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Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


I'm in Italy with a phone, a powerbank and an itinerary that consists of "find charming cafés, drink Italian coffee and read bad crime novels until dead or flight home", might as well add some writing to that list. Flash, in and :toxx:, you assholes.

Black Griffon fucked around with this message at 20:45 on May 18, 2019

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Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


why did i return to this accursed contest

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Your story must feature a haunted butt.

White Hill

666/666

Every event leaves an impression, ripples on the fabric of your being. Ann Stacy Lister had a fabric frayed and weathered, one easy to read.

"You returned to work after what happened," I said, "The only one out of the whole team."
Her fingers, intertwined around a still warm mug, stamped with the White Sacrament Hospital logo, shook.
"I did, yes."
I locked eyes with her, sipped from my own mug, mirrored her grasp, waited.

They'll talk their way to an early grave if you let them, that's what my instructor used to say.

"They say you have to return," she said, "We say that. We tell our patients that. Absence makes everything worse. Not only your absence from work, but the absence of normalcy, the absence of what you're used to."

-

Five nurses, two doctors and one specialist. Out of the whole team, Ann Stacy alone had returned, and that made her interesting. Ann Stacy was not a brave or strong woman, the red eyes and trembling hands betrayed amphetamines, not tears. Some lump of guilt on a weakening rope had driven her return to a place where she'd witnessed something that should not be. There was a hurt in the foundations of Ann Stacy's life, one that shone a dark light through the cracks. One I'd seen in the fading paint of her home as I pulled up to her driveway, the old car, the glimpse of her fearful face behind a curtain as I killed the ignition.

She was perfect.

-

"And so you came back," I said, after a pause too long for comfort.
"And so I came back," she said, after a breath too long, deep and shuddering to be for air alone, "But my colleagues didn't, not yet. I think I should've taken those sick days after all."

I rubbed a finger along the lipstick stain on the rim of my cup. The lipstick, the skirt, the pumps. I preferred something simpler, more flexible, but getting under the skin of the people of White Hill required a certain degree of play acting. These Nebraskans had expectations of how a female FBI agent ought to look, it made my job easier if I matched those expectations.

"Miss Lister," I said, "I... I understand it might be difficult, but I need you to explain what you saw."
She closed her eyes, rocked a little as the amphetamines in her system struggled against the instinct to react. I rose from my chair without a sound brought my hand over her mug. When she opened her eyes she was too far gone to notice I'd moved.
"He was just, gone. Someone or something else by the end of it. When we started the operation the things covered his backside, but they grew before our eyes, I've never seen anything like it," she took a sip, then another, "No one has."

My instructor always stressed the importance of stress. A doctor wants a calm patient, we want someone with blood pumping like rapids.

And there was a river in Ann Stacy's eyes as she rose, a river in her muscles as she stretched one hand out and screamed without a sound, and fell forward. Body still as a lake, but wild rapids in her eyes.

-

"As a nurse, you know how useful the gluteus maximus is, for injections," I said as I rinsed the ritual knife in alcohol, "You saw that yourself."
I made a small incision in her buttock, rested the cursed metal of the blade in the wound until I knew the work was done.
"You're lucky, Ann Stacy," I pulled one of my nitrile gloves off and over the knife, "You've seen how lucky you are."
Eyes locked with mine as I stroked her hair.

-

I left the host in her living room, The Messenger rapidly growing. A witness to breed a witness to breed a witness, until it was done. And I followed the river out of town, running rapid, running wild.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Black Griffon posted:

why did i return to this accursed contest

WhoopieCat posted:

The One That Got Away

Black Griffon posted:

why did i return to this accursed contest

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Inside, and big light making thank you.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Ugh, coming back in the middle of a vacation gave the illusion of more free time than what I usually have. I will brawl any motherfucker who steps up, to sharpen my senses and, maybe, come across some kind of redemption.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Getsuya posted:

I am enraged by my own failure to submit this week so I need to bite someone’s jugular.

:toxx:

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


flerp posted:

please toxx griffon

Right, yes :toxx:

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


In the flash of it.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Wait gently caress. Kindly requesting like an hour extension or something. gently caress.-

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


A Family Business
(1495)

When Henrik arrived in Vänahird the dark clouds hung like heavy tumors over the ancient city. He already hated every overwrought facade the moment he stepped off the train, and he suspected that before long, he'd hate the people as well. The road to Tych's workshop was lined with especially gauche boutiques, selling all the necessities of the "rik snärtydig", or recently rich. Even the langue was pretentious, presumptuous and annoying. Curse or boon of recent conquerors, Henrik thought, all depending on which side of the conflict you were on.

"Urtrekkat am Tych" said the sign, Tych's Clockwork. It was finer, more subdued, than anything else in the street. Gold inlays on titanium, letter in simple font betraying remarkable craftsmanship in the layering of alloys to create a sign that told more than the name of the store. The short, stout man beneath the sign didn't notice Henrik at fist. He was busy cleaning the glass door to an unnatural sheen. The smell of a chemical Henrik couldn't recognize wafted from a smal tin can.

