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Author Topic: Writing Challenge Winner's Circle  (Read 19573 times)

Offline Autumn2May

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Re: Writing Challenge Winner's Circle
« Reply #15 on: May 04, 2012, 04:26:29 PM »
March 2012 Contest - Luck

Do you believe in luck?  Whether or not luck is a real thing in this world, there are still people today who bet fortunes on the roll of a die or the spin of a wheel.  In fantasy, however, luck can be a living breathing force.  Bad luck can send an adventurer to their doom and good luck can be a gift from the gods themselves.  It can tip the scales of great battles, or help a young peasant become a noble prince.

This month your challenge is to write a short story or scene involving luck.  It can be good or bad luck, but it must be a main point of the story.

The rules are as follows:

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

March's Winner


See all the entries and the results here:

- - -
The Talisman of Sreca
by OfAllTheBars

Baldin paused in the passage and listen to the sounds of battle behind him. My brave, brave friends, he thought.

The journey from his home in the south had been long and brutal. Many had come to join the cause and thanks to them, the defeat of The Dark Lord was now assured. The cost in lives to the people of the south was high and that pained Baldin but stamping out this evil would prevent all the free lands falling under the darkest of shadows.

Baldin shook himself out of his thoughts. It was up to him now to finish this.

The passage way continued for 30 yards or so to a spiral stone staircase leading to the floor above. Three doorways off the passage way stood open. Each room was elegantly furnished but unoccupied. At least he was out of the castle’s servant’s quarters.

At the staircase, he climbed to the floor above. Unexpectedly a doorway closed the top of the stairs. Baldin listen at the door. When he was satisfied there were no sounds from within, he carefully opened the door and stepped inside.

The room he entered was large. Fine furniture filled much of the space with drapes and cushions scattered around. A windowed door to a balcony stood open to one side and Baldin could see the trees and countryside beyond.

“At last,” Baldin couldn't immediately see who had spoken.

“Come in, come in. I've been expecting you.” The source of the voice rose from a chair where he had been hidden by the high back.

The Dark Lord! Baldin resisted the urge to charge forward for the kill - partly because there was too much furniture in the way, and partly because Baldin needed to be sure it was The Dark Lord. The delay frustrated him, but killing a decoy would do no good.

“Can I get you something? I’ve some fine wines and we've time to talk before getting down to ending this nasty business.” The Dark Lord faced Baldin now; in one hand he held a glass of red wine. Dressed in finery of the deepest green edged with gold braid he looked every bit a Lord and nothing like the twisted evil being Baldin had imagined. Baldin noticed something else as well - The Dark Lord was alone and unarmed. The Talisman’s luck still holds he thought.

“I’ve no words for you, just the keen edge of a blade.” As Baldin spoke he strode towards The Dark Lord, avoiding a chez lounge and knocking an ornate occasional table aside. As he lifted his broadsword, however, it snagged on a throw across a nearby chair and he had to back step to free it.

Baldin again felt his frustration rising.

“Careful please,” The Dark Lord said with a mock look of concern. “That throw was ‘given’ to me by Queen herself - just before I severed her head. Her blood so nearly splattered the fine cloth.”

Baldin’s eyes narrowed, “You really are a murdering bastard.”

The Dark Lord stood his ground. “Yes, I won't deny it, and I've no plans to stop. Once I've dealt with you the kingdoms to the south lay open. One more season and I will have the whole continent in my grip.”

“You forget my army still fights in the halls below.” Baldin carefully raised his sword once more, preparing to strike.

“Are you sure? I hear no sounds of battle.” The Dark Lord raised an enquiring eyebrow, as he did so he noticed Baldin’s free hand reach up to his chest and touch a small golden cross hanging on a rough, heavy chain around his neck.

“Ah, Baldin, is that the Talisman that everyone speaks of? A trinket that shapes the destiny of all, to ensure luck befalls you and your followers?”

“It is the Talisman of Sreca, handed down through the generations in safekeeping of the Royal Monks until the chosen one reached the age of 21. I, Baldin, am the chosen one and on my 21st birthday the Talisman of Sreca was handed to me by a Royal Monk who escaped the Capital just before it fell to your evil armies.”

“So much power in something so small it’s incredible, and in your hands - the hands of ‘the chosen one’.” The sarcasm was not lost on Baldin.

Baldin could feel his anger rinsing. “Enough, you should be preparing to die.”

The Dark Lord took one-step back. “Prepare to die? Me? The Dark Lord? You have this story wrong Baldin.”

