November 25, 2020, 08:18:49 AM

Author Topic: [MAR 2020] - Undercover gods - Submission Thread  (Read 837 times)

Offline xiagan

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[MAR 2020] - Undercover gods - Submission Thread
« on: March 02, 2020, 05:25:16 PM »
Undercover gods



Mermaids and Losing Your Footing by Zephyri

You're a god. Or maybe not you, but certainly the character you will be writing about soon. Thing is, it's a tad boring in the pantheon/in Heaven/in Valhalla or any other place where gods usually dwell. Not because the place is boring per se but because everything gets boring after a while and eternity is a loooong while. Luckily you or your character or one of their buddies made humans a while ago and there is something about the little guys that's the opposite of boring.
Long story short, life's a lot better down (or up) on that blue planet and you/your character (and maybe even some of their friends) moved into the anthill that is human society. As a human, to not stand out, of course. This works most of the time. No restrictions on time or place.


Rules:

1. This must be prose or poetry.
2. The main character(s) have to be gods who live in a human society.
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 March 31th/April 1st, 2020 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 if we get this system running again.
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: March 02, 2020, 05:26:53 PM by xiagan »
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Offline hexa

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Re: [MAR 2020] - Undercover gods - Submission Thread
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2020, 04:43:02 AM »
Anubis
632 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
Nasir was awakened by the Meow of a cat.  Nasir greeted his housecat, as he dressed for breakfast.
Nasir's wife, Radhika, had coffee ready for him.
Radhika proposed, "You came home late last night."
Nasir nodded, "We finally found the tomb that we had been seeking.
My partner reported the discovery to the School of Archaelogy.
We are going to breach the tomb today.  It will be a great moment for all of Egypt."
Radhika smiled, "You will be able to publish an article about it."
Nasir finished his breakfast, and bid goodbye to his wife.
Nasir drove his car to the dig site.  The diggers were ready.  They breached the tomb's outer walls.
They saw drawings of a queen.  They took photographs.
As the sun descended, Nasir drove home.  Nasir settled in for a quiet evening at home with a newspaper.
Suddenly, he heard a howl in his yard.  Nasir stepped outside onto his patio.
He was surprised to see a wolf in his yard.  To his surprise, the wolf spoke.
"My name is Anubis.  You have defiled the tomb of an ancient queen.  Her name was Cleopatra.
As the protector of tombs, I cannot allow you to proceed."  The wolf bounded away from Nasir's home.
Nasir sneered, "I don't believe in the ancient gods.  Your centuries ended a long time ago.
You have no place in modern Egypt."
Nasir entered his house, to feed his cat.  Then Nasir headed to his bedroom.
As Nasir began to doze, he was again awakened by the Meow of a cat.
The Meow was an alarm.
Nasir stepped out of his bedroom, disturbed to see a humanoid shape stagger from his wife's room.
The figure was wrapped in bandages.  It was a mummy!
Nasir grabbed his gun from nearby.  Suddenly, the windows shattered.
There were more mummies outside his windows!  They were entering his house!
Nasir realized that he didn't have enough bullets to defeat all of the mummies.
His cat Meowed nearby, beckoning him toward the back door of the house.
Nasir followed his cat out the back door.  Nasir hurried into his car, bringing his cat along.
Nasir drove to his brother's house, which was not far away.
Nasir's brother was not surprised to hear of mummies.
Nasir's brother informed him that mummies had attacked all of the archaelogists that had entered Cleopatra's tomb.  Nasir told his brother of his encounter with the wolf.
Nasir's brother chastised him for scorning an ancient god.
Nasir's brother suggested that Cleopatra's tomb must be sealed to quench the god's anger.
Nasir was an archaelogist.  The idea of abandoning a big discovery chafed him.
However, Nasir reluctantly agreed.  Nasir drove to the site of the tomb.
As Nasir inspected the site, a swarm of scarab beetles scurried toward him, attacking him.
Luckily, Nasir's cat intervened, distracting the beetles long enough for Nasir to seal the tomb shut.
Nasir returned to his brother's house.  Nasir's brother informed him that the mummies had fled.
However, Nasir still feared the god's wrath, and asked his brother if he could offer food to any wolves that he saw.
To Nasir's surprise, his cat spoke.
"Sealing the tomb for a year will be enough.  Anubis's power wanes.  He will not send mummies after you again."
Nasir asked, "How can a cat talk?"
The cat replied, "I am the goddess Bastet.  I am she that protects humans.  I noticed that you were approaching Cleopatra's tomb, but you failed to recognize Anubis's subtle warnings.
I knew that you were only investigating history, and I did not want you to fall to Anubis.
Simply stay away from the tomb for a year, and everything will be all right."
With that, the cat ran away, leaving Nasir reassured that he was no longer in dangeer.