"Excuse me," Henrik said, "You are Menabörn Tych, right?"
The man looked at him, saw his eyes and dropped the tin on the ground. The solution crept between the cracks of the sampietrini as the tumors above opened up, and drenched them both in cold, hard rain.

-

"You see, when your mother left, she said you'd be raised with her uncle, that, uh."
"Kanhern," Henrik said.
"Yes, Kanhern."
"I was."
"You were? Oh," Tych raised the cup of steaming tea to his lips, slipping slowly and carefully, "Oh."
"You assumed I'd be dead by now?" Henrik said.
"Well," Tych set down the cup and rubbed the bridge of his nose, "Well yes. I know Kanhern, I would've thought he'd raise you to be the model soldier, join the strike corps, give everything for your country. And, well, you lost."
Tych trailed off, eyes downcast, sipped tea absentmindedly.
"It didn't really stick," said Henrik.
"Hm?"
"The training, Kanhern's whole world view. I couldn't make sense of it. Maybe it was because I was born in Vänahird, maybe I'm just not built that way."
Tych looked at him now, a strange expression on his face, something between a smile and something else. Sadness?
"I joined the engineer corps," Henrik continued, "Did my work, got demoted to reserves by my own request-"
"Oh I bet he didn't like that."
"Kanhern? No, but by that time I'd cut contact. Anyway, I pretty much stayed home in Lentland during the war, repaired vehicles, helped with recovery after bombings. By the time it was over it was pretty easy to request amnesty in Vänahird. No one really wanted a Vänabörn around."
The look on Tych's face had deepened, so to say, as Henrik spoke. It took until nightfall, until he was settled in the guest room with rain for company instead of the whining of bombs, before realize what that look was: Pride.

-

"I've never really had an apprentice," Tych said over a breakfast of fruits, drybread and ham.
"I won't be going in blind, and I won't be any trouble. I'm a good smallsmith, the one thing I got good at in the army."
"Oh I'd be inclined to take you in even if you were an amateur," Tych said as he poured two glasses of light, spiced beer, "You're my son, returned."
They ate the rest of the meal in silence, Tych too overcome with sudden emotion, Henrik overcome with an uncomfortable feeling of inevitability that he managed to push deep down, as he'd been trained to do.

-

A fortnight later, and the city was bustling with activity. The sun shone through the haze of industry, through the bustling crowds outside and finally through the always clean windows of the store. Henrik was halfway done repairing a particularly treacherous mechanical cocktail mixer when Tych walked into the main room, holding two glasses of spiced rum in one hand, and an important looking document in the other.
"You've joined me at a particularly opportune time," he said, handing a glass to Henrik, bursting with a glee he hadn't shown until now, "We've been afforded a royal contract."
Henrik whistled, setting down his tools, "You sure you want me in on this?"
"Of course! You've proven your worth, and in any case this is important work, I need a second pair of eyes on it."
"Alright," Henrik clinked his glass to Tych's and drank, "What's the job?"
And as Tyche explained, Henrik already knew every word.

-

The city of Vänahird spent an inordinate amount of money cleaning soot and pollution of its prized facades, using harmful chemicals to treat harmful chemicals, severely degrading the health of everyone who chose that line of work. With the riches of conquest blessing every citizen, from bunnbörn to edelbörn, fewer and fewer people did just that. Money was certainly the prime reason for the contract, Henrik thought as he installed another filter, high up in one of the noble towers of the riverfront districts, but the war had truly proven that polution degraded not only the aesthetics of overwrought, godforsaken cities, but also the citizens themselves. Tych was not a master alchemist, but he was talented enough to combine the knowledge he did have with his unparalleled clock-workmanship. Talented enough to create a system of conversion filters throughout the city.

"It's not just about the job", he had said over a decaffeinated coldbrew one late evening, three months after they'd started the work and a month after Tych had perfected the formula, "It's about showing this city that it can be better. Richer not only in capital, but in hope. Everyone knows it's getting worse out there, everyone knows the river water is more and more acidic every day. This is the true benefit of conquest; the ability to create something truly better."
Henrik had nodded along, smiled at his father, the coldbrew leaving a tinge of acid in his mouth.

"One turned key of gold, one lengthwise of beryllium," Henrik said, as he installed a key of boron and a lengthwise of copper. The filter coughed.

Later that night, eating dinner with Tych and a group of edelbörn congresspeople, Henrik thought about that cough. The movement of air through the fine, alchemically treated mesh, the constant rotation of precisely crafted mechanical blades, separating polution into a chamber where a slow process turned it into a solid, harmless block of raw material, ready to be used again. That's how Tych explained it to the congresspeople, that was his "edelarbeid", his greatest work. At least it was supposed to be.

