Writing Group: For Home and Hearth

Hello, Patriarchs and Matriarchs!

Family is really important, isn’t it? I know some people don’t get along with their blood relatives well, but family is more than just those related by blood. We can build families too. Say, I think it’s time we know what you would do for your family, because…

This week’s Writing Group prompt is:

For Home and Hearth

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!

Ah, a prompt perfect for the holidays! Nothing like being home with loved ones, cozying up next to the fireplace with cocoa in hand and love in the air.

While that is certainly one way to write about this prompt, there’s more to it than that.

The phrase “home and hearth” refers to warmth, security, and family, the “hearth” part specifically referring to a fireplace and the area around it. The hearth is associated with home and family because, throughout history, it was the main source of heat in the home, and was also where the cooking was done. This could be explored in lots of different ways. For example, perhaps you choose to write about a parent that has to regularly go out hunting to provide food for their spouse and children, as they live in a small, isolated log cabin in the middle of the woods. Maybe you decide to join the loud and ebullient laughter echoing from the mead hall, the villagers all gathered together to share in a warm feast, strong drink, and merry bliss. Perhaps you join a family that, even with today’s technology of stoves, has a yuletide tradition of cooking in their fireplace, of bringing their family all around this central source of warmth and light.

Another way to look at this is to see what one would do for the notion of family and home. Perhaps a small village is plagued by some beast in the woods, and to protect their home, the fathers all band together to hunt whatever creature is terrorizing they’re normally happy and joyous little hamlet. Maybe a wandering stranger stumbles across a rundown, abandoned cabin, and decides to fix it up to settle down and give themselves a place to call home at last. Or maybe it’s as simple as a family just gathering for Christmas dinner, everyone pitching in for their annual potluck. 

Whatever the case may be, the warm fuzzies will be bountiful with this prompt for sure! 

So settle by the fire, get your warm beverage of choice, and bring us together with your stories.

—Shawna

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 Saturday at 3:00pm 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! Get ready not just to share what you’ve got, but to give back to the other writers here as well.

Rules and Guidelines

We read at least four stories during each stream, two of which come from the public post, and two 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. Use two paragraph breaks between each paragraph so that they have a proper space between them (press “enter” or “return” twice).
    6. 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.
    7. 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. Be constructive and uplifting. These submissions are not for a professional market, and shouldn’t be treated as such. We do this, first and foremost, for the joy of the craft. Help other writers to feel like their work is valuable, and be considerate and gentle with critique when you offer it. Authors who leave particularly abrasive or disheartening remarks on this post will be disqualified from selection for readings.
    6. 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).
    7. 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.
    8. 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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NictheWriter
NictheWriter
5 months ago

A Christmas Short

“Come on Nick,” said Veladinsa the Poodle as she ran through the snow. Paw tracks covered her every move. “Alright slow down I’m coming as fast as I can,” Nick said with his big dark blue winter coat and heavy snow boots walking through the deep snow. “Well hurry up! Faster! Our reservation is set so we can’t be late,” she said in a peeved tone. “Okay. Sorry. Geez” said Nick “I didn’t want to do this you know. I was having a lot more fun hanging out with our friends at the tavern!” he echoed

After a few minutes of huffing and puffing, walking through the snow, they made it to the restaurant. “This is it,” said Veladinsa excitedly like a kid in a candy store standing outside the restaurant.

“So, this is the restaurant everyone was talking about?” Nick asked.

“Yup,” she said, “This is Earl’s Cooking, the best 5-star restaurant in town”.

“You mean the best 5-star restaurant on the server, “said Nick

“Yes…” said Veladinsa “But this restaurant has the finest quinze,” she said. “Everyone says that his food is known for tasting just like home”. Veladinsa then started to imagine what the Holiday food would be and taste like. “Warm Apple and Peach Pie Mix”, “Bert’s Hot Chocolate Supreme, Warm Cinnamon Eggnog, Santa’s Milk, Earl’s Christmas Cookies, Pull-Apart Christmas Tree with Blood Sauce, Grilled Herb Chicken Wings, all types of warm pasta, Salad, and Sandwiches!” said Veladinsa with her mouth-watering from all the delicious food, treats, and beverages she listed so far.

“Yeah, but I still can’t believe that a dungeon beast could become a five stared chef and have his restaurant chain take hold all around the world,” Nick said

“Me neither, but let’s go sit by the fireplace inside and have a nice dinner,” said Veladinsa

“Alright I’m ready ‘cause I am starving,” said Nick desperate to eat
Nick and Veladinsa then walked up to the front door the get their reservations in but….

“They’re closed?!” said Veladinsa enraged

“Welp, back to the Minecraft Tavern we go,” said Nick dragging Veladinsa by the collar back the way they came.

“Noooooooooooo!!!!!” screamed and cried Veladinsa as she was dragged off into the cold night to a drunken hardcore place

Last edited 5 months ago by NictheWriter
Wingman
Wingman
5 months ago

The Quarry
By Wingman

The roar of engines is a constant but distant din in my ears as we move through the trees. My arms are weighted down by the blade in my hands. I hear shouts from the right and turn to look, but the tree limbs are too thick for me to make out what the other men had come across. I glance back at my troops, each clinging tightly to the tools they had been given. We trudge forward, noses down against the sharp winter wind whipping through the narrow path we follow.

