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Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

I'm going to try my hand at the thunderdome for the very first time. Hopefully I get an avatar out of it.

In. Please give me a weird species.


Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

Week 237

Critter prompt:

1300 words

I was working at my usual joint when a garcon from Le Bon Vivant asked whether anyone could fill in for a waiter who’d had an emergency. The request was sudden, he admitted, but any help would be greatly appreciated and paid overtime. I knew my temp agency worked with Le Bon Vivant, and I figured I could use the extra cash, so I stepped up, hoping that I could perhaps even impress the maître d’hôtel enough to be permanently transferred to the upscale rotating restaurant.

The waiter smiled gracefully and offered to lead the way, as if anybody living on Epsilon Station were unaware that Le Bon Vivant occupied the entire top floor by itself. While pacing through the halls, I casually asked what had happened to the garcon I’d be filling in for.

“Oh, he just became unwell.”

“He got ill?”

“No, not ill. Just… Unwell.”

And that was all the conversation I could get out of him.


Like the rest of the station, the restaurant’s inside was spacious, sleek and clean. Nonetheless, the burgundy velvet on the walls and the mahogany touches on the furniture gave Le Bon Vivant an old-world feel, despite their specialty ostensibly being alien cuisine. Only the fact that Jupiter and its moon Europa were visible through the windows on the far side of the restaurant suggested that we were in space.

All the other waiters had dark, parted hair, and most had a pencil-thin mustache. To make me blend in at least a little bit, the head waiter handed me the red and white uniform with matching waistcoat. I quickly changed in the lavatories and returned to the kitchen, where I was briefly introduced to the staff.

The kitchen was positively massive. At any given time, a dozen chefs were tirelessly charging from one end of the room to the other, juggling a wide variety of appetizers, starters, main courses and desserts, all of them containing at least one extraterrestrial ingredient, which was the main draw of Le Bon Vivant. Usually, it was some sort of alien seasoning, but the restaurant was famous for its five-course menu called “The five stages of life,” which used one or other alien fish and its roe as base ingredients.

On the far end of the kitchen was a large aquarium holding at least twenty such fish, which lazily floated at the bottom. Somewhat clashing with the general aesthetic of the place, the side panels of the aquarium were held together with industrial-looking metal plates and bolts, and a conspicuous, tubular canister was fitted underneath it, humming obnoxiously. It also had a side compartment, which could be sealed from the main tank.

“Is this fish tank under a lot of pressure?” I asked one of the chefs. He looked up from a dish he was garnishing as if I had just inquired whether bears relieved themselves in woods.

“Those are klopoh fish, which live kilometers under the ice of Europa. At surface pressure, they distend and die.”

“And that thing on the side?”

“We goad a klopoh in there there for our signature dish. Reduce the pressure at just the right speed, and they turn inside-out. Here, this tray’s for table six.”

I pictured the process and wished they could just serve lobster instead.


I brought starters to a table which had chosen the five-stages menu. It was a sort of vitello tonnato: thin slices of veal marinated in a klopoh cream, served with capers and bread. The company of four were having a discussion about the many wonders our solar system held, which we could admire since recreational interplanetary travel had become affordable.

There are a lot of terrors out there, too.

The table was taken aback, and it took me a few seconds to realize I’d just said something.

“How so?” a heavy-set man with thick glasses, apparently the oldest person at the table, asked.

“I mean, you know. Some of the aliens out there defy the mind.” I was sweating bullets. “Like those nightmare-inducing creatures on Venus?”

The man nodded.

“Right, I see what you mean. Nasty critters, those were.” He turned to enlighten his dining partners. “Some sort of endolith that fed on dreams and induced nightmares. Mostly affected children, which is why it took so long for the colonists to figure out what was happening. But the endoliths were eradicated soon after.”

“Good riddance, too. I can’t stand the thought of some xeno feeding on our children’s dreams,” a woman with mink coat added.


Back in the kitchens, I closed my eyes and massaged my temples. I was so very certain I hadn’t wanted to speak back there, and yet words I had not even thought had come out of my mouth. On top of that, a nasty headache was setting in.

I sighed and rolled my shoulders in an attempt to regain my composure, whereupon I noticed all the klopoh in the fish tank were lurking on the side of the aquarium closest to me.

“Are you feeling well?”

The head waiter put his hand on my shoulder and gave me a concerned look.

“I’m fine, just… overworked. It’s been a long day.” Sheepishly, I added: “I feel like the klopoh keep glaring at me.”

The head waiter studied the tank with a raised eyebrow.

“They’re fish. How could they glare?” Then, with a hint of exasperation, he said: “Just bring these plates to table seventeen.”


Over the course of the evening, I got worse and worse. I progressed from merely tired to nauseous and, for the first time since moving to Epsilon Station, claustrophobic. I tried to power through, at least until the end of this shift, but worried I wouldn’t make it. In desperate need of a break and a cigarette, I hastily distributed the last plates from my tray.

“Enjoy your meal,” pricks.

The table had gone silent.

“I beg your pardon?”

I was too light-headed to see who had asked. I tried to come up with an explanation, an excuse, anything, and when I failed, I simply turned and fled. Crossing me on the way to the kitchens was the head waiter, taking long strides in panicked damage control mode.

I barged into the kitchens. The sous-chef jolted and nearly dropped a moelleux on the floor. “What is wrong with you?”

Are you afraid of captivity?


I shoved him out of the way, saw those goddamned fish turn in sync to follow me around the room, and reached for a pan hanging above the furnace. I couldn’t think, needed fresh air, direly. A nearly irresistible urge told me to just bolt into the restaurant and smash a window and get the gently caress out of here.

The sous-chef, recognizing my ill-advised intentions, intercepted me on my way out and tried to claw the pan out of my hands. “It’s happening again! Another one is feeling unwell!”

Everybody in the kitchen dropped what they were doing and dogpiled me. Somebody pressed the back of my knees to force me on the ground, and a hand on the back of my head pinned me against the cold kitchen tiles. I struggled and screamed.

“It’s the fish! It’s those loving fish, they’re getting under my skin!”

From the corner of my eye, I saw the klopoh glowering smugly.


Needless to say, I became unemployable at Epsilon Station. I did find work on Earth, eventually, but kept up with the news from Epsilon. Two more incidents took place before Le Bon Vivant closed its doors for good, although the official statement implied the rotating of the restaurant caused the nausea amongst its staff.

I don’t know how true that is.

But I do know the last waiter who became unwell has smashed the aquarium.

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!


BeefSupreme posted:

More Human Than Human
words: 2288

The vastness of space contains everything you can possibly imagine. It sure does. This sentence makes me wonder what of the everythings I could possibly imagine will be the topic of this story, which is exactly how I felt before reading the first sentence. Innumerable stars, dwarf stars, supergiants, pulsars, binary stars, in every color you can see, and some you can’t. As in, stars I can't see, or colours I can't see? Ice planets, desert planets, earthlike planets. Nebulae, alien species, undiscovered chemical elements, it’s all out there. We have the pictures to prove it. Okay, you've given me examples of "everything". I was hoping for some sort of twist at the end of this paragraph but nope, it's all just a list of things you can indeed find in space.

Mostly, though, there’s nothing. We had learned that lesson daily, for the last three years. I'd say this raises questions, but not good questions that drive my interest in the story. Mostly "Why are you telling me this?" I know space has a lot of things and even more void. Is nothingness going to be a central theme in your story? You could have condensed everything up to this point into a first sentence and sprinkled something uncanny or interesting in it.

“Anything on the scanners this morning, Liz?” She was seated in the craft’s command seat, a few screens arrayed above a set of controls and below a window about the size of a car windshield. I held a cup of coffee out to her.

“Morning? By which star, Sayid?” She huffed, and took the coffee with both hands. “Thanks for the coffee.” I believe the "she huffed" is a continuation of the sentence before and doesn't need to be capitalized. Wait, rereading this, it probably isn't. But the wording makes it look like you made the old-school mistake of using "huffed" as in "she said" when "said" would suffice. Either introduce a line break to let me know her huffing is a new action, or just use the verb "said". And finally, mornings depend on location on a planet, not on the star. As Sayid even specifies in the next line, so you know this. I don't think spacefarers would make this mistake in idioms or jokes.

“By the sun, of course. It’s 7 AM in California.” I stuck my wrist out, on which was a mechanical watch with a leather strap. “Normally, I’d be out at El Porto right now, catchin’ a swell.”

“Yeah, well, those days are long gone. And according to the scanners, not likely to return. There’s nothing for several hundred thousand kilometers.” She paged through several different readouts on the display screens, and I saw for myself. Nothing, indeed. Not even a loose asteroid.

“How long until our next jump?”

“Three days. Waiting on the computer.”

For a long time, I stood there next to Elizabeth, staring out the windshield. Here and there tiny dots of light, stars poking through the thick black blanket of nothingness, like someone had spilled glitter and missed a few specks. It had been a year since we’d seen a planet, six months since we’d seen a space station. Okay I guess emptiness is a theme then.

“I want to go home, Sayid.”

“I know.” I squeezed her shoulder softly. She laid her hand on top of mine. “I know.” I didn't realize the line about California was supposed to hint at his longing to home until you told me in IRC, but this spells it out pretty squarely anyway. Up until now I still am not sure what the characters are trying to achieve, except "go home", maybe, because you didn't tell me where they're trying to go or what they're trying to achieve. I don't know why they can't because they have a functioning hyperdrive and everything.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

There were four of us, in a craft the size of a mobile home. They had food for 4 persons, for at least 6 months on this thing? We were all refugees, Liz, Meiko, Marshall, and myself. In 2095, the UN discovered it was easiest to give refugees a spacecraft, some brief training, and shove them off into space. What in the actual gently caress. But that's probably the reaction you wanted from me. Anyhow, that's not quite a "discovery" but rather "policy." For the first year, we bounced from station to station, trading work for goods and services. We didn’t need food or water; the Double-Wide, as we’d come to call it, could fly indefinitely, as well as produce food and water, Okay that takes care of my question as long as we were careful to conserve and recycle, and occasionally fly by a star to recharge our batteries. What we needed, what we couldn’t get elsewhere, were books, music, human contact. We had space travel, but nobody had thought to create space radio stations.

We needed to find a home. Only, we couldn’t stay anywhere the UN had already claimed. This is kinda weird. Plopping refugees into claimed yet uninhabited worlds would be a lot more sensible. So we kept moving. In the beginning, we’d see a station after only a week of flying. Six months in, though, the intervals grew to two weeks. Then a month. Then two months. Then not at all. We’d reached the end of the line.

A trader in a post over the Spearhead Nebula had given us some interstellar coordinates, said he’d heard of a cluster of stars and planets that way, habitable and unclaimed. Two and a half years into our quest for a home, this was like the sight of the surface to a drowning man. We swam hard for air.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“Whoa poo poo, guys!”

I snapped to immediately. I had been rereading East of Eden for the fifth time. It was still great. But anything that rated an exclamation—though Marshall was no stranger to coarse language—was either dangerous, beautiful, or extremely important. I grabbed Meiko, who was practicing the piano on her headphones and hadn’t heard, This is a good humanising detail though I'm not sure about the prose. Stating "and hadn't heard" is a bit on the nose. and woke Liz from her nap, then jogged to the cockpit.

Marshall didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to. The display screens told the story quite clearly: there was a planet, earthlike, habitable, unclaimed, right in the middle of the sector we were headed to.

“Whoa poo poo is right,” I said. I hadn’t cursed since my childhood. I’d gotten slapped by my mother for that. Nobody slapped me now. This section has a lot of short sentences that start with the subject.

For 30 minutes, nobody moved a muscle. We just watched the numbers drop on the screen, as we approached our warp-drop. The warp screen was up, so we couldn’t even see outside. We just… stood there.

A small, soft voice broke our reverie. It was Meiko, ever the voice of reason. Urgh that's some serious telling. “We should strap in, for warp-drop.”

Then, we waited. It took 10 minutes for us to drop out of warp and for our cruising engines to re-engage, another 10 for our scanners to complete a full scan of the sector. Only then did our warp screen drop, and we could see out of the windshield. There's 5 instances of "drop" and "warp" in 99 words or so here. It feels clunky and distracting. Surely you could have thought of more evocative words in what is supposed to be an emotional moment?

There it was.

A planet.

Hospitable to human life.

Uninhabited by humans, thus far.

Completely unclaimed, according to the computer. Yes, I get it.

Home, perhaps.

I cried. Not the slow trickling tears of small emotions like happiness or sadness, but the river of tears that comes with hope, and joy, and relief. Liz smiled Don't use a verb for its own noun, if that makes sense. Smiling a smile, dreaming a dream, etc. is clunky. the wide smile of success, hugged herself to me tightly. Meiko tried to remain demure, but even she could not contain her excitement, so she smiled and blushed like I had never seen.

gently caress yes.” Marshall, on the other hand, was not one to mince words.

We wasted no time. The computer had already plotted a possible landing spot, so we set our course and headed down. We had spent three years preparing for this, hoping it was an eventuality and not a mere possibility, and now here it was. There was work to be done, so we set about preparing for our first—and hopefully only—surface landing. Excellent, your protagonists actually start doing something instead of sitting around and giving me backstory. Don't get me wrong, if I weren't critting this I would never have gotten to this part.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“What if this is it?”

“What do you mean?” I shouted across the aisle to Liz. Atmospheric entry created a hell of a racket.

“I mean, what if this is home? What if we stay here? The four of us. What does this mean for us? What will we do? Will we ever see another human? Will we be the only ones to ever find this place?”

I’d spent three years in space, searching for a home, and I had never asked myself even once what would happen if we actually did. It wasn’t that I had dismissed the questions, they had just never even occurred to me. Those are the questions of someone with a home to think about. Home for us had been nothing more than a theory, a hope. You don’t question hope until it’s impossible or realized.

“I don’t know,” I said, and grinned like a maniac. “But I’m excited to find out.”

We landed soon after in a broad flat plain, the kind you might find in many places on Earth. Trees edged a wide expanse of grass, and a river cut through the plain, running from a mountain range to our starboard side. Everything looked just like something you might find on Earth, except for the color—the sun overhead was a large, and blue, and the light it cast was the same. So is this Earth then? With a blue sun?

“Come on,” I said, and shouldered my pack. “We’ve got a planet to explore.” This line is like something a child would say. Or a bad tourism poster.

Marshall, Liz, and I headed out of the ship, while Meiko remained behind. “you Capital letter. got us, Meiko?” Liz asked. Meiko replied in the affirmative. We set off toward the tree line. The ship computer had identified a clearing there with some sort of activity.

We walked in relative silence. But for the color, the planet felt like Earth. The trees looked like Earth trees, the grass looked like Earth grass, the air felt like Earth air. It was actually… disconcerting. We walked between trees, just like each of us had, back on Earth—only here, the light from above was blue. Excitement, though, never left the air. The clearing the ship had identified was coming up, about a half mile away. we quickened our pace.

Soon, we could see it, through the trees, a wide circle of light. What was in it, we could not quite make out, but there was certainly movement. We could hear it. Rustling, banging, what sounded like—voices? I held up my hand. We stopped.

“I thought the computer said this place was uninhabited,” I said, quietly. Apropos nothing, this would make a good first line for a short story.

“It did,” Liz replied. “Sayid, I don’t think those are human voices.”