-

The process was slow, so slow that summer had passed again until Tych grew suspicious. By then the boron inlays in the mechanical blades had turned to iron, the mesh had grown a second, imperceptible layer due to the interaction with the beryllium, and the blocks of processed pollution had grown volatile. The drop came suddenly and mercilessly, just as Henrik had intended. More than half of the roughly seven hundred filters had been installed by him, Tych being an old and slightly frail man, that seemed only natural. All of them, simultaneously, reversed their function just as two months worth of processed pollution exploded in warehouses, workshops and carriages. They didn't explode with fire and force, but with a dirty, heavy puff of dead air. The clouds rolled from cracks in wood and windows, from doorways slammed open as citizens attempted to escape from the miasma. Filters spewed poison into squares and avenues, absorbed the expanding clouds of toxic wasted and turned them even more toxic. The city of Vänahird would not die quickly, apart from the lucky ones who were suffocated in small storerooms and shops sealed too tight. Most would suffer for far too long.

-

"Kanhern trained you well," Tych said, gas mask muffling his voice.
Even through the lenses of masks, Henrik could see that something beyond any known emotion rested in his eyes now. Panic had passed over him as Henrik rushed him from the workshop to a wagon, just as the screaming started, confusion as he forced a mask onto the man, still not half awake, as the wagon rushed through the streets, realization as they passed through the city gates, fury, sorrow, all of it in the span of an hour.

They stood now, on a ridge above the city, watching death unfold. Tych didn't ask why Henrik had done it, he didn't ask why he had used him, he only wanted to know one thing.
"Why did you save me?"
Henrik holstered the gun he'd trained on the man since the moment he realized betrayal.
"I want you to see what's become of your son," he said, "And I want you to see all of it. That will take a while, Tych."
The clouds of Vänahird grew like tumors from below as Henrik rode away, leaving his father to watch their legacy unfold.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Yoruichi posted:

BlowoutMuffin vs. Yorurock LWARB entry

Ben Just Wanted To Be A Vet


Hey just wanted to mention that this was a loving joy to read, good job.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Yoruichi posted:

A crit of A Family Business by Black Griffon

You said nice words about my griffin story so I wanted to say some nice words about your latest story in return. Unfortunately, I didn't like it. But, the good news is the reasons why I didn't like it are all easily fixed.

Thank you so much for the crit! Had this saved up, but wanted to wait until an eventual judgment.

I'm a sucker for really magical realism; fiction that blends our contemporary world with the mythical or supernatural, but not just in the Harry Potter/Supernatural way where a select few know about the magical world. This was right up my alley. The blending of hard worn americana tropes with griff(o)ins and kelpies works really well, and the dustbowl aesthetic is good and evocative.

In terms of structure, the shift from the first to the second section (first griffin sighting) is a little sudden, and could do with some elaboration, but after that the piece rolls on with determination. Section three and four gives a good sense of time passing, and Ben's rapport with the chicks is well established. You also made me hate the antagonists in the piece a whole lot, but no one fucks with griffins, y'know.

The ending is a bit of a mixed bag. One one side, like Antivehicular mentioned, returning to vet school is goofy, and I think I mostly dislike it because on the other side, you've built up such a sense of vicious victory, such a stepping stone for a grand revenge tale, of a griffinborne outcast enacting his fury on the human world. It's the sort of story that has a sequel hook where it's okay that you'll never see a sequel, because you can imagine the rest of the story in your head, and it's pretty bad rear end.

Good stuff, both of ya.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


In

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


GriffGetsuya Brawl, judged by flerp.

Sour notes

994

Karen hated Philharmonica's more than anything. There were so many reasons to hate a grocery store called "Philharmonica's", but if you searched Karen's mind you'd find a rolodex of reasons you hadn't even thought of. Karen had built a sermon for her hate, and finally, she was back to proselytize.

The thing is, she thought, fingers drumming on steering wheel as she passed the gaudy billboard for Ron Rather's No Relation Gentleman's Club, same it had been ten years ago, except now it said "We support Venmo" at the bottom...

Right, she was getting sidetracked. The thing is, Phil can't even hold a note. Phil had started something in the neighborhood of twenty bands while they grew up together. He had a tendency to try something overly symphonic in the warmer months, Karen suspected that's when he'd gotten the idea to create Philharmonica's.

The winter months were reserved for Robert Smith/Rivers Cuomo mashups, at least until the idea had given him a black eye and a bandmate a drive so traumatic and furious he'd stepped away from a promising musical career and into the realms of personal injury litigation. One of the last things Phil had told Karen before she'd left town was that the world simply wasn't ready for the deep emotional experience of Cureweezer.

