Dr. K Crit
Multitasking is hard.
|# ? Jul 25, 2014 00:05|
|# ? May 25, 2022 23:54|
In for 'cause manliness.
|# ? Jul 25, 2014 01:54|
I am in.
Crit for Waffledoodle
Maybe it's just me, but even though you foreshadow the whole inflammable kid thing throughout, it's not clear what she is or what sets it off (I assume it's stress, but this connection isn't clearly made). Obviously with magical realism you need to take a soft approach to it and it's better than ramming the point down the reader's throat, but I didn't realise this involved magic at all until I saw your card. Even a one-line nod to some kind of low-level fire trick would establish early on that magic is rolling around and then you can play with the pyromania implication you planted early on: maybe a third mention of your Dr. Tam. It would also make your zombie attack seem less from left field, as they're more associated with freaky science than magic these days.
This being said, you've neatly checked off all your boxes. The story does take a while to start: you might want to add some sort of conflict before the first encounter with a zombie (something between father and daughter? Surely you can work something in there what with her mother: even the saintliest of fathers will slip sometimes in that situation). It could even make your title, which I like, even more appropriate.
You'll notice I've struck out a lot of elements here: it's not that you're violating 'show don't tell' or anything but I think you could benefit from looking to more imply or understate your subject matter in future. With a horrifying subject it's not always necessary to describe it in pulping detail (also describing things like this and keeping the right tone can be difficult). If it's implied right the reader's brain can and should do the rest, so you can dial down some of your more flowery prose. You often spend a few sentences making a point that one would manage.
I haven't forgotten about you, Helsing, but it'll be a few days.
|# ? Jul 25, 2014 08:53|
Don't see a "Submissions closed" post yet, so I'm in as well.
|# ? Jul 25, 2014 18:15|
|# ? Jul 25, 2014 19:02|
Hey remember week 100? Me neither. But I guess some people were wondering what was in a certain black attaché case.
Behold! The briefcase:
It was left in a guestroom in the hotel I work at. It has a slight sheen to it and smells subtly of old cigarettes.
So. What was inside the black attaché case?
much like ur fiction, lol
|# ? Jul 25, 2014 22:24|
First of requested crits. Ugh I forgot how tiring crits is:
Mercedes: Where are you coming from?
This story was pretty alright, even for the zoooommmmmmbbbiiie cliche! I liked the twist where Simon found a way to trick his zombie self into still delivering the antidote, instead of just killing himself or becoming a zombie or whatever they usually do.
The weakest part of the story was underdeveloped characters. Simon has a goal, and has to make an important choice about reaching that goal or saving his own life, but that decision is the only thing we really know about Simon. I guess we also know that he will shoot his companion when she turns into a zombie (YES, WERE-DOG, I KNOW), but who doesn’t do that these days?
Green teeth, black ooze, etc. Don’t really do much to distinguish this from the normal fast-zombie-caused-by-disease thing found in quite a few movies. Calling it the Dog Police virus felt shoe-horned in, because there was nothing to indicate that it was related to the police, and they sounded like zombies, not were-dogs.
Second weakest part is clunky word usage, especially unnecessary tells and overly convoluted phrasing. (e.g. He opened it and rummaged through the contents, becoming more frantic in his search until with a long sigh he pulled a silver vial from the bottom of the bag.)
Entenzahn: Chasing Away the Darkness
So at first I thought the first half of this was the second half of Merc’s and I was like: This makes no sense. Well, the first half actually makes sense. The second half makes zero sense. The song Dog Police makes far more sense than the second half of this story. The first and second sections are not connected at all. I mean, I assume they are connected in YOUR BRAIN, but they are not connected in MY BRAIN. And as the reader, my brain rules the day.
Second half: So I guess, Jen was molested by her father, and Maddie is her imaginary friend who helps her deal with that? And it is somehow related to the Dog Police virus because the moon looks brighter? No idea there. Too ambiguous, too disconnected, too shallow, this half gets an FFFFFFFFFFFF >:-[
Then I was like wait, wtf, why is everyone named Jen this week? And Benjamin? WTF IS GOING ON.
Actual Entezhan crit:
So, this story does not really appeal to me. It’s not terribly written and it makes sense, but it doesn’t really add anything to the established story of “imaginary friend convinces you to murder someone.” It also isn’t very horrifying.
I don’t really feel anything for the main character, and Ben is the most interesting character, but only he makes a good wine joke. I think stories of mind-bending and internal conflict rely on well-developed characters to draw readers into the story and inspire an emotional response. The plot is clear, I know what’s happening and why, just don’t care much. This entire story could be summarized in a few sentences and have about the same emotional intensity
Also, if Jen recognized that she and Maddie were the darkness, why the hell did she kill Ben? That was a dumb thing to do. Ben and Jen -- these names are too close together and at first I actually thought Jen was a weird nickname for Benjamin and was confused.
Words are mostly okay, though there are a few odd choices. You can’t “nip” at a glass of wine. A nip is a little bite, and you can’t bite wine. You can nip in for a drink, but you can’t nip a drink. UPDATE: I was wrong, you can nip a drink. Thanks google. Still, I don't like googling when the word "sip" would have worked just as well.
“I’m making the darkness go away,” she said meekly ← meekly does not make a lot of sense to me in this context. It might be said quietly, but not submissively. “I am the darkness” made me laugh. It is melodramatic and cliched.
Dr. Kloctopussy fucked around with this message at 00:09 on Jul 26, 2014
|# ? Jul 26, 2014 00:04|
In with a toxx for failing to submit last week.
|# ? Jul 26, 2014 00:22|
Oh yeah signups closed and all that.
I still don't have a loving computer.
Did I miss anyone?
|# ? Jul 26, 2014 01:35|
[b]Pootietude Chaos & Order Brawl
Final reminder that this is due in 24 hours.
|# ? Jul 26, 2014 21:59|
Final reminder that this is due in 24 hours.
FuschiaTude, any chance you want to extent the brawl by a couple hours? I just realized this is on euro time for once, where I had previously assumed I had until early morning my time. That combined with my shifts means I probably won't be able to get it sorted on the dot at midnight. (Or for that matter, my 24 hours before submission first draft rule)
Or I'll eat the loss and submit late, I'm down for that too.
EDIT: In fact, I could really do with extending it by one day, a little late to ask I know, but let me know if you're down for that.
EDIT AGAIN: In fact, yeah I'm gonna have to put all my eggs into the one day extension basket. There's no way I can get it done in time otherwise.
I mean uh, I'll mercifully grant you one day of merciful extension Fuschia, if you'll accept it. Only because I know that right now you're panicking at the aspect of my imminent textular assault.
PootieTang fucked around with this message at 23:03 on Jul 26, 2014
|# ? Jul 26, 2014 22:07|
FuschiaTude, any chance you want to extent the brawl by a couple hours? I just realized this is on euro time for once, where I had previously assumed I had until early morning my time. That combined with my shifts means I probably won't be able to get it sorted on the dot at midnight. (Or for that matter, my 24 hours before submission first draft rule)
eh, sure. I've been having internet problems so I can't say I'll necessarily be able to access online at 6PM EST on the dot tomorrow, so I'd rather get this done later that night.
|# ? Jul 27, 2014 00:01|
Fair enough. New deadline is Mon 28 Jul, 23.59 CEST.
Pootie has 20 more hours to send me an up-to-date version of his story.
|# ? Jul 27, 2014 01:48|
Oh yeah signups closed and all that.
I was a bit late signing up so maybe that's why I'm not on the list, but I'd like to be in!
|# ? Jul 27, 2014 10:28|
1190 words including title
A Cat by any Other Name Would Still be a Jerk
When Stanley the gunbarian woke up, it was to find Miranda trapped inside some kind of mystic orb, with a strange imp cavorting on the floor of his hotel room. Maybe cavorting is too strong a word, but he was definitely frolicking, at least. Stanley instinctively reached for his gun.
“Hold, friend gunbarian!” said the imp. “If you want your companion restored to you, you must answer a riddle for me!”
“Can I take a rain check on that?” asked Stanley. “I have the worst headache right now.”
“Fear not!” said the imp, who seemed to like exclaiming. “A good riddle need not be rushed. I am happy to give you as much time as you need to answer it.”
“Swell,” said Stanley, “in the meantime can you frolic a little more quietly?” and he turned over and went back to sleep. He woke up again when the imp began to frolic on his chest. “Now that’s just rude,” said Stanley.
“While a good riddle need not be rushed,” said the imp, “the rules of riddledom state that you are not to roll over and go back to sleep while I am trying to riddle you. That’s riddling one oh one, my good gunbarian.”
“Ugh. Fine. Tell me your riddle you awful little creature.”
The imp smiled an annoying little smile that made Stanley want to reach for his gun again, but he restrained himself while the imp assumed the traditional riddling stance. “What would you call a cat with two kidneys?” asked the imp.
Stanley frowned. “That’s the riddle? That’s the dumbest riddle I have ever heard. That doesn’t even make any sense.”
The imp frowned. “Remember, you can take as long as you want to answer the riddle. Unless you want to give up like a big baby and admit that I am the superior riddler. Eh? Eh?”
“All right,” said Stanley, “I’ll be back.” He grabbed his gun and slung it, in a fairly badass fashion, over his shoulder. He also grabbed his haversack, because one never knows when one will need all the random assorted items that one has accumulated. Items like ropes and lanterns and collapsible ten foot poles. Haversack on his back, he left their room and went downstairs to the dining room of the hotel to grab breakfast. The imp, meanwhile, went back to frolicking merrily.
After having a pretty great breakfast of bacon and sausages and eggs and the like, Stanley turned to the serving lass and asked “hey, are you any good with riddles?”
When she’d heard his riddle, the serving lass frowned and furrowed her brow and spat in some of the meals that she hadn’t yet served, which Stanley thought may have been unnecessary, but he didn’t want to tell her how to do her job. “I dunno, all this talk about cats and kidneys is way above my head. You want to talk to a pet mortician, is my advice. If anyone knows about cats and how many different things they have inside their bodies, it’s one of them.”
“Right,” said Stanley. “Where’s the nearest pet mortician? Preferably one who specialises in cats or kidneys or both.”
“You’ll be wanting young Hans over by the cat cemetery,” said she. “He went to a proper medical, magic and torture school, got a big fancy degree and everything. They say that what he doesn’t know about cats that have been cut open isn’t worth knowing.”
“Thanks,” said Stanley, and went to grab his bicycle.
He found young Hans moping around his shop, prodding at a dead cat. “Uh. Hey,” said Stanley. “Didn’t mean to interrupt you while you were working.”
Hans sighed. “No, it’s fine, my heart’s not really in it at the moment.”
“OK, great,” said Stanley, “because I had a riddle about cats I needed an answer to.”
“Who cares about cats?” asked Hans, a sentiment with which Stanley wholeheartedly agreed, but which seemed at odds with the description he’d just been given regarding Hans. “Who cares about anything when the woman I love doesn’t love me back?”
“Well that’s an interesting philosophical question,” said Stanley, “but I really just need the answer to this riddle at the moment.”
“Life holds no meaning for me if Esmerelda can’t be mine,” said Hans. “I care not for cats, nor for riddles.”
“Little bit melodramatic,” said Stanley. “But you know, maybe you misunderstood her. Did she definitely say she didn’t love you?”
“What?” asked Hans. “How should I know? She’s never spoken to me.”
“Right,” said Stanley. “So the two of you have never spoken, but you’re in love. Right you are then.”
Hans sniffed. “What would a gunbarian know about love, anyway?”
“Why don’t you ask your mother?” asked Stanley. “You might be surprised by the insight she has on what a gunbarian would know about love.”
