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Monthly Short Story Winner: Grimdark

We’ve been getting such good feedback for the short stories our members have submitted in our Monthly Short Story Competition that we have decided to post them on the main site at a rate of about one a fortnight. Today we will be looking at the winner from our March 2014 contest.

a Fantasy by DavidSondered

Grimdark. If you read fantasy and browse sites like this one, you have stumbled on (or fell face first onto) this term. Its origin is the tagline of the tabletop dystopian sci-fi game Warhammer 40,000: “In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.” It evolved and in our favorite genre it is associated with writers as Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, George R.R. Martin, Richard K. Morgan or Steven Erikson. You can find a quite extensive topic with great discussions about it in our forum.

This month, just before spring really starts (well, in the northern hemisphere anyway) and everything gets flowery and bright, I want you to write the grimmest and darkest grimdark you are capable of. Blood, betrayal, despair, violence, dystopian societies, broken heroes, fallen angels – do your worst. (But remember, there’s a difference between splatter/gore and true grimdark.)

Rules:
1. This can be prose or a poem.
2. Must be grimdark.
3. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
4. Poetry must be 100-500 words long.
5. You will be disqualified if you exceed the limits, full stop. That’s why they’re called limits.
6. Your entry can’t be published somewhere else before.
7. This is a writing contest, not a “I wrote something like this ten years ago” contest. So if you pick an already existing piece of your work, I’d like it to have a major overhaul/edit. Work for it. 😉

This month’s winning story was “The Heir to Foulstania” by none other than Jared Shurin aka the infamous Pornokitsch! His ironic exaggeration of the genre clearly hit home with the voters. Congrats and thanks for a great story! 🙂

You can find all of this month’s entries here. You can also get updates on our monthly contests on Twitter by following @ffwritingcomp. And now on with the story!

– – –

Since the winning story is a satire of grimdark, this note is to warn you of a bit of bad language and some inappropriate content below. Now you can’t say we didn’t warn you. 😉

“The Heir to Foulstania”
by Jared Shurin

“…and that’s what I call darkness!” Lord Marovin pulled the kitten out of his pants with a flourish and threw the mewling bundle across the hall. It slid damply across the cold stone floors of Castle Foulstainia and smacked to a squishy halt against the wall.

The other claimants to the throne were unimpressed. Off the back of Duke Gorgle’s self-immolation and Lady Balfrand’s trick with the circus pony, Lord Marovin’s kitten abuse seemed, well, lightweight. The throne of Foulstainia would never be his.

It was, of course, all the fault of the never-quite-deceased-enough King of Foulstainia. Every ten years the vile old bastard would have another bout of cancer, leprosy or some other wasting disease. With his death imminent, and his own genitalia long since rotted to a syrupy ruin, he needed to adopt an heir. However, his ego – the one part of his disgusting, plague-ridden body that wasn’t withered to goo – demanded that the next ruler of Foulstainia be even worse than he was. This was, he determined, the only way that history would remember him kindly.

So, like clockwork, the games had begun again. Every scumbug, wretch and son or daughter of a bitch crawled out of the woodwork and lurched, pillaged, stole and raped their way to Castle Foulstainia, where they’d do their damndest to prove that they were the worst person in the land.

This year’s crop was particularly foul. Duke Gorgle and Lady Balfrand had clearly displayed the lack of sanity, taste and morality that would ensure that Foulstainia was well and truly ruined. The competition between the two was particularly fierce – and combined with the King’s new bout of deadly anal syphilis, it was clear to all and sundry that the future of the kingdom was in the room.

The King raised the three remaining fingers of his right hand and the room went quiet. “Bring forth Duke Gorgle and Lady Balfrand,” he called shrilly, his voice forever altered after that time he’d (unsuccessfully) tried to force himself onto the land’s last unicorn.

The crowd of courtiers parted, and the Duke and the Lady stepped forward from opposite ends of the room. The crowd went silent as they approached the King.

“Clearly,” the King squeaked, “you are the two most repulsive people I have ever encountered. But… are you repulsive enough to ensure my legacy?”

The Duke took another step forward, his armour, polished to an unholy sheen with the tears of nuns, gleamed in the candlelight. “My liege”, he boomed, “I pledge to you that there is none more awful in all the realm.”

The Lady’s dress stepped forward as well. Her dress, woven from the scrotal fur of endangered tigers, whispered softly as she moved. “My liege,” she declaimed, “I pledge nothing, as my word is infamously without value.”

The crowd murmured appreciatively.

The Duke would not be bested so easily. “Does that include the promise that you had made to the orphans to… give them food?”

The crowd gasped. Charity would be an immediate disqualification.

The Lady smirked – she had been expecting this. “Oh no, dear Duke, I fed all the orphans…their own parents. How else would they become orphans, after all?”

“Because I killed their parents!”

“They wanted to die because I’d made their lives so miserable.”

“They were so miserable because I’d raised their taxes.”

“I stole all the money before you raised the taxes, so it didn’t matter.”

“I raped the land before you stole the money. And I mean literally raped the land, I dug a hole an….”

“SILENCE,” shrieked the King. “Your bickering isn’t grim or dark, it is just puerile. I’m looking for true evil here, not the sadistic wet-dreams of a pathetic adolescent.”

The Duke and Lady both looked abashed.

“Anyone can rape, torture, murder and maim,” the King continued. “But it is meaningless if you’re doing it for pure shock value. I want something properly, heart-rendingly abhorrent, dammit.”

There was a pause.

“I could rape myself?,” the Duke offered tentatively.

“You’re missing the point!” The King hacked damply, mucous splashing against the Duke’s obsidian armour. “You’re doing these things so often they’ve lost all meaning. Back in my youth, you could tell who was a villain just by watching them kick a dog. Nowadays, you all feel you’ve got to eat the damn thing raw to make your point.”

Across the room, Prince Youdocio turned red in the face. Plus, he already missed Rover.

“Real evil can’t exist without the good,” the King continued to lecture. “It isn’t about where you land, but how far you fall. And all of you were never any good to start with. Filth from the cradle.”

The Duke and the Lady both looked crestfallen.

“What we need,” the King mused, “is someone pure and good…” The two candidates looked extremely puzzled.

“In fact, why don’t you two,” the King gestured again, “go visit those orphans and find the kindest, purest, gentlest soul of the lot. Some adorable little boy that really radiates preciousness…”

The candidates looked no less confused.

“…then adopt him.”

The Duke and Lady looked at the King, then one another. Beneath the curled horns of his helm, the Duke blushed. The Lady turned red as well, nicely matching her Care Bear handbag.

The King nodded. “Yes. This’ll do nicely. You two can have the chance I never had – the chance not to ruin a kingdom, but to really fuck up a kid’s life.”

The crowd burst into spontaneous applause as the Duke and Lady strolled out, hand in hand. As they passed through the door, the Lady stooped to picked up the limping kitten. “Look, dear, we can give our child this adorable little kitty!”

“…and then serve it to him for his birthday dinner,” the Duke rejoined. The two laughed merrily as they walked out into the light.

– – –

Congratulations again to our winner Jared Shurin! If you would like to enter this month’s contest or vote for last month’s winner, check out the Monthly Writing Contest board in our forum.

Title image by DavidSondered.

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