You know the story and have probably seen the film; now you can experience what the disaster was really like for those who were there.
Authors Note: This story is about 90% historically accurate, every event and spoken word occurred in identical or similar form, though to prevent this becoming a comedy I had to change some of the speech (things like "I say old man, that is frightfully sporting" has become "That is very decent of you"Â). On the bright side you should not find Jack and Rose running around in this story :)
It is 1933 and America is in its fourth year of Depression. There is widespread anger at the banks and at the forces of justice. Against this backdrop the charismatic and carefree John Dillinger has emerged to lead a gang of hardened bank robbers and killers in challenging the American Government and the newly-formed FBI. You are one of his gang who rob the wealthiest banks in the country to buy the best life has to offer. The forces of justice will relentlessly pursue you and it is only by surviving deadly gunfights and high-speed chases that you will be able to stay ahead of them...
Author's Note: Though the next story in this series should be Butch Cassidy's Hole in the Wall Gang I decided to skip forward a bit and write about a smaller group operating in a different time than my previous two stories which were set in the Old West. Dillinger was one of the closest examples of a Robin Hood type criminal that America has yet produced and I hope the reader enjoys reading the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Jesse James was a lad that killed many a man / he robbed the Glendale train / he stole from the rich and he gave to the poor / he had a hand and a heart and a brain.
It was on a Saturday night and the moon was shining bright / they robbed the Glendale train / and people did say over many miles away / it was those outlaws Frank and Jesse James!
Now the people held their breath when they heard of Jesse's death / and wondered how he'd ever come to fall / Robert Ford, it was a fact, he shot Jesse in the back / While Jesse hung a picture on the wall...
In this story your name is Bill Grey and you are an outlaw, one of a desperate gang who have chosen to live outside the law. By robbing Yankee banks you can make more money in one day than you could make in ten years of work but at the cost that thousands of lawmen and law-abiding citizens everywhere will hunt you relentlessly, not stopping until you are brought to justice Dead or Alive! By surviving deadly gunfights and eluding pursuit with the help of your fellow outlaws your objective is to escape with your ill-gotten gains and live a life of luxury!
Author's Note: This is a little gift to the site to make up for the fact that The CYS Challenge isn't even a quarter finished yet and Magellan 5 is still in the planning stage. As always with my Edutainment stories it's about 90% true but events have been edited or simplified to make the story flow more easily and be more enjoyable. Incidentally my personal feelings about Jesse James and his companions is that history has been incredibly kind to men who shot defenseless people, stole the money of their countrymen and kept it all for themselves but the things he and others like Billy the Kid, John Dillinger et al did are so remarkable it's hard to keep from admiring their pure nerve :)
They were dueling Doolin-Dalton / High or low it was the same / Easy money and faithless women / Red eye whiskey for the pain.
Go down Bill Dalton, it must be God's will / Two brothers lying dead in Coffeyville / Two voices call you from where they stood / Lay down your law books now, they're no damn good.
Better keep on moving Doolin-Dalton / Till your shadow sets you free / If you're fast and if you're lucky / you will never see that hanging tree.
With a pistol in each hand, your horse's hooves drumming beneath you, the incessant bangs and whizzes of gunshots all around you, the shouts of angry men and the screams of the injured and dying ringing in your ears you roam the towns, plains and wilderness of the American Old West with your fellow outlaws: the daring Dalton boys, the King of the Oklahoma Outlaws Bill Doolin and all the other members of The Wild Bunch. Your mission is to get rich or die trying and if you are very clever and very lucky you might just live to enjoy your ill-gotten gains; if not... a weather-beaten cross in a dusty cemetery and your rusting pistol in a 21st century museum next to an old black and white photo of a bullet-riddled body will be your fate!
