2018 Spec Faith Summer Writing Challenge

Invite your friends to participate, either as writers or readers. The more entries and the more feedback, the better the challenge.
on Jul 23, 2018 · 50 comments

As I announced last week, it’s time for our summer writing challenge!

Summer, when you just might have time to do what you love. For those back from the Realm Makers conference, the challenge might be the perfect writing exercise to try out something you learned, or to get you back into the writing flow after all the fun and games. For the rest of us, it might be a break from the usual. And of course it might be the spark we need to get our creative juices flowing. Besides, I know of at least one book project that has developed as a result of a Spec Faith challenge. You never know!

As we have for the last several years, Spec Faith’s summer writing challenge comes with rewards. There’s feedback from other Spec Faith visitors and there’s the potential for a $25 gift card from either Amazon or B&N. And for readers, there are stories or story beginnings to enjoy. It’s all very win-win!

As a refresher, here’s how this summer writing challenge works:

  1. I’ll give a first line, and those who wish to accept the challenge will write what comes next—in 100 to 300 words, putting your entry into the comments section of this post.

“What comes next” may be the opening of a novel, a short story, or a completed piece of flash fiction—your choice.

In keeping with Spec Faith’s primary focus on the intersection of speculative fiction and the Christian faith, writers may wish to incorporate Christian elements or to write intentionally from a Christian worldview, but neither is required. Likewise, I’d expect speculative elements, or the suggestion of such, but entries will not be disqualified because of their omission.

  1. Readers will give a + (NO MINUSES, PLEASE!) to the ones they like the most (unlimited number of pluses), and, if they wish, they may give a comment to the various entries, telling what particularly grabbed their attention.

By the way, I encourage such responses—it’s always helpful for entrants to know what they did right and what they could have done to improve.

  1. After the designated time, I’ll re-post the top three (based on the number of pluses they receive) and visitors will have a chance to vote on which they believe is the best (one vote only).

  2. I’ll again sweeten the pot and offer a $25 gift card (from either Amazon or Barnes and Noble) to the writer of the entry that receives the most votes (as opposed to the most pluses). In the event of a tie, a drawing will be held between the top vote getters to determine the winner.

And now, the first line:

If only Bran could stop the king, but he was too powerful, too sure he was right.

Finally, those silly little details we all need to know:

  • You must include the given first line without changing it.
  • Your word count does not include this first line.
  • You will have between now and midnight (Pacific time) this coming Sunday, July 29, to post your challenge entries in the comments section.
  • You may reply to entries and give pluses, this week and next. To have your pluses counted to determine the top three entries, mark your favorite entries before Sunday, August 5.
  • Voting begins Monday, August 6.

Feel free to invite your friends to participate, either as writers or readers. The more entries and the more feedback, the better the challenge.

However, please note, the challenge is not a popularity contest. We want to give writers a chance to find out what readers actually think of their writing. Consequently, please do not ask your social media followers to give your selection a vote unless they read the other entries as well. Thanks for making this little exercise a valuable help to all who enter.

Best known for her aspirations as an epic fantasy author, Becky is the sole remaining founding member of Speculative Faith. Besides contributing weekly articles here, she blogs Monday through Friday at A Christian Worldview of Fiction. She works as a freelance writer and editor and posts writing tips as well as information about her editing services at Rewrite, Reword, Rework.
Website ·
  1. Sammie B. says:

    If only Bran could stop the king, but he was too powerful, too sure he was right.

    “Do you have to do this?” he asked for the hundredth time, hoping that just maybe the answer would change this time. It didn’t.

    King Tralgur nodded as he adjusted the crown that was now heavy on his head. Funny, it had never felt like such a burden before. “If I’m not willing to do it myself, how can I ask my subjects to do so? No, it has to be me.”

    “And if someone else were willing … ?”

    “Then I would be derelict in my sworn duties to protect them, wouldn’t I?”

    The king glanced down, and the harshness of his features softened as he laid a hand on Bran’s shoulder and knelt down so they were at eye level.

    “I know you think the world of me, but I am merely one pawn in this game, meant to give everything, if necessary, in protection of the king.”

    “So, then, who is the king?”

    King Tralgur grinned, and a light flashed in the depths of his brown eyes, like a joke there waiting to be told. Gently, he lifted the crown from his head and set it atop Bran’s flaxen curls. “You are, my son.”

    Bran glanced up to the full moon that perched on the horizon, so impossibly close and large. The Moon Goddess had demanded a sacrifice, a hefty price for her to continue to hold the moon so it wouldn’t come crashing back to Earth. And now, she had one.

    King Tralgur’s frame was little more than a silhouette in the moonlight as he marched to his fate, never looking back. If only Bran could stop the king and remind him that he was still needed here, too.

    • Interesting twist, Sammie. You caught me by surprise, not that Bran was the king’s son, but that the king would abdicate.

    • Katherine says:

      This is really cool, but I’m a little uncertain about the end.

      “I know you think the world of me, but I am merely one pawn in this game, meant to give everything, if necessary, in protection of the king.”

      This line threw me a little. Is he sacrificing himself because Bran is his son? (A motive I fully approve of, but it seems like his response would be a little different.)

  2. (I submit my entry with gratitude for the vaguery of the English pronoun.)

    If only Bran could stop the king—but he was too powerful, too sure he was right. The king erred in grief; Bran erred in the seduction of his own strength.

