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Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


My god, is that—
In
Wiki me.

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Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


In, with a little less arrogance compared to the last time I had a triumphant return and didn't submit.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


The Waystation
2369

Tima always makes sure to watch the movement of the skitterfish before she strikes. On the hunt, they move like bands of fabric weaving through the air, cutting water like it's an extension of their body, a part of them as much as the stringy fins and ever-moving eyes. Strong skitterfish is good skitterfish, full of life, vitality and energy.

If they're lethargic, they're not to be touched. A hard won lesson, she knows, as she strikes her father's spear down. A straight line of violence punctuated by a puff of pink. She pulls the spear back, drops the skitterfish in the bucket. It's filled to the brim now, and her work is done.

The path from the small, sheltered bay runs along the southern coast of Home, rises above the rough-sand beaches until it reaches tall, sparse grass which turns all at once with the mild, southern wind. She feels the sand between her toes turn to dirt as she runs, bucket strapped to her back with the spear. The sun hangs low in the sky and the accumulated heat of a good day is spending. She feels the salt drying on her legs and the long burn on her back and neck. At the highest point of the headlands, all her world stretches behind and beyond, she stops and catches her breath. Slow and steady, strong lungs as anyone on Home must have. All her world, and nothing more.

The minute she opens the door uncle and mother is there, talking and laughing and carrying on a conversation she's far too late to join in on. Uncle grabs the bucket and mother tussles her hair, Tado is pouring spiced ale in cups and her brother Odon is singing. The room with the hearth is far too hot after her run, so she joins uncle and mother in the kitchen, grabs a knife and gets to work gutting. A rhythm learned from the time she learned how to hold a knife takes hold in her and eventually she joins in on the conversation and then Odon comes in singing and they sing and work until the meal is ready. The sun has dipped below the sea now, and she feels the hearth beckon.

---

"It's just a sinkhole," says Tado, "like so many others. You dive down and you find a few caves and strange sort of fish, but nothing special to speak of. The world beyond is the strange one, but we leave that to the travelers, the traders."

Tima feels the dull warmth of the ale spreading like ink through her body, tired and aching from a day of work.

"The other sinkholes don't glow." says Odon.

"You thought you saw a glow—"

"A glow and a glint."

"... But that might as well have been the sun."

Uncle pipes up, eyes opening on a head still dipped back.

"A trader told me a thing they said in the old days, they said «you cut the way the razor wills it»."

Everyone looks at him now.

"Means: the simple cut is the better one. Home has never had the strangeness other places speak of, never the things of old that can do wonderful or horrible things to a man. Here we have the sun glinting in the water and casting reflections in the sinkholes, when it's just so in the sky."

He closes his eyes again.

"The simplest cut."

---

When the fire is low and the light dull, Tima and Odon get up. He grabs his blade and she grabs the spear. With the moves and motions they've practiced since their twin birth, they grab salted fish and water, blankets and rope, flint and kindling, everything they need. Stepping carefully past boards they've memorized, they're out in the cold night smelling windborne sea. Only when they're far past the point where their voices would carry, Odon speaks.

"We take the valley and then it's just a quick climb past Grave Rock and towards the second harbor. We'll see it, even without a glow."

"A glow is not much to go on, especially when you only saw it once."

He turns and she can feel his eyes even in the night.

"I know what I saw, and I've never seen anything like it before. Trust me."

"I do."

She can feel his smile as well. The wind picks up and they tuck their cloaks closer. In the starlight, they can see the heads of sheep and goats perk up as they jog past, feet sure on ground they've trod for years. The valley—those parts cast in shadows—are as pitch black as squid ink, so Odon lights the weird-steel lantern and angles it down towards the rocks. Even with practice, the jagged shadows among the crags makes Tima's stomach drop, but she knows that she knows the way, and like goats they descent, pass over the small stream at the bottom and then up past Grave Rock where they resume their jog. The moon is near the high point as Odon holds his lantern up and stops.

"There."

She inches forward, careful to not go past where Odon stands, but then she sees it a part of the ground darker than the rest.

And then, slow as the tide, it glows, brighter and brighter.

---

She tests his knots as he checks her harness. Another memory of her father, it's made of fabrics foreign to both Home and all the travelers they've met. It's just now, when she's old enough to hunt and swim like the rest of the adults, that it fits her. She feels a pride in that, a feeling of something fulfilled, and she glances back towards Grave Rock, the prominence barely visible past the highlands. Odon clips the weird-steel to her belt. She nods, he nods, and she steps off the edge.

Her back to the depths, feet working grip on the walls of the sinkhole, she can only see the steadily growing brightness as she descends, but soon it envelops her. She knows, in her rational mind, that something here doesn't make sense. A glow like this should emanate from the hole, be visible from far away, but as mud cannot flow like water, this strange light does not flow like the light she knows.

"Can you see anything more?" Odon shouts from above, "Glinting? I'm sure I saw glinting."

