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  • Locked thread
Aug 2, 2002




is there any number of dragons that can raise a word count? What about a million loving dragons?


Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

crabrock posted:

a million loving dragons?

no erotica

Apr 12, 2006

crabrock posted:

is there any number of dragons that can raise a word count? What about a million loving dragons?

No sorry but great question thanks!

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.
I am the Dovahkiin; I am a dragon writing this, can I get extra words for being part dragon?

Apr 12, 2006

Fleta Mcgurn posted:

I am the Dovahkiin; I am a dragon writing this, can I get extra words for being part dragon?

No no one is getting extra words but thanks for asking!

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again

My name is TORPIKAL the MIGHTY ICE DRAGON whose spirit got stuck in this HUMAN FORM

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003

"It's DIE!"
Guys this is why you ask forgiveness, not permission.

Mar 22, 2013

it's crow time again


Apr 12, 2006
haha WOW this shitposting sure is fun especially from people who haven't signed up! great!


Jan 27, 2006
Sorry to have taken a little while with these.

Week 260 crits part II of II

17. Hawklad – The Girl in the Reactor

- It’s a pretty vignette, both a light-pretty and a dark-pretty.

- Other stories this week did happen to squeeze a bit more conflict into the tight space the word limit allowed. That’s my only real gripe with your piece. There was some emotional weight there, and some resolution to a conflict that took place before the story even began, but more tension would have been needed if you wanted to make this piece hit harder.

18. BeefSupreme – The Forgotten Places

- The opening sentence piques my interest.

- I take it Joel has schizophrenia?

- My interpretation is that Joel became a hermit to escape his family. My best guess is that his desire to escape the family stemmed either from some kind of mental illness or the fact of his family being genuinely overbearing. The ghosts “fleeing” at the end reads to me as an abatement of whatever mental torment Joel had been experiencing, now that he’s finally got the social support he needs.

- I had to head-canon it a bit, but the story works for me. Readers can get something out of this piece, but it takes some digging.

19. Uranium Phoenix – Time Will Forget Your Name

- “The old woman was sitting on a bench, in his priestly attire…” Pronoun. Did you originally intend the ghost to be a man?

- The biggest problem here is that I feel like I've read this story 100 times. It’s a pretty formulac arc by now: Protag encounters ghost relative, who has a message for protag. The message is a warning or as in this case a “remember me.” Something complicates protag’s adherence to the message, until the protag works it out and pays it forward somehow. There must be an average of nearly one story of this type per week in thunderdome, and the great majority of them are forgettable. I suspect for many authors, meeting a ghost relative seems like an exciting premise, interesting enough to carry a story. But way too often it’s a crutch instead, an excuse to lean on the coolness of “what if you could meet your dead realtives” rather than doing the hard work of making readers care about conflicts and characters. Dead relative stories are tough to make satisfying to the reader. They’re a dime a dozen and they go stale quickly, TD has had a few good ones, but even with those I’m struggling to remember their names and weeks of submission.

- Hawklad almost fell into the same trap this week, but he juiced it up a bit through the whole nuclear reactor thing.

20. Kaishai – So Far Away

- Your implicit observation about people being led around by their depression resonated with me. It really became apparent with Orrin’s answer in the negative for the bus driver’s question, "You got somewhere else to be?" Seems like when we’re feeling sorry for ourselves, we tend to slip into a mindset which holds that one lovely place in life is as bad as any other.

- It wasn’t lost on me, the metaphor of the bus offroading as a symbol of Orrin’s heretofore derailed life trajectory. It did make me ponder what set Orrin off prior to the story’s beginning anyway. lovely parents and alcohol maybe? Normally, I would’ve hoped for some more hints about that, but in fairness the word limit didn’t afford you much room.

- It seems that with maturity, Orrin has not only learned the value of taking an active role in his life (taking the driver’s seat) but also the value of living not merely for himself (much like how a bus driver’s role is to help others get to where they need to go). Agency and altruism all in one strong symbolic beat. Well done.

- You’ve done the work of placing gems for the reader to find and admire here. That went noticed and appreciated.

- While reading this story, I got the subjective sense that it is somehow personal to you, maybe moreso than most. Not certain if I’m on the right track, but it still feels like that way to me.

- Excellent story. I feel like it would have won an average week in TD, but this time there was stiff competition at the top.

21. Crabrock – Human Sacrifice

- Great prose, natural sounding dialogue.

- The story is pretty good, satisfying. My minor gripe would be that maybe a bit too much of the word count proportion was spent on the kids’ bantering at the outset and not quite enough on giving the ending its full punch. We get a feel for the nature of the kids and their relationship pretty quickly, but the ending where “The Dragon’s darkness” inhabits Shihab so-to-speak feels cursory. Still, this was an entertaining story and a good job overall.

22. Thranguy – The Opposite of a Memorial

- Some typos, e.g. “at near”.

- You do a skillful job at painting a picture of this world in broad strokes. It’s clear right away how repressive the regime is based on the ear bead and the bravery it takes the woman to admit how she bypassed the surveillance. Congrats on not falling into the meticulous world building trap.

- Every time you write a story, please give your characters names, at least n - 1 of them if not the whole ensemble.

- There were a few post-climate-collapse stories this time around, and of them, this one felt like the most serious attempt to offer a glimpse into a world like that.

- I don’t really have a good sense for why the not-quite-an-enforcer woman is there in the first place. Is she just exploring?

- The twist was a welcome addition to the plot. In retrospect I should have seen it coming, but you pleasantly surprised me fair and square. That image you paint of the man as a child hiding in the trunk while everyone around him is getting executed, it’s riveting. Great job with this.

- The ending works. Though I never figured out exactly what the woman was doing there, I certainly have a clear resolution to that question as relates to the man. Good story, thanks for writing this.

23. Djeser - Rue de les Fleurs

- This story is a pile of mostly pretty words, but those words aren’t doing much to build a compelling story. It’s not bad at all, don’t get me wrong, but the reader comes away from this thinking it’s a missed opportunity to put in a bit more effort and spin a tale that does something cooler with its concept. Dude jumps into a ruined canal, limps through tunnels, meets a supernatural entity that evokes a hostility in him that he can’t fully understand, then dude ends up back at street level. The most interesting part, the meeting with the entity (deity?) doesn’t amount to much other than ushering in the relocation of the protag. Seems like there might have been meatier content to engage with given this premise.

