Hello, Troublemakers and Goody-Two-Shoeses!
You know those little voices in your head? Some refer to them as a conscience, but others talk about a devil on your left shoulder and an angel on your right? Do you think those are real? Could you tell me about some experiences you’ve had with them, because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
The Sinner and The Saint
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!
We’ve seen it everywhere. Different genres, different stories, different times and worlds. All of which have one thing in common.
The duality of good and evil. Yin and Yang. For every light, there is a shadow. So on and so on.
But now is our chance to explore this duality ourselves, really see what the differences and similarities are between these driving forces. You could write about the classic, of course, a devil and an angel’s conflicting views on a situation. Perhaps the angel is trying to guide a soul to do the right thing, while the devil whispers in the other ear to follow temptation. But you could further break this down. Yes, the angel is guiding them to do right by expectations and what path is set for them, but maybe the devil is telling them to follow their own heart, what they themselves want to do with their life, to live in a way that they would be truly happy with. Break from the path set before them by tradition and live for themselves. Perhaps the Saint and Sinner here are a pair of twins who both love to play mischievous pranks on their family and friends, but one always blames the other and manages to get a lesser punishment for it. One is painted as good, while the other is painted as trouble, yet the roles are actually reversed.
But maybe they aren’t conflicting at all. Maybe another way to look at this is how the two sides can work together. What if the sin is simply “I’m gonna have an extra piece of pie for dessert” and then they compensate by working out a little more the next day? Or perhaps one person is viewed by many as bad and untrustworthy, but one person decides to step up and actually talk to them? The two could, against all odds set by the world around them, become best friends. They could learn one isn’t so bad, and the other isn’t as perfect as others make them seem. They feed into each other and balance each other perfectly.
They say good will triumph over evil, but without any evil to compare to, there is no real good, is there? One must exist for the other, and vice versa. Good and bad, light and dark.
Yin and Yang.
So listen to the voices whispering in your ears. Which will you listen to… or do you know of a way to make them work together?
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!
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).
- Use two paragraph breaks between each paragraph so that they have a proper space between them (press “enter” or “return” twice).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
By Pryzma (Drago)
It was insufferable. Truly insufferable!
She hated herself and everything else about this situation. She hated the nauseous feeling every time guilt was suffocating her after feeling a hint of attraction. Hint of appreciation. Hint of twisted yearing.
And she hated. That gods damned smile.
Especially now. Especially now when the blood was soaking into the earth. When lifless body was laying in front of The Beast.
She was a knight. Bound to protect those in need. Bound by the oath. To be the sword upholding the law. To be The Justice.
“You know sweetheart. Your life would be much easier if you’d just let go of your silly naivety. ” dragon mocked her while cleaning his claws. Black scales painted in red. White sharp teeth now pink, sending her another smile. She could not determine whether or not he was genuinely smiling at her or just plastering another layer of irony. Knowing him, probably both.
She could not understand why she was so attracted to this show of brutal power. It was disgusting, and she failed her duty. Someone DIED because she was too weak. And yet, her body was warmer than it should. And once again she wanted to throw up.
He. Just looked at her with quiet pity.
How dare he.
How dare he looking at her like that.
There should be no place for an empathy in that monster.
“You know. ” he started with gentler, quiter voice “I don’t really think of you as an enemy. Just… a little misguided.”
SHE’S the one who’s misguided here? What a smug insufferable bastard.
She was the human, and he was the beast.
Yet, she was the one who growled like animal right now. She raised her sword.
“Right, right. I’m leaving.” he said while dragging the dead body behind him.
He just turned his back on her. What does he think? That he can just walk away after all atrocities he’s done?
She will kill him now. And break the cycle of violence!
She watched him go, in silence.
Would it be better laughing with the sinners or crying with the saints?
A teenager attempted to do a kickflip in front of a crowd. He failed and launched off his skateboard into the asphalt, getting a good cut while doing so. As he looked at his cut and got help from a stranger, a chuckle loomed from a man on a park bench nearby.
“What are you laughing about?” a woman close by to the chuckling man said.
“You know what I’m laughing about: you just saw it happen.”
“Yeah, but why are you laughing about it? Someone getting hurt is not funny.”
“I mean it’s a little funny. You know, watching someone try to show off and messing up.”
“I disagree. I think it’s sad and should be seen as such.”
“I don’t think there’s any merit in being sad about such things. I mean, bad stuff happens all the time: if you’re always sad about it you’ll never find yourself being happy.”
“I mean sure, not being happy all the time isn’t the best, but it’s certainly better than getting a kick out of other people.”
“I don’t know about your guys’ little philosophies, but I think both of you are wrong about one thing.” The stranger who helped the kid tend to his wound spoke up, having quietly watched the conversation from the sidelines.
“Oh, and what’s that?”
“Y’all actually need to help the people out.”
Tilling the Heart’s Soil (Detective Ryan Norton)
Bitterness clashed with the whiskey churning inside of Detective Norton’s gut.
Casey Nelson. A vivacious, invigorating young woman. Beaten and mutilated like an animal. All because some perverted psycho slinking through the shadows wanted to play God.
Detective Norton was sure that for as long as he lived, he’d never forget the wretched wailing of Casey’s father.
