Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Suggestion Box, Vol. 3: "One Thousand Words" List #40

Suggested by: Me

The List:
-Exhibit hall
-nine o'clock
-The Relics

The Result:
"Serenity's Light, Part 8"

Relaya felt her heart lurch in her chest as she followed Nerissa into the house. She glanced warily at the humans—one of them stared at her guiltily, and Relaya wondered if this was the stranger who had accosted her outside the Druid Circle—but where was the sword he had stolen? The other man was not so tall and broad, but Nerissa seemed to regard him as the leader, and she observed that he carried himself thusly. Everyone seemed to have already established a trust with one another, from the old woman who wore the Fae sigils hanging from her ears, to the small wood-sprite staring up at her, its arms wrapped around the golden eagle who had traveled with Relaya to this strange place.

“What news, Relaya?” Nerissa asked abruptly.
The young Fae only realized she had been about to salute when her hand was already halfway to her brow. She quickly dropped it.

“Lady Nerissa,” her voice came out short and clipped; the number of strangers wholly foreign to her comprehension flustered her greatly. “I am afraid I have failed in what I set out to do.”

“What do you mean, failed?” asked the one Nerissa had introduced as Ken, the Lore-Master.

Relaya winced. “I followed the traitorous fairies, the two in league with the one calling herself Lady Jocelyn—but I was not able to ascertain her true identity, as you wanted. As far as I could tell, they are no longer in direct contact with her. I followed them to secret rooms and alleyways frequented by the most disreputable humans—but none bore the marks of Darkness, which you warned me of.”

Ken shook his head and looked at Nerissa. “You mean you’ve known about Lady Jocelyn this whole time? Sarah was just saying that she is behind the whole fiasco.”

Nerissa frowned. “But if her henchmen are visiting criminals—why? Who is this woman, and what benefit to her if the artifacts remain tightly secured? Does she want another to steal it? What if the others get caught in the process, or, if they do succeed, what if they decide to keep the Relics?”

The burly Norseman—Jens—leaned forward and raised a thick finger. “This minds me of a tactic my people once used, to reclaim certain treasures from an enemy who had taken them while pretending to be our allies. We hired a clan of ruffians to create a blanket of chaos and cause much bloodshed, while seeming to take everything, and yet when they were beat back, the only things taken were the treasures we sought—and because our false friends did not know of this temporary alliance, we could feign ignorance as to how we came to reclaim those pieces, while their own guards were held responsible for allowing the breach.”

Everyone sat in mild confusion for a moment, as the idea of barbarian Vikings attacking a modern-art museum played havoc with their minds, but then Ken snapped his fingers.
“That’s it!” he cried. “I bet this Jocelyn person is planning a break-in at the museum, and her goons are drumming up a team for the job. She’s even got Sarah roped in, to make sure she can steal the artifacts without a problem, and to take the fall if necessary.”

“Except now that we know,” added the Guardian, Agnes, “we can make sure there is a problem with the robbery.”

Nerissa smiled at Relaya. “Did you happen to ever hear of a time frame for the intrusion?”

Relaya pursed her lips in thought. “I did hear one of the men telling another that the job had to be done three nights before the equinox.”

“Three nights?” Ken cried. “But that’s—“ he checked the calendar, “Tonight! How will we stop them if we only have a few hours to plan?”

“No need,” said Nerissa. “I already have one. Relaya,” she pointed at her friend, “will sneak out of this house, and she will be Sarah’s protector, following her wherever she goes. That way, in case Lady Jocelyn tries to make contact with her, we will know about it before she even realizes that Relaya is one of us.”
“What are we going to do?” asked Agnes.
Nerissa smiled. “We are going to stop the thieves by stealing the Relics first.”
Relaya blinked. “That would work,” she nodded, “since all it requires is getting you all inside the museum ahead of time, because the thieves are most likely planning to force the curator to deactivate the security for that exhibit hall right after closing time.”

Ken chuckled, “Okay, that would mean about nine o'clock this evening; if they have to wait outside till then, we would definitely have the advantage if we come in broad daylight with the crowd, and just find somewhere to hide, without ever leaving. We could steal it from the inside while they’re still trying to break in!”

Nerissa looked at the faces lighting up so eagerly at the idea. “It is going to take all of us together,” she said. “Each of you has a unique strength the others lack, which will help us succeed: Nakoma can fit into spaces too small for a human, Jens is the strongest of us all, Agnes is wise and cunning, and Kenneth is the only one who can actually touch the Relics without succumbing to their effects.”

