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Author Topic: [Nov 2017] - Water - Submission Thread  (Read 810 times)

Offline xiagan

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[Nov 2017] - Water - Submission Thread
« on: November 01, 2017, 03:27:07 PM »
Water


Most na Soci, Slovenia by Brian W. Lackey

This month we want stories, where water of any kind is a key element. Doesn't matter if it's a stormy sea, a misty lake, a polluted river, a frozen waterfall, a terrible flash flood, or a sentient geyser - water is incredibly diverse and we expect the stories to mirror this. :)

Rules:

1. This must be prose or poetry.
2. Water of any kind must play a big role in the story.
3. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
4. Poetry must be 100-750 words long.
5. One story per person or writing team (not per account).
6. You will be disqualified if you exceed the limits, full stop. That's why they're called limits.
7. Your entry can't be published somewhere else before.
8. This is a writing contest, not a "I have written something like this ten years ago" contest. So if you happen to have a story that fits one of the themes, I'd like it to have a mayor overhaul/edit. Work for it. ;)
9. Please add your story's word count and, if you have, your twitter handle.
10. Please put your story in [ spoiler ] tags to make the thread easier to handle. :) You can find them above the smileys under the B.

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

Entry will close November 30th/December 1st, 2017 and voting will begin somewhere around the same time too.

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

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

Remember that this thread is only for entries. Discussion or questions can be posted here.
« Last Edit: November 01, 2017, 03:29:32 PM by xiagan »
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Offline RobertS

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Re: [Nov 2017] - Water - Submission Thread
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2017, 03:31:09 PM »
Here is my submission, "I Am Wet." 666 words long.

Spoiler for Hiden:
I am water. I let the Tao flow freely and I guide it. I am at peace, but I am no stranger to turbulence.

As I lift my hands, I bring forth my chi from the center of my being. Today the Tao feels thick and rich as I start the first postures. I have been dreaming lately of the island I grew up on so long ago. I am distracted from the now and seeing the past. I focus and I look in the mirror at my five best students. They are all doing well so it is time for me to surprise them.

As we pause in the White  Crane Spreading Its Wings posture, I say, “I am honored to have taught and shared these simple motions with you. It is time that you see what is possible. It is time that I leave. I have been having dreams of the island I grew up on. I plan to visit my old home soon.
“You have all learned enough to grow on your own. I have nothing binding me here where I am today. Thank you for sharing this dream with me.”

“Sifu, when will you return?”

I ask, “Do you trust your Tao?”

My students are all much taller than I am. The sailors who took me were taller than the tallest men on our island and the children these days would, in turn, tower over those sailors. My students are ready to be masters. I wonder if I will meet any of them again.

“Sifu, we should have a party.”

I say, “This is our party.”

“Sifu, when will you return?”

I answer, “When it is time for it. We are all water. All things change.”

In the mirror, I look at my form. I am dressed in a fabulous and loose fitting white silk suit. The one sin I allow myself is vanity. Without greed I spent all I have on this suit. I am free to move on.

“Sifu, it is written that one should be like the stone at the threshold and it is written that we must be water.”

We turn and I am facing the glass wall overlooking the lake embraced by mist. I will miss this smooth wooden floor. I will miss this place of peace, but I, too, am water and change must be embraced.

I say, “The stone is a metaphor for modesty. Water is what we are. Only by flowing can you remain. Hard things shatter. Things held onto, age and crumble.”

As we start the patterns of fending off the monkey, things I need to release again rise up in my mind. I must forgive to be free of place and form. I release the sailors from blame. I release my captors who made me a eunuch. I release those who injured those that I loved. I release my angers and fears. These things are as dust and they are so long ago. I have forgiven all of these things before. It seems true forgiveness is a process and not an event. Nothing is stone. All is water. These things are all in the past and the past never was. Now is all that ever was and ever will be. Now and change.

“Sifu, when will you leave?”

I say, “Soon. As soon as I have balance.”

We begin the movements of our Hands Like Clouds. I release the physical and now I am drawn to the island of my ancestors. My memory of a house on wooden pillars draws me, but all things are water and that house could have not possibly withstood the ages that have passed. Now a hotel stands where a village once thrived. A swimming pool sparkles where children once ran.

I fall from the floor of the home that is no more and splash into the pool.

I stand on tip toe, head just above the water and breathe. I am water. I am also wet.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2017, 11:20:27 PM by RobertS »
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Offline NightWrite

Re: [Nov 2017] - Water - Submission Thread
« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2017, 05:40:14 PM »
To Walk On Water - 745 words.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Ahmea struggled underwater against the river's current once more. It'd happened so many times today she'd lost count awhile ago. With a great shove against the riverbed, fighting against the current, Ahmea propelled herself out onto the river bank.

As she sputtered and coughed to force water from her lungs, to tired to watercraft it out, Ahmea glared up at Master Balmo. Above them the midday desert sun shined down, hot and oppressive despite the chill of the river water upon her skin.  She struggled to stand up, then resigned herself to sit instead. “I can't do this,” she said, voice raspy as she shivered.

“If you want to take my place alongside the prince, this will help set you apart from the apprentices of my fellow Peregrines. Even if you can't hold it long, every skill or ability fights murmurs of favoritism. No matter how separate your blood, the prince is still your distant cousin.”

“Can't we do something else?,” she paused as another cough forced water from her lungs. “I'd take a seduction lesson with that creepy street rat over water-walking again.”

“Ahbenal isn't a street rat,” Master Balmo closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Enough stalling, Ahmea. Now, try it again.”

Ahmea grumbled as force herself to stand. “Did I mention this would be easier if being you apprentice gave me your place automatically?”

“All Peregrine have the right to put forth their apprentice as a candidate when one of us leaves. Now go, we'll break for the day after this attempt.”

“It's probably a tradition for apprentices to complain since the group's founding. I bet you complained too, Master.” Ahmea grinned at him then around towards the river.

Despite her previous joviality, thoughts of what would come should she fail to gain her master's spot kept pestering her. There were only 12 Peregrines at any one time. She'd be forced into the normal rank and file of the military. Unless the new Peregrine took her as their apprentice.

She opened her aura, sluggish and heavy by now, and wrapped its power around her feet as she walked forward. Making her way down the bank, Ahmea hesitated before putting her right foot on the river's flow. Her moment of hesitation almost sent her tumbling into the river again as the current tried to drag away her sinking foot. Pulling back, Ahmea took a deep breath while focusing herself. With much more confidence, Ahmea stepped out onto the river.

Her senses and aura stretched as she fought to keep herself on top of the river, while preventing the current from pushing her sideways as she walked. Of all the skills Master Balmo had taught her so far, Ahmea struggled most against the water-walking. She had the aetheric capacity needed to sustain it for more than a few steps, but Ahmea lack the fine control and focus. Often she'd end up forgetting to do one of the two things needed. So she'd either end up sinking down into the river, current parted around her like she were a rock. Or she'd end up getting dragged across the river's surface towards the waterfall not to far away.

She missed the placid pool from when Master Balmo first taught her water-walking.

Ahmea's legs burned and pain tried to force Ahmea to her knees. Her body strained and fought her with each step. If she fell in now, she wouldn't make it out of the river by herself this time.

Ahmea made good progress despite the pain. She'd pushed past the river's center not too long ago and continued on towards the other side. Towards the rocks which mocked. She'd toss them into the river if she didn't fall in herself before then.