We pass by another regiment of troops, standing over their subdued quarry. A quick glance shows evidence of a short fight as they are all in good spirits. A good sign for us. One of the troops points ahead in hope that our own target may be there; however, the regiment dissents as we come upon it. Maybe further up the hill we would be able to sight it. The height should give us an advantage.

“There it is!” yells my most senior troop. The whole regiment swarms the target and takes it down. The screaming could probably be heard from the next valley over with how it rang in my ears. Grins spread on the entire group’s faces as we drag our own quarry down the path we had traversed. It’s a relief to make it back to the base of the hill. The wind feels softer here and I leave the team with our quarry as I go to speak with the overseer.

With a short exchange and a shake of hands he helps my team load the quarry atop the car. It will be the perfect tree for the season. I nod a thanks as my regiment of children get buckled and chorus an overlapping “Merry Christmas!”

Timberwolf
Timberwolf
5 months ago

Long Way Home
by Timberwolf

Here she was, back with her parents. Hanna had come to her parents’ house to celebrate Christmas. Back in september Hanna had started going to college far enough away that she moved out, and now she was back after only a few months. In her childhood home. But it didn’t really feel like home anymore, not since the months she spent away. Something had changed. SHE had changed.

It felt oppressive, like it was choking her. Hanna felt stifled. She felt alone. The friends Hanna had made knew her, and they gave her a sense of freedom and happiness. A freedom that Hanna now missed dearly around her parents. Her younger brother would come the day after, and as much as Hanna loved him, he too didn’t know her as well as her college friends.

She felt at wit’s end. Hanna wasn’t sure if she could enjoy the holidays with her parents like this. If she could make the house she grew up in feel like home again. Make herself feel safe around her parents again. This wasn’t something she could blame on her parents as they weren’t at fault and neither could she blame her time away. Hanna knew it wasn’t anyone’s fault, and that made it all the more difficult.

Hanna knew what she had to do, but she wasn’t sure if she’d ever find the courage. This wasn’t the Christmas present she wanted her parents to ever have, but she had to tell them. She just couldn’t live like this, hiding it away from them. So Hanna gathered up what little courage she did have and slowly made her way down the stairs.

Her parents were on the couch, watching whatever was on the television as she shuffled into the living room, heart pounding in her throat.

“Mom? Dad?” Hanna asked.

Dad turned his head, “What is it, Henry?”

“I…” Hanna stuttered, “I’d prefer it if you called me Hanna instead…”

When she finally dared to look up, she saw it. Compassion.

“Oh, honey…”

Then came the tears.

Lunabear
Lunabear
5 months ago

To Refuse A God…
by Lunabear (CW: Offering of sexual favors and male nakedness)

Delicthicus fights his way through the humid terrain. He cuts a path through his foes until none remain. He shambles into a clearing and breathes a heady sigh of relief.

The high sun reflects a deep pool connected to a waterfall. Delicthicus drops his sullied sword with a heavy clang, his worn armor soon following.

Stripped bare, he untangles his long chestnut braid and sinks into the tepid depths. The water licks at his wounds, and he rests his head back on another sigh.

“What a gorgeous specimen,” a disembodied voice purrs.

Delicthicus stiffens, reaching for his sword while searching for the source. He notices, with dismay, that his weapon and armor are gone.

The waterfall parts to reveal a fair-haired beauty. Emerald and sky blue eyes twinkle humorously. The hair trails down rippling shoulders and across a broad chest. A fine mist covers the rest.

Delicthicus blinks owlishly. A flush kisses his cheeks.

“I am Amorandios.” His eyes narrow. “Don’t you know it is impolite to approach a deity without SOME sort of offering?”

Delicthicus scowls and rises proudly. “Make me, Immortal!”

Amorandios steps into the pool, anger in his stride. “You come into MY sanctuary, scattering bodies and blood, taint my waters, and you have NOTHING to offer??” He fists his hips. “Honestly! You beasts are SO uncouth!”

“I would offer my blade, had you not stolen it!”

Amorandios’s eyes soften. “Such fire! Perhaps…” He circles Delicthicus, hands squeezing his shoulders. “Tell me, warrior: what is your name? Your desires?”

“I am Delicthicus.” His hazel eyes harden. “I wish to belong…among my family. To earn my place.”

Amorandios roughly tugs Delicthicus’s hair before locking eyes. “And this is why you fight, yes?”

Delicthicus nods, snatching his hair back.

“Perhaps there IS an offering you can make. Directly. In exchange, I’ll give you glory beyond your imaginings.”

Delicthicus blushes furiously. “I–” He shakes his head. “With anyone…”

“Awww. If you agree, I shall take my time. You have my word, Delicthicus.” He crosses his heart.

Delicthicus bites his lips, meeting earnest eyes. He breathes deeply, preparing to speak…

Last edited 5 months ago by Lunabear
Alan Baker
5 months ago

A letter to a lost sheep
By Alan Baker

Dearest Aysun,

I hope this letter reaches you well, wherever you are on your journey.

So many years have passed since we parted ways, but the memories of your presence still bring warmth to my heart. The way you smiled, so full of joy and faith. The way we’d pray together as you fell asleep. The way we’d share our sorrows by the lake.

Even when I saw you drifting away, I hoped you’d return one day. I leave a space for you at the table, hoping, praying for you to come home.

I know why you left, the unanswered questions, the growing void between your world and mine. But I want you to know that whatever happens, wherever you are, I am here when you need me. Call me at night, and I will answer. Knock on my door at dusk, and I will open. Cry my name at dawn, and I shall not delay. When the sun is high or the night is cold, I will carry your burden with you. Just let me in.

