January 17, 2019, 05:06:29 AM

Author Topic: [Sep 2018] - Meetings - Submission Thread  (Read 1088 times)

Offline xiagan

  • Writing Contest Organizer
  • Powers That Be
  • Elderling
  • *
  • Posts: 5708
  • Gender: Male
  • Master Procrastinator
    • View Profile
    • Fictional Times
[Sep 2018] - Meetings - Submission Thread
« on: September 01, 2018, 08:50:07 PM »
Meetings


Evrard d'Espinques of Gallicia, ca.1475

Yes, this sounds boring. But only because of capitalism and companies, and that's nothing we want in our fantasy, right? ;)

Meetings - think Council of Elrond, Dukes get-together, Macbeth's three witches, a council of war, a conspiracy... just get a group (more than two people) together and make it interesting. Doesn't matter if the fate of the world or two copper coins are at stake.


Rules:

1. This must be prose or poetry and inside the fantasy genre.
2. The story has to be about a meeting (see above).
3. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
4. Poetry must be 100-750 words long.
5. One story per person or writing team (not per account).
6. You will be disqualified if you exceed the limits, full stop. That's why they're called limits.
7. Your entry can't be published somewhere else before.
8. This is a writing contest, not a "I have written something like this ten years ago" contest. So if you happen to have a story that fits one of the themes, I'd like it to have a mayor overhaul/edit. Work for it. ;)
9. Please add your story's word count and, if you have, your twitter handle.
10. Please put your story in [ spoiler ] tags to make the thread easier to handle. :) You can find them above the smileys under the B.
Bonus rule: We consider voting in a contest you're taking part in a given. Others take time and effort to read the stories - you should do the same. A small community like ours lives from reciprocity and this contest needs stories as much as votes. 

If you want so submit your story anonymously you can do so by sending it in a personal message to @xiagan.

Entry will close September 30th/October 1st, 2018 and voting will begin somewhere around the same time too.

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

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

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

Offline Jake Baelish

  • Soulfinder
  • *****
  • Posts: 76
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: [Sep 2018] - Meetings - Submission Thread
« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2018, 06:59:27 AM »
The Ruby Gauntlet

1500 Words

Spoiler for Hiden:
The meeting didn’t end at all as expected.

Those assembled restlessly – around the circular granite block serving as a table – included the leaders of every major force in recent conflict with the kingdoms of men: orken, oburluks, goblins, Akatians, wolfmen, Baskilites, and dark elves. As per the rules of diplomacy, none came armed with anything but a single gauntlet; all but myself – a wizard troubles himself not with the encumbering armaments of the lesser species. My part was, as an outsider, merely that of a neutral observer. Not that those in attendance cared for such claims to impartiality.
 
“You were there, wizard!” spat Drek, the orken general, a bulbous man whose jaw jutted with teeth like broken hog’s tusks. “You should know how they think of us. Self-righteous dogswhores, the lot of them!”

Drek had recently returned from a diplomatic meeting with the seven kings. It appeared to have left him somewhat disgruntled.

“Piffle,” I said. “I left before it really got going. Anyone could see there’d have been little give on either side. Regardless, General, I come here under peaceful terms of observation. It is in everyone’s interests that this gathering is more productive than your last.”

The orken mountain raged. “A filthy waste of time, is what it was! They offer us nothing, the disgusting bathing swines. We are blamed for all that has happened. We should pay the highest price. We’d be their damned slaves! Dogswhores! We should gather all our forces and launch an immediate invasion of the nearest of them without wasting another moment here. Dogswhores!”

“Calm yourself, Drek.” Salaria, Queen of the dark elves. “You expected too much of the younger beings. Your mistake was in thinking they’d ever have heard our voices to begin with. An invasion, though? Your anger brings you to foolishness.”

Foolishness it was, too. How many times had this ragtag bunch launched similar attacks and suffered massive losses? Drek’s idea was inexplicable.   

“What, then, would you propose she-elf?” the animosities toward all elves remained potent as ever.

“No tact, no diplomacy,” she said with absolute serenity. “Assassination is our best option. As we have said before. Cutting the head off the snake, as they say. Or rather, many snakes.”

I felt obliged to speak. “Might I remind you that my observatory status at this table extends only to what is deemed to be within the realm of honour. Assassination is not something I’d feel comfortable keeping from your adversaries.”

Eyes of green and red and milky, pussy white fell on me, reminding me of my tenuous position.

“You ought to consider your surroundings, wizard,” thundered Toran, towering head of the Baskilites. “You stand here at our mercy. We’d implore you to remember that, in the context of these discussions. You needn’t leave these lands until after such an action is taken, should we deem it necessary.”

Salaria gave a curt nod to the Baskilite Tsar, who flexed his bulging shoulder carapace in some carnivorous show of malice.

Drek ranted on. “A nonsense idea! Are you blind, woman? Each of them housed in his massive fortress, surrounded by his best, most loyal armed guard. And good luck getting them altogether! As for you, wizard; tell us why we shouldn’t stick you like a pig, right here.”

I couldn’t, in all fairness. I acted as intermediary, yet I’d made my better judgment known often enough, and it didn’t favour my current company.

“Quiet, Drek,” said oburluk king Orag. He’d been the only one seated and now struggled to raise his bloated form; his enormous belly rested heavily on the rough edge of the granite. After picking something from his pig-like snout he said, “This man is our guest, and comes under the guarantee of safe passage. It does not befit our cause to make idle threats to one of The Council. Besides, his superior – Lord Grimoire – might offer his sympathies to us. A powerful one, is he. If he could sway the entire Council…”

“He wouldn’t sway shit!” Drek hissed. “He thought he could help once then scuttled back to his hovel in the mountains once he deemed us unworthy of his aid. Invasion; invasion; invasion! It’s the only way. Bleeders won’t know what’s hit them. Dogswhores!”

The orken’s ravings stopped short when a gauntleted fist slammed the table. The Akatians would speak.

“We tire of this, orken.” The icy tones and inclusive pronoun silenced the chamber the way only the Akatian King, Al’Va’Torice, could. Near blazing blue eyes darted from that wan expression, daring any of us to interrupt. “You do not command here. I lose count of how many we have lost in years gone by. You orken, goblins, oburluks: you breed like rabbits. You breed so much fodder you almost piss yourselves with desire to be rid of it. My people are not so fortunate. Our winter palaces thaw and crumble as the population dwindles. Forget your worthless invasion. And forget calls for assassination. Diplomacy remains our shrewdest option for the present. Let future generations seek vengeance on our behalves.”

Grunts from the wolfman and goblin suggested the winter king’s idea was not popular. Had I been a goblin or wolfman, with a taste for man-flesh, I might have grunted disapproval too!

Drek was beside himself. “DIPLOMACY? Have you listened to a word? You snivelling, frost-bitch, snow-fouling, sack of elf’s wine!”

Al’Va’Torice flew across the table. Only the swift interception of the wolfman and goblin king kept the opposing leaders apart. He was escorted back to his position and demonstrated respect for the rules by pursuing the matter no further, though I felt sure the issue was far from finished.

Drek, sweat coursing down his face, glared across the room. “Have none of you a backbone?”

Silence.

“Dogswhores! Dogswhores everywhere!”

The goblin leader, Relb, tentatively said, “we can still pillage the border villages. A few hamlets, here and there.”

“Raaaaaaaaah!” Drek ripped at the straps on his gauntlet and launched it across the table. It clattered to a stop halfway between us all.

Gasps, growls and howls of outrage ensued. Drek, however, wasn’t done. “Hamlets?! To the lowest reaches of the dankest pits of hell, all of you! I’m done. I’ll hear no more of this!”