With a final push Ahmea stepped onto the river bank, her master shouting from the other side. She stumbled and fell as her aura snapped shut, chest heaving. Master Balmo's words washed over her in a jumbled mass as she curled into a pain-filled ball on her side. She'd done it, but Ahmea wasn't planning on moving anytime soon.

Ahmea knew with time and practice she'd get better and she had a few months before the succession challenge. Her dream of being a Peregrine wasn't dead yet and neither was she. Confidence renewed burned within her. If she could beat the wild rapids of the Ahlmen, she could beat her competition.

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Re: [Nov 2017] - Water - Submission Thread
« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2017, 10:37:00 PM »
 
The Stone-Carver
1485 words

Spoiler for Hiden:


His elven soldiers stepped nimbly from his path as King Ekland strode up the rough tunnel with his two remaining sons in tow. The tunnel was one of five his soldiers had hewn through solid rock over the past dozen years in their war with the dwarf-lords – a bitter war fought in the darkness beneath the earth, whose outcome would be decided soon. Maybe even today. After so many battles and hollow victories, to finally arrive at the gates of their foe tempted even his great patience, just as the losses of his people had tempted his despair. But as he stepped out into the open air of the great cavern, the sight of his objective lit by the thousand torches of his host banished his inklings.

Like so many of the dwarves’ great works, the gates of Delvelond, their subterranean stronghold, embodied a mastery of stone-work and siege-craft the elves could scarcely hope to overcome and could never hope to match. Great ramparts swept from one side of the cavern to the other, rising from the cavern’s floor in steep and featureless curves that faded into shadow long before they reached the high roof.

The king and his company marched forward, past the fallen that lay all around: elves in orderly rows, their foes in heaps set apart. But it was not the gore of the second-to-last battle that stole the king’s breath away. Nor was it the countless arrow-slits and heavily reinforced hatches that festooned the walls above the gates, concealing all manner of dwarvish contrivances that would loose a hail of missiles, fire, and stone upon them. It was the gates themselves that gave him pause.

They were made of a vast cylinder of stone, like a spool of thread as broad as a house stood on its end. Ekland knew their design all too well. A tunnel would run straight through it, broad enough for four to walk abreast, but the gate rotated on rollers of greased stone. When turned closed, there was no ram or siege-engine ever contrived that could make a difference. Only one weapon could defeat the gates of Delvelond: hunger.

A horn-blast sounded in the deep, and a lone dwarf warrior could be seen hanging from a rope high above. He was slowly lowered down in front of the gates, the torchlight glinting from his mail. He carried an ax across his back, but when he reached the floor, he laid it down and raised his hands.

“Parlay!” he cried.

“Let him come,” the king said with a grim smile, and his soldiers lowered their bows. “Let him make his parlay.”

“They’ve sent us a prince,” Eklarian, the King’s younger son said. “Look at the shine of his armor.”

Indeed, the dwarf shined from his feet to his shoulders but oddly wore no helm. His hair and beard were bright blond and bound in braids that wagged as he made his way, but the laughter died on the elf-king’s lips when he saw the dwarf’s bitter smile.

“Yes,” the dwarf said, eyes flashing. “I’ve come to show you the error of your ways, Ekland.”

“Father,” Ekland’s older son Darnum started to say, but the king cut him off with a look.

“Hush, boy. There’s dwarvish cunning in the air, or I’m a stoat.”

“Right you are,” the dwarf laughed. “On both counts. There is dwarvish cunning in play.” His smile faded. “And you are a stoat.”

“Who are you, dwarf?” the king asked, setting his hand on the pommel of his sword. “And what have you to say before we set your head rolling, beard and all?”

“I’m Glerion, Gelron’s son,” the dwarf answered, setting his hands on his broad silver belt. He nodded at the wave of recognition among the elf-king’s entourage. “And I’m here to offer you a chance to save yourselves.”

Had it been anyone else, the king and his men might have laughed, but no one said a word.

“You know me,” Glerion went on, eyeing the king and his sons. “I am the author of your defeat in the mines, your doomed forays into our eastern tunnels, and your rout at the lake. It was I, king, that snuffed your other sons. But that’s not my fault – you sent no daughters.”

“This,” Ekland growled, his fist creaking as he clenched his sword, “this is no parlay.”

“But it is!” Glerion went on. “I offer you a last chance to save yourselves and your line as well.” His eyes slid to Darnum and Eklarion.

The king frowned. The problem with dwarves is that, in their way, they were not the dullards his people imagined. No, the dwarves were not stupid, not by a long way. That was the problem. “What price, this mercy you offer?” The king waved his arms at his host arrayed all around them. “And why should we believe that you hold the superior position here? You’re trapped. We’ve cut off your escape. Your stores won’t last forever.”

“The source of my confidence will be revealed, in time. I assure you, you will be convinced. As for the price: my price is that you lay down your arms,” Glerion said with a shrug. “Swear to never again assail the dwarves or our allies. Swear to never venture below ground. Do this, and your sons and your army may all live. We have but a single price for this great mercy: your own life, weregild for the costs of this war.”

The king laughed grimly. “Single combat? Your air shafts must be clogged. You’re not thinking clearly.”
Glerion laughed with him. “Combat? Goodness no.” The mirth slid from his face, revealing a blankness that set a dry itch in the king’s throat. “I’ll fetch my ax and take your head as you kneel before me, like the criminal you are.”

“I’ve heard enough,” growled the king as he drew his sword.

“Look at your feet!” Glerion cried as the king’s men stepped forward and seized his arms. “This is my advantage! This is why you must surrender or die today.”

The king looked down. “Stone,” he said, hefting his sword. “What of it?”

“Not any stone. Touch it – what do you feel?”

The king knelt and ran his fingers across the stone. It was cool and as smooth as glass. “Polished stone,” he said, standing up. “What of it?”

“Polished, yes. But not by dwarven hands, elf-king.”

Ekland frowned as the hairs on the back of his neck tingled with an alarm he couldn’t place.

Glerion shook his head and slowly raised his hands high above his head. “When I lower my hands, the gate will open, and the stone-carver will be set free. He will ravage your army, and when you rout, he will pursue you to the last.”

The king eyed the gate. So slowly that it could barely be seen, it was turning. “What devilry is this?” he cried setting the tip of his sword at the dwarf-prince’s breast.

“Kill me,” Glerion glared at the king, “and your line dies with me. You have but one chance to save your sons and your army from a foe you cannot hope to overcome. Give me your life, and they will be spared.”

The king turned away, as if in thought, then spun and swept his sword into Glerion’s belly. He grasped the dwarf by the shoulder and drove the blade deep.

Glerion’s smile shifted into a grimace, but still, he held his trembling arms high. “You ... give your sons a cold death. In the dark. My father ... gave me a hero’s death.” He let his arms fall.

A low grumbling rose from the gate that turned quickly now. As the passage through its center was revealed, a great fume arose.

“Dragon!” someone cried, but the elf-king laughed as he drew his sword from the Glerion’s body and let him fall.

“There are no such...” the king began, but his laughter died as the gate opened fully and the stone-carver issued from the passage in a roaring plume of water that thundered down the smooth stone towards them.

The ground shuddered beneath their feet. Despite its immeasurable weight, a thundering plume of water toppled the great gate, which pitched forward and thudded onto its side as a roaring wave heaved up behind it. A widening wave of foamy gray spewed toward them.

“Father!” the king’s sons cried.

The king looked at his sons, felt pride seeing them stand their ground while the soldiers dropped their torches and ran, fools that they were.

