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Redemptive Arcs (a short story)

Updated: Jul 31, 2020

A short story by Michael P. Mordenga


The Sword Fighter of Light by Darrell Roth:

It was a beautiful day in Sacramento, California. William Roth walked from his office to his red corvette. He shielded himself from the California sun--a cruel mistress. As he fumbled for his keys, he saw a robed figure standing at the entrance of the parking lot. The figure was hidden by dark cloths hiding his face and hands. Underneath his sleeves, he saw a bony finger point to him. William stood with his jaw open.


"You are the chosen one of the Kingdom." the figure spook in a haunting voice.


William looked around, confused. "Me?"


He looked to his right hand to see a long steel claymore. A lion's head emblazoned the iron weapon's hilt. The sword looked like it weighed a ton, but William picked it up with the greatest of ease.


"Holy cow!"


The hooded figure stepped closer. He moved fast as if he was flying across the pavement. "Take my hand and help me fight against the army of Natas."


Before he could answer, the figure's bony fingers grabbed the hand of William. William's eyes were blinded with light and then all went to darkness. When he could finally see he was no longer in the parking lot, but in the very real mystical world of Kingsword."


Scene: The meeting of the weekly writer's club at the Sacramento public library.


Darrell: Doesn't it just grip you?


Laura: Does what grip you?


Darrell: The explosive beginning. I jump right into the action. It hits you like an action movie.


Tim: I got confused.


Jeff: I wasn't going to say anything, but I did too.


Darrell: I think it is pretty straight forward. The hero was walking from his boring 9 to 5 job when he was recruited into the war of Kingsword.


Laura: Yea, I get that, but who is William Roth. Is he just some guy?


Darrell: He is the brave hero with a good head on his shoulders.


Tim: Also, why is a mysterious robed figure just walking to the edge of parking lots and recruiting people?


Darrell: He is the chosen one. It's a fantasy book...you are supposed to suspend your disbelief.


Laura: But I think that he needs some kind of explanation or back story.


Darrell: Backstory? What more could you need for a chosen one epic? William Roth is the everyman of society. A regular joe like you or me.


Tim: He, to be as gentle as I can, is kind of boring.


Darrell: What? He is holding a sword. Nothing is more exciting than holding a sword.


Jeff: Yea, now that I see it, that is kind of boring.


Darrell: You mean to tell me that a mid-thirties, handsome hero being plucked from a parking lot and given a sword to a mystical world is boring. I would watch that all day.


Jeff: It can be exciting, but it seems like you are writing a movie from inside your head that only you can see.


Laura: And if he is so handsome then why don't you tell the audience?


Darrell: I will take your requests into consideration. I need to go back to my job.


Rewrite #3

It was a beautiful day in Sacramento, California. William Roth walked from his office to his red corvette. He shielded himself from the California sun--a cruel mistress. Another boring day helping celebrities with their tax returns. He just helped Tom Cruise write off his new boat. He sighed with boredom. William brushed back his gorgeous blonde hair with his muscular hands. Such a handsome face, consisting of ocean blue eyes and a thick straight nose deserved more than this job.

....


Scene: Darrell's Bedroom, night time


Darrell: Dear Lord, before I go to bed, I want to thank you once again for the inspiration behind this golden story. It was as if angels flew down and poured it into my brain. It is an honor to tell it to the world. I pray that my audience will not get so distracted by the action scenes and think peril and see the story of the Bible that I have hidden in the pages. I also want to ask that you give me more inspiration to make the book more relatable to teenage men who need a good role model of wisdom and purity.


Chapter 3: The Warrior Princess


The Warrior Princess Beth Mari was more beautiful than all the tribe women of Kingsword. Even though they lived in tiny huts of wood and leaves, Beth looked like she had been getting beauty tips from Audrey Hepburn. William stood in her hut with his jaw open wide. Beth was brandishing a long white sword, swinging at a wooden dummy that looked like Dark Lord Natas. With her stocky arms and built muscular frame, she still had feminine charm and sweetness. That was evidenced by the crown of rainbow jewels she wore on her head. Her leather cuirass was white with the lion insignia. Her long auburn hair swayed in the paradise breeze.


"Handsome traveler," Deborah said flirtatiously, "You are from a foreign land."


William felt self-conscious wearing only a loincloth and a simple leather vest that did not hide his bulging muscles.


"I am."


"You have been chosen by the elder of Crestianity to be a holy general against Natas."


"I have," he spoke with confidence.


