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CERAMIC D.M. (not the current one, a year old)

alsih2o

First Post
Sniktch said:
I was going to take the pics from Arwink-Speaker and right my own entry as if I had advanced, but maybe we can talk Clay into giving us 5 fresh pics for our own mini-match. What do ya say, Potter?

start an alternate thread and i am on it :)
maybe a home version ?
 

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Mirth

First Post
mystraschosen said:
Alsih thanks for your critique,no it was not harsh,and why enter a contest such as this if you are not prepared for your story to be judged?:) I will take all constructive criticisim and try to put it to use so that I can come back and submit an even better story next time. It is gratifying to know that the "hoof" command was funny to others as well as me.I couldn't stop laughing when I thought of that one. :D

I would not have a problem writing it up as an adventure,if you so desire alsih. Just give me a little bit o time and it shall be yours.

I think you might be talking to me and not alsih2o, if you are referring to the long critique at the end. I just don't want Mark (alsih2o) to take any blame for my harshness. "Hoof!" was indeed funny and I really look forward to your scenario write-up. Good luck in the home game :D
 

Mirth

First Post
Sniktch said:

Just to prove how clueless I can be, I thought you were talking to me (MirthCard) in this post, until I saw MystrasChosen's post right below it. So maybe I am partly to fault for being lost after all :p
 


Maldur

First Post
Good luck everyone!

Ill try and do a longer judging than last round this time :D

*tries to find something to make a peace offering to the potter*
 

arwink

Clockwork Golem
Arwink Vs Speaker

Lost, Found, Forgotten

If you buy me a wine, I’ll offer you a story. I know it’s not much, especially not around here, but I offer it anyway. There was a time, in the past, when my memories were more valuable than gold. Those that remain should be worth at least a little wine and a moment of your time. Interested? Yes? Then pour, and I shall begin.

*

“Dawn comes late to Chalice. It’s because of the vortex, the way it messes up space and time. Makes it pliable, you know?”

I smile when I hear this, glance across the café to spot the speaker. He’s short, stocky, with the dark skin of a native. Not that means anything these days, with the exchange drawing in brokers from across the world. What he’s saying is a common enough theory about the shadows that creep across the city, but it’s wrong. Chalice is shrouded in shadows because it’s built in the heart of the rift, emerging from the vortex at its heart. Sun-blasted mountains loom on all sides, higher than any of the modern high-rise buildings we’ve adopted to house the visitors and the rich. Dawn comes late to chalice, because it takes hours for the sun to rise high enough to crest the peaks. The stranger’s theory is plausible enough, I suppose, but it’s still wrong. The vehemence with which people defend this idea tells you a lot about their origins, whether they’re visitors who have failed to notice the obvious or locals who simply trade their thoughts and memories on the street corners to make rich visitors feel more at home.

I don’t know why I choose to start the story here. I remember the moment clearly, which should be enough to throw it into doubt. Anything I remember clearly these days is probably quality merchandise, purchased of someone else during the period when my own experiences were inflated by a touch of infamy. I have sold so much of the tale, potentially lost so many parts of the story that it may not qualify as such anymore. Perhaps all I have is the impression of a story, the after-taste of an experience I no longer posses. Who left in Chalice can claim to be a storyteller, can validate the authenticity of their claims. It is the nature of the city, and none know it as well as I, so forgive me if the tale is awkward or there are parts no longer remembered. I offer it freely, a morsel of what could yet exist for profit on my death. It may not be the story, but it is something. Cheaper here than you’d get it at the exchange.

*

This next part comes later, I think, although it’s part of the same day. The memory has faded a little with time, enough that it’s touched with sepia like an old photograph, but it’s still close to exact. I know enough to remember what happened. At the very least, it is the true beginning. I know, because I remember vowing not to sell it no matter what, and it’s the kind of thing I stick too.

I was sitting in my office, in the private sale booths above the exchange. There was a time, long past, when I was given respect for my position and my knowledge, in the days of old. At the time, I was doing my best to live up for the prestige. My smock was always snowy and pure, unstreaked by the sweat stains and dust that often marked the pit-traders who favored dealing in bulk – those who sold memories of first kisses, moments of birth, spiritual awakenenings or the deflowering of virgins. I had moved beyond such bulk amusements, worked towards the unique and the extraordinary. I dealt with the rich and powerful, those who came to the city from the outside world with expectations and traded moments of such value that wealth ran through my fingers like water.