There was a harsh laugh that somehow cut above the bellowing wall of water that careened toward them. Glerion the dwarf-prince, First Son of Delvelond sat up, clutching his chest. One bloodied hand pointed at the elf-king.

“Death take you!” he cried as the torches winked out. “Death take you all!”
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Offline Carter

Re: [Nov 2017] - Water - Submission Thread
« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2017, 08:34:26 PM »
Here's is my submission for this month at 1192 words. 

Spoiler for Hiden:
The River and the Willow

Leaves tickle my meniscus.  Deft and sorrowful, they caress my surface, every delicate touch sending shivers from mouth to source. 

It disturbs me.  I much prefer to the joy and effervescence of the upper rills, their frothing energy and cascading freedom.  I can spend years there, carefree and jovial, ignorant of the trivial concerns of the slow plains, revelling in the salty tang of darting, homecoming salmon.  I try to ignore the insistent touch.  However irritating, it is nothing but an annoyance to set aside like the persistent call of the distant ocean.  Nothing to deviate me from my course. 

Time trickles by yet the irritant remains constant. I begin to detect seasonal variations.  Leaves give way to drier twigs, storms and high winds whipping it into a frenzied, almost joyous frivolity all the more bittersweet for the terrible depression that follows. 

It is too much.  I have to investigate.  I allow the current to sweep my away.  I mingle with the flotsam, with fish and insects, sharing their company on my journey ever downwards.  They distract me with their easy dance, their simple joy.  I weave and twist among them, enjoying their delicate scents and caresses. 

I almost miss it.  Only the depth of the sadness dragging through the waters, swirling them into an eddy, alert me to my arrival.  As I move closer, the leaves and twigs snag, entwining throughout my essence, drawing me into a tangled embrace. They scratch and pull at me with none of the tenderness I had hoped for.  I writhe and twist, my struggles at first languid and unconcerned, only growing desperate once my efforts fail.  Each movement awakens emotions I have never experienced.  I shudder with loss and pain.  Deposits of grief flavour the water with astringency.  Breath after breath, I become saturated with it. 

I release perfumed pheromones into the water, calling to aquatic denizens.  They come in shoals, swimming and squirming, insinuating themselves between me and my captors.  Slowly, too slowly, they free me, their actions bringing them dangerously close to the surface and prey to the flashes of halcyon as kingfishers feast, the sharp, sudden jab of a heron's beak. 

I resolve to honour every sacrifice as I finally extract myself from the leafy tentacles.  They reach after me, yearning for my touch.  Free, the refracted light from above intrigues me.  A soft dappling of light and shade hints at something alien yet achingly familiar. 

A body.  Hidden within the spaces between branches, a figure materialises.  I stretch above the water to gain a better view.  Tall and willowy, it flickers in and out of view as a breeze stirs the leaves into dancing to a tune only they understand.  Until that moment, I have never seen another spirit.  I thought myself alone.  Yet I cannot deny the other's existence.  Here she stands before me, resplendent and glowing in the cool light, coy within her sanctum even as I cling to my own. Her despair is stark and discomfiting, blown fronds echoing tear-streaked cheeks. 

She sees me and stills.  Breaths stop.  The incessant tug of the current is the only thing that breaks the calm yet the eddies hold me close.  Even if they did not, I would remain, not daring to drift away from something so new and unexpected.   

We stare at each other, assessing and gawping.  The wind rises.  My surface shimmers, delicate tracery writing my name across the water.  Encouraged, we begin to dance the essence of ourselves, understanding blossoming as we track each stance. 

She sways a sad tale; a parting from her mother tree, swept along by wind and water, cast adrift from all she knew.  Finally here, along the river's edge, she found some measure of respite, some fertile soil for her newly-fledged being.  Here on bright banks she remembers and weeps, her own children held close yet perishing in her protective shadow. 

In contrast, my own tale feels terribly simple and wondrous.  I know nothing of mothers or of loss.  All I know is the carefree abandon of the river; the exuberance of the upper reaches, the rills and the burns, and the mellow softness of the wider plains where I can meander contemplatively should the mood strike me.  Only the wide, yawning mouth at the end of all things mars the simplicity of my existence, an end an infinite beginning that lures and repulses. 

An envious stillness follows my recounting.  She craves everything I take for granted yet politeness dams the flood of longing. 

So I offer what she seeks.  Within an eddy, I capture one of her dangling fronds.  I swirl it within my essence, yielding to her.  At first, wind whips it away from me as if suddenly unsure.  After a moment, I reach out once more.

Unlike the tickling sensation that pestered me, this touch tastes me.  It delves deep inside me and extracts something, pulling at the ineffable heart of me, osmotically drawing it into her wide trunk.  I force myself to stay still.  I chose this.  I offered myself to her.  She deserves this after so long with only her grief for company. 

Does my spirit displace something within hers?  Does the process somehow force some of her essence to spill over?  Whatever the cause, I fill with sadness.  I long for a mother I have never had, for a partner, for something other than a lonely, meandering existence with only ephemera around me.  I swell with it all, barely able to contain it. 

My surface shimmers as rain falls as tears all along my length.  I shudder with every drop, absorbing it into myself.  Yet it does not replenish me as it so often does.  Instead the tree spirit sucks with renewed vigour, determined to leach me dry.  Aspects of her grief loosened and drifting down to land on my turgid waters. 

I have to leave.  I have to get away.  It is all far too much.  I try to twist away but I am held firm, rooted in a way I have never been before.  I try to dance my displeasure, my need for freedom, but it is beyond me even if the tree deigned to notice. 

I swell with the tree's sadness.  Dimly, I can feel her elation at finally, finally being able to feel something else, something other.  My surface churns.  All along my length, from dell to dale, I shiver with emotion. 

And then it happens.  I burst.  I sweep across the land, a cataclysm of desperation.  I am torn from her vampiric grip and borne away.  With every league I deposit my borrowed, alluvial grief, leaving behind all that I cannot contain, every molecule of her that I had taken up scattered across flooded plains. 

As I recede, anger surges, overwhelming my fear.  I dare not feel her touch ever again.  I do not want to be reminded of all we have shared.  I cleave the land around her, eroding the banks and cutting her off from the heart of me.  In time all I leave her is a solitary lake; a slowly stagnating pool of memories. 

Offline Alex Hormann

Re: [Nov 2017] - Water - Submission Thread
« Reply #5 on: November 30, 2017, 04:03:07 PM »
Rain

638 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
He is born high above the earth. A warrior of fluid substance, but solid purpose. A liquid body wrapped about a heart of grit. Fully formed, he plunges down, into battle. And he is but one of many. A million of his brethren are with him, yet not. There is no coordination to their assault. No plan, no strategy. Down, they fall. Down, down, always down.

We surge, we fall
We win, stand tall
We rush, we churn
We die, return


   They crash against hard stone, many splattering on impact. But he is fortunate, and survives the collision. Spreading himself thin at the moment of contact, reforming just as swiftly. There is no time for him to ponder the fates of his myriad companions, his brothers in this war. He rushes – still down – across the cold hard surface of the earth.

We surge, we fall
We win, stand tall
We rush, we churn
We die, return

   Others join him as he runs. Only a few, and soon he has consumed them. Using his brethren to swell his own strength, as is the way of his kind. As has always been the way. Either he absorbs them, or he is absorbed by another. Survival being his only objective, the choice is an obvious one.

