Ahh my dear friends, I hope your week has gone well. =) I'll not keep you in suspnce any longer though, the winner of Wren is....
Rachel Victor!!!! Congratulations Rachel! Her entry was I'm Game:
It was 2167.
In the 113th floor of Virtent Tower, a conversation was taking place, the effects of which would affect events for years afterword. Only two people ever heard that conversation. They were surprisingly able to turn of their Video and Audio Comm that linked to the Top Feed. This indicated that they were top-level officials, trusted and knowledgable. Also, that the matter they spoke of was of utmost importance. It wasn't recorded, so that it there was no possibility that it could be leaked.
But from what happened afterwards, and from what we know of the two individuals in conversation, we can quite well piece together what happened there. One of them was Carla Lofflin, and the other was Vincent Steele, Vice-Manager under her.
Carla chewed on her lip, deliberating. "There are children! We can't just blithely orchestrate these murders and--"
"And what?" Carla could feel Steele's eyes on her, read the unspoken question. Was she backing down? Getting soft?
" We can't expect the public not to notice or care. A systems failure? I mean really. How convenient for us. Do you think no one will notice?"
"The weather's been bad. We plant some concerns about it in the Feed, get the Mass riled up. They'll be upset about us not fixing a failure soon enough which could bite them next. They'll think nothing of the others lost."
Carla was silent, weighing the positions.
"And think of it, Carla. The dam is near enough to here. We could have damage to Virtent Towers. The Mass wouldn't really expect us to hurt ourselves if it was our scheme."
Carla sighed. It made sense, really it did. But she couldn't get over a nagging feeling that it was too easy. There were protesters, and a broken dam conveniently wiped them away. The Mass was ignorant, but not that ignorant. There was a whole group of them--she privately called them the Vigilantes--that were eager to find some cause to rally behind, real or imagined.
And somewhere deeper, there was another feeling. Of regret. There were children. And it wasn't just the public that would feel bad about it. Carla did, too. Sure, most of the children weren't of the best genetic code. They probably wouldn't get far in life. But that was only thanks to their parents. Shouldn't they be given a chance to succeed? To pick another life than that of their parents?
But then there was her career to think about too. Steele was nipping at her heels, itching for her position. Everything she said--any hesitation--he was quick to pounce and seek to capitalize on.
She could feel his eyes on her. If she didn't say yes...
"We'll do it," she said. She walked over to the project document projected on the monitor on the wall. She placed her hand against the signature oval for the machine to authenticate and confirm. The monitor beeped its recognition.
"You signing, Steele?" Carla gestured toward the monitor.
"My signature isn't required. You override me, you know?"
"Yes I do."
Steele just smiled. Carla couldn't get over the feeling that she had somehow signed her own death warrant, and not just those of the protesters below.
The door clicked shut behind Steele as Carla walked over to the window. Down, down, down, far below, were the protesters.
She didn't know it then, but one of them would be very important in her life later on. His name was Dvorak.
"Dvorak?" the man sitting at the makeshift fruit stand was trying to make conversation with the glaring boy in front of him.
"Yes, like the composer. 5 apples." The boy, Dvorak, pointed behind the man to which ones he wanted. "No, those are too bruised. You're charging too much to try to give me bruised fruit. Are you serious? Here, let me feel them. Don't want any rotten apples. Really!" He kept on muttering to himself while the man glanced around, aggravated, hoping no one else had heard.
"You're ruining business for me, do you hear? Shut your mouth!" He looked at the fruit the boy had picked. "That will be 50 flat," The boy dug out a thin plastic card to pay. "Sorry, don't accept that here. You should know that, son." He pushed back the card. The boy sighed and glared again. Digging into this pocket, he withdrew a bill with 50 imprinted on it.
"You do know these are hard to come by? Who uses dollars anyway?"
"Most of the people here. You were saying about a composer?" the man deflected.
"Yes, have you heard of him? Antonin Dvorak? New World Symphony."
"Of course, of course," the man nodded quickly, wrapping up the apples. He obviously wanted the boy finished with his order as soon as possible.
The boy let out an exaggerated sigh. "You mean you don't know. If you people had a Comm, you might be a little more knowledgeable!" He grabbed the apples and started to stalk away.
"Young man!" the old man was suddenly alert, less sluggish. "Does your mother know that you're saying that?"
Dvorak turned back to glare at the man. "Of course she does! She's terribly frustrated with me. She's one of your group's most loyal supporters, in case you were worried. She always will be, even if you guys don't listen to her. You really don't deserve her you know. I wish she'd just join the other side already!"
He turned to stalk off again, before realizing that he had gained an audience. The protesters who had been milling around were now alert, ready for a fight. Dvorak heard a man near the back of the group mutter, "Can't even raise her own son properly. How do we expect her to convince the whole country?"
Dvorak almost dropped the apples as he tried to push through to get a swing at the man. But someone else grabbed his hands. The grip was firm, but didn't hurt.
