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Offline Autumn2May

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Writing Challenge Winner's Circle
« on: March 28, 2011, 09:09:55 PM »
Monthly Writing Challenge Winners!

Every month here on Fantasy Faction we have a writing contest open to all comers.  The contest opens on the first day of the month and closes on the last day of the month.  After the contest closes, members are encouraged to vote for their favorite entry.  Below are the winners of our past writing contests.  Congratulations to the winners and good luck to our future contestants! :)

Winners

Scroll down to see each month's winner or click one of the links below.

January 2011
February 2011
March 2011
April 2011
June 2011
July 2011
August 2011
September 2011
October 2011
November 2011 (part I)
November 2011 (part II)
December 2011

January 2012
February 2012
March 2012
April 2012
May 2012
« Last Edit: July 04, 2012, 05:29:25 PM by Autumn2May »

Offline Autumn2May

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Writing Contest Winners - January 2011
« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2011, 09:24:52 PM »
January's Contest

Look at the following two pairs of photos, pick one pair and then and put them together to make a story. The whole point is that the characters clash with the setting. You need to think about why the people in photo 1 are in the setting of photo 2...then simply start writing. I'm only looking for 500-1000 words but it can be as long as you like.

Pair 1





Pair 2






January's Winner

January was a tie!  The winners were Hawthorn & DDJones!

View all the entries here: http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/writers-corner/january-writing-challenge/
View the voting results here: http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/writers-corner/choose-the-winner-of-january's-writing-challenge/?viewResults

* * * * *

Hawthorns Entry Using Pair 2

“What the …? Dave, did you see that?”

“What? I didn’t see anything. C’mon, there’s a free cab.” He leans from the kerb into the roaring traffic, holding his arm aloft to summon the driver.

“No, no, wait. I saw something – it was right here, by my bag, but then it ran off. I think it was… I don’t know what it was. You sure you didn’t see it?”

“Honey, it was probably a rat – these alleys are crawling with them. Don’t sweat it. Taxi! Taxi!”

“No, it wasn’t no rat. It was bigger, and it had … I think it had a horn. On its head.”

Dave isn’t listening. The first cab has been swept by, lost in the current of motorised humanity, but he has spotted another and is waving frantically to catch the driver’s attention. It crosses two lanes of traffic to reach him, causing a blockage in the flow and a mighty blaring of horns. It glides to a halt by the kerb and Dave opens the door.

“West New York,” he says to the driver, but then he realises that his companion is still standing on the sidewalk, staring back into the alley. “Teresa, are you coming or what?”

Her brow furrows. “Yeah, I...” she murmurs, and shakes her head fractionally. “It wasn’t no rat, Dave. I dunno what it was, but it wasn’t no rat.”

“Probably a fox, then, or a stray dog. Honey, come on – get in the cab, will ya?”

Teresa stares for another few seconds, narrowing her eyes as she peers into the gloom and stink of the alley. Then, reluctantly, she shrugs slightly and turns away, gathering up her shopping bags and sliding into the cab behind Dave. Her face glows white against the window, still peering and trying to work out what she saw as the vehicle pulls out into the unbroken flow of traffic.

Truth be told, I don’t know what I am either, but Teresa is right – I’m no rat. I eat them sometimes, when I can’t get anything else, but they’re nasty dirty creatures, without any wit or grace to redeem them from their miserable scurrying existence. I prefer birds – their meat is lighter somehow, less polluted by the city’s miasma – but they’re harder to catch.

Best of all is when I can get the meat that humans prepare for themselves; that’s what I was doing by Teresa’s shopping bag, trying to pilfer the packet of burgers that was hidden inside. Mostly, though, I live on their leavings and the small creatures I can corner and strangle, their bones cracking and creaking as I squeeze their small lives out of existence.

I don’t even know how I got here, except that I was here before the humans. I used to roam further than I do now in search of prey; my territory stretched across many square miles of wilderness, but now I have no need to wander far. Human wastefulness is prodigious, and I feast on their gluttony and the vermin that live in the darkened alleys with me.

There are no others like me and I take care to keep myself hidden, but the humans know of me – I have often found my likeness on their rooftops, guarding their gutters and watching over their sleepless city. Statues of creatures like me – some with wings, some with tails, some with horns like mine, but all made of stone, dead and lifeless and unable to appreciate the sweet juicy savour of a freshly killed pigeon. I know this; I have offered my kills to them, many times, but they never awaken.

As Teresa’s cab is lost in the swirling tide of vehicles my green eyes pulse once with a glow of regret as I consider the meal that I have lost. I retreat further into the alley, turning away from the brightly-lit Manhattan shopping street; the night is my time, and I shall wait for full dark before I venture out of the enclosing shadows again. Not that this place ever sleeps, not really, but then, neither do I. I watch, I eat their food, I kill their vermin, and I endure. I shall be here when they are gone, and maybe then, in the silence of absence and loss, my stone brethren will awaken and I shall no longer be alone.

* * * * *

DDJones Entry Using Pair 1

Ophelia adjusted her glasses and looked around the room.  It was brightly lit, filled with gleaming stainless steel and glass.  Stoppered flasks of unidentified liquids, colored the primary hues of the rainbow, tugged at her attention like the eye-spots of a butterfly's wing.  The faint odor of chemicals and ozone permeated the air.  The feel of the place was so at odds with the dark, Gothic exterior of the abandoned building that for a moment she felt disoriented, as though the unlocked side door had been a portal warping time and space rather than a simple entryway.

Gabby plopped herself on the floor at Ophelia's feet.  Her hair, pulled back into a tight, vertical tuft, shook as she giggled.  Tess tugged at the fringed tie-strings of her pink, knitted cap, pulling it down until it all but concealed her eyes.

"I don't like this," she told Ophelia.  "This is ... weird."

Ophelia shrugged.  "This whole world is weird," she replied.  "Everything's out of whack here.  Why is this any stranger than anything else we've dealt with?"

Tess shook her head.  "I don't know.  It just is.  It doesn't feel right."

Ophelia knew better than to dismiss Tess' feelings as mere jitters, but there was little she could do about the intuition now.  It wasn't as if they had any choice in being here, and she was already as vigilant as possible.  

"So what do we do now?" Gabby asked from her position on the floor.  She was leaning forward, both palms pressed flat against the concrete, staring at a steel door inset into the far wall.

Ophelia scuffed the soles of her scarlet sneakers against the floor.  She could feel nothing through the thick rubber.  She wondered if Gabby was having any more luck but didn't ask.  If she were, Gabby would speak up.

"I guess we wait," she said after a moment.  "I mean, what else can we do?"

Tess grinned.  "We could trash the place."

Ophelia sighed.  "Not a good idea.  There's no telling what half this crap is."  She indicated the stoppered flasks.  "That stuff might explode or poison us.  Besides, we're trying to get on this guy's good side."

Tess snorted.  "Yeah, blackmail and extortion.  That's how you get on somebody's good side."

Ophelia opened her mouth to respond but was interrupted by Gabby.

"Someone's coming!"

"Just one?" Ophelia asked.

Gabby pressed her palms harder against the floor.  "I think so.  Hard to get a good reading through this stuff.  Like trying to see through fog."

The door in the far wall opened and a man walked through.  He wore a dark business suit and carried a briefcase.  He came to an abrupt halt as he spotted the three girls.

"What are you doing here?" he demanded.

Gabby stood up and Ophelia stepped forward.  "Hi, Mr. March.  I'm Ophelia.  This is Gabby and Tess."

March's eyes narrowed and his lips thinned.  "You?  You're the three threatening me?  You're kids!"

"I'm sorry.  We didn't want to blackmail you.  But you refused to talk to us and you're the only black magician we could locate."  The last sentence came out more plaintive that she'd wished and she bit her lip.  She needed to deal from a position of strength and sounding like a scared little girl would undermine that.

"What makes you think I'm a black magician?"

Ophelia sighed.  "We know.  Just like we knew the location of your lab.  Leave it at that.  Besides, if you weren't then threatening to reveal you as one wouldn't have got you here."

"If you believe I'm a black magician, then you should also believe that threatening me is a very dangerous thing to do."

"We do.  We didn't have a choice."

March studied them for a moment.  "How much are you asking for?"

"What?" Ophelia asked, puzzled, then shook her head.  "Oh, no.  We don't want money.  We need you to cast a spell."

"A spell."

Ophelia nodded.  "We need you to open a portal to Faerie."

March's eyes widened.  "A portal to Faerie?  Are you mad?  Have you been watching too many animated movies?  Do you think Tinkerbell is going to come out and sprinkle some fairy dust on you and you'll all fly away and be happy ever after?"

Ophelia shook her head.  "No.  We know what we're asking.  And it can be a one-way portal.  Here to there.  It's a low power spell, easy to cast.  You won't even break a sweat.  And no chance of anything escaping."

March crossed his arms.  "One way.  So you either want to send something there or ..." he paused.  "You plan to go through yourself."

Ophelia nodded.  "You cast the spell, we go through.  We're out of your hair and no chance to double-cross you."

"And what makes you think I'm the type of person who'd send three little girls to their death?  You have no idea what it's like in Faerie.  What is it you think you'll find over there?"

Ophelia took a deep breath and removed her glasses.  Without the spell bound into their frame, her eyes were huge, showing bright yellow irises split by dark, vertical pupils.  Tess pulled off her knitted cap, revealing the horns that curled back from her brow and over her ears.  Gabby pulled the scarlet binding from her hair.  Freed from the restraint, her hair fell to frame her face and the antennae it had concealed sprang upright.

"Please, Mr. March," Ophelia said.  "We just want to go home."
« Last Edit: May 02, 2011, 01:52:44 PM by Autumn2May »

Offline Autumn2May

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Writing Contest Winners - February 2011
« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2011, 09:35:21 PM »
February 2011 Contest

Write a 500 word scene that involves romance. There must be fantasy and there must be at least one laugh.  How you use the fantasy is up to you. How you introduce the laugh is also up to you. It can be subtle, it can cause us to laugh out loud, but it must be there. Yes... this is a tough one, but the word 'challenge' means that you shouldn't always expect things to be easy.

February's Winner

MTMaenpaa

See all the entries and the results here: http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/writers-corner/february-writing-challenge/

* * * * *

Blame the Refill
By Matthew T Maenpaa

I struck the match against the side of the box, the sulfur mingling with the faint scent of sage burning in my bedroom as I lit the taper candles in the dining room. The overhead was turned down low, my attempt at creating a nice romantic atmosphere.

Talia and I had started as coworkers, then friends, and had been dating for a couple years now.  I had known right away that I loved her, but there were moments that seemed as if she were only biding her time.  Tonight would be the night though, when I would know for sure that she loved me.

I could hear the flush of the toilet and the tap turning on in the bathroom. With dinner on the table and the candles lit, there was only one thing left. After filling each of our glasses with pinot noir, I fished a vial of murky liquid from my jacket pocket. The gypsy woman had warned me that the potion would take a while to set in, at least an hour. I uncorked it and poured a splash into Talia’s wine glass. The love potion seemed like cheating but nothing wrong with giving Fate a hand, right?

The sound of running water ended and I could hear the bathroom door open, followed by the clatter of high-heels on hardwood. I replaced the cork and shoved the vial into my pocket, smiling at my future wife as she entered the kitchen. “The candles are really sweet, Marlon.  They make this place look cute.”

I offered her my most handsome grin as I pulled out her chair. “Thanks, Talia. It’s usually fine for Winston and me, but we wanted it to be special for you.”

She settled into the table, eying the meal. “Lamb chops! Marlon, these are my favorite!”

“How could I forget?”

We made small talk as we ate, a bit about work, a bit about our families. I kept waiting for our eyes to lock, to feel that spark between us. The gypsy had told me that the potion was simple. Mix it in her drink. Wait an hour. Make sure you two are absolutely alone in the room. She will only have eyes for you thereafter.

With the meal finished and the table cleared, Talia and I moved to the small sofa in my living room. Before leaving the kitchen, I refreshed our wine and added another splash of the potion to hers for good measure. The jangle of a collar told me that Winston, my French bulldog, had woken up and decided to visit with the company. Carrying both of our glasses in one hand, a plate of chocolate truffles in the other, I entered the living room.

Talia was on her knees petting the dog, their eyes locked. The tone in her voice made my heart sink. “Marlon, your dog is perfect.”

I tried to smile. “Isn’t he just?”

She glanced up at me, enough to see the glassy look of devotion in her eyes before she returned her gaze to my dog. “Winston, I could just love you forever.”

Finis
« Last Edit: May 02, 2011, 01:53:10 PM by Autumn2May »

Offline Autumn2May

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Writing Challenge Winners - March 2011
« Reply #3 on: May 02, 2011, 01:48:08 PM »
March 2011 Contest - Poetry

1. First rule. There are no rules in poetry. Do you believe there are? Let's talk about this. Sure, the sonnet and the limerick have rules; haiku has rules; these forms are defined by their rules. But poetry in general? At the end of the day, I'd argue that poetry has but one rule, that it not be prose, that it be one notch more distilled and exciting than prose.

2. Second Rule. In this case we WILL limit your Poems... They can be 12 to 20 lines long... purely for fairness and so we can judge evenly.

3. Third Rule. Covered in the first rule but to make it clear... They DO NOT have to rhyme!

March's Winner

knittingknots

See all the entries and the results here: http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/writers-corner/march-writing-challenge/

* * * * *
Based on the fairy tale the Wild Swans.

The Silent Sister

The spinning wheel turns round and round
She listens to its whirring sound
And dreams of summers yet unfound
As she pulls the fine white thread.

The swans fly silent through the sky -
they set their wings to land nearby
She dare not stop to sing or sigh
with the curse upon their head.

The loom clicks as the shuttle flies
the tears fall silent from her eyes,
as bespelled brothers take to the skies -
they spot the loom’s white shed.

Nettle linen she sews by day
though why she does she may not say -
or else the swans will go away.
Her hands are sore and red.

What will she say when the task is done
the last stitch made, the last thread spun
and her brothers stand man-shaped in the sun -
Will she scream the spell is dead?
« Last Edit: May 02, 2011, 01:53:29 PM by Autumn2May »

Offline Autumn2May

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Re: Writing Challenge Winners
« Reply #4 on: June 01, 2011, 02:59:15 PM »
April 2011 Contest - Spring: Warmth & Hope

With the coming of spring brings the coming of many things but two of the most predominant are the thoughts of hope and the warmth of the weather.

