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About Literature / Hobbyist Member Ian Chisholm26/Male/United States Group :icongrammarnazicritiques: GrammarNaziCritiques
Truth can be harsher in a Crit
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To have your pick of decadent treats means many are vying to be your sweet, a loathsome parade of chocolaty flair they pray you consume with utmost care, hopeful yet fearing of a soul laid bare. But when silence falls and you seek simpler fare walking cold streets you must truly beware the midnight crone giving taffy in the square that will block your throat from pulling in air so you gasp on the ground while she combs out her long pink rippling hair.

On a day of chocolate and souls laid bare
You walk midnight streets for simpler fare
The silent crone gives taffy in the square
Which blocks your throat from pulling in air
You gasp on the ground while she combs out her long pink rippling hair
Character - Valentines Witch
This is for the Holiday Horrors contest and it's about Valentines Day and being alone as midnight arrives. The contest allows two entries and I've got them both here, because I couldn't decide between making the piece a two sentence prose or a five line poem. Enjoy?
Shadows dart like living things in the dark tunnel. The walls are straight stone-masonry, with arch-struts along the sides to support the ceiling. Every few helms there is a torch bracket but no torch. The rough floor is covered by flat, irregular stones, with the space around them filled by gravel and cement. Water drips from the ceiling to form puddles in the few remaining cracks.

A lone human holding a blazing sword of light in his right hand waves the weapon back and forth, his eyes checking everything from under his coal black greasy hair. A scar rests on his cheek, the recent wound healed shut but left visible. He hums a slow dirge under his breath, and keeps his footsteps light on each stone. Another figure emerges from the dark behind him, also dressed in black.

Walking behind the man, Sorrow reaches a hand out toward his back but then stops, “Oh, it is you.” The human spins around, bringing his sword around to slice at Sorrow as the young man ducks below the attack. “Do not be alarmed.” Reaching out with his free hand the human pulls Sorrow up by his hair to reveal his neck and readies his sword for another slice, but Sorrow now holds a knife to the man's throat. Sorrow blinks, “I am still not trying to rob you.”

The human releases Sorrow and backs away from his knife with a grunt, “You're that street puke. What are you, following me?”

Sorrow shakes his head, “I have been tasked with retrieving a key. I now request to know what you are doing here.” He waves his black knife in the man's direction.

“A key? Well yeah, that, same as you.” The human shrugs and points a thumb down the tunnel, “And I'm betting there's some decent treasure too. I was warned of danger.” He grins, “Danger means treasure in my business.”

“The Count did warn of traps and riddles.” Sorrow lowers his hand holding the knife and stows the blade in his chest bandolier, “I thought I would be the only one, but that was only an assumption. And Second Father has said there is safety in numbers, so I will join with you on this mission.”

The human grimaces and looks away, “Fine. I get first pick of the treasure though. I need it more than you do, to support my wife and kids.” He gestures for Sorrow to come closer, “And walk beside me or something. I don't need you creeping around behind and scaring the Light out of me. It ain't good for my nerves.”

“I will go beside you then.” Sorrow continues walking, and the human matches his pace. Sorrow turns and extends a hand. “Apology, but I did not introduce myself. My name is Sorrow.”

The human nods and shakes his hand, “Zander. I'm only telling you since we're working together, otherwise I wouldn't.” He grunts, “So you have much experience with treasure hunting kid?”

“A little,” Sorrow admits. His eyes are turned straight ahead, piercing the darkness. “An ancient tomb, where Second Father found some wine he had been looking for. A literal treasure hunt, on the rumor of pirate gold. And the Old Round challenge, though we did not win anything.” Sorrow blinks, “Second Father is training me in the general forms of combat, much of which may apply Mister Zander.”

“Not bad.” Zander points to his scarred cheek, “I kept this scar after that scuffle in the street. Its not every day that someone nearly kills me.” He chuckles, “Damn, and I really did think I killed you kid.”

“You almost did, but a passersby was able to help Mister Zander.” Sorrow takes a balanced knife from his bandolier and flips it up in the air, catching the weapon by the hilt when it comes back down.

“Lucky you.” Zander watches the knife as Sorrow throws it up again. “Look, I have to ask. You're not thinking of getting me back, right?” His eyes focus on Sorrow's face, which remains calm.

“I am not Mister Zander. I checked my belongings later and found nothing stolen, so I realized that our fight was over a mistake.” The knife flips up and is caught. “And it is not my right to kill. Only the Damned God may decide the time and place of a physical body's end.”

Zander breathes out with a grin, “Good, all right then. I didn't find anything missing either.” He turns his attention back to the tunnel ahead, “And you can stop calling me Mister. I ain't some highborn looking to be fawned over.”

“First Father told me to always be respectful when speaking to others, but Second Father is able to speak in an easygoing manner. I request to know which is proper, please.”

“It's like I said kid, go ahead and use your proper manners when talking to some highborn because that's what he expects. But between regular guys like us, just a name is fine.” Zander glances over at Sorrow, “How many fathers do you got kid?”

“Only the three.” Sorrow pauses, looking up at the ceiling. “I understand that most people only have one father, but that is not true when one is adopted.”

Zander shrugs, “Okay, I gotcha. I was raised by an uncle after my dad died. I wouldn't have called him father though. The guy was a right bastard.”

Sorrow blinks and turns to Zander, “I do not understand Zander. I request to know what his being born out of wedlock has to do with you not calling him father, please.”

“Never mind kid, never mind.” Zander shakes his head with a low chuckle. Sorrow blinks again and then returns his gaze to the darkness.

The tunnel is smaller when the two reach the mouth of a wide room. Large crystals grow from the ceiling, each glowing a different warm color to give the room a clear-hued illumination. Sorrow walks in but stops after a few steps, looking down at the ground, as Zander checks out the room from the mouth of the tunnel. The light from the human's sword and from the crystals above reveal four long rows of five-helm floor tiles stretching from wall to wall. Each square tile is emblazoned with a single alphabet letter also lit from within, but very dim. On the other side of the rows is the tunnel again, as dark as the previous section.

