In, I'll take Sleeping Beauty.
|# ¿ Jan 28, 2015 12:36|
|# ¿ Oct 23, 2021 22:05|
The Shepherd's Daughter - 1345 words Sleeping Beauty
Once upon a time, a shepherd girl lived with her parents in a stone cottage by the sea. They were poor, but they had everything they needed to live, and they were happy enough. The only cloud in her sky, as she grew older, was that they only saw other people when she helped her mother drive the flocks to market, and that was only once a year. Her name was Agnes, and she was lonely. She wished for a companion of her own age, to wander the hills with her.
In the summer of her thirteenth year, a thunderstorm frightened the sheep and split the flock, and Agnes chased the lost ones far from home. Dusk came down and found her caught in the open. She had been out at night many times before and had no fear of wolf or bandit. The hills were her home, and she sat under a tree to wait for morning to come. On the wrong side of midnight she heard the bleat of a lost sheep and got up in the dark, calling out to the silly creature, following its cries. It took her until dawn to catch up, and she found herself in a part of the hills she had never visited before. The valley before her was thickly coated in gorse and thorns, twisted into a maze that would have daunted the bravest warrior, and in the middle sat a tiny cottage of stone, just like the one Agnes lived in with her parents. The poor sheep was caught in a thornbush, all its struggling just getting it more stuck, and Agnes spent an hour calming it and cutting at the thorns with her knife until she could let it free. It fled back up the hill.
Agnes should have gone after it, but the mystery of the little house among the thorns called to her and she walked along the edge of the tangled plants until she found a way in that looked a little easier. Many times she had to turn sideways and squeeze between prickly bushes, or crawl on her belly under thick, spiky brambles. Her clothes were sturdy but even so, by the time she emerged in front of the little cottage she was bleeding from half a dozen shallow scratches and her shirt sleeve was ripped to shreds. The cottage itself was small and slumped, as if the very walls were weary. Nothing stirred in the tiny clearing amid the thorns. Even the air seemed still and lifeless. As Agnes drew closer to the wooden door, she looked down and saw a mouse lying on the cracked stone path. At first she thought it was dead, but it was so strange to see it there in the open that she crouched down to peer at it, and saw the furry little side rising and falling with the mouse's breathing. Not dead then, asleep. But what could leave a mouse sleeping out on the path?
She stepped carefully over it and put her hand on the door. It stuck at first, but a little pressure overcame its resistance. Inside, the cottage looked very much like the one she lived in at home. She had somehow expected it to be coated in dust and cobwebs, but in fact it was clean, as if someone had just swept the floor and tidied up and then stepped outside. Coals in the hearth still glowed faintly as if the fire had just gone out. The sleeping chamber was separated from the living space by only a curtain of rough linen, and a dim glow came from behind it. What kind of witch might live here, in this silent house in the thorns? Agnes took her knife in hand and eased herself as quietly as she could across the stone floor. She stopped to take a breath, and gather up her courage, and carefully pulled the curtain aside.
A boy of about Agnes's age lay on a thick mattress of stuffed straw, covered to the waist in a warm wool blanket. His hair was of thick, copper curls and his skin was milk-fair, with a spray of freckles across his nose. He was dressed in a good wool shirt and his hands had been folded on his chest. Just like the mouse, he seemed dead, but Agnes watched him closely and could discern the faint rise and fall of his chest. A candle sat on the windowsill above his resting place; it glowed, but the flame was still and did not flicker.
Agnes watched for a long time, hardly daring to breathe, until at last she could tell herself that there were no nasty surprises waiting here. Just a boy asleep. Even so, she kept one hand on her knife as she reached out the other to touch his, to shake it. His flesh was warm and living, but he didn't stir. Not even the rhythm of his breathing changed. Agnes grew bolder and shouted in his face; she took him by the shoulders and shook him, but all that happened was that his hands fell from his chest and she felt guilty for disturbing his peace.
She folded his hands back on his chest, and left him there to look around the cottage more carefully. She found two more mice, sleeping where they lay, but no sign of any other person, no clothing or food left in the house. She sat down a while on a wicker chair to think about what to do, and decided at length that she would leave, being careful to mark her way, so that she could tell her parents about this place. Perhaps someone in the big town would know what to do about a boy trapped asleep.
She stood over him for a minute longer, and then, because he was fair of face and beautiful, and because in her heart she felt sympathy for his loneliness here in this little house, she bent over him and kissed his forehead. To her great shock he gave a sigh, and his eyes opened. They were sky-blue and clear and he gazed up at her without fear; she was the one more afraid, and started back against the
curtain. Behind her in the cottage she heard the panicked skittering of mice. The candle flame flickered.
"You have awakened me," he said, and his voice was soft, and he smiled at her so sweetly that her fear left her. She sat on the bed beside him and he told her his story. His name was Peter and he had lived just such a lonely shepherd's life as hers in the valley. On one dark winter's night a traveller had come across the hill, and pounded on the door, demanding food and shelter. His parents had of course let the traveller inside, and done all they could to provide, but the traveller's appetite was endless, and he ate up all the food they had laid by for the next week, and drank all of the good wine. At last Peter's father had spoken out and told the traveller he must leave, or they would surely all starve, and the traveller had laughed and thrown off his rough cloak to reveal a tall, beautiful fairy lord.
