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Weekly Challenge #1, December 6th-12th
Posted: Dec 6 2015, 10:13 AM
Weekly Challenge #1
Behold! Unbound's first weekly challenge! In keeping with the holiday spirit our first challenge will be in the Christmas (or Satinalia for characters) season and inspired by the following quote:
Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. - Norman Vincent Peale
You challenge is to take inspiration from this quote and free-write from either your, your character's, or an entirely different perspective. Sky is the limit, but keep it no longer than 800 words.
This challenge will end December 12th at 11:59pm and will have an award of 50 sovereigns.
Reply below with your challenge submission to earn credit for this challenge!
Posted: Dec 10 2015, 09:54 AM
“Artemis, you know food is for eating, don’t you?” Fergus questioned as he focused his attention on the crates in front of him. They were filled with all the decorations that his father had gathered over the years. They were relatively the same things, just different colors for when his mother got bored with the overall theme, and they would change the color theme on her will, though the types of décor remained the same. And it was that time of year again, where the noble people of Ferelden would flock to their castle, open to them for the first time since Fergus and his sister had returned to Highever.
But ever since they had gotten back those few months ago, Artemis had been acting despondent. She didn’t sleep, eat, or generally talk. There was a plate in front of her as she sat at the bar’s counter, but she wouldn’t eat anything despite his best efforts. The ballroom was large and he’d need her help to at least get the basic things up before the Servants came in to help.
“You know the expression “Bite your tongue before I rip it out” applies here, right?” She asked with an irritable quality to her tone of voice that made him narrow his eyes at her. But he didn’t understand it, that much she had decided. She hated it here. Every time she turned the corner, there was another scream, the smell of blood, a memory, be it good or bad, both were equally as painful. Fergus had to transfer the family living quarters to the other side of the castle, because He could hardly take a step into his knowing it was where Oren and Oriana had been slain. But she didn’t understand him, either. How could he be okay with living here day to day, trying to live life as if it were normal?
“You know Artemis, you can’t sulk forever.” Fergus commented harshly, his back turned to her as he focused on the crates. And she clenched her fist against her cheek. “Watch yourself.” She growled, but it only forced her brother to spin around, in her face once he had made his way over to her. “Watch myself over what? Do you think you’re the only one suffering Artemis? Do you think that you’re the only one who suffered just because you were here?”
“You have no idea how hard it is to be here! I—“
“Oh do I not? When I have to think about how my son was struck down by a sword while his mother likely screamed in horror before she too was thrown to the wolves? Do you think I can step into the larder without thinking about what you, mother and father had to go through?”
“You weren’t here!” She didn’t realize how selfish she was being. She didn’t realize it even as Fergus turned away from her, not trusting his rage to allow him to spit anything but insults within the next few moments. Artemis huffed, supposing she’d help, if it would keep him from talking to her, off her back. Though as she kneeled to sift through the boxes, her hand brushed against the hard sheath of a sword, she recognized the feeling right again. Pulling it out, she allowed the small blanket that covered it to fall away, pausing to look it over.
“I brought that in Ostagar. Last Satinalia I was going to give it to Oren, when I returned, I—“
“--The one he always wanted.”
“The one I promised him.” Her brother had barely choked the words out when she realized. She was really being so selfish. She wasn’t the only one who was suffering, not the only one who simply would have rather laid down and died rather than pick up the pieces of a life which had been so unfairly shattered. And it was no sooner than she had realized her face was wet with warm tears, hands tightly clenching the sword, that her brother had kneeled beside her, wrapping his arms around her, and she could feel his tears wetting the fabric upon her shoulder. She dropped the sword, hugging him tightly and hiding her face against his shoulder in turn. “I’m sorry.”
“I know. I am too.” They remained like that for a few moments, before they heard a shout in the courtyard.
“Look! Snowin’!” It was a child who had called, and both siblings looked out the window, surrounded by stone panels. The beautiful white flurry had just started, but it captured their attention quickly. Fergus stood up, helping her as well, before he smiled at her. “Do you think that’s a sign? From them?”
“I think that’s a stupid thought.”
But maybe it was.
Posted: Dec 10 2015, 01:34 PM
Winter came with feather-light crystals, floating down from the skies. Iloren peeked out from a hood drawn low, and felt their cold touch as they landed on his skin; this one on his cheek, that one on the tip of his nose, the third on his upper lip. They melted so fast, becoming droplets of water that stayed in place, too light to be compelled to draw lines down his face. His tongue darted out, following the seams of his lips and catching the taste of winter in his mouth.