Drek stormed from the meeting chamber, leaving only a moment of stunned quiet. Eyes cast from the gauntlet, to one member of the assembly, to the other. The discarded plate, encrusted with a single great ruby, echoed with familiarity.

Poor Drek, I thought; he surely knew they’d not agree.

Relb broke the silence. “Of course, with peace, eating them would be out of the question?”

Salaria responded with ire. “You disgusting creatures! Is that all you lot concern yourselves over? Your filthy gluttonous bellies?”

The wolfman grunted agreement. Irony is lost on such monsters.

All around me the remaining leaders bellowed at each other. The room got heated in both literal and figurative senses. And that gauntlet. That ruby. I did recognise it. Had I not given such a stone as a gift to one of the seven kings but a year before? How on earth had Drek come about it?

To my right, Toran seized Al’Va’Torice by the throat, raising the Akatian so his legs waggled fiercely off the floor. “You’d see us all in hiding, ice-man?”

The king slammed his arms down, breaking free of the immense Baskilite. Blue light gathered round his gauntlet, only to fizzle out as Salaria rammed the Akatian from behind.

“Order! Order!” yelled Orag.

The chamber was an oven, now. Perhaps the flared tempers blinded the attendees to the fact. Voices roared, though Orag – for once – was heeded. All seemed ready to erupt at the slightest trigger.

None of them did. My acquaintance with the ruby in the gauntlet came with dreadful realisation. A magical stone as that had indeed left my possession. I’d warned the benefactor to never trust it in the wrong hands. Now, the thing glowed with a fierce intensity.

Words tumbled from my lips. The shield appeared just in time.

Flaming pillars exploded from the stone in twirling dervishes, wrapping the room in a blanket of blazing fury. The screams would soon end.

Orag went first; his bloated belly burst in a bubbling mess of putrid, steaming guts. Salaria came next, a funnel of fire ripped right through her midsection and she dropped, smoking. Al’Va’Torice, the indefatigable King of Akatia, melted away just as he’d claimed of his famed palaces, only he melted in a pouring volcano of blood and gore. The rest of the congregation burned. Burned like meat, sizzling horribly in the flames. Screams of agony echoed around me. It was a slaughter the likes of which I’d not thought possible to experience at such proximity. And which I’d not wish to again.

When the flames fizzled out and smoke cleared, I took down my shield and departed the mess. The orken’s meeting with the Seven hadn’t been entirely fruitless, it turned out. At least not for the orken.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2018, 07:01:32 AM by Jake Baelish »
Check out my book 'Prince of Fiends' here: http://amzn.eu/4l5M7OO
Follow Prince Leon Atlantus as he forms a dangerous friendship with his captors, while held hostage across a world headed for war...

Offline JMack

  • Hircum Magna Rex of the Fabled Atku Temple, and writing contest regular
  • Writing Group
  • Ringbearer
  • *****
  • Posts: 6836
  • Gender: Male
  • Our daily efforts are love poems to the universe.
    • View Profile
    • Tales of Starlit Lands
Re: [Sep 2018] - Meetings - Submission Thread
« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2018, 04:38:10 PM »
1,500 words, including the title, which is:

THE WIDOW’S GUILD

Spoiler for Hiden:
Marya pu Nova came to the ancient city of Lankoor alone, with only her imperial citizenship and a trunk she’d packed in bare minutes. Her servants had been shocked; her family had tried to stop her.  But when the news came that her husband’s ship was lost, she took passage herself that very afternoon and sailed to Lankoor, the final port he’d visited.

Lankoor had a long history of widows. It had nearly been put to the sword entirely when the empire swallowed it a generation before. But that, at least, had brought years of peace and wealth. As long as Lankoor obeyed the emperor, the empire was content to leave it to its internal squabbles, its labyrinthine alleys, and the troops of monkeys that roamed the city’s rooftops.

Marya lodged in Tenth Independent House, taking an attic room with a view of the sea, from where she could watch for her husband’s unlikely return.

She woke from grief slowly. Tea with the old widow who owned Tenth House drew her back to the society of others. The morning calls of the water-sellers grew familiar, and the slow rhythm of the sun-baked city brought her peace. She taught Cook how to season her favorite stew. She learned the names of the lodgers who came and went. But every dawn and every eve she returned to her rooms to watch the far horizon.

One morning, between tea and morsels of gossip, the proprietor of Tenth House died. Marya caught her as she slid from her couch, gently lowering the old widow to the tiled floor.

“You gotta tell the Widows Guild.” Cook rubbed away tears with her apron. Her  accent was difficult, but Marya prided herself on knowing the Koori language.

“I?” she said. She set two coins over the widow’s eyes, Koori silvers, since the old woman wouldn't have preferred Imperials.

“She’d have wanted it to be you. Besides, you're a citizen.”

“Which means?”

“They’ll listen to you. We want a good widow to buy the Tenth, not one of those rich women that play at running a House. They bring in their own servants, and none of them have any idea what it means to be a proper Independent House.”

Marya folded the widow’s hands over her breast. “She brought you with her when she bought Tenth House, didn't she?”

“That was different” sniffed Cook. “We learned. We listened.”

Marya let that go. Yes, her friend had worried about the right kind of woman buying her House after she died, but she’d smiled and said that day was years off.  How the fates laughed. Marya shook herself mentally. “Well, if the staff want me to take a message to these widows, I’ll need to know more about them.”

Cook showed Marya where the old woman kept her scrolls and the engraved deed to Tenth House. Marya pieced them together with what she already knew.

Five centuries before, a Koori king named Ralkabar, filled with regret over the waste of life from his father’s wars, wanted to help the many widows of the city. He established the Independent Houses as a means for bereaved women to own their own businesses, dedicated to hospitality and the care of travelers. What he didn't anticipate was their take-over by a guild of powerful women, nor the direct means some took to achieve their husbandless and independent state.

While she read, Marya answered questions from the household staff and  ordered a room made up for a new lodger. She’d run her husband’s house in the capital and their estates in the country. Command came naturally. She hardly gave it a thought.

She sent a request to meet with the Widow’s Guild while the staff labored over their message. An invitation came back for an appointment that afternoon.

From her traveling trunk, Marya retrieved the formal white kattan she’d not yet needed in Lankoor. She’d have to take a palanquin or see the gown turned orange by the sand that powdered every city street.

One of the city monkeys that visited her rooms regularly took a corner of the gauze-like cotton between his leathery fingers.

“Leave that be,” Marya admonished gently. The monkeys came and went from her attic, and as long as they were well-behaved and did their business elsewhere she found them little bother. Many Lankoori chased and cursed them. For her, they were a welcome distraction.

As she left for the guild house, Cook pressed a small, sealed scroll into her hands. “Private. For the guild,” she said, ducking her head apologetically.

 Marya shut tight the curtains of the palanquin, though the heat was dreadful. The bearers huffed with effort as they shouldered her up Lankoor’s steep hills.

“Get away,” said one bearer, answered by a monkey’s teasing chatter. Her attic visitor must have joined them on their way. “Damned nuisances.”

The Widow’s Guild met at First Independent House, the grand manse built by King Ralkabar’s own widow, who retired from public life to avoid being poisoned by her son. It was fit for a queen, with four-story wings centered on a great hall fronted by wide marble steps. The bearers lowered the litter, and Marya stepped out. Her simian companion disappeared up a column of the portico.

She was conducted to a chamber where fourteen well-dressed women waited at a table set with fifteen golden bells, one draped in black. Marya studied their faces and found a mix of pride, vague interest, and disdain.