    The girl lay limp across the plinth. King Martin leaned over the corpse, drawing power down into her. But it would not be power alone which came, and he surely knew that despite his grief. Teal streaks of energy swirled down the statue, laced with darker purple warning.

    Bran watched the purple, anxious to force it back from the princess’s shell. “Get out of my way,” he’d snapped. “A puppeteer of shadows is useless here. Power is what is required to save the kingdom.”

    I hid in the shadows to watch the wizard set himself against what King Martin called here.

    Turquoise streamed over the king and poured into the corpse like a waterfall of smoke. Bran shouted defiance and leveled his staff at the pillar of glowing power. King Martin roared his fury.

    Eerie light flashed as energies collided and roiled. Bran pressed back the cascading invader, but it would not be stopped while the king held his invitation and his dead daughter.

    I gulped breath and closed my eyes. I’d seen the princess every day, when she came for grapes or invited me for tag or told stories of her kitten’s adventures. I grieved her, too. But I would not have her again at the price of not being entirely her.

    “Daddy!” shrieked a shrill, terrified voice.

    King Martin jerked, but the body between his arms was still. A girl stood behind the makeshift altar, wide-eyed. “Daddy, no. Not like this. You love me too much for this.”

    He knew. He looked, and I could not guess if he saw me. But though he knew, the fiction touched him where argument had not.

    He sobbed as he drew his heavy hands from the plinth.

    • Leanna says:

      I really love how you ended your entry, I fear that the beginning is a little confusing (especially the paragraph with the narrator remembering Bran shoving past) and that might be why there aren’t more likes yet?
      I’d like it twice if I could. 🙂 It’s definitely my favourite of the entries so far

  3. Daniel Stewart says:

    If only Bran could stop the king, but he was too powerful, too sure he was right.
    “It’s a riddle,” said Old Wisdom, as he studied the words on the wall.
    “How do you know?” asked Young Faith, as she stood next to him.
    “Well, because each phrase is a quote from a different sentence,” replied Old Wisdom. “For example, Rutledge said, ‘If only Bran could stop the king from wasting everyone’s time.’ Wilson said, ‘I tried to beat Father Time, but he was too powerful.’ And Harper said, ‘You are too sure he was right, but maybe that time he was wrong.’”
    “So, it’s about time, then,” said Young Faith.
    “Yes, it appears to be so,” said Old Wisdom. “However, time is only the first clue, not the answer to the riddle.”
    “That makes perfect sense,” said Young Faith. “We should look for other aspects of the sentence that refer to time.”
    “Precisely what I was thinking,” said Old Wisdom. “Do you see anything that might fit?”
    “Yes, I do,” replied Young Faith. “The term ‘could’ is both present and future tense, while the term ‘was’ is past tense. Sentences usually don’t have more than one tense, which makes time stand out even more.”
    “I agree 100%,” said Old Wisdom. “Having alluded to past, present, and future in a single sentence, might suggest that the answer to the riddle is about perceiving all historical time in a single simultaneous observation.”
    “What can possibly do that?” asked Young Faith.
    “If we answer that question, then we have the answer to the riddle,” said Old Wisdom. “Are there any other clues?”
    “I think so,” replied Young Faith. “Each mention of ‘time’ in the original three quotes have different meanings. The first is a symbol of a person’s life. The second is a personification of death. And the third refers to a specific moment or event.”
    “Can you answer the riddle, then?” asked Old Wisdom.
    “Omnipresence,” said Young Faith, as a secret door suddenly opened into the personal chambers of God.

    • notleia says:

      But what about Middle Aged Cynicism?

    • M.A. Zeller says:

      I like the spin you put on this, Daniel – very intriguing, and the faith element is wonderful. My only suggestion is to not use the word “said” as often.

  4. If only Bran could stop the king, but he was too powerful, too sure he was right.

    “I yield!” Bran roared, casting his staff to the glittering sand. The spray from its impact rose to catch the breeze, haloing the nearby stone colossus, sheening the crowds as their thunder died away. They had not expected this.

    The king, melodramatic to the end, cupped his ear. “Say it again!”

    “I will return to exile, and trouble you no more.” You pansy.

    An insufferable grin twisted the king’s features. “Just so we’re clear,” he said, sauntering across the arena to kick the staff out of Bran’s reach, “you do know this means I get to keep Rhomila?”

    Bran glanced at the sidelines, where a beautiful woman pretended to weep. She had to be the one who’d sabotaged his staff, cracking its focal stone to keep it from channeling his power, reducing it to a weapon of mass destruction. No one else had had access. Bran nodded, not trusting himself to speak. These two deserve each other.

    “Good,” hissed the king. “Now kneel!” His own staff snapped up, and a blast of energy shattered Bran’s kneecaps. The sorcerer went down hard, face-planting in hot sand. The crowds erupted with a din too deafening to interpret.

    The king prattled on, barely audible. “Your reign of terror has ended! This is the day long awaited! The death-day of Bran the Brutal!”

    Slowly, painfully, Bran raised his head. His own stony visage returned his gaze from beyond the business end of the king’s staff.

    Bran’s colossus would outlast him. Today’s restraint would preserve his legacy forever. It would overshadow these people’s tombs. The king thought Rhomila was his leverage, but that just proved him a sentimental fool. Good luck getting a colossus of your own.

    It would’ve been nice to stop the king.