“You wouldn’t understand,” said Hans. “She has perfect alabaster skin, and legs that just won’t quit, and hips that don’t know the meaning of the word deception.”
Stanley’s hand drifted towards his gun, but he managed to hold back the rage. “Why don’t I go chat to this Esmerelda for you, hmmm?” And he left.
“So this Hans fellow has feelings for me, does he?” asked Esmerelda.
Stanley shrugged. “Feelings? Well I guess so. He said something about your skin being made of some kind of rock, which doesn’t seem entirely accurate, but the way he said it I guess it was meant to be a good thing.”
“Oh,” said Esmerelda, “I think that’s the sweetest thing anyone’s ever said about me. I’m going to go around right now and see if he wants to go fool around a bit.”
Stanley frowned. “Great, you two sound perfect for each other. Now maybe I’ll be able to get this riddle solved, and then go back to the hotel and drink heavily enough to forget ever meeting either of you.”
“Never mind,” he said. “Need a lift?”
Unfortunately his bicycle only had one seat, so Esmerelda had to balance on the handlebars, but he was a proficient cyclist and they got back to the morgue in one piece.
“Hey,” said Stanley. “Special delivery for the young cat enthusiast. Now how about that riddle?”
After Esmerelda and Hans had made out for a bit, leaving Stanley feeling a little bit awkward, Hans came up for air and said “Oh right, you said something about a riddle?” Stanley told him the riddle, and he frowned. “Not much of a riddle, really. All cats have two kidneys. Well, except this one here,” and he poked a nearby corpse.
“Good enough,” said Stanley, and left before he did something violent.
When he got back to the hotel, Miranda was no longer in the bubble; she was sitting at the table playing cards with the imp. “I got bored,” said the imp. “Shall we deal you in?”
“Sure,” said Stanley.
“The answer was Professer Fluffikins, by the way,” said the imp. “Indisputably the best name for any cat, regardless of number of kidneys.”
|# ? Jul 27, 2014 15:49|
A Tower of Joy
Osmond looked down at Sheila, and watched the familiar words materialize on her light brown pages. Better down than up!
His cheeks pulled on his great, white beard as he smiled. “Better down than up,” he replied.
He began the descent from the bedroom to the base of his tower, taking each step slowly and carefully. He carried Sheila with his left arm, and held his staff with his right. Though her weight burdened his old bones, his smile revealed how grateful he was for her company. He focussed on the task at hand and his expression soured.
“I bet Thaddeus is in one of his moods again.”
The words reformed on her pages. But why would Chris go with him?
“Who knows, but they took my scrying glass!” He raised his nose high in the air. “A wizard without a scrying glass - hmph! Blasted fools, how am I supposed to get any work done?”
Osmond continued down the spiral staircase, now grumbling inaudibly to himself. He had become accustomed to Christoph waking him at the crack of dawn. Christoph’s oak frame would tower over the bed as he belt some wonderful tune with his chimes. Today there was no tune, no Christoph to belt it, and no Thaddeus eagerly packing his drawers with supplies; just Sheila on her shelf and an old man who had slept in. He softened his expression and pulled Sheila in close.
“Do you think I said something to upset them?” Close to the bottom of the stairs, he made sure to whisper in case they were listening.
Oh, Osmond! No, you were your regular, grumpy self.
At the base of the stairs, Osmond stopped to stretch his back. Confident it had survived the trip, he made his way to the kitchen. “Frederick, my master chef, sorry to keep you waiting! I hope breakfast is still warm? Frederick?” There was no answer, only a large mess. The sink was littered with pots and pans, a bag of flour had spilled onto the floor, and there was a great deal of jam on the table.
Wow, maybe they are upset…
“Frederick, reveal yourself right now!” Osmond swept his staff across the cupboards as he shouted the spell. “Aht-kro!” The doors flew open, revealing nothing inside but cups and plates.
“Don’t tell me he’s in hiding as well!”
Maybe they went somewhere to talk?
“Preposterous! What are a clock, a desk, and a frying pan going to talk about? And more importantly, how?” Osmond stormed out of the kitchen, careful not to drag his robes through the mess. “I bet Thaddeus is sulking in the basement, just like the time I forgot to use a coaster.”
No! Her words formed faster than usual, and her script was more plain. I bet they’re in the laboratory.
Osmond raised a bushy eyebrow.
Well we should check there first anyway, you know? Search top-to-bottom?
“Hmm, I suppose.” He let out a deep sigh. “This isn’t how I imagined today would proceed.”
Oh? What’s special about today?
Osmond smiled. “Nothing but a silly human tradition, one that hasn’t brought me joy in many years.”
The laboratory was untouched from last night. Torchlight illuminated wooden tables littered with bottles of potions, their fantastic colours and magnificent shapes combining in endless permutations. As Osmond turned to leave, Sheila fluttered her pages.
Hey, what’s wrong with your potion of detection?
Osmond stopped and looked over at the open bottle of clear liquid. “Why, what’s wrong?”
It looks like something is forming inside.
“Blast! Not another water crystal!” He laid Sheila down on the table and lifted the potion up to the light.
Sheila waited patiently until he held it right in front of his nose. Thrack! A thunderous clap echoed throughout the room as she slammed her covers together with all of her might. Startled, Osmond spilled the potion onto his robes. The liquid hissed and evaporated rapidly, leaving a black stain on his chest.
Eyes still wide, he picked Sheila up and flipped her open. “Egad, you nearly gave me a heart attack!”
Sorry! I saw a bug! In times likes these Sheila was thankful for her lack of intonation.
Even before the stain, Osmond’s robes had seen better days. Dusty, dirty, and weathered, it was hard to imagine that any creative wizardry could blossom from within such drab. Now that they were stained, wearing them was out of the question.
You should change into your nice robes, it’s been ages since you wore them!
“Around the house? Don’t be ridiculous...”
Who are you saving them for, the QUEEN? Sheila folded and unfolded the corner of her page, her own take on a wink.
Osmond harumphed the idea, but nonetheless headed for the stairs. Looking up towards his bedroom, he sighed. He reached out towards the wall, as if to grab the railing that wasn’t there. His beard, enormous as it was, could not hide his frown.
Better up than up twice?
Shelia was right about the robes. The gold runes glowed brilliantly against the purple fabric, energizing Osmond with youthful vigor. His slow, careful steps were replaced by great, confident strides. Too long had Osmond puttered about, a grey spectre of his true self. In his drab, grey robes he had been Osmond the Wizard, but now he was Osmond the Great! Osmond the Powerful!
He opened the basement door with one mighty push, and stared at the darkness within. “We know you’re in here, you mischief-makers! We’ve searched the other rooms, so whatever you have planned, it’s about to come to light!” He cracked his staff against the ground and let loose a booming shout. “Svet-lo!” Bright light burst forth from the end of his staff, illuminating the room.
When the three assistants saw the look on Osmonds face, they knew their plan was a success. As Christoph broke into song, Frederick took a bow and presented the feast that sat atop Thaddeus’ back. At the forefront was a plate of loafcakes, filling the room with the sweet aroma of lemons and nutmeg. On one side of the plate, there was a cup of milk. On the other, a cup of tea. Behind it was a great, big seared fish with a side of roasted potatoes and peppers. Frederick always fancied himself an artist, and this was his masterpiece.
The sight brought joy to Osmond’s heart, but the banner above his friends brought tears to his eyes. The beads rolled down his cheeks as he read the words, red jam on a tablecloth: “Happy Birthday”.
He wiped his eyes with his sleeve. “Who knew? Whose idea was it?”
A desk leg, a clock hand, and a handle all pointed back in his direction. Osmond looked down at Sheila for the first time since they had entered and was overcome with laughter. He couldn’t help it; he had never seen a book blush before.
|# ? Jul 27, 2014 17:04|
Lissandra's Hope (1175 words)
Bachelors from the four winds journeyed to Princess Lissandra's debut banquet. The great hall's tables heaved with food and wine. Grandees and ladies tittered at the centerpiece, a seafood platter served inside a clamshell large enough to trap a man. They appraised each guest, wondering which would tell a tale to make the princess weep, and thus win her hand. Lissandra stood in her chamber, praying with her lips for a successful escape as three ladies-in-waiting fussed over her hair and gown.
“Have I pulled at your highness's hair too tightly?” Belinda, the paramount lady, asked.
“I said nothing.”
The ladies-in-waiting had labored to turn her into a debutante. Her ash-brown hair towered above her, and she smelled like an orangery in spring. Her gown, sewn from fabric called rose black, clinched her body. It had none of the flounces or frills with which she was accustomed. She felt like a hand inside a glove.
“Do you think any of the gentlemen will move your highness to tears?” Belinda asked when they had ceased flattering her.
Each tear Lissandra shed was a gem. When she scraped her knee on the steps to her bedchamber, she wept quartz. When her baby sister died, saltwater pearls tumbled down her cheeks. When her father, King Ortalis, held her favorite greyhound at swordpoint, explaining he needed jewels to rebuild the kingdom, and that if she ever stopped crying, he would skin the dog alive, she bawled fat rubies.
Her girlhood passed, and she had digested tragedy after tragedy from the kingdom and beyond until they became as burdensome as lunch. She responded to her father's threats with stolidity that unnerved him and glided through the castle with a courtly smile carved into her face. The king's gem horde dwindled.
Lissandra walked to the windowsill and retrieved her fan. She glanced to the garden below, where a squire holding a covered cage tipped his hat to her.
“His Majesty will have his tears,” she said. “Excuse me, I must have a private moment.”
Her ladies-in-waiting promised solitude, but as Lissandra descended the tower, she heard their gowns rustle above her. She stepped into the garden and approached the squire, who bowed from the waist, removing his hat.
“We are not alone,” he said, peering past her.
The ladies-in-waiting approached.
“Your highness,” Belinda said with a curtsey, “may I suggest a more solitary place?”
“This garden suits me.”
The ladies-in-waiting eyed the squire.
“Forgive me,” Belinda said, “but a princess sighted with a strange man on the very eve of her debut banquet may raise questions.”
“Do you suggest I keep scandalous company? This is Ingo of Ravenscraig, the falconer for whom I sent. You may take your leave.”
Belinda, with her most languid stride, led the ladies indoors. Lissandra and her visitor slipped into the shadows of the arcade, then vanished into an alcove concealed by vines. He lit a candle and uncovered his cage, revealing a plump, four-winged creature with a stiletto of a beak. It peered at Lissandra with black eyes, and she grimaced back.
“You must go through with this,” the man said.
“I am not frightened.”
She lowered her bare wrist to the cage. It plunged its beak into her vein. She gasped. Its keeper eased out its beak and bandaged her wrist. When he finished, he knelt, rolled up his doublet's sleeve and drew the beak to his own wrist.
“Turn away,” he said.
Lissandra, growing dizzy, faced the vines and concentrated on breathing until her vision cleared. The man behind her groaned, and she winced as she felt his legs spasm against the floor.
“Turn around,” he said at last.
The man had become her, down to her long hair and mole below her lip. Her stomach churned. She braced against the wall and glared at the thing before her. It smiled in her courtly way and rose like a foal on her slender legs.
“You're a shifter,” she said.
“Yes. Those of us who survived are excellent. If you flee and don't look back, none will be wiser.”
“I thought...” she said, shaking her head.
The hum of bassoons floated into the garden, and she shook. Her debut feast had begun.
“It doesn't matter,” said the thing. “Change your clothes.”
The shifter pressed its slender form against the wall and she inched to the alcove's corner, where she had stashed a peasant smock, sandals and straw hat. Her quivering hands could not reach her gown's laces. The shifter's fingers began undoing them with an arachnid's efficiency. She pretended the thing was one of the dozen handmaidens who doted on her and cushioned her from her father's wrath. Maybe, she thought with a shiver, it had been one of her maids once, observing her every mannerism and inflection. She ignored an impulse to seize and throttle her imposter.
