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Author Topic: [SEP 2015] Politics, Scheming and Intrigue - Submission thread  (Read 9700 times)

Offline ClintACK

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Re: [SEP 2015] Politics, Scheming and Intrigue - Submission thread
« Reply #15 on: September 30, 2015, 11:03:52 PM »
Okay.  Here it is.  Not at all what I thought I'd be writing for this topic!

It's called Charming Charming, 985 words.

Spoiler for Charming Charming:
Charming Charming

“Where are the rest of the golden plates?” Queen Beauty asked looking in horror at six perfect sets of golden tableware.  There should be thirteen.

“Lost in the Divide, Milady,” a terrified butler confessed.

“The Pretenders have the rest?” she asked, remembering all that had followed her own Christening, when just one plate had been misplaced and one Fairy had been served upon a poor substitute crafted at the last minute.  The kingdom was divided to this day – her cousins had claimed the throne while the rightful royal family had slumbered under a magical curse.

“We assume so, Milady.”

“Then we must make do.  We cannot risk insult by serving a Fair One on any lesser cutlery.”  And so they invited only the six Fairies of the North – those that dwelt in the lands that swore fealty to the true royal family.  Six blessings should be enough for her son on his naming day.

Far to the south, another royal family made the same decision, inviting the six Fairies of the South to bless and name their daughter.  Had the two royal families been speaking to one another, someone would surely have noticed that six and six made only twelve – that no one had properly replaced the missing thirteenth plate after the poisoned spindle debacle.  But they weren’t.  So they didn’t.


The Fair Ones of the North looked down upon the infant boy and blessed him with golden hair and a silver tongue, with broad shoulders and an affable way, with keen wits and fierce determination.  They named him Charming, and all in the northern half of the kingdom loved their young prince.

The Fair Ones of the South looked down upon the infant girl and blessed her with elegance and style, with a kind heart and an easy smile, with true wisdom and the courage of her convictions.  They named her Grace, and all in the southern half of the kingdom loved their young princess.

The Middle Fairy watched it all through the eyes of songbirds, alone, uninvited and unloved.  Her heart broke and she plotted her revenge.  The other fairies were on their guard this time – there would be no curses bestowed on that magical day.  Instead, the Middle Fairy took every ounce of her umbrage, her righteous indignation, and her wounded pride and heaped it into a single mighty blessing.  And no one noticed, for she blessed neither royal baby, but rather the only daughter of a poor landed knight so far from court he had attended neither Christening with his wife so close to her confinement.  His wife died in the birthing, as so many women did in those days, and the gentleman mourned, but took pleasure in his beautiful new daughter and lavished upon her every blessing a loving father of modest means might provide.  In time he found her a new mother as well, and two older sisters, before he too passed from this world.


Years passed and an uneasy peace took hold.   Princess Grace and Prince Charming toured their lands and met for holidays.  A grand pavilion – a golden palace of silk and rope – was raised along the disputed border.  A grand ball was announced to celebrate the betrothal of the royal couple, through whom the kingdom would again be united and the uneasy peace made permanent.


“My lady is as lovely as the dawn,” Charming said by way of greeting.  And as predictable, he thought.  Their meetings came like clockwork, their whole lives decided by the needs of the kingdom.

She favored him with her easy smile and a graceful curtsey.  “My lord is most kind,” she said, and he wished for once she’d respond with at least a failed attempt at wit – they could share a laugh at a failed attempt.

He offered his arm and they strode along elegant carpets to the rapturous acclaim of all present.  They were not even people to their people, Charming thought, just symbols of the hope for peace.  There were worse things to symbolize, but just once he wished someone would see him as a man.

The Ball was scheduled to last for ten full days, with the formal betrothal on the last.  Three full days were scheduled simply for the arrivals – every noble from each half of the kingdom would be announced and presented, from the highest to the lowest.  Whole wars had been fought with less careful organization than attended the staggered arrivals of these carriages to the tent city surrounding the grand pavilion.

On the last day of the arrivals, after the last, the pettiest, the newest of the gentry had arrived with his twelve children in tow a stir swelled and broke in the crowd like a crashing wave.  A late arrival.  Clerks scurried to check and recheck their lists – but every noble had been announced.

