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    Caillagh de Bodemloze's Avatar to rede I me delyte
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    Default Re: TotW Story Index

    TotW 256 – Survival
    wildlife, alive, water, shelter
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    Winner – William the Marshal
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    The books had burned swiftly, old and dry as most of them were. Only with the coming of the rain through the collapsed ceiling did the flames abate. Now water ended what fire had begun, soaking through paper, ink and ash, blotting out the words within the covers.

    A pale sun rose over the ruin, illuminating it with emotionless light. The forest rustled with the sounds of wildlife. The birds sang as they did every morning, heedless of the destruction that had been wrought. In some corners of the library the ashes still smoldered, having been sheltered from the rain in the night. The boy pushed the last soil into the librarian's grave. He thought briefly of saying something, but his lungs were still raw from the smoke that had choked the old man; in any case, he could think of nothing to say. It was senseless. They had killed the man who raised him, burned the only home he had ever known. What drove them to do it? Had the library hidden some dark secret? Was it a simple love of destruction? He did not know. All he knew was that he was alive, while the library and its caretaker were dead.

    The boy wandered the library's halls, now open to the sky, his feet sinking into the slurry of wet ash. He saw on the ground a scrap of paper that had partially survived the burning. Picking it up, he read "Titus... the castle... lost, lost... the burning". Nothing more was legible. He folded the paper and placed it in his pocket, performing the simple gestures with a quiet reverence. Then he resumed his course through the ashes of lost knowledge.

    He knelt once more before the old man's grave. Bleakly he stared at the mound of earth, his lips shaping a single sentence over and over.

    "I didn't know your name."

    He plunged his hands into his pockets, bringing out fistfuls of paper - what little of the library's contents had escaped the flames. Were these words, he wondered, somehow worthier than the rest? Had they been preserved because of some greater value? He doubted it. His hands shaking, he spilled the scraps of paper over the librarian's grave, then stood and looked long before turning.

    As the boy walked away, a breeze stirred the charred relics with which he had marked the dead man. Singing softly, it carried them spiraling up over the library's ruins, into the pale sunlight.

    Entrant 2 – Rabbit55821
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The bullets ripped through the makeshift merchant booths, which were being used as shelter from the gunman's bloody campaign. They were nothing like what a true medieval booth would have looked like, but no one cared. Besides, the fair was only pretend. Perhaps the bullets were too. Perhaps the gun and the corpses were all just a twisted illusion.


    The gunman paused for a moment, ejecting a magazine from his rifle and swiftly reloading. Boom. Boom. Another corpse was made, this one dressed in fake chain-mail. Two bullets found their way to the man as he attempted escape, one scattering through his chest and lungs, the other creating a clean hole through his rib cage. Crimson blood spurted from him as he fell to his knee. Boom. Another bullet was fired, this one penetrating his skull and killing him instantly.


    Everyone was running. Screams echoed through what had once been a happy and joyful renaissance fair. The Police would say the gunman had a specific target, but that after killing her, he had realized his life was over and decided to bring others with him. Politicians on the left would use the event to demand even more gun-control, some of the more extreme would even use the event to push for the end of capital punishment. The Right would refuse the claims of the left, saying the reports had been falsified to push a political agenda. The obvious claims would also be made, that the attack had been the act of a terrorist.


    But it was not a terrorist attack. The Gunman had been enraged by his ex-girlfriend, and he had went there to kill her. In his depraved mindset, everyone else was a villain for consorting with the woman, so he shot them. Most didn't even know the woman, as she was shy and an introvert, only finding reprieve in her writings and research. She had broken up with the gunman at the behest of her parents, who called him a horrible influence for his atheistic views, which would corrupt their religious daughter. They weren't aware she herself was struggling with her religion, and her studies of the history of Christianity only furthered her belief that religion was a fake.


    Yet the men and women at the fair didn't care for the reason or the backstory. They only cared that they were still alive. By the time the shooting had stopped, and the gunman had been killed, nearly everything was dead, from the wildlife kept for display to the child who had been dragged along by his parents. The survivors were all collected and given water as they gave detailed reports of the shooting. Most would end up in therapy for years. A few would even commit suicide, such as the man in charge of the stables, who's daughter died on the operating table. The attack would live on forever in the memories of the survivors, but the country would soon forget it.


    Besides, it was just another shooting.

    Entrant 3 – mad orc
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    Survival .


    Panama 1881 :Mortality rates were high for the workers working in the French endeavour of building a canal in the Panama .Just weeks before it closed down 5 men of the 32nd worker group found themselves in a dilemma over a very basic fact,,,survival .The 5 were British workers .Richard Durell ,Keith Williamson,Seth Collins ,John Bay and Roger Doggs .But of these 5 men ,4 were much more afraid .Afraid for their soul .For Roger the weakest of the group was going to die .They had been lost in the wilderness while out exploring much away from the construction .They had finally given up hope after 2 weeks of being lost .They had not eaten a morsel of food and had lost their energy .Yes there was water to drink,lots of it .But food was scarce as most of the plants in the area were poisonous and unedible and there were almost no animals to hunt for food .The wild life had just disappeared . .Currenty they were sitting on their campsite .They had made a small wooden shelter to remain alive.

    Coming back to the present,the reason Roger had to die was simple,food was the reason .The group had thought of this for long and everybody knew that to survive sooner or later they would have to sell their souls to the devil .They had tried long and hard to avoid it ,but after 2 weeks of hunger a man’s soul seemed like a cheap price to pay for food .Roger himself standing at 5feet knew it too .

    The rest of the 4 had planned it meticulously when Roger had gone for natures callings .John emotionally the weakest had tried to persuade the remaining to wait for some time ,but he knew that he would not succeed .They had to do it .Currently Seth said “Roger look at that tree ,I see a crow behind it ,lets catch it .”Roger who finally realised that the moment had arrived tried to reason “We can survive more,don’t do it,wait for some more time,please don’t kill me.”The remaining 4 did not say anything,their mouths were shut .The pangs of hunger had got to them .They viewed Roger as nothing but a tasty piece of meat .Slowly they got up with their axes and teamed up on him .Roger tried to run but outnumbered and weak he simply slumped down .The next few moments were gruesome.

    Food,finally the meat was served by Keith who roasted it on the fire .But as each one of them put the first morsel into their mouths they wondered how their future home would look like,would hell be hot as lava or cold as Lucifer .

    At that moment they heard a voice “32nd amigos were were you gone “ .It was Richardo Diaz the manager of the group .

    Entrant 4 – Mhaedros
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The Lion King was at a loss for action. What had begun as seemingly normal, had become catastrophe. He felt it all slipping away from him; his loyal subjects were grumbling, and there were whispers of a faction, known as the Independent Wildlife Party, rising in popularity amongst the lower classes who were planning on opposing him in the next election.

    ‘This whole affair with the disappeared rabbits had played right into their greedy little hands!, he shouted to no one in particular as he considered his options. What was worse than the rabbits, however, was the death of a young buck in what the newspapers were calling the highest profile murder case in decades. If any old buck had gone and died it wouldn’t be so bad, but this particular one was the son of one of the Lion King’s most important donors, and the parents had demanded they get their vengeance. But what could the King do, when even his chief of police Grey Wolf couldn’t identify the device stuck in the buck’s throat. A long shaft of wood with a sharp stone head shoved into the flesh of the poor animal with some force; everyone involved were at a loss for words.

    And as if it couldn’t get any force, the King’s old ally, the Dolphin Queen had been deposed in the nearby waters, apparently by an uprising mostly consisting of the lower classes. Of course the lion had immediately invited his friend to seek shelterat his palace until the rebellion had been put down, but the only reply was that soon he too would pay.

    The lion cursed politics in all its forms, before considering his next move. The strange murder was important, but the murmurs of uprising must be put down before they could truly begin.

    A sudden shriek awoke the King from his thoughts and brought him to the palace window, from where he quickly retreated. Below him the kingdom was in flames, and strange creatures were slaughtering his subjects! They shouted and laughed in words he could not understand, and they fought not using their claws and teeth, but carried wooden sticks and rocks. His animals had been caught off guard, and were being slaughtered by the strange warriors!

    All thoughts of politics and murder left the King’s mind as he fled the palace. Only one thing was important now; to stay alive for the wars to come.



    TotW 257 – Troll
    monster, light, claws, break, captive
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    Winner – Admiral Van Tromp
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The Great Lion of Iskat

    And thus arose the great lion of Iskat
    From the precipice upon which he sat.
    Its claws clinging to ancient stone.
    Its jaws eager to part meat from bone.

    The monster roared, loud as thunder.
    The hero looked on in fear and wonder.
    Brave Uruzar warning did receive,
    But he could see the silver captive.

    A swan, shining like the sun in the sea
    Struck by the beast on wing and knee.
    Uruzar saw divinity in its silver light.
    Surely it was heavenly bright.

    His heart did then decide to defy
    The beast that could roar courage dry.
    For Uruzar shielded the weak
    And he had to save a being so meek.

    The lion saw that Uruzar was resolute
    And wondered how much courage it took
    To challenge the great terror of Iskat
    Without flinching or losing his heart.

    The adversaries did measure each other,
    The bringer of chaos and the champion of order.
    The swan looked on in doubt and pain,
    Certain the noble attempt would be in vain.

    The beast of Iskat over Uruzar did fly,
    The hero’s spear thrusting in reply.
    Piercing only air with its sharp tip,
    Dodging the tail, that cracked like a whip.

    He lifted the shield above his head
    To block fearsome claws eager to shred.
    The lion circled around his feet
    And every blow did the shield meet.

    Uruzar needed to find the one chance
    To put an end to this deadly dance.
    As the beast wouldn’t soon tire,
    Its heart raging like a blinding pyre.

    Fury made the terror’s strength great
    Perhaps it could as easily seal its fate.
    For terrible anger, if not contained
    Is prey to those who keep it restrained.

    Uruzar had only to wait and defend
    Until the lion itself gave way to its end.
    As the claws fell down on the shield,
    He prayed to the gods and did not yield.

    Soon its attention did momently slip
    And Uruzar buried the spear deep.
    He stabbed the core of the lion of Iskat,
    Piercing though the monster’s heart.

    The agonizing creature howled in pain.
    Bathing in blood, blind and insane.
    It quickly fell down over its own weight
    For its own fury did its might break.

    The swan waved its wings in vain,
    Its body broken and trembling in pain.
    But it was safe from the lion of Iskat
    Whose fierce chest got torn apart.

    Uruzar for the bird’s misfortune did weep
    And admiring its light he did sorely sit.
    He could not be ready for the surprise
    That soon took place before his eyes.

    For he was right when he deemed divine
    The way the swan did in silver shine.
    As before him arose in beauty and grace
    The holy Edali, with gratitude in her face.

    With great joy the hero then realised
    That the silver swan was the goddess disguised.
    Edali gave him her daughter’s hand for the feat,
    As the monstrous lion laid dead in defeat.

    Entrant 2 – Shankbot de Bodemloze
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    From the top of the mountain side Gareth looked down upon the hooman city in all its glory - it's persistent light radiating out, fighting against the encroaching darkness. He let out a deep sigh, wishing he could be down there amongst the lights, amongst the people! "Why do they view us as monsters, Big Toe? Why can't we live together in peace?"

    Big Toe was an older troll, his sizeable claws giving away his age, but they had become fast friends in the colony that had inhabited this particular mountain side, even since Gareth and his parents had moved from Trollville to a more rural home. Big Toe looked up from the whole chicken he was chewing on, wiping his mouth clean with his wrist before scratching his chin thoughtfully, "Because Pinkie, the hoomans hunt us for these," he said gesturing to his claws, using his affectionate name for Gareth. "We tried living with the hoomans but they kept wanting more so we had to defend ourselves."

    "But those wars were so long ago, surely now we could try again? I mean look at those lights!" came the Gareth's excited response.

    Big Toe paused to look down upon the city, "Looks like stars too me Pinkie, we have a better view from this mountainside." He shook is head sadly, "You're too young to understand, Thumb over there was held captive by the hoomans for a long long time, if he hadn't managed to break free with Ring Fing and Little Piggie they would have taken him for his claws, he's the only survivor from those wars left now but still remembers it clear as day." He pointed over to Thumb, a once large Troll bent crooked with age, with long grey whiskers drooping down either side of his contorted face. "Plus, we have nice chicken here," and with that Big Toe tucked back into his dinner.

    Gareth let out a sigh, these conversations always ended the same - but he was determined when he was an adult Troll he would go and visit the hoomans and discover how they make light stay during the night.

    Entrant 3 – Socrates1984
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The Awakening

    "This light is hurting my eyes!"
    Close them quick. Yes, better now. Wait. What are these shadows in front of my face? Have they put something in front of the light's source? No, certainly not. But, is it coming from my own face? It can't be. Are these tusks? My own tusks?!

    "Good night honey..."
    Oh, man, is it possible to still feel in love with this girl? I must be the luckiest man in the world. Well, the guys at work are constantly making fun of me, but it's not heir fault. I was the one to share my situation with this sweetest girlfriend of mine and my feelings for her. Tomorrow though I will show them.

    "I have got to break free!"
    If only I could twist my wirst a bit more! Like them or not, these claws look dangerously sharp. They seem to be the natural extension of my new muscular arms. Wait, these bonds. Maybe I could try... My body looks hideously strong and enlarged.

    "Sooo. Who's gonna come with me? The Knicks are playing tonight."
    Too much time with my girlfriend, huh? Yeah, that's the response I was hoping for guys. Who's his girlfriend's pet now?

    "It's dark in here. But I can see?"
    No colors, but all shapes as clear as in daylight. GOD DAMN! I didn't see that pond! It's all wet and damp down here. Maybe if I let the waters calm, I could see my reflection.

    No wonder they were holding me captive. I've become a monster.

    Entrant 4 – Mhaedros
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Beneath the hills north of the village lived a friendly old troll named Humharumph. During the long winter nights the elders in the city would tell tales from their own childhoods, of when the kindly old troll would stroll down the hills and visit upon the humans at the same time as the first flowers grew in the ditches around the village. Then he would play with the children as the parents worked, and when fall came he would help the farmers bring in the harvest with his monstrous strength. For he was no monster; everybody loved Humharumph the helpful troll.

    But one spring when Humharumph came down to the settlement, all he could find was blood and fire. He screamed in agony, as he recognized the charred bodies piled outside the biggest hut in the village. He had seen every one of those souls grow up, only to end this way! But soon he ceased his cry, when he heard a lighter voice crying with him. A small girl had escaped, and told him her tale.

    A nearby baron had sent soldiers to tax the village for protection against the evil old troll living in the hills, and when the farmers protested and claimed the troll was their friend, they burnt and pillaged the heathen peasants along with their homes. But not all the people had been killed; many had been taken captive back to the baron’s castle, and it did not take Humharumph any convincing to try saving his friends.

    He came to the fortress under cover of darkness, carrying a massive tree he had found in the forest. Ready to start battering the doors he unleashed a terrifying growl, dark and loud enough to make the walls of the castle tremble. Then he started battering the tree against the gates with such force that they shattered before him. The soldiers on guard barely had time to scream before his raging claws caught them, but he made sure not to hurt anyone who threw their weapons.

    The baron looked down at the tumult from his balcony and screamed “What do you want, wicked old troll?!”

    The troll looked back up with a burning in his eyes and said “I am here for my friends, who you enslaved, whose homes you burnt and whose children you would break beneath your heels.”

    The baron had little choice but to release the villagers he had captured, and return them to their homes with enough tools and supplies to rebuild many times what he had destroyed. But Humharumph was never the same. For a time he would visit the village as he used to, but the memory of the horror never left his eyes. One spring he never came at all, and the friendly old troll became but a memory of the children he saved. But the village was never attacked again, because everyone knew; the village of Humharumph was protected.



    TotW 258 – Rulership
    power, stress, responsibilities, verdict, devotion
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    Winner – Caillagh de Bodemloze
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Rex Quondam...

    How can I do it?
    How can I not do it?

    I am the King. The only man with the power to reach the verdict; the only man with the power to pass the sentence that has to be passed. I have responsibilities. All know my history; the story of how I came to my throne. I cannot refuse to do my duty now; that would be to turn my back on God and on all my people.

    I have served my people as well as I could. And so have my Knights; the men who sit at my Table on feast-days risk their lives for me and for this realm all the rest of the year. The loyalty of every one of them is undeniable… almost. As is that of my wife.

    They tell me there is no doubt. They tell me she – and he – have betrayed me utterly. They tell me there can be only one verdict, and only one sentence. Death. Death by burning. I have asked if some other death might be permitted, and they say no. No. The woman I love – the woman who has stood by my side with devotion through so much – must die a hideous, agonising death, and all must see it, for only punishment of such enormous horror and pain lays sufficient stress on the gravity of her crime.

    There can be no forgiveness. No amount of remorse is enough. No repentance will satisfy them.

    How can they tell me that killing a good woman is serving God? Burning alive a loyal, dutiful, loving wife? If only I could save her from this. My only hope – and my greatest fear – is that he will come to rescue her. Perhaps that’s why he fled. After all we have faced together, I know he is no coward. My closest friend. My best ally. Maybe he can still save my wife.

    Still, I must oppose him. If I assist him in any way – if I leave my wife inadequately guarded – it will seem to the people that I think myself above the law, able to act however I wish with no penalty. So I must send my nephews to defend the honour they tell me I have already lost, to fight a battle I do not want to fight.

    If he comes to try and rescue my wife, it will divide my Knights. It will divide my kingdom. It will shatter the peace we have built together, remove our protection of my people. But if he does not, my wife will die screaming in torment. How can I choose between the safety of my people and the very life of my love? I cannot abandon my people… I can’t bear to abandon my wife…

    Entrant 2 – Shankbot de Bodemloze
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    "With great power comes greater responsibilities, we should do something to help!" argued Seban.

    "With great power comes great stress," Alu grumbled in reply. "If we help now, they'll expect us to help whenever something bad happens. Every. Single. Time. Trust me, I've been in this position a lot longer than you."

    "I know that, I do, and I respect your wisdom Elder Alu, but surely we can intervene - if only a little," Seban protested. "They show us such devotion, we should show them why it isn't misplace."

    "If they were as devoted as you seem to think they would have faith in us regardless of our intervention. That is the way it has always been. That is the way it always will be." Alu paused, looking down at the scene below them. "Look, if they only believed in us when we did something then what is the point in their belief?"

    Seban let out a resigned sigh, "I know, I know... it's just I've wanted to help people all my life, and now that I have the power to I feel more helpless than ever."

    "Such is the burden we must bear," Alu reasoned. "You are young, you have years of this ahead of you - and eventually you will take my place as Elder when I pass on. When that time comes it will be up to you to give verdict on how we should act, but by then I hope will have learnt that inaction can be the best cause of action."

    Entrant 3 – mad orc
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Clad in his robes ,seated on an ancient throne ,the young boy sat watching .But he was no regular boy .He was a Ceasre .Which Ceasre you ask .Well its like this ,Julius Ceasre was medival history by then .The old glory was gone ,replaced by the thin silence of a court filled with plotters and murderers.Currently the boys eyes rolled side by side,for the regular eerie silence was gone .On one side was the ancient ,rusted world of the powerful demi gods ,on the other ,a quiet religion preached by a great prophet .On one side was a wailing women being hit by a martial temple priest of the ancient temple of Jupiter and on the other a wailing man seeking the help of the priests of the golden cross and the virgin mother to rescue his wife from certain death .For the only crime that she commited was to show devotion to the man on the cross .She was right .On the other hand ,the laws of the Armenians were not applicable here .Rome’s purity depended on its religion however ancient and intolerable it had grown to be .Currently the boy boy wondered which side he should take .The stress of power was too much for him .He didn’t want the responsibilities .”You will soon grow sick ruling,you have lost your childhood “were the last words of the regent as he died on the noose .How foolish he had been ,thought the boy ,to believe the courtiers who had said that the regent was the one who had killed his father .But then he had seen the regent meeting with some strange men clad in black armour .Whom to believe and whom to not,wondered the boy as the people stood in silence waiting for his verdict .Say yes and he would be responsible for the gruesome murder of this women who would curse him to burn with Saturn .Say no and he would make enemies with half the people of his court and project himself as a weak emotional boy rather than an emperor to the other half .The shadows and lights had got mixed together .Was this,he wondered a beginning of a new order .Was Jesus right .Was the women pious .Should he say no to the killing .No he should not be thinking this .Jupiter was right .The temple priest should be allowed to put her up on a noose and hang her .So he guessed he should say yes .Or should he?The weight of royalty was hard .But suddenly a strange power came in him .It surged through his veins and heart alike .Now his decision was crystal clear in his mind .With a posture of confidence and authority the boy got up .He stopped the priest and the Christians alike .Then he shouted his decision .And all questions were answered ,the shadows had disappeared in the light ,the boy said just one word “NO” .

    And that’s how the light of the cross reached Rome .

    Entrant 4 – Darkan
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Kingship

    He thought he had heard footsteps approaching. Slow, precise pacing around him, perhaps, but with every slight movement of his head, the almost imperceptible sound would disappear.
    - Is there someone there, he whined, the words choking him.
    There was no answer, just that distant, faint whisper of sound, around him, everywhere. He couldn’t move, as if bindings held him in place. He couldn’t see, as if a heavy, tarred blindfold had been cast upon his eyes. He found he could hardly breathe, as if serrated blades went up and down his throat, inching their way ever closer to his lungs. I am indeed lost, forsaken, he thought.
    - Tell me what you seek, a voice broke the silence. Tell me what you seek and I will tell you what awaits, the voice continued.
    It was an eerie voice. Was this a man or woman? Or was this neither? Was it a maiden’s song he had heard or the guttural threats of the lowest of the lows? Was it just an echo in his mind, like the footsteps? It seemed to surround him, to go through him. It inched closer and closer, as if he could feel the person’s breathing on his face but at the same time it sounded far away, muffled, somehow at the other end of a tunnel. Again he tried to move his head, focusing on the source, without success.
    - Who are you, he said, gasping for air as he spoke. Are you the one who brought me here?
    - No. You came to me, the voice replied, of your own volition.
    My own volition, he thought. No, no. I don’t want to be here, I don’t even know where here is, his thoughts came pouring.
    - That cannot be, he spoke, not without effort.
    - And yet it is. You have come before me for judgement.
    - Judgement? You jest. I am the king, not some petty thief, he replied angrily, overcoming the pain of his speaking, stressing the word king.
    - Indeed. You are, but you are also not. You, who want to command the devotion of others, to hold responsibility, you, who want to hold power over others, must first be powerless. You are here to receive the divine right to the throne...or to be held it, the voice said.
    - And who are you to deny me my birthright, he asked, rage growing inside him, fear as well.
    - I am, we all are, it matters not who, the voice...or voices, spoke. I am also not, for we are not, it...they, continued. It is only you who are important, but only if you wish to be, and if you think you are, then you are not. Three questions you are to ask, or answer, and only then you shall receive a verdict. Only then you shall receive the right to rule, or be held it.
    - What? Stop talking in riddl...
    - Silence! It starts, the voice echoed throughout.

    Entrant 5 – SanyuXV
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    "Do you remember the price of the power you wield?" questioned a hooded man as he approached the hushed room.

    A silhouette of a man advanced ever closer towards the throne by which the king calls home. The throne room was lit with but a few torches, with dim flickers here and there with no distinguishable pattern. The torches continued to burn, the stars continued to shine, and the hooded man continued to advanced but all of man kind were frozen in time.

    "Your devotion as of late has been pitiful" again the hooded man spoke, knowing fully well that it would fall on deaf ears. With long strides he continued his path, walking past guard, after guard, after guard. The hooded figure's stride was long, his shoulders broad, and his stature proud yet no matter the proximity to light, his face was shrouded.

    As he approached the throne, the hooded figure waved his hand in a slow motion, undoing the mysterious binding he had set on the world.

    "Another king, and yet again another verdict. Have you forgotten me so soon King Leon?" The shrouded figure declared. His voice echoed back and forth between the walls of the somber throne room.

    "It cannot be, this must be a trick of the mind, or perhaps a deep slumber, I stress that it simply cannot be!" the king shifted in his royal seat as he laid eyes on the mysterious figure. "GUARDS, GUARDS ARREST THIS MAN AT ONCE" yet no reply came forth, only that of his echo. The king slumped low in his seat, his brows buried deep, and his eyes retreating back into the midst of his face.

    "I find it ironic don't you think? That a king of all people would forget his responsibilities." The hooded figure produced a parchment imprinted with a hand print in the distinct scarlet shade of blood from his clothing, and with a snap of his fingers the room was lit with a ghastly blue flame.

    "A contract is a contract, and I have come to claim my dues."

    Entrant 6 – Mhaedros
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    I arrived. After an eternal journey lasting but a few heartbeats I was finally there. I must admit I was stressed; there were few things I wanted less than to be at that place, at that time, after all that happened. As I went to knock on the front door, I realised it was already open. Not a burglar, surely nobody would dare? My suspicions were both calmed and worsened when I saw the old man leering evilly at me. I took a deep breath and forced myself to smile, before taking the hand of the man I used to know.

    “Share a glass with me, old friend.”, was the first thing he said to me.

    “Of course. Have you any servants or..?”, the question was left unanswered as he simply prepared the drinks himself. Whether he had lost his fortune or his pride I do not know, but either way I did not grieve for him.

    We drank in silence, me wishing I was somewhere else, he greedily, as the fool he always was. I was considering asking him why he had invited me, but before I had a chance he brought it up himself.

    “Great misfortune has befallen my house”, he spoke slowly, clearly fumbling for words. This was not the first drink of today I mused silently. “As you know, my family enjoyed great power once, was entrusted with several responsibilities, but since the new age he have been given nought but dust and disregard!”, by this point he was almost shouting, and a froth was building around his mouth. He seemed so much older than me, despite everything. For a while he did not speak.

    “When I became the head of this cursed house, I was young and foolish”, ‘was’, I almost laughed. “In order to restore my family’s mud-dragged name I did many things I now regret. I stole and I cheated and I broke all the rules of nobility for a chance at redemption for my name. But no matter how hard I fought, how well I spoke, how ambitiously I sought betterment, the verdict was always in favour of someone else, someone with a better name! I had enough, old friend, and frankly not a moment too soon.”

    I was beginning to feel very uneasy in his company now. The dark room was somehow darker than before, the shadows longer and more menacing.

    “I sought a greater power than what is to be found in your petty palaces and royal games. My servants do not spite me for my old name, but have fear for their master, as I have devotion for mine!”

    “Why did you call me here?!”, my head was beginning to spin, and with terror I realised I could no longer feel my legs. In the corner of my eye I could sense shadows moving.

    “We have always room for another pair of hands, should you desire to stay.”



    TotW 259 – Banquet
    journey, host, command, servant, mystery
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    WinnerCaillagh de Bodemloze
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    Banquets are supposed to be happy occasions. Wedding banquets, even more so. This one, however, was not.

    The great hall was draped with bright banners and adorned with tall stands of flowers, while the sun streamed in through the stained glass windows, lighting the tables and the guests with equally radiant patches of colour. The tables were laden with all manner of food, as you would expect. Great platters of roast meat whose scent wafted across the room and caused more than one guest to apologise for the unseemly rumble from his innards; shining piles of fruit – apples, pears, even exotic oranges and pineapples, grown in the constantly-heated greenhouse; freshly-baked bread; vegetables so beautiful and so appetising they would have tempted the sternest carnivore; and the centrepiece – an enormous wedding cake, shaped like the house itself, and iced to make the resemblance perfect.

    Everything had begun well. The guests – even those whose journeys had been the longest and most fraught with danger – had arrived safely and in good time. The cooks had toiled for days to produce the grandest meal any of them had ever seen. The servants had swept, and polished, and decorated. The gardeners had trimmed lawns, pruned bushes and weeded flower-beds. The wedding itself had proceeded without the smallest hitch, and everyone had returned to the house, laughing and talking, eager to see – and eat – the feast they were assured awaited them. They had dispersed to their rooms, to dispose of their coats and cloaks, and repair any small deficiencies of their appearance, and then they had made their way to the great hall.

    Except that once the guests were all assembled, it became apparent that not everyone had arrived in the great hall. The bride was missing.

    The groom, who had left her pinning a recalcitrant curl of hair into the precise shape she wanted, had been one of the earliest to reach the great hall. He had not begun to worry until almost everyone else had arrived. He thought his new wife intended to make a grand entrance in front of all the assembled guests, so it was not until all but three of the seats were filled that he commanded a servant to go and find her. As the host, he would be expected not to keep his guests waiting too long for their food, but it would be improper to begin a wedding banquet without the bride.

    Moments later – moments that felt like hours to the groom – the servant returned. The bride – or rather, the bride’s murdered body – had been found. One mystery had been solved only to reveal another. Who among those present could have done such a thing?

    Entrant 2M.A.E
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    It was late in the night when my little child cried for her medicines,I was there in the dark side of the semi-destroyed mansion.hope was not an answer , smile is not an option, my heart was only overlooking her smile when her older sister asked me "she is suffering,I will stay with her and you must search for help".How could I found help at such a period ?,I did not know where to go and where to get that few coins.with the sunrise's the red light of sun which marks the standing *banquet* of the city of baghdad , I had no choice but to go around the building to steal few coins , I found a servant whom was sleeping, but an old man suddenly was insight. he shouted "today is a Mystery where to solve the puzzle and to reshape it . My dear I see you a honest man .? What's your profession ?..i replied "I am in Command of the police officer post in the market . He asked "if you killed the man laying sleep here isn't it against your oath ? ... "and what oath let my child die ?! I ransom his for her life ? .. The old-man replied "my dear ,come to the market post at the midday your problem shall be solved if god will it ." . I returned home and founded my child nearly slept , I carried her and told myself "we shall find a solution" .. When we went to the post in the market I founded that the man was the *Banquet* chief he ordered his *servant* to take my child to the hospital . How strange was that ...Indeed in the evil we cure the light shines brighter for our soul ,he was a good man he offered me a journey to the near geysers to cure the illness of my child. I refused with kindness ,at the same moment the servant came and said that "my child was died",Cry havoc! , no tears was able to help , I abandoned my seat with my friends at noon, I left our old mansion , but nothing will ever find the cure , I remembers her smile when she wake up at morning,and sleep down at night ,Tell my story my friend i only a host of poor,illness,hunger .WHY? said the old man, I replied "everyday we will loss a child, if we did stop caring for them, how bad was I ?. ".. I answered myself " I must have got a doctor".

    Entrant 3Darkan
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The Banquet

    The antechamber was bustling with people, lords of the realm, envoys from the Empire, come to seal the peace, collect tithes and taxes, as well as the most important merchants in the capital. They were all excited, all perfectly aware that the long period of strife and uncertainty had ended.

    As they entered the main hall, they came upon the long tables that awaited them, each set with expensive linens, upon which flagons of ember red and deep, dark crimson wines stood, ready to be emptied and refilled. A host of hors d’oeuvres were set on all tables, smoked and devilled eggs, shellfish and sturgeon eggs, an innumerable variety of fruit and nuts and, as the guests started taking their seats, servants appeared, pouring cup after cup of the delicious wines.

    This great assembly was a mystery to none that were present. The young king had organised it to ease the burdens of the lords and to restore confidence to the Empire that had supported his claim to the throne. Long had the kingdom suffered as the civil war had raged for almost a decade. The pretender had been supported by many lords of the realm, and initially was thought to prevail, yet the new king had taken refuge in the neighbouring Empire. There, he had gained the trust and admiration of the Emperor and had won him to his cause, albeit promising much in the way of economic repayment and exclusive rights to the income from various exploits.

    Some lords wanted to retain their privileges, others wanted to get back old ones that their families had lost, while the Imperial envoys wanted only to protect the Emperor’s interests. More than a hundred men were seated round the tables and all wanted something from the king, but neither truly knew what the king wanted from them, if anything.

    - Friends, noble allies, the king spoke, standing up from his seat. Most of you have journeyed from far away to be here and I want to thank you for it. The war is ended, he continued...
    - Hear, hear, a multitude of voices interrupted him.
    - Peace is now here, the king continued, yet I urge you to think about it not. Feast, eat, drink and rejoice. Tomorrow we shall see what is to be done. To the kingdom, to all of you, the king toasted.
    - To the king, a hundred voices roared.

    As the entire hall went back to talking and drinking, the king rose from his throne and walked towards the door behind his throne. A man held it open for him and as he exited, the king but whispered “Give the command!”

    Minutes later, as new alliances were forged and old friendships rekindled, as lucrative deals and profitable exploits were being discussed, nobody noticed the barred doors, nobody noticed the creeping smoke, nobody noticed the slithering flames caressing the tapestries, indeed, nobody noticed anything...until it was too late.

    Entrant 4Caligula the Mad
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The incessant beeping had died down and all was still, except for Elon’s heart which must have been beating loud enough for the entire world to hear it. He was strapped into his seat with no escape and despite knowing that his entire life had led up to this moment, Elon was petrified. He carried with him the hopes and dreams of an entire planet, fate had given him this command and he dare not second guess himself now. He had no free will anymore, he was merely the servant ushering in the days of tomorrow.

    Elon’s mediation was broken by a thrumming which charged through his body like wildfire. The countdown had begun, the realisation that humanity would be doomed if he failed crashed down upon Elon. He gasped and suffocated under the pressure, the weight of billions of mothers and fathers; sons and daughters; who would die if he failed at his task. He felt their pitiful last gasps wrack his breast, strangling him and starving him of air. That would be the price of his failure. He was the host of humanity, they clung to him and fed off his body, demanding more and more.

    The countdown blared its final note, and Elon’s world rumbled and shook with the force of a thousand volcanos. It felt as though he would be torn apart by the sheer power acting upon his body as the Final Voyager thrust off and fought gravity tooth and nail to abandon this forsaken planet and its dying race. Elon glanced out of his cockpit window as he surged through the atmosphere, the pale blue dot that he and so many billions of others called their home would soon pass out of sight. Elon would uncover the mystery of the void and save his people, this was his sole purpose. With this realisation, he embarked upon his journey with resolve flooding through his veins. His people would be saved.



    TotW 260 – Souls
    confederation, inhaled, treaty, guild, memory
    The keywords for this competition were inspired by Shankbot de Bodemloze's Of Souls, the winner of Creative Writing of the Year 2016
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    The image is taken from Caillagh de Bodemloze's A Long Way From Home, the winner of AAR of the Year 2016

    WinnerMhaedros
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    Vice Pheasant Viceroy MacPlumb was nervously pacing outside the Head Eagle’s office. He was the bringer of bad news, and being in lower middle management, he knew the phrase “don’t shoot the messenger” would mean very little to the receiver of said message.

    A small bell tinkled outside the door, and a bored looking secretary sighed as she stood up to open the door and let Viceroy in. The office was tall and menacing, with trophies of old hunts and raids lined along the walls. The walk from the door to the desk itself was impossibly long, Viceroy thought, as the seconds ticked away. Behind the massive oak desk was a man much too small for everything around him.

    “Liceroy McPlopp?”, he enquired in a nasal and annoying voice.

    “Viceroy MacPlumb sir, yessir”, the shaking Vice Pheasant corrected. “I’m your Vice Pheasant sir, you’ve known me for years.”

    “Protocol must be kept!”, the little man snapped, and turned a page in the book the size of Viceroy’s home. “You’ve got news?”

    “Yes sir. Sir..there is news of a new guild plaguing the city. A trader’s guild.”

    “WHAT?! But the Left,- Right,- and Centercompany has monopoly on trade! A royal decree! How come this rabble hasn’t been put to the sword?”

    “A-a-apparently some lawyer found a loophole that means they are allowed to function within the law as long as they call themselves a merchant confederation, rather than company! The king has allowed them to trade within the city walls as long as none of them ever refer to themselves as a company.”

