January 19, 2018, 09:17:12 PM

Author Topic: [Jan 2018] - Rebirth/Renewal - Submission Thread  (Read 163 times)

Offline xiagan

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[Jan 2018] - Rebirth/Renewal - Submission Thread
« on: January 01, 2018, 05:39:51 PM »
Rebirth/Renewal


by Gavin Mackey

What better time to write about renewal and rebirth at the threshold of the new year? Where spring is still far away but the days are slowly getting longer already. Where many people formulate their hopes and wishes for the new year, plan to renew themselves with resolutions and try to leave the faults of their old selves behind.

This is a broad theme and it doesn't have to deal with people or the new year. After all, what can't be renewed? What doesn't have the right to rebirth themselves time and again?


Rules:

1. This must be prose or poetry.
2. The overarching theme must be renewal or rebirth of something or someone.
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 Jan 31th/Feb 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)

Online The Gem Cutter

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Re: [Jan 2018] - Rebirth/Renewal - Submission Thread
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2018, 10:56:25 AM »
The Keeper of the Queen Key
1484 words

Spoiler for Hiden:

At noon, I reached the top of the Turret of a Thousand Steps. My halberd, restored to its former glory, glittered in the sun as I strode across the grand causeway to the great domed Tower of the Clockwork Queen. Ancelagon the bronze dragon sat perched upon a battlement beside the great doors.

I spun my weapon. “Good as new. The Queen will love it.”

“For a little while,” the dragon rasped, staring as I passed. A staring dragon is unnerving, for they possess the scowl of an eagle, the eyes of a cat, and claws worse than both.

I frowned. “What—”

“Enter,” called the Queen in her musical voice. Over my shoulder I saw Ancelagon watch me unblinking as I stepped through the door.

Inside, the Clockwork Queen stood bathed in golden sunlight shining down through the oculus high above. She raised a gloved hand, scattering bronze sparkles across the shadowy pillars that formed a ring around the periphery. “Close the door, knight.”

I did then knelt before her.

“Rise.”

I presented my weapon. “It is remade.”

She looked down at my halberd, then her sapphire eyes glanced up at me over the line of her filigree veil. “As are you.”

I smiled. “Indeed.”

“It is the way of the world. All things are made and marred, by mishap or violence or the slow decay of years. We preserve what we can, restore what we can. But all castles are sandcastles and soon humbled by the tide.”

“Not you, my Queen.”

She canted her head at me, and the gemstones in her crown dazzled my eyes. “You think not?”

“My Queen?”

“I am neither perfect, nor outside the cycle of the world.” She undid her veil, beneath which I had never seen. The bronze and gold of her face continued as I had imagined: a modest nose, lips, and chin - the face of a calm young woman, though she was as old as the Clockwork Keep itself, I supposed.

“Knight, do you see why I wear a veil?”

“No, my Queen.”

“If I had a mouth, a real mouth, I would smile at that. But I am not perfect, like you.” She narrowed her eyes, which I had always taken as a sign of a broader smile beneath. But I realized that was all there was. A minor element of artifice, a trifling limitation. But a limitation of artifice nonetheless.

I lowered my eyes to her shining bronze feet. “Why do you show me this?”

She stepped closer and grasped my shoulders, looking up at me with her perfect golden face. “Because I need you to understand what I am, and what I am not, so that you can help me in a great task. So great, in fact, that I would not command you. It is too much to ask, even of a knight. Will you help me of your own accord?”

My breath caught in my throat. “You know I will.”

“I knew.” She stared up at me for a moment longer. The twirled copper and gold wire of her hair shone in the warm sunlight. “The weightiest questions are always asked with the answer already known.” She released me and walked to the door. “Come. I haven’t much time.”

Dumbfounded, I followed her out and across the great causeway, down the Turret’s thousand steps, and then further down into the deeps of the Clockwork Keep, far below my deepest errands. There, the great gears and cams of the keep turned and clanked and thudded. At the bottom, we came to a stout door, marked with the Queen’s seal.

