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Monthly Short Story Winner: Luck

Hello everyone! I’m a little late with my article this month. I blame April. It didn’t give me adequate notice it was ending until May had already begun.

Anyway, lots of things to talk about this month. Firstly a reminder, only two months left to enter the Fantasy-Faction Anthology Writing Contest! We’ve gotten a ton of entries but we’re still waiting for yours. And there are still Entry Plus critiques available, but they are going fast. Click the cover below to visit the contest website for more details.

Fantasy-Faction Anthology Temp Cover

Now onto the monthly contests!

March’s theme was luck

Shamrock In The Snow by IrishVikingDesigns

Do you believe in luck? Whether or not luck is a real thing in this world, there are still people today who bet fortunes on the roll of a die or the spin of a wheel. In fantasy, however, luck can be a living breathing force. Bad luck can send an adventurer to their doom and good luck can be a gift from the gods themselves. It can tip the scales of great battles, or help a young peasant become a noble prince.

This month your challenge is to write a short story or scene involving luck. It can be good or bad luck, but it must be a main point of the story.

Rules:

1. Must be prose.
2. 1,500 – 2,000 words.
3. Must include luck as a major element or theme in addition to some element of fantasy.

And the winner of March’s challenge is OfAllTheBars! You can read his story, “The Talisman of Sreca”, at the end of this article. Congratulations again OfAllTheBars!

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

April’s theme was poetry

Rose Red by KaliLainePhotography

For those who didn’t know (I being one of them) April is National Poetry Month in the US. And since we haven’t done a poetry contest since last March (2011), I thought it was due time to have another one, just for a change of pace. That being said, this month’s rules are very easy.

Rules:

1. Must be poetry.
2. Your poetry does NOT have to rhyme.
3. Must include some element of fantasy.
4. No dirty limericks.
5. Poems must be a maximum 24 lines, this is normally a short story contest, epic ballads would be a wee bit long.

You can vote for March’s winner here.

Voting ends on May 28th. Check back next month to see who wins!

May’s Writing Challenge

Path by gordon.adler

Traveling in our world is pretty simple. We print out our directions or type our destination into our smart phones, then take off along marked roads to places where we will arrive (barring traffic) exactly when we know we will. In fantasy traveling is not only difficult, but it can be deadly. And fantasy roads don’t always lead where we believe they do. In fact, sometimes the biggest adventure in a fantasy world is the road itself.

This month go where the path may lead you, and write a short story or scene involving travel on a road, trail, or path. It could be a hidden tunnel through the trees, a cart path cut over rolling hills, or stone steps up the side of a snow covered mountain. All roads lead somewhere. Where does yours go?

Rules:

1. Must be prose.
2. 1,500 – 2,000 words.
3. Must include a road or path as a major element or theme in addition to some element of fantasy.

Contest ends May 31st! If you’re interested, you can enter here.

Good luck to all entrants! Check back next month for more Writing Challenge fun!

Now please enjoy our winning story short story!

– – –

“The Talisman of Sreca”
by OfAllTheBars

Baldin paused in the passage and listen to the sounds of battle behind him. My brave, brave friends, he thought.

The journey from his home in the south had been long and brutal. Many had come to join the cause and thanks to them, the defeat of The Dark Lord was now assured. The cost in lives to the people of the south was high and that pained Baldin but stamping out this evil would prevent all the free lands falling under the darkest of shadows.

Baldin shook himself out of his thoughts. It was up to him to finish this.

The passage way continued for 30 yards or so to a spiral stone staircase leading to the floor above. Three doorways off the passage way stood open. Each room was elegantly furnished but unoccupied. At least he was out of the castle’s servant’s quarters.

At the staircase, he climbed to the floor above. Unexpectedly a doorway closed the top of the stairs. Baldin listen at the door. When he was satisfied there were no sounds from within, he carefully opened it and stepped inside.

The room was large. Fine furniture filled much of the space with drapes and cushions scattered about. A windowed door to a balcony stood open to one side and Baldin could see the trees and countryside beyond.