A stately carriage, like a giant, baroque pumpkin bounced down the cobblestones pulled by six white stallions of impeccable breeding.  Among the threadbare coaches of the least of the gentry, the carriage came to rest like the moon among the stars.

She stepped down from the carriage in the silence of the crowd’s collective indrawn breath, her glass slippers clinked against the cobblestone and the kingdom would never be the same.  The Middle Fairy had taken every ounce of her umbrage, her righteous indignation and her wounded pride and had heaped it all into a single mighty blessing – that of physical beauty.  Ella appeared the most perfect specimen of womanhood ever to walk upon the ground.

All of Prince Charming’s keen wits fled and his silver tongue turned to heavy lead in his mouth, his broad shoulders swiveled away from the princess beside him and all his determination was aimed towards one goal.

Beside him, Princess Grace smiled a sad little knowing smile, for she had been blessed with true wisdom, and she knew what must surely follow.

Offline ArcaneArtsVelho

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Re: [SEP 2015] Politics, Scheming and Intrigue - Submission thread
« Reply #16 on: October 01, 2015, 01:18:32 AM »
After two or three different ideas, I finally ended up with a Victorian era -esque story. I hope it fits the theme well enough. And I hope it makes sense.
Oh, and I hope you enjoy.  :)

It's called The Red Ribbon Society. 1500 words (including the title).

Includes some (light?) gruesomeness.

Spoiler for The Red Ribbon Society:

The Red Ribbon Society


Mary slowed down her gait when she saw the red ribbon which always marked the meeting place. It was still on the door at the end of the alley, so she wasn’t late. That was good, for there was going to be a vote, and for the first time, Mary had a decent chance of winning it. She knocked on the door, and after a few seconds, a footboy opened it, bowing to Mary as she entered the building.

“Welcome! You’re just in time,” said a large man standing in the hallway beyond the door.

“Hello George. Are the others here already?” Mary asked.

“Yes, they are,” George said and turned to the footboy.  “Jimmy, take Hostess Mary’s coat and hat! And then remove the ribbon and lock the door!”

“Yes, mister Blair.” Jimmy always did as he was told.

“This way, please,” George said, leading Mary along the hallway.


Mary hadn’t been in that place in a long time. They changed the location of their meetings and Gatherings regularly to make it harder for the people who didn’t approve of their events to find them. People like the clergy, politicians, and the constabulary; the same people who raided brothels and hunted down street prostitutes. Of course, the Gatherings shouldn’t have even been compared to brothels; such unchastity wasn’t the point of these events. They were more like gentlemen’s dinner clubs, providing well-off men, the “Johns”, a place of relaxation and entertainment. The Hostesses, in turn, were—more or less—respectable free women, who didn’t want to conform to be the role of the “angel in the house” that was expected of them.

At the Gatherings these women were allowed to express themselves through conversation, singing, and dancing, earning money in the process. The performances might have been enticing at times, and occasionally some dancer’s unmentionables were seen, but still the Hostesses were nothing like common whores. Sure some of them might have been fallen women as there was no rule about what they did with the Johns after the Gatherings, but fornication was never the aim. Then again, there was usually a limit on how many gifts a John would give to a Hostess before expecting something more than dances or words in return. Violence, however, was something the Hostesses didn’t need to fear—unlike married women—, for the steward, George, made sure that any belligerent John was never seen again.


The hallway ended to another door with a ribbon. George waited patiently while Mary straightened up her pulled back hair and draping, purple dress. Then the steward opened the door, announcing the comer. Some of the Johns cheered as Mary stepped in, but the first person to really welcome her was the Head Hostess Elizabeth; the belle of the ball, as she herself liked to think.

“Oh Mary! So delighted that you didn’t miss this meeting,” Elizabeth said, mincing closer in her gleaming green evening gown. “Would have been dreadful if we'd had to exclude you from the vote.”

“That would have been a shame. But alas, I’m here, and on time,” Mary said and gave a short laugh.

Elizabeth looked a little aghast but let out an uneasy chortle. “Yes. Oh, but were are my manners? Mary, I’d like you to meet Lillian.”

Mary hadn’t even noticed the girl standing next to Elizabeth until now. “Charmed,” she said.