She nodded and I pushed open the door, unleashing the slow but thunderous racket, like an immense bag of silverware falling slowly down an endless stair.

Inside, huge shafts anchored in gears the size of wagon wheels passed through the room horizontally and vertically through holes in the walls, ceiling, and floor. Countless gears clacked through innumberable cycles. What the shafts turned, I did not know, but I imagined they opened and closed the gates and raised the four enormous drawbridges that led to the Thousand Thousand Roads.

It was too loud to speak and be heard, so she pointed at a row of great bronze vats covered with oak lids. Each held an enormous amount of clear, scentless oil. Large ladles hung from each. She walked to the shafts and gears, gesturing here and there. I noticed the shine and realized the oil was for the shafts.

She led me out and closed the door behind us. My ears rang from the noise.

“Yes, it is a noisy place. You must apply oil where I showed you every month, or the Keep will die.”

“Die?” I laughed. I had never thought it a living thing.

She led me all the way back up to her tower.

Ancelagon sat beside the tower door and bowed low. “Farewell, my Queen.”

“Farewell, Ancelagon!” the Queen said, while I just gaped. She embraced the dragon, then went inside.

Ancelagon blinked then nodded toward the door.

Inside, the Queen drew open a curtain and revealed a broad table, on which lay a being like herself. But while the Clockwork Queen was gold and bronze with hints of platinum and copper here and there, this clockwork lady was wrought entirely of shining silver and mirror-chrome.

“What do you think of her?”

“She is beautiful,” I said. “But not as fair as you. And she has no veil.”

The Queen opened her hand. Her platinum filigree veil lay in her gloved palm. “This is my gift to her. Give it to her when she wakes.” To my amazement, she opened a panel in her breast. Within, I saw the end of a small key set within a complex mechanism: the heart of the Clockwork Queen. It turned slowly while I stared.

“Give it to her yourself, my Queen.”

The Queen only shook her head slowly. Had she a mouth, I was sure she would have smirked at me. “I cannot, for there is only one Queen Key, and I have been its keeper for the time allotted to me. You shall be its keeper and use it to wind my great task – my heir.”

“But,” I stammered, “you are immortal! You’re timeless. Without you, the Clockwork Keep stops, and everything...”

“Everything ends, yes. I know. And though you are not wholly wrong, Sir Knight, you are only half right. I am immortal because I cannot die – but that is only because I am not alive, or at least, not alive like you. But as long-lived as I am, I am not timeless. Nothing is.”

“But,” I went on, unable to accept what she was saying. “The Keep needs you.”

She laughed then and set her hand on my shoulder. “The Keep needs only oil. The errands and tasks of the Queen are all artifice.”

I frowned. “Then why have a Queen at all, then?”

“Because the Keep serves people, and people need to believe that there is someone guiding things.”

“But if that’s not true, it’s just a lie.”

“Not a lie – artifice. Lies deceive to serve the liar’s purposes; artifice deceives to serve the deceived. It is not real, but that does not stop it from fulfilling its purpose. The Clockwork Queen does guide things – just not the way people think. My rule is not real, but my purpose is. I do guide the people who come here – but it is they who rule, though they know it not.”

“Why not tell them?”

“Because believing that I am the incomprehensible, incorruptible wheel that turns things convinces them that they are not. They leave their squabbles and greed and pettiness at the gates because they believe ... what they believe. What they believe is not important - that they behave as their best selves when they come here - that is very important. Without a Queen, this is just a place. With a Queen, the Clockwork Keep is where the sun rises first and sets last – and in such a place, the realms of men share ideas and exchange that which is most crucial of all.”

The prospect of losing my Queen clenched my jaw so tight my teeth were grinding. “And what is that?”

“Hope,” she said. “You must teach her this. That is the mission I call upon you, the Keeper of the Clockwork Queen, to accomplish.”

I wanted to refuse, in the vain hope my wishes would change the way of the world. But I had given my word.

