Hello, swindlers and cheats!
Leave your scruples behind! No need for such things in the land of smoky back-rooms and mile-long business agreements. Instead, bring along a jar of that all-important palm grease and a magnifying glass to read the extra-fine print, because…
This week’s writing group prompt is:
What’s the Catch?
RULES AND GUIDELINES BELOW!
Make sure you scroll down and read them if you haven’t! You may not be eligible if you don’t!
Fun little idiom here, because we can’t get enough of them.
When you’re reading a contract or an agreement that seems too good to be true, it’s natural to get suspicious, wonder how you’re going to get “caught” by it. So, the natural question when something seems indefensibly opportune: “what’s the catch?”
There are a lot of angles and apertures for this thing, but one key element to consider here is suspicion—the emotion which drives one to ask the question to begin with.
Of course, where, how, and upon whom that suspicion falls is totally up to you.
You could write a story about an ambitious demon nearly prepared to sign a loan for extra souls to move up in the underworld, but leery about where the interest is supposed to come from. You could write something about a fairytale creature offering a helping hand, which, if you know anything about faeries, is unto itself suspicious. Or, taking a turn for the more realistic, you could even write about that time you almost purchased a house, but that chained door in the basement they failed to mention on the listing really made you wonder about the excellent price…
Whatever you choose to write about this week, we await some good mischief and double-dealing.
If we’re not questioning most of your motives by the end of this, I’m gonna be awfully suspicious…
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!
Text and Formatting
- English only.
- Prose only, no poetry or lyrics.
- Use proper spelling, grammar, and syntax.
- Your piece must be between 250-350 words (you can use this website to see your wordcount).
- 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.
- 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.
What to Submit
- Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
- Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
- Write something brand new (no re-submitting past entries or pieces written for other purposes
- 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.
- 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).
- One submission per participant.
- Submit your entry in a comment on this post.
- Submissions close at 12:00pm CST each Friday.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
It’s a joke you’re not supposed to get By Clanso
“What’s the catch?” The customer eyed the bottle suspiciously.
“Oh,there’s no catch really” the seller assured her with a strange expression. Suspicious? Yes, but the customer really needed the strength boost.
So she paid for the bottle and left.
The next morning the she woke up with a small demon frog on her head who would not leave her for the next two years. After trying to remove the frog didn’t work, she named it Eidreen and they became best friends.
Pages of Her Story
By minergirl778 (aka FrogfireFantasy)
“An endless library… Each book containing someone’s life story, being written as they live…”
Daisy had never ran so quickly in her life. She barely spent a moment looking at the alphabetical categorizations, making her almost run right past the section she was looking for!
“Cyrus…Czar.. Dahlia… DAISY!” She lunged for the book as soon as she saw it. Finally… Finally! Concrete answers to her past! Something that could tell her who she was! She’d been searching for this for so long. Answers. Knowledge. Clarity.
She flipped through the book. Empty pages, Empty pages, Right now, Adventure… adventure… training… the cover…
The Librarian came up to the top of the stairs. As he caught his breath, he witnessed her walk out of the aisle, book in hand and expression confused. “No…No this can’t be it! Where is it!?”
“Daisy, you’re only 16,” He interjected, anticipating this response. “Most of your story hasn’t been-”
“Where’s the first 13 years!? This thing is supposed to have my whole life! My past!” Her voice was steadily getting louder as she kept shaking the book out and checking for tears, only to find nothing. “But… It’s only… got year… 13! What’s wrong with this thing!? Is it defective or something!? CAN books be defective!?”
“They’re magical, life chronicling books!” He scoffed “They can’t be defective! Unless the person themself is defective-”
He was interrupted by the girl angrily spiking the book off of the balcony. It slammed onto a table far below with a splintering sound. He was about to scold her for such reckless behavior, when he noticed tears in her eyes.
“I knew this whole stupid place was too good to be true!” She mourned, head falling into her arms. A regretful hand placed itself onto her arm. “I…I’m sorry, I didn’t mean-”
“No.” She sniffed. “Y…You’re fine.” She pushed herself off the railing and walked down the hallway “Bye, Libraryman. Have a nice day.”
And in a flash of light the tearful girl was gone, and the librarian had some research to do.
Title: The New Student
Written By: T.S.G. Sager
“If I agree to be your teacher, will you PLEASE stop harassing me?”
“Yes, Rikuto, I promise I will stop if you agree to teach me magic. If we’re to save the world from impending doom, I believe it to be necessary that I’m trained for it.” Myoni explained with a smirk. Rikuto, pressing his thumb and index finger underneath his lower lip, took a moment to think about what Myoni had said.
“Alright, I concede. I will teach you magic, Myoni.” Rikuto sighed.
“Aha! Yes! That’s awesome!” Myoni cheered, but quickly withdrew. “Wait. That seemed too easy… What’s the catch?”
To this, Rikuto smirked, now having the upperhand. He raised his hand, with three fingers extended. “Three conditions. One, you must listen and do everything I tell you, without question. If you veer off, it could be hazardous to both of us.”
“Okay, that sounds reasonable. I accept.” Myoni nodded.
“Two, I want you to quit taking every opportunity you get to annoy me. You remind me so much of Shigure.” Rikuto continued.
Myoni laughed, “I mean, is that really a bad thing, though?”
“Three, I want you to stop claiming yourself to be a god. You’re not a god. You never will be a god. God Complexes are something you should avoid, not seek to have.” Rikuto lectured.
“No can do, Rikuto. I am a god, whether you’d like to admit it or not. You’re literally asking me to pretend to be something I’m not. How many mortal beings can you say can manipulate the fabric of reality?”
“That’s not the point. What if I decide to decline because you will not put your ego aside for a single moment?” Rikuto hissed.
Myoni shrugged, then his trademark smirk reappeared on his face.
“I mean, I guess if you don’t want to teach me, the world will simply end… I don’t really want that, but if that’s how it’s got to be, I’ll just try without magic.”
Rikuto sighed, recoiling in defeat. “Fine. I’ll teach you. Just don’t get us killed.”
Ruby sat next to Anansi’s hospital bed as tears streamed down her face.
“Hey now, when did you get all sappy huh?”
Ruby jumped at the sound of her brother’s voice.
“When did I get sappy?!” She snapped jumping to her feet “Since your wife called me yesterday terrified because you had collapsed! Since I looked mom in the eye and told her that her son wouldn’t see another Christmas.” Ruby fell back in the chair sobbing.
Anansi knew Ruby was just scared. He held out his hand and asked with a smile “What’s the catch?”
Ruby whipped up her head. “What!?” Anansi had days left to live and he wanted to play this stupid game!
