A Day in the Life of Debbie, HR Troll

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A Day in the Life of Debbie, HR Troll

Postby sunglasses » Fri Jan 05, 2018 8:41 pm

ETA: Note from Kate, due to some technical things, the entries are ordered before the actual introduction to this thread. Please click this link to jump to the introduction for this contest! Thank you!


7 a.m.

The morning gong sounded from her enchanted time stone.

A deep and bellowing sound echoed through the cave as Debbie removed herself from her resting hollow deep within the H.R. cave. T’was a secondary branch of the H.R. cave that doubled as her living quarters. It may have seemed strange to some, living inside one’s office, but it was a stipulation in her contract she insisted upon when hired by The Contracted Magic and Marauding Offices of Deephenge. After all, they already had a perfectly good cave. No reason to relocate, she had said. That and, as much as it pained Debbie to admit, public transportation was still lacking in accomodation for trolls. She’d broken quite a few carriages, magic rugs, and buses in the past. It was all rather embarrassing and she’d not like to go through that again thank you very much.

8 a.m.

She rolled her arms back and forth a few times to loosen up the muscles and then rolled the stone door out of the way. The H.R. cave at The Contracted Magic and Marauding Offices of Deephenge was now open!

She promptly left the cave in search of the noxious black potion that Kevin, her administrative assistant, called coffee.

9 a.m.

“I don’t care if it’s your custom, in this office all males are required to wear a shirt and tie!” Debbie growled at Gorm, the Barbarian. He showed up wearing naught but a fur loincloth, leather cuffs, and boots once again. He was why Debbie kept a XXL white dress shirt and pink tie in her bottom desk drawer.

“Krawlash, the Janitor, is not required,” Gorm spluttered out.

“Krawlash is a gelatinous mound. We don’t even know IF they have a sex, let alone if they’re capable of wearing clothing,” she yelled back, “Wear the damned shirt and tie. I don’t CARE if it clashes with your furs. If you don’t like it, find a tailor that makes furred and leather ones.”

Gorm muttered as he left, with said shirt and tie.

10 a.m.

The goblin in front of her shifted his eyes in many directions, looking frantically for a way out. For good reason. This was his third time being caught stealing company property.

She hefted her club while pacing back and forth, “Zerrix, as you know The Contracted Magic and Marauding Office of Deephenge is owned by dragons. The union had to negotiate very hard to even get them to allow for not issuing this penalty the first time. This is not something I wanted to do, in fact, I hate having to draft letters of condolences to families. Do you have any living family?”

The goblin didn’t speak. Only shook his head slowly no.

“Oh good. That makes this so much easier.”

Formalities aside, Debbie promptly bashed the goblin against the H.R. Cave’s wall. This act in itself was the proper completion of form HR-27 Termination Due To Stealing.

She poked her head out of the entrance, “Kev-in, could you be wonderful and get me a pike? I have a new head to post as a reminder of the infractions for violation of company policy 495. Th-anks.”

11 a.m.

Kevin handed Debbie the nicely sharpened pike she had asked for, when she noticed it. She frowned. She, of course, understood why he was wearing it but it simply was a minor violation of the Equal Opportunity for All Races act and could not be allowed.

“Kevin, you know you can’t wear garlic. It violates E’OAR,” she sternly reminded him as she stuck Zerrix’s head firmly upon the pike.

Kevin looked rather sheepish as he handed over his garlic necklace to Debbie, “I know it’s a violation, ma’am, but I swore Count Yorslav was eyeing me up yesterday.”

“Should he attack you, we have company apothecaries. Look in my top drawer, there’s a collection of various totems and religious icons that you can put on your desk for use as a company acceptable ward. Now then, do you think the pike with Zerrix’s head should to the right or the left side of the desk? Be honest.”

“The left side, ma’am. More of an impact statement there.”

Noon

Seeing no reason to waste the rest of Zerrix, Debbie happily ate his body for lunch. Nothing quite like the crunch of fresh bones.

1 p.m.

The talking stone was demanding attention. Debbie activated it and the sound of screaming answered as well hissing, shouting, calls for tranquilizers, and then heavy panting.

“...Hello?”

“Sorry about that, had to dodge someone when you picked up. We’ve got some, erm, activity right now.” sounds of equipment crashing “This is Fiona, the apothecary. What are the forms required for vampire attacks on company employees as well as the form for restraining a vampire?”

“57-B-1 Treatment of Vampire Induced Bites on Company Employees and 57-A-2 Therapeutic Restraint of a Vampiric Employee. Let me guess, Kevin and Count Yorslav?”

“You guessed it! We’ve got someone holding pressure to Kevin’s bite wound while he’s drinking the potions of healing and cure disease.”

“Very good, Fiona. Please send me Yorlsav once he’s calmed down.”

“Yes ma’am.”

2:15 p.m.

“There’s absolutely no excuse, Yorslav. Company and Kingdom guidelines are perfectly clear about this. If you forgot to bring a thrall with you for lunch, you can obtain a willing one from the apothecary. You absolutely cannot drink from company employees. Ever. That’s a major violation of E’OAR. You’ll have to attend unpaid training and sensitivity sessions, I’m afraid,” Debbie said as she leaned back into her office chair.

Yorslav, whom had been slumped in the chair across the desk stood up in indignation, “I will not apologize for drinking from a worthless human maggot. I refuse to take these so called classes-especially unpaid!”

