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Prompt Club - Round 1

This forum is for members to share their original prose, poetry, and even fan fiction. Please be aware that The RPG Collective takes plagiarism very seriously and will uphold the relevant laws.

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Re: Prompt Club - Round 1

Post by Filth » Sat Oct 14, 2017 11:49 am

Went to fix all the embarassing tense shifts from the previous edits and somehow ended up rewriting the entire thing. I give up.

Prompt 9 - Steampunk
Captain Revlyn of house Stonehill flipped the telescopic lenses up and lifted her goggles from her eyes altogether. She could see the House Bariss airship docked against another from its house just above the distant clouds below. Her own ship, Wanderlust, flew well above them keeping watch on the Leviathan, the aptly named flagship but in retreat. Though, just a blot on the horizon, she could still make out the plumes of smoke from fires its crew had yet to get under control. It was only a matter of the other captains finalizing the next and final strike before they sent it burning to the ground below. She hated the waiting.
Her jaw tightened for a moment before she let out a slow breath trying to recover some modicum of patience. She turned her attention to Basilith, “I’ve no idea how much longer it’s going to take those Bariss finish wanking one another off but I’m going to lose my damn mind if I have to stand here waiting much longer.”
“Probably moved onto bumming each other by this point,” Basilith said with no indication of sarcasm in her tone but the other crewman on the bridge chuckled nonetheless. Basilith was a beast of a woman, often mistaken for an orc given her size and general demeanor, and it had taken her crew some time to feel comfortable enough around her to laugh at the dry delivery of her humor.
“Not exactly a mental image I’m thankful for but I’ll be in my quarters,” she said with a smirk, “come get me when they’ve finished and signal us down.”
“Aye, Rev,” Basilith said with a decisive nod, “we’ll hold things down out here.”
Revlyn nodded and once she was through the doorway and off the bridge she paused a moment, taking a few deep breaths. The last four days had begun to take their toll. She had hardly slept or eaten since leaving home and could tell by the way Basilith looked at her that she was not hiding it as well as she would like. Ship-to-ship combat was one of the most destructive and violent in all of Urth, akin to a battle between dragons more than it was between two ships at sea. Every member of her crew knew this and the constant dread of the lives lost over the last few days and those she continued to put at risk was nearly more than she could stand.
She snapped back to straight as she heard the footfalls of an approaching crewman. The worst thing she could do as a captain, aside from needlessly putting her crew in harm’s way, was let them see any form of weakness in her. They needed to know she was invincible and in control at all times. They need to know without even a hint of doubt that she knew precisely what she was doing in any situation. They were allowed to fear and dread but seeing her as immune to defeat allowed them to ignore that fear and their training to keep the reins in their minds. None of them, not even Revlyn herself were military but she and Basilith handpicked every member of their crew. True, they had been found in some of the scummiest pirate hangouts in the free region but they were the best of that scum.

