October 17, 2019, 07:09:47 PM

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Messages - Jake Baelish

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31
Got there in the end.

Must admit, I wasn't sure I'd manage this one, (the theme really didn't appeal for a while) and I'm not even sure my story is exactly what the topic is looking for; but the idea came and I ran with it :)

32
Snow

1500 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
“Magic Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?”

The face in the mirror stared back at its summoner. True, it was, that the Queen retained a remarkable beauty in her later years. She was, no doubt, among the fairest in any of the great kingdoms. Still, the Queen’s brow creased as the face in the mirror pondered too long its response.

“You retain a beauty befitting of your status, Your Majesty. And yet, another grows to behold a splendour to challenge even your own.”

“What?” the Queen’s face twisted in a way the mirror dared think impossible. “Who? Who is fairer than I?”

“A boy. Within these very halls you call your own. With hair as black as jet, and skin as white as…”

“Snow! Prince Snow! My dear stepson. But, he is a boy, and barely come of age.”

“He is a man now. And soon fit to take his late father’s place. A beautiful prince who will make a beautiful king.”

And with that the face faded from existence, leaving a seething witch queen to simmer all alone.

*

The huntsman took Snow deep into the woods of the wild lands.

“Sir,” Snow said, panting and soggy in his sweat soaked tunic. “Sir, we’ve never ventured this far from the horses before and I haven’t seen a deer in over an hour. Are you sure we’re going the right way?”

The huntsman glared at the prince with pity in his eyes. It was true, despite his boyish blood the lad not only rivalled all his male peers, but would turn the heads of many of them too with such delicate good looks. It pained the man to unsheathe his dagger, knowing he’d orders to slit that pretty young throat and spoil that sweet, unblemished youth.

Horror stricken the boy asked, “Sir! Sir, what is this? Does my mother know of this? I am your prince!”

The huntsman, fearing the boy would cry and ruin that pure and innocent gaze, returned the blade to its home. Before Snow could inquire further, the huntsman explained all and insisted the boy runaway and never again show his face in his own country.

Snow, heartbroken and frightened, agreed.

*

Sometime later our fair prince happened upon a small hovel, wedged between two great oaks. Tired and lost, he entered the house when no one responded to his call. Within, he found bad wine, overly small chairs and seven beds that appeared to have been made for children. Defeated, Snow lay on one of them and curled himself into ball as to fit within its frame, and promptly fell asleep.

*

He woke to raised and angry voices from every side of the bed.

“We should gut the bleeder!” said one angry voice.

“Don’t be so bloody stupid,” said another, “t’will get blood all over t’sheets.”

Snow, who broke out in more sweat, listened to them bickering in his bleary state, not daring to open his eyes until it got too far.

“Let me see if it bleeds red,” one of them said.

“NO!” Snow cried and bolted upright.

Seven little men had been crowding the prince, now seven leaped back in alarm.

“It speaks our language,” one of them gasped.

“Of course it speaks out language, Crusty, you idiot,” the smartest looking of them said. “It’s a human.”

“Don’t get many humans round ‘ere.”

“Shall we gut him then, Knowall?” another asked.

“Hold on,” said Knowall. “Doubtsy, what do you think?”

Doubtsy, a serious looking little man with a deeply lined forehead, frowned at the prince. “Hmmm. What you doin’ in ‘ere, boy? You some kind of burglar?”

“No, Sir!” said Snow. “Should I call you Sir? I don’t know, this far from the castle I don’t know what’s what, to be honest.” He bowed his head, on realizing once more the bleakness of his state.

Knowall nodded thoughtfully. “The castle, eh? What’s a boy from the castle doing out here in the woods by himself?”

Snow sighed before retelling the dwarfs his story so far. He also learned the dwarfs’ names; along with Knowall, Doubtsy and Crusty there was also Hothead, Lusty, Gent and Sloppy, with features befitting their names.

“Well,” said Hothead, “you can’t stay here. As you can see, we haven’t really the space.”

“But please,” pleaded Snow. “I can’t go home. She’ll have my head.”

“And a pretty little head it is,” said Lusty.

“But what d’you want us to do about it?” said Hothead.

“I’ll do anything,” said Snow, “just say the word.”

Doubtsy came forward. “You know much about mining, lad?”

Snow grimaced.