It finished the task. She handed the gown to it and they both dressed. The changer had somehow bent its arms enough to tie up the gown by itself. Its hair fell loose, and they had not been able to avoid soiling the gown, but it was no longer Lissandra's problem. She cracked an uncourtly smile and laughed.
The shifter blew out the candle, covered the cage, and slipped outside. They parted; the shifter hurried to the tower, hugging the cage, and Lissandra made for the castle harbor. There she met Hester, her wet nurse, with a kiss on either cheek. After Lissandra paid the harbormaster a string of pearls, they boarded a caravel bound for Jahur. She and Hester squeezed past sailors displaying tattooed chests and wiry shoulders. She lowered her face as the men bustled around her, shouting puzzling words and heaving ropes.
As the ship lurched for the harbor wall, coronets keened high above them. Lissandra imagined the shifter settling at her father's side, placing its hands on its lap as she did. She wondered if any of the suitors' tales would crack the thing's heart, then if the thing had a heart.
“Look at the merry lanterns in the city,” Hester said.
Lissandra faced the dark sea. Hester placed a hand on her shoulder.
“I understand why you're leaving,” Hester said, “but you must promise you'll return someday and make things right.”
“The kingdom can burn. We will be free in Jahur.”
Hester wrung her creased hands, quelling the urge to strike her the way she had struck her own daughters.
“Remember who sired you, young lady. You could return and declare your replacement a fraud, and change the kingdom's fate.”
“I will not speak of this now.”
“Shall we speak of Jahur then?”
Lissandra flung her shoulders forward and sobbed. Hester's hands flew to hold her face. She withdrew her hands, revealing an emerald as long as the princess's fingernail. For a moment, Lissandra held it between her thumb and finger, watching it sparkle in the day's last light. She wrapped it in her palm, clung to Hester and wept into her shawl until it was heavy with her tears.
|# ? Jul 27, 2014 17:30|
Return from Evernight (1,189)
Humming to herself, Elia sat weaving a basket nestled between the roots of the oak in her garden. Even under the shade, the afternoon heat stung her skin. Sweat gathered at her temples, under her arms and breasts, coursing over her body. She wiped her forehead. Her attention focused on weaving a new basket; a small one for herbs, the wicker scraped along the tips of her callused fingers.
Looking up from her weaving, she saw approaching a familiar lanky figure, Loden, returned from afar. Every feature of his was her opposite: Tall, pale skin that nearly matched his white hair and beard. Lumbering up the garden path, shoulders rolled forward, torso stooped, his knapsack was filled with goods from the market, swaying side to side as he walked. Elia’s eyes widened as they saw his: Sagged and purplish. Usually after being gone for more than a few days he boisterously announced his arrival home when he came through the gate from his frequent trips out of town.
She stood and trotted over to him, mindful not to trip over her flowing dress, and took his hand. It was cold to the touch. He stopped and stood looking at her, seriousness in his eyes, something she’d never seen before. She threw herself into his chest, and held him tight. Slowly he returned the embrace, and gently kissed the top of her head.
Gone were his late afternoons spent chopping firewood muttering to himself, evenings spent heading to the pub after dinner, the next morning asking if she needed help with the garden even though he did more harm than good for it. Now he spent hours sitting, staring into the hearth’s fire, long after it had gone out. Days now, after his arrival home, his eyes were still puffy, with darkened flesh under them, his hands still cold. He insisted on his iron constitution, but he could not hide the uncertainty, the frailness which had crept into his voice. They were just little things at first: A tremor in his hand, skipping meals, getting lost on the day’s ride to town.
On the third night, his lips moved while he writhed in his sleep. Elia watched as he babbled nonsense. The next morning, he described his dreams: Him alone in a vast cathedral with no tapestries, windows, or pews, only white space. He cried out if anyone one was there, and there standing at the lectern, a black figure looking at him. While recanting his dream, she noticed his arms coursed with spidery black veins that appeared overnight.
He wept; something she’d never seen him do. This disease or curse that had taken root within him, he proclaimed, was his own doing. He knew little of Evernight before venturing there, except that it was alluring, deceptive, and dangerous. He could have gone and delivered the herbs to Lukas, collected his payment and returned, but he didn’t. Instead, he indulged in the multitude of ‘curiosities’ found there: Blue bonfires, naked dancing under the starless sky, spotted-mushroom stew smelling of damp and rot but instilling ravenous hunger, a tumble in the inn with a sad-eyed, ghostly white lass. He recounted his indulgences not with guilt, as a husband confessing to his wife, but with the eagerness and fascination of a boy. How over there, he said, just as the sun and moon stayed forever in eclipse, so too did dreams and nightmares.
Following supper that night, after Loden had settled in to another evening of staring into the fire, Elia went to consult the apothecary. The shop was on the edge of town, where beggar children huddled in the mud under dripping awnings, and cats’ eyes gleamed from alleyways. Elia approached the shop’s door, and thrashed the handle side to side, but it did not budge. Just before she let go, a hunchback man shorter than she in black robes pulled it open, making her stumble forward.
“Sorry,” he said, his voice low, slow and gravelly, “door’s been sticky lately.”
“Oh, thank you! I thought you were closed. My husband has been-“
“Yes, yes. One moment,” he said turning away from her and hobbling back behind the counter where he struggled to prop himself back up on his stool, giving out a relieved sigh as it bore his weight. “Now then,” he lit up a pipe, “what’s this about your husband?”
She stepped into the shop, which smelled rich with flora, fungus, and the tang of embalming fluid; from the ceiling hung bundles of thyme, lavender and thistles. On the walls were shelves of corked jars filled with all manner of herbs. Others were filled with viscous rust colored fluid in which bobbed various preserved creatures and organs.
Elia described to the apothecary Loden’s pallor, the purpled eyes with bags under them, the black lines on his arms, the listless staring into the fire, the dreams, Evernight.
The apothecary, puffing on his pipe, stopped her on that word, “Evernight.” He raised his thorny eyebrows, his eyes pools of black, searching the grain of the counter as if in there he may find way to explain this to her: “Your husband,” he hung on the last syllable, almost growling it, “may already be passed on.”
“What?” Her heart quickened.
“I’m sorry. He’s-“
“But he speaks! He walks, and eats! He’s alive-” her voice rose with confidence.
“Have you seen him eat?” To this she had no answer; Loden had certainly lost his appetite lately.
“That’s the first sign of it.”
“Mmm, doesn’t have a name that I know. Don’t know what it is. I’ve seen it before though: It takes the mind first, then the heart. Again, I’m sorry to tell you all this. Be a dear, would you, and fetch me that bottle? The one with the black leaves?” He motioned with his pipe to a high shelf.
She did so, still sure he was mistaken, and handed him the bottle. While he peppered out a handful of the dry licorice smelling leaves into the mortar and began to pestle them into a course powder, he explained to her apologetically: Her husband wasn’t dead, but he would never be the same again. He was suffering, his pride keeping him from telling her. If she didn’t want him to suffer, she would mix this powder into his tea, now cinched into a small leather pouch, “and he’ll finally be rid of the dreams.”
“Will he wake back up?” she asked, but the apothecary only looked at her and puffed his pipe. She thanked him and began to reach for her coin purse, but he motioned ‘no.’
Elia returned to the cottage which was dark inside. Loden sat where she left him, staring into the dark. She relit the fire, brewed the tea.
“Can we just stay awake a bit longer?” he said, his voice was a mewling whimper.
“Yes dear,” she knelt down next to him and kissed the side of his head, and rested hers on his cold shoulder. Her tears soaked into his shirt, “as long as you’d like.” She cast the pouch into the flames.
|# ? Jul 27, 2014 17:55|
crabrock fucked around with this message at 06:26 on Oct 28, 2014
|# ? Jul 27, 2014 19:17|
HMS Dragonfly - 819 words
It is with a heavy heart that I set pen to parchment, knowing how unlikely it is that these words will ever be read. I have only one candle; I had hoped to fashion more from the fat of the ship's livestock we killed, but in this unnatural freeze it has proved impossible. I shall set down the order of events, in the hope that some luckier soul following behind me will come upon this account before it is too late, and turn back to England, and safety.
We set sail from Portsmouth on a fair morning in April. Each man was a volunteer, chosen from the hundreds who begged to accompany my latest command. Never have I sailed with a more willing and able crew. Our goal was nothing less than to break through the fiery barrier at the top of the world, and carry the Queen's message of peace and friendship to the Moth Priests who reside there. The Dragonfly is a sturdy ship and true, and we carried seven water mages of considerable power, brought from every corner of the realm. The hurry was great; the need never more urgent.
It occurs to me that it may be a Southerner who finds these words, having overrun all that is good and worthy and destroyed my home; drat you. drat you and all your kind. We will have our vengeance, be certain of it. The gods are not blind to your misdeeds and treachery.
At first all seemed well. We called in at Dublin and at Queenstown to take on board more supply, and set our sights on the journey north. In the third week we came in sight of the Cursed Shore, far to the west, a mere glimmer of sick light on the night's horizon. No ships sail there, and we should not have either, had a terrible gale not come up overnight. By morning the Dragonfly was struggling in seas more fierce than any I have known. It took all the efforts of our mages to keep her sailing, and many tons of invaluable supplies were consigned to the sea to lighten our load. It became clear that we must put in to shore, or go to the bottom of the ocean and take all England's hopes with us.
I do not set this down to impugn the bravery of the men, but rather to commend their good sense. They refused at first to obey my command to set sail for the Cursed Shore. Only when our situation became truly desperate did they fall to, and that with a will that belied their fears. Stout fellows!
It took a day and night to come close to that blighted coast. Nothing could we see but black rock and a horrible, crawling green sky. We sheltered in a small bay and saw nothing moving for all the hours we spent there. No bird flew, no creature crawled upon the lifeless sand. Some of the men swore they heard howling far inland; I confess I heard nothing. The gale abated on the morning of the second day and we set sail again towards the north, grateful to leave that godforsaken place behind us.
The cold was the first sign of the blight that would destroy us all. I thought it nothing but the natural chill of the northern air, but the men complained of feeling chilled to the bone. The third watch were difficult to rouse from their beds, and a sluggishness overtook them that could not be explained by mere exhaustion, which of course affected us all. The malaise spread from man to man. Each would stop his work and sit upon the deck, and could not be roused, by shouting or shaking. Even the mages were not immune, and despite all my cries and oaths and pleading, two days ago I found myself the only man unaffected by this blight of apathetic silence. The men sit all around me. They breathe, they blink, they live, for God's sake! But they do not speak and they do not move. All the time the cold grows worse, frost creeping over living men and wooden deck alike. Last night I saw strange figures dancing in the auroral lights overhead.
Two hours ago we struck land. Nothing stirs, on the ship or on the frozen shore we have reached. I cannot steer the Dragonfly alone, and have no hope of putting to sea again. When I have finished this last account of our voyage, I will strike out alone across the ice. I have food; I have my own health. I leave this missive as warning and explanation. Do not take shelter at the cursed shore! Do not linger long on this cursed ship! For God's sake, say prayers over the remains of my crew. Take sail for home.
Capt. J. Haverford
5th June, 1772
|# ? Jul 27, 2014 19:32|
“Do you still believe in God?”
Brin turned her head. Kina was staring up at the stars, backlit by the dying campfire.
“What kind of question is that?” Brin asked. “Of course I do. How could I not?”
“I don’t,” said Kina eventually. “Any more than I believe in the stars, or the grass, or the wind. He just is.” She sighed.
“The great Umreild, Lord of the Sun, Father of the Waters, Divine rear end in a top hat.” Brin lay back on the grass and glared up at the night sky.