When she reached her quarters, Korvin was deep in his meditative focus. She grinned at the look of serenity in his posture and expression. She wished she felt even a semblance of what the shaman felt.
“Even after a year sailing with me, the idea of you dressed like one of the crewmen still seems wrong. Like someone taught a worg to wear trousers,” she said softly. His consciousness was elsewhere, working the lines of etheric energy that channeled throughout the ship. While the dwarven engine let the ship maneuver, it was the etheric energy strands woven into the ship that allowed it to remain airborne. She continued when he didn’t respond, “I don’t think I’ll ever get quite used to seeing you without the fang and claw decorated furs.”
Wanderlust was already the fastest ship of the free houses but he had improved its speed and maneuverability significantly since coming aboard allowing the ship to take full advantage of the engine. She had been considered it a blessing from the gods when she found out what he was capable of but even more so when she found out he could repair the lines and work them around the damage taken in combat. She was one for gambling but she’d wager such jury-rigging had likely saved Wanderlust and the crew on more than one occasion.
She sat on the edge of the bed behind him and place a hand gently on his shoulder.
“Rev,” he said almost as if waking from sleep but doesn’t turn to face her. She could hear the gloom in his voice and didn’t need to see his face to know his expression, “I managed to work the strands around the damage near the stern of the ship but I can’t be certain how well it will hold if you attempt another dive in the next engagement with the Leviathan.”
“Engagement? I aim to kill those Roth sons of bitches, not court them,” she says but he doesn’t react. “Oh come on, that was funny!
His head lowered for a moment and he turned to face her with a neutral expression, but concern still obvious. She loved the way the green of his eyes practically seemed to glow against the dark tan of his complexion but hated that look on him. She hated when other worried over her, but even more so from him.
“This is serious, Rev,” he said.
“I don't like serious you nearly as much as,” she began as he rose to his feet and faced her. She stood as well, crossing her arms over her chest and scowling at him, “you never laugh when you get like this.”
“I know you hate to hear it,” he put his hands on her shoulder, “but I truly believe you should leave this fight to House Bariss. Their ships are better armored, better armed, and more capable for such a fight.”
“More capable?” She said loudly and there was an edge of anger to her voice. Much as she hated others worrying for her, she absolutely loathed when others doubted her abilities, “Wanderlust is more than capable and I have no intention of letting those Bariss bastards take all the credit for this victory.”
“You’re right, Wanderlust is more than capable and with you as captain she is one of the best airships in the free region,” he said and she scoffed at him, “the best in the free region but Wanderlust is injured and in no condition to go up against the Leviathan again.”
“The Leviathan is crippled and we’ve left it with no other ships to protect it.”
“Regardless, you cannot risk another dive if you insist on being part of the coming fight and in a ship this light, that removes a considerable portion of your advantage.”
She sighed but that edge of anger remained. She knew he was right. Wanderlust was a smuggler’s ship intended for outrunning and avoiding combat. Even fitted with cannons as her ship was, the Leviathan and heavier cannons and more of them. The glancing shot Wanderlust had taken was nearly enough to ground them. A direct hit would turn her into a rain of debris. She had come to her chambers looking for affection and a moment of respite, not logic. No, fuck that. If he insisted on making this a fight, she would give him one.
“You think I don’t know this, Korvin?” She snapped surprising both him and herself with the real anger in her voice, “but the greater risk is allowing it to return home where it will be back to slaughtering our people in less than a month! There has been too much bloodshed just getting this far to not throw everything we have at the Leviathan now! We have a real chance to end this. We have a real chance to keep the free regions free and I will do my part to see that day. Now, you can either believe that I know what I’m doing and be there on the bridge when that happens or you can sit in here and fuck yourself because I sure as the nine hells won’t.”
“Rev,” he said. She could tell she had hurt him and already had begun to regret it, “you know I believe in you but if anything was to happen to you—”
“Don’t you dare say it," she said through her teeth and he paused, wounded again.
“Then House Stonehill loses its greatest asset in the fight once this rebellion is over,” he finished as though it had been what he had intended to say. She reached a hand up to his cheek and smiled.
“Nice save,” she said with a smile and pressed herself against him, allowed him to wrap her in his arms. She was uncertain what difference it made not to speak of things they both knew but for some reason it comforted her not to hear it. She let out a deep breath, “there. Was this really so hard, nature boy?”
He squeezed her slightly and rested his head atop hers.
“You worry about that magic crap and ask the wind for a favor. You let me worry about my ship and the crew. Me and Wanderlust can do this.”
“I know you can,” he said and for a moment they were silent until he said her name in barely a whisper, “Rev?”
“Yes?”
“The fang is in the other pocket,”
“Dammit!” She exclaimed in a mixture of genuine and mock frustration. She slapped him on the chest with both hands and leaned back so she could glare at him, “I used to be able to sneak the fang off you every time. I must be losing my edge.”
“Perhaps or perhaps I simply enjoyed your little dance and smile when you thought you bested me,” he said with a chuckle and she stuck out her bottom lip in a mock pout.
“You don’t like my smile anymore?”
“I certainly do but I’m growing quite attached to the look of determination you give me when you swear that you’ll best me next time.”
“Oh, I’ll show you determined,” she said as she pulled him against her, her lips to his, and they fell together onto the bed. His teeth found the side of her neck and she groaned digging her fingers into the back of his head and then there was a knock at the door and a long string of cursing in the draconic tongue from Revlyn.
“Rev,” Basilith’s voice came through the door while Revlyn continued cursing in draconic under her breath, “Falson Bariss has signaled for us to dock with his vessel.”
Revlyn growled and kissed Korvin with her hands on either side of his face, a short kiss that ended with his bottom lip pulled briefly between her teeth. She growled again and pushed him aside, “fix yourself and join me on the bridge. Falson is a lecherous little prick and I’d feel less inclined to put my boot to his backside if you were there.”
“Aye-aye, captain,” he said now kneeling at the foot of the bed beside her. She smirked and kissed him once more before making her way to the bridge. She dreaded Falson almost as much as she did the upcoming battle.