At her feet, Kharrie the eagle squawked. Nakoma nodded. “What about Kharrie?” she asked. “She want to help.”

Nerissa regarded the bird, who had not left Nakoma’s side since her arrival. “Perhaps Kharrie can be our eyes on the team of thieves themselves, giving us advanced warning of their presence, without them knowing that we are tracking their movements.”

Kharrie bobbed her head and blinked to convey her willingness.
“Then the plan is settled,” Nerissa announced. “Let us disperse to make ready!”

Kenneth sighed and trudged toward the stairs leading to the basement. A hand on his shoulder stopped him. He turned to face the wide, caring eyes of Agnes.
“It hasn’t been said in a while,” she murmured, “but I want you to know that I am still thinking of your dear wife, whom you are desperate to save. I promise, we will save her once the Relics are in hand.”

Ken nodded. “Thank you.”

Continuous Stories:
"Serenity's Light":  (Part 1) (Part 3) (Part 5) (Part 6) (Part 7)
Single Posts:

#26 "The Tides of Battle"
#19 "Story Time"
#1 "Red of Morning"

Monday, April 25, 2016

Reader's Review: "Grave Measures" by R. R. Virdi

Synopsis from Amazon:
What do shadows darting across the walls, cryptic writing, black fog, and a little girl who can see ghosts have in common? Paranormal investigator and soul without a body, Vincent Graves, has forty-four hours to find out.

To make matters worse, his years of body-hopping and monster-hunting are catching up with him. He’s losing his mind. An old contact has shut him out. To top it all off, something’s skulking through an asylum, killing patients.

Three guesses who might be next, and the first two don’t count. The writing on the wall is not so clear. But one thing is: if he doesn’t figure this out he’s a dead man—well, deader—and a strange young girl might follow. Vincent’s got his back against a wall, and that wall’s crumbling.

Some days it’s not worth it to wake up in someone else’s body.

My Review:

Oh heck yes! Vince Graves is BAAAAACK!! And BETTER THAN EVER!!

In light of how much I enjoyed the first book (the fact that it showed up on no less than three "Top Reads" hit lists in 2014 should be a fairly good indication), it should come as no surprise that I was definitely anticipating this sequel! I loved the concepts for the paranormal dealings, and the thrill, with all the plot twists and the deftly-balanced foreshadowing and the red herrings that a good, solid mystery novel should have. Ideas were explained clearly, and not one moment was wasted on mundane or extraneous detail. The man makes a bowl of Lucky Charms an entertaining experience. And don't even get me started on the characters: they leaped off the page, in full color and life, so that reading the book felt like watching a film or TV episode. I loved them all, I didn't want it to end--and I wanted more.

I dove eagerly into "Grave Measures", all excited to see which characters carried over from the first book, and what new shenanigans Graves would get himself into. Virdi delivered on every level--and then some! As with "Grave Beginnings", where our smart-mouthed hero regains consciousness in a buried coffin, the author seems to delight in beginning his book with an impossible escape... so for Book 2, it's a strait jacket. From there, it's right into the mystery, dislocated shoulder and all. We first met Graves in the body of a museum curator--this time, it's a mental patient. (SPOILER: apparently there's an "easter egg" referring to this in the first book... look for it!) Vince must navigate the daily drag of a mental asylum to find the entity that is killing the patients one by one--before it realizes that one of its victims has somehow come back to life and is trying to stop it. But luckily, our intrepid investigator doesn't have to work alone--Virdi thrills fans of his first book by bringing back a crowd favorite to help him with the search!
Once again, I completely adored the characters--even the new ones! Virdi populates his book with a complementary cast every bit as colorful as the first--and maybe a whole lot more dangerous, too! The unbridled creativity is sheer joy from start to finish. The expansion of the paranormal "otherworld" with the introduction of the Neravene is aptly suited, upping the ante just that much more, and paving the way for a whole host of new concepts and promises of adventures-to-be!

It's moderately violent (as most paranormal adventures are), and Vince has in no way tamed his foul mouth at all--but at the same time, it's hilarious and rollicking and compelling so that once you start, you will not be able to put this one down! Once again, "Grave Measures" gets a full-on *****FIVE STAR***** rating, and you BET I am going to add an Upstream Writer Certified ABSOLUTELY RECOMMENDED to it! For lovers of supernatural, of paranormal investigations, of mystery, comedy, and fans of Grave Beginnings--rejoice! You will NOT be disappointed!