In front of the rows of letters is an obelisk, three helms high and with a flat top. Chiseled in to the surface is a message, “The dumb Count hired us to make these stupid traps to guard his idiotic key at the end of this lame Trial. The first brainless trap - designed of course by the addle-brained Count - has an inane riddle that any ignorant child could figure out, but anyway here is your moronic clue: What Else Always Leads To Happiness. There, now you have his vacuous clue, go solve this hebetudinous puzzle. I swear these get more interesting, mostly because he let us do the rest how we like.”

Sorrow points at the message and Zander approaches to read it. After a moment he turns to Sorrow, “Okay, the answer is gold. The Count loves gold.” Sorrow nods and turns to check the tiles, where a large G is among those on this side of the tile rows, and from there a few more tiles spell out O, L and D in a straight route that crosses to the other side. Zander laughs, “Easy.”

“Wait please.” Sorrow places a hand on the human's shoulder before he can step on to the first tile. Zander stops with a frown, but watches as Sorrow crouches down beside the G. Running his fingers across the surface, Sorrow pulls back a spear-sized hatch. He looks up at Zander, “This one is trapped. I do not think gold is the correct answer.”

Zander crouches down as well and starts checking the other tiles in the first row. After reaching the wall he looks over at Sorrow, “They all are. Must be a trap where they all activate if a wrong pressure plate is stepped on, so you don't know where the path is even after seeing someone else get it.” He sighs, “Sorry kid, but the answer could still be gold.”

“We will need to test it.” Sorrow gestures for Zander to step back. When the human is away from the tiles, Sorrow places one foot on the G tile and presses down. With a rustle of wood against stone, every tile in the room spits up a handful of metal spikes, and the G tile glows a bright red color. Sorrow's foot is between two of the spikes, and as he pulls his leg back they return to their holes. The young man turns to Zander and nods, “The answer is not gold.”

“You saved my ass kid.” Zander exhales the breath he was holding and nods, “Okay, so what – what are you doing?!”

Sorrow steps out over the tiles and places his foot down again, a little between two plates. The harsh red light appears on both tiles and every spike shoots up again, but Sorrow is standing between the holes as he brings the rest of his slim frame forward and extends his leading foot again. “The riddle says what else makes one happy. That would mean there is something which first makes one happy, and also something else which is the answer here.” Sorrow makes his way across the tiles, with the spikes firing and the letters glowing with each shift of his weight, but he avoids them all. “The Count likes gold, and perhaps also appreciates acrobatics or fitness.” He reaches the other side and dusts himself off.

“Nice try kid, but the clue said trial and not all of us have the body of a twelve-year-old anymore. Anyone should be able to get through these, even a fat lug.” With a short sigh Zander returns to the obelisk and reads the message again. He soon grins, “Wait, I've got this figured now.” Walking the length of the row, he spies a W tile in the second row. Without waiting he leaps out toward the tile and lands poised on one foot. The plate glows green and Zander grins, “The answer is wealth. It's right there in the clue.” The adjacent tile in the same row is an E and he walks to it, his smile growing bigger as the green light again rewards him. The tile behind him stays green even after he steps off.

With a nod Sorrow begins looking around the room. His eyes stop when they survey the ceiling, and Sorrow calls out, “Zander, you may wish to hurry. There is - .” Something large and forest green drops down from the ceiling and lands with a splat on an O tile, turning it red. “A death blob.” Every tile but the two green ones activate, leaving Zander now surrounded by a forest of the metal tips. The amorphous mass shifts through them like an avalanche as Zander readies his weapon.

Pulling out his twin kama Sorrow begins threading through the spikes toward Zander. The blob reaches the human first and extends a pseudopod to swat Zander, but he retreats toward the edge of the E tile and slashes with his sword of light. The pseudopod opens for the sword, but then closes around it like a hand clamping shut. The sword's light dims, and Zander pulls it back.

“That variety of blob feeds on light Zander.” Sorrow pulls himself through the last few spikes and slashes both kama against the blob's side. Green ooze splashes out from the cuts, but the wounds have healed before the gooey substance can finish draining down through the holes in the floor. “And this green one is being drawn to the green light of your tile.”

“Figures.” Zander switches his sword of light to his other hand and pulls out a small wooden mace from his pocket. He slams the head against the blob's top, causing its body to quiver and shake. The blob advances toward him, forcing him back against the spike wall as it extends pseudopods in every direction to pummel Sorrow and Zander. They both put up their arms to block the attacks, taking the hits on their armor. “Still, don't you know what will happen to a blob if you use a cutting weapon kid?” Sorrow leaps up and over the blob, dragging his kama across its back and leaving large gashes that open up and grow wider. With a loud plop the blob splits in half, and now the two smaller blobs start advancing on the two separately. “That.”

“I am aware.” Sorrow slashes at his blob's front, giving the creature several more oozing cuts and causing it to rear backwards. “But with each separation a death blob will become less coordinated and easier to fight.” He plants the tips of his kama in its top and pulls in opposite directions, splitting the blob again into even smaller parts. The mini-blobs swerve off from the fight to head for the walls. “Now they will not bother anyone until they have fed and recombined.”

“That's neat and all, but I'd rather you killed it kid.” Zander pounds his blob again, and the quivering mass splashes into a puddle at his feet. Tiny pseudopods reach up for a moment, then flop down as the puddle drains away. The human holds his dripping mace up for Sorrow to see, “And that's why you carry a backup weapon. You never know when one won't cut it.” As the spikes around him drop down into their hidden holes, Zander laughs.

Watching the human swagger over to the A tile, Sorrow blinks. “Oh.” Zander must do another short hop to reach the L tile. “That was humor.” The human nods as he steps to the T tile. “My apology, I do not always notice the use of humor.”

Zander stomps on the H tile, and a long line of crystals light up the tunnel leading forward. The human struts over to stand beside Sorrow, “Humor? Humor is easy kid. If it hurts the other guy more than it hurts you, that's funny.” He gestures for Sorrow to follow him and starts down the tunnel, “Come on kid, I'm on a roll.” After blinking once, Sorrow nods.

A tiny golden key hangs suspended by nothing in the middle of this cube-shaped room. Two steel doors stand at opposite sides, roughly fifteen helms apart, one with three different-sized keyholes across the center. The walls are otherwise smooth stone on all sides, unmarred by seam or design except for a ring of protruding gargoyle heads near the ceiling. There are three heads on each wall. Each has an open, dark hole for a mouth. Each brightens the room with its glowing eyes, bringing the illumination to a daytime indoors level.

