True Son Of The Empire

My Novel, True Son Of The Empire is out!

True Son of the Empire Cover

And I know it’s been too long since I last posted anything in my blog.  I apologize for that.  Writing a book took a bit too much time.  But now it’s out, and I do plan to post more here.

But if you want the book, you can get it here:

Paperback Novel

Kindle eBook

Kobo eBook

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Published in: on September 28, 2015 at 11:34 am  Comments (1)  

Third Draft Finished!

I finished my third draft.  I found a few problems which still need worked on, some consistency issues, and a few things I don’t like.  Overall, though, I’m pretty pleased.  I’ve got a skeleton in place, and I’ve put a bunch of muscle on it.  

Sorry, I’m thinking about Rocky Horror and I can’t get the “In Just Seven Days, I can Build Make You a Man” song out of my brain.

I’ll be doing most of the work on the project here: https://joey-stadelmann.squarespace.com

Thanks!

Published in: on August 18, 2014 at 3:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Writing

So, a few days ago, a beautiful and talented woman asked me what I was working on creatively.  I was embarrassed by the answer, and it was only made worse because she was super hot and better at art then me.  Basically, if you’re reading this, you know I’ve done nothing in months, and very little all year long.

I’ve got to change that, and that’s going to take some concerted effort.  Basically, I’m going to regularly need to make sure I keep writing.  I may make a couple of changes around here to make sure that happens.  I’m also going to need to look after my other stuff, like my deviant art page.  I might make some formatting changes to my blog.

One of the things I noticed is I’ve become a little insecure about the things I like.  I watch a lot of fantastical movies and tv shows, and read books where extraordinary things happen, but I don’t want to write about that.  I need to figure out how to let that go.  If I read Game of Thrones, then there’s nothing wrong with writing fantasy.  When I watch Supernatural, even in to Season 7, where it gets next to unwatchable, why can’t I write some horror stories.

Although, something I might start doing more of is scenes from songs.  I get a lot of strong imagery in my mind’s eye when I listen to music.  I’m going to write more of those.

Basically, I don’t care what you think.  Unless you’re a beautiful and talented woman, then I care that you think I make good art.  The most important lesson I learned from my Creative Writing Professor in University is that the point of art is impressing cute girls on the off chance it will get you laid.

Published in: on November 13, 2012 at 7:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Never Resolutions

I told someone today that I was writing today, and they asked me if it was because of a New Years Resolution.

It’s not.  I don’t think you should ever wait for an arbitrary date to make a change in your life.  New Years means something because we decided it does, and it encourages you to make your life better.  But you should always be looking for ways to improve your life, to make things better. 

Never wait when you think of a way.  Life is as short as it is beautiful.  Waiting is agreeing to die in silence.  Never do it.  Always live when you can ,because next week is not gaurenteed.

Published in: on January 10, 2012 at 5:41 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The End of Illusion

I do not necessarily love often, but I tend to fall deeply in love.  The last time I fell in love with a girl, I was never able to tell her.  I knew I would have to leave her soon, due to circumstances beyond our control, and I didn’t want to make it harder for either of us.  That’s a big part of the nature of love, as far as I understand it; trying to make things better for the people you love.  I’ve travelled around the world for the loved that were lonely.  I’ve stayed up late, using everything I knew how to do, to help the loved in need.  I’ve spent hours, surrounded by books on terrible topics I don’t grasp, squinting through tears of frustration, for the loved who need help I can’t provide, finding a way to be what they need me to be.  I’ve made a fool of myself in public, for the loved who needed huge demonstrations of my caring.  I’ve made a fool of myself in private, for the loved who needed someone to forgive their quirks.

Love is finding a way to be what the people you need need you to be.  Not to say you should lose yourself, because anyone worthy of your love does not need you to do that.  You become more, you make yourself stronger, for their moments of weakness.

A woman I love passed away today.  My grandmother lost a long term battle with cancer, and there was nothing more we could do for her.  I miss her in ways I don’t comprehend yet, and it’s been a few short hours.  Someone, seeing me in pain, brought up the concept of a loving God.

