May 25, 2019, 02:39:44 AM

Author Topic: [May 2019] - EARTH - Submission Thread  (Read 229 times)

Offline xiagan

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[May 2019] - EARTH - Submission Thread
« on: May 01, 2019, 08:54:49 PM »
Earth


Earth Elemental by velinov

We had Fire, Water and Air already (one per year, time is fleeting...) so here's the last of the traditional elements. Earth is the most solid but is diffuse concerning a definition. It's the name of our planet, it's the ground, the soil, humus, ... We want you to use it in the elemental sense, so everything but the planet.
We are curious about your interpretation!

This prompt is open to fantasy and SF stories.


Rules:

1. This must be prose or poetry.
2. Earth has to play an important role in your story.
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 May 31st/June 1st, 2019 and voting will begin somewhere around the same time too.

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

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

Remember that this thread is only for entries. Discussion or questions can be posted here.
"Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis." (Laplace)

Offline Nora

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Re: [May 2019] - EARTH - Submission Thread
« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2019, 12:27:41 AM »
This seats on a few hours of research, so the names and places are all actual (even the 2 named characters are off inscriptions of Gaulish given names), but heck, this is hardly historical for all that. For the curious I'll link the two songs I listened to ad-nauseam while I was writing.

Spoiler for Hiden:

For ease of reading, the MC is a Carnute, a people of Gaul that lived between the Loire and Seine, kinda west of Paris, and the Parisii are... well... the Gauls who lived in nowadays Paris, though the capital was then known as Lutecia (now that's the name of a pretty fancy hotel and restaurant in Paris). Also "Alesia" is the place where the Gauls, led by Vercingetorix, capitulated to Caesar... That's just some references, because the 1500 words obviously don't allow me the space to make this historical fiction friendly to people who didn't study Gaul or read Asterix and Obelix.

Carnonos, 1500 words.

Spoiler for Hiden:
You want to know how the Romans were sent packing? How I helped tipping the scales of Fate? Well, I supposed it started with ill luck, no matter who you ask. Romans can tell one tree from another, but that's to better fell them. They don't respect the sanctity of sacred groves. I believe it all began in a battle pushed too far and a stroke given to the wrong man, but for me it was with the skinning of a doe.

The spring had been dragging, never truly leaving the embrace of winter, and the poor thing was lean and without a fawn. I was quartering her when a messenger appeared, bedraggled and hard-pressed.
He'd run from the small grove south of Cenabum, where a gathering of druids and Mothers had sent for me by name. There was a fuss, he told me, with a druid of the Parisii come so far south, and already a white cow had been sacrificed.
What a Parisii druid wanted of me, I didn't know, but I didn't question it. Druids all seem to know everything, after a while one stops wondering.

I made my way North, slinking past the Roman patrolled roads, stopping only to ask shelter in an isolated farmstead, and before two days had gone, I entered the grove where I was expected. I recognised several of the Mothers, and two of the druids, but the messenger hadn't lied, this was a large and busy gathering.

My bow and knives were taken from me, and I was led to kneel at the feet of the great Oak tree at the heart of the grove, its ancient branches rustling with the bones of cranes and holly tied in wheels.
The Parisii druid sat on a thick root, his cloak lined with wolf fur and pinned by a Taranis wheel. The torc around his neck looked a lot like mine, but slimmer, and made of gold.
I bowed and waited.

"Eskenga Kouadrounia, you are an initiated Daughter."

"Yes," I said, raising my head to meet the eyes of the Parisii man. His name was Martialis, and he had ridden from Lutecia.

"The war is not going well, Eskenga."

Like I wouldn't know.

