The Bard of Bars – I

surface level of wine glasses

There’s a pub on the end of a dark lane in a big city not too far from the coast. The bard, looking more vagrant than minstrel, swept into the tavern from the cold. He had expected the customary applause but found indifference. He wore a coat sewn together of various patches that would have marked him as a rare and talented spinner of yarns in ages past. Here, he looked some indigent seeking shelter from the rising winter winds.

Buzzing incandescent lights glowed a sickly orange in the haze of the dark room amid the cacophony of music, conversation, and the clang of glasses and plates all competing with screens showing some contest, the sound muffled by the tavern’s patrons.

On the wall, between screens next to shelves of various spirits, an odd drawing flickered in the shadows, animals and man melded together into a single creature. The bard smiled. There had been a statue near a ghost town he once visited that looked very much like the drawing. Every place had a hint of the tale needed.

“Ale for a tale,” he said to the ruddy barkeep, a fat man who looked a bit too serious at the taps.

Asmodeus“Brrrr…” or something to that effect passed the barkeep’s lips. “This crowd wants music, entertainment, sex, and blood. We’re not tots here looking bedtime stories. I serve hard drink for hard people.”

“My tale will bring you long life. Please, indulge me. One pint for a fable of worth.”

“Cash. Show me cash and I’ll show you the ale,” the barkeep said, not a hint of kindness anywhere in the bitter old drink slinger.

A waitress wearing scarcely a thing whistled for the barkeep’s attention and rattled off a long order of drinks, thumbing toward a crowd in the corner. The barkeep leered at her, unsavory and with ill-intent. The bard shook his head. Perhaps, he would strike the right note tonight and be able to end his wanderings at last.


The instrument on his back came loose at his touch. The patrons saw an old flat-top guitar but it was so much more. The bard ran his fingers over a few choice notes and with a pop and a gasp, all the lights and screens went black, and a hush fell over the room. Candles appeared in a inaudible whirr and flickered gentle light on the tables, on top of the bar, and a soft glow gathered about the bard. He searched the crowd.

Ah, there was the stranger in his customary hooded long jacket, dark clothes, and bare feet. No one ever noticed that.  The stranger had followed him through heaven and hell and everywhere in between for time immemorial.   That one wanted his name back. The stranger claimed his name was in one of the bard’s tales, one he had once lived. Find that tale and the stranger would let his wanderings end at last.

It was not this story. He told the tale of Wild Girl Meg and the Cursed Statue. In this village, a man and women married by arrangement, but the man was infatuated with a wild girl that lived in the surrounding forest. His wife, jealous, knew of a magic statue, one made of man’s lust, outside the village and made the appropriate offerings and prayed to the demon in the statue to turn her husband’s attentions away from little Meg.  Not a fortnight later, the villagers all disappeared. Some said the feral girl was a witch. Others had darker ideas. Whatever the truth, the patrons of this bar listened to the story.

The bard waited for a breath after for the applause. Some brought him drinks but none met the bard’s eyes. He did not notice the waitress putting her tray aside or wrapping herself in a long coat. She tapped him on the shoulder.

“Can I come with you?” she asked, her voice scarce a whisper.

“Aye. Do join me.”

The bard felt half-good about his take. He had wanted an apprentice so that should he die before his quest was completed, there would be one to carry on.  He looked for the stranger, but he was gone. The bard had not told the right tale, the one that would give the stranger back his lost name. Perhaps, next time.




Angels and Demons – Hadraniel

HadranielThere is a terrific tale about Hadraniel. This angel is the gatekeeper to the 2nd gate of Heaven. Do not dare ask me who the key master is. That’s not the point. Anyhow, Hadraniel is charged by the Almighty God of the Hebrews to give the Talmud to Moses.

Hadraniel did not like Moses, not one bit, and did not wish to give that red-sea parting man this holy book. Poor Moses had to face this intimidating angel, one said to be tall enough to stand on the earth and bump the moon out of its orbit. Moses had to face this gargantuan divine being all by his little squishy mortal self. Favored by God does not help when faced with a giant angel, and Moses has been falling short of his expectations time and time again. Missions for God are inherently difficult. But face the angel Moses did.

GatesOfHeavenGod reprimands Hadraniel for being mean to Moses, and tells him he must make nice. The tall angel straightens up (shame about the moon – God had to replace it immediately) and becomes guide to Moses.

