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Author Topic: [Jul+Aug 2018] - Games - Submission Thread  (Read 3781 times)

Offline xiagan

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[Jul+Aug 2018] - Games - Submission Thread
« on: July 02, 2018, 09:45:16 PM »
Games


Pollice Verso by Jean-Leon Gerome (1872)

Games are incredibly important for us humans (and probably for other fantastical races too). For children they're safe environments to learn just about everything. For adults (who of course are so wise that they don't need to learn stuff through games or make-believe) games have entertaining, socializing and - depending on the game - lots of other values.

Panem et circenses. Hunger Games. Quidditch. Thud!
We find a thousand card or dice games in countless taverns; amphitheaters and arenas in fantastical metropolises; gods who use human pawns or humans who gamble with gods.

Your story has to be about a game. Doesn't matter if three copper coins, the MC's life or a civilization is at stake, if they play ball, cards or fight to the death.

Let the games begin and may the odds be ever in your favor!


Rules:

1. This must be prose or poetry.
2. The story has to be about a game (see above).
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. 

Extra rule: If your game requires some kind of explanation or stating of the rules, you get 250 words extra to do so.

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

Entry will close July 31st/August 1st, 2018 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.
« Last Edit: July 30, 2018, 02:52:45 PM by ScarletBea »
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Offline Jake Baelish

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Re: [Jul 2018] - Games - Submission Thread
« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2018, 07:24:06 AM »
That's How It Started

1500 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
“How did we end up here?” the old veteran grumbled. The night’s drizzle ran down his helm, dripped from his nose, soaked his stubble. It wasn’t doubt or fear that painted the man’s expression, but disinterest. Years of frustration and tumult was the answer.

Yet the wizard who stood beside him; in his – also dripping – pointy, wide-brimmed red hat; knew that such was not the answer this veteran sought. Fortunately, this bearded old conjurer reckoned he had just enough time.

“It all began,” he started, bushy eyebrows twitching, “with a knock at a door.”



You see, there were this group of goblin boys. Disgusting things, goblins, with their scrawny little bodies and pot-bellies. All lanky limbs and drooping ears and bits. It wouldn’t be half so bad if they’d save us from their filthy nakedness. But such is goblin culture, or rather, lack of. I never did understand why they’d never bother to seek a dentist!

Anyway, I forget myself. We aren’t here to discuss the vile intricacies of goblin nature; though believe you me, we could spend a whole evening on that, and put ourselves off supper to boot. This particular young mob of goblins – three of them, there were – were probably in their late adolescence, in human terms. Together, they plotted a spot of mischief, a game you may have played yourself in years gone by, when you were a mere whippersnapper, and I still wore the same grey beard and grim expression as I ever have; it’s called ‘Knock-A-Door-Run.’

So, our spunky goblin boys – their names escape me, therefore I shall name them Grim, Gorm and Gray, for the sake of ease – were belching and farting about as goblins tend to do. The villagers barely batted any eyelids. Goblins back then, you see, were not so frowned upon as they are today. Well, I mean, of course they were frowned upon; but that was more for all the belching and farting they did about the place. Any animosity was kept strictly behind closed doors. Nobody wanted to appear rude!

Anyway, in this particular village there lived a miserable old witch. I say miserable, and by no means do I exaggerate or make presumptions. We had more than a few run-ins, she and I, so I should know. A big scar runs up my belly, thanks to her unwholesome incantations! Bah! A story for another day. Our goblins were not to know, either. They scurried outside the old boot’s tiny hovel on the fringe of town, burrowed right in-between a couple of great oaks. Charming place if not for the company. And Gray, ever the one for bravado, turned to his friends and said, “Okay, here lives old Boshie. Some say she’s a witch! She won’t just yell like the rest, I’ll bet. Grim, you go and knock, we’ll be right behind you.”

Gorm sniveled like the rotten sniveler he was, like they all were. Always a joke when the others were taking the risks. Grim, as thick as he was ugly, accepted the challenge with a spluttering giggle of his own. Gorm and Gray crouched behind the crooked gate of the old witch as Grim crept, stealthily as a bear in mating season, toward that dark wooden door.

Beads of sweat ran down their dirty little faces, though they needn’t have worried. Woman has been deaf and blind for years. Though by some mystical means she knows when someone knocks that demonic knocker of hers. Grim had barely given it the faintest of taps before hightailing it back behind the gate.

“Coward!” Gray hissed, as if the most dangerous home he had knocked on wasn’t that of the crippled librarian. He soon crumbled in terror as the door opened however and sent him scrambling behind the wall and out of sight.

The witch sniffed about, her wrinkled and pinched face scrunching into something resembling a shriveled raisin. “Goblins!” she barked. “Wherever you are, you’d better be careful. Not all are as forgiving as old Boshie!” Or as fate smitten, she thought, though didn’t add.

Gray burst into laughter as the door closing sounded their safety. “Grim, you were so scared.” He teased. “You hardly even touched the thing!”

Grim farted his response.

“Game is still on though, Gray,” Gorm pointed out. “We play until the first coward refuses the knock. Grim did it, so the game continues.”

Gray’s smile faltered. “Hmph! Fine. That stinks, Grim, by the way. Like rotted kitten flesh, and it’s making me hungry. Let’s move on; find ourselves some munch on the way – and more doors.”

That was how they ended up in Castle Town; and, having exhausted many of the houses to waving fists and doors rattling as they slammed shut, they came to the home of yours truly. Being a very wary and watchful wizard that I am, of course, I spotted them. That, and I’d heard of a bunch of gawking goblins gawping around the place like they’d never seen stone buildings or one of more than a single story before. Their game had become common knowledge not a full day since they’d arrived.

So it was, that my curtain twitched more than a few times, angrily awaiting their coming upon my own immaculate doorway. I gave a self-satisfied snicker as they appeared, all hunched and rapturous, along my modestly sized wall, and took up a seat in the hallway.

“Your turn, Gorm,” Gray stated, before anyone had the chance to suggest otherwise. They had no set method for deciding who was next, and logic was quite beyond them. It was usually a matter of who said who went next and the others hadn’t the capacity to argue otherwise. Had they used an iota of intelligence, they’d have known it was, in fact, Grim’s turn again in any case. Gray, however, knew who lived here and was only interested in self-preservation. He also knew that Grim, having already braved the witch, might protest a little at testing a wizard too.

The gormless-most of the three of them trod with admirable caution toward my grandiose porch. Admirable for a goblin, at least. He reached it sweating only enough that the mildest trickle of stench offended my nose before his hand reached the lion’s head knocker. It thudded only once.

CRACK!

“Ouch!” Gorm whelped as a lick of flame sprouted from the lion’s nostrils, scorching my unwelcome guest’s greasy mitts. The unfortunate urchin dashed to the others outside the gate, arriving with them just in time to turn and see me open the door to greet him.

Cruel you may think me, but I did chuckle at his dismayed expression. He clutched that charred palm of his to his flabby torso as if he’d lost a hand. Grim and Gray were howling.

“That ought to be a lesson to you,” I beseeched them. “Any further and you could see some serious trouble!”

“Begging pardon, Mr. Wizard.” Gray sniggered. “My friend is a bit gormless. He won’t be knocking on any more doors, I shouldn’t think.”

With a huff, I left them.

Grim glared at Gray with menace.

“What?” Gray asked.

“There’s only one door left we haven’t knocked in this town,” he said. “And it’s your turn.”

A look of confusion crossed Gray’s face; crooked, yellow teeth jutted from his gaping maw. “Where?”

Grim raised his gaze, to the turrets and battlements of the king’s castle, pitched across the bridge just ahead.

“That’s the castle!” Gray squealed. “We can’t even get to the front door. We’d have to pass the gate first.”

Grim, who, as his name suggests, was not beyond the dirtiest of tasks, said, “I know a way.”

Approximately an hour later, three gloopy goblins dragged themselves, stinking and squelching, from the sewerage system beneath the castle, into an open courtyard before the great tower’s mighty iron doors. The guards stood opposite, facing away toward town.

“This is stupid!” Gray whined, flapping his arms, flicking muck across the yard.

“You have a chance, Gray,” growled grim. “Or are you coward?”

Gray, perhaps a little cleverer but still plenty stupid as the others, splotched across to the door and hammered it three times with his fist. No sooner had the muck begun sliding down the ironwork than the door heaved in – and king’s guards poured out.

Another ten men appeared, as if by magic, around the three unsightly intruders.

“Shit!” Gray moaned, as, ironically, that very thing spilled from his bowels.



“I warned them,” the wizard said. “They found themselves in the royal dungeon, sentenced for treason. They certainly wouldn’t be knocking on anymore doors – for as sure as the princess’s shits smell of roses!” He blew his nose into a kerchief, sending droplets of rain spluttering. The goblin hordes assembling across the field filled him with dread. “That must’ve been a hundred years ago. And here we are.”

The veteran, who’d lived to see the beginnings and ends of many a war, sighed. “So, that’s how it started.”
« Last Edit: July 27, 2018, 07:41:31 AM by Jake Baelish »
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Online Alex Hormann

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Re: [Jul 2018] - Games - Submission Thread
« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2018, 01:34:54 PM »
One Last Game

1026 Words

I don't usually do content warnings or anything, but the game I chose is Russian Roulette, so be warned.

Spoiler for Hiden:
I sat beside the ancient stone altar, glad to be off my shaking feet. I had known - we all had - that it would come to something like this.But knowing and doing are two wholly separate things. Being prepared to kill for your God is one thing. Being prepared to die, another.