“No. Thought as much. Never mind. The basics are soon worked out, and you’ll pick it up quick enough. Only until you’ve got enough to move on, mind.”

Knowall chuckled. “Welcome to the team, Prince Snow. Well, I suppose it’s just ‘Snow’ now, isn’t it? Take a rest, you’ll need it, plenty of work to be doing in the morning!”

And Snow did indeed rest, and rested very well, once he’d got over the worries of just how bad a deal mining might be!

*

Despite his reservations, Snow rose bright and early. He’d slept well, and only Sloppy remained in his bed when the cuckoo called. Snow woke the final dwarf and after barely time to wolf down breakfast they were off to work in a nearby mine, singing merrily along as they went. The lyrics were easy and Snow picked up the rhythm on the third or fourth loop. Mining, he thought (somewhat foolishly), might turn out to be more fun than he’d imagined.

*

On the way home, Snow wept at the sight of his soiled hands, moaned at the aches and soreness in his joints, and cringed at the knotted tangles when running his fingers through his hair. Despite his mournful attitude, the dwarfs – especially Gent – offered plenty of encouragement and gratitude. By all accounts, Snow had proven a capable miner!

Snow’s eyes widened on reaching the two oaks; for by the door of the hovel was a letter and small box. Snow read the letter eagerly, since it was addressed to him.

Dearest Snow, it read, I apologise for all the hardship you must’ve endured. I discovered the treachery of the huntsman, and rest assured he’s been dealt with accordingly. Please come home.

It was signed off by the queen herself.

A few of the dwarfs, mainly Hothead and Sloppy, suggested the Queen had had a change of heart; that maybe Snow could go back and let her seek forgiveness.

Snow glanced at the box. It was Crusty who opened it, and pulled out a dazzlingly bright mail vest.

“You ought to try it on, Snow!” said Lusty. “You’ll look great in it.”

“Don’t be so bloody stupid,” said Doubtsy. “I wouldn’t be wearing anything she sent me. What you reckon, lad?”

Snow nodded. He’d no reason to trust the Queen after what the huntsman told him. “If she wants to see me,” he said, “she can come and see me herself.”

Three times Snow and the dwarfs returned from a hard day’s graft, to find three different letters and three different gifts, all bearing the signature of the queen herself. First was the mail vest; then came a pair of golden earrings; and finally an apple so rich in redness that even some of the dwarfs were tempted to take a bite.

Each time the dwarfs showed concern, pondered whether the Queen was genuine – all but Doubtsy (who was on to her games). “Don’t be so bloody stupid,” he’d say – and there were none Snow trusted more than grumpy old Doubtsy. Therefore Snow never returned. 

*

The work went on. Every day the same: a long walk with sing songs; hours and hours in the dank, dark and dirty mine; gripping the pickaxe and pick, pick, picking at bare rock for the odd glistening reward. Yet Snow came to love it! He collected more and more varied treasures than his hosts ever did, and that meant more food and better clothes with all the money they could get at the market. The dwarfs loved him for it and pretty soon they’d built a new extension to their little dwarven home with all the space a former prince could need! They made Snow an honorary dwarf and told him he could stay for as long as he was happy to pull his weight, which seemed fair to Snow. Within months the boy’s fingers gained calluses; his back screamed in protest; his eyes suffered in the light and his once soft facial features grew harsh and rough with stubble. And, owing mostly to the awful wine he drank on a nightly basis (while wittering the day away among his newfound dwarven comrades), his skin – once white as snow – gained colour in the form of redness in the cheeks. But he didn’t mind. The boy retained a certain rugged charm but the beauty of youth was gone.

And the Queen never returned.

33
[JAN 2019] Air / Re: [Jan 2019] - AIR - Voting Thread
« on: February 10, 2019, 02:08:42 AM »
Voted. Went for three very different stories, one not normally my thing but just done SO well  :)

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[DEC 2018] Unwanted Gifts / Re: [Dec 2018] - Unwanted Gifts - Voting Thread
« on: February 02, 2019, 03:28:20 AM »
Congrats @JMack

I was so surprised at how dark this prompt was taken by most  :o

I really enjoyed @Alex Hormann 's twisted story, and also the kind of gruesome offering by @Cell18

PS: Thanks for the vote @ShadowKnight

35
[JAN 2019] Air / Re: [Jan 2019] - AIR - Discussion Thread
« on: January 21, 2019, 06:18:47 AM »
Got there in the end! Like you Slay I discarded a fair few ideas, one I even wrote a few hundred words on  :o

