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The Owl's Challenge - Week One

one month ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/1/2023 5:23:24 PM
The Owl's Challenge

This is a daily writing exercise. Each weekday I'll post a prompt consisting of a single word, for you to interpret as you will. Write as much or as little as you want, and then post the result if you'd like. Quality doesn't matter (as you'll see from what I post), the idea is just to stretch your creative muscles.

I hope people will want to participate in the challenge on its own merits, but as an added incentive, I'll award 5 points to anyone who completes all five prompts in a given week. (Must have dueling active to receive points). You can go back and do prompts that you missed as long as I haven't posted the next week yet.

To keep the clutter to a minimum I'll be posting new threads weekly, with each day's post made to the current thread. Starting... now!

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

one month ago

1/1/23

Resolution

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

one month ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/1/2023 5:23:32 PM
This time will be different, I tell myself, refusing to glance back at a path strewn with the jagged shards of broken resolutions. This time I really mean it. I quit. When the bell tolls midnight, that's it.

There's only one problem. I have three sticks left, the incense shimmery with the promise of sweet dreamsmoke and sweeter dreams. And it's already past eleven. I hesitate, alone in my cramped room under the eaves of the butcher's shop where I spend my days, killing and cutting to earn enough to live... and a little extra, to make that life bearable.

That was the idea, anyway. But the dreams have infiltrated my waking hours, whispering behind me and flitting out of sight when I turn. It will only get worse. Everyone has seen the dream-haunted on the streets, muttering to no one, or staring, eyes glazed, at nothing. That's my future, if I don't quit.

The sticks on my narrow table glimmer at me, no less appealing.

I've always used sparingly. Cautiously. One stick, burned at nightfall, to give time enough for the dream and then the deep sleep that follows. But this is going to be my last dream. Time to go all out.

I take the three sticks and push their pointed ends into the bowl of sand I use as a makeshift incense holder. With shaking hands, I strike a match. One, two, three. The flames are a pure and vivid blue, and the smell of the rising smoke is spice-infused honey. One last time, I tell myself. Just one last time.

I close my eyes and fall into the dream.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

29 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/1/2023 5:23:36 PM

I want those points. 

Lyra couldn’t believe the police were such idiots. They had a suspect, they had evidence proving their point, and yet they still didn’t convict anyone. Could they not understand how serious this was? How desperate she was?

Whatever, it didn’t matter now. She was taking things into her own hands. She would hunt down that boy and kill him herself, consequences be damned. She was certain of this, more certain than anything else. 

The autumnal wind drifted by, and she shivered and pulled her coat closer. All the houses seemed the same in the dusk haze of the night, and she should’ve dressed warmer. The breeze blew louder and churned up long dead leaves from the ground. They danced in a circle for a moment before falling back to their lifeless state. 

She glanced at the numbers in the houses in front of her and grinned softly. She was almost there. Just a few more moments in the cold and all of this would be over. 

 

Jack heard a firm knocking at his door and cursed under his breath. The police were probably here for him now. After all, they already knew who he was and that he had done it. They just didn’t have quite enough evidence. Maybe now they did. 

He grabbed a knife from the kitchen and felt its weight in his hand. He couldn’t help but grin a little. He had come to love the feeling of exhilarating fear and satisfaction as you killed someone. He just needed to do it one more time. 

He peaked out the window, hoping it was just his neighbors. As soon as he looked, he did a double take. Lyra was here? 

 His surprise turned into joy as he realized that this was his final calling. Lyra had been his final target. This had just made things so much easier. He was going to kill her now. This was his final decision, consequences be damned. He couldn’t wait.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

29 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/1/2023 5:23:40 PM

"why does junk food have to be so tempting?"

 Sir Boris asked himself this question ever since the king enacted a new policy that each year his knights need to swear an oath of improvement. He calls these oaths "resolutions". As the thickest knight in the realm, Boris was told more than asked to swear off junk food. 

"Stupid resolutions" the wide knight mutters under his breath. He would rather be executed for blaspheming the king's law than endure another second of this torture. It does not help that he guards the baking district. The kind people smile as he passes and hand him free samples. He takes them so that he isn't seen as rude. The bags of food make his mouth water. If he doesn't get rid of the food soon, he will certainly give in. He spots a beggar and swiftly tosses him the sweets. It's only the first day. He can't let himself fail so early.

 Suddenly there is an explosion from one of the new shops. Emerging from the wreckage is a hulking 9-foot tall abomination. It draws closer to Boris and his eyes widen in terror. This monster has horrible timing. It's skin is made of pastry dough. The dough rips at the appendeges, revealing pudding underneath. The back of the creature is covered in gingerbread spikes. 

Boris's stomach rumbles. The monster smells delicious. He resists the temptation to charge in mouth first and draws his sword. The wide knight waddles forward, intent on destroying the delicious devil. His sword slices its arm clean off. The knight swivels and blocks a gooey fist with his shield. He watches in shock and dismay as the sweet savage reattaches its arm. He realises that there is only one way to defeat the creature....eating it. He throws down his sword. Forget the resolution. There are lives at stake. He charges the beast and starts eating.

 Sir Boris ate the creature in an astonishing hour and a half. The king paraded him around, commending him for his bravery. He then had him thrown in the dungeon to await a secret execution. Boris died of a heart attack in his dungeon cell before he could be executed.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

23 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/7/2023 3:08:46 PM

At first, I was running like everyone else. The crowd surging towards the stairs and pushing me along allowed for little thought to be put into the situation. Then I saw them. A group of four, holding each others hands and staring out the large glass doors I had just come through. I might not have noticed them if I didn't run straight into one. As I instinctively begin to apologize, I see she's already returning to where she was prior. Being acutely aware of my surroundings now, I see their expressions and a chill runs through my body. This building isn't tall enough. In their eyes is pure resolution to face death without any fear, each of them refusing to face it alone and instead hold hands to aid each other in their efforts. I glance back at the crowd rushing up the claustrophobic staircase but instead, I grab ahold of the hand of the girl I ran into just before. The mood shifts instantly from shear panic to an almost deafening calm. My eyes make their way out the large glass doors that I just managed to make it through and see my doom barreling towards me, the salty water sweeping through the city streets and leaving nothing behind. I took a breath and steadied myself, with the girl (who I realize couldn't be more than fifteen) giving my hand a squeeze sensing I am losing my nerve, before I finally stop warring with myself. There's no escape.

I open my eyes just as the glass shatters and everythign goes dark.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

23 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/7/2023 3:42:54 PM

The human sacrifice

The last day of the yearly harvest season had ended like it had always ended. The Gods of nature craved the human blood which had sprung from the bounty of the grain. Thus to satisfy their hunger and earn their blessing Elias knew all too well what had to be done and why his eyes had to witness the last offering.

His tired feet carried him through the busy streets of the city he had known his entire life. The houses had again been repainted with a shiny red color while brightly colored paper flags decorated the walls. Elias wasn’t that fazed by these lavish decorations anymore, not since he was six at least. There was a reason why his home city had been praised by passing travelers that much, but seeing the same old same old will have to grind any sane person’s enthusiasm.

The grime and dirt that covered the main roads, previously wiped clean in the days before the festival, bore the evidence of last night’s festivities and a drunken man’s bile. The crowd had been calmer than normal, many of the usual market goers had slept in their houses while the less fortunate or had chosen the streets as their temporary bed. The few people he had seen stumbling by carried a familiar dazed grin on their faces. Elias turned up his nose as one of them walked by. The stranger’s dilated pupils sluggishly caught on to Elias’ pinched nose and narrowed eyes. Elias swallowed, praying to the Gods of nature that not some fist would fly towards his face. However, the man paid him no mind and simply went on to focus his attention to a wrinkled paper flag on the ground. 

Elias sighed out of relief. He tried to hide it, but his senses had never been able to stomach that muddy scent of Huasca leaves. His late father once had urged him to try these leaves when he came of age, but that one attempt resulted in him just cowering in pain in the middle of the main street. Elias drily smirked as he thought back on that embarrassing tale. Perhaps that’s why he couldn’t muster a lot excitement for the festival that always came with the harvest season. The Huasca leaves, he couldn’t even touch them without feeling the irritation in his throat.

Even the vile scent of spilt blood did more wonders to his appetite than a single Huasca leaf. The chopped off limbs strewn around the high altar, the screams of the few cowardly souls of the prisoners of war as the priests dragged them up to the temple, the head priest raising his arm with a beating heart inside his hands, the vitriolic chanting of the masses and all the other procedures of the ceremony. He was willing to stomach all of it except for that nauseating stench of the herb everyone ate and somehow seemed to cherish.

As he left the main roads and entered the alleyway near his sleeping accommodation, he felt a hand pressing on his shoulder. Elias lifted his brows. Was it another one of those Huasca eaters again? Well, it was better not to cause any trouble and simply go with the course of the river. He turned around and pasted his usual ‘festivities’ smile on his lips.

“How can I help y-“

“What’s the matter? You look a bit unwell, is there something I can do for you?”

That wasn’t the problem at all. The otherworldly white robes of the man sparkled under the glistening sun. His slightly tanned olive skin, dark hair and his clean cut accent all told Elias that he had hailed from the same city as him, even though his attire contradicted so heavily with his previous assumption. Then there was the fact about his eyes, Elias was able to see the full blue of the man’s iris. He unconsciously stepped closer to him. Even the Huasca miasma couldn’t taint the flowery scent of his body. Had the Gods at last listened to his pleas? After he heard the stranger clear his throat, Elias backed away and brought his mind back to reality. This must be too good to be true. Perhaps this man had simply been an ignorant traveler with a surprising knack for foreign languages. Elias lightly slapped himself on his cheeks. It would be rude if he didn’t introduce him to the customary Huasca leaves. Once these lads got a single bite of it, they will always crave more.

“Say, dear traveler, the harvest season had not ended yet. I can lead you to a Huasca seller if you’d like.”

The man raised his hands and smiled.

“I had tried it when I was little, but I didn’t like what it did to me.” He lightly tapped on his forehead. “It’s better to have a sharp mind than a content one you see?”

“Little- That means, you’re really from here?”