“Don’t tell me you forgot our favorite game.”
“I didn’t forget!”
“Good, now what’s the catch?”
Ruby sighed and wiped away her tears. “Fine, I’ll humor you.” She thought for a moment. “Is the catch food?”
Anansi snickered. “You’re asking if the catch is food? So catch food.”
Ruby rolled her eyes. “You’re ridiculous.”
“Is it umm.. you?”
“You think that after all these years, I’m the catch?” Anansi lifted his eyebrows.
“You’re right, that’s a dumb answer. I mean you’re not much of a catch.” said Ruby smiling
“Ouch. That hurt.” Anansi said putting a hand on his heart.
“You’re an idiot.”
They both laughed.
“Are you ever gonna tell me?” inquired Ruby.
“I’ll tell you when the time is right.” he replied softly.
Ruby slept beside her brother all night. She knew he was getting weaker. She could feel him slipping away.
It was around nine in the morning when Anansi reached out to hold Ruby’s hand.
“We live in fear of death but we signed up for death.” He said looking up at Ruby. “That’s the catch, sister. Death was in the fine print in the contract of life.”
Ruby was dumbfounded. “That’s the catch? You carried that with you for fifteen years?”
Anansi closed his eyes “Actually no, I read it in the paper last week.” his smile faded and his hand went limp.
By Derek McEldowney (Deviacon)
“I just don’t know what I’m going to do.” Rich buried his face in his hands. I glanced over to Jane and squeezed her hand questioningly. Her eyes met mine and with a slight nod she squeezed back reassuringly.
“Well man, maybe we could help. Our lease is up in a couple of months and we were kind of planning to move near your area anyway.”
Rich jolted back up. “Oh that would be great dude.” He said emphatically. “The entire basement would pretty much be open to you guys. Second bedroom too if you need an office or something.”
“Could we come by later to take another look together?” I asked, swallowing my reservations.
I had already seen the entire house when I helped Rich initially unpack, but Jane hadn’t yet, and she always had a better feel for these sorts of things than me.
After leading us through the dry dusty heat of the old house, Rich showed us to the basement. Not quite finished, and brighter than one might expect, that much I had remembered.
“Yeah I’d figure it could just be a pretty even split of the mortgage since downstairs has about as much square footage as the top floor.” Rich said.
The cold heavy scent of the old basement quickly surrounded us. That too was familiar. There was something more though, that I couldn’t quite place back then either.
“Lots of open space to just arrange things however you need.”
It wasn’t quite musty, it wasn’t quite mildew. It was wet and heavy, but not offensive. Maybe a tinge of leaky pipes.
“So uh, how soon do you think you guys could move in?”
“It would be a few months dude, still have a lease to finish first.”
“Oh yeah, of course. No problem.”
It wasn’t what we had originally planned, but would definitely be cheaper. I took another deep breath in, trying to get used to the smell. I almost hadn’t noticed it with that breath, but then all at once it hit me. I realized where I knew that smell. It was blood.
Why Ye Never Trust A ‘Helpful’ Grown-up
by ‘Sweet Tooth’ Zebby (Anonymous Idiot)
Hey! I know I been out all day, but have I got news for ye!
No really! Ye’ll love dis! I found us work!
Oh, now don’ look ‘a me like dat. De Newburries tole’ me dey’d have us at dere barn! Dey even says dey’d pay us wid dolla’s ‘n food!
No! It’s no callaboose!
I swear I hain’t talkin’ out my shoes, brudda. Ol’ Newburry said all dis hisself! Took me ‘sides and says he’d help us. Got all simpe… sipmetic? Got all nice-like. Had so much lyin’ round his home!
What? No! I hain’t said a word ‘bout a ding! I knows betta’ den dat! I jus’ says we’s tryin’ ta find work, do de grown-up stuff. Newburry jus’ smiled.
I reckon he knows us, but he says he’d give us any count o’ what’s left ova’ at sunset.
Now… I knows dat means none of de sweets, but we’s can git our own cackle! Maybe even a cow!
Wait, why’re ya lookin’ at me like dat? I ain’t pullin’ yer leg.
You don’ reckon Ol’ Newburry’s talkin’ out his shoes, are ye? Why’d he do that to us?
I tells ya! He promises breakfast ‘nd de work ta git us out on our own. We’s don’t even needs to stay dere forever, says he ain’t gon’ force us. Not even de rev’rend’ll drag us back by de ear. Said so hisself.
Wha!? No! No! I hain’t said nuttin’ ‘bout de rev’rend! I told ye I kept quiet!
Well… he says he’d talk to ‘im while we work in de barn.
Brudda? Wait! Brudda! Where ye goin’!?
Whadda mean de rev’rend’s here!?
A Caged Bird’s Tune
By Cody (ProfBelgian)
Blinding concert lights illuminate center stage, mounted from skeletal trusses and dazing the openers while a bored audience looks on from shadowed seats. A couple stops ago, Minneapolis I think, I had asked Edder, the electric guy, if we could turn the lights down a notch.
“They want to see everything. Every curve, every freckle,” he said with wandering eyes.
Minneapolis was a hit, of course. Every show is. Tickets sell out years in advance and people pay top dollar. Every time I open my mouth and a note comes out, everyone has already fallen in love with me. It’s obsessive. The New York Times headline called it orgasmic in their gawking expose, “Untroubled; When Everyone Loves You.”
The crew and producers wear headphones. Can’t have them falling for their business asset, like every choir teacher and every vocal coach I’ve ever had. It’s magic or some fucked up biology. The worst part? This career is the only thing keeping me from being a lab experiment.
In the dressing room, it’s dim and cluttered. Trina is sitting on a velvet seat next to the mirror. “Insurance” Trina, I call her; a bodyguard with literal nine-inch nails and a hulking pistol, ready to receive orders and protect the asset.
I hear the openers finish before Billie wakes the audience up, “I hope you folks have tied yourself to a mast, because it’s time for our star performance, Siren!” Cheeky.
Trina’s earmuffs are hanging by the mirror, just out of reach. I think about singing a surprise warm-up, making her fall for me, telling her to take out her pistol and just shoot. But I chicken out. Maybe next show.
The applause is like thunder as I walk on stage. The front rowers, billionaires whose wives don’t know they’re here, already have their hands on their crotches.
I go to center stage and clench my fists as I’m bathed in Edder’s lights and wanting stares.
I scream. The lights shatter and everyone falls in love.
A Kitsune’s Bond
Raiden stumbled up the steps to the shrine, tripping near the top and face-planting on the concrete.
