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Author Topic: [Mar 2014] - The Grimmest and Darkest Grimdark - Submission Thread  (Read 8727 times)

Offline xiagan

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"a Fantasy" (by DavidSondered)

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

Rules:

1. This can be prose or a poem.
2. Must be Grimdark.
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. ;)

Entry will close March 31st 2014 and voting will begin April 1st 2014.

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 May 2014.

Remember that this thread is only for entries. Discussion or questions can be posted here.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2014, 09:33:33 AM by xiagan »
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Offline Justan Henner

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Re: [Mar 2014] - The Grimmest and Darkest Grimdark - Submission Thread
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2014, 11:38:19 PM »
Courtesan by Justan Henner:

The little boy is too young to understand what his mother does. He knows only that many come and many go and that his favorite is the man who raised him. What she is does not matter to him, for even if he knew, what he is cannot care.

The little boy is not heartless; there is much heart in him. If anything, the love he holds will be his weakness. In days to come, he will love those he should not. He will take pity on them who do not deserve it. He will grant mercy to those who are beyond it. And it will shatter him.

But today, the little boy is whole, and more importantly, the boy is happy; for he does not understand what his mother is, or the vile thing she’s done. He plays with his polished stones, juggling them with the magic that is his birthright. He is too young to know what he does, too young to understand that he is grace, but his mother knows. And she has killed to protect him.

The little boy has heard of death, but to his mother’s benefit, he is too young to understand. If he did, he would not forgive her. If he were older, he would scorn her, but he is only three.

The mother cries in the next room. She cries for what she’s done, she cries for why she’s done it. Until this point, she has been lucky. Had she known the murder was unnecessary, it would have forever torn away her emotions. Her luck is about to end.

The door slides open, and raising his head, the boy drops the stones. “Papa!” he screams happily. “Papa, you are home.” The boy runs to the door and hugs the man’s legs.

For a moment, the newcomer smiles, but he brings dire news, and the smile cannot last. He must tell the boy’s mother that she has killed in vain; he believes that he is about to ruin her. “I am not your Papa,” the newcomer says. “Where is your mother?”

Though the man claims not to be his father, the little boy has decided otherwise. Gripping the man’s hand, the boy studies the blue gem inset into his father’s ring. Smiling, the little boy points to the room in the back. “In there,” he says.

Seeing the boy’s gaze, the man takes off his ring and gives it to the boy. “This is yours now. You must keep your mother safe.”

"Really?” the boy exclaims. “I can keep it?”

With a sad grin, the man nods. He pats the boy’s head, one last gesture of love, before he enters the mother’s chambers and closes the door behind him.

The little boy can hear their words, but at his age, thinks nothing of them. He runs his hands across the small blue gem, dreaming adventures of demons and the treasures they protect.

From the other room, the sniffling stops. For a moment, the world is silent. The little boy hears springs as his mother rises from the bed. And then his mother whines even harder. Between anguished cries, she speaks: “You are not dead.”

“No. I never was.”

“Then I killed for nothing.”

Silence. “I am sorry, my love.”

“Why…” her voice breaks. She tries again. “Why have you come?”

“Because she has returned. And brought the Fatereader with her.”

“Then…” she trails away.

“Yes,” the man sounds sad, but also certain. “They mean to kill you. And him.”

“Then we must fight. His Fate does not matter, they cannot have my son.”

The little boy hears this, but it does not make sense to him. Who would want him? He is only a boy. Trying on his father’s ring, he decides that his mother is just being silly, just like she has been all day.

Melodious and soothing, his father’s voice drifts from the other room. “We cannot… they will win.”

The mother’s depression vanishes, replaced by anger. “You would have me give up?”

“No,” the man says. “But she is Death. And her sister, Fate. If we fight them, we will lose.”

“What then? What is our hope…”

“The world is bigger than us. It is bigger than them. You must take him and run.”

“But what of you?”

“I have to stay. I am Fated.”

“But she will not let you live when she learns that I am gone”

“Do not worry,” the man says. “I know my Fate.”

 “Look me in the eyes.” For a moment, nothing, then the mother shouts. “You try to deceive me,” she accuses

“Thought cannot die,” his father claims. “I have told you; I know my Fate.”

The mother’s voice falls to sniffling murmurs and the boy does not hear her words.

 “No…” his father responds. “No, that will not happen. You must take him away and make a new life. For now, I must stay, but I will know where you go. One day, I will arrive on your doorstep and all will return to normal.”

*

Days later, the boy walks at his mother’s side. They have not been gone from home for very long, but to him it feels an eternity. His young brain forgets easily, and he does not remember where they are going, or why they have left. He does not know where his father is.

“Mama,” he asks. “Why are we leaving?”

Behind a painted, porcelain mask, his mother speaks. “Because Death has come to Vigil, my son.”

"Oh,” he says, but he doesn’t understand. “Where are we going?”

“We are going home, my son. To the place where I was born.”

The little boy sighs. “Is it much farther? I am tired.”

With a finger, she brushes his nose, smearing the white paint from her hands onto its tip. He laughs as his eyes go cross-eyed in an attempt to see the paint. “Not much farther now, my son. Not much farther now.”

*

But it was much farther, and they traveled for many months before arriving at the small fishing village that would become their new home. When they arrive, they are not welcomed. The men frown at his mother’s mask and the women sneer. The boy doesn’t understand why, for he likes her mask; he thinks it pretty. She has never taken it off, not that he can remember.

His mother uses her magic to build them a new home. That changes things. Now it is the women who frown and the men who sneer. The women are simply confused for they have never seen such a thing. The men are jealous, because she has shown herself to be more capable than they.

It is a simple home, with a thatched roof and slate floors. The boy lives in the room with the iron stove and the kitchen table. His mother sleeps in the smaller room in the back. Although his mother claims that she is from this place, the people do not remember her, and they do not like her. Despite this, the boy and his mother are happy. The boy spends his time waiting, and so does his mother, both waiting for the day his father returns.

But the father doesn’t come, and the years pass, and eventually, the boy forgets that he ever had a father. On a chain around his neck, he wears a golden ring with a blue gem, but he does not remember where he got it. When he turns seven, he asks his mother about the ring, but she will not tell him. She has become quiet over the years, and in this new home, people do not come and go as they did in Vigil.

The boy finds friends in the tiny fishing village. He makes a life. A neighbor woman teaches him to fish. At nine, the boy meets his first love. They share an innocent kiss. They fish and hold hands, together on the village pier. The little boy, who is not so little anymore, is happy.

And then one day, he returns from a day of fishing to find his mother sobbing at the table. In her hands, she holds a letter. On the table, there is a wooden box. He asks his mother what is wrong, but her sobs only worsen. He lifts the letter and reads it to himself:

“You cannot avoid Death or Fate.”

And the young boy looks in the box, and finally, he understands.

A severed head, bloated and rotting; devoid of Thought. Although the eyes have been cut out and the skin flayed, he knows the face and he remembers. The head belongs to his father.

And his father was right. In the coming days, all returned to normal. His mother returned to what she was, and once again, the people came and went.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2014, 08:18:35 PM by Justan Henner »

Offline ACSmyth

Re: [Mar 2014] - The Grimmest and Darkest Grimdark - Submission Thread
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2014, 11:09:59 PM »
The Deadly Game

The city would fall. There was no doubt. The city would fall, and with it the castle. She would have failed.

It was her home, her anchor. Where she and her children had been born. But the army at its gates was irresistible, and she had to face facts. Her lord was defeated—dead, or taken—his army smashed. The relief on which their hopes had rested would not come.

“Fly a flag of truce,” she said. “I will speak with Lord Hegiroth. Maybe some arrangement can be brokered. In any case, I should like to play him at chath. Hegiroth is a masterly player, they say. I would like to pit my wits against him.”

“Are you mad, Rosa?” Her steward Osigian was one of few who could address her so bluntly. “How can you play chath when the castle is in peril?”

But she would not be put off, and Lady Rosa rode out to treat with the city’s besieger.

#

They played no chath at that meeting, or the one after. But at the one after that, Rosa settled to arrange her pieces for a deadly game.

Behind her, the hostages: those noteworthy people of rank and position who would suffer and die for the city’s sake. Willingly or unwillingly; it made no odds to her.

Her opponent emerged from his tent, striding across the turf towards her. “So,” he said. “Beat Heginoth the Butcher at chath to save your city. That is the deal, yes?” He laughed, and the smell of his breath almost overpowered her.

It seemed inconceivable that this barbarian warlord could be a master of the game, yet such was his reputation. A brilliant strategist, both on the chath board and the field of battle.

“That was the arrangement, my lord.” She wore widow’s black, face veiled. Let him think her vulnerable, paralysed with grief. The veil would hide the hatred in her eyes, the murder in her heart.

“And these people, they know their fates if you lose?”

Rosa shuddered. A little extra rule, to add spice, he had said. For each piece she lost, one of the hostages would die. She had heard tales of Heginoth’s preferred methods, as had they, from their expressions. Some had walked out stoically, prepared for sacrifice. Some had been dragged, wailing like children and soiling themselves when they saw the scaffolds Heginoth’s people had erected overnight.

“They do,” she said. “And if I win? Are you prepared to leave my people in peace?”

He snorted through his nose. “It will not happen, my lady. Let us play.”

Rosa set out the pieces while the barbarian stood near his tent. On each turn, he approached the board, assessed the situation, and retreated, muttering to himself as he considered his move.

After several cagey moves, feeling for each other’s playing style, Rosa realised with dismay that she was about to lose a piece.

She had known she would; one could not win at chath without losing pieces. But this ivory pikeman represented a person. The barbarian grinned across the board, assailing her again with the stench of his breath. Her stomach churned, and sweat prickled her face.

“The first death, my lady. A pikeman, yes? We have an appropriate end arranged. Ceroth,” he called to one of his men. “Bring one of the hostages forward. One of those assigned to be pikemen.”

Pikemen were the most vulnerable piece. A player started with twelve, and it was rare for a game to end with more than four or five remaining. If she was a better player than Heginoth, some of her people might survive.  If he was better, he might toy with her rather than force the victory--pick her pieces off one by one. And if she yielded, he might slaughter the hostages anyway. She had no great faith in his honour.

They had dug a pit, as wide as two tall men, and as deep as the spears they had sunk into its bottom.

