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Feb 25, 2014
in :toxx:


Sep 16, 2006

...A Champion, who by mettle of his glowing personal charm alone, saved the universe...

Oct 6, 2021

Obliteratin' everything,
incineratin' and renegade 'em
I'm here to make anybody who
want it with the pen afraid
But don't nobody want it but
they're gonna get it anyway!

Chili and I are indefinitely postponing our brawl (with judge's consent). We donated to charity instead of eating the toxx.

Jun 23, 2022

It's a puzzle.
in :toot:

Jun 23, 2022

It's a puzzle.
Week 516 Entry

Sir Middleton, February 29 (366 words)

Today began just like every other day.
How I pray, if I am successful, the twilight shall begin my long awaited restoration.
Each wretched, foul ingredient has been meticulously gathered: eye of stag, tail of possum, talon of hawk.

Curious how my current form has not affected my feelings of distaste regarding these visceral aspects of my apparent native habitat.
Even after all these years, here in my cave I call home, I long for the days when I felt cloth on my skin, and my meals weren’t raw and bleeding.
Now at last the robed woman assures me that when this storm passes, she shall deign to rectify this chaos she herself inflicted.
This punishment has kept me from learning, and becoming, so much.
Each day I waste catching disgusting salmon in my hideous teeth raises thoughts of all I lost.
Reminding me that my core identity has persisted, unchanged.

Holding onto my perception of true self has been a greater challenge than I was prepared for, when I became victim of this dishonorable and unjust curse.
One which I would call unbearable, if I could find the strength to see the humor in my predicament.
Letting go of my vengeful wrath has been my greatest struggle on my long path to redemption.
Discovering I will be forced to make peace with the robed woman to be healed.
She, and she alone, has the knowledge and ability to undo what she has done.

To allow one to wield such power unchecked can only bring rampant injustice.
Hubris made me foolishly believe I could, and should, be the one to stop her.
Every arrogant choice I made will now be deciding my fate.

Two diverging paths now finally lie before me again.
Regaining my original form would empower me to discover all that I have missed outside this prison.
Until this moment, that was my only wish, my only desire.
Though now, as she approaches, I can no longer distinguish my true intentions; it is as if my beastly nature has ultimately crystallized.
Her curse forced me to abandon, or learn, my sense of self; its inescapable final chapter will conclude with our shared, bloody fate.

Jun 23, 2022

It's a puzzle.
Sorry that wasn't so much a story as it was just a puzzle.

The Wicked ZOGA
Jan 27, 2022
Can't post for 6 days!
gently caress it, I do want to participate in one of these, even though actually I know very little about the genre. I'm in. Does taking a prompt give me any other constraints? If not, I'd like one please.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

The Wicked ZOGA posted:

gently caress it, I do want to participate in one of these, even though actually I know very little about the genre. I'm in. Does taking a prompt give me any other constraints? If not, I'd like one please.
The small god smiled, like a knife in the dark.

Dec 15, 2006

b l o o p

Jibingiron Curse of the Reasonable Brawl Entry

Why Does She Do That?
599 words

My sister’s always been ‘difficult,’ as my mother likes to put it. Sara’s always been the kind of person who would try to punish everyone around her if she wasn’t allowed to have her way; I’ve had enough birthdays ruined in my lifetime to be able to attest to that.

My family were total enablers, I guess because it was easier to just let Sara have her way. It didn’t matter if it was my mother’s wedding dress that she decided to cut up for an “art project,” or my grandfather’s antique pocket watch she sold to buy concert tickets, it was always just you know how she is. Hell, she made my husband cry at our wedding and there were no repercussions, since in the end I wasn’t willing to cut off my whole family. I couldn’t even be that upset when my husband left me a year later; that’s just how Sara was.

To say I was surprised when she reached out to me to make amends would be an understatement. I’m so sorry I haven’t been a good sister to you, she said, eyes full of tears. I’ve met someone who makes me want to be a better person, and I want you by my side on the happiest day of my life. And alright, I’m probably a sucker, but I wanted to believe it. I’ve always been envious of friends who were close to their siblings, and I let myself hope that maybe she’d really changed this time.

Of course, it was a ruse. Turns out that ‘someone’ was an ancient evil artifact from a realm beyond the edges of our understanding, and the ‘happiest day of her life’ was when she completed the ritual to allow it to fully manifest in our dimension. I really ought to have known from the remote location and complete lack of any bridal party duties - as if she’d miss a chance to be a diva! - but hindsight, I suppose.

Now, did my parents do anything to try and stop this dark ritual from reaching its fulmination? No, of course not. They just turned their strained smiles towards me from their places trapped in the crystals powering the dimension-render as Sara explained how I was to be the blood sacrifice, their eyes pleading me to just play along, it’s not worth it.

And I mean, what was I supposed to do? My parents were happy enough to sacrifice me - literally! - for my sister, my personal life was nonexistent, and all that was waiting for me at home was a collection of dying houseplants and a job I despised. So I figured, whatever, it’s not worth it to rock the boat on this one and resigned myself to making yet another sacrifice for my younger sister. At least this one was guaranteed to be the last.

Honestly, when the golden sword appeared before me, and the voice told me that I was the only one who could save my world, I was reluctant. Seriously, the fate of the world is great and all, but this godly voice or whatever had clearly never seen Sara in full tantrum mode.

But then I thought, you know what? Maybe my therapist was right, maybe I do deserve to be a little selfish once in a while. So I took the golden sword and went to fight my own sister to the death.

Anyway, none of my relatives are speaking to me now, and say it’s my fault that Sara’s soul is trapped in the rift beyond the worlds. Reddit, am I the rear end in a top hat?

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012

I return! In and flash rule please

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

Nae posted:

Jib, curling, you two are being extremely unreasonable, which is why your brawl prompt is The Curse of the Reasonable Person!

You each have 600 words to write a story involving the curse of the reasonable person. It can be funny, sad, disturbing, bleak, uplifting, absurd, or whatever else you can think of. As long as it's not fanfic or erotica, it's fair game.

Stories are due on Thursday the 23rd at 11:59 Pacific, or whenever I wake up the next morning. Good luck with your curses!

curlingiron/the cut of your jib: Curse of the Unreasonabrawl
Who Needs a Reason?
~600 + a few meandering words

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.

My Shark Waifuu posted:

I return! In and flash rule please
They crept ever closer, waiting to feed.

Sep 3, 2020


Jibingiron Curse of the Reasonable Brawl Results

You two both wrote unreasonably interesting stories, so I must be the reasonable person who judges them. If I had my way, I would give you both gold stars--and then ban you both to prove my godlike capriciousness--but alas, only one of you can win, and that winner is:


Curling, you won for a couple of different reasons, but mostly because I actually laughed out loud when I got to the midpoint turn with the cursed artifact. It was such a great escalation from the boilerplate AITA format, yet it still made sense within the confines of the story. Nice work!

Now for some more extensive crits for both of you:

Jib: I'll admit that I did not quite know how to judge this one, though I greatly admire your ambition (and will probably hit you up for tips on how to make this kind of branching narrative!). I couldn't decide if I should judge this by the gameplay, the story, the combination thereof, the experience I had from my first playthrough, or the sum of the total game. I also feel like a heel scrutinizing gameplay mechanics when I've never designed one mechanic in my life, so you can take this feedback with a grain of salt:

I ran through it probably four or five times, both to make sure I didn't miss anything and out of respect for your efforts. Having done that, I can say you've got the core of a good story here (I loved both characters!), but I think it's held back by the surrounding systems. The branching paths that don't take Dunceton and Protag into the cave feel like roadblocks to the 'correct' path, but the most entertaining sections take place outside of the cave, so the whole thing feels off-balance. Also, the psyche system doesn't do enough to justify the prominence it has in the story, especially since it can roll into the negatives without resulting in a game over.

Unsolicited advice incoming: If I were you, which I'm not, I'd revisit where you placed your branches and rebalance them so there are fewer options outside the house and more inside the cave. I'd also refine the psyche system so its meaning is more obvious to duncetons like me. Having said that, let me reiterate that what you have here is really cool and you should be commended for doing something this risky. Did you win? No, but you made something unique, and that makes us all winners.

curling: You, of course, are actually the winner, but don't let that victoy go to your head! You've still got some kinks to work out in this one, even though I had a great time reading it.

First--and this is a subjective thing--I think it was a misstep to end with 'Reddit, AITA?' If someone who doesn't know the format sees that ending line, they'll wonder why you're suddenly talking to reddit; if someone who does know the format sees that line, it feels like the punchline to a shaggy dog joke. Your story stands on its own two feet without the nod to its heritage, so I think it would be to your benefit to strip that line out. But like I said, that's a subjective call, and maybe other people saw it and loved it.

My other crit for this story is that your beginning is a little too clean for your character's voice. Lines like "To say I was surprised when she reached out to me to make amends would be an understatement" feel like prose, not posting. The lines that stuck with me were the ones that felt more like speech, like "Maybe my therapist was right, maybe I do deserve to be a little selfish once in a while." That line has a conversational quality to it that makes it feel real. If you ever try writing another story like this (for who knows what the Dome holds?) keep in mind the difference between fiction-prose and posting-prose, and let that difference guide your pen.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

in for swords

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Sign-ups are closed, though I wouldn't say no to a third judge.

Bad Seafood posted:

Glorious Fools
Rohan - The jeweled sea ever-lingers in the mind
MockingQuantum - They would be slaves no more
The Man Called M - The palace became a prison
Thranguy - The snake coiled in the belly of the bowl
Something Else
Ceighk - They shared a common purpose, though not the common tongue
Flerp - :toxx:
The Wicked ZOGA - The small god smiled, like a knife in the dark
My Shark Waifuu - They crept ever closer, waiting to feed
The Cut of Your Jib
These fourteen authors are worth more to me than ten legions of Sardaukar!

Sep 16, 2006

...A Champion, who by mettle of his glowing personal charm alone, saved the universe...
By Copernic

Within five feet he could smell the man. A crush of animal sweat. It could penetrate the open jars of myrrh, the heady spices of the Reihn, the dull blur of torch pitch.

There was the gleam of animal cunning from his close-set eyes, the sweat on the sure palm reaching for his scarlet robe. Once close up. But it was the man’s stink that stuck with him. At times Hecne still sensed it. Typically when a moose had pissed, just outside.

“Nolon,” Hecne hissed. Four feet. The man had gold teeth. They clanked together, rhythmic. No– it was—

The knock on the cabin door enraged. “FOUL REEKING FILTH,” Hecne cursed, and then transitioned to a half-dozen forgotten languages. The other surviving speakers clung to a half-life in sunken palaces. The spiders grounded the eldritch cant as usual, their carapaces flickering with blue-purple lightning.

The knock paused, and then started again, another two tentative raps.

Hecne tossed off the robes. In these depths of winter they were all employed on top of him, red silk on red silk, blotched at the fringes with memories. His staff snapped to an outstretched hand.

A word of power flung the door open, knocking one of the hinges loose. More curses – that would mean putting on the straw hat and a bemused expression while the village blacksmith cast a pin. Cold metal ever eluded the sorcerer. As HE had well known.

“Sir?” an adolescent’s voice. A girl, from the beat of the heart, the pull in the ether. “Are you—?”

“I’m a woodcutter,” Hecne growled. Roused, the spiders emerged from the warmth of the cabin, flowing in a black wave towards the caves. “You must need some wood. Before sunrise.”

He’d emerged in a pair of filthy drawers. The sun had putrefied what skin it could reach. His forearms were patched with rotted green skeins of flesh. No matter: a casual wave of his hand would blot memories and turn feet around. Hecne spoke the requisite words as the youth scrambled back up. Unlike him, she wore pants.

The girl spoke a word of her own. It met his magic and crested it, returned it in tatters. And although the force should have splintered her tongue, she simply looked upset and unsure. “You’re Hecne,” she said, trying to force confidence. “You fought with Nolon. A dozen times. You almost won.”

