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Author Topic: [DEC 2015] - Young Love - Submission Thread  (Read 6754 times)

Offline xiagan

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[DEC 2015] - Young Love - Submission Thread
« on: December 01, 2015, 04:15:18 PM »
Young love


A young love by IreneMartini

This month I want you to write about people experiencing true love (or what they believe to be love at that moment) for the first time.
I had another theme already set up, but Bea found it too hard for December. ;)
I know that writing about feelings - and especially love - is quite hard too and since love is an integral part of human* life, it's about time you try your hand at writing about it. :)

If you now stare in disgust at your screen because you think that you have to write a teen girl romance, you're wrong.
It's about the experience of love, not teenagers, not romance and not necessarily girls. People can be old(er), the feeling doesn't have to be mutual, the ending not happy and the main character(s) not female. Love comes in all sizes and flavours and it's up to you to write an intriguing short story about it. I don't care for the same old clichés and gender roles. Find your story and make it believable.

If your story needs sex or explicit content, that's okay. Just give us a warning in your submission post.

*human? We're writing fantasy! No need for speciesism. If that Elf loves an Orc, who are we to judge?



Rules:

1. This must be prose or poetry.
2. Must be the story (or part of) people experiencing their first love.
3. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
4. Poetry must be 100-500 words long.
5. One story per person or writing team (not per account).
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 happen to have a story that fits one of the themes, I'd like it to have a mayor overhaul/edit. Work for it. ;)
9. Please add your story's word count and, if you have, your twitter handle.
10. Please put your story in [ spoiler ] tags to make the thread easier to handle. :) You can find them above the smileys next to the 'youtube' symbol.

Entry will close December 31th, 2015/January 1st, 2016 and voting will begin somewhere around the same time too.

Please post your entry below. All members are eligible to join. If you are not a member you can join here. Sign up is free and all are welcome! :)

The winner will have their piece displayed on the main Fantasy Faction website sometime in the next months.

Remember that this thread is only for entries. Discussion or questions can be posted here.

"Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis." (Laplace)

Offline Henry Dale

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Re: [DEC 2015] - Young Love - Submission Thread
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2015, 11:41:18 AM »
In first. I won't win with this but it was a good try-out for this POV for me.  :)

Word count: ??? (On phone, app doesn't have word count feature. Guess I'm good here though)
May contain rough subjects.

Title: The red light eyes
(Don't ask, if you have a better title, do tell me  ::))

Spoiler for Hiden:
Young people are easy pickings.
They haven’t experienced true love nor seen much of the world. A man with a smile can lure them away like a piper in Hameln and before they realise it, the last bit of life slips from their hands as they cling to me in my embrace.

You were hanging out by the bar. This was your first time at a party like this and it made you uneasy. Your friends had left for the dance floor to shake their bodies at the arrhythmic beats. They had probably dragged you here, rather against your will. Where would you rather be than here in my sight? You would be my prey.

You were startled as I leaned in next to you and ordered two drinks. I offered you one and you wouldn’t dare refuse me, would you?
Your hands were trembling, most likely no one had ever paid any attention to you. Tonight was an easy night.

I complimented you on your hair and a blush shot through your alabaster cheeks. Then I made a joke to relieve the situation, to put you at ease. Your smile told me you were mine.
The red stroboscope lights danced through your eyes, dazed with love.

Holding your hand I led you along, away from the dance floor, the crowd and the noise. The laudanum with which I had spiked your drink was taking its effect. You didn’t resist me, but gullibly giggled as if I were the greatest thing on earth.
Not yet, my dear, my moment comes at the end.

***

The grass was wet with fresh rain, the air hot with summer’s contempt for an approaching autumn, but you were trembling with chicken skin on your bared arms and legs. My hands followed the shape of your thighs and you gasped as I took you there. I believe you liked it but who can tell? You no more my love.

When I was done, I used the grass to dry myself. One of the stalks cut my finger and a red pearl of blood formed and dripped down on that white skin of yours. It did not matter. The laudanum was now in full effect and your eyes were large, not of this world.

You took my hand without resistance although I just took you without consent. Do you love me? I love you too, I’d whisper but the night wasn’t over yet.

***

I brought you back to the dance floor, the music, the sweaty crowds. They had never noticed our absence, so high on music they were. Here we danced. There was a certain tragedy about it. These people didn’t know and neither did you, I was the only one.

Your head rolled back, you nearly lost conscience, but I placed my arm around you to hold you aloft. I kissed you there, I felt your love so briefly like a flame. The dagger I drew from my pocket found your throat and left it’s deep marks as if into your very soul. Your flame died out, I tasted the blood that filled your throat on my lips as I kissed you and I dropped you down once the fire was out, your body all but spent.

For a moment no one noticed your corpse on the floor. The party didn’t stop and the night was endless. By the time the first screams sounded I had reached the exit. By the time someone thought of calling the police I was well on my way to the next city. My mind was already on the next night as I licked the blood from my lips.

And you? The red stroboscope lights danced in your eyes filled with death.


Offline tebakutis

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Re: [DEC 2015] - Young Love - Submission Thread
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2015, 09:52:25 PM »
I actually came up with something! Threw this together today, and I think it qualifies.

My story is titled "Adrift" and clocks in at 1,500 words (according to Word's wordcount thingie). Looking forward to seeing what everyone else comes up with this month!

EDIT: Modified timeline before the lock to make things a bit more compressed.

Twitter: TEricBakutis

Adrift

Spoiler for Hiden:
Rava Carristo had been called many things in her sixteen years scraping out a living inside third ring. Ringrat. Beggar. Thief. What no one had ever dared call her, until today, was “you bloody idiot”.

No matter what else happened today, she was going to prove Grace Tano wrong.

Rava’s EVA suit charge displayed inside her helmet. 5% after twenty minutes charging on solar wind. The suit showed she needed at least 10% before her ion thrusters could cancel, then reverse, her steady drift. By that time, the interlocking rings of Horizon Station might be just another glittering star.

The only home Rava had ever known was now the size of a protein cake, and that cake was shrinking like her air gauge. Slowly, but inevitably. Stretched out below her, Jupiter remained brain-numbingly huge. Rava had stared down at that massive gas ball since she could climb to third ring’s hand-width windows, but out here, in this void, it just felt so maddeningly enormous.

Of course, this was her first spacewalk. The first time she had managed to nick an EVA suit from a maintenance locker. That had been Grace’s idea, Grace’s fault. These things were always Grace’s fault.

It was Grace who teased her, infuriated her. Grace who outpaced her across the cables of third ring and never let her forget it. Grace who took a knife for her when a greaseboy from second ring decided he didn’t like Rava’s “attitude”.

Rava would never see Grace again if she didn’t do something, and her suit popped a window that warned of rising heart rate. It bothered Rava that her last words to Grace had been a slew of Martian obscenities. She didn’t want Grace to remember her like that.

Should she burn this 5% to slow her drift, hope it bought her time to charge the other 5%? Her yellow air gauge showed two hours. If only she hadn’t spent the last two unconscious.

Rava wasn’t as terrified as she’d expected. She had heard CO2 poisoning was peaceful – you got sleepy, then you went away – but there was still so much she wanted to do first.  That included smacking Grace, repeatedly. No one else was dumb enough to walk across a dissipation port right before it irised open.

The last sound to pipe over their suitlink, just before the suit’s induced catatonia violently shoved Rava forward in time, was Grace shrieking like the day that greaseboy stabbed her. Grace flailing and trying to restore her suit’s maglock on the station hull. Grace shouting “You bloody idiot!”

Grace had been flailing because Rava had shoved her off the opening dissipation port, of course. As Rava recalled the terror in her friend’s voice, she felt unwelcome guilt. This was all Grace’s fault, so why did she have to feel guilty about it? She hadn’t done anything wrong!

The intense heat of the venting had challenged her suit’s regulators. To overload its cooling system it had to cut life support to dangerous levels, levels a conscious human couldn’t survive, and Rava couldn’t fault her suit for knocking her out. Still, two hours in an unconscious drift had put her a long way out.

A hyperventilation warning joined her heart rate. A hiss filled Rava’s ears as her suit pumped in airborne drugs to dull her panic. She decided right then to fire her thrusters, and when her burn ended she had stopped drifting. At least, almost stopped. It was so damn hard to tell out here.

The word “Charging… 0%” blinked as Rava’s hyperventilation and heart rate warnings faded. The suit’s drugs calmed her as her worried mind could not. Now she just had waiting ahead – thirty minutes? Forty five? – and the hope that the air left when her thrusters charged would get her back to Horizon Station.

There was nothing to do out here in the void – no vids to watch or games to play – so Rava focused on her best memories. The day Grace snagged a full pack of QuickHeat soup from an unattended cart heading to first ring, and they feasted for a week. The day Rava came across the last season of Atlas Peaks in a bargain bin – on thumbdrive, no less – and traded her best boltcutter away.

Grace had given her so much grief for that, of course – a boltcutter was so much more useful on third ring than a season of Grace’s favorite cancelled soap opera – but that didn’t make the countless nights they’d spend watching and rewatching episodes, huddled in the tent they’d stitched out of discarded suit patches, any less wonderful. The way Grace cried when Sarah walked out on Jason so Doctor Carlo wouldn’t send him to Mars, every damn time. Even when they both knew it was coming.

It was those memories – Grace’s smile, the way the station lights glittered on Grace’s blond crew-cut, the feeling of Grace’s back against Rava’s as they slept – that kept her sane until her charge reached 5%. With less than an hour of air, she fired her thrusters and ground her teeth.

Rava was drifting back toward Horizon Station at last, but Jupiter’s almost inconceivable bulk felt claustrophobically close now. Too close. Could its gravity be pulling her in? What would it feel like to be crushed at four times station gravity, or would she burn up first? How badly would that hurt?

Rava squeezed her eyes shut. The suit assured her its trajectory was correct, and she had to trust it. She had to trust she would see Grace again.

Drugs hissed, breathing slowed, and Rava drifted through void. She imagined herself floating in a cool sea – not that she’d ever been in one, just seen one on Atlas Peaks – and imagined Grace floating beside her. Imagined clutching her warm hand.

Rava drifted with her phantom Grace, surprisingly content, until the beep of an oxygen warning opened her eyes. Had she slept? She had slept. Horizon Station was larger now, ten times the size it had been, but she was still so far away. Too far away.

Her air gauge blinked red and her thruster charge remained at less than 1%. She knew then either her batteries or absorbing panels were fried, probably by the intense heat of the dissipation port’s discharge. Rava could not gain any more velocity than she had. She wasn’t going to make it home.

She’d tried. She hadn’t given up, not ever. That counted for something, didn’t it?

She hoped Grace would find a way to get along without her.

Rava’s heavy eyelids drooped as a dot separated from Horizon Station. Rava assumed it was just some chunk of debris a third-ringer had tossed out a cleaning vent, illegally, but it looked too dull for that. Not shiny enough. As it grew, the dot squirmed. It had arms and it had legs. A person? A suit?

“Rava?” Grace’s tremulous voice was barely audible over the static-y suitlink. “Rava!”

“Grace?” Rava knew she was dreaming, lost in carbon-monoxide induced bliss. There was no way Grace would have remained outside the station for over four hours, looking for her. No one would do that.

“Rava!” Grace’s voice was stronger now, loud enough for Rava to hear it clearly over the air alarm. “Stay there! I’m coming! Don’t flail!”

“I’m not flailing,” Rava whispered. Unexpected droplets wicked off her eyelids and floated between her face and helmet. Dammit! She couldn’t afford to cry right now.

Grace was the size of a lug nut. Then a hull patch. Then a person, a real person. Grace threw long arms and legs around her, and even through the suit fabric Rava imagined her warmth.

“Don’t move!” Grace ordered. One of her gloved hands clumsily jammed a linktube into the backpack of Rava’s suit, failing again and again. Stupid lack of gravity. Finally, the linktube snapped into the ring.

Rava’s air warning faded as the tank inside Grace’s suit circulated air between them, heady, wonderful air. Air that smelled like grease and sweat, that smelled like Grace. Rava breathed deep.