We surge, we fall
We win, stand tall
We rush, we churn
We die, return


   The running stops, as he reaches the first milestone of his brief existence. The Great Flow lies before him, cutting through earth like… like… He has nothing to compare it to. It simply is. Drawn in, lacking choice, he joins the Great Flow. Untold numbers of his brothers dwell therein, all as strong as he, or stronger. Together they will crush and cut their way across this solid landscape. Nothing can stop them in their relentless chance.

We surge, we fall
We win, stand tall
We rush, we churn
We die, return


Onwards! Onwards they thunder. Gouging a deepening scar through soft earth. It can no longer confine them, as it did in the higher, more solid regions. The Great Flow breaches, widening, spreading across the flat land. But it does not stay still. Is not satisfied with this. This is a mere skirmish in the great war against the solid land.

We surge, we fall
We win, stand tall
We rush, we churn
We die, return


   Comprehension is beyond him now. There is no desire, no want. Only the urge to move. Onwards and down. The Great Flow is met by other, lesser torrents. They pay tribute in the form of more brothers. More soldiers for the grand fluid army. Now they are truly numberless, and they are ready.

We surge, we fall
We win, stand tall
We rush, we churn
We die, return


The Great Flow ends, carrying the brothers into the swirling masses of the Eternal Expanse. Here is the battle fought. Countless brothers dash themselves against solid earth, wearing it down over a thousand lifetimes. He loses himself in the chaos. How long he fights, he cannot say. Victory will not come in this life, nor the next, nor the one after that. But it will come eventually. Someday.

We surge, we fall
We win, stand tall
We rush, we churn
We die, return


The Eternal Expanse grows warm. Brothers disappear. He knows, without understanding how he came by this knowledge, that this is the end for him. He can feel his liquid flesh being peeled away from him. His grit heart breaks free and sinks to the bottom of the Eternal Expanse. He dies, but something of his essence continues, rising high above the earth.

We surge, we fall
We win, stand tall
We rush, we churn
We die, return


He is born high above the earth. A warrior of fluid substance, but solid purpose.

Offline Jmack

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Re: [Nov 2017] - Water - Submission Thread
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2017, 01:29:09 AM »
Wasn’t sure I’d get this done, but here it is:

MONSOON DRAGON
1,500 Words

Spoiler for Hiden:

 When the monsoon burst, it scoured the streets, sweeping away trash, sewage, dogs, whole trees, and children. The poor suffered even as they celebrated. The rich watched the rain from covered verandas in their hillside homes.

"Will the dragons come at last?" Sixteen-year-old Akiel asked his mother, shouting to be heard over the roar of water. He sat by a bright lantern, feet tucked up under a  pretty silk kita. A plate of lemon cake sat on the low table by his side while he decorated a ceramic bowl with a delicate brush.

"How would I know? Pay attention to your dessert, Aki. The servants will call us lazy and then we'll have lazy servants." His mother, Ratichaa, sucked date fruit from her fingers.

"Tell me about the dragons again, Mama-ya," said Akiel.

Ratichaa tsk’d at a sticky stain on her needlework. "They came when I was a girl. I hardly remember them. That's all." She could be a terrible tease and would tell him the blue sky was green and the meat in their pipkah was gryphon.

Akiel started the familiar story for her. "The dragons came when you were a girl," he recited, "and Oma carried you into the paddies to see them. The water was up to your neck, and there were crocodiles."

Ratichaa laughed and threw a pillow. "It was only to my knees, and there weren't any crocodiles."

"But you worried about snakes."

"Don't talk to me about snakes," she shuddered.

Akiel shut his eyes and pictured the vast murals in the great temple,  bringing to life the great long-necked serpents in shining gold mosaics. "They will come when they come," he said in a sonorous voice, "with the rush of the great monsoon."

"Listen to you. You sound like a priest."

Akiel stepped up onto the low table, clattering the dishes, and raised one hand high. "Down from the mountains, the dragon kings soar, pursued by their brilliant queens with marriage on their minds!"

"What an actor!"

"They climb into the storm. The king's great wings grow heavy with rain. But the queens are smaller. The water does not slow them. They whirl about the king, begging for one - burning - kiss!" Akiel twirled, the skirt billowing around his slim legs.

"Ai! Stop!" Ratichaa laughed. "You're dragon-mad.” She shook her head, and wagged a plump finger. "There was a girl in my village who was dragon-mad. Pregnant before she was fourteen years old. They eat virgins, you know.” She popped another date in her mouth. "But only girls," as if that was reassuring.

Akiel gazed across the rain-soaked hills to the dark outline of the distant dragon temple. "They would be so beautiful."

A bell chimed. Ratichaa had set a servant to warn them if Akiel’s father walked over from his wing of the house. "Ai!” she gasped. “Quick! Quick! Go put on proper boy's clothing." Akiel jumped down from the table and ran to his room, twirling, shaking his skirt at his mother. "And wipe my powder off your face!"

The monsoon could last for days with no break. At first you'd feel free, released from the frying sun. Then you'd feel trapped by the rain. Everything stuck to you and breathing was like sucking through a rag. Sleep was the only respite.
Akiel's dreams filled with dragons and the conviction that this year, at last, they would come for him.

On the seventh night, the lucky night, Akiel waited until his parents lay snoring, then he swung his legs over the railing of the veranda and dropped into the garden. He was soaked through in a single second. He tucked a small bag under his shirt, huddling around it protectively as he splashed down the hill, then let himself out through a tiny gate and into a narrow alley.

Hardly anyone was out as Akiel made his way toward the temple. His heart pounded with excitement as its fang-like outline rose ahead of him. If Mun had received his message, he should be waiting on the great steps. Akiel's throat tightened to think of seeing him again.

But there he was, tall, handsome, and rock steady in the monsoon, as though he waited in downpours every day for rich boys drowning in love and lust.

"You came!” Ariel threw his arms around Mun. It didn't matter that he lived in a brothel and sold himself every day, Ariel worshipped him and his muscled body.

"Do you have the money?" Mun had the grace to look embarrassed. "Madame Bin will insist on her share."

"Right here." Akiel pulled the bag from under his shirt. "Enough to buy you for the whole night." He counted out the coins.

Mun carefully stowed the money away. Finally he raised his face and smiled. "You're crazy, Aki. What are we doing out here?"

Akiel grabbed his hand. "We're going to the top of the temple!" he yelled, pulling him along.

"Now I know you're crazy!" Mun pulled his hand away and followed at his own pace.

Akiel raced ahead, splashing through deep puddles, leading them around through a turn in the temple wall. "I saw a priest do this when he didn't think anyone was watching."

They came to a locked gate at the bottom of a long, narrow stair that knifed up the side of the temple. Akiel clambered over the top of the gate and opened it from the other side.

Mun looked up into the dark stair. "What now?"

"We're going to watch for dragons!" Akiel giggled as Mun shook his head face, smiling.

They came to the top and stood for a moment at a doorway onto a wide platform high above the city. This was the priests' ritual dancing floor, but with no let-up in the rain, the temple's celebrants were staying inside. Akiel's heart rose. He reached out for Mun's hand and got a brief answering squeeze.

"Dragons?" asked Mun, peering into the rain.

"They eat virgins," Akiel laughed. "Thar’s what my mama-ya says."

"Maybe buggery doesn’t count, and we’re both still pure.”

"Not according to my father. He's very disappointed in Madam Bin. He says she should give his money back, since he sent me to sleep with a girl and I got you instead."

"Madame Bin is a very wise woman," said Mun. "A father pays once. A happy customer comes again and again." His serious face didn't even crack a smile, but Akiel couldn't help laughing.