24. big scary monsters – Warm Bodies

- Your use of imagery functions well, your setting is detailed.

- “As I crossed a snow bridge the ground fell away and I dropped, screaming, in a confusion of falling snow.” See, here we have the first real conflict in the story, in fact a foreshadowing of the climax, but its impact is muted. All of the prose before this is casual, more-or-less carefree, and there isn’t a pronounced enough transition in the syntax to make the reader scan the onset of the conflict differently from what came before. I was reading this part with the same cadence as I had read, “Well before dawn we scarfed down scalding coffee and squashed brioche…”

- This wasn’t bad, there was a hook here, though not the strongest of ones. The climax and ending were sufficiently interesting though, so congrats on that.

25. super sweet best pal - Lakeside Architecture

-So let me get this straight, the protag goes to an abandoned beachside staircase to take pics for a school paper, finds a box of weed, isn’t the type to take it and isn’t the type to report it to authorities so he just mentions it offhand to his roommate who goes out there and dies trying to get to it.

-Really? All this for weed of all things? Not a motherload of black tar heroin, not a vengeful biker gang’s meth stash, just weed. In a state that would eventually go on to legalize it. Was this needless risk taking really Joey’s preferred method to try and get mildly high? Why couldn’t he just buy marajuana off some local dealer? And was he really fiending that hard that he thought it would be worth it to try and climb down a dangerous cliff to get to weed that didn’t belong to him?

-The most dramatic part of the story, Joey dying, happens off-screen. It’s reported to the protag by the police, and then the story just ends on the ambiguity of whether Joey’s death was homicide or an accident. It seems like you were reaching for a tragic impact, but the matter-of-fact way you wrote the story written, and the level of detachment between the protagonist’s actions and Joey’s death makes the story come up short.

-You can get a lot more detail about what I think w/r/t this story (maybe more than you want) on the Week 260 recap episode, whenever that drops.

26. flerp – To be Less Than a Queen

- The story kind of jumps around in time in a way that makes it come across as muddled. Your frame of reference shifts from the Baron’s execution, to the Queen’s life before the execution and then afterward, then to the time of her proposal and then again after her eventual death. The story itself is a moving target. We get disjointed snapshots of various times in the couple’s life, especially the Queen, but never a fully developed picture of any of these periods.

- Hard to crit this because the story comes across as hastily written, and I feel like me pointing out its problems isn’t telling you anything that you don’t already know about the piece.

- Somehow the piece does retain a kind of fairytale charm, so it’s got that going for it.

27. sparksbloom – A Vernal Pool

- This is pretty good. The contrast between Kelsey’s picture and the present day ruined waterslide evokes a sense that people can never truly return to old times about which they are nostalgic. The post-apocalyptic setting serves to make that point starker. The ending serves to show that if we were somehow able to look at the present from the vantage point of bygone times/places in our lives, we would see positives about our current circumstances that we might otherwise have overlooked completely.

Fleta Mcgurn
Oct 5, 2003

Porpoise noise continues.
If we are shitposting about dragons, aren't we fewmetposting?

Feb 25, 2014
u all suck hth

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007
Sebmojo pls probate any posts after this one that aren't an 'in' post, a crit, a story, etc.

Everyone else, shut the hell up or sign up

Mar 21, 2010
K i'm in this week.

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

crabrock posted:

is there any number of dragons that can raise a word count? What about a million loving dragons?

sounds like an in to me!

oh and in

big scary monsters
Sep 2, 2011

Appreciate the criticism, Jitzu!

Jul 29, 2007

"That’s cheating! You know the rules: once you sacrifice something here, you don’t get it back!"

Never done this before but looks like fun. I'm in.

Dec 5, 2013
Next verse same as the first.
Prompt: unlikable protagonist set in 19th century written in 2nd person

At the Pub in Morwellham Quay

Word Count: 997

I first saw your overly-fancy waistcoat when you came right up to my counter and interrupted me.

“Where would I find the Devon Great Consuls?”

“Just upstream,” I answered. “The mine's rail goes straight to it.”

“And I can find the boss there?”

“No, sir. He'd be up at Tavistock.” Your clean shaven little face started to look as irritated as I felt.

“And how do I get to Tavistock?” I gave you the directions to the canal and you left. Lucas, the pharmacist, called out.

“Another bitter, if you would.” I filled his glass, watching the beer swirl at just the right speed for just the right amount of head. “Fellow there's in for a long walk.” I smiled.

“He didn't ask if there were any barges, did he?”

* * *

Later that day, I was wiping down tables while the sailors laughed at their own conversations. They were regulars from the Swallow who brought dry goods and coal to the port, then drank in my pub while they waited for the tide to change. I liked them better than the mule drivers, who stayed all evening until I had to kick them out at close.

I certainly didn't expect to see you back. I didn't really think about you after you left my doors. You again came right up to the counter, but this time you waited until I acknowledged you.

“Successful trip?” I asked. Your eyes slid away from mine and you shuffled your feet.

“By the time I made it to town, the boss had left for the day. A cart driver gave me a lift back.” I wondered if you had been forced to walk the whole five miles. “Do, ah, you happen to know where I could find a place to stay the night?”

I didn't want to deal with you all night. I didn't want to have to be polite to you. I didn't want to encourage you. “There are inns down in Plymouth,” I offered. You shook your head.

“Even if anyone was willing to take me there, if I had to come back tomorrow, there's a good chance I'll miss him again.” One of the sailors spoke up.

“Martin has a room for reasonable. We've stayed before when the winds were too bad.” I barely kept from glaring at him.

“Would you let me stay, sir? I'll pay of course.”

* * *

And so I was forced to play host to you all night. After setting up the guest bed with the third-best mattress, setting a fresh fire in the hearth, getting you a good plate of stew and bread, and promising to wake you in the morning, I finally was able to close up and go to my own rest. As I snuffed the lights, I suddenly thought of Mary, dear Mary. I hadn't thought of her for weeks. Months, probably. And something about your overly expressive lips, your washed-out gray eyes made me think of her. drat you to hell.