Further Reading (Paranormal/Sci-fi High Ratings):

-Grave Beginnings--R. R. Virdi
-Domechild--Shiv Ramdas  
-Disenchanted--Kelsey Gamendia
-Abiding Flame--Pauline Creeden
-Cybermancer Presents--Andrew Barber
-Escape from Neverland--Nils Visser (Okay, so this is urban fantasy... but it's still recommended!) 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Suggestion Box, Vol. 3: "One Thousand Words" List #39

Image Credit: TylerEdlinArt

Suggested by: +Joe Conzatti 

The List:

-200 ABY
-Master Rom Koda's lightsaber

The loud blast of a giant whistle jerks you from slumber. You bolt upright, rubbing your thick brown hair in an effort to stimulate your head to wakefulness. You blink heavily, rubbing the last bits of sleep from your eyes.
"Kayjax!" yells a harsh voice from below. "Hurry up, you are going to be late!" The door bangs shut behind your sister, Ryulin, as she heads off to her job as a laundress for the upper-class.
You stumble out of bed, more ready to complete the morning routine and arrive at work on time than wait for full wakefulness. You fumble around for the clothes you wore yesterday; your eyes remain half-closed as you put them on. By the time you tumble down the ladder leading to your loft and into the kitchen to grab a bun from the box, you have at least roused yourself to coherent levels. You glance at the clock in the corner. Ten minutes to clock-in; no problem, you've made the trip in seven.

Sliding out the door of your small housing unit, you bypass the pubic transportation docks and head straight up the walls and across the roofs of your neighbors. Old Nobby always said that the straightest route to anywhere was a straight line, and just now, you're testing the maxim to it's farthest extent. You pay no heed to the hustle and bustle of merchants and vendors and customers around you; the roofs of the closely-packed buildings are your roads, and you climb walls, ladders, and use every available hand-hold to work your way between them. You know the area of Bespin like the back of your hand; from the housing units to the Marketplace, to the factory district and at last to the machine shop directly behind that.

At least, that's what Dev Moler calls it.
To everyone else in Bespin, the place is technically regarded as the city dump—the place where machines and appliances go when they break to the point of uselessness. Then Moler came along, and with his skills as an aircraft and robotics engineer, he gave these broken mechanisms a second chance. Of course, his creations had more function than any sense of fashion, but they were good enough for his clientele.

You slide through the door of the shop. The interior stood dark and silent. You wonder if perhaps Dev might be in the back room—

Then a flurry of sparks erupts near your head. Dev Mojer had been standing right next to you! He laughs as you stumble backward.
"You wouldn't'a lasted very long in the Broken Years, little cog!" He grunts as you slink back into the belly of the shop to cool your embarrassment.
"I'm on time, aren't I?" You grunt back at him.
Dev nods, heaving his portly bulk from his position in the shadows. Seeing him now, you wonder how you could have missed him before—a testament to his stealth and his years in the army, before the Ascension. Ever since the Broken Years, the world had no need for armies.
"Get on back there," Dev grunts. "I'm lookin' for pieces with a motor on them."
You nod and plunge into the salvage area, the wide and gated pit at the back.

The Broken Years... The years between the last great battle utilizing the ultimate in chemical warfare that decimated the world population—and then the fallout contaminated the soil and polluted the immediate vicinity so that the entire world was declared "broken", and since humanity had yet to confirm any habitable planet outside of Earth, the only option was to build platforms and environments that floated in the air, high above all the pollution, tethered to the ground and equipped with powerful enough filtration that none of the toxins from below could ever make it to these new colonies. 

Nearly two hundred years after the Broken Years (or ABY, as people called it) humanity lived comfortably on these floating cities. You often wonder what it might be like to leave a city and walk on the ground. A dirigible with a huge bladder groans overhead. The thing is striped in yellow and green--difficult to miss as it temporarily blots out the light of the sun, casting a large shadow beneath it. Some part of you imagines scrambling up the side of the pit and grabbing onto a passing tether--but the ship moves on, and the moment passes.

The metal and plastic crunches underfoot as you sort through the pile of cast-offs. Huge chutes line the sides, not labeled but you know which leads where. This one for devices small enough to carry in your hand; that one for scraps from bigger machines; this small hole for pieces small enough to fit several in your hand. 
It's fascinating work, sometimes. The things people regard as "junk" seem to you as opportunities to make something new, or fix something. The mechanical puppy dog toy with no eyes, the kitchen mixer with the bent stirring attachment that rotated more like a fan than a stirring implement, and the shattered timepiece with cogs and wheels sticking out everywhere—these might be worthless to some, but to you, they are bursting with potential. All they need is to be given the chance to be something nobody expects....
Kind of like how you feel.