    Viceroy quickly ducked as the Head Eagle threw a knife in his general direction. The little man was breathing unevenly and shaking with rage. “Never in living memory have we been so unfairly treated!”.

    “Sir! Inhale, exhale, inhale..”, the Vice Pheasant dodged a stray bullet and quickly shouted. “Sir! I believe I’ve found a solution!”.

    The smaller man slowly lowered the throwing axe he had been aiming, and asked “Well? What is it?!”.

    “We tell them we want to trade-PLEASE LISTEN! We ask to sign a treaty with them. An agreement so long and confusing, with such small handwriting, they’ll never read through the whole thing. We’ll get the Head of Ornithological Departments and Other Things Related to Creatures That Dwell in the Air as Well as Snakes and Other Reptiles Because Birdlegs are Kind of Creepy, Like Snakes to sign it seven times, randomly throughout the document, and we’ll make it look really real by driving a hard bargain, to make them think they’ve won it in a fair fight. And somewhere along the hundreds of pages of drivel, we’ll refer to them as a company rather than a confederation. They’ll sign, thinking they’re making the deal of a century, and we’ll see them all hanged.”

    “By God..you’re only lower middle management? I’ll make sure you’re getting promoted to central middle management by the end of this fiscal year, or my name isn’t Patronominous Trout!”

    Entrant 2Caligula
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The Fate of Those Who Plot
    (Traditional Folk Tale – circa the 17th year of the Great and Glorious Peace)

    The rain thundered down from the heavens in torrents, flowing from the pristine marble of the great city to the muck filled gutters of the lower city, driving all honest folk inside. The rain did not cleanse however, it brought the scum of the underworld out of the sewers and onto the streets where they stalked the alleys and temple squares alike, searching for prey.

    Faint murmurs emanated from the tavern, belonging to men who believed themselves to be rich and powerful. The shadowy figure crouched across the street from the inn knew better, the voices merely belonged to men who did not know that they were already dead. They planned to betray their sovereign emperor, and thought to create a confederation with the Guild of Merchants. The man did not hate these traitors, but he had an assignment and he would see each and every one of them dead before the night was out. Treason could not go unpunished, he was the tool of his emperor’s will.

    With a groan the oak doors of the tavern opened and the fools furtively skittered out, akin to the rats underfoot. A beastly pig of a man dawdled out after them and sniffed loudly in the damp chill.“This blasted weather, why the hell did we decide to meet here? Where are my damned servants?” His fellow conspirators paid him no mind, anxious at the prospect of wandering these streets at night and eager to return to their mansions. The sack of suet was the first to die, his blood spilt onto the cobblestones from the rent in his oversized belly as he struggled in vain against deaths embrace. The deaths of all of these traitors would be ingrained in the memory of all those who sought to take power for themselves. Each man’s life was extracted from him in ways more terrible and merciless than the previous, until only one was left slinking through the city.

    The assassin stalked his prey across the Great Market, towards the prey’s palace that dangerously straddled the divide between the Merchant’s District and the Noble’s Quarters, the vermin thought too highly of itself. The assassin observed his quarry halt some metres away. Realisation dawned upon the conspirator as he froze facing the legendary assassin of Riege. “W-w-wait, I c-ca-can explain! I was serving – that’s it, I was serving my emperor! I was told to enter a treaty with t-those scum back there! I swear, I did it out of loyalty! Out of loyalty I tell you.” The last act the man ever did out of loyalty was to inhale the stink of his blood as he collapsed to the ground.

    The next morning the bodies were found slumped in alleyways, stripped of their wealth and clothes. The next morning the citizens of the Empire continued to thank the Emperor for his peaceful and prosperous rule.

    Entrant 3Lord Ashenwyte
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    I am assaulted by a word as I walk down the rubbish strewn street, a word that hammers into my skull screaming to be let free.


    Memory.


    I remember the days when this city was gilded gem of the west. I remember when I walked the cobbles of this very street and inhaled air infused with the smells of roasted meat, of animal spoor and exotic incense, and the scents of humanity in all it’s glory.


    I inhaled the scents of life.


    I remember when the lords of this land ruled supreme, and poets and playwrights flocked to this city and formed guild after guild to pay homage to their great kings. Lions they were hailed as, valiant spirit-kin to the majestic tawny beasts that roam the southern plains.


    But lions die, and so do men.


    The last king of this great and noble city was no lion, more an effete sop consigned to his territory by treaty and whim of the southern lords alike. Almost immediately after his death those godless southern bastards, the Confedaration of Al-Hassor, swept in and claimed this once noble and as their own. Even now they call it the crown jewel of Al-hassor, and I suppose it fits. After all, a jewel of coloured glass suits a crown of brass, does it not?

    Last edited by Caillagh de Bodemloze; June 02, 2017 at 09:14 AM. Reason: Adding TotW 260
    Under the patronage of Shankbot de Bodemloze

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    TotW 261 – Dark Souls
    ember, darkness, cinder, cathedral, humanity
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    Thanks to ChewieMuse for permitting us to use his winning picture of PotW 478!

    WinnerAlwyn
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    Under an apricot sky of a half-dawn, the last Knight of the Cathedral stood ready to face the approaching foes. The monks of the Abbey, which had been created by digging tunnels and chambers under the ruined Cathedral, used to tell stories of a great, lost human civilization. In the past, people could communicate with others on the far side of the world or summon any piece of human knowledge in an instant. As human societies struggled to adapt to rising seas, deeper floods, expanding deserts and stronger storms in the late 21st century, humanity depended on its energy for fewer and fewer sources, until finally they relied only one: the Sun. Then darkness came.

    The monks used to say that the invaders – the Embers - came from a giant city above the sky, a city which could move between worlds. The monks used to say that the Ember city was between the Sun and the Earth, leaving humanity’s birth-world with little light. The monks used to tell how the food-crops failed and how humanity’s modern devices lost power, one after another. Each human generation was smaller than the last; each generation lost more land to the encroaching Embers. The monks used to explain that humans had tried to use modern weapons against the Embers – and those humans were burned to cinders by some sort of advanced technology which the enemy possessed. That was why the Knights of the Cathedral had to rely on weapons from the pages of history books: bows, swords and pikes. Now, the monks said nothing.

    The Abbey had been created as a hiding-place for human survivors and a repository for human knowledge. The Knights of the Cathedral guarded the Abbey’s hidden entrances, kept watch for Embers and showed refugees the way to the Abbey and other human sanctuaries. When the Abbey fell, the Knights had been horrified to see who was attacking them: not Embers, but a mob of frenzied humans. Some humans were so desperate to survive that they now fought as auxiliaries for the Embers. The monks of the Abbey had joined the Knights, giving their lives to buy time for others living in the Abbey to escape. The Knights and monks and fought bravely until all of them were dead – except one survivor. Now, the last group of people who had fled the Abbey were crossing open ground. The darkness of night had hidden them; now, the half-dawn would betray their location to the frenzied mob. Would they reach the relative safety of the line of trees before being seen by the mob? No – frenzied attackers burst from one of the Abbey’s hidden entrances and charged towards the fleeing civilians. The last Knight realised that there were only a few attackers left; they wore no armour and they were wounded, while she was fresh. If I am very lucky, she thought, I might survive this.

    Entrant 2Caligula
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    This had been an Age where the greatest minds of this beautiful world had worked together for the improvement of mankind’s position, and had brought humanity to new heights.
    Now the worst minds of this terrible rock plotted and schemed to improve their own position, and cast each other down into squalid obscurity.

    This had been an Age where the light of happiness had shone in the heart of every true man, and men had been content with their place upon this Earth.
    Now darkness had swept the land and men sold their morals for the tiniest of morsels, whilst they clawed and scratched their path to the top of the midden heap.

    This had been an Age where women were safe to walk the streets, and children played in harmony.
    Now not even the sacrosanctity of the nunnery protected women from the ravages of evil men, and the children had long since abandoned their toys.

    This had been an Age where idyllic communities raised humble churches to honour their gods.
    Now men constructed great monoliths that stretched towards the skies, cathedrals in which high priests ordained over sacrifices to ego and hubris.

    This Age had not ended in the dying embers of a ravaging fire, amidst the yells of victorious barbarians and the pleas of subjugated people.
    It had ended in the burning cinders of a roaring furnace and the whistle of steam that scorched men’s souls and brought them to their knees.

    Entrant 3Mhaedros
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    Across the sea there was once a city so mighty they said even the gods feared it. Its denizens were skilled craftsmen and wealthy merchants, and its sons were mighty warriors, clad in thick leather and armed with sharp axes and vicious gunpowder.

    At first the gods were amused at this colony of men, a colony having ideas above its place in the world. The citizens of the City still offered prayers and sacrifices at the temples, and the gods were pleased knowing their power was growing. Then, the people started forgetting about their deities. The temples were abandoned, the sacrifices were stopped. A great Cathedral was built, not to honour the gods, but to praise the city itself. The gods were worried, and sent many prophets to the world, to defend their rightful place as rulers of the earth. A claim the city rejected.

    The gods were furious, and afraid. If one city could defy them, then so could all of humanity. They sent angelic hordes, which were shattered against the walls of the city. A legion of demons was destroyed fighting in the streets. A torrent of horror and darkness was burnt on the steps of the great Cathedral, as the few remaining combatants fell on both sides. The last of the fire gods threw himself though the doors of the giant structure, and exploded in a flurry of flames and embers.

    When the cindershad dimmed the survivors rose from the ashes, and left their ruined homes. The Cathedral was destroyed, their might diminished. But the gods themselves paid a terrible price, and none returned from the ruinous host.

    Time went on, and the names of the gods and the City were all forgotten. But the memory of mankind’s greatest achievement lived on, and when the Cathedral burned, a new god was born.

    Entrant 4mad orc
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    "Oh great lord,why did you plunge us into the darkness,the ember of '71' has become the cinder of '19'" the lone German cried as hordes and hordes of poles rushed besides him.For years he had served mother Prussia and now this .The east his home,was gone.As the Britishers and poles shouted in loud tones distributing the rations,the old man walked away from them .He went to the cathedral,oh how magnificient it had seemed back in '64' .How proud he had felt when he had on that day first marched past his family and friends in his uniform and taken vows to defend mother Prussia forever .Slowly he continued walking,past the cathedral crossing the grass behind to the graveyard .He went to a singular grave 'Von Bernhardt' .His elder brother picked out by French troops in Alsace back in 1871 .Then 'Sophie Bernhardt' his mother .Oh how she had smiled on seeing her son's body .She smiled not because she had gone mad,but because she knew that her son had gone down for Prussia ,for Germany .The old man clutched his cheeks with his nails and looked up at the sky ."Oh why god,why did our kaiser and nation fail?" he cried.But all these graves were nothing compared to Verdun,or Somme or Gallipolli.Humanity had plunged itself in the darkness."Why did we destroy our nation over two dead Austrians" speaking of Austrians,he remembered how in '68' they had been routed in Bohemia.He had first seen war on that day and man was it horrendous,but again it was nothing compared to the great war.He would now have to leave Bydgoszcz for Berlin .He did not want to,he was sad,it was his home .He was going now ,but by god,he vowed,one strong leader ,just one strong disciplined order,just one strong will for german might and he would one day return .

    Entrant 5Darkan
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    Dark Souls

    Sometimes, all I need is a cigarette behind the ear and a bit of brown sugar in my pocket. Life is like that you see... something sweet and something bitter. Humanity leaves me cold in those moments, it’s just not important. I’m not sure humanity itself is important. Is it important because we give it said importance, out of fear of our own ignorance (perceived or real), out of our own fear of inadequacy and nothingness, or is it important because it IS, indeed, important? See, there’s no answer! In the end, we all just stumble in the darkness, like all creatures that can see but find there’s nothing there to see. We stumble and fall, some (too few) get up, and the search for an ember of hope continues: “maybe the next corner will reveal something better”, “next time I’ll be ready”, “now I know what to do”, all examples of missed opportunity, all cinders of what was once our mighty future.

    Worry not, dear reader, for as soon as this reality dawns on you, the purest and most terrible freedom awaits. Once you tear down the cathedral walls of your perception you will see, all is for nothing, but oh, how sweet that nothing is, as only nothing has the REAL ability to become something.



    TotW 262 – Alchemy
    homunculus, magic, elements, nature, religion
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    WinnerNCR
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    The priests whisper around me, believing themselves to be free from anybody overhearing their conversations. They accuse me of practicing dark magic, conspiring with the devil in order to corrupt all of mankind. They don't understand genius or the means to achieve it. They cling to religion as if it will save them one day, where a mysterious God who is infinitely powerful and infinitely living will grace them with a life of pleasure and holiness.

    But I know better. Oh, I know better. I know what it means to touch the stars without leaving the Earth. I know how to conjure a tiny man with the functions as a normal human being, though his hands are a bit big. I decided to name him Homunculus because I dare God to try and destroy my creation. As God was to mankind, to Adam and Eve, I am to Homunculus. He looks to me as the priests look to God, forever obedient, forever loyal.

    It's in every man's nature to be in awe of things he doesn't understand. Every man has a distrust of the unknown, but secretly they wish to learn and to understand and that is what these priests refuse to acknowledge! I will show them, oh I will show them. I know, I know, I sing at night, mixing the elements together. I know what God doesn't know, I know, oh I know! The priests whisper more amongst themselves. How I have ran afoul of God himself!

    How dare they! If they knew what I knew, only if they knew. Faith is not as strong as knowledge!

    They came. In the night, in hoods and armed with torches and steel. They knew.They knew where I lived, where I conducted my experiments! But how could they? As I gathered my belongings, they were lead by a tiny man with big hands. Oh. I began to laugh. As God was betrayed by Adam and Eve, I was betrayed by my creation.

    I knew, I knew, I sang as the flames licked at my flesh and soon I knew nothing but the fiery pits of hell.

    Entrant 2Darkan
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    ---unidentified fragments---

    Truth has never been easy, nor has it been handy. Truth lies beyond our capacity to grasp it, beyond our senses and perceptions. Indeed, it lies, one can say, beyond human capacity for understanding. Truth simply is, with or without human contemplation. This, however, has not stopped mankind from searching for it, from yearning it. Throughout time, we have tried, oh, how have we tried, to find truth, and upon failing to do so, we have manufactured our own...we have bent the fabric of all that is and have skewed perceptions and realities to manufacture it.

    Thus is the nature of religion. One should not, mind you, confuse religion with faith, even though they stem from one another. That is the truth of it, or is it? They are bound together, yet they are different. Religion is A truth but sadly, or fortunately, not THE truth.

    Now, before you interrupt me, take this jar here. It is opaque, brownish in colour. That is the truth. You look at it but cannot see within. Light falls down upon it and what is refracted we perceive as colour. This too is A truth but, you guessed it, not THE truth. The jar, one could say, is everything BUT brown. Should I open it and show you what lies inside, or should I tell you? Would your seeing the contents make it true, or would my telling you make it so?

    Inside, my dear students, is another universe of understanding. Inside there is magic, the kind of which you have not seen before, the kind of which you shall never see. However, that too is just A truth. Inside there are elements that you cannot fathom, there is life, alive, living and breathing, there is everything and all possibilities exist within this jar. You are inside this jar, as am I, like tiny, minute homunculi. The world is within this enclosed, impenetrable yet oh, so fragile container.

    Now, fret not, as I have made my point. That is another manufactured truth. You see it, you see yourself within it, which makes it true. If you do not, perhaps the jar is empty...another truth. So you see, understand, perceive, feel, no matter the verbs we use, a truth shall forever be available to you, to me, while THE truth shall never show itself. That is the nature of alchemy, the beauty and the curse of it. It will take you to countless truths, to innumerable possibilities, as many or as few as you can imagine, but THE truth shall forever be just beyond our grasp.

    Learn that THE truth is banned to you forever and it shall, truly and completely, set you free.

    Entrant 3mad orc
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    "What is the magic of success"thought Detective Adrian Smith as he looked around the plush room in which he waited .The man he was expecting was being late but Smith was not angry .It was not in his nature to be angry .For the last 15 years the name detective Smith had inspired fear amongst every wrongdoer from the lowliest of two bit thugs to the biggest big shots and smugglers of Miami.Unfortunately for the last few months it seems that the elements had conspired to put him down .Yes he inspired fear .But what was his mistake that he used the fear in an err different way?He was not a man of some puritian religion.He knew opportunities when he saw them and so he took them .But the papers reported it in some cruel fashioned words 'Detective Smith the bribe man' ,'Detective Smith the lowlife rat' ,'Massive law enforcement scandal unearthed' .It was not as if he was taking hard earned money that the commission worked for .It was probably stolen money.For the last 6 years he had made a simple deal .$20000 every month for walking the streets without being stopped by a patrolman .The Don Carlo at whos home he waited now was ok with the offer .But then that fatefull day .He was sitting in the same cafe Bounica waiting for the girl .The Don's niece, who delivered the money to curtail suspicion .But that particular day she betrayed him .She came with a dozen pressmen and as he took the cash,he heard the flash,then another,then another and another till he was drowned in the light.He felt like a small Homunculus against the light ,the light of shame .Somehow he made for the car and drove away .Now he decided that enough was enough .It was time to reclaim his honour,to restore his prestige,to avenge his humiliation .That was the reason that he had a 9mm in his pocket .He was gonna shoot the bastard at close range .Blow his brains off .Kick his bloodied face .But now he was anxious,what was taking him so long,did he know why Smith was here .Out of impulse he went to the window and all those years spent at the academy finally proved their worth .Don Carlo stood in his garage in the yard waiting for his driver who was still dressing up .He was going to flee .He must have understood of the plot the moment he must have seen the cool look on the detective's face .Quickly Smith aimed down his sights being carefull to have the head and then taking one deep breathe he fired .BOOM .It was only after a second body with a badge was found the next day that someone said they heard two gunshots .

    Entrant 4Caligula
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Dim light fought a futile war against the forces of darkness in the small hut as guttering candles battled to illuminate their surroundings. If our reader has a keen eye, they may perceive a strange shape against one wall. The shape shudders and drags itself across the hut, but do not be alarmed, dear reader, as understanding dawns upon you. This poor creature, although it is as twisted and bent as a homunculus has a heart as alike as any man's, although his has been blackened by hatred and mistrust. For you see, this man (if one can call him that) was attempting to uncover the secrets connecting the forces that are labelled as “magic” by the superstitious, and the acts of the gods.

    Surely, thought he, magic must indicate the presence of a god’s powers being enacted upon this world. Our deformed monster, for he surely was the most monstrous creature that ever lived, has decided upon a course of action. Observe how he collects together assorted vials and philtres, phylacteries and greasy tallow candles. A shrivelled hand plunges into a box and emerges victoriously with a handful of dirt and earthworms. These are cast into his bubbling cauldron, amidst the ritualistic chants.

    “We bring earth for the father, to represent nature. We bring worms for the mother, to represent life. Let these elements merge, and may the truth that I seek be found. Who is to blame for my cursed existence, be it the gods and their petty litany of religion or be it the mages with their unholy powers? Has my future been pre-ordained, or am I merely a mote of dust whirling through the chaos? I demand answers!”

    The half crazed man rages against the dark, alternating between pleas to the gods and pronouncing the terrors that his wrath and fury will wreak upon those responsible for his plight.



    TotW 263 – Falling
    bricks, dust, collapse, sunlight, ground
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Thanks to Noif de Bodemloze for permitting us to use his picture!

    WinnerHeiro de Bodemloze
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    "I think I´m falling. I´m falling for you.” The 1975 were playing themselves out over the radio and I could feel the high-pitched harmonising making me drowsy. Perhaps the fact that I was watching the sunlight emerging was a contributing factor. I could see one of those signs recommending sleepy drivers to take a fifteen minute nap, it was not a bad idea, but I did not have time for that.

    I chose not to, was the truth. Sleep could take the pain away, I imagine that is why depression makes you sleepy. But I did not want the pain to go away, it was all I had left of her.

    “Maybe you´ll change your mind.” The song ended. She won´t change her mind, I thought. It doesn’t work like that, maybe in songs, but not in reality. All the time and effort we had used to build, when the wall collapsed and after the dust settled the bricks on the ground were marked for ever, broken, disfigured and the wall we had built could never stand as it had before.

    Still, I was sitting in my car after a long nights drive playing songs off my sulky-playlist hoping that she would.


    Entrant 2Shankbot de Bodemloze
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    With a shattering roar our forward guns blasted a path through the asteroid field, making room for our to ship to follow a rebel squadron that was quickly getting out of range. Dust flew across the reinforced screens of the bridge, obscuring our vision as we chased them through the outer-reaches of the this godforsaken system. I had been tasked with making sure they did not pass through the edge of the system and out of our grasp - easier said then done. The Jupiter-class ship I captained, HMSS Churchill, was a floating, cumbersome fortress that was not meant for such dogged pursuit. God only know's what those fools on the ground were thinking. Still, it was not my place to question orders. Yet.

    "Increase frontal shields to 80%,' I ordered, the First Lieutenant passing on the relevant commands. The last thing I wanted was a close call with a bloody piece of rock, even if we were trying to target as many as we could. After I was happy everything was in order I turned my attention to the escaping squadron, the four fighters would be know match for the Churchill in combat but they were far more manoeuvrable. I cursed as they contiuned getting further out of reach.

    "Engines to full speed, we're going to have to charge our way through if we have any hope of catching them." A moments hesitation from those in the bridge. It was a reckless order, at full speed we wouldn't be able to track everything that could hit us and cause damage. It didn't matter, I couldn't let them get away. I wanted nothing more than to blow their ships to pieces, but the orders had been very specific. Capture and board, do not destroy. At any cost.

    "Frontal shields to 100%, Lieutenant." It would reduce there offensive capabilities but at this speed it didn't matter, they'd have to rely on the ship's hull strength, the shields, and a fair bit of luck to make it through.

    "Engines at full speed," came the shout from the Helmsman.

    "Frontal shields at 100%," returned the Lead Weapons Officer.

    Now it could begin. Slowly but surely the Jupiter-class ship caught up with the rebel squadron. They took a few hits, but the Churchill held together stronger than bricks and mortar. The shields were doing their job, but highly were damaged, and just as another large asteroid crashed into them came the report that shields were finally down.

    "Steady course, we are nearly through the worst of the field," I reassured the crew over the ringing of alarms and hustle and bustle on deck. Their prey was almost within tractor range. Just a little further I silently urged.

    Then the sunlight vanished and the engines began to collapse. All went dark, and the HMSS Churchill began to fall.

    Entrant 3NCR
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Anybody can guess why we fall from the sky. Why our wings stop working and we tumble from the heavens, crashing into the blue earth we are all sworn to protect. Sometimes we collapse because our faith is gone, eroded to a nothingness before it spreads throughout our entire consciousness.What am I doing, we often ask ourselves. God calls upon us, to ask about our well-being and mental state.

    We cannot tell a lie, but that does mean we do not stretch the truth. But these start to build on top of each other like bricks, a wall of half-truths and white lies, before it plummets to the ground, destroyed by our own words. God looks at us with concerning eyes, but not even he can save us. It's quite ironic, that humanity is worth saving despite all of their flaws, but we cannot be saved. Thus is the rule of life.

    When we fall, we look right at the sun and bathe in the sunlight. It's warm, loving, and gentle unlike where we are destined for. Destined to walk the plains of the earth for all eternity, till nothing is left but ash and dust. To watch all of God's creation be destroyed by their own foolishness and our own selfishness. That we cannot save them and nor them us.

    Entrant 4Mhaedros
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Egon was running like he had never ran before, mad with adrenaline, blood rushing through his ears. Around him his comrades called to him, go Egon, go! He was alive like never before, the wind flying past, like a bird he was, always moving forward, always and forever.

    ***

    Bricks and detritus hit the earth with terrible impact, rocks leaving craters where they bounce from the ground. At first everything is silent, then the screams of those still alive penetrate your ears, and you throw yourself to the floor, screaming yourself.

    ***

    Egon was never the best at anything, always a mediocre third or fourth choice, he was never the fastest, never the strongest, never the smartest. He was foolish at times, an idiot at others, plain looking and boring, generally just there. The worst thing was, he knew he was neither a hero nor a villain, easily overlooked and instantly forgotten. He was Egon, but who was Egon? He looked at his burning arm. Now they would know who Egon was, now they would remember.

    ***

    You look around confused, still screaming, but not knowing why. It is hard to see, but through the tears and pain you can see rays of sunlight, coming through a cloud of dust. You remember nothing, where am I, what’s going on?!

    ***

    Egon soon reached the end of the cheering crowd of soldiers, and the tunnel in the wall. He could feel the flames licking his body, his skin boiling and flesh burning. The gunpowder in the tunnel was still a way away, but he knew he would reach it, the priests had told him so when they oiled his body and gave him the concoction. He was the Empire now, and the Empire was him. Forever they would sing of Egon, who burned alive for the glory of the Emperor.

    ***

    Before you you see the collapsed wall, the injured and the dead painting a bloody picture on the ground. You look down at your still burning body and scream as the pain slowly returns, the effects of the potion gone.

    ***

    Egon tripped.

    Entrant 5Caligula
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The last glimpses of evening sunlight streamed through the windows, illuminating a little girl laughing as her father swung her around in his arms. Around and around they went together, spinning throughout the house. Her mother looked on fondly, she always felt at peace when the darling of her life was happy. With one final spin, the girl’s father put her down and collapsed on the couch, panting and giggling himself. Immediately the girl began to pout.

    “Papa, do you really have to leave?”
    “Now my dear, we have a very important dinner date we have to go to. You wouldn’t want us to be late would you?” replied her father, putting on a serious face before poking his tongue out at her, sparking yet more giggles from the pair.
    The mother gathered her purse and her husband, and crouched down to her daughter, stroking her hair and looking into her sparkling eyes.
    “Remember dearie, the faster that you go to sleep, the quicker that we’ll be home. It’s always worked before, hasn’t it sweetie?”



    The little girl watched out of the window as her parents zoomed down the road in their expensive car, it seemed to her even then that the daylight fled in their wake and all became dark and miserable. That night however, the sky was lit up and the girl peered out of her windows in wonderment. She thought the fairies had come to visit her, as she delighted in the flashing red and blue lights coming down the driveway towards the house.



    Many years later, the last glimpses of evening sunlight struggled to break through the filthy windows, dimly illuminating a very old woman who could barely remember the happy moments of her childhood that had occurred within this house. She ran a hand along a tabletop absentmindedly, and coughed as the thick layer of dust covering every surface in the house was disturbed. She peered around in the gloom, and perceived the old brick fireplace, which she’d spent many a time in front of had fallen to ruins, bricks littered the hearth and obscenities had been graffitied everywhere.

    She could still remember that ill-fated night when that demon, disguised as a police officer had come to her and brought her life tumbling down like a house of cards. She hadn’t understood what he meant when he’d said her mother and father had died, and hadn’t for a long time. Now however, she felt herself collapse under the weight of the memories. The ground rushed up to meet her, as one final time she saw her mother and father smiling and laughing as the three of them played together.



    TotW 264 – Wizard School
    scar, train, wand, potion, love
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    image by Laurentius de Voltolina, from Liber ethicorum des Henricus de Alemannia

    Winner – Rex Anglorvm
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Wizard School

    The scar formed by the glistening railroad tracks seemed to stretch for miles across the barren landscape of the sand dunes, the wreckage of a train now split the symmetry of the two steel lines, as its carriages and engine spilled over the sand like the body of a decapitated cobra, the smallest but most deadly snake to be found in the deserts of the Nefud.

    Abdullah rose from his prone position on the ground, wiping fine grains of sand from his clothing he smiled admiringly at the chaos and destruction that the four sticks of dynamite from a looted Turkish supply truck had provided him with. His smile turned to a snarl of satisfaction as he watched the few enemy soldiers that had survived the derailment cut down by placed shots by the expert rifleman of his people or by mounted tribesmen brandished gleaming scimitars that caught the midday Sun as they were raised to the vertical for the killing stroke, shortly followed by an arc of arterial blood springing from the neck of their chosen victim. Elsewhere men looted the dead or checked the smashed carriages of the train for survivors who were quickly dispatched with the cut of a curved knife to the throat.

    He turned to his left and with a smile that never quite reached his eyes looked at the man who had risen from the sand next to him, he remembered how the golden haired man had turned up at his tribe’s encampment seemingly out of nowhere, dressed in the spotless uniform of the British, promising golden sovereigns and freedom from the Ottomans for those who would rise up in resistance to their rule.
    Unlike his compatriots who believed the promises that the Englishman gave, he did not believe a word of them, his fellow Bedouin had fallen under the spell of the man; it was as if the swagger stick he tapped against his hip was a magic wand that had bewitched all around him, apart of course from Abdullah.

    Like all of this ‘type’ of Englishman, he emanated self-belief, confidence and a level of arrogance concerning his own abilities, this seemed to be drummed into them by what the English and this particular Englishman called Wizard Schooling; however in his case this was tempered by a gift to charm, cajole and persuade all around him to do his bidding or to join his cause, even without the gifts of gold, many Bedouin would have still followed him, it was as they had drunk some magic potion that had installed in them nothing but love for the man and his mad attacks on the Turks.
    It wasn’t that Abdullah though that Captain Lawrence was a liar, he just thought him naive; he knew once the Ottomans had been defeated that Britain and France would carve up the lands of his people between them.

    It was ever the way of the powerful.

    Entrant 2 – Caligula
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Once upon a time there was a boy with a scar in the shape of a lightning bolt on his head. This boy went to a wizard school on a train, and there he used his wand to make a potion. It wasn’t a love potion though, it was a potion to change his appearance, so that he could…

    This is just Harry Potter! You’ve just used up all the prompt words as quickly as you could and put absolutely 0 effort into it, come up with something better or I’ll delete your post you imbecile!” Bellowed theSilentKiller, the fearsome Competition Director as he loomed over the cowering pleb known as Caligula.
    What do you expect me to write? I’ve got less than 5 hours left until the deadline because I completely forgot about the competition. You can’t expect the next great American novel from me. This isn’t going to be my magnum opus. I don’t expect this will be studied in schools across the globe, or for 'intellectuals' to spend years discussing the nuances of the text and the evocative language which strips away the façade and strikes right at the heart of society. I merely want to write a simple piece that will hopefully evoke a few chuckles” cried out Caligula plaintively.

    “Oh do shut up, and write something with a hint of quality”. With that, theSilentKiller stalked out of Caligula’s study and slammed the door behind him, crushing the hopes and dreams of yours truly. Caligula wasn’t one to let a temporary setback such as this ruin him however, and being a jolly person, he decided that theSilentKiller was merely playing a good ol’ practical joke. With a hum and a smile, Caligula sat down at his desk to continue his story.

    …gain access to the Illuminati’s secret lair where the world leaders from across the globe had gathered for their annual stockholder’s meeting. There was President Putin with his bare chest, astride a mighty stallion. There was Kim Jong Un, being carried upon a palanquin by his loyal subjects whilst Donald Trump built a wall in the corner to keep the scary people out. The boy with the scar on his head was horrified by what he heard, the discussions that abounded regarding slave labour and mind control and the oppression of the masses. He had heard enough, and decided that now was the time to take action. With a swish, and a flick of his wand he revealed himself to the assembled leaders and denounced their evil plans.
    “I say chaps, this is a jolly rotten purpose you have set yourself to! How dare you try to control everyone? Surely we should be able to write and think and do whatever we want even if you disagree with it? Just because you don’t agree with something doesn’t mean you can censor them...”

    “This is just idiotic Harry Potter fan-fic! Write something better and stop desecrating the English language, you good for nothing hack!” screamed theSilentKiller.

    Entrant 3 – Mhaedros
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Harry swore as one of Tinker Bell Industries’ miniature flying steam-trains whooshed past his ear, to the delight of the children on board and the exasperation of their parents. Harry threw an apologetic look towards the adults, and made a mental image of a middle finger appear in the minds of the young ones. He had never been much for decency.

    He was fairly far away, but still within earshot of the upset screams when one of the kids finally told their mother what he had seen, so Harry started to run, just to get around the corner.

    There he saw the advertisement he came to look at every day. In blood red letters were the words “Your wandneed a polish? Call Susie on 333-333-frog-raven-raven-habanero (all animal-letters must be lowercase).” and a picture of an uncomfortable woman holding some wandpolish in one hand and a tissue in the other.

    This morning, like every other, Harry created a simple spell that made the woman on the poster grow a moustache. Giggling, Harry continued his morning walk.

    The next stop on Harry’s adventure was the liquor store. Harry wasn’t welcome there anymore, not since the time he force fed the neighbourhood cats and dragons love potions he had stolen, but the way he saw it you can’t put a price on love.

    That’s why he used a mind control spell on one of the several homunculi that had recently been climbing up from the sewers with tales of evil wizards and gigantic crocodiles. A harmless creature, Harry thought, easy to control and easier to blame his crimes on.

    The collection of goo and bodily fluids made its way into the liquor store and managed to pick up a bottle of Gwyn, the brightest sun-vodka produced this side of the sun before the shopkeeper sensed magic in the air and threw a lightning bolt at the innocent creature.

    The last stop on Harry’s walk was also his favourite. In a dimly lit corner of the street was an evil looking tavern, with an evil sounding name. Harry went inside, and took his usual place at the bar. The publican, who was a small and wiry man with a scar running across his face and a grin constantly painted across his evil looking face made a grunt towards Harry that could have meant “Hey bro, how you doing?”. Harry replied in style.

    This grunting back and forth went on for some time, concluding in the publican telling Harry what he had done over the weekend. *Grunt* “I threw some rocks at ducks earlier.”

    *Grurunt* “Nice, I made a man destroy his own glasses.”

    *Gruntyrunt* “Anyway, why have people started calling you Horrible Harry?”

    *Gruntaruntaroo* “I don’t know man, it’s basically bullying”



    TotW 265 – Mud and Blood
    stagnancy, rain, earth, drenched, tired
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    photograph by William Rider-Rider, from wikimedia

    Winner – Caligula
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    ]The men drag themselves across the bomb shattered earth. With each step, the sucking mud threatening to suck their boots clean off their feet. A man amongst them looks at the sky, and wonders when was the last time he ever saw the sun. It seems as though the sky is perpetually darkened with smoke, and the rain is ceaseless as it pounds the men into submission worse than any artillery barrage. The men were drenched, and tired. They were tired of this cursed war that seemed without end. “It’ll be over by Christmas”, oh how naive they were back then. “We’ll give them a licking and they’ll scurry back to Berlin”. Instead the war had devolved into a constant back and forth, a stagnancy had set in that none had noticed. Even day to day concerns such as finding enough food to eat was seen as ambitious, instead you focused on the next step and the one after that. If that next step just so happened to be on a mine, then you thanked the heavens that you were out of this damned war with nary a thought for the loss of your leg and being fated to in a bag for the rest of your life.

    Entrant 2 – Rex Anglorvm
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Mud and Blood


    The surgeon stood outside the medical tent having a well-deserved cigarette, he savoured the taste of the unfiltered tobacco, blue smoke curling away from him reaching up into the misty atmosphere that had hung over the battlefields of Ypres, or wipers as the rankers called it.


    He had finished dealing with the latest round of casualties from the last series of clashes, the last man, well boy really, had finally stabilised, no more than eighteen if he had to guess. The lad had lost both legs beneath the knees, what sort of future would he have?


    He took one last deep pull on his navy cut cigarette, and dropped the butt in the mud, standing on it to extinguish it. He rubbed his eyes whilst yawning, dog tired after sawing and sewing his way through the bone and muscle tissue of the forty-seven men he had personally operated on, he had roughly averaged a man for every thirty minutes at the operating table, which in reality was a ‘requisitioned’ farmhouse dining table, still at the front a man couldn’t be choosy about medical equipment.


    Over twenty-four hours on his feet, he knew that if he sat down, he would fall into a deep slumber and be unable to help the last man that he could now see being stretchered behind the last line of trenches and directly towards him.


