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Author Topic: [Nov 2018] - Ships - Submission Thread  (Read 1784 times)

Offline xiagan

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[Nov 2018] - Ships - Submission Thread
« on: November 01, 2018, 08:47:43 AM »
Image Prompt: Ships

We haven't done an image prompt in about a year, so it's high time for one. :)
Below you'll find six pictures of/with ships. Please choose at least one of those six as the base for your story. This means that the story should be inspired by the pic and the content of the image should be a scene from your story.

Here are the images:


1


2


3


4


5


6


Those are resized, if you click and select show image/open image in new tab, it should be way bigger (those are all wallpapers).

Rules:

1. This must be prose or poetry.
2. The story has to be inspired by one of the pictures above and the content of the image should be a scene 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 to submit your story anonymously you can do so by sending it in a personal message to @xiagan.

Entry will close November 30th/December 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: November 01, 2018, 03:17:26 PM by xiagan »
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Offline Jenny HJ

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Re: [Nov 2018] - Ships - Submission Thread
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2018, 07:54:25 PM »
1360 words. 
It's quite obvious which picture it is, number three.
I need to let this ship sail free now, or I'll end up clipping it's sails if I keep fiddling with it.


Revenge


Spoiler for Hiden:
“Just ready the Harpoon,” he said, ice-blue eyes glinting with a gaze as sharp as the ‘bergs we were sailing past. His braid jangled as he swung his head towards me. The charms from hundreds of victories ringing out his unchallenged status as the Captain in charge of this expedition. 

“Why have you not moved yet? Stop gawping and ready the damned harpoon.”

I knew better than to question him again. Our red sails were pulled in tight now and we sailed Carnage as close to the wind as possible, our oars raised for silence. Ahead of us I could see Revenge, her dripping oars also lifted, her sails set the opposing way. There must be a windshift ahead, after those next ‘bergs. 
 
Stepping down from the captain’s observation deck to the main ship, I ran toward my post, dashing between the sailors absorbed in their own tasks. Captain’s eyes bored into my back as I wound maximum tension into the harpoon string with the winch, coiled the line for the harpoon to fly freely and rested my hand on the trigger. I would not release it until I saw his signal.

The blue waters crested with foam and wave trails behind drifting ‘bergs formed like the wakes of gliding swans. In this supposedly deserted ice waste, a track down a ‘berg caught my eye; large, long and straight. Just another chuck of ice I thought to myself. Or maybe, the very clue we are after. They must be close. 

Ahead of us the Revenge began to rock. Starboard to port and back again, it’s crow’s nest swinging like a pendulum. The lookout called out for help, his voice increasing in volume and panic as he was tossed from the crow’s nest like a rag doll.  Down into the sea he flew, submerged and never reappeared. The rocking subsided as suddenly as it had begun. 

Tense mutterings started to come from the crew behind me. We had no idea how many of the creatures there were.

“Disturbance to Port,” our lookout cried. The waters, one moment broiling and bubbling, gave way to unnaturally flat, calm waters,  

“Help me brave warriors. There is something huge and terrifying deep in these waters. I lost my boat when it tipped me overboard. Save me!” Her voice was lyrical, her skin translucent with cold. She had rosebud lips, pale and pouting. Gossamer thin fabric barely there, wet and clinging to her. Men around me started to lean, just slightly towards her. Their eyes wide, more than one rope dropped at the sight of this mesmerising woman. I knew that expression, they were truly spellbound.
 
“Captain?” The Skipper asked, 

“Georgie, I need you to look, now. Really look.” The Captain called out. Deliberately looking away from me and at the skipper. 

I understood exactly what he was asking me. He was the only one on board who knew my disguise.  So, he knew I was the only crew member on board, not fooled by the Glamour. 

The Siren turned towards the skipper as we had hoped she would, her attention focussed far away from me. I needed to be sure, to aim true. Taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly for calm, I stared at her and let my eyes become unfocused. Her outline grew, large and sinuous. Behind the illusion was the main body of the beast. I glanced at the Captain and nodded. He raised a single finger and dropped it. The crew who were not looking her way moved as one, the spell momentarily broken. They all recognised that signal meant it was time to hold tight. In a mimicry of his action, I dropped my finger gently on the trigger. 

The harpoon sped across the water, seemingly missing the woman and her call for help. The second it hit the true body behind, the illusion faded and the enormous serpentine form thrashed around visible for all to see. The harpoon had hooked deep into her leathery skin, so now we had to reel her in. The melodious voice shredded my eardrums and tore through my soul, becoming a shriek of pure hatred and anger as the Leathergill Siren tried to escape. 

“All oars!” Shouted the drum master below decks. I could feel the drum beat rise though my feet, as strong as my heart beat, and accelerating as fast to aid the ship in our fight against the Siren’s might. Several of the ship’s biggest men were positioned nearby to gain control of the harpoon. The none too gentle elbows of one dug into my ribs as he barged past to reach the winch. 

Months of trail following had led us to this remote glacial region. We had tracked the sightings, the missing people. Followed tales of sailors lost at sea as thin and whimsical as the mist itself. But here we were and now a Leathergill Siren was on the end of our harpoon swimming for her life.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw our companions turn. Revenge was also re-named for this particular mission and both vessels had seen better days. Their ragged sails and paint flecked hulls still showed the faded gilt of their previous opulence. Her oars reached a steady rhythm as she returned now to assist us. It didn’t matter which of our ships caught a Siren, nor even whether this Leathergill Siren was the same one that had splintered the decks of the royal pleasure barge two months ago and taken the King’s oldest son and heir. If we brought one back, we would be free to sail our ships away. Every last one of us, Including Captain. If we failed, hell I suppose we would meet that missing heir...

“Dead or alive” the King had said, Captain wanted it dead. “If we try to keep it alive, we’ll lose more than one good man overboard. You can’t watch it all the time. even a woman as determined as you are, needs sleep,” He said when he outlined the plan. Disguised as a young man I had been safer amid the violence of this piratical world. He had seen through it. Honestly, I think he’d see through the Siren if he really tried. I was the best harpoon shot in the region when Captain had built this crew from those of us trapped ashore, our galleys impounded as hostages until the King’s revenge was full and complete. Once my role as harpoonist was done, he told me, I simply had to help get them all home by not falling for her illusions. 

