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Monthly Short Story Winner: Cities

Happy New Year Everyone!

2012. It’s hard to believe we’ve been doing this monthly writing contest for a whole year now. At the same time, it’s hard to believe that Fantasy-Faction has only been around for a little over a year. The site has come so far and I for one feel lucky to be a part of it!

So what is in store for us this year? What cool and interesting things will we be bringing your way? Well…I do happen to know of an insanely cool project in the works that I’m sure all of you are going to love! But, I can’t tell you about that yet. 😉 However, we are going to try something new with our monthly writing contests that I can tell you about.

Along with our regular thread where everyone posts their entries, we will be including a discussion thread. January is going to be our trial run, and if it works out, we’ll have a new one every month. It works like this. After the contest closes for the month, we’ll open a contest discussion thread. In it, authors and readers alike can post their thoughts on the stories that were entered that month. Author’s can answer questions, or relay things they liked or disliked about their stories. Readers can ask question and give authors feedback about what they liked or disliked about the stories.

Now as I said this is a trial period. If everyone plays nice and uses the thread constructively, we’ll do a new thread every month. If people use the thread to trash talk other’s stories or just to promote their own, then the discussion will be closed. But I have every faith that our community will use the threads for good instead of evil. You can check out the discussion thread for this month here.

Now, let’s take a look at our last month’s contests!

November’s theme was cities

Urban City Photo by DovieMoon

Our contest topics lately have been nature or emotion related. This month we are instead going to take a cue from the not so natural world and write a story set in a city. Now your city needn’t be a large metropolis like New York or Paris, it doesn’t even need to be set in the present day. But it should have the urban qualities, which people associate with city life. Whether it’s an ancient kingdom’s walled capital, Victorian era London, or a large modern city of steel and glass, get ready to show us the good or bad side of a fantasy city.

November’s challenge is to write a short story or scene set in a city.


1. Must be prose.
2. 1,500 – 2,000 words.
3. Must take place in a city and contain an element of fantasy.

And for November’s challenge, we have a tie! GZidar and Dan D Jones both won! You can read their stories, at the end of this article. Congratulations to our winners!

You can view all of our past winners’ entries here.

December’s theme was winter

Winter Crystals by spirithelpers

It’s December and winter is coming, spreading its icy fingers over the land. It brings death to the greens of summer and sends chills to the very heart of man. However, even at its darkest, winter has a beauty all its own. And under the frosty white snow, is the promise of spring sleeping silently – waiting. But to reap the bounties that spring will surely hold, one must first make it through the winter. In fantasy, this is not always as easy as it seems.

December’s challenge is to write a short story or scene set in the winter.


1. Must be prose.
2. 1,500 – 2,000 words.
3. Must take place during the winter and include element of fantasy.
4. Please no A Song of Ice and Fire fanfic. I know I used the quote, but I couldn’t help myself. 😉

You can vote for December’s winner here.

Voting ends on January 29th. Check back next month to see who wins!

January’s Writing Competition

Air Colossus by sandara

One of the staples of fantasy stories is unique creatures. Some of them are on the side of good, others evil, and some won’t be bothered with picking sides. But whether it be grand dragons flying through azure skies, dark demons spawned from the pits of hell, magical unicorns hiding in deep forests, or otherworldly spirits guarding the sacred places of the land, mythical creatures are one of the things that make fantasy so fantastic.

To ring in the New Year we’d like to challenge you to write a short fantasy story using a mythical creature. It can be a known creature (dragon, unicorn, etc.) or something you’ve created yourself, but it must be something that’s never existed (i.e. no dinosaurs).

The rules are as follows:

1. Must be prose.
2. 1,500 – 2,000 words.
3. Must contain a mythical creature and include an element of fantasy.
4. Your creature must play a significant part in your story.

Contest ends January 31th! If you’re interested, you can enter here.

Good luck to all entrants! Check back next month for more Writing Challenge fun! And have a Happy New Year!

Now please enjoy our winning story short stories!

– – –

“The Night Wind”
by GZidar

The torch flickered briefly as he brushed the cobwebs aside with his sword. Covering his mouth with his forearm he carefully descended the stairs. The search for this place had cost him many years and a great deal of gold. But this time he knew his goal was close at hand, at last his search would be over and then the real work could start.

He smiled ruefully. Never would he have thought that his goal might be in the very city where he started. He’d crossed the world to find this tomb, and it was with some chagrin that he would find it in the city of his birth. In the very cemetery that held his parents and his family. The cemetery that served the city since before it could even have been called such.

