Short Fiction Excerpt: Titan Quest Fan-fiction

(c) 2011 by Michael L. Utley

(Author’s note: This is an excerpt from an untitled, unfinished fan-fiction story I began in 2011 based on the PC game Titan Quest. I was a moderator at the leading Titan Quest forum at that time, and we had a thriving fan-fiction community filled with tales of valor and humor and destruction…and it was glorious! Anyway, I thought I’d share this as a change-of-pace to my usual poetry posts. Perhaps someday I’ll return to this piece and finish it.)


The blade slipped quietly from the man’s sweaty grasp, taking soundless ages to hit the earth with a thud so faint not even the carrion birds took notice. It lay in the dust, stained with crimson and gore, like some ancient and eldritch dragon’s tooth, testament to the day’s labors…to his life’s labors. The westering sun turned the blade to fire for a time and then took refuge behind a scud of clouds, dimming the world and all in it.

The small battlefield stretched out before him, an abattoir, an open grave that proffered no dignity to the dead or the living. The fact that the man was the only one standing gave him no solace; he was alive and all else was dead and that’s the way it had always been for as long as he could remember. He no longer consciously contemplated such things as this. Perhaps, long ago, he agonized over this fate, this blessing, this curse, but now his mind was dulled, emptied of thought and conscience, his only refuge in a world of death and more death.

Acrid smoke burned his lungs and sweat stung his eyes. He squinted to better take in the carnage but didn’t bother counting corpses. There was no point in body counts. The dead were dead and the animals would take care of them—the vultures were already busy and other scavengers would soon appear to complete the indignity of violent slaughter. He looked to the sky where the late evening sun hid prey-like among the clouds, as if it would be next to taste his blade.

He reached down to retrieve his long sword and his entire body screamed in pain. This delayed onset of sensation after battle had fascinated him in his early years, his system so loaded with adrenaline that aches were a mere whisper and pain wasn’t even in the conversation. Then, several minutes after a battle had ended, everything arrived at once and with vengeance. Arms and shoulders would burn as if his very bones were filled with fire, tremors would find his legs, sometimes forcing him to the ground as cramps seized his hamstrings and turned them into knots of agony. His head would swim and blood would pound in his ears like drums of war. It made him feel weak and shameful and his only consolation was that there was usually no one else alive to see it happen. He used to believe that this post-battle reaction reinforced his own humanity, but that notion was long since forgotten, abandoned. It had been ages since he had felt anything near to being human.

The sword was heavy as he held it before him, its blade fouled with the blood of the dozen or so men lying in pieces in the glade, their bodies steaming in the evening chill. The blade had been a gift from…he couldn’t remember. Had it been a gift? Had he picked it up along the way in some forgotten skirmish years ago? Had he stolen it? It didn’t matter. It belonged to him and he belonged to it. He wasn’t the type to name his weapons like warriors from his former life had been wont to do. He shuddered at any thought of imbuing human traits onto this entity of destruction. The truth was, he feared this blade, but it was all he knew, and there was an almost lunatic dread at the thought of parting with it. The blade itself was nondescript save for a few notches here and there, and for the dark stains he could never remove no matter how he tried. The only thing of note was a single emerald in the pommel of the grip. It wasn’t pure enough or of the proper cut to be worth anything, but it did set the weapon apart. He hefted it, his arms and shoulders still shuddering from fatigue, and tried vainly to wipe the gore from the blade. He decided to clean it later; exhaustion was setting in and he wanted to put some distance between him and this mess before full dark fell.

Yet he lingered still, feeling the sweat beginning to dry on his body and the pain in his muscles settling down into a low, steady hum. The setting sun slipped from its cover and lay bare what had once been a small human encampment in a meadow near a copse of trees and was now a tableau of the grotesque. A small, distant part of his mind told him he had done the right thing, these men were enemies, murderers, vile beings no better than the animals which even now feasted on their broken corpses, who deserved what he had visited upon them, but even that part of his mind sounded less vital and less truthful as battle after battle piled up over time. And a smaller, nearly faded part of his mind trembled in fear that perhaps he had been wrong all along.

“What the Sun Denies, the Moon Divines”

“What the Sun Denies, the Moon Divines”
(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley

This light that burns
Through bone-hued slats
As serpentine sun
Sheds its pretense
And glissades through
Fey reeds of twilight
Cuts razor-lines
Across eddying galaxies
Of dust motes
Infinities of minutiae
Indifferent spirals
A feckless requiem
For rise-and-fall futility
Ley lines annulled
As monuments crumble
Broken cities dissolve
In caustic deserts
Of ebon sand
Lifeless seas
Heave and sigh
And evaporate
Under red alien suns
There is nothing here
For light to illumine
Nothing remains
To set eyes upon
No ear-to-ground echoes
No cryptic communiques
Just dust and rust
And eternity

