The following comes from Then A Penguin Walked In and Other Tall Tales, currently on sale digitally and in paperback.


DOMINICK SHOOK LIKE ONE of those coin operated motel beds as he stepped through the doorway. The room beyond was like an amphitheater, but not the type of place you’d catch Bon Jovi playing. This was more like the kind of room where he imagined Shakespeare was performed back in William’s day.

He estimated that the theater seats, benches that wound about the perimeter of the room like a horseshoe, seated about five hundred or so, and there wasn’t an empty seat in the house.

Dominick had entered the theater from under the curve of the horseshoe and now stood in an open area with wood floors in which the horseshoe surrounded. Like a Bon Jovi concert, it was standing room only on the floor, elbow to elbow, except for a path through the center of the crowd that had been held back by two rows of soldiers. Fortunately, the crowd was somewhat docile, unlike a Bon Jovi concert, and the soldiers needed only to stand to form the barrier between the Dominick and the motionless masses.

The path the soldiers had cleared was wide enough to allow four of Dominick to walk along side by side without worry of anyone crowding anyone else’s personal space. But he stood in the path alone, a fact that only made him feel like bug under a microscope as all eyes turned to him.

The open end of the horseshoe—the area in which the path ended—sat not a stage as one would see if we were to continue along with the Bon Jovi analogy, but a dais. Though what is a dais really but a stage? On the dais sat five large chairs, thrones to be exact, and each one of them was occupied.

The Triumvirate.

Dominick swallowed and moved forward at a cowardly shuffle, taking in the faces around him, smiling politely each time he caught a pair of eyes in his own. It appeared that all five of the races represented by the Triumvirate were in attendance today, and they all watched him closely, but with varied expressions.

Some of the faces showed excitement and joy. Some beamed with hope and resolve. Others were the more clinical examinations of the undecided. A few even radiated disbelief and anger. Those he flinched away from as he continued his way across the hall.

Dominick had reached the midway point between the doors and the dais when a shudder ran through him as something buzzed loudly in his ear.

“Dominick Hanrahan,” said a high-pitched voice, cutting through the sound of buzzing wings.

Dominick jumped and spun, his hand going instinctively to the hilt of his sword—a fact he found more surprising than the sudden voice—and there, hovering just inches away, her form almost lost among the crowd behind her, floated a fairy in a green ball gown.

“Vivian,” he exclaimed in a choked whisper. “What are you doing? You nearly scared the life out of me.”

“I have come to guide you through the ceremony,” she said.

Dominick let out a relieved breath.

“Thank God,” he said. “I was about to have a heart attack or something I’m so nervous.”

“Worry not, Dominick Hanrahan. I will be with you every step of the way.”

“You have to stop with this ‘Dominick Hanrahan’ nonsense already,” he said. “It’s Dominick, please.”

“Okay,” she said. “Dominick it is. Now, why don’t we get moving, the crowd is getting restless.”

He continued on down the path through the people of Gund, trying his best to ignore the looks thrown at him.

“Do you see that mark there on the floor ahead?” Vivian, hovering just above his right shoulder and speaking softly in his ear, gestured casually with one hand.

There, on the floor, about three feet from where the Triumvirate sat, a glowing white circle appeared, about the size of a basketball.

“Yeah,” he said as the mark disappeared.

“You will walk to that spot and go down on your right knee, your head bowed.”

“Okay,” he said.

“Rest your left arm across your left knee, and keep your other hand at your side. It is important that you keep it away from Arakis.”


“Your sword.”

“I thought it was Arkonus?”

Vivian sighed. “The name of your sword is Arakis, not Arkonus.”

“Okay, not Arkonus, got it.”

“Can you do what I have described?”

“Yeah,” he said. “I think so.”

“Repeat the instructions back to me.”

“We’re almost there,” he said.

“Repeat them back,” she said, her tone like that of an impatient school teacher.

“Okay, fine,” he said. “I go down on one knee—”

“You’re right knee,” she interrupted.

“My right knee,” he said, letting a bit of irritation into his voice. “And I bow my head, my left arm on my left knee, and my right at my side and most especially away from Arkonus.”

“Arakis,” she hissed.

“Arakis,” he said. “Right.”

“Good,” she said, sounding satisfied. “It is important that you not stray from ceremony.”

“I’ll do my best,” he said.

So, as he reached the spot on the floor where the circle had appeared, he knelt, his arm and hand going to their prescribed places.

He waited.

Nothing happened.

He could hear murmurs from the crowd behind him.

“What do I do now?” He whispered between clenched teeth.

“You wait,” Vivian said.

“Wait for what?”

Suddenly there was a pounding that reverberated through the wood floor beneath him.

“That,” Vivian said.

Dominick looked up to see a bald man with a long, white beard, wearing official-looking blue robes that hung to the floor. He clutched a thick, wooden staff—topped with a five pointed star—which he pounded forcefully on the floor. Five times he pounded the staff.

“Head down,” Vivian hissed.

Dominick dropped his eyes. “Who is that?”

“He is the Crier, the voice of the Triumvirate. Now hush,” Vivian said as the old man began to speak.

“The Prophecy speaks of The One who will come to us from the Ancient World. He will bear the Mark of the Three and harness the might of the storm. The One will have the power to hold dominion over us all, but the heart and wisdom to serve.”

The Crier paused and Dominick could feel the people around him being sucked into the old man’s words. What was once a hall filled with the idle conversations of those waiting for the show to begin was now so quiet that his own breaths rang in his ears like the sound of thunder.

