Writing Group: A Roll of the Bones (PRIVATE)

Hello, soothsayers and scam artists!

We’ve all heard the expression “playing with fate”. What if we could take it in a more literal direction? Distill fate—perhaps even someone else’s—into something concrete, and then… actually play with it? We’re curious. That’s why…

This week’s prompt is:

 

A Roll of the Bones

 

MASSIVE RULES CHANGES BELOW!
We’ve made some really big changes to the rules! Make sure you scroll down to the bottom of this post to see them before submitting!

 

 

When you think about it, knucklebones is a weird game.

Before the advent of plastic, way back in the day, people used to play games of chance with bones from actual corpses. Maybe not human corpses, but still. It’s kinda morbid.

Far from a game of chance with dice that happen to be carved from bone, we want to look at the strangeness of this whole thing. Converting mortality, a literal memento mori… into nothing more than a game. Something children used to play after school.

So this time around, I want you to build a story around this concept. Think of fate, and think of how to disarm it. Play with it. Make it a toy for your protagonists to prance around and extract joy or power from.

To roll the bones isn’t to give up on death; it’s to tell death that you aren’t afraid.

Go forward, look inevitability in the face, and blow a big raspberry.

 

 

Remember, this is part of our weekly Writing Group stream! Submit a little piece following the rules and guidelines below, and there’s a chance your entry will be read live on stream! In addition, we’ll discuss it for a minute and give you some feedback.

Tune into the stream this Friday at 7:00pm CST to see if you made the cut!

The whole purpose of this is to show off the creativity of the community, while also helping each other to become better writers. Lean into that spirit, and get ready to help each other improve their confidence in their writing, as well as their skill with their craft!

 

Rules and Guidelines

We read at least six stories during each stream, three of which come from the public post, and three of which come from the much smaller private post. Submissions are randomly selected by a bot, but likes on your post will improve your chances of selection, so be sure to share your submission on social media!

  1. Text and Formatting

    1. English only.
    2. Prose only, no poetry or lyrics.
    3. Use proper spelling, grammar, and syntax.
    4. Your piece must be between 250-350 words (you can use this website to see your wordcount).
    5. Include a submission title and an author name (doesn’t have to be your real name). Do not include any additional symbols or flourishes in this part of your submission. Format them exactly as you see in this example, or your submission may not be eligible: Example Submission.
    6. No additional text styling (such as italics or bold text). Do not use asterisks, hyphens, or any other symbol to indicate whether text should be bold, italic, or styled in any other way. CAPS are okay, though.
  2. What to Submit

    1. Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
    2. Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
    3. Write something brand new (no re-submitting past entries or pieces written for other purposes
    4. No fan fiction whatsoever. Take inspiration from whatever you’d like, but be transformative and creative with it. By submitting, you also agree that your piece does not infringe on any existing copyrights or trademarks, and you have full license to use it.
    5. Submissions must be self-contained (everything essential to understanding the piece is contained within the context of the piece itself—no mandatory reading outside the piece required. e.g., if you want to write two different pieces in the same setting or larger narrative, you cannot rely on information from one piece to fill in for the other—they must both give that context independently).
  3. Submission Rules

    1. One submission per participant.
    2. Submit your entry in a comment on this post.
    3. Submissions close at 12:00pm CST each Friday.
    4. You must like and leave a review on two other submissions to be eligible. Your reviews must be at least 50 words long, and must be left directly on the submission you are reviewing, not on another comment. If you’re submitting to the private post, feel free to leave these reviews on either the private or the public post. The two submissions you like need not be the same as the submissions you review.
    5. Use the same e-mail for your posts, reviews, and likes, or you may be rendered ineligible (you may change your username or author name between posts without problem, however).
    6. You may submit to either or both the public/private groups if you have access, but if you decide to submit to both, only the private group submission will be eligible.
    7. Understand that by submitting here, you are giving us permission to read your submission aloud live on stream and upload public, archived recordings of said stream to our social media platforms. You will always be credited, but only by the author name you supply as per these rules. No other links or attributions are guaranteed.

Comments on this post that aren’t submissions will be deleted, except for replies/reviews left on existing submissions.

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Brick
Brick
14 days ago

Baby Teeth
by Brickosaur

I traipsed through the winding Boneharvester Halls, ignoring the hulking femurers and Chihuahua-fierce ear-bone collectors I passed. They were taken aback, but I had no time for petty etiquette, even here.

I wasn’t here for them. Bones: the remnants of a life already over. They told past and future. But I needed an answer present, through space. I needed living bones.

A sharp left, and I arrived. Why anyone would put a cheery, colorful front in the middle of an unwelcoming catacombs was beyond me. But such is the way of the fae.

No matter. I stormed through the door, face set to a business scowl. “I’m not here to waste time,” I announced. “I need baby teeth. Not mine. And I’ll pay whatever you ask — within reason. Just be quick. Please,” I threw out as an afterthought.

The figure behind the counter unfolded into a shimmering pale fairy with an intrigued grin. “Another’s chompers, hm? You’ve an agenda,” they cooed. “I’ll need something of theirs to locate them.”

This intrigued face was much harder to ignore, but I willed focus, and pulled out a hairbrush. “Used exclusively by him, daily until two mornings ago.” Until the bastard disappeared.

