Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 9
In brighter times, the Ebon Tower had been a beacon of hope and justice, its garrisons watching over the Merchants’ Way from Grimble’s Vale in the East to Far Baragar in the West. But since the demon Kharael had come to claim it, that tower was a blight upon the land. Travellers would cling to the shadows of the Northern Peaks simply to avoid its gaze, though those roads teemed with wolves and bandits, and many lost their way.
Few could stand against a demon, but the Arch-mage Tharandel was one of those few, and so he felt it his duty to make the attempt. He pushed open the doors of the great hall at the tower’s tallest height, and what he saw there was nothing short of madness.
The demon Kharael had rearranged the very matter of the room. Screaming faces writhed across the walls, their words transmuted into silent flame. The pillars rising seemed to twist and bend, tormented serpents racked by pain that could afflict even stone. And in the centre of it all sat Kharael himself, upon a throne of skulls. Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 24
Once upon a time, there lived a powerful enchantress. But though her strong magic sustained her for a long, long time, there came a day when she began to grow old. She knew that it was time to choose an apprentice to someday succeed her, and so she called upon her two most promising students.
Aegorath was of noble blood, born under the Dragon Moon, and saw through the world’s veil as through a still pool. Yet where others of noble birth counted upon name alone, and others with special gifts relied upon those over study, Aegorath worked hard, far more proficient as an acolyte than many masters.
Thilo too worked hard, but the seers had found him in a nameless village, far away, and he had therefore begun his studies later than the others his age. His efforts had been spent first in gaining an equal footing with the others, and later in compensation for the fact that his gaze pierced the veil no more clearly than the others.
“The ways of our order dictate that I must decide upon an apprentice,” said the enchantress, “and I have decided that it will be one of you. However, the final choice will be by way of a challenge.” Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 22
Challenge #10*: Write an interactive story with at least two good endings and two bad endings. It must feature a conflict between Man and Society, and must also involve a choice that hinges on equipping the right item.
In the arena, two majestic alabaster unicorns duel to the death. Their tungsten chainsaw horns ring out against one another like a swarm of killer bees in a blender.
Place bet: 3
Leave: 4 Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2016, Day 23
“Kneel before me!” boomed the wizard, atop his throne. “Kneel, for it is within my power to smite thee with forces beyond the ken of man, and deal unto thee a fate that would make thee envy the dead and long for oblivion!”
“Don’t believe you,” grunted the barbarian, folding his arms.
The wizard laughed. “Thou thinkst thine scepticism makes thee wise? This is the greatest folly of all. My powers are my own, whether or not thou chooseth to believe their truth.”
“Well, yeah.” The barbarian shrugged. “If you actually do the whole smiting thing, I’ll believe you’re capable of doing the whole smiting thing. I may be a barbarian, but I’m capable of adapting my worldview in response to observable evidence.”
“Thou art loquacious for a barbarian.”
“Thou art loquacious full stop.”
There was an awkward pause. An awkward pause that, the wizard suspected, was more awkward for him than it was for the barbarian. Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2016, Day 2
Mrs. Withers didn’t say anything. She didn’t frown. She just tutted, and that was the worst possible thing.
“Is…is there something wrong?” asked Lucy, not sure she really wanted to hear the answer.
Mrs. Withers shifted her pear drop from one side of her mouth to the other. “Well,” she said, speaking around it, “it’s your story, Lucy. Your spelling is improving, and your handwriting is excellent as always, but a proper story really needs to have a beginning, a middle, and an end.”
“But it does!” Lucy leaned over the page on the desk. “Amanda finds a magic door in the cupboard under the stairs that leads to the mythical fairy world. That’s the beginning. She discovers that the fairy world has been overtaken by a wicked Goblin King, and sets out to defeat him. That’s the middle. After a long and perilous journey, she reaches the Goblin King’s fortress but—”
“You can’t just end a story with ‘She woke up. It was all a dream.’ It’s not the done thing!”
“I…” Lucy had always heard that a story was what you made it and that there weren’t really any solid rules. Then again, she had also heard a lot of solid rules. “I sort of ran out of time,” she said, meekly. “But that’s how Alice in Wonderland ends!” Continue reading
The Sundered Crown is now beyond my Camp NaNoWriMo goal of 18,000 words (actually closer to 19,000 by now) and I’ll be sending out the second chapter to my newsletter subscribers tomorrow (May 1st). If you want to read the rest of the story but haven’t signed up already, now’s your chance! I’ll be sending out a chapter a month as part of the regular newsletter for the next six months or so. If you’re not yet caught up with the first, publicly available one, you can read it now now right here on this very site.
It would be difficult to offer an actual blurb for this without spoiling the next couple of instalments–I’ve been writing with serialisation in mind from the beginning–but I think it’s safe to say that the story of The Sundered Crown covers both the episodes of Marcia’s life as it is now and the events that shaped the very world she lives in.
Where my first NaNoWriMo work, Face of Glass, took place in a prehistoric fantasy setting in which magic was rare and fickle if it existed at all, The Sundered Crown takes place in a world that has been heavily influenced by supernatural forces and can not survive without them. It’s made for an interesting project to tackle this April, and though I’ve still got some work to do finishing off the story and polishing each chapter, I hope it’ll make for an engaging read over the next few months.
If you’d like to subscribe, here’s that link once again. There’s no need to sign up for notifications (unless you want them): each chapter will come at the end of the usual monthly newsletter.
