Prompt — Stubborn Fire

It had been nine years since Abbo had been home. Even longer since his quiet, happy life in the sun. The Ten-Year Winter had taken everything. First the fun, then the crops, then his family when his mother pushed him out the door, baby sister in hand, to seek help. He had almost died getting to the nearest village. And his baby sister… Well, Ephane wasn’t so lucky. “Stubborn fire”, her name meant, after the flower that so rarely bloomed. The pain of her loss was still clear as the days he so missed.

But now, as he walked along the once dirt path outside the hovel, it was different. Of course, there was still snow. So much damned snow. A world bathed in white had gotten tiring years ago. But for once, it wasn’t all snow. There was tufts of grass peeking out, and long weeds that had grown out of some of the dilapidated walls. He remembered his mother waging a constant war with those weeds every summer. That constant plight now served as a promise that better days were to come.

Abbo walked alongside what used to be long fields of raftheads, his father’s prized crops. Fields that were now an enormous blanket. Fields that hadn’t yielded anything since he was a child.

The iron gate to the house still gave a familiar creak, and he was surprised it still worked. That hinge had always creaked, yet it had braved even the harshest of weathers. An abrupt snort at the irony escaped his nostrils, a visible puff blowing softly into the chilly twilight.

The house was just as he had remembered it: a tiny cottage with a taller roof than most. The door was swung wide open, which couldn’t have been a good sign. After a moment, however, he shook his head. There were no good signs to be had. If his parents had–by some miracle–survived, they wouldn’t be here. Nothing could have survived here for ten long years. Nothing save for the longroot trees, that is. They were all young, he knew. His father had burned all the wood they could find within the second year of the Winter. Like the weeds near the walls, the sight of the trees were both an offensive invasion and a welcome sight.

As he got closer, Abbo realized that the door to the house was not wide open. There simply was no door anymore. Had his parents taken it down and burned it in their desperation for warmth? How desperate would one have to be to willingly destroy the last flimsy shield against the freezing air?

He decided it was probably for the best that he didn’t enter the house. If his parents had stayed till the bitter end, it would be like defiling their grave. Beyond that, he couldn’t bear to see what state they might be in.

He had seen his fill. Reassured that his old home would return to normal along with the rest of the world in the wake of this nightmare, he set off to go back the way he had come.

A spot of orange against white caught Abbo’s eye on the way out. Crouching down, he found something he hadn’t seen in years. A small flower bud, shaped very much like a candle flame, flowed gently in the breeze. It stood defiantly against the snow around it. “Here I am”, it seemed to say. “The springs will come!”

Abbo all but fell to his knees before the stubborn fire. He couldn’t even remember the last time he had seen a warm color in the natural world. Yes, things would return to normal. This could be a proper home once more. Under a clear sky, it would be the ideal place for the perfect childhood.

Some day he would return with a daughter of his own. And he would name her Ephane.

 

Prompt:friday_morning_by_seven_teenth-dbahj8q

Life — May Update

Alright, we’re back in business, folks! From now on I’m going to resume my daily schedule as normal. As far as the blog goes, nothing new is on the horizon, so in typical order of a monthly update, I’m going to talk about writing plans, video games, reading/listening, school, and other things.

 

My writing plans are a little hectic right now. I never finished Windcaller, and never started that Spark Novelette, a story I tentatively titled Breach. More than likely, I’m going to make some edits to what I have with Windcaller and then finish it up before moving on. That might take about a month.

The reason I don’t really know what I’m going to do in the near future is because I recently had not one but two awesome ideas for books. One idea is the premise of a book, and the second is very large scale worldbuilding; one that can span different series on different planets without them being directly related to each other. In fact, one idea can fit into the other one pretty seamlessly. The problem with these ideas is that they’re entirely new, and they require a ton of forethought. I don’t usually have to plan stuff out because in Nacre Then, I already know where everything is going, I just need to write it down. In short stories, I don’t even need to know where it’s going, I just need to write it down. But with these new ideas, I’m going to need to plan ahead. Way ahead. So we’ll see where those ideas go in the future.

As far as video games go, there isn’t much to say. Now that school is over, I haven’t had a whole lot of time to myself because I’ve been so busy (which seems so backwards to me). When I get some free time though, I’ve been playing Heroes of the Storm pretty much exclusively, and I also played through Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild over the past several weeks. I’ll talk about that more later.

