Songs of the Otherworld

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20 One-Shot Challenge

Postby TheSongOfTheStars » Mon Jan 30, 2017 11:44 pm

6-Thrilling
793 words
"Pirates!"

The warning yell echoed from stem to stern of the Lune Del Mar, bringing her captain and the castaway to their paws.
Fingers curling around his hilt, Martin stormed to the door of his cabin, only to find himself blocked by Lily, her sword already drawn.
"You can't go out there," he blurted "It'd interfere with offensive operations."
"I can fight," She snapped back.
His eyes drew to the scars littered about her body "I believe you and things might get where we need you to. But you're not under my command, I can't risk something going south because you were in the wrong place!"

"Captain!" Coe's voice crashed through the pounding of boots on deck and "Captain, come here!"

Stepping around Lily, Martin nodded thankfully as she seemed to decide to stay in the cabin, then charged out on deck.

Lily stared after him, gripping her sword until the scars on her knuckles showed a clammy white.
"I sure hope that first mate knows what he's doing."

Streams of sailors rushing to battle stations parted for their captain as he bolted for the rear of the ship.
"Mr. Coe!"

The cat swivled about, fingers raised to his brow in a salute. "Sir!"
"How many are there?"
"Top lookout reported one ship sir, flying the black flag, bearing down on us directly."
Martin sucked in a loud breath as he flicked the spyglass from his belt and pointed it towards the ship flying towards them.
"Pirates my paw. It's the Danche."
"Mercinaries," Coe's voice stayed flat, but distaste and a great deal of angry annoyance flacoured it "They simply refuse to give up."
"They're getting paid more than they're worth, " Martin snapped "We'll outrun them like every other time."
"Not likely, sir."
"What do you mean not-oh," a long groan fled through the captain's whiskers "Our cargo."
"Afraid so."

Hundreds of stacked crates brimming with iron ore filled the belly of the Lune Del Mar, destined for Churam. They held the ship low in the water and drug her back against the pressure of the wind, giving the normally inferior Danche the lip on speed.
"We'll have to fight our way out," Martin growled, folding rhe glass back up.
"Sir, is...it... secure?"
Martin's mind fled to the little locked box beneath his bunk.
"It's as safe as it's goin to get, Coe. Get the archers armed and have them ready to fire as soon as the Danche's in range."
"Aye, sir."

Swiftly the patched sails of the Danche pushed the yellow wood ship towards the straining timbers of the Mar, like a hungry predator stalking quickly towards slow but alert prey.
Soon the zwip and thwitch of arrows speeding over the waters was evident, marked by the little blurs racing towards their foes and speeding back towards them to bury into the hull, deck, and, sometimes, into an unfortunate sailor.
The fire increased in accuracy as the two ships pulled closer and closer, unavoidably the Danche coming along the side of the Mar.
Ordered chaos churned on the deck of the naval ship as bows dropped and swords where unsheathed.
For a moment, neither side moved, then the grappling hooks came swinging with heavy thuds onto the Lune Del Mar's deck and a flood of unsavory creatures, each bearing their own melee weapon, came pouring into the ranks of the sailors.

Lily gripped her sword and dashed out of the cabin a snarl raised on her lips.

A ragged young cat came at her, whirling a long spiked chain over his head.
She lurched to his side, and let her sword slide in a long cut along his back, ducking beneath the chain as it fell from his grasp in a long link of noise.
Two raccoons leapt towards her next, both wielding dual axes. They where quick, like blazing masked lightening. But as old skills resurfaced after a month of inactivity, Lily was quicker, her lightening flashed faster.
Somehow, across the deck, in all the confusion, she found Captain Trevoiant, bellowing orders and swinging his cutlass.
He managed to keep his crew in fighting form, but the way he whirled his sword ineffectually against the mercenaries.
Atrocious. He was going to get himself killed. Who let him be a Captain without ever giving him sword lessons?

She dodged around Coe, who was whirling his staff around, making good use of it, then without thinking dashed up into some of the rigging pursued by a squirrel.
He took a vicious swipe at her tail with his dagger and in trying to avoid him, she lost her grip on the tough ropes.
Swinging by a couple of claws in the fiber she struck upwards with her sword, missed the squirrel, but sliced the ropes.
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20 One-Shot Challenge

