Entry for a Contest!

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Well people, here we go. I finally got another story written, and this is going to a ‘friendly’ contest on one of my favourite websites: http://www.fantasy-faction.com

I strongly urge you to check out the site if you read, write, or are even mildly interested in Fantasy Fiction.

Anywho, on to the story. The challenge was to write a 1500-2000 word story with a mythical creature being a main theme. I’d love your opinions on it, so feel free to leave a comment below:

Jason’s stomach knotted and twisted, and he gripped all the tighter to the handle of his sword.

King Vandras, a man large enough to be imposing of his own accord, sat upon his throne clad in full armour, with his hand resting upon the pommel of his sword. Jason had always wondered why it was that the King armed himself so fully in the privacy of his own keep. Half the Sceran army stood guard in the grounds beyond the keep, and elite guards patrolled the corridors and passageways through the keep. Finally, there was the Magi; a group of highly gifted individuals with a passion for turning intruders into mush.

With such a formidable defencive force, the King’s extensive measures to protect his person seemed to stray into excess. Not that Jason would ever think of mentioning this to Vandras; he may be a friend, but he was no fool. The King’s hold on his temper was fragile at best, and Jason would sooner not test it.

King Vandras tightened his hold on the pommel of his blade as he looked upon the Magi, who stood encircling a glowing orb.

“How long now, Master Magi?”

One of the more senior of the Magi turned to look at the King, a look of calm confidence in his eyes.

“Not long now, Your Grace.”

Vandas’s eyes narrowed at the aged man. “I expect this to work, Syrus. If you fail me now, will bbe most displeased.”

Some of the confidence melted from the old ma’s face, but he did not look away.

“I assure you, Your Grace, soon th creature will be in our grasp.”

Sharp look from Vandras seemed to strike Syrus’ common sense. “And by our, I of course mean your grasp, Sire.”

“Indeed. Just hurry and complete your task. I have other matters to attend to.”

“Yes, Sire.”

As Syrus turned back into he circle, Vandras motioned for Jason to approach the throne.

“Yes, Your Grace?”

The towering man needn’t have stood. Even seated, the King could look his Captain and friend in the eye. He id just that now.

“You seem ill at ease, my friend. Does something bother you?”

Jason pondered for the briefest of moments, hoping to shape his opinions in an appropriate way.

“Your Grace, I just do not understand why it is that we must call such a creature. You hold command of the most skilled military force West of the Rift, and the Circle has given you command over several of their more talented Magi. You hold a position of great power in the world, and I cannot understand your lust to advance it further.”

The King sighed.

“My friend, you have answered your own question. Th Circle gave me command over these Magi. That puts our magical friends a tier higher than myself, and I do not approve of having someone above me.”

“What exactly is your intention with the creature, Vandras?”

The King’s expression showed clearly that he had noticed the change in the term of address.

“I intend to take my rightful place, Jason.”

Jason did not reply. Instead, he returned to his place a few steps to the King’s right, and gripped the handle of his blade.

Syrus tuned back to the King.

“It is time, Your Grace.”

“Finally. I was beginning to doubt your skills, Syrus.”

The King rose from his throne, and descended the few steps to the floor.

As the circle of men and women spread apart, Jason got a good look at the orb. It no longer emanated a warm, soft glow, but rather forced light in all directions. Sparks emerged from one portion of the orb, only to strike down upon another portion.

Even Vandras paused as he approached, and turned to Syras.

“Are you sure this is safe, old man?”

“Quite safe, Sire. This energy is not a weapon; it’s just a portal. No harm will come to you.”

“You had best hope not. My friend over there,” He motioned toward Jason. “will be most unhappy if anything happens to me.”

A few of the Magi turned to look with worried eyes at Jason, who had decided to casually rest his hand on the hilt of his blade.

Syrus, however, kept his eyes fixed on the King.

“You have my word, Your Grace.”

Vandras nodded at the man, and stepped toward the orb. Another spark flew I the direction of the King, and he took a small step back, before continuing his advance. The spark flew more frequently now, and seemed more violent than before. Vandras had grown accustomed to them, however, and did not falter.

He reached out his right hand, and lay it upon the orb.

The explosion of light and colour that followed near blinded Jason, and forced him to cover his eyes.

The sound behind it, on the other hand, he could not block out.A high-pitched screech the tore through his head, and filled his mind with a throbbing pain.

Abruptly, the screeching stopped and the room was plunged into darkness. Jason uncovered his eyes, and even through the pervading gloom, a bold figure was apparent in the centre of the room. It stood a full half the height of the room, putting it several metres above the King.