The man Ceroth selected one of the councillors—a middle-aged fellow named Eldinor. He had remained composed thus far, but a dark patch now spread across the front of his breeches. Two soldiers grabbed him by wrists and ankles, and swung him as they might swing a sack of grain into a wagon.

One. Two. Three and—

They let go at the top of the swing and he arced through the air, twisting absurdly in his attempts to avoid the spear tips. The scream when he landed drew answering cries and sobs from those awaiting their turn.

Rosa fought down the bile that rose in her throat. He could not see her fear. He would not see her fear.
More pikemen fell in a swift exchange, and a man and a woman joined Ceroth impaled in the pit. And still her opponent muttered and paced, ever restless.

Two bowmen pieces fell on each side, and a knight and his lady were led forward, each hanged then shown their entrails before they were allowed the mercy of death. Rosa chewed a knuckle bloody, but she could not stop the tears that tumbled hot down her cheeks.

She stared at the board. She could win this. The Heginoth’s losses had left his left flank dangerously exposed. In three moves, she could storm his castle and capture its lord. But her bannerman would have to leave her lord’s side and break through Hegiroth’s ranks in a move that would leave Hegiroth wide open, but mean the bannerman’s death.

The bannerman was her beloved Osigian, her husband’s captain until a wound had left him unfit for war. It had not left him unfit for her bed. Her husband had never known that the man who had stood shoulder-to-shoulder with him on the battlefield had taken his place in her bed. Osigian had warned her against taking Heginoth on in this way.

“He is deceitful and wily, Rosa. He will cheat you. Beware of him.”

But when she had begged him to let someone take his place among the hostages he had refused.

“Can I send women out to die and hide in the castle under your bedclothes?”

She craned over her shoulder, but he was being held at the back of the group. To save her city, she had to sacrifice the man she loved.

So be it.

She moved the bannerman forward, knocking aside two of Hegiroth’s knights and opening a path for her attack. The response came quickly, and her bannerman died.

Her opponent glanced at her, and a flicker of a smile crossed his lips. “You are very brave, Lady Rosa.”

Osigian was led out. When he saw the man he stumbled, and in a choking voice, he said, “Rosa. That’s—“

A guard dealt him a blow to the side of his head and another stuffed a rag into his mouth. They lashed his hands and legs to an X-shaped frame. One of the soldiers drew a dagger, launching it at Osigian, and it lodged in Osigian’s left shoulder. He tried to scream, but the gag muffled the noise.

They took turns throwing. Right forearm. Left thigh. Right hip. Left bicep. Osigian was drenched with blood when they took the gag from his mouth, yet still he gasped, “That’s not—“ before the final soldier cut him short with a throw to his neck.

Rosa did not feel brave, only angry. But her chance was coming closer. She had left Hegiroth in a difficult position, and the barbarian stooped over the board, scanning the pieces.

Rosa grabbed her lord, pressing the button on the base that released a hidden blade. Before the warlord could say more than, “What—?“, she had plunged it deep into his neck. She had found the artery, she noted with satisfaction. Even as two guards grabbed her by the arms he was slumping, blood gushing across the board. He fell, crashing through the table, the ivory playing pieces tumbling, black and white barely distinguishable in the torrent of red.

He would not have spared the city. She had not been naïve enough to believe that. Whatever the outcome of the game, she was doomed, and her city with her. But at least she could take their vanquisher with her.
An armoured man loomed over her, and the guards snapped to attention. He plucked the dagger from her opponent’s throat and considered it ruefully.

“An interesting subterfuge,” he observed. “And against any other man, you might have won.”

“I did win,” she ground out. “I had Hegiroth beaten, and I killed him. I won.”

The man smiled. “So sad,” he said. “I’m afraid you are mistaken. He merely conveyed your moves to me, and I told mine to him. Did you think I would play the game myself?”

And Osigian’s aborted last words made sense to her, as the man slit her throat.

That’s not Hegiroth.”
« Last Edit: March 07, 2014, 03:33:58 PM by ACSmyth »

Offline TOMunro

Re: [Mar 2014] - The Grimmest and Darkest Grimdark - Submission Thread
« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2014, 05:25:24 PM »
The Little Wizard's Folly  by T.O.Munro (1500 words)

There were three of them hidden by the spell of concealment, the orc, the lady and the wizard. The stench of Grundurg’s presence was enough to make Odestus retch.   He drew his cloak around his face, exaggerating a shiver to imply it was the cold rather than the smell that he sought protection from.     

“They’re late.” Dema’s restless hood flapped in the breeze.

“Maybe they not come.” Grundurg was idly flicking scabs off his forearm with the point of his knife.

“The Master’s information has never been wrong before.”

The orc stiffened, broad nose twitching.   How Grundurg could smell anything over his own awful miasma was a mystery to Odestus, but something in the air pleased him for his face split into an ugly lopsided smile.  Everything about Grundurg was ugly but there was a spectacular vileness to his leer of anticipation, a grinning expectation of pleasure through someone else’s pain.  “They come,” he said.  “They scared, very scared.”

Dema had heard it too. A sound on the wind too faint for Odestus’s frozen ears, but the lady nodded her agreement.  “What kept them?”

It was a few minutes more before the prisoners and their escort rounded the bulwark of rock.  They got their first sight of Eadran’s folly, and the unseen watchers got their first sight of the Master’s latest batch of recruits.

The trio were on a narrow ledge in the cliff face looking down on the low mound where Eadran had met his end centuries past.  The impatient guards marshalled the prisoners into order at the foot of the hillock. The soldiers were no happier at the tardy pace than Dema had been.  The reason for the delay was clear though; two limping pensioners brought up the rear.  The man was fat as well as old. The trek along the mountain trail could have done no good for knees abused by a lifetime of carrying excess weight.  The woman was smaller, bent double leaning on a staff on one side and with a young boy to support her.

“God’s blood,” Dema spat.  “Why bother sending those two into exile, another week and time would have carried them off.”

“And one of them a woman,” Odestus said.  “That’s unusual.  What could a woman have done to deserve a sentence of exile?”

“Two women!” Grundurg grunted.

A gust swept at the boy’s hood.  With one arm supporting the old woman he could not stop the cowl from falling. Odestus realised his mistake as wind whipped long strands of dull brown hair around the youngster’s face.

“Oh fuck!” the wizard murmured.  The girl he had thought was a boy was young, too young to send into the certain death of exile with nothing but hardened criminals for company.

The soldiers were keen to be away.  The two tasked with dropping the stash of weapons practically ran with their load to the top of the hillock, while the rest stood watch over the sullen row of prisoners.  There were a dozen in all, unwitting recruits for the Master’s growing army.  For the moment though, they suspected that nothing but death awaited them in the orc infested wastes beyond the barrier.  The few old and rusty blades left at the top of the mound were just the Empire’s attempt to salve its conscience and pretend it still honoured the Goddess by eschewing the death penalty.

Odestus watched carefully while the escort made ready to depart.  The prospect of imminent death did strange things to a man; he’d faced the same dilemma himself a decade earlier. Most of them eyed the weapons, thinking to buy themselves some time by seizing the best blade.  However one group of three were mumbling to each other and casting none too subtle glances at the girl by the old woman’s side.  She didn’t seem to have noticed their interest, gazing around the mountainscape with the stunned interest of a simple peasant walking into the great temple of Morwena.

The wizard’s hands twitched to protect her.

And then the soldiers were going, marching back to the warmth and safety of Sturmcairn, and the race for weapons began; well a half dozen began the race.  The fat man and the old woman sat too exhausted to take another step, and the girl at last grew wise to her peril as the remaining three convicts approached her, spread out in a net. 

Odestus struggled to his feet but Dema hauled on his arm.  “Not yet little wizard,” she told him.  “We must let the escort get clear.”

Grundurg was shaking with guttural laughter as the trio seized the girl, one on each arm dragging her down to the ground while the other knelt in front of her unthreading his belt.  Odestus concentrated hard, twisting his fingers into shapes of arcane intricacy.

At first there was no sign that anything untoward had happened.  The girl was still on the ground, the three gathered around her.  But then she realised that they weren’t moving.  She struggled free scrabbling backwards from the trio who remained focussed on the space where she had been, frozen like statues.

The old woman and the fat man noticed next.  He called out to the others who were suddenly alert and aware staring around at the cliff face.

“Little wizard!” Dema turned her masked gaze upon him.   The chilling sparkle of her shielded blue eyes was scarcely less paralysing than the spell he had cast upon the girl’s attackers.  “You are too soft!”

“The girl deserves a chance.”

“Only the fittest survive, you know that.”

“Only the fittest,” he echoed.  “And me.”

The bravest of the exiles was shouting at the cliff.  “Come out, show yourselves.”

Dema stood up abruptly, throwing off the spell of concealment, with Grundurg and Odestus at her side.  “Welcome,” she called down, “ to the rest of your lives which, for all but one of you, is like to be a lot longer than you feared when you walked out of Sturmcairn this morning.”

It took a few minutes to descend and gather the frightened bunch at the foot of the hillock, during which time Odestus’s holding spell had worn off so that all the exiles could hear as Dema explained the new facts of life and death. Even though twelve faced only three, they were abjectly subdued.  “You belong to my Master now,” the lady told them.  “You will serve him and in return he will let you survive.”

“And if we don’t want to?” the self-appointed spokesman asked.

“Then you die.” There was pleasure in Grundurg’s growled forecast.

Dema frowned beneath her mask.  “For the avoidance of doubt, my Master will have one of you killed tonight, while the others watch.  Just to show what awaits those who fail or displease him.”

Grundurg’s shoulders were shaking, yellow teeth showing through an uneven grin.  In case they had any doubts as to who would be the executioner he drew the thin bladed knife from his belt. “One of you die with this tonight.” He laughed again. “Maybe last until morning. Death not quick.”

“Who dies?”

“We hold a contest, the fittest survive.  Grundurg and his knife will have the loser.” 

 “Let me choose the task, Dema.”

She shrugged her agreement to Odestus’s request.

“A simple race.” He declared.  “To the top of the mound and back again.  Last one in loses.”

The fat man and the old woman looked pale.  Dema shook her head.  “You’re a soft arse, Odestus.”

“When does it begin?”

“Now,” he said quickly before Dema could change her mind and suggest some more taxing challenge.

The exiles stormed up the hill, throwing weapons aside in the bid to not be last, though none of them were in any danger.  The fat man and the old woman puffed uncertainly up the hill, a long way in the rear.  “Cicely,” the old woman called.  “Help your old grandma!”

