November 27, 2020, 05:15:54 PM

Author Topic: [Aug 2019] - BtR: Weather - Submission Thread  (Read 2641 times)

Offline xiagan

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[Aug 2019] - BtR: Weather - Submission Thread
« on: July 31, 2019, 11:54:24 AM »
Break the Rules: Weather

Rainmeter theme by adni18

Break the Rules is a new series of themes we'll do every now and then were you are supposed to do something you normally shouldn't do when writing a story. We hope this provides a new perspective and fun. In our first edition of BtR you have to start your story with a description of the weather. We want to encourage you to just start describing the weather and look where that takes you storywise.


1. This must be prose or poetry.
2. You have to start your story with at least a hundred words describing the weather. If you write a poem, the first eight lines need to be about the weather.
3. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
4. Poetry must be 100-750 words long.
5. One story per person or writing team (not per account).
6. You will be disqualified if you exceed the limits, full stop. That's why they're called limits.
7. Your entry can't be published somewhere else before.
8. This is a writing contest, not a "I have written something like this ten years ago" contest. So if you happen to have a story that fits one of the themes, I'd like it to have a mayor overhaul/edit. Work for it. ;)
9. Please add your story's word count and, if you have, your twitter handle.
10. Please put your story in [ spoiler ] tags to make the thread easier to handle. :) You can find them above the smileys under the B.
Bonus rule: We consider voting in a contest you're taking part in a given. Others take time and effort to read the stories - you should do the same. A small community like ours lives from reciprocity and this contest needs stories as much as votes. 

If you want so submit your story anonymously you can do so by sending it in a personal message to @xiagan.

Entry will close August 31st/September 1st, 2019 and voting will begin somewhere around the same time too.

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

The winner will have their piece displayed on the main Fantasy Faction website sometime in the next months.
Submitting a story counts as published. The author retains all rights to their work.

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

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Two Truths in Hussk (1,379 words excl. title)
« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2019, 12:59:16 PM »
Spoiler for "Two Truths in Hussk by bdcharles":

Two Truths in Hussk

Cataclysms of clouds pummelled an angry sky. Fictional gods hurled down thunderbolts as though fighting for their own desperate existence with great yellow daggers of light. Wind buffeted the architecture; furious, warring dragons that sought only to smash everything in their path. And in general, rain lashed all about the place, sometimes sideways, occasionally straight down, very often in a swirl. At one point, newly minted warrior Songwater even thought he saw it going upward, but that could have just been his dramatic temperament and an extra blowy gust. All in all, it was a very typical day in Hussk.

Typical, that was, with the exception of the Minting – the matriculation of Warriors, Clerics, Sleuths, Witches, Ne’er-do-Wells and others streaming out of the venerable Chambers of Learning. Each one now with an arsenal of passion and a target on his or her back.

“Well, that’s that,” said Dudgeshall, to everyone in general and no-one in particular. “School’s out.”

Songwater desired nothing more than to put a hatchet in Dudgeshall’s spine. But he resisted. Part of the warrior passion was to know when to sling your axe, but a more important part was to know when not to. His hand caressed the leather-bound handle, then fell away. Dudgeshall was a Cleric – trained up now, gods help them all, and he often let everyone know how far they were falling short.

“Well,” said Songwater. “Let’s go find our truths.” He turned to Mobarella. She had studied as a Hexcaster, though to Songwater she’d always be a young woman who cried eerie tears and whose smiles were the shy kind. “What are you looking for?”

“Something that takes me far from Hussk,” she said. Her eyes were faraway fields of new wheat. “I’ve always wanted to travel.”

“Me too.” They arrived outside Truthgiver Guildhall. Perhaps Father Comzom would have something that could take them far away, the Staff of Elvenwood maybe. Both of them. Together. Perhaps, if –

“Hey!” That was Phluphphe. Another Warrior, and arrogantly, toxically, masculine. His clan, Cha0sm3tal, was all guys. Big guys. Tall guys. Tough guys. Guys who wanted to take Hexers like Mobarella and do what tough guys always did. His dual horns stood out bone-white against the moody firmament.

“Uh,” said Songwater, hand on hammer again. “Yes?”

“You can’t - ” Phluphphe seemed to be struggling for a reason to be angry. “You can’t get a truth before we do.”

Dudgeshall piped in. “I don’t think the givers really mind who goes first–”

“Shut it, frock,” snarked Askaggarrine. “The men are talking.”

Songwater felt a jolt of something for Dudgeshall then as they came out of the tempest and entered the stony quiet of the Hall’s arched foyer. But he needn’t. The clergyman closed his eyes and started mumbling something that sounded suspiciously prayer-like. His erudite, unstreetwise passions even rendered the clan leader’s name as “Fluffy” which added all the more insult to injury as the bullformed Warrior was indeed clad in a lot of hair. The Cha0sM3tal trio barged away. But in the commotion they arrived at Comzom’s desk first.

“Yes?” he inquired blandly.

Phluphphe lowered his horns. “Staff of Elvenwood. Cha0sM3tal. Three warriors. Sign us the hell up, old man.”

“Fifty dragonwings,” said Comzom, unfazed. He’d seen it all before.

“Race you to the stick, you horrible little twerps,” spat Askaggarrine as they threw their money on the desk and left.

“Dammit,” said Songwater. “I was going to go for that.”

“So why don’t you?” Mobarella replied. “Don’t let those bulls push you about. You need a hexwoman? I’m in.”

He tried to keep his voice steady. “Yes, but we need a priest. Know any?”