This month I am giving you a challenge that is pretty tough to make unique...

In 500-1000 words I want a passage or short story about hope. This 'hope' must be accompanied with 'warmth'. What do I mean by 'warmth' ? Well... that is open to interpretation. One of the moderators suggested 'weather magic' but it could quite as easily be the feeling of 'warmth' caused by hope or an accomplishment. It could be a fire or even used to describe the feeling of love... it's completely up to you.

Rules
Must be prose.
500-1000 words.
You must base the piece around the emotion/feeling of hope.
There must be an element of 'warmth' in the story.

April's Winner

Autumn2May

See all the entries and the results here: http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/writers-corner/april-writing-challenge/

* * * * *
Mela stood on the edge of the massive plateau staring out at the dark horizon.  The ground far below appeared flat and even, but the sound of breaking waves in the distance broke the illusion.  The sun would rise soon over the water and send its golden light into world once again.  And Mela would be there to see it.  Mela had to see it.

The cold wind whipped past her into the ancient forest at her back.  The first birds were already awake and gracing the trees with their sweet songs.  Mela heard something scurry into a bush at her side, but she didn’t turn to investigate.  The sky fey, Sunil, had told her to watch as he left and to continue watching until the first rays of sun breached the surface of the ocean.  Mela had been standing rooted to her spot for hours, determined to finish the last wish of her former master.

Another gust of wind blew up from the Flatlands brushing a tear from her eye and tossing her dark hair about her shoulders.  The wind didn’t seem to care that the fey were gone.  Neither did the forest or the birds.  Mela brushed the cold tear from her cheek and added a ragged sigh to the twisting breeze.

“No one cares,” Mela said still staring at the horizon, “that’s why they left.  People think they have no use for essence magic; they’d rather rely on technology to save them. But wild, untended magic is a dangerous thing, and the only beings who knew its secrets have finally abandoned humanity.  We are lost, and yet the wind continues to blow and the birds continue to sing, as if nothing has changed; as if we can carry on without them.”

Sunil hadn’t told Mela why she must watch the sunrise.  He hadn’t told her where the fey were going or what she was to do now that they’d left.  Part of her hoped the sun’s light would cut through her body like Sunil’s last words had done.  That the first light of spring would be the last she’d ever see, and that her spirit would stay forever watching the horizon and waiting for the fey to return.

The thought sent a shiver down her spine.  Mela shifted her feet and felt the frost covered grass crunch under her boots.  It was cold and her mind’s wanderings weren’t helping her repel the icy air.  She rubbed her arms to warm herself, but the wind bit through her shirt as if trying to thwart her efforts.

The sky was starting to lighten and Mela could just make out the waves of the sea crashing against the sandy shore.  She had thought that she would be too far off to smell the salt air, but even at this great distance she could hear the rhythmic crashing of the waves and the smell of the ocean drifting up the side of the plateau, giving the forest an otherworldly feel.  It seemed the lighter the sky became the more clearly she could sense the ocean.  The sounds and smells of the sea mixed with the deep earthy tones of the forest were tossed together by the ever present breeze.  Mela had the urge to close her eyes and take in the sensations without the distraction of the view.  But Sunil had given her an order and she could not tarnish his memory by disobeying him.  So she waited; for the sun, for spring, and to complete her final task.

“How can I go on without my master?  Without the essence?” Mela thought, as another tear rolled down her cheek.  “My whole life was learning the balance and understanding the ways of magic and the fey and how to use it to help my people.  Now I have nothing.  Nothing but the sunrise and the wind.”

As if in answer, the wind blew straight up from the cliff face, startling Mela from her thoughts.  She almost looked down to see where the wind had come from, but stopped herself just in time.

“You won’t distract me from my task,” Mela said to the breeze.  “You are a trickster, but I won’t be fooled by you.  The essence of the wind has no power over me.  Go bother someone else!”

One last gust of wind blew past Mela into the woods and then the breeze fell silent.  The whole world suddenly seemed tense as if the forest itself was holding its breath.  Then a small bit of the horizon sprung to life and the golden rays of spring’s first sun leapt up from the sea into the sky.  The light was blinding and Mela had to concentrate to keep from blinking.  She took a single step forward and recited the verse Sunil had taught her.

“The sun has risen from the depths and touched the sea and sky.  And with this I give one last breath and bid the fey goodbye.  We stand alone to keep the day and push away the night.  Grant us one last boon oh sun and bless us with your light.”

With that Mela closed her eyes, letting the warmth of the sun cover her face and chase all traces of winter from the air around her.  She realized quickly that the warmth she was feeling was far greater than it should have been.  And that the heat seemed to be coming not from the sun before her but from inside her very being!  She opened her eyes and saw the world covered in the glow of magic; essence floating out of the forest and into the sky before her carried by the playful breeze.  Sunil had not abandoned her completely; he’d given her a parting gift.  He’d given her the gift of magic!

Mela took one last look at the rising sun, and then collapsed to her knees with a great sigh of relief.  She would continue in her master’s footsteps and would save her people from the world and themselves.  She again had a purpose, a link to the essence, and more importantly she again had hope.  Smiling Mela picked up a dried leaf and let the wind carry it from her hand, watching as the blue-green essence magic blew it off into the distance, over Flatlands and into the sea beyond.

Offline Autumn2May

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Re: Writing Challenge Winner's Circle
« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2011, 03:27:45 PM »
June 2011 Contest - Storms

Summer is a time of extreme weather.  High heat and massive thunderstorms bringing rain, hail, tornados, and sometimes even morphing into hurricanes!  In the world of fantasy the weather can be a malevolent force manipulated by the powers of evil, used by the gods to smite their enemies, or simply a wild card controlled by none and feared by all.

This month’s challenge is to write a short story or scene that involves a storm.
It could be a thunderstorm, a rainstorm, a hurricane, or maybe in your universe it rains frogs, whatever floats your boat.

Rules

1. Must be prose.
2. 1,500 - 2,000 words.
3. Must include a storm and some element of fantasy.

June's Winner

Shanothaine

See all the entries and the results here: http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/writers-corner/june-writing-challenge/

* * * * *

IMARIN OF STARFALL

A crystalline flake drifted down in front of her face.
 
Slowly, she pulled her fur-lined cloak tighter around her body. A strand of carmine hair was swept out from under her cape, lashing through the wind.

“Not long now,” she whispered.

Her emerald eyes were focused on the eastern horizon. The setting sun would soon cast its last waves of orange over the fields, illuminating the land with its last breath. A thin sheet of snow had already ensnared the plain – a sign that winter would be early this year.

She stood alone on one of the many hillocks strewn across the Errian Wake – a plain stretching for miles in all directions, from the Thallusian shores to the Birithron kingdom. Yet she was unperturbed by the vastness of the area; her quarry would not escape her. She had been on their trail for three days – she had caught their scent in Vinrem and followed them south.

A wind caught up behind her, blowing about her brown robe. The copse of birch trees around her provided little shelter from the gust – they had long since shed their leaves in sacrifice to the gods. She touched one of them, allowing the cold of the trunk to course through her fingers. With her other hand, she clutched the silver pendant shaped as a tree dangling around her neck. Her emerald eyes closed in reverence.

“Great mother, give me strength.” Her words escaped as puffs of steam, the cold quickly settling as the last attempts of sunlight vanished.

Her emerald eyes shot open, an unearthly light glaring from them. On the horizon, she saw them – three travellers, bent under the force of a stray wind, their cloaks huddled tight around them. They were at least three miles away; no bigger than the nail of her thumb from where she was standing.

It mattered not.

Slowly, she reached behind her back, her hand coiling around the familiar shape of her bow. She was in no hurry – they had no idea she was even following them. The slender weapon was long and slightly curved, in the way of the Lindel grovemasters, and adorned with an intricate silver filigree. As she brought up the bow, her right hand reached for one of the swan feather arrows in her quiver. Elegantly she strung it, the bow effortlessly responding to her pull.

She could feel the muscles in her arms tense, a cloud of anticipation building up inside her. The delicate tattoos that covered her bow arm remained still as the skin pulled tight.
Her eyes were fixed on her prey, moving slowly against the wind.

“Athura lethian,” she whispered. The tattoos on her arm slowly began moving, an undulating wave of designs and images creeping, weaving, hissing. The sibilant noise emanating from them drowned out all sound for a moment. A feint light coursed through them – the same silvery light that now beamed from her eyes and pulsed from the bow’s filigree. Her markspell had been cast.

The arrow left its perch, leaving a shimmer of silver dust in its wake. It would not miss – Imarin never missed.

Steadily, Imarin lay down her bow, all the while keeping her eyes fixed on the arrow. It moved with ferocity, cutting the air with its platinum tip. With the flick of a finger, she undid the clasp keeping her cloak around her body. As it fell, plumes of snow danced about it.

Imarin’s body tensed momentarily at the shock of the cold, adjusting to the wind. Her fine leather armour proved to be less resistant to the imminent winter than she had anticipated. Her long, red hair danced wildly about her tanned body; the tattoos, restricted to her left arm, continued moving.

And all the while, her eyes were fixed on the arrow.

Blood. Even from here, she could see it staining the white snow. The moment it spilled, Imarin leapt forward. She ran gracefully, her body flowing like a violent river across the plains.
 
Closer. Closer.

The traveller hit by the arrow was already dead; Imarin’s single shot had ripped through his jugular. She saw his companions kneel next to him, horrified. They would soon see her – but not until it was too late.

Closer. Closer.

She could smell their fear now, it was almost sickening. While still running, she drew her dual thrimm; long, beautiful, curved blades of silver with elegant ivory hilts. Her hands grasped them with admiration – she could already feel the sensation, the reward, they would give her as she killed her quarry.

But for a moment, she lapsed – she let her thoughts wander. She saw one of her targets get up with an orb dangling from a chain in his hand and heard him cast his spell.
In an instant, her quarry was engulfed in mist. She stopped in her tracks, crouching.

“Blood of Tiral,” she cursed under her breath. “This was not part of the deal.”
 
The orb had been a Stormsphere, which could only mean one thing. At least one of the two remaining targets was an Aellomancer – a storm mage. Imarin couldn’t risk entering the mist unprepared; for all she knew, it was a haze of blades sharpened to kill her instantly.

The Aellomancers were an order of great repute, and great power. Their magic allowed them not only to control the weather, but to change its very essence. This would be an interesting encounter, to say the least.

But by no means was Imarin not fit for a fight. She was, after all, the greatest of the Orlis Hunters – but never before had she faced an Aellomancer. After sheathing her thrimm, she softly put her left palm on the cold ground.

“Iru vallan ramalië,” her voice was barely a whisper. Behind her, two dark shapes formed, approaching her slowly. They gave low growls as their yellow eyes looked past her, glaring into the unnatural mist.

“Do not let them escape. One has a Stormsphere – I will deal with him. Kill the other.” Imarin’s voice was soft, yet resonated with authority. Immediately, the creatures darted to the mist, their feline bodies lithely carrying them.

Imarin watched diligently – the Talari wildcats she summoned would trigger any initial defences, allowing her to slip through. If the mist was dangerous, there would be an opening around her targets – much like the eye of a storm.

She noticed that it grew exceedingly cold, and that clouds started packing above. Thunder drummed in the distance.
 
The wildcats had made it through the mist – as her own creations she could sense their lifeforce and see what they saw if she so chose. Imarin ran to them, in the middle of the mist.

The clearing was empty – only blood stained the snow. For a moment she stood, then –

“Trap!” her voice was muffled by the mist, yet the wildcats heard her. Imarin leapt into the air with inhuman agility, her body rising high above the cloud of confusion – and below her she saw flares of blue light crashing into the clearing. Immediately she knew the wildcats were dead.
 
Her leap propelled her away from the mist – as an Orlis Hunter, she was gifted with great physical prowess and dexterity.

It will take more than a mere lightning spell to dispose of me, Aellomancer, she thought as she landed softly in the snow. She scanned the surrounding fields for her quarry, her eyes flitting with great speed, scouting as quickly as possible.

“Running so soon,” she half-laughed as she saw them. The chase was Imarin’s favourite part.

Circumventing the mist, which slowly began to disperse, she set after them. Their sound of their feet crunching through the snow, their heavy breathing, their anxiety; all of it flooded through Imarin, her senses alighting with glee. As she ran, a beautiful smile drew across her face.

As they ran, the Aellomancer turned around and continued moving backwards – a windflight charm, doubtlessly. Imarin saw two balls of light form in his palms and rush towards her, yet she easily dodged them. What she failed to observe was a third bolt, which connected with her right shoulder and sent her reeling backwards.

She hit the ground hard. She looked at her shoulder, only to find most of it missing. Her arm was hanging by a few tendons. Luckily there was no blood – the Aellomancer’s spell had seared the wound shut, even as it cut through her flesh and bone.

Imarin gave a gasp as the pain started growing. She had only one option now.

“Pallas. Tamor. Uroth. Ishtian. Adara.” As she spoke these words, these ancient names of power, her tattoos started moving violently. Five of the images crept down her arm, pressing into each of her fingers. Imarin watched as they edged to the fingertips, she watched in agony as they tore through her skin, birthing themselves.

One of the five creatures, nothing more than a flaring orb of light, immediately charged into her wound. Imarin could feel the pain subsiding – she saw the flesh regrow.
“Thank you, Adara,” she whispered. It almost brought her to tears to call on these, her most intimate of spells, for they could not be recrafted. They died as she used them – already there were patches of naked skin on her tattooed arm.

“The bastard used black lightning on me,” she cursed as she got up. “No more games – they die now.”

The other four creatures had quickly grown to Imarin’s size; they were lithe, beautiful creatures shaped like men, but their eyes betrayed their ethereal nature. Something dark dwelt within them. Without a word, three of them turned and sprinted in the direction of Imarin’s prey; one came over to her and kissed her passionately.

As it did so, its powerful body pressing against hers, it started to glow. The kiss continued, Imarin drinking its energy until it collapsed a husk of ash on the white snow. As she looked up, her eyes shone like diamonds.

“Rain down your storm, Aellomancer. It shall be your last.”

