EVILS OF SORCERY • by Monica Goertzen Hertlein

At Rodor’s signal, the executioner swung his axe. It cut through flesh and bone and buried in the wooden block with a vibrating thunk. The sorcerer’s head landed in the dirty street. Rodor gestured with one meaty hand for guards to remove the body. The magistrate would be glad to return home, far from the smell of pigs in this dust-choked village.

Beside him, Gareth winced and turned away. He was a gentle soul. Perhaps overly compassionate, but the only one to laugh at Rodor’s jokes. The one who shared his boyhood secrets. Rodor’s constant companion, even during such distasteful duties as today’s dispensation of the king’s justice.

He clapped his friend on the shoulder. “He was guilty.”

A troubled expression haunted Gareth’s freckled face, but he nodded. “I know.”

Rodor gave his friend’s thin shoulder a tender shake. “Let’s go home.”


They rode at a sedate pace across the field. Pungent stalks brushed their mounts’ bellies, grasshoppers whirred from their path, and summer heat pressed heavy on Rodor’s broad back.

“Can magic be used for good?” Gareth’s musical voice interrupted Rodor’s near-doze.

“No.” Startled, Rodor looked at his friend while considering more carefully. “No. Magic is a curse that corrupts the soul.”

Gareth opened his mouth, then closed it again.

When he said nothing more, Rodor squinted at the sun, low in the western sky. There would be roast mutton in gravy, warm rye bread, and stewed plums on the table, awaiting their return. A good meal would erase his friend’s odd melancholy.

He glanced sideways at Gareth. “Race you.”

A twinkle replaced the seriousness that had haunted Gareth’s green eyes. With a grin, he chucked his horse’s sides and leaned forward in the saddle.

Rodor flattened himself against his mount’s stretched neck, feeling its powerful body build speed as sweat gathered on its brown hide. He glanced over his shoulder at his guards struggling to keep up and laughed.

His horse stumbled. Air rushed past his face as he somersaulted. His impact with the ground jarred him to his bones. His vision blurred. Then he saw the horse’s hoof above his rib cage. A grinding crunch exploded between his ears. Piercing agony stopped his breath.

His gaze sought Gareth, now kneeling at his side, tears flowing. The horror on his friend’s beloved features confirmed what the knifing pain in Rodor’s chest indicated: his life was done.

Gareth laid one hand over the injury. He chanted, his voice now throaty and forceful, his eyes gleaming gold. Rodor expected the touch of evil to feel icy; instead, warmth spread from Gareth’s hand, healing the broken ribs, the punctured lung, the crushed organs.

Rodor sat, feeling his chest, his arms, his legs. No bruises. No bleeding.

Gareth stared at him, eyes green once more and enormous in a face drained of blood.

Rodor stared back at the sorcerer he had called friend.

His guards caught up, gazes darting between the two men.

The magistrate pointed at Gareth. “Arrest him.”

Monica Goertzen Hertlein is an accountant, sociologist, and aspiring author. She always wanted to write, but never thought it was a real job. After career and family, she returned to her passion of fiction writing. One of her short stories has been published in The Lorelei Signal, one will feature in an upcoming issue of AnotherRealm, and one will be included in Swords & Sorceries: Tales of Heroic Fantasy Volume 8. She grew up, resides, and writes in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, on Treaty 6 Territory and the homeland of the Métis.

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