With the morgue in his rearview, he turned his collar up against the bracing wind. New evidence revealed that Allan Greer, a previous suspect, had been exonerated in the case. More to the point, their Jane Doe still hadn’t been identified. Even more frustrating was the fact that DNA found on both the Jane Doe and Lacey Fairchild, a surviving victim, hadn’t provided any matches either.
Back to square one.
Norton scowled as his hand gripped the empty cigarette carton in his pocket. The pressure increased so viciously around the offending package that he was sure he heard his knuckles crack.
Gnashing his teeth, Norton stopped and forced a harsh, calming breath through his nose, holding it for several heartbeats.
He studied the people ambling about, blissfully oblivious of the danger on the streets. What type of panic would ensue should the disgusting underbelly of the city be exposed? The very thought turned his stomach. He released his breath in one guttural exhalation.
In his left peripheral, a church stood tall and proud. Its pristine, stained glass windows beckoned with light and warmth. Its facade offered a comfort and refuge he hadn’t sought in decades.
The heavy bell doled out nine solemn clangs. Norton was transfixed. His heartbeat doubled its speed.
Norton swallowed thickly.
Head bowed, he shambled inside. The empty oak pews shone within the flickering candlelight.
The eerie quiet was far too loud.
Norton glanced briefly at the huge cross then ran one hand through his salt and pepper hair. The Hail Mary hung precariously on the edge of his tongue, but he couldn’t bring himself to speak it.
Instead, he rolled his shoulders back and cast his gaze heavenward. He glared at the arched ceiling until his eyes misted over.
Ballad of the Eternal Recurrence
by Alexsander Edwards (Eddy)
I cannot sleep. In my head, millions of voices scream to be heard, each one louder than the last. They pray for attention, for guidance, and for their fate.
Most of them are doomed, fated to fade away. As, with my right hand, I can call fire and burn it all down when these worlds don’t interest me, while the left hand freezes others in time, in the hopes that I one day find pleasure in it again. And then, as I breathe, new worlds are born and their denizens spread throughout the cosmos.
It’s a constant death and resurrection show, except there’s no audience.
The cycle has been with me for longer than even I can remember. When it first started, most of the creatures I watch over had no concept of time to begin with. And now, most have no idea of the many preceding universes that I have destroyed. Ideas come into play, I create them in search of meaning, and then I destroy it all when their menial lives reveal themselves to be useless to me. And so it goes.
The ever-recurring events are tiresome. Nothingness preceded me and there will be none to be my successors. I play both creator and destroyer. To these beings, I do not exist. Every denizen of these uncountable worlds is incapable of seeing me. And yet, their fate and mine are intertwined.
And so I still maintain the cycle. Looking for something ever-elusive. Breathe life. Observe. Burn. Rethink. Repeat. And I am tired. The voices never leave me. Beings wanting a world to live in, humans desiring company, or mortals wishing for their dismantled worlds to be returned. A constant barking of ideas and desires that never goes away.
Perhaps I should simply drop my pen and walk away. There’s no point in pretending to be an artist, after all.
A Message on Dusty Wings
It was the dead of night when the priest heard the sound of wing beats outside of his home. The elderly priest grabbed his holy symbol and shakily held the candle from his nightstand. The wind shook and the branches outside rasped against the windows and walls. The floorboards creaked under the weight of his slow, tentative steps, sounding like moans in the back of the priest’s mind.
That sound, that buzzing which slowly pushed a dirge into the priest’s sanity. What horrific manifestations from the black pits of the mind could he have conjured up? It must be a dream… right? But that sound…
He walked from his bed chamber into the rest of the church where the buzzing got louder and louder. It wasn’t cacophonous, but it felt heavy, weighing on his very soul. He could feel his dry, wrinkly skin become drenched in sweat, like someone walking towards some kind of unseemly doom.
He then walked into the sanctuary of the church, where he found the origin of his newfound, pulsating, and paralyzing fear. With only his small, singular candle to illuminate the space, no form could be seen clearly. The only tell of its massive, not-entirely-human frame was its red eyes that glistened against the darkness around it.
“Back, foul creature!” The priest held out the symbol of Alyna.
The only reply was that droning sound increasing in volume. The red eyes glowed vividly and the priest could see the beginning of a vision. It beheld disaster and fire. Ruin and chaos. Terror and the cries of the innocent.
The priest gritted his teeth and held the icon of the goddess forward. “No! I shall not partake in whatever dark deeds you have designed! Now, by the power of the goddess, I banish you– I banish–”
The creature suddenly flew upwards and away. Its message was ignored, and the town’s fate was sealed. The priest would breathe a sigh of relief tonight only to end up the last man standing tomorrow.
“You could have lived the last decade in a monastery and the stink of depravity would still rest upon you, Demonhost.”
“It’s the law of the city. All are welcome for Saints’ Day.”
“You see any buildings yet? This isn’t the city.”
The knight rested his hand on his hilt.
Then he smiled and said, “You know what? If you want to burn under the saint’s eyes, be my guest.”
The knight brushed past, showing his back to me.
I took room in The Demon’s Finger inn. Horrid little place to match their horrid little sign with its horrid little severed finger. The innkeeper showed me its namesake.
“It’s from one of your kind!”
“Yes… I can see that.”
“If things had gone different, it might be me staying at The Human’s Finger, eh?”
I waited for the saint in the mouth of the alley, at the back of the crowd. My teeth and nail beds itched, ready to extrude into claws and fangs. If I let them, the itching would stop. If I let them, blood would flow. The saint was near.
