Tag Archives: promptvember

Face The Morning

Susan sat at her desk, the sun shining in from the East as the sun rose over the horizon, casting everything in a rose gold blush. Something still wasn’t quite right. Reaching out she adjusted a picture frame, angling it just slightly more outward facing so that whoever sat opposite her would have very little choice but to see it. It was of herself, leaning against a low stone wall, arms extended excitedly above her head, a large, floppy straw hat settled on her head. By looking at it, it was impossible to tell if it was old or new, just that the woman in the photo was unmistakably her, being unmistakably happy, in an unmistakably plain field that could be located anywhere where fields could be found. Susan nodded to herself and placed her hands palm-down on the desktop, straightening her own posture and looking to the office door.

Aside from her office light, the office was quiet save for the hum of the overhead lights, and the intermittent click of a copier, spitting out papers somewhere in a supply room. It was as it should be then, Susan nodded in affirmation. After all, it had only just passed dawn, and no one else would be arriving quite yet to begin their day. Still, though, something wasn’t right.

Susan moved again, bringing her chair slightly closer to her desk, and began arranging her pens and paper. Carefully she lined each up by their colour, and then their height, setting them just so next to the pad of legal paper that sat, crisp, pristine and unused, within easy reach. She then removed a small palm full of paperclips from the supply caddy and set them down next to the paper. No. No, that simply did not look right. With an admonishing click of her tongue she put the paperclips back where she had taken them from, one by one, so that each lay flat atop the other within the caddy. With that complete, she nodded again, satisfied for the moment, and folded her hands, looking out her open door to the office floor.

There was a ding of the elevator, announcing the arrival of others, and the quiet murmur of conversation in the distance of the cubicle maze. Good, that was very good, Susan thought. This was how it was supposed to be, perfect and orderly. But still, something felt just a little off. Susan turned her chair just so and stopped so that she herself was angled toward her computer, the black screen showing nothing but her own reflection. There! That was it, now she knew what had been so wrong before. With careful hands, she reached up to her face, and pulled the skin up and forward, just so. It settled back around her skeletal orbital sockets and cleared her field of vision of the slight obstruction the out-of-placeness had caused. Carefully she moved down, straightening out her smile so that her lips framed her teeth, instead of sagging down to show her lower jaw. It would have been very frightful to be seen without her face on properly, Susan mused as she smoothed the skin of her neck down over her protruding clavicles. It simply would not have been a good way to start the day. A chorus of screams and madness were never good for office morale.

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It Started In a Tavern

With a final glance at his reflection, Del straightened his eyepatch then, with a deep breath, turned to the tavern proper.

“Alright, you lot. We did a good job last night, closed out some of the smaller requests. On that note, a special congratulation to Dorin, who did an excellent job filling in as the librarian, it was your work that got that last party to clear out the ghosts from the from that basement, and netted us a nice finders fee.” There was a smattering of applause from those gathered at the tavern tables, as was their custom.

Months ago, the tavern had been on the verge of going under; between the damage caused by bar brawls and groups of high ego ‘adventurers’. It had been Del’s idea to band the staff and town together to turn it around. Why was it that it was only adventures that earned all the gold, and spent it faster than they could appreciate it? Now, with the help of the town, Del had a lucrative business running, and the tavern and town were better than they had ever been. All it had required was a little bit of diplomacy, and now all of the contracts for work came to the town. Instead of letting outsiders take all the money, they had worked out a good system. They would pick up each contract from the issuer of the task, and the sub-contract it out to the proper group. They’d offer a reward for the work, much smaller than the true price, and pocket the difference. The local authorities agreed with it, as it kept the wealth local, and meant that they did not need to do the footwork of finding individuals to complete the tasks.

Del picked up the assignments for the evening, and made his way around the room, handing each of them out.

“So, we’ve got a few big ones still waiting for the right group. Olav, down at the Broken Tusk, let us know that a pretty tough group is likely headed our way. We’re to look out for a female halfling, a real troublemaker who lits from shadow to shadow, and a big woman with a sword even bigger than she is.” Del stopped at the table next to Elona and clapped his hand on the small elf’s shoulder. “Sounds like they’re pretty good at what they do. Some news about how they held off an entire goblin invasion at an old fort. I think we can safely send them off to deal with that “little” red dragon problem. Start the reward low, let them feel like they’re really getting away with something, we can let them get up to 500 gold, and still, earn enough on the job to buy that new brewery.” There was a cheer at that, and Del grinned before moving on, handing out a few smaller assignments were needed. They had been contracted to find someone who could turn the undead back into their graves, and the local cleric just didn’t have the time to deal with it himself. If Del was honest, he knew Cleric Palon was just lazy and would rather read his bawdy novels then do the actual work, but a payment was payment, so that was that.

“One last thing though. “ Del stopped in the middle of the group, placing his hands on his hips. “ Turns out we set the alarm spell a little too high on the flaming goblet. Melosa, if you could tune it down, we might be able to get that one taken care of. We just need them to steal it and then the curse will transfer and Lord Bors will pay off the full reward.” There was a groan and a bit of a boo and hiss from various mouths, and Del shook his head. “I know! I thought that that little goblin would have gotten past it for sure. Would have served them right too, we wasted good stew because of the giant Goliath and might have kicked that paladin in the ass a bit for the stunt he pulled back Triboar. Now, everyone to their places, like as not all those adventurers are getting thirsty for a drink.”