My village chief had gone with every able warriors, most never to return, and my father – once crippled in a raid, but still a respected hunter – had resigned himself and taught me the craft, to use bow and arrow as my mother had taught me to card and spin, to dye and weave stripes and herringbone.
Then the fighting had turned so bitter that even my one-armed father had gone to die at the tip of a Roman spear, and I'd been left not just the only initiate Daughter for leagues, but also one of the last hunters who could spear boar and buck.
For two springs I'd been given youths to teach. I showed them how to walk in the forest, how to craft sigils of silence out of yew and hazel, how to ensnare small game and ward off wolves. I was reluctant to teach them more.
It was not done – not among the Carnutes and nor, I knew, among the Parisii – for a young man to learn the spear at the knee of a maiden.

"It is rare for a Daughter to be well versed in the ways of the forest." The druid smiled, as if reading my mind. "I think this is why you were chosen."

"Chosen?"

"You have felt something, at the turn of the moon?"

"Yes, I reported this," I said, nodding to the Mothers standing among the trees around us, "like a kick in the very fabric of spring."

All the druids nodded, some with a tremor in their beard.

"It was the All-Father," Martialis explained. There had been a large battle, up North, that had trespassed on sacred grounds. Every holy man had felt that kick, and known it to mean the death of The Woodman, All-Father, who brought spring with him.
I gaped. The Parisii accent made the name sound like Cernunos, but there was no mistaking his claim that the namesake God of my people had been slain.

"Isn't Carnonos immortal? Isn't he the God of Life and Death?"

"He is. But his earthly body is as subject to death as ours."

"Why tell me this?" I asked, bemused.

"Because of what you told the Mothers of your circle."

"How I felt anger?" How I'd been fidgety ever since, fighting an urge to abandon my clan and go North?

"It is the God speaking to you. You must go, listen to him, do his will, you are his favoured child, Eskenga."

They trimmed my hair, gave me a charm-sewn cloak, a checkered blouse loose enough to hide my figure, and a pack ready for the march ahead. Martialis explained where to go, what to do, and how someone would wait for me West of Lutecia.

So I went. There is nothing to say of my travels, except that I soon tied cloth around my neck to hide the heavy silver torc there, and took to carrying game at my belt. It was better, I learnt, to approach Roman soldiers waving my "wares" expectantly, than to wait for them to notice me.

When I reached my destination, there was no mistaking it.
There were many bodies still spread on the thawing forest floor, though mostly Carnutes. I didn't need to look at all the brave fallen, the pulse in my throat seemed to guide my every step, till I fell by the body of Carnonos.
He was untouched by decay, a youth too perfect to be on any battlefield, with the first hints of a golden beard that would never grow around a beautiful mouth parted by the surprise of death.
The cut was in his neck, an angry wedge that had bled into the soil in a small, wine-dark puddle.

'All-Father,' I moaned, 'don't abandon us!'

I dug with my bare hands, each cold handful of bloodstained earth tucked in a bag druid Martialis had provided. Carnonos had bled to the centre of the world, it seemed, but the bag was full, so I pulled its leather strings, kissed the young man's icy brow, and left.

The walk to Lutecia now, that was another story.
The bag of earth smelled in turn of the rot of Autumn and the heart-blood of a dying stag, of a hot knife through a comb of honey and the tang of fir sap. Animals started to follow me through the woods, and people abandoned the tasks in their fields to look in my direction, no matter how well hidden I was in the shadows of the brush.
Never was I more scared than when a whole host of Roman soldiers passed me by, and as I lay frozen under a bush, I watched all of its branches slowly come into bloom.
But the men marched on, and so did I, harried but undetected, until I reached the valley West of Lutecia.
There, an old man leaning against a way stone waved at me. Before I could speak, he'd turned around and started down a deer trail, leading me to a clearing. In its centre was a young oak tree, and tied to it a naked man. Hale and tan, he had the build of a soldier in his prime. A buck had been bled over his bare legs, its antlered head laid to rest against his groin.

"What–"

"A Roman soldier", the old man said, clearly making an effort not to spit at the words.

The soldier's eyes were rolling white like a spooked horse, and I felt sorry for him, and a little for myself: I'd never killed a man.