The appointment book was vague, his name written in smudged ink. It was listed as a private conference, a speculative gesture that may or may not pay off. The knock on the door was soft, hesitant, and I asked him in with a voice as confident and loud as a dukes. He slunk into the room, followed by a faint air of deja vu that I couldn’t place. His eyes held recognition, though, a desire to greet me as an old friend. Such things are not unusual in chalice. I wondered if I’d sold my memory of him, or if he’d bought a memory of me. Either was plausible.

“Gregor Mustapha, yes?” I asked, glancing at the appointment book. He nodded, scratched at a fuzzy mustache. He wore a trader’s smock, but it was grubby and bare – a forgery or a long unused right. “What do you want, Mr. Mustapha, I’m a busy man.”

“I came across something,” he said. “Something you may be able to use.”
His tongue flicked over his lips, wetted them slightly. Fingers fished around in his pocket, pulled for a silver orb of light, wrapped in a layer of glass. He held it forward, an offering. The first I’d seen in such archaic casing, and a rarity simply in its physical presence in my office instead of a notion, an idea, a barrel of stock held in a downtown warehouse.

“Touch it,” he urged, “You’ll see.”

I hesitated. I’m wary of unknown orbs, untested material. Have been since my youth, when my parents first brought me to this city. My first experience was when my cousin played a prank, slipped me the memory of a Frankish knights last ride. I can still recall the fringes of the experience, even after my uncle had removed it from my soul. The hours of aching agony, holding at an arrow wound in my side while a friend held my upright. For an unprotected soul, a ten year old still at an age when such things are horrifying and untainted by the exoticism the Coil-infatuates seem to give such experiences, it was a harrowing experience. My uncle had beaten my cousin for his impudence, for venturing to far into the world we were forbidden until our sixteenth years. A few years back, during the period of infamacy, my cousin sold that beating for several thousand dollars. A stroke of luck and timing.

Mustapha knew none of this, offered me an untested orb like a child would offer candy. Excitement was writ on his face, his features shining softly in the light.

“What is it?” I asked.
“Two hours of swimming,” Mustapha said softly. “With a mermaid.”
“Is there kissing?”
“Some.”
“Any drowning -, accidental or intentional?”
Mustapha shook his head.

I stared at him for a few minutes, let him sweat. I feigned indifference, tried to project an illusion of civility and boredom at his find. Two hours of an exotic dream can be a good find, as long as he wasn’t over-pricing it.
“What’s the origin,” I said. “What kind of dream – Delusion? Archetypal? REM?”
His teeth appeared beneath the mustache, wide and sharp as a sharks.
“It’s real,” he said. “Sane. Fully awake. Completely tested and signed off as an individual meme-pattern.”
I hid my surprise well. Such things are my job, after all, but the caution of my childhood left me. My hand reached out to touch the orb, to live for a moment in the memory of a mermaids embrace. It washed over me like a wave, for but a moment, until my hand drew back from the glass. It was true. There was none of the disbelief, the eagerness or the haziness of a dream origin.

“What kind of money are we talking,” I asked, and the eagerness creeping into my voice. He named a figure, but I no longer remember it. I think I sold it some time ago, to a pauper who wanted to know the feeling of becoming suddenly rich.

*

My first time on the floor as in the early sixties, just as the market was dying for memories of sex or exotic dreams induced by drugs. I was sixteen, already aware of the value of what we traded due to my cousins little joke. I can remember walking onto the floor, my white smock pale and fresh as I pressed into the throng of people who gathered in the central chamber. My first sale was in mundanities, the moments when nothing extraordinarily happens. I was one of the first to see that trend, to notice the winds of change that swept through the world. When real life became tumultuous and wild, while the music started shifting towards rock and roll, the demand for placid memories of home and hearth grew exponentially. I grew in wealth quickly, trading smart and hard. I kept hundreds of sex-memories on the back burner, sold to me at phenomenally low prices that garnered an enormous profit in the conservatism in later decades. I traded primarily in Nostalgia for seven years, walking the trade floor built around the nexus with fists full of memory markers that I bandied around like they were nothing. I build new markets before I graduated, moved into the upper offices, to deal with the exotic and the new.

