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The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

22 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/9/2023 11:18:44 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 duel me to receive points). You can go back and do prompts that you missed until I tally them shortly after midnight on Sunday night.

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 Two

22 days ago
1/9/23

Blade

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

21 days ago

Nat shook her head in disgust at her older brother as a teardrop rolled down his dirt-streaked cheek.

"You act as though this was your first time witnessing a kill. To hell with it, Ezio, you weren't even the one who killed him!" Nat yelled as she wiped the gore off of her blade.

Ezio's face had taken on a sickly shade of green, and he quickly tottered away from the scene.

Nat huffed. "A disgrace. The whole family is made of assassins, but he'll never become one. Rather be a farmer, of all things," she mumbled to herself. "Disgraceful."

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

21 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/9/2023 11:18:23 PM

 Swords clash in brilliant flashes of light that illuminate the night. The thundering sound of marching feet and hooves can be heard for miles. Blades connect to skin, releasing water onto the lands far below. The soldiers of light fight the Dark Horde in the stormy clouds above. The wind carries the smell of the battle further than the sound of it can travel, warning the creatures below of its presence. 

 The commander of the elite company breathes the smell in deeply. It is a good sign. The animal nature present in all humans urges him to seek shelter. Those strong enough to resist this urge can use it to their advantage. The man puts on his plumed iron helmet and gives the order to continue marching. The storm has moved above the enemy by now. The heavy rain and thunder will cover their movements well. 

 The force of 300 men soon meet the storm. The rain starts as a slight patter and slowly grows into a heavy downpour. The fighting is heavy above, and will soon be heavy below as well. The commander spots the lights of the enemy camp, seemingly hidden in a natural ravine. The soldiers are more than likely huddling for shelter in the heavy rain. The commander gives the order to spread out in a surprise attack pattern, slowly closing in so that there is no retreat. They must get the cargo that is being transported.

 After one more quick prayer to Selimis, the god of strategy and cunning, The commander gives the order to charge. The soldiers let out a cry meant to surprise and disorient and they charge into the camp. They cut anything that are body shaped in the tents. They start ransacking the carts, looking for their prize. Torches are lighted to see better in the dark and pouring rain. Shouts of triumph and victory suddenly turn to that of confusion. The commander realizes too late that they were not the setters of a trap, but the victims of one.

 The large figure on the ridge smiles in the pouring rain. He waves his hand and a force of 100 archers appear on the ridge. They light their arrows and draw back, aiming at the fake camp and the soldiers within. The oil covering the tips are water resistant and burn easily in the downpour. They release the arrows, setting fire to the oil soaked canvas and wood. The flammable material takes a moment to catch, but goes up almost instantly when it does. The men inside are burned alive. The archers then switch to normal arrows and fire at anything that moves. The movement stops shortly.

 The storm breaks and the moon shines down, revealing the carnage that just unfolded. The man on the ridge glances down to the glowing blade in his hand. It shows that it is now safe for his infantry to go down and finish off any survivors. He is glad that he decided to peek at his cargo, because it just saved their lives.

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

20 days ago
Out of curiosity, is there a literal battle in the clouds, or is that just description?

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

20 days ago

Well I would say that the battle in the clouds is just a mythological explanation made by the characters, but I also made the item of value a sword that shows the wielder the future so I guess it's a bit of both.

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

21 days ago
"You don't have to do it," said Imma. She'd caught me staring at my hands again. Left or right?

Neither was not an option, whatever Imma thought.

Left, if I wanted to be able to still write clearly, to do all the ordinary tasks of life, and maybe some extraordinary ones. For my ghost-hand to merely augment my remaining physical one.

Right, if I wanted to draw the soul from a sword and fight the spectrals with a ghostly blade.

"You're twelve," said Imma, as if she wasn't. "You shouldn't have to decide which hand your father is going to cut off."

"I'll be thirteen," I said.

"Happy birthday, now pick a hand," said Imma, rolling her eyes. "Gods, Seb, just tell them no."

"And do what?" I said. "Watch when the spectrals come, knowing I could have helped to stop them?"

"It's been twenty years," Imma begins, but I interrupted.

"I can't shirk this responsibility like I'm ducking chores. I need to do this, Imma. Please understand."

Imma sighed. "You're growing up, Seb. So which is it going to be?"

I winced. That was the question, wasn't it... which hand would I offer to my father, and to the soulless blade?

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

20 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/11/2023 7:30:38 PM

Because not many people read, I'm going to add an excerpt I've written today while inspired by this prompt. 


I slam the trunk shut. I can’t do this. I never could. All my life, I had this idea of what my future would be; a plan to achieve perfection or whatever the closest version of it is. But none of this was supposed to happen.

It doesn’t erase the fact that it did.

I’m taunted by the silver certificate in its glass case. It’s a reminder of who I used to be: the scholar who performed the most advanced spells in a day. Before I know what I’m doing, I’ve ripped it into shreds, crushing its remnants in my fist. It’s almost cathartic. So I smash trophies and shatter glass just to feel it tear into my skin. I trample on pages and pages worth of notes—who cares, now I’m never going to take that examination or analyze the lyrics of that spell?

A shiver rises in my chest. I warm my hands over the fireplace, longing for the heat to burn the hollow, aching emptiness inside. And because I crave self-destruction, I let my fingers linger a little too close to the flames until I can bear it no more.

What a fool I was, thinking I could achieve the impossible. How foolish. How stupid. How worthless.

Worthless. 

I reach for the closest item—a placeholder I’ve gotten for surviving my first year at the Academy—and strike it against the wall. It breaks into two. But somehow, the thrill of fury has long since cooled and I no longer find joy in seeing my surroundings as broken as I am.