Debbie leaned forward and tried to not smile, “So, to be quite clear, you’re refusing to take the mandated training and sensitivity sessions?”

“Of course I’m refusing. I’m a Count! I answer to no one!”

“Thank you for repeating that for the Security Spellswords behind you. Count Yorslav, your refusal to attend the training and sensitivity session when mandated constitutes a violation of your employment contract and you are to be cast out of the building immediately. Goodbye.”

She could hear him screaming down the hallway as he was escorted out. Sure, she could have waited until night time to have him escorted out but that would have required her to keep the office open late and that’s rather a bother. Plus, he attacked Kevin.

4 p.m.

Debbie looked upon the small stack of wizarding staffs that formed a small pile on her desk. She the looked over them to the sulking young woman in brightly patterned clothing and shook her head, “Look, Tomato-”

“Tamsin,” the patchwork woman corrected as she fiddled with her lute strings.

“Tamsin, what you do in your own time is your business. But you absolutely cannot sell unauthorized wizarding staffs in the breakroom on company time. I hate to do this, but I’ve no choice,” Debbie intoned as she snapped the staffs in half.

“Those were mine! You can’t do that!” Tamsin shrieked.

“Young bard, I very much CAN do that and if you continue to shriek I will confiscate your lute and make you use Zerrix’s rib cage as an instrument for two weeks.”

Tamsin gasped and clutched her lute to her chest, “Not Lucille!”

Debbie looked very sternly at her, “Yes Lucille. But seeing as how you’ve ceased your shrieking, I think we can forgo that, yes? However, should I catch you peddling on company time again, it will be Lucille’s neck next.”

A now quite pale Tamsin scurried out of the cave.

Debbie started to complete form BRK-42 Authorized Destruction of Confiscated Magical Equipment

4:30 p.m.

She rolled the rock back into place at the entrance, officially closing the H.R. Cave. She rubbed her neck and went to her living area. She was going to binge watch The Golden Harpies on the Viewing Crystal tonight.
  • 10

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Bows

Postby IamNotCreepy » Fri Jan 05, 2018 8:41 pm

I tensed up as I sized up the man strolling casually up to the town gate. He had his hood up, presumably to protect him from the cold night air. He looked to be just a traveler seeking shelter for the night. From my vantage point behind our sorry excuse for a wall, I couldn’t see his face, but as he slowly approached, I started to notice a few things that were just … off.

The light from his torch revealed a hand with a faint tint of blue to the skin, ending in long, sharply-pointed nails lacquered in black. He stood at least a head taller than anyone in the village, but he was thin and bony, like a tree that had lost all of its leaves.

The hair peeking out from under his hood was long and stark white, like that of an old man. When he turned his head, I finally got a good look at his face, eliminating any assumption that this thing was human.

His oddly angular face made it difficult to determine his age, but he seemed to be much younger than I had initially assumed. He had no eyebrows, but there was a thick ridge of bumps above his eyes. Those eyes. They were black as obsidian and seemed to take up half of his face.

I immediately nocked an arrow in my bow and drew back.

They had come for us at last.

***

It had been three months since the invasion had begun. No one knew exactly where they had come from or what their purpose here was, other than to kill and conquer.

The first groups were caught off guard, but word slowly spread to the surrounding villages – wild tales of monsters and magic, each story different from the one before it. None of them seemed to match the creature I had in my sights now.

Those wild stories had sparked minor skirmishes between villages already looking for excuses to ransack their neighbors’ homes. Various warlords tried to seize power, each one under the pretense of uniting our forces against a common enemy.

All it ended up doing was sowing chaos and destroying any chance of a coordinated defense by people who were already at each other’s throats. Maybe that was their plan.

My village was fortunately too isolated and insignificant to be caught up in most of those squabbles. We thought we would then be more prepared for when the real enemy came. We were wrong.

Prior to all this, I had never even held a bow except when I handed it to my husband when he took Arela out hunting with him. I told him she was too young to go, but he assured me it would fine. Now, almost a year since, just looking at the damned bow stoked feelings of grief and anger.

But I was still expected to use it. Every family had a duty to help protect the town, and with my husband gone, that duty fell on me. This was the only weapon we owned.

It was a simple bow, just one long piece of wood with grooves on each end used to loop the bowstring around. The poor quality of the wood made it somewhat difficult to draw, but during my training, I quickly proved that what I lacked in strength, I more than made up for in aim. I had often practiced shooting from fifty yards, which was about the distance the creature was from me now. I was confident I could hit him if I released my arrow.

The leader of the town went out to greet the interloper. I couldn’t hear what being said, but the creature stood there stoically as our leader emphatically pleaded for him to leave us be.

A rage boiled deep inside me. Why should we bow and scrape for this, this thing? We needed to fight. We had him outnumbered fifty to one, and he was unarmed.

I took in a deep breath to steady my nerves, held it to steady my aim, and let my arrow fly.

As soon as it left my bow, I lost track of the flight of the arrow in the dark. I expected it to hit right in his center mass, but he just stood there, unharmed. Did I miss?

I ducked back behind the wall as he turned to see who had fired at him. I climbed down and crossed over to the opposite side of the gate, away from where he was looking for me. I climbed up, this time much closer to where he was standing, in order to get a better shot.

“You will reveal yourself,” he called out in a cold hiss. “Or your town will suffer the consequences.”

As I peered over the top of the wall, I saw him just standing there, facing away from me. Why was no one doing anything? Cowards. I wasn’t just going to sit here and let him do to us what had been done to all of the surrounding villages.