For a time, I held several private collections that were held in high regard. My favorite were the remnants of explorers minds, often snatched at the last minute while they died fevered from malaria or exotic poisons. Of all I once had, only one remains. A memory of being in the Amazon, standing behind a row of pygmy’s while they sang and danced songs that no westerner had heard for an age. Even now, in my times of turmoil, I can’t bring myself to part with it. There’s a clarity to the memory, a purity that makes it recognizably not my own. To give up something so pure, so clearly vivid, is abhorrent to me. At times I shaved moments off, seconds of either end, but that core image is still with me. Fresh and new as the day it happened.

*

The mermaid was bid on by rock stars and actors, by wealthy men who had a taste of the exotic. I was offered wild memories by one of the Rolling Stones for the experience, offered untold years of knowledge by professors of anthropology of lore. The mermaid went to none of them, simply sat on my desk waiting for someone capable of finding my price.

It was a peculiarity, I admit. One of those magical moments that the Vortex seems to spit out every now and again, like the memory of a planets birth that Kladdich Omerhyter sold a decade ago. No-one knows where they come from, but it’s thought that it’s a peculiarity of the Vortex’s power that makes it so. That same ability to segregate a person’s life into moments, to suck it into a physical form where it can be sold in the Exchange of Experience, leads to random moments stolen from unknown worlds or universes. The Mermaid was a gift from the gods, whichever gods I once worshipped. Faith was fetching a good price a year ago, and I sought a way to get back into the game. I’m sure I thanked someone the memory had made its way into my life, but that thought is long gone.

Mustapha came back time and again, always bringing something exotic and new. The memory if a phoenix’s death, of floating in the abyss of space without dying, the thoughts of a whale as it sang to the stars. I bought them all, time and again, paying him top dollar for the privilege.

I remember few details of his visits. They were valuable, once, and I thought there were enough to go around. I remember his hands, however, large and pale. Hands that offered things forward like gifts, jewels of heaven that were priceless in their perfection. I remember the pale scar he had on one knuckle, the soft touch he had despite the callused fingers.

*

My fall was swift, violent, probably deadly. I have sold much of it, although the profit was not great. I remember shadows, fragments. The men from another government, dropping in through the penthouse that sat in the heaven above Chalice’s streets. I remember seeing Mustapha shot, a bullet lodged in his chest. I remember seeing the man I sold the Mermaid too, pointing a finger at me and wailing. I think, perhaps, I even remember the faintest sheen of scales over his flesh, or the crease of gills as he heaved the air. I’m no longer sure.

If you ask around, I’m sure someone can tell you the charge. Trading in dangerous memories is popular, or unknown thoughts. Perhaps there was no charge, they were just people from another place, another time, seeking to reclaim what was theirs. Such things happen here, rarely, and the vortex is often to blame. Who is going to stop it, though, when the vortex is what makes Chalice what she is. Without it, we would be a backwater town in the heart of the mountains. With it, we can be the center of the world.

I remember walking through the exchange, shut down by whatever force had stripped me of wealth and power. The entire place was empty, for the first time since the white-smocked throngs that sold thought and feeling had entered the place. It felt unreal, like a dream. Perhaps it is. Who is to say such thoughts are mine, rather than some rarity I picked up in the distant past. Perhaps this is the memory of a construction worker, who laid the pale tiles of the trading floor and then walked home after a day’s hard work.

*

It isn’t much of a story, I know. When times are hard, the stories are the first things to go. Chalice is the city of stories, but none of them are permanent. Nothing is as it was meant to be. The vortex makes as greedy, makes us dream of having been something different then peruse it as men possessed. It isn’t much of a story, I know, but there may be a lesson there among the scabby patches and long-forgotten sales. If you are interested, I may sell it to you. You can have any part, any experience foreign or intriguing to you, for a cup of wine.

Pic 1 – The Exchange of Human Experience
Pic 2 – The Memory of the Mermaid
Pic 3 – The memory slipped by his cousin at age ten
Pic 4 – The city of Chalice
Pic 5 – The last memory from the Explorer collection.
 

arwink

Clockwork Golem
Not necessarily the story I wanted to post on a round when I'm up against Speaker, but time and other commitments were against me :D
 



barsoomcore

Unattainable Ideal
The REAL Story

I know what you're thinking, but I'm here to tell you that I wasn't shoved headfirst down a hole by a crazed samurai because I beheaded his brother the Imperial Beekeeper who then turned into a walking corpse and terrorized the province. That's not what happened.

I know, that's what everyone says happened. But who are you going to believe, Haro the pig farmer or me, the guy who's currently headfirst down a hole?

