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03-02-2009, 11:34 AM
“Confound that whining brat!” Phinagan Brown muttered angrily. “Shut Up!” He yelled at the door.

And yet the pleading continued.

“Please sir, let me in. I’m lost and it is so terrifying out here in the wilderness.”

Phinagan Brown’s white, bushy eyebrows furrowed with frustration. Sequestering himself in the furthest corner of his dusty dwelling, he began to hum an incongruent collection of notes. This was not for enjoyment, as certainly no living being could muster enjoyment from the discordant sounds being scraped out of his throat. This was purely an act of a desperate man intent on blocking out the plaintive cries of a little child. A little boy at that, and as sure as water shapes rock he avoided little boys most of all.

The rapping began.

“Confound that infernal rapping,” he muttered in exasperation as the child knocked insistently on the doorframe. He began to drum his fingers on the tabletop; a hysterical, mad-man rhythm. Why wouldn’t the child leave him be? The nuisance had been going on for a time now, how long was entirely lost to him. It felt like years, but he knew that could not possibly be true. Sometimes the brat was insistent and unyielding. Sometimes there were extended periods of silence. Just long enough to give the old hermit hope that the trial was over. Then, like a pickaxe shattering glass, the cries would start again, and the rapping. Each beat on the doorframe was like a spike driving into his left temple. His eye began to twitch in time with the knocks. He could feel his concentration slipping, his hard shell cracking.

“Please sir!” The little voice called out, filled with anxiety.

His shell was most definitely cracking. He could see the fault lines as clear as staring at a rock ledge five feet in front of him. Panic began to rise, as his gastric juices threatened the same. Nauseated, he grasped at the bitterness that had shielded him for so long, but it was to no avail. The face of a of a small boy sinking under the waves, drifting further down with his mouth open in a silent scream, his eyes pleading for help, flashed into his mind like a lightening strike; powerful and devastating. His body jerked backwards as though hammered by a crippling blow. Chair tumbling over, he lay sprawled on his back, staring at the ceiling that was water above him, feeling a little hand pulling him down. All went black.


Phinagan Brown came to, his backside aching from the fall, his head a bundle of pain centered just behind his forehead. With his eyes closed he could feel the shield back in place, firm and immalleable. Something close to relief stirred in the crusty old man’s heart, but relief would be too pleasant an emotion to ascribe to the hermit. With a satisfied grunt he rolled on to his side and came face to face with a young child. An exceedingly unmanly cry of surprise escaped the cracked lips of Phinagan Brown as he scrabbled back to the wall, only to fall off his bed and add another bruise to his backside. When did he get into bed? He wondered in a confused daze. How did that little rug-rat break through his barred door? Phinigan Brown instinctively decided he must be dreaming. He must still be unconscious on the floor. Yes, that’s it, and dreaming that the child managed to weasel his way in….somehow. Closing his eyes and clenching his fists, he began to emit the odd jarring of sounds that we now know is Phinagan Brown’s humming. This carried on for some time, long enough for Phinagan Brown to believe it really was just a dream or strange apparition, and nothing more. That is, he believed it until a small voice shattered all illusions.

“Sir, here is some water for you,” said a sweet voice, though to Phinagan’s ears it was like un-oiled train wheels scraping along rusty train tracks. He squeezed his eyes tighter, clenched his fists harder and hummed furiously. After a pause, a giggle bubbled forward like fresh water from an artesian well. The sound was so foreign to crotchety Phinagan Brown that his eyes shot open like traitors. There in front of him was the unbelievable, totally incompatible form of a little boy. A four headed alien wearing a petticoat could have appeared in front of Phinagan Brown, and he would have been no more shocked than he was at that moment.

“You’re funny,” the child giggled holding a mug of water towards the hermit.

Phinagan Brown scowled, waggling his bushy eyebrow menacingly. The child only bit his lip to hold back a smile and held out the cup steadfastly. Phinagan Brown cursed and blustered, baring his yellow teeth in the most severe manner he could muster. The child sat unfazed, the picture of innocent peace. Phinagan Brown threatened a thousand gruesome punishments and postulated a thousand grisly deaths if the child did not leave immediately. The child sat attentively, amusement bathed his face as though he had just watched the most entertaining clown at the most fantastic circus. Phinigan Brown gave up. It had been a long time since Phinagan Brown had to deal with any social contact, and the experience was exhausting. Not to mention his backside ached and his head felt like a rock had settled on his forehead. He took the water.

“It’s warm,” he muttered crossly but gulped it down greedily.

“How did you get in here?” Phinagan Brown demanded, slamming the empty mug on the floor to punctuate the anger in his voice.