She extended her hand. Her fingers were long and manicured. The maidens who attended to her in this town blushed as she grabbed William's hand. Her grip was iron tough, but her fingers were soft."I can sense the hero inside you. I know Lord Lion has chosen well. Let us go to the Holy Chapel and finish the marital ritual that was prophesied long ago. We must make our marriage pure in the sight of the holy elders, but then we must embrace."


William's heart was racing, but Beth stood calm and stern. Her blonde hair glistened in the moonlight.


"I will." William conceded.


Scene: At the Tax Offices during lunch break.


Debbie: Darrell have you been working on that story, what is it called- The Sword of Lions?


Darrell: Actually, Debbie, it is The Sword Fighter of Light. I am almost finished. It is probably 99% done.


Debbie: That is so cool. I used to write when I was in high school. It was just lame romantic stories about Harry Potter love triangles. It's probably nothing like your fantasy.


Darrell: I can send you an early copy of the manuscript to read. I would be honored if you gave it a once over.


Debbie: That would be fun. Maybe I can give you some feedback.


Darrell: Really? I mean...of course. How about next week at my place? I just need to make a quick rewrite before I send it to you.


Debbie: Sure, that would be very cool. Hey, I never asked you this, but how did you get into being a CPA assistant. It doesn't sound like the work of someone who wants to write fantasy.


Darrell: My parents said they would pay my full ride if I got a degree in Accountancy and Taxation. It pays the bills.


Debbie: That is sort of the same for me. My parents begged me to get a lucrative job. I rebelled at first and tried my hand at stage acting. After the sixth month of no work, I caved in. Now I run numbers for old people.


Darrell: You make it sound horrible.


Debbie: Like you said, it pays the bills. Sometimes I wish I could go back to my younger self and tell her to work harder on her dreams. Do you ever feel like you cheated your younger self out of the life they were supposed to have.


Darrell: I am sure when this book launches into every store nationwide it will be the proper apology to my younger self. Plus, when the studios begin to option my book, I will put in a good word for you to be the main female lead.


Debbie: Thanks.


Rewrite #5

The Warrior Princess Deborah Mari was more beautiful than all the tribe women of Kingsword. Even though they lived in tiny huts of wood and leaves, Deborah looked like she had been getting beauty tips from Marilyn Monroe. William stood in her hut with his jaw open wide. Deborah was brandishing a long white sword, swinging at a wooden dummy that looked like Dark Lord Natas. Her long blonde hair swayed in the paradise breeze. William could tell that Deborah had special eyes for him.


...

Scene: Darrell's Bedroom, night time


Darrell: Lord God, I am now, more than ever, convinced that this book is destined for greatness. You keep putting these wonderful ideas in my head. I included Debbie into my book so that when she reads it, she will feel inspired by the character. I know that my story was made to lead her into making bold and adventurous choices. I want to thank you for putting her in my life. She is like a muse. Everything is falling into place and I cannot wait to see what you do with this story. Do you think that this story will wake up the nation? Maybe it will restore the younger generation, getting them back into the Bible. If you want me to soften my metaphors and allegories so that people aren't as confused, I can.


Chapter 6: The Mystical Quest


William stood in the ancient temple, feeling both afraid and excited. There were magical relics and holy statues that were older than him by a millennium. At the base of the temple was a throne of iron and gold. William stood with his jaw open.


A powerful figure emblazoned in light appeared from behind the throne. His robes were glowing white and his crown had a thousand eyeballs blinking. The lion insignia on his chest looked so real that it felt like it was a real lion. In the right hand of the king, there was a white staff of gold and silver.


"William, my chosen son, you have done very well fighting the armies of Natas," his voice echoed.


"Thank you, Lord of the Lions. It was a pleasure to crush the lizard assassins."


The Lord of Lions laughed, "I am glad you had a pleasurable time fighting in my army. I brought you here to encourage you in your quest. Continue to fight the evil armies that threaten my kingdom. Do not forget to show Princess Deborah all your love. Your union with her is what will heal this kingdom. I also have a gift for you."


"I would be honored."


The Lord of Lions reached behind his back and magically pulled out a flaming claymore. Ferocious flames dances along its white edge. "I have upgraded your weapon. This will help you crush more skulls."


William took the sword in his hands and felt the power. The sword was easy to brandish, which made sense because The Lord of Lions made it just for him. He was the chosen one--after all.


The Lord of Lions smiled, "Now go forth and kick some righteous butt."


Scene: The meeting of the weekly writer's club at the Sacramento public library.


Laura: I don't get it.


Darrell: What is not to get?


