Posts Tagged ‘Adventure’

Diabolical Deeds Wrap Up

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Oct 29 2012

Well, that’s the end of ‘Timony’s Diabolical Deeds Challenge, hopefully the tales were enjoyed here and on the other participating sites–but in the event that you missed it get over to ‘Timony’s site and check out the prompts and participants.

‘Timony Souler – Our Challenge host, and the one who will always be significant to my online writing persona because of challenges like 7 Sins and 7 Virtues that got me started on Flash Fiction in the first place. Undaunted by stringent word counts and difficult/obscure word prompts, ‘Timony delivers strong sensory fiction on a consistent basis–when not waylaid by real world demands. My favorite of her contributions to her own challenge this time was Day Two’s “The Promotion” because sometimes it’s just nice to observe a demon who really values their work.

Lisa McCourt Hollar- Host of the #55WordChallenge, and incredibly vivid writer whose horror stories actually scare me in spite of just being words on a page (or screen), which is an accomplishment because I normally refrain from delving into the genre deeply enough to be affected like that–her words and characters pull me in even when I’m wary of what they’ll reveal. It was her second entry, “Dangerous Games”, that I’m going with as my favorite in this challenge because on top of her usual richness of characterization and setting, there’s a little something sexy there too.

Meg McNulty- A writer I met early in my flash-ficiton experience and regular for ‘Timony Challenges, Meg brings a richness of history and context to her writing that is absolutely compelling. Her second entry, “The Cave”, is especially good this time around because of the balance of fantasy and horror that make it feel like anything could happen.

Jeffrey Hollar- Another longtime contributor to ‘Timony’s Challenges, and another impeccable horror writer–he can almost always capture the dark in life or in people in a way that will turn the stomach or make the skin crawl, but when he feels like it can deliver real fun, whimsy and comedy as well. And, surprise surprise, it was the second entry again that most captivated me. How did everyone else do such a good job with Calu? “A Night Out” really provided a setting and characters I’d love to see more of, even casually with no particular plot line.

Mark Ethridge- A regular on the Flash Fiction scene, this is his first ‘Timony Challenge. His words are poetic and invitingly original, and this time around I think he really gained steam as he worked his way through the challenge. My favorite entry was actually his 4th Entry, “Sthenno”, but a lot of that is favoritism for the strong female lead and Greek mythology, I would argue that his final entry was even stronger.

Stacy Bennet-Hoyt- Another regular from the Flash Fiction circuit, yet newcomer to the ‘Timony scene. Sort of a hidden character since she missed the sign-up deadline but participated anyway, and delivered her usual flash brilliance and power with each entry. Choosing a favorite among such strong entries was hard, but I’m ever so slightly favoring her 2nd Entry, “Calu”, because she gets the sexiness that others captured and also taught me a new word I intend to start making use of.

 

And to my knowledge that’s all the entries. If I missed anyone, let me know and I’ll remedy that.

 

Diabolical Deeds 5: Zagan

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Oct 26 2012

[Previous Deed]

Zagan

Scooping her satiny black cat into her arms, the girl let out a relieved sigh. With Stheno unconscious they were finally together and safe again. Scratching the back of her cat’s head, the girl turned out to grin at the zoic wonders of the cedar forest.

Her reverie was cut short upon noticing the great winged bull winking at them. Her cat tried to wriggle out of her arms—but she held him tight.

“You ought to be ashamed, Blackie! The spiritual zymosis he started you on is what turned you into a cat in the first place!”

 

 

 

And that wraps up ‘Timony’s Diabolical Deeds Challenge. Probably not my best showing in a ‘Timony Challenge, but you can look forward to my summary of the rest of the field on Monday–which altogether should make for some good seasonal reading. Feel free to check out the links to the other participants ahead of time, over at ‘Timony’s Site.

Diabolical Deeds 3: Humbaba

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Oct 24 2012

[previous Deed]

Humbaba

She had to shade her eyes, raising an arm against the heavenly brilliance of the cedar forest. How strange a thing the sun seemed, after even a brief time in the chthonic depths.

A feline yowl brought surging habromania that turned the girl’s hair and eyes golden. Then she saw the lion-headed behemoth menacing her poor cat!

“To enter the forest of the Herrenvolk is verboten!”

The giant breathed a torrent of flame and, more terrifying to his victim, raised floodwaters with his roar.

“Get away from my kitty!” The girl suffused her palms with death’s dark glow.

Diabolical Deeds 2: Calu

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Oct 23 2012

[see previous Deed here]

Calu

The girl was seized by a sudden cacaesthesia. Something was watching her. Something with feral yellow eyes.

Fists dripping blood, she proceeded into the caliginous depths of the underworld—senses alert for her lost cat as well as her mysterious stalker. Once the flicker of the fire lake was behind her, her stalker revealed himself.

“How dare you trespass in my domain?” The man-wolf snarled.

The girl’s bouncy hair and remorseless eyes shifted to the fiery hue of the lake, “I’m looking for my kitty. Have you seen him?”

The demon’s tail dropped between his legs and he pointed ahead.

Diabolical Deeds 1: Ammut

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Oct 22 2012

Okay, choking on the digital dust here–but maybe the latest ‘Timony Challenge will be enough to get the site back up and producing again (though all of the old greats like Niar Saga and Lost Girls’ Society have remained available). Without further ado, I give you the first of the Diabolical Deeds.

Ammut

Plummeting through the achroous void, the girl wrinkled her nose at dry sulfurous air thrashing her pigtails and cloak. She would have avoided this smoking rift in the earth, if it hadn’t opened underneath her cat.

A crimson glow broke the tedium of her descent, finally revealing ground below. The adactylous creature lumbering alongside the lake of fire looked like a cross between a hippo and a lion, with the head of a crocodile.

Braced on stumpy limbs, the creature opened its jaws to receive the girl.

