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Author Topic: [SEP 2015] Politics, Scheming and Intrigue - Submission thread  (Read 8910 times)

Offline Arry

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[SEP 2015] Politics, Scheming and Intrigue - Submission thread
« on: September 02, 2015, 12:40:19 PM »
Politics, Scheming and Intrigue


"Triboulet", illustration for the theatre play "Le Roi s'amuse" ("The King Takes His Amusement") by Victor Hugo. Gravure by J. A. Beaucé (1818-1875) and Georges Rouget (1781-1869).

Scheming courtiers with different goals, layers of conflict, strings being pulled behind the scenes, power shifting, social climbers, too cocksure of themselves to be careful, poison, ...

Political fantasy stories (think ASoIaF) usually have a lot of world building and complex plots. Intricate governmental hierarchies need to be created to make them believable. Back story, motives, complex relationships - all that is normally needed. So I'm not sure this can be done properly in a short story. Which makes your main job to prove me wrong. ;)


Rules:

1. This must be prose or poetry.
2. Must contain some politicking, scheming and/or an intrigue. Not a whole story, a scene is enough.
3. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
4. Poetry must be 100-500 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 next to the 'youtube' symbol.

Entry will close October 1st 2015 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 sometime in the next months.

Remember that this thread is only for entries. Discussion or questions can be posted here.
« Last Edit: September 02, 2015, 12:42:34 PM by Arry »
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Offline Henry Dale

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Re: [SEP 2015] Politics, Scheming and Intrigue - Submission thread
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2015, 06:27:21 PM »
First in 8)
And with a humouristic children's story for the politics competition  ;D

Title: The Monsters of the Forest

Word Count: some 598

Spoiler for Hiden:
The monsters of the forest

Ozzy the ooze made his way across the bramble patch of the western woods.
The birds whistled in the canopy and small rodents fled from him as he boldly oozed on.
He had received a summons from the monster king. In fact, every monster had received a summons just like him to come to the clearing in the western woods. From the monster king.
The problem was, there was no such thing as the monster king. Monsters have no king.
So the ooze barons had sent him, Ozzy, half cousin to baroness Rosy to check on this monster king.
That was why he was here, in the bramble patch, oozing on.

The clearing wasn't too far but it took quite some time for Ozzy to ooze out of the shadows of the trees into the open. That's the thing you have with oozes, they are pretty slow. About as slow as a plate of flan.
Many monsters had already gathered. Duke Draco from the sulfur pits had come in person. Madame Medusa had sent two handmaidens.
And here he was, Ozzy, squire from house Oozarria. An ooze was rather dull thing though, so no one paid attention to him.

Everyone wanted to see the monster king.
Gone was the feud between the Trogs and the Gobs. Waived the fact that count Draco had gobbled up lord Golem's mother-in-law - if ever that had been a problem.
In fact, Ozzy had never seen the monsters so united in one cause. They wanted to see the monster king. Was there peace in the forest at last after an eternity of intrigue and politics?

But where was the monster king?
Everyone in the forest had received a summons. But none of the monsters was the one who had sent them out. It was a very curious thing.
They looked and looked but couldn't find this monster king. Of course Ozzy was pretty useless.

Lord Draco, being that big dragon that he was, took up most of the space in the clearing. So it shouldn't be a surprise that he had accidentally covered the monster king with his big big wings. Everyone was very shocked when a voice came from underneath him.

'Monsters!' A voice spoke softly from underneath lord Draco.
'I am the person who summoned you here. I am the monster king.'
Lord Draco lifted up his leathery wings and revealed a small person. It wasn't a dragon... or a medusa, a goblin or troglodyte. It wasn't even a mother-in-law, those are very scary. And obviously it wasn't an ooze, because oozes don't talk. They only glob and ooze.

The would-be monster king was pink, had arms, legs and a head.
Almost like those lollypop-adventurers he would lick up in the afternoons, Ozzy thought. So obviously this was a trap.
And that was the truth because in one two and three the monster king pulled up a minigun and sprayed bullets across the clearing. Monsters yelped and stumbled as they got hit. Lord Draco got a bullet in his big butt, Medusa's handmaidens had a bad hair day.

And Ozzy? He just sat there.
For once oozes weren't just useless flans. All the bullets got stuck in his body and he slowly went up to the monster king. Ozzy went om-nom-nom, until there was no more monster king.
The other monsters of the forest praised him and he went home later. That took quite a while again but once back in Oozarria there was a feast in celebration as adventurers raided the kingdom.

The end

Offline tebakutis

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Re: [SEP 2015] Politics, Scheming and Intrigue - Submission thread
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2015, 10:42:52 PM »
Here's mine, though it might have a few typos. This exercise turned out more fun than I expected! I grappled a bit with what I felt would hit the political/intrigue requirements, but I think I found something fun. I do, however, think my space opera mindset carried forward. It still counts! :)

EDIT: Fixed one typo

The Translator (1,500 words)
Spoiler for Hiden:
Hana Varstow steeled herself as the doors to Prelate Garil’s council hall rolled open and a stench poured out: recent slaughter mixed with too much disinfectant. Hana’s gorge hopped but she dared not show weakness, not to the Confederate Elites who flanked her, not to the exhausted Kavil militiaman barely keeping his feet, and not, above all else, to Prelate Garil herself.

The unarmed soldier accompanying Garil was a concession to the Prelate’s station Hana had herself suggested. Their war was over – for now - but a treaty had yet to be signed. This meeting would finalize that surrender or the Confederacy would resume its orbital bombardment. Many more would die.

*Please, Prelate, be seated at the head of the negotiating table,* Hana said. *It befits your station.*

The Confederacy had already taken Garil’s husband, her son, and her army, and then slaughtered her council in this very room. Executed for refusing to surrender. Hana wouldn’t take Garil’s dignity, too.

Prelate Garil sat, soldier at her side. The Elites flanking Hana shouldered their rifles and took up position by the door, sending a clear message. No one left this room without the Confederacy’s permission.

*Where is your High General?* Garil stared at the silent Elites. *Or was this simply a pretense to reunite me with my council?* There might still be blood on her chair.

*The High General has been delayed,* Hana responded in perfect kavish, skating along a lie. *He appreciates your cooperation in avoiding further bloodshed, and will arrive soon.*

*You speak our language well.* Prelate Garil’s own kavish had a lyrical lilt to it, despite the fact she’d been up for over a day, and it was obvious she was a talented speaker. *Did they enslave you, too?*

*I am a loyal citizen of the Confederacy,* Hana said, because she wouldn’t put it pass the Confederacy’s infamous ISec squads to have installed archiving devices. *We better mankind.*

*Of course you do. You were courteous enough to shoot my husband in the head.*

Hana said nothing else. The Confederacy wanted loyal city states, not bombed worlds, and both Prelate Garil and High General Tourmaline would agree to that. So long as she reminded them, often.

The militia soldier standing by Garil, a towheaded man young enough to be Hana’s son, looked dead on his feet, but pride and rage kept him standing. Last night, the Confederacy had killed all his friends.

Finally, the room rumbled as Tourmaline’s shuttle landed – twenty minutes late. Shortly afterward the High General strode into the conference room, flanked by Golden Elites, and wrinkled his nose.

“What,” Tourmaline asked, in confederese, “is that godawful smell?”

*Took your time, didn’t you?* Garil said. *Massacres to conclude?*

“High General,” Hana said in confederese, “Prelate Garil of Kavil bids you welcome. She looks forward to negotiating Kavil’s surrender and incorporation into the Confederacy.”

“Tired of getting her ass kicked, is she?”

*Prelate Garil,* Hana said, *the High General apologizes for the delay. He wanted to personally assure our ceasefire agreement carried across our fleet.*

Garil scowled. *What are a few more bombs between friends? I think we still have a few hospitals.*

“The prelate only wishes to avoid further bloodshed,” Hana translated.

“Fine,” Tourmaline said. “Tell her to get out of my seat.”

“High General,” Hana said, “I should first clarify kavish customs. In kavish society, it is the supplicant who sits, to show humility. The victor stands in judgment.”

Tourmaline glowered. “You should have mentioned that earlier.” He clasped his hands behind his back. “Fine. The bitch can sit.”

*Wants me to move, does he?* Garil asked.

*In respect for the brave kavish who fell defending your planet,* Hana said, *our High General refuses to sit in judgment upon you. He will stand for these negotiations.*

Garil raised one elegant eyebrow. *A … surprising concession.*

“What did she say?” Tourmaline demanded.

“She looks forward to your terms.”

“Good.” Tourmaline crossed his arms and leaned forward. “Concession one. She disarms her people.”

*In the interest of avoiding any further bloodshed on both sides,” Hana said, “the High General asks that all private citizens turn over their guns.*

*So you can slaughter us face to face?* Garil scowled. *This is a rough planet. My people need guns to defend themselves.*

“High General,” Hana said, “the prelate does not refuse, but she does ask that Confederacy soldiers take over the defense of the kavish wheat farms. There are hundreds outside the walls.”

“Why do I give a shit about their wheat farms?”

“Local predators may otherwise devour their wheat, leading to famine,” Hana said. “The kavish shoot those that come near, but cannot protect their farms without their weapons.”

“I’m not tasking my Elites to guard a bunch of dirt-mucking farmers!”

“Then perhaps,” Hana said, “we could allow some kavish to keep their rifles? Outside the walls only, for protection from predators?”

“Fine.” Tourmaline waved her off. “Our new taxpayers can’t pay anything if they starve to death.”

*Prelate Garil, the High General understands your concern,* Hana said. *As a compromise, the Confederacy will allow your citizens to keep their rifles, so long as they carry them for defense and only outside city walls. You must not brandish them within the city.*

*He really agreed to that?* Garil narrowed her eyes.

*He understands your citizens must protect themselves.*

Garil considered, lips pursed. *Agreed.*

Hana nodded to Tourmaline. “The prelate appreciates your understanding of her people’s need to protect their farms, and offers thanks.”

“Concession two,” Tourmaline said. “She appoints an ambassador of my choosing as Protector of Kavil.”

*The High General asks you coordinate with our ambassador to ease your government’s transition into a partnership with ours,” Hana said. “So we can both benefit from your Confederacy membership.*

*So long as I pay my taxes?* Garil asked.

*Your taxes ensure the Confederacy protects your planet from pirate and skitterships, Prelate,* Hana reminded her, *and also grants you access to medical advances and gene therapy.*

Garil rolled her eyes. *I don’t think that’s what your High General said.*

“She’s refusing?” Tourmaline asked. “Remind her I have an orbital cannon pointed at her capital.”

“High General, she only worries for the ambassador. The kavish have a complex system of government, with ancient relationships and customs that can be difficult for outsiders to grasp.”

“I don’t care what the locals get up to,” Tourmaline said. “She can handle city law. Just make sure she recognizes my ambassador runs Kavil in all global matters, including Confederacy law.”

*Our new ambassador will facilitate communication within the Confederacy*, Hana told Garil, “while you continue to handle local matters of state. Is this acceptable?*

*Another concession I hadn’t expected,* Garil almost smiled. *Very well.*

“The prelate agrees to defer to the ambassador in all matters of Confederacy law, High General, and looks forward to educating him on the more delicate matters of kavish internal affairs.”

“Poor bastard.” Tourmaline chuckled. “That’s all I have, other than the boilerplate. You have the treaties?”

“Two copies,” Hana produced them, “in confederese and kavish.”

These treaties were nearly identical to those Hana had brokered – on High General Tourmaline’s orders, of course - with the last three planets the Confederacy had conquered. The people on those planets, unlike Hana’s now dead world, remained alive and fed, if not entirely happy.

“You verified she understands it?” Tourmaline demanded.

“Yes, High General.” Hana bowed. “The Prelate understands perfectly.”

“Then tell the bitch to sign away her planet.”

*Prelate Garil,* Hana said, *the High General appreciates your cooperation. Again, he honors the sacrifice of your soldiers. If you have no further concerns, he asks that you sign the treaties now.*

*So he does.* Garil stood, eyes hard, and for a moment Hana was terrified that she had failed. Garil would die rather than surrender and, with her death, doom Kavil’s people.