I nocked another arrow, stealthily raised my bow, and fired. There was no way I could miss at this distance.

This time, I saw the arrow fly true. It hit him square in the back and inexplicably bounced off. If I hadn’t seen it happen myself, I would not have believed it.

As he turned towards me, I ducked back down behind the wall. Shit shit shit. What had I done?

“I warned you. What happens now is on your head.”

I peeked my head up over the wall and had to stifle a gasp. He was muttering words in some foreign tongue, slowly growing louder and louder. He had pulled his hood down, and his tall, thin body started to raise into the air.

He had a pendant around his neck that I hadn’t noticed from afar. It was shaped like a triangle with an angular eye inside. As his feet had just lifted off the ground, the pendant began to glow in an eerie red light.

I ran.

I shouldered my bow, climbed down, and took off in the opposite direction of the wall as fast as my legs could carry me. I headed towards the most fortified building in town, the meeting hall. I could feel a strange energy building behind me, causing the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up. I wasn’t going to make it.

I shouldn’t have let my anger get to me. I was trying to protect the town, but I just made things worse. This was all my fault.

I heard a droning buzz back towards the gate. It grew louder and louder until it seemed to permeate the air. Whatever that creature was doing, it was going to happen soon.

My feet pounding the dirt, I finally had the meeting hall in sight. And there she was, standing outside the meeting hall with her back turned – about seven or eight years old with bright red hair, tied up in a yellow bow. Arela?

The girl turned to face the growing buzz. No. Of course it wasn’t her.

I remembered the feelings of helplessness after the accident. The anger. The fights. The alcohol. The rope. Having to bury a second body in as many months.

It was too late to save Arela. Too late for my husband. Probably too late for the rest of the town. As I ran by, I snatched the girl in my arms. Maybe it wasn’t too late for her.

By the time I reached the entrance to the meeting hall, the buzzing had reached its peak, now so loud it physically hurt. And then it stopped. For half a second, I thought we were safe. Then came the explosion.

There was a sound like the crack of thunder behind me, followed by a wave of force that knocked me off my feet. As the meeting hall came crashing down around me, I threw myself over the girl and shielded her with my body.

And then everything went black.

***
As I climbed off the wagon, I used my staff to steady myself. A pair of guards stood at the entrance to the town. They were both human, but they carried shields bearing the Eye of Adair symbol. The guard closest to me eyed my staff warily. Weapons were forbidden.

“I need this to get around. Old injury.”

He seemed to accept this. I turned back to help my daughter down from the wagon. Fortunately, she didn’t suffer any injuries when the meeting hall collapsed.

The years had been much kinder to her than they were for me. She had blossomed into a beautiful young woman, even taller than I was. Almost eighteen years old now, she looked a bit silly with that same yellow bow in her hair.

I understood, though. We all carried scars after everything we’d been through. She kept that bow as a reminder of what had been taken from her. My reminder was a bit more subtle.

The next person off the wagon was a young man. He had spent the entire ride sitting in the corner, muttering to himself and ignoring any attempt at friendly conversation. Now he looked nervous, his eyes shifting back and forth under a mop of messy black hair. The guard seemed to sense something was wrong, but it was too late.

“Traitor!” the young man screamed as he lunged and buried a knife in the guard’s neck. His accomplishment was short-lived, however. The other guard calmly walked up behind him and ran the young man through with his sword.

I grabbed Natia and shuffled her inside the gate. We didn’t want to get involved. I learned that lesson ten years ago. We never stayed in one place too long, never did anything to draw attention to ourselves. If I kept my head down, I couldn’t get anyone else killed. But the anger never went away.

It had been a few years since we had visited this town, but I still knew the way to the tavern. Hopefully Clovis would have a room available for us.

As I limped up to the entrance of the tavern, I was approached by a street urchin, maybe five or six years old, begging for food. Her hair looked like it was once blonde, but now it was so dirty it more closely resembled brackish bath water. Her too-small clothes were ripped and filthy, and her bare feet were callused and scarred.

“Begging is not permitted,” a nearby guard said.

“It’s okay,” I said. “I don’t mind, really.”

The guard frowned but didn’t stop it. I reached into my satchel and pulled out a crusty loaf of bread. I broke off half of it and handed it to her. She accepted it, and with a quick motion she snatched the other half out of my hand and took off running.

“The Cult of Adair does not allow thievery,” the guard said. To my horror, he pulled out an arrow and nocked it on his bow.

“No!” I screamed, but it was too late. The guard drew back and fired.

The little girl did not make it very far before she crumpled on the ground in a heap, the arrow sticking out of her back.

Visions of the past came crashing back into my mind. My distraught husband carrying a tiny body into the house, an arrow sticking out. Placing her on the table. Pulling my husband’s arrow out. Trying to stop the blood. So much blood. Her breathing slowing down and finally stopping.

The world seemed to spin, and I fell to my knees. My body was wracked by uncontrollable sobs. Not again.

After what seemed an eternity, I felt a hand on my shoulder. “Come dear, let’s get you inside.”

I turned my head to see Clovis, the aged proprietor of the tavern, standing beside me with a gentle smile on her face. She and Natia helped me to my feet and inside the tavern, where Clovis sat me down in a comfortable chair. She handed me a cup of cool water, and I took a thirsty sip.

“It’s getting worse,” she said. “Day after day, they assume more that their victory is assured. And they’re not wrong.”

