April 17, 2021, 09:46:05 AM

Author Topic: [July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Submission Thread  (Read 9257 times)

Offline xiagan

  • Writing Contest Organizer
  • Powers That Be
  • Ringbearer
  • *
  • Posts: 6372
  • Gender: Male
  • Master Procrastinator
[July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Submission Thread
« on: July 02, 2014, 09:32:33 PM »

by wikimedia

This month we are going with the theme 'Apprenticeship' (a slight alteration of Sabrok's contest theme idea 'employment'). :) We can find them everywhere throughout the genre, the two most popular probably Magician by Raymond Feist and Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb. But many other author's explore this theme too: Pat Rothfuss with Name of the Wind, Tamora Pierce with the Circle Opens Quartet or Terry Pratchett with countless books where witches, wiz(z)ards or watchmen learn their trade.

This month it is your job to write a story about an apprenticeship. Don't matter if the chosen trade deals in gold, wood, magic, death or soap bubbles but somebody has to learn it. Either at a private craftsman, a guild or ...?


1. This can be prose or a poem.
2. An apprenticeship must be a relevant part of the story.
3. Ignore this rule, it's not really here.
4. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
5. Poetry must be 100-500 words long.
6. You will be disqualified if you exceed the limits, full stop. That's why they're called limits.
7. Your entry can't be published somewhere else before.
8. This is a writing contest, not a "I have written something like this ten years ago" contest. So if you pick an already existing piece of your work, I'd like it to have a mayor overhaul/edit. Work for it. ;)
9. Please add your story's word count and, if you have, your twitter handle.
10. new rule! 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 August 1st 2014 and voting will begin somewhere around August, 1st 2014 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 in September 2014.
The last winning entries haven't been published on the main site yet. Apologies for that. Their corresponding posts have been written, though, and they are in the pipeline and should be displayed soon.

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

*I seem to never be home around the end of month, so please excuse if I'm not always on time (which is hard in an international contest with all the time zones anyways. ;))
« Last Edit: July 02, 2014, 09:45:04 PM by xiagan »
"Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis." (Laplace)

Offline TOMunro

  • Writing Contest Regular
  • Soulfinder
  • *****
  • Posts: 93
Re: [July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Submission Thread
« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2014, 11:32:08 PM »
Here is my effort tweaked and edited to 1498 words excluding title.  A slight departure from my usual theme and style.
Find me at on twitter @tomunro  or on my blogspot http://tomunro.blogspot.co.uk/

Six books for The Lord

Spoiler for Hiden:
Gravid was sweating.  He wiped his hands on his robes but the cloth was as damp as his skin.  On his right side Jocasta yawned.  How could she be so cold blooded.  It had to be an act, she must be as nervous as he was.  But then she’d been here before and survived it.  This was his first time.

“I still don’t know why you brought me in here,” Tarrent hissed from Gravid’s other side.  Not for him the elaborate play acting of the elegant blond.  The swarthy easterner was displaying his own nerves in a text book fight or flight response.

Gravid knew all about text books, and theories, he’d read them all.  That was why the others called him the Professor, why they’d let him lead on this challenge.  Bloody hell, finding a half dozen grimoires in a library that he’d practically grown up in.  How hard could it be? Well too hard evidently.

He looked behind at the raised rows of seating, hundreds crammed in to watch the spectacle.  He’d been one of them, not so long ago.  For three years he’d begged or borrowed the admission to watch at least one of the sessions of the master at work in the annual apprentice selection process.  He knew how it worked.  And he knew that losing a challenge wasn’t necessarily fatal.  Indeed being the team leader and losing the challenge wasn’t necessarily fatal.  He just had to make sure that one out of joyless Jocasta or troublesome Tarrent took the blame, or at least more of the blame than he did.

The bronzed footman swung his hammer at the ornate gong and they all stood up.  The double doors on the other side of the table opened and the Mage Lord himself walked through, flanked by his two closest advisers.  Lord Nook to the left and Lady Mawgret to the right.  God how he loathed those two ghouls, hovering over every action noting the hesitations with just as much opprobrium as the snap decisions.

With a shock, Gravid realised that, absorbed by his simmering hatred, he had forgotten to make his own formal greeting.   “Good Morning, Lord Sucre,” he mumbled a full two seconds after his team mates.  The Mage Lord had noted, an eyebrow arched in disapproval, another point knocked off Gravid’s dwindling tally of marks of favour.

“Sit,” the Mage Lord barked and, obedient puppies that they were, the three acolytes sat down each shrouding their fear in a different disguise.

“Now,” Sucre began his customary pre-amble.  “When I send a team of would be wizards to find six books, and I send them to a bloody library, I don’t expect them to come back with just three.”

“It was a very big library,” Gravid heard his idiot mouth speak without his brain’s permission.  “And you did want some specific books… your lordliness, er lordship.”  Oh crap he should just shut up.

Best thought you’ve had all day.  Sucre’s gravelly voice sounded inside Gravid’s skull, though the Mage Lord’s mouth was an unsmiling flat line.  Oh crap, he kept on forgetting about the Mage Lord’s telepathy, which was ironic really as that was one of the principle skills Gravid was hoping to acquire through winning this much prized apprenticeship.

“Now, the question, young Gravid, is why have you brought these two in here?”

“Well,” the word came out as a dry croak.  He’d been planning the answer to this very question all night, but speech and spit had both deserted him.  He tried again, “Well Jocasta was in charge of the detached party and her group only brought back one book.”

“Your own party only got two books,” oily Nook reminded him with a smirk.  “Hardly an on par performance.”

“You sent us to the wrong part of the library,” Jocasta shot back.  “We were lucky to get as much as one book, particularly with that bloody orang-utan swinging about above our heads.  He nearly ripped Abel’s arm off.”

“I did say it wasn’t just the books that were dangerous,” Lord Sucre chuckled to himself and for his audience’s benefit.

“If you had followed my directions properly,” Gravid ground out through gritted teeth, “you’d never have come across the bloody monkey.”

“If I’d followed your directions, I’d have been squashed by the grinding bookcases.”

“Maybe that’s what he wanted to happen,” Tarrent mumbled loud enough for everyone to hear.

“That’s a lie!” Gravid exclaimed.  “A damnable lie!”

“Is it?” Lord Sucre arched an eyebrow.  “There’s plenty have tried before you to find ways of thinning out the competition outside the cut and thrust of the board chamber.”

“Well I didn’t,” Gravid almost stamped his foot.  “I’m an honourable man.”

Sucre turned to Lady Mawgret.  “An honourable man, Mawgret? Do we get much call for them in our line of business?”  He would have used much the same tone to enquire after the demand for hornless unicorns.

She smiled. “The Western Isles do like a mage whose word is his bond.”  Just as Gravid was preening himself a little at the hint of praise from the flint eyed sorceress, she added, “of course they don’t have much time for fools.  For example someone who couldn’t find a book in a library.”

“Yes,” Sucre agreed as Gravid looked miserably down at the table.  “I’d be worried about sending young Gravid here out on a search for his own backside unless he had somebody else’s hands to assist him.”

“Lord Sucre,”  Gravid tried to seize the initiative.  “This is the first challenge where I've been in the board chamber.  I’ve won more than half the challenges I’ve faced.”

“Well,” Nook wheedled.  “You’ve been in the winning team yes, but that’s not the same as winning the challenge.  Your colleagues have been less than complimentary about your contributions over the last five weeks.”

Gravid felt himself flush bright red.  He was still searching for a reply when Tarrent sprang to the attack.  “What about my contribution.  I found both the books that our party uncovered.  Why on Jazalea’s Earth did you bring me back?”

“You know very well,” Gravid insisted.  “You challenged my instructions, insisted we search your way, took us past not just two but three explosive tomes climbed and descended five stacks of shelves and ended up just ten yards away from where we’d started.  That’s why we didn’t have the time to search for the rest.  And that’s why I brought you in.”

"Who was in charge of your team?”  Mawgret asked, as smooth as silk, as sharp as a stilletoe.

“I was,” Gravid admitted to the table.

“Sounds to me like you just couldn’t manage your team,” Lord Sucre growled.  “The man I’m looking for has to be able to rein in troublesome wannabees like young Tarrent here.”

“I’m not a wannabee, Lord Sucre,”  Tarrent insisted.  “I’m a will-be, your will-be.”

Despite his dire predicament, Gravid allowed himself a half smile at Mawgret’s eye rolling dismissal of Tarrent’s sycophancy.

“Not yet you ain’t,” the Mage Lord glowered at the Easterner’s earnest entreaty.

“These boys could never satisfy you, Lord Sucre, not like I could.”  Jocasta made her own power-play and for one glorious moment Gravid thought it had horribly misfired.  The Mage Lord coloured a deep red. Mawgret tut-tutted.

“I think Lady Sucre might have a word to say about that, unless it is predigistatious satisfaction you are offering him,” Nook broke the spell of displeasure with a smirk.

Sucre grinned.  “I reckon Nook’s right and it weren’t any unlawful favours you were offering.  I’m not sure what Nook said mind, I’m a simple feller, learnt my mage craft out of the back of a hand cart in the South End, never had the fancy words.”

“Think how much more you powerful you could have become, Lord Sucre, with only a little more education.”  Oh crap.  Gravid would have pulled his own teeth out if it could have dragged those words unspoken back into his mouth.   The Mage Lord’s expression became colder and stonier than a granite tombstone.

He remarked to Mawgret in an icy tone of conversation, “every year I think one of these university educated so and so’s is going to really show me something special, and every year the same thing happens.  They’re all books and no spellcraft.  Listen lad, I cast my first fireball when I was fourteen years old, learnt it like you learnt everything in the South End, by hard graft and copying.  I didn’t even get a book until I’d made my first million in silver. I didn’t need a book.”

“Yes, Lord Sucre,” Gravid muttered in hapless apology.

The Lord stretched out his gnarled finger.  “Gravid, with no regrets at all, you’re fired.”

Even as he felt the fatal flames kindle around his body and saw from the corner of his eye, his teammates edging away from the doomed pyre of his body, Gravid heard himself say, “Thank you for the opportunity, Lord Sucre.”