“The Master needs blood to return,” said Markoz, telling us what we already knew. “The blood must be shed willingly, and it must be the heart’s last. We are here because we are willing to sacrifice what others are not. Our lives for His.”

“Our lives for his,” we all repeated.

There was a lump in the back of my throat as Markoz spoke. When I had first been introduced to the Faith, it had seemed all fun and games. The Dark Trickster, the Winner of Games, the Lucky One. The Master’s titles are many, and all are but a fraction of his greatness. It had started with blessing the dice before a roll, and it was going to end here.

Markoz drew a revolver from his pocket and emptied out all the bullets save one. He spun the wheel and showed us the gun. “There is now no way to tell which chamber holds the bullet,” he said. “We will each in turn place the barrel to our heart and pull. The loser shall give his blood for the Master. The winners shall revel in his rebirth.” He turned the gun on himself and pulled the trigger.

Nothing happened, and his relief was subtle, but I could see it.

He passed the gun to his left. “There is no turning back now friends. Let all us play one last game together.”

Hemmak had the gun now. He stroked the barrel. “It’s a good piece, this. When this is over can I keep it?”

We all laughed nervously. Typical of Hemmak to break the tension with a joke.

“If I don’t make it,” said Hemmak, fingering the trigger. “You’ll make sure the Winner of Games knows it was me who died for him, right? I’m betting on an afterlife, you see, and I’d quite like to be rewarded when I get there.”

“You want your ten virgins is it?” laughed Jekub.

“Virgins? Pah!” Hemmak shook his head. “I want a nice apple orchard. And a cider press. And maybe some horses too.” He pressed the barrel against his chest. “See you on the other side.”

Click.

“Hmm. I guess those apples will have to wait.”

We all laughed. Some more than others. Hemmak passed the gun on to Raplan.

I’d never got on that well with Raplan. A young man, he was oddly intense. More devoted to the theory of luck and chance than he was to the thrill you got when casting the dice. “It seems the odds are slowly weighing against us,” he remarked as he took the gun. From one in six to one in four. Before today, I wonder, would any of us have taken that risk? Would you play those cards knowing that one wrong move would rob you of everything? I doubt it. We are gamblers after all, not madmen like the priests up on their mountain.” He started angling the gun. “But if it’s what the Gambler Most high demands of us, who are we to say no?”

“Ah, get on with it boy,” barked Hemmak, which earned him severe glares from Raplan and Markoz. “I’m just saying we could do without the monologue. Just pull the trigger already.”

“That’s rather easier for you to say than one of us,” Raplan replied. He gestured at the four of us who had not yet taken the chance. “But I will respect your wishes. Old man.”

The gun clicked again.

Raplan smiled thinly. “It looks like I must suffer yet more conversation with you Hemmak. If you can even call it that.”

The gun found its way into Boko’s hands, the big man sitting on my left. He turned it over in his hands. “I suppose this is a game where I can’t fold,” he remarked.

Markoz gave him a sad smile. “You knew the stakes when you joined. It’s too late to back down now.”

“Figured as much. Strange you know. Once you’re holding all the cards that thrill goes away. For me anyway. Any of you get like that?”

Yes, I thought, but was too much of a coward to say it aloud. Everybody else just shook their heads.

“Guess it is just me after all. Oh well. May as well get this over and done with. Get those virgins and all,” he added, throwing a wink at Jekub.

When the click sounded again, he looked almost disappointed, though I could see no reason why he would be. “Maybe next time, eh?” he said to the gun as he passed it along.

And so the gun came to me. And with it a fifty-fifty chance that I was about to lose my life in the Dark Trickster’s game. So many thoughts ran through me head at that point. All the hands I’d dealt, all the games I’d played and the stakes I’d wagered. Every girl I’d stolen a kiss from in dirty gambling halls and cheap saloons. That first shot of whiskey I’d downed in Southwater, and the handsome stranger who’s shown me his silver dice and introduced me to a better, a more thrilling way of life.

Jekub leaned in and whispered, “I would wish you luck, friend. But I, I sort of want you to lose.”

I gave him a weak smile. I’d feel exactly the same in his position. It was my life or his. As high as the stakes had ever been.

“If this is the shot that kills,” I said, looking to Markoz. “Will you do something for me? There’s this girl in Highmount I’m sweet on. Could you give her my winnings?” It wasn’t much as last requests went. But with no family, and no friends outside this circle, what else was I to say?

Markoz nodded. “Of course I will, Holdet.”

“Thank you,” I said.

And I pulled the trigger.
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Offline simonster

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Re: [Jul+Aug 2018] - Games - Submission Thread
« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2018, 10:09:55 PM »
Dark Abyss, Blue Water, Wild Forest

1499 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
"So there's Red Fire on Heart, a second Red Fire on Voice, and Magic Ring on the Ancestry square," said the paladin Deyla.  "What do you think we're up against?"

"Worst case, a dragon," said Flak.  "Could be, a pattern like that.  Two Fire tiles, one on offensive.  We sure don't want to summon something flammable.  So...  Our Water tile goes on defence.  On the Shield square, I'm thinking."

Dethaniel, dark mage of the seeker's guild, cursed silently to himself.  Things just kept getting more difficult.

The party's descent through the tunnels had been arduous.  They'd been lucky to spot the gaunts' nest before they were too deep into it, but their luck had run out when they'd reached the temple's upper chambers and waves of undead had risen to greet them.  Eventually they'd cut through to the heart of the temple, and at last faced Abbahlon's challenge.

The statue of the god faced them from across the shallow pit that dominated the large, circular chamber.  In ages past, Abbahlon had been worshipped as the god of tactics, luck, and cunning.  The blue stone statue portrayed him as an elderly monkey with a serious, inscrutable face.

Opposite the statue, a sigilmancy board was inscribed atop a simple stone pedestal, and as the party had approached it, the tiles for the god's first summoning had magically appeared.  The challenge was clear: to progress further they must beat the monkey god at his game.

The sigilmancy board was identical to those that players crowded around in the gaming rooms of Kal-Uker, but as they'd found in the first two rounds, the creatures summoned by this board were not mere illusions, and the players were not expected to simply watch them battle.  The wight they had summoned first had needed little help to beat Abbahlon's ice wolf, but in the next round their giant scorpion had left them battling a stone golem practically unaided.  And the god looked to have saved his best tiles for last.

"Dethaniel, you agree with that?" asked Deyla.

"Trust me," said Flak.  "Water on Shield.  Forest on Gaze for a touch of wild magic.  And Dark Abyss on Dream for power.  That's our move.  We'll have a sea hag, maybe a kraken."

Dethaniel wouldn't have chosen these companions, but they'd been the only adventurers in town when the rumour had spread that an entrance to the lost Temple of Abbahlon had been found.

Deyla, the paladin, had taken charge of the party before Dethaniel had been able to assert himself in the role, much to his annoyance.  While they were slightly tedious company, the archer Granger and the priestess Briar Rose had both proven themselves reliable in a fight.  But the mercenary Flak had been a problem.  He was self-confident and cynical and, most inconveniently, an experienced sigilmancy player.

In the previous rounds, Flak had dictated their choice of move.  It was all Dethaniel had been able to do to keep the three tiles he needed still in play.  This round he had to be the one who chose where those tiles were placed, or his months of research were wasted.  And that meant facing down Flak somehow.

"I agree that the Blue Water tile has potential," he said carefully, "but it's too unreliable to lead with.  If we are indeed fighting a dragon, then I think we should make the most of Dark Abyss.  Play that tile on Seed, use Water for Gaze, and Forest for Nature, and we'll have a demon fighting with us."

Flak laughed.  "Amateur move.  No one plays Abyss on a dominant square.  Sure, you'll probably get a demon, but a weak one.  You've got to know the exact pattern to summon a proper demon.  Start guessing and we'll go into this fight with just a baby pit fiend."

That was uncomfortably close to the truth.  With three tiles of fifteen possible elements, and fifteen squares on which to play them, the number of possible creatures that the sigilmancy board could summon was beyond what any player could learn.  But Dethaniel knew exactly what his combination of tiles would summon: a blue devil monkey.  A cunning fighter, but not a strong one.  Not even a true demon.  But that same blue monkey was the avatar of Abbahlon himself, and when Dethaniel had discovered the old stories that named Abbahlon as the creator of the game of sigilmancy, he knew that somewhere there must be a board on which those tiles summoned something more than just a monkey.  He was convinced he'd found that board at last.

But the mercenary was an obstacle he hadn't anticipated.

He tried to sound resigned.  "I guess you've won a lot of gold playing sigilmancy."

"Sure," said Flak.  "I've done okay."

"The championship matches pay well?"

Flak hesitated.  "The gambling pays well.  Watching the players.  Spotting who knows what they're doing, who only thinks they know.  That's what brings in the money."

"So it's a thrill then when you see an inexperienced player claiming he's got the perfect move, ready to bet everything on a pattern he thinks he sees in the tiles, an unbeatable summons spelt out in the game's symbols?  Don't you love watching that play out?"

Flak didn't reply for a long moment.  Then he started laughing.  "Yeah, I guess I do.  There's always a chance I'll be surprised."  For the first time he sounded almost friendly.  "The board's all yours, wizard.  Conjure us up a demon if you can."

"So do we have a move?" asked Deyla.

Dethaniel replied, trying to keep the jubilation out of his voice.  "Dark Abyss on Seed.  Blue Water on Gaze.  Wild Forest on Nature."