In the end I went with possibly the most ridiculous idea of them all. May not be to everyone's taste  ;D :P

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[JAN 2019] Air / Re: [Jan 2019] - AIR - Submission Thread
« on: January 21, 2019, 06:17:09 AM »
Bad Air

1500 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
The toxic air hung thicker over the fields outside Brakken-Upon-Eastflow. So bad you could taste it. Even the foulest of bubbling springs hadn’t so offended my nostrils. The foliage wilted the closer we got to the goblin hole. Whatever plagued us, it came from down there.

“You’re sure about this, wizard?” Elfric; one of the four sent with me, a withered little man who made up for his physical shortcomings with a knight’s arrogance.

“Unlike you boys, I haven’t kept my nose buried in those smelling sachets all day. It’s stronger here, mark my words. Now, as we are entering the godsforsaken stink hole – and there is a chance the goblins won’t greet a potential meal with customary graces – you fools had better clench your guts.”

A stillness lay within the gaping burrow that led to the world below. The smooth stone slab that kept them from us stood ominously unguarded and with not a sound from the other side. True, goblins rarely made moves in broad daylight, but to let us get so close so easily was most unusual.

“Lord Wizard…” Milo this time. The boy had only been sent because the other ‘real men’ hadn’t the balls to volunteer themselves. Alas, these were his first words to me.

“Lord Wizard?” I growled. “Firstly, no one says ‘Lord Wizard’. It’d be Lord Lamak if anything. But I’m not a lord. Just, get on with it, boy.”

“Well, Sir.” He grimaced. It was the least I could do to only roll my eyes. “It’s awfully bad here; the smell, I mean. Don’t you think it’d be better if we called for help? A Wind Wizard, perhaps…”

My face hurt. It hurt from a day with these children. The pinching of skin at my brow convinced me it’d stuck that way. “Perhaps you’d like to ride out and find one. You might have luck in a few days. Or perhaps weeks. Even months. An expert in tracking Aeromancers, are you?”

“No, Sir.”

“Adept at traversing the kingdoms?”

“No, Sir.”

“Knowledgeable in the arts and ways of air magic?”

“No, Sir.”

“No. Sir. Well do something you are bloody well good at and get that rock moved! Benny, Freyonor, you too.”

The two of them joined their crushed comrade while Elfric tried to appear useful shouting words of encouragement. I lit a pipe and wondered how man ever surmounted the other Lesser Beings of the Overworld.

The slab merely inched at first, leaving the slightest of gaps to the other side when Benny staggered back, retching.

“Get back at it, man,” I snapped. I regretted it almost immediately. The slab slid across the opening and with it came the foulest burst of air.

I swallowed it. I didn’t mean to. It came so fast and so suddenly, you see. I gasped, and in it went. I tasted it. And I saw the same revulsion in the eyes of the men. Benny was the first to hurl. His breakfast splattered the walls and left steaming chunks of bread balls littering the floor.

“Something’s dead down there,” Freyonor mumbled through his rose sachet.

I dared think he was right.

“We go on,” I said. “They aren’t the most inventive of people’s; we should easily find our way through. Be ready now.”

A silence befell us. A calamity appeared to have struck Eastflow’s goblins. Everywhere the dimly torch lit walls were cracked, the ground pounded and uneven, the ceiling crumbled, and what stone and woodwork existed lay toppled and shattered. And all the while that inhuman stench invaded our senses, growing thicker and thicker with each step.

The unimaginative shaft opened up into the first ‘room’ of the place. A plain box of a chamber, which housed a couple of dusty wooden altars whose contents (a single gold plated goblet and a handful of clay dishes) presently decorated the floor.

Benny motioned us to quiet. He’d seen something.

Benny deserves credit amongst this group, I suppose. It took little to stand out of course; yet he spotted the goblin boy hiding behind the larger of the altars before I did, and in the end that provided some forewarning which may have helped in the long run. Or maybe not. This was hardly the task of the ages. But still, it was something.

The scraggly little thing came out with arms and legs flailing in the clutches of Elfric and Freyonor. Thing barely reached their hips. Dirty as ever a goblin was. Grime creamed his face and fingernails; his arms, legs and belly were smeared with more shades of muck than you’d know existed. Couldn’t deny the terror in his eyes though.

