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Never answer the door when it’s raining… @MrMeyerhofer #FourthWallFriday

More than Figments

Figments, smigments you are either real or your not, I mean, wait.

Hey, I said I was throwing a .. ya.. no.. they are naked, yes ice! HAH! 19… wait, I MISS? How in Hades…oh hold on, I have to deal with the FWF crew, just eat the rest of the Cheesy Poofs.”

OK where was I! Oh, yeah! rain, answering doors, never doing it! Welcome Michael Meyerhofer back for a special Fourth-Wall Friday.

Hey, Asrielle got my D8, I need that… when we take down the BBEG! Damn it, stop dancing Drew!!”

Argh, go for it let’s get back to reading and finding out why it is never a good idea to answer the door when it is raining cats and dogs here at my cabin!

HEY! Do not feed Cheesy Poofs to the cat, you twit!”

wytchfire-twitter

Never answer the door when it’s raining.

In fact, if your goal is to get away from the noisy bustle of Lyos (not to mention the reek of the Dark Quarter) by moving to a little cabin on the plains, miles from anything that won’t kill you, it’s best to never answer the door, period.

Especially at night.

But the storm had been raging across the Simurgh Plains since sundown, rattling the shelves and disrupting my writing, and I was seriously due for a break. So without thinking, I got up and crossed the one sparse room that was my home. The burning lamp on my desk cast my shadow across the door as I undid the latch and pushed it open. I only meant to open it a little ways but the wind caught it and yanked it right out of my grasp. It banged against the side of the cottage. I winced as cold rain pelted my face.

“Who’s there?”

A cloaked woman stood in my doorway, platinum tresses tumbling out of her bone-white hood. Blinking away the rain, I saw startling eyes—purple eyes—staring back at me. It wasn’t the color that made my heart jump in my throat, though. It was the pupils: not black, but white as the hood around them.

“I suppose you know why I’m here.” She scowled as she lowered her hood, revealing long, tapered ears that framed the cold beauty of her angular features. Wisps of purple flame flitted about her fingertips.

As though in answer, the sky rumbled.

I eyed the curved sword leaning against the far wall, hopelessly out of reach, and tried to smile. “Well, that’s quite a thunderstorm. Maybe—” I trailed off, realizing for the first time that despite standing in the rain, her cloak and face looked as dry as the sun-bleached bones of the deer I’d spotted a couple days before, laying mournful on the plains. I swallowed hard. “Want to come in?”

“I’d rather burn this house down with you in it—but yes, I suppose we can talk first.” She pushed past me, surprisingly strong. I resisted the impulse to sprint out into the night and closed the door instead. I turned, shivering. “Listen, Silwren, I—”

“You forgot to light your hearth.”

I blinked. “What?”

Silwren answered by pointing to the cold hearth at the far end of the room. I’d run out of wood and hadn’t had the will to chop more before the rains started. Without a word, Silwren sent violet flames roiling off her fingertips. They splashed in the hearth, twisting and writhing. Despite the lack of fuel, the hearth roared to life. Already, I could feel sweat beading on my forehead, though I wasn’t sure how much of it was caused by the heat.

“Thanks,” I managed.

“Don’t mention it.” She faced me with folded arms. “Now, I’m not usually one to repeat myself but—”

“I know why you’re here.” I don’t know where I got the guts to interrupt a Dragonkin (maybe stupidity would be a better word) but I figured that in a case like this, boldness was as good a strategy as any. “You want to know why I keep having so many awful things happen to you.”

Silwren’s violet eyes narrowed. Another crack of thunder preceded her answer. “Not just me. My people. And my friends—especially Rowen. He deserves better. You of all people know that.”

I nodded. “I know he does. But that’s the point. If nothing bad ever happened, there wouldn’t be a story. You need conflict because conflict allows for resolution. And resolution allows for growth…” I trailed off. Silwren glared at me, tapping her foot. I could tell she wasn’t buying it.

“Spare me the lofty incantations of the Isle Knights,” she answered derisively. “You’re no better than they are, you know!”

Despite my terror, I felt a smile tug at my lips. “Honestly, I’m probably not even that good.”

Silwren blinked. Then she started to smile, too, before smothering it with a fresh scowl. “I’m just saying, it wouldn’t hurt to have something nice happen in this world. A battle avoided, an illness cured, a kid with decent parents. That kind of thing. Maybe somebody could even fall in love!”