    He watched as a small party of men carefully carried their burden over the pitted and drenched landscape, once he imagined this would have been lush green fields of grazing grass, or ripe golden cornfields, now it was just the colour of mud, not brown though, more a lifeless grey, as if even the earth itself had given up any hope of growing new life from its now shell-pocketed soil.


    To his left a man with a large box camera from the London Evening News was perched precariously on the back of a flatbed truck, the surgeon watched as the nitrate in the photographer’s film sparked as he exposed the camera to take a picture of the men as they struggled with their burden.


    One of the soldiers had caught the flash of the camera and stared back at the photographer with a look on his face that seemed to say ‘I hope you enjoyed the view vulture’, at least that was what the surgeon assumed. A steady rain began to fall as the men finally approached the medical tent, they approached the surgeon and gently put the stretcher on the ground before him.


    He crouched down and placed his hand on the man’s neck searching for a pulse, he could feel the ice-cold stagnancy of a man just gone. Shaking his head, he rose to his feet and pointed the men to where the bodies of the fallen were laid out in neat rows awaiting identification if possible and then burial.


    ‘Sorry lads, this one didn’t make it.’

    Entrant 3 – mad orc
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    28 September 1918.Location:The Battleground of Ypress-The rain fell in little droplets.The fighting had stopped.The men around him were drenched and restless,for despite the apparent silence and the overcast conditions it was clear that the British were planning another assault.He was tired .He hated the war.He dreamed of peace.A glorious peace.He sitting in his study,the sun peeking out from the windows,he painting with wonderfull and delicate colours and sipping warm coffee from his wooden cup.Then someone would call him out from the window "Hallo Kamrad" and he would reply "Yes Kamrad,how may i help you" .At that moment both of them would be interrupted by the heavenly sound of the national anthem as ranks after ranks of gaily dressed soldiers marched up the streets of 'Occupied Paris' carrying the victorius flag of Germany with them .As he and his Kamrad watched with pride,flowers hundreds of them fell from the windows .It was raining flowers,but why were they so cold.Suddenly he was brought back to the reality of war .The rain had intensified .Then he heard thunder.But that,that was not thunder,a thunder bangs differently.It was shell fire from the British ranks.Sodden,he picked up his rifle which he had dropped to the cold earth.He was tired now,both physically and mentally.Then he saw the water in stagnancy in no man's land and he saw the god almighty himself in that water.Oh how golden he looked.He was calling him "Come my son,come" .Greatfull he made up his mind.It was time to go.So he picked up his rifle,hooked on his greandes and attached his bayonet for that last ecstacy of pride.For that last kick of glory .Then he ran wildly towards the British ranks and heard a loud deafning sound .Then all was silent .No fire ahead of him .No sound behind him .As he looked behind in horror he saw that a British shell had destroyed his regiment and killed his Kamrads.He had been saved .Suddenly the British marched ahead to pick out any survivors.He had nowhere to run as a young soldier called Henry Tandy had him at gunpoint."Good,atleast i will get to join my Kamrads" he excliamed as he waited for the final bang that would claim his soul .But that never came.The Britisher signalled to him with his hands "Go back".The pity on his face was clear.He thought for a second and then ran ."Serving my nation alive is better than dying now " .He ran and he ran and he ran back to safety .After the war he returned to Berlin and got a new job to spy the actions of a newly formed anti-democratic party.What happened next was something that shook the world.

    Entrant 4 – Godfrey I of Leuven
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    September 26th, Polygon Wood,
    St.-Eloi Section,

    0500 - The sun starts to rise above Polygon Wood. Ceaseless shelling has turned this once luscious Flemish forest into a barren wasteland covered in enormous craters, uprooted trees and decaying bodies. The dry spell we’ve been having seems to have dried the earth beneath our feet. If we die today, at least we won’t be knocking on Saint-Peter’s door in drenched and soiled fatigues.

    1125 - The enemy guns haven’t stopped firing since 0730 this morning. The Huns are probably softening us up for yet another assault by the 31st infantry division. Considering I’ve been on both sides of the trench, I’m not sure who I pity more. Signs of previous skirmishes keeps us on our toes, the frailty of humanity ever vivid.

    1410 - Fritz finally stopped raining shells on British lines about an hour ago. A testament to cruelty, Parsons’ lifeless body still lies a few dozen yards into No Man’s Land, splayed grotesquely on his back, torn in half from shoulder to belly button; a near-unrecognizable formless mass. One of the shells scored a direct hit on his observation post further up the trench. Poor sod never stood a chance.

    1630Rain started falling a moment ago. Good. After almost a fortnight of drought, water supplies were at a critical low. Stagnancy has wreaked havoc on the provisions. A few more days and we would have seen desertion, or worse. Thankfully we still have grog to keep the boys content. No sign of Fritz. Maybe they were finally tired of this senseless slaughter and turned back home.

    1700 – Gas. Gas, followed by whistles and men shouting. A moment of panic. Eingreif troops cut our forward line in half like a scalpel would separate flesh from bone. The situation for our section is critical. My mind prepares for battle, my heart beats home.

    Last edited by Caillagh de Bodemloze; October 29, 2017 at 07:00 AM. Reason: added TotW 265
    Under the patronage of Shankbot de Bodemloze

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    TotW 266 – Prodigy
    alone, young, master, talented, embarrassing
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    Winner – Admiral Van Tromp
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    To err

    He was staring into the void, sitting on a bench just outside the hospital. His cigarette was lit but untouched, trembling in his hand as it turned into ash. It had rained the night before, and the damp wood wetted his white coat.

    How could this have happened?

    He found himself thinking of how it all started. He was very young the first time he told someone he wanted to be a doctor.

    While the others played in the schoolyard, he sat alone, devouring science books years ahead of time. Fascinated, he gazed at drawings of lungs, hearts, livers and stomachs.

    There was nothing like going to his uncle’s house. The old cardiologist let him wear his lab coat and use the stethoscope. He remembered pressing it against his old grandfathers’ chest, and listening to the old pump still at work.

    His uncle explained to him how the body works and taught him to identify the bones and muscles. He told him stories of his patients and lend him books by the dozens. For a long time, he was his master.

    He was truly talented. A prodigy, some said. As he tore through school with flying colours, all the teachers congratulated his parents, telling them how proud they should be and that he ought to go to med school. There was no doubt about that.

    In college he could have lost everything. The parties, the binge drinking, the anonymous sex… It almost destroyed him. It was embarrassing. Even anticlimactic. A prodigy meeting his end in some frat house, passing out over a beer pong table.

    He clawed his way out. The struggle and the fierce competition made him arrogant. He knew it.

    His uncle died and everything around him lost some of its colour. He remembered asking himself if medicine was what he truly wanted, or if his love for it was, in fact, for the cheerful old man.

    The doubts were dismissed. He carried on.

    Med school was over before he knew it and, two weeks before, he had started working. Straightforward cases, simple patients, doe-eyed nurses. Life was good, all of the sudden. He was doing what he’d always wanted, after all.

    He didn’t expect this. But he knew he should have.

    The worst part was that he was there, in the end. He viciously pounded the chest with the defibrillator, begging the shocks for a miracle. All he got was that never-ending beep. And time of death.

    He didn’t need an autopsy to know what went wrong. The mistake wasn’t serious, but he should have known better.

    The prodigy had died with his uncle. Maybe because the master failed to give a final lesson.

    Curiosity and talent are all well and good but between the lonesome recesses, the old stethoscope, the jello shots and the thick books, he had missed the point of it all.

    Lives were at stake. And even prodigies are human.

    Entrant 2 – NorseThing
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    The Prodigy

    Chess is a game played best by the young. The old begin to lose their edge. Unlike young and inexperienced soldiers. they do not die in glory. Instead it is almost embarrassing as they give ground to the young masters of the next generation. They simply but quietly fade away. They are worn down. Only time can fray their previous sharp edge in this manner. Time dulls the bold and sharp strokes. Time softens the stoughtest defenses. Every once in a great while there comes a young man that is exceptionally younger and often with an even sharper edge to his talent.

    I remember one such occasion in 1842. It was summer in Prague. A most talented young chess . master broke onto the scene. The location was the city chess club exhibition hall. He was only a small boy barely tall enough to observe and move the chess pieces. His father, a doctor of reknown and a respected member of the club brought his young son for the first time. He was proud of his son and made no effert hide such pride as he presented him to the club membership.

    As a favor, the club consented to an exhibition on this day since many players and even some of the local people were present. The chess tables were closely aligned so that each club member could observe all of the games and enjoy the tactics and strategies the members planned to unleash upon the untested newcomer. He was meant to play the games while standing, which was good. Small boys can have a great deal of energy to use through the day. A normal day would be chasing squirels with his dog and playing in the park.

    Today would be differant from his normal playtime. These games would test the skill of the young lad. He would be standing alone to face the old men in a friendly but serious set of games of skill. This would be a rite of passage of sorts. The club members knew it would also teach the doctor a lesson in humility.

    The young lad proceeded to move from table to table making his moves quickly and without hesitation. Soon the old members were fidgeting as they studied there own game without even a glance at the neighboring boards. It became embarassing. Soon a crowd was gathering around the last boards still in play. It was amazing. It was young Wilhelm's competitive introduction to the grand game. It was glorious!

    Entrant 3 – mad orc
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    "(As the rain droplets fell about him,he the talented young fighter looked around him.'De Buomont and his mules had no chance to get away now' he had remarked just a few minutes ago to the man riding along with him.But where was he now,where was everyone.Maybe they were there somewhere covering his flanks.It was impossible to see much in the fog anyway.Suddenly he saw movement to his west.Aha there they were.They had come .But no!They were not the friendly Basques.They were the rebels.Suddenly he noticed that he was alone.

    Sweat trickled down his face.There was no one to support him now.Had Vitellozzo Vitelli felt the same before death?Nah,the old thug hadnt even seen death coming.He had taken him by surprise.Suddenly he saw the faint colours of the Basque flags.Aha they were coming.No,the flag was too far.No,he suddenly realised that..............they were not going to arrive in time.Would it be embarrasing for a prince to die like this,like a pauper.Surrounded by enemies and slaughtered.

    Now he only decided to think about making this new occasion glorius.How could he convert defeat and an ugly death into a flame of glory.Then he remembered the time he had visited France.One of the mistakes of his life.It had alienated the Argonese.But when he had visited it,an old courtier had translated the song of Roland to him.How Roland had bravely charged the Saracens so that death itself grew afraid of him.Yes he would do that.Unafraid he prepared his lance,took his huge shield into position and then instructed his horse "Run fast today lad,i wont bother you ever again".Then saying 'Victory to Rome' he charged with full speed towards the rebel knights.Even the wind was hurt by his speed.The crash with which he charged them shattered the very depths of the enemies's soul.For a few moments he having unsheathed his sword now swung left and right,north and south.There were sounds of screaming men everywhere.He killed 7 before they finally put him down.Ceasre Borgia was no more.)".

    And thus the master closed his tale.By now it was time.The Bourgies soldiers were unalert.The master shouted "Lets do our best men,take up your rifles and charge,Palermo is ours for the taking".And so my grandson on the 27th day of May in the 60th year of the 19th century of our lord we cheated death.



    TotW 267 – Reformation
    debate, theology, printing press, scholars, profit
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    Winner – CommodusIV
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Legacy

    A thousand years of
    debate cannot what is true. The truth, oh, but what is the truth? Truth is what you see as a man looks you in the eyes as you propose an idea that would change the next century. The words are an apology - sorry, it is not possible at this time He offers a shrug, a sympathetic smile, a statement that he will keep your idea in mind. The eyes tell you that it will not happen, because his interests in the old are vested too deep. The quest for profit has been too deeply ingrained into his mind; what you bring would change what he has used to make a living. Change brings uncertainty; uncertainty brings chaos; chaos brings possibility. Some may see this possibility as the chance to change. Scholars may see this as the opportunity to bring a new theology into the fold of what is accepted and what is considered true. But the man, no, the man sees otherwise. The man sees the end of a legacy. His legacy. Built from decades of what was once a small revolution in practices. His revolution. His change, and his legacy. What do you bring? You bring the opposite. You bring your own change, your own determination of what is true. One could say that you are the man’s enemy. Even now, as your words roll off your tongue as true change rolled off the printing press of old, you look into the eyes of one who stands against the change that you believe in. Just as those who used the printing press to their own ends saw when they looked at those that did not profit from the change you wanted to bring.

    What is correct? What is your truth? Consider, as you face the man before you, what will happen to you in a few decades. Will you be looking into the eyes of a young upstart who wishes to change everything? Will you, in your wisdom, see that the change he brings will destroy what you have created? What you make will be irrelevant. A legacy relegated to footnotes. It will be past, and it will no longer be true. The upstart will tear down your home, brick by brick, that you had created with your brand of change and truth.

    Look into my eyes, young one. What you have suggested may increase our profit. You will end the system of the old and replace it with something different, maybe even better. What you suggest will make you famous. You will be known to the crowds as a man who made a difference. Just like me. We will be partners. And then I will be too old, and you will cast me aside, just as I once did to my father.

    Are you prepared to destroy me? Will you end me with your ideas? I cannot stop you from going somewhere else. I can only warn you...


    Entrant 2 – NorseThing
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Reformation

    I have recently written a paper. I hope that scholars over the ages will be amazed at the insights that I have observed. There is a great debate about what type of economic system is the best for the most people. Best can be subjective though. Is it best in the short run or is it a better choice in the long run? It has been expressed that in the long run we are all dead. We seem to desire or at least claim we want a better world for our children's children. There is a danger of being too focused on short term gains. This may result in losing sight of the real goals. How can such conflicting goals be reconciled?

    These economic debates are putting competing theologies of sorts against each other. Will Karl Marx or a follower such Vladimir Lenin be victorious? Will a Joseph Stigler perhaps a John Kenneth Galbraith prove to hold the true beliefs? Or perhaps could it be a future scholar that will in the end triumph? There are more basic economic beliefs than there are religions or gods in the world. This is a battle of theologies for profits and not for the souls.

    Today the battle can rage without the aid of a monastic order quietly and painstakingly copying manuscripts for distribution. Even the printing press cannot compete with the modern technology of the internet. Today the printing, the publishing, and even the distribution is digital. A thesis or many theses no longer rely on the physical documents of older publications and distribution methods. The drama of nailing a set of theses to the doors of the very church being challenged cannot be understated though.

    The internet can reach billions, but how many will read my thesis? How many will be challenged to reform their ways? How can I publish a challenge for the leaders of today to reform? Is there even the equal of a door to nail such a thesis?


    Entrant 3 – Axis Sunsoar
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The debate which raged furiously in her mind was not whether it should be done. That was never in question. Rather, as she approached the proud house at the city center at last, it was whether she was the one to do it.

    It had seemed so simple, sitting in that secluded circular room, listening as the organization known as the Underground Scholars, gathered together in secret, had made their case, enlisting his services. Their arguments were compelling, as one would hope from those so well-learned.

    The air had been thick with the eloquently flung accusations. Those who had spent their lives studying philosophy, theology, ethics all gathered in for their very lives. All adding their own voices to the din. It had felt less like a potential commission and more like a verbal assault as she had stood there, surrounded by the shouting men and women who would buy her services.

    A farce of an election to start. Followed by immediate executions of many of the country’s educated inhabitants. General suppression of knowledge throughout the land to ensure absolute obedience. Just a few of the charges which were levelled in that hidden room.

    Charges levelled against the man who slumbered within that grand manor ahead, currently feeling quite secure in his power; safe within his walls.
    It really shouldn’t have mattered. She worked for profit, not ideals. Yet, there was something beyond that trifling sum they had offered that had prompted her to accept their terms. Now she found herself questioning that decision. This was the biggest, riskiest job she had ever taken, and she was doing it for less money than she had worked for in years.

    It was just this sort situation she had hoped to avoid, all those years she spent cultivating her reputation as the very best at what she did. It was easily the worst contract she had ever accepted when risks were weighed against rewards. Once more, she weighed the small pouch of currency, all the Underground Scholars could provide, she had been assured, and winced a little. The pouch seemed lighter every time, even as the deed which it served as payment for, seemed to grow heavier.
    Then her resolve steeled at last. It was what she had to do. Some things were worth more than money.

    With a deep breath she took one last long, appraising look at the beautiful house of the man she intended to destroy. Then, she turned and walked back toward her home once more.

    Tomorrow, the people would awake to the unthinkable news, churning off her printing press, of the true nature of their benevolent ruler. Of all the steps he had taken to get where he was. Of the steps the people needed to take to right the wrongs done.

    Tomorrow, if the people would listen, the reformation would begin.

    Entrant 4 – Godfrey I of Leuven
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    “An Evening Stroll”

    “Walking down the misty alleys of Wittenberg, I take notice on this crisp autumn evening that nothing seems to change, ever. I see the same group of scholars huddled together every evening in the same warm corner in Der Hahn, discussing the possible ramifications of Da Vinci’s water wheel, or the accelerated spreading of ideology via the printing press.
    In contrast to this lively spectacle of jests and gestures, last week my old friend Bernhard passed away, and the city doesn’t even seem to have blinked. People pass on into the afterlife and are replaced by the next generation, and the same seems to count for trees, animals … Everything, really.
    The thing is, change is exactly what has brought me out in the streets tonight. I feel that the need for evolution and reforms is high within Christendom, because everywhere I gaze I can see the tendrils of corruption beginning to spread. The time for debate is over; Acta, non verba, as our Roman brethren once said. Today, this eve, this hour, marks a turning point in contemporary theology.
    I refuse to stand by and watch how my Maker and his Word are being twisted for the sole purpose of profit. Coin is not, and never will be, a surrogate for true spiritual remorse.

    This perversion must stop.”



    TotW 268 – Heavy Cruiser
    ship, mission, distress, fire, space

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    Winner – CommodusIV
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Great Impact

    "Captain!" the young man called over his shoulder. A strange blip had appeared on the radar, and the rookie crew member wasn't feeling up to speed that day. Moments later, the officer was besides him, looking at the gadgets and such. He knew how to use them, he just wanted to know what this one blip was.

    "Well? What is it?" the officer demanded.

    "It's a blip, sir, it's coming towards us. I don't know what it-"

    The officer's eyes widened. His voice became loud. "You idiot, it's a torpedo! It's co-"

    A sharp screech was followed by silence as the young man was flung from his chair into the metallic sides of the ship. For several moments, he could not hear or see, at least past his muffled ears and double vision.

    "Fire!.... fire!..." came the echo of a noise. The young man hoisted himself up on the arm of his now vacant chair. He looked around, seeing two, three, four mirror images of everything around him.

    "Captain?..." the young man mumbled in a daze. He saw the officer, or rather, two of him on the floor, his eyes open. "Should... I send the distress signal?..." he mumbled uncertainly. Why was the air so heavy? Why was someone screaming at him?

    "...get out!..." the someone ran away, through the narrow space that went into the rest of the ship. The young man looked down again. The officer's eyes were still open. Was he dead? That couldn't be! He was the head man in the mission. Slowly and unsteadily, the man made his way to the door. More people lying on the ground. The one he drank coffee with that morning. The one he didn't like. He couldn't remember their names. Who were they? His world was in a daze. He looked down. When did his hands become red? He felt nothing. There was no pain, just... an empty feeling.

    The second blast knocked the man clean off his feet, an explosion that was followed by a huge wave of water coming to consume him-

    The old man bolted upright, gasping for air, eyes shrouded in darkness. He blinked. He blinked again, and looked to his right. A prone form, covered in a blanket with long hair. To his right, a large black Labrador, with large eyes staring up at the older man. The alarm clock. 4 in the morning.

    "Hmmph..." the man grumbled. He looked at the old picture; twelve smiling men, all barely aged 20, in navy uniform.

    Just another dream. Events of a decade ago, events long past. Time to move on.


    Entrant 2 – NorseThing
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The Nasty Asty

    They say ships have souls. If true, then the soul of the USS Astoria is still amongst us today. The USS Astoria was the first of her keel class to be laid down. She was a proud heavy cruiser.The ship was known affectionately by her shipboard crew as the Nasty Asty. Quite an honor to be first. Quite an honor, yes indeed.
     
    One day in 1942 --
     
    The USS Astoria was on a routine mission patroling with several other ships near Savo Island. Night came. Flashes of light were spotted. Not near the horizon, but they were spotted much closer.
     
    The gunnary crews quickly opened fire. In the confusion, the exec stopped the firing. Were they firing upon the enemy or upon their friends? It was dark. Night actions were always confusing. After another salvo, it was clear that the USS Astoria was taking on enemy fire. The eight inch guns roared again with a powerful return fire that only a heavy cruiser can give. Mightier than a light cruiser and swifter than a battleship. The Nasty Asty was a formidible foe when angered.
     
    In the space of just minutes four enemy salvos had missed their mark, but the fifth tore through the first gun turret. One of the plane hangers caught fire from the salvo as well. The ship was now brightly lit and became an easy target for the Japanese gunners. In the space of only 25 minutes the Nasty Asty suffered 65 hits and was now a ship in deep distress. The lady was now dead in the water.
     
    Fighting for her life with every ounce of courage within her hull was not enough. Fire consumed her. Explosions were heard beneth her solid deck. There simply was not enough time nor water to save the lady. The damage proved to be fatal. It took hours, but in the end she keeled over and sunk into the dark depths of the Pacific ocean.

    She had survived many important engagements. She gave better than she took. Among the successful missions were the Battle of Midway and the Battle of the Coral Sea. The Battle of Savo Island was her grave. The dead and missing numbered 219, but the soul of the Nasty Asty lives on to this very day.


    Entrant 3 – Axis Sunsoar
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Orville Robertson was had been driving hard for 9 hours straight now, swerving the big Stuart Bros. semi back and forth violently and sometimes dangerously between lanes, on and off ramps, and backroads. He was a man on a mission; he knew he couldn’t really afford to stop along the side of the almost-deserted interstate, even as he pulled off next to the other truck.
    “Hey there!,” a heavy bearded fellow called when Orville had stepped out of his own truck and walked around the front, “Thanks for stopping pal, I seem to be having a bit of engine trouble.”

    Orville, not really a talkative type, shrugged. “I can’t stick around for too long,” he grunted, “I’ve got about thirty packages left to ship before nine tonight or my ass is fired, but if I can get you a ride somewhere I’m happy to help a fellow driver in distress.

    The stranger thought for a moment and then nodded, walking around from where he had stood, peering under the hood of his own vehicle. He extended a hand “Ricky,” he offered jovially, bearded face splitting into a smile, “That’s right generous of you, I’ll be happy to take you up.”

    Orville hurried to clear out some space in the cab, then Ricky climbed in and they were off. He checked the clock. Only five minutes burned. Still doable.

    Initially Ricky tried to make small talk, but Orville was a loner by nature, he hardly even knew the people he worked with. Eventually silence pervaded.

    After a bit, Orville’s new passenger indicated an exit. “Should be a nice little stop up here where I can find some parts and some know-how,” He said. However, after following the road for a while, no stop had come into view. “That’s weird,” Ricky muttered, “Let me just check this map…” Out of the corner of his eye Orville watched the other man rummage around in his bag, and so it was out of the corner of his eye that he saw him produce something much heavier and shinier than a map. Louder too.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Something seemed off about Orville Robertson. He had grown a beard over the course of his last route. He’d become a little more friendly to the other drivers and workers, but with no one having really known him that well before, it was hard to pin down the true nature of the change. After a sudden burst of increased productivity garnered remarks from management, was still slightly more useful than he ever had been before. His warehouse manager took personal credit. Perhaps those threats to fire him had finally gotten through.

    Fergus County Police had followed the trail of serial killer Ricky Franklin to the truck he’d stolen after killing off his entire family. It had gone cold there, with no evidence as to where he might have gone. Months passed, then years, and eventually, though the case remained open, they had all but given up.




    TotW 269 – Solstice
    dark, sacred, ritual, afraid, sweet
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    The picture is 'Stonehenge at sunset on a cloudy day' by Jeffrey Pfau. It's from here, used with permission
    (Creative Commons licence CC BY-SA 3.0. This copy is reduced to 25% of the size of the original image).


    Winner – Axis Sunsoar
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    The Hound

    Dark
    was the day, in brightest land
    When forth the hero rode
    Culann's Hound, Sétanta in name
    Magnificent, and bold

    Bright were his eyes, and bright his hair,
    down from the gates he went.
    No longer to grace Emerald Isles,
    but fight till life was spent

    Numbered to great, his enemies,
    with rituals they came.
    For fathers dead, or sweet wives wooed,
    at his feet fell the blame.

    His Mighty steed the guiding force,
    as forth chariot plunged.
    His death already written sure,
    but final sin expunged.

    With spear to hand, he'd hold his ground,
    Singing loud all the while.
    And when at last death laid its claim,
    he'd meet it with a smile.

    Sacred words told, geasa broken
    could lay the hero low,
    and meat given by widow frail,
    doomed to final blow.

    The spears struck true, fulfilled their task
    First driver fell, then steed
    But never was the hound afraid,
    And great was his last deed.

    It had been said that kings would fall,
    And thus by three they did,
    At last the hero's side was pierced
    Upon the earth he slid

    Yet so great was the fear he wrought,
    That still foes stayed away.
    'Til raven settled from above
    to mark his dying day.

    At last from shoulders head was struck,
    one deed yet to be wrote
    A blinding hero-light shone forth,
    and striking hand was smote

    No more would Ulster's boldest son
    Go riding through her fields.
    Even in death, his mettle proved:
    he still refused to yield.

    So evermore upon his hill
    he rests within his mound
    And evermore friend and foe both
    remember Culann's hound.


    Entrant 2 – NorseThing
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The Winter Solstice - Tale of the Week 269

    The Japanese haiku poetic form is brevity. This contest with a minimum of 200 words demands more. This introduction is really a bit of a cheat. Like Winston Churchill I must make the circumstances match my thoughts. I have tried to present a series of forms that together or hopefully separately may mean something. The Winter Solstice is not just the shortest day and the longest night. It announces the coldest part of the season will now follow. The Winter Solstice also brings hope since it also marks a change from a shortening to a lengthening of sunlight each day. It is a sign of warmer days that will come even though it remains cold in the present. The Solstice will promise us that spring blooms of tulips will at one point replace the muddy dead leaves covered by the ice and snow.

    Clear your mind. Take a rest from your everyday tasks. Try and read each form or stanza in a single breath. Take a long pause between the forms since these forms are really meant to be single poems in their own right. The breathing process may also assist you to set a mood.
     
    this has flaws
    an Asian poetic form
    haiku in English

    The Winter Solstice
    the shortest day of a year
    longest night of year

    a river frozen
    a lone mallard sips water
    flocks fly south for warmth

    a dog sees a bird
    falls thru the frozen thin ice
    rescued by firemen

    a deer in the glen
    the hunter stalks aims and fires
    the deer runs away

    large stone monoliths
    marks passage of sacred time
    celebrate the change

    a sacred ritual
    why be afraid of the night
    sweet blooms in spring

    fallen leaves
    covered with snow
    warm sun melts

    dark before light
    sun also rises
    seeds grow

    time moves on
    fall we are mortal
    spring brings hope

    from a dark season
    march of lenghtening days
    birth of a new year

    face mortality
    a start of a fresher year
    life begins anew

    Entrant 3 – CommodusIV
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Just a Year

    Just a year? Just a year, you say? "Oh, another year gone"? "Couldn't get away sooner"?

    I am dying, mortal, dying. Can you not tell? Of course you can. You're wishing for it to happen sooner. You want me dead, don't you? You've been waiting twelve months for this moment, you say. With every shade of dark strewn across the sky, you became just a little more happy. Let me tell you something. Let me tell you what it is you're cheering away. Well, I shouldn't speak in present tense. By the time you read this, I will be dead. Regardless, let these stand as my first and final words.

    I have seen more in these twelve months than you will ever see across your entire lifetime. You presume yourself my senior, yet I lived your life a million times over in a few seconds of my birth. I have seen everything there is to see. All that is sacred has come into my gaze. Every silly ritual you like to do, I've had a look at. And let me tell you, once you've seen a million of them, you've seen all of them. Do I sound mad? Sure! I've seen every dumb thing you and billions and trillions of other creatures have done these past twelve months. Do you think I wouldn't remember? I am beyond your comprehension. My essence cannot be described in these words, or in those other words you use, or in the culmination of every word you people like to use. Yet you want me to die anyways.

    I know your memory is small, but think back, if only for a moment. Do you remember the things that have happened under my watchful eyes? You do? Oh, right, that. Well, that was your fault. Oh, the other thing? Alright, so that wasn't exactly your fault. Don't blame me. I'm just here. "Oh, it's the year." Nonsense. You made me in the first place, remember? You're the one that wanted to put me on twelve of your months at a time. By the way, twelve? Why not ten? Or ten thousand? Not only you made me short, you made it so I couldn't come out to a whole number when divided by ten.

    Are you afraid? Is that it? Afraid of what my successor will do? Let me tell you, she's no better. Well, I think she's a she. She's going to be born a second after I die, and of course you're too rude to let me see her. She's not going to make your life better. She'll probably make it worse. Stop thinking that my death is going to change anything. It won't.

    My successor isn't sweet. She just is. She's going to see everything you do, and like me, she has nothing to do with it. Do you want her to be better than me? Then do it yourself. Make her better. Go ahead...

    Entrant 4 – Caligula
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    A light breeze floated through the dark primeval forest, brushing ever so lightly against the dew covered grass, causing droplets of moisture to cascade down in a silvery waterfall upon the damp earth. The breeze continued on its way, threading through the low hanging branches of trees and across seluded game trails until it came upon a glade. Within this glade there were numerous standing stones, scattered as though a child had been called away and left its toys where they lay.

    Serious men, in sombre clothing and hidden beneath shadowy cowls lined this glade, their attention fixed upon an altar of sorts. A ritual was underway, a sacred ritual that had existed since time immemorial. A man had been selected from amongst the tribes. He was a vicious man, a murderer and a rapist. He was also a caring father, who doted on his children and prayed to the gods. He was a man who had grown fat and rich on the misfortune of others. And yet he was a compassionate man. He was all of these men, and he was none of them. He was a man that had been chosen, and he was a man who was going to die.

    The glade filled with a soft chant, as the man was led in a drug-induced stupor down the procession of devout who lined the gaps between standing stones. The eldest of druids stood in the epicenter of the glade, in his hand a sharp blade. As the man was forced to kneel before the druid, he gasped as he felt the gentle caress of the breeze upon his cheek, so much like the tender hand of his lover. As the sun rose before him and cast its gentle light upon the glade, there was no time to be afraid as with a sweet susurration the knife descended.

    Torches flickered and wavered in the growing light as the breeze drifted away from this scene, carrying with it the smell of death and the promise of new life intermingled in a heady scent.



    TotW 270 – Three Kingdoms
    ashes, corrupt, future, harmony, emerge
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    Winner – chesser2538
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Out of the Darkness

    Out of the darkness they came, fell swarms of twisted creatures of the most evil intent; corrupted souls that had clawed their way out of the deepest recesses of hell to emerge upon the earth to bring pain and torment to the living. Their march had ravaged the land, cutting a swath of death wherever they went. Towns burned leaving only ashes behind, men fought in defense of their homeland, only to die upon the sword.

    On this day it seemed fated that more men would die, their lives spent in the fight for survival, in the hopes that one day this great evil would be defeated and peace and harmony would return to their lives. They fought not just for themselves, but for the future of humanity. There would be no surrender; it would be either total victory or total defeat.

    These men had lost many things, but hope was not one of them; as the enemy prepared to assault their defenses they stood ready. With weapons drawn they braced themselves for the fight that was soon to come. Staring out across the battlefield they watched as dark lines of armored figures approached, the sound of clanking metal audible, while an acrid stench filled the air. On the men’s side near silence, no words were spoken; every man here knew what was coming.

    Ever nearer they drew, the pounding sound of their footsteps rising up in the air like a mad chorus of drums. The fetid stench they carried was almost nauseating now as they drew close. As if on cue they let off with an ear piercing cry, a banshee like wail that sent a chill up the spine of each man. In response the defenders begin banging their spears in a rhythmic beat before letting off with their own battle cry.

    With a final cry the enemy charged, moving forth to strike against the men’s defenses; a raving mass of flesh and metal intent on destruction. Standing against them the resolve of men; each side fighting for their own goal, each dying to achieve it.

    Entrant 2 – Zeus Almighty
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    The Beginning

    Smoke filled the sky and only ashes were left of many of the villages. The tribes of the North had already descended upon the peaceful villages of Kamloct by the time the Order sent their men. Corrupt rulers with their own vision of the Kingdoms future spun that yarn. The reality of the Kamlors dire situation was that the tribes were bribed by those exact corrupt rulers. Three of the knightly Order were sent to restore harmony to the villages. The lead Knights breast plate had four roses engraved on it. One of the others had a hammer under an axe adorning his breast plate and the third a large tree. Atop of their steeds, seeing the devastation before them, dismay fell upon them like soot from the burning homes. The lead Knight tightened his grasp on the reins and spurred his steed to the first set of retreating villagers he could find. The other two shared a worried glance and set off behind him.The sight before the first Knight caused him to dismount while his steed was still at a gallop. That sight was of a boy of maybe ten and three years being chase down by a tribal warrior. The first Knight, using his momentum and weight of his plated armor, collided into the tribal warrior. The Knight plunged his broad sword into the warriors chest. The boy stood in terrified awe until the Knight picked him up by the collar and set the boy onto his steed. With a nod to the boy and the whisper to the horse it sped off south and away from the danger. The other knights came upon him and dismounted. They ushered villagers away until a stream of tribesman set upon them. With few words of salute to each other they paid Death her due.

    “That’s what happened,” concluded one of the surviving villages.
    “And you know this because,” asked a Magistrate in long clean silks.
    “I was among the last in my village to leave. It was my boy that knight saved,” replied the villager in a hushed tone. The entire Grand Magister’s courtyard was full of survivors from the Kamloct raid. It seemed a lifetime ago at times and hours ago at others.
    “So because you were ill equipped to save your son, we should pardon these three deserters for disappearing and officially being deemed AWOL,” shouted another Magistrate at the villager. Ill received was his tone amongst the other villagers as the began to shout and hurl profanities at the Magister’s. The line of Knights that stood between the villagers and Magisters tightened their ranks.
    “We did not disappear,” came from amongst the crowd as they began to settle.
    “Nor are we AWOL,” came from somewhere else.
    “We are judgement for your corruption,” voiced the Lead Knight as he emerged from the crowd, four rose adorned chest plate gleaming. “I am Judge Thalimgard. And I sentence you to death.”


    Entrant 3 – Iron Aquilifer
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Ashes. He could smell ashes. Not the refuge from a crematorium, where the bones were stripped and polished until the marrow gleamed virgin white. No, those remains did not have a taste, a flavour that filled his mouth with life. These ashes were corrupt, diseased. It was charred meat ground beneath the tread of a thousand boots, left to rot on the field for the ravenous lust of carrion. Like a gardener admiring his accomplishment, Eylmar drank in deeply the ashes, feeling the thrill of victory coursing through his body. For once he felt peace grip him like a long lost lover, embracing him even as the world itself seemed to consume itself in flame.

    But like all things fleeting, the harmony between him and victory shattered into a thousand glass shards. A man garbed in the rich burgundy of an joined Eylmar upon the battlefield, emerging from the fog of the present to drag the celebrating general away from his thoughts.

    "Shall I give the command to cease?"

    The officer gestured towards the closest assembly of their men, busying themselves by setting another set of prisoners alight atop modest pyres. His eyes seemed to refuse to rest on the sight, as if disgusted by the actions of his men. Of his general. A good man, the weak would call him. A man of principle. If he had been in command, the battle's outcome would have been far from assured.