The girl halted halfway up the slope, looking back.  The old woman was ahead of the man, but it was likely to be a close call.  She came back.  Odestus felt a pang of pleasure mixed with concern, that she should show compassion for another, but that it might put her at risk.  She was just in time.  “I’m here, Granny Marwella,” she called as the old woman stumbled and the man closed the gap.

As the girl bent to lift her grandmother, the woman brought up a hand full of rock and smashed it into the girl’s temple.  Cicely went down like a felled tree, and Marwella was off with a surprising turn of speed.

Odestus stepped forward, but Dema held him back.  The girl did not rise until Marwella and the old man were already half way down the hill and even then she was too dazed to move in the right direction.

“Marwella will go far in the Master’s service,” Dema said thoughtfully.

“We have loser,” Grundurg growled, slicing the air with his skinning knife.

Odestus stifled a sob.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2014, 07:59:03 PM by TOMunro »

Offline G_R_Matthews

Re: [Mar 2014] - The Grimmest and Darkest Grimdark - Submission Thread
« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2014, 10:04:43 PM »
Bargaining chip

“Not that,” Zheng snarled.

“Sorry,” Chan-jaun carried the large, leather bound book in her tiny hands and edged it back onto the table. “What next, Daddy?”

“Can't you think for yourself? You're more fucking trouble than you’re worth. Pack that into the trunk,” Zheng pointed at a brass candle holder.

The little girl, standing on tip toes to reach the top of the table, wrapped her fingers around the engraved metal and pulled it into her arms. She sagged under the weight, tottered over to the trunk and dropped it in. 

“Careful,” he shouted. “Better still, leave it alone. I'll finish the packing. Be a damn sight quicker. Go and sit over there, out of the way, and don't speak. If your bloody mother hadn't up and died…”

Chan-jaun looked down at the dust-coated, wooden floor and moved over to the stool that her father had pointed towards. She clambered up onto it and sat still. The weight of memories, heavier and more valuable than gold, rested on her small shoulders.

“Stop snivelling, girl,” Zheng snapped as he continued to shove clothes and jewellery into the trunk.
A loud banging sounded through the house. Zheng stopped packing and raised a single finger to his lips. She echoed the motion but where he had a pinched, worried expression on his face she wore an innocent smile. The door rattled in its frame again.

“Open up, Zheng. We know you’re in there,” a voice commanded, muffled by the thick wooden door.

Zheng crept over the small window and risked a peek outside, “Fuck.”

“Open the bloody door or I'm going to kick it in and drag your sorry arse out here,” the voice screamed and the banging on the door intensified.

Zheng wrung his hands and cast a panicked look around the room. Nothing offered the help he sought. “All right, I'm coming.”

He stood and beckoned to Chan-jaun. Together they traipsed down the stairs to the main room of the house where Zheng drew back the bolt that held the door closed. The instant the bolt cleared the metal housing, the door was thrown open and the heavy wood caught Zheng full in the face. He staggered back, swearing, holding hands up to his face. Blood welled up between his fingers and began to drip down his wrists.

“Mind if we come in?” The large man said as he stepped through the doorway followed by a younger, smaller man. Both carried the thick bladed Dao sabre that was popular amongst soldiers and civilians alike. The blade was a long as the wielders arm, sharpened on one side, and curved upwards into the sharpened tip. The hand guard at the base of the blade was a simple disc of metal.

“He wants to see you,” the large man spoke through the greasy beard that adorned his face. His eyes passed over Zheng and focused on Chan-jaun. She moved closer to her father, uncomfortable under the gaze.

“I’ll be right there,” Zheng grabbed a rag from the work surface and held it against his nose. “Give me a chance to get cleaned up.”

“We’ll wait,” the younger man said in a calm tone.

“We ain’t waiting. He doesn’t care what state you’re in,” the large man corrected. “You ain’t gonna care much either once he’s done with you.”

“Ah,” Zheng backed up a step, “what’s the chance of just forgetting you found me?”

“Not much,” the large man said.

“You shouldn’t have stolen from him,” the younger one said.

“You can have the money. I’ll double it,” Zheng backed up another step. “Triple it.”

“Zheng, money is not going to work. That belongs to him. Don’t take anything that belongs to him. That’s one of the rules. You broke it and you are going to pay for it. Don’t make it any harder than it has to be.” The young man’s voice was hard but there was a note of resignation in it.

“Time to go,” the large one said, his eyes wandering back to Chan-juan.

“No,” Zheng back up again and tripped over his daughter, hiding behind him, falling to the floor. “Please, no. There must be something I can do.”

“There isn’t,” the young one said.

Zheng cast a fear-filled glance at the young man and then to the other. He caught glint in the older one’s eyes, “Take her. Let me go and you can do what you want with her.” He grabbed his daughter, dragged her round and held her out as an offering to the large thug.

“Well now,” the large man had a hungry look in his eyes.

“Take her. Let me go and take her,” Zheng pushed her forward again as he scrambled to his feet, hope lighting his eyes. “And the money too. Just let me go.”

The large man took a step forward, “A young bit of flesh and the money. That’s a good bargain, that is.”

“No,” the young man said.

“We could tell him that Zheng was gone when we got here. Left in such a hurry that he hadn’t even packed his stuff. He’ll be happy to have the money back, we get to keep a little for ourselves and we get to have some fun with the young‘un here.”

Chan-jaun stood in between the thugs and her father, looking back and forth between the two. “Daddy?”

“You’ll do as you’re fucking told, girl.” Zheng took another step back, distancing himself from his daughter. “Might have a use after all.”

“No,” the younger one again.

“You ain’t never had young flesh? It’s different, special,” the large one spoke, his voice deeper than before and he re-adjusted his trousers. “Once you have there ain’t no going back. You get the taste for it.”

“No,” the young man said. There was steel in his voice.

“What the fuck do you know?” The large man turned on his fellow thug. “You been here, what, three months and think you know it all. Little piss-ant runt. Fuck off outside if you don’t want a piece. Take her old man with you. I’ll be out in a while.”

Chan-jaun, a tiny figure between the thugs and father, began to cry.

“Shut your howling, girl.” Zheng shouted.

“No,” the young one didn’t bend or back up before the dangerous mix of anger and lust displayed on the older man's face. “We came here for Zheng and we take him. We do our jobs and that’s it. You want to be a pervert; you do it on your own time and far away from me.”

“Fuck off, little man,” the older one swung a fist at the younger.

Chan-juan cried louder as bloody sprayed from the severed neck of the old thug. It drenched her, dripping through her hair and soaking her dress. The old thug collapsed to the floor, his eyes still gazing at Chan-jaun but seeing only darkness. Bright red blood continued to pump from his neck as if his heart had not received the death message and continued to beat.

The young man wiped the blood from his Dao sword on the murdered man's legs. Zheng ran into the small kitchen area and wrenched the small cleaver from its hook. He held it in front of him, waving it back and forth; a talisman to ward off the spectre of death that had re-sheathed its sword and was now advancing on him.

“Zheng, you’re a worthless piece of shit. Less than a man, never a father. He wants to see you and he will.” The young man dropped his sword to the floor, “Doesn’t matter to me whether you're alive or dead. Maybe matters to him, as he wanted to kill you. Put that little knife down and you get a few more minutes of life.”

Zheng screamed and lunged forward, slicing downwards towards the unarmed man’s neck. Chan-juan turned her head at the scream and with dazed eyes saw the young man catch her father’s hand as it descended. He twisted his wrist, turning the blade inwards towards her father. With his right hand he struck, and pushed, at the inside of her father’s elbow. The hand holding the cleaver pushed too and with the sharp blade of the cleaver her father cut his own throat. He died in silence.

“Well, little girl, looks we will be leaving this town,” the young man knelt in front of her, his eyes as soft as cotton. “Sorry about your Dad but then I reckon you’re better off without him. I’m an orphan too and I turned out fine, kind of. My name is Jing Ke.”

He led the blood covered girl out into the sunshine. 
Staff Writer and ponderer of many things @ fantasy-faction

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Offline FogAlchemist

Re: [Mar 2014] - The Grimmest and Darkest Grimdark - Submission Thread
« Reply #5 on: March 23, 2014, 04:30:13 AM »
Here's my submission.

The Painful Path

Crunching through the snow, footprints appearing as indents in the sea of white, Gideon shifted his pack. Metal clanking against metal he bit back a groan. The snow was already making it difficult to remain silent, but his blades were only adding to that difficulty.

Having been kicked out of another town, he didn’t want to provoke the farmers whose fields he was cutting through. Dealing with the angry townsfolk was nothing when facing down a farmer and his brood. This was especially true during Carathi winters. Strangers weren’t a welcome sight, and those who hailed from the University and the Tower were even less welcome.

Rubbing his hands together, puffs of breath breaking through in the momentary pauses, Gideon tried to warm himself up.

“Would be easier if I had the Lion’s flames,” he muttered.

Bitter over his lacking skills, and lonely on his makeshift path, he began to ramble.

“Curse all Carathi farmers,” he said, grinning at the air. “Curse them and their refusal to assist. Curse their hatred of their superiors and all we represent!”

Cackling, he pushed onward. A smirk tore his face into an uncomfortable sight. Running through the other curses he could think of, Gideon felt a tug on his leg. Yanking it free, he stopped to check what had encircled him. Brambles, blossoming from beneath the snow, cleared his thoughts on what had grabbed him.

Shifting his pack once again, placing it back into a comfortable position, he resumed his tiresome trek. No longer interested in laying curses on whatever he could think of, he pushed onwards. Keeping a steady pace, marked by the slowly filling holes of snow, he found himself too close to a farm.

“Damn,” he breathed out.

Barking, the dogs alert to the home owner, filled the air. Scowling, Gideon reached to his primary sword. Wrapping his hand around the hilt, the familiarity of the leather a small comfort, he waited to see what would happen. If he stayed a safe distance away, he wouldn’t be caught. Instead, the farmer would be more likely to beat his dogs, taking away whatever scraps they were fed, than come after him.

Looking down, his hopes fell. The snow, how could he forget about the snow? Despite the weather’s refusal to clear up, flakes of white drifting to the ground in a constant rhythm – one, two, three and stop, repeat – his tracks wouldn’t be covered in time.