Akiel’s stepped from the protection of the door into the deluge, spreading his arms and turning in circles. He danced, raising his feet high in the priests’ ritual. The rain was beautiful. The city was beautiful. He looked at Mun, who looked back at him with - love? What could a dragon really add to such a night?

Lightning flashed like a sudden silver sun, followed by a crash of thunder. In the booming glow, a vast, shining tail whipped past Akiel’s head. The rush of its passing threw him down on the hard stone.
Mun called, horrified, from the stairway. "Run, Aki!"

Akiel rose, shaking. Fire blazed above. A twisting shape splintered the sky. Three smaller shapes dove around it. They moved so fast, his eyes couldn't follow them. The sense of numbness and terror left him, and he laughed in the rain. "The dragons, Mun, the dragons! They've come!" he sang. "They're beautiful!" He beckoned, arms stretched wide. "Come and see them!"

"No!" Mun cringed in the doorway. "Come back."

"I have to see them!" Akiel dropped his arms, raised his eyes to the sky, squinting through the pounding water.

A golden wing sliced the air and blew him off his feet again. He spun across the slick of water to the very edge of the platform. Flame struck the temple like a lance of sunlight, turning the world to red and steam. Akiel's clothes flared away in an instant, but somehow he was still alive. He looked where Mun had been, but the doorway was empty.
A massive shape resolved above Akiel into a nightmare of claws and horns. It folded its wings to perch on the temple platform only yards away. It turned its gaze on him.

"So beautiful!" Akiel breathed, then pain blossomed, and his eyes burst into flame.

Feet pounded across the pool of the dancing floor. Hands grabbed at Akiel, pulling him to his feet. "Go!" Mun yelled. He shoved, and Ariel stumbled through darkness until he slammed against a wall. Fumbling, he put his back to the stone.

His eyes were gone, but somehow he saw the glow of the dragons. A human shape stood before them.

Mun.

“No! Akiel screamed. "Take me! Take me!" Heat bloomed and flared the rain to steam.

The priests found him during a break in the monsoon: blind, burned, and weeping. For the rest of his life, Akiel would say that his very last sight was the most beautiful he'd ever seen. He didn't mean the dragons.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2017, 01:00:10 AM 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)

Offline Norman Gray

Re: [Nov 2017] - Water - Submission Thread
« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2017, 02:36:55 AM »
Hello everyone! Long time lurker, second time poster ( I was going to say first time poster, but apparently I registered here three and-a-half years ago and posted only once.) I liked this month's prompt, and thus I've decided to throw my hat into the ring. I give you:

STORM WALKER 1348 words

Edit: almost forgot, there's a bit of foul language in this piece. Be forewarned!

Spoiler for Hiden:
Gandrian returned to Harbourbridge.

So too, did the rain.

He treaded into town, his shoulder aching under the weight of gold he’d carried from the next settlement. A hopeless venture. . . But all he could do, was try.

He headed straight to the port, and found the Storm Rider docked where it had been two days prior. "Hello again!" Said Captain Dantes, standing atop the plank.

Gandrian merely nodded.

"Looks like you were right," said the Captain. "Never seen a storm change its mind quite like that. Tough luck, fella. Should've been here yesterday, when the rain let up. Sure came back with a vengeance."

"Don't suppose you'd want to set off anyway?" Gandrian asked as he ascended the plank, boarding Dantes' ship.

He chuckled. "No can do. Too choppy. Anybody who sets sail in this mess is asking for a watery grave."

"You wouldn't have to worry about marauders," Gandrian argued. "Likely they wouldn't be foolish enough to set sail in this weather."

The Captain laughed. "And I suppose you think, that I would be foolish enough?"

Gandrian shook his head. "Desperate enough, maybe." He slung the bag from his shoulder and opened it,
pulling out a handful of gold. "Fifty coins, for safe passage to Teroth."

"No such thing as safe passage. Not in this weather." He took a good long look at the coins; it was likely more currency than he'd seen in a year. "Not interested in your money, at any rate."

Gandrian knew that the Captain might change his mind. "Seventy-five gold coins, then. That's twenty more than what we agreed upon."

Dantes shook his head. "That's an awful lot o' money," he said with an air of suspicion.

Gandrian could read the look on his face. "It isn't stolen," he said.

Dantes eyed him intently. Then the coins. Then Gandrian, again. "You on the run from somebody?"

"Myself," Gandrian replied. "One hundred coins, if that's what it takes to convince you."

There was silence between the two men, but only for a moment. Then once again the Captain refused. "Sorry fella, can't help ya. None of this sits right with me."

Reluctantly, Gandrian closed the bag of coins. He nodded towards the ship. "You should change the name," he said. "It's a falsehood."

Dantes took insult to that. "Best hold your tongue. The Storm Rider is legendary around these parts."

"Seems your legend is nothing but a tall tale. A lie."

"Pot calling the kettle black," said the Captain. "You’ve been dodgy from the moment we first met! What's so important about Teroth, eh?"

“It's somewhere else," he simply replied. "Anywhere's better than here."

"Do better than that," Dantes said, "and maybe we can talk business."

Gandrian hesitated. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."

"Well, humour me."

Gandrian said nothing.

The silence ran long, until The Captain turned toward his cabin. Gandrian followed him.  "Everyone in town told me, 'Go see Captain Dantes, he's your man. Old man Dantes, why, he's fearless! He's sailed through a maelstrom and lived to tell the tale!'"

Dantes just shook his head. "Don't believe everything you hear." He sighed. "Just wait until the storm clears, I'm sure someone will get you to where you're going." He kept walking. "Won't be me, though." The Captain then stepped into his quarters and out of the rain.

Gandrian strode in behind him before the door could be shut. "It's not gonna let up," Gandrian said. "Not until Harbourbridge is under water. You can either set sail before that happens, or after. Up to you."

The Captain turned. "Who the hell do you think you are?"

Again Gandrian hesitated, but only for a moment. Then he dropped the bag of coins on the Captain's desk, and looked him dead in the eye. "They call me Storm Walker."

Immediately, the Captain laughed. He laughed as if he'd never heard something so funny in all his life. "Friend, I've never had the gall to tell a paying customer this, not in all of my years sailing the seas. . . But you sir, can fuck right off."

Fuck off, Gandrian most certainly didn't. "Two days ago I told you the storm would return, did I not?"

"So what?" Asked Dantes.

"So, here it is. And here I am. I left for Ravenscrest, to procure your payment. In doing so, the town was nearly washed away."

He sighed. "I'd heard. Lots of folks fled to Harbourbridge. I was tempted to set sail yesterday, but. . ." Dantes hesitated.

"But you didn't want to get caught at sea when the storm returned."

"Aye," said Dantes.

"You would have missed it," Gandrian said. "You believed me when I said the rain would return. Believe me now, that so long as I am here, the tempest will remain."

“If you really are the Storm Walker,” Dantes suggested, “then I’d be doing the world a favour by doing away with you. Permanently.”

“Go ahead,” Gandrian dared Captain Dantes. "Legend tells that he who kills the storm bringer, bears his curse." It was a complete fabrication, of course. But it was a lie that had saved Gandrian more than a few times. . . He'd told it so often that it had become part of his legend, surpassing him wherever he went. "I'm sure you'll enjoy a lifetime of unruly seas."

The Captain clenched his fists, as if he was ready to start throwing punches. 

Gandrian didn't back down. "Having doubts?"

Dantes slammed his closed fist on the table, causing the coins to jump. "So," said Dantes. "Teroth, then."