Droplets floated before her eyes and Grace did too. If she was dreaming, she refused to wake up.

“I thought I’d lost you,” Grace whispered. “I thought I’d killed you, Rava!”

With the viewports of their helmets pressed together, with the helmet lights highlighting Grace’s light brown face, she was almost obnoxiously beautiful. Droplets floated inside Grace’s helmet, too.

As Rava floated in the arms of the only woman in all third ring she would trust with anything, even her life, regret and guilt flooded her like suit drugs. How could she have been so stupid for so long? All their arguments, all her complaints, all her nitpicks – those were the words of a bloody idiot.

“I love you.” Rava clutched Grace and shouted. “I love you, Grace Tano!”

Grace managed a half-giggle, half-snort as they drifted toward the bulk of Horizon Station, together.

“Well.” Grace beamed at Rava through floating tears. “Duh.”

THE END
« Last Edit: January 01, 2016, 06:36:18 PM by tebakutis »

Offline Rukaio_Alter

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Re: [DEC 2015] - Young Love - Submission Thread
« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2015, 11:40:57 PM »
Figured I'd finish mine up a bit early. Considering how much I dislike the romance genre I'm surprised at just how much fun I had with it. Heck, I actually had to leave some pretty good lines out just to fit the word count.

Anyway, coming in at 1500 words, here's An Unconventional Proposal.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Karlel took a deep breath. This was the moment he had prepared a lifetime for.

“Viya!” He called out.

The warrior girl turned and Karlel was momentarily entranced. Her beautiful blond hair, her eyes like shimmering diamonds, her face cocked in that adorable questioning frown. Just looking at her made his heart beat faster.

“What is it?” She asked.

Karlel almost lost his nerve then and there, but he summoned his courage and said the lines he had practised a hundred times.

“Viya, it’s been two months now since I joined your group and, well, I’ve finally worked up the courage to say…” He calmed his breathing. It was now or never. “I like you. I’ve always liked you. Ever since you saved me from that Swamp-Wraith, ever since I saw you duelling those Ghouls, ever since we shared that night beneath the stars, I’ve felt such a strong attachment to you.” He took another deep breath. “I know I don’t have much means to provide for us. I’m only a newbie mage. And I’m not skilled in a lot of things. But the one thing I do know is how much I want to be with you.”

Viya’s eyes widened. She hesitated for a moment before placing a hand on Karlel’s shoulder.

“Karlel.” She said, her voice eerily calm. “That’s very sweet and all... but now is not the freaking time!”

That was when the second wave of dragonfire hit.

Karlel winced as he felt the intense heat from the flames impact the magical barrier he had called up over the trench they were in. In the distance he could see the shape of the enormous red dragon hovering in the air.

“VWAHAHA!” The dragon roared. “I AM BELPHEGOX, THE SCOURGE! ALL SHALL PERISH BEFORE MY FLAMES!”

Karlel looked up to see Viya gesturing at the dragon in a ‘Let’s-deal-with-that-first’ way.

“Ah.” Karlel said. “I think I understand.”

“Good.” Viya sighed.

“I came on too strong. You need time to think.”

“Ye- What, no!” Viya did a double take. “I’m saying we need time to kill the monster first!”

“Indeed.” Karlel said sagely. “Entering into a relationship can seem pretty monstrous.”

“What does that have to do with-?”

Viya’s protestations were interrupted by the sounds of Lucas, the team leader. The archer sprinted into the trench, dropping to one knee and shooting off an arrow towards Belphegox. The projectile ripped through the dragon's wing, causing it to lose balance and crash to the ground.

“Are you two okay?” He asked.

“We’re good.” Viya said. “That last burst of dragonfire came a little close, but-“

Lucas ignored her and looked to Karlel. “So did you end up confessing then?”

Viya nearly choked on her own tongue. “What?!”

Karlel’s head sunk. “I did, but she said she needed time to think.”

“No, I didn’t! I said I needed time to kill the monster!”

“I understand.” Lucas nodded sagely. “Entering into a relationship can seem pretty monstrous.”

“Gkk-!” Viya tried unsuccessfully to regain her composure. “Leader, are you telling me you knew about this?”

“Of course.” Lucas said. “It’s obvious the kid’s had a crush on you since Day One.”

“And you didn’t think to tell him not to confess in the middle of a heated battle?”

“Well…” Lucas scratched the back of his head. “It’s better if you don’t put this stuff off too long. The longer you keep it bottled up, the harder it is to let it out.”

Viya’s eye twitched. “Maybe so, but there are better places to confess than while fighting a freaking dragon!

“Look.” Lucas said. “Let me tell you from experience that if you’re trying to wait for the perfect moment, then you won’t get anywhere. Those moments don’t come along often. And by the time it arrives, it may be too late. If you’ve got the guts to confess, just do as soon as you can. It may not be perfect but at least you’ve done it.”

Karlel clapped enthusiastically at Lucas’s speech. Viya, on the other hand, looked like she was about to suffer an aneurysm.

“I’m surrounded by idiots.”

“Love makes idiots of us all.”

“HEY!” Belphegox roared, stomping towards them. “STOP IGNORING ME!”

Panicked, Viya prepared to attack, but Lucas stopped her.

“Sorry!” He shouted over. “But can you give us a few minutes? We’ve got a bit of a romantic problem we need to sort out.”

“OH?” To Viya’s surprise, Belphegox came to a skidding halt before them. “WHAT KIND OF ROMANTIC PROBLEM? CAN I HELP?”

Viya’s jaw dropped.

“Well, you see,” Lucas said, as if this was the most normal thing in the world. “Our little mage here, Karlel, has just confessed to his longtime crush, Viya.”

“WELL, CONGRATULATIONS.” Belphegox said sincerely. “I KNOW THAT SORT OF THING CAN BE VERY DIFFICULT IF YOU’RE PARTICULARLY SHY.”

Karlel blushed. “Thanks.”

“The problem is,” Lucas continued, “Viya’s a little unused to relationships herself and needs time to think it over.”

“That’s not-! I didn’t-! You-!” Due to a mixture of confusion and rage, Viya’s brain had lost the ability to complete full sentences. “But-! Monster dragon-! Kill-!”

“I UNDERSTAND.” Belphegox nodded sagely. “ENTERING INTO A RELATIONSHIP CAN SEEM PRETTY MONSTR-“

“Finish that sentence and I will rip off your tail and feed it to you!”

Belphegox raised an eyebrow. “WELL, SHE’S CERTAINLY SPIRITED.”

“I know.” Karlel smiled dreamily.

“Seriously? Has everyone lost their minds?!” Viya’s eye was twitching quite furiously at this point.

“Love certainly can feel that way.” Lucas nodded.

“I- Gkkkkkk!” Viya looked like she was going to explode. However, Belphegox interrupted.

“LOOK GIRL.” He said. “I MAY BE A GIANT MONSTROSITY DEVOTED TO DESTROYING ALL IN MY PATH, BUT I’VE EATEN ENOUGH COUPLES IN MY TIME TO KNOW A LITTLE BIT ABOUT LOVE.”

“……I’m pretty sure that’s not how that works.” Karlel said.

“Not-?!” Viya’s eye began twitching again. “The giant dragon is trying to give us romantic advice and that’s the only thing you find odd?!”

 “AHEM.” Belphegox cleared his throat. “IF I MAY CONTINUE?”

“Sure. Why not.” Viya threw her hands up into the air. “I’ve given up trying to make sense of any of this.”

"Love sometimes makes little sen-."

"I will end you, Lucas!"

“YOU KNOW, I CAN’T HELP BUT NOTICE YOU SEEM TO LIKE DRAWING ATTENTION TO OTHER PEOPLE’S TRANSGRESSIONS.” Belphegox said. “YET YOU’RE AVOIDING YOUR OWN BIG QUESTION. DO YOU LIKE KARLEL?”

Viya was caught off guard by this. “W-Well, it’s a bad time for-”

“IT’S ONLY A BAD TIME BECAUSE YOU SAY IT IS.” Belphegox said. “WHAT’S SO DIFFICULT ABOUT GIVING A SIMPLE YES OR NO ANSWER?”

Viya was stammering quite heavily at this point. “B-But-“

“IF YOU DON’T LOVE HIM THAT WAY, IT SHOULD BE EASY TO JUST TELL HIM THAT.” Belphegox said calmly. “YOU DON’T STRIKE ME AS THE SORT OF PERSON WHO WOULD STAY QUIET JUST TO PROTECT SOMEONE’S FEELINGS. SO WHY WON’T YOU ANSWER? UNLESS OF COURSE… YOU DO LIKE HIM?”

A blush spread across Viya’s face. “Well… I don’t not like him…”

Karlel tilted his head in confusion. “Viya?”

“Look, Karlel.” Viya said. “You’re one of the most talented, sweet, funny guys I’ve ever known. With your mage abilities we all know that you’re going places. Me…” She looked down. “I’m clumsy, slobbish, easily angered and all I’m good at is swordplay. You don’t need to be saddled down with someone worthless like me…”

Karlel was silent for a moment. Then he stepped forward and took Viya’s hands in his.

“No.” He said firmly. “You’re not worthless. You really think I didn’t notice you were clumsy or temperamental? I love that about you. I love the way you keep your pride no matter what. I love how you constantly work to improve yourself. I love how passionate you can be. I love… you.”

Viya raised her head to meet Karlel’s, her eyes glistening with tears. “Karlel…”

Then, she took a breath and sprung forward, kissing him on the lips. Karlel seemed stunned at this show of affection. Viya gave him a small smile.

“There.” She said. “That’s my answer.”

Karlel blinked before a grin stretched across his face.

From the side, Lucas and Belphegox watched, smiling as the couple embraced.

“SNIFF.” The Dragon wiped away a tear with its enormous talon. “HOW SWEET.”

Lucas nodded. “You truly did a wonderful thing today.”

“YEAH…” Belphegox said. “IT’S ALMOST TOO BAD I’M GOING TO HAVE TO KILL AND EAT YOU ALL NOW.”

“Yeah…” Lucas said without looking. “And it’s also too bad I snuck a bag of explosives underneath you while you were talking.”

Belphegox froze and looked down to see a satchel with a lit fuse running from it.

“……...SON OF A BI-“

Belphegox exploded in a fiery mess of blood and dragonscale. His charred remains toppled to the ground with a sickening thwack.

Lucas smiled. “I guess Love really is... a bang.”

".......You've been waiting to say that all day, haven't you?"

"You have no idea."
5 Times Winner of the Forum Writing Contest who Totally Hasn't Let it All go to his Head.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Also, <Insert GOD EMPEROR OF THE WRITING CONTEST joke here>

Offline SugoiMe

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Re: [DEC 2015] - Young Love - Submission Thread
« Reply #4 on: December 13, 2015, 09:31:11 PM »
This was funner than I expected, and created a whole string of possibilities.  It started off under 1000 words, but I cinched it up to 1,123.  If I keep looking over this, it's gonna drive me crazy, so time to release it to the world.

Twitter:  SugoiMe87

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Spoiler for Hiden:

Neshka sat alone in the rugged tavern, breathing in the musty air, which was a mix of sweaty sailors and the perfume of voluptuous, cleavage-bearing barmaids.  She looked like an outsider among them, her dark skin and lean physique contrasting with their white, plushy bodies.  Neshka could never understand how obesity and beer guts were considered attractive in the port city of Oksía.  The muscular figures of her kin were much more desirable.  Just thinking of them made her want to go back to her homeland.

But she couldn’t.  Her people had discovered her long-kept secret, and she had been banished as a result.  Now, she was an outcast, barely managing to make a living off the lands.  It was a hard life, but by now she had grown accustomed to it, thieving and scheming where she could.  Her recent travels had taken her from the desert to Oksía, completely avoiding her hometown along the way.  The port city was a disgusting place, but the best location for thieving.  She’d even pocketed a few coins on the way to the tavern, an act she knew would get a scolding from the person she was about to meet that night.  Yet her theft could remain secret, as much as the one that had her banished from her homeland.