Resigned to what would come, he fully drew his blade. Moonlight reflecting off of the blade, its appearance matched the weather: cold. Once the dogs arrived, he would stand his ground; although, he still held out hope that they wouldn’t lead the farmer over.

Civilian casualties were frowned upon. Wardens were not to draw their weapons unless necessary. In a paltry attempt to ease his conscience, he ruled this as necessary.

“What the ruddy ‘ell are you two yapping about?”

An older voice, deep and tired; it had to be the farmer. Gideon tried not to smile. It would be far easier to cut down a man who had lived a full life, rather than one just setting out on his life’s journey.

“You, who are you? What are you…”

The farmer made his appearance, a pitchfork clutched tightly in his hands; his words cut off by Gideon’s drawn blade. Even with the distance between them, Gideon could tell where he was looking.

“Devil,” the farmer said. “What business do you ‘ave with my farm?”

Gideon debated instilling further fear into the farmer. Maybe it would work to keep him away. The thought was squashed quickly. If he were to do that, then the farmer would no doubt spread the story to any who would listen, and Gideon didn’t need a battalion of Templars loosed upon him.

“Let me pass and no harm will come to you,” he said.

Stepping forward, Gideon kept his face as impassive as stone. Giving the farmer any sign of emotion would ruin the illusion he was building.

“If you attempt to stop me, then I shall cut you down with everything that I have.”

The dogs were down, haunches in the air and snarls upon their jowls. Yet, they weren’t approaching him. They were backing up, one step at a time, making their way towards the house.

The farmer wasn’t as wise.

“Stop there! Don’t come any closer, you hear! Stop there devil!”

His arm bent back, the pitchfork poised to strike, the farmer attacked. As he threw the tool, Gideon breathed in the wet air. Calling upon the talents coursing in his veins, he raced forward. Ducking under the pitchfork, he forced the snow to move away – giving him a clear path to the farmer.

Within moments, the farmer’s blood decorated his blade.

Both of the dogs were in the house’s doorway. Pulling his blade away, he looked at the stunned farmer.

“You have nothing to stop me with, let me go and you will live,” Gideon said.

The farmer looked up at him, the cut in his cheek sending blood down the side of his face.

“Y-you demon,” he gasped out. “Get out of here. Be gone, the True Father banish you!”

The triangular star, sign of the True Father, flew from the farmer’s fingertips as he backed away. Stepping into his house, the farmer reached behind the door. Watching him intently, Gideon waited to see if he could leave. Turning your back on a foe, even if they were nothing more than a Carathi farmer, was a sign of idiocy, or so his mentor had always told him.

It was to his benefit that he did. From the shadows of the entryway, a young man – undoubtedly the farmer’s son – raced towards him. Blade clutched in hand, the lad thrust forward, attempting to land a blow.

Parrying easily, Gideon struck the boy down. Blood seeped into the snow as the boy’s life fled him, leaving naught, but a corpse, to decorate the lawn.

“I told you,” Gideon said. “Will you now leave me be?”

He received strangled cries as the only response. Racing out of the house, the farmer clutched at his son’s body. In the doorway, a woman – the farmer’s or the boy’s wife, he could not tell – watched; hatred burning in her eyes.

“The Templars,” the farmer finally said.

“Set aside your desire for Templars. If you are determined to send them after me, I will not hesitate to destroy this household.”

“They will hunt you down and end you. Devil, don’t you dare think that you’ll escape their justice,” the farmer didn’t seem to follow his words as he finished his sentence.

“Then your fate has been decided.”

Steel flashed and the farmer’s head left his shoulders. Face still emotionless, Gideon looked to the woman and the dogs. Raising his hand, the snow shifted; following his command. Melting and forming into water, he flicked his wrist towards the house.

Obeying, the water turned into ice. As spear tipped pillars, the ice tore through the woman and the dogs; ending all of their lives swiftly.

“Your fate is your own,” Gideon said as he looked to the farmer’s corpse. “If you had just let me leave, this would not have happened.”

As the words left his mouth, Gideon knew them to be false. If he hadn’t strayed to close, he wouldn’t have even been pulled into this situation. However, his victory was the one that mattered. No one could challenge his story and he could accept that. Yet, it would eat away at him for the rest of his life. As would all the other deaths he caused. As would all the others, the markers on his painful path. 

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Hopefully this was grimdark enough.
« Last Edit: March 23, 2014, 10:11:24 PM by FogAlchemist »

Offline pornokitsch

Re: [Mar 2014] - The Grimmest and Darkest Grimdark - Submission Thread
« Reply #6 on: March 23, 2014, 12:54:22 PM »
The Heir to Foulstania

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The crowd murmured appreciatively.

The Duke would not be bested so easily.

“Does that include the promise that you had made to the orphans to… give them food?”

The crowd gasped. Charity would be an immediate disqualification.

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

“Because I killed their parents!”

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

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

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

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

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

The Duke and Lady both looked abashed.

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

There was a pause.

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

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

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

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

The Duke and the Lady both looked crestfallen.

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

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

The candidates looked no less confused.

“…then adopt him.”

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

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

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

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

Offline xiagan

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Re: [Mar 2014] - The Grimmest and Darkest Grimdark - Submission Thread
« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2014, 09:42:20 AM »
Broken

The child lies dead.
His broken eyes fixed
on a point
beyond mortality.

His dreams lie dead.
Its broken fragments
shimmering like oil
on the town's last well.

His mother's hopes –
torn and crushed.
Her eyes were never
never meant to see him

see him like this.

Her eyes wept blood
when her mind broke
and her soul joined the child.

Now she sits there
with her child

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

Offline Phil the Drill

Re: [Mar 2014] - The Grimmest and Darkest Grimdark - Submission Thread
« Reply #8 on: March 24, 2014, 06:05:32 PM »
The Black Hog of Dun-Madral

The elf skull crunched in my mouth. For something so fragile, I expected it to be softer.

“Here you go, hog.” The Feeder, a man with a pock-marked face and missing fingers, dumped more body parts into my pen. I rooted around, searching for something tastier than elf. No such luck. It was elf season again.
From the shape of the thunderheads I should have known. Rain and elf season went hand in hand.

I found it distressing that after all this time they still called me “hog.” The least the Dun-Madral Death Squad could do was give me a blasted name. Horace or Victor. Hell, I wouldn’t even mind an elven name like Landriel or Rinjal. Memories of names barked in battles or mumbled over flagons of grog. But no, I remained the nameless hog that ate corpses. And there were many corpses.

I hadn’t always been so aware of my surroundings. Eating, shitting, and snorting consumed my days. Ever since the Squad tossed me the remains of some charred witches, I’d never been the same. Colors became brighter, words clearer, tastes changed. I recognized faces and found myself wanting to eat the roasted chicken and beans that the Squad consumed nightly. I tired of eating corpses in varying states of decay. I wanted more.

My pen was a muddy prison, but my body was a prison unto itself. I’d bloated up significantly over the course of three raids in particular. The worst of them led to the Squad tossing me farmers fat on corn and bread. I ate with wild abandon until I grew slow and dull. My desire to eat human food started to pass. I felt my newfound intelligence slipping away. That’s when I first heard the rumblings of “the Pit.”

I didn’t know what the Pit entailed, but the men went on and on about it. After digging a hole and filling it with coals, they roasted meat for hours. I had brothers and a sister once, also nameless. They took them away one by one. The smell of their flesh filled my nostrils, making my mouth water. I struggled with my indiscriminate gluttony. Even as my brethren burned in a pit of fire, I hungered. Time passed and the rumblings about the Pit all but ceased.

That was until last week.

I knew they were coming for me next, but I wouldn’t eat. When they weren’t watching me, I spent my time jogging around my pen. I buried the elf corpses in the mud, only chewing on old bones to keep myself satiated. Me, their oldest and most loyal hog, would not be a feast. I planned my day of liberation.

“The hell’s up with the hog here?” I heard the voice of the one named Wick, a fellow with a curved back and thin, yellow hair.

Feeder came into view, wiping grease away from his mouth with the back of his hand. “What you mean?”

“He’s not fat enough. Lagra wants him fatter.”

Feeder looked to be in the midst of shaving, his neck dotted with globs of blood. “I’m feeding him. Can’t help if he ain’t getting fat. Maybe he’s got a worm in his belly.”

I didn’t have a worm, that was for sure. I snorted my derision.

“Shut it, hog.” Wick leaned into my pen and spat on my head.  “Get him fatter already. Whatever you got to do.
Lagra will flog the lot of us if this feast don’t go off like he’s planned. He wants the fattest hog this side of the Razor Thin River.”

“Shit, you don’t think I know?” Feeder rubbed his chin, wiping away pinkish soap. “That’s all the bastard talks about.”

Their voices trailed off as they walked away from my pen. Lagra. So, he’s the one. I’d only heard the name in passing now and again. He must have been cruel for he was often referred to simply as “the bastard.”  If anyone would be my doom it would be Lagra. I decided that night I’d pay him a visit. I’d been chewing at the wood at the bottom of the pen for the past week. The hole proved big enough that if I charged it, I could squeeze right through. At least that’s what I hoped.

Feeder came back moments later with a large sack. “Embarrass me, will you, pig? You’ll eat or I’ll beat the bacon off your back.” He dumped more unidentifiable parts in my pen. When I only sniffed at them, he slammed a heavy metal rod against the wood. “Eat, damn you.”

I made like I was eating, pushing around the parts with my snout. The illusion proved enough to fool him. He smirked and swaggered away.

With Feeder gone, I waited until night came. My plan could finally come to fruition. An unexpected screech pierced the air followed by the long, low note of a horn. Horns only blared when the Squad expected visitors.
The hiss of an arrow over my pen let me know they were not welcome.

Feeder stumbled back to my pen, this time with a black arrow jutting out of his neck. He clawed at the gate, blood bubbling from his lips, but slumped over into the dirt and out of sight. Something roasted, sickly sweet. Human flesh. The clash of swords rang out throughout the camp and the screams that followed were both of pleasure and pain.

A blue-skinned, bald Rattler elf peered into my pen, peaking through the hole I’d made for my escape. A necklace of human scalps swayed around his neck. “Yalik dul caris unda?”

The witch flesh I’d consumed long ago didn’t teach me elvish. I backed away from the sneering elf as he jabbed the end of one of his arrows through the hole in the pen.