The crowd began to shout and cheer, then, like a hurricane, silence fell.
She was carried on a platform by four, horned attendants. Each one was a match for the entire human honor guard that flanked the precession, and each one was within claws reach of the saint. Even one of them would have been too much for me.
I freed my throwing knife at my waist, holding it loosely. Repetition etched the shape of the hilt into my hand. Practice replaced thought. In two heartbeats, the saint would die.
I raised my knife-
She saw me.
-and I burned.
And so long as the saint lives, I will continue to burn.
When The Man Comes Around (Chronicles of The Dragon)
Jessica curled under the bed, eyes wide and staring at the door.
From outside she could hear shouting, screaming. There were gunshots. She could hear the crackle and thunder of lightning. She could smell burning.
There was the cracking of wood and the shattering of brick.
There was crying, sobbing, and dripping.
A louder crash than the others, followed by a long scream from outside the apartment before another, distant, crash.
And then all that was left was the sobbing.
And then it was quiet.
Jessica waited. And heard…footsteps. Walking around the other room.
Curiosity got the better of her. She slowly crawled out from under the bed and across the room to the door. She tried to breathe as quietly as possible as she peaked through a bullet hole.
There was a man. One she’d never seen before. He walked from one person…one dead body to another. Eventually kneeling and tearing the shirt off one. He used it to wipe blood and dirt from his face, then his hands, before tossing it to the ground.
He reached into a pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. He shook one out and put it to his mouth, already lit. He took a long breath, and held it as he looked up at the ceiling. Then let it out slowly. The smoke drifted out through the hole in the wall.
He sighed and the cigarette went out. He put it back in the box and the box back in his pocket.
He turned and stepped towards the door.
Jessica gasped and scampered back to hide behind the bed.
There was a knock at the door. “Jessica?”
She sat up, but didn’t speak.
“Do you mind if I open the door?”
“It’s locked,” she answered, reflexively.
There was a moment of silence, then the door opened with the splintering of wood.
The man took a couple steps into the room then crouched down and looked her in the eyes. “My name’s Jonathan. I came to take you home.”
Grinding The Gears (Nyx/Alice’s Story)
By Calliope Rannis
I was trying out a new tavern for the first time. It was a little inelegant and crowded, but the secluded booth I found was quiet enough for reading. Overall, it was a pleasant experience. Until SHE walked in.
I walked into my old haunt, stinking of sweat and booze like it always was. I was a little tipsy and that felt good, but the patrons were the same as ever. I expected it to be another dull evening. Until I saw Her.
She slipped into my booth, casually sitting opposite me like she owned the place.
When I sat at her table, she looked up at me with a strangely plain expression. Almost innocent-looking.
Her breath stank of alcohol.
Her clothes smelt like oil.
Her eyes were dark and hungry.
Her eyes were bright and calculating.
“You’re new.” She stated the obvious with a thin, fanged smile, not seeming to care what that revealed.
“I travel.” She said, her face unchanging. Her head tilted slightly. “Do you talk to everyone like this?”
I glanced around the room, seeing how the drinkers at nearby tables had discreetly moved elsewhere. Great. She was THAT kind of tavern-dweller.
My eyes pored over her face and body, looking for weaknesses in the armour of her expression. Because I KNOW she saw my teeth, and people always react.
“Most people are boring. But you look interesting.” Her smile turned into a self-assured smirk. “Pretty, too.”
Aaaah. There it was. That twitch of the jaw, the slight frown on her face, the tightening of her fingers. Actual emotions!
Ughhh. Of course she’s trying to seduce me. And probably feed on me too, that’s what her kind does, right? I should go.
She abruptly stood up. “Good-day to you Miss. I must be going.” Awww, so soon? Typical.
“Oh, it’s Nyx.” As if I would ever want to know her name. “Hope to see you again!” She said with that same horrid hungry smile.
She almost ran out that door. A darn shame. Maybe I should…nah. Too early in the eve for that. Another time, perhaps.
The sweetest smile reflected back at me in the mirror as I reflected on my outfit. The bubble gum pink jacket perfectly matched my boots and leather purse. I slid my lip gloss into the cross body bag that landed mid-thigh, just above the hem of my white cotton dress. The ringlet curls and natural makeup completed the look.
A stop by the convenience store on my way gives me a chance to pick up a melon popsicle and a pack of Double Bubble to add to my purse. The smile I give the cashier gets me an employee discount. I blow him a kiss on my way out the door and he tells me to come back again soon.
It’s fun to alter people’s perception, like a game. I can craft exactly the person I want them to see me as with just a touch of effort and a soft tone to my voice. A smile and sweet words get most people wrapped around my little finger.
I continue down the street with a touch of a skip to my step. The park is a couple klicks from here but my window of opportunity would be open for a while yet. I meandered down the riverside and ate my melon pop as I went.
The first park trashcan took my popsicle stick and gum wrapper. I glance around the park, reconfirming the layout I had previously studied. The brush on the far side, my destination. A path wound around the brush, but I slipped into it. The leaves concealed my presence without blocking my view of the gazebo near the other entrance to the park.
From here I can slip onto the path that wraps around the brush and to the mall. I double check my target at the gazebo matches the description as I pull the matching pink sidearm from my purse. A quick check of the slide and suppressor sets the stage. A final pop of my bubble gum and I take aim.
After all, the saints must die.