A drunken sailor passed by her table, noted her and stopped.  His eyes examined her upper body with keen interest, and despite Neshka’s lack of a low neckline, his gaze veered to her impressive bust.  “Hey lady—“

“Piss off.”

The sailor glowered, pounding his fist on the table.  “You talking filthy to me?”

“Down right.  Now piss off before I get mad.”

He rose his hand to backslap her.  Neshka had already reached to her side, flicking a knife out of its sheath.  But she wasn’t quick enough.  The man screeched, reeling his head back and spinning around.

“Oh dear, did that hurt?”  cooed a sympathetic voice behind him.

The man froze dead where he was, shocked at what he saw.

Neshka grinned.  “You’re late, Vel.”

Out from behind the big man circled the most beautiful creature Neshka had ever come to know.  It was a young woman, like herself, though her skin was silver-aquamarine, almost white in places, and scales darted her arms, shoulders, and legs.  Not a strand of hair grew on her, yet her head grew fins in such a way that made her appear to have a chin-length cut.  Two dark lines made for eyebrows, and her eyes bore large pupils encircled by thin green irises.

The man grunted.  “A Sea Other.  Bloody fish folk gonna uproot our town one day.”

He stormed off, grasping the stinging cut on his shoulder.

The Sea Other plunked down across from Neshka, the scythe blade she had used to injure the sailor retracting into the folds of her elbow-fins.  “Fish folk,” she scoffed.  “Terrible label, but I don’t like Sea Other much better.  Whatever happened to mírúhím?  The holy people sure have a lot more respect than these goonies.”

Neshka chuckled.  “Not much has changed since they hunted your kind centuries ago.”

“True talkin’, sweetheart.”

They turned to watch the injured, pot-bellied sailor mosey up to the bar.  He was sweating profusely.

“How long do you think it’s gonna take before he realizes I have poison in my veins?” Vel asked.

“Judging by his complexion, not long.  Your protrusions have a nasty bite.”

They laughed, a sound that melted into the ruckus around them.  Neshka flagged down one of the barmaids for a couple mugs of ale.  The curvy lady didn’t say a word when she returned with the mugs, which she slammed down on their table.  She vanished before the girls could utter a simple ‘thank you.’

“So, how’d the visit go?” Neshka asked, taking a swig.

Vel cocked her head to the side with a sigh, grabbing the free mug.  Goodness, was she pretty.  Her fun, playful gestures always toyed with Neshka’s emotions, giving her a satisfying yet sickening feeling.

“Same as always.  Stares, awkward conversations, the whole lot of it.  I was getting tired of it by the time I left, really.  You?”

Neshka didn’t answer, casting her gaze on the bitter brew in front of her.

“You didn’t go back, did you?”

“Why bother?  Nothing will change how they think.”

“And here I am putting in my time for Athlarika.  You should, too, you know.  I thought we made a deal.”

“Deals are often broken.  People you trust can turn on you.”

“You would turn on me?”

Neshka looked up at her.  Vel was a common reject like her, a half-breed—half human, half Sea Other—who was shunned by her own people.  Sure, she looked like one of the mírúhím, but her pointed ears gave away her mixed lineage.  She knew Neshka’s pain, so she ought to know her deepest feelings.  But Neshka kept them to herself.  She loved Vel more than anything, would die for her when the opportunity arose.  It had several times already.  Yet after all they had been through together, she just couldn’t bring herself to tell Vel how she really felt about her.  Fear told Neshka that she would be rejected like she had been those many years ago in her hometown.

“You alright?” Vel asked, concern struck across her face.

“I’m fine.”

“You’re hiding something.  You’re always hiding something.”

“I said I’m fine.”

“Sure, but you can’t let your secrets drive a wall between us, Neshka.”

Neshka knew that.  Athlarika had cautioned against it, saying that if she didn’t tell Vel soon, the wall would become so thick, she wouldn’t be able to reach her.

“If we were alone, would you tell me?”

She sure was persistent.  “Maybe.”

“I’ll wait then.”

That’s what Neshka loved about Vel.  She was patient and accepted her for who she was.  It almost made her believe that Vel would accept her even after she told her she loved her.  Of course, Vel wouldn’t return her affections.  Vel was as straight as they came, and it made the pain in Neshka’s chest much more heart-wrenching.

“I got us a place to stay,” Vel offered, changing the subject.

Neshka breathed out a deep sigh.  “Does it have a bath?  I don’t think I could smell worse and the air in this filthy tavern has sunk into my skin.”

Vel laughed, a cute chuckle that resembled the clicking of a dolphin.  “Why would I deprive you of a bath, sweetheart?  I could use one as well to get that drat sea salt off me.”

“Let’s go then.”

They chugged the last of their ale and exited the tavern, leaving their awkward conversation behind.
"And then the time came when the risk it took to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." - Anais Nin

Offline m3mnoch

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Re: [DEC 2015] - Young Love - Submission Thread
« Reply #5 on: December 22, 2015, 05:58:44 AM »
1500 words, not counting that gripping title.

Spoiler for Hiden:


Retired

Abis covered the corpse’s left eye and nose with her boot and pulled.  The handsome face sagged under her foot as she slid the knife free, leaving a soggy hole where it’s right eye had been.  Good throw.

She stood up and grabbed a different, jewel-encrusted dagger from her pack.  The gaudiness produced a frown as she flipped the ugly thing in her hand.  She didn’t think she could hit an elephant with this one.

Squatting back down near the corpse’s head, she grabbed the gilded hilt with both hands and shoved.  Then shoved again.

It mostly fit back into his face.

Abis gathered her few things and climbed out the window.  The ledge of the adjoining building was a short jump away and she cleared the distance easily.  Soon she was sprinting along the tiles, dodging jagged stovepipes.

Ten hopped rooftops later, she was barely breathing hard when she finally stopped and pulled a brass object from her pouch.  She was still getting used to the palm-shaped device as she fumbled at, and finally thumbed, the catch on the side.  There was a stuttering whir, the top slid back, and a small ghostly figure flickered to life above the opening.

“Success, I presume?”  The figure was staring at Abis, arms crossed, brows drawn.

“Of course.”  Abis rolled her eyes.  “You expected me to fail, Chiliarch?”

“Not expected, just wouldn’t be surprised.  You hadn’t checked in for a while, and Suarnet had —“  The Chiliarch’s shoulders stiffened as he clasped his hands behind his back.  “— a reputation, shall we say?”

A corner of Abis’ mouth sneaked up.  “Yes.  He was certainly easy to admire, but my first love is and always will be my job.”

“Yes.  Well, your job requires more love, I’m afraid.”  The Chiliarch’s brows drew down further, deep furrows appearing in the specter’s forehead.  “We already have your next target and it’s there in Paris, so don’t leave.  Some unknown illusionist is using their power to promote propaganda against the state.”

This time, both corners of her mouth turned up as she grinned.  “I actually saw one of the displays yesterday in the Place Charles de Gaulle.  They had replaced the Arc with a pretty convincing depiction of President Breaux.  It appeared accurate.  Especially when he took off his —“

The figure coughed, interrupting her.

“Of course, I meant, ‘Do we have an identity?’”

“Not yet.  We don’t even know if the illusionist is a man or a woman.  Just stay local and I’ll reach out to you when we have more information.”

The floating image of the Chiliarch flickered again and vanished as the lid on the brass device closed up.


The little wood chair in front of the cafe was stiff, but at least it afforded Abis a charming view of the Seine.  The breeze was cool, but not uncomfortable, and she had a perfect cup of bitter tea.  There were certainly worse ways to spend a morning.

If only she wasn’t working.

She had a small nest egg set aside for when she retired, but Abis knew she wouldn’t get the chance to use it.  You didn’t retire from her job.

Sadness touched her eyes.  At least, not in the way most people do.

A sensation prickled like a meshweb weaver dancing across the back of her neck and her senses flared to life.

Appearing to stir her tea, she lifted the spoon just high enough for the reflection to show a man, two tables behind her, studying her.  She propped the spoon against the saucer, shifted her right boot to loosen her throwing knife, and watched his reflection.

The man turned his attention to something in his lap Abis couldn’t see.  Then he looked back up at her.  Then, down at his lap again.  What was he doing?

She decided to see.

Picking up her teacup and the jacket from the back of her chair, Abis glided casually, loosely to the man’s bistro table.  She sat down.  His eyes followed her every sway and his mouth hung with anticipation as she set her saucer on the table linen.  He smiled and lifted a small notebook from beneath the table.

“You have a beautiful soul.”  He showed her the illustration he’d been working on.

It was an image of her back. Well, mostly her jacket hanging over the back of her chair.

“Beauty, grace, power — I’ve become enraptured.  Lashed tight by your verve and I can’t escape.”

He tilted the charcoal scene, and it shifted.  It coalesced.  Swirled.

The rippling form of her jacket and hair transformed.  A powerful tigress stalked her little table, roaring in thick-muscled silence, tail swept skyward.  More shifting and the image was again the back of her chair with her hair blowing slightly in the breeze.

“You’re an illusionist.”  She tried not to let his skill impress her.

“I am.  And so are you.  It radiates from you, pulsates, and fascinates me.  Who are you?”

“My name is Abis Marineau.”  Why the hell did she just tell him her name?  “Yours?”

“Rous.  My name is Guilhelm Rous.  Will you have another cup?  Maybe spend some time with me?”

“Sure.  Why not?”  She flagged a waitress and pointed to her cup.  “What do you do, Mister Rous?”

“I expose truth.”  He sipped his coffee.  “The world is too sleepy.  Lulled by the mundane.  There is magic in this world, if only we’d embrace it.”

Abis snorted.  “The world is well aware of magic.  It’s on display in every theater and museum.”

“You’re not in a theater.”

“I’m not magic.”

“But you are.  And so is this piece of lettuce.”  He fished a bit of romaine from his sandwich.

She laughed.  “You’re comparing me to lettuce?  Really?  How romantic.”  When was the last time she’d truly laughed?

“I am.  Watch.”  The plain piece of lettuce rolled, curled into a ball and split open.  The green peeled back and folded open, forming a bright orange butterfly.  It swished it’s fiery wings and lighted into the air.

“Lovely, but illusions don’t last.”  She watched as the butterfly became lettuce again, flopping to the table.  Incredible.  He has the ability to temporarily alter one physical object to look and act like another.

“Exactly.”  His blue eyes met hers.  Deep.  Intense.  “The illusion you have been hiding behind will eventually fall free.”

“And I’ll go back to being lettuce?”  She stared at him, finger tapping smirking lips.

Guilhelm’s nose twitched and his shoulders sagged.  “Pretty cheesy, huh?”

Her eyes softened.  “Very.”

Guilhelm grinned wide and they both laughed.

After an expectant moment, he glanced at her from the corner of his eye.  “I was serious about your soul, you know.  I see it.”  He ran a finger around the rim of his coffee cup.

She looked back down at his notebook on the table between them.  At the image on the page.  The swirling predator, stalking freedom.

“I believe you.”  She smiled at him.  “Even when you compare my soul to a limp vegetable.”

He groaned.  “Okay, okay.  Like I said, my ability lies with exposing truth.  Evidently, charm appears beyond even my substantial power.”  He scrubbed his face with both hands.

“Oh, I don’t know about that.”  He was kind of cute.

Guilhelm’s hands stopped moving, an eye peeking out from between his fingers.  “Really?” came the muffled response.

She laughed at his sudden enthusiasm.  “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  I said ‘I don’t know’ if you can be charming.”  He was completely charming.

He dropped his hands to the table, leaned forward on his elbows, and lifted an eager eyebrow.  “But you want to find out, right?”

Abis couldn’t help but laugh at him again.  She leaned forward herself.  “Maybe.”

She liked him.

The brass device in her pocket pulsed.

Her head swiveled, searching for any near and private space.

"I have to go."  She waved Guilhelm off as she clambered up and away from the table.  "Meet me back here.  Tomorrow.  Same time."

He stood, hurt draining his color.  "What did I do?"

She kissed him, then ran.