Eyes narrowed, the girl pulled her fist back for impact. “Where’s my kitty!?”

 

 

 

And of course you can check out the prompts and link collection to other participants over at ‘Timony’s Site.

Melody’s Diary 09

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Sep 04 2012

Dear Diary,

Wow… So much has happened. I can’t tell if I’m still broken or not, but I’m tired. Not like my body or mind are tired, more like my soul is. It’s weird, and if I wasn’t so tired I think I’d probably be worried about it.

I didn’t have any reason to think that the snake people would accept peace with the villagers, but I knew I had to try. It was really scary, and also sad. I knew I had to have some sort of plan, so I was going to try appealing to them without appearing weak–but I was ready to use the Lost Lullaby to put them all to sleep and kill them all if I had to. It was really sickening to think about, but I suppose it would be respectful of their culture at least…

Unfortunately gathering information in town about the snake-peoples’ culture didn’t go very well, no one knew much that seemed useful for suing for peace. Tiffany was pretty sick from her drinking, and apparently climbed up to Jack’s window in the night and saw that he sleeps in the nude! Why didn’t I think of that? Though I suppose I’m still pretty bad at climbing… I would like to see Jack naked though…

Rose says that Jack had a big fight with a woman recently! So apparently he at least was taken, though he seemed really depressed when he came down for breakfast and totally not himself. I wonder who she is? What did they fight about? How did they meet and how long have they known each other? I tried to let Jack know I was there for him, but I don’t think I did any good. I never had to deal with anything like this in the Temple, and I hate to think I did it wrong when Jack needed someone!

When Rose found out I was planning on confronting the lizard people she chastised me that it was disrespectful of me to make decisions for my friends. I think she was sort of confused, but maybe it’s because it was early. I wasn’t making a decision for anyone else, I just knew what I had to do. So I was ready to do what I decided to do regardless of what anyone else chose to do–though I’ll admit the riskiness of it did have me kind of worried if we were going to all put ourselves in danger before accomplishing the mission we were sent for.

Not long after Jack left this huge heavily armed lizard man with an eye-patch came looking for us! His name is Sylvester and apparently he is the greatest warrior of the lizard tribe! And he wants peace too! He loves fighting, it sounds like fighting is a religious experience for him–sort of like singing for me. The way he describes it I actually feel like I can relate, even though I could never feel that way about hurting people myself.

But Sylvester was tired of all his friends dying–which I think is a very good reason to prefer peace over war–and had finally decided that peace would be best. He could take us to argue for peace to the Chief and Elder of his tribe, but had no direct decision making power himself. Obviously Nova, Terra and even Rose wanted to go along with me–though I felt pretty bad for Tiffany who got dragged along by the Girl Code, even though she obviously didn’t want to go. I’m not sure why she’s forcing herself to go on adventures, there are so many better ways to see the world.

I tried to get as much information from Sylvester as possible on how to talk to and make a good impression with his people, but I guess what we were trying was unprecedented enough there was no real precedent. He recommended we wear as little as possible and present ourselves as warriors though. Stripping down to my underwear was sort of exciting, though I think Rose enjoyed it the most. As for being a warrior, that was sort of what I was afraid I’d have to do. I just don’t like hurting people enough to get into that mindset.

I do like Sylvester though. His passion and intellect are really inspiring, even if those traits apparently aren’t valued by his culture. Maybe some sort of organized competitive sport would give the snake people a better outlet for their intense physicality.

The village was heavily fortified and guarded out in the middle of the desert, and obviously Sylvester had quite a reputation as the guards of his own village were scared of him. We were presented as his prisoners, which I wasn’t sure how that would impact our bargaining position, but apparently we were just supposed to play it like we’d come in of our own free will–which technically we did. It seemed like a pretty rough crowd over all, and I just can’t help wondering if they’d be happier if they could somehow turn their attention from destruction to creation.

The Chief was a warrior somewhat less impressive than Sylvester, and the Elder was a beautiful old naga! She was one of those blind seers who Maester Forte had told me about too.

My TASK training actually came in handy for making a good impression as I spoke for our party–though I really wish Nova, Terra or Rose would have said more. I didn’t know how to talk to these people or even what they could possibly want that we could offer them in place of the nihilistic mission they were currently pursuing. It was taking everything I had just to present myself as a fighter instead of a lover, and in the end I don’t think I really got through to them much. How do you negotiate with someone whose only desire is to kill their perceived enemies? Why couldn’t more of them value their own people the way Sylvester does?

We ended up retiring to Sylvester’s tent for an intermission as the negotiations began to break down. Their tribe apparently struggled with abstract concepts such as numbers and currency, so they’d been taken advantage of by merchants in the desert before and were as a result very wary of bargaining of any kind.

Somehow we managed to rally and turn the lizard folks’ opinion back to our favor and then present the option for them to control monster populations around the human village in exchange for the items they currently took in raids–thereby continuing their current living, utilizing their warrior talents but preserving the lives of people on both sides of the issue. I wasn’t sure if they’d go for it, since Sylvester was the only one who’d shown any appreciation for life over death, but I guess we convinced them! They apparently did want to live more than they wanted to kill, and so did approve of an option to live with less death! I was so excited, I knew that the snakefolk were people too and it felt so good to actually get through to them!

Of course, the Elder called for a test of our worthiness to seal the pact–that we bring back evidence of slaying the guardian on the lowest level of the dungeon we were going to anyway! That wouldn’t be any problem, since Nova and Terra are really good at exploring dungeons. The only potential complication on the lizard side was their interest in learning Tiffany’s knife technique, which we couldn’t quite claim Tiffany had down yet–let alone well enough to teach it.

The next hurdle was convincing the villagers to accept the negotiation we’d made without them. Fortunately the mayor appreciated the benefit of saving lives at the cost of the goods currently being stolen anyway and was prepared to argue for it at the next town meeting. After a night’s rest we were to head to the ruin and things were finally looking up!