“Jalist fell in love,” I reminded her. “So did Rowen.”

Silwren rolled her eyes. “And how well did that turn out?”

She had a point. I shrugged. Thunder cracked again, rumbling through the cottage, jarring me through and through. Silwren regarded me coolly, unblinking.

“Just don’t forget, we’re more than figments of your imagination.” Silwren gave me so fierce a look that I felt my knees go weak.

“No danger of that,” I managed.

She stared at me a moment longer, then shook her head. “Enough. I have work to do.” She started for the door. As she went, she called over her shoulder, “As do you.” Rather than touch the door, she waved her hand and it swung open. She stared, unflinching, into endless miles of darkness and the rain. She sighed. Then, grasping her bone-white hood, she pulled it back up over her platinum tresses and vanished into the night.

I just stood there for a moment, as though spellbound, thinking about what she’d said. Cold rain swept into my cottage, though the droplets hissed and evaporated in the heat wafting off the magical flames still raging in my hearth. Suddenly, I had an idea—a good one, though I wasn’t sure Silwren would approve. I tossed the idea around in my mind, over and over. Finally, I smiled. Shielding my face from the wind, I headed for the doorway, caught hold of the door, and pulled it shut. I locked it. Then I went back to my desk, picked up the quill, and started to write.

about-the-book

Never answer the door when it’s raining… @MrMeyerhofer #FourthWallFridayWytchfire
Series: The Dragonkin Trilogy #1
by Michael Meyerhofer
four-half-stars
Pages: 362
Published by Red Adept Publishing, LLC
on 2014-06-22
Genres: Dark Fantasy, Epic, Fantasy, Fiction, General
AmazonGoodreads

In a land haunted by the legacy of dead dragons, Rowen Locke has been
many things: orphan, gravedigger, mercenary. All he ever wanted was to
become a Knight of Crane and wield a kingsteel sword against the kind of
grown horrors his childhood knows all too well.

But that dream crumbled--replaced by a new nightmare.

War is overrunning the realms, an unprecedented duel of desire and revenge,
steel and sorcery. And for one disgraced man who would be a knight, in a
world where no one is blameless, the time has come to decide which side
he's on.

Drop down to keep reading

#6 Gladiator: Maximus v. Commodus

As much as I love Ridley Scott’s movies, Gladiator isn’t exactly my favorite. I don’t mean that it’s bad, exactly; just that compared to other Roman fare, like HBO’s Rome, or even other Scott movies like the director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven (more on that later), it falls a little flat. What’s great about this final fight in Gladiator, though, is that you get to see a detestable bad guy repeatedly slapped silly.

Why it’s a great fight…

Early in the movie, we see Commodus (played by a randomly oily, shirtless Joaquin Phoenix) practicing with his trainers. Commodus is a blur, effortlessly blocking attacks from multiple opponents. It’s an impressive display but what’s brilliant about it is that it’s completely for show. Commodus thinks he’s learning actual fighting skills but really, he’s just practicing some basic choreography that will be completely useless to him, unless he’s attacked by multiple opponents who tell him in advance what they’re going to do and stop to let him practice.

In fact, Maximus (played by Russel Crowe) kind of snickers as though he realizes this—and in the final duel of the film, you can see the look of surprise on Commodus’s face when he realizes it, too. Oh, and as a bonus, Maximus repeatedly backhands Commodus (who’s dressed in lily-white armor) in front of the entire empire despite suffering a fatal stab wound.

#5 Kingdom of Heaven (Director’s Cut)Balian v. Guy de Lusignan

Speaking of Ridley Scott…  If Blade Runner proved anything, it’s that studio execs need to quit micro-managing Ridley Scott’s movies. He doesn’t do slap-dash action films; Ridley Scott’s movies are big, sprawling epics that need three hours of run-time. Every scene is so essential that when you start whittling them down, the continuity goes right out the window. That was the problem withKingdom of Heaven. The theatrical version showed a dude with five minutes of weapons training somehow kicking everybody’s ass. Characters weren’t developed at all. It was like watching a good movie on fast-forward. But the director’s cut clears up all these problems and, as a bonus, features one of the best swordfights in recent Hollywood history.

Orlando Bloom stars as Balian of Ibelin, a Christian blacksmith-turned-noble trying to save the people of Jerusalem—not from the Muslims than from Jeruselem’s Christian king, Guy de Lusignan. Guy is a pompous ass who just so happens to be a great fighter. Near the end of the film, though, he’s fallen from grace and goes to confront Balian while the latter is trying to rinse off some of the blood and dirt of battle (not to mention the lipstick of Guy’s wife).