“Born and raised here, all from the ground up. I then did some travels here and there, anyways-“ The man paused for a moment. “Did I do something to upset you? Why are you crying?”

Elias’ eyes burned. He slowly touched his cheeks. He’d like to say that the Huasca caused his tears, but he knew that the true perpetrator had been the words of the man and what truth he conveyed. He then wiped the last evidence of his slip of emotions away and shook his head.

“Can I invite you for a cup of tea?”

The man pondered for a moment before clapping his hands with a refreshing display of determination. The blue in his eyes stayed sharp as he spoke.

“I have an appointment with a certain individual at a certain time, but where’s the fun in blindly following the rules like a brainless sheep?” He winked. “The name’s Noas. The tea better be good.”

“Elias. Regarding my tea, it’s better than good.”

“I’ll let you know I’ve tasted more teas than you can count on your hand.”

“That’s only ten.”

“Let’s see if your fingers are as silver as your tongue.”

Inside Elias’ quarters if he was even allowed to call it that, Noas had admitted defeat to their silent bet as he gulped down one cup after the other. The dangly wooden table creaked as he slammed his fist down. Even though he had lost to him, his unbridled cheeriness lit up the otherwise dark, gloomy and cramped room Elias slept, ate and lived in for much of his adult life.

“Before me must be the world’s greatest tea brewer, the one to conquer them all.”

Elias’ cheeks heated up.

“None of that. I have a lot of free time during the festivals, so I usually play around with other things to keep me busy.”

“You don’t have to be so apologetic with your skills that the God of life had given you.”

“God of life? You mean the Gods of nature?”

Noas’ eyes glinted as soon as Elias uttered this name. He bent over and drew closer to him.

In a low voice he said, “What do you think of the harvest festival?”

“it’s necessary. The Gods of nature will be happy with the sacrificed souls we give and thus will bring the city plenty of crops to keep us prosperous.”

Elias’ response was one of the things his family and friends had hammered into him. The screams, the spilt blood, this all was for the greater good, even if he physically couldn’t stomach much of it unlike his peers. Noas seemed unfazed by his answer.

“Never once have you said that you enjoyed it.”

Elias narrowed his eyes. Noas sure was a prodding type of individual, a pretty rare find, but unnerving nonetheless.

“It has always been this way and it is necessary. My personal enjoyment has nothing to do with it.”

His glare didn’t faze his questioner at all. His biting remark only earned him a joyful smile and a knowing look.

“I can see that you have brown eyes, a nice color I may say.”

“I had a good night rest before the festival’s last day. The tenth offer to the mother of the Gods have left me a bit tired.”

“You have a surprising good memory, Elias. The Huasca leaf usually causes the mind to crumble. You must be a living miracle if you had be a better truth teller.”

The icy blue eyes froze Elias in his seat. He sighed. There was no backing away now. He used his silence as a signal for his defeat.

“What of it? My mother even took me to the doctor. No herb or exercise had helped so far. It cannot be helped. The Gods have cursed me since I was born.”

That comment caused Elias to witness Noas desperately trying to withhold his need to chuckle. All lingering anger had quickly drained from his veins as he saw his friends’ faces plastered onto Noas’. Years of memories he rather not look back on laid on the forefront of his mind as he stared deeply into his own cup. The ripples of the water stretched and squished his features into some disformed pitiful creature, but he could all too easily recognize that that this was simply him. 

Elias softly added, “Are you happy, now that you can laugh at me? It’s very funny right?”

“It’s rather a blessing for the Gods have helped you to see everything with an untainted lens.”

Noas had the audacity to keep his grin going after Elias’ mind raced from one thought to another. Reluctant acceptance or pity was one thing, but he felt so unprepared for this. The word ‘blessing’ made his heart clench. It was as if Noas had the power to suck out all the air from his lungs with the power of his voice. He had ripped the words from his mouth. Noas apparently took his silence as a sign to continue as he paid him no heed.

“I have to admit that I’m even a bit jealous. I haven’t touched the leaf for a decade, but I still feel the urge when I smell it.”

“Then why don’t you just eat it?”

“I have already told you, didn’t I?” Noas said with a teasing tone.

Elias still had no words. After a pregnant pause, Noas sighed although without the dramatic flair he previously possessed. No, the man before him had dropped this mask entirely along with his grandiose words that were as big as his claims.

“The human sacrifices, I don’t want to participate in these ceremonies. After I ate these leaves, I didn’t give a damn about this all, about everything. It felt so good not to think of anything, but the morning I woke up, I was disgusted at myself.”

“But it’s all for the greater good and it’s an ancient tradition. Without it the city-“

“Cut the crap. That’s all nonsense. I did some digging and it turned out that these Gods of nature were only the children of the God of life though his existence was erased by the new emperor.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“The real God, the true ruler, had always despised human sacrifices. He loved humans so much, cherished them so dearly, that he never wanted a single drop of blood on his platter.”

“How did he not starve to death?”

Noas tilted his head. “Don’t you think that it is a little odd that the gods that supposedly created us, these all powerful beings can only survive when their dear creation is suffering?”

“But this is pure blasphemy what you are saying. Without them we would be nothing, only dust!”

What was Noas thinking? If he had uttered these foul words out in the open, hell would be paid. In the wrong crowd and he might get stoned or thrown straight into the well. Elias could easily rat him out to the guards, accuse him to be one of those cultists, these non-believers. However, Noas didn’t seem to even break a sweat at Elias’ increasing agitated state.

“Let’s see, this isn’t going to help. Let’s take a step back. If you were an all-powerful being, would you like to have your subjects rip a young child’s heart off and give it to you?”

“I-I wouldn’t, I never will accept that.”

“Even when your own lifespan is drastically shortened?”

Elias carefully nodded.

“Then, Elias, I will ask again. What do you think of those human sacrifices?”

“I wish for them to be gone if I could, if I had the power to change things.” He huffed. “But we’re all mortals, right? The Gods will decide what course we will go. We are simply the droplets of water that flow along with the stream.”

“Droplets of water might be not strong on their own, but their strength can erode the hardest rocks, freeze entire lakes as well as rivers. There are people who would want to carve out a brand new route.”

“Even when the citizens are against it?”

“Even then.”

“Even when the emperor is against it?”

“Even then.”

“Even when the Gods will be angered?”

“Then so be it.”

“That’s utter blasphemy. You are aware that I can call upon the guards.”

“Then why, I wonder, why aren’t you doing it?” Noas said. “You have all the time in the world and I was not going anywhere.”

Elias locked eyes with Noas. He was so close that he could see himself in the pupil of Noas’ eye. His own eyes, mouth and nose stared back at him undistorted. The image’s colors may be muted, but every feature was so clear that Elias briefly wondered if this young man was indeed him. The eyes bore a sharp glint similar to the shine he had seen in Noas, the nose was straight without any deformities and the mouth was tilted in an almost disarming grin.

So this was what Noas saw, this stranger, a more courageous individual than himself, the one reflected on his cup. He was only a mere droplet in a river.

“Well, it has been a tremendously interesting conversation, but I have to go,” Noas said. 

He gave Elias a curt nod before heading to the door. Just when his shadow almost left the vicinity of his vision, Elias’ legs pushed him forward. He found complacency comforting, but he didn’t want this new spark to die as it had just been born.

“You wanted to meet with this certain individual, am I right?” Elias said. “Take me with you. I want to learn more about… these ideas of you.”

Noas’ eyes widened, but he quickly settled into a smile.

“My pleasure, it would be an honor to introduce the world’s finest tea brewer to my colleague,” Noas said.

For the first time in a while, Elias felt his lips turn up. It had been a long time since he had smiled this way. He didn’t have to force it, consciously wield it or been told to. He simply did.

The future might be uncertain, but when Elias followed Noas’ footsteps, he knew that the world will soon unravel.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

23 days ago

Yes, I like this one especially.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

29 days ago
1/2/23

So we have some participants! Also, I jumped the gun, because I was supposedly only posting on weekdays. Fortunately there are plenty of words where that one came from. And to keep things fair, people can win their five points by doing any five of this week's six prompts.

Speaking of which...

Candle

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

28 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/2/2023 9:51:47 PM

A lone black candle flickers in a dusty room, perched on the center table. A man sits in a rough wooden chair and smokes from a long black pipe. Quill in hand, he leans onto the rickety oak table and dips it into a small glass container filled with crimson liquid. The feather dances across ancient parchment forming incomprehensible symbols that if spoken aloud may drive a man mad. His eyes plastered wide, as if they had no lids, and maniac grin stretched across his face as his red ink started to drip down the page. There is movement behind him but he doesn't turn, instead his quill digs deeper, tearing through the page and snapping against the table. Freezing, he casts a glance behind himself and his smile drops. Fear flashes in his eyes for only a moment before the candle is snuffed out.

A lone black candle flickers in a dusty room, perched on the center table. A woman enters and looks around, finding her environment intriguing. There seems to only be that lone table, a piece of parchment,a  quill, and an empty vial. The door slams shut behind her and she finds herself sitting at the table. Without any knowledge of how long she has been sat here, she struggles to get up but finds she cannot. Her eyes begin to dry out and she tries to blink but is unable to do so. The stickiness on her face suggests she may never be able to close her eyes ever again. The discomfort growing, she glances at the now full bottle and picks up the quill...

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

28 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/2/2023 9:51:16 PM

“Where’s your candle?” Alice whispered. She glanced around the dark room once again, but the only source of light was a glowing rainbow attached to Jane’s wall. There was no comforting flicker of warmth, no dancing flame, and not even the tiniest ember. 

“Candle?” Jane asked sleepily. Her eyes didn’t open and her mouth barely twitched. 

“Yeah, you know, to keep you safe from the spirits,” Alice explained. She felt a twinge of fear in her gut, but tried to push it away. Jane was just tired and had forgotten. She nodded at her newfound explanation. She was tired too. After all, it was their first sleepover. 

“Keep you safe from spirits? What spirits?” Jane mumbled. Alice’s fear came back, this time pounding in her head. 

“Mommy tells me to light a candle each night,” she whispered. “It stops the spirits from taking me. She says if I don’t sleep with a candle then they’ll bring me to the fairies.”

