Writing Group: A Roll of the Bones

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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[…] Tale Foundry has been a really good thing for me. They’re keeping me on track and giving me a chance to delve into topics outside my usual exploration. This last week the prompt was “A Roll of the Bones” and so included here is the link to my submission. Remains […]

Seidmadr Tales
15 days ago

A Roll of the Bones
By Seidmadr Tales

Jack lay collapsed in the apartment as dark blood spilled from his mouth onto the wood flooring. His eyes fixated on his hand as the knucklebones fell from its weakened grip, only to collect them and futilely try again.

Four men in black formal jackets appeared between two bounces of the bones. One carried a bottle of wine. One held a cane. One had a glass of rum. The fourth stood peering through the lens-less frames of his glasses at the newspaper clippings pinned to Jack’s wall.

“My my my, haven’t we been a little hero,” the Baron commented, “and we’ve enjoyed watching you.” Jack let out a scratchy cough, that the Baron interpreted as a response. “You? No,” the Baron turned to Jack, shaking his head. “We’re not here for you.”

Jack rolled his head back and forth on the floor as tears fell from his cheek as Jack endured the pain of forcing his words out. “No. Why don’t the dice work anymore?”

The Baron stepped over Jack’s limp body to accept the glass of rum from his associate. “You must bet part of your life to gamble, but you’re dead broke. And there ain’t anything I can do about that.” He raised the glass and toasted Jack’s wall of achievements, “Instead of hoarding the winnings, you’ve spread them around the table. For that, I offer you this drink.”

Jack felt the edge of the rum glass being pressed against his lips. His hand lay open displaying the sheep bones in his open palm as his body relaxed in surrender. Warm cigar flavored liquid splashed on his tongue, taking Jack back to the hot sands of last year’s vacation, when his ears registered the sound of bones tumbling on the floor followed by a solid thud.

His eyes shot open to find his room empty except for his mother now faced down on the floor. The pair of sheep bones cast beside her hand. A laugh echoed in his head reminding him, “We weren’t here for you. But do try to avoid temptation for a year.”

Speckled
Speckled
15 days ago

Little Black Figures
By Speckled

Matt’s pale hand directed a beam of destruction across the subtle mound and it’s innocent inhabitants. Little forms scurried left and right, though whether in fear from the killing light or in determination to get work done regardless of any danger Matt did not know. He caught one under his beam, and watched it writhe and shrivel until it lay still and he moved on.

“What’cha doin all the way out here, Matt?”

“Burning ants.”

“I thought that was something little kids did.”

“A fella’s gotta find entertainment somewhere.”

“Well we should go inside soon, weatherman says a storm’s coming, it passed over Dakota and Nebraska just to hit us.”

“I’ll be there.”

“Why did you pick that hill? There must be hundreds between here and the house.”

“No reason.”

Matthew (Handsome Johanson)
Matthew (Handsome Johanson)
15 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 the stage

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!”

Michael Case
Michael Case
16 days ago

The roll of a bone
By Michael

“Thomas will be an investment banker that is good at business, but bad at life.”

“William will be a building contractor that will live a long life but spends most of his life hospitalized.”

Plop, a quiet drop of a sound occurs at the edge of a reflection pond.

“Joshua will be … Joshua will be … where did Joshua’s vertebra go?” Kismet frantically searches around the floor then looks over at Mortem. “Skip it for now.”

Chaos picks up another used vertebra, and files the name written on it off. This was not always the case; Chaos remembers a time when the Hydra would have a neck removed so its vertebrae could be a first named icon. Those were the times of heroes, gods, and stories worthy of myths and legends. Now all the magic has been used up in these old bones. People just sit around doing little heroics, well nothing of any real mention anyways. The hydra died centuries ago.

“Cancer, wasn’t it …” Chaos spoke in a muddled voice, “didn’t the Hydra die from cancer?”

Mortem nudged Kismet with a knowing nod. The two of them would sit for hours waiting for Chaos to get them more vertebra to use as icons for the people coming to life. Often, they would wonder if Chaos had lost his mind from all the tedious work he had been doing. These little outbursts of Chaos’ did not help in them wondering.

Chaos stares at the two others knowing full well what they talked about from time to time, then Chaos lets out a laugh. “Ever wonder what would happen if you dropped an icon in the pool?”

Far above the workshop of souls, a baby is born.

“Hum, well this is weird.” the Doctor curiously spoke.

