Spring Ceramic DM™: WINNER POSTED! - Page 20
  1. #191
    Writing Fantasy Gumshoe!
    A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)

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    Jan 2002
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    You can if they're plain-text only. You can't use them to do neat graphical or layout formatting, as that isn't fair to your competitors.

    Really, the only time I want to see a pdf is when the story is just too damn long to put in a post. Sialia did this last competition with her 16+page stories. Since we now have a firmer 5000 word guideline, I'm not sure it's necessary.

  2. #192

    Ceramic DM Match-Up 1-3: Drose25 vs. Berandor

    This is a period horror set around the turn of the previous century. The pictures actually worked well with characters for another piece I’m developing. Some language may come across as discriminatory but keep in mind it’s the characters of the period talking, not me. : ) Also, I have butchered history, geography, and God knows what else as well as thrown in a few pop culture references for fun. Oh yeah, since the pictures are referred to throughout the piece, only the most significant use is noted with links.

    The Ziggurat of Ghiyath al-Din

    Parker Basden gazed in awe, the wind whipping his brassy blonde hair gently as the motorcar approached the airfield. The zeppelins hung almost magically in the air, tethered to the ground by cords that looked like mere strings as the silvery beasts swayed peacefully in the breeze. Of course, he’d seen pictures of such things in the newspaper back home in San Francisco, but to actually behold one in person almost required suspension of disbelief. That must be the way to travel, Parker thought as the driver continued their approach. No doubt it would beat the hell out of the laborious train ride to the east coast and the week at sea that it had taken for him to arrive in Europe. The trip had been worth it, though, to flee San Francisco. Parker shuddered as he thought of the city, and that relic sent for him to examine.

    The driver pulled in through well-guarded gates as uniformed policemen kept the small crowds of spectators under control. Apparently even the locals remained bewitched by the magic of the zeppelins. Floating in the air like giant circus balloons they captivated the imagination, inspired the heart, and instilled a longing in the soul for those doomed to remain earthbound.

    The motorcar slowed as they reached the tarmac and wound its way through long, shifting zeppelin shadows. Parker could see their destination now, a silvery envelope of hydrogen with an ornate, calligraphic “G” emblazoned on its side. It matched the one painted on the doors of the motorcar.

    He smiled. He should have expected nothing less from the flamboyant Baron von Gaertrinken. For as long as Parker had known the man pomp and spectacle had been the Baron’s trademarks. The driver stopped as they reached a small gathering of people on the tarmac and opened the door for Parker before retrieving his trunk and bags. A crew of workmen was busy manhandling a set of steel stairs into place up ahead so the zeppelin could be boarded. The gondola hanging beneath its silver skin seemed almost tiny in comparison though Parker had no doubt the gondola itself was the size of generous yacht. Appropriately, two vast wooden propellers hung out from either side at the rear.

    “Parker, darling! How delightful to find you here!” A woman’s voice with a dignified English accent called out to him. He spotted a gloved hand waving above a few idle crewmen who soon parted to reveal a properly skirted young lady not much older than he was.

    “Lady Clara, what a pleasant surprise,” Parker replied as he stepped forward to greet the woman. Dr. Clara Alastair-Smythe was a renowned archeologist from a long line of renowned archeologists. Parker had no doubt that fully half the antiquities of ancient Egypt were stashed away across her family’s estates. “Did the Baron summon you as well?”

    “Oh he did, isn’t it exciting? Another one of his cryptic telegrams! I simply cannot wait until we’re onboard to find out more.” Another man stepped out from behind the crew and paused near Clara. “You know Max, don’t you dear?” Clara asked as she introduced the newcomer somewhat hesitantly.

    Parker smiled a faux smile, devoid of any warmth or sincerity. “Of course, how are you Max?” Max Williams was an American, like himself, but his reputation preceded him. Max was a hired gun, nothing more, nothing less. Swarthy and built, a five o’clock shadow darkened his cheeks and it was only a quarter of noon. Max could be summed up on the back of two postage stamps and was about as nourishing as the glue on the back thereof. His wallet had long since replaced his conscious and the higher calling to which he answered was the highest bidder.

    “Parker, buddy,” Max smiled a broad grin as he clapped Parker on the back. The scent of cheap whiskey lingered in the air as he spoke. “How ya been? Got out of Amazon okay I see.”

    Max had been hired to wrangle the guides for an expedition Parker had been on just the year past. Unfortunately he bailed when their team ran into a competing expedition with better finances days out in the jungle. Max took the bulk of their guides with him and he had done so with a smile.

    Parker smiled demurely in response but said nothing. The stairs had been brought into position and he took Clara’s elbow.
    “Shall we?” he asked as the portal on the gondola opened for boarding.

    “Oh yes, let’s. I’m positively dying to get onboard,” Clara replied with excitement dripping from her voice.

    The interior was grandiose by even the most decadent of standards. A sprawling center floor was surrounded by an elevated observation deck and private rooms could be seen towards the back. Groups of upholstered chairs meshed with round tables dressed in neat white linen tablecloths and luxuriant potted palms towered upward to unleash their green fronds. A white-jacketed steward was waiting for them as they entered.

    “Dr. Basden, Lady Alastair-Smythe,” the smart-sounding steward greeted them. “Do come this way, the Baron’s been expecting you.”