Laura: Why would the king ask William to leave the war so he could congratulate him?


Jeff: I didn't think about that. Yea, that is kind of weird.


Darrell: You are missing the point. He upgraded his sword.


Tim: Like a video game?


Darrell: Sort of.


Tim: What is the purpose of the upgraded sword? There's nothing in the text that says he needed it.


Darrell: Who wouldn't want a fire sword? You guys are overthinking the action-y tone.


Laura: I understand that you want this to read like a movie or a video game, but I don't think it sounds like to us what it sounds like in your head.


Darrell: Well, this book isn't for people who study War and Peace in the original Russian, by any means. It's supposed to be a great Summer read that can be adapted into a movie. I just need to get my million sales before the studios start noticing.


Jeff: Is that how that works?


Darrell: J.K. Rawling and C.S. Lewis didn't have to sit around and wonder about the minor details or every bush and shrubbery in their worlds. They just wrote the movie they could see in their mind. I can understand why you are having so much trouble with this book. It is much faster than books you are used to.


Tim: Can we talk about why you changed the female lead to Deborah?


Laura: Also, I feel uncomfortable every time the William character thinks about her.


Darrell: Don't worry. It is a Christian book. I know the imagery is kind of cerebral, but if you really think about it then you can see the Christian symbolism. Kids won't know they are being introduced to church lessons.


Tim: You mean that Natas is just Satan spelled backward?


Laura: Also, you kind of ripped off Aslan.


Darrell: Aslan was a lion. My character just wears a lion on his robe.


Laura: One of your characters is Susej, the son of the king. That is just Jesus. He also dies in the end to save William and Deborah.


Jeff: Oh, is that Jesus? I totally see it now.


Darrell: First of all. No one will see that end coming when they read it. Second of all, I don't mean to fire back on my critique, but no one else is writing a biblical blockbuster fantasy book, so I don't think you understand how my story melds reality with a very serious topic.


Tim: I am writing about my great grandmother's time in Auschwitz, Germany.


Darrell: I didn't want to say anything, but your book could use a sword-swinging hero. Those characters are depressing.


Laura: Look, Darrell, we love that you are an excited writer and that you have a great appreciation for movie adaptations of Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia, but I think we need you to at least accept that our writing club is more steeped in classical writing styles. Did you even read some of the book selections we gave you for homework?


Darrell: I skimmed them. They were kind of slow.


Jeff: The Silmarillion is not slow.


Tim: I can't stress this enough, Darrell. Publishing a book is next to impossible. The writing perfection and marketability that the industry is looking for is sadistic. You can't just give them this caffeine soaked fantasy.


Darrell: Caffeine soaked fantasy?


Tim: I didn't mean it like that.


Laura: Every week you ask us for feedback on a new chapter and we give you our honest opinions. Why do you always feel like we are attacking you?


Darrell: I just feel like I am writing something that is beyond the scope of traditional reader understanding. And since you guys cannot see that, maybe I am wasting my time.


Laura: Darrell, wait.


Jef: Let him go. He called The Silmarillion slow.


Rewrite #07:


The Lord of Lions smiled, "Now go forth and though shall kick some righteous posterior."


William doth sought to leave, but before he bid the ancient farewell, he was beckoned once more.


"Have not I told you about the three spirits of evil that dwell within the kingdom? They are old spirits that were created to harass the chosen one."


"I must know their names," William persisted.


"Beware thou shall, Timeus the heckler, Laruativus the discourager, and Jefferonian the dull. They have sought to destroy the ancient scrolls of truth."


"Oh no," William gasped. Then he got red hot with anger. "I shall destroy the evil they bring, your majesty."


The Lord of Lions grinned again, "Give them hell!"

...

Scene: Darrell's Bedroom, night time


Darrell: Lord, I now understand persecution. Your critics did not understand you and now those same critics did not understand me. We will show them. They cannot withhold the truth. I am feeling discouraged that my book is getting attacked, but I will soldier on. The world will now how wonderful you are and want to attend church and read their Bible. Once they read the riveting action scenes and thrilling fight choreography then they will be hooked. I kind of feel bad for Satan because he will be powerless to watch his followers come to you. Ha! I sent my manuscript out a week ago. I thought if I sent it to one publisher then they would not have to get into a bidding war with other publishers. Thank you again for this glorious gift.


Chapter 9: The Battle of Kingsword


William rushed forward in slow motion and it felt like a camera was spinning around. In the next moment, he fell sword first on the lizard assassin. The lizard assassin died with a curdling blood scream.