Once The Leathergill Siren was dragged in close enough by the winch, her life’s blood streaking the surrounding water, the net had been cast from the rigging arms. They entangled her in it, then pulled it tight to draw her bound and immobile alongside the ship. 

In her own way, the Siren was beautiful even without the illusion. Her white hide shone back the reflected blue of the ice. Along her back her fins bore more than a passing resemblance to the sails on our ships, strong supporting spines, webbed with torn sails. Her crystalline eyes whirled like the dragons that lived in the deep golden deserts. 

She looked deeply at me as they hauled her alongside the boat, calculating and sly. Her anger simmering just below the surface, and I knew she truly saw me. 

In a language older than the surrounding ice she hissed, “Where is your fur-skin?”
“Lost, stolen. I am sorry” I whispered as I stared her in the eyes, a tear rolling down my face. 

Then, I stepped back and watched them shoot her. She never said a word to betray me. 

Captain only knew one part of my story. Without my stolen seal-skin, I would never return to the sea. A Selkie trapped above the water forever. Without my ship, I would never find it.

I didn’t blame my shipmates, they were fighting for their own lives. When I reclaimed my skin though, and my power, one way or another, the King would be losing his other son for what had happened here today...

/spoiler]

Offline Slaykomimi

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Re: [Nov 2018] - Ships - Submission Thread
« Reply #2 on: November 19, 2018, 05:01:19 PM »
Story is based on image number 3.
Title: Exchange

Spoiler for Hiden:
Richard walks next to the captain, shivering in his jacket, surrounded by fog and damp air. The moon illuminates the predawn sky. “It surely is creepy here captain.”

“Silence, you are just too young to enjoy the solitude of the cold winter sea” captain Maverick replies, sipping on his old pipe.

They both stare in silence at the ocean till Maverick interrupts “there they are”. His voice raises “all men, we can see our target”.

The ship steers a little and the gigantic ship in the distance is preparing too. Both ships get closer to each other. The ship of Maverick looks like an olive dropped next to a lighthouse even though it is large enough to sail a crew of 100 men over every ocean. But the royal ship of the Singrad kingdom could easily overshadow every port town in the whole world. Maverick steers next to the ship, looking like a flea sticking to an elephant. The bridges go down and a shiver runs down Mavericks spine as he sees the king of Singrad himself awaiting him.

“Your highness, I didn´t expect to… I mean if I would´ve known that you are on board I would´ve-“

“Silence, no need to be so humble, let´s start with it, the most exciting day of my life. Are all preparations done?”

“Yes my Lord, everything is done correctly, everything is safe”

Maverick extinguishes his pipe and drops it in his jackets pocket. He yells to the crowd “get it here and pass it over”.

Everyone keeps waiting, sweat running down their heads in thick beads. Only the king remains calm in his chair
After a short while, which felt like an eternity for captain Maverick and his crowd, 2 strong men equipped with drawn short swords company a tall woman to the bridge. She is taller than any of the man on the ship, not even the strongest souldier reaches her flat chest. Her head hangs down while her long black hair flows in the cold air. Everyone is afraid to cross the gaze of her blue eyes. The guards point to the bridge with their free hands while pointing the swords on her. The shackles on her arms and legs crackle with her every step, arms behind her back and chained twice on her legs. Both arms are branded with runes and seals to suppress the use of magic. Every step feels like hell for the crew, even after she left the ship and stood in front of the king. The sound of the chains stops and all eyes are pointing to the king.

“Now my dear, if you beg for forgiveness now I may reduce your punishment to lifelong imprisonment, do you accept?”

Without looking upwards a harsh clear voice emerges “I will cut your throat open and shi-“

“Show some respect to his majesty!” one of the royal guards yell while kicking her in the back of her lower leg.

The king rises from his seat, his arm raised to signal silence and announces “Rea, for your crimes against our kingdom I sentence you to death, you will be executed the day we arrive in the capital of the Singrad kingdom. Take her away”

“Wait, my Lord, we still have an item we secured from that woman that we want to get rid off, if you please”

The king turns his eyes back to the captain with a confused smile and asks “what is it, captain Maverick?”

Four huge man, packed with muscles carry a wooden box to the bridge and lay it down. All of them nearly collapse, sitting on the floor of the ship, faces red with sweat running down from exhaustion. Two royal guards approach the box and open it, thick purple fog emerges from it, blocking the vision till the cold ocean wind blows the smoke away. Even the king is in total shock, the box contains a long black undecorated sword in a simple black scabbard with crimson red runes on it.

The king moves his gaze to Rea again and yells “The unholy sword, ‘Sarduks nail’, you monster, how dare you to use this for your fanatic warfare?”

But Rea remains silent, she walks her way to her prison cell without a word, leaving the king speechless.

One of the guards whispers to the king “my lord, what to do with that… thing?”

“We will take it” the king replies “but lock it well, I don´t want anyone to touch it”

The royal ship crew needed 8 man in total to carry the box into the darkest chamber of the ship, leaving them total exhausted.

“Captain Maverick, I am deeply indepted to you, please allow me to express my thanks with this, it wont be enough, it will never be enough, please accept it” the king says while bowing in before the captain.

The captain is astonished from the gift of the king, 2 huge chests filled with gold and jewels, but what amazes him more is the bowing of the king. Both ships give their farewell and the small ship of Maverick sails away.

“Is it right to leave it with her, captain?”

“It is what he wanted, may the gods protect him” he replies, grabbing in his pocket and lighting his pipe again. His head turns down “but I am still worried, no one knows what this woman could do, maybe we should´ve at least thrown this cursed blade down to the bottom of the ocean”

-

Rea sits in her cell, laying in chains. Multiple chains of hardened iron are wrapped all around her, leaving only her lower arms free so she could eat. Remaining all the time in her cell, only seeing sunlight when she gets her food, never saying a word. No one even dares to look at her because everyone is afraid.