“The baby is alright, isn’t he?” the father nervously inquired.

The Doctor seemed relaxed; “The baby is fine. It is just that he has no umbilical cord.” the Doctor continued, “Do you have a name?”

After thinking for a few minutes, the father says, “Joshua”

RainbowRayBubbles
RainbowRayBubbles
16 days ago

Remains
by C.W. Spalding

“Are those human remains?” Leila said. Her voice was muffled behind her hand. Dixie shifted her weight and nudged the skull with the toe of her shoe.

“Do-on’t do that!” Leila whimpered. Her squeaky voice made Dixie jump so bad that she knocked the cranium clean off. It rolled out of sight.

There was a splash.

“Let’s get outta here. This was way less creepy five minutes ago.” Dixie tugged on Leila’s sleeve, guiding her out of the ravine; back towards the thrumming of cicadas and the call of who-cooks-for-you owls. They shivered in unison and Dixie adjusted her backpack.

“L-Let’s get back to the camp,” Leila said. She took one stiff step and stopped, though. Dixie snatched her hand, leading her along.

It couldn’t have been anything but human, Dixie thought. But the bones were clean, not a speck of flesh on ‘em.

“I wonder what terrible fate they-”

“D-Don’t talk a-a-about it,” Leila cut her off.

“You gotta admit-”

“Don’t. Talk. A-About. It.”

Dixie sighed and tried to tune into the local rhythms of the buggies. Only wind. It was then that she realized the forest had gone unnaturally quiet. She let go of Leila’s hand to adjust her backpack.

“We should have gotten back to the camp by now, right?” she asked.

When there was no answer, she reached for Leila, but her hand found only air. So she turned.

Leila was gone.

Dixie’s heart was thrashing against her ribs so hard she felt sick. “Leila? That’s not funny, you hear me?”

She couldn’t catch a glimpse of Leila’s magenta ponytail through the trees. She listened for footsteps or breathing. Perhaps she passed out from worry?

A twig snapped.

“Leila,” Dixie chuckled. “Would you please come out now?” She was sweating now and a glob of sweat swept around her cheek. It plinked on her knuckles.
“Leila?”

She caught sight of a lamplight and she bolted towards it, ignoring the sloshing of the stream behind her. The cicadas started up again and the breath tangled in her throat finally escaped.

WolfsbaneX
WolfsbaneX
16 days ago

“High Stakes” [Duplicate from Private Group]
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.”

Charles Funk
Charles Funk
17 days ago

Liar’s Dice
By Charles Funk

Five shivering souls huddled tightly around a dying fire. Besieged by Winter’s Wind. But it was hunger, not cold, that haunted them. Taunting them. Hollow eyes darted at one another warily. Black hands lingered deep in their coats.

Velichko stopped these thoughts by snapping twigs. Snapping them all back to reality.

“This time. We play for it.” Velichko’s left hand revealed ten knucklebones carved into dice.

“Who’s that?” Konig asked.

“Alexei.” Velichko answered. “Made them myself.”

“Making himself useful again.” Danilov laughed.

“No!” Oleg protested. “Not again!”

“Y’got a better idea?” Georgy asked. “Either we starve. Or we eat you.”

“What’s the game?” Oleg sighed. Defeated.

“Liar’s Dice.” Velichko said. “We claim the dice’s numbers between ourselves. The stakes rises till someone lies.”

“Who’ll play.” Georgy asks.

“The die decides.” Velichko rolled one to the floor.

The die chose Danilov.

“The die decides who dies. Fitting.” Danilov laughed. “Who else is playing?”

“I will.” Velichko answered.

5 knucklebones rolled in their hands. Those same hands hid it from prying eyes on the floor. Danilov smiled after peeking his dice. Velichko’s face showed nothing.

“Three-3’s” Danilov began. “Gambling man, Velichko?”

“Four-3’s” Velichko gambled. “Policeman.”

“Three-4’s. What brought you to this Gulag, Officer?”

A crack appeared in Velichko’s stony demeanor.

“You crooked then?” Danilov smiled.

“No. I was one of the good ones. Five-6’s.”

“Apparently not a good liar.” Danilov grinned.

“You’re right.” Velichko sighed.

The men held their breaths as both men showed their hands. This quickly turned to shock when Velichko’s dice revealed four-6’s to Danilov’s one-6. Five-6’s in total.