Jan's clinic, where they'd put down Kinsey when the cancer had spread and he got disoriented playing catch. "Windsor 4 You" on a flashing sign, where her dad had dropped her off after school, when he still had work at the office, so she could listen to uncle Windsor scream at the district attorney over the phone. Then they'd eat pop tarts and laugh themselves silly impersonating his voice.

And like a cancer spreading in an irish setter, the thought of loving Phil and how his god damned projects had overtaken the good memories of this town. His poetry had taken the place of her childhood boyfriend's voice, his far-fetched ideas of how to liberate animals through vibes had crushed the sight of her mother on the porch, sun setting behind her, hands deftly trimming the leaves off a basil stalk, the smell of Mediterranean cooking sprouting in her mind.

loving Phil.

-

Vibes, that's all it is. People underestimate vibes, and I get it, I do. They think it's a new age concept, but it's not, it's as old as time itself.

Look. Come over here and look. You've got your sauce section, right? Glasses, bags, cartons. Powdered sauce, finished sauce, bases, condiments and all that. You think you're looking at a sauce section, right? No, you're looking at potential. You're looking at the vibrational energy of creativity. This right here is where you start, it's where everyone starts. The amateur chef? He'll wanna start easy, grab a korma off the shelf, add a few personal touches. The experienced chef? He'll smile to himself as he passes the sauces, and he'll remember all the hardships of reaching his pinnacle, and the vibrations of confidence and experience will spread throughout the very store itself, a blessing to us all.

Vibes, you see?

Is that Karen?

Uh, anyway. Have you read Aleister Crowley? Very interesting man, I used to believe he looked like Rasputin but it turns out he doesn't. Funny that. No, it is! Well, you'll get it in time. "We all grow like human plants", is what I say.

Yeah, you have to credit me if you use that in writing.

In any case, I've considered the diagrams and intricacies of magick in the design of Philharmonica's. When you step into my store, I want you to be filled with the energy of change, I want to see your face light up with wisdom and knowledge of the Mysteries. I haven't created a store, I've created a symphony.

poo poo. That is Karen.

-

She'd been sitting in the car for ten minutes, idling, thinking. Twice she'd seen Phil, staring out the windows at her.

He'd changed in six years. Flab had turned into a potbelly, wispy mustache into an equally wispy beard, eyes more sunken and face more gaunt. Whatever bullshit he was doing in the name of good vibes was taking years from him, and they were both still relatively young. He was dressed in a suit, some brown-grey thing that absorbed stains far more easily than any shop uniform. He looked like an rear end.

Karen sighed, turned the key in the ignition, and stepped out of her car. He was waiting for her now, behind the glass door. Every step of hers was a cartridge in a chamber, every breath of his fogged the glass. She closed her eyes, just for a moment as the doors opened, halted with the whine of servos, and then opened entirely.

"Oughta be careful about idling Karen," he said attempting a grin in the way one attempts to raise blinds in a hurricane.

"Phil."

"Haha, it's a joke, but-"

She was already walking past him, past the lone cashier, Hannah Bunks if she remembered right, past the customers in the queue.

"... Idling isn't just harmful for the environment, but the-"

Past the spices, organized by chakra proximity, past the shelf consisting entirely of silk wrapped oranges.

"... Very harmonies that make up our-"

"Phil."

"Yes?" he said, and there was a genuine fear in his voice now.

A soft hand on his cheek, "Close your eyes, this will be over quickly."

-

When Phil opened his eyes, he had to close them again. He didn't want to believe what he was seeing. The asparagus, oriented towards germany had been reoriented, the Feng Squash corner was pure chaos, the supplements, categorized by traditional humors, were organized by brand. By brand. And that was just the beginning.

-

Karen held the match underneath the blunt, gazing at the town from the lookout point where she'd kissed Henry Blank for the first time.

Good vibes now, she thought as she exhaled. Only good vibes now.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Ty and bless you for judge and crit! Good job getsuya.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


In

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Oh and :toxx:, for my own sake.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Thanks to Staggy for crits as well. You illuminated something I've been unsure about when it comes to my writing, so it's both useful and appreciated.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Chili posted:

I can't get promise to get anything done until 8/1. So if someone wants to step up and judge, that'll be when I can get it done.

Derp and Chili, you're on my calendar. Prepare.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Chili posted:

I meant to say that I could have an entry done by then, so you don't have to wait until then to start it. Your call though, oh glorious judge.

Good, I shall prepare.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Knowing a life

(1086)

There is something strange about the idea of not understanding death, not comprehending the omega to the alpha of life. There was something strange about the mask that lay before me, that day in 1993, when my grandmother had turned from a living, breathing being to a rubbery imitation of the woman who'd taught me about rotary phones and aluminum smelting and why fjords became fjords. Memory is fickle and deceptive, I cannot know what I truly knew, but I know that at that time, in that little town deep inside that fjord, I did not understand death.