And I am fucking furious.  How can there be an all powerful, all loving God.  How can a God who loves me, who can do anything, take her from me?  How can he have let her suffer like she did at the end?  That’s not love.

I can hear the objections, the “He works in mysterious ways.” Bullshit.  A mysterious way is not necessary for an all powerful God.  He’s either lying about what he can do, or lying about how he loves.  If he’s an all loving God, then my capacity for love is a lot greater than his, because I would have done something, changed something, relieved his suffering. 

Some would say it’s a test of faith.  That’s even worse.  Trust me, if I love you, and you need me, I will not be hiding in a fucking cloud, working on my mysterious ways.  I will be there.  You will hear my voice.  You will see me there.  I will move Heaven and Earth if you need me to, and I’m just a man.

If a human wanted to test my faith, if I was in a relationship, where someone did something horrible to me, to see if I would still love them afterwards, trust me, that’s the end.  I will not be involved with anything so terribly petty.  If you hurt me to see if I love you, you don’t love me, and I’m done with you.

So, if there is a God, he is a terrible, lying monster, more of a Lovecraftian horror, intent on finding the limits of our endurance, than a caring father figure in the sky.  If there is such a thing, congratulations, you win.  My faith isn’t strong enough to see us through this, you petty, selfish asshole.  Don’t call me again.

But I really don’t think there is.  I think we live in an immense amazing universe, and we are just reaching the level of understanding needed to realize it can be wonderful and terrible and there doesn’t have to be a point.  Everything happens.  Not for a reason, it just happens.  The meaning we find, that’s another amazing thing that doesn’t need to originate with a cloud wizards who needs to make sure we love him because he’s there.

And those who would say we need God, even as a social construct, to ensure the morality of people, I think you underestimate basic human goodness.  People are, in general, great, greater than any dream of omnipotence, and the terrible acts by a few of them don’t begin to amount to the terrible things I’ve seen credited to this all loving all powerful God. 

The God people have told me about all my life, I think it’s an analogy.  It’s from an older time, when we couldn’t explain all the superb and grotesque possibilities of limitless, endless space.  It’s from before we could see that, when the chips are down, people will find a way.

When you’re crying quietly on the train ride home, coping with loss, and a child you don’t know comes to hug you, that’s not the work of a celestial genie.  That’s the natural concern, the innate decency of all people.

I don’t have all the answers.  I can’t tell you where we come from, how we got to the amazing place we, as a species, are at, or what happens when we move on.  I can’t tell you why we are wonderful or terrible to each other.  I can tell you that God is a terrible explanation for any of it.  I prefer uncertainty to that monstrosity.

If you want to comment on this, there’s a couple of things I’d like to remind you.

1. You’ve come to my soap box.  I can edit and delete your comments, and you can’t do that to me.

2. I’m pissed off as all hell about the 30 years people have been lying to me about this fucked up concept.  Normally, I respect your right to your own viewpoint, beliefs, and recognize that God is your version of the basic human decency I treasure more than anything else, that makes the love no god has ever shown possible.  If you think this post is the right time to argue with me, you may find I’m in too much pain right now to be reasonable, and I’ll quite happily tell you to take your archaic superstitions and fuck right off, because I’m looking to hurt someone right now.

My basic human decency is on vacation right now.

Published in: on May 27, 2011 at 4:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Safest Place in the World

When I was ten or maybe twelve years old, my Grandma got me a dog for my birthday.  He was the brightest animal in the local pet store, and a few weeks old, he paraded in front of the window, to make sure he was noticed.  Knowing that such a clever animal would soon be bought, Grandma took him home a few weeks before my birthday.  She called him Storming Norman while he lived with her, but I renamed him Zipper when he became mine.

He was the perfect dog for me at that age.  He was incredibly smart and didn’t like most people, but he was fiercely loyal to those he loved, to a fault.  He understood life was bigger than the house and the yard he played in, and given any chance, he would bolt out the front door, to see the bigger and the wider world.  He couldn’t have been more like me.