Kumiho gasped, rushing to his side, “Lord Raiden! Are you-”
“Ha! Didn’t shpill m’drink!” He declared, his booming laughter echoing like thunder. He rolled onto his back, then sat up, and took another swig from his bottle.
Kumiho sighed, shaking her head.
Raiden wobbled back to his feet, Kumiho needing to help steady him.
He glanced around the shrine, growing disgruntled at it’s state of disrepair, “Damned humans… can’t take care o’ nuthin’…” he hiccuped, stumbling forward to the main building.
Kumiho followed closely, pausing to pull some overgrown vines from the rusty gong.
“I’ve got it!!” Raiden exclaimed, startling the small kitsune girl. He pointed to her, the liquid in his bottle sloshing across the damaged wooden steps, “We need spirit guardians! You guys’ll take care o’ the shrines!”
Kumiho smiled, “What a wonderful idea, my Lord! We can come by from time to time and-”
“Come by?” Raiden roared with laughter, “Nah, that won’t do. Has t’be more frequent!”
He snapped his fingers. A white collar appeared around Kumiho’s neck, the fist-sized bell jingling as it settled against her chest.
She pulled at the collar, but it wouldn’t budge.
“Y’can live at yer designated shrines!” Raiden cheered, “If y’can never leave, then they’ll always be taken care of!”
Kumiho pouted, “Lord Raiden, this is-”
His massive hand slammed against her back, knocking her to the ground, “A wonderful idea! I know! What an honor this is fer you, eh, Kiiiiiiwhat’s yer name again?”
She sighed, getting back up and dusting herself off, “Kumiho, my Lord.”
“Right! I knew that!” He laughed. He took another swig from his Thunderpunch.
“So I can’t leave… ever?” She asked.
“Nope! Not unless I remove that collar!” He patted her head between her white fox ears, nearly causing her knees to buckle, “Take good care o’ my shrine! I gotta go find more animals to bind!”
He vanished into the wind, leaving Kumiho standing alone in the shrine’s yard.
She groaned, “Well… better start cleaning…”
You asked for something more. What, you didn’t know. But that was no problem, for I knew just what to give.
You may wake up, I said. Your first gift. Wake up and know yourself and that you have a self. Open your eyes and find want, and seek after that want. Look up. Find the stars. Wonder.
You marveled, and wondered, and Wondered why this gift was. Wondered when you would find the dark side.
And then you knew. Pain struck at the same moment as knowledge. With it: anxiety, rage, grief. These things drove you to protect yourself, keep your gift, stay alive.
But awake hurts. It is long, it repeats, it repeats, it repeats, it is long. So you sought a way to make it more bearable. You found something. The second gift: substance. They dulled the pain, calmed your fears, if only for a time. They gave you visions of the world.
Then they caused you to step back and raise questions. Of the facts of the world, of meaning.
You used these questions and your wonder to arrive at the third gift, knowledge. With knowledge, the universe poured inside your head and you expanded into it. You made tools that bettered your interactions with it, bettered you within it. And you gained the fourth gift, power.
With power came new knowledge, which created more power. Many times cycled these, until you were Wise. You ruled your world — the original gift — ruled it enough to save or destroy it.
with all this knowledge, power, wisdom, ruling,
you still could find no meaning.
And you stepped down, Wondering once again. Why so much power, so many gifts? You were still hurting.
Then why any of it?
So you asked me. You shouted and begged for an answer. But you received none. Only silence, and shadow.
You found the dark side.
To be awake is to be in pain. To be wise is to be lonely. To have power is to give up meaning.
You must create that meaning yourself.
And that is the fifth gift.
By Hemming Sebastian Bane
Cassian Gwyrnn carefully ladled the yellow solution from the cauldron into the flask on his workbench. It swirled like water and glowed like molten metal as it filled the glass container. The gnome eyed the yellow solution cautiously, looking for imperfections. Seeing none, he grabbed a tome and read the instructions to himself.
“‘The steps to achieving rubedo and finishing the Great Work are as follows: refinement of the aether, multiplication of potency, and synthesis of the azoth.’”
Cassian placed the book down and frowned. The next page was missing. He hopped down from his stool and ran to his bookshelves, skipping every other rung until at the shelf he needed. The gnome pulled out the book entitled “Ignis Solis et Aqua Lunae” and turned until he found the page he needed.
“During the rubedo stages of creating azoth, exercise caution at all times as these processes create volatile chemicals. First, take your citrinitas solution and allow it to cool to room temperature. Under no circumstances during this process are you to say the word, ‘chicken’.”
The gnome blinked in confusion and read the last line again before massaging his temples with one hand. “The Heptadeka have mercy.”
He ran back over to the stairs and shouted up, “Calgin! Have you been tampering with my books again?”
A pause followed by a loud “What?” answered.
“Have you been tampering with my books again?”
“No, I haven’t.”
“You are lying. There is no way that the word ‘chicken’ is going to ruin my work.”
Suddenly, an explosion went off and smoke filled the laboratory. Cassian, alarmed, ran back inside to be met by the sounds of squawking. The gnome stood agape as dozens of chickens littered the floor. The flask was broken and not a single drop of solution was in sight. Sighing, Cassian exited the room and shut the door behind him, locking it. He’d take care of the chickens tomorrow. Right now he needed a stiff drink.
Some Calls Aren’t Worth It
by Jesse Fisher
“Couple’s night.” Demon spat under his breath as he took the empty glasses of another table that moved to the infinite rooms above the bar space.
“They just did this just so they could skip out and have some night time games.” With a sigh, he knew that his heart was just deflated recalling the one that was once so close to him.
“Oh wolfy.” The dark navy wolf turned his yellow eyes to see a plain looking…as best he could say was a temper that was trying too hard to appear ‘attractive’.
She was of a hybrid of a dragon/lion/eagle; draconic features were mostly to the wings and scales over most of her body, lion in the head and lower quarters, and a feather belly with a beak over a muzzle.
She was going for a bipedal look at the moment, and in Demon’s opinion going a bit too large in the chest, but he just resigned and moved over to her.
“Do you need another drink Ms. Gangrel?” Demon asked, trying not to deal with this whole thing.
“Well I do see something I could put my lips on.” Her ‘mature cute’ voice came out as she flirted with the demonic waiter.
“I would question how you are a spirit of order but that would be too much information for me.” Deadpan clear in his voice.
“Spend an evening with me and you may change your mind?” The avain eyes gave her a more ‘cute’ look.
“And if I said yes, the catch would be?” Demon’s own eyes just narrowed.
“Just a night with little old me.” Gangrel once more tried to keep the charm on.