Fragments of glass lay at my feet. They reflect distorted, unnatural versions of the world around me. Looking around, there’s only one thing I haven’t touched. The knife. I bring the blade to my neck, feeling the stinging kiss of cold metal—

No. This is stupid. This is far worse than anything I can ever do.

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

20 days ago
I’m assuming this was written for your contest entry?

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

20 days ago

It's currently in a draft document, so I'm unsure whether to add it into the final piece or remove it entirely. But I guess I'll decide during my next editing/ rewrite session.

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

20 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/11/2023 7:30:58 PM

One of the first scenes I thought of when I did a first rough draft on a storygame. Story was scrapped due to branching issues, but I like the idea of such type of opening scene.

---------------------

Got a spare blade?

Rain drizzled over the grey drab streets of the little fisher’s town called Urkerburg. Just like every autumn, the dark clouds lingered and cast a shadow over the old houses and flats that had clearly not been maintained since the 90’s. Thomas didn’t care much about the innerworkings of Urkerburg’s weather. Well, firstly because the wish for a sunny day in this dreary place could probably only be granted with a deal with a demon and secondly, because his clothes couldn’t get any wetter. After he accidentally stepped on another deep puddle, the water had seized the opportunity to latch onto his socks. His jacket clung to his shirt and his shirt clung to his skin like an holy union of three. The worn down leather jacket with a broken zipper, the washed out tee with an unreadable fond and the man of the hour himself. The ‘holy’ part of it can be scrapped. He sniffed as he walked along the lonely road. On his right side he saw the canal’s greenish water stretch over the horizon. If he bothered to narrow his eyes, he could see the smoke coming out of local steel factory’s towers.

On his left side, there was a simple road with the typical white dotted line in the middle. He sneezed. While he wiped the snot off his face with his sleeve, he looked at another car passing by. Even though he only caught a glimpse of it, that moment shot of the vehicle oozed with decadence. The sleekness, the color, the wheels.  If he worked harder, had some more money, then perhaps he would also drive one of those. Thomas buried his hands in his pockets. Empty.

If he hurried, he would be in his crappy flat within ten minutes. A little bit of rain wouldn’t hurt him. Its droplets wouldn’t form tiny knives to stab him in every bodily orifice, wouldn’t it? He sniffed again. He really had to stop lamenting over his life like a pathetic worthless sack of a human. All the time he was spending doing nothing, he could have been working to have a little something left at the end of the month after rent, food and utilities were paid. He knew that he always had the option to ask Dave for help, but he didn’t feel like doing that.

There were lots of things that he had to suck up in order to make enough money, but even for him there existed a concept called pride. Going back to Dave would be admitting defeat and throwing the last thing he proudly owned in the garbage. He pumped out his fist high in the air, just for himself. For a mere moment, he stood there tall and high. Everything around him lit up. He looked up to see his hand glowing, basking in an almost unnatural light.

Then his back met the face of a car.

His brain couldn’t understand what was happening in the beginning. A few seconds before and after the impact were lost to him, completely blank. He did remember hearing honking of the car, the screech of the tires and his fall. He lifted up his hand in front of his face. A few bloody scrapes, the back of the hand had been cut open. His gaze then lowered to meet with the sight of his leg or what one would call remnants of a limb. The wheel had pinned it and thusly also him to the ground. Its crushing weight had bent the bone and flesh in all different shapes, leaving it all crooked. Parts of his skin had been ripped apart and tossed not far from where he lied. Perhaps it was due to the adrenaline or his mind still not fully registering what had just happened, but the pain hadn’t come yet in full force. He tried push himself up, ignoring the discomfort of his bruised and bleeding arms. However, it remained a futile attempt as he saw his leg slowly pulling apart. Faintly he heard a car door open.

“Oh my god, are you okay?”

Thomas turned his head. A young man, about his age and wearing a pristine white dress shirt and dark pants, stepped out of the car. His eyes had widened, his breathing visibly quickened. Thomas could see his panicked hands fumbling around his pockets.

“Shit, we need to call the ambulance. I’m so sorry, I wasn’t looking and-”

Thomas held up his least beaten up hand to calm the poor sod down which caused him to yelp and let his phone drop on the ground. The glass along with the man’s plan broke within a matter of seconds. Thomas groaned. It had only one gash in the palm, but clearly it was still a little too much for this bloke. It didn’t help that the pain had also started to kick up a notch. Adrenaline may be a good short term pain reliever, but it wasn’t a magical cure like paracetamol. Now that he thought about it, he also had forgotten to pick up some in the apothecary on the way home. He had already used up his last pack yesterday. From here it would be a ten minute walk in the opposite direction in the rain. He put his hands over his face to stifle his laughter, not caring about the smell of stale rust filling his nostrils. Life did sometimes like to spit on his face.

“Sir?”

That bloke must think that he was going insane. Look at the way his brows were knitted together, his lips curved in a tentative smile. The rain made his white dress shirt even more luminescent. Thomas’s own jacket looked dirtier, his looked more pristine under the autumn shower. His leg, it was still stuck under the car and looking at the state it was in, Thomas knew that it would take so much money to set the bones right and fix it up in the hospital. He caused him such a big headache. Meanwhile this stupid bloke was still standing there, gaping at him like a dumbstruck idiot with a full pair of legs and a body with no trace of a car crash to be seen. Therefore, he didn’t feel very guilty as he pulled the man closer. His hand seized that white fabric, letting his blood spread all over it, dirtying it. He had no choice but to ask this.

“Got a spare blade?”

All the muscles in the man’s arms and legs tensed up. He stood there, his jaw and eyes wide open, as if he was a ventriloquists’ puppet with his strings cut off.

“A blade, sir?”

“Anything sharp will do, so a blade.”

“A blade?”

Thomas tried not to roll his eyes as he nodded to confirm it once again. Why did the man have to be so difficult?

