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WRITING CHALLENGE #8, JUNE 12 - JULY 3
Posted: Jun 13 2016, 06:56 AM
Writing Challenge #8
Welcome to another of our bi-weekly writing challenges here on Unbound. This time I even fixed the capitalization in the post - whoops. If you have any questions about the changes or the challenge generally, feel free to PM me on this staff account.
Prompt: Tell us a story from the world of Thedas - an urban legend, passed around between people until the details are muddled and the historical accuracy becomes questionable at best. Ghost stories, fun stories, local histories, anything centered around a particular location.
DO NOT copy existing lore wholesale.
DO NOT submit object-based stories for this particular prompt, please. (The lost dagger of a cursed first mate, etc.) Save those up for a later date.
Here are some springboards to offer up some ideas.
1) Orlesian Phantom of the Opera, in which a Duke is rumored to be hiding a terrible secret under his mask.
2) A spirit lurks at the bottom of the old well. If you throw anything down the well it will come out on the full moon and take you from your bed.
3) That banner in the tower was supposed to be good luck. Probably superstition, but they took it with them when they left anyhow.
4) A third-born child in Antiva will surprise you.
5) "He was a cowardly king."
6) It was a traveling merchant who inspired this game, actually, now they play it once a year after the harvest.
Submissions should be at least 400 words, but more is always welcome if inspiration strikes. Write from any format or POV of your choosing! This challenge will end June 26 at 11:59pm and will have an award of 200 sovereigns.
Reply below with your challenge submission to earn credit for this challenge!
Posted: Jun 15 2016, 12:31 PM
The young man fidgeted uncomfortable on his bedroll, trying to adjust himself so the rocks jutting out of the ground underneath didn't dig so sharply into his back. He was convinced the others had assigned him this spot because they knew exactly how uncomfortable it would be; where they now lay or sat around the fire burning low, they seemed perfectly comfortable. Trot most of all, seated like a king even in these humble surroundings; on a bedroll made of simple ram's hide, surrounded by shrubs and darkness, with the sounds of the rushing Minanter River in the background.
Close by, two sets of feet paced lazily back and forth, one keeping an eye on the barge that lay towed by the river's bank, and the other watching the surrounding wilderness for signs of intruders or wildlife. Staring up at the clear, starry sky, the young man gave one last fidget before he abandoned his endeavours and sat up with an exasperated sigh that was halfway to a growl.
"Don't see why we couldn't just sleep on the barge," he sulked, drawing his knees up to his chest and resting his chin on their bony plateau.
"It's ill-advised to sleep upon the Minanter," Trot answered without looking at him, instead taking a knife to his nails to clean out what must have been a year of accumulated dirt from under them.
"Says the Ferryman."
"Which bloody ferryman? I ain't seen a ferryman."
The group snickered, and the young man's eyes darted from one member to the next. He'd only been a part of this ragtag group of mercenaries for a few months, and not a moment had gone by when he didn't feel like an outsider -- or even worse, a child. None of them would explain why they snickered; they all deferred to Trot, leaving him to scold the young man like he was a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar. It made his blood boil, and he clenched his jaw even now, feeling his cheeks turn red-hot as his irritation grew.
"The boy hasn't heard of the Minanter Ferryman, he says. Might I should learn him a thing or two, little ones?" Trot went on, and the young man's hands curled into tight fists that turned his knuckles white with tension. The group snickered again, throwing out a, "Go on, Trot," here and a, "Teach the boy" there. The young man grumbled to himself, gripping his knees all the tighter and increasing his sulking to levels unheard of.
"Aye, I'll tell you about the Minanter Ferryman. He lived once, you see, many years ago, when Nevarra was a fledgling state, and this countryside was ripe with opportunists. Now, the Ferryman, a good man he was. He sailed along the Minanter in a barracks barge much like ours, with his wife and small daughter, selling and trading his wares to the settlements along the river's banks, and transporting news from one town to the next. People looked forward to his arrival, men, women and children all, and spoke his name with fondness. Much beloved, the Ferryman was, as was his wife and small daughter, and their simple life was one of joy. But as it is with all things, this too had to change.