Lillian curtsied. “Nice to meet you, Hostess Mary.” Her voice was almost too small and high-pitched to comprehend.

“Lillian is a relative of mine,” Elizabeth explained. “She worked in her parents' apothecary, but their business was struggling, so I adopted her. Now she’s my heir.”

“Oh, dear! I though she was a servant.”

“She is helping with the serving today. But she’ll most definitely become a regular Hostess soon.”

“Then you must get her new clothes; surely a Hostess and your heir can’t be dancing around in such a plain brown dress. About dresses—”

“She dances very well,” Elizabeth interjected. “In fact, she danced at our Gathering last week. The Johns were entranced by her gracefulness.”

“Really? This mouse of a girl?” Mary seized Lilian’s chin and examined the girl briefly. “I suppose she is quite pretty. But I can’t imagine her singing with that squeaky voice.”

Lillian took the insult with stoic composure, which made Elizabeth take on a very smug expression. “I guess we’ll hear that in the next Gathering,” Elizabeth said. “About Gatherings... Where were you during the last one?”

“I was drowned in work.”

“Oh yes. You still work days even though you’re a Hostess? Very peculiar. You are a seamstress, correct?”

“A dressmaker. I have my own shop.”

“Oh, how very radical of you. Though I thought the shop was your father's.” The embarrassed blush that crept on Mary’s cheeks was enough of an answer to make Elizabeth smile. “In any case, give me your... professional opinion.”

Mary watched as Elizabeth twirled around in her dress. The green fabric had a stunning sheen to it, and the many folds and ruffles were all very elaborate. And to top it all off, there were dozens of finely made butterfly ornaments on the dress; their wings shining in flaming patterns.

“That is an exquisite gown. Couldn’t have made a better one myself. I believe it has French Ivory both in the fabric and the decorations. A very modern material,” Mary said. “Were did you get it?”

“From a secret admirer,” Elizabeth whispered. “I truly don’t know who it was.” She gazed at a group of Johns standing near the dinner table and smiled.

“Well, then you have at least one great devotee. Oh, but I think the dinner is ready now. Shall we eat?” Mary said and walked off towards the table. But before sitting down she grabbed the footboy close to her. “It’s chilly in here, Jimmy. Why don’t you put some more wood in the fireplace. And do keep the fire going.”

“Yes, Hostess Mary.”


The Hostesses dined on one side of the long table and the Head Hostess at one end near the fireplace. The other long side was for the Johns. Only the men who were the most generous with their donations to the Gatherings had been invited to vote. Most of the money from those donations went into organising the events, but the rest went to the Hostesses with the Head Hostess getting the lion’s share, so the title was very coveted by the women.

“You might win,” the Hostess on Mary’s right, Margaret, whispered as everyone was finishing their dinners. “I think it’s almost even split between you and her. Elizabeth has her charms, but she has become increasingly annoying and, dare I say, ugly as she has grown older. You’ll have my vote this time.”

“Thank you,” Mary said. Margaret’s vote could have been the one to turn things to Mary’s favour.

“Would have voted for myself, of course, if I hadn’t become pregnant,” Margaret snickered.

Mary didn’t have time to respond to that piece of news because a barely audible voice interrupted her. “More wine?” Lillian asked, standing just behind the women.

“Yes, please,” Mary snarled. “Aren’t you a skulking little mouse.” Mary took a sip of the wine and cleared her throat, watching as Lilian walked to the end of the table and whispered something to Elizabeth. “I may have lost my chance just now,” she muttered to Margaret. “At least she can’t vote.”

Elizabeth tapped her glass with a spoon. “Now that we’ve eaten, it’s time for our 17th quarterly vote for the Head Hostess. Before we begin, I must ask that you exclude Margaret from the voting and that she won’t cast a vote. One cannot be, or partake in the voting of, the Head Hostess if one isn’t able to perform in the following quarter. I doubt you can do that, Margaret, as your... condition progresses.” Margaret sniffed, and Mary scowled “Let’s vote!”


George collected the ballots into a hat and took them to Elizabeth, who stood up in front of the fireplace. Mary didn’t care about the results; she didn’t have to.

“Fire!” George shouted.