“Ahem.” Nearby, Dudgeshall cleared his throat.

Songwater looked at him, at Phluphphe’s wide back, at the truthgiver.

“Clan name?” Comzom inquired in a dullness of raised eyebrows.

“Err.” Songwater looked at the other two. Nothing came, and everything that did sounded ridiculous.

“Clan name?” repeated Comzom, slightly louder.

“The Horribl Twerpz,” Mobarella put in. “Spelt just like - no, like that. No E. Z on the end of - yep, that’s it. One Warrior, one Cleric, and a Witch.”

They paid their fifty and were on their way.

“The Horribl Twerpz?” Songwater and Dudgeshall both said. “Really?”

“Time was of the essence,” she replied. To Dudgeshall, she said. “What did you say to them before? When you prayed?”

“Oh, that.” Dudgeshall listed his nose high in the air, and Songwater could tell they were skirting a sermon or three. “I merely spoke two passions. One for them, one for us.”

Suddenly Songwater was seeing the churchman in a new light. “What did you pray for?” he said.

“For them, that this crummy weather may bedevil them for a thousand years.”

“And for us?”

“Sunny skies and rainbows of honey!”

The three laughed.

“Why a thousand years though?” Songwater said. “Bullforms only live to about eighty, same as us.”

Dudgeshall looked dismayed. “Oh, yeah,” he muttered. “I didn’t think of that. A thousand years just sounded good.”

“Well, never mind,” said Songwater., He was feeling a lot lighter on his feet than he had been half an hour ago. He had a clan. He was on a truth – a areal, actual quest. He was alive. “Tankard of mead, anyone?”

The rainbows of honey Dudgeshall promised never materialised, but rather than take the kneeler to task on it, Songwater merely surmised that the passion had been metaphoric. The sun was certainly out, dappling the Yonetran hills a bountiful shade of gold as they rolled away. Hopefully the Cha0sM3tal bulls were having commensurate bad luck. They had left instantly and seemingly taken the weather with them. The only downer was that he wanted Mobarella to himself.

Hussk was behind them now. Periodically they passed other truth-questers with a Hail! or a hearty Well met! though even these tailed off as the Yonetrans levelled out into a deep area of forest. Mobarella suggested they tread carefully. Not a problem for a Warrior, but Dudgeshall seemed unable to do anything silently. They had had to listen to him eat, sleep, walk, and generally slobber for the past fortnight until it was quite unbearable.

“Can’t you cast a passion of silencing or something on him?” Songwater whined one indigo evening while they were camped in the shadow of a large root system.

“I could,” she whispered, looking at the Cleric’s rounded form. “But that’s an all or nothing curse. If we need a quick prayer from him, it won’t work until I remove the main spell.”

Songwater nodded. The woods were very dark now. “I wonder where Cha0sM3tal are. Actually I also wonder where the Staff of Elvenwood is.”

Mobarella gave him a curious sidewards look. “It’s in Elvenwood.”


Her knee rested against his and he smiled. “Don’t feel bad. I only know because I have family there.”

“Really?” He turned to her. “You’re part elf?”

“On my mother’s side.”

“I knew it! Is that why you became a spellcaster?”

“Pretty much.”

Just then, Dudgeshall stumbled over to them. A tumble of flapjack crumbs ran down his velvet waistcoat.

“Bad news, lovebirds,” he said. “Elvenwood’s just gone under siege.”

“Siege?” the other two said, erasing a sudden blush Songwater had felt threatened to rise. “How do you know?”

“The twitterings of the forest creatures told me.” His face held none of its habitual smugness. “The Arable Holdings are behind it, they say.”

Mobarella’s slender fingers went to the sides of her mouth and Songwater could tell it was in the shape of an alarmed O.

“Cha0sM3tal,” Songwater said to himself.

Dudgeshall nodded.

“So what do we do now?” Mobarella said. Her voice was small and worried.

Songwater thought. He was a Warrior. Their Warrior. He had an axe but he needed a militia, or an army. The village of Toyrent, a score of leagues away deeper into the forest, was their nearest population. They could make it in two days if they hurried. Two days to think up some convincing rhetoric to get the woodsy toughs there out of their cups long enough to follow him.

Above, the moon shone. It was a clear night.

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Offline hexa

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Re: [Aug 2019] - BtR: Weather - Submission Thread
« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2019, 09:16:41 PM »
Title of the story is Prowler
Word count: 637 words

Spoiler for Hiden:

Night fell on Japan.  The ninja scanned the clear sky, confirming that neither moon nor clouds visited his village.  His foe would not be aided by pale moonlight, against the onslaught of darkness and despair.  The ninja beckoned to his companion, a cat, that now was the time to scurry to their sullen destination, as the hollow pitch blackness shielded them from all eyes.

The cat prowled effortlessly down the wall, his feline eyes penetrating the dry night's oppression.  The ninja had been enchanted with cat eyes, ovals that guided him as he rapelled down the castle wall, smoothly escaping the merciless winds that roamed outside.

The cat strolled into a corridor, his divine perception telling him there was yet one foe that would detect him soon.  The lord of the castle, a Japanese daimyo, consorted with demons to amplify his power.  The daimyo's demonic allies found his sacrifices valuable enough to assign him a protector, a guardian that would not be fooled even by the night's deceptions.  The minor demon, an imp, did not take long to detect the cat's stealthy magic.

The demon hissed as it breathed a flame at the cat.  The demon knew that the intruders wore little armor, and a fire would be enough to injure them.  The ninja drew his small katanas, eager to defend the divine cat that had been sent to him only for this forsaken night.