He listened closely. She was right. There was an unmistakably voice-like quality to them, but not the kind of voice Restating this is redundant. any human possessed. “Yeah. Okay. Let’s be real careful here.”

“Hold on. I got this.” Marshall set his pack down, took out his camera, and set off for the edge of the clearly, I think you meant another word than "clearly" here but for the life of me I can't figure out what it was. Probably a noun instead of an adverb. stepping softly on the grass underbrush of the woods.

I fidgeted nervously with the straps of my pack while we watched Marshall, but soon he was back. His face was scrunched in thought, but not fear.

“What’d you see?” Liz asked, finally.

“I’m… Not sure. Not animals. Not humans. Aliens, I guess.” Marshall shrugged.

“You guess? What does that mean? If you saw aliens…” I didn’t finish my sentence. Marshall had turned his camera around and shoved the screen in front of my eyes. On it were, well, aliens, I guess. They were short four-legged creatures, brown in color. But it was their eyes that declared them unequivocally a level above animals. One of the aliens was clearly looking at the camera. “Come on. I’m not about to make first contact completely unprepared.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

We came back the next day. We’d decided during the night that we needed more information, that we needed to study these creatures before we attempted to make contact. We brought cameras, recorders, notepads. We didn’t have many tools, or much expertise, but we weren’t about to jump in blind.

As we approached the clearing again, we spread out. It was a large clearing, and we wanted to get as much data as possible. I found a spot and pulled up my camera, focusing and zooming on the inhabitants of the clea—“Is that a human?” I heard the words come out of my mouth, but I did not believe them. I zoomed in tighter. It certainly looked like a human. It was dressed like a human. All around it, the brown four-leggers skittered to and fro, moving things, talking (I assume wrong tense they’re talking), and this human just stood there. It looked familiar. It looked… Kind of like Marshall. Okay so this is a planet of shapeshifters? IS only one of them shapeshifting? Do the trees shift shapes?

I heard a cry of surprise from the other side of the clearing. Ahh this is what you meant instead of "clearly" earlier. Liz began to walk toward the Marshall twin. “Liz, wait!”

I broke for the clearing. The Marshall twin turned to look at me, and I have never felt more revulsion than I did at that precise moment. His head turned around, all the way around. His eyes—intelligent eyes, fully inhuman eyes—entered my very soul. I fell to my knees and vomited into the intergalactic blue grass. This is kind of a weird sentence. Also "intergalactic" is not a word to throw around like it just means "alien".

I then watched in horror as the creature turned it’s alien eyes back to Liz, and one of it’s Marshall-cloned hands reached out and slowly pierced the flesh of Liz’s midsection like a blade.

Time stopped. I couldn’t move, couldn’t scream. Liz was frozen, impaled on the arm of the nightmare clone, mouth open in the prelude to a scream. All around, the brown creatures watched us with inhuman eyes.


The explosion of wood on flesh ripped me from my terror-stasis. I thought there had literally been an explosion, with fire and stuff. I don't think "explosion" is a word that fits well here. Splintering, perhaps? Or "the explosive sound of"? Marshall stood over Not Marshall, a length of alien timber in his hands. He slammed the branch into the imposter’s head, several more times. I like this Marshall dude.

I scrambled to my feet, and rushed to Liz. She was down on her back, her hands clutching her abdomen. I scooped her in my arms and began running without a word. Multiple times you've used "began X-ing" and that makes it all sound a bit undecisive. Also, don't overuse limbs as subjects of verbs that people do, it's a bit weird and you do it several more times in this story.

“Meiko! Meiko, do you copy?” I shouted into my comm unit.

“Yes, Sayid,” came her reply, calm, quiet.

“Get the surgery ready!”

“Yes, Sayid.”

My legs pumped hard across the soft, blue-tinged, earthlike turf. I noticed, for some reason, as I ran, that the trees on either side were not quite like Earth trees. Their bark was smooth, and their leaves were actually blue, not blue-tinted.

Meiko met us outside the door of the ship. I rushed Liz inside and laid her on the surgery table. Meiko began working immediately, implacable and stoic. Her deft hands flew over tools, sensors, Liz’s body, and soon she began barking orders at me.

Marshall had entered the ship shortly after me, and slammed the door shut behind him. He threw himself into the cockpit, and minutes later we were lifting off.

I stared at Liz. She had gone unconscious. I wondered. What had possessed her to go into that clearing? What had come over her?
Only, I didn’t wonder. I knew. A minute later, it might have been me.

“She’s going to be fine.”

“What?” I looked up. Meiko was looking at me with big eyes.

“She’s going to be fine. The wound is shallow.”

For the second time in as many days, I cried rivers. This time, Meiko joined me. I reached an arm around her, and we both sat on the ground, and cried for a long, long time.

All right then. I can't particularly say I enjoyed this story very much. The first half was neither interesting nor poignant, and essentially tried to justify the entire set-up and hinged on a lot of contrivances to do so. How is sending 4 people on a self-sustaining ship more cost-efficient than having, say, a space station in orbit above Earth? They're refugees, not criminals. At least, I don't think they were. You don't banish refugees. You dug yourself into a deeper and deeper hole, trying to justify and explain things that are unnecessary. And that's the crux of the first part; you didn't need to tell me anything of this.

Start on the planet, throw some lines in there about finding a new home, let the reader come up with a backstory of what happened to the characters.

Secondly, on the planet, there were parts about them walking through the forest and trees and stuff. Just like on earth. Perhaps you could have played up how uncanny it is instead of telling me. Establish an actual threat of sorts.

Then they see the aliens.

They leave, and go back. Ok.

Then the aliens shank somebody, and they get back to ship.

So yeah, our protagonists barely do anything here. Marshall steals the spotlight by actually taking care of the obstacle you presented the crew with. And in the end nothing's really changed, except Liz will have a scar I guess. It feels pointless, and your story didn't tell me anything interesting other than "refugees are treated like poo poo" but in a way that defies plausibility rather than evokes sympathy.

You gave your characters some semblance of personality that shone through now and then, but Sayid seems the most boring one. There's no character development except for Meiko who learns how to cry.

Blaise Pascal once ended a letter with "I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter." Do you identify with this statement? Because I feel like you rambled some ideas about a story with a message in the first part, noticed nothing happened, and shoehorned an action scene in at the end. And then you ran out of time to revise it and actually give me an interesting story.

I suggest you think about what you're trying to tell me, as a theme or message. The first part seemed like it was about loneliness and emptiness. Then yeah, give me a story where people actually want to do things, on this spaceship, have some sort of isolating conflict with each other, and use the setting to drive that point home.

Or have a horror story on a creepy planet and make sure it gets weird. And have some sort of reason the protagonist can't just gently caress off somewhere else, like a crash landing or fuel trouble or whatever.

But you told me two stories that felt really disconnected and only one of them had a message you wanted to tell me (the boring one) and only one had actual things happening right at the end (the pointless one).

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!


BeefSupreme posted:

Welcome to Thunderdome!

Good crit, good man. Thank you.

Hawklad posted:

Some Crits for Week 237 - ALIENS
Deltasquid - Aquariums

You, too.

Also, in for this week.

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!


Solitair posted:

Collective Soul
1298 words

All right, I'm critting this as well, since we're bot FNG's here at the 'dome.

When I first read this story, I didn't like it very much. Beefsupreme seemed to like it though, so maybe I'm just stupid (entirely possible IMO). I'm giving it a second try now.

The Alien's speech impediment is still confusing to me. I think you overdid it just a bit. You could have it forego plurals or singular versions of words and not conjugate its verbs and you would achieve the same effect without making me reread the alien's sentences thrice. You probably sorta kinda knew this because Jensen seems to spell out/translate the alien's replies in her inner thoughts, which is frankly the only way I could follow what was happening.

And honestly, your story pretty much hinges on the speech gimmick. Other than that we have a researcher asking questions and the alien mold answering. We find out the alien was trying to help and not malicious, but as Beefsupreme said, the murder victims are only introduced and immediately resolved halfway through or at the end. Maybe this would have worked better as a whodunnit story? Or giving all the terrible things the alien did up front?

When the story ends, we have indeed learned a few things about the alien. It has some sense of ethics. It feels shame, probably. But other than that, not much happens.

A strong point in your story is probably your prose and description of the alien, which I can vividly imagine. Unfortunately the whole story takes place in a single lab room. Maybe introducing another character and having Jensen discuss things or walk around would have allowed you to give her some more characterisation?

Another thing I liked was your sense of pacing. I know mentioning "your story was short" as a good point sounds like a backhanded compliment but the dialogue did progress smoothly and you didn't tiptoe around the story you wanted to write. You could have easily dragged it out with a thousand more words of Jensen stumbling and fumbling around in the dark, but you didn't, so that's good.

In short: You had a good idea but I'm not convinced about the execution. Speech gimmick stands out but also dragged down the story IMO. The pacing was good. You opted for a story that's nearly entirely dialogue, stilted due to in-universe requirements, and I would have liked to see your write more prose because those were the best words in this story. I can't gauge how well you write dialogue because, again, Jensen only talked to somebody with a mandatory speech impediment from both sides to communicate.

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

1553 words

I, Sir Alaric

“Marco, my boy, tell me truthfully. Have you ever shared the bed with a woman?”

There was chuckling from our three companions. The young squire averted his eyes from mine, and his face reddened from ear to ear. After several seconds of watching him hesitate, I put my large, calloused hand on his shoulder, upon which he looked up from the dirt road in front us.

“Is this important?”

“That’s a ‘no’ if I’ve ever heard one!” Miles cried out behind him.

“Have you never carved the moaning statues, friend?” Roland played a few sad notes on his lyre as he said so.

Even Camilla, bearing her signature cat-like smile, put her hand on Marco’s head and jested: “No way! Even I have slept with a woman!”

I had to raise my hand and call for silence multiple times before the laughter died down. After all, the starry-eyed teenager had requested to become my squire to learn about the ways of demon-hunting, not to be ridiculed.

When I had everyone’s attention again, I said: “There’s a succubus in that abandoned mansion, my boy, and I want to make sure you are aware of the dangers ahead of us. You see, a succubus exploits your sinfulness. Her beauty is one few inexperienced men can resist, and before you know it,” I traced a heart in the air with my fingers for emphasis, “she’s got you under her spell.”

Still slightly embarrassed, Marco asked: “What about you? Does she not hold influence over you?”

I straightened my back and stroked my white, well-groomed beard, mostly for effect. “Of course not. My moral fortitude is beyond reproach.”

“There’s also ways to temporarily immunize yourself,” Miles remarked.

“Really?” Marco innocently raised his eyebrows.

“Yeah. Like a trip to a brothel.”

Miles pulled up his belt in an exaggerated manner, and I had to calm everyone down once more. “All right, enough joking around. Let us rid Greenvale of this creature of the night.”

We stood up from the boulders we were resting on, stowed away our snacks and donned our armor.

“Marco, as this is your first real job, I want you to stand back and watch the professionals handle it. You might learn a thing or two.”

“Yes, Sir Alaric.”

Clouds gathered as we followed the final stretch of road. Beyond this winding forest trail, past the wilted trees and rusted gates, within the decrepit walls of the once-luxurious mansion, I could sense evil; I vowed to keep my companions safe as long as I drew breath.

In front of the manor, a large series of steps lead to the front double doors, which bore a massive, intricate lock. I gave a gentle push, cautious of rattling the door, and as expected, the entrance was sealed.

I turned to Camilla: “Do you reckon you can pick this lock?”

“Piece of cake.”

While we were waiting, Roland mumbled some verses to himself. Marco asked him which ballad it was, as he couldn’t recognize the tune.

“Oh, I am merely polishing a new serenade, commissioned by Sir Alaric himself.”

“Cool! What’s it about?”

“Sir Alaric.”

I nodded approvingly. “Roland has been in this trade long enough to recite the songs of over three hundred heroes of old. We agreed that it was time for him to compose his own song about our great contemporaries, and I could not imagine a more qualified poet to chronicle the legacy of Sir Alaric.”

Roland, in turn, bowed and said: “And I could not imagine a more worthy patron. Speaking of, which epithet do you prefer? The Fearless, or the Dauntless?”

I briefly weighed the options. “How about the Magnanimous?”

“I… Will attempt to fit that in the verse. Somehow.”

“Good man.”

We heard Camilla grunt and turned back to the door, which swung open after a solid tug. “This one was a bitch to open. It was rusted shut and I had to oil it four times before the insides budged.”

“Shoulda just kicked it in,” Miles said.

“Have you seen this door? You’d be playing hopscotch by yourself for weeks.”

The manor had gone through better days. Little light shone through its small, stained windows, and the ancient wooden floor was covered in a carpet of dust, which left imprints on the planks as we gingerly walked through the main hall.

“I can sense her,” I whispered. “On the top floor.”

We drew our weapons, except Marco, who was only wielding a torch, and unsteadily at that.

The aura of evil drew me to the master’s bedroom, which was located at the top of the stairs from the main hall.

I double checked when we got to the top, and smiled. “She’s here. Ready?”

Without waiting for a reply, I kicked the door in and charged through the frame with a raised shield, roaring like a lion, until I came to a full stop in the middle of the room.

“Halt, foul demon! Your reign of malice ends here!”

Only the soft crackling of Marco’s torch broke the ensuing silence.

Arising from the king-size bed, very slowly, was a purple-skinned woman with small, black horns on her head. She lay on her side, one hand on her long legs, and gave us a sleepy, sultry look. Only a few strategically placed blankets covered her womanhood. The flickering of the torch cast dancing shadows over her face.

I felt she tried to cast her spell over us, and brushed it off. “I will have you know that I am Sir Alaric the Dauntless and Fearless! I have been hunting vampires, imps, genies, demons and other villains for over thirty years! You hold no power over me!”

She opened her eyes more clearly now, then threw her head back and laughed. Not elegantly as expected, but with malice.

“You have already lost, old fool.”

I turned around, and saw my companions, raising their weapons against me. They looked right through me with blank eyes, as if they had taken psychedelic substances. I cursed them for their weakness, but this was merely a temporary setback, as I knew the spell could be broken.

However, as skilled as I was with the blade, I realized I could not turn my back on my allies to face the demon just yet. I’d have to disarm them first, then strike their bewitcher while she was defenseless.

Roland was the first to act. He reached for my sword-arm, but I knocked the wind out of him with the edge of my shield. Using the flat of my blade, I struck him on the head, and he crumpled like a rag doll onto the floor.

Miles followed up, and pushed against my shield, forcing me to back up into the bedroom and find my footing. After a brief struggle, I feinted, and he lost his balance, falling on his knees to my left. Before he could get up, I drove my knee into his forehead, and he too was out for the count.

Camilla fired an arrow from her crossbow. I handily caught it with my shield, charged forward, through the door, and shoved her down the stairs. She tumbled to the bottom, foul language punctuating every thump on her way down.

I made my way back to the bedroom, where I came upon Marco, wielding a candle holder like an improvised mace in one hand, and holding the torch high in the other. I’d have to get through him to face the demon.

“Don’t even think about it, my boy.”

“Sir, I can’t… I can’t let you do this.”

And I understood he was too far gone for reasoning.

I rushed forward, and aimed for his upper arm with the flat of my blade. He parried with the candle holder, though he gritted his teeth in pain afterwards. I blocked his half-hearted counterattack, and that was apparently all the energy he could muster.

