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Author Topic: [Oct 2014] - Abandoned places - Submission Thread  (Read 6719 times)

Offline xiagan

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[Oct 2014] - Abandoned places - Submission Thread
« on: October 01, 2014, 05:03:00 PM »
This month it's your job to get the inspiration for the story from one of the following pictures.
All are abandoned (or not? *adds creaky sound*) places with a history that brings humans back from time to time - or makes them (who? tell me!) rediscover it (and it's secrets).

Each has a special atmosphere - try to grab it and make the best you can (in up to 1500 words. ;)).


Path to Gothic Choir by Raphael Lacoste


high resolution version


The Passage by Thierry Doizon


high resolution version


Old Town by Peter Lee


high resolution version


Cavern City by Clint Cearley


high resolution version


When the Museum Becomes History by Bence Kresz


high resolution version


Tristram Cathedral by Peter Lee


high resolution version


Rules:

1. This can be prose or a poem.
2. The story must be inspired by one of the pictures and preferably (partly) take place in one of them.
3. Ignore this rule, it's not really here.
4. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
5. Poetry must be 100-500 words long.
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 images, 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 next to the 'youtube' symbol:

Entry will close November 1st 2014 and voting will begin somewhere around the same time too.*

Please post your entry below. 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 in Dec 2014 or early 2015.

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

*I seem to never be home around the end of month, so please excuse me if I'm not always on time (which is hard in an international contest with all the time zones anyways. ;))
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Offline QuanYin

Re: [Oct 2014] - Abandoned places - Submission Thread
« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2014, 05:46:14 PM »
Hi, my entry for this month is "The Museum".  It's 617 words.

Spoiler for Hiden:
The Museum

I wept when I saw the ruined Museum. 

I recognized it at once, of course.  It had been a famous art museum in a big city.
One of my own paintings had once hung in this building.

The city was long gone.  The museum was just a shell.  The glass in the windows was completely gone.  What had once been sky lights were just openings to the sky.

A staircase remained and a couple of archways and walls.   There was a statue of some hero at the top of the stairs.  I had no idea who it was, since the pedestal had no identifying label.  There was another small sculpture set into an alcove in the wall above the stairs.  It looked like it had been an angel or something.  It was hard to tell.   The rest was open to the elements.

An ice age had descended on the planet after a huge nuclear war that had nearly destroyed the human race.  There was snow and ice everywhere. 

I had once been an artist.  When the museum acquired one of my paintings, it was the pinnacle of my life.    All I had ever wanted was to have one of my artworks in the museum.   It had happened.   I had been thrilled.

But shortly after that, the museum, and everything else, had been destroyed in the war.

I no longer cared as much about art.  I needed all my energy for survival now.  It  was difficult to get art supplies.  There were no more art stores to buy them in.     Besides, no one would ever see my work, so why did it matter?

I climbed the cracked stairs and stood for a few minutes, staring out the glassless arched windows at the endless expanses of snowy mountains.

Then slowly I climbed back down.  It was too dangerous to stay here. 

I very carefully and slowly crossed the narrow icy rock bridge which had brought me here. I had to proceed very carefully because there was no one to help me if I fell or hurt myself.

But fall I did, in spite of my caution.  I slid on some ice and tumbled, landing on some jagged rocks far below.    No one would help me, because there was no one for miles around.  For all I knew, I was the only survivor on the planet.

I couldn't stand on my leg.   It was very likely broken.  My ribs hurt too.  There was blood on the rocks.  How I would survive in an ice age with no medicine and no help and no ability to stand I didn't know.  I wasn't sure I really cared anyway.   

I crawled all the way back to my lonely cave, crying from the pain.   There was a trail of blood behind me.

As I lay in pain in my furs and skins, I wondered if I would ever paint again.  Or if it mattered.

Maybe I could make cave paintings.  Maybe eons from now when the ice melted, if it ever did, someone would discover them.   And my skeleton nearby.

But I had no paints.

But I did have the blood from my wounded leg.

I started painting the cave wall, using my own blood as paint.   I painted two people holding hands, with a dead deer they had shot nearby.  The man held a bow and arrow and pointed to the deer.  It was a magnificent painting.  It was my last work.

Then I wrote this account of my last adventure.  I had nothing to write on, so I wrote it in blood on the walls.

I looked at the painting and the writing, satisfied.  I could die in peace now. 




















Online Elfy

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Re: [Oct 2014] - Abandoned places - Submission Thread
« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2014, 12:28:56 AM »
Hello, here I am again. A little later than I had originally intended and I have to post it today before life gets in the way. I start a new job tomorrow. If you want to tweet me then it's @ChrisElfy.

The story is called Virtualcity and I used The Passage by Thierry Doizon (hope I spelled that right) as the inspiration. Not including the title, it weighs in at 1492 words, so just squeezes in under the limit.

Enjoy!

Spoiler for Hiden:
Virtualcity

I gave the vine that hung over the sheer rock wall a good hard tug just to ensure that it was going to hold my weight, spat on my palms for traction, rubbed them together, gripped the vine and swung myself over the lip of the wall, then began to make my way slowly, but surely down the wall, looking down over one shoulder at where I was going to land when the vine ran out, and occasionally glancing up to see if I had managed to lose that tribe of blowgun toting hostile locals that had been tracking me through the jungle. The presence of my trusty Winchester Model 52 slung over my shoulder was of great comfort.

There are times when I wish I had accepted my uncle Harry’s advice and taken a desk job. I am of course joking. I never got offered a desk job. I also don’t have an uncle Harry. I suspect that’s a joke on the part of my programmer. I’m not even a real person.

My name is Frank, I’m owned and marketed by software giant Fantasmagoria. Fantasmagoria make highly realistic simulations. I’m what is known as a failsafe. I cost a little more, but I’m worth every cent of it. When the game gets too real and the player gets lost, who you gonna call?