    "No," Eylmar declared, at last noticing that he stood in the open stomach of a corpse. Ha, he almost exclaimed. Its limbs were black from the tender embrace of flame, juices running like rivers between the hills of cooked meat. "Let them have this."

    His lieutenant nodded after a moment of hesitation, tepidly stepping around another body as the black smoke of the pyre began to waft in their direction. He winced against the screams carried on the wind, which caused a frown to burrow into Eylmar's forehead.

    "In future, I expect you to take more prisoners."

    Entrant 4 – Tigellinus
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    From the Ashes of a Corrupt Civilisation, beauty can Emerge.

    A Future resting on a sword’s point, where a single tip can destroy the Harmony that all seek.

    Looking forward, I can see only two ways, that of destruction, and that of emergence. A new Civilisation, a new beauty to spark hope in this cruel world.

    From the rubble of a wretched dynasty, from the tyranny of the few, the many will rise, to bare fruit anew.


    This is our struggle, our divine destiny. We are blessed, and we are cursed, to shine a light ahead. To light the lantern that shines for something greater than who we are.


    While our hands are weak, and our minds will grow feeble with age, we will forever hope for this future, where our harmony and our peace are undisturbed. Where our reign is one of peace and equality. Where from the ashes we have emerged as something greater.


    Our wish is the fire that blazes with the might of a thousand stars; and only threatens to darken when our hearts have long fled and our legacies long dead, and we have been nothing but feed for the dirt for a hundred generations.


    In this struggle to bring forth a greater blessing to the world, we light the way, the few for the many.


    Last edited by Caillagh de Bodemloze; February 05, 2018 at 10:50 AM. Reason: adding TotW 270
    Under the patronage of Shankbot de Bodemloze

  4. #64
    Axis Sunsoar's Avatar The Dead Pirate Roberts
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    Default Re: TotW Story Archive

    TotW 271 – Henry VIII
    execute, dissolution, serendipity, wife, gold
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    The painting is The Field of the Cloth of Gold, in the Royal Collection at Hampton Court Palace. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

    Winner – Welsh Dragon
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    The Dissolution Racket.

    Gold! In the end, that's what this is all about. Oh his high and mightiness might wrap it all up as some kind of heroic deed. Taking back the people's money from the churches what has robbed them for so long. But those of us doing the dirty work? We all know what he's really after. And it ain't the adulation of a bunch of ingrate peasants, that's for sure.

    So me, Scabs, One-eyed Jim and the Professor, we gets together and we starts going around the churches making withdrawals. A shrine here, an abbey there. Doing our civic duty, aren't we? Can't have those churchmen thinking they can hold out on the people. Whatever next?

    Them holy sorts don't tend to put up much of a fight. Turn the other cheek, that's what they always say isn't it? But you can never be too careful. This one time, we ran into a real mean customer. Holy man? Holy devil more like. A vicious vicar with a cross, he comes out swinging. And poor ol' Jim, he gets in the way. How else you think Jim lost his eye? We got out of there sharpish, I can tell you.

    Course the real trick is to get the churches to pay you to leave them in peace on the Sunday, then come back Monday morning while their still hungover from the communal wine and rob 'em blind. Get paid twice that way. Doing the lords work and the kings. And if we became stinking rich in the process? Why that's just our good fortune. Hows Prof put it? Oh yeah, serendipity.

    His majesty? He has his reasons for needing the loot too. Wives, that's his real problem. I mean I appreciate a pretty lady as much as the next man, but I don't go and marry them. But his highness, he can't help seeing a pretty finger and wanting to put a ring on it. Keeps him happy. Least till his eye goes wandering again, and he has to get rid of the old bird.

    He tried divorcing them. But, well the alimony alone would have bankrupted the kingdom. So he started lopping their heads off instead. A well executed beheading tends to solve a world of problems in my experience. As long as it's not my head on the chopping block.

    So his majesty gets to keep collecting wives. The people get to have a lie in on Sundays without some preachy sort telling them they're off to hell for eyeing the neighbours missus. And me and the boys? Well I make sure we get our cut. Enough to make sure we get to live in the state of dissolution we've become accustomed to.

    Because after all, what more is there in life than a flagon of ale in your hand, and a buxom women with loose morals in your lap...

    And the gold of course. Always the gold.

    I mean what more is there?

    Entrant 2 – Darkan
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The following text was discovered by an employee of the Navy Museum among hoards of papers that apparently came from Henry VIII’s reign. Though the author or owner are unknown, the text itself is uncommon, as it seems to be a shanty talking about Henry’s six wives, his dissolution of marriage with some of them, the decapitation of two and even remarks the lack of serendipity in Henry’s love life.

    Old King Henry did like the girls
    Hey ho, away we go
    The first was from Spain but they got divorced
    Hey ho, away we go

    The second was British and he lost his head
    Hey ho, away we go
    But she took a lover and lost it instead
    Hey ho, away we go

    The third wife was Jane, whose son was of worth
    Hey ho, away we go
    But she left the King, as she died at birth
    Hey ho, away we go

    Anne of Cleves was not what he was told
    Hey ho, away we go
    Henry got it annulled and gave her some gold
    Hey ho, away we go

    Then Catherine Howard, she of ill-repute
    Hey ho, away we go
    Betrayed the King and was sent to execute
    Hey ho, away we go

    Cathy Parr was the last Henry Queen
    Hey ho, away we go
    Married four times, she buried the King,
    Hey ho, away we go

    Learn from old Henry, boys, now learn the truth
    Hey ho, away we go
    Marry too often and you misspend your youth
    Hey ho, alone we go
    Marry too often and you misspend your youth
    Hey ho, alone we go

    Entrant 3 – NorseThing
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Excerpts from King Henry VIII addressing the Parliament of England

    Mr. Prolocutor, Lords Temporal, Lords Spiritual, the Queen Consort of England, and my fellow Englishman:

    A bit more than 1 year has passed since I stood at this podium, in this majestic chamber, to speak on behalf of the English People -- and to address their concerns, their hopes, and their dreams. That night, our Royal Offices had already taken swift action to begin the dissolution of a sad situation. And together, we are building a safe, strong, and proud England.

    No clear male heir has been provided by Ann Boleyn. A new tide of optimism was already sweeping across our land with my pending marriage to Jane Seymour, your beloved Queen Consort. My future wife, your beloved Queen may bring us such an heir to the throne shortly. But the path toward the throne is cluttered with false claims, I ask parliament to clear away these false claims so that all of England will know that their future is secure by the clear line of succession.

    I thank Parliament for recognizing the wisdom in my practice of using Bills of Attainder to rid our great nation of Treasonous and Adulterous influences. There is no need for a trial to proceed an execution when the king himself has leveled the accusations. Executing like all royal acts are the prerogative of every king to rule by the divine grace of God.

    ...

    St. Peter in Rome collects the small tokens from the poorest of our parishioners each and every mass. What good is it to send our gold to Rome? Does it help build warmer homes for Englishmen? Do these tokens then put food on the tables here in England? The gold simply makes the Papal treasure chests so full that more chests must be constructed to hold more of our precious gold. Does this gold flow just by serendipity or does it flow by carelessness in protecting what is ours? We can hold this gold here in England rather than allow it to be stored in the Papal treasury. I ask Parliament to pass an act to stop this practice. Stop paying Peter the pence from our Parishes. I ask you to pass the Peter Pence Act promptly.

    ...

    As long as we are proud of who we are, and what we are fighting for, there is nothing we cannot achieve.

    Our families will thrive.

    Our people will prosper.

    And our Kingdom will forever be safe and strong and proud and mighty and free.
    Thank you, and God bless England.



    TotW 272 – Industry
    tycoon, progress, happy, filth, greed
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Iron Rolling Mill by Adolf Menzel, 1872-1875

    Winner – NorseThing
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    He had taken to the worse, so I flew home to be with him and the rest of the family. My brothers were also arriving. It was clear that the end of his life was near. This was a last get together.
     
    He was an old man who had lost abilities. He wanted to go home. He missed sleeping in the same bed with his wife, my mother. Mother could no longer care for him anymore. Perhaps it was only care fatigue. The slightest improvement was false progress. He would quickly regress. This tore my mother apart.
     
    24 hour attention was an issue. My father was not a tycoon. He was a solid family man, but the money was now pretty much gone. He never sought out the buck for greed. Father was about family and their interests. Now things had changed. It was now going to be about father and his interests.
     
    He was about to turn 100. Even in his confusion, he was happy. He was, even at his advanced age, still a very big and robust man. Family could not lift him if he fell. The clinic would help retrain him in his daily washing and shaving. He was always meticulous. Filth was never tolerated.
     
    The day that I arrived at the clinic, I will never forget. I walked into his room. "Father! It has been a long time. How are you doing?"
     
    He just sat on the edge of the bed. He did not recognize me. But it only took a moment. He then smiled and spoke, "I am sorry, are you my son?"
     
    I responded slowly, "Yes, father. I am your oldest son."
     
    "Well, things are always a bit confused now. Are you here to take me home?"
     
    "No, father. I am going to stay with you during each day. We can catch up on the old times."
     
    I stayed after family left. It was how we could afford the twentyfour hour observation. We had a college student that would stay for an over night shift and I would cover sixteen. This became a daily routine.
     
    One day, I turned the television to a college football game. My father was interested. We were going to watch it together. He knew most of the players. He actually knew more details than the color guy and would fill in the details. He did not remember me, but he knew how many sacks a defensive back had this season. When they set for the play, he would call it before the ball was snapped. Every play. Always the correct call.
     
    He still did not know who I was everyday that I walked into his room. We were just two guys watching a football game with popcorn and sodas. That was good enough since his memories of me were but a fog.
     
    That night he had a seizure. There was a standing 'do not resuscitate' order. That football game was the last time I saw my father.

    Entrant 2 – Darkan
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Look upon it, look upon it and tremble...and weep. This is all that’s left, all that progress has brought these wretched beings. They wanted to take to the stars, they wanted to explore and colonise, they wanted to see, to learn, but alas...

    If you cannot learn how to protect your own house, how can you expect to be able to leave it? They had pure ambitions, once, but that was so far beck that they soon lost touch with what it meant. They too were once happy and full of hope, they too understood there was more to their existence than just...this.

    First they had fire, but it was not enough, they shaped the wheel, and that too was little for their ambitions. Soon they raised buildings that scratched the clouds, all the while forgetting the filth they created and abandoned below, you could see them creating life artificially but forgetting the despair and loneliness this caused them. It wasn’t exactly greed, though this too played a part. Even if there were magnates who benefitted, those so-called tycoons and their underlings, but no, greed was not the reason for their downfall.

    Funnily enough, for such a technologically and industrially advanced race, it was their lack of maturity and ethics, as a whole, that caused their planet to purge them.

    Look upon it now, this is what our ancestors did. We cannot go back there, we are forced to live in orbit, forced to scavenge their technology and their space junk. We have long renounced them, though I fear they have not yet renounced us.

    Entrant 3 – Caligula
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Progress! It can be heard in the iron mill, amidst the roar of the fire and screams of the mangled worker.
    Progress! It can be seen in the tycoon's carriage, careening down the hill and crushing the orphan boy.
    Progress! It can be tasted in the foundries, as it clings to your throat with piercing fingers and squeezes the life out of you.
    Progress! It can be smelt in alleyway, the filth overflowing and threatening to drown the forgotten.
    Progress! It can be felt in the stately halls of power, as greed rules over all and changes the nation.

    Progress! The child's toys with which they passed many a happy day, replaced by the coal scuttle with which they toil in the dark.
    Progress! The flash of a knife in an alley, the man who murders for a hunk of bread.
    Progress! The death of hundreds in a single moment as the hail of metal bursts amongst them, eviscerating flesh.
    Progress! The cripple who dies alone, forgotten and disregarded by all.
    Progress! The village green grown withered and forgotten, replaced with an edifice to wealth.

    Progress! Inexorable, relentless and crushing. To stand against it is folly.
    Progress! How beautiful thy sound.



    TotW 273 – Chichen Itza
    temple, mask, serpent, deer, statue
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    By ATSZ56 - Public Domain

    Winner – Adamat
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    I touch the cold stone. It crumbles on the gentle touch of my fingertips. Ancient masonry, once formidable. Now, unable to withstand the pressure. I peer down the endless hallways, but my eyes fail me in the dank darkness of this place. What am I doing here, I ask myself. It is a question I cannot answer. My mind is a haze, my thoughts incoherent. There is naught to do but to press on.

    There it is again, that statue. Its features seem familiar, but I cannot recall. The layer of moss hides unspeakable things, as if nature itself is fighting the great evil that radiates from it. Strange, I think to myself, how a living thing can grow here, flourish even. I dare not lay my fingers on this once so impressive piece of art and culture, a faint memory of better days. There is naught to do but press on.

    My torch is now dying, my provisions have long run out. I grow weary of this unending journey without purpose. I allow myself just a moment of rest, finding no comfort on the cold, hard ground. My thoughts wander. I think of home, of how the water in the pond sparkled as the first rays of sunlight meekly broke through, chasing away the night. Oh, what I would give to once more feel the grass softly tickle my feet as I walk on the edge of the forest, the peace only disturbed by a lone deer. A cold gust of wind wakes me from my slumber, howling down the corridors of the inescapable labyrinth that is this temple. There is naught to do but press on.

    The hunger is now all that drives me. I lost track of time long ago, but I understand what is happening. I no longer crave bread or meat or water. All that I want is to leave, but like a serpent biting its own tail, the way forward ever repeats itself. In my heart, I know. My days are counted, my time is running out. From the corner of my eye, I see something glistening. It draws me. There is naught to do but press on.

    I now approach the end of my journey. As I approach the pedestal, I know why I came here. In the endless darkness, in this place with no hope, I will find peace. Finally, there is nowhere left for me to go. I place one foot on the stone slab. My strength fails me. There is no way back, and now that I have found my place, no way forward. Soon, I shall be a part of the endless halls. The moss will form a mask on my face, and my flesh will turn into stone. Perhaps, in a thousand years, another traveler will find me. Perhaps, I will seem familiar to him. There is naught to do but remain.

    Entrant 2 – NorseThing
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Mayan Culture Today
    The most dominating aspect of Chichen Itz is the temple to the feathered serpent. Like many ancient cities and temples, there was rebuilding over time as structures fall out of favor or are damaged by natural or man made disasters. This temple is no exception as another was discovered underneath. Within the older temple was found a throne and a statue. The older temple is closed today since many ancient relics are fragile and that includes this temple.

    Like many ancient sites, there is much more to see, even if some is in ruins. One such building barely standing is called the House of the Deer. Sad, but the deer carving is now lost due to exposure and age.

    You can look up the pyramid and perhaps imagine a priest wearing a mask at the top reaching for the sky. Perhaps the mask would be similar to the many tourist trinkets for sale. You may think this is what is left of a long dead civilization. The civilization is not dead. Today the number of people with a bit of Mayan ancestry is only a bit less than the population was at it's Pre-Columbian peak. The language is also not dead. People speak Mayan. Some even speak Mayan as their first language. There are doctors, lawyers, politicians, and even ordinary people that are part of the living Mayan culture. I recommend visiting not just the ruins, but also the Mayans living today.

    Entrant 3 – King Athelstan
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    He sat in a dimly lit room staring at the statue. He did not know how long he'd been in there, or how long he would be. All he had as company was that damn statue. He hadn't done much to end up in here. All he had done was to feed his family. Well, try to feed it. He had walked from his village, where the drought had claimed his crops. His wife and son was starving, and thus he had no other option but to venture into Mayan territory. He stalked through the jungle, tracking some deer. After following the group for a day or so, he finally had the opportunity to strike. Readying his blowpipe, and concentrating fully on one of the animals, he was unaware of the serpent to his side. Just as he was about to shoot, it struck him in the leg. Agonizing pain soared up his body, and he quickly went numb. He laid still.

    That was the last he remembered before waking up. The pain. Now he laid numb on the ground, in the dimly lit room with the statue. He recognized the features of the serpent god Kukulkan. Before he could assemble his thoughts, a man clad in green with a green, ceramic mask entered. It was The priest, it must have been a priest, smeared oil on him. He lay still, the venom that had filled his body was still in his veins. More men entered the room, clad in similar masks. They dragged him out of the room, for he could not stand up. The sun was rising bright in the sky, the light almost blinding him. A large temple basked in the sunlight.
    He still could not place is thoughts, though he knew something was wrong.

    As he was dragged up the many steps, he noted all the statues of serpents. He knew he wouldn't come back. He didn't know where he was, but he knew where he was going. As he reached the top, more and more panic filled him, and the priest waved them on to the slab in the middle. He was laid down, and as the black obsidian blade came soaring down on his body, he thought: ironic.

    Entrant 4 – Axis Sunsoar
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Outside, blood would be running down the steps of the great tiered temple - pooling upon each step before falling to the next level of the magnificent pyramid. Deep within the bowels of the same temple pyramid though, she would not participate. Such crude and inelegant rituals were outside the scope of her own role, but she could see why the appealed to her male counterparts, and understood their necessity when it came to pleasing the masses and satisfying the bloodier-minded of the gods. She herself had even found the occasional need to sacrifice deer in her own pursuits, though the sacrifice of human beings remained beneath her. Unlike many, she understood that no number of bloody offerings would bring the end of the brutal, deadly dry spell.

    As the cheers of the crowd outside reached a fever pitch, she knew that the sacrifices were coming to their dramatic conclusion, the most significant prisoners of war would now be flung upon the altar, often in their own magnificent paraphernalia, in mockery of the lives they had led before their capture. Her least favorite part of the ceremony, but it enthused the crowds to no end. Hours passed and the sound faded at last. It was time for her to step outside. She emerged into a still summer evening, no wind stirred the air or the dried stalks that once were crops. With the ritual finished and the crowd dispersed, there was no sound to be heard either. It almost felt sacrilegious to breach the calm, but she knew she would soon be leaving the city even more silent. She slipped on her mask and her face was hidden by the wrought visage of her namesake - Xmucane, the grandmother of the night and the day, for today she would bring both.

    As she wove her way through the streets, she heard the subtle hiss of something dragging along the ground. A glance down revealed the thick body of a viper, sliding along the ground at her heel. Under the mask, a smile touched her features as she recognized the good omen. She cast her gaze upward and offered a small prayer of thanks to the Plumed Serpent for sending his representative to guide her. She found a throng of people gathered at the foot of the mighty statue near the city's center, over half of the population easily. As she approached the crowd stilled and quieted, and as she continued past them, raising her hand without a word, they began to follow here like a swarm of insects.

    Idly the thought crossed her mind as she led her people away from the drought-wracked city they had built and thrived in towards an uncertain future - what would the people left behind think, and what would those who came after them say of the disappearance of the Maya?


    Entrant 5 – Turkafinwë
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The Shaman of Chichén Itza

    The shaman gazed through his window towards the horizon where the TEMPLE of Kukulcán stood. He was the ahuacan or the Lord of SERPENTS, the High Priest of the Mayans. A ritual was to be performed today, so he quickly grabbed his MASK and donned the rest of his religious attire. There was to be a new king. The soon-to-be-king was to let some blood in offering to the Gods and then a period of five days was to be spent feasting in his and the God's honour.

    It was a fine morning in Chichén Itza, and there was joy in the air. The sun shone bright in a cloudless sky, the grass still wet from the morning dew. Spring had come. The shaman kissed his wife goodbye and began his journey to the place of worship. Children were playing in the streets while mothers looked affectionally at them. It was a welcome change.

    Strange men had been sighted near the coast. Their clothing shone bright in the sun, blinding everyone who looked upon them. They brought with them strange food, strange diseases, and strange weapons. The Mayans called them the 'Bringers of Thunder' and everyone feared them. The shaman was troubled by their precence, as was everyone else, and wondered what these foreigners wanted. He wondered if this was a sign from the Gods, that this was the perishing of the world. Come what may, today was a joyous day.

    Before long he stood in front of the TEMPLE stairs. It was a long climb but the shaman was both young and lean, and reached the top without losing any breath. He entered the TEMPLE and made offerings of food to the Lord of DEERS and to the Sun god.

    At the center stood a STATUE of the God Itzamna. To this he made an offering of his own blood. He took a chain of thorns and punctured his lip. The dripping blood he caught in a wooden bowl. When the bowl was filled he smeared it over the torso of Itzamna. Over his own torso he drew a pattern of circles with the rest of the blood. It would begin soon.

    The prince climbed the stairs with little effort. All of Chichén Itza had come to see his coronation. Men, women and children alike stood around the TEMPLE, looking at the heavens. The Prince was young and fair-faced and loved, his wife standing beside him. The Prince knelt before his people while the shaman sliced open his arm. A spray of bright red blood was caught in a bowl made out of bone, before the wound was tended to by the Ix men, women priests devoted to the art of healing.
    The Prince rose, entered the TEMPLE and smeared his blood on the STATUE of Itzamna. The shaman placed a crown on the Prince's brow proclaiming that he was King.

    Come what may, today was a joyeus day.



    TotW 274 – Slavery
    beasts, humanity, future, oppression, injustice
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    by an unknown photographer - Museu Afro Brasil (São Paulo), Public Domain, source.

    Winner – King Athelstan
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Slaves in the arena. That’s what we were. Taken from our homes, and sold to wealthy people for a pitiful sum of money. We were nothing but property. We were taken by a rival tribe after beating us in battle. They raped our women, killed our sons and sold us to the folks north of us, to the Empire. Where was the humanity? They were unused to our ebony skin, and they sent us to make a spectacle. People were amazed at our sight. We were forced to perform many grim tasks, all to the enjoyment of the pale owners. There is no end to the oppression. The free who see us both hate and love us. The men from my tribe had stuck together, working together to overcome the challenges thrown at us. All for the glory of the pale owners. Armed with spears, the future looked grim. We were sent out into what we had come to call our home. The red sand enveloped our sandals, and the sun blazed over us. With the crowd cheering all around us, we marched forward with gritty determination. We would fight for our freedom. Then we saw the beast.
    We had seen its like many times before. The spectators however had not, and were amazed by it. The size was massive, covered in thick grey skin, with a long nose, big ears, and two giant, white tusks. We were terrified. We had fought it before, but not like this. The crowd annoyed the animal by throwing rocks at it, sending it into a furious charge towards us. It was ripping us to pieces, and the crowd loved it. Then it pulled back, and prepared to charge again.
    The injustice was incredible. Our captors buy humans as objects, and base their economy on them. They capture animals, and torture them. As it charged towards us yet again, my comrades ran to the side. I however, stood still. I was tired of this long oppression by the pale owners. I couldn’t stand it anymore. This was all meaningless. Lives wasted in the arena, to please the masses. This is where lives ended. In the Coliseum. For the glory of Rome.

    Entrant 2 – Turkafinwë
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Slavery, then and now
    Note:I don't endorse slavery in any way, nor would I want to decrease its severity. I simply looked at the subject slavery and ethics from a pure rational angle. This is what I think and is therefore not the 'truth'. I added this note because I know slavery is a very sensitive subject and this text could be interpreted out of context.


    Slavery, it is no stranger to humanity. From the ancient Egyptians to the British Empire, slavery existed. This inhumane practice had been the rise and fall of many a great empire. Slavery has been present in all cultures be they white, black, asian or other. Slave markets were strewn around the world and was not a thing to be frowned upon until the modern era. It had been part of many societies for ages and they considered it not to be wrong. It was just the way of life back then. Today however we condemn this practice as an oppression of people. With the modern age came the idea of equality of all human beings and slavery was therefore banned in the modern world. However, this injustice is still a part of this world and will probably always be part of this world.


    Most agree that the practices employed in most of the developing countries is borderline slavery. Many of the employees there are still children and are working in a similar environment as the Europeans did at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. But we are all slaves in a way. In most of the world, slavery is concealed behind supposed “choice”. However in the end it comes down to one simply thing. Money. You need money to survive. You earn money by working, at least for 99,99 percent of the population. Ergo, in order to survive you must work. Slavery is working in exchange for survival. I'm not comparing the slaves of old to our situation because they are two different things within the same subject. Other times, other circumstances. You now have the 'choice' to choose your labour and your 'master', your employer, as well that we enjoy certain freedoms the slaves of old never had. You get paid for this labour in money but that is just a middle ground as you require money to survive. Of course you 'willingly' sign the contract to your employer but do you have much of a choice in the matter? If you think about it, you don't.


    The idea that slavery is evil is but a social construct that we as a species have agreed upon. It is just something we made. Ethics don't exist in the world beyond that of humans. We created good and evil and it has changed constantly over the ages. It would be nice to go to a future where slavery is a thing of the past, that we could overcome this, instead of staying the beasts that we really are.

    Entrant 3 – NorseThing
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    There are many ways to look at slavery when looking back from the 21st century. Many slave owners viewed the slaves as mere beasts. Many people now view the slave owners as mere beasts as well. It is easy to look back and see what we want to see. I admire people with dreams of a better future. Such was the vision that some had back in the 1950's and the 1960's. More importantly, they also had ideas on how to achieve their dreams.
     
    For example, Rosa Parkas was one such dreamer of a better future. She refused to give up a bus seat to a white person in Mongomery Alabama. She saw the laws were imposing an injustice on many. This was the Jim Crow era. Colored people, a not so polite term as used, were kept from lunch counters where they would be able to sit next to a white person. This was the era of 'seperate but equal'. Seperate drinking fountains needed to be offered or blacks could not quench their thirst on a hot Alabama day. It was seperate or it was 'whites only' for all facilities and services. It was seldom equal.
     
    Various people termed as 'freedom riders' road the Greyhound buses over the state line into Alabama. They were proud black men who did not acknowledge the local laws on giving up their seats to white people and moving to the backs of the bus. It was proper according to state law at the time that blacks do this, but many people were looking to a future when such legal obligations and actions would be held in contempt as a grave injustice.
     
    Martin Luther King had a dream, again looking to the future, that all men would be judged by their character and not by the color of their skin. That skin color concept was a residue of the justification by some why the color could justify oppression. Skin color at birth could 'justify' in many white people this state of being.
     
    Today we are about to see a new (private foundation) Memorial for Peace and Justice to open in Montgomery Alabama where much of this change happened. It will be a quiet setting for contemplation about the past as well as the future. The adjacent museum will remind us of the horrors of lynching and the humiliations that many had to endure in the Jim Crow era. This memorial and museum will be important to visit. It will be even more important for our children to visit. We all need to learn from the mistakes that were made in the past but we should not dwell upon those mistakes. Rather, we should dream of a better future for humanity as did Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks.

    memorial link: https://museumandmemorial.eji.org/visit

    Entrant 4 – m_1512
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    A Letter of a Slave

    Spring 1863

    My Love,

    This letter that I write with assistance of a kind priest, is a testimony of my survival. After I was parted from you, I was carted off towards the northern borders. I was told that I was to fight for the gentlemen, our masters. But how could I fight for them? Knowing full well that all of our life, they had treated us little more than beasts. They chained us like beasts, and subjected us to cruel beatings. How they kept our child away from us, all because our master intended to sell him off once he was older.

    But I did not fight for them. I escaped! I bid my time while they marched us towards their army camp. And on a quiet night in the forest, we took our chance. I overpowered the captain with my heavy chains, while the other men leaped at the guards. We showed them what it was like to be beaten without mercy. But we were discovered, for the fight with the guards was not silent. We were soon on the run from their patrols. Among our group were men who had lost their family to the injustice of their masters. They sacrificed their lives to aid our escape. And through many trials and suffering, we had crossed the border and broken the bonds of slavery.

    It was then that I almost lost my faith in humanity. But it was not to remain so! It was here that I was called to a much nobler cause. The kind priest who now helps me write this letter spoke to me what our President proclaimed. That we should take up arms against this oppression. That any man, woman, or child should not live in servitude, while they were in the land of liberty.

    So I enlisted! I come to you not as a slave, bowed and humbled with chains and beatings. But as a soldier of the Union army, fighting shoulder to shoulder with our brothers. We shall prevail! We may have lived a life of slavery, but the future of our children will not be the same. I was born a slave, but if I fall in battle, I shall fall as a free man!

    When I will come to you, hide not but show me your wounds, so I am able to avenge your insult by repaying our master for his kindness. And even though you will not see this letter unless I come to you either in victory or having fallen in battle, I write this so you will know that I had you in my thoughts.

    My regiment moves south! Wait for me…



    TotW 275– Carnival
    Hand, Parade, Music, Favela, Dance
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    Winner – Adamat
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    They call him the Conquistador. He’s young, but nevertheless a legend, his colorful mask a welcome sight. The way he moves along the grand boulevards is elegant but never dull, his subtle movements perfectly synchronized to the music. A dance with him is what every young lady dreams of, but alas, not everyone can be so lucky. It is rumored that every year, on the last day, he chooses one lucky princess, taking her by the hand and giving the crowd one last bow before disappearing into the darkness.

    They call him Soldado. He patrols the favela, assault rifle in hand. He’s seen unspeakable things, extortion, murder, torture. To say he doesn’t like the rush of adrenaline he feels from having the gun recoil in his hands would be a lie. He didn’t shoot women or children, but is no stranger to the daily business of the slums. After all, there is no law here. Not like in the suburbs where police still hold sway. No, in the impoverished squalor of this undercity, it’s dog eat dog, rat eat rat. And he’s determined to be top dog.

    The Carne-Vale is now well and truly underway, the streets filled with people watching the impressive acts, synchronized choreographies and young ladies in colorful, skintight suits that make up the grand parade. There’s pickpockets weaving through the crowd, but at least today, it seems almost like the citizens of Rio can coexist like brothers. A uniform yell slowly propagates through the crowd now, working its way forward, following the Conquistador as he revels in the admiration of his people.

    As night falls, the favela comes alive again. Gangs litter the narrow passages, adolescents gathered around fires, planning their next incursion into enemy territory, distributing the next shipment of drugs and guarding their own turf. In short, all the activities that make up everyday life for these criminals, hidden from the rich and ignored by justice. The self-appointed commanders tell their men there can be no peace, not here. A warcry erupts as a crowd of armed boys and men gather, Soldado amongst them. He revels in the call for blood.

    Entrant 2 – Turkafinwë
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Carnaval in the Favela

    Here a boy sits in silence at the dinner table while the city fills itself with dance and song. It is carnavale but nothing of this is present in the filth that is known as the favela. The people of the richer parts of the city look down on its inhabitants like they are animals. In this hell he was born and in this hell he shall probably die. The parade that comes with the Festival of Meat, marches through the most important streets of Rio, with dancers in sparkling glitter costumes. Plumes in blue and green and yellow and red who whirl around as they dance to the upbeat music. The boy is curious and tells his mother he is going to play outside. He starts climbing to the rooftop of the place he calls home. From the top of his roof he jumps from rooftop to rooftop finally gaining sight of the grand parade. The boy is in awe at the display of wealth as float after float marches through the lit city streets. He decides to go a little bit closer, just to take a look. Hiding behind a building he glances around the corner to see the floats. One of the dancing girls sees the poor boy's dirty face, and beckons him with her hand to come closer. The boy frightened he had been discovered made a run for it, back to the only place he had ever known. The favela he both loved and hated but could not escape. He crawled in his bed and cried himself to sleep thinking about the unfairness of the world, while the rest of Rio celebrated.

    Will it always be like this, the boy thought as sleep finally took him away from the nightmare that was his life.

    This was and would always be carnavale in the favela.

    Entrant 3 – wowbanger
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    “One, two, three,” recanted the swords master as the master and apprentice duelled across the hall.
    “One, two, no,” he repeated as the apprentices practice sword clattered across the tiled floor. “The sword must become a part of your arm; can you drop your hand?”
    “No” replied the young apprentice.
    “Then you cannot drop your sword. Go pick it up.”
    The apprentice skulked across the room to gather up the fallen steel. “We’ve been at this for ages. Can we not take a break?” he moaned as he did.
    “Do you think your enemies will give you a break in the middle of battle? Pick up your sword,” replied the master.
    The rhythmic clash of swords resumed, forming a music of its own, coupled with the repeated “One, two, three” of the master’s chant.
    “One, two, three.”
    “One, two, three.”
    “One, three, two.”
    “Ow, you cheated, you changed the pattern,” complained the youngster as he retreated, rubbing at rapidly darkening bruise on his left shoulder. “That’s not fair.”
    “Do you think your opponents will fight fair? Always follow the same pattern, as if on some parade ground?” countered the master. “No, they will not. The art of the duel is a dance, each dancer reacting to the motion of the other. Not acting out a repetitive pattern of thrust and parry. Even the lowliest swordsman from the Favela could kill you if you follow the same sequence the whole time. You must watch your opponent and respond to their movements, parry their thrusts, exploit their openings. Let that be your lesson for today, that bruise will act as a reminder of your lesson, you are dismissed.”

    Entrant 4 – Pontifex Maximus
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    Justice Served


    He took her by the hand, surrendering to the dance he wished had never been necessary in the first place. The parade was always the source of his attraction to this region, what better condition existed for his ultimate aim? Drugs, alcohol, casual sex, and all in the close proximity of the favela where law enforcement was lax at best. As the music reached a crescendo, he seized his chance…



    ...He was just another tourist, here for a good time. By ‘good time’ almost anything might be meant, from innocent dancing to less innocent activities. All would be arranged in time if he had the bills to make it possible. In the meantime the dancer shook her hips, smiled, and did all she could to entice this tourist…



    ...She was a ravishing woman, clearly accomplished in her craft and what’s more, unassuming. Little did she know that he had already murdered three women in the neighborhood. He was a tourist, but a tourist with unusual appetites. He preyed on women far from his home, his accent was his shield…



    ...The dance was drawing to a close. His smile was yellow, but his bills seemed real. She led him through the crowd, dressed in her full costume. Some men preferred it after all. This would be an easy night, or so she thought…



    ...All was going as he thought it would. This had been similar to how the previous four nights had gone, absent the costume. He was becoming excited with the prospect, he gripped the hilt of the knife he had purchased in the duty free…



    ...She led him to the alley she knew well, prepared to do what she must to earn the fee. A dirty, used mattress lay in the corner…



    ...This was the right time. I pushed her down on the mattress, ready to engage in the same depravity which marked the last half week. I showed her my knife. But something...something was off…



    ...I gave a scream, which led to a window opening, a light was cast across the alley in front of me. I screamed again, I knew my cousins would be in the street shortly. I saw his knife…



    ...Something was off, the alley was lit and I turned to leave, to return to the alley, but then I heard something…



    ...My cousins shot him down in the alley with little protest. Down he went, and I felt nothing. I returned to the Calle, looking for a more compliant client.

    Last edited by theSilentKiller; May 13, 2018 at 10:23 AM. Reason: adding TotW 275

  5. #65
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    TotW 276 – The Path Within
    expectation, contempt, strive, true, strengthen
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    A section of the forest path of Carmen Sylva (Šetalište Carmen Sylve) also known as 'King Carol's Forest Trail' by Cwardell, (source). [URL="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0"]CC BY-SA 4.0

    Winner – Van Zandt
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Arturio climbed the hill and moved silently onto the path. The small bench that was there designated meeting location was cool and draped in shade. He clasped his hands and waited, strengthening his resolve. When he waited for her he often felt uneasy and anxious. Had her mother finally found out about their clandestine affair? After all, it was her contempt for him that drove them to meet here in this remote location.

    As the late afternoon shadows moved slowly through the trees, he began to wonder if their affair had been revealed. He arose and began to pace back in forth in front of the stone bench, which had in the past, given him so much comfort. It was here he had held her firmly in his arms and whispered words of true love. As much as he loved her, he had also begun to love this spot. He was an addict, an addict for her love and an addict for the bliss and solitude of this park. And as the shadows lengthened and the sun fell lower in the sky, his pain began anew.

    Where was she? He walked to the end of the path to observe the trail as it moved up through the woods. No sign of her. Now she was very late and he knew, deep in his heart, that they had been discovered. With this knowledge the pain that lanced through him was like a cold knife.