Why it’s a great fight…

Issues of birth and class have been pivotal throughout the movie, with Guy frequently referencing Balian’s questionable parentage. Yet by the time of this final confrontation, Balian is the hero and Guy is some long-haired Frenchy whose wife has left him for his greatest enemy. Guy confronts Balian in the market square. Both are tired, penniless, and dressed in identically dirty, plain-spun clothes. The fight itself is fast and frantic, with slick choreography that’s tempered by their ratty attire.  Despite the fact that the whole movie has been leading up to this, somehow, it doesn’t feel forced or cliché.  And any movie that can turn Orlando Bloom into a believable swordfighter (hint: not the same thing as an archer) is pretty cool.

#4 TroyHector v. Achilles

Yes, it’s kind of a silly movie. But I challenge anyone to watch this particular fight and not be impressed. For one thing, this is a swordfight I shouldn’t like because generally speaking, I like realism in my fight scenes.  Yet here, Achilles (played by an oddly hairless Brad Pitt) seems a bit too good at anticipating every swing from Eric Bana’s decidedly more hirsute Hector.

In a way, though, the unbelievable skill of Achilles is made more plausible by pitting it against Hector’s more realistic style. Throughout the movie, Hector fights—and wins—more battles than anyone, yet he wins each one by the skin of his teeth. Watching Hector fight, one doesn’t get the impression that he’s nine steps ahead of his opponent, like Achilles. Rather, one gets the impression that Hector’s just desperate and willing to improvise. And that’s why he always wins…

Why it’s a great fight…

…until he doesn’t.  Still, it’s close.  Oh, I know that anyone who read the Iliad in high school knows how this one’s going to turn out but whenever I watch this fight, I almost forget. A couple times, for all his grace and ability to anticipate his enemy’s moves, Achilles very nearly gets carved open by Hector’s wild, frantic swings.

Another thing this fight’s got going for it is the fact that Hector is exhausted by the end. Achilles seems only slightly frustrated that he hasn’t killed his opponent in under three seconds but Hector’s gasping like a senior citizen on a porno set. Just that contrast alone sets this fight apart from the Star Wars prequels, which I will continue to ridicule for the rest of my natural life.

#3 Return of the JediLuke Skywalker v. Darth Vader

Ha, weren’t expecting that one, were you? Well, to be honest, it carves out a little bit of my soul to give anything resembling credit to George Lucas. But I have to say, the final lightsaber duel in Return of the Jedi is pretty solid—specifically because it does not include any of the dopey flips and showy nonsense that characterize the rest of the prequels.

I very nearly put the duel from Empire Strikes Back on the list instead because, on hindsight, it actually serves to point out the ridiculousness of the prequels, as well.  If you recall, in Empire Strikes Back, Luke attacks Vader with the boyish élan shown by Kenobi in the prequels; Vader answers by dismembering him with the bare minimum of effort.  Yet the final duel in Return of the Jedi stands out because, plasma-swords and deus ex machina aside, it has elements of realism and the bad guy getting his comeuppance.

Why it’s a great fight…

Yes, it’s cheesy when Luke screams “NEVVVVEEEEER!” and comes lunging out of the darkness to beat his father’s ass, but if you watch the actual fight, there’s almost nothing in the way of the implausible, robotic grace of the prequels. It’s just Luke swinging furiously—almost wildly, but with just enough skill to force Vader back and exhaust him.

There’s also an additional element of realism here: when the emperor laughs and says that hate has made Luke powerful, he’s right. Post kung fu Hollywood has convinced us that the guy who wins the fight is the guy who pictures cherry blossoms and tea cups as he avoids the hasty swings of his enraged, imbalanced opponent while simultaneously trying not to yawn.  Obviously, skill matters; but talk to any self-defense instructor and the first thing they’ll tell you is that in reality, you win fights by morphing into a honey badger.

Well, after hours of acting like a grumpy dude who can’t find his surf board, Luke finally goes full honey badger and the result is that he mops the floor with the living embodiment of evil.