Well, either he was a bastard, or in deep trouble.

“That’ll-oo!” The fairy snatched up the brush and vanished. “Have payment ready when I return!” echoed from somewhere behind the counter.

They hadn’t named a price. Tricky. I laid out what should be a reasonable amount for a bunch of tiny rocks. It was still too much, but I had no choice. Save him or beat him, when these teeth led me to Locrian, my return on investment would be high.

The fairy returned with a vial of teeth. After some haggling, I had my prize and was running back outside, already incanting under my breath. No TIME!

Once I hit open ground, I dumped Loc’s baby teeth out and read the scatter.

Got it. North. A day and a half out. This’d better work, or I gambled most my life savings for zip.

“I’m comin’ for ya, Locrian.”

Deviacon
15 days ago

A Roll of the Bones
By Derek McEldowney (Deviacon)

Abigail made her way through the packed foggy streets. The ever changing flow of the crowd moving with a life of its own. Each vendor vying desperately to garner the attention from those passing.

One passing phrase caught in her ear. “Take a roll of the bones for your fate!”

Roll of the bones, something about that deeply resonated with her. She approached the haggard old woman cawing to the crowd. A bony hand offered a warped and misshapen cup, aged beyond recognition of its material.

“Care for a quick roll missy?” The thin voice crackled.
How much? Abigail asked as she cautiously accepted the small cup.

“First roll’s free, maybe win another. Go on now, cast your lot.”

Abigail shook the cup vigorously and poured out its contents onto to large embossed piece of aged leather covering the table.
Dozens of tiny bones tumbled from the cup, then scattered and found their resting place across the leather diagram.

“Ooooo, my my my, what an interesting spread we have here.”

“A good home.” The old woman plucked a bone from amongst the others.

“Talent, that’s a rare one, worth a lot. You may have a free roll yet.”

“Ah here’s your name. Abigail, such a pretty one.”

“Ah determination! And with such raw emotion too!” Each one the old crone had inspected closely, rolled around in her hand and then pocketed.

“Well I dare say you’ve earned another free roll.” The old crone scooped up the remaining bones, pulled a few new ones from a bowl, collected them all back into the cup and offered it back again. “Let’s see what you get this time.”

“So what’s the prize?” Abigail asked as she shook the cup again.

“Oh I’ve already taken my prize.” The old crone smiled a yellowed grin rolling the few small bones she had taken in her hand. “I like you though, so I’ll let you pick one to keep.” Her hand uncurled and revealed the tiny bones again. In each one, Abigail saw and felt a part of herself. Plucked from her very essence.

jesse fisher
jesse fisher
15 days ago

Our stories are written in our bones, but even the most well dressed bones can be hollow and empty. Also the old lady seemed a mix of a witch, crone, and a stereotype gypsy. Really very good story here it was a nice read.

jesse fisher
jesse fisher
16 days ago

Bones of the Earth, Wind, and Sky
By Jesse Fisher

The dry ground was cracked from the heat and lack of rain, the air while not cold did have a chill in the wind. The prairie was devoid of movement as far as any creature could see, the skeletal remains of a bison, that laid in a patch of greener grass, were the only thing to denote a location in the long stretch of similar terrain. The calm was disturbed as a pebble began to shake as the vibrations began to intensify.

A sound like thunder began to echo as dust flowed as a herd of millions of bison ran the prairie, the wind caused by them whipped the dust around them to near twister realms of speed. Ignoring the land around it and kept on moving, the herd ignored the bleached bones of their fellow bison as they kicked up the dust. Many of the herd moved to avoid the remains, but some just barreled on either landing on the bones or a little to the side of it.

Soon the bones were caught in the herd being swept up and some rolling before being crushed under the hooves of the herd. Many of the herd breath in the powdered bones as it keeps moving on, the remains were now scattered in both the wind and ground. The wind chased after the hooves of the herd as rain began to form from this chasing wind, the bones became part of the sky and land as more thunder boomed. This time from the sky rather than the land.

WolfsbaneX
WolfsbaneX
16 days ago

“High Stakes”
By Hemming Sebastian Bane

In Laib-Farriage, next to the murky Cliam Sea, there was a tavern. Cheap alcohol, cheap rooms, but good customer service. Most clients came in, ordered a beer, and enjoyed their night. However, this night, three cloaked individuals came and wordlessly sat in the back corner.

By the time the majority of the patrons were drunk, one figure took the cards from their pocket out and shuffled them. The cards caught one patron’s attention, a dryad. He got up from his seat and approached the table.

“Deal me in,” he said.

The dealer stopped shuffling. “Are you sure? We play some pretty high stakes games.”

The young man scoffed. “High stakes, big winnings, I say.”

“‘Tis not untrue,” replied the figure to the dealer’s right. “Let him play, Bryn!”

The dealer, Bryn, let out a hefty sigh. “Fine, Raddie. He can play.”

The figure, Raddie, fidgeted excitedly. “‘Tis wondrous! Thou shalt join us, young…”

“Anthos,” the dryad replied. “I’d very much enjoy that, Miss Raddie, Miss Bryn.”

He turned to the third. “Pardon me, but I don’t know your name.”

“I am Mist.” The voice was soft, husky and feminine.