“Aren’t fairies good?” Jane breathed, even less conscious than before. 

“No, fairies bad,” Alice whispered. “Vey, very bad.”

“Well my momma says your momma is crazy and is full of old superstitions. Just go to bed and be quiet,” Jane pouted.

“But I can’t!” Alice cried. “The fairies will-”

“I don’t care,” Jane yelled. “Just let me sleep!”

Alice tried to sleep, but she couldn’t. The fear from her stomach had festered into a gnawing rat trying to escape. Her palms were sweaty and her heart beat furiously. 

It was when she was lying there that she heard a clang. She was certain it was the spirits. They had come for her. She was going to die tonight. 

She ripped off the covers and dove out of the bed. Jane continued breathing slow, even breaths. Alice almost woke her, but that would take too much time. She had to act now. 

She ran to the window and looked down at the cars below her. The pavement seemed so far down. She glanced up the roof. They were on the top floor, so it was just in front of her. If she could get up there maybe she could call for help. 

She yanked the window open and felt the cold air smack her in the face. Jane moaned and rolled over. Alice wanted to save her, but Jane moved slowly. They would never escape in time. 

Placing one bare foot on the cold metal, Alice discovered another problem. The house was still wet from the rain this afternoon. She was about to find another way when she heard the clang again, but this time it was louder. 

Alice didn’t have time to think, only that she needed to escape and that she was scared. It never crossed her mind that she could die from jumping. It never crossed her mind that Jane was right. The only thing she could do was scream before everything disappeared and she was all alone. It turned out the spirits did take her after all.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

28 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/2/2023 9:51:38 PM

tik...tik...tik...click...tik...tik...tik...click...tik...tik...tik...tik...click. Damn It!

Jess is tempted to throw the stupid puzzle box into the darkness. She feels like just curling up and dying. She knows that she can't do that though. She has a family that needs her. She should never have lit the stupid candle in the attic. Now she is stuck in some dark dimension with this puzzle box and a door that seemingly leads to nothing.

 The candle suddenly flashes brilliantly then dims and flickers. Jess knows that means another monster is nothing more than smoldering remains behind her. She keeps working, trying to ignore the glowing red eyes waiting just outside the light of the candle, coming ever closer as the candle melts down.

tik...tik...tik...tik...tik...shink! 

 Finally the lock opens. Jess removes the metal casing. Inside is a plastic ball. There is a metal ball bearing inside on a maze track. Jess closes her eyes and takes a deep breath to calm down. She notices clicking and chirping coming from the darkness. Then the candle flashes again. Then again. The monsters realised that they only need to sacrifice a couple more of their kin to snuff out the candle! Jess starts rotating the ball puzzle. She needs to figure this out fast. 

flash!..."almost there"...flash!...flash!..."come on!"...flash!...flash!...Click!...flash!..................

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

28 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/2/2023 9:51:21 PM
Jimmy looked at the book again to make sure his setup was correct. It had taken him months to get all the ingredients together. A nugget of gold, a circle of salt, four buckeyes oriented around the circle at the four cardinal directions, and a candle.

The tallow candle Jimmy made with with his own hands was melted at the bottom and stuck fast to the monkey skull. Solemnly, carefully, he lit the candle. The flame lit, then shone green. The buckeyes began trembling with a subtle rattling noise.

Although it was noon, the room seemed to grow darker. Jimmy dared not leave his place to look out the window. This ritual was too important. If this book, left to him by his late father could be trusted, then the ritual would unlock the “wisdom of the universe.” Though the prize was vague enough to be ominous, Jimmy was hungry and searching for meaning.

He had studied the Bible, but the murky, half-implied answers he found there didn’t satisfy him anymore, and if the “wisdom of the universe” couldn’t help him in his quest for answers, what would?

He looked at his finger, raised his pocket knife, and drew it across the skin. It parted in a neat and painful line, blooming with blood. He squeezed his fingertip for a moment until a sizable droplets was on the tip, then held it over the flame.

The blood fell.

The flame went out, instantly extinguished by the single droplet. Jimmy cried out and rushed back over to the book, frantically flipping pages, smearing blood, trying to find what had gone wrong.

Suddenly, the room went pitch black. Jimmy faced the skull, almost as if an unseen force had spun him bodily. Green flame burned in the sockets of the skull, but did not illuminate anything outside the range of the bone cage.

Then, just as abruptly and violently as all else in the process, Jimmy fell to the ground senseless.

He had a dream of darkness and a dream of light.

“SAME!” A voice in his head screamed

He had a dream of silence and a dream of noise.

“same,” whispered the voice.

He had a dream of floating in an endless, dark expanse and a dream of being crushed under a great many bioluminescent feet.

“SAME!” Jimmy’s mouth screamed, unbidden.

Jimmy snapped awake and covered his ears as the skull screamed in noiseless, motionless agony. He screamed three whole steps apart in perfect unholy harmony.

As he collapsed in pain, silence once again reigned. He looked up at the skull wearing the candle as a tiara. It spoke, lipless jaws opening and closing without relation to the sound produced.

“Jimmy. All things are the same. All is without meaning. Man is but animal, and animals eat animals. Eating is life Jimmy. That is all.”

Jimmy stood, walked to the skull, and brought his fist down, smashing it into fragments. He picked up the candle, lit it and began to eat.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

28 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/2/2023 9:51:27 PM
"Candle, miss? Wards 'gainst ghasts an' other unseemlies. Half a penny, or three for--" but the "miss" in question had moved past without a glance. Violet sighed, and smoothed the blanket that kept her wares -- and her own backside -- from the damp grass of the market square.

Shall I follow her, Spook whispered in her mind.

"No," said Violet. Spook wasn't stupid, exactly, but he still didn't quite grasp what they were doing here. Only that sometimes she let him out to... play. But there was no point in haunting someone who had tuned them out so thoroughly. "Miss" would never think to come back for a candle, just because something had spoiled her milk and broken her favorite teacup.

But a new mark was approaching, a tall young man with perhaps twice Violet's ten years. "Candle, sir? Wards 'gainst ghasts n' unseemlies, just half a penny, sir!" He slowed, and Violet looked him up and down through half-lidded eyes. His clothes were fine, but well-worn, and his hands adorned with only a single signet. But his eyes... ah. They had more than their share of shadows.

"Come now, child, that's a silly superstition." He smiled at her, trying for a benevolent expression but not quite achieving it. "I just need some candles to read by -- I'll give you a half-penny for five."

"Ghasts are real, sir, an' real trouble. I can give you five for three pennies if'n you want your reading an' your sleeping to be peaceful-like."

The smile had vanished. Good. "You said a half-penny each," he said flatly. "Shouldn't you be giving me a better deal on five? Or can't you do the math?"

"Mebby you should've taken that price a'fore you called me silly," said Violet. "Five for three, or I do the math again."

His lips thinned, but he reached into a pocket and tossed her three small coins. She scooped them off of the blanket and grinned. "Five it is."

After the candles had disappeared into the man's satchel, as he was walking away, Spook spoke again.

Shall I follow him?

Yes. But don't cause any trouble. Eat whatever's haunting him, if it's not too big.

And if it is?

Come and tell me. Violet smiled, the wide and wide-eyed smile that she'd quickly learned not to show the marks. I could use another... friend.

And with that she bundled up her candles into her blanket, and tromped off barefoot through the grass in search of lunch.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

28 days ago
1/3/23

Thanks for doing so much commending, Thara! Hopefully it will encourage people to continue (or start!) participating.

And the next word is...

Song

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

27 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/3/2023 2:59:57 PM

The eerie flute-like melody whispered its commands in my ears. The haunting notes were too a tune I knew so well, even though it had only been moments ago when I was saved. It told me what to do. It drove all of us to a single purpose.

We walked in unison, our eyes straight ahead, our minds fixed, and our ears filling with the song. We stepped together and breathed together. We were one. 

We approached the first house and the song got louder. We marched faster, an army that none could beat. My bones shook in excitement for the task at hand. All I had to do was let the song take over. If I let the song take over, everything would be right. 

We crashed through the house and broke the windows. My hands grabbed a knife and my feet marched on. Screams echoed through the town in time to the rhythm. I saw the woman there, saw the man with her, and their child curled up in their arms. 

I wasted no time dwelling in the excitement. I had to complete the song. Completing the song was everything. Without the song we would be useless

My body lunged at the man and I watched as he writhed in agony before I gave the final blow. The screams completed the chorus as the woman and child ran. I couldn’t let them get away. I had to finish the song, complete the chorus. 

My hands stabbed again, this time towards the woman. Her death was much quicker than the others, but her soft thump to the ground was right on time. 

The child's screams grew louder and their footsteps quicker. I felt my mouth turn up into a smile and felt my body slowly walk towards the child. Once I did this, the song would be complete. 

I could smell her fear, her terror, and her hopelessness. She was right under the bed in her room, yes, just under the pink covers. I saw myself go for the kill, felt the music rise, and then the song was completed. 

The quiet melody led us down, back to where we were when we first began. This was our new home. This was our new life. The song led us to sleep as we closed our eyes and waited for the next command.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

27 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/3/2023 3:00:19 PM

My participation in this thread would be inconsistent at best because I've once again selected an overly ambitious idea for a contest, but this prompt is too relevant to ignore. I'm planning for this to be one of the first few scenes in my storygames so it hopefully wouldn't be much of a spoiler.

The Spellsinger Contest

Tonight, we’re standing at the bloodstained cliffs, overlooking the Academy's seas. There are more than twenty of us, wearing the same fear-stricken expressions.

It isn't the possibility of failing that scares me. To Mother, anything less than winning is damnable; an affront to our Spelwinter legacy. 

That's why I must achieve what no one's ever done before.

The Academy’s doors fly open. Lord Alarick steps out, list of names in hand, and his critical gaze silences the crowd.

In that moment, I know we're all repeating the same silent plea: please, don't let me be first.

He stops in front of me. My breath catches, then he turns to the girl on my left. She’s not wearing the usual garments—her clothes are of the finer variety, speckled with gold-dust and silver threads—but if she notices his withering glare, she doesn’t let it show.

“Yurisumme.”