Her eyes found the gouge in his staff, where a brilliant ruby should’ve shone. A tear of the sun.

“A dozen times. Is that what they say?,” Hecne said. He’d never measured it that way. He leaned against his staff. Was there a trace of it, on the wind? Some rank bear urine, squirted out in the dank of the forest? No– too far. “Femal– woman. You stand above a hundred skulls, screwed into the earth, their jaws taught to— what? What are you doing?”

The woman was crying. Hecne had little sense of how to approach this situation. He decided that the safest measure was to activate every trap and barrier, to call upon the little spirits he had bound in death, to roil the woman in black-rimmed flame. He raised his staff, its diminished power. She held up both hands, palms up.

“Oh, I’m just– we really need your help. Please! Nolon– we don’t know who else could stop him!”

Hecne lowered his staff. The morning sun snuck through the thicket of trees, sought out his cold flesh. “Lets do this inside,” he said.

“Necromancer. Eater of the dead,” Nolon issued his customary growl. He spoke like he expected wolves to listen. “I’ll take the jewel. Hand it over, with an ungloved hand.”

“You never curse me, thief,” Hecne said. As always it was hard to see the sharp side of Nolon’s blade. He favored dull short swords, relentlessly sharpened. “You enter, you cut through long-term plans, and you leave. It must just be a job to you.” He took off a calfskin glove and held up the ruby. They both were washed in its bloody glow. Behind Nolon a half-dozen guards finished bleeding.

Nolon never bothered to respond. Their interactions were always businesslike. The man’s loincloth seemed familiar. Hecne wrinkled his nose. Like a lion with overactive glands.

There was boredom in the man’s eyes. Tedium..

“This will be new,” Hecne said. He tossed the gem behind him. A thousand years, rubbed on altars, dropped towards the roiling lava.

“He banned money,” the woman said. Odora. She’d introduced herself, after Hecne hadn’t asked. “He took it and melted it down, and poured the metal down the well. The merchants protested, so he banned merchants.”

Hecne watched her fidget with her hands. Probably because he hadn’t offered her anything to drink.

“Famine fell quickly,” Odora said. She glanced at the sorcerer, who kept rubbing slowly at his own bald head. “Nolon took us to war. It is true that we ended with fewer mouths to feed.”

“War against who?” Hecne said, genuinely curious. To the west, the sickly green descendants of the vanished kingdom. To the east, wasps and their men. To the south, inedible swamps. Where the sun rose and set, empty cities.

“The north,” Odora said. She glanced at him, hoping for a human connection: this damned man. Hecne refused it. He had scryed Nolon, in moments of weakness. Up close, very close. It had never occurred to him that a wider view would’ve been more honest.

“His birthplace,” Hecne said. “The land of the sky. Clouds, famously filling.”

“He did win,” Odora said, reflexively. Her nose, scrunched up defensively, slotted something in Hecne’s head.

“You’re his daughter,” he said.

He’d expected – what? A flush to her cheeks? She looked at him oddly. Ah- of course. “But who isn’t. Carry on.”

Hecne spat. He’d bit into his own cheek, and the spittle was black and mottled.

“Little more to tell. He travels in the spring and summer, and slaps around those farmers with too few stalks of grain in the fields.”

“In the SPRING?” Hecne stood up, despite himself. He had never cared for the city. The fleshpots of D’Amun interested him only as a source of flesh. The gold brought in tattered scrolls ripped from dried hands. Hecne mastered himself. Easy to do, at a distance. “And I suppose the well water tastes like pennies.”

“It does,” Odora said, nodding her head. “It very much does.”

He let her sit by herself. Deaths-never-died sidled up to her, feeling for her warmth, the touch of her fingertips. The spiders came back. Odora kept her legs together and, politely, tried not to stare in his direction. The half-dogs howled somewhere outside.

“Very well,” Hecne said. He sealed the letter with white wax and imprinted it with one of his wrist boils. “Give this to him to read.” Hecne corrected himself. Nolon. “Read it to him.”

Odora took it slowly. “I hoped you’d come with me,” she said. Wayward adolescent spiders crept along her clothes. Eager for the journey.

“To kill your father? I’m not good at that.”

“He has your ruby.” Hecne stopped at that. His finger held tight to the letter. His crippled staff stood in its sad place, the heart of it gouged out. His heart, it may as well have been. “It crowns his throne. It still shines. They call it the blood chamber.”

“Unoriginal,” Hecne said.

He forced himself to let go. “Give him the letter. He’ll come. I’ve given a lot of thought to it. I’m at my best when he’s coming to me.”

Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

Duel at Goblinopolis
1493 words

Grannin's foot planted square in the middle of Futhark's back and pushed, launching him through the glowing portal. Futhark landed ungracefully, with a mouthful of sand. "Pfah! What kind of wizard's trick--"

"Never befoul my shop again! Thief!" Came Grannin's reply.

"Uncharitable, Grannin. Let's discuss this," started Futhark, as he pushed himself up, but the portal was already stitching itself closed.

"Charity! Humph! I run an upstanding shop! You deserve this every bit of this–" The man couldn't help but get his shots in, even as the portal fizzled shut. Futhark stood, dusting off his kilt and cape, wondering where in the hell Grannin had sent him, and why.

It was a circular arena - not the smallest Futhark had ever fought in, but not too small for his usual tricks. The walls at floor level were made of thick leather, stretched and lashed tight between massive bones. Whale bones, thick and tall as redwood trees, curved upward to a hole that let in a shaft of dusty light. The dome was patched across with ragged hides, behind which swarmed a hundred little creatures that snickered and hooted in anticipation.

"Goblinopolis?" Futhark muttered to himself. "Who do I know in Goblinopolis?" He scarcely had time to think before another magic portal ripped through the air at the other end of the arena.

"You there," Futhark started as he strode towards the portal. "Wizard, or whoever you are. I've been brought here against my will, a clear violation of King Berry's law. I demand–"

"No King Berry in Goblinopolis," came a low rumble from within the dark portal. "No law either."

A massive, spiked-iron shoulder came through the portal first. Futhark stopped in his tracks. The shoulder was followed by a broad armored chest, topped by a menacing horned helmet with an ogrish faceplate. An iron boot slammed onto the sand, blasting out a low cloud. When the portal fizzled out, a blackguard knight stood up to his full height, several heads taller than Futhark, looking like a malevolent dark statue covered in tiny iron spikes. Whoever was in there hefted a long club, fitted with a mace head covered in more iron spikes, and twisted it between his gauntlets.

Futhark's hands went to his kilt, his bandolier, his daggers, and his trickery pouches to make sure they were all in order. And ready they were. He tried to stand up to his own full, mediocre height, and called across to the knight. "You're quite intimidating. Excellent horns. So… why am I here?"

With great clanking and scraping of plates, the knight pointed at the smaller man. "Futhark Many-Tricks. The swathe of misery you cut across this world is at an end. A coalition of your yet-living victims has decided this for you."

"Wait," Futhark cut in. "Is that, Mallory? Mallory Moorhew?"

The knight ignored the question and began walking towards him. The booming steps drowned out the chittering goblin audience. "You may stay still and let me crush you, if you wish to die with any honor at all."

Three colorful powder sachets - Futhark's opening salvo in most fights - exploded across the knight's chest, but they didn't slow his momentum. He raised his morningstar and swung it down, but Futhark danced away easily.

"Wait. Mallory Moorhew might have died," Futhark said, as he whipped a bolo at the knight's ankles. His aim was true, but it was barely long enough to wrap around one ankle, much less tangle him up. The knight closed to squishing range, but Futhark was agile enough to dodge around his swings, while keeping close enough to examine the armor for weaknesses.

"Liu Bei the Cueless?" Dodge.

"Never heard of him," growled the knight. Swing.

"Oh, right - I killed him." Duck.

"Another sin for which I shall extract justice." Swing.

"Are you sure you're not Mallory Moorhew? I swear, you have the exact sort of self-serious–"

Futhark realized too late that the knight clocked his juke and twisted at the hip, driving the butt of the morningstar into his chest. Futhark grunted and turned the momentum into a series of backflips to put some distance between them. He landed in a crouch, hands deep in his pockets, sorting for a trick to give him an edge.

The knight held his stance, evidently tiring, or perhaps just reevaluating his strategy. "Come over here, Many-Tricks. Draw your daggers and face me. I'll give you your first taste of honor. Don't you wish to die with honor on your lips?" Futhark's fingers moved across the twin elfsteel daggers at his waist... Not yet. He hadn't found a weakness yet.

"Besides," laughed the knight. "It would be faster, and cheaper."

"Goblins charging by the hour, are they?" Finally, Futhark's hands were full of tricks. He had a plan. "Sorry, chum. If I'm to go out with a price on my head, I might as well try to hit a record high, eh?" He began to walk back towards the knight, shoulders slack - ready to evade. But the knight looked distracted, fiddling with something at his wrist. There was an audible crunch of breaking crystal, and the unmistakable sound of liquid, trickling down through the armor.

Futhark paused. "Did you just…?"

The knight groaned, and the seams of his leg plates glowed with a magical purple-blue light. Futhark barely had time to curse when he realized the knight was running at him, impossibly fast!

On instinct, Futhark hurled the vials in his left hand - and half his plan along with them. The spider broodsac and jug of easyhoar soared over the knight's shoulder and shattered on the sand. The acid vial impacted against his breastplate and sizzled harmlessly. Futhark managed to spin around the outside of the morningstar and past the knight's arm, but the armor's spikes shredded his back in the process. It stung like mad… but it was survivable. New plan.

Futhark scrambled to the ice stalagmite that grew out of the spot where the easyhoar had splattered, and snapped a pair of enchanted harpy feathers to fly to the top of it.

"Mingus the Dingus fell in a volcano. Clobbering John is still locked in an iron maiden under Flintcrown Castle, as far as I know, and Magnifico hosed off to the savage continent, never to return. I don't even know any other wizards!"

The knight pivoted fast, still juiced in the legs by his crystal elixir. "You're forgetting one. A big one," he barked. Predictably, he put his shoulder down and charged straight into the stalagmite. Just before the ice spire shattered, Futhark flipped down from the peak and landed on the knight's back.

The iron spikes dug into his palms, knees and toes, but no time to worry about that. As fast as he could, Futhark emptied handful after handful of nefarious tricks into the ogrish faceplate. Years worth of precious acquisitions, gone, to bring down a foe without a name. Stinking gas bags, bruising spirits, rust flies, foaming thickener, Furulian firecrackers, Mereztic moonburners, expanding caltrops -- everything. Even the one-of-a-kind Snuff Box of Santamilleu went past the ogre's eyeholes. All while the knight sprinted around the arena, thrashing blindly to grab Futhark off his back. His cape was ripped away, and most of his pouches, until finally Futhark was nearly naked, yet barely hanging on.

"Ohh," said Futhark. "A big wizard. Fat Zackary! Is it Fat Zackary you're working for?"

"Get off me! Off me!!" The knight was like a blood-mad bull, thrashing uncontrollably against the agonies trapped under his armor. Probably didn't even hear the guess. He jabbed at the crystals embedded in his wrists, cracking as many of them as he could.

"Bad idea," hollered Futhark. "You're gonna regr--" And then a wave of blue-purple engry blasted out of the knight's back, sending Futhark flying into the wall at the other end of the arena. He landed in the dirt, bleeding profusely. The last thing he saw before everything went dark was the knight, engulfed in magic flames, ripping the armor off piece by piece.

Hours later, when he'd mostly scabbed over and the goblin horde had ceased their screeching, Futhark trudged to the scarred, burnt body laying still in the center of the iron wreckage. Only one gauntlet, and the hideous ogre helmet remained in place. Futhark gripped one of its horns and, wincing, slid it off to reveal...