The steel door without keyholes pops out and slides away. Sorrow and Zander peer in, and upon seeing the room stand together in the doorway. Sorrow is carrying his broken bandolier of knives in one hand, he holds a knife ready in his other, and something has singed off the hair on the right side of his face including his eyebrows. Zander is covered in bruises, holds a crimson-dyed buckler in one hand and his sword of light in the other, and he is missing his left boot.

The human grunts and points at the golden key, “Too obvious. I bet touching that starts the trap.”

“Agreed Zander.” Sorrow pokes his head through the doorway to look around but keeps his feet outside, “The heads are suspicious as well. They are too high for a person to reach inside the mouth. Something may come out of them.”

Zander sighs, “I hope the trap designers don't repeat themselves. I don't have any more air potions for a gas room.”

“It could be a crushing room again. That was not too difficult.” Sorrow pats the steel door, “This looks ready to slide in and keep us from escaping.”

“I lost a boot in that shitty room!” Zander huffs, then smirks and points at Sorrow, “That flame spirit in the last one singed an eyebrow along with your hair. You look hilarious kid.”

“Ah, that makes sense.” Sorrow nods and continues searching the room. “I was burned and you were not, thus I am funny to you.” After a moment he turns to Zander, “I do not perceive any other clues to this trap. Perhaps this is the final room and that is the key we came for.”

“Eh, but check out the door kid.” Zander points across the room, “Three keyholes. Did you see two other keys in there?” Sorrow shakes his head, and Zander digs through a pocket. “I bet there's magic. But I've got something for magic. Check this out!” He holds up a thin disk of clear yellow glass. “The guy I got this from says it comes out of a tree, then they cut it to look like this. And it holds one special enchantment really well.”

“It is amber Zander.” Sorrow stares at the disk, “Father's friend showed me one. He said when enchanted it would allow even an untrained person to see the auras of magic.”

Zander laughs, “You know your stuff kid.” Holding the disk up to his eye, he checks the room again. “Let's see … magic holding up the key, and something will happen if you take it. Magic to close and seal the doors up tight, but release them if you do something. Magic on the gargoyle mouths to summon something, and magic on their eyes for light. The floor and walls are normal, and – what?” He squints at something across the room, then steps through the door.

Walking in his footsteps, Sorrow follows Zander as he takes a wide path around the center of the room and stops in front of the closed door. After stowing his sword of light, the human reaches up and places his hand against the wall above the door's frame; his hand sinks into the stone like passing through smoke, and emerges after a moment of searching around with a large copper key.

“See that kid?” Zander points up at the space with his sword of light, “Illusion magic. There's actually a little space up there.”

Sorrow turns around and goes back to the door they entered from. Reaching up above the door he finds another false wall, and a small silver key inside. “Here too Zander. We have discovered the two other keys.”

“Gold and silver and copper keys.” Zander looks down at the oversized key in his hand and frowns, “I could swear I've heard something like that somewhere.”

“They are the three common metals for geld, that is all I know.” Returning to Zander with his key, Sorrow gestures to the closed door. “We should put them in Zander.”

“Yeah, sure kid.” The copper key goes in the largest keyhole, and Sorrow places the silver key in the hole next to it. The keys sink in and stick halfway through the door. The two men turn to face the golden key. “Well kid, that's all that's left. We grab that key and whatever this trap is will activate, but when you put it in the keyhole the trap should stop. In those moments, anything could happen.” Zander takes a quick breath and looks at Sorrow, “You do it kid.”

“Okay.” Sorrow returns the knife in his hand to its place up his sleeve, then walks over and reaches in to the floating key's space. The open steel door clamps shut, the room goes dark and the sound of rushing water can be heard as Zander shouts.

On the other side of the steel door a crystal key pops out from a keyhole. Several seconds afterward the door opens and a wave of turquoise water issues forth. Sorrow and Zander step through, drenched from head to toe.

“I hate this whole shitty trial kid.”

Sorrow blinks water from his eyes, “I suppose my burns will be soothed now.”
High War - Chapter 16.2

I just want to say that the spike trap puzzle room was of my own invention, but the three keys water chamber was based on one I found somewhere. I'm pointing that out because in the game my friends had to struggle a bit with the spike room and the slime creature, but they breezed through the water chamber without even getting wet. And there was a swinging scythe room, but the most dangerous thing in there was a monster I added, a floating skull that shot fire. I guess my point is this: to make traps dangerous, don't allow the players to know the trap is coming and then add a monster or two. Or in other words, prepare ways to foil their careful planning and keep them on their toes.

This is a part of my High War project, a story about people in a D&D-inspired world that I have tried very hard to make my own. I really don't want to step on anyone's copyright toes here, which to some degree is not easy at all. I have no idea where the background of my preview image comes from, as far as I know it came from a free image site; if you know otherwise then please tell me so I can take it down, although I would be happier to use it with the permission of its creator. This will be a story for somewhat mature audiences, there will be occasional violence, language and adult themes. Thanks for understanding, and if you don't then I would be happy to discuss with you my thoughts on the issue.


Next: soon ...

Mature Content Filter is On
(Contains: nudity and sexual themes)
Hannah goes to her father, “Good evening father.”

Hannah's father looks up from the paper, “Good evening Hannah. Where have you been?”

“With Greg.”

“Did you give him anything?”

Hannah sighs, her eyes rolling, “God father, you're so old fashioned and backwards. Girls these days don't give boys anything until he buys a ring and sets the date.”

“Very clever girl. And what did Greg give you today?”

“He gave me roses and chocolate, bought me lunch at a four star restaurant, took me to a show and bought me popcorn and soda, then came home with me.”

“No more gifts of goats and cows?” Hannah's father sighs and turns away to look out at the yard. “I was hoping for a breeding pair. You bring him in here and I'll tell that boy,” he stops and looks around, “Wait, where is Greg then?”

“I brought him by a rope around his neck and tied him up in the barn, as you said I should have done with the bull he gave me the other day.”

“That was for the bull Hannah. You must treat boys better than bulls, especially the son of a well-to-do farmer with animals to spare. He will run away and find another Hannah if you treat him so.”

