You continue to amaze and entertain us every week! Thank you! As always, we appreciate all the entries, comments, and tweets! 🙂
Honorable Mention | Soldier | Laughing Andy | @laughingandy
Cara Says: Great Old Ones dispensing some karmic justice on the neighborhood protection racketeer. I’m imagining how Louie’s fate changes the local landscape.
Ruth Says: Loved the noir vibe here and the Lovecraft hat tip! Such a fun read! Would love more of this story!
Second Place | Underboss | @billmelaterplea | Bill Engleson
Cara Says: This week’s installment of the Hazel offers a hope of resolution, then spins us about and adds a wild card in the form of Hap’s tucked-away son, Bobby. Damn it, someone around here knows something!
Ruth Says: I love how mysteries and secrets unfold throughout this serial, each one tucked inside another, and another, like little nesting dolls. Always a pleasure to read!
Winner | Boss | Siobhan Muir | @siobhanmuir
Cara Says: This scene has a soothing vibe with just the right underlying dose of ‘come to the Goddess.’ Balder clearly has a tough road ahead, so here’s hoping he finds an ally or two to help him along. Kicking it two weeks’ running with this continuation of Balder & Svanhild’s brewing epic, wtg.
Ruth Says: Darn it, Cara stole my word. Soothing. That’s what this scene conveys. A sense of peace and hope Balder’s battered soul needs as much as his lungs need air.
The Winning Story: Prices and Consequences by Siobhan Muir
Taking a chance, Balder glanced up at the person holding him. A woman with hazel eyes full of wisdom wearing an ornate breastplate decorated with wolves smiled at him.
“There, now. Feeling better, Balder?” Her voice held the music of the stars, ancient and seasoned, and some of his uncertainty faded.
“Good. I see you’re working on your recovery, and I’m very pleased.”
He didn’t know why her pleasure meant anything to him, but it warmed his heart and threatened a blush across his cheeks.
“Where am I?”
“A safe place beyond time and consequence.” The woman tipped her head to the side. “I need you to do something for me, Balder.”
Wariness filled his gut. “What?”
“I need you to stay here in this town. I need you to put down roots and grow your family. And I need you to devote your considerable willpower to the people here. All people, including the Elder Races. Can you do that for me?”
He clenched his jaw. “Do I have any choice?”
“You can always tell me no.” She nodded. “But each choice, yay or nay, comes with prices and consequences.”
He thought about all the choices that had led him to this moment, this place, and wondered if he was doomed to follow the same lonely path forever. His gaze drifted around the room, searching for answers in the comfortable furnishings and homey knickknacks. He almost missed the warrior standing in the corner, waiting for direction.
He immediately recognized the woman who’d been on the porch. She wore her own breastplate, but hers had bears molded into the metal and looked like it had seen some action. Despite her forbidding presence, her brows pulled together in the middle and her jaw clenched as if she feared for someone.
Probably the Goddess holding me. He didn’t know why he knew she embodied the divine. Nothing had been said or shown, but certainty hit his gut along with the comfort she provided.
“And if I say no?”
She shrugged. “You’ll continue on your path as you are now. You’ll get help and you’ll eventually heal. But it will take longer, be harder and lonelier. And there are people who need you.” She nodded her head toward the woman warrior in the corner.
She needs me? That didn’t make any sense. Oh, wait. Maybe she needs me on my knees, with a sword in my gut. She didn’t look like someone who’d take kindly to him in any case.
But he wanted things to change. He wanted to be free of the programming that had damned him to this hideous existence, and he wanted Tiffany to be able to move on from his horrible actions.
“She needs me? To do what?”
The Goddess winked. “I can’t let every secret out of the bag. Where’s the fun in that?” When he sighed, she patted his ears. “I will say you’re not the only one who needs to heal and find redemption.”