Deborah was fighting a horde of demon cultists. She had just beheaded seven of them with her whip sword. William was impressed with her beautiful use of a mighty weapon. They both noticed that Natas' army was coming through the gates in troves. Both warriors, while mighty in ferocious powers, could not defeat the whole treacherous army.


Suddenly, a mighty troll the size of three houses lumbered into the battlefield. Deborah and William's jaw hung open. The mighty troll screamed, letting loose his rage. With a swing of his club, he destroyed the archery towers of Kingsword.


"We're gonna need a bigger sword," William joked.


Deborah laughed and high fived him. "We are doomed if we stay here. We need to retreat."


William shook his head, "No, I cannot leave the town that I swore to protect."


At that moment, Deborah fell more in love with William than she ever had before. "I guess we will die together," she said, embracing him."


Scene: At the publishing offices of Light House Fiction


Darrell: Mr. Billings! Ummm...Mr. Billings! It's Darrell Roth.


Mr. Billings: Yes?... I don't have an appointment.


Darrell: I am really sorry, but I called and left a few messages with your secretary. I submitted my manuscript about a week ago. I didn't hear anything back so I thought I would visit.


Mr. Billings: Submissions are done through email only. You will have to wait for us to get to your book.


Darrell: Right, I understand, but I also know that my manuscript might have gotten lost or buried with the others so I wanted to make sure that you have it in your hand.


Mr. Billings: That is very bold of you. Are you from around here?


Darrell: I drove for two hours.


Mr. Billings: Two hours? Just to hand in your manuscript?


Darrell: Yes, I believe that I have a new way for the youth of today to learn about Christianity and feel like they are reading a cool action fantasy. I have everything that the youth love in this story: trolls, swords, warriors, messianic figures, romance, ninjas. This book is a fast-paced thrill ride that could breathe new life into dusty old fantasies. I even included the budget needed to make it into a proper movie. I know a lot of writers are scared that their book will be misrepresented by the studio. If you could just pull up The Sword Fighter of Light and tell me what you think.


Mr. Billings: The Sword Fighter of Light? You are Darrell Roth?


Darrell: Yes, sir.


Mr. Billings: I am afraid it is not what Light House Fiction is looking for at this time. Try again in a year.


Darrell: That's it? I drove here from out of state.


Mr. Billings: You want the uncensored truth?


Darrell: Yes.


Mr. Billings: I won't be gentle with you.


Darrell: Please.


Mr. Billings: Am I the only publisher you sent your book to?


Darrell: Yes, so far.


Mr. Billings: Good.


Darrell: Good?


Mr. Billings: The idea that more than one person has read this book scares me. Let me ask you a question, Darrell. Do you know the difference between watching a Summer movie and reading a book?


Darrell: Yes...maybe.


Mr. Billings: Your book is full of typos, odd sentences, and inspiration from movies. The characters make confusing choices that don't make sense. The romance between Deborah and William makes me sick to my stomach. The action scenes are a garbled mess and the tone changes constantly.


Darrell: All that can be changed, but did the book pump your blood?


Mr. Billings: Frankly, you need to go and rethink your approach to writing. I receive hundreds of manuscripts from writers trying to be the next Tolkien, Lewis, or Rawling, but none have been as sophomoric as yours. Your book needs a surgeon and a complete lobotomy and that is way too much work for us to get invested in.


Darrell: You had to have some fun reading it.


Mr. Billings: Your book is a mixed breed puppy. Cute, oafish, and very clueless. I am looking for a great dane of nobility. I wish you luck on the journey to becoming a better writer, but right now any manuscript that looks like this does not deserve to be on paper.


Darrell: Wow. Just wow.


Mr. Billings: The publishing world can be vicious, unfortunately, but you can only improve. The secretary will see you out.


Rewrite #10:

At that moment, Deborah fell more in love with William than she ever had before. "I guess we will die together," she said, embracing him."


William sunk to his knees and began to beg. "Lord of Lions, I have been faithful to you and done everything you ask. I have used my gifts and strength to serve you. But you have abandoned me. You have humiliated me. I am broken and battered. All I wanted to do was make your kingdom awesome."


Deborah gripped his hand, "We still have hope. We have each other. We will fight."


William felt hope and strength rise up in him.


Scene: At the Tax Offices-Darrell's Cubicle


Debbie: I am here to give you back your manuscript.


Darrell: What do you think?


Debbie: Listen, Darrell. I think you misunderstand our relationship.


Darrell: I don't understand.