#2 Excalibur: King Arthur v. Mordred

At first glance, this fight seems like an odd choice. John Boorman’s gritty, atmospheric retelling of the Arthurian saga is so rife with blood and loins and manly poetry that you half-expect the characters to joust with their penises. Yet the final battle (set against a beautiful, bloody sunset) lasts all of four seconds. No dancing, no parrying. Mordred simply lunges and stabs Arthur clean through his armor; Arthur pulls himself up the spear—driving it deeper into his chest—and stabs Morded (his son by incest) in the neck.

Why it’s a great fight…

Hollywood has convinced us that swordfights are ballerina-style events that last for three days. Historically, though, real swordfights lasted only a few seconds and rarely if ever involved swords clanging off each other. For one thing, the quickest way to break a sword is to hit it full-speed against the sharp edge of another sword!

Besides that, when you have two guys squaring off at close range, the human brain simply can’t anticipate an opponent’s swing then relay signals to the hands fast enough to counter. And if it could, why bother? That’s the major flaw with George Lucas duels. Why block a blow that you can see—and sense—when you could just as easily sidestep and cut your attacker’s head off?

That’s also what’s so beautiful about the Arthur v. Mordred fight. It’s brutal, quick, and completely devoid of grace. In so doing, it maintains the gritty, this-ain’t-no-fairytale feel that the rest of the movie has (especially the infamous rape scene featuring Boorman’s own daughter).

#1 Rob Roy: Rob Roy v. Archibald Cunningham

If you can find a better Hollywood swordfight, I’ll wax your car.  In this one, Rob Roy (played by Liam Neisen) is an honorable Scottish brigand trying to keep it together in a changing world of courtly politics and gunpowder. Sure, he pontificates on noble virtues before his children, but that doesn’t stop him from doing whatever he has to do to win a fight. In fact, Rob Roy pretty much backstabs everybody he kills, right up until the movie’s final duel (in which backstabbing is expressly forbidden).

His nemesis: Archibald Cunningham (played by Tim Roth). What kind of man is Archibald Cunningham? Think Joffrey from Game of Thrones, all grow’d up. Cunningham rapes, lies, and steals without hesitation. Yet he’s the genuflecting poster-child for bombastic wigs and foppish, European grace… especially when he duels. No tricks, no insults. But because he’s devilishly quick, he easily makes mincemeat of his enemies.

Why it’s a great fight…

These two are almost Shakespearean mirrors of each other—so naturally, the movie culminates in a duel that both emphasizes and expounds on their vying personalities. Cunningham smirks as he dances around Rob Roy, effortlessly slicing him to ribbons. Rob Roy’s expression goes from grim-faced alpha-male to panicked bully. And yes, he eventually wins the fight (no surprise, his name’s in the title) but it’s how he wins the fight that will make you jump up and reach for the remote control so you can rewind and watch it again.  I won’t spoil it, except to say that by the end… yeah, Archibald shows an entirely different side of himself (namely, the inside of his chest cavity).

Bonus: pay close attention to how Rob Roy fumbles with his claymore when he tries to pick it up. Even that is totally in keeping with the rising drama and verisimilitude of a scene in which the more skilled opponent loses through justified but dishonorable trickery.

 

meet-the-author

About Michael Meyerhofer

Michael-Meyerhofer-1

Michael Meyerhofer, the author of the Dragonkin Trilogy, a dark/epic fantasy series. The first book, WYTCHFIRE, released by Red Adept Publishing. The sequels, THE KNIGHT OF THE CRANE and THE WAR OF THE LOTUS, are forthcoming. Though he’s always had pretty eclectic tastes, it is rumored and supported with his obsession of blades, to especially love fantasy and narrative poetry.

Before publishing WYTCHFIRE, Micheal was fortunate enough to publish a few poetry books. His third, DAMNATIO MEMORIAE (lit. "damned memory"), won the Brick Road Poetry Book Contest. His previous poetry books are BLUE COLLAR EULOGIES (Steel Toe Books) and LEAVING IOWA (winner of the Liam Rector First Book Award), plus a few chapbooks. Recently Michael was also happy to have his poem, "For My Brother," featured in Goodreads' June 2014 newsletter.

Michael Meyerhofer grew up in Iowa where he learned to cope with the unbridled excitement of the Midwest by reading books and not getting his hopes up, Probably due to his father’s influence, he developed a fondness for Star Trek, weight lifting, and collecting medieval weapons. He is also addicted to caffeine and the History Channel.

For more information and at least one embarrassing childhood photo, please visit the links below to his website and other social media hangouts across the web.

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One Comment

  1. Brilliant Fourth Wall! :D

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