"If you are so concerned about starving," he said, "I will take away this extra mouth from your table!" He pointed at Peter, and that was the last the boy could remember. He didn't know where his parents might be now; he supposed they had left him there when they could not wake him. The thorns had grown up after they were gone, and he had been asleep here now for who knew how long.
"Come home with me," Agnes said, and he agreed, smiling. Hand in hand they fought their way back through the terrible tangle of thorns, and hand in hand they made the journey back to the house of Agnes's parents by the sea. And if they have not died, they are living there still.
|# ¿ Feb 1, 2015 23:32|
Thanks very much!
|# ¿ Feb 7, 2015 00:35|
These are the best crits ever even if you did accuse me of stealing lines how dare you!
thanks for drawing me a star though
|# ¿ Feb 10, 2015 12:09|
Wow, thanks Kaishai!
|# ¿ Apr 13, 2015 11:21|
The circlejerk thing isn't even slightly true. I won the second week I ever entered.
|# ¿ Apr 23, 2015 13:23|
Sorry to bother the thread again, but how do I get another avatar? My last one was not very pleasant and I feel like it misrepresented my views about child rearing, but it at least made it easy to find my posts in threads. I like to be able to scroll through a thread quickly and find my last post so that I can continue reading the rest of the thread from that point. Without an avatar, it is very hard to find my last post because I have to read all the names. I have looked in my settings but I do not see anything. At the top of the page there is a link to pay for premium avatars, but I just want a basic one with an icon. Thank you.
this is not a very good story.
|# ¿ Jun 15, 2015 18:20|
I swear to Christ you fuckers keep using passive voice in action scenes! Why would you do that? ACTION SCENES! gently caress
|# ¿ Jun 15, 2015 20:25|
Oh and I can't speak for the other judges this week, but I'm doing my judging without author names, so if I tell you your stuff is horrible, it's because it is horrible.
|# ¿ Jun 15, 2015 20:47|
Judgeburps volume 1: gently caress all of you
I judged without author names and I'm not about to go and look them up now. I hope you remember what your story was called.
Hank Armstrong: Metalsaur Slayer
I thought this was both funny and entertaining. There were a couple of places where the humour was a bit try-hard but overall I enjoyed myself and chuckled a few times reading it, and that's more than can be said for most people who try to be amusing in Thunderdome. There was action and the action was clearly described and amusing. Nice job.
There were a lot of really irksome little grammatical issues that got on my nerves here. Learn to punctuate. It was bad enough on occasion that I couldn't tell what the hell you meant to convey. I got no real sense of either the protagonist or the baddie. The Metalsaur in the story before you was a more convincing human being than either of your characters. A poor effort.
Baptism of Blood
Okay full disclosure, I was raised Irish Catholic and apparently St Patrick meant more to me than I realised, because your story pissed me off. There's a reason 'it was a dark and stormy night' is considered a stupid cliche, and you weren't the only offender this week but I'm picking on you right now so tough. Why the hell did your version of Patrick go nuts and start murdering people? Because they asked him to wait till morning? Was it supposed to be funny? You wrote a story about a contextless fight scene where a man murders a bunch of people for no apparent reason. Nice job, I guess? Also the Catholic Church doesn't censor saints' stories because they're not 'family friendly'. Saint Cecilia took three days to bleed to death after the headsman at her execution was a useless idiot. I'm cross with your story. If you're going to gently caress with mythology, make it interesting. This could have been a story about Thor. Or even Cuchulain.
Honour Among Thieves, or Two Short Fights and Some Filler
Great stuff! Likeable and distinct characters, fun action. A historical setting nicely realised without taking over the piece. Fantastic job.
|# ¿ Jun 16, 2015 20:01|
Judgeburps pt 2
The Early Days of a Wetter Nation
Have you ever seen an action movie? Any action movie? You know how there's action, and not like an hour of meandering setup first? Think that over. Seriously, this wasn't particularly poorly written or anything, but it earned judge ire for just being a limp pile of Wikipedia-esque information instead of a slam-bang action piece. Have things happen, gosh. You did a bunch of setup and politics explanation and then when there could have been action, skipped over it.
I was crazy enthusiastic about this because ghost pirates happen to be one of my favourite things, and then right at the awesome action climax, the ghost pirate was like 'eh no, you're right, let's go home' and the story went away.
Double Oh Heaven
Ten points for premise, no points for execution. Weird tense issues. And a horrific ending to what had felt like a light-hearted piece. Settle on a tone, have a character with a clearly-defined arc, do not tell cool action scenes in barely-relevant flashback at the start.
Born 2 Serve: Lob Harder
loving yes! Alien death tennis. This was great. Not heavy on characterisation, just enough to let me know I care who wins, and then a slam-bang action sequence leading to a defined result. Nice job.
This was nearly great but it didn't quite work for me. I like the premise. I'm not sure I completely understand the supremely annoying 'bwaaaar' thing. Mostly I'm annoyed that you left off the resolution. What the hell happens? Do they succeed in destroying the mothership? I'm mad that I care.
It Was a Hot Day in June
Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear. Characters are boring shitheads. Historical context unclear. Are they time travellers or something? I think maybe your editing process took out some of what would have made this story make sense. As it is it's like, people I don't care about do confusing things for no adequately explained reason and then a WW2 reference. I like the idea of two guys assassinating the President's psychic but honestly, I couldn't find my way through the actual plot here. Your prose isn't horrible though, you have a nice eye for a vivid detail. Keep it up.