"Me paenitet," I whispered, as I knelt in the deer's blood, "te adiuvare non possum."

The soldier begged and cursed, but didn't shirk from the kiss of my blade.
His blood flowed, dark and oily, an endless tide over my fingers fumbling on the strings of the purse. Two handfuls of dirt I pressed in his mouth before death cramped it shut, and the rest to fill the cut in his throat.

“Carnonos,” I cried, “come back to us!”

The old man, having cut the dead man’s bonds, prostrated himself next to me, joining in my pleas.

The gapping flesh knitted itself shut, and the eyes of the dead man opened, now green and flecked with gold. Hair flowed from his scalp, white as moon-glow and parting over budding antlers that grew and ramified, forming a living crown veined with gold. Carnonos breathed in sickly Spring and exhaled promises of Summer.
His thumb brushed my cheek where dirt blended with tears and blood.

“I will fight with you, my Children,” he said, and kissed my brow.

That, is how we won the war. With Carnonos leading us at Alesia, bleeding in the same earth we did.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2019, 09:55:06 PM by Nora »
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Offline Matthew

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Re: [May 2019] - EARTH - Submission Thread
« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2019, 01:04:26 AM »
First off, ARGHH. The first time I tried to post, I had to request another image for verification which refreshed the page and cleared half an hour of formatting. The second time, I clicked submit and it logged me out... and of course cleared the page. I've literally wasted nearly an hour trying to get this thing to work.

This is my first time submitting anything but you have to start somewhere. 1500 words in Scrivener (or 1499/1506 depending on software, but I'm not counting them manually) and I'm afraid I don't have a title.

Spoiler for Hiden:

Fire is ferocious,
Air intangible,
Water shows patience,
But we are unshakable.

Those were the first words of the first class I had ever attended, and looking back I imagine each school championed their own variant.

After I felt the pull of the dirt and was levied by the empire, I was taken from home and... educated. My parents had taught me speech and some small numbers, but knowledge to us were the seasons and the rains, the price of bread and ale.

Now, I sometimes wonder if I would have been happier as a farmer or a merchant, an artist or a thief, anything except a tool to the Loyal Families above.

It had been two years since I graduated from the Mountain, two years of traipsing through darkness from one side of the barren flats to the other, from one podunk town to the next.

"How did I ever get stuck in this hell?" I lamented, stopping to rest my feet and wriggle my toes.

Estrada sighed. "Simple. You never licked our boots like the other lowborn."

"And yet here you stand, right beside me. I wonder why that is 'O Great Lady'..." I said grouchily.

We both knew why, and it was spiteful to bring it up. My mouth always had worked faster than my head.

"You think we've gained any ground yet?" I asked, changing the subject in place of an apology.

"Not unless Jun made a detour," she mused bitterly.

I grunted in return, and we continued trudging along. Weeks of pursuit had left our long coats caked in dust and our unders stained with sweat; Estrada's customary braid abandoned in favour of a simple and bedraggled tail, and my beard grown past itchiness into an unkempt mess. If it wasn't for the silken sashes at our waists, we may have passed for refugees fleeing war with nothing but our overstuffed bags.

We stopped walking as night gave way to day. Estrada lowered her gear to the floor and limbered up, moving smoothly through the postures of our order. Mmm. She always made it look so graceful, probably something to do with being born to the magic. Me, I was Blessed at fourteen, and never did develop proper balance.

After a few minutes, Estrada gave one final reach to the heavens and brought her arms down in power. The ground shrank away until she stood six feet deep in a circle a dozen feet wide. Around the inner wall, she'd tapered a spiralling ramp. I dipped into the pit while she gave a smooth wave that pulled the circumference overhead to shield us from the blistering sun.

We spent the day in a fitful daze, baking in the heat. Once the sun touched the horizon, we rose and ate - the same hardened rations we'd been chewing through for weeks.

