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Aaron’s Notes: I wrote this short story on my trip to Glacier National Park last year.  It was intended to be 7 Episodes, with 1 Episode released via web and mobile every few months. I’m going to release Episode 1 on the blog a section at a time. I’d love to get your feedback as it goes along!
Shattered #1
Shattered #2

Here’s part 3 of Shattered. Oh, and this is at least PG-13.
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“Ha HA ha ha!”  Benson Jyri’s hearty laugh boomed through the courtyard.

“Come, my tiny friends. Let us try it again.”  Four young monks circled Jyri’s gigantic frame.  Jyri towered over most any man he met.  He stood nearly seven feet tall, with girth to match.  Though he appeared rotund, powerful muscles lay hidden beneath the layer of fat and his voluminous orange robe.  His limbs were like tree trunks, not even thinning at his wrists or ankles.  His shaved head perspired in the sunlight.  Sweat dripped down his face, catching in his bushy eyebrows and his full, black goatee.  His skin was tanned from hard work in the light of day, yet still smooth owing to his nearly enlightened state of being.  In his powerful hand he gripped a great, oak staff.  It was an ancient weapon instilled with the force of justice by the benevolent god Balim. Jyri twirled it carelessly, though most men would do well just to lift it from the ground.

He was sparring with the monks to test their use of the staff, although he suspected he really was reliving the glory days.  Eradicating evil and injustice from the land may have been his calling, but frankly the last ten years without strife had been quite boring.  His once small layer of fat was a bit more insulating now than it was then.

Jyri tensed himself for the monks’ attack. He did not know their names, but even if he did, he would not have used them.  Jyri used a secret trick of the Iabro monks that allowed him to instantly assess the threat level of those he fought, or that he may someday fight.  When he assumed his fighting stance, he used his divined knowledge of his opponents to assign them priority and often amusing nicknames.  After all, when one risks one’s life, one ought to have a good time doing it.

One of the monks was much more efficient with the staff than the others.  Jyri dubbed him “Good With Wood”.  Good With Wood stepped forward to engage him, swinging the staff over his head like he was chopping wood.  Jyri waited until the last second before stepping quickly to his left. He rotated to his right, Good With Wood’s staff whistling past his head, and lashed out with his staff at knee level.  It cracked into “Slow To Learn” who had crept in close on Jyri’s right.  The same move took that monk out last time.  Had Jyri put the force of his righteousness behind the blow, he would have snapped the young man’s leg.  Wielded without malice, the staff lessened the blow of its own accord, leaving just a bruise.

Good With Wood’s staff hit the ground with a thump.  He swept it towards Jyri along the ground, a move designed to take out an opponent’s ankles.  Jyri jumped forward, rolling over the staff and landing on his feet.  He sprinted towards the smallest monk, “Size Does Matter,” and speared him in the ribs.  Size Does Matter flew through the air, a look of surprise on his face.  Jyri was much faster than anyone gave him credit for.

Jyri turned towards the two remaining monks with a huge grin. He thought it was great to be fighting again, even if it was just practice.

“You boys want to see something?” Jyri asked mischievously.  “I used to call this the Holy Tornado, though most everyone else just called it the Holy Shit! Ha HA ha ha!”

With that, the monk began to spin his weapon.  A glow suffused Jyri’s features as he called forth the god-given powers of justice within him.  The staff was a blur as Jyri grew in stature right before the eyes of the astonished monks.  As he neared ten feet tall, he let out a mighty roar.  Jyri’s robe snapped in the breeze as a gust of wind strong enough to smash buildings rushed past him.  Dust and debris kicked up and flew through the air with dangerous intent. The lightweight monk, “Pissing In The Wind”, was tossed across the courtyard and dumped unceremoniously in a fresh pile of horse manure, after bouncing off the stable roof.

Good With Wood had heard stories of the legendary Holy Tornado, and did his best to brace himself with his staff.  He was pushed backwards, but kept his feet.  With a triumphant smirk, he looked up at Jyri.

“You have been taught well, young one!” Jyri exclaimed with pleasure in his voice.

Benson Jyri took Good With Wood by the shoulders and steered him towards a bench in the shade.  The temple courtyard was paved with beautiful colored tiles.  From the ground, it was pretty, but there was no discernable pattern.  Observed from the bell tower, a red and a black dragon took flight within the pattern.  Few were allowed in the bell tower to see the true nature of the courtyard, and there were only a handful with enough arcane knowledge or personal experience to know that the pattern changed of its own accord.  In fact, it was like a sundial that, instead of telling time, told the score in the battle between good and evil.

After the battle of Utand, Jyri had climbed the bell tower seeking the state of the world.  Many believed the struggle with Memnon had finally ended.  When Jyri looked upon the courtyard that day, he was relieved by the change that took place before his eyes.

The red dragon, representing the god Balim, had grown and dominated most of the foreground. The black dragon of Memnon had turned away and seemed in full flight as it dwindled.  When he saw Balim’s red dragon lift its head and spout a brilliant yellow flame of triumphant fire, he ran to the bells and began ringing them wildly.  It was the signal to the world that an era of peace and justice had begun.