« Last Edit: July 11, 2014, 05:27:38 PM by TOMunro »

Offline Doctor_Chill

  • RPG Ringleader and Writing Contest Regular
  • Writing Group
  • Ta'veren
  • **
  • Posts: 3774
  • Gender: Male
  • You've been pugged.
    • Acerbic Writing
Re: [July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Submission Thread
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2014, 12:59:13 AM »
The morbid idea I had, which will be expanded upon from this short. Fun story to write. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

 1,344 words, excluding the title. Find me on Twitter @Caleb_GH or on the web at Acerbic Writing

Spoiler for Hiden:

Miss Wilma Davenport jumped from her desk, spilling the ink over blank parchment. “No, boy. You drain the blood from the right jugular. Not the left.” She sighed after her outburst and set the empty cup upright. She didn’t need this extra hand. Didn’t need a child to direct. She had enough work with the dead. “There’s nothing over there, anyway.”

   The young lad bowed his head and removed the tube, red ichor already spluttering down the drain. “Sorry, mam.”

   “Don’t apologize to me,” she said, cleaning her desk of any chance for stains. “You’re the one who’s going to have to sew his neck shut.”

   “And clean up the mess,” he muttered while holding pressure on the dripping wound.

   “That too.”

   But before she could leave the frigid room to find a rag, young Louie was already dangling one at her hands.

   “Thank you,” she said. He never made eye contact. Simply nodded. Miss Davenport felt a tightness leave her chest when the ink had left her cluttered desk. “I shouldn’t have to tell you multiple times, boy.”

   Louie nodded as he inserted the needle into the right jugular. “I know.”

   “And yet you continue this nonsense.”

   “I’m sorry.”

   Miss Wilma frowned at the black rag, and looked up at the little boy and his careful measurements. “When you’re finished, bring the blood to my office. I have another job for you.” She saw a grin flower on his pale face. Anything other than digging ditches and draining corpses was an adventure for him, it seemed.

   She ran a hand through her graying hair and left the mortuary for a long hallway and even longer silence. The floorboards cracked and groaned under her boots, the unwelcome guest called Winter refusing to leave. Her office was past three right turns and countless glares from directors who came before. From her dead brother. From her late husband.

   And she would be the last.

   When her husband had succumbed to pneumonia, she had thrown herself into his work to console her grief-stricken mind. There had been no family to ease the pain, no children to fall back on. When she had stopped sleeping, the few workers left had decided to leave for Gwyrdion, stake their claim to the rotten industrial boom.

   Years later, and the city hadn’t stopped to recover. Looking out at the moorlands where a thornbush was creeping up her window, she knew it never would. Fog and briars from the Wilds had already started to take the single street town, and even if the ghasts had found a liking for anything other than human flesh, the farmers still wouldn’t return from the safety of walled cities and alchemy.

   At least that meant fewer bodies to tend to and bury.

   Even so, her neighbor had wished for the old woman company, and gave her young Louie. Said he wanted to respect the dead, to help them, but that was innocent excuses. By the lean she saw from their ceiling, she knew they needed money. Money she couldn’t give.

   And still he waited at the locked door every day before sunrise. Waiting for something to take him from this dreary dull of farm life.

   Funny thing, to be young and full of hope.

   Wilma rose from the window sill and blinked hard the introspection away. She had a letter to write. The population may be leaving, but there was still work to be done. If only Louie didn’t get in the way.

   One of her old friend’s son was being knighted in the city. She had decided not to attend, didn’t care for social gatherings anymore. So she needed an excuse. For once, Louie was a needed asset. She dug the parchment from her desk drawers and settled her eyes on the picture frame. If only William was here. Maybe then would she have left to chat about nothing.

   But, she had learned, appreciation is a hard thing to dish out when you can’t have it.

   She blinked again and set the paper down. “Now, where’d I set that quill?” Wilma cursed under her breath. Left it back in the mortuary. The dead gazes followed her back from whence she came, but averted their eyes when whispers floated in from the cracked door.

   Miss Wilma Davenport stopped to listen at a young boy’s mumblings. “It’s okay, good sir. I’ll find whoever did this to you. I’ll find your killer.” She frowned and waited for more, but none came. When she entered, the beginning of a thought flew from his tongue. “What’s that, Jory?”

   “Who are you talking to?”

   The needle he was using to sew the previous cut up dangled from the string. He jumped back after that release. “What?” he voice quivered from what she hoped was the chill. Surely he wasn’t talking to the dead. Surely he didn’t know the name of a foreign wanderer found in the thicket.

   So she let it slide with a sigh. “Where’s the bottle of blood?”

   He wrestled for control of his mind, and made eye contact. “On your desk.”

   “Good,” she said, sweeping over to grabbing her quill and checking to make sure he was right. He was. The old woman turned back around to watch him fumble for the needle. “Hurry up with that, boy. We don’t have all day.”

   “Yes, mam.”

   She left him to let a letter iron out her thoughts. But before she could pass her brother’s portrait, a knock erupted on her front door. “Coming,” she grumbled without a rush. A few seconds later, and she was greeted by a lean fellow with a thick scruff and thicker accent.

   “They told me you dealt with the dead.” His words were nasally and gruff. Like a soldier.

   “They are correct.”

   He shoved a letter in her direction. “Good.” Stamped on the vellum was Athola’s seal, an owl clutching a blue snake. He was a man of war.

   A business man as well, it seemed. He darted back down the steps when the letter left his hand. “Send my regards to the Crown,” she frowned.

   The man coughed out the chill. “The Crown doesn’t mourn deserters.” They report death to the funeral directors when far from home, who insert the formalities for families, so they don’t have to. Another part of the job she didn’t enjoy.

   She closed the door, annoyed that there would require another letter. Oh well. Wilma broke the seal and read its contents. “To whom it may concern: We have reason to believe that the deserter who was found outside Brandywine was a Jory Declanth—“ She caught her breath and read on. “—whose family resides in Eltham. To confirm this suspicion, we determined that he was traveling south for the mountains from Gwyrdion. Constable Murrow told us of a dead man found in the Wilds around Brandywine, scarred man with blue eyes and a service stamp numbered 3042—“

   Wilma ran to her office and found the few personal contents she needed to dress up for the corpse. Of course, the wallet was worn and held nothing save a card. A card with matching numbers.

   She tiptoed back to the mortuary and peeked through the crevice when Louie’s voice carried through it. “A soldier, you say? Mother said soldier’s die in battlefields, not alone in the Wild. Told me you were a mercenary.”

   The funeral director widened her eyes and felt a fire burn behind them. The autopsy had shown dehydration as the cause of death. Constable Murrow wouldn’t believe the ramblings of a kid, wouldn’t lose sleep over a dishonorable ex-soldier. Wouldn’t care if she told him otherwise.

   And yet, she needed to set death right. Needed to respect the fallen’s wishes. Needed to know where she went wrong and correct that in the future. Maybe Louie could finally be of some assistance. Or maybe she was finally losing it.

   She swept into the room midsentence, a crack of energy back in her veins, mind sharpened with resolution. “How did they kill him?”
“It’s a dangerous thing, pretense. A man ought to know who he is, even if he isn’t proud to be it.” - Tomorrow the Killing, Daniel Polansky

For book reviews - https://acerbicwriting.com/

Offline Elfy

  • Writing contest regular
  • Powers That Be
  • Big Wee Hag
  • *
  • Posts: 7576
  • Gender: Male
    • Purple Dove House
Re: [July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Submission Thread
« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2014, 01:25:07 AM »
Here is this month's effort. It's connected to my novel Realmspace, although it's completely standalone and doesn't require knowledge of the novel. I can be found tweeting at @ChrisElfy and elsewhere on the web at: http://purpledovhouse.blogspot.com, currently rewatching and blogging my thoughts around the TV show Burn Notice.

This is 1160 words not including the title.

Spoiler for Hiden:
The Apprentice Gleem

It was a lazy day on Intellida. No items of Realm shattering significance for me to deal with, so I took advantage of it to catch up on my reading.

I had only just settled on the couch when the doorbell rang. I didn’t concern myself with that. I trusted my butler enough to answer the door and deal with whoever it was.

“Master?” Frank’s creaky voice said.

I lay the book in my chest and looked at the small gargoyle. “Yes Frank?”

“Master Maurice is at the door.”

“Maurice?” I knew the luck faery well enough to wave hello to him and defend him from the accusations the other lucky faeries made against him of being a bad luck faery due to his penchant for dressing all in black and his general melancholy demeanour. There’s no such thing as a bad luck faery. I had no idea why he would be calling on me at home, though.

“Did he say why he was here, Frank?”

“He said he had come about the job,” the gargoyle replied. “What job?”

“I don’t know, Frank.” I rose from the couch and went to the foyer to find out what the faery was talking about.


Maurice hovered in the entranceway to Purple Dove House, twisting his bowler hat nervously in his tiny hands.

‘What job, Maurice?” I asked him. “I didn’t advertise for anyone.”

The luck faery’s face grew long. He reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and produced a many times folded piece of newspaper which he held out to me with a trembling hand.

I took it from him and unfolded it. It was a job advertisement that had been carefully cut out of Intellida’s local newspaper, The Daily Scream.

WANTED: an apprentice. Apply to the Gleems at Purple Dove House, Shiftertown, Intellida.

I sighed and rolled my eyes. The Gleems. I should have known. I don’t know why they wanted an apprentice. It wasn’t like they actually ever did anything other than play. Given that they were from another dimension and the only ones of their kind I didn’t think that anyone could actually be their apprentice.

I gave Maurice his advertisement back, he folded it and replaced it in his pocket. He was very fastidious.

‘They’re in the bar,” I said. “Follow me.”


The Gleems were engaged in a hotly contested game of Gleem Pool. The little green blobs are too small to hold a pool cue so they play the game by their own rules and don’t use the cues. I’ve never been able to figure out Gleem Pool, they seem to change the rules at random to suit themselves in any case.

“Guys!” I called to them.

They stopped their game and stared at me, their small black eyes glittering.

“Maurice has answered your advertisement for an apprentice.”

They became very excited and ran around all over the table, snatching things up from the cushions, then arrayed themselves in a panel along one of them, grinning at the increasingly nervous luck faery.