As Jason’s eyes adjusted, he could see the creature in greater detail. It stood upon two legs, much like a man, but there was nothing human about this creature. Its skin was covered in scales from the top of its head to the tip of its massive tail. Its hands each held five fingers, with each ending in a curved claw that reflected what little light remained in the room. From its back sprouted two great wings, their tips touching the stones of the walls to either side of the beast, though they were, as yet, un-folded. Upon its broad shoulders sat a head that looked as though it had been struck from some great lizard.

At the beast’s feet, lying flat upon the ground, was the King.

The creature looked down, issued a snarl, and bent toward the King.

At that moment, the sharp edge of a blade pressed against Jason’s throat, and Syrus’ voice came from behind.

“Watch now as your precious Kind gets the ending he deserves.”

Between controlled breaths, Jason managed a whisper.

“Why?”

“You think we are deaf? We know what Vandras had planned. We may have been placed in his command, but our loyalty always lies with the Circle.”

As the old man finished, the creature had reached out a hand to the unconscious King, and lifted him into the air.

It stood, examining him, as though unsure of what to make of the iron-clad man in his hand.

Then, with dreadful purpose, it clenched its fist, and the sound of warping metal and crushing bones filled the room.

Syrus laughed, with triumph and pride in his voice, and the voices of the other Magi, hidden throughout the room joined him.

Jason saw his chance.

He threw his left elbow behind him, and felt a satisfying thud as he connected with Syrus’ chest. He ducked an spun, his right fist clenched and his arm locked. Syrus stood a no more than a foot away, his eyes wide with surprise.

Those same eyes glazed over and rolled back as Jason’s fist collided with the side of the Mage’s head, sending him tumbling to the floor.

He glanced around. He had a few seconds, at most, in which to make his escape.

He took a few quiet steps forward, but was caught off-balance by the sound that came from behind.

That same horrid screech erupted from the centre of the room, and Jason looked over his shoulder to find the creature staring hungrily at him.

With stealth no longer an option, Jason decided to bank on pure speed.

He charged toward the back of the room, past the throne, and into the corridor behind that lead to the King’s chambers, suddenly grateful for the architectural idea that so irritated Vandras.

He sped down the corridor, angry voice s behind him. He soon approached the door to Vandras’ chambers, and did not slow. Instead, he altered his stature, and slammed his armoured shoulder into the door, breaking through the lock. Th pain o impact was extraordinary, but adrenaline pushed such thoughts and worries from his mind. For now, survival was priority one.

He ran across the room, to the main entrance to the chamber, and rushed out into the ensuing passages.

He ran down the central corridor, glancing to each side as he went, until finally catching glimpse of a group of guards posted near the treasury.

He changed direction, headed now toward them. He shouted ahead of him.

“Arm yourselves! We’re under attack!”

Years of training came to the surface as the men instinctively drew their weapons.

As Jason approached, one of the younger men stepped forward to meet him.

“What’s happened, Sir?”

Pausing a moment for breath, Jason replied.

“The King… Dead… The Magi…”

“Sir, breath and tell us what happened.”

Jason looked at one of the men, chosen at random.

“You, go and warn the rest of the men to prepare.”

The man nodded, and sped of down the corridor.

Jason looked to the young man who had met him.

“The Magi; they turned on the King. He’s dead.”

A look of disbelief crossed their faces.

“How is that possible? Most of them can barely carry a stick, let alone take down that giant.”

“They summoned something; some monster. It crushed him in one hand.”

For a moment, the guards looked sceptical. A crash from a ways into the keep, followed by a thunderous bellow changed their minds.

Jason motioned for them to follow him.

They emerge some way down the corridor, into the courtyard. They found a grizzly sight.

Bodies lay strewn around he centre, where dozens of men valiantly attacked the monstrosity brought forth by the Magi.

The Magi themselves, cold and emotionless, stood behind their creation, observing the chaos.

Jason drew his blade, but felt a hand on his arm.

“You can’t seriously be thinking about attacking that thing. Look at it. Look at what it’s done.”

Jason turned to the man, and fixed him with a steady stare.

“I’ve looked, soldier, and I’ve seen. I saw it crush the life out of m King; my friend. Now, you can run if you wish. Go, and hide like a quivering child, but know this; do so, and I name you coward and traitor. You will live your life in shame, and no end will come soon enough for you. You will live knowing you abandoned the chance to avenge your King, and let you never forget it.”

The man’s returning stare said it all as he nodded to Jason, then turned to the creature.

Jason took a slow deep breath, raised his weapon, and called to the sky.

“Charge!”