By Lantis Armstrong
Archbishop Lanfranc had come to a wicked place unaccompanied by his stalwart crusaders, knowing full well the mortal peril in doing so.
Death and decay clung to the air like so much mold clinging to the cold stone walls. The vile swamplands surrounding this immense gothic castle had invited so much of itself into these poorly maintained halls; the archbishop’s once pure, white robes became caked in mud and mildew before he’d even made it halfway to his destination.
Lanfranc grimaced while looking down at the grime coating his attire. Was a shame, he’d taken so much care in making himself presentable to the castle’s lord before leaving the caravan which brought him here. To the archbishop, appearances were everything.
The doors to the throne room creaked open, the hinges crying out like the moans of the damned wailing in torment.
“Again you come,” the three hundred year old vampire slouched so deeply on his throne that he was nearly laying down.
“Yes, Lord Balearic. But this time you did not send your minions to try and slay me,” Lanfranc replied.
Balearic rolled his eyes. “The gall of you. The nerve. I told you if you returned with your guard again I would put your heads on pikes. And you had the audacity to take my words literal, and returned without your guard. I should flay you alive.”
“And yet you lift not a hand against me. Have you reconsidered my words, old sinner?”
Silence hung thick as the stink of the swamplands around them for a long moment. Balearic faced Lanfranc for the first time.
“Yes. I have reconsidered. Even after these long centuries, it seems I’m still the same naïve dreamer I was in my youth. Take my immortality, Lanfranc. Show me what a man of God would do with such powers. Prove to me that true good exists.”
And thus came to pass Archbishop Lanfranc’s unopposed thousand year reign of darkness and tyranny, by the end of which the land would be scorched irreparably and no life would ever flourish again.
Can’t Be Undone (A Tiefling Tale)
C. M. Weller
He expected the devil to arrive, but not to see his perfect angel son at the beast’s right. As if he belonged there. Valiant found it offensive, but did not know where to direct his anger.
Spitebane seemingly chose to be there. The spawn of evil was the one dragging his feet, glaring Valiant down as if it was HIM who was a fate worse than death.
Look in a mirror, sometime, Valiant thought. He took command. “Well? What in the seven hells have you done to my wife?”
The devil in the family defied his anger. “What do you think I’ve done to her?”
“She’s laughing at me,” Valiant growled. “Every time I chance to see her, she’s… SMILING! She’s started to skip in the halls. She’s… she’s… she’s out of control.”
“Out of your control,” said the blue devil in black. Everything he wore was black, even the diadem hung on his horns.
“You dare? Need I remind you who is leader of this house?” Valiant barked. “I am! My word is law!”
Spitebane said, “No. You’re not, and it’s not.”
“Betrayer! That demon has corrupted you, heart and soul…” Were it not for the guards, he would have grappled the beast by his collar. “What have you done to them? What have you done to my house?”
“Not your house, any more,” corrected the devil. “You don’t light the throne. I do. You are not the Earl. I am. As for what I did… All I did was subtract YOUR influence from their lives. I moved our mother to the other side of the castle and assigned a guard to keep you away from her. All I did to Spitebane was show him what honour and integrity looked like.”
“I liked it much better,” said Spitebane.
“That creature’s misleading you,” he pleaded. “Integrity from a devil is a plot to steal your soul. Come back to me and be good.”
Spitebane said, “You were giving consideration to strike the oldest laws from Whitekeep. Explain to me how letting people starve is a good thing.”
Valiant could not.
“Team Asger is better!” Aria stood firm on her belief.
“C’mon, Team Agi is the right choice!” Parisa said. “Agi is kind, hard working, and honest. He’s perfect for Fiore!”
“Boring! Nice people are annoying and unrelatable. Fiore deserves emotion in her life. A bad boy is perfect because…”
“Bad people are lazy! It’s easy to be mean, just act on impulse. Fiore deserves better than a reckless maniac.”
“Like what, an arrogant upstanding citizen like Agi? He’s so full of himself with his ‘moral superiority’ that he might pop and fly away!”
“Oh, and how is Asger better? People who live on whims like him would leave Fiore for the lamest reason. He only cares for himself!”
“Team Asger for life!”
“Team Agi Forever!”
The air was tense with opposing energies. Sparks could fly at any moment.
“You two are discussing ‘Sundown’ again?” Elise, with a sleepy face, entered the kitchen. “This is not very healthy.”
“Hey, nothing wrong with defending your ship to the end” Aria said proudly.
“Just don’t get too excited about it.” Elise got herself some cereal and milk. “I don’t want to deal with the neighbors and police again.”
“What about you, Elise?” Parisa asked. “What is your team?”
“Easy. Team Hanako!”
“Ugh, fanfic writer!” Aria and Parisa said in unison.
“C’mon, like you two didn’t notice.”
“Even if Fiore swung that way, these two barely interact with each other. Hanako is just a chilhood friend. It wouldn’t make any sense.” Parisa argued.
“You’ll see when the next movie comes out!”
“Willing to bet on it?” Aria smiled maliciously.
“I love winning bets!” Elise smiled with her three ice creams!
“Worst fandom ever!” Aria and Parisa agreed.
Second Chances (The Depths Files | Content Warning: Self Harm)
By: ThatWeirdFish, reviewed by Specter
Trip followed the trail of glowing feathers with a curious gaze. These fluffs of bloodied white had a different feel to them than other feathers he’d encountered before. Something… not demonic for sure. As he crept through the forest, he noticed a glowing creature in the clearing ahead that seemed to shift between every hue imaginable.