“Why exactly do you need an apprentice anyway?” I asked.

They looked at me, and two of them answered, “Bu.” “Sy.”

The Gleems can understand other languages, but they have difficulty speaking anything other than Gleem. They can do it, but they have to break the words up into syllables, and they can’t communicate in anything other than short sentences. I know two people who can understand Gleem, and only one of them can speak it with any degree of fluency. They seem to be able to make themselves understood by me most of the time, which is good, because it’s not like I can call the Chief Archivist of The Library or the Benefactress of Intellida every time I want to translate a joke the Gleems just told me.


The three blobs settled themselves behind the cushion. They all had small piles of paper in front of them, which looked like a paper serviette cut into Gleem sized squares, and at least two of them had stubs of tiny pencils. One had found a pair of dolls spectacles and was wearing them. It looked rather ridiculous when I think the intended affect was businesslike.

One of them fired off a question at Maurice in rapid Gleem.

He looked confused, then at me.

“Why do you think I know what it means? Oh all right. Where do you see yourself in five years time?”

I don’t think it was what the Gleems had asked, but they appeared rather pleased with it all the same.

“I…I’m a…luck faery,” Maurice stammered. “We…uuuhhh…don’t think…in those terms.”

One of the Gleems scribbled something on a piece of paper, and then another one fired off a question.

Again a panicked Maurice looked at me for guidance. Once again I had no idea what had been asked, so I made up another question. “Describe yourself in one word.”

“Can I use two?”

I shrugged. “It’s your interview.”

“Luck faery.”

Even though the Gleems already knew what Maurice was the answer seemed to satisfy them and they nodded to each other.

The third one asked a question. By this stage I didn’t even need to be prompted by Maurice to ask him, “What do you see as your greatest strengths?”

Maurice puffed up his small chest. “I’m lucky, I’m neat and I have good fashion sense.”

I personally thought the last one was debatable, but the Gleems wrote it down all the same.

That was when one asked a question out of turn, and before I could invent a plausible translation another one of them took offence and hurled a pool ball at the offending Gleem. The heavy ball struck the Gleem and knocked it into a pocket. Things between the Gleems can become very heated when they fight.

The one that had been knocked into a pocket climbed out and leapt at the ball thrower. The two of them wrestled across the green baize of the pool table, while the third danced around outside. Eventually one pinned the other, and the  Gleem that was not actively involved in the fight began a three count. I really have to stop them from watching the WWE.

Sensing that this argument could go on for quite some time, I ushered Maurice out of the room.

“Did I get the job?” he asked me hopefully at the door.

“I don’t think so, buddy,” I informed him.

“Oh,” he said and his little face fell.

He looked so upset, even more than was usual for him, that I offered, “We can always use another luck faery down at the casino.”

I have a half share in a casino called Fame and Fortune downtown. Mostly my partner, a dragon by the name of Sigurd, makes the hiring decisions, but I could probably get Maurice on the payroll.

“Can I work with Chloe?” he asked.

“Yeah, why not? You can be her apprentice.”
I will expand your TBR pile.


Offline areadingmachine

  • Seeker
  • *
  • Posts: 5
Re: [July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Submission Thread
« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2014, 08:53:20 PM »
I mostly write reviews and blog but this was a nice challenge and got the imagination going.

My Submission is called Sparky, is 1078 words long and the first shorty story I've written in while.

My twitter handle is @areadingmachine . I also have a website at www.areadingmachine.com

Spoiler for Hiden:

He watched the ancient master control the warmth, colour and strength of his flame with a concentrated stare.

“It always amazes me how much untapped ability the young have" the old one whispered to his apprentice. "When you first joined us you were without form; you were a notion, nothing more. Who could have known that now, approaching your final moments as my student, you would have the potential to reign down destruction over an entire land in ‘the next’.”

The young one didn’t want to let the eagerness show in his eyes but he had always felt he was destined for amazing and fantastical things.  All throughout his training he had maintained a deep and hidden well within himself that told him one day, if he had not already, he would surpass all those that had come before him in action, deed and renown. Sometimes this belief was so strong and inherent it was all he clung on to and lately he found himself dreaming of ‘the next’ instead of listening to his instructions.

“Control does not exist. Appeasement is our goal”

He nodded dutifully as the old master recited the tenants of fire.

Meditation and mental focus was a key part of his training; his first year was spent entirely in a formless darkness to discover and find his sense of self. When you are alone and without reference for the first time in your existence it can change you. Some of the young one’s never came out of those deep mental states having burnt themselves out in the process.

“To live in a moment as though it is our last”

His second year of apprenticeship had required him to put aside all personal wants, needs and desires, to live and survive on instinct alone. He was forced to exist without all but the most basics of sustenance, sometime his only food being the oxygen around him. He learnt teamwork and how to combine his strength with that of his brethren in order to succeed.

“Only the strong may live forever”

His third year was boring, a huge snooze fest. He had to listen to tale after tale of those who had gone before him. The masters would go on for days about the heroes of the past who had wandered the land for years, some for centuries, shaping the very land and culture of those who came into contact with them. He liked the stories about those that lived in the mountains that seemed to have immense power but for the most part these ‘great ones’ seemed to mostly just faff about. Plus, he thought to himself, who really knows; as soon as we are called to 'the next' we are never actually seen again. We cannot see their world; we can only hear their stories. This year of instruction also held dire warnings of those that had left for ‘the next’ and faded into obscurity.

“You are nothing”

For the fourth year he was tortured and abused without respite or mercy. His greatest fear, as with all of his people, was water. For weeks he would be surrounded by lapping waves as the masters tried to instil in him the discipline to control his every movement, motion and touch. One hoped that enough practice would lead to a higher station when called upon to seize his moment and a release from the death sentence of its liquid touch.

“Feed or die”

In his fifth year he was tested with wood and steel. He was fed and grew strong, was starved and grew frail. He learnt what he could and could not achieve, the limits of his physical self and the potential of his other. He learned to move at great speed and ride the winds around him, drop from great heights and consume all before him.

All that training and instruction led to this moment, now, when he would hear the sixth tenant from the master and though his potential was high, only the gods could decide his place in the world. It would mark the end of one journey and the beginning of another and as he looked into and across the flame he heard the words he had been waiting for.

“Light the way”

He felt a pulse move through him.

“You will be called soon”, he was told, though he could barely think with the feeling that was beginning to course though him. Unlike anything he had felt before, a raw power surged through him and he began to glow. His confidence grew with his strength and he turned to the old master.

“Before I began training, I was told legends of my grandfather who flew with Dostren the Dragon and my Mother who swept across an entire continent killing off an entire species.  All I have ever felt is the expectations of others, now I pass that burden to each and every one who comes after me.”

He started to move away but turned back to say one last thing to ensure he would be remembered. “Stories will be told about my great deeds in ‘the next’ for eternity because, though you have counselled me to be modest, I am something more and something different”

He saw the master look at him with sad eyes.

Warmth, more complete than anything he had ever known, began to spread from the centre of his being out in all directions, driving him into a state of ecstasy. This was the moment he thought. I will leave my mark and fulfil the destiny that I know is mine to take. The hell with control! This felt amazing! I will fly with a dragon! I will lance down from the heavens!

In that instant, that millionth of a second he forgot all about the warnings and all about his training and screamed in unbridled joy as he was called to fulfil his destiny.

With a flick of his wrist Bader, of Bader’s Horse,Sword and Steel, sparked his match and a small flame burst into life with a squeal too high pitched for the human ears. He brought it up to light his baccy, took a moment to look at the pretty yellow flame, blew it out and threw it in a puddle of horse piss.

Bader looked at the sorry bunch of recruits standing in front of him.

“If any of you crob knoblers wants to last longer than that match right there you better listen up!”

Charlie Hopkins

« Last Edit: July 18, 2014, 09:31:02 PM by areadingmachine »

Offline ryanmcgowan

  • Builder
  • ******
  • Posts: 104
  • Gender: Male
  • Sigh
    • Ryan McGowan on Twitter
Re: [July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Submission Thread
« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2014, 04:50:22 PM »
This is my entry, called 'Lords Apprentice' its a little over 1000 words.

If I'm honest its a little unfinished.  I'm unsure certain aspects work the way I'd like them to, or at least the way they do in my head and I'd like to revise it a few more times.  I'm shipping out to work (Offshore) for a few weeks tomorrow and wont be able to work on it any further this month before the submission deadline so here goes.

Find me on twitter at @mcgowanryan

Spoiler for Hiden:
Lords Apprentice.

In my twelfth summer the soldiers came.  Father died with sword in hand, the screams of mother and sister in the air.  Screaming still when the swords turned to me.  In my twelfth summer the unbridled power of fire magic came to me.  There is only scorched earth and ashes where my village once stood.

The workshop doors burst open and though surprised, I’m not taken unawares.  The blade in my hand glows suddenly orange-red, liquid fire silently licking at the honed edge.

A focused gaze cuts across a cluttered sea of leather and bronze armour.  Every inch of which is etched with fire runes.   His eyes finally meet mine through the wavering haze of the now white-hot knife.  Blue eyes.

“He wants you.  Apprentice.”  If it’s possible to make words sound angular then this boy has learned to sharpen each corner to a deadly point.  The brightness of his eyes cut a stark contrast to the dull grime tones on his skin.  It’s those eyes that mark him, as clearly as the slave collar.

“I am his apprentice.  I am your lord, boy.”  I rumble deeply, four years of smoke and flame giving grit to a breaking voice.  “You were of the Tuatha De Dannan.”  Now a slave boy dangerously courting defiance.  “You have their magic?”

“Yes lord, some.”  The defiance in those eyes is gone now, replaced with something more akin to hunger.  His focused gaze sliding again to the fire runes of my armour.  The masterpiece of an apprenticeship served.

“Boy!” His attention snaps back to me.  “Take me to him.”


It took little time for the great lord to find me, less to name me his.  In living memory there has not been an apprentice, an honour too great to be refused.  In living memory there has not been a fire magi, a prize too great to let pass.
In four short years I have learned to control that which burns in my veins.  Still I fear I lack the strength my master demands, the strength to protect our people. 