Author's Note: Following the (for me) surprisingly positive feedback on The James Gang I've decided to write the next story I had planned in that series, putting The CYS Challenge and Magellan 5 on hold for now. With a new cast of larger-than-life characters, more epic gunfights and daring robberies like it's predecessor this is the sort of story too unbelievable for fiction and absolutely incredible for being true! I sincerely hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it :)
In this story game you become a commander from ancient times, leading your brave warriors into the greatest battles of history! Your decisions will determine whether you and your men live or die as you fight with and against the greatest and worst commanders the world has ever known! Let the fight begin!
Author's Note: This is basically a test story-game to see if I can figure out the mechanics of this site well enough to deliver a respectable war simulation...
Can you be the first man to reach the summit of Mount Everest?
Authors Note: My last Edutainment game, I promise! It is Fantasy, Modern Adventure and Puzzles all summer now :D
Rule 1: Unless your story is at least 100 pages long you shouldn't divide it into parts and pay some attention to choosing the correct Maturity, Difficulty and Tags for your story.
As I happen to be on holiday for the first time in about 900 years I've managed to write a little story game offering some examples I've brainstormed or seen recently in badly-written stories of how not to write. Like it's older cousin, The Land of Bad Writing, this story uses examples of bad writing as a way of showing how not to write and I don't have any one story in mind particularly in writing this, just practitioners of bad writing in general.
I've decided to base this story on Pokemon for no other reason than the fact Fan Fiction requires less creativity than most other styles of writing and because Pokemon reminds me of when I was a little Will11 and I, my ten brothers (all coincidently called Will as well) and my nine sisters (the Wilmas 1 to 9) would gather behind the nuclear waste and anthrax testing facility in the woods outside our little trailer park called Asbetos to trade black market Pokemon cards for Plutonium with a mixture of Gypsies, Elves and the Dutch... basically I'm writing about Pokemon because I'm feeling a little Nostalgic today :D
(Rule 1.5: Don't write lengthy and pointless descriptions offering fake autobiographies to your readers).
"Jack the Ripper is dead / Jack the Ripper is dead / He's lying on his bed / Bleeding through his head / Jack the Ripper is dead" - A Victorian Children's Skipping Rope Song.
Death stalks the fog-shrouded streets of London as prostitutes are killed and mutilated in the darkness of the night... As a Private Detective working alongside Scotland Yard you will be faced with the most challenging adversary of your career, a man who's very name has become a byword for terror: Jack the Ripper. Are you smart enough to catch him?
BEWARE: This game is 200+ pages long and will take about 30-60 minutes to read through. Do not read if operating heavy machinery, juggling chainsaws or entertaining small children.
Author's Note: This story will require some thinking and the reader might want to make notes, though with a bit of cleverness and logic readers should be able to correctly identify the real Ripper. About 95% of the information in this story is historically accurate. Finally as you'd probably guess a story about hunting someone who killed and mutilated prostitutes is not a feel-good family comedy, if you are under 13 I don't recommend that you read this. Certainly do not google "Jack the Ripper victims" if you suffer from nightmares :D
For hundreds of years your people have lived on The Three Islands completely surrounded by a vast impenetrable reef. Scientific advances and large amounts of gunpowder has finally allowed your people to breach this reef in two places, making accessible for the first time a vast unexplored world beyond your country's borders. The ten greatest sea captains of The Three Islands have been summoned by the King to take part in a great race: to be the first to sail around an unexplored world!
You are one of these Captains and an exciting adventure into the unknown awaits you!
Author's Note: My first foray into Fantasy for teenage readers! Inspired by the incredible first voyage around the world by Ferdinand Magellan if this story isn't universally detested it will be the first of a five-part series of adventures! I hope you enjoy it and as always, thank you for taking the time to read the semi-literate scribbles I like to call my writing :)
The Great Reef has been breached and your people are pouring out into a vast new world: a world of opportunities, adventure... and danger.