“Why do I feel like just singing ‘Thnks Fr Th Mmrs’ just to make it out of this alive.” Demon shook his head.
“Oh I remember your singing, it was so beautiful.” She now draped herself over Demon.
“I’m so getting blacked out when this is over.”
An unexpected Teacher
Flashes of light, burning pain that faded to a faint itch in seconds, the missing weight beneath her right shoulder.
A hand extended towards her. An offer.
She woke with a gasp, blinking rapidly as the noise and light of the waking world rushed back into her awareness.
The memories sank back to the bottom of her mind. They weren’t even particularly bad…just persistent.
Ethzel got up, dressing herself with a newly practiced ease. When she closed the clasp of her cloak, she finally took the time to decipher what all the noise outside was about.
As she put her blade into its sheath, the words from outside began to make sense.
Apparently some new girl had arrived from up north…but not from the Chandry? A Drakon maybe then? Finally she opened the door, stepping out onto the gallery that encircled the courtyard.
One person stood out. The one she had heard the guards speak about presumably.
She looked young. Red hair sloppily bound back into a ponytail, allowing Ethzel to see her ears…which were pointy.
Well, she was too pale to be a Sharish and not green enough to be a Nabouri. Though if Ethzel squinted her eye a bit, she could make out bright green strands of hair and her dirt-stained coat might have been green once.
She put a foot on the bannister, leaping over, hitting the hard-packed floor.
The girl spun around, her eyes widening for a moment before narrowing.
“I was sent to you…to be trained.”
Ethzel raised an eyebrow. Well, she hadn’t swallowed her tongue.
“Oh, is that so? By whom?”
The girl crossed her arms. “The Lady of Dawn.”
At that Ethzel’s eyebrows shot upwards. “The Lady? Well, damn me…alright. What’s your name, girl?”
The girl’s eyes narrowed even further. “Lyxalwalde… Is there a catch….why would the Lady send me to be trained by a one-eyed, one-armed crone..?”
Ethzel gave a laugh and offered Lyxal her right hand. A hand which had suddenly came into existence and glowed a faint orange-gold.
“Why don’t you find out?”
“Letter of Marque”
Henry Smith had heard the rumors. A new nation in Europe, a kingdom, had risen as the world order broke down. Some of the ships he’d seized in the last few months claimed to be protected by ‘the Great Monarch,’ the title this warlord seemed to go by. Didn’t save them, and he was more concerned with the easy pickings in America. Now, chased Eastward by unified American fleets and encroaching Spaniards, Henry had gotten his first taste of the fledgling kingdom’s hospitality; an entire armada of Angevin ships had caught him as he entered French waters. Low on supplies, his handful of ships had no choice but to surrender.
So here he sat. In a small building at the port of Calais, he waited. It’d been roughly an hour, now, with no one other than a guard bringing him water to give him scarce moments of company. At last, the door opened, and in stepped a man. He was on the tall side, but not impressively so, and walked with a noticeable limp.
“Good evening, Captain Smith.” the man said, offering his hand. Henry stood and hesitantly shook it, getting a better look at the man’s face. A handsome fellow, much younger than himself, with one intense dark eye. The two sat across from one another.
“You know my name, then, boy.” Henry started. “Care to grace me with yer own?”
“Of course, captain, where are my manners?” the other replied. “I am Arthur Michael Constantine Plantagenet, King of Britain and France.” So matter-of-fact did he say it, that Henry’s eyes nearly jumped from his skull. THIS was ‘the Great Monarch?’ Entire nations, subdued by some one-eyed boy with a limp and a fancy coat?
“I had your pirates brought in to offer you a deal, captain. I want to provide you with supplies, plenty of friendly ports, and even place part of my own navy in your capable command.”
Henry hoped he had a straight face. “Do ya, then?” he asked. “And what’s in it for you?”
He wasn’t sure what to make of the young king’s grin.
All that is left
By Eden R.
Screaming… there is always screaming when I close my eyes, all those memories. Memories of my mother, or pain… of.. betrayal. With a sharp breath, I open then and take a moment to look around this room. It was a horrible place. The wallpaper peeling away to show the slowly rotting wood of the walls the stench of mildew permeating the air. How a place like this could exist was beyond me. Still rent here was cheap. And I needed to be mindful of how much money I was spending.
This was when I made the mistake of closing my eyes trying to just rest for a moment.. The screaming that was ever-present in my mind manages to escape out of my mouth and echo around the room, not that anyone would care. Not that anyone would hear.
It took a solid moment before I managed to stop and then drag myself over to the kitchen sink. I turn on the tap and.. a gross black sludge oozes out of the faucet. I stare at this for a moment. And let out a soft breath. Maybe I should be in the house of one of the people I… dispatch… Clean running water, electricity that does not threaten to burn down the place. And no smell of rot…
After taking a deep breath I held my hand over the ‘water’ for a moment and with a gentle push, I was able to remove all of the junk in it to clean it. Though this was a waste of magic. For the moment I push that thought back. And just drink the water. Even now with my eyes open… That.. screaming is threatening to take over again… I shake my head trying to get it to go down. I know there are people who feel like they can help. but even if they could, what would be left of me?
As I’m doing this the alarm on my phone goes off. All those thoughts fade away. I just smile as I pull up the relevant information. “It’s time to hunt.”
The Gift of the Morrigan
by Astrid Jones
A twig snapped in the forest. The sound was close, but too far from the light of our fire for us to see what had caused it. Helgi struggled to stand, hauling himself up with the haft of his spear. If he kept his weight on his strong leg, a stranger wouldn’t know his other was lame.
“Who’s there?” he called into the dark.
Three cloaked forms stepped into our ring of light. I crouched behind Helgi, a hand tucked behind my back, reaching for the knife hidden under my tunic. If they meant us harm, our best hope was that they discounted me as a threat. I was weak, small, and female, but I was quick of hand and foot.
“Oh, you needn’t fear us,” one of the women said as they lowered their hoods. She looked down at me with a comforting smile. “Take your hand from your blade, child. We have come to offer you the help you seek.”
“How did you know we needed help?” Helgi asked, hands tightening around his spear.
“The smell of desperation, grief, and death is thick around you,” said the youngest of the three. She inhaled deeply. “The last is my favorite.”
“Hush, Babd. You will scare them away,” the third hissed.
I straightened and stood beside Helgi.
“We come to offer help,” the first stated again. “Seven years of peace and protection for what remains of your people.”
“The De Danann never offer anything without something given in return,” Helgi said. “We have nothing to give you.”
“But with the gifts we offer you, you can do much for us in the future.” Babd gave us a predatory smile. “Once seven years have passed, you will be able to protect them on your own.”