Everyone has their broken features, but they don’t mean you leave the fight. Ask my people with an open heart, and you will find that their struggles ring as yours. Tho different they may seem at first, a common source you may discover, a fight so old it predates time.

Even if you will not see my face, I wish you well and hope you know my love for you will never die. Know that my home is always open, and my grace will take you in.

Awaiting your return with open arms,
Kendani Hosk

Jennifer L Vanderputten
Jennifer L Vanderputten
5 months ago

The Promise
By Jen Vanderputten

Evelyn trudged through the snow. A year ago, she would have bounded from the log pile to the front door, each step moving her closer to Aedan’s weekly visit. Now, the bundles of firewood burdened her arms. She’d made a promise, but it was harder to keep with every passing week.

Evelyn entered her small house, closed the door, and dumped the logs onto the hearth. She knelt in front of the cold stone and worked by rote, laying kindling and fatwood under the iron grate, piling logs on top of it. Within an hour the fire crackled, and she stared through it. A year ago, she wished she could touch Aedan. Now, she would give anything to see him again, his half-transparent image floating behind the flames, the back wall of the fireplace replaced with the image of his room.

She closed her eyes and replayed their last conversation. Aedan’s brown eyes stared at her through the flames, and his gentle smile warmed her.

“I need you to do something for me, Evelyn.”

“What?”

“I need you to light the fire every week, just like you’ve done for the past year, even though you won’t see me through it anymore.”

“Why?! Aedan, please don’t leave me, you’re all I have.”

“You’ll see me again. Have faith. Will you light the fire? Will you make this promise?”

“But, when will I see you again?”

“I cannot say, but if you keep your promise, it will happen.”

She’d cried and argued, but in the end, she’d agreed.

One year, and not a single sign of him.

She buried her face in her hands. Her shoulders shook.

“Evelyn?”

Her head whipped up. She peered into the fire, but the bricks remained bricks, and Aedan’s face was not there.

“I’m glad you kept your promise.”

She froze. The voice was behind her.

She turned, still on her knees, and looked up.

Aedan reached toward her, no longer transparent. He leaned over, and her trembling hands curled into his. His arms lifted her and wrapped around her as she fell onto his chest.

Adrian Solorio
Adrian Solorio
5 months ago

The Message
By Adrian Solorio

When the passenger noticed the driver studying him in the rearview mirror, he grinned, skull like. And once again, the driver wished he hadn’t picked him up. The passenger, an older man, looked timeworn, ancient even. His suit was thin, frayed, and without color, like it’d been worn every day for the past few decades. Deep grooves were etched around his mouth, and engraved around his eyes, and his eyes burned with a yearning intensity, as though searching for something lost long ago. Yet despite his moth-eaten appearance, he smelled good, of spice, mint, and sandalwood.

Finally, the passenger asked, “Shouldn’t you be at home with your family, young man?”

“I wish,” Martin said. “I gotta work, or there ain’t no Christmas for us.” He switched lanes and fell in behind a truck. “What about you? You got me drivin’ nowhere. Don’t you need to be somewhere?”

“Name’s Henry Taylor.” Henry stared out the window. “The only place I need to be is here.”

“But, you got me drivin’ in circles. The meter’s running, and I can’t be drivin’ all night if you ain’t got no money—I mean, you got money—right?”

“When I was still around,” Henry said, “I never spent enough time with my family. Never got over it. Went after money—but the money was a curse.”

Martin shook his head. Ahead, the traffic light was yellow, and he slowed to a stop. “Well, times are tough, don’t you know? This is my second job—neither one pay’s enough. Besides, I got a girl. Never been able to buy her anything nice. This year I want to get her something nice—a necklace—maybe.”

“It’s Christmas Eve. What Paloma wants more than a necklace is you at home with her right now.”

“How did you know—who are you?” Martin’s head whipped around. But Henry had vanished. Martin pulled over and searched the backseat, but the only thing he found was an old black and white picture of Henry, wearing the same suit, standing next to a woman holding a baby. At the bottom corner was an inscription:

Taylor Family: December 24th, 1922.

Last edited 5 months ago by Adrian Solorio
Quetzalcoatl
Quetzalcoatl
5 months ago

The Stone
By Quetzalcoatl

It was a grey day, when the rain hugged the morning dew, that the mother has not woken up. The little bear cub right by her side could not understand what had happened. The cub just kept wailing and weeping, poking her mother with his nose. But she still did not move. Only a faint smell of warmth remained. The long thorn that was stuck in her mother´s side grossed her out. The stone, which she laid upon, was soaked in red. The little cub has stopped by now, only quietly whimpering on its own. She soon became hungry, and as she had no other choice, she left the homely cave in search of food. She won´t come back tonight.

Quite some time has passed and the little cub of once has turned into a fully grown bear. Now she was no longer afraid of steep waters, of the mean fishes knocking her over while standing in the wild river. She knew which berries she had to eat without feeling sick afterwards, which plants would soothe the pain of her wounds, where to find game. She learned, which animals are friendly and which to better not mess with. The meddlesome jays, always warning her from dangers, the annoying hedgehogs, who´ll only hurt you if you try to play with them. There were a lot of things, she learned from her mother, but far more, that she did not. Now she has her own cub, she´s got to teach and it sure wasn´t easy. But in the end they all grew up to be proud little bears, when the time for them to leave has finally come. Many seasons have passed this way, peacefully. Occasionally, she´d give the strange hairless bears that came to her territory a good fright, but nothing eventful happened. Only life.