A woman wearing a heavy gold chain rose at the center of the table. “Greetings, Citizen Widow pu Nova,” she said in a self-important voice. “Welcome to First Independent House. I am Purnater Koohba, of the ancient Koohbani lineage, proprietor and elected guild head.”

As an imperial citizen, Marya had no obligation to bow, but she gave a respectful nod. She handed Cook’s scroll to a servant, who presented it to the guild head.

Marya spoke. “Thank you, Widow Koohba. You know of Widow Kranti’s sad passing this morning. This scroll is from the staff at Tenth House. With your gracious permission, I am here to speak for them about the future of the House.”

“You are an imperial,” interrupted a fat widow to the guild head’s right. “Why should we sell Tenth House to a foreigner?”

Marya reined in a flash of anger. She’d endured much more in Lankoor than sour looks and high prices in the marketplace. “You mistake me, Widow. I’m here on behalf of the staff at Tenth House, who have sent a request about their future.”

“Which appears to be,” said Widow Koohba, “that we sell Tenth House to you.” She’d snapped the seal on the scroll and held it in front of her, reading.

Surprise rendered Marya speechless.

“It might be useful for us to have an imperial citizen in the guild,” mused another of the widows. “She needn’t take poor Kranti’s seat on the council.”

“I did not know,” Marya protested, though she should have suspected. “I have no interest in owning Tenth House or joining your council.” She said this last while looking at the fat widow who'd called her foreigner. “I simply wished to give a voice to —”

“Yes, yes,” said Widow Koohba. “And so you have.” She tossed the scroll onto the table. “You are new to Lankoor. It takes years, if not generations, for this city to accept strangers. You do not know our ways, our manners. But no matter. If, as you say, you have no interest in Tenth House, then accept our thanks for attending us on such a hot day.”

The dismissal was so rude that Marya found her pride rebelling. Why shouldn’t she buy Tenth House? Why shouldn't she take a place among these Lankooris? She’d teach them manners!

Something flew down from the ceiling of the chamber, landing with a brown slap.  Widow Koohba gasped, then grunted with disgust at the pile of feces by her feet. The women craned their necks to stare into the recess above. Ranks of monkeys crowded every rafter and clung to every crack and ledge. How they'd gotten there was anyone’s guess. Their silence was almost as discomfiting as their very presence.

Marya’s attic visitor dropped to the floor and took her hand. He was joined by another and another.

“I think Lankoor has already accepted you,” said the widow who’d thought a citizen might be good for the guild. She raised her bell and rang it firmly. Another widow rang hers, and then ten more.

Marya moved from her attic to the old widow’s rooms the next day. She gave the horizon a long look, thinking how strange it was to give up so much for the confines of this foreign city and the burden of Tenth House. With a parting glance at the monkeys, who had reclaimed the attic, she had to wonder if they’d really desired that she stay or only wanted the room back.
« Last Edit: September 30, 2018, 10:44:40 PM by JMack »
Change, when it comes, will step lightly before it kicks like thunder. (GRMatthews)
You are being naive if you think that any sweet and light theme cannot be strangled and force fed it's own flesh. (Nora)
www.starlit-lands.com

Offline Slaykomimi

  • Soulfinder
  • *****
  • Posts: 98
    • View Profile
Re: [Sep 2018] - Meetings - Submission Thread
« Reply #3 on: September 23, 2018, 11:56:42 PM »
This time I put more effort into editing, I am still sure there are many errors and things that could be improved...

ANYHOW, it´s 1169 Words long.

going too far

Spoiler for Hiden:
„Welcome, nice to meet you, please shed all your ballast and follow me to the gathering“ is the first thing Markus heard after the door to the weird house at the edge of town opened. „Thank you for inviting me, I am allready excited“ Markus replied and started by taking off his bag and lay it to the corner where the other bags were stored and started to follow the man through the narrow rooms stuffed with bookshelfs. There were a lot of bags in the corner near the entrance, together with some staffs, an ax and two daggers. Nobody would ever suggest to find so much knowledge written down under such a simple roof.

They end up in a small circle room made of Stone with a metal ladder inside, „please follow me up to the dome“ the man said. It was a small tower with small round windows, with a wooden hatch on the ceiling. They climb through the hatch and arrive in a dome made mostly of glas, the night sky mostly illuminated the room, together with many different candles and fireflies, floating through the room. There are big carpets covering the floors, many pillows in different sizes for sitting. There is no forniture at all, making the room to appear bigger than it actually is.

In the center of the room were 4 people sitting and talking allready, a tablet with little pots and bowls is in the middle of them filled with different dried plants and powders. Everyone turns arround to the newcomer. „Well, we are complete now, I think everyone should introduce now so we can start the gathering. Let us start with our special guest“.

Markus took the word with pleasure „good evening everyone, my name is Markus, I am a local author and it´s an honor for me to take part in this magic ritual“.

The buffed young man next to him raises to his feet „ greetings everyone, my name is Willhelm, I am traveling together with my older brother Chester here to research the nearby mountains and refine our skills in sorcery“.

Chester kept sitting on the floor, filling his pipe with some purple dried leafs and some orange powder „ I am Chester, the older brother of Willhelm here“ he stops to take a sip from his short pipe. After a short period of time he exhales the smoke, the others wait for him to continue but after long silence Pelufia takes the word. „My name is Pelufea,I am traveling through the lands, feeling the magic flowing through my bare feet as I walk through the fields and forests“. She turns her head over to the next one in the circle.

„I am Serina“ She paused the sentence to take a sip on her long thin pipe, her eyes kept fixed at nothing particular. „my way home led me through this village and this is actually my first gathering too“.

„I want to say hello and thank you all for joining today again, I am Franklin, owner of this house and host of this gathering“. He sits down and asks the guests to sit down too with a gesture of his hand. The mages reach out for the little bowls in their middle and gather different dried leafs between their finger tips and dip them into the powders. Everyone except Markus are smoking on a pipe. The room filled with hazy smoke in different colors as they release it from their lungs.

„This smell is very sweat, may I try it out too?“ Markus asked with great enthusiasm and the others exchange questioning looks till Serina turns to him with another pipe in her hand, „of course you can, take my spare pipe, but take care of her please“.

She reaches out to his hand and moves it to the pots, guiding him which plants to pick and in which powders to dip in. The eyes of the others turn a little wider with a worried but still curious look on their faces. Markus keeps his carefree attitude and Serina has a smile that the others havent seen on her yet, it´s warmer and kinder than even the cheerful smiles of Pelufea.

Markus tempers the pipe with his thumb. Serina explains very careful „you should start by inhaling the smoke bit by bit into your mouth“ as she ignites the pipe with her fingers and continues „than inhale it into your lungs, keeping it inside a little and than gently release it from your body“.

With a hasty gasp Markus inhales very much of the smoke at once, reducing all the leafs inside the chamber to ashes. Everyone looks shocked at Markus and Serinas warm smile turns into a hideous grin. The rainbow colored smoke rushes out through Markuss nose and mouth and he is coughing very much, but it calms down after a few seconds. Franklin asked Markus if he is fine while the others glare at Serina.

„You should not give a non-mage, let alone someone who never smoked before give a pipe like this“ Willhelm barked at her.

„I join his mind, it could be very dangerous for him“ Pelufea adds with a concerned look.

Chesters leans back and relaxes a bit „Don´t worry so much, he will be fine. No one ever had serious problems no matter how much they took, even at their first times“.