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Re: Prompt Club - Round 1

Post by Sammy » Sat Oct 21, 2017 2:23 am

Just a reminder that Prompt Club 2 is currently rocking a creepy/spooky theme in honour of Halloween!
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Re: Prompt Club - Round 1

Post by Nicodemus » Wed Oct 25, 2017 12:53 pm

An entry in the current theme of Halloween.

I don't think this qualifies as graphic imagery, but for precaution's sake: [M]

Prompt 6: Welcome to Hell
You reluctantly climb the weathered porch steps, and an animatronic skeleton lunges its head forward and cackles hysterically at you from underneath its spider embellished top hat.

Your mother insisted it was the neighborly thing to do, to visit the Pritchards' haunted house. The Pritchard siblings have always made you uneasy. They always seem to be ominously staring at someone at school, as if waiting for a horrible fate to befall their classmates. You couldn't just pass up the peeling grey house two doors down from yours, though. Your mother said it would be rude.

You pass the plastic skeleton and the hay bales topped with crudely carved jack o'lanterns and knock on the door, just below the hand-painted sign that reads Welcome to Hell in red acrylic. The corroded mushroom knob turns and the hinges complain as the door swings slowly open to reveal no one behind it. The house is dark save a narrow path, designated by synthetic spider webs arranged to catch the light.

Your shoulders pout and you turn your head back, sending your best pleading expression from under your zombie makeup. But your mother shoos you forward admonishingly from the lawn.

You resign sullenly, turning back, and step over the threshold into the house. The rusty hinges give no warning as the door slams shut behind you.

The Pritchard house remains dark even after your eyes adjust, so you follow the dimly lit webs through their narrow tunnel. The dusty hardwood moans under your feet. It is the only sound, as there is no recorded cycle of cackling witches or howling wolves playing. You fail to stifle a cough in the stagnant air, choking on its sickly must.

You remember a boy from school, Connor. He was a little odd himself, and came to this house to visit the Pritchard siblings. When he didn't come to school the next week, your mother said he'd moved--

It leapt out of the darkness in a flash of colors, a distorted yell coming angrily through a staticky speaker, and you nearly drop your skull-shaped bucket of candy as you jump back. The clown holds its serrated blade limply and seems to stare at you as you gather yourself. You notice how detailed it is, much more disturbing than the cheap porch ornaments. It dangles there with a wide stitched grin, strings grotesquely bound through holes in its hands and around its neck, like a macabre marionette.

You circumvent the clown at a distance and continue down the path, turning a corner before more strings fling another figure towards you. You're surprised at how much it startles you, already having been fooled once. But the scarecrow is equally as unsettling as the last exhibit. Its face is not burlap or cloth, but something closely resembling skin and loosely stitched over its dead eyes and dry mouth. You're no longer certain that the anguished moan that accompanies it is a recording.

The scarecrow's cry fades away, and you move on through the silent dark. You've taken a few steps before a rat scurries across the floor past your feet. You hop and spin to avoid it, not sure whether it's a prop or not. It hurries away, and you realize the lights behind you have died, and you can't make out the path back out of the Pritchard house.

You turn and follow the faint lights forward, more quickly now.

Two figures come into the path, suspended on more limp puppet strings, one from either side. You're ready for the scare, but are startled this time by how much like flesh one of the twin girls feels as her swing collides with your arm. You stop to study them, but their faces are hidden under long dripping locks. Aquatic weeds cling to their soaked hair and lace-trimmed dresses. Their frames are of young children, and the exposed skin on their arms is incredibly detailed with purple veins and rotted pits. No moan or scream accompanies them, but you find that to be somehow more eerie.

You move along the path, backing away from the twins and into a tangle of the spider webs. You pull at the strands in annoyance until you feel something very alive creeping down your neck. You drop your bucket of candy and swat at the thing, stumbling around in an attempt to get away, until you're satisfied you've brushed it off. After your body's residual shiver, you realize you're no longer on the path and in utter darkness.