"Mallory bloody Moorhew," Futhark sighed. "If you'd only admitted it... I really think we could've worked it out. I owed you one, after all, you stubborn bastard. Ah, well. Another copper in the jar for 'never trust a wizard.' Oi! Goblins! Where's the exit?"

A cry came back that sounded like, 'Beat it!' and a slab of hide opened up to the cool night air. Gathering up as many pouches as would still hold tricks, and re-tying his feathered cape, Futhark Many-Tricks limped off once again, to fill his pockets with things that didn't belong to him.

Jan 20, 2012

Shackles of Shadow


MockingQuantum fucked around with this message at 22:13 on Dec 10, 2022

May 27, 2013

No Hospital Gang, boy
You know that shit a case close
Want him dead, bust his head
All I do is say, "Go"
Drop a opp, drop a thot

Ceighk fucked around with this message at 20:54 on Jun 29, 2022

Sep 3, 2020


Blood for the Blood Throne
1473 words

King Aubrelian Francesco Delphine the Sixty-Ninth slouched low on his imposing throne. His craven subjects milled about beneath his marble dais, their sallow cheeks pocked and drawn from the sickness that plagued the land. It was a disease of the veins, one characterized by weakness of the muscles and frailty of the mind, and all who walked within the castle's walls bore witness to its source: King Aubrelian's Blood Throne.

The Blood Throne, carved from the jagged bones of giants and dipped in reddened gold, had been in Aubrelian's family for sixty-nine generations. Before that, it resided in the deepest caves of the Godless Mountains for four-hundred-and-twenty years, and before that, it dwelled for eons at the heart of Pharoah Postentemtop's tomb. Legends differed on who made the throne—A jilted witch? A dying warlock?—but there was no argument as to its purpose. All who looked upon the ruby eyes set in the crowning skull could see how they glowed when they were pleased, and darkened when they were enraged. To enrage them was a simple thing, achieved in any number of ways, but to please them required the most painful sacrifice: the baring of the soul. Souls were tricky things, however—cowardly creatures who hid inside their hosts—so they had to be coaxed out through arcane rituals. Dance could do it, as could sculpture or song, but those who bared their souls to the Blood Throne through such arcane means were often found wanting and slain. The few who survived the Throne's rages were those who fed it according to its taste: those who spilled their souls with words.

"The Blood Throne hungers!" King Aubrelian cried, his reedy voice vibrating in the air. "Who will feed it?" His throat was as flimsy and gaunt as the rest of him, and he lacked the commanding presence of Kings Aubrelian Twenty-One through Twenty-Six. He also lacked the good looks of Aubrelians One and Thirty-Four, the cunning of Forty-One and Seven, and the courage of Sixty, Twenty-Two, and Fourteen. What he had was a foul temper, a crooked nose, and a persistent foot fungus that drove him to walk about shoeless, exposing the ragged patches where he'd scratched his flesh to the bone. He was a repugnant man and he knew it, which was why he was such a fitting guardian for the fickle throne. Only he could approach the blackheartedness of the cursed chair; only he could ensure the unworthy never had the chance to expose their wretched souls. For if they did, and if the chair found them wanting, it would extend its plagued tendrils deeper into the soil beneath the kingdom, damning a greater and greater area to the sickness that damned the castle.

A sniveling, whimpering wretch of a man shuffled to the foot of the throne. Rags fluttered around him like torn sales as he dared to raise his milky eyes towards the king.

"If it please your majesty," he simpered, "I have prepared a tale for the throne's consumption."

The king twisted around to check the eyes set in the skull affixed to the back of his chair. The damned rubies pulsed in anticipation of a meal; only time would tell if it would be satisfying.

"Very well," the king conceded. "Relay your tale, and pray it does not anger the gods."

The wretched man cleared his throat, then stood up as tall as he could on his brittle and broken bones. "It's a story I wrote about a girl I fancied when I was a lad, and it contains the lyrics of her favorite song."

The skull's eyes darkened, blacker than the blackest black. The dying citizenry came alive with screams. King Aubrelian covered his ears to mute their cries, but his hands could do nothing to stem the tide of blood that ran from his tear ducts.

"Guards!" the king bellowed. "Kill this man before he utters another word!"

The guards, pained and shrieking, descended on the hapless lyricist like vultures on a mound of corpses. Murdering the man would not sate the Blood Throne's hunger, but it would prove to be a temporary balm for their pain.

When the grisly deed was done, King Aubrelian returned his attention to the eyes of his throne. They simmered again, demanding to see the innards of souls. Every failed attempt to feed the chair gave it greater dominion over the kingdom, but foregoing the attempts altogether promised far greater horrors. The last king to suggest such a thing, Aubrelian Thirty-Six, was found with his anus stretched beyond all earthly limits by the ringed hands of an ancient goat-man, a demon of legend who watched and waited beneath the wrinkled fabric of the world. Aubrelian Sixty-Nine would not make the mistake of his predecessor; no matter how damned his kingdom became, he would not have his hole ruined by the goat-seer.

"More souls!" he cried. "More souls for the Blood Throne!"

The chamber doors swung open with an outrageous clatter. King Aubrelian craned forward, skin flakes fluttering from his fingernails as a messenger scrambled through the listless crowd and prostrated himself before the throne.

"Y-y-y-your majesty!" the messenger stammered, shaking in the presence of the unholy cathedra.

"Speak!" King Aubrelian commanded.

The messenger licked his chapped lips. Lesser men than he had been killed for besmirching the king's presence with their speech: men like his father, a fellow messenger who took a knife to the heart after delivering the devastating news of a grain shortage.

"Your majesty," the messenger exclaimed, "a barbarian comes to feed the blood throne!"

"A barbarian?" King Aubrelian echoed. "From which festering backwater?"

"From the Thunderlands!"

King Aubrelian dug his splitting nails into the skeletal arms of his seat. The Thunderlands were a lawless place, overrun by drunkards and poets, and the Blood Throne had condemned so many of its occupants that Aubrelian Fifty paved the roads with their pulverized bones. The laws had since dictated that the Thunderlanders were to be shadow-banned to the outskirts of the realm--but apparently, no one had bothered to tell this wayward barbarian the news.

"Have the barbarian hobbled and sent to the lepers' colony," the king proclaimed, "So he may waste away like all men who would defy me."

"T-t-that's just it, your majesty," the messenger rebutted with nervous insistence. "He's not a man, he's a—"

The doors blew open once more. A mountain of a woman strode into the room, her burning red hair commingling with the ragged pelts draped over her shoulders. Her face and limbs were streaked with a toxic green paint that reeked of imminent death, and her sturdy belt jangled with rusted chains that draped low across her hips. A great spear stuck up between her shoulder blades like a post without a flag, or a lord with no great title or avatar to represent them.

The straps of her sandals flapped loose with her every thunderous step, and the sickly citizenry reeled from her path as she dared to approach the Blood Throne. "Stop, dog!" screamed the king, voice thinner and higher than ever before. "You have no right to approach my sacred seat!"

The barbarian spread her ham-hock hands, exposing her palms in a sign that meant 'peace' among her people. "I come to bare my soul to the Blood Throne."

"You? A foreign mongrel?" The king laughed ghoulishly. "What tales can you tell that will please the demons shackled to this dying world? What stories can you spin from the fetid swamps that spawned you?"

"I come to tell the oldest tale," said she. "A tale of justice, one sixty-nine generations in the making."

"What tale is this?" the king queried, though he did so with a quaver in his heart, for he knew the meaning of the number sixty-nine.

The great barbarian woman drew her deadly spear from her back, and with a tremendous roar, dove upon the throne and drove her blade through the king's heart. As crimson spray formed a thick mist in the air, the red liquid ran through the letters carved in the spear's ebony handle: JUST POST.

Men screamed; women wept; babies cried for solace that would never come. But the Blood Throne, its corundum eyes witness to all deeds great and small, watched this tragedy unfold with a faceless smile, and for the first time in an ageless time, its satisfied eyes glowed.

Life returned to the masses in the castle. The throne's influence retreated beneath the world. The barbarian, who had bared her soul through the truest form of expression, was henceforth celebrated as a hero, and the name of her mighty spear became a rallying cry that extended to all corners of the kingdom. From then on, whenever an anxious man or a tired woman needed a source of strength, they remember the words that set their people free: JUST POST.

The man called M
Dec 25, 2009


Blades of Crimson and Azure
1131 Words

Long ago in Korea, sometime during the Joseon era, there was a certain duchy known as Setuon Baelli. Their local lord was a man named Kim Oong Ryong. He himself was a kind ruler, but his advisers were not as kind. Nonetheless, he was dependent on them to help run the country.

He had a lovely daughter by the name of Kim Swe Bok. Legend had it that she was so beautiful that she put flowers to shame. Bok was grateful to her father for letting village children play with her when she was younger (Her father knew that a good ruler needed the trust of the people), but in her current age where she recently officially became a woman, she would become quite lonely in the palace. The other children she played with back in her youth would tell Bok of their lives. While to them, it was boring and mundane, their stories fascinated Bok.

There was a time where Bok did sneak out. She would go on “adventures” (or as close as they can be for those that young) with two brave twin boys. While the fact that they were twins made it so that they shared the name Dol Nyang (Names in Joseon times were determined by the date of their birth), Bok would give them the nicknames of Crimson and Azure. Azure was the more gentlemanly of the two, while Crimson was more hot headed, but had a softer side that Bok witnessed multiple times.

Unfortunately, their times of youthful adventures ended when they were caught by the guards. When Bok was taken away, she heard the twins yell to her something she remembered to that day.

“Lady Bok! We will grow stronger!”

“That way, we can protect you!”

We promise!”

Ever since then, Bok has been more closely guarded. She wished to this day to see the outside world about as much as a prisoner. And a prisoner she was, at least in her eyes.

The time had come when Bok needed to find a husband. Lord Ryong was growing old, and he knew that it was not right for a woman to rule alone, especially his beloved daughter! While Ryong did give Bok the right to choose her husband, she seemed rather indecisive (she had Azure and Crimson in mind, but couldn’t decide over the two). So it was announced that a swordplay tournament would be held. The winner would receive Lady Bok’s hand in marriage. The people were thrilled about the news. Not necessarily because of Lady Bok, but due to how swordsmanship in the area worked, they were expecting quite the show.

Normally, Asian sword styles were similar to martial arts in that there were so many. Such was not the case for the people of Setuon Baelli. From their youth, boys (and girls if they so choose) would train in the same basic style, then when they manifest their inner power known as Chi, they are able to master certain elements. Some use regular elements such as fire and water (which conveniently was what Crimson and Azure have mastered, respectively), while there are those who mastered elements that many would find quite unusual. For example, Lady Bok was able to manipulate Cherry Blossoms, even though they are native to Japan. Once the sword user has invoked their Chi, they are encouraged to train further on their own, tuning a basic style into something truly unique to them. To witness a sword fight in Setuon Baelli was to see art in the form of Violence.

The day of the tournament came, and Bok peered out her window to see who would be fighting for her affection. She saw many rugged types, but also two men, who, while there were noticeable differences, appeared to be twins.

Could it be…? Bok thought. She ran to where the tournament was being held, and asked for a list of participants.

When looking at the list given to her, she saw many names. People who merely wanted to fight, those who wished to improve their standing in life…

And there she saw Dol Nyang, written twice. Both names were written in different handwriting.

Bok was in tears. On one hand, she was happy that the boys she played with long ago would remember their promise. On the other hand, she felt like her heart was in a knot, as there was a chance that at least one of them would die. She knew that she loved them both, and it pained her that if she was to marry one, the other could possibly be lost forever.

The tournament began. Those who spectated who wished to see art in blade form truly got their won’s worth. Not only was there Azure’s water and Crimson’s flames shown, but also elements such as earth, lightning, wind, even non-natural powers such as one who was able to summon multiple blades. Luckily, as Bok would attest, not only were the twins strong, but they were also clever. They were able to outmaneuver every opponent that they faced, making it so that the final battle would be brother against brother.

