Category: 100 Theme Challenge – 2014/15


So, with the posting of theme 100, that’s the end of that challenge.

It’s been good for writing, I think, and I have certainly liked getting to know some of my less known characters a little better. Have I enjoyed it? Yes and no. As with much of writing, some days the words fly off your fingers, other times it’s torture to get a sentence out. Unfortunately, I seem to have hit a run of torture days, so I’m struggling with my word-smithery at the moment, and it’s dampening other things.

Looking back to the original post I made about the challenge, I had a goal of doing it within a year, and looking back I’ve managed it in 20 months or so. So, you know, not precisely on time, but I have stuck at it and sometimes that’s all you really want.

Month 1 BadgeSpeaking of which, the 365K club is going well. I’m basically on target for my words, although my brain is doing the very helpful thing where a new project will jump in front of other stuff and shout ‘Pick me, pick me’ so I keep chopping and changing what I am working on. This isn’t an entirely bad thing I feel, as long as I am working on something. But as I mentioned above, this week is not going so well at the moment.

Reading wise I have the six book challenge I talked about completing in February. Despite having a week off, I did absolutely no reading, which is a little shocking. I have finished off the badger book, and I read the first of my rainbow books last night, so I can check Red off the list, but really I am surprised by the lack of reading going on at the moment. Hard to put a finger on why, but I’ve just not had the urge to pick up the books. Maybe I’ve been concentrating on writing a little too much.

You can tell from the title, February isn’t going as well as I’d hoped. I mean, it’s by no means a disaster, and I did just have a very lazy week off work. But still, productivity feels low and enthusiasm is down there with it.

6859e-procrastination

Plans for the rest of February include reading the other five books I have pegged, continue with a new story I’ve been developing, and treating myself to something nice this lunchtime, because some days you just need a nice thing. It might even be stationary.

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Sage was just gaining a lead on him, earth pounding beneath her feet as she aimed for the entrance. She could hear the second pair of feet behind her, but not getting any closer.

Suddenly, a new sound, hooves. She bite her tongue, putting on an extra burst of speed as she tried to get to the entrance. Not far now, maybe fifty feet or so. Twenty. Ten.

Something grabbed her cloak, but she was ready for that, her brooch already loosened so she could slip it off. She still lost her footing, sliding the last few feet to the entrance.

Her fingers touched the stone archway, and she spoke a word.

A blinding flash of light cracked around her, blinding her pursuers, and when they opened her eyes, she was no longer there.

Instead, she was three countries away, plunging into the dark evergreen boughs of a different labyrinth. She didn’t know what they would make of the apportation, whether they would see it for what it was, or attribute it to something entirely different. True, she could think about all the possibilities, but right at this moment she could feel the stress pumping through her body, and all she wanted to think of was her home.

It took her hours to get through to the clearing, even after taking every single short cut that she knew. However, she had never felt more glad to she her little shack, a bit battered in all the rain that had been happening lately, but still study.

She took the pot out from where it had been bobbing in the water butt, brushed the curtain aside, and struck a small fire in her pit. Soon, the entirety of the tiny house was warming teaup, and the pot nearly at the point of bubbling. Adding in her own blend of crushed leaves, the tea brewed, and she settled down in her nest with the steaming mug cupped between her hands.

A gentle rain started outside, pattering on the roof. Sage was pleased that it had waited until now, but reached out to push the curtain behind a hook, so that she could watch the raindrops splattering against the ground and leaves.

The sound of rain, steaming tea in her hands, and the anticipation of a new book squirrelled away in her bag. So could finally feel the tension ease out of her shoulders, and relaxation setting in.

She held the delicate glass tube over the flame, watching as the dark liquid slowly cleared into a murky grey, then, just as it was about to turn clear: thump.

The vibration knocked the flame off balance, the wax from the candle splashing over her workbench, and the liquid went dark again. Seven looked at the wall as another thump vibrated the room, her eyes flat and unimpressed.

Sliding the vial into her wooden rack, she got up, skirt swishing around the door as she stepped into the residence, and followed the intermittent vibrations. Standing in the doorway she cast an eye over the room, and then crossed her arms.