While they are arguing, Markuss eyes turn yellow and wide, staring into the arguing crowd but focusing on unimaginable dimensions. Franklin tries talking to him but he his mind is far away allready, nobody could tell what he is experiencing right now. Franklin turns to Serina „I think this really went too far, you shouldn´t have given him strong herbs like this, especially not with that powder combination“. He continues with a stern look „I think we don´t need to vote it out and all agree that it would be the best if you would leave this gathering right now“.

Serina stands up with a wide grin and agrees with the others, but before leaving she stuffs herself a pipe, the same type of pipe she stuffed for Markus. She bends over, getting close to his spaced out face, taking her spare pipe back and whispers in his ears „sweet dreams, enjoy your journey“. She lifts the hatch and climbs down.

Everyone is a little confused, till Chester breaks the silence „Well… lets continue the gathering“.

„What to you mean continue the gathering? We throwed one out and another one is tripping into other dimensions here, theres no way we can continue“ Willhelm complains. The other members start to whisper to each other with concerned looks.

Franklin raises his hand as a sign of silencing the crowd „we arte still enough, we can´t do anyting about Markus here anyway and it would be a waste of time to cancel it all now“.

Willhelm sighs „well, you are right, ok lets continue“.

Pelufea starts talking „Well, lets start with…“.
Truly, if there is evil in this world, it lies within the heart of mankind.

-Edward d. Morrison

Offline Jenny HJ

  • Coreling
  • ***
  • Posts: 31
  • Gender: Female
  • Ent Provider to the horticulturally deprived.
    • View Profile
Re: [Sep 2018] - Meetings - Submission Thread
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2018, 08:45:06 PM »

Title  The Price of Peace

1166 words.

My first ever publicly shared piece of writing, I hope it's enjoyable. I had fun writing it!

Spoiler for Hiden:
I feel my throat beginning to constrict as it swells, my hands rising up to grasp at it. While I gasp for air, I imagine I look rather like a fish out of water with my mouth gulping at emptiness. After all the guarantees, and exchanges of hostages, with the territory boundaries agreed and the war so close to a truce, I have to be the one to get poisoned at the end! Sliding down my chair I slip out of my seat, scales rattling as I lose control of my limbs. My vision closes in as I manage to spike my hand on the anticipated antidote hidden under the table. Silently I pray to the Lord of Chaos that my spies had been right. This had better work!

 The haze of my vision begins to clear almost immediately, but I stay down. My heart races and I feel the clawed hands of my honour guard moving me towards the back corner of the chamber. The shocked silence that had struck when I started to react to the poison was broken suddenly by many voices raised in shock. Then, a wood splintering crack echoed through the room as the giant table broke under the weight of Valour’s scaly tail.

 ‘Who is responsible for this travesty?’ His resonant voice thundered. I could imagine the steam pouring forth from his snout as he raged. We had rehearsed this bit because quite simply, Dragons are awful actors.
 “I call a meeting under truce flags and my General is poisoned in my very own hall” The scrape of his claws along the remains of the table was a bit of overkill, but he was still doing well. I try to peer out of swollen, slitted eyes at the room from the corner.
 The delegation of Ents seemed to be unswayed by proceedings and were staring sadly at the broken table. The mountain centaurs looked ready to take flight, but then again, they always did unless they held a sword, or bow. The harpy General however was moving closer to my corner. Knowing that Lycinna was a Lich, I stayed as still as I could, each breath as shallow as I could make it, to avoid moving the panels of my armour. My view was quickly obscured by the feet of the Honour Guard as they stood protectively over my body so I closed my eyes.
 ‘Such fast poison!’ I could hear Lycinna murmur. ‘So effective with such, dramatic symptoms. Look his hand is quite purple under the scales already! This is not a poison one comes across very often. Lord Valour, may I be so bold as to suggest that the cause of your General’s forthcoming demise is nightblush?’
 Valour let out a jet of smoke in response. He was still doing well then. Now we just had to stick to the plan. I had been filling my bladder all day and as Lycinna’s soft footfalls were getting ever closer I let it go. If that didn’t help convince her that I was almost dead, and cause her to back away, we were in trouble.
I heard the steps halt, then quickly withdraw. Quiet whispers were repeating her accusation and the word nightblush was being whispered around the room.

 Like wind through dried leaves,The High Ent spoke. ‘Nightblush is only found deep in our main Heartwood, well beyond the current battle lines. None would pass us that we would not be aware of, and none has.’
 Lycinna followed up the old Ent. ‘Indeed so Old one. Can you say that though that you know all the locations of dried berries as well? Stored or removed prior to the war?’
 ‘We know of only two such stores. One is our own, and therefore clearly this murder is meant to fall at our feet. The other one, that is in the Poisoners Guild in the city that rings this very hall.’ The vibration of a chair being pushed back rang through the floor tiles.
 I tried to look out at the room again, my eyes were decreasing in swelling. This situation needed to come to a head soon. The piss might not put them off indefinitely when I started to look better rather than worse! Through the slit of one eye I saw the human mage stand. Small, soft, smelly creature that he was. Raising a finger he pointed it at the Ent delegation, ‘So you admit your own guilt by this admission?’
 The High Ent recoiled, ‘Never! We are here for peace, we are killed faster than we grow. We need peace, more than all of you. Lord Valour,’ he appealed, ‘you know this.’ The wind in the voice sounded more urgent as the words ended, I could not see his face, and ever have found the Ent difficult to read, but I believed him. Of course, I knew who had poisoned me, so I would
 A new voice entered the discussion, deep and musical, the Centaur asked the question that we had hoped for. ‘So who would benefit from sabotaging this meeting. Who needs this war to continue?’ Silence fell, but only momentarily before the human spoke again in his pathetic reedy voice
 ‘Lycinna! After all, who else needs dead bodies like a Lich?’ He spat the last word out with venom. Valour must have swung his head around as I could feel the heat of his breath as his head swung my way and the cool as it passed away again.
 I knew he would be waiting for a signal, a sign to act on. The door to the hall banged open and I heard one of my own troupe speak,
 ‘Lord Valour, it is gone.’ I heard the click of his scales as he raised a salute and the door closed as he left.

 We had them.

 I braved a small movement hoping that they were all looking at Valour. We had waited many months to bring this war to an end. Piss soaked, purple and swollen I may be, but I wanted to see it.
 Valour reached out a huge claw, and hooked it into the robe of the human, picking him up and dangling him in front of his nose, he swatted away small fireballs as if they were angry mosquitos.
 ‘This war ends today. We all have too much to loose.’ He said, looking around the room and punctuating his speech with more smoke. ‘The only gain in this war has been in coin. While our homes have been ravaged and burnt, the human city grows ever more opulent feeding from our desire for weapons and supplies. Every opportunity for peace has been sabotaged by their greed. I would put forward an extra clause in the treaty. From this day forth, no one of our nations will do further trade with humankind, for anything. They will stand alone for all time.’

 A chorus of voices was raised in assent and The War was over.
/spoiler]
 

Offline OnlyOneHighlander

  • Writing Contest Regular
  • Builder
  • ******
  • Posts: 109
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
    • The Macpherzone
Re: [Sep 2018] - Meetings - Submission Thread
« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2018, 11:59:34 AM »
Here is my entry: A Sting in the Tail

1497 words.

Spoiler for Hiden:

A Sting in the Tail

Galton Pubis watched the old woman draw a black-gloved finger across the top of the lectern.

‘Dusty,’ she said.

‘And at no extra cost,’ replied Galton, jamming his thumbs into the straps of his publican’s apron. But all joviality drained from his demeanour when his prospective client turned and fixed him with a gorgonian gaze.

‘It will have to be cleaned, and thoroughly.’ The old women rubbed the dust on her gloved finger against a bony, twisted thumb. ‘Twice. My members are sensitive to such things.’