Postby TheSongOfTheStars » Wed Feb 01, 2017 11:54 pm

7-Melancholy
751 words
The wind blew long songs across the bay, cold wings fluttering over misty bows of spectral ships. Old tunes creaked out from the timbers of the tired keels, lapped by the silent yet restless waters, adding to soft words of the unwhispered wind.
It was too quiet, too sad, too cold, beneath the heavy blanket of clouds that hid the moon's weak and wavering beams from the eyes of the bowed passerby. The sad breath of the shivering city disturbed eyes that would've rather stayed down and not even thick cloaks wrapped tightly about shaking shoulders could stave it away.
If there had been one star visible to swear upon, no one would've called on it as they were far too busy with their inner thoughts, the small tortures that take up a mind on lonely days. Not the complicated turns and twists of a what if or an only if, but a simple, unspeakable longing for something that is not there. That once was, that shone brightly, now is no more, now is extinguished in the cold waters of life.
The desire to bring back a smile to a face gone still, restore the warmth to arms stiff and cold. Then the world, though deep and dark beneath stark storm clouds, might gain a flicker of candlelight.
They might restore the tarnished edges of life that ran through tired gazes like ancient, unmovable lines. Gilt the iron sword and strengthen the internal, rather than the external.
But it was just a desire, a hope, and a futile sigh. The earless sky might as well have been pleaded to come down and touch the roses, to lift their drooping petals turning gray.
Life was the only and the if only. The heart and the emptiness.
The wish on the wind and the wanderer on the waves. A pureness to be longed for but never achieved.
A treasure beyond touch and a love beyond reason.
How to understand something so precious when only you stood alone, listening to the weak sobs of the wind at the eaves and the aimless, useless tapping of the rain at the windows. When once you thought you had it in your grasp, bound up around your heart never to be torn away, only to have it wrenched out, taking more of your heart than it left.
Then the rainy days and time alone became not a relief from the days of running, the days of blazing sun and time filled with company, they became the constant, the rut that only deepened with every drop, tear and rain.
Hope was pressured and distilled into apathy, movement became exhaustion. Gloves never came off so that you forgot the touch of the others that where there and they forgot you. Masks stayed on, hiding you on the inside and alienating you from those who would take the inside with tenderness.
Those who would do anything, anything to heal the rainy day scars, to soften the lonely shield and drape a blanket against the cold of an empty home.
You push them away, hold them out as if they held daggers in their pockets, because you once let someone in. Just one.
And they shattered you into a thousand unrecognizable pieces.
You where so happy and it seems a sin to let what you shared go so soon.
So, like a flower curling in from the chills of night, you tuck your heart away, fold up the petals that make you who you are, and try to sleep away the pain.
But the clouds hanging just above the rooftops refuse to leave and every time you look out the window, there's only more and more wind.
The longer you stay the louder the wind screams, the harder the ships rock in their berths, the moorings coming undone.
The city is yourself and it will fall away into ruin, drowned by tears that you cannot stem alone.
The citizens, cold and huddled beneath cloaks and the edges of eaves hanging down over buildings are your emotions, dressed in mourning drapes. The houses the thoughts that that stay cold without any fires to bring them to life.
The castle is your heart, locked away from the rest of the world, the princess kept in by tall gates, cold stone pillars and huge trees felled for a single purpose. To keep her from being hurt.
But she's already damaged and doesn't think she can be repaired.
The dragon came.
Her prince is dead.
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20 One-Shot Challenge

Postby TheSongOfTheStars » Thu Feb 02, 2017 1:05 pm

8-Romantic
892 words
Dinner was finished, the dishes washed up, and the sun was casting the warm rays through the evening sky leaving traces of gold along the edges of the leaves in the garden of the Daja Litittago.
The garden, though set down on the lower terrace of the walls, was still bathed in generous light, far more than enough for the two otters to silently pick their way down to the small pond.
The grass bent down into a cushion around them, the blades brushing gently against their legs.
Mei-li slipped her fingers over his palm, feeling the tribal mark that would forever leave an indent in his skin.
Forever a reminder of a past and a destiny unfulfilled.
As if sensing the sudden shift in her thoughts towards something melancholy, Lionel gave her paw a reassuring squeeze.
A smile tugging on the corner of her mouth, she returned the squeeze, glancing sideways at him at the same moment his eyes turned towards her.

They beamed at each other for a moment and Mei inched closer, prompting Lionel to slip his arm around her shoulders.
Then they went back to watching the ripples on the pond.

Anyone else, she'd have felt the pressure to fill the wonderful silence. To try and make conversation, to force the words out before they were ready.
But not with him.
With Lionel it was perfectly natural to sit beside him, for hours sometimes, and never speak a word.
But still feel understood.
She had tried to place a reason why on the feeling, but never got any further than the thought of his eyes. Maybe because he could squint them into a smile and barely move the rest of his face.
She wasn't certain.

Suddenly he said.
"It's nice isn't it?"
"Mm-hmm. What's your favorite part?"
He turned towards her, a teasing smile tugging at the corners of his lips "I always thought your nose was cute."
Mei snorted softly "Not me. The evening. I like how still and warm it is."
He leaned back on his elbows, his eyes darting sideways as if expecting retribution for his next words.
"Well, I like having a particular otter graced with a particular beauty to share it with."
He dissolved into giggles as she glared down it him.
"You little-" she swatted his shoulder lightly "You're a tease, Lionel."
He rubbed his shoulder with a show of wounded dignity, as if her soft touch had actually hurt him.
"Now, really. What's your favorite part? Really."

His eyes half-closed for a second, "I... like... how even though the sun is going down, there's still a part of light in this corner of the walls. I like how the tops of the clouds are so bright and the bottoms are so dark. I like how if you close your eyes and listen hard enough, you can hear the voices drifting down from the Daja, laughter and shouts. You can hear steps crackling in the gravel in the path as someone hurries off for some reason or another. If you listen even harder you can here those wind chimes I put up, just letting out a few notes in the breeze that carries the faintest scent of the ocean."

He lapsed into silence and Mei-li wasn't able to answer for the slight lump rising in her throat.
She could never be certain of what was going to come spilling out of his ever-churning mind. Something philosophical, yet touching, was almost always ready to come spilling out at just the right time.
Something with a meaning twice as deep as it first seemed.

"You like that it's not lonely."
He shrugged a little "I already told you what I liked best, my dear, but yes. I do like that it feels so included with a world."