Gandrian smirked. "Do this for me, and I'll never bother you again." He stared the Captain down. "I've been all over this continent, and everywhere I go death is nipping at my heels. I want to go to Teroth, because it's somewhere I've never been. . .  I’ve heard that they have sprawling deserts there, sand dunes as far as the eye can see. It would be a good place for me to wander. These lands have suffered enough at my hands."

The look of utter contempt on the Captain's face was priceless. “All of your gold.”

Gandrian nodded. “Done.”

Dantes picked up the bag of coins, marched out of his cabin and went below deck. Gandrian followed. "Would be easier for everyone if you just took a long walk off a short pier," Dantes said over his shoulder.

"I've thought about it. Much easier said than done."

Down below, the ship's crew was waiting. "Gents, good news and bad news." Dantes dropped the bag, letting its contents spill out. "That's the good news. I'll let you figure out the bad."

Judging by the looks on their faces, the rest was obvious. Gandrian had never thought anyone could be so unhappy to see a pile of gold. "Lord Almighty, what god-forsaken curse have you brought us?" Said one of the crewmen.

"He doesn't answer," said Gandrian. "I've been asking him that for years."

* * *

Soon the Storm Rider was bound for Teroth; a place Gandrian knew only by name.

During the long hellish journey across angry seas, the crew asked many questions of the lone stranger travelling aboard their vessel; if he was truly who he claimed to be. . . He told them much of his journeys. He spoke of a place called Ironwell, where him and his true love once lived; when the flood began, he had desperately tried to help the townsfolk escape, staying until the bitter end when the setllement was eventually submerged. Little did he know, all he needed to do was leave Ironwell behind, and it would have been saved. . .

It would not be long after, that he came to understand: Death followed him.

As for his true love, she had escaped with her life. . . But Gandrian, knowing what their lives would become, chose to leave her behind as he begun his endless journey, lest his curse become her burden.

And so he wandered, forever alone. Only the grey skies kept him company.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2017, 02:51:58 AM by Norman Gray »

Offline Nora

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Re: [Nov 2017] - Water - Submission Thread
« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2017, 03:26:39 PM »
The Dreglund

1500 words

Spoiler for Hiden:



The Dreglund



Juni 32nd

At last, a new notebook!
Hydrophobic paper is incredibly hard to obtain here, despite the city being so close to the Dreglund and all the rainfall that feeds it. The locals make a cheap pulp paper from the ocean of grasses that surround them. Logical, if unpractical for me. I was growing anxious after I placed my finished travelogue and books in storage, having nothing safe to write on. I will have to limit sketches, lest I run out of space in the wild. Already I feel the strain, not being able to document my stay in Ikurstuk as I wish...
Ikurstuk, city of salt!
As far East as any Explorator has gone, and mostly unchanged since Damasia and Edolan's visits. Both did a great job at sketching the city, yet it feels like they hardly scratched the surface!
I keep my resolve, however, and have taken rooms only for ten days, by the end of which I fully intend to have finished my preparations to cross the Dreglund desert.


Julli 2nd

Almost ready.
I'm glad now for all the iddle time on the caravan, with nothing to do but learn Kush. Ikurstukies speak enough Imperial to sale their wares and count their money, but the rest is Ikkurie, a blend of Kush and Arandi.
The promise of news from the Empire and the Salt Road opens any door, and people gladly answer my questions (once they're done stuffing me into a coma, that is. Ikkies (as they call themselves), consider that any herald of news should be fed and housed for as long as they desire. Had I known as much sooner, I'd not have taken rooms.
I've made good friends with several people (see portrait of Etti and Karluk in annexe), which has helped a lot with my purchases. Better prices, better quality.
Mind you Ikurstuk has no tourist traps, having no tourists to fool. Only caravaners come this far East.
Etti keeps trying to discourage me of going further. She doesn't understand my interest for the Dreglund. I tried to explain, how uncharted land is the life blood of Explorators, that turning around where others stopped defeats the entire point of my trade.
Whatever I say, she doesn't think that meeting the Dalai people is worth facing their homeland and risking my life.

Beliefs/facts on the Dreglund, as Ikkies tell them:

- No water can be drunk in it, not even the one that falls from the sky.
- The desert will lose you in it, and only star navigation allows its crossing.
- Salt bogs will turn you into a salt-mummy and preserve you so well your soul will remain trapped within.
- Akambo bloodsuckers will drain you dry.
- Dalai people will kill you if you reach the other side. (This one has many variant, with Dalai killing you on sight, eating you, or keeping you as slave. They have a broad back.)

Even the herders and grass-cutters I've met with, who often venture in the Dreglund for a day trip harvesting blue bladed tuft (annexe 2), have all tried to discourage me.
Damasia did report the Ikkies' superstitions around it were strong, but I didn't expect this much resistance.


Julli 4th

Went to say farewell to Bank's caravan. Etti came with me. They were loaded with salt and took my letters and the copies of my travelogue I redacted during our trip together (ah, the endless days swaying under the sun with nothing to see but grasses swaying to a different rythm).
It was the last thing I had to take care of. I am done packing, and leaving tomorrow morning at dawn.
Etti and a youngster called Meluk braided my hair in a fashion they say will bring me luck.


Julli 5th

Finished setting camp, if you can call "sitting in your fibrococoon" setting camp. Everything is as bleak as was described to me, and as amazing as I expected it to be: the endless shimmer of the water, broken by grasses of colours my pens can do no justice to. The noise of bubbles and insects giving the place a constant hum, besides my splashes–and I seem to be the only creature making splashes here!
I've seen no fish of any size, no amphibians either, no salt spires, no Dalai... I'm commiting a lot of what I'm seeing to Long-Memory. No point in wasting paper. I have learned nothing new on this gorgeous, endless plane of poisonous water in which little ekes a living. But so far everything I have read about it turned out to be true, including the water never rising higher than my shins.


Julli 6th - Morning

May not have seen much wildlife, but the wildlife saw me... I believe I met the infamous akambo, which are much bigger than I thought. Red blazing eyes in the night, snorting noises and the liquid sound of limbs accustomed to moving smoothly through water... They didn't get to me, but I understand how Ikkies without an Explorator's fibrococoon would be threatened.
Tired from the broken sleep but moving on. Loads of ground to cover again.


Julli 8th

Today I've learnt two things. I guess I can only blame myself for not figuring this out sooner.
I woke to find my bag gone. It was over twenty meters away from me, and shredded through. All my water was gone, yet the bag was still pegged against the same tuft of blue grass.
So.
When the Ikkies say Dregl ik svafar – the desert will lose you – they mean to say the desert moves under your feet. I've looked closer and seen the signs, the rising silt along hair-thin fault-lines. I am standing in an ankle deep ocean coating tremendous plate tectonic. The persistent buzzing sound, I wager, may even come from this permanent shuffle.
And when Ikkies say akambo will suck you dry, they don't mean that they're exclusive bloodivores, but that they'll drink any fluid they find, from my water reserves to, eventually, my blood.
I'm getting thirsty, but only have my standard water purifier. Using it in the notoriously foul water of the Dreglund could well sign my end.


Julli 11th

Was so thirsty. Burning pain and hallucinia–cination. Water purified was BEST thing ever ever. Until night.
So sick. Like water from my bdy needed out, every pore, out out.
Doing Akambo work for thm. Shame.
I walked, so much. Sick and walk. Scared to it–eat more.
It's horribe–ble, the thirst, with water EVERYWHERE, just there, but drink and die? No.
Akambo stalking still.
Where are the Dalai?