* * *

I am a pub keep. I have run this establishment for twenty-two years. I am neither a butler, a footman, nor a maid. But I keep my word, so once I had gotten some porridge started I got your water ready as I said I would. When I entered your room after a perfunctory knock, I saw your clothes neatly folded and hung over the chair. You looked very peaceful. I deliberately kicked the foot of the bed, causing you to start up like a scared rabbit.

“Sorry. The porridge'll be ready in about half an hour. How do you take your tea?”

“Oh. However you like. I'm not particular, thanks.” I left you to your ablutions and got to my work. I was honestly surprised when you came down looking as sharp as you had yesterday. I would have laid money down that your butler did everything for you. As I served you tea and porridge and sat down to eat as well, I discovered that you are chatty over breakfast.

“I do hope I'll be able to meet up with the mine boss. My brother, you see, asked me to come out. I thought he'd be better suited for it but he keeps the business running day to day and while I help out with the ordering and that sort of thing, I can be spared. Or so he said. I think he wants me out of his hair for a bit.”

I didn't really want to encourage this verbal diarrhea, but you are a customer. “Oh?”

“Archie's the oldest, with Lenora next and then me, the baby. Everyone says I have Father's eyes though...” Here you trailed off and after a longer pause than seemed reasonable I looked up to see you staring into your empty teacup. I refilled it.

“Your father?”

“Dead a year this April.”

“I'm sorry.”

“That's sort of why I'm here, you know. Father had wanted to source the copper from Devon rather than importing it from God knows where, but prices were always too high. Now we're on a strong enough footing to afford it, and, well. I'm going to carry out his wishes, come hell or high water.”

What do I say to that? That you're a fool and I think your father was one, too? “Good luck to you, then. If you hurry, the barges should start leaving up the canal and you can catch a ride with them.”

“Thank you, sir. I really appreciate what you've done for me. I hope I'll be back with good news.”

As I watch you leave with a stupid spring in your stupid step, I look at the outrageous tip you've left me. I don't want to see you again, but I won't let you know it if you keep tipping like that.

* * *
For optional info on the setting, start here:

blue squares
Sep 28, 2007
Can't post for 18 hours!
That's not the second person

Feb 25, 2014

blue squares posted:

That's not the second person

your word count for the megabrawl is now 669 i dont need peanut gallery comments in thread tia

blue squares
Sep 28, 2007
Can't post for 18 hours!

flerp posted:

your word count for the megabrawl is now 669 i dont need peanut gallery comments in thread tia

Ok sub me or with that person who was extra

Jay W. Friks
Oct 4, 2016

Got Out.
Grimey Drawer
Question: I know it's supposed to be fantasy (preferably) high fantasy. Would it be alright if I set the story in our world but pulled fantastical elements in? Like I'm not sure how much fantasy is needed on the sparkle meter to make this legit.

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Jay W. Friks posted:

Question: I know it's supposed to be fantasy (preferably) high fantasy. Would it be alright if I set the story in our world but pulled fantastical elements in? Like I'm not sure how much fantasy is needed on the sparkle meter to make this legit.


Apr 12, 2006

Jay W. Friks posted:

Question: I know it's supposed to be fantasy (preferably) high fantasy. Would it be alright if I set the story in our world but pulled fantastical elements in? Like I'm not sure how much fantasy is needed on the sparkle meter to make this legit.

Low fantasy is okay I guess it's not really what I'm looking for but if you can make it really really great then go for it! Thanks for asking!

Not Nipsy Russell
Oct 6, 2004

Failure is always an option.
I think that's part of the challenge to this prompt. Exploring things like race issues, social standing, and where people poo poo is 100% geared towards low fantasy. Making those same issues relevant in a world full of dragons, goblins, Wizards, and ancient curses is not a natural fit for high fantasy.

Maybe think less Robert Jordan, more Piers Anthony. Fantasy dialed to eleven, but still manages to talk in his very creepy way about gender issues and social justice.

Good Luck!

Nov 14, 2006

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome


Not Nipsy Russell posted:

more Piers Anthony


Aug 7, 2013




Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Not Nipsy Russell posted:

I think that's part of the challenge to this prompt. Exploring things like race issues, social standing, and where people poo poo is 100% geared towards low fantasy. Making those same issues relevant in a world full of dragons, goblins, Wizards, and ancient curses is not a natural fit for high fantasy.

Maybe think less Robert Jordan, more Piers Anthony. Fantasy dialed to eleven, but still manages to talk in his very creepy way about gender issues and social justice.

Good Luck!

this kind of jolly chit chat will get you shouted at fyi and possibly challenged to a word duel

Mar 21, 2010
I mean Piers Anthony does talk about gender stuff in a creepy way so I'm not spoilin' for a fight

Mar 21, 2010
but also, fantasy without white people isn't inherently political and doesn't have to make a hamfisted point.

People with different melanin levels are still people, and not everything they do has to be a statement, you know? Maybe flerp just wants to see a Samoan guy fight a dragon.

Feb 25, 2014

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

but also, fantasy without white people isn't inherently political and doesn't have to make a hamfisted point.

People with different melanin levels are still people, and not everything they do has to be a statement, you know? Maybe flerp just wants to see a Samoan guy fight a dragon.

no i want to see good posts which none of these are

obligatory "but your posts are bad flerp heheheheheheheheheheheheeh" response coming soon hooray

Mar 21, 2010
but your posts are bad flerp heheheheheheheheheheheheeh

Tyrannosaurus, what exactly counts as a 'dragon'? Can we include stuff like Chinese dragons? Wyverns? Taniwha?

I guess what I'm asking is do you want a very specific high-fantasy "firebreathing giant lizard with wings and a weirdly fat belly" or are you accepting giant intelligent mythological reptiles of all stripes?

Apr 12, 2006

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

but your posts are bad flerp heheheheheheheheheheheheeh

Tyrannosaurus, what exactly counts as a 'dragon'? Can we include stuff like Chinese dragons? Wyverns? Taniwha?