Now that he entered the ancient tomb he cursed himself for not seeing it sooner. This was a place of ancient significance. A place where gods once walked. A place where they might one day walk again.

He continued his descent. The stones from which this stairway was carved were loose. The slightest misstep could be fatal, and the darkness beyond the small circle of light offered by the torch was total.

The room at the bottom of the stairs felt large, the light from the flaming brand didn’t even reach the other walls. Cobwebs and dust covered everything. The flames forcing the former to shrink back to allow him passage through the latter. Ahead lay the object of his search. A podium of black marble topped with glass.

When he reached the stone podium he used the torch to burn away the cobwebs while his other hand brushed the dust from the glass top. It took a long while to wipe the glass clear enough to see the ancient document that rested in a hollow below it. His torch didn’t provide sufficient light to read the writing but he had no need to read it. He already knew what it said.

He placed the torch on the ground beside the podium and removed a small glasscutter from his belt pouch. His hands shook as he carefully cut the glass to free the document. He retrieved a strip of gummed leather from his belt and placed its sticky surface on the glass as he made the final cut. The glass came free and he removed unevenly cut sheet to grant him access to the recess in which the document rested.

He took several deep breaths to try and achieve calm, to attempt to slow his rapidly beating heart. For a long time he stood still, frozen in silence, and waited. He rested a hand on the hilt of his sword ready to draw it the instant anything happened. The tomb like silence of the chamber remained undisturbed and eventually he allowed himself to relax.

He bent to collect the torch from the ground, then held it above him to better see the document. His eyes scanned the arcane words, and the edges of the ancient parchment began to glow, an icy blue colour that chilled him to the bone. He drew his sword and stepped back in surprise. The glow grew brighter until its light filled the room. The shadows that crept about the edges of his feeble torch were pushed aside. For the first time in centuries, mortal eyes could see the entire room.

Bas-relief carvings adorned the walls and archways of the large chamber. The high vaulted ceiling was supported by a dozen ornate columns. Paint, old, faded, chipped in parts, was visible on the smooth ceiling but the details were obscured by dust and cobwebs.

The torch flickered. He could feel the first stirrings of a cold wind. The wind grew stronger, blowing the dust into his eyes, forcing him to turn away from the podium to avoid being blinded by it. His torch guttered and went out. He dropped the now useless item, and got a firmer grip on his sword. Then, as suddenly as it started the wind stopped. He caught a quick glimpse of the clean, dust free, chamber for a heartbeat before the light from the parchment winked out.

Confused and effectively blind, he bent down, fumbling about the floor to try to find his torch. His hand wrapped itself around the length of wood when he heard the sound of breathing behind him.

There was someone else in the room.

He whirled around quickly. Ready to face whatever threat might be there. He lashed out blindly, moving both sword and torch in a haphazard pattern before him. It wasn’t until he’d made several clumsy slashes that he realised he could see once more.

Before him stood a man in black and orange armour, with a curved blade in a scabbard at its side. As he stared, dumbfounded, the figure shifted to that of a woman in red armour. Then in a heartbeat it shifted again, this time a different man, wearing armour of a deep purple colour. He looked on, unable to move, as the figure cycled through a blur of faces and colours. Each of the forms was different, separate, unique. Only the curved sword remained the same.

The original figure returned, its eyes gleaming with a dread power. “The time is at hand for our return to this world.” It spoke with the voice of many. “You have come, as was foretold. You have taken the first step in ending our exile. Kneel mortal, and receive our blessing.”

Instantly he fell to his knees and bowed his head. The symbol of the dread god, Zeroth hung freely from his neck. The sword, he offered hilt first to the black and orange armoured figure. He said nothing. It was not his place to speak when in the presence of such as these.

“Our brother seems to have chosen wisely. You are strong but we will make you stronger yet.” The figure stepped forward and touched the kneeling man. With an armoured hand resting on his head he spoke several arcane words.

Energy crackled in the air around them. The man screamed in pain as bolts of blue flame pierced his flesh. Again and again he was struck. Each strike brought an agony unlike anything he had felt before. When it was over the air smelled as it did after a summer storm.

“Arise, Sathanas Drakaur,” the figure said, “and face your lords.”

The man, if indeed he could still be called such, rose. He held his head high and met the gaze of the one who was the many. The armoured figure smiled as it saw the challenge in the man’s eyes.

“Yes,” the figure said as it began to fade, “you will serve us well.”

