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Monthly Short Story Winner: Fantasy Clichés

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 one a week. The task this time was to write a story containing the most clichéd fantasy tropes manageable. Nearly all fantasy stories contain one or more tropes, others actively play with distorting or caricaturing them.

One Hero by PRDart

Orphan hero finds a magical sword and saves a damsel in distress (who turns out to be a princess) from the dark lord? Wonderful! Gr’ygkâ’lúgô’ök, barbarian warrior from the North, seeks the mighty dragon Bragon to avenge his village and it turns out his true love survived and the dragon is his father (who got cursed by the evil witch)? Awesome!

Writers often fear to (unintentionally) fall prey to stereotypes or have their work called unoriginal and full of cliché. Now you are allowed – no forced – to write like this. And maybe it will even help you to avoid the most common tropes in future. 🙂

Great resources are: TV Tropes (The Chosen One) or Diana Wynne Jones’ Tough Guide Through Fantasyland.

Rules:

1. This can be prose or a poem.
2. The story must be full of clichés and fantasy tropes.
3. Ignore this rule, it’s not really here.
4. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
5. Poetry must be 100-500 words long.
6. You will be disqualified if you exceed the limits, full stop. That’s why they’re called limits.
7. Your entry can’t be published somewhere else before.
8. This is a writing contest, not a “I have written 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. 😉

September’s winning story was by OnlyOneHighlander (follow him on twitter: @David_Mac13) and is called “The Four Orcshiremen”.

Congrats, OnlyOneHighlander, you know how to work clichés! 🙂

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

– – –

“The Four Orcshiremen”

by OnlyOneHighlander

The city of Cromalot had been celebrating all day. That is, at least, most of the city. In the Ruptured Spleen Tavern the clientele didn’t go in for such frivolities (they didn’t go in for the word ‘clientele’ much either, and anyone using ‘frivolities’ within the confines of the damp, dark taproom was likely to wake up in pain, mugged or dead). Celebrating led to the spillage of drinks and, in the Spleen, spillage of drinks led to the spillage of teeth.

Thus, when four short humanoids, complete with long beards and metal miner’s helmets, stumbled down the stone steps full of unwelcome joviality they were greeted by a roomful of stern eyes: some singular and some in the more traditional pairs. With the same mix of fear and unease as the man who finds he has strolled into the lingerie department, the leader of the group hit the brakes on his companions. The eyes continued to stare. Cold. Sterile. Surgical. But the four had come too far to turn tail now. So, carefully orbiting a glowering cache of orcs, their leader squeezed into a space at the bar.

“Four ales pl–”

“You got any ID on you?” said the barman (his name is Graham by the way, but that really plays no part in the story so no one will use it). “You and your friends.”

“ID?” The new customer patted the non-existent pockets of his chainmail covered trousers in the manner reserved for those about to explain why the requested paperwork was not presently on their person. “Ehhh, no. I did. Must’ve been stolen. Thieves Guild, pickpockets. What are they like? And this used to be such a nice city.”

The barman’s features showed all the emotion of a brick.

“But, I mean, we’re dwarves,” the lead dwarf said, tugging on his beard in case the barman wasn’t getting the picture. “I’m three hundred and forty this year. Old enough for a quick one, eh?”

“Dwarves are you?” the barman said, lifting a glass from the rack and rubbing it with a manky cloth (presumably making sure the dirt was spread evenly around the whole of the inside, lest someone complain). “Alright then. Tell me, dwarf, what’s the load baring capacity of a standard four geared Brockle-pulley pit crane?”

The would-be dwarf looked to his companions, doing his best not to appear worried. In a show of overwhelming solidarity they did their best to look somewhere else, the path to the exit becoming the agreed consensus.

“I’ve got an axe,” said the probably-not-a-dwarf. He pulled a short, shiny and very decorative axe from a loop on his belt.

Metal thudded on wood. The barman’s axe was huge, stained, more functional than decorative, and buried a good inch into the top of the bar.

“So do I. Get out. No minors allowed.”

At this remark a real dwarf (you could tell because his beard wasn’t held on by string and didn’t smell of horse shampoo) slammed his glass onto his table. “What!?”

“Minors, Glorin. Not miners.”

“Oh,” said Glorin, wiping up the spilled ale with the end of his ginger beard. “Sorry.”

The barman turned back to the terrified quartet. He reached over the bar and snatched away the lead not-a-dwarf’s beard. Colour drained from the lad’s face faster than a yard of ale into a thirsty ogre.

“Shouldn’t go around dressing up as other races neither. It’s offensive. Lucky for you we’re a reasonable bunch here. I’ll give you the count of three. That seems pretty reasonable to me.”

The barman yanked his axe free and propped it against his tattooed shoulder. He started counting.