    But Bran was too powerful, too sure he was right.

  5. Connie White says:

    If only Bran could stop the king, but he was too powerful, too sure he was right. The scepter he held confirmed this in the eyes of the gods and the people both, but Bran wouldn’t give up.

    I can’t.

    He stood and turned from the throne. Any other subject would have been flogged for not bowing.

    King Tor called after him. “Don’t do anything you will regret, my friend.”

    Bran did not turn back. If he rode hard, he could make it.

    Eden could not die for the king’s madness—Eden, whom they had both loved.

    I let her go for him! I would not keep her from being queen, but, gods, that I had fought for her then.

    The hooves on the soft earth pounded rhythmically, and he pushed his horse faster, watching the moons rise beyond Wain. When he reached the base of the first hill, he slowed and dismounted.

    “Go home, girl.” He stroked the horse’s mane. “I die here or have the kingdom to bring me home.”

    He was betting all on a children’s rhyme—nonsense to most, but his Morai, with her soft hands and wrinkled face taught him the old legends. “Rabbit in a snare, all beware. Rabbit goes free, still may be. Rabbit is joined, power purloined.”

    The pyre already burned, the magicians spiraling out, chanting their mysteries.

    Eden stood—bound beside the fire, glowing in its amber light. Her head did not falter, nor did she cry out. The mages’ unseen power pushed, and she fell into the flames. Bran closed his eyes and stepped in opposite her.

    Fire licked up his legs, his chest, his face. Then a cool breath soothed his skin, and Eden stood beside him. The fire was quenched, and the scepter—the scepter of the crown—was in his hand.

    The fire mages cowered and bowed to their new king.

    • Katherine says:

      So is there more than one scepter? I really like the concept. I feel like this would be even better in a slightly longer story.

  6. If only Bran could stop the king, but he was too powerful, too sure he was right.

    Trev stared at the words hovering in the pale blue projection above his floating desk, mind blank. He needed more. This ending wasn’t worthy of the Artisan Scholarship.

    Hot frustration surged up his throat.

    “Blast!” He banged a fist against his desk, setting it rocking above his ergonomic seat. Twelve hours until the deadline and the cursed last chapters wouldn’t cooperate.

    “Something wrong?”

    Trev turned at the familiar voice. “Go away.”

    Kyra sauntered into Trev’s dimly-lit room, hands buried in the pockets of her skintight leather pants. “My story’s done. Yours?”

    Trev stiffened. “Yep, just about. Pretty good, too. Best I’ve written.”

    He blocked the projection as Kyra moved closer. Her jasmine perfume stung his nostrils. Despite the smile plastered on her face, her deep blue eyes smoldered.

    “I’m going to win the Scholarship, Trev. My family needs it.”

    “Whose doesn’t?” Trev snapped. Each Artisan apprentice had one chance to change their fortune when they turned eighteen. Everyone needed it.

    “Do you ever wonder why they make us do this?”

    “Look around, Kyra. The world needs stories to stay sane.”

    Kyra glared. “I’m not stupid. When I become a Craftswoman, I won’t let the Overlords keep playing games with our lives. This needs to change.”

    Deep down, Trev agreed—despite the excellent pay and veneration artisans received. The world was bleak enough without taking advantage of them, without enslaving their skills to satisfy people’s escapist demands.

    He pointed at the sliding door. “I need to finish.” He’d come too far to let his dream—and his family’s hope of a better life—crumble now.

    “See you tomorrow, Trev.” Kyra strode out. Too quickly?

    Trev turned back to the projection. It was blank. Entire chapter erased.

    An icy knife of dread stabbed through his chest. He leapt up. “KYRA!”

  7. audie says:

    If only Bran could stop the king, but he was too powerful, too sure he was right.

    “I really don’t think you should go on stage,” Bran said, trying one more time to talk some sense into him.

    It didn’t work, “It’s ok, you know, ’cause I’m a hunka hunka burning love.”

    “No, you’re over 80 years old. Sequined jumpsuits do not look good on you.”

    “Buddy, you ain’t nuttin’ but a hound dog, you know that?”

    “If you tried to do that hula-hoop thing you used to you, you’ll end up in the hospital.”

    “Ah, man, don’t be cruel. Keep talking like that, and we’ll have to have a little less conservation, you know?”

    Bran was losing patience, “See here, if you go out there like you are now, you will just ruin your legacy. Ruin, I tell you! I will try one more time, just to make sure you hear the exclamation marks: Ruin!!”

    “Listen, buddy, I got my blue suede shoes…”

    “Those are loafers. And brown.”

    “…I got my teddy bear…”

    “Well, yes, that is a teddy bear.”

    “…and I got my good luck charm…”

    “That rabbit’s foot is so very fake.”

    “…now I’m gonna go out on stage, and show you these people just can’t help falling in love with me.”

    Bran watched the king shuffle onto the stage, and muttered, “I’d best go book him another room in Heartbreak Hotel.”