“You let me in, sir,” the child responded simply. “I waited a long time, and I thought you might never let me in, but finally you did.”

“I did no such thing!” thundered Phinagan Brown, his face turning crimson with anger.

The child’s brow creased with confusion. “But you did, sir. I heard a thump, and a few minutes later you opened the door. You didn’t say anything to me, but only bolted the door again and went to your bed to sleep. I’ve been waiting for you to wake up for a long time.”

Phinagan Brown said nothing. His cantankerous face had a slightly green hue to it and he looked decidedly unwell.

The child prattled on, as children are prone to do. “I am just so glad you let me in. It is scary out there! Weird creatures and dark corners are everywhere. And cold as cold can be. I lost my way and it was very scary, I felt all alone. But then I saw your door and it was the only place I had found for a long time. But then you wouldn’t let me in and I asked and asked and asked, and you were so grouchy and sounded so mean I almost gave up. But now here I am, and you don’t seem so mean now. You’re kind of funny, actually.”

Phinigan Brown came out of his stupor in dramatic fashion. He sprang up off the floor, and grabbed the little boy by his shoulder, intent on throwing him unceremoniously out the door. The child’s face looked up at him, startled and afraid. Phinigan Brown growled, and continued resolutely towards the door. But with each step he slowed, uncertainty taking over his resolve. It was a terrible wilderness out there. He himself knew how awful it was. In fact he had not set foot outside his dwelling for years. He was not even sure how the child had survived. There were monstrosities beyond imagination out there, enemies on every side and ground that could swallow you up. One could wander for days and return to the same spot the trip began at. It was a wicked place, full of evil and shame, most of all shame.

He stopped and gently released the boy from his grip. His eyes had softened but his voice was gruff. “I will not send you back out to that wicked place,” he said, “but let’s get one thing straight, brat. I am not funny, and I am not nice. I am a terrible man, and I have done terrible things. Don’t forget that, understand.” The boy was not smiling now. He nodded solemnly.

“You can stay. But,” he said sternly, “you will help and you will stay out of my way. I don’t want this prattling nonsense to fill my ears, I already have a headache. Speak when you’re spoken to and do as you’re told, understand?”

“Yes sir,” the boy replied meekly.

Phinagan Brown stared intensely at the boy, his voice dropping to a fierce whisper. “And don’t ever call me funny again.”


The Phinagan Brown dwelling settled into a new routine. The boy did not call Phinigan Brown funny again. He helped with all manner of chores and became a quiet companion for the old hermit. Of all the tasks entrusted to him by the hermit, the search for gold was of paramount importance. Everyday the young boy would open the same dresser drawers, peer in the same closet corners, scan under the same kitchen table. And every day he would report back to Phinigan Brown empty handed. It was a futile search, to be sure. But the child searched earnestly every day, as though gold could magically appear at any moment in the dusty old house. And as the days passed, Phinagan Brown began to almost enjoy the little urchin’s presence. Although enjoy is far too pleasant a term to apply to the old coot. He was careful to never let this show of course, and ensured that all his communication with the scamp was gruff and terse. But the boy was made of sweet stuff. He endured the old man’s tirades with patience. He took his pointless orders with graceful humility. In all he did he was fresh air in a musty old home, and fresh life in a musty old soul. And little by little, without Phinagan Brown realizing it, a traitorous seed was being planted in his very own heart by the sweetest of boys.

Now, the little dwelling had no windows to speak of. Where windows used to be, boards covered all openings. The wilderness outside was too dangerous, and the boy was forbidden to leave the dwelling at any time. Even to look out was putting your life at risk, he was grimly told. Imagine living in isolation, without even the birds of the air or the leaves of the trees to keep one company. Only the company of a hardened shell of a man could be found inside the cramped quarters of that closed up dwelling. It would be depressing for any average person, never mind a free spirited child. But the boy’s devotion to Phinagan Brown was unwavering, and he endured all without complaint. The only break in the monotony was the weekly delivery of food.

“Ah, the sorceress comes!” Phinigan Brown would gleefully announce on those days. It was an odd sight to behold. The bent frame of the old man would pace up and down, his eyebrows practically obscuring his sight. He would mutter and curse all day long, and hum maniacally when the cursing wasn’t enough. He would bounce between good cheer and deep depression on almost a minute by minute basis. They both eagerly anticipated the fresh food, but Phinagan Brown would suddenly lapse into a despondent silence, sitting in his chair, staring at his hands as though frozen in time. It was never certain how long this would continue, it could be minutes or hours. Then, when his dark reverie was broken, he would gasp like a drowning man surfacing for air and mutter “Harden your heart, old man, harden your heart confound it!” Then shaking his head as though waking from a dream he would restart his pacing and cursing, cursing and pacing.