The cat dodged the vile breath skillfully, and bore its small fangs as it charged at the demon.  A goddess had chosen the cat for this mission, a Cat Sith avatar that would be bound to the ninja for the night.  The demon braced himself to deflect the cat's charge, for his defensive stance was sturdy against the lithe feline.

The ninja, a young lad named Ryu, aimed his katana for the imp's head.  The imp was quicker than Ryu, twisting his head down to uppercut the slash with his curved horns.  Ryu scowled as his first katana escaped his grip.  The cat seized the opportunity to impale the demon with his claws, but the demon counterattacked, slicing its barbed tail at the cat's neck.

The cat howled silently, but it had distracted the demon long enough for Ryu to employ his second katana.  The katana, named River, inflicted divine water magic upon the demon, banishing the imp back to its realm.  Alas, Cat Sith could not continue the mission, and the cat bowed its head farewell to its former master.  Ryu proceeded alone into the chamber of the daimyo.

The daimyo sneered.  "Silly boy!  The people have lost faith in the goddess.  Your patron is a fossil of the past."

Ryu was not surprised.  "Naosuke!  Our village shall not be a slave to your demonic ambitions.  You have abandoned she who raised you.  The river goddess was a mother to our village.  She will outlive your arrogance!"

The daimyo drew a great katana from its sheath.  "You sneak in as a coward, with poisons and trinkets.  I shall spank you like a toddler."

Ryu and Naosuke sparred for a few minutes, the twin katanas dancing around the greatsword.  Ryu manuevered the daimyo toward the window, away from the lantern.  Then the daimyo unleashed a mighty blow, knocking down the younger warrior to the ground.  Naosuke said, "Your mongrel family shall be punished for defying my noble clan."

However, no light streamed through the window to glorify the daimyo's victory.  The darkness gave cover to Ryu, as he pulled a hidden dagger from his thigh, and thrust it upward.  The daimyo whispered, "The old ways will fade away."

Ryu had enough time to grab a fish before he escaped.  The light of the stars guided Ryu back to the priest of the river goddess. Ryu approached the altar, and offered the fish.

The cat smiled.

Offline idledragon27

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Re: [Aug 2019] - BtR: Weather - Submission Thread
« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2019, 08:40:50 PM »
If I Talk about the Weather
807 words
Spoiler for Hiden:
If I talk about the Weather

If I talk about the Weather, where do I start? The mountain rearranging storms of Shimmer Ridge, (so named for the occasional gleam of sunlight on the mirror-like rocks, but I am inclined to disbelieve this as I have never seen it, and the gentleman who told me had an odd look on his eye. Plus, he had his trousers on backwards and I am never inclined to trust a man who cannot put his clothes on correctly on a morning.)

I could talk about the Windy River that flows out of Eoni. It spits sideways, down the narrow ravine it has carved out of the yellow sandstone over many hundreds of years. All the sailboats either have waterproof sails, or spider-like nets to catch the breeze, and, I am reliably told, you can actually walk through it as long as you don’t mind being rained on sideways, or hit by the occasional fish as it swims upstream. This is not my idea of a fun time so I have not tried.

Or maybe the plains where the sun shines at night and boils the very darkness away. On this I can give a hearty confirmation as I was stuck there for two whole days. It was a very strange experience but the people there were quite nice. They gave me this strange tasting drink, not quite my cup of tea but to not drink it would have been very rude. It made me feel a little dizzy and tasted of, well roasted strawberries would be my best guess but I am finding it hard to recall now. It had a quite disturbing oily texture going down…

But none of that. If I was to talk about the weather, I would have to talk about this, the Breath of Shadows and, I am honestly informed it happens but once in a hundred years so I could be within a shot of actually seeing this. Or more accurately, feeling this as it it a wind after all. And it happens in this very forest…

Which is uncomfortably silent.

The trees are unnaturally still.

No leaf is stirring, no bird graces the branches above me, or serenades me. Or flies between the great grey trunks. No animal snuffles in the undergrowth, nor does an insect whine, though I am very glad at that last part as I got bitten by something the size of a goat by the Windy River and my, my inner thigh hasn’t been the same since...But I digress.

It is erie here. I can hear nothing, but I do feel watching eyes staring at me. There is an uncomfortable anticipation about them. I want to turn and look but my guide told me not to move or look behind me else the Breath of Shadows might miss me and I wouldn’t want that, Not after all the gold I’ve paid for this once in a lifetime adventure.

My own breath is loud in my ears. The heat from the trees is making me sweat. I cannot say it in any delicate manner but frankly, I am fucked after all this travelling. I thought it would be easy, pay my gold and let the locals show me their wonders then be home for Christmas, but now i’m stood, naked to be truthful, in a bloody awful bunch of manky trees waiting for some god-blessed breeze to blow past me and give me everlasting happiness or something. To be frank, and let me tell you I am not really Frank, but to be frank, I’ll be glad when all this is over.

(Do you think hes ready for the shadow breath?

Nah, let's make him wait a bit longer. He is paying for this adventure after all.)

And I’m bloody sure I can hear something scratching…

(Come on mate, can we do this now, My other half has got sausages on for me tea.

Don’t talk about sausages to me, have you seen the size of that insect bite on the end of his…

Please no, let's finnish this. Have you the blade ready?

Yeah, I’ll just give it a good swish…)

I can hear it, I can hear the Breath of Shadows. Oh my. I am so blessed, I


Well there he was, then his head rolled over there.