Offline Autumn2May

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Re: Writing Challenge Winner's Circle
« Reply #6 on: August 29, 2011, 09:34:51 PM »
July 2011 Contest - Freedom

Freedom means a lot of things to a lot of people.  In fantasy it can mean peace for an oppressed kingdom, equality for a downtrodden race, or even the ability for a single man or woman to find their own path in life.

This month’s challenge is to write a short fantasy story or scene that involves freedom.

Rules

1. Must be prose.
2. 1,500 - 2,000 words.
3. Must include the theme of freedom and some element of fantasy.

July's Winner

Shanothaine

See all the entries and the results here: http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/writers-corner/july-writing-challenge

* * * * *
(Notice from the author: This piece might prove a bit disturbing for sensitive readers and/or children. My intention was not to shock or offend, but the events are crucial to the growth of the character.)

SEPHIEL OF WHISPERSONG

Sephiel gazed out over the west as the sun descended into the vast ocean of trees, casting shadows and gilding canopies that rose high enough to touch the last rays of the day. Above her, the stars made their appearance, arriving one by one until she could see the constellations she had come to know.

There, she thought, is Kalaen and Luatyr, lovers holding each other knowing that when the morning comes, they will have to part once more. In the south the Serpent coiled, its fangs glaring. The stellar glare danced in its eyes as they gazed into the heavens. A warm breeze took up and threw about her robes, and brought with it the subtle sounds of the Academy behind her.

She had lived here all thirteen years of her life, nestled in the mountains of the east, looking out over the great forests and expansive plains to the north. Shaer Indenil, the Alabaster Tower, was where Sephiel spent her life, learning the ways of the ancient order of Spellsingers, devoting her life to the goddess Kalaen. She had never set foot beyond the steep walls of the Academy – the evangels of the Goddess were to serve from their sanctuaries alone.

Glancing up once more, she saw that the moon had finally come to join her children in the night sky. The milky light consumed the forest, which had driven the final beams of sunlight into the west, and was now washed by the opalescent hues of the evening. As she stood there, the winds spoke to her and she turned her gaze to the north: A company of riders made their way across the vast plains; a host of men on horseback were travelling across the fields. Yet they were far away, and Sephiel turned lazily to retreat for the night, and forgot about them completely.

Sephiel’s chambers were small, but comfortable. In a corner, a fire was gently crackling in the hearth, and streaks of moonlight danced through the latticed window. An oak carving of the goddess Kalaen stood in stark beauty on a small table and a censer breathed languid wisps of incense smoke into the cool night air.

Yet for all the comforts of her room, Sephiel could not sleep. She tossed about her bed, dreading the dark of the night. Her blonde hair was cold with sweat, and she could feel tears preparing to spill from her cerulean eyes.

The distinct click of her door latch drew a gasp from her small body, no more than a whinge muffled by the thick evening. The door slowly opened, and the familiar rustle of robes seemed to fill her senses. Sephiel closed her eyes.

Please, Goddess. Please, not tonight.

Sephiel heard material falling – no doubt the robes. Extra weight made itself onto her bed. Its wood creaked in agony.

She could smell him. The sweet wine on his breath washed over her, nauseated her. His hand stroked her face lightly. She opened her eyes.

“Please,” she managed to say, but it was barely audible. His eyes were bloodshot, and a dark grimace was drawn across his face.

“Shhh, little one,” he croaked. He drew away her sheets.

“Please,” she repeated in a whisper.

“Enough,” he placed his one hand firmly over her mouth, and slid the other up her night dress.

Sephiel whimpered in anguish. He jerkily took off her clothes, exposing her.
 
She lay there, powerless as the Chancellor of Shaer Indenil raped her. Again.

When he eventually finished, her face was stained with tears. He didn’t even look at her as he left her room and locked her door.

Sephiel curled herself up, and let the tears come until she fell into an uneasy sleep.

The clarion ring of the night tower’s bell jerked Sephiel from her nightmare. She could hear footsteps outside of her door, but a look out the window told her it was still deep night. Someone pulled on her door.

“Sephiel! Unlock your door. We must leave!” It was the voice of Dandrith, one of the student prefects.

“I... I can’t! It’s locked from the outside.” She called to him as she quickly dressed.

“Blood of Tiral,” she could hear him say, followed by a quick songspell. The door came flying open.

“No time for a locksmith, I’m afraid,” Dandrith said with a smile as he came into her room. “Come,” he extended his hand.

Sephiel took it, and grasped tightly. The warmth from his muscled hands seeped into her bones immediately.

“You’ve been crying, Sephy,” he said.

“Don’t worry. What’s going on?”

“The Academy’s under attack. Dean Aleria has called for all the students to go to her rectory. Now come!”

Sephiel and Dandrith ran with great haste through the dormitory, to the western tower. All around them, older Spellsingers made their way to the east, to the front gate of Shaer Indenil. Sephiel couldn’t help but notice the swords and staves these Spellsingers carried, and the anxiety in their eyes.

“Dan, what’s happening?” she asked as they ran.

“I’m not sure – but I heard one of the sentinels shout something about a Salda war party.” A chill ran through Sephiel as she heard this. The Salda were a rumour; a threat often spoken about yet never seen. What are they doing here? She thought.

As they ascended the stairway to the Dean’s rectory, a great tremor travelled through the building, throwing them to the ground. Screams could be heard from behind them.

Sephiel gave a cry, but was quickly pulled up by Dandrith into a hug.

“No time for this, Sephy,” he whispered into her ear as his muscled arms tightened around her, then he continued up the stairs.

The Dean’s door stood open, yet there were two Spellsingers standing guard at the door.

“I found her,” Dandrith said hastily as they came to the door. Sephiel could see a wave of relief wash over the guards’ faces as they let them pass through. Inside the rectory, about twenty students were already gathered.

“Thank the gods,” Dean Aleria said as she saw Sephiel and Dandrith. “And thank you, Dandrith.” She gave him a curt nod.

Aleria stood regally behind her table, her white robes flowing from her body. As the dean, she was responsible for the safety of the students at Shaer Indenil, and she took her charge very seriously.

“I am afraid the walls of the Academy have been breached,” she began. The students around Sephiel gave each other nervous glances before Aleria continued, “A message has already been sent to the capital, and help should arrive soon,” she paused, looking Sephiel in the eye, “but for now, we need to get you to safety. We,” she motioned to Dandrith and to other prefects, “will lead you from Shaer Indenil, into the mountains. From there, we will make our way to the capital.”

The students all burst out at once, yelling questions in fear.

“Hush,” Aleria said with a lifted hand, and they fell quiet, “Now is not the time for discord. You will do as you are told. Follow us.”

Aleria made her way to the back of the rectory. She pulled aside a tapestry to reveal a passage way leading down into darkness. One of the prefects followed her, and then the students. Dandrith came up to Sephiel, and took her hand in both his.

“Don’t be afraid, Sephy,” he said with a comforting voice, and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Now come, let’s get you to safety.”

The trek down the passageway was tedious but undisturbed. After about half an hour, they emerged from a hidden door at the bottom of the western tower, away from the main conflict. Yet they could hear the screams of their allies and the clash of steel on steel. They continued around the tower unnoticed towards a side gate to the complex, but the group was suddenly intercepted by a dozen Salda soldiers.

Not wasting any time, Dean Aleria began a songspell, and a battle ensued. However, Sephiel would not witness it, for Dandrith grabbed her by the hand and dashed away with her. In his other hand, he held a package covered in leather.

“Sephy, listen to me,” he said to her once they were hidden behind a large statue, “take this.” He handed her the package. “You must get this to the capital. Do you understand me?” Sephiel nodded, confused.

“But you’re coming with me, right?” she looked into his grey eyes. “Dan, you’re coming with me?” She trailed off as she saw the look in his eyes.

“Run along the wall until you get to the stables. Take a horse and ride. The stars will guide you. Do you understand me?” Sephiel couldn’t manage a response. “Sephy, please, do you understand me?”

“Yes, I...” she was interrupted as he kissed her. His warm lips seemed to melt her fear, if only for a moment, then he got up.

“Run,” he said as he drew a short sword from his belt, “run!”

The stables were right in front of her, but there were three Salda soldiers blocking her way. They didn’t notice her – they were preoccupied with the single Spellsinger in front of them.
 
The Chancellor, Sephiel thought as she saw his face. Fear flooded her. There stood her rapist, surrounded by enemies. She could help him – surprise the Salda with an attack from behind. She wasn’t trained in full warsong yet, but she knew a couple of fundamental battlesongs. She began to recite the song in her head, but stopped.

I will not help you.

She watched in silence as they fought, the Chancellor dispatching of one, then two Salda. The third circled him warily. Then, in a flash of steel, they came together, blood gushing from both. The Salda collapsed to the floor, and the Chancellor fell to his knees. Red came rushing from his mouth.
This was her chance. Sephiel dashed across the small clearing towards the stable.

“Sephiel!” the familiar voice called to her, and she looked around in trepidation, “Sephiel, please... I can’t sing a healsong – I’m too weak.” The Chancellor looked straight at her, his eyes pleading.

Sephiel looked at him intently. She knew every line of his face with repulsive familiarity. She spat at him, and turned towards the stable.

Only when her steed had carried her far from the Academy did she stop to look at it. In the distance, Shaer Indenil shone like a star, flames lashing out from the towers. For a moment she simply looked, and whispered a single word into the night air before she urged her horse to continue.

“Dandrith...”

Then she was free – free from the Salda, free from the Academy, free from her molester. But Sephiel would never quite be free from the man she loved.

Offline Autumn2May

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Re: Writing Challenge Winner's Circle
« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2011, 12:47:40 AM »
August 2011 Contest - Water

Without water nothing on Earth would survive.  But not only is water essential for our body’s well being, it can also nourish our souls.  Whether it's a mirror like oasis, a babbling brook, or the powerful crash of an ocean wave; water has a magic all its own.

This month’s challenge is to write a short fantasy story or scene that involves water.

The rules are as follows:

1. Must be prose.
2. 1,500 - 2,000 words.
3. Must include water as a major element or theme in addition to some element of fantasy.

August's Winner

Tim Greaton

See all the entries and the results here: http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/writers-corner/august-writing-challenge/

* * * * *

Water Golems
(a 1960-word story from the Zachary Pill universe)
by “Maine’s Other Author”TM
Tim Greaton


“I’m getting rid of these damn water golems,” Roger Pill said as he climbed out of his brother’s brand new, red Corvette. They were parked in a seasonally vacant lot in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. Wind whipped at him as he slammed the door.

As Ned popped up on the other side of the car, he once again realized how different they were. His younger brother had a full head of hair, wide shoulders and a physique like a bodybuilder. Roger, on the other hand, had always been short and wiry with thinning hair. Of course, Ned had augmented his appearance with magic which was even better than steroids if done right.  

Roger strode purposefully toward the ocean. He had closed half the distance to the dune grass by the time Ned caught up and tried to grab the cloth bag from his hand. Roger whipped around and caught his brother’s bigger wrist with his own and squeezed. When it came to actual strength, there was no question which one had the upper hand.

Ned yanked his arm back.

“This is crazy, Roger!” he said, rubbing his wrist.

Roger ignored him and resumed his trek toward the dunes and the beach beyond. The cold ocean wind came at them in gusts, making him wish he’d brought a jacket. October in Maine was far from beach weather. Ned’s sport jacket fluttered like a flag in the wind beside him. He wore garish rings on each finger and two large gold chains draped across the open V of his low-buttoned dress shirt.

Roger smiled. His brother looked more like a Hollywood leading man than a wizard in hiding from another world. But even with all their differences, he and Ned had always been surprisingly close. That’s why it was important he do this, one of the reasons anyway.

“If I’d known why you wanted to come here, I wouldn’t have driven you,” Ned said.

“I would just have taken my own car.”

“If Merlin ever does shows up—and someday he will—he’s going to be pissed. And even without him, the magistrates are going to have flames shooting out of their little red behinds if they find out you let those golems loose here on Earth.”

“Ned, you said yourself that Krage is getting stronger. Every little bit of magic that we keep use gives him a way to track us. I can’t take the chance he could find me and Zachary. That’s why I figured I’d let them go up here in Maine. I know they need to get in the water soon or they’ll die. It’s been thirty years.”

“So your idea is to let a hundred water golems just mingle with people here on Earth…just like that.” Ned waved at a young girl jogging up the boardwalk from the beach.

She scowled and made a wide arc around them.

Roger shook the bag of golems which clinked like a sack of coins.

“I can’t keep them, but I can’t let them die either.”

“So, why don’t we find someone traveling off world. No one will care if they get loose on say the third or seventh worlds.”

Roger paused when they reached the wooden walkway that would carry them over the dune grass and onto the beach. Choppy waves slapped at the sandy expanse. To the north the Old Orchard Beach pier jutted out into the ocean, and beyond it skyscraping condos stood like sentinels against the gray skyline. Turning to their right to the south, however, there were only squat motels and single family homes. Apparently, Maine hadn’t yet been entirely strangled with the same commercialism that covered most coastal states.

For a brief moment, Roger allowed himself to think of Pandemone. Though he and Ned had been smuggled off world at ages twelve and ten respectively, he could still remember his home world’s purple forests and crystal clear lakes, where the closest thing to a skyscraper had been his grandfather’s castle which, though amazing, still had only been ten stories tall at its highest turret. It saddened him to think that he and Ned could never go back and that his son Zachary would never even know it existed.

The price of keeping him safe.

Ned took advantage of his moment of reflection.

“Roger, you can’t let those golems loose. You know what kind of mischief they could cause here. With Merlin gone, we might be the last two wizards in the United States, and you know damn well that school of wizards overseas isn’t likely to send anyone to help us clean up any mess the golems make.”

Roger glanced to the dark clouds that scurried overhead. He didn’t sense any magic up there. Sometimes clouds were just clouds. He pressed his free palm to his forehead then spoke slowly so that his brother could understand.

“Flora’s gone, Ned, and I’m all that Zachary has left. I can’t take the chance that Krage will find either of us because I’m keeping the golems in our apartment.”

“Then give the damn things to me,” Ned said. “I don’t have a family, and I’m not scared of Krage.”

“That’s the problem, Ned. You should be frightened of him. Most of our family is gone because of him, and who knows why Merlin is missing. Did you ever think of that?”

Ned stared out at the ocean and shook his head.

“No way, bro. We’ve been hiding ever since dad brought us here, and I’m done with that. When dad and the other wizards escaped Pandemone, they thought they had imprisoned Krage when they left, but obviously he figured something out. Now I think we should find him and kill him.”