I looked at the staff in my lap and sighed. I handed her the half-full cup of water and slowly pulled myself to my feet. “Alright,” I said. “Let’s get this over with.”

Clovis’ eyes crinkled as a subdued grin crept across her face. “This way.”

She guided me into the back room of the tavern, where her son Thale was deep in conversation with a man I didn’t recognize. They were standing over a table with a map of the city on it. When we walked in, Thale looked up at me and smiled.

“It’s about time.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I said. “I know.”

“I’ve got a present for you.” Thale bent down and pulled something out from under the table. “I’ve been holding onto it until the time was right.”

I took the bowstring from his hand and looped one end around a groove on the top of my staff. I hated the thing, but I held onto it as constant reminder of what I had been through and the consequences of my choices. “Which one of you lads wants to help me string my bow?”
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Just Stories

Postby A Combustible Lemon » Fri Jan 05, 2018 8:41 pm

Once upon a time, there was a kingdom. The kingdom had a noble king and a kind queen, and they had a son, beloved by all their people.

One day, the young prince, playing in the castle garden, met a boy, slightly older than him, showing off some magic tricks, making leaves dance for him. He exclaimed, clapping in delight. He had heard stories from an old servant about the fairy king’s court, a dark hall filled with little stars, made to look like a dark, enchanted forest. Maybe it WAS a forest, enchanted so the trees would grow so close together as to form a wall. The fairies themselves were a magical folk, and the very leaves and waters were bound to listen to their wishes.

The other boy was no simple fairy from the fairy king’s court, however. He was in fact the prince of the fairies. When his own mother told him that the human king had a little boy his age, he had decided to make the journey, through secret paths only the fairies knew.

The human prince and the fairy prince quickly became inseparable companions. The king, made aware of his new guest, made sure to treat him as hospitably as possible, for the fairy kingdom was known to treat its friends fairly, and it was in everyone’s interest that the humans and the fairies saw each other as friends.

Eventually the princes grew up to become good kings in their own right, and their fathers resigned, leaving them in charge of their kingdoms. The young kings, being good friends, wanted the same for their children in turn.

However, not all children are like their fathers. The young fairy prince was mischievous and had a streak of wickedness in him. Where it had come from, no one knew.

One day, playing a dangerous prank, he accidentally started a fire in the fields next to the palace, and quickly disappeared back to the fairy king’s court before anyone could find him.
In a few days, there was a grand procession in front of the fairy palace. The human king had come to visit. The fairy king, who had heard no news of what his son had done, came to greet his old friend with an embrace, but he was rebuffed. The human king asked him where his son was, accusing him of starting the fire that had destroyed months of stored food. The fairy king would not believe his son would do such a thing, and argued defensively. Tempers rose until the Fairy and Human courts were shouting at the top of their throats.

The human king and his retinue went away, never once looking back, and the human and fairy kingdoms grew distant and became strangers to each other.

Many years passed, and the young prince, having grown a conscience, as people do with age, came to visit the humans to see what had become of them. Without the friendship of the humans, the fairies had slowly grown sadder and smaller, their halls falling into sullen disrepair and quiet, where once there had been brilliant lights and cheer.

He crept into the garden to see the prince for the first time in years, and found the guards behaving curiously. They ignored him completely, not responding to any of his inquiries about the Prince’s location. He walked through the palace observing that no one would notice him or react to him in any way. If he blocked them, they would move him rudely out of the way. After being treated in this manner for a few hours, the human prince nowhere in sight, the prince stormed off angrily.

The grandfather tucked the little prince into bed. “Have I ever told you about how we beat the dragons?” The prince shook his head.

“Dragons were evil greedy monsters, who would terrorize people, take their sheep and their hard earned money, and squat in old abandoned castles.
But one day humans had enough of dealing with them, with losing people they loved to heroic efforts to slay them and stop them from terrifying our villages. So we did something to them they could do nothing to stop.”
“What did we do?”
“We stopped believing in them, son. Dragons, fairies, people of magic. They’re held to this world by human belief. There are still dragons, of course. They simply retreated to where we could still let them hold power.”
He lowered the shade over the prince’s lamp so that it cast vast, terrifying shadows across the farther wall.
“In the dark, it’s hard not to believe in dragons”


The prince hid under his blanket. His grandfather was about to leave the room, when he heard a rustling behind him.
“I know why you’re telling me this story.”
“Hmm?”
“It’s about father’s announcement this morning, isn’t it? That we’re to no longer acknowledge the fairies?”
His grandfather nodded solemnly.
“That’s sad. I don’t want him to disappear. He didn’t know the fire would spread that far.” He nursed his arm, which had been caught in the inferno that had reached the castle, and his shirt had caught fire.
“I don’t agree with it, son. Maybe the dragons were like this once, before. Maybe we’ve done this before, too. Turned a misunderstanding and two stubborn people into the near extinction of an entire race. But everyone's too angry now to listen. It'll be too late to save them, the damage will be done.”
He stopped himself from saying “Maybe we were the monsters all along, and the reason there are no more dragons is because we no longer believe in them as they are but as monsters.” The prince would have plenty of time to come to that conclusion on his own.