He's got his everlasting happiness we promised him, it just had to end quick thats all.

And we’ve got his gold, here’s your share. Now you can go home to those sausages.   

Please, after looking at that it’s enough to put a man off his dinner, for almost half an hour...maybe.

Then the silence crept back in, and a tiny breeze brushed a lock of hair over the dead man's head, and was gone for another hundred years...

A wanderer of words, and I like to ramble.

Online Alex Hormann

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Re: [Aug 2019] - BtR: Weather - Submission Thread
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2019, 07:35:07 PM »

503 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
The sun blazed down like the eye of a vengeful God, searing all it surveyed. The ground it saw was dry as bone, cracked as a fractured skull. The grass had long since died, wilting away to yellow stalks that lay fat on the baked earth like corpses. The only sign of plant life left were patches of fern, brown now, but sill clinging feebly to life. Everything was coated in the same thin layer of dust, spread evenly by a long-vanished wind until all was blanketed the same. There had not been another wind for as long as Cusjo could remember. And he was nearly twelve cycles old.
Somewhere nearby, the rustle of wings disturbed the air. A flicker of green to the north caught his eye. The Sheska was flying low again. Low enough for him to catch at last.
He unfolded his hind-legs and kicked off the ground, leaving a plume of dust in his wake. Cusjo flared his nostrils, drawing in the scent of his prey. Sweet, almost sticky against his cilia. Just as Mother had taught him to expect. He landed many body-lengths away, spreading his six limbs in the manner of landing. His claws dug into the dirt, the soft parts of his limbs absorbing the shock of the impact. His two pairs of compound eyes, one on each side of his head, scanned his arid surroundings.
The Sheska rested on a dry grass blade only a few lengths from him. A queer thing, it stood on two stumpy legs, it’s soft body capped by a cracked shell. Its feeble eyes waved around helplessly on stalk-ends, while its double-mouths munched loudly on the dessicated grass, seeking any remaining droplet of moisture. From its incessant grinding of teeth, it clearly found none. Wings jutting out from the shell quivered in hunger.
Cusjo chose that moment to trike. With another powerful kick, he sprung through the air, claws outstretched. The Sheska never saw him coming. He landed on its soft, sticky skin, immediately sinking his mandibles into its flesh. Before it could retreat into its shell, he had torn a strip of skin off and burrowed inside.
Inside was so different. Here it was moist, the warmth pleasant, and the food plentiful. He ate as he wormed through the interior, nestling close to the Sheska’s lungs, where he and his offspring could access the precious air. Ah yes, he thought, dimly aware of his swollen abdomen. The offspring. Soon they would hatch, consume both the Sheska and Cusjo himself, before seeking out their Mother.
Life was hard for a male, but at least it was life with a purpose. In that, he and the Sheska were the same. Just two helpless beings in a dead world, looking for a way to be of use to the next generation. Did the Sheska have offspring? Cusjo wondered. He supposed it did not matter, not in the end. He was more than happy to share his own.


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Online Bender

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Re: [Aug 2019] - BtR: Weather - Submission Thread
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2019, 11:53:14 PM »
Downside Up
807 words

Spoiler for Hiden:

Downside Up

She could feel the pain of the drops hitting her like like the tips of thousand pickaxes, she could feel the  she could feel the darkness like a endless hole split only by the  flashes of light  like exploding blowsticks followed by noise like a mountain breaking. It was like gods of sky were on a rampage to destroy this world. She could feel it all despite having her eyes screwed tightly shut. She could feel it all despite the biting bonds that tied her to the death posts. She could feel it all, fear possessing every fragment of her body and mind....but strangely she could feel a kind of suppressed excitement. She wanted these, she longed for these, she lived all her life working towards these and now.... she's going to die for these. Strangely, she felt wild uncontrollable laughter rising within her.

Kaila was a Downer. Her, her family, her clan, her race, all the way back from her many times great grandmother...all lived below grounds mining flamium and tending to the vast engines that supplied life to the uppers. The Downers were the life givers who gave up their life and freedom permanent darkness of the tunnels so that they can help the uppers to live and find a way to defeat the effects of rift-break that ruined their air, blackened their world and nearly ended all life. The Uppers had their own battles living in flimsy domes battling the raging elements bent on sweeping through the plant with scant respect for life, the cutting winds, raging fires, burning sun, flowing fire...just a different kind of hell. Their foreparents gave up life in upper to to support the uppers who can return life. Blue skies, green grass, color in plants...all were just vaguely remembered pieces of history to those who toiled in the downs now. This is now their way of life. Hunched bodies and gnarled hands were their legacy. Dusty air, dirty skin and short lives were the life....until....

Kymer was a spark in the darkness, a shine of flamite vein to weary eyes...he was a romantic, though Kaila always doubted whether it was her who was the object of his love. Kymer was a linkman. He was one of the few who spoke to uppers. Linkmen were always in high regard as were the only source of news from uppers and that news kept them all alive (and few, dreaming of return to upper life). He lived for old stories, hunted every scrap of parchment telling about upper life and a well of undying enthusiasm....til the day they sent his dead body down.

Venturing out of a safe zone and getting himself killed isn't really Kymer, Kaila knew. He was comfortable in books and safe zones. He often refused to venture even into new tunnels preferring to stick with the familiar....and so she ventured up to see for herself. She could remember when she started to plan, winning control over the air/fume filter, faking a small failure and using the repair time to crawl up unnoticed. Her surprise at her fume guage remaining inert despite being just one level below surface was as equal as her bad luck to run into two pairs of guards right outside the door level. Whether she was surprised more at seeing them or their maskless facses, she didn't know. The guards of the door laughed at her mask wearing face and the administrator laughed harder before ordering her to the Death Posts and execution.