After days of sailing in a silent night, the door to the kings room opens. The king feels someone sitting down at the edge of his bed and wakes up. His heart rate skyrockets when he sees the eyes, the same eyes as 10 years ago. His eyes grow large and his sweat can´t stop, trying to crawl in a corner but the fear is freezing his body.

“How did you get here you demon?!?” the king shouts puzzled.

After further investigation, he realizes her blood and wound covered arms. The wounds are still fresh and the blood runs down, staining the satin sheets on the bed.

Without raising her head, Rea talks in a calm and controled voice “I did all I could to save you, but you just refused to listen, I am sorry. It was fun working for you and I hope to see Singrad again one day, but it wont be soon”. She stands up and draws her sword.

“IMPOSSIBLE! How can you wield this… this THING with just one hand?” The king screams, face turning red, despair turning to anger. He jumps to his feet and grabs his sword. With all his might he rushes toward her but his swing is like the one of an amateur and easily blocked by hand. Without further lecturing, she stabs her sword through his chest and immideatly pulling it out. The king breaks down without a sound.

She turns around and sheathes her sword back, carrying it at her waist like anyone else. Without looking back she walks out of the kings chamber and continues in her takeover.

Truly, if there is evil in this world, it lies within the heart of mankind.

-Edward d. Morrison

Offline Jake Baelish

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Re: [Nov 2018] - Ships - Submission Thread
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2018, 04:10:46 AM »
Just made it, looks like it's been a busy month for everyone here  :o

Also based on Pic number 3  :)

Hearts in Ice

1500 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
William spat over the starboard side. “Fuckin’ freezin’ out ‘ere.”

“There’s bergs, too,” I said. “I told the others we ought to slow down.”

William spat again, then quickly wiped the residue that splattered down his chin. “Sounds like somethin’ a soft lad like you’d think. You see that mist comin’?”

I did. It was thickening now. Soon our sister ship would be swallowed up by it. And night closed in. “It will only get more dangerous.” Heat rushed to my cheeks despite the cold. “I don’t care what the rest of you think of me – as your lieutenant, I have more than a say.”

“Bah! You ever heard about that mist? Things come to those who get lost in it, so’s they say.”

“So they say, to children,” I said. “To frighten them and keep their aspirations on dry land. Did they frighten you, William?”

“Don’t get smart with me, Damen, you little arse-fuck. I’m not one of your depraved dock boys. You been at sea, what, twice? Who are you to tell me how things are? The Captain wants to push ahead. If you want to tell him otherwise, by my guest.”

My knuckles whitened. “I could have you keel-hauled for what you just said.”

“Any problem, gentlemen?”

I started. The newcomer was Orul Lamak, the ship’s resident Fire Mage. A necessity, traversing such environments.

“Damen ‘ere was just telling me we should slow down, in defiance of Captain’s orders.”

“William directly insulted me,” I said. “As his senior officer, that is a punishable offence.”

“I called you an arse-fuck,” William snarled. “Are you not?”

I glared at the two of them.

“Damen,” Orul said, in infuriatingly thawing tones, “would you have me throw all your offenders overboard? We’d soon run out of crew to man the oars and crow’s nest. Suck it up, hold your complaints, and may we deal with them when we reach Darrowfell.”

William snorted. “Should be easy enough. Sir does like a good suck.” He grimaced, caught by a fiery look from the mage. “So’s I heard – below deck.”

“Go aft,” Orul told him. “Before I reconsider.”

With William gone, Orul joined me at the starboard side. The bergs had vanished, replaced instead by the less certain threat of the mist, softened by the sounds of the sea lapping lightly at the boards below. Hard to imagine standing beside the son of a great wizard. Orul always seemed fairly ordinary.

“You shouldn’t let people get to you,” he said.

“It’s hard not to. You don’t help, letting them get away with it.”

“You think such talk isn’t common on all ships? If it wasn’t you it’d be someone else. You’d help yourself by keeping your private affairs private. Our main concern now should be this mist. Gods be cursed for sending us this way.”

“It was this or the storms.”

“You may be right, Lieutenant. If the stories are true though, this may be proven no better an option. So long as we get through the mist, we should be right.”

“Don’t tell me you believe in that horseshit? I thought William was just an idiot.”

“You believe I could set this ship ablaze in moments?”

I nodded.

“Because you’ve seen as such, no doubt. The sea holds secrets of its own and no mistaking it. Keep vigilant, Lieutenant.”

He left me then.

Minutes later I lost sight of the sea below and all but my hands and breath in front of me.

The first whistle came from the stern.

“William?” I called, heart suddenly on edge.

I dashed along the planks. An even greater splintering, creaking sounded from below. I couldn’t let my mind wander. First William, whatever came after could wait.

Fresh sweat beaded my brow, I felt it, springing against the stinging air. There came a dreadful groaning and the whole vessel shuddered. I was thrown to the deck. Dazed and confused, it was only on rising again I realised the ship had stopped. What was happening?

“William?” I called again on stumbling to the stern.

And there he stood, for a few seconds.

A spectral wisp of smoke or cloud trickled overboard from his place at the taffrail. The man – more pallid, more placid than ever before – crumbled. The whistle lay discarded beside him. The man’s face, that mask of hate and anger, now shone a dumb and docile blue. He was dead. Though how I’d not a clue.

A scream. From forward toward the bridge.

With the world a whirl of mist and panic, I pivoted and took off, with more screams and clamouring from port and starboard. What was this? William and Orul’d expressed concerns; had even they anticipated this devilry?

Feet pounded the deck in an air of doom and death until my foot snagged something stiff and solid. Face and palms struck cold oak. Face burning, I gasped. Oh gods!

At my foot lay the body of the Captain. He lay as lifeless in petrification as Will.

Staggering up, I panted, eyes darting for the phantom menace.

Not that anything could be seen through the damned mist!

A slither of ice raced up my spine. I turned only slightly before seeing the sordid tendrils of the thing that plagued the ship.

“Damen?” It said in silky, slithery tones. “Yes, that is your name: Damen…”

And there I beheld a thing of beauty. A woman, barely. And in all her ghostly nakedness, she’d have driven most men mad with lust.

“Damen,” she said, reaching for my crotch. “Don’t you want me?”