Debbie: I can't prove to HR that you are writing about me in an inappropriate way, but I can tell you that this manuscript is not okay. I feel violated.


Darrell: What? It's not about you? How do you feel violated?


Debbie: Deborah?


Darrell: Totally fictional.


Debbie: Except you accidentally typed in the name Debbie on two pages. Also, her hair changes from auburn to blonde.


Darrell: Must have been a mistake. A coincidence.


Debbie: You wrote a whole chapter on their wedding night.


Darrell: It's a Christian book. Both characters act with honor and purity.


Debbie: You are missing the point. I can't prove to HR that you are fantasizing about me through your story, but I can tell you that I am moving my office upstairs and I won't be sitting at your table in the break room.


Darrell: There has to be some mistake. Don't you think you are blowing this out of proportion?


Debbie: Goodbye, Darrell.


Darrell: Did you enjoy it a little?




Rewrite #11:

At that moment, Beth fell more in love with William than she ever had before. "I guess we will die together," she said, embracing him."


William sunk to his knees and began to beg. "Lord of Lions, I have been faithful to you and done everything you ask. I have used my gifts and strength to serve you. But you have abandoned me. You have humiliated me. I am broken and battered. All I wanted to do was make your kingdom awesome."


Suddenly, the demon witch, Deborix, flew out and stabbed William in the heart. He shrieked in pain. The Lord of Lions had warned him that Deborix was vicious. She was an evil pawn of the Lighthouse of Sin. A vixen of unspeakable torture.


Beth cried out, "My only love."


William fell back to the cold mud. The unstoppable lizards and trolls were going to destroy the land and bring doom to Kingsword forever. Natas had won.


William choked, "Beth, I am going to die very soon, but I don't want you to give up hope."


Beth cried louder. "If only there was a way to bring light to this world. I thought you were the chosen one."


"He's not."


Beth looked over to see Susej, the lowly healer and medicine man. "He was never the true chosen one."


"Susej, what are you doing here? You should be escaping."


"It's time for me to come clean. I am not just a medicine man. I am the prince of the Lord of Lions."


Beth's jaw stood open. "The prince?"


"Yes, and only I can defeat the army of Natas."


At that moment, William turned to Susej and spoke, "I always knew you would come and save the day. Ever since you told me your secret. I have bad news, Susej. The scribe who has written of your glorious victory has been banished from the halls of history. What will happen here today will be forever forgotten and cast aside like a fever. Your enemies have ripped the scrolls to shreds and defiled them wildly. They have also placed a curse on me that has kept me from rewriting them. Now I will go down to the grave with my ancestors and this tale will not go to the children. I am filled with sorrow because I have failed you."


Susej knelt down and touched William's face. "Brave warrior. The hero of Kingsword and his great victory over Natas will be remembered. This story will not be lost. You also will not die without seeing my grand victory over evil and all the enemies you have fought. That is my promise to you. Watch as I declare victory over the armies of scum and defilement."


Beth had just finished beheading Deborix. She returned to her wounded lover. "Susej, will you destroy the enemies with sword and flame?"


Susej stood up, "I am going to sacrifice myself for the good of the kingdom. It will be a glorious death that will result in victory. I will rise again in three days so don't be worried. Just remember to tell the story of how I saved the entire world from Natas."


"We will," Beth and William said in unison.


"Kick their righteous butts, Susej!" William yelled.


"Don't worry. It is finished!"



Scene: The year 2150, a derelict base in the dystopian city of Xacramento


Brother Szlon: It has come! It is here!


Brother Xlon: Brother Szlon, do you have the ancient scroll?


Brother Szlon: I do, we found another blessed fragment in the dig site.


Brother Xlon: Oh blessed Susej and Lord of Lions. Let us read it with joy.


Brother Szlon: This fragment speaks more of the blessed wife of the true warrior, Williex. Bethnox is her name. She was also a chosen warrior.


Brother Xlon: Blessed be. Even though Natas laughs at us with his threats of increased nuclear fallout and desolation, it is he who will fall because we have found the ancient scrolls that promise his demise.


Brother Szlon: Yes, and one day we will find the remnants of the book that this blessed prophet speaks of, but we can use this scroll as a guide. Let us go forth and tell the brethren. Their jaws will be open in shock.


Brother Xlon: Go quickly brother before the night terrors come out to eat the carcasses of the dead.


Brother Szlon: May my journey kick righteous butt in the name of the Lord of Lions.


Brother Xllon: Give them hell, Brother Szlon.


Thank you for reading. Check out my novel fantasy series here






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