As an orange glow filled the sky, I did the only thing I knew how: I squealed. My high-pitched squeals did enough to get the Rattler elf to plug up his ears. I took my chance and charged. Despite having lost a good deal of weight, the chewed wood still gashed my sides. Nonetheless, I trampled the elf just the same. Bones crunched underneath me and I kicked up mud.

I was free.

I ran, disoriented from the smoke and thundering feet of the Squad scrambling in all directions. Wick laid in a pool of blood, trying to yank out an arrow lodged in his cheek. I carried on, dodging some wide-eyed Rattlers, their shell and bone bracelets clacking in my ears.

The edge of the camp loomed before me when I heard, “Lagra! We must retreat?”

I skidded to a stop. A hulking beast of a man buried an axe into the skull of a leaping Rattler. He ignored the calls to retreat, wading through a pack of the elves before setting his eyes on me. He chopped like a mad butcher and sunk his teeth into one elf’s neck. He came away with a red grin, dripping and wild.

“Little piggie got loose?” Lagra’s licked the blood from his lips. “This won’t do.”

He swung the axe down at me, but I dodged to the left. I imagined him sucking on the bones of my brothers and sisters and growing fat on their flesh. I squealed and scraped my hooves in the dirt.

“Look at this shit.” Lagra pointed his axe at me. “Piggie has a bit of brav—”

 I cut him off mid-sentence, my head ramming right into his knee. It gave a sick crunch and Lagra hit the ground hard.

I wanted to eat him, to chew off his filthy face. However, when I saw a group of cackling Rattlers carrying the scalps and severed heads of Lagra’s companions, I knew it was over for us.

Lagra reached out to me, as if I was some angel to deliver him from his fate.

“May they eat your flesh as you have my brothers and sisters.” The garbled voice came from my lips.
Gasps came from the elves. Lagra stared up at me, eyes wide in astonishment. “By the Fell Gods, you can speak?”

“Perhaps I’d just been waiting for the right moment.”

The Rattlers descended on Lagra. His gurgled screams became music to my ears.

I expected the Rattlers to kill me next. My wounds from the pen bled heavily and my legs grew weak.

An old Rattler with missing front teeth fell down on his knees in front of me and offered one of the human scalps. The other Rattlers stared at each other and followed suit, tossing dozens of scalps in front of me.

“Runa gel taka drom!” They chanted over and over, bowing in reverence.

“I’d prefer roast chicken,” I said.

The Rattlers scrambled to their feet and within minutes I had a massive pile of roast chicken before me.

Perhaps I’d finally get a name after all.


“I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, & am content.” Robert E. Howard

Offline RS Bohn

Re: [Mar 2014] - The Grimmest and Darkest Grimdark - Submission Thread
« Reply #9 on: March 25, 2014, 12:39:32 PM »
Chirp


Chirp was down a bird. A sparrow, little gray-brown thing that looked like a hundred other gray-brown sparrows. Probably one of the squires, Chirp thought. They'd been fashioning thinner and shorter arrows, the better for taking out the small birds that clustered at Chirp's only window.

"You should all go away," he said to the line of birds jostling each other on the sill. "Don't ever come back. Ever, ever."

He said this in the chittering, whistling language that no one else understood, and was the reason they called him Chirp. He'd not spoken a single word in proper English his entire life; they said his mother had refused the babe her tit because all he would do was chirp at her. It was why he'd grown up stunted and pale, like string beans grown in shadow instead of the sun.

Not true: his mother had taught him the language. She was dead, hanged and burned for witchcraft. She could speak six languages, including bird and deer, and heal the pox, but she was a poor peasant woman.

Queens who could do the same were called sorceresses. One of them stood now at the single door to his cell.

"Honestly, I think it's nonsense. A made-up language, like a little child babbling to its dolly." She cocked her head. "Why, if I could speak to the birds, I'd rule the sky as well as the land."

Chirp said that she didn't rule all the land; she had about a hundred miles in either direction from Morrowton. If anyone ruled the land, it was the worms and roaches. Not a king or sorceress yet had managed to evict them from where they crawled.

She stared at him, her hands clasped in front her and covered in the fine gold mesh gloves of royalty exposed to the pox.

Her magic was transformation, he'd heard. Changing one thing into another. He hadn't witnessed it, but it was clear she hadn't managed changing poxed flesh into healthy skin.

"All that talk," she said, "and you won't tell me what I want. I'm sure you can. If you can make all that other noise, then you can speak English just as well. Maybe you do already. It's not nice, you know, to keep secrets from your Queen."

Chirp watched the birds on the sill. They'd become silent when she'd arrived.

"It's time for another bit of encouragement."

Chirp looked down at his hands and feet, covered in "encouraging" streaks of red. He could barely walk, the soles of his feet were so flayed. He was starved and thirsty, having been in the cell for four days without food or water. Yet he would not tell her the cure for pox, nor make any signs.

Let her start on his back. The flesh there was unmarked. Or his abdomen. He did not care. In a week, the princess would begin to smell of rot.

And when the princess was well and truly rotted, maybe those outside the castle walls would at last be free. Maybe they would till fields for their own families, and not starve while handing over their harvest to those inside the castle. Maybe they would walk about without fear of random cruelty by minor royalty and the roaming guards. Perhaps a witch could tend to her orchard and brew her tisanes in peace, helping out her fellows.

"Derrick," she said, and her captain of the gaol moved out of the shadows, a box draped in brown cloth in his hands.

A new instrument of torture. Chirp tensed, took a breath, and willed himself to relax.

She drew the cloth from the box, and he saw that it was a barred cage, and that within, sat the missing sparrow.

He sat straight up.

The bird trembled, and when she lifted the iron top just enough to slip in a gloved hand, it fluttered and crashed about the cage.

She snatched it and drew the frightened bird out, holding it in both hands.

"Ugly," she said. "Not like the peacocks in my garden. Have you seen them? I have a white one. It's quite beautiful. I wonder if you could talk to it."

She nodded, and Derrick took out a knife from his belt.

"No," said Chirp, but it came out like a squeak.

The captain sliced off the little bird's legs. It shrilled and peeped, thrashing within her hands. She tossed it through the bars of Chirp's cell, where it landed amidst the dust and dirt and stones.

He stared up at her, wide-eyed and shaking.

"So many birds," she said, holding up a hand and looking at it. Tiny rivulets of blood spattered the gold mesh. "Why, there must be millions."

She walked away, and Derrick peered into the cell.

"Idiot," he said. "I told her you can't talk nothin' but that rubbish. But if I was you, I'd learn, real quick."

*

Thankfully, birds died fast from shock. He'd crawled over to it, held its body in his lap until at last it stopped shaking.

Cradling the dead sparrow, he'd closed his eyes, imagining himself flying in the air high above the castle, away from it, among the clouds. Gradually, he'd calmed.

The birds on the sill twittered their anxiousness, fretting and flapping.

"Go away," he whispered. "Go. Go."

But the next day, they were there again, and so were the Queen and her captain of the gaol.

And the cage.

Another sparrow, this one young, only months old.

A wing this time, tossed into the cell. Then the dying bird.

Its mother came to the window, flew away, and he wished he could go with her.

Still he would not tell her of the cure for pox.

The third day, a gold mesh collar around her throat, draped over her chest. Soon, he thought.

The birds in the cage started coming every hour.

Finches maimed, sparrows mutilated, beaks and wings and legs thrown into his cell, followed by little bodies.

They lined up the birds shot through with the squires' special arrows, the birds' legs curled up into their bodies.

So many eyes, open and black and perfectly round, staring at him.

A jay from his mother's orchard. They'd sheathed its beak so it could not peck them bloody, and the princess pulled feathers from its writhing, shrieking body, letting them float in a gentle, blue-gray shower into the cell.

Another day, he told himself.

Another hour, another bird.

He wept, apologizing to the birds on the sill, who kept coming, kept coming, despite the obvious danger.

"I'm sorry," he sobbed. "Go away."

On the sixth day, she came alone. He was too weak to stand when she entered his cell, the hem of her rose-pink gown trailing across dozens of small, feathered bodies, and stood in front of him.

Her bald head was covered in a gold mesh cap. He could smell her.

He almost smiled. So much death and horror, but it would be over soon. With her demise, the kingdom would be free. His mother would be proud.

"We found another witch," she said. "She speaks to rabbits. More useful, she can cure pox. And she has two sons, who are more important to her than, I assume, your birds are to you. So we don't require your services any longer."

Chirp froze. He looked up, to see if she was lying.

"You wished for my death. Well, here is something you need to understand." She leaned down and caressed his cheek. "Just as there are other witches, there are other queens, and those hoping to be queen. Your foolish holdout was for naught. When we are both long dead, there will still be those in power, and those without any power at all."

He bit the edge of his tongue, trying not to cry.

"I may die soon after all, Chirp, but before I do, there is one more thing. I thought it sad that my magic was no help to me, but here, suddenly, I find it will give me this last little happiness." She stroked the side of his face. "Have you heard what I can do? It's true, Chirp."

She smiled, breath fetid.

His heart stuttered. Was it true? Could she transform humans into the creature of her choice?

But of course she would not—

No, he already felt it. Growing smaller. Smaller still. The uncomfortable prickling of – of feathers! Feathers growing from his skin!

He opened his mouth, and out came the familiar chirps, but this time, they were real! He peeped and chirped, and fluttered in her hands.

She stood, and held him up to the sill.

"Fly away, little bird."

He did not look back. He spread his wings and darted into the sunlight, into the open air.

And from far below, a squire's arrow flew, straight and fast and perfectly aimed at the bright, red bird.

Offline Carter

Re: [Mar 2014] - The Grimmest and Darkest Grimdark - Submission Thread
« Reply #10 on: March 26, 2014, 11:30:14 AM »
Calm

“Captain’s got lemons stashed in his cabin.”

Marag spoke in a hushed whisper, his words barely reaching to the edges of the hold.  Beneath my feet I could feel the slight rise and fall of an ocean at peace, as if it too held its breath in silent witness of unfolding events.
 
It’s a lie.  We all know it’s a lie.

I kept the thought to myself.  Voicing the truth here would neither achieve nor change anything, not after Amberlan’s death last night.  All the other members of the crew were as aware of it as I was, including Marag.  Perhaps Marag most of all.  Only the sounds of breathing and the gentle lapping of the waters beneath us broke the silence.  I fidgeted where I stood, unable to remain still.  There had been enough stillness to last a lifetime and I had no desire to add to it. 

“When?”