"Go home, boy." Dvorak looked up at Nathan, the unofficial leader of the protesters.
Second place goes to... Anna Baber! Thank you Anna!
It was late one night after Uncle Alvin and my cousins were sound asleep. The air was dry and cool.
I crept out of the barn where I slept, barely breathing, with some bread, water and a few coins tied up in my blanket. I had dressed in my single long dress with crooked seems, and a small length of rope tied around my thin waist.
I ran along the little path away from the village. I could see my way in the dim light, but I tried not to focus on the clumps of trees that formed a sort of woods. I didn’t want to be frightened.
I tried to keep running so I wouldn’t think. Yet my heart was still pounding both from fear of being caught and the fear of not being caught.
Although most people would be afraid of being alone, I wasn’t. I’d always been alone.
Memories flooded my mind.
We had lived in a one-roomed brick house with a thatched roof in the middle of a tiny town that was always busy. My cousins and Uncle Alvin made a feeble living as wood carvers. Unlike the nice stories a blind storyteller in our village told, someone had to suffer for that poor living. Me.
The men of the house got first pick, first serve, and first everything. I had to make due with the leftovers.
My Uncle Alvin and cousins were horrible.
Sometimes in our culture, girls as young as fourteen were married off. I was lucky to have stayed single all of my sixteen years. I always gave the credit to my good cooking. I could take the meager food resources I had and create something delicious. And besides, if they did marry me off, Uncle Alvin and his sons would no longer have their free slave. Their only cost was giving up the leftovers from the meals and a corner in the barn. In exchange, they got someone to do all the housework, cook, clean and wait on them.
My eldest cousin, Clayton, thought woodcarving was such hard work. He never got much done, and certainly didn’t earn his keep.
Eliot, the second, tried to pull his weight around the house. He was the only one who thought to chop the wood for the fire and he earned lots of money carving. Yet he was still spoiled enough to want me to wait on him.
Finally, Derek—the sloth—could hardly drag himself off his pallet in the mornings. I didn’t dare wake him in fear of his strong hand which dealt harsh slaps.
My aunt was long dead. One of my only memories of her was when she taught me to tie slip knots. I had no memory of my parents though—I was an orphan. My parents had died when a terrible fever had run through the village. I had gotten sick too, but Auntie had nursed me back to health, and then caught it and she too died. Often I wondered what my life would be like if they were still alive. Would I have been loved and cared for? Would I have had the delight of being cherished during my childhood? To be loved was my dream, yet my dream seemed so distant, and often it would just slip away.
Sometimes I thought of marrying someone who would love me. That seemed like the only way I could get love. There was one little problem that always seemed to wiggle its way into those thoughts—I wasn’t very pretty. I had long, stringy strands of blond hair and large green eyes. My cheek bones were low, and freckles were scattered about my pale face. Besides that, I was terribly scrawny.
Shaking my head to rid myself of my useless daydreams, I tried to focus on what I was doing.
Travel to AreTe and get a job as a cook.
I would be free of my abusive uncle and cousins.
By dawn I hadn’t seen anything besides the path, clumps of trees and the volcano Hunia.
It was starting to lighten up. The sky was purple, and puffs of clouds were scattered over the lavender advance. I stopped by the road and ate a bit of bread before continuing. Before long, I saw it.
The castle towers.
The city was indeed large—and noisy for the time of day. I observed the gates from afar before arriving. I was afraid of such a large city, though I wouldn’t want to admit it, partly because I’d never seen one before, and partly because I might get lost.
What an ironic thought for a runaway.
There were two guards standing at the tall, wrought iron gate, the long, stonewall running down and around the city.
As the first one noticed me walking up, I nearly giggled at the long mole hairs that grew from his face. Since I liked giving people mental names in my head, I decided to name him Mole Hair.
I looked the second up and down and found nothing amusing, except that his helmet was askew—his name was now Cockeyed Helmet.
Mole Hair grinned when he saw me. “You’re about the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen.”
I straightened my shoulders, defying the urge to hide my plain face behind my stringy blonde hair. “Let me pass.”
He knocked Cockeyed Helmet in the ribs. “Isn’t she funny looking?”
My face flushed. “Stop delaying me. Let me go.”
“What could a scrawny rag like you want in AreTe? To beg in the streets?” He laughed. “Well I’ve got some sorry news for you.”
He leered closer. “People in AreTe don’t like beggars. They never give even a crust of bread. They’ll beat you and sell you into slavery!” He snatched my arm. Cockeyed Helmet simply watched with an amused smile on his face.
“Let me go!” I shouted. “I’m not a beggar! I am trying to—”
“Except no one will want to buy you, sorry thing you are—”
I tried to yank my arm lose, and shouted above Mole Hair’s voice. “I am not going to be a beggar! You let me go right now! I hate you! Stop!”
“Let her pass.”
Third Place goes to... Gloria Newton!!