Six slammed into the side of the room, quickly followed by Three’s foot, only just skimming the side of his face as he rolled out of the way. Shrugging her off, he bull-rushed Ten, who had been attempting to sneak up on him, another thud running through room.

Three landed lightly by the door, “Seven, come to join in?”

“No, I came to see what’s causing the building to shake itself apart.”

Another shudder ran through the room as Six landed an enormous fist into the floor.

“You might want to think about a different venue, this room appears to be some sort of reverberation point.”

“This was more of a spontaneous event.”

Seven cast an eye into the room where five of the twelve were currently engaging each other, “That I could have guessed. Six?”

“Six. Don’t worry, I’ll end it,” and she leapt back into the fray.

Seven moved to a different part of the building, and came back with a tray of cups and a steaming pot of tea. Six was still trying to beat Ten and Eight off, but Three had him in a headlock as Seven fixed him with a gaze.

“Fine, I yield,” he gasped in air as they let him out, “still could of won.”

“Sure you could have done,” Three accepted a cup of steaming tea as Seven poured them out, eyeing it suspiciously, “There’s nothing in this, right?”

“There’s hot water and a nice selection of dried tea leaves that have infused it.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Am I really likely to drug something that I myself am going to drink?” Seven handed out cups to the others, before taking one herself, “Yung sing.”

“Yung sing,” the other chorused, before they all drunk as one.

Seven drained her cup, but didn’t swallow, counting down from ten. At zero, there were a number of thunks and china smashes, as her fellows slumped to the floor. Spitting out her tea back into her cup, she turned on her heel, leaving them where they were.

Finally, some peace and solitude.

 

98 – Puzzle

Kelly was lining up another charm when there was a knock at the door.

“Who’s that?”

“Gate’s.”

“Sure.”

The door opened and he walked in, bag of fast food held in his hand, “Here,” he looked down at the charms scattered all over the floor with a raised eyebrow, “I thought you couldn’t take the bracelet off?”

She had already plunged into the bag and was unwrapping a burger, “Whatever gave you that idea?”

“I just thought, all that mystical shit, it always sticks itself to the person who wears it.”

“You’ve been watching too many movies,” she bit into the burger, and boy did it taste good.

“So what are you doing, looking at them? Making a map?”

She shook her head, “It’s a puzzle.”

“Don’t talk with your mouth full.”

She gave him a look, but swallowed the food, “It’s a puzzle,” she nudged the three pieces that she had managed to slot together.

Gates picked up the three pieces, delicately, and examine how the metal pieces clicked together, “What for?”

“No idea. But it’s definitely a puzzle, and I’m going to solve it.”

“Is that a good idea?”

“Anything that puts me one step ahead of the suits is a good idea. Maybe if I can find out what it’s a puzzle for, I can figure out why I’m in this goddamn mess.”

Noah smashed the phone back into it’s cradle harder than he had anticipated doing, and as his long legs took him outside his office door, he grabbed his jacket, arms waving as he rushed, “Peterson, mobilise every spare unit along the north side of the city, all traffic units that are not currently engaged are to attend to the chase, get the details of the suspects and their vehicle from Officer Ray.”

“Yes sir, where are you going?”

“I’m heading over to the scene of the break in to take point, Commissioner’s orders.”

“Yes sir,” Peterson was already picking up the radio and calling out to all available units as Officer Ray came over with mug shots and arrest briefs of the men involved.

Noah came out into the parking lot, and muttered a swear under his breath when he saw that the last car was peeling out of the lot.

A motorcycle skidded around the police car, and into the lot. Noah frowned, but the driver revved the engine at him, and he shook his head, before running up and singing his leg over the back of the bike.

A helmet was thrust into his stomach, and he heard a muffled, “Safety first” from the driver. As soon as he had snapped the helmet’s visor down, the driver kicked off, and a length of rubber was screeched into the parking lot of the two of them tore out of the parking lot.

“What’s the rush?” He yelled to the driver over the noise of traffic.

“The break in. It’s big trouble.”

“How did you find out about it? It’s barely started.”

“From the other side, I just found out who was planning it.”