Once again, the air stirred. Its icy tendrils whipping his hair as it built rapidly into a gale. Sathanas stood this time and faced the wind. He threw his head back and revelled in his new found strength and power.

This wind was his messenger, his warning to the world. From out of the ancient tomb it blew. It seemed to pause, as if to choose its direction, the cold wind blew north, across the bay and into the city. Beneath its chill, below the level of conscious perception, was this warning, “They are coming. Fear them.”

* * *

The wind blew from the cemetery, over the bay where a ship raced from its home port. The first night at sea, on what would be a long journey. The captain – an experienced sailor with a wicked scar running from his forehead to his mouth, an injury that also rendered him blind in one eye – paused when he was touched by the unusually cold wind. He was about to order his crew to shorten sail but the words died unspoken on his lips. He looked over to his first-mate, a pockmarked man who had sailed with him for years, and saw an uncharacteristic fear in his eyes. The pair exchanged glances, neither man quite sure what to make of this ill omened wind. Instead the captain called for extra lanterns to be lit against the suddenly oppressive gloom. He reached into his jacket and tossed a small handful of coins into the sea, praying that Arakni look elsewhere this night.

Onward the wind blew.

It gusted through the streets and narrow alleys of dockside. In places, a vortex of sand, dirt and rubbish would dance through the streets causing the unwary to shield their eyes and cover their mouths.

In a small office above a general store, a young man worked over a list. He struggled to put aside feelings of like or dislike as he decided who was to serve at Lady Mirren’s ball the next night. It was a task he hated, but one he did well. The wind made the curtains blow inward. Without thinking, the young man jumped from his seat, a letter opener hastily snatched from his desk and held like a knife before him.

It was years since he’d struggled to survive on the streets but something in the air spoke to that scared child who still resided within him. Poised as if to flee he stood, his heart pounding in his chest. It was a long while before he could finally garner the will to move. An odd disquiet settled in the pit of his stomach, and he carefully approached the window.

He gazed southward into the night for several minutes. His eyes narrowed as he stared into the gloom. There was something out there, some danger he could feel but was unable to see. Eventually the last of his rage and fear fled. He was left weak and confused. With an effort he closed the window, certain to lock it against the night. There was nothing there, he knew that, but for the rest of the night he caught himself glancing into the dark.

Deep within the maze like streets, a small group of revellers made their way from one tavern to the next, seeking more merry companions for the night. The wind blew past them. They halted, each exchanging glances. One, a seasoned mercenary who had seen the horrors of war, recovered first. He took two more steps then halted, and scratched at his beard. Then, with a sudden loss of interest in celebration, he bade his companions good night and returned home.

In the temple district all was silent. The clergy were asleep and the buildings were dark. All, that is, for one. A candle burned evenly, providing light for a hunched priest as he went about his task. His elevated years showed on his careworn face as he moved to dip his quill in the vial of ink. Through the window the strange wind came. It chilled him to the bone, and extinguished his candle.

Suddenly afraid he listened. There, below all conscious comprehension, was an alien and distorted dissonance. Like a malignant sound, barely perceived. The priest shivered and glanced about his room. His hand clutched his holy symbol, and he called upon Eolis for protection. As fast as his aged body would take him, he crossed to the window and closed the shutters, hoping to block out the strange and disquieting night air.

In that moment, it seemed as though all creation held its breath.

Then, with a slight sigh, the feeling died away and the night was calm once more. He quickly relit the candle to banish the shadows, and sat uncomfortably in his chair.

Something was coming. He had seen enough in his life to be sure of that. With a quick prayer to his god he returned to his writing. Eolis, it seemed, desired that he never live out his days in peace.

– – –

“The Word Thief”
by Dan D Jones

Note from the Author: The quoted poetry purportedly written by the protagonist is actually taken from Shakespeare’s 90th sonnet.

She could not recall when she first noticed his presence. She knew only that when he did enter her conscious thoughts, his proximity wasn’t a surprise. He’d been there for some while, although she wasn’t sure for how long. Hours? Days? Weeks? Surely he’d not been there for months – hovering in the corner of her awareness, creeping through the peripheral of her inner vision.

The first time she recalled consciously noting his presence she was the day after she’d purchased a new Parisian notebook, doling out ten carefully hoarded silver pennies to the proprietor of the import shop, and acquired an Obsidian internal-reservoir fountain pen. The pen she’d found that same afternoon, left behind by a guest at the Ashford Hotel where she worked as maid.