Fire in the Cave:
“What are you doing, Elise?” a voice called out in the windy summer afternoon. A girl about 15 years old jerked her head up at the noise.
The stranger was a girl, not much older than herself. She wore a light blue dress and a brown vest. Her hair whipped around her face, evidencing the strong breeze.
“Oh, Fira, it’s you.” She said as a girl came up behind her. She was holding an old looking paper with a map and a strange looking script written on it.
“Yeah, what are you doing with that paper? It has a map of the Cutwoods. It looks really old, where did it come from?” she asked, sitting down beside her behind the boulder.
“I found it in a chest in a small hidden panel of my house.”
“But your house was built by your grandfather!” Fira said,“That wasn’t very long ago, yet this paper looks hundreds of years old.”
“I don’t know, maybe grandfather got it from someone else long ago and no one has found it since.” Elise said mysteriously, fingering the old parchment. “The trunk did have a lock on it”
“Then how did you get in?” Fira wondered, bushing back her almost-black hair from her face. A strange sense of mysteriousness came upon her as she thought about the idea of an ancient clue. She loved adventures.
“I um-kind of broke the lock. It was not on very securely”
“So, anyway, why are you hiding here, being so secretive?” Fira wondered.
“I wanted to look this over somewhere away from everyone else.”
“So does this paper say where the map leads?” Fira pulled the map from Elise’s hands.
“Fira!” Elise protested.
“Okay, it doesn’t” Fira muttered, half to herself, ignoring Elise.
“Fira!” came a shout. The two girls looked over to where a woman stood, her blue dress flapping in the breeze.
“Oh, I must go. Can you meet me at the little brook tomorrow after the noon meal?” Fira asked hurriedly.
“Of course!” came the answer
“Farewell, Elise.” Fira ran over to where the lady stood waiting on the pathway.
“Why were you behind those rocks, Fira?” she asked.
“I was just talking to a friend, Elizabeth.” Fira replied.
“We need to hurry to return to the castle, and help prepare for the evening meal. Elizabeth said. “Your father will be returning from his trip shortly.”
“Of course. Oh, how I’ve missed him! I don’t want to be late for his arrival.”
Fira’s father was a minor lord in the castle and was currently part of the peace negotiations in the foreign country of Afen. His frequent journeys made his time at home very special. Occasionally, he would bring Braden, Fira’s older brother, with him, to learn.
As they walked along the path Fira thought about what Elise had said. Maybe...just maybe Elise’s grandfather had looked at the map, and saw that it was in the Cutwoods and was afraid to go in! If so, he wouldn’t have wanted his family to go either. But why keep the map?
Meanwhile, Elise had also gone home to her little cottage. When she got there her mother had already almost finished cooking the evening meal.
“Elise, where have you been? I thought I told you to be home in time to help. And look at your dress and hands, they are so dirty!” her mother scolded
“I’m sorry mother, I lost track of time, and I didn’t mean to get dirty. I just love being outdoors,” Elise replied sheepishly.
When she was younger, she was often found exploring the beginnings of the Cutwoods Forest, until her mother informed her of the many dangers lurking in it. It was said that even after ten minutes of wandering through; one could never find the way out. It was rumored that near the heart of the forest there was a dark and dangerous cave. And that in this cave, was a bottomless pit, but no one went exploring in those woods to find out. But despite the stories, Elise decided that no one could really know. She liked to have evidence to what she believed.
“Elise I know you love going outside, but your duties here should be a priority.”
Fira ran breathlessly into her house, with Elizabeth trailing far behind.
“Fira! Here you are at last!” her mother said.
“Thank you for bringing her home, Elizabeth.” The servant curtsied in response.
“Yes, mother, what would you like me to do?”
“Please take the biscuits out and put them on the small table.” Fira helped prepare the food and set it out.
There was a glorious feast that night laid out in the banquet hall.
Fira sat quietly next to her mother, thinking. She should probably tell them about the map her friend found. But not now, she needed to speak with her parents later, when they could think about it together.
The next afternoon, Fira rushed to meet with Elise at the designated meeting spot. Elise was already waiting.
“Hello, Elise” said Fira
“Fira, I’ve been thinking, I think we should see where this map leads. We can see what really is in the Cutwoods. I mean-”
“I know!” Fira exclaimed “I also want to go. But I’m not sure if our parents would think it was wise. Would they let us? Especially since my father has to go for another trip in two weeks.”
“I have already shown my parents the map.” Elise said “I knew you would want to go, and my parents don’t even believe in all those stories about the forest. But they know it is as dangerous as a forest usually is. They said we could go if one of my brothers and your brother go with us. Father is far too busy with the blacksmith forge.”
“Really? I just know Braden would want to go!” Fira exclaimed.
“Then all you have to do is get your parents to say yes and we’ll be off!”
That evening, Fira was sewing with her mother by the light of a fireplace.
“Mother” she asked “What do you think about the Cutwood forest?”
Thank you so much everyone for entering this month!
-Mikayla and Ysa-