It took a further three nights before we saw the dust walls breaking the flats, rising two score into the sky. Seasonal storms ravaged the region, huge cliffs of dust rising in waves to scrape the land clean; the walls offering the only safety, and the settlements within were insular - migrant communities that had built a piece of home.

"Reckon they've enough water to cleanse?" I asked.

Estrada smiled. "Not like you to be concerned with hygiene."

"I'm not, but you're looking a mess..."

"Very droll," she said, deadpan. "Now, this should be Rashdi. Census claims a hundred souls at most, and the richest dioptase mine for a thousand miles."

"That's the stuff they find in copper veins, right?" I asked.

"Something like that."

Shrugging, I motioned to a massive gate. "Looks like they've spotted us. Guards scrambling."

"Then let's go say hi," she grinned.

As we approached, I saw signs of the local industry - huge bronze hinges lit by a solid copper sconce. Even the light glinting off the swords and spears was that golden rust. They'd rather make do with inferior blades than trade for iron... typical outlanders.

"Stop!" called a gravelly voice from above, accent so thick I could barely make out the word.

We paused a little way from the gate, the weight of our packs threatening to tip us backwards if we attempted to look to the top of the walls.

"What business you have here?" growled the voice.

I was about to reply when Estrada pushed a palm to my chest. She knew I'd only start trouble. Feeling me take a step back, she dropped her arms to her long coat and swished it open, a little dramatically for my tastes. Even so, you couldn't argue with results - the imperial sash demanded compliance. Within moments of hurried whispers, a small door opened beside the gate and several civilians rushed out to greet us, some even prostrating themselves in the dust.

I could sense my partner's delight in finally being treated as she felt was her due. "Justicair, Lady Estrada Jinto, at your service."

Somehow the kowtows got lower, and her preening caused my eyes to roll; even here the Family name carried weight, her personal disgrace unknown.

We were invited in, our bags hauled by several guards, and once inside we were shown to quarters which I can only assume had been quickly evacuated by the wealthiest residents. We bathed and ate a real meal for the first time in a month, and as the sun rose, retired into comfortable beds bedazzled in polished copper set with emerald-green dioptase.

Estrada was confident that we were finally ahead of our quarry, and so we laid in wait for several nights. The locals had been told of our duty, and seemed relieved we were here.

When our prey finally arrived, they did so under the cool of night and the guise of a merchant caravan. As instructed, the reduced guard allowed them entry before making themselves scarce. I imagined Jun Li thought his plan was going well.

I was stood in the shadows across from the storehouse as the caravan swerved to a stop.

The cover was thrown back and the bandits poured into the deserted building, which should have given them pause. Instead, I heard the pounding of feet and splintering crates as they scoured the building for loot.

I stepped into the street and shook my hand as though playing dice. Small chunks rose from the ground and bobbed up and down, gentle as flotsam in a lake. The eyes of the two men left by the horses widened in fear, and I rolled the dice. The stones went tearing through the air to shred them before they could even scream.

That isn't to say there weren't screams; Estrada had clearly begun dealing with those bandits left back to open the gates and the sounds of battle echoed into the night.

Jun Li charged out of the storehouse only to freeze in his tracks at the sight of his men dead and his horses fleeing. Others appeared behind, spilling out around him. They held armfuls of whatever they could carry, and all froze in much the same way as their boss.

A tense moment passed.

They all dropped their loot and dived this way and that. Jun Li - an Unfound well known for his depravity - yanked the shrapnel from the fallen thieves and spun it towards me in a horizontal tornado.

The stones under his power were untouchable to my own, so I twisted to the side and stamped a foot into the earth. A shard erupted between us and the projectiles ricocheted off. I heard a curse and felt Jun pushing himself against my magic - I hadn't just touched the shard, but had spread myself over the street itself, denying him completely.

Damn. I'd failed to account for the building behind him, and pieces of masonry began ripping themselves free of the mortar to crash around me.