It was a frail and brittle thing, so quickly lost in the dryness of his throat. He instantly forgot it.
As he sat there, curled up in his light and too-thin cloak, the snowfall thickened and fell heavier. It landed on the embers from a dying flame, a half-burnt aravel wheel that lay broken in the frozen grass. It hissed as the flakes of snow touched it, and emitted the smoke of dying objections, but extinguished even so, slowly, forcefully, inevitably. Soon the snow gathered on the ground around it, and on its charred remains, and began to cover it, to erase it from this world, leaving nothing but faint whispers on the wind, beckoning, 'Destruction dwelled here.'
It gathered around Iloren's toes as well, bare and unguarded as they were, and he curled them up, shivering against the cold. He drew his feet to him and wrapped them in his tattered cloak, torn from adventures too ambitious and travels too tenacious. Mamae had told him she would make him a new cloak, bigger and sturdier, one that would not succumb so easily to destruction. But mamae stared at him vacantly now, face down on the ground, as the snow fell softly on her pale cheeks, drained of colour, and the blood that pooled around her body.
They lay scattered, in piles or far apart, in every direction, men and women, a child here and there. The overturned aravels, gathering snow for the night, were arranged in a circle around them; the last ditch effort to form a defence behind which their archers could find some safety. Burnt now, and broken, and slowly concealed under a blanket of snow. Like mamae, like babae, whose eyes he couldn't see, on his back on the ground beside mamae, reaching out for her hand, and never finding it.
It gathered on them heavily, hiding the hues of green and brown in their blood-stained armour, but the scarlet still soaked through, though it faded, faded into pale pink and soon was gone. Iloren crawled underneath the overturned aravel, where still some embers, sheltered from the falling snow, glowed with dissipating passion. There was some warmth to find here, though he shivered still, under the watchful gaze of mamae's glazed-over eyes.
The blanket drew over her, and would bury her soon. No trees erected to mark her departure, but a field of white to conceal all things, from sin to death and memories of what was lost and what was stolen, and to deceive onlookers to believe that only peace resided here. But even as they disappeared, swallowed up by winter's grasp, Iloren felt those eyes bore into him, and saw them even when his own eyes closed. In the darkness, they lingered, where the winter had no power, and there they would remain, until there came a spring to thaw through snow and frost, and bring their memories into the light once more.
Posted: Dec 10 2015, 03:35 PM
The air is crisp with winter. The humans will be celebrating Satinalia now, feasting and drinking, warm in their homes and taverns.
Slowly, Inera trudges away from the edge of the forest, from looking towards the chimney smoke of the little town with something close to longing. She fades into the shade of the trees, heading back to the clan. There is no celebration here, no tradition. Only preparation for the worse weather to come. Frost crackles on the ground beneath her boots. There are rain clouds above, not snow. The air is still, dead as the leaves. She pauses in the isolation of the trees, too far from both humanity and the clan to see either. She is blessedly alone in this little grove, and it hits her hard how much she misses it. Misses the freedom. Misses the simple pleasure of not facing arguments and tension every day.
Funny, how when she was exiled she wanted nothing more than to be with her people again. Now she would give anything to be away from Sulahn’s hostile stares and her mother’s weary-born apathy. Even her father was little consolation, immersed in his work more than ever. What was once a pleasure and a duty is now an obsession, as though if he can make enough weapons and armour, they will never be attacked again. As though it would bring Sulahn’s arm and smiles back.
Before her return, Inera had begun to think she was the broken one. Now she looks on her shattered family and thinks, of them all, she’s the only one who escaped whole. She was right to have left. She was wrong to have left them behind. Maybe they would have healed as she did, seeing the things she did.
She is not ready to return to them yet. Instead she settles in against the broad trunk of an old tree, four times wider than she is. She wraps her cloak around her, rests her head against the tough bark and closes her eyes. She lets herself sink into the quietness, into the peace of the wood. Nothing but birdsong to hear. No wind to disturb the branches. She imagines herself in the Brecilian again, during the Blight, before everything went so wrong. She imagines Dor’falon is at her feet, and keeps them tucked in against her body so she doesn’t disprove herself. She can conjure up his reassuring bulk just feet away; almost feel the heat of him on her shins.