I guess what I'm asking is do you want a very specific high-fantasy "firebreathing giant lizard with wings and a weirdly fat belly" or are you accepting giant intelligent mythological reptiles of all stripes?

Sure! I mostly want people to write good words and enjoy themselves and also include at least one cool creature from fantasy. And more mostly not write about white people. Thanks for the questions, Muffin!

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007
Threefold Law
1250 words

Two women stand at the edge of the millet fields. One woman is Tehun. The other is Hnuin. It is only there, far from their village, that Hnuin dares to stroke Tehun’s cheek.

“Just stay, and be my friend,” Tehun says, though she doesn’t shy away from Hnuin’s hand.

Hnuin looks down at her with eyes that are deep and black as wells. “I’m going to show you. I may not be able to give you a child, but I can give you a life. A good life.”

“You know my mother. She would die of heartbreak if there were never any grandchildren.”

“Do you live for your mother? Or for yourself?” Hnuin sinks down onto one knee. “Let me live for you.”

“You’re going to get yourself killed.” Tehun’s voice breaks on killed.

“I’ll show you,” Hnuin repeats. She kisses Tehun’s hands, rises to her feet, and sets off into the golden morning. She does not look back.


The way is pathless and unforgiving. The arid hills sharpen and turn into dry, craggy ridges where even the hardy millet cannot grow. Hnuin has no map. All she has is an ancient line of verse: Venture not into the teeth of the north, for there the serpent dwells…

The creature’s nest is a wide, flat basin sequestered deep in the lifeless maze of ridges. The cracked earth is littered with bones. Hnuin’s heart flutters in her chest, but she knows this is for lack of water and not fear. She holds her blowgun in one hand and a dart of pure onyx in the other.

The serpent is asleep, its tremendous body curled into a hill-sized knot of dusty scales. Dozens of frayed, fleshy wings jut from its hide. Its face is long and wizened, like a crocodile. Hnuin lingers at the edge of its nest. She only needs it to open one of its great eyes, but not before she’s close enough to use her dart.

She creeps forward, praying that the small crunch of her footsteps will be lost among the natural sounds of the basin. Some fifteen paces from the serpent’s snout, she stumbles over an elephantine femur and goes down in a bony clatter.

The serpent opens its eyes.

It doesn’t lift its head, doesn’t twitch so much as a wing. Hnuin has a moment to observe its expression, how it looks more curious than angry. Then she brings the blowgun to her lips, and, with one sharp puff of air, pierces the creature’s left eye with the onyx shard.


A season later, Gnaja-Kir stands at the edge of the serpent’s basin. A fragment of verse spins round in his mind, obnoxious as a children’s song…

Venture not into the teeth of the north, for there the serpent dwells,
Where pious hearts turn away from joyous works.
He who slays the beast becomes the beast.

Not a beast. The beast. Gnaja-Kir interrogated no fewer than nine mystics to confirm this interpretation. Under duress, all of them agreed: if one were to slay the serpent, one would become the serpent. They also confirmed that the only reliable way to kill the serpent was with a shard of fireglass.

“No man can unite the tribes under one name,” Gnaja-Kir told his council. “Perhaps we require something more than a man.”

Now, watching the serpent sleep, he feels disappointment. Its many wings look warped and threadbare. Its scales are dusted with lichen, as though it hasn’t moved in some time.

Once it is my spirit inside its body, Gnaja-Kir tells himself, it will be truly majestic. He touches the pouch full of onyx darts on his hip. All he needs is for the creature to open one of its great eyes.

He starts across the boneyard, moving with all the stealth of a seasoned hunter. He’s barely five paces from its craggy snout when the serpent opens its eyes.

You fool, says a voice in his mind. A woman’s voice. I feel your intent. Know this: He who seeks to become the beast will die by the beast.

“Deceiver,” Gnaja-Kir growls, and raises his blowgun to his lips. The onyx shard flies true, but instead of piercing the serpent’s eyes, it disintegrates into a cloud of black dust just before impact. Hands shaking, he reaches for another shard.

The beast uncurls with demonic speed and lunges for him, jaws wide.

Perhaps this is how I become the serpent, he thinks, and then death takes him in a wave of hot, earthy breath.


Tehun collapses to the ground as soon as she reaches the edge of the serpent’s domain. On her back, she carries all that is left of her life in the village. The rest is miles behind her, smoldering in heaps of ash and bone.

“Wake up,” she screams. Her voice echoes off of indifferent stone. The serpent sleeps on. Tehun struggles to her feet, head spinning from hunger and thirst. She starts across the nest, crushing bones into shards with every step.

She calls as she walks: “Send me to whichever hell you sent Hnuin to. It will be better than this world.”

The serpent opens its eyes and cocks its head to one side, inquisitive. Months of dust slough off its flanks as it moves.

Tell me of your village, says a voice in Tehun’s mind, barely more than a whisper.

Tehun laughs despairingly. “My village? My village was my life, until war came. Now it’s nothing.”

You lost your children?

“I had no children. The one I loved...the one you took from me...couldn’t give me children. And I never stopped waiting for her.” Tehun laughs again. “But you’re the last one who saw her, so I suppose this is as close as I’ll ever be. Do you remember which bones are Hnuin’s? Did you even know her name?”

I know it, whispers the serpent.

“Kill me,” Tehun shrieks. “Send me to her. There is nothing here for me.”

A shudder ripples through the serpent’s body. Its many frail wings tremble. With a woosh of wind-blown sand, the beast dissolves into a billowing cloud of dust. Tehun coughs and shields her eyes.

Where the serpent was moments before, now there is a swath of empty space. Tehun squints, sees a small, curled up shape in the midst of the swirling dust. She puts a hand over her mouth, makes a noise of disbelief. Then she starts to run.

Hnuin is naked and trembling on the hard earth. She lifts her head at the sound of Tehun’s footsteps. They share a long, wordless look, and then Tehun falls to her knees and takes Hnuin in her arms.

“How?” Tehun gasps.

“Whoever kills the beast, becomes the beast,” Hnuin says. “Whoever seeks to become the beast, dies by the beast. Whoever loves the beast, frees the beast.” Her voice is ragged from thirst and lack of use.