I was nearly cut in two as a man came from the side, scimitar swinging for my neck. I managed to leap aside and pulled the shard down hard, crushing him beneath.

Before I could applaud my quick thinking, a brick the size of the head I'd just saved whizzed into my shoulder, sending me stumbling to the ground.

I pushed my hands into the sun cracked dirt, whipping enough dust into the air to obscure all sight. I heard coughing as the parched earth found its way into throats, and I choked them with it, directing more and more of the dust into their lungs.

When silence returned, I stood and found myself across from the only survivor - Jun Li. He looked about as exhausted as I felt, but as we weighed each other up, Estrada sauntered out from an alley. She stopped opposite me, trapping Jun between us.

He turned, shook his head sadly, and raised his hands; not in surrender but in one final act of defiance. Estrada didn't give him the chance, and the ground opened up to bury him alive. Even we can't breathe dirt.

« Last Edit: May 06, 2019, 01:21:09 AM by Matthew »

Offline Jake Baelish

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Re: [May 2019] - EARTH - Submission Thread
« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2019, 08:35:31 AM »
A Flower in the Chaos

1500 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
Embers died in the cold of night. The destruction of the forest, the death of the blaze, would fizzle into memory, forgotten beneath the sprawl of man’s domain. This I knew. I knew what would be then as I know it now. I knew it as I, the last of the forest’s Earth Fairies, glared up through dying eyes at the malicious shadow of man’s great boot. It crushed me deep, deep into an earth still weeping from the burns. I was buried for the longest time. Long enough to feel I’d never see the blessed light of day again. Until the day Haruka came.

*

Neo-Darrowfell. A metropolis that reaches from the bleached shores of the western sea, to the treacherous rocks of the Easterly Straits. In antiquity such a stretch would’ve been considered a kingdom. Today it stands at the heart of the Continental Republic, the pivot around which the world turns. At its height it looks over mountains, glowing as though a galaxy born on earth. Cities within the city conjoin via great bridges connecting concrete islands in a colossal spectacle of godly engineering. At the base of all this, a shadow world, itself lit with an even greater concentration of artificial light, powered by a presumed limitless stream of off-world energy. The people of Neo-Darrowfell enjoy the boundless fruits of endless prosperity. This is the city that never dies, whose growth is inexorable. There are few prouder people than those who walk its slick and snaking streets, from whatever walk of life.

Most people, anyway. Haruka never felt that way.

The girl, an eleventh grade introvert lost in her mind’s own fantasies, ambles around the shadow world looking for anywhere to find tranquillity in the expanse of excess that imprisons her. In due course she finds it, in the shape of a rare abandoned lot, cordoned off by a series of high rising fluorescent panels that blend in with the brilliant surroundings. Only, one panel seems particularly dark. On further inspection Haruka finds the panel has been flattened, allowing access to the lot. And with life lit and buzzing behind her, she steps into a secret spring of solitude beneath the soaring circus.

A discarded sign of the ‘Magician’s Chaos Casino’ lies amid the remaining rubble. That it’s been gone several months already without being replaced is surprising. Less surprising is the pileup of trash inherited from careless passers-by. Not that they’d ruined a scene worth preserving. Natural beauty had abandoned Darrowfell before Haruka was born, as it had most of the First World.

Haruka dumps herself by a build-up of bottles gathered in the centre of the lot. The noise remains, she can’t escape that. And the atmosphere above shines with the radiance of progress. Still, she smiles at the emptiness surrounding her. For all the money spent on reaching higher, lighting the shadows and contacting people worlds away; she’d not find happiness like this.

Then, she saw it.

Haruka had heard of flora. Or flowers, plants, trees; whatever you want to call them. But to see one! You’d have to be pretty well-endowed to afford a cross-galaxy trip to do that.