The four not-even-drunk-anymore sixteen-year-olds froze, melted, spun, sprinted and scarpered. A cheer followed them up the stairs to street level, but they had no wish for an encore performance.

“Been like that all day,” said Graham. He hung the fake beard on a peg behind the bar alongside three pairs of wood-elf ears, two sets of hobbit feet and an oversized gnome’s hat. “Whole town’s gone crazy. All ‘cause some lad pulls a sword from a stone.”

“Made him king for that?” Beowarg the Northman shoveled a fist full of hog scratching into the gap between beard and moustache. “That ain’t even the hard bit. What did the guy what push it in there get? That’s what I want to know.”

“You’re right there,” called Jorel Elfsplitter. “Back when I was still adventuring I was always pulling my sword out of things. Most were a lot harder to beat than a lump of geology too. Once killed a whole clan of dark elves with that sword, and that was only after the end broke off in that duel with the Black Knight of the Shattered Peak of the Shrouded Mountain. No-one ever anointed me.”

“You had a sword?” replied Beowarg. “You were lucky. I spent fifteen years heroing with just a dagger. A second hand dagger at that. Even then I managed to lay siege to the Red Keep – single handed mind – defeat all fifty of Baron Jugular’s vampire swordsmen, spear the Baron with his own battle standard, and rescue Miss White City before she was sacrificed to the Blood God Coagula.”

“Dagger, eh?” said Glorin. “What I wouldn’t have done for a dagger. When I was still a lad – only one hundred and seventy three mind – I fell into an underground river, got lost in the Midnight Caverns for two weeks, was captured by goblins and then had to fight my way out of the Screaming Dungeons of Goblinia with nothing but a pair of toe nail clippers. And I did it all while under a curse from the Dryad King of Speakleaf that made me think I was a broad leaved oak tree.”

Silence settled momentarily on the bar. Glorin folded his arms across his beard triumphantly.

“Luxury.”

The growled syllables had come from one of the cache of orcs. He broke away from his group and came to sit with his companions in yarns. His skin was snot green, his neck adorned with a string of finger bones. “When Moglith Broken Tusk was only spawnling he crushed the skulls of the Nine-Headed Razor Wolf of Soba – using only Moglith’s bare hands – was swallowed whole by Trygar the Mega-Giant, lived on island of bones in stomach for twelve moon cycles, made pick and shovel from hip bones of own recently devoured clan, and tunneled free from arm pit sweat glands. All this Moglith do while holding down two jobs: as slave pit overseer and as gladiator training school tutor.”

Moglith took one clawed fist in the other palm and cracked a row of walnut sized knuckles.

“And this Razor Wolf,” Jorel said, shifting on his stool to face the orc. “That was both hands was it?”

“Yes,” said Moglith.

“Well,” Jorel drew the scarred stump of his left arm from under his cape, “you had it easy then. When I was growing up in the gutters of Olop, an orphan mind – what with my whole family dead from the Boiling Plague – one night after the local guardsmen had beaten me unconscious for stealing mud from the Mayor’s stable, Saw-toothed rats gnawed through my wrist–”

“Hold up,” Beowarg pointed his second hand dagger at Jorel. “You were stealing mud?”

“To eat,” said Jorel. “Think of that. I were so poor I couldn’t even afford my own mud. Try telling people that now and they won’t believe you. Course, mud were better in those days. But I didn’t let it hold me back. No, no. A week later I won the Mayor’s fencing tournament, my only weapon a mid-size halibut, became the city’s champion, fought off an attack on the harbour from the Death Tide Kraken, married the Mayor’s daughter, only for her to be carried off by Dodecadon the Dozen Headed Dragon and could only get her back by defeating each head, in turn mind, at a game of riddles.”

“Riddles?” said Glorin. “Anyone can beat a dragon at riddles. When I was challenged to a staring contest by the Gorgon Queen of the Calcified Catacombs, having just got over a bout of aggressive conjunctivitis –”

Glorin was cut off in his tale by the crashing reappearance of the four terrified youths. Sprawled on top of each other in the ruins of the door they looked even more scared than when they’d left.

“Help!” shouted the one on top. “The eagles are coming!”

“So?” said Glorin, unamused at having been so rudely interrupted.

“The King. The coronation feast. He wanted omelettes! King-sized omelettes! They’re attacking all the guests!”

“The omelettes?”

“The eagles!”

Beowarg, Jorel, Glorin and Moglith all shifted their weight from buttock to buttock and back again. Bragging was one thing, suicide was quite another: After all, nobody ever beats the eagles.

– – –

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

Title image by PRDart.

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One Comment

  1. Avatar Daniel says:

    THAT. WAS. BRILLIANT!

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