Then Rose woke us up the next day with news that Jack had dropped out of communication. He was missing. I felt like it was my fault for not knowing what to say to him the day before! I hated delaying the mission we were sent on further, but Jack was much more important to me…

We headed into the desert in the direction Jack had followed John, but encountered an old gypsy woman named Esmerelda with a huge pack. She was tiny, especially next to her pack, and somewhat creepy. We asked about Jack, but she didn’t have any information–though she could relate to our quest for a man. She offered a magic feather that would let us find what we were searching for, but it cost a lot more money than I had–and all my gold is still back at TASK.

I guess Terra already had a feather like that though, so she just bought some chocolate covered fireflies and we used Terra’s feather to find Jack. All this heat seems really hard on Nova, and probably me too though I’ve been too focused on what I’ve been doing to really notice. Maybe I just have heat exhaustion? No, I think it is something else.

Putting all my heart into wishing for Jack, I released the feather and we followed it north. It skirted the village and took the easiest path to the ruin! Nova found the lever to open the cave, Rose decided to wait outside and we all headed in. It was much cooler inside the cave, which I know Nova liked. The cave was dark and musty, then melted eerily into perfectly worked stone in a way that seemed decidedly supernatural.

Actually, the ruin itself seemed an awful lot like Alishtor’s castle. Following the sounds of running water we found a huge chamber with platforms suspended above water where John was holding a shepherd’s crook like the one in Nova, Terra and my nightmare. I had a really bad feeling about it, but it was too late to back out. John still seemed perfectly pleasant, but I couldn’t shake the ominous feeling I had about him–made much worse by that staff.

He explained it was an artifact that helped you get what you wanted, which that alone sounds dangerously vague, and obviously he intended to use it in the memorial to his friend that I’m really beginning to suspect is Alishtor. I tried to convince him to be careful with the artifact, but it was pretty obvious his mind was made up one way or another and he was telling us any more than he already had.

Tiffany was entranced by the staff and got into a whisper conversation with John, where all I could over hear was him asking her what she wanted. I didn’t know what to do, and felt so powerless with just this shapeless dread clouding my thoughts. Something was wrong, but I couldn’t do anything about it. I pray John isn’t making the same stupid mistakes as Alishtor, but it also seems like that would be too much to ask for at this point. We asked him about Jack, but he said he hadn’t seen him.

Once John was gone Tiffany attacked Nova with her daggers, so Nova had to sit on her to restrain her. I tried the Hymn of Healing and the Dynamic De Capo Aria, but none of my songs seemed to have the power to undo whatever John had done to Tiffany. Nova and Terra had her restrained with no difficulty, and even attempted tickle torture to get her to confess what was wrong, but to no avail. Finally I let out that dark thing that had been growing in my chest since Alishtor’s castle. I took control of Tiffany’s body and mind with a new song… The Marionette’s March.

I got Tiffany to tell us how John had promised her power and the ability to be awesome and go on adventures with him in exchange for killing us. Since I didn’t know how long my control over Tiffany would last we escorted her out of the cave and I had her let Rose tie her up. We tried to work out a solution to the problem, and hit one! Love! Love is much more powerful than any artifact or twisted ambition, and so Tiffany’s love for Jack was enough to break her from John’s control–or so we thought.

Thinking Tiffany was okay again, and with her promise not to cause any more trouble, we went back into the ruin. The next room we checked had a massive gladiator with a golden key, who Nova hit so hard he dropped his key and was reeling–giving us a chance to escape with the key into the hall! Though Tiffany decided to stay and finish him off, which I guess is okay since he was just a statue, though it would have been kind of fun to get away without destroying him.

Something’s changed in me. My spiritual energy that I spend when I sing comes back so much more quickly now than ever before. I can’t explain it, I feel like my soul has wings! Singing has always stirred my soul, but now when I stop singing it feels like some sort of transcendent experience as well. Maybe inner peace?

The next room had a sofa with a vanity, in the mirror of which we got to witness the ghost murder of the woman who had been sitting there by some madman. I hate haunted places, the stories behind them are so sad. There has to be some cure for all this senseless violence, pain and hatred. Is it something I could ever fix with my song? I’d pay any cost to myself if only I could heal the world.

There was another ghostly dining hall, but these ones were less aggressive and with no exorcism skills between the four of us we decided to leave them be. The next room we explored was more of a problem. The ghost knights there were strong opponents, though Terra and Nova were well positioned to take them on with me supporting. Nova got the first one, and I distracted the next with my ball so Terra could cripple him. Then both of Tiffany’s daggers sank into my back.

Why didn’t I see that coming? Of course we hadn’t cured her, John was Alishtor’s researcher and had an artifact of unknown power. We should have left Tiffany tied up until we could get a Sage to help her. I’m so sorry everyone. I should have had my spirit shield up. I should have done better.

I woke up to the taste of chocolate with Nova sitting on Tiffany again and Terra fighting the last two knights by herself. I started on the Hymn of Healing immediately, but things had gone pretty badly wrong at that point. Nova had to go back in to help Terra finish the fight, so with my shield up this time I told Tiffany what she did was wrong. She ran away, but we couldn’t leave her loose, so after finishing the fight we searched for her.

Terra and I found her in the room with the vanity while an agitated Nova continued banging around the ruin. Poor Nova, this seems really hard on her–and Terra got hurt worse than she had to because I couldn’t take care of myself again. I’m so sorry everyone.

Tiffany emerged from under the vanity when she thought we had gone, and I put her to sleep with the Lost Lullaby. I’m sorry Tiffany, I’ll do my best to find some way of helping you. I still like pretty clothes, but I suppose I shouldn’t wear them on adventures. Another outfit ruined.