Explorers and traders establishing new colonies on the islands discovered by you and your fellow sea-farers have come into conflict with warlike and deadly Natives and blood has been shed. In response Queen Anne-Marie has assembled a vast War Fleet to sail out to meet with these Natives and establish land ownership by diplomacy or force. As a member of this great expedition you will travel once more into an unknown and dangerous world in the greatest undertaking in your people's history... do you have what it takes?
Author's Note: This story can be read by itself but useful background information is provided by reading Magellan 1: Race into the Great Unknown first. In an effort to try to respond to the feedback of readers I have specifically tried to create a greater interaction between the strong-willed and unique personalities of you and your fellow Captains and also changed the main character's name from Cleo to Leo to make him more... manly. I hope you enjoy reading this :)
As you country continue to expand beyond the borders of the Great Reef into the largely unknown world of Magellan worrying news arrives: Tobias Cuthrew, the greatest sailor your people have known, has vanished while on a voyage of exploration into the West. Once more your hard-hearted monarch Queen Anne-Marie demands your services, this time to lead an expedition to find your missing comrade. But is there more to this mission that meets the eye?
Author's Note: As always thank you to everyone who takes the time to read my stories and a larger thank you to the CYOA community at large for giving me a reason to write them in the first place :) I have specifically tried to make this story less linear than the last, with four main story branches.
Betrayed by your Queen and hunted by her allies the situation looks bleak for you and your small band of allies. But opposition to tyranny takes many forms and from small beginnings and a few great ideas is it possible you could gain the weapons you need to defeat your enemies while simultaneously protecting your defenseless allies from the vengeance of your foes? Requiring all your ingenuity you are about to embark on the greatest fight of your career!
Author's Note: This fourth installment of the series is a bit longer and more difficult than its predecessors but it ties up quite a few loose threads ready for a big finish in Magellan 5. Thanks for everyone's feedback and support so far! Please be aware teenage readers and those of a low maturity this story is a bit more X Rated than earlier stories in the series as the relationship between Leo and Naomi is... improving :). Homophobes should probably steer clear of this story too :)
In this story-game you become a member of the Donner Party.
The Donner Party were a group of about 90 men, women and children who tried traveling to their new homes in California by an unfamiliar route across the Salt Lake Desert of Utah and the Sierra Nevada Mountains but met with enough misfortunes and suffering to kill half the group and leave the remainder scarred for the rest of their lives...
You knew you should not have eaten and drank so much on Christmas Day, a troubled sleep leads to a nightmare where you find yourself trapped in the worst place imaginable: The Land of Bad Writing! Will you ever escape?
Authors Note: I should point out I have assumed about twenty different author's voices to give the worst examples of bad writing as possible as a guide of how not to write. If you want to know what my usual style is like message me or read my other story-games. It is also worth pointing out this story-game isn't aimed at anyone's stories in particular but practitioners of bad writing in general.
You are a Victorian Adventurer, a man who explores dangerous places and does dangerous things for the thrill of it. Following your recent expeditions in Africa you have been invited to the island of Marco, recently claimed by the British Government. Landing in the port of Victoria on the east side of the island you soon learn why you are there: a party of fifty men led by a certain Captain Donovan have vanished on an exploration expedition into the unknown jungle interior.
Your assignment is to find him and learn what has befallen his men, though you will be lucky if you too do not vanish from sight and knowledge beneath those deadly trees...
Author's Note: As this is the first story game I will have posted I am only posting half of it while I get used to the scripting etc. If it is not universally despised I will post the sequel Donovan's Curse (2) as soon as I have written it.
You are a Victorian Adventurer, a man who explores dangerous places and does dangerous things for the thrill of it. Following a month of searching the deadly island of Marco you have found the remnants of the lost expedition of Captain William Donovan, a renegade officer who seems to enjoy his role as adopted chief of the local Yantu Natives. You and your men now find yourself at the mercy of these dangerous and war-loving warriors... ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Author's Note: This is the sequel to The Lost Expedition (1), the first story-game I wrote on this site over two years ago, and my entry into the January 2017 Wilderness themed competition. I think everything I've done in these Lost Expedition stories I've done bigger and better in the Magellan stories but I'm glad Bucky's competition has given me the motivation to finish this little two-part adventure. To get the most out of this story I recommend you read The Lost Expedition (1), first, though this can be read as a stand-alone adventure.