Hannah sighs, her eyes rolling, “God father, you're so old fashioned and backwards. Girls these days treat boys any way we want. He'll forgive me or I'll break off the engagement.”

“Very clever girl. Still, you should untie Greg.”

Hannah sighs, her eyes rolling, but goes out to the barn. Greg is tied to the back wall, stripped to his underwear. A rope going from his neck to his hands to his feet bind them close, bending him backwards. More ropes are looped around his shoulders and chest and legs to cut off his circulation. He strains against them, the coarse barn rope almost cutting into his skin. His tongue hangs out as he gasps for air on the ground.

Hannah looks down at him, “I'll untie you now.”

Greg looks up at her, tears in his eyes, “You said we could finally do it like this! Did I do something wrong? Are you breaking up with me? Come on baby, give me another chance.”

Hannah bats her eyelashes at Greg, “Another chance? Okay, but take me out next Saturday.” She unties Greg and sends him on his way. She then goes to her father, “Good evening again father.”

“And again to you Hannah. Where have you been?”

“With Greg.”

“Did you give him anything?”

“I gave him nothing. And yes, the engagement is still on.”

Hannah's father nods and goes back to his paper, “Very clever girl.”
Character - Very Clever Girl
I appreciate that some people may not like this short piece, and I appreciate that some people may like it very much for reasons I don't understand, but for me it's just hilarious. If you'd like to see the joke, try reading this first:…

And please, go take part in this fun challenge:
A bell noise above the door chimes as Zack walks through the sliding glass doors. The small store is empty of customers, perhaps due to the utter utilitarian nature of the wares being offered. Pokeballs and Potions of many types are displayed in glass cases, the latter with a big sign reading Sale! near the most basic version. Zack takes a card from a dispenser by the door and begins to browse, Slakoth and Kinder following behind him.

Behind the counter, the shopkeeper's head swivels around from staring out the window and the eyes light up, “Greetings customer! Is this your first visit to my Pokemart?”

“No Mister Shopkeeper.” Zack smiles, “I mean yes, but I don't need to hear the explanation. Your Pokemart is exactly like the one in Vitalian.”

“No answer received. Please enjoy your shopping experience repeat customer.” The shopkeeper's arm swivels up to point at the Potions rack, “Next item of conversation. Today we have a sale on Potions. They are nine-point-nine percent off, I suggest you buy some when they are this low.”

Zack nods, “Thanks Mister Shopkeeper, maybe I - .”

“Next item of conversation. Alert!” The Shopkeeper's eyes flash red and its arm swivels back and forth in the air, “There are Pokemon out of their ball inside the store.” Slakoth and Kinder look at each other, and Zack's eyes go wide. “Please return all Pokemon to their ball, for the ease of other customers shopping.”

Zack bites his lip, “Ummm … list exceptions Mister Shopkeeper.”

“List exceptions command received.” The shopkeeper's eyes glow their normal warm light again and the arm drops to its side. “One, Pokemon is necessary to shopping of Trainer. Two, Pokemon does not have a ball or refuses to enter its ball and could not be left outside. Three, apocalyptic scenario. Four, malfunction of Mister Shopkeeper sensors.”

“Exception number two Mister Shopkeeper, thanks!” Slakoth pats Kinder on the shoulder, and Zack breathes out a sigh before looking up, “Wait, what was number three?”

“Exception number two answer received. Please accept a discount on your purchase of one Pokeball when you ring up. Thank you for your help.” The shopkeeper's arm swivels to a small tray beside the register filled with lottery scratch cards, “Final item of conversation. Would you like a chance to win a ticket to the much anticipated Game? Odds are one to five, all prizes are non-refundable.”

Zack stands straighter, “Win? I wanna win!” He walks over to the register and puts both hands on the counter, “Oookay Mister Shopkeeper, tell me how I can win!”

“Agreement answer received. Right this way customer.” The arm bobs up and down, drawing Zack's attention again to the tray of cards, “Please scratch off one card to see if you have won. After scratching, deposit card in reader slot.”

Taking a card from the tray, Zack drops it into a small slot in the counter without scratching. He grins, “Did I win Mister Shopkeeper?”

The shopkeeper's eyes go dim for a moment, and then return with an even bigger glow than before, “Congratulations customer! You have won a ticket to the Game! Please accept your winnings.” A small door in the counter opens, revealing a space where another shiny ticket for the Game is waiting for Zack to grab. He inspects the ticket before placing it in his backpack. “Customer, please note. If you would like more tickets to the much anticipated Game for your friends or family, you may purchase them for the listed price. Please ask your Mister Shopkeeper for this special item by name.”

“Thanks Mister Shopkeeper.” Zack returns to looking through the glass cases. He whispers, “Now, how did Cody do it?” He taps on the glass case, and a calculator keypad of green light appears under his fingers. “Oh, awesome!”

In the Pokecenter, several Trainers are crowded around someone playing an arcade game. The light-gun style controller is attached to the cabinet by a heavy cord but looks like an old-fashioned camera with a telescopic lens. Two buttons on the cabinet's front allow the player to fire food pellets or rocks in the direction they point the camera, but the main feature of the game seems to be taking pictures of the various Pokemon that appear on screen. The gameplay moves along rails, as if the player is riding atop a train through the game's world.

A young desk attendant watches the crowd around the cabinet out of the corner of her eye, while leafing through a magazine and chewing bubblegum. Another Trainer in overalls and wearing a combination straw hat baseball cap is inching her Weedle toward the RoBoJo's direct healing wand, both human and Pokemon tense with a grimace and one eye shut. And in the back of the room, a privacy curtain is pulled around a small telescreen booth.

On the screen is the Trainer that Rae said was her brother. He is leaning against the trunk of a tree, and occasionally a Shiftry or a Gengar pop into view from off-screen, making faces or rude gestures behind the Trainer's head. Rae stands in front of the telescreen's keyboard, typing something in silence that the Trainer reads on his end.

The Trainer sighs, “I know. But I can't ask these four to do everything. I'm going to need you back at some point Regola.” The girl in the rainbow-scale dress types again, her fingers flying across the keys, but the Trainer shakes his head. “We're not talking about one tournament here. And the fact is, you're going to lose your edge if you - .” Rae types, and when she is done the Trainer looks away. “I've been looking in to it, but something is making it difficult. Maybe I don't want to move on yet.” He shrugs and points at her through the screen, “And my point remains, I need some way to contact you. If you're going to be staying with those guys, I need one of their numbers.”