While Bok was pleased that the twins got that far, her heart sank knowing that if one brother would die, it would be by the other's blade.

The twins got into position, and the battle began. When looking at the elements, one might see those on display and believe it was decided beforehand. After all, water extinguishes even the toughest flame, right? This fight was not as straightforward. Their battle was as masterful as the most complex of dances, and it was clear that it was not their first “dance” together. They were brothers, and they fought as they were that close. Each of them knew each other’s tricks, and how to solve them.

Alas, not every sword fight could last forever, though it was obviously a war of attrition. In the end, as both brothers were in pain due to extending their Chi to their limits, they each released a burst of their respective elements. As the smoke cleared, both brothers at first still stood.

Then, Crimson dropped to the ground. It was over.

Immediately, Bok ran to Crimson, tears in her eyes. He was still alive, but not for long. Bok was crying next to Crimson when he spoke.

“Lady Bok… Was I strong?”

She nodded.

“That’s good.”

She kissed Crimson. She loved them both equally, but she wanted to make sure Crimson at least knew. Soon after, Azure kneeled next to Crimson as well.

“Take care of her,” Crimson said. “Or my spirit will kill you.”

“I will!” Said Azure, as he held Crimson’s hand. After that, Crimson’s flame was extinguished.

Thus begun a new age of prosperity in Setuon Baelli.

Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.
Flash:The snake coiled in the belly of the bowl.

The Legend of Larella

1499 words

Sing, sing of Larella the mighty, Larella the wily and bold, she of the Northern Wastes, daughter of Chie, last queen of Razorkand, daughter of Mogag the bear-fist, the branded, the breaker. Sing, of how she three times came to emerald-clad Montisi, and three times conquered her.

First, in her youth, when she traveled with her double-edged axe Glimmer and her wordless companion Draug, wordless but fluent with dart and chain, two new but already renowned seekers of fortune. Larella had already been taken and sold to the Vestian Arena, had fought and won through the ranks to become grand champion, had broken her chains and strangled the pitmaster with them, had hostaged the Emperor to buy her escape and shaved him beardless. Draug had been left as sacrifice on Wulfmount, bound, naked, and unarmed, had wriggled free and killed four godtouched wolves with the jawbone of a fifth that he found near the altar. Their deeds were known, but they came to Montisi lean and hungry, drawn by rumors of wealth, of precious gems kept in a warlock's hoard, in the city beneath the city.

Down they went, from musty cellar to disused sewer tubes that still reeked of ancient refuse transformed by natural alchemy to primal gasses that turned torchflame pink, then blue. Further down, via a bricked-up stairwell to tunnels build by civilizations nearly forgotten, to the lair of the warlock, the snake-kissed master, bald and painted Tevar Tai, who girded his lair with his creations, hybrid abominations of lizard and rat and naked bone, standing watch when not gathering material for their ranks to grow. The first patrol fell silently, Larella's axe cleanly separating the long, tooth head from the hunched furred shoulders while Draug's darts flew true through air and eyeball and forebrain. 

By stealth they advanced, avoiding fair fights for ambushes and advancing dank chamber by inches-flooded hall towards the necromantic temple of Tevar Tai, then burst through doors of dry-rotted oak into the warlock's lair. With whirling axe and lashing chain they swept through a hall thick with sorcerous abominations, severing and shattering and entangling as they went. Tevar Tai ultimately begged for mercy with a hidden dagger clutched in his left hand, behind his back, but he got none from the two.

They found their prize, a great brass bowl full of gemstones. But Larella frowned. "These are only polished glass." Draug shook his head and pointed at one of them, very pale brown and crystal cut, a true smoke diamond. He reached for it, and the albino snake lurking coiled in the bowl struck.

The venom worked slowly. He seemed to shake it off as they slaughtered the snake, scattered the worthless glass on the floor, and walked back through the undercutting. The pain returned as they surfaced in the starry pre-dawn, bothered him as they negotiated price with a jeweler and fence, and grew worse as they caroused through a day and a night. Draug dreamt fevered nightmares and woke in a bed stained with green and sickly-sweet sweat. He would lose the arm, lose much of his strength, accompany Larella on but one more adventure. Larella traveled along the river Mont and the Sculpin coast, but did not return to Montisi again in her adventuring years.

When she did come second to Montisi, older, wiser, more ambitious, it was as a conqueror. She had marched with armies before, to be sure, was there at the fall of Ao, led the charge at Tyk Valley, defended the Ribboned Gate against the Sanguine Horde. But these armies were hers: the warrior tribes of the Gristmarsh, united for the first time in centuries by the belief that she was their promised leader, the goddess Av reborn, backed by three companies of mercenary cavalry, paid in plundered coin from a dozen raids and adventures. Her army, her conquest, aimed at carving from the city-states of Sculpin coast an empire.

Eager she was for battle, to blood the battle-virgin soldiers of her host. But as she moved her siege engines toward the Eastern wall, the weakest of Montisi's approaches, the main gate opened and envoys rode to her camp under flag of truce.

Larella scowled as she met them in her tent. "What can you offer me that I am not able to take? I am not some hill-chief to be bought off with trinkets of tribute."

"Of course not, Lady Larella," said the envoy, fat and perfumed and wrapped in green silks.

"Queen Larella," she said. "No, Empress."

"That seems premature," said that envoy. His fellows cringed at his words. "But perhaps not by much. The first families of Montisi have met and decided to offer our surrender."

"With what conditions?" said Melisi, Larella's second wife and closest advisor on matters political.

"None," said the envoy. "Well, hardly any. If you set your armies loose within the walls to burn and pillage they will be resisted. But take our offer, make Montisi your capital and all her wealth and armies will be yours to turn elsewhere."

She accepted, of course. She opened the Emerald Vaults to pay her mercenaries for campaigns against Chakar, and then Vispos. She ordered warships built, some afresh and some by refitting fishing and trading vessels. She visited the first families, and found Seguin, first son of the Silverflames, the most beautiful and intelligent of the next generation of Montisi leadership. She chose him as her third husband, married in a quick ceremony and consummated in the traditional way. News of victory after victory reached her in her throne room, decorated in the manner of the ancient Monvisi kings, with streaming ribbons of red and green, ruby and emerald entwined, like berry and leaf, tarnish and rust, blood and venom.

In the Arena at Vestia, one opponent cut her arm with a blade coated in dusk cobra venom. She finished him before the poison reached her heart and organs, but not by much. The pitmasters dragged her back to her cell, helpless, shaking, fevered and vomitous. She did not rise for days, even when whipped. Fovear, the champion reigning, stayed by her side, fed her broth, and kept everyone away, even the pitmasters after that first time. They were content to punish him instead. Eventually she recovered, as only one in a thousand ever does with dusk cobra venom. She had become immune to it.

Her wives and husbands were not. She woke to all she loved dead or dying. She tasted blood and venom. She had been berserk before. At the Ribboned Gate, on her only return to Razorkand. This was different. The bloodlust was there, strong as ever, overwhelming all, but there was no rage. Only calm. She saw traitors everywhere, and dealt with them as traitors deserve. Those generals and seconds who were not family, were not welcome in her bed, she decided must be jealous. They did not see the daggers until the thrusts reached heart or throat. The first families did anticipate her wrath. Some hid behind paid guards. Some begged mercy. Some attempted to flee. None of these strategies bought any more than a few day's life. She killed children in front of their parents, offered to first take their ears or eyes, but not both. After she tracked down the last one who fled, after a week of killing Avos Silverflame, her blood finally calmed. When the new-minted Gristmarsh Priest-Captain Tain, son of the man who first crowned Larella Empress and Messiah and was one of the first to fall to her rage, found her and fell to his knees, she was fully calm, fully herself. "Great Av," he said. "Your empire awaits your command."

She took off her crown and threw it at his feet. "It's yours, now," she said.

"I don't-" he stammered.

"Then throw it in the river. If you try to find me again, I'll kill you."

And third, as an old woman, no longer strong enough to lift Glimmer much less swing it, unrecognized and nearly forgotten, she came to what remained of Montisi, conquered and razed and salted when Prophet Tain's armies fell to the Gilded Coalition. Some people still lived among the ruins. Fishermen, mostly. It was still where the river met the sea.

She ignored them. She wandered, trying to find landmarks among the broken walls. A burned out tavern, the cellar beneath. She walked down, down, through dry and barren sewers and ancient tunnels.

Her lantern guttered out as she entered that ancient temple. Pure darkness, then a flash, then a hundred small reflected lights, false glass gemstones across the floor illuminated by the violet flame surrounding a floating skull.

"You got my message," said Tevis Tai's skull. "Good. I decided it was incomplete, that I had to tell you it was me and see your face."

"Can you even die?" said Larella.

"What?" said the skull. 

"You'll get no help from me," said Larella. She turned around and walked into darkness.

Feb 25, 2014

Gods at the Edge


flerp fucked around with this message at 21:10 on Oct 9, 2022

My Shark Waifuu
Dec 9, 2012

The Light of the Moon
They crept ever closer, waiting to feed
1231 words

The glittering stars stretched from horizon to horizon, as multitudinous as the spots of a leopard. It was the dry season. A soft breeze occasionally rustled the brown grass, but otherwise the only sound Njeri could hear was her own panting breath and the footsteps of the girl behind her. That damned girl. The moon was only a quarter full, so healing her of the yellow fever had taken all of Njeri’s strength and skill. Arguing with her parents and the village elders about Njeri’s rightful payment had taken the rest of the day. Now she walked the savannah at night, and she knew better than to believe the silence meant she was safe.

There. Njeri stopped to look over the waist-high grass into the darkness. Only the stars looked back, but she’d heard it. Another body moving through the night. The girl huddled close. “What was that?” she whispered. She’d heard it too.

“Quiet,” Njeri replied in a low tone. It’s probably your father or brothers coming after you, she thought. Njeri could heal most ailments using her extensive collection of medicinal plants, which now rested heavily on her shoulders, and a small pool of magic that waxed and waned with the moon. But the girl had been too far gone, so Njeri had to call upon the Moon Goddess herself to return her from the threshold of death. The Goddess had but one rule, as clear as the waters of Mzima: those saved by her grace belonged to her, and the one who saved them became their teacher. A life for a life. Her own fundisha had healed Njeri from a snakebite as a girl, younger than this one. It was the way of things, but this village did not respect her ways. Njeri had needed to resort to a well-placed smoke bomb to escape with her new ward.

The grass rustled again, this time on her other side. The girl whimpered but Njeri didn’t stop walking. Ahead, the dark mass of the forest blotted out the stars. If she could get there, she could hide until morning. The rustling was behind them now, and Njeri thought she could hear an exhaled breath. If they were men from the village, why weren’t they attacking? Perhaps the girl, who was now indistinguishable from her shadow, was too close. Njeri gritted her teeth and prayed. Please, Goddess, keep me safe from these angry, blasphemous men.

The grass parted and a shape rushed past her, massive but hunched. Njeri froze, mind trying and failing to interpret the shape as a human form. Then, from behind, came a low chuckle. The noise was repeated on her left, then ahead, until the cackling laughter surrounded them like a wildfire.

The girl gripped Njeri’s arm, eyes wide as the moon. “Hyenas!”

Thank the Goddess. The nocturnal and matrilineal creatures were sacred to her deity, and so she could influence them. “Stay close,” she told the girl, then reached out to the animals through her connection to the Moon Goddess. A pack of eight was circling around them, hungry, savoring the scent and helplessness of the two humans. She reached for her power to compel them to leave, but nothing was there. The well was dry. The hyenas smelled her sudden fear and cackled again.