You stand still and unsure. You wonder if your mother has come looking for you yet; it seems you've been in the Pritchard house for far too long. You begin to imagine the siblings a few feet away in the black room with you, staring with their knowing grins.

Your eyes adjust slightly and you spot a faint strip of light on the floor. You feel your way across the room and find the cold metal of a knob. As you turn it and push, the sign on the door is readable in the light: Private - Trespassers Will Not Return.

Before you can consider the odd message, something scrambles up your leg. You leap back and flail your leg wildly to shake it off. You slam the door shut to keep the rat away.

Catching your breath, you look around in the light at the sweating cinder blocks and the molding stairs and realize you've entered the basement. You clutch the door knob and twist, then again frantically, but it refuses to turn.

Maybe there is a window in the basement--you can't see past the landing wall of the stairs--and you could crawl outside. You make your way down the steps in a manner appropriate to your zombie costume, tired from adrenaline surges with knees threatening to buckle.

You stumble down to the landing and see the room is occupied. A man in a dirty surgical mask and stained apron stoops over a table opposite his assistant, a woman with wrinkled jowls handing him tools from an assortment of sharp rusty things on a stand. A body lies unnaturally still on the table between them.

You quickly turn, wanting desperately to get out of the room before they see you, to find the Pritchard siblings standing on the stairs. Their usual stare has become angrier, as if they have been affronted and you must be tried for your crime.

You wheel around, now in panic, to escape their gaze, only to meet that of the surgeon and his assistant, the man holding up a crimson tipped fillet knife.

There is a moan from the table, the body twisting enough so that you see his face. You know the face, from school. Though, his features are now mutilated, sewn in patches like a living corpse made of several cadavers.

You tremble, not from the damp cold, and crumble on top of your legs. You sob, slumped on the rough concrete, and watch the assistant roll over a second table.

You feel the Pritchard siblings scoop you under your arms before you're carried to your own spot next to Connor.
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Re: Prompt Club - Round 1

Post by Sammy » Tue Nov 14, 2017 8:33 am

Really ought to finish off the prompt I started ages ago!
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Re: Prompt Club - Round 1

Post by Nicodemus » Thu Nov 16, 2017 11:11 pm

Prompt 12: The Mothers
Mothers in the Woods


Jamie pulled the iron latch to as quietly as she could--she didn't wish to wake them--and hesitated on the porch of the snow covered cottage. She scanned the bare trees past the yard, the frosted branches a ghostly blue in the first hint of morning. The resolve she'd gathered before sneaking out of the house had suddenly abandoned her. She watched her warm breath and thought of Aunt Mim, the old crow's kerchief wrapped low over intense eyes as she recalled a tale, Jamie's siblings gathered around her in front of the fireplace.

The old woods, these very woods, once played host to a good people. A people who loved the land, harsh as it is, and the land loved them and helped them thrive through the winter. They made their own things and played no part in fiefdoms or war.

That was before the king came.


Jamie took a step, and had to catch herself against the post when the frozen planks nearly took her feet out from under her. She fought down the sickly panic from the near-fall and had to steel her nerves all over again. She had to leave, before they woke and stopped her.

The king claimed the woods, said they were his own, and sent for strong men to fight for him. Every father and son from the woods, ripped from families and carried to war. The mothers were left alone with their little ones, and the woods loved them still, let them thrive.

The snow was deep, and Jamie felt the damp cold seep through the wool of her pants and bite at her knees. She threw herself forward through the pristine white blanket and the dead trees drew closer. Her boot caught in the packed ice and she fell, the powder enveloping her body and threatening to drench her before she pushed herself up on her hands.

Her head turned back to the cottage. She thought of her pallet by the fire, wanted to go back and curl up in its warmth, but knew she couldn't. She missed her. It had been just days and she missed her so much she wondered if the knot in her chest would soon render her without breath.

The men won the king's war, and more lands were claimed. Then, the king remembered his woods, thought they would make fine gifts divided among the nobles. But there were the mothers, still here. In the chill of winter, the king sent swords to clean the woods of the mothers and take their children for workers or squires or brides.

The woods did not approve.