Kina chuckled. “It does take away much of the mystery.” She stretched. “We should sleep, Brin, it’s been a long ride. Midala library tomorrow.”
Brin raised her head again and looked down the hillside to the lights of the city below them. The spires and domes of the great temple at its heart gleamed molten gold in the torchlight.
“You’re right,” she said. “Let’s sleep.”
Kina wrapped herself in blankets and curled up by the embers. “Sweet dreams,” she said.
“I’d wish you the same, but, you know…”
“I know. Thank you all the same.”
Brin sat in the gloom, staring into the night. Beside her, Kina thrashed and moaned in her blanket, inhuman words spilling from her lips. Her own sleep was a long time coming.
“You’ve been upgraded,” Brin said, looking at a poster pasted to the wall of the Holy Library of Midala. “From holy proclamation to divine edict now.”
“‘By the divine word of Umreild, Lord of the Sun, and all that,’” Brin started reading aloud. “‘Kinala Presh, something something, named heretic and outcast and unholy in our sight.’” She took a deep breath. “Then all the usual death threats and unflattering portraits. Still nothing about you being God-touched, though.”
“They’d never admit that. Not in public.” Kina craned over Brin’s shoulder to see. “It’s not my best side, is it?”
“You look very heretical. It’s a shame their holynesses don’t seem to understand haircuts, or they might actually stand a chance of recognising you.” Brin looked from the rough woodcut of Kina, bedecked with long, flowing locks, to the current short-cropped incarnation.
“Short hair is not amongst the seven accepted styles of hair for a priestess,” Kina said with a smile. “The very idea would give them fits.”
“It suits you, though.”
Kina looked away. “Thank you,” she said.
“Anyway, enough chatter. We’re here. Did you have a plan?”
Kina looked up and pointed at Brin.
“Isn’t that the same plan you had in Astfeln, and Korinki, and Prauld?”
“You’re terrible at planning, you know that?”
“Yes.” A final nod.
Brin threw her hands up in the air. “What would you do without me?” she asked the world at large. “Fine. Let’s find an inn for now.”
"It's so dark," Kina whispered.
Brin looked out over the interior of the Holy Library. Lamps cast islands of light in the cavernous hall, but neither they nor the starlight trickling in through the skylight did much to pierce the gloom. On the atrium floor far below, torches of guards were distant fireflies.
"Not that," Kina continued. "The world here is dark. I've become used to seeing Umreild's light, but here, there's nothing."
"Here? The biggest temple in the country?"
"I know. It's strange, isn't it?"
"Strange isn't the half of it. Makes you think, though."
Kina nodded in the gloom. "I..." she started, then stumbled and fell. Her back arched like a bow, and her feet began drumming on the floorboards.
"Kina!" hissed Brin. She was already moving, one gloved hand jammed into Kina's mouth, the other arm pinning flailing limbs in place. She winced as Kina's jaw spasmed, teeth grinding into her fingers.
"Kina, Kina," Brin whispered. "Come back. It's me. Come back." She clung on as the fit wracked Kina's body until it finally faded.
"I'm sorry, Brin," Kina whispered. "I saw..."
"Shh, it's okay. Later, though. We need to get moving - someone might've heard."
Kina nodded and pulled herself up on the offered hand. They crept through an archway and up another turn of stairs.
"This?" Brin asked, holding up the leather-bound book.
Kina held the cover up to the starlight. "Ish-Maln’s Origins of Divine Presence. Yes. Garathorn mentioned it a lot in his Treatise on the Eyes of God. I think it'll help."
"Good. Let's get..."
She was interrupted by the thump of feet in the doorway behind them.
"What in God's name is going on here? Stop! Thieves!" An old man in a scholar’s silk robes and skullcap stared at them in disbelief. "Guards!? Guards!"
He took a step towards the stairs but stopped as Kina rose to her feet.
"Instala alb astash," she said, the words trickling from her tongue like splashing water. "Beregot, hass alvich yerim."
The old man froze in place, eyes staring unseeing, hand hovering in mid-air.
There was a thump, and Brin turned to see Kina collapsed to the floor, sweat pouring down her face.
"I think we should leave," Kina whispered, her voice hoarse.
"An excellent suggestion." Brin helped her up, supporting her with one arm and clutching the book with the other. "Leaving right now."
Sitting on a rooftop in the cool night air they listened to the occasional belated shout of alarm from the distant library.
"I didn't know you could do that," Brin said, after she caught her breath.
"Nor did I." Kina kicked at pebbles on the flat roof. "Until now, at least."
"Eyes and Hand of God, eh?" Brin kicked a pebble of her own, listened to it rattle down to the street below. "I suppose it's not all bad, then."
"It has its moments." Kina smiled. "Shouldn't we be going?"
Brin nodded and climbed to her feet. "You're right. Back to the inn, and out the gates at dawn. They won't bother closing the city for one book. Assuming they even believe the old man."
For two days they rode towards the coast, Kina spending every waking moment devouring the stolen book. She finished it by candlelight late one evening, closing the pages with a snap.
“Well?” Brin looked up from feeding the fire.
“It’s… something.” Kina sighed. “Not an answer, but progress. Ish-Maln writes a lot about the ancient history of the God-touched, but nothing about how to undo the process.” She lay the book down on the ground with a sigh. Bookmarks fluttered like trapped butterflies. “But…”
“More references?” Brin asked, smiling.
“More references. A scroll, Betwixt Divine and Mundane by some long-dead Eldish scholar I’ve never heard of.”
“It’s a long ride to Eld,” Brin said thoughtfully. “At least we’re already heading in about the right direction. If we keep following the Long Road we should be able to turn west for the border around noon.”
Kina nodded sleepily, wrapping herself in her blanket. “You don’t mind?”
“Of course not. Now get some rest.”
“I don’t know what I’d do without you, Brin. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” Brin started to say, by Kina was already asleep. Brin tucked the blanket up around Kina’s neck and leaned forward to kiss her forehead.
“For you, anything,” she whispered.
|# ? Jul 27, 2014 20:33|
In Search of Eons Past (1199 words)
The cave’s entrance was an opera house, carved into the stone by a million years of water and wind. The shale had shattered cleanly near the far end, forming a flat stage from which one could see an audience of stones and stalagmites. Only the gentle echoing of dripping water disturbed the expectant silence of incomprehensible time.
Down the mountainside, in the plains below, Sarai could see the dig. Her team had uncovered an amazingly well-preserved site: an ancient settlement of Homo orcneas. It was a fascinating thought, the idea that humans had once shared the earth with other intelligent species.
In this, though, Sarai was alone. She’d been in dozens of caves, but never one unexplored. The arcanometer registered purple - higher than Sarai had ever seen before. Something below her was producing an incredible amount of magical energy. It might be the find of the decade, if not the century.
A stale, choking breeze blew over her as Sarai descended into the cave. Small plants grew closely on the sides and ceiling of the cave, their leaves shining a bright, pale blue. As she delved into the darkness, Sarai’s breaths came quickly, and each one brought a new wave of dizziness.
Sarai didn’t know how long she’d stopped, and she had no idea which way was out and which direction led further in. Falling to the ground, Sarai reached into her pack, pulling out a thick, leather-bound field guide.
Maybe these plants would help her to escape, if they grew in a certain pattern or...
“Blue-leafed plant, lives in caves,” said Sarai. The book flipped open, rapidly searching its pages before settling on one near the end. “Read,” she choked.
“The Blueleaf Plant,”said the daemon’s pleasant female voice, “Antrum luminifera. This plant grows in dark caves with large amounts of free carbon dioxide, such as those populated by underground fungi. It produces energy by photoluminescent dioxosynthesis, converting carbon dioxide into light and oxygen. For this reason, it is valued by species that dwell underground as its leaves can provide oxygen for a short time.”
Sarai fell onto her back and rolled over, plucking a leaf off and shoving it in her mouth. Her burning lungs were slowly satiated. As Sarai’s wits returned, she picked a few more leaves and pushed them into her cheeks. She had never been more happy to breathe in her entire life.
She put the book back into her pack. The plants lit her way down through several twists and turns, ending in a small open area. Water flowed across the floor of the cave into a wide, squat opening; Sarai was reasonably certain she could fit through at a crawl.
Marking the path back, Sarai got down on all fours and began to make her way. Debris and outcroppings made the going slow and painful. She shuffled through on her stomach, turning her head to the side to avoid drinking from the small stream of water that soaked her front.
The end was a mere crack in the wall of what was, in eons past, a great underground lake. The lakebed was covered in silt and carbonaceous pearl. Blue plants, larger and lusher than the others, grew out of the silty parts. Scattered throughout the cavern were giant, twelve-foot-tall mushrooms.
The floor of the cavern was at least thirty feet down. Carefully, she inched her way forward, dropping a leg down as she hung precariously from the soft, crumbling ledge. She slipped, dropping the other leg, digging her fingers into the dust and gravel until she stopped just short of falling. She could feel rivulets of blood seeping out into the dirt.
This isn’t going to work, she thought. From her precarious position, she could potentially get to the pitons on her belt, but that involved letting go with one hand. Bracing, Sarai moved with practiced speed: pulling the piton out and placing its point against the stone. Her left hand dragged slowly back; she was about to fall.
“Prendere!” she yelled, and the piton glowed for a moment and set itself in the rock. Her right hand caught it, arresting her fall. Ouch.
The cavern reeked of old death. Sarai tied the rope off and set out across the lakebed. As she walked, she noticed that some of the rocks weren’t rocks at all - they were brown, decaying bones. Most of them were actively dissolving in the viscous, vile-smelling fluid that the mushrooms spread around themselves on the cavern floor.
Thump. Thump. Thump. Sarai looked behind her; one of the mushrooms had separated its stalk into two legs and was following her through the cavern. It brandished its tendrils, reaching out for her. The gargantuan fungi took giant steps, pursuing her with deliberate, inexorable purpose.
Sarai had a stunthrower on her belt, but she wasn’t certain it would work on this thing - and if it did, it might wake the others up. Instead, she turned and held her hands out, palms open, hoping the creature would see it as a gesture of friendship. She immediately felt silly; the mushroom didn’t have any eyes. Her right hand moved to her belt, just in case.
The giant fungus reached out, slowly enveloping her body in cold, slimy tendrils. Just as slowly, it retracted its tendrils and moved away. Sarai exhaled as the mushroom set itself, returning to its apparently dormant state.
The long trek across the lakebed was a welcome relief from the cramped crawl. Sarai followed the stream, which joined with several others and grew in size. On the far end of the cavern, the stream dropped into a wide vertical chimney. The falling water glistened in the light of her headlamp like stars against the darkness.
Sarai set a piton and a safety rope and lowered herself into the hole. The water rushed over her, metallic and cool. The icy shower restored her energy and enthusiasm; she hadn’t realized how warm the cave was.
A few slips and a short fall later, she had reached the bottom. It was somehow darker here, the walls close and as black as the deepest space. She slung her pack down and pulled out the arcanometer. It read past purple into octarine. She moved past the groundfalls and stalactites.
Sarai gasped. Floating near the far wall was a diamond the size of her head. Its facets shined even in the feeble light; chills shook her spine as she stepped closer.
She knew better than to touch it; the magical energy might kill her. Instead, she produced an array of scientific equipment: meters, scopes, test strips. Sarai took frantic notes in her journal, recording the readings. The stone could not be removed, at least not now; it would take months or years of research to determine how without causing a local cataclysm.
It was old magic, true magic, a remnant of the distant eons. Here, in these depths, the greatest of all the energies in the universe would be alive for all time. Sarai had seen it with her own eyes.
Returning to her rope, Sarai took one last look at the stone before she began her ascent.
|# ? Jul 27, 2014 21:09|
Jonah grabbed the sun-shaped metal charm that hung around his neck and focused. He stretched out his free arm and aimed for the wooden dummy.