A door-chime rings and Rae turns around to peer out through the curtain. Cid and Clay are standing just inside the sliding doors of the Pokecenter, as Cid points Clay toward the desk attendant. Rae spins back to the telescreen keyboard and types something very fast. The Trainer nods, “Good, I'll wait. And I remember. Just go.” He remains onscreen as she leaves the booth without ending the call.

Rae and Cid's eyes meet. Cid shouts, “Ha!” and throws off her cloak in a flourish. “Did you actually believe you could escape the wrath of Demon Trainer Cid?”

“Not at all!” Rae points a stern finger at Cid, “It is you who has fallen into my trap today!” Several Trainers in the room have turned to watch the brewing commotion, including Clay on his way to the front desk. Cid's eyes widen and her jaw drops, but Rae continues. “Accept defeat Demon Trainer Cid or I, World Savior Regola, swear you will fall this day!”

Cid almost stumbles over the word, “Ne- Ne-! Never!” She throws up her arms and makes claws of her fingers to menace Rae from afar. “You have angered the ultimate evil beyond all hope of appeasement with your actions! I demand my grim satisfaction!”

“Then ultimate evil will face ultimate good and be purified.” Rae flexes her arms and then punches the air several times, “Demon Trainer Cid will no longer exist in this world. She will be reborn!”

For a moment Cid smiles. Her wide-eyed, slack-jawed expression becomes a cheek-tightening grin that displays every one of her teeth, as her nostrils expand to bring in more air and her pupils widen to take in every detail of her opponent. Swinging her arms to the side and bending her elbows she charges at Rae, her hands reaching out to grasp the other girl. Rae's hands intercept hers and the two lock fingers, but then Rae lifts and bends backward. Cid is flung up and over her to slam against the ground with a gasp from everyone in the room.

The desk attendant reaches for her phone but Clay puts his hand on hers with a smile, “They're just kids having some fun ma'am. Didn't ya ever tussle a bit with siblings an close friends?” The woman shakes her head and points toward the people who were around the arcade cabinet, most of whom have moved closer to the fight.

“They're gathering a crowd. I have to call before one of them gets hurt.” She shakes off Clay's hand and picks up the phone receiver, but doesn't dial anything yet; she watches, along with everyone else.

After coming out of her momentary daze, Cid rolls to her side and stands. She ducks away as Rae stomps toward her, roaring like a child pretending to be a ferocious Dragon-type. Cid squares her shoulders and struts toward Rae, twisting her whole upper body to throw an arm like a demolition truck wielding a wreaking ball. In response Rae brings her arms up to guard her face from the flailing strike and then catches Cid's arm with her hand that wasn't used to block. She twirls and drags Cid around in a full circle, letting her go when there is enough momentum to throw Cid several feet away. Several people in the crowd laugh.

“See?” Clay chuckles. He leans against the receptionist's desk and crosses his arms. “Those two are just fooling around I reckon, letting off some steam. I'll talk ta them after about finding a better place next time. Now if ya could point me ta where I can charge ma Styler ma'am, that'd be mighty kind a ya.” The receptionist doesn't move and her finger remains hovering over the desk phone.
The vast cavern is dark, even with the few beads of light scattered across the walls and ceiling like faint stars. The shadows of people merge together as the citizens of Goldenburg gather in large groups, whispering and looking about at the natural-hewn rock walls. At the edges of the open area the stalagmites grow like the teeth of an encircling beast, while the few candles and torches held by the many people cause those shadows to flicker and dance. Those wearing silver and gold robes stand near those wearing similar rich designs, while the citizens in work clothes and old worn fabric have clustered together in their own groups and circles, but all are united under a pall of fear and uncertainty.

Roughly circular in shape, the cavern has three apparent entrances along the sides. Through the first streams a river of people still filling the cave, and a quarter turn to the left is a giant door, the frame golden and covered in glass of different colors gleaming with some internal light source. The face of the door is some kind of black material that pulls in the light around, like looking into the vastness of space itself, and all across that surface is perhaps a hundred goldfish-sized keyholes that swim and dart about. Children crowd around, but the adults avoid looking at the door.

Three giant crates sit another quarter turn to the left, each as large as three orcs standing on shoulders, with a few people poking at them. And one more quarter turn to the left of that is a dark archway leading to a dim tunnel. Liveried butlers and castle guards stand in a wide half-circle, warding away curious citizens, but just in front of the tunnel mouth stands the Count, the Forge Master, the Drunk and Sorrow.

Throwing his hands wide toward the tunnel, the Count smiles, “And so you face the Gauntlet! At its end awaits the final key to our escape, protected by traps and riddles to test your strength and will! Each was designed by a different person and constructed by the greatest trap maker I could hire!” He pats the Drunk and Sorrow on their backs, “Go forth and bring back our salvation!”

Sorrow tilts his head to the side, his black eyes focused on the dark tunnel, as the Drunk coughs before asking, “Lad, are ya serious?” The Forge Master sighs and covers his face with a calloused palm, but the Count smiles and nods. “The key to that fancy black door is behind a mess of booby traps and puzzles? And ya want me and my boy to retrieve it?”

“Do not make unnecessary requests Father.” Sorrow takes a soot black knife from his sleeve and points the tip at the tunnel, “I will solve the riddles and you will use your strength. This will be like the time we took the Old Round challenge, and I do not think any goblins could be living this deep.”

The Count grins and rubs his hands together, “Ah, but what would a trial be without monsters?”

“That's not the point lads!” The Drunk sighs and crosses his arms, standing firm, “This is your escape tunnel, and yet it can nae be used to escape? Are ya daft?”

The Forge Master nods and looks up at the Count, “I told you people would think it stupid old friend. Perhaps we should wait in the antechamber for whatever will happen above. We have our supplies, we can hold for quite some time, and then go back out with weapons ready.”

The Count's smile droops and he looks at his feet, “But it's a secret escape tunnel. It has to have a Gauntlet, to test the worthiness of the people using it.” He looks over at the Drunk, “I mean, just consider if some thief entered the castle and then tried to escape through here. We would find them stuck in the Gauntlet, undoubtedly!”