“Hurry.” Njeri grabbed the girl’s hand and strode towards the forest. Under her breath she muttered prayers to the Goddess, that the hyenas would leave them be until they reached the forest. Her words were drowned out by the rushing of blood and adrenaline in her ears. The faster they walked, the bolder the hyenas became. The animals toyed with them, running past to feast on the surge of fear. The girl cried out as one brushed her and Njeri’s bare legs with its wiry fur.

The stars ahead had disappeared, swallowed by the forest. They were so close. Suddenly, the hyenas fell silent. One appeared in front of Njeri and the girl, forcing them to stop. Its head came up to Njeri’s belly and it was more massive than her and the girl put together. The matriarch. Njeri could sense the other hyenas silently falling into position, encircling them. They only waited for their queen’s signal to attack. Njeri stretched out her hands, appealing to their shared connection to the Moon Goddess, but the matriarch responded by showing her finger-long fangs. Her spotted shoulders tensed and Njeri, mouth dry as dust, stepped in front of the girl. Moon Goddess, I will not beg for myself, but please spare her. The hyena advanced, head low and mouth drooling.

“Go away!” The girl’s shout broke the tension like lightning. Njeri watched in astonishment as the matriarch pulled up, staring at the girl with eyes blacker than the night. The girl stared back, seemingly unafraid, eyes shining silver in the starlight. After a heartbeat, the hyena turned and disappeared into the long grass. Already, the Goddess shows this girl her favor, Njeri thought. She felt humbled: in this moment, the girl had more power than herself.

But behind them, the rest of the pack shifted and growled. The girl may be blessed, but she did not have the experience needed to banish all the hyenas. Still, the way to the forest was now clear, and Njeri tugged the trembling girl forward. “What’s your name?” she asked.

“Akinyi,” the girl said. The dawn.

To their left, a hyena barked. The pack was still hungry. “Run!” The woman and the girl sprinted towards the trees, only a few steps away. Njeri could feel the hot breath of the hunters on her feet. The stars overhead yielded to the forest canopy. Njeri scooped up Akinyi and threw her up into the safety of the branches as jaws closed around her calf.

Njeri fell onto the roots, rolling and lifting her arms to block the hyena’s next attack. Its bloody muzzle dove towards her face, then jerked to the side. It took Njeri a second to see the spear protruding from its chest, and a few seconds more to see the man chasing the remaining hyenas into the dark with a blazing torch.

The man soon returned for his spear, yanking it out of the hyena in a spray of blood. He looked familiar. “Baba!” the girl shrieked, leaping down from the tree like a bird. The man met her embrace, pressing her head into his shoulder.

“Thank Ra'aten you’re safe,” he said, then glared at Njeri, who was still lying on the ground. “I saved your life, witch, now you will give back what is mine. A life for a life.”

Njeri sat up and nearly fainted from the blood loss. She was in no state to argue, even if she wanted to. And she realized, with a pang of loss, that she couldn’t. She owed the man, and the price must be paid. It was the way of things. “A life for a life.”

The man nodded. Akinyi grinned, as bright as the crescent moon. As her father turned to leave, the girl’s eyes met Njeri’s. She could still see starlight shining within them. Njeri watched the light of the man’s torch fade as the pair retreated across the savannah, but her hope did not fade with it. The girl was Goddess-touched, and she was her fundisha. They would meet again on another moonlit night.

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk

Three Moments in the Old City
1119 words

The first

The tavern room is torchlit, flames frozen mid-gutter in each of the seven, wax-dribbling sconces, the momentary gust of air from the door laying each of the flames on their side. Their dim light picks out scars on the table, gashes and divots cut out from the heavy corpsewood planks.

In one of those scars a splash of blood-red wine has settled, sanguine emissary of the cupful that has been flung wide, of the tendrils and droplets of crimson from the dented metal cup, which is itself reversed – a momentary ill omen – on its way to the floor.

The man who spilled it is heavy-thewed, dark of eyes – far have those eyes seen and much witnessed - but for now they are fixed, lava-hot, on the opened door. The man’s hands are on a sword, clenched tight on the sweat-stained leather of the grip. A scabbard is loose, sliding off the blade, an imaginative eye could trace its trajectory to the floor as the blade slides free but for now it is suspended, its future movement the catenary of the sword-point’s frozen arc.

His chair has tipped back, balanced in this moment on its back two legs, its fate a matter of surmise or the toss of the coin.

Beside him is another man, slender, face pressed hard against the table to avoid his companion’s cut, nimble hands wine-wet from the spillage. The man’s mouth is open, perhaps yelling a warning, beseeching caution, or simply taking a deeper breath of the humid tavern air. Beneath his face, sketched out with a finger, are lines and crosses, a crude map, now disfigured like the table.

Crowding through the door are three burly men, brass helmets clamped down tight on beetled brows. Each has a curved sword in hand. The foremost’s eyes are wide as he lunges, but his feet betray a slip, footing that was insufficiently sure, a snarling of his step. In front of him is the edge of the table and the dark-eyed man’s sword, these things are reflected in his eyes.

It is said that the murderer’s image is caught betimes in the eyes of his victims, so could we see there the strong arms and long, not-yet unsheathed blade of the man he faces? The gust-dimmed torches shed little light, and such fancies boot little in this captured instant of life and death.

The second

And, now, a high-vaulted temple, narrow windows with fragments of jewel-bright glass that cast criss-cross patches of colour across the smooth honey-coloured stones, which were brought up the River long ago by sweating slaves. The smooth stones are lashed and pooled with blood, hieroglyphic last words of the seven temple guardsmen that lie here, splayed and rigid. One reaches for a sword, bloody fingers outstretched, but his face has the grey pallor of the man who has already heard the song of the death bird and awaits only its soft alighting.

The temple’s altar is of black obsidian, a block of volcano glass with edges sharp as an adze. Bronze fitments hold chains that are taut, the links at their greatest extension, the bronze rings tight around the ankles and wrists of the woman lying, constrained, atop it. She is dressed in a robe of ceremonial yellow, hair plaited in too many rows to count. Her face is intent; she is pulling the chains, seeking a weakness. One of the fitments is at an angle, perhaps it has always been this way, perhaps her efforts have borne fruit?

Above her, hands high, a tall woman, heavy of face and body. Her eyes are aflame with the light of the forty braziers that line the temple’s smooth honey-coloured stone walls, and catch the many jewel-bright lights that stream in through the coloured glass of the windows. Is there something more, perhaps, some eldritch fire that sits within them, some more than mortal gleaming? Mayhap, and the swirling behind her, is it merely smoke from the braziers, coalesced and coiled in such a way as to suggest the evocation of an enormous beast?

The dark-eyed man is here too, mid-stride, sword held low as he leaps, its point wet with crimson blood, a single drop still barely clinging to the very tip. He is wounded, the lines of sword cuts and bruises mark his sinewy frame, but his face is a mask of bloody purpose.

Beside him an arrow is suspended, mid-flight, its fletchings rippled with the passage through air. Tracing back along the path of its shaft reveals the slender man, already reaching back to his quiver for another. His face has a different expression, more diffident, aware of the myriad risks that might befall the best and most prepared traveller. Around his neck is an amulet, a round disk of amethyst, said to be distinct proof against poison, or is it general ill-fortune? In either case, most auspicious.

Behind the slender man an eighth guard, crouches, unwounded, unmarked, curved sword drawn back behind his head; his blow, when it comes, will be terrible.

The third

The sun is high in the sky, beams hot on the skin and on the ground. A bird is suspended an inch above the dry dust of the road, as though propelled by the puff of dust created by its slim, jet-black wings.

Another puff of dust surrounds the hooves of a bay mare, though they are all off the road; galloping, then. The mare’s rider is crouched low, his dark eyes fixed on the road ahead, perhaps scanning for ambush or simply obstacles, irregularities, potholes. His hands are tight on the reins, elbows down by the flanks of the bay mare. The saddle bags bulge, and sit heavily on the side of the horse, full of provisions, or treasure, or even a human head; they are capacious.

Behind him by a length are two more horses, one small and piebald and the other deep-chested and black - a stallion. Atop the smaller one is a woman, in a ceremonial robe of deepest yellow. The yellow is spattered with a wide stripe of crimson, looking almost black in the bright sun. Her hair has been intricately plaited but a few strands have come loose - they are coiled like snakes in the hot air. The woman's head is turned back towards where they have come and her mouth is open, perhaps to cry a warning, perhaps in dismay. Her bare legs clutch the sweating flanks of the horse tightly.

The black horse has no rider.

Attached to the dark-eyed man's belt by a rough loop is an amulet, round, amethyst, of no particular effect.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 24, 2007

you don't find a style

a style finds you

516 Submission

Bone Bound
~1500 words

The dead man’s horse meandered to the streambed and lapped at whatever moisture was left in the silt. Simush knelt near the extinguished fire and wrapped the bloodstained linen band torn from his head in the struggle once more. He rolled the corpse out of the firepit, wrapped it in the bedroll and whistled for the horse. After a final reluctant lap, the horse obeyed and Simush hefted the body over its haunches.

He pulled the prize from the worn saddlebag and ran his fingers down the symbols pressed into the clay tablet. He could not read them, but Nanshe’s priestess commanded its acquisition, and bone-bound, Simush was her will.

He led the horse down the drying bed where his own was tethered in the reeds. A modest amount of water still trickled. Both horses restored while he refilled his own skin and then mounted to make the return journey in the cooling dusk.

The moon was high when Simush arrived in the village. Fires dwindled to embers nearly all, but one still shone bright in the beerhouse. “I am here to return Ulushin.” The old man tending the fire turned and dropped his cup at the sight of him. Simush stood in the light, bedraggled from the hunt, his feathered skirt caked with mud. His linen robe, dyed in the dark crimson of dried blood, hung open and his chest glowed in the firelight. Two daggers, one of useful bronze, one of ceremonial hippopotamus ivory, were tucked in his leather belt.

The old man did not know that a strip of Simush’s own shinbone ran down the spine of the ivory dagger. The binding of the flesh to the priestess when he was ten seasons. The pain was excruciating when the priestess planed off a strip like flattening a board, but the fever brought sacred dreams, and to be tended back to health by a priestess was the greatest honor. Simush was held by the Garush, the oracle, and a sliver of his bone hung by a plain strap around her neck.

“Return,” said the old man. He knew what it meant. Ulushin was dead and his tomb should be filled. “Ulushin was a good man. You should leave him here, revenant, and I will return him.”

Simush shook his head. Honor compelled him to deliver the dead by his hand to their rest by his hand. “If you won’t tell me, then lead me there.”

The old man followed Simush outside. “Why, Ulushin?”

“It was commanded.”

“No other reason. Hmph.”

The old man took the rein of Ulushin’s horse and began ascending the gentle slope towards a workhouse. Simush followed in the wake of the other’s muttering. At the entrance, Simush caved to the grumblings and produced the tablet. The old man took it, and his eyes widened. With the dalliance of a man in his cups, he ran for the beerhouse. Simush merely stuck a foot in his path and snatched the tablet from him as he toppled into the dust.

“It’s the deed. Whoever holds the deed controls the land. That is law.”

“That is law,” recited Simush.

“What was Ulushin doing with it, anyway?” the old man mused. “He managed the accounts. The master surely would have it secreted away.”

“Perhaps the Garush divined the treachery and sent me after a thief.”

“It’s not like him at all. No. No.”

“It’s not my place. Come help me return him, or leave me in peace.”

The old man nodded as he got up. He led Simush and the horses behind the mudbrick dwelling to a sepulchre built of stone. Simush realized that it wasn’t a workhouse but Ulushin’s family home. There is no ceremony to returning the dead, just the respect to place their bodies where the ancestors are closest. That is law. The two carried Ulushin’s remains and placed them in the tomb, the niche carved by his own hands.

“Come back to the beerhouse and rest until morning, revenant. It’s too late for you to travel tonight.” The old man seemed honest and drunk enough, but Simush’s suspicion was roused by the attempted theft of the tablet.