Then came the day, after her thirty-third winter has passed, and the forest just began to bloom, when she felt, that her time has come. And she decided to make one final journey.

It was already late at night when she found the cave. Far too many memories have held her up along the way. But now she was here, at the place she has left so many years ago. Her mother was no longer here, but the stone was miraculously still red. The old bear remembered being a little cub, how big the cave has been. How big the stone her mother had rested on was and how small it seemed, as she herself laid upon it. She still smelled her mother scent, and the stone still emanated her warmth. As she slowly closed her eyes for the last time, a single thought occurred to her.

“I have returned.”

Last edited 5 months ago by Quetzalcoatl
Mysten Noire
Mysten Noire
5 months ago

Three Rules (Broken)
by Mysten Noire Silver

The forest had always seemed dark, mysterious, and dangerous. Without knowing anything, I had always obeyed the three rules my grandmother gave me.

The first was to never, EVER enter the shadows of the forest alone.

As I ran into the shadows, I gasped in both fear and shame. Nevertheless, I ran as fast as I could into the forest and away from the small cottage I lived my whole life in. The night was cold, but I sweated from the thick and heavy winter clothes. Although snow had not quite fallen yet, the temperature had. I stopped myself from lamenting as I desperately maneuvered through the unfamiliar trees, looking for marks on their bark.

The second rule… Always follow the carved arrows home.

When I finally found one of the marks, I wiped the foliage away and glanced at it. It was pointing almost directly behind me so I… kept running in the opposite direction of the mark and away from home.

I felt my tears cooling and stinging my eyes. I wiped them away and ran with ragged breaths. The forest floor was familiarly unfamiliar and I navigated my way through them with both ease and urgency.

When I heard a crackle behind me, I quickly took an arrow from my quiver, nocked it, and aimed behind me. I tried to ignore the bright sea of flames and scurrying shadows as I accurately pointed at the closest target and shot the arrow. The slick sound of flesh being shot by my arrows felt extra loud and I let a sob leave me. Still, I resolutely turned back around and kept running.

I went deeper and deeper, trying in vain to focus on running instead of what had happened to my home, or my grandmother. I kept running in the opposite direction of the marks, but it was taking longer and longer before the next one.

The last rule… In emergencies, always listen to grandmother…

That rule… it’d be impossible to obey it ever again.

I felt colder than ever but didn’t let any more tears fall.

Makokam
5 months ago

Something For the Mantel (Chronicles of The Dragon)
By Makokam

Jostica stepped out of the cab and looked up at her family home.

As she grabbed her luggage, she sent her voice to her Mother with a twitch of her fingers, “Come open the door.”

As she carried her bags up to the door, it opened and her Mom stepped out. “Oh sweetie, you’re early!”

Mother and Daughter embraced before heading inside.

Other family would be coming, but for now it was just Jostica and her parents. She enjoyed seeing them more than she thought she would, even if it’d been over a year since she’d left.

They sat drinking eggnog and her Father winked and said, “Don’t tell anyone,” as he poured rum into hers.

She couldn’t help the smirk on her face. “Sorry to disappoint, but this isn’t my first.”

“Oh?” he said, looking slightly disappointed.

“There were a couple rough fights where everyone came home and we passed around a bottle to help settle the nerves.”

He nodded. “I shouldn’t be surprised.” He added more rum before handing it her. He raised his own glass. “To the new hero.”

Jostica and her mother raised theirs and drank.

“We wish you could have come back last year,” her Mother said.

“Last year was really busy. And I’d just found Jonathan, so I wanted to spend the holidays with him if I could.”

Her Dad looked away, while her Mother huffed and set her drink down. “I thought we talked about this. That man you met isn’t your Brother. Not anymore.”

Jostica’s fingers tightened around her glass. “He is my Brother. He’s the same person I’ve always known.”

“That man is a killer. A monster. I saw what he is. If you don’t believe me go look up the footage of-”

“I’ve seen it!” She held her tongue for a moment. “I’ve seen it in person.” She went to her bags and pulled out a present. She tore the wrapping off and tossed it to her Mother, who looked down at a selfie of Jostica on top of a building, smiling widely…with her arms around Jonathan.

Last edited 5 months ago by Makokam
Tamela Redfin
Tamela Redfin
5 months ago

Sister of Evil
By: Tamela Redfin

I quickly reported to Chlorine Keith. I heard rumors if you didn’t obey Sulfur Cora, she’d put her hobnailed boots to good use.

Luckily, Chlorine Keith was nicer. “Hello Chlorine Keely. What seems to be wrong?”

“Your sister took something I was working on. It was a secret project and I…”

“I have three sisters.. Oh… Cora you mean?” He looked down.

I nodded. “Yes, I mean her. Why is she so harsh?”

He shrugged, “Always was.”

We paused as a third person entered. “Keely! Keith! Hello!”

Chlorine Keith dipped his head to his youngest sister. “Hello Mercury Helen. What brings you by?”

“I wasn’t interested in watching my husband Maxwell flirt with my own sister.”

Chlorine Keith hugged Mercury Helen. I slowly joined them. How could someone hurt their family like this? It made me think about my little brother. I had to help Cam.