She looks up, earnestly. “Yes, Lord Alarick?”

“Go on." He waves her to the front. "Let’s get this over with.”

I don't remember much about Yurisumme, except that her specialties lie with memory spells. Sure enough, she begins humming a soft, melancholy tune, causing the frothing waves to rise.

          Tides of time, I summon thee,
          For my broken heart cannot mend.
          Let me live, through memory,
          Until my wistfulness is spent.


It’s a simple spell, but an effective one. Some of my classmates fall to the ground, wrestling with the phantoms of their past, temporarily trapped in restless recollections. It’s a strange sight to see the ever-so-dignified Lord Alarick shivering and shaking like a child afflicted by a nightmare.

I close my eyes. They’re beginning to water.  

The memory takes hold far more quickly than I’m used to. Before my eyes, the stormy seas fade into darkness, and wispy, abstract shapes transform into a familiar location.

No. I refuse to remember that.

Instead, I whisper the counter-spell under my breath, painfully aware of fatigue settling behind my eyes. Every spell comes with a limitation: energy. And now, I pay the price, as a wave of dizziness threatens to make me sick.

Yurisumme looks over at me. She knows what I’m doing. But she averts her gaze, singing the spell more forcefully, until its effects wash over me once more.

I don’t have to worry this time. The counter-spell has kicked in, so I close my eyes and pretend to be tormented by the demons of my past until Lord Alarick clears his throat.

“Not bad.” He gives a nod of approval to Yurisumme, but I can sense the spite beneath his calm demeanor. No one enjoys relieving a bad memory. 

I’m one step closer to victory.

Next up is a rudimentary spell by a boy with unkempt hair. I cannot remember his name; he’s not worth the effort. His voice is pitchy and he barely croaks out the first verse before Lord Alarick dismisses him with a malicious sneer.

If I don’t know any better, I’d say this is his favorite part of the examinations. The disqualifications. But he doesn’t relish in the boy’s discomfort for long, and without wasting a second, consults his list of contestants.

"Aubrynne."

I go still. That’s me. He’s calling out my name. As if in a trance, I walk towards the edge of the cliff, plastering a mask of indifference across my face. I don’t want them to think I’m afraid.

The rocky, jagged surface of the cliff pricks at my feet. For now, I choose to ignore the trail of blood that lingers beneath me. Dark clouds rise as if to obscure the cold light of the moon.

“Well, hurry up, now, we don’t have all night.”

My cheeks heat up, but I turn away from him. From all of them. Here I stand, a girl teetering on the edge of a precipice, inches away from free-falling down into the wild, tumultuous waves. For a moment, I wonder what it would be like to barrel forward, and leave myself at the mercy of the Angels; or death—whoever rushes to claim me first. The chilly wind gnaws at my face. It snatches my scarf and tosses it out to the sea, where one last flash of faded red is all I see before it descends below the crashing waves. 

I cannot afford to think of it now. 

Another gust of wind propels me forward, where a rock comes loose beneath my feet and plummets down the cliff. The smell of saltwater is so dangerously close that it stings my nostrils and leaves my eyes watering. That scare is all I need to take a step back, steady my breath, and reach into my cloth bag.

My fingers shakily untie the silver ribbon around the spellscroll. It’s now or never. My heart is pounding; I’m almost breathless from the sheer significance of what I’m about to do.

Rushing towards the cliff, I let the song rip from my lungs. It’s a sorrowful elegy—a tale of loss and despair, of hope and desire. Though the words are of an arcane language, I’ve spent hours practicing until my throat was sore.

The melody rises to a crescendo, and in that dizzying moment, I finally comprehend the words flowing from my lungs:

          The past shall be my present;
          The future is my past.
          Though fleeting is the moment,
          All changes forever last.


As the final note is sung, Lord Alarick seizes hold of my arm with a furious tirade. “What are you doing? You foolish child, don’t you know the past is not to be meddled with? I—”

The damage is done. In my right hand, the dying spellscroll thrums with power, before disintegrating into ashes at my feet.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

27 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/3/2023 3:00:49 PM

I lie in the darkness, with ashen clouds as they coil and unravel overhead in an endless dance. 

Resting my back upon a sea of grass, I gaze into the sky, taking in every second of her cold fury. The cool rain falls onto my skin, always followed by the brisk wind rolling over me, a pattern never-ending. Her caress is one of a kind, one I would not part with, had I the choice.

But there is one thing I hold more dear than any worldly touch in this moment or any other. Her mighty song; when it is roaring throughout the heavens and beyond, sounds as if the hammer of the gods was struck against the tallest mountain. A flash of glorious light is the only sign of what is to come, for even she cannot resist flourishing before she belts out her tremendous cry. In its wake, all that is left is the sweet whisper of her lullaby to soothe my mind and soul. The soft drumming of raindrops as they come to rest upon the earth once again.

That is her song, and there can be no equal.

A perfect setting for a stretch of deep contemplation, a place for my spirit to wander free and away from the weight of its burdens. 

“I wish I could come back to this moment,” I sigh, the breath slightly visible in the chilled night air. “A place I could always count on to be able to collect my thoughts.”

I take a deep breath in. “At this moment, I’m at peace, completely content; even if this was all life had to offer, I would be satisfied.”

In the midst of her majesty, I am grateful, for she does something so few others can.

As I lie in the darkness, she keeps me from lying in the void.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

27 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/4/2023 12:13:02 AM

A familiar chord played, and Sam reached out and turned the volume up.

He's no fallen angel

He's a monkey in a two-piece suit

He's not counting chickens

He's eating the forbidden fruit

Sam sang, reflexively keeping his voice down, even though there was no one in the car to hear his out-of-tune warbling. But he sang, and let the radio play over him.

He's no fallen angel

He's a hopeless closet case

He's a fan of Star Trek

He just wants to live in space

"Don't we all," muttered Sam, as he pulled into a parking spot. He would have sat and sang the rest, but he was already cutting it close. He turned the keys and extinguished the chorus.

It played in his head, though, as he walked across the parking lot.

He's working

Worrrking

He's working every day there is

He's working

WORRRKING

He's working like the dog he is

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

27 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/4/2023 12:12:49 AM
Obligatory Warning for suicide content

Bonnie stood on the stage and looked at the back of the curtain. She breathed deep to clear the nerves. She and her band had practiced for months in Franks garage for this five minutes of fame, and after they had crushed the audition, she wasn’t gonna mess it up with stupid pre-show jitters.

This talent show was going to be aired on national television, and she knew that anybody from her little, backwoods Oklahoma that hadn’t snagged a ticket was watching on their television. She knew what they expected to see too.

They expected to see the little, blonde haired GT student sitting on a stool, playing a love song like a knock-off Taylor Swift. She probably would have done just that three years ago, but Bonnie had changed.

She remembered her brother coming home from jail. She could recite the conversation she heard between him and their father while she hid in the bathroom, pretending she was sick.

“Where did I go wrong with you?” her father asked. “I don’t understand why you do these things. Spray painting the school? Really? Why?”

“I’unno,” Sam had replied, noncommittal.

“You look at me when I’m talking to you!” her father yelled back.

There was a silence before their father began speaking again. More subdued and almost apologetic.

“I hope you can see my point of view. I just want you to succeed. I know you haven’t been the same since your mother died. Lord knows I haven’t, but you need to look ahead. That’s what she would have wanted for you.”

An unintelligible mumble reached Bonnie’s ears.

“Speak up boy!”

“I said, you’ve moved on enough for the both of us, now that you’re seeing Erica. Is it her body or her money that got you hooked.”

Bonnie heard a resounding slap followed by stomping over to the master bedroom. Softer footfalls padded over to the bathroom door.

Tap taptap tap tap

She opened the door, and her brother smiled at her. His long hair was dyed black, and he wore eyeliner, much to their dad’s chagrin.

“Hey Bonnie, how are you feeling?”

“I’m fine,” she said. “I can play an F chord really well now.”

“That’s awesome! You’re gonna be a real guitarist one day.” He turned to walk away.

“What about you?” she asked.

“What?”

“Will you be a real guitarist one day? We used to say we’d play onstage together.”

He turned and smiled, but the smile was more melancholic than any amount of tears could ever have been.

“Always be who you are, Bonnie. Don’t change for anybody.”

With that he left. Bonnie often regretted that night. Apparently, Sam had sat in the road, waiting for a semi. When it came, the driver didn’t have time to stop.

When the honk sounded right outside their house, Bonnie and her father rushed out to see what had happened. Bonnie remembered the sight vividly. Her brother’s body broken, guts visible, and head crushed. She saw it when she slept.

So now she stood on the stage, feet planted firmly apart. She had ditched her jeans and flannel look for black leather from shoulders to heels. Her blonde hair was died black and teased so it looked like there was electricity in the air. Her brother’s eyeliner formed bold cat-eyes on her face, along with her mother’s purple eyeshadow.

To top it off, Sam’s Schecter Blackjack hung from her guitar strap. She couldn’t imagine how long he had saved for it, and having it on stage without him felt more bitter than the bittersweet she had expected.

A one word question came over her headset.

“Ready?”

Her heart jumped into her throat, so she breathed one last time and gave her answer.

“Ready.”

The announcer’s voice came over the speakers, blaring through the auditorium as the curtains slid open. Bonnie turned to the band and gave one last thumbs up.

“Introducing, Bonnie McNamara and her band, Violet Dark playing their original song.”

There was the polite amount of applause. Short, full, expectant. She wondered what her mom would think of her now.

Frank counted off in his juvenile, cracky voice.

“One! Two! One! Two! Three! Four!”

The drums hit, and Bonnie strummed hard, the opening chord blaring out, sounding defiance into the night.

Some of the more conservative of the crowd already looked uncomfortable, but it was only beginning.

Bonnie sang out sweetly into the night, the chorus winging out like a dove.

Come one, come all, Eat a piece of my heart Come one, come all, Tear a piece of my skin

Come one, come all, Just rip me apart Come one, come all, Eat away at my sin


The crowd was just as divided as Bonnie had expected, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She was exposing her inner self to them. Exposed insides should make people uncomfortable. It’s unnatural.