“At last.”

Baldin couldn’t immediately see who had spoken.

“Come in, come in. I’ve been expecting you.” The source of the voice rose from a chair where the man had been hidden by the high back.

The Dark Lord! Baldin resisted the urge to charge forward for the kill – partly because there was too much furniture in the way, and partly because Baldin needed to be sure it was The Dark Lord. The delay frustrated him, but killing a decoy would do no good.

“Can I get you something? I’ve some fine wines and we’ve time to talk before getting down to ending this nasty business.” The Dark Lord faced Baldin now; in one hand he held a glass of red wine. Dressed in finery of the deepest green, edged with gold braid he looked every bit a Lord and nothing like the twisted evil being Baldin had imagined. Baldin noticed something else as well – The Dark Lord was alone and unarmed. The Talisman’s luck still holds he thought.

“I’ve no words for you, just the keen edge of a blade.” As Baldin spoke he strode towards The Dark Lord, avoiding a chez lounge and knocking over an ornate occasional table aside. As he lifted his broadsword, however, it snagged on a throw across a nearby chair and he had to back up a step to free it.

Baldin again felt his frustration rising.

“Careful please,” The Dark Lord said with a mock look of concern. “That throw was ‘given’ to me by Queen herself – just before I severed her head. Her blood so nearly splattered the fine cloth.”

Baldin’s eyes narrowed, “You really are a murdering bastard.”

The Dark Lord stood his ground. “Yes, I won’t deny it, and I’ve no plans to stop. Once I’ve dealt with you the kingdoms to the south lay open. One more season and I will have the whole continent in my grip.”

“You forget my army still fights in the halls below.” Baldin carefully raised his sword once more, preparing to strike.

“Are you sure? I hear no sounds of battle.” The Dark Lord raised an enquiring eyebrow, as he did he noticed Baldin’s free hand reach up to his chest and touch a small golden cross hanging on a rough, heavy chain around his neck.

“Ah, Baldin, is that the Talisman that everyone speaks of? A trinket that shapes the destiny of all, to ensure luck befalls you and your followers?”

“It is the Talisman of Sreca, handed down through the generations in safekeeping of the Royal Monks until the chosen one reached the age of 21. I, Baldin, am the chosen one and on my 21st birthday the Talisman of Sreca was handed to me by a Royal Monk who escaped the capital just before it fell to your evil armies.”

“So much power in something so small it’s incredible, and in your hands – the hands of ‘the chosen one’.” The sarcasm was not lost on Baldin.

Baldin could feel his anger rinsing. “Enough, you should be preparing to die.”

The Dark Lord took one-step back. “Prepare to die? Me? The Dark Lord? You have this story wrong Baldin.”

“I have the Talisman, I cannot fail. Now die!” with that Baldin swung his sword, swiftly tracing an arc that cut through The Dark Lord’s hip, up though his stomach and across his chest passing just under his neck. Blood flew across the room and The Dark Lord’s face twisted first in surprise and then in pain.

Or that was the plan, that was what Baldin foresaw, but as the swing started Baldin felt a gentle breeze brush his face, and what he thought was an empty hanging suit of armour by the open window shuddered and started to move. Distracted, Baldin’s swing missed its mark, The Dark Lord easily stepping back just out of reach of the sword more concerned with not spilling his wine than the threat of Baldin’s sword.

The suit of armour crashed to the floor. It was empty, simply toppled by a sudden breeze from an open window.

“Let me tell you something about your Talisman.” The Dark Lord looked faintly amused.

Baldin quickly composed himself, his sword once more rising ready to strike.

“You think your trinket, this ‘Talisman of Sreca’, brings you luck, luck that heightens your skill as a swordsman, and a leader.”

“It is true! I’ve killed countless numbers of your evil followers with this sword.” Baldin boasted, but The Dark Lord ignored his outburst and continued.

“Not only do you think this Talisman brings you luck and skill, but it brings luck and skill to your whole army. Some feat for a tin cross on a shabby chain.” The Dark Lord was enjoying this, but Baldin was unmoved.