With that command the men ran int the fray, their head held high, and their weapons before them. As they neared the beast, Jason leapt from the ground, and drew back his weapon.

He roared in anger and blood-lust, and the world went black.

Planning: If you’re going to do it, finish it!

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Well people, I’ve finally foced myself to write another post on here. It’s been a while since I last put up a story, and there’s a reason for that; I HAVE NO MORE STORIES!!!

Not at the moment, at least.

I know;  I’m just as  shocked as you are. The simple fact is this: I’ve been missing something for my writing. My muse has been hiding from me recently, and simply will not reappear, despite my constant pleading, begging and offerings of cookies.  And so, without my muse, my writing has vanished to a little corner of my head where it is no longer within sight.

I’ve been doing a lot of planning, but most of those plans will just vanish into the mists of myth and legend, never to be brought forth into the world as fully-fledged stories. And this got me thinking: Why have I been planning things I won’t even write?

The honest answer, I think, is that it provides a suitable excuse for why that time was not spent writing. Is this a good enough answer? No! Not by any measure. Put basically, I have been applying what little creative effort I could muster into fruitless tasks that will lead me nowhere. Well, no more! I fully intend on devoting my creativity in places where it is worthwhile, either writing or planning pieces that will actually come to fruition.

Now, I’m not the only person who has suffered from this lament, I’m certain. I’m positive that there are other poor souls out there who, like me, sought an escape from the heady task of putting words to paper by pretending to plan. So, my input on the matter (small though it may be) is to do one of two things. When planning, ask yourself this: Is this plan going to end up as a story/novel/poem/screenplay etc…?

Think long and hard about that question, and your response should be one of two. If the answer is yes, devote yourself fully to the plan. Give it the time and attention it needs to create a working model for your piece. This is, in my experience, vital. More than one of my stories has become no more than a pile of crumpled paper in the bin as a result of lazy planning. So give your plan some attention.

If your answer was no, however, then stop! If your plan is not taking you anywhere, stop working on it immediately. Don’t throw it away, by any means. Keep it somewhere you can easily find it again, but put it out of sight for the moment. If you can say to yourself that your plan is not taking you where you want to go, now is not the time for that story. Move on. Find something else to write. Your creative efforts are best suited to things that play out, and a plan that’s going nowhere is simply a waste of time and effort. Keep it, and check in on it every now and again, and see if you can fix whatever issue you were having, but do not slug through something you feel is pointless.

Well, there you have it. I’ve had my nice little rant on my lack of productivity, have posted a new comment on my website, and have hopefully given some of you something to think about.

Not a bad day, in my opinion.

So, what about you? Have you been suffering a down period? How are you getting through it?

The Gentleman

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Thump thump!

I hear my pulse ringing in my ears as I stumble forward, struggling to keep ahead.

Thump thump!

It’s getting closer. I can hear the footsteps behind me growing louder.

Thump thump!

I see a corner ahead, with light shining behind. The hope of safety ahead, I charge into a run. As I reach the corner, my foot catches a wet stone, and I fall to the ground.

I look behind me. It’s there!

A dark silhouette of a man, top hat and all, walks slowly toward me. I hear it breathing. It knows it’s almost got me.

Just at that, I hear a voice from the corner. “Janie, watch yourself on those steps. They’re slippery.”

I inhale, drawing all my strength, and scream.

I look back. It’s stopped. Even in the dark, I see it smile. It retreats to the shadows as the light to my side grows brighter.

I hear that voice again. “Miss, are you alright?”

I look up at his face. He is older than me, with stubble and cropped hair, but not unattractive. I shake my head, and see only black.

When I come to again, I’m lying in a bed. The blanket over me feels warm, so I’ve been here a while.

I look around the room. It’s simple, cosy; I like it. Candles flicker in the corners of the room, bathing my surroundings in a flickering light.

There’s a knock at the door.

“Come in.” I croak, struggling to find my voice.

The door opens, and a woman enters, carrying a bowl and a rag. “Are you feeling better, Miss? You’ve been asleep for some time.”

I give a weak nod. I feel so weak.

The woman gives a knowing smile. “I understand. You looked so shaken up when we found you, I don’t blame you for being a little out of yourself.” She sets the bowl down on the table at the bedside, dips the rag in, and applies it to my head. “I should probably introduce myself. I’m Janie, and it were my husband, Billy, who found you.”

“Samantha.” The word fought its way out.

“It’s lovely to meet you, Samantha, despite the circumstances.”

I force a smile, and rest my head back on the pillow. I glance out the window.

My heart skips. It’s there!