“I’ll do it,” I blurted out.
“Blaithe, no!” Helgi staggered as he turned toward me.
“The ability to protect my family, our clan, on our own? To finally be useful? Even if it costs my soul, their safety is worth it.”
“Not quite your soul,” the first of the Morrigan said. “But close enough.”
“Caught” [Aleph Null Science Fiction]
The medium sized scout ship came into view. The Leif.
We’re right in front of them, but in disguise as a junk ship. All according to plan. The clients would love this! They always wanted more excitement in their lives.
My helmet speaker crackles.
“Clients: one human with low enhancement and full AI android. No additional occupants expected”
Uh. Why did it have to repeat this? I already know this info.
“Expected location: main bridge, holoprojection deactivated. Press-”
I press a button and skip through the rest.
Long ago, I learned you couldn’t skip through until precisely when it told you to press the button.
Who designed this thing? It’s so annoying.
My suit readies itself. Visual display confirms seal at above 99% effectiveness. Semi-stealth protocol is engaged. One last burst of acceleration and I’ll be on target.
The ship jolts a bit as an acceleration spike hits me. I hope they didn’t notice the exhaust flare. We’ve done everything we can to mask it, but there’s still a chance if they’re paying attention.
They don’t see us until we’re close enough that it is irrelevant.
My headset crackles once more. “Preparing to board. Opening hull. Docking successful. Deploying safe sleeping gas”
I slowly walk aboard the ship and into the main room and stumble on two unconscious bodies. The android and the human. They look surprised. Ping. That must be my boss.
“Yes?” I ask.
They respond “Did you retrieve them?”
No, not quite finished yet. Breathe.
“Both clients. Distress beacon active on ship”
I drag the two unconscious figures onto my ship using my suit to support the weight. They’re safely stowed in the back of the ship. Time to go back and drop them off at the destination and pick up my reward. I hoped they both enjoyed the adventure they bought, though they didn’t seem like the type to go for such things. Then again, I saw the receipt and no one seemed like the type. And the money was worth the hassle.
An Actual Human Being
By Mike Collins
“What’s the Catch? Why is this taking so long? Nobody will give me an answer.”
The RIPS Robotic Informational Protocol System smiled its artificial smile, “Mister James, there’s no subterfuge, just a long sleep and a new life.”
Guy James stood, “Every day they tell me to be patient. I started this interview process over a hundred days ago. I’m dead broke with my landlord evicting me. I need to know; do I have the job or not?”
“Mister James, this is more than just a job.”
Guy frowned, “If you say it’s an adventure, I’ll tear out your servos.”
A new voice came from the machine, “Sir, don’t threaten the bot. It just shuts them down.”
Guy jumped, “Oh my God, you sound like an actual human being.”
“It’s an adventure.” The RIPS moved again, “You are being processed for trip 25 to Titan and a better life… All you have to do is finish the interview process.”
Guy said, “Bring back the human being.”
The RIPS said, “Sir, you are the human being.”
Guy angrily replied, “I want to speak with a real person.”
The RIPS stopped smiling, “Sir, failure to control one’s self in the interview process could cost you a spot.”
Guy spat out, “Being… I want to speak with a human being.”
The RIPS eyes turned red, “Mister James, at this time we here at the Titan Experimental Community LLC feel you don’t qualify for a position on trip 25. Please see psychological studies for more information… Have a nice day.”
Guy got up into the RIPS’ faceplate, “You people ruined my life! I lost everything to come here and interview my life away, and now I got nothing.”
RIPS’ eyes started to blink, “Security will escort you to the door… Sir, have a nice day.”
Between gritted teeth, Guy said, “They won’t be quick enough to save you.”
Date July 17, 2120. Day 156 of the 300-day journey to Titan.
Subject HB1114 Guy James
The subject is showing stress levels indicating rejection of the simulation.
Recommendation: Observe the subject and, if necessary, wake.
Winds of Change
(Legends of Dracora: Ancient Dracora, 545 years After Founding)
One year here is four times longer than Earth’s…
Strange how time suddenly had meaning to the dying elven king, wasting from an illness none could cure. Healer’s Grove in Heartholt held many such patients, most humanoid, but all residents of the forest metropolis or surrounding towns expanding the colony. Not Black Death, which had driven them to this world, but something native.
A unicorn healer approached his bed, “The others are here. Can you stand?”
The old elf tried, but failed, the mare catching him. He whispered thanks as she knelt, letting him ride. Living trees coaxed with magic formed walls and roof of the hospital, summer’s yellow-greens, and purples dappling the grass.
Others nodded in respect as he passed. He’d been infected helping heal here, or so they thought. None knew for sure how the sickness spread, though not airborne.
The unicorn brought him into a secluded room. Representatives from other stricken races ringed it, along with the Head Healer, an ancient feathered serpent.
“What news?” The elf’s voice was weak. He trembled, exhausted despite the gentle ride.
“Storms gather at the colony’s edges,” said the selkie, “Odd, but an effective boundary against the lethal wasteland beyond. They move outward with the magical barrier, and that sea is thawing now.”
“The Awakened animals are integrating surprisingly well under dragon rule,” said the centaur, “Hopefully peace lasts.”
“But still no cure for this blasted disease killing us all,” growled the dwarf.
“Actually–” piped the gnome, or the halfling?
“–that’s why we called,” finished the halfling–the gnome? Even side by side, they were confusing
“We’ve developed a potion…,“ the feathered serpent began hesitantly.
“What’s the catch?” asked the elf king’s son.
“It’s a polymorph, granting you immunity–but we don’t know what you’ll turn into. Or how much of yourselves will remain,” the serpent bowed his head, “There’s no other way.”
The dying king broke the stunned silence. “I’ll test it.”
“Father–?!” his son protested.
“It’s alright,” he said gently, voice gaining strength as he straightened on the unicorn’s back.
The mare looked back at him with a sad, proud smile.
“Fly A Little Faster.”
Sunlight streamed over cluttered workbenches and oil stained flagstones. Tools, unidentified bits, and bobs obscuring the blueprints Luke was trying to show them. Alistair had tuned out somewhere in the middle of the flux-engine specifications. But the word “implants” was enough to snap his attention back to the half-crazed inventor.
Around him the other Wachters were shifting uneasily.
“I-Implants?” he croaked.
“Yes, just a few on each wing. I think it would cut down on prep time alone, if it wasn’t already necessary!” Luke grinned. The armor glinted menacingly behind him, rows of sharpened feathers and heat-resistant metal.
“Necessary- how’s that necessary?” Silas asked, wings flinching as if they were trying to flee without him.