“Miss Mist. A pleasure.” Anthos bowed.

Bryn dealt out the cards slowly. “Anthos, are you familiar with Sprigs?”

The dryad scoffed. “I’ve played Sprigs since I could walk! Tell the specifics and I will not lose.”

Bryn huffed. “Very well. Oak trumps all. Wands are high, and Mistletoe is wild. Each of us plays for ourselves. Six card hand, maximum three draw.”

Anthos smiled. “The Ancient Form? So be it. What is the first bet? Five tin? Ten?”

“Thou jest!” Raddie said with a giggle. “Mist, loanst thou him fifty?”

The dryad’s jaw dropped. “Fifty tin? What’re you doing in this place with fifty tin?”

“Not fifty tin,” Mist replied, dropping a sack onto the table with a thud and a moan.

Wait. Sacks don’t moan. Anthos reached forward into the sack and pulled out what seemed to be a coin. However, it wasn’t metal. It was bone.

“You see, Mister Anthos,” Bryn said, her feathered wings unfurling. “We wager souls.”

minergirl778 (aka frogfireFantasy)
minergirl778 (aka frogfireFantasy)
16 days ago

Such a spooky ending! I love the bits of worldbuilding you did in this piece. The witch’s dialog is really fun. She seems experienced, yet still having fun with her work. The idea of bones being the part of us that becomes dragged down and complacent is also super interesting. Makes me wonder what my bones might say. Overall, great job and can’t wait to see more!

minergirl778 (aka frogfireFantasy)
minergirl778 (aka frogfireFantasy)
16 days ago

A Date with Destiny
By Minergirl778 (Aka frogfireFantasy)

“So… You can look at a person, close your eyes, and see the happiest moment they’ll have?”

“Mhmm.” The skeletal figure nodded as he mimed eating his ice cream

“No way!!” June’s eyes sparkled “That’s SO COOL! Can you do it on anyone!?”

He gave her a smile “Sure. Would you like to pick someone?”

She chewed on her popsicle stick thoughtfully “Hmmm…” She scanned the park, pointing at a boy on a slide “What about that kid?”

He focused on the child before closing his eyes. “I’m seeing… Lead guitarist in a band, alongside college friends”

“Woah! Neato!” She beamed “I wonder if he does autographs.” Her eyes wandered off to someone new “Do her next! Blonde girl, on the swings.”

“Ok, then.” After a moment of quiet he came back with “Indie developer. Reviews coming in. 5 stars.”

“Awwwww! That’s amazing!” She directed him to a guy walking with his wife “Do him! Do him!”

He closed his eyes, and his smile waned “Him, in bed with someone… One ring on the nightstand”

“Ooooohhhhh….” She winced before turning away “Yeesh. That’s not gonna end well.” He nodded.

She looked over at his ice cream cone, still uneaten and melting. “You gonna finish that?”

“By all means.” He offered it, and she scarfed it down “I’m surprised you didn’t ask about yours. Most humans I’ve told ask for theirs immediately.”

She finished her bite of cone “But That’s no fun! Who would want to see the spoilers for their own life? Makes living a lot less fun, in my opinion.”

He stayed quiet for a moment, then smiled softly. So wise, yet so childish.

“Hey, Oz!” He snapped back to reality for a moment at her call “I’m gonna go throw out my popsicle stick. Wanna wait here?”

“Sure. I’ll keep your spot open for you.” She nodded, giving him a smile and running off to find a trash can. As she walked off, he quietly closed his eyes. His smile grew wide at the scene he saw.

June holding his skeletal hand, with matching rings on them both.

King_Nix
King_Nix
17 days ago

“A Dangerous Gamble”
By King_Nix

The spring air hung wet and cold. Moisture clung to Roderig’s skin as he stared westward across the River Limës. On the other side, the capitol province of Rhumnaria stood, unconquered in war, its people indomitable. For generations, Roderig’s kin, the Saxoni, have dutifully aided their Rhumnish cousins, even through the darkest years of the Daemon Wars long ago. Now, centuries of trust and goodwill seem like a distant memory.

“My lord,” hailed Legate Ahrin, “what orders shall I give the men?” Months before, Roderig had sent his youngest brother, Emilius, to meet with a Rhumnic ambassador to discuss the peaceful secession of Saxonia from the Empire. When only one member of the envoy returned, bearing news that the prince had been arrested for treasonous conspiracy, the message was clear. Any political solution would be futile.

“Order the legion to break camp, we cross under moonlight.”

The legate saluted, “It will be done, my king.” and turned towards the encampment. One legion Roderig would lead into the capitol. Two more were ready to repel any counterattack to the North. Another legion would invade the highlands on the border of Lindonum, and the fifth would hold vigil over the southern border. Word had arrived three days ago that his cousin, King Alarik of Norikum, would send a legion to his aid, while he would lead the bulk of his forces into Lindonum to keep any loyalists occupied.

“Ahrin.” Roderig called.

“Yes, my liege?” replied the legate, turning to face his king.

“Has there been any word from the Südhlanders?”

“I fear not, but reports suggest King Roland has informed the Emperor that he refuses to march North.”

Roderig nodded. “Thank you. You are dismissed.” The legate hailed once more and headed down to the camp.