Thoughts and memories flashed behind Kaila's closed eyes as the wrath of upper nature humbled her laughter mixed with the wrath of nature. Her mom's frown, Kymer's smile, the Downer's curses all finally faded into a tired, weary darkness as Kaila died.

Or not.

She woke to a vast blue sky that made her dizzy, hear the funny sounds made by tiny flying creatures, the muddy yet not dirty smell of Earth beneath her face. "Heaven?" But why were her wrists still bound? She still in a daze as the guards held her up, still in shock dream as words of the administrator flew past her unheeding ears, her mind jumping badly at the wonderment of the sky to the deception of the uppers, still in a stupor trying to drink in the winds rustling her dress, the rays of light drying the rain and her tears.... and still in a trance when the foul drink was poured down her throat. It felt like a dream as her subconscious mind registered her fall to the ground whilst her conscious mind still struggled to adapt to the reality of the Uppers. Her anger at the deception was tempered by the wonder of the bright colors of things growing from the plants....she could feel herself fading and her for once, she could
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Offline Ned Marcus

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Re: [Aug 2019] - BtR: Weather - Submission Thread
« Reply #6 on: September 01, 2019, 02:53:09 PM »
The Boatmen (1,500 words)

Spoiler for Hiden:
The Boatmen

Despite the downpour, heat flushed through Hal’s body as the row of wooden shacks burnt. Displaced people, many of whom he knew, huddled by the swollen river and watched everything they had burn whilst glancing anxiously at the banker, the politician, and their guards—many of whom held swords and burning torches. Hal’s face reddened in anger as he watched the scene.

“It’s not right, Gwendolen,” he said. His coracle bobbed up and down in the river. “Maybe it’s time we returned to your world.” Gwendolen had silent ways of responding. He knew she approved. The rain worsened, and the Silver River now lived up to its name—becoming a silver grey from the mud it carried from the mountains.

Turning away, he returned to his chair on the veranda. He knew  that his home was no different from the others, except that it stood alone and was surrounded by garden. He knew, too, that he could be next. The only thing in his favour was his ability to cross the Silver River in all weather—a skill those in power sometimes needed.

He sat, watching the rushing water as the hard rain hit his wooden roof. He was aware that from the burnt out shacks, new buildings would rise, bringing wealth to some. Politicians said it was the price of progress. The far side of the river bordered the Old World—it was not so civilized, and although it was less than sixty yards to the opposite shore, he could hardly see it for the storm. A flapper bird disturbed his thoughts.

“Someone’s coming.” The coracle rocked in reply.

The politician, banker, and several guards stepped into his garden. Hal wondered whether they’d fire his home, too. But there had been no notice, and these people liked their laws.

“Boatman,” Ottoline Pease said. He’d never spoken to her before, but she was well known in the area.

“Politician,” Hal replied.

The woman appeared a little disconcerted, but she continued. “We want passage to Lyme Pale.”

Hal knew she wanted to push back the frontier, and that the banker was greedy. He wanted properties there, too. Hal was reluctant to help. “It’s dangerous.”

“If you won’t cross on a day like today, then what use are you?” the banker asked.

“Investing in a proper ferry would be wonderful, Mr Tilley,” the politician said.

“Only Gwendolen can cross a swollen river,” Hal said, understanding that his home would burn by the evening if he refused.

“Is that what you call it?” Pease asked, wrinkling her nose at the coracle.

Tilley stared around his garden: at the dark hopping moths, and the plant growing through a hole in the floor of the veranda. Hal wondered if this man unconsciously sensed the magic of the Old World in his home and garden. Hal was sure he feared it. He believed that one of the reasons this man, and others, had hunted the last of the old creatures from this part of the world was an unreasoning fear of the unknown.

“There’ve been sightings of something strange in the river,” Tilley said. “What do you know?”

“I know nothing,” Hal said, glancing at his coracle. The people here are superstitious. They see faeries in the fields and hobs in their homes. Pay no attention.”

Two of the dispossessed people wandered up to Hal’s place. The old man, Benjamin, and his teenage grandson—Hal knew them well, and his heart was heavy at their suffering. “We want to cross, we have nothing here,” Benjamin said.

“I pay, and I say who gets in the boat,” Tilley said.

Hal sighed as he gestured towards Gwendolen. The coracle could carry eight people—ten at a squeeze. “Four of you,” he said. The guards made him uneasy. The banker, politician, and two guards got in.

Hal was pleased when a local bargee ran along the path.

“Hal, I’m glad I caught you. The barge won’t be sailing for a few days, and I want to get back to my family tonight.”

“Good to see you, Sam.”

“I say who gets in!” Tilley repeated.

“It’s handy having a boatman’s help,” Hal said. He passed Sam the spare pole. “And the river’s rising.”

Pease glanced at the river. “He might be right, Mr Tilley.”

The banker gave a short nod.

Hal rested his hands on the old man’s arms. “Jump onboard when I start poling,” he said quietly. He turned to the boy. “Both of you.”

As Hal poled the boat from the shore, Benjamin and the boy rushed through the shallow water. The boy pushed his grandfather into the boat and quickly climbed in after him. “Throw them out!” Tilley yelled, his face reddening. But Hal stopped poling, and the coracle moved downstream.