“Farewell, Knight. All things end, even I. There can be no beginnings without ends, and a world without beginnings would be sadder still. You remain the finest of your kind, and I am very fond of you. I made her to match your weapon. Serve her well.”

“I will,” I said. And I did.


« Last Edit: January 14, 2018, 11:16:52 AM by The Gem Cutter »
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Offline D_Bates

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Re: [Jan 2018] - Rebirth/Renewal - Submission Thread
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2018, 12:57:57 PM »
The Curious Case of the Lacertus Estate
1450-1500 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
‘Predators come in all forms, and one’s guaranteed t’be lingering when large sums of money’s involved.’ Me father spoke those words some three and a half decades back, on the day Simon Fonner arrived in Swallow’s Glen. He moved here shortly after it was made public that Lady Lacertus, owner of the fabled Lacertus Estate, was terminally ill with lung cancer.

Brash, suave, and bubbling with confidence, young Fonner strutted the streets in his flared trousers and knock-off silk-scarfs like he owned them. His less than subtle queries over the Lady’s circumstances fuelled immediate suspicion, and once he finally wormed his way into her confidence as a ‘carer’ he’d flutter around her like the very cigar smoke that festered her doom. Within months he was living in her former castle turned mansion on the hill, preparing meals and washing garments at first, but his duties quickly elevated to writing cheques on her behalf. His regular trips to the bars on her expense rubbed everybody up the wrong way, no less than his lauding over his close ‘relationship’ with her. Then the solicitors went in.

“That settles it,” my father exclaimed at dinner. “We’ll be out of work within a month of her passing.” And his fears held merit. The Lacertus Estate was the lifeblood of our unremarkable farming community lost among the lazing slopes and grazing pastures of the Scottish highlands. The Lacertus dynasty had kept the place afloat for nearly four centuries. Lady Lacertus, made a tragic widow in her early twenties, was worth in excess of ten million pounds, so it was claimed, and she was an only child who’d never remarried nor born any children of her own. I recall in her final days peering through the estate’s polished bronze gates bolted to pillars capped with lizard reliefs, and marvelling at the diamond windows of the tower over the mansion entrance, only to seeing her peering out from between the bars in the alcove protruding from the third floor. Oh, how sad and despairing she looked.

Fonner had become more reclusive by that time... more cautious, contemplative... switching out the playboy attire for an antique suit far older than he. On the fleeting times he did wander into town his braggart personae was also more refrained, bordering dignified, as he engaged with us mere locals as if he’d known us his whole life.

Alas, change his skin he might, but the act did little to quell the unrest that Lady Lacertus’s inevitable death dealt to the neighbourhood. Before the funeral could even take place there were whisperings regarding the fate of our livelihoods. Folk were already sharpening pitchforks when the news landed that the entire estate would be left in the care of Mr--now Lord--Simon Fonner. And while the usurper tried to calm the outrage with promises of business as usual, even his legally changing his surname to Lacertus did little to dissuade folk of the sell-up sure to occur.

Yet, despite all doubts, the man was true to his word. Apparently some people genuinely are just looking for an opportunity in life to prove themselves.

In the years that passed, Simon Lacertus never shied away from running the operation as though it were built off his own sweat and blood. The elders in those days came to call him a blessing. He even made me the estate’s caretaker when I reached working age--a job I still do to this day. All my life I’ve looked after that mysterious mansion that awed me as a kid, from its fragrant courtyard gardens to the yawning main hall, the cosy lines of bedrooms off elegant stone hallways, the expansive kitchen, and even the chandelier hung parlours and games-rooms. The only place I ain’t ever been allowed to see’s the cellar. But each of us is entitled to our own private places, right?