“Put me DOWN!” he shrieked.

I nodded and the men gracelessly dumped the boy on his bottom. They crossed swords as to assert their conquest over the youngling. Men.

“What’s your name, boy?” I asked.

It didn’t seem keen to answer, until Elfric and Freyonor scratched their blades together. Awful sound, that. “Gleb,” the boy said.

“Well, Gleb, I see your home is rather empty. Did the putrid air send them fleeing?”

“What’s pooh-trid?”

I sighed. “Smelly.”

Gleb sniffed himself and frowned. “It might be me.”

“I shouldn’t think so.” I gestured to Elfric, who leaned over the boy and shook his head at me. “What caused all this mess, Gleb?”

The boy’s eyes widened as if remembering a secret long forgotten. “Oh, yeah! That’s why I was hiding! The troll! A troll came.” He made to get up only to be shoved by Freyonor. “We have to leave! He ate the others. He’ll eat us all!”

“Haven’t seen a troll in a while,” Benny grumbled. “They normally don’t come up for years.”

“Not till feeding time,” I said solemnly. “They get their fill, then disappear again. Unfortunate to happen upon a goblin cave after years of hibernation. Unfortunate indeed.”

“Why?” Gleb asked.

“Because, dear boy, goblins are not good for digestion.”

Gleb frowned again. I hadn’t the patience to explain digestion.

We proceeded with utmost caution, dragging Gleb along with us. Trolls usually awoke in forests and gobbled whatever deer or rabbit they could get their hands on. Humans might be simple but they’d avoided building their homes over slumbering trolls. This one had good reason to be angry.

The shaft emptied out on a grand hall (by goblin standards) filled with broken banqueting tables, pummelled pillars, chains and snapped spear shafts. And goblin bones – lots and lots of goblin bones. Amid the carnage mewed the monstrous mountain of flesh that was our troll.

And an air so thick you could chew it. I choked back the bile. My men once more stuffed their faces with their precious rose petals.

There came a tremendous trumping as the bulbous bulk shifted our way.

“Gods!” Freyonor howled. Milo and Benny waivered toward the wall looking somewhat discoloured. Something tugged at my robes: Gleb had found himself a safe space. The ‘taste’ was indescribably bad!

“Urgh!” groaned the troll. “Be gone. Foul small ones.” It itched at the sagging sack of its gelatinous gut. “I’m finished. The little beasts have done for me. Let me die alone and in peace!” Another groan and a belch almost as bad as what came from the other end.

“Oh for all the gods,” I huffed, and inched my way toward the self-pitying brute. “You would lie here moping into oblivion over a little flatulence?”

“There’s nought to be done,” the troll wailed. Its gaping maw was crusted with goblin, yet I’d no time for sentimentalities; Gleb was too dense to understand anyway. I discarded my pipe and raised my staff, which immediately raised alarm in the creature’s eyes.

“You’d kill me, wizard?!” The beast lumbered to its feet, defying gravity. “I’ll smash you all!”

“You bloody well won’t,” I mumbled and let fly a spark of fire.

The shock reduced the troll to its knees. It threw up its trunk-like arms. “No. Please, Great Wizard. I’m but a humble troll. Help me, won’t you!”

“All right already,” I replied. “Men, grab those chains. Yes, that’s right. Now, form a belt around the belly area. The only way we’ll do this is to get it all out of him right here. It won’t be pretty, but what choice do we have?”

Elfric raised an eyebrow. “We could just slay the thing and be done with it.”

“Gods man! Are you some kind of monster? This is a creature of the Greater Beings!” Men!

With a sulk, they wrapped the chain several times while the tamed troll watched for any more magical mischief. When done I ordered the men to pull with all they had.

And the trumpeting of the troll I’d no doubt could be heard at the heart of Brakken-Upon-Eastflow. Within the earth the last blast of rotten air sent poor Gleb tumbling back down the shaft, and ensured the men’s bellies were emptied in time for lunch. We’d only to hope their appetites were up to it too!

37
And I almost forgot A Song for Achilles by Madeline Miller.

Song of Achilles is an absolutely wonderful read  :)

Thanks for the other suggestions!