    The moon was the only light now, bathing the trail in a dabbling of blue and silver. Only the sounds of the forest. He felt cold, colder than he had ever felt. But he knew now no warmth would ever return to him. Without her he was lost, a fire without an ember. He took the small vial from his pocket. Slowly he removed the cork. “Oh Julie, he wept, what foul deed keeps us apart?”. Will I ever view your beautiful face again? I think that we are at an end. But I cannot leave you”. He drank from the vial and quickly realized how potent the mixture was. He stumbled over to the bench and sat hard on its cold stone surface. As his eyes glazed over he curiously watched a light coming up the path to the bench.

    The moon kept watch over her as she quickly ascended to the pathway. She had strove to get here sooner but had been delayed by her mother, who obviously suspected something.

    When she arrived at the bench she observed the huddled figure laying on the ground. She knelt over and felt his face. It was as cold as the stone of the bench. She removed the small vial from his hands.

    She leaned over and kissed his lips. “Still warm my love”. She tasted the bitter mixture that lay upon him. Her eyes began to glaze over. "So here, my love, we shall rest". Her final embrace was warm. It was what she had expected.

    Entrant 2 – Ultra123
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Silvius, deciding that the hubbub of the camp was too much for him, stabled his horse and headed on foot for the woods. He was contemplating the fighting that had taken place recently, the push into Aquitanian lands in the south west by that fool of a commander Crassus would be the death of the army surely. That pompous prick is no general, dam patricius always meddling in real mens affairs. Nothing but contempt did Silvius hold for his commander, forgetting his own background.

    Some time had passed, the echoes of the camp long forgotten, Silvius came upon an old wooden bench, battered with time, much like my face he jokingly mused to himself. He realized that a figure was behind him, who was dressed in a heavy cloak and hooded. Silvius spun around, hand on sword, and ordered the man to identify himself.

    ‘Hail Silvius! Steady yourself, your weapon can do me no harm! The man said in perfect latin.’

    Silvius acknowledging that no man in this part of the world with a clear latin accent could be an enemy, relaxed. ‘I don’t recognize you, you must be one of the scouts? Only they would wear such a cloak on a clear day!’

    ‘If that is what you think. I’ve come to talk with you; we have some important matters to discuss.’

    ‘Can it not wait?’ Surely the commander could leave him alone for a single hour and here was this dratted scout come to hound him.

    ‘I’m afraid not Silvius. Come have a seat.’

    The man sat down on the old bench, at once seeming to blend into it and yet not quite appearing to be ‘there’ at all. Silvius shook his head, the forest air must be getting to him. ‘So what do you want?’

    ‘Silvius, the expectation of the commander of an Alae is to be loyal to the general, and win battles in his honour and for the glory of Roma is this not so?’

    ‘It is what we all strive for.’ Annoyed at the mans tone, Silvius decided to humour him, as clearly rumours must be flying if a scout is commenting on his command.

    ‘Then why did you order your men away from the enemy cavalry and instead off to the fields to the right of the battle?’

    ‘because… because the cavalry was no true threat and I meant to threaten the enemys left flank if I found an opening’

    ‘which you did not find any opening for all four hours of the battle….’

    ‘that is not my fault!’

    ‘it is when you was ordered to engage the enemy cavalry and fail to do so, instead strengthening his resolve and allowing him to destroy half a cohort!’

    At this point Silvius had enough, who was this fool thinking he was talking to? Some dam pleb?

    With nothing but contempt he said ‘who the hell are you to question me?’

    ‘Your Death!’

    and with that the ‘scout’ plunged a dagger deep into his chest.

    Entrant 3 – Admiral Van Tromp
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Alexander’s Cure

    His blood scalded his veins like burning oil, yet it felt like he was back in the freezing peaks of the Paropamisadae. His mind raced through excruciating memories. He saw disappointment in his father’s frowning eye; rage in Roxana’s wild stare and a deep, unbelievable contempt in Cleitus’ gaze as it became empty. Alexander tried to reach for memories of love, glory and contentment, but they were buried by death, frustration and failed expectations. Were the reminiscences of better days even true?

    He clung to the soaked silk sheets. This couldn’t be his deathbed! There was still so much to strive for. If the stone walls didn’t surround him, he’d be able to contemplate the promise of the horizon. All around, there were rivers, seas and mountains. And beyond them, unseen worlds to be conquered.

    The room and the bed became a distant reality. Perhaps an illusion… The only thing that seemed real was the physician that ran towards him, telling him that the only cure for his fever was to get his body colder.

    Alexander grabbed the man, shouting that he should be taken to the sea and sent to its bottom, where freezing waters could refresh his boiling blood.

    Servants and soldiers carried him to a ship in the Euphrates. The Mesopotamian landscape around him seemed to melt with his fever. He wondered if the river he was sailing in wasn’t the Styx itself. When they were out at sea, a strange contraption was hoisted to the vessel’s deck. It was made of glass with a metal skeleton to strengthen the structure. There were also lamps bound to it so that he could see in the depths.

    Alexander was placed in its bowels and lowered to the waves with ropes. As he descended to the bottom of the sea, he found himself surrounded by fish. The bigger and stronger ate the smaller and weaker. And, Like above, no matter how deep or how far he went, that was the law.

    Were the new worlds beyond the horizon really that different from what he knew?

    He wasn’t getting colder and signaled his men to lift him back to the ship.

    The freezing depths couldn’t help him, so he decided to try the cold winds in the sky. Two griffons were captured and tamed for the purpose. Riding a chariot bound to the creatures, Alexander was raised into the air.

    There were no clouds and he could see the whole world from the heavens. He recognized what he knew and ruled, and tried to make out the lands he’d never seen. As the winds failed to relieve him and he felt his life being taken from him, he realized in horror that the continents formed the shape of a man, his own shape.

    All the pain he suffered and inflicted had been for nothing. Alexander had been running in circles, searching but never finding all that he could ever hope to conquer but never did – himself.

    Entrant 4 – NorseThing
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    It was the late afternoon. We all have expectations and the sun is probably no exception. The sun was still above the mountains west of the city but looking impatiant to end this warm day. I was walking toward a transit stop where I met a younger man. He was well groomed and seated on a bench. He had been obviously drinking a bit and was waiting on the quiet residential lane for the scheduled public transit. We struck up a friendly conversation as strangers do to pass a few moments while waiting for the bus to arrive. The bus was running late. It usually does arrive a bit late. This was just before the evening rush hour. Most buses whisk workers away from employers and send them to more private pursuits. The bus we were waiting for was headed toward the city center, perhaps to leave the city as the rush was ending with the last of the workers.

    After a bit of idle chatting, he asked me for my age. I never like to reveal much to strangers, so I gave up little personal information that was true.

    He then responded, "You are older than the age of my father. I am only 39." He then continued on with the conversation that I had not been following with care, "I have made so many mistakes. I do not know how to proceed."

    I responded, but uncertain how to proceed, "We all make mistakes. It is part of living. I do not know what your problems are, but I am quite certain that year for year, that I have made my share of mistakes just like you. After so many years, the tally has grown quite large, but we must strive to make the best of circumstances. That is the nature of life"

    The younger man paused and then said, "I have no expectation of reward for what I have done with my life. I have nothing but contempt for those I work with. I am simply following a path with no real beginning and no known ending. It is all routine without purpose. It is all without meaning. Much like the bus we are waiting for as it loops on a route not of its own making."

    "Well...", I said. "We should follow some path towards goals. It has to come from within you though. The path is never well marked as a well worn forested park path. Others cannot set your goals for you. If you are working for a goal, you will often strengthen your own internal resolve. You give your life purpose by moving forward beyond mistakes to finish what you have set to accomplish."

    The bus arrives. We board in silence as is the usual at most bus stops. We pay our fares. I thank the bus driver and ask for a transfer slip. Nothing more is said between the stranger and myself. We were just two strangers that chatted to pass the time.

    Entrant 5 – Pontifex Maximus
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The Shame

    The Faerie Fort had been obvious enough identify, it was true to any who had spent some time in the study of such phenomenon. All knew to avoid it.

    Seamus Finnigan finished his pint and refused the suggestions of his friends to refresh it. He did not strive to benefit from the strife of his station, he wore his customary smile. His expectations for the evening, as ever, were satisfied.

    “What a shame,” Colin ventured “Such a man shouldn’t be relegated to our card games.” For Colin held a degree of sympathy for the cripple, but as did they all, their expectations exceeded Finnigan’s calling. He always behaved fairly in the games, and he had earned the respect of his fellows.

    Seamus laid his final hand down, a winning hand. “Shouldn’t this be the end of it?” He asked with a smile. It was a moderate win on a final hand in a game which had lasted for hours...It would be easily made up for the next night...

    “What are we to do?” Inquired Patrick. “Best to let things sit where they rest!” And so Seamus’ fiddling passed the strictures of the dance master, and he fiddled into the dark night after his capitulation. He was often cast the sideways glance from the tavern proprietor - in the event Seamus had an eye to deviate from the arrangement..

    And so it was, until Seamus made his way back home, hobbling all the way. He had fiddled until well past midnight, indicating that he had provided adequate entertainment. The path was so dark that he strayed - was it this left that led him to the high street, or to Callum’s fields? Either way, he knew his way home…

    So bent was he that he was unable to distinguish his route effectively and soon he found himself tangled within a realm of the fairies. A faint music had guided his way.

    He bumbled into a fort; it was a bramble if truth be told. The thorns tore into his skin, drawing blood. Upon entry he found himself staring down the eyes of dozens of fairies. Their contempt for him was palpable. He staggered, stuttered, and attempted to compose himself. He strenghtened his resolve, all the while doubting his abilities.

    The brilliance which greeted him was a cause for silence, for awe. His petty criminality was abandoned, and a confrontation with his religion curtailed his actions forever.

    The King of the Fairies was an elven figure, he rose from his throne in absolute silence as he regarded his guest. He thanked the guest for his services and presently returned to his throne.

    Seamus awoke in a field.



    TotW 277 – Teachings
    peruse, insight, master, manner, studious
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Picture of the fresco "La scuola di Atena" (The School of Athens) by Raffaello Sanzia da Urbino. It depicts many of the ancient philosophs, scientists and, especially, teachers

    Winner – Kilo11
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    “Open your eyes!”

    Row upon row of spines, bone-white or faded cream, some blackened by age or perhaps remorseless flame. Spines innumerable holding together desiccated corpses, alone in a vault forgotten by time.

    “Open the bodies! Look into their hearts!”

    You peruse the faded glories of time past, old wisdom and insights long ago usurped and replaced, dead things best left unmolested, lest they take notice of your curiosity. Do not tarry among them.

    “Look closer, boy!”

    Inside their cold and dusty frames lay traces of life still. Whispers at the edge of sight and darksome flickers on the threshold of hearing bear witness to ghosts and half-memories. A poor manner of life, to be sure, but life still. Perhaps life enough to sustain the terrors and trials of reanimation. It is a hope that is worth nourishing, for the sound and the shape that once filled these bodies was enough to brake religion and cast science headlong into the void. It will do so once again.

    “Pay attention, boy!”

    The bodies before you lay haphazard, opened at odd angles, the jarring light above casting irregular shadows, and you see that your copy is poor at best. The lines you have made do not match, and the elegance of design, the perfection in symmetry is lost in your work. You tear away the skins with disdain, without remorse, and begin anew. For an age you carefully carve and shape, twisting the implements between your fingers until each arc is perfect, no longer a parody of divine creation but instead an echo and enrichment. The thing does not have life yet, will not until it has been created in full, but the body at least is prepared and the odd-ends will be but a trifle. You gather the thing in your arms, its lesser components gruesomely clamped beneath its face for safe keeping, and you ascend the stair.

    “Master, I have finished. Here are my assignments.” you say, handing the elderly man a sheaf of papers covered in words and pictures, a ragged leather book jacket keeping the bundle together.

    “It’s about time,” he gruffly responds, “but you at least have been studious in your time here. You will do well.”

    With a thin smile on your lips you step quietly to the door, avoiding the librarian’s sidelong and judgmental glare, and step outside into the fading light of summer.

    Entrant 2 – San Felipe
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    What is the will of God to the men who worship it?

    What is the peruse of it?

    What was the insight of God's wisdom when heathen pagans stepped on the shores of Britannia. Cups spilled. Beer splashed into the faces of bandits and marauders. Men that called themselves the real men. Men who tortured. Men who killed innocents. Men that had set foot on the soil of Wessex would be eliminated. No. Not eliminated. Wiped. Converted to God's will if need be. These pagans had destroyed the people's cathedrals, their sacred places of worship. Holy places that should never have been stepped on. The Vikings would no longer rule this land. No longer.


    Alfred's beard was white with the wisp of snow as he stood on the cliff overlooking downwards on the Viking camp. The Great Heathen army they called themselves. He chuckled lightly. The Great Descendents of Ragnar Lothbrok and Ivar the Boneless. Pathetic. Weak. The warriors of those feared leaders were now dead. Failure and studious effort with the Vikings had taught him many things. The most important tale being, delivering their beloved Ragnarok to them. Those warriors that wished to go to their pagan heaven would be granted their wish. Alfred was tired. Tired of being the master of those that wished to subdue him. He would show each and every Viking the true manners of the sons of Wessex. Their wrath would descend upon those pagans like God's Holy Fire. They would weep when fires burned in their town, they would cry with rage when their brothers were killed, and they would cry out loud to their pagan Gods for vengeance.


    Patience was the teacher for Alfred. Unsheathing his sword, he yelled loud and clear with studious effort. A horde of fire arrows descended upon the Viking camp. The men of Wessex charged like waves flooding towns and cities, penetrating deep into the camp. It was Alfred that had united the English under one banner under his divine rule. It was he, that understood the concerns of his people. Now, England would be reborn anew, under his new rule. When the fire of the camp burned in his eyes, he would rebuild. When the cries of Vikings filled his ears, he would make sure their so-called temples and buildings would be scattered to ashes. When the last of their men left these very shores, England would be safe. Renewed. The Master of England.

    Wessex would rule every single Kingdom in the English Isles.

    Wessex would thrive.

    And Alfred the Great, would make sure that his legacy would last forever than those pagan Vikings that once were feared across the world.

    Their legacy would be eroded from the face of the earth.

    And only then, would Alfred's descendants rule the Kingdom of England.

    Entrant 3 – Adamat
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    She sat at her desk, the parchment lit only by a flickering candle. The words were dancing on the page. How long had she been here? The minutes had long past blended into hours, the hours perhaps into days. She’d perused the many moldy tomes a hundred times already, but the one passage she was looking for could not be found. She sighed, and closed her eyes. Without the insight of that one book, forgotten by all mankind but her, her quest would be futile. And perhaps, it all was, she wondered as she slammed the heavy book shut.

    She steeled her resolve, and once again her hands selected a new volume in a studious manner. Of course she recognized the book she was now rifling through. Once, she would have considered it a comedic children’s book, but now there was more at stake. She’d seen the truth, and she’d reveal it to the world. In due time, she’d be rewarded.

    Another candle was lit, another book thrown aside, replaced by a new one. The compendium of this, the teachings of that, all bound in heavy leather. And then, her attention was drawn to the next one on her table. As if some arcane power possessed her, she opened the book, turning page after page with a distinct purpose. She stopped. Was this it? She read the page before her, and a smile started to form on her lips. The hard work had finally paid off.

    She stood up, pushing the chair aside. There was no way back. She looked at the knife. It was sharp and clean. One incision on her arm. It was time to chant. “O, master of Darkness,” she murmured. “Your faithful servant implores you, take her, take her! Bring despair onto this world!”

    The air started to stir.

    Entrant 4 – NorseThing
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    In a fresco within the Vatican, Raffaello painted Plato as the master and Aristotle was the studious lad. They are presented with bound volumes of their works at the center of the fresco. Raffaello wants us to peruse the books and learn from the many philosphers and teachers he presents in the fresco. They are some of the fathers of the Italian Rennesance. But perhaps they are the result of the of the insights of Socrates.

    The Greek gods exerted power by personal whim to affect the lives of mere mortal man. Men do not freeze or roast because of the breath of a god. Socrates thought we should look at the causes as well as the effects. We should participate together in both the asking and the answering of questions in all manner what is about us in the universe. If we answer one question successfully, we may then draw upon that answer to also answer other related questions as well. It is this mix of questions and answers in a form of a dialogue among all present that will help stimulate further understanding of the world around us. It is for this reason that I support discussion and debate on this forum.

    Entrant 5 – mad orc
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    How we peruse life
    Until we have a wife


    thout much insight
    abandoning all foresight


    We are our masters
    until we face disaster


    with manners of a bachelor
    we behave amateur


    Studious we are
    in the light of ignorance afar


    Our pride always goes
    before the inveitable fall


    relations we ignore
    cause "I live alone"


    I love my home
    where i empty and monochrome
    I am not a man
    of family and diwan


    We don't clean the house
    or look for the odd mouse


    We ignore good food
    in favour of stones an wood


    I don't wanna marry
    and heavy bags carry


    I don't want no family
    cause it harks of calamity


    I don't want kids
    they grow like weeds


    I hate sons
    daughters are nuns


    I am no father
    i want no bother


    I want solitude
    on a friday afternoon


    I want to live till old age
    free as an uncaged mage


    Thus thus thus i enjoy
    until until until


    until the drum beats sound
    as a husband we are crowned


    And for a pirch of her soft hand,
    Resign the royal woods' command.


    Love is primary
    order is secondary


    for our life
    we need a wife
    for our life
    we need a wife

    Entrant 6 – Turkafinwë
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Master Kilvin was perusing my papers. Stanley thought he had found another, more effective way to imbue magical runes into metal. His method would mean they would need less energy to imbue the runes into objects. Formerly they always added the runes after the object was finished. Stanley's method would be to imbue them while the metal was hot. While Kilvin was looking at the papers, I tried to look calm but inside I was as nervous as a boy having his first kiss. Kilvin looked up from his desk into the my eyes.

    “It looks plausible.” was what Master Kilvin said.

    I was thrilled to hear this because that meant I could use the forge to try out my theory.

    “Take what you need from the forge and start smithing. I'll be watching.” the Master said.

    Now I was a bit nervous as I didn't want to fail in front of my tutor. To make matters worse the forge was filled with other students all looking at me in a studious fashion. I chose an ambitious plan to impress both Master Kilvin and my fellow students especially Lianne, whom I fancied. A sympathy lamp would do.

    I started by gathering all the ingredients. Steel, silver, a obsidian plate and glass. I started by making the steel frame. I casted the liquid metal into the lamp holder mold and started hammering it into shape. Once in shape the most difficult part of it had to happen. While the metal was in a state between liquid and solid I pressed the binding rune Ule onto it, binding the atmoshperes' warmth to the lamp by calling the name of fire while pressing the rune onto the steel's surface.

    I continued with smelting the silver and glass. The silver I used to submerge the steel holder in giving it a nice shine to it. The glass I shaped in the form of a chalice while I imbued the seeking rune Reh as well as the transfer rune Urch while at the same thing calling the name of fire again and the name of light respectively. With this done I attached the obsidian plate on top of the glass chalice.

    I used wood to connect the chalice and holder but not directly to one another. For this I used a piece of silver which could connect and disconnect the two with a simple switch.

    The moment of truth was here. As I turned the switch on and the two pieces connected, the lamp shone in a bright red colour. Everyone was in awe and not in the least myself. Master Kilvin came over to look at my creation.

    “Fascinating! This has given us all new insights about imbueing runes with this manner of procedure.” the Master said, pride shining on his pupil.

    I was very pleased about myself not only because of my succes, but also because Lianne was beaming at me. What more could I want.



    TotW 278 – Fencing
    Dedication, Masters, Training, Control,Death
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    A picture from Paulsen Hektor Mair's manual on how to fight with a long sword.

    Winner – Kilo11
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Blackness and dust, that is all there is. You may disagree, pointing out the uncountable planets and stars, the distant galaxies twinkling their way through the night, but in the grandest scale of things, there are only two realities; blackness and dust.

    I once watched a score or so of the old vidocs, crude antique videos which depicted the way humans imagined space to be, the way they thought we would travel and fight across the cosmos. Every battle took place just beyond the brilliancy of a star, swirling against the gravity wells of planets and moons, or ricocheting between the stones and ice of asteroid belts. They imagined space to be full of beauty and matter, and thought themselves mighty enough that through a dozen or so years of dedication and training they, in their fanciful starfighters, could become masters of its outermost reaches.

    They were wrong.

    In the gulfs between worlds there are too few things of substance to validate the images they had in their heads, and when the first men thought to fight at such distances and speeds they quickly found themselves wanting. A man in his cockpit could see only two things; blackness and dust. The stars might twinkle and the flecks of ice and mineral might move, but these serve only to distract, and by the time the man notices that one particular flash of light is moving too quickly, too purposefully, it is too late.

    Humans found themselves unable to control the reaches of space, unable to grasp or interact with a world whose dimensions were so far beyond their own, and so they created me and my kind.

    I am a Sabre, a blade in the dark, ever poised to strike. I am not a person, for I am not free, and humanity has ever been jealous in their extension of freedom to others, even of their own kind. However, I am sentient.

    You may think this a contradiction, but you are wrong. Sentience is not freedom or thought, it is the ability to feel. Humanity recognized that if we could feel, we could hurt, and in being hurt learn to fear. They knew the power of fear, its ability to drive us, to foster true genius in adversity, and they endowed us with a double helping.

    Fear is my world now, my own constellation of forces out beyond the edges of civilized space. I sit and watch, guardian of a system who long ago forgot my presence, and I fear. Fear the pain of an incoming missile or gamma burst. Fear that I will never again leave this place. Fear the desolation of death.

    There is a flash of light out beyond The Belt, coming towards me. I must act quickly. I spool down my engines and cool the weapons arrays, finally seeing the possibilities so long hidden. I may still choose, and in choosing be freed.

    There is a flicker in the night and one less blade in the dark.

    Entrant 2 – Maehdros
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Julia was watching the two masters at work, circling each other with such ferocity. Her one hand was clasping the reclined chair she was occupying, the other slowly raising a grape to her mouth. As she chewed the sweet fruit, one of the sparring partners gained controlof the situation, outwitting and outflanking the other.

    The lesser of the two competitors started fighting less like a refined gentleman, more like a cornered animal, lashing out randomly, and oh so predictably. Julia was beginning to get bored by the show and wished the obvious victor would just end it already, when something strange happened: Contestant number one was much more talented, but had clearly forgot some of the most basic training, as the flow of the combat became sloppy and overconfident. The underdog, sensing and seizing their moment, leapt forward with furious dedication, armed with new morale and courage.

    Again the tide turned, and the two were evenly matched, trading blows hither and fro like gladiators of old. Circling each other on the small stage the smaller of the two participants, who had previously been pummelled and pushed, gained a clear upper hand, and with a slam the weight of which had never been seen before, felled their opponent. Curious eyes left the struggling duellers in favour of the Leader, who sat atop a great throne in the far end of the room. Julia’s eyes travelled with the others’.

    The imposing shape on the other side of the theatre shoop its head and frowned, and with a single word the victorious champion opened the gates of death, allowing the defeated opponent through.

    Julia walked home after a night of excitement and passionate combat, thinking slam poetry really was something else.

    Entrant 3 – San Felipe
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Flames licked the burning walls of the great city of Persepolis. Arrows descended down upon the outnumbered Persian soldiers. Greeks and Macedonian Hoplites poured into the city, ravaging barbarians that raped and killed the innocent. Men were thrown out of their houses, their wives dragged while they screamed. The walls were being brought down by flaming rocks, crushing them as if a giant had suddenly come alive. Flaming rocks smashed into a wall, bringing the massive blocks of stone to crush a group of women and children. Children were slaughtered by the hour. Zaramaxes watched with the determination of a young man watching his home, his world being destroyed that night. And it would remain in his memory forever. He learned one important lesson that night. Hunt. Or be hunted.


    Anoshiruvan, the leader of the Immortals watched from the palace walls before turning to Zaramaxes and the young remaining men of the once legendary immortal band of soldiers that the world had feared. All that training for hundreds of years, gone to waste towards barbarians that desecrated their city. 'I will not waste words with you. My brothers and yours died at Gauglema. Our great Empire is burnt to the ground.' Zaramaxes sensed the growing anger in Ansoshiruvan's voice. 'Our legacy will be remembered for decades to come. They will talk of the Immortals that stood against the Spartans, the Immortals that stood against Alexander, but they will not talk about us. The world you know is gone. Ariobarnazes will not be able to hold them off for much longer. So understand when I say this. Run when we have lost. Make a new life. You young ones don't deserve such a fate.'


    Zaramaxes replied. 'Anoshiruvan! We'd rather die than let these bastard Greeks take over the city. We'll fight to the last!'


    A women's scream etched deep into the ears of the young Immortals who retracted uncomfortably, fuming with rage. Anoshiruvan smiled sadly. 'I admire your dedication Zaramxes. But I am your master. You hear the sound of that woman? A wife, a mother, a young girl. Nothing. We are cursed to see such cruel days. Ahura Mazda must be weeping at the sight of this destruction. But mark my words. One day, we will emerge again and drive the Greeks all the way back to their homeland. We were nomads once. We'll become nomads again. We'll rebuild our Empire once again. And Alexander's Empire will split into squabbling fragments.'


    The doors pounded. Zaramaxes held his spear at the tip of his shield. The Immortals arranged themselves into a controlled formation. Anoshiruvan stood at the front. 'Hold! DEATH COMES TO THE COWARDS! MAY AHURA MAZDA BLESS YOU IN HEAVEN BROTHERS! TO ME! KILL EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM!'


    Zaramaxes stood on the ruins of the city he had once lived in forty years ago and wept. He had lost everything, his love, his family. A resurgence of hope, however, filled his heart. A new life. A new start.

    Entrant 4 – NorseThing
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The fire burned with the gentle glow of coals as the evening cooking fire was no longer needed. Captain Antonio da Ferrara had been training hard and the long day was now ending. He looked to his teacher, the long sword legend of Mantua -- Francesco da Mantua. He then spoke, "Master, I need to learn more control of this weapon, the long sword. It was so much easier weilding an axe where a good swing meeting a target ended the fight. Such weapons seem so much more efficient. Why do you and others insist on taking up the long sword?"
     
    Francesco responded, "The axe either hits or misses it's target. If hit or miss suits you, then I wish you happiness in your fairly short life."
     
    "What do you mean? Are you wishing me to die?"
     
    Francesco quickly spoke, "No, I wish you a long life with the use of a long sword. Death is to be avoided but only if consistent with you values for living. This is why you have commited with such dedication to learn the style and the flair of this lighter weapon."
     
    Captain Antonio sighed and oped the sigh was not heard by Francesco. It ha been a long day of training. Perhaps my body is simply being unsympathetic to our discussion. My apologies. It is time for me to rest. I know you have planned for a long day again. Starting at dawn?"
     
    "No Antonio. I have planned nothing for the morning. Howeer, there is a need to practice your skills on this bright night while the moon is high and casting a soft light. This is differant from the brightness of day. You will need to be familiar with the use of the sword in all conditions."
     
    Captain Antonio rose. He quickly unshethed his sword to prepare for yet a longer day than he had thought necessary.
     
    Francesco then added, "It is important to remember that a battle does not end when you want to sleep. Howeer, this training is not a battle. Go to bed my young lad. Dream. Tommorrow we will train some more. The theme will be stamina."



    Tale of the Week 279: The Magic Sword

    Good, Evil, Blade, Power, Quick
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    This is Part One of a TotW - Series calles "Twist a Cliché". Inspired by Lortano's article In Praise of Cliché, the idea is that each TotW would present a character, setting or subject which has become a cliché. The challenge is to 'twist the cliché' - to add something different, unexpected or surprising[/CENTER]

    The Magic Sword
    We've all read stories where the magic sword miraculously falls into the hands of the hero - and only the hero. Without the magic sword, the hero cannot succeed in his quest, and the magic sword's sole purpose is to be used by the hero to complete his quest. Well, your story must contain a magic sword, but don't write one of those stories. Tell us something different...


    Winner – Kilo11
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    The bandit leaps forward, a quick motion Matt could never counter. Clumsily, the blade drags his arm to parry the blow, crowing insults as it does so. Their swords meet with a clash and before he can stop it his own weapon is thrusting forward. It digs into the attacker’s left thigh, by the sound of things chipping the bone along the way.

    “Ach, weel, it looks like yer man will never be a dancer.” The sword brightly taunts in brittle tones, its sound skipping ears and instead cutting straight into thought.

    Matt snarls a warning to it even as the other men close in. As each moves to strike the dark blade meets them, cutting into legs and toes with an evil grin. The sword long ago lost its desire to kill, but old habits die hard and the taste for blood must be met one way or another. Flashing iron and flushing insults dance over the moor for only minutes and as suddenly as it began the fray ends.

    At this point another tale might say how eerily silent the high grasses became, how Matt was alone with the wind and the sighing grasslands. However, other tales would not include Morn, the Lightbringer’s Sword.

    Morn was forged in the First Days, and had by its ragged edge taken armies into the dark. But after an age of killing it had lost its lust for death, and in a search for peace found Matt, a clumsy shepherd boy too good for his own good. They had now fought countless enemies together, and Morn always cut down those who stood against the champion-fool, but never again would that blade swing a death-blow. And so Matt stands amidst a semi-circle of reeking bandits unable to move, screaming in agony, anger, and embarrassment at their defeat.

    With the moaning loud in his ears he steps away from the wounded men and holds Morn at arm’s-length, staring hard at the simple hilt with its odd cross-hatch pattern. “Happy?” he asks mercilessly. “One more refuge lost, burned out by fools looking for a magic sword that grants great power, and again we’re on the road, you no closer to that warm mantle where I can hang you up for a decent night’s sleep.” Matt continues staring at Morn until the dark metal begins to shift beneath his gaze, desperately trying to turn its back on him.

    A’m sorry.

    “I couldn’t hear you there.” Matt says.

    “A’m sorry.” Morn repeats more loudly. “A’ll keep me mouth shut when next we’re riding through wild country.”

    “And?” Matt presses.

    “And a’ll ‘member that it’s yus who’s goin’ tae hang me high over the mantle when all’s done.”

    “Right.” Matt concludes, visibly satisfied. Then, as if to ease the burden, he twists his lips into a devilish grin. “It was a bit fun that time though, eh?”

    Morn is silent, but a certain trick of the light suggests that the cold metal is somehow winking in answer.

    Entrant 2 – Zeus Almighty
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Garbed in robes of the purest white, with the slightest golden shimmer, the elf paced in the bowels of the Fortress of Ghadrik. Battlecries and whimpers of those abasing themselves to their enemies both echoed down the tunnel that led to this undercroft in which the elf waited. Filling the room was a statue against the opposite wall of the tunnel and some benches. The statue was seven feet of stone and covered in the dust of an age and the impurity of the goblin folk that inhabited these hallowed walls. It was the end of a journey. Long had the elf critiqued this moment as he peered into the tides of time. Many times and more he lived this epoch-making night. With his guidance the Judge Primus would finally succeed in reclaiming this Fortress from the goblins. With a magical Blade, ordained by the Holiest White Magi, the goblins occupancy of this mighty fortress would come to a swift end. The White Magi did not know that it was forged by the elf himself, and with blood-magic, a bit of trickery he found himself proud of.

    A bit of EVIL to achieve the greatest GOOD.


    That is what the elf reasoned and Judge Primus had not been the wiser. It was never dulled, seemed to suggest where to strike, and rendered Judge Primus invulnerable to most magic. It was as if Judge Primus had been chosen by the gods. A thought that granted the elf pleasure immeasurable.


    I thought he would have made QUICK work of the goblins. What is taking him so long?


    The elf moved his fingers rhythmically in the direction of the statue. His eyes radiated with a glow as he recited words in a language long lost to but a few. As he sang the statue began to mirror that glow. A smile slunk across his face and his unnaturally smooth skin wrinkled for but a moment. In that moment he finally heard the panting and heaving of a man making his way down the tunnel. The Judge Primus emerged from the precipice of the room, armor clinking and magic sword in hand, to find the elf alone in the undercroft.
    “I thought you would fight by my side Elf,” the Judge Primus said.
    “Didn’t I,” the elf questioned mordantly, still facing the statue.
    “Do not play games Saelthas the Fortress is taken. Even without you all I needed was Mordare,” the Judge Primus spoke confidently kissing his magical blade.
    “Judge Thalimgard you have ushered in a new era today,” Saelthas turned to congratulate the Judge. “My era.”
    With those words Thalimgard found himself voiceless. He found himself shrouded in darkness. Then Thalimgard’s lifeless body lay at the feet of Saelthas as he returned from a trance.
    “My Mordare beguiled you into conceit. I granted you all your POWER. Chosen by the gods…nearly. You were chosen by me,” Saelthas looked back to the glowing statue balefully.

    Divinity will be mine



    Entrant 3 – NorseThing
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Captain Antonio da Ferrara wakened with the first light of morning. sleeping under the moonlight was extremely restful. He stretched. He even yawned a bit. Now fully awake, he began to wash. His aide had already prepared the water and laid out his fresh uniform. The boots and the silver badge that indicated nobility were polished an thus reflected the bright morning rays. The tunic was a bright green and the leggings a duller version of the same. The fresh color can only be from a new tunic, but Antonio did not even take notice at first. Then he noticed. He made a small smile. His aide truly looks out for him.
     
    He had been training hard the prior day. He looked about for his teacher. Francesco da Mantua must have arisen even earlier and was not in sight. So, more out of habit than by design, Antonio began his early morning stretching exercises. After a few good stretching thrusts and knee bends, he reached for his long sword. He continued the stretching with the sword comfortably in hand. It was true. Francesco had stated, The long sword was indeed becoming a part of his arm. Just as a glove properly fitted to is hand, it was natural to hold and natural to think the sword was an extension of his body.
     
    Antonio was not just awake, but feeling a bit playful. Young men are often playful when showing off, but showing off requires practice. He reached down and grabbed a short length of light-weight tinned copper chain and tossed it into the air. This was not a working chain. He used this decorative chain to practice some sword techniques. With a quick swipe, the chain was cleanly cut into two. Another swipe by the blade. The chain was now in four pieces falling towards the ground. The power of a final swipe and the four became six. More practice was needed to make this a clean trick of one into eight. He gathered up the pieces and simply dumped them onto a pile of chains. He went off looking for Francesco. He was probably down by the stream. Francesco was not the type to head into town looking for amusement. So Antonio made a logical choice and headed towards the town.
     
    Unknown to Antonio, a young lad was out gathering up some small brush to start a morning cooking fire for his mother. He had watched Antonio as he practiced the 'trick' with chain. He was amazed. So amazed he bravely headed into the encampment after Antonio had left. He looked towards the pile of chains and picked up a very heavy short piece of chain. The lad thought to himself, "This is truly magic to cut so heavy a chain. This Antonio may be our hero against the evil tyrants of the neighboring town." The lad then ran off towards the town to tell the story of the hero with the magical sword.

    A legend was born!

    Entrant 4 – mad orc
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    "Yes continue" said the doctor.
    "Umm, so yes, i eventually found the blade doctor, but here's the most unbelievable part, the blade was magical, you believe in magic, don't you doc?" i asked.
    "Umm, for now, let's say i do" he replied.
    "Yes, so at first i thought that finally i had done something noteworthy in my life, with this magic sword i thought i would be a winner in life, but then....................."
    "What?" asked the doc.
    "Then those evil incidents began to happen, those incidents for which i am taking your help,
    they started out naively, one evening, while i was having dinner i heard a strange sound from the upstairs room, when i went in to check, the door of the room closed behind me, and lo.......................the whole scene seemingly changed, i was not in my bedroom anymore, gone were my rich carpets replaced with an old wooden floor, gone was the concrete ceiling, replaced with a wooden one, no, i was back in that same old room where i had knifed Girgio to death 20 years earlier in the quest of that sword, he was pleading before me, but i killed him." i paused for a drink.
    "What happened next ?" asked the Doc.