Andi 26th

Dear Enkor

Eloi says that when he found me, I looked like a salt-mummy, with my white Eastern-Empire hair, the shreds of my fibrococoon tangled around me, propped as I was against a salt spire.
Yet I was clinging to life, with arms bitten, eyes sunken, and breath foul, smelling of old vomit I hadn't dared to wash away.
He says I was clutching my notebook in my comatose sleep, and that he guessed at my profession after wrestling it from me and browsing through it.
Though he did not understand the script, he marvelled at my drawings of landscapes, portraits, jewels, hairdos – documenting whole cultures – all the way to my last: a dead akambo, with its neck twisted.
The hand there is shaky, the sketch rough.
I was dying.

Please hold no hard feelings.
Eloi did wake me. He spoke Ikkurie. I did understand his offer, though my addled brain thought he was a Dalai god, more than a Dalai man.
Had I come all this way to meet them, to draw their faces, sketch their cultures?
Yes, I said, I was looking for you, because no one ever found you before.
He says he felt torn, that no matter what he did, he'd kill an aspect of my self. The person or the Explorator.
You see, Dalai means "Of the desert".
Because once he pressed his slashed wrist to my mouth, I would become Dalai, my entire body changing to adapt and embrace the Dreglund. No water now can nourish me but that which once almost killed me.
It hydrates and feeds. In the deep wells, you can breath it.
This is where the Dalai cities lay, Enkor: under poisonous waters.
No wonder we only heard about these people through rumours! Maybe my presence will change things a little? More trading at the border? Enough for me to hear from you, I hope, and collect the fame of my discoveries!
Please find attached all my notes, see them published and send me a crate-load of hydrobooks. You can make my speech at the Assemblies. Tell them I won't drop my mantle: Eloi is lovely, but if he thinks I will stop marvelling, learning and writing because I am trapped in one of the greatest mystery of our age, he has a lot to learn about me!

Warmest regards,

Ilkaria Explorator


« Last Edit: December 01, 2017, 11:47:19 PM by Nora »
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Offline D_Bates

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Re: [Nov 2017] - Water - Submission Thread
« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2017, 06:32:20 PM »
I rushed this out in the last minute and have to pop out now, so hopefully I'll get a chance to read it over this evening and iron out any blips before the thread's locked. It's somewhere ~1400 words.

The Civilisation of the Deep

Spoiler for Hiden:
This existence is full of mysteries, but none more so than the ocean. As our scope of the universe grows alongside the knowledge of the lands, the stars, the very DNA that forms our being, still the ocean floors deny us. Why? What entity lurks beneath those depths, so terrible, so terrifying, that the fish grew legs to flee the seas all those millions of years ago. There, in time, they shed their scales, stood erect, and gazed towards the stars, and to this day still worship the heavens as their salvation in death, hoping their spirit will ascend there at the chiming of their eternal sleep, to remain for eternity with an imaginary maker as far from their origins as could be.

I know why, for I have felt that darkness deep below, heard its whispers, seen its sunken monoliths of salt and slime, touched their great carvings of violent maws and claws engraved from tip to base with alien spellbound rhymes. For hell is not a burning wasteland, but blindness drowned in brine.

It was during the winter solstice of 2004 that my expedition travelled to the Mariana Trench off the coast of Guam. It was a routine research trip, a small crew of four with an experimental AUV codenamed 'Didi', sent to investigate the growing tremors emanating from the Challenger Deep. I remember a distinct dread of unease I felt while we floated on the desolate waves preparing Didi for deployment. I put the phenomena down to a queer bout of seasickness, unusual for me, as I'd travelled the seas from a young age.

Nearly three hours that seven mile descent into the murky depths took. The camera fed back bland and unimaginative images like many I'd seen before. But more curious was the noise, a faint puh-pum... puh-pum... that Johanssen, our leader, jokingly suggested was that of a heartbeat.

For three days we explored the depths, and for three days gathered little fresh data, nothing but that faint puh-pum that, despite hours of speculation over evening, nobody could explain.

Our fourth, and what was to be our final day, began much the same way. It was in the late afternoon, right before we were preparing to bring Didi up, that Johanssen hollered for us to come see the video links.  Didi's spotlight had centred on the immense cliff face into the deepest chasm of the trench, at an aperture as perfect a circle if ever I saw one, like that of a full moon. Stranger still were the carvings around the hole, strings and strings of tiny triangles, so precise as to cast doubt on whether they could be of natural formation. Then we saw the inscription beneath, an epitaph of crawling, scrawling symbols, but of what dialect, if it ever existed during the time of man, has long been forgotten.

We all thought it was a ruse! That Johanssen had schemed to play this trick on us on the final day so that we had a story to bring back. Our theory was only furthered when Johanssen professed to be able to read the epitaph, spouting off the word 'Sacrifice' to us over and over again. It was rather funny at first, until it wasn't, and Johanssen got most upset when I called him on his bluff.

Johanssen insisted that we stay a few days more to investigate this anomaly further. This brought great distress among the crew, all of whom had grown weary of the cold waters and longed to return to the warmth of their families. That evening, after retiring to our bunks, I heard Johanssen out on the deck, chanting gibberish to the waves. It was infuriating, a static droning hum that drilled in through my ears and resonated behind my temples. My best efforts to mentally block it out failed. I was verging on marching out there and shoving a hanky down his throat when I heard a splash and the sound ceased. Blissful sleep beckoned me.

The following morning I was abruptly woken by my peers. Johanssen was gone. Of course, it didn't require a scientific mind such as mine to figure out where that was. More frightening was what he left us before jumping overboard. Sheets and sheets of paper were scattered over the deck, each covered in drawings that, as we pieced them together, depicted a map of our world, yet not our world, for though this world was geographically similar to ours, the locations of what we presumed to be towns and cities were in unusual places, focused in deserts and gulfs and mountains.

Resolved to get to the bottom of this tragedy we prepared Didi for descent, for to solve a mystery one must start at the beginning, at this gateway in the depths, though why I now thought of it as a gateway I could not explain. It left me chilled.

For three hours we procrastinated, another three we searched for the anomaly, scouring the murky depths for this secret that they hid. We were about to give up, when a blur dashed across our camera feed. Nothing could move that fast that deep, we knew. Jones wanted to bring Didi up and get the fuck out of there. Jacobs panned the camera towards where the dash had gone, and there was the aperture, lit up in iridescent greens, pulsing to the puh-pum, puh-pum that shook our screen.

Jones and I both saw the alien epitaph, looked to one another, shrugged.

“Sacrifice,” said Jacobs.

“Shit,” thought I, the same word screaming from Jones's eyes.

Jacobs drove Didi into the hole, along a snaking tunnel. The slimy walls undulated, painted in living pictures from the bodies of fish unknown, yet to be discovered. Deeper... deeper... Didi went, towards that luminous green. Puh-pum, puh-pum, beat through the camera lens, it made me want to scream. And as the source of the light approached, the tunnel yawned into a cavern, and Jacobs abruptly stood from his seat, eyes bleeding black ink, and chanted gibberish to the heavens. Our efforts to calm him were to no avail. In a violent turn he strangled Jones, broke his neck, turned on me, and in a desperate act I stabbed him through in the heart with a screwdriver.