“Woah… that’s a cool trick there, mate,” He called out to the bundle of wings.
“Penance…” Though they whispered, the being’s voice rung like thunder. They shuddered as more feathers fell to the ground.
“Eh?” Trip came closer, cocking his head to the side. “What’s that?”
“Penance…” They whispered again. Then their hundred eyes turned towards Trip, some scrutinizing, some crying tears of gold. “…What are thee?”
“I’m whatever I am,” Trip shrugged. “What about you? Never seen the likes of you before in Exile.”
“I… was… a sanctum,” An elegant hand emerged from between the middle wings, pulling out long feathers with it.
“Oi, mate,” Trip reached out to stop it but recoiled when he was met with intense heat. “Ow! Anyway, don’t hurt yerself like that. The wildlife ‘round here will do it for ya.”
“Thou… fear me not?” The sanctum asked softly, looking at Trip again.
“Well… ya are a bit intimidatin’,” Trip confessed, glancing between different groups of eyes, “but ya ain’t the scariest thing I’ve seen. If anything, ya look like ya need a friend.”
“Friend…” The sanctum’s wings folded closer, and many eyes shut. “I deserve no such compassion.”
“Why not? Everyone needs ‘em.”
“I… have fallen.”
“Mate… bein’ clumsy is no reason to beat yerself up,” Trip smiled reassuringly.
“Nay… I am cast out of Heaven. I am beyond redemption.”
“Oh!” Trip exclaimed. “That’s why your feathers felt odd. Yer an angel!”
“Was… I see myself not now….”
“What do ya want to be then?” Trip asked casually.
“I… do not know….” The sanctum murmured, looking to the sky and pulling their wings around themself as if they were cold.
“How’s about bein’ my friend?”
The sanctum looked back with soft eyes and nodded.
Ranna sets to cleaning the blood off of her clothes.
First, the outside: this is red and vibrant, though it’s turning brown now. A reminder that she has stripped the world of something properly living.
Next, the inside, though ‘blood’ is a stretch. It’s thick black ichor, oil and coal and rot. As she scrubs, her joints make sounds like ratchets and meat, enchanted metal moving beneath old skin. It should hurt, but weapons don’t feel pain.
Once the blood is gone (the stains remain; her cloak has been dark a long time now), it’s time to fix.
In and out the needle goes, pulling cuts closed and patching holes with leather. Sometimes the damage is deeper, and she needs pliers, but mostly it’s only flesh. Weapons are durable.
Look at yourself, some part of her says, and truly it isn’t self-hatred or self-pity. Those parts were scooped out long ago. Weapons don’t feel.
Look at yourself, it says again, and she does. She sees blackened skin stretched taut over copper and iron, covered in symbols she doesn’t understand. Some are likely necromantic, because why else would a construct be built into a corpse?
She sees an undead. She sees a brutal warrior, one who slaughters all manner of things and lives. She sees a weapon, but weapons don’t read books.
She sits down to rest (not to sleep: weapons don’t) and opens her holy text and, once prompted, the words flow from her tongue as though she’s said them all her life. She probably did. She was probably some kind of priest or paladin, a saint, a warrior who purged things which could not be reasoned with, things which must be destroyed. Monsters.
For a moment (the thousandth moment of its kind), she contemplates destroying herself, and discards the idea. Whoever made her (used her, twisted her, kill them kill them) is out there somewhere, and they made the mistake of leaving her anger.
She slows down, prayer book in lap, and remembers the feeling of connection to her god. That part’s gone now, too.
The War in Me (From Sapphire in the Rough)
By Tamela Redfin
Did I say that right? Thanking that evil man, Phosphorus Cameron? As Mica pointed out, I could have blown up the fence at any time. Also, thanks to him, we were in this mess.
“Sapphira, are you okay?” Cece asked.
“I don’t trust them.” I huffed. “Mica or Cameron!”
“Hey, what did I do?!” Mica screamed.
“Hush, Cam is trying to sleep and they might be looking for us.” Cece replied.
But Mica looked concerned. “Sapphira? I think he’s sorry. I know I am.”
“You? But you’re a meanie, and don’t you mean Slagphira?”
He shook his head. “I didn’t have a good life. Try being the child of a chain smoker and a suspected human.”
“At least your mum loved you. It was always about Jasper.”
He held my hand. “I know, and I didn’t help.”
I bit my tongue, yanking my hand away, and feeling the thoughts flying through my head.
“Yeah, and if you knew better, stop.”
“You saved me when I needed it.”
“Learn your place, Mica!”
“If I legally could, I’d kill you here!”
“This isn’t your home.”
“If I had half a mind to, I’d gouge your eyeth out, Mica!”
“I’m glad you got us out of Snos.”
“Sapphira?” I jumped seeing Cecilia sitting down by me.
“I’m scared.” I sobbed.
“Shh, we’re here for you, Sapphira.” Cece assured me. “All of us. Wanna help me dig?”
“Y-yeah.” I sniffled.
As we dug another room, I looked at my cousin. “Why do people change, Cece?”
She shrugged, “A lot of reasons. Emotions, introspect, better or worse understandings. Why do you ask?”
“Just curious.” I nodded, wiping some dirt from my hair.
An Heir’s First Prayer (Sword Isles)
By Connor A.