Four blocks later, she found a secluded alley, dug the communicator out, and thumbed back the lid.

The Chiliarch’s visage slashed into view above her palm.  “We have the illusionist’s identity.”  The apparition turned and leaned, as if trying to check the alley for eavesdroppers.

“Don’t worry.  I’m alone.”  The cynic in her already knew her next target.

“Good.  We’ve discovered his identity.  His name is Guilhelm Rous.  He’s a local artist and self-proclaimed advocate of ‘the truth’.”

But she had a solution.


"What's the tag say?"

“’Abis Marineau’.  Watch out.  She’s heavier than she looks."

"I hate this job.  I should be out in the field."

"Quit grousing.  Just grab her legs."  The two men grunted and heaved the body into the incinerator's flames.

"You were right.  Wow, look at her burn.  It's like she was made of firewood or something."

"Yeah.  That ‘Guilhelm’ guy was like that too.  Strange.”



Offline TOMunro

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Re: [DEC 2015] - Young Love - Submission Thread
« Reply #6 on: December 26, 2015, 09:55:17 AM »
OK - sorry I've not been participating much of late, but the day job and other stuff has been a bit pre-occupying.

This is 1500 Words, called "Leaving Yurte"

There are three instances of strong language (two f's and a c) and allusions to sexual activity, but nothing explicit.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Light fingers traced across his bicep, swirling a pattern of circles from elbow to shoulder.  Emil kept of a pretence of sleep but the fingers pressed a little deeper, too hard to ignore. He stretched in an ostentatious yawn, struggling for balance in a bed too narrow for two.

“By Lugh, it stirs!” A voice cried by his ear.

“Fucking pagan,” he murmured without malice.

“I thought you liked fucking pagan.”

Emil pushed himself back sharply, sandwiching his lover against the garret wall.  A soft whoosh of expelled air warmed the back of his neck. 

A hand ran over his shoulder, fingers tiptoed across his bare chest, snaking lower.  Emil threw off the sheet, rising from the bed before his own desire could betray him. 

“There is no time for that!” The snapped retort was for himself as much as his lover, but the words bit deep and Emil winced at the dismay his words had wrought. He was not used to this - to valuing another’s happiness higher than his own. He essayed an apologetic smile, though he knew it looked more like a leer.  His was not the face shaped naturally for love.

Green eyes looked back at him through a long fringe of blond hair. A thin upper lip trembled beneath the beginnings of a moustache.

“Marcus, I’m sorry,” Emil told the man in the bed. “I’m just on edge.”

“I know,” Marcus replied.  “It’s a big day.”

“The biggest, for both of us.”

Marcus lifted the lanyard from around his neck and held it out, the hammer symbol dangling between them.  “Here, take this for luck.”

Emil hesitated. “My people don’t believe in Lugh or in any gods.”

“Except for the god of profit.” Disappointment soured the reply.  “You can wear it beneath your shirt.  They will never see.” Marcus folded his arms. “Besides they’re not your people, not after today anyway.”

Emil took the gift and quickly gathered his clothes from the garments scattered on the floor. He dressed in silence. Marcus bit his lip awhile before asking, “You’re sure this northern lord of yours will take us, take us both?”

“I’ve done some work for him. He knows my worth and I have vouched for you. By tomorrow morning we’ll be on the ocean heading for a new life.”

“And we can’t come back?”

“Never.” Emil tried to hold his lover’s gaze but Marcus looked away through the window at the pale blue of breaking dawn. “Second thoughts?”

“None,” Marcus looked back briskly emphatic. “Here, Emil, A kiss for luck.”  He reached and Emil came to him and it was a good kiss, the kind that on any other day could have led to more.

Emil pulled away. “I’ll be back.”

“I love you, Emilius Sabon.”

Emil hesitated in the doorway looking back at his lover’s sad smile. He cleared his throat and turned it into a cough. Some words still did not come easily, trampled out of him by two decades of brutal upbringing. He nodded and promised again, “I’ll be back.”

Marcus’s smile faded slowly at an expected disappointment. Emil made a silent promise that someday -- someday soon - he would say the words. But not today.  There was too much to do.

***

Emil trod lightly down the steps of the Dorlith counting house, the reassuring weight of a bag of coin jangling at his hip.  The morning had been attended with success at every turn and the dazzling promise of a fresh start must have blinded his habitual caution.

“Going somewhere, Emil?”   The nasal whine at his shoulder was as familiar as it was unwelcome.

“Good afternoon, Djand.  I had thought my orders for today were clear enough.” Emil assumed a mask, though the pounding of his heart was surely loud enough to sound beyond his ribcage. He turned to face the squat form of his subordinate. “Yet here I find you full two miles from the roslyrian quarter.”

Djand’s smile was an ugly thing, too full of selfish pleasure. “I got other orders, Emil.  Orders from higher up.”

Emil swallowed as the other man lifted the bag of gold, testing its weight.  “That’s a sizeable withdrawal, Emil, from an account you’re not supposed to have.” Djand flashed another grin of uneven teeth. “Not the only sizeable withdrawals you’ve been making, so I hear.”  He waited but Emil said nothing, his face blank, his guard up until Djand broke first with the admission, “The Director wants to see you. Now!”

Emil spotted the tell-tale glance behind him, the arched eyebrow of a signal to Djand’s associates.  The man would never have come for him alone and Emil knew he had no choice but to obey.  He never had had a choice.

***

Director Holfstad and Counsellor Quannel were determined to outdo each other in indignation. Emil bore their reproach with all the appearance of dutiful silence, while he searched the shadows cast by their invective - desperate to decipher how much they knew.

“You have been seen, do not deny it,” Quannel screeched.

“In intimate company, with someone not of the Yurte.” Holfstad thumped his hand on the desk.

“Not even a woman, not a dockside whore.  But a man – it is beyond every stricture of our code.”

“It is unnatural,” Holfstad was puce.

“And you have kept funds from the Yurte, from the brotherhood that owns you. Outrageous!”

“Doubtless seeking to set your cock-sucking lover up in luxury.”

Emil kept his breathing level, masking his emotions.  They did not know his true intentions, not just to entertain a forbidden love, but to flee the Yurte for ever. Then again, if that had been suspected he would be dead already. In his relief he nearly missed the director’s pronouncement

“Your only path to redemption, Emilius, is to bring us the sodomising bastard’s head by nightfall.”

By nightfall! That was time enough. The ship would sail in the forenoon. They would not discover his disobedience until long after he and Marcus had sailed.  Perhaps it was the alacrity of his nod that roused their suspicions.

“You will be accompanied in your mission, of course.”

Emil frowned. “With respect, I don’t need Djand Hobart to hold my hand, Director.”

“Djand has other duties,” Holfstad waved a hand at his deputy.  “Counsellor Quannell will be your escort.”

***

Emil was breathing hard. Disposing of Quannell had been easy. The man was old his street craft dulled by days counting coin in an office. Lured into an alleyway he had had barely time to raise an eyebrow in surprise as Emil’s knife slid home. But Marcus was late. The ship’s departure pennant was raised half an hour ago. Emil had run all the way to the lodging that his lover should have long since left.

He took the steps three at a time with a tread so light as to be inaudible. The door to the garret room was ajar. He gave it a gentle push, standing poised on the landing as the swinging door swept across the scene within. 

“Emil, what took you so long,” Djand sat on the chair grinning. He glanced at the bloody ruin of a man on the bed beside him. “Reckon this’ll be the last time I’ve had to do your work for you, boss.  I’m due a promotion and screaming lover boy’s last confession is going to open a vacancy.”

Emil stood silent and still, eyes recording every detail of a horror that would haunt him for a lifetime – whatever might be left of it.

Djand’s impatience showed.  He had bulk and strength but not speed and he sat waiting, taunting Emil to enter with jerk of his head towards the bed on which Marcus’s broken body lay. “Come on in, boss, sure you want to talk.”

A myriad of thoughts swirled in Emil’s mind, quick thinking at odds with the illusion of paralysed indecision gripping his body. The slight weight of Lugh’s hammer symbol lay against his chest, damp with the sweaty exertion of his flight across the city. Marcus was dead.  Nothing could change that.  Djand wanted him to step across the threshold to rush into the room in a rage.  The whole grisly tableau was set with that purpose in mind.  There would be someone behind the door, Djand always had someone behind the door, someone like Cutter or Rybird forming the steel spring to their crony’s trap.   

All that had been Marcus -- all the love he had showed the utterly unlovable Emil - that only now existed in Emil’s memories. So many fresh experiences, better ones than an apprenticeship in the Yurte could ever have taught. But there was one lesson well learned at Director Holfstad’s knee. There was no profit in revenge.
Emil yanked the door shut, locking it with his key.  He fled down the stairs even as Djand hammered into the timbers. He would run, and he would live, and while he lived, Marcus would never be forgotten.

(edited for a typo)
« Last Edit: December 26, 2015, 03:15:11 PM by TOMunro »

Offline JMack

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Re: [DEC 2015] - Young Love - Submission Thread
« Reply #7 on: December 28, 2015, 11:34:54 PM »
Here we go: 1,500 words excluding the title:
"The Library of Alexander"

Edited for typos 12/31/15, now 1,498 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
The Library of Alexander

The wizard’s apprentice sighed and took off her mistress’s magical translation glasses, then set down the last of the books she'd pulled from the Eternal Library’s shelves. "It’s not this one either,” she said to the boy sitting across from her. “The title translates to Gardening for Dragons, though it sounds much fiercer in firetongue.” It certainly wasn’t The Nightmare of King Barouk, which was the last book the wizard had sent her to find. She’d already fetched and delivered ten others, but her mistress would not stand for even the smallest failure from her apprentice.

Her companion had a stack in front of him too, and although Alexander couldn’t read any words at all, he knew the Library’s system of location dots on their spines, as he’d proven during their trek through the stacks. He was smart, and not unattractive even though he could have passed for a street beggar, with his patched clothing and ragged hair. The bright intelligence in his eyes fascinated her, not to mention the four squirrels perched on his shoulders.

"I'm sorry, Penelope,” said Alexander, shaking his head, with four grey heads bobbing back and forth in unison. “Books don’t go missing. The squirrels make sure of that. It has to be here, somewhere.”

Alexander and his bushy-tailed companions had found Penelope wandering the Library early that morning with a useless map of the ever-shifting halls, and had adopted her on the spot. She'd never have found the other books without them. Now, after discovering the last was missing from its proper location, they’d spent hours inspecting book spines and covers in case it had been mis-shelved.

“Will your mistress be angry with you?”

"Oh, no," she lied. Oh, yes. We did not, the wizard would say, travel four months by sea, suffer camel rides, and hire mule trains to reach the Library just for you to indulge your incompetence. When Alexander, who seemed to know everything about the Library, had promised to help her, she’d thought her problems solved. In return, she’d promised to teach him to read at least one of the millions of books that surrounded him every day.

“Alright,” she said. “Let’s put all these away.” She rose and inspected her dress for dust and wrinkles. “Why don’t you –“

But the boy and his squirrels were already in action. Alexander placed a book into a wire device strapped onto the back of one of the squirrels and called out a location in the chittering squirrel tongue. The squirrel leapt up the shelves, ran to the right spot, and triggered a spring that popped the book out of its basket and exactly into place. A second squirrel was ascending by the time the first returned for more orders. Penelope smiled in appreciation at the efficient little team, and when they’d finished, she applauded. It startled Alexander, who looked at her hands in confusion.

“It’s alright,” she said. “I’m clapping. It’s a way of saying thank you.”

“Oh,” he said. “You’re welcome.” He spoke to the squirrels, the four answered back, then disappeared down the hall.

“Where are they going?” she asked.

“Well,” said Alexander, a bit sheepishly, “We made them late for school.”

“School?” laughed Penelope.

“Of course,” said Alexander. “Shelving school. Soon, they’ll be Senior Shelvers.”

Penelope took a long look at the shelves around them – so many books, one after the other after the other. But… how odd.