“My army has swept you back North, through the Great Marsh, through the mountain passes and over the Great River itself right into your castle stronghold,” Baldin drew himself up to his full height. “No army could do all this without the Talisman!”

“Ok, ok,” The Dark Lord mentioned for Baldin to calm down. “I admit you’ve down well, far better than I ever planned you would, but let me tell you just two things about your ‘Talisman of Sreca’. Then you can kill me – if you still think it worth the risk, or you can run and I’ll let you go. But be mindful that you and your miserable army have seen nothing, nothing yet of my power.”

Baldin improved his stance, sword ready to strike. “Very well, tell me two things and then die!”

The Dark Lord took a sip from the glass he held. “Firstly, this ridiculous belief that the Talisman brings you luck – it can’t and it doesn’t. For a lucky event to occur thousands of individual events need to fall in line, perfectly – every single one. Just one event out of place – a sudden breeze through the window perhaps – and your luck fails. Are you seriously telling me that your Talisman of Sreca can do all that not just once, but hundreds of times, and not just for you but your whole army! Think again boy.”

Baldin was defiant. “My army being within your castle is the proof you’re wrong.”

“As I said before, you’ve fought well.” The Dark Lord conceded. “But I don’t deal with luck – it’s too risky, I deal in misfortune. For luck to work all the events must play out as needed, for misfortune to prevail one, just one event must fail – and that’s the secret of my power – I influence just a few decisions or events – a sudden breeze through the window perhaps – and ensure the misfortune of my enemies.”

“Fine words, however, I speak with the sword.” Baldin was having none of it. “You were going to tell me two things?”

“Yes, and you’ll like this one.” The Dark Lord leant forward as if sharing a secret, and in a lower voice went on. “The Royal Monk, the one who gave you the Talisman of Sreca on your 21st birthday,” The Dark Lord paused for effect, “was me.”

Baldin was stunned and started to move, “Tosh!”

“One moment,” The Dark Lord held up a hand and Baldin stopped. “Jolly Farm – that’s where your birthday celebration was, but the Monk, that is I, met you later in your Uncle’s cottage, ‘Jasmin’ was its name I believe. You wore a bright red jumper although the night was warm – you said you mother had made it for you. You poured me a glass of wine, red, and you told me it was from the Cherry Orchard Vineyard to the east of your village. It was disgusting by the way.”

It had been many months since anything caused Baldin to doubt himself, but The Dark Lord had struck a chord.

“If you were the Royal Monk-”

“And I was,” The Dark Lord interrupted.

“Why,” Baldin continued, “would you bring the Talisman of Sreca to me? That makes no sense.”

“Simple,” The Dark Lord smiled. “You are not ‘the chosen one’. The chosen one lived in a village some miles further south. He has no idea he is the chosen one and probably never will. By me giving you the Talisman, you’ve done a good job of deflecting attention from the real chosen one. Not only that, but by losing here today – and you have lost by the way, you’ve discredited the Talisman of Sreca. No one would follow the true chosen one even if he did discover his intended destiny.”

The door to the room flew open and four soldiers of the Dark Lord, dirty and blooded entered, one spoke. “Lord, the army of the south flees; we’ll be able to mop up those who remain alive by nightfall. Do you need help with this one?”

“Yes, deal with him,” The Dark Lord said. “I’ve grown tired of the conversation.”

With that, Baldin realised that the game was finished – very much finished. He sprinted to the open window and leapt, the Talisman on its chain following in his wake.

One of Baldin’s last thoughts was of how his luck had held. As he fell, not 20 feet below was the castle moat and only a few tree branches for him to pass through on the way. He’d be able to swim to the shore and escape into the woods before anyone could reach him.

Baldin’s last thought, however, was of his misfortune, as one of the branches snagged the chain of the Talisman of Sreca, a rough and strong chain, a chain that to Baldin’s misfortune not only broke his fall, but also his neck.

– – –

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

Title image by kameronelisabeth.

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