Kevin Costner on the Titanic
This came very, very close to winning. The only reason it didn't is that we're not sure it was actually an action story. I mean, there is action, it's just a bit sidelined by all the (wonderful) character stuff. A lovely story, just not a winner this week. Well done.
|# ¿ Jun 16, 2015 21:20|
Judgeburps, pt 3
The Low End of the Dial
This is great! I'm a sucker for a superhero story even if it is a more low-key one. Several characters who all felt different and a nifty premise that I enjoyed a lot. Leaning a bit too heavily on dialogue, maybe; I would have liked a bit more action and a bit less talking. But no real complaints. This was very well liked.
The Last Hunt
This had a bunch of technical issues. Please figure out how to punctuate around names. Your dialogue is way too on-the-nose. Once you got to the action though, I enjoyed it. The murderbear was appropriately horrifying and the fight was tense and fun to read. Also:
Fog spilled from the skeletal forest of Lodgepole Pine as if it had been eviscerated.
Goodbye, Nuclear Holocaust
I don't think 'bald yak' is a very good endearment. This story is nearly something worthwhile. I can see the ghost of a cool espionage thriller in here, but like - why does Eleanor want to destroy humanity? Does she, or did I miss something? What's happening in this story? Either I am having a confused week or there are some goddamn baffling stories going on. Prose is not bad.
Okay I want to love this because it's a kickass cyberpunk motorcycle chase. It also has a downbeat ending which I actually like because it feels like it fits. I like your protagonist too. It's just not quite enough. A bit more texture, perhaps, or a bit more detail as to what the exact stakes are, some more depth to the world. Still, not bad at all, was never in danger of a DM or anything.
Captain Hank Rockford’s Space Adventures Episode 1 – Rescue of the Damsel Princess
I didn't really like this story. It's a similar sort of action-parody thing to the very first story this week, also about Hank, but it has a sneering, contemptuous tone in a few places that doesn't do it any favours. I think to parody something it's better if you actually like it. Otherwise it has its moments, it just doesn't quite gel together into something whole. I don't like the protagonist and that makes it difficult to care about anything that happens to him.
Stockholm East Africa
This is an interesting one for me. I think you'd have been better off condensing the three pirates into two, and giving each of them a bit more depth and relationship with Simon, but on the whole I thought this was pretty good. I definitely cared about whether or not Simon killed Maako. You have a deft touch with detail and your prose is very decent. Not bad at all.
|# ¿ Jun 16, 2015 21:50|
|# ¿ Jun 30, 2015 18:56|
LEAVES BY NIGHT AND FLOWERS BY DAY
Late at night, the red moonlight came slanting down through the sectioned glass ceiling and painted the plants with smears of pale pink. Angie liked to get up in the middle of the night sometimes and go around with a mister, catching the few night-active pests. During the day, Garden Supplies was a riot of colour, and she could get to feeling overwhelmed with all the things there were to look at. Even so, the nights were lonely. Angie's co-worker Bill would never get up at night. He said his bones were too old, and he stayed asleep in the cubby under the counter. Often, Angie found herself wishing for someone to share the beauty of the evening with her.
Oh sure, the rest of Voidmart was still running, and through the swing doors was a world of colour and noise and customers still bustling on. Angie was glad to work in Garden Supplies, which closed at night ever since a dozen customers got lost and tried to follow the lights to safety. That was one carnivorous angler flower that wouldn't need feeding again for a few years.
One late Thursday, with Bill snoozing and the squirrels all beaten back for the night, Angie made her way up to the canteen to hunt through the vending machines for a sandwich. One of the late-night cashiers was there, wrestling with the coffee machine; it had eaten her quarter and Angie gave her one to replace it. Somehow they'd never spoken at length before but as they sat down, Angie was surprised at how easily the conversation flowed. Jen was lively and exciting. She had huge dark eyes and a hundred long braids in her hair, with coloured beads that swung when she moved her head. She had hobbies, too, like Angie! Sometimes after her shift she'd go for a walk in the produce section and imagine she was in a garden, surrounded by fruiting plants. Angie thought for a moment of asking Jen to come visit the real Garden section, but she found herself touched by an unusual shyness. What if Jen didn't like it there? It seemed, somehow, that Jen thinking badly of her would be the worst thing in the world.
The next day, Angie and Bill were spraying for pixies. Jim walked behind with the big tank of Agent Purple and Angie, masked and gloved, sprayed it into the little nooks and crannies between planters.
"You're different today," Bill said as they paused in their spraying to let a terrified group of customers sprint past.
Angie couldn't help but smile, and she felt herself blushing behind the mask. She mentioned Jen and Bill chuckled. "Like that, is it? I'm too old for that sort of thing now."
"You are not!" Angie cried. Bill was old, she supposed, but what about that? It's not like anyone who worked for Voidmart could die unexpectedly. Only as Management required, and Bill's time wouldn't be up for ever so long. He'd shown her his contract once.
"You're a sweetheart," Bill said, "but I am too old for chasing cashiers, that's for sure. Ask her out, why don't you?"