                                                                     ****

I’m built into a bunch of the company’s higher end games. This particular one is called Virtualcity. It allows the player to become an explorer and uncover an ancient city, with all the dangers and traps of getting to the real thing. However unlike the real thing if the player gets lost or into a situation, they can shut the game down or reset it. The problem is they’re quite addictive and very realistic, sometimes the player believes that they’re an actual explorer, and doesn’t have the option of shutting down or resetting. That’s where I come in.

My player; a middle aged, mid level corporate executive named Steven Fraser, grew up on a diet of Indiana Jones movies, he then read stories about explorers like the ill fated Percy Fawcett, and the discoverer of Machu Picchu, Hiram Bingham. He made the pilgrimage to Machu Picchu when he could afford the trip. He played games like Tombraider. He was Virtualcity’s target audience, especially for the Lost City of the Incans adventure.

                                                                         ****

My boy Steve did pretty well in the early stages of the game. He successfully cleared Level One, where he first heard the legend of the city, did his research studying with a highly respected British professor, who related further information about the city, upon his mentor’s death Steve applied to the Royal Geographical Society for an expedition, was given their blessing, raised funding and off he went.

This is all part of the game and you have to clear that to get to Level Two, setting off on the expedition into the Amazon, where the Lost City of the Incas, some call it Z, and others El Dorado, is supposedly located. Level Two is where the player runs into trouble. Any number of things can go wrong. Guides prove to be untrustworthy and run off leaving the explorer at the mercies off the dangers in in the jungle, human and otherwise. Porters steal, and have been known to kill their employers, for their valuables and goods. People catch exotic diseases and die lingering and horrible deaths. Explorers fall out of flimsy canoes and are eaten by piranhas or caimans. Others get bitten by snakes or spiders. The dangers are innumerable.

The data I had on Steve said that he had successfully conquered Level Two. Only the most determined players get to Level Three, and that’s the discovery of the city itself.

I’ve done a few rescues from Level Two. I exist within Steve’s copy of the game, but we’re all linked, so what the other Franks do for their players I also experience. We’re a new game, and not many players are as dedicated as Steve. They also don’t necessarily play the same simulation he was obsessed with, so no one knows much about Level Three. Once I hit the wall I was in uncharted territory.

                                                                ****


The company activated me after Steve’s wife called in a panic. She knew he liked the game, given how much time he spent playing it, and he’d been known to miss meals, as well as sleep to keep playing, but when he didn’t come to bed one night, and she found him sitting in his study, game goggles over his eyes and didn’t respond to any external stimuli, she knew it was time to call Fantasmagoria’s number and ask them activate the failsafe.

What Steve had found was impressive. I don’t know who coded this thing, but they knew their stuff. Even I had to take a step back and just drink it in. The ledge I stood on was part of an entire network of ledges. In between them were limpid pools of water. They were of varying sizes. One was large enough to hold a small boat. I spotted the snout of a caiman in another, and still others teemed with fish. What were these things used for? Fishing, recreation, bathing, even drinking water, maybe? Only the designer truly knew.

The ledge I stood on connected to the next with a large circular stone that bore a cross shaped pattern, studying that more closely I could see that the pools had been designed in such a way that they too resembled the pattern on the circular stone. It was a common motif I noticed as I walked along the walkway to the opening of the city itself.

                                                                ****

The city was eerie. The stone buildings and the paved streets suggested that it had been designed with a large population in mind, but it was completely deserted and devoid of life, not even the ubiquitous vegetation, that had dogged my every step outside, was present in the city itself.

The largest building was made of a honey coloured stone, and as I lifted my eyes the roof and the tower atop it sparkled in the sunlight. I winced. It shone brightly. It was gold. They had covered the entire top of the building in gold!

There were steps leading up to the entrances. The building was in the centre of the city and it was either a temple or a palace, possibly both. The steps formed an open pyramid and they were arranged in a ziggurat to the temple/palace that stood atop it.

                                                           ****

I reached the top of the steps, and looked at the entrance facing me. I couldn’t see anything inside, it was like a gaping mouth. A figure standing in it turned to look at me. I unslung the Winchester and brought it up to my shoulder.

“Frank?” the figure asked, the voice querulous.

“It’s me Steve,’ I replied, relaxing and lowering the barrel of my rifle.

“What are you doing here?”

“You got stuck,” I told him.

“Really? But I’m so close to the end of the game.”

Like I said I was in uncharted territory on Level Three, but it couldn’t have been that easy. There was something in that temple. I didn’t know if it was booby trapped, or it had a giant carnivore caged in it, or even a demon or a god, but I just had the felling that if Steve entered it he wasn’t coming out again.

That’s one of the drawbacks about Virtualcity. If a player gets that far into the game, and has that much of their mind invested into it and they die in the game, they die for real. Fantasmagoria hushed it up during testing and release, but we lost a few players because of it. The shock of a virtual death at that point is too much for the human brain to take and it shuts down.

                                                                  ****

I took Steve gently by the shoulder and led him out of the city. He was still mumbling about how close he was to completing his quest, but he didn’t resist. Some part of him still remembered that he had a life outside of this virtual one, and also knew that he’d gotten this far, but was not prepared for the rest of Level Three.

Just as I hauled him up the last few feet of the wall that had led us into the city, and stood with him at the lip of it looking down into the entrance of that fabulous abandoned place there was a thunderous roar, and a volcano exploded over the area, obliterating the city forever.

Steve sighed heavily. “I guess I have to reset.”

“Yes, buddy, you do.”

“Can you come with me on the next expedition?” he offered.

I frowned. “Maybe you should play another simulation, Steve. There’s an African city lost under the sands of the Sahara.”
I will expand your TBR pile.

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Offline Jaeulk

Re: [Oct 2014] - Abandoned places - Submission Thread
« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2014, 07:34:19 AM »
I liked this challenge and would have enjoyed any of the inspirations if asked to but for this I've chosen 'Old Town' by Peter Lee.