Offline JMack

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Re: [MAR 2020] - Undercover gods - Submission Thread
« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2020, 02:42:48 AM »
1,500 words exactly.
My first finished story in months.
Some bad language.

This is BATTLEFIELD TOUR

Spoiler for Hiden:

King Etiras’s entourage drifted through the ancient battlefield, trailing their king, his strange consort, and their tour guide, the bard Amberlass. She half sang and half shouted at the straggling courtiers. “Then, over the rise, at the last gasp of a breathless day, marched Caramagh’s Army of Light, swords shining, armor singing!”

The goddess Caramagh herself walked next to the king, wearing the mortal disguise she’d fashioned years before they’d ever met. She’d almost forgotten what it felt like to be without it. “I don’t remember the armor singing.”

“Poetic license, my heart. It was half a millennium ago. No one but you actually remembers it.” The only mortal to know her true name, Etiras spoke as softly as his divine companion. It wouldn’t do to have her cover blown. Though how anyone could miss the power barely veiled behind her eyes he’d never understood.

“Well, she’s no poet.” Caramagh pulled her skirts away from a low briar. “I’ve heard true poets. Women whose words could scribe the sky —“

“Of course you have,” tutted Etiras, patting her hand with his wrinkled one.

Caramagh cast about for her legendary anger. She should be irritated at the man.  Shushing a goddess! But she’d banked her fire in ashes long ago, leaving only embers. Why she’d ever thought that touring the old battlefield at Clouds Edge would be fun she couldn’t imagine now. Let’s see what’s changed, she’d said. Let’s see if I even recognize it.

Let’s see if there’s an echo of who I really am.

Amberlass waved grandly at a majestic elm standing alone. “At this very place, Shadrach fell. Golden Caramagh, betrayer of the gods, lover of mankind, wrested the sword Fellbringer from the dark lord's own hand and plunged the soul-eating blade through the black heart of its master.”

“That was well sung,” said Etiras.

“Except that I killed the bastard way over there.” Caramagh pointed her chin at a patch of bare rock squatting in a distant tangle of weeds. “And ‘betrayer’? That’s harsh.”

“Yes, but you are a lover of mankind.” Etiras winked. “Oh, here comes the good part. ‘Life-blood leaking, she stumbled to the edge of the great cliff. Would she live on? Would she die the true death?’”

The goddess snorted. “Tell me how it ends. I’m going over there to talk to the dark lord.” It was all she could do to keep a straight face as the king’s eyes bulged. Let him think she still had some secrets. Secrets were good for relationships.

It was a long, nettled walk through nettles to the rock. If she sloughed off her disguise, she could be there in one stride. Wouldn’t that shock everyone? Instead, she hauled herself along, almost losing a traitorous shoe to a sucking patch of bloodweed.

Betrayer. Not a word of it true. Sure, she disobeyed a direct command from the whole pantheon. Sure, she told her father to get another life. Sure, she dyed her sleeping sister’s hair with berries from the dark side of the Moon. But she’d never betrayed them. She’d just… gone her own way. And been exiled for it. But what were a few years of exile to an immortal? Well, more than a few years. Eternity? She didn’t like to think about it, but eternity was a whole, long lot of years.