The hall of shadows holds a single hanging briar at its heart.  Light does not reach the walls here.  A jester’s trick, a suggestion of infinite vastness meant to both awe and intimidate.

“Apprentice.” His acknowledgement comes from shadowed depths. 

“Another lesson then.”

A monster kneels alone in the heart of the chamber, a mockery in the shape of a man with wrists manacled to the floor.
“This is the face of our enemy.  Inhuman beasts without minds.”

“I am a man.” The prisoner whispers as if to himself.  “I am a man!” he screams now, straining against his imprisonment.

My feet have led me unbidden, close enough to see the monstrous marks and pulled shapes of his skin.  These are the dehumanising marks of torture, not a monster.

“What lesson then? Master.” I ask.

“A final lesson.”

Four hard years and finally, time to ascend.  “A duel then, single combat with this warrior.”

“This… is no warrior.  A trader of meagre goods captured near the border, now my prisoner.”

“The lesson then?” Better to wait for instruction than be wrong twice.

“Death.”  From the depths a blade lances out, scratching across the floor.  “Knowledge is power, and there is much power in this act.  Kill him.”  I feel the touch from cold eyes as the pat of footsteps circle behind me, out of sight.  “You hesitate.”  Not a question.

The merchant meets my eyes, a face already gleaming with sweat is now trailed with tears.  “Please sir, I have a family, a wife and children who need me.  Don’t listen to this devil.”  He finishes in a whisper.  The knowledge you will never see your family again can be enough to break some men.

“What lesson is there in killing innocent men?”  Does fathers face hide behind these distortions of torture?  On the edge of hearing my ears ring with the sound of women screaming.  Did his family follow him to the torturer?

“Things are messy outside the lines.” The slave.  It’s shocking to hear his voice.  I hadn’t noticed him follow me into the hall.  My mind suddenly populates the darkness with unseen eyes, how many others are in here with us.

“There are no innocent men.  You know this truth.”  The voice is colder still.  “I am your lord.  I order you to kill him.”

I know there is no truth, only that which a man holds to be true.  The flick of flame adds its own notes to the choir of screaming women on the edge of hearing.  In a quiet dark corner of myself, the fire is slowly building.  “This is murder.”  I am not a weapon to simply be pointed.

“He is one of them.  You think this a test and not a lesson.”

 “I will not kill an innocent.  I will not be the weapon of a dark lord, blind to right and wrong.”

“Then you fail to learn this lesson and I have need of a new apprentice.”


The slave steps silently from the shadows.  In one fluid motion the blade is swept from the floor, cutting a fine arc through the air.  The merchants’ eyes catch mine an instant before the blade bites and his pleading is cut short.  Surprise etches across his face as clearly as the red spreading from his neck to sternum.  The boy turns to my lord, piercing defiant eyes looking through me. 

“I need only one apprentice.” 

The slaves reactions are lightening quick, snatching the buried blade from the bubbling mess that was the merchants chest.  I am surprised but not taken unaware.  Already fire magic has been woven and seeks to fulfil its task.  The single lamp begins to flair ever brighter, its touch quickly reaching the distant walls and those who lurked in the shadows. 

The screams begin in earnest now.  By morning there will be only scorched earth and ashes where a castle once stood; and I will be an apprentice no longer.

It's the silence that scares me. It’s the blank page on which I can write my own fears.

Offline A.J. Van-Rixtel

  • Coreling
  • ***
  • Posts: 35
    • Fantasy Fiction: Author's life
Re: [July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Submission Thread
« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2014, 08:07:36 AM »
Hi all, my entry is in a little later than I usually put it... my laptop broke so it was hard to do this on my tablet. Here is my effort for this theme!


Words- 1284

Twitter @FantasyWriter24 also please check out my blog Fantasy Fiction: Author's life http://fantasyfictionauthorslife.blogspot.co.uk/

Spoiler for Hiden:
With careful consideration and grace, The Master poured into the weylines of the armour, the magic his father had entrusted him with before he died. His father before him was The Master as was his father before. Now it was his turn to keep the Uralgle name in the eye of all of the higher classes. They could afford armour or weapons infused with magi. With no son that would be hard. The Master had been given the title into his sixth year as an apprentice. It was sudden when his father had died. Too sudden. Usually by the time the next master was ready to take the hammer and the channelling gauntlet, he had a family and an heir already. This time was now very different.
   Having a need to survive, keep training himself and earn keep in the world The Master needed to work. This gave him little time to find a wife. Every day of the week he worked. Long days. Days that when he was finished with his work all he could do was fall asleep.
   Growing up The Master remembered what his father was like. When he came home from working, he would sleep. As a child, he was told not to make much noise. Now he could see why. It was tiring. The Master set down the piece of armour he had just infused with magic. As he wiped the sweat from his brow, he looked around.
Something did not seem right. Something was strange. Picking up his weapon, a battle axe infused with elemental fire magic he slowly walked to where he could sense a strange presence. The sound of his heavy work boots echoed off the walls, as they struck the cold, stone floor. When he was all but a few paces away, he readied his axe. From the handle, he felt the warmth of the fire magic envelop and move upwards, to the business end. A glimmer caught his eye in the direction of where his quarry was.
   Just as he raised his axe and was about to hit his intended target it let out a scream.
   ‘No do’ant.’ The Master looked where he was just about to swing. There was nothing there. Before anything else could happen, a light flashed and slightly blinded The Master. When he could see again, he saw a young girl; she was around ten years old. She had a scruffy look about her. She must have been from the slums.
   ‘Whar’t ar’ ya doin’ ere?’ The Master said his voice rough, and agitated.
   ‘I. I a’ sorry,’ the girl said. She was scared but The Master could sense some form of confidence in her. ‘I. I a’ here as’ to see you,’ she was crouched down in the corner. Finally when she realised that the threat had gone she stood confidently.
   She was tall for a ten year old and had long auburn hair. Her eyes were what stood out to him the most. Despite her appearance, her eyes gave away that she was different. Perhaps not one to cry? The Master thought. 
   ‘Whaa’ ‘ave ya’ come teh see me?’ The Master asked.
   ‘This.’ To The Masters bewilderment, the girl picked up an old piece of jewellery, a ring. The Master then could sense the power flow out of her. Raw and strong. Uncontrolled. When the girl had finished she handed him the ring. Instantly The Master could tell that the ring that he had been handed was full of power. It was stronger than anything he had ever held. Ten times stronger than his own power. Even stronger that his fathers. It was done without a channelling gauntlet, which added to the amazement.
   ‘Amazin’, ye’ ‘ave a gift, lass. What be ya name?’ The girl shook her head.
   ‘I not be given a name, Master.’
   ‘Oh, well, whar’t name would ye like?’
   The girl thought for a moment. ‘Orle,’ the girl answered.
   ‘Well Orle, whe’re did ye learn teh do this?’ he asked. She shrugged her shoulders.
   ‘I ‘ave always, been able to do it.’
   ‘You mean, no one ‘as taught ye?’ He looked taken aback. This is something that he only heard of in stories. In fact, the last person that was a natural at creating items with no training was the original, Magi-Bol-Infue. All of the successors were trained like himself. ‘If ya, can do it ye’ self whar’t ya need me for?’ he asked.
   ‘Company,’ was Orle’s response.
   ‘Company?’ The Master asked.
   ‘I want company, I ‘ave been alone for all of me life,’ she looked a little sad. ‘I want to help ye. Maybe I could be your apprentice?’ she suggested.
   ‘You, my apprentice? There ‘as ne’er been a female apprentice in the years of this craft lass,’ he said without meaning any offence. ‘besides, if you ar’ whar’t I think ye are, you will not need me to teach ya.’ The girl looked hard. The Master could feel her gaze almost penetrate his soul. The gaze pleaded with him, to let her stay.
   ‘Lest I see it,’ the girl began. ‘ya need an apprentice; I can do tha’ for ye, sir.’ She added. ‘There be a first for everything is how I see it,’ she smiled, it was like she had practiced this speech. ‘There migh’ be a thing or two I could teach ya,’ she winked.
   The way The Master could see it was there could only be benefit taking on this child, Orle. I hope father does not mind. Well there was nothing for it really, it had to be done. He needed an apprentice and she was his best hope.
   Orle looked over her adopted father’s grave. She was now thirty-six, a fully accomplished and renowned Magi-Smith. She wiped the tears away from her eyes. For sixteen years, she had been apprentice to someone who could not really teach her that well. What she gained from him was the experience of dealing with people. It had been hard. There had never been a female Magi-Smith Master. It took years for the higher classes to accept her work.
   Then she met someone who took a liking not only to her work but to her as well. The king was her best customer and admired her work to the extent that her adopted father had. When they married, it was all over the country uproar and unrest. There was even threat of a civil war. The king married someone under him but the king’s rule was absolute. It also helped that any weapons or armour that she created was far superior to anyone who could muster an army. The idea of civil war was quickly squashed.
   Orle placed the ring she had first created to show The Master what she could do inside the open coffin, where he slept the eternal sleep. ‘This is for you, so that you may remember me in the after-life,’ she said. The undertaker closed the lid to the coffin closed while it was lowered she wiped the tears away that started to fall down her cheek. You once thought I would not be one for crying.
   ‘Mama,’ Orle turned, a spitting image of her-self when she was younger held onto a teddy bear. ‘Papi gone?’ Papi was what her daughter called her grandfather.  Orle walked over to where her daughter stood. She was eight and had already shown signs of being like her mother. A second generation innate Magi-Bol-Infue. She smiled as she took her daughters hand. It is time to teach you to be the next Magi-Smith Master.
   ‘Yes Morle, Papi has gone, but he will be here always,’ she pointed to her daughter’s heart.

Offline sockmerchant

  • Tribute
  • **
  • Posts: 12
    • Author Website
Re: [July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Submission Thread
« Reply #7 on: July 21, 2014, 02:47:13 PM »
I thought I'd give this contest a try. I wrote a wee story set in the world of my current series.

If you care to stalk me, you can do so on twitter @[url=http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=34159]sockmerchant[/b][/URL] or at my author page.