The Weekly Review - Edition 35
on 2/28/2017 11:19:26 AM
Well I guess I'll do the worst thing I can think of and reply to End as well in the voice of an absolutely wonderful but tragically misunderstood figure who is totally not a tax cheat or a misogynist or a racist or an islamophobe or a homophobe and who most certainly does not maintain unhealthy secret links with Russia that are being investigated and criticised by his own secret service:
Look here you potential terrorist (does EndMaster even sound like a true American name? HA! I think not!) I reported on your highly overrated competition last week but the truth is you have some bad hombres over there and I don't see any need to report alternative facts like you do in your Failing EndMaster times, competition, post, thing! Without even a single pussy worth the grabbing and low energy throughout it is fake news of an unpresidented... unpredented... of a stupid scale that I didn't observe your unappealing competition last week. Sad, sad, SAD! (Because if it's in CAPITALS you know it's TRUE).
Actually I read through the competition and thought most of the entries and especially your criticisms were great but it was getting so much attention anyway I thought the less contributed-to and not so posted about competitions needed a shout out this week :D
The Weekly Review - Edition 35
on 2/28/2017 11:00:39 AM
Ah thanks, got it :)
The Weekly Review - Edition 35
on 2/28/2017 8:35:47 AM
I have a question and I apologize in advance if this has been mentioned before :) Are Featured and other Commendable stories published before January 2017 going to receive backdated Commendations or is it only stories published since that are going to receive Commendations?
The Weekly Review - Edition 35
on 2/27/2017 8:13:28 AM
Yes, I quite liked the automatic feature but I think this way is better :) I think an Article on what makes a post, comment or story commendable though could be interesting, a sort of How to Earn Commendations type thing. Hm... I sense a new addition to the Help and Info Section may be drifting into view... :D
The Weekly Review - Edition 35
on 2/27/2017 5:51:33 AM
It is true the system could be abused but the current system is also a bit down to the personal preferences of the Admins and Mods, are there guidelines anyway about what it takes for a story, post, comment etc to get commended?
Star Wars: Revenge of the SKILLS
on 2/26/2017 11:22:50 PM
No problem :D I don't think it's a question of trying hard, I think it's just a question of saying the right thing or things that pushes a person into self-destruct mode :) Of course when they're offensive and poor writers who randomly insult everyone anyway it's hard to feel much sympathy for them...
Star Wars: Revenge of the SKILLS
on 2/26/2017 11:06:21 PM
Haha I think Mizal has a gift for driving half-crazy members into full-fledged crazy :) This Thread was surprisingly entertaining.
The Weekly Review - Edition 35
on 2/26/2017 11:04:08 PM
Sorry this Review is a little late this week, I didn't have time yesterday :D
The Weekly Review - Edition 35
on 2/26/2017 11:03:27 PM
The Weekly Review – Edition 35
What is New Section giving the latest info on the Forums
The intriguing Article: Getting on board with The Orders thing by Will11
An Interview with the great site member StrykerL
A Review of Endmaster’s Innkeeper by Will11
This fantastic Short Story: Little Things by Mizal
Finally, Special Section: How to Write Good by Will11
WHAT IS NEW
In Newbie Central Saika, Dewvis3, Bingbingkink and ikienellience introduce their awesome selves to the site!
In the Lounge Mizal triggers a breakdown in another site member (possibly unkindly as this one seemed a bit mentally disabled) in the Star Wars: Revenge of the Skills thread!
In News and Updates Bucky’s competition comes to an end and everyone awaits the announcement of the winner!
In the Parlour Room Mizal honours fleeting masterpieces!
In the Creative Corner EbonVasilis challenges people to a writing duel!