Etiras wouldn’t be there for much of it; his coarse mane turned grayer every day. Immortality was not the blessing mortals imagined if you left everyone that mattered behind.

Nope, not thinking about it. Just touring the old field of victory. Looking around. Stepping onto this ugly rock where I killed the death god.

So. Been a long time, hey? Just stopping by. May not recognize me in this mortal-suit. Oh, fine. No, no kids. Demi-gods in diapers, perish the thought.

Clouds drifted past the sun, and a breeze carried the bard’s droning voice. Caramagh barely made out the words. Something about her great sacrifice. Blah, blah, blah. She’d treasured the day the Church of the Goddess died out two centuries past. Worship was so embarrassing.

Thoughtlessly, she leaned over and rapped on the rock. Hello, brother. Anyone in there?

The rock rapped back.

“Shit!” What was that? Was that anything? Of course not. She checked the crowd across the field. No one looking her way. Good. Caramagh pulled a twig from a bag at her belt and commanded it to become a stout staff. She thumped the rock twice. Knock, knock.

Please don’t knock back.

Knock, knock.

Shit. Shit! She scoured the bag. Where the blazes had she left that soul-sucking sword?

Sisterrrrrrrrr……….

Get a grip, Caramagh schooled herself. Deep breath. Shadrach?

My name……..

The voice, or the thought, or whatever drifted away. Maybe senility was creeping up after five hundred years among mortals, and she was hearing things that weren’t there. The hot sun peeked between scudding banks of silver-backed white.

You taste different

Caramagh shivered.

Mortal…… but not
Where is……. your fire?


Maybe I lost it when you tried to pull the whole world down to hell with you. How are you here, brother? I killed you. I sacrificed —

Nothing
You live
So I live….


Caramagh leapt off the rock, as if stung. She searched the battlefield until her eyes found Etiras, safe. Her heart  beat again.

Anger flared. Not dead? Since when was her evil, blood-loving, darklord of a brother NOT DEAD?! And how had she not known? How had her father not told her this when he exiled her before the battle here at Clouds Edge? King of the gods. So superior, so full of his own authority. So never willing to fully explain anything. “Do this, daughter, and you can never return here or you must die.” Oh so dramatic.

You can never return, or you must die.

Caramagh had been deaf to her father’s real meaning all along. The thought made her reel. To truly slay her brother she’d have had to die the true death herself. Truly sacrifice herself, not just throw herself into the sea and slip out unseen later. But why her exile? What good did staying on earth do?

Sister……. warden
You……. prison me


She fell to her knees, sick with it. Her control slipped. The commands that bound her mortal costume wavered.

But…...
There is a way
For both of us…………………..
To be free


The thought almost dragged itself into her mind: How?
The world held its breath.

Bring the sword

Yeah. About that —

I need…….
I am...less
It has my...
I am an echo of myself


She thought of Fellbringer with horror. Five hundred years ago, that sword ripped a hundred thousand souls from their bodies. Five hundred years ago, she’d torn it from Shadrach's iron hands and shoved it through his guts. Five hundred years ago, she’d carried the monstrous thing to the peak of… where? Oh, right. Mount Thalacter. A very long way away.

Something pulled the memories from her mind and into the rock.

Fellbringerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

Caramagh hated that sword. She balanced the homesick yearning in her heart against that hatred. “No.” No, brother. We stay as we are.

A lash of power tore at her.
The sword!
BRING ME MY SWORD!!!


Whips of agony flailed at Caramagh. She stumbled with shock, fumbled for her power, but it was like slamming a fist into wet sand looking for a buried pearl. She fought the pain, excruciating pain and a sucking away of will, fought back with what fire she could muster. Shadrach swept it aside. She needed… she needed… to be herself.

She let go her mortal shell like a chrysalis freeing its winged prize. Now she reached for power, and light blasted the battlefield like the touch of the very sun. The coils of darkness pulled back, howling. Caramagh raised her staff and struck, deep into the heart of her brother’s echo, and sent it wailing back to hell.