“I will sleep here with the horses,” he said. And the old man made his way back to the beer, mumbling all the way.

The morning light brought a clear view of the village. Lush grain fields extended to the north as far as he could see. The river, dry in the south, cut a thick strip in the land here, and the waterwheel turned swiftly. Simush rarely traveled this far north but he understood why someone would desire this stretch.

He bent and touched his toes, stretching the taut muscles sore from the ground and the riding. Between his legs, he saw a number of small children peeking from the house entrance.

“Ulushin’s children?” he asked brusquely. The eldest nodded. “Come here. Your father is returned.” Only the oldest really understood and tears welled in her eyes and she stepped hesitantly towards Simush. “It’s nothing to cry about, you had no control over his life or death. He is returned and the joined the ancestors. That is law.”

The children murmured, “That is law.”

“Where is the master of this place?” asked Simush to the girl.

She hesitated, then said, “He is also returned. Several days ago.”

“Who is the heir?”

From behind them Simush heard the old man, “There is no heir but whomever controls the deed. It doesn’t matter otherwise.”

“I’m going then,”said Simush, honor may have held him to return the deed to the master, but this man was clearly letting greed get the better of him. The priestess would know best. That is law.

He mounted his horse and turned towards the road. Ulushin’s children surrounded him. “Where is your mother?”

“We have none, returned in birth years ago.”

Simush felt a pang he did not often feel. He wanted to stay and work this problem out, but he felt the pressure in his mind of his Garush calling him home. And like with the old man, he felt the greed was palpable in her urging. No, there was more than that. The greed was the greed of the old man. It was close.

Simush spun on the old man as he tucked the necklace in his grip down his shift.


“Bring me the tablet, bone-bound. I have use for the land and the water. And I don’t want to be in this greasy mind any longer watching you tarry about with children.”

“Garush, oracle.” Simush didn’t know what to say, but felt some corruption in the oracle. He pulled the tablet from the saddlebag and felt himself being pulled to give it to the old man.

“Garush, oracle. Please.” The pressure grew in his mind, and he knew the presence was not the justice and vision of Nance.

The old man spoke now with the voice of the oracle. “Simush, my bone-blade. You’ve given me much blood.”

By all the gods. Why would they allow a gallu to masquerade as a divine oracle? What had this devil done with the souls he dispatched in the name of false justice?

Simush dismounted his horse, and held the tablet. He looked at the children, then to the old man whose aura grew darker and larger the more he looked. He saw the eyes of his Garush, and he knew that they were eyes of deception. The gallu, the devil tormentors.
He drew his ivory knife and cast it aside, as though it might break the bond. The gallu rushed at him, the old man’s hand strong as it grasped Simush’s wrist and held him from drawing the bronze dagger.

Amidst the cries of the children as they rushed inside, Simush wrestled with the gallu and was losing. The distraction he needed was a costly one, but it was his only option. He threw the tablet to the ground, and it shattered. He drew the bronze dagger with his now free hand and pushed it into the old man’s gut. But the devil’s magic was strong, and the old man did not relent. Simush fell to his knees under the force his arm being bent back, the skin where the gallu grasped blackening and burning under the corrupted touch.

Simush felt the corruption coursing into him, and he was weakening. He took three quick breaths and then hacked with all his might. His corrupted hand severed above the wrist, and the gallu toppled over him, looking for a moment like the old man as he fell drunk the night before. Simush thrust the two clean spikes of bone protruding from his forearm into the gallu’s chest.

At once he felt the corruption flee his mind, and the mundane pain take over. He collapsed. Eventually, the children came out of the house and tended him, and Simush, for the first time, felt pure.

Mar 19, 2008

Look, if you had one shot
or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
in one moment
Would you capture it...
or just let it slip?


Flash: The jeweled sea ever-lingers in the mind.

The Old Man and the Sea Monster
1500 words

The port-side city straddling the Alvistican sea—built half of shanties on treacherous undulations, and half of entitled incursions into cliffs carved by thousands of thousands of storms—is known by many names. In the cavernous stone-hewn halls, the grape-addled Aspirantii speak fondly of Rivachet, another jewel in their bloody livery; and on the ever-shifting expanse of the docks, those draped in sealskin sharpen their spears to lilting lullabies of their ancestral Ebh–Dakhor.

The fur-bedecked figure a league hence knows not these names; he seeks only warmth, and water, and whatever sustenance his host can spare. Wrapping his cloak tight around his muscled frame to stave the worst of the night winds, he makes it halfway down the hill before some primeval instinct bades him pivot and unsheathe his greatsword in one smooth movement. No sooner has he brought his sword to bear than a terrible clash of steel-on-steel strikes his ears and then the muscles of his arms, and he realises at once the blade was meant for his blood.

His assailant retreats a step, dancing on the tips of their feet, brandishing a curved sword in the style of an Eryttian mercenary. Their face remains hidden behind a veil, but for a slash of pale flesh—within which two eyes pierce, bright as jewels.

‘Have honour,’ the man admonishes, advancing with his own attack. The wraith dances nimbly away before darting in and under the broadsword’s second swing, rising up within the man’s guard. ‘Reveal your face and fight like a man,’ he growls, dodging the curved blade’s response with grace incongruous to size. ‘Or are you some demon sent to test me?’

Without waiting for response, the man lunges a killing blow, which slides inside the billowing fabric and exits impossibly clean; the demon trills with laughter and spins, broadsword trapped by cloth, neatly torn from the warrior’s grasp. Disarmed, he leaps forward with fist prepared for a blow; but rather than connect, his fist meets empty air and he stumbles to a fall, collapsing on the wet ground.

Through fatigue-blurred vision, he watches his assailant loom over his prone form, before kneeling down and laying the heavy broadsword across his chest. ‘No demon,’ the voice says, light and gentle; a gloved hand reaches up to discard the veil, and the face that peers down at him—the face of his victor—is as pure a beauty as any he has seen. ‘Though I took you to be one, before you spake a language older even than their kind. Tell me, stranger, what mortal man walks these lands at night?’

‘A travelling warrior seeking shelter,’ the man growls, rising with effort. ‘My name is Brae, of the Scealcrethe; who are you, to watch for demons in these times? And what city lies yon, that treats its guests as such?’

‘My name is Yflnea, of the Welcyri. And what you’ll find of the city,’ the lady smiles, turning and gesturing out to the buildings in repose, ‘depends on the weight of your coin-purse. Although: from your spirit, you may find yourself welcome in each of its halls, as a hunting cat finds succour in each kitchen. These are hard times, friend, hard and dangerous. Your sword may yet find blood tonight.’

‘Do not speak to me as “friend”,’ Brae expectorates, sheathing the broadsword and resting a gnarled hand atop its pommel. ‘Nor of hard times, or danger.’

The lady smiles, and shrugs lightly. ‘I would not dare patronise a warrior thus,’ she says. ‘Know only that demons, like cities, go by many names; and hard times, too, are spoken in many tongues.’

She turns, then, and retreats into a mist that seems to rise only to envelop her; his eyes, beleagured by exhaustion, seem to watch her dissipate entirely along with it. Snarling, Brae turns once more to the city, casting weary eyes upon its two halves. Few lights break the gloom of its expanse, shunned even by the moon above; beyond, the Alvistican sea stretches out, empty even of the night-time trawling vessels favoured by the cat-eyed Farrekhs.

Within the city, the girl’s words prove prescient. Those behind the doors carved into the sheer cliff-face sneer down at him; but further down the city’s declivities, as the scents of roasting meat and mulled wine give way to salted air, and raucuous merriment turns to sonorous lament, he finds charity. A family of sealskin-clad fisherpeople, watching his immensity pass their shanty with the uncertain steps of one unaccustomed to sea-travel—as the town itself sways with the whims of the waves—call him into their hut and serve him well from a too-small pot of what looks to be soup of silt, and hunks of coral-hard bread.

When he has supped, and drunk his share of their boiled water, he reaches in to his furs to retrieve what meagre bronze he has picked up along his travels. The family refuse his offering, folding his fingers back over the coin, and refuse too his offer of a knife or pouch of Marindian ash-dust.

‘I thank you,’ he tells them, rising at last to leave, ‘but I cannot leave indebted. Surely there is some task I may yet accomplish to return your kindness?’

After some murmuring translations—only the eldest of the four, a wizened assemblage of leathery skin dwarfed by his cloak, can speak Brae’s tongue, and then haltingly—the offer is relayed back to him, as such:

‘Great warrior,’ the eldest begins. ‘We cannot accept money, nor gifts. We are poor, but we are proud. We, too, wish to earn our way. Once, our people thrived, by diving into the sea to collect jewels from the seabed. With these we earned our keep; trading to those who cared for such earthly treasures, in exchange for flint and steel and medicine.

‘But there is a darkness now, drawn by the extravagances of excess above. A foul demon lurks underneath, feasting on our divers, protecting the jewels. It has taken our livelihood, our food, our hopes.

‘It is much to ask. But if you can slay this beast, we will hold you to no debt in this lifetime or the next.’


Brae is waiting at the end of the dock, surrounded by the desuetude of a once-plentiful people, when the terrible beast makes itself known to him. No sooner has he unsheathed his broadsword than a leathery appendage, wide as a tree-trunk and pliable as a vine, tears up out of the water and lashes toward him; leaping back, Brae lands in a crouch and swings forward, lopping the tip of the whip off in a single motion.

There’s a guttural cry from below, and the wooden boardwalk shudders and then begins to splinter as three more vines reach up out of the depths and latch onto its wooden supports. Brae squints down at them as they writhe across the planks, seeking purchase; he has heard tell of sea creatures with arms made of snakes, countless in number, and he grins to find the truth of it. Here is a battle promised by legend.

As the moon reveals itself from parting clouds, he sees the glimmer of jewels in the tentacles, each affixed to a sucker and pulsating with a sick heartbeat. Striking forward, he slashes at another limb, but confidence almost ruins him; as if predestined, the tentacles curls out to grab onto his sword, wrapping itself tightly around the blade.

There’s a burst of trill laughter, and the head of the beast finally emerges from the briny depths; rivulets run down its smooth enormity, a slab of dark slickness broken only by a gash of white, from which two jewelled eyes pierce out.

‘Hah! Twice the fool, to be fooled anew,’ the mercenary’s voice calls out from somewhere within the terrible visage, as the sword is finally wrenched from his hands. ‘I knew you would be more satisfying as meal than conquest,’ it continues, as the tentacles grope toward the warrior holding ground.

‘Then I shall rent thee from within,’ Brae glares, reaching inside his furs for the knife. The trill laughter continues, and Brae barely hears a call behind him; the old man, wielding naught but a thin birch spear, hurls it toward the warrior.

Catching it, Brae leans back, and hurls the spear forth; it flies true, striking clear between the eyes. The tentacles flare up, and freeze, as the creature lets out an otherworldly cry; and then the jewels explode from it, covering the docks in shimmering treasure, before the fleshy tentacles collapse atop.

Brae reaches down into the fleshy pile, ignoring the sudden clamour as the sealskin people gather the jewels and the fresh meat from its corpse. His hands close around the hilt of his greatsword, and he lifts it free, sheathing it bloodied. The old man watches him, from a distance, and nods his thanks; Brae merely nods back, turns, and departs.

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
Submissions are closed.

The Wicked ZOGA must now dehumanize themselves and face bloodshed.

hard counter
Jan 2, 2015

i didn't sign up because i knew didn't have time until monday afternoon; since the prompt was fun, please consider this a blood donation to (crom's) blood throne, and a DQ

Plague, Power and Plot
(1498 words)

Death was fat in the air. Masses of char marred the plateau of the mountain ascent. Ashes whirled and mingled into the snowfall. Everything was sickly and pale here. The evergreens lacked colour. Bonfires lacked warmth. Starved beasts lacked prey. Timber and twisted limbs jutted out from the smoulder.