This isn’t Haven.
Jen double checked the prayer instructions one of the temple keepers gave them.
This isn’t Haven.
With shaking hands, they poured the incense into the bowl and drew a small fire sigil in it with one finger. It hovered over the sigil for a moment, but it was long enough for Jen to look over their shoulder, unconsciously checking to see if Pastor Hardrock would walk in. But the memories of what happened weeks prior brought them back to what they were doing.
This isn’t Haven. And they would be damned sure no one else would make another city like it.
They activated the sigil and pulled their hand back before the flames could burn them. The smoke rose up, and they followed it up to the statue’s eyes.
“Uh, hello sir,” Jen began, then shook their head and looked back at the paper. “Sorry, um… Overseer of the Dead, Ambrosius. I… I ask that you may grant me your… au…audience?”
The smoke curled around the statue as an eerie feeling fell over the room.
“My name is Jen. I might be the heir to a monarchy? That’s not why I’m here though, so I’m not sure why I brought it up.” Jen laughed nervously, then sighed. “Sorry, I’m not used to praying like this. It’s a lot different from what I’m used to.”
“I have heard that from many Dust Cult survivors.”
Jen scrambled towards the statue and turned around to see who spoke. Aside from what looked like the most expensive set of robes they had ever seen, the man looked like the other people they came across in this part of the Blade. But in their gut, they knew the eerie feeling in the room was coming from him.
“Are you…?” Jen trailed off, cursing their shaky tone.
“Few people contact me in this manner unless it is dire.”
Jen took a deep breath. They fumbled through their bag and pulled out a beat up journal. “What can you tell me about Achmed Chaibi?”
by Taja DaLeen
Lucifer took another selfie. It had to be perfect, just like everything he did. But this wasn’t it, not yet. He took another one.
This one was better, although the lighting was a bit off. He needed to fix that. After all, he prided himself on magnificent aesthetics. It had to be perfect, so he took another one.
Everything he did had to be the best of the best, from his work as a leader to his art. He wanted everyone to be happy, after all. So, everything had to be perfect, but this wasn’t it. He took another one.
He was proud to be called a perfectionist. He knew it to be a term of endearment, after all, every single citizen of his domain was happy. Which was exactly what he wanted them to be. But this selfie, it was not. It was even worse than the one before. He took another one.
There were a lot of things he could be proud of. The happiness of his people, his abilities, his relationship with his siblings, his art. But to be able to maintain this pride, everything had to be perfect. This selfie was close, but the angle was just a tad off. He quickly took another one.
And this was it. Finally, everything was perfect. The lighting, the angle, everyone in the picture was smiling, enjoying themselves. They were happy. And they would be even more so when they saw this piece of art.
And he would be the reason of it. He was the center, just like he was in this selfie. He could once more be proud of himself, as he should be. He was the demon lord of pride after all.
Attending his funeral probably wasn’t the smartest decision. The lying bastard he was. Sorry, the ‘truths omitting bastard,’ as he would put it. Either way, I went. I had to do it, for myself, for me.
I stand at the back of the church, and as I look around, I notice the sombre tone. I almost feel as though I’m the outlier in this all. Who am I kidding? Of course, I’m the outlier.
I hear the cries of the woman at the front. Her sniffling and wails echo through the building.
This is my first time meeting his wife. I hear that she truly loved him. A shame, really, she seems too good for him. She doesn’t know who I am, but that’s probably for the best.
The sermon begins, and we get to hear how much of a good man he was. I find it hard at some points not to laugh. It was when they called him “a real family man” that got me.
Towards the end, I find that I’ve had enough of it. All of the bullshit. I take a step outside to give myself some headroom.
How is any of this fair?
He gets all these kind words. These tears. And what do I get? Shunned.
I’m soon joined by an oldish lady. Not too sure who she is but, in all honesty, I don’t exactly care. I just light a cigarette and hope she doesn’t engage in conversation.
Honesty huh… What a fragile thing.
“It’s always such a shame, isn’t it?” she begins, looking at me as she wipes her eyes. “The good ones always go so young.”
I don’t respond verbally. I just give a side look. I try to grit my teeth but find I have bitten down on the butt of the cigarette.
“How did you know him?” She asks. The one question I’ve been half expecting to hear. I take a deep breath and brace myself for the words that are about to leave my lips. I look her straight in the eyes.
“I’m his bastardised daughter.”
Not so royal
Down in the canteen of the underground base, a group of janitors are cleaning up the place before serving hours, then comes an imposing man, his gem green eye gleans over the scene, then he grabs hold of one of the cleaners
“Oi, get me a mop.”
“Sir? please, this isn’t your kind of work, we can handle this.”
“Shut it, ya always can use a hand, hand me a bleeding mop.”
The head janitor strolls over with a mop and bucket
“Here you go sir, can you help with a section over there?”
As he leaves, the junior staff ponders to the head
“So… why is boss doing menial work?”
The head janitor lets out a tired sighs
“Medical overruled him to take a break, again, and he can’t just take it by lying down and rest. That’s why he find any excuse to keep working.”
“So, he just want to be busy?”
“He takes pride of keeping the base running, even by just doing menial works.”
“I swear this is the same story with Lunafang hanging around the kitchen”
“Oh, him, well boss isn’t wrong, the union could always use an extra hand, besides, the staff love Lunafang’s cooking”
“Is the union viewing them as saints? coming in and just take take the heavy load off us?”