“Oh, you don’t want the armor bouncing around in flight! A-and straps work lose over time, so I wanted to find a more permanent solution.” He twined his fingers together nervously. “Plus with the engines…I didn’t want the straps breaking midflight… so I… um- thought this would be… safer?”
Dust motes floated through the silence.
“And it would probably triple the range you usually cover.”
More nervous wing-shuffling ensued.
“It’s a decent idea. How soon could you start test-?” came Harper’s gruff reply, though their half-dwarven leader was immediately cut off by Ember’s indignant squawk.
“You don’t even have wings- you don’t get a say!”
By then Alistair had already managed to back up several feet to the side door. Ordinarily Luke came up with some brilliant ideas- tools and weapons that had kept them alive…but every now and then, he’d get carried away.
Alistair heaved a sigh of relief as he slipped out into the sunlight. Pausing only to give Golem a scratch behind the ears- the fat griffon had made himself a nest out of a large spoil of wire. And he looked as if he was as disturbed by the argument as Alistair.
“Luke, I think we’ll need some time to think about this, Harper-?” Cobalt started, trying to calm things before the bickering began anew.
Alistair quietly shut the door behind him.
The Forbidden Cookie Jar
by Matthew (Handsome Johanson)
Rebecca’s tummy rumbled as she finally returned home from work. It was getting pretty late in the evening and she had to skip lunch at work because of how busy it was.
She closed the front door behind her and called out. “Ollie! I’m home!”
‘Hmmmm he must be asleep still.’ she thought while instinctively heading towards the kitchen. ‘I guess I’ll have a small snack to hold me over while I wait for him to get up.’
When she arrived at the kitchen, it didn’t take her long to find it. A pristine jar labeled “Chocolate Chip Cookies.” Her favorite. Unfortunately it was also labeled with a sign that said
“DO NOT TAKE”
‘Hmm that’s pretty unambiguous.’ she thought disappointedly. ‘But, I’m sure Ollie won’t mind if I just take one.’ She quickly opened the jar and grabbed a cookie. Before long, it was gone, and a smile flashed upon Rebecca’s face.
Just then, Ollie walked in looking a bit zen. “Sorry I didn’t respond babe, I was meditat-” Ollie paused as he saw a smear of chocolate on Rebecca’s lips.
“Oh my god, you ate one of the cookies didn’t you?”
“Yes.” she said in a solemn tone. “I had to skip lunch at work, and I was hungry!”
“I get that, but those were meant to be an offering for Uthlec the many headed god of fire and despair!” Ollie retorted.
“I didn’t know!”
“There was a sign!”
“It just said to not take one!”
“Then why did you take one?!” Ollie took a few deep breaths. “I’m sorry, babe. It’s just that we’re going to be in a lot of trouble if we don’t find a replacement.”
“What’s the issue?” Rebecca asked. “I’m sure Uthlec won’t even notice it missing.”
“The number of cookies was precise. We need to give exactly one cookie to each head or fire and brimstone will rain!” He gave Rebecca a little hug and handed her the leftover cookie mix.
“Alright, let’s get to work. The offering is in an hour. And, yes, we can make extras.”
What’s the Catch?
The market was buzzing with energy! So many stalls and vendors bustling in the dusty grey of twilight, the cool salty breeze coming in from the harbor, and glistening piles of freshly caught fish. I know not everyone enjoyed it; the pungent smell of the bay, the screaming birds that would never shut up, and the ever present wind. But I felt more at ease here than anywhere in the world.
“Good morning, Boss.”
“I told you not to call me that, missy.”
Boss was incredibly tall, his head clean shaven, and had the most straightforward way of speaking, in spite of the slight spasm that jerked his head to the side every so often. ‘What you get for doing a line of blowfish dust’ he had once said, though I am not sure if I had believed him. He taught me everything I know about cooking, from prep line to plating, and I respect him a great deal. Though I call him Boss mainly just to tease him.
“What’s the catch today?” I could not help the excitement in my voice, practically bouncing on my heels as I eye the coolers.
“It was a good day today. Plenty of flounder, some pikes, even had some of the boys in deep water to follow a swordfish. And…” he paused for dramatic effect, raising a foam cooler into view.
“Softshells?!” My voice squeaky from the strain of not shouting “What are they doing this far north?”
“No clue. We had set traps for some blues, and found these. They’ll fetch a nice price today. Though, for my favorite customer.” he grinned cheekily at me “I might give a special deal.”
I return his grin and make my purchase, selecting plenty of softshells and a variety of other fish before hefting the full cooler on my shoulder.
“Thanks Boss!” I turn before he can scold me again and take my prizes home, feeling quite lucky indeed.
Harbor market was the best.
Sign Here, Please
“Excuse me! Erm, hullo?” A voice called through the fog. “Is this Ritual Chamber no. 16? I’ve gotten myself all turned around – ”
Piercing green eyes appeared, slowly advancing through the mists. “Yessssssss?” It paused. “Are you missssster Kern?”
“Yup. Senior Inspector with the Department of Lesser Rituals, Hexes, and Spells.” Kern pulled a small notebook from his pocket. “You would be… the Dark Lord… Ashur – Eshoor – how do you say this?”
The Dark Lord scowled. “Esssshoorbeferoeaynevwllbme. I don’t know why people have sssso much trouble with it.”
Kern chuckled and quickly smothered it. “I’ll call you DL Esh. Seems less…” he paused. “Terrifying? Anyway, as you know, I’m from DLeRHeS. If I’m reading this correctly, you’re currently working on a ritual to summon the Dread God Ashkwenozotz to the mortal plane, correct?”
“And you wanted DLeRHeS to be here in order to legalize the ritual, so that your archenemy, “Average Underdog Protagonist”, won’t be able to intervene, correct?
“Yesssss. I’ve already ssssssubmitted form A16 partsss four through nine, as reqeusssted.” DL Esh loped closer. “To confirm, there’ssss no additional detailssss to cover? This is all highly time-sssenssssitive, and I don’t want to rissssk ssssstopping midway.”
Esh twirled, waving his hands in arcane patterns. “Bring forth the firsssst ssssacrificial ssservant – ”
Kern gasped. “Erm, excuse me. Did you say servant?”
“What?” DL Esh turned. “Yesss.”
“Have you officially designated that servant as a sacrifice with the Satanic Labor Bureau? If we don’t cover our bases, the unions’ll be all over us, you know.” Kern pulled several papers from his bowler. “Sign here, and here, and here – ah, thank you. I’ll get those filed tomorrow morning. You’ll also need to fill out F67 part B sometime this week – ”
The cauldron let out an ethereal shriek, before exploding and covering the chamber in green sludge.