‘Yes, of course,’ said Galton.

The old woman turned towards the door, her heavy black dress trailing through yet more dust. ‘And these doors, Mr Pubis, they can be locked?’

‘Yes.’

‘From the inside?’

‘Oh yes, the privacy of our customers is guaranteed,’ said Galton.

‘Good,’ said the old woman, giving the room on last sweep. ‘My members do not like to be disturbed.’

‘Of course, mam,’ said Galton.

‘Very good. This will suffice. I shall return tomorrow night. And remember Mr Pubis, twice.’ She held up a finger and traced a perfect circle on the dust on the door. ‘I shall be checking.’

‘No problem, mam. I’ll have the girls get right to it.’ He took a battered notepad from his apron pocket. Like all good facilitators of suspicious goings on, Mr Pubis was a fastidious bookkeeper. ‘And can I have a name for me book, mam?’

The old woman’s eyes narrowed and under that gaze Galton felt the valves in his heart do the same. When she spoke it was one word, cold and creeping. ‘Missus.’

‘Ah, ha, yes,’ said Galton. Somehow he knew this was the wrong thing to ask but he couldn’t help it. The columns had to be filled. ‘And your other name, Mrs…’

‘Just Missus. My other name was taken from me.’

‘I, I am sorry, mam, Missus. Sorry. And, may I also have,’ he started, afraid his tongue was about to talk him off a cliff, ‘the name of your organisation? For the book, Missus.’

Missus reached her black-gloved hand into the folds of her black dress and Galton shivered. She retrieved from the heavy fabric a black purse and Galton gulped. She opened the purse’s clasp with the snicking sound of a guillotine release and Galton rubbed a sheen of sweat from his neck. Finally, she dipped her hand into the murky depths of the purse and pulled out a single, white rectangle of card. Turning it over slowly, she placed it on the quivering leaves of Galton’s open notebook.

On the card were written only two letters, each one in thick, black, bold, serif type. The letters were W.I. and reading them, the large, fat publican gulped so hard he nearly swallowed his tongue.

Missus let the tinniest hint of a smile pass onto her lips. ‘Yes, Mr Pubis,’ she said, answering the question he dared not ask. ‘That W.I.

*

The moon hung over the city of Moot, fat and boiled white. In the backroom of the Drunken Drake, Missus surveyed her membership. Hobble-stepped old women shuffled along the rows of hard wooden chairs and, on reaching their predestined places, decanted all manner of quilts, rugs, cushions, blankets and coverlets from tightly clasped handbags. Accoutrements arranged, they each settled into their own miniature four-legged fiefdoms. A few men, all equally elderly, were speckled through the crowd, white-haired flecks in a sea of black bonnets. All in all, it looked something like a wake, and that of course was the point.

‘We have all lost,’ said Missus, taking her place behind the lectern.

‘What’s that?’ said a voice from the back.

‘She got lost,’ said one from the middle.

‘I’m not surprised,’ replied the one from the back. ‘Quite hard to find this place.’

‘You’re not wrong,’ chipped in another voice. ‘I don’t see why we have to go somewhere so out of the way.’

‘We have to meet somewhere out of the way, Bernice,’ said Missus. ‘Because this is a secret meeting. It is difficult to keep a secret meeting secret if it is held prominently. Now, if I may continue, we have bigger fish to fry.’

‘MaCallum’s!’

Missus swivelled her gaze to this new interruption. ‘You wish to intercede too, Doramin?

‘MaCallum’s,’ repeated Doramin. ‘They do a lovely bit of fish. It’s always MaCallum’s for me. That was my Terry’s favourite.’

A general mummer of agreement rippled across the room and Missus decided better to let sleeping dogs lie. ‘Quite.’ She reset and began again. ‘As I was saying, we have all lost, we have all of us here things taken from us, and we have all suffered, not just the loss, but the indignity…’

Another tremor of agreement ran front to back.

‘…The indignity that comes when the perpetrators of that loss, the thieves and murd-’ Missus stumbled on that word. Even now she still stumbled, because even now it still hurt. But she had sworn she would go on. ‘And murderers, who stole from us our most precious possessions, we see them lifted up, lauded, rewarded even, all in return for their crimes, for their violence!’

The members rumbled again as Missus’ black-gloved hands closed on the lectern, tight and firm. ‘And for that violence,’ she said. ‘They have the gall, the temerity, the brazen effrontery, to call themselves… heroes.’

The final word was sneered out, spat onto the floor, where the stamping feet of the assembled crowd ground it into the remnants of Mr Pubis’ attempts at cleanliness.

‘They took my Rodger!’ shouted the voice from the back.

‘They killed my boys,’ cried out the voice from the middle.

‘My Terry,’ said Doramin quietly, digging in her sleeve for a black handkerchief.

‘These warmongers and wizards.’ Missus came out from behind the lectern, and stalked in front of the ranks. ‘They think nothing of slaughtering whole castles full of guards - men with families and hopes and mouths to feed – they think nothing of destroying towns, caught in the crossfire of their sorcerous duels. They give not a thought to diplomacy, to reason, to the people who must pick up the pieces, and pieces of pieces, of their grand victories.’

The thumping and stomping of the crowd reached its zenith. Missus let the audience have their moment. Then, leaning forward she asked, ‘And so, do you want to know what we’re going to do about it?’

The cheers gave all the answer Missus needed. She had come to Moot – the great city of heroes – to start a fire. Here was the spark.

‘Members, we are going to rid this city of its heroes, every last one-’

‘GO, GO, GO!’ The shouts came from all around. With a crash, armed figures dropped on ropes through freshly kicked holes in the thatched roof. At the back, the doors of the function room were thrown open and a golden-haired warrior advanced on the now cowering crowd.

‘By the authority of the City of Moot and the Heroes Guild I am arresting this gathering.’

Missus’ eyes flared with rage at the intrusion. The hero’s fellow Guild members formed a line between her and her members.

‘What is the meaning of this,’ she sneered. ‘This is a private meeting of mourning. You have no right.’

But the lead hero stamped past Missus and stood at the lectern.

‘This organisation has been outlawed. We know all about your plans and they end now.’

‘And who are you,’ said Missus, ‘to tell us what we can and can’t do.’

‘I am Asstin Beam, Vanquisher of the Coldstream Keep,’ Asstin began, eyeing the crowd balefully, ‘And hero,’ he said, letting the word sink linger, ‘of the liberation of Cannonmouth.’

A shudder ran through the crowd. It moved front to back and then returned, ending with the small figure of Doramin rising from her seat. She glared at Asstin and said just two words. ‘My Terry.’

There was a loud thunk and a voice from the back called out, ‘It’s locked, Missus.’

‘What?’ Asstin looked around wildly as the crowd unburdened themselves of their throws and quilts and blankets and gloves and bonnets. Their eyes glowed in the shafts of moonlight falling through the holes in the roof.

Asstin went for his sword, but his hand was caught by Missus’ iron strong grip.

‘Terry. That was her husband’s name. A guard at Cannonmouth Castle. A simple man, doing a simple job, who you murdered.’

‘But, but, you can’t, you’re mad. You’re all mad.’

Asstin pushed Missus away. She stumbled, stopping herself under another of the shafts of moonlight. Under this shine, her body began to grow, to bristle with black fur. The gloves on her hands ripped as long claws punctured through each finger, and her smile grew long and white and sharp.

Missus advanced on Asstin, a shadow of fur and fear, as the rest of the W.I. transformed around her. ‘Yes, hero,’ she hissed. ‘We are very mad indeed.’

“Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them. And it's much cheaper to buy somebody a book than it is to buy them the whole world!” Neil Gaiman

Check out my book Here Be Dragons here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Here-Be-Dragons-David-Macpherson-ebook/dp/B07CCGBDQW/ref=sr_1_3?s

Offline Carter

  • Writing Contest Regular
  • Writing Group
  • Builder
  • ******
  • Posts: 147
    • View Profile
Re: [Sep 2018] - Meetings - Submission Thread
« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2018, 10:47:56 PM »
Here's mine for the month, coming in at 1451 words.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Another Ordinary Night

“ - and the town of - ”

The door swung open, rudely and unapologetically crashing against the wall.  Darkness tried to sneak through the entrance but held at bay by the flickering torches lining the walls.  Agatha's heart sank. 

“You're late.  Again.”

The shadows shifted, the figure of a man stepping quickly from within their embrace and closing the door behind him.  He glanced around, nervous and tense.  His eyes scanned the room, darting from corner to corner like prey searching for its predator.  All of the others just stared at him, expressions ranging from impassive, to frustrated to just plain tired. 

“Just sit down,” she said, gesturing to the vacant chair awaiting his presence. 

He moved, furtive and cautious, fanning the flames of her anger.  Every single time it was the same.  Once perhaps could be forgiven.  Twice smacked of carelessness.  But this was something else entirely. 

“Sit.  Down.”

“But - ”

He pointed towards the door.  A sharp movement of her hand silenced him.  The others watched their customary exchange like long-suffering relatives.  Which of course, in a sense, they were.  And, as had become just as habitual, none leapt to his defence. 

“As I was saying,” Agatha said, regaining the attention of all but Adam, “the town of Bellingford is planning its day of remembrance.  They have requested our attendance in full regalia.”

Smiles crinkled the lined faces of the dozen others.  Years fell away from wrinkled cheeks.  Although Adam's arrival took some of the gloss off her announcement, none could deny the importance of such news.  So few of the local councils still adhered to the old ways, still craved nostalgic, caustic memories of old battles.  Many of those in the room and all those no longer attending had dreaded news that Lysis might follow the example of its neighbours.   

A hesitant hand crept towards the ceiling amidst excited murmurs. 

“I don't know if my cuirass will be ready in time.”

Agatha smiled at the speaker.  Some piece of Edith's equipment was always being misplaced, repaired, or awaiting replacement.  None begrudged her the deception.  All here understood the need to hide some truth.  Perhaps once they would have claimed perfection but the rigours of time eroded even their pride.  If Edith chose to pawn her possessions rather than request financial assistance, if Peter could not admit the failings of his eyesight, then who amongst them could apportion blame?

“Not to worry,” said Margaret.  “I have a spare.  It should fit you and with a bit of polish, it should suit.”

A grateful smile illuminated Edith's face. 

“We will of course need to prepare.  Will Wednesday evenings be acceptable for practice sessions?”

“I can't do Wednesdays,” said Margaret.  “That's when I see the chiropractor.”

“I thought that was Thursdays?”

“He had to change it.  What about Fridays?”

Usually she had her own appointments on a Friday.  But not until the afternoon.  If she moved a few things around then maybe …

Something thudded against the door.  The wood shuddered and buckled, straining inwards.  All eyes turned towards it.  Adam's face blanched. 

“Are we expecting anyone else?”

She knew the answer but had to ask.  Very occasionally someone invited a guest, a relative, some chance-met stranger, to their get-togethers .  Her memory was not what it once was and she might have forgotten.  Shaken heads were her inevitable response, Adam's inevitably furtive.  She sighed. 

“Janice?  I think it's your turn this month?”

Janice gingerly got to her feet.  They still pained her no doubt and Agatha felt a familiar twinge of anger as she shuffled towards the door. 

“We could do Fridays.  Mornings I assume?  Good.  Then Fridays it is.”

Out of the corner of her eye, she watched Janice ease the door open and stagger into the darkness beyond.  The door swung shut. 

“Are we going to use the usual routine?”  said Harold. 

She nodded.

“It's probably for the best.  Keep it traditional.  It's what they'll expect.”

And not just because she no longer trusted any of their memories, particularly not her own.  Definitely not. 

No one objected.  As always, she wondered if they knew her struggles and ignored them, perhaps even pandered to her, much like how they overlooked Harold's unwashed stench or Margaret's desperate clinging to any trace of youth. 

Or Adam. 

The door swung open and shut again.  Agatha thought she caught a glimpse of some shape in the blackness.  Janice's glowered at Adam as she settled back into her seat, her gaze withering him until he looked down at the floor. 

“Now, is there any other business?”

She ignored Adam's immediately upthrust arm.  Instead she started at the other end of the room, meeting Rupert's gaze.  He was unusually alert this evening.  Perhaps his medication had yet to kick in, or some newfangled attempt to stave of the onset of old age. 

“I'm thinking of moving. I'll do the event of course, but afterwards … ”

All eyes turned his way, incredulity rife.  No one left.  No one even talked about it serious tones.  They belonged her, like their ancestors before them.

“Why?”

“I don't think I can do this any more.  There's no one to come after me, as you all know.  And … and I'm not getting any younger.  My doctor tells me that I need to rest.  And if I stay here then …  ”

His words thrummed a chord within her.  Rest was something she craved.  She too felt the bony finger of death reaching her way.  Yet she could not yield to the temptation.  None of them could. 

“Thank you Rupert.  We will discuss it after Bellingford.”

No one challenged the comfortable lie.  Rupert alone might have done but at that moment a window cracked.  Lines spidered out from the centre.  Something thumped at it again and again, the frame creaking under the assault.  She shot a glance at Janice who shook her head in confusion. 

She sighed again.  Time to set aside her frustrations and ask the inevitable.

“What did you do this time?”

Adam looked everywhere except into people's eyes.  The carpet in particular fascinated him. 

“I went to the old temple.”

She squeezed her eyes shut. 

“And you broke the seals?  The ones put in place three hundred years ago?  Why?  What in all the world possessed you?”

“Gareth said … ”

“I told you not to trust him.  The man's a lich.”

“I know.  I remember. But if there's one thing you can trust about a leech, it's their greed, right?  And Gareth said that … ”

“Lich, Adam.  L I C H.”

His head jerked up as someone had yanked his hair back.  His face paled further as the magnitude of his error descended.  Outside, whatever horror Adam had released roamed the night.  It thrashed and beat at the walls, shaking loose a fog of mortar. 

“He said that he would pay handsomely.  He said that he would help reinstate the celebrations, to glorify us once more.”

“And you fell for it.  Again,” said Edith, clambering gingerly to her feet. 

From around her neck, tucked tight against her skin, Edith withdrew a key.  It gleamed bright, polished to perfection, each individual tooth pristine.  Priceless and irreplaceable, it was the one thing she would never lose, never sell.  Around the room, the others retrieved their own until the room was filled with a luminous ochre glow.  Only Adam did not join in.  Too young, too naïve, he was no longer trusted with such a thing. 

As one they each shuffled towards the back wall of the meeting hall.  A door that had been little more than a suggestion hidden in the shadows between two torches began to take shape.  Thirteen keyholes expanded across the previously unblemished surface.  One by one the elderly men and women of their dwindling family inserted their keys into the waiting maws.  Only once the final one had been inserted did they turn. 

A metallic screeching filled the air as the rusted locks relinquished their secrets. 

Beyond the door rested their inheritance.  Long-forgotten treasures both blessed and cursed, weapons of all shapes and sizes, a panoply of the adventurers' art, all awaited the touch of the gods' children, however distant, however aged.  Such an inheritance could never be forsaken or forgotten.  It tied each of them together into a holy bond. 