Leaving Tiffany bound in Rose’s custody for the long haul this time, we returned to the ruin. So many dilapidated rooms and halls, haunting presences and mysteries fill this place. It’s almost too much to mention here. Nova’s handling the ghosts here much better than at Alishtor’s Castle I think, though they really aren’t any threat to us, we’ve gotten so powerful. I guess that’s kind of fun, though it’s important to remain humble. There’s always something more powerful.

We found a room with buttons on a pedestal that moved up and down to different floors according to the buttons pressed, some jester ghosts that weren’t as fun as they should have been–I used the Marionette’s March to make them dance, I… I think I like this new power too much, it isn’t a natural ability. I should be careful not to hurt anyone with it. It’s, sort of addicting.

After sending the ghosts on to their final rest, we found a cylindrical key which seemed to go with a device in the large chamber with all the water. We needed two more such keys to activate it though, and decided to search the other two floors the rising and falling room accessed.

The first one down was way too hot with cave walls again, metal doors and barred windows, and a big metal monster like a giant lizard walking around in the lava in the center of the area. In deference to Nova we decided to explore the lower level before dealing with that.

There was a room with platforms obscured by water where I got a sense we needed to go left. Navigating the water and the platforms and the drop-offs proved hard for Nova, especially since she was having to carry or throw me too, though Terra got around with little difficulty. The things that attacked us here were all mechanical in nature, including a sort of assassin that kept disappearing and stabbing at my shield–until he finally broke through! Nova and Terra rallied to save me, while I continued to heal our wounds with the Hymn and sustain my damaged shield.

More climbing and struggling to navigate the platforms–I really hate adventuring, I don’t understand why Tiffany would choose to do this. I feel a responsibility to do so, but if I could just settle down in a small village with Jack… Well, I’d rather have friends and security than excitement and struggle.

Then we found some sort of laundry room where Jack was encased in a block of ice! I thawed him out with the Dynamic De Capo Aria and just collapsed with relief that he was okay! I wanted to faint after we finished negotiating with the snakefolk, but I very nearly did once Jack was okay again.

Gods, if I can have one selfish wish I want to see Jack happy. Please.

-M

Melody’s Diary 08

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Jun 29 2012

Dear Diary,

I, I’m not sure I like it at TASK… Maybe Nova and Terra can do the same job as Jack, but it just doesn’t feel right for me. Also it seems like maybe TASK knows way too much, across too broad a spectrum–like maybe they should be several separate organizations? They certainly seem to share information internally like a bunch of separate organizations.

I don’t know, it’s just all so confusing I guess. Oh, I’m also keeping a Journal for TASK now that I’m a Researcher–I think I’ll just give them the facts-only-version of what I tell you, without the analysis of myself and others. Maybe the stuff about myself is important to learning Song Magic, but I don’t really want to volunteer it.

The night before our first day Nova, Terra and I all had this terrible nightmare. We were in a field with lights like in Taragosh’s clearing, then this man on the horizon with one glowing red eye lifted a shepherd’s staff and summoned three of the gargoyles and a whole lot of gargites like we fought in Taragosh’s clearing… Like, way too many of them. I put all but one of the gargoyles to sleep with the Lost Lullaby, but even that one was too powerful for Nova and Terra to defeat, and then he did that thing where they destroy all their friends and bring them back fresh, and next this big vile red dragon came out of a portal in the sky and swooped down to eat us and we woke up!

I didn’t like that dream. But I especially don’t like that I think it was probably more of a vision or prophetic dream or something. I think the guy with the red eye is Alishtor’s Researcher, and now I’m worried he might have the same issues his Sage had.

In the hallway on our way to breakfast we met another new-recruit of TASK whose name turned out to be Tiffany–though she didn’t tell us that at the time. She’s got a headband and wild hair that sort of matches her personality. She was pretty insistent that we try the waffles at breakfast, but I really wasn’t hungry enough for waffles–those are sort of a once-a-week thing for me. If that.

The hogling chef in the kitchen is nice and reminds me a little of Cooky back at the Temple. I was a little surprised with how impressive the building looked to learn that their kitchen was fairly average. Terra had a big mouse the chef had caught in the strawberry jam, Nova had some chocolate bread that smelled wonderful, and the chef did his best to make a mixed berry parfait for me–though they didn’t have much in the way of fruit and the jam was sort of weird. Not weird like I got the same container as the mouse, just, not very normal for a parfait… Still, it was a good breakfast.

Orientation was in a large auditorium, and Dr. Zjavont was the one giving it! I guess he’s our Sage for now because he knows us best. So, Yay Science! He told us about how we’d have three days of tests to establish what our course in TASK would look like, and told us a lot about what the organization is–basically a reaction against any limited definition of humanity, or people-ness since they also help hoglings, scarecrows and even simians… I don’t like simians, I mean, I guess… Well, they’re pretty scary.

With the size of the auditorium I thought there might be a lot of new Researchers, but I guess it’s just Terra, Nova, Tiffany and I. Also, apparently Tiffany and Dr. Zjavont don’t get along–and not just because she doesn’t have patience for science. Then because I’m capable of Song Magic I guess I’m going to have special sessions with the Sage researching Song Magic.

Charlie went to find Gokasan to confer with him about the current situation–I really hope he has a good answer that will minimize any suffering caused by Alishtor’s actions. Jack is away on a mission to find Alishtor’s Researcher. I missed him a lot already, but after our dream I was actually really worried to imagine Jack looking for the Researcher by himself. Jack promised he wouldn’t die again, but Alishtor’s Researcher should actually be more dangerous than Alishtor was himself. I don’t know where that puts him in relation to the Man in the Red Robes, but after our dream I’m really worried about it.

Also, why doesn’t anyone even know what Alishtor’s Researcher looks like? I know TASK is a big organization, but given the kind of knowledge they deal with that just seems irresponsible to have such a loose grasp of who’s in the organization and who isn’t. It seems TASK is led by a Council of Five Sages, and apparently Barrister is the sixth Sage!