I am a little ashamed to admit I haven’t been exposing myself to new media lately. The only thing I’ve read or listened to in recent weeks was Legion: Skin Deep by Brandon Sanderson. I do plan on finishing up the Writing Excuses podcast soon, though. Also, once summer begins in earnest, I’m going to actually try to physically read more. We’ll see how that pans out.

There isn’t much to say about school, either. The spring semester is over, and I might try to stay in touch with a few people I met in those classes, but I don’t think the chances are very good. So there won’t be any more school related news for a few months.

Lastly, and most importantly, I’ve got some big summer plans. I was originally going to move to San Fransisco for a few months, but that fell by the wayside, so it looks like I’m staying home for now. That said, I’m not going to let the days fly by twiddling my thumbs. I plan on actually writing more. Way more.

I set this into motion with three phases to help change my place and my mindset. First phase was to deep clean my room. I went through everything I owned and tossed out most of it, and rearranged my decoration to give my living space a visual upgrade. This took me close to sixteen hours worth of work (moving lots of boxes, organizing things together, that sort of thing), but phase one is complete.

Phase two and three are a lot more simple. Phase two is just a wardrobe change. I’ve been running out of usable clothes lately (I had to do my own laundry every week), so this just means buying more clothes so I can wear new things. This will be easy, as it’s just a couple hours worth of shopping.

Phase three is the day planning. I’m going to set a daily schedule that organizes everything I should be doing on a given day, and when I should be doing it. For example, 11am to 5pm would be “writing time”, when the only thing I am allowed to do is writing related work. If all goes to plan, this schedule will get more and more strict as I acclimate to it. We’ll see how this goes.

Once all that is finished, I’ll be in prime condition to boost my writing output substantially. And hey, even if it doesn’t work, I’ll still end up being much more productive the first few days, and I’ll be left with a bit more insight as to what does and does not work to help my writing.

Prompt — A Broken Promise

The fire sputtered, desperately trying to assert itself over the pitiful crumbles of sticks lying broken and burnt at its feet. Already, the cold air was invading the small cottage through the poorly sealed door.

“It’s not even sundown and the fire is already dead,” Abbo muttered, sitting at the foot of his family’s only bed, which was currently occupied by his sleeping father.

“We can’t afford to go out and get more wood tonight,” his mother replied. She held a baby close to her chest, hoping to retain as much heat as possible.

“I don’t think Pa is going to wake up if we don’t get more.” His tone was calm. Monotone. Using emotion would just waste valuable body heat.

“What would you suggest, Abbo?” she asked. “This was the last of the reserve. Your father is still exhausted from this morning’s work. Besides, we can still burn the furniture.”

“He can’t get enough wood for all of us as it is. What happens when we run out of food, too? We’re going to die, Ma.”

“Well, the springs should be coming soo–”

“The springs aren’t coming.” He felt his anger getting the best of him, so Abbo took a slow, steady breath. “We need to go for help.”

“Abbo, the next village is over a mile away, you could die of frostbite before you made it!”

“And we’ll all starve or freeze here if I don’t try!”

Abbo turned to his father, wrapped up in every blanket they owned. He nearly killed himself every night cutting more wood, and it still wasn’t enough. There was no time.

“I know you don’t like the idea of your oldest leaving the only shelter we have,” he continued. “But we have no choice. If Pa is allowed to risk himself for the family, why can’t I? We can’t all go, and I’m fast. If all is well at the village I can bring help first thing in the morning.” He tried not to dwell on the ‘if all is well’ part. It didn’t lead to good places.

His mother frowned, obviously resigned to her fate. She had no argument for him, and a single tear fell onto the baby’s head before she had the presence of mind to wipe it away.

“I’m proud of you, son. You’ve grown into a kind and caring young man.” She stood from her chair and held the baby out to him. “Take your brother. And if you can’t bring back litters in the morning, don’t blame yourself for not being able to save us. You have to be strong. Can you do that for me?”

Abbo nodded, taking the baby and cradling him in his arms. His mother took off her shawl and wrapped them both as best she could with the small cloth.

“Be swift,” his mother continued. “And remember that you are not all powerful. It won’t be your fault if you can’t return to help us, okay?”

Suddenly, Abbo’s iron resolve to defy his mother and save the family crumbled. She had managed to turn it into an act of selflessness on her own part, and he couldn’t hold back the tears.