In the Writing Workshop BlackHawke wonders how to give people choices!
In the Reading Corner it is so quiet (for a change…)!
In the Advanced Editor’s Forum the awesomely-named MrSquidProductions has a question about items.
In the Feature Well BerkaZerka wants to send us messages!
In the Bugs and Problems section Nyctophilia finds a Time Bug!
Article: Getting on board with the orders thing
Unless you’ve been living in the Reading Corner I’m sure everyone is aware now that the original points system has been replaced by the Commendations system, which rewards outstanding Posts, Comments and Stories with Commendations that translate themselves into a varying number of points. With over 1,000 stories on the site it is still easy to work your way up to Scrivener by reviewing but to push yourself up to those higher level point titles will require a great deal more effort and site involvement than previously.
In compensation for this there are now a lot more fun titles to try to claim for bragging rights, unique to each Order. The fact that the Sages have more Commendations than the other three Orders put together doesn’t mean the system doesn’t work, it just means that members of the other three Orders have to up their game a bit and take on the challenge of proving that one randomly assigned word is better than another in order to restore a kind of balance to the Orders System. I think people still need more time to get used to the Commendations system and more motivation for earning Commendations, which are genuinely a lot more challenging to earn than Points originally were.
With this in mind I’ve had a stab at creating the Roll of Honour, a record updated every ten days to give even greater recognition / bragging rights to those who earn high numbers of Commendations to help motivate and record achievement. So people, get writing feature-worthy comments, recommending story improvements, pointing out bugs on the site, writing articles, writing commendable stories (perhaps each written story should receive Commendations if it reaches a minimum level of quality?), writing commendable posts or just generally being helpful. There are lots of ways to earn Commendations and receive the various titles and rewards the site has to offer and non-Sage members in particular have a great challenge to take up.
Interview: Introducing StrykerL
A relatively new site member but a clever and creative individual who I expect will provide the site with a number of great Science Fiction stories in the future, this week I have interviewed StrykerL, who gave some great answers to my usual questions:
1: How did you first find this site and what made you want to join?
Last January I found a choose-your-next-action gamebook, and it made me nostalgic. I typed ‘choose your adventure’ into Google, and the first thing that came up was CYS. Ground Zero was the first storygame I played on the site, and fourty minutes later I was in awe as I realized I’d only reached Epilogue 1- that there were many more, unique epilogues the story had to offer. I must have finished the rest of the game in a 4 hour stretch, I was that impressed at the concept and execution. To this day, I don’t know what the other links in Google were.
In one year since then, I found satisfactory answers to most of the fundamental questions I had about game design, and came to a simple conclusion: If you want to craft exceptional games, start with CYoAs. I was looking for a community committed to the CYoA format, and so I joined CYS as a writer instead of a reader.
2: How have you found this site since you have joined?
The site is as much a marvel of the internet as Wikipedia. If you think about it, the basic premise sounds similarly outlandish - people from around the world who might never meet face to face will volunteer to write and encourage others to write exceptional choose-your-adventure-stories, all on a website, using a relatively simple editor - and yet it works magnificently. The fact that the site has existed for sixteen years is a testament to the strength of its unifying vision.
There’s an entire ecosystem - writers, reviewers, open-minded moderators, testers, coding experts, community builders, and many more - they’re all here. The community is close-knit and active, and everything builds off of everything else, making CYS a gem of the internet age. I'd compare CYS to a hidden tavern of the net’s backroads where the ale is hearty, the stories thrilling, and the regulars friendly.
3: What are your favourite aspects or members of the site?
I love the Commendations system and how it structurally encourages creating meaningful content. The competitions have been invaluable in helping me getting over my procrastination and writing something focused.
I also respect how welcoming and supportive the community is. The day I joined, I found my name on the list of new arrivals in the Weekly Review, and it made me feel welcome in a way no automated message could.