Roderig gazed back across the river. It wasn’t only the lives of his people that were at stake. The fate of the entire Empire would be changed by the events of this night. All he could think of was the rattling of Seer’s Blocks, and how they might land.

“The bones have been tossed.”

Simon D. Field
Simon D. Field
17 days ago

Relief of Duty
by Simon D. Field

The sky was covered in clouds, and the sea was dark and restless. He stood on the rampart of earth mixed with bone, watching the tumultuous waters, trying to guess if any relief would ever come by water again.

“Sir governor,” someone called him with due deference mixed with anxious impatience. He recognized one of his colonels by voice and turned to face the man. “I come to deliver the sentiment of the garrison. The officers say we should consider the offers of honourable capitulation. We barely command several hundred feet of the shore, and this position is untenable.”

“No,” he replied simply, feeling very tired. “I’ve been placed here to hold the city, not to cede it. We don’t lack for dead bodies to erect another bulwark of them alone. We’ll hold until ordered to surrender.”

“But we can scarcely be relieved by sea or land, sir governor, and the men are so weak that our days are numbered, if we are to resist. The fortifications are bound to fall.”

“Regardless, I shall not surrender my command. I shall not be remembered as the man who betrayed three years of defence.” He noticed the worry in the colonel’s eyes and wondered if the man pondered assaulting him. He’d welcome it. “I shall not be the one to give the keys up.”

The colonel relented, withdrawing from the wall with polite words and poisonous glares. The governor was glad to be left undisturbed again, rising on the rampart in his full height, peering into the sea. A sharpshooter could pick him off easily – it meant nothing.

A terrible gust came roaring from the sea, and in the distance mountains of water rose menacingly against the darkened sky, distinct and terrible amidst the unnerving dusk. The waves were coming, rushing, advancing upon the shore, and no dikes were there in place to halt them, having been dismantled to obtain material for earthworks.

The water was already on the rubble-choked streets of the ruined city below. The wind strengthened.

But in its menacing roar there was a sweet promise of freedom.

NocteVesania
17 days ago

The Oracle
by NocteVesania

The subject, Lucas Herrera, is a 35-year old male Las Vegas native. He declares his profession to be a broker, though background checks suggest the only deals he brokers are on blackjack tables. Despite the episodes of panic from recounting the incident, he appears to be of perfectly normal mental capacity. His account of the events, with some additional digging through police records and witness testimonies, is as follows:

Mr. Herrera was spotted walking the infamous Strip at 11:37 PM. Eyewitnesses report he was particularly irate, mumbling some rather unpleasant things about casino dealers. Recounting the story, the subject mentions stumbling upon an decrepit fountain. Then, he goes on, babbling about some “Oracle”, an urban legend from the area.

According to some denizens, the Oracle is a being able to bestow foresight, a tempting offer to gamblers for sure. Legends say the Oracle awaits offerings at an old fountain, the description of which matches the fountain the subject is said to have found. Mr. Herrera recalls his disbelief, even spitting into the fountain out of spite. “I’ve no respect for someone who can’t roll the dice,” he scoffs.

All of a sudden, the subject reportedly blacked out, likely from blunt force head trauma. Coming to, he found himself in an alleyway with a splitting headache. He also noticed small objects digging into his palms. Upon inspection, he found that the objects were tiny dice, off-white like milk, roughly carved with crudely marked pips, and sticky to the touch from some kind of yellow fluid.

The subject propped himself up on his knees, or at least he tried to. Unable to do so, he curled up to check his legs. I can only imagine the horror on his face when he finds nothing there from mid-thigh down. Local police later found him crawling out of the alley, screaming hysterically out of fear.

Reading this report again, I can’t help but feel sick from such a cruel joke. In any case, this gives a whole new meaning to “oracle bones”.

Gregory Hess
Gregory Hess
18 days ago

“Prophecy Breaker” [Lily’s story]
By Gregovin

Edward and me walk up the stairs to the temple.

Hasun The Guardian stands in front of the door.

“Could you please allow me to pass? I’m kind of busy trying to save lives right now and really don’t want to deal with you.”

“Lily. I can’t do that. The bones have dictated it so.”

Hasun The Guardian’s twin brother, Dhakaal The Watcher, stands watch from the opposite side, arms crossed.

“Come on,” I sigh.

BAM

Cha-Chink

Oh come on, Edward. I was hoping to talk him down. Oh, well, I’ll forgive you this time.

Hasun The Guardian falls to the ground, twitching. The runes tattooed on his skin unwind. He visibly shrinks.

Dhakaal The Watcher yells, “What have you done? He was supposed to die in the Selksmire! He was supposed to fight the great flaming beast Trilumvarsil, according to the roll of the bones!”

Edward responds, “I shot him with Lithium Tilganate powder.”

“I was hoping to talk him down, but it seems a little too late for that,” Lily states.

Dhakaal The Watcher screams, “Hexaaquairon(II) Tilganate? Anti mage powder? The effects of that stuff scale with power! He’ll probably be human for years! You broke a prophecy! Just who the hell are you?!”

Edward responds instantly, “Just a mediocre magic user. Lily, it’s time to go.”

I walk to the door.

It opens easily.