It was unmistakable though. What else had such a delicate looking stem and beautiful pale blue petals? The plastic garbage in stores didn’t count – they wouldn’t sway so softly in the breeze in any case.

By sheer instinct the girl reaches out to grab it, to pluck it, and amaze her classmates and family who mock her dreamy talks of a world that was.

I scream. The girl flinches and withdraws her unwitting murderous paw.

 “Who was that?” the girl asks, full of fear and wonder.

“It is me,” I say. “The one you were about to kill. The flower.”

Haruka frowns but draws nearer. “They never told us flowers can talk.”

“All life has a voice. Only, most can never hear us. Even in my time, your people had long ignored our cries. Yet… you can hear me now. Little girl, what is your name?”

“I’m sixteen,” she protests, “hardly little. My name’s Haruka.”

“Your life is a footnote in time. I’ve lain here for millennia. Waited as men’s castles rose and fell. Waiting for someone like you.”

“Why me?”

“Someone who can care. Someone who can restore what was lost. This world has become dark and devoid of life.”

“Then you’ve come to the wrong person. I’m just a student. What can I do?”

“Feed me. Help me regain the strength to bring beauty back to this world.”

“What do you need? Water? I don’t have any with me, but… wait, there’s…”

Haruka scrambles among the empty bottles and removes one still half full. She unscrews it and sprinkles a little over me. The rush is euphoric; my petals open a fraction wider.

“You’ve no idea the weight that has shifted,” I say. “Please, come again. Daily, if you can. I cannot go further without you, Haruka.”

The girl nods – the severity of her expression lifts my spirits. All this time has not been wasted, the right one has come.

*

Haruka returns without fail, each and every day. Two weeks pass in which two more buds sprout from my stem. The strength floods back with each welcome drop of water. Haruka’s sternness melts away within days on seeing the product of her efforts. She even finds time to clear out the garbage, including the wretched casino sign. Our bond grows as we do. Within a month she seems more determined, more upbeat, and more open.

*

Then, everything changes.

Haruka arrives at the same time as usual, backpack over her shoulder, containing all she ever needs. Today, however, she is not the first. A group of hard-hatted men surround me; their humming machines line the far side of the lot, where the panels have been removed.

“What are you doing here, little girl?” the leader says.

Haruka’s heartbeat quickens, it sends vibrations through the earth. “I came to see my friend,” she says.

The man frowns, perplexed, “Ain’t no one here sweetheart. Go on home; don’t want you getting hurt.”

“Please,” she says, “look, there she is.” She runs past the tall man and crouches by me. “They’ve grown so much. It’s the only one like it – in the whole world, I think. You have to leave.”

The man sighs. “Just take the bloody thing and go home. I’m not paid to take care of plants and we have to start work here right now.”

Haruka stands, fists clenched. “I refuse. There are enough buildings in this city. There is nothing like this. If you want me to leave, you’ll have to remove me by force.”

A snarl. “What the fuck? Fine. Get her out of here.”

Two of his colleagues seize her.

“Let go of me!” she yells, pulling free.

The big man grabs her now. They struggle, he barely has to try. Eventually, with the girl tangled in his arms, he yelps. “Fucking bitch bit me!” he growls, throwing her into the rubble.

Haruka recovers on all fours; she’s dizzy, and her head is grazed. “You, hurt me. You bastard.”

The big man reaches down to me, to my stem. It breaks with a snap. It hurts just a bit.

He flicks it at the child. “Go tell your mum about it. I got more important things to deal with.”

“NO!” she cries, taking me in her palms. “You killed them!”

The man ignores her. “Come on. Brat’ll leave when the engines start.”

“I’m sorry,” she says, and starts sobbing. Her tears do nothing. “I’m sorry I couldn’t help you.”

“It’s all right,” I say. “This is not my body. My roots go deep. Thanks to you, I’m ready now. Don’t cry, Haruka. Draw a deep breath, and don’t cry.”