    They followed the steward up a small flight of stairs to the observation deck that ringed the exterior wall of the gondola and then on to an elongated table already set for lunch. A rather heavy-set man stood as they approached. Baron von Gaertrinken was plump, but not rotund, and ruddy-faced though not obscenely red and porcine as some of his kin were wont to be. He was dressed in a starched white seersucker suit while a matching white hat topped the oiled hair upon his head. His characteristic handlebar mustache wriggled as his mouth opened in a broad smile and he motioned for them to sit.

    “Lady Clara, Parker, it is so wonderful to see you again.” His eyes glittered with excitement. “We’re about to journey to a most fascinating discovery of mine.”

    Parker sat opposite one of the giant plate glass windows, amazed at the view. “Well Baron,” he began, “I must say Clara and I are always delighted to receive your telegrams, even if they never give us any clue as to what to expect.”

    “This is possibly my most significant find,” the older man continued. “Discovered under the shifting sands of Africa.”

    “Africa!” Lady Clara interrupted. “Oh how exciting! A trip to the dark continent—do tell us more.”

    “Yes, Africa,” the Baron continued. “Or Chuk, to be precise. A small country nestled next to Chad where I have uncovered the Ziggurat of Ghiyath al-Din. Years of research and months of excavations have finally paid off! I wanted you two to be the first to witness my discovery.”

    “Ghiyath al-Din,” Parker mused, “I don’t recall hearing that name.”

    “It’s a name largely unknown in the west,” explained the Baron as a legion of white-jacketed waiters began to bring the first course of lunch. Parker gasped slightly as the view outside the window started to recede. They were off!

    “Ghiyath al-Din was a powerful warlord who ruled a vast expanse of ancient Africa,” the Baron explained. “His kingdom stretched from sand to sea and legend has it he became mighty enough to threaten even the gods themselves. In fact,” the Baron leaned in to the table and lowered his voice to a mere hush, “I have my suspicions that the Ziggurat of Ghiyath al-Din is actually the biblical Tower of Babel!”

    It was Clara’s turn to gasp while Parker’s jaw merely dropped. “Surely not,” she exclaimed. “The Tower of Babel in a country overrun with dark-skinned heathens!”

    “Wait until you see it to pass judgment, my dear Clara,” the Baron replied. “Just wait. But I digress. According to legend, Ghiyath al-Din climbed his ziggurat once it was complete and issued a challenge to the gods. He demanded ascension to godhood himself and gave the gods until his wedding night to reply.” The Baron took a hearty sip of wine before continuing. “You see, the ziggurat he built was to be a wedding present to his bride. She was apparently a woman of great beauty whom Ghiyath al-Din loved more dearly than anything in his realm and he guarded her jealously. So jealously, in fact, legend has it her face was never seen, hidden behind a white mask of ivory.”

    The Baron paused to sample the smoked salmon a steward had placed before him moments before. He continued, still chewing. “After the ziggurat was complete, Ghiyath al-Din ordered an enormous festival and wedding celebration. Thousands of guests attended and legend tell us tens of thousands of slaves labored day and night to pamper them with luxury. The celebration ended with the marriage of Ghiyath al-Din to his ivory bride and they retired into their chambers in the ziggurat for the night.”

    “Here is where things get sketchy,” the Baron addressed Parker. “I was hoping you could help with some of the translations. As far as we can tell, legend holds that the gods took his bride from Ghiyath al-Din that night in punishment for his insolence. A great sandstorm followed and entombed Ghiyath al-Din in his ziggurat for eternity. At least,” the Baron grinned, “for eternity up until now!”

    “What a fascinating story,” Clara chimed in. “Do you think any of it is actually true?”

    “We shall see, we shall see,” the Baron replied. “But we’ve spent months excavating it from underneath the sand.”

    Lunch continued with lively conversation that eventually segued into dinner and died off as the evening drew to a close. With the promise that they would arrive at their destination in the morning, the Baron bid them all good night and the ever-present, ever-polite stewards escorted them to their rooms. The morning came all too fast, the night’s sleep luxuriant and relaxing as the gentle bob and sway of the zeppelin enhanced the goose-down mattresses.

    Parker gawked as he walked along the observation deck, staring out the windows at the completely foreign terrain below. Overnight they had gone from cool and temperate to arid and dry. Sandy expanses with scarce green scrub churned underneath. He met the Baron, Clara, and unfortunately Max at the table for breakfast.

    “Good morning,” he said politely to all as he sat and was greeted in return.

    “Gentlemen, and lady,” the Baron announced halfway through the meal. “I would like for you to look out the windows here shortly. Do you see that speck up ahead? In a few minutes you shall see the Ziggurat of Ghiyath al-Din in all its glory.”

    Indeed, as the minutes passed the speck grew larger until finally a towering circular structure loomed in the windows. [Picture 2] Parker looked puzzled.

    “Aren’t ziggurats supposed to be pyramidical in shape?” he asked.

    “Details, details, my boy. Square, round, does it matter?”

    The devil’s in the details, Parker thought to himself but he knew better than to challenge the Baron. The zeppelin was soon tethered and by the time breakfast was done everything had been made ready for them to depart. Several motorcars were waiting to take them to a hotel and by lunch they had been properly squared away and were waiting in the lobby for the Baron to come down.

    “Are you ready,” his booming voice announced the Baron’s descent down the staircase, “to visit the great ziggurat?” He’d changed into the traditional expedition khaki and his face could barely contain his smile. With a wave of his hand they were off, out to the motorcars and shortly to the base of the towering ziggurat.