I'm not very good at titles it seems so I'm going to call this one 'Hidden World' - not entirely happy with it but it will do :) -  I hope you enjoy, it comes in at 1466 words

I'm at @Jaeulk on twitter if you want to tweet me on there.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Aleks eased himself onto the large boulder overlooking the pass below and slid forward into a prone position. His eyes scanned for movement in the long grass and bushes below,  a mix of deep greens and light brown. The muted daylight caused by the grey clouds covering the sky hampered the clarity of the view but he was confident his quarry would not escape him and his partner. Aleks couldn’t make out where the half-elf was but that was the point, his heritage enabled un-noticed movement in a natural setting. Five days they had tracked the small group of beings from the hamlet of Hammid into the Northern wilds. The beings moved quickly at night and tended to camp out in the brighter daylight. The lack of sleep in tracking through the night and with little rest during the height of the day was beginning to take its toll on the human ranger, felt all the more because of the little impact it appeared to have on his half-elf counterpart. Aleks heard a whip-owl call three times, the signal from Elyn that the group were moving North again. There was the briefest of movement, the sway of a branch opposite to the direction of the light breeze, and Aleks slunk backwards

For another three days the Imperial rangers followed the group and the further North they travelled the longer the nights became, and what daylight there was was dulled by continual cloud cover, the sun a deep red as its light pushed through the shroud. On the ninth day the vegetation grew thin and the pair followed further back, reducing the risk of being spotted. Late in the day Aleks came to a wooden fence post sticking out of the ground. The post was rotted, split at the top and unusable but motioned to Elyn to come for a look. As far as either of them knew the Imperial archives didn’t have any record of habitation beyonds the borders of the wild forests which they crossed over a week ago. They continued on and soon found paths leading towards the rotting frame of a wooden house. Circling around the building it became clear that further on there were more ruined buildings of a larger size. Keeping care to avoid being spotted Aleks and Elyn came into the main square of a small town. Typical of Imperial farming hamlets the main square featured a large circular water fountain, long broken and overgrown with thick brown vines covered in spikes. Aleks ventured closer and saw the well was long dry. In the gloomy light the town was a story of dull browns and dark greys, jagged lines where wooden posts fell away from buildings and lamp-posts stood at angles to their original positions. Ears keenly attuned to the environment, he heard only the craw of a raven and shortly after the flaps of wings as a large black shape perched itself on the roof of what looked to have been a tavern and stood silent. The sharp clicks rang out and Aleks turned to see Elyn make the motion to join him. Aleks moved in a crouched position, eyes darting back and forth for signs of danger. The darkness and the dereliction of the town made him feel uneasy and the atmosphere was thick and cool. He followed Elyn into a nearby building that had kept most of its structure against the onslaught of the local flora and fauna’s slow but inevitable invasion. The opposite end of the room stood a life-size statue of a long haired figure with sharp features and dressed in a cloak.
‘Notice it?’ Elyn whispered.
Aleks just smiled and nodded. As an imperial ranger he would have been upset if he didn’t see it straight away. In this abandoned town decayed by nature and time this statue was clean and clear of dust. It was clear that someone was here, or attended this place regularly.
The rangers exited the building, looking for evidence of any recent activity. They had followed a small group here who seem now to have disappeared but it seemed to be only the two of them, the ravens and the deep red orb of the sun hovering overhead. Aleks become more and more aware of the silence closing in on him and he felt pressure inside his head. Elyn didn’t seem to notice it but his companion often held himself aloof from anything that might be considered a vulnerability. They kept searching, keeping to cover wherever possible and followed a path steeply winding upwards from behind a stable on the Western side. It was only a short distance and out of the gloomy haze appeared a cathedral. As soon as the two saw this they dropped to the ground and slid into hiding behind some rocks nearby. Peeking around the side, Aleks beheld a medium size building with large arched windows and a tall tower reaching upwards. It was constructed of a lightly coloured brick and from this side were a pair of dark black doors that were shut. A strange glow emanated from the windows, not torchlight as the ruby colour showed no signs of flickering. Slowly they moved around the perimeter of the cathedral and now it was not only Aleks’ ears that were affected by something but his sight as well. Even considering the additional shadows and the muted colours, Aleks was having some trouble discerning finer features and shapes. They came to the opposite side of the church and Aleks could make out that the cathedral stood on a ledge over the abandoned town. The town's overall plan could be seen including the remnants of where buildings that were now completely destroyed used to exist. The layout was familiar, it had similar plans and groupings of some of the larger Imperial hamlets that  used a consistent layout to make defense and administration easier. Aleks’ eyes were growing more affected now and he began to suspect some form of magic was the cause.
Elyn tried to peer through the windows but he shook his head, he could make nothing out. Returning to the front doors the effects on Aleks was getting worse. Elyn came close to him ‘I can feel something, and its affecting you. Whatever it is, I think its inside” Aleks agreed with that assessment but could only meekly nod “Lets go in,” Elyn continued “and deal with it”. Aleks could make out Elyn placing his hand on one of the great doors and push gently. Without a sound the door opened slightly. Elyn slid inside, and Aleks followed, the pressure in his head growing greater. Inside he looked up, quickly Aleks’ vision blurred into nothingness and he stumbled hand reaching out to grab a polished wooden rail. Faintly he could feel Elyn’s arms wrap around his chest. Aleks’ head lolled to the left and then, out of the sea of blurred vision and deep red hues floating around him was a white, perfectly clear vision of a man standing before him. The kind features promised Aleks sanctuary and assistance from the harshness of life, and he felt safe. Aleks dropped to his knees, only slightly aware of something in the background. Was it a voice? It didn’t matter. He wanted only to gaze upon the vision before him. Slowly his eyesight returned and around him he witnessed a large number of other worshippers, faces showing delight and pleasure at being in the presence of such a magnificent Lord. Aleks wanted nothing more than to stay here, he didn’t want to return to… where was it? It didn’t matter. He stayed for some time, gazing adoringly along with all the others. Then, without warning dread filled him. The statue fell to pieces. He screamed as terror filled his soul and his body crumbled. He rolled into a ball on the ground, weeping loudly. More time passed and eventually vision returned, hearing become clear and his breathing slowed to normal. He looked around. Elyn stood, surrounded by a small group of Imperial guards. His eyes rested on Elyn. “You’ve been here 2 weeks” he simply stated. Aleks couldn’t believe it but he looked around and saw dozens of corpses, some barely bones, others in varying states of decomposition. “There was a charm on the statue, looks like those enthralled would want nothing than to be with it, forever, without eating sleeping or drinking - guess we know what happened to the town” Elyn continued as he reached down to pick up a fragment of stone. The half-elf was probably more than half, his blood had kept him safe obviously. Aleks breathed deeply as his senses returned and witnessed sunlight, yellow and vibrant, beam onto the floor. He knew this story was not yet over.

