Morgan_R, The Novelist

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Last Activity

3/26/2023 1:54 AM

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35 wins / 48 losses





Social Justice Owl

Still hoping to reconnect with a long-lost friend.

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Even after death, there are choices.

An entry for EndMaster's Prompt Contest 2.

Recent Posts

The Owl's Challenge - Week Nine on 3/24/2023 3:50:01 PM
That 100% counts, and you should post it somewhere other people might actually read it. The cute art style juxtaposed with the punchline made ME laugh, and I am not known for my sense of humour!

The Owl's Challenge - Week Nine on 3/24/2023 12:23:02 AM


The Owl's Challenge - Week Nine on 3/24/2023 12:21:05 AM
Technically, most of what I do doesn't even involve tea. But everyone calls it tea, so I'm not about to be the pedant who informs them that I've actually served them an herbal infusion. Also, sometimes it IS tea. White, green, oolong, black... I stock it all. But it was nearly dark, well past the time for caffeinated beverages. My last customer left, with a smile and a wave, which I returned. I sighed, leaning against the counter. Time to-- "You're open," said a voice, relief overlaying exhaustion. A figure hurried towards the still-open window I'd been serving from all day. Regretfully, I set aside my mental checklist of closing tasks. Time to serve my new last customer. "What can I get you?" They had medium-brown skin and short hair, shiny black and messy in a way that suggested they'd only recently vacated their bed, despite the hour. "Coffee with milk and extra sugar," they said, and I tried not to wince. I don't serve coffee. The various teas and herbal infusions I brew harmonize surprisingly well with each other. Coffee, not so much. The smell of it is just too assertive, too this-is-a-cup-of-coffee, to be a team player. But I hated to have to tell a customer no. I hesitated, and they seemed to realize their mistake. "Oh, damn, right, no coffee... uhhh... tea I guess?" "Of course," I said, and selected a mug. It was a cheerful yellow, and 16 ounces. If they were used to coffee, they'd need plenty of tea to get their caffeine kick. I planned to brew it strong, too. My hand hovered over my selection of blacks before settling on an Assam. I could have asked, of course, but part of my job is knowing when not to ask. When to take an order for 'tea' and turn it into a delicious hot beverage -- with milk and extra sugar, in this case. I set it before my (hopefully!) last customer with a smile. "Night shift?" I asked, as they took a cautious sip. They looked pleasantly surprised, and took another before they nodded. "Yeah. Thanks, I needed this. What time do you close?" "When there's no one who needs a cup of tea," I said.

The Owl's Challenge - Week Nine on 3/23/2023 12:55:20 AM


The Owl's Challenge - Week Nine on 3/23/2023 12:52:12 AM
"It's just some broken sword that didn't fall apart all the way," said my brother. Twelve years old, the age at which boys know everything.

"It's the Shattered Sword. It broke in the fight against the Demon King, and you can see the pieces of it just floating, and there's a glow between them like it's straight from the forge but really it's the soulstuff that's holding it all together." I was fourteen, and a girl, and I knew I didn't know everything about the Shattered Sword... just everything anyone would tell me. I had to see it.

Even if I was supposed to be watching my brother, and neither of us were supposed to leave the house.

"Come on, I know how we can see the Choosing. If you wear some of my old clothes--"

"What? I'm not dressing like a girl! I don't even care about the Choosing. Go by yourself if you wanna go that badly!"

I hesitated. Mother had told me to watch him...

"I won't tell," he said, "IF you bring me back a mince tart. No, TWO mince tarts."

"If you stay right here until I get back, and don't tell Mother, I'll bring you THREE mince tarts."

He grinned, spat on his hand and held it out. I grimaced, but followed suit, clasping my dampened palm to his.

I slipped out our cottage door as if I were being watched. Which was ridiculous, Mother was out selling strings of dried apple slices to the gathered crowd. I'd have to avoid the benches, but those would be packed full by now anyway. People who wanted to sit would have gotten up before dawn. And they'd be hungry, which is why Mother would be there. And why I wouldn't be.

I walked quickly, not wanting to miss any of the Choosing. I'd been four during the last one, too young to even understand what I wouldn't be allowed to witness.

What I still wasn't supposed to witness, but I was fourteen. Near enough to sixteen that nobody would know the difference at a glance. Almost old enough. In another ten years, I'd be twenty-four. It was rare for anyone over twenty to be Chosen...