Inside lies our salvation. Our only hope. We must escape this world before it collapses.

We find the pendant.

IDENTIFY

I know all there is to know about this artefact. I can now triangulate its origin, a location outside this world. This should do nicely.

I portal away.

APW
APW
18 days ago

Yours, Now Mine.
By APW

“Plastic?” asked Mr. Schwartz, eyeing the thing lying in the croupier’s tray as if the man had brought them a dead cockroach along with their glasses.

“Is that a problem?” retorted Walter Fulton, his head already light with whiskey.

His true intoxication, however, came from the stacks of chips, the piles of dollars, and – more recently – the sequence of ever larger checks finding their way to his end of the table. He’d been taking this old-money fool for all he was worth!

“It is. We’ll use mine.”

Mr. Schwartz produced a pair of small white dice from his coat.

Ivory? The old bastard hadn’t been this particular about his cards or tops.

“How do I know they aren’t loaded?” retorted Mr. Fulton.

“You don’t.” Mr. Schwartz smiled. “Better for you if they are. Your pick: high or low. Throw them a couple times, use that to decide.”

Mr. Fulton did. Got ones the most.

“What are we betting?”

“Everything you got in here, yours and mine,” Mr. Schwartz replied.

“Really? Still got something for all that?” Mr. Fulton grunted.

“I own a villa in Paris. 47 acres. Montparnasse quarter.”

47 acres!? In Paris?

“I guess I’ll pick low. Seven or less. Is that ok?” Walter Fulton asked, locking the tie as his.

“Sure,” the German fool agreed, without thinking. “One more thing. A little tradition from my homeland. If I lose I get to keep the dice, but if I win they are yours.”

“Shouldn’t it be the other way around?”

“No.”

Walter Fulton shrugged, and rolled.

He got two fours.

It felt like he was getting a stroke just thinking of all his winnings of the day evaporating into those eight tiny black dots. Mr. Fulton lifted a hand to his temple, then, and noticed the trickle of blood from his forehead.

He didn’t notice much more.

A person doesn’t live long with two holes in their skull. Not even two teeny tiny holes, large enough to cut a centimetre wide cube of bone from.

“I win. They are yours. I get to keep them either way.”

Matthew (Handsome Johanson)
Matthew (Handsome Johanson)
18 days ago

A Role of Bones
By Matthew (Handsome Johanson)

“Order. Order!” shouted Lord Barnaby, the coordinator of the Council of Peeved Skeletons. As the rattles in the room began to die down, he gave a few careful knocks with his gavel on the makeshift podium.

“Thank you.” Barnaby continued. “Ahem, It is time to cast the vote on proposition 27a: Should we recruit a new skeleton to help with maintenance?” Murmurs permeated the debate chamber, but all were in agreement. The proposition passed.

After a week of advertising in the nearby spooky dungeons and towns, the Chief Officer of Recruitment, Harold, and Lord Barnaby set up an audition stage and called the candidates to the dungeon amphitheater.

“Thank you for coming, everyone!” Harold said. “We will now be hearing you audition for the part of maintenance guy.” The assortment of armored skeletons jostled a bit, but eventually formed a rough line to the audition stage. The lights dimmed, and a spotlight flickered on to illuminate a microphone.

The first skeleton, clad in business professional armor, took the stage.

“Uh, hi. I’m Randy.” He awkwardly blurted out after some silence. “I’ve run a carpentry business in Stoneford for 347 years, now. I mainly do-”

“Cut!” Shouted Harold from the judges booth. “Thank you, that’s all we’ll need.” Randy waited with anticipation.

“So, what do you think?” whispered Barnaby.

“Eh, I just don’t think his heart was in it.” replied Harold.

Lord Barnaby gave Harold a dirty look, then politely asked for the next applicant.

After a long session of “interviews”, the talent hunters were left with nothing.

“What are we going to do?” Barnaby lamented. “The council VOTED. We cannot obstruct the will of the council!”

“I’m not sure, maybe we can ensl-”

“Excuse me, sirs?” cried out the voice of a young boy. “I’d like to audition for the part of maintenance skeleton”

The two stared at the clearly human child and then at each other.

“It would take a tremendous act of subterfuge,” Barnaby whispered to Harold. “but maybe we could pull it off?” Harold nodded and turned to the boy.

“Ok. Show us what you got!”

Calliope Rannis
Calliope Rannis
18 days ago

A Chance Mosaic
By Calliope Rannis

The crablike creature scuttled over to a series of trays, pulling one open to collect a metallic plate and a small dark container with their delicate four-fingered claws. Returning to the bartering table, the Explorer of Value placed the silver-grey circle of metal before their anxious customer. “This could be enough!” the alien’s translator buzzed from below their tendrilled mouth.

Keyla gingerly took the offered container, hearing something like sand shift inside. “Soooooo…what exactly do you want me to do?”

“Look inside!” The Explorer shook their claw at the cap sealing the top. Keyla opened it easily, revealing lots of little beads piled inside. Exposed to light, they seemed to be all sorts of colours, patterns shifting and changing at the slightest movement. “This is Divining Dust,” said the merchant’s translator, taking on a dramatic flair, “where every particle is filled with a thousand colours. All perfectly balanced! Until-” The claw taps the plate. “They touch this, and a thousand colours become one – the colour that first touches this special metal shall become dominant.” The alien shifts closer. “And it is said that the resulting pattern reveals the destiny of its creator.”