“I’m a terrible liar.” Velichko said.

“But an honest cop nonetheless.” Danilov shrugged.

“I’m sorry, comrade.” Velichko offered a hand.

“Don’t be.” Danilov took it and kissed him in the cheek. “A fair game. Fairer than life ever was for me.”

The others stood up baring steel but Danilov waved them off.

“I was born a gentleman, comrades. I die proud as one with a smile.” Danilov laughed his last before falling dead to Winter’s hands outside.

The survivors ate well and merry that evening. All except Velichko who wept.

Astrid Jones
Astrid Jones
17 days ago

Fair in the Games of Men
By Astrid Jones

The man left the comfort of the tavern’s lanterns and began his trek down the rutted road. The full moon afforded him enough light to see by, even though it was late. Coins he would count again once he was home clinked against their companions in the pouch weighing down his belt. He patted the little leather sack, comforted by its presence.

The town faded as he walked on, anxious to get his winnings home. He was making good time. Already the thick stand of yew marking the halfway point on his journey rose before him, the road disappearing into it. But he knew the way well and had no fear of the trees.

Attention on his weighted purse, he did not see the lupine shadow step onto the path. Only when the creature growled did he realize his danger. Clear and bathed in yew-filtered moonlight only moments ago, the road was now hidden behind thick banks of smoke-like fog. Two burning red eyes fixed on his as the canid shadow took a step forward.

“Dear Shuck, I mean no harm. I am simply going home,” he said, hoping his voice was calmer than he felt. Perhaps the beast would leave him be if he did not sound afraid.

“No harm?” the Black Shuck growled, sparks spilling from its mouth. “You gamble with the lives of children as currency and say you mean no harm?”

The man gripped his purse. “The game was fair,” he said hotly.

Thick smoke swirled closer, bringing with it the hazy form of the Black Shuck. “I care not for what is fair in the games of men,” the creature snarled, more hot sparks flying from between its teeth. “You have traded the souls of children and therefore have forfeit your own.”

Now solid, the Black Shuck leapt at him, bringing its swirling banks of smoke-like fog with it to roll over the man before he managed to take a breath to scream. It continued to stream down the road, leaving behind only a pouch of spilled coins glinting in a patch of moonlight.

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, duplicated from private group]
By Gregovin

I 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.

VeryBoringName
VeryBoringName
18 days ago

Priests And Temples
By: En

Tlacotl and Tzacol stood under the Great Temple, sunrise as beautiful as ever. At the top of it, a priest was sacrificing Huitzilopochtli’s breakfast and another one was clearing yesterday’s dinner. The Priest threw off the body of Huitzilopochtli’s dinner, when he noticed two young boys looking excitedly over the corpse “What are you doing there!” He shouted to them, and the boys shouted back “We needed some dice for our game, can we take his knuckles?” After a bit of consideration, he shouted back “sure, go ahead”.

Tzacol took hold of a wrist of the body while Tlacotl used a black sharp knife to cut out the knuckles. After some work,all the knuckles were in Tlacotl’s hand, “We should wash them” commented Tzacol, to which Tlacotl bursted laughing “The only thing we need is carve numbers in them.” Tzacol was shocked for a moment that his friend could write, but then he remembered that of course he could, he was going to become a priest once he grew up, and Tzacol could only hope to become a soldier.

After a few minutes of carving by Tlacotl the dice were finally finished, “Finally, after so long, we can play” Tlacotl said, setting the last knuckle turned dice on the ground, Tzacol then stood up “I’ll grab the board” before disappearing in his house, and returning clutching a wooden board and several clay figurines. “Okay, we should wait for the others, I’ll be the Queatz. Have you created your character yet?” Tlacotl asked, to which Tzacol nodded enthusiastically “you helped me write his character sheet after all.”

Atop the Great Temple, the two priests were deliberating “Why did you allow the boys to take the knuckles?” the priest asked, to which the second one replied “I recognized one of them as a student of my friend, besides, I’m hoping that Xochipilli will favor the boys for creating the game”. The other priest sighed “maybe, and who knows, maybe it will become popular”. He chuckled for a bit, then he decided to end the conversation “come, we have much to do”

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. She 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 the 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.

MysteryElement
MysteryElement
18 days ago

Fateful Encounter
By MysteryElement

It had been a long day, Tamar’s feet hurt like hell, and having to walk home made his head swim. Pushing onward, the pain steadily increasing, his eyes caught a sign, barely visible under the dim street lights.“Dungeons and Flagons.” He had never noticed the pub, then again he didn’t notice most things on his ride home. It appeared to still be open. Thank the effing lord.

