new list and it skipped all the items that were duplicates from the first one. It "knew" that it had already gotten milk, for example, and didn't understand that we wanted more milk. Someone suggested that we give it an algorithm by which it could compare a household inventory with grocery store items. But human error intervened again—the unit compared every single item in the grocery store to the inventory we had given it for the household and proceeded to buy up the entire store. Again, this was not due to a lack of intelligence. We had given it the wrong instructions.”

“And were you able to fix those problems as well?”

“Yes, but there are countless others. It's quite a job to test every little task that an ITM may be required to do. Humans are generally unaware of the little things that they do when they accomplish a task, the common sense sort of things, those things that are so automatic that they don't seem to require any thought at all, so that's where the programming usually falls short.”

“Yes, of course.”

“But you're here about becoming a memory preservation client, is that correct?”

“Yes, that's right.”

“One of our most exciting projects, indeed. We're in direct competition with the Alcor Life Extension Foundation.”

“Aren't those the people who freeze heads?”

“No, that's a misconception. First of all they don't freeze anything, they use a process called vitrification which prevents the formation of tissue-damaging ice. Secondly, they're preserving the brain, not the head, but there is currently no way to safely remove the brain from the skull, so to prevent damaging the organ they leave it inside the head. Their big problem, though, is that the technology does not yet exist to discover whether a reversibly vitrified brain would actually function. They have had success with kidneys, but a kidney is nowhere near as complex an organ as a brain. What we're doing at the Robotics Institute is preserving memories, a much less invasive technique. We can download your memories right now without harming you in the least. What's more, we can upload your memories to a machine, one of our Intelligent Memory Preservation units. On power up, the IMP will think it's you—and essentially it will be.”

“That's interesting.”

“Indeed. And what's more, our clients can have a new download created any time they want one. We suggest at least once a year. When one of our clients dies, we upload his or her latest memories into an IMP unit, thereby bringing them back into the world.”

“But I—the person would be a robot.”

“Not just a robot, an intelligent machine, capable of learning new things just like you and I, but with the additional benefit of having all of the client's previous knowledge intact. What a head start over programming from scratch!”

“So what do I do?”

“Well, there's paperwork of course, legal stuff mostly. We don't want anybody to ever say we've stolen their identity. And there's a form that gives us permission to upload your memories while your alive, for testing purposes only. Then we can begin downloading as early as today.”


“As soon as the paperwork is signed.”

“And have you successfully done this before?”

“Oh, yes. Of course we're still working out some of the glitches. We discovered that we have to do some additional programming before we power up the unit. On our first test the IMP-1 wouldn't stop screaming. You see, it thought it was our client but it didn't know what had happened to its body, so it basically panicked.”

“So what did you do?”

“We added some "memories" of our own so it would know what was going on and be able to deal with the situation rationally.”

“Did it know it was dead?”

“Well, it thought that it had been near death, but saved, given both a new body and another chance at life.”

“And did it have all of its previous memories?”

“It seemed to, but we're still checking; It's a long and complicated process.”

“Where is it now?”

“It's still being worked on. Are you ready to get started?”


“We're going to hook you up to a machine now, that will download all of your memories. You will probably fall asleep; if so don't worry about it, everything will be fine.”
“How are you feeling?”

“What happened?”

“The operation was a success. You've got a brand new body and a second chance at living your life.”

“You said this would be harmless—Hey! Wait a minute! Look at me! I'm the robot! Where's the real me? I want to see my other body.”

“I'm afraid that's not possible.”

“What? Why not?”

“There's been an accident. An automobile accident; right after you left our building. We are not in possession of your body.”

“But how can that be?”

“Things like that happen. You never know when it's your time. You're just lucky we did a download before you left that day. And that you signed those forms, otherwise we wouldn't be authorized to bring you back.”

“Bring me back? You mean I'm—”

“You've got another chance. Your new body will seem clumsy at first but you'll get used to it, and we'll be here to help every step of the way.”

“This can't be. This can't be. I can't be—AAAAAAAHHHHHH!”

“Oh, my, where's your power switch? Why do they all go mad?


Thursday, November 18, 2010


Submitted for Project #4 "It's About Time"

The twins are having a wonderful time reminiscing.

“Remember old Lord Biddle?”

“We had him seeing double!”

“The doctors thought alcohol did it to him.”

“So does he probably! Ha ha ha!”

They're eleven. At least they were in 1750 when the nanny killed them. Oh, it's true that they were little hellions always playing pranks on her and sometimes getting her into trouble. But she didn't have to kill them. She poisoned their food! I know because I watched her do it. I was peeking into the kitchen to see how cooking was done. I was fourteen and everyone said I was too young to learn how to cook, so I would sneak peeks so I could learn by watching. But Ms. Flaherty was using ingredients that did not belong in people's food. Foolishly, I confronted her.

“What do you think you're doing?”

“You! Where did you come from?”

In a rage, she grabbed me by the throat and would not let go. I could not breathe and felt myself getting weaker. My legs felt wobbly and I could no longer stand up. Suddenly I was floating around the ceiling. I watched her pick my body up off the floor and carry it to her room. She stuffed it into the corner behind the bed.

That afternoon I watched in horror as the boys ate their lunch. Ms. Flaherty had a sly smile upon her lips and blood upon her hands. She had already killed me and was about to do the same to the twins.