A revulsion at this thing – this thing that stole the lives of William and my captain – forced me to press back. “You killed them?”

“They gave themselves to me. What? Why so scared? They weren’t scared. They let me take them; they wanted this.”

Every bit of blood within me reviled at her advances. At a touch I knew she’d have me, if only I’d allow it. “I don’t. I…” Something bumped me from behind. A firm and fleshy form of someone not like her. My heart thumped hard as I turned.

“Damen!”

Orul! gods be thanked!

“Damen, come with me.” He seized my wrist and dragged me into the mist, to hurls of protestations from the ghoulish creature left behind.

Orul dragged me round to port then mid-ship. I glimpsed a new horror all around us: ice crept over the railing and aboard our haunted vessel. It webbed along the planks as we fled below deck.

Cold corpses marred our descent into the heart of the hull.

“They didn’t get you?” I asked, once my breath returned.

“They tried.”

“You mean you’re…”

The creaking, creeping ice began snaking through the hull, threatening to engulf us. Our breaths mixed in the icy air.

“Do we have time for this talk, Damen?”

I’d already forgotten. “They’ll kill us anyway. They’ll freeze us to death!”

“If we don’t last the night.”

“But you – you have power, you can survive!”

He nodded. “I do. But you don’t. I need you to let me do something; don’t be frightened.”

I swallowed. “What?”

“I need you to let me hold you.”

He reached out and grabbed my shoulders. I shuddered at first, but only at first. As the blue, frozen tentacles snaked all around, we lay down. His body oozed warmth. The wintery demons kept away – for now.

“You never said before,” I said. “It might’ve helped.”

“It wouldn’t. Even knowing what I could do to them. But they’re all gone.”

“We might be too, soon.”

“We won’t. So long as we hold tight.” His arms slipped around me, pulling me closer. His body was soft, not like the rest of us who spent our days climbing rigging, pulling oars and maintaining a sailing vessel. Yet he felt like safety as the ice cut us off from all others.

“You impress me,” he said.

I impress you?”

“Yes. For being who you are, regardless of the shit people give you for it.”

I snickered into his chest. “I thought I was supposed to be in awe. You are the wizard.”

“Ha! No one gives me shit for being a wizard. Plus, you also have really solid arms!”

We both laughed. With it came a glowing, more intense warmth that radiated the area around us. I saw the creatures of the mist shriek back a little within their shadowy siege. They couldn’t break through. They knew it. And we knew it too.

I won’t say more didn’t happen that night. Two men of similar desires, alone, on a frozen ship in the middle of nowhere, with no certainty of surviving the night. Things happened I certainly don’t regret; though I’ll treasure those moments for myself.

When the morning came, I heard the pleasant lapping of water beyond the hull. Topside the mist had cleared and the ice was gone, but for a few bergs ambling their way along a cold yet tranquil sea. We’d survived, of course – I had a wizard.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2018, 05:46:24 AM by Jake Baelish »
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Offline Nora

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Re: [Nov 2018] - Ships - Submission Thread
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2018, 11:58:08 AM »
Picked Ship 2.

1500 words - Angel Plague

Spoiler for Hiden:

Angel Plague

The old bird says they came on a ship. And she's that: old. Her wings huddle featherless behind her warped shoulders, twitching as we pull the story out of her. She claims to be old enough to remember the messenger who passed through her village to tell of a ship like a city, come to Dieb in splendour, and that was before rumours of coastal Gamar and Drasel falling to a plague, before the plague itself came to dispel the rumours.

'So many places burned along the coast that month, people forgot where it started. It wasn't like knowing who died first would save your life.'

I nod in agreement. To this day there is no deciding which city had burned first, which village turned into a charnel before its neighbours.

'I remember suckling my mam till I was twice over the age of weaning, because corpses were the only crop around. People always jabber about Dulik since that's where the first angel came from. Before that poor girl it was just plague, and then it was angel plague. But it was them strangers on their death ship that came to Dieb with it.'

Nobody likes the idea of riding to Dieb, even if it is our most solid lead. Some grumble the word of old harpies isn't proof enough.

I flap my wings angrily, rounding on my men.

'What other rumours would you have us checking first? Whether the dead princess Mia lost her virginity to the Devil? Whether Carusians were sinning with their chickens?'

'No, Alessar, we only mean–'

'You mean you're terrified of going cross-country. Your nannies told you it's full of ghosts and entire villages dead and unburied, with bones scattered by animals and the wind.'

God knows it's the truth, for the bones at least, if plague-country is half as bad as what we've seen so far in the borderlands.
I pitch my voice to sound reasonable, encouraging.

'Yes it's plague-country, and nobody knows what goes on further down the road, but finding this ship, its people, are our orders. It's the rumour our King believes in. We will go and be safe, because the plague won't touch us. And if men try...'

I raise my spear up and look sternly at each of my men: four angel-born like I, and three plague survivors of middling age, Damian the only one among them changing, the bony stumps growing out of his back hidden under leather wrappings.
All soldiers, handpicked.

'Don't lose heart now.'

I mount my horse, a deep-chested stallion very willing to take me in any direction so long as he can gallop there.

'We ride to Dieb,' I say, and my men follow, putting up a show of enthusiasm that is more for their own sake than mine.

The  map says that the road–really a trail we barely make out through the encroaching wilderness–passes through several villages on its way to Dieb.
In the first, everyone is winged. The children look up in wonder and the adults flock to us, eager to trade for news, but they can't tell us what lays further down the road.
There are open-air ossuaries, but we expected them. The real blow to morale comes from the hamlets where, more and more often, half naked farmers turn the tools in their hands into weapons and give chase without a word, without a shout of warning.
When the scouts spy a village without an angel in sight, I send Lud and Mallory through, human as they look, with instructions to make themselves perfectly agreeable while the rest of us give it a wide berth. They rejoin us with provisions strapped to their saddles and a grim set to their mouths. We avoid all the villages after that.
Finally there is salt in the air, and the murmur of the sea beyond the swishing of palm tree leaves. There are more ruins of old farms too, as we near whatever is left of Dieb. So when Damian is taken by plague-fever, I'd consider calling it a day, but the men are having none of it, reeling with impatience, several of them going ahead to scout the shore.
He lays on his belly, to accommodate the bony slabs that one day will form useable limbs. Maybe. His eyes, bloodshot, the irises slowly splitting three-ways, are starring into whatever inward hell the plague crafts for him.