Tehun lowers her head, brushes Hnuin’s forehead with her lips. “I have water,” she says. “Enough to get us somewhere better than here.”

Hnuin reaches up, trails her fingers through Tehun’s tangle of black hair. “How did you know?”

“I didn’t,” Tehun says. “I only knew that with you, there’s life. Without you, there isn’t. So I prepared for both.”

She lets Hnuin pull her into a fierce embrace, and their lips find each other for the first time, there on the basin floor, surrounded by the bones of a broken curse.

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


Force of Nature is Archived

Uranium Phoenix fucked around with this message at 06:41 on Dec 7, 2017

Sep 6, 2012
1,249 words

“Is this the entrance? Hardly looks large enough to fit a horse.” “My lord, looks can be deceiving.” The old man wobbled atop his horse near constantly, though he never fell. “We shall stick to the plan, regardless, draw the beast out and have the men vanquish it in the open field.” This was easier said than done, of course. For the dragon lived atop a vast spire, accessible only via an extensive cave network. This would either be Amir’s most prestigious day, or his last; although he preferred not to think of the latter possibility. And so, Amir set off into the dank and dingy crevice with the brightest scholar in the Sultanate, and a dozen men of the Order of Assassins. The rest of his two thousand strong army waited outside, almost as nervous as the spelunkers themselves.

Most dragon layers were infested with all manner bandits or drakes. They formed a symbiotic relationship, the minions would protect the dragon from wayward adventurers, and in return would be able to acquire a scrap of the wealth it collected. Any man caught in such a layer would be put to death immediately of course, as those who would treat evil are inevitably complicit in it.
After the initial half-hour of travel through winding corridors and claustrophobic tunnels that were otherwise uneventful, the party came upon a structure. A grand marble staircase, as pristine as the skin of a newborn. By any reasonable guess it led straight up into the peak of the mountain. The old man seemed concerned, “Dragons are some of the most intelligent creatures the gods ever created. I fear we are merely stumbling into a trap.”
Despite his concerns, there was only one direction for the party to go; a veteran assassin volunteered to lead the way. It soon became apparent that the staircase was not designed for men. The steps were too high and far apart, more appropriate for an ogre, though ogre architecture is known to be very rudimentary. No, this structure was different.

It was several hundred feet from the top of the spire to the bottom of the stairs, and the men’s weapons and armor slowed them greatly. Eventually however, the persistence of the human spirit won out over the oppressive boot of gravity as the spiral ended in a two great wooden double doors. Each door stood ten men long and half as many high. Strange cuneiform markings were engraved upon them, as though with a chisel. The markings surrounded a great, unmistakably draconic claw print. One of the assassins turned to the scholar, “The dragons built this, do you suppose?” Another of the assassins interjected, “ Dragons can fly, idiot, they don’t need to build stairs.” The scholar finally replied, “Your rude friend is right, perhaps this was built by slaves, as a means to offer sacrifice and communicate with the beasts atop the spire. But the dragon cults were extinguished half a millennia ago, this structure was recently built.”
“Al-Zanuur, you have been of great assistance, you have my leave to seek shelter down in the cave until the drake is slain.” The scholar nodded and began descending the structure. “As for the rest of you, be prepared. If what the esteemed scholar said was true we may encounter an unexpected foe.”

With great effort, the men pushed one of the doors open. Amir and the assassins crept through. The group entered into a large chamber with a roof supported by four columns, but open to the air on its four sides. On the roof was painted a winged serpent which coiled out from the center-point. The double doors were sunken into the floor with a ramp leading up into the chamber. Just over the ramp lay the dragon, sleeping on top of a large pile of the sultanate’s greatest treasures.
The group began creeping towards it, understanding their mission, but were soon startled by… a voice? Voice without weight, speech without sound, yet it was without mistake that of the dragon. “You wish to kill me earth-beasts, why?” The dragon still seemed asleep, motionless, not even a twitch rang out through its black-clad body. Amir looked around, to see if anyone else heard this voice. The men were looking amongst each other, and towards Amir, likely wondering the same. Fear gripped his body, but his throat remained free of its clasp, “You have attacked our armies, looted our treasures, and terrorized our lands. Your primordial kind do not take readily to civilization or diplomacy, so for the safety of our people you shall be put down.”

With a swipe of its claw the dragon swatted away an assassin who had been slowly advancing towards it. The poor soul was hurled out of the chamber, and down the mountain, by the blow. The dragon quickly went back to resting, its eyes never having opened. “I understand your civilization, filth, and I reject it. Your sultan takes your wealth as payment for living and working on ‘his’ land. He takes legitimacy from the longevity and continuity of his bloodline; and enforces his rule through brute force. Yet when I do the same, it is villainy.”

Amir nearly exploded with anger, “The Sultan is a noble ruler who treats his people with honor. It is by the will of Adzam that he and his lineage rules. Your kind are mere servants of Ilbis, and you will never again rule over men.” “Ah yes, Adzam and Ilbis, Order and Chaos, I knew them both. I forgot, however, just how ignorant you and your kind are.”

Some have said that Amir’s temper was rather short, but he was certain that few men could keep calm after having his kingdom, religion, and race insulted so pompously by such a creature “Enough of this, men slay the blasphemous beast!”
The assassins charged, and in response the dragon awakened fully and gave a mighty roar. Steam began billowing out from the creature’s nostrils and mouth. A hail of crossbow bolts covered the advance of a half- dozen men. The bolts were slick with deadly poison, but all failed to penetrate the tough skin. The dragon proved to be a skilled combatant. One swipe of its hand disemboweled two men. A tail swipe crushed the spine of a third. Another was knocked off the mountain by a head butt. The final one managed to plunge a sword into the dragon’s neck, but failed to sever any blood vessels. The dragon responded quickly, swiping him away and crushing the man between its jaws.