When ever he ran away, he always headed in the direction of Grandma’s house, and if you lost track of him, you knew he would show up there.  I understand that too.  Grandma’s house was the safest place in the world.  When I was three years old, our house burnt down, and while it was happening, we hide there because nothing bad could happen to us if we were at her home.  She knew how to make everything right.  She knew that at breakfast time that you had to butter the toast while it was hot so that it melted, and she knew how to cook all the bacon so that it was soft.  Everytime it was time to be happy, when it was Christmas or Easter, and the whole family got together, we would go there when I was little.  As I got older, she taught me that when you love someone, you make fun of them, because you love them.  My sense of humour comes from her, and it’s one of my best qualities.

No matter how much of the bigger, better world was out there, the best place to go was Grandma’s house.  Zipper knew it, because he was just like me, and I knew it better than anyone.

Whenever things got too much, I would go there.  I didn’t need to tell her what was going on, just being there was enough.  It was peace, and it was happiness.  When I got older, and something terrible would come at me late at night, and nothing made sense, I could just drive by, and know it was her house, and everything was better, and I could go on.

Thirteen years ago, Grandma battled lung cancer.  She fought it, and she won, and she went back to her life as it was.  She didn’t stop smoking, or change the way she lived.  She beat the cancer, and she wasn’t concerned about it anymore.

Today, we found out for sure that it’s back.  She hasn’t been well, and it really doesn’t look good for her.  I am terrified that she’s heading into the hospital and she won’t be coming back out.  I’m terrified because I don’t know how to make things better for her.  I don’t know how to make sure she knows how much I love her, and I don’t know how to make her feel safe, or let her know that whatever happens, things are okay.  Things are always okay, because we’re stong, and we’re smart, and we know how to be happy, and she taught us all of that.

I can’t stop thinking about that house.  It’s the perfect, safe place, but it’s always been that because it’s always been hers.  Now she has to leave it, and I don’t know how to capture that feeling, and make sure she can take it with her, whatever happens and where ever she goes.

Published in: on April 25, 2011 at 6:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

How to Take Over the World

Have you ever seen Mystery Science Theatre 3000? 

 If you haven’t you should have, and you’re only hurting yourself.  Basically, they watch bad movies and make fun of them.  For a good, complete look at what they do, check out this video.

The reason they have to watch the bad movies is because an evil scientist is trying to take over the world, and wants to find the worst movie ever and weaponize it.  It’s not that important to the show, just a reason why they’re doing what they do.  But I’ve recently learned that this is not the way to stop all resistance to evil.

No, you need to look no further than this man:

Weaponize this

You shouldn’t take bad movies and weaponize them.  You should take this man’s games, and just … distribute them. 

That’s Sid Meiers, and he makes the Civilization games.  I got the newest one, Civ 5 on Sunday, and I haven’t done much else since.  Seriously, if everyone was playing this, you could march your evil armies through the world and no one would care.

Because we’d all have to look after our empires instead.  Which is what I’m off to do.

Published in: on March 4, 2011 at 5:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hard to Compliment

Some things are really hard to compliment.  For example, I think girls with big ears are cute.

Girls like Amy Smart

I like the type of ears that, when a girl wears her hair down, the tops of them stick out.  I doubt this is common, because all my google fu was useless in finding pictures of unnamed cute girls with big ears.

It sounds like an insult, doesn’t it?  Big ears.  Like I’m going around mocking elephants.

I am not attracted to elephants with big ears. Just girls.

In fact, most girls that have them, I assume were teased for them.  They hide them, under specially designed hair cuts and hats and other optical illusions that girls know to make me think they look different than they actually do.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m generally a fan of the spectacle, all the work the ladies do to impress … well someone else, but I still benefit from the visuals.

This one, however, it makes me said.  Even if I want to tell a girl “Your ears are so cute” she bulks.  It’s like I’ve built my own “Do these pants make me look fat?” trap.  It’s like an unescapable, back-handed compliment, and unless you’re a pick up artist playing with negs, it doesn’t really work. 

If you didn’t know, negs are semi-mean compliments designed to throw a cute girl out of her comfort zone, and make her work to impress you.  It’s a tricky game to play with the ladies, especially because you can get accidentally mean, and you shouldn’t fake a sense of humour you don’t have.  Plus, I sincerely like her ears, and if she’s feeling like she needs to compensate for them, I done screwed up.