38
Jake, then I think you'll love the Copper Cat trilogy by Jen Williams :D

I'm spoilt for choice now. Thanks Scarlet  ;D

39
[JAN 2019] Air / Re: [Jan 2019] - AIR - Discussion Thread
« on: January 15, 2019, 02:59:37 AM »
Well I sat down to write something for Air, and this is what came out.
No air, and it's actually not even fantasy.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Claudio looked out the window of the back room of the shop. As a child he remembered thinking of this backwater town as the pinnacle civilization because the roofs were wooden, not thatch, because people walked on floorboards instead of dirt. How naive he had been! He touched the collar of his camouflage uniform absently. The military had taken him places he’d never imagined, why had it brought him back here, so close to his home?

“Claudio! Get away from that window and come celebrate!” Behind him, Raúl did another line of coke. The shopkeeper’s desk was a mess of white powder and stray papers, thanks to their altercation. Several kilos were stacked on one side of the desk, some of the packages splattered with the shopkeeper’s blood. “They may be Communists, but I will say this-- they make excellent cocaine.”

Claudio frowned as he looked at the shopkeeper, dead at the foot of his own desk.

“What’s wrong with you?” Raúl furrowed his brow. He swept his arm around the desk. “This is all ours now. We’ve taken over cocaine production in half of the Amazon. The rebels won’t last much longer. It’s almost like you’ve forgotten we’re winning.”

“I’m sorry Raúl,” Claudio put his hand on his best friend’s shoulder. Raúl had befriended him when he was first taken from his village. Shown him the ropes. Saved his life more than once. Taken him to lose his virginity with women who respected men with guns. Shown him how to take what was his: food, extra cash, someone’s watch or phone-- the privileges of being a military man. Had it really only been three years? It felt like an eternity, like another life. He was a different person now. He was seventeen. The military had made him a man.

Claudio’s thoughts were interrupted as the door burst open. In an instant his weapon was ready. A middle aged woman stood in the doorway, shock in her eyes. Claudio hoped she would flee, but instead she fell to her knees, touching the face of the murdered shopkeep. “Leo-- oh god, oh god-- Leo!” her face twisted in agony.

She looked up at the pair in rage. “You bastards! How could you? Pigs! He was an old man--” her words caught in her throat. “I-I know you….  You’re Kwa--”

Claudio pulled the trigger. She collapsed in a heap over her father, before he even realized what he had done.

Kwaru, she was going to say. His savage name, before Raúl gave him a proper Colombian one. Had he meant to kill her? His jaw set resolutely. He wasn’t Kwaru, he was Claudio.

Raúl patted his friend on the shoulder. “Now you’re learning! Rebel women will only make rebel babies.”

“Sh!” Claudio lifted his finger. The woman’s blood drained into the floorboards, with a slow and deliberate drip.  Floorboards did not drip. “There’s a cellar.” Houses here did not have cellars.

Raúl moved the elderly shopkeep with a solid kick.  “Fuck me-- there’s a trap door!”

The two lifted the latch, and Raúl drew his flashlight.  Wooden stairs descended down to darkness.  Crouched into a prowl, the two made their way down the stairs, weapons drawn.

Three children huddled together, muffling their sobs in each other’s shirts.  Three children and one guerilla. Lanky and short, the rebels fatigues fit loosely. He was probably thirteen at the most. He wielded the rifle clumbsily, shaking as he pointed it at the two soldiers.

“Drop your weapon!” Claudio commanded.

The boy just stood there, dumbfounded, staring at Claudio’s face.

“I said drop it!”

The boy didn’t move.  His eyes were wide, and his jaw slack. The rifle shaking even more. Was he going to shoot?

With a bang, Claudio ended the boy’s confusion.  The children screamed as the rebel’s chest exploded. The shot to the heart had sprayed bone and blood on the wall. The guerrilla slumped lifelessly against the red mess.

“That’s enough!” Raúl commanded.

Their sobs continued, if more subdued.

“Learn this lesson, if you want to live,” Raúl continued. “Rebellion ends only in death. Be glad you got this warning.”

One of the children came forward. He must have been nine. “It’s your fault he joined.”

Raúl snorted. Claudio had seen him kill children before. “My fault?” Raúl asked in amusement.

“You take people,” the child said angrily, “From the villages. The children that can’t run fast enough from your trucks. He only joined because you took his older brother.”

Raúl hefted his gun and pointed it at the child. “Like I said, rebel mothers make rebel babies.”