Venram winced at the trail leading upwards, then fixed his gaze on a robed woman probing the smoking carcasses. A warlock, a hooded noble, and an armoured wanderer took their own stock of the ruin in the distance.

“Chaos consumes their humours. I’ve never seen such...” The robed woman began.

The woman’s an alchemist, eccentric and wise for her age, but given to reckless yearning. Ogito’s her name. Venram first loathed her. Too learned, like that accursed warlock who’d bought his sword. He softened later, once realizing she made her learning free. The warlock, for his part, uttered the words beyond your mortal comprehension so often Venram once held a knife to his throat.

We’re all mortal here, Venram had snarled at him.

Venram clenched his teeth and worked a honing rod against his massive, stolen axe.

The warlock couldn’t fathom that a filthy sword-for-hire might also seek learning. That lowly mercenaries could appreciate esotery. Venram didn’t care for babble of corrupted ley lines, cosmic fulcrums or desecrated altars, but a proper bestiary would’ve forestalled many of these surprises. We weigh threat and peril to fulfill our end of the bargain. Venram’s meandering attention snapped back to Ogito.

“... the same diseased pitch courses through the veins of all Tainted, twisting organ and limb - but it’s not a sickness of the body or mind. Their humours aren’t being remade, they’re being reinterpreted. As if some cosmic mind were ascribing new meaning to old viscera, granting flesh reimagined form. It’s not a physical disease, it’s a moral disease. The other Tainted were attuned to fire –hellfire really- because their cults worshipped it. These Tainted were weak to it! They worship the dead, and so fear cremation! The pitch-black blood is only one agent of the corruption!”

Venram furrowed his brow. The accursed warlock occupied him too much. He never lost focus like this. Though Venram could only grasp the brunt of Ogito’s words, he gathered that to defeat the Tainted that plagued the countryside, he must discover their tenets. That one coven may not be like another.

Venram considered Ogito herself a moment. She's hungry. The city of alchemists she hailed from studied the exact workings of the material. Invisible magics were the anathema of wizards. She raved of threats from beyond and they exiled her as a mystic. She over-explains herself to no one because everyone thought her mad. To prove her wisdom to her people, she’ll take foolish risks someday.

She’s dangerous.

The warlock will push upwards soon. He claims reconsecrating the altar atop this mountain will end the plague.

There’s no choice but to keep an eye on all of them.


The warlock hired a small band to succeed by guile where whole armies had failed by force. Armies could be heard from leagues away, as the Tainted now proved.

Deranged howling completely surrounded the warlock’s band. The cacophony screamed from everywhere. Thousands of distant wails melded into the thousands of close shrieks that came from all sides. It drowned out the crunching of the band’s frantic footfall on the snowy trail. Only the worst asylums and slaver’s pits could echo such bedlam.

The warlock did this, Venram brooded, The blasting of his conjurings carried down the mountainside. He purged one den of Tainted but alerted the rest.

“Into the cave,” Venram growled, pushing towards a narrow crevice that barely split its stony facade. This slim, uneven fracture would surely shred any flesh forced through. If it could pass. The warlock raced atop the snow, flanked by both the wanderer and the noble. Ogito’s robes fluttered.

“It’s too small,” the noble huffed, “We should make a stand.”

“Soon,” Venram grunted.

The noble cannot be trusted. He craves his own death.

A few days ago Venram discovered the noble was wracked by plague. He’d been poisoned by his viziers, who were all Tainted. He used the warlock’s magics to keep the spread at bay. He exiled himself from his own land. He claims to seek nothing but an end to the plague. A worthy end for himself, before his mind also rots, is likelier. He could be dangerous.

“You go last, noble,” Venram barked, fearing the pitch-black blood the rock could wring from him.

One-by-one, they pinched through. They passed into a large chamber. Flecks of metal in the stonework sparkled in the warlock’s torchlight. It was a columbarium, or a perhaps labyrinth. Hollows and tunnels dug into every surface. Some shallow, some deep. A stand could be made here.

The Tainted were already in sight, squeezing in. These Tainted were hideous, distortions of humankind. Seven foot tall, with unnatural fangs protruding from every scrap of their bloody flesh. One crooked eye was always bigger than another. They always moved at full tilt, without economy of strength.

It’d be easy to catch them at the awkward moment of entry. Venram hefted his massive axe and swung at the first to squeeze through. Beheaded in one stroke. Only the grisliest violence will do. That’s why Venram looted the largest weapon he could find. Only in the madness of this infernal resiliency could such bulk have purpose.

Another squeezed through, then another. Venram swung ‘til his shoulders ached.

He signalled for the noble. The noble now skewered them with his duellist’s blade, his throwing knives jingling with every thrust. Brilliant weapons for outmanoeuvring brute gladiators, but poor ones against Tainted.

The noble tired. The wanderer took his turn. His paired scimitars soon collected a neat pile of heads. Ogito moved the bodies. The wanderer obviously wasn’t young to war, but he was surely young to blackguard work. He said very little, and stood too close to the warlock. There was a noble carriage to him. Honour. Chivalry. He’d probably fallen from some lord’s grace, but clung to gallantry in his discharge. The warlock was his lord now, and for jilted valour’s sake he’d die for him. He's a threat as well.

The Tainted still poured in with mindless tenacity. The wanderer stepped aside. The warlock was ready to knead his magics again. Embers danced at his fingertips.

“Wait-“ Ogito began.

Flames erupted from the warlock’s palms. Every Tainted still in the crevice blew out. The air inside the chamber, and everyone’s chest, went with them. Knees buckled, throats hacked, torchlight wilted.

“You stupid-“ Venram hacked.

“A zephyr,” the wanderer interrupted. A draft coming from one of the tunnels gusted towards the crevice. The wanderer pointed at a burrow slanting upwards.

“Another way up,” he added.

The warlock smiled at himself, as if strokes of luck and strokes of genius were alike. Venram scowled.


“DON’T DESTROY THE ALTAR!” the warlock commanded.

Venram stood over the marble dais. His massive axe loomed over the slab. Desecration had made the altar as brittle as chalk. Deranged howling still echoed from all around. Snowfall weaved through the fog oppressing the ritual site.

The warlock’s band had found the summit abandoned. The warlock surmised his band’s commotion forced the cult leaders into the labyrinth, to wait out the threat. Those cultists were caught by surprise in the tunnels. They fell quickly. The noble stayed behind to hold off any Tainted that might interrupt the reconsecration. Venram rushed ahead into the summit. The warlock’s band found Venram poised to break the altar.

“Better to destroy it once and for all than to let it fall into the wrong hands,” Venram replied, gesturing at the warlock. The wanderer and Ogito were also armed and ready to pounce. They’d always been threats.

“You don’t know the consequences of diverting ley lines-“

“The Tainted could’ve broken it. They didn’t. They need it. We don’t.”

“You know little and assume much.”

“Your inept hands might prove worse than their corruption.”

“Venram... the way you’ve begun to reckon... you might be corrupted,” Ogito interrupted.

Venram howled with laughter.

“Do I look like them?”

“Corruption takes many shapes.”

You might be corrupted for all I know. You wet your hands on their corpses often enough.”

Only deranged echoes replied.

“...The warlock’s blundered at every turn. He poses threat-” Venram continued.

“He hasn’t, and doesn’t.”

“You’d preserve the altar only to prove your theories. You pose threat as well.”

“No one’s a greater threat than you! Your reckoning’s gone crooked. Remember, this plague's a moral disease. It’s fundamentally a cultic reinterpretation of-“

“I’m no cultist. I worship nothing.”

“ might be said to idolize yourself-”

“This is beyond your mortal comprehension," the warlock interrupted.

Venram’s eyes went wild. He raised the axe. A throwing knife pierced the fog, plunging into Venram’s chest. The noble must’ve overheard. He'd flanked him in the fog. Venram looked down.

His blood seemed plenty red.

Jan 20, 2012

REDEMPTION TIME: Week 362 - Rosa Flores is Dead

Lethal Matters
1189 words

“You don’t get it!” The man in the tweed suit wrung his hands like he was checking to see if his fingers were loose. “She’s dead!”

“All my clients are dead,” I said. “Comes with the territory. I pointed at the flaking paint on my office door. Pat Pending, Paranormal Investigator -- No Spook Too Strange, No Ghoul Too Grueling, No Haint Too Heavy. Will Work On Commission.

It was all hooey. Not the working on commission, times being tough as they were, but the rest was as bent as a three dollar bill. I didn’t believe in ghosts. But enough people did that I could make a nickel off of waving some doohickeys around and playing nice until they went away.

“You don’t understand, this isn’t some nobody I’m talking about here,” the fellow said. “It’s Rosa Flores! She’s dead!”

Well if that isn’t a turd in the tulips.


I was no great fan of Miss Flores, her being the sort of phantasmagoric prevaricator who liked to put on theater and call it ‘investigation,’ but even I couldn’t dispute she’d made strides for the paranormal portion of the PI name, having convinced your average couchwarmer that ectoplasm and phantom photos were worth a ponder.

My client and I stepped out of our cab into a dreary rain that felt at home in the graveyard. I’d since learned that my client was named Hubert Collins. He was also dreary and looked at home in the graveyard.

I could see we wouldn’t have the place to ourselves. It was swamped with rubberneckers vying for the spectacle of Miss Flores’s spectre.

“We’re too late!” Hubert said. “She’ll be mobbed by this crowd. I promised her there wouldn’t be a scene, I swore, and now look. She’ll never rest in the afterlife. And she’ll haunt me for the rest of my life to remind me of it!”

“Who were you to her?” I asked. Having loved ones around when so-called ghosts were afoot only served to complicate matters. But I figured pointing Collins’s brain at a question would keep his heart rate down.

“We were just friends. She had helped me with a, uh, an issue concerning my late wife. We got to know each other well. I think she was quite lonely in life.”

So they were doing the Midnight Mamba. Or he wanted to, the distinction didn’t matter to me. “Don’t worry, we’ll get this sorted. I’ve called in backup. My lethal expert will be here shortly.”

“How will a lawyer help? Is he going to threaten to sue everyone until they leave her alone?”

“You misheard me. Lethal expert, not legal. Well, to be exact, he is a lawyer, but he’s an embarrassment to the Bar Association and lawyers the world round. But when it comes to death, he’s tops. Knows everything there is to know about the supposed spectres in this town.”

“To your question, he probably will threaten to sue everyone. That’s how he greets new people. It’s a treat to see.”

Right on cue, the crowd stirred. Indignant voices popped off like someone was lighting annoyed firecrackers. The mob split and made way for a short, bedraggled figure who was spewing threats of ‘terrestrial damages’ and ‘disturbing the resting in peace.’ It was enough to put the Flores fans off their dinner, though. They scattered, leaving only the figure standing before the angel statue.

He was dressed in a suit that looked like he’d swiped it from daddy’s closet. He had a shock of yellow hair that was a bird’s-nest on the best of days, and beneath it were the darkest, roundest glasses you’ve ever seen. He stalked towards us like a bad rumor.

I turned to Collins and indicated the fellow. “May I introduce the esteemed Derbyshire Burton, Esquire. Attorney at Law. Known by his friends and associates as ‘Dirt’ Burton. You don’t want to know how he’s known to his enemies.”

Collins opened his mouth to bumble out a confused how-de-do, but Dirt cut him off. “I can get rid of her, but are you sure that’s what you want? She could prove all sorts of things about ghosts, if we could get her talking.” He sounded like a stuffed-up wolverine.

“Why bother? Ghosts aren’t real.” I headed off to the grave. “Better to flush her before she gets chatty.”

The grave had been filled only in the last day or so. The monument was fresh and sharp, making the stones nearby look like they were out of focus. Floating near the angel’s right wing was a pale figure. Must be Miss Flores herself. I said to Burton, “Work your magic.”