"Nothing, just the water below, I might have to dive."

Odon remains quiet for a while, but then says "Just as long as you know it's safe."

Aching just a little, she feels water on her heel, and with a light kick, she spins around. The glow lights up the featureless walls around her, but it's too bright to see what lurks below. She shouts for Odon to steel himself against her free weight, and with a steady hand she takes the spear from her back and dips it into the water. She feels nothing but the stone wall and the bottomless depth, and so, she clips the weird-steel to the rope, and looses the harness. A breath, and then again, and then again until she can feel her chest filled to the brim, and she drops down into the glow.

---

She thinks of Odon as she descends, imagining his worried face, thinking that she should've said something more before the drop, but her feet kick down towards the float. There's no taste of salt in the water, it's not like the cenotes that link to tunnels of seawater that run through the islands, but it's not the staleness of rain-filled pits either. She knows to keep her mouth and eyes closed to the tainted water, but this water is like... nothing. Her hands touch a bottom, and as she looks up, she sees a cave extending forward and then upwards, and the mirror of a surface. She's not past the halfway point of her lungs, so she continues forward. She realizes that the glow comes from the walls, not from a source near the surface, but there is another light at the surface, a white, almost blue light, reminiscent of the ever-lasting lanterns on some of the grander trading vessels that sometimes come to haggle and resupply. A kick and then another, and she breaks the surface, drawing in air. She's in a room made of metal, with a set of stairs running from the water to a metal floor. Lines of light mark the roof and the air tastes of the same nothingness as the water. She climbs to land, wrings out her hair and retrieves the spear from her back.

She knows she should swim back and tell Odon, if only to tell him that she'll take a closer look before returning again, but like a deep tone, something tells her to continue, just for a bit, just for a look. The room turns to a corridor, and then another room, this one with formations of glass and metal too strange for her to wrap her head around. She can see chairs and tables made of solid metal, but also strange cabinets and cupboards with ethereal lights, blinking like weak stars are wont to do. Onwards past the sculptures and into chambers filled with more sculptures, until it's something so strange that she stops in her tracks, mouth agape.

A figure hangs from black and yellow ropes and tendrils of varying thickness, a figure encased in dull, gray metal. She can see nothing but a metal plate where its face should be, nothing resembling the useful bits of a human, but it's like a human all the same. Before she really knows what she's doing, Tima speaks.

"Who are you?"

Slow like the tide, the head raises, and the plate-face looks at her even though it cannot truly look.

"Våken."

Tima stutters, tries to see how the figure spoke.

"What? What does that mean?"

"Treaz, vakandi, mustayqiz, awake—"

"Wait, awake? You're awake?"

The figure pauses. Lights blink on and off, and then a dull sound reverberates through the chamber. Before Tima's eyes, an impossible vision rises from the floor.

She knows that in the very center of this vision, is Home. She knows the coastline she's run countless times, the valleys and the peaks. She knows it like her heart. Beyond Home, however, stranger isles rise, some filled with the highlands and forests of her Home, some with things she will not believe can grow from the earth. Enormous things of metal rising and branching, right-angled things of glass, like houses covering an entire grazing field.

"It's ready," the figure says, "All we need is the choice."

"The choice about what?"

"Mark the useless, all we need is a gesture. Tell the choir what we will live without."

Pulsing circles surround the other islands, but Tima is still so lost. She feels the weight of the figure's words, and she feels some dark intention behind them.

"I'm sorry, I don't understand. I don't know who you are, what this is. I'm not the one you're looking for."

"You are, you can't be anyone else. But we have slept for a long time. Let me show you what the Waystation can do.

---

The simulation runs on data that was outdated hundreds of years ago, but it's more than enough to make a convincing spectacle. With lighted paths, it shows how the deep-core pumps of the Waystation compress magma into sliver-thin beams and propells them along paths on the ocean floor, red death streaking beneath the waves. The magnets guiding the weapon could last a myriad, they'll last now. Quick as lightning , the force of a volcanic eruption will be slammed into the bedrock of a Redundant Island, and remove it from the equation. The girl doesn't understand this, she doesn't need to understand it. All she must do is give the word.

The choir waits, but a voice, and then another, asks of everyone: what if she doesn't make the choice?

---

Leaning on the spear, Tima closes her eyes.

"What did you do? What did I do?"

"The waystation does not act until you will it. This is a dream, but it will be as real as the metal between your hands. You will make it real."

"No! I don't understand what this is, but I understand enough. You can't make me do that, whatever it is. I won't."

The figure is still for a long time, ceaseless blinking, the hum of something impossible.

"Then the other one will do it."

She turns around to see Odon, still dripping with water.

"I was worried, I jumped." he says, voice trailing off, eyes locked on the vision, the nightmare.