The old man chuckles, sitting down on one of the tables
“Saints? where did you get such comparison, boy?”
“I-I don’t know, you all seem so welcoming to have the leading figure of the organization to mop the floor for you, for us, just… why?”
“I asked him the same, and he said this: sitting on the top hill ain’t let ye see shit below the cloud, mate.”
The aging man laugh, coughing up the words
“How can he keep up that accent!?”
The boss walks over and put down his mop, looking over to the young janitor
“Ya new here?”
“If what I do works out for ya, just let it happen, also I done me part, y’all can take it from here”
As he leave the canteen, the head janitor leans back to the table’s corner, talking in a relaxed tone
“How much red did you cleanse this time, sir?”
Too Many cooks
By The Ink Chimera
“Oh no. Not again. Please.”
I woke up, my head splitting like someone Splintered it with an axe, and a pit in my stomach from the weight next to me.
I looked over to see another unfamiliar woman, lying in my bed. Surprisingly, with her clothes on. I couldn’t remember the night before, but I didn’t worry about it. Those memories simply belonged to someone else.
I sighed and went to the bathroom, staring at myself in the mirror. Or, rather “ourself” would be more accurate.
“That party was awesome,” came a voice from my head. “Those people really know how to throw a banger.”
“I have to disagree,” I replied, rubbing our eyes. “We can’t keep doing this every time we hear about a party.”
“I’ll second that notion.” A second familiar voice. “We have things to get done. We can’t get everything done if we’re partying, and getting drunk. Sleeping is bad enough.”
“But if we don’t sleep, we won’t have any energy if we need it.” And Three appears. “I mean, what if someone were to attack us when we weren’t ready? And being drunk isn’t any better.”
“I’m with you on that one. Being drunk is so annoying.” And Four to round it out. “And sleep is important for energy, or whatever. And all that stuff we have to do can wait a few days. We should really just sleep and chill out. Just relax.”
“that’s not what I meant. We can’t only sleep all day. Other stuff is important too.”
“Yeah. Like living life like there’s no tomorrow. We gotta get out there and live life. And we can be totally chill about it too.”
“You know that’s not what I meant!” Three and Four shouted in unison.
“We know that’s not what you meant,” Two spat at Four. “You just want to laze about and let everything around us fall apart. You don’t know anything about responsibility. Any of you.”
“Well, none of you know anything about relaxing.”
“Well, none of you…!”
They continued bickering as I washed down two aspirin. I’d sort them out later.
Naerahine’s Story (Exile Universe)
By Alex Nightingale (aka Spectre)
She stood in the sand of the vast colosseum, dressed in clothes the colour of clay, protected only by a sheet of thick cloth and wearing neither shoes nor gloves, as was tradition. She held her long, barbed spear aloft, listening to the cheers of the crowd.
She’d won them over. She’d participated in this contest she’d grown to hate often enough to earn favours. An underdog from the border, risen to one of the greatest stars the colosseum had seen in decades.
They’d celebrated her. Clapped and cheered, as her spear tip was thrust into flesh after flesh. She’d stopped seeing them as people. She had to, if she wanted to keep her sanity. And through it all, her mask had earned her the praise of vast swaths of demons and cambions, fallen gods and deadly sins. She was Naerahine, the glorious lady of war, from iron chains to golden ones.
As she faced down her final opponent, a large warrior, wielding a long pole axe, it had been one of her hardest duels yet. She’d already found it hard, keeping up with this much younger warrior, old scars and wounds showing themselves. She felt centuries older than she actually was.
Still she persevered and sent her spear through her opponent’s gut. He’d survived, by mercy of the Silver Count, who had come specially, to watch her fight. She’d bowed humbly, as was expected, accepting the honour of being allowed to entertain one of the highest monarchs the Exile had to offer.
That night, she died in her cell.
She was hailed as a martyr, a paragon of martial skill.
Her death had allowed her to slip away. All it took was the bribery of the colosseum’s undertaker and she was free. Free of this kind of war.
“That’s… an interesting story,” Janeah interrupted, when Naerahine paused for breath. “But you haven’t told us why you became a gladiator in the first place.”
“I sinned,” she said, knowingly. “The greatest sin any sapient life form can commit.”
“I told people to be nice to each other.”
Everyone sinks into the water; before a cold, untouchable wasteland takes over.
“Everyone, get into your positions!”
A bulb grows in my throat.
“The hibernation season comes upon us!”
A heavy rock pulls on my chest.
“We are going to harvest the energy-”
-As we sink into hibernation. I finish the sentence in my head.
The first changing leaf. I dip my toe in the water, causing an electric shiver. The water flowers will provide me with the energy to withstand the cold.
Sinking my head into the pond, I begin to have reservations.
I get to the bottom of the pond, immediately plunging upward.
I grasp the rubbery, somewhat feathered anchor for balance; I instinctively know what to do.
I pick a groove in the stem. I give a precious piece of my life to it. Light shoots up into the flowers up above, shooting back into me.
The gentle flow of energy courses through me, the sudden warmth breathtaking. I drift off into a gentle sleep, waiting for the youth of spring to wake me.
I bolt awake, feeling a grip of death overtaking me; something feels like pure terror.
A paper wasteland appeared right before my very eyes. The gentle petals gave way to rot, the stamens lolling to the side.
Everything looked like hopelessness, Giving up.