Roger gritted his teeth and started walking again.

“So that’s what this is about, Ned. You’re looking for weapons to use against Krage. In case you didn’t know, golems make terrible soldiers.”

Their footsteps pounded hollowly across the boardwalk.

“Okay,” Ned said. “I admit I don’t want to see you waste the golems, but I’m thinking about it for both of us. For Zachary. Krage is coming for all of us. You know that.”

Roger stepped off the end of the boardwalk into the sand and stopped. Though he and Zachary could hear the ocean from their fourteenth floor Boston apartment, it was nothing like this, nothing like the crashing of waves without the sounds of the big city in the background. Maybe they should move to Maine. Maybe….”

Though he knew she was never coming back, Roger held out hope that someday Flora would be back. He and Zachary missed her so much. He fought back a tear.

“The golems have lasted thirty years,” Ned said, pointing at the cloth sack. “What makes you think they’re dying?”

“I don’t hear them crying as much anymore,” Roger said. He held up the bag. “I haven’t let one loose since dad’s sixtieth birthday party, what almost twenty years ago.”

Ned smiled.

“That was funny. Remember, half a dozen dads dancing around the room like a bunch of old fools.”

They both fell silent. He had died at the chocolate plant later that year.

Roger started walking again. He wished he’d thought to take his shoes off because the sand inside them already felt uncomfortable. He was just ten feet from the high water line when Roger yelled.

“Get down!”

Suddenly there was a blood-curdling screech overhead.

Roger dove to the ground and snatched his wand from the hidden pocket in his pants. It burst into beautiful blue light as he pulled it out into the open air. He could see a huge shadow swooped down. There was another horrifying screech. He rolled onto his back in time to see the creature’s scaly belly and barbed tail pass within a few feet of him before it slithered and climbed back into the sky. Within moments it was a speck in the northern distance.

A vreel?

He hadn’t seen one of the immense flying snakes in years. Without Merlin, he thought they would have returned to their own world. He couldn’t help thinking all of this had something to do with Krage. Even separated by the corridors and ten separate worlds, Krage still found a way to get to them? Roger understood his brother’s desire to go after him.

“Help?” a squeaky voice said.

Roger turned to see a child-sized duplicate of him standing on the sand a few feet away. The small version of himself was similarly dressed in worn jeans and a blue polo shirt. Little Roger started to cough uncontrollably, which seemed to confirm Roger’s thought that the golems wouldn’t last much longer without water.

Roger’s eyes darted to the sand where the bag of golem marbles had fallen open. He scrambled forward to pick up the loose ones and deposit them back in the bag. Thankfully, only the one had rolled into a pool of seawater. He intended to use magic to throw them far from shore where they would have only fish and other sea creatures to mimic, not people. It seemed to him that a water golem could live for tens if not hundreds of years transforming from one fish to another. Maybe they could survive alone on Earth.

“I didn’t hear you absorb the water,” he said to the small version of himself when it paused in coughing.

The magical creature opened its mouth to speak but then fell to its knees and coughed up a mouthful of seawater.

Maybe I’m already too late.

“It must have sucked up the water when the vreel attacked,” Ned said. He walked up to the golem that seemed to have passed out on the sand.

“So what’s going to happen when a hundred of these things wash up on Maine beaches?” he asked.

Roger knew his brother was right, besides looking at the small, helpless version of himself reminded him too much of his son Zachary. He couldn’t just abandon the poor creatures. There had to be some other way.

Crawling over beside the golem, he knelt and gently shook it awake. Soon his own dark eyes were staring back at him. Golems had always given him the creeps, but at the moment he felt more pity than discomfort.

“Do you think you’ll be okay?” he asked his small self.

Little Roger sat up.

“I’m starting to feel better,” the golem said, “but I need more water to be the same as you.”

Roger smiled.

“Go ahead,” he said, pointing toward the waves. “Get what you need.”

“What about the rest of them?” Ned asked, a knowing grin on his face.

Roger glanced up and down the mostly deserted beach, save for a few odd strollers and joggers. Suddenly, there was a loud slurping sound. He looked over to see little Roger was now full size, an exact duplicate of him.

Smiling, the golem waved and started splashing around like a little kid.

“Give me your jacket so I don’t look so much like him,” Roger said. “Then go see if you can find a shop with a few changes of clothes. Maybe we can get back to Boston before midnight if we let two or three out at a time and give them a few minutes to play before popping them and putting them back in the bag.”

As his muscular brother turned to do as asked, he wondered if Ned might be right. Would a hundred copies of him and Ned give Krage something to think about if it came to an all-out battle?

He sat down to watch the water golem play in the cold Maine ocean.

The End
« Last Edit: September 30, 2011, 12:49:56 AM by Autumn2May »

Offline Autumn2May

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Re: Writing Challenge Winner's Circle
« Reply #8 on: November 01, 2011, 03:44:52 AM »
September 2011 Contest - Evil Badguys

Evil is everywhere, lurking around every corner, waiting to jump out when we least expect it.  Nowhere is this more true than in fantasy stories.  Whether it be a necromancer raising an undead army, a ruthless general trying to conquer a neighboring kingdom, or just an evil alchemist plotting his revenge against the story's hero; in fantasy evil is everywhere.  But not every villain is good at being bad.  This month let's take our stories in a new direction and look at things from evil's point of view.

September’s challenge is to put a humorous spin on necromancers, evil geniuses, mad scientists, or whoever is trying to kill our heroes today.

The rules are as follows:

1. Must be prose.
2. 1,500 - 2,000 words.
3. Must show your fantasy villain in a humorous or comical light.

September's Winner

Funky Scarecrow

See all the entries and the results here: http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/writers-corner/september-writing-challenge/

* * * * *

An Extract from the Pages of the Dark Lord's Confessions

I really can't believe you expected my answers to fit in the tiny amount of space allocated for them. However, I've complied with your wish that I write all of my previous answers down yet again, but this time on a separate parchment and with even more addenda for the clarifications you requested. Is this to be my punishment for my imagined crimes? Endlessly rewriting the same answers to the same silly questions? If so, can't we just skip to the show trial and then have me hanged? It must be better than this tedium.

1. Grishnabolg Lundkovskyi, Emperor of the East, Lord of the Black Lands, Master of the Eleven Schools of Sorcery, Architect of Destruction, Bringer of Hellfire, Archduke of the Volcanic Lands of Lysolt, Journeyman Blacksmith (second class).

2. Not paying proper attention to an idiot farm boy with an ancient artefact.
(Addendum to 2.) What, the truth isn't good enough for you? Fine! Being “evil”. Apparently subjective judgements of one's moral character are enough to warrant being zapped with bolts of magical energy, illegally extradited and imprisoned, these days. And genocide. Pointy eared little shits had it coming.

3. Some farm boy with a ludicrous haircut.

4. I don't remember the exact time. I was too busy being zapped with a bolt of ancient magic. Ask the floppy haired fop who discharged it.

5. Really? You want to know what I was doing prior to my “arrest”? I was going about my business being an “evil emperor”. You know the sort of thing, ordering villages burned to the ground, having female prisoners oiled and brought to my chambers, evil rites of black magic, oppressing people, lurking malevolently in corridors, that sort of thing. What do you think I was doing? I was doing paperwork. Do you have any idea how much paperwork goes into administering the empire? Of course you do, you're making me fill out this ridiculous form. My memory is bit hazy, due to the above mentioned bolt of ancient magic, but if I recall correctly I was signing an order that declared all farmers in the empire be educated about crop rotation. Hungry people are a bit rubbish at expanding an empire.

6. I don't remember. As stated above, I WAS ZAPPED WITH A BOLT OF ANCIENT MAGIC! No matter what you were doing beforehand, that tends to loom large in the memory. The bloody great zap of magical energy has driven every other memory from my mind. So far as I know, the sequence of events went as follows; Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork, some farmboy with a ludicrous haircut saying something about the nasty rain being finished or something, bolt of magical energy.

7. What sort of question is that? Don't you think if I'd been aware that some twit from the back country was going to come and zap me with the Phylactery of Whatever the Hell it Was, I might have taken a few precautions?

8. No. I deny the charge in the strongest possible terms. It's just a tool. You might just as well charge an innkeeper who makes a bowl of soup you don't like with “engaging in acts of black cookery”.

9. You're not catching me out like that. I've never used “black” magic.

10. It depends on how you deprive depravity.
(Addendum to 10.) Is that all it takes? In that case, yes. If that boggles your minds, try the Jhendari Mouth Organ.
(Further Addendum to 10.) [Redacted by clerk of the court, for the sake of modesty]
(Further Addendum to 10.) Ask your wife.

11. Is that rumour still doing the rounds? What was I supposed to do, starve to death? How was I supposed to know that help was on the way?
(Addendum to 11.) That doesn't mean they were looking for me.

12. They had it coming. Those trees weren't doing anything where they were and I needed masts for my naval fleet. Just because the empire was landlocked at that time, didn't mean it would be landlocked for ever.
(Addendum to 12.) Yes, all of them. I've got better things to do than look over my shoulder for pointy-eared, big-eyed, tree-huggers bent on vengeance.

13. Of course not. If I went around slaughtering entire generations of children every time some smelly old woman declared this one or that one to the Chosen This, Prophesied That or Foretold Other I'd rapidly run out of new recruits, wouldn't I?

14. Yes. Does this facility have security measures? Of course it does. I'd be foolish not to have security measures in my own castles and fortresses.
(Addendum to 14.) I think it was rather ingenious, myself. It's not everyone who can create a castle made entirely out of fire, levitate the whole thing 100 feet in the air and then man the walls with the souls of the damned.

15. A little bit.
(Addendum to 15.) 100,000 infantry troops, 35,000 cavalry troops, 5000 war machines and their crews, 500 Dragonriders, plus the various supporting people necessary for an army of that size. It's not the size of the army that matters, but the fact that none of it was my fault.
(Further Addendum to 15.) It's not my fault they chose to stay there. I told them we were passing through there on the way to the Great Eastern Ocean. They could quite easily have moved.
(Further Addendum to 15.) Well I moved almost a quarter of a million people there, didn't I? And yes, I believe 30 days notice was more than adequate notice for evacuating an entire country.
(Further Addendum to 15.) It was a very small country.
(Further Addendum to 15.) All they had to do was get out of the way for a couple of weeks, then go back to their lands and lives, get out of the way again for a couple of weeks during our return journey, then go back home again and just carry on as normal; with the exception of paying one quarter of all national income for the nice new highway I built for them.
(Further Addendum to 15.) Yes, the ground trampled by my passing army counts as a highway. It was lumpy before we arrived, flat after we'd passed through. Highway.

16. How dare you? They aren't “abominations” as you so crudely call them. They are creatures, like any other. You just need to get to know them a little better. And be imprinted on them when they first leave the spawning pit. It probably helps if you're naked when you deal with them, as well. Don't know why, but they all seem to hate when people wear clothes. Must be an error in the combining spells. Still, you can't get everything right, can you? Once you get to know them, the Winged Bears are lovely. That being said, perhaps in retrospect we released them into the wild too soon.
(Addendum to 16.) It could be far worse, we could have released them in a cold country. I also think it makes for an excellent incentive for the people of Rhylosia to remain fit and in good physical condition. No one wants to look bad in the nude and the Winged Bears almost never attack a naked person. Unless they're hungry. Or the person annoys them. Or wasn't imprinted on the Winged Bear in question when it was spawned.

17. I refute that claim and resent the implication that worshipping the self proclaimed God of Evil makes His followers evil by default. People who worship the God of the Rivers don't go around drowning all the time.
(Addendum to 17.) Well, yes; they did in my Empire. That was entirely unavoidable.
(Further Addendum to 17.) They couldn't breathe underwater.

18. I don't know what a coterie is, so possibly yes, possibly no. Is it a group noun, or a particularly large number, or something?
(Addendum to 18.) Oh, I see. Yes and no. I kept a harem, but no one was there by force, coercion or any other kind of compulsion from me or my minions. There's a certain type of person who gets fixated on powerful people. I thought it best to keep all of them in one place. Safer for everyone else and safer for them. Despite how this tribunal is trying to portray me, I'm not a monster.
(Further Addendum to 18.)  Not really. The harem was self financing, thanks to my steward being ingenious enough to think of charging people for tickets to watch.
(Further Addendum to 18.) The fighting which inevitably broke out between the crazy women who all thought I was their soul mate.

19. Absolutely not.
(Addendum to 19.) Once again, no.
(Further Addendum to 19.) For the last time, no. I did not, have not and never would build a weapon of mass destruction. I built a sophisticated territorial defence spell, on account of the unjustified aggression shown by my Empire's neighbours.
(Further Addendum to 19.) Of course it was defensive in nature. You don't think I'd unleash a spell like that unless I was threatened, do you?
(Further Addendum to 19.) Well dozens of neighbouring nations and the first alliance of Men, Dwarves and People Who Might be Descended from Elves Several Generations Ago (See question 12 for details) in almost 1000 years looks pretty bloody threatening to me!
(Further Addendum to 19.) Only because building the Spell of Ultimate Defence was expensive. That sort of thing doesn't come cheaply, you know.
(Further Addendum to 19.) You all could have just paid the ransom tribute donation to building costs and all of this would have been avoided.

20. Really? You put that question on this form? Very well. The heart of a a 17 year old virgin girl, lightly toasted.
(Addendum to 20.) I was joking. Just what ever the cook is making will be fine, thank you.

POSTSCRIPT If “what ever the cook is making” could be delivered by a 17 year old virgin girl, that would be wonderful.

POSTSCRIPT POSTSCRIPT Also, a brazier and a skillet. Many thanks.

You will all pay for this infamy. My vengeance will burn worlds, etcetera etcetera, so on and so forth.

Signed Grishnabolg Lundkovskyi, Emperor of the East, Lord of the Black Lands, Master of the Eleven Schools of Sorcery, Architect of Destruction, Bringer of Hellfire, Archduke of the Volcanic Lands of Lysolt, Journeyman Blacksmith (second class).
« Last Edit: November 01, 2011, 03:48:45 AM by Autumn2May »

Offline Autumn2May

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Re: Writing Challenge Winner's Circle
« Reply #9 on: December 03, 2011, 05:35:05 AM »
October 2011 Contest - Spooky Woods

A journey through a forest can be a peaceful and centering experience.  The beauty of nature, the earth below and trees above, can leave a man or woman feeling at one with the world and make them a better person for it.  You are not here to write about this type of forest.  This month we will tell a darker tale, of haunted woods and frightening beasts, that most wish to never have cross their paths.