Sitting in the dormer seat of her attic apartment that evening, scribbling down notes in a cheap university notebook for a verse which refused to coalesce into anything coherent, she noted his presence. Like the poem, he would not take shape in her cognizance; she could not put a name to him. He was a ubiquitous foggy presence that neither intruded fully into her consciousness nor faded completely into the background. But she noted that he crept closer whenever she sketched her poetry in her head.

When she finished the following morning’s shift, she made her way to Trimontaine Square with her notebook carefully stowed in her purse and her wonderful new pen tied into her pocket. She had brought a parcel wrapped in butcher paper holding a hunk of day old bread, a narrow wedge of Brie and a tart apple. She ate while watching a troop of players in smiling brass prosopons as they strutted about the center of the Square. Her eyes followed their movements but her thoughts were far from whatever message their masquerade sought to impart, for the poem that had proven so troublesome the evening before had at last begun to take shape. The first quatrain beat about in her head to the exclusion of all else. She ate rapidly and mechanically. There was no rubbish receptacle nearby, so she folded the butcher paper and stored it in her purse, then made her way to a bench in the far corner of the Square.

The pen was even more wonderful than she’d hoped. It glided with the smoothness and regularity of a uniflow engine and she laid the quatrain down on the creamy paper with swift, sure strokes that thrilled the tips of her fingers as much as the words themselves delighted her tongue. She read the verse over again and some part of her noted that brooding, lurking presence slinking closer as though to peer over her shoulder. But she was caught in the rhythm and the rhyme and gave him little heed.

Satisfied with her beginning, she stared off into the distance. Her gaze focused on the clock tower above the Ashford Hotel as her mind played with possibilities for the second verse. The steam-driven gears were visible behind the filigreed clock face and she lost herself in their movement until she abruptly looked down to find a blank page before her and a comparable blankness within her thoughts. Her opening quatrain was gone, as was any thoughts of a second, and she instantly knew that her specter was the sprier for it. It was then that she gave him name. “Word thief,” she whispered and he laughed and capered in the corner of her awareness to hear himself christened.

She closed the notebook, stored it carefully in her purse, and withdrew the butcher paper. She tore a long narrow slip from the brown paper, avoiding a grease stain the cheese had left an in one corner. She discarded the bulk of the paper in a nearby receptacle and smoothed the strip against the flat side of her purse. She narrowed her eyes and pursed her lips until she summoned a rhyme, a bit of doggerel that she carefully printed on the narrow brown paper. Keeping her eyes and attention on the words she’d written, giving him no chance to distract her, she stored the precious pen in the inside pocket of her jacket. Working one-handed, she tied the flap shut against its falling out. She stood and lifted her hand, letting the paper slip flutter in the autumn breeze, then released it. The wind took it, swinging it in a looping reel that danced its merry way across the Square. She sensed the thief dart after the paper and immediately spun on her heel.

A narrow alley lead away from the corner of Trimontaine Square and she followed it’s twisting, winding path as quickly as she could walk until it dumped her into the markets of Queen Street. She wedged her way into the crowd, earning herself a few dark looks for her rudeness. Muttering a few apologies, she otherwise ignored the glares and forced a path through to the other side of the market. She had just stepped into another narrow alley when she sensed the Thief’s presence again. He seemed amused and frisky, cavorting about the peripherals of her awareness as if to mock her. Sighing, she stopped and leaned against the wall. She hadn’t expected to lose him so easily but she’d had to make the effort.

He remained with her over the next few days. He lurked just out sight, his gleeful presence a constant reminder that perversely stirred the muse in her soul. She did not know if it was some magic of the Thief himself, or if the mere knowledge that for her to commit words to paper was to lose them acted as a goad to her own imagination. But phrases, rhymes, couplets and quatrains filled the background of her thoughts like the distant murmur of a crowd in everything she did. They came to her as she swept the carpets and changed the linens in the Ashford’s fine suites, as she walked the wide streets on her way home to her attic flat above the townhouse just off Marlbrough Street, as she lay in her narrow bed beneath a threadbare quilt and sought only to sleep.

Once, when the pressure of the words within her brain seemed more than she could bear, she wrote two lines with her finger in the fog on a bathroom mirror. She jerked back to herself to find the mirror smeared and streaked but free of words. Their absence within her own thoughts was an ache of loss, a precious thing destroyed that could never be regained.

