Happy Monday! What a riot moving from a loud-mouthed and jovial fellowship en route to Canterbury to a clever-tongued and ancient fellowship en route to Mordor and/or Mischief. Your stories were wrenching and hilarious and, as always, unforgettable, which is spectacular news for my poor memory muscles, as they need the help.
On a personal note: these days are difficult ones for the family and friends of former FF judge Beth Peterson, who’s decided — in her indomitably spirited way, of course — that she’s had quite enough of her problematic, problem-causing health problems and is quite ready to go on without them, thankyouverymuch. It is one of the greatest honors of my life to walk at her side now through these final pages of her life’s story. I read her the stories you wrote this round; though she’s past the point of speaking, she laughed aloud at Karl’s The Seven (which you must read if you haven’t). Your stories — and all the wonderful heartsongs you’ve shared with her (via me) on Facebook — your messages of courage and love, and your prayers, above all, are beyond priceless. Thank you.
(Note: As a part of her fellowship of writers, if you’ve anything you’d like to say to her, perhaps a favorite poem?favorite quote? favorite verse? — and remembering, of course, that funny is entirely appropriate too!!! — please add them in the comments below. It would be my privilege to share them with her.)
Many thanks to Dragon Team Five, Holly Geely & Foy Iver, for judging the stories this round and teasing out their favorites. Here’s their take:
FI: Attempting an adventure epic in less than 400 words when Tolkien himself took four books, is gutsy! Good thing you draggins have plenty of those. If he could only see what his imagination has inspired! A special thank you to those of you who stirred up ember-memories of long winter nights and my father reading the Lord of the Rings to my siblings and me by firelight.
HG: My Lord of the Rings memories are much less touching: in eighth grade the three “nerd boys” were reading it and I didn’t want them to get ahead of me nerd-wise. I am once again in awe of the abundance of talent. There was a sad lack of turnips, but I shan’t feel disappointed, for there will always be time for vegetables later.
Most Giggle-Inducing: When a Story Writes Itself by Michael J. Berry. HG: Vanity dictates that this story be selected! This is a marvelously fun story and the names are superb; my particular favourite is “Grey-guy.” FI: Love it!! So clever and the thinly veiled references to FF are like hidden candies.
Most Likely to Become a Creation Myth: Legend by Sarah Cain. HG: Dragons – check, humans who thought they won but really didn’t – check, written like an old-school tale – check. Yep, I look forward to reading the book based on this world. FI: As a sucker for variations of the traditional genesis stories, I was hooked. As Holly said, I’ll be looking for this on bookstore shelves.
Best Parody of All Things LOTR: What Really Happened (For I Was There, Have Evidence to Doubt Me Do You?) by Eric Martell. FI: Because even presented as farce, this one still made me long to be lost in that world again. HG: Dear writer, I don’t know who you are yet, but I love you. Once again I have different memories – of once upon a time when I wrote parodies for all my friends. Excellent.
Best Sleight-of-hand: Power Play by Brian Creek. FI: Had to read this one to my husband. The troubles of a first world gamer. HG: As a gamer, I’d like for this video game to be real (minus the power outage).
A V Laidlaw, “Respect.”
HG: The main character has spunk. I like it. She may not be as flashy as Archmage Sparkly (aka Johnny Big-Beard… excellent nicknames), but she knows her strength. The voice is superb; the sarcasm makes me smile. The ending made me snicker.
FI: Strong voice in this one and an irresistible cheekiness toward those who feel they’re better than she is. I have to agree, aren’t they ever out of Dark Lords?
Carin Marais, “The Last Song of Winter.”
HG: This story is lovely. The imagery is vivid, beautiful and haunting, and I was taken on a journey. The ending is bittersweet; sad but full of hope. The idea of Spring as a beautiful young woman is one I absolutely subscribe too. Beautifully written, and well done.
FI: Fresh as a winter wind, this story captured me for its originality. The stakes are clear and the battle lines unmistakable; I can see a whole series emerging from this concept.
Mark A. King, “Tinder | Box.”
HG: The three characters complement each other in a spiral of misery-and-hope. The three forms of immortality being sacrificed is an interesting take on both the prompt and the reality of this situation. So much emotion has been covered in this story, I’m still reeling.
FI: Another super original response to the prompt! Like Holly said the intertwined perspectives offers an especially insightful peek into the lives, desires, and struggles of these three. The added philosophical puzzler of digital immortality (vs their true selves) makes it a well-deserved honorable mention.
M.T. Decker, “To Accept What Cannot Change.”