He hated being alone. She had recognized this only a short time after they met. He always kept Jon-tai near him, or held Freeta in close company.
Or... just anyone.
She knew alone. But her loneliness was different than his.
His loneliness was of the total silence, the stillness, being so far removed from living ear that no one could ever hear you scream.
Her loneliness was being ignored, cowering in the corner while others passed by unheeding, crying in pain while no one cared.

"Mei?"
Deep with concern, Lionel's voice broke through her darkening thoughts.
"What was it? What did I say?"

She shook her head "Nothing. I... was just thinking."
"About what?"
"Nothing. It's getting dark."
"Mei-Mei," his voice was gently reproving as his paw touched her elbow "What was it?"

She sighed. There was no winning.
"I just thought that... I was thinking about why you liked it not being lonely."
His brow creased in a slight wince "Oh, Mei."
"I know. Cheerful."

"You don't have to think about those things," he slipped his paw up her elbow and to her shoulder, pulling her into an embrace "Neither of us is alone anymore."

He was asking her to forget the what-ifs of life. To ignore the variables that he normally was so quick to provide.
To forget in exchange for the warm promise of his arms.

It was only too easy to comply.
As she laid her head against his chest and looked up at his face, he bent closer and softly kissed her.
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20 Shot-Challenge

Postby TheSongOfTheStars » Sat Feb 04, 2017 5:08 am

9-Brilliant
961 words
Shyshie had discovered reading.
Due to her mother trying desperately to put a life back together for them again, struggling with the position Queen Aberdeena had given her, and the boredom that a young child procures after hours staring at a wall long after having exhausted all other options.
Martin suggested it first, partly because he wanted to learn as well.
So, on late evenings when Darkmoon was exhausted and early mornings when she could barely pull herself from between the covers she was teaching a young kitten and a half-grown otter the alphabet.
Martin learned quicker than she did, stringing together letters into words and soon, he was able to teach her while Darkmoon continued in the headlong dash trying to recreate a life.

But the simple stories and little words only sufficed to wet their hunger rather than sate it and before anyone realized it, even they themselves, they'd been lost in tales high above their heads.

Fortunately they were both fair swimmers.

But it was a while before anyone really knew that Martin had developed a passion for the old poems and trying to unravel old codes or that Shyshie obsessively soaked up every written word she set eyes on.
It was Aberdeena actually, who noticed, one day after long hours filled with the nuances of ruling a kingdom, that Rusty was sulking outside the royal library.
"I pull their noses out of those moldy books," he complained upon seeing his mother "All they want to do is read. Read, read, read!"
The vixen laughed softly "A habit you would do well to learn, future prince."
He crossed his eyes and lolled his tongue out.
"What are they reading anyway? There's not many novels in that library."
"I dunno some old books."

Curious as to what two children had found so intriguing, she wandered into the library. When she was a child she'd loved the high marble room, but not for the wealth of knowledge. In her young mind it'd been a wonderful hide and seek arena.

But to the two sitting curled in chairs the library was a treasure leading to a world beyond anything they knew.
"Hello Shyshie."

The little girl looked up with her startlingly blue eyes "Hello, Lady Aberdeena."
"What are you reading dear?"
"Oh," she turned the book over on its cover "It's about stars."
"A collective history of the factual linear usage of star charts?" Aberdeena's voice rose on every word she read further "What?!?"

"Yeah it's about how sailors use star charts and how you need different charts in different parts of the world. Also how Navoire has used different charts in the past and-"
"Are you sure that's what you want to be reading?"

The cat nodded vigorously "It's so interesting! There's special charts that where created specifically to guide you to special places and also shows how different countries use different charts!"

"Oh...okay," the unbridled enthusiasm that filled Shyshie's voice and face was so bright and intense that it would not do to discourage, but still Aberdeena found it odd
"Does your mother know you're reading that?"
"No, I just found it today."
"You just found it today? You're half way through it!"
"It's not that big."
"It's..." Aberdeena's voice trailed off as she looked down at the volume that covered the girl's lap "Alright."
The Queen turned around "What are you reading Martin?"

"Book."
She sniffed in amusement "What book?"
"An old one."
"What's it called?"
"Umm," He lifted his nose out from the pages long enough to check the title "It's called "Selkies: an informative guide to an elusive yet principle contributor in Navorine History"
"Oh, wow."
"It's a good book."

"There are other books about Selkies, you know."
"Yeah," he shrugged and turned the book back over "I checked them. I couldn't find what I was looking for."
"And what were you looking for?"
"Oh," he shifted a little in the chair as if he realized he'd said too much "Well, I was wondering... if there was a connection between the Ocean Princess and Selkies."
"Why would you wonder that?"
"Just... cause... I thought it might have something to do with my sword."
"And why would you think that, if I may ask?"
"Well," he set the book down and began to fiddle with the brim of his hat "My sword... well, the sword, was made by an elven smith with Numordean metal and used by Tem to defeat the sea serpent, right?"
"Riiight."
"So, it can penetrate scary monster armor and it can be used as a settlement key. I was wondering if it could do other things."
"Other things related to Selkies and the Ocean Princess."
"In the poem the Ocean Princess has a thing of power and the Selkies are called Guardians of Artifacts sometimes, so I wondered if... this is silly... but I wondered if the sword could unlock one of the Selkies' Grottos and maybe help to unravel what the thing of power is."
Her brow creased in gentle reproval "Martin, there's very little evidence for either the Selkies or the Princess. It's a very nice theory though."
He sighed and pulled his hat lower "I know. I was just trying to learn more about the sword."
"Well," she folded her fingers together "I want to know more too. So, how about you write down what you find connecting the sword to the Selkies and the Princess or whatever else you find and show it to me?"

