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About Literature / Hobbyist Member Keith Robert Miller25/Male/United States Group :iconfallen-kings: Fallen-Kings
 
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“Death smiles at us all. All a man can do is smile back.”-Marcus Aurelius

“Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante,
Had a bad cold, nevertheless,
Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe,
With a wicked pack of cards.” -T.S. Eliot

The Hotel du Lyon was a small, unassuming, three-story structure off a village square in the French countryside, hardly remarkable except for its namesake. The common room was presided over by a large, carven head of a lion which hung behind the ancient bar. The bartender would tell you that the great cat's head was placed there in the Middle Ages, near the close of the Hundred Years' War, paid defiantly as part of the ransom of their knightly head to the long-dead lord of the abandoned, moldering, spectre-haunted chateau which brooded over the village, forest, and fields from its perch on a high hill.

On this particular night, shortly after the great Armistice of  1918, the tavern was filled with American and British troops fresh from the trenches. The bartender was busy that night, filling glasses with wine, bourbon, ale, and a plethora of other beverages while a phonograph at the back of the room played a merry marching tune. Robert McCarthy beheld this scene as he stepped inside, blending seamlessly into his joyous comrades mingling with townsfolk, farmers, and His Majesty's troops alike.

He walked to the bar and ordered himself something strong to steady his nerves. Never were quite right after Mark was shot, or after the shelling, or the charge, he thought as he took the glass of scotch. He took a bitter swallow, his mind plagued with scenes of bloody carnage on the front lines. Seeking to distract himself, he began looking around the room.

A feeling of foreboding broke over him as he did so, a thought that he may have done such a thing before. The fat lieutenant was leaning against the piano, chatting to a peasant girl over to his left, the thin man was busily scribbling away in his notebook in the corner booth, dead to the world as he had always been. When he looked back to the bar, the innkeeper was busy pouring a glass of wine, the bottle's cork resting but a few inches away from him. The hair on the back of his neck stood up as he began to realize how many of the details were falling into place, how well he recalled them despite the fact he was witnessing them for the first time. He returned his gaze to the room, catching sight of her.

She sat at a booth off to the side, mulling over a pack of cards, an open bottle of wine beside her. Her dress was black, covering her from her neck down and her hands were covered with matching gloves. Her face was pale and her black hair fell loosely around her shoulders. She shuffled her cards, swaying slightly as if to the tune of a song only she could hear. As she turned, Robert could see that she was alluringly beautiful, with delicate features and brilliant blue eyes.

The room seemed to freeze in time as she looked at him. Despite his reluctance, he found that he was compelled to walk across the room towards her. As he walked, he saw that he was the only one moving. The other occupants of that crowded room were all frozen in the midst of whatever they were doing the moment the woman locked eyes with him. As he approached, her eyes never left his.

Almost of his own accord, Robert sat in the booth across from her. A quick glance downward at the table revealed that she had been shuffling tarot cards, arranged as if for a reading. The woman looked at him intently, and at her gaze, he felt a stirring within himself.

“Robert Stirling McCarthy,” she said with a sardonic smirk and a wink, “We meet again.”

Panic began to claw at his mid. What did she mean they had met before? He'd never been in this hotel before, let alone this town. He was on his way north to Calais, to take ship and sail back home to where his house and family were waiting in Pittsburgh. He had never seen her before. Who was she to presume to know him?

She chuckled, swaying and leaning forward. “But don't you remember? So did things turn out differently this time? Were you able to tell that fool Mark to put his cigarette out in time? Did he listen to you and was he not cut down in the prime of life with a sniper's bullet?”

Robert opened his mouth to answer, but he could form no words.

“Or what about Lillian this time around?” she asked, “Did you end up wooing her in the end? Were you able to marry her, perhaps? Or did she reject you as always? Oh, I could go on and on, but I don't want to take any more of you time than you already have.”

Robert's mind was awhirl with garbled memories of his life: his boyhood on the banks of the three rivers, his adolescence and his frustrated romance with Lilian, his time in training before being shipped to France, his meeting Mark Wellman, the man would would become his dearest friend in the ensuing years, his constant companion who comforted him during the bombardment, who helped him through his bout with shell shock, cut down for the crime of enjoying a smoke while on patrol.