    Parker stood in the grainy sand and gazed upward at the monumental structure while Max flicked a spent cigarette into the sand and ground it in with the toe of his boots. Workers still continued to traverse up and down the spiraling steps carrying baskets of sand and debris.

    “Looks like them Shaka fellas knew how to build,” Max commented to no one in particular. The heat had sweat pouring from everyone only from Max it smelled like Kentucky sour mash.

    The walls lining the stairs were littered with engravings, a curious cross between hieroglyphic and script that Parker endeavored to decipher. By the time they neared the top of the ziggurat, he’d followed most of the legend as the Baron had related it earlier. As they approached the columned rotunda that topped the structure, however, and the end of the legend was transcribed, Parker’s own translation began to differ. He followed the story’s script until it ended, across the stone door they all now stood before.

    “So, what do you think Parker my boy?” the Baron asked.

    “Well, it’s an awfully savage and imprecise language,” Parker began. “It speaks of Ghiyath al-Din’s threat to the gods, of his celebration and wedding, and of the taking of his bride and her ascent to the heavens. But it’s very unclear here,” he pointed down a string of script engraved in the stone. “It could be read that the gods stole the life of his bride after they consummated their marriage. Or,” his nose turned up, “while they consummated their marriage, or worse yet, before the marriage was consummated but it’s clear the marriage was consummated before the gods entombed him.”

    “The script refers to his bride as the Ivory Guardian of Dreams, or Dancing White Protector of Dreams, it’s not particularly clear. But it seems she attained some form of the godhood that Ghiyath al-Din had demanded for himself. And there’s a curse, naturally. There on the door,” he pointed to some of the last few segments of script carved deeper than the others. “It promises the bride of Ghiyath al-Din, the Ivory Guardian, will destroy any who dare desecrate the tomb of her husband.”

    “Well,” the Baron chuckled, “it’s a good thing none of us are superstitious.

    Clara smiled as well. “Those pharaohs loved to curse their pyramid tombs as well…but none of our mummies have ever come to life.”

    Max merely inhaled another cigarette before pulling a silver flask from his hip pocket and taking a swig. The Baron stepped up to the door and pressed inward on it, finally leaning against it with the full weight of his husky frame. It slid only slightly, sending wisps of sandy dust into the air.

    “Max, would you mind?” The Baron asked, stepping aside.

    Max grinned. This was what he was paid to do. He replaced the flask in his hip pocket and planted a booted foot against the door with a forceful kick. It swung open with the eerie groan of stone grating against stone. Max stepped inside and gasped before he could light the electric torch. The air inside was freezing and a white cloud formed in front of his face as he exhaled. Max turned around towards the Baron, who had taken a step inside, and the others.

    Clara turned deathly pale as she saw Max’s eyes widen to saucers. “What?” she mumbled as Max opened his mouth.

    Max was looking past his three companions, to the white-masked woman hanging effortlessly behind them. She was speaking but the others didn’t seem to hear. The words burned in his ears and Max tried to raise his hands to clasp over them but they started to slow and stopped. He tried to scream but his throat seemed suddenly rigid and full. Nothing came out. His mouth was filled with a bitter, metallic taste as though he had bit his tongue yet he had felt no pain. He tried to turn his head but it refused to budge. His eyes moved for a moment longer and then froze as he caught sight of his hands suspended in the air before him. They were no longer flesh. [Picture 1]

    Clara let forth a chilling scream as Max transformed into a metallic skeleton before their eyes. The Baron bolted past both Clara and Max as he rushed madly down the stairs. Parker was dumbfounded. It was only when Clara grabbed his arm and pulled him that he began his own flight.

    They piled into the motorcar without a word, the Baron breathing heavily and loudly enough to be heard over the roar of the racing engine. The hotel was forgotten, their trunks and cases abandoned as they hurtled across sandy roads toward the tethered zeppelin. No one spoke, sure of what they saw but bewildered by what it had meant.

    The Baron barked orders as they re-boarded the zeppelin, surprised stewards and crewmen began scurrying about to prepare for a hasty departure. Within minutes the airship was free and making haste towards home. The Baron disappeared into his quarters and Clara and Parker separated without a word into their rooms.

    Parker paced his room for hours, ignoring the meal the steward brought but downing the vodka on the bureau liberally. As the evening wore on he laid on the bed, staring at the fan above with its palm-shaped blades that rotated slowly in circles. Despite the vodka he couldn’t fall asleep, the image of a metallic Max still burning on his retina. Desperate for sleep, Max pulled a dropper bottle from the bureau and squeezed out several drops of a dark, foul smelling liquid into a shot of vodka. Valerian root. Hopefully it would bring peace for the night. He stripped and crawled into the bed, watching the fan slowly turn until the drug took hold. Sleep came quietly.

    Parker stirred restlessly under the weight of the comforter atop his naked body. His feet moved on their own in his sleep, seeking out the cool, crisp places hiding at the edges of the bed while his chest heaved softly. His mind languished in sleep, plagued by nightmares from which he couldn’t awaken. The valerian root he’d taken to ease the night still gripped his body, the sleep agent still coursing through his blood with every beat of his heart. Though his mind tried to break free of sleep’s heavy grasp it couldn’t quite pierce the dark veil hanging over it. For the moment he was trapped.

