Outwitted (a long short story)

Today, I completed my story Outwitted (a 32 part fantasy story of around 32000 words in total). It is the tale of magic, family, betrayal, and murder

You can find all the parts to the story on steemit. Below is part one
Part one: https://steemit.com/fiction/@felt.buzz/outwitted-a-little-bit-of-fiction-for-365daysofwriting-challenge

In cold blue light of the moon the streets appeared to be made of ice. Barefoot, I followed the old man as he made his way slowly through the alleys and passages, trying to avoid the central lowered flagstones where faeces floated in puddles of urine.

The clunk of his clogs, and the tap-tap-tap of his stick echoed around the walls, creating a strangely hypnotic music. He stopped, suddenly. Leaning on his stick for support, he turned and peered into the eerie light behind him. I ducked back into a doorway, trying not to inhale the odd mixture of odours: cabbage, spices and cat piss.

At this time of the evening, it was hard to follow someone without being noticed: this close to the curfew there were few people on the streets. If he spotted me he would lead me away from her, not to her. And no doubt he would lead me into a place where I could be taken, questioned and killed.

I took a breath and peered round the corner. The old man had vanished. I had not heard the percussion of his walk, which meant he must be close.

She must be close.

I crept towards the spot I had last seen the man. Hidden, on the left, was a passageway with steps leading up to a door.

The door was ajar.

Aware this was likely to be a trap, but seeing no other option, I eased the knife from its scabbard, hidden under my cloak and skipped lightly up the steps.

Neither light nor sound trickled from the cracks in the door. Perhaps I should mark this place, somehow. Come back in daylight. But if I was right and she was here, it was unlikely she would remain until I returned with my friends.

The regimented sound of boots on stone echoed up the streets behind me. The City Guards were out, strictly enforcing the curfew with their steel. If I wanted to leave, I should have already done so. My mind made up, I inched towards the door and, taking a deep breath, pushed the door open.

The hinges were well oiled, and did not creak. That both relieved me and worried me in equal measure. Noisy hinges were useful for alerting those who listened for them to the presence of unwanted intruders. Either, she was not here, after all, or they did not care who entered.

Inside it was dark, and very cold. This dwelling would have been carved into the rocks of the city many centuries ago. I stood for a moment, listening, and letting my eyes adjust. I could hear something, I realised. Music. And laughter. Using the walls as a guide I slid along the passage until my hand touched the warmth of wood. Another door. I pressed my ear to the door. It was from within that the music and laughter came. I adjusted the grip on my knife and let my other hand wander over the door until it found the handle. I took a deep breath and turned it and pushed the door open.

The room was lit by lamps flickering oily flames up the walls, and by a fire that sat in the middle of the room, the smoke flowing up a metal tube that led up through the high ceiling above. She sat behind a table laden with food, and jugs of what I assumed was wine. Musicians playing flutes and instruments stringed with animal gut were sat on cushions and rugs beside her. There did not seem to be any guards, or visible weapons.

Perhaps this would be easier than I thought.

The musicians continued to play their music, despite my intrusion. If she was surprised to see me – barefoot, black cloak covering my thin body, knife held out towards her – she did not show it. Her smile widened and she gestured towards the table in front of her.

“You must be hungry,” she said, her voice loud enough to carry through the music. “Come, eat. We have much to talk about.”

I sensed a movement from behind me, and turning I found the old man’s toothless face in mine. With a flick of his staff, he sent my knife spinning from my hand, across the room. She caught it, without seeming to move.

All the while the musicians played on.

I have been outwitted, I realised, as I am led by the old man to her table.

“Eat,” she said, pushing a plate towards me, with my knife. “Drink,” she said, gesturing at a goblet already full of dark red wine. “And then, my dear brother, we will talk.”

Part two: https://steemit.com/fiction/@felt.buzz/outwitted-part-2-a-fictional-tale-for-365daysofwriting-challenge

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A thief from the Night (410 words)

This story is also available in audio format on Soundcloud

 

Night began as a whisper: a rumour of shadows at the very edges of the Day. But once started, it quickly gathered pace.

Leba knew Day would fail soon. The dark cracks would spread, tendril-like through its foundations. Inevitably, Day would split, shatter, and crumble into the sea.