October's challenge is to write a short story or scene involving an evil or spooky wood as the main setting.

The rules are as follows:

1. Must be prose.
2. 1,500 - 2,000 words.
3. Must take place in a forest or wood and contain an element of fantasy.

October's Winner

timwestover

See all the entries and the results here: http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/writers-corner/october-writing-challenge

* * * * *

Unbroken Lines
by Tim Westover

In our neighborhood, all the houses were alike; their complex geometry, indistinguishable. But mine was the most splendid of the identical houses, because I framed it with an impeccable lawn. Blades of grass stood in unbroken lines: crew-cut, uniform, regimental green. The lawn was the perfect complement to the red brick of the house itself, and behind that, the vast blue emptiness of sky.

But such a spectacle is paid for in vigilance. I walked the lawn every evening, being careful to vary my path so as not to flatten the zoysia. I suffered no weed to survive the night; I dug out their roots with a thin-bladed knife. My neighbors, dwelling in their own identical houses, let crabgrass spoil their property and lives.

The first sign was so small. During my patrol, I found a sapling, almost a foot tall, which had not been there the night before. I am aware of what occurs on my lawn above all other pieces of land in this world. I know it better than my own face in the mirror. Had the sapling instead been a tendril of kudzu, the stalk of a sunflower, even the grasping face of a dandelion, I could have understood its sudden appearance. But a sapling, no matter how small, does not sprout over night. I dug up the sapling and worried about its roots; how far could they have spread in a day?

I woke the next morning under a shadow. There was an oak in the middle of my front yard. Seventy feet above the lawn, the tree boasted a full crown of leaves, towering above the gable of my roof line. An irate squirrel, at my eye level, hissed at me and made what must pass for a rude gesture, then scurried upwards.

The tree came not only with fauna, but with flora, and all was bounded inside a precisely delineated patch of transplanted forest floor. Bounded by a ten foot by ten foot square, there were scrubby pine saplings, brambles, vines, fallen leaves, and twisted limbs. Exact unbroken lines separated the wild from my zoysia.

Could it have been a practical joke? I had had trouble with curious kids and ill-trained pups before, so I had aimed motion-sensing floodlights at the lawn. They had not been trigged in the night.

My neighbors slowed down as they drove past my house. I knew how to look into their faces, through their windshields. I was used to seeing jealousy—they looked upon my landscaping and despaired. But that day, behind their masks of surprise, I saw smug smiles. They couldn't wait to call the homeowners' association. They would put a yellow ticket on my door, a thirty dollar fine for "untidiness." It would be a blemish upon my heart.

I called every arborist listed for our town. None could make an emergency visit that day. A wind storm thirty miles away had thrown limbs into power lines, toppled trees over roads, and it was a bonanza for anyone with a chainsaw.

I moped around the house all day; I tried to stay away from the windows. I finally fell asleep once the sun hid my shame, but rustling wind unsettled my dreams.

The next morning, there were two oak trees in my lawn.

The newer arrival was as tall as its predecessor; it, too, came bounded with its own precise plot of forest floor. Beneath its crown were scrub pines and brambles and leaves and earthworms. I looked from one oak to the next, but I could see no difference. They were as alike as mirror reflections. From my window, I was derided by two squirrels, who turned their tails towards me in tandem and climbed above my head.

The arborist had no explanation. A tree is a tree, he said, and he was dismayed to cut down two healthy specimens for purely aesthetic reasons. I made a mental note to use a new arborist in the future. I watched his work, scolding him when I thought he was unnecessarily endangering the remaining zoysia. He lopped off all the limbs first, then brought down the trunks in sections, running each fragment through a chipper that sprayed a cloud of sawdust over my lawn. The arborist tackled the remaining scrub with a weed whacker, a horrible tool without finesse. The process of excision brought no relief. Two barren squares of soil stared up at me like eyes.

I awoke the next morning to four trees standing outside my window. Four oaks, four hundred square feet of forest, four squirrels with distain in their furry faces.

I wanted a specialist: an arborist of renown, not a provincial layabout. By the time a person of sufficient repute from the state university arrived at my home, two more days had passed: four trees had become eight, then sixteen. They stood on their squares like chessmen—exactly as neat, exactly as scheming. Only, they were all rooks, and I was the lone pawn. The renowned arborist chopped down the sixteen trees. I didn’t scold him for carelessness as I had his predecessor. The lawn was already suffering from sixteen open wounds. I asked the renowned arborist why the vegetables had chosen to wreck my lawn and not another's. He said that oaks used to be common in our region, before the subdivisions were built. I asked how I could stop them from spreading. He offered only the most dire solution: a potent herbicide,which had assassinated notable trees in university towns and felled founders’ oaks. It was an indiscriminate killer. Zoysia would not survive, nor any root or seed below the soil.

A few days prior, I could not have dreamed of ruining my own lawn, my own flesh and blood. But now, I thought of it as a test of will. Anyone can maintain an established lawn—it only takes a modest irrigation system, an imprecise mix of chemicals. But to raise grass from nothing? It would be a proof of my mastery. I would have a lawn that belonged to a fresh, young, vigorous generation. Yes, the homeowners’ association would censure me, but their authority is only covenant, not moral law.

The herbicide smelled like chlorine. It hissed and sizzled over the zoysia. Pert stems drooped into the foamy earth. All was barren, void, and new.

The next morning, thirty-two identical trees and their bracken filled the emptiness in front of my house. Thirty-two squirrels urinated from thirty-two branches onto the crowded forest floor.

I called the renowned arborist and harangued him until the university switchboard blocked my calls. The profession had lost its way if it could not kill a few dozen ordinary trees.

I walked to the end of my driveway and looked back up towards my home. The trees obscured nearly the entire edifice; hardly any red brick or blue sky broke through the wall of foliage. Some may say the woods are lovely, dark and deep, but these are the ones who are only passing through. But I, who suddenly found myself in their midst, cannot find the beauty of trees. They are unwelcome when they come to visit, even less welcome when they have come to stay.

I was awake all night, leaning against the mailbox, to see the moment when the next iteration of oaks would be born. It happened at exactly midnight. This must have been coincidence, as I could not believe that trees cared about our human measures of time.

In a blink, sixty-four trees now filled my lawn. There was no space for any more; the last generation quivered at it was pressed by the newcomers. The exact space that each had been allocated—its one hundred square feet—bled into its neighbors, so that not all had their full allotment. They strained at the perimeters of the lawn, and I worried that they would not be held back by sidewalks and property lines any more.

What could I do? Could I burn them? I would set up barriers and dig trenches so that the fire would not run out of control. But the flames might crawl along the branches and spread to my home. And if not from branches, the fire would be spread by cinders caught in the wind. I judged it a foolish risk, a mad plan, but it might have been our only hope. Had I know what would follow, for me and for us all, I would have sacrificed my home and more. I would have been a hero, with a statue in my honor in an open public square. I would have had more fame than I could have ever hoped to gain from a nice lawn on a suburban street.

But now, there will be no more statues, no more squares. How could I have known that, then? Can I be expected to know the future from what had happened on my lawn? And so I did nothing, which was all that anyone could expect.

At midnight, the trees doubled again. One hundred and twenty-eight oaks exploded from the earth, breaking past the property lines that they had previously obeyed. The driveway was thrown over, chunks of concrete reversed. Trunks crashed up through my living room. A tree branch shattered my bedroom window. A crown of leaves broke open the attic dormers. The rubble of my dwelling was lost in scrubby pine saplings, brambles, vines, and fallen leaves. It was as if that marvelous place—so like its siblings along the neighborhood streets, and yet so superior, because of my landscaping—had never existed.

I was spared impalement because I felt the ground swell beneath my feet and danced away just in time. One hundred and twenty-eight squirrels cried victory above my head. They hurled acorns down at me—the seeds of the two hundred and fifty-six identical trees that were to come the next day.

My house was only the first casualty as the oaks continued to multiply geometrically. In three days, the homeowners' association ceased to exist, because the entire neighbor had been filled by trees. Even the most crabgrass-polluted yards disappeared into forest. My smug neighbors saw their homes, identical to mine, destroyed. Two days after that, our city was gone beneath a wall of wood. In a week, homeless human refugees flocked to the last open spaces—deserts, islands, parking lots, and glaciers. But the trees followed them. They marched beyond their natural limits, bringing with them patches of forest that overlaid water and ice. Oaks limbs touched, end to end, continuous, along every latitude and longitude.

And now, it is thirty three days since the first oak was born to loom above us. More than eight billion trees that have sprung from that first seed, and each oak is identical to all its kin. Or, at least, we cannot tell the difference. Yesterday, humans outnumbered our arboreal enemies two to one; tomorrow, they will have reversed the odds.

We suburban souls find ourselves huddled in the darkness, without our homes, beneath an solid dome of entwined limbs. Unbroken lines of trees, as thick as grass, grow closer and closer. Their trunks press in on us, and we have less room to live with each passing day.

Soon, the world will be made of wood, and only the squirrels will ever see the sky.

Offline Autumn2May

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Re: Writing Challenge Winner's Circle
« Reply #10 on: January 02, 2012, 11:23:27 PM »
November 2011 Contest - Cities

Our contest topics lately have been nature or emotion related.  This month we are instead going to take a cue from the not so natural world and write a story set in a city.  Now your city needn’t be a large metropolis like New York or Paris, it doesn't even need to be set in the present day.  But it should have the urban qualities, which people associate with city life.  Whether it's an ancient kingdom's walled capital, Victorian era London, or a large modern city of steel and glass, get ready to show us the good or bad side of a fantasy city.

November's challenge is to write a short story or scene set in a city.

The rules are as follows:

1. Must be prose.
2. 1,500 - 2,000 words.
3. Must take place in a city and contain an element of fantasy.

November's Winner

November was a tie!  The winners were GZidar and Dan D Jones!

View all the entries here: http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/writers-corner/november-writing-challenge/

* * * * *

The Night Wind
by GZidar

The torch flickered briefly as he brushed the cobwebs aside with his sword. Covering his mouth with his forearm he carefully descended the stairs. The search for this place had cost him many years and a great deal of gold. But this time he knew his goal was close at hand, at last his search would be over and then the real work could start.

He smiled ruefully. Never would he have thought that his goal might be in the very city where he started. He’d crossed the world to find this tomb, and it was with some chagrin that he would find it in the city of his birth. In the very cemetery that held his parents and his family. The cemetery that served the city since before it could even have been called such.

Now that he entered the ancient tomb he cursed himself for not seeing it sooner. This was a place of ancient significance. A place where gods once walked. A place where they might one day walk again.

He continued his descent slowly. The stones from which this stairway was carved were loose. The slightest misstep could be fatal, and the darkness beyond the small circle of light offered by the torch was total.

The room at the bottom of the stairs felt large, the light from the flaming brand didn’t even reach the other walls. Cobwebs and dust covered everything. The flames forcing the former to shrink back to allow him passage through the latter. Ahead lay the object of his search. A podium of black marble topped with glass.

When he reached the stone podium he used the torch to burn away the cobwebs while his other hand brushed the dust from the glass top. It took a long while to wipe the glass clear enough to see the ancient document that rested in a hollow below it. His torch didn’t provide sufficient light to read the writing but he had no need to read it. He already knew what it said.

He placed the torch on the ground beside the podium and removed a small glass cutter from his belt pouch. His hands shook as he carefully began to cut the glass to free the document. He retrieved a strip of gummed leather from his belt and placed its sticky surface on the glass as he made the final cut. The glass came free and he removed unevenly cut sheet to grant him access to the recess in which the document rested.

He took several deep breaths to try and achieve calm, to attempt to slow his rapidly beating heart. For a long time he stood still, frozen in silence, and waited. He rested a hand on the hilt of his sword ready to draw it the instant anything happened. The tomb like silence of the chamber remained undisturbed and eventually he allowed himself to relax.

He bent to collect the torch from the ground, then held it above him to better see the document. His eyes scanned the arcane words, and the edges of the ancient parchment began to glow, an icy blue colour that chilled him to the bone. He drew his sword and stepped back in surprise. The glow grew brighter until its light filled the room. The shadows that crept about the edges of his feeble torch were pushed aside. For the first time in centuries, mortal eyes could see the entire chamber.

Bas-relief carvings adorned the walls and archways of the large chamber. The high vaulted ceiling was supported by a dozen ornate columns. Paint, old, faded, chipped in parts, was visible on the smooth ceiling but the details were obscured by dust and cobwebs.

The torch flickered. He could feel the first stirrings of a cold wind. The wind grew stronger, blowing the dust into his eyes, forcing him to turn away from the podium to avoid being blinded by it. His torch guttered and went out. He dropped the now useless item, and got a firmer grip on his sword. Then, as suddenly as it started the wind stopped. He caught a quick glimpse of the clean, dust free, chamber for a heartbeat before the light from the parchment winked out.

Confused and effectively blind, he bent down, fumbling about the floor to try to find his torch. His hand wrapped itself around the length of wood when he heard the sound of breathing behind him.

There was someone else in the room.

He whirled around quickly. Ready to face whatever threat might be there. He lashed out blindly, moving both sword and torch in a haphazard pattern before him. It wasn’t until he’d made several clumsy slashes that he realised he could see once more.

Before him stood a man in black and orange armour, with a curved blade in a scabbard at its side. As he stared, dumbfounded, the figure shifted to that of a woman in red armour. Then in a heartbeat it shifted again, this time a different man, wearing armour of a deep purple colour. He looked on, unable to move, as the figure cycled through a blur of faces and colours. Each of the forms was different, separate, unique. Only the curved sword remained the same.

The original figure returned, its eyes gleaming with a dread power. “The time is at hand for our return to this world.” It spoke with the voice of many. “You have come, as was foretold. You have taken the first step in ending our exile. Kneel mortal, and receive our blessing.”

Instantly he fell to his knees and bowed his head. The symbol of the dread god, Zeroth hung freely from his neck. The sword, he offered hilt first to the black and orange armoured figure. He said nothing. It was not his place to speak when in the presence of such as these.