  8. Marion L says:

    If only Bran could stop the king, but he was too powerful, too sure he was right.
    “The tree must go.” Riagán pointed at the massive oak that had stood at the edge of the Forest of Sióg since before the kingdom was founded. “If we are to eliminate the threat posed by the Foighne, we must conquer the forest.”
    “Your majesty, the Sióg—”
    “—are a myth, designed to keep children and fools from becoming lost in the forest.”
    “Father, please—”
    “Prince Bran, hold your tongue.” Riagán wielded Bran’s title like a sword, both promise and threat combined.
    Bran clenched his fists at his side. Was there no way to stop his father from invading the domain of Faery short of regicide?
    Bran whispered a prayer to the Creator to keep his father from making a mistake that could destroy all the humans in this part of Eire.
    Riagán motioned to his men, who moved forward with their axes, trepidation on more than one bearded face. Legend painted the Sióg as mighty warriors skilled with magic as well as weapons.
    As they advanced, a lone figure appeared beside the tree.
    The men fell back, dropping their axes. Lightning struck the ground between Riagán’s men and the forest. They turned and scattered across the moor.
    “Cowards!” Riagán roared. “Sheep! Must I do everything myself?”
    Taking up a fallen axe, Riagán ran toward the forest, shouting the battle cry of the kingdom.
    With a massive creaking like the beams of a ship, the Guardian Oak swung its lowest branch and struck Riagán, sending him flying.
    Bran raced to his side, but it was too late. Riagán had landed on the axe.
    Bran blinked away hot tears.
    “You are now King. Guard the Forest. I am Tuathal, Chief of the Sióg. Remember this day and let there be peace between my people and yours.”

  9. Duke Ferguson says:

    The Republic of Bariuum spacecraft, running from the parasites of the Sclerodermite Empire, charged through a warp hole and crash-landed in some type of fibrous mass. Bran Osmoti, the chief engineer, had argued with the king, the acting captain Lex Teeve, that engineers could free them by breaking up the stringy material in the impact zone. His aid thought, if only Bran could stop the king, but he was too powerful and sure he was right.
    The captain feared a suicide mission, but Bran prevailed. Petty Officer First Class Enae Mass’s job was to get a specimen of the muddy material encasing the ship. Once her analyzer beeped, Enae read the monitor. It was organic material! The information was sent directly to the ship. An hour later crew members were hosing off the last remnants, when the ground rumbled. It quaked again throwing crew members down huge fissures. Screams echoed across their helmet radios. The walls were caving. Captain Teeve ordered the engines fired, trying to rock free. Before his order could be obeyed, a monstrous worm, pale blue and covered with muck, surged toward the trapped vessel.
    The bridge crew watched helplessly as the worm curled around the ship, pushing it deeper into the sludge. The ship’s metal groaned beneath the pressure the worm applied to the hull, then a terrible jar, a surge of motion, and a bright light. The ship’s engines tried to fire but were clogged with the cavern muck. The ship sputtered, flew just a short way, and landed on a brightly lit plane.
    “What the heck was that? I’ve heard of bugs crawling into a person’s ear, but this is ridiculous.” The gastroenterologist slammed the fly-swatter down on the small creature that had flown out of his patient, “Ew, messy!”

    • Duke Ferguson says:

      the name Bran was the inspiration, and of course apologies to Star Wars. but if you study that scene from the movie, you will note that the above short story is not far removed from the original movie. I mean they were in the bowels of a big worm.

  10. (Ahhh! my phone was dying so I had to post it before I finished. Here’s the rest of it…)

    In the courtyard below, Terius continued his monologue, punctuating statements with a pointed finger. While delivering his final words, Terius stood taller, aware of his striking persona.

    A smirk spread across Bran’s face. The answer was simple. He needed to change the people’s view of Terius. No. He needed Terius to think that the people’s view of him had changed. And, as Royal Holocaster, Bran might have that opportunity.

    • (Ahhh! my phone was dying so I had to post it before I finished. Here’s the rest of it…)

      In the courtyard below, Terius continued his monologue, punctuating statements with a pointed finger. While delivering his final words, Terius stood taller, aware of his striking persona.

      A smirk spread across Bran’s face. The answer was simple. He needed to change the people’s view of Terius. No. He needed Terius to think that the people’s view of him had changed. And, as Royal Holocaster, Bran might have that opportunity.

  11. If only Bran could stop the king, but he was too powerful, too sure he was right.

    No one expected Failsafe to be so effective. No one knew what it was before King Kelden authorized its deployment on Goar’s borders. When the crofters reported sheep lost in an inky blue fog, rumors fermented in public houses like strong ale. A few stories of children taken whilst wandering the forests were put to bed as tragic accidents. The soldiers posted on the border didn’t wonder at all. They knew their orders. Prevent intrusions by the Fell. Since the king’s sorcerer had released Failsafe, there wasn’t a single incident to report. Bran suspected the two were related, but who was he to raise objections? Failsafe made Bran happy because he was a coward.

    Bran rubbed chainmaille across his sword and watched a purple sky kiss the coming night. From his perch above the Gate of Nine Fires, he sought any change to the fixed landscape below. For weeks, no movement, no life, no threat. Just the steady progression of sun, moons, and stars, the rhythms of the guardpost, and the tickle of past shame he’d never given up.

    “Is that one of the Fell in the clearing? Bran, why didn’t you warn us!” Bran fell over his seat scrambling to ring the ancient copper bell of alarm, dropping his sword to the scarred stones far below. A hand grabbed his wrist before he could strike as laughter filled his ears.

    Captain Anselm’s laughter.

    “Stupid boy. Busy dreaming of the girls at home. What did I say? He’s too green to be standing the watch without supervision.” Anselm pulled Bran up with hardly a shrug, lifting the spindly youth and depositing him on the stool. Bran fought back tears as he wrestled this round of humiliation. By the Singer, not again.