Offline Ancalagon

Re: [Oct 2014] - Abandoned places - Submission Thread
« Reply #4 on: October 29, 2014, 04:05:19 AM »
This is my first submission to this forum's monthly contests. My story is based off of 'The Passage' by Thierry Doizon. I did write two other stories for two of the other pictures but I ultimately decided to submit this one (if someone for some reason wants to read my other two, let me know).

This story is titled 'The Dead of Meirgon's Pass' and it comes in at 1,415 words. I hope you guys enjoy.

Spoiler for Hiden:
The Dead of Meirgon's Pass

Tasaile grabbed Brother Nye’s hand and pulled himself out of the boat. He emerged onto a platform and felt algae squish under his sandals. He turned and helped a third monk onto the platform.

The village’s cargo ship was docked at a nearby bay and already the hired men were rolling the cage down the gangway and onto the platform. Looking at the fiend inside the cage sent shivers up Tasaile’s spine. He was glad to be getting rid of it.

The Kingdom had had the hard job of capturing it. Now, all Tasaile and the other monks had to do was send it on its way. Sounded simple enough on parchment. But nothing is ever simple when it comes to the underworld.
Jore, Tasaile’s apprentice, was last up from the boat. He looked either nervous or excited - Tasaile could not figure out which.

‘How far is it from here?’ said Jore.

‘It’s not far,’ said Tasaile. ‘It’s in a cave at the base of the mountain directly behind these ruins.’ Tasaile pointed towards their destination. A mountain range towered in the near distance, but one mountain in particular stood out. Amid the snow capped, gray-brown towers of rock was a lone, shiny, blackened mountain.

‘We should head over and join the workers,’ said Nye.

‘Indeed,’ said Tasaile. ‘We should group up and raise our protection barrier. Once that’s done, the rest should be simple.’

Tasaile and his brethren sauntered over to the men charged with escorting the fiend. Their leader, Ned, greeted them.

‘We would like to set up the protection barrier before entering the ruins,’ said Tasaile.

‘Go ahead,’ said Ned. ‘There’s no telling what’s taken up residence in this place since the plague. And being so close to the gates I wouldn’t be surprised to find something has slipped out.’

The four monks gathered the other men together around the cage and proceeded to each move to four separate points around them. The monks clasped their hands together, bowed their heads and spoke the protection incantation.

By the light of Eredwrath
that pierces all darkness
we remove our fate
from those who would harm us

The fiend screamed in agony as a searing light - visible only to those who sought ill of the monks - spread from the centre of the group outward.

‘Serves the bugger right,’ Tasaile overheard a worker saying.

Tasaile did not feel the same way. He was happy to send the fiend back to the underworld, but did not wish agony upon it. He held respect for all entities, even murderous ones such as this.

###

The decayed ruins smelled damp and musty. During every step, Jore never felt they were alone. The ruins of Meirgon’s Pass had its own ominous presence. But there were also others; unseen eyes that held unblinkingly on Tasaile’s party. Some filled with curiosity, others with malice. But they were held at bay by the protection of Eredwrath’s light. That, Tasaile had assured him.

They were not but midway through the ruins when a flicker of purple light caught Jore’s attention. He stopped. The others did the same.

‘What’s that?’ Jore pointed towards one of many moss veiled buildings.

At that moment, they all saw it. An old man sat naked and lifeless, propped up by the rotting door of the building. A purple light emanated from his open mouth and eyeless eye sockets.

‘We leave it alone,’ said Tasaile.

‘Shouldn’t we investigate?’ said Jore.

‘If we break formation our protection falls. We have no choice but to continue.’

Hesitantly, Jore agreed.

The party continued. Jore shot repeated glances back towards the dead man as they walked away. Though when they were out of range, he stopped checking. Later, he felt an urge to look again. The old man was following them, limping. The purple light emanated even stronger than before.

It was not Jore who stopped first this time, but Tasaile. However, Tasaile didn’t look back towards the old man; he looked forward.

‘Stop,’ said Tasaile. They all did.

Ahead of them was a young girl, standing upright and eyeless, her mouth hanging open. Purple light escaped from her, just as with the old dead man. The girl turned and walked away towards the black mountain, almost as if she expected them to follow.

Jore noticed the men exchange worried glances. Without the protection of Eredwrath’s light, Jore knew they would have run. Though it seemed Eredwrath’s light would not provide them complete comfort. Nor would it do the same for Jore.

Cautiously, they pushed on.

###

Tasaile’s eyes never left the young girl. She walked seemingly towards the same destination as Tasaile and his companions. They followed, but kept their distance. Tasaile held his faith that Eredwrath would protect them.
The girl stopped at the edge of the ruins. As Tasaile and the others slowed to a hault, they saw the entrance to a cave at the base of the shiny, black mountain. Within the cave, waited the gates to the underworld. The job was nearly complete. Soon the fiend would be banished from the mortal realm.

The girl started towards the cave, and as she did so, Tasaile saw others emerge from the structures nearby. There seemed a hundred or more, each with the same purple glow as the man and the girl. They walked towards the cave.

‘We should turn back,’ said Ned.

Muttering amongst the men seemed to suggest a consensus had been reached in favour of Ned’s suggestion.
‘We are safe as long as we’re within Eredwrath’s light,’ said Nye. ‘Any beings that wish us harm will be scorched by the light. If you turn back now, you will fall out of its protection. We four monks must deliver this fiend to the underworld.’

