Monthly Short Story Winner: Freedom
Summer is finally coming to a close. And with autumn beginning, so begins another round of Writing Challenges. We have some familiar faces in our entries this month and also a new wave of first time challengers. Let’s start with our winner from July.
Our July theme was Freedom
Freedom means a lot of things to a lot of people. In fantasy it can mean peace for an oppressed kingdom, equality for a downtrodden race, or even the ability for a single man or woman to find their own path in life.
This month’s challenge is to write a short fantasy story or scene that involves freedom.
1. Must be prose.
2. 1,500 – 2,000 words.
3. Must include the theme of freedom and some element of fantasy.
And the winner of July’s challenge is Shanothaine! You can read Shanothaine’s story, “Sephiel of Whispersong”, at the end of this article. Congratulations on your second win Shanothaine!
You can view all of our past winners’ entries here.
August’s theme was water
Without water nothing on Earth would survive. But not only is water essential for our body’s well being, it can also nourish our souls. Whether it’s a mirror like oasis, a babbling brook, or the powerful crash of an ocean wave; water has a magic all its own.
This month’s challenge is to write a short fantasy story or scene that involves water.
1. Must be prose.
2. 1,500 – 2,000 words.
3. Must include water as a major element or theme in addition to some element of fantasy.
You can vote for August’s winner here.
Voting ends on September 28th. Check back next month to see who wins!
September’s Writing Competition
This month’s theme was thought up by Matt Mäenpää and is a bit different than our last few challenges.
Evil is everywhere, lurking around every corner, waiting to jump out when we least expect it. Nowhere is this more true than in fantasy stories. Whether it be a necromancer raising an undead army, a ruthless general trying to conquer a neighboring kingdom, or just an evil alchemist plotting his revenge against the story’s hero; in fantasy evil is everywhere. But not every villain is good at being bad. This month let’s take our stories in a new direction and look at things from evil’s point of view.
September’s challenge is to put a humorous spin on necromancers, evil geniuses, mad scientists, or whoever is trying to kill our heroes today.
1. Must be prose.
2. 1,500 – 2,000 words.
3. Must show your fantasy villain in a humorous or comical light.
Contest ends September 30th! If you’re interested, you can enter here.
Good luck to all entrants! And check back next month for more Writing Challenge fun!
Now please enjoy our winning story short story!
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Notice from the author:
This piece might prove a bit disturbing for sensitive readers and/or children. My intention was not to shock or offend, but the events are crucial to the growth of the character.
“Sephiel of Whispersong”
Sephiel gazed out over the west as the sun descended into the vast ocean of trees, casting shadows and gilding canopies that rose high enough to touch the last rays of the day. Above her, the stars made their appearance, arriving one by one until she could see the constellations she had come to know.
There, she thought, is Kalaen and Luatyr, lovers holding each other knowing that when the morning comes, they will have to part once more. In the south the Serpent coiled, its fangs glaring. The stellar glare danced in its eyes as they gazed into the heavens. A warm breeze took up and threw about her robes, and brought with it the subtle sounds of the Academy behind her.
She had lived here all thirteen years of her life, nestled in the mountains of the east, looking out over the great forests and expansive plains to the north. Shaer Indenil, the Alabaster Tower, was where Sephiel spent her life, learning the ways of the ancient order of Spellsingers, devoting her life to the goddess Kalaen. She had never set foot beyond the steep walls of the Academy – the evangels of the Goddess were to serve from their sanctuaries alone.
Glancing up once more, she saw that the moon had come to join her children in the night sky. The milky light consumed the forest, which had driven the final beams of sunlight into the west, and was now washed by the opalescent hues of the evening. As she stood, the winds spoke to her and she turned her gaze to the north: A company of riders made their way across the vast plains; a host of men on horseback were travelling across the fields. Yet they were far away, and Sephiel turned lazily to retreat for the night, and forgot about them completely.
Sephiel’s chambers were small, but comfortable. In a corner, a fire was crackling in the hearth, and streaks of moonlight danced through the latticed window. An oak carving of the goddess Kalaen stood in stark beauty on a small table and a censer breathed languid wisps of incense smoke into the cool night air.
Yet for all the comforts of her room, Sephiel could not sleep. She tossed about her bed, dreading the dark of the night. Her blonde hair was cold with sweat, and she could feel tears preparing to spill from her cerulean eyes. The distinct click of her door latch drew a gasp from her small body, no more than a whinge muffled by the thick evening. The door opened, and the familiar rustle of robes seemed to fill her senses. Sephiel closed her eyes.
Please, Goddess. Please, not tonight.
Sephiel heard material falling – no doubt the robes. Extra weight made itself onto her bed. Its wood creaked in agony.
She could smell him. The sweet wine on his breath washed over her, nauseated her. His hand stroked her face lightly. She opened her eyes.
“Please,” she managed to say, but it was barely audible.
His eyes were bloodshot, and a dark grimace was drawn across his face. “Shhh, little one,” he croaked. He drew away her sheets.
“Please,” she repeated in a whisper.
“Enough,” he placed his one hand firmly over her mouth, and slid the other up her night dress.
Sephiel whimpered in anguish. He jerkily took off her clothes, exposing her.
She lay there, powerless as the Chancellor of Shaer Indenil raped her. Again.
When he finished, her face was stained with tears. He didn’t even look at her as he left her room and locked her door.
Sephiel curled herself up, and let the tears come until she fell into an uneasy sleep.
The clarion ring of the night tower’s bell jerked Sephiel from her nightmare. She could hear footsteps outside of her door, but a look out the window told her it was still deep night. Someone pulled on her door.