“How?” she scoffed.

The Explorer gestured outwards in what may have been a shrug. “Why don’t we find out? Cast the dust upon the plate. But only once! Fate does not let us try our lives again, after all.”

Keyla looked forlornly back on her pile on the table. A friend’s art portfolio, an old childhood stuffie, and her own patterned jacket. All to barter for an antique replacement part of her family’s past-it Solar Truck, and it still wasn’t enough. She didn’t even have any unheard stories to tell, or any local songs to sing. This divining dust “for additional bartering value” thing felt like the Explorer was pitying her.

Still, she didn’t have anything to lose at this point. Keyla looked once more at the oil-slick colours of the beads. Then, in one quick movement, she flicked the dust out of the container, and let her long journey’s fate be decided by chaos and colour.

LaribHaven
LaribHaven
18 days ago

Some cults are worse than others
By: Larissa (Lari.B.Haven)

“Are you four telling me that you did not finish SACRIFICING EDDIE?”

Laura Ashen was in complete disbelief; she never had seen such incompetency. The four cult priests stood static in fear. They looked at each other, trying to mouth the answer, but couldn’t say anything.

“I can’t fathom the idea that the most well-trained priests of the Church of the Heavenly Seal can’t even kill my stupidly frail eighteen-year-old boy for the invocation ritual!”

The fourth priest swallowed his fear and said:

“Mrs. Ashens, one of Eddie’s classmates found the locus of the ritual by accident when the portal began to open! We had to run away!”

Laura sighed and turned to the four members of the cult.

“Ever since this city was founded, we needed to carry the part of our deal. We serve the Elder Gods, so they grace us by keeping the odds in our favor!”

She gave an unnervingly warm smile while looking at the four cultists in front of her.

“And God knows what happened the last time the odds were against us!”

“H-hurricane of 1957?”

“Exactly, second priest!” She held his hand. “The one that destroyed the neighboring town!”

She smiled and said:

“Now, where is my beloved son?”

The first priest spoke in a weak voice:
“The o-other boy t-took him away!”

She let go of the second priest’s hand and shouted:

“My family didn’t spend four generations playing dice with the gods of the other side only to have a goddamn highschooler throw a wrench in their… HUNDRED! YEAR! PLAN!”

The one on the left raised his hand.
“Yes, third priest?”

“I-it’s actually a hundred and eight years plan, Mrs. Ashens!”

Laura screamed at the top of her lungs, throwing her hand in the air and entering the kitchen, stomping on her high heels. The screaming stopped for a moment when she returned to the living room with a half-emptied glass of wine in one hand and the bottle in the other.

“They just don’t make cultists like they used to!”

MasaCur
MasaCur
19 days ago

The Bones Don’t Lie
By MasaCur

“Harumi’s Fortunes,” the booth read. Momoka looked at it skeptically, but most of the other booths at the school fair were the same thing as last year, and Harumi seemed excited about her recent fortune telling hobby.

Momoka entered, and saw the other girl dressed as a stereotypical gypsy.

“Hey Momo-chan! Care to have your fortune read?” Harumi asked. “Only five-hundred yen.”

Momoka placed the money on the table. “So, what are we doing today? Tarot cards? Crystal balls?”

“Bone reading!” Harumi excitedly answered.

Momoka sat across the table with a shrug. “Lay it on me.”

Harumi handed Momoka a bowl. “So what you need to do is dump these items on the table. I’ll reveal your future depending on the way they land.”

Momoka looked in the bowl. Inside were a number of items, including a few bones, a broken pencil, a button, and a ten yen coin.

“Aren’t these items supposed to have a special personal value to you?” Momoka asked.

Harumi’s face lit up. “They do! See this pencil? I passed my final exam in math with it!”

“These are chicken bones!” Momoka stated.

“And your point is?”

“How personal can they be?”

“Very personal!” Harumi retorted. “They were my lunch!”

Momoka looked at the bones. “From earlier today, from the look of things. There’s still fresh meat on them. And I can smell teriyaki sauce on your breath.”

Harumi covered her mouth with her hand. “No, you can’t.”

Momoka glared at the other girl for several long seconds, and then poured the contents out on the table. Harumi leaned over, examining where the items landed, then consulted a notebook.

“Okay, well, this bone right here says that you’ll be eating soon. Oh, and the coin says you will be spending a lot of money in the near future.”

Momoka cocked her head to the side, looking at Harumi in disbelief. “Really? I have a notoriously big appetite, and you just gave me chicken bones from a recent lunch. I’m practically ordering from Colonel Chicken as we speak.”

Harumi thrust a fist in the air. “Another success!”

Geoffrey Treece
Geoffrey Treece
19 days ago

“Tides of Battle”
By Geoffrey (AKA Ashikkon)

Illya swung her mace with a fierce, savage roar. She caught the guardsman on the jaw and shattered it, ripping it from his body with the follow-through. Behind her a spell went off and she saw a sizzling green dart impact one of the other guardsmen in the chest, eating away at his armor and burning the flesh underneath.