“And?”

“And it’s bad. They’re targeting my people. I keep a lot of shit in those vaults.”

“By shit do you mean?”

“About a third of the stuff you and I should really keep a better eye on.”

“Shit.”

“That was approximately my thought.”

The driver ignored several traffic laws as the two of them sped through the city, northward to the bank.

“It’s on that street.”

“I know, but with your cops crawling over every entrance and exit, I’d never get in.”

“So what are you thinking?”

“We go in the same way the thieves got in, come on.”

They parked up, quieter than they had been all journey, and slipped off the bike, his driver pulled off her helmet, and a mass of curly hair that he had similar problems with in the morning tumbled out, and she gave her twin a grim look as the judged the neglected grocery store in front of them, closing down signs plastered all over the front.

Jimmying open the door, the two of the cautiously swept the room, and almost immediately found the disturbed entrance to the cellar. Down there, in the side of the wall was an extensive hole, and lots of concrete dust. Sure, it had probably taken them forever to make the tunnel, but it was a small price to pay to circumnavigate most of the security measures.

Noah listened into his radio briefly, “Two suspects still thought to be inside the building,” he pulled his hand gun out of his holster and flicked the safety off, “let’s go.”

Naomi also pulled out a handgun, but let him take front point as the two of the swept and cleared the tunnel, and came out into the vault.

“Clear.”

Running her hands along the vault deposit boxes, she checked the numbers of which ones had been broken into, “I’ve got three of my five boxes still here, but the other two-”

Noah heard the click of a gun, and bull-rushed his twin as the bullet was fired, ricocheting off the metals boxes and into the floor. From underneath him, Naomi pulled her gun and fired twice, dead centre on the mass which had just peeked out from the side of the vault door.

Noah looked down at her, “Safety first,” he said, grinning into her glowering face.

 

The trees down below were bending over backwards, screaming winds ripping and tearing at them as leaves and branches were flung off, then battered by the lashing rain.

Rana’s clothes were already soaked through, had been the instant she stepped out of the Hall, now there were merely a sodden layer of second skin, too plastered to her skin to be stolen by the winds.

Lightning burst the sky open with light, and a mere second later, the sky crashed with thunder, bursting around in her eardrums, echoing between the towers and roofs of the building she was standing on top of.

She could see the whole city from the top of the Hall, standing where she and Caleb had had their first adventure, almost a decade ago now. The scar of the recent destruction could not be hidden by the sheet of rain, dark and jagged where most of the city was spotted with lights shining out of windows.

Rana swallowed, her stomach beginning to twist as she looked down at it. She wrenched her eyes away, scanning beyond the city for the disturbance that had brought her out, feeling through the rain and the wind as much as anything.

There. By the river. She could feel the water’s swelling and rising, a huge bulk just about visible from where she was.

The wind shrieked by as she ran the few steps to the edge and jumped off from the tower. It may have brought the storm, but she was the wild mage, and the elements worked for her.

The wind landed her on the wall surrounding the city, lending her speed as she ran along, rain and water doing nothing to impede her. The shape was growing though the gloom of the rain, serpentine body, claws, longs necks with heads forming. She could feel and see the jets of water that it was shooting out, reaching out towards the gap in the wall that had been created by the earthquake. Her earthquake.

This was her mess. And she would be thrice star dammed if she let any monster get into her city.

Her hand worked it’s way into her sodden pocket, fabric clinging to her skin, making it hard to her to wrench the coin out. She was still running, along the top of the wall, nearing the fighting, the tiny guards on the floor not coping with the storm, trying to hold this monster back.

Her fault. Her fight. She skidded to a halt just at the edge of the broken wall, feet spraying up water as she extended out her arm, lined it up, and fired.

The bolt hit the hydra squarely in its chest, burning away scales and flesh and rain, lighting up the air even more so than the lightning had done. It screamed and thrashed, heads going in all different directions. She drew her arm back, and the rain and wind rushed into the void left in the air. They hydra’s many head turned round, all of them fixating on her, as the rain hit the flesh, and it started to steam. She could see new scales underneath that smoke, the hole she had created started to heal over.