“Retreat!” Amir ordered

Amir happened to be closest to the dragon, while the surviving assassins managed to escape down the stairs, the dragon pinned him to the floor before he could even turn to run. “You idiot, you fool. I did not acquire what I waited here for, and so you shall not obtain what you came for.” Amir didn’t understand what the dragon meant, but he was certain it involved his imminent death. Instead the dragon used its tail to push the entire treasure pile out of the chamber, down the mountain. Then it pushed amir down the ramp, hitting the double doors with an unpleasant thud. He lay there stunned for a few seconds before getting back on his feet and seeing the dragon in the sky, flying towards the horizon. He would return with neither the dragon’s hide, nor the sultan’s treasure.
He almost would have preferred to be killed

Jul 29, 2007

"That’s cheating! You know the rules: once you sacrifice something here, you don’t get it back!"

The Gift
1250 words

In Sayyid's village, the wind smelled like spice and canaan dogs howled at the moon. The men of the village wore white robes with saffron scarves and shaped their jet-black beards with camel fat. The women wore shimmering veils and tattooed their hands when they married. Centuries ago, a dust witch had used iron chains to seal a jinn inside the boulder at the centre of the village. It could talk and it was wise. It had been this demon that had led to him being chosen for the task.

“It must be one without family,” it had told the elders. They chose Sayyid.

Now, he was dying. His eyes were blinded by the sun and his mouth was so dry the insides of his cheeks were cracking. He limped across the sand then tripped, stumbled and collapsed. His pack sat atop his back like a tortoise shell.

'This is it,' he thought, 'I have failed them. I have not found the dragon. I have not brought the rain.'

He was too exhausted to sob and the few tears that crept from his eyes were mostly salt. With his ear to the ground, he heard a deep rumble, but he was too exhausted to lift his head.

'The dragon,' he thought, 'is too late.'


He woke with wind howling in his face and music blaring all around him. His mouth was wet and when he inched open his eyes, the desert was rushing to meet him. He had never moved so fast, not even in his dreams.

“Motherfucker, you nearly gave me a heart attack!” a man laughed beside him.

He was in an open-top sports car. The driver was a huge man with a handsome face as bald as a boy's. He wore a crimson robe with a golden fringe, and dark sunglasses. He told Sayyid how he had found him in the desert, poured water down his throat and dragged him to the car. His name was Bilal and he was from the city.

“You have saved many lives,” Sayyid told him.

“Oh?” Bilal replied.

“My village has had no rain for months. We are dying. The speaking stone told us that if I honoured the dragon with gifts, it would converse with the heavenly kings and they would send rain.” Suddenly, panic pierced his chest.
“My pack! Where is it?”

“Relax, friend. It's in the back. What's in there that's so important, anyway?”

“Everything we have,” he said with a sigh. “Our best meat, jasmine, two gold coins, the speaking stone even gave some of its wisdom. It is how I will honour the dragon.”

“Are gifts the best way to honour someone?”

“To honour dragons, yes,” he said.

“Where does this dragon of yours live?”

He shrugged and Bilal roared with laughter, slapping him on the back. The stranger's joy infuriated him.

“Stop the car! I must continue searching.”

“Not tonight,” Bilal told him. “I saved your life and I am not letting you back out to die. We're going to the city to buy supplies. Tomorrow, if you would have it, I will drop you back.”

In the distance, a colossal rukh swooped over the desert and plucked a scorpion, the size of a Jeep, from the ground. The scorpion flailed its sting but was crushed within the bird's solid gold talons. Flaky white meat spilled from the cracks in its armour as the rukh flapped its rainbow wings and vanished into the sky.

“See, there are some who are having a worse day than you,” Bilal said.


Sayyid knew of the city, but he had never visited. There seemed to be infinite cars, infinite people. Towering buildings of concrete, metal and glass. Everywhere, noise and movement. The men had no beards and the women did not cover their hair. The children had foreign accents.

“You may stay at my hotel tonight,” Bilal said, parking in a plaza.

“No,” Sayyid replied. “Thank you, but I must keep searching.”

“Very well. Be here tomorrow at midday.”

Bilal handed him his pack, then embraced him about the shoulders. He smelled of perfumes and oils and it was the sweetest scent Sayyid had ever known.

“I hope you find your dragon,” Bilal said. “And be careful. This is not your village. Many would kill you for those two coins and leave everything else, including the wisdom, to rot.”

He promised to be careful, but within minutes he was lost. The towering streets were claustrophobic to a man who had lived his whole life beneath open sky. His stomach ached with hunger and when he finished the bottle of water Bilal had given him, he found himself both starving and bloated. The city people could tell he did not belong. The adults eyed him suspiciously. A gang of children pelted him with stones until he ran into a labyrinth of alleyways. In these darker hidden streets, glowing efrit prostitutes bared their breasts at him from upstairs windows. Men with the shadows of hyenas smoked and drank alcohol openly on the corners.

“What the gently caress are you looking at?” one growled.

He stammered in return until the creature threw his cigarette at him. Sayyid ran until he could not breathe. In a nearby street, a drunk sorcerer spat glowing incantations into the sky. Sayyid walked slumping and hunched so as not to draw attention.

Around midnight, he placed his pack on the ground and lifted his robes to relieve himself against a stone wall. When he turned back, his pack was gone. He had not even heard the thief who had stolen it. He collapsed to the road, his own piss pooling around him, and cried until he slept.


The next day, Sayyid returned to the plaza and waited. Bilal was not there. He sat atop a hot brick wall and stared at the ground, his heart filled with dread.

“I'm sorry, friend!” Bilal cried when he finally appeared. “I was at a meeting with some very important people. It ran longer than I expected, but I am here now! I will take you home.”

Sayyid climbed into the car without a word and sat, staring miserably from the window. They drove in silence, parking atop a sand dune looking over the village. Below, the blind oryx shaman escorted their herds to pick at the last scraps of limp grass.

“Good luck, Sayyid,” Bilal said. “I hope your dragon forgives you for losing his gifts.”

“The dragon is not known for its forgiveness,” he said with a glum nod.

“Stones are not known for their wisdom, Sayyid. You should listen to them less.”

He turned and gave a half hearted smile and their eyes met. Slowly, Bilal leant over and kissed him. Sayyid froze, then closed his eyes. Bilal placed a hand on his chin and he allowed him to. They kissed in a cocoon of perfume. They parted, gently, and Bilal gave him the warmest smile he had ever seen.