“I have the Talisman, I cannot fail. Now die!” with that Baldin swung his sword, swiftly tracing an arc that cut through The Dark Lord's hip, up though his stomach and across his chest passing just under his neck. Blood flew across the room and The Dark Lord’s face twisted first in surprise and then in pain.

Or that was the plan, that was what Baldin foresaw, but as the swing started Baldin felt a gentle breeze brush his face, and what he thought was an empty hanging suit of armour by the open window shuddered and started to move. Distracted, Baldin’s swing missed its mark, The Dark Lord easily stepping back just out of reach of the sword more concerned with not spilling his wine than the threat of Baldin’s sword.

The suit of armour crashed to the floor. It was empty, simply toppled by a sudden breeze from an open window.

“Let me tell you something about your Talisman.” The Dark Lord looked faintly amused.

Baldin quickly composed himself, his sword once more rising ready to strike.

“You think your trinket, this ‘Talisman of Sreca’, brings you luck, luck that heightens your skill as a swordsman, and a leader.”

“It is true! I’ve killed countless numbers of your evil followers with this sword.” Baldin boasted, but The Dark Lord ignored his outburst and continued.

“Not only do you think this Talisman brings you luck and skill, but it brings luck and skill to your whole army. Some feat for a tin cross on a shabby chain.” The Dark Lord was enjoying this, but Baldin was unmoved.

“My army has swept you back North, through the Great Marsh, through the mountain passes and over the Great River itself right into your castle stronghold,” Baldin drew himself up to his full height. “No army could do all this without the Talisman!”

“Ok, ok,” The Dark Lord mentioned for Baldin to calm down. “I admit you've down well, far better than I ever planned you would, but let me tell you just two things about your ‘Talisman of Sreca’. Then you can kill me - if you still think it worth the risk, or you can run and I'll let you go. But be mindful that you and your miserable army have seen nothing, nothing yet of my power.”

Baldin improved his stance, sword ready to strike. “Very well, tell me two things and then die!”

The Dark Lord took a sip from the glass he held. “Firstly, this ridiculous belief that the Talisman brings you luck - it can't and it doesn't. For a lucky event to occur thousands of individual events need to fall in line, perfectly - every single one. Just one event out of place - a sudden breeze through the window perhaps - and your luck fails. Are you seriously telling me that your Talisman of Sreca can do all that not just once, but hundreds of times, and not just for you but your whole army! Think again boy.”

Baldin was defiant. “My army being within your castle is the proof you’re wrong.”

“As I said before, you’ve fought well.” The Dark Lord conceded. “But I don't deal with luck - it’s too risky, I deal in misfortune. For luck to work all the events must play out as needed, for misfortune to prevail just one, just one event must fail - and that's the secret of my power - I influence just a few decisions or events - a sudden breeze through the window perhaps - and ensure the misfortune of my enemies.”

“Fine words, however, I speak with the sword.” Baldin was having none of it. “You were going to tell me two things?”

“Yes, and you'll like this one.” The Dark Lord leant forward as if sharing a secret, and in a lower voice went on. “The Royal Monk, the one who gave you the Talisman of Sreca on your 21st birthday,” The Dark Lord paused for effect, “was me.”

Baldin was stunned and started to move, “Tosh!”

“One moment,” The Dark Lord held up a hand and Baldin stopped. “Jolly Farm - that's where your birthday celebration was, but the Monk, that is I, met you later in your Uncle’s cottage, ‘Jasmin’ was its name I believe. You wore a bright red jumper although the night was warm - you said you mother had made it for you. You poured me a glass of wine, red, and you told me it was from the Cherry Orchard Vineyard to the east of your village. It was disgusting by the way.”

It had been many months since anything caused Baldin to doubt himself, but The Dark Lord had struck a chord.

“If you were the Royal Monk,”

“And I was,” The Dark Lord interrupted.

“Why,” Baldin continued, “would you bring the Talisman of Sreca to me? That makes no sense.”

“Simple,” The Dark Lord smiled. “You are not ‘the chosen one’. The chosen one lived in a village some miles further south. He has no idea he is the chosen one and probably never will. By me giving you the Talisman, you've done a good job of deflecting attention from the real chosen one. Not only that, but by losing here today – and you have lost by the way, you've discredited the Talisman of Sreca. No one would follow the true chosen one even if he did discover his intended destiny.”