    [Thanks for a great opportunity to break out of a writing rut. I was looking for a chance to freeform some story introduction material, and this was a great seed. Well done to all the other authors! I’ve enjoyed them a lot!]

  12. L.C. Crouch says:

    If only Bran could stop the king, but he was too powerful, too sure he was right, Pallas thought as he reassured his stallion. The horse was uncharacteristically frightened by the cacophony of the battle in the valley below them.

    “Father, this battle was not appointed to us,” Prince Bran pleaded, his voice heavy with concern.

    The sun glinted beneath them, dimmed only by blood staining sword and armor alike.

    “As Commander of the Guard I must agree with Prince Bran. This battle has not been granted to us to fight. We will be risking many lives and forego the protection of The Sovereign,” Pallas said.

    King Caelan’s enormous, black steed pawed the ground, nostrils flaring, his coat glistening with the king’s heraldry.

    King Caelan raised a battle-scarred hand. “I grow weary of arguments. Our neighbors fight for their freedom, and we will bear the burden of battle with them. Surely the nobility of our cause will please the Sovereign!”

    Who was more eager for battle, the King or his steed?

    “I beseech you, King Caelan, heed the Word of The Sovereign. He has not ordained this battle and that which He has not ordained, He will not bless!” Pallas tensed, awaiting the king’s wrath.

    “Sound the charge!” The king drew his sword and pointed it towards the heavens, shouting, “For The Sovereign!”

    The trumpets sounded, and his horse reared, intoxicated by the thrill of impending battle. The twang of bowstrings sounded a sharp staccato to the arpeggios of the king’s trumpets as arrows left their nocks. The king and his steed fell, still and silent.

    King Bran commanded his troops to retreat. Raven eyes dampened with mourning, he dismounted to close his father’s eyes, and repeated, “That which The Sovereign has not ordained…”

  13. Cathy H says:

    If only Bran could stop the king, but he was too powerful, too sure he was right, too noble. Should the serpent be released, he would face it as his sovereign duty.

    Bran’s leather armor creaked as he fought for balance when the tremors struck. His king- his brother- stood tall and strong, unswayed by the shaking ground. Squaring his shoulders, Bran forced himself to stand firm.

    He squinted at the sky. Murky clouds roiled overhead, masking the sun, and as the light dimmed, the field shook again. Fissures opened like hungry mouths to eat the tall, dry grass and withered flowers, and with a thunderous crack, the rock sealing the gateway split to reveal the deeper, darker chasm which extended to the roots of the earth.

    “‘And the Serpent who devours the World shall be unleashed’,” the king quoted. He set a hand on Bran’s shoulder. “I must go.”

    “I understand.” It wasn’t a complete lie. Bran swallowed bile.

    They ran side-by-side as they had in their youth, and jumped the expanding crevices. The fractured rock towered over the abyss from which the serpent would emerge to devour the world.

    The king tilted his head to the sky, praying, but Bran watched the void, alert for any variation in the darkness. Finally, the dull gleam of the serpent’s coils caught the failing light.

    “Drystran,” Bran said. “It’s time.”

    His brother’s dark eyes bored into his, though the flicker of fear Bran saw might have been a reflection of his own. The king drew his silver dagger.

    But… There was a way to stop the king.

    Bran punched his older brother in the face. The king staggered back in surprise, and Bran wrenched the dagger from his hand.

    “I love you, Drystran,” he said.

    He hurled himself into the abyss to bar the serpent’s passage.

    The rock snapped closed above him.

  14. If only Bran could stop the king, but he was too powerful, too sure he was right.
    Bran swallowed hard, struggling to keep the fear from his face. Lord, give me wisdom. He bowed. “As my king commands.” He backed away from the throne, nodding to the guards stationed by the door as he left the room.
    His placid mask cracked as he rounded the corner. I can’t let him do this—but to oppose him will mean my death. How can I stop him? If just don’t carry out my orders, he’ll execute me and assign the job to someone else. So, that will accomplish nothing.
    Bran nodded at the smile a passing servant girl gave him, trying to keep a semblance of normalcy. If only His Majesty could be reasoned with…Bran stopped in his tracks. He won’t listen to me, but is there someone he would listen to?
    He quickened his step. Father Malachi would know. He’s been the royal confessor for decades. Even if they’ve stopped going to services the last few years…
    Bran exited the main compound of the palace and hurried to the chapel behind it. He pushed the heavy wooden door opened and slipped inside. “Father Malachi?” Bran’s eyes darted around the large stone room. Soft candlelight kept most of the room in shadow. Bran’s nerves tightened. Who could be hiding in the shadows? No one must overhear what I say to Father Malachi.
    He cleared his throat and called again. “Father Malachi? Are you here?” A sound from the door behind the pulpit reached his ear. He strode over to it and knocked. The door cracked open as his fist connected.

  15. Anna Zogg says:

    If only Bran could stop the king, but he was too powerful, too sure he was right. Bran’s ecclesiastical order dictated humility. And weakness. He had taken a vow to protect the natural progression of the El’sharan culture. But how to encourage change when the king chose a course that would destroy their countries and ultimately their world?

    Anxiety gripped Bran as he approached the capital city’s gates. He must do more than merely “encourage.” He must manipulate the king in such a way as to leave no trace of thought-bending. Sniffers would discover Bran’s deed and strip him of his ability. What use would he then be to anyone?