They’ve positioned themselves as Arbiters of knowledge, with a lot of checks and balances on that knowledge. I understand that the wrong information in the wrong hands is extremely dangerous–case in point being Alishtor. But he WAS a member of TASK. In fact he was a Sage! I feel like a more open system would work better. Who really has the right to decide what other people are or are not allowed to know anyway? I think that if everyone had access to all information, even the dangerous knowledge, then we could all keep each other in check as a community.

Would Alishtor have been as costly to stop if we’d all known what he knew from the start? I don’t think so.

Oh, and I guess Terra, Nova and I are specialized in exorcism, so our first mission is an excavation of ancient ruins with a mild ghost infestation. Nova wasn’t too happy about that, but I guess it is sort of what I joined TASK for… Kind of. Though I don’t think this is one of the breaches Alishtor made.

I know I have my doubts about my place in TASK, and I’m not sure Terra or Nova are particularly committed to it either. Tiffany on the other hand seems really excited, when she isn’t sleeping on her feet. I guess she escaped what she considered a dull farm life and is really excited about mastering special powers. I think it would be nice to live on a farm, getting to be outside and enjoy all the fresh air, and the company of the animals, and just living freely and simply. Nurturing life.

After the orientation Nova, Terra and I went to the gym to work out. On the way we met a Sage with brown hair and big glasses named Argentino! He’s the Song Magic Sage! He talked a lot about how amazing Song Magic is, and the sorts of amazing things I’ll be able to do with it if I continue on the current path. Raising the dead, reversing the degradation of age, regenerating lost limbs, all the sorts of things I heard the priests whisper about back at the Temple of the Consecrated Choir. I think he was talking about The Song of Life–only, I’m starting to get the feeling there’s another Song… One I don’t think I want to know.

The Hymn of Healing and Dynamic De Capo Aria are different from The Lost Lullaby in a way I can’t really explain. The priests and in particular Maester Forte taught me the Hymn of Healing, I just sort of made up the Lost Lullaby. There’s this thing in my chest that feels both tempting and wrong at the same time, and it feels more closely related to the Lost Lullaby than the Hymn of Healing or Dynamic De Capo Aria. It’s been there since sometime after our battle with Alishtor and the Man in the Red Robes.

Why did the Simians attack our temple?

Anyway, Argentino is capable of Song Magic himself! So I’m not the only one who can use it! I wonder if Maester Forte could use it too? Though if he could, why wouldn’t he ever demonstrate it to me? Argentino taught me some cool sub-vocalization techniques and showed me how to manipulate water with multi-tonal singing. He says it’s staggeringly amazing that I can use Song Magic, so I guess we’re still really rare even if I’m not the only one.
Terra doesn’t seem to like Argentino for some reason–but I’m really excited to meet someone else who can use Song Magic.

We learned a little more about our first mission. We’re apparently retrieving an ancient magic from the ruins used by an advanced civilization to launch projectiles from a metal barrel sort of like a crossbow. It was used to conquer much of the world, and a rather nasty tribe of lizard people in the area mean to reclaim the method when the ghostly activity subsides during the equinox. Since we’re not as superstitious as the lizard folk we’ll go in before the equinox and get the magic before them.

Then we heard that Barrister is currently away on a diplomatic mission to deal with some disgruntled royalty that TASK has to buy off with knowledge from time to time.

Our training in TASK began with a simple Will application. Dr. Zjavont shot us with cushioned cross-bow bolts, and we were supposed to manipulate reality with our Will to cause the bolt to miss. We opened with meditation, so I used the meditation hum I learned at the temple to help everyone get into it–Tiffany in particular seemed unfamiliar with meditation, or wound too tight to do it just then anyway.
It turns out we were learning in the Spiritual Practice Room! A whole room with an Energy restoring circle in the floor! The Spiritual Practice Room is now my favorite room in TASK! What would have been a draining meditation elsewhere was a breeze in the Spiritual Practice Room!

Then it was time to actually test the technique. I volunteered to go first, and was able to force the bolt off course with my Will… Only, the technique spends spiritual energy, and I do more than enough of that already. I don’t think this technique will be very helpful for me. I need ways to generate more Energy, not more ways to spend it! If only I could get some sort of reserve of additional energy or something!

Dr. Zjavont then proceeded to shoot Tiffany repeatedly, which didn’t seem very nice. She was really struggling with the technique, but I guess it was worth it because she was really excited when she finally got it.

Then it came time for Terra and Nova to try the technique–only their combat reflexes were so good it was really hard for Dr. Zjavont to hit them in general. By the time he fitted a scope to the crossbow and they were actively trying NOT to dodge he started shooting them like he’d been shooting Tiffany, though eventually they were able to cause the bolt to miss instead of dodging themselves… I’m not sure how useful a technique it is for them either though, because with their level of combat skill it doesn’t seem like the degree of spiritual influence the technique provides is very likely to be significant.

After that it was time for our testing to determine our areas of focus in TASK. I went first and did a bunch of vocal exercises just like back at the Temple. I guess I still need to work on volume… Though I’m not sure why? I can be heard just fine even over long distances. I hope they’re not hoping for me to sing so loud it hurts people…

Terra went next and they worked on escalating her already impressive jumping ability toward outright flight! That would be so amazing if Terra learned to fly! I’ve never seen a flying fox before! Nova worked on her super strength, lifting weights that even some of the people at TASK hadn’t realized were actually for use!

Then we finally got to see what Tiffany’s power was! She can generate pink lightning and crystalize it into a blade! Only, when she tries to split the blade–which looks possible–she has trouble controlling it and I guess the spare tends to go flying and stick in Dr. Zjavont’s arm. So that’s why they didn’t get along so well… What’re the odds on hitting his other arm like that? Especially after he taught us the technique to make things miss us?