Without command, my hands grip the edges of the bed, and I pull myself up. Janie presses down on my shoulders.

“Samantha, you need to rest. You haven’t eaten in almost a full day. You need your strength.”

I hardly hear her. My eyes remain locked on the window, my hands clamped on the wood of the bed.

Janie looks over her shoulder, then back at me, a puzzled expression on her face. “What is it? Samantha, there’s nothing there.”

There is! I can see it. It’s smiling at me; a horrid, wicked smile that sets my heart racing and turns the blood in my veins to ice.

Janie looks again, then shakes her head.

It reaches up to its hat, gives a quick tip in my direction, and vanishes from sight.

My heart slows, though my hands maintain their grip.

Janie tightens her grip on my shoulders, and I relax, the comforting touch of another person working its magic.

I lean back on the bed, the warmth and comfort slowing my heart even more. In such a place, it is hard to remember the horror of the outside world.

Janie replaces the rag on my head, and the cool sensation of the water on my skin lulls me deeper. I close my eyes, and rest.

I awaken to darkness. The candles in the room have gone out, and Janie is no longer with me. I take a deep breath to steady myself as I look around, then breathe a sigh of relief. It isn’t here.

The door opens, and my saviour enters with a candle. He lights a few of those in the room, filling it with light once again, then sits on the side of the bed.

“You gave us quite a scare there, Miss. I hope my Janie’s been taking good care of you.”

I nod my head.

He smiles. “Good.”

I return the smile.

For a moment, neither of us move. Then, his smile changes. The sweetness and caring dies away, replaced with hunger and need. His eyes widen, and his hair lengthens. I look at his clothes; no longer a simple cloth outfit, now a black tuxedo. He reaches behind his back and pulls out a top hat, then places it on his head. He throws a wink at me. “Got you.” He leans in. I scream.

My eyes open to a bright room, the sun shining in the window, with Janie looking terrified by my bedside.

She looks at me with relief. “You’re awake! Thank God. You were screaming bloody murder there. I tried to wake you, but you just kept screaming.”

I feel the blood rush to my face. “Sorry if I frightened you. It was just a nightmare.”

She smiles and nods. “Given the state you were in, I’d be worried if you weren’t having nightmares.”

I allow myself a quick laugh.

She clicks her fingers. “While I remember, a man was looking for you last night. He was going door to door. I told him you were here, but you needed your rest. He just smiled, thanked me, and walked away. Was he your husband, by any chance?”

I shake my head. “I’m not married.”

She shrugged. “Well, he seemed a real gentleman, all dressed up nice.”

My heart stops in my chest. It knows where I am, now.

Janie looks at me, clearly concerned. “Samantha, are you alright?”

I shake my head. “That’s who I was running from.”

Shock fills her face as realisation hits. “My God! I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.”

I put a hand on her arm. “It’s okay.” I sigh. “I have to go now.”

As I try to rise, she presses me back down. “You can’t go anywhere in your condition. That’s almost 2 days now you haven’t eaten, and you’ve hardly been sleeping well. Once you’re strong enough, you can go.”

I grab her arm, surprised at my own strength. “You don’t understand. He’ll kill you. You, and your husband, and everyone else who gets between him and me.”

“Don’t talk nonsense, now. It’s the middle of the day. No one’s going to try anything like that in broad daylight. Besides, I seen this man outside. My man can take care of him.”

“He can’t.” I rise from the bed, just fighting off her attempts to push me back. “I’m not going to let you get hurt because of me.”

She tries to hold me as I walk to the door, but my determination holds.

Crash!

We both freeze at the noise. Clattering and bashing follows, with the sound of tussled footsteps downstairs.

Taking advantage of my moment of distraction, Janie pulls me back and sends me onto the bed. “Now don’t you move until I get back.”

She runs downstairs. Her voice rushes up the stairs. “Billy, what are you doing down here?”

For a long moment, everything is silent. The, I hear footsteps on the stairs.

Thump thump!

That familiar feel of terror rises from my stomach.

Thump thump!

A voice lilts up the stairs; a gentle voice screaming with hatred and hunger. “Oh, Samantha!”

I leap from the bed and rush to the window.

The voice gets closer. “You’re not trying to run away again, are you?”

I yank at the window, creating just enough space to squeeze through.

The footsteps get louder.

I push my way through the window.

As I make it through onto the slanted roof, I turn to see a head appear from the doorway. It smiles at me. “There you are. I’ve been looking everywhere for you.”

I take my chance, and jump from the roof. I land well, keeping my balance. I look up.

It’s at the window, smiling.

I turn and run.