Truth be told, I became good friends with dear Si over the decades. We drank many a night away together. Sure, like most, he had some eccentric quirks. His particular passion--other than smoking those accursed cigars that claimed his benefactor--was crocodiles. References to the scaly things cover the mansion: skins splayed on walls, skulls on podiums, organs preserved in jars, and even the cutlery handles are engraved like scales. My personal favourite’s the croc-foot back-scratcher. But yes, Si is... was fascinated with the things. “Oldest living creature on land, you know?” he’d often tell me, finger raised profoundly, a reptilian glint in his eye. “Their success comes from settling in the right territory, a place obscure enough to go ignored, but important enough that a plentiful supply of prey will wade through with expectations of a better life on the other side. It’s similar to how the dragons of myth live on their piles of gold despite having no need for wealth.”

“Fascinating,” I used to tell him... to humour him, of course, ‘cause I hadn’t the foggiest idea what he was blabbering on about.

So that was our life... simple, quiet, unassuming... till the day tragedy struck and poor old Lord Lacertus was diagnosed with an advanced stage of lung cancer. Less than two years to live the doctors said. Oh, how indignant he was, sat in his scaly leather arm-chair, cigar smoldering betwixt his fingers. “Four centuries,” he’d grumble. “And still they've failed to devise a cure for this dastardly disease.”

Before the news had been in the public eye for twenty-four hours a Yorkshire strumpet by the name of Penelope Pinch had arrived. Barely in her twenties, she skipped right into Simon’s life, flinging her thighs and bouncing her bosom, and he was smitten as a teenager having seen his favourite actress in the buff for that one scene she regretted ever having filmed.

“Girl’s only after one thing,” I told my wife.

“You old cynic,” she replied. “Perhaps she genuinely loves him?”

“Perhaps,” I huffed back. But when was the last time any young lass chose to fondle, let alone buy, the wrinkled, seeping old plums on the fruit stand when they weren’t planning to sue the supermarket afterwards?

My suspicions over Penny’s motives were furthered on seeing her flirting with the local lads around town. I tried to tell Simon, to awaken his infatuated eyes, but he’d have none of it. Banned me from the mansion, he did! Strange box after strange box was soon arriving from the far reaches of Australia, Africa, and South America, and all I could do was watch despairingly as my old friend’s wealth was being leeched away on Penny’s exotic tastes.

Penny’s playful excursions into town ceased around the time of their sudden and entirely private marriage, feeding rumours on the imminent demise of our reclusive town. Then I saw dear Si staring despairingly, full of youthful naive innocence, from the barred window on the protruding alcove of the tower’s third floor. “That cinches it!” I exclaimed to the air, storming off to bang on the door and demand answers. The woman who answered... Oh, it were Penny’s all right--her figure were undeniable. But she was wearing old Lady Lacertus’s clothes, gloves and all, a long-sleeved, frilly-necked sixteenth century garb that showed not a smidgen of skin beneath the chin. The nerve of it left me gobsmacked, and before I came round to air my protest she dismissed me and slammed the door in my face.

Poor Simon died before the end of the year. After the funeral, Penelope Lacertus invited me back into the mansion to discuss my continued service. It eased my my dread some that, on the surface, she appeared to want to continue the Lacertus legacy. Still, I had to ask whether she were worried about the townsfolk revolting.
“Not at all,” she said, thin lips stretched into a wide smile. “They’ll come around eventually. They always do.”
“And Simon?” I asked. “How are you taking his loss.”

“In my stride,” she said with a long breath. “It’s painful, but I console myself in the knowledge that dear Fonner only wanted my life, which is exactly what I gave her.”

“Him,” I corrected.

She stared blankly at me a moment before tittering. “Of course. My bad. The stress of all this change... it plays havoc with the old mind.” She took out a cigar, lit it up, and reclined in the scaly leather chair. “So... Is there anything you’d like to get off your mind to solidify this fresh start?”

“Well...” said I. “I’ve always wondered about the cellar. It’s the only place I’ve never seen.”

She took a serious puff, rose to approach me, rest a cold hand on my shoulder, and oily eyes glistening with a strikingly familiar reptilian glint, said, “Some things, my old friend, are best left to the imagination.”
« Last Edit: January 18, 2018, 12:45:38 PM by D_Bates »
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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