First there was only a puff of smoke, but in mere seconds Elizabeth’s dress was a blazing, exploding inferno. French Ivory, or celluloid, as it was also called, was so flammable that even the heat from the fireplace was enough to ignite it. A dressmaker would have obviously known this.

Elizabeth screamed in agony. Some of the women, and even one man, fainted. There was panic all around. But Mary just sat in her chair, smiling as the smell of burning flesh hit her nostrils. She raised her wine glass high and drank it all in one go. Then she coughed and started gasping for air.

Someone whispered into her ear. “More wine?” The voice was high-pitched, but its tone was deviously content now. “Elizabeth sends her regards.”

“You little...” Mary tried to breathe. Then her limp body collapsed onto the floor.


EDIT: Small fixes here and there, and everywhere.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2015, 10:26:12 AM by ArcaneArtsVelho »
Everything I wrote above is pure conjecture. I don't know what I'm talking about.

I'm a perfectionist but not very good at anything. That's why I rarely finish things.

Offline oldmanmitchell

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Re: [SEP 2015] Politics, Scheming and Intrigue - Submission thread
« Reply #17 on: October 01, 2015, 07:02:30 PM »
Taking advantage of the late close, and with my second attempt in the Monthly Writing Contest...

I'm not sure how much politics or intrigue it has, but there's definitely a touch of scheming.

A Quiet Drink (1500 Words)

Spoiler for Hiden:
‘Twenty-four names there were,’ the Orator’s voice echoed around the domed chamber.  ‘Twenty-four, who chose to test their mettle against the finest of us.  They have danced the dance of steel, until only six remain.  These six!’  He spread his arms theatrically to take in the six warriors sitting around the table before him, the flared sleeves of his silken robes adding weight to the gesture.

The crowd filling the balconies above, whose small faces gazed down at the table of champions below, began chanting the names of their heroes.

‘For Akano, Oji,’ one man yelled.  ‘Do it for Akano!’

That raised a smile from the beautiful albino at the table, who brushed a rogue strand of long white hair back behind her ear and favoured the crowd with a blown kiss.  Fresh cheering erupted, doubling in Oji’s favour.

Across from her, Unaga leaned in close to Ajima.  ‘Half the battle is winning the people,’ he whispered, ‘and she’s done it in less than a day.’

Ajima nodded.  ‘The other half is winning my heart,’ he said mildly.  ‘And she’s closer to that than you are.’

Unaga grunted and backed away.  The albino caught Ajima’s eye and offered a wink.  He almost fell from his chair at that, lost to those sparkling blue eyes… Somehow though he managed to yank his gaze from the woman of his dreams and focus on the Orator.

‘Six champions,’ he was saying, his voice demanding silence from the crowd, his golden robes flowing out behind him as he circled the table, his long black hair flowing with them.  He stopped abruptly, a crooked hand flashing out to point at the bottles in the centre of the table, all different shapes and colours.  ‘And six bottles.’

He let the words sink in, pausing to stroke his long trident beard.  ‘We have tested the body,’ he said at last.  ‘Now we test the mind.’

The Orator walked from one champion to the next, looking each man and woman in the eye.  ‘Every bottle you see here was taken from a different region of the Empire.  They are the finest wines ever tasted.  Yet in five of the six we have added a single ingredient from the same locale, which, although harmless by itself, can turn the wine into a deadly poison.  The last bottle has been blessed with the Emperor’s Gift, which will cleanse any who drink of it of all poisons.’

‘Each of you will drink from a bottle of your choice.  Should any of you make the same choice, you will drink from that bottle and any bottles that remain unchosen.  Once a bottle has been confirmed for poison, it will be removed from the table.  If more than one you survives the first drink, you will take turns drinking from the bottles that remain.  The last man - or woman - standing will be declared the new Emperor.’

Another cheer went up from the crowd, ragged and nervous, before they fell sharply silent as their attention fixed on the men and women sitting below them.

Ajima looked at each of his opponents in turn.  To his left, Safumi, the eldest of them, rested her bow on the table.  She studied the bottles with the same consideration she had shown her opponents the day before.  Next to her was Asuma, the spearman, looking supremely confident.

Then it was Oji, who glanced at Ajima whenever he looked her way.  Grab her pale hand and run, a voice whispered.  Go live in peace!  But that chance was gone, for there was no escape once the trials had begun.