Inside, reds and browns cast a cozy atmosphere. The walls were lined with books, games and figurines of fantastic creatures. Empty tables lead up to a bar where a woman stood cleaning bar glasses nonchalantly. She was possibly middle aged, back straight and shoulders pulled back, hair streaked with silver, she had the look of a woman who had gone through hell and came out stronger for it.

“What will you have?” her tone was gentle but clipped.

Looking over the draughts and placing an order, he examines his surroundings with interest, reminding him of Jo’s invitation to join their RPG group this weekend. He was still on the fence, not knowing the first thing about these games, but he liked Jo and thought spending time with their group might be fun. A glass of ale appeared on a coaster in front of him and, to his surprise, a set of cream colored dice. The bartender smiled.

“You look like a man trying to sort things out.” she held out two of the dice

“why not roll the dice, see what they say?”

Cautiously testing their weight in his hand, he tossed them. Evens for yes, odds for no.

Odds. He sighed, surprised at his dejection.

“Disappointed?” she leaned over the bar.

“A little.”

“Then, ignore them.” She places the dice in a small satchel, handing it to him with a smile. “Sometimes, fate is about knowing what you want.”

The young man walked away, feeling somewhat energized. Baba Yaga gazed after him with a sly smile.

Another destiny served.

The door closes with a soft click before the building stands, lifted by spindly legs, and walking off into the darkness.

Sandeen
18 days ago

Child’s Play
By Sandeen

In a brightly lit room with far too many toys, a little boy named John whined, “What do you mean you took the last plague? I called dibs on that days ago. Now how am I supposed to explain all the death?”

Abigail, the friend for hire, simply smiled. In a frightfully calm voice she intoned, “Well, if you had the mind for math, you wouldn’t have lost your people yesterday. And, if you understood the finer points of our colorful game, they would have died from old age anyways. Cancer comes in so many forms. Some are really relatively minor.”

Between the two sat a colorful board, with dozens of playing pieces, and areas titled “Mars” and “Earth” and so on. Using material sourced from the creatures they represented, the pieces were vibrantly colored. And, what John didn’t realize, is that built into the game was a method of cheating the system. That was the true source of Abigail’s smile. The better-offs always thought they were smarter, and even better was when the child didn’t realize that he was playing with his own fate every time he moved his wealthy man back and forth.

An early death today, a long life tomorrow. A victorious ending, a lonely life. Abigail had cheated from the beginning, taking her own representation and quickly playing it through the board to a long, successful life, then taking it out of the game.

Only a fool would allow another fool to manipulate their life.

“You know,” Abigail pointed out, “You may yet be able to save that species. You did destroy their planet, but you have a natural disaster sitting to the side there that could reset your world back a few hundred years.”

John sighed, irritated and wishing, not for the first time, that his father had bought him a horse instead of giving him the family heirloom. It might be a one-of-a-kind strategy game, but on a horse he would be more likely to beat Abigail at least once.

ClockworkPigeonz
ClockworkPigeonz
18 days ago

“Reforged”
By: ClockworkPigeonz

Ancient swordsmiths would’ve used bones from animals or their own ancestors to strengthen their swords.

Cobalt knows better.

Too much carbon and the sword will be brittle…too little and it will warp or bend under pressure. And while she’s never considered herself superstitious, there are some traditions a smith would be foolish to shirk.

Another feather enters the forge-fire.

Her forge smells as if its been used to cook rancid meat, rather than melt metal. She’d expected it with a blade this old- this tarnished with blood rust. The unique nature of this sword has made its’ Cleansing more of a gamble, though no Turned blade could ever be considered normal.

But for a friend, it’s worth the risk.

A good smith knows that a blade is an extension of a warrior. Their mind. Their soul. And while this blade had been gifted freely, it had been Turned against its’ original purpose. The weight of that guilt had nearly broken its’ wielder.

Her fist clenches around the tongs as she draws the metal back out of the flames.

There is no place for anger here…no trace of malice or violence must soak into the blade, or her work will be for nothing.

She sits the sword back upon the anvil with a calm determination. Listens as the familiar reverberation of metal against metal sings up her arms telling her what the sword wants to be. What it has been. Adding to what her friend has revealed of his own story.