The world sighed. Golden Caramagh stood wreathed in glory, but prisoner and prison still. Across the burning battlefield, the courtiers stared open-mouthed. “She’s returned to us!” cried the bard. As one, they knelt in homage.

Etiras came to the ring of flame that circled the goddess. Caramagh waved a hand, and a passage opened. He averted his eyes, and stepped through.

“Your glory,” he said, not daring to fully look at her. “I never imagined.”
How could -“ Tears choked his voice. “How could you —“

Caramagh reeled in her power and moved to him. “Love you?” He nodded his head twice, hard. She raised his chin with her glowing hand. “Because to me you will never grow old, my brave mortal king.”

Amberlass and her newly minted congregation started an antique hymn she’d hoped to never hear again. “But that will get old fast.”

Worshippers. So embarrassing.



Alone in the dark, Shadrach listened. He could wait. He was good at waiting. And at least he knew now where his sword was hidden.
« Last Edit: March 28, 2020, 09:35:46 PM by JMack »
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Offline Alex Hormann

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Re: [MAR 2020] - Undercover gods - Submission Thread
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2020, 04:47:32 PM »
The Visitor

1273 words

Spoiler for Hiden:

It begins with a knock at the door.
Duntor Hunn, sixty four years of age and late of the King’s army, grumbles as he rises from his chair. His aching bones are not as firm as they were in his youth, and the muscles around them sag almost as much as his paunch. It has been many years since he did anything more strenuous than weeding the garden.
“I’ll get it. You sit back down, before you break something.”
His wife, Leora Hunn, aged seventy and showing every year of it, beats him to the door. Her vision may be failing but her legs are as sprightly as ever, carrying her swiftly to the door. She opens it a crack and asks, “Who goes there?”
“A traveller. Weary and looking for shelter.”
She opens the door wider, ever the kind soul. “From where do you come, traveller?”
Standing outside,almost invisible in the moonless night, there is a man. Older even than she and her husband, his back is bent beneath the weight of a large pack, and he leans heavily on a wooden staff, both hands resting on its tip. His clothes are holed and worn, a grey cloak grimy with dirt from the road. His white beard is long enough to touch his chest, while wisps of hair stick out from beneath a peaked hood.
“From across the mountains,” he says. “I have been walking some time. I ask only for a seat by the fire, and a small meal if you should have one.”
“You are not some demon, come to steal our souls?” Leora asks with an arched brow.
He laughs kindly. “The only demons are those in the cities. None would venture so far into the wilderness as I.”
“Stake’s sake, woman. Let the man in,” says Duntor from his chair. “He’ll be dead of cold by the time you’re done with your questions.”
She sighs. “Welcome to our home, stranger. Leave your pack by the door. Have a seat by the hearth, if my husband will spare one. I’ll see if we have any bread left.”