Still holding the baby, he pushed himself into his mother in a warm gesture, and she hugged him. “I’ll be swift, Ma. I’ll return by morning, I promise! If Pa wakes up, tell him rescue is on the way!”

And with that, Abbo pushed the door open and charged out into the snow.

 

 

Prompt: Two winters have passed, and no, spring will not come.

Prompt — Wordsmiths

The two men stood on opposite ends of the basin. The best champion each rival nation had to offer. The fate of those nations would be decided today.

As one, the soldiers stepped into the basin, approaching each other. They wore armor of leather and chain-mail, but neither carried a weapon.

“We meet again, old friend!” the larger of the two said to another as they got within earshot. Barlen the Painter, as they called him. The many scars on his face did nothing to undermine his jovial demeanor.

“So it seems,” his colleague replied. Pelleas: the master of the arts, by now pushing seventy. While he hadn’t had as many victories in battle as the Painter had, his experience had left him undefeated. “I suppose we will find out once and for all who is the better wordsmith.”

Barlen nodded. “It has been an honor to have known you, friend, and may honor favor the victor.”

Pelleas smiled. “Honor favor the victor, Barlen.”

At that, the two left the center of the basin to claim positions further back, just within shouting range.

“Let’s see you put your title to work!” Pelleas yelled to Barlen. “I would have you call the first song.”

“Very well!” the Painter yelled back. “Defend yourself if you can!”

At that, Barlen extended his hands outwards, arms outstretched as wide as they could go. Then, he began to chant.

“Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.”

The first sign of a successful summons was the hooves. Like rolling thunder, a swarm of cavalry approached the end of the bluff. Knights in glowing armor upon unarmored horses, equipped with lances and sabres.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!
“Charge for the guns!” he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.”

The Light Brigade stormed down the hillside, crashing over the grass and rocks like a wave of light flooding in and painting the landscape with liquid gold. They flew past Barlen, and he vanished into the cacophony. A summons couldn’t hurt the wordsmith, so he had nothing to fear.

“Very impressive indeed, old friend,” Palleas mumbled. “I’m not sure even I can face the mighty Light Brigade.” After a slow exhale, he threw his palms out ahead of him.

“And, as in uffish thought he stood,
      The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
      And burbled as it came!”

At his summons, a gray-green wood sprouted from the ground. The trees grew taller and taller, and as it grew wider, a black, hulking beast with scales and evil wings emerged from the forest, growling with an intense severity. It’s eyes blazed with an indiscriminate hatred, and it locked its gaze on the incoming cavalry.

 

Prompt: Warrior-Poets, champions whose magical abilities manifest based on the poetry they read in battle, prepare to go to war.

Prompt — Test of Loyalty (380)

King Arrelus sat upon his throne, tapping his thumbs together with his attention focused entirely on the matter at hand. Something amusing without being distracting. If he wasn’t careful he risked jeopardizing the safety of the kingdom. No, it couldn’t get in the way of the safety of his people, that was paramount.

Of course, he could do something simple, as he so often did. Last time he had the guards rotate dramatically, moving entire battalions worth of soldiers throughout the nation to see who complained about being stationed in the far reaches while growing ecstatic at being placed inside the palace itself. But it didn’t yield very positive results. Even guards he knew were loyal weren’t happy about being stationed so far from their homes. Almost everybody preferred being as close to the capital as possible, it didn’t tell Arrelus anything about the loyalty of his men. And it had cost far too many resources to move so many soldiers, besides. No, he had to do something that was far more subtle. Something that would test their resolve and bravery.

But then, what was the point? He knew that there were more important matters than borderline paranoid about the men around him. There hadn’t been an assassination attempt in years, unless you counted one of his servants dropping a bowl of hot soup onto his lap during supper. That one had gotten what was coming to him. No, he was beloved by his people. A little crazy, perhaps, but beloved. Most held him in a high regard, and everyone agreed he was better than his father, Targelus. What was the point of testing the loyalty of his guards if he knew the vast majority were already devout?

“Your majesty?” a voice said.

King Arrelus snapped out of his contemplation and noticed a young man bowing at his feet some distance away. In front of the boy was several squares of cloth bearing a coat of arms: three small variations of a gold and green dragon emblazoned on a black background.

“Yes, what is it, boy?” It was hard to keep the anger from his voice, but for all he knew the boy had been waiting for several minutes without the king’s acknowledgment or even notice. Arrelus had been known for falling asleep on the throne. It wasn’t his fault the servant’s problems were so boring.