Every step I take sends a shock up my spine. I run past people, all giving me queer looks.

I run through the square, past the tavern, toward the park. It’s still early, yet. People will still be in the park.

As I approach, something doesn’t feel right. The park is quiet.

I look at the sky. It’s still up. There should be families in the park. Regardless, I keep running. I can’t turn back, so forward is my only option.

I get into the park, and freeze.

My breath catches in my throat.

The park is empty of life.

I hold myself, frozen, and try to keep my eyes from the ground.

Families everywhere, huddled in fear, never to move again.

A figure steps out from the shadows. A well-dressed gentleman, covered top to toe in black. His top hat sitting nobly upon his brow. He pulls his hat from his head, and holds it in his hand. “See what you made me do, Samantha?”

He gestures around to the scene. I refuse to look. “If you had only done as you were told, this could have been avoided.”

He takes slow, measured steps toward me. I fight the urge to run.

He smiles. “That’s better. We don’t want anyone else to die because of you, now do we?”

I shake my head.

He laughs. “Well then, let’s get on with it, shall we?”

He drops his hat to the ground, and looks me right in the eye. I spit at his feet. “You’re a monster.”

He moves to my side with inhuman speed he leans to my ear, and whispers, “And proud of it.”

I feel the skin on my neck tear, I scream, then the world turns black.

Trouble on the Road

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The soldier stepped out onto the path, the autumn leaves strewn about him.

“Well well well. What do we have here?”

Blake stopped, and eyed the man warily. “I’m a traveller, Sir.” He pointed down the path. “I’m on my way to town. Need to stock up for the winter.”

The soldier smirked. “Well, now, that puts me in an awkward position. You see, to go to town, you’ve got to pay the toll.” He turned to his fellow soldiers, standing by a tree further down the path. “Ain’t that right, boys?”

The two men smile and nodded. He turned back to Blake. “The thing is, I wouldn’t want you goin’ hungry. So how about I cut you a little slack. We’ll just take fifteen silver, instead of the thirty we’re owed.”

Blake swallowed. Something didn’t feel right. “I’m sorry, Sir, but all I’ve got is ten.” He nodded to the cart behind him. “I was going to trade for the rest.”

The soldier stepped forward, his hand resting on the hilt of his blade. “Well, we’ll just have to take some of the pretty things from that cart to make up for it.”

Blake stepped back, keeping his eyes fixed on . He felt his breath quicken, and could hear his heartbeat in his ears. “You can’t! I need that for food.”

The soldiers smile vanished, replaced by a scowl. “Look, you say you need it, but I know I need it. I gotta go with my instinct here.” He looked over at his friends, and signalled them forward. The formed up behind him, one on either side.

Blake took another step back, slipping one hand into his coat, and pulling out a small blade.

The soldier looked at the weapon and laughed. “You think that’ll help you?” He drew his own weapon, the steel glinting in the sun falling through the trees. His friends followed suit.

The soldier looked to the one on his left, and nodded.

Blake held tight to the blade as the soldier approached.

The soldier pointed his sword at the man, a smile playing on his lips. “Move out of the way. I don’t want to hurt you.”

Blake stood his ground.

The soldier shook his head. “Have it your way, then.”

He swung the blade in a tight arc.

Blake dodged back at the last second, narrowly avoiding the strike.

The soldier swung again, and this time Blake ducked beneath the swing, darting toward the soldier.

He plunged his own blade forward, the tip finding a weak spot in the soldiers armour.

Blake removed the blade, and the soldier fell into the dust and dirt. Blake picked up the soldier’s dropped weapon, feeling better now he was properly armed.

The other two advanced, a look of wary suspicion on their features. They split up, trying to put Blake between them.

Perfect.

Blake smiled as they found their positions; one in front, and one behind.

He heard the crunch of a crushed leaf behind him. He crouch and spun around, the blade only just missing his head.

He rose from his crouch, bringing the fallen soldier’s weapon up at speed. The blade bit into the soldier’s wrist, and his blade fell to the ground.

Footsteps sounded from behind. Blake turned, throwing his own blade at the soldier.

It went high, missing its target.

Damn!

As his opponent closed the gap, Blake put the other soldier in front of him, holding the sword to his throat. The other soldier stopped.

Blake grinned. “Drop the sword, Sir.

The soldier dropped into a crouch, lowering the blade.

Blake’s eyes never left him.

The soldier looked up, resignation in his eyes.

He shot forward, driving the blade in front of him.

Blake pushed on his hostage, sending the soldier forward whilst propelling himself back. The steel cut straight through the soldier’s leather armour, emerging as a gleaming red spire from his back.