“So,” says Duntor. “Do you have names, you folk from beyond the mountains?”
The man smiles, a twinkle in his blue eyes. “Not that you can pronounce. Call me Silver, if it pleases you.”
“It pleases me greatly, Silver. I met one of your kind in the war. All babbling and squawking. Couldn’t understand a word of it.”
If the stranger is offended, he does not show it. “You fought in the war?” he asks mildly.
“Twenty years,” Duntor says, chest swelling with pride. “Took part in four Stakings. Even held one of them down.” He raises a hand, showing the twisted flesh of his left palm. “Two men burned before we killed it, but we won in the end. Just like we did the whole war.”
Leora returns, holding a crust of bread in one hand and a small wedge of cheese in the other. “Is he boring you with war stories? He does that with everyone.”
“Not at all. We heard rumours of your war, of course, but I’ve never met anyone who fought in it.”
“Oh, don’t you get him started. He’ll talk your ears off all night if you let him.”
Silver takes the bread and cheese with thanks and eats in silence for a few minutes, signalling his enjoyment with appreciative nods.
“What have you heard?” asks Duntor.
Silver swallows a lump of cheese. “That the people of the great forests took up arms against their gods and drove them from the land. News travels slowly through the passes, but they say you put them all to the stake.”
“All that we found,” says Duntor, nodding vigorously. “They say some made it their ships. Even heard rumour that some had crossed the mountains themselves.”
Silver laughs. “I have not seen a god in many a year. Not been a god beyond the mountains since I was but a child.”
Duntor grunts, satisfied. “Maybe we got more than we thought.”
Leora leans on the back of her husband’s chair, changing the topic away from the war. “What brings you to our part of the world?”
Silver finishes the last of the bread. “To see how you are faring without your gods,” he answers. “There have been all manner of rumours these past few years. They say you fell into barbarism, eating the flesh of your own kin. Or that a tyrant now rules with a will as iron as his sword. There were even those among us who thought you would waste away without your gods to guide you.” He shrugs. “Clearly not all of that is true, but I thought I would come and see for myself. It does one good, to do a little travelling.”
“You will be returning to your people with what you find?”
“Eventually, my good woman. Eventually. There is more of the world to see yet, but I hope to return one day.”
“Then you tell them,” says Duntor, shifting in his chair. “You tell them we’re better off without our gods than we ever were underneath them. King Hansil is a good man. Not the warrior his father was, perhaps, but few children are these days. He’s a great steward to our land though. We’re clearing the forests, seeding farms.” He gestures around the house. “None of this would have been possible without him and his father. Everywhere from the mountains to the seas is greater than it has ever been.”
Silver nods along. “You certainly do seem to be flourishing.”
“You sound less than pleased.”
He glances up at Leora. “Only pondering what might have been. The passing of an age is always an occasion for sorrow.”
“Not mourning the gods are you, man?” There is mockery in Duntor’s words. The faintest glimmer of suspicion in his tone. “Next you’ll be praying.”
“I have no one to pray to,” Silver assures the pair. He stretches his crooked fingers. “I should be going. The day is long, and so is my journey.”
“It is almost dark out,” says Leora. “I’ll get you some oil for your lamp.”
“I thank you, but I have no lamp. No guide but my own eyes.”
“No lamp?” Dunton scowls. “Fool. You’d best stay here tonight. The road is rough beyond here. The last thing we need is you tripping and breaking your neck.”
“I will be all right,” Silver assures them. “My eyes are quite good enough. I shall intrude on your kindness no further.”
Leora watches as the visitor retrieves his pack, slinging it across his back.
“Keep yourselves well. The both of you.” And with that, he is gone.

“Leora. Leora! Get in here.”
She returns from the kitchen. “What is it husband?”
“Our guest left the door open. And if you keep leaving scraps out, then who knows what will come crawling in to take them?”
“Scraps?”
“Bread and cheese. You left yours out.”
“I didn’t have any. Only Silver did, and he ate the lot.”
Duntor holds aloft a wedge of cheese. “There’s bread too.”
She takes it with a frown. “I could have sworn I only brought enough for him.” Then she shakes her head. “Mind’s slipping. I’ll put in the larder for the morning.”
“I’ll get the door myself then,” he grumbles, rising to his feet. He shuffles over, gripping the door with calloused hands. Checking that there are no scavengers around to keep him up all night, he peers outside. Looks up at the sliver of moon hanging overhead.
It ends with the closing of a door.

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Offline ryanmcgowan

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Re: [MAR 2020] - Undercover gods - Submission Thread
« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2020, 01:31:22 AM »
Well turns out the Apocalypse isn’t the best month to try and get words down when I’ve two kids at home, but the deadline’s here and so is my story.  1,495 words, I guess having the kids at home has skewed the reader age I would normally write for (My own), so no swearing and only implied violence and death this time.