It might be a creature of the water, but she had all the elements on her side. Rana gritted her teeth, and pulled the wind to her, jumping off the wall and down to the earth. This storm would be hers to use.

95 – Advertisment

Vark’s scales were bristling. Mostly it was from the cold, but he suspected that it was also partly because of the non-stop chatter from the human walking behind him.

“Trust me, up North, they have the most problems. Because most people don’t live up here, when they do have a problem, who’s there to solve it? No one, I tell you, everyone who’s any good at anything is in the big cities, down south, so we’ll get loads of work up here, trust me.”

He hadn’t stopped. Ever since they had become travelling companions, Quinn’s mouth had rarely stopped.

“Have you been up here before?”

“Personally, no. But, I talked to a guy, who’s got a cousin, who knows some people up here. Trust me, I know that they have problems up here, and we’ll be the ones to fix it.”

The settlement was very much smaller than the ones in the south that Vark was used to, and the air was much greyer he thought. North certainly was different.

Quinn was already going ahead into the village, looking left and right as Vark stood back to appreciate the sight and new smells. Heavily in the air was fresh wood, pine in particular, although looking in the distance at the large forest, that’s wasn’t a surprise.

“Ah ha!”

Quinn’s triumphant noise rang through to him, and he trudge up to the man, shifting his axe on his back. In his hand he was holding a poster, torn at the top from where he had removed it from the outside of a building that was probably the tavern.

“Here we go?”

“What is it?”

“An advertisment, want me to read it to you?”

“I could read it just fine if you would stop shaking it,” Vark snagged the edge of the paper with his claw and quickly scanned the document, “Cultist?”

“I told you there would be problems. This is exactly the sort of thing we can use to build our reputation.”

“And solve the problem which is evidentally bothering these people.”

“Well duh, that too. Come on, it says to talk to the town warden. What’s the betting it’s not a warden, but just a person with a badge? I think-” he was still talking as he walked into the tavern, paper flapping in his hand.

Vark took in another breath, catching something…unfamiliar in the air. He turned his muzzle up to the sky, a bird was lazily circling above the forest, and clouds were gently rolling about. Nothing out of the ordinary. He turned back to the door and followed the ever present sound of Quinn’s voice.

 

94 – Last Hope

Rana reached out one arm, and with Caleb supporting her on one side managed to walk with him out of the tunnel and into the clean air again. Celia rushed forward and took her other arm, but she couldn’t support her weight anymore, and her knees buckled.

Caleb ducked down, and simply picked her up, his armour digging into her side as they walked back around behind the hastily erected barricade, shimmering with magic as well as the logs and dirt banks.

Her chest heaved and every breath was an effort as she was gently lowered to the floor. Her eyes were fluttering, it was hard to keep them open when breathing took this much energy. She could feel the vibrations through the floor and the magic starting to seep through the air.

“What’s happening?”

“Thomas. Broke the. Seal.”

“How?”

“Stole. My power. Add his. Big mess.” Her hands fluttered apart in a pathetic resemblance of an explosion, before collapsing back against Caleb, his hands coming up to try and support her, warm on her arms.

“You can steal power?”

“Really. Shouldn’t.”

Mortimer was standing above them, his shadow long against the grass, “How bad does this get if he does break this Seal?”

Rana opened her eyes and looked up at him, just letting the desperation and utter despair that she felt rise up to the surface. If magic descended onto this world, raw, unchecked, it would be just like last time, like “Ashfell.”

Mortimer’s face grew grave, and Rana felt the world slip away from her, she couldn’t tell how long for, but when she came back, mages were streaming out from behind the barricade, and it was just her, Caleb, and Celia, standing over them.

“Rana, is there anything you can think of we can do? Anything at all?”

She looked down at the ring on her finger, contemplating the weights against them. A crack came from the mound behind her, and even she could see the spray of earth that shot up into the sky, as a wash of magic told her that the Seal was broken.

With one last sigh, she slid the ring off her finger, “Last hope.”

“Rana? What are you doing?” There was concern, panic almost, in his voice, but she just gave a weak smile, she hoped he could see it.

