Beyond the Ken of Man

Flash Fiction Month 2016, Day 23

“Kneel before me!” boomed the wizard, atop his throne. “Kneel, for it is within my power to smite thee with forces beyond the ken of man, and deal unto thee a fate that would make thee envy the dead and long for oblivion!”

“Don’t believe you,” grunted the barbarian, folding his arms.

The wizard laughed. “Thou thinkst thine scepticism makes thee wise? This is the greatest folly of all. My powers are my own, whether or not thou chooseth to believe their truth.”

“Well, yeah.” The barbarian shrugged. “If you actually do the whole smiting thing, I’ll believe you’re capable of doing the whole smiting thing. I may be a barbarian, but I’m capable of adapting my worldview in response to observable evidence.”

“Thou art loquacious for a barbarian.”

“Thou art loquacious full stop.”

There was an awkward pause. An awkward pause that, the wizard suspected, was more awkward for him than it was for the barbarian.

“Okay, look.” The wizard decided to take a different tack. “Obviously when somebody comes up to you on the street and announces that they have magic powers, that should be taken with a grain of salt. Especially if it’s a street in an area where people are decidedly not known for having magic powers. However, you, a barbarian, have come upon me, a wizard, in a diabolical fortress at the heart of an active volcano. So when I say ‘Something something something kneel, something something something forces beyond the ken of man,’ you can appreciate that I might actually be a sorcerer of considerable power.”

“Well, sure.” The barbarian leaned on his axe. “I can certainly appreciate that there are sorcerers out there and that many possess considerable power, but based purely on what I’ve seen so far—purely on my personal experience—I can’t discount the possibility that you are just some guy in a dress.”

“It’s a wizard’s robe!” spluttered the wizard. “It’s got arcane sigils and everything!”

“Alright, alright! Don’t get your panties in a bunch.”

The wizard took a deep breath, then let it out slowly before speaking: “I am not. Wearing. Panties.”

“Then do me a favour and don’t uncross your legs.”

“That’s it! I am this close to smiting you with forces beyond the ken of man!!!”

“Are you?” asked the barbarian. “Because the longer we keep standing here talking about this, and the longer I go unsmitten, the more I can’t help feeling that you are just some guy in a dr…”

The wizard made a sudden move to stand. Immediately, the barbarian flinched, prompting a smile.

It soon faded.

“Jeez…” The barbarian lowered his hand from his eyes. “Sorry. I thought I was about to get an eyeful of your magical staff. The point is: yes, I acknowledge that we live in a world in which wizards exist, but at the same time, doesn’t that make it more likely that there are people out there pretending to be wizards, rather than less? I mean, if there were no wizards, that would never work and nobody would attempt it.”

The wizard had to admit that this was true, but still he could not believe that this barbarian could doubt his power. “Okay,” he began. “Let me ask you this: why are you here if you don’t think I have mystical artefacts of untold value?”

“Well, I know you have artefacts. That’s good enough for me. Like, that statue with the boobs has got to be worth a bit.”

“That is the sacred idol of the goddess of persuasion!”

“I’ll say!” The barbarian made a most un-sacred eyebrow gesture.

“It’s a priceless, enchanted treasure! The cult priest who commissioned it paid the artist with a diamond cauldron full of diamonds transported in a cart sculpted out of a bigger diamond drawn by a unicorn that poops deeds to houses in the Greater London Area! Who could you possibly know with enough money to afford something like that?”

“Well first of all, I don’t have to know somebody like that: I can track down a buyer after I’ve got the statue. Second of all, I’m stealing the thing, so anything I get is profit. Even if I melt it down and sell it at a fraction of its actual value, I’m still coming out way ahead here.”

The wizard was visibly gobsmacked.

“I don’t think it’ll come to that, though,” explained the barbarian, seeing his dismay. “There’s quite a market for erotic art.”

“If you dare touch…”

“Yeah, fine, whatever. Smite me. Get it over with.” The barbarian began to walk towards the statue.

“I really mean it!” yelled the wizard, leaping to his feet. “One more step and you’re in for some serious smiting!”

The barbarian stopped. He stared over his shoulder at the wizard.

Slowly, deliberately, he took one gaint, comically exaggerated step over to the statue.

“Go on, then,” he said, meeting the wizard’s gaze.

The wizard adopted the universal wiggly fingers posture of a wizard doing wizard things.

Nothing happened.

“I…you’ve made me all self-conscious about it. I can’t do it while you’re watching.”

“Well,” said the barbarian, grabbing the statue and making for the door, “isn’t that convenient.”

“No, seriously!” The wizard began to run after him. “I am actually a wizard! I can prove it!”

The barbarian turned around. “Yeah? Well I’ve got a big axe, and I can prove that too.”

The wizard stood and watched as the barbarian made his way out of the diabolical fortress and down the foreboding, ash-strewn mountainside.

The wizard returned to his throne where he sat, head in hands. This whole wizard fortress thing just wasn’t what he’d thought it would be.

Seeing the wizard so crestfallen, one of his numerous enchanted brooms emerged from a cupboard and began to dance a merry jig.

“Not now, Steve!” snapped the wizard. “I’m not in the mood.”

If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:

OCR is Not the Only Font Cover REDESIGN (Barbecued Iguana)Red Herring Cover (Barbecued Iguana design)Bionic Punchline eBook CoverOsiris Likes This Cover

Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.



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