“Sephiel! Unlock your door. We must leave!” It was the voice of Dandrith, one of the student prefects.
“I… I can’t! It’s locked from the outside.” She called to him as she dressed.
“Blood of Tiral,” she could hear him say, followed by a quick songspell. The door came flying open.
“No time for a locksmith, I’m afraid,” Dandrith said with a smile as he came into her room. “Come,” he extended his hand.
Sephiel took it, and grasped tightly. The warmth from his muscled hands seeped into her bones.
“You’ve been crying, Sephy,” he said.
“Don’t worry. What’s going on?”
“The Academy’s under attack. Dean Aleria has called for all the students to go to her rectory. Now come!”
Sephiel and Dandrith ran with great haste through the dormitory, to the western tower. All around them, older Spellsingers made their way to the east, to the front gate of Shaer Indenil. Sephiel couldn’t help but notice the swords and staves these Spellsingers carried, and the anxiety in their eyes.
“Dan, what’s happening?” she asked as they ran.
“I’m not sure – but I heard one of the sentinels shout something about a Salda war party.” A chill ran through Sephiel as she heard this. The Salda were a rumour; a threat often spoken about yet never seen. What are they doing here?
As they ascended the stairway to the Dean’s rectory, a great tremor travelled through the building, throwing them to the ground. Screams rang out from behind them.
Sephiel gave a cry, but was quickly pulled up by Dandrith into a hug.
“No time for this, Sephy,” he whispered into her ear, then he continued up the stairs.
The Dean’s door stood open, yet there were two Spellsingers standing guard at the door.
“I found her,” Dandrith said hastily as they came to the door. Sephiel could see a wave of relief wash over the guards’ faces as they let them pass through. Inside the rectory, about twenty students were already gathered.
“Thank the gods,” Dean Aleria said as she saw Sephiel and Dandrith. “And thank you, Dandrith.” She gave him a curt nod.
Aleria stood regally behind her table, her white robes flowing from her body. As the dean, she was responsible for the safety of the students at Shaer Indenil.
“I am afraid the walls of the Academy have been breached,” she began. The students around Sephiel gave each other nervous glances before Aleria continued, “A message has already been sent to the capital, and help should arrive soon.” She paused, looking Sephiel in the eye, “but for now, we need to get you to safety. We,” she motioned to Dandrith and to other prefects, “will lead you from Shaer Indenil, into the mountains. From there, we will make our way to the capital.”
The students all burst out at once, yelling questions in fear.
“Hush,” Aleria said with a lifted hand, and they fell quiet, “Now is not the time for discord. You will do as you are told. Follow us.”
Aleria made her way to the back of the rectory. She pulled aside a tapestry to reveal a passage way leading down into darkness. One of the prefects followed her, and then the students. Dandrith came up to Sephiel, and took her hand in both his.
“Don’t be afraid, Sephy,” he said with a comforting voice. “Now come, let’s get you to safety.”
The trek down the passageway was tedious but undisturbed. After about half an hour, they emerged from a hidden door at the bottom of the western tower, away from the main conflict. Yet they could hear the screams of their allies and the clash of steel on steel. They continued around the tower unnoticed towards a side gate to the complex, but the group was intercepted by a dozen Salda soldiers.
Not wasting any time, Dean Aleria began a songspell, and a battle ensued. However, Sephiel would not witness it, for Dandrith grabbed her by the hand and dashed away with her. In his other hand, he held a package covered in leather.
“Sephy, listen to me,” he said to her once they were hidden behind a large statue, “take this.” He handed her the package. “You must get this to the capital. Do you understand me?” Sephiel nodded, confused.
“But you’re coming with me, right?” she looked into his grey eyes. “Dan, you’re coming with me?”
“Run along the wall until you get to the stables. Take a horse and ride. The stars will guide you. Do you understand me?” Sephiel couldn’t manage a response. “Sephy, please, do you understand me?”
“Yes, I…” she was interrupted as he kissed her. His warm lips seemed to melt her fear, if only for a moment, then he got up.
“Run,” he said as he drew a short sword from his belt, “run!”
The stables were right in front of her, but there were three Salda soldiers blocking her way. They didn’t notice her – they were preoccupied with the single Spellsinger in front of them.
The Chancellor, Sephiel thought as she saw his face. Fear flooded her. There stood her rapist, surrounded by enemies. She could help him – surprise the Salda with an attack from behind. She wasn’t trained in full warsong yet, but she knew a couple of fundamental battlesongs. She began to recite the song in her head, but stopped.
I will not help you.
She watched in silence as they fought, the Chancellor dispatching of one, then two Salda. The third circled him warily. Then, in a flash of steel, they came together, blood gushing from both. The Salda collapsed to the floor, and the Chancellor fell to his knees. Red came rushing from his mouth.
This was her chance. Sephiel dashed across the small clearing towards the stable.
“Sephiel!” the familiar voice called to her, and she looked around in trepidation, “Sephiel, please… I can’t sing a healsong – I’m too weak.” The Chancellor looked straight at her, his eyes pleading.
She knew every line of his face with repulsive familiarity. She spat at him, and turned towards the stable.
Only when her steed had carried her far from the Academy did she stop to look at it. In the distance, Shaer Indenil shone like a star, flames lashing out from the towers. For a moment she simply looked, and whispered a single word into the night air before she urged her horse to continue.
Then she was free – free from the Salda, free from the Academy, free from her molester. But Sephiel would never quite be free from the man she loved.
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Congratulations again to Shanothaine! If you’d like to enter our monthly writing contest, check out our forum for more information. Happy writing!