Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Forties Club Finalist #61

by Vincent Kale

The haggard king slumped in his throne of skulls. A beggar, rogue and thief kneeled before him. Each presented a gem to the Lord of Fire and Death.

Coal, his servant, collected the stones and deposited them onto a bed of kindling in a marble basin. The king waved his hand lazily. The dried twigs ignited.

The three peasants watched the flames lick the surface of the jewels. The ruby caught fire, its false exterior burning away.

“Imposter.” The king snapped his fingers, incinerating the beggar. Coal swept up the resultant pile of ash.

The emerald glowed forest green. Vapor drifted out of the stone, taking the shape of a slender woman. The king leaned forward in his throne. The woman solidified into a being of green bark and vines.

“A common Dryad,” said the King. He snapped his fingers again. The wood nymph screamed as flames consumed her, leaving a burned, twisted stump behind. Coal dropped a copper coin into the rogue’s hand.

The diamond began to smoke. Fog poured from the basin, extinguishing the flames. The king leaped to his feet as the basin became encased in frost. A figure crystallized, a beautiful woman carved of living ice.

“After all these years,” said the king. “My Queen.”

He kneeled before her. A throne of snow and ice formed on the dais.

Coal dropped a pouch overflowing with gold coins at the thief’s feet. Ash drifted from his mouth as he whispered to him.

“You have doomed us all.”


Oddyoddyo13 said...

LOVE the concept with this-so fascinating.

Lewis J Peters said...

Successfully conjured up suspension of disbelief through being drawn in by the narrative.

Peter Dudley said...

Fabulous. You have a great middle grade style and pacing with some heavy duty imagery and symbolism. The details are simple but expertly chosen. I love this one. Great work, one of my very favorites.

JR's Thumbprints said...

When I get to "You have doomed us all," I can't help but think of an Ice Queen. Great pacing in your story.

Aerin said...

I'm a fantasy lover, so this one is high on my list. And because it's really such a well-written piece, I am going to nitpick a couple of things that I think you could change.

"Haggard king" - you've captured this with the stronger verb "slumped" - don't need the word "haggard"

"The emerald glowed forest green" - Emeralds usually aren't that deep, are they? I get the tie to the dryad, but again, I don't think that's necessary.

"Coal dropped a copper coin" - too much alliteration - delete "copper"

I LOVE the ending of this, so much.

Dottie (Tink's Place) said...

Hi Vincent

Ice and fire, I guess opposites do attract... (diamonds = ice... love the symbolism used, hard cold things).

Nicely done!

Dottie :)

Laurel said...

Great, great ending. And I love the symbolism of each of the stones.

Great fantasy voice.

JaneyV said...

VIncent I'd like to add my voice to all the lovely comments here - this is a superb piece of fantasy writing. The story is well written and I LOVE the ending, particularly the description of ash falling from Coal's mouth as he whispered to the Thief.

Rebecca Mansfield said...

Hey thanx for commenting on my story.
I love your story cause its an easy read but had a lot of depth and the imagery puts you in the room with the characters. I also love the fire/ice combination.
Good luck

Catherine Vibert said...

Love this, it reminded me of fairy tales I loved to read as a kid. Wonderful concept. Great ending! I LOVED the ice queen!

Deb Smythe said...

I'm a sucker for fantasy. And this one had a little fairy tale mixed in. Good stuff. Loved the story and tghe voice.

Aerin said...

I keep coming back to read this because I don't have time to pick up a full's just so gosh darn satisfying, and the perfect length for a mom with two kidlings underfoot....*sigh* Has school started yet? Wait, am I tangenting?

Word verification: mensrest Which amuses me.

Michael Morse said...

I liked the way the picture prompted the story, but then the story far surpassed the picture. Or something like that. It's a good story well told.

J. Elis Morgan said...

I couldn't believe this was 250 words, that's how immersed in the story I became. Fantastic!

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

This is brilliant! I love it! I love the concept and the lovely prose surrounding it. One of my favorites, by far!

B. Nagel said...

Looks like Hel is freezing over. But the Saints won a Super Bowl so we knew it was coming.

All jokes aside, I am interested in the story beyond the 250 word border. I do have some quibbles about word choice, but don't we all? The ending is bang up and Coal is fascinating.

I wonder, is COAL anything like CINDERella, an usurped heir sleeping beside the fire?

Vincent Kale said...

Thanks to everyone for the kind comments (and criticisms)! As a first-timer here, I really do appreciate it.

As for the story beyond the 250, it just kind of manufactured itself:
Once upon a time, the Lord of Fire and Death with his Ice Queen at his side wreaked havoc upon the land. A brave witch cast a spell to entomb the wicked Queen, robbing the Lord of half his strength. Though the spell succeeded, it had also imprisoned many other magical creatures in the land.
The King, alive but weakened, charges his subjects with bringing him as many gems as they can find. He promises riches to the one who returns his Queen to him and punishment for those who try to fool him.

Or something like that :-)

And Coal has quickly become one of my favorite characters. He's literally a lump of coal formed into a human servant and given a living fire by his Lord and Master.

Thanks again and good luck to everyone!