As if it were that simple! "She's so - so clever and bright and exciting, Bill," Angie said. "I'm not like that."
"I don't know," Bill said, smiling his warm smile. "You might be."
For the next couple of hours, as they sprayed, Angie was in a haze, thinking of all the things she might say to Jen and all the ways it might go wrong. Suppose Jen wasn't interested in Angie that way? Suppose she thought Angie was just a sad fat gardener with greying hair and big hands?
That night Angie broke off her wanderings a little early to go up to the canteen again, and her heart did a glad little skip when Jen was there once more, grabbing herself a Golden Bean Brand Coffee from the staff machine. They sat together and this time, Angie mentioned her plants and her walks at night. Jen really listened, in a way hardly anyone ever did, and Angie went back downstairs filled with a warmth and happiness she barely recognised in herself.
Next morning all her uncertainty rushed back. Wasn't it better in some ways to just have the dream, the possibility of perfection without risking disappointment? She said this to Bill as they sprayed and he told her she was talking nonsense. Angie was almost relieved when the loudspeaker switched itself on. At least a commandment from Management would give her something else to think about. The many voices of Management roared their Voidmart greeting. "VERMIN IN THE MAIN STORE," bellowed the chorus of snarls. "GARDEN SUPPLIES TO THE CHECKOUT DESK." A pixie had somehow evaded their net! It had probably hitched a ride with those running customers the day before. Angie swore and Bill kicked a planter.
"I'll go," Angie said, snatching up the portable sprayer. "You finish up here."
She left Bill sweeping up heaps of tiny, tangled corpses and pounded out into the riotous colour and harsh lighting of Voidmart proper. People stared at her muddy boots and masked face, at the canister of hissing gas on her back, but she ignored them as she stormed towards the checkouts.
The pixie was crouched on top of a cash register, hissing and howling in confusion and rage. Every so often it made a snatch at the cashier - the cashier! It was Jen, staying barely out of reach, panic on her beautiful face. Angie felt a stab of white-hot rage and fear. She stormed towards the checkout desk, sprayer in hand. "Jen!" she roared, "get down!"
Jen made a dive under the counter, braids flying, and Angie triggered the sprayer. Purple liquid soaked the pixie head-to-toe in an instant as it tried to leap away. It fell to the floor, gasping and kicking, and Jen slammed a basket down over it. She looked up at Angie and her eyes were wide, but she was starting to smile.
"Wow," she said. "Thanks. My hero."
Angie blushed. "I don't -- why are you even here? Don't you work nights?"
Jen lowered her head and shrugged one shoulder. "I, um. I switched a shift. I was hoping, I mean. I thought that maybe, if our shifts matched, that." She ran out of words.
Angie crouched down and rested one gloved hand on the basket. She caught Jen's eye. "Let's get dinner together after work? Then maybe - you'd like to come and see the garden."
Angie smiled, and Jen smiled back, and it felt like she'd never be lonely again.
|# ¿ Jul 5, 2015 22:33|
Thanks for the crit! And don't worry about not having the credentials to linecrit. People love linecrits.
|# ¿ Jul 7, 2015 10:39|
In! Flash me.
|# ¿ Jul 7, 2015 18:01|
DING DING DING DING
DARE I DO!
That is to say hell yes I accept, gently caress it why not.
|# ¿ Jul 7, 2015 19:00|
Sword and Sorcery (1989 words)
Elsie's group of vagabonds had been under the skull-shaped hill for three days, and they were already so used to coming across the corpses of previous parties that they'd stopped remarking on it. Deacon liked to mutter over the bones, committing the faithless to the service of Pelor, 'just in case'. Being out of the sun was a bit more difficult for a cleric of the sun god than for most people, Elsie supposed, so she was patient with it.
Word said the tomb contained an evil creature that had made itself immortal by tearing out its very soul. It sent rotting, drooling minions into the villages to cause havoc, so once a month the kingdom's prisons were swept for those desperate and capable enough to brave the tomb's horrors.
Of course some were more capable than others. The bard's body was barely recognisable. He had reached for a glowing orange gem despite the protestations of the wizard, and only Deacon's quick thinking had got the rest of them back to safety in time. He'd shouted, swept the wizard kicking into his arms and dived around the corner. Now the four of them stood over the remains. Deacon looked grim, hefting his mace in his hand. Helix, the wizard, hugged himself, about two unkind words from crying. Breya fidgeted, giving off metal-on-metal sounds as her armour moved. She looked irritated more than anything.
"Hey," she said, "I know it's all very sad and all, but there's more of this to get through and we're not gonna rest in here. Unless you want to wait," she added sharply to Helix, "and see if maybe that darn thing reforms itself so we can *all* get fried."
Helix looked up at her wide-eyed. He didn't seem to notice when Breya tried to bully him, and Elsie had to admit that was admirable. They'd kept him from being able to make magic somehow in that prison, and whatever they'd done had left him squirrelly and strange. "M-maybe *you'd* get fried, in that great armour of yours. I th-think I'd be just *fine*."
Breya glared and half-started towards him. Deacon cleared his throat, though, and lifted his mace to rest it casually on his shoulder. He wasn't even looking at Breya, but Elsie saw her glance at him, frown, and ease the anger from her face.
"Maybe you're right, son," Breya said. "Maybe you're right, but it don't matter none. Let's get moving before some other drat trap goes off."