Look, let's cut a deal here. I tell you what really happened, and if you believe me, you pull me out of this hole. If you don't, off with you and a thousand curses on your head for making me waste my time telling you the truth. Though I have to admit I don't actually have anything else to do, being currently upside-down in a hole. Never mind. Fine. Here goes.

First off, don't think I wanted to be High Lord Imperial Executioner Flibberty-Gibbet. No, sir. Who would? It's not like I'm some all-serious, mystically inclined chap looking to perfect my technique, walk the road of demons or anything like that. I cut people's heads off. It's not pretty, it's not sophisticated. It sucks.

Seriously, this is like the worst job in the world. I only got stuck with it because I was late to the meeting and all the other samurai had already decided. Bastards. So here I am, Lord High Cutting-Off-Heads-Guy. I don't even get to be on Iron Chef. The other samurai get the cool jobs. When they're done work they can gather around the samurai water cooler and swap stories about duels they've fought or fair maidens they've rescued.

I've met 73 single women in the last two months. Single. Ha. Each of them is now in two pieces.

"Hey, Executioner! Learn some jokes, they'll laugh their heads off! Har har har."

Hilarious. I hate those guys.

Okay, so Grand Executy Poobah versus the Imperial Beekeeper. Here's where everyone's story is all mixed up. I didn't cut the guy's head off.

Well, I did, but only after he was dead. Look, I don't know if you knew the guy, but the Imperial Beekeeper wasn't exactly the sharpest blade in the saya, if you know what I mean. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the guy was a schmuck. A dope. A doofus. I mean, he was the Imperial Beekeeper, for crying out loud. What kind of a dork gets himself saddled with a title like that? He's the biggest moron in the whole empire.

Okay, he got three golden tael a week and a house to keep all the wine, women and song he could buy. The Imperial Grand Executioner sleeps on the stairs behind the palace. So perhaps he was the second-biggest moron in the whole empire. Let's not get into it, okay?

So this putz, who of course in the five years he's been Imperial Beekeeper has never so much as seen a bee, decides one day he's going to play with the bees.

Just take a moment and think about that. Play with bees. You want to argue the moron bit any further?

Reason I know what he was up to is because he stepped on me on the way to the gardens. After resisting the urge to punch him, I followed the great oaf down the stairs to see what he was up to.

You know, I could probably tell this story a lot better if I were right-side up.

Just saying.

Anyway, Beekeeper To The Shogun strolls into the garden and starts looking for bees. Under a bush. He starts calling them.

"Here, bees, bees, bees..."

I sit on the steps because obviously this is going to take a while. I'm actually worried I might die of thirst before El Keeper Du Bees finds a single honey-producing insect.

But no, turns out if you want to find bees, you call them. In a couple of seconds I hear Bee-Head give a little yelp and there he is, standing in the middle of the garden, with a bee perched on his eyebrow. At first I think he's going to smack it, and he nearly does, but something holds him back and he stands there motionless, the fuzzy little thing crawling about above his eye.

Then there's two. Then three.

Look, I can't explain it. Well, actually, I can, but I'm not going to tell you yet. Sense of mystery, pal, you never had a story told to you? Hey, if you're not even going to pull me out of here, I'm going to tell my story any way I like, alright?

Pretty soon this clown is covered in bees. I mean covered. He looks like he's wearing a fuzzy black and yellow hat, one of those winter hats what you tie down around your ears. Bees all over his head.

I can't help it. It's creeping me out big time. I stand up and call out to him.

"Dude, that's not right!"

He jerks, and I guess he startled one of his wee pals, because he suddenly yells and smacks at his own cheek.

Important safety tip: if you ever have your head covered in bees, and one of them stings you, take it like a man. Cause bees, they hate it when somebody smacks one of their sisters.

He screams and starts dancing a frenetic jig, eventually dropping to his knees and trying to, I guess, beat his head against the ground and knock the angry bees off. Unfortunately, he beat his head into a rock and keeled over right there. I took off then, not because I was freaked out (seen a lot of people becoming dead, thanks awfully), but because by then those bees were like drunk sailors just looking for trouble.

But I figured that was the end of it. Guy stung to death, cracks head on rock, end of story. Hire a new Imperial Beekeeper. I was polishing up my resume for the vacancy when Samurai Fred came to me. He posed in front of a useless stone lantern. I hated him right off.