Trembling, tears welling up, filled with such love and such deep fear that her brother would fall victim to something that is monstrous in a way she could never describe, she pivots, and stabs. A straight line of violence, metal meeting metal, a scream of defiance. A perfect strike against the chest of the non-human, their father's arms filled with purpose, pierced metal and then a shock of light and sparks. She pulls back the spear, and the nightmare vision of destruction is as dead as the figure.

And then something else moves at the edges of the room. Doorways open, metal clangs deep within hallways, voices wake up. All these corridors and halls are some kind of being, and it comes to life. From the roof, more metal figures drop down. Some hit the floor as scraps and heaps of broken limbs, but some land on their feet. They look at her from their nothing-faces, and now she can feel a fury in the air.

"Run," she says, and with blade and spear they do.

---

In the surf, Tima looks at skitterfish. Her bucket is not even half-full, but she turns away. She doesn't trust her hands. Odon is there, and he takes her spear and squeezes her shoulder with a steady hand, but that's now, later it'll be worse. His eyes suddenly focus on something beyond her, and she turns around.

A ship, but not a trading vessel, with lettering along the side.

"The Inferno"

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


In

flash me up daddy

Black Griffon fucked around with this message at 09:31 on Jun 1, 2021

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Owlspiracy posted:

lol wrong thread :(

sounds like someone wants to join the thunderdome

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Blood Trench

870

There will be time for joy when all worries are laid to rest. We will find joy in the secret moments when all of this has passed. But this is not a secret moment, this is not passing time's reward. This is now, and now we ride.

Simota mans the rudder, flipper steady on the rod as he pierces the dark with practiced eyes, I am on the sails, knots I've tied a thousand times before. Terradum is on the bow, parting the dark sea with her song. We have ridden the Tenebrin trench past the reefs of Living Kings and the wild armies of the Free Sea, and up until now we've seen the quiet ocean and nothing else. Our daughter can cross leagues quicker than you can even begin to imagine Terradum's song. Our daughter of the surf, our daughter the ship. We've birthed her from the labor of battle and strife, and now we bring her home. Our holds can barely contain coralweave scroll and Atlantean coin. Strife in spring, and then the wild summer and now as we pass over depths sealkind cannot comprehend; the great fall of victory.

Terradum shouts through the salt, a quick noise of raider pidgin, "Trouble up ahead."

"Be it the Free Sea? They'll remember our deal."

"No," she says, her singsong plea to the sea carried through her every action, "This foe shifts more water still."

"Be it the Living Kings? They ought remember our raid two summers past."

"No, quicker than both the free and the living, this one."

I pull the carbon rigging taut and shift towards her on rails and ropes, up to the bowsprit. We have rent our minds too many times with cursed surface magic to not see the sea before us like a sun touched stone barely below the surface.

There will be joy.

Simota roars from aft, "The trench runs with blood, watch beneath. The tides bear a message, watch beneath."

And we watch, and see the dark viscosity of life robbed and ripped from body cover the span of the ocean floor, the ragged limbs of seahorse and beluga, the shattered fins of great white and royal tuna. No kin or country, this great threat sees, only the expanse of life ready to be stripped from the sea.

There will be time for joy. For a day not touched by the crushing of gill and lung, of great pressure and the darkness of the fade.

There will be time to laugh again, at winter's end, when we once again look towards the twin horizon of upsea and downsea, the great cities of the fundament and the nomads kissing surface sunwave. A rich hunting ground, for limbs and lubber full of spring-fresh spirit.

But now, great weight cracks water deep and in dull tones grim purpose carries. We turn our daughter sideways and tangle ourselves to her frame, all sealkind fit for violence. Simota steers downward, and our daughter obeys. Down into the trench and the viscera. We are bursting with desire for blood and death, not content to let leviathan keep their wrathful watch. We are made in misery's spirit, a leviathan unto ourselves, a force of pure purpose coursing through the undersea.

Then we see her, all scale and sinew and ancient muscle. all teeth and razor-sharp baleen, built to tear a war-kraken to ribbon-fine tribute. Our daughter's prow bears steel of vent-furnace and remora forge. Sigils of master-smith in ethereal glow aimed true at leviathan bulk. We roar as we ride, our war ridden bodies hurting from the meld of speed and pressure, ever deeper in gravity's endless purpose.

There will be time for joy. We have not kissed air for so long, we have not felt the respite of the surf and shore. We will rest upon the warm rocks, let our weary bodies replenish blubber and let our sore muscles rest.

We will see our children again, laugh as we tell stories of war and death. Perhaps of our death.

Steel shapes scales sideways in cacophonous finality. We are thrown, blades strapped to our sides, teeth bared, eyes forward. Three avatars of motion realized into action. The leviathan turns, turning the world with her, all water shifting in a great whirl, but we hold on with sharpened blades. And now we dive with her.

Deeper than the bunker cities of the Mantis Clans, deeper than the scholar sharks' endless libraries. We see the blood of innumerable foes grow thick around us, the mass grave of torn waterkind like seaweed . It's too much, and too heavy, and a dimness caresses our minds, ready to embrace. But there is fresh blood too, an ocean itself, pouring from a screaming titan.