It had been nothing but traps non-stop since they walked in here. Elsie had disarmed more mechanisms than she cared to bother counting now, and once Deacon had had to haul her out of a pit before her fingertip grip on the edge could give way. She usually had no time for clergymen but Deacon seemed like a solid guy. He didn't preach.
Not an hour after losing the bard, they came across three chests lined up in a square room. There was a long sullen silence, until finally Elsie sighed and padded forward, scanning the room as best she could for loose stones or hidden switches.
"Ain't there some kinda spell you could cast to open em from here?" Breya asked Helix. Elsie wasn't looking but she could just imagine the kid's downcast expression.
"N-not any more. I'd need to s-study it again, it's done."
Breya snorted, but Deacon said, "He's right. That's magic."
"Magic ain't worth nothin' if you can't do it when you need it."
And that, Elsie thought to herself as she crouched in front of the golden chest, was why she had no time for magic. As far as she could see, the only problems cured by magic were the ones it caused in the first place. And people who did too much of it ended up like Helix. Big-eyed and twitchy and not properly connected to the world. She'd never met a wizard who seemed like a good time at a party.
The chest was trapped, of course, but it was a relatively simple pressure-plate mechanism and Elsie disarmed it without even trying hard. Without waiting for the others to approach, she shoved the lid up, hoping for the gleam of gold. Instead something dark leapt at her; she tumbled backwards and felt fangs sink into her arm. A snake! The burn of poison roared through her veins and her vision swam to black. She heard Breya swearing and her sword hitting stone. Someone touched Elsie's arm even as the numbing cold of paralysis began to sweep up her arm towards her heart. A roar of flame came close enough to singe the ends of her hair, and then Deacon was murmuring a prayer, his rough hand pressed firmly to her forehead. She would have expected something warm and gentle, but the rush of magic through her felt filthy and corrupt, like being plunged into dark water. She felt warmth and life returning to her limbs; she sat up all at once, staring into Deacon's worried eyes.
"That was *horrible*," she said.
"The touch of the gods isn't meant to be gentle," he said, worry easing into a smile. He scuffed his hand across the top of her head. A hard thump of sound made Elsie look over to where Breya was stamping on the head of the last living snake. There'd been a dozen of them, Elsie realised, staring at the sinuous corpses now scattered around the room. Most were in pieces now, but more than a few were charred to ash. Just like that bard. Helix was sitting on the floor with his head in his hands.
"You know what," she said, "never mind the other chests. Let's rest and when we've rested, let's just get out of this horrible place." The others threw her odd looks. Maybe she'd played up the 'materialistic jerk' persona a bit hard on the way down here.
They lit no campfire, not knowing what the scent of smoke might attract from further in the tomb. Helix pored over his books for a while, then curled up on the floor and slept like a child. Breya slept too, back against the wall, head lowered, sword across her knees. Elsie had to admire whatever strength of will let them do it. All she could do was sit and fiddle with cleaning her daggers, and worry about how much worse it could get. "Why are you even here?" she asked Deacon as he settled to sit beside her.
He shrugged. "Same reason most of us are. I need what's down here." When she lifted an eyebrow at him, he smiled. "Little girl at home. Not much anyone can do for her. Hoping with a big enough sacrifice, Pelor might intervene. The gold from this place will buy me what I need." It was the most Elsie had ever heard him say at once. What she didn't know about the gods would need a whole library to write down, so she just made noises like she understood and Deacon seemed okay with leaving it at that.
It was late in the next afternoon, by Elsie's dubious reckoning, when they finally reached the burial chamber. The room was ten by twenty feet or so but the ceiling was high and vaulted, churchlike. Dust had settled in a thick layer on everything, and Elsie knew that wasn't right. If nothing living had been down here in ages, as the legends said, where did the dust come from?
"Gods above," Breya muttered behind her; the others were crowding in, though Helix flattened to the back wall, wet eyes wide. "I ain't ever seen this much gold in one place."
Gold in coins of a dozen stamps and ages was scattered about the floor. Here and there it had heaped up against the walls like snow. Elsie's quick appraisal of the room, the jewels and decorated weapons of the treasure pile, led her to a number she could hardly believe, and she spun on her heel towards Deacon, beaming. "This ought to buy you the--"
His mailed fist slammed square into her face. Pain exploded from her nose, she felt it break, and she was barely even conscious of falling backwards. As if from a great distance she heard Breya shouting, furious, and she struggled to sit up. She could taste blood. Deacon stood over her, his back turned, his mace raised, and his other hand reaching towards a skull that lay on a shelf nearby.
"It won't be you!" he said urgently to Breya, who had her sword in hand, her eyes huge with outrage. "It won't be you! He's half-mad anyway! A sacrifice, see? A sacrifice to buy my daughter's life!"
Half-mad? Elsie fought for focus, to see Helix still frozen just inside the door, horror on his face, baffled by how fast things were changing. She tried to call his name but couldn't get words out past the thickness of pain in her jaw.
Deacon put his hand on the skull and it rose from its shelf. Gems in the eyesockets lit up and the room filled with a dark, filthy crawling of magic that Elsie recognised. The healing Deacon had given her had felt just like this. The light of the skull's eyes passed across her and she felt a cold probing at her mind; she was catching her breath to cry out but it passed on and settled on Helix.