After about an hour of sorting, a movement in the icy breeze catches your attention. Something new at the edge of the pit: a small flag on a long shaft. You scramble over the mounds of garbage to reach it.
It's a flag, all right... One with the official insignia of the Founders on it. You follow the flimsy staff down to the machine it's attached to. Wrestling it out, you discover an old hover board. With its narrow design and shiny appearance, you recognize it as the variety called a "saber"—but all the saber-boards you've seen were propelled with a diesel motor, which this one doesn't seem to have. The hexagonal panels etched into its surface mean that it probably ran on solar power—but it wasn't unusable, just a little banged up. So what was it doing here? You haul the hover board clear of the junk. A few panels are cracked, but most of them still work. Why would somebody—particularly somebody on the High Council of Bespin—throw away a perfectly good hovercraft?

You decide to take a break and bring the board down to your little corner of the workshop; maybe if you fixed it up, Dev would let you keep it.

He's working on a huge robotic multi-tasker when you wrestle the vehicle through the door. He turns when he hears it scrape along the floor.

"What the Earth is that?" He frowns sternly, crossing beefy arms over his sweating barrel of a chest.
You draw yourself up defensively, gripping the handlebar of the saber, as if that would keep him from taking it.
"It's mine! I found it!" You declaim.
Dev laughs, a rumble of derision. "And what would the likes of you want with a light-saber?" He scorns. The scrounger can't keep his distance for long; he edges closer, examining the expert craftsmanship of the body. 
"I thought I might fix it up," you admit. "If it's in the dump, I can keep it, right?" You hope he might not notice, but his eyes immediately fall on the insignia and he glares.
"Put it back, Kayjax," Dev growls.
He only ever uses your name when you are in danger. The sound of his voice when he does never fails to set you on edge. 
But you still want to keep the light-saber; the idea of being able to coast over the clouds and fly between the colonies at will is a compelling one.
"Why should I?" You challenge your employer.
Dev's expression grows even darker, a deep-seated fear motivating the anger he displays. "Because I said so!" He barked. Pointing to the flag, he asks, "Do you know what this means?"
You shrug. "It belonged to someone on the Central Council?" You voice your guess from earlier.
Dev Moler’s eyes widen as big as your fist, and he splutters something unintelligible before whirling around to the holographic news broadcaster behind him. Pulling up a report from several years ago, he points to the screen.
“Not just somebody,” he mutters. “See if you don’t recognize this image!”

You peer closely. The red streak whipping through the sky is definitely the light-saber that now sits in a heap beside you. The blond-haired young man driving it—why, it can be none other than Ram Koda, the son of Councillor Froi Koda, the second most powerful man on Bespin. The voice-over was lamenting how young Master Ram Koda had been robbed of life so early, as he was last seen leaving the boundaries of the Bespin colony—headed, it was presumed, for the Yavin colony, floating over what once had been the Western United States, nearly half a millennia ago—on his light-saber, and the two of them were never seen again.
“Experts speculate that the storm immediately following the young Master’s departure must have depleted the craft’s energy and caused him to fall to his death on the toxic surface below,” says the reporter. “But since the body was never found, we may never know what happened.”

You and Dev look from the screen back at the banged-up light-saber. Your brain is spinning like a centrifuge trying to understand the difference between your discovery and the official report.
“But… if Ram Koda went missing on the surface,” you finally manage, “then what is his light-saber doing buried in a junk pile?”
Dev nods. “Why indeed?” he muses, stroking his chin.

Continuous Stories:
"Serenity's Light":  (Part 1) (Part 3) (Part 5) (Part 6) (Part 7)
Single Posts:
#26 "The Tides of Battle"
#19 "Story Time"
#1 "Red of Morning"


Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Suggestion Box, Vol. 3: "One Thousand Words" List #38

Suggested by: Dawn Chapman

The List:
-before her arranged marriage
-an enchanted tapestry

The Result:
"The Weaver's Child"

The morning dawned cool and heavy with dew. Just three days and I would be wed. I rolled over on the massive bed and took a glance around the huge room that was itself twice the size of our little cottage, knowing that it would very likely be the last time I saw any of the small, important items my father had brought from home to make the parting easier.