Dr. Zjavont had other business to attend to after that, so he put on a bat mask and left. We got underway ourselves, with Rose providing transportation again. Tiffany and Rose seem to get along really well–I think they think sort of alike.

When we got to the town it was pretty heavily battle damaged. I guess they never bothered to name their town, though some of the youth refer to it as the Middle of Nowhere–even though it’s really close to the coast. The ruins are North East of the town past some awkward trees resembling a werewolf, unmentionables, and an Indian head respectively. The battle damage on the town is apparently a result of an ancestral feud that had been bred into the neighboring lizardfolk with no clear indicator of what started it.

Wait… Near the coast… Are we near the ocean?! Ooo! I have to go see it when we’re done! We’re close!

Apparently I reminded the old man who greeted us of his daughter and he was very friendly and helpful… Then I saw the blacksmith! He was fairly nondescript with brown hair and an eye-patch over the eye that glowed red on the figure in our dream! That seemed very suspicious to me, so I did some digging.

I guess his name is Jack, though he isn’t as cool as the real Jack. He’s lived in town for thirty-three years, which admittedly doesn’t sound like it would describe a Researcher for TASK. He pooped on the Indian Head Tree as a boy, and tried repeatedly to sleep with the old man’s daughter–and got caned just as many times. The old man says his daughter is loose, but not that loose… I’m not sure I’m as flattered about reminding him of her anymore. I’m not loose!

Then blacksmith Jack developed a fascination with staves–like the figure in our dream had! He married a hot red head, and has been the village weapon smith for ten years. Then the old man’s daughter showed up after he got off on a tangent about his wife and politely escorted him away.

I decided to spy on the blacksmith while Nova and Terra were buying weapons from him to see if I could learn anything. If he’s the figure from our dream I’d really like to figure that out before he hurts anyone. A slow witted and inept hogling who called everyone Larry entered the weapon shop to buy some gauntlets for punching out ‘Larry’. He returned home with the gauntlets in tow to apparently inflict injury on himself…

That’s when John arrived! He was an elegantly dressed but similarly nondescript brunette to blacksmith Jack, who also covered the eye that glowed red on the figure in our dream! If the figure had been closer I’d know what he looked like, but as is he really could be almost anyone!

John’s a traveler, which lines up more with being a Researcher for TASK… Are we allowed to talk about TASK? I wish I’d thought to ask that before we left. It would have made checking John out much easier if I could have just asked him if he was a member of TASK. Maybe I can? Secrets are so confusing. I’m not supposed to tell anyone I’m the Songstress, but if others are capable of Song Magic then I’m still allowed to use mine, right?

Anyway, John told us the armorer is a bit of an enchanter if we want nicer equipment–though I left my gold from Alishtor’s castle back at TASK. It’s so heavy! John doesn’t stop by the town often but seems well ingratiated with the community. He let us know not to take the cheapest deal at the Inn, but to favor the middle option. Also he was able to guess what Nova and I wanted to drink! I’d never even had the Virgin Strawberry Daiquiri Charlie recommended before! How did John know to about it? If it’s that obvious I’m less happy about the Pink Lotus Rose got me.

John shared that he was named for his uncle, who was a doctor. He also told us about the town’s feud with the lizards–and how a couple villagers recently disappeared to be experimented on! Apparently Psion and Golem came from this village! So then, Emperor Regal was one of the lizard folk! The lizard folk believe they were wronged, and have the philosophy to “Leave no trace of your enemies.” There has to be some way to make peace here, but it doesn’t sound easy.

Just as John was leaving, screaming lizard raiders with scythes attacked the town! I tried to talk them down, but they were very crude and both they and Terra and Nova seemed bristling for a fight… As a last ditch attempt at deescalation I used the Lost Lullaby to put all but one of them to sleep–not doing bad on my effectiveness there, but I’d like to get all of my targets one of these times. Terra rushed into battle with the last one, and John crushed the lizard man with some sort of air distorting force effect! So he’s got the power to possibly be a TASK Researcher too.

That didn’t really line up with my idea of disarming them and trying again to talk things out–but John says their scythes are forged and enchanted to kill in a single blow–and I would rather the lizard die than Terra. It’s so frustrating! They didn’t want to listen to me at all!

I guess a towns person named Jimmy tried begging the lizard folk to stop their hostilities, and they ate him! Is that what’s going to happen when I ask them? Blacksmith Jack is a survivor of the counter raid on the lizards after that. Even the old man says that we can’t make peace with the lizard folk… So I left the lizards to the townspeople… Blacksmith Jack slit their throats then burned the bodies. Apparently the funeral pyre is considered an honorable warrior’s death, and so there won’t be reprisals from the lizard folk for the loss of the raiding party.

I basically murdered those lizard men! They were completely helpless because of my song, and because I thought it was easier to let them die than work to find a solution that benefited everyone! I’m such a horrible person! And then we just went to the bar like it was nothing but mindless monsters we’d disposed of, or tormented ghosts we’d freed from suffering!

Turns out Tiffany is only 15, and she went to the bar to get drunk! I guess that’s her choice… But it seems like a really bad idea. I could tell it tasted just as bad to her as it did to me, and then after the third one she seemed really off balance, and then was finally sick… Why would anyone do that to themselves intentionally? I looks terrible! But, I guess it’s not really my business what other people do to themselves…

John opened up a little more, telling us how a friend of his died recently. His friend used to get an Old Fashioned to drink at this bar, and Beef Wellington is apparently John’s drink there–though it doesn’t look anything like the Beef Wellington the High Priest liked to eat. John says his friend died in construction, and he just wanted to make things right. I wanted to ask him if his friend was Alishtor, but construction does seem like a bit of a stretch… Though maybe from Alishtor’s perspective his business wasn’t really destruction–only I think he knew it was because he mostly talked about what he was taking out of the picture, hell and the gods.