Blake stepped forward and, raising his leg, drove his foot into a flat piece of leather on the soldier’s back.

The two men, trapped together by the steel, fell upon the ground.

The soldier pushed his dead comrade off his chest, and attempted to pull the blade free. Before he could pull it loose, however, Blake pressed his boot into his hand, and heard the bones within cracking under the pressure.

The last of the sunlight was fading through the trees. Blake raised the blade and drove it through the soldier’s armour.

The soldier began gasping for breath, his eyes wide in shock and pain. He clutched at the blade sticking into his chest, the sharpened steel cutting into his palms. The blade held strong.

Blake walked on, past the dying soldier, searching for his lost weapon. Seeing a shimmer of light in the brush ahead, he hurried forward, knelt to the ground, and picked up the blade.

He raised it above his head, examining it for damage.

Satisfied it was in good condition, he replaced it in its hidden sheath within his coat, and wandered back to the soldier.

He knelt by his head, and grabbed his neck. “Look, you sound like you’re dying, and I know I don’t want to help you, so I’m gonna go with my instincts here.”

Leaving the soldier pinned to the ground, he walked back to his cart, grabbed the pull-bars and resumed his journey.

Now for something to eat.

Fontaine’s Lament

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The Fontaine floated through the flames as Captain Darmoth stood at the helm. He looked across the roiling fires ahead, seeing the shadows flicker on the islands to either side.

“Captain!”

Darmoth looked down, over the rail in front of him, to see his First Mate, Daniel Gaird waving to him. Every feature of his face screamed panic.

The captain looked over his shoulder and motioned for another of the sailors to take the helm. The islands were far out of the way, so he could afford to leave his post.

He ran down the stairs to the deck, where Mr. Gaird was waiting for him.

The First Mate pointed off to the right of the ship, fear in his eyes. “They’ve followed us in, Sir.”

Darmoth squinted his eyes, struggling against the glare of the Fire-Sea. In the distance, floating through the ocean of flame, Darmoth saw the distinctive shape on a Tallion ship. “Damn it! I thought they’d stay out of the islands.”

The captain moved closer to the rail. Pulling his spyglass from his pocket, he placed the eyepiece to his eye. The lens focussed automatically, the electrical components within whirring and buzzing as the ship came into focus.

Through the lens, Darmoth could clearly see the name on the ship’s bow. The Gaer.

He turned to Gaird. “Get the men ready. We’ve got a fight on our hands.”

The First Mate nodded, turned away from the captain and began issuing orders to all men within earshot. “Everyone to battle stations! Man the weapons!”

A chorus of Yes, Sir erupted across the deck as men hurried to their posts, grabbing a multitude of weapons.

 

Darmoth focussed on his own goal; an experimental pulse weapon hidden in his cabin.

When he had left the orbiting ship above to captain the Fontaine, he had been given the weapon as backup. The Tallions were liable to destroy any Earth forces they came into contact with, so some insurance was necessary.

Reaching his cabin door, he pushed it open, and stepped inside.

His cabin was a mess; papers and charts strewn across the floor. Ornaments lay scattered, and splinters of wood stuck out from the wall.

He walked to the cabinet hanging on the wall, and pressed his hand on the surface. A soft buzz came from within, then the latch clicked. He pulled the front open, revealing the metal cylinder that could be their salvation. A bundle of cloth lay beside it, which he knew contained the charges for the weapon. He picked up the charges and placed them in one pocket, storing the weapon in the other.

Closing the cabinet again, he returned to deck. Looking over the edge, his brow creased into as frown. The Gaer had made up more ground than it should. He sighed, and turned to observe the rest of the deck.

All the main cannons were manned, with a few of the smaller ones left as backup.

A voice came from one of the cannons. “Enemy in range, Sir!”

Darmoth raised one hand to the sky, then brought it down in a single, fluid movement.

The sound of energy being shot from the weapons on board was deafening. As the blasts neared the ship, Darmoth held his breath.

The blasts hit. Thick smog of dissipating energy covered the shape of the Gaer. As the strong winds and intense heat worked away at the smog, a blue flickering could be seen beyond.

Darmoth slammed a fist onto the railing. The shields keeping the Gaer from the flames stopped the blasts in their tracks.

Sighing, he pulled the cylinder from his pocket, then a charge from the other. Running his thumb along the length of the cylinder, he pushed open a space in the side.

He pushed the charge through the gap, heard it click into place, then closed the cover.

Looking to the rear of the cylinder, he spotted the small red button designed to act as the trigger.