“Now look here young man.  Three days I have been here, and three times we have fought together.  I have knocked you down exactly zero times.  Did you know that only three people I have ever fought can claim I have not knocked them down?”

“No Master. I did not know that.  I am humbled by your praise.”  Good With Wood let a small smile touch his lips.

“Ha HA ha ha.  Do not be, you tiny whippersnapper.  It was not entirely true.  No man or demon has ever kept his feet when I have wanted him on his can!  Now, now.  Do not look at me like that.  You are the most capable young fighter I have seen in some time.  How old were you when we won the Battle?”

Good With Wood’s confidence returned as quickly as Jyri had snatched it away.  He, too, felt he was the best fighter under fifty years of age at the temple.

“Master Jyri, I was just nine years of age when evil was banished from the world.”

“A side affect to there being no evil, is that the number and quality of people willing to fight evil is greatly diminished.”  Jyri’s normally jovial demeanor changed.  “Do you know why I have returned to the temple, young caterpillar?”

“No master. I do not presume to know your mind.”

“Three weeks ago, I saw something that my eyes had grown accustomed to not seeing.  A son raised his voice and then his hand to his mother.  Ten years ago, I would not even have noticed it.  Then again, ten years ago I probably could have turned around and watched the second son murder the father.  Since the battle, I have not heard a raised voice except in song.  I had not seen illness, except in the very old.  I had seen no crime, nor heard of any death save that which comes in our sleep to us all at the end of the road.  So the actions of this one man stood out like, well, he stood out like I do in a crowd.  I yelled towards him and he backed down, shame faced and apologetic.  Yet it ate at me. If this one, seemingly innocuous event could happen, how many more small acts of evil have taken place?  Evil begets evil.  Once it has started, there are few ways to check its growth.  So I have made my way to the temple to consult the dragons.”

“Dragons?  What dragons, Master?”

“Do you think you are destined for great things, you green guppy?” asked Jyri.  There was no malice in his tone, just an intense desire to know the heart and mind of the young man.

Eli Maia, the given name of Good With Wood, turned his sight inward.  His round, animated face grew passive.  His mahogany eyes lost their focus as he searched his soul.  Jyri did not press him, for he knew the young man was earnestly searching for the truth.

Minutes passed.  A fly landed on Maia’s face, but he did not feel it.  Jyri amused himself by waving his hand in front of Good With Wood’s face.  He got no reaction.  Never able to pass up a chance at a joke, Jyri bent in front of Maia and mooned him.  A gaggle of young children that had been watching the monks train broke out in a fit of giggles.  Jyri put his robe back in place and winked at them.  He sensed Maia’s pulse begin to return to normal, so he quickly sat on the bench and assumed an air of quiet dignity.

Maia’s eyes regained their focus first, and then his spirit returned and brought life back to his body.  Jyri broke the silence.

“My young friend, you have the look of a man that has communed with Balim.”

“Master, I am not sure what happened.  I do not think that I have been asked a question before that I have wanted to think on so deeply. I felt my entire future hung in the balance.  I first prayed to Balim for guidance.  Then something remarkable happened.  I felt myself rising up, out of my body.  I looked down and could see you and me sitting on the bench.  The world grew hazy then, and I felt like I was passing through a cloud.  When my vision cleared, I found myself high atop a majestic peak.  The sky was a brilliant blue.  I could see a waterfall tumbling from an adjacent peak.  An eagle soared upon the wind.  Nearby, a cherry tree was in full blossom.  The aroma was more pleasing than anything I had smelled before.  A shining jewel of a pond was to my right.  I could see brightly colored fish swimming under the surface.  A small spring bubbled and sent fresh water spilling out of a crystal basin into the pond.

“I heard music behind me, so I turned towards it.  A man sat cross-legged beneath a beautiful marble veranda.  He was playing a lute.  I was enchanted by the sound.  I tried to make out more of his features, but he was obscured by the pure, white light that appeared to emanate from just between his eyes. I felt compelled to kneel, so I prostrated myself at his feet, relieved to take my eyes from the crushing magnificence of his visage.  Then he spoke.  His voice was the sound of liquid gold, or perhaps simply the sound of Peace.

“‘Eli Maia.  You have the capacity for great things.  Your heart yearns to bring joy and laughter to those less fortunate.  Your strong right arm wishes to defend the Realm.  And your mind wants to unlock the mystery of the stars.  You will achieve lasting fame if you follow their paths.  But I warn you now; you have the capacity for great evil as well.  Beware the black serpent, its wisdom will feel like righteousness but for the folly you see in your heart.

“‘Now it is time to return to your world.  Benson Jyri is a benevolent man, but patience is not one of his virtues.  Even now, he makes you the butt of one of his jokes.’

“Suddenly, it all disappeared.  I found myself falling back towards the ground.  When I landed, I was once again here with you.”  Maia finished and looked over to find Jyri asleep.

“Master?” Maia inquired.

“What?  Who is there?  Oh, it is just you, shiny beetle.  A simple yes would have sufficed.  No worries though.  The first meeting with Balim could set a dormouse to eloquence.”  Jyri thumped Maia on the head as he rose from the bench.

“Come. It is time you learned the secrets of the dragon.”

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