Grandad and Goldie

Spoiler for Hiden:
Grandad’s goldfish is a God, and she’s even older than he is.  He says Goldie is as old as the Yellow River, and before being Goldie the goldfish she was the Golden Dragon of WuJin. 
We moved in with Grandad when Daddy went to the war, everyone tells Mum he’ll come home a hero, but I just hope he comes home soon.
I love living at Grandads, and I love his stories about Goldie’s adventures as a Dragon most of all.  Sometimes I think he’s pretending, because Goldie’s so small now.  Mum says he tells too many stories, and gives him trouble for putting silly ideas in my head.  She says I spend too much time day-dreaming, but Grandad says ‘having a big imagination is important when you’re such a little person’. 

Mum says we shouldn’t worry about the war coming to WuJin because Grandad is a famous hero from the old war and can keep us safe.  But the old war was a long time ago when Mum was my size, and now Grandads very old.

Mum’s sad a lot since Daddy went, she doesn’t smile or laugh hardly at all anymore.  Sometimes at night when she cuddles me in close telling me stories about Daddy, the warm wetness of her tears drip drop on my hair.  Sometimes when I’m happy I remember about Daddy and it makes me sad, I worry I’m starting to forget him, but Grandad says that’s impossible.
 
Grandad couldn’t get out of bed this-morning so I bring him his favourite tea, but mum says he’s too sick for tea.  She wont let me see him so I have to sneak in when she’s talking to Mrs Niss from next door.
Mum’s muffled voice vibrates through the walls as she speaks, something important is happening, but I’m little so they won’t tell me.  My ears pick up but my tummy drops at the sound of sobs, and a worry too big for me starts to grow there.

“Morning Grandad, morning Goldie.”  Grandad always likes when I’m polite to Goldie.  Today she’s in the bowl on Grandads bed stand.  Grandad always moves her between different bowls around the house when I’m not looking.  He say’s Goldie moves herself, but I don’t believe him, I’m seven now and too old for tricks.

“Kian,” His eyes are still clear and clever, not foggy like old Mr Niss though they’re both as old as each other.  “I’ve a quest for you.” One of his sky blue eyes winks and excitement stirs my tummy in place of the big worry.  But his face makes me act serious, Grandads not smiling today.

“What’s my Quest Grandad?”

“Kian, I’m very old-”

“But not as old as Goldie.”

“Not as Old as Goldie,” Now there really is a smile on his face and one beginning on mine.  “However Goldie and I are very old.  Kian, you understand what happens when people grow old, don’t you.  They become ever more slow and tired until they reach the big sleep, where they are rewoven into the pattern.” I don’t like this story, it always makes me sad when Grandad tells me this one.  “Well it’s time for Goldie to sleep and be rewoven.”  I look at Goldie in her bowl and she stares back.

“Goldie is going to die?”

“Yes, Kian.  Everyones journey on the pattern ends, and when our thread runs out and our body reaches for the long sleep, we are rewoven again to begin a new thread in the pattern.”

“Goldie is going for the long sleep” I say numbly

“Kian, for Goldie to sleep she must return to her River.  Can you do this for me.  Can you do this for Goldie.” He ask’s

“Yes, Grandad,” He hands me Goldies smallest bowl.  I didn’t see him switch her, because my eyes are too bleary and I cuff away tears.  “Are you ok Grandad.” I ask

“Yes I’m ok,” He smiles again and the expression on his face fills me with love and now my eyes are bleary again “I’m just tired, Kian.”

Floorboards start creaking outside Grandads door and I’m ready to catch a cuff from Mums hand.  Grandad though wraps an arm around me, pulling me in close for a hug.  “Take her home, Kian.” He whispers in my ear.  “Goodbye old friend.”  He whispers to Goldie.  Mum appears as the door opens, he gives me a little shove and Goldie and me are out the room running for the Yellow River.

There is a crunch and the world starts spinning.  I didn’t see him coming and I don’t see him going.  One moment I’m hurrying out the door and the next I’m rolling on dusty cobbles fighting down panic and struggling to breathe.  The thuds from a soldiers boots against cobblestone paving the only clue as to what hits me.

This is a different world from the tranquil confines of Grandads house.  Out here the cobblestone roads are busy with frantic people running.  A shop keeper juggles expensive silk rolls as he barges past crowds of hurrying citizens, and soldiers march past in motley patchwork’s of old armour, hand-me-down relics from a forgotten war.