"Gods help us all," muttered Flak.

"Okay, everyone.  Same as before.  Spread out and let our creature do the fighting for us."  Deyla was taking charge again as everyone prepared for battle.  "Rose, cover Flak and Granger.  Dethaniel, ready with the shielding spells.  I'm putting the tiles down... now!"

Dethaniel cast multiple shields, and, after a moment's thought, magical detection.  The summoning would work.  It had to work!  The rest of the party were in for more trouble than they realized, but it was every mage for himself in this world.

"They're coming!" shouted Granger as the chamber erupted into flame.

And there it was!  A pulsing glow of powerful magic at the statue.  The rod!  Abbahlon's rod had been summoned into the statue's hand!  Dethaniel started to run.

"The demon!  Where the hell's our demon?"  Flak's screams were drowned out by a roar.  And then Granger was shouting, "Healer!  Healer!"

Dethaniel dodged as a leathery red wing swept overhead.  There was another burst of flame, but it was directed across the chamber from him.  The blue statue, and the precious artefact it held, were just a few yards ahead.

But suddenly he wasn't moving.

It was like his body was magically frozen.  He twisted his head around, trying to make sense of what was happening, and saw Deyla run past him.  Then the sickening realization hit him.  Deyla was going for the rod!  She had seen it, or had known about it, and had paralysed him to get to it first!  She was at the statue and there was nothing he could do to stop her.

With a scream of frustration, Dethaniel's thumb found the power button, and pressed.  In front of his eyes, words appeared: "Continue.  Save.  Options."  He kept the button down, and after a second the world vanished leaving him in silent darkness.

He pulled off the headset and threw it down onto the bed beside him.  Sweat covered his face where the goggles had been, and he wiped it off on the covers.

The whole evening wasted!  The Rod of Abbahlon, one of the game's legendary hidden treasures, had almost been his!

He cursed by every deity his imagination could conjure.  Stabbed in the back by his own teammate!  He hoped the dragon killed them all.

Collapsing backwards onto the bed he tried to look calmly at the situation.  His theory about the rod had been right, and he knew now exactly how to get it.  The important thing was that he hadn't lost his chance.  Shutting down the console mid-game meant that he hadn't officially played the Temple of Abbahlon quest yet, so he could still respawn back at town and start it again with a different party.  But the chance wouldn't last.  It wouldn't be long before details of the hidden rod were all over the internet.

He found his phone to check the time and groaned.  Past midnight, and he had lectures first thing.  A wave of exhaustion hit him.

He closed his eyes, and felt like he might cry from the frustration.  Images flickered behind his eyelids, and for a moment he saw the blue face of the monkey god Abbahlon.

No, he wouldn't be beaten that easily.  Dethaniel, dark mage of the seeker's guild, rose to his feet, and went to make coffee.

Offline Carter

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Re: [Jul+Aug 2018] - Games - Submission Thread
« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2018, 10:01:20 PM »
Here is my entry for the month, coming in at 1496 words. 

Spoiler for Hiden:
Playing the Devil at His own Game

You know this story.  There are hundreds of them.  A man or woman meets the Devil.  They are offered a deal.  Or a bet.  Or just what they desperately want. 

They take it.  They gamble.  There is a catch.  The Devil claims they are in His power.  They owe him a soul.  The lives of their loved ones.  Something they cannot live without. 

But as everyone knows, the Devil loves a challenge.  An all or nothing throw of the dice.  After all, He cheats.  However, through luck, skill or esoteric knowledge, they win.  The Devil is beaten, banished and belittled.  The tale travels through the local population like a flames through a tinder-dry field. 

This is one such tale.

Except . . .

Well read for yourself and see if you discover the hidden truth. 

*

You will find the entry to His domain at the back of every casino.  A door as black as sin looms.  Crimson creeps around the edges like blood seeping from a wound.  A solitary guard stares at the handful of patrons that wonder nearby, his black suit tight around a thick-set frame.  Only the word “THUG” branded across his forehead will make his role more obvious.

One woman approaches the door.  She has never before been inside a casino, let alone near this door.  She ignores the slots, the tables, the Mammonic orgy of the gaming floor.  What she seeks is more important. 

Does the guard see it in the heavy, purposeful stride?  In the set of her shoulders?  In the deep, self-reassuring breaths and slight hesitations as she draws to within arms' length?  Regardless, this solitary sentinel has a purpose.  With a single outstretched hand he halts her advance. 

He holds something within the palm of his hand.  They are too close you us to see, but her shoulders slump, her eyes descend to the plush carpet.  For a moment, an interminable heartbeat it looks as if she will turn away.  But instead she takes the deepest of breaths, stands tall and nods. 

Does she imagine a flicker of guilt, of humanity, that crosses his face as he stands aside?  Is there a scintilla of empathy and encouragement as he gestures her onwards?  If there is, it is gone by the time she presses a hand against the fine-grained wood. 

The door swings open and she descends into Hell.

Elegantly decorated with a large mahogany table dominating the centre, it is not what she expects from the Devil's domain.  Long-lost paintings adorn the walls with adequate empty space to create an almost zen-like feel.  Six high-backed chairs await their occupants. 

Almost she misses the Devil.  He stands so still at first, his dark suit fading into the background.  He seems to emerge the moment she spies the dark pits of his eyes, burning with the glow of distant coals.  Suave, sophisticated and smiling an ingratiating smile, every inch perfects the role of a businessman; someone used to deals, bargains and gaining the upper hand. 

She relaxes ever so slightly.  A mistake of course. 

“So.  You're here on behalf of your boyfriend,” He says. 

Surprise and determination wage war across her face.  I have not told you about the boyfriend of course.  A gang member looking for a way out, even now being threatened and coerced into remaining.  The Devil's talons are deep in him and extricating himself is an impossible task.

“I want you to let him go.”

The Devil's smile broadens. 

“And I cannot convince you to bargain something in exchange?”

She shakes her head.  The Devil holds out a hand.  Smoke swirls on his palm, coalescing into a deck of cards in a sulphuric, brimstone stench.  He gestures expansively with his free hand.

“Please, take a seat.”

As she steps forward, she stops, heart racing.  The other seats are suddenly occupied, cheerful faces staring back at her.  Four young adults, no older than twenty, wave in unison.

“Hi Mom,” they say in discordant unison. 

In the lines of their faces, in the set of their bodies, she sees echoes of herself.  In the depths of her mind impossible memories stir.  Of their fathers.  Of lives as unlived.  She tries to shut the cascade, to concentrate on the Devil dealing cards around the table, a delighted grin smeared across his face.  She can't of course.  Who could?

And so she is distracted when the chips appear.  She fondles them without realising what each represents.  Crisp, sharp and painful memories.  Of past, present and possible.  Births and deaths.  Precious and mundane.  Each a searing brand through her brain.  She jolts her hand away but not quick enough. 

Each of her children have their own stash in front of them. They smile at her, trusting and naïve.  They don't see the danger.  They can't see what the game may cost her.

“Don't worry.  I'll beat Him for you,” they say. 

The Devil deals her two cards.  Ace of Spades.  Queen of Hearts.  An accompanying grin.  And so the game begins.  She forces herself to focus on the cards, only on the cards.  A procession of hands follow.  The Devil bluffs.  The Devil fakes a tell.  Her children fall for it, drawn into making outrageous bets and absurd calls.  Somehow she can sense the Devil's game, see his thought processes writ large.

And so she betrays her children.  She has to.  If she wants to save them, if she wants to save her boyfriend, she has no other choice.  And her pocket aces, her suited cards, are just enough to win their memories for her own.  A turn of a card and she endures pained, hurt expressions.  One by one they fade from existence, their faces wrenching at her heart with every passing, taking with them something vital. 

And with every touch of her winnings, her heart breaks.  She witnesses their triumphs and failings.  Their graduations and their weddings.  She feels their unconditional love and cannot bear it. 

And throughout the Devil cheats.  She cannot catch Him at it of course, but it is there in every smile, every snide comment and every laugh.  In how he watches her face as omniscient as God.  And then there are the impossible hands.  The ones she has no right to win.  In fact the only ones she loses are when she goes head-to-head against the Devil. 

So she gives away her own memories, hoarding those of her lost children, struggling to maintain an impassive facade. 

Before she realises it, it is just the two of them.  Just her against the Devil.  And of her own memories, she only has the painful ones of her boyfriend.  Of the arguments and the fights.  Of the crack of a hand against a cheek and the hard, hot tears.  Of his desperate, flailing failings.  Of the days when she knows he is with the gang and her impotent despondency.  Of only the long moments where she doubts he can ever change, where she does believe there is a way out.

She stares at her cards.  Queen of Hearts.  Six of Hearts.  The flop shows the other three sixes.  The Devil matches her raises, unconcerned.  The five of spades follows and the Devil grins, pushing His entire pile of chips forward. 

“You can still walk away.  You can take what you've gathered and walk away.”

If she matches him, she risks everything.  She cannot win.  Everyone knows the Devil cheats.  He has to have spades in hand.  He has to expect the only card that can let him win. 

A frown creases her forehead.  Has she seen one of the cards already?  Was it in the hands of a bouncer held close to a chest?  Too close her us to see?  Was it in his expression and in his humanity?

Who can say what truly goes through her mind as her face goes blank.  As she pushes all her memories forward, bets her life and soul against the Devil's own luck.  As His smile turns brittle and cold, cracking like an iced over lake under the pressure of a body's weight. 