This joy, this life, is not what we hunt. We know that. The tide approaches because it must, but we cannot pull the tide with our own fins.

And so, there will be time for joy, after this blood-filled darkness swallows us, after we've made the sea safer and sated our bloodlust.

We will wait then, in the surf, for our children to find their own cauldron of blood. And then, come spring, we will tell tales of wild summer.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Yoruichi posted:

Sebmojo does a most metal reading of this week’s most metal story, Blood Trench!

this is the greatest honor bestowed upon me by this cursed dome

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


In, and you better loving believe I'm grabbing Montero

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Montero (Call Me By Your Name)

Lil Nas X

Big Crunch

999

The Thyme Lover is a three story mistake. Lenny Berger inherited his father's ambition and propensity for sudden and overwhelming aggression, but where Berger Senior would apply a lifetime of Washington connections and an endless list of favors as the counterweight to his financial trebuchets, Lenny makes empty threats and empty promises. And so, the Thyme Lover is built on mob deals, an implausible series of symbiotic protection rackets (not in Lenny's favor, but rather exerted over various parts of the club like a balkanized Berghain) and the dwindling remnants of dead daddy Berger's fortune.

It's also the heart of my worst decisions. A pit of misery which repulses me like a ten ton truck kissing a baby stroller, a testament to my horrible choice in lovers. I can think of no place I hate more than the Thyme.

-

“I’ve got sixteen bundled cores running repurposed mining tech on a distro network tapping into off-grid EZ-quants, I genuinely don’t understand why we need him.”

The girl speaking is Mag. Arms full of net-ninja implants I’ve never heard of. Short, wound to the breaking point in a way that says “I can gut you with a flathead screwdriver in five seconds.” She’s talking to a tall monument of muscles and focus. Dano, my protege and my greatest triumph.

“How many bouncers have your rig saved from a stabbing?” they say, “Did it buy anyone a hundred drinks? Save anyone from a roofie? Has it hosed anyone?”

I can't stay with them when they talk tech, but this is what I do, or what I did. The human element.

“The human element is chaos,” Mag says, “It’s a distraction, noise. We bypass all that, we don’t need to worry about consequences or fallout.”

“You don’t really believe that.”

“I believe it’s possible. Hard, maybe, but possible.”

I’ve smoked the blunt down to the nub, my mind is resting on an inflatable raft in an ocean of blissful denial. If I just float a little bit further, they’ll forget about me. They’ll run out and do the op, a sixteen core ballet through the electronic guts of the Horrible Lover. Enough capital for Dano to move out to one of the ocean habs, spend the rest of their days doing crossfit with influencers and designing meditation rooms. Mag will move to San Franch to do start-up culture or something, I don’t care.

But Dano sighs and looks at me, message clear: you came when I needed you, and now you're committed.

I close my eyes, rub the bridge of my nose, sit up straight.

“You’re thinking of the Thyme Lover as a logical system,” I say, “Networked, fully-featured, layered ICE. It’s not. It’s a derailing train cantilevered by dad-money. It’s chaos, and your rig won’t solve chaos.”

I don't know tech, but I know a little about what I don't know.

“So,” Dano says, “We need the human element, chaos, the old ways.”

Mag doesn’t look happy, but she’s probably among the smartest people I’ll ever meet, and she gets it.

-

The music trickling from the neon facade of the Thyme is filtered through a few hundred sweaty, drunk, high bodies. From the gloryholes through the nano-drug haze and confused hookups. Bears and otters and butch, blind love. The unstoppable avalanche of high-capitalist coping. The corp-citizens out of the Lake Mead arcology and the gig servitors still in uniform.

“You were right,” Mag says.

I look up at her from the floor plans she’s projected on the van floor, “What?”

“It’s chaos. I admit, you’re right,” she tips up the immersion goggles and looks at me, “It shouldn’t even exist. There’s a hundred infractions on LVCM best practices that should have the corps sequestering this hellhole yesterday. How the gently caress does it even stay open?”

“The liminal space between the old world and the new, patriarchal power as the binding agent. The last refuge of the outdated mobster and their backroom deals. It won’t last. It’s a Yellowstone eruption running late.”

My earbud crackles, “Alright old man, it’s time. We don’t need much, just ten-fifteen minutes.”

I take a last look at the plans, count to ten, tap my earbud.

“gently caress it, let’s ride.”

-

I’m like a great white at the center of a school of fish, but I can’t tell whether I’m surrounded by tuna or megalodon. It starts when I walk up to the front door, both bouncers are old friends (one of them a rare, amicable ex-lover). I smile, I’m loud, I’m me. I’m a growing neutron star. On the other end, Dano and Mag are moving through the digital defenses of the Thyme like a machete through vines. Tangled on decades old systems and the occasional next-tech ICE program, favors from grateful piranhas.

