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Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

In with "Wizards will now hear the pitter patter of their little feet"


Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

rydiafan posted:

This could arguably be accounting software related.

Or Unix process management.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

Get off my magical lawn
"Wizards will now hear the pitter patter of their little feet"
995 words

Dressed in his finest robes the wizard Zum, Head of the Department of Geomancy, led his distinguished visitor through the halls of the Continent's most august university of magic.

"I do hope you will excuse me if we skip the dormitories--rather dreadful place, full of students, you know--and move briskly on to the Central Library," he said, gesturing down the hall.

"Of course," replied his guest, Nablo Ce, chief scryer to the Emperor of the Equator. "The trainee quarters in the Imperial Academy are--" He broke off, looking around with a puzzled expression.

"Did you hear that?" he asked.

"Hear what?" Zum said.

"By the Emperor's hallowed beard I would swear it was the sound of bare feet, running past me. Heed, there, again! Is this place troubled by unquiet spirits, honored Zum?"

"Of course not, my dear Nablo! The necromancers would never allow it! Step through here with me and I'll tell you about it--don't worry, the Dean almost never comes in here and I'm sure he wouldn't mind us having a sip of his whiskey. Now, about those noises you heard..."


"Two years ago, we were faced with the unfortunate loss of our Summoning professor. You know how it is, the poor fellow eventually called up something he could not send back. Closed casket, of course."

"We needed a replacement, but none of the late professor's graduate students were anywhere near taking over his role. In the end, we sent away to a friend of our President who had retired to the mountains years ago. Brilliant man, the President swore, but a bit pecular."

"The usual preparations were made: his quarters were prepared, his new lab cleaned and stocked with fresh warding glyphs. The whole faculty got dressed up to meet him at the gate, and of course he turns up wearing the rattiest old robe you've ever seen, man must have used it for the dog's bed. But that's not the worst of it! You know what he brought with him?"

Here Zum took a slow drink of his whiskey, clearly hoping his listener would press him to go on. His stoic guest merely waited patiently, though, so with a disappointed cough he resumed.

"He'd brought with him... his two sons!"

At this Nablo Ce did interject, to Zum's pleasure. "But surely it is forbidden for a wizard to take a wife, here as it is in the Empire! Were I to find one of my scryers in the arms of a woman, I would remove that organ which had caused the problem!"

Choking slightly on his drink at the mental image, Zum answered, "No, it is forbidden here too; messes with the flow of magical energy and what not, though I'll say we don't take such, um, drastic measures. In any case, the old fool fell in love with a village girl and fathered two boys. His wife died bearing the second."

"The children were, to put it mildly, maddening. They were 5 and 7 years old. You forget how energetic the youth can be, after 130 years of quiet secluded study. They were forever under foot, tripping over a summoning circle and letting something unpleasant loose, or interrupting a crystal ball session, or running off to play fetch with poor old Toby's familiar."

"Their father wouldn't hear a word against them, doted on the boys. Being that he was an old friend of the President, there was little we could do in that direction either. Eventually it became intolerable. A small group of us met secretly one night to discuss possible solutions."

"I'll admit we were perhaps overwrought at this point. One man even suggested a disintegration spell and, to our shame, was not immediately shouted down. Another recommended we trap them in the Crystal Prison of the W'Kass until they were older. I consider myself a humane individual and therefore merely proposed we get them into some prestigious yet remote boarding school."

"As we discussed the relative merits of magically silencing them or simply advancing advancing their ages (45 years being the general preference), we heard the most enormous crashing and sounds of breaking glass down the hall. When we arrived on the scene, we found that an in-progress alchemical experiment had been completely smashed, liquids splashed everywhere, although there was no culprit to be seen."

"None to be seen, was, of course, the essential problem. We soon became aware of a quiet whimpering, then two faint, trembling voices called out from the empty air under the table. It was the two boys, but utterly invisible!"

"Well, we tracked down the owner of the experiment, an odd fellow named Kern. With a bit of experimentation we discerned that the boys were completely invisible and almost totally unable to interact with any physical objects. This was a bit of a problem until Kern managed to replicate the effect on some sandwiches a few days later; the boys nearly starved in the meantime for being unable to pick up any food!"

"Since then, things have more or less returned to normal. You'll hear the lads run down the hall from time to time, but that's about the extent of it. Frankly we've become rather fond of them now that they're out of sight and can't interfere with anything."

"But what of the father?" Nablo Ce asked. "Surely he is unhappy at the unusual state of his children?"

"Well, yes, he was pretty upset at first, but you know how us wizards are, we're used to strange things. They seem healthy enough, and we've got Kern working out how to reverse the effect. But--and I hope you'll have the decency not to mention this to anyone else--if you recall the original cabal intended to deal with the boys?"


"Well, we quietly told Kern that if he figures out how to reverse the condition before the boys are at least 16, we'd turn him into a newt."

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

I'm In

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

1221 words

I don't know how long I'd been in the maze before I found the camp. The hours ran into weeks and years, and in the constant dim light there was no day or night. I couldn't even remember how I had died, just that I was dead and this was what came after.