The cold is slowly sinking in from the ground through her cloak. Just a little longer. A little longer to remember the Brecilian, where everything is so old as to be worn smooth around the edges. To recall Dor’falon’s thick winter pelt growing in, making him seem twice as big and stupidly fluffy for such a large, dangerous wolf. To recall the beauty of the places she had visited, of all those moments she had taken to simply stand and look. To allow awe to touch her when nothing else did.
Inera sits in silence on Satinalia, pretending she doesn’t have what she always wanted.
Posted: Dec 10 2015, 10:26 PM
Snow hardly ever fell in Kirkwall. It was too near the coast and it's temperatures were too tepid for rain to become ice. But that year snow had somehow managed to fall, and thickly as well. A fresh coat was along the ground and piled among the sharp edged roofs of the city's buildings. It was an unexpected sight as Ari strode home in the cold dawn of the early morning.
The streets were quiet and calm, void of the usual stragglers and beggars that littered the area. They were seemingly tucked away, likely struggling to keep warm. The usually visible dirt and filth was hidden beneath the fresh blanket and Ari deeply inhaled cold, crisp air into her lungs, taking in the sudden beauty of the alienage, of the place she called home.
She bent, shoving her hand into the snow at her feet and balling some in her fist. A small smile was on her lips then, feeling every bit a child again as she marveled at the sensation of something she had not seen and felt in ages. It numbed her fingers and palm and eventually, she took aim and tossed the ball forcibly at the side of a building. It broke on impact, leaving behind only a vestige of evidence. The elf laughed softly, the sound seeming louder in her own head due to the absence of the usual city sounds around her.
The rogue's footsteps slowed as she neared the vhenadahl, stopping beneath its cover and looking up at the white-coated branches, her hand extending out of her pocket to graze slightly numb fingertips against the painted trunk. She thought of her mother then, wishing they could be together to see such a sight. Her chest tightened painfully, eyes watering as she tried to imagine the woman's gentle features and how she might have smiled at the surprise the morning had offered. For a moment, Ari thought she felt something tug at her senses. A closeness, a momentary hope that she could feel her mother there with her. And then it was gone.
Nose reddened from cold and emotion, she slipped away toward her residence. Upon entering, her eyes landed on her father, splayed in his usual chair and half-asleep. His eyes opened as she closed the door softly behind her, apparently in less of a drunken stupor than she usually caught him.
"It snowed," Ari offered simply. A look of surprise crossed his features and he got to his feet with some difficulty, limping toward the clouded window and peering out. He used his sleeve to wipe a circle into the condensation and grime, eyes blinking as they took in the sight.
"Hmph, look at that," he muttered, wonder evident on his tired face.
Ari moved to stand beside him, sharing in a rare moment with her father. She was tense for a moment, but it left her body as she took a deep breath and exhaled. They were quiet for a few minutes, sharing in a strangely comfortable silence. Taking a chance that she might ruin it, Ari spoke honestly, "I wish they were here."
His large hand was on her shoulder then, an uncommon display of affection as he gave it a squeeze, "Me too."
Posted: Dec 10 2015, 11:57 PM
"Honestly, are you entirely daft?!" shouted the first enchanter, "I don't know what is more frustrating, your flagrant disregard for safety or the amount of effort you clearly invested into such flagrancy!"
There was a long pause after the statement, and Callidan felt compelled to answer, "I think it is probably the second one, the effort..." he started as the wizened old mage cut him off with a dismissive gesture, "I wasn't asking you," she snapped, "You're here to be punished, not to be clever. I've had quite enough of your cleverness for one day," she placed her hand firmly on her large oaken desk, glaring at Callidan for a few moments as he stood there pleased with himself. She could tell, and it infuriated her. Callidan had hoped that she would be more understanding, perhaps even find what he had done amusing. He did not seem to be in luck, however. After clearly exhaustive internal debate she pushed herself up from the desk, "Six months under Adomni," she said, referring to the tranquil who oversaw the cleaning of the circle, "From early evening the late evening. You clearly have too much free time on your hands. This should relieve you of some of it." Callidan's pleasure with his actions was lessened, but it was not as bad as it could have been.