The door to the room flew open and four soldiers of the Dark Lord, dirty and blooded entered, one spoke. “Lord, the army of the south flees; we’ll be able to mop up those who remain alive by nightfall. Do you need help with this one?”

“Yes, deal with him,” The Dark Lord said. “I've grown tired of the conversation.”

With that, Baldin realised that the game was finished - very much finished. He sprinted to the open window and leapt, the Talisman on its chain following in his wake.

One of Baldin’s last thoughts was of how his luck had held. As he fell, not 20 feet below was the castle moat and only a few tree branches for him to pass through on the way. He'd be able to swim to the shore and escape into the woods before anyone could reach him.

Baldin’s last thought, however, was of his misfortune, as one of the branches snagged the chain of the Talisman of Sreca, a rough and strong chain, a chain that to Baldin’s misfortune not only broke his fall, but also his neck.

Offline Autumn2May

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Re: Writing Challenge Winner's Circle
« Reply #16 on: May 31, 2012, 08:30:38 PM »
April 2012 Contest - Poetry

For those who didn't know (I being one of them) April is National Poetry Month in the US.  And since we haven't done a poetry contest since last March (2011), I thought it was due time to have another one, just for a change of pace.  That being said, this month's rules are very easy.

The rules are as follows:

1. Must be poetry.
2. Your poetry does NOT have to rhyme.
3. Must include some element of fantasy.
4. No dirty limericks (this is directed at the_hound).
5. Poems must be a maximum 24 lines, this is normally a short story contest, epic ballads would be a wee bit long.

April's Winner


See all the entries and the results here:!)/

- - -
The Empath
by poochletty

What is this terrible pain I feel?
It burns until I want to scream.
Why does this sadness seem so real?
Please wake me from this awful dream.

Who brought this love into my heart?
I can feel it swelling in my chest.
Whose guilt is tearing my world apart?
Why don't I feel I did my best?

What smile is this upon my face?
My cheeks hurt from its giddy strain.
How do I know the smell of this place?
Why do these memories cause me pain?

Whose tears are wet upon my cheek?
Whose ache is this inside my head?
Whose calmness is it I must seek?
To rid me of this looming dread.

“She's so unstable,” some people say.
Yet all of my life, I've doubtlessly known.
Many feelings that have come my way
Were emotional heartaches not my own.

I weather the storms that would set you adrift.
Leaving me better, or leaving me worse.
I am the Empath, this is my gift.
I am the Empath, this is my curse.

Offline Autumn2May

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Re: Writing Challenge Winner's Circle
« Reply #17 on: July 03, 2012, 09:13:02 PM »
May 2012 Contest - Pathes

Traveling in our world is pretty simple. We print out our directions or type our destination into our smart phones, then take off along marked roads to destinations where we will arrive (barring traffic) exactly when we know we will. In fantasy traveling is not only difficult, but it can be deadly. And fantasy roads don't always lead where we believe they do. In fact, sometimes the biggest adventure in a fantasy world is the road itself.

This month go where the path may lead you, and write a short story or scene involving travel on a road, trail, or path.  It could be a hidden tunnel through the trees, a cart path cut over rolling hills, or stone steps up the side of a snow covered mountain. All roads lead somewhere. Where does yours go?

The rules are as follows:

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

May's Winner


See all the entries and the results here:

- - -

Alvaro’s Passage
by DeltaDawn

For as long as children have been tucked into bed, their dreams have been filled with mysterious beings called Earthen, that according to legend, live just below their feet. Ariana was no exception, but they were only children’s tales. Beyond her days of playing at make-believe, the princess was no child.

Fast approaching was the day her father would choose for her a husband and she had already made sure the king was aware of her interest in the handsome Lord Gavyn. When Ariana’s brother, Prince Daemyn, had been invited to a hunt on the grounds of Lord Gavyn’s estate, she begged her father to allow her to go along.

Daemyn reluctantly agreed to chaperone, though he wasn’t overly concerned. Gavyn was a very respectable gentleman. The prince was more interested in the hunt, the real reason for the trip. Daemyn didn’t even notice when his sister’s mare began to fall behind as the party traveled.

The winding road to Gavyn edged along the Ancient Forest, flirting with its mystique beauty as it occasionally dipped into the cool shade of her canopy. The road, finally seduced by the forest, turned into the woods. Daemyn and the men were engrossed in conversation and Ariana was dreaming of Lord Gavyn. Each was preoccupied with the destination, not the road. If Daemyn had been paying attention to his sister or if she had been paying attention to anything other than her daydreams, they may have arrived safely at Lord Gavyn’s estate with little to tell of their journey, but as often happens, the real journey began when Ariana left the road. 