“Uh thanks.” Mercury Helen smiled slightly, then looked at me. “Are you okay, Chlorine Keely?”

I shook my head and explained about Aspasia and the deal I had to protect my brother. “I need that arm.”

“I’ll get it.” Mercury Helen vowed. “I’ll tell Maxwell that his underling Phosphorus Cameron needs it and it was an order from Adler.”

“Thanks so much, Mercury Helen.” I smiled.

“You deserve a functional family.” Mercury Helen replied, This really made me want to speak with Cam.

***

After some hard work for the day, I called Cameron. “Hi Cam.”

“Keely, how are you?”
“Could be better. How’s the dimension traveling? Ada and Gilbert told me the truth.”

“But I…”

“It’s okay, Cameron. I’m confused, but you’re still my little brother, no matter where you’re from.”

ThatWeirdFish
ThatWeirdFish
5 months ago

The Last Soldier (Tales from Alsuria) [Repost from private]
By ThatWeirdFish

Benjamin shuffled awkwardly away from his unit’s bonfire as their beer made their boasting louder. He didn’t need to know how many women they had bedded… As he made his way back up the beach, he noticed the one they called the “Red Vet” sitting by himself next to a small fire. Curiosity drew the cadet closer to the copper-skinned alien.

“Hey… uh… okay if I join you?” Benjamin said, fiddling with his rifle’s strap.

Though his golden eyes were neutral as they locked onto Benjamin’s, the veteran nodded.

“Thanks, the gossip was getting to me.” Benjamin sat down on the stump across from him and set his rifle across his knees. “So… where are you from?”

The veteran said nothing as his tail flicked in the beach grass.

“Ah… do you speak common?”

Silence.

“But you understand it, right?” Benjamin cleared his throat as the veteran narrowed his eyes. “O-obviously… sorry…” His fingers drummed on his rifle barrel as he tried to come up with some way to recover from that.

The veteran’s gaze shifted from the young man to the fire between them. He then broke a nearby branch and added it to the fire. The bawdy cheering from Benjamin’s unit drowned out the popping of fresh sparks.

“I joined because my twin brother signed up,” Benjamin started after the silence became unbearable. “We were always trying to outdo each other. I bet he’s jealous that I got a planetside assignment. Why are you here?”

After studying Benjamin’s eyes for a moment, the veteran pulled out a notebook and pen from his pocket. He then wrote something down, tore out the page, and handed it to the young man. Benjamin was surprised to find it written in perfect common:

War destroyed my people and land. I fight so that others may not find the same fate.

“That’s very noble and… I’m sorry,” Benjamin dropped his gaze to the fire. “I… always wondered why you were the only one….”

The veteran shrugged with a hint of a sad smile.

Lantis Armstrong
Lantis Armstrong
5 months ago

A Survivor
By Lantis Armstrong

Alex alone had awoken at the break of dawn on Christmas Eve, the beautifully bleak overcast day greeting him as he’d thrown open the window and called back towards his bed, “Emily, get up! You promised you’d join us today!”

All day the frail and aging father prepared for his family to gather around the fireplace to celebrate this most joyous of seasons by sitting down together and just enjoying one another’s company.

Chopping firewood and stoking the fire by hand as he did in his youth, letting the nostalgia of the moment wash over him, he really did feel like he’d gone back in time to happier days.

Knocking on his daughter’s door, he called to her, “Julia! It’s nearly dark, are you ever coming out of your room?” He just wanted her to see how hauntingly pretty the dancing flames were as they caused shadows to dance across the living room, making the whole house look alive for the first time in far too long.

Far, far too long.

Alex could almost imagine he heard Julia calling out his name as he walked quickly back towards the living room to finish preparing everyone’s hot cocoa. His lip quivered as he smiled at that thought.

Lifting Emily and Julia’s mugs from the dusty cupboard, he poured the steaming rich brew into them and carried them swiftly towards the hearth, his footsteps echoing far too loudly in the otherwise deafeningly quiet house; the eerie silence finally broken by the crackling fire as he drew near it. The familiar sound of the fire swelling in the room helped his hands stop shaking as he placed the cups down where his wife and daughter would always sit.

Taking his own seat, Alex looked towards the fire and smiled. His chest heaved, and he closed his eyes for a moment, taking a long, deep breath, and then slowly exhaling.

“Don’t be too much longer!” he called out, “your hot cocoa will get cold!”

His family would join him soon, he told himself. He would be so happy then.

MacBoiZen
MacBoiZen
5 months ago

Step Up (Alchemy’s Kin Universe)
By MacBoiZen

“Ya know, we coulda just used the stairs.”

The young man chuckled, walking on the edge of the multi-story office building like it was a sidewalk curb. Malik tried to regain his breath after the rather abrupt flight to the roof stole it from him. “Calais, I get it. You got air powers. Doesn’t mean you gotta show ‘em off all the time.”

“Hey, quickest way up,” he said with a smirk.

“Whatever, man,” Malik replied, dusting the gravel off his jacket. “But hey, that was a damn good speech you gave. Nice intro to the city. I bet everyone from our block was cheerin’ the whole time.”

His friend rolled his eyes. “C’mon, dude, it wasn’t that great. I was just acting for the cameras.”

“I’m bein’ serious,” he said, peering over the half-wall to the metropolis roads beneath them. Calais floated over and sat next to him, tapping his white sneakers against the stone. “I mean, look right there.”