“I've never…before...not with a...” Sayyid said, swallowing hard. Bilal put a finger to his lips.

“Well, consider me honoured. You are a good man, Sayyid. All will be fine.”

“I hope so,” he said.

As he stepped out onto the dune, there came a deep rumble of thunder from the distance. Thick black clouds rolled out like mighty waves over the bluffs. Below him, men in white robes and women in shimmering veils rushed out of their huts carrying basins to gather the rain.

Oct 30, 2016

The Trick
1235 words

"You come to kill it?" the man asked, squinting at me. “Nobody does that anymore. Nobody’s come to try for years.”

“Why not?” I chuckled. "Is there really nobody brave enough? Me and Calla are gonna beat it.”

“I should hope so. The whole town’s dying.”

I could see the truth of his words around us, in the red dust and the empty houses. I suppose I fit in well enough. I looked like a sorry excuse for a wizard after having trekked so far from the capital I called my home to be here, back in the awful wasteland I’d left behind so long ago.

“After we’ve looted its hoard, I’ll be rich enough to buy this town and everything in it,” I said. “Right, Calla?”

Beside me, Calla nodded, seemingly unbothered by the heat and the sulphur smell in the air. She was looking at the village women with glass beards around their necks, with hair like hers in deep black braids as they hauled water from the depths of the well. She had the same umber skin as them. As me.

My mouth was dry. I pointed towards the waterskin hanging from the villager's belt, asking, “How much for that?”

The man did not look like he was eager to part with it at all. I knew a trick to make him change his mind, though. With a flourish of my hand, I conjured a couple of golden coins – illusions, nothing but mist come morning, but by then I’d be out of town. I was ready to hand them over, but then Calla grasped my wrist and looked me in the eye. She had such a commanding gaze. It was part of the reason I’d let her hire me in the first place.

“Don’t,” she whispered.

Usually she let me get away with it. I held back my magic and I might have pouted, but she reached into her own purse and paid the man herself. I filled my mouth with sweet water and went with her out of the pitiful village.

We were headed for the dragon’s domain: a flat, grassy plain, everything ashen in color and dry enough that the very ground was cracking open. As if reading my thoughts, Calla looked back at me and said, “I know you hate it. Think about the gold.”

“Oh, I think about it every step of the way.”

That was the deal. The gold was mine. I figured Calla was the type to go for the glory instead, but in that case, it was a wonder that she didn’t regret it now when we walked along dusty trails that had once been riverbeds. On a flat rock we found a body, left like a noble on his marble slab in the temple. His sword and shield laid by his side.

"Poor guy," I said. "He didn't even make it that far."

She nodded. "Why didn't he know that a shield won't do a thing against dragonfire?"

"Maybe he was a country boy," I suggested, and now I could see our goal in the distance: a bone-white, dried-out lake. "Good thing we're city slick."

Calla laid her hand on my shoulder. I wanted to look tough to her, but it was so hard to do when I caught my first glimpse of gleaming scales nestled in the bottom of the pit.

"Good thing we're wizards," I added.

The hand on my shoulder was gone again. Calla looked less than confident, too: Sweat gleamed on her forehead. She clenched her hand as if casting a spell, but I couldn’t figure out what she did. Perhaps she had simply cast a quick glamour-spell to hide some nervous tick.

Another corpse, this one wielding a crossbow, hid behind a rock to my left. I passed it without commenting on it. Every weapon had been tried by now, but the dragon still lived. Our plan was to bring no weapon at all, and it had been Calla's idea. Now she led the way, reminding me one last time -

"Do it for the gold. And remember the ravine,” she added, the last word deep in her throat.

And we crested the edge of the lakebed and I saw the dragon and the gold at once.

The dragon was not as big as I had feared. More quality than quantity. Still frightening. It had teeth that looked like nothing would shatter them, scales like titanium, a fat belly dragging across the ground. Its claws were digging into the dirt as it rested in the sun.

Behind it - behind the heat shimmer - gold and jewels lay in a blurry heap.

I took a last sip of water, planted my staff in the ground and summoned my magic. The incantations cam easy, creating things far more impressive than illusory coins. A booming sound and a burst of fire, like lightning, woke the dragon – it started kicking, flaying the air with its front legs before it rolled, eyes focusing not on me and Calla, but our illusions. She made knights with spears gleaming in the sun, almost inviting the dragon to follow as they ran, all to overwhelm its lizard brain.

Enraged, it scrabbled towards the fake soldiers. Calla led it out of the lake and up into the dry grass above. We both knew where to lure it – she’d told me about a gash in the earth behind a low hill to the east, hard to notice before you were close enough to fall. And she had said it led straight to the underworld. It had claimed the lives of sheep and kids around these parts - and now it would claim the dragon. My grip on my staff grew shaky, my breath ragged as the magical exertion tore at me, but I remembered the gold before I cast a final spell. I drove the dragon into a rage. The sudden burst of fireworks behind it made it lurch forward, shocked and dazed, making a leap for all its illusory enemies.

Claws scraped against the edges of ravine. There was a roar, a sound of scales sliding across stone, four legs failing to find purchase as the dragon fell deeper and deeper. It disappeared. It died.

I went back towards the lake, sliding down the sandy slope. Reaching the hoard at last, I laid my hand on the gold and felt my breath leave me.

Oh. Of course.

The lockets and gem-encrusted necklaces slipped between my fingers. The silver melted away, the mirrors turned to mist. Calla’s illusion, the one she'd cast as soon as we came (though she had planted the seed far earlier) had succeeded in pulling me along.

There was no reward here, not even water, and the bitter climb back up had me choking on dust. That was why nobody had come to kill the dragon lately. They’d seen no reason to, when it had nothing to be claimed.

Calla still stood with her back turned to me, facing the horizon. I saw her black hair flowing down her back. Remembered how much she had in common with the villagers.

I hated this part of the country; I had left it for a reason. As had Calla, I realized. There had never been any treasure at all except this barren land - but it was hers, and we had saved it.

