Character Building

“All right, so far, we have three pretty solid characters. This campaign, I want to add in weaknesses. You guys spend any time thinking about this? Anything you want your character to endure?”

“Thurman wants to die in combat. It is why he bothers waking in the morning.”

“Perfect, I love it. Add a plus three to wisdom and a negative one to armor. Missledore?”

“I want him to wear skimpy sandals, with most of his toes exposed.”

“That sounds pretty dumb. Talk me into allowing it as a weakness.”

“It’ll make him even more spritely in combat. You know, motivation not to get his toes crushed. Does that work?”

I’ll allow it, add a negative one to armor and a positive one to dex. Okay, and Priscilla?.

No, Prince Ellia!

Oh, okay… did you pick a—”

“I want my dude to be barefoot and carry a giant spear and spiked guitar into combat.

“Are you being stupid?”

“No, I’m serious.”


“He plays the guitar with his toes while he stabs at the mobs with the spear.”

“I’ll allow it, negative ten to intelligence.”

Brass Therapy

A red would not tolerate such blatant disrespect. No, Perseida thinks as the tinkle of her brass scales announce a sudden itch she works with a clawed foot. No, a red would tromp on out there and take the man’s head as an appetizer. Yet she doesn’t because whatever deed brought them here some bard will sing an epic to honor and an endless stream of fools seeking revenge will come for her. 

No, she would be a target and soon after, dead, and all to honor this idiot.

So annoying. 

Jorge the Headless-Hero plays through the dragon’s head, it’s an old diddy a would-be victim sang as a bribe to be let go. He did not need to bribe her, she told him so, and yet he kept singing. So she ate him and was forced to relocate here to this seacliff cave as a result.

In her recollection, she adds instruments to the missive and has it sung by a gorgeous Somali woman she knows can hit the highest most glorious notes. It improves the memory greatly and makes her indigestion at the end less irritating.

Then the man above sobs and Perseida hates herself for it, but she actually feels bad and finds herself moving forward to see if she can help.

Damn her heart of gold in a brass scaled body.

Knowing this is how her kind tend to die, she slowly climbs from the mouth of her rocky cave and there he is.

A Dwarf.

Young, maybe seventy or eighty summers old – red-haired- and very much far from his mountain hearth home. 

“If you are killing yourself, the cliff is that way.” she points while watching it dawn on the dwarf the error of his chosen perch.

She attempts to relieve him, “I don’t eat dwarf. Prefer fish.”

His red-whiskered lined jaw drops and his fat dwarven lips blubber and feeling even worse for the act itself she finds herself asking, “Why do you think we are here together today?” She pauses and with an irritated sigh finishes, “how does the thought of being eaten by a dragon make you feel?”


Bob avoids eye-contact while he shuffles through a stack of papers on his desk, “so’, he pauses to steel himself, ‘we got to fire you.”

“Interesting,” Georgia, the half-giant, looks down at the jiggly-soft-man finding herself wondering how he’d taste.

Her stomach growls.

Bob flinches.

Turns out, raw, Bob tastes horrible.


Goblin on a Mission

The goblin stands over a dead dwarf. He cannot bring himself to pull the dagger from the mountain-dweller’s lifeless chest or even take the man’s head as was asked. Instead, he drags the dwarf’s gem-filled saddlebags over to his purple-dyed Emu. He dyed the bird the horrible shade when he took it from the hitching post outside the roadside tavern. The tavern with a sign tacked to the door reading, “no goblins.”

Grindlynob understood, he hates goblins also. He’s small for his species and likes to paint, preferring oils and has a bit of a green thumb which, in his opinion, he has used to become a fair vegetarian cook.

Neither skills matter to his clan, which desire murder and theft above everything and now here he is with deep-red dwarf blood drying on his hands and tears of regret falling behind the visor of his leather helm.

He secures the bags to the back of the stolen emu and mounts. With a stiff kick he’s off and races a trail of dust back to the mountain his clan calls home. Back to the creature, he’s forced to call King.


Gobb is a grotesque three-hundred pounds of grey dimpled flesh shoved into a four-foot frame.

He sits a throne of skulls and between his legs a rotting war-pick leans that matches the chainmail pasted to his body, both are black with dried viscera.

His lair smells of piss, shit and death.