Ajima shifted his gaze to Oji’s right, where Kuya sat.  The bald-headed martial artist carried no weapons, but he had proved himself twice as deadly as any of them in the battles.  Lastly there was Unaga, the axeman, broad of shoulder and long of hair.  Worthy adversaries, all of them, though there was only one Ajima cared for.  It was a shame she would have to die for him to live.

‘Ajima!’  The Curator’s voice broke through his thoughts.  ‘Choose your poison.’

Ajima studied the bottles.  Some were tall and thin, others short and stout, all crafted from different shades of glass.  Fortunately, Ajima had spent his youth at the bottom of various bottles and he recognised them all.  He could even recall the taste of each, picking out the different ingredients and imaging the additions that would turn the concoction deadly.  Time and again though, his thoughts came back to just one bottle.  The liquid inside was pale gold and filled with golden flecks.
 
‘I’ll take the Yamaga,’ he told the Curator.  He could think of nothing that would turn it bad.

The Curator poured Asima a small glass and set it on the table.  Then he turned to Safumi, who chose Samizo Fire.  Asuma followed with the Yakomi Red, a fruity mix in a green bottle.  Both mistakes, Asima was sure.

‘Oji?’ asked the Curator.  ‘What drink would add colour to your hair?’

The albino locked her gaze on Asima and grinned.  ‘Yamaga Gold,’ she said, and Asima couldn’t help but smile back.  At least we’ll survive together for a little longer.

‘And for the Fists of Fire?’ the Curator asked Kuya.

Yamaga Gold,’ said Kuya, without emotion.

The Curator turned to Unaga.  ‘And last but not least, what will the axeman drink?’

The big man glanced at Oji, Kuya, and Akima in turn.  His eyes said he knew what he should do, but instead he followed his guts.  They’d kept him alive this long.  ‘The Banshoga.’

As promised, the two remaining drinks, the Hiro and the Taro, were lined up next to the Yamaga Gold chosen by Ajima, Oji and Kuya.

‘Before you drink,’ the Curator warned, ‘know that the Emperor’s Gift does not last for long.  Those of you with three glasses had best drink quickly.’

And drink they did.

Ajima followed the Curator’s advice and swiftly downed his three, barely registering the delicate tastes of fruit or the headiness of the alcohol.  He drank the Yamaga second, giving it the best chance to counteract the poison of the others.  With his last swallow, he looked up at the others for any sign of pain or discomfort.

It didn’t take long for Safumi’s face to light up once the Samizo Fire took hold.  For a brief moment she clenched her teeth and eyes against the pain, and then her head sagged back and she was gone.
 
Asuma followed, his head suddenly thudding onto the table.

Moments later, Unaga, the famed axeman, groaned softly and toppled from his chair.

Ajima, Oji and Kuya gazed at each other expectantly… but they were safe.

‘You chose wisely,’ said the Curator.  ‘But which bottle contains the Emperor’s Gift?

You will now take turns to drink from just one of the bottles you sampled.  If more than one of you survives, we will bring out the blindfolds and play on until a victor is decided.  Kuya shall begin.’

There was absolute silence in the hall as Kuya considered his response.  ‘The Yamaga,’ he said at last.

Obviously, thought Ajima.  This will go to the blindfolds and the gods truly will decide.

Yet seconds after drinking the Yamaga, Kuya started struggling for breath.  He clawed at his throat, gasping for air, until he too toppled from his chair.

Impossible, thought Ajima! It had to be the Yamaga!

‘Oji,’ said the Curator.

Ajima found it bittersweet to think that this next drink might kill Oji but make him Emperor.  The albino appeared as shocked as he was that the Yamaga was not the drink of choice.  She gazed across the table looking for support, but Ajima had nothing to give.  Either way, one of them was going to die.

‘The Taro,’ she said at last, resigned.

Once poured, Oji drank quickly.  She waited… and as the seconds rolled by her confident smile slowly returned, her beauty growing with it.  Then two tears of blood rolled down her cheeks, and she fell lifelessly to the table, scattering glasses and bottles to the floor.  The crowd cried out in disappointment and Ajima felt his heart break a little.  Oji may have been the people’s choice, but she was his as well.

‘Ajima?’ the Curator prodded.