These losses and the hell of the war, these are what left him like this: hollow, empty, unable to even enjoy the prospect of returning home and the end of the war. Lillian was married to a workman at the steel mill and dear Mark was lying in a grave on a god-forsaken battlefield miles away.  Yes....the thought dawned on him, he had done this all before, the feelings felt oddly familiar. It seemed he had done this many times. A terrible feeling dawned on him as he somehow realized where he was and what would happen next.

“Wh-who are you?” he could barely manage as the realization dawned on him.

“I believe you know, darling,” cooed the woman, taking a hearty swig of her wine bottle. She reached forward with a laugh, turning the card at the center upward. It depicted a gaunt, desiccated corpse grasping a sickle. La Morte it read.

“So tragic, to survive the hell of the trenches, to live when your best and dearest friend you ever had in this life was killed before your eyes, only to meet your demise here, in peacetime. Tut tut...sadly poetic, don't you think? Though I'd say you were ready to go, otherwise, I'd look very different to you. Perhaps a terrible monster, or like this fellow.”  She ran a finger over the card. “You don't see the point of living anymore, don't you? You want release...”

Robert felt strangely pleasant chills coursing down his spine as he felt her shoe sliding gently against his shin under the table.

“But no,” she said, with a little pout Robert found nearly irresistible, “You keep wanting to go back, to change your lot. I've lost track of how many times by now. Can't you accept my inevitability, darling? Don't you realize that by now you can't change what's already happened?”

Robert looked down at his hands on the table. They were trembling. Yes...now was when he would  die, in a brawl with a drunken soldier who would spill his drink when he went up to the bar for another round. He would throw all his effort into the fight, having nothing to lose. How was he supposed to know the drunk carried a knife?

“Your fate is no different,” said Death, licking her lips in anticipation. “No matter what you do. Nothing will change what is happening. Hell, you've not been truly alive for ages now...why not just surrender?”

“But...I could...” he began, but he knew it was futile. What good would it do to go through everything again? He became cognizant of a thousand attempts before: he would live with small flashes of clarity here and there, realizations he had done things before: what the Frenchmen with which he had lived for the past two years called deja vu, until he would meet Death once more, and she'd make her proposition, to view his life over, or to go on. Yet he would always choose the former.

“Will I go to Heaven, or to hell?” asked Robert, face pale and a sheen of sweat beginning to pool on his brow.

Death gave a musical titter and fixed him with a sarcastic look. “Oh, but that would be telling my dear!” She swayed, flashing her sardonic grin. “I may be the bastard daughter of creation and call all to their end, but I'm not omniscient. Perish the thought! Humans' puzzled and dismayed expressions when I tell them this are far too amusing. No; I don't know. That's beyond my payroll, as they might say. All I know's time's up.” She took another sip of her wine.

Robert sat before Death, pale and trembling. He felt exhausted and drained. How long could this go on, he wondered, how long could he resist Death's call? Living his life over once more, oblivious, experiencing all the joy, all the pain and despair...Robert shook his head as he thought of poor Mark lying with half his head in a gelatinous puddle in the mud. Could he live this again? Or Lilian's tears as she lashed out at him in despairing desperation as he persisted?

“Fine,” he said, blurting the word out before he knew what he was doing. He stood up, “I'll go. Now hurry before I lose my nerves.”

Death gave another drunken laugh as she also rose. “Wasn't that easy, love? Now come here...”

She reached out, drawing him close to her. He could smell the wine on her breath as she wrapped her arms around his shoulders, drawing him across the table. She kissed him. Robert gasped, but slowly moved his lips against hers. Her lips were soft and sweet with wine, her embrace warm and comforting after all the cold, lonely, mostly sleepless nights he'd been having of late.

She broke off the kiss, smirking at him, her icy eyes ablaze.

“There,” she said, taking him by the hand and guiding him out from the booth. “Best of luck wherever you're headed darling.”

Robert nodded, feeling oddly light and peaceful. He began walking back to the bar. He paused and looked over his shoulder. The booth was empty. It had always been. Frankly, he didn't know why he was looking back there anyway. He'd come here for a drink, to drown his sorrows and steel himself for the long journey home. He went back to the bar and ordered another scotch.
“Oi! That's mine ya yank!” came a booming voice behind him. A mountain of a British soldier towered behind him, his eyes wild and unfocused. “You show up late while we all suffer in the trenches! Bah! You owe me yank!”

.Robert turned, frustrated at this drunken lout.

“I don't give a damn what you think you owe me!” he shouted back.