Bruno squats by me, giving me a hand unwrapping the wing stumps.

'Alessar, let's strap him to his horse.'

'I don't know,' I whisper, waving at the spasming muscles, the snarling lips revealing bleeding gums. Soon his teeth would need filing again.

'Well, he'll hurt either way. Plus, look,' Bruno says, waving his hand in front of Damian's face. 'There's nobody home.'

I scowl at the feeling of burning flesh and sickly sweat under my fingers, an unwanted reminder that we are the product of disease, but we saddle him up like a bag of potatoes and move on. We're too close now.

We come upon it not in the main harbour, but beached in the cove south of it. The masts, which guided us from afar, should have prepared us for the sight of it, but even presented with all its broken splendour, I struggle with the size of the thing.
It is a monster beyond my wildest dream. As if I had gone out to the beach with a stick to poke at jellyfishes, only to stumble on the carcass of a whale.

It's gutted, split in half, its seven great masts lolling haphazardly, connected by the last remnants of rotting rope and shreds of sails long lost to the wind.
People made a staircase out of driftwood, going up and up, into the great wound itself.
Still, several thousand people could hide in this wreck without crowding its crumbling decks. And yet, most noticeable is the figurehead: a gigantic woman, winged like the angels of lore, holding forth objects whose meaning I cannot guess. Her beautiful form bitter irony.

'Alessar...'

I look to where Lud points at a lone fisherman pulling traps out of shallow waters, not far from the much smaller wreck of what must have once been a dinghy.
We ride down to him, holding hands in signs of peace, but the man welcomes us with a bout of spitting.

'You gulls lost or something?'

I laugh.

'Quite the opposite, fisherman. We come from the new Altan court, in search for the ship that brought strangers to our shore. This boat,' I say, pointing up over my wing at the behemoth eating half the sky.

'Is that so?' the man says, looking vaguely amused. 'The ol' king's still kicking?'

'His son,' I correct, 'Altar the second. He believes the people came to our shores carrying angel-plague with them, and so maybe they know of a cure. We were sent to investigate, seek their healers–'

The fisherman laughs then, in disbelief or mockery, I can't tell, but it shakes his whole body, sends crabs rattling in the trap he's clinging to.

Bruno flaps his wings in irritation, making the horses dance nervously.

'Are the ship people still alive? Tell us man! This is no joke.'

'Oh, aye,' the man whizzes, 'they don't really like birds like you though, so good luck talking to them. They first settled on top of Akram,' he says, pointing at the tall cliffs that cut the northern horizon, 'and resettled a lot of Gamar. But they come here often enough, especially the young ones. Kind of a pilgrimage, maybe? Not like they'd tell old Beko here.'

The men cry out, calling out to each other about our good luck, and I feel a hand slapping my shoulder, but I only have eyes for the little man whose own eyes have gone up, past my wings and into the sky.

'Well, aren't you gulls lucky!' He exclaims, pointing. 'Here's one of them now, and no kid either!'

So I look up too, just as a shadow passes over us.

It is an angel, and it isn't. It is more, like the ship is more than a ship. Maybe three times my size, with a far larger wingspan, its arms are human enough, holding a bag to its broad chest, but the legs are disjointed, ending in terrible talons.
It flies over us without slowing or looking down, uncaring for the humans floundering in the shadow of a ship whose size suddenly makes more sense. Whose figurehead is nothing more than a herald of her species, and no angel at all.

'Still want to go ask the cure for bird-plague?' The old fisherman asks, smiling sadly. 'They call themselves something chirpy. Sounds like 'Titwak'. Usually they kill people like you, so we do the same. When a little gull is born, we offer it up to the sea.'

He shrugs, turns around to empty his trap.

'Go home. No point in you dying for a cure that doesn't exist.'
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

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Offline Alex Hormann

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Re: [Nov 2018] - Ships - Submission Thread
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2018, 12:13:36 PM »
The Dead James

(image 2)

1407 words



Spoiler for Hiden:

“You’ll know the Dead James is coming,” said the man they pulled from the ocean, “when you hear it’s bells start to toll.”

The day was deeply foggy, as if the sky had fallen across the beaches of Pahun. The entire archipelago was swathed in a thick blanket, blocking out light and sound in equal measure. It was nothing short of a miracle, they told the man, that they had found him at all. He smiled without showing teeth and shrugged. “Just good to be back on land.” And then, when they asked him how he had come to be drifting on the waves so far from the beach, he told them of the Dead James.

#

I come from Ulwaca. We are -  we were a peaceful island. Fishing by day and drinking by night. Nobody ever bothered us, and we had no defences against attacks. The worst that had ever befallen us was when a passing trader brought sickness with his silver. We lost five good men to the shivering cough, and we never saw that trader again. I’ve heard that some islands must compete with slavers from the mainland, or else raiding parties from their neighbours. But that was not true of us. Our nearest neighbour is far away, and an empty island at that. For almost all my life, Ulwaca has just been the people and the palms.

And then one day we heard the bell. Ringing out from across the bay. We gathered on the beach, unsure of what it could mean. That was when we saw the ship. The Dead James.

She was built like a fortress, fifty times the height of Ulwaca’s tallest man and then some more. Her sails seemed to fill the sky itself. I was amazed that something so large could even stay afloat. We thought it must have been the mightiest trader ever to set sail. Not until she drew closer to the shore did we realise the horror it would bring. Her planks were rotten, cracked open ans spilling sea water as if she had just sprung from the depths like a leaping whale. Those sails were not cloth, but flesh. The skins of men sown together. I swear with Bu Kita as my witness, I could see faces in the fabric, screaming still. And her figurehead . . . This was no carving, no mimicry of a sea monster of beautiful maiden. It was a man. Alive and screaming as salt water drenched his open wounds.