‘The Hiro,’ said Ajima hoarsely.

It’s all wrong, he thought.  An apple seed was all it would take to turn a bottle of Hiro to poison.  How is it left standing?

The Curator poured the glass and passed it to Ajima.  ‘Good luck,’ he muttered, though Ajima barely heard him…

…before drinking deeply.  Almost at once his throat began to tighten as the airways closed up.  Panicked, he pushed up from the table and staggered around the room frantically, trying to ask for help but finding no words.

It’s all wrong!

From behind the table, Kuya pushed himself to his feet and smiled.  Unarmed, but deadly.

I was right, thought Ajima.  It was the Yamaga all along…

Twitter: @oldmanmitchell

Offline Nora

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Re: [SEP 2015] Politics, Scheming and Intrigue - Submission thread
« Reply #18 on: October 01, 2015, 08:13:26 PM »
Here IT COMES. Just finished this at 5.12 am, getting up in 4 hours, I'm not proof reading, damn me!

1457 words. Title :

Postapolytics


Spoiler for Hiden:
Hades hated politics, always had, but there was no escaping them. No gunslinger or contract runner could afford to stay oblivious of the power struggles that tore the different factions surviving in and around the Zone.
One wouldn't want to work for the wrong employer in the wrong situation.

Yet as Hades observed his new contracted preys from his high lair, more and more details bubbled to the surface, unbidden proofs of an underlying intrigue he had failed to avoid.

Patience is a rare gift amongst men, and out-waiting them is often as easy as it is useful. Traps, especially, tend to suffer from a late victim.
And so as the bloated orb of the sun oozed from the smoggy horizon and climbed the sky, Hades waited.
Shots reverberated against the ruined buildings, and still he lay unmoving.

The gang had attacked the little town's Plant at least a day prior to Hades' arrival, forcing the population to gather in defense. This effectively put the town under siege despite the small number of assailants, and the Plant's factories were surrounded and cut off from help, both parties engaged in a game of trench warfare, shooting at each other from makeshift barricades.
The effectiveness of this quasi military operation was the most blatant proof that something was amiss.
Born under some radioactive boulder, raised in the rotting entrails of ruined cities, wilder-men gang members knew nothing but urban warfare and guerrilla tactics. They lived nomad lives of theft and racket, salvaging and trade. They were a pest at worst.

Hades was contracted against every single member of that gang, and despite his misgivings, it was time to start thinning their ranks.
Darkness crept back on the land, camp fires sprang to life and voices reverberated in the ominous silence of the besieged town.

He waited for the night to age and the sentries to tire. An hour before dawn Hades melted in the thinning shadows, death walking on soft slippers, wielding twin large blades of black steel in silent strikes that never missed.

His first victim was a boy. Radioactivity had blotched his skin and patched his hair with white streaks. Breath escaped him in a high rasp as the blade pierced his lungs and heart, a soft gurgle as another sliced his airless throat.
One after the other, they fell like string-less puppets to the chirurgical strikes.
Surprised, overpowered, exterminated.
They were of all ages and genders, healthy or feeble. Hades didn't care and didn't notice. He only counted, as he slowly turned around the town, making his way, watcher after watcher, camp after camp, erasing all life as he made his way to the main body of attackers, entrenched by the front gate of the fence.

He took a rest against a large boulder as the sun started to lighten the sky.
His arms had tired, the body count was twenty-five, and the main camp was coming to life. Soon the bosses would bark for report and get no answers, and he needed to be ready to act.
If these men realised they were being singled out by a sniper they would disappear among the buildings, scatter like rats.
He needed to bait them by shooting in the open.

Hades pat his old Colt Anaconda with the excitement that always came at the prospect of firing it. Of all the weapons he owned, the custom made double action gun with its monstrous barrel and lethal accuracy remained a favorite that made an ominous bulge under his layers of traveling clothes.
He pawed in his pockets for smoke grenades, throbboes and clips of ammunition.

The calls came and went unanswered. Tension mounted. Shouts and curses followed.
Hades smirked. He could see the town's people stirring and poking curious heads around corners and windows.

The shrieks at the discovery of the first bodies at the closest outpost, by which he'd started his deadly round, and acted as a signal.