He looked out from the protective shadow of his hat "You sure? Do you have time for stuff like that?"
"I'll make it top priority the minute you give it to me."
"Really?" A shy smile tugged at his face "Okay. I'll do it."
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20 One-Shot Challenge

Postby TheSongOfTheStars » Sat Feb 04, 2017 4:55 pm

10- Uneasy
777 words
Snagged the child up but the scruff of her neck.

She whimpered, her tiny fingers reaching towards his face.
"Mommy."

"What is your name?" Galvic growled.

In return she only shrank away from him.

"What is your name?!?" His patience frayed thin, his voice rose from a growl to a snarl that filled the alley.

She shrieked, her body shaking franticly in his grip.

He should slit her throat and toss the little corpse onto the piles of trash. No one would care.
But something small, deep inside his spoiled grain, detested the thought. She wasn't worth that effort.

She would be an example to Nados that he didn't take substitutes.

Dropping her onto the ground, a long cold smile split his snout.

Yes. He'd stripe that hare of everything he owned. Every right, every coin, every drop of respect and when he returned the child, he'd dump it in front of her parents.
A low chuckle, twice as terrifying as the snarls, shook out from the depths of his chest.
It had been a long time since he'd indulged in such a form of amusement.

It would be good for him.

"Oh, hush now," He rumbled quietly, dropping down to bring his huge head down to the quaking body "What's your name?"
"Mm...Mm, Donna."
"Do you know where your mummy is Donna?"
She shook her head, wide watery eyes staring at him in fear.

He'd just have to squeeze it out from that useless rabbit.

"Well, Donna, I'm going to find your mummy, alright?"
He forced his voice to go soft, to ease the shivers running through the badger's fur.
"Okay."

Carefully this time, he scooped her up, holding her tiny body in the crook of his arm.

He'd leave her at his house, those he needed to set on Nados' trail would have loose tongues and amusing as this was he'd rather not have stories of the greatest power in the city toting a child about.

---
She seemed to like the padded seat he set her on, curling up into a ball of gray fur and falling asleep almost instantly.
For a brief second he almost smiled, a different smile than the one he grinned in the dark of the alley.
A smile that made his face uncomfortable.

He wiped it away quickly and stormed out through the long dark halls, annoyed at the lighter feeling that had played around his inside, even just for a few seconds.

---

Two ferrets, dressed in black rags and gripping crude spears stood on either Nados, who was groveling in the filth amongst the cobblestones.

Silently Galvic dismissed the ferrets with a wave of his paw.

"Look at me, Nados."

The hare stayed as still as he could manage despite the constant shivers racking his body.
"Nados."

Galvic kept his voice perfectly even, entirely devoid of emotion.

"I did what I could," Nados sobbed "I gave you the best that I-"

"Her parents, Nados. Where did you steal the badger from?"
He looked up, tears streaming down his disgustingly terrified face "W-what?"

Galivc crouched, bringing his face close to Nados, his shoulders hulking over to block out the sky.
"The girl's parents. Where are they?"

He shook his head "No...no... she doesn't have anyone. I got her... I got her off the streets. She's an orphan!"
A long terrifying growl built up deep within the wide chest as annoyance swept through the wolf.

"I had decided that I was going to strip you of everything you owned, but I was going to let you lived. Because it amused me. But this no longer amusing. You will not live. I'm going to kill you."

"No... Please... I tried... Please!"

Galvic's claws turn outwards, digging into the hare's throat and ending the stream of pathetic excuses.

---
Frustrated, he slammed the door behind him, leaving stains against the latch.

A squeak came from the room he'd left Donna in and a slight chink-clink followed.

"What are you doing?" He demanded, coming to find the little badger sitting admits the remains of the glass and quartz light catcher he'd had.
He'd had for years.
"Shiny!" she squeaked, holding up a fragment.
"No!" he tossed her aside and tried to salvage the string and stones.
This was no longer amusing.
He was taking it to the orphanage immediately.

"But it's pretty! Pretty rock."
"No!"
She crawled back towards him "Wolfy, looky, pretty rock."
In her paw she held the tiny fire opal that had been set up as the center of the light catcher.
"Give that to me!"

This time she scuttled away on her own power, dashing underneath a chair "No! My rock!"

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20 One-Shot Challenge

Postby TheSongOfTheStars » Sun Feb 05, 2017 12:16 pm

11- "i thought you said we..."
916 words
Freeta bounded down the long hall of greenstone, tears blurring in her eyes.
What they said couldn't be true.
He couldn't be leaving.
No for that elf.
She came to the room he shared with several others and swallowing hard against the lump in her throat, she knocked.

"Come in."
It was him. He answered.

Feeling strangly timid, she poked her nose around the door. He was sitting on his bed, stick leaned against the mattress and his few belongings spread across the blanket.
"Oh, Freeta," he smiled awkwardly and reached for the stick "I'm glad you're here, I actually wanted to talk you about something."
Silently she trotted across the room and leapt up onto the bed. She was close enough now for him to see the tear tracks through her fur.
"You're leaving."