I stood, transfixed by what I saw, unable to move from the spot as the dread ship drew ever closer, its bell mournfully ringing. As it neared, I saw figures lining the sides, waving cutlasses. They looked at first to be men, but their jeering cried were in no language meant for a mortal mouth. Their eyes glowed like setting suns, and their weathered skin looked as rough as shark leather. This, we realised, was no merchantman, nor even a raiding ship. This was a vessel crewed by demons. A ship of the damned.

#

The man stopped his account, warming his hands by the small fire his rescuers had lit to keep them dry. His gaze never met theirs, constantly wandering out to see, as though he expected to see the ship again.

#

The demon ship did not drop anchor as we expected. Did not sent out rowboats to greet us. Instead it kept coming, ramming into our island home, sliding some way up the beach, like Tutu’s magic fish leaping into his net. The demons jumped from the sides, landing upright from a distance that would kill a normal man.

Our elder, wise old Muchau, stepped up to the nearest demon and offered it his hand. “We do not know you,” he said. “But all who bring friendship are welcome. But if you bring your troubles, I must ask you to leave at once.” He was eighty summers old, was Muchau, and his eyes had long been failing him. I doubt he even realised who or what he was speaking too.

One of the demons pushed past his fellows, until he was standing right in front of Muchau. He was foot taller than our elder, and twice as broad. His beard was long and unkempt, hanging in clumps and dripping with sea. It almost looked like kelp. His eyes blazed with a red shine, and when he spoke I could see the points of his teeth. He wore a wide hat, soaked leather cut into a triangle like mainlander captain.

“I am the Baron Caskedi,” he said, water trickling from his cracked lips. “I offer your island a choice. Crew or chum. If you choose to join my crew aboard the Dead James, I can offer you an eternity of wealth and plunder. All the silver you can dream of. All the food you can eat. All the women you can catch.” A bloated tongue slithered over his lips. “But if you decline this kind offer, then we shall make chum of you. Life is hard enough without wasting precious meats.”

Muchau tilted his head, looking as though he was considering the Baron’s offer. We held our breaths and waited for his response. “Your offer is kind,” he said. “But everything we need is on this island. Ulwaca and Bu Kita provide. You are welcome to stay the night on our beach, even I would not send you out to sea in this fog, but I must ask that you do not return here. We want nothing of your troubles.”

Baron Caskedi laughed, a harsh rolling sound that was soon taken up by the rest of his crew. “Chum it is,” he said, and ran his cutlass through Muchau’s heart. “Take what you will,” he said to his demons.

I ran. We all ran. Someone had to warn the village. If we could make it into the forest of Ulwaca’s heart, we would be safe. People screamed around me, and I screamed with them. Crying out warnings in the hope that someone would heed them. “Run. Run. Death is coming.”

But the demons were faster than we. I saw friends I had known my whole life cut down as they fled, their blood painting the beach red. Men whimpering as blades were driven into them, screaming as they were dragged bleeding towards the ship. The demons outpaced us, running ahead to the village. Before long I saw the flames rising, the smoke filling the air, and I knew it was hopeless to go home. There had to be another way out.

I am a strong swimmer, have been since I was a boy. I thought maybe I could make it out to sea, tread water until the Dead James had left. Then I could swim back and look for other survivors. So I turned back down the beach and sprinted for the waves, The sand, wet with blood and water, slipped under my feet, but I kept going. I had to.

But they were ready for me. One demon grabbed my arm, another my leg, and together the pulled me to the ground. I cried out to Bu Kita for mercy, but it was not he who answered.

I saw the Baron looming over me, cutlass pointed at my head. “You are a fast one,” he said. “Be a shame to make chum of you. Your spirit is strong, and I am in a merciful mood. Do not let your elders speak for you lad. Tell me, make your own choice. Chum or crew?”

His blade was at my throat. His demons were drooling at the prospect of devouring me. What choice did I have? “Crew,” I said, my voice barely a whimper. I choose crew.”

The Baron smiled and grabbed my hand in his. “A wise choice,” he said. Then to the demons he said, “Take him aboard the James. Get him acquainted with his new home.”

The dragged me along the beach, to the shadow of the ship. As I listened to the cries of the dying, I sore vengeance. Promised myself that I would escape. But I knew in my soul it was already too late for that.

#

“But you’re here,” said one of the man’s rescuers. “How did you escape?”

The man looked him in the eye. “I didn’t.” He smiled, lips parting to reveal rows of shark’s teeth.

Out in the fog, a bell started to toll.

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Offline Carter

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Re: [Nov 2018] - Ships - Submission Thread
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2018, 11:01:30 PM »
Here's mine for the month based on image 6.  It comes in at 1357 words.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Seedships

The fickle wind turned at last.  For weeks, the ships had idled at harbour, their hulls creaking and groaning in frustration.  The swells were too high, the winds too strong and biting.  Few had dared to whisper against the Regent's decision to delay the latest exodus. 

But now Aliona joined the throng lining the harbour.  At her back the wind brought the heady aroma of the besieging woodland; all pine and redwood, loam and mulch.  All told, an auspicious omen. 

The latest round of lottery winners and irreplaceables crowded on the decks.  They pushed and struggled against each other, competing for the best final view of a loved one, of their homes, of all they left behind.  Just like all the fleets that had gone before, so few looked forward. 

Her eyes scanned the decks, searching.  All around her others did the same.  A forest of arms rose and fell in silent salute, bidding swift sailing.  Only Aliona's remained still by her side. 

“You could have had a place.”

Varek's voice was as brusque as ever.  He had been there when the Regent had brought the offer in person, an honour afforded to so few, especially one comparatively new to the city.  But despite herself, she had laid down roots here, tying herself inextricably to the stones and the cobbles. 

“He will offer it to you next,” she said.

He grunted, disbelief evident in his sneer.  She did not attempt to argue further.  She understood his reasoning all too well.  He was too old for the lottery, his skill at woodwork rudimentary next to hers.  Yet for all that, he was the second-best shipwright left.  It was his yard she had requisitioned.  His tools that graced her hands.  His apprentices that bowed to her wishes. 

And when the Regent came again, it would be his hands that would be deemed irreplaceable.