It hardly came as a surprise that Catarina was the first to speak.  Already her skin had started to take on a yellowish sheen and her bunkmates reported several of her teeth had fallen out.  Some of us had begun to take bets on how long she’d last.  I doubted she’d make it to the end of the week and had staked my wages for the entire voyage on it. 

Not that any of it mattered any more. 

“Tonight.”

“You’re crazy.”

It took me a while to recognise the voice as my own.  It cracked and stumbled.  Louder than I had intended, it drew anxious, angry glares.  I shook my head violently, uncaring for how it made my brain rattle inside my skull and brought on yet another gods-damned headache.  Did I feel my teeth rattle in their gums?  Gods I hoped not.  Bad enough seeing the signs of scurvy in the others, let alone being affected by them myself.

“Marag’s right Val.”

Oran was the last person I had expected to speak out in support of Marag’s plan.  He had served with the captain for years, longer than most of the other crew on the gods-cursed ship.  He had fought with the captain at Elsinborg, Brons and Heresh.  At Brons the Captain had even saved his life.  Yet now it seemed even he had turned on Captain Terranto.  Perhaps he and Amberlan had been closer than I had imagined.

I watched as a smile slid across Marag’s face, his delight at having swayed such a supporter evident.  At least Oran had the decency not to meet my eyes, fiddling instead with the locket around his neck.  I resigned myself to the inevitable.  Adding my voice to the crowd would at least ensure a few more days of lingering survival. 

“Tonight then,” I said. 

If any of the crew had had a shred of enthusiasm left, they might have cheered.  If anyone had had any spit to spare they might have cursed the Captain’s name.  If the planned mutiny had been anything but an effort to feel like we were doing something, anything, we might have roused ourselves to more than a concerted shuffle out of the hold and back on deck. 

The scene that greeted us had not changed.  All around the ocean lay still, a flat canvas awaiting the deft strokes of an artist’s brush.  Not a breath of wind stirred the sails and clouds had long since departed the skies above.  If it weren’t for the occasional fin cresting the surface, we might as well have been stuck within some noble’s picture.  If it weren’t for the inevitable and unstoppable cycle of night and day, I might have believed we had remained like this for an eternity and more.  And if I truly believed in the gods, I might have thought us cursed. 

The crew went off to appear busy, to be seen to be doing anything.  The first mate watched on, his eyes following Marag and the rest of us as best he could.  Tamba’s self-imposed sentry duty outside the Captain’s door set him apart and I doubted our activity did anything to conceal our intentions.  Our actions were far from unpredictable and many leagues away from unexpected. 

“Oran.”

My voice cracked through parched lips, the unconquerable sun sucking all moisture, all life from my skin.  The lithe top-runner looked my way before averting his gaze once more.

“You sure about this?”

“He’s deserted us, left us to this hell.  What choice do we have left?”

We can die like the crew we signed up to be.  We can remain loyal to our captain and to our country.  We can be heroes one last time.

I swallowed the words.  They were useless and I could barely summon the energy to believe them myself any more.  Instead my hand dropped to my belt and caressed the knife-hilt, my fingers finding every whorl, every knot; an old friend and perhaps the only one I had left. 

“Tonight then,” I said. 

*

No one tried to stop us until we reached the Captain’s door.  Any crew member still harbouring any semblance of loyalty hid or fled, content to allow us our night of folly.  Only Tamba dared to intervene.  Faced with over a dozen hungry, armed and angry men and women, he alone stood against us.  If I had had a fraction of his courage, I might have joined him.  A pitiful conflict briefly warred within me.  I knew my actions were treasonous.  I knew mutiny and murder should horrify and shame me.  Unfortunately that person had been overcome and routed by the still, calm hell that surrounded the ship and the death that loomed large in everyone’s mind. 

Tamba did not say a word.  Instead, he got to his feet, planting them in a defensive stance we all recognised from the numerous battles we had fought at his side.  He looked each of us in the eye, daring us to be the first to face him.  I fingered my knife-hilt, waiting for another to take the challenge. 

“Rush him,” said Marag, his grin misshapen in the dim light of dusk.

None of us moved.  Tamba deserved a better death than that.  With a snort of derision, Marag went alone.  We had raided the arms chest already so Marag had commandeered his favourite blade.  Notched, curved and wicked, it had claimed many a life already.  Against any other unarmed man, he might have stood a chance.  Rushing in against Tamba proved deadly. 

The first mate rocked back and away from the swinging blade.  With a movement almost two fast for the eye to follow, he brushed his hands alongside the sword, diverting it and sending Marag off balance.  Before he could react, Tamba swept Marag’s legs out from under him and sent him tumbling to the planks.  He tried to roll back to his feet but Tamba was too fast.  Pinning him to the deck, he got his hands round Marag’s neck. 

Although I looked away, I still heard the crack. 

Six crew members died before I stepped forward.  I dared not look at the deck, now awash with blood.  Oran had been the last to face Tamba and I had no desire to see his life dripping down between the boards.  Bad enough that I had had to witness the fight, that I took part in bringing it about.  Unlike the others I had not brought a different weapon.  All I had was my knife and my hands.  Under ordinary circumstances, I might never had stood a chance but Tamba stood breathing heavily, bloodied and on the verge of collapse.

While he had been fighting and killing, it had been an easy matter to forget he survived on the same meagre rations we all did, desperate for fruit just like the rest of us.  Now, standing in front of him, I saw just how weary he was, just how tired of the voyage and all its problems.  Like us, he craved an end, the only difference between us being how he chose to face his doom. 

“The Captain doesn't have any lemons,” he said between breaths. 

“I know.”

Tamba attacked with no further preamble.  His fists became a blur yet I detected a note of sluggishness that sneaked insidious tendrils into his every movement.  I ducked, wove, and stepped in close.  Close enough to smell his fetid breath, to see the blood at his gums and the sores on his skin, to hear every gasp and wheeze.  A block with my forearm and I had the opening.  I tried not to think as my knife slid into waiting flesh.  I did my best not to care as Tamba breathed his last and slumped to the deck.  The cheer behind me, ragged and subdued, could raise neither smile nor emotion.  Instead, a calm settled throughout; everything dimming, everything ending. 

The crew surged around me, eager to breach the Captain’s quarters.  When I finally followed, I found what I expected.  No lemons.  No hope. 

Just a corpse.

Offline Timnacious

Re: [Mar 2014] - The Grimmest and Darkest Grimdark - Submission Thread
« Reply #11 on: March 27, 2014, 10:55:39 PM »
FACE VALUE

Hand in hand the young couple merrily strolled on their way. Both of each other’s fingers intertwined with one another as they lazily wandered the woods. After hours of walking the two stopped to rest. The two had no destination in mind, their only objective was to find a secluded place far away from the castle. They only wished to be alone the way lovers do.
   
   Despite the cool spring day the man’s forehead was coated with sweat. With a swipe from the back of his coat’s sleeve the wool absorbed the salty excretion. Together they admired the sea of color the freshly bloomed flowers provided. In a nervous tremor the man patted his chest, but the lady thought nothing of it. Not until he dropped down to a knee before her.
   
   A look of glee exploded from her eyes in a tearful mess. The woman’s hands flung to her face, keeping her gaping mouth covered.
   
   While the two indulged this pivotal moment of their relationship a pair of unsuspected eyes watched from the shadows. The love-struck fools never saw it coming.
   
   The woman fell head over heels, her blue eyes staring into space. And now she laid dead, an arrow protruding from her forehead. Her lover screamed with utter confusion. His hands wrapped around her limp body as tears of sorrow fell from his face.
   
   “Julian, you’ve been a very bad boy.” The murderer taunted his opponent while stepping out of the shadows with a reloaded crossbow in hand. “Your wife Edith would like you to return home now. Cooperate and no further harm will be done.”
   
   Still the man clung to the dead woman. “I should have known better,” he muttered to himself. “Oh, Osanna, I am so sorry, please forgive me.” Respectfully he closed the woman’s eyes. After finishing a silent prayer Julian set her gently onto the lush green grass. “You didn’t have to kill her. If only you had confronted me like a real man this would have been avoided.” He finished the sentence with steel in his voice.
   
   The comment put a smirk on the killer’s face. “It’s funny how you, of all people, lecture about what it means to be a real man. You’re hilarious. Anyways, Edith specifically made it known in the contract to eliminate any women if they were with you. So don’t blame me, you only have yourself to blame for this punishment. I’m merely fulfilling my end of the bargain.” No remorse was offered from Julian’s opponent.   
   
   “Osanna shouldn’t have died.” The man unnecessarily repeated. “I will not return to that witch, hunter.” The man’s eyes reflected pure hatred. “You don’t know how wicked that old woman is. Never again. I’d rather die than return there.” Julian’s body tensed as emotion whirled through his head before sinking into his chest. The words seethed out from his teeth once more. “Never again, I say!”
   
   Exemplifying his point the man fled the scene.
   
   The hunter only shrugged his shoulders, took aim, and fired.
   
   His target fell to the ground, the bolt punctured through the muscles of his right calf with a crippling effect. Remaining desperate to get away Julian crawled under the belly of some shrubs. But there was no hiding, the trail of black blood he left betrayed his position. Again, this all made the hunter laugh.
   
   He dragged the desperate man out into the open no differently than a naughty child. “Don’t worry, I never had any intention of bringing you back to her. Hell, there is only one part of you she requested to be brought back undamaged.”
   
   From his leather belt the hunter drew a two-sided sword. With a thrust he stuck Julian through the gut, pinning his body to the ground.
   
   “Let me take what I came for. Be a good little creature about it and maybe you’ll even live through this ordeal. I promise you’ll be as free as the wind, you have my word on honor’s name.” The hunter pledged holding a knife over his heart.
   
   Julian didn’t care for such an agreement, but every time he would squirm or twist the sword’s serrated blades bit in. There was no where for him to go, he was trapped.
   
   The hired man went to his work. 
                                                                                                                                                    ...

Returning to his employer’s broken-down hut the hunter whistled a cheerful tune. Three times he pounded on the door’s rotting wood to get the woman’s attention. When it opened the wart-ridden hag gave him a toothless smile. The unnatural bend in her back made it difficult for her to look at the man’s face, but still she craned her neck up long enough to catch a glimpse of his beard.   
   
   “Tell me you’ve returned with success, Silas?” Her voice was sweet despite her haggard appearance.   
   