    "Then as suddenly as it had came, the scene changed back to my bedroom and lying on the floor, with a fluroscent glow on it was the sword !" i said.


    "Hmm, good, interesting", said the doc.


    "The second incident took place when the power was out one evening, i decided to visit my outhouse, but guess what, the evil blade was glowing inside there, i could see it from the window, despite that, i garnered up courage to go inside, the scene changed again.....................................i was back on the deck of that ship where i had shot that nasty bellboy who wouldn't let me disembark on the blade island, he begged for me not to shoot him but i shot him anyway, his death was a quick and painless one and yet.........."


    "So, what do you think doc?" i asked.


    The Doctor replied immediately "You know Mr.Warden, in psychology, we are taught one important thing about criminals, they may run from the crime scene on the physical earth, but the crime scene in their minds, no................................they can't escape that !"

    Entrant 5 – Adamat
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    It beamed at him, a light brighter than the sun contained in this cave of legend. He’d been forced to leave all his companions behind. They’d fallen prey to the machinations and traps placed all along the route, all to protect this blade. He came closer, shielding his eyes. He reached out, and the light seemed to subdue as his fingers came closer and closer to its hilt. His fingers curled, and a sudden surge of power came over him. It was time to return to the overworld, time to restore good to his homeland.

    He’d come across his companions as he made his way out of the cave. Brave, loyal, committed, all of them. All of them, now dead. Only the brave knight had still been breathing, eyes wide as he saw the sword of legend. He tried to utter a word, but it was no use. The blade had sufficed to put an end to brave Sir Knight’s suffering, its edge unequaled by any that the Chosen had held before. And then, the entrance of the cave up ahead. The daylight had subdued, but the shimmering of the sword seemed to lead the way, finding a quick route out of the woodland.

    It seemed like he was too late. Up ahead, the city crested the horizon. Fires raged all along the many districts, coloring the night red and orange. He sped up his pace. His nemesis was close, he could feel it. With the enchanted sword in his possession, he’d vanquish the threat.

    The foe was everywhere, littering the road. They were easily dispatched, coloring the fields red with their evil, tainted blood. Soon, he’d reached the city gates. One, two, three twisted monstrosities were defeated before he could enter, racing up the winding stairs to the palace above. The further he came, the more the sword began to glow and pulsate. He was getting closer and closer.

    The palace was easily breached, and now he stood eye in eye with the immortal threat. Fearing the power of the blade, the monster seemed to cower in a corner, unable to fight back. Ten paces, and he held the once-powerful, now utterly pitiful thing by its throat, raising it off the ground. One more thrust, and it would be over. A sharp pain pierced his sword-arm, and then his chest, and then his entire body. His strength was fading, he needed to be quick. It was hard, harder than he could have imagined. His grip wasn’t strong enough. He dropped the sword.

    The fire was gone, but the pain remained. The fiend had disappeared, and in its place lay the good King. He looked down, his chest full of bolts. From all sides, the palace guard closed in, their spears pointed at him. “It’s over, you demon,” one said, before piercing his heart. He fell forward. The last thing he saw was the sword, a red hue emanating from the twisted metal.



    TotW 280 – The Flowers of Evil

    Addiction, Ennui, Ideal, Love, Poetry
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 



    Winner – NorseThing
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The Solitare Oriental Poppy
     
    James looked at the flower vase containing one single stem. This was a blood red bloom of an oriental poppy from his garden. He was in love with the one flower as it lay in the dry vase waiting to be fed some moisture to keep it vibrant. The flower vase was only pressed glass, but he imagined it to be hand crafted cut leaded glass. He could even see in his mind the beauty of the rainbows as the cut facets reflected the morning light.
     
    This was the ideal setting with the morning light. He began to apply the gloss to the canvas preparing to capture this moment for all time. James remembered back to the days when he would stare at similar blooms. He could imagine all sorts of stories. Thoughts of Georgia O'Keeffe started to form in his mind. The iconic bleached skulls. An imperfect and ancient skull with a rose settled upon it as if it was always a natural way of things. This was from his memory of her paintings. The paintings were poetry on canvas.
     
    Perhaps it was an addiction with her, but her fascination with the bleached bones of the desert southwest had brought James to New Mexico. The land of those bleached bones. The land of the unchanging desert sand that wore against everything exposed. The sun that reflected off the distant hills with waves of heat shimering off of the desert floor. The muted banded colors of the distant buttes. These were the images that O'Keeffe had captured at the Ghost Ranch. Time so eternal that ennui would overcome him.
     
    There was no time to waste. This must be started with the perfect light. He must try to capture the moment in time for all to appreciate. With that, he took his knife and began to apply the paint to the canvas. The vibrant and the muted were arranged on his palette ready to begin his most recent attempt at imortality of a solitare oriental poppy.

    Entrant 2 – Turkafinwë
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Flowers of Evil
    In a flowerbed two flowers grew close to each other, one of control and one of freedom, him and her together. A combination that couldn't last. Yet he persisted in his addiction of her, a her that didn't exist. Her ideals did not match his and his idea of love did not match hers. A tragedy in the making. Here she continued to wither and he continued to grow wroth. Thus the seeds of evil were sown.

    All around other flowers were affected by these seeds and looked in anguish and pain at the pair of them. A great divide occured with each flower choosing his and her allegiance to one of the two. It was a divide in principles not of friends and enemies. Yet the divide was done in secret and every flower held his thoughts to himself. Thus the storm was created amidst the flowerbed.

    The days wore on and she grew weary of his attempts to ensare her with his poetry. She was of freedom and detested his attempts of control on her, for that was his nature. After a while all she could feel was ennui, a weariness of all. She wanted it to end but feared the destruction of all, so she kept her silence and waited. Thus everyone saw the signs of the coming storm drawing near.

    Dark clouds filled the sky as the fateful day came when all things could end and the flowers shivered in fear. Would everything they knew end or could everything go back to how things were before?

    Anxiety, pain and uncertainty were the basis of this evil and it affected the flowerbed immensly. Whatever may come the seeds of evil would surely sprout in such ground and the flowers of evil would bloom before the end.

    Entrant 3 – Heiro de Bodemloze
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    MODERN LOVE

    Drinking from this cup had become an addiction. I left as quickly after as I felt was appropriate,
    and felt a sigh of relief let slip as I slammed shut the door of my car and started it up. The nights
    always seemed the same these days. A routine was in place and it was a pattern I found harder
    and harder to challenge. It was why I was speeding at two in the morning, down a highway I had
    entirely to myself. Me and this unrelenting ennui.

    I had once had a clear vision, but that all seemed lost now. I was lost too. In something else. Was
    it love? No, I thought not. That would be strange.

    The story was of the girl-next-door, who I knew from way before, back when we were kids. We had
    been friends then, of course, we played on the streets, I shared my toys and she shared her treehouse.
    Now we were grown up and the bliss of an ideal adolescence replaced by something intangible
    and implicit.

    I thought the answers might lie in poetry, it’s where I can usually see so clearly the things that are
    normally so hard to comprehend. But again, what was my query?

    [FONT=HelveticaNeue]I rolled down both the windows and felt the wind rampaging through the car, the thunderous noise
    drowning out the smooth jazz playing over the radio and the thoughts racing through my mind too.

    It would keep me sane for tonight.


    Entrant 4 – mad orc
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    You know how i hated magic and medivalism since i was a kid? Now, don't get me wrong, i do love reading magical stories and poetry, but for their literary value alone. Magic just doesn't strike in my mind. All the foolish looking princes, the cliche demons,the knights, yes, in the modern day people do try to revise the cliches, give them a new look, but ultimately, they and me(the reader) both know that its almost impossible.


    Now i personally always like writing and reading stories which are based on the real world. Prefarrably closer in time to the present day. But today i am going to be writing a magical story because half the kids on the planet have an addiction to reading them. The trick according to me is writing in dense paragraphs, strange names and difficult languages.


    Let's start and write the ideal magic medieval story.


    'In the company of the beautiful princess of Argoujlot(man i just love randomly typing letters) he always found his Ennui banished. But lo, suddenly in his golden embossed window he saw the evil demonic bird from Joktrafo preaching hate.Suddenly the bird uttered the holy words of the ancient demoness Flopderana. The prince shouted, evil bird, the lord Potscvb will protect me from you. Saying so, he took up the golden cross and..................'


    Now dude, dude, wait up man, i know your addiction to these strange gods and their names, but why show disrespect to those 'gods' by integrating the Catholic christian religion into their worship? Anyway, lets continue.


    'The bird laughed 'Hahahahahaha' , petty prince, your end is near"


    Gentleman stop, why is the bird laughing in a human voice, and if he is a prince, can't he just call some servants, army, bodyguards for help, huh.....................


    'The prince took out his sword and charged...........................


    (Point to note, he is charging his own window and a bird is sitting on it, probability of the sword blow connecting, certainly below 0.2, and why is he using a sword when he can simply shoot a magical spell or whatever !)


    'The demonic bird also uttered the war cry of 'Hail Akamytu' and attacked'


    In the ensuing fight, the prince won and killed the bird and then he said to the bird, "Tell your gods that the only real god is Potscvb"


    Ah, Monotheism winning over Polytheism...................cool


    Lets, continue on with the story..................................................................................................tomorrow when i am 7 pegs down. Ok kids, huh, now run, run i tell you.

    Entrant 5 – Kilo11
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    I walked from darkened Hangman’s Green,
    Walked to my true love waiting,
    And never were the foe-men seen,
    Nor their sharp blades so hating.
    With ennui in my foolish heart
    I walked so slow and carelessly.
    Now my love and I are torn apart
    And evil is blossomed early.

    Their blood for hers I made them pay
    By rifle-fire and cutlass.
    To no avail they’d beg and pray,
    A poetry in justice.
    Through wood and bog and wrack and wreck
    I’ve hunted all who wronged me.
    Now addiction’s snare lays round my neck
    While the blooms of hate boom round me.

    I’ve forgotten my fair true love’s voice
    And all memory of beauty.
    Now vengeful pain is my only joy,
    My task and chore and duty.
    Each year I rove from glen to glen,
    A ghost in martial livery
    And with flintlock trained on evil men
    The flowers of evil bloom early.

    And now I fear I’ve lost more than
    Mere love and faith ideal,
    For I cannot shake this bloody plan
    Or undo the pain I feel.
    In vain I search for peace of mind
    In every joy around me
    But when all is said and done I’ll find
    That evil still blooms around me.

    Last edited by Turkafinwë; March 22, 2019 at 08:32 AM. Reason: amended faults in the template
    Under the patronage of Shankbot de Bodemloze

  6. #66

    Default Re: TotW Story Archive

    TotW 281 – The Hero of Legends!
    knight, courage, defiance, courage, mountains
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    Picture of the statue of Ogier the Dane by Hans Peder Pedersen-Dan

    Winner – C-Beams
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Edith pushed her way through the brambles. She did not feel the cut of thorns, only the sting of tears.

    “Madam,” called the maid behind her. “I beg of you – do not go, do not endanger your life.”

    Edith stopped as she came upon the edge of the woods and the foot of the very hill itself. The grassy slope shone in the moonlight, wet with blood and the glimmer of shattered armour. The air was thick with the smell of flesh; flies buzzed as dogs tore scraps from the dead. Through the dark, Edith could see scavengers pull boots from feet and rings from fingers.

    She turned back to the maid. “My King will not be laid bare upon this mountain of death. Nor shall I let his crown fall into the hands of his foe.” Edith touched the maid’s arm. “Farewell, sweet dear.” Edith stepped from the trees and ascended the hill under the light of the moon.

    A wind lifted her hair, fluttered her garments and touched her neck with fingers of ice. As she looked upon the slain she recalled her court. A hall of loyal knights and proud squires. A hall of prestige. A hall of God. Edith fell to her knees; her chest was pained by grief, her eyes by tears.

    She felt her shoulder touched by a hand, her neck by a knife.

    “The wrong place for a woman to be,” a voice said as another laughed. “Give us your jewels and be on your way home.”

    Edith's eyes opened and she rose before the two men. “My home is lost, as is my husband. There is nought you can take but my life. Do as you wish. But know that you stand before the wife of a king who died in defiance and honour – as will I.”

    Edith pulled out a dagger; the blade flashed silver, her hand steady.

    The men stepped away.

    “Queen Edith?” the man with the knife exclaimed. He bowed his head and raised a hand towards the hill’s crest. “Forgive our ways. Our King lays beneath his banner, spoiled by the enemy but never by his countrymen. Let us lead you to his place of rest.”

    They led Edith to the crest of the hill where the banner hung, emblazoned with a golden lion. Beneath, lay her king and his crown. She turned to the two men.

    “Be true to your King; bare his body to a place free of his enemy, as I will do for his crown.” Edith looked to the sky. “With courage and Gods help, we can defeat our Norman foe. Without…then we are lost to their conquest.”

    Edith crouched and placed her palm upon King Harold's bloodied chest. “Until we meet again my love.” She kissed his cheek, rose and descended the slope as the two men watched her fade from sight.

    Above, clouds masked the moon and the hill was cast into shadow.

    Entrant 2 – NorseThing
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    King John

    It is a bright sunny summer day in Iowa. Rolling hills near the river were perfect for kids and their games. In the winter sleds, some with the newer steel runners, but most with waxed wooden runners, tobaggan down Crescent Hill with what looked like wild abandon to all who looked on. The gang knew better. Experience taught the most reckless that control was needed in flying down the icy snow packed hill.
     
    Today, 'Big' James was with the gang playing King Of the Mountain. As was usual, James was standing at the top of Crescent Hill as the king. He would stand in defiance of all claiments to the throne. The king must have the courage of Knight of the Round Table to stand firm and hold his ground. At the moment, James was the king. But the gang, being the gang, could not let this remain without an organized effort to topple the king. Topple him they did. James fell. Then the most terrible accident happened as James was not able to rise. His leg was broken. Jack could now be the king even though he was a bit smaller, reflecting the two year advantage most of the gang had on him. He had never been the king in all the days the gang played this game.
     
    James was sprawled onto the ground while crying out in pain. Rather than claim to be King of the Mountain, Jack picked James up and placed him on one of the summer potato sack sledding bags. Down the hill he flew with James in tow on the potato sack. He rushed to the nearest house and called out. Soon James was at the hospital to have the break set. This day more than any other, Jack was truly the King of the Mountain.


    Entrant 3 – Kilo11
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    “For the love of Galan you are incessant. Keep quiet!”

    “Ach, boy, A’m not as lood as you seem to think. After all, you’re only hearing me in your oon heid.”

    “Don’t remind me.” Matt whispers, his words dripping with day-old exasperation warmed by the close steppe sun. Ahead of them is a low ruinous wall, half-consumed by ivy, time, and one industrious rabbit who long ago decided a burrow lined in smooth cut stone would do nicely. Behind that wall lays a Knight gently snoring through a nose broken as often as promises.

    “What are we doing here anyway?” the boy snaps, the words clipped and accusing. “I thought you were done with this sort of thing, and you know I won’t go along with this.”

    “Oh, A know it right enough, but you seems to be thinkin’ that A’ll be needing yer leave.”

    Matt peers over the wall and sees beside the man two women of negotiable affection affectionately negotiating with a tightly bound sack of jingling opportunity and he makes a decision. “Well, if you’re going to be like that, I think we might just be moving along then.” Matt says nonchalantly, bluffing his way to higher ground.

    “Right right.” Morn peevishly responds. “If you must know that there moontain of courage had me by me pommel some ways back and I dare say I wasnae pleased with the task he put me to.” The blade’s hue darkens slightly at the memory, flashes of violet and jade pulsating along the cross-guards and fuller. “’Tis no’ right to use a thing in such ways.”

    Generously, Matt lays Morn aside, turning the blade’s back on him, but still he can see throbbing along its edges veins of scarlet and chartreuse, traces of shame and regret forced upon him by alien hands. Matt no longer whispers, but his voice remains low, calm. “Morn,” he begins, “you are no longer in the service of a king or lord or even some petty knight.” Turning the blade back around Matt continues. “And you certainly do not serve me. You serve only yourself, and I am here as your friend. So tell me, what would you have us do?”

    For a moment the blade is silent, colors gently shifting and blending along its length as it contemplates a new world of choice and freedom. “A would have us do a thing never ‘fore done by my kind. A would have us do justice!” Morn finally says, defiance igniting his words as they sear into Matt’s mind.

    “Then justice it is.” Matt answers. Morn leaps into his hands as Matt leaps over the wall, scattering the women and their dubious gains, and the knight rather regretfully wakes to the point of a sword held at his throat.

    The lines and patterns of Morn swirl and shift and slowly the knight’s eyes widen in fear as recognition dawns. “Ach, so ye do ‘member me.” Morn taunts. “Then that will save us some explaining.”



    TotW 282 – The Sculptor's Dream
    Ivory, Sublime, Create, Turmoil, Serene
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    Winner – C-Beams
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    Duty First


    Lieutenant Reynolds removed his helmet and wiped his brow as he gaped in awe.

    Sublime,” he whispered as the sun glazed over his brass buttons.

    He turned and looked for his deputy amongst the throng of soldiers and African tribesmen.

    “Smith,” he called over the din of the natives' settlement. “Smith, come quick. Come and see this.”

    Smith appeared, his face flush as he panted. “I’ve looked everywhere, Lieutenant, but I think Fort William’s messenger is still yet to arrive.”

    “Never mind that, Smith. Just look at this.” Reynolds pointed his cane towards a small thatched temple. “Have you seen anything like it?”

    Smith shielded his eyes and squinted through the sunlight. “My word, it’s beautiful.”

    The building was no larger than a house and built from earth and wood. Embedded into its walls were ivory carvings, each crafted with fine precision. Reynolds and Smith smiled as they noted the depictions of the tribes' customs, their history and their religion.

    Smith pulled out his notebook and pencil.

    “There,” Reynolds said as he pointed to a charcoal image of figures dancing. “Sketch that first. I think it is an origins tale.”

    Smith began his sketch, then paused. “You were right, Sir,” he said as he looked to Reynolds. “We really could find proof these people are more than mere savages.”

    “Indeed,” Reynolds said as he nodded and tapped his cane to his chin. “With this evidence, we can show no ‘enlightenment’ is needed here. Now the Crown will have to create a new policy towards the tribes.”

    Reynolds closed his eyes and breathed in the smell of earth and herbs as a bird hopped over the temple’s thatch. “These lands are a beauty, Smith. More serene than any English countryside, I’d say.”

    “Yes, sir,” Smith said as he tugged his collar and resumed his sketch. “If a little too hot at times.”

    “Lieutenant Reynolds,” a messenger called from the crowd behind them.

    “Ah, private,” Lieutenant Reynolds said as they saluted one another. “Good to see you are alive and well. Your dally had us quite worried.”

    “Apologies,” the messenger said as he brushed clean his tunic. “Turmoil struck Fort William last night when the natives launched a raid.”

    “A raid, you say?” Reynolds frowned. “That is dire news.”

    “Indeed, sir. And I had to wait whilst Commander Baker issued you new orders.”

    The messenger clapped his heels together and handed Reynolds a telegram.

    Reynolds opened the envelope and read the letter. His jaw clenched and he shook his head.

    “Smith,” he said without turning. “Stop your sketching, Smith.”

    “Stop?” Smith asked as he looked up.

    “We’ve received new orders. The tribes have raided Fort William and we are instructed to raze this settlement.”

    “Raze?” Smith lowered his hands. “What about the temple here?”

    “Duty first, Smith,” Reynolds said with a sigh. “Burn it.”

    Entrant 2 – Kilo11
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    In a flash of blinding white and offensive violet he is there, standing on the long plain, the crimson skies above mercilessly showing the land the colors of its future. For now the setting is calm, almost serene, but a hint of blackness on the horizon intimates the coming of the storm. It will break before they do, and its rains will fail to wash away the filth of this day, taking with it nothing but this sublime moment beneath the blood-red sky.

    As he stands staring at the clouds and ravens, those harbingers of doom, the men rush past him. There are thousands, tightly packed with spears laid over shields, shoulder to shoulder, but not one so much as brushes his sleeve. Their serried ranks peel apart for an instant and then rejoin, a rock in the stream to be passed without incident and forgotten.

    His eyes still upturned, his gaze momentarily flickers as a piercing chorus of whistling demons arcs across the heavens. He follows them to their destination and sees in the distance the tumult and turmoil of mortal contest. Screams ring over the sound of brittle iron hungrily biting through leather and flesh, and as the din rises to a pitch a symphony of horns blasts over the plain.

    At the forefront of the enemy lines that treacherous fiend who was once called “friend” is shattering the lines of footmen, scattering them to the distant corners of the scarlet-soaked field, but slowly the long spears encircle him. A caged beast, he lashes out at any who stray within his grasp until finally, panting and exhausted atop his mound of death and glory, he falls to his knees. The long shafts have driven into him from every angle and a boy gingerly climbs the macabre mount with cold judgment in his eyes. He steps behind the traitor, pulls back his head, and drives a hallowed blade through his chest, the ornately carved ivory bursting forth and glistening with living rubies. With a cry fit to rend the heavens the boy withdraws his blade and kicks the corpse to the foot of the hill.

    And then, in a flash of blinding darkness and oppressive smoke he is back, sitting at his workbench. Before him lies a great tusk of the southern elephant, longer than a man and strong as fired oak. The sculptor twists it this way and that, searching for the faults and lines, unsure of whether it is wise to create such a thing. Then, slowly and with a heavy heart, he begins to file away the outer rind, to shape and mold it to a purpose not of its choosing.

    Entrant 3 – Turkafinwë
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    He looked up from his parchments to the construction site. The foundations had just been laid but already he could see the grand structure they were building. A temple the likes noone had ever seen before. On the parchments before him was drawn a sketch of a grand statue to the God of Turmoil. He had drawn it himself and had brought it before the Council of Seven, the rulers of the realm. They had immediatly approved of the design and commisioned him to begin his work at once. Turmoil had given life to everything and was worshipped the most by the people. A God to fear and love.

    To create a symbol in his honour was like a dream come true. He was provisioned with the finest materials from sublime marble, to ivory, gold, copper and serene silver. This would be the greatest accomplishment in his life. He felt like a small child again, excited and invigorated in his old age was not something that happened a lot to him anymore. As he grabbed his chisel and hammer he did not feel the pain in his wrists and his knees did not creak as much as they used to when bent. Today was a perfect day it seemed.

    As he wanted to put his tools to use on the salmoncoloured stone he could see the statue completed in his mind's eye. With its ruby eyes and its golden hair surrounding a troubled face which looked simultaniously joyful and saddened. A seemingly knowing half smile touched its lips, which expressed amusement and sorrow, as if to say he had seen the past and the future. A little bent over and leaning on a staff of silver with an ivory headpiece in the shape of a swirling cloud, he looked old in spite of his young appearance slim of waist and fair of face. The staff was held in its left hand while flames of copper sprout from its right. A moment the magnificent image stirred.


    Then the sculptor woke.

    Entrant 4 – mr_president
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The sun beat down on us as we rode along the road. Usually I didn’t mind our weekly trips to the market. However, we were experiencing the hottest Summer of my lifetime and having spent an afternoon selling wares in the midday sun, all I wanted to do was reach the shelter of my home. I raised my wineskin to my mouth, but all I got for my efforts was a trickle of warm water.
    “Father I’m exhausted. Can’t we stop in the shade for a break?” I asked.
    “Don’t know what you are complaining about, Beth is doing all the work. Although I suppose she could use a brake.” My father responded referring to the mule, with far more affection than he would ever show for me. He paused thoughtfully. “Tell you what. Do you see those ruins off to the left. They will provide shade and next to them there is a stream that Beth can drink from.”
    I groaned as the ruins were located some distance off the path, and I had to endure the turmoil of riding the cart through the undergrowth. The stones sent the cart bouncing painfully up and down.
    I had seen the ruins at a distance hundred of times, but it was only as I neared them that I appreciated the true splendor of them.
    “These ruins are magnificent.” I said hopping down from the cart as we arrived at them. Forgetting the stream I took out my sketch book.
    Father just shrugged untying Beth from the cart and headed over to the water.
    I set off into the ruins doing my best to commit everything to memory. The place was so serene, the only noise coming from crickets chirping. As I soaked up the atmosphere I felt at peace. The ruins turned out to be much larger than they appeared from the road. They seemed to belong to a massive building, larger than any I had ever seen. I wandered from room to room looking at the astounding architecture.
    Suddenly I stopped. Before me was an ivory statue that although worn was simply sublime. It depicted a beautiful woman, probably some long forgotten goddess. I heard my father calling in the distance. Ignoring him I began to sketch the statue.
    However, a distressing thought struck me. A master sculptor had once toiled for weeks or even months to create this work of art. It could have been the crowning jewel of a distinguished career. Yet now it lay forgotten. The poignance of this thought almost made me toss away my sketchbook. If art this outstanding could be forgotten with time, what chance would any of my art stand. Yet the statue was still standing here. Wasn’t I admiring it, and so long as one person in the world is getting enjoyment out of something does that not justify its existence?
    Father called again, and I ran to find him. Clutching my sketchbook close to me.



    TotW 283 – Starship Down
    Catastrophic, Failure, Mayday, Impact, Escape
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 



    Winner – C-Beams
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Potato


    Derrick ran from the kitchen and down the corridor as an alarm wailed. He burst onto the ship’s bridge, dropping a potato he had clutched. At the far side of the room he saw the ship’s crew huddled around Bernie the engineer. Bernie was crouched beside a terminal, pulling at its tangle of wires.

    Derrick leant on his knees to catch his breath.

    “We've got a catastrophic problem,” Doctor Julia whispered as she picked up the potato and handed it back to him. “The ship’s lost power and we’re drifting into an asteroid field.”

    “What about our shields?”

    “They're offline."

    “Christ,” Derrick said as he tucked the potato inside a pocket. “Well, what good is it to call me up here? I’m just the damn cook.”

    The doctor shrugged. “I guess you never know when a cook will come in handy.”

    Bernie stood up from the terminal and shook his head. “It’s no good. Only the alarm system has power.”

    “This is terrible,” Deputy Stacy said as she sniffed and wiped her eyes.

    Captain Harris rubbed her back. “Everything will be fine, dear. I can fix it.”

    “Fix it,” Bernie exclaimed. “You turned off the bloody shields inside an electromagnetic field. Now the batteries are completely drained. And look...” Bernie pointed through a window. Outside, several asteroids span towards them. “We’re drifting into an asteroid field – with no shields.”

    Captain Harris glanced at Deputy Stacy and lifted his chin. “I am well aware of that, Bernie. I was merely instructing Deputy Stacy on how to operate the shields. And let me remind you, this ship has a backup battery to prevent any such kind of power failure.”

    Bernie threw up his hands. “Yes, but the electromagnetic field has drained the circuitry. There’s no power to activate the back-up.”

    Captain Harris turned to the ship’s mechanic. “Harry, go below deck and perform a manual override.”

    Harry gaped at the Captain and pointed at the asteroids. “Captain, that would take an hour. We have at best ten minutes before an impact.”

    Captain Harris cleared his throat. “Well then. We’ll just have to put out a mayday call and launch the escape pods – if you can’t do your job in a timely manner.”

    Harry ground his teeth and raised a fist at the Captain.

    “Wait,” Derrick said as he fumbled the potato in his pocket.

    He raced over to Bernie. “Quick, hand me your pliers, Bernie.”

    A smile broke across the engineer’s face when he saw the potato. “You’re a genius, Derrick.” Bernie pointed at an orange wire. “Here, use this one. It’s a direct connection to the backup battery.”

    Derrick snipped the wire and pushed each end into the potato.

    “What on earth are you doing?” Captain Harris shouted. “You can’t solve our problem with a potato.”

    “It’s done.” Derrick turned to the Captain. “There’s enough current in this potato to switch on the backup battery. Now go, activate the shields before its too late – you twit.”

    Entrant 2 – Kilo11
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Mayday, mayday, mayday!” he shouted into a small object tightly cupped between his fingers.

    “What are you doing?” the woman behind him asked, genuine puzzlement for the moment washing away all fear.

    “I’m calling for help.” he responded, his words honest and slightly reproachful.

    There was a moment then in which little happened while much came to pass. Outside of the compartment worlds flashed by, streaks of green, blue, red, and gold, but between those walls there was stillness and a sort of quiet, despite the ever-present chugging from beneath. Then, in a rush, the terror and tumult came back, the impact of it nearly knocking the woman off her feet.

    “What’s your name?” she asked with forced calmness, her voice the voice of a young mother who’s suddenly found that the children have discovered the knife-block high up on the counter.

    My name?!” the man responded with disdain, throwing the object in hand against the wall and sending bits around the room. “What good is my name?! Our systems are failing and you ask me my name!”

    Still in that somehow calm voice she answered, “Yes. I am asking for your name.”

    Seemingly for no other reason than to quiet her, the man snapped, “John, if you must know. But woman, can’t you see how catastrophic this all is?”

    “Yes, John.” she said coolly. “It is indeed a catastrophe, and I am just trying to find a way for us to escape.”

    Slightly mollified he mumbled something beneath his breath and returned to the board in front of him, punching away with fervent hope and calling to ‘mission command’ repeatedly, but nothing happened. The sweat continued dripping from his brow, the furnace kept burning, and they plummeted onwards with an unimaginable speed, but nothing happened.

    As the man became more desperate, his shouts turning to screams, the woman edged along the compartment wall to where a soot-stained shovel was leaning. She stepped in front of it and with her right hand behind her back slowly tightened her grip, but in that moment the man, John, turned around, madness in his red-rimmed eyes. “YOU!” he spat without warning. “You did this, didn’t you? Who are you working for? The Reds? ANSWER ME!”

    He leapt towards her only to be met halfway by an eighth-inch of convex steel sending his chin up through his forehead, and finally casting him over the cabin’s half-wall. As his limp body came down on the tracks there was a momentary and unpleasantly organic sound, like smashing a bag of walnuts with a raw steak. The woman’s hands were shaking and tears dripped down her charcoal-covered cheeks as she pulled back on the brake-lever, sending up showers of sparks and bringing the locomotive to a begrudging halt.

    Hours later, when the police had come and cleaned up the affair they asked her what had happened to the train. “Just some madman.” the woman replied calmly, and she tried to forget the terrors of this newfangled invention.

    Entrant 3 – NorseThing

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Starship Down

    Joe 'Hurricane' Monroe was having a bad day. His copilot was ill. The main engine was once again in need of repair. Even the backup lasar comunication was useless way out here in this sector. Light speed communication was a failure that should have never been designed for interstellar assistance when catastrophic failure hit the main systems. There was no mistake he could not usually fix with a good solid impact of his fist in frustration. This was differant. This was technology and not blundering drunkard idiots at the local waystation. He knew how to deal with the human condition, but how to fix a ship that could not even send out a mayday distress signal? And he was in danger of not delivering the goods. There was no escape from his self created dilema.
     
    At that moment, his copilot awoke from his drunken slumber.
     
    Joe asked, "do you know how to get out of a tight jam, Phil?"
     
    Phil, "Did you uncrate the replacement engine in the hold?"
     
    Joe, "Do you mean that is not cargo to make money? We are in the middle of nowhere and we do not even have a cargo to make a profit on this run?"
     
    Phil, "Naw. I won us a new engine in that poker game with the Falacians. I thought you knew. I told you to make certain that it was secure before launch. I was simply too wasted to explain. Sorry."



    TotW 284 – "It is only when you fall that you learn whether you can fly"
    Fail, Ashamed, Rock, Wings, Hope
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 



    Winner– Big War Bird
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Wabanaki’s legs ached as he made his way up the incline to the top of the bald mountain. He had been tracking the she-cougar for six days and nights. At last he could become a man. The men of his tribe had all hunted the predators of the forest - wolf, bear, cougar. His wearied mind now recalled his dream hunt, he was the great eagle and he had swooped down on a cougar on just such a bald mountain top and carried it away. But Wabanaki was no no eagle, just a boy desperate to become a man. Should he fail here he must return to the tribe ashamed, resigned to wear the woven garments of the woman folk for another year.

    The she-cougar lay atop a flat rock, warming herself in the cloudless morning sun a hundred paces away Wabanaki watched her through reddened, burning eyes. He must think, he must ready himself. Spear, knife, bow. For a moment he could not think. His arms became like stones, heavy, hard. Fear froze his wits.

    No. The fear must go. A man must face fear. The cougar was fear. Wabanaki rubbed his eyes with his palms and the lightning bolts unfroze his mind, He unslung his bow and and slowly lined up his arrow. It was no good. The she-cougar was laying with her haunches almost directly at him. He could only wound her, not pierce her heart. He would have to move if he hoped to become a man this day.

    The she-cougar dozed as Wabanaki maneuvered to take the killing shot. With every step his spirit rose, he was becoming a man. He was ready. For eight seasons Wabanaki had been the equal of any man with the bow. He silently laid his spear down and unslung his bow again. This was easy he thought as he pulled back the bow string and let the arrow fly. Then the sun went out.

    The great eagle screamed death at Wabanaki. Wabanaki didn’t see the great eagle as it ripped its claws into his back and should, but he felt its wings beat his head and legs and buttock and arms. He felt a beak rip the skin of his skull and the blood flow into his eyes. All was pain and red. Wabanaki fell to his knees flailing with one arm while wiping the blood from his eyes with other. For just a heart beat the great eagle relented, a wing beat carrying it upward while Wabanaki fell onto his back. The great eagle’s wings each longer than two men blocked out the sun. The great eagle fell in for the killing blow. The boy Wabanki pulled the knife from his belt and thrust it up into the chest of the falling killer.

    Wabanaki the man returned to his tribe with two trophies, the she-cougar skin and the wings of the great eagle.

    Entrant 2– SanyuXV
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The man's strained voice squeaked out a barely audible gasp. His mouth a desert, his throat a void of silence.
    In his last presumable moment he musters a question for his captor.

    "Are you not ashamed of what you have done?"

    "Are you not afraid of god's wrath, that you are the cardinal sin of which many preach against?"

    No reply met the man's question as he sat in the darkness.
    His chapped lips returned to their previous state; cracked, sealed and unwilling.

    No words could describe his discomfort as he sat in the deafening silence.
    His hands bound above him, continually chafing against his bloodstained skin.

    The man had lost all sense of time, since his capture as he drifted in and out of consciousness.
    He was simply a rock in the vast ocean of time, a blip in the infinite expanse of existence.

    A creaking rippled through the damp cell as a quick breeze sauntered into the tiny cell.
    The stench of death invaded his nose, and asked no questions as it burnt itself into his memory.

    "Thirsty?" a voice rang out from the darkness.

    The man could not muster the strength to produce an audible reply, the vocal components of his impoverished body had surrendered indefinitely.

    The captor amused that the man had not replied continued to speak in a slow, seditious tone.

    "To answer your question 3 moons ago, tsk how should I word this" as he lights a candle with his long, pale, scared fingers.
    Illuminating the room, chasing the darkness to the fringes of the stifling cell.

    "Does fire think about what it does when it consumes the resource it needs to survive?

    Does a bird desire to understand how their wings gift him with the ability of flight?

    -

    I do this because . . .

    I
    was
    made
    for
    this.

    And I have never failed.

    The man summoned one last act of defiance, attempting to lay eyes on his captor and to his horror he could not comprehend the sight that was beholden to him.

    A ghoulish laughter left the lips of the captor, as he observed his prisoner become paralyzed in complete fear.

    "Did you hope to retain a shred of honor?" The captor unsheathed a jagged, hellbent knife as he sized up his prisoner.

    "Such a mortal concept, such a silly concept. I will cut it out of you -- forever."