He saw the prince stare at him with wide eyes, on the verge of tears.
“You know what to do, though. If you want them to survive. They’ll be… diminished. Less than they used to be. But if there’s natural beauty left in this world, maybe you’ll believe it was weaved or sung into shape by the fairies. When you’re old and telling your own granddaughter stories of the fairies, make sure she feels they’re real, not just stories.”
  • 2



WE ARE ALL FLOATING IN THE WINDS OF TIME. BUT YOUR CANDLE WILL FLICKER FOR SOME TIME BEFORE IT GOES OUT -- A LITTLE REWARD FOR A LIFE WELL LIVED. FOR I CAN SEE THE BALANCE AND YOU HAVE LEFT THE WORLD MUCH BETTER THAN YOU FOUND IT, AND IF YOU ASK ME, said Death, NOBODY COULD DO ANY BETTER THAN THAT...
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Worlds Away

Postby CarrieVS » Fri Jan 05, 2018 8:41 pm

She popped into visibility and flickered as she looked around her, slightly translucent and never seeing me, even when I called out “Hello there!” I watched her. Some people just like to come in through the Shelf, but I’d never seen her before.

Sure enough her face creased in confusion. You can do yourself an injury in here if you don’t understand it. I drew my pen from my pocket. It’s a cheap plastic fountain pen, not at all special but familiar to me. Her outline was becoming fainter.

A pen appeared in the newcomer’s hand.

The words weren’t all that precise. I tried not to form a specific image, but the pen turned out the same as mine, in her left hand. Her fingers were grasping it as it materialised but almost instantly reverted to their original position, the pen slipping free and falling until I stopped paying attention.

But she jumped, and looked around her, and finally became solid.

“Sorry about that.” It’s a shocking breach of etiquette to directly interfere with another writer like that, even in such a harmless way. “I couldn’t see what you were doing, but you looked lost. We weren’t quite on the same Page, so I had to get your attention somehow.”

She looked down, where the pen had by now vanished. Had this been a real Page instead of the Shelf, it would have – in the majority of worlds – fallen to the ground and stayed, but here we expect the emptiness to renew itself as soon as we lose focus. She looked back at me, frowning.

“I just put a pen in your hand. You’ll want one before long – just imagine it.”

“Where did they go?” She was looking around, squinting into the blank distance. A noise dropped into the edge of hearing. I followed her gaze, and saw something, growing in size as the sound swelled.

“If that’s not something you want to be here, where we are, think of it stopping.” I said, “Or vanishing, would do nicely.” It was getting louder, and larger. The regular thump was overlaid by a bellow. I could see pumping legs, and feel the vibrations of its footfalls. She stared at me in confusion.

“You made it appear. Your imagination. You have to discipline your thoughts in this place.” By now I could make out a head and neck in line with the body. It was fast. “Alright, let me. Just concentrate on what I’m doing so you don’t override it by accident.”

I raised my pen once more, and felt for the slight catch as it began to write. I could see the crocodilian shape of the creature’s head now, the red crest on the end of the snout, and it was close enough to get a true idea of its size. It roared again. I wrote fast.

Moments before it reached them, the dinosaur veered away, rushing past and on until it was lost to sight.

The letters glared starkly on the whiteness of the void, and began to fade from the front as I was still completing the sentence. But the monster was already level with us, displaying the strikingly patterned sail on its back as it passed us by, intent on something far beyond.

“Nice one. Good detail. Although if accuracy was the intention that’s an outdated depiction. Spinosaurus was probably clumsy on land. Short legs and a long heavy body. But I do rather like the other version, aesthetically.”

“I heard something about it,” she said. Her first words to me that weren’t in utter confusion. “But that’s still what I think of it looking like, unless I make an effort not to.” She looked at her surroundings, twisting around as if trying not to leave her back to any direction.

“‘They’, you said: there were more besides that dinosaur? Unless they’re harmless, try and stop thinking about them. They were on another Page. Still are, I suppose, if you can find it again, but I called you back here because you looked confused.

“Take it as read that they’re not going to appear – then they won’t. Nothing’s going to happen unless one of us makes it.”

She seemed to relax a fraction, but still stared around her. The void isn’t quite featureless: if you look in just the right way – some people find it helps to close one eye – you can see the shadows of letters, overlapping and too faint to make out words. She cried out in alarm as she began to sink, but I was ready for that, grabbed her by the arm and hauled her up to my level again, never doubting for a second that I was strong enough, and so I was.

“There’s no ground here. It’s the same no matter where you end up, so if you think you ought to be falling you’ll fall until you get fed up with it. You won’t come to any harm, unless you imagine something nasty to land on, but it makes it hard to talk to you. Imagine a floor if it makes you more comfortable.” She gaped at me. I thought of rough stone flags under our feet, and released her arm.

“I’m sorry, I’ve got this all backwards. Your dinosaur distracted me. We’re perfectly safe now, so long as you trust me that we’re perfectly safe, so what’s your name? A pen name will do, or whatever you want me to call you.”

“Flick.”

I introduced myself and went on. “This place… well this part specifically is a kind of entrance. Most of us call it the Shelf. It’s where people who’ve just learned to get in here usually end up, before they work out what they’re doing and how to write themselves into a world. It’s blank, maybe just because enough of us expect it to be like this. But you can use it as a sandbox, to practice dreaming things up and then let them go again. They fade very easily here. But it’s really just another Page – that’s what we call any one world, or reality I suppose.” I took my pen in hand again, and showed it to her.

“You don’t need a pen, but it makes it easier to separate what you mean to create from what you’re just thinking about, especially when you’re new to this.”

She closed her eyes, which is a common thing for newbies, even though it really does no good. It’s not as though you have to hold the whole world in your head while ignoring the real reality, here. But in a few moments an elegant silver ink-pen appeared in her right hand. I held mine up again to what for want of a better word I call thin air.