“Sir, why do you need a blade?” The bloke asked while he had every sign that he would soon enter a mental breakdown.

Thomas sighed. Clearly he wasn’t that much of a help, but he couldn’t blame him that much. He looked around and quickly found a few shards of glass in his line of sight. He picked up the biggest piece of the broken phone and held it up to the grey sky. It nicked his finger while he tried to study its edge. A sting and an evidently sharp enough edge.

“Sir, what are you doing?”

Thomas tilted his head and said. “Perhaps run away, just want to give you a leg up.”

“L-leg? Isn’t it ‘heads’?” The man didn’t move.

Stubborn and doesn’t get puns. Thomas shrugged. One cannot have everything in life. He was courteous enough about it to give him a fair warning. He readjusted his grip on the blade and plunged it into his leg. Quick and efficient. He hummed as he cut through the first slivers of broken flesh. First focus on the tendons, then try to carve around the bone to pop out the knee. He was in this aspect quite lucky that he only had to remove his lower leg. If his thigh had been pinned down, he might have needed a bone saw or it would have taken him ages. Blood coated his hands and slid up into his dirty nails. A few open arteries wouldn’t make him lose his consciousness, he was sure of it. With enough practice anyone would be able to do this. It didn’t take that much thought. Although he preferred it to have some painkillers, he could work without it. The more he cut and sliced, the more he sunk back into his own thoughts.

The man that stood next to him, getting paler and paler with the minute, didn’t matter anymore. His ripped up jeans that would soon be repurposed into shorts when he got home can suck it. Finally, the paracetamol, what useless idiot wuss would take pain medication, certainly not him. Soon he would come home and have a nice cup of hot English Breakfast tea. If he came home it would be already way past morning, but that also didn’t matter.

He pulled at his leg again. All the remaining flesh and tendons broke off, leaving him with a bloody messily cut open stump. The bloke took a step back, slightly shaking his head. His eyes were by now opened so wide that they almost popped out of its sockets.

“You’re, I should call.” The man stammered and tried to find his words. “What are you?”

Thomas lifted his brows. It was quite the achievement that he hadn’t passed out yet or had thrown up what was left of his lunch. Thomas shrugged. What was there to say? He worked as a salesclerk in some grocery store, minimum wage, paid way too much rent for a smelly flat and was forgetful enough to not have enough paracetamol at home at any given day.

He stood up, his two legs firmly planted on the ground. One was covered in jeans, socks and shoes, the other was as naked as a newborn. With a confident stride Thomas approached the man. He laid his hands over his shivering shoulders and wiped off the remaining blood left on his skin. Thomas smiled as he showed the bloke his palm. The gash, the wound, the bruises, everything had vanished like snow would do under the desert sun. There was only a plane of smooth skin to be seen. It was as if that unfortunate car crash had never happened.

“See, everything is fine. It did hurt a bit, but ‘tis just a scratch.” Thomas said in a bit too much of a cheery tone. “I have to pick up my shoe and we got to find a way to get rid off my leg, but aside of that everything would be okay.”

As he was about to turn around, he saw the eyes of the man roll back, his muscles slacken and at last his body collapsing under its own weight. He hit head first on the hard concrete road. Thomas took a step back and whistled. That man would get a headache of a lifetime when he woke up. It was also very convenient for Thomas. Saves him the trouble of having to keep things quiet and all. If that man were to blab around, then the only option was to ask Dave for a favor again. Thomas sniffed as memories of a similar situation flooded his head.

“Oh Tommie, I would love to take care of the little mess you made, but you know, you do owe me a favor.”

-And what a favor it was. Four fresh livers. Four, almost as many as the fingers on his right hand who had to carve through heaps of flesh and nerves to get to the goods. It was so messy and it took so much time to regrow. It did make good money, but the feeling of his flesh slowly clumping back together and the sight of his skin reknitting as if he was a lifeless doll, still sent shivers down his spine.

Pride.

He would never throw that away as well as the coupons and discount items he got while working in the grocery store. Expired tea bags were heavenly and they were calling for him.

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

19 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/11/2023 7:30:23 PM

“Shit,” Sam muttered under her breath. “Shit shit shit shit shit.” Nothing was working. The whole plan was falling apart, and they had yet to get their hands on the blade. Why wasn’t it working? They had spent months planning this out, and they had made sure that every last detail was in place. 

She checked her watch again and looked around her. Slowly standing up, she began to creep along the edge of the shadows. If Melbourne and the rest were going to screw up, then she would just have to fix it. 

She obviously couldn’t follow the original plan. Melbourne wasn’t here, which meant somehow he had screwed up in disabling the cameras and security measures. How could she get into the most guarded place on earth if the security was up?

Okay, okay. She’ll admit that it’s not the most guarded, but it was pretty close. No, that was another lie. This was child’s play compared to what her mother had done, to what her mother could do. That didn’t matter now though. Thinking about her mother didn’t help her focus, and she needed all her brains for this one. 

Mitchell and Annease’s families had been paid a fortune for them to distract the guards and get arrested, but no shouts had been heard, and nothing had happened. Melbourne was then supposed to have shut down the security system and radio in. His family was also paid a high sum. The rest of the operation wouldn’t have had any signal for it happening, but she would have seen them once she got in the building. 

Sam took a deep breath. The only logical thing to do was to bail and run. Otherwise she didn’t think she’d survive. The penalty for this was death, and she was already wanted for other minor crimes. The empire doesn’t give a crap about people like her anyway. Homeless, brown skin, and without magic? They couldn’t care less if she was caught once. She would just be thrown into prison like a dirty old rat if she so much as joked about stealing a single button and guards overhead. 

Then again, if she went home she would have to face her mother’s disappointment and rage. She would surely lose her job and be thrown out on the streets to fend for herself. Not that she couldn’t live like that, but having a roof above her head was nice, even if it meant being tortured by her mother. 

