The Stump and the Ring

Image from Pixabay

This is in response to the September Speculative Fiction Prompt from Carol Forester of Writing and Works, who has taken over from Diana Wallace Peach of Myths of the Mirror

Diana has caregiving commitments that have prevented her continuing with a prompt she clearly loved. I would like to add my thanks to Diana for her personal responses to the writers who have responded to this fun and often challenging prompt in the past, myself included.

The Stump and the Ring

She was as deadly as she was beautiful…

The battle had been sinister and long, but eventually she had won. He had saved the last of his strength to deliver the twisting spell, but the sorceress had broken his right arm with a precise slash from the flat of her elven steel… then used the return stroke to cleave his wand in two.

When she put down the sword, laughing, he knew that his death was to be ceremonial!

Something of his magic had worked, though – for her eyes flared with anger as she wiped blood from her nose. She paused to look at it, then, screaming with rage, she wiped the stained hand on his torn tunic, and slashed down at his own face with the side of her offended fist.

She was not a nice person, he decided, as the trained hand smacked into his own nose. It hurt…

He managed to roll flat with the blow, his right arm uselessly raised but cushioned – with the remains of his wand – against his solar plexus. She slowed and looked down at her prey. Her eyes cooled to ice. From the harness between her breasts, she drew the dagger. It flashed in the cool moonlight, a pale mirror of her bared teeth.

Knowing that his death was imminent, he laughed with irony at the shards of iron that flew as molten drops onto his tender skin from the stump and core of the broken wand… a wand that now fizzed, pathetically

She snarled at his insane laughter, thinking he was mocking her; that he had one remaining trick to play. Crouching low, she came for his throat by running the point of the dagger along the length of his torso.

He moaned, annoyed at his weakness in the face of the approaching demise. His last action was to take a gulp of breath, as though it would carry his consciousness through into a dubious other realm.

The silver dagger glinted below. The wand fizzed, again. He knew it would be the last thing he ever heard…

But then… nothing,… until her hot and beautiful body slumped onto his, unconscious.

For long minutes he lay beneath her, expecting cruel laughter and trickery and then a dagger’s slow death.

But nothing…

In pain and with one arm, he pushed himself, breathlessly, into a semi-upright position. He looked at the head of the silent sorceress, apparently asleep on his chest. The remains of his wand, on the end of his damaged arm, still glowed red hot and was welded to a rather tasteful ring that the fading but resourceful twisting spell had driven through her septum.

The hot night air was tainted with a slight smell of burnt flesh

He would not, he muttered to himself, be bragging about this one down at the inn…

©️Copyright Stephen Tanham


Image: ©️Stephen Tanham

The spiritual teacher and philosopher Krishnamurti once wrote:

‘Recognition dulls the mind’.

When I first read it, years ago, I disagreed with his proposition. Surely, I reasoned, the act of recognition is a result of intelligence? We learn to recognise something as an act of shortening the ‘path-length’ of the brain’s logic, as it wrestles to categorise the seen thing.

Take a lighted candle, for example. We might enter a darkened room and have our attention drawn by one. At that stage we might only perceive a diffuse and gentle light coming from a height which is not the floor – but we recognise that ‘container’ of something of interest, even if we don’t have a name for it…

If we have further interest in the object, we might stay with our container and notice that the source of the light is a tall, white stick. The light source appears to be dancing upon it, as though it were alive. The light is not uniform in shape; what initially looked like a sphere of light is revealed as an oval with radiant ‘rays’ of light streaking from it and into our eyes.

A voice may caution us that this streaking effect is a subjective illusion; but, in reality, everything in that narrowing-down sequence is an illusion.

This lightning-fast process is recognition. It’s purpose is to show us the familiar, so that we may be ready to use the object. It’s also vital to the ‘animal’ side of us to recognise that which may hurt us, so, after recognition, we can be prepared to be defensive.

We can, if we train our perception, see the stages above. If we do this, repeatedly, the act of detailed observation of something we think we know can open us up to new riches. This is what Krishnamurti was talking about. He went on to say that the mind is a treasure-house of richness, dulled by the layers of containers that we wrap around perception in order to know and use its usefulness.

We cannot really know what the object is. Its dissection takes place in our minds. We first evaluate what type of object or effect we are looking at, then we look for detail. Finally, we look for purpose. When we have all of these, we ascribe knowledge to what we are looking at. Our primary purpose is to make it useful. We might have been searching for that lighted candle and are now in a position to put it to good use.


Or we might have deliberately set a candle in that darkened room so that we could ‘sneak up on it’ – determined to see it differently. Nothing would have changed, and yet everything would have changed. We wouldn’t be interfering with what was really ‘out there’. But we would be open to changes in the richness with which it is perceived… and if we let that flow, it might alter the out-there/in-here position?

Such a deliberate act of consciousness would have been rightly called magical in days gone by. Perhaps we could do with a bit of magic in our world today?

Perhaps this is why good art captivates us? We know it has no ‘usefulness’ other than to capture our eyes, then our minds and, sometimes, our hearts. That very thought should show us where in perception the higher octaves lie. The fact that we separate ‘things’ at all, rather than seeing them all as continuous shows us an important facet of human consciousness. But a deeper discussion of this should be the subject of a further piece.

Our candle offers no threat. It’s light, streaking into our eyes, has always been symbolic of a much deeper act of recognition.

©Stephen Tanham Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives. The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at