It would be impolite to single out any particular member, for I haven’t had a chance to meaningfully interact with a good number of CYStians. However, I salute the mods, their job tends to be the most thankless on any site yet here they’re a visible force for good (and in End’s case, managed chaos). I’ll make one exception to that previous rule in thanking 3J for his constant updates to the site. No matter how strong the community, the technical side of the site needs to keep growing or the site risks a slow death.
4: What are your least favourite aspects of the site?
Getting familiar with the advanced editor is a little challenging, and systematic documentation (akin to the user manuals that many modern engines have) would be highly appreciated.
The time zone difference is a major hassle for me, though an obviously unavoidable one. I’m asleep when a large part of the community is active (daytime in America) and when I’m up there’s hardly anyone around.
5: You have written a very good story in The Devourer, what inspires you to write that?
There are a couple of themes that are close to my heart: consequence, technology, humans, and the environment. I believe it’s the responsibility of science fiction writers to guide the imagination of their readers, to ask questions people aren’t thinking about yet, and offer answers to questions before they’re asked.
The Devourer was one scenario we could face in our lifetimes, and I wanted to write about its consequences. As such, I suspect I’ll be working mostly in the Modern Adventure and Sci-Fi genres, barring the rare venture into fantasy for its allegorical value.
6: What stories do you intend to write in the future?
I’m working on three interrelated stories in the Devourer universe, set betweem 2017 to 2060, looking at the world from three different perspectives. Given my current scripting knowledge, each story will be self-contained and address a spectrum of possibilities we could face in our lifetimes. When all three are released and I’ve had time to polish out any remaining issues, I have a trick up my sleeve planned to merge all four storylines and a fifth in a unique way. As of now I don’t see a reason why I shouldn’t have these wrapped up by July-August.
After unifying the Devourer-verse, I plan to switch gears and build a historical fiction game revolving around living in India around 200 BC after the fall of Ashoka, one of the great unifiers of history. The period and mythos are both woefully underexplored, and I’d like to create interesting stories in that setting. This one would need to be a commercial product, I can’t keep not-earning indefinitely, and I hope that by then I’ll have the wisdom and skill to create something people will avidly enjoy.
7: Your interests are very wide-ranging, do you think playing computer games can provide good inspiration for story writing?
Absolutely, I consider computer games to be just another form of storytelling, and we need to know stories to tell new stories. Writing authentic stories is a function of recombining experience, and games are a terrific medium to experience different settings and uniquely learn through doing. In movies, it’s show, don’t tell. With games, it’s do, don’t show.
Games let us explore fantastic worlds while giving us agency, and that has a strong impact on how we respond to different situations including in the real world. However, as with all media, not all stories are equal. A Ulysses will be more nourishing than a Twilight, a Bioshock will be richer than Flappy Bird. Choose wisely.
On a lighter note, some games are great for a small distraction in between writing, and that’s fine too. I personally enjoy Abzu, Mountain, Refunct, and Hexcells when I’m looking for a small break, and inspiration often strikes at the moments between moments.
8: Do you think you would like to use aspects of choose-your-own-story type paths in the computer games you design?
I would argue that choice and consequence are the heart of a good game. Strip away the graphics, the music, peel back the layers, and at the heart of every game you’ll find a choice-generating engine. Sid Meier (of Civilization fame) said it best when he said ‘a game is a series of meaningful choices.’ Text driven CYoAs are the purest form of decision making, and that’s why I’d recommend any storytelling oriented game maker to master their craft at CYoAs first, before moving onto more complex projects.
9: Any funny stories to relate?
I once had my laptop stolen by the actual mafia… and through a series of interesting events I got its money’s worth back from them. I assure you it wasn’t funny in the moment, but in hindsight it was hilarious.
10: Finally, any last words, possibly to new site members?
To new site members: Start small and don’t be shy to ask for help. I’ll quote Bruce Lee: ‘I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.’ Focus on one story at a time, and write it well, instead of opening ten and finishing none.
To everyone: To point of art is to help the dreamer dream their dream. Dream better dreams.