This would continue until the time came. Then Phinigan Brown’s head would snap up with alertness and he would whisper fiercely “She’s coming, quickly boy, to the closet.” And the two would huddle in the closet together, holding their breath, shivering with anticipation and trepidation all at once. Listening, they could hear the bolt slide back and a soft footfall inside the door. Then a surprisingly sweet voice would call out. “Phinigan Brown, won’t you come see me?” The voice was imploring, and so gentle in its cadence. Phinigan Brown would scowl his darkest scowl at the boy, furrowing his intimidating brows at him and placing a cautionary finger over his lips. The sorceress would only ask once, then, sighing sorrowfully, she would place the food on the floor just inside the door. Only after hearing the bolt slide back into place and then counting to three thousand would Phinigan Brown indicate they could leave the closet. One day, the little child had questioned Phinigan Brown as they ate fresh strawberries and cream.

“Phinigan, why do we hide when she comes?” he asked with a mouthful.

“Because, boy, she is a very dangerous woman.” Phinigan Brown replied, looking at him severely.

“But….she sounds so nice and kind. And it gets so lonely here sometimes.”

Phinigan Brown carefully laid his spoon on the table, and fixed the scamp with a penetrating stare. When he spoke his voice was cold and hard as flint. “The sorceress is full of deception and trickery. That woman will not just kill you, boy. She is far more terrible than that. She will twist your heart and stab your guts until you want to kill yourself. She will fill you with fear, with loathing and with shame. One glance from her and your head will be full of curses and damnations. All you will desire is to crawl under a rock and pray for it to fall and crush you. This is the spell she weaves, it is the heinous enchantment she loves and all she needs is to look you in the eye. One look into her eyes, and you’re doomed boy.” Phinigan Brown spoke not one word more that day, and the boy did not ask about her again. But from that day, and truly even before that day, he plotted how to trick Phinigan Brown into facing the sorceress.


One fateful day, a day like any other day, the young child decided it was time. There was no rain or sunshine to foretell hope or gloom, only dusty shelves, weathered walls and a pacing hermit. It was food day, and Phinigan Brown was agitated more than usual. If storm clouds foretell a momentous event, then storm clouds covered Phinigan Brown’s face. He muttered loudly, cursed terribly and hummed so loud his lips vibrated. In contrast, the child sat perfectly still, calm and solid as a rock. He watched Phinigan Brown with calculating eyes, eyes full of terrible wisdom and knowledge, bitterness and hope, despair and triumph. Certainly not the eyes of a little boy any longer, but eyes that now seem strangely familiar.

Phinigan Brown settled into his chair for his dark trip into depression. The young boy waited patiently, like a hawk watching a field mouse begin to leave it’s burrow and expose itself. After a short time, as it turned out to be a sort reverie, he gasped as though throwing himself on shore after a long swim. But before he could speak the ritual words to harden his heart, the urchin’s face was inches from his, his eyes blazing with terrible intensity. The words froze in Phinigan Browns throat and he stared in terror at the little boy he had grown to love.

“Phinigan Brown, you are as cold and unmoving as the rocks you used to mine,” the voice that spoke sounded like a voice from the past, present and future. “You are a selfish, self absorbed coward of a man. I am ashamed to be you.”

Phinigan Brown stared at the boy, and his grip on reality shifted. Like an ice flow shifting under his feet, his world began to slide sideways.

“It is time to face yourself. Who you were, who you are and who you should be.” The boy closed his eyes and Phinigan Brown closed his eyes in unison. He struggled weakly against the memory creeping into his brain, but he couldn’t fight himself. In this weakened state, the memory was coming uninvited and unstoppable. Phinigan Brown groaned, the boy smiled sadly.

He was back on the dock thirty years ago. A little boy was running around him, clapping and laughing.