“I’m the boatman, and I say who comes. An old man and a boy are hardly a threat.”

“Leave them,” Pease said watching the boat move away from her destination.

Again, Tilley gave a reluctant nod.

Hal poled hard, straining every muscle in his fit wiry body, and, with Sam’s help, he brought the coracle back on course. Soon they they were poling through the deeper water.

“Take a break, Sam,” Hal said. “I’m okay now.”

Gwendolen kept her course, even as they reached the faster central water.

“How can you keep the boat so steady?” Tilley asked.

“It’s a knack.” Hal wanted a distraction. “Tell us a story, Sam.”

Hal had heard Sam tell his stories in the inns of the towns on both sides of the river, and he knew each tale. He also knew that the man had never sailed further than Johnby Station, twenty miles downstream, yet he enjoyed the tales each time he heard them. One of the places in Sam’s stories was the village where he’d first met Gwendolen.

Sam began. “I’ve sailed the Seven Seas of Ra, from the Lakes of Purple Dreams where women can talk to animals, to the Deserts of Sar where men can magic common mould to gold…” He continued while Hal steadily poled the coracle across the river.

Pease laughed, breaking the spell. “How can grown men believe in magic?”

Hal knew she’d regret her interruption. “What will you do now?” he asked Benjamin.

There was a moment’s silence, and the politician, at least, had the grace to look contrite. The teenage boy pointed at the banker. “He’s sucked us dry! We’ve nothing left!”

“True,” Hal said, “but you still have to live.”

“What can we do?” the boy asked.

“Get a job!” Tilley said. Lightning forked over Lyme Pale.

“Travel to Johnby Station,” Hal said. “There’s work there. And life’s freer.”

“It’s uncivilized,” Pease said.

“Is burning homes civilized?” Hal asked.

“We need rules and laws for our own protection,” she said. But seeming to lose heart, she finally shut up.

They passed the islet with its solitary tree. Hal stopped poling for several seconds, but Gwendolen continued to cut through the current.

“How does it do that?” the banker demanded.

“Momentum,” Hal said, appearing to pole harder, even though, with the deluge, his pole hardly touched the bottom. Gwendolen sensed his distress and rocked in the water. He patted the coracle, hoping to calm her. They were only twenty yards from the shore.

Tilley leant over the edge of the coracle, looking for something in the water, then he turned and flashed a smile at his bodyguards. “We have a trophy!”

“Gwendolen!” Hal whispered. His mouth felt dry as they neared the shore.

Tilley whispered to his guards who had their hands on their swords, then he leapt into the shallow water, raising his sword. Something flashed in the water, and the man gasped. Tilley stood transfixed as the rain finally stopped. His shrivelled body fell into the river. He was dead. The politician screamed.

The boy’s eyes widened. “He’s all desiccated.”

“Gwendolen! You’ve sucked the juice out of him,” Hal said.

Gwendolen flipped over, sending Hal and the six remaining passengers into the water. Opening a huge set of wings, she rose over their heads—her body was almost the size of the coracle that now floated down the river.

“It’s a monster!” Pease screamed. As Gwendolen circled above them buzzing loudly, the politician stood on the beach with dripping clothes and pointed a shaky hand at Hal. “Take him!”

The guards walked towards him, and more were coming from Lyme Pale.

Hal backed into the river. “Gwendolen!” She dived, scooping him up in two of her legs, and they flew over the river together. The giant water boatman landed in the water, her shiny golden body glistening as the sun came out. She flipped over, seeming to disappear as she swam upside down beneath the surface. Hal pulled himself onto her belly.

“You must face justice!” Pease shouted.

“Justice?” Hal shouted. “I’ll face judgement with a clear conscience.” He sat crosslegged on the giant water boatman's belly as she paddled with all six legs down the Silver River.

Online JMack

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Re: [Aug 2019] - BtR: Weather - Submission Thread
« Reply #7 on: September 01, 2019, 04:09:04 PM »
1,116 words. One of my shortest short stories.
Just slipped in before the deadline.  ;D

Spoiler for Hiden:
Night Story

It was a dark and story night. I mean, it was a dark and stormy night. At least, I thought it was night. It was dark, and it was stormy. In my altered state, I didn’t know whether it was dark because it was stormy or because it was night, or if it was all three things independently. (Which reminded me of a t-shirt my brother got at his egghead college: “The walking thing walks and is white in virtue of being something else besides. Whereas substance, indicating a this somewhat, is not.” Aristotle. Who knew? I don’t know if I’m a reliable narrator, but I am a really distractible one. Warning: detours ahead.)

Dark, stormy, night. Sometimes causation walks hand in hand with correlation. And sometimes our nightmares are just random.

Jilly just about jumped out of her skin when a loose shutter slapped against the heavy log walls of the main building. Ekim brayed - he always laughed like a donkey - sucked in way too much pot smoke way too quickly and went coughing like mad. Which got everyone totally falling out in giggles. Pot. Causation. Just saying.

I sprawled face down on the disgustingly ancient sofa contemplating the chemically-imagined electric wire that sizzled in a belt around my back and stomach. The other counselors teased about how I couldn’t handle my liquor. It turned out THC had a pretty wild impact too. (I did have a beer once, and it took an entire bag of pretzels to choke the damn thing down then another bag to stop the world rotating backwards. Someone told me the old movie star Mae West said they should put beer back in the horse where it belongs. I like this quote, too: “Don’t keep a man guessing too long - he’s sure to find the answer somewhere else.”)