Canvas cracked as sails unfurled.  The Regent's rising sun billowed out, straining westwards.  Once, when the hope had been strong, when the forest had still been leagues distant, voices might have erupted into song; a traditional farewell to questing heroes. 

Now, after so many fleets, after so many departures, few had the resilience for such things.  Where once there had been joy and hope, now there was only stoic acceptance.  Some faces betrayed a desperate dream of distant reunion but most now understood the slim chance that governed their fates. 

After all, everyone knew the next fleet would be the last.  The Regent had announced as much a month before.  Their safe wood stocks had dwindled and all trade cut off.  And with the tendrils of the forest creeping at the base of the city's walls, there had been no surprise, no panic, only grim fortitude. 

“Come.  Let us return to work.  They are safely away.  As yours always are.”

Varek plucked at her sleeve, his staring out not at the scene before him but at one from years before.  Her roots tugged at her.

“Even now, it haunts you still?”

His eyes hardened. 

“Of course.”

He would say no more.  He never did but she knew the tales.  Of how tainted wood had contaminated the stocks.  Of how a mere handful of planks had made their way into the prow of a vessel.  And of how, amidst the salty sea spumes, those planks had contorted, twisted and breached the hull, dragging all aboard to their deaths. 

His hands had wrought the wood.  His word had sent the ship to sea.  His shoulders bore a blame none but he ascribed. 

It was why he had ceded the yard to her.  Why he doubted still.  And why she took extra care with every ship. 

Around her, the crowd thinned.  A handful would linger until the ships disappeared beyond the horizon; well-wishers, masochists or those too disheartened to do anything else.  She licked the salt from her lips, shuddering at the taste, at the thrum that passed all the way through her like a crackle of lightning or the quickening of life. 

“The wall first.”

It had become a ritual.  Every day she walked between the two walls of wood and water.  At one time others had joined her; a show of defiance against their increasing isolation, a stirring of action to pierce despondency.  Now, only her and Varek trod the lonely path. 

The walked in strained silence.  As ever, Aliona could see the question budding within him.  Would this be the day it finally blossomed?

She ascended the stone stairs ahead of him, the steel tips of her boots ringing out.  Almost she felt an answering echo ripple through her feet. 

“Why do you come here?”

Finally. 

Apprehension flooded her.  Part of her exulted while the rest shrank from it.  She felt her roots snarl and twist within her, knotted and confused.  She felt a stiffening in her shoulder,a twinge of discontent. 

“It is what I always do,” she said as she crested the wall.

Below and before her, trees spread in all directions.  This close, she could smell the sap and the boughs.  Almost the earthy taste of the rich soil danced across her tongue.  It was intoxicating.  Yet beside her, Varek stood stiff and unbending.  A man of flesh and stone, and steel.

“Why?”

She swayed with his tone.  So harsh, so unyielding, it demanded answers.  For a heartbeat as long as the turning of the world, she pondered the truth.  She imagined his reaction and the consequence and such thoughts dried to a husk. 

She could never understand and she could never explain.  Instead, she allowed the wind to respond on her behalf.  It shook branch and twig and leaf.  It brought all the quiet, all the life of the woodland to their ears.  It was the only answer she could ever give.

There was no sudden epiphany.  He did not suddenly understand.  He merely stood, stared and shivered in the cold.  His eyes told her that this would be the only time he would ask.  That this would be last time he accompanied here.

She sighed.

“Come.  Let us finish the final fleet.”

*

She was stiff and sore but at last her task was done.  The winter wind whipped and howled around her.  Flurries of snow speckled the cloaks of all around her.  The ships danced a mad, dangerous jig on the waves as they sailed away. 

If not for the roots breaching the walls, if not for the vibrant shoots of new life between the cobbles, the Regent might have waited longer before the final departure.  But time had run out. 

She searched the decks for Varek and found him stood on a bow, his eyes fixed on an unseen, unknown shore.  If she had still had the use of her muscles, she might have been able to smile.  She half-expected him to turn, to cast a last, lingering glance at the city,at his yard.  At her.  But he did none of those things.  He alone stayed still and silent. 

She wondered if he found her gift yet.  If his hand had delved into the deepest corners of his jacket and discovered the truth she had finally granted.  She doubted it.  She doubted too that he would realise its significance until it was too late. 

Unlike all the others she had not taken great pains to hide it.  Most she had secreted between timbers, in hollowed crevices carefully plugged with resin and tar.  Only one kernel had she dared to leave unguarded in all those she had sent forth.  And only then because he deserved that much of her. 

She tried to move her leg but it remained stuck against the stone.  Her roots were too engrained in the essence of this place.  Time it seemed, had elapsed for all of them.  The xylofication was too far gone now.  She could no longer move, no longer hide what she was. 

She tilted her head back to stare at the low, life-giving sun.  She raised her arms to the world and unfurled her fingers. 

Pine kernels cascaded down to the cobbles.

Offline JMack

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Re: [Nov 2018] - Ships - Submission Thread
« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2018, 09:22:17 PM »
Finally, at 1,500 words excluding the title.
Picture #3.

THE FAR UNKNOWN

Spoiler for Hiden:

The lure of Aelf gold sent Marinhall to Mitgar’s dungeons and doomed the Grom. Stronger than steel and shinier than a seaman’s eye at the sight of dry land, a blades-worth of aelfgeld could ransom a king — or send a sailor beyond his charts, into the far unknown.

On a raw, miserable morning, we rowed Weaver out of Cape Vale harbor and pointed her prow to the frozen seas at the bottom of the world. Karadal stood in the bow, his silver hair flat against his skull, looking like death. I wheeled my chair next to the Aelf and secured it to the rail. He acknowledged me with a nod. “Captain Bucket.”

“So,” I ventured. “What’s it like to live for a thousand years?”

Aelves are notorious for keeping their own counsel. But after a minute, he looked down at me and said, “What is it like to be a legless grotesque?”

“Probably a lot less boring,” I answered.

I saw him hold back a smile, and figured we were off to a good start.

Weaver was my boat. I designed her, paid her making, and hired her crew. If you’re damned to be a legless grotesque, I recommend being a wealthy one. And you can always be wealthier and less bored, which is why I hired Weaver out when Karadal came onto her decks looking for a captain greedy and foolish enough to take him south.