“Okay,” the Master said behind him. “What are you trying to do?”
“Fire,” Jonah said.
“Think of something that makes you angry.”
Elaia used to be a gifted witch before her magic went away. She was full of life and dreams and now she sulks in the corner all day. She doesn’t speak or even acknowledge people.
“Keep trying,” the Master said.
She used to love him, but she forgot what love is, and she forgot me. She only knows sadness now, and nothing but her lost magic matters. I want to make her feel better, but she won't let me. She won’t even give us a chance.
The dummy still didn’t burn.
“What are you thinking of?”
Jonah lowered his arms and turned. “Elaia.”
The Master’s face was impassive as always. Intricate tribal tattoos stretched across his bald head, a canvas for past glories and victories where others displayed their current emotions. “Elaia makes you angry?”
“A little. Sometimes. But also sad,” Jonah said.
“You need to do better than that.”
“I don’t know. Look, maybe it just doesn’t work for everyone.”
“It is hard to learn magic at your age,” the Master agreed. “To learn to be with yourself, to sort out your emotions. So much confusion and ambivalence. Just remember what matters. The strongest, purest feeling you can muster. For fire, you want something passionate and consuming.”
“I never was much of a magician.”
“But you’re a person. You have memories, and there are feelings within them. Just think of something simple. Something clear.”
I have trained and meditated for days and I still fail... no, that didn’t make him angry, it was just frustrating.
People always think I'm useless, but I’ll...
He sighed and raised his hand, tried to focus. Clarity. Simple times. He thought of his childhood. Drek used to beat me up after school. He made me eat dirt. Things that upset him, memories that kindled a raging fire. When Elaia moved here, she put an end to this. She was a gifted even as a child. It was humiliating to be saved by a girl, yet... His hand went back up to the charm. His mind slipped again.
Elaia. Vows they exchanged. Rose petals and the dainty chorus of a thousand tiny fortune bells. He’d given her a single deborah for a gift, a rare flower he’d picked from the top of a mountain after days of exhaustive search. He couldn’t have provided her with anything useful, but he’d go anywhere for her and that was all he could have ever hoped to promise.
She’d given him her sun charm. He was the light of her life, she’d said. And he should always remember hat.
There was a warm sensation in Jonah’s hand.
The flame, tiny as it was, seemed magnificent. It hovered slightly above his skin without scorching it. He formed a fist and opened it back up. The flame was still there. He let go of the charm and transferred the flame between hands. He flicked it up and caught it. The magical fire was complete.
“What did you think of?” the Master asked.
“Of course you did.”
“Is this okay?”
“It’s a start.” The Master’s face was still expressionless, but some stress seemed to have receded from his features. “Today was a big day for both of us. To cast the first fire at your age...” He shook his head and turned to his table, where he began to prepare tattoo implements. “I guess I’ll see you next week.”
Jonah took the flame and carried it all the way home, where Elaia waited. Their house was a mess of disregarded wizardry tools, dusty books, dirty plates and clothes. She’d been too busy lamenting her loss to keep order. He’d been too busy making up for it.
She didn’t raise her head when he entered, keeping her oily, ragged black hair turned towards him like a curtain that shielded her from the rest of the world.
“Elaia,” he said. “Elaia, look.”
When her eyes caught sight of the tiny flame dancing in Jonah’s hand, they lightened up.
“I know you think your magic cannot be recovered. Maybe that is true, the way you were used to it. But maybe, maybe it’s not too late to start again. I have never been close to the witcher you were. Imagine, if I can learn to cast this flame, learn it from scratch, what do you think you can accomplish?”
Elaia didn’t say anything. Her lips formed a faint smile, the first he’d seen in weeks.
It wasn’t much, but it was a start.
|# ? Jul 27, 2014 21:43|
Why did the elf cross the road? (1188 words)
Arthur stood still, eyes cast downward, sweat beginning to bead along his hairline. “On behalf of President Eisenhower, and the United States Bureau of Inter-species Relations, I humbly request a presence with…” He closed his eyes, trying to remember the words. He could feel them watching, waiting for him to make a mistake.
“With King Ihargeed, son of Iauron The Wise, ruler of the Southern Alacalind… people…descendants of the Old Realm.”
“You may proceed,” a voice called out. “Come forward.”
Arthur finally looked up, his eyes meeting the stoic stare of the king’s. The Bureau’s description of Ihargeed was spot-on, though in Arthur’s opinion, most elves all looked the same: sickly pale and unnervingly tall, with long, golden hair and obsidian eyes. He sat upon a wooden throne, at the top of a long staircase separating he and Arthur. To either side sat his many council members, Arthur counted fourteen in all. The throne, the council member’s seats, and indeed the entire room itself, had been elaborately carved from the inside of an impossibly large and still living Redwood.
Arthur cleared his throat, and began, “As you know, I’m here to negotiate the terms of a land deal. Our Bureau has sent several letters, informing you of the interstate highway construction, set to begin—“
Ihargeed interrupted, “Yes, we’ve received these scrolls, but my council and I have had quite some difficulty in interpreting them. We do not have words for much of what these scrolls describe. And now you’ve come here, and are using these strange words again.”
Arthur sighed, trying not to show his frustration. “Right. Of course. The Federal Highway Act has authorized the construction of the Interstate Highway System, which…” he paused, remembering his audience. “Basically, a highway is a very large road that connects different cities all across the country.”
“And you wish to build this road through our land?” asked Ihargeed. “Need I remind you of the treaty between my kingdom and yours? When I signed that treaty, some eighty-eight years ago, your predecessor promised us three hundred years of mutual respect of land, livelihood, and privacy. Tell me, what became of him, why were you sent in his stead?”
“He’s been dead almost seventy years,” Arthur replied. “At least a dozen people have held this position since then. Have you honestly had no contact with any of them?”
Ihargeed frowned slightly, “He was a good man, an honest man. He made a promise to us, and now you are here, trying to tarnish that promise.”
Arthur pulled a small notebook from his suit jacket’s pocket, and searched quickly through its pages, “If my math is correct, the seven Elven kingdoms make up about twelve million acres, stretching from northern California, up through Canada, and across much of the northwest. Your kingdom alone is almost ninety thousand acres. All we’re asking is to lease a few hundred miles of land towards the southern end. I think the terms are quite agreeable. It will barely affect you, but it will connect our people who live to the west of your land with the rest of the country, meaning they can finally travel by car without—“
“Again, a word we don’t understand,” Ihargeed interrupted.
Arthur struggled to explain, “It’s a vehicle that runs on gasoline. It’s got an engine that… it’s… a horseless carriage?”
Ihargeed sat, dumbfounded. A grin slowly crept across his face, as he chuckled to himself. He and his council began chattering loudly to one another in their native tongue. It was too fast for Arthur to make out, but he suspected he was better off not knowing.
The throne room fell silent once again, and Ihargeed turned back to Arthur, “We have a request of you. We wish you to journey out to your lands, and retrieve for us one of these horseless carriages—alive. You shall be accompanied by our finest scout, Tatiag. She will help you navigate our lands, and will help you capture one of these creatures. Do you accept this request?”
He’d been warned about this, their proclivity for sending others on journeys. He’d also been warned that to refuse such a request was beyond disrespectful—relationships between Bureau Representatives and Elven kingdoms have soured over far less. With this in mind, Arthur reluctantly agreed.
They’d armed Arthur with a short sword, a water skin, and a few day’s provisions. It was to be a day’s journey out of the Alacalind’s territory, and at least a second day, by Arthur’s guess, until they reached a large enough town.
By midday, Arthur’s water skin was already empty, he had stripped down to his undershirt, and cut the legs off of his slacks. Tatiag didn’t seem to mind the walk, as her pace had not slowed in the least. She silently skipped through the forest, almost oblivious to the human stumbling behind her.
As evening came, they reached the top of a steep hill. Without a thought, Tatiag delicately slid down, and looked back, gesturing for Arthur to do the same. He tried to ease himself down, sliding from tree to tree, but he slipped, tumbling down to the bottom. Tatiag chuckled, but Arthur was not amused.
“We’ve got to stop,” he said, panting, still lying on the ground.
“Nonsense, we’re to the edge of our land,” she said, making her way up the next slope. “If we’re quick, we can make it to…”
Arthur looked up to see her crouched down, bow in hand, staring down the other side. “What do you see?”
“There’s something in the clearing ahead. It looks like a stream, but it’s stopped flowing.” Before he could make sense of this, she had already disappeared down the other side.
As quietly as he could, he climbed the slope. As he looked down into the clearing, her description became clear.
“It’s black as night,” she said, kneeling beside it. She gently placed her hand onto its surface, but jerked it away in pain. “It’s hot.”
“It’s a road,” he yelled, as he slid down to meet her. “This is what I’ve been talking about all along. And of course it’s hot, it’s the middle of July.”
“So these horseless carriages, these cars, ride along the surface of this?” she asked, looking cautiously at the road. “So we could catch one here, then?”
Despite his protests, Arthur could not adequately explain the many ways in which this question was wrong. Tatiag crouched down beside the road, her bow drawn.
“Do you hear that sound?” she asked. Arthur stopped talking. He could just make out the dull hum of tires against asphalt, slowly growing louder. He tried to pull her away from the road, but she was too quick. The car appeared around the bend, and she fired. The first arrow punctured the front tire, and a second one bounced off the hood.
The car screeched to a halt, and Tatiag ran to the driver’s side door, her bow readied. The driver slowly turned his gaze from Tatiag to Arthur, unsure of what to do. Arthur just sighed, and reached for his checkbook.
|# ? Jul 27, 2014 22:19|
He wrapped her body in white linen and spoke words of love to preserve her for the ages. The old man had looked death in the eye, readied himself in that moment to take her back, and then she was gone. Forever lost. He put a message in the wind and they began arriving the next day.
They arrived alone, in pairs, and as trios. They stepped through holes in the air or shadows or the long mirror in he kept in the barn. They appeared with thunderclaps or travelled on foot. They crossed rivers and forests, oceans and space, worlds and the barriers between all places. His friends wore traditional robes and long beards, gowns and tall hats. Other arrived, clad in jean pants and thin shirts or vests and silk pantaloons. They pressed his hands and told him how she’d been a comet passing through their lives.
For him, she’d been a guiding star. He spoke words to the gathered. She had been drifting through the æther and he’d been inevitable as gravity. He watched her flit from land to land and return with new stories on her lips, strange garments on her back. Her strange attraction drew him out of the mountains, away from the cottage surrounded by orange poppies and purple lupine.
They buried her in the meadow and he looked up to the sky where a humorless sun looked back and the blue void cracked wide. He spoke words of command and the land gave forth a marker of stone. The mourners left. The old man sat outside, waiting. The stars rang high and pure notes in the night air, but all he saw was the space between, and in the void he felt her absence.
He loosed his rage. Clouds gathered and burst. Lightning arced from the drowning earth and webbed across thunderheads as he spoke words of anger. The stories said there could be no return, but he wondered what grasp the land of the dead had on two travelers such as them. Dreams came staccato as the rain beat down.
In the morning, he gathered his staff and runes. The words of power from days when he had gloried and fought and created were useless. That day, he spoke words of weakness and a way crumbled open in the air. Smothering his power in the gathered broadcloth of his guilt and grief, he concealed it inside his heart. They said there was no returning, but his dreams had shown a way. It was seven steps down into a grand cavern.
Men and women in rich clothing and jewels wandered through heaped goods in the murky light. At the end of the long cave stood a doorway hewn through the stone. He strode past the trove and approached the opening, but it became tiny as he drew close. Taking his staff, the old man pressed forward with fire and force, but the underworld stone rebuffed him.