Wrapped up in my thoughts, I almost stumbled into a woman at the trailing edge of the crowd. I sidled past her and further in, finding a spot where I could see the stage from. The Choosing had already begun. The candidates were making their way onstage, one by one. They each greeted a red-headed woman who bore a sheathed sword on her back. Iliana of Three Rivers, I thought. Current wielder of the Shattered Sword.

Which I wanted to actually see, but apparently that wasn't part of the process. So I watched, as girl after girl walked onstage, some more briskly than others, clasped hands with Iliana, and then were dismissed with a smile and a nod.

She seemed so poised, up there on the stage. So calm. Maybe that was why she'd been Chosen, ten years ago. Or maybe it was just that she'd had ten years to get used to the idea.

I did wonder how she chose. Or how the sword chose, if the rumors were true.

And then I could see the end of the line, and one by one the girls climbed the steps to the stage, and then back down. And then it was the last of them climbing down. It wasn't going to be one of us, then. The next wielder would not be "of New Orchard."

I knew I should go. Get my brother his mince pies, be back before my mother. But I still hadn't seen the Shattered Sword, and I badly wanted to. I stared at the hilt of it, steel wrapped with leather, and willed Iliana to draw it.

She met my eye. I thought I had to be imagining it, but a deeper part of me knew that I wasn't. Iliana of Three Rivers met my eye... and drew the Shattered Sword.

It was beautiful, I thought, amid gasps from the audience. It was broken, of course, but it glowed at the cracks. Not red, as I'd somehow always imagined, but a white tinged with blue.

"You did not come forward," said Iliana, her voice projecting like an actor's... although she was climbing down from the stage. "But you are our Choice," she said. Her eyes still locked with mine, though I had the fleeting impulse to look behind me. The crowd melted away before the Shattered Sword.

And then she was in front of me, and the point of the Shattered Sword touched my cheek. I saw a small scar on Iliana's cheek to match the sting on my own.

"You know what you must do," whispered Iliana, as she held out the sword to me, palms up.

The Owl's Challenge - Week Nine on 3/22/2023 12:53:42 AM


The Owl's Challenge - Week Nine on 3/21/2023 10:28:48 PM
I didn't notice my feet were numb until I tried to get out of bed and nearly fell over. Instead I staggered forward until I fetched up against my bookshelf. The spines were lit by morning light, promising me tales of hope and heroism. They were all written before the Blight. I looked down at the feet I couldn't feel. The wide legs of my pajamas hid most of the traitorous appendages, but I could see my toes. They were gray. I wiggled them, and felt nothing. My mind felt numb, too, although I knew it would take days to travel as far as my brain. Or I could go to the hospital. Amputation was still an option. An option with a less than 50% success rate, but an option. I didn't want to die. Still numb, I clung to that thought as I navigated getting dressed without touching my feet. I called in. Told them why. My supervisor asked me if I was sure. If I'd gone anywhere else before I went home. "Because if I shut down the store, and it wasn't here--" I didn't stop anywhere. I tell her so. I can tell she's trying to find a reason not to shut down, not to call the Blight Remediation Department. "Mind your feet," I say, and hang up. On the bright side, if the Blight does kill me, I won't have to go back to work.

The Owl's Challenge - Week Nine on 3/21/2023 12:08:27 AM


The Owl's Challenge - Week Nine on 3/21/2023 12:06:18 AM
"You want to forge a Writ. A fucking Writ of the fucking Deathless Queen. You really think your newly hatched conspiracy is going to pull that off?" "I-- we have an original Writ. We've made a cast of the seal. Reconstructed the pigments in the wax. Lots of trial and error there, but we finally hit on the perfect match. The ink is black, which simplifies things. Look, my-- the Queen gives the impression of infallibility, but it's just that: an impression. And we can duplicate that impression in this Writ." "Seal, wax, ink-- what about the paper?" "Oh, yes, that was a little tricky. Hundred-pound stock, off-white, with rose petal inclusions." "Roses. Roses! So this supposed Writ you've got is really just correspondence with one of her lovers." "What?" "Idiot! Do you think she pens all her letters on rose-paper? Unless you're planning to incite a lovers' quarrel, you're going to have to use different paper -- and there are dozens of possibilities, all with their own inclusions." "But--" The prince fell silent. "Tell me. Tell me what you're really trying to accomplish... and maybe I'll tell you what paper you need me to write on. If I think you have a chance." "And if you don't?" "I'm a professional. If I don't, this conversation never happened... and you find someone else who claims they can write in the Queen's hand. And I don't blink when I watch you both hang."

The Owl's Challenge - Week Nine on 3/20/2023 12:51:32 AM