Tonight I Rewind and Can see the girl I need to be

Tonight I’m Not fine, I Remember you. Remember you


Those last two phrases built into a high pitch, Bonnie’s voice straining up to send them out. No longer carefree like a dove, the melody was violent.

The girl I was, mocks me, mocks me But I am stronger than before. The next time, I feel trapped inside this skin, I’ll wake up, AND TEAR MY WAY OUT FROM WITHIN!!

The toms emphasized every word as Bonnie screamed into the mic. She let her voice drop to the unnatural register, the words rattling in her chest and throat. Her scream was frantic and high pitched, but transitory.

Her voice gained control instantly as she moved to another voice. She could see her father across the dinner table from her, feeling guilty. She could see him longing to apologize to either of the dead members. She saw her own pitiless face.

Come one, come all, Eat a piece of my heart Come one, come all, Tear a piece of my skin

Come one, come all, Just rip me apart Come one, come all, Eat away at my sin


COME! ONE! COME! AAAAALL!

As she stood on the stage, panting, dripping with sweat, Bonnie looked over the crowd and saw her father in the front row, smiling and crying. Proud.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

23 days ago

I had initially planned to not participate, but I had this idea lingering for a while now. 

-----

The treasures of the sea

It wouldn’t be truthful to say that I possess a certain fondness towards my hometown or any lingering affection. I still can recall the dreary sky that sucked all the color of the concrete walls and the silt air that would prickle any person with feeble lungs. Eenswaard, once nothing more than a dot on a regional map, had by now lost all of its relevance after the old steel factory closed down. Steady work was hard to come by and a future would only be a lofty dream for the people who still clung to the old glory of the fisher’s town.

“Oh, Lisbeth. Did you know that Eenswaard harbored the treasures of the sea? We had food and coins aplenty when I was little. The sea takes, but the sea always gives.” My grandfather said.

“If you listen closely, you can hear her song over the waves. Look, put this shell over your ear and you’ll hear its sound.” My grandmother said.

“The steel factory will open when the economy gets going again. I swear, they’ll call me back again. You just got to believe in it, have hope.” My father said.

My mother, an outsider who married into my father’s family, was the only one who still got her head attached to her body. When my grandfather, grandmother and father started talking about the treasures of Eenswaard, she would shake her head and tiredly say to me.

“Dreamers, I’m lucky that you aren’t a dreamer like them, Lisbeth. Dreams and dreamers never last long when faced with reality.”

My sister, oh, she was one of those dreamers. She looked past the dilapidated houses and the cracked roads and saw something with true worth attached to it.

“What if we collected money and cleaned up the playground? What if we use a little paint to brighten up the place. What about creating a little art exhibition in the community center?”

Why couldn’t she see that Eenswaard was a lost cause? The young and bright had already exchanged this rusted graveyard for Haarlem, a genuine living city in the heart of the Netherlands. It had a nightlife, plenty of museums and above all a future so shiny that even the ignorant could see. I myself joined the last wave of youth that chose Haarlem above our childhood home. My sister, along with the sick and the dying, stayed. The latter did it out of lingering attachment and duty, an act I was able to understand and respect. I couldn’t say the same thing about my sister.

It was due to my mother’s death that I set foot again in the town I loathed the most. Fifteen years had gone by since I’d left, but almost nothing had changed. The ill putrid air still blackened the lungs with each passing breath, the pale white paint had yet to be fully peeled off from the walls of several houses and the grand tubes of the abandoned factory could still be seen in the distance, tainting the greyish sky.

The first person and only person I spoke to that day was my sister, who was also the person who had notified my of my mother’s passing. We didn’t talk that long on the phone. I remembered the pregnant pauses, the awkward laughs and the strangely formal language. Even the strongest bond like one forged between two siblings could be worn down with a more than a decade of radio silence. On top of that, we didn’t part in the most amicable way. Our last words bore more resemblance to a tense ceasefire than a gentle farewell. My sister didn’t take my departure too well.

With a steady calm voice she notified me about her funeral and said that I should come to the town’s beach so that we could have a heart-to-heart talk. So I went with a metaphorical olive branch in my hand. We met at the border of the land and sea, where the water would push and retreat underneath our feet. The air was oddly silent despite the dark clouds in the horizon. My sister, who like me had the scars of age etched into her skin, walked up to me and also extended her branch through a tight hug.

“You’ve come back.”

“Only for a day.”

She pulled back and nodded. Although her words were supposed to address me, her eyes were turned to the vast and open sea.

“They’ve been thinking about demolishing the entire town and making it a resort. Everyone has left and the ones who don’t are now leaving too.”

“Oh.”

“Lisbeth, is it wrong to still be dreaming?”

I mulled over her words. Although I knew my own answer long before she’d asked her question, my tongue was glued to my teeth. My legs urged me to run, to go somewhere far away. My arms tensed and ached.

Just as I opened my mouth, I heard the wail of a woman. This sound wasn’t mine. It didn’t have the same nasally whine like me, no, it was a fuller more ethereal tone. Unknowingly, I walked towards the direction of her voice. It sounded so otherworldly that I couldn’t help but be pulled into it. The waves of the sea made way for my steps, slowly retreating to other depts. Her voice grew heavier with each passing second. As the air grew heavy around me and my eardrums almost burst out of my ears, I was pulled back.

My eyes opened at last to see a huge shining tower in front of me. The parting sea had ripped open the contents of its belly and let these treasures be touched by the open sky. Full rows of spiraling pillars decorated the marble walls, plastering the glowing white architectural marvel with artistic splendor. It was a building that seemed to defy all laws of physics and human sense. The sheer amount of plunging stone arches, gargantuan glass windows made out of stained glass and roofs made of molten silver, only seemed to confirm my earlier theory that only a civilization born out of brilliant madness could have created such a dazzling sight. The insides and the shimmering gems that littered the doors only hinted at the mountains of secrets and wealth that was surely hidden within its walls.

The child within me would have immediately sprinted to the entrance, but the thirty-five year old me stood there, steadfast and unmoving. This couldn’t be true. It was only a feverish dream. Nothing more, nothing less. So I turned my back and walked back to the grey silhouette of Eenswaard. My sister, however, she kept walking and walking. Her eyes were glued to the ocean, to the shining dazzling tower of her dreams.

Even when I told her that the song had been replaced by a low rumble, even when I warned her that the sea was closing in and even when I screamed and cursed at her to turn back and run away, she wouldn’t yield. I was too much of a coward to go back and drag her back to the edge of the beach, afraid of being pulled back into this comfortable dream. So I could only stand and watch as the waves crashed down on her with a roar.  

To this day, no one was able to find the body of my sister. Some of the old folk in Eenswaard said that the sea simply had taken her, some said it was just an unfortunate soul that chose to swim during a storm. Whenever I told my story, most of the townsfolk would look at me with pity, thinking that I’ve lost it. To them I was just a wrecked soul that had watched her poor sister drown. The great tower was just a product of my imagination, something I had created to cope with my inability to save her from the ocean’s waves. The more I told my story, the more I protested when they laughed at me and the less I started to believe in my own words.

The only thing that brought me some kind of reassurance was whenever I walked along the border of the land and sea. My mind wasn’t playing trickery on me. It never did. To this day, I can remember her otherworldly voice. When I close my eyes and listen carefully, I could hear the ocean’s song and their calling.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

27 days ago
1/4/23

I know I said quality didn't matter, but damn, people are coming up with some great stuff!

Today's word is...

Courier

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

26 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/4/2023 9:15:49 PM

I walked up the carefully mowed lawn with the small package in my hand. The front yard was freshly cut and it still smelled of grass clippings. There were medium sized bushes lining the house, also neatly trimmed. Small pink buds dotted the leaves and made the spotless white house seem even prettier. 

‘I wish I had a house like that,’ I thought to myself. Three kids and a dog made it impossible, but a man could dream. The best I could manage was keeping crayon “masterpieces” off the walls of the bathroom, and stopping the dog from doing his business on my favorite rug. 

I climbed the ivory stairs to the porch and almost slipped. The wood was slick from the morning dew, and my broken shoes didn’t help. I gripped the railing, which was also wet, and pulled myself up the rest of the way. 

Just as I had reached the porch and was about to set the packedge down, I heard a horrifying screech from behind me. I whipped around and there it was, standing at the base of the steps. My worst enemy, a cat. 

It was gray with some darker stripes running down its back. Its eyes glowed with a hatred for me so deep that I couldn't put it into words. It hissed once, then, it leaped. 

With its fearsome battle cry it jumped onto my blue shirt and tore a small rip in it. It lunged again and I jumped backwards, hoping to evade its claws. Not only did it still reach me and take a swipe at my leg, but I jumped into something hard and felt pain explode in my head. 

There was no time to waste. Without a second to spare I dropped the package on the mat and sprinted for my life down the beautiful lawn. I jumped in the truck and slammed the door as the cat watched me with unblinking eyes. I started the truck and then sat there for a moment, catching my breath and wincing in pain from my head. I had a feeling this wasn’t going to be a good day. 

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

26 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/6/2023 10:46:48 PM
"I'll pay you ten," he said, "and the recipient will likely give you something for your trouble as well."

"Ten silver," I said, trying to make it sound like I was thinking it over. It wasn't much, but--

"Ten gold," he corrected.

I hesitated, greed warring with self-preservation. Ten gold for a run to Glassport? A company runner wouldn't charge that much, never mind an independent like me.

Maybe he just didn't know what things cost. Rich people didn't, sometimes. But... that bored expression was put-on, I was sure of it. What was underneath?

"So what's the deal?" I asked. "Is it hot? Cursed? Haunted?"

"None of the above," he said, a little too firmly. So there was a catch, I just hadn't managed to guess it. I stared at him, willing him to cough up the information I wanted.

"If you don't want to take it..."

"I didn't say that," I said quickly. Too quickly. "I just want to know what I'm in for, if I do."

"Nothing of note," he said. "We expect discretion, but that's unlikely to be relevant. We need someone reliable. If you can do this for us... there would be more work in the future."

Damn. There had to be a catch.

"Do we have a deal?" He held out his hand... and I took it.