She feeds white down and molted feathers to the forge. Casts one of her own in before the blade’s last pass through the cerulean inferno.

Perhaps it will be enough to keep the blade from Turning again.

Once finished, Cobalt inspects it- confidently drawing a finger against the sharpened edge.

It refuses to bite its maker.

She grins, tapping a finger against the blade to make it ring and breaking into laughter at what she hears.

“Fatebreaker- so that’s your name?”

In her hand the blade hums, content for the first time in many years.

Mike Collins
18 days ago

The Pitch
By Mike Collins (Lakemoron)
Fifteen people enter the ring. Each of them has their own set of dice. The winner gets one million dollars. Two people are chosen to roll against each other. The one with the highest role wins while the loser picks a card. The winner moves on to another role until only one contestant is left. The one with the lowest card is the day’s loser. At the end of each contest, the loser is ejected.

The contestants are all housed together, sharing a space just big enough for the group. Each day they roll the dice in the morning. The people who roll evens get to eat while odds have them going hungry.

———————————————————

A man said, “I don’t get it. I mean rolling dice… That won’t play well on television. There’s a reason why they play such colorful over the top games on Survivor.”

Another man said, “Yeah… and reality shows are starting to falter in the ratings.”

The first man said, “We could make the dice human size?”

The network executive said, “I could see this working if we get some celebrities and make this a half-an-hour show. Maybe add something to this like a D&D contest.”

The first man said, “Playing D&D with the stars. We could get Vin Diesel or that guy from True Blood, you know… The wolf guy.”

The network executive said, “We could never get Vin Diesel or Joe Manganiello to live on an island and play for their food.”

The second man said, “D&D games can take hours to play. We could tape one game and break it down into half-an-hour segments. I mean, most people will watch just to see their favorites play a game and talk.”

George Heist watched as the network producer and his lackeys took his pitch and made it into something else. Somehow his show pitch, A Roll of the Bones, became Dungeons and Dragons with the Stars.

The network executive asked, “So mister Heist, how soon can you get into production?”

An intern spoke up, “You know they already tried that on YouTube.”

T.E.
T.E.
19 days ago

No Low Stakes Allowed
By T.E.

El Casino Mortale. Jim slammed the car door and inhaled they dry desert air. How long had it been? He could barely remember, but it sure felt good to be back.

A gaunt woman with thinning hair manned the front desk. “Welcome, would you like… “ her voice trailed off and her head slumped down to the desk.

“Hey, wakey, wakey,” Jim snapped his fingers. “I’d like a tour please.”

“Huh?” she raised her head and gasped, revealing her rotting teeth. “Oh, a tour. Come with me.”

The first room contained rows upon rows of slot machines. Skeleton-like men pulled the levers synced to some imperceptible rhythm.

“So what’s up with this room?” Jim asked.

“Here visitors can extend their natural life.”

“And what do they pay?”

“The stake is one year. With quite decent odds really.”

One of the machines lit up for a second and the man glued to it yelled “Jackpot!” in a state of absolute glee. Color returned to his cheeks and he looked at the two newcomers with gleaming eyes. He smiled at them. A warm happy smile. Then he returned his attention to the machine.

“The house always wins in the end I presume?” Jim asked.

“Umm… Well of course it does.”

The tour went on. He was led through an endless succession of rooms, all filled with gamblers in various states of decay. Some wagered happiness, some love, at the real high stake tables they gambled with the fate of the world itself. One particular man in an excellent suit broke down crying after a gamble resulted in genocide.

“I think I’ve seen enough,” Jim stopped his guide. “I don’t think I caught your name?”

She shrugged. “Gambled it away back in the day.”

“I’ll have a look at it later then. Would you care to lead me to the vaults?”

“Excuse me? That’s off-limits, besides I don’t have the key.”

“Oh but I do,” Jim smiled, showing off his sharp teeth. “You see, I’m here to collect.”

Joseph Kharms
Joseph Kharms
19 days ago

“Existence Precedes Essence”
By Joe Kharms

To write the story you are about to read, I played a sort of game myself. I, your gracious author, decided to play with life and death itself; so that I could write the best and most accurate story for all of you.

I once heard a teenager exclaim into the air “my life has been ruined!” after she had been kicked out of her netball team. So, naturally, as your heroic author I decided to get kicked from a netball team as well; in order to test whether it would ruin my life.

