Aloha again, Survivors. Did the one-day deadline bring greatness or okayness? I don’t know yet, because I wrote this hours before the deadline to prepare for the night’s post. Well, Erik and Sarah, you’re well acquainted with dueling. What happened in the latest edition?

Okay, now I’ve read them. I can say that I’m cool with either person moving on, as each did different things well. When I was done and had chosen, I figured “I don’t even care if I’m overruled…these are both good.” Was I overruled? I don’t know yet because one isn’t done. I can tell you it’s a 2-1 vote, though.

Sarah Wreisner

We were kept in the highest chambers of the castle after Father died. Richard – our Uncle – said our enemies were widespread, and that we’d be well protected in the high towers overlooking the Thames.

Our nursemaids and servants began whispering ghastly rumors, and Edward was frightened and sleepless; I had never seen my brother so terrified.

Edward woke me one rainy night, pulling me from my bed as the thunder burst over the river. He kept his torch unlit: he had a basket of cheese and blankets. Edward had a secret, he said, and it could not wait.
“Richard,” Edward whispered, “we’re in danger. We’ll be dead by winter unless you do what I say.”

He led us into the castle’s rank cellars. Steps led to crawlspaces and crevices in the ancient stone. We crept into its buried guts; eventually, the walls turned to bone-strewn soil.

Late that night we heard echoes blossoming from above. Edward was afraid; he knew a search party had been sent for us. We pressed on, boring through the earth’s cloistered tunnels, holding tight to fistfuls of ropy vines that grew where no sun shined.

The reeking air finally lifted after days of stumbling. We had grown pale and hungry, and licked twinkling, slimy molds that were smeared on the walls for sustenance. We ate fishes that swam in milky, unnaturally illuminated streams. We had grown thin and sickly. We had nearly given up when we stumbled into a great, sprawling cavern of dark ice. Water dripped and whispered from pools of cold, reflective water: blue green mosses and small scuttling things hurried past. We gathered spongy leaves to burn for fire, and medallions of fleshy fruit on the undersides of rocks. We ate well, and slept hard, for the first time in almost a month.

We woke to light, and fresh air, and streaming choral murmurs. Tiny frogs hopped at our feet; lumbering, flightless birds screeched from low perches, and we found pale faces watching us from the edges of the great room: children, like us. They were shy and proud, holding their palms to us in amity.

When he became a king, a true King of the pale, hidden children, Edward denounced the upper air: his first act as King was to send several of the child-warriors to seal the endless, sprawling tunnels that led to the world above.

K: Does this writer know that I appreciate the idea that the children lived, when all signs point to Richard III murdering them for the throne? Even without this bit of bias, I loved the magic in this story, as the castle truly was a sprawling mammoth and I think the idea of a hidden passage leading to another world is as fitting in this arena as it could possibly be. I suppose it kind of sidesteps the history aspect to get to this fantastical setting, but I can live with that.

DK: It’s interesting off the bat how these take such different approaches to point of view. This one is interesting in how it presents itself directly from Richard’s perspective. The strongest parts for me are many of the individual images – the descriptions of both the castle’s interior and the underground are drawn thoroughly and vividly. Plus it’s easy to sit up and take notice when licking slimy molds is your only way to feed yourself.

MG: Two distinct approaches to answer the prompt for this exciting write-off. Author one, you have a fine grasp of description and detail, even if you sometimes let your words get away from you (mosses AND scuttling things hurried past?). However, the piece feels dispassionate. It lacks drive, despite the fact that it’s all about a flight for survival. Two young boys spelunking for their lives…I guess since it’s a reminiscence, it may not be as important to take us into the moment. But then, why write it as a reminiscence? My guess is because that’s the easiest way to get the most out of a word limit in terms of scope and timeline. Then you get to dwell on details when you want your words to shine, and you also get to hang that capper on the end of the story.

Erik S

Peter was ushered into a small forge which had fallen into disrepair on the outskirts of his Lord’s holdings. The abrupt change from sweltering, cloudless day to shaded, cool shelter took multiple senses by surprise, and he paused a moment to orientate himself before being briskly jostled forward.

As the interior of the building came to focus, he stood awkwardly blind with aching joints. Straight over from the fields, he was worn and out of sorts. His ragged clothes hung heavy with perspiration, and dirt was driven into deep black crescents along the arcs of his fingernails. As he had been sweating all day, he uncomfortably continued to, even in the cool.

He saw the form, then shape, then specifics of a sharply dressed and featured man sitting before him. When his eyes fully adjusted, he found that he was staring directly into the stranger’s eyes; calm, dark pools that couldn’t quite belie the swelling undercurrents of their depths .

“What’s your name, lad?” the man asked.

“Peter, my lord,” the boy replied.

“Peter,” he repeated quietly to himself.

He stood then, eyes focused past Peter in inspection of the room. He wandered its perimeter, leaving fresh prints on the dusty floor.

“Have you heard?” the man asked from behind Peter, who had continued staring straight forward. “Titulus Regius has been repealed.”

“Titulus Regius, my lord?”

The man paused a moment and eyed the boy from behind. “Correct. Excellent pronunciation,” the man noted, fingers clutching the breast of his furred leather tunic as he continued his circuit of the shop. “That would mean the sons of Edward IV would be the rightful heirs to throne.”

He returned to Peter’s front. “Now, why would the King do that?” he asked with a gentle smile that did not reach the rest of his face.

Peter turned at the sudden commotion behind him and saw a gangly, familiar figure shoved into the room from out of the glaring sunlight.

“Edward!” the boy screamed as the stranger traversed the gap with frightened speed and crumpled half of the older boy’s head with the flanged head of his mace.