*

They break up of course.  Others get a truncated tale but she tells him everything and no relationship can withstand such truths. 

But it drives them both forward.  He breaks from the gang and draws others out too.  He is a beacon of hope, revealing to others that beneath a violent facade lives a living, breathing, feeling person. 

She meets someone else.  The memories of her impossible children are replaced by a real one.  One on her way to being a neurosurgeon, a human rights activist, that rarest of breeds; an honest and good politician.  Someone to work good in the world. 

And the Devil?  More come to his door. 

And so you see it of course.  Where the Devil cheated.  But more importantly, do you see what game the Devil plays?

Offline Grey

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Re: [Jul+Aug 2018] - Games - Submission Thread
« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2018, 08:35:10 PM »
I'm amazed I wrote this as quickly as I did. Hopefully it doesn't show too much.  ;D

Beginners Luck

1307 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
Jaz held the metal piece between his thumb and forefinger and turned it over.

‘So why am I the pig?’

‘Because last time you cheated.’ LaRance brought his empty beaker down on the table. ‘And you still lost.’

‘Because I got bored and this game sucks.’

Jaz placed the piece upon the edge of the board stretching between the two. A great wooden labyrinth, the host pieces within and, somewhere in the middle, the objective. His goal was simple.

Reach it.

‘Your move, boy.’

‘Right, but can’t I do this?’ Jaz placed the piece in the centre, on the glowing ruby that cast the rest of the board in a reddish hue. ‘What’s the point of this shit?’

LaRance lifted from his seat to move it back and nearly brought the end of the table along. ‘That isn’t how it works. It's a game, there are rules. Indulge me this once and play it through, we’ve got time in the day.’

‘Why does this matter?’

‘Because I want to know if you’ve got what it takes to survive. Sure, you can use a weapon and hurl insults like the best, but out there in the Wildlands, you need more than that. You need to think critically.’ LaRance tapped his forehead.

‘And if I win you’ll help me get there?’

LaRance upended his beaker, satisfied it was empty.

‘Maybe.’

The bar was deserted and the girl sprang to life at his request for a refill. The day labourers had shipped out and it would be another hour before the mercs arrived on the shuttle, fresh from a perimeter sweep of the Wildlands. They’d pile around the counter until they were swathed in the neon light of the screens and watch the vids until closing.

‘Alright, well at least there’s now a point to all this.’ Jaz dragged his chair forward. ‘Gimme the dice.’

LaRance rolled his eyes, but lifted a set from the box and dropped them into his hand.

‘Come on, sixs!’ Jaz rattled them in his palms. ‘Make this game faster.’

He dropped them over the board. One landed in the centre while the other pinged off the table entirely. It skittered across the floor, stopping only when the barmaid placed her foot over it. She placed a refill before LaRance and held the die before Jaz.

‘This get away from you, honey?’

‘Uh, yeah.’

‘Try throwing it with a little less force.’

‘Right, my bad. Is it sixs?’

‘It’s a three.’

‘And this is a two.’ LaRance waved the other. ‘So that’s five places for you to move. Which puts you…here. Over the hydra. Oh, bad move.’

LaRance reached below the table and switched on the machine that hugged the underneath. It flickered once, then again and then the holographic counters came to life. Before the pig, a miniature, multi-headed serpent contorted and sputtered.

‘Looks like you’re gonna be bacon.’

‘Well that isn’t kosher.’

LaRance held out a deck of cards. ‘I don’t think it cares.’

‘So what now?’

‘Now you gotta resolve the situation.’

‘Oh I got this.’ Jaz placed a boot upon the table leg and leaned back in his chair.

‘Yeah?’

‘Yeah. I punch it.’

‘It don’t work like that.’ LaRance waved the deck.

‘Why not?’ Jaz slammed the chair down and made to poke the hydra. His finger slipped through the light and prodded the board.

‘Jeez. Alright, fine. We’ll do it your way.’

‘The smartest thing you’ve said yet.’

‘Yeah, yeah.’

‘Four cards. Count ‘em.’

He peeled four cards from the deck, observing how they glittered under the strobe light. Each held a different glyph framed with symbols of the elements, of the cosmos and of monsters.

‘Oh, shiny.’

‘So what’ve you got?’

‘Well, I think this is a fish? And this is a sword. This is a guy holding an eagle and this one is…bagpipes?!’

‘Boosts morale.’

‘You sure about that?’

‘Well I could check the manual.’

‘Pfft, nah. Will it help me kill this?’

‘That’s for you to decide.’

Jaz returned to his slump in his chair. The walls of the labyrinth seemed to stretch into the distance, as though the space between them had grown and now become a gulf. To think this was all in aid of hiring a guide to take him into the Wildlands.

And what kind of guide wants to play games?

He was hardly the type.

LaRance was probably in his forties. His dreadlocks fell against his body, a gnarled root of muscle and scars. Jaz couldn’t see his eyes through his visor, but he sat at ease with a comfortable smile, his elbows on the table and his hands locked together.

‘Looking at me won’t help you win.’

‘How do I know you aren’t cheating?’

Laughed bubbled up from his chest. ‘How can I cheat? I’m the game master, my boy. The pieces are set, it’s up to you to decide what to do with them.’ He leaned forward as if ready to whisper a secret. ‘It’s just the same in the Wildlands and you’ll see worse than this little light show in there.’

He waved his finger through the hydra.

‘Yeah, but I’ll have more than a bagpipe and fish.’

‘Ha! Oh, kid, I like you. You’ve certainly got spirit. I just need to know if you’ve got the brains as well as the balls. I can’t have you as a liability, not in there. Too many of you think you’ve got what it takes to go in and score you a monster trophy. I’m not gonna be the one to tell your folks you got killed. Word gets out that too many died under my watch? It’s bad for business.’

‘Right and winning at tic-tac-toe will prove I can handle myself?’

‘If that’s the only game you know how to play, you might as well give up now.’

‘Nah, I got this.’ Jaz laid the cards out before him. ‘Can you at least tell me what they all do?’

‘They “do” what you say they will do. So if we play to your strengths and use the sword to attack the hydra, it would constitute as an attack. An attack move for an attack card would require a dice roll of five or less.’

‘Got it.’

‘But, if you were to use the sword to, say, barter with the hydra or pick your teeth or another move that isn’t an attack move, for that attack card the roll would be higher. You follow?’

‘Yep.’

‘Outstanding. Let your imagination run wild.’

‘Wiz. I know what I’m doing.’

‘Really?’

‘Oh yeah.’

‘Well let’s hear it.’

‘So I use the bagpipes to create the worst sound known to man. This dazes the hydra while I fling the fish at it. The fish attracts the eagle, which begins to peck at the Hydra and then I use the sword to kill it. Play to my strengths, right?’

Jaz sat back again and waved at the barmaid to order a beer. If LaRance had any incredulity, he didn’t show it and reached for the manual.

‘Can I do all that, chief?’

LaRance held up a finger. While he skimmed, the barmaid returned.

‘I’ll allow it.’ He said at last.

Jaz reached for the dice, but LaRance gripped his wrist.

‘Dice roll of ten.”

‘No problem.’

Jaz cracked his knuckles and seized the dice. Even the barmaid seemed intrigued, hovering by the edge of the table. He tumbled them inside his hands and felt his sweat stick before chucking them against the board.

They smacked against the wooden walls, one streaking through the hydra.

Six.

He craned his neck to find the other.

‘Five.’ Whispered LaRance. ‘You son of a bitch.’

His hand disappeared beneath the table once more and the hydra went out with the light.
« Last Edit: August 12, 2018, 08:47:24 PM by Grey »
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Offline Slaykomimi

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Re: [Jul+Aug 2018] - Games - Submission Thread
« Reply #6 on: August 19, 2018, 11:28:08 PM »
This is my first text ever written (at least in this style with conversations, story and so on). I am sure punctuation and other stuff is horrible, but I still hope it´s good for a first text. I read all the rules but I am not sure if I fit in all, the text is 1492 words long. Every feedback, good or bad, is always welcome. have fun   :D

Spoiler for Hiden:
„I can´t take it anymore, I need a rest” the witch groaned and sat down under a big tree. “Come on, don´t be so lazy, the town isn´t far away, maybe 3 to 4 hours of walk, but considering your speed probably 6” the guide says with a mocking smile, “we only walked 8 hours, you look not much older than me, there is no way you can be tired already”. While drinking some water from her bottle, the witch puts her right hand in her bag and starts searching without looking inside. The search was successful by finding a leather purse. The guide is obviously bored and wanders around the tree, picking up stones and throwing them randomly around. After the bottle is back in the bag, the witch opens her purse and takes out an old wooden pipe and some dried leaves that she crumbles down and fills in her pipe.

The young guide opened his eyes wide with an eager smile and sat down next to the witch and asks in his most charming voice “you surely intend to share this well stuffed pipe with a kind boy like me, am I right?”.

The witch turns her head down to focus on the pipe, but her eyes glare over to him “don´t even joke about it, this is nothing for young boys like you, it´s a bad habit and unhealthy, it´s the best if you never start with it”.

“I am 15 years old and you don´t look any older than me, come on at least let me try”.

“No means no” the witch sighed while moving the mouthpiece between her lips, “besides, I am way older than you”.