I knew that things died, of course, but perhaps I didn't know what that truly entailed, perhaps I had no concept of the permanence of death. I felt no sadness, despite happy memories and recollections of love. I only knew that the switch had turned, that we wouldn't be visiting the fjord quite as much, that we wouldn't take the road over the mountain in the old citroën and traverse the funny tunnel that swirled upwards and upwards like the shell of a snail. Perhaps it was my mother's insistence that I'd visit her in heaven, perhaps I just hadn't developed the capacity to truly comprehend loss. I stayed home from school a couple of days, felt awkward coming back and getting hugs from teachers with sympathetic faces and understanding nods. Life returned to normal, with a latent sorrow that I only experienced through what my mother felt.

Strange, that. I could feel her sorrow, feel it so deep in my bones that the sorrow I did feel at that time was from the desperation of knowing that I couldn't make her happy. I did not understand death, but I certainly understood sorrow.

My grandfather died a few weeks later, it's all just one memory now.

It took twenty three years until I got another chance to explore the nature of death. Twenty three years with no close family dying, with no grandparents passing away, with no freak accidents or sudden sickness. I was lucky, luckier than most of my friends. Everyone had something; a sibling, a parent, occasionally a child. Grandparents passing like leaves on trees. I had a classmate I barely knew. An affable and friendly boy who killed himself at age fourteen. Too distant to trigger any true reaction. I remember coming to school and feeling the white faces of his friends dig themselves into my bones before I even entered the classroom.

Killed himself at age fourteen. There was something inconceivable about that, something that distanced me from his death. I thought about who would've hurt him more than I thought about the fact that he was dead, I thought about the strangeness of an absence heavier than a blue whale. I thought about the sorrow in the faces of his friends and the way some of my classmates couldn't stop laughing at his funeral, and my mother telling me that some people would process grief in ways we couldn't always recognize.

Twenty five years, and then, with bass thumping in my ears, platters of food in my hands and voices murmuring on the walkie talkie in my ear, my mother called me and told me Else would die. My farmor, my father's mother, who'd taught me how to play the piano, a skill I'd promptly forgotten, who'd inspired me to adore cats and had a terrible, plush toilet seat covering. I listened to my mother's words, said something I can't remember, left my station, walked over to my best friend and bawled for half an hour. Bass still thumping in my ears.

Something had changed since my maternal grandparents. The accumulated memories of a small part of a human life had opened floodgates to something new. I knew, of course, that I understood death better now than when I was a child, but for the very first time I experienced it. The crushing pain of knowing that soon, I would never see Else's face again, overwhelmed me. A small part of me wished I'd been better prepared, cursing my luck. I floated in my new understanding until it became unbearable, and then I sunk into desperation.

A month before it ended, my mother called me, asked me if I wanted to visit Else before she passed. I hesitated, and she assured me that it was alright if I didn't want to come. She was far gone already, after all, a shadow of herself bound to a bed. I told her I'd think about it, and I thought about it until it was too late. The shame and regret haunted me for over a year. I hated myself for being to cowardly to visit her one last time. I felt it in the moments after I knew she was dead, I felt it at the funeral, at the same graveyard where the boy whose name I couldn't remember was buried, I felt it at the wake and I felt it on the train heading north and then west and then home. I couldn't believe myself.

A year ago, visiting my parents for the holidays, I tried to find the grave of the boy who killed himself. I walked up and down the graveyard several times finding Else's grave, but not his. I searched my mind for the memory of his funeral, and realized I could't trust my memory anyway. I was certain I knew where he lay, but then again, wasn't that just an old and fractured memory transposed onto the memory of Else's funeral? Fresh as a wound, it would always take up place.

I sat down on a bench, fingers rolling the stalk of a dandelion I'd picked up on the way to the graveyard. I didn't need to find his grave, I knew it was there, somewhere. I knew he was here, in me. And I knew that at some level, understanding death was less important than knowing life. One day at school, years ago, the boy who killed himself listened and laughed at my stories when I had no one else to talk to. I knew his life. A year before she passed, I visited Else at the nursing home and we laughed about things we'd never laughed about before. The dementia had unlocked a sense of humor I'd never seen. I knew her life, and I loved it.

I placed the dandelion on the grave closest to where I remembered the boy's funeral, and felt no shame, no regret.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Yes

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


gently caress it, in with :toxx: because I skipped the really excellent prompt last week

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005



what the gently caress

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Serpent with raised head/the cavern/dishonest wealth

Things that are not

(830)

The night is the darkest he's seen in a while. Ferris has sweat beading on his forehead, the pings from the cooling engine have stopped, the rain outside the car is making the air inside humid, like the bathroom after a summer day shower.

"I'm gonna be late tomorrow, doctor's appointment got bumped," he says to his receptionist, listens to her answer on the other end, wipes wet brow with sweaty hand.
"Yeah, yeah just move it, after lunch, it'll keep them on their toes. Right, bye."