    Parker could see the waters of the bay back home sparkling under the golden-orange glow of the setting sun. Rays of brisk light twinkled from each dappled wave cap and glimmered as though reflected by floating jewels. It was peaceful here, sitting on the rocky shore as the waves lapped up in calm, orderly procession. Tufts of dune grass grew ruggedly here and there, wherever it was able to eke out a foothold in the rocky terrain. The gray boulder he sat on was warm to the touch, still radiating the heat of the sun it had collected during the day.

    He continued to watch as the sun went down, admiring the beautiful sight painted before him. He’d always enjoyed coming to this spot in the evenings. His eyes wandered around the rocky shore, the breeze brushing up against his cheeks as his head turned. He had been alone when he got here but now two figures were slowly approaching him from down the shore. One was slightly taller than the other but that was all he could distinguish from here. The sun was setting behind them, rendering the pair nothing but black silhouettes against a fiery backdrop.

    There was little light left playing on the water. The bay had gone from a sparkling mirror to a dark, greenish-black pool. Parker sniffed, the wind had picked up noticeably and the once-rhythmic waves had become choppy and violent. He could make out the figures now, barely, in the dim light. They were Max and the Baron. Though the sun had now set and no longer blinded him as he looked their way, the darkness had fallen between him and the two walkers where it hung like a graphite fog, blurring reality with dripping shadows.

    It took his mind a minute to fully register the presence of the pair, Max had been ripped from the world so violently just this morning. But this was a dream and somehow the logic worked. They were there, on the beach, perhaps a hundred yards away now. Parker stood up to greet them, paying no heed to his nakedness or the impossibility of Max’s presence.

    “Max? Baron?” he called out hesitantly to the approaching figures.

    The two silhouettes waved back. Parker wasn’t sure what to expect as they approached. He didn’t hear the rippling of the water at first. Or, if he did, it didn’t register in his mind. His two approaching companions held his attention. It was only Max’s scream that caused his gaze to move back to the water.

    An upwelling churned and writhed about twenty feet from the shore. Frothing white rings of foamy water rippled out from a boiling epicenter as a pale steam rose into the blackness. It was back again, Parker knew instantly. It was too familiar now, almost like a member of the family. The cousin one never wanted to invite because he enjoyed terrorizing your pets. It was the dark dread that never relented — the forboding that haunted his sleep off and on since that fateful day in San Francisco.

    Parker tried to run toward Max and the Baron but his legs wouldn’t move. He could see dark twisted tentacles rise above the churning water, dripping some dark liquid that was definitely not water. Even in this poor light it was easy to tell, it dripped like syrup, like thick chocolate that absorbed the light instead of reflecting it back.

    The Baron and Max began to run towards him, he could see their legs racing as they tried to make their way across the waterfront. Only the beach seemed to get longer and longer as they ran, sand and gravel spinning under their feet. They were making no headway, every step the two took found the rocky shoreline that much longer, that much darker. Though there was no light left out now at all, Parker could see the horror on their faces clearly. Or did he just remember it from earlier?

    The beast in the water continued to rise. The churning circle was now fifteen feet across and a hulking, tentacled brute stood halfway out of the water. It had no name. Parker could think of nothing real or mythical that even closely resembled the horror rising from the deep. It was huge. It was evil. It was hungry. He wanted to wake up desperately, so desperately, but his mind couldn’t seem to sway the hand of sleep.

    Parker let out a scream that went nowhere as the first tentacle snaked out towards Max and wrapped its suckered arm around the young man’s frame. Max was screaming at the top of his lungs, his frame wriggling desperately in the brute’s grasp. It wasn’t really his words that Parker heard; it was the sound of terror burning into his mind. The burning ember that marked a cigarette fell into the darkness.

    Parker tried again to run towards the Baron. This time his legs moved slightly but they betrayed him. He fell onto the rocks below. They had gone cold and he was shocked by their icy touch on his flesh. The fall gashed his leg, tearing open a strip of flesh that ran the length of his thigh. He watched the blood pour out in disbelief as heard more screams down the beach, this time from the Baron.

    He looked up to see the Baron’s plump form carried over the water by another tentacled arm. His screams disappeared as he did, enveloped by the mass in the water. For a moment his hat floated on the surface briefly before disappearing downward with a violent jerk. The Baron’s face had the same look on it that Max’s did. It was disbelief mixed with dread, washed over by sorrow, ground by grief. And it was burned into Parker’s mind as well.

    Then as suddenly as it had started, it ended. The creature disappeared beneath the churning surface, taking his silent companions with it. Parker still couldn’t move though he watched his skin grow paler and paler as his blood continued to pour from the wound in his side. It grew very silent and dreadfully still. The chilling wind stopped blowing though the cold remained and Parker could no longer hear the sound of the waves on the shore.

    His heart stopped, blood pausing in his veins. He felt a breath of hot air on the back of his neck. His muscles tensed involuntarily in response as the acrid smell of sulphur and rotting flesh wafted forward to his nose. Parker felt his stomach drop.

    He knew that stench. He had encountered it once before in the dark and he steeled his mind for the inevitable confrontation. Something behind him growled. At least a growl was the closest thing he could think of to describe the sound it made. It was low, guttural, and it shook the very marrow within his bones. The sound made his soul crave tearing itself free of his flesh and soaring away quickly.