1453 Words.

For Want of a Gut

Spoiler for Hiden:
Stealing from fat people had its advantages. They were reluctant to give chase if you buggered it up, and when they did, they were slow about it. The drawback was that their valuables were hard to get at, often concealed by their rolls of fat. Skinny people made for poor victims, though, and not just because they were faster. I was of the mind that no rich man was skinny. If they were, they were going about life in entirely the wrong way as far as I was concerned. Who wouldn’t stuff their face with delicious food if money was in ready supply? I certainly would.

Best then to seek a middle ground – the merely pudgy. Unfortunately, I lived in tough times. The gulf between those who had and those who had not was wide indeed, and few could be found wondering the chasm between the two. Perhaps it had always been the case, but how would I know? My fifteen years hardly gave me a perspective on the matter.

I had joined a thieves guild some months back and needed to deposit twelve more gold coins to complete my apprenticeship. They called themselves a thieves guild, but the Clenched Fist were little more than a gang; and they called it an apprenticeship, when really it was just free labor. Once I was accepted, though, I could keep a portion of the wealth I liberated from the wealthy. When I joined I was promised training. Training, it turned out, meant that my so called teacher stole that which I had stolen. I supposed that there was a lesson in that. In the meantime, at least I had a place to sleep. One that wasn’t just a sheltered alley, or, an unwatched shed.

The fat bastard I followed wobbled, his bulges swaying like the tide, lifting and dropping again to crash into more fat. I had heard it said that fat people moved less, but I simply had not found that to be the case. Sure, they walked less and certainly refrained from anything as strenuous as jumping, but I found they moved about a great deal. For every step he took, he moved twice as much as me. It was just that all that movement wasn’t in a forward direction.

Going by my theory that the wealthier the man, the fatter his gut was, I figured he was very wealthy indeed. It was only with this thought in mind that I continued to follow him, his slow lumbering pace making it difficult to tail him while remaining inconspicuous.

When I first escaped the city lord’s hospitality, I found the process a great deal easier. I had left that life behind to live on the street. The city lord loved young boys and filled his estate with them. He loved us a little too much for my tastes, so, I left.

Even a twelve year old, living on the street, still held on to some shreds of innocence. But in my fifteenth year, and with a fair measure of trouble behind me, that innocence was long gone. Quite apart from my stained, ill-fitting clothing and the fur that covered my chin, I had heard it said that I had a certain look about me. Or so the city guard kept telling me during our all too frequent chats about the rights and wrongs of city life. I reckoned that the people of Qash paid little enough attention to the rights of life, keeping their eyes squarely focused on the wrongs. Why should I be any different?

The fat man rounded a corner and walked into a narrow passage between two buildings. That was another benefit gained by targeting the lazy. They always looked for a shortcut, even if they should have known better than to veer off the busy streets. I followed him in, and leaning down, I scooped up a handful of ash from a heap discarded in the alley. “Sir,” I yelled out, jogging closer. “Sir, you dropped something.”
He maneuvered himself around awkwardly, snorting when his sleeve brushed against the soot covered wall. “What?” he asked, clearly unimpressed with all the energy he had to invest in bringing himself not only to a stop, but to turn as well.

“You dropped this,” I said as I walked closer, my hand closed around the ash. He leaned in to get a look, and as he did, I tossed the ash into his face. He shook his head about violently, his pudgy cheeks flapping this way and that. He tripped over himself as he backed away, his belly escaping from the confines of his shirt. A button popped off, and I thought I could hear the others strain. A moment later another one popped, then, another, until he lay bare-chested, spluttering with rage. 

It had not occurred to me that he could have a concealed purse beneath his clothing, but there it was, strapped against his sweaty skin. My little dagger found its way into my hand and with a quick little flick, I had his purse in the other.

I dashed from the alley, slipping the heavy purse into a pocket as I ran. I was a good twenty paces down the street before anyone paid any attention to the man’s screams. Twenty paces and growing with every moment. Two guards appeared, as if out of thin air, blocking my way down the road. I veered to the side, tipping an old lady’s cart of fish as I ran past.  There was no joy to be found in doing so. Old ladies held a special place in my heart, and I vowed to repay her for my misdeed.

I heard one of the guards trip on the slippery little fish, yelping and cursing as he fell. That did pull a smile onto my face. I rounded another corner, ducked down an alley, hopped a low fence, and found myself in one of the narrow channels that crisscrossed the city. Qash was dry for most of the year, but when it rained, it poured like rivers from the sky. I had heard stories of young people being swept away to sea along the deep narrow channels in flash floods. I, for one, would rather take my chances with the angry Gods than with angry guards.   

I jogged along the channel, turned down another that intersected it and followed it along until I came to the large metal grate. I fished the purse from my pocket, looked inside, and sighed as I put it back.  I ran my skinny fingers behind the grate, found the catch, and pulled it open. A short walk later, I found myself among some of the most desperate and filthy individuals of Qash – the city’s headquarters of the Clenched Fist.

“Ha! ‘Ere he comes,” Jabir said in his gravelly voice. Jabir was a hulk of muscle most would instantly identify as a thug, but here he doubled as a guard. “Got what you needed lad?” A half-sob escaped me as I shook my head, a lone tear streaking down my cheek. “Next time,” he said as he opened the door and followed me in.

The room was quite at odds with the rest of the headquarters. It was a throne room of sorts, with gaudy paintings on display, expensive rugs covering the floor, and one massive chair sitting against the far wall. It needed to be massive, anything less would have collapsed beneath the man propped in it. Mamun, our leader, was the fattest man I had ever laid eyes on.

“So?” Mamun asked.

“Not yet,” Jabir said, smiling as he shook his head.

I grinned over my shoulder at Jabir, then tossed the purse at Mamun. His reactions were fast for a fat bastard. He caught it, and smiled as he pulled it open, pouring the gold coins into his lap.
“Wha…” Jabir mumbled, disappointed that he didn’t get his cut first. There were at least twenty gold coins in the purse.

“Your apprenticeship is complete. Welcome, Salah… welcome to the Clenched Fist,” Mamun said, a broad smile pulling at his chubby cheeks. “Oh… the treasures your deft little fingers will steal my boy.”

At last, I was accepted. It had taken months to achieve and many a fat man had lost his purse along the way. While I was still poor, that would not be the case for long. I had my eyes set on robbing the fattest, and therefore the wealthiest man in all of Qash. You see, I was playing the long game. Confidence games were always long.

I smiled up at Mamun, his rolls of fat hanging over his armrests. One day… I would be that fat.

Offline Giddler

  • Writing Contest Regular
  • Writing Group
  • Builder
  • ******
  • Posts: 117
  • Gender: Male
Re: [July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Submission Thread
« Reply #8 on: July 22, 2014, 07:58:33 PM »
Spoiler for Hiden:
A Man of Potential  1456

The path was shrouded in mist; Berthol could barely see the summit lurking above them. Three times so far, he had crested what he was sure must be the top of the mountain, only to find another peak towering over him, the track winding off up into infinity. He was starting to take it personally.

“Nearly there,” muttered his father, ahead of him.

Berthol glared at the old man’s back. They’d been ‘nearly there’ for almost five hours now.

“I need to rest,” he complained, “My feet hurt.” Annoyance prickled at Berthol: this was no way for a man like him to meet his destiny.

“Dammit, Berthol, you’re nearly thirty years old!” his father shouted over his shoulder. “Stop whining!”

“Miserable old bastard,” Berthol muttered. Too long, the old fart had held him back.

The old man stopped suddenly; Berthol’s heart sank. Clearly, fog’s sound-muffling properties were less effective than he’d believed. He cringed as his father walked slowly back down the path, and waited for the inevitable blow. He had always been big; in his youth, he would bully the other village children into doing his work for him, but his father always seemed to tower over him in his imagination.

After an agonizing moment, Berthol opened his eyes. His father was gazing down into the valley.

“You can come back down to the village in a few years with your fancy learning and lord it over all of us…” his father murmured.

“I plan to,” muttered Berthol, prompting a chuckle, although he hadn’t been joking. “I’ll be a success, like Arcino, you’ll see.” After a few years he planned to come back with his freshly earned wealth, buy his parent’s house, evict them and burn it to the ground. Arcino would have approved.

His father slapped him on the back.

“Yes, yes, that’s the spirit. Go on then, you’re here now.”

 Berthol waited expectantly for the gods to send a breeze to blow away the mists and unveil the building in a column of divine light to welcome it’s newest acolyte, possibly to the accompaniment of an angelic choir. After an awkward pause, it became clear this wasn’t going to happen. He nodded a curt farewell to his father and set off up the steps, cursing under his breath. He stumbled along for a few minutes, groping at the mist blindly, before slamming face-first into a stone archway that loomed suddenly out of the murk.

Whether sent by a god with a keen sense of irony, or mere coincidence, a gentle draft blew up from the valley, parting the mist like a veil, and revealed the temple in all it’s faded grandeur. Berthol was at the gate-house, built into a high wall, and the gaudily decorated ziggurat shape of the building loomed even higher, clinging to the mountain like an aged barnacle. Looking back, he saw the tiny figure of his father making great speed down the track into the valley.

No guard manned the gate-house. The small door set into the wall was choked with rubble and looked to be rusted shut.

He passed under the archway and looked around the courtyard. Statues lined the walls, most in a depressing state of disrepair. Berthol wandered over to the nearest, an effigy of a robed scholar holding a scepter. Constant freezing and thawing over the decades had crumbled the statue’s bald head, half of which lay on the ground next to it.

A plaque on the base of the statue simply read: ‘Arcino’.

“Our greatest student.” The voice spoke from behind Berthol, startling him. He span round to see a wizened old man with leather-brown skin wrapped in stained robes of an indeterminable colour.

“Great Arcino, counsel to emperors. The voice of justice and reason.”

Berthol realised his mouth was hanging open. He felt he should say something. “I heard he was executed,” he blurted.

The old man merely nodded gravely. “By order of the Emperor Ultis, he was flung from a catapult from the city wall.”

Berthol’s brow furrowed. “Executed by catapult?”

