#AtoZChallenge: Untitled

Uther The Bold.

Unther The Dashing.

Ungular The Narcoleptic.

Urden looked at the plaques under her ancestors’ portraits and sighed. They all held great titles and were known throughout the kingdom for their mighty feats. At the end of the hall was a space for her portrait and an empty plaque. One day, it would read ‘Urden’. But what would follow her name? What would be her title and legacy? She had not achieved anything worthy of a title so far in her life, and she had no idea where to even begin.

Her father, Ulasfur The Firestarter, was legendary for his bomb making skills, which he used to defeat invaders and, well, anyone that upset him.

Her mother, Undilien The Hammerer, inspired awe and fear with her feats of strength, most of which involved using her fists like hammers and the heads of her enemies like nails.

Her brother, Urdar The Knife Eater, built his reputation on a most bizarre appetite.

And then there was Urden. Just Urden. She was not extraordinarily strong or skilled with weapons. She certainly didn’t like the taste of knives.

All she had was her imagination, dreaming up impressive acts that she might one day perform, such as defeating the Five-Mouthed Narglebeast or conquering distant kingdoms.

As she pondered her future and the name that would one day be inscribed on her plaque, she put her imagined feats to parchment, penning fantastical chronicles of a mighty warrior. She didn’t want anyone to know she was writing about herself, so she made up a name for the heroine of her story: Ularda Toothsmasher. That sounded good.

She would sometimes read aloud from her stories, giving voice to Ularda’s many exploits. One day, her father’s cup bearer overheard part of the story, where Ularda was fighting the Narglebeast with her bare hands, and mistook it for truth. He then told the story to her mother’s armor polisher, who told some of her friends. Thus did the tales of Ularda spread, causing quite a stir throughout the kingdom as everyone pondered over this fearsome warrior they had only just heard of.

Urdar would talk about her at length, of how he would one day like to meet her and impress by devouring an entire battleaxe. Ulasfur wondered if she would be interested in adding some bombs to her arsenal, and Undilien vowed to fight alongside her to the death. Urden remained silent during these discussions. She neither praised nor condemned this mysterious new warrior.

Cults were built around Ularda, fanatics praising her name and trying to divine every minute aspect of her life. Where she was born, where she grew up, who her family was, if she had any suitors. Urden’s little tale had gotten out of control.

She could keep it a secret no longer. Urden confessed to creating Ularda and her stories. Her parent didn’t believe her at first, but she showed them the parchments and the little portraits she had made. Once the truth was out, she expected the worst.

Much to her astonishment, there was no punishment. Rather, people were amazed at her storytelling skill and asked that she tell them more tales about Ularda Toothsmasher. Urden was more than happy to oblige.

She wrote many more stories about the fearsome warrior and, over time, wrote about many others as well. Wizards and mages, proud orc chiefs and conniving goblin shamans. The kingdom was enraptured by her fanciful tales.

At last the time came to add Urden’s portrait to that of her ancestral line. There was only one title that seemed fitting:

Urden The Author.

#AtoZChallenge: Curses!

 

“Next!”

Clartak tapped the tip of his boot against the stone tiles with increasing impatience. He had been waiting in line for almost an hour already and he was going nowhere fast. There were three witches, a hobgoblin and two more creatures he couldn’t identify standing ahead of him. One of them looked like an armored stork and the other might have been a mummified accountant.

After another thirty minutes, a significant amount of which was taken up by the stork, Clartak was called to the counter.

The toad-headed clerk adjusted the horn rimmed glasses perched on his wide nose and looked up. At the sight of Clartak, the pouch under his throat pulsed with irritation.

“Back again?”

“Yes, that’s right. I’m back again. And I will keep coming back until my request is approved.”

Clartak crossed his arms in defiance and stared hard at the clerk, hoping perhaps, that he could transform him into something terrible or hideous. Then again, thought Clartak, the man’s already a toad.

“You have been advised previously, Mr. Clickclack – ”

“Clartak – ”

” – that you cannot submit an application to curse a town over meaningless personal slights. A town may only be cursed if they have robbed you of your livelihood, burned you at the stake as a witch or tainted your family name and legacy forever. There are provisions and sub-provisions that allow us to make exceptions, but very few. And you do not fit the necessary criteria.”

“You don’t understand!” hissed Clartak, spraying specks of spittle on the witchglass separating him from the clerk. “They laughed at me! Me! They think I’m a joke! But not for long! Not if this request goes through! Don’t you see? This is my chance to prove that I am the evilest warlock in the village! Nay, in the county! And when the town is suffering its eternal damnation, do you know who’ll be laughing then? Do you?”