   “Yes, ma’m.” The hunter answered as he handed the black bag over. “It’s right here.”
   
   Ecstatic, the woman accepted and peaked inside. “Excellent. And your timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Come and see over here, young man.” There was no choice in the manner as she physically ushered him in.
   
   She brought the man before a brewing cauldron. Whatever was inside reeked like burnt hair. The old woman limped to the corner of the room where a muddy casket resided. “I had that hellion who calls himself a priest dig this up just the other day. You wouldn’t believe the characters who visit seeking to purchase my concoctions. You should see the looks on their faces when I deny their gold or silver as payment for my products. Now favors...those carry true value. Look at me, hunter. Do I seem like one who’d have a use for precious metals?” The question needed no answering, she cackled at it as a joke.
   
   “Now where was I? Oh, yes.” Remembering the task at hand she opened the casket. Inside was a corpse free of decay with an empty cavity carved for a stomach. Admiring the dead body she sighed with appreciation. A hiss of liquid disrupted the old woman from her trance. She returned her attention to the cauldron.
   
   Despite the boiling water she dipped her bare hands in. Swishing the contents around she fished about the mysterious stew. “Aha!” She squealed with joy. From within the dark pool she hoisted out a tangled mess of intestines. Once her hands were full she made her way back to the corpse.
   
   After shuffling the short distance back Edith slopped the intestines into the empty gap of the body. “I will not have a gutless fool like the last one I created. But there is one thing I do wish to keep.”
   
   Her boney fingers pinched a loose flake of skin on the lifeless face. Slowly she peeled his face clean off, revealing muscles, eyeballs, and bone. She flung the flesh aside and dug into the black bag. Edith cherished what she held, to her it was priceless. “I couldn’t deny such a handsome look.”
   
   Julian’s flawless face was carefully pasted onto the dead man’s. Afterwards she stitched it into place. But something didn’t settle with the old witch; a disgruntled moan rattled out of her throat as she thought. Following a look of revelation she pulled open a dusty drawer. From its depths she pulled out a jar containing a numerous amount of eyeballs. Wrenching the lid open she sorted through the array of colors, eventually the woman settled with two vibrant green eyes.
   
   Prying the dead man’s eyelids open Edith’s brown fingernails scraped out his oak-brown eyes. With a careless toss she added them to her brew. Grabbing the two replacements she squished them into the empty sockets with a push of her thumbs. Still, one step remained, the most important one of all.
   
   Taking hold of a beaker filled with a golden liquid the woman lifted her creation’s head and poured the juice down his throat.
   
   “Now all that remains is to awaken my newest husband.” Her arthritic hands stroked that mismatched face with affection. “You know, Silas, good men aren’t found anymore. They’re made.”
   
   With a crude kiss the woman breathed the body to life. Watching him rise she couldn’t help but coo, “Oh, my prince charming has awakened.” Edith licked her dry lips with satisfaction.
   
   “Terrific.” Silas said with feigned enthusiasm. His silver-plated fingers caressed the smooth wood of the crossbow. “Now, about our deal...”

Charlotte Elise

  • Guest
Re: [Mar 2014] - The Grimmest and Darkest Grimdark - Submission Thread
« Reply #12 on: March 30, 2014, 03:03:55 AM »
Two Shots

The cupboard had been a sufficient hiding place when the need arose, but thanks to the protests of my cramped body, I now resented it. The muscles in my thighs burned and the angle of my neck was painfully wrong. I guessed an hour had passed, and it had been an hour too long.

In the next room, El had finally stopped screaming. God, she had some lungs on her, that one. But I suppose it kept the rabble happy, and with any luck, depleted their interest in seeking out another distraction. Not to say I didn't care for her – she was as much a friend as I allowed myself these days. Where sacrifices were concerned, though, it was better her than me. I was less likely to fuck this up.

I tapped the flintlock revolver in my hand; I had two shots and one target. If El was still suffering when all this was over, she could have the spare. It was all the mercy I had on offer.

Someone laughed in the next room and a distant door slammed, before quiet again resumed. I took it as a cue and pushed the cupboard door open, stopping only when the hinges creaked. Teeth clenched, I listened for anyone stirring, pistol in hand. No one came to investigate, and I stepped out.

I straightened slowly, back cracking as inch by inch I stood taller. The room had been ransacked, like the rest of the house, but the men hadn't been so thorough in here after finding El. She had occupied their bloodlust while I waited, and I found myself wondering how it would have played out had they found me, too. The pistol would have been several bullets lighter, at least.

The only light in the room came from a guttering oil lamp on the far table, casting unsteady shadows across broken furniture. My feet crunched lightly over the mess on the floor as I crept toward the open door opposite my cupboard. I stood by the gap, flat against the wall to listen to the faint noises in the room across the hall. Occasional murmurs – nothing that led me to believe the men were at all alert. I took a quick glance and spotted Dirk, my target. He stood in the opposite room with three of his men lazing around him, all armed, none prepared. I stepped into the hall with the pistol raised, took aim, and some bastard grabbed me from behind.

He didn’t muck around, either. One hand grasped the gun while the other arm went around my neck, and he yanked me back from the doorway. The noise that escaped me was more of exclamation than pain, but it was enough to alert the men in the room. I struggled furiously, trying to twist out of my captor’s grip, to kick and punch where I could, all while refusing to relinquish my hold on the pistol. He was bigger, though, and stronger. He twisted my wrist sharply, and this time my cry was of pain. My fingers let the gun slip away. While vulnerable, he shoved me against the wall and pulled my arms at harsh angles to secure them behind my back. Then I was moved into the room and had a sword pointed at my face.
 
I’ve always known when to pick my battles, and this was no exception. Outnumbered and overwhelmed, this was not the moment to start fighting back. That would just see me dead and left to rot before even a word was spoken. Better we all get to know each other a little first, I say. I still had some time.

I took a quick inventory of the room; five opponents, three short swords, two single-shot flintlocks, a few chairs and El tied and gagged in the corner, still and bloody all over.

Dirk stepped forward, looking me over. I’d been here before; I knew he was trying to make my skin crawl as much as he was taking measure of me.

“I remember you,” he said, pushing me back against the wall. He smiled as he searched me, hands roaming. I smiled back. “You’re that little shit from West Alley, still running your vendetta. Where’s your friend? He did like to get in your way. Made you miss last time, no?” My smile only grew, and I felt that twinge of madness that liked to well up in situations like these. Too much vengeance in too young a mind. Dirk finished his search and held out his empty hand to the man beside him. It was soon occupied with my flintlock. “A fine pistol, this one. Too good for you.”

“Dead men don’t care what you take,” I said.

Dirk struck me across the cheek with the brass butt of the gun and I staggered sideways, tasting blood. I spat and used the wall to straighten. A gunshot rang outside, saving me from the next blow. Someone screamed, followed by the unmistakable sounds of a fight breaking out.

At Dirk’s command, his men left to investigate. Only moments after they disappeared, three more gunshots echoed in the night. A few more cries, cut short, and silence.

I watched Dirk to gauge his reaction. His hands gripped my pistol and his sword, knuckles white. I could see the anxiety on his face, the fear that I had succeeded this time, that my ally outside had just wiped out his protection. A small laugh escaped me, a chuckle like I’d just remembered a joke, and his eyes slid from the open doorway to my face. I could practically see the thought forming. He had to be wondering if I truly was mad. And maybe I was; I hadn't stopped laughing.

One more shot rang out, this time closer, and I knew it as my signal. I kicked up between Dirk’s legs and my boot struck hard. It never ceased to amaze me just how effective an attack it was, how fast a man would double over, clutching himself and crying out. He dropped the weapons and I was on him, a knee – perhaps unnecessarily – on his throat.

Cole, my timely ally, stepped into the room holding a pistol and bloody sword.

“Well, don’t let me interrupt,” he said, lowering his obviously over-armed hands. I gestured with my bonds.

“Come on.”

Cole had me free in a minute, and I was once again on my feet. Dirk groaned on the floor, harmless for now. He glared at me through the pain, and I caught an insult or two as to my worth and virtue. I picked up my fallen revolver.

To his credit, Dirk barely flinched when I pointed the gun between his eyes. He knew he was long gone.

“Not going to miss this time,” I said and pulled the trigger. The shot rang out and with a quick, sharp jolt, his face was a mess beneath the barrel. My lip curled in disdain and I pulled the gun away. How merciful of me, to give him a quick death when he deserved so much worse.

Cole sheathing his sword brought my attention back to the room. I looked at El in the corner. Her eyes were half open but rolled back, blood streaking sideways down her face. In the quiet I could hear a raspy wheeze coming from her, slow and shallow. I glanced at the pistol in my hand. One shot left. With my thumb, I rolled the cylinder to the next bullet.

“They killed her?” Cole asked, seeing El for the first time.
“Just about,” I said, eyes still on the now loaded gun. Cole nodded, understanding my intention. We’d lost enough to know how this worked.

“Listen,” he said, looking at me like I was still that naïve girl who needed saving all those years back. My eyes narrowed; I hated that look. “Villains exist to be defeated, right? You killed him, you won. It’s over now.” He smiled at me, a genuine, friendly smile. I nodded with a shrug.

“Well, you know the purpose of a hero then, don’t you?” I asked. Cole looked curious. “He’s just a distraction, while your villain takes the shot.”

I raised the flintlock and shot him in the chest, right where his heart of gold would have been. The barrel smoke rose in coils as I watched Cole stagger back clutching his chest, surprise and pain contorting his face. He sprawled on the floor at my feet and I stood, watching him die. It didn’t take long for the blood to pool wide around him. I lowered the gun.

The wheezy breath of El made me turn. I looked at her, tilted my head, and holstered the empty pistol.

“Sorry, El,” I said. “Some fool took your bullet. Looks like you’ll have to suffer along with the rest of us.”

Offline AshKB

Re: [Mar 2014] - The Grimmest and Darkest Grimdark - Submission Thread
« Reply #13 on: March 30, 2014, 01:38:20 PM »
Scapegoat


“I'm never going to face garlic again,” Dece muttered.

Officially, Salia knew that she should reprimand him. Unofficially, she was too busy trying to scrub the blood (and worse) from under her fingernails to give a damn about what the good major thought on 'proper attitude'.