*Tell your general he is a skilled negotiator.* Garil walked over and signed one treaty, then the other.

“High General,” Hana said, “the prelate thanks you for your gracious invitation to the Confederacy.”

“Whatever.” Tourmaline signed both treaties. “Get these ratified, Hana. I’m heading back up.”

Hana bowed deep. “I will see it done.”

Tourmaline left and his Elites did too. The room emptied. Hana rolled and pocketed the treaties and then bowed to Garil. *The High General wishes you long life, and hopes you will soon come to understand the benefit of living under the Confederacy’s protective wing. You are free to leave.*

“it seems I’m having dinner after all,” Garil agreed, in perfect confederese. “Care to join me?”

Hana barely hid her shock. “I’m … not sure that would be wise, Prelate. Appearances-”

“Are important,” Garil agreed. “In fact, they’re everything.” She offered a slight nod, a gesture of sincere respect from one of her station, and headed out. *Thank you. For saving my people from my rage.*

Hana looked after her and swallowed, picturing her own dead world. *It was the least I could do.*

THE END
« Last Edit: September 02, 2015, 11:42:54 PM by tebakutis »

Offline m3mnoch

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Re: [SEP 2015] Politics, Scheming and Intrigue - Submission thread
« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2015, 06:48:32 PM »
and, i'm in.

1197 words.  titled The Explanation is Simple.

Spoiler for Hiden:

The Explanation is Simple

"He's using Sorcery.  He has to be.  How else do you explain his fish?"

Meach Bael realized he was yelling.  He stood at the mouth of the alley and pointed at a bobbing fleet of fishing ships in the harbor.  He looked back to his wife and his disgust melted.  He could barely see her, but he knew she was there.  She was another shadow in the moonless dark between the buildings.

He spun and stalked back to the alley his wife had recommended for this meeting.  She was brilliant.

This was the perfect spot.  Just in case anyone came upon them in the dark, there was a tavern up the street.  It made for the perfect excuse.  They were just a husband and wife, walking home from the tavern by way of the wharf.

"We have the largest fleet in the city.  It's twice the size of Tol Pai's, yet he brings in three times the haul.  His decks overflow with fish.  He's spellbinding them.  There's no other explanation."  Meach was pacing back and forth in the alley, waving his arms, back into a fury.

He stopped and turned to his wife.  "It's like he's magicking them into his waiting arms!"

"You're scaring me."  She was huddled against the wall, quivering.  "This makes me nervous."

His heart sagged.  She was usually so strong.  It hurt to see her this way.  He knew she could do this, but he needed to make sure Nakla knew it too.

"It will be fine, my dearest.  It will go exactly as we planned."  Meach slid over to Nakla and wrapped his arms around her.  He pulled her away from the clammy bricks and into his warm embrace.  She seemed to relax.

"Would you rather go back to the manor?"

"No."

"You don't have to stay."

She looked up at his face and touched his cheek with a gentle fingertip.  "I need to be here.  I'm part of this too."

Nakla looked out to the ships moored in the harbor.  Meach stroked her hair.

"Do you think he's even going to show?"  She nestled into his chest.

"Of course.  He comes highly recommended.  He has a sterling reputation."

"And you're okay with this?  Morally, I mean."  She shuddered in his arms.  He thought her nerve was going to falter.

"Yes."  He lifted her chin and looked into her eyes.  "Though, it's not about morality.  It's about the survival of our family.  This needs to be done."

Meach bobbed his head back towards Tol Pai's looming fleet.  "If you are questioning your nerves, simply think about the vile demons he is working with to reap the sea.  It's unnatural.  It's unholy.  If we don't stop him, we'll have to start selling our ships.  He's destroying our livelihood."

He looked deep into the dark wells of her pupils.  "And we're purging the world of an evil."

"You're right.  We can do this.  We have to do this.  It's just --"

"Am I interrupting one of those special moments?"

The voice was low and husky.  It was as if the man now standing between them and the alley mouth was disguising his voice.  He was tall and broad.  He was cloaked and hooded.  He was dark and imposing in the starlight.

Meach stepped forward, between his wife and the man.  He pushed Nakla further behind his back to shield her from the assassin.  She made a small squeaking sound.

"You're late," Meach said.

He needed to put forth an air of superiority.  He needed to make this man understand who was in charge.  Meach was used to moving among tough and leathery types, giving them orders, expecting them to obey.  This was no different than talking to one of his veteran sailors.  He'd earn this man's respect.

"My apologies."  The assassin ducked his head in deference.  "I needed to make sure the alley was secure first."

"Of course it is.  That's the reason we chose it."

"What can I do for you?  Master Bael, is it?"

"We need your help with in getting rid of a dangerous man.  We need --"

"Your name is Meach Bael, is it not?"

"What?  Yes, of course.  I'm the one who --"

There was a snapping sound as the assassin's cloak parted and a stubby, broad sword flashed out.

Meach felt a line of fire run across his throat.  His voice failed.  The world lurched sideways and spun in front of his eyes.

He heard a thump and everything jarred to a stop.

The street was tilted.  He was looking at the assassin's boots, but they were at an odd angle.  He saw his own headless body crumple at the man's feet.

Everything went black.

###

This wasn't even a strange job for Chyt.

He looked down at the dead man's head as it rocked to a stop.  The rest of his body finished its awkward slump to the side.  The woman, sprayed with her husband's lifeblood, eyes blown wide, looked to faint at any moment.

He hadn't even been surprised when Tol Pai had hired him to kill the fisherman.  Merchants and nobles were always using his skills to get ahead.  No, the oddest part of the job was the woman.

She stood there, shock painted on her face as blood dripped from her chin.  Her mouth, open in terror, slowly closed and a disturbing smile spread across her face.  Chyt was used to gruesome.  This was something else.

"That was well done."  She didn't bother to wipe away the blood streaming from her chin or soaking through her blouse.

"This seems...  complicated."  Chyt stabbed at the corpse with the toe of his boot.  "Wouldn't it have been easier to just poison him?  Like everyone else?"

"And instantly become a suspect?  Just like every other wife does?  No."

Chyt shrugged.  "He told me you'd have the gold."

She stood there, staring at him for a heartbeat too long, covered in gore and lost in thought.

"Ah, yes.  Sorry."  She smiled again.

Nakla bent over and pulled a coin purse from her dead husband's tunic.  She tossed the gold to him.

Chyt snatched it out of the air.  It felt about right.  He glanced at her as he pocketed the purse.  She was still grinning joyously.  It was starting to make him uncomfortable.

"Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a lover to marry and a fleet to merge."

He lifted a single eyebrow.

She opened her mouth and started shrieking.

She was staring at him with dead eyes.  Staring with dead eyes and wailing at the top of her lungs.  Chyt was about to lop the head off the crazy whore too when she bolted.  She sprinted, full speed and still screaming for everything her lungs could muster.

Chyt stepped back against the alley wall and watched as she stormed up to the wharf's only tavern.  It was two blocks away.  He decided it was time to make his own exit and started jogging back up the alley, back the way he had come.

All of this complicated plotting, double-dealing, and demon-merchants.  Sometimes, the real reason for betrayal was the simple one -- Love.  Or more likely, Crazy.

Or both.


edit:  fixing typos.
« Last Edit: September 04, 2015, 10:54:18 PM by m3mnoch »

Offline Lady Ty

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Re: [SEP 2015] Politics, Scheming and Intrigue - Submission thread
« Reply #4 on: September 05, 2015, 03:48:53 PM »
 Could not resist this theme, so joining in for the first, and probably last, time at 1477 words, not including the title.
 Done and Dusted.
Spoiler for Hiden:

In the Office of the Prime Minister – The GAG  Party.


“We have to win this Country Plains bye-election next month, nail it down, no room for slip-ups.  Whole country watching, not done so well in the polls lately. Resounding majority, just what we need at present. This has always been a bell wether seat, if we lose here won’t bode well for our chances at the General Election. Give me a run down on strategy and plans. Lots of slogans. Lots of slogans.”

“Right, sir, here’s what we’ve organised.  Last year we negotiated with GOK Constructions to design and build a new school in the town. The building was a bargain, GOK wanted to try out some new design ideas and only too happy to get free publicity and boost their reputation. Very impressive, multi-storey-all-glass sort of thing. You’re due to open it officially this week with local boy bands and free drinks laid on. “

“Just don’t expect me to kiss any babies. Put out posters and lots of slogans. Posters and slogans. Must I really go to the damn countryside? Why do you need me there?”

“To have the Prime Minister visit a small country area in person makes you look caring, egalitarian, one of the people  - all good for the image, sir. Your speech will emphasise government concern for health and welfare, community spirit, how GAG are the sharing and caring party - all the usual guff."

“Bloody boring, but I do know it by heart. Then give ‘em plenty of slogans?”

“Not exactly sir. You announce that GAG successfully persuaded DUMP to pursue their new project exclusively in Country Plains and have signed a firm contract to that effect.  We’ve written you a stirring speech, stressing the joy, happiness, stability, prosperity, employment opportunity, increased local trading and improved infrastructure this brings to Country Plains – all the usual guff.”

“That should bring them running to vote for GAG. But DUMP can only contract for Country Plains. Nowhere else would be any good, how do we get around that?”

“Apart from Cabinet Ministers, the DUMP executive, and our own Country Plains councillors we are the only ones aware of any limitations. The councillors have been looked after with some very sweet deals, they’ll keep quiet or be in strife themselves.  After the election it will be too late for the Opposition FWW Party to do a thing about it. “

 “Better check in with our major supporters, assure them we’re all set to triumph.  Set up a meeting with the R&N Bank and another with you-know-who at MM Media.  We’ll want the best news and editorial coverage in press and on TV for this bye election. By the way, who’s the FWW Opposition candidate? Does he have a strong following who might cause problems? “

“Chap by the name of Hunter, sir. Seems to be supported by a few farmers and the local hunt clubs, no one important. Doubt they could make a difference. Also those greenies from the LAB Party, mostly country bumpkins and wood folk, sir, nothing to worry about. I did hear some rumours that Hunter’s a bit of a randy bastard. Shall I send out the gutter press guys to see what they can ferret out? Juicy sex and drugs scandal or dirty money dealing wouldn’t go astray.”

“Definitely, if they find anything at all let MM Media have it.  We’ll be wiping the floor with the Opposition in Country Plains. Excellent, excellent. Plenty of posters. Lots of slogans.  Very important. Nail it down.”

“Done and dusted, sir, done and dusted.”


Spoilered to equal turning  over the page

Spoiler for Hiden:
In The Ragged Quill – one month later

“So, the Gorgons and Gargoyles Party lost badly in the Country Plains bye-election? I was really surprised, because they usually have financial backing from Royals and Nobles Bank with plenty to spend on electioneering. ”

“Yes, thumping great landslide for the Forwards With Wizards Party, helped by the  Leprechaun and Brownie Party backing them up. They  were only expected to increase the vote, not actually get a majority.”

“Minotaur Monster Media have been supporting Gorgons and Gargoyles all year, sneering at the Wizards, trying to stir up bribery allegations and generally s**t stirring.  They hinted at some kind of scandal about the Oppo candidate Wilde Hunter, but it seemed to dry up.  He’s a bit of a lad, I know, riding around the country making mischief with his crazy stag horns and wild hunt riders all night. Not bad at heart though.  Can’t imagine how he keeps it going through the millennia. Wish I still had the energy.”

 “Wilde certainly gets around, but he was honestly promoting environment, feminism and LGBTQI reforms, and had all Pan’s people, the Sidhe and Fae voting for him. They aren’t exactly hot on family values, but definitely up for equity and freedom. Thousands of them in the Country Plains woodlands. I suspect the GAGs underestimated them as they never show up in a census, like to keep hidden, but always quietly register to vote. Those woods were being threatened as well as the farmland where the Dwarves United Mining Prospectors started to move in for their project. “

“So how did they damp down the ‘wild Wilde’ rumours about nude river picnics and frenzied feasting?”