(Would you like the answer about what this story is about? There’s a reason getting to the point is hard. Give me a little space.)

The storm was the latest fallen tree to block up the summer schedule. There’d been the bus company that went out of business right as a big bunch of campers were supposed to be hauled up from the city. While Mr. Briggs was dealing with that, Rachel, the assistant camp director - our boss - came down with something unpronounceable. (Which is just an excuse. I really don’t remember, and it’s been a few years. She just spent a lot of time in the latrine screaming before Mr. Bellows drove her to the medical center in town, and who really wants those details?) Then the storm, which washed out the Beaver Run Road, and cut the electricity.

You’d think the camp was cursed or something.

Left without the refuge of reality TV in the big common room, Noah suddenly remembered he’d packed a nice load of weed for emergencies. Noah, Dave, Ekim, Jilly, Tanzi, Bilbo, and me - you can call me Sam. Getting high. Telling scary stories in the dark, and checking each other out. You think campers pair off like horny rabbits? Imagine the counselors. Seventeen years old, all of us. Standing at one edge of the bridge to adulthood, while the rain flooded and a black river raged. (Fun game. Count the number of cliches and bad metaphors so far.)

(Not to mention foreshadowing.)

Bilbo held a flashlight under her chin, lighting up her top lip and the bottom of her wide nose and casting deep shadows around her cheek bones. Funny, fat Bilbo, who probably hated her nickname, but always said she loved it.

“Deep in the woods, on the edge of a dark lake called Palefire Lake -“

“Called what?!”

“Palefire Lake”

“Jesus! Call it something normal, like Hatchetman Lake, or something.”

I tuned out the argument and the hurt feelings.

Another shutter banged. This one was at the other end of the big, wood-beamed room. The wind was driving at the lake side, and that shutter was in the lee. A few seconds later, a third shutter popped. I forgot about the invisible electric cord, snagged another hit for mental fuel, and focused entirely on this new question: why would shutters on every side of a building start flapping like untied sails on an abandoned boat? (And if they all flapped together really fast, would we reach take off speed? And why shutters, anyway? Why is it always shutters in horror stories? And remote summer camps. And, and, and. You get the idea.)

Then the shutters did all start banging in unison. I blearily noticed Tanzi run to a window, then scream and back away. “There’s someone out there!” There’d have to be more than one someone, I thought. There were a lot of shutters.

It’s amazing how fear kills a buzz. One time, my egghead brother and his D&D friends got the munchies, so they walked down to Chiffa’s pizza at two in the morning, singing “Barnacle Bill the Sailor” to wake the dead. They got stopped by a police car. My brother said he snapped into shape like he’d never inhaled in his life. Talked his way out of it.

There were baseball bats in the rec closet, which was better than nothing. I’d hoped for chainsaws. Ha ha.

I’m not going to tell the story the way you want. I wanted to, when I started. I had this idea I could make it exciting. That I could make it unique, fill it with my voice. Give it all meaning. But my hands are shaking over the keys, so I’m skipping a whole ton of stuff and going to the part after all the screaming.

(Another detour: Ancient Greek theater had the idea that violence should not be seen. It was off scene. Obscene. Which is why Clytemnestra carries her husband’s head in from the wings. You never see the dirty dead. I mean, deed.)

I ran for a long time. The lake had climbed out of its banks, just like the shuttermen did. I tripped and fell into the muddy shallows, thinking how they got Ekim when he sprinted for the woods. I climbed a tree, I think. Tanzi, black braids swinging, went down under them while I watched. I don’t know exactly what happened to the rest. But I don't really want to.

So, what’s the point of all this? Why is this a story, and not just a set of awful facts?

I try to figure that out. If it’s a story, then there’s structure and meaning. Cause and effect. And there’s an end.

That’s really what I want more than anything else.

I want the bad things in life to have boundaries. Or detours. To stay in the night, and the dark, and the storm where they belong.

Tough luck, huh?

« Last Edit: September 01, 2019, 04:28:47 PM by JMack »
Change, when it comes, will step lightly before it kicks like thunder. (GRMatthews)
You are being naive if you think that any sweet and light theme cannot be strangled and force fed it's own flesh. (Nora)

Offline Jonathan Ryan

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Re: [Aug 2019] - BtR: Weather - Submission Thread
« Reply #8 on: September 01, 2019, 09:57:07 PM »
Been a while since I submitted anything so here goes.  This story turned out to be a lot longer than I'd planned and I've really enjoyed writing it and how it turned out so I couldn't bring myself to cut so much to make it fit, so I hope posting the first 1350 words is acceptable?  If it is, I hope you enjoy.

A Storm of Shadows

1350 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
Pale, broken moonlight danced across the brewing waters of Lunala Lake as the encroaching storm rumbled in the distance, banks of iron clouds toiling across the darkening sky, heralding the fury that followed in their wake.  The merchant city of Calathea was quiet in the distance, the sprawling metropolis settled in for the night, safely sheltered within the shadow of the Daggerline Mountains from the worst of the coming weather.

The small lake house several miles outside the city, however, would not find such comfort as thunder growled beyond the mountains.  But that suited the thief perfectly as she steered her small vessel through the choppy waters of the lake, easing the rudder towards the private dock built along the shoreline.  She cast the anchoring rope along the dock as she scrambled onto the slippery stone and tied the noose to steady the skiff, keeping a close eye on the lake house as she worked.

No light, no movement, no sign of any inhabitants.  But she remained wary.