“Uncle Phinigan, you’re funny!” the lad shouted delightedly. Phinigan Brown began to dance a silly, clumsy jig, waggling his black, bushy eyebrows comically. Even as he danced and laughed, his voice screamed in his head to stop. He frothed to escape, he couldn’t bear this. He had blocked it for so long, he wasn’t ready. Panic stricken he desperately tried to regain control of his mind while his younger body continued to dance. His jig became increasingly absurd as the boy jumped up and down, thrilled. Phinigan Brown’s leg kicked out in a wildly comic move, and landed on the young boy’s chest. The world slowed down. Phinigan Brown the hermit, Phinigan Brown the Uncle and Phinigan Brown the child watched in horror as his nephew flailed his arms out desperately. He grabbed for the boys arms, but it was no use, he knew that already. The boy fell in with ripples that seemed to expand forever. He was too far to reach. Phinigan Brown the Uncle sat frozen in fear as he watched the boy struggle. Phinigan Brown the Hermit screamed “Jump in, you coward! Who cares if you don’t know how to swim. It is better to die trying to save him than to live with the guilt. JUMP IN GODDAM YOU!” Phinigan Brown the child was weeping. His nephew’s face stared up at him, the face he had blocked for so long. And still he sat, paralyzed. No amount of internal anguish could change the memory of what had passed. Phinigan Brown watched in torment as his nephew’s face disappeared into the dark depths again.

He opened his eyes. Tears streaming down his face, he stared at the boy, and now recognized him for whom he was. His child self looked back at him, his eyes gentle and wise. Walking up to the hermit, he took his whiskered chin in his little hands and whispered, “I forgive you.” Phinigan Brown’s gaze glassed over with tears as his shoulders convulsed silently. He wept for the guilt, he wept for the anguish, and he wept for the memory. Years of bottled tears spilled onto the dusty floor and over his dusty heart, washing it clean of shame and grief. It was like opening his eyes for the first time in thirty years.

A scraping noise roused him from his bitter sweet epiphany, and he wiped his eyes to see the door to his dwelling open. The sound of traffic and life flooded in, the light was blinding. Shielding is eyes from the glare he wondered at the sound of the city that had been just outside his door all this time. Where had he been for all these years? It was like waking from a dream. Suddenly, fear pierced his heart. She was there. He couldn’t see her for the glare, but he knew she must be standing there. His blood pounded in his ears and his breathing came shallow and quick. His hands shook and he started to hum, softly but urgently. Grocery bags fell and scattered food across the floor. As the door swung closed he closed his eyes, humming louder.

“Three blind mice,” a soft voice said, breaking with emotion. “You always were a terrible singer.”

He stopped. Three blind mice! It was the song he sang to his nephew as a baby. A memory flashed into his mind of the toddler laughing as his uncle enacted the song with his fingers, singing in a loud, hideous voice. It was a good memory. Taking a deep breath he opened his eyes. His gaze hooded by his eyebrows, he stared at the sorceress’s feet, his own sister’s feet. They took three steps towards him. He looked up, steadying himself for the killing blow, the look of accusation and hate he could not bear. He had seen it once and had not seen the world or sanity since. He stopped at her chin.

“Thirty years you have been gone,” she said, her voice quivering. “Thirty years I have prayed for this day. Phinigan Brown, look at me,” she commanded, her voice strengthening. His heart stopped. He peered up warily from behind his bushy eyebrows and saw the beautiful face of his sister looking down on him, like an angel contemplating the scum beneath her.

“I am so sorry,” he said brokenly, sobs wrenching from his body.

She knelt down, bringing her face level with his. Taking his whiskered chin in her gentle hand she whispered “I forgave you thirty years ago.”

Phinigan Brown absorbed the words cautiously. He examined and contemplated them, assessing their authenticity as a miner assesses a gold vein. In wonder, he realized he could find no flaw, no tell tale signs of pyrite. He had found his gold. His face contorted into a grimace his muscles had not practiced in thirty years. His bushy eyebrows rose and his mouth revealed his yellow teeth. He looked ridiculous and beautiful and funny. Phinigan Brown smiled.

Gilshalos Sedai
03-03-2009, 10:49 AM
Phinagan Brown threatened a thousand gruesome punishments and postulated a thousand grisly deaths if the child did not leave immediately.

You really need to describe them, the more ridiculous the better.

Title: The Sorceress Comes.

03-03-2009, 11:02 AM
Oooh- I like it.

Thanks for the suggestion Gil!

Gilshalos Sedai
03-03-2009, 12:11 PM
Also, I know what you're going for here, but your old man is more caricature than character. I'd try to add more "realism" in his characterization than you have here.

03-03-2009, 12:15 PM
Also, I know what you're going for here, but your old man is more caricature than character. I'd try to add more "realism" in his characterization than you have here.

Yup- I can see that. One of my friends said the first section reminded her of Lord of the Rings, and I realized he was a little too stock because that is not what I intended. I'm definitely gonna work on that aspect.

Gilshalos Sedai
03-04-2009, 11:30 AM
Hope I helped. Now, if I could just find the time to get MY stuff done.

I hate being stuck.