He pointed the weapon toward the Gaer, took a deep breath, and pressed the trigger.

There was silence for a few moments before Darmoth finally lowered the weapon with a heavy heart, and replaced it in his pocket.

Taking a deep breath, he turned to his crew. “Cease firing!”

The men looked at him with confusion in their eyes.

He shook his head. “We can’t get through their shields. Save the energy. If we get through this, we might need it later.”

The men looked to one another, then shrugged and abandoned their weapons. Darmoth saw many of them pull out small energy-pistols from their coat, others holding to the traditional edged weapons.

As the ship neared, Darmoth pulled out his own sword, flicked the switch on the hilt and felt the surge of energy run the length of the blade.

As the Gaer moved closer, a click came from Darmoth’s pocket.

He paused for a moment, confused, before the realisation hit him. Reaching into his pocket, he wrenched the cylinder out, fumbling one-handed, trying to turn it toward the Gaer

Before he could, however, the weapon fired.

The shot blasted downward, through the decks of the ship.

The subtle flicker of the ship’s shield vanished, and a wall of heat slammed into Darmoth.

Smoke billowed through the hole in the decks, a horrible sight; the lower decks had ignited.

The men rushed around, disbelief painted in their features.

A blast struck the starboard side, sending men and metal flying.

The Gaer pulled up alongside the burning remains of the Fontaine, her captain standing smug and proud by her rails.

He stepped onto the railing, grasping a hanging rope for balance. “Did you really think we’d let you get away?” He smiled. “We have a score to settle.”

Reaching into the inside of his coat, he pulled out an energy pistol.

He pointed the barrel at Darmoth, and fired.

Dinner Time

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Wondrous. That was the only word for it. It was a strange event; no one could quite explain it. Once every 166 years, the shade of the moon shifted from its usual pale silver to a deep crimson. The change lasted for 3 days, give or take a day, then disappeared.

Sarah sat in her deck chair, staring at the beauty of what was before her. She shifted a stray strand of her long blonde hair from in front of her eyes. The red hue traversed the moon like a tide. As the crimson moved across the moon, she allowed herself a little smile. Almost show time.

Sarah stood up, her long legs exposed by her very short skirt. Sarah had never seen much use in covering up. There were very few people out here, and the weather almost always permitted bare skin. She stretched her arms out in front of her, cracking her knuckles as she did.

She glanced over her shoulder, looking at the looming figure of her house. It was an old house, Victorian in design, and it towered above everything for miles around. Sarah inhaled deeply, savouring the scent of the grass beneath her, the warm flow of the air into her lungs. The ground, normally a dull grey by nightfall, was now coated in a blanket of crimson light.

She strode back to the house. Inside, she could hear the usual noises. There was the laughter of her family as they prepared to enjoy their meal, he whine of a boiled kettle, the scratch of chairs and furniture being shifted around. It had been a long time since the last blood moon, and the family weren’t about to waste it.

As she approached the door, her older brother opened it, a look of excitement on his face.

“They’re almost ready.”

Sarah walked in past her brother, Hearing the homely crackle of the fire in the hearth. As she entered the dining room, she saw her family clustered around the table, hunger gleaming in their eyes.

Sarah could feel her own mouth beginning to water, feel her breath deepen and quicken. Just the thought of the feast ahead had her anxious. It had been a long time since they could have a real dinner.

The door to the kitchen opened up, revealing her father and younger brother carrying a massive, covered platter. The excitement in the room was palpable. As the huge silver platter was lowered to its chosen place on the table, Sarah could hear her sister anxiously scratching the table.

With a small chuckle, her father walked around the table, and placed a hand on the platter’s handle.

“Without further ado, I present tonight’s feast.”

With one quick movement he removed the lid from the platter. There, in the middle of the huge silver dish, was a woman. Bound and gagged, naked as a baby, she could have resembled a rather sickly pig. Regardless of her appearance, the sight of her set the table into a din.

Sarah reached towards the woman and tore off the gag. The only noise that escaped at first was half-choked sobs. Then all she could say was “Please.” Her family, no doubt impatient to start the meal, began banging their fists on the table.

Sarah stepped back, and a roar of laughter and shouts of “Finally” Rang out around her.

Above all the noise, she heard one: the sweetest of all. One voice screaming above all the others.

“Please stop. I didn’t do anything wrong. Ple-“

The last word was cut off by a chilling scream. A shiver of anticipation ran down Sarah’s spine. Dinner time.

The Consultation

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“Doc?”

 

The doctor sat in his chair, staring down the man sitting across for him. In the past few hours, there were times when Gary thought he never blinked at all. Occasionally, his eyes would close for a half-second, but even then it felt like he was still watching.