His scream was animal, primitive; his own eyes filled with red light as he fell to his knees. Deacon chanted in a foreign language Elsie didn't know, all his attention on the howling wizard. He had betrayed them all; he had lied from the beginning, and Elsie's pain resolved itself into a cold fury that was more than familiar. She jerked her dagger from her belt and lunged forward to drive it into the unarmoured back of Deacon's thigh.
He screamed and swung his fist back. It caught Elsie under the chin as she flinched backwards and she lost her balance, sprawling back among the gold. Breya broke her own paralysis and sprang forward. She slammed Deacon aside with her shoulder, jerked his own mace out of his flailing hand, and slammed it into his face. Elsie rolled aside as he fell. She heard the solid, wet sound of Breya striking Deacon again and again. She knew when he died because the high, drilling shriek of Helix's torment cut off abruptly and the skull, once more a dead thing, dropped to the floor.
The silence was cavernous. Breya's hand on Elsie's arm hauled her to her feet. Without a word the warrior moved on, lifting Helix up by the collar of his robe to plant him on his feet too. He stared at her, uncomprehending, and she laid one hand along the side of his face. "You're all right," she told him. It was an order rather than a question and he nodded.
Not one of them even considered lifting any of the treasure from that room. They limped their way over the threshold and Helix pressed one trembling hand to the brickwork outside. Power flared between his fingers. "Sealed it," he said in answer to Elsie's look. "N-no more like that. Let him stay there with it."
It was dawn when they reached the outside. Elsie felt herself growing weaker with each step. She needed healing, she needed rest. They had barely made it to the road when her knees buckled, but Breya caught her and lifted her up like a child. "What do you think, son?" Breya said to Helix. "This one to the priests, then see about gettin' paid?"
"Paid?" he said.
"Sure, boy, you sealed the tomb. That's gotta be worth something."
Worth something, Elsie thought as she finally let herself slide into exhausted sleep. Maybe not as much as all the treasure in that tomb, but yes. Something.
|# ¿ Jul 12, 2015 13:43|
|# ¿ Jul 16, 2015 20:57|
Information update: Docbeard is sick as a dog. He ought to be about later.
|# ¿ Jul 27, 2015 21:53|
Yeah okay, in.
|# ¿ Aug 19, 2015 23:35|
Aptera 829 words
Flash rule: All my little somethings
edit: snipped for submission
HopperUK fucked around with this message at 00:07 on Nov 1, 2015
|# ¿ Aug 23, 2015 20:02|
Yeah I'm in
|# ¿ Aug 25, 2015 15:30|
Also I thought this was gonna be about forms, not genres. Like "Haiku epistolary novel".
Soft rains have fallen three times
why don't you write more?
|# ¿ Aug 25, 2015 15:54|
is trading allowed
No gently caress off
|# ¿ Aug 25, 2015 17:43|
Are there any stories of people coming here, and being at first truly terrible, or at least mediocre, and then perpetually improving and eventually winning and embarrassing you all and poo poo?
My first story was a boring pile of blah and then the next week I won, which I don't recommend because I didn't know what the gently caress
|# ¿ Aug 28, 2015 14:15|
The Wages of Sin 1386 words
Hardboiled Arthurian fantasy
There was a stained-glass window high in the wall, with an image of a noble knight rescuing a damsel from a dragon. The dragon was one of those long curly earthworms with ears, and I couldn't see why the girl hadn't just stepped on its head and told the knight to go wash his hair. I felt like going up there and telling him that myself. He had a smug face.
I was just getting bored with looking at the window when the King came in, alone, shoving his hand through his thinning hair. He looked like he hadn't slept for a year but he bowed to me anyway, and I curtseyed as deep as I could manage.
"We're so glad you could come, Sister," he said, "it's been too long."
"Too long by half, your majesty," I said. "Perhaps you'd show me the body?"
The boy was ten years old, maybe, chubby with working in the kitchens, a spray of freckles across his frozen-surprised face. The court mage had cast some preservation spell on the body and I was glad of it. His sister was older, fifteen, with a spill of red hair and cool blue eyes; she stood up when I entered the room and came to curtsey to me. "Abbess," she said, "I--"
"Just Sister," I corrected her, trying to be gentle about it. The last thing I needed was the Abbess getting the idea I was claiming authority that wasn't mine.
She frowned at me like she didn't get the difference. "Can you find out who did this? He was a good boy." Her eyes got wet but she bit her lip to keep from crying, head up in defiance. I liked her for it.
"I'll try. He was a potboy?"
"He was my brother," she said.
As I turned to the body and reached to lift up the cloth that covered it, she fled the room swift as a deer. I couldn't blame her for not wanting to see. Whoever had taken a knife to the kid had meant it. The wound had torn him from one hip up till the blade had hit the bottom of his left rib and his insides had spilled out. Someone had tried to put it all back in again and not done a good job. Even with the preservation spell, it stank.
I looked into his shocked blue eyes and figured there was nothing to work out here, so I covered him up again and went out into the castle. It was too big by half, all cut stone and hanging banners. When I was a girl it had been half the size, but the old king and the new had expanded it fast and now it sprawled out, engulfing half the valley.