Solitude clouded my vision.
A reflecting light shines into my eyes; I sense life.
The round, slimy ball had another life inside it.
I can continue the life of the flower I had lost. The protection against the cold I had sought after gave me another chance.
Death gives life to those who lost it. Thus the lives of the water nymphs goes on, even in despair.
By Hael Amon
Black and white. Yin and yang. Red and blue. Even concepts like chaos and order. All representing the concept of good and evil. But what is that, why is it, and why am I the ‘evil.’
I’m the one trapped in an inescapable prison, a ‘mere orb.’ At least it looks fancy with its gilded lines and tawny hues as the base. Such a consolation for eternal punishment isn’t it. How do you think being in an orb is? What if you don’t even have a physical body anymore to boot?
It isn’t even my fault that a kingdom was slaughtered, mind you I didn’t stop it or even try. I sat and watched as The Regretful slaughtered their king and delivered the people to the nether realm. If that actually exists.
In addition The Wrathful was actually, and passionately, trying to wipe out humanity. He was onboard with the mayhem and murder, and all I did was sit and watch it. I didn’t even agree with the slaughter and death, it’s a horrid affair. Just dreadful.
It’s unfair, so unfair. Why’d The Unnamed help the humans and turn against me? She literally made this prison, she’s the sinner. She’s the one who made an inescapable prison in which I’ll have to not rot, but sit, alone. All I have are my thoughts. My only power is to talk with whomever decides to pick up this orb.
Unnamed is the saint and I the sinner. Even Wrathful and Regretful aren’t called sinners, but I am. Why me? What did I do to earn this title? All I did was watch, all I did was sit. ALL I DID WAS WAIT FOR IT ALL TO PASS.
Regretful was a disaster, Wrathful a monster, Unnamed a saint, and I the sinner.
What’s my name, you ask? What even am I, you ask? Little human who listens to my rambling I say to you, what does it matter.
My name is Apathy. And if you don’t know what I am, read a history book. You need it.
by Lee Strangely
I could see the building burning through the window. I always make sure to find just the right place for a perfect view of the action. Perhaps I was a little too close this time; I could feel the heat from here.
The sirens began to blare out. The firefighters came right on time. Their numbers seem to have doubled this time. However, they are no match for an overcrowded building!
As they exited their vehicles I could pick him out of the crowd immediately. I never knew his name. I always imagined his name as Saint and I bet that’s how he probably views himself. You can tell it’s him by the way he positions himself: somewhere in the front, leading the charge.
The pen in my hand shook while it hovered over the notebook as I waited for people to start coming out of the building. The anticipation was killing me.
Eventually, one firefighter came out of the building and with her came two people. They were in rough shape but destined to recover.
Two points to the home team. I drew the notches in the notebook under the appropriate section.
Another person was carried out. They didn’t appear to be moving… A large black bag was brought out.
Point to the visitor!
I think about maybe an hour had past when
everything started winding down. I don’t know, I honestly lost track of time trying to keep score. It was close, but I was losing. The Saint was the last to leave the building with no less than two people in his arms… Showoff.
One victim appears to be breathing, but the other…
The Saint took off his mask, revealing a look of concern. A paramedic checked for a pulse.
And what’s the verdict? My hands began to sweat.
The paramedic shook his head.
Point to the visitor! But it wasn’t enough, I still lost the game. I always enjoy watching the Saint deal with my handiwork and the challenges he brings me; even so, he can be so infuriating.
The Devil’s in the Details
“You… want to… free Lucifer…?”
Matt looked back at Laila with a sigh. “Okay, I know how that sounds, just hear me out.”
“You want to free Lucifer.”
“Look, I get it. It’s-”
Laila held out her hand to stop Matt from talking, her massive feathered wings glowing even brighter in her frustration. “Matt I just… I need you to hear this outloud. You… want to free Lucifer!”
“It’s because she’s hot, isn’t it?” Mara teased, her spade-tipped tail lewdly running along Matt’s cheek.
Matt batted the demon’s tail away. “It’s not because she’s hot!”
“Mhm…” Mara grinned wider. “I say this because ALL angels have really attractive human forms. I mean… look at Laila.”
Laila began to talk again but paused because of Mara’s uncharacteristic compliment. And then she began to wonder if it even WAS a compliment. This gave Matt time to defend himself. “It’s not because she’s hot. It’s because she’s stuck alone in a cage. In Hell.”
“Because she’s LUCIFER!”
“That would have meant a lot more to me if Heaven hadn’t tried to smite me for existing. If I hadn’t met our great ‘creator’, and He hadn’t told me that the four of us are supposed to destroy existence because He’d grown bored with it. There are two sides to this story and I’m willing to listen to hers. I can’t… see the black and white anymore. It’s all grays. I just see a sad fallen angel stuck in a cage in a place meant to torture you.”
“And… how do you know she’s sad?” Laila asked suspiciously.
“Well… she was singing. That’s how I found her.”
Laila facepalmed. “My God, he’s been enchanted…”
“I’m not enchanted!”
“You don’t even know what that means!”
“I can figure it out by context!”
“What Laila is trying to say here Matt, is… we’re with you.” Mara smiled warmly. “Of course, we’re with you. We just want to make it clear how stupid this is. But we’ll back you anyway.”
Matt gave Mara a similar look to Laila’s of not being sure if he’d just been insulted. “…thanks…?”