Even Adam. 

One by one, each chose their favourite.  Only then did she speak again.

“Right.  Now let's save the world from Adam's folly.  Again.”

Offline ShadowKnight

  • Tribute
  • **
  • Posts: 12
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: [Sep 2018] - Meetings - Submission Thread
« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2018, 12:11:11 PM »
Meetstery

1,493 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
Meetstery

The scene flicks into life.

An oval table materializes. Across from it sits a lean, dark-haired gentleman who scans the room with a narrowed gaze.

The view pans rightward. It reaches a black-clad man of pale complexion, then glides again. Next comes a woman in a white dress, her face framed by two buns. She is followed by an individual with dark dreadlocks and a goatee adorned with multi-colored beads. The man’s faded tricorne hat moves left and right as he looks around, wide-eyed.

The silence stretches as the attendees study one another.

“Magical,” a calm voice echoes. The perspective veers to the near side of the table, revealing an old man with long white hair and beard. His bright blue eyes twinkle behind half-moon spectacles.

“Glad you like it.” A young man comes into focus in the foreground. The corners of his lips curl up. “Rick, I
presume?” he says, addressing the old man.

“James!” Rick responds as the perspective shifts back to him. “You look practically the same.”

“Just a few changes here and there,” James says. “Nothing too visible.”

Chuckles sound across the room.

“I, for one, don’t mind some adjustments,” Rick says, reaching for the top of his head.

More laughter.

“Ah,” Rick sighs as his thin fingers brush a strand of his silvery hair. “Too good to be true.” He clears his throat.
“Please go ahead, James. We have limited time.”

James inclines his head and turns to the others. “Thank you all for being here,” he says with open arms. “Before we start, please let me introduce my partner, Alex.” James gestures to his left.

All eyes turn to the camera. The others nod curtly. The view plummets before settling on a pair of hands intertwined just above the wooden surface of the desk. 

“Alex is the smart one,” James’ voice is still heard. “He’s the one with all the answers — I’m just here for show.”

Another salve of laughs. The hands clasp and rub against one another.

“We’re extremely grateful to DataWorld for this opportunity,” James pursues. “I’ve already told you everything you need to know about the project, so I thought the best would be to just let you, well, experience the magic yourselves.”

“As I said in our previous meeting,” Rick starts, “this is no … o … o …” He freezes — his stare blank and his mouth gaping.

“Some things are still a little rough around the edges,” James says with a grin, turning to the others. “But that’s totally normal at this stage of development.”

The old man flinches, his mouth closing instantly. He glances around, then at James, frowning.

“We lost you there for a moment, Rick,” James explains. “You were saying?”

“Oh,” Rick says. “Just that this is, in my opinion, an interesting opportunity for DataWorld, even though it’s well out of our current scope.”

“Take it as a chance to diversify our activity,” James says. “Besides, most of the hard part is already done,” he adds, motioning at the room and the participants.

Rick acquiesces. “You know that I trust your judgment, James. I think it’s safe to say that we all do, given your record at the company.”

Nods from most of the others.

“And this does look impre—”

“I’m sorry,” the perspective jumps to the far side of the table, where the tall, neatly-dressed gentleman leans forward, “but do you really believe that someone is going to be using this?” His sharp gray eyes glare at James. “I mean, just look at him.” He gestures toward the person sitting to Rick’s right — a caped man in a spandex suit with a mask covering the better part of his face. “How do you expect anyone to take you seriously wearing… that?”

The costumed man looks down. “I … I just …” he mumbles in a raspy voice, then stops, his eyebrows raised. “Time was running out so I just picked—”

“Yes, the concept is all great and fun,” the other says. “But the idea of companies buying this is just plain ridiculous.”

The view leaps back to James. His jaw is now tense, his eyes cold. “Professional meetings are just one area of application,” he says. “Meetstery aims to reach a much wider audience. I don’t see why everyone and their neighbor wouldn’t be using it. I’d certainly be using it all the time. And no one’s forcing you to look like anything, Arthur; you can always make your own avatar.”

“Thank goodness. The panel of pre-made avatars is lacking to say the least.”

The frame quavers and focuses on Arthur. “We are working on adding new avatars,” a disembodied male voice says. “It’s a long process, so we decided to start with characters that everybody would be familiar with.”

“Two women, no minorities — I’m sorry, friend, but you’d get burned at the stake if this got released.”

“We …” The perspective falls down to the hands on the table.

“Thank you, Arthur,” James intervenes. “As Alex said, we’re working on it. We’ll make sure to deal with this before launching.”

“Fine.” Arthur crosses his arms and leans back into his chair. “I still don’t see the point, though. Other than wish fulfillment, of course.”

“The anonymity can be great for company meetings,” says the woman sitting beside Arthur. “Everyone can say what they think without fear of being judged by anything other than their ideas.”

“Yes, because we’re all still wondering who you might be — Frances,” Arthur interjects.
Frances rolls her eyes while shaking her head.

“Thanks, Frances,” James says, smiling at her. “That’s one of the aspects I appreciate as well. If you have a good idea, people will listen to you whether you be an intern or the CEO. Also, I’ve found that being someone else, even for a bit, can make you see things from a different angle and give you the courage to speak up.”

The pale man sitting between Arthur and Frances shifts in his seat. “This is all good, but do you have any projected cost figures?” As he speaks, he reveals a pair of sharp teeth. “An estimation of potential revenue?” His eyes move from James to Alex.

James opens his mouth, then shuts it. “Not yet,” he admits.

“However attractive the concept, it seems risky. Selling this won’t be easy. These things are springing up like mushrooms today. And half of them perish before they even get the chance to prove their worth.”

The room falls silent. The view sweeps across the audience. Some nod, others just fixate the table. The masked man stares in front of him with clenched fists.

“I agree,” Arthur says. “Besides, we are doing quite well with our current projects. Why risk everything on a whim for something James has started developing in his basement?”

“I thought that was why we were here,” a guttural growl resonates. “I joined this company believing it was full of innovative people eager to push the boundaries of technology in all kinds of interesting ways. I guess I was wrong.”

Everyone stares at the caped man.

The man’s eyes unfocus, then widen as he looks at the others. “I …” He turns to Rick. “I’m so sorry, sir. I didn’t mean to …”

Rick’s eyebrows shoot up. “Will?”

“So sorry,” Will mutters.

“Don’t be. On the contrary, I value honesty coming from my employees. I’ve never heard you speak your mind like that, that’s all.”

Will lifts his head and gives a small smile.

“Anyway, I suggest we stop here for now,” Rick says. “This is not a decision we are going to make in a single meeting. Everyone think about it, and we will discuss the matter further in a few days. In any case, thank you for sharing this with us, James. You too, Alex.”

Thank-yous are murmured by the others.

“Our pleasure,” James says.

“So, how do we … end this?” Rick asks.

“There is button here …” James raises his hand in front of his eyes and bends the tip of his forefinger. He freezes for a second, then vanishes.

A hand comes into sight. It copies James’ gesture.

Cut to black.



“I told you it didn’t go that bad,” James says, switching off the television.

Alexa pulls her knees to her chest. “I’m sorry I didn’t say much. It was pretty intimidating.”

“They should be the ones who are intimidated, sis. I’m sorry for Arthur. I knew he was going to be trouble. He’s hated me ever since I became product manager. But the others seemed excited.”

“Yeah…”

“You know what I think?” James jumps to his feet. “That a little celebration is in order. I’m going to get us drinks.”

“I’m fine,” Alexa says as James steps away.