Jamie fought the sinking snow until he was on his feet and stomped onward. They could not have Eslie. She belonged to Jamie. It was Jamie's knee her sister always chose to sit upon when they gathered at the fire. Eslie would hide her face in Jamie's shoulder when Mim's tales were frightening or fall asleep on her arm when they were not.

She pushed on until she neared the grey branches and the snow on the ground thinned under them. Into a wide trail she went, the trees looming sadly overhead.

The woods took the mothers, kept their souls. Nourished them until they were part of the forest.

But the mothers were just that, so they longed to nurture, yet they had no one after their offspring were stolen. And as the nobles claimed their corners of the woods, the mothers took back what was owed. The noble children, one by one, began to vanish to the woods, and the wealthy families fled back to their plots on the plain.

The woods aged and weathered away their titles, and the land became no one's once more. The houseless and the poor found homes in the woods, as the king had all but forgotten the disturbing rumors of vengeful spirits. And no one now cares when the mothers, in the harshest of winters, come to claim a child of no import.


Jamie searched the woods, about the dome of towering trunks and limbs, as the first yellow light licked the tops of the frosted branches, and found nothing.

"Here--" her words wheezed with silence, from the cold on her throat or fear, and she forced them out. "I am here, willing. Take me, and leave her behind."

The trees swayed in the windless air, or something moved amid the sparkling stems. Grey, like the trees, but bound to no roots and meandering through the forest.

Her name was called out from the cottage, then closer. Her Ma would find her soon at the end of his deep tracks through the snow.

But the mothers are not without love, empathy. And they recognize love to be cherished. If they see that someone is truly cared for, they will bargain. True, a price must be paid. They have been wronged, and they need to nurture, to make new souls as they are. Mothers in the woods.

Eslie sat alone in the snow and hear them calling for Jamie, not knowing why or how she was there, as her Ma and brother came trudging towards her. She had dreamed of Jamie before she woke, had felt warm in her arms.

Her Ma scooped her up from the white powder and sobbed in bittersweet relief. They never again called for Jamie.
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Re: Prompt Club - Round 1

Post by Sammy » Thu Nov 16, 2017 11:29 pm

You've unseated me again!

OP updated.
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Re: Prompt Club - Round 1

Post by Nicodemus » Fri Nov 17, 2017 3:00 am

Haha! Nicholas the Usurper.
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Re: Prompt Club - Round 1

Post by Sammy » Fri Dec 29, 2017 8:38 am

Just a little bump for my Prompt Club Pals!
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Re: Prompt Club - Round 1

Post by Nicodemus » Thu Jan 04, 2018 1:52 pm

I felt the need to get back to my Prompt Club roots, so here's Prompt 15: The Creature.
The Creature


"Who's there," I sent the words into the cave and heard them return, deep and hollow, from the vast shadow beyond my torchlight. I wasn't sure I'd heard anything, but the sensation that I was being watched was unmistakable.

The memories of my voice faded and no answer followed. I held the torch high, picking out tentative footsteps on the sweating rock beneath me. Further into the cave I went, until the soft light from outside the entrance abandoned me completely and I could no longer discern the breadth of the passage by fire light. The ceiling must've been low; I could feel the damp heat from my torch gathering around me.

I drew my knife. I'd heard Papa tell the workers there were no predators in the valley to worry over, but the thought of disturbing a sleeping boar was unsettling, and Papa had said I was too young for a short blade. I was suddenly aware of how far up the mountain I'd come alone, but there was no meaning left to go back to in the stale village, not in the absence of Izza.

Izza had been the one thing that broke the rigidness of the place, like a reply to my wish to be somewhere better. She had spotted me instantly, recognized the lethargy of the village slowly seeping into me, and claimed for herself a partner in mischief and adventure.

***

"What are you waiting for?" she asked me, brushing the lively locks from her face and taking my hand. We ran through the street like it was our own, fleeing from a scolding after we'd stirred up Master Crandell's playful hounds, sparking superstitious rumors by hiding ourselves in the trees and growling and hissing at nervous carriages, letting Mrs. Wendall discover a coin in place of the dewberry pie that had been cooling on her windowsill. When we grew tired of the grey timber houses, Izza tugged me across the river, into the woods, where we would lie in quiet and marvel at the canopy, at a wandering doe and fawn, at ourselves in trusting conversation. Both of us came to need the other's company, and when the day had not been long enough, we scuttled out of our bedroom windows to find each other in the moonlight and merrily let the chill spring current of the river take our breath.