"Will there be anything else, Mam?" he asked. She snorted, and Callidan was sure he caught a hint of amusement, "Get out of here, Thorne," she said, "You may as well revel in your handy work." Callidan did not need to be told twice as he hastened out of the large office, moving down the stairs towards the large practice area where the younger mages practiced their magic. It was a large tower and a long walk. Along the way some of the residents of the tower glowered at him, but most were friendly and a few even gave him a congratulatory high five. Standing outside the door to the area was a form that he could recognize even in full armor. A wide grin plastered on his face as Talia lifted her visor to look at him with a soft look. She didn't usually look at him in such a way when they weren't entirely alone, but he returned it.
"You really shouldn't have done that," she said with no heart behind it. He shrugged, "You will at least get to enjoy it, I hope," he said, and she nodded, "After my shift. They say it will probably stick around for days. You must have nearly killed yourself." Callidan shook his head, "It didn't take that much mana, really. The tricky part was getting the water to separate into small enough pieces, but I was able to use electricity to draw the water..." Callidan started to explain before Talia gave him a withering look, "Magic. I used magic and did the thing."
Talia opened the door. The whole area was covered in three feet of snow, with little mounds where benches sat buried under the snow. It had, in fact, been rather difficult. Any mage proficient in the elements could summon a blizzard, but the effects of such a thing usually wore off in less than an hour. The world returned to its natural state. Callidan had needed to gather up enough real world water from the rain runoff to magically expand so that it was but a mist in the room, and then snap freeze it so that it made the small ice crystals commonly known as snowflakes. It was incredibly tricky to get magic to stay in the real world, but the Templars had tried to dispel it and it had no effect. Callidan may have used magic to create the snow, but it was part of this world now. The children loved it, and it was officially the first snow day in circle history.
Talia peered at it. It had been a present for her, of course. She had spoken about how she missed the snow of her home town, "So, does it meet the standard?" he asked and she chuckled, looking wistfully at the scene, "Well, it never snowed inside but other than that it is very close," she said appreciatively.
Posted: Dec 12 2015, 09:26 PM
It was strange how much things could change in a single night. Now, she could have been the very last person in the world, looking down at the world from West Hill. Somewhere over the next ridge was a little village she had crossed on her way over. They were still there, or at least there ought to be as many people as there had been yesterday. She wasn't sure what day it was now. The distance between towns was relative, sometimes, especially alone. Usually it felt lonely - like the world might swallow her up and no one would ever know. That was still in there somewhere, like a twinging muscle after a long walk up a hill, but there was an unfamiliar sense of peace accompanying it in this icy morning.
She could see her breath in the air when she exhaled, but the scars of the war were hidden from view. Half of the residents in that village had fled from the spillover of the war. The remainder had been wary when she passed through, shuttering their windows and frowning as she retreated. When she had fallen asleep under this tree she had been able to see it if she squinted. A blanket of snow had fallen during the night, swallowing up the distant houses and burying her pack. She was less enthusiastic about the latter.
Hm. She hoped the people in that little village had been all right under all of this. It was easy enough to dig her pack out again, but some of those houses were arguably down to singed walls with aspirations. Children running through snowbanks, falling over and laughing it off because they would be indoors by a warm fire soon after. The kind of carefree laughter only children were capable of, unconcerned with broader problems. At some point those problems dropped onto everyone's shoulders and never left again. Children who were in a rush to grow up and take on responsibility never knew their error until it was too late.
Maybe they would sip cider and compare far-fetched stories about snowball fight prowess. That was something children probably did. She didn't have any real memories of childhood spent outdoors, but she had always enjoyed imagining it.
Actually, she had enjoyed imagining any number of things she had only heard about and vaguely understood.
Niamh tugged her hood up over her vibrant hair, the better to blend in with the new shade of her surroundings. A few snowflakes drifted on a breeze that passed through the trees, briefly obscuring the weak winter sun. Its rays flickered feebly through the trees to the snow-covered earth beneath her feet, more of a theoretical sort of light than genuine warmth. It reassured the world that it was still daylight until the stars returned. She probably ought to feel colder than she did without that warmth, but she found it didn't bother her now. Nothing seemed close enough to bother her now. She didn't have to hurry anywhere today, but if someone spotted her and began to yell or - or do anything to shatter this silence, she didn't think that she would be able to regain it.
She wanted to preserve a little bit of that illusion of silence for a while. The only sound Ferelden needed this morning was some echoing laughter of children at play. It didn't even matter if it was all wishful thinking. Niamh could be content imagining that the world's terrible problems were far away, buried under the snow alongside the half-destroyed houses and winding roads through the hills.
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