The old man nodded. “Legend has it that Ultis became enraged when Arcino refused to become his fourth wife.” He paused for a long moment, his rheumy gaze peering through the mists of time. Berthol coughed pointedly.

“Ah, forgive me!” The old man straightened his robes. “I am the Abbot of the Temple, the fifteenth of that office,” he added proudly.

“I’m here to study.” Berthol’s patience was stretching thin. “I’ve got potential-”

The Abbot chuckled indulgently. “First things first, my son. New initiates are given menial work for the first two years. We believe that focusing on the mundane world enables us to develop patience and … focus. Your duties will be arduous, but -”

Berthol was incredulous. “So I won’t even learn anything?”

The Abbot smiled cooly. “Thousands of acolytes have come before you. All who have apprenticed here earned their place in the temple through labour, and proved themselves patient and industrious enough to be worthy of our time.”

“You expect me to slave after you?” Berthol scoffed indignantly. “I didn’t want to come here in the first place! Why can’t someone else do it?”

“This is a temple, boy, there are no house servants.” The Abbot’s veneer of benevolence was wavering now. Berthol fumed with anger. Stuck at the top of a mountain as the personal servant for seven old men. Balls to that, he thought.

“One of the other acolytes, then.”

The Abbot’s face coloured. “At the moment, you are our only acolyte.” Berthol suspected that ‘the moment’ had lasted for some years, if not decades. A possibility occurred as to how he could benefit from the situation. A plan began to form in his mind.

Berthol paused. “And how many other monks are there?”

“Seven, including myself, but all of us are too old to partake in worldly labour.”

“No,” he said.

The Abbot opened his mouth to speak but Berthol cut him off. “I said ‘no’. I’m not going to be playing ‘chase-the-maid’ with eight dribbling old men. I’m staying here, and I’m in charge. You will cook my food, clean for me, and do any other jobs I decide need doing.”

“And why would I agree to this?” the Abbot choked.

“Because if you don’t, I’ll go back down to the village, and I’ll tell them that you are defrauding the temple, or collecting money for enemy soldiers, or touching the acolytes, or anything else I can think of,” Berthol sneered.

“No-one would believe you,” the Abbot whispered.

“You think not? No smoke without fire, they say. They hate you down there; they’ll believe anything I tell them.” The Abbot blanched at Berthol’s words. His mouth opened and closed for a moment, then he slumped, utterly defeated. He nodded imperceptibly.

“Good,” said Berthol. “Now, firstly, I want something to eat, and a room to stay in. The best one you have, I think.” He was about to continue, when he noticed the Abbot’s expression of growing amazement.

“Your face!” the Abbot whispered. He seemed awestruck. “How did I not notice it before?”

 He turned and hurried over to the statue of Arcino. Bending over, he picked up the chunk of stone head on the floor and placed it back on to the statue. He turned back to Berthol, comparing.

“The very image! You are the heir!”

Berthol felt a tingle of excitement at the Abbot’s tone. “What are you babbling about?” he said, nonchalantly.

“The heir! The inheritor of Arcino’s key!”

“The key to what?” Berthol could not feign disinterest any longer.

“The key to Arcino’s vault! Gold; money; information about the country’s most powerful and influential people. With that leverage, you could rule the country!” The Abbot was trembling with excitement.

“Where is this vault?”

“It’s in the Emperor’s palace. In the capital, where Arcino lived.”

“And where is the key?” Berthol demanded.

“The First Minister guards it for the day Arcino’s heir comes to claim it!”

Berthol was sceptical. “So I simply go to the palace, demand an audience with the Minister, and tell him I’m Arcino’s heir?”

The Abbot nodded. “The resemblance is uncanny. He will have no choice but to give you the key,” he urged.

Berthol nodded slowly. All his life he had suspected he was better than everyone else, and this proved it. Without a word, he turned and walked away, past the gate-house and back down the track towards his great destiny.

The Abbot watched him go, until he disappeared from view. “Arrogant little turd,” he muttered.

Hopefully, he thought, the age-old tradition of execution by catapult was still practiced in the palace.

Offline Saraband

  • Haggis eater, fantasy scribbler and a Writing Contest Regular
  • Writing Group
  • Master Namer
  • ******
  • Posts: 2283
  • Gender: Male
  • Geeky Reading (and Writing) Introvert
    • BrawBlether
Re: [July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Submission Thread
« Reply #9 on: July 31, 2014, 07:11:09 PM »
At 1476 words, here's my entry :) Different from what I usually write, so it felt very refreshing to give it a go.

Feel free to talk with me on twitter http://twitter.com/@mgboronha

The girl who polished the stars

Spoiler for Hiden:
Regor was curious about all things, as the village drunkard was about finding the secret hidden in the bottom of the wine bottle. His barrage of questions was often a nuisance to the adults who had forgotten that they too had been children, and they fought back with dry dismissals, waving their hands.

One day, Regor’s mother did more than tell him to shut up.

He was returning home after an afternoon of playing with some of the other boys, and he was little happy about it. Drusus, born a year after Regor but almost twice his height, nurtured a particular fixation with Regor’s freckled cheeks. The towering behemoth had a sharpness of mind inversely proportional to the width of his shoulders, but somehow, his clumsy tongue found a way to unwrap new ways of pointing out to the other children how ridiculous Regor’s freckles looked.

An entire afternoon enduring Drusus constant attacks and the chorus of laughter that followed, left Regor with one question on his mind: What are freckles, and why have I got them?

He put that question to his mother. She was a little stranger than usual, baking a roll of bread with shaking hands. Her answer was swift and unsatisfying.

“Freckles are maps of the stars written on the faces of little angels,” she said. Her voice trembled, Regor noticed. But he was so consumed with finding the truth, that he ignored it, and pressed his mother for an answer that would be less poetical and more tangible. He wanted her to tell him it was a disease of some sort, which could be cured by one of the alchemist’s concoctions, or a stain that could be cleaned with enough persistence. He would even accept it if she told him it was a curse, and that only a wizard had the power to remove it.

Alas, after he battered his mother with inquisitorial repetition, tears erupted in her eyes and she threw the almost finished roll of bread against the wall.

“I don’t know!” She shouted repeatedly. She sat down, her head resting on flour-covered hands, as the salty drops from her eyes stained the counter.

Little Regor was scared by her exaggerated reaction at first. But his almost nine years meant he was still learning how to interpret the strange reactions of adults, and so he became mad at her for not giving him a good reason about the existence of the dirty freckles below his green eyes.

He rushed out of the house, almost tripping on Mathilda, the family cat. She was so old her head was full of little bumps from banging against everything, as her sight did little more than manage to find her favourite carpet to sleep. Regor loved her anyway.

Night had swept in during Regor’s short exchange with his mother, and he now found himself walking through the dark grass. Cicadas sang everywhere, as his bare knees scraped against the thorns of old plants burnt by the summer sun. The ground was uneven, full of holes unnoticeable to a boy obsessed with finding a reason for being ridiculed.

Regor went on. His house and his mother became nothing more than a speckle of light behind him. The grass and brushes grew taller. Above him, the smile of the stars. Everywhere else, grass.

“I’m lost,” he said. As any child his age, the realization came with the prickly sharpness of fear. He turned around, and began walking back, but the grass was not becoming shorter. In fact, now that he forgot about his freckles and was worried about his surroundings, he remembered there had never been any grass or bush of such size near his house.

Regor’s breath accelerated. Failing to find the way he came from, he turned to another side. Nothing. He went back and tried going another way. He failed. The more he walked, the worse it got. He was as sightless as his poor old Mathilda.

But then it all changed. He heard a gentle voice. A soothing melody echoed not far from him, slithering from the grass, enchanting his ears and his feet. He was lured towards the voice, and followed it to its source.

The grass finally disappeared, as Regor reached a clearing. The immense sky threatened to smash him under its moonless weight, while the stars ensured he was safe enough at this distance.

In the middle of the clearing, a silvery shape sat. With long hair and eyes like ocean waves, this being, that Regor thought was a girl, waved her hands against the sky, in the direction of the various stars, humming her melody.

Slowly, the mesmerized Regor walked up to her. She knew he was there, for even though he was silent, she interrupted her song and greeted him.

“Welcome,” she said, without turning. Her voice was that of a cool summer night.

“Who are you?” Regor asked. His mouth stayed open in awe after the question.

“I am Qamara.” Predicting Regor’s next question, she continued. “I am a Brightener.”

“You are very beautiful,” escaped from his lips. Qamara giggled, and finally turned to him, bowing her head. Her face had strange, glowing markings all over. “What is a Brightener?”

“We are the ones responsible for polishing the stars, of course.” She pointed to a little dot in the sky, a star that shone less than any other. “Look!” She raised her hand, and shook it very fast in front of the dim star. Magically, new life was breathed into the little dot, and Regor saw it explode in light, attaining a glow superior to all the others.

“Wooow…” As the rate of his amazement increased, the memory of any freckles on his face followed the opposite course. Looking at the luminous being before him, Regor could do naught but feel like the world was as perfect as it could ever aspire to be.

“Do you know why you are here, Regor?”

“Is there a reason?”

“Sometimes, there isn’t. Life is of the heart, not of the brain.” Her tone was simultaneously joyful and melancholic, strong and frail, mortal and divine. “You are needed. That is all.”

“For what?”

“The cycle of our Empress has reached its end. She will die soon. A boy must become our ruler, before his cycle ends, and he too is succeeded by an Empress.” Qamara gestured a circle with her silver hands, leaving a soft glowing trail behind. “There must always be a cycle.”

“Why me?” Regor asked. Most children his age would probably be scared by the idea of leaving their lives behind to become the rulers of an unknown realm. But not Regor. If Qamara was a Brightener, and all Brighteners were like Qamara, then what he wanted most in the world was to be able to join them.

“Never ask the heart why,” Qamara said. “Will you come with me?”

“I will.” Regor hesitated for a moment. “If you teach me how to polish the stars.”

“It will be my pleasure, Your Majesty.”

The hours flew by like swallows in search of their spring. Qamara rubbed Regor’s hands, drawing silver lines over them. Then, she taught him how to use the power contained in those lines to brighten some of the smaller stars.

Qamara praised Regor’s ability, for in no time he went from the little stars to the bigger ones. Until he wanted more. But there was no moon.