Raising my sword for the coup de grace, I said: “I’m sorry for hurting you, but you leave me no choice.”

To my surprise, Marco dropped his weapons, closed his eyes and stood there, trembling, with his arms shielding his face. I pulled my blow right at the last moment, and waited to gauge his reaction.


Those charmed by a succubus generally did not give up halfway through a fight.

Content that witnessing my martial prowess had apparently broken the spell for Marco, I turned my attention back to the succubus, who was probably hiding somewhere in the room by now.
“It’s over, you demoness! You’ve got nowhere to run!”

Marco cautiously opened one eye, and mumbled: “She left.”

It took me a few seconds to process what he’d said. When it dawned upon me, I threw my sword to the floor. “drat it! She must have used you to stall for time and fled! I even warned you all that she’d lead you astray with lust!”

Now Marco was shouting, too. “There are more sins she could exploit than lust, you idiot! I thought your reputation was earned, but they should just call you Alaric the Arrogant instead!”
His face revealed nothing but pure, seething indignation.

I opened my mouth to protest, but stopped myself just short of making an unconvincing rebuttal.

For the first time in years, I felt humbled.

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

In, and please give me a flash rule.

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

1150 words

The Disciple

At first, Senior Enchanter Adriatus hadn’t recognized the irritated individual. Adriatus had seen thousands of faces come and go during his tenure at the Arcane Academy, and he’d be damned if he could remember every name.

The young man had been waiting for him in the courtyard, between the lecture halls and the front gate, where the late afternoon sunrays struggled to shine over the walls and pink oleander trees, casting lengthy shadows across the extensive pond at the center.

“Professor,” he repeated. The word carried a sense of resentment. “My name is Lysander Komenikos. Can you really not remember?”

Adriatus uncomfortably shifted the rolls of parchment he carried from one arm to the other. “Can I help you?” he asked.

“Six years ago, professor, I followed your course on applied wards and protective magics.”

Lysander wore a robe with the mandatory certified pyromancer and electromancer insignia embroidered on the sleeve. A recent graduate, then? Perhaps he looked upset because he had applied for tenure at the Academy and been rejected? Did he expect Adriatus to pull some strings?

“Well, congratulations on graduating at the Academy, mister Komenikos. Unfortunately I-”

“I didn’t graduate here, professor.”

Adriatus frowned, which seemed to anger Lysander even more.

“Six years ago, I failed your class. I had passed the practical exam, but not the theoretical one.”

“Well, I’m dreadfully sorry tha-”

A flash of lightning, a crackling blast.

Lysander fired two, three, four bolts. A cloud of dust erupted from the impact zone, filling the area where Adriatus had stood with a mist of dirt and sand.

Just to be sure, Lysander saturated his target with jets of flame.

When the dust settled, only a few smoldering bits of parchment remained. From the black, U-shaped streaks in the dry grass around the scraps, Lysander deduced that Adriatus had cast a defensive bubble just before impact. He grinned.

There was the distinct crack of a paralyzing spell, and Lysander dropped to the ground. A purple projectile narrowly missed his head, wrapping itself around a marble column in the distance.

“This isn’t how alumni generally greet me,” Adriatus said, leaning out from behind a tree to Lysander’s right. “Would you care to explain?”

Lysander rolled on his back and fired.

The earth around Adriatus was pounded by blast after blast of lightning until the tree was hit, lighting up like a roman candle and spraying fiery splinters all around.

“I’m here to compare our approaches to magic,” Lysander said. “The Arcane Academy tries to contain it, control it, study it like an intellectual curiosity. But at the Imperial War College, they taught me in a way that just felt right. Magic comes from your heart!”

Adriatus had an open wound. Blood gushed along the side of his head, dripping out in rhythm with his pulse. A cursory examination with his fingers confirmed the wound was not as bad as it felt. “You’re crazy,” he said. “Attempted murder because you flunked a class.”

Lysander pointed an accusatory finger. “You’re missing the point, professor! You’re an academic, through and through! But a man with no battlefield experience whatsoever has no place teaching battlemagics!”

Adriatus fired another paralysis spell from his prone position. Lysander easily deflected it.

“God drat! This is what I mean! You’re using nonlethal spells because you haven’t got the guts for a real fight!”

“I won’t kill you, if that’s what you want.”

There was silence.

Then, Lysander said: “In war, it’s kill or be killed, professor. But I guess they don’t teach you that in your ivory tower.”

From behind his smoldering tree stump, the senior enchanter observed Lysander turn towards the Academy. Any thoughts Adriatus had of fleeing were quashed when Lysander torched a lecture hall with a fireball and appeared intent on doing the same with the dormitories.

Adriatus stood up and charged.

“Aha! Here we go!” Lysander unleashed more lightning.

Adriatus dashed in a straight line, casting a bubble around him which endured the brutal barrage. When he was nearly within striking range, he cast an airblast at his feet to propel himself forward and reached out to paralyze Lysander with a melee spell.

To his surprise, his target grabbed him by the wrist, and threw Adriatus over his shoulder. With a hard fall on his back, Adriatus had the air knocked out of him. He saw the underside of Lysander’s boot, and then stars.

The taste and smell of iron overwhelmed him. Adriatus blindly fired an airblast into the sky, rolled over, felt the searing heat of a fire-imbued kick missing him by inches. He pressed his open palms into the earth, and a pillar of stone shot diagonally out of the ground, striking Lysander in the chest and carrying him off for several meters.

Lysander cracked the pillar with a lightning blast and regained his footing.

“You’re still holding back!” He clenched his fist and let trickles of electricity run along his arms.

Both combatants now implicitly agreed that any ranged spells would merely be deflected.

As much as Adriatus dreaded it, he’d have to subdue the madman from up close. He just hoped his untrained body would follow. The wizards at the Arcane Academy derided the Imperial War College for being indoctrinated zealots without understanding, but they certainly had some rigorous physical training.

Adriatus rushed to close the distance. Hoping that Lysander would refrain from using lightning spells if he was soaked, Adriatus startled him with a powerful airblast, catapulting him towards the pond.

However, Lysander was adept enough at hydromancy to spray the pond’s water from below, carefully exerting just enough pressure on his feet to keep his balance and appear to stand on the water itself.

Adriatus did the same and darted to the middle of the pond to press the attack.

Lysander dodged his punch. Adriatus fell for a feint and got a split lip from a jab. They exchanged blow after blow, occasionally parrying a spell or slipping on the unstable waters, until Adriatus felt his strength wane.

He felt a foot lock behind his leg and lost his balance from the shove. Seconds later, he was pressed against the pond’s bottom, and Lysander’s hands were wrapped around his neck.
Adriatus panicked.

With all of his willpower, he channeled as much water as he could muster. The current swirled around his leg, coiling faster and faster along his torso and arm, and then Adriatus reached out of the murky water with his index finger.

The jet found flesh.

Adriatus raised his head out of the pond, gasping for air.

In front of him, Lysander floated on his back, a crimson color spreading out around him. There was a fatal hole in his waist.

“That must have soared fifty meters high,” he said, smiling. “See? That came from your heart, not your brain.”

Red droplets of water mixed with blood came falling down around them.

Flash Rule: Your fight occurs on unstable ground.

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

I'm in and please give me some Rush lyrics.

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

Flash Rule:
The boy lies in the grass, unmoving
Staring at the sky
His mother starts to call him
As a hawk goes soaring by
The boy pulls down his baseball cap
And covers up his eyes

2516 words

The Hanged Men

On the road to Gotha, we came across a lone oak bearing a bundle of hanged soldiers.

The thick fog of black powder, carpeting the land for two decades now, had obscured the oak during our approach. But the path to the city wound around the scarred tree, which was otherwise the sole point of orientation in the charred fields of the Thuringian basin. Whoever had executed these men had meant it as a warning.

We walked towards it.

Sebastian asked me: “Dieter, how many corpses do you count?”

“I don’t know. Forty or so.”

“Seems like it. What a pity.”

“Not really.”

“I suppose not.”

Under the tree, three Swedish soldiers sat playing cards. They looked up when they heard us approach, staring motionlessly until we stopped next to them.

“Why were these men hanged?” Sebastian asked in German.

The oldest of the Swedes sat on top of a half-inhumed cart and answered in between bites of his apple.

“Deserters,” he said, without an accent. “They fled their regiment and menaced the countryside. The townsfolk rounded them up and enacted justice themselves.”

I looked up at the bodies in the oak. They swayed gently in the wind.

“Can’t say I blame them,” I said.

The Swede spat on the ground. “If these dogs come to pillage your home and rape your daughters, that’s what you do to them.”

I had meant the deserters, but stayed silent.

Another Swede, this one looking half my age, pointed at our ragged uniforms and struggled in his lackluster German: “Those clothes. Imperial.”

I pointed at the gaping hole in my upper sleeve.

“Not any more, they aren’t,” the old Swede said. “But you better don’t stay for too long. In between the Swedish army and the civilians, Catholics aren’t very welcome around these parts.”

“We’re not staying for long. We’re going to Mainz,” Sebastian said.

“Wait, I have a question,” the young Swede said.

The older soldier frowned at him, as if to say he should weigh his next words very carefully.

“How many Swedes have you killed?”

A tense silence hung between the soldiers, and I sensed they expected us to draw steel. We did not.

“Does it matter?” I asked.

He had to let the question sink in, or perhaps he had difficulty translating it.

“Dieter, let’s leave,” Sebastian said.

“Whether I killed one or a thousand, what would it change to you?” I added.

“So you admit?”

“Some men have killed Swedes and others have killed Germans. I don’t keep tallies of either.”

The old Swede berated the younger one in their language, and an argument of sorts broke out.

“I just want to go home,” Sebastian whispered to me.


We trudged on towards Gotha.


Hastily erected tents and shacks hugged the high walls of the city, climbing up as if a flood had crashed against the ramparts and been suspended in mid-air.

Between the makeshift homes idled hundreds of refugees, initially awaiting permission from the mayor to reside within the walls, but even they must have realized their chances were slim after waiting for all these years. Gotha’s citizens had made a simple calculation: it was better to have fewer mouths to feed during a siege. The frequency of sieges had made their decision inevitable.

A certain lassitude had descended over these slums. Not even the vagabonds lining the streets could muster the will to beg, but they lay about the pavements in quiet resignation.

Hence my mild surprise to find a single woman wailing inconsolably between the many displaced, pacing back and forth, lamenting something or other to every unwilling listener. Sebastian did not appear to notice her at all.

“I wonder why she’s crying,” I said.

“Surely, you jest.”

“I meant, why her in particular?”

Sebastian shrugged.

We intended to simply avert our gaze and pass by her quietly, but the woman startled me by throwing herself to the ground and wrapping her arms around my ankles.

“Will nobody hear a desperate wife’s pleas?” she cried out.

I tried to pry my foot loose from her grip, but was wary of hurting her all the same. Sebastian half-heartedly tugged at her shirt and told her to let go of me.

“I do not have any money for you,” I said.

She put a hand on my knee, and pulled herself up by my trousers to a kneeling position. She brushed her thin, brown hair out of her face, and I felt her nails dig into my skin as I stared down into her blood-shot eyes.

“Not money,” she sobbed. “My husband, he’ll never find me!”

I stopped struggling, and she softened her grip on me.

“Where is your husband?” I asked her.

“To war,” she said. “The Duke’s men came for him after the harvest. Conscripted.”

“That happens,” I said.

She took her wedding ring and forced it into my hands. “Before he left, we agreed I would leave a message if I had to leave our home. But I didn’t –”

“I really don’t have time for this.”

“– have time before I had to flee. We were attacked in the night.”

“I can’t help you find your husband.”

“Please find my house and bury this. Under the apple tree.”

“What? Why?”

The woman desperately clutched my hands, afraid that I might leave as soon as I could return her ring.

“He told me… Told me to bury my ring there if I had to leave. That we’d meet in Gotha. But I’m afraid to go back, with all these soldiers and mercenaries around, and nobody is willing to go in my stead.”

I looked at Sebastian, wondering what he was thinking.

“We need to go home,” he said. “We can’t afford to loiter around. We both know what will happen if the Imperial army tries us now.”

Hanged, if we were lucky. Broken on the wheel if we were not.

“Where was your home?” I said.

The woman explained she was from Hörselberg, and how to find her cottage. I vaguely recalled taking part in a battle there, once.

Still standing behind the woman, Sebastian crossed his arms and bit his lip in disapproval.

I said: “Hörselberg is West of here. We were already heading in that direction.”

“I suppose so,” he conceded.

The woman stood up and wrapped her hands around my neck, thanking me countless times and wiping her tears on my chest.

“You’re good men,” she finally said.

I did not feel like arguing.


We plodded on to Hörselberg without meeting a single traveler. A welcome rain fell from the dark clouds above, somewhat cleansing the air from the perpetual smell of gunpowder which Europe had come to associate with Germany. Occasionally, a flash of lightning illuminated the road ahead of us.

I fidgeted with the wedding ring in my pocket, wondering what the odds were that they’d ever meet again. It felt like a long shot to me.

Sebastian broke the silence: “I don’t understand why you care.”

“Me neither.”

“It won’t make a difference, you know.”

“How so?”

“The war, I mean. It’s been going on for twenty years. He’s not coming back.”

“He only got conscripted last year.”

“It will go on for a hundred more.”

At the outskirts of Hörselberg, the fields were littered with the rotting carcasses of cows, horses and soldiers.

Tall grass crisscrossed the battle lines, hiding a still-smoking cannon on the side of the road. In front of it, in a conical shape, lay unrecognizable fragments of bone and human flesh, along with dozens of grapeshot bullets which riddled the muddy road.

“They fought here recently,” Sebastian said.

“Yes. Again.”

“Was this field where we attacked the Pomeranians?”

“I think so.”

“That was a long time ago.”

“Fifteen years.”

I recognized the site of a small farm further down the road, which used to have a thatched roof, if I recalled correctly. Now, only a knee-high pile of stones remained, drawing the contours of what had once been its walls.

“I remember this,” I said regretfully.

“They had a pretty daughter.”

I winced. “Don’t remind me.”

When I closed my eyes, in this moment, I heard the sergeant’s sadistic orders all over again, heard the farmer plea as soldiers emptied the larders, heard the girl’s screams as…

“We should have stopped them.”

Sebastian shook his head. “We were fifteen. What could we have done?”

“Not just then. Every time.”

I took a deep breath and rubbed my eyes. “Let’s go.”

In the village center, such as it was, we came across a cart stacked with layers upon layers of corpses, most wearing Swedish uniforms. It seemed to me as if the victorious Swedes had begun burying the dead and given up halfway through, daunted by the sheer magnitude of the task this presented.

“More dead,” Sebastian stated as a matter of fact.


Using my rain-soaked scarf, I covered my nose against the smell and followed the woman’s instructions to her home. It was on a hill, not far from the village itself, close to the forest’s edge. Besides the house was a pile of logs, and a chopping block with an axe planted in it.

“This must be it,” I said. “If we follow the path around her house we should see the apple tree.”

To get there, we had to walk over a corpse that was face down in the mud. It wore an Imperial uniform.

“Probably shot during an attack on the house,” Sebastian guessed.

“I don’t see any blood. He must have slipped and been trampled by his comrades when they charged uphill.”


We heard voices from above.

Acting on soldiers’ instinct, we dived into a prone position and crawled towards the hillside.