The man pushed Robert against the bar, causing the small of his back to collide painfully with the edge and upend his scotch. Robert snarled and threw a punch.
Under the Lion's Head
A short story I cranked out a week or so ago, based on an idea my good friend Jason O'Brien gave to me one day over lunch and wanted me to try something with it. Well Jason, here you are. I hope you like it. Also, a shoutout to :icontheshadowmeister: for providing additional inspiration. 
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Dear Madame Lorelei,

I have concluded my investigation into the disappearance of our most esteemed and beloved peasant and I have managed to glean some most interesting results. My first destination was the man's quarters in our headquarters. I made a most careful search of these and some results were gleaned. I found several objects of interest, including various objects and tokens of affection from a supposed boyfriend which I had been informed about some time ago.

I did not know my dearest peasant was so taken with his own sex and I would have shouldered the responsibility of his education in these matters had I not been occupied with Madame Darci. Anyhow, I digress. I perused these affects, trying to ascertain their value to my investigation. In the meantime, I discovered many heretofore unknown things about this delightful plebeian, but 'tis neither here nor there.

I then walked to the dingy tavern in which he was last seen. 'Tis a most unaesthetic establishment which I in my most cultivated taste, would never patronize. According to the correspondence I had received, our dear peasant had come here for a tryst with this mysterious lover. My curiosity piqued, I took a drink of the most shoddy wine which the idiot tending the bar insisted 'twas their best. I questioned the man and he confirmed that he had seen our beloved peasant in that very room and he had gone into the bathroom. I finished my drink after chatting with the other patrons, who confirmed the innkeeper's story.

Once inside the pigsty the proprietor passes off as a bathroom, I noticed several things: 'twas a certain odor as well as signs of a struggle. Several pieces of furniture were damaged and 'twas blood on the ground. A very ginger and revolted tasting revealed it to indeed be the blood of monsieur Heath. I could taste panic within it, though quite faint with the passage of time, and a certain grogginess.  I am quite certain he was drugged in some manner, most likely imbibed in a drink. The scent was of a certain cologne, it seemed. 'twas quite familiar, yet I could not place it. A rumpled calling card was present among the signs of struggle for a tailor which I myself had patronized to buy some attire for my forthcoming journey. Then, the pieces fell into place for me; 'twas the very scent wafting through the air of that tailor's shop.

I went there immediately. The tailor, a most foul Spaniard by the name of Antonio, was working at the counter and I put him to questioning. He was reluctant at first, but as you know, I am quite good at persuasion when the occasion calls for it. I grabbed him and dragged him into the back room, applying various threats and drawing one of my daggers to his throat. He spoke after this, though I had half a mind to see if he was in fact telling the truth. I tasted his vintage, which was surprisingly good with hints of his terror and the deviousness of his involvement with the conspiracy against the Reapers. 'Twas a stronger vintage than what I am accustomed to, yet 'twas quite invigorating. It set my senses afire with its taste, hints of treachery, a most wondrous finish of his terror and anxiety, fear of retribution from his master should said master learn of the information he divulged.

I must admit, I did drink more than 'twas completely necessary and he was significantly weak from blood-loss. This did make him quite easy to transport, however. I brought him back to the base and he is now residing in the brig. From him, I learned that he worked quite closely with the kidnappers, targeting our dear peasant specifically for his bloodwritten nature for an unknown benefactor, the same who was behind the other abductions amongst our ranks. 'twas indeed these people who drugged and took monsieur Sora hence. I continued to follow their trail, yet it got cold upon the road. I returned to the base with my captive and deposited him in the brig.
The facts in this case stand thus: These kidnappers were working in concert in order to capture our compatriots by various means for a mysterious master who seemed interested in acquiring once of each of the supernatural races and that their network on this island is quite well-connected. I recommend further investigation at once.

-Armand Baptiste, duc D'Bois

P.S. Also consider this letter my resignation from the Reapers and this investigation as my final gift to you. Know that I have always considered you an able general and a stalwart ally. 'tis you out of all the generals I have always respected and admired the most. It pains me to part ways with both you and all my friends within the ranks of this most irregular militia. I am convinced that 'twas no accident that I joined your ranks and I am ever-so-glad I have despite all the hardships we have endured along the way. You had given me a chance at redemption, one I have done my best to seize upon it. I only hope to make both you and my brothers and sisters in arms proud of me one day.