    Hawkers, street performers and travelers choked the thoroughfare leading to the citadel. Noise glanced off Bran, but color and motion blinded him. His normal attire—face covered as befitting a Bender—usually shielded his eyes. Not today. The telltale garb would draw unwanted attention. However, he needed to slip past the formidable guards whose habit was to accost travelers. Dressed as a lowborn, Bran shuffled behind a group of vagabonds. Only a few more yards…

    “Ho there.” A booming voice cut through the cacophony of jabbering people and bleating animals.

    Eyes on the cobbled road, Bran kept moving.

    A rough hand yanked him backwards. He came face-to-face with a mountain of a man. Cruelty and pride marked his demeanor. No need for a mind probe to ascertain that.

    “We’ve enough beggars in our city today.” The guard tossed him into a thorny wymac bush. Those nearby laughed.

    Brushing himself off, Bran focused on the gates. He must get inside.
    A simple bending would change the guard’s attitude in a moment, but he couldn’t. A Sniffer would find out. And find him.

    Humility. Weakness.

    Regardless of his righteous cause, power and dignity must yield.

    Palms open, Bran bent his knee.

  16. Ledelian says:

    If only Bran could stop the king, but he was too powerful, too sure he was right. The kind father who had tirelessly chased Bran around the gardens years before was gone. He had returned from the war as a stranger, and the only person he pursued now was Bran’s older sister.

    When Bran and Sylvie learned of the peace a year earlier, they were overjoyed. Yes, it had come at the price of lives and land, but they would have their father back after five years without him. With the king’s departure coming just two years after their mother’s death, the children had been alone far too long.

    Bran wished he could remember his mother properly. He had been only four when Maia fell ill, dying despite the thaumaturge’s best efforts. He was not sure how many of his memories were truly his, and how many just felt real because of Sylvie’s frequent descriptions.

    As he had fallen asleep as a child, she would tell how his parents had fallen in love, marrying a year after Sylvie’s father had died. The king raised Sylvie like his own child, and he was the only father she had ever known. She would remind him of how inseparable his parents had been, always laughing and smiling, and throwing balls for no other apparent reason than the desire to dance with each other all evening.

    Bran had so often prayed for his father’s safe return, but now he felt it would have been better if his father had died in battle.

    The changes to his father’s nature had not been immediately obvious. Yes, his smile seemed wrong somehow, but it had been so long since Bran had seen him. Yes, he seemed to anger easily now, but it had been a difficult war. But harder to explain was the way the king had been watching Sylvie. Always, always watching Sylvie.

    • Ledelian says:

      Per my note below, shortly after submitting this piece, I found another idea I liked even better. I wrote it, and submitted it below, in the piece by “Margaret B.” Though the rules do not specify one way or the other, I am guessing we cannot have two separate entries. If I can only have one piece, I would choose to be evaluated on the one by “Margaret B.” and to have this piece excluded. If, however, both pieces may coexist here, please disregard this message. Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause, and expel both pieces if need be. I apparently was attacked by too many muses this afternoon.

  17. Margaret B. says:

    If only Bran could stop the king, but he was too powerful, too sure he was right. And now, it would cost Bran her daughter.

    When the soldiers announced the reason for their visit, Bran had tried to fight. Her cooking knife had kept away the occasional drunk who tried to force entrance in the years since her husband’s death, but it proved no match for swords and men trained to use them.

    “I’m sorry, Branwen,” said the captain of the guard, taking a seat next to her at the table, where she had collapsed in defeat after finally being subdued. “I know this is not what you want. But you have the other children to think of, so please don’t do anything that will get you killed.”

    “You know what he’ll do to her.” She wiped her face on her sleeve, still shaking. “They all die.”

    “Maybe she won’t.”

    When the young king had come of age and announced he would choose his bride from the commoners, it had caused a scandal in the court and jubilation in the streets. When reports came out that his lovely young wife had drowned just months after the wedding, the kingdom was heartbroken, and every eligible maiden had prayed to be the one to comfort the poor widower.

    When news came that a fall had killed the new queen, whispers began to spread that the king was a monster. When his third wife died by the following season, every voice fell silent in fear. Now, no family wished to have their daughter wear a crown. But the king was the law of the land, and he could choose as he wished.

    The door opened, and Gwen walked in, surrounded by her younger sisters. Bran wanted to yell to her to run, but the soldiers had already barred the entrance.

    Gwen looked at her mother. “What’s going on?”

    This is the second piece I wrote for this challenge. I thought of it just after I entered the one above it, the one by “Ledelian.” Though the rules do not specify one way or the other, I am guessing we cannot have two separate entries. If I can only have one piece, I would choose to be evaluated on this one. If, however, both pieces may coexist here, please disregard this message.

    • Katherine says:

      Good beginning to a story!

    • Marla says:

      Using Bran as a female name caught my attention, and the uniqueness made me read it in its entirety. Nice job. It reminded me–just a little–of the Princess Bride (Prince Humperdinck and Buttercup) but it doesn’t detract from the story.

  18. If only Bran could stop the king. But he was too powerful, too sure he was right. To rebuke him could cost Bran his life. To remain silent, the lives of innocents.

    “What troubles you, my son?” King Adrian asked, his blue eyes soft with compassion, his wrinkled countenance flexed with concern.