Ferris sits in his car, rain like a gallop, on car roof, on canopy, on rocks outside. He's tired, he's so tired. It doesn't matter, Cue doesn't care. He closes his eyes for a moment, opens them, opens the car door.

The walk to the cave is long and uncomfortable in the dark, phone flashlight barely making sense of the knotted chaos of a forest at night. He doesn't buy a flashlight for these walks, he could, but he's convinced himself someone would find out. He knows it's irrational, of course he knows that, but the dots can not be connected, that can't happen. The battery is running low, he's not sure he'll have enough for the trip back.

Maybe this is the night, though? Maybe he doesn't have to worry about the trip back?

No, no. He's far from free.

The cave hates him as much as he hates it. The shadows and the low passages and the fungi slick as oil on the floor. He makes his way towards the chamber, hands gritty with dirt, scuffed by rough walls. It gets worse the deeper he gets, like it senses the nature of his sin, like the mountain itself despises its guests. Deeper, deeper, until he starts to believe there is no more sky outside, until his mind is convinced the world is a solid eternity of dark, weeping rock.

And there he is, in the chamber. Eyes vivid and alert.

"Hello, Ferris."

"Cue."

Hair and beard long, fingernails curled, the rags of pants and shirt that was something long ago. It's all just a costume, all a low effort to make sure Ferris doesn't scratch his eyes out.

"Tonight," says Cue, syllables like the sound of ivy held taunt and then stripped from a facade, "Tonight I would like to hear about wine."

-

Do you remember it? The creature with wings like spun silk, long as a man, it sung in the evening. It would perch on roofs in Europe's oldest cities, sing as the sun glinted in the Seine. You don't remember it? No, of course you don't. No one does.

Do you remember those rooms? They'd have them in airports and shopping malls, at universities and amusement parks. Families could go in there and they'd be in peace, and there was something, something there that would help them, but I can't remember what. I can't remember what they were called.

There was something we could do, something we humans could do, but it's gone. I don't remember if it was good or bad, violent or peaceful, but we had some skill, some sense, something innate and pure, and it's gone. I don't remember it, no one does.

-

Ferris doesn't realize he's back until he hears the sound of rain on metal. The whole trip, through treacherous cave and tangled forest, spent in darkness. There is something else he realizes that he doesn't realize, and then it's gone, like that split second of knowing a dream before the act of knowing it makes it disappear from your mind.

He opens the door, turns the key in the ignition. Rain like pinstripes in the headlights.

In the morning, showered and shaved, his secretary greets him. The delegation from Sanio Industries is waiting for him. They seem nervous, she says. The meeting goes well, because of course it does, and the deal favors Ferris, because of course it does. That's, well, the deal. Isn't it?

And when they celebrate with schnapps, he only remembers that he visited Cue, a memory he banishes to the back of his mind, until he needs to visit the creature again, or the creature calls for him. He doesn't remember the drink the Greeks and the Romans enjoyed, the sweet or bitter smell, the texture sometimes dry, sometimes savory. There's no reason for him to remember it. And there's no reason for his secretary to remember it, or the delegation from Sanio Industries. That drink, whatever it was, has gone the way of the silken creature, like all things eventually will.

In the cave, a presence spins the memory of wine into the same oblivion as the cornuseria and the lifting rooms and the bleeding gift, where it doesn't wait to be used by some entity. It doesn't get turned into energy or power. It ceases to be, by will of the presence, like all things eventually will. Maybe next time, it'll ask Ferris about himself.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Alright down the rack:
20
5
16
18
8

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Not a complaint not a complaint not a complaint, just a question: crits and judging for last week sometime this week or next week in time with the prompt?

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Bless you and thank you for the work Djeser (and also AA, of course). Giving my cats an extra pet for your health.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Everyone told me The Resistance sucked for some reason so I avoided listening to it but this is good poo poo, what the gently caress

Edit: I mean it's like Muse sat down and consumed Ayreon for a week straight but for some reason that works because it's Ayreon with less Ayreon

Black Griffon fucked around with this message at 21:19 on Jul 24, 2019

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Okay so I have to write this down before it fades, but I just woke up from a dream where Sebmojo presented this week's prompt and it was to run a 10k or climb a long distance in a videogame, recommending we do it using the paddles on a paddle shift car wheel to lessen strain on our wrist.

The thunderdome has turned my mind into something strange.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Central Character is… an ORPHAN +179 Words
Setting is… on A LARGE ANIMAL+51 Words
Genre is… FOLKLORE +48 Words
Song is… I Belong to You, by Muse +194 Words https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQoqM7l-vlQ
RFT is…Hiding! +124 Words and a…. DIAMOND CAPSULE


The tale told in the turtlebird's shell

(1224/1373)

There's a song they sing in the Brightfar, about a brave warrior abandoned by gods and guardians, who rode a hybi bull straight through the regent's citadel striking the vile ruler down. They sing it in taverns and ballrooms, parents sing it to their children to inspire and excite them, the senate sings it once a year to commemorate the fall of royalty. It's a fine song, I'll admit that, but everyone knows the truth is never as fanciful as song and story.