"It was a time of great strife, and strife caught up with the Ferryman too. It was a clear autumn night, much like this one, when a group of brigands came aboard his humble vessel with a mind to take it as their own and use it for piracy, not trade. They slit his dear child's throat as she slept, and beat his wife to death when she tried to stop them. Though the Ferryman fought them, he'd not the strength nor skill of the brutes that attacked him, and they held him over his own barge's side and drowned him in the river, then dropped his lifeless body to sink to the bottom and be see no more.
"But there was one amongst them who's lived along the Minanter's banks and knew the old Ferryman. One who had spoken his name with fondness, as all his neighbours and loved ones did, and who felt they'd done a good man wrong. He stopped them heaving the wife and small daughter's corpses over board, bringing them instead ashore to burn their bodies as custom dictated, and lay their spirits to rest. He alone refused to sleep aboard the Ferryman's barge that night, resting instead on the banks of the Minanter, near where he had prayed over the bodies of the Ferryman's wife and daughter, and found sleep under the starry sky.
"He was startled awake in the night by the screams of his fellows aboard the barge. When he opened his eyes, what he saw chilled him to the bone. From the depths of his watery grave, the old Ferryman had risen with a mind to wreak vengeance, and stood on the barge he had lost, untouched by the screams from within its barracks. Only the man on the shore was safe, protected by the spirits of the Ferryman's wife and child, standing on the river's banks and reaching for the husband and father they would never know again.
"They left with the sun, and the man rose from his place of no rest to go aboard the barge and find his companions. In their beds, each of them laid drowned, without a drop of water on them. In his panic, the young man doused the barge in spirits and set the thing aflame, and watched as it was committed to the same watery grave as the Ferryman before it. But it was not enough.
"Each night since, the Ferryman has risen to search for the spirits of his wife and child, never to find them. They remain on the shore, protecting those who sleep there from the Ferryman's wrath, but all who sleep upon the Minanter are doomed to die as he did; drowning where they lay, in agony.
"And that, our lad," Trot finished, fixing the young man with a level stare, "is why we do not sleep on the barge."
The young man sat in silence for a moment, eyes moving from Trot to the other members of their party, taking them in one at a time and studying their expressions. He could be lying. They often did, always aiming to catch him out and make a fool of him. But he was no one's fool.
"That's a load of druffalo shite, and you know it," he announced, straightening his back and puffing his chest out as he spoke.
The others snickered again, returning to whatever they had decided to occupy their hands with. Trot only shrugged and adjusted his position, lying down on his bedroll to regard the sky above him.
"In that case, you're welcome to sleep on the barge," he said, casually, absently, but with an edge of challenge in his voice, "But we'll not be joining you."
The young man became aware that everyone's attention had shifted back to him, and they were all watching him expectantly, waiting to see what he'd do. He fidgeted again, shifting where he sat. Maker, it was about as uncomfortable to sit as it was to lie down, and he knew the barge had more comfortable resting areas, but...
He shrugged. "I'm fine where I am, ta."
They no longer snickered, but that was no victory. Instead they laughed, some quietly, some uproariously, and Trot, that clucking laughter that was like a door with squeaky hinges opening so slowly it sounded possessed by some vicious spirit.
"That's a good lad," Trot concluded and closed his eyes, "I'd hate to have to burn your body in the morning."
Posted: Jun 24 2016, 03:35 PM
This deadline has been extended to July 3rd!