    Bran winced. “I’ll miss them, Father. We grew up together, played together, dreamed together. Edward was my best friend. His sister Sarah . . .” His voice choked.

    The king nodded. “The right choice is not always the easy one. If only they’d recant. But I won’t break my own law. They’ve chosen to die for their faith.” He sipped his goblet. “And die they shall.”

    Bran studied the old man. How often they’d walked by the lake, his father sharing wisdom about life, about governing. Bran also shared freely, asking questions, responding with open emotions. But the secret now burning in his soul threatened to devour him. He hung his head and sighed.

    “It will be painless,” the king said. “The moment Gorgoreth enters his chamber, his breath will consume them. They’ll see a bright light. That’s all. My dragons are quite efficient.”

    “Mother’s death was painless too.” Bran kept his gaze down and hoped he wouldn’t say too much. “But you grieve for her as much as I.”

    “These Christians are political fodder, nothing more!” He slammed his goblet on the table. “They decry our industry and turn away commerce. The people want them stopped, and will rebel if I don’t act decisively. Even now they murmur insurrection.”

    He walked toward the door. “These religionists worship an execution. I’ll give them what they love.”

    “Then you’ll have to execute me as well!” Bran cried out.

    The king turned. Confusion crossed his face.

    “For I am one of them also, Father. And neither will I recant.”

    • Marla Schultz says:

      Nicely done. The only thing that took me out of the story a bit was this line: “King Adrian asked, his blue eyes soft with compassion, his wrinkled countenance flexed with concern.” You probably weren’t attending to set it during ancient times, but the execution of the Christians seems to suggest this. With this in mind, I picture a Roman emperor and the depravity they were typically know for, so King Adrian’s compassion seems misplaced.

  19. If only Bran could stop the king, but he was too powerful, too sure he was right. ‘we haven’t provisions nor weapons. Without surrender my men will die, my people enslaved. Bran was conceding defeat when a trusted friend, Polis, found him under a shade tree in the pleasant valley. “Bran, I come with good news!” “Spare me. Surrender is the only recourse.” “Nay, my lord. There is another way.” “Pray tell.” “Perchance the Abbot of the lowlands might be persuaded to part with some food, weapons we can forage.” Cynical, Bran was sarcastic. “Food for the twelve of us? Perhaps the abbot has lodging as well?” “Are you the same man myself and others pledged loyalty to? Who never ran from a foe? Or have you become feeble, scared like a rabbit when a deer approaches!” A raised, clenched fist covered a reddened face. “You dare call yourself a friend!” Polis seized the moment. ” Our ranks don’t compare with the kings tens of thousands. In the lowlands we can roam one side to another, taking a few of his men on the east one day, a few more from the south on the next.” “I’m skeptical, Polis.” Bran. the others and I would prefer death to surrender. Choose this day whom you’ll serve. If God be for us, who can be against us?”

    • M.A. Zeller says:

      This has such great potential! Unfortunately, I had to read the submission a few times to clearly understand what is occurring, due to the lack of formatting. My suggestion would be to have proper formatting (e.g, a new paragraph each time a character speaks). Other than that, it is an intriguing read. I love the reference from Joshua 24:15!

  20. If only Bran could stop the king. But he was too powerful, too sure he was right.

    Bran shifted slightly within his boots. The soles locked him to the surface of the floor, supplementing the gravitational pull generated by the ship. He willed his breath to a steady rhythm as he studied his liege lord.

    King William’s shoulders bowed as he looked at the wreckage on the viewscreen. Slowly he pulled the crown from his head and placed it on the desk in front of him, freeing a few strands of gray hair to hang down his cheek.

    He turned and gave Bran a pleading look. “There’s no other way?”

    A tremor of excitement leapt in Brans chest. He squelched it firmly as he shook his head, schooling his face into a lie of sorrow. “The Centaurans have defeated our fleet. We have no choice but to agree to their terms. The only question is who will be punished for the massacre on their second moon? You, or your son?”

    King William drew himself up to his full height. “The Prince must be spared, of course. My reign has run its course. His is just beginning.”

    The King placed a hand on Bran’s shoulder. “Will you stand by the prince, and council him as he takes command?”

    Bran struggled to keep the irony from his voice. “I’ll serve the prince with the same diligence I’ve shown you.”

    The door slid open, and guards hauled the king away. Bran bowed to the Centauran commander. “I’ve upheld my end of the bargain.”

    The Centauran touched a finger to his forehead in acknowledgement. “The remainder of the fleet is yours, usurper, as long as you stay out of our territory.”

    Bran’s heart beat faster as he set the crown on his own head. He wished the king didn’t have to die. But it had to be done.

  21. Jason Vasche says:

    “If only Bran could stop the king, but he was too powerful, too sure he was right.”

    The words appeared on the ebon curtain of sleep, a flowing, iridescent script that shimmered into existence. Then the curtain abruptly fell away, and Inspector Marku Vulpes returned to waking reality. He lay still for a long moment, vainly trying to recall the dream which birthed that statement. The mundane, outside sounds of Karnstadt were too disruptive. Vulpes sighed and rolled off his lumpy bed.

    As he proceeded through his morning ritual — light calisthenics, washing and dressing, breakfast of beans and bread, and two cups of strong black tea – the cryptic words clawed urgently at Vulpes’s mind like an animal trying to escape a cage.