"She's not well. Run along, now." The words seemed out of place as her father closed the door. I stood on the door stoop for a long while staring at the iron-bound planks, wondering how someone such as Izza could fall ill. Her father was more perturbed when he shooed me the following day, and the next, until I stopped knocking and simply circled the village square, ever searching for Izza's face to turn up behind the soot-stained miners and sweaty smiths. There were times, I would've sworn, that I did see her glimmer through the faces, but found my frantic pursuit of her down the street to end in a lonely alley. There was a young girl with the same flow of curls, whom I frightened half to death when spinning her shoulders too face me.

I asked news from Papa, who told me Izza had slipped further, that her father had left the mine so that he may tend her. I overheard talk among the workers. I learned that there had been a sister, an apparently talkative and enjoyable young girl who had slipped away in an unfortunately similar manner. They seemed to think that Izza would succumb to the same fate, that Dirk would never be the same should he be bereaved of both his children.

Days stretched into weeks, my ventures outside became less frequent, and I watched the village relapse to its weary grey through my bedroom window.

Papa--he rarely notice me before, having a load of responsibilities with the mine--occasionally paused outside the doorway to my room. He would for a moment stare at me sitting on my stool, seem to say something to himself, then finally take his leave.

One day I was roused from my room by a voice downstairs. Someone, whom I didn't recognize as one of the workers, was talking to Papa. Perched on the landing, I listened through the rails as the doctor shook his head at Papa's questions.

"I'm doing all I can," said the doctor. "I've sent word as far as Hembrook, even though I know Dirk can't afford to spare the coin the medicine will cost me."

When Papa, his back to me, murmured something in the tone of a plea, the doctor continued.

"There is a healer, just down the river, but she'll tell you the same. The mushrooms have gone from rare to extinct in these parts. The caves are bare of them."

***

As I pushed further through the dark of the cave, I realized the heat that was threatening to overwhelm me was not of my torch, but the natural current of the tunnel in the mountain. Ahead of me, a cloud of blood red began in the endless black. I neared it, and it grew to a fiery crimson. I could see the silhouettes of unnaturally sleek pillars, towering and fading to black far beyond where I had thought the cave's ceiling to be. The red glow pooled into a bowl in the rock, spanning the floor of the cavern and writhing molten about itself.

I found the wall, pushing myself against it and scurrying past the heat of the pool before my skin began to blister. On the far side, I wiped back my drenched hair, runs of sweat assaulting my burning eyes.

"You come for a wish?" The voice that came from the shadows was female, resounding and monolithic. It shook me, and I didn't know how to answer, but the deep echoes of the question still implored me to reply.

"I need mushrooms," I said, as if it were enough.

The shadow silently thought a moment, then, "They can be found in more comfortable places. Tell me the truth, did you come for a wish?" The voice was soothing, friendly, but too large to be taken lightly.

"No, mushrooms," I said regaining my thoughts. "Feverbane. I've searched every hole in the mountain. I need them--"

The shadow scoffed, growled without the human warmth it had held before. Then it shifted. I could feel the weight of the shadow in the vitrified stone beneath my feet. It came forward and the shadow gave way to a face, impossibly vast and impossibly high above the ground.

"Then you have come for me," it said accusingly as I was thrown on my haunches by my shock, scrambling to retrieve my worthless dagger. She was feline and canine and neither, the pale fur of her muzzle fading into what might have been feathers crested between her tucked ears.

"No!" I pleaded as she came closer, her graceful black eyes angry with the reflection of the molten pool. "Listen to me!"

She paused, cocked her head as if regarding my slight frame and harmless blade. "Who are you, searcher?" Her voice rumbled, but with no threat and perhaps curiosity.

"I am from the village, in the valley, and here for the sake of an ill friend." She betrayed no disbelief, so I dared further. "Who are you?"

She eyed me a moment longer, and when she seemed satisfied for me to sit on the stone in front of her, she stepped forward. Two muscular talons came out of the shadows and she slumped on top of them, a wave of powdered dust escaping and choking me as she lay down. "I am the one left," she said quietly, as if all her energy was now spent, "soon to be the last that was."