I call it a camp, maybe even that's too strong. It was really just some small huts, built of stone torn from the walls and scattered on the wide floor of the maze, but I was shocked. It's not like I hadn't met people in here, I'd even walked with a few other lonely shades for a while. But I'd never seen any sort of settlement, nothing permanent.

A woman saw me and walked over.

"Hi!" she said. "I'm Sarah." She sounded almost cheerful, an emotion I'd never seen in the maze.

It had been too long since I'd spoken.

"I'm, uh." My voice croaked. Christ, what was my name? "I think I'm Mark. Is this a town?"

"We call it Memento," she said. "Let me show you." Sarah gestured for me to follow. Her voice wasn't rough like mine, it was smooth, with an accent I couldn't place--but then, I couldn't remember any accents at all by that point.

As she led me past the doorless huts, I saw people sitting inside, mostly in pairs, talking quietly. Sarah saw me looking.

"They're remembering," she explained. "You know how you start to forget things as you wander in the maze? Well, a long time ago somebody figured out you can remember, if you sit down and really talk to someone else. So he sat down right here and started talking to whoever walked past. We do a lot of remembering, and--Oh."

We had already come to the edge of the camp. Here, people weren't remembering, they were pulling apart their little huts and hauling the stones further down the maze. I asked Sarah about it.

"They're moving the town. The maze is slowly shifting itself, and we're afraid it will cut us off completely if we don't move along. I just hope everyone can stick together through the move; it's too easy for us to wander off and get lost."

I'd already made up my mind to stay. "I'll help you move," I said, "if you'll help me remember. I've been walking so long, hell, I hardly remembered my name."

I followed her back to her home, excited at the prospect of remembering. Who had I been in life? What had I done? Did I have children? How did I even die in the first place?

Sarah taught me how to remember using the method of Memento. She'd say something, something about a person or place from her own life, and I'd respond with whatever thoughts it brought to mind. Then she'd build off of what I'd remembered. Slowly we dredged up my memories. Trivial things like how I had hated vodka. Big ones, too; we discovered that I'd been married to a woman named Estela, that I'd been a teacher. It became easier as we went. Each session found new memories or reinforced the old ones before they could slip away.

The dead do not need to eat or drink. Without glands, we have little reason to fight or to gently caress. We do still need sleep, strangely enough. The people of Memento occupied their time in three ways: remembering, sleeping, and transferring the camp piece by piece to a new part of the maze, before the slowly creeping walls trapped them forever.

Sarah told me that nobody was really sure what happened when you got to the end of the maze. Some didn't even think there was an end. I talked to a Frenchman who told me of his death in their Revolution; he guessed he had walked for a hundred years before he gave up and stopped in Memento.

I helped them move the huts. We finally finished around the same time I recalled where Sarah's accent was from, wrapped up in a memory of a childhood trip to Louisiana. That memory of mine in turn led her mind back to her college days in New Orleans. The story of one particular drunken night actually made us both laugh, the first time I'd ever heard laughter in the maze.

When our laughter died down, Sarah said, "There's nothing fun like that any more, not here. We just go on forever, just trying to keep the memories from dying away. But at least we can still laugh sometimes."

"But how long can we really stay here?" I asked her. "Bart--you know, the Dutch guy--was telling me the other day, he thinks eventually you get to the end of the maze and you just dissolve away to nothing. I'm wondering if that's really so much worse than sitting around forever, trying to hold on to your memories but never making any new ones."

Sarah's foot pushed at the thin dust that covered the ground. "You're not thinking of leaving, are you Mark? You've made so much progress! And, well, I'd like to think we've become friends."

I told her how the other day I'd been out walking, how I noticed that the walls near the edge of the maze seemed closer together than before, how I found another new passage slowly cracking open in the middle of one of the walls.

"Sarah, I think the maze is trying to get rid of Memento. It's routing around us, trying to seal us off and make a new path past us. Whatever this is, Hell or Limbo or something else, we're not meant to stay in one place, we're meant to keep moving. How many times have you people had to move the camp?"

She didn't look at me. "Three times, since I came here. More before that."

I found I had already made up my mind. I stood. I didn't have anything to take with me; the dead travel light.

"Don't leave, Mark. You don't know what's going to happen. You could spend forever just wandering until there's nothing left of you, just an empty spirit that only remembers walking. I've seen them, Mark!" Sarah pleaded.

"I've seen them too," I said. "Not many, though, not as many as you'd think. Maybe that's what this place is for, maybe it just sort of wears away the old you, polishes you up like a pebble on the beach, until you're a blank new soul again. Maybe then you get to be born again, or maybe you just fade away. Neither seems so bad to me."

She didn't follow me as I left, or try to argue any more. I wondered, as I passed the final hut with its occupants mutely watching me, how many others had come and gone like me. Her friendship had felt real, but maybe she just used me to help hold on to her own memories. I decided I didn't really care; we the dead are allowed to be selfish, it's about all we have left.