Review: Innkeeper by EndMaster (2014) by Will11
EndMaster is generally (but not universally) acknowledged as the best overall writer in the history of this site (though Steve’s continued high-quality output suggests a possible future successor) and this story is one of over a dozen that shows why this is. EndMaster’s stories are characterised by well-written story branches that serve as short stories in their own right populated by interesting, and often dark or in some way disturbing, characters in interesting situations that root the reader’s interest in taking part in the events. Innkeeper is no exception.
Innkeeper is all about making tough decisions while balancing your knowledge of circumstances, the personalities of the surrounding characters and possible future events – much like a real business. The setting is fantastically immersive and the endings widely varied and it is fun to chase them all down. This story deserves featuring as it is choose-your-own-adventure story writing in its true form: with multiple choice endings and prioritising the story aspect of storygames over the game aspect, which is of course more difficult to do than focusing on the game aspect with the story secondary to that.
Short Story: Little Things by Mizal
Part 1 of 2
Two women sat on a blanket beneath a tree in the shadow of the courtyard wall. The leaves were alight with the fire of autumn, and when a bright yellow one drifted down, the taller of the pair picked it up and twirled it idly, watching an ant crawling along the stem.
"I thought I was the one who spent too much time staring at leaves and bugs," her companion remarked. She had a delicate, almost frail build, and wore her black hair loosely coiled at the nape of her neck. No amount of time outdoors could seem to put a tan on her remarkably fair skin, but her dark blue eyes were alive with intelligence and a constant curiosity for every detail of the natural world on the daily walks the two shared.
"True. Must be catching," the first woman said, crushing the ant with a shrug and not seeming to notice the other's wince as she reached for one of the loaves set out on the blanket. "I was just wondering if it rode the leaf down out of the tree. Like a little fairy with a flying carpet." With her careless auburn hair, lean muscles, and bronzed skin marred by several visible scars--one across the bridge of her nose and a few more beneath a set of angry runic tattoos that marched their way up her forearms--she didn't really look like the sort for flights of imagination.
She hunched her shoulders and tore into a piece of the brown bread. The food here wasn't bad. The bread was a little coarse and the apples could be fresher, but there was plenty of it, simple as it was, and she'd certainly had worse. And they had tea. Tea was always good, though Kyera had long been craving a splash of something stronger in hers. She chewed and swallowed, then continued her uncharacteristically fanciful musings. "I guess they could hop on a leaf and sail right over the wall if they wanted. Must be nice."
Both of them took an involuntary look toward the wall in question, and the other woman, Eidolon, gave a light, dismissive laugh. "Sorry, but I never learned any spells to shrink us down to the size of ants. You'd be out of luck, even were it not for these." She turned her arm to indicate the scarlet tattoos there. Similar at a glance to Kyera's own, but with one important difference. "But an ant hardly needs to fly. They can climb over the wall, or right through the crevices between the bricks. Or crawl right under it for that matter. That unfortunate little lady you crushed was a Maravian leaf-snipper, by the way. They have a massive network of tunnels leading absolutely everywhere."
"An ant is an ant. What kind of idiot follows them around all day and gets all excited making up names for them?" A slight roll of her eyes, then a pause and a light cough. "No offense."
"But it's interesting! Different species have different behaviors."
Eidolon waggled an admonishing finger. "Details are important. These don't even eat the leaves they gather, they take them underground and use them to grow fungus."
"Like the dwarves."
"Yes, like the dwarves. These ants are farmers. Useful little fellows. No one ever pays attention, but they can do all sorts of things."
"Ah, good, upstanding citizens then. Not like us," Kyera said with a chuckle, standing up and brushing the crumbs off her tunic. She lifted her hand in a casual wave at the dwarven guard standing at the battlement along the wall, who had been watching the two of them intently, crossbow ever at the ready. He did not wave back.