“I think that was French,” I said.

“Catholics, then! Let’s leave!”

I motioned for him to be silent, and listened intently. “Three voices, I think.”

“Don’t even think about it, Dieter!”

“Maybe they won’t ask questions.”

Sebastian pressed his side against mine and grabbed me by my hair. Whispering hurriedly in my ear, he said: “If they figure out we’re deserters, we’re done for! Too risky! Let’s just go home and forget about it!”

“I can’t do that. I’d regret it forever.”

“Curse you, Dieter! Why now? Why here? Fifteen years and now you choose to make amends? Why stick out your neck for this woman? It doesn’t matter!”

“It matters to her.”

“Perhaps her husband is already dead! Perhaps she will be, weeks from now! And even if he finds the message, they might never –”

“I’m going up, with or without you.”

“drat it!”

Considering the possibility of a fight, I looked around me for a weapon of sorts, then remembered the corpse in the mud. I crawled over and went through its pockets.

“Only a drenched pistol and a dagger,” I muttered to myself. I concealed the dagger in my sleeve and made my way up the hill.

When I reached the house, I could hear the French voices, clearly now, from behind the corner, in the yard. I took my chances.

The three men were slightly startled when I revealed myself, but relieved when I yelled that I was an ally from Saxony.

“What are you doing here by yourself, friend?” one of them said. He was wearing an officer’s regalia.

I walked over to them, explaining that a woman had asked me to bury her ring at the apple tree.

“That’s a strange request,” the officer laughed.

I said nothing, and tried to force a smile.

“Methinks he’s a looter,” one of his friends said.

“And you aren’t?” I said, gesturing towards the filled bags at their feet.

“Good eye,” the officer said. “Difference is, we fought hard for this. You, on the other hand, aren’t bearing any coat of arms, or any emblem for that matter.”

“I lost them during a struggle. I’m under the command of –“

The officer walked towards me, with hard, deliberate paces, and a murderous intent in his eyes.

“Now listen up, you mutt! Do you think we’re stupid? I know drat well there were no Saxonians in the army yesterday!”

He reached for my collar. I jammed the dagger in his neck, sideways and upwards, until the hilt forced me to stop. He collapsed at my feet without a struggle.

The two soldiers briefly considered attacking me, but decided against it when Sebastian came around the corner, a lumberjack’s axe in hand. They each took a bag of loot at their feet, and ran.

“You killed a man, and endangered the lives of four others, to do a favor for a woman you don’t know, in order to make amends for killing people,” Sebastian said.

I looked at the ground. The pouring rain carefully mixed the mud and blood at my feet, entrancing me.

“I simply don’t understand. Why?” he continued.

“She promised her husband,” I said.

Sebastian threw the axe to the ground in frustration, and forced me to look him in the eyes.

“And I promised my mother I’d return home! Didn’t you?”


“Didn’t you!”

“Yes! Yes, I did! We all did!”

“Then let the Lord sort his damned war out by himself, and we’ll go home!”

He let go of my shoulders, and I sagged to my knees, exhausted.

“Do you think, after all that’s happened, that I could go home and pretend everything’s still the same? That I’m still the same boy who left all those years ago?”

Sebastian sat down in front of me.

“And do you think any number of good deeds will absolve us from this?”

“We can but try.”

“No, Dieter. We carry these sins to the grave. Only the death of every participant will absolve humanity of this war.”

“So those men in Gotha, hanged in the tree, they were better men than we are? They were redeemed?”

Sebastian sighed, and turned his face toward the clouds, letting the rain wash over him.

“That’s not for you to decide.”

To my surprise, the French officer had just spoken. I turned around, and saw lying him on his side, breathing in difficulty.

“You think you can just choose? Make amends the way you want?”

He closed his eyes, and tried to swallow, but it was an excruciating effort.

“That’d be too easy.”

“What should I do, then?” I said.

His eyes were still closed. After a few moments, I noticed he’d stopped breathing.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

I thought about home. I thought about my family, who might not even be alive any more. Who might have forgotten about me, otherwise.

Fifteen years was a long time.

“Are we going to bury that ring, or what?” Sebastian said.

I nodded. We got up, buried the ring at the apple tree, and I threw away the dagger.

“Now what?”

Mainz still lay to the West of here. But it was a long way.

After reflecting on the matter, we decided to go North, where the war had struck many villages like Hörselberg.

I no longer considered it a detour.

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

Interesting prompt. I'm in.

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!


Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

1661 words

Belphegor’s bathroom break was interrupted by a knock on the stall, followed by Astaroth’s booming voice: “Belphegor, thou idling and flagitious wretch, art thou there?”

Belphegor stared at his screen in silence for several beats, considering whether to reply at all. The seat was comfortably warm, and he had no intention of ceding his throne anytime soon.

A playful jingle emanated from his smartphone as he cleared a level in Candy Crash.

“Belphegor, I knowe thou -…”

“Geeze Louise, can a demon not take a dump in peace around here?”

“Cometh outte anon! Thou hast been relieving thyself for -…”

“And will you speak normally? Everybody else only talks like that when Lucifer is around.”

“Fine. Belphegor, you’ve been sitting here all day.”

There was another jingle.

“You’re getting behind on your diabolical deals quota!”

“That’s nonsense, Astaroth, and you know it. I’ve been way ahead of my quota ever since that Goldman fellow.”

“That was over a hundred years ago, you fool!”

“No it wasn’t! Wait, it was?”

“Yes, so you need to pick up the slack, or old man Satan is coming down to the Fourth Circle himself to have a word with the department! And we won’t be covering for you, you hear me?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll work it out. Eventually.”

Belphegor heard a rankled sigh, and then Astaroth stormed off, slamming the bathroom door as he went.

With a great deal of satisfaction, Belphegor cleared the final stage of Candy Crash and closed the app. He had sunk a great deal of time into it, but it fell just short of his favorite game of all time, Oubliette Guardian.

Perhaps the next game in the store would surpass them both.

Belphegor swiped up several times before it dawned upon him. He had reached the end of the store.

“Huh,” he said.

He put his phone away and quietly observed the inside of the bathroom stall, lost in thought.

This is only marginally more interesting than work, he concluded. Reluctant, though forced by circumstances, he decided it was time to sign a deal with some schmuck on the surface.


It was crunch time at the cramped, dark offices of Lumocorp.

Daniel was pulling his third all-nighter in a row, trying to ignore the Redbull and espresso-induced hallucination that was distracting him from his code.

“Hey, kid, are you even listening to me?”

A short man-ish figure, with red fur, small horns and a drooping tail was staring over his shoulder.

Daniel hoped the cold shoulder treatment would convince it to leave, but he had no such luck.

“Are you ignoring me?”

“Please leave.”

“Ah, there we go. Name’s Belphegor. You?”

Daniel took a few post-its from his cubicle wall, shuffled papers on his cluttered desk around at random, then pretended to work at his desktop again.

Belphegor was getting impatient. But what choice did he have? Tracking down another target sounded like even more work. He’d have connect somehow.

“Man, the office life ain’t all what it’s cooked up to be, is it?”

Daniel closed his eyes in defeat, and rested his forehead in his hands. “Tell me about it,” he said.

“You study all those years, and for what? The privilege of workin’ six to midnight.”

“If only,” Daniel muttered. “I’d kill for six hours of sleep.”

“That’s how it always goes. The owner of this place is probably sleepin’ like a log as we speak, too.”

“The main shareholder? I think he’s working even more than me.”

“Jack Primm was his name, right? You think he actually works? He just pitched the app to some rich guys and got a few millions venture investment.”

Daniel turned his chair towards Belphegor, who was sitting on the desk behind him.

“Yeah, well, what can I do about it? I don’t know a thing about marketing.”

Belphegor’s tail perked up. Daniel took the bait, and now all he had to do was reel him in.

“I, however, do. You just need to hop on board the hottest trends. Take mobile games, for example. You could, oh, I don’t know, maybe take the gameplay from Candy Crash, take the design from Oubliette Guardian –…“

Daniel cracked open another Redbull and said: “You can’t just mash up two popular concepts and call it a day.”

“Sure you can. And even if it looks like it’s going belly up, you just need to have sold your shares and bailed by then. Anyone could do it.”

Daniel pondered the idea. He looked back at his screen, where the debugging threw dozens of error codes at him. It would take at least another week of rigorous fixing before the program could go live.

“I’ll consider it. I’m Daniel, by the way.”

Belphegor grinned. Once a mortal’s heart was set, its fate was sealed.


Belphegor waltzed out of the Lumocorp offices and onto the moonlit street, which was devoid of all traffic, with the notable exception of a single woman on a Harley Davidson.

To Belphegor’s alert, she followed him with her gaze as he passed, despite the fact that he hadn’t revealed himself to her.

“Well, if it isn’t old man Belphegor!” she laughed. With a jovial swing, she got off her motorcycle.

“Erm, you can see me?”

“Of course! It’s me, Lilith.”

Belphegor scratched behind his ears. “Oh, right. Shoulda known you were a lesser demon. No offence.”

She took off her helmet, revealing her fire-red hair and piercing green eyes. “None taken!”

Belphegor could see which way the wind was blowing from her artificial politeness, and pre-emptively tried to sink any attempts at small talk.

“Listen, I was just about to go home for tonight. See ya.”

“Not so fast. I saw you come out of the Lumocorp offices. What were you doing there?”

“Me? Nothing. I was just out for a stroll and –…”

“Don’t play coy with me, you little poo poo. You never go for a stroll, so if you weren’t watching television all night, you were up to something.”

Belphegor defensively held up his hands. “Whoa, rude. Where did you get that idea?”

“I could feel the contract between me and one of the losers working overtime here be broken. Only another demon can do that, and it just so happens that you were there when it happened.”

Daniel’s voice rang out from behind Belphegor: “Lily, is that you? What are you doing here at this time of night?”

He meekly shuffled over, his face flushed with infatuation.

Belphegor couldn’t believe his ears. “You told him your name was Lily?”

She gave Belphegor a demolishing glance, then changed her demeanor back to perky in one second flat.

“Didn’t Daniel tell you? We’re best friends! He even took unpaid leave two weeks from now to go on holidays to Italy!”

Belphegor crossed his arms in disapproval. “Mm-hmm. I see how it is.”

“Ah, about that,” Daniel said. Lilith gazed into his eyes with such ferocity that he had to avert his look and admire the pavement instead.

“I think, just maybe, I was going to use that time for a new, um… venture? I’ve had this idea for a new startup in mind, and was thinking about finding investors for it.”

“Yeah, Daniel’s busy. So scram it.”

“But Daniel!” she cried out with just enough pathos to be convincingly fragile, “Think about the gym, and the spa! I said I’d make a man out of you, remember?” Her words were practically dripping with honey.

“Well, that is true,” Daniel conceded.

Belphegor watched the scene with horror. He’d spent a good chunk of his evening to close one good deal, and now Lilith was undoing it in a minute.

He had to intervene.

“Now, let’s not be rash,” Belphegor said, putting a conspiring hand on Daniel’s shoulder. “Danny, my boy. How about this? You look at this business plan we discussed, y’see, and when that’s done, you can take as many “friends” to Italy as you like. It’ll take you four, five months, tops. And then you’re set for life.”

“But Daniel doesn’t want to go with other friends, now, does he?” Lilith said, grabbing Belphegor by the skin of his neck.

Daniel gently lifted the demon’s hand off his shoulder, and said: “Yeah, sorry. Lily’s right. I should’ve refused from the start.”


It was time to bring out the big guns.

“For Satan’s sake, she’s an actual demon! She eats children!”

“What? Do not!”

“And she’s married to Samael! And she hmpfffhm!”

Lilith clutched Belphegor’s mouth and wrestled him to the ground, shoving Daniel backwards, into the bushes lining the pavement.

“Lily?” he said. “I’ve never seen you like this before!”

“Run, boy! Bet you didn’t know she had a mean streak to her, huh!”

Daniel hesitated until Lilith turned towards him, her face still one of untempered fury.

“And don’t forget about our deal!” Belphegor yelled after Daniel as he skedaddled into the night.

However, Belphegor could feel Daniel’s heart was not up for any more deals with these two.

“drat you!” Lilith said. “I don’t understand why you had to come and gently caress me over like you did!”

“I didn’t know! And get your foot off of me!”

“The one time you had to get off your lazy rear end, and you cause more harm than good. Thanks, rear end in a top hat.” Lilith got up and left Belphegor where he lay.


Belphegor lowered himself on the toilet seat and grimaced. He didn’t understand why toilets everywhere had to be so drat cold, even those in hell.

Out of habit, he checked the app store. To his surprise, somebody had uploaded a new game.

“Dungeon Crusher is like Candy Crash with some Oubliette Guardian thrown in. My dreams came true!!” the top-rated review read.

Well, it wasn’t such an original idea after all, Belphegor thought. Perhaps it was fate that he spared Daniel from a bad deal.

Belphegor downloaded his game and looked forward to warming his throne anew.

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

In for Limited Emotion/Mind Reading!

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

No Swiping Required

1538 Words

After a long and arduous road, Amorsys finally launched its long-anticipated dating system in the City of Love itself. The opening of their first boutique in Paris had been delayed several times due to protests and boycotts, but Tabitha had her mind set on going there as soon as the brouhaha died down.

The many glass windows and walls gave the store a sleek, high-tech vibe, but the gentle pink marble of the floors and columns reminded Tabitha of ancient Greek temples. A cordial salesman welcomed her at the entrance, opening a catalogue for her to browse.

“These are by far our most popular model,” he said, pointing to an item labeled “Amor II” in the brochure.

The Amor line resembled hearing aids of sorts. Tabitha had done her cursory research beforehand, but the actual functioning of the tool wasn’t explained on the Amorsys website.

“This may be a silly question, but how does it figure out whether somebody is in love with you?” she asked.

“Ah, it’s all very simple, miss. When a person comes in contact with somebody they are interested in, there is a change in the dopamine, adrenaline and cortisol levels in your body. The Amor II can measure those changes, as well as an increased heartrate and transpiration.”

“Oh. All very simple,” she mused.

So it actually measured attraction, not love. Still, if two people wearing an Amor underwent these changes at the same time, they were pinged and knew they had a match.

The price was steep, but the demands of work in the 22nd century left people with little choice if they wanted to find true love.

She was willing to give it a shot, but…

“Is it dangerous?”

The salesman stared at her for an instant, then smiled. “Do not believe everything you read online, miss. I assure you this model is highly sophisticated and conforms to the highest standards.”

Two hundred euros later, Tabitha was the proud owner of an Amor.


Before leaving for work, Tabitha triple checked in the bathroom whether the Amor clipped behind her ear was visible. To her relief, it remained concealed behind her curls, even upon close inspection.

She knew full well of the stigma attached to the Amor and its buyers: they were either slutty (the horror!) or hopeless romantics (perhaps not that far off the mark, she admitted.)

But the Amor was a subtle accessory, and she strode out of her house with confident paces.
The first doubts set in around noon, however.

Tabitha was eating her sandwich on a bench along the Seine when she realized she didn’t actually fancy anybody at her workplace. Outside of meeting a dashing client, that eliminated ten hours per day that she had any chance of finding a match. Considering her daily routine, the only chances of matching with somebody occurred on the metro to and from her house, or during her fifteen-minute lunch breaks.