I know I have already forgotten much of what I'd remembered there in Memento, and I accept it in the hope that the end will be worthwhile. But I will regret when the maze takes my memory of Sarah.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

Titus82 posted:

.... You've got to be loving kidding me. This is a joke. It has got to be.

Oddly enough this is what I thought while reading your story :nexus:

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

I'm in, if only to throw off the currently-balanced team sizes.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

SurreptitiousMuffin posted:

plop plop plop watchin baby domers drop

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

docbeard posted:

I am a superfan of A FIre Upon The Deep, and thus a superfan of he who bears the name of one of that book's characters. PHAM NUWEN 3:16

The inevitable Ockian victory will, as big Sports victories do, result in a worldwide age of technological and spiritual enlightenment, and while even the wisest among us cannot truly see beyond the Singularity to the bright future that awaits us, we can be pretty sure there will be wormholes and poo poo.

poo poo, certainly.

Thanks to this excellent post, my draft is now within the word limit. Docbeard, there's always a place for you in the Qeng Ho fleet.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

take my opponent's words

Take 100 words from Titus or give him 200, he’ll still probably miss the prompt just as thoroughly as he did last week. The sad thing is I don’t even have much more to say, because I’ve been matched up with a habitual Games poster whose contributions to the thread so far have been: a story that only missed DMing because another rookie was even worse, a couple attempts at kayfabe that sounded like the world’s whitest middle schooler trying to battle rap, and a fan letter written to himself. I mean come on, that last one was like setting up a fake Facebook profile so you could pretend you have a girlfriend, just making people want to pat you on the head and say “oh, honey, no”.

I’m ravenous for this week, blood in my eyes. I’m gonna reach out and I’m gonna take that Twinkie out of your fat little hand and I’m gonna crush it until the cream filling drips down my fingers like the tears drip down your cheeks. The Twinkie, in this metaphor, represents any hope you had of winning. The tears are just your tears, though.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

Staves and Knaves
1291 words (1200 + 100 for fanpost)

I was halfway through a cigarette when they called for me. You try impersonating a wizard in a building full of 'em and tell me if it doesn't make you want a smoke just to soothe the nerves.

When Julian came to me and said he wanted me to disguise myself as a competitor in the Tourney of Staves, the biggest magic contest in the whole drat world, I told him he was nuts. After he handed me a staff pre-loaded with enough spells to fry an elephant, I told him he was still nuts but I'd take the job. Wizards didn't hire private investigators often, hell, they hardly even come in contact with us normal types, so I was curious to see what had the magic boys so stumped they had to call in an old-fashioned snoop.

On my way to the arena, I ran through my staff's trigger words in my head. “Blockem” for a shield. “Zapzap” for lightning. “Whammo” for an old-fashioned sucker punch. Wasn’t sure how that last one was going to work, but I didn’t get to pick the spells and I sure didn’t pick those comic-book trigger words.

Julian was running the Tourney that year. He was sure some of the competitors had been taking "performance enhancing potions". Wanted me to figure out who was selling. They'll boost your magical power, but the side effects are worse than a hellfire enema. You think regular doping’s bad; wizard poo poo brings the rage with a demon camped in your skull, and your wedding tackle shrinks so much it turns into a dark portal to Shem'harot. I guess some figured the Tourney's prize was worth it.

My opponent and I were in little balconies over the central floor. When the judges signaled, we threw our staves into the arena. The goal was to smash the other guy’s staff. Real wizards control their staves like puppets on magic strings, but yours truly was stuck with about 30 pre-loaded spells. Once those ran out, I’d be through. And if anyone caught on that I was just faking it, I’d be out on my rear end before you could say “Merlin”.

The round began. My opponent was a skinny wizard in a robe even Liberace woulda called gaudy. He stabbed his finger at the air while lightning shot out the end of his staff. I only just got out the words to bring up a shield in time. I hit back with two spells, a quick flash of light to dazzle, then a portal to the fire dimension. Would've roasted him, too, but he snapped his fingers and the staff vanished to reappear on the other side of mine as the portal winked out.

It went back and forth, no clear advantage for either of us. I was getting into it, even though it was just supposed to be the cover story to get me inside. Problem was, I already started to run low on the pre-loaded spells in the staff; Julian only loaded it with enough to make a good showing, he didn’t need me to win.

My opponent kept hammering at me with no signs of tiring. I wondered if he was on the wizard 'roids, traded functioning genitals for extra magical power. Finally I hit a point where I didn't have any defensive options left, just a few simple attacks. With the smuggest drat grin, he raised his hand and brought it down in a chopping motion as his staff smacked into mine, broke it in half.

drat! Like I said, it was just a ruse, but I wouldn't have minded getting into the second round at least. I slunk off the balcony in defeat while the crowd cheered the winner.


Back in the competitor's prep room, I sat in a quiet corner and closed my eyes to think. I needed to get cracking on the case or else I'd be twice a failure. Annoyed at losing, annoyed at Julian. Why the hell did he think some mundane slob like me could track down something he himself couldn't find with magic? Yeah, all that noise about anti-scrying wards and other mumbo-jumbo, but I was out of my drat element.