Is this just me?  Am I the only one who thinks big earls are cute?  Because Google Image Search suggests I might be.  I mean, if most of my top five celebrity crushes didn’t have them, I never would have been able to give you this other example of Jordana Brewster

Who has been kind enough not to slap a restraining order on me

And I’m pretty sure, even in the two pictures I’ve provided, those girls have minimized their ears.  I couldn’t find many good ones.

Oh!

Zooey Deschanel!

Here’s a good one!  Zooey Deschanel!  Why don’t we see more girls with those kind of cute ears?  That is exactly the look I’m thinking of, and I would be happy to see more of it.

And, this blog was written in February of 2011.  I mention that explicitly so that the next time I get in a fight over a girl over whether or not I was being sincere when I tell her her big ears are adorable, or sexy, or whatever adjective I use to get what I want from her, I have this as proof.  There, future girl, I wrote this before I met you, so now you have to forgive me, and realize, I really like those ears.

Late Late Breakfast Show Time

You don’t get any novel this week because I’m promoting Late Late Breakfast Show once again.  This sketch comedy troop sometimes uses some of my scripts, so fuck what you want, I wanna talk about them.

I also want you to go see them.  I’m sorry I cursed, baby.  You know I get worked up.  It’s my passion.  You love it.

So anyways, it’s this week, from Wednesday to Saturday at 8pm, with additional Friday and Saturday performances at 10 pm.  Tickets are $14 or $12 for students.  If you bring a donation to the Calgary Interfaith Food Bank, you’re only paying $10 for a ticket, and you have proven you’re not evil.  The show’s at the Bird and Stone theatre in the basement of the Unitarian Church at 204 16th Ave NW.  You can find the details here.

Next week we’ll be back to the novel, but as I wrote a sketch for this show, I want you to pay attention to it instead.  Trust me, baby, it’s worth it.  I’ll make it worth it.

Published in: on December 6, 2010 at 12:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

PTP: Setting Sunburst Chapter 3

Chapter 3  (Narrated by Tyman

Raval was a small village, little bigger than the one on this plateau. It was on the southern edge of the Grand Region of the Solarian Empire. Low, fertile plans, carpeted in golden grain, eventually gave way to an uninhabited forest. The only reason Raval hosted an Imperial Garrison was to ensure that bandits, thieves, or other unsavoury characters did not make their homes in the woods. We were a single squad of Imperial Lance, twenty strong. I was just a lancer, then. We patrolled the region on horseback, ensuring the years of security continued.

Raval had been the retirement post of Captain Ellen of House Risald, a minor noblewoman who had been far better suited to military life than politics. She had spent the last thirty years doing her duty diligently, and we considered it an honour to serve under her. She collected her yearly stipend, drilled her soldiers well enough, and enjoyed the rest her long career had earned her. When she passed quietly in her sleep, two years earlier, all of Raval had been concerned about her replacement.

Word eventually came that a young nobleman, just out of the Officers Academy would be sent. Captain Gabriel of House Durihan, from the Lacrean District, would be coming to assume the vacant post.

***************************************************

“Wait a moment,” Kalis interrupted Tyman, “I’m not familiar with your districts. I’ve never been that deep into Solaria.”

“Districts are basically the countries that once were,” Tyman said softly. His voice was high, and a touch reedy. “Grand Region was Solaria before the Empire. Lympia, to the east, is now the Lympian Region, and they’re usually lost in the bottom of a bottle. Lacrean Region was once Dulac, and they’re a touch barbaric. Gyptia was the home of the First Dynasty, but they became more concern with Deos fanatics than earthly politics and lost their Empire for it.”

“So Durihan was a barbarian?”

“That’s what we were expecting. Bad manners, short temper, poor hygiene, basically as un-Solarian as you can get.”

Kalis did not mention he wasn’t Solarian. He held back his short temper and Tyman continued.

********************************************

A week before we expected him, Nodim, one of our outriders, spotted a rider wearing the blue and gold of the Imperial Lance was seen heading towards the village. We assumed it was an aide sent ahead. We were expecting a large train to carry the possessions of the young noble to arrive later. Sergeant Fesril, the highest ranking member of the squad, took the half-squad on duty, and we rode out to meet the rider.

