March 21 – April 4, 2018 Flash Fiction Contest “White Horse” (Bonus)

Theme: White Horse.

Story Requirements:

  • A woman of high/noble/royal birth.
  • A white horse (can be literal or theoretical)

Word Count: 1,200



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  • To leave feedback/Comments directly relating to a particular story – click “reply” to the story comment.
  • Specific critiques, comments, and feedback are encouraged. If you do not want honest professional feedback do not post a story.
  • Keep feedback and critiques to a civil and constructive level, please. Please critique stories for construction, style, flow, grammar, punctuation, and so on. The moderator has the right to delete any comments that appear racist, inflammatory or bullying.

Please Note: Comments may be considered “published” in regards to other contest requirements.

All stories are fall under general copyright laws. No part may be reproduced without the express consent of the respective author.

Story Submission Rules:
  1. One story per author. You may post more than one but only the first story will qualify for voting.
  2. Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
  3. Stories must fit into a single comment box and must stay within the word limit set for each contest.

Voting starts Wednesday morning at 9:00am PDT / 12:00pm EST / 10:30pm IST / 5:00pm WET/GMT/ 4:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 4:00am AEDT (Friday).

  • You may vote only once.
  • You cannot vote for yourself.

To be included in the “writing prompt roster”, you must have submitted two stories in the last sixty days. The roster is alphabetical and can be found here.

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.


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86 thoughts on “March 21 – April 4, 2018 Flash Fiction Contest “White Horse” (Bonus)

    • March 21, 2018 at 12:04 pm
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      Me too! It’s nice to have another fantasy writer in the mix! 🙂

      Reply
  • March 22, 2018 at 5:43 am
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    Time is fleeting and another contest. Hope I can get to this one, also. So much to do, so little time.

    Ladies, my first published book and the 7 that follow in the series are all fantasy (for children) but more a mix of modern day and fantastic, magical characters rather than a fantasy world, which is where I think the two of you are.

    Reply
  • March 23, 2018 at 10:20 pm
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    WHITE HORSES

    Once upon a time, in a distant land, there was a queen – Queen Beyaz by name. She was a good queen, and we know that because she always wore white. Good queens wear white. Bad queens wear black. Or red. Or green, at a stretch. But this queen would never think of wearing anything but white. And everything around her was white, too, just to make sure that people knew she was a good queen. So she had a white palace, with white walls and floors and ceilings and furniture.

    And when she needed to get about, she had a white horse, whose name was Bianca, because in Italian, white is ‘bianco’, or ‘bianca’, depending on whether the thing that’s white is masculine or feminine. This horse was a mare, so Bianca was her name. The mystery was why she was called by an Italian name at all when it wasn’t the official language of this queendom, but that’s a mystery for another day.

    Everyone was happy in this land because they had a good queen (as I’ve already mentioned) and were prosperous. The soil was rich, so they grew the best veg you could possibly imagine. And the country’s craftspeople were the finest in the world, meaning that exports of high-end products like saddles, swords and carved-bone toothpicks helped the local economy thrive.

    But as happens with all idylls, something came along that threatened it. Like that time I was on holiday in Tahiti with Maria, and … but that’s another story for another day. In this story, the bad thing that happened was an evil king – King Kötü. And we know HE was evil because he wore clothes that were striped – black, red and green; a horrible mixture of colours for a horrible man with little dress sense. Apart from that, what made him so horrible? I’ll tell you.

    He was rude. And he was greedy. And cruel. Oh, and he smelled awful, but no one could tell him because if they tried, he’d have their heads cut off, just for starters. Yes, he’d cut the heads off the rather naïve souls that would mention his underarm odour, then torture them. He wasn’t very bright, in fact, this king.

    Did I mention that he was greedy? Thought so. He wanted it all, and he wanted it as near to now as possible. He’d been eyeing up Queen Beyaz’s lands for ages and was waiting for his forces to be strong enough to attack, and for her forces to go down with heavy seasonal colds, which happened every year. Most of Queen Beyaz’s soldiers were abed with a hot water-bottle for their feet when King Kötü’s hordes swept across the border. It was a cinch.

    Queen Beyaz – who never caught colds owing to her exemplary diet and litres of lemon and garlic tea, which also kept suitors away – fled on Bianca, along with a handful of her most faithful servants and guards who somehow didn’t have colds either. If there’d been time, the queendom’s apothecaries could have examined them to find out why, and then they could have produced some kind of cure, but there was no time. So they didn’t.

    When King Kötü found out that Queen Beyaz had escaped his evil clutches – and they were very evil indeed – he was sorely miffed and had half a dozen of the Queen’s entirely innocent subjects beheaded, then tortured; he’d never learn. Of course, none of them talked, so he asked an old woman that sold flowers on the steps of the White Palace, but she refused to tell him where the Queen had gone. In a moment of inspiration, the King decided not to behead and torture the old woman and gave her a gold coin instead, which was worth five times what she would earn in a lifetime. She sang like a canary.

    Queen Beyaz was heading towards the port, with the hope of sailing to safety. Unfortunately, Bianca wasn’t the swiftest of steeds, and King Kötü caught the fleeing party up in no time, cutting off their route to the port.

    So it came down to a stand-off on the beach. With her back to the sea was brave Queen Beyaz and her faithful entourage, who were, it must be said, quivering in their boots. On the land-side was King Kötü and his mighty army, or at least those soldiers that hadn’t stayed behind in the capital to pillage – you don’t get the chance to do that every day of the week, after all. Whatever, Good was heavily outnumbered by Bad, and the situation looked beyond hopeless for the Queen.