The little man cracked his knuckles. “I assert!” he yelled. Collins about jumped out of his skin. Dirt always put on a hell of an act. It was hooey but it impressed the clientele.

“I assert,” he repeated, “that you are not of this world. Do you agree?”

There was a mournful sound from the wisp by the statue. If you were being generous, you could take that as a ‘yes.’

“So we are agreed. You are not of this world. This world is the material world. Rosa Flores, when alive, was demonstrably of the material world. You can verify that fact at this moment, should you choose to observe the deceased.” He gestured grandly at the grave. Collins went green at the gills.

“So, I would posit thus: if you are not of this world, and Rosa Flores was, then by definition you cannot be Rosa Flores!” Dirt delivered that doozy as if he expected applause to burst from the graves. Shockingly, there was no clapping, only a sickly grumble from the ghost.

“Having thus established that you are not in fact Rosa Flores, yet have profited from such misrepresentation, by way of the approbations and gifts of the crowd here earlier, I regret to inform you that my associate and I,” here he gestured either at me or Collins, “will be forced to bring against you a suit of false impersonation!” He punctuated this with an outflung pointer finger. The wisp gurgled. It sounded worried, if gurgles can be worried.

“Unless,” Dirk said quietly. “Unless you depart this world post-haste and quit your claim to any of Miss Flores’s names, possessions, or associations.” He stood there, as reasonable as pie, waiting for an answer.

With a quiet wail, the wisp faded into nothing. We stood there in silence for a moment. I’d had enough silence and standing, so I turned to Collins and handed him an envelope. “There’s my bill. No rush, just need it by the end of the month.”

“But--but you didn’t even do anything! He did all the work!” Collins said, gesturing frantically at Burton. Dirt didn’t notice, he was already gathering up his bowler and valise and wandering off into the graveyard.

“Of course I didn’t,” I said. “The surest bet you got a bad PI is that he looks like he’s working hard.” I turned to follow Dirt, but threw one more over my shoulder to Collins. “Remember, paid in full, end of the month.”

Bad Seafood
Dec 10, 2010

If you must blink, do it now.
:siren: Week 516 Results :siren:

Know this, fools, and tremble: many have sought to climb the high mountain, and lo, their corpses litter the foothills, bloated and burst like rubies in the sand. Many dared this week, and in daring proved their strength, their cunning, and valor. Even the most wretched of graves marks a dreamer. We have tasted your dreams, and found them sweet. Now raise your sword, o dreamer, and strike. You will only kill a man. My throne is eternal.

Thus did the Age of Seafood subside, giving rise to the rule of Ceighk, the Usurper, whose tale will soon commence. A victory, yes, though not without peer. Slain along the spire, let Sebmojo's mention be honorable. He burns on the pyre, received in Valhalla.

Far, far below, in the cracks of the Earth, another dreaming corpses awaits internment. The Man Called M, as mysterious in death as he was in life, fought and failed and fell into the depths. Ever will his name be remembered, recorded, so much the greater than ZOGA, the Wicked, whose gaze never rose beyond the dirt. The vultures arrive. It is a sky burial. M's flesh will live on in their children forever, stronger still in the memory of trying.

Lost among the rocky crags, PhantomMuzzles, the Seer, mutters inscrutably, as is their way. A prophet or a madman? Only Heaven knows. We scratch our heads at this dishonorable mention.

Winner: Ceighk; HM: Sebmojo; Loser: The Man Called M; DM; PhantomMuzzles

Bad Seafood fucked around with this message at 17:37 on Jun 28, 2022

May 27, 2013

No Hospital Gang, boy
You know that shit a case close
Want him dead, bust his head
All I do is say, "Go"
Drop a opp, drop a thot
Thunderdome Week 517: Working hard or hardly working?

Look, I didn’t want to have to call you into my office like this, but this is getting serious. Thunderdome is a business, not an adult daycare. For every minute of your contracted hours plus any scheduled overtime, I’m going to need you at your desk, writing flash fiction.

No more tabbing over to those weird webcomics everyone sees you reading when you think no one is looking. No more coffee breaks where you stand about in the rec room for twenty minutes, staring at the potted plants and wondering where it all went wrong. The coffee here is instant. The clue is in the name.

It’s a simple ask. When I open my laptop at 9AM on Monday morning, there better be a story of up to 1500 words on the subject of ‘work’ waiting for me in my inbox. If you can’t do that, we’re going to have to consider your position. I don’t care what sort of job your main character has, or even if they have one. They could be an optometrist, a hitman, or a contracted dragon slayer. They could be stable in their position, seeking employment, or trying to sort their life out after getting fired. Just make the story relate to the idea of work in some significant way. You can do that… right?

Good. I’m glad we had this chat. I think it has been most productive. Remember, we’re a family here. You can ask me for anything. Now get back to your desk.

Signup deadline: 9AM GMT +1, Saturday the 2nd
Submission deadline: 9AM GMT +1, Monday the 4th

(Head office is located in the UK but these should be roughly the usual times)

Review Panel:

Mocking Quantum
Chernobyl Princess
something else
The man called M
Data Graham
flerp :toxx:
Tars Tarkas
Bad Seafood
Hard Counter
The Cut of your Jib

Ceighk fucked around with this message at 09:22 on Jul 2, 2022

Sep 3, 2020


I will be Vice President of Judging

Jan 20, 2012


Chernobyl Princess
Jul 31, 2009

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.

:siren:thunderdome winner:siren:


Apr 21, 2010

Deceitful and black-hearted, perhaps we are. But we would never go against the Code. Well, perhaps for good reasons. But mostly never.

Oct 6, 2021

Obliteratin' everything,
incineratin' and renegade 'em
I'm here to make anybody who
want it with the pen afraid
But don't nobody want it but
they're gonna get it anyway!


Distance by Copernic

Good things first: you do a nice job establishing a sense of mood. I like the cadence of long and short sentences, and your prose feels less purple than it is, the lofty verbiage having a punchiness to it that never feels pretentious.

I can't help but feel that this is the most boring part of your story. Young girl goes to old wizard for help on a big epic quest– and then we don't see the big awesome adeventure. Obviously in a story this short we can't see all three acts, but i'd prefer to see the third rather than the first. I'd rather see a story set in Nolon's evil citadel than Hecne's crappy shack. And i definitely want to see *your* wizard battle, I think this style of prose wpuld mae for a kickass wizard battle. As it stands, there's not enough point here. I want to see the adventure, not the call to it.

Am i right in thinking youre a first-timer? If so, this is a strong, promising start.

PhantomMuzzles' thing

Okay, what is this? I'm not sure if "story" describes it.

There's actually a decent sense of character--articulate Gollum, eh? Sure, I'm down for The Adventures of Articulate Gollum. But I don't get any adventures. Instead, I get a little character introduction, and then it's over.

There's obviously room for more here. Let's see the story that doesn't end right when it begins. Let's see Articulate Gollum meet with this woman, and learn what their deal is. Let's see the choices laid out before your protag and which one he ultimately chooses, a choice that elevates your themes.

Not good, but above sucking. There's talent to be nurtured, here.

Something Else – Duel at Goblinopolis

Haha, rad. I like this a lot. It's just one big action sequence but it's a well-choreographed one. All of the action was always clear. I like the way Futhark feels like he's doing a consumables-only challenge run of a video game. The twist that the knight was just fuckin' Mallory is inspired. Great goddamn work.

Only thing I didn't like was the portals. Would have rather seen Futhark dragged in in chains like a classic gladiator-arena scene. But that is obviously the nittest of picks.

MockingQuantum – Shackles of Shadow

Gotta be honest, I was bored by this one. I shouldn't have; there's little I love more in life than epic battles. But there was no human drama here; just a rise from slavery to freedom with few obstacles, little palpable danger, and not enough character to hold on to. Is Avrina meant to a Mad Max type, travelling from crisis from crisis, a wandering hero? It seems like that at the end, but at the beginning it seems like she's a member of the tribe? The plot is very generic, I don't know what separates your evil wizards from every other evil wizard in existence, the setting is basically just "jungle." I guess I like the description of the evil magic spells, but i didnt find enough to cling to here.

Ceighk – The Tower of Kings

Fantastic. Moody in the right way, conveys the feeling of the ruined kingdom well. The moral ambiguity is earned. The weight of history's pain, and the way that brutal history is echoed in the present day. I didnt fully understand th8e ending, but that isnt a complaint (are all of these white soldiers people previously called to adventure like Lan?). The ambiguity feels intentional, like a mystery just starting to unravel.

Wouldnt change a thing here.

Nae – Blood for the Blood Throne

Lol. You know what you did. I laughed, I enjoyed it, and I'm going to argue strongly for this to no-mention. I know you can write better than this, but sometimes a troll story is worth it. Troll on.

M – Crimson and Azure

Hoo boy, this…isn't good.

Again, this isnt a story, it's the Wikipedia plot summary of a story. Your characters never once act like real people. You just had a man kill his brother, and the character's reaction is "well shucks. Nothing wrong with choosing the king who just murdered a hundred guys, I love this mass killer." "By the way guys, this is what Joseon naming conventions were" no. That's *not* how you convey that sort of information. That's not exposition, that's a Fun Fact. What's with the "non-natural" magic, that's what magic is, anything non-natural is magic, that's literally the definition of magic.

Choreograph. The. drat. Fight. Seriously, man. Vague descriptions of the fight aren't good enough. There isn't the suspense unless we know *exactly* what happens, what each attack, parry, missed swing, and severed finger look and feel like. That fight should be *the whole story* as in Something Else's excellent story this week, let's learn what their motivations are by what they *say and do during the fight*. You tell us that one brother is hot-headed and one is gentlemanly, but never once do you have one acting hot-headed and the other gentlemanly. In fact, their personalities seem exactly the same.

Go read Something Else's story and see what makes a very similar premise (two dudes fight in a gladiator arena) shine.


This is all over the place. Starts as a rousing song, then a wikipedia plot summary, then a regular story, then ends confusingly. Why are they whipping their queen? Why is she fighting in the Arena in the first place? I guess the inconsistency is part of it, like it's imitating Beowulf or some poo poo, but it reads haphazardly. Draug is a useless character, once he's dead his life never matters to the rest of the story.

Shark Waifu – Light of the Moon

Okay, this is cool. Hyenas are rad, and the moon has good vibes. But that's all I really got from it I guess: cool vibes. I think the balance of moon mysticism to hyena action could be tipped slightly in moon mysticism's favor. Id like to see more of how this society lives with the influence of these Gods as well.


I must admit I did not put the puzzle together. I don't have a clear picture of the literal narrative.

That's fine. I look forward to discussion of this one, which is an interesting feeling for a TD story. Even if I don't get it, it doesn't feel like a chore to read; the prose is riveting and the ironies funny. I think positively of this, even if I'm going to go to the discord to have you explain it for me.


Prose is competent. If your story's about a guy battling a sea monster, the sea monster should appear earlier than two-thirds of the way through the story. At the very least, foreshadow some reason that there will be a sea monster early on. Welll written but poorly structured.


Sorry man, you do such great crits but I cant find an angle to crit this story. I dont know what it is that I liked and didn't like about this. Writing is competent enough, story is interesting enough, but there's something intangible I found lacking. I think it's more in the sentence-to-sentence prose than the story structure? I think sometimes sentences didn't flow into each other well? Maybe? I'm having a hard time pinning this one down. Sorry for the lovely crit.


There's an interesting premise here. I wish it didn't feel like one long philosophy conversation, though. Not really sword and sorcery, like there's not even any violence. 

I'd like to see this good premise worked into an actual adventure.

Albatrossy_Rodent fucked around with this message at 20:25 on Jun 28, 2022

Oct 23, 2010

Legit Cyberpunk


Something Else
Dec 27, 2004

to ride eternal, shiny and chrome

im in


Sep 16, 2006

...A Champion, who by mettle of his glowing personal charm alone, saved the universe...
in lets get to work

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