FI: Such beautiful imagery with a poetic voice that is irresistible! Every line drowns me in its murky waters of forbidden love, harking back to tales of gods who slept with mortals they claimed more fair than their own celestial women. We aren’t meant to live in isolation and this piece shows that well.
HG: The moth and the flame…great choice! Every word is carefully selected and every line is a tragedy. Well done!
THIRD RUNNER UP
Tim Kimber, “Defender of the Corn.”
HG: You had me at “Oh, bloody… Hail!” Matthis is a delightful use of the “ordinary person” and his no-nonsense attitude is admirable. He became the conquering hero, but…at what cost? What will happen to him next? This has a good mixture of my favourite kind of dark humour; Matthis is in trouble but you cheer for him anyway.
FI: Matthis is fantastic! I can almost smell the dirt on his clothes and feel the spirit in his bones. Though his fate isn’t fully revealed, I like to think he stood his ground and proved the wetter man. Clear characters and a well-developed story arch, gave this tale a podium spot.
SECOND RUNNER UP
Richard Edenfield, “A Butterfly in Brooklyn”
FI: One of the most unique stories that came of this week’s musings, everything about this piece works in harmony: nature is painted with words that HDT himself might’ve used; paragraphs unfurl like pages of Walden; characters are sketched then filled in the way a human eye might absorb a landscape after all it’s known is the city. Slow, detailed, and poignantly executed.
HG: “The pages fluttered in the breeze.” For me, this last line is the most beautiful. This reoccurring image of the butterfly, and the artist as a butterfly, with a book as his wings…incredible.
FIRST RUNNER UP
Eric Martell, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”
FI: Gritty and so human, I couldn’t help but identify with this very personal struggle. Though Marl and his wife believe they’ve buried their light, their beauty, death is only the beginning. I appreciate that it ends hopeful where there is little hope. Conflict, resolution, and character depth all accomplished in a few choice words.
HG: The poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” always makes me think of Pony Boy. It’s a beautiful title for this heartbreaking tale of suffering and loss. “…for why should a man love someone who would be taken from him so quickly, but she was impossible to hate.” My heart is aching. I, too, like the beautiful ending and he birds that help cope with loss.
And now: for his FIRST TIME, it’s faithful FF writer & brand new
“The King Who Wears No Crown“
FI: This piece not only gave us gorgeously woven words, it brought echoes of familiar fields where foolish men battle and whispers of a different “King under the mountain”, one that is just as tempestuous as a dwarf by with a heart of true stone. While paying subtle homage to Tolkien, it remains distinct, an incredible feat.
HG: My favourite line: “He has tasted the tears of creatures chased from the sanctuary in fear for their life.” This is a king who demands respect. The people who underestimated him sure regretted it. The gardener is a fascinating character. The Tolkien-esque elements are there but nothing has been copied – everything is unique and uniquely pays tribute.
Congratulations, Reg! Please find here your brand new, mega sparkly, and very crowned winner’s page. Your winning tale can be found there as well as (shortly) over on the winners’ wall. Please contact me asap here so I can interview you for this week’s Sixty Seconds feature. And now here’s your winning story:
The King Who Wears No Crown
As I walk in the shadow of the king, I tend his garden. I slip among the trees, sometimes dancing on the wind. None sees me, but all feel me.
The king likes the garden unspoiled, as it has been for a millennium. He prefers the natural order of things. He calls it the sanctuary of the living, even though death is always part of life. The king understands that the garden has a cycle of life, death and rebirth. He respects the cycle.
Men do not.
The king has heard the cries of the trees torn from the ground and dismembered. Men cut down the trees in their prime and rip them to pieces. Men burn them and live in buildings made from their skeletons.
He has tasted tears of the creatures chased from the sanctuary in fear for their life. Men pursue them relentlessly. He has felt the final heartbeat of the ones that could not escape. The ones slaughtered for their flesh and skin. Men rob the young of a future and the old of a peaceful ending.
When man pushes the king too far he will defend his garden through its destruction. His scorching anger will overflow and destroy those who have desecrated the sanctuary of the living. Their flesh will burn and fall from their bones. Their charred remains will feed the garden as it grows again. I will tend to the young sprouts and give the king a new garden, more brilliant and beautiful than the last. I will weep for the innocent creatures that suffered the king’s fiery wrath, enshrining their bones and singing to their souls.
As death is part of life, sacrifice is part of victory. The king is always victorious.
The mountain may not wear a crown, but not all kings need such a pittance. Once again, man has encroached, and soon, I will have a new garden to tend.