My father's spinning wheel stood at the side of the room, its clacking rhythm silent for now. There was a skein's worth of freshly-carded wool, ready for him to spin. I loved to watch him, ever since I was young. His fingers fluttered, and his hands cupped the wool ever so gently, with the fine balance of grip that kept the thread consistent throughout. 

There over the fire, his old brass kettle rested. I could see by its shiny-slick sides that there was hot water for me inside. Galvanized out of bed, I swathed my body in the ornate silk dressing gown dedicated for my use. Cupping my hand just like my father, I held the fiercely warm handle gingerly as I took the kettle off of the dancing flames.

I brought the kettle over to our table, where a cup and saucer waited—not just any cup, but the one I had claimed personally as a wee child. Something about the cracked brim had appealed to my romantic heart, and I had immediately asserted that no one else should use the chipped cup. My father had laughed at me, but then again, forever after that, he never failed to set the cup out for my use. Reaching for the cup, I glanced again at the huge cut ruby gracing my finger. Three days, and I would be bound in covenant to the man who owned this ring. He hadn't even bothered to come himself to deliver it, but sent a contingent of messengers to present on his behalf. He had not even used my name, Rayanne, but merely referred to me as "the Weaver's Child" in his letter stating his intention, that he wished to be married to me, in return for some favor bestowed upon my father. I was nothing more than a pawn in a business transaction to them. A pawn that would become the Queen of this land, Queen of Fortunu—and for what? Once again, the question unsettled my mind; what had been so important to my father that he would be willing to repay with the life of his only daughter?

I sipped my tea as I watched out the tall windows of this grand bedroom. My father and I had arrived the day before, and the King had received us with all due ceremony—meaning, he held a banquet and placed us in the seats of honor as he announced his forthcoming marriage to the petrified waif sitting at his elbow. I had glanced at my father, but he wasn't looking. He stared at something at the other end of the room, but I couldn't quite figure out what that was. He seemed to be gazing over the heads of the crowd, so it could not have been a person; the only things over in that area besides the massive floral arrangements (which, again, would not attract his attention) were the mirrors on the wall. So what was he looking at?

I sighed and glanced at the dress laid out for me: a tunic of light purple, with green and crimson skirts, and a blue kerchief to style my hair like the other Fortunan women. Finally dressed, I emerged from the room.
The evening torches lit the otherwise darkened halls of the castle when I finally found my father. He stood in the great hall where the banquet had taken place, in the very corner that had so captivated him before, and muttered to the wall. At least, I thought it was the wall.

I came closer; he seemed to speak and act as if a person stood right in front of him. As I stood a few paces away, he suddenly have a jerk.

"No, don't go!" He begged, but the mysterious other party had apparently departed. He wore a disappointed frown when he turned, but his face cleared when he saw me.

"Rayanne, my child! How fortunate we are!" He cried.

"How so fortunate?" I demanded. "Has he made you more than a weaver? Did he offer you a rank or title, that you would deem it important enough to trade your daughter?"

"Rank? Title?" Father shook his head. "What would I want with those? I am a simple man, I enjoy the freedom of a simple life not complicated by servants or serfs or taxes or crops."

"Then why?" My father surely had gone crazy; I had never known him to talk to persons who weren't there. Not even when he spun. "What are you hiding from me?"

"Nothing!" My father put his hands on my shoulders and turned me to face the wall. I saw my reflection in the mirror there; I looked like a little girl trying to play dress-up in her mother's evening gowns.

"I am hiding nothing from you, my dear. See? This is what the King promised to me."

My stomach turned. "A mirror? You traded my life for a mirror?"

My father lifted a gnarled finger. "Ah, but not just any mirror! This is an enchanted mirror, inhabited by the spirit Erised, and it will show me what others most desire! Don't you see?" He came around to face me again. I saw that old gleam in his eye, the one I hoped never to see again. "If I know what people want most, I can make better bargains to be able to give it to them, and get exactly what I want in return!"

"No!" I pushed him away, feeling sick to my stomach—and not from all the cakes I had samples that day. "Bargains? That is what you traded me for?" I backed away as I spoke. "You gave away your only daughter so that you could make stronger bargains?" When I saw he didn't have anything to say in his own defense, I turned heel and ran. 

I ran back to the room. I grabbed the spool of golden thread from my father's spindle, and I grabbed the loom he kept folded in the corner. I had never used any of his things, but I had watched him for so long that as I set up the loom under the night sky, beside a still pond in the palace gardens, every movement felt like an instinct.