Tasaile knew they would follow. Wandering through the ruins without protection would bring certain danger.
‘Alright men,’ said Ned. ‘Let’s get this over with.’

‘What do you think they are?’ said Jore, as the group began towards the cave.

‘Souls of the departed,’ answered Nye. ‘I would say that they may be heading for the gates so that they can pass through once we have opened them. As for why we can see them, I can’t say.’

‘Nevertheless,’ said Tasaile. ‘If they wanted to harm us they would have been forced away by now.’

###

The purple light of the dead glistened in the obsidian rock surface of the mountain. On any other day the cave would have led towards a deep darkness as it stretched further away from the sun’s rays. But the light from the dead seemed to lead the way with a dim purple haze for Tasaile and his company.

They arrived at a set of wide brass gates deep into the mountain. It was here where the dead stopped, and waited. Through the gates, Tasaile could see nothing. But he knew of the foul creatures that rested there. Now one more would join them, and, it would seem, hundreds of other souls would come with it.

‘This is where our objective ends, brothers,’ said Tasaile. ‘I will unlock the gates.’

Tasaile removed an emerald from his robes and placed it on a pedestal before the gates.A rumble sounded from deep within the mountain. They waited. Shortly thereafter, they heard a low clunk reverberate throughout the cave. The gates began to open.

Almost in perfect unison, the entirety of the dead people vocalized a distinctly inhuman cry. Then they descended upon the monks and the hired men. Tasaile was thrown against the cave wall. His back crunched on an outcrop of rock. He watched as the dead people destroyed the cage holding back the fiend. The monk’s formation had been broken, severing their link to Eredwrath.

The fiend emerged and Tasaile saw the same purple light emanate from it as it did among the dead. And he understood. The dead people before him were not souls, capable of being repelled by the light of Eredwrath, but mere flesh able to animate at the will of the fiend.

He watched, unable to move, as the fiend beckoned towards the gates of the underworld. Through the wide gates came many a monster, hideous and murderous. Tasaile lay helpless amid the shrieking and ripping and thundering footsteps filling the once silent cave. He thought of the world and how it would damn him for his failure.

Tasaile looked back at the fiend, which did nothing but return Tasaile’s gaze with its large glowing purple eyes.

Offline Alex Dutson

Re: [Oct 2014] - Abandoned places - Submission Thread
« Reply #5 on: October 29, 2014, 09:57:28 PM »
I chose the Tristram Cathedral by Peter Lee though I loved all the photos and might try to include them in some other writing. I couldn't really think of a title so I am just going to go with 'Hell or Earth'.  The word count is 1347.

Spoiler for Hiden:
The ruined cathedral loomed out of the darkness, its remaining roof tiles glowing eerily in the silver moonlight.  Swirling mist hid the surroundings except for a few twisted branches reaching out like claws towards the path.  Red light, too bright and eerie to be ordinary flames, shone through the broken walls and windows.  From within came the sound of chanting, too low for the words to be clear even in the silence of the forest.

All in all, Mortem could think of quite a few places he would rather be.  The inn they had passed in the last village had looked nice.  Warm fires, plentiful amounts of ale, probably a thick stew of some kind to gorge himself on.  He suspected there would also be a distinct lack of people who wanted to drag him down to the underworld for an unending life of pain and servitude.

The group finally drew to a stop just outside the arched doorway.  The cathedral didn’t improve much on closer inspection. It seemed highly likely that a stiff breeze would send it tumbling down.  Mortem contemplated how easy it would be to pass off a well-placed fire ball as an accident.  By demonic standards he was pretty useless at magic.  But even his parents weren’t quite that idiotic.  Mortem also doubted the creepy shadow figures on the roof would be hugely impressed.

At the front of the group his father turned and pulled back his hood,
“The time is nigh my friends! Through this door is the gateway to our salvation! We will be returned to our true home where the fires have burned since the dawn of time and human souls cower at our feet!”
You could say one thing for his father; he wasn’t bad at delivering dramatic speeches.  Though, Mortem thought sourly, that was probably due to the years of practice. 
“It has been one hundred years since we left the hell fires…”
Since they had been thrown out.
“…stuck in this desolate human world…”
With its wine, opera and horse drawn carriages.
“…soon to be back among our own kind…”
Demons whose interests didn’t extend much past torture, killing and power.
“…our home awaits!”
The lesser demons in the group fell to their knees crying out in their joy.  Mortem shook his head in disgust. Lesser demons were just so pathetic.  Mortem’s mother stepped forward to embrace his father,
“It is time my love,” she glanced back at Mortem and motioned sharply with her head.  As slowly as he dared he followed his parents into the cathedral, the other demons hurrying in his wake.

There was little left from its days as a holy site.  The broken walls and ceiling seemed more of a mockery, a fake façade surrounding a bare expanse. Or what would have been bare if it was not for the glowing red portal covering half the floor.  There were a few of the creepy shadow men hanging around the edges chanting in a foreign tongue but the only figure who paid the newcomers any attention was the woman sitting at a rather out of place desk. She held her quill above her record book as her eyes swept over the group.  A demon, Mortem realised. A demon who could quite easily squash him like an ant under a boot if the power rolling off her was real. If she was just the gatekeeper hell had suddenly become even less appealing.

