"Ascension"

I wrote this for for the first round of what is called a Ceramic DM’ contest via ENWorld from August of 2007. A Ceramic DM contest is where the judges give all contestants the same 3 or so pictures with which they have to write a story around, no rx and then are judged on writing content and style as well as our use the pictures in the story. There is 72 hours from the time the pictures are posted in a round until the stories are due. Pertinent Links: Original Story Posted; links to pictures are included in the text. I left the judges comments at the bottom and I agree with pretty much everything they said. I wrote a lot for 72 hours.

The Story

And the answer was right in front of me the whole time.’ Anton thinks to himself as he looks at the mural in the lobby of his uncle’s office building. ‘How could I have been so blind. He is so arrogant.‘ as he continues his internal monologue. ‘I am, rehabilitation now, not surprised that he has not removed this archaic art as most everyone else has – vying instead for holographic banners and art.

The mural depicted the villagers of our great, great, great, great grandparent’s hometown to meet the priest who came as ‘angels’ descended from the sky to supposedly consecrate the horrible burning of his great, great, great, great grandparents alive for crimes against the church which included witchcraft and heresy. That’s what the history books say. Just below the mural were supposedly the last condemning words of the priest “By the flame of the righteous, I consecrate thee.”

Our family history paints a slightly different image. The local priest desired Anton’s great, great, great, great grandmother, Dorus’, recipe for her spiced kelp balls and she would not acquiesce a treasured family secret. Her rebuffing naturally earned the priest’s ire and then he condemned the pair to death for it. An annoying part of their family history, but that year marked the beginning of their family’s success and rise to riches. Shortly after Anton’s great, great, great, great grandparents’ immolation the spiced kelp balls started to sell like wild-fire and the money started to rolling in. The family has been rolling-in-the-spiced-green ever since.

This building has been in Anton’s family for a little over 2000 years and has had quite the history of violence, war, and disaster but yet it still remains standing in one form or another. Part of the building has been burned down to the ground in a freak candle fire. It has been bombarded by cannon fire during a civil war. It has been the home of human and halfling sacrificing religious sect that killed their members in a group pixie juice suicide. The family has kept this as their seat of power in spite of the many problems that it has had. Someone in the family has always owned it either personally or by a business that they controlled.

Anton is abruptly brought out of his thoughts as his shoulder is not so gently shoved forward. Behind him looms the chimpanzee brothers who look like two very tall, strong, dark haired, West Virginia, back-hill, inbred hillbillies with large ears, slightly protruding forehead, large mouth, and wild eyes that scream ‘I am my own Grandpa.‘. If you know what I mean? The not so bright and not so occasionally drooling half-ogre brothers that are errand boys for my uncle have bent sent to bring to Anton at his whim. His uncle is comforted in knowing that he receives a tax break for their full time employment.

The brothers shoved Anton from his thoughts about the mural and into the magic suppressing elevator a few feet away . Once they were inside the simian brothers looked at him and then at each other, furled their brows, and then grunted in unison. Brother number 1’s big hands mashed the controls for the elevator and they started to ascend to the top floor. Brother number 2 snapped out his stun baton and played with it menacingly behind Anton. He could hear the its quiet hum as well as the smell the ozone in its wake. He felt very naked without the charge pistol that they confiscated from him during his impressment.

Anton tapped his left arm a few times trying readjust the servos back into place. His cybernetic arm has been recently damage in a ‘misunderstanding‘ and he need to have it adjusted. The arm suffers from occasional spasms or ticks that have caused him to break a few peoples noses. It is the strangest thing. The random ion pulses discharging has not helped his case either.

Anton’s uncle is the current patriarch of the Seven Swords family and all of its estates. It is hard not to admire and loathe his rich and successful uncle. He has never met the man and as far as he has heard no one can remember seeing or meeting him either. As it is often said the rich are often eccentric, especially with our family. It is hard to argue when their leadership is so profitable.