 

Gary leaned forward in his seat. “Doc, talk to me.” The man in his white coat, with hair to match, did nothing but nod his head. His lips never parted, and not a word passed through them.

 

Gary stood up, and began pacing the room. “You want me to tell you it again, don’t you?” He turned to the doctor – he hadn’t moved – and saw him nod once again. Gary sighed. “Fine. It started a couple years ago; back when I was still in college. It was nothing, back then; just whispers. I thought I was imagining them at first.”

 

The doctor’s face didn’t change, staying a mask of emotionless interest. That look made Gary uneasy, but he shrugged it off.

 

“The whispers, they started getting louder. I started playing loud music – to drown them out – but it made no difference. It was like they were right next to me. It was so distracting. I just gave up at my work. The voices made concentrating impossible.”

 

The doctor nodded, taking notes on his clipboard whilst never looking away from Gary.

 

“For a few months the voices quietened down. They didn’t go away, but they stopped being so loud. I thought maybe it was over.” Gary felt a shudder crawl down his spine. “Then I started seeing them.”

 

He turned to the doctor again, half-hoping to see a reaction. His expression remained unchanged. Gary shook his head.

 

“They didn’t look real, at first. They were like pictures on a messed up TV. They flickered, changing colour and sometimes just vanishing. I didn’t tell anyone; they would have sent me, well, here.”

 

The doctor cleared his throat, pulling a handkerchief out of his coat pocket. Gary waited until he was done, and noticed spots of red on the handkerchief.

 

“Are you all right, Doc?”

 

The man in white waved a hand at him, nodded as he did.

 

“Good. Anyway, I saw these ones for a while, the ones that flickered. After about a year of them, they started to get more solid. They wouldn’t flicker as much, then eventually not at all. They started to look like real people.”

 

The doctor’s eyes snapped wide at that moment, then he looked down at himself, brushing something from his trousers.

 

“Everything stayed pretty much the same for a while. They would show up, not really doing anything, and then just fade away. Then, a couple days ago, things started getting really freaky.”

 

The doctor’s expression was different now; he looked genuinely interested. Gary looked around the room, his eyes passing over the white walls of his room, then settling back on the doctor.

 

“They started.. They looked like they were looking at me. I mean, they looked at me before, but now they actually saw me. There was one guy who would sit and stare at me for hours, just rocking back and forward on his chair. He wouldn’t say anything, just sit and stare.”

 

The doctor leaned back in his chair, clasping his hands together.

 

“After that, I came here. I drove like mad.”

 

The doctor stood up, clipboard in hand, and looked Gary straight in the eyes. He strayed silent.

 

“You gotta help me, Doc. I need to get rid of these things.”

 

The doctor took a deep breath, leaned in next to Gary’s ear and spoke.

 

“Sorry.”

 

He then straightened, and faded away.

 

Gary’s breath caught in his throat as he watched the man in white fade to nothingness, then saw flecks of grey appearing in the walls. He saw the paint curl, crack and flake away, the flakes turning to dust before they hit the floor. The floor tiles cracked apart, the mortar between the bricks in the walls began to crumble, and the iron bars across his window turned red with rust.

 

He felt panic rising in his chest. He ran to the door of the room, finding it locked. He dropped to the floor as the room around him aged. Eventually, there was nothing of the pristine order of the old room left. Now, weeds grew through the floor, cracks were present in every brick and tile. The tiles on the floors had lost their colour, and the door looked old and rotted.

 

He stood up, and kicked the door. A pain shot up his leg, and he fell to the floor. He touched his foot, which set off another shot of agony.

 

He heard a sound coming from behind him. He turned and saw a man sitting in his chair, a grin across his face. He laughed, and the room got darker. From the shadows, men, women and children emerged.

 

Gary fought to stop himself from crying in fear; these were they people he had seen, the ghosts that had haunted him.

 

The man stood from his chair, his eyes fixated on Gary. Those same eyes now had a sinister look about them. A subtle red glow shone through the pupils.

 

The shadows around the room lengthened, closing in on Gary.

 

The man walked over, and knelt beside him. He placed one hand on the side of Gary’s head, leaving the skin cold where he touched it. Gary fought the urge to scream. The man stood back up, shrinking into the shadows as he rose.

 

The other faces now had the same wicked grin; the same sinister grin and glow about their eyes. The man crossed his arms in front of him, his grinning lips parting to speak.

 

“Gotcha.”

 

The shadows, and their occupants, closed in. Gary closed his eyes, and screamed.

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