He let out a soft sigh and nodded "Master Haldrian offered me a job as an assistant cook in the scouts school in Shi-Ree."

Tears welled up again and the lump grew larger "Why? Why would you want to leave Greenshade? It's your home now."
He shook his head lightly "No. No it's not. It's a wonderful place but I don't want to sit here on my tail forever."
Her body began shaking "I though you said we... We where going to be friends. You were going to be my friend, Lionel."
"Oh, Freeta," His brows curved in sympathetic understanding "I am your friend. But there's a world out there and it's a lot bigger than you know. I can't sit here for the rest of my life. I'm done with that outlook on life."
"But, who's going to look out for you? What if you get hurt again? You can't speak Rican, you don't know what sort of food they eat."
"I can learn, I want to learn. It's something new and exciting. A world neither of us has ever seen."
She felt desperation rise in her stomach as she realized he would not be swayed from his course.
"They don't need me here, there plenty of cooks and just about anything else you can imagine. I'm ready to move on."
"But what about me?" She choked "I need you. Here. The only thing GreenShade won't have is you and I can't imagine it without you. Please. Please stay."

She looked up at him and she knew that he'd set himself on leaving, no matter how she felt.
When he opened his mouth, she knew the answer.
Or so she thought.

"Come with me."

She could only stare at him in bewilderment.

"Really Freeta. I'm sure if we asked Master Haldrian would let you."
He pressed his paw against the back of her drooping head "You're right. We're friends. You're my only friend, really and I need you. I need you beside me. Please come."
"But-" she focused in on the patch of fabric between her paws, trying to consider the full insanity of his invitation "I... I don't know Rican. I can barely talk the Common Tongue. I'm not good with others and...and..."

"I know it's scary," He smoothed her ears back "But it's an adventure. No one's ever taken you on an adventure. Let me be the first."
"I don't know how to adventure," she moaned softly "I just want to stay here."

Slowly his face turned downwards with a sadness that he obviously wanted to hid.
"Then you should stay. You should most definitely stay. But I can't. I feel like I'm supposed to leave, maybe I'm supposed to go to Shi-Ree. The same way you where supposed to come along the bottom of a certain cliff."
"No," Tears coursed down her face with abandon and Lionel's eyes had begun to water as well "I can't go, I just can't."
"You don't have to decide right now. Please, just consider it, for a friend."
"I can't," she swallowed a bitterness suddenly churning in with pain in her soul "And if you can't stay then maybe we can't be friends."
"That's not how a friendship works, Free."
"I don't know how it works, because I've only had one and he's leaving!" She slipped off the bed and dashed towards the door, only to be suddenly blocked by his stick.
Looking up she found that somehow he had matched her speed.
"Freeta," he struggled over his own heavy voice "I know that it's terrifying. The unknown is the most unnerving thing out there. But that doesn't mean it's bad. It doesn't mean we should never change. I know you don't remember what the past is, I know that it cripples you just as much as that arrow crippled me. You hope that if you stay that it'll get better, maybe someone who knows you will come. But it's not going to happen without change. Nothing is changing here and if you want yourself back you're going to have to go out and find you.
He knelt down, his arms folding over her "I think you need to come if you're ever going to regain what you've lost. Don't ask me how I know because I don't, but sometimes you have to trust what you don't understand."
Speechless she stared up at him.
"And the path back to GreenShade is retraceable. The mountains won't swallow the Mont up behinds us. If I'm wrong it's only a matter of turning around to return. Please. I thought you said we had to trust each other, so please trust me now, just for a little while."
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20 One-Shot Challenge

Postby TheSongOfTheStars » Sun Feb 05, 2017 3:57 pm

12- "Isn't it beautiful?"
1,007
The sun soared towards the brink of the horizon, spraying the sky with a fantastic array of color. Along the ground shadows coasted like dark birds with immaterial wings, brushing gently over everything they touched with void feathers.
A few of these feathers brushed against Martin's face as a cloud tumbled across a band of wind that scattered it across the golden spread of air.
With a heavy sigh he slipped his paw over Skipper's shoulder.
"Isn't it beautiful?"

The boy stared out over the sunset painted waters, each wave tipped with its unique aurora, at the small fishing boats interspersed with the low slung, single-sailed Rican Naval ships.

All painted with the same golden light.

"Yeah, it's nice. But..."
Skipper shifted back and forth on his feet, staring uncomfortably down towards the docks.
Martin sensed the words that his son hadn't spoken.
"It's not quite right?"
Skipped gestured towards the Rican ships "They're so small."
"Well, these aren't exactly the prime examples of the fleet. But you're right, they're not like Navorine ships. Shi-Ree isn't exactly a sea-faring nation."
"No, I guess it doesn't really need to be."

Martin nodded slowly, his eyes slowly passing over each vessel, fishing or otherwise "Does make you feel a bit out of place, doesn't it?"
"Yeah, it does," Skipped looked up at him an embarrassed uncertainty in his eyes "Is it going to be like this forever?"