Tabitha frowned. She took her phone and messaged a few friends: “Hey girls! I was thinking we could take a day off next Sunday and go to Brocadère together!!”

Smiling, now, she finished her meal. There would without a doubt be ample opportunity at the mall.

As she stowed away her belongings and returned to work, a young man in an ill-fitting suit sat down on the bench to her left. He frantically rummaged through his backpack, occasionally retrieving a document and holding it between his teeth as he searched.

They made eye contact for the briefest of moments when she passed.

“He’o,” he said through his teeth.

“Hello,” she said back.

A gust of wind tore the pages from the man’s lips, and he leapt after them, fearful they’d end up in the river.

Tabitha chuckled to herself: “Interns.”


The Brocadère Mall was positively packed, but Lucie snatched a table at the food court by taking a shortcut over the potted plants.

Tabitha and Anne joined her with the spoils of the afternoon.

“Whew! What a day,” Lucie said. “Coming here was a good plan, Tabitha. I needed to clear my thoughts a bit these days.”

“Mm-hmm,” Tabitha said.

Anne was browsing the drinks list. “A raspberry smoothie sounds great in this heat. What do you think?”

“Ooh, that does sound good!” Lucie said.

A man on the opposite table looked at the trio as he explained something to his friends, then turned to his table again.

“Tabitha?” Anne said.


“You’re looking a bit lost in thought.”

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Tabitha said, waving a reassuring hand at them. “Just a bit of buyer’s regret.”

“Huh?” Lucie picked up a shopping bag and examined the contents. “You can always return it, you know.”

“Not from today. I bought something last week.”

“Ah. That happens.”

Tabitha had not known what to expect when she walked out of the Amorsys boutique. Matches that were too awkward for either party to make the first step, certainly. Matches that were taboo, also. Or, as she secretly hoped, an impossible match with a handsome stranger on the platform when she looked out of the metro, only to be lost in the masses of urban life for evermore.

But she did not expect complete apathy.

She had feared the Amor would go haywire and match everyone in the room at once, or match her with every other man she passed on the street. Now she would take even that over the Amor’s depressing silence.

A waiter came to take their orders. Tabitha batted her eyelashes at him, but he could only return a confused and slightly dazed gawk.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Anne said.

“You do?” A rush of embarrassment overtook Tabitha. Did Anne see her Amor? Could everyone see it? Perhaps this had torpedoed her encounters all day!

“The raspberry smoothie has seeds in it. But look, they have cranberry juice!” Anne said.


Tabitha ate on her bench along the Seine again. The sun shone bright in the deep-blue sky, reflecting the cloudless heavens in the otherwise murky water of the stream. At least you can hide your ugliness, she thought to the river.

Her appetite faltered when she was halfway through her sandwich, and she undid the Amor behind her ear, held it in her hands, and stared.

Somebody approached.

She quickly hid the Amor in her purse, and tried to sit with some poise.

When the man stopped in front of her, she recognized him as the intern from the other day.

“Excuse me, do you mind if I sit here?” he said.

Tabitha looked around and saw the other benches were taken. She shrugged and said: “Go ahead.”

“Thank you. Everyone’s coming outside with this sunny weather, haha.”

Tabitha forced a smile, then looked back at the Seine. From the corner of her eye, she could see him take off his jacket and loosen his tie.

They sat in silence for a few minutes while he ate. Then, he said: “I think I saw you last week.”

“Oh, did you?”

“Yes. I dropped my notes all over the ground, if you remember.”

Tabitha couldn’t help but grin. “I do remember. That was pretty funny.”

The intern chuckled. “Yeah. I’m Marc, by the way.”

“I’m Tabitha.”

There was another awkward silence. Tabitha decided she had humored him enough and that her return to work was long overdue.

“Thank you for making me smile today,” she said while getting up.

“Were you having a bad day?”

She sighed. “I may have been scammed. Bought a product that doesn’t work as advertised.”

Marc nodded.

“I know how that feels. I bought...” He hesitated.

“You bought an Amor from Amorsys, right?”

Marc’s eyes grew wide and his face reddened. “Yes! How did you know?”

Tabitha smirked and said: “Just an educated guess. I heard a lot of complaints about it.”

“Right!” he said, vindicated. “I even braved the protests on launch day to buy mine. But after some weeks with no matches at all, I sold it again at a bargain price. Nobody holds onto these things so they flood uBuy.”

Tabitha perked up. “Nobody keeps them?”

“No!” Marc said with the conviction of a man who has recently written an angry product review, probably several. “That’s the problem with these things. People complain about the commodification of love, but not many people actually own an Amor. And everybody sells their Amor because it doesn’t work.”

Tabitha nodded enthusiastically. Of course! The problem hadn’t been a personal failing of hers, but a failure of marketing.

“So I thought,” Marc continued, mostly to himself, “what’s the point of technology? To make our lives easier, right? No point in buying it if it only makes you anxious. So I sold mine.”

“Thank you, Marc,” Tabitha said. “You’ve given me a lot to think about.”

She left, wondering if perhaps all this time an opportunity had been staring her in the face, but she was too blinded by the Amor to see it. She was halfway to her office when she stopped, thought hard, and returned to the Seine.

Marc was still there, and raised his eyebrows when he saw she was back.

“Actually,” Tabitha said, “do you have any plans for next Saturday?”

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

In for this week, collaborating with someone!

Deltasquid fucked around with this message at 10:41 on May 12, 2017

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

1598 words.

Rho-Man Issue #099: Turnus, The Final Confrontation!

I sing of arms and the man who, exiled from his ancestral Troy by fate, used his mighty biceps to forge a future for our children on the shores of Italy.

Muse, in this final act, tell me how he guided the forces of good to victory, assembled under the banner of the Rho, against the evil King Turnus and his lackeys in the Etruscan League!

Tell me how their feats gave hope to thirty-three generations after them, inspired by their intrepid endeavors!

Tell me…

Of Rho-Man!


Our titular hero relished the verdant fields of Latium and the radiant skies above. His chest was like a kite shield, and his splendid breastplate engraved with his signature letter “Rho”, and he proudly displayed both from atop the highest hill while the finest heroes from Iberia to Cappadocia assembled below.

Rho-Man’s old mentor, Saturn, joined him on the gentle slope.

“Aeneas,” Saturn said, “you have come so far, and made me so proud. But I have one more piece of advice I wish to share before we take on King Turnus tomorrow.”

Aeneas smiled softly. Ever since he took on the mantle of Rho-Man, his first name had lapsed into disuse, even by his closest friends. To hear Saturn say it reminded him of simpler days.

“You know I deeply value your advice, old friend.”

Saturn bowed and spoke: “You lead a valiant army, and are worth an army yourself. But Turnus’ forces are treacherous, and he is a remarkable warrior by his own right. I urge you to be cautious, and to rely on your companions.”

Rho-Man nodded. “You are right as always, Saturn. But fear not! I have the radiant hero of the sun at my side, Apollo, and the mighty lady of war, Minerva. While the other heroes occupy Turnus’ troops, the three of us will seek him out and defeat him, together.”

Closing his eyes in relief, Saturn smiled and said: “I am glad to hear that. The Trojan refugees were right to put their faith in you as their leader. With so great a number praying for you, your strength truly is unrivaled.”

He then looked Rho-Man in the eyes and said: “I bid you well. Tomorrow, we shall free Italy of Turnus’ tyranny.”


The moon came, and then the stars, and then the sun again. By dawn, the black legions had reached the valley, set on destroying the Trojan camp.

Halfway across the pastures, they were met by the Forces of Justice. Hundreds of heroes charged out to intercept the Etruscan villains while thousands of mortals from either side joined in a frantic melee.

Not even the earth was spared from their force: the jackal-headed betrayer, Set, raised terrible storms that ground the countryside to flatness, only for the twins Pollux and Castor to crater it again with their megaton punches. Ares cleaved through boulders and trees in his bloodlust, forcing Diana out of her forests, where Ba’al awaited her with his lightning whips. So did the battle unfold, and across the entire land, awe gripped men and women by the throat.

Soon, the might of the heroes and villains overwhelmed the masses, and those without superpowers were forced into the role of mere spectators.

Rho-Man scoured the battlefield for Turnus. To his right was Apollo, saturating the air with his resplendent arrows, keeping the cautious villains at bay and striking the careless. To his left ran Minerva, keeping them both safe with her gold-coated shield.

They recognized the King by his black armor tall three-plumed helmet. In his hands, he held a dark and fiery sword, the grip in the shape of a roaring chimera, with which he savagely hacked away at lesser heroes.

Before Rho-Man’s team could reach him, they came under fire. Had the bright-eyed Minerva not intercepted it, a well-aimed arrow would have struck Rho-Man from behind. They turned to face the danger in unison, but by the time their eyes scanned the chaos of battle, the assailant was gone.

Rho-Man felt a powerful blow to his right hip, followed by the burning coldness of iron piercing flesh. He dropped to his knee, but caught the second arrow in mid-air before it could find its mark. A young woman, dressed like a huntress and nocking another shot, grinned at the trio from a distance.

Minerva covered Rho-Man with her shield and said: “Are you hurt?”

“I was careless!” Rho-Man said cheerfully. He grabbed the arrow in his side, and snapped it between his fingers. “But I live and learn! Now, we have to find a way to get past Camilla.” He motioned towards the huntress, who leapt to the side with dizzying speed.

“She’s fast!” Apollo gasped. He drew his bow, but had great difficulty tracking Camilla. She outran the wind itself, seemingly skimming over the golden stalks of uncut wheat without gracing them, firing rapid shots all the while.

With an effortless punch to the ground, Rho-Man caused a quake. Camilla staggered and lost her footing for a split second, more than enough for Apollo to hit her in the chest with a snap shot. After tumbling several yards, she came to an abrupt stop at Turnus’ feet.

The King of Darkness looked down on her, then turned his attention to our three heroes.

“Rho-Man,” he thundered, “Will you never cease to be a thorn in my side? For centuries, these lands have been mine. Who are you to seize them?”

With a chuckle, Rho-Man stretched his open palm to the skies, and said: “Fate forced me into Italy, and fate shall force you out of it. Your wicked wilderness shall be tamed, and marble cities shall flower in its stead, and the names of our children shall be known across the whole world. Who are you to deny our fate, and that of your descendants with it?”

Turnus marched towards them with deliberate paces. Minerva raised her shield, and Apollo fired his gleaming arrows at the advancing figure. To Apollo’s surprise, his barrage recoiled on the black armor.

Turnus charged.

Rho-Man anticipated the swipe and dived under the sword, feeling the blaze pass him by inches. He rebounded with an uppercut, striking Turnus’ chest with a blow that raised the dust and dirt around them. Shockingly, the breastplate bounced back into position with equal force, propelling Rho-Man into the ground and sending him careening across the battlefield.

The world spun inside Rho-Man’s head. He gingerly tried to find his bearing, saw Minerva was in difficulty, leapt back into the fray.

Just before Turnus struck her, Rho-Man grappled him by the arm. Using his forward momentum, Rho-Man swung the King in a full circle and let go. Turnus was flung across the field, and his sword landed somewhere in the surrounding scuffle.

“By the heavens, what is that accursed armor?” Rho-Man said.

Turnus slowly got up, rolling his shoulders as he did. “Forged in the Etna by Vulcan himself, boy . The harder you strike it, the harder it returns to its original shape.”

Laughing madly, Turnus barreled towards Rho-Man and kicked him in the arrow wound. Rho-Man flung as many punches into the breastplate as he could manage before he was launched backwards yet again.

Turnus went for a wide swing, and Rho-Man returned the favor. Their fists connected halfway, and Rho-Man was hurled into the air, across the entire battlefield, into the Trojan camp, where he plunged into a tent.

A crowd formed around the collapsed hero, but widened again when Turnus landed next to the crash site.

Rho-Man barely found the strength to stand. How could he break through this armor? Perhaps he was weaker than he realized. After all, a hero’s strength waned when the people’s belief in him faltered.

“Why do you struggle so?” Turnus said. “It is over.”

No wonder.

He had failed them.

From the crowd, a familiar voice cried out: “Father! I am still with you!”

It was Ascanius, pointing a trembling arrow at the Dark King. The adolescent had unfortunately been born without any special powers, but he was no less brave for it.

“I can fight, too!” a girl said, holding a branch like a club.

A small boy, no older than six, threw a rock at Turnus.

The King turned towards them.

Rho-Man wiped the blood off his lips. They were curled into a serene smile.

“Thank you, Ascanius,” he said, “for making me remember.”

Like lightning, Rho-Man struck Turnus’ helmet on the right side. Instead of fighting the counter-blast, Rho-Man anticipated it and let it guide his next punch, this time on the left side. Turnus tried to counter, but the successive strikes and rebounds forced him on the defensive.

The crowd cheered.

And cheered.

With every strike, Rho-Man’s knuckles grew hotter. With every word of encouragement, his heart did the same.

From the heat, the black helmet turned into a glowing red, and finally into a brittle white, until it shattered. Rho-Man saw the pale terror in Turnus’ face, and sent him sky-high with a crunchy uppercut.

Vaulting after him with all his might, Rho-Man yelled: “You asked why I fight, Turnus!”

They reached the peak of their arc through the deep, blue sky. Rho-Man wrapped his arms around the waist of upside-down Turnus, and locked his legs around the King’s neck.

“It’s because I fight for everyone’s future! For the children of Troy, of Italy, of Egypt, of Gaul!”

They descended.

“Because that is the Rho-Man way!”

The impact sculpted seven hills on those plains, which we can still admire in Rome today.

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

Good crits, much thank.

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!


Uranium Phoenix posted:

In a world where aligning structures to cosmic bodies grants them power...


In a world where people can no longer read the alphabet...

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

gently caress, this was some new record in fjgj, I bet.

Third told me to post this anyway so here goes. DQ'd.

1499 words

Prompt: In a world where aligning structures to cosmic bodies grants them power...

The Dragon’s Disqualification

It’s not that I enjoyed being an agitator. Far from it. I was born in a respectable family, as the son of a magistrate, and my parents had taught me to respect my elders and my peers. I was raised to be polite and considerate of others, even when they lacked such virtue themselves.

And yet, the circumstances at Liangtiao set me on a collision course with many of its disciples and mentors.

The academy had been built according to the latest understandings of wind and water. It was designed in such a way that powerful qi crystals suspended the campus far above the Eightfold Lake, where it rotated on its axis to constantly orient the administrative facilities and the classrooms to the Constellation of the Dragon, ensuring its auspices blessed the academy to its fullest extent, no matter the season.

Liangtiao could only be accessed via airship ferry. It was aboard such an airship, on the day of my arrival, that I met Fa-Xiao.

I was lost in thought on the starboard side of the deck, admiring the lake and swans below, when Fa-Xiao approached me.

“What is your birth sign?” he said.

I turned to face him. “Greetings. I believe we haven’t met. My name is Mi-Yun.”

“That is not what I asked,” he said. “Your birth sign?”

I considered the possible motives behind his question, and concluded that he himself was probably born under the Dragon. Only those of high rank would risk comparing birth signs with complete strangers.

“Dog,” I answered honestly.

With a “Hmph,” he turned to another young man standing close to us. “And you?”

The other man was taken aback by this, and it took him several seconds to muster a timid “Snake.”

“Hmph!” Fa-Xiao stormed off, presumably to torment other passengers with similarly invasive questions.