A small white kitten sat on the stone floor between the two of them.

It licked its paw and then rolled over onto its back. Flick bent down to tickle its stomach. It purred, then snatched at her hand with needle claws. She laughed as she extricated herself.

“You try.”

She held her fancy pen up, hesitating. “I can’t feel anything to write on.”

“You’re expecting not to. Your imagination rules here. Writing things in works because we believe it will: it’s just a tool. You’ll probably find things that you wrote are more permanent than wild thoughts, but it’s all psychological.”

She frowned in concentration and finally managed to catch the pen onto nothing at all. Violet ink began to flow out.

Out of nowhere, a blue dragon no longer than a hand flitted around the two writers. It had a pair of long spiralling horns on its head and delicate membranous wings that stretched almost two feet across.

The little creature flapped around us like a disorientated but beautiful bat.

Its slender and sinuous tail made up more than half the length, much longer than the tiny arms and legs with their fragile

Its creator was still scribbling, ignoring the perfectly formed miniature dragon. “It’s your mind, not the words that bring it to life. It’ll look how you think it looks, without putting every detail into ink.”

She looked up, and as the last of her words faded her face lit up with wonder. She held up a hand and laughed in amazed delight as her creation alit on a finger and folded its translucent wings.

I lifted my pen. It sneezed, with a gout of fire smaller than a candle flame. The flame was blue, tinged with orange at the edges. Flick gasped and snatched away her other hand, with which she’d been about to touch the dragon. It opened its wings and took off, flying more gracefully now.

“Just write as much detail as you would to give a reader a flavour of the thing, and imagination will do the rest. It’s not being interpreted by a malicious genie.”

We played with the dragon. However clumsy its conception the beast itself was exquisite. “I’m not sure I could have done as well myself, and I’ve had a lot of practice. Would you like to see some of mine?”

Flick guided the dragon onto her shoulder with a wave of one hand. Her eyes shone. I reached out for her arm. “Keep hold of me, and concentrate on what I write.”

The moon shone full and brightly enough over Cetrun to travel the uneven road as easily as day.

I don’t need a pen to find my own creations, but it’s a lot harder to get someone there who’s never seen it before.

A dragon was walking down it.

Flick gasped and let go of my arm. As the huge creature plodded towards us she shrank nervously backwards into the edge of the scrub that lined the road.

“We’re not really here,” I said, “just watching. It’s possible to accidentally go to first person, and then you can get hurt, but if you don’t try to interact it should be fine.” There wasn’t much danger even of that: this reality being entirely written by me until now, my own ideas would tend to hold a stronger sway.

“I suppose I should say ‘welcome to my world.’ One of them, anyhow.”

She laughed, still nervously. But as the dragon in his web-limbed waddle drew level with us and went on without so much as blinking at me, barely out of his path in what should have been plain view, she relaxed.

Cradled between his folded wings, a human girl lay astride the dragon’s back, resting on his upraised neck. The prehensile tips of his tail supported her from behind. She was far too young to be his Soulbond.

“You can look around. It’s generally considered rude to write on another writer’s Page, if it’s not a shared one, but exploring is fine. Remember, you’re not part of the world, so there’s no reason you can’t fly or teleport or breathe underwater.”

She tried this immediately. I hung around by the road, working on a few minor details.

You develop a kind of sense of what’s going on in one of your creations, even if it’s beyond your vision. Having someone else playing around in there is, to me, a kind of itch, which suddenly vanished.

I jumped back to the Shelf. It’s the easiest place to get to, but Flick wasn’t there.

No-one I’ve met in here is entirely sure what the relationship is to your real-world self. I don’t like to spend more than a few hours at a stretch here, in case I lose track of time and stay until I starve my physical body to death. But it often seems like time is all screwed up compared to meatspace.

Sometimes you meet people, passing through a world, and it’s hard to tell if they’re a writer or a character, or if they know what world they really belong to. For that matter, I sometimes wonder whether everyone else I meet here is in my imagination. Maybe only I’m real. Or maybe I’m not – but that way lies madness. I think, therefore I’d better act as though I am, in case it’s true.

She could of course have dropped back out into reality. Although even that can be confusing. The other reason I try not to spend long periods of time in here is the fear I might one day drop out and not recognise that I now have no choice about being affected by gravity.

But for a newcomer I worry a lot more about her getting lost. Everyone in here has a horror story or two. It’s a friend of a friend usually, or else it’s only a close call, but there are a few troublingly persistent urban myths that no-one seems to know the origin of. Like Ever-Repeating Randolph. Supposedly this guy wrote himself a world so like his home that he forgot which was which and got stuck in an infinite loop.

That’s probably not real.

I went back to Cetrun, but Flick was still not there. I had a ferret around for random Pages near the Shelf. If you know exactly what to look for you can sometimes feel someone else’s world and read yourself into it. I dug around, looking out for paleontologically inaccurate Spinosaurs.

Nada.

Drastic times.

I uncapped my pen, and stopped. I didn’t really have any evidence that she was in trouble. She could be happily building her own world, or dropped out and completely safe. Even if her abrupt departure had been an accident she might have simply not known how to find me and gone her own way. Even if she got into a dangerous situation, she’d had my crash course in writing herself to safety.

She hadn’t seemed confident yet, and I had no evidence that she was safe.

Flick appeared beside me, pulled away from whatever world she had been in.