DL Esh gasped. “Noooo! We took too long! My evil plan – ”
“You’ll need to file a cauldron mishap. Sign here, and here in red ink (or blood, I suppose that works too) – “
Most Precious Memory
Apprehension swirled through Jeremy’s chest. He had been certain that he’d wanted this before his ascension up the stairs.
Simply reliving the treasured memory didn’t have the same impact of being present in person. He hoped this would help.
He and the owner of this ‘establishment’, Herr Böhm, stopped at a door at the top of the poorly lit stairway.
A cat’s meow startled Jeremy as Bröm opened the door.
“I didn’t know you had a cat,” Jeremy remarked nervously.
“We do not.” Böhm eyed him critically in the sparse lighting. “Curious…” He jotted down some notes on his clipboard.
They crossed the threshold, and Jeremy nearly tripped over himself as an orange tabby crossed his path.
“What?” Böhm questioned.
“I-I thought I saw a cat.” His eyes darted around the room in the hopes of seeing it again. They alighted with intrigue when falling on four colored archways.
Böhm scribbled more notes.
“Over the phone, you mentioned ‘sensitive’ details.”
“Leaves: To forget
Mountain: To remember
Water: To retain
Star: To fabricate
Should you choose to continue, the results are permanent.”
Jeremy approached the water passageway, touching the cool stone of the structure.
“What’s the catch?” Jeremy asked, still facing the archway.
“Hold the memory in the forefront of your mind before entering. Doing this is advisable to avoid mix-ups. You must relive the memory entirely for it to be effective. If you do not, the process could backfire.”
“Trust me, it’s all I ever think about.” Jeremy closed his eyes on a sigh. “I’m ready.”
The memory rushed forward, as though it conjured itself. Jeremy whimpered. He always did.
The entrance’s void pulsed a vibrant blue.
Another meow sounded after he passed through the veil.
The animal’s incessant racket from outside was distracting. He would deal with it afterwards.
Adrenaline pumped through his veins as he raised the knife.
It was fear, not excitement, driving him. This…wasn’t right.
He was now the victim on the floor, struggling against the hand around his throat.
He noticed with dismay that the portal had closed.
Of The Day
By Giovanna J. Fuller
The calla lilies in her bouquet were beautiful. She picked at the baby’s breath that surrounded the big, white flowers. Just behind her the party carried on. It would go on late into the night with or without her. The bride and groom would kiss and feed each other cake while she stood there with her feet in the ocean, letting the tide pull the sand out from under her.
“You’re next.” The one of the old ladies had said to her with a smile.
A couple tears fell down her cheeks into the water. Happy and sad.
Her friend was married to the love of her life.
She was alone with not even someone to escort her to the event.
“Are you alright?”
She jumped and nearly fell into the water. The voice had come from only a yard or so out in the water. A head had popped out from under the surface and was staring up at her. His hair was long and floated on the surface, moving with each subtle roll of the tide.
“Are you alright?” He repeated himself.
“Yes…” She took an instinctive step out.
“You were crying.”
She took another step. “My friend just got married.”
“And that makes you sad?”
“No,” another step, “I mean, I’m not completely sad.”
“Then you are partly sad.”
“I guess.” Another step.
He raised slightly out of the water. “Then what makes you sad?”
“I’m…lonely…” Another step.
“Lonely…” He gave a smile. “Then you have summoned me.”
“I summoned you?” Another step.
“Your tears,” he held out his arms, “have brought me to you.”
She hadn’t realized it, but she was already waist deep in the water. The ocean pulled and pushed her, but she kept walking forward. By the time he held out his arms, she fell into them.
He held her, “I have come to give you what you crave. I will be yours.”
“And what do you want in return?” She asked, staring up into his eyes the same color as the ocean in which they stood.
“You will be mine.”
A Lady and her Knight
His arrival had come to Andromea as a great surprise. She certainly hadn’t expected to find a handsome young man asking to be put into her service. She was used to people running away after two weeks of being with her. She couldn’t blame them, but she was tired of having to catch them and erase their memories after they found out.
“So you wish to be my knight?” She asked after sipping some tea. She heard how certain lords in the north had entire orders of knights, and even some of her colleagues had some; however, it boggled her why anyone would want to be her champion.
“That is correct, my lady,” He beamed in his chair, “My name is Sir Percival.”
She smiled inwardly as she thought of a couple of pet names to give him. He seemed like a child on their first day away from home. Though she wondered how long his smile would last when he–
“Also I think working for a vampire would be quite interesting.”
She nearly choked on the tea she had been drinking. How? How had he been able to–
“I had worked for a few before,” He gave a nervous laugh and pulled on his collar, revealing a few bite marks along his neck, “but they didn’t end so well.”
What? How? Who is this person? For what reason was he here in the–
“I had heard how you showed much kindness to those you drink from. I honestly wish I had heard of you much sooner. Might have saved me a few scars.”
“Oh really?, I’m so happy my reputation proceeds me.” She said as she was internally screaming at herself in order to figure this person out, ‘Well I have to say I am quite impressed for what–”
“Oh!” Percival nearly made her spill her tea, “I have one request though.”
She gave a shy laugh, “Oh really? What’s the catch?”
“I would like to court you, my lady.”
If Andromea could blush, she would have done so furiously.
Eldritch contracts are exactly like you imagined
By Larissa (Lari B Haven)
The High Priest lays down the ancient scrolls on the table.
Laura Ashens is walking back and forth in the dusty temple, needing to consult the possibility of the Ancients breaching the contract at the last minute.
“Did anybody clean this place? It’s a mess, for heaven’s sake!”
“Here is the scroll of the original deal signed a hundred and eight years ago.” says the priest, coughing and reciting. “As the law keeper between the world I…”
“Read the damn thing, you moron! I don’t pay you to be ominous!”
“Mrs. Ashens, you barely pay me as a lawyer and priest!” He responds, rolling his eyes and putting the magnifying glass over the frail piece of paper. “Let me at least keep the solemnity…”
She had already failed to bring the Gatekeeper to her reality by botching the last sacrifice. Without him, she couldn’t wake the Eldest Ancient, and if he was not awoken, the warning they gave in 1957 would look like child’s play.
“Oh, here!” He points to the tiny red letters hidden in the end. “It says that another cataclysmic punishment will hit the city if the sacrifices fail, but you have wiggle room to fix it before the next contract renewal. You just need to perform another sacrifice in time for the awakening.”
“Well, that’s reasonable, four months from now…”
“But…” The High priest gives her a yellow smile.