I meant to go down to the kitchen to talk to the kid's friends, but I wasn't halfway there when a woman stepped out into the hall and caught at my sleeve. She had smooth white skin and hair like a golden fall of water, but her eyes were red-rimmed and she looked like she'd been crying for a good long while.
"You're here about the boy?" she said.
"I'm here for the truth," I said.
She laughed quick and bitter and leaned against the stone wall and hugged herself. "Good luck with that in this place."
"How do you mean?"
She snorted and rubbed her hand over her face. "Let's just say it's too late for the truth."
I stepped close and took her arm tight in my hand. Her eyes rounded with surprise. She probably hadn't expected strength like it out of an old woman. "Listen," I said. "You may not put much store in the truth, but we both know between God and me it's going to come out eventually. So how about you tell me what you know and save us some heartache?"
She shook her head, her golden hair swinging. I pushed away and left her there. I figured she'd come to me later if her conscience bothered her.
At dinner I found myself seated between the king's wife on one hand, and a handsome lout of a knight on the other. He had a florid face and a broken nose and he drank too much. He asked a lot of questions about what I was doing there and it made me suspicious, so later I cornered a maid and asked about him. From her words and her blushing I got that he was Sir Hector, and he was up for the tourney season, and that he wasn't shy with women.
Also at dinner was the cryer, seated with a thin-faced knifepoint of a man who barely spoke. I wondered if he was the cause of the crying and a little nosing around told me he was Sir Andrew, she was Elayne, and they were married.
I knelt for prayer that evening with too much on my mind. Couldn't get settled down, so I drank a cup of wine and set off through the quiet halls. Coming around a corner I almost collided with Elayne, and she looked so spooked to see me I was suspicious. She wouldn't tell me what she was up to and I knew I had no drat right to ask, but I stepped up close anyway.
"Listen," I said. "You may not think the truth can help, but there's a girl in that kitchen tonight crying because her brother's dead and she doesn't know why. Spill it, or do I go to the King?"
She tried to dodge past me, so I slapped her face. Her absolute shock told me first, she'd never been struck before, and second, she probably wasn't the murderer. Murderers don't flinch from a slap or two. She stepped back with her hand to her cheek. "Nice, aren't you?" she said.
"I'm not nice," I said. "But I'm here."
She'd decided not to cry this time; I could see it in her, the rallying of that inner strength, and I liked it. "He saw," she said. "He saw something he shouldn't have."
"Worth killing for?" I said, and she dropped her gaze.
"No, I didn't think so. But-- but *he* did." I didn't say a thing and into the silence she said, "My husband, he's - he's not a bad man, but he has rages. If he knew I'd been-- he'd kill us both."
"Who's the lucky man?" I said and she glared.
"Hector," she spat. "The boy saw me with Hector, and Hector killed him to protect us. Is that what you wanted?"
"If it's the truth," I said, and she swore at me. It felt true, though. It explained too much, from Hector's curiosity to her obvious guilt. I didn't expect a knight would kill a child to avoid a fight, but I did expect he'd do it to protect a highborn lady. After all, it wasn't a highborn child. Just a potboy. I turned to walk away and she clutched at my sleeve.
"Wait," she said, her voice high with terror. "What are you going to do?"
I shoved her. Right then I didn't feel like letting her touch me. "I'll pray on it," I said, "and in the morning I'll be gone. I don't see how exposing all this will bring him back." Just set off her husband and cause a dozen more deaths, probably, by the time the rounds of revenge were done.
"Thank you," she said, stunned.
"Keep it," I said. "Be more careful. Or do you plan to kill everyone who ever works it out?"
I heard her crying as I left but I didn't look back. I had to go make some kind of explanation to the girl downstairs, for how her brother died just for knowing. I had to explain how some knowledge was poison. And then I had to go back to the convent, where the politics didn't end in dead children.
The King met me at the door. He didn't even look surprised. "Couldn't solve the mystery, Sister?" he said.
"Forget it, your Majesty," I told him. He looked surprised at the cold disgust in my tone but he didn't call me on it. "It's how the world works. May we all pray for a better one."
|# ¿ Aug 30, 2015 14:44|
Cheers, Sitting Here!
|# ¿ Sep 1, 2015 20:53|
|# ¿ Sep 13, 2015 01:19|
I'd cut out the two lines "abandoned kittens" and "brussels sprouts" because neither particularly make me think of Christmas
wtf what heathen country are you from where brussels sprouts aren't the poison of the Christmas dinner table?
|# ¿ Oct 26, 2015 20:11|
I know more than Apollo,
For oft when he lies sleeping
I see the stars at mortal wars
In the wounded welkin weeping.
|# ¿ Oct 28, 2015 03:47|
I know more than Apollo,
For oft when he lies sleeping
I see the stars at mortal wars
In the wounded welkin weeping.
The Surly Bonds of Earth 1,130 words
At first Alvarez incorporated the high, drilling bleeps into her dream, so her brain conjured a confused narrative of an alarm clock that was impossible to turn off no matter how often she smacked it. Coming awake, at first she could make no sense of what she saw, just a blur of shape and dim colour. She tried to move, couldn't, and jerked herself the rest of the way to awareness. The helmet of her EVA suit was cracked, a long line slanting across her visual field that caught the blinking emergency lights from the consoles around her. No more than an inch from her faceplate, a jagged alien limb was frozen, thrust through the hull and stilled forever in the process of unzipping their ship like a can of tuna. The emergency lights painted the creature's insectile arm in patterns of blue and green. Beyond it, glimpsed through the rip in the hull, was nothing but the black void.