And when Day failed she would too.

As she ran, Leba risked a glance, back, towards the Waghorn. Immediately, her breath was sucked from her lungs, pulled back back towards the dark rocky outcrop. Despite this sign – this symptom – they were not following.

Not yet, anyway.

The tide was coming in fast, threatening to cut her off from her friends. The hungry sea licked at her feet. It tasted her. It wanted to consume her. Her feet sank a little deeper into the wet sand with every stride. A moment of doubt overcame her. She had left it too late. She would be swallowed by the sea, or the sand. Or the Night.

No. She could make it. She would make it. She had to.

Leba knew her friend’s waited for her, but could not see them. The distance and the diminishing light made that impossible. Over the sound of her breathing – in….OUT….in…OUT –  and the pounding of her heart and feet, she fancied she could hear them shout. Encouragement? Warnings? She couldn’t tell.

She could feel the sharp edges of the stolen object cutting into the palm of her left hand. The pain gave her comfort, strength even. Pain meant it was safe.

She could see them now, her friends. Emaj was jumping in the air, hands and arms all over the place. She could hear him, too. His words, shouted over the sand, distinct and clear: “You CAN make it Leba: come on!” Nimos was standing statue-like beside him. She could see he was not looking at her, but straight behind her.

She would not look back. Not now. She had seen them before and had no desire to see them again. She could feel their icy presence, as they closed on her, cold fingers at her neck. Emaj was yelling for her to HurryUpForFuckSake! She was close enough to read the expression of terror on Nimos’s face, to see the dark stain of urine crawl down his breeches.

She was nearly there. Emaj had stopped jumping and was reaching down, his strong hands reaching for hers. She was going to make it.
And then the Night came.

It is Time (266 words)

According to The Clock on the sacred tree in the heart of the Sombre Forest it was ten minutes past Blue Tit.

Time to move. Time to fight.

Matt re-checked his supply of arrows, and the tension in his bow, trying not to look at Allenia. She was busy organising the ForestFolk, moving quickly but reassuringly amongst the small group of newly made warriors. Her easy way and positivity motivated the others, until a few weeks ago more suited to foraging for fruit and nuts, rather than battle. She gave them confidence and strength.

She gave them hope.

The Forest had endured weeks of attacks. The OtherKind had demonstrated no mercy in their slaughter of the ForestFolk, and the destruction of the trees. They had been forced back into the heart of the forest, and this little band, pathetic as it was, was all that was left of a once large, happy and peaceful species.

Allenia her axe held in her hand, her long knife hanging at her side. She carried no arrows: her fighting style was better suited to up close work.
It was Matt’s task to clear the way for her to get close enough to the King of the OtherKind. He would not fail her.

Not this time.

He felt her hand on his shoulder and felt his heart swell with love. With pride.
He looked up at Allenia, her mossy hair was pulled back allowing him to look deep into her eyes.

The fear had left him now.

“It’s time,” she said. “Are you ready, Father?”

Matt found that he was.

__________________

This story was inspired by this photo: http://matthias-hauser.artistwebsites.com/featured/strange-find-in-the-forest-orange-clock-hanging-on-tree-matthias-hauser.html

The path

Jonty stared at the forest floor. As he watched mushrooms appeared from beneath the green foilage. Making a popping sound as they appeared they swelled, within seconds, into what looked like large grey flagstones. Moments later a path of fungi snaked in front of him, disappearing into the forest.
“Where does it lead?” he asked Klay.
The little man shrugged, his green hair, bobbing on his shoulders, like so many apples in a barrel of water. He looked tired, worn out. This bit of magic had taken its toll.
“Who can say?” he said, his high voice barely a whisper. “The magic trails have no signposts. They are not of this world, they exist here for a short time.”
From behind them; Jonty could hear the baying of the Horde. He fancied he could hear the clashing of blades and the gnashing of teeth too, but he knew that was in his head.
A mental scar to go with all the physical ones.
“But wherever it goes,” Klay continued. “You will have a chance. A chance to survive. A chance to change things. If you stay here…”
Jonty took a deep breath. He felt the familiar feeling of fear. Fear of the unknown path that stretched before him. Fear of the Horde that tracked them.
“Fear is a powerful weapon” his mother had told him once. “You can let it be used againt you, or you can use it to make yourself stronger”.
He hadn’t understood what she had meant at the time.
His mind made up, Jonty took a deep breath and took a step onto the first mushroom. He took another one and then another one. He could feel the pull of the magic, reality seemed to bend and twist around him.
“Wish me luck!” he called out into the maelstrom.