"Imperial Lord High Executioner."

"Yo."

"I crave a boon, my lord."

Note: they only call me "my lord" when they need a favour. Which is usually, "Could you pretend not to notice that the adulterous countess you've been ordered to decapitate looks like a frightened servant girl with a gag?" You can say what you like about adulterous countesses, but they're always popular.

"Uh-huh. Adulterous countess?"

"No, my lord. It concerns the most shameful death of my brother, Yagumakihagagubi."

"Yagu-what?"

"The Imperial Beekeeper. He has suffered a most shameful end and brought grief upon our family."

"Right, with the getting stung to death by the little suckers he's supposed to be so good with. What do you want from me?"

"I want you to cut off his head."

"Isn't it a little late for that?"

"Please, my lord, I implore you."

"You do? How do you do that, exactly? I've always wondered."

"As yet, nobody knows of his death. I wish for the land to believe he has been executed."

"Getting decapitated as a common criminal would be less shameful than being stung to death?"

He just looked at me.

"Right. Okay. But you're asking me to desecrate a corpse. The gods forbid such an act with the strongest of taboos. I would be damned for all eternity if I were to perform such a heinous deed."

"Here are ten golden taels."

"I've never been a religious man."

"Well."

"On the other hand, I have one heck of a mortgage."

"Fifteen golden taels."

"And I've had my eye on this nice bungalow for the last couple of weeks..."

"Twenty taels."

"Which needs a lot of renovations..."

"Thirty. Will you do it?"

I weighed the solid mass of gold in my hand, and considered the righteous anger of the gods.

I don't think I'm a bad man. I don't think, certainly, that I deserve to get stuffed headfirst into a hole. Okay, so I cut the head off a dead guy. He was dead. He didn't have any use for his head. Not that he'd used it much when he was alive.

Thirty taels, one whack with the sword, and that was the end of it. That should have been the end of it, by all that's holy.

You can probably fill in most of the details of the night after I got paid. All I can say is, there's no such thing as too many beautiful girls in one room, especially if they're all pouring you wine and dancing on the table.

There is, however, such a thing as too many undead horrors crashing through the window, scattering beautiful girls in all directions, and knocking over perfectly good bottles of wine. It turns out that ONE is in fact too many.

"Executioner."

"You forget how to knock? What, undead beekeepers don't use doors?"

"You desecrated my corpse."

"Yeah, I cut your... uh... head off."

"Yes. You will pay."

"How'd you get your head back on?"

"You will pay."

"Fine. Here's a tael, have your own party. How'd you get your head back on?"

"The power of vengeance."

"Aren't those stitches?"

"And haberdashery."

"Nice work. You get Suniko the silk merchant's daughter to do that?"

"No. It's not-- Never mind. I am here for vengeance. Vengeance!"

The creepy, loathesome thing lurched forward, hands outstretched. It was totally the grossest thing I'd ever seen. And this is coming from a guy who cuts people's heads off for a living, remember.

But you can get used to anything, I guess. A few bottles of wine and the late Yagu-what-the-heck and I were singing together like old friends. Laughing about those crazy bees.

Which brings me to the sense of mystery I so carefully developed earlier. You see, while we were boozing it up, telling jokes and slapping shoulders (never slap the shoulder of a corpse when you're wearing your brand-new fancy kimono. Ew.), it came out that the former Master of Bee-Fu had actually had a plan when he went down into that garden, looking for bees. His loving brother (and I'm using the word "loving" in what's called the ironic sense, where what I actually mean is "deceitful, murderous, foul-minded freakazoid") had given him what he claimed was a magic lotion which, if he could get a bee to touch it, would render him irresistible to the opposite sex.

Uh-huh. I told you, not the tallest stalk in the rice paddy.

See why I didn't tell you before? Now who's the expert storyteller, you or me? Huh? You going to pull me out of here now or what?

Fine.

So really, that's the story. The late Imperial Bee-Doofus, once he realised he'd been set up, went off and killed his brother the samurai. Apparently they had a big fight in the family garden, with the posing in front of those useless stone lanterns, I'm sure. Samurai Fred dies, horrible undead corpse gets a job parking palanquins over at Mama Sapporo's Groovy Geisha House, and I get stuffed down a hole.