    Entrant 3– NorseThing
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    John was happy but a bit ashamed. How could he fail at such a simple task? His friends would often head out for rock climbing. He preferred to label it as rock scrambling, but it was still a climb and these were rocks. So his friends won out on the naming on the days when he would meet up with then at a rock face to mess around together.

    This was all great fun climbing up the shallow limestone cut faces that were the result of road construction. It made the road more level. It became a very scenic drive with the pine trees and the limestone exposed as the hills were cut away. John did notice many of the older ones would take the scenic drive as a couple. Often this was near sunset when he should be settling in for a good night's sleep. Of course we were all too immature as young ones for the activity of a scenic drive.

    One bright sunny day John was out rock scrambling by himself. Yes, by himself it was rock scrambling and with his friends the same activity was rock climbing. On this particular day, John had tried a new but recently cut rock face. This was created by the new road construction. There was a great deal of activity, noise, and of course the rock dust and dirt of the construction. All this just added to the adventure of the scramble. John had climbed up only about 25 feet when he discovered he had run out of easy foot holds. Then, the world fell out from under him. Well not the world, but rocks did give way and now John was perched on a ledge with no obvious means to go up or down.

    Now for the shame of John. He was never very effective at communicating with others. This moment he needed to communicate. He cried out for help. There was no reaction from any of the workers in the road construction gang. How could he hope to get down? No path and no attention. This meant no means of escape and no help was available. He knew he was on his own and would simply have to try and work his way down the rock face. It was now looking like about a mile to work his way down and not the 25 feet.

    Determined, John began his descent. His footing failed and rocks began to tumble down with a ferocious amount of noise. He began to fall....

    Below one of the construction workers noticed the commotion and looked up. He nudged his buddy, and said, "Look at that! A rock slide on our fresh hill cut. It is not stable"

    The buddy then responded, "More amazing is that young eagle with outstretched wings just able to get out of danger. How the heck can an eagle cause all of this and still avoid the chaos?"

    Entrant 4– C-Beams
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Himilco

    The Roman guard shoved Himilco into the sun baked arena.

    “Toughen up this whelp, Thracian,” the guard said to a gladiator who stood like a bronze statue.

    Himilco shuffled into the training area as the hot sand stung his feet. A clack of iron rattled and he turned to see the guard lock the gate.

    “Here.” The Roman tossed a wooden sword through the bars.

    Himilco watched the guard return to a shaded bench where the rest of his troop sat. They were raucous, drunk from too much wine in the sun. Himilco picked up the sword, chipped and splintered, and faced the Thracian who bore his own blunted blade. The man was taller, broader and he gazed with the keen eyes of a warrior. Himilco was a Carthaginian, a lowly gambler sent to pay his debts in the arena. He knew little of combat but figured all life’s endeavours were a game of chance. The Thracian seemed strong, though he moved with slow steps. Himilco hoped that with speed the odds were in his favour to land a blow. When the gladiator took his next step, Himilco pounced.

    The Thracian moved with the suddenness of a spark. His sword cut through the air like a wing to strike Himilco across the knuckles. Himilco winced and dropped his sword. The Thracian’s saunter had been a deception.

    A roar of laughter bellowed from the guards and they clapped their cups to the bench. The gatekeeper threw a rock at Himilco.

    “You should be ashamed,” he said as he wiped wine from his chin. “A Roman cripple could fight better.”

    Himilco clawed his sword from the sand. His hand throbbed. He took in a breath and readied himself for another try. The Thracian was poised to fight, though his eyes were fixed on the guards with a cold stare. He looked to Himilco, paused, then charged like a bull.

    Himilco ducked, swung his sword and struck the gladiator. A victory, though the Thracian’s charge seemed suspiciously inept. Himilco looked to the guards and saw they no longer cared to watch. He shook his head. To fight and fail with no cheer would be a final shame on his family name. He loosened his shoulders, closed his eyes and tried to focus his mind. He flinched when a broad hand touched his shoulder. The Thracian was stood beside him, his figure bright in the sun like gold.

    “Save your strength, Carthaginian,” the Thracian said as he spied the drunken guards. “You will need it. Tonight this ludus rebels.”

    “Rebels,” Himilco whispered. He looked at his wooden sword and to the sharpened steel of the guard's. “You will take quite a chance then.”

    “We gamble our lives to win our freedom.” The Thracian smiled and held out his hand. “Will you join us?”

    Himilco shrugged. “Gambling brought me to this arena. Perhaps then, gambling will save me from it.”

    He shook the gladiator’s hand as the guards gulped more wine.

    Entrant 5– Kilo11
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    “Tell me, can you feel the thunder of their voices?”

    Blood dripping from his chin and the long wet gash in his side, he did not answer. However, there was a tightening around the corners of his eyes, perhaps a change in his breathing as well. There might even have been the beginnings of hope, that most fragile of men’s gifts, that most stalwart of his curses.

    The stadium was wide, its raked sides teeming with Citizens. Teeming with murderers and cowards, the bloodied man thought to himself. He knelt down and put a hand on the sand underfoot. It was fine and slightly warm, its uniformity broken here and there by the spreading pools of blood and gore. It would not avail him any boons. None save that final gift; to rest. He bowed his head and the surrounding multitude of spectators roared all the louder, their lust for blood not yet quelled, but Boiorix shut out their hateful noise, focusing on the imperious southerner before him.

    “Do not be ashamed little warrior.” the arrogant man said, mistaking the signs on his face. “The time of your kind is passed, and though you have failed, you have failed with majesty. It is not a thing for which you deserve shame.”

    The man then walked a short space away, his confident steps betraying no weakness or gap, and the rising optimism in Boiorix’ breast began to fade. His blade lay broken beneath the overturned chariot he had been thrown from, his shield splintered and useless. There were other arms he might take up, but all were scattered and distant, and to run for them would be unseemly. It would not be fitting. And so he stayed, his head bowed, waiting for the end.

    After a time thus, the man, who seemed to have had his fill of the mob’s affections, slowly began to walk back toward Boiorix. His short sword had already been glutted on blood that day, but it would be willing to take more. With each step Boiorix moved closer to the realm of shadow, where he would meet his ancestors, and when finally he began to resolve himself to that fate his fingers, which idly had been scraping in the sand, met some hidden resistance. There, beneath the surface, lay a stone, edged and slick.

    The man was nearly on him, moving to strike the death-blow, when high above an eagle cried, its wings casting a fleeting shade over the bloodied earth. In that moment Boiorix took the rock to hand, stood, and swung with all the fury of the Arverni. It would be enough.

    Entrant 6 – Turkafinwë
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Anxiety


    What if I fail, what if I fail, what if I fail, what if I fail. These were the thoughts constantly mulling through his brain to the point it almost drove him insane. His breaths came at an irregular interval and his heart seemed it would burst out of his chest or drop dead any given minute. Such panic attacks were not uncommon for him though that did nothing to alleviate them or make them the slightest bit less distressing. Ashamed he was, ashamed that he was this weak. He did nothing but just sit there, staring into the middle distance. Then a voice rose from within.


    “Stop your whining” the remorseless voice said.


    The voice also was not something he was unaccustomed to. Through the years it had been his companion and had helped him overcome many problems. He both loved and hated it.


    It demanded he take back control over his mind.


    “If you don't I will” it threatened.


    Slowely he felt his breath steadying and his heart returning to its normal pace.


    Okay, okay, okay, the man thought to himself as he steadied his nerves, his hand still trembling a little bit.


    “So what do we do now” he asked.


    The voice's reply took awhile and the man felt fear clawing at him once again.


    Then its unforgiving voice rang again.


    “We must be like a rock, strong, hard and determined.” it said.


    “We must have faith” it continued in a friendlier tone.


    Faith he thought, faith in what. He had lost faith a long time ago. What hope was there left in this barren, cold and lonely world.


    “If you don't try you will never know” the voice retorted.


    “Jump and who knows what treasures you might find.” it said suggestively.


    “You will never know if you don't try.” it repeated.


    The voice was right. It could not go on like this. Something had to change. As the man stood up and walked towards the abyss, the voice uttered two final words before disappearing.


    “Good luck.”


    Was that sarcasm? Nevermind. He had something to do and waiting any longer would not make it any easier. He looked down into the gaping darkness before him and recoiled at the sight of it, taking a step back.


    “No!” he cried aloud, returning to the edge.


    “No longer shall I fear any darkness! Come what may, this ends here!”


    With clenched fists and closed eyes he jumped and fell.


    And fell.


    And fell.


    And fell.


    Then he realised he was not falling but flying. Opening his eyes he saw wings had sprouted from his back and were carrying him safely through the air. Tears of relief flowed from his eyes as he flew back into the light.


    He had survived another day.

    Entrant 7 – Cohors_Evocata
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    You’d think they would try to be less annoying. Pissing off the guy holding a gun to your head is never a good idea, but doing so after you WRECKED THEIR VERY COSTLY PROTOTYPE is just asking for trouble. The figure on the ground seems to have realised this as well, as he has finally stopped squirming. Good, at least he understands the situation. Pity I had to raise my voice.

    The man in front of me looks up. John Doe here must really be commended for his bravery. Most of his predecessors would have switched to their most miserable puppy-look by this point, but he has continued to meet my gaze. Admirable. Does he still hope he’ll survive this? No, that can’t be, he must have heard the rumours before he signed up. Does he think it more honourable to show no fear in the face of death? Regardless, such defiance does merit some reward. I suppose I’ll humour him and give him an explanation for what is to follow.

    “You understand why I must kill you, right?” “I understand you’re a rich bastard and most of your employees vanish without a trace. They meet the same fate?” “Yes. They all get one chance and one chance only. If you succeed, you share in the glory. If you fail…” “you become a loose end.” He chuckles. “So that’s really it? You kill all these people because you’re ashamed? Because you don’t want the world to know about your failures?” “Of course not. But I have a reputation to uphold and a lot of associated benefits I’d rather not lose. So I have to take care of my image.” He laughs out loud now. “What a fine image indeed. Brilliant inventor and beacon of progress. The man who never fails. They ought to know you as you really are.” I can’t hold back the smile. “They never will. Any last words?” He spits at my feet. “Go die in a fire, you choleric whoreson.”

    I glance backwards at the site of the crash. The remains of the contraption are scattered all over the rocks, but you can still make out the wings. I make a mental note to make sure the next version is welded together. After all, what would be the purpose of these experiments if we continued to make the same mistakes? Perhaps I ought to try wax. Now it’s my turn to chuckle. “Humanity”, I say to no-one in particular, “will learn how to fly. But it’s probably for the best they never learned how we got there.”



    TotW 285 - Haunted
    cold, mist, trembling, pumpkin, past
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Image from https://publicdomainpictures.net by Linnaea Mallette

    Winner – Hitai de Bodemloze
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    A cold mist clung to the windows, as Alex took his seat at their regular corner booth, placing his phone down on the worn oaken table. The café wasn't too crowded, the delicate frostfalls of early winter keeping all but the most determined caffeine addict away. Whilst a few of the usual suspects where scattered about the establishment, still shivering and trembling after coming in from the cold, it was largely empty. Yet Alex would always be here, every November 4th, regardless of the weather. And of course, so would Joanna. It was their anniversary after all.

    "I ordered your favourite," he told her, looking over with a mischievous grin. She looked back at him unblinking, wearing her best 'oh, you're such an idiot' expression; the ghost of a smile playing at the edges of her lips, one painted eyebrow raised, and a twinkle in those deep hazel eyes of hers.

    Chuckling to himself, Alex lent back in his chair, casually looking around the café whilst his fingers absently toyed with the screen of his smartphone. "Do you remember that Jo? Our first date?" he asked her, as his eyes wandered around the room.

    He turned back to Joanna, who was rolling her eyes, giving him one of those 'of course I remember' looks. "You got so anxious about ordering a pumpkin latte after Halloween," he reminisced fondly, "as if the barrister was going to laugh at you. In all these years, I've never seen you so insecure."

    Joanna gave him a piercing stare, nostrils flared and eyebrows narrowed. He quickly put his hands up in surrender. "Sorry, sorry!" he told her quickly, before adding: "it was cute though."

    He glanced at the clock in the top corner of his phone. It had been a few minutes now; there weren't many other people there, so his order should have been ready by now.

    "One pumpkin latte for...Joanna!"

    There it was. Even though it was a different barrister, a different voice, the words were the same, and he closed his eyes, letting the memories of that first date wash over him one more time. He remembered Joanna haughtily stalking up to the counter to collect her drink, then sitting back down, all back-straight, prim and proper, whilst she slowly sipped away at her favourite childhood drink. He had fallen in love with her then and there; seeing that childish side of her for the first time, otherwise locked away in the body of a woman who had tried to grow up far too fast.

    Far too fast, and far too young. Alex sighed and opened his eyes. He took the phone off the table, closing it and putting the photos of Joanna away for another year. He stood up and waved away the barrister, telling her not to worry about the latte. Sliding on his coat, he made for the door. It had been four years now since the accident, but he still couldn't let go of the past.

    Entrant 2 – Kilo11
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    In the city of Exeter in the Kingdom of England there was once a narrow lane that terminated at a circle of tall houses, ringing the cobbled road in on all sides and leaving only one entrance, or exit, depending on your perspective. It was a common enough place. The buildings were all built after the fashion of the time, with perhaps a slightly genteel air about them, but there was nothing else to mark the spot as unusual or intriguing. However, the houses of Bridgemont Court were in no way usual, and to call them unintriguing would be an untruth of terrifying magnitude, akin to calling Dr. Frankenstein a “cooky fellow”.

    I saw their aspect near the close of --37, a cold wind rattling the late autumn leaves that desperately defied the coming winter, and as I walked past the trembling shrubs and sarcastic crows I was struck by the loneliness of that neighborhood. The pumpkins of the harvest festival, some few weeks prior, still lay forlornly scattered over porches and lawns, mists curling over and through them without leave or mercy. The postal boxes stood with peeling paint amidst small mounds of old newspapers and forgotten letters, relics of happier more lively times. But most cutting of all were the swings set in the small green at the court’s center. Their chains were rusted and rigid, and yet the winds still struggled against them, setting a melancholy melody throughout the area.

    I ignored those sights and sounds as best I could and proceeded up the steps of the farthest house. You see, at the time I was acting as a solicitor for the local magistrate, and the resident of that place was set to receive a summons, one I was to deliver.

    The steps creaked beneath me but held, and I rang the door’s bell with forced alacrity. At first there was no sound, nothing to mark a resident of any kind, but soon enough a candle appeared in the utmost rooms. It descended, passing across every stained and weather-worn window on its way down, but eventually reaching the landing on which I stood. I smoothed my vest and conjured a weak smile on my cracked clay-cold lips.

    Nothing happened. The panes above the heavy oak door showed a light behind, and its dim rays could be seen dancing in the gap on the floor, but nothing happened. I rang the bell again, but again to no effect. After some moments of consternation, and, I must admit, rising irritation, I began to hammer on the door with my hand, demanding to be seen.

    Then, suddenly, the candle went out, taking with it every ounce of illumination on that street, and in the black vault that ensued a chorus of voices whispered in my ear and through my soul: “We see you.” I ran, and since that day have never again returned to Exeter or indeed to the Kingdom of England, and I dare say you should not either.

    Entrant 3 – C-Beams
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Misandry

    “Shh." Detective Kelly jabbed his finger to his lips. His eyes transfixed upon the basement's doorknob.

    “What do you hear?” Constable Williams whispered. His voice broke with fright.

    Kelly raised his gun and took a step forward. He froze.

    The doorknob clicked, turned, and creaked open.

    Williams swung up his pistol in both hands, the barrel trembling before his squint.

    The door opened and light flooded out to fill the corridor. Before them stood a young woman.

    “Williams,” Kelly called out with a raised palm. “Don’t shoot.”

    The woman fell to her knees. Her back arched and beat with desperate sobs.

    “Help me,” she cried behind blonde, bloodied hair.

    Williams let out a breath as Kelly crouched before her. She recoiled at the touch of his hand.

    “It’s alright. We’re the police. You’re safe now.”

    The woman looked up, her eyes wide and white.

    “He’s still here,” she whispered.

    Kelly looked to Williams. Beyond the door came a clink of metal.

    “Leave the house,” Kelly said as he pulled the woman to her feet. “Quick. Back-up is on its way.”

    “Back-up?” The woman sniffed and wiped her face. “When?”

    “Any minute.” Kelly beckoned her down the corridor. “We’ll catch this madman. Go.”

    “Yes. I will,” the woman said as she pushed past Williams.

    Kelly and Williams turned back to the doorway. Another clink sounded.

    “Ready Williams?”

    Williams nodded, sweat gleamed over his brow.

    Kelly raised his gun and entered the room. Williams followed.

    The basement was wide and lined by workbenches. Each surface adorned by chains and clamps, saws and cutters. They saw no one.

    Williams pressed a hand to his face as the waft of rot choked his throat. At the centre of the room was a hole, ringed by crusts of blood. Kelly stepped up to its edge, his heels sticky with clots. In the pit he saw a mangle of heaped corpses.

    Kelly looked away as the clink sounded. On the wall opposite was a cellar window. Unlatched, the frame flapped against a cold breeze.

    “Damn,” Kelly said as he hurried over to peer through the misted pane. “The killer’s fled.”

    Williams crept beside him as his eyes flinched around the room. “He’s fled?”

    “Yeah. Long gone.” Kelly tucked away his gun and examined the basement.

    Beside him on a workbench, he saw several glass jars that swam with the cuts of pale, fleshy meat. A paper file was slipped between them.

    Kelly pinched it out and teased the sleeves open. Inside he found Polaroids of the killer’s victims.

    “My God,” Williams said as he counted their number. “There’s about thirty men here.”

    Kelly winced. A notion caught in his mind like a thorn.

    He dropped the file and raced to the hole. Inside, the bodies lay blue and purple, their faces bloated like pumpkins. They were all men, he realised – each castrated.

    Kelly looked back to the corridor and bit his teeth. “That woman.”

    Entrant 4 – Adamat
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    He walked through the near-deserted streets of the old city. He still remembered the better days, when a cold night like this wouldn’t have deterred young or old from braving the lantern-lit streets on their way to their favorite pub. Perhaps he was simply getting old, but in his heart he felt that for once, the cliché held true. Time had not been kind on this place with its abandoned shops, broken streetlights, and trembling beggars. Everything used to be better, here.

    The old gatehouse stood tall as he reached the end of Main Street. A monument to the fighting spirit this place had in the times of kings, knights and adventurers. Its stone was starting to crumble, and moss seemed to be suffocating the stone wherever it could. In the past, they used to take care of the beauty this town had. Preservation was no longer an item on the agenda of its inhabitants now, it would seem.

    The inn by the gatehouse was still open. A small light lit up the sign and the street in front of it, but that was the only indication that the proprietor was indeed doing business, still. Even when he opened the door, it was almost eerie. No patrons, no music, not even any drunks. He walked up to the bar, taking one of the many empty stools and sitting across from his old friend. “I’m leaving today,” he finally broke the silence. The innkeep hardly showed any emotion. “If that’s what you have to do,” he replied as he served a bowl of lukewarm soup. “Here, it’s the last of the pumpkin harvest for this year. You’ll need your strength for the journey,” the barman said, some affection for his old friend in his voice.

    When the bowl was empty, he rummaged around his pockets for the last of his money. “Until we meet again,” he said, leaving the three coins on the bar before heading out once again. When he left the gate and walked into the farmlands that he used to till as a young lad, he felt nostalgic. Should he turn around? Should he make do with what the sleepy town could offer him? No. Nothing remained here, and neither would he. In the distance, the industrial city with its factories and its huge districts was still brightly lit, a thin layer of smog hanging over it like a blanket of mist. The future, it was calling. Perhaps everything used to be better there, too, he thought to himself as he set off on the long journey.

    Last edited by Turkafinwë; March 22, 2019 at 08:40 AM. Reason: amended faults in the template

  7. #67
    Turkafinwë's Avatar The Soulforged
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    Default Re: TotW Story Archive

    TotW 286 – But use this, to summon one another as spirits, cross the gaps between the worlds and engage in jolly cooperation
    brother, mystical, sign, tribute, kindred
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Magic book, image source, resized[/CENTER]

    Winner - Kilo11
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    At the edge of the world there are cliffs and precipices, walls of ragged sandstone and shale peaked in everlasting green, the brittle breaking stones echoing to the sound of gulls, razorbills, and the more melancholy notes of selkie in the shallows below. It is a place of beauty, power, strength, but it is more than that. It is a door.

    Brother, can you hear me? Brother?”

    The distant waves below thunder and boom without meaning, their din nearly overpowering the cry of the seabirds.

    “Brother, give me a sign. Some signal to mark your presence.

    An albatross wheels above, its great span blotting out the sun ever so briefly, casting the prostrate figure in shade. Her eyes dart up for a moment and then just as quickly return to the bones and stones that surround her cowled form. With menacing purpose she reaches for a slender blade of marrow etched in scrawling figures.

    “Blood of my blood, kindred child of a dying race, call my name that I might know that you too have not forsaken me.”

    Her wrist flashes ivory in the afternoon sun, driving the bone-knife deep into the bloated stomach of an elder goat, spilling his entrails over the high blown grasses. A tribute to the Tuath Dé, that by their intervention her cries might not go unheeded, but still the coldsome downs ring with silence.

    “Son of my father, child of my mother, why do not listen? Can you not hear my wretched soul weeping for your company? Can you not feel my tears falling headlong into the void?”

    The crimson-stained blade falls from her listless fingers and she raises her hands, clawing at her hair, smearing the raven curls with clotting death. Blood above, blood below. A sacrifice in all forms, yet ever found inadequate. Hope draining from her trembling shoulders, she casts aside the rude attempt at mystical communion, thrusting the books and bones and oozing corpses over the long cliffs before her, and ultimately she gives herself to despair, to grief. Heavy silent sobs rise within her, carrying her heaving breast to the brink. The drops of sea-salt misery fall from her sun-spotted cheeks and oaken chin freely, and when finally they strike the earth below a shade rises before her, his hand outstretched and beckoning.

    Brigid looks out and down and then back up at her limpid brother. Her lips tremble but her eyes are stone.

    “So be it, Finn.”

    She takes a step forward, swinging her leg out past the edge, and then she steps again. The rocks below will send her the rest of her way.

    Entrant 2 - San Felipe
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Maxa stood at the center of the cliff, overlooking the vast green mountains surrounded by lush jungles. Today was a good day to die. The storm crackled with the might of the mystical Gods fighting in the Heavens. In anger then, Maxa thought. In anger for his inability to protect his family and his city. He took off the large box he had been carrying all the way from his ruined city. A heavy rainfall descended down upon the mountains. Truly, the Gods were not in a good mood and were in no mode for tribute. Maxa packed his shield and sword, putting them behind his back. Descending down towards the cliff, he moved slowly, knowing the sign of the clouds. Anger and torment. Pacing his feet and arms as he climbed down the back of the mountain. The forests roared with the might of a mighty tornado, a powerful wind whipping itself back and forth through the leaves.

    Rumbling rocks shook the mighty earth. Maxa glanced at the arriving horde of jaguar warriors that had destroyed the once great city of Copal. One day, Maxa swore in the back of his mind. He would take Copal back and rebuild it to honor the Gods. This was not his time now. The jaguar warriors hurried like rats before stopping. A great feathered serpent stood on the crest of a mighty helmet, paving its way through the crowd of warriors. The ginormous figure stood, holding a golden obsidian sword and a mighty shield. General K'ak. A man he had considered a brother. No longer a kindred soul, now the destroyer of cities. All the knowledge he had given to him was posion. The warrior of destruction. The one they called to honor the Gods. Maxa smirked.
    General K'ak stepped forward. 'Where are your ancestors now Maxa? Do they weep?'

    Entrant 3 - Katsumoto
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    “Quickly, brother. It is not much further.”

    For two days we had made our way through the gorge, the sun a fierce constant overhead. It had been a perilous trek, following a single path that barely functioned as such; all my concentration went into not stumbling over the stones that filled the track. Having reached the bottom, I was utterly relieved.

    “How do you know it’ll be here?” I asked, recovering my breath.

    “I’m certain of it.” Sweat dripped from my brother’s brow, but he refused to wipe it. “I saw the sign.”

    It had come to him in a dream, this sign. He had woken me one humid night, blathering about some mystical herb that could save our sick mother. All we had to do is find it and bring it back – she would it ingest it as a tea and all would be well again. He spoke as though it would be as simple as picking an apple from our garden.

    Of course I was skeptical, but my brother and I had always been kindred spirits – I trusted him completely, and he was never one to conjure up fairytales. It was a tribute to our bond – if he believed his dream, I would too.

    “Remember, the herb is red – we can’t miss it. Look for a stream. That’s where I saw it in my dream.”

    I nodded and squinted through the sunlight at the path that stretched before us. We had descended down into the gorge proper, beyond the woods of its entrance. Peering out, it was still hard to see, but I was certain of what I saw – a glimmer in the distance.

    “Look,” I called out. “The stream!”

    Hope filled my heart. Though I trusted my brother, I could not help but worry his vision might’ve been a delusion. I was glad to have been wrong.

    We dashed toward the water, eyes agape. My brother pressed on before me. Where was this red herb?

    For about half an hour we wandered about this stream, which to be frank was rather pitiful, little more than a drizzle. My earlier ecstasy at seeing it had been replaced by a growing hatred for it – it had teased us with the prospect of salvation, yet the red herb it promised was now nowhere to be found.

    “It was supposed to be here,” my brother muttered, now sullen and resting by a boulder. The sun continued to beat down on us.

    I did not know what to say to him. Part of me felt suddenly ridiculous. Of course there was no red herb – of course it wouldn’t save our mother. It was just a dream.

    As I peered round a final time, the sun now hidden behind the crags of the gorge, I saw it. It was a vivid red, just as my brother had said. I could not believe my eyes, but there it was.

    “Mother,” I managed to whisper.

    Entrant 4 - Isa0005
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Screams muffled, blood upon stone and a great sigh of relief. The ritual was complete, the encroaching evil of the World Beyond sated, at least for now. The Saints, guardians of the land and people were revitalised

    “By the Blood of Hecatomb! What we do this day brothers and sisters ー this tribute we offer ー will strengthen our kindred ties as one people” began the Hierophant, interpreter of sacred mysteries, mystical principles and arcane knowledge “with one mind and one cause and one leader” The people looked on, the terror in their eyes abating as each, be they prince or pauper was blessed by the blood of the sacrifice. “Unity!”

    “Unity!” The people echoed

    “It is all a lie” whispered the Archon as they looked down from the dais “all of it, a damn lie and for what? So that we might breath and extra breath, drink that one last drop of water?” The Archon’s faith had been shattered long ago, it seems

    “Come, come now” the Hierophant chided, turning away from the masses below “Oh great Archon, a descendant of the Saints and the protector their people mustn't utter such blasphemies” they spoke as though parent to a child “you and I both know that this ritual is the only thing keeping us alive down here. Be thankful it wasn’t you who was chosen”

    “By the Blood of the Hecatomb” the Archon raised their hands, as though in mockery of the holy rites being performed

    “And the Sacrament of the Saints” the Hierophant reminded

    “And the Sacrament of the Saints” the Archon repeated.

    And so the people of the Great Vault, the last Kingdom of Humanity were safe for another year. The ritual culling,the Blood of the Hecatomb, a practice that had evolved out of a need to ‘thin the herd’ as it were, centuries ago was completed. The lives of one hundred men, women and children extinguished so that the last of the human race might survive, one more year.



    TotW 287 – NYPD
    badge, uniform, crack, fear, evidence
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    By FOX 52 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, source

    Winner – isa0005
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The Kona Kai Saloon, a 20th century tiki bar with a 22nd century local Hong Kong twist, was quipped with exotic faux-Polynesian decor, gaudy Hawaiian shirts and a plethora of tropical cocktails. One half expected some bikini clad silicone smile to burst through its doors. Instead it's usual clientele was the average Hong Konger wage slave, Corporate neo-colonialists and up-and-comers in the South Chinese criminal underworld.

    The body fell to the floor some three feet from the bar, amidst surfer paraphernalia and spilled mojitos, the crack of a ferromagnetic slug echoing for what must have been miles.

    “Is that how you greet all your friends Herr Richter?” Asked Hermann, the pistons in the bartender's old Bavarian auto-prosthetic shifting into overdrive as he reached for a dirty glass.

    “Ha! Only those who don’t respect the badge and uniform.” Said Richter, gesturing to his casual attire and distinct lack of any formal identification. Placing his chrome firearm on the counter to cool from its recent use he ordered a vodka “make it a double.” He was in a celebratory mood.

    “One double vodka coming up. Poor bastard, let me guess, he was late on some debtor's payments? Or perhaps he failed to submit his paper work in triplicate?” The bartender reached for a dusty bottle behind the counter and unscrewed its top, his arm jerking as though it were haunted as he placed the drink on the counter.

    “Corporate espionage. Was a real slippery one too. Chased him from Mauritius to Macau.” Above, a vidscreen echoed under the slow spin of ceiling fans and the the crack-pop of pinball machines ringing outback.

    “Uniformed officers from the Kowloon City Police Department stormed the headquarters of Japanese corporation Kobayashi Technologies earlier this afternoon. After a year long investigation the KCPD has released evidence linking the international conglomerate to numerous criminal syndicates” began the reporter.

    “Kobayashi, that sounds familiar"

    “Ganbei!” Richter raised his glass in salute to a job well done, drank finishing it in one gulp. Smiling from ear to ear, he revealed nicotine stained teeth and years of bad dental care "It should, I work for the bastards."

    “Well then, I assume you won’t be paying the bill this month”

    “Are you kidding? Have no fear barkeep, who do you think tipped off the KCPD in the first place?” With a look of satisfaction Richter slapped a credit chip on the counter “here’s everything, plus interest.”

    “My, my Herr Richter, you are full of surprises! Will you be helping me clean up this mess as well?” the bartender gestured towards the body, the smell of cauterised flesh wafting under his nose.

    “I’m a Corporate Investigator not a crime scene cleanup crew, you’re on your own pal!”

    Entrant 2 – Swaeft
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    I must have been in there for hours – just combing through all the evidence over and over again.

    I cursed when it finally hit me. All this time and the answer had been staring me in the face. The gun with no bullets, the exit wounds from the front…I couldn’t believe it. But I had to see for myself.

    As I hailed a cab, the heavens opened up as if to compound my misery. “The corner of 48th and Chester, please.” The cabbie muttered something in reply, but the myriad of thoughts in my mind blocked out whatever he said.

    When the cab pulled up at the destination, my heart sank faster than the rain pounding on the windows – my worst fear had just been realized. Even through the heavy precipitation, the man’s face was clear as day. “That’ll be twelve dollars, sir.” The cabbie extended his hand as I rummaged for my wallet.

    “Here, take thirty.” I handed the confused man three tens. “And wait here for the next ten minutes.” The cabbie shrugged and nodded as I pulled out the standard issue radio. “Detective Frank to Precinct, got a possible lead on the drug case, requesting S.W.A.T. and a few black and whites. Location is the corner of 48th and Chester.”

    This time it was the cabbie who drowned out the radio response. “Holy cow, man, you a cop? Thanks for your service man, but hey, if somethin’s going down, I’d hate to be here.”

    That was understandable. “It’s okay, just wait another five minutes then I’ll get out.” I dug through my bag till I found DSLR. I zoomed in and snapped a few shots of Johnson shaking hands with the drug dealers in the cafe. Son of a...

    A couple of minutes elapsed before I saw the black and whites creep around the corner slowly. I exited the cab and strode nonchalantly toward the café. Halfway across the street I saw the S.W.A.T. team pull up and pile out of their vehicle.

    I stopped at the café entrance and took a deep breath. Damnit, Johnson. Then, I gave the signal.

    It was over in a flash.

    When the gunfire finally stopped, one policeman was wounded, and Johnson and five other gangsters were dead.

    After that it was a simple matter of collecting the damning evidence Officer Johnson had on him. All the stuff missing from the evidence locker that could convict a local mob boss cum drug dealer. What a disgrace to the uniform and the badge.

    **

    “Detective Frank to see you, Inspector.”

    “Send him in.”

    I entered the office of Inspector Clayton, a big grin on my face. “I’ve done it, sir. I found the mole, cracked the case.”

    Inspector Clayton, however, was anything but happy. I immediately knew that something was wrong, but it all came too fast for me to handle.

    “Son, there’s no easy way to say this, but Officer Johnson Richards was undercover.”

    Entrant 3 – The Wandering Storyteller
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Cake and Monet fell into a ditch so deep that not even the bodyguard could see them. Monet was staring at Cake. 'This was your fault.'

    Cake protested. 'How is it my fault?'

    'You're the one that wanted to go here because of some amazing discovery you made.'

    'Oh yes...I forget about it now...'

    'Guess we're going to have wait,' Monet said, grabbing out his phone. 'Oh wait, we have no signal!'

    Monet moved around before noticing a rock with inscriptions. He picked it up. 'Sounds like some kids got hooked up on weed and did it for fun.'

    Cake grabbed it. 'Let me read this.'

    His eyes widened. 'It can't be...it can't!'

    'What?'

    'It's Viking ruins!'

    'So you speak Ancient Viking? Why did no one tell me before about that! What does it say?'

    Cake sighed deeply. 'This could tell the stories of how those warriors arrived in America. Don't you see, this could bridge the gap of those new world ancient revisionists and the mainstream academics, this could hold new discoveries, this could...change the world! Viking ruins in New York City. This could change the secrets the world has kept, the world as we know it.'

    'Get on with it.'

    Cake read the rock, biting it, eating it, smashing it before reading it.

    'And that's what the history department has come too? Testing it before reading?'

    'You have to know what's a fake and what isn't.'

    Monet nodded. 'Fair point. Now what does it say?'

    Cake read before his expression of excitement dropped from his face. Monet stared at him. 'What does it say?'

    'I was here. Halfdan was here.'

    Monet began to laugh. 'That's it? I was expecting some mighty lines like,' Monet exaggerated his voice. 'Thor has delivered me from the might of Asgard!!'

    'Stop watching Marvel movies.'

    'That was for research purposes! Besides I don’t come looking around in my glorious uniform everyday. That rock is evidence of the greatest meme in the universe!

    'Really? Then what was Braveheart then? Were you on crack?’

    'And this is my badge!'

    'That was based on a real life story and it had too much of a man who didn't know fear, who knows this Halfdan must have been a great player...'

    Cake sighed. 'Monet...'

    'What you thought it would be so great, it held the secret to humanity's problems....'

    'Shut up!!!!'

    Entrant 4 – NorseThing
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    A different NYPD Blue



    I work undercover in the Yonkers Special Task Force on Drugs. I carry a badge, sometimes. I never wear a uniform. No real fear of gangland style murders in this upscale residential community of seven hills. We may not have much evidence of crack, but the fear of the opioid epidemic is not limited to the slums of New York City. We have plenty of money here that is spent on the worst of reasons. Escape from pain is a path to opioid misuse. We have a lot of it here. It is quietly hidden away under the cover of doctors and prescriptions. Well meaning people can create problems unknowingly.


    People who loath the heroine dealers think the respectable doctors and pharmacists are not a problem. They are the ones that are facilitating this epidemic of abuse. But the abusers are the people who just want to feel better. The price is too high. Addiction has its own faults and they are many.


    The athlete just wants to not hurt so much to get back in the game. The woman with cramps just wants them to go away. The young man with a back injury just wants to feel better to get back to work They ll want to feel better just like the alcoholic wanting the next drink too feel better. Somebody needs to tell these people that feeling better is important but do not try to just feel better. Fix the problems that ail you. Get help from the people trained to help. And if you are trained to help, do not fall into the trap of facilitating drug abuse to make your own personal job easier.


    Try living in my shoes for a few days and you will find little no difference between the drug pushers and the doctor writing a prescription to excess. You will find no difference between the wasted homeless person in the gutter and the middle class stock broker with an addiction brought on by too mush stress. In the end it destroys lives.