A pained look tightened Martin's face.
"I don't know, Skip... Things.... Well you know how thing are."
Skipper nodded, his eyes falling towards his shoes.
"So, there's no chance of ever going back?"
"There's chance, there's always a chance Skippy," Martin fought to keep his voice even and tried to add a touch of cheer to his tight features "I'm just not sure how it would happen. Anyway, we're pretty blessed that we had somewhere to go outside of the country."
"Yes, it's not home but at least it's not a totally strange place."

For a few minutes silence stretched out between father and son. Finally Martin turned away from the weeping waves and sinking sun.
"Come on, mate, Mom's probably got dinner ready."

Dinner was indeed ready and cooling on the table when they returned and a concert of whispers and giggles emanating from the bedroom.
Skipper's smile returned as he kicked his shoes off and trotted to the edge of the room, Martin at his back.

The blankets where not on the bed but spread over the backs of two chairs, draping down to create a cave of cloth.
Beneath the little bower was a nest of sheets and pillows all fluffed up.

Like a mother bird with chicks under wing, Lily reclined on the floor with Tiger Lily on one side and Elvie on the other and a large book spread in her lap.

"Well, this looks comfy," Martin laughed, kneeling down beside them "What's going on?"
"Just story time," Lily replied, waving the book in his face "How was your walk?"
"Oh, it was alright. What's to eat?"
"Rice!" Elvie chirped holding her arms out for a hug "And fish! I helped too!"
"Hey, that's nice," Martin wrapped his arms around her little form and pulled her onto his knee
"Yum," Skipper muttered, flopping down next to Lily and burying his head beneath one of the pillows.
"Don't be grumpy," Lily chided, sliding down alongside him and stuffing her face into the same pillow, muffling her voice "No grumpiness. Grumpy otters only get rice."
"I'm not grumpy," Skipper replied quickly, sitting up "I'm...just... expressing my opinion."
"Well, you have a negative opinion," Lily said flipping the pillow off her face and onto Tiger Lily's stomach "Negative opinions get rice too."
He sighed, frowning a little "Sorry."
"That's better. Now go set the table."

With a slight squeak, Skipper stood up, injured pride across his face as he stalked out of the room.
"Come on," Martin set Elvie down "We should go eat."

"When we're done eating can we finish the story, Mum?" Tiger Lily asked, bouncing to her feet "If we get dressed for bed and brush our teeth and eat everything on our plates and help clean up?"
"Oh... ask your dad."
"Dad?" Tiger Lily turned large pleading eyes up at her father "Pleeeease?"
Martin adopted a look of mock sternness "Only if you brush your teeth after eating everything on your plate."
"YAY!"
She bounded around in circles before dashing out of the room, much to her parents' amusement.
"She doesn't know how to contain herself sometimes," Martin held out his paw to Lily who allowed him to pull her upright.
"And sometimes she's as energetic as a log."
"Tilly's not a log."
They looked down at Elvie who stared back up with innocent confusion.
"No, but she acts like one sometimes," Martin said, lifting his youngest up "You're never a log."
"No. I'm not a log, I'm hungry."

Dinner was finished quickly, though not quick enough for Tiger Lily who nearly choked on the pieces of fish as she stuff food into her mouth with abandon.
After everything was cleared from the table and everyone prepared for bed, they returned to the blanket fort and pillow nest and Lily finished the story.
Sort of.

Somewhere towards the end, Skipper realized his mother's voice was slowly trailing away into soft breathy mumbles, the story losing track amongst her drooping whiskers.
Propping himself up on his elbows, he realized that his sisters where both leaning against Lily, their eyes closed in gentle lines and their bodies limp amongst the pillows.
He glanced towards his father, who smiled at him with twinkling eyes and edged towards Skipper.

Skipper let his head lean against Martin's shoulder, looking towards his mother and sisters all curled together. Suddenly a poignant thought raced through his brain, bringing his eyes wide open.
He met Martin's gaze, his mouth a tiny circle.
"Isn't it beautiful?"

Martin swallowed hard and smiled through a misty blanket of warmth and tears.
"Yes. It is Skip. It is."


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20 One-Shot Challenge

Postby TheSongOfTheStars » Mon Feb 06, 2017 3:46 pm

13- "What if we ran away?"
814 words
Beneath an overturned skiff along a gray stretch of shore Martin huddled, blubbering pathetically into his knees.
His muffled sobs masked the sound of his brothers' footsteps and it wasn't until he felt the sharp sting of sand being hurled against his head that he realized he wasn't alone.

Looking up with a start he found that the face he shared down to the last details glaring at him in a taunting glare.
"Go away Wilkes," he whimpered, pulling further against the boards of the small boat.
"Go away Wilkes," mocked Nathan from behind Wilkes, his voice harsh and mean "Go away Martin. Stop being a bonehead."
"I didn't mean to do it."
"You've gotten Father mad at everyone again," Wilkes said "He was throwing stuff and all because you're a bonehead."
"I'm not a bonehead!"
"Yes you are," snapped Selyan from the back of the trio "Only a bonehead loses half the catch over the side of the boat."
"I didn't mean to!" Martin shouted, scrambling out from the protection of the skiff, tears springing out and pouring down his face in a torrent "I said I was sorry!"
"Sorry isn't good enough!" Wilkes shoved his twin down "Sorry doesn't bring back the fish!"
"Sorry doesn't make Father stop being mad!" Nathan added, kicking up a spray of sand in his crumpled brother's face.
"Sorry doesn't make you stop being an idiot," Selyan darted forwards, his paw raised as well, but not to kick up sand. His foot came crashing into Martin's stomach, driving the air from the boy's lungs with a disturbing choke of air.