“that’s no fair” the guide frowns and stands up, leaning against the tree and crossing his hands behind his head, staring in the other directions to avoid eye contact. He thought she is just greedy because the witch has a very young appearance and that she isn’t allowed to smoke too, but he doesn’t know that she is a witch and underestimates her powers and experience. His eyes started to move back to her, still a little annoyed but he was expecting some cheeky answer that he didn’t get. It even made him mad that the witch just ignored him and started to inhale a big load of smoke. He wanted to yell at her but his anger calmed down when his eyes caught a glimpse of her cleavage. His face showed how nervous he was and he kept checking if she isn’t watching him so he can keep staring.

“I don’t mind that you are staring, since you are a young boy and all, but you should not do this with other girls” the witch says with a calm voice, sending the boy into a shock while igniting the herbs in the pipe. His whole body keeps shivering while stuttering “H-h-h-h…how…. Di.. d-d-di…- “.

The witch cuts his sentence off “how I noticed it? As I said, I am way older than You might think”. She stretches her arms out and blows out a big cloud of smoke before she stands up and turns to the boy “relax a little, I am not mad, it´s no big deal, that´s just how boys in your age are.” The shivering stops and he starts to look into her eyes with a wide-eyed face. “how about this, let´s play a game” the witch suggests with a warm smile.
“A game?” the boy asks, lifting an eyebrow and tilting his head a little.

“Yes, a game, you are obviously bored because there is nothing to do while I am taking my break, so I better distract you before your mind breeds some other funny ideas”.

“what kind of game should we play?” the boy asks, leaning a little forward and getting all excited imagining what a young woman like her could play with him.

“it´s very simple” the witch says, turning her back again to the tree and slowly sitting down again, blowing a ring of smoke that rises slowly into the air. “You see this? I noticed that you were collecting little stones while I prepared my pipe, try throwing one through it before the ring escapes into the sky”.

The boy turns really excited and throws a little pebble directly through the ring. “That was too easy!” the boy yells with a cocky grin. “Is that so?” the witch smiles and puffs a little more from her pipe. With closed eyes and a wide smile, she blows three rings of smoke out. The first was big and slowly raised into the sky, the second one was slightly smaller and a little faster, penetrating through the first ring and scratching the edges of the first ring. The third one was way smaller and faster. “throw one stone through all three circles at once, but be quick because the small ring will soon disappear”. The boys face turns serious as he aims at the circles, when the 3rd circle was just before the first he started to throw. The little rock flew through the air, penetrating the first two circles and chasing the last small one, but only hitting its edge, breaking up the circle. “Very close, maybe I should go easier on you” with a calm face she inhales once more. But the boy was not happy about it “no, keep that level up, it´s no fun if we keep it easy”. The witch leers over to the boy “how about we make things more interesting?

“More interesting? How?” the boy asks, again with a slightly tilt head and the raised eyebrow.

“The herbs are good enough for about 8 to 12 rings, I will blow 4 different patterns and you need to throw through every hole I blow out with one single shot, if you miss or a ring breaks you lose”.

“Sounds fun, let´s do it” the boy yells all excited”.

With a big smile the witch inhales and blows 4 rings of same size out, all in a row but slightly moved a little so they are not in a perfect straight line. The first rock flies through the air and through all 4 rings at once. “ha, too easy” he says with a conceited smile, not noticing that the next 4 rings are floating in front of him. “take care or they are gone” the witch laughs, the boy panics and throws the next stone, again through all 4 rings.

“that was not fair” the boy complaints. “but in the end, you did it, let´s continue before the herbs burn up” the witch says with a calm expression and inhales again. He stares into the direction the rings will appear and he sees the four rings appearing, but they fly sideways. “run little boy, run” the witch yells and the boy just noticed that orientation of the rings. His legs move so fast and he throws while running. The stone barely flies through all four rings but he also won this round.

“That was tricky” the boy pants, bending slightly forward and holding his knees. “Come on, you did it” the witch cheered him up and smiles at him “how about we make things more interesting?”.

“More interesting?” the boy asks very sceptic.

“Yes” the witch smiles with an oddly bright smile “the next shot will be fair, but also harder than the previous ones, if you miss the shot you will carry my bag till we reach town, but if you win, I will show you what´s inside that cleavage you stared at before”.

The boy turns red and accepts the challenge with an overeager nod.

“okay than it´s decided, don’t get nervous” and with a smile the witch blows out a very tight tunnel made of smoke.

The boy yells “wait, that’s not a ring!”.

“oh, it is a ring, just a very long one” the witch grins at him “quick, shoot before it disappears and get your price”.

Slightly angry the boy tries to focus, but his mind keeps distracting him. He decides to throw before it is too late and hits inside the ring, but it was too strong and it penetrates the wall of the tunnel, keeping the boy very irritated “you did that on purpose!”.

“I did what on purpose?” the witch asked with an innocent smile.

“You confused me, you distracted me with all these thoughts just to make me lose, that’s not fair” the boy complains.

“so, you found out what I did but not why” the witch says with a pleased smile.

“what do you mean why? So I carry your luggage of course”.

“that’s just part of it, maybe you will understand it when you are older”.

The witch hands her bag to the boy and walks back to the path “come on, it´s still a long way, I heard it should be about 6 hours of walk”.
Truly, if there is evil in this world, it lies within the heart of mankind.

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Offline wyvern

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Re: [Jul+Aug 2018] - Games - Submission Thread
« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2018, 09:09:28 AM »
My first submission!

Family Game Night
645 words

Spoiler for Hiden:

It was family game night.

In a squat, dusty cabin at the edge of the woods (between the river and the great redwoods), an old witch unfolded her card table. Though her back ached, and her hands rattled, she dutifully pushed the table to its place before the hearth. She could not break routine, not when it had been this way for near a century.

She paused and stood before the cold coals, waiting. Exhaustion pulled at every ancient bone, but she did not sit, did not sink into her bed. She did not dare.

A grandfather clock chimed, and after the seventh—and final—note, the hearth flared with a roaring blue fire. The witch held in a sigh and took her place at the table, hunched on a weathered wooden stool. A deck of cards flew from a far shelf and fluttered to a stop beside her hand. She’d forgotten again. Cards on the third of every month, not coins. The old witch’s fingers moved without thinking. She drew a card and flicked it into the air, where it hung above her head like a mote of dust. Then she flicked the next card, and the next, until all of them circled in the air.

“The deck is shuffled,” she mumbled, and the cards spun in a vortex. Gently, they twisted tighter and tighter together until they landed in her palm in a perfect stack. “Twelve points to win, wyrds high, no draws.”

She dealt.

Five places sat around the table, each with their own empty stools. One for every witch who had once called this cabin home. One for every witch that had since passed on, leaving their magic to seep into the cabin’s brickwork. The old witch’s eldest sister used to say that dying was not dying at all; that magic never forgot, and so no one would never be forgotten. But she’d passed, and decades took the old witch’s memory of her sister’s face, and her voice, and the smell of her cooking. As all of her sisters’ lives had come to an end, one by one, they’d faded away to wisps, to shadows. Perhaps magic remembered them, but the old witch could not.

The moon crawled its way over the cabin as the game began. The old witch felt the hearth watching her, intent on every practised motion, every well-worn path. She felt the bricks listening to the flips of cards. Felt the windows silence the world outside, shutting out the patter of sprinkling rain. Nothing could interrupt the game, because the old witch’s second sister had never allowed it. Not fifty years ago, and certainly not now.

Cards turned on their own. Pairs slid together. In the end, the place closest to the north window—where once her third sister had sat—won the game. The old witch flicked her finger, and the cards returned to their shelf. She folded the table, pushed the stools into a corner, and glanced longingly at the door. But her fourth sister never let them leave the safety of their redwoods, because she had always been afraid of the world beyond the river. And so the sisters had never left. That the house remembered, and it would never forget.

The hearth winked out.

The front door opened slowly, and grey brightness poured into the cabin. A watering can and a pair of clippers waited just beyond the threshold. Long ago, when one was five, she and her sisters would finish their games and tend the garden, enjoying each other’s quiet company under the moonlight. And so the old witch rolled up her sleeves, stared once more at the river—that place the house remembered she could never cross—and slipped her feet into her gardening sandals.

The house did not forget, even if the old witch had.

It was family game night.

Offline JMack

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Re: [Jul+Aug 2018] - Games - Submission Thread
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2018, 01:31:03 AM »
1,497 words.
Edited and ready.


GARRIG’S GAME

Spoiler for Hiden:

“Ready!”

One hundred muskets wavered, muzzles drifting about like leaves in a breeze.

“Fire!”
 
One hundred muskets discharged in a ragged series of cracks and fizzles before a last gun spat out its ramrod in a desultory arc. Silence and smoke drifted over the line of soldiers, broken by the occasional cough, and salted with curses.

“Well!” commented Captain Ooton Garrig, “That left a lot to be desired, eh?” The 10th Punishment Company laughed along with their odd new commander. “I don’t think they really felt that, do you?” This stopped the laughter as the men peered at the strange targets crowding the cliff the captain had chosen for shooting practice.

The high cliff before them was jammed with painted coffins stacked, nailed, roped and tottering one atop another in weaving columns from twice the height of a man to a hundred feet up. The hanging graveyard rambled to the west in raucous color: red coffins with yellow markings; white and blue coffins, red on green, black on orange and more; in sizes from infant to nearly giant; all covered in the swirling decorations that also tattooed the native men and women of this conquered land.

The men of the 10th, one hundred hard criminals, sloppy drunks, and inveterate lay-abouts, had been shooting at the gathered dead of the local tribes, and they were having superstitious second thoughts.

“The point, gentlemen,” said Captain Garrig, cheerfully, “is hitting the coffins. There are a lot of them. It should be difficult to miss. Let’s try again.”