From past my closed eyelids someone spoke. "Pretty shameful show out there, running out of steam like that. Losing to a simple physical attack? You must have been completely wasted by then."

I cracked one eye open. Some weaselly schmuck in a crooked wizard's hat had sat down across from me.

"Yeah?" I answered. "Guess it was just an off day."

"You don't have to run out of juice like that, man," he said. "I've got something that'll really beef you up for next time."

Jesus, was this really happening? I bust rear end for three days trying to crack this operation, and all I had to do was lose a match? No wonder Julian and his cronies couldn't find it, these guys were only selling to losers like me.

"Sure, what've I got to lose?" I said. He told me to go to the storage room down the hall in 10 minutes.


The lights were off in the storage room. Flicking the switches didn't do anything. Fine, I thought, guess he wants to keep it nice and cliche. I was still carrying my staff around, so I leaned it against the wall and stuck my hands in my pockets. My right hand gripped my .38 snubnose while my left hand held the magic signal that would summon Julian.

The dealer wasn't there yet. I walked further into the room to get a feel for the space and let my eyes adjust. Footsteps in the hall and the door opened. Weaselly dealer poked his head in, saw I was alone, came in.

He walked toward me, pulling two glinting purple syringes from his bag. "Friend, this is what you want. Prices are reasonable, so--"

I drew on him and pressed the signal button at the same time. "Hold it! Move your arms or try to talk and I'll ventilate you." He froze, a syringe in each hand. Why were they even syringes, I wondered, why not something a little more magical?

Julian appeared in the room with a blinding flash of light. "Christ!" I yelled. My vision was temporarily ruined. I recovered just in time to see the dealer pull both syringes, empty now, out of his legs and drop them on the floor.

Before either of us could react, Julian and I were shoved back against the wall by strong invisible hands. The skin on my forehead tightened. "Anti-magic field, you bastards!" the dealer shrieked. I emptied my revolver at him, but the bullets stopped short and fell to the floor.

“poo poo,” I grunted.

"I'm not a cruel guy," he said, "I'm not going to kill you. By the time you get loose, I'll be a thousand miles away with a brand new face."

I swore at myself. Totally screwed, I thought, just like my staff in the tourney. Then I remembered.

"Hey, before you go," I said, "I just want to say one thing."


"WHAMMO!" I screamed the trigger word for the last spell I knew was still in my staff, one that hadn't been much good in the tourney. The staff bounced up off the wall, swung back, and gave that S.O.B. a whack that would put Mickey Mantle to shame.

Julian and I stepped away from the wall as the magic cut out. "Guess he'll be 'sticking' around after all!" I said. Julian groaned. So did the unconscious wizard on the floor. Screw 'em, I thought, I wonder if they still have those "I Kicked rear end At The Tourney of Staves" t-shirts for sale.

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

There's a signpost up ahead, next stop: the shitpost zone

I'm in

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

this is triggering me so hard right now

Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

Rainy City Brews
1233 words

Noah, Seventh Duke of Portland, sat alone on a rotting piling of the Fisherfolk's pier. He rolled his artisanal hand-crafted spear back and forth between his palms as he thought of how to capture the Brewers' hops seeds.

The Ivar, elected leader of the Fisherfolk, had refused to help; he would not spare a single man to raid the Brewers' stronghold. The Duke's offer to establish a regular trade route up the ancient I-5, bringing Portland's finest flannels, beard oils, and other luxuries to Seattle, had not swayed the ancient fisherman.

"We have had peace with the Brewers for a generation," the Ivar had said. "Though their ways are strange, they trade us beer for the oysters and fish we catch. And their drunken warrior-priests are fearsome indeed. No, Duke, return to your king in Portland and tell him to raise his own army."

Noah knew there would be no Portlander army; he had set out alone at the rumor of a cult in Seattle that still had the secret of brewing beer. It was the hops that mattered, really. The ancient books he'd read in his childhood made the brewing process clear enough, but there were no hops grown near Portland since the Collapse, two hundred years before. Returning in triumph with the seeds would finally cement his place as a worthy heir of his father's title, but that now seemed unlikely, now that he'd failed to find any allies.

A voice broke his reverie. "Heard you're the one talked to the Ivar earlier. You really want to charge into that skookum fortress the Brewers got up at the old stadium?"

The speaker was small and thin for one of the Fisherfolk, but he wore their usual seal-skin overcoat. He looked around cautiously and came closer. "Name's Jack O'Ballard. I know the Ivar doesn't want us messin' up things with the Brewers, but what he don't know won't hurt him. Pay me right and I can sneak you in, Brewers won't know what hit 'em."

Noah's gloom lightened a bit. It wasn't as glorious as raising an army of locals for bloody conquest--that's what his late father would have preferred--but a daring infiltration could convince the other nobles back in Portland that he was more than an over-educated youth. He twisted a piece of his carefully-oiled beard between his fingers as he considered it.