"Hey stop it!" A girl's scream rang in the taunting brothers' ears as suddenly Selyan was shoved backwards.
"Stop it Sel, you're going to hurt him!"
"Go away Yvette," Nathan growled "Martin just needs some encouraging."
"Yeah, 'couraging not to be a bonehead," Wilkes added.

Yvette graced them with a glare that intimidated even her older brothers.
"Back. Off. Or I swear I'm going to get Yone."
They flinched in concert at their eldest sister's name.
Yone dealt with disobedience with as much violence as their father, having no mind who'd actually done the deed and who'd told, punishments of a most agonizing and vicious sort where meted out to both sides.

"Fine, Selyan growled edging away from her "Have the blubbering bonehead to yourself."
"Yeah, have fun Yevi," Wilkes shot the last words as if they where a crowning insult, then bounded after his brothers.

Yvette turned around and sat next to Martin, who was still gasping for breath, his mouth hanging open loosely and his eyes staring panicked at nothing.
"Martin," she shook his shoulder "Sit up, Martin."
He squeezed his eyes shut and hugged his knees before whispering hoarsely "I don't want to."
"Oh," she tucked her lips in "Come on, you're alright."
With a quiet moan Martin slowly forced himself to sit upright, still clutching at his stomach.
Yvette plucked his hat out of the sand and brushed it clean before plopping it down on his head "Hey."
"Hey."
She clicked her tongue quietly and nodded "Not good."
"I lost half the catch. It's bad Yevi, really bad."
"I know," she swallowed hard, trying to banish the fear in her stomach as she unwillingly imagined what her father might do to Martin "But there's more fish in the sea. We'll make up for it next time."
"But I lost half the catch," Martin couldn't stress it enough to his sister "I missed the lines."
"I know, I was there, we'll make up for it. Don't worry."
"Don't worry?!? Father's going to kill me if I show a whisker inside!"
"He wo-" She broke off her own sentence "Well, maybe just stay outside for a while."
Martin stared down at his feet in abject despair "It doesn't matter, I'll have to come inside sometime and then I'm done for."
"Just wait," Yvette swallowed away a lump in her throat "He'll forget."
"He'll never forget."
Yvette looked at her brother who was curled with his knees to his chest, tears streaming down his face, and felt a pang of terror.
He was right. Father wouldn't forget and his punishment with be repeated, for days.
Or it might hurt Martin so much there'd never be a need for another punishment.

"What if we ran away?" He whispered "What if we ran far, far away where he could never find us?"
"What?"
He turned his head, a fatalistic look in his eye "He's going to kill me. He's going to kill all of us unless we leave."
"Don't be silly," she choked "Where would we go? The mines?"
"No... The navy."
"We're too young Martin, we can't run away. We'll starve. Or they'll catch us and bring us back. What would Father do then?"
He let out a weak sigh "You're right. When we're older."
"Maybe."
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Re: 20 One-Shot Challenge

Postby TheSongOfTheStars » Tue Feb 07, 2017 4:35 am

14- "I think I'm going to be sick"
776 words
The twigs beneath her feet crackled and snapped like dry sparrow bones, each crack like a spine being broken.

The air was still, every sound hanging on in the invisible layers and frozen by the skin curling dryness.
The night was cold.
So cold.

But not a flake of snow to hide the fallen sticks, not a blade of grass. Only a few dead and dried leaves shaking against the bare and knobby tree branches.

The sharp cliffs rose up into the sky, biting the moon as it rose overhead. The white light poured down like a heavy beam of accusation about her shoulders and Hagia could feel the burden of its sight weighed on her back.

Its beams probed against her shoulders, parting through her fur to press against the bones that where far too obvious.
Hamish whimpered in her arms, his stomach had shrunken against his ribcage and his sweet, innocent eyes had sunk into his head with a feverish glare that made her insides twist with nervous concern.
She knew little of caring for a child, but she was positive that she was doing something wrong.
She'd tried to keep him warm, tried to keep him as fed as she could, tried to keep him clean. But her own body was bruised and pushed beyond even the high limits a Sykan warrior set for themselves. Hunting was impossible for the streams were frozen thick and solid, an impenetrable shield between her and the fish she desperately needed and nothing grew in the stark, unforgiving winter.

She had to find a Tworan city.
Poverty and crime where rife in the streets, the strongest and cleverest won the game of life.
She had been trained to be strong, conditioned to be more intelligent than her enemies.
She would win.
For her son.

But her body needed rest, her muscles had been pulled and now were going limp.
She's passed the border days ago, but didn't dare to rest, lest they dare to go after her. Sleep had been rare as food and it was telling as she stumbled over loose stones, her grip loosening on Hamish's trembling form.

There was nowhere inviting to let herself collapse, the stark cold light painting an eerily sterile scene across the copse.
She wanted to simply fall over onto the stones where she stood, but she had to find a shelter of any sort, anything that would hold even a margin of her warmth.

A fallen tree, slanted parallel with the cold earth presented the best of the poor choices.
Hagia slipped her aching body beneath the rotting bark and into the freezing ground, careful to clutch Hamish away from the hard stones and scraping wood.
He was so small, so helpless. Entirely dependent on her for everything.
And she had the overwhelming desire to meet every need that the tiny life required. Not an obligation of annoyance, an obligation of...
Love.