Garrig’s staff lieutenant, Sarad Carnaway, stepped close to the captain and directed his attention to the rear, behind the company. A group of locals were gathered at the top of a low hill, watching the proceedings with studied calm.

The captain faced his men with a smile. “It appears we have an audience.” He strolled down the line holding every eye, his bright red uniform in brilliant contrast to the khaki of his men. In the few weeks since Colonel Markin had appointed him, the 10th had dubbed him “Mad Garrig”, and learned to watch him closely. There were rumors he’d been sent from the capital to spy on the colonel. There were rumors he might even be some sort of wizard. “Right then! The natives have come to watch our game, so a game we will give them.”

“Private Apcott!” he called.

An acne-riddled youth risked a meager step forward, looking vainly back at his mates for encouragement. He saluted weakly.

“All the way over here, lad. Leave your musket.” Garrig clapped Apcott on the shoulder. He pointed halfway up the cliff. “See that bright red and yellow coffin up there?” Apcott gave a strangled response. “Here, take this scarf and start climbing.” He sighed at Apcott’s aghast look. “Yes, up there. Be quick about it.”

He addressed the men again. “The game, gentlemen, is to blast that lovely red coffin, which Private Apcott will helpfully mark for us, to smithereens. Without hitting Mr. Apcott, of course.”

The young private reached the base of the cliff and began to climb, one hesitant foot above another. He glanced back and found ninety-nine pair of enlisted eyes watching him, along with the lieutenants and the captain; and behind them, more tattooed locals joined the crowd on the hill every minute.

“Far enough!” the captain called as Apcott reached the red coffin. “Now then, men. Our game today is called Wake the Dead.” This got a scattering of nervous laughter. “By platoon, gentlemen, you will line up, aim, and fire – at the target. And at the command of your lieutenants, of course. The first platoon to drop the honored dead from its aerial grave wins the day.”

He surveyed the men, but saw little interest. He tried another tack. “Colonel Markin doesn't think much of your abilities or your mettle. In fact, he’d much prefer we weren't attached to his regiment at all. Shall we prove him wrong?” There was even less enthusiasm for this call to arms.

“Very well. I will personally host the winning platoon at the tavern of your choice. Open bar from sunset to midnight.” With a roar and cheer, the 10th rushed forward, and the game began.

After a short brawl, it was decided that the platoons would compete in numerical order. Over the terrified protests of Private Apcott, each twenty-five-man team took its turn. The prospect of free liquor had a positive impact on their aim, and splinters of wood spun in every direction from the mass of bullets, though only some of them were from the targeted red coffin. Private Apcott, with the luck of the feeble minded, somehow emerged unscathed from the first round.

As the 10th reloaded for another go, the mob of natives on the hill behind began to boil with murderous anger. Captain Garrig took a dispatch from his uniform and passed it quietly to Lieutenant Carnaway. “Present this to Colonel Markin with my complements. Quickly now.” The lieutenant slipped away, threading past the mob, and feeling it was a very near thing.

The third platoon won the game on its second try. The red coffin finally disintegrated under the hail of lead ball, dropping its cargo of dried and moldering corpse onto the next coffin below. The winners danced around Captain Garrig like revelers round a May pole, while the losers shouted accusations of cheating, buggery, and blatant favoritism.

With the firing done, Private Apcott began to climb down, orders or no orders, when the infant-sized box under his foot suddenly gave way. Apcott and the coffin tumbled down the cliff together, colliding with every sharp corner and rock until they hit bottom in a cloud of wood, bone, meat, blood, and gold.

Gold. It flashed in the sun as it spilled from the shattered coffin. The 10th Punishment Company fell into stunned, greedy silence.

“Gold,” mused Captain Garrig. “That wasn’t in the plan. But this will certainly stir things up nicely.”

Ninety-nine men took three entranced steps toward the fallen private and the scattered gold, ignoring the commands of their lieutenants, and then the rush was on. Some fought over the coins that decorated the ground. Others scrambled up the cliff, ripping at any coffin in reach and spilling out their contents. When they discovered another golden trove, the 10th’s madness was complete.

Only Captain Garrig noticed as a thousand screaming, tattooed men brandished clubs and knives and charged down the hill. He muttered a quick spell, and the mob parted around him harmlessly even as they tore into the unsuspecting soldiers below.

As Garrig moved to a safe distance from the bloodbath, Lieutenant Carnaway jogged back over the hill from the direction of the regimental HQ. “They’re on their way, sir. The colonel himself and the entire regiment.” His eyes widened at the slaughter below.

Garrig grinned with satisfaction. “I’m sure the colonel was none too pleased to be called on to rescue us.”

Carnaway gave a wry laugh. “Shall I quote him, sir?”

“Please do.”

“He asked what exactly your game is, sir. ‘Whatever his game is, lieutenant,’ he said, ‘he’s gone too far this time.’ He threatened you with physical punishment. Sir.”

“I’m sure he did. I will have to disappoint him.”

The sounds of drums and marching drifted from the other side of the hill. Meanwhile, the carnage below was almost complete, with just a few members of the 10th left to entertain the enraged tribesmen.

“If I may, sir,” said Carnaway, feeling the madness of the day and going beyond his normal reserve. “What exactly is your game? I’d rather like to know myself.”

The captain’s bemused expression took on an edge that sent a chill down the lieutenant’s spine. “War,” he said. “My game is war, Mr. Carnaway. His glorious majesty our king has been none too pleased with the peace in this region, and sent orders to our esteemed Colonel Markin that should have resulted in renewed hostilities with the tribes here. But Markin proved to be an honorable man, and peace continued. Therefore, they sent me. The colonel, not liking having a wizard foisted on him by the grandees back in the capital, assigned me to the 10th, thinking I'd have my hands full with all of you. Well, I get results, Lieutenant, even if I have the meanest material with which to work. Results, I’ve found, keep one’s head on one’s shoulders.”

The first rank of regulars crested the hill and marched on the mob below.

“I can use a man like you, lieutenant,” said Garrig.

“Like me?”

“If you can stomach how I play this game.”

Carnaway looked away from the massacre unfolding below. “I don’t think I want to play by your rules. Sir.”

Garrig whispered another spell and began to fade from view. ‘Think on it,” he said. “But don’t take too long. I’m certain the colonel will be looking for someone to blame for this mess.”
« Last Edit: August 29, 2018, 02:08:47 AM by JMack »
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Re: [Jul+Aug 2018] - Games - Submission Thread
« Reply #9 on: August 28, 2018, 10:47:21 PM »
Arnas' Brand is 1400ish words, and for old timers, yes it is a riff on a previous story of mine, though that was so long ago I don't expect the memory of it will influence anyone's reading.


Spoiler for Hiden:
Arnas' Brand


Today I am playing tag. It's my day off and I was out shopping, enjoying the feel of the sun on my sadly white limbs, but dispatch called, saying it's happening near me and they know I don't mind a bit of tag. I don't, and anyway dispatch wasn't asking. So I give chase, reading data as it flashes over my vision. It feels good to run, even if it makes people nervous as I rush past them.
I leap over a bench and into a small park, pick up speed, loping strides swallowing all that open space. It makes me feel giddy, for a second it's like I'll get to keep going like this forever–and then I grind to a halt. It's a small park and I have long legs.

I'm faced with four possible streets, all twisting away into residential areas I'm unfamiliar with. My query is matched by grid maps overlaying themselves against my vision. I'm lost in thought, looking for clues in the red lines and blue nexuses, when a shrill cry splits the air.
I look down, all the way down, to a terrified little girl looking back up at me with angry tears running down a reddening face. A chubby fingers points, shaking, and her mouths opens to let out more anguish. A young woman comes running, her face even redder. She bows again and again like a broken toy, never looking up, dragging her child away in a tight embrace, as if I might reach out to snatch her.
I could try to reassure her, say that I'm not here for them, that her child can point and cry to her heart's content, but if I spoke I'd only scare them more. People can't help themselves. It's the red eyes, the bionics protruding from my shoulder blades, and the way I tower over them, all torso and legs and far-reaching arms, like I've been pulled thin.
I watch the mother and child disappear through the greenery and turn back to the task at hand. I have someone to find, and dispatch doesn't expect me to lose. I pick the most likely road and start running again, more conscious now of people's frightened looks. Well, they can relax, I'm after a code 33-0, so no relatives of theirs.

Before long I get a little help as the grid pings me. A cam caught sight of my quarry before it squeezed between two buildings. I veer North, pleased. He had me fooled and I took the wrong street.
You can tell a lot about people by how they behave on the run. Do they hide, do they backtrack in a circle, do they run without looking back? Some bluff while others think the administration does, that it won't actually come for them. Even when they choose to run, how many know to avoid the grid? If they're even willing to pull their chip out. I have a worthy opponent today. Here is a man who knows how to lay off the grid, tireless and zigzaging like he can shake the pursuit he knows is hot on his heels. But by definition it's his first time, while I have a lot of experience at this game.

The walls surrounding communal gardens get higher, the back streets, away from the all-seeing eyes of grid-connected entrance gates, get narrower. Soon there are no more gardens, trash starts getting in the way and rusty maintenance ladders snake down grimy facades. If we keep going that way we'll end up in the slums by the sea-side, and things will get complicated.
I loose time checking side streets, but there is no hurry, I'm catching up.