'Tis with a heavy heart I take my leave and I am ever-so-anxious as to the safety of our colleagues in bondage. Kindly keep me informed of your progress with this case, since I was quite close to Madame Celestina despite our differences and I fear most terribly for her. I pray she and the others shall be returned to us soon. When you find her, bid her adieu in my stead and tell her that she shall be welcome in my chateau whenever she desires. (The invitation applies to you as well, madame.)

To my good doctor and confidant Phen, bid a fond farewell. Thank him for saving my life and helping to correct the terrible course I was on. He is a wonderful friend and I love him most dearly. I wish him all the best in his marriage to Madame Fatima and I hope 'tis long and fruitful. Bid him raise a glass in my honor and tell him he is the most finely-dressed modern I know.

To Madame Clemency, bid farewell. Wish her the happiest of marriages to Monsieur Pyoter and a long and happy life. She shall also be pleased to know that I am still reading the volumes I have borrowed from her and that I have become more interested in her faith. I plan on attending masses in the village church once I return to France. 'Tis quite ironic, since I once held a priest at knife-point there. I shall see what will happen, whether or not I shall deign to be baptized and formally convert. I am still with reservations, yet I continually see 'tis more and more difficult to believe that anything but Providence has taken me hence from my near-death at the hands of revolutionaries to now...with Darci and two children soon to be born. Whilst on the subject, if I deign to christen them, 'twould do me the greatest honor if she would be godmother to one of them.

'Tis been quite the tumultuous time, my service to this organization, but I have enjoyed myself. 'Tis been terribly painful at times, and yet...I feel renewed and happier, more fulfilled than I possibly ever had. I owe you and all my collegues my life in more ways than one. I bid you adieu, mon general. May you find the peace you have always sought and may your children grow healthy and strong. Merde...I am weeping even as I write this...'twould be best to conclude. Adieu, mon ami, adieu.

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JediHobbit89
Keith Robert Miller
Artist | Hobbyist | Literature
United States
I'm an amateur novelist and poet who also has a deep appreciation for art. Occasionally, I try my own hand at it, though I'm a much better at making pictures in words than lines on paper.

I usually write fantasy and have created a massive universe whose stories I hope to write down within my lifetime. Poetically, I enjoy writing beautiful verses for beauty's sake as well as some attempts at ancient style epics. My biggest literary influences are the Romantic poets, J.R.R. Tolkien, John Milton, W.B. Yeats, Oscar Wilde, the Old Testament, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, The Illiad and Odyssey, and Edmund Spencer.
Interests
  • Listening to: Mars, Bringer of War from the Planets
  • Reading: The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath
  • Watching: Attack on Titan
  • Playing: Dragon Age: Origins
  • Eating: Nothing
  • Drinking: Nothing
Comment, and I shall reply to the following queries:

1. Tell you something I learned about you by looking at your DA page for 20 seconds.

2. Tell you a color you remind me of.

3. Tell you an element I think you belong to. (e.g. water, fire, earth, air, etc.)

4. Tell you what character you remind me of.

5. Ask you a question, and you must answer.

6. Tell you something I like about you.

7. Tell you the object that is to the left of me.

8. Tell you what food/flavor/smell you remind me of. 

9. Tell you to put this on your journal.

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:icongrimdreamart:
GrimDreamArt Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2015  Professional Traditional Artist
Thanks a lot for faving "Way Station"!
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SophieKoryn Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2015  Student General Artist
Thanks for the fav on my DD!!! :aww: 
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Sleyf Featured By Owner Oct 24, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks for the watch
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JediHobbit89 Featured By Owner Oct 24, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
You're welcome.
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LindseyCarrell Featured By Owner Sep 16, 2014   Traditional Artist
Thank you for the fave.  :)
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myINQI Featured By Owner Aug 14, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
:iconbedanker: on Knoblauchsland by myINQI :hug:
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JediHobbit89 Featured By Owner Aug 14, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
You're welcome and thanks for specifying what I had favorited. I usually forget what I am being thanked for.
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myINQI Featured By Owner Aug 14, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
I know that problem :) :hug:
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Otherra Featured By Owner Jul 14, 2014   Traditional Artist
:) Hi, thanks a lot for the favourite!
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Phantagrafie Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2014  Professional General Artist
Thanks so much for faving my work! :hug:
Girl in the moon by Phantagrafie
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