Magda McFarlin (part three)

The Magda McFarlin posts are written by Bruce Arbuckle, posting as BritInFrance, on the RPG Project Zero on writingforums.org

Click here to read Part One

Made up of several short posts, the quotes in bold are written by other writers. * indicates the end of each individual post.

_____________________________

Magda saw the look in the general’s eyes as she approached. He looked enthusiastic.

“Yes, how can i help you?” he said in a rough voice. He had been drinking, she could smell it on his breath.

“General, Magda McFarlin,” she said, saluting him. “I see you’re looking for volunteers, Sir. I was up here on a hunting holiday, and wondered if I could be of assistance? I was due to meet my cousin. But he hasn’t shown up. Maybe, you know him. Joe Kirk: he works up at the military base.” Magda thought she saw something flicker across the general’s face, at the mention of Joe’s name.

*

Summary of others posts: The general has told Magda that Joe has gone missing, that he has been taken alive. Another person has joined the group. The general has shown the group a deep wound from the escaped creature. He has also claimed the government have spent several billion dollars preparing the creature for war. He tells the group the best thing to do is to head for the Military Base.

Magda kept pace with the general as the group headed out of the town. She was confused, and not a little alarmed. Since when did the military start recruiting like this? This general was a little bit free with secrets, too. Like he didn’t expect anyone to be around to give anything away at the end. Was he really organizing a hunt, or was he planning to use this group as bait? She cleared her throat.

“Sir,” she said. “What exactly happened up there? I mean, where are all the soldiers, the reinforcements, helicopters and the like? Why are you recruiting,” she looked around at the others. “No offence to you guys: I’m sure you’re very skilled,” she looked back up at the general. “A bunch of amateurs to do the job of a trained unit?”

*

Magda thought for a moment, the general hadn’t heard her. She was about to repeat her question, when he spoke.

“McFarlin, there are two things that can disable a well-armed unit. And those things are a loss of morality, and a lack of numbers. Every man that has gone out alone to try and catch this thing has vanished. With no one else to try and recruit and the rest of my men scared as rabbits, where do you think that leaves me?”

Jesus, this guy was madder than she thought. Did he have no control over his men? She looked around at the rest of the group, to see if anyone else could see how close to the edge he was. They all avoided eye contact. Perhaps it was better to quit, while she was ahead. Perhaps this guy wasn’t even in charge – perhaps he was an escaped nut-job.

Magda was about to run when the general made a noise. A hiss like a snake being run over by a punctured tire. She followed the general’s eyes. The bloodied carcass of an animal – a deer – hung from the trees. Blood dripped down onto the white snow. Magda saw the creatures head, a few feet away.

“Bloody hell,” she said.

*

Magda checked the two hand guns she had under her jacket in the twin shoulder holder. Looking around her, she swung her rucksack off her back and removed two more clips of ammo, and the thermal imaging scope. She slipped them into concealed pockets, in her specially designed jacket. She put the rucksack on, checking it did not impede access to her weapons.

“Well, General,” she said. “It seems your expensive pet is around here somewhere. Maybe he just has an aversion to Bambi’s head remaining attached to its body, but my guess is that your missing men haven’t been asked round for a cup of tea and a friendly game of Scrabble.” Magda looked around at the others, “Any of you guys good at tracking animals?”

*

“I have tracked animals before.”

Magda turned to see a teenager dressed in a camouflage jacket and a hat. She signaled for him to come over to join her.

“You ever seen an animal that makes tracks like that, kid?” she said. She pointed out the claw marks in the tree and the snow. “I can’t tell which direction it went in, but maybe you can. By the look of that deer, it was here recently.” She looked around at the others and gestured at the youth. “Unless anyone has any better ideas, I suggest we follow this guy.”