“Alexander,” she said, “is there a gap between those two books over there?” In the middle of one shelf, between a thin blue book and a thick red one, was a book-sized gap. The two looked around them, equally puzzled, then Penelope realized she’d left one book sitting off to the side, a thick tome with carved wooden covers. “I checked this one already. Why isn’t it on the shelf?”

Alexander picked it up and studied the spine before handing it to her. “It doesn’t have any location dots."

"I didn't check," said Penelope. "I just read the words."

The carving on the cover showed twelve doors. Eleven were open, but one was closed. Her training told her this was to represent the eleven known worlds, plus the twelfth, lost world. A metal hasp latched the front and back covers together. She tried to work the mechanism, but it was stuck.

Alexander had stepped closer while she worked. She glanced up and found he was looking at her, not the book. She felt a blush rising. He started to say something, but the book latch popped open and they both looked down.

The first thing Penelope noticed was that the pages were completely blank. She flipped through the leaves, then inserted a finger midway, revealing a cache cut into the pages. Concealed inside was another,  smaller volume in dark leather.

“You’ve been hiding,” whispered Penelope. She opened the little book, and yelled in pain as green flame burst from it. The book flew from her hands and the tome banged to the floor. Fire consumed her hands and shot up her arms.

“Penelope!” said Alexander. “Penelope!”

“Oh!” she moaned. “Oh. It hurts.”

Alexander reached for her hands, but she pulled them away. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Are you alright? Let me see.”

Penelope held her hands out and gritted her teeth at the sight of angry welt rising on her brown skin.

“We need to go to Damus,” said Alexander.

“What? Who?”

“The Great Squirrel. He can help.”

“The Great Squirrel,” she echoed numbly.

Carrying both books, Alexander led Penelope through the maze of hallways at something like a sprint. Soon they emerged into a vast chamber echoing with chattering squirrels, thousands and thousands of them. The noise and smell were like a slap.

"Wait here," said Alexander. He scrambled straight up the brick wall with what looked to her like amazing dexterity, but must have seemed ridiculous to the squirrels, who barked with laughter all around.

He was back in moments, followed slowly by an large squirrel of great dignity. His fur was white as salt, his eyes were clouded with age. "This is Damus, the Great Squirrel,” said Alexander. "You don’t have to bow or anything. None of us do.”

Damus studied Penelope’s hands and summoned another squirrel who listened, then skipped away. The old squirrel extended a hand and Alexander passed him the books. After inspecting them, Damus spoke, and Alexander translated. "Damus says he knows this book. The histories say it was last borrowed over three hundred years ago." Penelope started to speak, but Damus stopped her with a raised paw. The other squirrel returned, bringing a scented ointment which it rubbed onto Penelope’s hands.

Damus and Alexander continued. "It is a very dark book. It was the obsession of a wizard who visited the Library day after day to learn its secrets. He returned to his lands, and within days, the twelfth world was a burning ruin. Squirrels remember. We vowed never to retrieve this book again. We hid it and protected it. I am very sorry you were hurt, young human, but we cannot allow anyone to read this.”

The ointment was easing the burning in Penelope’s hands, and she could think again. “Couldn’t you just have destroyed it?”

Alexander and the squirrel stared at her in shock. “Destroy a book?” Alexander exclaimed.

Damus said a farewell and left them. Alexander turned to Penelope, his normal cheer clouded. “I'm sorry. I promised to help you find all the books.”

"And I promised to teach you to read," she answered.

"That's alright," he said, looking away. “It's not really important. I can read the dots.”

Penelope's thoughts turned back to her mistress. She was already in trouble; what was a little more? She slipped the magical glasses from her skirt and passed them to Alexander. "Keep these for tonight. Find a book, any book. Look at it through the glasses, then with your own eyes. Think about the letters, the characters, the words. I don't know if this will work for learning to read, but it’s worth a try."

As Alexander cradled the lenses, she was already regretting giving them to him. What if her mistress was so angry that she sent her home? She'd never see Alexander again.

Far off, a bell chimed. “The Library is closing," said Alexander. "We need to get you back to the front rooms. Will you come tomorrow?"

Penelope started to give him a hopeful lie, but stopped. "I don't really know," she said. "I hope so."

They walked side by side and were there all too soon. Alexander stopped before the door to the great foyer. He leaned over and surprised her with a light kiss on her lips. He pressed the glasses into her hands, and walked backwards down the corridor. "Come back! You promised to teach me!" he called.

Penelope stared after him, her fingers touching her mouth. How surprising a trip to the library could be!
« Last Edit: December 31, 2015, 07:15:18 PM by Jmack »
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Offline ryanmcgowan

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Re: [DEC 2015] - Young Love - Submission Thread
« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2015, 11:23:03 PM »
First entry in a while, comes in at 1,368 words.

My thumbs are rejoicing at its completion.  I wont be writing on my phone next month, lesson painfully learned.

On twitter @mcgowanryan for anyone who uses it.

Some great entry's this month.

Spoiler for Hiden:
For the love of the beast

Kroy was tuned out from the noise of the kitchens, a background hum he’d spent a lifetime learning to ignore.  A talent that gave him time to think, though lately all he could think about was Princess Kalia.  It was madness, he knew it was.  He doubted she’d even noticed him, but that didn’t change the way he felt.  His hands moved intuitively, taking dirty dishes taken from one side of the sink and depositing them clean on the other.  Lost in the monotony, his ears pricked up at the word ‘Princess’, pulling him from his reverie.
“She’s only gone and run off.” A man said.  Kroy noted the uniform.  Palace guardsmen always had the best gossip.
“Left a note I heard, says she’s off to steal the Dead Kings hoard.  Says she’s going to kill the Dragon too, I heard.” The cook said.
“Off to get herself killed more like.”
Kroy was out the door before the half cleaned plate hit the floor.

“What does a kitchen boy know about fighting dragons?” The armourer jeered.
“Pointy end towards the dragon, right?” Kroy answered.  The armourer snorted before handing him a standard militia issue sword and shield.
“When you get eaten, don’t you go telling your Da you weren’t warned.”
Kroy winked at the old warrior. “And when I save the Princess, I suppose you won’t be wanting a mention then either?” Kroy put on a grandiose and pompous voice.  “The aged veteran, having taught the young knight all he knew, sent him off on adventure!”
“You ain’t no knight, boy.  And young boys what don’t know how to swing a sword are more likely to get eaten by dragons than save princesses.”
“I’ve got to do something, I love her.”
“Suicide is it?  Do you think all them knights just took the kings gold and disappeared? Every one of them ended their days in the belly of that beast, I promise you.”
“Maybe.  But I have to try.”
Sword and shield in hand, Kroys steps lead him to the town gates.  Princess Kalia had a head start from what he’d been able to gather, she’d already been gone half the day.

The blade arced through the air as Kroys feet carried him down the low road.  He’d never held a sword before, hadn’t been much call for them in the kitchens.  He hacked again at the imagined foe, sword edge whistling as it caught the wind.
His mind wandered again and again to the thought of Princess Kalia.  The curve of a hip, the fullness of her lips and the pertness of her breast.  His image of her didn’t fit with what she was doing now though.  He struggled to reconcile the idea of someone so soft and pretty and a capability for fighting off Dragons and stealing their hoards.
Kroys steps slowed and the path at his feet darkened as the peak of ‘King Aeds tomb’ eclipsed the sun, creating an artificial horizon.  For three generations the ancient cavernous hillock had been both treasure room and home to the Dragon.  He’d never seen the Dragon himself, but every spring and on through the summer a steady flow of petitioning farmers would pass through the keep.  The king still gave recompense when sheep or lambs were taken in the night. 
Thoughts of the knights who had walked the path to the tomb bit away at his courage.  Seven knights, each in turn sent by the king to rid them of the dragon.  Seven knights who no doubt now shared ‘king Aeds tomb’.  He thought of them climbing the slope in shining metal armour, his own grubby kitchen tabard a poor imitation.  Cold sweat dampened his hand as it squeezed the sword handle just a little tighter and he shivered as the monolithic entrance stones loomed above him.
“You love her.” He repeated it under his breath again and again, willing himself the confidence he needed to step into the cavern.  Into the unknown.

Shadows crawled the walls as fire burned somewhere unseen in the caverns vastness.
As his eyes accustomed to the dim light they caught and held the image of the Dragon.  The beast was as long as the kings table, easily twenty yards from snout to tail.  Talons that reminded him of kitchen knives glinted in reflected light, and the smell, gods.  The metallic smell of blood hung thick in the air and rotting sheep carcasses littered the entrance adding their pungent aroma to the cavern.
The beast towered over his princess, its monstrously ridged skull swished side to side as if searching for something. 
She was beautiful, his princess, even terrified as she must be now.  Dark hair rained down from her head, pooling around armour plated shoulders and contrasting the shining white of enamelled armour.  He drank in the sight of her, growing giddily drunk as explicit thoughts flashed behind his eyes.  She turned towards him, their eyes meeting and just for a moment he thought he saw a smile of recognition.  A surge of confidence and strength straightened out his shoulders and pushed at his chest.  He called to her across the cavern.
      
                                                                           ---------------------------------------------------------------------

Fear.  She looked into the large dark eyes of the beast and saw only fear.
Wiping at the bloody stream issuing from a cut above her eye, she watched the crimson mingle with the flow from a gouge in her arm, the two mixing silently on her fingers.  Blood trickled to the cold stone of the floor, its tapping the only noise other than their panting.  The monstrous head rested piteously at her feet now.  Victory had come relatively easily, but with a bitter edge.
The Dragon was not what she had expected, not so vicious nor as dangerous as legends had led her to believe.  Even now as she stood sword raised and ready to strike, she could not bring herself to end the retched thing.
Pity.  She looked into the large dark eyes of the beast and felt only pity.
She sighed.  “For the sake of the gods, beast.”  The blade dropped to her side.  “I won’t kill you, Dragon.  But I am taking the gold.”

It had become a game between them.  She would add a jewel or coin to the growing pile and her dragon, as she was coming to think of him, would inspect it.  If deemed worthy it would be left, if not, her Dragon would snatch it up and squirrel it away, only to replace it with something more valuable.  It had been going on for hours when she first noticed the boy.  He crept from between the shadows and sheep carcases at the entrance to the tomb, his gangly limbs visibly shaking at the sight of her Dragon.  She couldn’t blame him, it really was a monstrous visage.  Recognition dawned slowly for her.  The boy from the kitchens was the last person she had expected her father to send.  She really wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from the gangly youth, but as their eyes met he nodded sharply in greeting and called to her across the cavern.

“I love you, Princess.”

Well, she certainly hadn’t expected that.
“You… wait, what?” she said.
An unintelligible scream burst from the boys lungs as he raised his sword and ran headlong at her Dragon.  She stood frozen in astonishment.
The boy swung wildly at the beast, continuing to yell and giving chase as it scrambled back.  The Dragon quickly found itself backed up against the wall of the cavern.  Things had just become dangerous, she knew.  Backing any wild beast into a corner was always recipe for disaster. 

“Run!” He Hollard from across the vast tomb. “Now Princess, get clear!”

“No don’t, it’s alright he’s not going to…” she started running as she called to the boy.  Her Dragon was moving too though.  The beast sprung forward, viper quick.  Giant jaws clamped over the kitchen boys head as its talons swept his blade aside.  Teeth like daggers pierced down around his torso and for a moment he didn’t scream, then the monstrous head began to thrash.  “Bugger.” She sighed.  “May Aed welcome your soul, kitchen boy.”
It's the silence that scares me. It’s the blank page on which I can write my own fears.

Offline Nora

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Re: [DEC 2015] - Young Love - Submission Thread
« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2015, 03:30:32 PM »
Subject to upcoming modifications.

Map of Hope.

1500 words.

Spoiler for Hiden:
"Maas'Haku, are you bleeding all over me?" I asked, lowering the weight of my Maas to the ground.

"Hah. This is when you ought to leave me behind and save your own skin."

Night hid the vulgar gesture I waved with the hand that wasn't fumbling at my kit, but not my expletive.

Low red light burst out, creeping at the fringes of my perception, its quiet glare catching in two bright orbs in front of me : Maas'Haku's iridescent eye-shine.
They gave its hunched figure an ominous quality.