He sat to consider and threw the runes, and as they left his hand the opening grew. The marked bones indicated a bargain. Examining the piles, he found all manner of personal effects. The old man piled his belongings one by one on the cool stone. Where before it has been like trying to pass through the eye of a needle, now he stood naked before a wide passageway.
It wound down deep in the earth and as his hope grew the passage shrank until his heart was hammering. He ran for a wan yellow light, stuffing down the power that came flooding up, drawn like poison from a wound by terrible pressure.
Worn cobblestones met him as he pitched forward. Blood from his palms and knees dotted the ground. The old man rose. The wall stood faceless behind him and city streets stretched out ahead. Houses of wood and brick with pitched roofs sat on the bedrock. The souls of the dead entered and exited the homes. He saw them walk the cobbled streets as he travelled through the strange land, heard them speak to each other in whispers about the living man. They avoided him.
There was no end to that place. The days were marked by the ebb and flow of unearthly light. He spoke the words of finding, but they led him nowhere, and in the brief time his power was bared it was mostly lost. He took the last seed and rewrapped it, a way home for them both.
By the third day, he had wasted to a shell. His steps faltered and he sat down in the street. He had defeated creatures of the pandemonium beyond the stars. He had advanced the craft beyond what his peers thought possible, and yet his mouth was dry, his legs weak from hunger. The old man hung his head as the gloom of night encroached.
A girl child issued from one of the homes, looked both ways down the empty street, and asked if he was looking for her – the one who had passed through. The girl told a story of a woman surrounded by a halo of love, an ingathering of souls, and a great migration.
He asked where and was brought through twisting streets to a set of brass scales. The girl said she had let go of the past and stepped onto the near pan. It sank for a moment, then raised her up until she was gone.
The pans leveled. Trembling, he stepped forward. He felt a tug, then desperate straining on the wadded ball secreted in his heart. The scales descended and hungry darkness rose up to meet him as he fought to hold on to his last vestige of strength. He had failed her. The old man released his will and the guilt and grief and power streamed from him, engulfed by the waiting thing below. The scales shifted, lifting him up, and up, and up.
He watched her walk through tall grass and familiar flowers, led by the girl child. Light suffused through the verdant lands of that place. He smiled and was answered and fulfilled. Her arms warmed his naked form. “Ealdræd, why have you come?” she asked.
The old man told her of his journey and the power he had kept hidden, how it was gone and they were trapped here. He told a tale of sadness, but the pain was gone and in its place was a seed of hope.
“You have always been my rock, the center of my heart, but I would not go. This is my place.” She laid her hand on the girl’s head. “In time, it will be your place, too.”
Weakness rolled through his frame and he knew the time was coming. He kissed her and promised he would see her again. The old man spoke the words of hope and the light of her eyes enveloped all.
The sun dawned over a field of blooms and the old man and a stone marker he had made. He rose and returned to the mountain cottage to rest. In the empty place where his power had been, the budding sprouts of creation twined.
|# ? Jul 27, 2014 22:44|
The Alchemist's Spire
The Stone Death arrived on a whisper. For some, it was the gentle chatter of rolling leaves on the forest floor, or the lonely crying of an unlatched gate swinging free. For others, it was the bluster and pomp of the wind ripping through an alleyway. It was a feeling that every man and woman knew, the feeling wind on his face and the dread that came with it.
Aaron remembered the day that they grey tide swallowed him.
The snow had been falling for days, coming in heavy, wet flakes that pounded against the windows of Aaron’s room. He had been locked up for so long, watched by the servants and chefs and his sisters. They all warned him. Nobody was to go outside until the grounds had been thoroughly inspected, but the snow was pristine and smooth, and the way it reflected the moonlight drew Aaron in like a moth. That snow, marvelous, waist-high, perfect for bunching and rolling and making snow angels.
He was asleep when his father kicked in the bedroom door.
“Get up!” his father shouted. Instinctively, Aaron ran from his bed. “Not another step!” his father commanded.
“What?” Aaron asked.
“Take of your shirt.”
Aaron had only lifted his shirt midway when his father stopped him, pointing out the bulbous, mushroom headed pustules to his mother and sisters.
“The boy’s been infected.”
“Infected?” Aaron stammered.
His father pointed through the frost rimmed window to the angel in the snow. Aaron hadn’t noticed the stone dust under the snowbed, nor did he notice the mushroom caps underneath him.
“You’re a capper now.”
His parents sent him away with a bag of supplies, a horse, and as much gold as they could spare. He was fortunate, most cappers were exiled with only the clothes on their backs, while Aaron was well equipped to survive the week’s journey through the grey zone to the capper’s colony.
There were no animals in the grey, only the heavy mushroom caps that Aaron kicked like a soccer ball when he stopped to eat or rest. The rash had already begun to spread to his chest, and in the quiet moments of his trip, Aaron wondered how long he would last. When his thoughts weren’t on his own demise, Aaron watched a narrow spire in the distance. He had seen lots of castles and estates while traveling with his father, but he had never seen a tower built like a hanging rope, tall and thin with no other compound attached to it. Aaron wondered if it was a lighthouse.
Aaron arrived at the colony after four days of traveling, only the ramshackle village was abandoned. Only an elderly woman greeted Aaron when she heard his horse’s footfalls on the hard dirt path.
“Welcome to Granite Pass,” she said.
They dined on fried mushroom caps and scraped greens in the evening.
“Where are the others?” Aaron asked.
“Dead, or traveled to the alchemist’s tower for work in their dying days.”
“That tower belongs to an alchemist?”
“Indeed it does. He employs cappers to scrape away the spores while he conducts his experiments. He claims to be able to turn stone into gold, which he sends by pigeon to the families of those who work for him.
“Why haven’t you gone to work then?”
The woman laughed the food right out of her mouth. “I’m the mayor of Granite Pass! I founded this crossroads five years ago.”
“Five years?” Aaron asked. “How’s that possible?”
“Let me ask you a question, young man. If I were to help you live as long as I have, would you help me?”
“I come from a very poor family. If you were to give me your horse and gold, I would be willing to give you my secret.”
“But that’s all I have,” he said.
“What good is gold and a horse when you will be dead within a matter of days? With my secret you’ll live as if you were as healthy as a young man should be, and with your gold I’ll be able to provide for my family once more.”
Aaron nodded before turning back to his dinner. As he ate, the old woman unfastened a necklace and slid it across the table.
“There,” she said.
“The necklace?” Aaron asked.
“When I first caught the Stone Death, my husband gave me this onyx crystal to protect me. The crystal was blessed by a Yutan priest when we were forced out of our fatherland by the stilted men.” She rose from her seat, approached Aaron, and clasped the necklace to him. “I am positive that is has kept me safe through these years.”
The woman rode off within the hour, leaving Aaron to spend the night alone in the ghost town.
Aaron intended on walking home. It would be a long journey, but he knew that when he showed his father the amulet that he would be welcome back in his home. Yet even with this thought; even with the understanding that all was indeed well, Aaron turned away from his home at the fork outside of the colony.
Perhaps it was foolishness laced in a desire to bring his father’s gold back in its entirety, but the spire was calling to him.
Aaron walked for days, slipping into the hours like a night’s sleep. The hunger was dreadful, and he wondered if the necklace would protect him from all forms of death. When the gnawing became too great, Aaron would pull a sheet of beetle bark from a grey tree and chew until he became numb again. He marched until he was marching in the shadow of the spire, then he marched to the alchemist’s gate and pounded until his hand bled.
The alchemist had a tight white beard that contrasted with his dark skin, and when he poked his head from the upmost window, Aaron could hardly make out the scars on his face. He took an hour to descend the tower, but when he reached the gate, he pointed to his bubbled face and said, “burns, not caps, but obviously that doesn’t matter if you are here.
Aaron lifted his shirt, revealing the caps on his torso. “I’d like some work, if you have it.”
“Aye,” the alchemist nodded, “come upstairs, and I’ll get you started. Keep your hands to yourself while you are here. Wouldn’t want you getting sicker.” He smiled.
As they climbed the spiral staircase in the center of the narrow tower, Aaron noticed that the archways leading into the floors were stoned off. Each one, first floor, fifth, eighth, all the way to the twentieth, walled off with stone and mortar.
The alchemist’s chamber was a mess of equipment.
“Is this where you turn stone into gold?” Aaron asked.
The alchemist pulled on his gloves. “Unfortunately, the heavens have deemed it an impossible task, I am sorry to disappoint you.”
“Then how do you spend your days up here?”
“I’ve turned to seeking a cure for the stone death,” he said, “the gods have ordered it.”
Aaron unclasped the crystal around his neck. “Then perhaps the gods have sent me to find you.”
|# ? Jul 27, 2014 23:06|
Lest anyone was confused on time zones, or thrown off by my forgetting to close signups for a day:
Four hours left.
|# ? Jul 28, 2014 00:04|
Nethilia fucked around with this message at 08:34 on Dec 4, 2014
|# ? Jul 28, 2014 00:07|
I was eight and a half when the Censor came. I remember the cart he rode up into the village on that first day: I squirmed under Father's grasping arm and caught a glimpse. It was high noon, and his vehicle gleamed gold in the sunlight. Whispering, I tried to squeeze up to the front of the silent crowd, but Father slipped a hand over my mouth.
“Hell's teeth, girl,” he hissed. “Do you want the sky to fall on us?”
That evening, filing into Temple. I saw the man standing beside old Reverend Jefferies at the pulpit. Instead of shuffling up to our usual spot, Father laid a hand on my shoulder and propelled me onto the nearest bench.
Straining my neck for a view of the front, I could only just hear Reverend Jefferies' reedy voice carry through his charm. “Brothers and sisters,” he quavered, “today our humble village has a most significant visitor. It befits us all to welcome the Most Auspicious Censor, whom I understand has been posted here, uh- directly from the Mother City. My goodness. That is to say, uh-”
I admit I stopped listening at this point. Behind all these people I couldn't make out the Most Blahblah Whatever, and other than that it was just Reverend Jefferies and the same old one word in three I understood. It was a little harder to zone out though: I guess the change in rhythm threw me off my stride.
Father sat me down as soon as we got home. “From now on, love, I need you on your best behaviour.”
“I already am on my best behaviour!” It was true. Since Father had taken charge at home he'd had me working like I was some kind of slave, and I let him. It was one slip, was all.
He sighed softly, and knelt down beside the chair. He tousled my hair. “I know you are, Jenny. But it's even more important now, okay?”
“Well, it's been a hard year, hasn't it.”
“What that means,” he said in his deep oaken voice, “is that we need to try extra hard now. No more silly tricks.”
“And for now what I need you to do is go draw some fresh water. I'll start dinner and when you get back I'll take the water up to Mother, okay?”
“Can I see her?”
“Maybe tomorrow, sweetheart. Just go on and get her that water, okay?”
“Okay,” I said. I knew he was lying.
I hated getting water. The well was at the high end of the village, so I had to walk all the way up and carry the bucket all the way back down. Father said it was better than the other way around. Maybe he was right, but I didn't care.
It was heavy; that was the nub of it. Lifting the bucket up high, I had to do a trick to keep the bucket from wobbling too much and then sort of half-fall down the street. I was going like that when the Censor stepped out a side street right in front of me.
I stopped, but the bucket didn't. It twisted in the air, and the water shot forward like it had a death wish. There was a splash, and a splutter. I closed my eyes and waited to be exploded.
“Child, you can open your eyes.”
I kept them closed. It seemed safer.
“It's just water, child, you didn't raise the dead. Don't look so frightened. Open your eyes!”
I did. The Censor was smaller than I expected: he wasn't much taller than me. That said, his robe, even caked to his form and dripping wet, billowed out sideways. I could see why he had the cart.