“The Prophecy tells us that The One will come to us in a time of our most dire need,” the Crier continued. “And that he will light the way with a blade as black as night. He will be the first, but not the last, and he will bear the standard of peace.”

Dominick felt an itch forming at the base of his nose and he fought the urge to scratch.

“And though the Prophecy tells us that the coming of The One will signal a time of war and despair, he will be the instrument that will finally bring peace to the land.”

The itch grew fiercer and Dominick crinkled his nose back and forth in rapid succession. 

“Know that the day spoken of in the Prophecy has arrived,” the Crier said. “Know that The One has come at last.”

“Stand,” Vivian whispered in his ear.

Dominick rose to a collective gasp from the crowd.

“Tremble before his might,” the Crier called, his arms held high, the staff in one hand. “Feel the power of our salvation!”

This last echoed out around Dominick and silenced the mutterings and cries of the crowd.

“Speak thy name so that we may know thee,” the Crier said.

“I am Dominick Hanrahan,” Dominick said following Vivian’s prompting.

“Dominick Hanrahan, I present you to the Triumvirate.” The Crier turned and swept a hand toward the throne at the end of the dais to Dominick’s right. There sat a woman in a gown of deepest blue, a simple crown of beaten gold perched atop red curls.

“Lady Genivene of the Triumvirate, Queen of Riat, I present to you Dominick Hanrahan. The One,” the Crier said.

Queen Genivene gave a slight bow of her head. “We welcome you, Dominick Hanrahan, and embrace you as a brother.”

“I am honored to be seen under the eyes of the Queen of Men,” Dominick repeated the words Vivian spoke into his ear. “I pledge to you my hand and heart.” He touched his right hand to his heart and bowed.

“Lord Honrig Stonechurch of the Triumvirate,” the Crier called, his hand sweeping to the next throne where sat a small and stocky man with a wild beard of black. “King of the Dwarven kingdom of Thondril the Under Realm, I present to you Dominick Hanrahan. The One.”

The King of the dwarves nodded. “We welcome you, Dominick Hanrahan, and embrace you as a brother.”

“I am honored to be seen under the eyes of the King of Dwarves,” Dominick said, again repeating what Vivian spoke for only him to hear. “I pledge to you my hand and heart.” As with the Queen, he touched his right hand to his heart and bowed.

Next was a tall slender woman in the third chair. Her hair was long and the same shade of green as her skin, like that of a field of grass. “Roberta Green Tree, First Lady and Queen of the Fae,” said the Crier. “I present to you Dominick Hanrahan. The One.”

The Fairy Queen smiled broad and wide, showing her yellow teeth, and gave Dominick a thumbs up. “We welcome you, Dominick Hanrahan, and embrace you as a brother.”

“I am, uh,” he floundered for a moment. The thumbs up had thrown him off. “I am honored to be seen under the eyes of the Queen of Fae,” Dominick said. “I pledge to you my hand and heart.” He touched his right hand to his heart and bowed.

Dominick then turned to the next one along.

The troll.

As the Crier began speaking, Dominick stole another glance at Roberta Green Tree. She threw him another thumbs up, still smiling.

“Kendrick of the Triumvirate, Chieftain, son of Glamdir the Giant Slayer, brother of Falbur the Bright, nephew of Jontrin the Not So Bright, and cousin of Nilton the Hider of Other 

People’s Things,” said the Crier. “I present to you Dominick Hanrahan. The One.”

Kendrick, even sitting, towered over the rest of the Triumvirate. A course brown fur covered every inch of the troll’s body but the area around his eyes and nose. The fur at his chin, 

his beard, was done together in two long, thick braids, and when he spoke, his voice rumbled like an avalanche in a thunder storm. “We welcome you, Dominick Hanrahan, and embrace you as a brother.”

“I am honored to be seen under the eyes of the Chief of Trolls,” Dominick said. “I pledge to you my hand and heart.”

“Lord Uto of the Triumvirate,” the Crier called, reaching the last of the rulers on the dais. “Elf Lord. I present to you Dominick Hanrahan. The One.”

Lord Uto had a savage look about him that made the Troll Lord seem like a big stuffed bear. He dressed in tanned animal hides and wore pale white beads around his neck. He was bald and his pointed ears reached almost a full two inches above his hairless pate. His almond eyes were blue like the clear sky, and his smile... Dominick thought for a moment that the elf was going to go for his throat when he showed his teeth.

“We welcome you, Dominick Hanrahan,” Lord Uto said in a quiet voice that took hold of Dominick’s heart with an icy grip. “And embrace you as a brother.”

Dominick tried to repress a shudder, but found himself failing under Lord Uto’s gaze. “I am honored to be seen under the eyes of the Elf Lord,” Dominick said. “I pledge to you my hand and heart.”

“Rejoice, People of Gund,” the Crier called out to the assembled. “The One has been so named and accepted into our embrace.”

The crowd roared and for a moment, Dominick felt better than he’d had at any point in his life. He felt accepted, needed.

Then she stepped from the crowd.

She was beautiful with dark skin and even darker hair. She wore leather armor covered in the scars of battle and her hand rested on the hilt of a sword that rode at her waist like was a part of her. She walked with the grace of a stalking panther and eyed Dominick like so much meat to be hunted and devoured.

The assembled celebration died as she stepped to Dominick.

Though he was taller by at least two inches, she made him feel small under her gaze.

“Um,” Dominick said as everyone around him went quiet.

She only looked him in the eyes and spoke.

“I challenge this man’s claim.”

To be continued...


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