“Wilde didn’t want any Minotaur Media scum on his territory so he asked his local party members to sort them out.  Pressmen nosing round sniffing for dirt were invited to a party in the woods with the nymphs and a few satyrs. Didn’t come back until three days after the voting was over. Couldn’t remember a thing. Some of them still missing.”

“Thought GAG had the local councils in their pockets, with those promises of new jobs, trade and infrastructure. Wasn’t that new school also meant to be wondrous?”

“Didn’t you know about the School of Magic disaster?  PM opened it with fanfare and balloons.  Collapsed two weeks later. Risky to try cutting costs by letting GOK Construction do the design and engineering. Should have seen it coming.   Good job no one was hurt, but you can imagine the red faces?  PM threw a multi coloured tantrum.”

“GOK Construction?”

“Been around for donkeys’ years, but a bit old-fashioned. Gnomes of Klann, well-meaning and honest, but hopeless on engineering detail and can’t resist including experimental ideas before they’re thoroughly tested.“

“Surely the GAG Party still had the upper hand with that Dwarves United Mining Prospectors project which was going to benefit the whole district?”

“Hahahaha – that was the big killer that put the final boot in, so to speak.  The reality behind the DUMP project was that they had completed a geological survey indicating vast lodes of precious metal under the Country Plains area. They were planning to move in and excavate for a giant mine, covering hundreds of acres. Also secretly planned to use imported labour, Vampires and Zombies from overseas to work shifts 24/7.  No jobs for the locals at all. Been bringing equipment and explosives into the area for weeks and storing them in containers so nobody knew much about them.“

“So how was that found out?”

 “Would you believe a kender just happened to explore the containers? Just ‘found’ some special detonators to show his FWW friends and the proverbial fan hit overtime.  The GAG party more or less went into hiding. Only one press conference when the PM said he was considering  ‘spending more time with his family.’ "

“I heard  that even the Dragons were involved although they usually stay very quiet.  Our affairs are too trivial for them to bother with. People even forget about them, you know, it’s been centuries since they interfered.  So how do you think they got tangled up in the mess?”

“Leader of the Opposition sent one of the Elder Witches from the Shadow Cabinet to have a word with Dragon Highlord Vulk Agni, about the planned mines and he was furious. Actually sent her back to negotiate with the Prime Minister, but GAG dithered around trying to shift the blame.  Finally Agni lost patience and called a press conference in Country Plains, surrounded by his best Battle Wing Veterans. Made a pretty persuasive argument to convince the locals that the DUMP project wouldn’t be in their best interest and Wilde Hunter was the only candidate to vote for.”

“Must have been an impressive speech. What did he say? ”

“I quote verbatim  “The dragon hoards are under those lands at Country Plains.  We’ll burn every castle, mansion, labyrinth, and newspaper office to ash and rubble and breathe fire through every dwarf cave in these hills unless those f*****g miners are off our domain in the next 24 hours. “
   
“Done and dusted, eh?”

“Done and dusted.”

Laughing together the two old centaurs, political journos from way back, settled down to enjoy a few pints.


edit to fix spacing, typos, grammar and change one word
« Last Edit: September 17, 2015, 03:33:04 AM by Lady_Ty »
“This is the problem with even lesser demons. They come to your doorstep in velvet coats and polished shoes. They tip their hats and smile and demonstrate good table manners. They never show you their tails.” 
Leigh Bardugo, The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic

Offline JoeWalter

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Re: [SEP 2015] Politics, Scheming and Intrigue - Submission thread
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2015, 05:02:55 PM »
All right, my second ever entry. Hopefully better than the first. 1500 words on the dot. Enjoy everyone.

Masks

Spoiler for Hiden:
        Horvath grinned as he entered the feasting hall, a large room filled with a few hundred people who yet combined to make such little noise that you might wonder if they were not all mannequins. Everyone sat, engaged in their own quiet conversations, eating properly from their dishes and drinking silently from their crystal goblets. It lent an eerie quality to the scene.

        At least that was the opinion of Horvath.

        So who was he tonight? He’d never been good with names. He’d been a master at every other part of his job – the lying, the acting, the killing – but he’d never been good at remembering his name, the simplest part of all. More than once he’d actually blown the whole job by blanking on his name during an introduction – or worse, giving the wrong name. Naturally he hadn’t been paid for those mishaps. Would that it didn’t happen here again. The boys wouldn’t be happy about it, that’s for certain. They’d just been drilling it into his head earlier, hadn’t they? What was the name again?

         He looked down at his clothes. There it is! He gave a grin, tonguing the inside of his cheek. He was wearing the white and violet robes of a priest, reminding him of what part it was that he was playing again. The name though… Well that still eluded him.

         He retook his seat, scanning the crowd around the hall. The host of this gathering was Highlord Vato Layton, the holy ruler of Kinsella and for all intents and purposes one of the eight most powerful people in the world. In attendance here tonight were all seven of those other people – the Highlords and Highladies of the other Great Nations. In addition to them were dozens of Senators, only slightly less notable in their power, and lastly was the elite nobility of Kinsella, who in comparison were far less influential than everyone else, though in nearly any other setting they would be extremely prominent.

         Must be odd for them, Horvath mused. Being so low on the hierarchy for once.

         As the host, Highlord Vato Layton was in the center of the raised dais at the head of the hall, the most prominent position in the room. To his left was of course his wife and to his right, in the space reserved for close family members or guests of extreme honor, was of course… well, that’s where Horvath was seated. And he couldn’t even remember his name.

        “Straighten your posture,” a voice said from beside him.
     
        He cocked his head to look at the Highlord, who wasn’t looking back at him, but instead out at the room, the expression of an oblivious fool on his face.

       “Straighten,” the Highlord repeated. “And don’t stare at me. Thought you’ve done this before.”

        Horvath straightened. “Plenty of times, Highlord. Tell me, what’s my name again?”

        “Surely you aren’t serious.”

        "I’ve got a bit of a blank spot with names.”

        “Have you done this sort of thing before? Be honest, mercenary.”

        Horvath shrugged. “Once or twice.”

        It was just the slightest falter in the mask of the fool that the Highlord pretended to be, but he saw the man tense.

        “Relax,” Horvath said, leaning forward to grab his glass of wine. “Wouldn’t want to frighten your guests off by showing you’re smarter than a five year old. I’ve done this more times than I can count.”

        “Can you count?”

        Horvath grinned.

        “Callum Greenbriar,” the Highlord said with a nearly invisible sigh. “You’re an initiate of the Brotherhood, held in high esteem because–”

        “Of prophetic visions that led me to saving many lives on multiple occasions,” Horvath finished. “Only the name I forget.”

        Vato didn’t nod, but Horvath saw his understanding. “You’re far below notice anyway. Just manage the job. You’re here to keep an eye and an ear out.”

        “And what exactly for?”

        Vato tensed for a moment, hesitating. Here it comes, Horvath thought. “Assassins and thieves,” the Highlord finally said.

        “Assassins and thieves, interesting.”

        “They come for my life and for the Holy Stone. You know well the value of both. I hold this very feast to draw them out so you can stop them. Be certain you do.”

        Always paranoid, these lords. And it’s never anything. Usually.

        “Anyone in particular to look out for?” Horvath asked.

         Vato gave a nod, finally turning to look at him. “Everyone.”

         Before Horvath could reply, a man in the crowd stood, tapping his glass to get quiet. “Beneath the armrests,” Vato whispered. “You prefer daggers, don’t you? Well just in case.”

         “I just want to offer my gratitude for your hospitality, Highlord,” the man began, a Senator. He came forward, towards the dais. “And to say congratulations on the birth your new son.” He smiled up at the newborn, held in arms of Vato’s wife. Horvath didn’t like that smile – you’d be hard pressed to find a more insincere expression even on the face of a snake. “I also offer this gift.”

         He placed a small box in front of Vato, showcasing a small gem in the shape of a bird in flight.
“A Cavandorian Garnet,” the Senator said. “Very rare, very valuable. The Atabari named it the owl and said it would bestow great wisdom upon the holder. I thought it would be an appropriate gift for your son so that, should he ever rule, it can bring the wisdom to make intelligent decisions, rather than ones that may endanger his household.”

         The veiled threat was not difficult to see, but the Highlord continued with his façade of playing the fool. He gave a shrug and said, “Well it does sparkle nicely.”

         They came one after the other then, each with a gift and a hidden threat. A sword, so the newborn had a weapon to fight with when enemies came knocking down his door. A shield, so he could protect himself when overwhelmed by foes. Gems, so that he may have a small savings when he finds himself out of resources. A compass, so that he may never get confused and take the wrong path, lest he find himself in peril. The final gift came from another Highlord – a torn and filthy stuffed bunny, so that Vato’s son would have someone to speak to should he ever run out of allies. Vato continued to play the fool throughout.

         The number one rule in politics, always have something up your sleeve, the man had told him. I let them think me dull witted because every time they lower their guard as a result, it gains me an advantage.

         “I have a gift as well, Highlord,” a small, pale skinned woman said as she rose from her seat.

         Vato sat forward and smiled to the woman as she hesitated near the back of the hall. One of his minor vassals, Horvath thought. And one he likes apparently.

         The woman approached timidly, placing a small box on the dais. “I hope it’s appropriate, Highlord. I wouldn’t want to disrespect you or your son,” she said, sending a glare over her shoulders at the room.

         Vato threw back the lid back on the box, revealing a small wooden sculpture of a warrior, posed with muscular arm holding a sword high. The tiny blade glowed, actually glowed a bright orange and there appeared to be something swirling beneath the thin surface of it, as if a storm was raging within.

        “What is that?” Vato asked, lifting it up to inspect it more closely. Everyone around the room was staring at it as well, attention drawn by the strange light it was emitting. “That’s marvelous. Very… breathtaking. Wh-what is it?” Vato reached out with his fingers. It appeared somehow to be getting brighter, the energy swirling more quickly. The hairs on the back of Horvath’s neck rose, tensing in readiness. “What’s in there?”

        “Your life,” the woman said, just as his fingertips made contact. The bright glow winked out as a puff of orange smoke exploded before the Highlord’s face, some wisps trailing towards Horvath, though he lunged back in time. The room erupted, guards rushing in, people suddenly screaming as chaos ensued. The Highlord had tipped from his chair and fallen to the floor, eyes rolling backwards in his head, the life beginning to drain quickly from him.

         Horvath knelt beside him in a rush, reach into the man’s robes to pull out the shimmering pearl stone he kept dangling from his neck at all times. He yanked it away from the man, dropping it into a pouch at his waist.

        “Wh-what…” the Highlord began weakly.

        “Number one rule in politics, Highlord,” Horvath said, grinning down at the man. “Always have something up your sleeve. You wear the mask of a fool to hide your intelligence; I wear the mask of your client to hide I’m a thief.”

         Without another word, Horvath left the dying Highlord, using the chaos to flee from the area with the Holy Stone at his side.

Offline Doctor_Chill

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Re: [SEP 2015] Politics, Scheming and Intrigue - Submission thread
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2015, 07:54:48 PM »
Because I have the time, I churned out this little thing. Sits at 1,265, excluding the title. Hope you enjoy!

Spoiler for This Street is Mine:
This Street is Mine



The street was deserted, in part because of yours truly. Not a soul blew through, not even the wind. Windows were shuddered, doors shut and steps swept. I walked down the cobbles like I owned them, and make no mistake, I did.

If you ever ask who owns Lebokant, you won’t ask for long. In truth, I ran everything this side of Old Town, but today brought me to a little industrial side corner christened the Village.

The problem child was called Bernard, and we were about to have a nice ole chat.

He was planted in front of some dusty closed-shop café, whittling away his hours with a pack of smokes and a smile dumb as him. The Argyrian was gray and roughhewn, cut from slate they said, yeah, and he a block of six and a half feet for sure. Towered over me, if anything.