I’m the center of the solar system and the Thyme is cosmic dust. I’m the guy everyone forgot about but when I’m back I’m loving back. I’m the heaving ground among the geysers and acidic pools. The entire zeit of the club is laser focused on the prodigal hook-up returning to survey his fallen kingdom.

And there’s Lenny, but it’s not Lenny. She walks down the spiral staircase from the second floor. Confident, calm, more her than she’s ever been. When she walks up to me, it’s a wave lapping shore, not the tsunami I expected.

-

I exhale, feel the high grab me. Lena’s office is nicer than her dead self ever was.

“I’m getting out,” Lena says, “From everything. From the club, from my dad’s shadow. I’ve made up with most of my mistakes and I can run from the rest.”

I hear the three-tap signal that the job is done.

“And whatever it is you’re doing,” she continues, “It’s fine. I’m gonna enjoy watching this poo poo pile burn down.”

I tap my earbud, “Kids, get out, enjoy yourselves.”

Me and Lena smile at each other, the big crunch after the expansion of heartbreak. A new universe, a new beginning.

“I’ve got an exit.”

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


in flash me baby

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


He Who Rides The Gust

Vengeance Climb

980

Duvabon the war gull’s path almost seemed lazy as it moved from beneath the sky-ship to above it, but it was perfectly aimed, with a speed and heading which brought him up past the taffrail, where I rolled off and onto the Lowborn. The expert climb awarded me the momentum of his powerful wings as I landed on the deck, and in a smooth motion I drew my blade and turned with it, carrying all that energy into a swing which carved open the chest of a sailor in front of me, his face an expression of shock. Across the deck in leaps onto the next sailor, where I parried a clumsy blow and ran her through. Before I pulled back my saber, I turned and let my third opponent blunt his blade on his dead shipmate’s ribs, using the angle to push them both off the ship in a mighty heave.

“Near aft, they’re gathering for something,” Duvabon said. To anyone else it sounded like a high-pitched screech, but I was attuned to Duvabon from birth.

“Can you break them up?” I yelled.

In reply, Duvabon turned again in a great arch and slight climb, before using that momentum to dive towards the stern, wings tucked. Then, right before impact, those great wings sprung out like a sail in kind wind, and with armored feet outstretched, he struck the small group of sailors. Most dove away, but two were hit head on by sharpened steel, torn to ribbons. I was there before they could recover. One reached out with a sword and I cut him down, another sprung to his feet and barreled towards me. I stepped to the side, and on his return dive, Duvabon grabbed him and tossed him overboard. The remaining two sailors stayed on the deck, cowering fear. I left them there and walked into the captain’s cabin.

Captain Dimway Traywater sat in a cushioned seat near the great rear windows of the cabin. Outside, the broken clouds passed over the mountains below. On those flanks, the crushed bodies of Traywater’s crew laid, torn from his ship in a campaign of attrition. It started with a patrol every night or so. We would climb in the dark, me and Duvabon, just far enough to snatch a poor sailor leaning out past the railing. A disappearance in a flutter of feathers and the dull noise of shifting air. A ship like the Lowborn would hold six score sailors, more than enough to take down a skirmisher and a bird, but we moved as one creature, up and down from the cloud cover, gone for days or striking thrice in one evening. When the evening patrols grew in size, we would take out a handful of sailors in one strike, Duvabon would drop me on one side of the ship and in my path across the deck I would strike true, before leaping onto his back and disappearing into the mist.

Now, Traywater sat in his captain’s chair, the Lowborn nothing but a host to the terrorized remains of a once proud vessel.

“Are you proud?” he said.

He turned his head and looked at me, eyes red. A man of great stature, but a small man all the same. Balding, wisps of unshaved beard, a frame that hadn’t done the work of a true sailor in years. A great man in his own eyes, but something small in front of me. He rose.

“Are you proud?” he said again, taking a step towards me.

“One by one,” I said, sword hanging loosely at my side.

We watched each other, he drew his sword. The move was subtle, almost mundane. An inevitable action.

“One by one you picked them off. Your sailors rappelling down to tear us apart in inches. Every day I’d lose someone. Every week, years of history taken away in your hold.”

“We did not take enough, it appears.”

I could smell the mix of saltwater, blood and death, hear the heavy thumps of wind in sails departing. I could see myself in the ruins of my village. Everyone and everything shattered. Everyone and everything apart from a small boy, and a nest.

Duvabon’s landing shook the ship.

“Do you need help in there?” came the screech.

“I’m good,” I yelled, “Watch the prisoners.”

“Are you proud?” he said, one last time, as he stepped into range.

“Yes.”

Quick lashes from the captain, forward stabs testing my celerity. One, two, three before stepping to the side and assaulting my flank with loping swings, a slight backstep to avoid the riposte. Not easy to deflect, but it wasn’t just sailor’s work his body had grown weary of.