This light that chills
Through paneless frame
As bulbous moon
Worms slug-like
Across the night-void
On star-trail secretions
Casts a blue-white pall
Upon the multi-verse
Of frozen motes
A languid lethargy
Of sub-cosmic energy
Dust specks in moonlight
Aglow in spectral hues
Shadows of ancient arcana
Flicker in surreal death-light
Tumbled monuments
Glimmer restlessly
Under dead stars
Ley lines shimmer
In quicksilver urgency
There is something here
That hovers
Beneath the spectrum
Felt not heard
Sensed not seen
Permeates bedrock with
Profane vibrations
Sets somnolent cities
Imbues oceans with
Eldritch dreams
And eternal

“The Daisy Ring”

“The Daisy Ring”
(c) 2021 by Michael L. Utley

“I found thee in a faerie copse…”

“Hmm?” she murmured
Her gaze caught somewhere
In the rainy neon night-world
Beyond the coffee shop window
Her fingers weightless
In my hand

“I found thee in a faerie copse
Alighting on each flower fair
And as I ‘proached thee in the hopes
Of snaring thee in lovers’ ropes
Thou disappeared into thin air…”

She looked at me then
A faint smile teasing
Her lips
“Your poetry is terrible,” she said
Her tired eyes regarding me warmly
For a moment before
Returning to the
Pouring rain beyond
Our personal universe
Of rickety little table and
Untouched mocaccinos
Her brown eyes
As she scanned the night
A single tear tracing
The curve of her cheekbone
In the garish glare of the
Outside world

I stared at her hand
Too pale and fragile
Almost transparent
As it nestled idly in mine
Like some sickly dove
The delicate silver band on her
Too-thin ivory finger
Etched with some flowing
Unknown script resembling a
Daisy chain
It was all I could do
Not to look at
The rest of her
But I did anyway
I had to
And it hurt

I closed my eyes
And allowed my
Memories of her
To replace the despairing image
Burned into my mind
As she sat in somber contemplation
On an unremarkable stormy night
In some nameless coffee shop
In an arbitrary world
Where prayers go unanswered
And hope dies on the vine
And nothing is what it seems

The image that settled
In my mind’s eye was
The first time I saw her
As I made my aimless way along
Some mindless city sidewalk
In some pointless other reality
Her face ensconced in a
Breeze-blown mane of
Luxuriant onyx hair
As she peered out the window
Of a passing bus
Looking at nothing
Lost in some reverie of her own
A faint bemused smile
Causing her face to glow
So brightly I had to
Look away or be blinded
And though she didn’t see me
I couldn’t stop seeing her
And was it fate that I eventually
Found her?
A miracle?
Random chance?
I chose fate
But I was wrong
I didn’t find her
She found me
And by that point
It was too late

I opened my eyes
And all pretense fled

She was fading
Before my eyes
Her essence draining
As though her soul
Had been punctured
By some eldritch poisoned dart
She must have known
What I was thinking
(She always did)
And she looked at me
Out of anguished eyes
Drowning in
Dark forbidden pools
And squeezed my hand with
All of her might
Her grip so weak by now
So frail
“You can’t save me…”

I looked at her angrily
About to deny this lie
This horrible, god-awful lie

“No…” she whispered
She reached out and
Touched my cheek
And after a time
All my anger dissolved
Into shame
And ran down my face
She wiped away
My pathetic tears and
Placed her moistened hand
Back in mine
Her sterling daisy ring
Gleaming dully

“Tell me again,” she said
As she tried to smile
“Tell me again of how you found me…”

And I looked at her
A solemn, resigned calmness
Settling over me like
A sheet pulled over the face
Of the deceased
She knew it wasn’t true
She knew she’d chosen me
Not the other way around
And I’d been powerless to resist
But she indulged my silly-sad
Because she loved me
And because she loved my
Puerile poetry

I swallowed hard
Shut my eyes against
What was about to happen
And said

“I found thee in a faerie copse…”

Her hand began to tremble in mine

“Alighting on each flower fair…”

The din of the coffee shop quieted
As the subtle incense
Of pine and myrtle
Wafted delicately

“And as I ‘proached thee in the hopes…”

A distant, stifled sob lilted softly
In the silence amid
The nearly indiscernible cries
Of birdsong

“Of snaring thee in lovers’ ropes…”

Her hand pulled away from mine
As gently as a parting lover’s kiss

“Thou disappeared into thin air…”

There was an almost imperceptible sigh
Like a forlorn forest breeze

When I finally opened my eyes
Her burnished silver daisy ring was
All that was left of her

She was gone


© 2012 by Michael L. Utley
There is no air
Down there
Down in the dark
Where I choke
On my life
Nature abhors
A vacuum
But rage
A carcass
Under a red
Alien sun
Gasping a mere
I am a fish
Cast upon the shore
Drowning on nothing
Dried eyes
I see nothing
So nothing exists
The calm susurrus of the waves
Is the great deception
I cannot reach
The water
I am not fit for the
Fisherman’s net
The cry of the gull
The sigh of sea grass in the breeze
The languid flap of my tail
The hard hot stones of the beach
The stench of all things
The sea
I try to scream
But there is no