Guess I'd be finding out what the catch was first-hand.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

23 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/7/2023 3:04:48 PM
KS-11 strode up to the bridge with a purpose. The Captain heard the approaching metallic clang of his footfalls and turned around to face it.

“Who let the robot aboard my ship?” he asked, cheeks blowing outward and his face tentacles quivering dreadfully with every word.

“I am a Kilo Sierra One One model,” the robot began. “I function as a warrant officer for general Ren Gesling. Your full cooperation is required, as I have a message to deliver.”

The robot started boldly striding up to the navigation system. “Excuse me while I override your previously programmed destination.”

The captain huffed angrily through his neck gills, growing increasingly agitated at this intruder. He stormed up to the metal individual, and had just put a hand on his shoulder to rip him away from the navigation console, when the robot reacted.

The thing swiveled on its hips and delivered a devastating punch to the captains sternum. He was lifted bodily in the air and thrown twelve feet backward where he lay gasping on the ground like a fish out of water. KS-11 walked over to him, pulled the pulse pistol from his belt and shot him between the eyes, blowing a sizable crater in his forehead, blue-black blood staining the ground.

“Under book 57331 of the penal code of the United Socialist People’s Republic of Earth, section 457, sentient species with an origin other than Earth are to be executed upon failing to obey an order from a human.”

An officer with a very tall, scaled, cylindrical head stood to his feet and cried, “But you’re not human.”

“No, but as a warrant officer, I am acting as a proxy for a human general. Now, if there is no more resistance, I will change our course.”

The crew stood completely silent as the robot input the new coordinates into the system and turned around to leave. The engineer read the computer and called out, “Wait!”

“Yes?”

“We can’t go here, it’s behind enemy—”

BANG

Another hole in another soul, and the robot finally left the bridge.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

23 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/7/2023 3:04:59 PM

Max had started their vehicle a good ten minutes prior. It was the middle of winter and he refused to sit in a cold car for even a moment, he was already in enough discomfort. There was great hesitance as he pulled out of his driveway, what he was about to do truly began to dawn on him. He couldn't think like that, or who knows what they'd do to his wife. Thankfully the street was almost completely empty at three in the morning but that was almost worse. One wrong turn and this was all for nothing. Max shook as he reached into the glove compartment and pulled out a burner cell, then dialed the number they had given him that morning. 

"So far so good," Max spoke as soon as the other line picked up, "I'll be there in about half an hour."

"Change of plans," A young man's voice came through the speaker, but there was little to no inflection within his voice, "Pull to the side of the road and open the trunk."

"What? Why?" Max questioned as he followed the instruction.

"Because we can't risk you getting stopped, now could we?" The voice continued monotone.

"Right, of course," Max popped open the trunk and found work overalls that matched the advertisement on the outside of the van, "Oh."

"That's right, change. And hurry up, before someone sees you."

Outfit changed, Max hopped back into the driver's seat and continued on his way. It took only about an hour to get to the parking garage and park.

"We'll call back in about three hours," The voice is very matter of fact, "You move, she dies. You get caught, she dies. You do anything except what we tell you to... she dies."

The line goes dead. Now left with just his thoughts, he couldn't help but glance back at the mess of wires, metal, and plastic. It was a remote detonator, it has to be. After six hours, the phone begins to ring and Max immediately answered.

"You have ten minutes, drive out of the parking garage and turn left, then continue until you get to the Washington Plaza. Park as close to the statue as possible. You get that?"

"Yeah, I got it," Max sighed and pulled the van out of the parking spot.

"Good," The line disconnects.

Max hadn't cared though, he had a package to deliver and a wife to save- even if he wouldn't see it.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

26 days ago
1/5/23

Mirror

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

25 days ago
Commended by mizal on 1/5/2023 10:19:09 AM

Lucille wanted to scream. Her rage was bubbling up in her like a tsunami about to crash down on land. She bawled her hands into fists until her fingernails poked into her palms and made them bleed. Her face turned tomato red as boiling tears dripped down her face like the broken sink in the bathroom. 

It wasn’t fair! How could he be so cruel? He knew she had looked forward to this day for years, yet he had stolen it from her all too loose grasp. This was the one thing that she couldn’t let happen. She had been so close to her dream, and then he had to rip it from her naive, hopeful heart and give it to that bratty little suck up of a fairy. 

She should’ve known she wasn’t going to get it anyway. He would’ve found a way to tear it from her whether she deserved it or not. She knew he despised her because she was born of mortal blood. It didn't matter what she did. She would always be hated. 

She stormed over to her small wooden desk and picked up her well worn copy of “Magic for Dummies”. Its neon yellow cover was wrinkled and bent, and more than one page was torn. Bookmarks were marking each start of a new chapter and rainbow colored sticky notes stuck out at weird angles containing notes written in black pen. She had spent countless hours of her life reading the chapters over and over and over again until she could recite the whole book. What good that had done her. 

She felt the sudden urge to throw the book. She wanted to break something. She wanted to smash it into millions of tiny pieces and then burn each and every one of them. She needed to. 

Drawing her arm back, she chucked the book that had been her best friend for the past few months across her room. She watched it spiral through the air on a direct path towards her mirror. That wasn’t a good idea, she thought. I’m going to have to explain that to Dad when he gets home from work. Her doubts were reaffirmed when she heard the satisfying crash of glass splintering into tiny cracks. 

The mirror itself wasn’t broken. She could still look at it and see herself in the smudged glass clearly. Even the ghosts of fingerprints from months ago could still be traced on the border where the frame kissed the reflection's edge. The only problem was the spiderweb of thin, delitice fractures that spread out from the middle and reached their bony hands for the top left corner. 

She walked over to the mirror and tentatively placed her hand on the cracks. It felt almost rough under her skin like there were small shards of mirror sticking up from the surface. This wasn’t good. She shouldn’t have acted impulsively. What would her parents think when they saw the threads of her anger woven into the mirror? She needed to fix it quickly.

She wracked her brain for any fixing spells that would do the trick. She knew many, but this small casualty was caused by anger which made things dangerous. She still wasn’t level headed yet either. Her concern for the mirror was just barely masking her mournful rage. She had to do something though. Even if it ended in catastrophe, at least she would’ve tried. 

Taking a deep breath, she called up her magic from the bottom of her stomach and drew it throughout her body. Feeling the shimmery warmth of all the possible spells in her mind, she picked the most powerful one and began to recite it. The words spilled from her mouth in muscle memory, and she raised and lowered her voice at the right parts. Just a few more words and-

“Lucille, I’m home!” her dad called as the front door slowly creaked shut like it was almost fighting to stay open. It eventually lost the battle though and shut with a quiet but resonant snap. Her dad’s footsteps echoed through the hall and she tried to focus to say just these last few words. She pronounced one slightly wrong, but that was okay, nothing would happen. 

Just as she was saying the final word her dad opened the white, paint chipped door and walked into her room. Lucille's eyes widened as she tried to take her spell back, but it was already done. She didn’t know what would happen now. This was dangerous. 

Her dad’s shoes barely scraped the floor as he levitated an inch off the ground. Lucille glanced hopefully at the bronze-framed mirror, but nothing had changed. The cracks still shone on its surface like drops of water on a spiderweb. She heard her dad yell and she whipped her head around to look at him, but it was too late. One second he was levitating there, in the doorway, and the next he was in the now fixed mirror. 

She ran over to the mirror and tried to punch it or break it to get her dad out, but nothing worked. He was banging on the other side of the glass prison with his pale fists and yelling with his mouth wide open, but no sound came out. More frantic, she tried throwing her book at it from the same distance. It just bounced off as if the mirror were a beach ball. 

She sank down onto her bed and let her tears come back. She had effectively trapped her dad in a prison no one could escape and proved herself actually unworthy of the free scholarship to the best magic school in the world. She really was a failure.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

25 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/6/2023 10:47:10 PM

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

25 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/6/2023 10:47:21 PM

Philautia stared at her reflection in her bedroom mirror, as had become her morning habit in the past year. She felt strangely detached from the girl staring back at her. She knew it was her own self, her body, her face, but it was hard to imagine her own thoughts and consciousness existed within the being before her.

She reached her hand up to the glass, touching her face's reflection. She saw a chin that pointed out just a little too far, a nose too big for the face it was placed on, eyes that were noticeably uneven.

Positive self talk, Phil, like your therapist told you.

Her dark curly hair was nearly flat on the side she had slept on and untamably wild on the other. The color of her eyes wasn't stunning or pretty, but plain. Boring. No one could ever notice-

Positive self talk, Phil, like your therapist told you.

Her shoulders were too wide and mannish- not feminine and petite. Her waistline was nigh invisible, even in tight shirts. Not that she would wear tight shirts, she was far too fat to wear anything that touched her skin.

Positive self talk, Phil, like your therapist told you!

There was no gap between her thighs, when she smiled her eyes turned to squints, she had acne on the sides of her face, on her nose, on her collarbone-

Positive self talk, Phil!

She shook her head. Maybe tomorrow.

For now she had to face the world as she was, not as her therapist said she should pretend to be. On this day, she had school.

High school was her battleground, and the weapons used were the most cutting of words. The wounds inflicted did not cause her to bleed or bruise, but they came back to haunt her at night or in during her morning ritual.

"Hey, shit-eyes!"

They're right. That's exactly what color they are: shit brown. They're right.

"Yo, fatty!"

But it's true. This body holds extra pounds. Sure, my BMI says I'm a healthy weight, but healthy doesn't mean attractive. If I tried harder, ate less, ran more, then I'd have a chance. It's my fault. They're right.

Positive self talk, Phil, like your therapist told you.

But how could she speak positively to herself when every day she was bombarded with the ugly truth? How could she look in the mirror and smile when everyone else looked at her and laughed?

Postive self talk, Phil, like your therapist told you.

To hell with her therapist, to hell with positive self talk.

She walked the halls with her eyes down, holding in tears. The classes blurred in a similar way to how her vision blurred while she silently cried. "Hey look, it's that emo girl!" came a shout. It was a familiar voice. It was a voice that came back to her every time she tried her therapist's beloved "positive self talk". A voice that snuck into her dreams and under her skin, snapping the fragile wire that held her head high and kept the tears inside her eyes.