The stuff worked fast! By two o'clock the boys were very, very sick. I went back and forth between their rooms but I didn't know how to let them know that I was there. By three it was over.

The nanny came to get them. She carried them to the staircase under which there was a secret chamber. The boys used to like to hide in there and one day they scared her half to death when she came down the stairs and they jumped up, seemingly out of nowhere. They laughed and made her promise not to tell anyone about their secret spot. Now she would never tell. She returned to her room and brought down my body. She stuffed it into that same little compartment with the twins.

Sometime later I found the two boys wandering around the house, frightened out of their wits. It was as if they didn't realize they were dead. I guess it's different if you see it happen. We all watched that night as police came to the house and Ms. Flaherty cried and cried. She said we went out to play and she couldn't find us at lunchtime. She suspected we were playing games and didn't bother to look for us until suppertime. She said she was afraid and didn't want our parents to come home and find police so she didn't call them. What an actress she was! I remember wishing I could suddenly appear in the crowd and point an accusing finger at her and show everyone the staircase. But I didn't know how to make myself visible then.

It turns out that it's not very hard to do at all. The boys do it all the time.

“Remember the time that housekeeper came outside to retrieve the laundry?”

“And we were playing catch in the yard?”

“With our heads?”

“She turned as white as the sheets on the line. Ha ha!”

“I never saw anyone run so fast! Ha ha ha!”

“Everyone kept telling her it was only the sheets in the wind!”

“But all she could do was point and babble! Ha ha!”

By the time I learned how to appear to the living, it was too late. Our parents were long gone from this place. Of course, we couldn't go anywhere, our bodies are here, so here we must stay as well. After a while I realized that if we were discovered and given a proper burial, well, let's just say I don't think the boys would go to Heaven. It seemed better to leave things alone and let them go on having their fun haunting people. Myself, I don't go for that sort of thing. I don't find it very amusing. In fact I've only haunted someone once; not counting the nanny, of course.

You didn't think Ms. Flaherty got away with it, did you? After the police were gone and everyone had given up looking for us, she decided to leave town. But my brothers spooked her horse. It seems funny to put it that way, now that I'm telling it. Anyway, she was thrown. Everyone thought that she was killed by hitting her head on a rock, but she wasn't. That was my job.

But I digress. This story is about my problem. There's a boy. His name is Josh and he just moved in with his family. They laugh about the "ghost stories" and say they're not afraid, so naturally the twins are looking forward to haunting them. And they can get very creative when they put their evil little minds to it. They once scared a young soldier so badly that he could never go near a horse again. They had him believing he had come face to face with the Devil himself. Another time they talked a gardner into killing himself. They found out he had left a pregnant girl many years ago and they convinced him that they were the ghosts of his dead children. In despair, he hung himself in the barn. And it's unspeakable how they toyed with poor Lord Biddle. He finally suffered a heart attack because of them.

So that's why I'm worried. I don't want them to scare Josh's family off—or worse. I've told them in no uncertain terms that I won't tolerate them haunting those people, which sets them off in peals of laughter. They've threatened to crawl into Josh's bed and let him wake up between the two of them. I've no idea what else they're cooking up.

Which is why I have to somehow lead Josh to the chamber in the staircase. But I'm not going to enjoy doing this. It will mean an end to the three of us and, like I said, I don't think the boys are going to Heaven. Actually I'm not so sure about myself either. I also don't like the idea of Josh seeing the terrible mess that he will discover there. Or of him seeing me like that. Josh is fifteen and beautiful. I like to think my fourteen-year-old self was at least pretty—but now…

So this is what love is. To protect Josh from those two, I will haunt him first. Tonight. I will awaken him from sleep with a gentle kiss and a whisper in his ear. I'm sure he'll follow me; if he doesn't I'll let him see a faint glimpse of me as I disappear around a corner. I'll lead him to the staircase and let him see me go through the wall there. If he's not awake enough to investigate, I'll push the hidden door open for him. Hopefully, I don't frighten him into fits, but it's a chance I have to take. Once our bones are discovered and properly cared for, the twins and I will be on our own. Of course, I'll never see Josh again after that…

Hush, now. Everyone's asleep. It's time.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

End of Days

Submitted for Project #2 "The Deities of Mythology"

Hera:What has happened?
Zeus:The world has come to an end.
Poseidon:But I have yet to swallow it with the sea!
Athena:Man still roams the Earth. How can it be?
Zeus:We are finished; our power is gone.
Call in the satyr, the centaur, and the unicorn.
Call the nymph from out of the sea.
It's time for us to leave.
Bring all immortal creatures, even Cerberus.
Men no longer believe in us.
Hera:But where will we go?
Zeus:That I do not know.
Apollo:Who will drive the sun to change night and day?
Zeus:The horses of the chariot know the way.
Ares:But surely there are yet battles to fight and heroes to kill.
Zeus:You have taught Man only too well that skill.
Hades:Who will watch over the souls of the damned?
Zeus:Our reign is over; it's out of our hands.
Aphrodite:But who will show Man love and beauty?
Zeus:No one. he refuses to see.
Hermes:Who will save Man from himself?
Zeus:Alas, only Time will tell.
It's no longer our place.
This is our End of Days.