    Questions in his mind drowned out the clatter of the hansom’s wheels on the city’s cobbled streets as Vulpes rode to the police station.

    Nearing his destination, something flitted through the open window, accompanied by a whisper heard clearly over the street’s din:

    “Tired, Inspector? Bad dreams last night?”

    Jolted from his reverie, Vulpes looked about but saw no one; on the floor of the cab lay a calling card. He picked it up and examined it. It bore a single word, in a hand eerily similar to that of the dream-statement:


  22. Melody Orlicky says:

    If only Bran could stop the king, but he was too powerful, too sure he was right, Kira mused anxiously as she streamed through the silky waters.

    Piercing sun rays filtered through the disturbed sea, shadows bouncing off the jagged rocks on the Isle of Rhodes, where King Nasim had sailed through siren infested waters for a prophecy from the Graeaes, the ancient sea spirits who could foretell his fate as king. He had been engulfed in the white sea foam which personified the Graeaes, until they tossed him out mercilessly. He returned to his castle enraged, immediately plotting against King Kol of the Merfolk.

    King Nasim was right to be afraid for he brought misery and pain to his people with his evil ways. A few weeks passed before King Kol had been assassinated, along with the queen and their four daughters, by order of King Nasim. A powerful poison had been created by Hendary, a poison master whose cruel experiments were infamous.

    Kira had heard of how King Kol and the rest of the royal merfolk family had melted into bloody pools of bone and flesh one horrific evening as they dined. King Nasim made no attempt to hide his intentions of eliminating King Kol and his family. Still plagued by dreams of his death, King Nasim manically declared his intention to extinguish all the Merfolk through any means.

    Kira knew The Graeae’s had foretold Nasim’s death by one who would rise from the waters, dark haired, with liquid silver eyes and a ruby-eyed sea serpent wrapped around him. As Bran’s lover, Kira, a shape-shifting, violet haired sea nymph, had gazed into his silvery eyes and had admired the beautiful work of art that circled down his body, a serpent with glinting red eyes. Bran would somehow have to stop the King who had the strength and help of dangerous people all around him.

  23. Katherine says:

    If only Bran could stop the king, but he was too powerful, too sure he was right. He would never listen to a man branded with a coward’s mark.
    King Alaric stood on a podium in the center of the castle courtyard, giving a rousing speech about the valor of his 2nd Company, the King’s Wolves. Bran hid near a pillar, hiding his face with the hood of his cloak.
    “The Lord God is on our side,” the king proclaimed. “He will bring us victory.”
    Bran bit his tongue until the salty taste of blood filled his mouth. The Myrali sorcerors had decimated the northern tribes. They desecrated the graves of Bran’s kin, from using their dark magic to twist his brothers and their fellow soldiers into mindless slaves that slaughtered their loved ones. Monstrous creatures, born of foul magic, now haunted the northern ice fields. Alaric had never left the temperate plains surrounding the capital. He wouldn’t last two days on the ice before getting lost and providing the monsters with a meal.
    “Lead him,” a voice whispered.
    Bran trembled. He knew that voice. It had roused him from darkness after the slaughter of his kin and driven him across the Myrali-cursed ice fields to a healer’s cottage.
    “I can’t,” he said. The familiar shame of his past seared him.
    “You will lead him,” the voice insisted.
    “He’ll never listen to me. I’m a coward.”
    “You are My instrument. Lead them.”
    The king stepped down from the podium, escorted by his guards. Not a northerner among them. They would die without a guide.
    Bran stumbled forward, propelled by the same One who had pulled him out of the grave. Pushing back his hood to reveal his face, he called the king’s name.

  24. If only Bran could stop the king, but he was too powerful, too sure he was right.
    Too late, Bran realized he couldn’t do this alone.
    He shifted his broken wing, a pained snarl in his throat.
    “Your majesty,” the dragon growled, struggling against the spear in his side. “You can’t do this.”
    “It’s already done.” King Namen’s eyes gleamed. “Soon the world will be overturned, and a new order will arise. Can’t you see it, old friend? The time has come.”
    Bran barred his teeth and tried to pick himself up, but the king’s enchanted spear sapped his strength, making it impossible to stand.
    Adril… he thought. Come back.
    “This isn’t right, Namen,” Bran growled. “Can’t you see how many lives will be lost?”
    The king turned away. “I see a shadow growing,” he muttered to himself. “About to swallow us all. But it’s mine to govern now, mine.”
    Bran snarled.
    The dragon turned his head. A young elf was crouched behind the rocks, her robes torn, her blonde hair falling around her shoulders in a tangled, unpoetic mess.
    “It seems my assistance was required after all,” Adril’s voice echoed in his mind.
    Bran snorted.
    The elf darted from behind the rocks and yanked the spear out from Bran’s scaly side, tossing it away with a cry as if the weapon burned her hands.
    The king spun around, but it was too late.
    Bran leapt across the courtyard, tackling Namen to the floor and pinning him against the ancient stone. The dragon’s vision swam with the effort, his side throbbing with pain. Beside him, Adril drew her sword, her blue eyes flashing.
    “Your majesty,” Bran panted, a smile curving on his lips. “I’m afraid the new order will have to wait.”
    “Release me!” the king snapped, struggling wildly. “You can’t stand against destiny!”
    “Perhaps not.” Bran cocked his head. “But I can try.”

What do you think?