Fesril was a career soldier. He had joined the Lance as a young man, and had served in half the Regions of the Empire. When his dark hair had turned grey, and his stocky frame had begun to stiffen, he had returned to his home in Raval, and served as Captain Risald’s second. His stern face cracked easily into a smile, and he was like a father to most of us.

His jaw dropped when he saw the Captain’s bars on the rider’s livery. The man had come with nothing more than basic kit, as if he was riding into battle, not to one of the safest posts in the Empire.

Captain Gabriel Durihan was tall, half a head over most men. He was muscular without being bulky. His dark hair was shaggy, clipped just above his eyes. He had a careful, close shave. He seemed to be enjoying the scenery when the Sergeant approached. “Captain Durihan?”

“Oh, hi,” he said, smiling at the old soldier.

“You’re much earlier than we expected.”

“Is that a problem, Sergeant…?”

“No, sir.”

“I meant, what’s your name, Sergeant?”

“Oh, Fesril, sir.”

“Alright Fesrilsir, show me what you’ve got so far.”

“No, sir. I meant, my name is Fesril … sir.”

Captain Durihan laughed. “I know, Sergeant Fesril. It was a joke.”

“Oh. Okay, sir.”

Fesril led the captain into town, uneasy and uncertain. Humour amongst the nobility often had a cruel bend, and he was concerned for the soldiers he considered to be under his concern. He led Durihan through the town, to the modest home next to the garrison’s barracks. “As we’re a single squad, we don’t really have standard officer’s quarters. Captain Risald had this house built, so it falls to you.” He dismounted and headed to the front door.

The captain looked at Fesril strangely when the older man knocked on the door. They waited in awkward silence until the door swung slowly open. A frail looking man in his mid seventies answered the door. “Gerald Risald,” Fesril said slowly, “This is Captain Gabriel Durihan. He is here a bit earlier than we expected.” Gerald nodded solemnly, sucking in his thin lip.

“Gerald,” Gabriel said quickly, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, but I need a moment to talk to the Sergeant. Stay here, alright?” Without waiting for a response, he grabbed Fesril by the upper arm and walked around the waiting horses. We formed up to create a barrier between them and Gerald. “Fesril, who is that?”

“Gerald is the late Captain’s husband. He was the householder, but now that she’s gone, he’ll be heading to live with his family.”

“And he’s not from around here, is he?”

“Well, he’s lived here for so long he might as well be. But no, his family is it Gyptia. It’s not a major concern. He is of noble blood so…”

“Not a big deal? I bet he doesn’t know anyone there. What are you thinking, Sergeant?” Gabriel headed back to Gerald, leaving Fesril stunned behind the horses.

“Gerald, I understand this house is meant to be officer quarters?”

“Yes sir,” he answered softly.

“Well, I’m a little concerned about these men and women. They may have had it soft for years. I think it’s probably best if I’m in the barracks with them, to keep an eye on them. Many officers visit this garrison, in your time?”

“Not often, no. Maybe every few years.”

“Well, I can’t see much use for this home beyond billeting them, not for a while. You’re welcome to stay here until you’ve made arrangements to travel to Gyptia. Shame, though. I’ll need to hire someone to keep it ready, just in case we have a surprise visitor. A steward of sorts, someone with good taste and breeding, to keep the place in a state acceptable for noble visitors.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Gerald, you’re not a soldier, are you?”

“No, sir.”

“Then, please, call me Gabriel.”

“Thanks, Gabriel.”

Gabriel remounted, and Fesril led him towards the stable at the back of the barracks. They consisted of two long buildings, one with a mess hall, an armory, and stables, the other a bunk hall. Tall, narrow oak buildings with tiny high windows designed to let archers shoot out, but not great at letting light in. Candle smoke clung to the rafters, and we were rarely inside when we had a chance to be elsewhere. At the stable, the captain started unsaddling his own horse, and said softly to Fesril “Next time you want to kick an old man out of his home, don’t do it in my name, alright Sergeant?”