But if you wanted a neverberry fix anywhere in the city, you didn’t clamor on the docks or ride the alleys; you found him. Least, before the accident. The one man drug dealer had once tried to go cold on his self-prescribed cocktail of leftovers, and of course, that had led to delusions quick. Withdrawals have that effect on people.

He found himself half-naked walking down the street come mid-morning, chewing on the neighborhood dog’s ear and asking some cloaked soldiers if they wanted a high. He got thrown in jail not too long after.

But time is time, and he was out by the end of the year. Some people didn’t like that, and that was why I was here.

“Morning, Bernard.”

He blew a shaky drag and straightened in his chair like I rattled him. “Hey Grayson. Didn’t see you there.” Not like I was the only one walking. “What you been up to?”

“Whole lot of nothing.”

“That’s cool. That’s cool.” He puffed another round. Exhaled. “What brings you here?”

“Things.” Things indeed. I motioned toward the empty chair. “You mind if I take a seat?”

“Nah, man. You go right ahead.”

I did.

“What k-k-kind of things?” he asked when I was settled. Far as I could tell, his cigarette was doing nil to calm his nerves. He had a stutter in his words and a hard bitten slur that might’ve been some bad ghetto dialect. I dunno. By any regards, the halfwit puckered up his lips and tried one more hit.

“What kind of things? Well, the residents round here have a few complaints.”

His hands shook. He could barely finish off his butt. “Complaints, eh?”

“Complaints, yeah. Few immigrants were talking bad about your operations. Said you’re trying to start a turf war on their street, and they don’t like that.” I laid an arm on the table between us. Got a bit comfortable. “I don’t like that, either.”

“Uh huh.”

That’s right. “See, I try and run a smooth business here. Don’t particularly enjoy trouble. You understand.” He nodded. One of the perks of owning half the criminals in this backwater country. “I can wave off a few problems, you know, but not this. Not when it’s in my front yard.”

He tried to light another cigarette, but those damn shaking hands wouldn’t let him.

I rustled up my tin can and popped it open on the table. Picked a sour colored berry; offered it to him. “You wanna bite?”

“Nah, man. Don’t do warmberries no more. They ain’t my friend.”

“That so.” I popped the narcotic back and chewed.

“Yeah, they don’t do so hot anymore. Much prefer Bone Dust, see. Keeps me chill.”

I’m sure those hallucinogenics did very well. “When’d you cut them, eh? The drugs, I mean.”

“Half past a week ago, maybe. Not sure.” He rubbed his chin and flaked off a few scraps of white paint. I let the warmth of my berry overtake this growing annoyance. He wasn’t making sense again.

“Point being, I wanted to make sure you were high yesterday when I got a call from Markov. ‘Cause I’m not sure what else could prompt you to do that shit.” He coughed and squirmed in his chair.

The street was deathly quiet now.

“They jumped me, man.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Those Ronjelers, yeah? Little Midgets?” Been here three years and still hadn’t found an eastern immigrant half as tall as these Argyrian brutes. “Those the ones?” He nodded again.

“Yeah. That’s them. They jumped me earlier this week, right when I was coming off the warm.”

Such a shame. But he sounded right as rain.

“They all had shivs and bit into my calf. Still can’t walk straight. Why’s I’m here in this seat.” No, you were here because a little birdie had told you to sit. I grabbed another berry from my can and bit down hard. Grinded it between my molars. “This is my territory. I work in the Village, not them.”

Hate it when people start to rat on competition. “That so?”

He gulped. Squeaked, “Yeah.”

“I see.”

“So we done here?” He had huddled in on his haunches. That shake was worse than any withdrawal now. Made to stand and hurry, but I patted him back down with a tap.

“Bernard, you painted your face white late last night, brandished a machete, and flitted from corner to corner like some Jadian ninja screaming for the Midgets. No, we’re not done here.”

He sat. Looked hard at his hands as if they had the answers. Came to see if I had any pity for him. “But, man, they hit me first. I had to strike back.”

I hate dealing with addicts. “You scared the locals. That was uncalled for.”

Argyrain squirmed a little more. Bit the inside of his lip to make it look like he was considering the possibility that I was correct. “Maybe they needed a good scare.”

I shook my head. “No, they need to pay their taxes and to buy your stash. That’s it.”

“That it?” I wasn’t sure if he meant more to just this conversation point. I let him stew for a few seconds before I responded again. Finished off the last morsels of my berry supply. Made light of the mess he was in.

“Far as I can tell, you got two options: You can jump street and continue your operations, or you can jump town and pray I don’t find you there.” I cracked shut my tin can. It echoed across the district. “Sound fair?”

I like to pretend I’m a fair guy. “What if the Midgets left?”

Oh Bernard. “They’re not going to leave. They practically got a whole compound here now, and I expect more will be showing up soon. They ain’t leaving.”

He stared at the far side bricks, thoughts unfolding ‘bout as fast as a flower blooms in spring. Which is to say, not near as fast as I wanted. “I’ll consider it, man,” he muttered through the factory smoke. I sighed and rose from this nonsense. Dear Almighty give me strength.

“You’ve got till tomorrow.”

He chewed over that. Held that long gaze some more, squinted eyes accenting thought he couldn’t comprehend. Guy nodded again and again like a metronome. “Yeah, thanks,” he finally said.

“No problem.”

I scooped up my can and left.

Never got a chance to chat with ole Bernard again. He turned up face down in a gutter by the end of the week. Wasn’t any of my doing, you must understand, but then, I didn’t really ask too many questions about it.

That's street politics for ya.

Edited ending line 'cause it sucked.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2015, 03:18:33 AM by Doctor_Chill »
“It’s a dangerous thing, pretense. A man ought to know who he is, even if he isn’t proud to be it.” - Tomorrow the Killing, Daniel Polansky

Offline night_wrtr

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Re: [SEP 2015] Politics, Scheming and Intrigue - Submission thread
« Reply #7 on: September 09, 2015, 05:58:56 AM »
Had to cut down quite a bit. I got a little carried away. Hope you enjoy. This will be my first time submitting.

My word count says 1432.

The Binder's Apprentice
Spoiler for Hiden:
Lestor den Varga groaned, begging his stomach to hold its contents. The saddle jerked and tossed him about, his safety harness threatening to tear away as the falco banked hard right and fell into a free fall.

“Prepare for landing, Master Varga!” Perl’s muffled words struggled against the wind beating at Lestor’s ears.

The falco flapped its massive wings in a flurry, talons stretched wide. The impact threw Lestor backward. “Damn it, Perl!” He said. “Your landings get worse as the day goes on.”

Perl threw the reins into the air, spinning in his seat. “Ya think this easy, do ya? By god, ya can take a horse home, then!”

“Moons, man. Get a hold of yourself."

"Hmpf, I told you that cargo be too heavy,” Perl said. “Can’t get the levels right.”

Lestor unfastened his belts and climbed down. He stretched, then stared back up at Perl. “Well?”

“What?”

“The cargo?”

Perl stared back at Lestor, face red and mouth working. “I been carrying that damn thing back and forth all day!”

“One more time, Perl. I promise.”

“Bah!” He hopped down, unlatching the cargo hold, mumbling as he worked, but Lestor caught his musings on ‘damn nobles’ and ‘backseat drivers.’

Lestor ran a hand over his hair and straightened his coats. He glanced back at Perl, who stood with a leatherbound trunk. The man had wild gray hair and disheveled shirt untucked from his trousers. He looked homeless.

"I swear to the Moon," he said,  "the next sour word and ya can carry this damn trunk yaself!"

Lestor stared a moment, then turned and headed toward the Nusian gate. “Shall we, Perl?”
 
 
#

Lord Delos en Lis hurried along the back corridor to the meeting hall, threw open the doors and rushed into the room. Thero, Heronidus and the others were already waiting.

"What is the news, my Lord?" Thero said.

"I know no more than you, Thero." Fool man.

Delos crossed the room, then climbed the steps to his chair. “Is he alone?”

“Him and a servant.” Venoit said, standing at the steps. “Flew in by falco an hour ago."

"And? Are they dead?"

Venoit shrugged. "He requested audience, that was all."

Delos' nerves were tied in a knot. If Raz was back so soon, it could mean there was trouble. Or he could have finished the job already. He smiled. With those men dead, and continued support from Lords Vellimir and Kallus, he would be one election away from winning his seat on the Ruling Board of Nereth. Kings were crowned from that Board!

So exciting! He felt like a child who was about to win his first game of pillars!

He sat back in his chair, imagining how good it would look as a throne, then nodded toward Heronidus at the rear of the room. He opened the door and allowed the young man who called himself Raz to enter. The room fell silent as the fine dressed man walked in. He looked different without the beard, but the best assassins never kept the same appearance. He admired the man's craft. A dirty looking fellow followed behind carrying a large burden.

Raz stopped before the Speaker's Podium, then nodded to his man to set the trunk on the nearby table.

"Greetings, Raz." Delos leaned forward, unable to hide the smile on his lips. "You look in good spirits. I trust you are well."

Raz smiled back. "Ah, I am indeed. A little worn out, but I've had to make several questionable falco flights today."

The dirty fellow seemed to murmur something.

Delos laughed. Raz had done it. He would not come back with such an air if he had failed. The Board was his! High Lord Delos en Lis! Future heir to the Kingdom of Nereth!

Raz glanced around the room. "I see everyone is here."

"That they are," Delos said. "When word came of your return, we were all anxious to hear the news."

Raz grunted, then his smile disappeared. He nodded to his man, his smile returning as he stepped up to the podium. The old man began to unlatch the bundle.

"Well," Raz said. "Since all here are in the know, let us speak frankly."

"Yes," Delos said, watching as the leather bundle gave way to an engraved trunk, set with gold trim and delicate sculpture. A stunning peice it was. "Please, do."

"Very well.” He cleared his throat. “Lords Gamius, Casto and Frumair are all live and well."

Delos blinked. "What?"

"The men you hired me to kill?" Raz scratched his ear. "They are alive."

"What do you mean they are alive?" Thero took a step toward the podium. "We paid you to deal with them."

"Yes," Raz said. "The coin. Those three thank you for your donations to thier campaign."

Delos sputtered. "Wha-what are you talking about?"

"What is this, boy?" Thero pointed his finger. "What game are you playing?"

"Excuse me," Raz said. "Let me explain. My name is actually Lestor den Varga."

Delos choked, chills surging down his spine. Varga...

"You know my father, King Lenoit den Varga. Word of your little scheme reached him rather quickly. Thank the Moon for Varga Loyalists!" Lestor laughed, then his smile vanished. He nodded at his man, who dumped the contents of the trunk.

Five heads rolled across the table.

Delos jumped to his feet. He felt ready to sick up at the sight. The others in the room moved back, bumping into chairs. Thero ran for the door, but it wouldn’t budge. Delos recognized two of those faces in the pile. Lords Vellimir and Kallus.

"Everyone in this room is guilty of attempted murder of government officials.” Lestor said. “I am here to make sure your sentences are carried out."

No! This can’t be happening!

Heronidus leaped at Lestor, knife flashing. Lestor raised his hand and squeezed the air, stopping the man in his tracks. Heronidus squeeled, his back bent backward in an arch. A loud pop bent him in half and he collapsed.

Lestor opened his hand, staring back at Delos, puffs of smoke flowing from his nose.

Moons, he was a Binder! Delos couldn't stop his trembling. He was about to be a dead man.

"It was quite the task to find the roots of this plot," Lestor said, "but here you have it." He waved a hand over the table. "I'm sorry to tell you, you were more of a pawn in this plan, Delos. Vellimir and Kallus wanted to eliminate you afterward. These two here," he pointed, "were hired to poison you before the elections."

Betrayed!

"Oh, and this last one is the real Raz," Lestor said. "I was able to catch up with him before he met with you. I took his place, you see.” He walked toward Delos and reached out to grab Venoit’s hand. “Thanks are in order, Venoit. Or should I say, Lord Venoit."

Delos spun toward his friend. "You? It was you?"