“Well,” he said, “I suppose I should tell you to be more careful.” He turned to me. “However, little one, I could forgive you for some assistance. I am, you see,” his mouth curled slightly, “lost.” He pulled a piece of paper from his robes and shook the water off it. Then he thrust it in front of me. “Can you please show me where we are?”
I knew about letters and stuff but it wasn't like any paper I'd seen before. It had pictures: lines, dots, and tiny words beside them. “S-sorry, your Most Aerial Sender- Censor, sir, but I don't know what this is.”
He looked at me funny then, and I thought he'd decided to curse me after all. “It's a map,” he said, slowly. “Have you not encountered this in school?”
“I'm in the fields this year, sir.”
“Hmm. And how old are you?”
“Almost nine,” I said.
“Well,” he said again. “That won't do. You must come meet me at the Temple, this time tomorrow, and we can try and fix that.”
I couldn't say no. Mother would be livid if I was rude to the government.
He was waiting for me in a rear pew. I'd never been inside outside of normal Temple days. He had relit the candles, but their flickering shadows brought no real light in. He beckoned to me, and I perched on the edge of the bench.
“We need to talk about your abilities,” he said.
He turned to face me along the long planks of wood. “How long have you known?”
“I don't understand.”
“It starts the same for everyone. Little charms you figure out, ways to make things... behave.” He looked at me. “Like whatever you did with that bucket.”
I cast my eyes down. “If I did something, why did you get wet?”
“Because you're not very good.”
“Am so!” I gasped and covered my mouth.
He laughed, low and throaty. “You will learn. Mother City will take you, and maybe one day you'll be an Censor like me, or even Grand Master of the City!”
“Father says I mustn't go.”
He paused at that. “Mother needs gifted children. So is the law. If he has hidden you, he can be forgiven, but you must come now. Enough time has been wasted.”
“I can't leave Mother.”
“Ah, she's one of the afflicted?”
“It started two weeks ago. It-”
“I know. It was the water.”
“I had to purify it last night. Not an easy trick. Something had gotten in. Something bad.”
“Have no fear, child. I still need to make my final rounds, but dirty water is a problem easily solved with the gift. When I come to see your mother, your parents and I can talk about getting you caught up.
“Don't worry,” he said, smiling. “You get to come home for the holidays.”
|# ? Jul 28, 2014 00:22|
I'm out. I won't be entering again without a or some serious redemption work, because this poo poo is ridiculous.
|# ? Jul 28, 2014 02:39|
In the same boat as Djeser, out for the week.
Will do 3 crits for other chronic-midpilers as penance. If you are like me, you've been mid-pile a while and are wondering what's up. If you've got a piece that you really want to work on but that was neither HM/Win or DisHM/Loser, I'll crit you.
|# ? Jul 28, 2014 02:59|
Severe thunderstorms rolling through, hallelujah. I didn't need that electricity anyway.
|# ? Jul 28, 2014 03:04|
A Friend In The System
docbeard fucked around with this message at 15:20 on Dec 29, 2014
|# ? Jul 28, 2014 03:09|
Temperance (995 words)
"Wake up, boy! Those pig-ruttin' Entenites are at it again!"
Het blinked. Then he threw his blanket aside and scrambled to his feet. He pulled at a nearby pant leg, which only splayed the tangled mass of clothes across the floor.
"Boy!" This time from a distance.
Het winced as he dropped the twisted overalls and ran barefoot into the field.
"Look at this husk! I was just makin' my mornin' rounds when I noticed one ear browner than the others. Then, before I could make heads or tails of it, the next two started withering on the stalk. Proof! Proof, I tell you, that those blasted Entenites mean to starve us from our blessed farm!"
"But there hasn't been an Entenite spotted in Assur for months."
"Fool boy! Don't underestimate their treachery. Now's not the time. Just focus your thoughts on growth and prosperity so we can counter their curse."
Swallowing, Het closed his eyes and tried to picture radiant, golden corn. (Please don't hit me.) He imagined a whole field of it, reaching toward the sun. (I'm doing my best, I promise!) A slight tingling crept into his fingertips. Maybe this time--
"Dammit boy, I'll take care of this myself! Get back in your room and don't move a muscle if you know what's good for you."
Het's heart pounded once. Twice.
He turned and fled toward the house, away from curses and corn. Away from fields and famine. And this time, away from his father.
"Who, pale child, might you be?"
Het whirled around, the bucket clattering at his feet.
"I'm... Feldor," he informed the brazen female.
"Well, Feldor, I would thank you not to waste my water. There is precious little hereabouts, even without interference from those--"
"Entenites," Het muttered.
"Pardon? It is common knowledge that only Emeshians can temper the environment."
"I know that!" Het exclaimed. "I was just, you know, still introducing myself. I'm an Entenite."
"Undoubtedly. And if I were to tell you that I was of Emeshian descent?"
Het swallowed his response. The woman eyed him for a moment, then sighed, "I suppose I can spare one meal for a transient troublemaker. After all, the nearest Entenite settlement is many leagues distant. My name is Koima, by the way."
Het nestled the half-eaten drumstick next to its harrowed sibling, gazing at it with a longing that for once he couldn't fulfill.
"With an appetite like that, one would think you had never eaten meat before."
Het lowered his eyes and shuffled the wishbone around his plate. "I've just never seen nikchecs so... docile, before."
"I suspect there is much of the world you have yet to see, child." Koima's lips drew into a joyless smile. Het didn't notice; he was too busy sneaking glances at the blood and gristle left over from the meal's preparation.
"Listen, ma'am, I really oughtta thank you for the food, but I... I--"
"Need to get back to your farmland. I know."
Het's head whipped around to face her. "But you're not an Emeshian! I mean, you can't be!"
Koima grew hushed, yet her words were crystalline. "You knew me to be Entenite just as I knew you to be Emeshian. Yet you still shared a meal with me. What does that say about you?"
"I thought it might be poison!" Het blurted. "It's just I haven't eaten in so long and the thought of meat was so good and I know I'm selling my soul but--"
The word was no louder than a whisper, yet Het's spine shot upright and his limbs froze mid-fidget.
"You are going to step outside of my home this instant and think about what I have done. And what I have not done. I am going to go feed the nikchecs. After that, if you are still here, you may knock on my door. I may decide to open it. If I do, we are going to sit down and have a civilized discussion like rational adults."
Het bolted out of the chair, through the open door, and past the trees until the cabin was no longer visible.
Het's breathing had slowed. His fists had unclenched. The grimace etched in his jawline was a shadow of its former self.
He got up, leaving the browning bed of wilted azaleas behind, and made for the general direction of home.
A shrill cry pierced his resolve.
He spun around and raced in the direction of the hovel, past fertile flowers, between solemn oaks, and around to the nikchec pen out back. There laid Koima, clutching a thigh blotted with blood and gristle.
"I am afraid I lost my temper and one of the poor beasts gored me. I will recover, but they have scattered to parts unknown."
Het stopped the quavering of his lip with a tooth.
"Now do you see? This is what happens when we lose our tempers. The animals echo our emotions, to no end of trouble."
"I..." Het stammered.
"Do not worry about me. My leg will mend and the nikchecs might return once I have calmed. The life of a runaway is not like what one pictures in youth. Go back home while there is still a roof to house you, child. Lord knows such things disappear soon enough."
"Boy! Where have you been?"
Het blinked, stretched, and sat up.
"I'm not joshin' you, boy, there's going to be hell to pay. But that damned Entenite curse is flarin' up again, and I'm plumb exhausted. Go see to the sunflowers before they wither into rubbish."
Het got up and dressed. His father's fists trembled while Het knotted, then double-knotted, his boots, but the man said nothing.
At the base of the wilting flowers, Het knelt, closed his eyes, and whispered, "Don't worry, sunny flowers. I'll always be here for you, even when tempers rise."
A timid breeze stirred the dust. Het rose, turned around, and opened his eyes.
His father spat.
|# ? Jul 28, 2014 03:12|
Yep, I'll have to next week too. Had to replace my motherboard and didn't end up giving myself enough time to put anything together, so I'm not going to subject anyone to last-minute word vomit.
|# ? Jul 28, 2014 03:14|
wordcount : 1194
The Tower of Wizardry
Every day, while delivering vegetables from his step-father's shop, Darge saw the Tower of Wizardry high atop its mountain. He would crane his neck while trudging through the ice to wonder at the black spires that vanished and reappeared as the snow-flurries came and went.
Once he asked his step-father if anyone ever travelled to the tower. His step-father, who could talk for hours about trade and business, just looked at him sadly. Darge never raised the subject again, but the brooding citadel filled his dreams - with himself as its Lord, surrounded by swirling magical energies that could do his deliveries in an instant.
He resolved to climb the mountain and uncover the Tower’s mysteries. In fact, he resolved so every day, but there was always something keeping him home - a large order coming in, a thief in town to guard against, a festival to prepare for. Darge even started seeing a girl in the village his uncle had nudgingly pointed out. Her name was Gren and she could add and subtract and laugh like a fairy in a field of buttercups.
One morning, after a night of play, he asked if gren would like to take a trip to the mountain, maybe to visit the foot of the Tower of Wizardry. She jumped out of bed and did not speak to him again. Dirge returned to the shop to find his step-father face down on the floor of their shop, a spray of carrots surrounding him where he’d fallen, his heart stopped.
After a period of mourning, Darge realised that this was, perhaps, a blessing. He was free to see more than just the paths of the village. He sold the business as soon as he could, stocked up on climbing equipment, and headed for the Tower of his dreams.
The path was arduous, full of sheer cliffs and perilous crevices where a man could fall until the walls themselves suspended him. But Darge had ropes, hammers and spikes. He did not rush, but made his ascent carefully, each step an exercise in consideration, until he stood at the foot of the Tower, its black walls untouched by the whirling snowflakes.
There was no door, but a single set of steps climbed to an alcove which became a long tunnel. Darge made his way along the passage, creeping at first, then more boldly. He passed rooms filled with wonders - silent suits of glowing armour, cascading falls of sparkling minerals, musical instruments that played themselves - but he never paused to investigate, because the rooms were singularly empty of life.
The corridor continued for miles, or so it deemed to Darge, exhausted from his ascent. It finally opened out into a vast and cavernous hall. Torches dotted the walls, giving a ruby light to an onyx throne, high upon a dais. Seated there, in flowing black robes, was the Tower’s Lord. Prismatic lights danced around him, and in their glow Darge could see the years etched into the wizard’s face.
“Why have you come?” asked the old wizard. Around him, ruby images of Darge, climbing cliffs and crossing crevices.
“Please,” said Darge, “I should like to be a wizard.”
The wizard laughed. “This isn’t a school. I have not sought out an apprentice. Why should I bother with someone without even knowledge of the five gravitational truisms?”
Darge was cold and bone tired. “Please,” he said again. “I should like to be a wizard.” But the old man, the throne room, even the Tower had gone, and Darge was back in the moonlit village.
Not wanting to discuss his adventure or his failure, Darge left quickly. He searched the valleys, and the plains for many months, seeking someone to teach him the five gravitational truisms. He eventually found a small monastery, inhabited by an order of monks long since excommunicated for otherworldly dealings, where their ancient scrolls included three of the truisms he desired. The head monk pointed him toward the city of Sinobad, where the Longmen were reputed to know more. After two more years of false trails and wrong turns Darge arrived at the teeming city. He learned not only the two remaining gravitational truisms, but the twin subtle arguments and the three deft syllogisms.
It was an older Darge who ascended the mountains of his home. His face had lost the plumpness of childhood and his travels had weathered him. On his way, he stopped by his own village, and spied Gren, coughing in the streets with a child at her hip. But Darge did not stay. With gravitational truisms he ascended to the Tower of Wizardry. He deftly syllogised his way along the passageway until he emerged at the Onyx throne.