She stepped back ever so slightly as the guard, screaming in pain swung his blade, missing her by a wide margin. Another guard ran behind her and swung, but she could see him trying to flank her and was able to raise her shield in time to block it. The weight on the shield lessened as she saw him fly ten feet away following a strike by another of her friends.

“To victory, my friends! As the Gods will it, we shall take victory this day!” Ilya shouted before running thirty feet ahead and engaging the captain in close combat. She swung her mace, guided by Ares, and found purchase. She broke through the captain’s shield and bit deep into his chest. She uttered a war cry, pumping her bloody mace in the air, relishing the combat in the miserly lord’s domain.

***

“What a time for a Nat 20!” Rose exclaimed with a giddy grin. “Between my Divine Smite, my Thunderous Smite, and my +3 mace… I really love it when things work out like this.”

“I know it’s by chance, but I can’t help but be amazed how well you roll when you’re in the role.” Joshua, the Game Master, shook his head. He rolled a few more dice. “With the utter savagery and deific invocation of Illya’s advance, the remaining four guards start to flee in abject terror. Fate smiles on you.” He looks to Michael, playing the wizard. “Your turn.”

“I’ll cast Melf’s Acid Arrow on the guard I hit before.” He responded.

Joshua smiled. “All right, roll those bones.”

Glaceon373
Glaceon373
19 days ago

“Blight” by Carrie (Glaceon373)

The druid maneuvered through the tangled undergrowth. She slipped through the near-invisible gap between the ground and a fallen tree, entering her burrow.

She pulled a rabbit from her pack and skinned it. With practiced hand motions, a small fire materialized in her fire pit, creating no smoke. As she tended her meal, she casually reached for the only source of entertainment in her burrow, a set of six dice carved from bone, and gave them a toss.

She stared at them in horror, then rolled them again. And again.

In sequence, the rolls spelled out: Danger. Northwest. Riverbank. Urgent.

Blight.

At the last word, she extinguished the fire, stashed the dice in her pack, and ran. Trees and vines leaned out of the way for her.

The riverbank was three miles from her burrow. She reached it in twelve minutes, skidding to a stop.

Just across the water, the forest was unrecognizable. Where lush green trees should have been stood grey, leafless trunks, and the ground had a purple touch.

The touch of Blight.

The druid stared. Then she sat down, pulled out the half-cooked rabbit, and set up another fire. This time, while she tended it, words of a forgotten language filled the air. Soon, she felt the spirits she had called. She looked up at them as she extinguished the flame.

“Hello, Aunts Relava, Takanka, Calatana. I think you can assume why I called for your aid.”

“Dang, that looks awful,” Relava rubbed her transparent eyes, staring at the Blighted land.

“A dark magic, of this strength…” Takanka stroked her chin with her talon-like fingers.

“The river will not hold it for long.” Calatana stepped into the river with pale webbed feet, the water moving with her steps. “I can contain it for seven days from the ground. Takanka can contain it from the skies. And Relava can accompany you, Ismanda, to find a cure.”

“Ugh, whatever.” Relava transformed into a mouse and climbed to her niece’s shoulder.

Ismanda cast one final look at the Blight before running off to find a cure.

Twangyflame0
Twangyflame0
19 days ago

Title: Life of Bones
By: Twangyflame0

Sera starred in front of her in surprise. She felt her body go cold as she recognized the figure she knew to be Thanatos. A white mask and black cloak covered his whole body. Only his hands poked out, one holding a scythe and the other holding a set of bones. He shook his hand and rolled the bones into a bowl below.

“Damn it,” He said in a gruff voice, looking at the results.

“Uh,” Sera felt her body lock up in fear, “am I…”

“No, you’re not.”

“Then…”

“I wanted to have a word with you.” Thanatos picked the bones and began rolling them again.

Sera grabbed her arm in shame, “I know I messed up…”

“Do you?”

“What? What are you-”

He looked up at her, his pale mask silencing her voice, “There is a difference between recognizing failure and knowing why it happened.”

“I underestimated the situa-”

“No. You knew exactly what they were capable of.”

“I miscalculated something I know i-”

“No. You are one of the smartest humans on the planet. You rarely make simple mistakes like that,” He began rolling the bones again.

“Then what did I do that got everyone hurt!?” Tears came out along with the shout.

“Ugh, another failure,” Thanatos said while looking at the bowl.

“Well?!” Sera slammed her foot onto the ground.

Thanatos looked her in the eye, “You had the audacity to try and protect everyone.”

Sera felt dizzy, “W-what?”

“You do realize life exists with the inherent and inevitable risk of death, do you?” His voice thundered as he towered over the girl, “Your first true experience with the ugliness of this world, and what do you do? You try to control everything to fit neatly into your world view. You thought you could control the game.”

Sera looked away, “I’m not as strong as Ryan or any of my friends. What am I supposed to do? And what the hell do you mean by ‘the game’?!”

Thanatos took the bones in his hands and shook them, “The rolling of the bones.”

GJFuller
GJFuller
19 days ago

Speak to the Manager
By Giovanna J. Fuller

“Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” Was what Marqui wanted to say to the blonde woman wearing too much pink. The middle aged woman hadn’t stopped talking since she sat down on the cheap folding chair Marqui kept in his tent.

First she had complained the line was too long.