“The way ya had this place hid lad, I doubt a thief could find it,” counters the Drunk.

“So you refuse?” Sudo steps up behind the Drunk, whose shoulders bunch up for a moment as his hands clench into fists. Sudo glances to the Count, “Perhaps the fabled old man is feeling his age. I will find my tunnel crawler and the old man can return to the surface to do as hired.”

The Drunk grumbles, “I never say I wouldn't do the thing lad, I said it's daft!” He turns and brushes past Sudo, storming away toward the black door, “Daft and unnecessary. I'll open your fancy door me own way.”

Following behind him the Forge Master chuckles, “This I have to see.” He glances up as the Count matches his pace, “Should I tell him old friend?”

The Count sighs, “If he can break the door we'll recoup a little from the shards. We spent so much time on the Gauntlet though, I wanted someone to go through it.”

“Is that a no on sending my tunnel crawler sir,” asks Sudo, stalking two steps behind the Count with his hands held behind his back.

“Thank you Sudo, but we can wait a little longer.” His eyes on the Drunk's back, the Count grins. “Perhaps the old man will do it. And it shouldn't hurt to allow more citizens to arrive before we move on.” Sudo sighs and nods.

Sorrow stays behind as they walk away, the black dagger still in his hands and pointed at the Gauntlet's entrance. A soft wind drifts out, flowing around him and rustling his clothes and short ashen hair. With the half circle of butlers and guards looking outward and the citizens all grouped farther away, no one is looking as he slips through the tunnel archway.

Standing before the void-black door, the Drunk looks up with his arms crossed. His gaze darts across the surface to follow a few of the moving keyholes in turn, then he blinks and focuses on the door face itself. There are no cracks or seams in the material, and up close the door looks to be made of a single block of opaque glass in which all light that attempts to pass through is absorbed and trapped forever. The children that were crowded around the door now stand back with the Count and his retinue.

The Forge Master calls out to the Drunk, “Need a clue do you? I'll tell you I made it myself, with the help of three wizards and their respective students.”

The Drunk reaches out toward the door, “Three ya say?” His hand brushes near one of the moving keyholes, which darts away to avoid his grasp. The Drunk smiles and moves his hand faster than the keyhole, but when he smacks his palm against the spot there is a small ripple and then an electric shock that pushes his hand away. The keyhole vanishes, reappearing elsewhere on the door as the other keyholes dash away from the spot. “Aye, now I see all three. The repeller is nae obvious.” The Count spreads his arms wide to nudge the children back, the Forge Master frowns and crosses his arms, and Sudo moves to stand in front of the Count with a silverware spoon in each hand.

The Drunk lifts his shawl of furs up over his head and tosses the garment aside, leaving only the old breeches to cover himself. Aside from his messy mop of hair and torn knee-length pants, he looks like the marble statue of a god carved by someone with only the faintest grasp on reality. The muscles in his arms and shoulders and back and waist and legs all flex as one when he holds out an open palm toward the door. He doesn't seem to have anything but muscles covering his compact frame. As each finger of his hand closes one by one into a fist, a sound like boulders crunching can be heard.

“Three strikes.” The Drunk pulls back his arm and squares off against the door, his eyes closed. “If three can nae do it, I'll go as ya suggested.” And without seeming to move his fist is planted against the door. The whoosh of displaced air is heard like a typhoon in a bottle, and then the electric field across the door pulls inward to the point of impact just after a ripple of black roils outward. The free-swimming keyholes scatter to the edges of the door, and the Drunk grunts with a whisper, “Not bad.” His arm holds steady but his whole body is pushed several helms backwards as his bare toes dig in to the rock floor. The door's black face is soon calm again, but the electric field buzzes with energy and remains that way for several breaths before fading.

People are beginning to watch in the crowd behind. A few butlers guard the Count's back, silverware forks in their hands, but the gathering citizens have spread out to all get a good view. Rich or poor, beggar or lord, they all have their eyes glued to the Drunk's back. The Count glances down to the Forge Master, “Would you bet with or against him old friend?”

“Against him old friend, of course. I know better than any what that door can withstand.” The Forge Master grunts and adds, “Now if it didn't have all that magic augmenting it, maybe he could. Why did you have me enhance the door so much anyway?”

Standing close to the door again, the Drunk pulls back his fist. He stamps his feet against the ground, forming two indents in the rock for his feet to brace against, and then he opens his eyes. They shine with a blazing golden light, like pools reflecting the sun, or perhaps they are twin suns themselves. And again, faster than the eye can follow, the flat of his fist is against the door.

Another rush of air, and this time accompanied by a heart-rattling boom and a shock-wave of compressed air originating somewhere between where his fist was and where it now rests. The door's surface ripples like a black lake after throwing in a stone, the many keyholes disappearing altogether, and the repellent field buzzes with the sound of vicious bees against his fist. Flashes of lightning arc across the skin of his arm, spiking through and burning the flesh, but each wound disappears as quick as it formed. The Drunk gives a small, rueful smile as he is lifted upwards by the energy and thrown backwards, tumbling through the air with his arms and legs flailing, straight at the wide-eyed Count.

Sudo spreads ten spoons in a fan shape and meets the Drunk with their combined surface. For the tiniest moment the Drunk seems to be frozen in motion, one shoulder pressed against the spoons, but then Sudo changes the spoon's angle and the Drunk continues on, his trajectory altered enough to fly over the heads of the stunned crowd. He crosses the entire room and hits the opposite wall ten or so helms to the right of the Gauntlet's archway and close to the ceiling, compacting the rock and leaving a crater in the shape of his body as he falls to the ground. Sudo drops to one knee, breathing heavy as the bent spoons clatter to the ground.

With a dry chuckle the Count replies, “Same as the Gauntlet old friend, to see if I could. There are a wealthy few who would pay handsomely for the design specs of a perfect door.”

“Perfect?” The Forge Master snorts as he turns around to look in the direction the Drunk flew, “There isn't anything perfect in this world.”

A snarl from across the room becomes a growing howl, and Sudo stands with a wobble and a grimace, “Sir.” He places a hand on the Count's shoulder and speaks in a low, urgent tone, “You must get yourself and the people to the room's edges. The Monster has awoken.”