“Lord Pravus, Lady Hirudo.”
The woman leant back over her book, the scratching of the quill audible in the near empty room. Her voice was a bored monotone. No respect, no welcome, merely a fact to be stated. 
“Lady Sica.”
His father seemed rather put out.  Evidently the Lady Sica was not someone he had shared a deep  friendship with.
Mortem’s mother covered her husband’s discomfort.
“We have come to return home.  The century has passed.”
“Oh yes, the banishment.”
Both his parents bristled at her words despite the dispassionate delivery. Lady Sica ignored them, her eyes sweeping over the rest of the group. When Mortem met them he could see the fires burning, the screaming souls, the darkness. He managed to repress his shudder but the sick feeling in his stomach grew. 
“I don’t believe I’ve met this one.”
“Our son, Mortem.”
His father had found his voice again.
“Mortem…how original.”
Mortem could hear the smirk in her voice and bristled. He might think his name was stupid but that didn’t mean he took kindly to other people pointing that out. Even if they were powerful demons who could probably peel his skin away with a flick of the wrist.  His anger smothered the sensible part of his brain as he plastered on his most fake smile,
“Evening! Lovely place you have here.  The holes are really… decorative.”
He felt the group stiffen around him but Lady Sica merely smiled coldly. 
“This was a place of God before the humans abandoned it.  We have more power in places where he has lost his.  I would think any demon worthy to walk in the fires of hell would know this.”
“Well in that case…”
Mortem half turned trying to decide if he could reach the door before someone realised he wasn’t joking.
“We shall all be going home.”
His mother’s voice was deceptively calm, though whether she was angry with him or Lady Sica Mortem couldn’t tell.  Lady Sica raised an eyebrow but then sighed and rolled her eyes. 
“As you wish.  The portal will open on the hour.”
She went back to her papers.  The group began to shuffle forwards, excitement and longing written across every face.  Mortem stayed where he was. This was it. A few minutes and he would be leaving the human world for the first time. Probably for the last time.  Sixteen years of sunlight, wind and raindrops.  Perhaps it wasn’t very demonic to admit it but that sounded a whole lot nicer than the darkness and fire that awaited him.  He should have run.  Lady Sica seemed to have seen the indecision on his face,
“I don’t know why you’re bringing that weakling with you. I can’t see him lasting very long among real demons.”
“Do not insult my son.”
His father’s voice was cold and flat.  Mortem was rather surprised.  His parents had never been particularly, well, parental.  Demons and protectiveness didn’t tend to go hand in hand.  Lady Sica raised an eyebrow mockingly,
“Defending the weak, how very human of you Lord Pravus.”
With a bellow of fury his father threw a ball of purple flames directly at Lady Sica.  She deflected it sideways into the wall and suddenly the air was full of fire and lightning.  Mortem threw up a shield as magic and rocks rained down on them.  He could see his parents fighting Lady Sica and the lesser demons being blasted apart by the shadow men.  A huge slab of rock crashed to the floor in front of him and Mortem stumbled backwards.  Somewhere in the fighting a cry went up,
“The portal!”
Mortem turned and ran.  Rock crashed around him, some of it bouncing off his shield.  He could feel the red heat of the opening portal on the back of his neck.  His parents’ voices called out but Mortem was through the door and still going.  His foot caught on a grave stone and he tumbled into the mud.  Silence reigned. 

Gingerly Mortem got to his feet.  The cathedral was gone.  Its rubble lay scattered over the grass.  The portal had also gone and so had everyone else.  No demons, no parents, no creepy shadow figures. Just him and a lot of old pieces of rock.  Perhaps by the end of the next century someone would have cleared it up enough for the portal to open.  Or perhaps he would just have to be stuck here for ever.  Either way, Mortem thought as he brushed the dirt off his breeches and started off down the path, now was a good time to find out if that inn had any stew.

Offline Giddler

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Re: [Oct 2014] - Abandoned places - Submission Thread
« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2014, 03:01:09 PM »
Hi everyone, I chose 'Old Town' as my inspiration.  The story is called The Rookery, and it's 1371 words.


Spoiler for Hiden:
“As the new century began, social unease was at an historic peak. The atrocities committed against wealthy families during the Riots had left the affluent of London feeling vulnerable and angry. The daytime curfew put in place to restrict the poor from prosperous areas did much to ease the mood, but was merely a temporary solution.

Lord Leyton came to me one day in 1912 with a fantastic proposal: foot-tunnels underneath London!

At once, my mind was afire with possibilities. I would build, I naively believed, a network of tunnels rivaling the London Underground. I wanly dreamed of securing my name amongst the great builders of London like Wren and Fowler.

Leyton quickly dashed my hopes. I was to build a warren for poor folk; a rat’s-maze that common workers would use to get around Mayfair without offending the sight of rich Londoners.”

- Interview with Walter Lewes, patient at Rampton Secure Hospital.

---------------

Shona stared, her drink paused halfway to her mouth. The bar she’d chosen to meet Dean in was already packed full of office types braying loudly across each other, which had caused her to miss his previous words. Or, so she hoped.

“Sorry, say that again?”

“I’ve found a hidden town underneath London,” he repeated.

Shona began to suspect she had wasted her evening. “Whereabouts under London?”

Dean swallowed nervously. “Mayfair.”

Shona took a breath and released it. “Well, that’s obviously complete crap. Goodbye, Dean.”

She stood and stuffed her notebook and audio recorder back into her bag. Dean’s eyes bulged with alarm, and he scuttled after her out of the bar.

“I’m serious! I can show you, right now!” His face twisted like a toddler being denied a treat. Shona scanned the traffic for a taxi.

“Look,” he said, “just give me ten minutes, okay? What can you lose?”

Shona looked at him thoughtfully. If nothing else, she reasoned, she could write a sympathy piece about Dean himself.

“Alright, convince me.”

————————————————

He had led her to the basement of a hotel on Piccadilly, which had turned out to be Dean’s place of work, to a tattered door in between two enormous washing machines.

Dean turned with an ungainly flourish, pulled open the door and ushered her through.

The passage was too dim to see. Dean produced a torch from his pocket and lead them through the blackness. After a time, Shona had lost her bearings.

“Does anyone else come down here?” she asked. He shook his head and shrugged.

“Everyone assumes that the door is some other department’s responsibility. I guess it’s the same everywhere else. People just stop thinking about it after a while.”

They came to a junction into a wider tunnel and Dean turned right. An official sign bolted onto the wall stated:

                        ‘Any violation of the Residential Access Act will result in prosecution
                                         - by order of the Borough of Westminster.’

“What's the Residential Access Act?” asked Shona.