    Parker drew in a long, slow breath. The sulphurous air stung the back of his throat and his lungs burned. He turned around slowly to face the thing at his neck. His heart started to pound against his chest once more, thumping harder and harder as if to break free from his chest and save itself. Parker screamed instinctively as he came face to face with the beast.

    Beast. The word felt funny. He knew what the fiend before him was. Every man would know instinctively when confronted with this. It was red, a dark red whose color bore a strong resemblance to dried blood — dreadfully matte, unquestionably not shiny in the least. It seemed to suck the very light into its scabby, reptilian skin as it rolled one lazy yellow eye towards him. Parker met its gaze.

    Its head was huge, thrice the size of an elephant’s head and it was attached to a much smaller body. Parker would have called it humanoid in shape if it hadn’t been for all the writhing lumps and cavities that deformed its skin. He could see the serrated tips of the beast’s incisors as they hung down past its closed mouth and he trembled. He was face to face with evil and he was as naked as a newborn child. His hand went up to his neck, groping for a cross that was not there. He almost swore the beast grinned back at him.

    Why did he insist on referring to it as a beast? Parker knew what it was. He didn’t know why it was there. The monster’s mouth suddenly flared open and a loud bellowing roar flew out, blowing Parker backward on the rocks. He screamed again. The monster advanced toward him, its mouth open and its fangs dripping a yellowish ichor that sizzled as it hit the rocks below.

    He tried to move backward but his trembling body didn’t respond. His mind was disconnected in terror. The beast grew closer and closer, toying with him as it took each lumbering step. He felt the humid warmth of the creature’s mouth surround his naked body, teeth scraping his flesh as a jaw scooped under him. He was still screaming, his mind trying to reject what was happening.

    He heard laughter from outside. It was a giggling, feminine laughter that bubbled over him and suddenly he fell to the rocks, the devouring beast gone as though it had never been. A snaky tentacle loomed over him and dropped something at his foot. It was the Baron. And suddenly, he was gone. Parker looked about bewildered but the rocks were barren and vacant and the sea had gone glassy and calm. Something hit his foot again but he saw nothing. Then he felt the sensation while looking at his foot. Still there was nothing.

    Suddenly it was over. His eyes flew open and he found himself sitting upright in bed, still screaming, chest heaving rapidly. His mind had finally managed to overcome the valerian root still in his system though it took him a second before he could muster enough control over his body to stop screaming. He could feel his heart racing faster than he could ever recall. Short of breath he felt as though he were being strangled. His heart was beating too fast. He tried to control the short and rapid breaths, slowing them down into deep and calm inhalations. Then he screamed again as he felt another thump against his foot. It was a snake.

    Parker looked up directly into the eyes of the Baron. The man had stumbled through the woven wicker door of his bedroom. The Baron’s eyes were aghast in horror and, Parker blinked to be sure, his mouth was stretched open wide by writhing, snarling snakes that were spewing from his chest. The Baron made a retching, gagging sound as he grasped vainly at the slithering reptiles, trying to pull them from his throat. [Picture 3] He fell to his knees, still struggling, and then fell face down on the bed at Parker’s feet.

    Parker froze. Behind the Baron a masked woman stood in white. [Picture 4] The bride of Ghiyath al-Din, the Ivory Guardian of Dreams. She opened her mouth as if to speak, the movement of her lips barely perceptible behind the mask. The snakes from the Baron’s mouth snarled and leapt toward Parker but they stopped suddenly in mid-air. The woman had raised a finger toward her nose, as if she were shushing him. She was smiling behind that mask, Parker knew it though he could not see. The woman cocked her head slightly as if she read his mind then turned and disappeared.

    Sweat dripped down his brow onto the comforter in front of him. Parker raised a weak hand up and wiped it across his forehead. Clara stumbled in. “Mummies,” she said weakly before spying the Baron’s corpse.

  3. #193
    Quote Originally Posted by Piratecat
    Thanks, Berandor!

    oops, sorry!

    Will put breaks in next time. Didn't think of that.

    ETA: drose25, I love your story! If I lost against it, it would be no shame. As it is, my victory will be the greater for it

    And to satisfy the cheap seats clamoring for trash talk:
    Your story is so bad that Hollywood wants to turn it into the sequel to LXG
    Last edited by Berandor; Saturday, 10th April, 2004 at 05:18 PM.

  4. #194
    Thanks for the kind words, Berandor. You're some pretty healthy competition yourself!

    And those line breaks were a pain in the butt. Word was all nicely formatted and tabbed and it turned into goo when I previewed the post.

    Obligatory trash talk: Charmin sent your work back with a note. "Even our recycled toilet paper division has its standards."

  5. #195
    Acolyte (Lvl 2)

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    Ceramic DM: Match 1-5: Tzor vs. Zhaneel

    Ceramic DM: Match 1-5: Tzor vs. Zhaneel
    Little Jimmy
    By Tzor aka Christopher Beattie

    It was a long and tiring drive from the city to the lake, but today was my turn to have Jimmy, and quality time with my Son was something that I always looked forward to.

    The house was just the same as the day we bought it, some six years ago. That was before I found out about Camilla’s secret. She claimed that she had the blood of dragons and was one of a line of sorcerers that had existed for thousands of years. I guess Jimmy has that same blood, although being a child he doesn’t seen as weird as Camilla and the other sorcerer’s she associated with.