He peered down at where Malik was pointing. He thought he could make out a small crowd in the street below, maybe a few camera flashes as well. They sounded excited from the little shouts he could discern. The faint sound of car horns could also be heard, likely from the disgruntled drivers having to maneuver around the human traffic.

A small smile crept onto his face.

“Whole lotta guys from our part of the city don’t get to come up and be a hero like you.” he continued. “After everything you did for our community, you’re a role model to those people, I’d say.”

“I was just tryna protect our neighborhood, that’s all,” Calais said. “Wasn’t about to let more people get hurt with the powers I have.”

“I think that’s why you got the job, ya dork. If you’d do anything for our home, governor must think you’ll do the same here too.” Malik nudged him with his elbow.

The retaliatory gust of air sent him back onto the gravel again.

“Well, I’ll try my best.” Calais laughed.

Karl Aegnor
Karl Aegnor
5 months ago

Backyards and Basilisks

By Karl Aegnor

All was not well in the Kingdom of Tyriel. With war raging, their allies in the Northern Kingdom were vitally important. Allies that had been cut off by the ruthless Black Claw mercenaries seizing the mountain pass. The King had sent eleven knights. None had returned. Fortunately, his majesty had not sent his best. Until now. Sir Andrew smiled as he made his way up the rocky path, if what he heard about these ruffians was true, this should be fun.

The ground leveled out, and rocky walls began to encroach on either side. Sir Andrew was sure to keep his sword and shield at the ready, you never knew when you may be walking into an ambush. As if on cue, an arrow streaked passed the knight. In front of him were four archers, and between them a towering figure, wielding a wicked great-sword and dressed in black plate mail. The figure spoke: “How amusing, it seems the King has sent another court jester to dance for us.”

Sir Andrew responded amidst the mercenary’s jeering laughter, “Silence, cur! I am Sir Andrew the Golden, and I come to bring justice upon you!”

The figure strode forward, “Fight me then, but know that you shall die begging for mercy, just as the sniveling cowards sent before you.” This insult was too much, the knight unleashed his righteous wrath with a mighty swing of his blade, and his foe struck downwards to meet it. Steel clashed, and Sir Andrew’s blade snapped in two.

***

Andy gazed, aghast, at the shattered stick before him. Looking up at his brother, he fumbled out a question, “W-what is Sir Andrew supposed to do now?”

The older boy was just as shocked. “Well, that wasn’t supposed to happen. Here, let’s see if we can find you another stick, I’ll try to be more careful in -”

A voice from the house cut him off, “Boys, the food’s almost ready!”

The brothers looked at each other for a moment before heading in that direction. It seemed the quest would have to wait until after dinner.

Robin Graves
Robin Graves
5 months ago

Left Out in the Cold
By Robin Graves

The wind blew through the trees, their branches whipping like a practiced lash. It was winter, making the fire roaring in the family room stand out all the more against the blackness of an early sunset. There was a knock at the window of a knuckle tapping cautiously. On hearing this, Adam got up from his desk, looked out into the hallway, and quietly closed his bedroom door before making his way to the window.

He peeled back the curtain, revealing the face of Dmitri huddled against the glass. “Can I come in?” asked Dmitri, a longing in his voice.

“My dad is home.” After a pause, “You know you’re not allowed here,” spoken with eyes cast downward, ashamed, embarrassed.

“You can still let me in, he doesn’t have to know.”

A harsh gust shook the curtain, draining all the warmth from the room. Adam shivered, bundling his arms tightly together, looking incredulously at his friend’s unflinching face.

“At least I think it works like that,” Dmitri continued. “Only one way to find out.” But Adam didn’t return his smile. Instead he repositioned himself, taking a wider stance and garrisoning the entry. The twinkle began to fade from Dmitri’s eyes as understanding finally crept in. “Come on, man.”

A laugh floated in from the family room. The family was huddled around the TV, watching the sitcoms that ran after dinner. Adam had excused himself from the tableau to work on his homework, knowing full well to expect this visit. It was obvious that’s why he was there in the first place. Dmitri’s face was pale in the lamp light, shining against the darkness like a lonely, dying star. His eyes flashed with a hunger Adam could feel in his bones–he wanted what he had.

“We can talk at school tomorrow.” Great boughs groaned and raked across the sky. Their two worlds faced one another through the window.

Dmitri stepped back, already bleeding into the shadows, eyes black and cold as the night. “Whatever.” In an instant he was gone, leaving Adam alone to stare out from his second-story bedroom.

Luca Bagel
Luca Bagel
5 months ago

A Father’s Conviction
by Luca Bagel

Anything for home and hearth. I would do anything to protect them, feel their warmth and in it the certainty of their happiness, their contentment and peace.

the winter’s cold, the biting chill of the snow, piercing my skin with every flake and every gust of wind which tries to topple me and yet I lean forward, my hands at my chest, gripping the tightly woven ropes, each step feeling like overcoming an insurmountable task and each breath depleting my energy ten times more than the last.

But for them, I do it gladly.

For them, their safety, I will do it till it does topple me, towers me, drains me of life and forces me to bow before it in defeat. I hope, that when that day comes, they understand what to do and will do the same for their home.

The only thing I can hope for, is for my struggle to not end prematurely.

The hue of the frozen landscape desaturates a little more with every year I endure this harsh trek.
I remember the calm blue of the ground beneath my feet and the sharp, black patterns on the birch trees. My new favourite hue is only a couple miles in front of me. It’s like a warm orange light, truly only comparable to love and the peace that comes with it.