The small squirrel was nothing more than a flash as it darted between the hooves of Ariana’s mare, spooking the horse into the forest.

“Ariana!”  Daemyn yelled, but his sister had disappeared.

Ariana screamed as the horse, barely missing trees, cut sharply to the left, throwing her rider before galloping out of sight. Ariana landed hard on her back, knocking the breath out of her, leaving her scared but unharmed.

Ariana lay on the ground, her eyes closed, unable to breathe.

“Where in Earth did you come from?” a voice asked.

The language was Aurelian, but the accent was so strange the words sounded foreign. When Ariana opened her eyes, a young man hovered inches from her face.

“What kind of question is that to ask the princess?”  Ariana replied as the strange young man helped her to her feet. Concluding that she was lost, but not hurt, the princess noticed the strange clothing her would-be rescuer wore. “I’m Princess Ariana,” she said, deciding he was definitely not Aurelian.


“Pleased to meet you, Alvaro,” she said and she really was. Alvaro, even dressed in such simple clothes, made her forget all about Lord Gavyn. “You’re not from Aurelia,” she said, more as a question than an observation.

“No.” Alvaro confirmed, but offered no further information.

“Where are you from?” she pried.

“Is that your mare?” he said, avoiding her question. He knew he shouldn’t have wondered so close to the edge of the forest. When he’d seen the girl fall from her horse, he had only meant to make sure she was all right. She’s more than alright, he thought. She’s beautiful!

“Maybe you can catch her,” she said motioning to the mare. “She never has liked me.”

Almost on command, the horse trotted up and nestled her head against Alvaro. Ariana was amazed and a little jealous as she gently rubbed the mare’s soft neck.

“I should show you back to the road.” 

“Yes. Daemyn must be looking for me.”

“Daemyn?” he asked, disappointed.

“My brother,” she explained, smiling. “I can’t wait to introduce you. I’m sure he will insist that you come and stay with us at Carawyn Castle.”

“No!” Alvaro squeaked. “Uh hum… I mean, I couldn’t impose.”

“It would be no imposition. I must do something to repay your kindness. Please say you’ll come to Carawyn.”

“I really can’t.” Again, he offered no explanation, but his eyes conveyed a more sincere apology than words could have. He reached to take her hand. Then suddenly drew back, but the mistake was already made.

The instant Ariana saw the dirt on his hands, everything made sense and nothing Alvaro could have said would have hidden the truth. A boy alone in the fabled Ancient Forest. He wears such strange clothing, yet he speaks perfect Aurelian. He never said he wasn’t from here, just not Aurelia, she thought.

As Ariana put all the facts together, Alvaro wanted to run, but he couldn’t move. Enchanted by her beauty, he could run forever and never escape her. A chance encounter it was, but their paths had crossed and their hearts collided.

“Ariana!” Daemyn’s voice was faint, but growing louder.

“I have to go.”

“I know.”

“Ariana!” Daemyn was drawing closer.

Ariana looked for him over her shoulder. When she turned back, Alvaro met her with a kiss. It was simple. Innocent. Gentle. And it was over before Ariana even knew it was happening.

“Ariana! Thank God, you’re safe!”

Ariana turned, blushing, to greet her brother.

“Look at you! You’re flushed and you look as though you might faint. Are you all right? Were you talking to someone?”

“Daemyn, this is-” But when she turned back, Alvaro was gone.

“This is… what?”

“There was a boy… a young man that helped me up and found my horse.”

“Ariana, there’s no one here.”

“Not now, but there was.”

Daemyn unsheathed his sword.

“Daemyn, no! He rescued me!”

“A man rescued the princess of Aurelia and then disappeared without a reward? He must be a thief! Get on your horse Ariana. These woods are not safe.”

“Daemyn, he is not a thief.”

“Do as I say!”

“Daemyn, I think he is an…Earthen.” 

“Dear sister, you must have hit your head.”

Daemyn forbade Ariana to tell anyone about the stranger she met in the forest. But as silly as his little sister could be at times, she wasn’t prone to making up tales.

At Lord Gavyn’s, Ariana was as polite as ever, but Daemyn noticed she seemed distracted even when Gavyn paid her special attention. For the journey home, Daemyn, on the pretense of entertaining friends at Carawyn, tripled the size of their group and stayed close to Ariana’s side.