Venoit smirked. “I was Varga’s pupil, Delos. He’s practically family. Do you really think I would let you sit at his table?”

“I’ll kill you!” Delos took a step forward, then his knee erupted in a flash of pain. The crack echoed in his skull as he hit the ground screaming.

#

Lestor watched Delos and the rest of the criminals led away in chains. They would be executed before nightfall.

Perl waited by the falco. “Looks like we are done for the day, Perl.”

“Good,” he said, tapping the trunk secured in the cargo bay. “Don’t think I can take the smell again.”

“Erm, Perl.” Lestor grimaced. “Did you carry that all the way back down here?”

“Of course I did. Not like I can order nobles about.” Perl grabbed the reins, about to climb into his saddle, then turned toward Lestor. “Why?”

“Didn’t I say you only needed to carry it once more? I thought you realized that meant taking it in, not back out again. We don’t need that any longer, you see. I’m sure Venoit would have had someone take care of it.”

Perl’s face reddened and his eye twitched. He tried to speak, but meaningless sounds was all he could manage.

“Sorry, Perl,” Lestor said. “Seriously, you need to work on that temper.” Lestor smiled to himself, then climbed into his saddle. What would he do without Perl to haze? A few more trips together and Perl would make rank of Binder.

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” Perl flailed about.

Hmm. Perhaps he should make him a Binder when they returned. Poor man was about to crack.


*Edited my terrible spelling
« Last Edit: September 19, 2015, 12:38:31 AM by night_wrtr »

Offline JMack

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Re: [SEP 2015] Politics, Scheming and Intrigue - Submission thread
« Reply #8 on: September 09, 2015, 11:52:48 AM »
Here's my September story.
1,500 words, including the title, which is:

The High King

Spoiler for Hiden:
The High King

Two cars came to a stop on a road leading down to a small harbor. Four men stepped out and scanned the surrounding landscape. A rear door opened in the last car and a tall woman emerged. Ignoring her companions, she picked her way down the rocky slope toward a low building by the shore whose windows cast warm yellow light across the water to meet the setting sun. The men eased the car doors closed and followed.

The boathouse was Matt Baedan's favorite place because it cradled the High King. The sloop had been his grandfather's and his father's before him. Matt felt Da standing beside him as he sanded the King's hull, felt him guide his hands as he caulked her seams. Which was why Matt lifted Will on his shoulders, so the boy could run his little hands along the lines of the old sloop.

It was also a safe place for a bit of fun.

"Can you shift the sandpaper, Will?" Matt asked. "I bet you can." He pointed to a worn piece sitting on the floor in the corner.

"Mommy says I'm not s'posed." Matt hefted his son off his shoulders and tossed him into the air. The boy spun twice, slowly, and then settled in mid-air facing his father.

"Mommy rules at home, Will. But Daddy's in charge here. This is the only place you should shift things until you're older, because this place is safe. Okay?" Will's face was still screwed up with concern. "Tell you what," Matt offered. "If you shift something for me, I'll fly you around the rafters."

A smile bloomed on the boy's face and Matt let him drift down to stand on the floor. Will went quiet. Matt felt energy draw in around him. Dust stirred, then a corner of the sandpaper lifted a fraction. "Come on," whispered Matt. "Teach it who's boss."

The paper whizzed up from the floor and smacked against the side of the King with such force that it rocked the ship and gouged the red paint.

"Ha!" crowed Matt. "Awesome! Though a little gentler next time?" He studied his son. "You've been practicing."

Will looked away. "Mommy said I had to clean my room."

"Well," said Matt, his heart full, "I guess you should clean your room every day, then. Just don't let Mommy see how you're doing it, hey?" He stepped back. "Now put your arms over your head like Superman and get ready to fly." He pulled in power and pushed it out with a thought, surrounding the boy and shifting him straight up in the air. Will whooped and flapped his arms. Matt paused him there while he thought how to weave him in and out of the rafters safely.

He heard a crunch of gravel outside, and, for no solid reason, shifted Will over and dropped him into the High King's cockpit. There were empty boltholes on the stern where the taff rail had been removed and through which the boy might have a clear view of the room.

The side door of the boathouse opened, and the tall woman stepped through into the light. She was pale with high features and long red hair pulled back from a face whose entire purpose it seemed was to frame her emerald eyes. Her narrow figure, wrapped in a cream-colored shawl, was like the stick of a candle beneath a flame.

Will started to greet her when she pulled a gun from her coat and shot him in the chest. He stared down at the feather of a dart where it pierced his flannel shirt.

"Naomi?" he breathed. He felt his legs go rubbery, and dropped to his knees. "What in hell?"

"I'm sorry, Matty," said the woman. "If I'd given you any warning, you'd have stopped the dart in mid-air, now wouldn't you have?" Two men joined her in the boathouse and began looking around. A figure crossed the last light of the sun as it shone through a window.

Matt reached for power, but he could feel the drug separating him from the magic. He tried to shift a tray of bolts and washers, but only managed to dump them on the floor with a crash.

"Tsk, tsk," Naomi said. She went down on one knee to look Matt in the eye. "Where's the boy, Matty?"

"He's home with his mother," Matt lied.

"Oh, I'm sure he's here somewhere."

The sudden shock of the attack had Matt reeling, but his bones told him this quiet night has become a struggle for life and death. He needed to escape, but he needed even more to protect Will. Adrenalin flooded his veins. He reached out again and found a trickle of strength. He whipped a bolt from the floor into the forehead of the closest man. The man's skull blew backwards onto the red surface of the King in a hail of blood, bone and brain.

"Damnaich tú!" cried Naomi, half rising. The man's companion drew his gun and shot, but Naomi threw out a hand and deflected the bullet upwards.  "Stop it, Terry. Put it away and see to Erin. What's left of him." She leaned in to Matt. "What are you doing? Are you trying to make this harder?"

"Just cleaning up, love," said Matt, making the endearment an insult. "There's trash in here."

Naomi slapped him. "Don't call me love." She raised her gun again and put another dart in his neck. "You gave up that right eight years ago." Matt sagged with his butt on the heels of his work boots.

Naomi stood and looked down at him, satisfaction blazing in her eyes. "Anseo tá an scéal, Matty. Your father made a play for the throne last night. He convinced a few of my father's men to go along with it, and it was right close. But - they lost. And you know what that means."

Death to their families, their entire families, thought Matt. Fucking politics. Fear dug deep in his guts. "This is bullshit," he said. "We don't have anything to do with him. I haven't spoken to my father for years."

"You could have avoided this, Matty. If you'd have followed through on our marriage -"

"Then - what? We'd both be on the chopping block tonight?"

"Then our families wouldn't be at war! It's politics, Matty. Your family and mine would have been allies, finally. All the old quarrels buried at last. But you went and fell in love with a mortal." Naomi spat the word like it was bile.

Matt shook his head. "We're all mortals. Have been for a thousand years, our parents, and their parents, back to the time of the Fading."

Naomi's face glowed with her sense of her own power. "But that might not be true for our children. The magic is coming back. How much stronger are you than your father? Than your Da, and he was a great man? How much stronger would our children have been? But now it's your father lying in chains at my father's feet, just waiting for you and your son to join him. We'll have a trial, of course."

Matt realized Naomi hadn't mentioned Will's mother, and a chill ran through him. "Where's my wife?" he demanded.

"Mortals die, Matty. That's what they do." Somehow there was actually a tear in the woman's eye, but Matt didn't care. His heart froze and broke. He raged in his paralyzed body, reaching, stretching for his connection to the ancient powers of the earth: ley lines, standing stones, tides, moon, stars. Nothing answered.

"I'm going to clean this room with you," he said. "I'm going to hit you, shift you, make you jump like a puppet, pull the stuffing out."

Naomi pulled back and stared at him.

"I'm going to shift a hammer at your friend over there, then I'm going to put a bolt in the brain of anyone who comes through that door." Matt was shouting now."I want this room clean now! I want these people gone! Because - they - hurt - MOMMY!"

Matt slumped onto his side, the drug at last defeating him. The world was dead. He heard no sound, felt no stirring of power.

"I might have saved you, Matty," Naomi said at last. "But to hell with it. Just kill him, Terry. I'll say he made us."

A piece of sandpaper on the floor by Matt's eyes began spinning slowly in circles. It spun faster, then shot away. A hammer flew and hardware buzzed through the air. A gunshot cracked. Matt grunted as pain flooded him. Far away, a little boy's voice screamed "Daddy!"

Moments later, light bloomed like the searing oven of a thousand suns.

From the blasted ruins of the boathouse, the High King sailed into the night sky, her red hull just a shadow on the sea of stars, her little captain weeping and pounding on his father's chest.



« Last Edit: September 10, 2015, 09:51:03 PM by Jmack »
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Offline wakarimasen

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Re: [SEP 2015] Politics, Scheming and Intrigue - Submission thread
« Reply #9 on: September 09, 2015, 05:13:20 PM »
Here's my effort. Profanity abounds, so ye of sensitive disposition beware...

(1181 words with title)
@badDayHappenin

The Trial of Smoulder and Fox Cully

Spoiler for Hiden:

Smoulder drummed his talons on the flagstones. The list of charges had been fun. Sweet, forgotten memories and shared smirks with Fox. Now though, it had all gone a bit bureaucratic. The fine members of the celestial council had spent twenty minutes trying to decide who should defend them. No one seemed to want the job.
“For pities sake you crusty old bunch of loons,” Fox’s flame fur brightened. “We’ll defend ourselves.”

“I object.” The Elf lord announced.

“Oh you would.” Fox sighed.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”  The silver haired lord asked haughtily.

“It means you’re an objectionable prick.” Smoulder grumbled. That made Cully chuckle. She danced back as far as the chains would allow and batted her almond eyes at the Elf. He glared back with every scrap of pompous affront he could muster, which was a lot of scraps. You could have made a feast our of those scraps.

“Fine.” A dwarf grumbled from across the court. “Defend yourselves you miscreants. Call in the high chancellor.”

“Agreeing with the lotus eater eh? That’s a first Brun. I thought you ordered the Guild of Miners to reject all his valuations to delay delivery of his spear shipment.” Smoulder cocked one horned eye ridge.

Despite the profusion of hair that obscured Brun’s face the scarlet burn of his skin was clearly visible. The bluster of both men, indignant versus accusing, drowned out the entry of the chancellor. The wizard took his seat with a loud cough and the pair trailed off.

“…swindling stumpy shits.”
“…treehugging mummy’s boys.”
Fox flittered about, trying to jump on to her usual place between Smoulder’s wings. She got as far as a foreleg and seemed happy enough with the vantage point.

“Your royal horniness. Nice to see you again.”

“You will show this court the respect it deserves, sprite.” The sage warned her.

“That’s exactly what I AM doing. Surely you don’t mind me referencing your nightly visitors and your legendary prowess with them? So virile at your age! It’s a testament to the power of your sorcery.”

“Be silent. Or you shall feel that power yourself.”

“A bit like Lady Terriger’s eldest daughter you mean?” Fox looked slyly along the bench at the surprised necromancer. “She was feeling your power the other night wasn’t she? ALL night in fact. You randy old goat.”

A look as dark as her robes crossed Lady Terriger’s face and the high chancellor waved the assertion away. He pulled a key from his robe and unlocked the reliquary in front of him, studiously avoiding the death witch’s stare. The sides of the box fell away revealing the fabled Orb of Truth. Twin curls of smoke wound up from Smoulder’s nostrils. Fox’s eyes glittered hungrily.

“Today is a fine day for the Celestial Empire.” The chancellor intoned solemnly. “Today, we shall rid ourselves of these pair of schemers. These malcontents. We shall purge this blight on the purity of our…”

“Oh blah fucking blah.” Fox rolled her eyes. “Put a sock in it you cantankerous hypocrite. We’re just guilty of having a bit of fun. You’re the ones pulling the big capers.”

She jumped down from Smoulder who strained against the web of steel links until he could look the wizard in the eye.