*

Magda followed the young man. She couldn’t see any tracks in the snow, but he seemed to know where he was going. She looked behind her. The general had dropped back. He drew his weapon. He muttered something to himself, but she couldn’t hear a word above the noise of snow being crushed under foot. She really didn’t trust this guy.

A roar, snapped Magda’s head around. Something dropped from the trees, in front of her. She gasped and instinctively drew both her handguns. She crouched to the floor, and took aim. What the hell was that thing?

She couldn’t get a clean shot. The boy stood in the way.

“Jump!” she thought, her finger on the trigger, as the creature’s tail swung round towards the youth.

*

Magda was surprised at the boys speed. He jumped out of the way and shot at the beast before she could fire a round.

“It’s imprinted on us damn it -shoulda hit it in the eye like i wanted to. Damn you Doc -why make something like this that can turn against you?”

The dragon-thing took hold of the boy. It steped right over Magda. She thought she saw something in it’s eye when it saw her weapon.

It’s eye. Perhaps the general wasn’t so useless, after all.

Magda took aim at the reptile-like eyes and pressed the trigger.

*

Please read the whole story here: http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=58906

Ladrón Mentiroso (part one)

The Ladrón Mentiroso posts are written by Bruce Arbuckle for the writingforums.org Role Playing Game: A New World. Part I. The First Sand.

The year is 1557. In a world where anything is possible, a group of adventurers have set sail to open new trade routes to the East. But what they have discovered is a New World, with new rules. After 7 weeks at sea and 4 deaths the adventurers have landed and are ready to explore…


Ladrón Mentiroso (known as The Reverend) – Part One

Ladrón Mentiroso sat on his trunk, leafing through the large book. He hoped his farrowed brow, and thoughtful expression, would lead others to believe he was finding inspiration within it’s pages. In fact, he was watching Antonello carefully, as he walked from one group of men to another. Ever since the blacksmith had his little “accident”, Mentiroso had made it his business to keep a closer eye on all the men. Luckily most of them were The Maker-fearing idiots who would swallow any nonsense as long as it came from a man wearing a clerical collar, but he didn’t intend to take any more chances.

“Reverend?” He looked up, quickly removing his instinctive scowl at having his thoughts interrupted, and replacing it with the caring regard of the “reverend”. It was one of the kitchen boys.

“Yes, my boy?” Mentiroso said. The boy held out a plate and a mug of ale. “Ah, thank you, my son. The Maker be with you.” Mentiroso made a vague form of a cross with his right hand before taking the plate and the mug. “And do thank Chef, for me,” Mentiroso said, nodding in the direction of the large man by the fire. If he had known all the little extras afforded to a Priest, he would have considered joining the Church for real, a long time ago.

Of all the men under Columbus’ command, Antonello seemed the best judge of character. And therefore, the one to be most careful around. Columbus himself, like most men in his class, was easy to manipulate. Columbus was a pompous ass, full of his own self importance, and a fair bit of rum too, if Mentiroso was not mistaken. Antonello was another being altogether. Clearly intelligent, sure of himself but did not immediately assume that people respected him because of his rank. Yes, it was important to ensure Antonello remained a friend and not a foe.

He was close enough to hear Antonello speak to a young man, Jemsey-something-or-other.

“Jemsey, you’re coming with us! Up, up, up!” Mentiroso, successfully covered his smirk, by taking a huge swig of ale, as the young man jumped to his feet, as if someone had hit his privates with a hammer.

“Lead the way, sir,” the young fool said. That one would lay down his life for a better, as soon as take a nap. Certainly, he would ensure no harm came to one of The Maker’s chosen ones.

Mentiroso put down his now-empty plate and mug. Picking up his cane, he strolled over to Antonello, trying not to over-emphasise his limp.

“Mr Antonello, I wonder if I could have a word?” he said. He waited until he had Antonello’s full attention.

“Perhaps it would be beneficial for me to come on your, eh, ‘scouting party.’” Mentiroso said. “Always useful to have The Maker on your side, don’t you think?” He paused, and looked around him, “And I really could do with stretching my legs.”

***

Written by Bruce Arbuckle

Published (as BritInFrance) on writingforums.org on 9th November 2012

To read the whole thing (including all the other characters story lines) visit writingforums.org

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