I recognise Ton from Lessons and grab his arm as he passes.   “What’s happening.” I yell.

Ton stares at me blankly before recognition dawns.  “Kian, where have you been.  There are soldiers outside the city.  Dad say’s they’re not ours and we have to be ready.  What are you doing?” He asks

“I’m…” Panic hits me as I realise Goldie and her bowl are missing.  I spin round and abandon Ton in search of Goldie.  I freeze in horror as I spy the shattered remains of her glass bowl, but no sign of Goldie anywhere.  Wallowing in my failure, I go to wash the street dust from my face and arms in Mrs Niss’ water trough only to find Goldie waiting for me.

“Goldie.” She flinches as I shout her name.  Grabbing an old pale from the side of the trough, I scoop her up.

“DO NOT, DO THAT AGAIN.”  I freeze in place for the second time, afraid to move and awaiting some form of unwarranted military retribution.  But after a long moment none arrives and I meekly turn full circle.  No one is paying me the slightest attention.  “STOP,” I stop.  “TOP ME UP, THIS ISN’T ENOUGH WATER.” I don’t move.
“Who said that?” I ask, garnering looks from the passing crowd.

“I DID.  YOU KNOW, I WAS TOLD YOU WERE SOMEWHAT SMARTER THAN THIS, I BELIEVE I MAY HAVE BEEN SOLD UP THE PROVERBIAL RIVER.”

I raise the small pale bringing us eye to eye. “Goldie, are you… speaking.”  She artfully portrays a look of exasperation, which is no mean feat for a fish.

“YES.  DON’T FUSS, IF THEY CART YOU OFF NOW I’LL NEVER MAKE IT TO MY RIVER.”

I look at Goldie.

Goldie looks at me.

“Goldfish can’t speak.”

“BUT DRAGONS CAN.”

“I…”

“PLEASE DON’T SPEAK IF YOU HAVE NOTHING TO SAY LITTLE PRIEST.”

“I’m not a priest”

“AND YET, YOU ARE SPEAKING TO A DRAGON.”

“That’s not new, it’s the hearing them that’s new.”

“THEN YOU MUST BE A NEW LITTLE PRIEST.  NOW ABOUT THAT RIVER-“

“I’m not any kind of priest.”

My ears pop at the whoosh from a large ball of fire streaking across the sky.  The boom of its landing shakes the stones beneath my slippers.  I dip Goldies pale in the trough filling it to the brim and start running for the river as fast as my little legs can go.

It isn’t long before my feet find the river bank.  “THANK-YOU LITTLE PRIEST, I WILL TELL THE GRAND MASTER YOU COMPLETED YOUR QUEST WELL.”

“…Grand…master?”

“THE ONE YOU CALL GRANDAD.”

“Grandad is a priest? How will you tell him?” The fish doesn’t answer my questions.

“IF YOU WOULD’NT MIND.” Goldie nods towards the water, a foreign gesture for a fish but delivered perfectly.

More smoking balls of fire soar overhead and sink into the town nearby in fiery explosions of sparks and screams, as I lower the little fish in her little pale into the waiting currents.

“There is no hope.” The world of fire surrounding me blurs as tears fill my puffy eyes.

“HOPE IS ANOTHER WORD FOR GOD, KIAN.”

Maybe it’s something in her river.  Maybe it is prayers from those people trapped within WuJin’s walls as it burns.  Maybe it is the last embers of a dying gods power.
Whatever the source, Goldie grows.  Her tiny, fine, golden fish-scales become hard plated golden dragon-scales.  Little parchment thin fins become claw tipped wings and the little O of her mouth becomes a toothed maw.  She grows and she keeps growing until she stands knee deep in the Yellow River, until she towers over the walls of WuJin as her wings bloom open and burning rocks pillow against them.

And then she breaths a fire of her own.
It's the silence that scares me. It’s the blank page on which I can write my own fears.