“Our brother seems to have chosen wisely. You are strong but we will make you stronger yet.” The figure stepped forward and touched the kneeling man. With an armoured hand resting on his head he spoke several arcane words.

Energy crackled in the air around them. The man screamed in pain as bolts of blue flame pierced his flesh. Again and again he was struck. Each strike brought an agony unlike anything he had felt before. When it was over the air smelled as it did after a summer storm.

“Arise, Sathanas Drakaur,” the figure said, “and face your lords.”

The man, if indeed he could still be called such, rose. He held his head high and met the gaze of the one who was the many. The armoured figure smiled as it saw the challenge in the man’s eyes.

“Yes,” the figure said as it began to fade, “you will serve us well.”

Once again, the air stirred. Its icy tendrils whipping his hair as it built rapidly into a gale. Sathanas stood this time and faced the wind. He threw his head back and revelled in his new found strength and power.

This wind was his messenger, his warning to the world. From out of the ancient tomb it blew. It seemed to pause, as if to choose its direction, the cold wind blew north, across the bay and into the city. Beneath its chill, below the level of conscious perception, was this warning, “They are coming. Fear them.”

# # #

The wind blew from the cemetery, over the bay where a ship raced from its home port. The first night at sea, on what would be a long journey. The captain – an experienced sailor with a wicked scar running from his forehead to his mouth, an injury that also rendered him blind in one eye – paused when he was touched by the unusually cold wind. He was about to order his crew to shorten sail but the words died unspoken on his lips. He looked over to his first-mate, a pockmarked man who had sailed with him for years, and saw an uncharacteristic fear in his eyes. The pair exchanged glances, neither man quite sure what to make of this ill omened wind. Instead the captain called for extra lanterns to be lit against the suddenly oppressive gloom. He reached into his jacket and tossed a small handful of coins into the sea, praying that Arakni look elsewhere this night.

Onward the wind blew.

It gusted through the streets and narrow alleys of dockside. In places, a vortex of sand, dirt and rubbish would dance through the streets causing the unwary to shield their eyes and cover their mouths.

In a small office above a general store, a young man worked over a list. He struggled to put aside feelings of like or dislike as he decided who was to serve at Lady Mirren’s ball tomorrow night. It was a task he hated, but one he did well. The wind made the curtains blow inward. Without thinking, the young man rose from his seat, a letter opener hastily snatched from his desk and held like a knife before him.

It was years since he’d struggled to survive on the streets but something in the air spoke to that scared child who still resided within him. Poised as if to flee he stood, his heart pounding in his chest. It was a long while before he could finally garner the will to move. An odd disquiet settled in the pit of his stomach, and he carefully approached the window.
 
He gazed southward into the night for several minutes. His eyes narrowed as he stared into the gloom. There was something out there, some danger he could feel but was unable to see. Eventually the last of his rage and fear fled. He was left weak and confused. With an effort he closed the window, certain to lock it against the night. There was nothing there, he knew that, but for the rest of the night he caught himself glancing into the dark.

Deep within the maze like streets, a small group of revellers made their way from one tavern to the next, seeking more merry companions for the night. The wind blew past them. To a man they halted, each exchanging glances. One, a seasoned mercenary who had seen the horrors of war, recovered first. He took two more steps then halted, and scratched at his beard. Then, with a sudden loss of interest in celebration, he bade his companions good night and returned home.

In the temple district all was silent. The clergy were asleep and the buildings were dark. All, that is, for one. A candle burned evenly, providing light for a hunched priest as he went about his task. His elevated years showed on his careworn face as he moved to dip his quill in the vial of ink. Through the window the strange wind came. It chilled him to the bone, and extinguished his candle.

Suddenly afraid he listened. There, below all conscious comprehension, was an alien and distorted dissonance. Like a malignant sound, barely perceived. The priest shivered and glanced about his room. His hand clutched his holy symbol, and he called upon Eolis for protection. As fast as his aged body would take him, he crossed to the window and closed the shutters, hoping to block out the strange and disquieting night air.

In that moment, it seemed as though all creation held its breath.

Then, with a slight sigh, the feeling died away and the night was calm once more. He quickly relit the candle to banish the shadows, and sat uncomfortably in his chair.
 
Something was coming. He had seen enough in his life to be sure of that. With a quick prayer to his god he returned to his writing. Eolis, it seemed, desired that he never live out his days in peace.

* * * * *
See next post for second winner's story.

Offline Autumn2May

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Re: Writing Challenge Winner's Circle
« Reply #11 on: January 02, 2012, 11:24:21 PM »
And here is our second winner from November 2011.

* * * * *

The Word Thief
by Dan D Jones

*Note from the Author: The quoted poetry purportedly written by the protagonist is actually taken from Shakespeare's 90th sonnet.*

She could not recall when she first noticed his presence.  She knew only that when he did enter her conscious thoughts, his proximity wasn't a surprise.  He'd been there for some while, although she wasn't sure for how long.  Hours?  Days?  Weeks?  Surely he'd not been there for months - hovering in the corner of her awareness, creeping through the peripheral of her inner vision.

The first time she recalled consciously noting his presence she was the day after she'd purchased a new Parisian notebook, doling out ten carefully hoarded silver pennies to the proprietor of the import shop, and acquired an Obsidian internal-reservoir fountain pen.  The pen she'd found that same afternoon, left behind by a guest at the Ashford Hotel where she worked as maid.  

Sitting in the dormer seat of her attic apartment that evening, scribbling down notes in a cheap university notebook for a verse which refused to coalesce into anything coherent, she noted his presence.  Like the poem, he would not take shape in her cognizance; she could not put a name to him.  He was a ubiquitous foggy presence that neither intruded fully into her consciousness nor faded completely into the background.  But she noted that he crept closer whenever she sketched her poetry in her head.

When she finished the following morning's shift, she made her way to Trimontaine Square with her notebook carefully stowed in her purse and her wonderful new pen tied into her pocket.  She had brought a parcel wrapped in butcher paper holding a hunk of day old bread, a narrow wedge of Brie and a tart apple.  She ate while watching a troop of players in smiling brass prosopons as they strutted about the center of the Square.  Her eyes followed their movements but her thoughts were far from whatever message their masquerade sought to impart, for the poem that had proven so troublesome the evening before had at last begun to take shape.  The first quatrain beat about in her head to the exclusion of all else.  She ate rapidly and mechanically.  There was no rubbish receptacle nearby, so she folded the butcher paper and stored it in her purse, then made her way to a bench in the far corner of the Square.

The pen was even more wonderful than she'd hoped.  It glided with the smoothness and regularity of a uniflow engine and she laid the quatrain down on the creamy paper with swift, sure strokes that thrilled the tips of her fingers as much as the words themselves delighted her tongue.  She read the verse over again and some part of her noted that brooding, lurking presence slinking closer as though to peer over her shoulder.  But she was caught in the rhythm and the rhyme and gave him little heed.  Satisfied with her beginning, she stared off into the distance.  Her gaze focused on the clock tower above the Ashford Hotel as her mind played with possibilities for the second verse.  The steam-driven gears were visible behind the filigreed clock face and she lost herself in their movement until she abruptly looked down to find a blank page before her and a comparable blankness within her thoughts.   Her opening quatrain was gone, as was any thoughts of a second, and she instantly knew that her specter was the sprier for it.  It was then that she gave him name.  "Word thief," she whispered and he laughed and capered in the corner of her awareness to hear himself christened.

She closed the notebook, stored it carefully in her purse, and withdrew the butcher paper.  She tore a long narrow slip from the brown paper, avoiding a grease stain the cheese had left an in one corner.  She discarded the bulk of the paper in a nearby receptacle and smoothed the strip against the flat side of her purse.  She narrowed her eyes and pursed her lips until she summoned a rhyme, a bit of doggerel that she carefully printed on the narrow brown paper.  Keeping her eyes and attention on the words she'd written, giving him no chance to distract her, she stored the precious pen in the inside pocket of her jacket.  Working one-handed, she tied the flap shut against its falling out.  She stood and lifted her hand, letting the paper slip flutter in the autumn breeze, then released it.  The wind took it, swinging it in a looping reel that danced its merry way across the Square.  She sensed the thief dart after the paper and immediately spun on her heel.  

A narrow alley lead away from the corner of Trimontaine Square and she followed it's twisting, winding path as quickly as she could walk until it dumped her into the markets of Queen Street.  She wedged her way into the crowd, earning herself a few dark looks for her rudeness.  Muttering a few apologies, she otherwise ignored the glares and forced a path through to the other side of the market.  She had just stepped into another narrow alley when she sensed the Thief's presence again.  He seemed amused and frisky, cavorting about the peripherals of her awareness as if to mock her.  Sighing, she stopped and leaned against the wall.  She hadn't expected to lose him so easily but she'd had to make the effort.  

He remained with her over the next few days.  He lurked just out sight, his gleeful presence a constant reminder that perversely stirred the muse in her soul.  She did not know if it was some magic of the Thief himself, or if the mere knowledge that for her to commit words to paper was to lose them acted as a goad to her own imagination. But phrases, rhymes, couplets and quatrains filled the background of her thoughts like the distant murmur of a crowd in everything she did.  They came to her as she swept the carpets and changed the linens in the Ashford's fine suites, as she walked the wide streets on her way home to her attic flat above the townhouse just off Marlbrough Street, as she lay in her narrow bed beneath a threadbare quilt and sought only to sleep.

Once, when the pressure of the words within her brain seemed more than she could bear, she wrote two lines with her finger in the fog on a bathroom mirror.  She jerked back to herself to find the mirror smeared and streaked but free of words.  Their absence within her own thoughts was an ache of loss, a precious thing destroyed that could never be regained.  

Another time she deliberately composed a horrible sonnet, inane and poorly rhymed with uneven rhythm and stuttering meter, and put it down in graphite on the back of a bill of lading.  He swooped upon it when she lay it down and she sensed his anger immediately.  He whined and keened at the doggerel, wriggling like a thing trapped, and she realized that once he'd begun he was compelled to follow the flow of her verse to the end.  But she took little solace in her cleverness, for it did nothing to relieve her of his presence and she paid for her duplicity with a persistent whining buzz in her ears that lead to a dull ache at the base of her skull for the rest of the day.

She visited an apothecary and purchased sea salt, thorns and sulfur.  A large bottle with a glass stopper, which once would have cost her nearly a full day's wage, was but a copper penny: Bakewell's machine had stamped all of the value out of it.  With her purchases in hand, she climbed the narrow ladder at the rear of her flat to the roof and there, beneath the moon, cast a binding and banishment.  For a moment she thought she had him: hemmed in by chains of salt, confused by the odor of the burning sulfur, pierced by the thorns at the bottom of the jar.  But then he laughed and turned sideways and slipped through the weave of her spell before she could place the stopper.  She wept.

Kalliope and Euterpe gave her no peace.  They warred in her thought by day and her dreams by night.  The verses flowed, lyric and epic, and though she recognized that their fecundity was a result of his presence, she would not, could not, sacrifice the gifts of the Muses on the alter of his appetite.  Her sleep suffered and her attention wandered and, for the first time in her life, she was scolded at work for poor performance.

There was a narrow table provided for the staff's use in a small mechanical room behind the kitchen and she took her lunch there following her conversation with her supervisor.  The room contained a Radium Steam Engine that drove a series of connected fans spaced throughout the kitchen and dining room.  The side-wheeled engine pulley and the fan drive pulley were perpendicular to each other, connected via a belt with a half twist.  She sat watching the twisted belt make its revolutions as she ate, her mind likewise spinning in hopeless loops.  The only option remaining to her was to pay for a consultation with an alchemist, but that was far beyond her means.  She had no new answers by the time she finished her meal.  She stood, gathered her waste and glanced one last time at the belt spinning hopelessly in place, a maelstrom of furious, twisted motion that left it right back where it started.  Her eyes widened abruptly and a small smile crept across her face.  With a hopeful spring in her step, she turned to go finish her evening shift.

The walk back to her flat seemed to take forever but at last she mounted the exterior stairs and stepped into her tiny abode.  She took the stoppered glass jar from her failed binding and lit a candle against the dusk.  She withdrew her Parisian notebook and the Obsidian pen from her purse, and took a small covered pot from a desk drawer.  The Thief's presence, never distant, was suddenly more palpable and she could feel his hunger.  Humming softly to herself, she turned to the last page of the empty notebook and tore a long, narrow strip of the fine, creamy parchment.  Working slowly and carefully, she began to write: "Then hate me when thou wilt; if ever, now; Now, while the world is bent my deeds to cross."  She flipped the strip head to foot so that the text was upside down on the rear of the paper, and continued her careful, methodical script: "Join with the spite of fortune, make me bow, And do not drop in for an after-loss."

With the verse completed, she kept her focus tightly on the words she'd written.  The Thief gamboled at the edge of her awareness but her attention kept him at bay for the moment.  She lifted the lid from the pot and, using the fine brush attached to its underside, painted a thin line of paste on the right edge of the paper, just past where her writing ceased.  Giving the paper a half twist, she brought the left edge around to meet the right and pressed the two firmly together.  After allowing a moment for the paste to adhere, she carefully inserted the twisted loop of paper into the jar.

She came back to herself to the sound of an angry keening buzz.  The Thief followed the verse, racing round the Mobious strip with such ferocity that he was almost visible to her naked eye.  Grabbing the conical glass stopper, she quickly closed the bottle and sealed it with drippings from the candle.  

She turned the notebook back to the first page and took her pen in hand.  Tomorrow, she would have to find someplace safe and permanent to store the dangerous creature.  But tonight - tonight she would write.

Offline Autumn2May

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Re: Writing Challenge Winner's Circle
« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2012, 01:18:46 PM »
December 2011 Contest - Winter

It's December and winter is coming, spreading its icy fingers over the land.  It brings death to the greens of summer and sends chills to the very heart of man.  However, even at its darkest, winter has a beauty all its own.  And under the frosty white snow, is the promise of spring sleeping silently - waiting.  But to reap the bounties that spring will surely hold, one must first make it through the winter.  In fantasy, this is not always as easy as it seems.

December's challenge is to write a short story or scene set in the winter.