As my father used to say, the bread of fancy is baked with the grain of truth, and I suppose you've earned a sling of grain at this point. After all, you've found me. I knew it would happen eventually, and I thought I'd have a little more time to myself, but fair is fair.

So, first things first; I'm not brave, but I am abandoned. My mother died a few weeks after my birth, leaving my father to raise me alone. He did a good job, but nature claimed him as well, the day before my fourteenth turning. In that sense, I guess you could say the gods abandoned me as well. Gods and guardians.

In any case, growing up alone taught me the value of cowardice. Everyone hates a coward, but anyone who demanded bravery in the face of what ruled us back then were cowards in their own way. Everyone was praying, and waiting. Eventually, people thought, something would have to change, no one could rule forever.

But around my twenty fifth turning, it felt like the old regent would indeed rule forever. Twenty five years of waiting, of blood sacrifice and uprisings felled by the sweep of a hand. Thousands burning in magic fire, hundreds of thousands downtrodden and hopeless.

Maybe if we'd all risen up at the same time, a hundred thousand souls all pressing at the castle gates, it would've made a difference, but you haven't heard the sound a hundred rebels being flayed by silverbees make, you haven't smelled the boiling flesh of an army beaten back with the ease of a morning ride.

Maybe we would have made a difference, or maybe a hundred thousand corpses would have littered the streets of the capital. All killed according the twisted fantasies of a magically ambitious madman.

We knew better, we knew that the needed the tools of cowardice and subterfuge, not the banners of an uprising. And so, knowing it would be the way of the future, I began to teach myself those tools. I never imagined I'd make a difference, but I thought I'd gain an edge at the very least.

I trained every day, cutting purses and doing favors to keep myself fed. I studied the gaps and give in royal armor, the patrol routes and standing orders and emergency codes. I killed a royal guard once a week or so, every strike of sharp sickle and arrow flown giving me knowledge. Without realizing it, I was turning myself into a destroyer, a weapon poised against the throne.

And the hybi bull? No, nothing so fancy. My true steed was a turtlebird I found in the sewers, but a turtlebird looks far less impressive on the national seal.

It's trustworthy companion though, and strong. Fortune was only a juvenile when I found them, only the size of a wagon. Making my escape from one of my numerous killings, I passed through a large chamber, dank and grim with waste, and the saw the glint of sharp eyes. How they found their way down there I'll never know, but I nursed them back to health, and, lucky for them, got them out of the sewer before they grew too large to fit through the passages.

They were a good friend, and I miss them very much. I don't know if you've been inside a turtlebird shell before, but neither spell nor sword will touch us here. A protector to the end, and beyond.

And no, Fortune didn't fly me directly through the citadel, we never made our grand entrance, tossing aside stone and folk alike, as we rushed to the regent's chamber. I'm not going to say the true story is less exciting than the legend, but it's more mundane. The regent fell not from bravery, but cowardice.

I use that word a lot, I know, but it's hard not to. I've been a coward for most of my life, especially before the regent fell. Becoming an assassin for the crown isn't exactly inspiring.

Surprised? Well, I'm not surprised you're surprised. At some point, I realized the impenetrable defense of the regent was only traversed by those who were admired, and very few were admired. I had to be admired, and so I added other names to my kill list. Resistance folks who were close to death, reckless rebels who endangered civilians, and a few good folks who never deserved my blade.

But I impressed the regent. The assassin on the turtlebird, the deadliest shadow in a shadowed city. Before long, I stood before the face of brutality, and it was a beautiful face. I had my sickle poised to kill, a command that would send Fortune rumbling towards my mark, but my hand did not move and my steed did not rumble. I've told myself a thousand times that it was intuition that held my blade, that I knew there had to be some magical defense in place that would rip me to shreds if I made a move. In my darker moments I know that vile beauty stunned me, but it would become my weapon as well.

You see, I truly impressed the regent, more than anyone else before me, and so it wasn't long before I stood before that beautiful face again, and again.

And one night, when all defenses were tossed aside like tunics and sheaths and belts on the floor, I knew the time had come.

A hand stroking my hair, the rising and falling of a chest, and the swift justice of a hidden blade.

I guess the regent never let go of all defenses, because the entire west wing of the palace was torn apart with a dying gasp. I wouldn't be here talking to you if I was on the wrong side of the bed, and most days I wish I were.

And that's why the children hear the song of the hybi bull tearing through the palace, because a knight on a scaled steed is a far better image than a coward on a bloodstained bed. I escaped in the chaos, the wings of Fortune bearing me far away from the city, and I never returned. They never searched for me either, I'd served my purpose, and they were content to let the true story be untold. Fortune fell after long and good life, and they left me a home. This shell is no mansion, but it's enough. I'm certain there are still some royalists out there, scrying after me every few years, but in the heart of my friend I remain hidden.