“My erstwhile colleague is quite right. No one steals, cons and exploits on the scale you lot do. If it’s not for your pockets then it’s for your egos.” He spat a sizzling gob of brimstone on the chamber floor.

The whole council was beside itself with insult. Their collective indignation looked hotter than Smoulder’s spittle, but they were stutteringly incapable of expectorating the venom.

“How very dare you dragon!” The Chancellor finally forced out, purple in the face. “I move that you are guilty and will be imprisoned forthwith, immediately and forever in the Orb of Truth. Seconded?”

The roar of agreements reverberated around the ancient hall. It put a fiendish smile on the high chancellors face. That crumpled into a frown when he saw Fox Cully licking her backside with indifference. The shouts died down, Brun’s voice the last to fade and summarising the crowd’s sentiments.

“…too sodding right and toss away the key.”

Smoulder hocked another incandescent bit of phlegm to the floor and shook his head, chains jingling with the motion.

“You lot. You’re so blind to your own corruption. So eager to rid yourselves of anyone who could upset your gilded apple cart. The smoking man is the only honest one among you, and he’s your spy master!”

The charred zombie, his perpetual haze rising toward the stained glass cupola, looked up from the leg he was chomping and shrugged.

“You, for instance, Sir Perciplion.” Smoulder continued. The court quartermaster straightened in his immaculate armour. “You are so keen to cut corners and line your pockets you’ll take even the most ridiculous deals without question, blinded by your greed.”

“Nonsense.” The knight retorted. “My duty is my life. You would never understand honour, lizard! I hold this court more holy than my own family’s fortunes. Such base insults should earn you death by my blade and would too, if the Orb did not offer a worse fate for you.”

Smoulder began to make a hacking drawl at the back of his throat. Fox’s flame fur danced like a willo’ the wisp as she grinned up at Sir Perciplion.

“Well. Tin man.” She said. “I think you’re about to be found out in the most spectacular fashion.” She giggled. All eyes were drifting back to her giant friend, his guttural gurgling prompting looks of disgust. “I mean. How much did you tell the council you paid for these dragon proof chains?”

Smoulder let rip with a splatter of fire on the anchor points that held him down. The iron rings melted into the stone, which melted into the floor, which disappeared from view. He stood up and shrugged off the net. The council had gone extremely quiet. Most of them had also gone very pale. The smacking lips of the smoking man enjoying his limb were the only noise. Fox pranced up Smoulder’s leg in a flash. The High Chancellor’s desk was now at the same height as the dragon’s shoulder and Cully bounced on, grabbed the Orb, and retreated to between Smoulder’s, now flexing, wings.

“Oh shit.” The High Chancellor managed.

“Ow shwi ish wight.” Fox said around a mouthful of Orb. She dropped the treasure onto red scales and worked her mouth a second. “Now. We were thinking the people of the Celestial Empire need a little change of administration. We’ve been thinking this for a while actually.”

“Years.” Growled Smoulder.

“Years.” Agreed the fox sprite.

“Years?” the High Chancellor asked.

The pair nodded. Smoulder chuckled. It was a deep, slow, juddering sound that shook the room.
“If you please, Cully.”

Fox Cully put a paw on the Orb, which began to brighten to match her fur. She grinned widely.
“Checkmate you bunch of fuckers. It’s Orb time!”

Light blossomed in the chamber.



Offline caitlin ann easter

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Re: [SEP 2015] Politics, Scheming and Intrigue - Submission thread
« Reply #10 on: September 11, 2015, 12:07:17 AM »
1494 words in text, including title-- this is my first submission.
@eastercaitlin (twitter)

The Red Book

Spoiler for Hiden:


The Red Book

        The princess stilled for Laeron’s proclamation. Father’s reaction was to clutch the red book ever more dearly. Father patently relied upon what Laeron would have him ‘finally, honorably’ relinquish. Elrianna watched calmly, as they turned and proceeded unto the Queen’s Wing; she did not follow.
        Before the queen’s guard rose, Elrianna departed swiftly on the balls of her feet, proficiently negating noise of heel on stone. Terse, corset-bound breaths reprimanded, as the flounce beneath her garnet lamé skirt swished like urgent secrets. She hurried toward the far walkway to the east rotunda.
        She was not at all surprised to find the Keep’s easterly corridors, the wing itself quite abandoned. No one hung about here to gossip of her prince’s high crimes against Earthe. Without as much as a glance about, Elrianna heaved open the large, untended door to the vacant Royal Nursery. This had been her residence, her childhood.
        She quickly pulled the creaking doors shut. Not a soul had seen her enter. The interior corridor was dark as pitch, but for a shallow pool of light about her feet on the floor. Neither chandeliers nor sconces had been lit; here was truly forgotten. The limp air twitched in her nostrils. Though loath to catch needed breath, Elrianna’s lungs drew deeply. The stale odor confronted her—bygone flashes swirled, suckling memory... cooing dearest anguish. It smelled of Nana’s exhibits, of old gowns recently unpacked. Elrianna blinked in the dark hall, missing her.
        As a most pragmatic victor—and seeming of its own volition, the royal spark ignited Elrianna’s eyes, glazing the near walls in cool, comforting violet. Just as briskly, came the echoing clip of her heels, advancing on the bright crack beneath the far, opposite doors. Her garden parlor had been redressed as a playroom for Prince Raidren and likely neglected since he’d long ago outgrown it. The open terrace would provide fresh air and adequate light by which to strategize. Ideas and risks circled as raptors above.
        Later, she might risk curtaining into the sleeping king’s bedchamber. Sneaking through the secret passages that connected the residences had been easy, as a faerey. Her elder presence garnered apt attention; she was always heeded. Only the truth would be credible, were she seen in possession of that book—in possession of that book, there would be no artifice. The red book bound its bearer to speak only truth. 
        ..Curtain in, curtain out...hide the book here. Curtaining within the Keep was forbidden—curtaining into the royal residences incurred the penalty of treason. Would any dare report her? Surely, the king would pardon execution. ..Not a good idea. 
        Still, it begged to happen—O, to take it, to eradicate this hallowed duty, binding Fae to Earthe! How she wanted to destroy that vile book, its burden of proof. If not to stop its rightful ‘relinquishment’ to Earthe (as Laeron implored), then before Raidren ever knew truth’s wicked lure. O, it would be destroyed—just not before exploiting it thoroughly.
        That morning, Father had accepted her subtle persuasion. Chance had provided him alone at tea and welcoming. If he’d noticed her artful, illicit sparking, there had been no indication.
        Traevus was right, her talent was surely peerless—Elrianna’s nipples hardened against the rigid boning of her corset, remembering her husband’s abruptly veiled fear, as he’d come to wits and risen from between her thighs, licking his lips clean of her briny pleasure. Sparking scarlet Genek anger, he’d told her she would practice on him no more, and then graciously, she’d allowed him to enter her. The Genek feared her. ..As he should. She did not savor the feral rush, begging now to swoon—giddiness was no longer requisite for esteem. ..Peerless.
        Without any hesitation, the winking king had accepted her suggestion and applied gentle pressure to the dark stone in the center of the crossed braces. Released, both platinum bands had slid aside easily. The braces prevented accidental opening, he’d reminded her, as she’d watched closely. The king had then cautioned her before lifting the cover, ‘The script is unintelligible; nonetheless, it is of dire importance that we not try to pronounce any of it…’ He’d rattled on circuitously, repetitively building upon each bit to reveal a little more. The overall culmination had been most surprising: Laeron believed that the anchors sustaining the dome’s atmosphere had been strained, weakened, when King Mothrim had read it aloud upon Earthe, as evidenced by the onset of erratic time flux between the planes.
         —Really? Elrianna had heard nothing, ever, before of this. Instructors lectured all about the flux as though it had always been so. A softened expression had ably concealed her excitement.
        As commonplace defenses fell away from his daughter’s face, King Mothrian had spoken from his heart: ‘My father was careless, but also brave and noble,’ he’d said, for attempting to summon the powerful creator of dome and book for Earthe’s salvation.
        History now danced in tow with a number of divergent legends; that said, by reliable account:
        Three Traedan Guardsmen had defied King Mothrim’s order and followed him to Earthe. Thereafter, in solidarity, they’d chosen to surrender continuance in eternal service of the lost king, Elsewhere. Mothrim’s body had not been recovered. The loyal bones of three guardsmen were the only bones interred at King Mothrim’s tomb. Speculation about the lone act of reckless reading from the king’s red book was brought forth only quietly in careful company, and always referenced as ‘Mothrim’s folly’.
        Naturally, rumor often contended to preclude the next, blurring ‘truth’ into fascinating legend. As seen through modernity, any veritable framework that survived a passing fashion trend might wisely be taken lightly. The gentry valued ‘history’ for serving best as genesis for imagination. And, usually, this colorful, fabular tradition served well enough.
        At morning tea, Mothrian had carelessly divulged enough truth to spur Elrianna to action. At once, she’d begun sifting memories, from all that had been whispered, spread thin over too many tongues into too many ears.
        Whispers had staged brave Mothrim upon the jutting rock-face of Piper’s Ledge, bellowing the gibberish. Some told that he’d ridden a lightning bolt into the sky, with a ground-shaking sonic boom in his wake and the big red book had been left behind, unscathed upon the blackened stone. Elrianna’s favorite version provided gruesome imagery of the great boom in concert with the king’s implosion and with his bits raining down. By this telling, the book had then turned red, and further it was alleged that the falls beneath Piper’s Ledge had run red for weeks, one day for every faerkind soul ever lost upon Earthe. (That the falls still ran red under the setting sun upon the anniversary. Whose timeframe and by which calendar fell under debate, but it was still the best—as legends went.) The deafening boom that’d marked the end of Earthe’s apocalyptic storm and the red book left behind were the common threads in every rendering.
        ‘You should certainly ask the Torel,’ unfailing, all would answer (any question she posed) and with a twinkle, knowing well that she wouldn’t. Without saying, Elrianna’s Torelian grandfather—that vexatious one unanimously chosen as most knowledgeable, Laeron would be decidedly content with her dismal obfuscation.
        Truly, it mattered little how fool-Mothrim had perished. Mothrian had intended only to caution her, reaching for her hand, he’d muttered his fears aloud:
        ‘Who knows what another reading might invite—? Terrible, terrible danger. Whatever dark potential will remain unknown, the book must never again tempt any tongue. If it should cause an Earthe calamity…our dome—all continuance depends upon Earthe and the anchors.’
        Yes, at this morning’s tea, Elrianna had clutched the king’s hand and contrived deep concern for the terrible danger, largely to mask an epiphany—! Might they force the implementation of the Genek dome? Elrianna had mulled this privately; Father would find out soon enough why the anchors would not remain imperative. Elrianna had promised her doting, winking, persuaded father that, ‘Of course, I understand. The anchors are yet quite…integral.’ She’d spoken this softly, whilst her ironclad mettle had committed to more. She could save the kingdom without the king’s hand. If fool-Mothrim had weakened the anchors with his bungled reading, surely it was possible to destroy them.
        She reached for the handle to the garden parlor door; it shone amethyst, as her spark, of Traedan purity, imbued this fervent desire. She did not need Father or the actual book. Her memory was meticulous, eidetic. She envisioned the clusters of alien shapes, black upon the first blood red page. She would put the likeness to paper. She would translate it phonetically—not for a fool-king’s clumsy tongue, but for elegant diction. Elrianna would read from it aloud, as soon as Genek’s self-sustaining dome passed trial. The proud legacy of Fae depended on her. Fae would not be lost, not here on this panoramic precipice, just as she stood to earn its every favor.


Unpublished © 2015, Caitlin Ann Easter (adapted from Quicksand Shadow, 3rd of The Ark of Traeadon
books)

THANKS FOR READING!!

