The second What Will You Write? has come to an end, and we had a wide variety of stories this time. There were only five entries, but the quality is high and incredibly creative. It was another tough decision. Please read the original post.
Fantasy gives the writer a lot of creative freedom. It’s not just swords and sorcery, elves and dragons. It can be almost anything as long as there’s an element of magic involved.
So, I did make a decision about who wins this edition. It was a very creative story, I felt. Clues were revealed bit by bit, and the entire picture was revealed at the end. I was a bit confused, but very intrigued in the beginning. I was very surprised how it ended. Very interesting story and unique. The winner is Tara Southwell. Here is her winning entry:
Ferd opened his eyes, his headrest throbbing. Scrambling up to his feet, he remembered the rockslide- Concussion rends the morning silence, gravel pitters, patters, rushes, boulders tumble, wood cracks –That was no accident. Somebody tried to kill us. Us. Where is Cassia? He couldn’t see through the dust, but she had to be there.
A voice, pained, faint, came from his left. “Ferd? Ferd! I can’t climb up!”
He made his way cautiously through the dust, tested the ground with one foot, dread welling up. This was the direction he’d been looking in only moments before when he’d spotted-
He looked down through the dust and saw Cassia, hanging onto a branch over the chasm. A split in the dark red leather across her back oozed resin and stuffing. The split widened, the branch shuddered and her weight pulled it further out of the rock. He reached for her, but she was too far away.
Echoes of angry voices reached him. Cassia’s eyes widened, then narrowed with resolve. “You have to go.”
“No, I won’t leave you to them. I promised we would reach the Guru together, and that’s what I meant.”
Ferd reached down to one of his legs, covered with delicate vines, fitted snugly to his seat with nothing more than craftsmanship and glue. She saw what he was about to do, opened her mouth to scream but didn’t dare let it out. With a snap of dry tinder and a groan of pain, the leg was in his hand. He inched again to the edge of the drop and lowered the leg. She reached for it, leather slipped on the smooth surface, the branch released more of its grip on the mountain. “Just go!”
He gritted his teeth, splinters flew, wedged a foot in a crack in the stone, then leaned even further over empty space. This time her grip held. Both of them screamed as he heaved, another of his legs broke off, tribute paid to the mountain, the leather across her back rent asunder, and she landed beside him, puffing up more dust.
They embraced, sap tears running from their headrests, but their relief was short lived. By now the villagers had heard their struggle and were close. Brother and sister held each other up as they hobbled away from the barking hounds and ax-brandishing men. The dust cleared, little by little, and Ferd was once again able to see the stone temple near the peak of the mountain, dark red against the blue sky. “We’re almost there. The Guru will save us, you’ll see.”
The climb was treacherous. Gravel and cracks in the stone tripped them up, sent them plunging forward against gravity or sliding back the way they’d come. They pressed on, Ferd murmuring his mantra, “The Guru will save us, the Guru will save us, the Guru-” while Cassia moaned and tried to stem the flow of resin from her wounds.
They reached the top of the path. Before them, casting cool shade on their hot leather, the temple. The door gazed upon them with pity and asked, “What brings such ill used chairs here?”
“We’ve come to see the Guru. Please, sir, my sister and I are wounded. We need help.”
With window eyes drooping, the door swung open. “There might not be any help for you here.”
Ferd wiped sap from his brow. “Even the chance of help is better than nothing.”
“Come in, then.”
They entered the temple, soothed by the cool air inside. An elderly hatstand ushered forward to greet them, dropping her fedora and a sunhat in the process. “Oh, you poor dears, just look at you! This way, this way!” She led them down the hall, shedding bonnets, through a kitchen and den, another gracious door, and into the temple proper. Shining saws, glittering wood rasps, pots of glue and glossy new furniture welcomed them home. Ferd propped Cassia against a wall and followed the hatstand to a worktable on the far side of the room. He fell on his face at the sight of the Guru, seated on a stool before a music box, which he was inlaying with gold fleur de lis with the aid of a magnifying glass.
The hatstand cleared her throat and announced, “Master Pinnochio, we have pilgrims in need of repair and succor.”
Pinocchio looked up from his work, spun on the seat of the stool, then hit the floor with a clatter. The hatstand helped him back to his feet while he grumbled about cut strings. His voice was high but his tone was grim as he commanded, “Tell me what happened, young chair.”
Ferd stammered through his explanation: their villagers didn’t have enough wood in the valley to make it through winter. The humans turned on their former friends, the furniture, with their axes. He and Cassia had escaped the chopping block after a harrowing journey and-
“Enough.” Pinocchio put his painted face in his hands. “I’m not surprised the humans turned against you. I sent all of you out into the world with so much hope. I envisioned a world where Enchanteds and humans lived together in peace. I should have known better. I should have kept you here, or not made you at all!” The hatstand wrapped an arm around Pinocchio’s shuddering shoulders. “I shall fix you and your sister, but then you must flee.”
Ferd only nodded. To reclaim their homes, to make the humans see reason, that was the “why?” behind his trek up the mountain. Denied that, all he had left was his sister. Flee they would, but to where? Somewhere, out there, a place for them to call their new home.
Congratulations, Tara! And what an entry that was. I enjoyed it a lot.
And here are the other entries, all worth reading:
Steven Erickson – This entry was a pretty serious one. With all of the humour in the previous challenge, it was nice to see something more serious. I’m interesting in knowing more about this story.
Mark Morris – This gets an honourable mention from me. Very delightful read. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. Just read it!
Crystin Goodwin – First time entry here. This was an interesting story, and I’d read more if it were a longer story. I want to know more. Very nice.
Tracey Lynn Tobin – Last time’s winner returns with a solid entry. The ending was a surprise. I didn’t expect that at all. Great job!
Everyone did a great job, and I’m looking forward to the next one. Actually, I’m really looking forward to it, because this one will be a challenge. It’ll be a bit unusual, so I can’t wait to see the entries. I’ll post the prompt within 24 hours.
Now, go and read everyone’s entries and leave comments on their stories. They deserve it.