But you, you found me, and you haven't made an attempt at my life. I can only assume you, like me, study the ways of those who shun bravery. Tell me, young one, is the world in need of another coward?

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Yeah, such a fun week, and I gotta say that my reward sounds better than both games and money. Looking forward to it!

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


o yeah in

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


lol k :toxx:

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Thanks for the crits and the cool rear end concept and everything!

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Personality: Taurus Sun Aquarius Moon
Hell rule: Your dialogue participants are unconscious

Deep dive

800

Red, too much red. Powerful emotions color his mind, but I'm not sure which yet.

"Ran, it's nice to meet you. I'm Sam," I say.

The room he's chosen is crimson in all aspects, drapes, walls floors. He's wearing a suit, perfectly tailored, not singed as it was in the crime scene photos.

"What are you doing here?" he says, "What- what am I doing here?"

"You don't know me, but I promise, I'm just here for a quick chat."

He looks around, takes in the room.

"What is this place?"

"A meeting room of sorts, a mind palace," I pause for a moment, consider my words, "There's no easy way to say this, and I'm never good with these kinds of things, but you're dying."

He looks at me for a long time, then looks at himself, studies his hands, turns them over.

"I'm sorry." I say, giving him a smile I instantly regret.

"I don't feel like I'm dying."

"In here, you'll feel how you want to feel."

I sit down in a plush, red chair, elbows on knees.

"How do you feel?" I say.

"Confused."

"That's to be expected-" I say, and then I feel a sharp pain in my head. They've found out.

"Are you alright?" he says, looking at me.

"I... This takes a toll on me, I'm visiting your mind after all."

It's a lie, I'm used to this, I've done it hundreds of times. I've been sloppy, underestimated the fail-safes, again.

"Everyone's confused in these scenarios," I say, "But I need you to stick with me. Beyond the confusion, what do you feel?"

He looks down for a long time, studies the red carpets strewn about the room.

"Desperation."

A blitz of thoughts and theories through my head.

"What's the last thing you remember?" I say.

"I came home. There was something wrong. The minute I turned on the lights I felt it."

"Your husband, he was home?"

"Yes, yes he was but- I can't grasp it."

He grabs his head, looks up at the ceiling, tears forming in his eyes.

"There was something wrong with him," he says.

I can feel something inching closer to me, to my unconscious body.

"Ran, I need you to remember. What was wrong? What was wrong with your husband?"

He looks at me, confusion in his eyes.

"He'd turned on the stove."

A long pause, the red seems to grow deeper.

"It was after midnight, we'd already eaten dinner earlier that day. He'd turned on the stove."

"Ran," I say, extending a hand towards his. He takes it almost instinctively, when I keep hold of his hand in mine he doesn't resist.

"Ran, your husband was a powerful man."

"... Was."

"And powerful men, they cover what they touch, like a miasma."

"He looked at me, and he wasn't himself."

"And when powerful men die, someone writes their death for them. Written by the victor and all that."

I know they're close, but I need to spend this moment here with him. I already have what I need, but he doesn't.

"I need you to understand something Ran. I need you to understand that there are people out there unwilling to let such things happen. Whatever place you're going to after this, I need you to remember that."

Bits and pieces are starting coalesce in his mind, I can see it. In this space, nearly unrestricted by the material, his mind is still working. In this realm he's not a comatose burn victim, and he's no murderer.

"They think I killed him," he says.

"No, Ran, they know you didn't. But you're never gonna wake up," I pause, pinch my eyes together, "I'm sorry, I don't mean to be so direct. But... Ran, you're dying, and even if there is a chance for you, they'll make sure there isn't."

"Sam?"

"Yes, Ran."

"Why did he do it?"

We're running out of time, I hear voices now, muffled, subsonic. I'm gonna have a fight on my hands. I think about the senator's blackmail file, the rumors floating around the dark web, the photographs. I look Ran in the eye.

"When you first met," I say, "Did you know it was real? That you loved him?"

"Yes, yes of course..."

He turns away, puts his hand on his knees, palm down, takes a deep breath.

"I know it was real, at some point."

"Then make that your last thought. When I leave you'll be asleep again, until you're not. Remember that a moment in the span of your life was nothing but love."

And then he drifts apart before me, shades of crimson overlapping until what I see is the red of my eyelids, and I awaken with muscles ready to spring into action, a lead, and a purpose.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Siddhartha Glutamate posted:

Well poo poo, I can't read. Sorry Sparks, other judges, and Kaishai.

so next week's theme is obviously hubris

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


oh hell yea in

and thanks for crits seb!

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Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


In, hellrule and :toxx:, as I'm wont to do after failing to submit.

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