Two months there, he said, and two months back. Prepare for ice and storms. Take weapons for the unexpected. Five hundred standard gold now plus expenses, and your weight in aelfgeld after we get there. Wherever there was.

I doubled the crew’s pay and promised them shares. Some left, but enough stayed. I’d treated them well, and Weaver was a comfortable ship, due to my inventions.

My men trusted me.

Their mistake.

***

We hit a storm six weeks out and barely won through. When the skies cleared, we were off-course and had to beat back against the current with half our spread of sail. I had charts, but the sun barely showed itself, the compass spun randomly, and the nighttime stars grew strange.

The Aelf and I were in the bow at sunset. I’d wrapped myself in furs, while he stood in the same light tunic he’d worn each day.

“You said it would be easy.” I knocked a thin sheen of ice off my chair wheels with the back of a hand ax. If I didn’t keep up with it, it would freeze in one place, and me with it. Perhaps I could attach a set of sled runners to the bottom.

“No, Captain Bucket, I said it might be the most dangerous journey you ever undertake.”

“Well, you definitely didn’t mention the ice.”

“I remember saying something about it. You said it might be worth a bit of frostbite to earn my gold.”

“Just so long as you don’t get us lost,” I said.

He smiled thinly and raised one elegant arm, pointing to a horizon fanged with the blue peaks of distant bergs. “That way.”

***

A crawling mist rose around the ship during the night. The man on watch reported distant drumming that made his skin crawl, which I said was probably just lice, but Karadal looked grim.

Weaver began to churn through greasy slop. I’d designed an ice ram, and we lowered that in place. But with the sails flat and the oarsmen struggling, we couldn’t break through the thickening pack. Finally, as dawn groped the sky, we looked out on a frozen world blanketed by low fog, glazing everything from the decks to the masts to the shrouds.

Karadal left his place at the bow to stand beside my chair, which was now frozen in place and useless. “You said your men could fight.”

“I think half of them have turned pirate and back more than once,” I said.

“Then now would be the time to break out the cutlasses. This is no natural fog.”

We assembled at the rail, the men hefting their weapons. I pulled myself onto a barrel top.

Karadal stood like a flame. “Children of men! You have followed Mr. Bucket for the promise of riches.” He paused as drumming started again in the fog. “Now, if you want to live, you must follow me. Because,” he added, with grim humor, “My people are coming.”

“Your people?” one of the men ventured. He shrunk back from the Aelve’s eyes, and added, “My lord.”

“Younger than I. Children, really. But dangerous to such as you.”

The men groaned as one. Though Karadal was likely the only Aelf any of them had seen, every story told how terrible they were in battle. These were just sailors. For all my bragging, maybe a third had ever seen a real fight.

We strung boarding nets and waited. The drums encircled Weaver, but the clinging mist kept any glimpse of the Aelves hidden. I dragged myself down to my workshop, ripped the wheels off a spare chair, and madly hammered sled runners to the bottom. I pulled a crossbow from one cabinet, then one of my favorite inventions from another. I triggered the counter-weight on the lifting platform and was carried back up to the open deck.

I had nothing to offer in terms of battle tactics. Karadal strode from man to man, giving words of encouragement.

I didn’t trust him. Maybe it was the way he’d deftly deflected every question about where we were going and why. Maybe it was that an Aelf’s promise of gold was simply too good to be believed.

Around us, the drums rose again. Men began to weep from terror. Voices in the mist called “Glaetha! Glaetha!” More voices echoed the call.

I hailed Karadal. “Glaetha?”

“My language,” said the Aelf. He sounded distracted. “There is no translation, but you might say it means ‘father’.” I must grunted my incomprehension. “I told you,” he added. “Children. Very jealous children.”

Aelves swarmed out of the fog: tall, graceful, keening, wielding lightning. Weaver and her crew never stood a chance. Men I'd known and laughed with died with their swords hardly lifted. My cabin boy was sliced in two like a sausage for dinner. The ship caught fire, even under its sheath of ice.

I saw it all from the corners of my eyes, because I kept them entirely on Karadal; and when he slipped over the side during the confusion, I released a ramp and slid after him.

With powerful pushes on improvised poles, I managed to trail the Aelf at some distance. I dragged my invention behind in its canvas bag.

A hundred yards beyond the ship, the mist cleared. Karadal was a dot running south, but his footprints showed plainly on the fresh powder. Though it sickened me to think it, whatever the Aelf children were doing with my crew, I prayed they’d be a long time at it.

I was gasping for breath, arms shaking, when I saw an island of bare rock rising from the ice. Karadal disappeared around the far side. When I reached it an hour later, I almost despaired of following, until I noticed a path carved into the ledge. I abandoned my sled and my invention. I took the cross bow.

Up, I told myself, dragging my useless body from carven step to carven step. Up, and up.

At the top, I looked down into a hollow bowl in the ledge. All around me, the rock walls were covered with glyphs. The place echoed of age and secrets.

Karadal stood in the bottom, surrounded by a vast pyre of wood. I was past wonderment, and didn’t stop to think how it had gotten there. As I watched, he raised an arm and conjured a ball of fire in his hand.

I yelled down from my perch above. “If you’d wanted help killing yourself, Karadal, you only had to ask.”

He looked up, surprised, and I saw my death in his eyes. He’d never intended any human to see this place. I leveled the crossbow and shot him between the eyes. The blazing ball dropped from his hand and exploded in the pyre. Somehow, the Aelf still lived. I expected him to scream as the fire rose, but instead he sang.

When it was over, when the wood was embers, he was gone. In his place stood a golden skeleton, and on the glowing rock at its feet lay three squalling babes.

Glaetha, father. Right.

I throttled the evil bastard’s whelps, took his golden skull for payment, and crawled back to my sled. I untied my invention’s canvas bag and assembled it as quickly as I could. 

I expected the other Aelves to return at any moment. Their eerie call of Glaetha! Glaetha! sounded in the distance just as my kite scaled the sky and I sledded away, the kite's long tether pulling me faster and faster across the lonely, frozen sea.

« Last Edit: December 03, 2018, 02:28:28 AM by JMack »
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