Positive self talk, Phil, like your therapist told you.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

25 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/6/2023 10:47:35 PM

This one kinda got away from me, if it's too long feel free to lemme know.

 

It had been three days since Jeyne had last seen sunlight, she was miles upon miles into the fortress depths with no sign of it ending anytime soon. Barely any rations remained in her satchel, and her torchlight had begun to waver. Becoming ever so weary, her eyes were awfully pained in the dim light, squinting for the ever so slight chance at hope.

 

Feet shuffled along the stone floors, kicking up clouds of thick dust with every step. She had already left behind the main pieces of her holy armor, an act that filled her with shame. However, she could bear the weight no longer, and in her mind, if she lived to redeem the sacrilege, it would be worth it.

 

Her mouth became ever drier, every breath becoming increasingly ragged. Her waterskin was now empty signaling she would soon perish. Stumbling down the dark corridor, with flickering light, she began to recall why she was there in the first place.

 

One week prior she was the proud member of a troupe of warrior-nuns, an honor she had held since she was four years of age. Now she was a disgraced harlot in the eyes of her fellows. She thought back to her judgment at the Monastery of Elessia de Cœurest.

 

“I hereby begin the sentencing of Jeyne de Blanfleur!” shouted an elderly nun standing atop a marble platform, behind an ornate, wooden lectern.

 

Jeyne remembered the feeling of immense humiliation as she sat in the middle of the chapel, on her knees, shackled. Instead of her elegant mail and plate armor, which she had worn since her eighteenth name day, she now wore drab rags that could have once been called clothing. Her sisters-in-arms surrounded her, standing silently, their eyes a mixture.

 

Some looked ashamed of her, others in disgust, a few even with anger. All of their eyes pierced through her, she would have rather been dead at that moment.

 

The old nun began to read aloud from her lectern once more, “For the crime of fraternization with the enemies of the Gods, you have been condemned with exile!” she then looked up from her parchments and into the eyes of Jeyne. Nothing but cold contempt.

 

“May the Gods have pity on your wicked soul,” She spoke with venom. “if not, then may the Great Chained One take you.”

 

That was the worst day of Jeyne's life, at least, so far. Soon after she was driven out of the monastery that she had called home for so many years. She was permitted nothing but her armor and weapons, along with some survival supplies. The last segment of her punishment was that she was to be exiled into the depths of Mor-Kazan.

 

It was an ancient fortress that stood nearby, long before the monastery was ever built. The legends of old say that great horned devils once lived there, but Jeyne nor any other living person she had ever met could back up these claims. 

 

Jeyne was suddenly torn from her memories and back into her dire situation when she fell and tripped upon the cold hard floor. She began to quietly sob, cursing her life that she ended up here of all places, to die at the young age of twenty-one. Despite her grief, no tears would come, for her body could not spare the vital resource.

 

After some moments she resolved into continuing on. With a heavy heart, she decided to shed the remainder of her steel armor, keeping only the light gambeson underneath. Once more she trudged on down the deep, dark hallways of Mor-Kazan.

 

With every step she felt closer to death, closer to rest, nothing sounded sweeter than to finally be at ease. When she had almost resigned herself to the end, she saw it. A lone oaken door just ahead, it looked aged far beyond her years, but she prayed to all the gods it led anywhere but here.

 

Clumsily she rested upon the heavy door and poured every ounce of her strength into opening it. Suddenly it gave way, leading Jeyne to loudly crash into the unforgiving floor. Her torch was sent flying from her left hand and across the room, she was now lying in. Some moments passed as she regained her energy and rolled over off her back.

 

On the other side, she spotted the thrown torch lying on the stone floor, slowly she crawled to it, and her underside began to become even more filthy as she writhed among the dirt and detritus on the ground. As she reached the source of ever-so-dimming light, something finally caught her eye.

 

Standing tall, all alone in this dark room was a mirror. One so beautiful that even near death, Jeyne could not tear her eyes away. In a way, it was so captivating that it gave her some semblance of peace that she could die in the presence of something so divine. The frame, made from what looked like ivory and gold was something to behold, the intricate designs of the carvings were like nothing she had ever seen. It was as if the greatest angelic poems or scriptures had been turned into that lonely mirror.

 

Forgetting all about her dropped torch, she dragged herself ever closer to the source of her wonderment. It was as if it was calling out to her; perhaps she was delirious, but she did not care, for what did she have to lose at this point? This room would be her final resting place, she now knew it.

 

All she wanted to do was touch it, to feel it; to come into contact with something that had to have been crafted by the Gods themselves. Then she would be at peace, she was certain. Ignoring her wretched self in the reflection, her once golden hair was now dull and lifeless from the grime coating her entire being. Finally, she placed her hand upon the cool mirrored glass and became still.

 

Jeyne hoarsely croaked out. “Thank you.”

 

The mirror remained unresponsive, just as it had for the lifetimes it had stood there. Enthralling, everlasting… inevitable.

 

Then, all at once, a swift wind tore through the once quiet room Jeyne was lying in. A chilled breeze turned the room into a whirlwind of noise. Jeyne’s eyes shot open and she tried to grasp what was happening; the mirror began to glow a dull white, and the glass began to shimmer and become almost fluid as her hand began to sink into the reflective material.

 

She tried to pull her hand out but she was too exhausted, slowly but surely it dragged her into the glistening doorway that was once just a dormant mirror. Overwhelmed by everything that was going on, Jeyne lost consciousness, the last thing she could recall was that she felt great fear but also a sense of acceptance.

 

In her dreams, she saw herself soaring through the stars, flying past great clouds, twinkling with starlight. She no longer felt tired, hungry, or great thirst; instead, she herself was now filled with serenity and astonishment.

 

After some time she awoke from her slumber in a slight daze, her body was now a wintry cool, and with a slight, crisp wind flowing over her. Jeyne opened her eyes, and could not believe what she saw.

 

She was now sitting atop a hill covered with patches of snow, bushes of red berries dotted the landscape with evergreen trees towering all around, still capped with white powder. Her breathing let out great mist clouds into the air, as she looked down at herself, she was no longer filthy and was even wearing her holy armor once again.

 

“By the heavens,” Jeyne quietly gasped. “where have I found myself?”

 

Looking around, she took in the rest of her surroundings. In the distance lie mighty mountains, kissing the sky with their snow-covered peaks. A cerulean lake rested below, fed by the mighty waterfalls coming from the nearby heights. Masses of ice float around the surface of the water as bright white rafts. Finally, on the shores of the lake lay a humble town, columns of chimney smoke reached high into the winter air, as she watched the townsfolk going about their day.

 

Jeyne stood up, dusted off the snow from her shining steel armor, her golden hair flowing in the breeze.

 

“Hmm, I’m not sure,” She said assuredly to herself. “but I think I’m going to like it here.”

 

She began to stride down the hillside and towards the town, and hopefully into a new beginning.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

25 days ago
Teeth brushed, mouth rinsed, and the last swirl of crimson-laced spit disappearing down the drain... I looked at the bathroom mirror.

Reflex. Even after all this time, part of me still expected to see myself in it. As if I'd woken up human.

I licked my minty fangs, and smiled at the reminder of my immortality.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

24 days ago

You're pushing it now.

I can't commend shit like this.

The other mods are already saying I commend shit that don't deserve commending.

Thin ice, bitch. Soon nobody will get commendations if you keep this shit up.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

24 days ago
I'm not in this for the points. You're welcome to commend all, none, or anywhere in between. Or, you know, participate. As you can see, the bar is VERY low. ^_^

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

24 days ago

Too busy doing mod stuff.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

23 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/7/2023 3:09:33 PM

I see my own eyes and wonder
Just who might I be after alls been told?
A man who can only blunder
or one who will never fold?

Some days I can't meet my own gaze
Others I give myself praise
And I know that moods are just a phase
But sometimes the mirror adds a biased glaze
Over my obsessive appraise.

Though into my reflection it all goes
My negativity vanishing as it can't dispose
This positive mindset I chose.
Now I can get through all the lows
And it shows in my prose
That has arose from my own mind's shadows.

I see my own eyes and smile
Not willing to beguile
Myself any longer
Now that I am stronger.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

22 days ago
Bernard looked back to a night long ago, when he was around twelve, on which he had snuck away from his older sister at a circus. Her eye had been on a svelte, young harlequin in tights.

Bernard was drawn by curiosity to where he always went. There were a band of Gypsies encamped near the circus grounds dancing, singing, and selling trinkets and baubles to the villagers. Bernard was interested in something specific though.

The matriarch of the specific family in the wagons was said to be able to read a person’s future as easily as priests can read books. It made sense to Bernard, because she looked so incredibly old that she had to have some sort of special wisdom or insight. The obstacle to Bernard was, of course, the price. Forty copper coins was a hefty price, but she was supposed to be the best.

The opportunity has come a couple of days earlier when her daughter (who seemed about the same age as his mother, though much shorter) found a snake in her bed that evening. Bernard took the snake out and let it go in the field. The daughter, Mahala, promised to take a brief glimpse into his future for him.

So he found himself standing barefoot in the middle of an empty tent while Mahala danced in a circle around him and a full length mirror. Where the Gypsies got such a luxury, he had no idea. Mahala was humming a strange foreign tune deep in her throat and swaying wildly. Eventually, she stopped, turned to Bernard and grinned. Her bronzed, lightly wrinkled skin dripped with sweat and her chest was heaving. She grabbed Bernard by the shoulders and roughly faced him toward the mirror.

“Look!” she commanded.

Bernard did, and gasped aloud. There he stood in the reflection with a sword in hand and shiny armor, a sad look on his face. Mahala wrapped him in a tight, sweaty hug and said, “You’ll see a lot of pain before you’re through. Stay the course, child.”

Twenty years later, Bernard smiled, looking at the felled demon at his feet. Tartarus had been his home for the past five years, and kinking these creatures is all he ever had time for anymore.

As he pulled his sword out of the torso eyeball of the brutalized, misshapen creature, a glint of light up ahead. As he approached, his heart jumped to his throat.

A mirror.