Claudio frowned. He studied the dead rebel’s face. The contours of his jaw. The shape of his eyes. Tried to imagine what he would have looked like three years ago.

The child continued: “Kill me if you want. Just don’t take me like you took Kwaru.”

Claudio’s blood ran cold. “Raul, that’s enough.”

“What do you mean, that's enough?”

Claudio’s eyes never left his dead brother’s face. “There’s no need." Claudio's voice was emotionless. Factual. "Like you said, we’re winning.”

Wow. It hurts cause it's so real. I imagine so many similar stories in so many places  :'(

Shame we don't have a contest for randoms stories for the month  :o

In the mean time I am pretty much clutching at air in want of finding an idea I like enough to actually write so far this month.

I have a few, and if need be I'll grind one of those out. But I'd prefer better than that  :-\

40

Magic's Pawn - my search for quality LGBT fantasy continues; aside from (contrived) cuteness there was nothing here to make me remotely interested in the rest of the books in its shared universe.


@cupiscent was raving about an LGBT book a while ago if I remember correctly.

It is an old book, I picked it up in a book shop by chance and on realising it had a gay lead felt it worth a go. It reads like it was written by an angsty teen tbh. What Elfy says seem right, had I read it ten or fifteen years ago I might have liked it   :-\

@ScarlettBea thanks for the heads up! Will take a deeper look  :)

It was the Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue

I just read the blurb on goodreads! Sounds like something I could get into, thanks for the recommendation  :)

@cupiscent traditional fantasy but gay IS what I'm really after. Though by no means exclusively - I really loved the Captive Prince Trilogy by C.S Pascat (especially books 2 and 3), and that is definitely not traditional fantasy  ;D So cheers for the tip to Max Gladstone and the link!

41

Magic's Pawn - my search for quality LGBT fantasy continues; aside from (contrived) cuteness there was nothing here to make me remotely interested in the rest of the books in its shared universe.


@cupiscent was raving about an LGBT book a while ago if I remember correctly.

It is an old book, I picked it up in a book shop by chance and on realising it had a gay lead felt it worth a go. It reads like it was written by an angsty teen tbh. What Elfy says seem right, had I read it ten or fifteen years ago I might have liked it   :-\

@ScarlettBea thanks for the heads up! Will take a deeper look  :)

42
Top 5:

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch (swashbuckling awesomeness)
Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch (politically intruguing awesomeness)
Rickshaw Boy by Lao She (great insight into pre-communist China and a tragic/funny story to boot)
The Outsider by Stephen King (King like he hasn't performed in years!)
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (geeky indulgent awesomeness)

Disappointing (well, not neccesarily but didn't live up to expectations for sure!)

King of Thorns - after loving Prince of Thorns, and hearing how much better this was claimed to be, it failed as a sequel for me in just about every way possible.

Magic's Pawn - my search for quality LGBT fantasy continues; aside from (contrived) cuteness there was nothing here to make me remotely interested in the rest of the books in its shared universe.

Only those, nothing else I read qualifies as in any way disappointing  :)

43
Fantasy Book & Author Discussion / Re: Favorite Character in SFF
« on: January 04, 2019, 07:26:32 AM »
Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen. A proper 'bromance' the likes of which I haven't read much of in fantasy. I could happily read their conversations and bickering for 600 pages at a time. I just wish Scott Lynch would get on with publishing Gentlemen Bastards Book 4 so I can do just that!

I also really enjoy Eddie Dean in The Dark Tower series; as well as Sand Dan Glokta - the awful but captivating slime ball of the First Law.

44
Voted. Not easy to choose only 2 from since there was probably the biggest disparity in terms of story types I've read in one contest so far. Interesting how these things pan out  :)


45
[NOV 2018] Image Prompt: Ships / Re: [Nov 2018] - Ships - Voting Thread
« on: January 02, 2019, 03:44:34 AM »
Congrats on the great start to the New Year @Carter and @Jenny HJ!

@Jenny HJ your story got my vote. It was so good. After reading it I sat there thinking 'well, that's going to be pretty hard to beat, if not impossible.' And it turned out to be the case. I felt the rush of that story, amazing action piece I don't really expect in 1500 words. Nice twist at the end too!  :)

@Alex Hormann got my second vote for that wickedly atmospheric tale; and while I did enjoy all the stories here, Jenny and Alex's really stood out to me.

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