The clerk blinked once. “Will it be you?”

“Yes!” Clartak cried, pumping his fist in the air triumphantly and almost punching the cyclops at the next counter in the face. “I, Clartak the Conflagrater, will have the last laugh!”

The clerk rested his giant head on one webbed hand, his round eyes narrowing to hooded slits.

“Well, that sounds wonderful. You have no idea how much it warms my heart to see you tackle adversity head-on like this.”

“So you’ll approve my request?”

“No.”

“What?!”

The clerk adjusted his glasses again and shifted his bulk forward so his slimy face was almost pressed up against the glass.

“I have already told you that personal slights are not an acceptable justification. Your application is denied. Your town will remain uncursed unless the committee should decree otherwise.

As a general rule, the committee never decrees otherwise.”

Clartak fumed with fury. “Very well then. You think you’re so high and mighty? You think that you hold my fate in your grubby little hands? Ha!”

He paused for emphasis as an uncomfortable murmur arose from the others in the room.

“Ha! You shall not defeat me! No one shall defeat me! For I am Clartak the Conflagrater, Bringer of Doom and Killer of Small Bugs, and I shall not go down so easy!”

He drew himself up to his full height and stared down at the toad man in front of him. “You, my friend are about to suffer a misfortune most…erm…unfortunate! You shall never know happiness again! For the rest of your days, your little toad heart will know naught but misery! So say I, Clarta – ”

“I’m sorry, but did you just curse me?”

Clartak’s brow crinkled. “What?”

“Did you just put a curse on me?”

The wizened wizard’s bony chest swelled with pride. “Why yes, I do believe I did.”

“Under Section 452.8, Subsection Omega, Item 8, curses and/or hexes uttered without the proper permits and attested documentation are a violation of Article 666 in the Constitution of General Hocus Pocus chartered by the Department of Curseology and Monstrous Affairs. To do so carries with it a fine of 5,000 galleons and ten years of hard time in the Netherspace.”

Clartak’s face turned the same pale shade as his scraggly beard. “Oh. Well, that wasn’t a curse. Not really. I mean, not in the strictest sense. It was more of a general, ‘Curse you!’ than a proper curse, you know? Just a little cursing around between friends.” He burst into a series of giggles then, though the clerk didn’t seem to find much humor in the situation.

“Mr. Claptrap. I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

“Yes, good idea.”

Clartak sprinted out of the Department of Curseology and Monstrous Affairs while that was still a possibility for him. It was turning out to be a rotten day.

 

 

A to Z Challenge: Winston Wilson

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Winston Wilson was

A man with a winsome personality and a winning smile.

His wily charms made him irresistible

To women young and old.

He wooed wives and waifs with his wits,

A wolf in a white suit

Was Winston Wilson.

And wherever he went,

He left only weeping women behind,

Woestruck as they had been swindled

By the wicked Winston Wilson.

While walking one wintery morning

He came across a young widow,

Who would not be wooed by his whimsy,

His winsome charm,

Or his winning smile.

For the first time,

Worry creased the face

Of the wily Winston Wilson.

The widow wove for him instead

A tale that withered his heart.

She wailed in sorrow as she told him

Of the woes that she had weathered.

Winston Wilson could not stop himself

From weeping for the poor widow.

And as he wept,

He felt himself grow weary.

The woman smiled,

Teeth as white as the winter snow.

For she was a witch,

Wandering in search of a wicked soul

Whose sins she would wash away

On a wintery morning,

And whose withered soul

Would then be hers to claim.

So it was that

Winston Wilson and his wickedness

Wasted away in front of her eyes.

The witch walked away, content,

Leaving behind only a white suit

Lost against the winter snow.

From that day, amongst the women,

The wives, the waifs and the widows,

Not a whisper was heard

Of Winston Wilson

Or his wily, wicked ways.

A to Z Challenge: Obscuro

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The hallway smelled of perfume and vintage wine. Oswald hurried along it nervously, heading for the looming double doors at the end.

At last, he came to the chamber. He entered, adjusting his tie and blinking in rapid bursts. Sweat beaded on his forehead, a few errant drops rolling down his nose.

The chamber yawned before him, its ceiling so high the gas lights couldn’t illuminate it. Shelves lined the walls of the room, covered in books and tomes of all sorts, some written in tongues that had long been forgotten. In the center was a large oak table sitting on a burgundy rug. Standing over it was a tall man in a dark gray suit. His skin was the color of ash, his hair wrought iron with streaks of silver at the temples. He was scanning through one of the tomes that lay open on the table, a long ashen finger gliding over the page.