By the time I can smell him it's game over. I pick up the pace, abandoning all pretence of human movement. When I see him I bound ahead, cutting off the chase.
My target is male, of middling age, and heavily disfigured by Pep abuse. Acrid sweat has drenched his shirt, revealing the blotched and distorted flesh on which it clings. A duffel bag rests in the rubbish scattered at his feet. His breath is wheezy and his glare full of hatred, which is nice–it beats fear, and that'll come soon enough.

"That was a good run," I say, "but you're it."

The man's face contorts.

"Is this a game to you, you fucking monster?"

I look at the pink drool quivering from his swollen lips. I probably look less monstrous than he does right now, but it's besides the point.

"Well, it was a game to you, wasn't it?" I ask. "You certainly gambled  with your life, and lost. You could have stayed put, played your part in society–your choice."

"Gambled? My choice? To end up–like this? With this screwed up life?" The man's voice grows shrill, his breath full of phlegm. "Society doesn't give people choices, monster, never did! Doesn't want me either, it wants someone to fill a role and not do anything else. I'd have to kill who I am to fit in the crazy fucking box your society would have me put in. Fuck this shit! What if I overdosed on Pep? The stuff makes you like a god. What if it's black market goods? I kept it to myself! All I wanted was–was some freedom! Alright? This isn't fair!"

I can feel the smile splitting my face, lips stretching over metal-composite teeth in a crescent of horror. I wonder if he knows Pep is the street name of the drug techs feed us when we're recovering from injury. It boosts our metabolisms, but on humans... I laugh.

"You poor thing! Society's not giving you a break? I'd feel sorry for you if I hadn't been engineered specifically to do this job." I pull down my collar, revealing the intricate tattoo embedded in my DNA, a birthmark proclaiming me the eternal property of Arnas BioLife Incorporated. "My kin and I, we live in rooms in building blocks owned and operated by Arnas, we work on Arnas orders and schedules, they own us down to the patent."

I glare down at the man, feeling for once a rush of cruel pleasure as terror creeps over his puffy face.

"You think you have it bad, but you had the freedom to rebel, the liberty to fuck yourself up and to run away! You just made a mistake, had to go and trip all your health wires on stolen Pep, a trademark property of Arnas." I shrug. "I was made to uphold the rules, and that's why we call it tag and toy with you. It's the only game we really get to play."

I step forward, watch him stumble back.

"Cases like yours are the best too, since I get to choose. In code 33-0, do you know what the zero stands for?"

He shakes his head, his spunk all gone. I crouch to face him.

"It means we can bring you back dead or alive, as convenient."

The man's bloodshot eyes roll back in his skull and he falls with a heavy thud, the sweet sound of total victory. I snap a monitoring cuff on his left wrist and ping dispatch. A buzz heralds the voice of my dispatch overseer, Lee.

"Good job. Only took you half an hour."

"I was fast, as per my overlord's orders. Please send in the pick up team so I can go back to my shopping."

"Stop with the nerdy references or I will sign you up on some littoral sanitation work on Black Beach. Also, the monitor says the guy's passed out?"

"Yes. I felt like he wasn't ready to appreciate his future."

"You can't knock out everyone we send you to tag."

"You don't get it Lee. This guy will wake up in a cell, not understanding why he isn't dead. He'll be forced to get clean and serve time, and go through social rehab, and the whole time he'll think this is his lucky strike, his one chance at redemption. Instead of being bitter, he'll marvel that he didn't die in the maw of the evil–"

"Aye, aye, cut the crap. You're a cat playing with your food, and I've known you from the day they rolled you out of assembly line. Now go back to your day off."

I smile. I don't get to chose much in my life, but I wouldn't swap Lee for anyone if I could.
« Last Edit: September 03, 2018, 12:06:05 AM by Nora »
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Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: [Jul+Aug 2018] - Games - Submission Thread
« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2018, 07:39:52 AM »
The Cthonic Rigors

1500 Words

Spoiler for Hiden:

At noon I stood preparing myself for my trials at the edge of the citadel’s vast roof, a circle over half a mile across that thrust out from the mountainside and hung over the city of Val a thousand feet below. I cut an imposing figure, with my brown Autumnal’s cloak billowing in the wind. Today I would transition from student to a Wizard of Rank – if I saved the girl.

“Sh-should I be afraid?” she asked, looking up at me.

I pretended not to notice and stared across the Raggashaw, the jumbled, quarry-like maze that spanned the roof. The Rag was where the Wizardic Year played its darkest games. Pools of green rainwater dotted the low spots between blasted stone where wizards had tested themselves since antiquity. A broad avenue led across the Rag, meeting another in the center at the Crossroads, where four enormous obelisks loomed.

I was supposed to see her as a heretic, less than a human being. But what I saw was a dirty girl huddled in a threadbare cloak of red with her arms wrapped around her knees, shivering in the cold. Someone’s daughter. How the Year picked her, I didn’t know. Whatever her past, she had no future, unless I conjured one.

“No,” I lied when I could ignore her no longer, laughing as if her safety was certain. “Just do as I told you.”

The Chthonic Rigors were well named, for they were an ancient and dreadful rite of passage. Like most customs, their power arose not from validity but from momentum. Not all students were subjected to rigors – but as the only Influential wizard in the Year, I was widely known, generally despised, and greatly outclassed by my Empowered counterparts. The rigors would judge whether I was strong enough to be deemed a wizard. Trial by combat, of a sort.

The girl, the ‘rabbit’, had to traverse the Rag to the Crossroads. Three wizards playing the role of demons would try to kill her before she reached the obelisks, where no magic could touch her. My goal was to stop them. To do that, I had to control her fear and my own, so I fed my pride on the realization that, whatever happened, I was a student no more.

The rules were simple: I could not harm the demons and they could not harm me, but we only loosely defined ‘harm’. This was the Wizardic Year, and danger was a part of that life. The rabbit, however, enjoyed no such protections beyond whatever I could provide. And that was very little, unless I changed the game. Contemplating low odds only lowers them further, but the odds today had very little to lose. My advantage was no one knew what I could do; my disadvantage was that wasn’t much, for I was weaker and relied upon my opponents being foolish.

Four judges emerged appeared around the Rag. Sentinels all, they wore masks and robes of black. Hundreds of wizards emerged from below and fanned around the periphery. Life at the citadel was dull, and the Cthonic Rigors were anything but. The wind carried their jeers and hoots as they awaited my humiliation and the girl’s destruction.

Three ‘demons’ emerged, one at each end of the three other roads leading to the Crossroads, to my left, right, and straight ahead. They wore horned masks and black robes. The judges sent fire into the air, and my Cthonic Rigors began.

I raised my deep hood and obscured my face. “Up,” I whispered. The girl rose and slipped her hand into mine.

“Run rabbit!” the onlookers bayed. “Run!”

I ignored them. I had come too far and paid too high a price to be denied my destiny. I would not be cast out; I would save the girl or die trying, and I began by doing the hardest thing there is when facing danger: I waited.

The best strategies were rushing the road or running the perimeter. The first relied on overcoming three at once for a short time – impossible for me; the second exploited distance to face one foe at a time, almost as bad.

Running through the heart of the Rag was rarely successful. The Rag was high and deep, with many crannies among the scorched stones and fallen pillars, rent and mottled with spell-scars. Getting lost was easy and the longer it took to reach safety, the greater the chance we would be found and the girl burned to cinders.

The ‘demon’ beyond the Crossroads strode forward to occupy the Crossroads and prevent our escape. He wove his magic, and I felt the tug of the Apeiron, the source of sorcery, something Empowered cannot do. My special power.

The demons to either side dropped down into the Rag and were lost among the jumbled stone. I felt fear but held to my plan. There is nothing so comforting to the youthfully foolish as a poorly conceived plan. Now that the other two would not see, I led the girl down into the Rag’s narrow, twisting paths.

“Rabbit digging!” cried the crowd, voices echoing through the Rag.

We slipped off our shoes and darted quietly from shadow to shadow among the blasted blocks and scarred columns, heading not toward the Crossroads, but along the periphery. The girl clutched my cloak, and my heart thudded in my chest. My greatest fear was a spectator giving our location away, so we kept out of sight of the Rag’s high edge.

We kept on. Once, boots stomped past as we huddled under a toppled pillar. She clutched my arm, her eyes rounded in terror, but I only smiled as if everything was going to plan. It was, but there are limits to luck.

Sometimes I felt the Apeiron flex, and the ground trembled as they tried to flush us out with fiery concussions. I couldn’t pinpoint their locations, but I could gauge distance by the intensity. Two were far; one grew steadily nearer as we reached the Crossroads, high above. It was now or never.

I pulled the girl into a narrow, vertical crack with rough sides. It slithered upward twenty feet to the road above, near the obelisks. I hugged her, trying to impart courage, though in truth I needed as much as she. “Can you manage it?”

She looked up for a moment, then stared at me and nodded.

We pulled off our robes and exchanged them. I pulled her red robe over my head, and she pulled my head down and kissed me.  “Thank you, Venerable,” she whispered, and hearing the title for the first time lifted my spirits.

“Thank me later.” I darted off, quiet and quick, passing beneath the Crossroads. I came upon a heap of great stones, and as quietly as I could, I scrambled up, hiding as best I could in the cracks. Higher and higher I climbed, until I was just below the roadway. Now came the crucial moment. I had to emerge first. I would signal with sorcery, for my opponents had no Sorcerous Sight to see or sense it.

I drew power from the sunlight and loosed it upon a huge column of black stone leaning against a neighbor like an old man. Twice I failed to move it. On my third attempt, the column rolled and crashed down like thunder. I clambered onto the roadway not far from the Crossroads.