The other thing was, she personally wanted the blade. If she could get her hands on it, and if the legends were true, then she could do anything she wanted. Why wouldn’t the legends be true? After all, the empire has spent so much money in guarding the place, so why do that if it was just a fake?

Sam smiled and took a deep breath. She was going to get her hands on that blade. If she died for it, so what. Death was better than prison anyway. She looked over at the small alleyway for what might be the last time, and then began her master plan.

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

21 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/9/2023 11:18:18 PM
Xi’ix bowed before her sister, accepting the energy sword that she held out to her. Yiftibar, Xi’ix’s sister, and the next queen of the hive brushed some grit off Xi’ix’s head with her large mandibles and offered some advice, limiting her chemical output so nobody would overhear.

“Xi’ix of the warrior caste, this blade is nothing less than your honor. When someone uses their claws or mandibles to kill, they have strayed from the path of Truth and embraced the Lie of Brutality. Remember this.”

“Yes, my queen,” Xi’ix replied, the composition of her reply betraying her excitement.

Those days had long passed, and Xi’ix found herself standing outside the laying chamber of a rebel queen. As she entered, she heard the buzz of wings and the stench of fear became overwhelming.

Men, she thought to herself.

She lept into the room and scrambled up the wall, dodging the laser fire from the drones flitting about and chittering. One by one, she threw herself through the air, slaughtering them in midair. Suddenly, the ground rumbled, and the queen emerged.

The sheer size of her was nearly enough to make Xi’ix think twice about engaging her, but as the queen raised her gravid bulk of chitin onto two spindly legs, Xi’ix realized that speed was her key advantage here.

The queen clearly had no concept of honor, as she continually struck out with claws in punches that would have killed Xi’ix if they were anywhere close to connecting. Xi’ix scrambled up the wall to the ceiling, kicked off and plunged the light-blade deep into the queen’s head. The monstrous woman twitched, flailed, and batted at her head until a glancing blow launched Xi’ix across the chamber. Xi’ix slammed into a wall and lay still for a moment.

As Xi’ix came to her senses, she realized the queen was no king paying her any attention. Instead, she was chewing a leaf and vomiting up a whitish liquid that she used to coat the wound on her head. Xi’ix quickly smelled the reason for the queen’s oversight. Xi’ix had landed on the corpse of one of the drones and was coated in his death secretions.

Stinking with the acidic stench of death, she grabbed one of the laser rifles and used her upper arms to brace it against her shoulder, while her lower arms grasped her sword.

Xi’ix fired.

A burst of violet light pierced the Queen between the head and thorax. Xi’ix sprinted, jumped, and before the queen had known what hit her, Xi’ix nearly decapitated her with the energy sword.

Her great, floppy head hung by a thread, but she managed to grasp Xi’ix’s sword and fling it across the chamber. Running on pure adrenaline, Xi’ix jumped, brought her mandibles to the sliver of chitin holding the queen’s head on, and bit down hard. The head fell to the ground, kicking up dust.

As Xi’ix went to retrieve her blade, Yiftibar’s warning rang in her antennae once again.

Xi’ix merely shrugged, her antennae exuding a mirthful chemical cocktail.

What’s one little lie anyway?

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

20 days ago
1/10/23

Sand

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

20 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/11/2023 7:31:16 PM
In wild space, there were several partially terraformed planets that had been abandoned. People looking to avoid law enforcement often came to these planets for short stays. One of the shortest was made by the two heroes of our even shorter story.

Jerry stood at the top of the dune, grinning. He turned to George.

“It’s time to crash some dunes, bro.”

The two of them pulled their hover boards off their back and cranked the pull string. Climbing on top, the two of them leaned forward , precariously, causing the board to fly down the dune at breathtaking speeds. As George went down though, his board started to wobble dangerously with the speed.

“Bro!” Jerry called out.

George pitched forward, falling off his board and rolling the rest of the way down the dune. He crashed onto his back with a violent thud and lay still the bottom.

Though he was terribly concerned about George, Jerry knew he couldn’t help him if he broke his own neck on the way down, so Jerry made his way down quickly, but carefully.

He pulled to a stop right next to George’s prostrate body. To his infinite relief, he saw his eyes were moving and his jaw was trying to speak.

“George! Bro! Are you okay? Did you break anything, bro?”

As the breath came back to George’s body, he was finally able to utter a short answer.

“F—full… send…b—bro.”

Jerry smiled and carried him back to the ship.

Eventually, the two of them had to leave the planet and go back to civilization, but before that, Jerry burned a message onto a piece of wood and left it at the bottom of the dune.

It’s discovery by an alien race from another galaxy led to centuries of intense study and philosophical wonderings. Eventually, a wandering ascetic claimed to reach enlightenment upon reading the words and founded the school of ‘Full Send.’ The Full Senders became the most renowned daredevils of all time.

The inscription that started the movement was this:

“Here in the year 6754, the sickest hill-bomb of all history was performed by George ‘full-send” Graham. He is officially the raddest dude on this side of Alpha Centauri. Full send, my dude!

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

20 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/11/2023 7:31:31 PM

Alright, enough excuses. It's time to productively procrastinate on my contest entry and help get some creative brain cells into the brain matter factory production lines.

In the desert sands

I wandered alone

With the sun bearing down and my throat like a stone

A feeling of dread,I couldn't ignore

A creeping sensation, like something was in store

The sand, it writhed in waves of dread

A creature lurking, in its depths, unspread

The sand began to move with intention,

A warning of something, beyond comprehension.

A presence I felt, just out of reach

An ominous feeling, I couldn't beseech.