And then she snapped the ring.

 

Every ward died with a whisper, the ground stopped shaking, and the earth slumped back into the gap that magic had thrown it from. The magic in the air died back into the afternoon sunlight as a ghastly silence froze everyone in place.

“Rana? Rana!” Caleb pressed his hand against the deathly pale face, limping lolling over his arm, chest barely moving.

The snow was drifting against the window as Karise sat down in the large armchair, arms wrapped around herself, shivering gently. Adrianna lifted up a large fur from the end of the bed, and draped it round her shoulders, tucking the fabric round the shivering princess.

“Do you not normally lit the fire?” Karise was looking over at the empty grate.

“No one who lives in this castle needs it,” Adrianna said, but crouched down by it and started to fill it with wood and small twigs. Soon, there was a small fire going, bathing the room in warm orange tones rather then the chill greys of the outside sky.

Adrianna took the other seat, pleased to see that a hint of colour was coming back into Karise’s cheeks, “You know, it was slightly foolish of you to come here. It would have been very easy for you to get lost and die in the wilderness.”

“I wanted to see you Adri. I need you. The kingdom needs you.”

“Unfortunately, the King does not, and I have no desire to go back to a place that wants me dead.”

“So you’re just going to give up on them?”

“Yes.”

Karise looked shocked, and then hurt, curling up small in the fur. “But, that’s my home, my family, my life.”

“And if the King should change his mind and wish for my help, then all he has to do is ask. However, I do not expect it to happen. This is not the first time that other humans have disappointed me, nor the first time that I have given up on them.”

“You’d give up, on me?”

Adrianna sighed, “Oh Karise. In this whole world, you and Vesper are the things that I can never give up. I hate being up here away from you two, but I will get nothing accomplished if I am dead.”

“Come back down with me. I’ll talk with father, and if I can’t make him see reason, we’ll do it anyway.”

“I have no desire to fight two armies at once Karise.”

“Then I’ll stay here, with you. And I’ll tell father that I won’t come home until he changes his mind.”

“That’s called emotional blackmail dear.”

“I don’t care,” the fur fell off her shoulder as she made a gesture with one arm, “He’s wrong, and I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do everything I could to protect my kingdom.”

Adrianna looked over at the princess, then smiled, “Do whatever you think is right Karise, that’s all we can ask for in this world.”

“You promise not to give up? Not just yet.”

“I will never give up on you. So as long as you don’t give up on others, I’ll follow you.”

ice_castle_concept_by_caoranach-d6kfghz

“I mean, you don’t even have anything from them, just a pile of steaming shit from being a half and half?”

Kali placed her hands on the edge of the table, and leaned forward, “All that I have from my parents, my real parents, is their memories. Passed from them to me over years and years of dream speaking, every fight, every battle, every victory, every piece of history, every ounce of culture that ever got passed to them, has been passed to me. In my head, is everything I could want to know about two races that scream how different they are from the rooftops, and yet do exactly the same as each other down on the street. So yeah, I have inherited a giant pile of steaming shit from being what I am, but if you think that’s all I got, then you’re more imbecilic than I thought.”

Warren shifted, wrinkled his nose a few times, and then turned so that he wasn’t looking straight at her any more, “Didn’t think of it like that.”

“Clearly. Now, can you get your wizards on side?”

Warren looked over at her, as she straightened up, folding her wings and arms back, and then nodded, “I’ll take your proposal to them. It’s good, I think I can get them to agree to it.”

“Excellent,” she held out her hand to him and they shook it, Warren wincing slightly at the strength in her hand, then got up and left the room.

Kali flipped her eyes, and out of a pocket, drew a cigarette and a lighter, and within second there was a tiny trail of smoke coming out of her mouth.

“That stressful?” Haines got up from the corner of the room he had been lounging in, lazily walking over to her.

“He’s a pretentious prick.”

“He’s got what you need though.”

“I know, that’s why I didn’t smush him into the ground,” she blew out a long stream of smoke as Haines slipped his hands either side of her hips.

“You got what you got. Maybe soon it’ll be the whole world.”

“I don’t want to have the whole world. I just want to change it.”

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