The girl inhales. My energy pulls from the earth and flows into my saviour. We become one. The girl rises with the power she feels. Together, we reach out to our assailants.

 “STOP!” we scream. Beneath, there is a tremendous cracking only we can sense.

“Fuck – again?”

They approach us, naught but annoyance in their faces. The earth braces.

“We said STOP!”

“Who the fuck is we?”

The girl screams and strikes the earth. The ground breaks, as the forces of a dozen ancient, trunk-like roots burst through the surface. The cries of the men are silenced as those roots shoot through torsos, sending blood splattering, fertilising the newly released soil. The bodies are engulfed in a rolling, roaring wave of twirling roots and vines. Screams cry out beyond the lot as people see the events within. The earth is not done, however. The soil freshly risen softens and swallows up the departed men’s machines. Our appetite unsatisfied, we reach further and watch the roads crumble away around the lot. Soon buds will litter the cracked and opened streets and great towers will fall. We cannot devour indefinitely; our energies have their limits. Neo-Darrowfell won’t forget though. The reclamation has begun.
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Offline Cell18

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Re: [May 2019] - EARTH - Submission Thread
« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2019, 09:24:34 AM »
Here's my entry for this month.  Looking forward to reading the stories submitted.

Title: The Circle
Words:1497

Spoiler for Hiden:
Ayron watched Delwyn lay out her prayer mat in front of her and began her sacred warrior chant.  The chant was different for each woman chosen to enter the circle and while Ayron’s had been focused on peace and inner calm, Delwyn’s was more aggressive.  Delwyn had been preparing to enter the circle since the age of five and now at thirteen she was ready.  The ceremony was to take place that afternoon, and it lied with Ayron, the warrior mother, to fully explain the circle.

As Delwyn continued her chant, Ayron thought back to this very moment when she was a girl ready to become warrior, and how her mother explained the rite to her.  She could remember it vividly, not just the words but the way the light fell from the window and the shadows growing and shrinking on the wall as the fire flickered in the hearth.  Delwyn finished her chant took out her sword and kissed it gently, once on the helm and once on the blade, and then fixed her eyes upon her mother.

“The worse thing of all the ceremony is the having the earth in your mouth.  All parts of your body will want you to spit it out, even your soul will rebel at the sensation.” This was how her mother had started to explain the rite.

“I fear no dirt in my mouth.  My training has required me to hold frogs…” Delwyn started

“Yes I know! Frogs and insects and rotting flesh and fruit.” Ayron interrupted her “remember I did it too! And believe me, nothing prepares you for the earth in your mouth.”  Both of them raised a smile with Delwyn giving her mother an apologetic nod. 

“Do you know why you are doing this today?”

“I am the chosen warrior.  This is to prove the worth of myself and my generation to the elders.” Delwyn answered confidently though the words were learnt and not from the heart.

“And why do we choose to fight on the most religious ground?” Ayron inquired, knowing the answer that was taught.

“So that the just and generous God Amacca can see we fight for her and the Evil One can see how devout we are to fighting against him.”  After mentioning the Evil One, it was good luck to form a cross with the arms, to guard against his spirit entering the body.  Galyd, Delwyn’s lore master, had taught her well and the movement of her arms to protect her against the spirit was fluid.

“You know the lore.  You know the legend. These are just stories and rules to make the ceremony appear glorious.” Though the words were said softly they were spoken in a way which was meant to scald her daughter.
“You know you must fight, but not why.  You know the ground is sacred, you cannot fathom how it has come to be” Ayron continued.

“The elders make it so and it is” Delwyn protested.

“The elders make it so and hide the truth behind it.” 

Tradition demanded that the knowledge was given to the warrior in the moments before the ceremony.  It was done in this way as the first woman didn’t know until the very last moment that she had been chosen to battle the Evil One.  Ayron passed a goblet of wine to her daughter and began the tale.