The next morning, I was up with the sun, but the new captian was already gone. I asked Marin, who was just coming off of watch. “Left, just before first light,” she grinned. “He took Nodim, and a full load of supplies. Apparently he wanted the best rider to show him the edges of his responsibility.”

“He plans to keep up with Nodim?” Nodim was constantly grinning, mostly because he loved nothing more than riding. He lived on the back of his horse, and the position of outrider brought him constant joy. We weren’t sure if he could walk half a mile, but not one of us doubted he could ride three days straight.

Most of us could ride the Ravel Garrison’s district in five days, four hard riding. Nodim’s best time was three, and none of us could keep up. When we saw them on the horizon at sunset three days later, we were astonished. Gabriel rode into the stable, and Fesril came up to him. “Everything alright sir?”

“Fine, corporal. That little guy is one hell of a rider, eh? I’m headed to bed. Exhausted.”

Nodim joined us at supper, grinning as ever. “He told me to try and lose him. I did my best.” He laughed as he shook his head. “Couple times I nearly did. He’s on a good horse, and he wanted it.” From that day forward, you didn’t mock the captain in Nodim’s presence. He wouldn’t stand for it.

We expected it to take a day or two before he was back on his feet, but he joined us the next morning for breakfast. We were all rather quiet as he sat down in our midst, as Captain Risald never ate with us. We kept our eyes on our meals, waiting for him, not sure what he wanted. “Everything fine?” he said to me.

“Yes sir.” He asked me my name, and I gave it. Then he asked why we were all so quiet. “Worried, sir.”

“Why’s that, Tyman?”

“We’re hoping you’re not in a bad mood.”

He laughed. “Why would I be?”

“Aren’t you sore, sir?’

“Hell yes,” he laughed. “Nodim can ride, eh?” He elbowed the lancer next to him, who cracked a smile. “There we go. It’s breakfast, not a funeral. You any good at sparring, Tyman?”

“I’m alright, sir, but if you want to test yourself, you’ll want to try Denma.”

Denma felt I needed kicked under the table, and made sure I didn’t wait too long for one. She was sitting beside me, and she tried to hide her crimson face behind her thick hair. “I’m going to take a stab in the dark here,” Captain Durian smiled, “But would you be Denma?”

“Yes, sir,” she said to her oatmeal.

“Well, after we eat, show me what you’ve got.”

“I … I wouldn’t want to hurt you sir.”

“Really?” he asked with a smile and a cocked eyebrow. She blushed again. She hadn’t meant it to sound like a challenge. “I hope you’re as good as you think you are.”

“I mean, sir,” she said quickly, like she always did when she was nervous, “I couldn’t swing at you.”

“Wow, then you’re really going to lose out there.” Nodim laughed so hard oatmeal nearly came out his nose. “Tell you what, winner takes two low crowns.”

“I … I don’t gamble sir.”

“I thought you were so good you were going to hurt me? What happened to all your smack talk?”

“It wasn’t, I really didn’t mean, sir, that…”

“Calm down, Denma. We’ll eat, and we’ll meet out back, and we don’t need to gamble, but I do want to see if you’re any good. Sound fair.”

“Yes, sir.”

There wasn’t a soul who didn’t find an excuse to come see what was about to happen in the training yard. Denma went to the rack, and carefully selected one of the wooden swords we used for practice. Durihan arrived later than her, carelessly selected the first practice sword from the rack, and grinned. He held the sword to salute, and Denma returned the gesture. Big as he was, he was fast. He dropped the salute and came swinging at her, a long swipe taking full advantage of his long gangly arms. He was as fast as thunder, but she was lightening, a split second faster. She turned the heavy stroke upward over her head, ducked and flicked the dull point of the practice sword at his throat. He stopped, seeing she had gotten him.

“Alright,” he said, and took two steps back. “Again.”

She stared at him, frustrated. She was really worried about injuring him. He grinned the same grin, and saluted the same way again. He made the same wild stroke, and she looked at him in disbelief. She deflected the blade upward, and as she was about to flick in, he lunged forward. With his left hand, he grabbed her wrist, twisted his hip into her, and threw her over his shoulder. She hit the ground with a thud, and her sword went scattering out of her grip. She looked up at him dazed. “What happened?”