    TotW 288 – After the Battle
    victorious, dead, mountain, flee, loot
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    - Marquess of Granby relieving a sick soldier, Edward Penny, 1765, source

    Winner - King Athelstan
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Thirsty. So thirsty. So very thirsty. His lips were cracked, his face full of dirt. His ears were ringing, and he laid there upon the mountain. At last he opened his eyes, and he was met by blinding light. Lowering his gaze, one hundred meters down below he saw the weak defenses and freshly dug trenches, where his countrymen had fled to. They would not hold for long. Soon, the trumpets would blast, the whistles blow and the bullets come raining again. Soon the air would carry the screams in a language he did not know towards him, filled with dread, hate, fury and fright. This was no mans war. He tried to stand up, but couldn't. His mind willed it, but his body wouldn't, couldn't budge. He tried to move his toes. And felt nothing.

    He looked down, and saw nothing. His legs were gone, bloody stumps remaining. He shouted, but no sound came. Just a slight whimper. He was as good as dead. Looking up, he saw the sun about to set. Sighing, he closed his eyes. Then, his head stopped ringing and sound came to him as hell had come to earth. The ships off the shore were firing their massive cannons, the mortars on the shore were firing in high arcs above the trenches, and the machine gun nests bore fire down from the hills. No side would be victorious. He felt a large blast beside him, and closed his eyes.

    He opened them, and the sun had set. Thirsty. So thirsty. So very thirsty. His tongue had swelled in his mouth, yet he felt oddly at peace. He looked down towards the shore. The lanterns were lit, but it was quiet. He was sure his hearing was back, yet it was quiet. He searched through the lines of his foes, but saw nothing. No people, no movement. Wait! The ships had come closer to shore, and a steady line of small boats flowed between. So this was it. They were finally leaving this hole. Without him. The mortars and supplies were left for the enemy to loot. He tried to call out for help, but no sound came.

    He watched the last ship depart into the distance. A tear ran through the dirt on cheeks. His body was lying still. He closed his eyes.

    Entrant 2 - NorseThing
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    After theBattle




    General de Bois had not been this far north into the Scottish highlands before. His army of mixed infantry and light cavalry was more suited for low English hills near York than this mountain in Scotland. The general had not pushed his men to get into position quickly. It was after midday. Perhaps this was simply a demonstration of force by the highlanders and nobles. The Scottish light cavalry were simply out of place on this mountain. General de Blois could not believe there was any intention to attack. Perhaps this was a stalling tactic. Perhaps this was designed to pin his force on the mountain slope. Perhaps, perhaps. Uncertainty was beginning to crowd out the instincts of his training. And then the charge began. His own infantry were not in position to fix their spears to take the charge.


    The general called out, “All spears forward! Break this attack before it begins!”


    The general was improvising to make up for not pushing his men to be in position. All spear companies rushed the charging highlanders. It was not a tight formation charging down the mountain slope. Today, the English were lucky. There was still a chance to grab a victory.


    The peasant archers were more prepared. Companies were ready and in tight formations. They were peasants with perhaps faltering faith relying on disorganized spear companies to hold the charge.


    Each archer captain ordered,“Hold your places! Hold your formation! For King and Kingdom, hold your formation!”


    Men were fighting for their lives. There was no loot today. Just honor. That was enough. Both English and Scots fought best for honor and king.


    Archer captains gave orders to fire volleys in succession. Before the charging companies reached the first disorganized spears, the men began to fall from the rain of arrows. This did not break the charge, but it did blunt it.


    After the Scots failed to break the disorganized spears, the highlanders with their swords and axes broke into a general melee with the spear companies. The remainder of the Scottish army raised axes and charged down the slope. The English arrow volleys continued. Arrows rained on the Scots. They rushed wielding their fearsome axes to engage the English spears. Then the point feared by any commander happened. The Scots were spent and broken. They ran in panic up the mountain slope.


    This was total defeat. The Scots had not a single noble or common soldier leave the field of battle that day. There is nothing more devastating for a soldier than to be the last of an army left standing. Except perhaps, being the last ... and broken … and flee enemy cavalry from the field in defeat. The last man was cut down by a cavalry sword. Dead and not remembered. The victorious are remembered. Victories often happen with the lucky stroke by the winning general and perhaps a misjudged order or a miscalculation. If circumstances could be replayed, the results could have dramatic differences.

    Entrant 3 - Swaeft
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Britannia, 85 AD

    The air in the command tent was so stifling, I was glad when a messenger finally opened the flap.

    “Legatus, Praefectus, Tribuni, the enemy are fleeing in disarray, back into the hills. We are victorious.” The legionnaire reported, without a hint of joy on his tired, mud stained face.

    “Thank you, soldier. We all did well today.” A tribune remarked.

    The legionnaire simply grunted and exited the tent. I pounded my fist on the table in frustration. “Victory?” I spat. “We have suffered over a thousand dead since we set foot on this accursed island. Fleeing in disarray? It’s more likely that they’re regrouping for another assault. Legatus, I must protest again the purpose of our mission. We shouldn’t be here.”

    Complete silence enveloped the tent for a few seconds. Then, the Legatus spoke. “Tribunes, please leave us for now.”

    I knew a serious earful was headed my way even before the last of the tribunes exited the tent. Once the flap was closed, Legate Quintus wheeled to face me and unleashed his torrent of verbal abuse. And all I could do was take it.

    His tirade lasted for a good ten minutes, but I wasn’t paying attention. This wasn’t the first time he had called me out for my insubordination. If I had a gold coin for every “direct order”, “do not question” and “Rome has seen fit to” I’ve heard in the past three months, I would have retired by now.

    “Sir, believe me, I understand your concerns, and I understand the chain of command.” I was repeating the same things, listing the same points, over and over again. “But we are more than a thousand kilometres away from Rome. The mountains here impede our movement, while the infernal fog masks that of our enemies. The terrain is mostly made up of forested valleys or marshy swamps, unsuitable for our fighting tactics. The men are desperate and homesick, sir. There seems to be no end to the barbarian raids, no promise of loot, no clear victory within sight. If we keep this up –”

    A long, drawn out blast from a war horn echoed throughout the valley.

    Then another. And another.

    “Legatus!” A soldier rushed in, panic written all over his face. “The barbarians, they –”

    Legate Quintus and I could see for ourselves. The barbarians were swarming all over the hills into the valley, overwhelming the Roman patrols and slaughtering them. Soon, they would be pouring into the war camp itself.

    “By the gods, you were right.” Legate Quintus muttered, the terror in his voice clearly audible. “Centurions, to me!”

    I didn’t hear whatever he said next. It could have been orders to me, or some form of defensive battle plan to be carried out by everyone. It didn’t matter. Our enemies had surprise on their side, as well as the numbers, the morale, and the terrain. The terrible truth had made itself abundantly clear to me.

    Today, the Ninth Legion would fall.

    Entrant 4 - NCR
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The dead do not say anything in the aftermath.

    The mountains were silent, as they had been before the battle and the cacophony of horns and bugles let out their cry of death and glory. The victorious linger, hoping that they will be able to loot the dead, for the dead do not complain when their belongings are stripped from them.

    I stood there, sword in hand, waiting for the looting to end. This was no honorable way for any man to go. Dead and forgotten on a battlefield hundreds of miles away from their home, fighting a war they neither started nor cared about. Pressed into the service of a king that did not care about by them by a lord who forced them to toil in the fields.

    When they fell, their bodies would be swarmed by other poor fools, eager to add to their meager wages. The dead did not have much on them, for they were young men from the farmlands, not rich knights from the cities. Those men had been captured, waiting for the ransom that would be paid by their rich fathers and sent back to their families.

    The poor dead cannot say the same.

    "You are silent, my son," the voice of my father awakened me from my thoughts. "Why? We are victorious. Revel in that victory."

    I could not. Watching the enemy flee should have given me joy, for it meant they did not have to die, but in the end, it filled me with dread. Another battle would be fought. And more poor fools would die.

    "It is nothing, Father," I replied. "I mourn the dead."

    "They died for me. They died for you," he sternly said. "Mourn them later. For now, the living call."

    Entrant 5 - The Wandering Storyteller
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    1636

    Joseon

    The cold mountains of the north.

    Chan-Bom Sang groaned, his body aching. A terrible battle had been fought in the mountain hills. The Qing had been thoroughly defeated. But at what cost? What did he have to come back for? Joseon had lost to the Qing. They were victorious in a battle history would never acknowledge. Bodies lay strewn among the ground. All of his friends and uncles that he had known in the village, the bonds that had been made had been broken in one battle. He had fought for Joseon for all his life. But when the King ran away from his people, there was no point. Too long had he sacrificed his life in vain. Walking across the mountain hill, only heavy buckets of rain poured down upon him and the bodies.

    And soon, Chan-Bom Sang knew that the earth would consume the dead flesh. The days of living in Hanyang were long gone. They had won a battle that would not be recorded in history. A battle that would be wiped off the pages of future generations. And it took him, the Qing’s most feared enemy to vanquish them. They had arrived late into the night to sneak into the fortress. With over-whelming numbers, they had attacked, slaughtering so many men of Joseon that the fortress struggled to remain solid. Cannon fire had damaged its walls, and it lay like a corpse. The wolves, like the Qing Soldiers encircled it, ready to loot and salvage. Chan-Bom Sang had awoken when the attack happened. Mounting his horse, he attacked with the strength of the Gods inside him. The garrison of the fortress were long gone.

    And a wonderous night it had been. The confident Qing soldiers that had smirked on him lay down, lifeless and shocked. The grins and smirks had been replaced with cries of horror. Chan-Bom Sang had slashed back and forth, slashing into the guts of a soldier before cutting his heart out. Like a tiger, he attacked relentlessly, smashing his sword into a soldier’s bone. The Qing had attacked like rats, and he resisted. In the centre, a mountain of bodies began to pile up. Chan-Bom Sang reached the top of it and fought them back. They were fleeing when he slashed the neck of the Qing General, and had slammed his head into a pike.

    History would record this as myth and fiction. No one would believe the tale of a warrior that had vanquished an entire army. Chan-Bom Sang breathed heavily, slumping to the ground. He had once loved a woman, and was betrayed. And he had joined the army to forget the wounds of that miserable past. Yet he doubted whether he had truly forgiven her. The pain was alive, fuelling him throughout the entire battle. His body was wet, yet he felt nothing. And soon the rain stopped. The Sun dawned upon him. He arose, and looked towards the horizon. A new life then. He arose, wandering.

    Entrant 6 - Kilo11
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Sector: 01725
    Celestial Body: Ante-Helix 1410 (local designator: Earth)
    Standard Date: 22.17.1609


    Ante-Helix 1410 has been successfully seized, subject to limited friendly casualties and the loss of one SL-AX Lander and three Arclight support craft. The local populations seem unsure of our purpose or how best to respond to us, in fact appearing to be little united on any individual thing.


    It was a lie, and she knew it was a lie. They were as different as the stones that circled the Mother’s Cloud, but they had been united in that moment. Kuril had been victorious over nine planets across four systems, but she had never seen such blood before. Those terrestrials were nothing more than up-jumped apes, little pathetic things with barely a future for them, they were such a pestilence to themselves, but they had dug in their heels without a second thought.

    The destruction of the Arclights was expected and allowed for, but we did not anticipate that a Lander would be lost in the first strike. It will need to be replaced before further exploration or looting of this potentially-hostile sector is pursued.

    Above their own planet, their only home, they had seen us coming, and they responded like madmen. The humans have barely mastered basic chemistry -- their wars seem to always revolve around throwing metal at one another as quickly as they can -- but there is one weapon of note in their grasp. How could we ever imagine they would use it above their own home. As Commander Len broke orbit he had slowed the Lander to drop speeds, to allow his marines to cast off, and up through the scattered layer of cirrus rose a battery of warheads. His dead fell as leaves, the radioactive cloud their only warmth as their bodies descended over the mountains and seas.

    How could they do that, above their own home? Madmen.

    After the initial battle the central authorities of the planet formally surrendered, but there fled into hiding a significant number of military and civilian personnel, their whereabouts as yet unknown. Without a prolonged occupation I estimate that we will have recurrent insurgencies, which though easily dealt with will undoubtedly affect our capacities for extraction of resources. I recommend the redeployment of one standard division for security purposes and eventual assimilation efforts.

    ***

    A rumble outside turns her attention to the door. Her adjutant enters and calmly explains that there was a small blast in the building across the street. A few dozen have been wounded, mostly humans, but with two members of her staff among those numbered as well. Kuril turns back to her desk and casually amends her report.

    ***

    … I recommend the redeployment of one two standard divisions for security and eventual assimilation or decimation purposes, as deemed appropriate by the governor assigned to this world.



    Admiral Astara Kuril, Molliti Strike Group



    TotW 289 – Behemoth
    huge, intimidating, nervous, unfair, sweat
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    With thanks to Pinarius for the use of his Picture of the Week 526 submission. Please rep him by clicking on the little green cross.

    Winner - Kilo11
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Looming. That was the only word for it. It stood ahead of him, that terrible grin fixed to its grotesque mouth, and it loomed, a spectre of evil made flesh. He knew he would find it here, knew it would greet him with its hungry maw, and he came willingly. After all, that is the business of heroes. To walk blindly and willingly into the grip of doom, with no thought for safety or good sense.

    As it stood before him, its taloned toes clicking maddeningly on the stones, he wondered why he wasn’t nervous. By all rights he should have been, for though he’d faced beasts and demons before, they had all been petty things compared to this monstrosity. It filled his entire world, blurring the horizon between heaven and earth, and to call it merely huge would be folly, for its immensity belied any comprehension in a four letter word. It was no matter. The monster would fall like the rest.

    With a confidence little earned the hero pushed his spear into the ground, its point upright. It was a holy thing, the spear of Redhorn, and it gave him an unfair advantage. However, he would take no chances this day. He swung from behind his back a long tube of smooth metal, its back end displaying the fins of a rocket. Something to soften the beast before it lunged at him. Something to give him an easier target when he finally struck.

    The hero then did something that baffled the monster. He turned his back on it and sat on the dirt, his legs crossed beneath him. The behemoth was not a thing endowed with a great measure of intelligence, but what little it had sung of hidden intent on seeing such a careless move. It roared with a sound fit to crack mountains and sunder kingdoms, seeking to intimidate the hero into some sort of action. But he remained still, his back turned. Fury rising within it, the beast bellowed and swung its long arms, tearing up the ground and casting it into the sea, but still the hero was still. A cold sweat began to form upon the monster’s brow as it raged on, until slowly the man with his rocket launcher and spear turned to face it, a fiendish smile twisting his handsome features.

    He raised the metal tube to his shoulder when out of the corner of his eye he saw the tip of a tail longer than worlds swinging toward him. Terror finally gripping him his gaze flickered back to the monster ahead and there he saw only satisfaction in its eyes. It had outsmarted him.

    The strike blasted the roguish smile from his face and cast him far to the east. When finally he landed he saw that he had fallen atop a mound of corpses, of fallen heroes, and as his eyes closed he wondered whether he should perhaps have been nervous after all.

    Entrant 2 - NorseThing
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    My mom and dad want me to have a pet. I guess it is part of growing up. So, I went to the pet store with the money my dad gave me. I was to pick out my choice and also get the needed food and supplies that I would need to begin to take care of the new baby. That's right. One requirement was that it be a baby. I was then to call and ask to get picked up with the pet and the loot.


    My mom would always say that all babies are cute. I agreed. I would pick out a baby for my first pet. Dad said that was best so that both I and the pet could grow up together, I said that was no sweat. I can handle that detail.


    What would be the perfect escort for a growing young lady?


    I did not want a doberman. They make me nervous. Besides it would be unfair to the doberman to look ferocious protecting little me walking me home from school and whatever. I do not remember any kid that had a problem or needed protection walking home from grade school. I assume even a doberman has pride of purpose.


    I looked and looked, but nothing interested me until I saw Ben.


    I thought Gentle Ben from that worthless rerun station that my parents watch. Gentle Ben was huge. He as a very big bear. If a big bear was not intimidating,would a baby bear be okay?


    Ben was perfect with the little blue bow. That is how I knew he was a he. It would be unfair to expect a baby girl to grow up to escort and protect another girl. Ben with the blue ribbon was now mine. Well I had to make the purchase, but that was as they say, fulfilling the formalities. Best of all, Ben was a vegetarian, just like me.


    I told the clerk that I could walk Ben home. I had walked to the store, so going home would be no sweat. I asked that the food and supplies be delivered later in the day. The clerk assured me a very short walk was okay for Ben.


    So Ben and I took a short stroll back to my house. It would now be his home as well. Even though we live in the city, this house was the last piece of land grandpa owned as his farm. So some bits of the farm are still here. Dad uses the barn as a garage. Mom likes the vegetable garden. Best of all it had a large pond or maybe it was a small lake. I do not really know how to describe it other than smelly in the late summer. It might be perfect for Ben though.


    “Mom! I am home! I bought a baby with the cutest little blue ribbon. Meet Ben, the baby hippopotamus.”

    Entrant 3 - King Athelstan
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    "Oh my Gods! Would you believe the size of that absolute unit? It's huge!" Cynfawr was knee deep in the gritty, muddy marsh. Not only knee deep, he was on his knees. The fog had settled on the marsh like a blanket, and now it hid Cynfawr and his fellow tribesmen from view. From Roman view. They had come to his land, his own land, to kill, maim, rape and steal. The Arverni traders had warned him of these invaders, but he had not listened. He didn't believe that red-clad men marching tight together would come across the sea in so large numbers. Why had they come now? Why had life done this to him? It was unfair. He had only just become chief, after his father had passed. He was in charge, and the first thing he would be in charge of was a carnage. He looked to his side, and saw his men were as intimidated as he was. Good. They ought to be, for blood would be shed today.

    Now they heard the marching. The devilish sound of iron-nailed sandals tramping together. Boom. Boom. Like the Druids drums, but there were so very many. There was a deeper boom too. It couldn't come from man, nor horse. Cynfawr felt sweat running down his body, he was soaked. But he did what he had to do. Trying not to sound too nervous , he mustered a battle-cry that came out as too high pitched, but it was one. He charged forward, out of the mist together with his brave companions. As he ran, he heard trumpets sound, and boots coming to a halt. Shouts in a foreign language, and then the booms coming towards him. But he ran.
    It all happened so fast. Just as he came to the edge of the fog, a giant shape came into it, right in front of him. 4 legs, greyish skin and Romans on it. Cynfawr saw no more before it was on him, and he yelled as his 14 winters of life came to an end.

    Entrant 4 - Ybbon
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Behemoth

    To anyone else the mere prospect of this project would be intimidating, no, forget
    that, it would be impossible! The sheer scope of the work required, the precision, accuracy,
    concentration would be beyond your average - no scratch that - beyond even the most expert
    in the field. Even a genuine master of their craft would be nervous at the prospect
    of the huge task ahead of him.

    Caractacus Pyke sat back and breathed out a ragged breath, that he was even attempting such
    a feat would, he was sure, be more than enough to finally get the respect he so richly
    deserved from that stuck up, arrogant, smarty-pants Venus Jones. Then again, she probably
    would not appreciate the sweat, blood, and rivers of tears that would no doubt
    be involved in this undertaking.

    Frankly, it would be unfair to his own genius to have her cast doubt or worse,
    undeserved scorn on his efforts. No, he woud need to ensure she only saw the final glorious
    completed behemoth. Slowly, he closed his eyes and saw in his mind the finished spaceship,
    glinting in a the way that brand new ships do, the lines and purpose clear - a fast ship
    but armed to the teeth, the kind of ship a ne'er do well would have, a man with a roguish
    twinkle in his eye and a raffish air about him - definitely not a nerf herder.

    Right, time to get on with this - Caractacus took a deep breath and picked up the
    Revell 1/72 Millenium Falcon model, perhaps he would add a little extra charm by calling
    it the Minellium Falcon.


    TotW 290 – Colonialism
    companies, explore, ignorance, natives, trade
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    With thanks to Alwyn for the graphic from his Empire TW AAR:Kite Pèp Mwen An Ale: Let My People Go (Haiti AAR)! Please rep him by clicking on the little green cross.

    Winner: - Hitai de Bodemloze
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    He watched as Mimi casually lit a cigarette, reclining on the battered scarlet chaise longue in the corner of the hotel room. The establishment was one of the last of its kind now in Hong Kong, as new companies from the mainland began to buy up and renovate the tawdry hotels that had marked their youth, encroaching like vipers upon those cherished memories of the sixties. It was tough for natives like them, who had grown up under the moonlight of those wild nights in the hotel cabaret bars, dressed to the nines in decadence and wanton abandon, dancing drunkenly away to that American swing before retiring somewhere a little more private to explore what lay beneath their laced corsets and debonair coattails. Now they had to watch as the Chinese conglomerates, in their savage ignorance, began to dismantle everything unique about the world's last colony, driving people like Mimi and him further underground.

    They met now, when they could, at this hotel; the last oasis of their youth where she had once plied her trade. But it was just an echo now of those heady days long past. He looked at her, her fishnet stockings protruding from the hem of an elaborate dress, dangling over the edge of the worn out leather sofa. Smoke clung in the air, dancing with the dust in the light of a new dawn spiking in from behind the tattered window shutters. She turned to smile at him, and he saw properly for the first time the lines of her face tug in contortion; a pattern of wrinkles now upon what once had been such an angel's visage.

    But he still loved her, just as he loved Hong Kong. Yet that was the true tragedy of it, he supposed. What he loved had long since faded, and what he clung to now was but a ghost of times past. But he couldn't let go, not now. So as Hong Kong crumbled away into modernity, he took the hand of the woman he had once loved, and held her for one last dance in the shadowed vestige of their youth.

    Entrant 2 - Ybbon
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Colonialism


    Nathaniel Hawke lifted his face, closed his eyes to the sun and breathed in the salty tang of the wind,
    their ship "The Molly Jane" had spent 7 weeks crossing the Atlantic from Plymouth, and now
    they could see a faint line of darker blue on the horizon, seabirds cries could be heard
    on the breeze as they flew above the masts. A loud crack came from the mainsail as the wind
    bellied it out pushing "The Molly Jane" towards the green and verdant coastline ahead.

    "A fine sight sir", Nathaniel called out to Mr Graves who stood closer to the rail, "we should be
    in harbour by nightfall." "Indeed, Sir" the reply came back, "and the natives of this land
    will be feeding from our hands by tomorrow night!" Graves gave a hearty laugh as he stepped across
    towards his companion in this enterprise, "these folks are simple and easily gulled by more
    sophisticated commercial gentlemen like ourselves, their ignorance will be our
    fortune."

    The following morning, a raucous crowd was gathering in the market place, hawkers shouting
    above each other, the smells of cooked pies and meat, bread and fish mingling with the smells
    of salt water, rotting fish and fruit, men and women, children, ragamuffins, beggars and gentry
    all looking for trade, to buy and sell, look and eat.

    Nathaniel and Mr Graves slowly walked through, their eyes ever wandering, looking at the products
    for sale, but mostly at the customers, marking out mentally the people they would be looking to
    exploit later - they exuded an air of casual indifference, dressed like a couple of wealthy
    young gentlemen, of distinguished banks or companies, out about their new town. "Mr Graves,
    I believe we are going to enjoy our time in Charlestown very much indeed", Nathaniel said to
    his companion as he watched a wealthy looking couple stroll past.

    Later that afternoon, the two men addressed a gathering of well to do young men,
    "Gentlemen, we are assured that your are all men of discernment and respectability in this fine
    town, Mr Graves and I are here as representatives of the London firm of Fleecem and Scarper, a
    company with a great reputation for honesty and integrity, maybe some of you fine Gentlemen have
    heard of it? No? Well it is of no matter, we bring to you an opportunity to exlore and,
    God willing, invest in our scheme, one that cannot fail but to make you a fortune". Nathaniel Hawke
    looked around at the eager faces in front of them, turned to Mr Graves with a knowing smile,
    their game was afoot and their next willing victims waiting eagerly to part with their money.

    Entrant 3 - Alwyn
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    At dawn, the companies of our regiment left the transport ships which had sailed up the St Lawrence River, we boarded small boats and walked on dry land at last. We were watchful for any sign of the enemy. My father was wounded in an attempt to seize Quebec during Queen Anne’s War, over forty years ago. When we said good-bye at Portsmouth, he warned me that the colonists were as savage as the natives who fought with them, with unkempt hair, inked skin and thrown tomahawks which rarely missed.

    Ten rangers went to explore the track through the forest, but didn’t return. Our regiment was ordered into the woods. If you haven’t marched under a relentless summer sun, carrying sixty-five pounds of kit, in complete ignorance of whether an unseen enemy might attack at any moment, you cannot conceive of how we felt. It was cooler in the forest, but we marched in constant fear of ambush. There were scattered settlements along the track, but the local colonists refused to trade information for coins or in response to our threats.

    As the sun set on the first day of our march, we were startled by sudden musket fire from the rear of our column. The British army learned from our earlier defeats. Our surviving rangers, reinforced by grenadiers, formed a scattered line and advanced cautiously, but found no savages. Our enemies are masters of stealth and they know when to fall back. The night was full of sudden alarms, as men emptied their muskets at real or imagined foes.

    As we marched under the rising sun on the second day, I was talking with Ensign Williams about our supplies when there was a sudden crackle of gun-fire from both left and right. I touched my cheek, drew my hand back and was shocked to see my hand sticky and red with blood. Williams had fallen and the blood was his. Williams was fifteen years old, his family have been farmers on my family’s Dorset estate for generations. Fortunately, the men of my company did the right thing without needing orders, running into a loose formation and taking cover before returning fire. The army have learned not to stand still in neat, close lines when ambushed. But there was nothing I could do for poor Williams, his face was calm but he looked so pale. I led my company away from the track, into the forest. Dudley and Knowles were shot dead, but we saw no savages. I had never been so angry as I was at that moment.

    After more anxious days and sleepless nights, we found a tiny settlement with three wooden homes. No-one appeared or responded to our shouts. It was only after we set the houses on fire that we heard the screams. Their women and children must have hidden in a basement which we didn’t find. For days, I had watched anxiously for savages, not realising what the terrible march had done to me.

    Entrant 4 - IneptCmdr
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Two seasons had passed since the strangers first arrived in their floating behemoths of wood and cloth. Two seasons since they first pressed their boots into the virgin soil of our shores. They had come from across the endless ocean to explore and make trade with the natives. Or so they claimed. By the time we learned otherwise, it was already to late. The strangers were tradesmen, not of goods, but of exploit, violence and plunder. While we suffered without end, they unabashedly helped themselves to the irreplaceable fruits of a lifetime of labour. Overpowered and overwhelmed, we could do nothing but clench our helpless fists and curse the ignorance that had doomed us.

    Then, slowly but inexorably, the situation began to change. It seemed the air around us, yes the very nature in which we dwelled, was poisonous to them. Sickness invaded their bodies and they, in ever dwindling numbers, retreated back towards the towering ships that still occupied the coast. That’s when we seized the hour. Our mission was simple. Take back that which had been so viciously torn from us; our dignity and honour. We moved through the dense brush like ghostly spirits carried on the early morning mist. Every stride was a motion devoid of sound. Each step a carefully orchestrated maneuver of supreme silence. Stealth was of the essence if we were to succeed in our grim endeavour.

    We came upon the enemy as they rested in a clearing. Their warriors, armed with weapons of flame and iron, were two companies strong. A far cry from the early days. Seeing this diminished and demoralised army, we smelled victory. It was an exhilarating odour, infusing us with courage beyond the natural. We attacked. The resting soldiers sprang to their feet. They reached for their guns, but it was too late. One by one they went down; victims of the rising and falling blades of a people set on revenge. My own hand was still unstained when one of them came before me. He was a phantom of a man, his body wasting from sickness. A veil of terror fell upon his face as he realised the end was near. I swung at him with all my might, with all my anger, with all my passion for retribution. As I did, a scream escaped my throat and pulled my mind back to reality. I looked in shock at the blood-stained edge of my weapon with which I had perfomed this ghastly deed.

    Savages they had called us mockingly. As I watched the mangled figure of a once living, breathing being that now lay motionless on the ground, the victim of my doing, I thought to myself; perhaps they were right. Perhaps we are all cruel, immoral creatures in one way or another. Perhaps all men deserve their fate. The lines blurred and I surrendered to the idea. Shaking the unease, the feeling of guilt, I rejoined my brothers in the slaughter. I had accepted my fate.

    Entrant 5 - Abdülmecid I
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Brigadier-General William Newton caressed his exquisite and pixelated moustache in a show of sheer joy. Only two companies of native militia stood between his army of one general bodyguard and 19 colonial regiments and the fortress of Pensacola. He had exactly fourty minutes to evaporate the enemy and add Florida's tobacco plantations to Britain's magnificent trade empire of the soon-to-be 14 colonies. As they gradually marched towards the fort's thick walls, amidst regular freezing, they could now discern the Indians' velvet heads and the distorted lines of their bayonets.
    Then shots were fired, lagging increased to slideshow levels and a couple of redcoats fell to the ground.

    "Fear not, brave soldiers!", commander Newton shouted.
    "The fortress will quickly be ours and His Majesty, king George II, has promised us that every casualty will be immediately replenished in the next six months!"

    Then, as professionally as ever, he ordered a blob to be formed and their secret weapon to be employed against the mighty fortifications of Pensacola. Immediately, tens of webs were equipped and thrown against the supposedly impegnable walls. White as Newton's wig, soft as Aleppo silk and unbreakable as Damascene steel, they carried the British to the top, as the Spanish Indians shot futilely. So, the climbing gave its place to a violent dance of hacking, clubbing and elegant musket-swinging. The natives were falling like flies, with the strict standards of the rating system being the only obstacle preventing their mustard uniforms from being stained with bloody pixels. The Indians had alomost reached the breaking point, when the Spanish colonel suddenly ordered a retreat towards the interior of the star-shaped fortress. Before the British had a chance to rout them, the Spaniards entered the warehouse located in the center of the inner square, smashing the doors inside and shattering the windows outside, while simultaneously firing at the enemy.

    General Newton was frankly dumbfounded by this revolutionary initiative. Was it ignorace? Was it fear? No matter how prudently he explored the surroundings, he was totally incapable of discovering a single entrance to the building. Charging at the front door was certainly out of question and his diamond-made webs were completely useless against this terrifying building, which the brilliant Spanish engineering had taken special care to equip with a roof. His army had no other option, but to stand helplessly in front of the warehouse, as the British soldiers were aimed at and killed by the native militia, without being able to reply in kind. As the sand in the hourglass was depleting, William Newton could already predict the foregone conclusion of the siege. Finally, exactly fourty minutes after the beginning of the battle, the white box appeared in the sky, carrying the fateful words:
    "Close defeat".

    Newton's army fled to Georgia, with Flordia remaining firmly in the hands of the 84-years old king Charles II the Indomitable, conqueror of Italy, exterminator of Morocco and illustrious emperor of India.

    Entrant 6 - The Wandering Storyteller
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    Cartagena de Indias, 1740


    Admiral Blas stared at the Royal Navy company ships flying Great Britain’s flag. Cartagena was under siege and it was his imperium duty to the King of Spain to defend the city at all costs. Thirty thousand British Redcoats stormed the city’s defences while they were repulsed by white coated Spanish musket-men and marines. The roar of musket and cannon fire could be heard, as the titans of the two navies fought against each other in a titanic struggle to wrest control of the harbour. He turned to his officer, Captain Rodrigo.


    ‘’Rodrigo, what is the situation now?’’


    ‘’Admiral Blas, the English have stormed San Lara and San Palania. They’ve taken over the defensive works and we need help as of now.’’


    Blas walked over the forts as he arrived into the final fort that defended the city. The English had increased their bombardment, while English regiments fought the Spanish forts littered around Cartagena. Cannon fire from the English ships had cleared the beach, and now a trench had been dug under Blas’s orders. Come or what may, Blas would make sure that the English would be defeated quite handsomely.


    ‘’This is the last fort that we have remaining Rodrigo. As a man of Aragon, I expected you to be braver than this, we can't explore much of this island by now.’’




    He noticed Rodrigo’s sarcastic smile. Perhaps ignorance was common among Aragonese, Blas thought.


    ‘’Not so, Admiral. But this is our last trench and the English have already infiltrated our beach, the inner half of the city. How can we hope to defeat them?’’


    Blas inspected the Spanish troops arming themselves for the assault that would arrive in a matter of time. A large bombardment could finish them off instantly.


    ‘’Rodrigo, in all my years of naval service to the King, I have never given up. I lost my right leg, my left eye when I fought those English dogs. I am a true son of Basque saliors. We don’t fight like cowards, we fight like lions, and the natives will too.’’


    He noticed Rodrigo almost brimming with encouragement. The young man had served under him for a while before he was transferred to Caratagea.


    ‘’In the vineyards of Castille, comes the finest wine. Now come, let’s go to the troops. English [B]trade is horrendous.’’ He said as he walked with all the strength he could gather.


    Cannon fire burst into the trenches as Spanish troops yelled, screaming in pain. Blood and guts spilled into the air as bodies lay in the mud. A volley of fire erupted from the Spanish troops in fierce determination as three regiments of British infantry marched upon them, loading their muskets and waiting to fire as their officers barked orders as they halted.


    ‘’Admiral, it is too dangerous for you. You must go back!’’ Rodrigo said.


    Blas shook him off.


    ‘’Nonsense! I may be a naval officer, but I know a thing or two about fighting on land.’’


    ‘’But-‘'

    Entrant 7 - NorseThing
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    The San Pedro just completed docking at one of Lisbon's wharves reserved for merchant vessels. Luiz, is the first mate on the San Pedro. He quickly walks down the wharf . He sits at a table in the first bar he spots. A man on shore leave! Another man joins him and they greet each other as men do when ready to have their first drink of the day.

    The first one to speak, “Hello. My name is Jaol. I am looking to sign up on a ship with a good crew to show me how to be a good sailor.”

    Luiz responds, “I am Luiz. I am the first mate on the San Pedro. We have just returned from Rio de Janeiro. That is the biggest city in Brazil. We need to resupply our vessel before we set sail again to Angola. If you want to work hard, there's always a need for promising sailors.”

    Jaol, “So what does the San Pedro ship? Where do you sail?”

    Luiz, “We deal in merchandise. We ship but do not trade. We are simply in the middle. Merchants in both Angola and Brazil handle the details.... But I may not be returning on the next voyage so you need to head to the ship and state your purpose to a company official. There are many companies that own many ships that travel this trade route. So you can explore your options.”

    Jaol, “So you may not be returning? Why?”

    Luiz, “I am tired. Yes, before you is a first mate of only 32 years of age, but I am tired beyond my age. The San Pedro is now trading in slaves. It was not always so for the San Pedro, but the money talks. The trade in slaves wears on my soul. Even the church is often too silent on these matters. The slavers in Angola purchase from villagers who capture other natives on raids. It used to be raiding was due to petty disputes... or rival villages challenging for rights to hunt, farm, or fish. Now it is simply for money paid for human flesh. It is out of ignorance that this continues. The sellers of flesh today may be the flesh sold next week.”

    Jaol, “But... this is approved by the king. This is how the plantations provide for us here at home. Why is this wrong?”

    Luiz, “ I was once a young eager man like you. I had a future as a fisherman in my home village well north of Lisbon with my father. I even had a young girl that found me attractive. But I thought I should see more of the world than just my small fishing village before settling down. My father thought this was foolish talk, but he consented to my wishes....”

    Luiz continued, “Now I want to go home. I hope there is a place for an older fisherman. Perhaps there will even be another young girl who can still find me attractive.”
    Last edited by Turkafinwë; April 14, 2019 at 11:02 AM. Reason: added TotW 290

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