Her arms were over her head, and she hit out when I first touched her on the shoulder and almost caught me a slap in the face.

“It’s ok. It’s me. Sorry to startle you.”

She straightened up, recognising me, still tensed.

“I would never do something like that normally, but I was worried you might have got lost, you left so suddenly.”

She stared around, taking in the white void. “You brought me back here again?”

I nodded. “I didn’t even know if that would work. It’s so far outside the rules I wouldn’t usually even contemplate it. You’re more than within your rights to bear a grudge. If you want me to leave you alone, I won’t bother you again.” I made a crossing motion on the left of my chest, and forced a smile.

She grinned back. “I think I need a few more of your lessons before I go off on my own.” Just how I hoped she’d react.
  • 8

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TCS Writing Contest - Fantasy Results and Discussion

Postby Marcuse » Fri Jan 05, 2018 8:55 pm

The writing contest is here!

Click here to read them!

Please feel free to discuss the entries here, the contest voting will run for one week from today, ending on the 12th January 2018 at about 8pm GMT-ish. Also I know there's only four and I said I would run when we have five, but I'm reasonably sure that there's no more pending contest entries and I didn't want to keep our kind authors waiting any longer.
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Re: TCS Writing Contest - Fantasy Voting and Discussion

Postby CarrieVS » Fri Jan 05, 2018 8:58 pm

I'm sorry. I didn't mean it when I complained about the wait. I was just excited about the contest.

[EDIT rather than double post]

So, here's what I thought.

Just Stories (the one with the fairies): Really like the concept. Little hint of Pratchett, I could almost think, in concept, not style. In terms of style, it was doing the whole fairy tale/folk tale bluntness thing, perhaps compounded by wanting to be short, and for me it just didn't quite work, came across with too much tell and not enough show.

Debbie, HR Troll (the funny one): The humour worked, it's the kind of grim humour that I often find misses the mark for me personally, and this didn't. Technically pretty good, one of the best in the respect. Somehow, I enjoyed reading it and have very little specific criticism, yet it feels like it's missing something and I don't know why. Maybe it's just not my thing.

Worlds Away (the meta one): Like the idea but I'm not altogether sure it's not too complicated and/or whether the whole meta thing works well. I don't think it's too bad technically but I don't know if you don't maybe have to be a writer to appreciate the concept. Also not sure the ending is clear.

Bows (the one with the alien/monster invasion): Liked the concept, liked the characters, loved the ending. Liked the bow motif with the different meanings of the word. But it felt rather stilted and the time lapse was abrupt. Getting a really good ending to a really short story is a really hard task and that one just did it for me. It's all about the implication.

N.B. One of them is mine, but if I left it out of the commentary, I'd be telling you which one it was, and I want y'all to have to guess. I tried to give an honest critique on it but I'm inevitably biased.
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Re: TCS Writing Contest - Fantasy Voting and Discussion

Postby IamNotCreepy » Mon Jan 08, 2018 6:05 pm

Debbie the HR Troll: I really liked this one. It had a very Discworld feel to it. It was funny and clever. My only complaint is that I'd like to see more. Good job.

Bows: I like that there is a definite arc to the character and the whole dual-meaning of Bows. The backstory of the character was revealed slowly and subtly, in bits and pieces, which worked really well. I would have liked to see more descriptive language in describing the setting and characters. It's makes the writing here very prosaic and to-the-point.

Just Stories: This story had a lot of promise as a pseudo-fairy tale, but some of the writing was confusing. There were two princes and two castles, and sometimes it wouldn't specify which one, so I'd have to re-read a section multiple times to make sure I understood. As Carrie said, it would just state things explicitly instead of showing through the story.

Worlds Away: I'll admit, I had a little trouble getting into this story at first. It's kind of dense, and the beginning is a bit confusing as it starts in media res. It took me a couple tries before I could get past the beginning, but once I did, I really liked it. It reminds me of the World of Dreams (Tel'aran'rhiod) from Wheel of Time, only more meta. I thought the concept was overall great, and it was well-written.
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Re: TCS Writing Contest - Fantasy Voting and Discussion

Postby sunglasses » Mon Jan 08, 2018 6:45 pm

As Carrie did, I also wrote one and am not going to not critique it so you can't tell.

A Day In the Life of Debbie, HR Troll: I feel like this story won't respond well to people who aren't used to office or bureaucratic culture. Ending felt rushed. I have so many questions: How good of a janitor would a gelatinous mound be? Did they have to hire him because of E'OAR?

Worlds Away: I liked the meta-ness and the idea of what writers may actually go through in the process. The idea of their imaginations accidentally killing them amuses me. That may not have been the authors intent but my imagination takes me where it takes me.

Bows: If I didn't realize recently just how big a long bow was, I'd have never realized that a bow without the string could double as a walking stick. Solid idea, but wish had been fleshed out more. The style of writing makes this story feel frantic, which I felt helping it. You felt the need of getting to the girl, et al.

Just Stories: Not going to lie, had a little trouble getting into it. The idea is good, and I can't put my finger on why I have trouble, but it might be the tense in which it's written.
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Re: TCS Writing Contest - Fantasy Voting and Discussion

Postby jbobsully11 » Mon Jan 08, 2018 8:55 pm

“Bows” - Maybe I need to read it again, but it didn’t really do anything for me.

“HR Troll” - I liked this one. I thought that the idea of having a literal troll for an HR rep was funny.