Oh, yeah. The hole. Well, that party I had? You see, I don't normally spend that kind of money, so I wasn't really very good at judging at what my tab had run up to. Beautiful girls dancing on tables don't come cheap, you know. And the manager charged me for the broken windows, and the "emotional stress" to her girls when Yagu-mumble-mumble stormed in, and that undead son-of-a-domesticated-canine pinched my wallet on his way to wreak vengeance on his brother. So she COMPLETELY over-reacted and stuffed me down here.

So what do you think? What did I do to deserve to get treated like this? How come I'm stuffed down a hole, and a horrible undead corpse is picking up tips and making time with working girls over at Mama Sapporo's? Does that seem fair to you? Come on, now, I told you the story, you gotta pull me out of here. I'm going crazy down here, I tell you.

Come back here. Hey, we had a deal. Come back here, I'm warning you.

...

Hey, you. Yeah, you. Come here. Look I'll make you deal. I'll tell you a story and if you like it, you pull me out of this hole. Deal?

*****

Pic 1: The Undead Beekeeper
Pic 2: Our narrator (after getting stuffed headfirst down a hole)
Pic 3: Samurai Fred (posing in front of a useless stone lantern)
Pic 4: Our narrator (before getting stuffed headfirst down a hole)
Pic 5: The Imperial Beekeeper, shortly before his ignomious end
 

barsoomcore

Unattainable Ideal
I got the first sentence walking home from work, and then the conversation with Samurai Fred, and the rest was just typing.

*starts twiddling thumbs, looking up at the sky and whistling*
 

alsih2o

First Post
i hope it is coming well for our other competitors, i am not a literature expert, but i do believe i have put together the toughest final round ever.


be forewarned :D
 


A prayer that I'm not too late.

“As you can see, the mickelmas bee is naturally quite docile,” said the sage happily. “As long as the queen is not threatened the hive will not treat you as any danger at all.” As he was speaking, the bees in question were crawling all over his wrinkled face, along the steel frame of his spectacles and even up into to his thinning hair [pic 5]. Treffin found the entire thing extremely disconcerting, regardless of the Sage’s breezy manner.

It was only two days since their encounter with the river hag and Treffin’s nerves were still raw. He jumped at random noises and hadn’t slept more than an hour straight. Now he found himself wedged into a narrow fissure of rock, with a lamp attached to his helmet, while above him the Sage pottered around a natural chamber filled with stinging insects. In spite of the Sage’s assurance that the bees’ hive would be easy to find, the climb through the deep winding tunnels to the hive’s exact location had worn Treffin’s nerves thin.

“And this,” continued the sage, holding up a thin lump of glowing flesh. “Is the queen. She glows like this to light the way for the rest of the hive in these dark caves.”

To Treffin the queen looked like an overgrown glowworm and not at all as dangerous as the sage seemed to think. Then, with a gasp of terror, the sage dropped the queen. The droopy little monarch turned end over end downward into the shaft where Treffin was jammed uncomfortably. It flew past his face and on down. Without thinking, the young mercenary thrust out his moccasined foot and caught the queen between the top of his shoe and the rock wall.

“Oh good catch,” called the sage. “Just be careful that she doesn’t sting you. The venom is most….”

Treffin heard nothing more, as a magmatic wave of pain cascaded up his leg from the top of his foot, the queen’s venom burning through his veins. As the heat in his body rises, his heart slows down, beating in his chest like the clenching and unclenching of a gauntleted fist. His eyesight darkened to black and the tight rock walls fell away. The burning of the venom infected every aspect of his being; he heard burning in his ears and smelt it in his nostrils; he tasted fire and his eyesight was an agonizing cinder black.

Then there was nothing; no sight, no feeling, no sound. Treffin wondered if this was death.

“You are not dead,” said a voice heavy with weariness.

“Who said that?” asked Treffin, surprised to find that he had a voice.

“I did; you did; we did.” A figure emerged from the darkness, as though the shadows were mist that had simply dissipated under the warmth of an unseen sun. Dressed in a simple robe of white homespun, the individual was about Treffin’s height and seemed vaguely familiar. But he was frail beyond description, his skin hanging on his frame. His long hair was bleached white by time and his eyes had sunken deep into his skull. In spite of the lightness and simplicity of his clothing, he seemed weighed down, as if by crushing burdens. [pic 1]

“What?” asked Treffin. “I don’t understand.”

“Because of the supernatural powers of the queen bee’s venom, I have this one moment to meet with you here,” answered the ancient.

“Where is here?”