She looked defeated, her eyes now tired and cold. I sheathed my dagger, stood and gathered my torch.

"Feverbane," I said, daring a step toward her. "Does it grow here?"

She told me it didn't, but I had just to wish for it. This puzzled me for a moment, but after considering the fantastical creature with whom I spoke, it seemed an acceptable premise. I wished for the ingredient.

Her massive head raised and she stared at me curiouser than ever. Finally she seemed to discern something from the air around me. "You've had your wish already." I said that I hadn't, but she insisted, extending her neck and sniffing me. "You have. You wished to be some place better."

***

The daylight was merciless when I emerged from the cave, my hands empty of Feverbane and my wish denied. Though the thin breeze soothed my heat-burned skin, I hardly noticed. Lost on me was the view of the valley below, gray as the village to which I now had no reason to return.

I thought of the creature, of her voice, strangely familiar now in recollection. She'd said she was the one left. There had been another like her, and now she, it seemed, was dying. For all my worry for Izza, I thought of the creature, couldn't help feeling I'd found something in her important to me.

Papa never asked of my long walks, never knew I'd been so far up the mountain. In fact, he didn't ask me of anything. He left me to my stool by the window and I didn't look up to notice his pauses at my door.

He called on the doctor, each time receiving news that another city, another healer, had reported they could not provide a cure for Izza. The last visit, I eavesdropped from my perch on the landing as always, ducking down out of sight when the doctor's grim stare turned upward to my room. He and Papa disappeared into the den from where I could hear little, but knew it was ill news.

That night was without moonlight, but I found my way to her house, up the woodshed and through Izza's window. I could see her bed near the fire. It was hard to imagine that underneath the still mound of quilts lay what was left of Izza's spirit. I went to her, minding the complaining floorboards.

"You came." It was only a whisper, a shadow of the life I knew her to carry, that came from the bed.

"I wanted to check on you," I said. "They should find medicine that will help. It won't be long now."

"You lie," the shadow said, with an effort to laugh. "It won't help anyway."

"It might yet." I wanted to comfort her, looked frantically for words she would believe and keep as hope. "You're strong enough."

"It took my sister," she said. "I'm all that's left. And now it's come for me."

"Don't say that. You don't--"

"I'm sorry you didn't get to keep your wish," she said, brushing off talk of what might be.

I searched the shadow for her meaning. I had told no one of the cave or the creature, and what was more, I was denied a wish there. "What wish?"

"The wish you made before we met," she said, as if I were silly for not knowing. "The village, it was a better place, wasn't it? At least, for a short while."

I remembered making the wish, staring out my window from my stool and hoping for the gray of the village to be washed away. "I never told you of any such thought."

She shifted her weight to her shoulder and found the strength to lift her head. As she came out of the shadow, the firelight danced in the depths of her black eyes. "You didn't have to. I could hear it."

***

The mountain did not overcome me, though not for its lack of trying. Izza's slight frame, laid in a barrow I had liberated from the mine for the purpose of her makeshift gurney, had become heavier with every step up the sloping logging road. She'd slipped further away and had not said a word since I'd quietly lifted her from her bed in the night. She was asleep by the time I wheeled her into the cave. I lay down the barrow handles at the molten pool and allowed feeling to seep back into my hands before nursing my canteen.

I rounded the barrow and brushed away the sweat-soaked tendrils from her face. "Izza, we're here."

Her eyes fought their way open. Her face was drained, pale even in the red glow. She seemed to liven when she noticed something I did not. "Emly?"

"It's just me. She's gone, remember?" I took her hand and tried to calm her.

"No," she insisted, failing to push herself up in the barrow. "She's here. She's come back."

There was a tired sigh from the shadow across the pool, then the resounding voice. "You've done well, searcher. Leave her with me."

***

There were interrogations, search parties, panic of all sorts, when they discovered Izza's empty bed that morning. Master Crandell's hounds drug them from one stretch of woods to the next. I thought they would find her when the dogs bolted up the logging road, but the men came back down the mountain confused and empty-handed. There was so much commotion, the bereaved sorrow so intense, that I often felt pangs of doubt and wondered whether I had made the right decision. I wondered if I had known something they hadn't, or if I was, indeed, a naïve child filled with empty dreams of hope.