I am not convinced Hadraniel did such a good job. Moses never makes it into the promised land. And that is simply good story-telling. Flawed hero, rebellious guide, great quest, and the hero dies in the end. That is a story that stands the test of time and can be told in many ways by moving the pieces of the proverbial tale-telling chess board.

Angels and Demons – Moloch

MolochMoloch is a first class asshat. Yeah, so he was once a god, the grand pupa of monumental jerks and depravity. The ancient canaanites worshiped this child-sacrificing pile of dung. Archeological evidence from the early 1900s supports the foul practice of child-sacrifice in ancient Carthage. Yuck.

Getting people to slaughter children (or even adults) on an altar is a classic demon move. Pretend to be a god, subvert people into doing the most vile and hateful acts and claim those acts as divine. Moloch was champion.

Moloch is an obvious villain. While his motivations may remain shallow, power and corruption of creation, his methods are terrifying. How many religions tempted men into slaughtering one another over the ages? How many demons fooled people into destroying their own souls? This is where story lives.

MolochAltarHowever, I suspect Moloch is a real power and still hiding in plain sight. Even in this modern age, we are still sacrificing children and committing profane acts and calling them righteous. Moloch just doesn’t require an obvious altar and hides his name, usually in suits wearing politicians. I doubt Moloch cares how innocent souls are sacrificed to his appetite. His power grows.

The only question is how can Moloch and those profane creatures like him be destroyed without sacrificing the entirety of humanity to the effort?

Angels and Demons – Abaddon

Revelation 9-11This character has scared me since my adolescent Sunday school days. Here we have named in the Bible, the “Angel of the Abyss”, king of a plague of locusts, the destroyer, the get your butt out of town because the Apocalypse is here angel.

Abaddon creeps me out. In many ways, he is not all that interesting of a villain. There is nothing to understand. He’s just going to tear your face off and kill you. Like Sauron in Tolkien or Harry Potter’s arch-nemesis, Voldemort.

Abaddon is bad because his gig is destruction. He’s the freaking angel of death and Hell follows him about. There’s nothing redeeming about him.


AbaddonAbaddon is never named “demon”. He is referred to as the “angel” of the Abyss. He seems to kind of be doing as the pen-ultimate good guy, The Lord God Creator of Heaven and Earth, commands him to do. At least, God is not stopping him following the pale horse out of Hell and wreaking havoc on us.

Again, these were things the Bible could not reconcile for me. However, a good song-writer, Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, explained God brilliantly and in a way I understood and accepted, even if I did not like it.

And He who made kittens put snakes in the grass
He’s a lover of life but a player of pawns
Yes, the King of His sunset lies waiting for dawn
To light up His jungle as play is resumed
The monkeys seem willing to strike up the tune

Angels and Demons – Abathar

AbatharI woke up from a dream twenty-two years ago, opened one of the many notebooks that littered my bedside and wrote these words.

“Abathar! Abathar! Why have you come?”

This line became an integral part of my series, “The Idylls of Alleysiande” – a series of twelve books still in development. I believe they will be published one day in that not too distant future, but then, I suffer from delusions of grandeur. I always have.

At the time, I did not know there was any kind of angel or demon associated with the name, “Abathar”. I think the words came because of my intense study of William Faulkner in graduate school and the book, Absalom! Absalom! His reference is Biblical. It is a common sort of thing for English speaking writers in the A.D. era. I did not think I would ever use the line that I had awoken to record.

HorseofApocalypseI later discovered an obscure reference to an angelic being called Abathar who carries of a pair of scales to judge people’s worth. This sparked another reference, the third horse of the Apocalypse of Revelation- I wondered if Abathar might be the angel/demon badass riding the black horse and carrying a pair of scales as God’s judgement descends upon the world.

The whole idea of judgement from a source outside of humanity fascinated me. We are great at judging one another. We are terrible at justice or mercy. We have so many prejudices and so much self-loathing. It is strange how we often accuse others of the things we, ourselves, are guilty of. It takes a great deal of self-denial to justify our own cruelty and malice toward our fellow man, often using virtue signaling to cover up our own heinous short-comings. We all do it.

The battle we fight inside ourselves is epic and we can’t divide ourselves to separate the pure from the corrupt. I wonder if there is some power in the world that accomplishes this cleansing of our worldly pains and aspirations? Does divine justice exist? If so, what form does it take? What of mercy? Second-chances? Again, a brutal pondering that leads to story…