“A law banning poor people from walking the streets in rich districts,” explained Dean, “because of all the violence against the wealthy at the time. That’s why these tunnels were built: to link Mayfair to the poor areas like Whitechapel and the Docks. All the servants and labourers came from those areas, you see? But, because of the paranoia about anarchists, they had to walk though miles of tunnel to get to work. From what I’ve read, the conditions were pretty terrible."

Dean led Shona on through the dark. The air here tasted brackish and foul. He shone his torch around, and Shona’s pulse quickened as she took in the scale of the chamber they had entered. They had found Dean’s hidden town.

Above them, a buttressed ceiling soared away into darkness, further than the torch beam could illuminate. All around them were the ruins of buildings ravaged by time and the subterranean damp. Broken shanties jutted out of mounds of rubbish and mould like driftwood in a swamp. Shona shone the torch beam through a shutter, playing the light over crudely made furniture. A cot lay on it’s side and she recoiled in disgust as a large rat scuttled out of it away from the glare of the torch.

They made their way tentatively along the slimy passageway between houses. Further down the twisted path between the ravaged dwellings, she saw a larger building made of scavenged bricks cannibalised from the surrounding architecture. It had collapsed in on itself, slumping like a dying man. What the purpose of the building was, she could not tell.

The silence was oppressive here. Both she and Dean made as little noise as they could, although neither of them could have said why.

“Public opinion turned sour when people heard about the conditions down here,” Dean whispered. “The tunnels were closed down, and the government publicly blamed all responsibility for the mess on the architect, Walter Lewes.”

A sudden noise at the edge of hearing made Shona turn, the circle of torchlight piercing the gloom between the dead buildings. Dean clearly didn’t notice, as he continued:

“Lewes reacted badly; he had some kind of breakdown and was committed to a mental asylum. Then, one day he escaped and fled down into the tunnels,” Dean continued. “He hid down here sabotaging the work of the demolition crews, even setting traps for the workers. Eventually, they abandoned the demolition and just off sealed the Mayfair tunnel entrances.

 After a time, people began to move into the tunnels from the entrances in the east of London. Prostitutes, opium addicts, wanted criminals, anarchists - all the desperate poor of London; hundreds of them came down here into the dark. They loved Lewes for what he’d done; worshipped him. They stole materials from the docks and built a town down here.”

“Did Lewes ever go back to the surface?” asked Shona.

 Dean opened his mouth but before he could speak, the faint noise came again.

“What was that?” she whispered, piercing the torch through the blackness between slums. The light flickered as the battery started to fail.

“Probably rats,” Dean shrugged. “Anyway, to answer your question: yes, Lewes came back to the surface when the squatters were evicted by the police. After his arrest, he was committed to an asylum where-”

He stopped as the noise came again, nearer this time. A furtive whispering, like the muffled giggling of a child playing a hiding game.

“You heard it that time?” whispered Shona.

There was no reply. She turned to find empty space where he had been standing a moment before. Panic flooded her as the torch finally died and the light slowly faded to black.

—————————————————


‘For all the triumphs of his career, Lord Leyton once confided in me, there was never one which eclipsed the shame at his treatment of poor Walter Lewes. “The man was an artist with a mind of rare genius,” Leyton once described him.

However, Lewes was entirely unequipped to deal with the mauling he received from the press which ensued from Leyton’s condemnation of his work.

When Leyton heard of Lewes’s escape from Rampton, he was in no doubt where he would seek refuge: the gloomy sub-London underworld he had been so briefly ruler of. 

Some time afterwards a message arrived at the house, delivered by hand by a street drab, according to the maid who answered the door. On it was a single phrase:

‘Keep out of the shadows, Leyton, and pray I never find you.’

Lord Leyton and his family left the capital for the Colonies soon after for an ambassadorial post, and never returned to England.

-Personal notes of Andrew Hores, personal assistant to Lord William Leyton.

« Last Edit: October 30, 2014, 03:02:45 PM by Giddler »

Offline Carter

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Re: [Oct 2014] - Abandoned places - Submission Thread
« Reply #7 on: October 31, 2014, 03:00:32 PM »
Here's my entry for this month.  I've gone for 'Old Town' as my picture of choice.  It's called 'Branwen's Hollow' and comes in at 1500 words exactly (including title).

Spoiler for Hiden:
Branwen’s Hollow

At last, someone comes.

*

The crow tilted his head, quizzical and curious as Eralius approached.  The fading light cast shimmering iridescence across its wings as it hopped along the rickety, groaning fence, always ahead, always watching.  Under its gaze, he felt every mile, every stride, every inch of his journey.  Only when the fence finally sheared off, posts scattered and flung across the field, did the crow deign to flap and caw into the twilight, a purple scar against a bruised sky. 

Disturbance gone, he returned his eyes to his aching feet and the path before him.  Battered scuffed stones were barely visible through sprouting grass that clawed its way skywards and the closer he came to the town, the worse it became.  The settlement itself, so long a smudge on the horizon, had crept closer.  Even from a distance, it looked deserted and desolate, nature slowly reasserting her dominion.  The faintest remnant of hope flickered and died.  Even though the tales had been adamant, even though his fellow censors had chided him, he had pressed on, firm in the belief that if its name still appeared on the imperial maps then it ought to be counted, its inhabitants and goods surveyed. 

Now the extent of his folly was revealed.

Despite the deepening gloom, no flames flickered.  Even the temple, usually a vibrant, glowing hub in any other part of the Empire, looked gutted, abandoned and broken.  As he made his way through empty, decaying streets, disquiet festered.  The air was thick with the smell of mould, sap and slowly rotting timbers.  Houses creaked in the slightest breath of wind, roofs with gaping holes spewing forth trees and undergrowth that rustled and groaned in the night air.  If he had been a superstitious man, he might have cowered as a dead settlement breathed with nature’s voice.  But then, if he had been a superstitious man, the tales of Branwen’s Hollow would have kept him at bay.  Rumours of blood, a demon and the curse of a woman long dead had greeted his questions back in Cleraton and ensured he had made the journey alone. 

“And now, I’m stuck here for the night.”