Oswald cleared his throat. “Ah….Mr. Obscuro…sir…”

The gray man looked up, directing his steely eyes towards his portly visitor.

“Oswald.”

Adrian Obscuro’s face was impassive, his voice devoid of emotion. He turned his attention back to the book. “What news?”

“Ah…we’ve…we’ve found her. Sir.”

Adrian snapped his head up sharply, causing Oswald to almost tumble over backwards.

“Where?”

The word was a whisper, raising the hair’s on Oswald’s neck.

“In…ah…in a small town called Innsbrook, sir. It’s…ah…surrounded by strange magic. Very hard to find. Took our agents longer than expected to locate it. But…ah…but we did.”

“Innsbrook…”

Adrian tapped one long finger on the surface of the table, lost in thought.

“We can…ah…we can send our agents down there to get her.”

“No.”

Adrian drew himself up to his full height and looked around the chamber as if for the first time.

“I’ve been cooped up in here too long. I could use some fresh air.”

Oswald licked his lips, blinking rapidly.

“Yes…ah…very good, sir. I’ll…ah…make the necessary arrangements.”

Adrian turned to the small man one last time.

“That will be all, Oswald.”

Oswald bowed low, backing away, and bolted out the door as fast as his stubby legs would take him.

Adrian folded his arms behind his back, allowing a smile to cross over his gray face.

Iridescence wouldn’t be able to elude him for much longer. His triumph was close at hand.

A to Z Challenge: Iridescence

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The small town of Innsbrook was accustomed to strange happenings. Buildings moved around in the middle of the night, so nobody ever had a permanent address. A post office was set up on the town’s outskirts, and the townsfolk would pick up their mail from there. People changed as well, and not in a metaphorical sense. A young man might go to bed one night only to wake up twenty years older. Or an old man might sleep and wake up as a badger. None of these were uncommon occurrences in Innsbrook.

But even such a bizarre history could not have prepared the town for the arrival of its oddest new resident, Iridescence Levesque. Her name was well known to the pople of Innsbrook and the surrounding townships. It was a name many hoped never to hear except in passing. Ever since she was a little girl, Iridescence had been the subject of rumors and legends, both of which had grown as she did. It was believed that she was a sorceress, or just cursed with bad juju. All anyone knew for sure was that strange occurrences took place in her wake. Strange even for a town like Innsbrook.

***

On a bright spring morning, the mayor of Innsbrook was tending to his garden, which had moved to the edge of the town the previous night. As he was pruning one of his prized rose bushes, an odd sensation came over him. In an instant, he had sprouted bright blue feather, grown a long beak and transformed into a hummingbird. The former mayor flitted about the garden for a few moments before flying off, never to be seen in town again. This would be regarded as highly irregular.

Moments later, a carriage pulled up at the edge of town. The driver unloaded two large trunks and a bird cage containing a cockatoo with a vibrant scarlet crest. He opened the carriage door for his passenger, a young woman dressed in a cream colored shirt and dark trousers. A black traveling cloak was wrapped around her slender shoulders, contrasting sharply against her long silver hair. Her obsidian eyes twinkled and her marble smooth skin glittered like the finest gemstones. She had a slight purplish hue to her, but that lightened to a pale ivory as she stepped out into the sunlight.

The carriage promptly turned into a wild boar, glaring around with red eyes and tusks as long as carving knives. It darted off into the forest, followed by the distraught carriage driver. The young woman merely smiled, picked up her luggage and went on her way. Iridescence Cordelia Elizabeth Levesque had arrived at Innsbrook. And the town would never be the same.

20 Tales of Terror – Day 13: Misdirection


“You’re an assistant! Your job is just to assist and look pretty!”

Carmen cringed. She hated it when Ernesto went off on her like that.

“You smile, wave at the crowd and flash your legs, but at the end of the day, they’re coming to see me! Ernesto the Magnificent! Don’t ever forget that!”

Ernesto jabbed a finger at her. His lean face was contorted into a scowl unlike the dapper smile that beamed from the poster behind him.

“Y-yes, Ernesto,” she whispered.

“I’m the star of the show! It’s my face on all the billboards, not yours! Try to steal my limelight again, and you’ll end up doing a permanent vanishing act!”

With that last word, he picked up one of the swords that he used in his act and threw it at Carmen, missing her face by mere inches as it embedded itself into the wall behind her. It wasn’t a prop. She screamed and shrank farther back.