As they passed the place where her mare had bolted, Ariana strained to see through the dense brush, hoping to catch a glimpse of Alvaro.

Alvaro, though he was right beside her at times, was Earthen and easily blended into the forest that had concealed his people for centuries.

As summer passed, Ariana stayed busy. She lost count of the balls and banquets she attended, but at night after the laughter and tinkling of crystal had quieted; she would sit alone at her window and look out over the vast darkness that was the Ancient Forest.

Alvaro’s life was very different from the fanfare of Ariana’s. The Earthens were strictly against such extravagance. Their society held strong to the belief that everything was of the Earth and a gift from the Creator. To take more than was necessary was a disgrace.

Alvaro was not an Earthen prince, but he was counted among the most respected of all the Earthen. Alvaro was a Terrae. He had been blessed by the Creator with the ability to command earth by simply laying his hands to the soil.

At first, Alvaro fell behind in his studies and seemed almost ashamed of his gift. But then even Alvaro’s mentor noticed a renewed interest and sudden improvement in his abilities. Alvaro shrugged it off, but he knew what the difference was. An idea had come to him as he lay awake wishing that he could actually go to Carawyn as Ariana had suggested. The next night he began to work. 

The plan was simple. He would open a passage from the Earthen village, right to Ariana’s door. The princess is accustomed to such luxuries. Could she ever be happy living like the Earthen, he thought. He continued anyway, hoping that she would at least be willing to try.

When Alvaro reached the halfway point between Carawyn and the Ancient Forest, he found that an underground river blocked his path. At first, he thought about going over or under it. Eventually he decided to expose its natural beauty. Never did he think of quitting.

Alvaro wasn’t the only one building something for Ariana. Her father, proud of the beautiful woman she had become and noticing her constant presence at her window - looking towards Lord Gavyn’s he assumed - commissioned a garden, complete with a statue of the princess to be built beneath her window. He decided it would improve her view and also be a wonderful place for her wedding.

Staring blankly out at the darkness, Ariana never noticed the swift shadow moving about the garden, but Alvaro noticed her. How beautiful, he thought, like a painting framed by the window, her face bathed in moonlight. The newly placed statue, however, intrigued him the most. A stunning stone replica of Ariana stood causally upon a tall dais. Alvaro fancied the stone princess was looking towards the Ancient Forest, longing for her Earthen love, but the thing he liked most was that the podium was hollow, a perfect entrance to his secret passage.

Alvaro ached for the princess, but covered in dirt, he decided to wait until the next night before showing Ariana the escape he’d made for them.

Just as he had planned, Alvaro returned for Ariana the following night. She was amazed at what he had done in such a short time. Where Alvaro had run into the underground river, he’d excavated an impressive chamber that allowed the river to flow through. Over the water, he’d designed a unique bridge by carving away the earth around it.

It was there, standing on the bridge between their two worlds, that Alvaro asked Ariana to be his bride. As Ariana looked into his eyes, she was never more in love. She wanted him more than anything, but he had come to her too late. Everything had been arranged. Her marriage to Gavyn was to take place the next day.

“I’m sorry, Alvaro,” she sobbed, running back through the passage.

At the top of the stairs, she pushed back the heavy stone Alvaro had loosened as a doorway at the base of the statue.  She sat there, tears streaming down her face, when Daemyn found her.

“Ariana, what are you doing out here? Mother and father are worried,” Daemyn said. “What’s this? Tears of joy, I hope. Happy wedding day, sister.”

Ariana looked around and tried to be happy as she realized that her wedding day, the day she’d waited for all her life, had finally come.

Later, from inside the statue, Alvaro watched the ceremony. He couldn’t see the tears hidden by Ariana’s veil, but they were there. That night, knowing she’d made a terrible mistake, she left Gavyn’s bed and entered the passage.

Inside, the torches Alvaro had placed along the walls still flickered with light and, to Ariana, hope. She ran as fast as she could down the secret passage. She crossed the bridge, her feet barely hitting the ground, knowing she had crossed over into another world, his world. Then suddenly she stopped.

The passage was closed. A wall of dirt blocked her path. Ariana sat down beside the wall and leaned her head against it as she cried. She tried to dig through, she tried until her delicate fingers bled, but it was no use.

Ariana sat there facing the wall, when she realized that some paths, especially the ones that lead to our hearts’ desires, are open only for a time… Then, like Alvaro’s passage, they remain, hidden from the world, vacant except for the ghosts of what might have been.