    Jimmy was the first to run out of the house shouting “Daddy.” We hugged for the longest time but Camilla did not follow Jimmy out of the House. “Go get Mommy,” I finally told Jimmy and sent him into the house ahead of me. I followed slowly behind, wondering what that sorcerer ex-wife of mine was up to this time.

    I started to run when I heard Jimmy shout, “Mommy, where is your body?” In the dining room, Camilla, or rather Camilla’s head was floating near the yellow/purple wallpapered walls. (1) Then I saw a few fingers suddenly appear from nowhere. It was clearly sorcery.

    “Shush,” she quietly said, moving the floating finger to her mouth. I could see more of her arm appear before she lowered her arm. “I’m trying to hide. You never know when someone might be scrying on you.”

    “Scrying?” I replied suddenly, trying to calm Jimmy down, “Don’t tell me you are in trouble with the guild?”

    “I’m not sure,” she replied, “someone started scrying me yesterday, so I secured this chameleon cloak to keep me hidden.”

    “And I guess you didn’t tell your superiors at the guild.”

    “How could I.” She did look frightened, “Who could be scrying except my superiors? I need you to go into the guild and find out why people are scrying on me.”

    Somehow I knew she was going to get me involved with the guild again. This was the reason why I left her in the first place. Those guys gave me the creeps. Reluctantly I agreed to go under cover. It was actually easy to do, since everyone in the guild always wears black robes and black masks, probably to prevent more scrying I guess. As I donned the guild uniform I had to ask one question. Camilla, one thing puzzles me. Why are the points to these hoods almost four feet tall?”

    “Oh,” she answered off handedly, the fear suddenly leaving her eyes as once again she had to explain the mystic ways to a complete non magic user like myself, “Everyone in the guild works in these cubicles that are about 5’ tall. This way, whether you are sitting or standing, everyone can know where you are. It’s like those flags you see on shopping carts.”

    I dropped off Jimmy and headed to the guild house. In my few years with her I had managed to enter places in the guild where normal non magical people like me were not allowed to see. I even acquired several friends within the guild as well; not everyone with dragon’s blood was exceptionally odd. After a few conversations with them I started to catch on to the truth. (2) It wasn’t that someone in high places was scrying Camilla, they were scrying Jimmy. Apparently Jimmy was stronger than most of the people who were working in the guild. Whatever the reason, it was certainly nothing to do with my bloodline, I thought.

    When I returned to Jimmy, I found little Jimmy with his head in the jaws of a gigantic reptile monster, a croc that was a giant by any standard. (3) The giant croc continued to cradle Jimmy’s head carefully while turning toward me. For a moment, I could have sworn Jimmy was playing some bizarre game. Before I realized it I called out his name.

    “It’s ok,” he replied as he removed his head from the living giant croc, “He’s my croc. I summoned him. Some nasty men were following me, so I summoned him. When they saw him they fled, and I thought they wanted to play hide and go seek, so I started counting. What comes after 49?”

    “50,” I replied without thinking. “Are you saying that you summoned that monster?” But before he could answer the monster vanished.

    The next day I told Camilla the news, “They are not scrying you, they are scrying Jimmy, and I can certainly see why. If I were to bring him back to the city with me, even for one week, there is no telling what bizarre thing he will do and what trouble that would cause. I might understand this magic thing, but the rest of the world will not. That is why you live at the lake instead of the city. I think you need to speak with your head sorcerer. Trimming your hair and not wearing pajamas that make you invisible might be good things to do as well.”

    I stayed at home while Camilla went to see the Grandest Wizard. The Guild was like a city skyscraper, only it didn’t have any elevators. Those who were powerful enough to work on the highest floors didn’t need any, as they kept going up and down magically, but for the rest there was a long staircase that went up the twenty floors to the penthouse. Camilla started the stairs, armed with a new, shorter haircut and a new positive attitude on life. (4) As for me, I resigned to spend my quality time with Jimmy at the lake. With any luck his powers could be used for good. I’m just dreading the day I’m going to have to discipline him.

  6. #196
    Well, I just finished my first draft, and I agree with Alshi2o, this is hard!

    On to edits and revisions.

  7. #197
    ACK!!!! Can't read posting... You're quick.

    Zhaneel (*hurries off to go write*)

  8. #198
    Acolyte (Lvl 2)

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    Yes I stoped reading this thread while I was working on the story in case you posted before me. (It also gave me an incentive to get going ... these stories are great!) Friday was also my online game night as GM so I was rushing through the first part of the story, so I could make sure that I had every monster prepared for the session.

  9. #199
    Round 1: Mythago vs. Orchid Blossom


    By: Orchid Blossom aka Lori Ritter

    Her awakening was sudden, disjointed. Old eyes opened onto a darkness that could not match the one from which she'd come. Each part of her body felt separate from the others, stiff and still, as if they'd lain unused for years. Which, of course, they had. That was the way it should be.

    This wakefulness was a thing that should not be.

    In the early years of her death, she had wakened often. Enemies had raided the tombs of her people, dogging them in the afterlife as they had before. But they had died away, the world had grown quiet, and her people had known true rest. But the world is seldom satisfied with quiet for long. Other races grew upon it, and in the last century Devakiri had become familiar with the race of Humans.

    There had been few races that passed upon the world whom she liked less. Most of them she'd not even noted. The dead have little care for the living unless the living disturb them. Humans had a talent for disruption; a curiosity that overrode any sense of respect they might have had for those who slept beneath the ground.