The rules are as follows:

1. Must be prose.
2. 1,500 - 2,000 words.
3. Must take place during the winter and include element of fantasy.
4. Please no A Song of Ice and Fire fanfic.  I know I used the quote, but I couldn't help myself. ;)

December's Winner

Geri

View all the entries here: http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/writers-corner/december-2011-writing-contest/

* * * * *

The Last Dragon Keeper
by Geri

Eui watched as the waves surged towards the shore. Ice had formed on the water, the motion turning it to mush as it covered the smooth grey rocks that acted as boundary between land and sea. She wrapped her arms around herself, trying but failing to keep out the wind, which threatened to tear her clothes and pick at her bones. She knew that her mother would scold her for forgetting her jacket but in her desperation to get out of the house, she had left it, stowed snugly in her wardrobe. Eui stamped her feet to try to warm them but the wind kept forcing its way through her thick boots, biting her toes.

The ground began to shake. It started with a slow trickle of the smaller rocks, which quickly blended with the mush of the ocean water. The larger rocks began to vibrate then roll down the hill and into the water. Eui stood her ground as rocks large and small snapped at her heels, flinching as the larger ones bruised her. Eui breathed deeply, inhaling the familiar ash scent that covered the island more deeply than the perma-snow.

The earth juddered to a stop and Eui carefully stepped out of the pile of stones that covered her feet. The icy slush boiled along the shore then all was still once more. Eui turned as she heard footsteps crunching on the gravel and smiled at her father.

“Your mother is worried about you,” he said, not looking her in the eye but focusing on the ocean.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said what I did.” Eui risked a look at her father but could not read his expression. The silence settled over them, only slightly comfortable.

Finally, taking a deep breath, Eui said, “The dragons are dying father.”

“As are we, Eui, as are we. We can only hope that they die before we do. A dragon alone in this world, without a Keeper, would soon fall prey to the blades of the Sagar.”

If they’re lucky, thought Eui, but she did not pursue the matter. Every Keeper knew the challenges faced by the dragons. The Sagars were hunters who sold dragon meat and their scales and teeth, which held magical properties. For over a generation they had hunted and killed dragons, depleting their numbers in an unending quest for the perfect hunt: A mythical beast, defined by its purity and beauty. With each retelling of the myth, the dragon grew in grace and size until Eui, who had been told stories of the Sagar which had kept her awake at night, did not recognise the creature as being a dragon but an animal of pure virtue. Knowing no dragon had ever been born matching the myth kept the Sagars hunting and Eui from peaceful dreams.

However, the biggest threat was the dragons themselves. Females would lay between 15-20 eggs and would continually defend her nest from attacks by males. Of the eggs that survived, not all would hatch, with some being trampled. Finally the female, tired and undernourished, would die. If she was lucky, she might see the one or two of her offspring who would emerge from their eggs, snorting flames and growling to be fed.

In the absence of a mother, when the infant dragons smashed from their eggs, they would bond with a Keeper. The Keepers were almost as old as the dragons themselves but they too had slowly grown fewer and fewer until Eui and her brother Rowan were the only non-bonded keepers. The last surviving female was guarding her egg, waiting to die.

“It’s a very special time for your brother. He will be bonded, probably today,” said her father, his eyes remaining on the waves.

“And what about me?” asked Eui.

“Is that why you wish to leave? You lack purpose?” Eui flashed a quick look at her father. He would claim that it was the wind that brought tears to his eyes, but the clench in Eui’s stomach reminded her of the argument with her mother.

“There is a world beyond the isle, father. I wish to explore and there is nothing here for me. There will be no more dragons once this has hatched and bonded with Rowan. A Keeper with nothing to keep.” Eui’s eyes flooded with tears that threatened to fall. Her father swung an arm around her and gently pulled her close for a brisk hug.

“Come, Eui. They are preparing for the ceremony. I have to get to the Great Hall. Greeson and the elders are waiting for me.” Together they walked slowly up the beach, slipping occasionally on the loose gravel. Kissing her on the head before gently pushing her towards the settlement, Eui’s father walked towards the mountain. Suddenly he called Eui and she ran to him as the wind stole his words.

“Eui, Keepers are like the seasons. We are currently in the darkest winter we have known, filled with darkness and despair, but after the winter, the spring warmth always comes. Remember, your name means spring in the old tongue. Wait and you will see the beauty when we emerge from the darkness. I know you feel there is nothing for you here, but your brother will need your support and love. Being a Keeper is not easy and he still has a lot to learn.”

Eui gave her father a small smile, then turned and jogged into the settlement, flinging open their door. Her mother looked up from where she was sat by the table, her sewing needle raised. She regarded Eui with a stony expression.

Eui paused, looking contrite under the glare of her mother. “Father said you might need some help preparing for the ceremony,” she said finally.

Her mother carefully laid down her needle. She studied the garments laid out across the table then quietly said, “Go and wake your brother. He needs to get dressed. The ceremony starts soon. The egg is hatching.”

Eui dipped her head and avoided eye contact with her mother as she wound around the large table and up the stairs. Launching into her brother’s room, she jumped onto his bed, bouncing up and down.

“Wakey, wakey,” she called as Rowan swatted at her.

“Get off,” he shouted as Eui continued jumping.

“Mother says you have to get up. The ceremony is going to start soon so you need to get into your dress,” teased Eui.

“It’s a robe,” roared Rowan, sitting up and pushing Eui off the bed.

She landed with cat-like grace, giving him a smug smile. “Whatever. The egg’s hatching. You’re about to become a Keeper.”

“Yeah,” said Rowan without enthusiasm, pulling a t-shirt from the floor and sniffing it. Deciding it didn’t smell, he dragged it over his head, then ran his fingers through his hair.

Eui watched her brother. Three years older than her thirteen, his training made him appear older but seeing him first thing in the morning always reminded Eui of how young her brother really was.

Playfully kicking him, she ran from the room, calling, “Your dress is on the table. Hurry up or I might spill my breakfast on it.”

Eui charged into the kitchen, Rowan a few paces behind. They both stopped when they saw their mother’s stern face.

“Hurry up,” their mother said, handing Rowan his robe. Smoothing her hair, she stood a little straighter and scowled at her children. “I will see you at the Great Hall,” she said, leaving them.

Eui grinned at her brother. Rowan ignored her and carefully picked up the robes his mother had spent weeks embroidering. Slipping the delicate fabric over his head, he felt it cascade down his body. Checking the sleeves were straight, he tugged at the hem. Eui bit her cheeks to stop from laughing while Rowan slipped into his boots.

“It’s a robe,” he growled. Eui couldn’t contain herself and started laughing. Looking down at himself, Rowan sighed, then he too started giggling. “Ok, it’s a dress. Can we go? I have a dragon to meet.”

Together they walked from the settlement towards the Great Hall, Rowan complaining about the cold and the snow getting into his boots. Entering the cave that would take them to the Great Hall, they could hear the Elders singing, and the pained final breaths of the female dragon. The Great Hall was a large cave, which had formed in the mountain, decorated by generations of Keepers. There were designs showing the bonding ceremony, the history of the keepers and dragons, with some designs used to train young keepers.

Eui and Rowan joined their parents, on a large platform just above the pit where the dragon rested with her last remaining egg. The female dragon was large, her scales a burnt orange turning to red on her belly and yellow on her wings. Her breath was shallow and laboured; the keepers knew that it would not be long before she would join her brethren in the flame halls of the underworld.

Eui stole a peek at the egg. It was about the size of a boulder, with mottled brown spots and she heard the frustrated squeaks as its occupier nosed its way out. The Elders stood on the opposite platform, their chants rising and falling with the breaths of the female. The large dragon’s head drooped, rose, then fell again.

Greeson silenced the Elders with a raised hand. “She has passed to the underworld,” he said.

No one made a sound as they watched the dragon ease its nose, then its body and finally its long tail from the egg. It opened its mouth and coughed, sending a ball of flame harmlessly against the wall. Shaking itself, its wings unfurled and the Keepers stood amazed. The baby dragon’s body was a paler colour than its mother’s, but its wings were pure white, veins highlighted in golden scales that caught the light. Shaking its head, it emitted a small bark before experimentally flapping its wings. Its dark green eyes took in the unmoving body of its mother before it spotted Rowan standing on the platform. Another flap of its wings and it was eye level with the platform, barking happily.

The Elders began chanting in the ancient tongue. Eui did not understand all the words but knew it was the song to encourage the dragon to choose its Keeper. Rowan grinned as the dragon looked at him and bowed deeply as he had been taught. The dragon started to dip its head when it caught sight of Eui behind Rowan. Cocking its head to one side it forgot to move its wings, flapping quickly as it began to fall. Rowan remained bowed, but his mother shifted nervously. Rowan dared to peek and frowned when he saw that the dragon was not returning his bow. Finally, he stood and looked at his father, who shrugged his confusion.

Standing, Rowan blocked the dragon’s view of Eui. The dragon craned his neck to look around the boy. Eui looked back wide-eyed back at the creature floating effortlessly before stepping past Rowan and raising her hand towards the dragon.

The dragon swooped close, it’s sudden movement causing Eui to step back in surprise until the dragons long black tongue flicked out, licking her hand. Eui giggled, running her hand along the dragon’s muzzle as it growled contentedly.

“The dragon has chosen its Keeper,” called Greeson, his voice echoing.

Eui stopped playing with the dragon as the words struck her like a physical blow. She looked at Rowan, his face contorted with anger, her mother with her hand covering her mouth in shock and finally her father who was smiling at her. Stepping forward he lifted Eui onto the dragon’s back. Eui hugged the dragon’s neck as it rose and circled the Great Hall.

“Spring has come with the last Dragon Keeper,” Eui’s father said.

« Last Edit: February 01, 2012, 03:57:39 PM by Autumn2May »

Offline Autumn2May

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Re: Writing Challenge Winner's Circle
« Reply #13 on: March 01, 2012, 07:34:09 PM »
January 2012 Contest - Mythical Creatures

One of the staples of fantasy stories is unique creatures.  Some of them are on the side of good, others evil, and some won't be bothered with picking sides.  But whether it be grand dragons flying through azure skies, dark demons spawned from the pits of hell, magical unicorns hiding in deep forests, or otherworldly spirits guarding the sacred places of the land, mythical creatures are one of the things that make fantasy so fantastic.

To ring in the New Year we'd like to challenge you to write a short fantasy story using a mythical creature.  It can be a known creature (dragon, unicorn, etc.) or something you've created yourself, but it must be something that's never existed (i.e. no dinosaurs).

The rules are as follows:

1. Must be prose.
2. 1,500 - 2,000 words.
3. Must contain a mythical creature and include an element of fantasy.
4. Your creature must play a significant part in your story.

January's Winner

wishywash27

See all the entries and the results here: http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/writers-corner/january-2012-writing-challenge/

* * * * *

Dresta's Folly
by Rebecca L. Fisk (wishywash27)

Dresta hovered in the air for a moment before deciding the lopsided Willow Tree near the edge of the lake would be the best spot to make her new home.

The sun was shining, thankfully, moving in the rain was one of the most troublesome tasks, so she’d heard her neighbors complain about anyway. This was the first time Dresta had ever moved, and she was thrilled to be leaving her Father’s home and starting her life of independence.

Rainier Faeries normally left the home of their parents by the age of 106, but Dresta’s father was particularly over protective, and seeing as how he was the King, he got what he wanted. She was finally allowed to be moving out at the ripe old age of 127. All her friends had been out forever, and several of them were already engaged to be made Kindred to each other.

Dresta frowned at the thought her father. Overbearing, ancient, Melpwra! she fumed silently.

It was the most disrespectful thing she could think of to call him. She didn’t dare say it out loud, knowing any Birds nearby would run back to him and tattle on her. Birds could never keep a secret, always chattering away and ruining everybody’s fun.

He had picked a fight with her this very morning, her Moving Day of all days! The King had announced to her that he had found the Faerie she would be made Kindred to, a Prince from a neighboring realm, and that Prince Katarin and his court would be coming within the fortnight to pay his respects. He had been very excited about his announcement. Prince Katarin, indeed! As if she would actually join with a mate who’s name meant “Wandering With Ants” in the ancient language. Dresta had argued with her father, appalled on principle she was expected to align herself with a stranger on the say so of her parent. What if he was cruel? What if he treated her like a mere decoration and she was expected to attend every royal or political function for the next one thousand years and smile silently on the arm of her Kindred, while on the inside she would be screaming for an early death? What if he was a…and here, Dresta shuddered to think on it…what if Prince Katarin was a Lover of Humans?

She had tried to bring up all these points to her father, but he simply would not hear it. He didn’t even have the courtesy to scowl and be displeased with her, he simply waved her off like an unwanted dust mote and asked that his first attendee be brought forth, his mind already focused on the day ahead.

Dresta hefted her bag over her shoulder and fluttered her wings to get moving across the clearing towards the Willow. She was going to put the whole thing out of her head, get settled in, and then head towards the village to wreck as much havoc as any Rainier Faerie had ever wrecked on a human village. Then, at dusk, she would set off a signal over her Willow Tree, and her friends would join her in a spectacular Tree warming celebration. It would be the best Moving Day ever, and Prince Ant Face could go kiss a milkmaid.

The Willow was ancient, its lowered boughs lazily drifting in the clear, cold water of the lake it guarded. Dresta lightly landed in front of the tree, and put her hand out. The bark was rough, and warm, and lovely. She inhaled the scent, and felt slightly intoxicated. Leaving her hand on the bark, she began to sing. Her high, clear voice carried to the very top of the Willow. She felt the life force of the Tree respond to her voice, and it hummed in tune with her. Dresta and the Tree sang together and a couple of the youngest limbs far above her head began to re-arrange themselves. They twisted into a complicated knot at the apex of the trunk, forming a beautiful shelter, protected from wind, rain, or snow.

The Willow had accepted her. She finished her song by thanking it, and lightly kissing the bark in front of her. Hefting her bag over her shoulder once again, she fluttered her wings and flew up to her new abode. The Willow had created a narrow doorway that was sheltered by one of its larger branches, so wind was not likely to disturb the interior of her dwelling.

She stepped inside and looked around the small space. It was stunning in its simplicity. The Willow had created a long curved area along the far wall; this would be her bed. In the middle of the space there were raised curves on the floor that resembled benches centered around a dip. She stretched out her hand and cast a tiny amount of her faerie fire, where it hovered as a glowing ball of light over the dip. The faerie fire would not harm the tree around it, but it would draw from the Willow’s renewable energy to provide light and warmth until she allowed it to extinguish.