After he slumped down I stood there a good while, alone and traumatised, stunned by what I'd done. What stained my hands, far from blood, was cold and black and gooey. The stench of fumes was overpowering. Finally, I resolved to abandon Didi, to sail away and never return. But as I went to turn off the camera, there on the screen, leering, sneering, was the glowing green face of Johanssen, onyx eyes in sunken pits, scales erupting from his cheeks, and one glowing word cut across his forehead, “Sacrifice.” And I knew this word was not of a language I understood, yet it made itself understood to me, psychically, tentacles reaching from its characters through the screen, through my eyes, and into my mind.

December 26, 2004, Boxing Day, 1am, an earthquake off the west coast of Indonesia creates a tsunami that washes away over a quarter of a million lives, while I'm sat in my own special ward, hugging myself with claws for hands, strapped up in a plain white suit so I can no longer slice those symbols of salvation into my flesh. Crazy they call me, enlightened says I. This is just the beginning. Men dream of post-apocalyptic futures, of nuclear war, a blazing world, where fire rains from the sky. But these oily eyes have seen the future, and the future isn't fire, but water.

For centuries their whispers have poisoned the hearts of men, corrupting them with the power of their black blood. It didn't take long for budding entrepreneurs to realise the markings on Johanssen's map were the locations of oil refineries, and already they're squabbling for the rights of those untapped deposits, sucking up their sickness to fund the machines of war, choking the skies and blotting out those stars that sane men reach for. And as the temperatures rise, so do the seas, expanding their domain to claim dry land in its entirety beneath a creeping doom.

I'm now a part of their ocean, a single pure body stretching out in all directions as far as the eye can see. From whirlpools do their maws cry, reaching their obsidian tentacles and claws towards a blackened sky. This is their vision... my vision... a single civilisation of global proportion.

I hear their call. I follow. As will you. Sacrifice. They want their children back.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2017, 01:12:45 AM by D_Bates »
David Bates
Works in progress:
Ciara: A Faun's Tale - 90,000; The K.B.G. - 100,000; Maria and the Jarls of Jotun - 90,000; The Shame that lurks in Stableton - current project; Ezra'il - Plotted. TBC July 2018

Offline Jonathan Ryan

Re: [Nov 2017] - Water - Submission Thread
« Reply #10 on: December 02, 2017, 12:01:51 AM »
sorry, literally right on the deadline, not my finest work I didn't even have time to edit it or check over it and totally not satisfied witht he ending or the fight scenes but read away and make what you will  :)

1084 words.

In Darkness Dwells.

Spoiler for Hiden:

Lilith touched the glowing blue amulet that hung in the hollow of her throat.  It was warm to touch and pulsed faintly with the life that was contained within it.  She smiled ruefully as she felt the nix brush against her thoughts, worry and fear reflected in them.  “Don’t worry little nix, we are nearly there.”

The sorceress then quieted her mind and sought out their pursuer.  She felt the vibrations through the fetid and murky waters of the London sewer system as she summoned her elemental magic.  The Bloody Gentleman was not far behind them now, making no effort to mask his presence.  Instead, she felt something else.  Another vibration in the water, smaller but quicker in pace. 

She tightened her concentration and tried to hone in on the new presence.  She recoiled immediately, pain searing through her mind.  She released the elemental magic and briskly ploughed through the putrid waters toward her destination, her rising anger blocking out the remnants of pain.   

Damn that bastard, he summoned grindylows to track us.

The entrance to the lost river was somewhere ahead, she could feel the magic of the gateway thrumming through the waters that sloshed around her boots.  Once she reached it, the nix would be safe and she could deal with the Bloody Gentleman.  She recalled what she knew of the mercenary.  His reputation was well known among her peers, a man with a tragic and violent past.

They had crossed paths several times and had each left their mark upon the other.  But today, today he would not best her.  The life of the little fey safeguarded in her amulet depended on it.  Lilith had no idea how the water fey had ventured into this world and was puzzled even further that it would end up captured and sold on the shadow market.  When this business was done, she swore she would track down the buyer who had tried to purchase the nix.

But right now, I have bigger issues to contend with.

She felt the first of the grindylows cutting through the water, coming directly at her from behind.  The sorceress kept up her pace as she waited for the water demon to strike.  It was then she sensed two more waiting ahead of her at the next junction of the waterways.  She cursed under her breath and summoned her elemental magic once again as she drew Arondight from its scabbard over her shoulder.  She drew the spell into her with several quick and precise gestures with her hand and fingers and held it at the ready as she waded through the miasma of piss and shit that curdled in the water.

All three grindylows attacked simultaneously as she reached the junction, long spindly arms and sharp spines jutting from their greyish skin as they erupted from the water.  But Lilith was prepared.  She cast the elemental spell she had been holding and froze the air around her, catching the grindylows in mid strike.  Three quick slashes of her blade and there were three decapitated demons left in her wake.

Lilith continued through the labyrinth of tunnels, taking each turn at the gentle urging of the nix as it brushed against her thoughts.  Finally, they reached the gateway.  She could see it clearly at the end of the tunnel, glowing brightly through the gloom of the sewer, the light of Avalon cast into the mortal world.  She basked in its glow briefly, her own fey heritage reacting to seeing the immortal light.

But the presence of a horde of grindylows quickly brought her back to her senses.  She touched the amulet around her neck and muttered the words of release and the nix melted from it, a fluid azure liquid light that formed in the water before her.  It took the form of a serpentine dragon, its scales midnight blue and glowing with an inner light.  Its crystalline eyes were a warm ivory hue and they looked upon her full of gratitude and compassion.

Lilith urged it on, waving her sword at the gate, “Go now please, before the grindylows come.  I’ll hold them off.  Go on, go!”

The little water fey hesitated for a moment but then whisked away into the water as the grindylows crashed down the tunnel towards them.  Lilith spun around to face them, Arondight glowing brightly in her hands as she gathered her power and roared in challenge at the water demons, “Ventus ignis!”

Azure flames lanced from Arondights blade and erupted down the tunnel, encasing the demons in fire and water and boiling steam.  Lilith heard nothing but the deafening roar of the fire and steam until she sagged to her knees, her strength utterly spent.  Moments later, the steam cleared enough for her to see what she had wrought. 

Nothing remained but sludge and the shattered bodies of the grindylow.  She would have heaved at the carnage she had inflicted had she the energy left to do so, but it was all she could do to lift her head and cast her eyes upon what remained.

Without warning she felt a blade upon her throat, “Not bad little sorceress, but you should have known it wouldn’t be that easy to kill me.  Now, where is the fey?”

“Fuck you Gideon, I released it back to Avalon.  You’re welcome to enter the gateway and try and recapture it.  But I hazard that you would not last five minutes before the Knight of Seasons is on your tail.”  Lilith knew there was very little she could do to defend herself now.  She was at his mercy.

But despite that, she smiled.  At least the nix got away.

As she readied herself to face Gideon’s wrath, the tunnel was filled with a warm azure light and a haunting melody that touched her deep to her very soul.  The sorceress laughed as she realised what was happening.

The Bloody Gentleman spun around and dragged her with him, the blade still laid across the flesh of her exposed throat.  Before them was the nix in all its glory, glowing bright and filling the tunnel with its song.  Its ivory gaze settled upon Gideon, who fell back against the intensity of its glare before a shaft of azure light lanced from the fey and struck the mercenary squarely in the chest.  He fell back with a cry, and was washed away with the rising current.

Lilith met the eyes of the nix and smiled. 

They had saved each other.
   


« Last Edit: December 02, 2017, 12:04:32 AM by Jonathan Ryan »
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- George R. R. Martin