The huddle broke up as each person took their place, and Del returned behind the bar. Soon enough evening would fall, and then, as per usual, the tavern would fill up with those seeking their fortune, from the newest adventures, still with a clean blade, to the oldest and most battle-hardened barbarian, looking for their next bit of coin.

 

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Touching Stone

The cold marble of the stone slab seemed to throb against Martin’s hands, like the heartbeat of some great beast dug into the earth. He had been unable to resist the urge to return to this spot, despite the warnings he had received about venturing off into the old forest alone. He knew he should have listened to his father, he normally did, but since he had discovered his place it had been all that he could think of.

Martin had come upon it by chance; he and the other boys from the village had been playing a game of Bandits and Knights in the woods. He had been the last remaining bandit, and if he could just keep the other children from catching him and stealing the handkerchief that served as their treasure, they would win. He had turned briefly to glance over his shoulder, and in doing so had tripped over an upturned root and fallen, almost directly into the stone slab, hidden by years of dead leaves and vines.

The other children had caught him, and he had failed to win the game, but deep down Martin knew that what he had found that day was more important that a group of boys playing pretend. He had come back each day for the following fortnight, exploring around the stone slab, removing the vines and forest detritus until he had uncovered a series of several stone slabs and a low ring of rough stone surrounding them. The first one he had found has turned out to be dug into the ground, a long smooth pillar half buried. He had sought to return to this place at every available moment. Sometimes, when the sun was setting and he sat quietly facing it, he could hear voices.

On this day, he had snuck off from his home after dinner. Food and home held no interest for him. He had been sitting at the table, looking out the lone window of their home, toward the forest, his stew forgotten and cold before him. His mother had fussed, wondering why he refused to eat. His father had spoken of idle hands and time, and promise to put him to work in the morning so hard that he would devour any food laid before him the following day. He no longer spoke to them about the forest, about the stones, not since the first night, when his father had all but roared at him in anger, warning him from the place. But what could be so wrong about it?

Martin had waited until his parents had put him to bed, and then longer until he heard them close their door, and saw the fire from the hearth die to embers. On quiet feet, he had snuck from the house and into the woods, intent on visiting one more time, before his father made good on his promise to put him to work. With his hand against the stone, Martin laid down, pressing himself against the cool stone surface. In the dark, he listened to the low murmur of voiced, rising up around his ears, and closed his eyes. He matched his breathing to the pulse beneath him, felt the chill as it pressed in on every side. If he listened just a little harder, he was certain that he could hear his name, being called out from within the stone.

 

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The Gambler

Kosto watched as the man across from him tapped his newly dealt cards against the table, eyes darting up and down from the meager pile of coins that he had set in front of him. Kosto’s own cards were nothing to brag about, but being that they were the only two men left in the game, there wasn’t much he could do. He could, if he wanted to, keep folding until the man across from him had all of the money, but he doubted that would accomplish much.

“I’m just trying to win enough to get my little girl some medicine. She’s been sick lately, and my boss is a bastard with no heart.” Those words, uttered by the man across from him, kept Kosto playing, waiting to see when he could make a move. The corner of his opponent’s lip ticked upward, just for a second, and Kosto knew it was his chance. Setting his cards down, he took his large pile of coin, easily a month’s earnings, and slipped them to the centre of the table.

“All in.” He uttered lowly, then leaned back in his chair and observed. The man across from him looked at the pile in disbelief but didn’t hesitate long before pushing what remained of his own money into the pile. The dealer nodded, then checked the river, laying it out for the two men. Kosto’s opponent flipped his cards first. Three of a kind, not the most confident of hands, but at least better than a low pair with a middling kicker. Kosto flipped his cards, revealing nothing but a pair of twos, and an assortment of other disappointments. The man across from him didn’t question Kosto’s poor decision, leaping from the table and shouting in triumph.

“A round for all you hooves, who didn’t think I’d ever win! And the good stuff, barkeep!” The man around him clapped his on the shoulders, and Kosto narrowed his eyes.

“What about your daughter?” He asked, picking up his glass of whiskey and draining the last of it.

“I’ll just win again, it’s not hard. Besides, I know my wife has some coin stashed away where she thinks I can’t find it. That’ll be enough for the little biter.” The man continued to celebrate, picking up his newly won coin and slipping it into his pockets until no more would fit, and then he called for a pouch.

Getting up from the table, Kosto pulled another coin from his pocket and placed it down on the table to cover his own drink, before pushing through the crowd, leaving the stale and rank bar for the dark roads beyond. He had thought that this would be the case but was still saddened at what it meant. For a moment he had thought the man had maybe seen the error of his past ways, and simply did not know a better way to try and do the right thing. When the man’s wife had approached Kosto with the accusation that her husband was betting away all their coin, he had held little hope that such was not the case. Over his years of working such things though, he found that very rarely were the quiet ones prone to making rash or false accusations. With a backward glance toward the bar, sound pouring from it into the night, Kosto slipped into the shadows of the alley and started his wait. There would be a message delivered tonight, and it would not be pleasant.

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