And so in the red light of the birthing day the last gang members faced their death, as bravely as any human does, with confusion first as a lone figure came rushing from nowhere and shots rang, fumes exploded and lights pulsed.
Then anger as the attack became obvious, the single assailant stood out, swirling in clouds of dust and choking smoke, shielding himself behind bodies, jumping around and being so darn liberal with his bullets.
Panic came with the realisation that nothing seemed to stop the crazed man. Was it even a man?
With his white hair, his gleaming eyes and the arm-long gun he wielded with frightening accuracy, many took the gunslinger for a Karkoïl, out of the night's dark dreams and in for the kill.

A brief idea. Hades finished his dirty business before half his clips were spent.

"Why?" Asked the last man alive, "weren't you the contractor meant to join us?"
Hades stood over the man - the boy really - and frowned.
"What's that?" he asked back, waving his gun with an impatient twist.
Sweat pearled on the young man's brow. From pain from his burst knee, from the rising smell of a carpet of fresh corpses, or from some sour realisation. It didn't matter.
Hades shot him in the head.

A clean fifty-two heads, short by four, thanks to the town's people efforts.
Of course the gang had been hired and lied to. Business isn't pretty. Hades simply didn't appreciate the omissions in his own contract.

The noise of the gate opening made him turn on his heels. The town's people flooded out of the fence. They gathered around Hades, making a neat but safely distant circle around him and his pile of gore.
Most were armed, all were dirty and looking gaunt and stressed.
How many of their own had they buried in the past days? How often had they wondered what would kill them, between starvation and bullets?

An older man sporting a sawn-off shotgun approached Hades and stopped at a few meters. With a flourish he bowed low, never breaking eye contact.

"You saved our town gunslinger, we're in your debt."
"I was contracted against that gang and given directions," Hades waved a bloodied hand, "you owe me nothing."
The old man shifted awkwardly.
"Maybe I'd accept a bath and a change of clothing, it you would indulge me." Hades offered.
The man broke in a sweat. "You have to excuse us."
"Please," came another voice as another man stepped forward, a handgun pressed in his trembling palm, "we really have no choice."
Hades had a creeping feeling that he was missing something.
Two other town-folks stepped out.
Something important.
"I'll be on my way now then, it doesn't matter..."
"They came a week ago, with the posters," the older man cut him.
"Our plant has been having problems for years, but the parts of the water pumps that broke are too vital. We can't survive long."
"Please understand. No engineer ever comes this far out of the Paths, we're too deep in the zone and too poor."
"Contractors just cost so much and the reward..."
"What the fuck are you on about?" Hades barked. "A reward on what? I don't carry money, and the gang was paid for in goods of no value to you."
The men cocked their guns, all the town's people, women, even children, pulled whatever weapon they had and aimed. They all looked so sorry, so shabby.
"The reward," the old man answered, "is on your head, gunslinger."

Shots fired, at such close range it was a butchery. Hades' lost consciousness when his chest burst.
It was pain, nothing but damn burning pain. There was no fainting away from death.

Hades could not help but admire how well things had been set up.
A contract with high stakes. Fifty-two targets wasn't given to anyone. He could have died there.
But just in case, making sure the entire town of a couple of hundred souls would want him down, that was cunning.

Consciousness felt like a stone landing behind the ears. Three of the men were bent over him.
They gasped in horror as Hades snapped his eyes open.
"So damn ungrateful"
"Ho...how... Hoooowow... ah... aaah HOW CAN..?"
Hades caught the old man's arm above the elbow and helped himself up.
"Whaa, let go! Let go o'me!" High shrieks came from the crowd.
"What's happening?"
Hades sighed, so drained now. He really didn't feel like quadrupling his kills.
"That, old man, is what happens when you try to shoot an Immortal."
Only petrified silence answered.
"And you know," Hades went on as he got up and picked up his Colt, "as your rewarder is about to learn too, it's a very bad idea."
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

Wishy washy lyricism and maudlin unrequited love are my specialty - so said Lady_Ty

Offline xiagan

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Re: [SEP 2015] Politics, Scheming and Intrigue - Submission thread
« Reply #19 on: October 01, 2015, 08:14:53 PM »
Nora's in, I'm closing this.

Sleep well, Nora! :)
"Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis." (Laplace)