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
Monsters, And Nothing Besides

1249 words

The lines coiled like serpents towards the gates of the great city of Kas, Akane’s brothers and cousins, many still wearing scorch-marks of dragon-fire on their clothes, still wearing raw burns on their skin. They trudged forward in quiet despair, moving slowly toward the walls. Word had spread. They knew what awaited them at the gate.

“Do you bring gold?” the guards asked to shaking heads. “Do you know a trade?” A master potter might make it through, to serve apprentice to a guildsman young enough to be his grandson. Most, hunters and warriors, had no suitable answer. “Turn back,” the guards would say. “Kas has no more need of Vella thieves and beggars.”

When Akane reached the front, she had no better answer than her battle-lore. But the guard surprised her. “Enter,” he said.

“Why?” said his partner. “She isn’t-”

“She is pretty,” he said, “As her folk go. Such a beauty can always find some work.”

The partner laughed and leered. “I suppose the brothels have as much right as the guilds to have at the best of this sad lot.” The first man blushed.

Akane almost turned and walked back to the campsite, but her brothers begged her to go on. “Do what you must,” they said. “Earn coin. Kas is the city of a thousand knights, surely one can be found brave enough to fight Tkole.”

So Akene went into the city, seeking work. She got more than a few offers of the kind the leering man had mentioned, some she had to flash her hidden dagger reject, but luckily none went any further than that. She asked for jobs at drinking-house across the city, getting rejections kindly and unkindly. One of the more regretful owners suggested she try in the Sunward district, at The Invisible Sword or one of the other alehouses near there.

The Sunward was where the foreign-born lived and worked and drank. Not many Vella, but Erusk from the Far North, and tattooed Sivamen and others she didn’t recognize. The owner of The Invisible Sword was a huge and hairy Erusk named Girar, and he hired her on the spot.

She worked for days, keeping silent, listening. She tried to give half of her wages to her brothers, to help them get by outside the gates, but they refused. “Forget us,” they said. “Do what you must to see Tkole dead.” So she kept her coin, and kept working, and while she did not forget them she did not visit again, either.

Eventually she opened up to her fellow workers and the regulars. Girar had been a knight, and his old sword and shield adorned the wall behind where he served. When she asked why they called it The Invisible Sword when she could see it right there, he said “You can? You must have some kind of witch-blood in you, then.” Everyone present swore up and down that they could only see the shield and a pair of empty nails, and it was more than a week before she realized she’d been tricked. Everyone laughed, but it was a warm kind of laughing.

Many of the customers were knights, so she asked them about dragon-fighting. “Everyone knows to watch out for the fire-breath,” said Vivic, his Sivan accent thick, “But also mind well their acid blood.”

“They may try to reason with you, talk you away. Don’t be fooled. Some may once have been men, but dragons are monsters, and nothing besides.”

“With so many knights here,” she asked finally, “Why has nobody slain Tkole?”

“The big one out east?” said Vivic. “No profit in it. That’s a curse dragon. Every coin in its hoard could make a man into a dragon, with just a hint of a greedy heart.”

“So you let it run free?”

“It’s killed plenty of knights willing to try,” said Girar. “Most now shelter behind Kas’s walls, and seek easier prey.”

Akane kept working, purchasing pieces of boiled-leather armor as she could afford them. Then one day the skies were dark with ash. Many strangers took shelter in the bar, some native men of Kas. A pair of them sat, drinking, talking to each other.

“So old Nkole came back to finish the job.”

“Good riddance. Greedy damned Vella, steal anything that’s not nailed down if you turn your back.”

Akane walked toward them, not sure in her heart if to shout or spit or slit throats. She felt Girar’s hand on her shoulder, holding her back. He kept her busy until they finished their drinks, wilting under the weight of uncomfortable stares, and left the establishment.

“How can they call us greedy?” she asked her friends. “Would they see a starving man set down at a feast and call him a glutton?”

“Probably,” said Girar. “They say we Erusk would rather punch a man in the face than shake hands.”

“What folly,” said Vivec. “Punch in the gut. Hit the face, you’ll break your hand. They say the Sivan love oathbreaking so much we’ll swear ten before breakfast just to be ten times forsworn by sunset.”

“They are fools,” said Girar. “And they aren’t calling you greedy. They’re calling you amateurs. Professionals know the best loot has to be pried loose.” Akane thought she saw the man’s eyes dart to the wall behind the bar. She wondered all day if she had been imagining it, trying to justify her own wants, but when he left her to close the bar alone that night, she knew she hadn’t.

Akane left the city that night, turning the coin she still had into hardtack. She walked across burned-out fields and farms, through old lands she felt ashamed to not even recognize. From there, she went to the mountain.

Tkole challenged her at the cavern’s mouth. He was a massive beast, a living fortress of scales with a long crocodilian mouth at the front and an even longer serpentine tail at the end. “Who comes?” said the dragon. “Another fool?”

“An offering,” she said. “A virgin princess of the Vella, given as tribute.” She had as much right to that title as any woman alive, and was still technically pure in that way. She hoped that was enough truth that it could not smell the lie underneath.

“Do you know what use a Dragon has for princesses?” asked Tkole, retreating into the cave and bidding her to follow. When they were deep within, when the only light was the blaze of Tkole’s eyes and their reflections in the gold-lined floor, he explained. Princesses were a delicacy consumed alive, painfully, and very, very slowly. Dragons are monsters, and nothing besides.

When Tkole leaned forward to savor the first bite, Akane lunged beneath his jaw and drove the Invisible Sword - truly invisible in living hands - deep into the dragon’s weakest spot, near the bottom of its neck. It reared back, and Akane sliced downward, opening the beast’s guts onto the floor.

It died slowly, and those glowing eyes still lit the room after all movement stopped. Akane walked around the dragon’s corpse and found the lowest parts of it. She hacked at them with the Invisible Sword, forcing it between scales, splashing more blood onto the floor. She walked around the piled gold, pushing the outside coins into the pool. She waited, and watched as the concentrated aqua regia blood melted gold and stone together, leaving no coin whole.

Akane kept Tkole’s eyes as her trophy. They never stopped glowing.


Mar 21, 2010
After all my dumb questions, I gotta drop this week. Sorry Tyran, you're a cool dude.

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