Forward, now, pushing against his defenses, forcing him back towards the window. A dozen fine slashes from every direction, tired reflexes deflecting with more and more desperation. In the back of my mind, past the pure sensation of battle, I could feel the rocks digging against my flesh that day before the merchant ship found us, the sun baking my skin, the soft squawk of the gull nestled in the crook of my arm.

Soul draining attrition, and all that child could see until he and Duvabon took flight for the first time was the silhouette of the Lowborn departing.

Captain Dimway Traywater let out a low, exhausted sigh as I struck the blade from his hand.

Am I proud?

I dragged Traywater out of the captain’s cabin by the collar, and when I brought him to the railing, he was free of life. The thing I tossed overboard was nothing but weight of memory. Duvabon stood towards the bow, steel-clad beak pointed towards a small group of prisoners.

Nearly six score sailors dead by hand and wing, an ocean of death. When I looked at my brother in arms, my despair-forged companion, I felt nothing but pride.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


:toxx: Barring special circumstances (pre-arranged judges, weird rule week etc.) and/or personal animosity (arch-rival, lands raided and salted by my forces etc.) I'll be a judge next week.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


my name is judge

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Week 463 crits, presented in a semi-random fashion.

Dispelled Love
Idle Amalgam


On a whole, the story feels derivative in a sort of video-gamey way that doesn’t really serve it. The spellcasting, “doing damage”, summoning portals and such gives it a bit of a fanfiction vibe, although, with the fanfic rule being suspended on account of your flash rule being a Star War I guess you’ve got me there. The comedic effect of repetition in the dialogue is stretched to the point where it stops being entertaining, but there is still some pretty entertaining dialogue. The lewd wand is fun.

Ultimately, I lose focus because of the somewhat repetitive and unengaging dialogue to the point that when we reach the fire elementals, I’m not sure what’s going on, and whatever devious ploy is going on is just lost on me. More words should’ve been spent on worldbuilding, exposition or fleshing out the ending.

Yours, Mine, and Ours
Antivehicular


Honestly, my biggest problem here is that I like it so much I’m struggling to come up with useful critique. It’s vague about certain details in a way I appreciate, but clear and consise in terms of building an alien landscape and an alien presence. There is something terribly ominous in the thing Nadja carries and the way it’s so beyond human thought processes. It tells an interesting and engrossing story in a very short span.

Dragonknight
My Shark Waifuu


My first issue with this story is how uninteresting the fight between a knight and a dragon is. A fireball is not something you just gently sidestep, but that’s the sensation I get when reading the fight scene. Especially when it’s a story about two combatants who each have some malus which would make the fight interesting, you need to expand and dig in on just how Nari’s lax practice and the Rimvady’s wound and lack of experience would give twists and turns to the ebb and flow of combat.

My second issue is that a pretty hefty amount of plot and story are sort of dumped on the reader in the last few lines. Thunderdome, yes, but that doesn’t change the fact that it feels like a chapter summary at the end of a full chapter.

Would a Rose
Thranguy


Like Antivehicular’s story, this paints a very nice picture of a strange, inexplicable alien intelligence, and there’s a lot of good worldbuilding spread throughout the story. Most of it is pretty standard sci-fi fare, but it serves its purpose. While the fragmented nature of the narrative serves the story, it can be a bit distracting at times, and on a second or third pass, I’d tighten it up, condense and rearrange it and probably find a flow that’s a little easier to read while still making you feel lost in that good way. I can’t quite decide if the nature of the alien is too vague or not, but I tend to fall on “vague is good” (which will come as no surprise to anyone who’s read more than like two of my entries).

the dragon of death pets a dog
flerp


There is something very allegorical about this story, but it’s allegorical in a way where you’re not entirely sure what lesson you were supposed to learn. When read with that in mind though, it’s an interesting and sweet story, but it could do with just a little more mass. Maybe something that paints a clearer picture of the nature and meaning of the dragon? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure, but the image of the dragon and the dog is just very nice and maybe that’s enough. It made me think, which sounds a little banal, but the story lingers in a nice way.

My Bear of Unrest and Hibernation
sparksbloom


Big issue with this for me is how the Words Capitalized to Make a Point are Just Kind of Distracting. It’s a valid style choice, but when it’s overdone it just sort of messes with the flow, and that’s what I’m feeling here. It’s a nice little weird story about a talking bear, and it’s presented in a sort of matter-of-factly way that lends to its charm, but it could do with more of a punchline or some point to the ending, because if I’m perfectly honest the last line has no impact at all. It feels like a pun without a pun, a reference to something to bears and nothing else.

Practice
t a s t e


I am completely unsuited to critiquing sad stories about cats, yet I will do my best. The story is very sweet, sad and relatable, and the relationship with the cat is eloquently described with highs and lows, but it still feels a bit too much like a retrospective dumped in a framing story. In addition, as it relates to the prompt, the dad feels like too much of a focus point in a story that’s supposed to be about a sentient animal, though I reckon there’s we’re approaching a quagmire of what sentience is if we dig too deep there. All in all though, the writing is solid, but temporally, it could be a bit cleaner.