"I've brought 200 pounds of coffee beans for trading," Noah said, "transported at great hazard all the way from the Neo-Mayan Empire. Get me in and out safely, and they're yours. The men of Seattle are known for their love of the bean; you'll sell them at great profit."

"Done!" Jack spat in his hand and held it out for Noah to shake. "I've been a-spying on these Brewers for years, know their place like the back of my hand. Now, they have some sort of ceremony in three days, and I know they'll all be drunk as lords. So, we wait until it gets dark, and..."


When the night came, they made their way through the abandoned and collapsing structures of downtown Seattle to the still-intact Safeco Field. Jack and Noah found only a few guards posted at the edge of the crumbling parking lots; they slipped past them easily to the old concrete entranceways. Creeping inside, they saw by the dim light of the moon a field of barley in the center of the stadium, with rows of hops planted up the tiered seats.

"It's like the hanging gardens of Babylon turned inside out," Noah whispered.

"The what?" Jack asked absently, too occupied with their surroundings.

"Never mind, just a legend from the old world."

High up the seats on the other side, fires burned and figures moved quietly in a strange ritual. Noah could hear a chanting from the Brewer cultists: "Ray-neer. Ray-neer. Ray-neer," rising and falling softly. He shivered, and held his spear tighter.

"Where now?" he whispered to Jack.

"Up there," Jack replied, pointing halfway up the seats to their left. "Keep quiet, there may be more guards around."

They climbed the stairs through forests of shaggy hops plants. Noah imagined every step was also raising him in the esteem of the King. At the top of the stairs he envisioned the respect of the court and his newly-formed brewing empire.

Jack waved his hand in from of Noah's eyes. "Hey!" he hissed. "We're here."

A rusty metal rolling gate secured the entrance to the Brewers' seed vault. Flaking paint overhead showed that this had once been Sourdough Pete's Pretzel Shop. The door was held shut with an ancient lock, but Noah soon had it picked open--even the son of a Duke learns at a young age how to break into old world treasure hoards. He gently raised the rolling gate and wedged his spear under it to hold it up.

They found the seeds in coarse sacks on a shelf in the storeroom, alongside bottles of beer and trinkets plundered from the fallen buildings of Old Seattle. Noah and Jack each stuffed two bags of seeds into their packs, and Noah grabbed a couple bottles of beer on a whim, for their victory celebration.

As they made to leave, Jack failed to see the spear's haft in the dim light and tripped over it. He went sprawling outside the shop as the door slammed down with a terrible crashing noise, leaving Noah inside. By the time Noah could grope through the darkness and lift the gate, Jack had fled. From all sides in the stadium he heard excited voices and an eerie hollow hooting noise. With a curse, Noah scooped up his spear and ran for the exit.

He dodged through the hops rows as if in a dream. Brewers loomed up at him, each with a huge red letter "R" painted on his bare chest, but Noah slipped past each on fleet feet.

Finally he came to the exit, but his way was blocked by a line of Brewer warriors. In one hand, each carried a wicked weapon made of broken brown glass embedded in a wooden club. In the other hand, they held empty beer bottles to their lips, blowing rhythmically to make a throbbing hoot. More came up behind, surrounding the young Duke.

Though Noah's father, sixth Duke of Portland, had been renowned in battle, his own experience had been limited to drills in the yard with the weapons-master. He'd hated it, preferred to read old books or listen to obscure music from before the Collapse.

Still, he'd come too far to give up. He thought of that rear end in a top hat, Baron de Vancouver, how he'd laughed when Noah had proposed his trip, how he'd laugh again when he heard that Noah had failed--failed to reach his goal, and failed to come back alive. Screw that. He was going to get out with the seeds, and he was going to spit in the Baron's eye and the same to anyone else who'd doubted him.

"Hah!" he said aloud. "That's just what the old man would have said, too."

He hefted the bottle of beer still clutched in his hand and whipped it in a flat trajectory to smash into the head of a Brewer blocking the exit. Gripping his spear in two sweaty hands, he bellowed an ancient slogan that would later become famous as his personal warcry:


Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010

I'll judge that TD

(edit: didn't see the thing about first-time judges wanted, I've judged once before so I'll step down if someone else wants it)


Pham Nuwen
Oct 30, 2010


I did my reading in judgemode, then before posting this I went back and filled in your names.

Some of these stories, I wrote notes as I read through them. Others I just read through all the way, then wrote my conclusions.

The Gates of Mercy - Titus82

I said on IRC that dead family or lovers had really better matter to the story, so this dead brother better be more than an easy excuse to make your character act sad. “Alexis” and “Willem” don’t seem like very English names.

I’d intended to write crits as I went through this but really there’s not much to say beyond the numerous grammatical errors or just plain poor word choices. I loving hate it when characters quote literature at each other. I’m also tired of war-gay stories; at this point I’d be more surprised to read about a soldier who WASN’T gay for one of his comrades. In the end, I found little reason for it to have been his brother who was dead at the start instead of literally any other soldier. The sacrifice at the end is about as cliche as you can get, too.