Eralius let the emptiness hear his resigned frustration.  The words hung in the air, echoing around him until silence reigned once more.  Of course, in his profession, he was far from unaccustomed to such hardships, but he preferred to be prepared for such an eventuality, not have it thrust upon him.  With a long sigh, he set his sights on the only building he trusted to provide anything close to adequate refuge for the night.  Not for him the decrepit, decayed wooden buildings that looked fit only to collapse under their own weight.  Instead, the solidity of the temple’s stone beckoned and perhaps, just perhaps, he could reignite the sacred flame and bring some light and warmth to the dismal settlement before putting it out of its misery and consigning it to history.   

*

Don’t let him suspect.  He can’t know.  Not until it is too late.

*

Raucous cries erupted from rooftops and twisted branches as he picked his way through rusting cartwheels, shattered beams and the mouldering carcass of the town.  Looking up he saw a dozen crows staring down at him.  As he watched two more flew to join their brethren, adding their voice to the avian chorus.  If he had been a superstitious man, he might have connected their presence to the tales of a woman with an unholy, demon-granted control over birds.  Instead he banished any burgeoning doubt with pique. 

“Perhaps I should count crows then?” he said, throwing his arms up in annoyance.  “Do you wish to be counted among the citizens of the Empire, my winged friends?  Shall I add you to my tally?”

Sudden silence was their reply. 

“Perhaps.”

The word was a breath on the breeze.  For the briefest of heartbeats Eralius thought it had been a soft echo of his question until he realised the word had been a woman’s.  The crows watched as he peered into the darkness, heart pounding, trying to detect some sign of life and finding only shadows and stillness.  Images tumbled through his mind; of twisted corpses and heathen curses, of manic revenants and demonic bargains.  He tried to fight against the tide, to rationalise his imaginings as those of a frenzied, over-stimulated mind, all triggered by nonsensical tales.  Even so, he picked up his pace as he headed towards the temple. 

Around him the space opened up as night finally settled its shroud over Branwen’s Hollow.  Ramshackle remnants gave way to an expansive square, every step accompanied by crunching underfoot.  One structure dominated the plaza.  Raised onto a plinth, a simple pole and boom formed a makeshift scaffold.  Just by being untouched by age and decay would have been enough to make it remarkable.  The corpse swinging from the knotted rope in the shifting, swirling breeze stopped him dead. 

“Kaarr!”

The hard, resonant call startled him into a step.  Looking back he saw the crows arranged once more behind him.  His heart pounded as he backed away, rational thought floundering amid a flood of resurrected stories.  The crows watched as he stumbled backwards into the square, his mouth suddenly arid desert, every breath a ragged gulp.  One of the birds took wing, swooping down and past him.  He flinched away, his eyes tracking its flight as it alighted on the gallows. 

His heart stilled.

The wind had died yet the corpse danced on, swivelling and twitching in an unholy parody of life, every movement extracting a groan from the straining noose.  He wanted to turn, to flee yet he felt his body obey a different master.  His limbs twitched into staccato rhythm, his body a marionette.  He took a jolting, jarring step.
His mind struggled to rebel, to exert control yet every thrashing movement only brought him closer.  Details revealed themselves out of the gloom and his mind screamed.  The corpse was that of a woman and might have been hanging for a matter of hours.  The flesh and homespun clothing were perfectly preserved, unravished by the passage of years.  As the head bounced to stare at him the corners of its mouth seemed to curl into an unhallowed rictus and he discovered his voice.

“They’re true.  They’re all true.”

*

He notices.  Quick.

*

Crows suddenly filled his vision; a maelstrom of wings, beaks and dark eyes.  They pressed against him, pushing him ever onwards.  He stumbled into the plinth, pain lancing into his legs as he toppled against the platform.  Above him the corpse continued to twitch and dance, mesmeric and irresistible as the crows settled on the boom, waiting.

“Let me down.  Take my place.”

A woman’s voice filled his mind, impossible, dreadful and overwhelming.  His fingers reached out to touch cold, rigid, lifeless flesh.  Beneath his fingertips he felt heat leach out of him and the first pulses of twisted, stolen life.  He let out a whimper as he used the woman’s body to haul himself to his feet once more, one hand reaching for the noose.   Supporting the body with one arm, his fingers scrabbled at the knot, scratching and searching for a way to loosen it.  Suddenly, his fingers worked an opening.  The body slipped through, thudding into the planking.  He stepped onto it as its chest fluttered into a shuddering breath, his head craning upwards into the waiting noose. 

“Luminos preserve me,” he said as he placed the loop around his neck. 

Rage exploded in his mind as the rope snapped taut. 

*

“You tricked me!”

The demon sounded strange using a man’s voice.  Branwen had grown so accustomed to it using hers it almost made her jealous.  Looking about her, she regarded the devastation with a hardened heart while rubbing life back into her muscles.  The years had not been kind to her home.  Not that she would ever miss either it or its inhabitants who had strung her up and forced her into the very bargain they had accused her of.  Even so she avoided looking at the numerous, bleached human and animal bones that she knew littered the square.
 
“You agreed to the terms.  You agreed to be tied to the place and not the person.  If you had not grown bored, you might have even prevented this,” she said, trying and failing to keep the triumph from her tone as she revelled in her freedom and success.

“You’ll pay.  I’ll get free and you’ll pay!”   

The demon screamed and flailed, its new host swinging wildly.  Crows cawed and flapped, agitated by the sudden spasms.  She smiled to see their flight, to watch their aerial acrobatics.  Friends to the last, they deserved a reward for years of service and protection.  Turning her back she took a slow, luxuriously painful step and sent a mental nudge.  Behind her Branwen sensed the crows’ pleasure as they feasted on flesh once more. 

Offline xiagan

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Re: [Oct 2014] - Abandoned places - Submission Thread
« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2014, 09:50:15 PM »
*Topic is locked. If you want to add a story and it is still Nov 1st in your time zone, please write me a pm with the story and I'll add it or open submissions for you again.*
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