I suppose I got too hasty then.

I feel the warmest of hugs from behind. It shakes me to my core. So much, that I can’t help but relax my arms, can’t help but smile as I see the warmest of hues right before me on the ground and even though I know it spells an early end for my journey, I can still take pride in knowing that I did everything I could up to now.

I am sure you’ll do great, my dears

I will take a rest.

Connor A.
Connor A.
5 months ago

The First to the Reunion (Sword Isles)
By Connor A.

Marcos was the first to arrive, and he dreaded it.

With Mercedes running late and Death attending an unexpected meeting with Ambrosius, he could not avoid having a direct conversation with his mother. Even then, both of them sat in a tense silence while the souls around them reminisced over their lives.

“Have you ever looked into a soul’s eyes?”

Marcos looked up at his mother. Isabel’s eyes stayed fixed on the papers sprawled out before her, yet he could not shake the feeling that she was looking at him. It was nerve wracking.

“Not directly,” he answered honestly. “Never had the chance to. Why do you ask?”

“I heard you were courting Death, so I assumed you would have had plenty of opportunities to see them.”

Marcos choked on his own breath. “Where the fuck—”

“Language.”

“Did you hear that?”

Isabel picked up her tea and took a slow sip before answering, “I have never been one to listen to rumors, but after Dara told me of a certain incident in the Magic District, I thought it wise to pay closer attention.”

“What incident?”

“The one where you cast a light spell directly into Lord Fianna’s eyes.”

“He was the one who walked into my light spell.”

Isabel finally looked up at Marcos. He froze, but when he saw a faint smirk on her face, he relaxed for the first time that evening.

“I am rather interested in what kind of individual he is,” she continued. “He must have a considerable amount of patience if he can withstand your impulsivity.”

“I’m not that bad.”

“The permanent spot in my study begs to differ, young man.”

And just like that, the two eased their way out of the tension from earlier and into something that resembled more like the conversations the souls were having. Marcos savored every moment of it, not knowing if it would continue once the others arrived.

Last edited 5 months ago by Connor A.
Calliope Rannis
Calliope Rannis
5 months ago

The End Of A Long Day (Nyssa’s Story)
By Calliope Rannis

As the sun began to set upon a golden horizon, a small house awoke to the tinkling clatter of familiar keys, and the pleasant creak of an opening door.

Gently closing the door behind her, Nyssa bustled into the living room, halting only to take off her boots and outer robes. Then she moved towards the fireplace, fluttering her fingers as she muttered an incantation, and fire sprouted from the woodpile, filling the room with a welcoming light.

Finally, she turned and collapsed backwards into a nearby cushioned chair, breathing a sigh of much-needed relief.

It had been a Day. She kinda knew it was going to be a tiring one when she had discovered multiple people at the crack of dawn, looking for her help…the last night had been a Snowtide celebration, so there had been loads of people with injuries at the hospital from drunken escapades…and then there was that horrid wagon crash in the afternoon-

Nyssa exhaled, feeling the warmth of the fire on her skin, wriggling deep into her chair. She let her hair down, allowing her white-grey curls to wash past her shoulders.

It had been a hard day, yes. But far, far from her worst.

She remembered when a mimic had almost torn her arm off.

She remembered when Alex had risen from the depths of their moonlit ship, all fur and fangs and burning wolfish eyes.

She remembered the Archdevil’s flaming whip, moments before it tore through flesh and bone.

She remembered face after face, body after body, being burned, shattered or even disintegrated by the sheer power of her magic-

Nyssa shuddered, hugging herself tight.

But then she looked away from her past. She remembered her day again – a day where people had come for her help, and she helped! A day where she had treated dozens of wounds and injuries, healed so many people that her magic was as exhausted as her body was.

She remembered their smiles, their thank-you’s, sometimes even hugs or gifts.

She remembered her day, and she smiled, her heart as warm as the fire before her.

C. M. Weller
5 months ago

Becoming Home (A Tiefling Tale/Cordelia’s Journey)
C. M. Weller

Becoming Lord Kormwind was a process, and part of that process was getting measured for his soon-to-be extensive wardrobe. Standing with his arms and legs akimbo was nothing new. Back in the Dojo, the master would make him hold two pails if Kosh had been especially mouthy. FULL pails if Kosh had hit a nerve.

“Is my lord glad to finally be home?” asked the Tailor, tape measure tracing lines around Kosh’s nearly-bare anatomy.

“Home. Hah. Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

“Yes, m’lord,” said the Tailor, diplomatically. “Expand, please.” This with the measure about his chest.

Kosh breathed in. Centering his Ki as was his habit. Then he flexed to be sure the Tailor got every possible way he could fill out a shirt. At the call of the total, he breathed out. He was not Kosh, anymore, he reminded himself. He was now and forever the Viscount Kormwind Arachis Felbourne Whitekeep, ninth of the name. And so on. As he had always been.

It would chafe, for a while, Being a Lordship. Yet it was the only place he could be secure.

*

Becoming Delia Gardener was a process. Ever since her gifts made themselves known, that process now involved learning Druidic practices so she could at least keep them from leaking everywhere. Sitting in the gardens was nothing new. Putting her bare hands into the good soil, however, was.

Blumenkrone was a good teacher, half the time. This felt like the other half.

“What am I doing again?”

“Feel the life in the soil,” he said. “Not with your senses, but your SELF.”