Posted: Jul 1 2016, 10:43 PM
- - - “The famous Elanor Fairweather used to practice in this very dance space.”The room was simple, unfurnished. To his right, there may have been glass there at some point. Beautiful glass, he could tell – the jagged edges at the top of the arches were colored. Victarion tilted his head, studying the old, rotting beams above. “Fairweather? For much of her supposed dancing fame, this place is in complete shambles.”“Yes.” There was no further elaboration, so Victarion looked over his shoulder at the man providing him the tour. “The reason?”This man was trying to sell this property, which belonged to a family who was, as Victarion understood, desperately and unsuccessfully trying to rid of it. Victarion heard rumors, ghost stories. Rubbish, of course, but such tales made selling difficult. Of course, the seller would be hesitate.“She collapsed here. Fairweather. In this very building during a class, the story says. It was quite sudden. Fairweather was teaching and suddenly became distant, unresponsive to questions, and then began convulsing. Demon possession, the story goes.”Victarion’s brow scrunched and he glanced away from a filthy, shattered mirror. “Demon possession? Was Fairweather a mage?”“No,” the man said firmly, assured. “Her family has no history of magic. It could have been because she was so beautiful.” That sounded so ludicrous, but Victarion did not interrupt. Instead he stared at his shattered reflection. “Fairweather was described as physically beautiful. Her eyes would shame emeralds. Her hair had various shades, rippling light to dark. Additionally, she was celebrated as the most graceful dancer in all Tevinter. She performed for all the great families with her partners.”“Partners?” As in, more than one.“She went through several. Never could seem to keep one.”“I see.” Victarion scuffed the toe of his shoe to the old floor planks. They had to have been treated somehow. Alchemy. Or magic. They were rough, yes, but he could still slide his toe easily enough. “Anyway, it’s said a demon, jealous or simply hungry for beauty, possessed Fairweather. She died in the transition. Right on these floors. The studio has been avoided since.”“Very well.” There were several volumes in unsuccessful possession. The fact Fairweather might have died during a possession made sense. But… “Why abandon the studio?”“Because the demon still lurks here.”Victarion rolled his eyes. “You can’t be serious.”“Very, my lord! Several witnesses have sworn they have seen a bright, ethereal individual during the twilight hours or early dawn. Some even say it’s Fairweather, who frightens away those who dare linger in the place of her death.”Victarion didn’t ask what people were doing in an abandoned building at either of those times. No wonder the building hadn’t been sold yet. Too many people would be terrified to purchase a building with sighted otherworldly creatures. A fascinating mystery.He undid the button of his coat. “I’ll assess such claims myself.”“My lord!” the man exclaimed. “No!”“Hold this.” Victarion shoved his coat into the man’s arms. Pivoting around, he moved confidently to the center of the room, old flooring squeaking. “If you do not wish to see a demon, I suggest you leave.”“You can’t be…!”“Leave!” he demanded, loudly, making the decision for the man. Victarion purposefully rolled up his sleeves. He placed his feet shoulder-width apart. As easy as breathing, he opened his access to the Fade. Spirits and demons were no stranger to him than his affinity with magic. If there was a demon, or spirit, near this building, he wished to see it. Perhaps speak with it.“All right, spirit. Or demon. Whatever. I’m not only a dancer, I’m a mage. Try me.” With a deep breath, he raised arms, smoothly beginning to move his torso and hips to a silent rhythm. He committed to a step pattern which utilized the full floor. He moved as if he had a partner with him, giving the invisible woman the attention she deserved.Completing his routine, Victarion switched dances. He glided across the floor in a flowing waltz, taking sweeping steps and appropriate pauses for picturesque poses. After prowling through a fierce tango, there was still no sign of a demon. Gritting his teeth, Victarion caught his breath before positioning for his next dance. He began a spiraling, dizzying routine, focusing on his footwork, attention paid to foot clicks and positions.“Show me the waltz again.” Victarion whipped around, lungs turned to ice in his chest. It spoke with a feminine voice, but its body was blurred by its blue-ish glow. His heart missed a beat and he tingled in excitement. The so called demon. “The waltz?”“Yes. It’s the most beautiful. You are incredibly graceful.”“Ah. Very well.” Victarion redefined his stance. “Who am I performing for?””I am Beauty. Dance. I would see it again. It’s been too long.” “Beauty…” Victarion languorously extended his hand in offering. “Wouldn’t you rather dance the waltz with me?”- - - “You’re making this shit up,” Varinius interrupted him. “There’s no such thing as a spirit of Beauty and you can’t dance with it, Siberius.”Completing a sip of bitter tea, Victarion lowered his cup, cradling it with both hands. “You weren’t there. Have you been to the studio of the late Fairweather? Did you use your magic to draw spirits to you? Did you dance with enough passion to make your mother blush?”Marian squinted at Victarion. “I also think you’re making this up. It’s a good story though, to keep Fairweather in memory. My grandmother loves to babble about how exquisite she was. It makes me wish she was still alive or someone performed to her caliber…”Victarion frowned, the conversation spiraling away from his story. He sipped his tea and turned away slightly.Perhaps it was best his story sounded like a tall tale.
Posted: Jul 6 2016, 04:58 PM
This is now closed, thank you to both Birthe and Squee for participating and submitting such interesting stories!
If you haven't yet, don't forget to claim your points.
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