[/pre][/size][/font]
« Last Edit: September 11, 2015, 12:57:30 AM by caitlin ann easter »

Offline AlanBrenik

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Re: [SEP 2015] Politics, Scheming and Intrigue - Submission thread
« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2015, 10:47:31 PM »
This is my first submission (1,497 words including title).
@AlanBrenik (Twitter)

Politics and Bloodshed

Spoiler for Politics and Bloodshed:
Mikhail shifted in his seat but fought the urge to loosen his collar. The heat was ungodly; it always was during the election month. He clicked his fingers and the slave fanning him increased their tempo, to little effect.

Despite sitting high above the commoners in the arena stalls, their baying was giving Mikhail a migraine. And the only thing worse than the noise was the smell. The press of so many unwashed bodies below was making itself apparent in the back of his throat, and his stomach was almost ready to mutiny. He retrieved his kerchief from his belt and smothered his nose and mouth, hoping to quieten his bowels.

It seemed the entire city was in attendance for this particular election contest. Not that he could blame them. The race for the office of Aedile was always of utmost importance to the commoners. The victor was responsible for organising public games, after all. A business that was as corrupt as it was lucrative, hence Mikhail’s own vested interest.

A collective gasp threaded through the crowd before subsiding into groans and bellowed curses. Both electoral candidates were competent fighters, and time and again the crowd had been cheated of first blood now. Perhaps it was the city’s insatiable appetite for public spectacle that caused the elections to culminate in gladiatorial combat, mused Mikhail, or perhaps it was the other way round. So it often went with politics and bloodshed, in his experience. It was difficult to trace where one necessitated the other.

The whisper of cloth over stone heralded his expected visitor. Mikhail tucked his kerchief into the sleeve of his doublet before rising. His delicate stomach was a weakness, and he knew better than to show weakness to a fellow moneylender.

He acknowledged her by bowing at a gratuitous angle, chin flush to his chest. His head throbbed at the sudden movement but he ignored it, just as he did the flicker of pride that protested within him at bowing to old money. In his business, pride was a weakness he refused to be burdened with.

‘Well met,’ said Lady Domitia.

Mikhail straightened and echoed the greeting. He had never understood how she could walk the city in so many layers – especially during the summer months – and yet appear so unflustered. It was only one of the reasons he held such a deep mistrust of her. Her hair was coiled and stacked atop her head in what might, by a cynical mind, be thought of as a crown. Few dared to so openly parade their power and influence in the city, though few had as much of either as Lady Domitia.

Mikhail aspired to become one of them – new money or not.

Lady Domitia took the seat beside him, settling the many folds of her dress about her with arachnid exactness. Mikhail followed suit and motioned for one of the slaves at the back of his private platform to offer his guest refreshments. Lady Domitia plucked a grape from the slave’s out-held platter and popped it between her teeth, allowing the juice to trickle down her chin and onto her dress. He averted his eyes, clenched a fist. She knew uncleanliness bothered him, and he had spent a lifetime affecting the appropriate reactions to cultivate such a belief. Mikhail dealt in falsehoods as much as he did gold.

Mikhail turned his eyes to the two candidates some distance below. Both had been elected to fight for office, only one could leave the arena alive. Mikhail had witnessed many such contests, and he knew it couldn’t be long before the sand tasted blood. Fatigue was beginning to show. 

Lady Domitia smacked her lips as she finished another grape. ‘I must confess; I had not anticipated your candidate making it to the arena.’ Every word poured from her mouth, slow and deliberate.

Mikhail ignored the subtle accusation. He had lied, cheated and bribed his candidate’s way onto the ballot, then rigged the vote. Not that he would admit it. Instead he schooled his features with a practised blend of surprise and delight. ‘Quite the unexpected pleasure, I assure you, Lady Domitia.’

She ran another grape across her bottom lip thoughtfully, touched her tongue to its ripe skin and then returned it to the platter. ‘An honour, for certain. Though there will only be one victor today.’

Mikhail heard the threat behind the fact. He twisted his fingers over his heart in the holy sign for luck. An empty ritual, but it served a purpose. ‘It is in the hands of the gods,’ he recited. That, he thought, and the poison staining his candidate’s blade. Nothing overt, just a simple concoction to hasten a victory. If only his man would get on with it and bloody his sword.

‘Of course,’ agreed Lady Domitia. ‘The gods.’

She was smiling. A true smile.

Mikhail’s already delicate bowels twisted sharply. Something was wrong.

No sooner had the thought occurred to Mikhail than a fanfare of trumpets sounded from the arena’s edge. The two candidates broke apart and the crowd fell silent, their shouting replaced with a hungry, palpable anticipation.

Tactus Dei,’ whispered Mikhail.

‘How fortunate we are,’ said Lady Domitia, reclining in her seat, ‘that the gods have seen fit to take a hand in this contest.’

‘Yes, fortunate,’ said Mikhail distractedly.

Holes were already opening in the arena floor, sand raining down out of sight. It was a tradition rarely enacted, where the augurs would determine the contest merited divine intervention in the form of lions or boars or worse.

Mikhail inwardly cursed Lady Domitia. He didn’t doubt that she had arranged this turn of events, and it galled him that she had accomplished what he couldn’t. The augurs had been singularly unresponsive to his overtures.

He heard the crowd stir as something troubled the sand around the newly opened holes. He leaned forward, shading his eyes with one hand and squinting down into the arena. It took a moment for his eyes to make sense of what he was seeing.

‘Vetrian Spiders?’ he muttered.

‘Is it?’ asked Lady Domitia with faux interest. ‘How awful for our candidates.’

The spiders were flooding from the arena floor now, each as big as a chicken and armoured in chitin as tough as metal plate. Although not poisonous, they were lethal predators. And there had to be a score or more of them. Mikhail surmised that Lady Domitia had donated the spiders to the augurs herself, and that they had been trained to ignore her own candidate. Treacherous harpy.

But Mikhail was not so easily defeated.

Where there was disaster, there was also opportunity.

Mikhail stroked his earlobe with the thumb and forefinger of his left hand, twice. He didn’t turn to watch one of his slaves slip from the platform in response. He had ploughed an obscene amount of money into his candidate, an investment he was determined to reap once the man made office. And once committed, Mikhail had not skimped on any aspect of the campaign, including his most expensive purchase of all – the one that had left him as close to destitute as he had been in years.

While he waited for his slave to activate his contingency plan, Mikhail turned to Lady Domitia. ‘This feels like an auspicious day, indeed.’

She regarded him from behind steepled fingers, a wariness souring her smile at its corners.

The crowd were almost beside themselves as the spiders hounded the candidates. They were pack hunters, intelligent, and within moments they had the two men encircled. The possibility of a double death was thick in the air, an electoral rarity.

As one, the spiders charged. Within seconds they bypassed Lady Domitia’s man and headed straight for his own. No doubt it was meant to be a divine endorsement of her candidate, one the crowd would eagerly digest. Indeed, her man appeared relaxed, confident.

But Mikhail had not haemorrhaged gold importing a bonewitch from across the sea to watch his candidate fall so easily. And she was quick to show her worth. As the spiders neared Mikhail’s man, each one burst into violent, purple flame. They fell one by one, legs contracting in the sand as their joints whistled and popped from the blistering heat.

There was a moment of stillness, broken by Mikhail’s candidate skewering his unprepared opponent through the chest, leaving his sword swaying like a victory standard as the man fell back, dead.

‘The gods have spoken, it would seem, Lady Domitia,’ said Mikhail, careful to appear shocked rather than boastful.

‘Yes,’ said Lady Domitia through clenched teeth. She stood, collecting the skirts of her dress in both hands and turning sharply. ‘And they shall speak again,’ she called over her shoulder.

Mikhail leaned back in his seat once she’d left, retrieved his kerchief from his sleeve and brought it to his face once more. He smiled behind it.

Politics and bloodshed.

He wondered which tomorrow would bring.

Edited due to formatting issues.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2015, 10:17:35 AM by AlanBrenik »
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Offline Elfy

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Re: [SEP 2015] Politics, Scheming and Intrigue - Submission thread
« Reply #12 on: September 22, 2015, 07:32:18 AM »
Here it is. The September submission. I wasn't sure if I could work with the topic, the three elements aren't among my favourites. Please enjoy Commander in Chief at 1242 words long including the title.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Commander in Chief

“I knew it!” were the first words out of Special Agent Dustin Henderson’s mouth when he walked unannounced into President Elect Randall Yeats’ office, and saw that the tall handsome middle aged man with the silver tongue and the golden smile had turned into a giant cobra wearing an $8,000 dollar suit.

“Misster Hendersson,” the cobra hissed smoothly, his hood flaring impressively, as he turned to regard the Secret Service operative. “I ssusspected that you of all people would guesss at the real truth.” The forked tongue flickered in and out between two large wickedly curved fangs, as the snake spoke.

Dustin was still reaching for the gun holstered under his jacket, when the snake that had been Randall Yeats said two names, “Lucy, Bill.”

Inwardly Dustin berated himself. Of course Yeats wasn’t alone, he never was. His hand picked agents Fer and Zebub shadowed him everywhere he went.

They stood either side of the doors, which was why Dustin hadn’t seen them when he first barged in, hoping to catch Yeats unaware, but never thinking that he’d be greeted by a scene from a Hieronymous Bosch painting.

Agent Lucy Fer was the first to attack. Her fist slammed into Dustin’s jaw before he could draw his gun, and he reeled across the office from the force of the blow. The large heavy desk stopped him from falling to the floor, and he blocked Fer’s second punch. As he fought with the woman in the sober black suit he saw that she, and her constant partner Bill Zebub, had also changed to something other than human.

Dustin had always felt that there was something rodent like about their faces, but he hadn’t realized that their true form was that of a rat. He could even see a long hairless tail sticking from out the back of Zebub’s jacket. He looked up again at Fer’s face, and her lips were drawn back from her teeth and he had to avoid them at all costs. She was probably rabid. He kicked out hard and her legs went from underneath her, she fell to the floor with a particularly inventive curse.

Dustin ducked under Bill Zebub’s haymaker and slammed a vicious short punch into the ‘mans’ midriff. If that hadn’t broken a rib or two, it had at least torn muscles and Zebub wasn’t going to be much of an opponent for a while. Dustin moved back and skipped forward a step, planting a kick right between Zebub’s legs. Rat or man, no one could take a shot like that and remain upright. Bill Zebub was no exception, his mouth opened in a silent howl of pain, his hands shot to his groin, his body folded up over it and he fell to the floor, curling himself into the foetal position and moaning softly.

Lucy had gotten to her feet and her gun was in hand. Yeats had slithered out from around his desk and swayed on his long, thick muscular tail. The glittering black eyes regarded Dustin Henderson as if he were prey to be poisoned by those fangs and consumed.

Dustin shook his head. How could this have happened? How did people elect a giant snake demon to the Presidency? He’d known there was something off about Yeats from the moment he saw him address a hostile crowd part way through the race for the Presidency. That crowd had been ready to kill Yeats, but not long after he started speaking they stood there enraptured by the man, hanging off his every word. It had taken Dustin in too, at the time, but he started to wonder just what Yeats had done when he thought about that speech and realized that he could not remember a single word of it, and others he had spoken to who were present had the same experience.

He had deliberately left a pen in the man’s office to give him an excuse to revisit it and catch him unawares. No one, not even Fer and Zebub, would think it odd that Dustin Henderson would try to retrieve the pen. It was quite expensive and had been a present from his wife for their anniversary (the 7th, the modern gift was actually a desk set, but as Dustin was a field agent and rarely at a desk, his wife felt a pen was a more practical gift).

While reaching for his weapon Dustin’s hand brushed against something else in an inside pocket of his jacket. Something long, slim and rectangular…his cellphone! His internet enabled cellphone.

Looking at the enormous cobra slithering towards him with murderous intent, hypnotic eyes shining with malevolence, glistening streams of venom sliding down those viciously curved fangs, Dustin knew that he wasn’t going to leave this office alive, but he could at leas try to let the rest of the world know that the most powerful man in the world was a demon intent on using his position for power over not just their bodies, but their souls.