“Worlds Away” - I liked the reference to the twisted wish thread, and thought the concept reminded me of the movie What Dreams May Come (except without having to die, and also writing instead of painting).

“Just Stories” - I thought the lack of names was confusing, and too much was told instead of shown. I liked the concept, though.
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Re: TCS Writing Contest - Fantasy Voting and Discussion

Postby A Combustible Lemon » Tue Jan 09, 2018 12:23 pm

"Bows" - is sort of a hard story to get working right. It starts and ends in the middle, and is entirely focused on one character. I don't think I liked it. It's competent, not overwritten, but it's not having a beginning and end works against it.

"Debbie" - is amazing. I loved the style of it and it's got the right length, the right writing, the right amount of humour.

"Worlds Away" - I loved this because it's a meta-story on fantasy, which is some of my favourite work ever. It's got the right feel of being in a transient world where anything can change at the drop of a hat, where you can write yourself into a horror story you get lost in. Imaginary worlds are the best, so I love everything about this.

"Just Stories" - Not the best work. It's a story about fairy tales written as a fairy tale. But it could be longer, even if fairy tales are supposed to be blunt. Characters aren't named but repeated, so it has the confusing effect of having two of everything. Not a big fan of the "humans are evil" suggestion at the end, it's the most telly bit of an already telly story.
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Re: TCS Writing Contest - Fantasy Voting and Discussion

Postby Marcuse » Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:15 pm

Voting is over! Congratulations to everyone who participated and thank you to everyone who took the time to read and vote on the stories.

The results are as follows:

A Day in the Life of Debbie, HR Troll - By Sunglasses - 10 votes and winner!
Worlds Away - By CarrieVS - 8 votes
Bows - By Iamnotcreepy - 4 votes
Just Stories - By A Combustible Lemon - 2 votes

That means that A Day in the Life of Debbie, HR Troll is our winner, and will be posted on the front page as is customary and traditional. Sadly the tradition of slaughtering a mechanic goblin and roasting him will have to be suspended, we ate them all.
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Re: TCS Writing Contest - Fantasy Results and Discussion

Postby sunglasses » Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:52 pm

I'm really happy you guys liked it so much.
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Re: TCS Writing Contest - Fantasy Results and Discussion

Postby A Combustible Lemon » Wed Jan 17, 2018 9:26 pm

Now that I no longer have to pretend I didn't write it, gonna lay out the ideas behind my story.

It's a story about belief and fantasy stuff, and I really wanted it written explicitly in a Hans Christian Andersen style, where names really aren't that important, everything's as blunt as can be, there's just a little bit of magic in descriptions, written as if answering a curious child pre-emptively, not to describe anything well or to answer every question.

It's a hard style to pull off with work, but half this story was written a month after the other one, and the first half mostly got edited down and away for consistency with the second half and the second half didn't get a proper cross out sentences look-over at all.

It's really not written well enough.

Tone wise the idea wasn't really what the cynical "humans are bastards" sentence that needs to be removed implies at all, except as a reflection of the reader's own idea of how the story should go. Ultimately, the end should be what real life is like right now, fairy tales are about how magic is every wonderful thing in the world around us, and spreading them around is the Prince's legacy to humankind. His own grandfather's supposed to be a high archetype of all grandfathers to come. Storytellers who make the world sound bigger and scarier and better and more wonderful than, to a man with Kay's mirror shard stuck in his eye, it really is.

As Carrie said, it's a discworldian reconstruction idea. Magic as natural wonders is an idea that's really gone away in the DnD age of fantasy, filled with people who liked Tolkien's style and his ideas but not his themes of mythology and storytelling-as-heritage. The idea of stories only living in how they're passed around is central to every bit of LotR and the Hobbit Tolkien wrote.
Tolkien digression:
Spoiler: show
This, as an aside, is why I hate the fact that Christopher edited the Silmarillion to be coherent but presented as-is. The Book of Lost Tales is what the Silmarillion should have been from the start, an incomplete work that fits together far better into Middle Earth than an encyclopedic origin myth nerds can learn "fun fact"s from. Tolkien himself did not think the Silmarillion as he'd written it should be published, as Christopher explains many times only for nerds to ignore him entirely. Its failure to be interesting comes entirely from known factors that Tolkien was actively trying to fix before he died. There's a reason only fans talk about the Silmarillion while LotR itself was popular in teenagers well well into the 80s. It is not an interesting book. Learning of Beren and Luthien's story from Aragorn and Frodo and the actual inhabitants of middle earth to which it had meaning is way more effective than to lay it out by itself. The Silmarillion as written by Eriol or Samwise Gamgee would've been a much better book.


Honestly wish I'd worked harder on it.

We should have a behind the scenes thread.

SO WHO ELSE HAS SUGGESTIONS FOR MY STORY OR WAYS THEIR STORY SHOULD'VE WORKED OUT?
This is like, my first story for actual public not-just-me-and-friends consumption, and I'm happy people actually got it and liked it.
  • 5



WE ARE ALL FLOATING IN THE WINDS OF TIME. BUT YOUR CANDLE WILL FLICKER FOR SOME TIME BEFORE IT GOES OUT -- A LITTLE REWARD FOR A LIFE WELL LIVED. FOR I CAN SEE THE BALANCE AND YOU HAVE LEFT THE WORLD MUCH BETTER THAN YOU FOUND IT, AND IF YOU ASK ME, said Death, NOBODY COULD DO ANY BETTER THAN THAT...
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