Her entire life she'd been taught that love was one of "The Emotions of Hindrance" it held a warrior back from serving their country fully. It was like a creeping malady that they where cautioned against every moment. Especially when they took a mate. They where warned against attachments, for their mate was just as a warrior of Syka as they themselves.
It was easy to care little for someone that never was around, someone who only spent the required amount of time in the same space.
But though she was warned against any feelings for the children she would bear, that they where subject to the laws of Syka and belonged to the country not her, there wasn't a choice for the emotion.

It had become a part of her the second she held him in her arms, as natural as the sun and wind.
If it was an illness then it was worth leaving everything she ever knew behind, just to be sick.
And it was a choice. The first one she'd made for herself that mattered.
The first one she'd done of her own will, the only one that meant anything.

She gently nuzzled the tiny crippled paw.
"I think I'm going to be sick," she whispered "And I never want to be cured."

Hot tears began to fall down her face as something cracked open inside her. Raw emotion like she hadn't experienced since she had been a child came pouring out. It was a revelation and a relief to allow herself to feel, to be able to stop and breath. She'd lost every physical thing she'd ever worked for and gained a purpose beyond the slaughter her tradition had destined her for.



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20 One-Shot Challenge

Postby TheSongOfTheStars » Tue Feb 07, 2017 4:02 pm

15- "We had a deal!"
761 words
"Come back here!" Galvic snarled snatching after the tiny feet as they disappeared beneath the furniture "Give me that rock!"
There was only a naughty snigger in reply.

He tipped the chair over with a crash, only to find that the little badger had scurried off to another hiding spot.

"My rock."

"No it is not your rock," Galvic rumbled "Where are you?"

There was another giggle that came from beneath a pile of loose wood slats.
Why did he never clean?
He didn't need to clean. He needed that rock back.
Shoving away the slats he saw just a tail tip disappearing once again.

With one last mighty growl he threw over the desk and drug Donna up by the scruff of her neck, prying her fingers open to find them empty.
"Where is it you miserable scrap? What did you do?!?"

"I want Mummy!"

"She's dead you clueless thing! Now where is my rock?!?"

For a moment, the little girl stared at him blankly "Dead?"
"Dead and gone forever. My rock?"
Her ears tucked backwards "Where am I gonna go?"
"You stupid thing, as soon as you give me my rock I'm going to take you straight to the orphanage."
"No."
"It's not your choice, idiot. Give. Me. The. Rock."
"No. I wanna stay."
"You want WHAT?"
She squirmed in his grip "I wanna stay here. With you."
"You..." Galvic locked his jaw and slowly let Donna down "Alright. Listen. I'll make you a deal. You go get my rock and I'll let you stay."
"Forever?"
"Yes, forever."
"Okay. Deal."

She scuttled away and returned a few seconds later, the oval opal locked in her teeth.
Disgusted, Galvic wiped away the moisture from her lips.
"You gonna feed me now?"
"No. We're going to take a walk. Come on."
Setting the precious stone on a high shelf he yanked her up into his arms and stormed outside.
"Are we gonna go eat?"
"No."

She tugged against his grip, reaching towards a grubby stall vending cold puddles of soup "I want that."
"No you don't, stop squirming."
"But I'm hungry!"

"Listen, I'll get you food, but I need you to sit still somewhere, alright?"
"Oh, okay."
Stupid thing. So gullible.
It brought a taste of oily disgust to his tongue as she held still, believing him perfectly.

The thick walls of the orphanage loomed ahead of them, silent and foreboding in the shadows they cast.

"Stay here," he ordered setting her down on the step "I'll go get you something to eat."

"Okay. What are you gonna get?"
"I'll find something," he growled and pounded on the doors.
"I want leaves!"

"Alright!" he turned and all but ran towards the shadows of an alley "Leaves, really."

---
He had many orders of business to attend and an innocent little badger held no place in the dark matters.
As a consequence he had forgotten about his abandonment of her at the orphanage by the time he came striding into his home.
He was tired after a day of balancing legality with his own interests and at first didn't realize that the sun catcher had been pulled off small table and that several wood slat had been piled up beneath the shelf where the fire opal sat.
It was none of these small details that gave in the fact that his house wasn't totally empty.
It was the long trail of crumbs that caught beneath his claws that alerted him to the soft breathing emanating from the next room.

With a long rising rumble he threw open the door and Donna scrambled backwards, knocking over the dry bread loaf and dragging the broken suncatcher with her.

"What are you doing here?" He bellowed, too started to try and grab her.

"We had a deal!" She squeaked, staring up at him with indignant defiance "I can stay!"
"No! How did you get back here?!?"

"I walked," she said as if it was the simplest thing in the world "You didn't come back."

"Listen," he forced the anger to still and dropped to his knees "I don't want you here. You can't stay. You don't want to stay here."

"Yes I do!" she protested scuttling forwards to touch his paw "I like you."
He stared down at her, his eyes nearly falling out of his head.
"No," he yanked away from her touch "No. Believe me, you don't want to stay here. Go back to the orphanage. You can find a new 'mummy' and 'daddy'."

She laughed, stumbling against his knee "You can be the new daddy!"
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