Alvarez tried to move. Even the tensing of her muscles was enough to send pain shooting up and down her spine and she hissed, closing her eyes. Moving was not on the cards. The consoles would prevent her from seeing her lower body even if she could bend in the middle, and she decided to take that as a blessing. Maybe it was better not to know what was wrong.
The repeated shriek of the oxygen alarm was starting to get on her nerves. "Shut up," she muttered.
She didn't even realise she'd been assuming they were all dead until the voice spoke in her ear, and she startled badly enough that pain whited out her awareness. It had to be real, though, because when she came to again, Garcetti was still talking. God, that man could talk.
"Alvarez! Come on, I heard you talking, god drat it. Alvarez?"
"Here," she said. There was a croak in her voice she didn't much like. "Anyone else?"
"Not so far. Where are you?"
"In my seat," she said, feeling a ripple of irritation. "Stuck in my seat, where are you?"
"poo poo," he said, and chuckled. "I'm in the airlock. Which is, uh, a little less than half an airlock right now. Amazing view, though."
Alvarez closed her eyes. She needed to think, and the alien's dead limb pointing at her face was horribly distracting. "Can you EVA around the outside and come break me out?"
"Ah, no." At least he sounded more serious now. "I'm jammed in. How's your O2?"
"It's bad," she growled. "Minutes."
For a while they were both silent, as the ship drifted, and Alvarez's EVA suit yelled at her about how she was going to die. She still felt like she was breathing pretty easy, but that wouldn't last forever.
Good God, he never shut up. "What, Paul?" she snapped.
"What was that restaurant we went to that one time in Duluth? You remember that place? With the— ribs and the pictures of pigs on the napkins?"
"Only you would take someone to a restaurant in goddamn Duluth."
"Yeah, but you liked it. We should go there again. When we get back."
He was trying to keep her spirits up, she realised, and it made her feel tired but it also sparked a warmth inside her. It had been a long time since Paul Garcetti had made her feel that warmth.
"I thought we said we weren't doing this again," she said, and he chuckled.
"Yeah, but I figure, what the hell. I'll resign, you resign, we'll go get the kind of jobs where you can date your co-workers."
Alvarez found herself smiling. God, that had only ever been half the reason they broke up, but what did it matter now? It wasn't like she'd have to make good on it. "Yeah, okay, Paul, that's a deal. When we get back. Both quit. We'll go become instructors."
"Teach the baby astronauts to fly," Garcetti said. She could hear the smile in his voice and it let her imagine the smile on his face, and she felt a hot prickle in her eyes that made her mad. She was not going to cry. Crying in zero-G was awful and she had no way to wipe water off her face.
"Oh poo poo," Garcetti said a minute later. "I wish you could see this. We're—"
There was a horrible jarring blow. Pain screamed up Alvarez's back and she cried out. She felt a twisting acceleration and realised that the ship was spinning. "Garcetti?" she gasped through tears of pain. "Paul?"
"Still here! Oh poo poo, we clipped a piece of something." His voice was thick and scared.
"It's okay," she said, as the pain began to ease. "It's okay, Paul. Oh— drat." The black void beyond the alien's corpse was replaced for a dizzying moment with the bright blue-white of the planet below. As the ship tumbled, she saw the darkness and the light, over and over, like the slowest possible strobe. Clouds glimpsed, barely resolved before the planet whirled away from her.
"Tell you what," Garcetti said into the silence. "If I had to be stuck here with someone—"
"Don't say you're glad it's me." Alvarez could feel that her air was thinning. There was no sensation of suffocation. The scrubbers were still working fine to take her CO2 away. But her thoughts were starting to drift.
"I wasn't going to." Complete surprise in his voice. "I was going to say, I wish it was anyone else. Then I could imagine what you're doing."
Black, blue, black, blue. They'd never even hit the planet. They'd flame out in the atmosphere, just one of a thousand meteors streaked across the sky tonight.
"Be quiet," Alvarez murmured. "Just— hush a while, okay? I'm tired."
"But you'll come to that restaurant with me." His voice was piercing the fog that tried to descend on her. "You'll come out with me when we're home. Right?"
"Christ, yes. Yes, I'll come out with you."
They drifted together. Her awareness shrank to the line of light that came and went across her faceplate. She breathed slow, wanting the time, wanting each moment she could hear Garcetti's breathing over the comms. Peace settled on her like a blanket, weighing her down into herself.
"Alvarez!" Garcetti's voice was piercing, sharp; she resented it. "Gina! Wake up, look! Look!" He was laughing.
The ship shuddered. Whiteness speared in through the breach in the hull and swept her faceplate. She felt a shiver through her seat as a rescue vessel latched onto the hull. "poo poo," she whispered, as the comms crackled to life with shouted directions. There was a whole future to think about, again. And she had a date to keep in Duluth.
|# ¿ Nov 1, 2015 16:52|
Week 169 Crits
|# ¿ Nov 7, 2015 19:10|
|# ¿ Oct 23, 2021 22:05|
Thanks for the detailed crit, Kaishai!
|# ¿ Dec 16, 2015 20:39|