Setting her pack down, she unrolled her bed fur, which had been given to her by an ancient chipmunk named Welk. The fur was Welk, actually, Animals left the Faeries their physical forms to be re-used when their spirits passed into the heavens. Dresta rubbed the little white mark that had been over Welk’s twinkling eye and smiled. She missed his sense of humor and his ability to find the tastiest berries long after one assumed the bush was picked clean. She was honored he had chosen her to leave his fur to and thankful to have this part of her friend.
Spreading it over the resting place the Willow had made her made her feel like she was finally, truly, home.

She unpacked the rest of her things; her change of clothing, the bundle of food she had brought with her, mostly nuts and some hard cheese, and the few treasures she had. The tiny shell that was no bigger than her hand with its mother of pearl underside was given a prominent spot over her bed. The five leaf clover was placed over the doorway, and the polished garnet her Mother had left her was placed in the dip under the suspended ball of faerie fire. The light reflected off the garnet, and turned the inside of her new home a rosy hue.

Taking one last look of satisfaction around her new home, Dresta stepped outside, and with a powerful push of her wings, headed towards the nearby village.

The closer she got to the village, the more excited she allowed herself to become. Rainier Faeries normally wreaked havoc in teams, but now that she was an Independent Faerie, she was allowed to go out on her own as well. She was a little nervous about doing it alone, but she had plenty of practice with her old team, and this time she could decide what tricks to play without needing approval from the team leader. Salting the well was a classic, as was making the sows or geese stampede. Anything to make the lives of the nasty Humans that much harder caused the Rainier Faeries such glee, and there were so many ways to disrupt Their carefully laid plans. Of course, Mother Nature did so much on Her own, between hail storms that wrecked Their crops, or bitterly long winters that caused the old, sick, and frail Humans to wither away and die. One supposed one could almost feel sorry for the giant creatures, but really, they were so horrible, one got over it quickly enough.

The Humans were invading every part of the Faerie land, not just the Rainier’s Kingdom and they were such wasteful, belligerent creatures. Harnessing Animals and forcing them to work the land or carry the Humans to and fro like slaves, cutting down Trees, and Grass and using them to build ugly square abodes or start fires, not to mention the act of eating the Animals. It was a perversion, an abomination, and no matter what the Faeries did, more Humans kept coming, chopping, building, eating, and destroying.

Dresta had even heard stories of Humans bewildering Faeries with some dark majic, twisting their minds so that the Faeries believed they were friends of the Human. She had heard one story of a female Faerie from the realm of D'snai who became so besotted with a male Human, she allowed him to keep her in a lantern inside his house, only letting her out when he wanted her Faerie Fire or her majic. It made her sick just to think on it. She would bet an entire cache of acorns that some nasty Human had made up this story just to torment any Faeries within earshot.

She was closing in on the village, and to her surprise, something unusual seemed to be happening. Many large wagons were being unloaded in the village square. She stayed in the beams of sunlight, and any Human looking up would have assumed a bird was fluttering high above their heads. No Human was looking up, however, being completely immersed in their task of unloading the huge barrels from the wagons. They called out to each other in their guttural voices, such an unpleasant cacophony.

Dresta saw a weak spot in the slat of one of the barrels, where a small drop of liquid was beading and getting ready to drop. She aimed a small bolt of faerie fire at the spot the bead was escaping from, and a second later, the entire barrel seemed to implode, sending out a massive gush of watery brown liquid. The Human carrying the destroyed barrel was covered from head to toe and stood motionless as he tried to figure out what had happened. Then other Humans around him pointed and yelled, angry at him for whatever they assumed he had done wrong to waste their precious cargo. His face turned red as he sputtered his innocence through the liquid still dripping down his face.

Dresta snickered, waiting for Them to turn on each other, but the man's expression changed as the liquid got in his mouth, and suddenly he was smiling and laughing. He yelled out something else, and the other Humans around him joined the roaring laughter, slapping their knees, and each other’s backs.

Destra frowned. This was not supposed to happen! She darted closer, making sure to stay in the sun beams. She got a whiff of the brown stuff and fire burned through her nose. Sneezing and coughing, she fluttered up high again. She didn’t know what the brown Fire Water was but she sure didn’t think anything good was going to come out of it being here.

An abrupt banging noise caught her attention, and she looked towards the sound. A male Human had opened the door to the square abode built from dead Trees and the wind had caught it, slamming it against the wall.

The moment she saw his face, she knew terrible, terrible things were going to happen. His hair was like a field of wheat, rippling golden and full in the sunlight. His eyes were the sparkling green of summer grass dotted with morning dew. His lips were as lush as rose petals. She felt sick. She felt excited. Her heart leaped and she felt as though it might burst out of her chest. She was in love with this beautiful, dangerous Human instantly, and knew, without a doubt, her father was going to kill her when he found out.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2012, 08:48:10 PM by Autumn2May »

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Re: Writing Challenge Winner's Circle
« Reply #14 on: April 03, 2012, 07:33:07 PM »
February 2012 Contest - Secrets

February is the month of love.  But it is also the month of secrets: secret gifts, secret admirers, secret lovers.  But in fantasy, there are many kinds of secrets besides these.  There are secret groves where wood spirits dwell, secret spells that no man should utter, and secret plots whose success can change the course of history.  Whether they are kept for good or evil, secrets play a huge role in fantasy, as does how they are revealed and who they are revealed to.

This month, your challenge is to write a fantasy story or scene about a secret.  It can be good or bad, big or small, but it must be the main point of the story.

The rules are as follows:

1. Must be prose.
2. 1,500 - 2,000 words.
3. Must include a secret as a major part of the story in addition to some element of fantasy.

February's Winner

wishywash27

See all the entries and the results here: http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/writers-corner/february-2012-writing-challenge/

- - -
The Senator's Dilemma
by Rebecca L. Fisk (wishywash27)

I pressed the accelerator all the way to the floor in the desperate hope the vehicle would let me get around the next corner. The flashing lights in my rearview mirror were gaining and the wail of the siren made my heart race faster than it already was. The safety mechanism I had so naively voted in favor for kicked in.

The computerized voice that managed to be both soothing and irritating as hell informed me what I already knew. “I detect your vehicle is approaching a speed 10 mph over the approved limit. I am slowing your vehicle down now.”

I slammed the steering wheel in frustration. Damn it! Nothing was going as planned! Seeing as how outrunning my pursuer was out of the question, I deliberately chose a spot under a street light, and pulled the traitorous vehicle over.

Composing my face into what I hoped was a contrite and harmless expression, I pressed the button that would roll my window down and waited, making my breath come slowly and calmly.

“Ma’am. License and registration, please. Do you know why I pulled you over?” The officer looked barely old enough to shave.
  
I handed him the documents and making sure the light cast from the streetlamp caught my face, simpered, “Oh officer, I am so sorry, truly I am! I was just thinking about tomorrow’s session and how important the vote will be. I want to make the right decision, you understand better than most how serving our people takes precedence over anything else, I’m sure.”
  
Yes, I was laying it on thick. I was also taking a huge gamble he was pulling me over for something innocuous and just had very, very bad timing. My gamble paid off.
 
He looked up, my speech and the name on my ID connecting the dots for him. “Sen- Senator? Senator Calvinia?” he stuttered.

“Yes, that’s me.” I smiled innocently up at him.

“Gosh, wow, I am so sorry to delay you, Senator. It’s just, well, your tail light is out.” The poor man was blushing as he rushed on. “But I understand, you’re right, the vote…” He trailed off.  Clearing his throat, he acknowledged, “You are free to go, and please, drive home carefully.” He literally half curtsied and tipped his cap to me.
 
I quashed the hysterical laughter burbling up my throat and assured him it was no bother, I would indeed be careful, and thank you.

The poor kid! I should submit an accommodation to his superiors. Right after I got this stupid car to my destination and my trunk full of contraband had been safely emptied.

Once I was outside the city limits, I could find a gap zone and use my powers to fix the damn tail light and de-activate my car’s tracker, but I was counting solely on my title to get me through the checkpoints. Since my senatorial predecessors had seen fit to combine the entirety of their powers and create a massive “Dead Zone” over the Capitol, no one could use even the tiniest amount of individual power within its limits.

It was advertised as a way to provide a safe and neutral territory where business was conducted and laws were made through honest planning and benevolence for our constituents, but in reality, it just meant my fellow leaders had learned how to be sneaky and corrupt the old-fashioned way. Physical threats, greased handshakes, and family connections were amongst the most common, but there were other ways too.

My family connections were what earned me my own seat on the Senate. I hadn’t wanted it, but when my father’s life was cut short in the magical duel on the Senate steps that precipitated the creation of the Dead Zone, his seat was handed down to me. It was my 21st birthday and I was therefore of legal age to accept the nomination. I had thought it meant carrying on my father’s legacy; they had done it with the intention of using my inexperience and starry-eyed idealism as means to further their own agenda. It worked for a while, too.

One example was the law that required all vehicles to have a speed-override function, the one that had screwed me over tonight. It was presented as the best way to completely eliminate dangerous high speed chases, as well as the myriad of other situations where high speeds led to fatal accidents. Those goals were all achieved, but the real goal was to allow one more method of controlling each and every citizen.

We had traded our freedom for safety. The problem now was there was no way to keep us safe from our Government.

Or so I had thought. It had been almost a decade since I became a senator and I was beginning to despair ever having any real opportunity to effect change. The change began one night almost a year ago.

I had arrived at home late, exhausted after yet another endless session where the other senators tried to out-snake each other and push through more laws designed to tighten the noose around the Capitol’s neck. I let myself in the side door, fully prepared to zap a meal and curl up with a movie off the free public network.
  
Instead, I got a gloved hand over my mouth with another one around my waist and a voice in my ear telling me not to scream and just listen. Just as I was about to scream anyway, a high-pitched buzzing noise started, and the voice continued, even closer to my ear.

“If you want to know what your father was working on that got him killed, come to 41475 Vector Avenue at 7am tomorrow. Come alone. Call for a taxi and give them a different address on Vector. Walk around the block twice before coming to the address. Don’t say anything to anyone, don’t even talk to yourself about it out loud. Your house and car are bugged.”

The gloves left my body and the buzzing noise was shut off. I stood still, completely in shock, waiting to get stabbed or strangled. When several minutes had passed and neither of those things happened, I choked out the command for the lights to turn on. Nothing was out of place. No one else was there with me.

I sunk to the floor and began to think about the information and directions I had been given. I didn’t want to go. I was terrified to go. But in the end, I was more terrified not to go. To not take the chance the wearer of the gloves was telling the truth that my father had been murdered, to always have unanswered questions – that was more horrible than the possibility of getting murdered in a warehouse downtown.

I had followed the directions to the letter and eventually arrived at 41475 Vector Avenue. It was a smallish, non-descript gray building. I hesitated at the door, half hoping it would be locked. It wasn’t. I crossed the threshold.

My footsteps echoed on the concrete floor and up to the exposed rafters. “Hello?” I called out.

“Here,” responded a voice.

I whipped around. A man in a dark trench coat had appeared behind me. Creepy. But as I looked into his face, I wasn’t creeped out, or scared. He was just a normal looking man, very tall, but with kind eyes, eyes that looked very tired.

“Thank you for coming, Brim. We weren’t sure you were going to, but I hoped you would.”

I was taken aback at his use of my first name. Informal. Familiar. “Have we met?” I asked. “I mean, before you broke into my house and nearly gave me a heart attack last night.” I added sarcastically.

He shook his head. “No. But I was a friend of your father and he spoke of you often. I apologize. For last night too. I’m afraid there isn’t much time and it was the best I could do without compromising anything. Please, come with me. You need to see some things.” He turned, and taking a small black controller from the pocket of his dark coat, pressed a few buttons.

A hole opened up in the floor. He motioned me to follow him and I saw we were going to descend on an old-fashioned escalator. I had come this far, so taking a deep breath, I stepped onto the moving staircase after him and allowed it to carry me into the bowels of 41475 Vector Ave.

As my eyes sunk below the ground floor, I looked around and realized the innocuous gray building was a front for the real operation. The belowground epicenter was abuzz with strange machines, glowing lights, and frowning scientist-types in lab coats looking harried and genius-y.

Realizing I was still holding my breath, I exhaled in a whoosh. We had reached the bottom of the escalator. I followed the man in the trench, also realizing I still didn’t know his name. He had the habit overly tall men sometimes have of hunching their shoulders and tucking their chins into their chest while walking so as to appear less intimidating.

I scurried after him. He led me to a room off the main hub and ushered me in.

“I want to show you these.” He pointed to a mess of papers spread out on the tables. “They came three days ago. Along with a letter from your father. He had left instructions for them to be mailed to us before he was killed; very smart man, your father. He knew. He knew that nest of vipers would find a way to push their plan through. He wanted to make sure you were protected and we could carry on his work if he wasn’t here to do it himself.”

I had gone to the table and started looking at the papers before he was done talking. They were plans. Plans outlining exactly how the Elders would put the Dead Zone into effect. Plans to- I caught my breath again and had put my hand out to steady myself on the edge of the table.

There were plans how to destroy the power network that formed the Dead Zone. Items we would need to accomplish this feat were listed. Items I realized the senators had been slowly and methodically outlawing for the past decade.

I knew that all individuals had a certain level of power that allowed them to perform basic tasks, such as creating fire by harnessing elemental energies, or moving objects with their minds. Some individuals were blessed with enormous stores of this power, which enabled them to perform much more complicated and strenuous tasks. As a child, I had been able to perform more difficult challenges than other children my age and my father had once told me that I possessed more power than he had ever seen any one person have in his lifetime, and I would come into it fully when I came of age.

I never got the chance to reach full potential. It hadn’t dawned on me until that moment in the subterranean laboratory that the timing of events may have been concisely planned for that very reason.
 
My hands had shook, and I fought back tears as I looked up and met the eyes of my trench-coated collaborator.

“You understand, don’t you?” He’d asked softly.

I nodded.

“What do you want to do about it, Brim Calvinia?”

“Let’s take the bastards down.” I had hissed.

Now that we were so close to accomplishing our plan, I had almost screwed it up because of the careless oversight of a burned out tail light.

Approaching the final checkpoint that would allow me to leave the Capitol and find a gap zone, my heart began racing again. I cleared the checkpoint with nary a suspicious glance.

Time to make them pay.