    Devakiri moved one hand, then the other. Each awakening was just as disorienting, but she had become practiced at retraining her body to obey her commands. Palms flat against the ground, she pushed herself up. She took a bit of sand from the floor of the cave and blew it softly from her hand, each grain taking on a luminescence that allowed her sensitive eyes to examine her surroundings.

    Thin ropes were stretched across the red sand floor of the cave to form squares. There were markers in a strange language, one for each square. Devakiri had learned about these people the last time she awakened. Archeologists, the humans called them. She called them grave robbers. This expedition seemed to be in the early stages with only one small area excavated. Still, they must have found bones. If they had not, Devakiri would still be sleeping.

    She bent her stiff legs and stood blinking in the soft light. Her eyes scanned the walls, looking for the carving that would mark the grave of the guardian. "Brighter," she whispered to the sand at her feet as she laid her hand against the stone wall, her feet leaving shuffling tracks along the floor.

    "Ahh." Her tapered fingers traced the lines of her own face carved in the rock, even as her eyes followed them. In life, her face had been soft but angular, ears ending in a delicate point, prominent cheekbones, pointed chin. (2) Yes, her own face carved next to a skull, placed there to guard her people’s sleep. It shimmered as her hand caressed it, became malleable, and Devakiri slid her hand through the skull to touch the totems behind. Twelve, one for each of her kin buried in this spot. By touch she found her own totem, noting it's bulging eyes and it's mandibles folded as if in prayer. She grasped the small stone statue and pulled it free, leaving the carving untouched.

    "I have need of you again, friend," she murmured, followed by a serious of clicks of her tongue. The statuette shook; stone dust falling away as the mantis awoke. The archeologists had taken the spirit of her kinsman far from his people; without form or guide he could not return on his own. Devakiri would find his bones and those of the one who took him and return them to his resting place. Only then could she place his totem in his grave to guide him back home.

    * * *

    Professor Matthew Adkinson stared again the bones found at the site on the top of Mt. Keary. To any but the most practiced eye they seemed ordinary. Another set of human bones found in another grave. They were recognizable, fibula, tibia, clavicle, scapula, and others too numerous to count. But these were different. Their weight was wrong, for one thing. These were dense, heavy for their size. The color wasn't quite right. He regretted that he would not be the one to do the analysis, but the University was not large, and its facilities were not up to the task. Beside, to do the analysis he'd have to leave the field, and the finding was half the fun. Without people like him to excavate, the analysts would be out of a job.

    The door to the storage area opened and one of the student workers stuck his head in. "Hey Professor, you finally get a day off and you're in here looking at those bones again? It's your party, come out and celebrate your find instead of just looking at it. Everyone's waiting for you."

    Adkinson grinned at the student and ran his hand through is own gray hair. He hadn't yet grown too old to be daydreaming about his latest find. "I hardly think you students are dying for a polka out there."

    "You underestimate the power of beer and bratwurst, Professor. Believe me, they're ready to roll out the barrel." The young man stepped inside and shut the door. "You really think there's something different about these?"

    "Most certainly," Adkinson nodded enthusiastically. "The carvings on the walls were like nothing we've ever seen before. The craft work on the grave goods as well."

    "But you think that whoever was buried there wasn't human?"

    Matthew shrugged. "I don't know that I'd go that far. But I think they may indicate that early humans learned to use tools and formed a cohesive society far earlier than we believed. There's a lot of work to be done. I imagine today's party will be the last one for several months."

    The student grinned. "We should get out there and enjoy it then, eh? Let's go grab your squeezebox and watch them try to polka.

    "Sounds good to me," Adkinson agreed. He slid the drawer shut and checked all the locks one more time. Outside he snapped both padlocks on the door. "Let's go polka."

    * * *

    Devakiri watched as human after human wound their way up the side of the great hill that was her clan’s burial site. (3) It hadn't been so tall when they had first been laid to rest there. It cut red against the sky, seemingly out of place in the lush green of the valley below. The Earth herself had changed, pushing the peak up higher and higher into the sky. She would have thought that would keep the humans out, but apparently not. Nothing seemed to daunt them. Not a bad quality in general, but one that could lead to a great deal of trouble.

    She lifted her guide up on her first finger and looked in her eyes. (4) "Is the one who took the bones among them?" The mantis stared back at her for a moment before shuffling her wings and returning her forearms to their customary praying position. "He is not, then. Where is he?" The mantis crept along her arm in the strange, slinking way they have, moving toward the west. Devakiri lifted her hand and looked. There was some kind of camp set up there. From what she could see it was mostly tents with only a few permanent buildings. "We go west then, following the human's road."

    A disguise would be necessary. Devakiri had learned that humans were suspicious of anything out of the ordinary or different from themselves. She used the time during her walk to construct a simple glamour around herself. Her ears became rounded, her smooth scalp covered with dark hair, long tapering fingers shorter and more blunt. Clothing like that she had seen on the females climbing the hill covered her body, right down to the thick blue pants and heavy boots. By the time she reached the camp, she looked like nothing so much as a student worker at a dig site.

    The camp was neatly set up with tents surrounding the few permanent buildings. It reminded her of the strings on the floor of the cave. It was neat, organized, and very square. The appearance was at great odds with the party that seemed to be going on in the large building at the center of the camp. There was shouting and singing, and a horrible kind of screeching sound she could only assume they considered music. The mantis again shuffled her wings and tilted her pointed head toward the building. "Inside then."

