When Power Corrupts Absolutely

Saturday Stories September 15, 2018

While Jesus was on the cross, a Roman centurion named Longinus pierced him with a lance. Many people, including non-Christians, have heard that story. What happened next was a lot more fun – the lance was imbued with magical powers because of Jesus' blood, and came to be known as "The Spear of Destiny" – and whoever wields it will have the power to conquer the world.

I love historical thrillers, like Daniel Easterman's The Spear of Destiny, because it's fun to hear stories behind the legends. There are things where we can never tell fact from fiction, the true from the false, like if the "Holy Lance" that Baldwin II of Constantinople had sold to Louis IX of France was the real thing.

A young British soldier, Gerald Underwood, found the Spear in a desert crypt during the Second World War. Since then, he has been on the run from mysterious people who will stop at nothing to get it, and they got him. His nephew Ethan, a…

Why I Do Not Want To Be Immortal

Jonathan Aquino's Saturday Stories September 8, 2018

A friend once asked me if I want to be immortal. But what if all men are? I'm sure CNN will have live coverage of the endless battles between Gengis versus Alexander versus Sargon versus Caesar versus Napoleon versus Hitler, but what kind of world is that? If Mozart is still composing, then Jack The Ripper would still be ripping. Mother Teresa would still be with us, but so would Pol Pot. Would John Paul II become Pope if Simon Peter never died? Then again, if Jesus is still alive, there would be no Vatican in the first place.

Yet such a man did exist. He once belonged to the Inquisition, the group the Church has spawned during the 12th century to destroy anyone who wasn't them, much like the Nazis, but in the name of God. This man found what the Knights Templar called the "Elixir of Life." That is one of the story threads in "The Sanctuary" by Raymond Khoury. But the secret was discovered by another…

Heaven and Hell

Saturday Stories September 1, 2018

Once upon a time in Japan, a samurai named Nobushige wanted to learn about Heaven and Hell, so he went to Zen Master Hakuin Ekaku. He found himself being baited into anger, and he drew his katana. "That," said the monk, "is Hell." Suddenly, the samurai understood, and he lowered his sword. "And that," said Hakuin, "is Heaven."

This Zen story, said to have happened in the mid-1700s during the Edo period, inspired me to write "The Measure of A Man," my first solo poem in 2018 and the last I wrote using pen and paper. The title is inspired by the song by Clay Aiken.

My poem first appeared in The Philippines Graphic magazine on April 20, 2018, with South Korean Ambassador Han Dong-Man on the cover.

Then it was published by Spillwords Press on June 28, 2018 on their site.

I just got an e-mail from the editor of Setu Bilingual, an English-Hindi magazine based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, confirming that my…

The Shadow of The Wind

Saturday Stories August 25, 2018

In the first part of the last century in Barcelona, Spain, there was a library called The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. It was big, designed like a maze, and not a few have found themselves lost. For those who respect memories long forgotten, it was hallowed ground.

There is a tradition known only to those with a deep reverence for books and what they represent. When you go there for the first time, you have to choose a book that will be yours forever, but you have to take care of it, for you also keep the memory of its author alive.

Daniel was nine when his father, the bookseller, SeƱor Sempere, took him there. The boy went around the labyrinthine corridors, and of all the literary treasures within those shelves reaching up to the ceiling, he found himself fascinated with an obscure novel titled "The Shadow of The Wind" by someone named Julian Carax.

He chose it, or perhaps it chose him, then strange things begin to happen.

With a good bo…

Why I Don't Want To Be In Westeros

Saturday Stories August 18, 2018

The most significant insight I gained from reading and watching Game of Thrones is the sense of gratitude about living in the world as it is today.

I am grateful that I'm not in the medieval era when no one – not good men like Lord Commander Jeor Mormont of the Night's Watch, and not even the powerful like Tywin Lannister, the Hand of the King to King Tommen and the real force behind the Iron Throne – is safe.

We here have the rule of law. No man can take a life without facing the consequences of his actions, unlike the renegade knight, Sandor Clegane, known and feared as The Hound.

An accused has the right to speak for his defense, unlike Tyrion Lannister, The Imp, who was denied the right to question the witnesses during his trial for the death of King Joffrey.

The justice system, like most things made by men, is not perfect, but I'd rather be in a democracy than in any feudal society.

Here and now, we have freedom. A man can say w…

A Storm of Swords and Sorcery

Saturday Stories August 11, 2018

The god R'hllor, the Lord of Light, has proclaimed Stannis Baratheon as the rightful King. Melisandre, the Red Priestess, has seen his victory in a vision.

But the god demands a sacrifice.

A King's blood has power. Stannis' offering is a boy named Edric Storm – the illegimate son of the late King Robert Baratheon.

Melisandre used the boy to cast a spell to bring death to their enemies.

Stannis gave three names.

The first was King Joffrey Baratheon.

Joffrey is about to be wed to Margaery Tyrell, the young widow of Renly Baratheon – who been slain by Melisandre through sorcery.

And on their wedding day feast, the entire kingdom was shocked at what happened.

The second name is Balon Greyjoy, who had declared himself as the Lord of the Iron Islands.

Balon's son Theon had grown up with the Starks. Robb told Theon to get Balon's support, but instead, Theon betrayed Robb by invading Winterfell.

One night, Balon came face to face with his …

The Clash of Kings

Saturday Stories August 4, 2018

Three men: a king, a priest and a wealthy merchant. Then there is a fourth man: a peasant with a sword. Who lives? And who dies?

He does not have authority like the king, nor has favor with the gods like the priest, nor gold like the merchant. He is, like the Faceless Men assassins of Braavos, "No one."

Yet with his sword, a mere piece of steel, he holds the power of life and death.

"Power is a curious thing," said Varys, the master spy known as The Spider, in "Clash of Kings," George RR Martin's second novel in his epic saga "A Song of Fire Ice" – which inspired Game of Thrones.

Joffrey is now the King in a swift power grab by his mother, Queen Cersei Lannister, at the moment King Robert Baratheon died.

Joffrey's first act, on orders from Cersei, was to execute Ned Stark, the Hand of the King whom Baratheon appointed as regent until Joffrey comes of age, and one of the few honorable men in all the Seven …