The Elven Clan of the Seven Swords was very keen to keep their bloodline pure and looked unkindly upon the genetic stain that Anton was. The family was above having Anton killed or neglected outright as he is literally the red headed half-elven step child of this family. It is difficult to find a place in the various businesses that his family owns or is involved in so he am usually moved from place to place and business to business as problems occur due to his bastard origin.

As the elevator came to a stop and doors opened Anton looked quickly back trying to hide a smirk as he remembered that he broke brother number one’s arm as he left an elevator once. Brother number one squinted his eyes, grunted, and shoved the half-elf from the elevator and into the foyer.

The foyer room’s walls and ceiling was composed of a dark and shiny blue marble. It was an immaculately clean room that contained a small stand with the Xcentar 2000 Bionetic Verifier and the door. The X2BV appears more like a 4-person game controller because the manufacturer’s original chassis was destroyed in a freak fire storm at their factory and they conveniently found a rather strange and convenient replacement in the game controller that the owner’s son used for his virtual science simulations.

The X2BV is made for high capacity bionetic security points identifying 4 people at a time via a hemoscan, thermoscan, as well as a electro-resonant brain scan. The three of them approached the device and grabbed a hold of the handle and spoke out their names. Following the slight prick into their palms and the line of light that passed over their bodies quickly the light on the top of Anton’s handle lit up green and the other two lit up red.

The chimpanzee brothers scowled and walked their seemingly simian gait back to the elevator, mashed the buttons, and then disappeared as the doors closed and the elevator descended. As they left Anton began to feel really anxious and alone. He had never met the head of the family and he really had no weapons with himself. ‘You never can be too careful.‘ He had no idea what to expect, but assumed that it had something to do with his snooping around their family’s history and private archives, as well as asking meaningless questions about a long lost past. ‘Perhaps, my moment of reckoning had come.‘ he thought to himself as he tried to suppress a smile.

Once the the elevator had left this floor the light above the door that led to where the patriarch lay turned green. He could hear the heavy ‘chunk’ of presumably metal locks opening. The double doors quietly slid open little bit so that a dim light could be seen emanating from with in. Quiet sounds of microfans and, most likely, the glow of computer monitors seeped from the room beyond. Anton stood their and tried to slow his breathing and to keep his pulse from racing as this could be the moment when all is righted.

Anton walked slowly forward while nervously running his left hand through his hair. He used his right hand to open the doors and look into the room to try to assess the situation. Whether he should run or whether he should get ready for the showdown.

The half-elf walked slowly into the darkened room and he looked at the sole occupant in the room a woman not too much older than him – 24. She had long brown hair with delicate pale skin. Her eyes were wide, confident, and full of concern and fear as she sat in a bed with the covers pulled up to her bent knees. Anton was shocked. ‘This is no patriarch. But everything made sense in light of it.

The window was open behind her and the curtains were laying still with no breeze coming in. There was not a lot of light here as it was night time and the only light that was available was from the picture of the family crest on the wall screen behind him. His keen partially-elven eyes allowed him to see well enough and he stared at her. She stared at him as did her black cat who sat quietly at the foot of the bed and indifferently looked at him and then looked away at something obviously more interesting. The darkly wooded bed was contrasted by the statue of three scowling bulldogs’ heads with wide eyes that was made out of a light marble at the foot of the bed.

It was an all together surreal moment and it is nothing like he would have imagined. He expected to find a man here, his uncle who bore the family secret, but instead, he found the family secret. He imagined an epic battle to the death with thunder, lightening, storms of acid and hell-wrent flames. But there is only this. This moment looking at each other. Rather anticlimactic after a few years of searching for the truth, and for the right of ascension.

Anton cleared his throat and began to speak in an ancient tongue that has long been forgotten. “In the name of the fathers of Auld I command you, Dorus Seven Swords, heir to the patriarchy and secrets of the Seven Swords of the Fathers, and to the fabled recipe of the Spicey Kelp Balls to abdicate you throne at the head of Family.”