The boy looked up slightly. “Um… Master Terrin sent me. He wished to ask of your approval of the new coat of arms design you had asked for. One with a sharper yet simpler look, he said.”

“Terrin, eh? You the tailor’s apprentice?”

“Yes, your majesty.”

Suddenly, Arrelus had an idea. A new coat of arms was exactly what he needed. There would have to be enough made for every soldier, anyway. There would be no waste of resources if he…

“I hate all of these. What is the point of a new coat of arms if it looks the same as the old one!”

“Oh! I’m sorry, Your Grace, Master Terrin said–”

“I don’t care what Master Terrin said! What we need is a completely new design. The new coat of arms will be a white rabbit among flowers around a pink background. No more of this dragon nonsense, got it? And I want soldiers all across the kingdom to bear this new design on their chests! Got it?”

“Y-yes, Your Majesty!” the boy said, scooping up the cloth squares before hurrying out the throne room.

Something atrocious. Only brave, loyal soldiers would wear that ridiculous design. Their loyalty would truly be tested once and for all.

 

Prompt: Every once in a while, the king likes to test the loyalty of his guards

Prompt — A Long Life’s Work

Three, sharp knocks on the door. Brian, spooked, took a deep, careful exhale as he paused his work. He climbed down from his precarious seating atop the cupboards, down to the living room floor, and tiptoed over to greet the unexpected guest. When he pulled the door open, a stern man in a black uniform stood on the other side. He had a blue patch on one shoulder. Not a normal cop, then. A census regulator.

“Mr. Brian Fisher?” the officer stated.

“Yes, that’s me. Not so loud, please!” he replied in a respectful but hushed tone.

The officer’s brow furrowed as he glanced behind Brian to see what the cause for concern was.

“My name is Officer Morris,” he continued, voice only a hint quieter now. “Are you aware that your termination date was yesterday? You failed to report to the office.”

Brian gulped, heart rate rising. “What? No, that can’t be right! My termination isn’t supposed to be until sometime next week!”

“Boy, never heard that one before.”

“No, really! I’m completely serious. Look, I’ll get my papers. Why don’t you come in?” He held the door open wide enough for the officer. As he stepped in, Brian held a hand out, suddenly frantic. “Oh, wait, you have shoes on. Give me one second. Delicate matters, you see.”

Brian paced back into the room, looking for anything lose somebody might step on if they weren’t careful. There was nothing, as expected, but it didn’t hurt to be cautious.

“Okay,” Brian said, returning to the front door. “You can come in, just please tread lightly. And if you go upstairs, you have to take your shoes off and be extra careful. No sudden movements of any kind. I’m sure it’s quite unconventional for you, but my house, my rules.”

The officer gave him a raised eyebrow at that, but he just shrugged in response. He stepped into the house, and was finally able to see what Brian was so worked up about.

Throughout the entire room, and branching off down the hallway and up the stairs, was an enormous card castle that took up the majority of the living space, even floor to ceiling.

“Whoa,” Officer Morris breathed.

“Beautiful, isn’t it? My life’s work. This last project has taken me over forty years, you know. If I go according to schedule, I’ll finally reclaim my title as the world record holder for the largest single playing card structure. That’s why I can’t die today, you see. I’m not quite finished.”

The officer had by now regained his composure. “You do all of this by yourself?”

Brian nodded. “Had to. If it’s a group project that’s an entirely different world record. Me and Jeremy Settle, some guy in Germany have been having a competition these past few hundred years over who can build the biggest castle. He’s held the record these last twenty five years after my old castle broke, but his termination date was two years ago, so I’ll have the last laugh! You know, this castle has over two million individual cards so far. It even goes out onto the backyard patio! I have it screened so the wind can’t affect it, you see. You’ll probably be the last one to see it unfinished, actually. I could give you a tour if you’re–”

“Sir,” the officer interrupted. “This is quite impressive, but I must inform you that my papers say your termination was due yesterday.”

“Oh!” Brian jumped. “That’s right. I almost forgot. My papers are upstairs. Wait here.” Without any hesitation, he bolted up the stairs, careful to avoid the trail of stacked cards that led up one side of them.

The officer took the time to examine the castle. There were no couches in the living room. In fact, the furniture it was built around and on top of all had flat surfaces. It was stacked atop the cupboards, into the kitchen, and was complete with towers and elaborate sculptures. The living room had the largest stack. It nearly reached the ceiling, and the cards in the center were surrounded by more cards. You couldn’t reach them now, meaning they had to be placed first. Officer Morris wondered how old those cards were.