I looked at it, my face a studious mask of passive interest, hiding my anxiety as much as I could while I scanned its body for injuries.

"Maas'Haku, your–"

It waved a hand in annoyance.

"Given our circumstances, I think you can stop calling me Maas'anything. Haku will do fine. Now now, don't protest," it said, seeing me frown, "even if you won't leave me, you're not my retainer anymore. Right, you can help me up if you want."

"No, if we're to keep moving, I need to see to these wounds."

The monochromatic light made the interwoven strips of its tunic a study in shades of red; speckled by large, dark streaks – the black blood of its kind.

I met its eyes, glowing discs that never left me as I undressed and turned my clothes into strips and compresses and gave what aid I could. There was no mending broken bones or torn flesh. I had no medpack on me. Nothing even for the angry burns and cuts I could see and feel along my left hand and arm, glistening with evil promises of infections to come.

As soon as I was done, I shut the kit's light and gently lifted my Maas' back on its leg. It was time to leave the path behind us.
We walked for a while in silence. Stumbled really, weaving around and under the coarse vegetation. The bushland rustled around us, oblivious to our struggle, covering the sounds of our escape just as well as the ones of our pursuers.
The night was bright with starlight, dimmed only by the fires of the grid's outpost, their glow a bleeding patch of orange hues in the sky that we kept to our back.

A vibration set off in my wrist, following a pattern. Regular beats bearing sour news.

"That was?"

"The fourth tracker."

"So they're well on our trail."

I pushed us further in silence, doggedly, until the constant tripping of Maas'Haku made it unmanageable.
Seeing a large boulder, I tugged us under its overhang, under which flimsy soil broke into coarse sand. I put my back to the cold stone and arranged Maas'Haku's large frame against mine, setting its head in the hollow of my shoulder.

We caught our breath, waiting for the vibrations that would tell  of our enemy's progress.

"It's not what I had planned for you," Maas'Haku whispered.

Emotion kept me quiet for a while. I stroke its hair, anger creeping back over me as I smoothed away long strands of it that had turned silver under stress and pain.

"That my Maas ever made plans for me delights me beyond measure."

It waved a hand, forming the sign for exasperation, certainly due to my persistent formality.

"Has the grid come offline yet?"

I grimaced in the dark.

"No telling. I cut connection when we left, and won't risk being pinpointed by turning myself back online."

The lack of information usually pouring from the grid felt like a horrible void. Only the direness of our situation kept me from freaking about it. My mind still returned to the absence often, like a tongue distracted by the hole of a fallen tooth.

"If you stay with me they'll kill you when they find us."

"If I left you I'd die as well. Just later, when the Commons crush that stupid rebellion."

Its eyes shot up, searching for mine.

"Still, wouldn't that be... better? Ah. I see I have offended you."

I made no reply. Its hand found mine, soothing in turn.

"Noor, you know I meant no offense. I just would rather not see you die. Not because of me."

"And I'd much rather die in a manner consistent with my desires, choices and beliefs," I replied, keeping my tone as matter of fact as I could, mostly failing.

"I suppose I could order you away?"

"As you said - Haku," I put emphasis on that, "I'm not your retainer anymore."

"If they found you alone, these rebels would let you live."

"Oh I doubt it," I said, tapping with one of my right hand's metallic finger on the plating that braced the sides of my skull, over one ear and across to the other, cutting my shaved scalp like a set of silvery scars.

"If it's Maas'Kuma's people, they'll treat me like a piece of equipment. If they burnt their own grid, the cyborg of another Maas can't be worth much.
If it's our people... Why, they'd know which side I stand for."

Maas'Haku looked up at me with a warm smile and curious eyes.

"I don't know that I've ever done anything to you to deserve such loyalty."

I waved the sign for "nonsense" in silence.

Child of hull scrapers on the poorest of the six stations, I had not been wild enough a kid to ever dream of going planet-side, let alone live and work there.
Grid workers and scientists were the only humans allowed on Earth.
At ten I was sent - sold - to work instead of school. Things grew worse, and at fifteen, I wasn't wild enough to dream of anything anymore.

The day my right arm caught in the void-port I was tasked to clean, life froze.
I was so shocked by the loss of my hand - of my future - that I withstood my boss' beating in silence.
I didn't notice the Parali that walked to us. I knew I was going to get spaced. There was no room for lame workers. Especially if they made a bloody mess of what they were meant to clean. They'd charge me more chitz than I had and then space me and...
The Parali, after some discussion I had not been aware of, pulled me to my feet and dragged me away.

Away from the red mess, away from the beating, from the work, from the station.
Ultimately, away from misery. From hopelessness.

Once stable and recovered from the shock, it had taken Maas'Haku several trials to get my name, and several more to forge an agreement. I had never interacted with a Parali before, and at the time Maas'Haku terrified me.

You couldn't grow up in a human space-slum without being nurtured with fear of the invader.
The alien Parali, with their otherworldly technology, statuesque humanoid bodies, their sleek grey skin, ever changing hair, and predatory eyes, had come crashing down on humanity, saving us by enslaving us to the benefit of our own planet.

They had come with the grids and the willingness to teach us how to operate them. These monstrous weather regulators required a lot of work, and the cybernetic surgeries had made me into a perfect intendant for one of them.

"I can't believe they'd destroy a grid," I said, my thoughts overflowing into speech. "We owe them to you, your kind. Without them, without you, we'd be all orbiting a dead rock by now! No protest is worth destroying a grid. Killing Maas'Kuma was enough to get them executed anyway."

"I'm not surprised that Kuma's people felt like burning him up though."

My wrist vibrated. The signal for the sixth tracker. Haku pushed himself up, groaning. Our faces almost touching, we bent over my wrist, expectant.
I'd planted the sixth tracker where we'd left the path.

Pitiless, the seventh tracker buzzed. They were going fast, we were in serious danger.

"We need to leave. Now."

As I made to move from our shelter Maas'Haku caught my metal hand.

"Noor, listen!"

"Haku, they're here!"

My maas pulled me back down to it.

"I have lived for several lives of men, seen much and met many. But of all people I've encountered, you..." Its voice wavered.
"For what little kindness I did you, you repaid me a thousand-fold. Noor, you brilliant one, there is so much laying for you in the future. So much that I wanted to offer you." Its eyes burned, catching the growing lights of our pursuers. Yet we stayed still, riveted in each other's grip.

"Please, Noor, understand – I love you. I don't want to witness this, your human blood spilled for the sake of repaying an old kindness."

"Oh Haku..." I whispered, my tears blurred the shapes that rushed us.
The flow of my emotions felt trapped by words too small.

"Old kindness? That's not why I won't leave." I reached for its big, alien, beautiful face, its lines the map of hope. "It's just that I love you, too."
« Last Edit: January 01, 2016, 01:12:16 PM by Nora »
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

Wishy washy lyricism and maudlin unrequited love are my specialty - so said Lady_Ty

Online Elfy

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Re: [DEC 2015] - Young Love - Submission Thread
« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2015, 11:37:37 PM »
Late this month. Coming in at 1396 words, including the title is Living Doll.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Living Doll

Miranda waved goodbye to her friend Tiffany, then turned and skipped down the footpath. She was careful not to land on any cracks, though. The rhyme said that could break your mother’s back. Miranda loved both her parents and had no desire to carelessly injure either of them.

The girl was excited, because her journey home took her past the toy store Gepetto’s. Miranda loved Gepetto’s. It was where her parents had bought most of her dolls, as well as the accessories, but recently the shop had gained an even keener focus in the child’s mind. This was due to something that had recently taken pride of place in the front window.

The doll didn’t have a name, she wasn’t part of an established line. In this day and age of mass produced, themed toys, it was unusual to have something that appeared to be an original, unless it was handmade, and while Gepetto’s stocked quality products, the shop didn’t have the demand to carry bespoke dolls.

Miranda had named the doll Belladonna. She didn’t know why. She didn’t even know what Belladonna was, but it just seemed to suit the doll in the window. Maybe it had to do with the bright blue dress, or the waves of shimmering midnight hair that cascaded past her shoulders and down her back. It was almost longer than Miranda’s Holly O’Hair doll, and as she was the daughter of Rapunzel, her long red locks made perfect sense.

Despite the hair and the uniqueness of Belladonna, it was the eyes that attracted most people’s attention first. They were emerald green, and unlike most modern dolls, they were not painted on. Although common sense said that the maker had to have used glass or acrylic, there was something about them that looked unnaturally real. It made Belladonna somewhat creepy to adults, but the young clients were attracted them and their owner like flies to honey.

                                                                        ****

Trevor Smith, known to the local kids as Gepetto, looked up from his cash register to see Miranda staring longingly at the doll in the window. He smiled, and then shook his head. The doll bothered him. He didn’t even know how it had arrived in his shop. He didn’t remember ordering it, and he couldn’t find a delivery receipt. It didn’t bear a maker’s mark and that was truly unusual. It just appeared in the front window one morning. He occasionally considered removing it from the display, but every time he did so, he seemed to forget or get sidetracked doing something else, so there the doll stayed. He did have to admit the strange hold it had on his young customers was good for business.

                                                                  ****

Having had her fill of staring at Belladonna and communing silently through the pane of glass, Miranda continued on her journey home. Never in her entire eight years of life had Miranda wanted anything as much as she wanted Belladonna. The almost physical ache that the wanting of Belladonna put in her heart was the girl’s first experience of love.

Miranda had plenty of dolls, her parents joked that she was a doll connoisseur, whatever a connoisseur was. She had Barbies and Bratz, Monster Highs and Ever Afters, but nothing like Belladonna. They all paled in comparison to the raven haired, green-eyed beauty in the front window of Gepetto’s.

That evening Miranda played listlessly with some of her dolls. She put Holly O’Hair in the top of a Lego castle and made Hunter Huntsman, the son of the Huntsman from Snow White climb up her mane of red hair to rescue her from the wicked witch who had imprisoned her. She reflected that Hunter was really supposed to be in love with Ashlynn Ella, the daughter of Cinderella, but no part of Ashlynn’s story or her mother’s contained a rescue from a tower, so in her game Hunter and Holly had to be in love, because the company hadn’t made a boy doll for Holly’s story. Any good doll owner could improvise if they had to.

Miranda had no way of knowing it, but all the evil characters in the fairytales that she’d loved for as long as she could remember, were one and the same. Snow White’s vain stepmother, the cannibalistic, sweet-toothed witch from Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel’s vicious gaoler Dame Gothel, the malevolent fairy who cursed Sleeping Beauty, were all the one wicked fairy. That was until the inhabitants of the fairylands became tired of her antics and put a curse on her, which they believed would forever cast her from fairyland. Unless an inanimate object could convince someone to give themselves willingly, they were unable to live outside of the form into which they had been cursed.

                                                                ****

Dinner in Miranda’s household was normally a noisy affair. The girl was usually full of things to tell her parents about her day, but this night she was uncharacteristically quiet. Her mother was the first to broach the subject, “Are you okay, honey?”

Miranda nodded silently and concentrated on the contents of her plate.

“Are you sure?” her father asked.

“Yes, Daddy,” she said.

“Well something is definitely troubling you,” her mother continued.

Miranda took a deep breath and said, “It’s Belladonna.”

Both parents frowned. “Who is Belladonna?”

“She’s a doll! She’s the most beautiful doll ever!”

“Is that the one in Gepetto’s window?”

Miranda nodded vigorously.

“You know the rule, honey,” her mother said. “Birthdays and Christmas. Or you can use your allowance and if you’ve saved half of it, we’ll pay the other half.”

Miranda nodded sadly and tried to fight back tears. She’d never save enough out of her allowance to afford even half of Belladonna and what if some other girl had a birthday before her, or even had rich parents who didn’t have silly rules about only getting dolls on special occasions? If someone else bought Belladonna Miranda would simply die. No one else loved her the way that she did and she suspected from their silent communions through the glass that Belladonna felt the same way about her.