The Count winces and places a hand inside the pocket of his coat, pulling out something like the cross between a large bubble wand and a small butterfly net. Holding the circle to his mouth he speaks to the crowd, his voice booming loud, “Please move to the edges of the room. Everyone, please move to the edges of the cave. Please now, quickly, to the edges of the cave.”

“Now wait, who?” The Forge Master helps Sudo to walk as they follow the Count. “Who is the Monster?” The citizens are all scattering to various places along the cave's sides as directed. They spread out and walk with urgency, though many look puzzled or confused as they glance in different directions.

“The old man's berserk side.” Sudo sighs and looks out at the citizens, “A separate personality that seems to relish fear and destruction. This is very unfortunate. We must find a healer.”

The Forge Master's eyebrow raises, “You were hurt?”

Sudo shakes his head, “To pacify the Monster.”

People are thrown aside like rag-dolls as the Monster charges heedless through them, nostrils flaring wide and teeth clenched. He sprints across the cave, bounding back towards the black door in a zigzagging line, stones and rocks flung up in the wake of his pounding feet. Two of the castle butlers stand in his path and ready their long-tine forks and butter knives, but the Monster vanishes and reappears behind them still running. The butlers fall away, the sides of their livery scattering in a twin bloom of black shredded fabric.

He throws himself against the tall black door, starting with a bent-knee kick and then following up with punches and scratches and more kicks that rain against the door even as he remains airborne. Black ripples spread and clash, one for each strike and sometimes appearing even when no strike could be seen. The repellent field follows each strike, lightning energy forcing his fists and feet back as the Monster flurries against the door, but the Monster seems to be getting faster with each blow and the energy slower. His feet land against the ground with a thud, his back arches and his head drops down as he pours everything he has against the door. The ripples come faster, pressing the keyholes against the door's sides, as the Monster's arms become a blur.

The Forge Master watches from afar, leaning against a stalagmite, “Damn. Is this Monster stronger than the old man normally?”

Sudo laughs, “No. Thankfully.” He sits cross-legged on the ground, pulling his wooden stump in, “But only from lack of focus. The Monster is more vicious, more reckless and perhaps more dangerous.” Several butlers step from the shadows around and he gives a terse command, “Find a skilled healer among the citizens.” The butlers are gone even before the Forge Master turns his head to look. Sudo smiles at him, “Now we wait and see how long your door lasts.”

The lightning sparks and crackles in a tempest that covers the entire door. Red cracks appear in the energy field, a spiderweb of lines that grow wider and more complex. The Monster grunts as it digs blistered fingers in and pulls back, peeling the magic off like a wet coat and compacting the raw energy between its palms. The many swimming keyholes have vanished and the ripples are gone; the void black door remains, though looking more solid than before and with a single, unmoving, ordinary keyhole in the very center about four helms up. The Monster throws its arms high, waving its pressed palms around like a child after catching a frog, and then the Monster brings its palms down and opens them. A lightning bolt rests in the center of the Monster's open hand, coiling and sparking but otherwise placid; the Monster brings the bolt up to its face, sniffs it twice, and then bites down on one end.

The Forge Master gapes, “Is he trying to eat that broken spell? He's mad!”

Sudo sighs, “The Monster does not retain intellect, only an animal-like instinct.” The Monster shakes and rattles from the pulses of electricity buzzing through its body, but then throws the entire lightning bolt inside its mouth and clamps down. It chews through the shocks and then swallows the lightning with a gulp; the Monster gives a toothy smile and licks its lips. Sudo's eyes narrow, “Er, should that have been possible?” The Forge Master shakes his head, speechless.

A Small Folk man wearing a white vest runs out from the crowds, followed by a tall human figure in a long silver traveling cloak. Klax points above the Monster and shouts, “Light, please - .” The Monster is now standing before Klax, one hand pressed against his mouth to silence him, as the Monster reaches its other hand back around to grasp the back of his head.

The slim human tackles the Monster before it can snap Klax's neck. This startles but doesn't do much to move the sturdy Monster, who throws Klax aside and grabs the figure around their neck. With its now free other hand the Monster takes hold of the struggling human's cloak and rips it off. Under the cloak is Bell, who flails trying to pull the cloak back around herself.

A clump of rock smashes against the Monster's back and it turns to face a gaunt and stooping man in a black coat. Despite looking near death the old man cackles with exuberance, wielding a shovel to scoop out another chunk of stone from the floor and fling it at the Monster like a shot from a cannon. The Monster backhands the flying boulder, sending it flying in another direction, and then throws Bell at the old man like a javelin.

“Light please catch Bell!” Klax is back up and pointing toward the Monster. A bubble pops into place around Bell as the Monster releases her. She tumbles through the air, slower than she would have but still enough to knock the gaunt man over. He continues cackling on the ground as a few other frail men and women in black coats inch forward to pull the two back. The Monster turns back to the waiting Klax; the burly man takes in a deep sniff of Bell's cloak as the Small Folk facing him shouts, “Sir, I will heal you. Do not fight me!” The Monster grins and licks its lips again.

“Give back the cloak!” The Monster swings its upper body down low as Bell again throws herself at it from behind. She almost passes over the large man's back but the Monster presses its palms against the ground and bucks with its arms and legs, slamming into Bell and sending her flying upwards. Klax watches her and is moving his hand to point at her when the Monster appears at his side and grabs the Small Folk by the extending arm. With something like a discus throw it hurtles Klax towards Bell and the two collide in the air, just as the Monster appears above them and kicks. Small Folk and human hit the ground together with a thump and the Monster harrumphs as it drifts down like a twirling leaf, gnawing on Bell's silver cloak like a piece of tough jerky.

Sudo grunts and tries to stand, “It seems I must step forward. Please join the Count sir Forge Master and guard him in case the fight goes out of my control.”

The Forge Master shakes his head and holds up a hand to stop Sudo. The reptile scales spread to cover his entire body like a skin of red chain armor. “Allow me to go this time.”

Sudo settles back on the ground with a shrug, “You are welcome to, but at this point only a healer can help the old man regain his senses. And I have tried killing the Monster, but somehow it refuses to die no matter how many knives I stick in it.” The Forge Master pauses, a hammer made of flame in one hand. He looks back as Sudo comments, “I have heard you once worshiped the gods sir Forge Master. Can you heal?”