I threaded the golden yarn onto the sparkling weft, and began to push the shuttle back and forth. I could hear my father calling to me as he searched the castle, but I wasn't going to answer. If The Weaver could spin straw into gold and make young strangers' wishes come true, then perhaps his daughter could weave an enchanted tapestry to wish away her own personal nightmare.

"Ah-swish, ah-swish" went the shuttle.
"I wish, I wish," went my heart.

Continuous Stories:

"Serenity's Light":  (Part 1) (Part 3) (Part 5) (Part 6) (Part 7) 

Single Posts:

#26 "The Tides of Battle"

#19 "Story Time"

#1 "Red of Morning"

Friday, April 15, 2016

Flash Fiction Friday: "The Prince and The Rose, Part 2"

Part 1: "The Prince and The Rose"

"I just cannot understand why I could not have been invited!" Charmaine flounced so that the folds of her silk skirt billowed around her elbows.

"Oh give it a rest, Char!" Felice rolled her eyes as she lounged on the chaise in Charmaine's personal parlor. "All year, you've been harping on it. It wasn't everybody in the kingdom invited to Prince's birthday party."

"You're right," the self-proclaimed Most Eligible Maiden scoffed, "only the richest and most favored citizens received an invitation." She pouted elegantly. "After everything I have done, after all that my father has done, I don't know why it couldn't have been me!"

Felice yawned as she picked through the jewels and pearls displayed prominently on her friend's toilette table. She ended up with a pin topped by a rose cut from a single ruby. "Be glad you weren't there," she chided. "It wasn't like he was going to choose a bride—and then that evil witch showed up and turned him into a horrible beast!"

Char shook her head. "I heard she captured the prince and put the monster there in his place." She flounced onto the floor. "Poor, poor Prince Raul! Of course, I'm going to be the one to figure out how to break the spell; I would do anything for my prince!"

Felice raised her delicate eyebrows. "I heard the only way to break the spell is True Love's Kiss."

Char drew back in horror and grimaced. "Ugh! Kiss an ugly, hairy, slobbery beast?"

Felice smiled. "On the mouth."

Charmaine turned away and put her handkerchief up to her lips as she gagged. "No thank you!"

Her friend stood and moved in behind her. "What happened to doing anything for poor, poor Prince Raul?"

Char whirled around with wide eyes. "You're horrible," she said. "Of course... I... I would, I suppose... Maybe just once, very quickly..." She saw the teasing smirk on Felice's face and huffed. "Anyway, I highly doubt you would be willing to do as much for love!"

"Of course not!" Felice tossed her head. "I will just wait till the lads come running and then take my pick of the plain-looking ones without all the painful baggage of a tragic past."

Charmaine performed a quick pirouette in front of the mirror, admiring the way her skirts radiated around her shapely ankles. "I don't care about his past; he's a prince and the most perfect man alive and he's rich and he will love me and that is all."

A housemaid appeared in the doorway, bobbing her head in respect to the lady of the house.
"Miss? It's you're father, just returned."

Felice sighed and followed her friend out of the spacious bedroom, toward the stairs to the front hall. "All I am saying is that, when it comes down to it, Charmaine, I think you will feel very differently about love."

"Nonsense!" Charmaine proclaimed hotly. "I would do absolutely anything for love!" She scurried after her friend, only to find her father staring up at her, wide-eyed and rather disheveled. 

Felice departed, leaving father and daughter to reconnect after his lengthy journey.

"Did you have a nice trip, father?" Charmaine chattered. "I had a rather beastly time without you. The tailor botched my dress again, and they ran out of my favorite Moroccan almonds at the store—and do you know what Venetia has been saying behind my back?"

The elderly man sagged and blinked at her as she prattled. He had a strange light in his eye as he waited till she paused for breath.
"Is it true?" He asked.

Charmaine stopped. "The rumors she has been spreading?" She asked.

Marius shook his head. "No... What you said to Felice; would you really do anything for love?"

Charmaine gave a little cough. "Well, perhaps... I mean, maybe not anything... 'Almost anything' would be nearer to the truth, but you know how these things are—"

"Do you love me, Charmaine?" Marius interrupted her this time. His eyes were wide and darted nervously as he spoke.

She gave a coy little giggle. "Of course I love you; you're my father!"

"Do you trust me enough to do what I ask?"