Breathing deeply as the wind set her golden curls dancing to its tune, Rayne Emblyn checked her gear beneath her midnight cloak and dark fitted clothes.  Satisfied, she drew upon her well of magic and summoned her power.  The shadows pooled about her, caressing her, inviting her into their embrace and she gladly stepped into it.  She was a wraith, a living shadow as she strode purposefully down the dock to the shore and the dense undergrowth beyond.

The thief kept to the darkness the tangled canopy provided, invisible within her shadows as she surveyed the lake house.  All remained still, quiet.  She sent tendrils of liquid night ghosting towards the house, probing for any sign of magical wards.  Her emerald eyes narrowed in suspicion when she found none.  Surely, he couldn’t be that reckless.

But it’s possible he is that stupid, Rayne mused as she approached the back entrance and slipped inside the property, the lock of the carved oak door quickly giving way to her small pick tools.   

The lake house was a graveyard of couches and armchairs sheltered in dusty white sheets arranged around an exquisite marble fireplace. The floors were a richly coloured mahogany but smothered in a fine layer of dust and grime.  Her booted feet slid effortlessly across them as she prowled from room to room, her magic probing ahead of her seeking any sign of life.  Rayne marvelled at the beautiful artwork that adorned the walls, some artists she even recognised from her contacts among the merchant city slumbering across the lake.  A veritable fortune lay here, unguarded, everything of value kept in plain sight and left to gather dust.

Or so the ruse would have me believe, she thought wryly as the probing shadows uncovered what she sought.  Her magic guided her to the polished oak doors of a study.  Leather bound books and rolls of parchment littered the floor and shelves, but it was the back wall that drew her attention, as she spied her shadowy tendrils clawing at the wooden bookcase. 

The thief drew back her magic and examined the books set neatly along the shelves, the shelves themselves and the floor beneath.  Nothing was immediately evident, no seams cut into the stone indicating a hidden door, no hinges or handles of any kind.  Drawing on her power, Rayne pressed her shadow wreathed hand upon the wood, sending a small wave of her magic through it and felt a faint thrumming emanating from behind it.  The thief smiled as she recognised the type of magic, a rune-lock door. 

You are far more cautious than I gave you credit for, Mr. Lemaire.  But there is nowhere I cannot go.

Rayne dipped a little deeper into her well of power as she drew her magic back to her, bathing herself in the darkness of the flowing shadows.  She let the darkness course through her, envelope her like a second skin and pervade her entire being.  She was the darkness.  The thief could feel the seams in the wooden floor, the minuscule crevices between the stone walls, the spaces in the pages of the books. 

This was her playground; her world and she was its god.

Once she was certain of her path, Rayne released the magic and herself along with it.  Her shadow-self dissipated and flowed through the channels her magic detected in the air, the wood and the stone as she passed through the rune-lock door into a hidden chamber beyond.  The shadows coalesced, reforming into her physical body.  She always felt so heavy afterwards, like her limbs were chained with weights after flying free.  But she was all too aware of the dangers of maintaining that form for too long.

She shook off her discomfort and surveyed the room, her gaze piercing the gloom with a spark of magic.  A small work desk and chair were set against the rear wall, with some small display cases adorning each side, laden with rare and exotic idols and artefacts.  What she sought would likely be locked within the desk.
Quickly, she approached the work desk, pried open the drawer and rummaged through piles of paper until she found the ledger.  Her excitement grew as she leafed through the pages, her verdant gaze roving over the well of information contained within.  This was what the High Circle had hired her for, this information that could turn the tide and wrest the city back from the control of the Lemaire family.

And hopefully gain my freedom from the Guild. 

She pocketed the ledger in her cloak as she readied herself to leave, her escape route mapped out in vivid detail in her mind.  Rayne summoned the shadows to her again and ghosted through the air, wood and stone back to the study beyond.  She was about to reclaim her corporeal form when her magic detected movement in the hall.  Rayne quickly darted into the furthest corner of the room where she could meld with the shadows there and wait to observe the threat.

“I know you’re here, Rayne,” A tall, broad shouldered man entered the doorway, predatory onyx eyes scanning the shadowy gloom of the study.  His blood red hair was tied tightly back into a stylized tail, hanging down to the waist of his dark grey, fitted clothes that emphasised the contours of his well-muscled body.  His smile did not reach his eyes as he prowled in, “Come out, come out poppet.  You know I’ll find you in the end.”

Rayne shifted from one corner to another, feeling out the pathways and channels in the air and gloom for a way passed this man she hated more than anyone.  Mohle Tamorak was the lowest kind of thief.  He had no pride in his skill and would as soon slit your throat for a score than do some honest to gods thieving.  He would sell her out to the Master without a second thought. 

And any chance of freedom will vanish.  I need to leave, but how?

She could feel the strain of maintaining her shadow form beginning to take its toll on her.  It would be dangerous to keep it going for much longer.  If she could create a distraction it might allow her the room to flit through the doorway.  Rayne began to feel her magic ebb away, but she dug deeper, drawing more than she ever had before, drawing enough to feel the edges of her limits.  But she needed it, anything less would mean the end of her.

Rayne cast her magic into the study and formed a shadow that resembled her as closely as possible.  She hoped Mohle would take the bait and move towards it and almost whooped in delight as he drew a wicked blade and rushed towards her shadow.  As quickly and quietly as she dared, Rayne maneuvered through the channels of air and shadow and darted through the open doorway.  Her shadow-self dissolved as she reclaimed her solid form and burst into a dead sprint through the lake house, Mohle’s scream of frustration following in her wake.
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