Alexa is still staring at the black screen when James comes back with two glasses of champagne. She takes hers and puts it on the table.

She looks at James. “Can we watch it again?”
« Last Edit: September 30, 2018, 06:09:30 PM by ShadowKnight »

Offline Alex Hormann

  • Writing Contest Regular
  • Chrestomanci
  • *
  • Posts: 706
  • Gender: Male
  • Bookworm first, human second.
    • View Profile
Re: [Sep 2018] - Meetings - Submission Thread
« Reply #8 on: September 30, 2018, 01:57:43 PM »
Reunion

1464 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
Even though Calym Reen was my uncle by blood, I’d never met him before. Partly this was because he lived half a continent away from me, in Arrit, but mostly it was because he and my father - his younger brother - were as fond of each other as an apple was of a cider press. I didn’t know the source of their disagreement for sure, but I knew it had something to do with my mum. When she died of blue fever, Uncle Calym didn’t even come to the funeral. Dad was upset about that. Maybe more than he was about Mum, I think. But I was nine, so what did I know?

As you can imagine, it was a surprise when, on my fourteenth birthday, Dad came upstairs and said, ‘Pack your things boy. We’re going to Arrit.’ Surprising though it was, I didn’t question him. By noon we had loaded up our waggon, given the horse a good talking to and we off on the road to Arrit.

Mum, Dad, Uncle Calym, and a bunch of other people I’d never met had been mercenaries. Back in the day when that was still a viable career for young hotheads. By all accounts they’d been good at what they did, and even at the age of fifty Dad was still called on by the neighbours if a wolf or bear took a liking to their livestock. There was a big axe above the hearth that I’d never seen used, but I knew it wasn’t for chopping wood and I knew it was Mum’s. They never talked about themselves, at least not while I was in the room, but old Whiston the baker was forever talking about the Battle of Hagic Peak, the Fall of Keistar, and the War of Sorrows. It didn’t take much for a child’s imagination to insert his parents into those events in suitably heroic detail.

It took the best part of a month to reach Arrit, and half a day to find the worn-down tavern that uncle Calym ran. It was called the Wolf’s Head, and had signage fit to give you nightmares. The door said ‘Closed’, but when Dad knocked it opened. Standing inside was a bald man who looked so much like my father there was no doubt who it could be.

“Calym,” said Dad.

“You’re late,” my uncle replied, but he opened the door wider to let us in. He frowned at me as I smiled up at him. “You’re my nephew. Remma’s kid.”

I nodded. Something in his tone forbade conversation.

“Alright then.” He closed the door behind me. “That’s everyone then.” He pointed to a roaring fire on the south wall. “The other kids are over there.” Then he looked at Dad. “Get you a drink, shall we?”

The walked off to the bar, and for the first time I noticed a huddle of old men - and one old woman - in the dark corner of the room. One I recognised immediately. Dressed in white robes hemmed with vivid green, there was no mistaking Gorren Godson. He’d been at Mum’s funeral, performing the rites. Dad said he’d delivered me into the world too, though of course I didn’t remember that. He was flanked by two scarred and bearded giants. Wiki and Masu, the twin Scourges of the North. Whiston hadn’t had many stories about them, he’d seemed too scared, and now I saw why. The woman had to be Iretta, and from the way she stabbed a pin-like dagger between her fingers fast and hard enough to make my eyes water, she had lost none of the skill Whiston had told me about.

Part of me wanted to follow Dad and sit with the grownups drinking beer, but I did as I was told and headed for the fireplace. I approached the fire, trying to make out the other children huddles around it, more for the thrill of being near an inferno than for warmth.

“Hello,” I said.

There were three of them. Two boys, obviously twins. They looked both younger and larger than me, and I was sure either Wiki or Masu had some part in their birth. They looked up in near perfect unison and smiled. Their front teeth had been filed into points, which gave them a lisp as they spoke. “Who are you?” Who’s your father?

The third, a girl my own age with hair like a straw mattress answered for me. “He’s Harli’s boy, you dungheads. Aren’t you?”

The boys giggled at the word dunghead.

“Harli’s, yeah. My Mum was Remma.”

“I’m Jike,” said the girl, sticking out her hand for me to shake. “Iretta’s daughter.” When I had shaken her hand, she pointed at the boys. “That’s Mugwu, Masu’s sprogling. And Wiki’s son-and heir, Bubu. Just don’t ask me which is which,” she ended with a whisper.

“You look like brothers,” I said.

“Dad and Uncle are twins,” said one, while the other said, “Mum and Aunt were twins.”

“Oh.” What could you say to that? I chose nothing.

Fortunately, Jike was more of a talker. “I’m from Kalee, she said. “It’s a big city across the sea. Makes this place look like a village.”

Arrit, a village? How could anything be that big? “I’m from Bittle,” I said pathetically. “It makes this tavern look like a castle.”

Jike laughed at my joke, which was nice of her. The boys just looked confused. With their scruffy clothes and chubby limbs, they looked more like animals than people. It didn’t help that at some point before my arrival, they had clearly decided it a good idea to rub charcoal from the fire over each other. Streaks of black covered them like their dads’ tattoos.

“What’s going on?” I asked Jike.

“What’s going on where?”

“Here,” I pointed at the adults. “Dad and Uncle Calym haven’t spoken in years, and now they’re all here. The whole group of them.” Except Mum, I thought, but I kept that part to myself.

“Oh, that. Mum said it’s a reunion. They haven’t had a drink together in a long time, so now they are.”

“Ten years,” said either Bubu or Mugwu. Ten years was probably longer than either of them had been alive.

“Oh,” I said again. I wasn’t used to talking to people my own age. In Bittle I was four years older than one neighbour, and fifteen younger than another. We may as well have been cats and dogs for all we could relate to each other. Jike was the first person my age I’d spoken to since a merchant and his son rolled through town a year ago, and she was definitely the first girl I’d maintained eye contact with for so long in my young life. I felt an itch between my shoulder blades. Nervousness. Dad had never had time to tell me about how to talk to girls. “Ten years is a long time.”

“It doesn’t feel like it.”

We all looked up to see Gorren. He was holding a tray of bread rolls and pieces of cheese. “Hungry?”

“Yes, sir,” said Jike, and I followed her lead. The boys said nothing, but when Gorren gave them each a cheese-stuffed roll, they tore into them eagerly.

“It seems like a long time now, but you’ll see it isn’t when you get older,” Gorren said, handing us each a mug filled with warm fruit juice.

“But why?” I asked. “Why is everyone here?”

“Has something happened? Are our dads going to go fighting again?” asked Bubu and Mugwu.

Gorren laughed softly. “Nothing like that. Your dads aren’t going anywhere.” He probably meant it as a reassurance, but the boys looked almost upset by his words. “No. It’s just a get-together. All Calym’s idea.”

I shook my head. “Calym wouldn’t have invited Dad. They hate each other.”

Gorren crouched so his eyes were level with mine. “No they don’t. I’ve never met brothers capable of truly hating each other. I think this reunion is Calym’s way of apologising to your dad. He just needed the rest of us here so he doesn’t have to admit it.” He rose. “I should make sure they’re not drinking too much. We don’t want anyone wrecking Calym’s tavern. I’ll leave you young ones to it.”

I watched him leave. Watched him sit with the others, all laughing and drinking. I don’t think I’d seen Dad that happy since before Mum died. A smile looked nice on him. I turned back to the others.

“Do you know how to play Wiggleball?” I asked. The boys looked confused, but Jike nodded. Together we scrambled away from the fire and onto the street outside, leaving our parents to their business, while we focused on having fun.