As he approached, he saw instead of himself, a ghastly monstrosity of bare muscle, quivering mouths, and rolling eyes all out of place. His head was recognizable, but covered in blood and mucus. The mirror Bernard also seemed to be wearing a varied assortment of intestines as a kind of robe. Bernard raised his sword arm, and in response, his mirror self flexed long hands tipped with razor-like claws.

“Stay the course,” he muttered, and walked the path downward.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

25 days ago

1/6/23

No such thing as too long OR too short -- friendly reminder for anyone who wants to backtrack and complete five prompts for their five points! You have until I post next week's thread!

And the last word of this week is...

Peace

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

24 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/6/2023 10:46:28 PM

Peace. Ha! There is no such thing as peace as long as I'm still bonded to this God-forsaken place.

 The man in armor laughs at his own joke. If anyone knew what was god-forsaken, it would be him. His black armor gleams in the light of the sunset. The wind blows towards him, bringing the smell of blood and death to his nose. He breathes in deeply. The torn banners of the champions he recently killed flap around him. The plants around his feet wither and die. Whatever remains becomes blackened and grow massive thorns as big as lion claws. The spikes that accent the edges of his armor gleam with blood. His sword glistens as well, but with blood of his own. The blood sizzles as it hits the recently blackened dirt. A potent poison that burns from the inside out. Many have called him a father of monsters and devils. Those unlucky enough to see him call him the Black King or a devil in armor. He just prefers to call himself by the name his father gave him, Qayin, though he also goes by Cain.

  The first Murderer wipes his sword and sheathes it. These people never learn. They brought an entire army to defeat him this time. It's never enough. He hopes each time that someone would be strong enough to defy his curse and finally end his misery, but so far none have. He even stopped fighting at some point, but learned that not fighting only brought unwanted pain, not the death he seeks. The idiots he fights seem to assume that all their problems are tied to his existence, and that to stop war and famine he must be eliminated. He knows that it isn't true though. If anything, It's his parent's fault. He prefers instead to blame God for letting that stupid serpent exist in the first place.

 Cain suddenly feels a presence behind him. It disgusts him thoroughly. He knows that God's servants hate to be ignored, the self righteous bastards they are, so he decides to ignore this one as long a possible. He wonders who was sent this time. Gabriel? Micheal? Someone higher ranking perhaps? It doesn't really matter. All they ever do is either ensure that he is still miserable or more recently beg him to stop the violence. It isn't exactly his fault that armies are sent against him. It isn't his fault that he is still here.

"What is wrong brother? Is it too much to face me after all these years?"

It can't be!

 Cain whirls around to see if his worst nightmare has actually come true. He sees the smug face that he hated so much before, now radiating with holy light. The stupid light amplified his smug smirk, The arrogant look in his eyes, the full I'm-Better-Than-You expression that he's had since childhood. He looked much the same, except he was wearing flowing white robes and had white wings folded behind his back. He also had a sword made of white flame in his hands. It was his brother Able, and he had been sent to finally exact his revenge.

 Here I thought this whole time that God had no sense of humor.

 The Exiled Son pulls out his sword once again. As much as he wanted to leave this world, he didn't want to go like this. His brother looks happy to see this. He clearly wants to savor this moment anyway. The two brothers run at each other and their swords clash. They trade blows, Honed iron hitting solid flames. They swing and lunge at each other until the sun rises. They do not get exhausted because they both lost the ability to. They fight at full strength, neither holding back their hatred for the other while the swords clash again and again. The ground heals and blackens repeatedly under the two warriors as they fight. 

 Suddenly Able flies over Cain's head and stabs through his armor like it's butter. The sword emerges in the front of his chest, his poisoned blood turning to vapor around it. Cain see's his fate in that moment. Too close to God to ever go to hell, too evil to make it to heaven. Able lays his body on the ground and flies upwards into the sky.

 Cain smiles. Finally...true peace.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

24 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/7/2023 12:07:44 AM
"We will need to bind your weapons," Blue said to the trio in the foyer. Threat assessments glowed softly over their heads, the numbers unchanging but the colors shifting to yellows and a near red.

Gray? Blue kept her expression just to the pleasant side of neutral, and did not glance at the latticework of the ceiling.

You're fine. I'll drop him if it comes to it, but it won't.

"Binding will not be necessary," said the one with the lowest number -- a mere 23 -- and the only one still green. "You can have our word. That is the custom, is it not?"

Androgynous, pointy-eared, referencing a custom that hadn't been current since before Blue was born... definitely an elf. She wouldn't want to count on that purported 23, either.

"I'm afraid that is no longer the custom," said Blue, still maintaining a professional pleasantness. "You'd also be welcome to leave your weapons with me, and I will--"

"You'll do nothing of the kind, you four-armed freak," said the man with the sword across his back, and then several things happened in rapid succession. Blue tried to be sure of the order, as this would certainly be a point of question during her debriefing.

"Hold," said the elf, with a palm-out hand raised to shoulder height, and a note of frustration in their voice.

The man, still scowling at Blue, began to draw his sword.

The elf, seeing this, took a quick, graceful side-step.

A tiny dart appeared in the man's neck.

And then he collapsed to the ground, unconscious, sword no more than half-drawn, exactly where the elf had been standing.

Damn, sometimes they're dumber than I thought, said Gray to Blue. Not quite apologetic.

The others had all gone red in the threat assessment, visibly poised for violence... except their elvish leader, whose hand was still upraised.

"And is that how guests are treated, in this place of Peace?"

"You are not yet guests," said a voice behind Blue, a voice with a familiar shifting cadence, something strange even after two years in her service. The Weaver emerged from the curtains, taking delicate steps with her four graceful legs, her four arms arranged formally, palms to palms.

"Weaver," said the elf. "I have much to tell you, and there is little time. I swear I will commit no violence within your walls, unless it be in their defense. Will you not take my word?"

"Yours," said the Weaver, "yes. But your companions will allow their weapons to be bound, or await you outside."

"We'll wait," said the human woman with the crossbow and two knives.

"He'll be alright, right?" Human and young, closer to a boy than a man, though still in the ambiguous space between. He had some sort of gun, and a knife in his boot.

"He will wake up with a headache in approximately one hour," said the Weaver. "The two of you may remove him. And you may follow me."

Blue watched, while things unfolded as the Weaver said. They generally did.

Door duty, said Gray. Boring until it isn't... aaand then it is again.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

23 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/7/2023 3:08:29 PM

The night is still on the water, boat silently bobbing in the waves, as I gaze upwards at the clear sky. Stars fill my vision and I get lost as if I'm soaring through time and space, endlessly listing to and fro without a care in the world. I close my eyes but still I am soaring, the water lapping rhythmically against the bow and providing a grounding point. Meditation is easier for me when there's some sort of grounding point but everything moving in synch like this allows my mind to explore the vastness of my inner depths with great ease. 

Peace can be found anywhere, I think as I begin to drift off, In the largest of cities to the quaintest of farms. Everyone achieves it differently. It could be from death or how I am doing it now but eventually everyone will know it.

My eyes open once more and I see the endless sky, We're all just floating I suppose. Never fully in control and never helpless either. That's both comforting and terrifying in a lot of ways. Being equally helpless and powerful is such an interesting position to be in. We either lie to ourselves and say we're entirely unable to alter our fates or take total responsibility for our actions and never admit that there can be something out there affecting our decisions.

I snap out of my head as a cloud passes over my gaze and jolt upright.

"Maybe it's time for you to take a break, miss," My captain calls over to me after watching my extremely brief start.

"Where do you feel most at peace, Captain?" I turn towards him and he just shrugs but I press more, "Everyone has somewhere, sir."

"I find it right here, where I feel most at home," He shrugs and I turn away from him. Peace is where home is, but home is where the heart is. 

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

23 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/7/2023 3:04:27 PM
The creature unwound its body from the little branch of space time it had coiled itself around. The inhabitants of that universe would have been happy to see it go had any of them been alive.

Mirth rippled through the infinitude of the creature as it considered those little inhabitants of the next universe over. Humans, mostly. The little apes had stretched their wings and flown to the furthest reaches of the galaxy in a continuous zeal for expansion and power. Now they built stars, planets, and huge machines to keep the universe from expanding, keep it from cooling.

The creature then did something dreadful. If it had to be likened to a human activity, then it laughed. Though the expression of delight and irony is the only thing those actions had in common. It was much more like every pore, mouth, and oozing office on the creature’s massive, serpentine bulk opened with a scream and shot hundreds of little spores into the space between universes.

The creature was amused by the fight. There were millions of civilizations across the universes it had destroyed. Some prayed, begged, and pleaded. Others accepted their fate with resignation. The creature had its favorites though. The ones like these were the best.

Humans were utterly convinced that they were special, that they were one of a kind, and that there was no challenge that could best them.

The creature allowed itself to absorb some of the stray thoughts these creatures were speaking of.

“What does not kill me makes me stronger.”

It heard that sentiment echo through quadrillions of these apes, off in the distant reaches of space, gunning down the last of a rebellious species; in the hearts of their cities, killing each other over some lover’s quarrel; on the edge of a black hole, hoping for some desperate escape.

All of them fought so hard to escape death, yet brought death to others. The creature closed in. If that disembodied idea truly characterized humanity, he’d not be making any of them stronger. As it coiled himself around the universe, it felt the human creatures screaming at eyes, tentacles, limbs, and mouths appearing with no rhyme or reason out of walls, trees, or simply midair.

Soon, it would squeeze just a touch harder. Then all would be at peace.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

23 days ago
Man I've neve seen an easier thread for commendation farming, people not paying any attention to this are really missing out. Just write two paragraphs about anything and gunslinger Thara will hook you right up.

Some pretty good ones in here too.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

23 days ago

Yeah, it's actually kinda nice. Gives me somethign to do at work when it's slow, at least.

The Owl's Challenge - Week One

22 days ago
WEEK ONE COMPLETE!

Here are the final scores:

stargirl: 5
Yummyfood: 3
TrueParanormal: 5
Darius_Conwright: 2
Petros: 5
Mystic_Warrior: 3
Zweihanderr: 2
fresh_out_the_oven: 1

For everyone who did 5, you can duel me with "paper" for five points.

Thank you to everyone who participated! Hope to see you all in Week Two!