DM and gently caress you for starting things out like this.

The Man Who Made Noodles - Tyrannosaurus

“for he was a master of ten forms” “for he was a filial son”, this stands out right away… I know you’re going for a style but this stood out in a not-good way. Ok, so Lee pounds out the noodle dough with 10,000 punches every night--he’s gonna kick Ten-Style’s rear end at the end, right? Ooh, ok, so Ten-Style go wrecked by the bandits, I guess Lee will have to kick bandit rear end instead.

The problem here is that I could tell how it was going to end right from the start: Lee’s gonna use his Noodle-Pounding Style to win the day. You threw in Liu Zheng halfway through but it really just meant that a different rear end got kicked. I would have rather focused down into a tighter story of how Lee beat Ten-Styles; Demonface just serves to take words away from the characters because you have to explain this new guy. Also, I didn’t even realize they were brothers until another judge pointed it out. It’s not really necessary to the story, in my opinion; a real folk story would have said right off that Lee was the filial son & Ten-Styles was a bad son. You should have either kept Liu Zheng and developed the Lee / Ten-Styles fraternal relationship, or struck Liu Zheng and gone with Lee vs. town bully Ten-Styles.

I’m gonna put this in the low middle because I’m a sucker for Chinese stories, but this story needs a rewrite.

Monster Movies - Bleusman

Ok, if you start off with a house of cards falling down, I’m expecting that’s probably gonna happen later in the story, metaphorically. But did mom tell our narrator to place the final card because she knew it would fall down and she could swoop in as the hero, or did she do it because it would make the narrator happy to be able to complete the tower? Now later, Mom’s guilted the kid into watching the movie again… I guess mom’s a manipulative person, which leads me toward my first interpretation of the house of cards scene.

The other judges seemed to have liked this a lot more than I did. The characterization seems to be primarily “mom is a sociopath”, “kid likes to smoke weed” and not much else. This hits me as a mostly unremarkable story in the standard vein of “mad at parent, then something bad happens to parent, child re-evaluates relationship/life.” At least you proofread? Why did the kid have shaky hands at the beginning?


Regarding Amelia’s Hands - CANNIBAL GIRLS

Ok I’ve just read the first part and I dig it. It’s got me wondering if Amelia’s hands have a mind of their own or if she’s just so pissed off at how clumsy she is. I’m leaning to the first interpretation. Can a suture be belched back? Also what the hell kind of a doctor is this, work on your bedside manner dude. So the hands crawled off, they have a mind of their own. This doctor seems pretty matter-of-fact about two severed hands crawling off of their own; is this the sort of thing that happens in this universe?

All right, is this a nonsense week prompt or something? The hands are now in class with her? I’m still interested in where this is going. Well, that went in an interesting direction; forbidden hand-love, huh? Apparently in this world people just accept literally anything that happens as totally normal; it’s dream-logic except not in a bad way, it’s just a world where weird poo poo happens and it’s no big deal.

I liked this story. It was weird as hell but you didn’t have anyone agonizing over a dead parent, and let’s face it: a story about sentient severed hands is not going to be predictable. It’s early yet but I’m putting this on the higher end, possible HM.

Neglected Survival - Lazy Beggar

Dripping blood doesn’t really “rush”, it would probably “ooze”. I like the phrase “bursting through the calf muscle”, it feels right here. Is this a wizard prompt? A lot of your sentences feel kind of off, and the misused words don’t help. So the kid never really says anything, the narrator just keeps reading his mind and saying answers, which must be really weird to everyone around. If the narrator can see when people are trying to communicate information, why couldn’t he “see” whatever the serial killer was trying to say with the severed limbs? Doesn’t go anywhere.

I finished the story and checked out your prompts. You sort of hit the first one (it was a wizard prompt, wizard week best week), although it really came out more as mind reading than anything else. Still, nothing he “read” from anyone was much more than you could get by watching the forensic guy’s expression or (as the author) just having the kid say “my parents are dead, I’m hungry”, things a starving child would be likely to say. As for grimdark urban fantasy, well, severed child legs are grim and dark but that’s as close as you came.

Low middle, possible DM

Thus Always to Tyrants - QuoProQuid

The emperor is nuts. His servant is going to stab him… and his death was foretold to be at a particular time? Friends, Domers, countrymen, lend me your ears! I want to see where you’re going with this. Do something more interesting than suicide or a desperate doomed attempt. Ah, but the emperor wants to die? And he hosed up Rome to entice Stephanus to kill him? And then Stephanus kills him, and imagines himself as emperor, and kills himself? Welp so much for the "please no suicide"

So the thing is, when I first read this I thought it was just a weird riff on Julius Caesar, because I don’t know Roman history that well. Then I googled Domitian and realized it was mostly real. In fact, it was so close to the real events that I wondered why you bothered changing anything at all; I feel like historical fiction should at least stick really close to the actual recorded events of something as important as an assassination, although the real assassination was more of Domitian getting jumped by a bunch of guys which doesn’t play out quite as dramatically.