“Smells to me more like mustard,” was what she said. “Matches the blisters.” Not to mention the pus rising to the surface of the water they were boiling bandages in. She had no idea what twisted genius of an alchemist came with the H.S. gas, but even the slightest contact left its victims with burns and infected blisters on both on the skin and in their lungs. Get any of the resulting pus on someone's else skin, and most people came out with blisters of their own. The smell was just another layer of indignity.

If her fellow medics needed sharp comments and black humour to stay sane, Salia wasn't going to say a word against it.

Dece gagged; theatrical, rather than genuine. “Love you, too, Doc,” he started, then cut himself off. Salia turned her head sharply towards the tent's open flap, and saluted with as much precision as she could muster.

“Major Brasiza.”

The major didn't reply. Through her exhaustion, Salia felt her heart stutter. It was sensation she knew very well, both as an indicator that she needed to rebuild her reserves, and of fear.

“Major Brasiza, can I hel-”

“Shut up,” the major said. Salia shut up. She heard the dull boom of shells hitting the earth, and the wooden planks above them shook; they were all used to it by now, and didn't move. The major just took in a deep, almost steadying breath, and continued. “My soldiers, doctor. What are you doing to them?”

“I-”

“You're not saving them. You're not curing them. But you can touch with them with your bare hands... In fact, I'm not convinced that you're even trying to save my soldiers.”

Salia bit back a sudden hit of hysterical laughter. Not even trying? “The bullet-wounds I can fix, I can stitch them up. But I'm running out of morphine...The gas-victims? I can't do anything. I'm not an alchemist, sir. And the fact tha-”

The major snorted. “No. You're a walking corpse who hasn't had the decency to throw herself into a funeral pyre yet.”

Oh, Salia thought.

Fuck.

Behind her, and as if through water, she heard Dece make a strangled sound. “I'm not dead, sir.”

I'm not killing my patients. I'm trying to do everything to save them, you stupid fucking regimental brat, and before you do anything, I have the right to a court-martial-

“Yes, you are.” Major Brasiza's voice rang with the same precision as a judge's hammer. The younger woman's punch snapped Salia's head back, sending her crashing into the support pillar. The blow didn't knock her out, but when the soldiers came to drag her out of the room, she was too disorientated to stand.

They tied her to one of the ruins' broken windows, forcing her to her knees and securing her ankles and wrists to the stone frame. She knew them. Corporal Jochi (bullet to the upper-arm, concussion) and Sergeant Toulus (urinary tract infection, partial hearing damage to left ear, beginnings of shell-shock). She might have said, 'please', except they were treating her like she was dead already; checking the knots to make sure she couldn't get up.

Then they left her.

It took her longer than it should to realise she was in range of the enemy's guns, but by then, she was too nauseous to laugh at herself over it all. She knew Major Brasiza. No matter what the martial codebooks said about legal lengths of punishments, Salia wasn't being untied in an hour. Maybe in three days, when the funeral pyre was lit again to consume the dead, to set their souls free, to make sure those with blue eyes (like hers) or red hair (like hers) couldn't come back to kill the living (like she knew she would, the price of her gift at healing).

Three days.

Call it a witch's intuition.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2014, 01:42:24 PM by AshKB »
The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be lighted - Plutarch

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Offline Maxfield

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Re: [Mar 2014] - The Grimmest and Darkest Grimdark - Submission Thread
« Reply #14 on: March 31, 2014, 10:34:15 PM »
Kakoja's Appraising


“Just weeks till the bringing, it must fill you with such heart?” declared Jenkia.

“It’s too close to Kakoja’s final appraising. My son is stupid. To make new life in the winters - knowing that the child would be born close to Kakoja’s appraising. I will pray that child stays within womb for the next four nights,” replied Relia.

“There are six-weeks until the birth,” assured Jenkia.

“It’s too close. Now go appraise Kakoja,” instructed Relia.

“I will Relia. May Kakoja watch over you.”

“May Kakoja watch over you,” repeated Relia.

                                                            **

Marren couldn’t help but dance to the music that was playing inside her head. She was overjoyed, lavished in happiness with the thought of seeing her baby. So often she would dance and sing, wondering the sex, but she didn’t care. Kakoja had answered her and her husband, for the life they had given up on many terms a go.
Twirling towards a mirror, she stopped and pushed out her stomach placing both hands upon her bump, before spinning off around the room humming merrily.

“Don’t spin yourself into a giddier my loving wife.” Happily spoke the man entering the room.

“I can’t help myself, my loving husband,” answered Marren, glowing with pride. “Our dreams are coming true and soon we will be parents.

Danish paused in thought. He had the same look that had been haunting him this term.

“Come here my husband, don’t you speak those words that trouble you so. Kakoja wouldn’t bring us life to be born on his appraising.”

“You’re always full of such positivity. I only wish I had your strength of mind, as I can’t help but have these thoughts – but you’re right; soon the appraising will be over and I’ll be free of such pessimistic notions.

“Soon we will be a family my husband,” sang Marren joyfully. “Now come, place your hands on our child,” smiled Marren, opening out her pregnant body.

“I hope I am not interposing this warm moment of serenity,” declared Jenkia, entering the room unnoticed.

“You’re always welcome sister,” replied Marren. “For what do we honour your visit?”

“Danish’s mother requests his attendance at the temple of appraise,” explained Jenkia.

“You better not keep her waiting Danish,” instructed Marren. “Give her my heart when you see her!”

Danish and Jenkia both smiled as they knew the warm comments about her mother-in-law were not full of truth.

“I’ll see you at night’s light. May my heart be open to you,” added Danish, placing his hands on Marren's stomach one last time, before leaving to attend to his mother.

“Arrrrrh that women turns my mind,” Marren cried out, as soon as her husband was out of earshot.

“She may be stern in her ways, but being the high mother to Kakoja, she has to have all our hearts. She does have feeling for you,” assured Jenkia.

“She may have all our hearts, but she still turns my mind,” smiled Marren. “Now come Jenkia – rejoice in my light.”

“You're fulfilled today my sister. You glow more than ever before,” proclaimed Jenkia, whilst taking her hands to turn full circle in unison.

“Tonight I will dance in honour of our God and appraise him for his blessing and…” Marren then fell short off words, stopping in mid-sentence as the ground beneath was covered in waters. Her face froze, turning an instant grey as time around her slowed to an almost halt. Marren knew what had just happened; her waters had broken and her heart sank. It had been several seasons since a child was born in this term. Jenkia was also hit with that fear, she had assisted with the bringing of new life before, but it was too soon.

Jenkia broke the silence first, “Marren your child, we need to…”

“We need to keep this still - between us my sister. You know how to bring life. No one can know. You have to keep this still,” Marren requested in desperation.

“The end of the appraising is still four nights to pass,” replied Jenkia with great concern.

“We stay still; keep this from others. Our people can’t know,” Marren pleaded once more.

“I swear to keep this, but I need aid. Relia is the bringer of life. I have only assisted.”

“Relia can’t know,” shriek Marren.

“Keep still sister, I have no intention on telling. I must bring help though. I’ll ask for your husband and mine. Wait my return.”
                                                               **
It may have seemed a winter’s term before her sister returned with her husband, but the sound of his voice was calming as the night’s breeze and she felt the instant safeness of his strong arms around her vulnerable body.

“How are you my wife,” asked Danish quietly.

“I’m in fear my husband; in fear for our new born. It’s too soon - why would Kakoja bring him on now?” 

“We cannot ask for the reason, we can only keep this still from others. We will hide until the end of the appraising and then announce our child a few days after. Jenkia will bring our child into life. Be calm now.” Marren smiled, drawing strength from her husband’s words.

Jenkia had aided Relia in the bringing of life many times, but this was the first time by herself. That wasn't her main concern though. She couldn’t help but question the early bringing of this life. Had their God forsaken this child. Jenkia tried to keep her thoughts, but her fears for this child being cursed where soon proven to be valid. The child had turned and Jenkia didn’t process the knowledge or experience to now bring the child into life. She knew that if this child was to survive, Danish’s mum would have to be called.

“What’s wrong asked Danish,” as he held Marren’s hand tightly.

“The child is turned. I cannot bring your child to into life,” answered Jenkia regretfully.

“Not Relia. You promised,” screamed Marren.

“There is no other way. Your child will not live and your life may be taken. I need Relia.

“We have no time,” confirmed Danish. “I will bring my mother and bring her alone. She will keep silent. I will request it.”

“Go now,” ordered Jenkia. “Time is short.”
                                                             
                                                                           **
Danish was quick to his word and soon returned with his mother a few moments behind. Jenkia had done all she could, but the child was ready for this world. Relia took to task without word. Even though the turning of a child was not uncommon, both lives were at risk - timing was essential.

Danish and Tullis haplessly paced the other room in wait, until the cries of life freed them from this gruelling torment.

Danish worried to his wife and found mother and child in good heart. Smiling, Danish learned forward to rejoice, but was struck still by hammering at their door. Who knew of this bringing. Fear hit the room, as Danish looked at his mother for answers, but Relia looked away.

Danish sensed the betrayal from his mother; it was clear across her face.

The next hammering was followed by the intrusion of four armed guards from the holy temple. They were Relia’s men.

“How could you betray us mother,” accused Danish. “You know what will become. I won’t let  harm come to my child.” Danish then rushed the guards with the intention to defend his new born, but his act of heart was halted in moments. The first guard had his orders, removing his sword from his belt; he drove it deep into Danish’s stomach – twisting the blade to carry out the purpose for which the steel had been welded. Danish’s mouth filled with blood causing him to choke. With his life departing quickly he took his final moments to gaze upon his wife and his child that he never had the chance to hold. One final swords twist and Danish’s eyes emptied.

“How could you,” screamed Marren. “He was your son. You loved him.”

“Of course I loved him - but I love Kakoja more. He knew the fate of conceiving in winter’s term as do you. It’s sacrilegious to bring life into this world on the appraising of Kakoja. You defied your God and the consequences are fatal,” stormed Relia.

Marren clung onto her baby with little strength left, but was unable to stop Relia taking him from her arms and could only watch as she headed towards the door.

“Before you leave,” screamed Marren teary eyed. “I want you to know that my baby has a name. My baby's name is Ong.”

Relia turned to look upon her daughter-law for one last time. “You went against Kakoja at your own will. All of you did.” Relia then shut the door with baby in arms, leaving the four guards to permanently cleanse the room of blasphemy.


written by James Parkes (a.k.a Maxfield)
« Last Edit: April 01, 2014, 03:34:15 PM by Maxfield »