The Serpent
Azza Bamboo


This is a story with a few well written sections and stuffed in a shoddy frame, like a wine bottle crammed in a too short breadbox. The first part, with the fall, is interesting, but confusing, and it feels like there’s some context missing. You wonder about the relationship between Edmund, his lord and the horses, but then you’re just left wondering. The next part, with the battle, is written in an engrossing way, but only in small, fragmented parts. You get snapshots of a battle that could be a fantastic scene, but you’re left without the full fantastic picture, then it just ends.

The prompt is barely taken into consideration. Like so much in the story, you begin to touch on it and then it’s dropped. It’s a facet of the story, but the story is not about the relationship between Edmund and the horse, and besides, what’s the point of that relationship? You’ve made a half-and-half story that’s about nothing, full of interesting imagery and nods to interesting relationship, but it’s going nowhere.

Tea for Two
Staggy


I reckon I didn’t like this quite as much as Djeser, but it’s still good. The premise is very fun and adventure-like, with an ominous villain (or is he?) and a plot that feels like one of those things that’s as old as time yet still fun to read. My issue with the story is that the degree of antagonism of the relationship is somewhat unclear. I’m not sure what Gnorri hopes to accomplish with a tiny dagger against a massive dragon, and if it’s an event that repeats every year, why is this the year he hopes to wound Ivor? Or is it something he’s attempted before? If they’re left laughing at the end of it, why would he attempt an attack against the dragon? It feels like drama slotted in with insufficient context, tension for tension’s sake but without a payoff.

Same Old Story
curlingiron


This feels like a snapshot of a clumsy, sweet love story, but in that same sense it also feels like it’s missing something. The dialogue is adequately awkward and genuine, and the idea of a weird guy who happens to be a dragon but still retains that weird guy energy is fun, but the payoff is a little bit boring and in general the story could do with more words that’s not dialogue. You’ve got some words left that could’ve been used to flesh out the scene and setting a little more, and that could’ve made me care just a little more about Eleagor and Mira.

There’s still something charming about a simple meeting between two people who are meant to be, and you’ve got some nice little touches here and there that triggers the imagination. This is a world where it’s not that uncommon to consider whether the person you’re talking to isn’t human, where dragons spike their beer with limestone and where you can have a dragon granddad. That’s pretty cool.

Also, this is not really directed at you in any particular way, but boy howdy there was a lot of dragons this week, huh.

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Interprompt: A big truck full of angry men drives off a bridge. 144 word limit.

Black Griffon fucked around with this message at 07:29 on Jun 29, 2021

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


Mike enters the pet shop with grim purpose etched on their face. They immediately climb into a little petting pen, ignoring the children and employees scurrying out of the way. From their pocket, they retrieve a small tape deck. They click play and speak into the tape deck, it does not have a microphone.

"Black Griffon, reporting for spy duty. I'm in."

No one hears this over the abrasive sounds of Norwegian rap emanating from the tape recorder. A child cries. Mike attempts to light the tape deck on fire over the lazy voice of a white guy in his thirties rapping about fjords, the smell of burnt plastic spreads throughout the pet store, the sprinklers go off. :toxx:

Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


https://cfa.org/singapura/
https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/shetland-sheepdog/

Waves

1366

If you look past the carousel, the one with the hosed up horses, you’ll see Anders bleeding out. He’s crumpled against the fence after running full tilt past the turnstiles at the entrance to the amusement park. The bullet that’ll finally end him hit right below his ribs, tore his liver apart. It’s all dark red violence down there now.

I run past him checking my last mag, finding it empty and tossing that and my gun aside. He turns his head like a camera, eyes firing on dying neurons, recognizing something without the capacity for recognition. I kick open the door to the haunted house and he’s as dead as any other past.

-

“Gentlemen, meet Singapura.”

Gabriel pats me on the shoulder, and I give the group a little wave. They’re men used to seeing temps come and go. Find a safe-cracker for a job, cut all ties, get a driver, forget they ever existed. The core is the core, anything else is a risk.

“She comes highly recommended, works security systems on-site as natural as taking a poo poo. Listen to her, she’ll have our backs.”

Anders and MG look at me, no smiles, no nothing. I prefer it that way, no attachment. Gabriel takes us through the first part of the plan: hit the Wellstar Foundation near 2nd Street. It’s a cover for a dark money depot connected to something less serious than an alphabet agency but important enough to warrant a completely off the books front guarded by top-of-the-line electronic security. That’s where I take over.

This place is so dark that an obvious, manned security presence would be a risk, so it’s all up to the pressure sensors, wires, lasers and a myriad other gadgets I can manipulate like a pianist. Gabriel takes over and explains the escape. Through an abandoned tenement building, across a lot and into an under construction amusement park. Split and spread through the whole park, enter the sewers where crews are working to reroute lines. Eventually we end up near the harbor, where we slip away on a container ship.