    The smell of the place nearly knocked Devakiri over and she opened the door into the cool, dim room. There was meat of some kind, and some kind of fermented beverage. Her mouth began to water. The fact that she had no need of food didn't dampen her desire for it. The smells, the music, the chaos disoriented her for a moment. She moved away from the door and sat in a chair alongside the wall.

    She watched the dancers hop about like grasshoppers having seizures, singing in their drunken voices something about there being no beer in heaven. Their mass inebriation made it difficult to sort one aura from the next, it took several minutes for Devakiri to find the lingering traces of her kinsman hanging around the one playing the screeching instrument. He sat near one of the only windows in full sunlight, a large grin on his face as someone took his picture. (1) She had expected a younger man for some reason, not this gray-haired elder with the sparkle of youth still on his face.

    This place did not suit her purpose. Death seemed to upset Humans; they feared it. Perhaps that's why they paid so little attention to it, a great oversight on their part. "This place is too busy," Devakiri said as quietly as she could and still be heard by the guide. "We will seek out the bones. The old one will come to us there."

    * * *

    Adkinson stood in front of the door to the storage shed, accordion still over his shoulder. He'd left the party a bit early with the intention of getting a good nights sleep and avoiding a hangover. Instead he found the two padlocks that should be on the door were missing. He clearly remembered putting them on when he'd left. There was no sign of prying, and no piece of either lock remained, as if they had never been there at all. Slowly he pushed the door inward.

    It was dark inside, but in the blue light from the window he could see the form of a woman. She turned to him just as he turned on the overhead light. "Hello, Professor," she said quietly.

    Matthew looked again at the locks, and back to the woman. She looked much like any of the other student workers at the site, but he couldn't place her. "I'm sorry Miss.... I can't recall seeing you here before." He flicked a glance back toward the door. "You really shouldn't be in here. In fact," he added in the same tone he used for students in danger of failing, "I'd very much like to know how you got in here."

    "It wasn't difficult," the woman answered, still in the same quiet voice, as if it came from a great distance. She turned and laid a finger against the lock on the drawer that held the most recent finds from the Keary site. Metallic dust fell away from the drawer and she slid it open easily. "These are not yours, Professor," she said as he heard the door click shut behind him.

    "Now wait just a minute..."

    "You people, you have no respect for the dead. No respect for their rest. You plunder their graves for your own gain." She lifted her hand and looked a mantis balanced there. "Yes, I know."

    Adkinson took a step, his back pressing against the door. "There have been those who plundered graves for personal profit, grave robbers. But we seek only edification, we only wish to learn."

    "What does it matter to the dead why you disturb them? They care only that they are disturbed." The woman stepped forward. "I am disturbed." Her features began to shift, clothing melting away as her skin turned a rich shade of red. The long, luxurious hair shortened and disappeared as her fingers elongated and her ears stretched to a point. He had seen this face before, on a carving on a cave wall. He slid his hand down to find the doorknob.

    "You think everything belongs to you. Finders keepers. You raid tombs; leave them empty with never a thought of those resting in them. For all your protestations to treasure every life, you have no respect for death." The doorknob was stuck. The woman shook her head slightly. "You can't go yet, I thought you wanted to learn. Learn this. You have removed my kinsman’s spirit. I am Devakiri, guardian of the Tapti clan, and I have come to reclaim it." The doorknob fell to dust in his hand.

    "Finders Keepers. I think I can play by those rules." She stepped back and smashed her hand through the drawer's glass top. "What's the rest of it?" she asked as she gathered up the bones. "Ah yes, Losers Weepers." Devakiri bent and opened the deep drawer that held the skull and smashed that glass as well. One hand scooped up the skull, the other came up with a long, dagger like shard of glass. She looked into the old man's wide eyes, curious. "Will you weep?"

    * * *

    Dawn was just coming up over the horizon as Devakiri returned to the cave; red clay soil caked on her feet. She wasn't certain whether the daily pilgrimage of humans up the hill would occur this morning. If they had found the headless corpse of the Professor, it likely would not. If she was lucky, the site would earn the reputation of being cursed. If they continued to excavate here, she would certainly be awakened again.

    She stepped back to the carving in the wall that hid the totem guides. The mantis crawled down from her shoulder and back into her hand. "I thank you, dear friend. Return to your rest." Devakiri slid her hand through the carving and felt the mantis crawl off. She stroked the small stone statuette in farewell. Her hand moved along each totem until it found the dragonfly.

    One after another the bones were returned to the empty grave, followed by the head of the old archeologist and the dragonfly totem. She watched as the totem shook and awoke. It hovered over the head for a moment, and then flew out of the cave to find the lost spirit of the Tapti clan.

    Devakiri laid down where she had awakened and waited for the darkness.

  10. #200
    So there it is. I would have waited till a little later to post it, but we have all sorts of holiday stuff today and I wanted to make sure it got out.

    It was a challenge, but a fun challenge. So, however it comes out, I'm proud of me for getting it done. Good luck to everyone!

    Edit: And of course after checking carefully for typos and running the spell and grammar check several times.... I find the mistake after I post the story. I guess that's just how it goes.
    Last edited by orchid blossom; Sunday, 11th April, 2004 at 07:26 PM.

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