Then John had to leave. I was too dispirited to really dig any further into my suspicions that he might be Alishtor’s Researcher… The way I failed those lizard men, just feels so inexcusable. I hate myself right now. It’s so strange, I’ve never, EVER, felt hate before… But this whole stupid feud and intolerance and violence… My heart is full of hate, and it’s making me sick! But I can’t afford to let it out, because if I were to actually direct the hate at someone or something else that’s the only thing I could imagine being worse than feeling it in the first place… So I hate myself.

In the past whenever I’ve felt bad I’ve been able to cheer myself up by singing. So I went to the town center and sang with all my heart. Most of the village came to listen, so I wove the Hymn of Healing in under the song to cure their hurts. I sang of faith, and hope and all the things that used to comfort me. Please, gods, don’t let me lose my way like Alishtor or the Man in the Red Robes.

The villagers figured out I was the one healing them, I was kind of hoping they’d chalk it up to the power of positive thinking and good attitude… It turns out that Jimmy was their pastor. Faith and spirituality have been low in the village since his death, and they don’t have a doctor so some of the injuries get pretty serious with no one to treat them.

Then an old woman started calling for me to kill the lizard folk with my songs. She wants a killing song… And the worst of it is, I think I… I think that… I can. Why are there songs that can hurt people? It just seems so wrong! Even the other townspeople wanted me to stay with them forever, and I can’t do that… I’ve got too many other responsibilities around the world, plus I’d hate to put them in greater danger like I apparently did the Temple of the Consecrated Choir.

I have to stop this feud with the lizard people. I’m going to go to the lizard village and find some way to stop this before we go… I wonder if we can send the relic back with Rose? We should probably take care of it first, and we can’t risk it falling into the lizard folks’ hands… But I don’t think Nova and Terra would let me go alone, and I’m so confused right now I don’t know if I’d want them to or not.

Then as the sun was setting Jack arrived! I feel so much better knowing Jack’s okay, but I’m also ashamed for him to see me like this, and embarrassed about what I said the last time I saw him. We did tell Jack about our dream though, and he told us it was a shamanic dream–which is very significant. I also gave him detailed descriptions of blacksmith Jack and John, and the reasons I had to suspect each of them of being the man in our dream and/or Alishtor’s Researcher.

I don’t know what’s going to happen, or what exactly I should be doing here, but I know I’ve got to try my hardest. I can’t give up!

 

-M

The Succubus’ Harem: Prologue

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Jun 15 2012

So as a little something different (yes I found an opportunity to get online after all!) I thought maybe I’d share some really rough flash fictions that are coming to mind as I play Rage of Bahamut. No sooner had I deleted Zombie Jombie from my phone (see the My Phone Monday of this week) than I discovered Rage of Bahamut, which seems to be everything I expect Zombie Jombie wanted to be. Collectable Card game for the iPhone and Android, which is fun and addicting–and very deserving of its own more positive review one of these days.

Anyway, I’ve been so inspired playing it that I’m just naturally developing characters based on my cards blending them with the storyline from the game–so obviously I could never actually publish these with large elements not being original to me, but this seems like a good forum for a sort of ‘fan fiction’.

The story is titled “The Succubus’ Harem”

 

 

*Prologue*

Rage.

Pain.

Hatred.

Thirst.

A clawed hand breaks the surface of the rain soaked field. Fresh dirt erupts in a muddy fountain as the hand’s owner emerges from the loam. The sudden disturbance and wash of tangy earth scent interrupts a pair of worgs from wrestling over the leg of an unfortunate traveler.

Mud and dirt tumble from the ribcage of the mysterious figure. Age has picked clean flesh and organs. Though yellowed, the bones seem preserved by unnatural power. Only the metal scales of an armored skirt remain of any clothing the figure may have once had, and those are corroded and falling apart.

The skeleton’s ragged blackened blade is in little better condition than its mail skirt, yet proves sufficient to lop the head from the shoulders of the first curious wolf-like creature. The second howls in fury and lunges for the skeleton’s boney throat, only to share the fate of the first worg.

Blood running from its blade, the skeleton turns its face to the roiling clouds and releases an ear splitting wail of rage. Pain. Hatred. Thirst.

 

 

 

If you have a smartphone (both iPhone and Android supported) then Rage of Bahamut is a free download and even if you decide it isn’t your thing you could help me a lot by playing through the tutorial and entering the code lrq89881 at the end. On the other hand if electronic collectible fantasy card games that you can kill some free time with while enjoying a lot of the best of the fantasy genre does sound good to you, that same code will start you off with an impressive 100,000 extra Rupies (as in you will not have money issues) and an Angelic Knight rare card–and still help me.

They do a good job with getting you to promote them by offering excellent incentives to do so–but for fantasy fans with smartphones I’m inclined to say it is VERY worth it. Of course, you can also potentially get the gist of my impressions of the game just by reading my flash fiction on the subject–which may be the new Friday Feature.

Second Dice Games Retrospective

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Jun 13 2012

So I’m setting this review of ‘Timony Souler’s Dice Games from last week in advance to post as a sort of ‘Other Web Wednesday’ for the week since it does mention and link to other sites those of a reading or writing bent may wish to check out. I’ll already be out of town until late the 22nd by the time this goes up, so I want to mention that I commented in response to every entry from this round of the Dice Games I could find–so if I didn’t comment on one of yours that means I didn’t see it and would appreciate you posting a link to it in the comments section.

You can jump back to read my entries from the beginning by following the link to my adaptation of Beauty and the Beast.

 

‘Timony Souler: Our monthly challenge host, ‘Timony Souler invites us back into the dark and unexpected corners of her mind with this second installment of Dice Games—where we had to roll for each of our writing prompts from a list with some real oddities, as evidenced by the variety of stories that arose. My favorite of ‘Timony’s personal contributions this time was her second entry, Slaughter, because a great panicked atmosphere and Inquisitional overtones.