Having satisfied his rage, Ernesto relaxed, adopting the sly charming smile that Carmen had first fallen in love with. He picked up his top hat and placed it on his head at a slight angle.

“Now wipe those tears and fix your makeup. We need to prep everything for the show and I can’t have you looking like a mess.”

With a flourish, he turned and walked out of the green room, leaving Carmen quivering.


As she always did, Carmen set up all the props for the evening’s performance, including the ones used in Ernesto’s greatest trick, The Resurrection.

Ernesto would step inside a large trunk. Carmen would lock it and demonstrate the strength of the lock by attempting and failing to pry the trunk open. She would then bring out a table lined with a row of swords. An audience member would be called on stage to verify that the swords were real. Carmen would repeatedly stab the trunk, running the swords all the way through, causing jets of blood to spurt from the holes, and drawing gasps and screams from the crowd. In reality, there was only one real sword, which the audience volunteer examined. The rest were all props. Carmen would remove the swords and open the trunk, revealing traces of blood but no body inside. More gasps would follow, and the audience would break out into an uneasy murmur.

That was when a completely unharmed Ernesto made his grand appearance from the back of the auditorium, to thunderous applause and cheers of delight. It was a true showstopper.

Carmen finished inspecting the trunk and was satisfied. Everything was ready for the show.


“Ladies and gentlemen! We have a most spectacular performance for you tonight! An astounding sorcerer who has honed his craft among the mystical monks of the Himalayas and the shamans of the African jungles – I give you, Ernesto the Magnificent!”

The crowd erupted into applause as Ernesto stepped onto the stage, dressed in a dark silk tuxedo with a flowing cape. He was never short on showmanship. More applause followed as he ran through his usual tricks: producing a flock of doves from his hat, making Carmen levitate and seemingly changing outfits in the blink of an eye.

At last, it was time for the main event, the trick that everyone had anxiously been waiting for since the curtains parted.

Carmen wheeled in the trunk, which was stood upright, while Ernesto started on his usual patter. He warned the audience about the heart-stopping nature of what they were about to see, and trotted out the old line about the Himalayan monks and what they had taught him. Then he proceeded to show off the trunk, its mundane and non-mystical nature. He gestured to the prop swords lying on the table next to it and demonstrated, using the real sword they mixed in with the group, the sharpness of the blades. Carmen stood off to the side and smiled, hands on her hips and bosom thrust out.

As the crowd watched, their breath collectively catching in their throats, Ernesto stepped into the trunk and gave Carmen the signal to close it. She shut the lid, locked it, and turned to face the crowd again. She walked over to the table with a big smile on her face and picked up one of the swords. With an exaggerated show of force, she plunged it through the upper part of the trunk, where Ernesto’s head would be. The blade came out the other side, slick with blood. The audience was already squirming.

She bowed, smile frozen in place, and went to fetch another sword. In total, sixteen swords were stuck into the trunk. After taking a moment to show off her handiwork, Carmen set about removing the swords, one by one. They slid out with a soft squelch, drawing at least one scream from the audience.

Now came the moment of revelation. With a big theatrical gesture, Carmen flung the trunk open. It was covered in blood, but otherwise empty. Everyone gasped in amazement. There was a small smattering of applause and Carmen took a bow.

Some of the audience members who had seen the show before immediately turned to face the back door. Others followed suit, and soon the entire auditorium was facing the back, waiting. Nothing happened.

The crowd grew uneasy. Where was he? This was the big finish, where he would show up again, unharmed. But he never came. Nobody saw him again after he stepped into the trunk that night.

Carmen was interrogated about his disappearance by the police, but they had to let her go. There was no evidence of any wrongdoing and since disappearing was a part of Ernesto’s trick, they couldn’t charge her with anything. Carmen walked away, sobbing into a large silk handkerchief.

Later that night, when the auditorium was empty, Carmen snuck in and opened the carefully concealed trapdoor on the stage. It led to a small chamber that she and Ernesto had installed months before the show; they were the only ones that knew about it. She pressed her handkerchief against her nose tightly as the smell hit her. Lying on the floor of the chamber was the body of Ernesto the Magnificent, covered in stab wounds and rusty, caked blood. Carmen would use the stage riggings to lift his body out and deposit it in the trunk, which she would dispose of some place far off. After that she would rigorously clean the entire stage area until no trace of blood was left. She would also get rid of the real swords that she had used in place of the props (and that she had carefully switched before the police investigation).

Fastidious as ever, Carmen had taken care of every detail. No one would ever know that shedding genuine tears over the disappearance of Ernesto the Magnificent was the greatest trick she’d ever pulled.