“Strange… morning must be close, yet the moon didn’t show up this night,” Regor said.

“Morning is close?” Qamara repeated. “Your Majesty, the night is still very young.”

“How is that possible, if we’ve been here for hours?”

“Forgive me if I overstep my boundaries, but you’re wrong. The clock of the night only moves forward once all the stars have been polished. Until then, the night is forevermore.”

“What if no one polishes the stars?” Regor asked. “Will time stop?”

Qamara nodded. And like a bolt of lightning that first appears when least expected, Regor remembered that he didn’t like the dark. Not one bit. And without a moon hanging from the celestial ceiling, not even Qamara’s silver aura was enough to appease his growing panic.

“Your Majesty, are you alright?” she asked.

But no answer came, for Regor had turned his back and was now storming out of the lethargic clearing.

Eventually, he found himself in front of the door to his house. His mother was still crying. And the night was still moonless.

Regor’s favourite teacher always said: there is something to learn in everything. For many years, he dedicated much of his thought into deciphering the meaning of that strange night.

Thirty years later, I am still trying. I haven’t found an answer, but at least I now know how to brighten up the stars.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2014, 01:22:28 PM by xiagan »

"Poor gauzy souls trying to express ourselves in something tangible." - F. S. Fitzgerald

"Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love." - Robert Burns

Offline Liselle

  • Writing Contest Regular
  • Shadow Op
  • ****
  • Posts: 59
  • Gender: Female
Re: [July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Submission Thread
« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2014, 08:38:20 PM »
Here's my submission! 1489 words, hope you enjoy :)

A Dangerous Talent

Caralyn's brow creased with worry as she watched her granddaughter. The child was crouching over a pile of pebbles that she'd gathered outside, arranging them to her liking on the floor of the cottage. If it had been any other task, Caralyn might have smiled at the girl's diligence, but her heart clenched with dread when she imagined what might come of this strange errand. Elli giggled, as if the pebbles had shared a joke that only she could understand. The sound brought a small measure of comfort to the old woman. Laughter was as rare as birdsong on the wind-torn hills that circled the waters of Mortannum's Isle. It was best enjoyed in secret behind closed doors. In these dark days, even a child of Elli's age wasn't too young to sense that happiness was a fragile treasure, easily shattered if it fell into the wrong hands.

"Are you watching grandma?" Elli was saying. "You'll miss it if you don't pay attention." Caralyn realized she'd been staring out the window, keeping an eye on the village road for signs of the militia. The patrols arrived with little warning at any time of day. The soldiers hoped to catch dissenters unawares so they could march them to the village square and make an example of them. If Elli showed the potential that Caralyn was afraid of in the next few minutes, it would make their home more vulnerable to a raid and a whole host of other difficulties would be soon to follow. All she could do was hope that the ten-year-old's imagination was more vivid than she'd come to expect. "I'm watching my love," Caralyn said and sat down beside Elli. She rested a gnarled hand on the girl's shoulder. "Show me."

Elli drew a breath and looked at the stones that she'd arranged in concentric circles on the ground. "This is how you've got to do it," she murmured. "So all the light gets caught inside the circles and can't leak out. It goes in here, see?" The girl pointed to the empty space at the heart of the circles, then pressed her finger onto the packed earth of the floor and held it there. Caralyn watched Elli, offering a silent prayer to all the gods that nothing would come of this experiment. "What are you doing?" She whispered to the girl when the silence grew too heavy to bear. Elli didn't answer her. They sat quietly for several seconds more. Caralyn was about to speak again when her voice hitched on a gasp. Elli's hand had started to glow with pale light. Caralyn stared in horror. "Oh Elli," She despaired. "Not you too..." But the child didn't hear her, she was so intent on her task. The channels between the circles were flooding with light as it flowed from the girl's fingertip. The light was anima -- Caralyn was certain of it. She'd seen it before, many years ago, channeled by Elli's mother in a similar way. The pebbles trembled with its influence then jostled together as if commanded by a magnetic force, absorbing the light that Elli had given them. A tiny stone figure stood where the circles had been, turning an eyeless face towards its maker.

Caralyn clasped a hand over her mouth. Elli looked at her, her face shining with pride. Then, seeing her grandmother's fear, she dropped her smile and slanted her brows with worry. "He won't hurt anyone grandma," she said quickly. "He's a good pebblekin. He won't do anything bad unless I tell him to."

Caralyn pursed her lips as she looked at her granddaughter. There was no denying the fact that the girl was an animancer -- the evidence was as clear as a fresh mountain spring, much as she longed to believe it wasn't true. When Elli had told her that she could bring stone to life, Caralyn had hoped it was only childs' play. The curse of animancy was rare and didn't always run in the same family. But as she spoke more often about playing with her creations, Caralyn had grown more worried. She'd asked Elli to show her. Now it was only a matter of time before Queen Saneeth sensed the new animancer and ordered the militia to bring her to the island. They would force the girl into the service of the Black Legion. In a few short years she would be animating bigger and darker creatures than this pebblekin, channelling her essence into them until she had none left inside her to stay alive. Caralyn couldn't bear to think of the end that would await her then.

"Elli love," she said urgently. She gripped her granddaughter's hand and braved a smile. "This is a beautiful but very dangerous talent. The queen will learn about you soon. No budding animancer escapes her notice, especially not this close to her island."

"What will I do?" Elli asked. "Should I stop using it?"

"I don't think you can, love. It's not safe to hold the anima inside you. You must release it, a little every day, or it will do you harm."

"Then I have to keep it secret, don't I?"

Caralyn nodded. Neither of them mentioned Elli's mother as the child felt the full weight of her burden for the first time. Her eyes dropped to her lap and she screwed up the folds of her dress in her fists. "I'm scared grandma."

Caralyn wrapped her arms around her. "Shhh now. I'm here. And besides that, I have an idea. I think you should teach me to be an animancer too."

Elli sensed her grandmother's fear and tightened her hold around the old woman. "But I don't want to be an animancer," she sighed. "I thought you didn't like them grandma. I thought they did bad things."

"Not all of them, my love. You'll be different." Caralyn leaned back to look down at her granddaughter. "We just have to make sure that we stay together, okay? That's what's most important now. The queen will want you to join her legion when she senses your power."

The girl's eyes flew wide open. "No. No I'm not going! I want to stay with you!"

"I know Elli. That's why you have to teach me, so that I can help to protect you." Caralyn looked down at the motionless pebblekin. It stared up at them without a hint of compassion or intelligence. From afar, Caralyn had seen the great mountainkin standing like that in the war camps of the Black Legion. That's what they looked like when they were waiting for a command from their makers. Caralyn had never developed an ability to channel anima or command any variety of stonekin. Maybe if she'd taken the initiative to learn all those years ago, Elli would still have a mother to this day. "If you teach me animancy, and the militia do come to take you, you won't be alone. They will have use for me as well and we can keep each other safe. We'll do this together my love and you can be my teacher for a change. Now how does that sound?"

Elli reflected on this. "I think you'll like learning it grandma," she eventually said. "If it's a secret that's just for us. Watch what I can get him to do!" Ellie looked at the pebblekin then pointed to a vase of rushes and wildflowers that stood on the hearth. "Go get a flower from the vase and give it to grandma." Caralyn watched as the pebblekin turned and pulled itself up onto the hearth. It strutted towards the vase and plucked the lowest hanging blossom, as instructed. The stone figure turned after that to approach Caralyn, its pebble feet clicking like a dog's claws as it marched across the hearth. It offered the flower to Caralyn but the old woman didn't take it. She looked at Elli. "Will he crush it if you ask him to?"

Elli looked unhappy at the suggestion. "Yes... But I don't want to."

"You have to be able to give him orders like that, Elli. So you can protect yourself if the militia come to take you."

"But I don't want to be like that!"


"No! And I won't teach you either if you try to make me!" The girl jumped to her feet and ran to her bedroom. Caralyn heard her door closing down the hall. She looked back at the pebblekin that was standing on the hearth. "Maybe she won't give you the command to kill," she whispered to it. "But I will learn to. I'll give it a thousand times over if that's what it takes to keep her safe." The pebblekin said nothing and stayed as still as the statue that it was. All it did was stare at her with it's sightless face, the flower held out to her in its tiny hand.
“Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Anton Chekhov

Offline Carter

  • Writing Contest Regular
  • Writing Group
  • Night Angel
  • *
  • Posts: 165
Re: [July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Submission Thread
« Reply #11 on: July 31, 2014, 09:16:57 PM »
Here's mine - 'A Simple Task'.  It comes in at 1471 words. 

Spoiler for Hiden:
A Simple Task

He thrust the plate away in disgust.  Poached, light, fluffy meringues on vanilla-spiced custard topped off with crispy, delicate caramel shards.  Everything came together beautifully.  The textures, the flavours, all danced together on his tongue in perfect balance.  However . . .

“No originality.  No invention.  Are you trying to disappoint me?”

The chef’s face changed; hope vanishing to be replaced by pique and disgust.  Aravin glanced down at the paper in front of him.  Callin.  Personal chef to Lord Caranteur. 

“But it’s your recipe.  It’s perfect,” said the chef, his face reddening in indignation and reminding Aravin of the first time he cooked lobster. 

“If I wanted someone to cook my own recipes, I would do it myself,” he said, his voice scathing and dripping with venom.  “Now get out of my sight.”

Callin stormed off, his nose thrust into the air like a truffle-hound.  Only when the door slammed shut did Aravin return to the plate. 

No sense in wasting perfect food. 


“Send the next one in!”

No evidence remained of the last failed dish.  The kitchen was spotless once again and Avarin felt the onset of another headache.  For days now he had been looking for someone to take over his kitchen, to prove themselves worthy of training to become his successor.  Chefs were lining up from across the realms, amateurs and professionals, all eager to learn from his renowned palate and unmatched repertoire. 

Each and every one failed miserably.  Only lingering hope and an ever-lengthening queue scuppered any attempt to cancel the contest.  Besides, it was almost amusing to watch the brilliant falter under his gaze, those who prided themselves on their eye for detail wilting and crumbling before his legendary steely eye. 