In a move born of desperation, Dustin reached out and grabbed hold of Lucy Fer’s gun arm, he gripped it tightly by the bicep, ignoring her squawk of surprise, and swung her around so that when Yeats’ struck, his fangs pierced the material of the woman’s suit and sank deep into her back.

Lucy Fer stiffened as the venom made it’s way from Yeats’ fangs through her muscles and into her veins. Dustin knew that the cobra wasn’t equipped with the quickest acting venom, generally it could take anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours to manifest and kill a victim, but Yeats was a lot larger than the average hooded cobra, and being a demon his venom probably didn’t act the same way as an actual snake. Lucy Fer had been dead the moment those lethal fangs contacted her back.

The gun fell from nerveless fingers and fell to the carpeted floor, landing with a gentle thud.

“I liked her,” Yeats commented on Lucy Fer’s demise in the tone of a careless child who had accidentally broken a toy. He turned his eyes back to Dustin, and his hood flared menacingly.

The surprise showed in Yeats’ eyes as Dustin removed not a gun from beneath his jacket, but a cellphone, held with the screen facing him, and the viewfinder of the phone capturing Yeats’, Fer’s lifeless body, the curled up Zebub and even the presidential seal on the floor.

“Smile, asshole!” Dustin Henderson snarled and took the shot.

Yeats’ laughed and surged forward. The valiant Secret Service agent never had a chance. The last thing he saw before the light left his eyes, and he sprawled on the presidential seal, his life’s blood pumping out, was his phone bouncing across the carpet and winding up somewhere under the heavy wooden desk.

                                                                ****

“Get up!” Yeats’ snapped at Zebub.

The ratlike demon clambered carefully to his feet, still moving gingerly.

“Get rid of the bodiess. Arrange for ssomeone to replace Agent Fer and let one of the impss come up with ssome plaussible sstory for the tragic accident that befell Agent Hendersson. I have a victory sspeech to make.” He swept out of the office, already resembling a handsome man in middle age before the door had even closed.

Under the desk Dustin Henderson’s phone blinked as it sent the picture he had snapped with his final breath out to the worldwide web.
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Offline Rukaio_Alter

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Re: [SEP 2015] Politics, Scheming and Intrigue - Submission thread
« Reply #13 on: September 25, 2015, 02:36:46 AM »
Well, this happened. I'm fairly impressed that, despite my original idea already being a comedy, I still managed to somehow go off the rails this month.

Anyway, coming in at 1315 words, here's Well, that Escalated Quickly.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Radler Whisp threw open the storehouse doors and calmly walked in, flanked by the two bodyguards he had hired. It was only natural for a prominent senator to go around with protection, but today was particularly special. Today, however, most of his usual security was being spent on making sure he wasn’t being followed. If anyone else got news of what he had planned today he could easily lose his head.

As expected, Jarik Cantor, the black market trader, was already waiting inside the storehouse, sat lazily on a large crate. Jarik was a laidback-looking man with raggedy clothes and a perpetual smirk. He had two guards of his own on either side of the warehouse, surrounded by identical crates.

“Do you have the merchandise?” Radler said immediately.

Jarik quirked an eyebrow. “Oh? No greeting? Are we in a hurry?”

“Forgive me for being jumpy,” Radler said, “but I’d rather not stick around in a warehouse filled with illegal product. If you have my Blackram Powder, give it to me now so we can both get out of here.”

“Heh. You’re no fun.” Jerik snorted. “You got my money?”

Radler nodded to one of his bodyguards. The man produced a silver case. “150,000 ren. As promised.”

Jerik nodded. “Your merchandise is in the crate by that wall.”

Radler’s other bodyguard turned and walked to the crate Jerik was gesturing to. He ripped the lid open with a grunt and looked inside. He then slowly began backing away, the tip of a sword against his throat. From inside the crate, two burly men, each heavily armed, stepped out. Several more crates burst open with similarly armed men who surrounded Radler and his guards. Radler’s bodyguards threw down their weapons, but it didn’t help them. They were both quickly dispatched with a sword to the back.

“Funny.” Radler watched his guards collapse to the ground, his face a blank mask. “That doesn’t look like my merchandise.”

“About that…” Jerik got to his feet, a smirk on his lips. “A little birdy told me you were planning to rat me out to the City Templars once this was all done. So I decided to cut out the middleman and hire some mercenaries to kill you here and now. I’ll still take the money, mind. All’s fair in black market business, right?”

“Is that so?” A similar smirk crossed Radler’s face. He snapped his fingers once.

Immediately, every one of Jerik’s mercenaries swung around and moved to surround Jerik and his men instead. Jerik’s bodyguards went for their weapons but were stabbed half a dozen times before even one sword left their scabbards. The two fell to the floor like a heavy sack of potatoes, blood pooling from their wounds.

“Unfortunately for you,” Radler said, “I knew you were going to try and double-cross me. I knew my two bodyguards were secretly your 'little birdies'. And I knew about the band of mercenaries you commonly hire. So naturally, I made sure to hire their services first. What do you have to say for yourself now, Mr ‘All’s Fair in Black Market Business’?”

“Oh, I don’t have much to say.” Jerik said. Radler noticed his smile hadn’t vanished. “Just that you should always be wary when your employer provides you dinner.”

Suddenly, every mercenary in the room collapsed, clutching desperately at their throat. Blood flecks dribbled from their mouth as they thrashed around in agony. Screams echoed around the room, slowly turning to gurgles before falling painfully silent.

“You see…” Jerik continued, ignoring the mass death that had just occured, “I knew you knew I would betray you and that you would hire those mercenaries, so I had them all poisoned beforehand. And now they’re out of the way we can-”

Jerik suddenly felt a hand grab his ankle. He looked down to see one of the poisoned mercenaries dragging himself across the floor towards him. The mercenary’s skin had turned a pallid grey, his eyes had become white and he let out an inhuman moan. All across the warehouse, the dead mercenaries were dragging themselves to their feet, all in similar conditions.

Jerik glanced over to where Radler was chuckling under his breath.

“Actually…” Radler said, “I knew you knew I knew you would betray me and that you would poison the mercenaries, so I hired a necromancer to restore them all to life as faithful ghouls. Perhaps you shouldn't have underestimated my-“

The back wall of the store house exploded with a bang.

Burnt rubble flew across the room as 30 of the City Templar’s best Exorcists burst in in their pale white robes and engraved armour. Chanting holy spells under their breath, they incinerated the zombie mercenaries with bursts of white flame. The ghouls died screeching in agony as their flesh turned to ash.

Once they were finished dispatching their undead opponents, the Templars turned to Radler. One, who wore a grave look on his face, held a sword to the senator's neck. Radler looked over to where Jerik was simply shaking his head with amusement.

“My dear Radler…” He said. “I knew you knew I knew you knew I would betray you, so I hired the City Templars to come in and arrest you the second they caught you using necromancy which, I should remind you, is quite illegal. And since this warehouse has long been cleared of any suspicious items, I can assure you, you’ll be the only one making the trip to jail toda-“

The wall at the opposite end of the storehouse was disintegrated with an unholy crash.

There was a loud triumphant cry as hundreds of angry townsfolk and wizards charged into the storehouse and began grappling with the Templars using any weapon that came to hand. Each attacker wore an emblem on their clothing with the letters NACOPPZ emboldened in bright thread. The Templars surrounding Radler fell back as they were quickly overrun by the screaming protestors.

Radler, on the other hand, simply smiled at the black market trader, who had been cut off on all sides by the baying mob.

“Did you really think I’d be that predictable, Jerik?” He said. “You see, I knew you knew I knew you knew I knew you would betray me and bring in the City Templars to incinerate my zombies. So I brought in the National Coalition for the Protection and Preservation of Zombies, knowing they’d be prompted into rioting when they saw the merciless execution of said zombies by the cruel and unjust Templars. Now-“

Suddenly, a green gas began to spray from nozzles in the floor. The protestors began to choke on the foul smoke as it corroded away their lungs from the inside. They crowded and climbed over one another in a desperate attempt to escape but it was all too late for them.

“Oh Radler, you’re so very naïve…” Jerik said, reaching for his gas mask. “You see, I knew you knew I knew you knew I knew-“


Three Hours Later...

Radler and Jerik stood in the smouldering remains of what was once a storehouse, incinerated bodies scattered around them. They were looking down on the town below, which was engulfed in flames and chaos. From their view, they could see an army of Jerik’s Monsterous Hydra chasing down the remnants of Radler’s smaller Basilisk Riders. Suddenly, as if perfectly on cue, hundreds of Giant Eagles swooped down from the sky and grabbed the Hydra in their talons before swallowing them whole. The eagles didn’t have long to celebrate, however, as thousands of Lightning Djinn emerged from the clouds and struck them down mid-flight with their powerful thunder magic.

Radler watched in silence as the Lightning Djinn were then incinerated by his convoy of Red Dragons.

“Say Jerik?” He said. “Do you think we maybe overplanned this a little?”

 Jerik gave a snort. “I knew you’d say that.”
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Spoiler for Hiden:
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Offline Raptori

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Re: [SEP 2015] Politics, Scheming and Intrigue - Submission thread
« Reply #14 on: September 25, 2015, 06:48:52 PM »
The Turning Point (627 words)

Spoiler for The Turning Point:
The ornate box on the table tempted me, dared me to act, but this was not the type of decision to be taken lightly. Two paths beckoned. Two sides argued back and forth. I had to choose, and one path would be lost forever.

I leaned back, closing my eyes and massaging my temples. I tried to listen to the voice of reason. The hard part was working out which voice was the reasonable one.



"This is not necessary. We should be prudent, logical, and level-headed. There is no need to take more, and every reason not to. Under my guidance we had done well, and there is nothing—"

"Non. Under your guidance, we stagnated. It is long past time for a change of pace."

"Stagnated? If anything, we prospered. We had security, stability, a clear plan for the future. We should stop this nonsense. All is not yet lost. We can still return to our path."

"Your plan stifles. Where is the passion? The flair? The joie de vivre? You conservatives do not know how to live."

"There is nothing wrong with pleasure taken from order, from a job well done. From discipline. Life without structure is anarchy."

"Life without structure is exubérant! Life without freedom is death. What is the point of it all if we are not to live it to the full?"



They both made good points. Discipline was a virtue that I had long tried to cultivate. But so was passion. Other voices murmured, but none had much to add.

I ran my fingertips across the top of the box, tracing the swirling ridges of gold that sprawled across the lid. I moved to open it, but hesitated. It was an impossible choice. No matter what I decided, I would feel regret.



"It is time. Are we to hide behind our restrictions, to give in to our fears? Or are we to enjoy this life, embrace the moment?"

"Would you have us abandon our responsibilities? Risk everything in the name of excitement? Once we start down that road, it will be difficult to stop."

"This step, this one small decision, can set us on the path to greatness. Are we doomed to follow the safest course for the rest of our pitiful existence? Or are we ready to take control? To live? To become something more, something magnifique?"

"We don't—"

"This is our chance to dream. Our chance to feel alive. To take back what once was ours. To live a life that is difficult and beautiful. It is time for our soul to be free. It is time for our heart to control our destiny. It is time for us to embrace this life! We must live every moment for ourselves!"



That was it. That was the voice of reason. My pulse quickened. I blocked out the turmoil that had followed that speech. One decision. One domino. Perhaps after this, the rest would come tumbling down. Perhaps this could be the first step towards a brighter and more vivid future.

I opened the box, took out the last of the chocolates, and ate it.

The sweetness of strawberry exploded in my mouth, complemented by the silky smooth taste of the chocolate. The experience was divine, lifting my soul onto another plane. Life had never tasted so good.

The taste faded, the final fleeting wisps melting away into nothing. And then it was gone.

The box was empty—I couldn't tear my eyes from it. I had managed to eat them all. Again. In spite of all my promises and self-recriminations. Why did it always seem such a good idea?



"That was an impressive speech."

"Merci."

"You didn't mean a word of it, did you?"

"C'est la vie. I just wanted that chocolate."
« Last Edit: September 25, 2015, 06:51:56 PM by Raptori »
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