The days wore on the village, and on me. I dare not go back up the mountain with so many eyes searching for conspicuities. The panic slowly turned into despair, and the place became more absent of color than I could remember, settled in its sorrow.

I began to mourn with them. I found the stool by my window, a suitable place as any for a foolish child, and watched the workers imitate the iron sky.

I was staring at nothing, lost inside myself, when my head raised. There had been a sound, perhaps. Something outside. I wasn't sure, so I returned my stare to the floor. I heard it again.

A bellow from the mountain.

I leapt from the stool, clutching the windowsill. I scanned the misted silhouette of the mountain, searched the bright fog that framed it. The sound wouldn't recur, no matter how I strained my ears. My heart raced with excitement, then faster with the fear that I had imagined it. The place had never been as silent as that moment that stretched more than time should.

It broke the horizon with a glorious roar, the shape that found its way in the sky on enormous but graceful wings. I bolted from the room, kicking over my stool, half-descended the stairs and leapt the railing to get outside. I squinted in the light and searched for it again. The workers, loosely gathered in the square, were beginning to swivel their heads, confused by the strange thing they were hearing.

She was close when she cleared the tree line. I could make out the pitch black eyes in the feline face. I felt her voice in the ground, the wind as she swept over. The workers, the villagers, all ran. They scurried inside and latched the doors. I stood steady and watched in the direction of the mountain.

I saw her, the second creature, and smiled as she soared on bright-feathered wings over the square. I turned and watched them fade into the mist of the horizon. Neither of them the last, but whole again together.
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Sammy
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Re: Prompt Club - Round 1

Post by Sammy » Sat Jan 13, 2018 1:10 am

Looks like Nico is coming for you, Forge!
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Thanks to Forge for the set!
Please remember to vote here and here everyday!

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Nicodemus
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Re: Prompt Club - Round 1

Post by Nicodemus » Sun Jan 14, 2018 2:02 pm

Aye, that I am.

Prompt 2: La Rochelle
The ships always breathed. I remember the timbers grunting at the constant teasing of the salty waves that lulled into the bay. I grew so accustomed to the sounds outside my window that, on the rare nights when the winds tired and the ships were frozen on the glass water, I would pray for a breeze so that I may fall asleep.

When my chores allowed, I made sure to be at the docks to watch them come or break port, the men cheering her outward or brushing her rail in gratitude for bringing them home safely. I would pretend not to notice Papa's frown as I ran out the door. "No way to live," he'd say on occasions when I foolishly let my dreams of venturing seaward fall from my mouth.

And so I found what he'd meant, years after she took me.

She came so quietly I didn't notice her silhouette until she was already past the towers. So quiet that no one came to disturb my late night stroll on the empty docks. No voices came over the rails as she approached, no oars visible against the black sea, but she came to a smooth stop, barely disturbing the water.

I nervously scanned the stone walls of the city, barely a candle flickering within the depths of the windows, and looked back to find my feet were already carrying me around to the port side of the ship. She lay silent as I rounded her bow and stopped short. No ropes had been thrown to tie her steady, but her dock board was laid out, though I'd heard no men or wooden racket. My feet insisted once again that I go on.

It was a strange sensation as I passed over the railing onto the deck, like I'd found something after a long search, or someone had found me. It was the first time I'd actually been aboard a true vessel. I passed the helm and reached out to run my fingers over the worn knobs of the wheel.

The first movement caught my eye. I turned to find the binnacle. It matched it's ship, intricately crafted with edges weathered and ancient, and within the grime of the glass, I thought the compass had moved. I took a step around it and saw another shift. It was then I noticed the needle was not seeking north, but following me. I circled the binnacle, and the compass danced around to reciprocate.

I raised my hand to brush away the film on the glass; it wasn't possible for one to be sought out by a compass. I touched the glass, and felt as though I had touched the eye of the ship, melded with her. Her structure, her sails, her history. Her thoughts.

The dock board slid itself back onboard, and without the sound of oars, I broke port to sea.

No way to live. The words have echoed within me for decades. I am bound to her, and her to me. My crew sails in darkness, without suspicion their captain is as fastened to her as any nailed plank, never to step foot past her rails, never to feel sturdy ground underfoot.

I am bound to her, though I will not last as long. I will wither, and she will drift into port, her compass on new heading.
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