                                                                  ****

Finally, after waiting what seemed to be an eternity for an eight-year-old girl, Miranda’s birthday arrived. She stood by impatiently, dancing on the spot, in Gepettos while her father handed across that little plastic card he used instead of money, and then Belladonna was given into her eager hands. In those final days leading into her birthday, Miranda had been terrified that someone else would buy her heart’s desire. She looked into Belladonna’s green eyes and whispered, “I love you.”

Belladonna’s unsettlingly alive eyes sparkled, and Miranda heard a small voice say in her head, “I love you too, Miranda, and we’ll never be apart again.”

That night after her birthday party, Miranda told her mother that she was sleeping with her new doll. A shadow crossed Barbara James’ face. The newly nine-year-old did love her dolls, but she’d never been this devoted to any of them. Belladonna bothered her. First it was those creepily real eyes. She’d also accidentally brushed its skin and hair (there was no way Miranda would let anyone else even touch the toy) and they didn’t feel like plastic, they felt disturbingly like real skin and hair. However denying her daughter this wish on her birthday would probably cause a tantrum, and Barbara didn’t want that on Miranda’s special day, so she acquiesced with a tight smile and a mechanical, “Whatever you want dear.”

                                                        ****

As Miranda shoveled cornflakes into her mouth at breakfast the next morning, she said rather formally, “I’m taking Belladonna to school today, Mother.”

Barbara turned from the stove, and asked, “Why Miranda?”

“For show and tell,” was the simple reply.

As she nodded, Barbara suddenly realized that Miranda’s eyes were green. Her daughter didn’t have green eyes, she stared at the girl and those emerald eyes flashed. Barbara’s mouth opened and shut, and she turned back to the stove her expression blank.

By the time Miranda trotted out the door, Belladonna tucked under her arm, Barbara James was convinced that her daughter had always had green eyes, and it was Belladonna; her favourite doll, that had her own blue eyes. Eyes that if Barbara had looked at them were screaming ‘Help!’, because the soul of the little girl trapped in the living doll could not do anything else.

I will expand your TBR pile.

http://purpledovehouse.blogspot.com

Offline Lanko

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Re: [DEC 2015] - Young Love - Submission Thread
« Reply #11 on: December 31, 2015, 10:22:20 PM »
1.498 words and first short story ever! And a love one, also  :o

Affairs of the Heart

Spoiler for Hiden:
     “His name is Raimond. He challenged the prince to a duel to the death tomorrow.”

      Eleonor collapsed in a chair. “How old is he?”

      “Nineteen.”

      “You are fourteen! How did you even meet?”

      “My friends said he liked me, so we’ve been meeting… for two months, I think. He’s funny and I laugh so much!”

      Eleonor snorted. “Jeanne, he will say all the right words at all the right times, to impress you and lower your guard. Just like a thief that picks a lock, gets what he wants and vanishes.”

      “He’s not like that!” shouted Jeanne. “Raimond helps the orphanage when possible. And what matters is that he said he loved me!”
 
      “He loves you with his eyes, not his heart.”

      “You don’t know him!”

       “Jeanne, you are in love, I understand that. It’s a good thing. The best thing that can happen to anyone. But I don’t want you to be taken advantage of, that’s all.”

       She motioned Jeanne to sit.

      “Before I met your father, I fell in love twice and learned some lessons the hard way.  A strong, handsome boy liked me. But one day he pressed me to go to bed with him. I wasn’t ready and said no. He insisted for days, courtesies and lovely words gone. I discovered it was because of his friends, and their opinion of him was more important than my feelings.
      My next love was a kind and funny young man, but it took me a lot of time to see how jealous and possessive he really was. Fights became common and we broke apart.
     When I met your father, I was very cautious, cold even. They often say we are the most important thing for them, but it’s their manliness, which is reassured by their reputation of man among other men. But he conquered me, and we married.”

      Eleonor smiled and Jeanne leaned forward.

      “I woke up every day with my brightest smile. Every hour of my day was taken up, either by thinking of him or spending time together. But that initial bliss slowly started to fade. I was high up in the clouds, then came crashing back down to earth, to reality. That scared the life out of me, because I hadn’t yet understood the purpose of love, its benefits and necessity. I wrongly thought love was constant emotional rush. I didn’t knew I was enjoying the peace and tranquility that only true love allows for. True freedom, as I no longer had to always appear happy or worry about what I said. We saw each other at our best and worst, in the special and routine moments. We would always be there for each other, no matter what. True love is unconditional, Jeanne. Only then can trust, honesty and companionship come forward and remain with us. Love is not an end, but the means to this end.”   

      “You never said this about father.”

      “Only much later I noticed the first two “loves” were conditional only. I ignored all their flaws and believed them to be near perfect. It wasn’t love, only infatuation, but I didn’t knew it at the time. Once I fell in love, all I wanted was to continue being in love. The intense feelings I never wanted to let go. Without it, life felt lifeless. Pointless even. This was wrong and opened the path to dangerous roads.”

      “Did this boy ever wrote you something?” Eleonor had a box full of love letters.

       Jeanne rolled her eyes. “Mom, nobody does this anymore.”
   
       “Just as nobody duels a prince to the death. Why he went so far? This tells a lot about this boy. Well, he is dead. If the prince doesn’t kill him, the crown will have vengeance anyway.”
   
        Jeanne paled and ran outside.

        Eleonor knew Jeanne would fly on her own one day. It was already happening. She noticed how her daughter wasn’t comfortable around her in public anymore. Her main influence was now her friends. Hidden meetings with this Raimond. Eleonor remembered fights with her own mother, ‘You will understand one day, when you have children of your own.’

        What about her? Would she be remembered? She could stand loneliness, but being forgotten was too painful. Was that how her own parents felt when she moved to the capital? She was so happy with her new life, so deep inside her well of dreams, she never thought about it. They seemed so proud of her, but for her sake they had pretended it didn’t hurt to see her leaving. That must have been the worst part.
Now she feared returning to her home every day and just become a gatherer of dust, living as a ghost to haunt Jeanne’s husband now and then.

       Jeanne returned at night and they didn’t spoke. Eleonor had trouble sleeping, and it was worse when she saw the letter on the table at morning, saying how Jeanne felt about Raimond and apologizing for forging a document in her name so they could go south.

       Eleonor went to the gates, but they were barred. A messenger had arrived with terrible news: the enemy kingdom attack on the east was a feint; the true one was coming from the south.

       She ran to the castle and requested an audience.
     
       “It’s about the prince’s duel.”

        The guard studied her face, went inside and returned, motioning her to go in. The nobles waiting were shocked.

        Prince Julian was sitting on the throne. This explained everything. Only seventeen and looking more regal than his father. Could have any girl in the kingdom, but preferred to bed only older women.

        Eleonor felt his stare as she approached the throne and did her best to not shiver.

        “Thank you for the audience, my prince.”

         Instead of the royal greeting, he only nodded, then blinked and cleared his throat. “Speak your name before the crown and the gods.”

        “I’m Eleonor.”

        “I heard this was about Raimond. But you’re not his mother.”

        She shook her head. “I discovered yesterday he was seeing my daughter. He kidnapped her and ran away south.”

        “What? By the gods, they may reach the city during the siege.” He stood from the throne. “I will send direct orders to look for them. When we march tomorrow, you will come with me.” That invitation irked her. He noticed. “There’s no ulterior motive.”

        “I wouldn’t dare think otherwise, my lord.”

        He sighed. “No, I know what you are thinking. I don’t blame you, but I’m not like that.”

        Eleonor remained silent.

         “A lot of noble maidens like me. But I think and dream about the world and life. I can pass days in the library reading books of travels to distant lands that one day I hope to walk on. I delight myself with the tales of kings and heroes long gone. None of these girls care about this, they just want a crown. Time passes with superfluous things like how they cannot wait for the next ball, or about another girl’s dress, noticing and criticizing the smallest details of anything, thinking themselves smart and powerful. Devils disguised as angels. Funny how their makeup, hairstyles and dresses are not for us men, but to compare themselves against other girls. Their battlefield and weapons are different, but it’s there.
           Their parents only talk about petty politics, favors, how others conspire against my family. Then everyone meets and smiles at each other. No wonder they all like masquerade balls so much.
           Father assign me audiences sometimes. I talked with common women, about the routine of the people, daily struggles, views on life and the world, no politics or arranged marriages. Conversations worth more than whole books of philosophy!” He looked embarrassed. “Some, in their thirties or even forties, were still very beautiful and…well, it happened. My father was actually relieved, but my mother was furious. Others approached me just to make people believe they had also slept with me. This, and me not being with a young girl, started the rumors. Raimond misunderstood things because of this.”

           “I believe you, my prince.” This made much more sense. “Noble games are like an affair. They attempt to hide or justify it, but don’t truly care for who gets hurt in their lust for power.”

           Julian smiled. “Please stay for the night at the castle. I would love to see you at dinner. Father will hear your request directly.”

           “The rumors, my lord.” And the queen’s wrath.

           “Oh.” He had the decency to blush. “We will bring your daughter back and hang Raimond, I promise.” He kissed her hand. “I will see you tomorrow, lady Eleonor.” He smiled, but she saw no malice and didn’t recoiled her hand. She nodded. He had half her age.

           Walking home, she saw a young man comforting a crying girl. Love was also affected by powers outside anyone’s control.

           Sickness, violence, wars.

           Clouds covered the sun like a sheet, shadows embracing Eleonor as cold wind kissed her face.

Slow and steady wins the race.

Lanko's Year in Books 2019

Offline AshKB

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Re: [DEC 2015] - Young Love - Submission Thread
« Reply #12 on: January 01, 2016, 03:27:16 AM »
Finished! 1500 words exactly.

Title is: Prelude to a Lesson

Spoiler for Hiden:

Res could see until the bend of the driveway. Beyond that, the rain turned everything into a familiar blur and, honestly, she shouldn't be annoyed. Without her new glasses, she'd barely be able to see to the fountains, or even the flowers at the base of Joraiva House.

And seeing beyond the bend in the main driveway was very important, because-

"You're pathetic."

Res scowled. First at the driveway, then the velvet curtains, then finally at her thirteen-year-old sister.

"Well, you are," Sorina continued.

"Aren't you going to play with those goggles Zally brought home?"

Sorina pouted. "No. Seeing like humans do gives me a headache."

Res sighed. "We're just as human as anyone else. Turning into a wolf doesn't change that."

"We have wolf eyes."

"That doesn't mean we're not..." she let her voice trail off, but more because Sorina was already retreating into sullen than a lack of an argument.

"If you had a try at the goggles, you'd see what we're missing," Sorina muttered.

"I'm happy as I am."

Out of the corner of her eye, she could see a figure walking down the driveway. Familiar raincoat, familiar brisk pace: Salia Sebari. Res tried to ignore the way her heart started feeling fluttery and fast, but reminding herself that Salia was going to be disappointed at Master Trophime's absence didn't help.

And then there was Sorina, who really couldn't be allowed to run around thinking that they aren't human. Except Sorina's rolling her eyes and mouthing the word 'pathetic' again, and there's no dealing with her when she's decided to be a brat.

"We," Res said, pointing at her, "are going to continue this later."

She walked quickly down the hallway with all the grace and confidence benefiting her station and deportment classes, and if she happened to jump down the back stairwell rather than walk down the steps, well, none of her younger siblings were around to see it. Or her lady mama.

Or Salia, although she could hear the other girl's voice.

"-- redid the stitchspells, it was a bit of an experiment."

"It's worked marvelously, miss. Ah, Lady Rescuturme." The assistant housekeeper Raymari, her arms full of Salia's raincoat, bobbed a quick curtsy while Salia herself did the same. "Miss Salia's arrived."

"I'll take her to the library, thank you, Raymari."

Res waited until Salia worked on the guest slippers, leaving her muddy boots at the entrance, and then opened the door for her.

She smelt nice, did Salia. She always did. But today she smelt of rain and clean dirt and crushed grass all mixed in with herself, and Res' deportment classes were all coming in very useful right now because she did not lean in. She did not close her eyes to concentrate on scent, she did nothing but give Salia a warm-yet-polite smile and escort her through the hallways to the Turquoise Library.