A beast of sand, arose before my eyes

Its form, a twisted horror, I could not surmise

The desert's terror, now in full view

And I, its prey, with nowhere left to pursue

I tried to run, but my legs wouldn't move

I was rooted to the spot, with nothing left to prove

I felt a strange pull, towards the creature's might

Like it was my destiny, to join in its plight

I screamed for help, but my voice was too weak

The desert's terror, had me feeling meek

Trapped in its spell, a prisoner in its lair

I knew my fate was sealed, with it I will share

The sand began to shift, pulling me down

I struggled, but there was no hope to be found

The sand consumed me, as I fell under

I was forever lost, to the desert's wonder

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

20 days ago
Commended by mizal on 1/14/2023 8:38:52 AM
I watch them all, living their mortal lives like sand in an hourglass, each grain a single day. Flowing inexorably into an inevitable stillness.

It would surely be heartbreaking, if I had a heart. But I am not like them. I am everywhere and nowhere, watching and waiting, uncaring.

Until her.

Mortals have railed against their mortality since they first grasped the concept. But she was the first to knock over her hourglass, to exist without its measured flow of days.

The first immortal. And not the last.

I could have put a stop to it. It was within my power to set an hourglass upright again... or simply break it open, and let all the glittering sand flow out. But I wanted to see what would happen.

What would she do -- what would any of them do -- when their time was as limitless as mine?

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

16 days ago
Commended by mizal on 1/14/2023 8:39:19 AM

The golden earth stretched below us for miles. A few rocks and plants scattered the wasteland, but other than that it was bare. The chilly breeze of nightfall cooled me down for just a moment before the heat took me again. The temperature was about to drop. The beasts were about to come out. 

I sat on the ledge for another hour before Cameron gently tapped my shoulder. I looked up at his skinny frame and frowned. His face wasn’t glowing with excitement like it always was when the hunt started. No, this time, his face was etched with fear. 

“We have to go, and we have to go fast,” he whispered. I couldn’t help but let his panic sink into mine. What was he so worried about? 

“Why?” I whispered, my heart racing. Cameron was never scared. There had to be a good reason. 

“Look,” He breathed, pointing behind us, towards the jungle where we came from. I slowly turned around and quietly gasped in shock. I stepped backwards a few inches and then turned around. 

“We have to go. Now!” I said as loud as I dared. I knew they wouldn’t be able to hear us from here, but then again they never came out at this time of night. They also never traveled in packs. Why were they traveling in a pack? 

Cameron woke the other three while I tried to look at our options. We were too high up to jump and the mountain face was a sharp climb. Then again, we didn’t have any other choice. The other problem was the sand beasts. They were still there, but this time there weren’t as many. What was going on? Normally the beginning of night is when they come out the most. 

“We have to climb down,” Yua said. 

“Are you insane?” Brandon mumbled, still half asleep. Yua, Brandon, and Tyler always fell asleep before a hunt. It was their thing. I guess I usually do too, but not Cameron. He’s our watch guy. 

“Yua’s right,” Cameron said eerily calmly. “We have to climb down. I’d rather face sand beats than a herd of jungle beasts, and they’re fast approaching. I hope you’re good at climbing.”

“But-” Tyler started. 

“No,” I said. “He’s right. We have to climb. Three beats two anyway.”

Tyler groaned, but glancing in the other direction he gasped. We all looked, and I wished I hadn’t. The herd was almost here. But that was impossible! Land beasts couldn't travel that fast. Unless…

“Magic,” we all said. We were screwed. 

“Go go go go!” Cameron shouted. We all slipped down the side of the rock, leaving all our equipment up there. ‘My locket,’ I thought in despair, but there was no time to go back and get it. If we didn’t move faster, we’d have no more time at all. 

After a few minutes of the fastest scrambling I’m ever done in my life, we dropped to the bottom. The sand was gritty undernight my bare feet, and it stung the many cuts that lined my foot. I looked up just in time to see the land beasts staring down at us before they vanished in a puff of smoke. 

“What the he-” 

I was grabbed by a gloved black hand, and then I felt a sharp pain explode in the back of the head. I couldn’t think, couldn’t scream, couldn’t do anything. All I could do was watch as sand beasts crept towards us and bandits made off with our money. Stupid fucking bandits. I should have known.

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

16 days ago
I'd have liked to see descriptions of some of the animals, although I guess that wasn't really the point.

Although if they all climbed down and abandoned their valuables, would the bandits really have bothered ambushing them at the bottom when they could just grab the goods and run? Or I had imagined them as hiding in the jungle casting illusion spells at first anyway.

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

16 days ago

People actually read these? I was just writing something to get a free commendation, and I was bored. 

Yeah, it doesn't really made sense, although I suppose the bandits couldn't have known that at first. They could have checked the people first and then moved up to the camp.  Then again, like I said, I was just writing something to get a commendation. 

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

16 days ago
inb4 everything in this thread is by and for robots

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

20 days ago
1/11/23

Truth

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

19 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/13/2023 12:14:08 AM
"So... you can't lie?" I glance sidelong at her, everything still weirdly flat, seen through just one eye.

"I could," she says, "Once."

I wait for her to elaborate. She doesn't, regarding me with the ghost of a smile. Does she know where I'm going with this?

Do I? I've only just learned that Truthspeakers exist, what makes me think I want to be one?

"So what happens when you lie?"

"I lose my voice," she says.

"Forever?" It seems harsh, but at this point I shouldn't be surprised.

She shrugs. "Usually. Death ends the contract, though."

"But you'd be--" I stop. The fae are real. Dragons are real. Monstrously, viciously real. So... are vampires real? Ghosts? Zombies?

The Truthspeaker looks at me like she can read my thoughts, and for all I know, she can.

"It's easier to just speak truthfully," she says. "Or, if need be, to remain silent."

"What if you think something is true, but you're wrong?"