At that moment a great wind blew the curtains opened and it started to rain. Thunder and lightening ripped across the sky as the flash wrent the magics in the room. The cat bore the antlers of a hell-bound servant and the three dog-headed statue at the foot of the betrayed something more insidious – a Beyhound with swirling red enthralling eyes that beckon you to doze and relax. Its greenish skinned tentacles and toothy maw lashed out from under the bed and poised to strike.

‘This was more like it.” he thought as he readied the appropriate spell and incantation to take his place as the head of the family. The Beyhound’s eyes called his attention and assaulted his will. The hellbound cat glowered at me with a vicious and uncaring indifference while its horns pulsed and throbbed with electricity that lanced out toward Anton seeking his flesh.

The electricity arched to him and found itself drained by latent protective magical field that emanated from his cybernetic arm. Anton smiled and pulled out a black sapphire the size of a human fist and presented it as he continued “In the name of the Elders and the heirs of the Seven Swords I command you to relinquish.” The Beyhounds tentacles lashed out to him but he was not there, at least not physically there to extradimensional creatures as they were.

The wind howled and blew hard and lightening struck not too far away outside. The woman smiled and said “Thank you, my love. I am ready.” The black sapphire flashed and the room was empty of all creatures save himself. He could still smell the aroma of her perfume on the now still air. His heart sank.

The room was quiet and the tousled bed was wet from rain coming in from the open window. He could still see the impression on the bed from where the woman sat. He whispered to himself “By the flame of the righteous, I consecrate thee.” He sighed in sadness and a longing that no one else could ever understand, but this is necessary for the family line to continue appropriately. The surface of the Black Sapphire was warm to the touch and seemed to flare at small moments like flame was trying to free itself from within.

The mural at the entrance to the building fade slowly away and all that remained the phrase ‘By the flame of the righteous, I consecrate thee.‘ below was a clean blank wall.

Judges Comments

This is an interesting story. The circular use of the mural works quite well. When I first saw a picture used as a picture I went, “uh oh,” but you made it work. The other picture use is adequate, but nothing really knocked my socks off. Also, unfortunately, I am a grammar freak, and you have again broken my cardinal tense changing rule. Several times. The most obvious time was:
“Anton tapped his left arm a few times trying readjust the servos back into place. His cybernetic arm has been recently damage in a ‘misunderstanding'” Tapped, trying and has do not agree. His arm had been damaged. I hate to sound like a broken record, but a good story will only get you so far. Writing is a craft, and as such has rules. You have a great imagination and some really fun ideas, but the mistakes really pull me right out of the story. It also has a meandering quality which can work under some circumstances, but not in a story where you’re trying to build suspense. The payoff, the protagonist getting trapped, is great, but the suspense got diluted. I really got jarred by the story going from first to third person or maybe I was just never clear who was telling the story… and I don’t think I ever quite recovered.

The warhammer has been humming something that resembles a cross between an 80’s hair band anthem type song and the Battle Hymn of the Republic, but is now revving up to its keening scream. I’ll be glad when this competition is over. My poor old dog is in the very back room of my house howling, and the ancient cat is hiding under the bed. The hammer is only happy when it’s reducing someone to jelly. Sorry, FreeXenon, but you’re the flavor of the night. Squish.

FreeXenon’s story had a little more emotion to it. There seemed to be a little depth to the main character, and some sense of a greater story. The writing was very uneven, though, and it could have used another pass to clean up some of the more obvious shifts in tense and what have you. The McGuffin was a little off-putting, too — the frivolity of ‘spiced kelp balls’ seemed out of place with the rest of the tale. (At least they weren’t ‘Schwetty salty balls’ though), The descriptions were very good, though, and the pacing was tight and consistent. Picture use was pretty weak. The painting as a mural skirts way too close to the edge, and the others seemed merely descriptive and not essential to the tale.

Category: DnD, RPG, Short-Stories, Writing
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