Rather than commit, the young woman's light demeanor fell and she squinted dubiously. "What did you do? What happened on this trip of yours?"

Marius fidgeted. "Well, on my way home, there was a big storm... I lost the path, but I found it again, and it was really difficult to travel against the wind—"

Fear wrapped its cold fingers around her stomach, creeping upward past the ribs of her corset. "Father," she repeated, "What did you do?"

By now he was babbling almost as earnestly as she had. "I found a gate in the middle of the road, see, and it was open so I just went inside to wait out the storm... I had no idea—"

"Get ahold of yourself!" Charmaine remonstrated her father. "Tell me what you did!"

"I... I might have..." Marius could defend his choice no longer. He sighed. "It was the Haunted Castle, and I had been an unwitting trespasser, and the Beast... The Prince caught me on the premises." He winced at the memory.

Charmaine stared at her father, aghast. "You met him? What was he like?"

"The Beast was fearsome!" He quaked as he said it. "He did not speak, but he made me understand that, as penance for my incursion, I was destined to be his prisoner for life!"

Charmaine detected a discrepancy in the story. "But... You're not his prisoner now, are you?"

Marius shook his head. "I begged him to release me; I told him that I had a family who expected me home, and he permitted me to leave, but only if another person took my place in his castle by nightfall today."

Charmaine glanced at the window, so prominently displaying a glimpse of the lengthening shadows under the golden glow outside. "Well," she turned back to her father with a smirk. "I can't say that I feel very sorry for the poor chap who has to take your place!"

An abrupt and awkward silence filled the room after the unfeeling comment. Marius continued to stare at his daughter, unsure of exactly how to convey the news to her, while it took several minutes for Charmaine herself to begin to realize that his predicament pertained to her more directly than it should have.
She gasped. "Didn't you find someone to take your place before you could leave?"

Marius lifted his hands. "We agreed on someone, but she hasn't reached the palace yet."

The fear traveled higher; it was in her throat now. "She?"

"I knew you have always professed feelings for Prince Raul—"


"Believe me, dearest, if there was any other way—" Marius reached for her hands.

Charmaine slapped away his touch. "No! Don't touch me, you traitor, you lying, selfish, inconsiderate... Man!" She spluttered. "How could you? How could you just send me away like that?" Large, theatrical tears filled her eyes, lending credibility to the fear shaking her whole body at this point. "Your own daughter!" She squeaked.

Outside, the carriage pulled into the lane and the driver ascended the steps.
"All is in readiness, sir," he reported.

Marius tried one more time. "Please, Charmaine, it's for the best. Maybe," he brightened. "Maybe you can be the one to lift the curse!"

"I will do no such thing!" Charmaine sailed out the door with the air of a sacrificial martyr. "For as long as I am exiled to that castle, I swear I will never consent to be in the same room as that monster!" She stopped and turned her head, glancing behind her without looking directly at her father. "And as for you, Father: you can be glad that I am staying at that castle forever, because I will never speak to you again!"

She climbed into the carriage, and with a crack of the driver's whip, commenced the long journey up to the Haunted Castle at the top of the hill overlooking the village.

Further Reading:
-"The Glow" (A 3-Part Story)

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Suggestion Box, Vol. 3: "One Thousand Words" List #37

A "Boobles" devouring a "saccharine trap"
Suggested by: R. R. Virdi

The List:
-Boobles the Bear
-A singing trout toy

The Result:
"The Origin of The Blunder"
Mission Log 13-34-2020
Commander Rabnir Divir of the 34th Galactic Strike Force, reporting.
We have entered the orbit of Earth and are gearing for an offensive strike. Intelligence gathered by our scientists and statisticians has indicated a pattern of increasing weakness in the inhabitants due to lapses in natural selection. The inhabitants—designated HUMAN—are known to possess dangerous levels of curiosity, and though their bodies seem to be weaker and flabbier, there are those who persist in testing the limits of HUMAN comprehension of space by venturing further and further outside the bounds of their nether space in the name of so-called "exploration." Such activity has been deemed threatening at levels ranging from ignorant to outright hostile. The Galactic Council has seen fit to commission a Strike Force to quash any further attempts at infringing on our star-space before it moves further. We are well-equipped to subdue these beings—