Lisa McCourt Hollar: Her impeccable writing gets you right into her characters’ heads, and doesn’t let you out no matter how much you want to escape. Honestly a lot of her stuff is too scary for me, but well worth checking out if you value good writing at all. If you also like horror than you may love Jezri’s Nightmares. I only found one entry for Dice Games, Perfect Strangers, but it’s one of my favorite things she’s written. When an author does horror so well, sometimes it’s nice to dislike the protagonist.

Stevie McCoy: A good friend and a good writer, host of the Tuesday Tales Blog Challenge, excellent community builder and all around versatile and impressive person. This time around she gave us proper vampires in tales of blood, hunger and amorality. My favorite was the first one though, Death Becomes You, because I can infer an incredible relationship between the vampire and her two victims.

Emilia Quill: An absolutely amazing fantasy author, who I’m actually hoping to do a short cross-over work with soon if both our schedules can clear up a bit. Her worlds and creatures are so rich and evocative, they really speak for themselves. So my favorite was her second entry because it captured both of those and told a genuinely awesome love story.

Julie Fisher: Though I only found one entry for this Dice Games, Julie delivers another dose of feel-good sentimentality with her entry. She does a great job of capturing the feelings in her scenes, and I’ll never complain about a piece that leaves me with a smile.

Lena Corazon: Lena’s an amazing writer and academic whose site regularly delivers everything from compelling fiction to insights into the craft and just generally fun reading. My favorite was definitely her second entry, Worthless?, for so many reasons—but just for here I’m going to say it’s because I am Gareth and love Serenity.

Meg McNulty: The weight of historical and cultural relevance behind Meg’s work guarantee a far deeper and richer experience from reading her work than would otherwise be possible within the word count. My favorite was her third entry, Achilles’ Choice, because it really gets into the myth and history that make Meg’s work so rich while also humanizing the characters through their choice and actions. That and I love Odysseus.

Dice Games June 8

Uncategorized | Posted by davidludwig
Jun 08 2012

Previous

***

“It’s incredible…” Belle turned slowly, still unable to take in the enormity of the surrounding library on her second pass.

“You like it?” the Beast’s face split into the sharp-toothed grin she now found strangely endearing. “There’s something more.”

Before she could question what could possibly be more than the most exquisite collection thick, pristine tomes Belle had ever seen, she felt the handle of a golden mirror pressed into her hand. The craftsmanship was finer even than the other treasures in the castle. Seeing her reflection, however, thrust the lady’s brief euphoria under a sudden weight of empty longing.

Mostly the beauty looked the same, but parting her red lips revealed her ever sharpening teeth. The hand holding the mirror bore claws which both excited and frightened her. More changes lay invisible within her, rendering the woman in the reflection a stranger to herself.

“Think about your father while you look in the mirror,” the Beast stepped against Belle’s back, steadying her small hand with his own massive one and looking over her shoulder. “It will show him to you.”

“I can see Papa?” Belle looked back to the terrible head resting on her shoulder, her longing finally escaping her eyes as tears.

The Beast simply nodded. Swallowing, Belle allowed herself to think about her father for the first time in what felt like ages. The surface of the mirror seemed to ripple, and the reflection was replaced by a dark image.

Her portly old Papa was struggling against another storm! But he wasn’t alone; there was a taller man with him. Broad muscles pressed against a red tunic, their owner striding against the storm with an impervious swagger. Gaston.

The sight of the amorous egomaniac was enough to turn Belle’s stomach—which had become very hard to do lately. Full nausea hit as Belle saw they had all the village men behind them, and her father was gesticulating toward the edifice connecting their world to the Beast’s castle.

A rumbling growl that shook Belle’s bones showed the Beast’s displeasure.

“They’re coming here!” Belle spun to face the Beast.

“They’ll live only long enough to regret it if they do.”

Belle shrank from his cold statement of fact. Not a threat, nor promise of action, but unbiased observation of truth.

“What have you done?”

“Thrown down a little rose seed,” he turned the mirror back to Belle. “The plants of this world, are often more deadly than the animals.”

Cold dread clutched in Belle’s chest as she watched her father, Gaston, and the villagers charge through the wall of water made when lightning struck the monolith. Dropping the mirror into Beast’s hand, Belle sprinted for the basement. She’d get there even if she had to smash down the door.

Screams and the hot coppery scent of blood washed up from the dungeons before Belle could reach them. Rounding the last twisting staircase the girl witnessed a jungle of thorny vines twisting and slithering over the stone floor—hungrily rushing toward the delicious wash of human blood.

Belle’s sympathetic heart beat great surges of adrenaline into her system as she saw the thorns lash about, bind and drain the men of their vital fluids. Her mouth watered reflexively. Blood gorged buds burst from the vines before blossoming into obscenely crimson flowers. The scent of blood was rapidly being subsumed into the sweet perfume of the carnivorous blooms.

Finally she spied her Papa, fallen anemically by the now silent edifice. Leaping down into the lethal mass of vines, Belle relied on sharpened instinct and heightened reflexes to reach her Papa’s side and sever the thorns constricting him with her elegant claws.

As the rose bush closed around the girl and her father, she desperately sought a means of egress able to accommodate both of them. Gaston’s desiccated husk tumbled down to her side, a look of dumb shock frozen on his face. In little better position herself, Belle still considered that worth a grim chuckle.

“Up here! Jump!” The Beast’s roar called Belle’s attention to where he hung from the ceiling, hind-claws dug into the stone.

Belle responded with her own sharp-toothed grin before catapulting up into her Beast’s arms, her father in her own. Papa would just have to get used to this world as she had.

And Beast would have to get used to having a live-in in-law.

 

–Prompt 1: KILLER PLANTS!!!–

 

And that’s the second Dice Games. Feel free to check out the other entries by following the link collection over at our lovely host ‘Timony Souler’s site. I’ll be swinging by and seeing the rest of the field this weekend myself and then posting my post-competition summary later.