Given that Chapter Two of Epistory came out while I was writing the review of Chapter One, I had been hoping to get this second review done sooner. Part of that is down to things being busy at Christmas, part is down to my job, and part is down to my job being busy at Christmas.
Yeah. I played through Chapter One again as recommended (because there’s no guarantee that saves from the earlier version of Epistory will still work 100% correctly since the update), and managed to break the game pretty much the moment I started Chapter 2. That held me up a bit. Being an Early Access title, this kind of thing is to be expected, and I hope my experience helps the developers iron out the kinks. Continue reading
Flash Fiction Month 2014, Day 11
Once upon a time there was a thief named Rashid. At first he found great wealth and had many wondrous adventures, but as his fame spread people began to grow wise to his tricks, and Rashid grew hungry. One day, having not eaten anything for a considerable time, he did something he had wanted never to do: he crept inside the great burial mound that lay not far out of town, and which all knew to be cursed.
Within the mound, which was ringed round by standing stones, Rashid found vast piles of treasure. The thief needed no torch to see the riches he had discovered, for the quantity of gold there was so great, its lustre so brilliant, that it gave off its own light. However, though hungry, Rashid was not foolish. He took only a single golden cup, that surely could not be missed. And so Rashid stole quietly away, and neither wraith nor fiend nor devil pursued him from that place.
First, Rashid took the golden cup to the jeweller. “Look at this fine cup I found in the desert,” he said, presenting it to her. “Surely you can appreciate its worth.”
“Indeed I can,” said the jeweller, “and I would pay handsomely, had it been brought to me by anyone but a thief.”
Second, Rashid took the golden cup to the merchant. “Look at this fine cup,” he exclaimed. “A djinn appeared from the ground and presented it to me, but I would much rather have some bread. Perhaps you would like to trade?”
But “No no no,” said the merchant, mopping his brow. “You are a thief, Rashid. A thief and a trickster. If this cup is not stolen, it is cursed.”
Finally, Rashid took the golden cup to the king. “Eminent Highness,” he said, bowing, “I…”
“Leave my palace or I will have you thrown in jail,” said the king.
And so Rashid beat a hasty retreat.
But the true danger was already upon him, for as night fell, a great dragon awoke within the mound. Knowing that some small part of its hoard was missing, and catching the scent of man about the place, it flew screeching for the city lights on the horizon.
The dragon flew above the houses, raking their roofs with its vicious claws and spewing flame down into the streets. “Bring to me my treasure before the sun rises,” it cried, “or I shall burn this city down!”
As soon as they heard this, the jeweller and the merchant and the king all realised what had happened, and before long everybody was tearing through the streets with torches and spears, desperately seeking Rashid.
But no sooner than he had been driven from the palace, Rashid had gone back to the jewellers shop and—having let himself in—begun to melt down the golden cup. The cup was trouble, that was plain enough. But surely no shopkeeper could find fault with a few shapeless blobs of gold.
However, though the golden cup was small and unassuming, it held a secret unmatched by any other treasure of that desert mound. As the final remnants of the drinking vessel’s form melted in the crucible, a face appeared in the molten metal.
“Thank you, kind stranger!” said the face, with a peculiar golden voice. “Thank you for freeing me from the chalice!”
Rashid stumbled away from the fire. “Who are you?”
“I was once a hero,” explained the face of gold, “sworn to defeat the dark priest who dwelled within the halls of the dead. But I was found wanting: he cast a spell upon me, and for a thousand years I have remained sealed in that cup.”
At that moment the jeweller burst in, for she had realised at last what Rashid must have done. “There you are!” She slapped Rashid soundly. “A terrible dragon sits atop the palace and has threatened all kinds of things, should its cup not be returned before a new sun rises.”
“That is no dragon!” exclaimed the hero in the gold. “Long have I watched with emerald eyes: that is a noble princess, who was also cursed. Always is she doomed to watch over the dark priest’s hoard, for if it should be divided from her when the sun rises, she shall surely die.”
This, the jeweller thought, was even worse than the city being razed, since the princess was blameless. She turned to Rashid. “See what your thieving ways have done?” And she slapped him again for good measure.
But Rashid’s thieving ways were not all bad, for he had cunning. “Wait!” he shouted. “Bid the townspeople bring the whole hoard here, to your shop. I see a way that all can be resolved.”
So, after some coaxing, the jeweller did this. And after more coaxing, the king agreed. A great procession filed forth from the city, and before even the faintest touch of dawn had lit the sky, every treasure of the mound was gathered in the jeweller’s shop.
“Now,” said Rashid, “The hoard is with the dragon, and the dragon with the hoard, and this is good.”
This time, it was the king’s turn to slap Rashid. “Is this dragon to perch atop my palace forever?” he cried. “This is not good at all!”
But Rashid was more cunning still. He bade the jeweller make a vast and wondrous mould, and pour into it all the melted gold of the dark priest’s hoard. And when this was done, all the people of the town saw at last what Rashid had devised. Because what emerged from that clay form was no mere trinket, but a hero’s body all of gold, as well proportioned as any statue, and as intricate as any clockwork.
And so both the dragon and the golden man were free from the necropolis at last. Though each is bound to the other’s company, neither much minds. And neither do the jeweller and Rashid, who were wed not a week later.