"Commander Divir, sir!"
"AUGH!" The commander nearly jumped out of his fluorescent-green skin as the recording device suddenly mistook his diverted attention as an ending and dropped out of the air onto his head. "Garn-fossel, captain!" He grumbled. "Have I not told you to announce your approach?"
The captain bobbed his eyestalks nervously. "I just did, Commander."
Divir fingered the dent in his face-plate. "What is it?"
"We are making our descent. The pilot wishes to inform you that we will touch ground on the land of Canada in approximately forty biggles."
Commander Divir flapped his ear-lobes to express his happiness. "Very good; have the troop make ready."
The captain hesitated. The commander bent his eyestalks in suspicion.
"What is it?"
The captain's eyestalks wriggled. "Umm, sir—just out of curiosity, why Canada?"
Commander Divir pushed out his chest. "Because, dear Captain, the Scientists of Blunder have established that Canada is the largest land mass with many docile humans inhabiting its surface. Armed with our sonic passivity emitters, we will lull them into a sense of inexorable well-being, at which point we will round them up and slaughter them en masse!"
The captain pulled out the device he had received from the armory. "This is the emitter? How does it work, precisely?"
Commander Divir accepted the mechanism, holding it to expose the switch to activate the power. "You engage the device like so." He flipped the switch, and both Blunderers could hear the whirring components inside. The sonic emitter began writhing and squealing with many strange tones, bellowing in a garbled language,

"Here's a little song I wrote,
You might want to sing it note for note,
Don't worry; be happy."

At the center of the hard, smooth base, a long, worm-like appendage flopped and wriggled. Small dots at one end seemed to represent eyes over a gaping mouth-like opening, while small fins on its body and its base flapped in quick, strange little jerky movements. Divir cringed and flipped the switch, ceasing the noise and music.
The poor captain's eyestalks wavered and flopped perilously. "What was that?" He wailed. "What does it mean?"
Divir handed the device back to him. "Linguists have not been able to discern the meaning of these strange words, but evidence showed that this song in particular induced high levels of peacefulness in the humans. Apparently, this creature," he pointed to the floppy portion of the emitter, "is also associated with calm and relaxation. A trout, I believe it is called. Some sources say that the humans will attempt to hunt down and slaughter as many trout as possible, and call it ‘vacation.’ The bigger the trout, the more proud and accomplished they feel."
“Oh the savagery!” the captain wailed. “Indeed, now I understand why they must be stopped.”
Commander Divir’s comm bleeped. “The team is ready, sir!”
Divir nodded. “Let’s move.”

The two officers made their way to the main deck of the ship. Everything was in order; Commander Rabnir Divir surveyed his unit proudly. Everyone had their sonic emitter strapped to their shoulder, and had also removed the aural attachments on that side, to ensure they remained focused and not distracted by the "passi-mitter."
The ramp lowered, and the 34th Galactic Strike Force officially took its first steps onto Earth.

Mission Log 13-35-2020
Captain Ecniv Sevarg of the 34th Galactic Strike Force, reporting.

To whom it may concern, the attempted subjugation of Earth has failed utterly, and I am the only survivor.
Our first indication that this mission would not go as planned came when we entered the dense foliage near the landing site. One of our number encountered a minefield of saccharine traps concealed in hollow logs, complete with flying black projectiles which attacked us. The saccharine secretion burned our skin, and the wailing seemed to attract other beings on whom the passivity emitters had little to no effect. In fact, one predator in particular seemed more angered by the devices than assuaged by them. It attacked us with claws, attempting to rend the mechanism to pieces. I was only just able to acquire the name of this creature, according to this photograph I discovered: it is called Boobles the Bear, and it is presented by Ottawa Circus. The last I saw, this Boobles monster grabbed Commander Divir and began consuming the saccharine substance—and the commander with it! His last words bade me to communicate that he died bravely, and he ordered those of us that remained—far fewer, now that other creatures arrived, possibly more attracted to the saccharine than to the sound of breaking passivity devices—to save ourselves, as he nobly sacrificed himself.
In all that time, we did not once see those apathetic, weak humans that were our intended target. I can only assume that these other aggressive beasts have overrun them, and done the work of obliterating the human race. Hence, there is no longer a reason for us to strike against them. In a dramatic turn of events, we have confirmed that a human invasion will never happen.
I propose that this sort of fortunate tactical error be hereafter referred to as a Blunder.
Captain Ecniv Sevarg, signing off.

Continuous Stories:
"Serenity's Light":  (Part 1) (Part 3) (Part 5) (Part 6) (Part 7) 

Single Posts:
#26 "The Tides of Battle"
#19 "Story Time" #1 "Red of Morning"