As he looked at the cards at the base of the stairs, he noticed irregular markings on them. He leaned in to inspect one and noticed it was a number. Upon further investigation, every card seemed to have numbers, and most of the nearby ones were seven digits long. In a world where death was so hard to achieve it had to be enforced, he couldn’t blame people for finding odd ways to spend their lives. He had once met somebody that collected every scent of candle imaginable. She had them organized and everything. Her house, not surprisingly, smelled terrible.

Brian came down the stairs with a stack of papers in his hands, frowning. He looked up to notice the officer leaning in close to the cards and his eyes went wide in a panic.

“What are you doing! That’s too close! You might have to sneeze or breathe or–” In his frenzy to rush down the stairs, he tripped. Falling face first, he tumbled down the remaining steps, crashing into both the officer and the cards he had been inspecting.

Without so much as a thought of concern for either person, Brian immediately stood to check the damage.

And watched as, like dominoes, the card castle toppled down, flowing over itself and the furniture like a torrent of water cascading into an empty valley. It crashed to the floor, but the chaos continued it sought the other rooms in the house.

Brian’s despair was all but tangible. The officer couldn’t help but pity the man.

But then, forgotten on the floor, he saw his termination papers, and at the top was one big, bolded date.

Yesterday’s.

“Well,” Brian said. “I guess there’s no point in even trying to plead for more time. I have nothing left to live for.”

 

Prompt: In a world where all diseases have been eliminated and it’s nearly impossible to die, everyone is allotted the same amount of time on earth. Your time is almost up, but you just need one more day…

Prompt — Birthmarks

Linette stared into the mirror. Stared at the vague brown smudge that bore an uncanny resemblance to the mainland of Denmark. The one that had been getting harder and harder to see as the days went by. As she did every morning these past few weeks, she left the room to have her mother take a picture of it.

Birthmarks weren’t supposed to fade until you found a soulmate with a matching one. Single and eighteen years old, this wasn’t how it was supposed to happen. Did this mean there was no proverbial ‘fish in the sea’ for her?

Everybody had a soulmate. Dating sites often asked for descriptions or pictures of the birthmark to help you find the perfect match. Many people dated others with dissimilar soulmates anyway, just for its own sake. Linette had even had a few older friends that got tattoos over their birthmarks so they could never be tied down.

But for her, finding true love was the only way she could ever be happy. After her eighteenth birthday, though, the mark on her neck started to fade. Her mother consoled her, saying it was just something that would pass. Then when the problem got worse, they both started to worry. Just in case there was some metaphyiscal mistake that wasn’t supposed to occur, she began taking pictures of the mark every day. She could lose the mark, but she couldn’t lose it’s memory. And maybe that would be all she needed.

“Mom?” she asked, searching for her. Not in the kitchen. Not in the dining room. Not even in the living room. Was she still asleep?

Linette ran upstairs to her mother’s bedroom. Was she… crying?

She knocked on the door, gently so as not to disturb her. “Mom?” she repeated. The crying didn’t stop. If anything, it got worse.

She took a deep breath and slowly opened up the door, giving her mother plenty of time to say anything if she didn’t want to be disturbed.

As she walked into the room, she noticed that the television was on. It was too quiet to make anything out over her mother’s sobbing, but it was tuned into a news station that was, as usual, reporting bad news. This time it was about an update on a horrible car accident that had happened weeks ago.

Her mother never got overly emotional about events that didn’t directly affect her, though. It couldn’t have been the news that brought her to tears. “Hey, mom,” she said, voice calm and sweet as she sat on the bed next to her. “What’s wrong?”

In response, her mother took Linette in her arms and hugged her tight. It wasn’t an ‘I need comfort’ hug. It was a supportive hug. A feeling of dread washed over her.

She turned back to the TV, reading the headline at the bottom. Fatal Car Accident Victim Identified. The reporter was still too quiet to understand, but as Linette watched, they pulled up a picture of a handsome young man, smiling with a group of friends.

On the lower part of his neck was a birthmark that bore an uncanny resemblance to the mainland of Denmark.

 

Prompt: Everyone is born with a birthmark on their neck, which is the exact same as their soulmate’s. at the age of 18, your birthmark starts to fade, something that doesn’t usually happen until the pair is united.