Stuck with a gang of dour criminals in a tiny box until we reach San Francisco, and we’re clear.

-

Jess takes a long sip from her coffee, Darryl spikes his.

“It’s easy, Shetland,” Jess says, “We can hound you until you’re dead, or you give us Gabriel’s crew now, and you’re done. You walk away without a loving cent, but you walk way.”

Darryl leans forward, sour breath too close, “It’s a nice fuckin’ offer. It’s charity. More than chaity.”

He leans back, runs a hand through slicked hair.

“It’s more than you deserve,” Jess says, “We could gently caress you without a second thought.”

I’m silent, watch the server in the diner take a round, filling up coffees, making small talk.

“I’ll make it easy,” Darryl says, sliding an old brick phone across the table, “You give us the target and the time, meet us when it’s done, we get you out and clear.”

Jess’ face softens, choreographed, artificial, “Gabriel has a lot of lives on his conscience, this is a good thing either way you look at it.”

-

I make the choice as we’re scoping the place for the third time. Me and MG looking like tourists, walking down 2nd Street snapping pictures of birds and facades. When MG is busy with the camera, I type out a message on the brick phone.

Wellstar Foundation, June sixth. Nine PM.

Shetland

-

Jess and Darryl have told me they’ll clear the way. Let me know when I can escape. I just make sure everything goes as planned until the ambush. The sun casts all the small scratches and lines on the car window into relief as we drive down towards our target. Anders gets angry when he’s nervous. Not at anyone in particular and not in any way that fucks it up for the rest of us, just a general, focused anger. MG is just nervous, Gabriel is completely blank.

The job is flawless until it’s not. Practiced routine through the back, guns on the on-site personnel that’s there, guarantees that anyone getting hurt would make everything worse for us too. I dance across the security systems. We transfer bonds, gold and cash to bags, head for the exit.

MG takes a bullet through the throat as he opens the back door, falls forward, props the door open. Anders turns around and lets loose with half a magazine against the on-site personnel before Gabriel’s yells halt him. The shot came from outside, they’re in the alley behind the building. Gabriel tells us to run and we move towards the front of the building and the main entrance, Gabriel covering us with controlled shots towards the doorway. He turns away from the flashbang, but trips in doing so. He’s on the floor, ears ringing, when the burst of a submachine gun rides up his body terminating in the head.

Anders sprints out the door in front of me, I hear pops and see small red flowers on his back. No burst of blood or chunks of meat, just lead-antimony fate through flesh. Gunfire from out in front of the building, not behind me. The ones behind me are holding fire. Anders keeps going as bullets hit the asphalt around him. The phone beeps, “Now,” and I sprint out after him.

-

I see his camera-eyes as I rush through the dark. Dead as any other past, still there.

-

From the haunted house, it’s through the lot of a half-built rollercoaster until I reach the sewer. Ten minutes through drained pipe until I reach the docks. The phone beeps again, “Boat house, near South Star terminal.”

It’s where the docks meet the beach, just at the junction. I jog towards it out of breath, shoulder the door open. When I’m inside, I fall back towards the wall and scream until my throat feels like it could catch fire.

A few minutes later, Jess and Darryl walk in.

“Get me out of here,” I say.

“It occurs to me,” Jess says, “That you’re not done.”

I can only look at her, color draining from my face. Darryl snickers.

“Weird how you’re supposed to be so smart, but you’re this loving stupid,” he says, “You’re too useful when you’re working for us.”

Jess gives me that choreographed compassion again, but this time I can feel an intention behind it. She wants me to know it’s fake.

“This, too, is charity,” she says, “You’re not rotting in a cell, and you won’t be. But freedom has a price.”

“I assume we have a deal,” Darryl says, “Because there’s nothing else you can do.”

My face goes slack, and I stumble as I get up. I look at them for a long time before reaching out my hand.

“Good dog,” Darryl says.

I spring forward and reach down towards his holster. I’m not quick enough to avoid the draw and the first bullet, but I grab the knife he keeps next to his gun, turn it around in my hand and push it into his wrist as I feel the bloom of pain through my entire body. He screams and fires twice into nothing. At this point I’ve pivoted and I’m behind him when Jess draws. I stab Darryl twice in the small of the back, underneath where his vest ends, and grab the gun from loose fingers. I fire twice, first shot taking Jess in the gut, the next taking off part of her skull near the temple. Darryl’s bullet went into my lung, I’m breathing blood, I can feel a shivering something near my spine.

I stumble out of the boathouse and down to the beach. Above me, a helicopter—police or news—circles away before turning back towards me. I make it a few hundred feet before everything stops responding. I can fall to my knees, I can look to the sea. The bullet rubbing against my spine is a hand on my shoulder now, a dull voice in the distance, sound through fog. I sit down and watch the waves come in. I feel my eyes go heavy as the waves come in.

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Black Griffon
Mar 12, 2005


in me bird, give me my bird

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