“That is not important. What matters is what I have to show you.”

Around Treffin the darkness he perceived gave way to light, to images of life, though there was no sound to hear. He and the ancient figure stood in the village square of Treffin’s home. The morning sun was up and they were looking south, towards the small stone shrine. Standing in front of the shrine, Treffin could see himself; or at least an older version of himself. He was dressed in an expensive looking suit of exotic armour. He was standing proud and Treffin was pleased to see himself so well adorned and clearly successful. Mercenary life seemed to agree with him. [pic 3]

“Marvelous,” he said admiringly.

“Do you think so?” asked the ancient figure. “So did I once.”

The viewpoint of Treffin’s vision shifted and he was suddenly looking north from where he had just seen himself standing as an older warrior. Scattered about the square were armed soldiers, equipped as he was. Also amongst them were several bald men with white painted faces and heavy, dark robes. They looked like priests of some kind but there was something frightening about them. As he watched, Treffin saw two of the robed men emerge from the village festhall. Between them they led the headman’s son, Treffin’s life-long friend, his hands tied behind his back with stout cords.

They dragged him to the middle of the village square. They forced him to his knees, with his head pressed against a butcher’s chopping block. With a single stroke a third priest sheared the prisoner’s head from his shoulders. Treffin could not believe what he was witnessing. As the man’s lifeblood soaked the dusty ground, the vision faded from sight. [pic 4]

“What is this you’re showing me?” he demanded of the ancient. “Why am I overseeing the execution of my friend?”

“Because they paid you,” was the reply. “And you’re always on the lookout for more money. That’s why you took the contract with the cult in the first place, and why you persisted with them, even after their orders began to destroy you within; your lust for money crushed your conscience, your soul, all that is good about you.”

“How can you say this?”

“Because I am you, you fool,” said the ancient. Treffin could not respond to this, as the darkness crowded in again. The weary figure explained himself. “Service to the cult, and others like them, will make you the most successful mercenary leader that history has ever known. But in being so, you will do evil things, unfathomable things, and the people of the lands will come to loathe you. Eventually your career of violence will be ended and you will be accursed, with immortality.”

“Immortality doesn’t sound like a curse,” said Treffin, trying to make sense of the story he was being told.

“Does it not? I dwell every day in a stone cell cut into the rock of this very mountain, with walls of adamantine. I pray for death daily yet I know it will not come. I am over seven hundred years old and it is over six centuries since I have laid eyes upon sunlight.”

“You are me?” asked Treffin, the horrible realization of all he was witnessing making itself unavoidable. The ancient had one further statement to make before he vanished.

“Do not waste this chance,” it urged. “Listen to the sage and live to one day die.”

The blackness gripped him again and his eyes burned beneath clenched lids. A wave of something cool passed through him and the fire began to abate. The soft sound of bird calls wormed its way into his head and he realized that he was lying on the cool, shaded grass outside the entrance to the caves of the mickelmas bee hive. Daring to peer through squinted eyes for just a moment. He caught sight of the sage leaning over him for just a moment before the pain of the afternoon sunlight caused him to shut his eyes again.

“Oh well done lad,” said the sage. “You’re going to live, I think.”

“I am?” Treffin asked weakly.

“Oh yes. Very clever of you, by the way, to go limp like that; most people fit under the influence of mickelmas queen venom. If you’d done that the threat to the queen would probably have gotten us stung to death. Very clever; I guess I’ll have to pay you extra for this.”

At the mention of payment, Treffin’s vision flooded back in all it’s horror. He forced himself into a half sitting position, in spite of the pain, and he gripped the sage with vice like fingers.

“That’s alright,” he said tersely through gritted teeth, his bloodshot eyes blazing ferociously. “No need for more money; it’s all part of the service.” Then he collapsed backwards onto the grass, unconscious.
 



Speaker

First Post
Worries well founded, I am not happy to report.

I cannot meet the deadline, folks. In fact, it seems I have already not met the deadline...

I had left off until the last minute, hoping things would resolve themselves in time for me to write... but they didn't, and I couldn't. I take full responsibility, and apologize profusly to the judges-- Maldur, alsih2o, noone of consequence, and Mirthcard -- as well as my fellow competitors -- particularly Arwink and Sniktch.

I enjoyed writing my first entry, however much I was forced to rush the ending. I only wish I had been able to contribute to the second round.
 

Halloween Horror For 5E

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