The man next to me sighed, staring towards the distance again. We stood side by side for a good amount of time until I introduced myself properly. His name was Ti-Hou.

“That guy cared a lot about our birth signs,” he said.

“I thought he was mostly interested in his own birth sign, to be honest.”

“Do you think everyone at Liangtiao will be like that?”

I hoped not.


We debarked at the academy, stowed our belongings at the residences and headed towards the lecture building for our introductory classes.

In a stroke of brilliance, Liangtiao’s architect had even sculpted a series of holes, overpasses and corridors in the academy’s red and gold buildings. The result was a finely-crafted series of wind tunnels which shielded the interior courtyards from outside gales, yet allowed an occasional breeze to gently sway the reed around the artificial ponds.

The classrooms, too, were oriented in a fashion that maximized the latent qi. I could not help but notice the students were designated a seat according to their date of birth, an objective criterium which just so happened to seat Dragons and Tigers where the qi was strongest, and Snakes and Rats at the back, where it was weakest.

Ti-Hou and I were severely disappointed when Fa-Xiao’s name was called early on, and he paraded towards a front seat. When he passed by my desk, he glanced at me and said: “This Academy isn’t what it used to be.”
I tired of this. I said: “You know, you really are quite rude.”

There was a heavy silence in the classroom. Frustratingly, the only reaction came from our instructor, Yueng: “Silence. Please do not interrupt me to disrespect your upperclassmen.”

Fa-Xiao grinned at me.

Under my desk, I clenched a fist.


“I don’t see why they get such a leg-up on us,” Ti-Hou complained over dinner.

“The Dragon and the constellations around it are strongest,” I told him between bites of beef bowl. “We erect structures to benefit from their auspices, and in turn the constellations gain power from our worship. So, those born in winter have stronger qi.”

“Exactly! Shouldn’t those born under a weaker birth sign get the more powerful spots to balance it out?”

“Such is the natural order, I suppose.”

“Well, it ain’t fair.”

I considered this as I finished my bowl. “Perhaps,” I concluded, “We ought to remind Liangtiao of some other natural truths.”

Ti-Hou leaned forward as if I had just invited him to a conspiracy to depose the Emperor himself. “Go on?”

“Next week, we’ll have preliminary exams to ascertain our skills. I don’t think Fa-Xiao will prepare very hard. We, on the other hand, could work together, and show Liangtiao what a Dog and a Snake can do together.”


Several exams had passed without much notice. Ti-Hou excelled in calligraphy, but Fa-Xiao ended near the top of the class himself, so it did little good to our cause. Our collective study sessions bore fruit for the philosophy recitals and tea ceremonies, where Fa-Xiao performed exceptionally lackluster for a Dragon.

We achieved our first major victory during the preliminary exam for reasoning and debating.

“For this exercise, we will simulate a discussion where you try to convince a provincial governor to construct a bridge at the location that was assigned to you. Your opponent will try to convince the governor to erect the bridge at another location, also assigned to him. Special attention will be paid to the hierarchy and authority of your cited ancestors.”

My opponent was Fa-Xiao. He cited a few classic authors on the subject of engineering, though failed to address several of my arguments. Having heard my own father discuss this at the dinner table for years, I raised the point that several of my authors were certainly of lower rank and authority than Fa-Xiao’s, but nevertheless their combined rank outstripped these classics. This was not a novel argument, but one that was a bit unusual, and Fa-Xiao did not know any of the ancestral rebuttals to it.

His grade suffered severely, to my delight.

That lunch period, we crammed military maxims for the final exam in the afternoon. “We did pretty well,” Ti-Hou told me with a smile.

I leaned back in my chair and stretched my arms. “It wasn’t a very strong argument, but Fa-Xiao had no rebuttals from actual philosophers, so it held.”

“Was it really that simple? It seemed like a strong argument to me. If a thousand Oxes, Dogs and Rats disagree with a single Dragon or Tiger, he’s probably wrong, and they are right.”

I gave him a wry smile. “You’d think so, but a philosopher four hundred years ago thought differently, so we’re wrong. Anyway,” I said, turning my attention to the general’s compilations before me, “If you defeat two players during the wargames this afternoon, you’ll even get a higher overall grade than Fa-Xiao. How’s that for a message?”

“Delightful,” Ti-Hou said gleefully.


In a simulation based on the Heavenly Wars, four students assumed control of one of the Empire’s provinces and tried to subdue the others. Ti-Hou and I chose two adjacent provinces and forged a secret alliance, intending to strike Fa-Xiao when he had ground his forces into the fourth player’s defenses.

The hypothetical bloodshed was catastrophic. Fa-Xiao spent nearly all of his tokens raising levies and cavalry, expecting to tie down as many forts as possible with his infantry while the horsemen routed field armies. When our Snake-Dog coalition positioned its forces to strike him from the South, Fa-Xiao sacrificed a large part of his troops to knock out the fourth player sooner rather than later.

When Ti-Hou occupied his capital, Fa-Xiao punched the table and said: “What the gently caress is this? Mi-Yun is letting him win.”

I shrugged innocently.

“Accept your defeat with grace,” Instructor Yueng said while taking notes. “Your next move, Mi-Yun?”

“I concede, sir.”

Yueng peered over his desk. “Why?”

I suppressed the urge to raise an eyebrow.

“Um. Because I see no possibility of victory, and would rather avoid unnecessary bloodshed, sir?”

“You may yet win. Go on.”

I sighed in resignation, and made several intentional blunders to let Ti-Hue capture my King in a few turns.

“Hm, I see.” Yueng said. He jotted down some notes and ended with: “For going against the spirit of the exam, Mi-Yun and Ti-Hou score zero points. You are dismissed.”

There was silence as instructor Yueng left the examination room.

As soon as the door shut, Ti-Hou threw his King in a far corner of the room, stood up and barged out. I followed him to the pond.

“All things considered, this was still a great victory,” I reassured him.

“Yeah? Explain how, ‘cause our grades just tanked!”

I put my hand on his shoulder to calm him down. “Fa-Xiao won on a technicality, and everybody knows it. Not only did we beat him, but the rest of our class witnessed hypocrisy they can’t ignore. We need to keep fighting until everybody at Liangitao sees that.”

Ti-Hou took deep, controlled breaths as he watched the reed sway. A storm was brewing in the distance.

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

Also, prompt

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

I'm in, please. I know nothing of M:TG. Does it have cute puppies or is this the wrong kind of game for that

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!


sebmojo posted:

you are all horrible monsters that need to be punished Speak up if you agree and want a savage :siren:flash rule:siren: branded on your hide.

Hit me up

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

Here’s some crits because I felt like doing them. I realize I entered this week and then didn’t even finish my own story for you guys to tear into, but ehh more crits is better amirite.

Kloctopussy first because I told her I’d do it in IRC.

Dr. Kloctopussy, The Wrong Bar

Overall impression: This is a weird story and I personally do not like it very much. The beginning gave me an impression of maybe… You were going for something noir or grounded? And then it introduces the fairies and I thought “oh okay it’s gritty urban fantasy” but then it was just an info dump with an ending tacked on at the end.


Yes, it’s Wednesday; yes, it’s three in the afternoon; yes, I’m supposed to be at work; and yes. Yes, I’m already hungover. And no, I don’t care.
Too much repetition, I think. You could trim these into a solid one-two punch and it would serve as a better hook.


I can’t go to my regular bar though, obviously. I’m unquestionably justified in having a drink right now, but I don’t want to justify it to anyone else.
This feels a bit stilted and overbearing. Too much justified, the “though” is redundant, and it simply doesn’t roll very well.
Also is the giant lizard… A literal lizard? I don’t know if it’s slang or if I’m just bad at English but I just wanted to point out this confused me.
I can definitely relate to the desire of finding a dark, dank bar though. We actually have a word for those in Dutch: “Bruine kroeg”. A brown pub. Because it’s got lots of wood and dark things, see. This was your TD Dutch fact of the week.


“Maybe she’s someone else,” offers the bouncer.

She looks over her glasses, and her gaze is, if anything, even more penetrating. I feel exposed. I’m in the wrong place.
These sentences still work but after this I’m getting a bit confused and miffed. Everything from this until


“We don’t have time for this,” the bartender says. “Bring her here.”
feels like you’re being coy about who these people are and why they’re so terrifying to our hitherto nameless protagonist. Like the sentence


Most people know me only as Ann, and he shouldn’t know me as anything.
basically just tells me “wow these guys are mysterious and menacing and also know things about me that they shouldn’t know, except you fail to see how this is relevant because you as a reader have no context to work with, so let me explain to you how this is so menacing.” This sounds harsher than it ought to be but I started losing interest because of this segment mostly.


And I’m suddenly surrounded by shaggy fur and a muddy, familiar musk hovering on the edge between disgusting and comforting. I’m pinned between the front two hooves of a huge ox, with a tortoise shell on his back, and a heron is peering down at me from atop the bar. I really, really walked into the wrong bar. But isn’t that how this always goes?

“Hello, brother,” I say. “Sister.” Half-brother, half-sister. Don’t forget.

“We need to see your father,” Ava says, the woman’s voice from the bird’s beak still unsettling after all these years.

Aaiight here we go lads. We in full exposition mode now: not only do I have to guesstimate the menace behind the scenes, now I also need to start connecting names to familial relations and their past with regards to each other. I wouldn’t mind this during chapter 1 of a 300-page novel which eases me in, but right now most of my experience with your short story has been “I’m confused, what’s going on” which is not ideal when it’s only 1750 words at most.


“He will kill us,” Kyland says. His breath is hot on my face, and reminds me of all the times he stood behind me, silent back up against the teasing of crueler children.
I had to re-read this to get it. Backup is one word in this case. “Silent back up” makes me think a location will follow, like “silent, back up the river” or whatever. Again I was dragged out of the story, desperately trying to connect dots and unsure where this was going.


“You realize this is the plot of like fifty books?”

“Who do you think writes all of them?” Ava says.
What is this quip even? Is Ava a writer? Does she whisper the plot of books into authors’ ears since time immemorial?

Anyway these fairies need a half-fairy, for some reason, to bridge the gap between the fairy and human world. Okay so she has a sword now. After teasing us with Michael’s death for a few paragraphs now you reveal me this sword killed him. Ok cool. I don’t dislike this but the initial “oh this jumping between worlds is what killed Michael” is too coy for a mundane payoff like this one. Admittedly I don’t know how you could have done the infodump more elegantly while also shoehorning this info in, so maybe splitting it up was the right call.


I hear the fight before I get there, and start running. What were Ava and Kyland thinking? Mother’s charm wouldn’t let any fairything harm father.
Uh, what? Does she mean the sword that also protected her? Heartseeker? Why doesn’t Ann raise this point before leaving them? Why does she care now?
Oh I guess father just has another charm. Where did Ava find heartseeker? I don’t know but I can see we’re approaching the end and I’m just… Still confused as to where this was going. And it’s really jarring that we’re suddenly in a fight and also you even denied me a description of the fight by having Ann go outside and then back inside for some reason.

Okay and then it ends. I don’t dislike the last paragraph but I don’t think Ann seems like the person to cry. Maybe just sit in silence. Idk. Seems like a weird note to end on, and a bit of a convoluted ending.

Things I liked: Pretty much anything where something was happening. The beginning and ending stand out to me as quite good. Not amazing, but enjoyable enough to read.

Things to improve: Everything in between was just confusing and either messy or trying to be coy, I don’t know what you tried here. If I need to know the familial relationship of these people you can just straight up tell me. Who even says “brother” or “sister” to their siblings anyway? I don’t have siblings so maybe I’m out of the loop on these things but I always thought they just called each other by their names.

Everyone is trying to be too drat mysterious here is what I’m saying. Be more upfront, bite the bullet on the expo dump if you need to but do it quick and unambiguous and early in your story. Then I can sit down and enjoy your family drama without having to connect the pieces myself and you can focus on showing action and interesting prose, knowing full well that even a dumb reader like me is on board and primed.

Bottomline: don’t waffle about as much. I felt like I had a vague description of things that happened behind the scenes which went on for too long compared to the pay-off of actually interesting things happening during the story proper. It’s okay to have your protagonist be unaware or confused about something but I’d rather not have you conceal and drip feed info your protagonist knows or ought to know just so I can maybe enjoy your story when you’re halfway through and have filled me in on this history your characters have together.

Gonna crit sham bam bamina now because they’re new.


Nice that my first attempt lands smack in the middle of the rankings. High enough to reassure me that I don't suck, low enough that I don't have anything to live up to next time around.

I like to think that I'd have landed a place higher if I'd been cleaner with my last-minute edits (no way can I forgive myself for repeating "deafening" like that at the end).

Fyi the boring TD veterans get upset when people discuss crits any more than “ty for the crit”. I guess because allowing this in the thread leads to people defending a story tooth and nail and making GBS threads up the thread with inconsequential banter. Hit us up in IRC for musings, thoughts, further feedback, jokes etc.

Sham bam bamina! Did in

Overall impression: You went for present tense, which I don’t mind. Sometimes you slip into past perfect and it’s a little bit jarring but I generally don’t have an issue with very specific conjugation. I do know some goons start frothing at the first sign of “has had” so be wary of that.

All in all this is a cute story. Basically chock full of clichés and stereotypes (I think “generic fantasy” might be the most depressing description of any setting ever, but people like you and I gotta face it, we love our genre fiction with a dash of cliché) but it presents itself as a light-hearted and jovial piece, so it mostly works out. Your prose is overall fairly good, I’d say: it veers into a bit of bombastic purple prose at times, but it also has some cleverness.

Sham bam bamina! posted:

Mawl barges through the throne-cave's door in a regal clatter, cutting off the argument. "An' anoth'thing!" the goblin king slurs through the stockade of his fangs. "Tell 'at sonnabitch 'e's dead tomorrow morrin' an' 'at's final!" The cowering servant who had followed him in bows low and hurries out, dutifully slamming the door behind himself.
I think this is actually a bit of a bad introduction to the story. You say he cut off “the argument”, but I forgot about that part when we got to the discussion again, so I had to backtrack and wondered who or what I missed. Additionally, I was afraid all the goblins would speak with funny accents. I suppose “slurs” should have tipped me off that he was inebriated, but I somehow thought that was just a saidism. And as I said above, here you have a “had followed” when I think the correct tense would be “has followed”. Either I am confused, or you are, but in any case, neither writer nor audience should raise an eyebrow at your tense usage. I have to say my original expectations, going by this paragraph, were kinda mediocre. It’s fortunate that your prose recovers quickly and strongly.


Mawl's cauldron of a gut sways as the stout body behind it, laboring beneath a crown of gratuitous dimensions, settles into the thick royal cape, whose red velour serves as unacknowledged upholstery for the solid gold throne. In all fairness, there are better things to make a throne from – its unyielding surface is uncomfortable after more than five minutes (though none who sit on it would ever admit that), and the soft metal has sagged and bowed over its centuries of liberal use – but what goblin king would settle for anything less? A crass folk with crass tastes, the goblins have exactly the throne they want, and they wouldn't give it up for all the other thrones in the land.
The first sentence is still a bit iffy: the prose gets really heavy at the end of the sentence, but I think it fits in this instance because it conveys a mood of royalty and lengthy ceremony. So in a way the heavy, bombastic prose goes hand in hand with the heavy aristocratic allures and the fatness of the funny goblin king. However, “red velour…unacknowledged upholstery…” is pushing it just a tad too much. If your entire story were like this, it would be difficult to read.
The rest of the paragraph I like. It gets a bit more lively.