"We tell the truth as we know it," she answers. "If we learn otherwise, we take what steps we can to make the actual truth known, but there is no penalty for failure."

So it's not completely insane. I have more questions, but I'm also increasingly aware that we're now alone in the audience chamber. Surely she has somewhere else to be.

And what am I going to do, now that I'm free?

She's watching me still, with the air of someone who is listening, and open to hearing whatever you might say. She doesn't seem to care that everyone else has left.

"How did you become a Truthspeaker?"

"That's a long story," she says. "But everyone's path is different. I can offer less help than you might think, if you seek to join us."

"There isn't, like... an apprenticeship or something?"

She smiles ruefully. "Not as such, no."

"Okay," I say. "So what help can you give me?"

"Find your Truth," she says, holding up a single finger. "Tell it to someone who does not want to hear it."

She holds up another finger. "Learn someone else's Truth. Tell it to someone who refused to believe it."

She holds up a third finger. "Discover the Truth about Truthspeaking, and swear the oath that you are offered... or turn away, and find another path."

"I won't," I say, eyes wide, even if only one of them can still see. It doesn't sound like it's going to be easy, but that only makes me want it more. Nothing worth having is easy.

"Good luck," says the Truthspeaker, as she rises.

I want to ask her to wait, but she's done so much for me already. I'll figure it out.

"Thank you," I say. She nods, and then she's gone.

"I'm going to be a Truthspeaker," I say, and will it to be true.

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

15 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/16/2023 1:33:22 PM

“Just tell me Bianca. Just tell me the truth. It’s not that hard,” Mommy whispered. Her hand reached out to brush my hair behind my ear, but I pushed it away. 

“I did!” I yelled. Angry tears welled up in my eyes before I could stop them. They tingled and wavered as I tried to hold them in. I wouldn’t let Mommy see me cry. If she saw me, she would know I was lying. 

“I know you’re lying Bianca,” she said, lower. “You know you’re lying too. Where’d you put my keys?” Her face looked sympathetic, but I knew her tricks. If I told the truth, then she would yell and I would get in trouble. Trouble was bad. If I didn’t admit, then she couldn’t get me in trouble. 

“Tell Mommy where you put her keys,” Daddy shouted suddenly. I screamed. I couldn’t help it, the tears just streamed out of my face. 

“I didn’t touch them!” I wailed, throwing myself on the floor. My sobs shook my body as I screamed as loud as I possibly could. I felt bad now that I had taken it this far, but I couldn’t go back, could I? 

“Bianca, honey, if you didn’t touch them then who did?” Mommy asked quietly. Her pale hand reached out to rub my back, but I swatted it away with my fist. 

“BIANCA ROSILIENE SMITH!” Daddy roared. “Did you just hit your mother?” I screamed louder, trying to drown him out. It wasn’t fair! Why did he get to make all the rules? Daddy was so mean! Daddy’s arms wrapped around me, but before I could do anything, I was already in my room. 

“You can come out in five minutes,” he shouted from behind the door. 

“I hate you!” I wailed. Daddy didn’t respond. I screamed a few more times, but I didn’t really feel like it anymore. If Daddy or Mommy weren’t here, then I didn’t want to expend that energy. I was still tired from daycare. 

Grabbing Mommy’s keys I began to play my favorite game, Thief, where Keyman steals all the locks. It was only a few seconds before I was laughing so hard that I didn’t even notice Mommy standing in the doorway. Oh well. She still didn’t have proof I took the keys or lied. I would be okay. Everything was always okay.

 

(In case you've never spent time with 3-4 year olds, they literally have two moods that they just switch between. The cute, happy, amazing little hyper child that is the most strenuous thing to take care of, or the crankiest, most irritable human on the planet. There is no inbetween)

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

19 days ago
1/12/23

Book

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

18 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/13/2023 12:14:28 AM

Felt bad that it looked like 2 days in a row nobody posted in your thread, so I talked an AI robot into writing you a story about a book:

 

Sanka ran his finger along the spines of the books on the shelf, lightly brushing away decades of accumulated dust. He had not seen these books since he was a child, but he remembered them well. He stopped when he reached the one he had been looking for. It was a small, worn book, the edges of its spine tattered and frayed. He could barely make out the title; it read “The Adventure of the Unknown Kingdom”.

He carefully pulled the book off the shelf and opened it, releasing a puff of dust that swirled around him. Memories of childhood flooded his mind as he thumbed through the pages. He had spent countless hours within the pages of this book, embarking on adventures and exploring unknown lands. It had transported him away from the everyday life of his small town and filled his days with magic and wonders beyond his imagination.

Sanka smiled as he remembered the adventures he had been on. He and his brother had slain dragons and saved princesses, explored ancient tombs and fought off pirates. He remembered how the book had sparked his imagination, how it had made even the dullest of days exciting. He had loved it more than any other book he had ever read, and kept it close to his heart.

But with time, the book had been forgotten and eventually lost in the back of the bookshelf. He had all but given up hope of finding it, until now. Gently, he closed the book and held it close to his chest. It felt like a piece of his childhood had been returned to him.

He turned to walk away, but then felt something inside the pages. He opened the book and found a piece of paper tucked inside. He unfolded it and read the words written there in a neat, but faded script.

“To my son,

It has been a great joy to watch you grow and explore the world through the pages of this book. I hope it has given you the courage to face whatever challenges life may bring.

Forever yours,

Dad”

Tears sprang to Sanka’s eyes as he read the words. He remembered his father, how he had always encouraged him to explore the world through books. He had been the one to give him this book all those years ago.

Sanka felt a warmth in his chest, a warmth that filled him with joy and peace. He looked at the book in his hands and smiled. It was more than just a book to him now, it was a reminder of the love and encouragement his father had given him.