“But what, High Priest?”
“It needs to be ten people from each of the contractor’s bloodline. You know the City’s founder families… Or else they will wipe Diemount and pass the invocation duties to another town.”
“FOR HELL’S MERCY!” Laura screams at the priest. “We don’t have ten people to sacrifice at hand! Birthing people takes time!”
She thought hard, biting her nails and walking back and forth.
“We need to find a loophole!” she says nervously.“We can’t just lose the whole city of Diemount for a technicality!”
“I suggest you kill those people and negotiate this clause next time, Mrs. Ashens.” He shrugged.
“If we have the next time.” She agrees.
A Mutually Beneficial Agreement (Corespace Universe)
By Calliope Rannis
With a blinding pulse of white light, they both materialised. The man immediately gasped for breath, clutching his forehead. The woman wasn’t impressed.
“Stop being so dramatic, Drey. You’re fine, just like I said.”
Drey shuddered. “Sure, WE are fine. We’re the ones on the other side of the teleport. But Arlay, our original selves were disintegrated…”
“Our original bodies. Our selves are right here, aren’t they?” Arlay sighed, and pulled him into the shadowed room, where a raised platform stood. On it, what they had come for was just…lying there. A Warptrace Jammer, needed to hide right under Intergalactic Law’s noses.
“Should we take i-” Drey said.
“No. Not so easily.” Arlay looked up. “What’s the price? Uh…my lord?”
And from the walls, boomed the metallic voice of the Void Lord of X-Cluster 327. “The Price Is Simple. If You Take This Jammer, I Will Let You Teleport Back. But From That Moment On, You Belong To Me.”
“Your Body, Your Mind, Your Freedoms. Once You Teleport Away.”
“How will you…do that?”
“I Won’t ‘Do’ Anything. I Will Not Track Or Pursue Your Ship. You Can Fly It Wherever You Please.”
Arlay was bemused. “So you will own us – but you won’t do anything to follow us? Or expect us to return to you?”
Arlay smiled. “Well! I accept then!” She snatched the Jammer off the altar.
“I really don’t think this is a good ideaaa-” But she was already dragging Drey onwards.
Turning back, Arlay cheekily exclaimed “Beam us up-”
A flash of light.
“-Scotty!……?” Nothing had changed. They were still in the Starship. “Ummm, hello? You didn’t teleport us!” She said, fear creeping into her voice.
“Oh, But I Did. In Fact, I Detect Your Ship Leaving Already. It’s Almost Like You Two Didn’t Trust Me.” A grinding chuckle echoed in the depths. “I Did Not Lie. I Just Disabled The Teleporter’s Disintegration Protocol.”
“No…nonononono OH GOD NO-” Arlay clutched her forehead as Drey started to weep.
“This Way, You Get What You Want. And I, Get What I Want.”
The Puzzle Cube
Nabiki spun one of the planes on the puzzle cube she held in her hands. She had been slowly trying to solve it, bit by bit, every day since it activated. Her motivation to get it solved was relentless.
“Hey,” said a man’s voice.
Nabiki barely looked up to see a man with extremely close-cropped hair emerge from a dimensional rift that appeared in her room. A sour frown crossed her face.
“Fuck off!” she retorted.
Derek sat down on the bed in front of her. “Nabiki, we need to talk.”
“Why?” She continued to rotate planes on the cube.
“Are you sure you know what you’re doing with that?”
Nabiki lifted her head. “Yeah. It’s a cosmic device. If I can solve this thing, I can get to wish for whatever I want.”
“With the caveat that it will cost you something in turn,” Derek amended.
Nabiki kept turning planes in the puzzle cube.
“We need to talk about your wish,” Derek said resignedly.
“No we don’t.” She rested the cube on the side of her bed. “I don’t care if you’re my writer. You don’t control me. I’m still going to do this.”
Derek frowned. “Don’t you understand? If you kill me, you’ll be dooming your entire universe to oblivion! That’s the catch!”
Nabiki nonchalantly picked the cube up and twisted another plane into position. “I know.”
“You really hate me that much?”
Nabiki glanced up again. “Yes! You ruined my life! You and your friends have ruined all our lives! For your stupid story! I do hate you!” Her shouts were primal, blazing with the figurative heat of her rage.
“You’re willing to end the existence of everyone you know and love, just for revenge?”
Nabiki sneered. “We shouldn’t exist this way. I’m not doing this for me. I’m doing this for all the Nabikis that you haven’t hurt yet.” She put the cube back down on the bed beside her, then turned and grabbed her bass guitar. “Now get the fuck out of my room, before I bash your brains in.”
“Do Your Research”
by Carrie (Glaceon373)
Nakashath was relaxing on a couch of seaweed snacking on chips when a familiar vibration filled the underwater room. With a grumble, he sat up and murmured the answering charm at the mirror in the corner. It blackened, then cleared, revealing a young woman standing in a mortal living room, wearing glasses and holding a notebook.
“Is this Nakashath, Lord of the Seas?” she asked.
“Speaking,” Nakashath grumbled as he drifted towards the mirror. He hoped its magic made him look more intimidating and less like someone who just got up from eating chips. “And what mortal wishes to speak with me?”
“I’m Sasha Greenfield, just another mortal, really. I’m contacting you to inquire about your pact.”
“Really?” Nakashath adjusted his crown. It had been nearly forty years since anyone wanted him as a patron. “Hold on, I’ll prepare the ritual—”
“That’s not what I meant,” Sasha interrupted. “I’m just looking for the details.”
“Details. Any and all conditions of the pact, positive and negative. You’re the seventh patron I’ve contacted today.”
“You…actually want the specifics?”
“Of course! I thought everyone would, before signing their life away.”
“You’d figure.” Nakashath straightened his shoulders. “Anyways. I don’t take your soul. Instead, you wear the Chain of Tides around your neck.” He conjured a length of wrought iron chain and held it up. “You can’t take it off, but it’s a loose fit and quite comfortable. It lets you influence water, tides, stuff like that.”
“And the catch? All patrons have one.” Sasha’s pen moved across the notebook at a shocking pace.
“Well…” Nakashath pondered. “It’s case-by-case, really. I might ask you to stop pirates, or maybe raid shipwrecks. Did I mention you get gills on contact with water? Sorry, this is a first for me. No one’s actually ASKED before, y’know?”
“It’s no problem,” Sasha set down her pen. “If that’s all, then I’ll contact you again if I choose you as my patron. I’ve still got ten more to contact. Thank you for your time, Lord Nakashath.” The mirror blackened again.
“Huh.” Nakashath returned to his bag of chips.