Another time she deliberately composed a horrible sonnet, inane and poorly rhymed with uneven rhythm and stuttering meter, and put it down in graphite on the back of a bill of lading. He swooped upon it when she lay it down and she sensed his anger immediately. He whined and keened at the doggerel, wriggling like a thing trapped, and she realized that once he’d begun he was compelled to follow the flow of her verse to the end. But she took little solace in her cleverness, for it did nothing to relieve her of his presence and she paid for her duplicity with a persistent whining buzz in her ears that lead to a dull ache at the base of her skull for the rest of the day.

She visited an apothecary and purchased sea salt, thorns and sulfur. A large bottle with a glass stopper, which once would have cost her nearly a full day’s wage, was but a copper penny: Bakewell’s machine had stamped all of the value out of it. With her purchases in hand, she climbed the narrow ladder at the rear of her flat to the roof and there, beneath the moon, cast a binding and banishment. For a moment she thought she had him: hemmed in by chains of salt, confused by the odor of the burning sulfur, pierced by the thorns at the bottom of the jar. But then he laughed and turned sideways and slipped through the weave of her spell before she could place the stopper. She wept.

Kalliope and Euterpe gave her no peace. They warred in her thought by day and her dreams by night. The verses flowed, lyric and epic, and though she recognized that their fecundity was a result of his presence, she would not, could not, sacrifice the gifts of the Muses on the alter of his appetite. Her sleep suffered and her attention wandered and, for the first time in her life, she was scolded at work for poor performance.

There was a narrow table provided for the staff’s use in a small mechanical room behind the kitchen and she took her lunch there following her conversation with her supervisor. The room contained a Radium Steam Engine that drove a series of connected fans spaced throughout the kitchen and dining room. The side-wheeled engine pulley and the fan drive pulley were perpendicular to each other, connected via a belt with a half twist. She sat watching the twisted belt make its revolutions as she ate, her mind likewise spinning in hopeless loops. The only option remaining to her was to pay for a consultation with an alchemist, but that was far beyond her means. She had no new answers by the time she finished her meal. She stood, gathered her waste and glanced one last time at the belt spinning hopelessly in place, a maelstrom of furious, twisted motion that left it right back where it started. Her eyes widened abruptly and a small smile crept across her face. With a hopeful spring in her step, she turned to go finish her evening shift.

The walk back to her flat seemed to take forever but at last she mounted the exterior stairs and stepped into her tiny abode. She took the stoppered glass jar from her failed binding and lit a candle against the dusk. She withdrew her Parisian notebook and the Obsidian pen from her purse, and took a small covered pot from a desk drawer. The Thief’s presence, never distant, was suddenly more palpable and she could feel his hunger. Humming softly to herself, she turned to the last page of the empty notebook and tore a long, narrow strip of the fine, creamy parchment. Working slowly and carefully, she began to write: “Then hate me when thou wilt; if ever, now; Now, while the world is bent my deeds to cross.” She flipped the strip head to foot so that the text was upside down on the rear of the paper, and continued her careful, methodical script: “Join with the spite of fortune, make me bow, And do not drop in for an after-loss.”

With the verse completed, she kept her focus tightly on the words she’d written. The Thief gamboled at the edge of her awareness but her attention kept him at bay for the moment. She lifted the lid from the pot and, using the fine brush attached to its underside, painted a thin line of paste on the right edge of the paper, just past where her writing ceased. Giving the paper a half twist, she brought the left edge around to meet the right and pressed the two firmly together. After allowing a moment for the paste to adhere, she carefully inserted the twisted loop of paper into the jar.

She came back to herself to the sound of an angry keening buzz. The Thief followed the verse, racing round the Mobious strip with such ferocity that he was almost visible to her naked eye. Grabbing the conical glass stopper, she quickly closed the bottle and sealed it with drippings from the candle.

She turned the notebook back to the first page and took her pen in hand. Tomorrow, she would have to find someplace safe and permanent to store the dangerous creature. But tonight – tonight she would write.

– – –

Congratulations again to GZidar and Dan D Jones! If you’d like to enter our monthly writing contest, check out our forum for more information. Happy Writing!

Title image by MarianneLoMonaco.



  1. I think I’ll enter this month. It’s been too long since I wrote any fiction. This’ll be fun!

  2. I participated in November and December, there are some great writers that will give you good competition. Not to mention, they create some amazing scenes with their worlds. Maybe one day I’ll be up on that wall of fame as well.

    I highly encourage a sign up and give it a go.

  3. Avatar Overlord says:

    Some great entries these last few months 😀

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