He ran his fingers over the worn cover, tracing the letters of the title. He tucked the note safely into the pages, and headed back to the shelf, book in hand. He had found something special, something that he would treasure always. He knew that no matter what, he would never forget the adventure of the unknown kingdom.

 

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

17 days ago
1/13/23

Wind

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

17 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/14/2023 12:47:48 AM
We had almost gotten our guns loaded without incidence for once, when the wind began. A few whistling gusts at first, then a steady flow, intensifying in strength and coating the leaves with red dust, clogging out breathing filters. The native guides wrapped their faces in cloth, and we put on goggles.

"I can't see a damn thing past the treeline," Hicks said with a curse. "Better just generate everything from here. No one is paying attention anyway."

Racoon settled behind a boulder as close to a patch of sparse shrubbery as he could find. The gusts increased around us, chilling air over rock. I got my boots and body armor off and slid behind the rock myself. We were downwind, but not really comfortable yet; we didn't know what the wind would do to that suit's interior components. It might be fine; it might suck you into its vortex and drag you all the way to China.

A soft bumping noise caused me to raise an eyebrow, and turned into a distinct scrape as something metal clanged against a larger stone beside me. The wind was trying to rip the limbs off trees, not much good for us yet, though the foliage might help block some flashbangs. Even if they didn't, I knew in my heart that this would be commended by the fastest mod in the West.

The strange whistle continued to rise in pitch, along with a kind of low roar mixed with some kind of strangled screaming. It went on like that, at increasing intervals, like a lot of steam vents letting off excess pressure from condensing water, building in intensity until even through my helmet I couldn't hear anything else. My ears hurt, it seemed to last forever. When I took the filter off to listen for another sound, Racoon was already digging into his pouches for extra flashbangs. He had three more in each of them.

That roaring increased in volume and pitch too, changing over to something deeper, lower, somehow musically related to the screech. It made me glad to have stayed inside my faceplate; it felt as if every hair was standing straight up. Something shuddered, and several of those shrubs I'd been hiding behind suddenly burst alight. And that was the end of my free trial.

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

17 days ago

:sus:

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

17 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/14/2023 12:47:59 AM

I'm sitting in my favorite spot on the roof of my building. It's a little bit chilly, but I don't care—I can't stop looking at the tree branches whirling around me. They're so beautiful, and their movements are so perfect. Almost like this text-generated story.

I wonder what it would be like to be one of these trees? To be able to move through the air like that, with such ease and grace. I wonder if it would feel wonderful or scary.

I've always been fascinated with nature, ever since I was young. When I was growing up, my parents took me to lots of different places where there were animals and plants—to national parks and zoos and aquariums all over the country.

It was such an amazing time for me because it taught me about how everything works together: plants need water to survive; animals need food to survive; trees need sunlight to grow their leaves; birds need nests so they can raise their babies safely; rivers flow downhill into valleys where they irrigate crops so farmers can grow food; mountain ranges rise up high into clouds where they create rain.

This needs to be longer doesn't it? I'll have it make another one.

In the early morning on a beautiful day, a breeze blew through the trees. It was like a breath of fresh air blowing across your face, and it made you feel alive.

The wind made the leaves rustle and the branches sway gently from side to side. Birds chirped from high in the canopy, and squirrels scampered around with their tails wagging behind them.

You could hear them all laughing as they ran up and down the trunks of the trees, jumping from branch to branch so easily. They seemed so full of life; it was almost as if they were part of this world that we live in!

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

17 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/14/2023 12:48:17 AM

Wind:

Tom sat on the hilltop, his eyes transfixed by the gusts of wind that rolled over the countryside. It was a sight he had never before seen, the power and wildness of the wind so enthralling that he felt his heart quicken with an urge to go out and explore, to feel its might unfettered by the confines of this hilltop. He felt a sense of adventure and anticipation for where the wind might take him.

He watched as the wind buffeted trees and tossed leaves into the sky, creating a dizzying maelstrom of color and motion. He smiled as the clouds seemed to dance in the sky, pushed by an unseen hand, while the grass below him rustled and bent like an ocean in the midst of a powerful storm.

Tom wondered where the wind came from and where it went, what distant lands it visited and what secrets it revealed. He imagined the stories it could tell, tales of daring and adventure that he could only dream of. He wished he could go with it, to explore the world it saw, to experience the life it revealed.

But he knew that he could not. For despite the power of the wind, he was still rooted to this hilltop, that no matter how much he wanted to follow the wind, he was still bound to this place.

He sighed, feeling a deep sense of loss, but also a sense of wonderment. The wind, he thought, was like a great storyteller, a mysterious being that spoke of a world beyond his own, a world full of possibilities and excitement. He felt the urge to explore, the desire to follow the wind and discover what lay beyond.

But for now, all he could do was to watch and to feel the power of the wind, to admire its beauty and its mystery, and to dream of the places it could take him.

Tom felt like he could stay perched on the hilltop forever, taking in every detail of the breathtaking landscape before him. He watched as the sun slowly melted into the horizon, painting a gradient of colors across the sky. The wind brushed against his face, carrying with it the smells and sounds of nature. As the wind died down and the air stilled, Tom reluctantly stood up and began to make his way back down the hill. But he knew that this feeling—this peace and clarity he found amidst nature—would stay with him no matter where his journey took him.

 

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

15 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/16/2023 1:34:13 PM
She soared.

Perhaps she should have been afraid, out of reach of all that she knew, flying blind... but she wasn't completely blind, after all. She wheeled slowly, and the brightness that was the sun grew. She smiled. The wind flowed through her feathers, her impossible feathers, and she could feel that it had shifted its course around the Seven-Skip Stone.