Huh. Clear as mud. Cordelia closed her eyes as her fingers wriggled a little. No. Not Cordelia Maripose Heartsalve Bellarin. Delia Gardener. Not-so-common maid of the inn just beginning a different thread of her life. And trying very hard not to be a disappointment, as she always had been.

Just like coming home, it fit. She could sense the living earth. It felt like… belonging.

Marx
Marx
5 months ago

All I Want For Christmas Is You
By Marx (CW: Mental Abuse)

Good girls smile. It’s what my parents taught me. It’s also what He taught me. So, when asked if I’m okay, I smile. “I’m fine, father. I just… I thought I’d never see you again. Either of you…”

Mother is crying. I suppose it’s to be expected. She must have been praying for my safe return every night. And now I’m back, on Christmas of all days. How could she not be overwhelmed? I want to cry too. But I don’t.

My tears belong to Him.

My parents get up from our dinner and hug me like I’ll vanish for another year if they don’t. It’s so… surreal. I understand what He means now. I used to feel so small in their arms. So protected. But now they just feel so human. So… mortal…

I look over the impressive spread on the table and I remember how much joy it used to bring me. But now I have a hunger none of the delicious food before me will sate.

I hug them back and my hunger grows in their close proximity. I’m only distracted when asked where I’d been. My eyes widen in excitement. “Oh, mother! The world sought to test my faith. I was brought as close to death as one could. And a savior appeared to restore my worthless life! He showed me my purpose!

“We were all born in sin. So, we must all suffer. Pain is truth. Pain is love. Pain is HIS love! And His love is as eternal as our souls.”

And what lovely souls they have. Thanks to His gifts, I can see them now. They’re like a beautiful, mouthwatering glow I can barely resist.

Even so… I’m really going to miss them. But He demands my pain. Who am I to deny His desires?

I feel His power surging through me as I feed. I hear Him laughing in my mind. He tells me to slow down. To prolong my own agony by drawing out theirs.

As they scream, he tells me to smile. And I do.

Because I’m a good girl.

RVMPLSTLTSKN
RVMPLSTLTSKN
5 months ago

Home
By RVMPLSTLTSKN

The temple is not cold, neither is the city, but Vienas can’t feel that far. The floor and walls are sticky with damp in places and temperate. An earthy scent permeates. She could smell the changing of seasons in the places where building met earth.

Since giving up her sight, she is more aware of her surroundings. The smells of vermin and food, sounds in the night and day, the feeling of the air, its humidity and storminess. She knew they lived in what was once, not so long ago, a kitchen. She had some memories of working here, a punishment and very formative experience. She couldn’t cook then and was made to clean. She couldn’t cook now and was unable to truly clean. She swept mostly, her soles mired in grit and pebbles until she had moved the broom enough to clear the floor. She almost had a technique now.

She wondered, reflecting on the memories she had of this place, her reason to stay, what Padas had done to resist the ascendant god. She knew her reasons, her duty to the temple and city, to her god. Would she have gone if she had known they all would?

She grew pensive while she swept slower and slower.

Was he simply stubborn, this quiet man from the sea? Did he have a family he stayed for? Did he simply not hear the call; was he protected by his god in a way she hadn’t been?

There was more to him than he showed. A depth to the careful, studious gaze. She had seen it once, unaware it would become her most precious memory. His low-caste red bronze skin and mop of hair. The way he looked around before stepping forward, cunning and blunt. The kindness and fear in his gaze. The way he held that divine sword, like he hated it but needed it. Not a god, especially not a war god, but just a quiet man doing the things that needed doing.

For his family? For home? Would he tell her, if she asked.

Alex
Alex
5 months ago

The great Pacification (Exile Universe)
By Alex Nightingale (aka Spectre)

Soren trudged through the mountain caves of the Great Ladder, dragging a corpse, dressed in his old armour behind himself. Every now and then, he lifted the visor to see, if the corpse still looked exactly like him. So far, the glamour was holding.

When he reached a cavern with a perfectly round pool of water, dropped the corpse and gave himself a moment to breathe, sitting on a rock, watching the waves before him.

“The number of times I’ve been up there… So many ruins.”

He grabbed the corpse and dragged it to the pool, before dropping it in, unceremoniously. He watched the figure lying in the shallow water, its legs submerged, further in. The insignia of the Silver Count were emblazoned on it, staring at him.

Accusing him.

Judging him, for fighting with the Silver Count. Naming him guilty for leaving.

He tried to push the corpse deeper into the lake, before stopping. He couldn’t afford it sinking. He wanted it to be found. He’d spent way too long and too many resources on the glamour spell to make it look like him to waste it now. Besides, he needed it.

The brooch was still visible.

“I had to,” Soren couldn’t keep it in any longer. “You… You were going too far.”

His chest felt like it was about to burst. He didn’t care that he was just shouting at some unfeeling, unthinking brooch, the symbol of what tore him apart.

“Look, I get it, okay. I understand. I read the slogans, I saw the posters. I know what you’re fighting for. Sacrifice a few homes here, so that many more can rise. But how many, eh!? How many! If you sacrifice every single home in existence, then who’s left to reap the benefits!?”

He took several deep breaths.

“I get it,” his voice was shaking and quiet again. “You’re pacifying them and I’m on board with that. Just not like this. Don’t pacify them to extinction.”

Neither the corpse, nor the brooch answered.

It took the sound of armoured footsteps behind him to finally take his leave.