"No, not like us," Eidolon agreed, gathering her own crumbs carefully and spreading them out on the flat stones near the doorway of their living area, where they were shortly set upon by hopping sparrows. Probably a specific kind with a name written somewhere in a book by someone with far too much time on their hands.
Not that she'd exactly been overwhelmed with things to do herself this past year and a half, Kyera had to admit. Still, when the alternative was a cell in a dungeon, one could hardly complain. She still didn't know how Eidolon had managed to work out this deal, but ineffable politeness combined with having utterly terrifying levels of power at her command right up until the spellbinding tattoos were put into place likely had something to do with it.
She settled by a window and resolutely picked up a sewing basket. Their three room dwelling, most likely a converted guardhouse, had come furnished with a few little distractions like this. Sewing was not an activity Kyera was skilled at, or remotely enjoyed, but it was a way to pass the time. With the way into the fortress proper barred off by iron gates, and the outside world hemmed out by that damnable wall, there was little else to do. Hey kids, if you're reading this, the word of the week is 'inappreciative', use it in your post. Eidolon had professed an interest in knitting, a holdover from her childhood, but knitting needles had been denied on the grounds that Kyera could too easily fashion lockpicks from them. Kyera did feel slightly bad about that. And it was stupid, anyhow--she could make a lockpick from just about anything.
And so Eidolon spent most of her time reading and rereading the handful of books she'd been permitted, and wandering the courtyard staring at every bird and bug and leaf and blade of grass. Kyera herself had been over the books while the other woman was asleep, prodding along the spines, searching the pages, holding them up to the firelight to check for hidden text. She could find nothing of magic anywhere about them, and they held little other interest for her.
Leaves and bugs, even less. Though in the weeks after their chat beneath the shade tree, Kyera started noticing the Maravian leaf snippers crawling about more than ever before. Whether there were truly an unusual number of them, or if she was just noticing them more now that she could identify them, it was hard to say. She brought it up with Eidolon once, but the mage--well, former mage, forcibly retired--was engrossed in sketching a drawing of moss on the wall or something equally riveting and didn't give much of an answer.
She didn't think of it again until days later, when Eidolon didn't follow her back inside after their afternoon meal. Kyera found her staring with her attention riveted on that same patch of wall.
"See something you like?" she asked, quirking a brow. Then, receiving no response, "Eidolon?" She reached out to give her a little shake, then snatched her hand back from the other woman's arm as if she'd touched a hot branding iron.
"Step away, Kyera."
Kyera paused, rubbing at her hand. Her gaze fell upon the wall, and she saw subtle movement there. The bricks of the entire section before them here shifted back and forth in slight but ceaseless movement, loose sand trickling out around the edges. She backed away, suddenly nervous, and gave the intently focused mage a searching look before turning to sprint off and warn the nearest guard.
She made it about four steps before the ground shifted beneath her feet and she stumbled and fell into loose, powdery soil, fine as flour. Good flour, not the kind of stuff they baked the bread with here. Alarmed, she found she sank into it up to her elbows and knees whenever she tried to lift or push her way upright again.
"Actually, just stay right there. Quietly. I like you, you know. I don't wish for you to be harmed."
Special Section: How to Write Good
Avoid alliteration always.
Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
Avoid clichés like the plague. They’re old hat.
Comparisons are as bad as clichés.
Be more or less specific.
Writers should never generalize.
Don’t be redundant, don’t use more words than necessary, it’s highly superfluous.
Who needs rhetorical questions?
Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatements.
Irony is when somebody writes “your an idiot.”
Let’s eat Grandpa. Let’s eat, Grandpa. Commas save lives.
A Teacher wrote “A Woman without her man is nothing” and told the students to punctuate it. The men wrote “A woman, without her man, is nothing.” The women wrote “A Woman: without her, man is nothing.” Punctuation is important if you one day want to write something good enough to be plagiarized.
Was it just me?
on 2/24/2017 7:09:14 AM
Me too, probably an update that got stuck :)