A girl shuffled in.  Eyes downcast, she looked half-starved, bedraggled and scared.  The clothes she wore were a step above a burlap sack and twice as dusty.  He wrinkled his nose up in disgust as he caught a whiff of the pig swill that coated what he supposed might once have been shoes.  He would have to have a word with Francis for allowing her inside his pristine kitchen.  His assistant was supposed to wheedle out the waifs, strays and any others just after a free meal.


“Mallia, sir.”

Her voice just about reached a whisper. 

“Why were you let in here?  We don’t give away free food.”

Mallia stiffened, her hands clenching into fists.  She raised her eyes to meet his and he saw the passion burning amidst the hazel. 

“I’m here to compete.  Not to take your food,” she said. 

Something in her tone set him back thirty years to when he had first set foot inside a castle’s kitchen.  Perhaps, just perhaps, she might have something to show him.  He doubted she could compete with the other chefs, or that she could excel and succeed where all others had failed, but she might be worth something to someone somewhere.  A word with Francis was definitely required. 

“You get three eggs.  They’re the centrepiece of your dish but you can use anything else I have here,” he said.  “Begin.”

He waved his hand expansively, pointing out the vast array of ingredients.  Fresh herbs hung in aromatic bunches, loaves of freshly baked bread lay on the counter, jugs of milk, a whole range of vegetables and fruits waited for the budding chef to pluck them from barrels.  And that was just the beginning.  Cured meat, spices, butter, anything anyone could possibly desire both mundane and exotic.

Paradise surrounded her and yet she did not look about, instead staring straight at him. 

“How long do I have?”

“Take as long as you need.”

Her grin lit up the room and his heart quickened.  Maybe.  Just maybe.  His heart died a little as she plucked the three eggs from the table and dashed from the room. 

He muttered the cleaning cantrip under his breath.  The magic came as easy as breathing.  The headache intensified. 

“Send the next one in!”


Days became weeks became months.  Avarin grew more obese, more irritated and more despondent.  Chef after chef arrived.  An endless parade of lickspittles, incompetents and ingrates.  An interminable array of omelettes, soufflés and custards.  All delectable, refined and inherently flawed. 



“I’ve sneezed more palatable dishes.”

Perhaps he ought to retire, to hide away his secrets from the world and remain forever an enigma, to remain the greatest chef in all the kingdoms.  Did he really have to take on an apprentice at all?  Did he need to leave a legacy behind him, leave the world a living example of his expertise?  The whole process had become tedious and disheartening and one long sequence of headache after headache.  The only result from the whole enterprise was to pamper his ego and shatter those of other chefs. 

He pushed open the door to his kitchen to a sight that stopped him in his tracks.  Francis had given no indication of anything out of the ordinary and yet he had allowed someone into his kitchen early. 

“What are you doing in here?”

He didn’t recognise her until she looked up.  Fear was quickly replaced by determination as Mallia met his gaze.
“Cooking.  You said I had as long as I needed.”

Her tone defied him to lose his temper.  Instead he could only stand and stare, speechless at her audacity.  Only as his gaze roamed around the room, only as the scents of cooking reached his nostrils did he begin to realise the extent of what was happening. 

Chicken.  Sage.  Liver.  Onions.  Bacon.  Wild mushrooms.

He detected the aromas with ease, his nose and tongue honed over years of practice.  What was lacking intrigued him more than what he sensed.  No eggs.  Confused for a moment, he eased himself out of the room.
“Francis.  Were the eggs fertile?”

“I thought it would be an interesting experiment.  I wondered how long it would take someone to figure it out,” said his assistant with a smile. 

Curiosity satisfied, he returned to the kitchen.  He stood and watched as Mallia bustled around, selecting ingredients with meticulous care, her hands assured as she paid close attention to the various elements of her creation.  She made mistakes; hands fumbled utensils, the occasional spillage, but nothing disastrous, nothing that interfered with the growing certainty in his mind. 

“Ready,” said Mallia, punctuating her presentation of a single plate with a nod of her head. 

Aravin cast his critical eye across the porcelain.  A little scruffy, the jus not as smooth as a professional’s, a few burnt edges to crispy shards of chicken skin.  Minor details when set against the sheer invention and vision of the piece.  Mallia had flattened a chicken breast and stuffed it with a chicken liver and bacon mousse before poaching, a comfited wing, leeks steamed then flash-fried in butter with sautéed wild mushrooms and garlic, all accompanied by a jus from reduced chicken stock.  Simple, honest food elevated to something spectacular.

“You’ve only given me part of one egg,” he said, unable to resist at least one immediate criticism. 

For a moment Mallia’s face crumpled, the mask of confidence and assuredness awry.  It only lasted an instant but it gave Avarin satisfaction regardless.  Here was someone that recognised criticism and the ease with which her confidence returned showed him she had the ability to take it and analyse it.

“I had to practise,” she said. 

He stared, trying to unnerve her, trying to still the beating of his head and the salivation in his mouth.  Breaking away first, he picked the dish apart with knife and fork.  The meat looked like it needed more resting, the skin might have been crispier, the vegetables cooked a little longer, more and more flaws presented themselves as the tastes exploded and rolled across his tongue. 

Until he looked up again, he did not realise he had listed the faults out loud.  Mallia’s chin quivered, the hands at her sides bunched into tight, straining fists.  Other chefs might have fled, might have not wanted to witness each and every word that came out of his mouth.  At times during the long process, he had prided himself on being able to do just that.  Now, he felt they first stirrings of guilt but even so, he continued his litany. 

“ . . . skin needs a pinch more salt, the jus could be a little more reduced, the whole is fairly simple.  But you’ll learn,” he said, putting her finally out of her misery and ending her ordeal. 

It took precious moments for his words to sink in, for the full meaning to permeate her mind.  He took great delight in watching the exaltation spread across his apprentice’s face and the tears of joy that rolled down her cheeks. 

Offline AzWingsFan

  • Night Angel
  • *
  • Posts: 181
  • Gender: Male
    • Primal 4 Health
Re: [July 2014] - Apprenticeship - Submission Thread
« Reply #12 on: July 31, 2014, 09:32:58 PM »
Heres my entry.

First time really doing this sort of thing.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Apprentice Zel always kept to himself, a loner of sorts. He had no friends and he didn't particularly like his family.  His parents although working long hours gave Zel whatever time they could. He wasn't a neglected child let alone abused and his parents couldn't understand why he became more distant over the past few months. Being at work all day neither parent could keep him out of trouble.  He had a house to live in, food to eat, a room and bed to call his own but something propelled him to stay out all hours of the night and come home maybe a few times a months. He only came home if he needed something, usually food, but sometimes he was seen taking his fathers tools, to his parents confusion. When they approached him about his erratic behavior, he skirted the subject and ran out of the house.
 On this particular evening per usual Zel was out of the house, heading through the inner city well into the slums. He stumbled upon this opportunity and he was perfect for it. Not being one known for having much more morals and requiring assistance, Tuk didn’t have to think much about asking Zel to join him. He had seen the boy around town here and there. A cruel  boy who seemed to get joy from tormenting animals and other kids his age. He couldn’t let his sick talents go to waste. It wasn’t everyday that an opportunity for an apprentice showed itself. If left to his own devises the boy would surely be locked up, or worse.
 "No no no. How many times must I show you? You don't start with the pliers, you work up to them. They will have nothing to be scared of and won’t talk if put into shock right away. And do you know what happens then?" Tuk said in the most belittling manner possible. "Huh? Answer me boy. What good is a corpse? Can you mak it talk? Will it give you anything but the stench of decay? Don't be a fool. Get back in there and get what we need" Tuk rolled his eyes. He was a jovial man when out in the city but when working he was unapologetic.
    For some reason Zel respected the man. He never quite thought about it before now as he only knew the man for a few weeks. He didn't even respect his parents this much. This was the first time in his life that he felt useful, a chance to use his twisted interests helped him feel important, albeit in a distorted way. Leaving Tuk's study he made his way down the barely lit hallway to the door at the end. Screams typically filled the air, but not today.  Most of the contacts that they were sent these past few days were weak. Most had died before giving up anything useful. No wonder Tuk was more irate than normal.
As he walked all he heard was his own footsteps, it made him miss the screams. Approaching the door he stopped to collect himself. Knowing what he had to do to please his mentor he turned the handle, his prior concern turning into a blank stare as he entered the room. There the man was, just as he had left him. His head hanging low, his arms and legs bound tight in leather straps. Most men struggled even before he set to work. Not this one. He took his punishment close mouthed, as if this punishment was worse than that he would receive for talking. The man's breathing was extremely labored, and most of the blood from all the previous lacerations had clotted by now, the man was broken. Too bad this didn’t lead to talking. Zel was doubtful he'd be of use now but he had to try.
Glancing over to the tray he noticed the bloody pliers that had put the man over the edge. He had just about peeled off every one of the man's nails when his mentor had stopped and berated him. He respected Tuk, and wanted to impress him. Removing those thoughts from his mind he looked back towards the man. He was near expired, and he wasn't sure if the man even had a single word left in him.
 Surely Tuk wouldn't have entrusted such an important case to him, Zel thought. He had made many mistakes up to this point but they were becoming less frequent as the days passed. Approaching the man he lifted his head up, the man's face was swollen beyond recognition, his eyes showing a complete lack of awareness. "I'm sure you've missed me. Tell me what you know and this will be over quickly." The man showed no response. Resisting the urge to grab the pliers Zel picked up a crude instrument that was typically used as a last resort. The more you turned the handle the closer together the jaws came. His father had similar tools in his shed. This will be fun, Zel thought as he picked up the tool. Just as he was about to clamp the tool on the man's left eyelid, the man moaned and his chest filled to capacity. One last breath. The sweet release of death.
 The smell of excrement leaving the body soon filled Zels nostrils. "Damnit all!" He yelled as he let the man's head fall. He resisted the urge to kick the body onto the floor, as he set about wiping off his tools. "Tuk is gonna be pissed" he set the tools down as he headed back toward the door down to the study.
Fan of Classic/Epic Fantasy and Grimdark

Working on writing a book. Any advice will be taken graciously.