“Why have you come?” asked the Old man in flowing robes.
“If it pleases you,” said Darge. “I should like to be a wizard.”
“Ah,” said the old man. “The desirous apprentice.” Images of Darge defying the laws of gravity appeared around him. “A fine parlour trick, but hardly one that warrants even a glimpse into the eternal mysteries. Show me power!.”
Darge strode forward with confidence and subtly invoked his most well-formulated argument in a brilliant crystalline hue. The wizard waved a hand and its arguments and counterarguments collapsed in an obvious blaze.
“But…,” said Darge to the moon above his village.
Darge returned to Sinobad that night, hastened by truism and syllogy. He demanded of the Longmen something, anything to impress the Wizard, but they knew no more. Drowning his sorrows, he heard tavern whispers of the Kingdom of Eal, where the court librarian Alik kept eldritch grimoires. Darge stole into his castle window at the dead of night, and was rewarded with tomes detailing the seven deplorable maxims, the six fecund dictums, and rumour of the Well of the Fabulists, deep within Sironia. It took Darge eleven years to cover that vast overgrown continent on foot - not even his command of gravity could help penetrate its dark and tangled jungles. But, once found, the Fabulists showed him things he had not dreamed of. From ingesting the organs of the Draffle Fly he conjugated the ten ineffable verbs of arbitration. From piecing his own flesh after days of emaciation he grasped the eight ambrosial motifs. From meditating for eighteen months while hanging by his feet from a rope, he intuitively understood the nine didactic charientisms.
But he did not stop there - the charientisms taught him so much he built a study in his own mind and locked himself in it, day and night, in ambrosial reverie. A year brought him the four metaphysical tautologies and the eleven ecstatic bombilations. Another and from those he derived the six automatic theorems. Combined they generated enough mystical power that he touched briefly upon the one, true axiom.
Darge stood alone in the universe, and saw a black tower atop a snow-covered mountain. With a thought he passed through its walls until he stood before the onyx throne.
It was empty.
He climbed the dais and took his place as the Wizard of the Tower. Prismatic lights flickered around him. There were footsteps in the hallway.
|# ? Jul 28, 2014 03:32|
Firmitas, Utilitas, Venustas
|# ? Jul 28, 2014 03:36|
Burn the Witch
Outside my office is the following written in neat typeface lettering:
Rosa Flores, Private Investigations
Discrete and Professional
Private investigation sounds exciting, but really it's as tedious as coding. Most of my business isn't anything as interesting as murder investigations or even corporate espionage. Mostly it's domestic disputes. Spouses hiring me to tail their deadbeat partners to find if they have someone on the side. Parents hiring me to keep tabs on their flunky kids making sure they're not squandering their precious college fund. Kids hiring me to track their parents in order so they don't escape from the expensive home they put them in. I can't imagine how my competition puts up with the tedium. I do, however, have one major advantage over them.
Outside it's an unbearable 100 degrees but inside it's a nice, air-conditioned seventy-five. I can't' stand to be outside for more than five minutes in that kind of heat since my naturally fair skin burns very easy. Inside I have the lights off and my laptop hooked up to my projector. Holding my wand in my left hand, I shoot my hands up in the air as the projector lights up. I lower my arms slowly as my desktop appears on the projector screen. I make motions with my right hand as if I was manipulating a giant, invisible touchscreen and my computer responds accordingly. For today's case, I'm hacking into the computer of one Arthur Robles.
Arthur Robles is a successful accountant whose wife came to me under extreme duress earlier today. Apparent after taking on an unknown new client, Artie-Boy is now verbally and emotionally abusive towards his wife and their two kids--making threats of unspeakable violence and saying vicious, hurtful things towards them. With her signature on the discretionary note, I can now begin my work.
Hacking isn't typing rapidly on a keyboard, it's a lot more subtle than that. It's essentially spinning a dial over and over again until you get the combination right. Most hackers use programs to spin the dial while I have other, more effective, means. It takes a little finagling with my wand, but I finally pry myself into his computer.
“My, my, Arthur. You've been a naughty boy, haven't you?”
Never mind the requisite internet porn--there's scores and scores of ledgers, spreadsheets, and other such motorized documents with obscene amounts on them. But not a single incriminating word to be found. He's smart enough to encrypt his documents individually. Fortunately for me, hacking through even advanced encryption is like picking a single-tumbler lock.
The screen flashes red. I just tripped an alarm somewhere. “gently caress!” I shout as I throw both arms down and shut my computer and projector down. There's no way that should've happened. Unless...
I suddenly think of Lisa. I flick my wand towards the light switch, turning the lights on. I grab my phone and dial her number. “Lisa!” I shouted.
“Hello? Who is this?” A confused voice responds.
“Lisa! Get your kids and get someplace safe!”
“Wh-who is this? I don't recognize you,” she says. I hear an angry voice scream her name and then she hangs up.
I need to move fast. After putting my wand into my bag, I go into my desk and grab my pistol. After loading the magazine and pulling back the slide, I grab my keys and take off. poo poo was about to go down.
I finally get to Lisa's home, only to see her and her children getting into someone's car. That someone is an inch short of six feet even, wearing casual Friday clothes and smiling like he just got done screwing over a hapless client.
“Lisa!” I call out. “Lisa, are you okay?”
“She's fine,” the man says in a quiet voice. “Isn't that right, Lisa?”
“Yes, I'm fine,” she whimpers.
“Say again, Lisa?”
“I'm fine!” She says louder as I can hear the fear in her voice making it crack. I see the the same fear in in the eyes of her two boys who take after their mama in her dark skin and brilliant brown eyes. You ever see someone giving the thousand-yard stare? The kind of trauma-induced catatonia that makes someone look like they're staring not at you but at something really loving scary behind you? It's even worse when you see it in a kid.
“Good,” he says smugly. “Get in the car, I have words with her,” he says, spitting the last word out like a fly that got into his mouth. Lisa and her kids obediently climb into his car.
“Do you know who I am?” He asked me.
“Bernie Madoff's half-Mexican bastard child?”
He smiles. “My name, is Arthur Robles,” he said and looks down on me as I'm half a foot shorter than him. “I'm Lisa's husband. I'm the man who clothes, feeds, and provides for her and our two boys, Marc and Andrew.”
“The same man who can't even manage a third-grader's encryption skills?”
“I know what you're doing,” he said as his smile turns into a scowl. “I know that you're pitting my wife against me. And I know what you do. The evil things you do in your office. You know what makes me better than you?”
“I'm guessing it's how much more money you make than me.”
“It's that I love and fear my God,” he says as his voice fills with self-righteous fervor. “I know what he says about your kind--'Suffer not a witch to live'. I'm warning you only once,” he said, sticking his face in mine. “If my wife so much as says your name, I'm going to do what my God commands me to do. I'm going to tie you to a stake and burn you, bruja oval office.”
I clench my teeth so hard, I can almost feel them pop. Bruja is the Spanish word for “witch”. I can't stand either word, let alone the last word he said. But what's especially incensing me is how he dares to call me me that while he's emotionally and verbally abusing his family. I can feel myself reaching for my pistol in my back pocket. Careful Rosa, channel your anger. I don't tell the Hulk what to do, I just point in the right direction and tell him “smash”.
“If you put your family into the slightest bit of danger, I'll put you through so much pain you'll wish it was you burning and not me.”
“God willing, I get to you first,” he says as he gets into his car and takes off with his family as hostages. I take my wand out of my bag and with a flick of the wrist, I'm now tracking him on my smart phone.
“Keep running, scumbag,” I say as I get into my car. “Everybody knows the chase is the fun part.”
|# ? Jul 28, 2014 03:47|
Love Blooms on City Rooves
From the cathedral roof, the city spread out beneath them like a game-board of red and white stones. Nobody came up here without express permission from the Archon, or very good climbing skills. Thankfully, Donna and Matteo had the latter.
They ate roasted duck, and Matteo sang, and Donna laughed at his terrible singing. “You'll wake the gargoyles,” she said, “and I hear they like the crunch of bones on their stones.”
Matteo shook his head. He pulled a loaf of bread out of his bag and set to slicing it. “That's a children's story,” he said, “the stone beasts are all dead, or in the quiet corners. I saw one lurking under a bridge near la Grazzia once. Sad little bastard. Didn't look ready to crunch lettuce, let alone bone.”
“Speaking of,” said Donna, taking the lettuce and mustard out of the bag. Their vantage point was one of the few flat places on the roof with a good view. It was hard stone and stank of pigeon poo poo, but they hardly cared. Four slices of fresh bread, some lettuce, some duck and a healthy serving of mustard between them, and they had a hell of a picnic. Matteo kept peering over his shoulder in case one of the other acolytes came up, but he knew they were safe. The Order had a lot of nasty stuff on the books for members who 'fraternised' with the opposite sex, but it wasn't often practiced. If only that stopped the worm of worry turning in his guts.
He was so carried away in his thoughts, he didn't notice Donna leaning in, and smiling. He turned back to her, and she kissed him. Lightly on the lips, just once: an entreaty to him. He kissed her back, more fully, with his hand cradling her neck, then they fell apart. Donna blushed, which made Matteo blush. They looked at each other for a long time. They smiled, and did not speak.
There arose clup clup clup of sandals on stone, and they froze. There was nowhere to hide. The outer door of the Archon's tower swung open, and one very specific man stepped out into the morning air: The Supreme Archon of the Isles, He Who Ruled Over Eleven Cities, Conduit Betwixt Heaven and Earth, Enforcer Of All Things Sacred, known for his booming speeches on sin, filth and unworthiness.
He was wearing a nightcap, and a plain robe, and looked very miffed about something. His belly poked up a small mountain beneath the robe, and his gray beard was askew. He closed his eyes, and sniffed. Once, twice, like a hound. Then he opened them.
“You can come out,” he said, “but I think it's dreadfully poor taste to have mustard on duck.
He rounded the corner and saw them. Then he noticed their sexes, and gave a little frown. “I thought we had a rule against such things, but I'm not such a miserable old man as to ruin a picnic,” he said, wandering over then sitting down beside them. “Budge up,” he said.
He picked up the whole duck and pulled one of the wings away, with enjoyment written all across his cracked face. He chewed at it until it was only bones, then he cracked the bones open and sucked out the marrow. This whole process took perhaps five minutes, in which nobody spoke. After it was done, Matteo raised a hand.
“Are you going to exile us, Archon?” he said. He put on his bravest face. He would do it, for his darling Donna.
The Archon's face twisted a little. “Why in the Hells would I want to do that?” he said.
“Because it's sinful,” said Matteo, “for us to be together and unwed. God frowns upon it, so goes the song.”
The Archon nodded. “True he frowns, but he's not sending his holy lightning down to blast you apart. God is great, and I am just a man. If he wants you wandering the desert, he can do it himself. Me? I'm just the delivery man. But since you're not currently exiled or struck by lightning, I'd say it doesn't bother him too much. No more mustard with duck though, that is right out. I have some nice cranberry sauce you can use. Come and ask me next time.”
He stood, wiped some crumbs from his robe, and smiled. He closed his eyes for a moment, then sighed. “Yes,” he said, “I think I'll leave you to it. Enjoy. And if you ever want to come up here, you only need ask. It's such a beastly climb.”
Then he left. Matteo could only gape. Donna shifted her weight, and her arm touched his cheek. He turned, and she gave him another short kiss. He turned to her, put one hand on her waist, and kissed her back. Nobody else disturbed them for the entire day.
|# ? Jul 28, 2014 03:50|
|# ? May 25, 2022 23:54|
I'll count the failures later.
|# ? Jul 28, 2014 04:04|