Here’s my problem with this: if it wasn’t about a real emperor, would you write this story? The motivations of the assassin seem pretty mundane, and the emperor’s motivations are weird but not super well-developed. It’s meant to be historical fiction, yet you don’t actually follow the historical account of how the assassination happened! So really it’s a story about an emperor getting assassinated in typical imperial fashion (I guess it’s always by knife at the time foretold by a seer) and it happens that you’ve given them the names of real historical Romans.

Blah. I didn’t care before I knew it was historical, and now that I know the real history I’m pissed you changed it for weird reasons. Low-mid, maybe DM.

The Ocean’s Sorry, He Really Is - flerp

I think this does a pretty good job in establishing the ocean as something that thinks and has feelings but not quite like humans do. But the ocean had never before listened to a shipwrecked person complain as they drifted along?

I’m pretty sure this is an ok story. I cannot explain exactly why, and some of the descriptions of how the ocean feels or swirls or shakes annoy me in ways that I can’t quite describe. I think the reason I’m having trouble with it is that this is pretty far from anything I’d read normally.

I had this down for HM but at the end of the day it annoyed me about as much as it pleased me, and after talking to other judges it seems it’s not just because I’m a philistine.

Middle, because I liked the ocean’s characterization as non-human, but other parts annoy me.

How the Devil Got His Claws into Jack o’Kent - God Over Djinn

You said “dames”, now I know it’s noir. “Bloke”? “Shabby”? Guess he’s British too, although I’ve never known them to say “dames” like that. Hey, are you mixing wizards and noir? That’s my gig! Ok by now we know it’s the devil, it’s not like you’re being coy about it with that title anyway, and Baron just signed a contract with him. Typically the detective is the one who provides the contract, I think, but maybe they do things differently across the pond. Drinking absinthe, too, the most mystical of drinks. Ah, our detective is a ghost now, huh? Jim Butcher did this and it was kind of cute so let’s see how we do. So in the end Jimmy is Jack o’Kent, and in a rather confusing scene the Devil shows up again to collect but Jimmy shoots him in the head.

How the christ did this even end? Why do they need to run if they just apparently killed the Devil? I don’t even… gently caress. So they set up a supernatural detective shop in the end? After Jimmy-aka-Jack shot Baron in the head? I mean let’s face it he straight up murdered Baron to keep from getting caught, I wouldn’t be super happy with the guy. This story gave me a headache and it had me looking for a Rosa Flores cameo. Keep your tone straight; you start off the first sentence or two noir-ish, then you make him sound pretty British, then for the majority of the story your characters have no particular “flavor” of any sort.

DM candidate. Maybe loss, for giving me a headache that lasted all afternoon.

Golden Roads - Noah

I like this so far: Couple of delinquents in LA, smashing streetlights. Ooh, drumming up business for his dad, I guess. And hating the yuppie pie shop that took over his mom’s barber shop.

It’s ok. Another judge said this feels like a children’s story from the 60s, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Made me think of something you’d read in 8th grade English class, in a good way.

Another judge said this didn’t have enough character, seems like there’s enough character to me: kid is angry at the city for putting his dad out of business, but he’s also kind of angry at his drunk-rear end dad. But at core he’s a good kid, and his dad cares about him.

Middle, possible HM candidate.

They Want What They’re Not - After The War

You use too many commas.

Always a dead daughter. I mean I know we need to have dead family members for the pathos and all, but I think dads too often have dead daughters. But she’s not really his dead daughter, she’s some sort of weird spirit that takes on different forms based on what she’s near?

I don’t have a lot to say about this. I don’t love it. I don’t hate it. poo poo, I hardly read it, my eyes just kind of skimmed past a lot of it automatically. It’s got a guy who’s sad about his kid and sad cause he’s dying and that’s TD Oscar-bait but in the end I don’t really care about it much. Edit more.


Where the Devil Says Goodnight - Ironic Twist

“If it was going to be the last day before those boys uptown broke his legs for not paying them that protection money, he might as well run with them” This is a really awkward sentence

Overall I like this. We get three characters, each in their own scene, each presumably taking place at the same time, and each successive scene carries us from Arlen’s well-laid plans to the hint of trouble with Aviva to the final revenge of the woman scorned. I’m pretty happy with what you did with the “Gold in every slice” prompt, I like the “gently caress you” way Cathy just led the whole theater into chaos. Maybe a little unbelievable, but hey, it’s fiction.

HM. I think this will be my win pick, too.

The Show - Sitting Here

Ok, after reading the first few paragraphs it’s pretty clear Yacob is the evolution of the Youtube personality, a “personal brand”. I hope you take this in a Black Mirror direction (excellent) instead of some heavy-handed bullshit. WHY DID THE BALL COME OUT OF HIS rear end?

You’re characterizing Dan and Gage pretty well with only a few short messages from each: Dan is an earnest admirer of Yacob, Gage is more cynical and wants to be seen by Yacob as more of a peer.