I was lucky. The defender was facing the other way, toward the column. The others I could not see. I couldn’t see the girl, but she would be scrambling up herself soon. But the onlookers had spotted me.

“Rabbit!” they cried, pointing and screaming.

The defender whirled and bellowed. Flame erupted from nothing and arced at me. I fell back, waving my fingers as it came, changing its nature. Convincing power to change was always easy. Deciding what to do with it never was. One cannot hold great power. I sent it spinning into the obelisks themselves. Immune to sorcery, they shrugged it off. The energy careened into the defender, knocking him off the Crossroads. The girl scrambled from cover and sprinted up the road, even as the other two demons emerged onto the road.

Fooled by the cloak, they poured fire on me, laughing wildly. But I pulled their fire through the Apeiron’s eye, welded it into the only armor that mattered: the Planes of Ajencis. They pounded me with swirling energies, loosed geisers of heat and green flame, and sent waves of power that shook the road and the teeth in my head.

But the Planes of Ajencis have no edges, and I laughed as the girl darted between the obelisks to safety.
The jeers of the crowd died in a hush. The judges accused me of cheating, to no avail, for there was no rule about changing cloaks. They wrote one. I had won and became an Autumnal Wizard of Rank. And changed the rules of the game.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2018, 07:50:49 AM by The Gem Cutter »
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Offline J.R. Darewood

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Re: [Jul+Aug 2018] - Games - Submission Thread
« Reply #11 on: September 02, 2018, 11:12:31 PM »
The Final Days of the King's Champion

Getting this down to 1498 words nearly killed me!

Spoiler for Hiden:

On the thirteenth day of the Great Games, the adoring crowds of the stadium were long gone. Endless tiers of stone slabs towered around the arena, solemn and personless, dreary in the inbetween of not-yet-dawn.

“The king would be here, but, uh…” Sir Belamy Broadwyth, Captain-General and Officiator of the Games, shifted awkwardly.

“’Is fat ass is asleep.” Kye wrapped his ceremonial cape around his bare muscles in the early morning chill. At six foot two, he loomed over the Captain-General.
 
“That… would be an accurate description, my son,” Sir Belamy acknowledged. The general lifted his chest, resuming his ceremonial duties for the empty stands. In the first years, the stadium had been full of adoring spectators, hurling flowers at the King’s Champion. The king himself would have strapped on a golden shield and jewel encrusted sword, sending the champion off on his swiftest horse. But now, Belamy had been granted only a rusted sword, a manky leather buckler, and half-starved mule, the spectators long gone. At the very least, the Champion’s family should have been present, tearful and pleading, but Kye had no one.

After 18 years, enthusiasm for this last bit had clearly waned.

“Sir Kye of Swinesrun,” Belamy, strapped the ceremonial gear to the King’s Champion, intoning the words he’d said year after year, “your mastery of mind and body is second to none. I hereby declare you champion of wind and sea, of land and metal, of--”

“You can cut the crap. And hain’t much point in calling me ‘Sir’ if ye only knightin’ me the day ’afore I die.”

“May the king’s grace guide you,” Sir Belamy concluded, presenting Kye the rusted sword. “May you be the one that saves us all.”

“Eighteenth time’s the charm?” Kye asked wryly.

Belamy’s eyes clenched in a sympathetic wince. “You know, your circumstance is quite unusual.” Had he bothered to complete the ceremonial speech, Belamy would have declared that Kye’s family would forever be cared for. It was the real reason young men fought tooth and nail to win these games.  And Kye had won them all: leg-wrestling behemoths, lightning sprints, dueling masters, impeccable archery, conquering the puzzle-maze, strategically dominating the king’s board, and swiftly defeating all at the mind cards. Twelve days of grueling competition… yet his mother was already cared for.

“I’m doing it for him, not ‘er.”

“I’d say that your brother would be proud, but we both know the truth. He’d hate you for this.”

“In that case, I’ll be sure to tell ‘im to sod off when I see ‘is ghost.”

Kye moved to leap onto the donkey, but a flurry of fleabites made him reconsider.  He stalked off, donkey trailing after him.

“Good luck son!” Sir Belamy called after him.

“You can sod off too!”

Only one path let up the Devil’s Tooth, the aptly named peak the loomed over the city.  The Champion’s Path was bleak as it was steep, but Kye’s mind and body had trained for this since the day his brother left. A murder of crows fled a diseased tree in a chorus of caws and flurry flapping of wings.

Morning gave way to noon which gave way to dusk, but the gloom never lifted.

Above an ancient arch of stone appeared through the gloom, a human femur tossed carelessly at its foot. He was near the peak now. It was warmer than he had imagined, the stench of sulfur overwhelming. Smoke seeped from the black rocks around him, burning his eyes and nose. The Devil’s Scent, they called it. 

The donkey brayed in fear, refusing to go another step forward.  Kye drew his rusty sword and entered the arch alone.

Beyond the arch was the outcrop that topped the Devil’s Tooth. It was littered with skulls, spines, kneecaps, femurs… the bones of the champions who had come before him. Kye could not help but wonder which one of these was his brother. Two logs lie at an angle, a cloaked man seated on one of them. The old man slowly struggled to his feet.

“Halt! For I am the Keeper--”

“Yeah, yeah. I know who ya are.” Kye said.

Kye crossed his arms, his biceps bulging in the process. His eyes narrowed as he regarded the feeble old man.  Beneath a grey threadbare hood peeked gaunt, sunken eyes, bony cheeks, terrible teeth and an impressively long white beard. It was unkempt. Aged flesh hung loosely from his rail thin arms. In his hand the old man held a staff, or rather a stick. It was certainly tall, but not very thick. Hunched over the man might have been five feet of rattling bones. 

Kye shifted his stance, every muscle rippling in catlike coordination, unbridled strength. He had trained for years, sacrificing his childhood in his dedication to cultivate the perfect mind and body, his only purpose to sate the burning desire to discover the fate of his older brother... who had died at the hands of a geriatric geezer?

The old man clutched the stick tightly, his body a percussive chorus of pops and creaks as he slowly lowered himself back onto the log. He motioned to the other log. Kye stood, wary.

“By thy wish, my guest,
Shall the fires rest.
A life we give,
So the rest shall live.”

A chill ran over Kye as the words sunk in.  The king claimed he sent his champions to defeat the devil that threatened to destroy the city each year…. but as he looked at the bones scattered around him, the truth settled in.

“A game we play,
That mine hand might stay.
A challenge be,
To choose grimly:
A life for me
...or victory for thee.”

“Well,” Kye said, “get on with it.”

“Three by three
I shall draw for thee
Exes and Ohs
First thou’st goes.”

The old man drew two parallel lines in the dirt with a stick, crossing them with two more.

“You’ve got to be fapping kidding me. Noughts and Crosses?

“Tic.” The old man pointed his stick at the sun. “Tac.” He pointed the stick at Kye’s chest. “Toe.” The stick tapped the ground.

“Lemme get this straight, one’uv us gotta die ’ta keep this mountain from goin’ boom fer one more year?”

The old man nodded.

“So we gonna play Tic Tac Toe to the death?”

The old man smiled thinly. His eyes knew full well who would die.

Kye took a seat on the log. Sweat beaded on his forehead, sulfur stung his eyes.  He fought to keep his hand steady as he drew an X with the tip of his sword in the center of the board.

O.

X.

O. The old man countered his double, creating a double of his own. X. A block and another double. O. X. O.

A draw. This time the old man went first.

X. O. X. O. X. O. X. O….

Again.

X. O. X. O. X. O. X. O. X. O. X. O. X. O. X. O. X. O. X. O. X. O….

Night fell upon the pair, and dawn rose. 

X. O. X. O. X. O. X. O. X. O…..

Kye dared not take his eyes from the board.

X. O. X. O. X. O. X. O…..

Missing a move, the slightest distraction would mean death.

X. O. X. O. X. O….

Kye’s stomach rumbled, and his eyes wandered to the arch, cursing himself for leaving the donkey and his packs of food on the other side, where it was forbidden to cross.

X. O. X. O….

“So,” Kye asked his opponent, “you been sittin’ ’ere, playin’ Noughts ’an Crosses fer eighteen years?”

“A millenia.”

“You don’t get sick of it.”

“Sick of what.”

“Yeh never wanted to maybe play ’angman er twister er somethin’?”

“I know not of what thou’st speak.”

“Look, we can go back to the tic tac toe deathmatch in a moment--lemme jus’ show ya somethin.”

The old man eyed the muscle-bound youth suspiciously, but after a long measuring stare he relented.

His aged eyes narrowed in concentration as they played hangman.  He nodded in satisfaction at the challenge of dots and boxes.  A smile crept on his face during a game of charades.  He laughed in mirth as they collapsed after a game of twister.

The old man rolled on the ground, tears streaming from his eyes as he laughed.

“You’ve been up ’ere a millenia, but yuv never really lived have ya?”

The old man’s tears of joy became tears of sadness.

“Look, I h’ain’t too chuffed ’ta die for them sods in that city down there. And I can’t imagine you’re lovin’ being cooped up on a mountain fer eternity.”

The old man was silent.

“How long do we have until the mountain blows?”

“Thirteen days.”

And so the King’s Champion sent word that the king best evacuate the city, and the two men took off on the flea-ridden donkey, laughing and playing twister into the sunset.
« Last Edit: September 03, 2018, 12:30:18 AM by J.R. Darewood »