“Just because something looks the same, doesn’t mean it is. Don’t fall for the same trick twice, and never assume someone else will either.” Denma lay there winded, while the captain retrieved her sword and brought it to her. “Ready to go again?”

Denma sighed, but for the rest of the morning, they went back and forth. She would find a counter, he would find a new trick. She was fast, but she only ever thought with her sword. Durihan had brains in his hands, his feet, his head, and she couldn’t keep up with the variety he threw at her. We all ended up with training sessions with Durihan. Denma could beat the captain half the time, and Fesril had days were he was the victor, but he always saw things we missed.

The thing about the captain is he never believed anyone could be truly better than him. It wasn’t an arrogance, he just thought he could be the best at anything he put his mind to, and he would put his mind to anything that someone else had mastered. He would keep up with them, mostly using ingenuity and will power, until he was their equal. The man was completely unaware of his limitless potential. He didn’t think it was odd that he rode with the best, fought with the best, drank with the best, played cards with the best, that given a week he could match you at anything you had spent years learning.

He was always there. He wanted to be one of us, and I think he was lonely. He drove Fesril crazy, because he insisted on being part of everything. He wasn’t willing to keep us at arms length. Fesril nearly broke his heart over it.

“Sir, you can’t do this,” the old man told him one day after pulling him to the corner of the mess hall.

“Do what?” Durihan looked back over his shoulder. He wanted to return to his card game.

“You can’t be friends with your lancers, sir.”

“Why not?”

“Why not? Why not? How did you ever graduate from the officers academy? You want them to be your friends? Your equals?”

“Yeah. It seems like the best way to lead them.”

“It’s not. They feel like they can question you. They think they have a say in what happens, that their opinion needs to be heard, that they can question you at any time.”

“Sure they can.”

“And you don’t see how that would be a problem?”

“No.”

“What about when you need them to die for you?”

“Fuck, Fesril,” Gabriel swore. “Why would I do that?”

“Because in His Excellency’s Service, we may be called upon to die for the Empire. Because some day you’ll need to send someone on a suicide mission, and you won’t have time to argue, or for them to do anything but obey.”

“So you’re saying you don’t want me to care what happens to them?” “Deos, no. I want you to care. You just can’t be their brother. You need to be their father.”

“That’s what you do.”

“And if you want them to live, that’s what you’ll need to do. They need to do what you say before they think about it. You have to decide, when it’s life and death, what needs done, and they need to do it. It might get them killed, but it might save their life. If they stand around and debate, or worse, decide you’re wrong and do nothing, you’ve signed twenty death warrants.”

“Fesril, we patrol the border to an empty wood.”

“And so when they look for soldiers to move to the front when someone invades, they grab the soldiers they can spare. This squad will be called to the front as soon as there’s a front to be called to, Captain Durihan. Now maybe you don’t care, but I am not planning on watching these kids die because you’re lonely.”

“What do you want me to do, Fesril?”

“Sir, you need to make your friends outside your squad. We should be like a sword to you. Value us, protect us, and keep us sharp. When you need comfort, when you’re sad and alone, you don’t hold your sword to your chest. You need to relax away from us. Here, you are in control. Every man and woman in there should think you know everything. Everything is fine. If it doesn’t seem that way, it’s because you can’t share the details, but you have a plan and a solution. We should have no doubts in you, or your orders.”

So Gabriel found a spare room in the barracks, an old unused office, and had a bed moved in so he would sleep separately. He ate at his own table, or in town. The squad started to worry as they saw him moping, so after a week of this, Fesril came back to him.

“Sir, you need to find a balance.”

“I just want to do this right, Fesril.”

“Yes, but if you seem concerned, the lancers wonder what’s wrong, if there’s something they should be concerned about.”

“I’m just not good at this.”

“I think you will be, sir. Look, maybe you can’t be part of all the things the squad does. Neither can I. I need to keep some distance too. So tomorrow at breakfast, call me over to your table to discuss strategy. Find reasons to talk to the unit. Call them over for reports, or to commend them on something they’ve done. You can still know them. You just need to establish that you’re in charge.”

Published in: on November 22, 2010 at 12:57 pm  Comments (2)