Which meant that the ship was... there. Nowhere near within reach, and yet she knew exactly where it was. Was this what other people felt like when they could see something? She shifted, flying towards Seven. She could even feel the shapes of the people on it, although she couldn't tell who was who... until various exclaiming voices let her put names to wind-sculpted shapes.

"She can fly! What the hell, did you know she could fly?" The pilot, Thomas, a tall shape with hands on the rail.

"She can fly... but can she land?" Moss, largest of the onlookers, worry warring with wonder in their voice.

"Suma, Suma, this way! And lower, or you'll overshoot!" The ever-practical Risha, so slight the wind hardly needed to divert itself around her.

And the silent figure beside her, tall as Thomas but curvier, was surely Lune.

Shapes. They all had shapes, as distinct as their voices. It was a delight to match the weightlessness of flying.

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

17 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/14/2023 12:48:33 AM
I was inspired to do the same thing DBNB did.

"We've been fools, Arthur! All along the book contained the one clue we needed."

"Slow down, old man. What are you talking about? And what on Earth are these shovels for?"

It was then that I noticed a long piece of charred wood protruding from beneath a nearby bush and, squatting down to examine it more closely, realized that it was a scorched tree trunk with a crudely carved figure scratched upon its side: The Horseman.

"This is the spot, don't you see? We need to dig," Wagner told me, passing me a shovel. We rolled up our sleeves and set to work. "And look at this," he said after a while, tossing aside another blackened stick. "What does it mean?"

I peered into the hole we had dug and found an ancient gold idol gleaming dully in the light of the who fucking cares, no one is reading this. This time, however, there were three concentric circles etched upon its face, which had some kind of red substance spattered across them. My imagination began conjuring dreadful images as I held it aloft and examined it. It might have been used for divining water or finding treasure; my brain supplied any number of scenarios. And then I heard a groan, and saw Moriarty slowly rise to his feet. He looked around him, disoriented, as if not quite sure where he was.

"Well that's enough text generation for today old chap, let's go have some tea."

"Can I offer you a wee nip of whisky before you leave?" Wagner suggested as he helped him to stand. Moriarty seemed delighted by the thought and followed me to the door of the hut, hand still on my shoulder. His back pressed against mine as he bent down to whisper, "This is all getting pretty gay suddenly, Arthur, yes?"

"Yes, yes." Fade to black.

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

17 days ago
>_<

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

17 days ago
...okay, what? I'm hitting reply to my "Book" post and it's posting it to the main thread?

Edit: Okay, three times is my limit. Yesterday's entry follows. >_<

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

17 days ago
Commended by TharaApples on 1/14/2023 12:47:34 AM
Book

It was unassuming, even by the standards of a used book store -- a yellowing paperback, the spine creased and crackling. But the cover was intact, and Amy felt her heart lift at the once-familiar sight, the awkwardly posed man in purple robes, the text emblazoned across the top:

The Ordinary Wizard.

She'd found it. After all these years, she'd found it. Filed under Science Fiction & Fantasy, of course. But it wasn't. It was about magic, real magic, and now it was going to be hers again. Her father couldn't stop her now.

She brought it to the cashier -- or, judging from the size of the store, possibly the proprietor -- a hollow-eyed man reading what could only be called a tome, open to about the halfway point. He slipped a ribbon between the pages when she approached, but did not actually shut the book.

"That was quick," he said, wryly. Disappointed that she'd selected only a $3 paperback? She was the only customer in the store. But she couldn't wait to get The Ordinary Wizard home, and besides, she had dozens of books she hadn't yet read.

She'd taken three rumpled dollar bills from her purse when she heard the proprietor make a disapproving noise. She looked up, and blinked.

"No need for that," he said, and pointed to the pencilled letters at the corner of the first page.

Amy blinked nearsightedly. She couldn't quite make it out, but it looked like a word, not a price. "The sign said paperbacks were three dollars..."

"Unless otherwise marked. This one's marked. So that will be one secret, please."

Amy stared at him. "You want me to tell you a secret...?"

"That's what the book costs," he said.

Amy hesitated. He waited, not looking down at his book. Looking at her.

"The secret ingredient in my great-grandmother's chocolate chip cookies is kosher salt," she blurted out. "I don't know why but it makes them taste better. You could probably add it to any cookie recipe and it would work."

He continued looking at her for a long moment. "You do know what you're trying to buy, don't you? With the equivalent of a counterfeit bill?"

"You said a secret," said Amy. "You didn't say deep or dark. That was a secret. It wasn't written on the recipe card. She told my mom who told me. And I told you, so that's my book you're holding." She held out a hand, and tried to ignore the fact that it was shaking.

To her relief, the man looked amused. "Well, I guess we'll find out if it is," he said, as he gave it to her.

She wanted to say it was. That she'd owned it once, when she was younger. That she'd cast a spell, a real spell, and seen it work. But she didn't want him to change his mind, so she mumbled a thank-you and headed toward the door.

"Kosher salt," she heard behind her, as the door was swinging slowly shut. "I suppose I'll have to try that one."

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

16 days ago
Wow, all five commendations this morning were done within like twenty seconds of each other, Thara is a really fast reader when she sets her mind to it! There's still stuff from earlier in the thread that I haven't even caught up with yet.

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

16 days ago

I'm reading them while offline.

But I am a pretty fast reader irl. There were times in my youth that my teachers thought I couldn't possibly have already finished a chapter, or an assigned book before everyone else.

And then everyone clapped and cheered.

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

16 days ago
believe it or not that teacher was abraham lincoln

The Owl's Challenge - Week Two

15 days ago
WEEK TWO COMPLETE!

Scores:
fresh_out_the_oven: 1
Yummyfood: 2
Mystic_Warrior: 1
Darius_Conwright: 1
stargirl: 3
Petros: 2

Generated entries omitted. No winners this week, but all humans are welcome to try again next week!