The Forge Master sighs, “Not any more.” The flame hammer disappears and he resumes walking. “But I can take a beating.”

The Monster turns its head as the Forge Master approaches, sniffing and taking the slobbery cloak out of its mouth. Its brow furrows and the Monster snorts, tearing the cloak in half and throwing the pieces away as it stomps its feet and snarls.

The red-scaled Small Folk grins, “Don't like me? I wonder why that is.” The Monster flashes away, then appears behind the Forge Master and punches him in the middle of his back. The Forge Master turns around as the Monster crumples to the ground, rolling around and licking its hand. “Was that a punch or a poke? Sorry, I can't tell when armored.”

The Monster stops rolling and kicks up at the Small Folk's midsection. The Forge Master is lifted just off his feet, another kick sends him several helms up in the air, and the Monster flips up in to a handstand as it kicks a third time and sends the Forge Master flying. The Small Folk laughs as wings of fire sprout from his back and flap against the air, holding him aloft. When the Monster appears above his head to kick the Forge Master, he crosses his arms and takes the strike against them along with a powerful beat of his wings. The Monster tumbles backwards and hits the ceiling, clinging there to a stalactite as it screeches at the Forge Master.

“Light please grant to your servant fortitude in this task.” Klax stands as a thin cloak of light wraps around his body. The Monster stops screeching and turns its attention toward Klax, but the Forge Master flies up and grabs the Monster by the leg, pulling the large man away from the ceiling with great flaps of his burning wings. Klax spreads an open palm toward the ceiling, “Light please send a proxy of your star.”

The large globe appears high in the air, bringing daylight illumination to the cavern. The Monster struggles as the Forge Master flies him closer, whipping its upper body back and forth to get free, but the burly Small Folk's grasp is like iron. Klax presses his hands together in prayer, “Light your star has been seen by the faithful. Now please bring healing to all that you behold!” The light from the floating globe grows brighter but not harsher; the light is warm and kind. All around the room people come forward and raise their hands and faces toward the light, though some like the men and women in black coats turn away. Bell sits up, but her gaze stays to the ground.

The Forge Master holds the Monster up directly in front of the globe and the Monster howls, scratching at its eyes and wrapping its hands around its head. But then the howls and scratching cease, and the Monster falls limp. After another moment the Drunk opens his eyes and looks around, then stares up at the Forge Master.

“Hullo lad. Sorry but can ya let me down now?” The Forge Master nods once and descends, placing the Drunk down on the dirt floor where the burly man stretches out and rests against the cool ground. “Thanks lad. I think I'll take a quick nap before my third try. I'll have that door licked soon enough.” He chuckles and turns to face the Forge Master, who has returned to the ground as his wings and scales diminish, “By the by lad, excellent craftsmanship. I doubt the like has been seen in hundreds of years.”

The Forge Master gives a small bow and turns away, walking back towards the Count and Sudo. The Drunk closes his eyes and rests his head in his arms. Klax sits next to Bell, sweat dripping from his brow, but he soon turns and places a hand on her shoulder. All around the room, the citizens of Goldenburg move toward the center of the room where they can stand below the globe of light.
High War - Chapter 16.1

Not so very long ago, perhaps twenty years, a band of heroes arose to save the kingdom. A Prince of Flame was sending his soldiers through the planar boundaries, and the young King and Queen of Earth were busy enough just stemming the tide, so they hired the land's greatest heroes: a burly Small Folk priest of Light, a tall human teen with a certain roguish air, and several others. But try as they might, raid after raid, the heroes could not reach the Prince of Flame through his many crystal walls and loyal soldiers and magical barriers. So they consulted with a great wizard living in the Plane of Air, and he made them a bargain: If they should give up their names forever, the wizard would give them power enough to defeat the Prince of Flame. They agreed. And when the Prince of Flame lay before them most of their great power faded as if it were never there. They were scorned by the gods for consorting with devils, scattered to the winds on their own journeys, and no one could remember their names.

This is a part of my High War project, a story about people in a D&D-inspired world that I have tried very hard to make my own. I really don't want to step on anyone's copyright toes here, which to some degree is not easy at all. I have no idea where the background of my preview image comes from, as far as I know it came from a free image site; if you know otherwise then please tell me so I can take it down, although I would be happier to use it with the permission of its creator. This will be a story for somewhat mature audiences, there will be occasional violence, language and adult themes. Thanks for understanding, and if you don't then I would be happy to discuss with you my thoughts on the issue.





Ian Chisholm
Artist | Hobbyist | Literature
United States
I'm here to tell my stories; I love Anime and I'm aiming at a career writing animation scripts, but for now I'm a writer-in-training creating worlds and characters and telling stories with them for my amusement. I'm also searching for a visual artist to collaborate with; if you read something here that inspires you and if you can make them picture things, I would be interested in enlisting you for a creative partnership with the goal of collaborating on something awesome. And I'm here to learn; I want advice on how I can improve, I gladly work with, co-author or even take on requests to sharpen my writing skills, and if you'd like a critique or some proofreading you only have to ask.

I upload something new every week, typically on Friday afternoon, either part of an ongoing story I am writing or something more random like a character piece or personal opinion. I also try to do prose critiques every week, and I write webcomic reviews semi-regularly for my Journal section and collect them in archived compilations of ten. Occasionally I look back at something I have uploaded to DA (at minimum a year old) in the hopes that I can glean something useful from it, and when I'm bored I hang out in the Philosophy / Religion forum. Of course the busier my life gets, the less I can do.

My 2014 avatar is Trubl, my Pathfinder Cat Hengeyokai Gunslinger from an old ill-fated pirates campaign. You may notice the Internet's CatBeard under that Paint-job, but the sometimes-calico-cat sometimes-blunderbuss-wielding-dwarf is all mine. I need to get this guy in to High War!

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alexthetyger Featured By Owner Nov 24, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
Do you do critique trades?
(1 Reply)
Bclement117 Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2014
Have you checked out the next chapter yet?
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mydlas Featured By Owner Edited Nov 18, 2014  Professional General Artist
thanks a lot for the comments, I came in and checked your gallery ^v^
decided to add you and give you a llama as well, you deserve it!
(1 Reply)
GTS978 Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
You're welcome. =)
(1 Reply)
seika Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
thank you so much for the llama :3

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