I am a male so, naturally, I struggled to get into my local netball team which was an all-girls team. After being denied entry as a man I came dressed in the disguise of a woman; I was a very sexy woman I must say.

Once I was in the team, during my first match, I stripped naked in the middle of the pitch and proclaimed: “I am a man! Kick me out of your netball team!”

Although I didn’t officially get kicked out of the team, the police made it very clear I wouldn’t be able to go near a game of netball ever again.
Over the next few months, news got around that I had stripped naked at a netball match. Which led to me getting fired from my job and my wife leaving me.

Within a year, I was sleeping on the streets and drinking wine straight from the bottle. It was in this moment I exclaimed into the air “my life has been ruined!”

And that’s the process that led me to write this story:

CHARLIE WAS A DOG.
CHARLIE DIDN’T LIKE BONES, HE MUCH PREFERRED MILK.
CHARLIE MUST ACTUALLY BE A CAT.

Alex
Alex
19 days ago

Casino Necro
By Alex Nightingale

Despite being a reaper, Felix was woefully out of his depth. He had rarely been down to Earth, or any planet with sentient life. He was someone who took care of the souls, once they reached the afterlife. It was, what he was good at.

But what could he do. There weren’t many of them left and they had to be versatile.

It took him a while to find, what he was looking for. A dark alleyway, wedged between two high-rise buildings, shielded a single small table from view. A woman, dressed in black, was sitting behind it. He made his way towards her, one hand resting on his concealed sickle. He quickly withdrew and placed has hand into his pocket instead. The woman smiled at him.

“Welcome”, she said: “To my little game. Roll well and you can live another lifetime. Roll badly and, well, I’d better not say.”

She indicated the board on her table, covered in pieces and dice made of bone. Felix, however, was more interested in the bag to the woman’s feet. It was made of thick leather and leaked a scent, with which he was alto familiar.

She gambled with souls.

He reached out his hand and took one of the dice. The bone tingled in his hand, like it was alive. The woman frowned, but quickly regained her posture.

“First, pay the pot”, the woman said: “A soul for a soul.”

“How does this game work?” Felix asked innocently.

“That”, the woman was frowning again: “Is none of your concern. Trust that it will work.”

The table began to shake, as Felix couldn’t hold his anger back any longer.

“What gives you the right to…?”

He broke off, as a sharp pain erupted in his side. He was thrown to the side and landed hard on the floor. He had never felt pain before, at least not like this. The scampering of feet told him that the woman had fled. Contrary to popular belief, reapers could die. And he had no idea what would happen, if he did.

Madelyn
Madelyn
19 days ago

“The Long Night”
By Madelyn

Balthazar tossed the bag of bones into the fireplace. Even as his eyes protested, he found no willpower to blink as the bag squirmed. If he had just been a few seconds faster, maybe he would have a better idea of what brought the vampires to the area.

“Balthazar?”

He could not bother to look at Avi. “Is Jason alright?”

“He’s shaken up, but aside from a few scrapes and a sudden haircut, he’s fine.”

Balthazar rubbed his eyes and winced at how dry they were. “I should have noticed sooner.”

“Vampires are difficult to find,” Avi reasoned, “and it only got worse with modern changes. The fact that you two survived is a miracle.”

Balthazar lowered his hand and traced the scars on his right arm. “I suppose.”

He heard Avi’s footsteps, then felt two hands on his shoulders. “Is everything okay?”

“Of course.”

“Balthazar.”

“It’s just been a long night, that’s all.” He made eye contact with Avi and smiled. “Given the current problem, I suppose it’s going to be longer for me.”

He leaned forward slightly, but Avi guided Balthazar to the couch, “You’re going to sleep. I’ll get started on the background information.”

Balthazar could not find the energy to argue with him. Instead, he found himself resting his head on the armrest and dangling one leg off of the couch.

“You…”

“Don’t worry, Balthazar. I won’t stay up too long.”

Avi muttered something else to himself as he brushed some of Balthazar’s hair from his face. When he was out of sight, Balthazar hid his face in one hand.

“Idiot.” His hand muffled his voice. “You don’t try to kiss someone when they’re worried.” He realized what he said and groaned. “I haven’t told him yet.”

Balthazar slowly lowered his hand and closed his eyes. Even as the bones continued clattering in the fireplace, he managed to fall asleep with that realization in his head. There would be time to confess when they handled the vampires.