They would be much better-off if they traded it for even one.
I was left hanging and thinking “one what?” but when going back fort his line by line crit it seems I am merely bad at reading. It’s clear enough, I think. Maybe.


Deep in the slumber of drink, the crown having toppled from his little head to join the treasure piled high about the throne-cave's floor, the king is now dead to the world, and the discussion resumes. "Oh, fair enough. You're right. If it didn't count in '43, it doesn't count now." Like most disputes over scoring, this one was short-lived. The enchanted throne's twin ruby-eyed heads have been at this for nearly as long as their home has seen use, and the pace of the game has been smoothed by time into a steady current.
I think you made a mistake here by not introducing who is doing the talking first. I realize this is the equivalent of having off-screen voices talk while the camera pans around the room and reveals the speaker, but having voices in a void made me not really understand what was going on at all. Once I figured out the encrusted heads were talking I could re-read what was said and enjoy it quite a bit more.

I like the next paragraphs a lot. Not much to say here except they’re pleasant to read and the discussion moves at just the right pace.


As the goblins beat each other, oblivious to all else, a guard on his rounds approaches the entrance to the throne-cave. Seeing an altercation, he follows his rigorous training as a goblin guard and joins in. Baff didn't get to patrol this deep in the mountain by sitting on his goblin hands.
I’m not sure “altercation” works here. It’s a bit too dry for it to be justified in this rather mundane sentence. Maybe there was a funnier word you could have used? Right now it’s distracting in a way that is neither funny nor eventful and “fight” or somesuch could have fit better.
Remember that using embellished prose draws attention. It needs to justify that somehow: either drawing attention to important facts or events, being particularly neat as a sentence at a particularly interesting moment in your story, or to be funny, clever, insightful in some way. Embellishing your prose needs to serve a function of sorts: just dropping a word you saw in a thesaurus in an otherwise mundane sentence or moment just distracts the reader without actually making a point or giving them anything in return. At the very least your special fancy word should evoke a feeling of sorts, and I don’t think “altercation” evokes any specific feelings that another word couldn’t have done better.
Sorry if this is a random point to get hung up on prose. It’s just that this word in particular distracted me in ways your other big, fancy words did not. I think because it’s so meaningless in the sentence.


There is looting. There is even a bit of loving.


What a loathsome insult this is! His chamber, his treasure, his kingdom, and these imbeciles are trampling any sense of his authority like dirt in their idiot fight. He's been king for two days, but he feels the wrath of two lifetimes. And despite his contempt for it, he can only join the melee.
I like these sentences a lot. Very goblin way of looking at things, and the last two sentences are neat little contrasts.

There’s not much I want to say about the rest of the story: it reads comfortably, you stick the landing with your parting shot as an ending, and all in all I’m glad I read it.

Things I liked: Your prose was good most of the time, with a few parts where I saw you put in effort and it didn’t feel forced at all.

Things to improve: At a few instances, your prose is a bit too heavy or forced for its own good. Your first paragraph especially is one big false start. Your story is also not particularly original or imaginative with regards to its setting, but I think in this specific case that might have helped. It’s a fun little story and I think trying to be more original might have bogged down the actual story with lore or infodumps. Still, goblins are a bit tired and cliché. I realize you were using the prompt you were dealt, but TD usually allows you to stretch your imagination muscles a bit and go for metaphors or just vague inspiration with regards to the prompt. The point is to get your creative juices flowing, not to constrain you too much.

Bottomline: a fun read, in my humble opinion, but it tries to be too heavy at times. I’d compare your story to a cheap Bordeaux wine bought in a plastic bag at Carrefour: a guilty pleasure for when I don’t care about being fancy, but it tries a bit too hard to be sophisticated and having too much of it gives me a headache the next morning. Fortunately your story is a little sip and it warms my heart. Reading an entire book in this style might be cumbersome.

Welcome to the thunderdome!

Deltasquid fucked around with this message at 22:56 on Sep 26, 2017

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

Ah gently caress it, I'm in. Give me a flash rule. 665, the neighbour of the beast.

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

His Name was Natale (1439 words)

From: Lorenzo Mancini
Subject: disturbing cartoon on canale 5
To: Giorgio Antonelli <>

Dear Giorgio,

This might be a strange question to ask to my union representative, but have you ever heard of a cartoon called “Il re in giollo”?

Every Sunday, like clockwork, my son Alberto eats breakfast while watching it from the sofa. Some months ago, I think it was in June, I started watching with him after endless pestering from his part.

In a lot of ways it is a forgettable and generic children’s show, with talking animals having adventures in a forest, but it dawned upon me that the content is rather dark, with frequent references to death or illness. I paid it no attention at first, thinking this was standard for old cartoons (remember all the blood in Ginga and Rurouni Kenshin?) but it hit too close to home at times.

The most disturbing example happened last month. One of the main characters, incidentally Alberto’s favorite, is a silver-haired cat called Natale whose mischief gets him into trouble every week. In this particular episode, there is a visual gag where the cast are stuck on a burning ship, and Natale yells “Cats and children first!” as he jumps into the water. Unfortunately for him, he lands into an oil spill from the ship, which catches fire. Natale then sinks deeper and deeper into the sea, as his fur gradually changes to a charcoal black and he disappears beneath the waves.

Alberto did not find this very funny at all, and I had to console him all afternoon. I reassured him that Natale would just be back the next week, but…

Giorgio, Natale was gone. He did not come back that week, nor the next one, nor yesterday. I think the show writers killed him off for good, and what upsets me personally is that none of the other characters even mention him anymore. For all intents and purposes, it is like Natale never existed.

And then, with what happened with our colleague this week… I was there, Giorgio. I saw old man D’Angelo at the steel furnace when I arrived on Monday morning. He was looking out over the vats below, a melancholic orange glow cast over his cheeks, and jumped before he saw me. With how dense the molten steel is, he did not make any sort of splash, but crashed right on top as if it were solid, his arms and legs stretched out. The heat seared his flesh right off and I could smell the charring from the other end of the catwalk. I stared at him, floating on the surface, slowly being incinerated while the other engineers screamed and scrambled to put the steel casting on hold.

I then realized that such things are no laughing matter, and unfit for a children’s cartoon. I tried to find the name of the animation studio or show writers, but can’t find any information about Il re in giollo in Italian, and I do not speak enough English to find what I need. Giorgio, I know this is a bizarre request, but maybe you can find more information about this American cartoon?

I hope that, having witnessed the accident with D’Angelo from second hand, you will agree with me that this is an important concern to raise with the makers of the cartoon.

Sincerely yours,


From: Giorgio Antonelli <>
Subject: Re: disturbing cartoon on canale 5
To: Lorenzo Mancini

Dear Lorenzo,

Let me begin by reiterating my sincerest condolences for what happened at the smelter last week.

Don’t worry about your question, we’re here to help each other in any way we can.

I have looked into Il Re in Giollo and as you mentioned, information is scarce, even in English. It appears that the cartoon was made in 1991 and is based on an old play, called “The King in Yellow”, but the animation studio or lead writer remain a mystery.

It is rather puzzling that both the cartoon and actual play are so obscure, but considering Canale 5 is doing reruns, I fear getting in touch with the writer won’t matter with regards to its disturbing contents. If you were to write anyone at all, I suggest you address Canale 5 and request they reconsider their decision to broadcast Il Re in Giollo.

That aside, we are all deeply shocked by D’Angelo’s passing. In case you did not receive the memo during your absence from work, the funeral will be held this Wednesday.

If you have any other questions or concerns, you are of course welcome to pass by my office at any time.

Kindly yours,


From: Lorenzo Mancini
Subject: Re: Re: disturbing cartoon on canale 5
To: Giorgio Antonelli <>

Giorgio, did you know D’Angelo’s first name was also Natale? I could not believe it at the funeral. I still cannot believe such a coincidence is possible in this world. God must have intended it as a warning, or the devil himself as a promise of sorts.
Searching through articles of I Tempi Piemontesi, I discovered multiple other examples that match deaths in the show. Gerardo the squirrel: crushed under a mountain of chestnuts. Gerardo di Mercurio, crushed in his home by an earthquake where he was the only victim, in 2014. Francesca the Fox, struck by lightning. Francesca Naggia, electrified in her bath in 2015 in a freak accident involving a hairdryer.

Giorgio, I ask you: who is next?


From: Giorgio Antonelli <>
Subject: Re: Re: Re: disturbing cartoon on canale 5
To: Lorenzo Mancini

Dear Lorenzo,

We all miss D’Angelo dearly. While I admit the similarities to the episode you described are uncanny, accidents like the one we witnessed unfortunately happen and may have served as inspiration for the writers. I do not think they or God or anyone else predicted D'Angelo's passing in particular. With regards to the other accidents you describe, I fear you may be projecting too much. I noticed you were particularly anxious at work yesterday.

The best we can do now is comfort each other and D’Angelo’s family in this difficult time for them.

Nevertheless I share your concern for the mental well-being of the show’s writers in having chosen such morbid matter for the show’s content, as well as that of the children watching it. I suggest we take time to grieve for D’Angelo and write a sternly worded letter to Canale 5 next week, together if you wish. In the meantime I suggest you leave this ordeal and especially the cartoon behind you.

Faithfully yours,


From: Lorenzo Mancini
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: disturbing cartoon on canale 5
To: Giorgio Antonelli <>

I refuse to let Alberto watch that cartoon any longer. I thought he would be disappointed when I told him at breakfast, but he simply nodded and ate his cereals before going to school. Maybe he was relieved to hear it himself, or maybe indifferent, I could not say, but I have rarely seen my son behaving so out of it. My wife thought it was strange for me to forbid him from watching a TV show, but she thankfully did not press the issue.

I made my decision yesterday morning but did not have the stomach to tell him until today. For once, I did not watch with him, but walked by when that sinister show was on. Considering the events of last month, I asked Alberto if he still liked the cartoon now that cat was dead, but he looked right through me and asked “what cat?”

Giorgio, you will call me crazy or overstressed, but I swear the cat was there. It was his favorite character. When he told me the show never had a cat, I thought he was backtalking me and got angry at him. But by supper, he repeated that he earnestly did not know what I was talking about, and my shouting had genuinely confused and upset him.

Words fail to describe the feeling that came over me. I felt so alone, Giorgio, so misunderstood in a way I have never experienced. Like expecting a bath to be warm and jumping into a frigid tub, but it chilled me in my bones and heart.

In between the suicide and the recent misfortunes that have befallen others in Genua, I cannot stomach it any longer.

Yesterday the cartoon showed a family of four mice on a sinking ship. I’m too afraid to learn their names. I am thinking about leaving Metallurgia di Piemonte and moving to Milan. Will you be at the office tomorrow morning?


Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

Semaine deux-cent-septante (270): La Belle Époque

I legit did not see this coming at all, you people are crazy.

Anyway to rub it in even harder that an English Third Language learner somehow beat you all this week, I'm going to make this Belgium week and you get to wallow in shame and misery for seven more days.

The prompt is as follows: Your story must have some sort of connection to Belgium or a Belgian thing. It doesn't have to be set in modern-day Belgium specifically but something Belgian must form an important connection to the story: a place, an object, or a person.

Because you guys are all horrible racists I am FORBIDDING any reference to chocolate, waffles, mussels or french fries. Be creative, you chucklefucks, there's like 200 wars that were fought out in Belgium and like a million paintings we made. Make it a historical piece set in the Spanish lowlands if you desire, or have someone use a gun manufactured by the Fabrique Nationale in Herstal, anything whatsoever, but god drat it do not write me about a single praline or waffle. If you do this anyway I will end you.

If you want a flash rule, tell me and I'll shoot you a piece of trivia about Belgium. I'll try to make sure it's obscure enough that you won't ever have heard of it, hopefully. You don't have to use it but you get extra words if you do. You don't have to literally include that piece of trivia but if it somehow influences your story then it's good to go.

You can write any genre you want but no erotica nor fan fiction, as usual.

WORDCOUNT MAX: 1750 (+250 if you use a flash rule)

Entry deadline is Friday 07/10/2017, 9 pm GMT+1
but you have some leeway because I tend to forget things.

Submission deadline is Monday 09/10/2017, 9 am GMT+1. Oh hey yes guess what, that's BELGIUM TIME you chucklefucks. I'm giving you time until MY Monday morning so none of you dumbasses fail to submit because you didn't read the prompt and my midnight is your 5 pm so here you go, Americans. You have time until midnight, give or take a few hours.

Dr. Kloctopussy
Fuschia Tude

Citoyens de la belle époque:
Chairchucker (King Albert's Death trivia)
Thranguy (Ypres Cat Throwing trivia)
Sham Bam Bamina! (Article 324bis Code Pénal trivia)
Fuubi :toxx:
Aesclepia :toxx:(Ambroise Boimbo trivia)
Jay W. Fricks (La Redoute first casino trivia)
Burkion (Father Verbiest won an astronomy contest in Qing China trivia)
Toadsmash :toxx: (Bayard folklore trivia)
Captain_Indigo (exiles in Brussels trivia)
derp (Gallo-Roman dodecahedron trivia)
Flesnolk :toxx: (additional :toxx: not to enter IRC until he doesn't fail or lose) (Belgian railways trivia)
Kaiju (closing of the Scheldt trivia)
Solitair (Belgium bookends the World Wars trivia)
Sebmojo (Westvleteren Trappist trivia)
Yoruichi (Bread machines & meat wall trivia)
Obliterati (Tchantchès trivia)
Blue Square

Deltasquid fucked around with this message at 08:12 on Oct 7, 2017

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!


Chairchucker posted:

in and flash

wikipedia posted:

A passionate alpinist, King Albert I died in a mountaineering accident while climbing alone on the Roche du Vieux Bon Dieu at Marche-les-Dames, in the Ardennes region of Belgium near Namur. His death shocked the world and he was deeply mourned, both in Belgium and abroad. Because King Albert was an expert climber, some questioned the official version of his death and suggested that the king was murdered (or even committed suicide) somewhere else and that his body had never been at Marche-les-Dames, or that it was deposited there.[20][21]

Thranguy posted:

Belgian? More like Belg-in. And I'll take a flash too.


The earliest descriptions of cat throwing can be found in the city chronicles of the years 1410-1420. The Ypres chronicles often link the cat throwing with the Ascension fair that already existed in 1127.

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!


Sham bam bamina! posted:

I'm in and will have a flash rule.

Article 324bis. of the Belgian penal code defines criminal organisations as "any structured association of more than two people which lasts for a span of time, with the aim of plotting crimes and misdemeanors punishable by three years of prison or a harsher punishment" but feels the need to specify that political organisations can never be considered a criminal organisation in the sense of this article.

magnificent7 posted:

I'm waffling on this one, but OKAY FINE. I'm in!


no don't make pu-

Fuubi posted:

I was gonna do a dumb waffle joke! Oh well, I guess I can't mussel my way out of this... I'm in with a :toxx:


Exmond posted:

I took a week off but I'm in


Aesclepia posted:


Also :toxx: and flash rule plz


Ambroise Boimbo was a Congolese citizen who snatched the ceremonial sword of King Baudouin I of Belgium on June 29, 1960 in Léopoldville (now Kinshasa) on the eve of the independence of the Belgian Congo.