“It is less that the elder’s made it sacred and more so that events that happened on it are sacred.  When man was first created, it was seen by Amacca as a triumph of her will and her power.  She bestowed on her creation all the gifts that she could think of that would help them live life”

“Such as what? The ability to fight and destroy for her?” Delwyn was very strong minded and just as she did as a young girl, would question anything.

“No.  That came later.”  Ayron let the silence grow, it perfectness only broken by the cracks of the fire wood.
“Amacca, bless her, she gave man the gift of language, the knowledge to farm land and master animals.  Her most precious gift she gave to women.  Just as she had created man of herself, then she allowed women the gift of giving birth”

“So, the greatest thing she could have given is was to make us useless for months at a time and to become reliant on others and, most importantly to not fight for her?” Ayron slapped her daughter, didn’t realise until it was too late what she was doing.

“You speak the words that the Evil One spoke.  You speak ill of Amacca and she will not favour you.” The blow to her daughter’s face had stunned her and her Ayron’s words gave the hit more gravity, more meaning.
“Forgive me mother.” A tear had formed in the corner of her eye, Delwyn smoothed it away.

“The Evil One was once a man and not a demon.  He was the first man to learn how to fight another man for nothing but his own gain.  The children of Amacca… well she created them to not fight and could not bring themselves to stop him and so he carried on brutalising all those he met. 

“The only thing that she could do was to create someone who would battle the Evil One. However, she didn’t want to corrupt any of her creations, so she had to be careful, clever and cunning.”  Ayron stopped to make sure her daughter was following her, she poured and offered more wine to her.

“Amacca decided to create a ground that would be left alone all throughout the year apart from one day”
“The circle” her daughter said

“The circle” she agreed.  “She made it absolutely clear to her people that no one was to ever enter it unless she bid them.  Then she set about making her fighter, her warrior from the earth that was in the circle.  It took her a full season to perfect her.  She spent time watching the animals defend their territory, studied the Evil One from a distance.  She travelled far and wide before she finally committed to making the warrior.  And when it came to the result, the warrior was a woman.”

“A woman had borne the Evil One and no man could be trained to beat him. A woman had to create a warrior in her womb.”

“Exactly. So the battle was set and the woman warrior and the evil one entered the circle.  Books and elder’s will tell you that the fight was glorious ad lengthy but they embellish the facts.  Like all fights, it was messy, uncoordinated and over in a short time. The warrior woman had found the Evil One’s weakness, a slash across both ankles.  As soon as that was done, he left, bested”

“If he left, then why do we still fight him?”

“The Evil One was defeated but not dead, so he still fights every year for the one day when he is killed or kills.  Amacca did not like the warrior she had created and thought it best that she train others so that the link to her was lost.  This is what the elders do not know.”

“I am the link to the God Amaccca”

“We are the link to her” Ayron corrected her daughter, “and every year we defend her honour”

“Then where is the Evil One?”

“He got older and more powerful.  Realising his human body could not keep age away from him, he became the first demon.  When you enter the circle soon, you will notice that the earth is red on one side.  That side of the circle is where the demon is found and where he will make his stance each year.  Defeat him and he returns to the earth, get defeated and then he will infect all the earth and kill us all”

Delwyn made her way to the circle, took the sacred oath from the elders and said her chant as she entered.  In front of her, the ground was red.  The crowd gathered had quieted and she focused on her thoughts.  A light breeze blew through the circle and the temperature dropped so that she shivered.  The earth in front of her started to rise, slowly taking the form of a man.  That was all he was, the Evil One was just a man that had taken the guise of a demon.

Delwyn picked up the earth from her side of the circle and put it in her mouth so that she could become the warrior that was chosen. The elders had taught her this and her mother was right, it was enough to make her dry heave.

Delwn drew her sword and held a strong gaze on her foe.  “No fight is glorious” she said through clenched teeth and the Evil One laughed.  Delwyn ignored him and pointed the sword at his ankles.  “No fight is long”