Then it was how tiny the tent was.

Then it was the metal chair.

Then it was how he was probably trying to scam her.

When it came to the reading, no method satisfied her. She complained about the cheesiness of tarot readings. She rolled her eyes and pulled a disgusted face when he walked to read her palm. She snorted when he went to take the cloth off his crystal ball. Now she was just running her mouth off.

‘If she wanted to talk, she should go see a shrink,’ Marqui thought.

“I mean, what is your education anyway. I’m sure your mother and father are very proud-.”

“Ma’m, what do you want?” Perhaps his tone was a little less than polite, but who could blame the guy? He’d spent the last ten hours in a hot tent that, somehow, smelled like cheese curds and burned sugar all at once. One child had thrown up in the corner and a woman had dumped her lemonade on his head.

She put her hands on her hips. “Ex-cuse me?”

“You’re excused.”

Her mouth popped open.

‘Oh great, here it comes,” he thought as the words flew out her mouth.

“I want to speak to your manager.”

He sighed and leaned back in his chair, staring at the ceiling of the tent. The purple and gold stripes were gaudy. “Ok, Karen.”

“How dare-!”

Karen was never able to finish her sentence.

A darkness consumed the tent as the lights flickered off then on then off.

“W-whats happening?”

“You said you wanted to speak to my manager…”

Growling came from the ground as the dirt crumbled away. Hands, or what felt like hands, stretched out and grasped the woman’s ankles. She screamed.

“Here he is.”

Felicia Taylor
Felicia Taylor
19 days ago

Marauders’ Bond
by Lunabear

“Roll already, bonehead!” Shen griped at Moran.

“I’m takin’ ma time, ya blaggard!” Moran shot back, the pair of black dice rattling in his only bony fist.

They crouched on the cobblestones, a scarlet sky shading their bones to blood red. Numerous fires blazed around them. Dead bodies laid strewn about in various stages of decomposition.

Screams erupted in the distance.

“Duke Vanderbilt,” Shen grumbled. “Why does he always have to make a show of raiding?”

“He’s a right showman, he is. Blowing people ta’ bits an’ all that.”

Moran’s one eye socket glared as he took his roll. The scraping of the cubed bones against the cobblestones was muted by the pounding hoofbeats racing through the decimated town.

“Ha! Lucky seven!”

“You cheating scoundrel!” Shen accused, his jagged fangs made more prominent by his missing lower mandible. Brass knuckles adorned one skeletal hand.

“‘Tis a fair roll, ya foul git! Just ’cause YOU rolled a bleeding snake eyes t’aint no reason to be sore a’ me!”

Before Shen could bring up how the horse’s hooves did all of the work, a flock of flesh bags ran their way.

“They are mine,” Shen announced as he stood, hoping to work off his “justified” anger.

“Won’t make ya feel any better,” Moran admonished as Shen brandished a short pearl dagger. “Least of all with THAT.”

Ignoring the taunts, Shen rushed toward the small horde , his bloodthirsty bellow driving him forward. The terrified group exploded as soon as Shen took a swing. His bones scattered along with the bloody bits of the crowd.

Moran’s chuckling caused his bones to shake. He sauntered over and scooped up Shen’s head a few feet away, which glowered at him.

“Alas, poor Shen. I always knew you had a good head on yo’ shoulders.”

“Do not condescend to me,” Shen snarled.

Duke Vanderbilt pulled astride the quarreling pair, blood and grime coating his armor and bones. An eyepatch hid one eye socket.

“Pull yourselves together, men. More towns await.” He spurred his steed onward.

Moran hurriedly reassembled Shen, and the two raced after their leader.

Samantha DeShong
Samantha DeShong
19 days ago

New Appreciation
by Samantha Realynn

The “Caretaker,” they called me.

It was a bit cliche, but in the end, I suppose it made sense and it could have been much worse. They had to give me some kind of name, after all, something to make it all fit within their new views of the world. Everything had changed so suddenly, without any kind of warning. Skills that had once marked me for a source of disdain now were needed so desperately that I was practically a celebrity now.

It’s kind of funny how one’s views on Necromancy change so quickly at the end of the world.

Not quite the end, not really. But when disease ravages humanity to the point where only skeletons are left behind, it tends to look that way. Suddenly, everyone is begging for your help. There wasn’t that much I could do, I can’t regrow flesh. But animated skeletons are a useful source of labor and people find some comfort in having the remains of loved ones around. It was a win-win; the bones help to sustain those remaining both physically and emotionally, and the dead get peace knowing their remains are helping those they left behind.

Unfortunately, not everyone comes back right. Most do, content in their new existence to help rebuild. But you get some who hold resentment, twisted by their bad luck. A horrible life, the method of death, any reason applies. Thankfully taking care of those types has become much easier to handle than in the beginning. I won’t go into that disaster, just that it almost exterminated the rest of humanity. Now I can better identify those who would go bad and avoid raising them, though dealing with the family isn’t fun. No one wants to hear that their beloved family would rather rip you apart than tend to your fields.

But still, sometimes it just happens. Those already animated can turn feral. Even the most peaceful, the happiest soul can become a vengeful wraith given the right circumstances. Other times, it’s just random chance. In the end, it’s just a roll of the bones.