Deltasquid fucked around with this message at 14:18 on Oct 2, 2017

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!


magnificent7 posted:

I giggled. I'm an adult.

Due to line breaks in the Belgian constitution's printed form, there's a line that reads like "none can be jerked off against their will" in Dutch if you don't read the word on the next page.

For the record, I'm still looking for one or two snobs to judge the contestants at my sides!

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!


Jay W. Friks posted:

In and flash!

The Walloon city of Spa opened the first casino (then called a gambling hall) in the modern sense of the word, called La Redoute.


In the 18th century, especially from 1750 onwards, the spa-town of Spa saw great success as a travel destination, seeing princes and crowned heads arrive there every season. High-class 'bobelins' came to its twenty springs seeking a cure from England, France, the Netherlands, Prussia and Italy and Spa became known as the 'café de l'Europe'.[14] Among the town's attractions were its gambling houses. The La Redoute assembly rooms opened there in 1763 as Europe's first modern casino, and in competition Spa's 'Waux-Hall' (named after Vauxhall Gardens near London) opened its doors in 1770 despite the exclusive patent banning gambling which it had initially been granted by prince-bishop John Theodore of Bavaria. In 1774 the two gambling houses stopped competing and merged,[15] participating in Spa's naming as the Café de l'Europe in 1781.

Somehow the only English information I could find about this casino on wikipedia was an article about the revolution in 1789. No, not the French one! The one in Liège!

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!


Burkion posted:

In with Flash Rule.

A Belgian Jesuit won an astronomy competition in Qing China and became head of the Beijing Observatory.

Pretty much everything about this article is bonkers.

wikipedia posted:

Father Ferdinand Verbiest (9 October 1623 – 28 January 1688) was a Flemish Jesuit missionary in China during the Qing dynasty. He was born in Pittem near Tielt in the County of Flanders (now part of Belgium).[2] He is known as Nan Huairen (南懷仁) in Chinese.
The contest was held at the Bureau of Astronomy in the presence of senior-ranking government ministers and officials from the observatory. Unlike Yang, Verbiest had access to the latest updates on the Rudolphine Tables, and was assisted by telescopes for observation. He succeeded in all three tests, and was immediately installed as Head of the Mathematical Board and Director of the Observatory. .

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!


Toadsmash posted:

In with :toxx: since I was a horrible procrastinating bastard last time

Also flash me because why not

A popular legend/folklore/myth in Belgium is that of the horse Bayard, and several cities lay claim to being the true origin of the story. The most famous claim to fame is without a doubt the Ros Beiaard van Dendermonde; every ten years the citizens of Dendermonde search a family of four brothers who will ride a massive wooden horse to re-enact the legend in a parade. Due to dropping birthrates though, it's getting harder and harder to find elegible siblings.


Bayard first appears as the property of Renaud de Montauban (Italian: Rinaldo) in the Old French twelfth century chanson de geste Quatre Fils Aymon. The horse was capable of carrying Rinaldo and his three brothers ("the four sons of Aymon") all at the same time and of understanding human speech. Near the end of the work, Renaud is forced to cede Bayard to Charlemagne who, as punishment for the horse's exploits, has a large stone tied to Bayard's neck and has the horse pushed into the river; Bayard however smashes the stone with his hooves and escapes to live forever more in the woods.

The neighbouring city of Aalst created their own horse as a parody of the pride in Dendermonde.

Captain_Indigo posted:

Tintin..... Tintin is from Belgium right? Give me one of them flash rules too, please.


Brussels has been a famous destination for Europeans in exile, as the Belgian neutrality meant Belgium often did not concern itself with politically touchy matters in its neighbouring countries. Amongst others, Karl Marx wrote his communist manifesto in Brussels, and Victor Hugo wrote Les Miserables in Waterloo, near Brussels. A famous saying goes: "When it rains in Paris, it drips in Brussels" because revolutions in France usually ended in exiles, and the exiled usually stirred up emotions in Belgium. Other famous exiles include Jacques-Louis David (1815 to 1825), Alexandre Dumas (1851), Charles Baudelaire (1864 to 1867), Napoléon IV (1870), Auguste Rodin (1870 to 1886) and Paul Verlaine (1872 to 1873).

derp posted:

back in and flash me!

Okay this one isn't Belgian per se but there's one of these in pretty much every Gallo-Roman museum in Belgium so whatever.

Roman dodecahedrons (dodecahedroi?) are basically one hell of a head-scratcher and nobody knows what they're for. One museum claimed they might be alien artefacts. Who knows! There's a statue of one of these in Tongeren (a famous Belgian town with Gallo-roman roots) though.

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!


Dr. Kloctopussy posted:

As one of the few people in TD who has actually been to Belgium (pretty sure this isn't too big of an assumption), I feel obligated to judge.

Here's what I think of all of you:

Eendracht maakt macht!

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

Good crits, everyone! Thanks!

Flesnolk posted:

In, toxx for entering and not losing, flash rule please, and additional toxx that I will not enter IRC until I have submitted a story and not lost.

Lots of toxxes!

Belgium has a long and proud history of things that go "choo choo". Second in the world (after the UK) to build railways between two cities! Increasingly, Belgian capital and expertise were in demand to build railways abroad: Belgian designs and crews were used to build several railways in Russia, Egypt and even China!

Kaiju15 posted:

I'm in. Please help me learn more about Belgium with a flash rule!

I can't even find an article in English about this, that's how obscure it is!

With Belgium's independence in 1830, the Dutch were obviously pissed off and they blocked off the Scheldt river, an important and wide waterway that leads to Antwerp but flows through a part of the Netherlands before reaching the sea. Blockading the river was not unknown at the time, as the Dutch had done it on multiple occasions to squeeze the Spanish lowlands whenever they had a war or uneasy peace (i.e. all of the 80 years war). After the revolution, Belgium and the Netherlands signed a treaty to re-open the Scheldt on the condition that the Dutch could raise a toll on every ton of cargo passing to Antwerp. In the 1860's, two Belgian parliamentarians promised to put an end to this toll, and the Belgian state received almost universal support in raising an international fund (21 countries participated) to buy off the toll for good.

This is widely seen as one of our best "gently caress you" moments to the Dutch, as the removal of the toll benefitted everyone in Belgium but cost the Dutch millions in taxes over the next years.

Solitair posted:

Yeah, thanks for crits, everyone.

Edit: put me IN and give me a flash rule, please

Belgium had a hand in starting the first world war, and in ending the second. Don't believe me? Franz Ferdinand was assassinated with the use of a Belgian-made pistol (the FN model 1910) and the nuclear bombs that were dropped on Japan in 1945 were made with uranium dug up in the Belgian Congo. This would almost be food for conspiracy theories, were it not that my government is too incompetent to do any sort of conspiring whatsoever.

sebmojo posted:

Dans, flashez-moi s'il vous plait

You can't use "dans" in that way!!

Belgium has a long beer tradition, as you are aware. Perhaps less known is the privileged status of "trappist", a specific form of abbey beer. In order to be considered a trappist, the beer must be brewed within or just outside the walls of a monastery, under the direct supervision of the monks in that monastery, and the revenue goes to feeding the monks and maintaining the abbey, with large chunks of the profits typically going to charity instead.

The most famous one is perhaps brewed at the abbey of Westvleteren, renowned for the simple fact that you cannot buy them on the market. Indeed, the Westvleteren trappists are considered too pure and blessed to be sold on international markets. Anyone who wants to drink it, needs to drink it at the abbey of Westvleteren itself. This used to be a closely guarded secret in the region, but tourism and mass media means many do day trips to Westvleteren now, and as a result it has somewhat lost its rustic charm.

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!


Yoruichi posted:

Thanks for crits.

In and flash please.

"Bread machines" are a sort of vending machine that sells, you guessed it, bread. They dot the Belgian landscape because pretty much every bakery has one in their wall or next to their front door: ideal in case the bakery is closed but you really need some bread. Belgians find this entirely normal but every foreigner I've ever met in Belgium completely lost their poo poo when seeing these for the first time so I guess they're neat?

Similarly, the city of Leuven has two "meat walls" as we call them: a sort of vending machine for your midnight snacking needs, right in the cultural centre (between all the bars and night clubs) of Leuven. This concept actually originated in the Netherlands but it's quickly being adopted here as well.

I guess pretty much any weird old thing could be shoved into a vending machine if you try hard enough.

For more context:


00:40 sittinghere meat walls??
00:40 sittinghere tell me of your meat walls
00:41 *** QuoProQuid is now known as Wall
00:41 Wall Meet Wall
00:41 Deltasquid well
00:41 Exmond_Pufferfish Yes I wish to know more of your Meat Walls
00:41 Deltasquid okay so
00:41 Deltasquid basically
00:41 Exmond_Pufferfish boo's at QPQ's pun
00:41 *** Nethilia1 quit (Ping timeout: 180 seconds)
00:41 Deltasquid uhhh
00:41 sittinghere are they made of meat???
00:41 Deltasquid you have a wall right
00:41 Deltasquid no
00:41 sittinghere right
00:41 sittinghere ok
00:41 Deltasquid and behind the wall
00:41 *** Wall is now known as QuoProQuid
00:41 sittinghere is meat???
00:42 QuoProQuid is the meat a metaphor
00:42 Deltasquid you have a bunch of people who work by deep frying whatever snacks
00:42 Deltasquid like hamburgers
00:42 Deltasquid or frikandellen
00:42 Deltasquid or
00:42 Deltasquid you know
00:42 Deltasquid snacks!
00:42 Deltasquid basically anything you can buy at a frituur
00:42 sittinghere wait so are these meat slingers like
00:42 sittinghere part of the wall
00:42 Deltasquid they're ina room hidden from the public
00:42 Deltasquid and then like a bank teller I guess
00:42 Exmond_Pufferfish Okay
00:43 Deltasquid they have a compartment where they can put the food in
00:43 Exmond_Pufferfish they have a HIDDEN MEAT ROOM
00:43 Deltasquid that's kept warm
00:43 Exmond_Pufferfish that serves the MEAT WALL
00:43 QuoProQuid what
00:43 Deltasquid and from the street side
00:43 Deltasquid you insert a coin into the wall
00:43 Deltasquid like a vending machine
00:43 Deltasquid open one of the small plastic containers
00:43 Deltasquid take the snack
00:43 Deltasquid close it again
00:43 Deltasquid and while you unwrap your food and walk away in a drunken stupor
00:43 QuoProQuid Is this real?
00:43 Exmond_Pufferfish And its 24/7?
00:43 Deltasquid the people working inside replace that specific box
00:43 Deltasquid yes
00:44 Deltasquid this is
00:44 Deltasquid actually
00:44 Deltasquid totally
00:44 Deltasquid for real
00:44 Deltasquid legit
00:44 Deltasquid and it's not 24/7 but like
00:44 QuoProQuid It sounds like world-building for a very bad steampunk book
00:44 Deltasquid from lunch to 6 AM absically
00:44 QuoProQuid like, little orphans in pre-industrial vending machines
00:44 Deltasquid so 18 hours
00:44 Deltasquid 7 days a week
00:44 Exmond_Pufferfish 12pm - 6am
00:44 Deltasquid usually it's like
00:44 Deltasquid indonesian migrants
00:44 Exmond_Pufferfish Is it staffed by people?
00:44 Deltasquid working there
00:44 Deltasquid yeah
00:44 Deltasquid only inside though
00:44 Exmond_Pufferfish Okay so let me get this straight
00:44 Exmond_Pufferfish You have a HIDDEN MEAT ROOM
00:44 Deltasquid like 1 or 2 guys
00:44 Exmond_Pufferfish that supplies DELICIOUS MEATS
00:44 Exmond_Pufferfish to a vending machine god
00:44 Deltasquid yes
00:44 Exmond_Pufferfish that you put a dollar in and get your meats
00:44 Deltasquid exactly
00:44 QuoProQuid sweeney todd's meat pie vending machines
00:45 Exmond_Pufferfish And its funded by the blood of immigrants
00:45 Deltasquid gently caress it I might just go out and film that poo poo tomorrow night
00:45 Exmond_Pufferfish Is this a big allegory for how the US works?
00:45 Exmond_Pufferfish also this sounds AMAAAAAZING
00:45 Deltasquid and show you guys in real time
00:45 sittinghere totally adding this concept to my cyberpunk novel
00:46 sittinghere MEAT WALLS
00:46 Deltasquid it's amazing how much foreigners just go ??? at this
00:46 QuoProQuid Where is this?
00:46 Deltasquid Leuven, city centre
00:46 Deltasquid it's called the City Snack
00:46 Exmond_Pufferfish Deltasquid
00:46 Exmond_Pufferfish this sounds AMAZING
00:47 Exmond_Pufferfish Your city demands so much MEAT it employs immigrants to do shift work to provide SAID MEAT
00:47 Exmond_Pufferfish you dont want a restaurant, no that gets in the way of the meat delivery system
00:47 Exmond_Pufferfish No you want a vending machine
00:47 Deltasquid p much
00:47 Exmond_Pufferfish to deliver the meat
00:47 Deltasquid never underestimate how much cash drunk people are willing to splurge for a quick burger on the way home from a party
00:47 QuoProQuid i thought leuven was a quaint medieval city and not some grotesque dystopian meatpunk village
00:47 Deltasquid it's both
00:48 Deltasquid
00:48 Deltasquid here's a tiny picture but
00:48 Deltasquid it's a girl showing you her M E A T
00:48 QuoProQuid jesus christ
00:48 Deltasquid which she can retrieve from the wall
00:48 sittinghere nice to "meat" you
00:48 Deltasquid you see all the meats in there
00:48 Deltasquid in the plastic see-thru boxes
00:48 Deltasquid you just pick them
00:48 Deltasquid literally a vending machine
00:48 Deltasquid that's being refilled continually
00:48 QuoProQuid I'm joking, but it's seriously Dickensian, Delta

Obliterati posted:

Fleming. Flash plz

Tchantchès is a folkloric figure who originated in Liège in the 19th century amongst factory workers, as a marionnette that was used to recreate many popular plays at the time but usually put a satiric spin on things. Carefree, silly and a bit of a lover of genièvre (a local spirit), he evolved into a mascot for Liège over time, and during parades they often make a massive wooden version of him. His name is a Walloon form of the Dutch "jantje", which translates literally as "little John" but which has the same connotations as "Joe" or "Jack" in English. An average joe. A Jack of all trades.


Deltasquid fucked around with this message at 22:54 on Oct 3, 2017

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!


BeefSupreme posted:

hey ho I don't have time to write good and such but I do have time to beat up some stories real good

three crits up for grabs, first come first serve just link me your story any story you like

If nobody else is taking you up on that offer...

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!


I might also crit this story this weekend as a warming-up by Monday.

Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

Entries were actually closed, but I was a dumb lazy baby last night so you're still in, Hawklad.

Entries are closed for real now!

Good luck everyone and write some good words! Please put your flash rule in spoiler tags at the beginning of your submission to jog my memory. (You can just put the condensed flash rule from the prompt post, I'll know what I gave you.)


Apr 10, 2013

you guys made me ink!

submissions closed, nerds

EDIT: I'm giving everyone who toxxed a cool 12 extra hours to avoid a ban.

Deltasquid fucked around with this message at 09:30 on Oct 9, 2017

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