The scream died on his lips as he stared down on his brother’s remaining eye, wide with surprise, and a jumbled mess of bone and shattered teeth.

The stranger gently guided the boy’s chin and stared into his eyes.

“Because I love to kill York Kings.”

K: Hmm. Nearly all the way through, I really kind of dig this. It’s tense and dark, leading to an obvious conclusion that nonetheless had me begging for the boys to find a way out. Peter (fun fact: the Princes in the Tower were named Richard and Edward…ahem. Oh, never mind. I see the stranger repeats “Peter” because he knows it’s a lie) comes off as proper, which is a nice touch. It’s all going so well until the stranger says “just because.” No justification, no clear benefit to him. This is life, surely, but it isn’t compelling drama. That last sentence could be almost anything else and this would have been one of my toughest choices ever. Eliminate that confusion and I honestly think I pick this one.

DK: I like the flow of this one a lot. Obscuring the nature of what’s going on doesn’t always work, but it does here when the author has space to do it and parcel out the necessary information at the right pace. I also haven’t always liked the darkest stuff this season, but I did here because the brutality had such a visceral immediacy to it. The interaction between Peter and the stranger has a great build of tension to it that pays off in a strong way.

MG: Author two keeps things nice and snug, limiting the action to one room and two characters (pretty much). And there’s a nice tight focus on the tension, as well as the sense of dread that Peter must be facing. The intensity that the story finishes with is very robust too, with that ending proclamation. It’s one hell of a final line. But…I’m no expert on British history (I let Wikipedia be that for me), but who was Peter supposed to be? The Princes were named Edward and Richard…so why would Peter refer to Edward as his brother? Did he give a false name? That ending is gripping, but it’s also confused and hard to follow, what with all the unfamiliar characters and strangers and pronoun confusion.

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KW: As I made clear enough, my choice was the first one.

DK: I found both of these very good; my pick is #2 by a slight margin.

MG: When it comes down to it, I wanted to puzzle out the confusion so I could get a better handle on that passion, that energy that author 2 provided…and author 1 did not. My pick for the write-off challenge is STORY 2.

Twelfth Elimination from Spookymilk Survivor XV: Sarah Wreisner

Holy shamoles. Sarah’s played two writing games to this point and she reached the final four in both instances. However, because DK and Gilman clearly hate women, that streak is over (I AM KIDDING). This really was one hell of a write-off with no wrong answer (easy for me to say, since I technically gave the wrong answer). Erik finally took down Sarah in a one-on-one for the first time in three tries (or more?). Hell of a matchup, this one, and as such, I’m going to just make the deadline one day from here on out.

…again, kidding.

For the next challenge, we’ll be splitting into two thematically similar prompts (well, this time they’re actually opposites, but whatever).

#1: Write a story in which every character succeeds in every way. You can sidestep the challenge by setting up one major success, but I’m hoping to read about massive successes to each and every character presented at every turn. This sounds difficult as shit to me, but hey, it’s your own fault for getting this far. It’s due Monday (7/7) at 1pm Central. That’s a goofy time, but my work schedule rules me.

#2: Write a story in which every character fails in every way. Nothing in this story goes right for anyone, down to the most minor detail. Is this easier or harder than the former? I’m not sure. At any rate, you’re only going to be judged against those who do the same prompt, as always. This one’s due Tuesday night (7/8) at 7pm Central. Note the early deadline, because you guys get 700 words on these and I’m not looking to create stupidly late nights.

Now, here’s a very important piece of business: Beau is going on honeymoon starting the 11th, and I’m getting all challenges to him before that happens so he can send them in beforehand. As such, I’ll have to get them to the lot of you as well in the interest of fairness. If you don’t work on them until the last minute, that’s fine. That’s what Erik S does, and has it really hurt him? (I admit I wrote this bit before the write-off, and figured the joke would work better if he was eliminated. Never mind)

Anyway, here are the prompts.

On the 9th, we’ll have an elimination and then officially announce the Old Job, New Job challenge. Due Sunday the 13th with a word limit of 300, this challenge is about a character attempting to bring concepts from his old job into his new one. Whether it’s successful or completely stupid is all you.

On the 14th, we’ll eliminate someone again and announce Last Meeting. The first challenge of the season was to write about the first meeting between two people. I was going to save this for last to bookend the season, but the prompt interests me too much. Anyway, it’s the last meeting between two people, whether they know it or not. They will never see each other nor speak to each other again. Whether or not they’ve known each other well to this point isn’t important. Okay, it’s important, but I mean it’s up to you.

That’ll be due Friday the 18th with a limit of 400 words. Then we go to an elimination due the 19th to shrink to thirteen people, and our world-weary traveler comes back and once again we go back to the usual format unless another one of you loads feels like going on vacation.

This is all well and good, but our traveler has to know whether or not to be prepared for the merge. Well, he doesn’t. Rather than tell Beau to prepare for it and potentially change things, I think it the better course (and DK agrees) to just tell you all that we’re not merging in that timeframe. That is to say, on the morning of the 19th when someone’s voting, we will not have merged (barring the game speeding up between now and then, due to double-eliminations or whatever). We’re either merging that night with thirteen people, or sometime later.

Chew on that, Survivors, and do with it what you will. Cheers.

Oh, and one last thing. When you submit stories, please make sure you put the prompt in the headline so the gatherer knows what to do with it. When you do Win or Lose, make sure to mention which it is so it goes into the right folder. I assume that’ll work itself out because nobody will submit the loser thing until the last day, but just to be sure, just…do it.

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