"Not the main one?" Salia asked.

"Lord Zalmochis is home, and he's brought a pair of the new, you know those new goggles they've invented, that correct colour-blindness?"

Salia stopped and stared. "I've...I've read about them," she said, eyes wide and lips slightly parted and Res keeps her eyes firmly on the centre of Salia's forehead so as to not stare. It was easier when Salia started to walk again. "They work?"

"Oh, apparently. Anyway, he's brought a pair over, and everyone's gathered in the main library to test them out. There's a lot of shrieking. Not very conductive to study."

"No, I suppose not."

Res chanced a glance over to see Salia's teeth worrying at her bottom lip, her brows creased in a frown. There was no point in Salia having a go at the goggles - as a born-witch, her native magic did nothing to her vision. She saw the full spectrum of colours and could see a normal distance, and all she could appreciate was the skill with which the goggles were made and the effects of them.

It was not a small 'all' with Salia, so Res found herself opening her mouth. "Sorina says it gave her a headache," she said, hoping that it didn't sound so much like she'd just blurted it out as it did to her. "Although I didn't have the chance to ask how fast."

"That makes sense. The goggles would be putting different stresses on your senses," Salia mused. "So either the eyes themselves would be becoming strained, or it's more to do with your brain and being able to handle the new details. The journal article I read the other week said that they are 'seeking to improve', but I wasn't sure what entirely that meant."

She kept talking.

Not loudly. Salia Sebari was not a loud person, and in any case, sounds bounced around the stone manor something dreadful, particularly the hallways they were on. But her eyes (blue, blue, blue which meant Res could see their colour) brightened and her face (not classically pretty, but Res found it lovely) lit up and her hands started to dance around her in subtle, expressive movements.

By the time they reached the library, Res had no idea what Salia was talking about. She had an aristocrat's education as the second child destined for military, while Salia was a healer's apprentice being sponsored and educated for medical school. The terms rolling from Salia's mouth, no, Res didn't have a clue what they were referring to beyond brain and eyes and magic.

It didn't matter.

Salia had, for the moment, forgotten to be proper and reserved and quiet. Sometimes, she even grinned, and her elongated eyeteeth flashed into view. She called her 'Res', once, a friend's diminutive, and Res tried not to grin back.

Not that it was going to last.

Salia mentioned Master Trophime, and oh. Yes. Why Res was actually under instruction to meet with Salia instead of merely happening to turn up to escort her, rather than leaving it to the servants.

"He's not well," Res started, just as they reached the library's door. "Actually, he's very not well, so, he sends his apologies, but he can't teach you today."

Salia stopped smiling. She frowned, her stance now awkward and abruptly, she seemed out of place in her best-for-a-farmer's-daughter clothes and borrowed slippers standing on a silk rug next to arched windows and Res hated it. Not to mention she knew this was going to be Salia's reaction, she knew how much this meant to her and how long she had to travel from her home to the manor, and Res just put off explaining because she didn't want Salia to feel disappointed straight away. Didn't want to make her feel bad.

Badly handled, Cingizri.

"Should I go-"

"No, no," Res said quickly. "It's perfectly fine. He gave me a list of the books and exercises he'd like you to do, and I moved them."

"Moved them?"

"Moved them here. To this library. For you." Res opened the door and walked over to the main table, Salia trailing behind her. "If I missed any, just let me know."

"Thank you, Lady Rescuturme," Salia said softly. There was a small flicker of a smile. "I appreciate it. And... And I appreciate what her ladyship the magravine is doing. I didn't mean to seem ungrateful before..."

"You didn't," she said instead. "And I'll let Master Trophime know that you've missed him. God knows none of us ever miss his teaching, it'd be soothing for his ego."

"You said it, not me." Salia's smile was a little stronger, and Res smiled back. "Well. I'll check the list, and then you'll be free. I don't want to be keeping you from those goggles."

"Oh, you're no bother," Res said, handing the list over. "And besides, I'm not going to try them."

"Why not?" Salia sounded completely baffled.

"I don't want to see what I'm missing," Res admitted. Like the flowers and the paintings of my ancestors and the colour of your hair, they say it's red and beautiful and I can't see it with my own eyes...

She stopped herself.

"I think I'd have to see," Salia said, stepping up to the table.

"Well," Res said with deliberate lightness, "this is why you're going to be a scientist."

"Doctor," Salia corrected, trailing her fingers carefully over the books. "Hopefully."

"You'll get in. You're brilliant and you work hard and you'll, you'll get in."

For a moment, Salia looked startled and Res wondered if she'd said too much.

Finally, Salia said again, "Thank you."

It didn't feel like repetition. Res wasn't sure what it felt like, but something personal and grateful and thus precious.

Precious enough that when Res left her in the library, she barely felt the normal pang of separation. She was in love with Salia, she knew that. And maybe it was as pathetic, but if Salia still valued her opinions as a friend...

Well.

That was more than good enough.

The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be lighted - Plutarch

I not only use all the brains I have, but all that I can borrow - Woodrow Wilson

Offline ArcaneArtsVelho

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Re: [DEC 2015] - Young Love - Submission Thread
« Reply #13 on: January 01, 2016, 05:58:24 PM »
Really had to rush this one. I hope it doesn't show too much.

1497 words, including the title which is That Pain In Your Chest.

Contains some violence.

Enjoy!

Spoiler for That Pain In Your Chest:

That Pain In Your Chest

There was a sound, like a hushed owl call but not quite right. It was enough to awoke Vega, who instinctively jumped up from his bedroll, throwing his fur covers to the matted floor. He darted silently to the nearest weapon—a long-bladed cooking knife by the slowly dying hearth. He listened and, after a while, heard the quiet cry again from just beyond the felted door flap of the yurt. Then he remembered what was about to happen, relaxing just a little. It was time.

Vega whistled a cautious call of his own and put on his pants. He slid the substitute dagger under his belt behind his back and then turned towards the naked woman who he had left on the bedroll. Without covers, she curled up, and even in the waning light of the fire Vega could see how goosebumps formed on her smooth, tanned skin. Looking at her, he smiled. That wasn’t normal. It wasn’t the grin that was so common to Vega. No, it was a proper smile—practically a stranger to his face.

He paused, deep in thought, reminiscing the last few days.


He had come there with four other men five days ago, seeking a refuge in the camp of the mountain folk. He and the others had said they were farmers running from war, which was a perfectly reasonable excuse as the area was known for its border skirmishes. It was, however, uncommon that a bunch of southerners had fled to the north, so things could have ended badly for Vega and his friends. Fortunately the tribe had welcomed them with open arms. Maybe it was because one of them was injured—the unlucky one who had drawn the short straw to get beaten up by his friends in order to sell the story. Or maybe it was because the tribesmen weren’t the savages Vega and his associates had been led to believe. Whatever the reason, they had got in.

And there she had been, a young woman, beautiful in a natural sort of way. She had been one of many such girls, but still unlike all the others. She had not stared at the injured man with pity. She had not ogled at the most handsome of the comers, or the tallest, or the strongest. She had only had eyes for the skinny one with dark, piercing eyes; the one who had tried the hardest to remain unnoticed. All she had seen was Vega.

On the first night, there had been a welcome feast. The tribe’s shaman had prepared a drink that the woman had brought to Vega, saying it would ‘set his soul right’. Vega had drunk it without taking his eyes off the girl. She had smiled, and then they had said their goodnights. And the rest of that night was the only time they spent apart since.

After that, all of it had been surreal; months’ or years’ worth of wonderful emotions condensed into four short days. Vega had adored every second of it although he'd had to deceive her. For pretending not to know their language, he had received amazing, fun moments with her when she had tried to learn his words. For claiming to be a farmer, he had been given her every assuring touch when she had tried to teach him how to shoot a bow, and her affectionate laughs when he had failed to do it.

Then there had been even deeper intimacy: the kisses, the sex. And even though she had seen his scar ridden body many times during those days, not once had she asked about it. She had just looked into his eyes, wilfully ignoring the marks of violence and war on his skin. Perhaps she had thought it was all behind him now, or that he had been a slave under a harsh master. Perhaps she had not cared, for his soul had now been set right.


Another owl call brought Vega back to the moment. He let out a chuckle, wondering how such a tiny sound could so clearly carry the impatience and anger of its maker. But it was time, so Vega put on his shirt and quietly moved a chair and a few clay bowls away from the bedroll. Then he looked at the sleeping woman, and had it not been for the door flab of the abode being opened he would have most likely been lost in thought for a second time.

A man with a thick red beard emerged from the doorway. “What’s the hold up?” he asked with a hushed grunt. Then, when the cold mountain air reached the naked sleeper and she lifted her head up, the bearded man cast a furious scowl at Vega and made a motion towards the outside with his head before leaving.

“What wrong?” the woman asked in her broken tongue.

Vega smiled at the memory of their speaking lessons, and she smiled back despite her confusion. He was smiling, but something was wrong; it was something he had not felt before.

What can an orphan know about love?

The orphanage had taught Vega many things—hard work, obedience, and a way of not being seen, to name a few—, but it had also made him forget some. He didn’t remember his mother, not really. There was only a trace of a memory, and it was so faint Vega doubted whether it was truly real. Her mother’s smile; the same smile that the naked girl had on her face when she looked at him. Their faces and lips might have looked different, but the thought, the idea, behind the expression was the same Vega remembered. It had sincerity, a genuine will to see not only his pale exterior but also the soul that dwelt somewhere inside it.

Vega stepped over the woman and lowered himself gingerly astride on her hips. “It’s time for goodbyes. I’m leaving,” he said. Uncertainty, or perhaps fear, made his voice tremble.

What can a soldier know about love?

Vega’s mind was filled with thoughts of belonging, trust, and camaraderie—of all the things that had led him to the army and made him stay there. Was that love? And even if it wasn’t, how could he trade it to this? How could he leave behind something so familiar and safe just to take the plunge and dive into the enticing unknown?

There was a question coming from the girl, but Vega stopped it by placing his forefinger on her lips. She lowered her head back to her pillow and smiled.

What can a killer know about love?

Vega found no answer to that question. He looked away and placed his palm over the women’s mouth and nose, leaning into it with considerable weight.

Her scream was muffled. Surprise and horror flared up in her eyes, and her arms flailed around, trying to push Vega away or searching for something to hit him with. But her arms were too short; she couldn’t move him, and the chair and the clay bowls were too far. Vega pulled out the long knife and, with one steadfast push, he thrust its point under her ribcage, through her lung, and into her heart.

It took only a few seconds. The pain in her chest faded away but it burned ever hotter in Vega’s. He pulled out the blade and got up, afraid to look at the girl again. He didn’t want to see the horror on her face so that it wouldn’t replace her smile in his memory. Still, he had to. He turned to her but saw only pity, not horror, glazed in her eyes.

Vega stepped out into the dark night, and there were four men waiting him, all with similar weapons he himself had.

“What took you so long?” the bearded one whispered.

Vega didn’t know what to say. His head was spinning, filled with a mix of strange emotions. He wanted to cry, he wanted to stab the man who asked the question. He wanted to go away or back to the girl. But none of the emotions reached his face. There was only a grin; not a smile, but a grin. “You don’t want to rush good things.”

His answer evoked a few chuckles, but the bearded man stopped the joy of his soldiers. “We have our orders. The guards are down, so it’s smooth sailing from here. Let’s go!”

Vega stayed behind as the others started off, going door by door, house by house, killing everyone in their sleep. For a moment, he stared at the bloody knife and the white knuckles of the hand gripping its handle. Then he forced a long exhalation.

What can a monster know about love?

Nothing. That was the answer. And so Vega followed the others. He stifled the unknown feeling, slowly subduing the pain in his chest.

But that pain... Never again was it truly gone.



« Last Edit: January 01, 2016, 06:05:08 PM by ArcaneArtsVelho »
Everything I wrote above is pure conjecture. I don't know what I'm talking about.

I'm a perfectionist but not very good at anything. That's why I rarely finish things.