“Did you get dwarf’s skull,” Gobb grumbles his many chins wobbling.

Grindlyknob shakes his head, no, tossing the saddlebags, which clink heavy with gems, at the gnarled-warty-feet of his king.

Instead of praise, he earns the sharp end of the war-pick. It dangles from the top of Grindlyknob’s head. He keels over, glad he won’t have to live with himself after all.

Box of Dubious Delights

“It’s ugly here,” the little boy in the thrift-store flannel jacket whines. He walks ten feet in front kicking at brown scrub.

He isn’t wrong the boy’s Dad notes, but in the tradition of long fought wars of fathers never admitting defeat this progenitor will not concede the battle either.

“Maybe there is beauty in what it is?” the father tries halfheartedly. They just broke down on the side of the interstate and Melvin knows they wouldn’t even be here if he had made better life choices. Finished college, gone to law school, worked harder, made more of a fuss about the lump.

But no, now he was a guy who lost his job boxing erasers, because as his shift manager said, “people don’t write stuff down anymore.”

So, back to his parents home they go.

The joy of failure.

“It could be worse, we could be all rusty and worn out like this old box.”

The box was half buried in the brown grass. Maybe it was blue once, It had a handle that looked as if it were barely keeping the lid closed and wouldn’t move if an attempt were made.

The boy turns to look and slowly doubles back, curious.

“What do you think’s inside?”

“A new life,” Melvin mumbles, but the boy looks at him in his sad little way and the father smiles as if he were joking. Hurting his boy feels like losing his wife all over again.

“Can I open it?”

“If you can.”

The handle twists easily and the lid pops open. Expecting an empty box, or one with a fifty-year-old lunch inside, the explosion of blue smoke is startling.

“Yes, my master,” the Jinn says to the boy and Melvin knows it will be two for one on wishes today.


The air smells like incense. Maybe patchouli. Maybe something more narcotic, sinister, it could be poison and Steve wouldn’t care. He sits and watches the most beautiful woman he has ever seen in his life dance alone in the middle of a bare stage. She glides as if every muscle in her body were made for this one thing. She spins and her long black hair, pulled back in a loose braid, swings like shimmering silk. Her long graceful neck is taut cords of muscle and blue veins and her bright green eyes land on him every time she faces the audience. Her look feels like lava. She stirs something deep inside himself. Not a hunger, yet when she turns away, he feels like he has never eaten a day in his life.

The audience claps when she stops and bows. Steve does nothing but stare. He does not even hear the audience as they shoot to their feet and applaud loudly, screaming for more.

No, Steve just sits there.

It is him and her and they are alone and he knows soon she will come to him and they will be together, forever.

The musky scent is so overwhelming it could be billowing like a cloud of smoke, but the room is clear, clear as the thoughts in Steve’s head.

Steve knows he will have to make his entire life available for her, the one, the person he did know he needed.

He will have to sell his home and his car and kill his dog and his wife and his children. He will have to make room for her. She will need to be pampered and cared for like a hothouse orchid, a beautiful temperamental thing, a thing of joy and perfection.

Heaven and paradise, death and life, infinite eternity is her love.

And he could never touch her. She would stop being if he did. She would crumble into something horrible. He would wake from the dream of her if he ever did something so stupid. No, he will never touch her. Not with his hands, his body, his mouth, his anything. She is untouchable. A work of living art to be worshipped, but only from a distance.

She bows to the crowd, folding neatly at the waist so her elbows touch the smooth varnished stage floor and from out of the dark, a man appears. He is dressed in a white starched shirt and black jacket with long tails that drape around his knees like a cape. In his hands, he carries a length of shining fabric that could be made of rubies and diamonds.

The perfect woman unfolds herself from the bow and stands back up.

She smiles.

The smile is like the sun. It is blinding. It is painful. Steve sobs. Tears seep from his eyes. He has never been moved so strongly by anything in his life.

The man in the tux spins his glinting sheet and a throne appears.

His lady love sits on the throne. She sits so lightly she might as well be floating in air.

The illusionist twirls his shimmering cloth again and the woman disappears and Steve is left to ponder, for the rest of his life, a want he will never understand.





by Freydoon Rassouli


Black with rage the boy storms the iron-clad beast.