I’m leaning positive on this story. For starters, reading it didn’t make my head hurt, unlike others this week. The ending is a little anticlimactic but isn’t that sort of the point? It reminds me of James Incandenza’s film “The Joke” in Infinite Jest, in which he films the audience and displays it in real-time on the screen, until they all get annoyed and leave. (Actually I just realized your story is titled “The Show” so perhaps you’re aware of this) Stories that speculate about things like Twitter and Youtube culture etc. can be INCREDIBLY annoying but this one doesn’t do that. Congratulations.

HM candidate, unless I change my mind and decide you just ripped off DFW. I still like it enough to possibly win.

High-Intensity Circuit Training - Fuscia tude

I was glad that this didn’t turn into full-on Noah’s Ark. As it is, Noah wanders around in bewilderment as animals and children turn up. Some of those animals mess up with electrical stuff, which he fixes. In the end, a big lizard really messes with the electricity for an unknown reason, but he fixes it and the lizard leaves. Noah ends the story as he began: confused.

You didn’t drop the ball on proofreading or anything so good on you, but this story could probably have done with some explanation of the animals or some conflict beyond a big dumb lizard biting a power cable.


Nightlife - SurreptitiousMuffin

Ok, the voice in this story walks a line between working for me and annoying me. I said before this week that I wasn’t gonna go easy on stories about dead family or lovers; unfortunately this story is entirely about being sad over your dead brother. The guy’s brother is dead, and he’s sad, so he follows an owl into the woods and says he’s sorry his brother died, and then he goes home feeling not so sad.

Low middle. I wouldn’t object if it DM’d

Every Gambling Man - jon joe

The scene in the hotel room makes me think of David Lynch. I feel like this would have been stronger if you spent more time reveling in the weirdness of the egg betting and the egg bettors. I’m not even 100% sure he needs to meet “Juan” before he goes to the Egg Betting room, you could have had him go to the casino and win big in 2 paragraphs, give yourself more words for Egg Betting. I want hat man and cigar man to be doing inscrutable things while Juan and Robert talk.


Painted Eyes - Grizzled Patriarch

Becoming obsessed with a painting, imagining it’s watching you, etc. is a pretty well-worn trope at this point but if you tell it well, who cares. I like the way the “sudden appearance” of the acrylic covering makes it seem like the painting has outsmarted him in some way. I like the acid part, and I like what he does at the end.

High, maybe HM

im dying - spectres of autism

So this kitten’s owner died? And there’s a dog. And the cat climbs up the owner’s body, but it’s not really clear exactly what happens… does the kitten somehow dial 911 or something? This style of story can work, but it’s not really working for me here… I think it’s maybe a little *too* far into the cat-voice, to the point where it’s a little hard to follow sometimes and the ending is unclear. Still, I didn’t straight-up hate it, I was just kind of confused.


Come Back - skwidmonster

Wait, are we Groundhog Day-ing it, or what? Because St Peter says “come back tomorrow”, but then Mercy sees his mom putting up an urn, and he tries to find his body, but then he gets hit by the van. So is he “coming back to life” again and again on the same day, or is he a ghost stuck watching the same day, or basically what the gently caress is going on chronologically? And I thought Hal ran over Mercy, but then it was actually Hal’s cat? But the cat was actually the girl in the red sweater? Oh and can you loving proofread this thing?

DM, maybe loss because I am angry at how incoherent this is.

The Train to Charlotte - crabrock

Ok, I like the idea of a Yankee wizard going around killing Confederates just for the hell of it. When he rubs the oil on his hands and onto Henry’s head, he’s just doing that to gently caress up Henry and de-age himself at the same time, right? It’s not that he’s like sucking youth out of Henry or something? Otherwise it’s all pretty clear. However, I am not sure if your toxx flashrule really came in here; yes, he’s going from point A to point B, but point B (Charlotte) doesn’t seem super important, except as an excuse for there to be Southerners on the train.

HM candidate.

An Envelope of Bills - kurona_bright

Well, looking at the prompt, this is an interesting interpretation of a lover’s murderous jealousy… usually that involves jealousy of another man/woman, not because your fiancee got promoted over you. It’s another dead family member story (and a dead lover story too!) but, well, your story was pretty much guaranteed to involve at least a dead lover given the prompt.

I feel like there are too many pronouns in this. Did you notice when writing that there are no proper names in the whole story? It’s all a sort of whirl of he said, she said, she did this, he did that. Was this intentional? Why does she have a weekly meeting with her sister’s fiance anyway? The start of the story makes it pretty clear they met every week even before her death.

I’m gonna play stereotypical TD judge here and say the character isn’t particularly fleshed out or likable. She doesn’t care much for her sister, apparently to the point where she’ll accept hush money from the obviously guilty fiance… even though she’d moved to whatever town this is to be closer to said sister. It doesn’t seem like she sees her sister that often, but she meets the sister’s fiance every week.

Also, it’s a pretty rare situation for a child to be able to inherit debt, unless the lenders are organized crime or something, in which case you should have made that a LOT more obvious.


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