His enemy sets his feet in rust spotted sabatons and his legs form a bridge over the unconscious girl. He smiles his rotten tooth smile and crooks his index finger “Come along little doggy,” he whispers with a raspy voice.

The would-be warrior grunts with effort and with a glinting flash of steel swings the sword, acknowledging this one shot is all he will probably get.

The miss is heartbreaking. A wild swing with sweat-soaked palms that equals the blade flying out of his hands leaving him standing defenseless. He lowers his head, and reaches up to touch at the blade, that slides through his chest and into his heart, as he is made of melted butter.

His singular thought is, *no pain.*

When he looks up he expects to see the brute standing there gloating with his chipped and crusty sword dripping, maybe the girl would be looking up at him also, disappointed that he failed her. Instead, he stands at the foot of a mound of skulls. The sky is on fire and a figure floats with huge wings billowing like smoke from her back.

She is beautiful this thing, but her face is sad and her eyes leak tears as she lowers a flaming sword at him.

“Were you virtuous?”

The question forms in his mind like a blister and he immediately thinks of the few moments in which he wasn’t stealing, lying, sneaking around, or other selfish moments where he was concerned more with staying alive than doing right. He wonders if maybe death was preferable to sin.

“It is not.”

His mind settles on the girl puddled on the ground, unconscious and probably on her way to join him here in whatever afterlife this was, but only after a very painful end has its way with her.

“No, she won’t.”

The sky behind the angel turns hazy and he sees the girl, still prone on the ground, but now his blade in her hands his murderer and her would be rapist struggling to pull himself from it.

A golden door opens. Through it, he sees a pink sky and green forest stretching far into the distance. His father stands there waiting, bow over his shoulder hunting boots on his feet.

The boy smiles feeling more happiness then he has ever felt in his life.

Family something he has known for so long.

He steps through the door and just before it closes behind him he turns to see the ironclad man has taken his place. He screams in agony, trapped in a roaring fire. The beautiful woman, no longer beautiful, her body and face twisted into a red-skinned demon laughs as she torments.

The gold door slams off the scene and his life in paradise begins.



On winter solstice, the farmer’s boy overhears the barn animals talking. Horse conspires with Milk-Cow,”We will feed the humans to Pig.”

Pig objects, “are they kosher?”

Neighing the horse shakes his head.

“I’ll do it,” volunteers Goat, but morning arrives rendering them dumb saving the humans till next year.

Two Peasants and a Lady

The lady was wronged, she paid, so the job must be done. Mary cares only for doing what was asked.

Smelling stale fermentation she grabs the brute’s hand, twists, and they twirl. She unsheathes her knife to Stab.

Her aim is true. With a bubbling, he collapses and she walks away.


two peasants and a lady

Artist: Albrecht Dürer

 Title: Das tanzende Bauernpaar, 1514



“Did you see that?’ The young woman steps forward and peers at the art. She is pretty with long black hair and hot pink nails that match the shade on her lips.

She grips the velvet rope dividing the vast church Parrocchiale di Sant’Agostino from the only portion that still remains of the original building, a flaking section of wall near the choir. On the wall is the famous Tommaso da Modena painted polypitch Modonna fresco.

“No, can we go get some pizza, I’m tired of dusty old churches.” her partner whines. He is a man in skinny jeans and crispy gelled hair. He looks at himself in the reflection of his phone.

“You didn’t see the Baby Jesus wave at me?

“Jesus, what? Come on I’m hungry.”

Tabby doesn’t acknowledge him she instead climbs over the rope and glides closer to the fresco, The child sitting in the lap of the knitting Madonna turns and smiles at her. “You didn’t see that?”

No. Stop it, you’re just hungry.”

The former cheerleader from Paramus looks around to make sure she isn’t being watched and leans closer to the fresco painted infant, “Hello baby Jesus.” She reaches out a pinky to touch the child’s outstretched hand and recoils at the soft warm palm.

The Baby Jesus rolls over as if he is about to crawl toward her and away from his mother, but instead tumbles off the wall.

Tabby manages to catch him before he falls to the rough 12th-century laid ground.

The baby starts to howl. On instinct alone, Tabby holds the warm, flesh and blood boy to her chest.

Mario turns and gapes, his mouth moving like a fish out of water. “Jesus Christ,” he points.

“I think so,” Tabby smiles snuggling the newborn closer.