    But she was well aware how legends are made. She stood up in her stirrups (which made Bianca whinny something rotten – you’ve no idea how that hurts a horse) and addressed her group.

    “Who’s with me?!”

    “We are,” came the response. If the Queen hadn’t been caught up in her dreams of acquiring legendary status, she might have noticed that the response was really rather feeble.

    Erroneously satisfied, Queen Beyaz reined Bianca round 180 degrees, dug her spurs in and held on as the horse, whinnying wildly again – those spurs … ouch! – charged into the sea.

    The members of the entourage looked on as their Queen splashed further and further out. There was no way they were going to follow her; they were faithful but not stupid, and would rather take their chances with King Kötü’s mercy than face certain death by drowning – a particularly nasty way to go.

    The water came up to Bianca’s fetlocks, then up to the Queen’s feet, then up to the saddle … the last thing the onlookers saw was Bianca’s mane and the Queen’s pearl-white hair entwining in the churning waters. And then they were gone.

    King Kötü did indeed show the Queen’s subjects mercy, which made his soldiers think that he might be a bit soft. In fact, that moment was the seed of his downfall; he was no longer seen as a figure of awe and fear, and within a month, his captain of the guard would stick a pike through him and assume the throne.

    But what of Queen Beyaz and the trusty Bianca? Well they died, of course – it’s scientifically impossible to be submerged in water for any length of time and survive – but the legendary status that the Queen sought was assured. Sadly for her, though, it was Bianca that was and will be remembered always. Think of her next time you catch sight of waves breaking out at sea. Didn’t you ever wonder why they’re called ‘white horses’?

    .

    Reply
    • March 24, 2018 at 2:50 pm
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      A departure from your norm. And, a good one at that. Love the tongue in cheek throughout the story and your asides, (asking and answering your own questions.) Nice touch. I asked that question about why they are called ‘white horses’ when I was in England to my acquaintance (from Wymouth, but the way) and he simply shrugged and said, “Dunno, lad, but that’s what they call them.” “Profound” answer, I told him.

      Like it, and got nothing to quibble about.

      Reply
      • March 24, 2018 at 4:38 pm
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        Thanks, Roy! Are ‘white horses’ (at sea) a British thing, then?

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        • March 25, 2018 at 10:26 am
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          Must be, because I had never heard the term before being in England, and a google search finally turned up a #3 reference in the urban dictionary as ‘whitecaps’. In my youth, young women spoke of ‘riding the white horse this week’, when ummm…referring to the use of sanitary supplies for ‘Eve’s curse’.

          Reply
          • March 25, 2018 at 12:24 pm
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            Oh dear … then that ending might be lost on the majority of readers …

    • March 26, 2018 at 12:14 pm
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      Haha this tale is so irreverent, I love it. All the asides and now I need to know what happened in Tahiti. It reminds me a little of the Princess Bride (the book more so than the movie) with the real life actions blending in with the fairy tale milieu.

      As for waves being white horses, I think that goes back to Greek myth where Poseidon and Athena fought over being the patron of the city now known as Athens. But it’s kind of funny to think of it in Roy’s sense. Though my favorite euphemism for that was the French version of “The Redcoats are coming”

      Reply
      • March 28, 2018 at 8:59 am
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        Thanks, Wendy! Interesting note about the Greek myth. But it’s wrong since the expression obviously came from poor old Bianca …

        Reply
    • March 29, 2018 at 9:51 pm
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      I looked up white horse wave as I hadn’t heard the term. I liked that it referred to the white part of a breaking wave as the mane of the horse. Great that a story teaches me a new word. Enjoyed this story.

      Reply
      • April 5, 2018 at 7:53 pm
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        Thanks, Janet!

        Reply
    • March 31, 2018 at 2:22 pm
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      Ha! Fun story Philip, and a fun read. Just so you know, I did not read your story before I wrote mine. They’re different of course, but there are some uncanny similarities.

      As for the ‘white horses.’ You Brits with your odd slang. How you can equate cresting waves with white horses I’ll never know. Over here we call them ‘white caps.’ (There’s a boat with that name docked on the river, obviously owned by a dentist.)

      Great story Philip.

      Reply
      • April 2, 2018 at 5:42 pm
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        Like the Guinness advert – white horses:

        Reply
      • April 5, 2018 at 7:54 pm
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        Thanks, Ken!

        Reply
    • March 31, 2018 at 9:37 pm
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      Well done, Phil.

      Reply
      • April 5, 2018 at 7:55 pm
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        Thanks, Bryan!

        Reply
    • April 1, 2018 at 7:06 am
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      Bravo Phil!! I loved the campy way you wrote it, here in the states they are called white caps but I’m an old salty dog and I’ve heard the term used before.
      I also loved that it didn’t have a good conquers all ending. The ending was tragically funny and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

      The only thing that stood out to me was the double use of the word “port”

      “Queen Beyaz was heading towards the port, with the hope of sailing to safety. Unfortunately, Bianca wasn’t the swiftest of steeds, and King Kötü caught the fleeing party up in no time, cutting off their route to the port.”

      And it only stood out because it’s a term we all don’t use every day!

      Reply
      • April 1, 2018 at 7:12 am
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        Although side note – shouldn’t the title be “White Horse” singular rather than “White Horses” plural?
        Maybe not.

        Reply
        • April 6, 2018 at 6:51 am
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          Thanks for the kind comments, Carrie!

          (‘White Horses’ because they’re the broken waves at sea … which got their name from Bianca.)

          Reply
      • April 4, 2018 at 9:50 pm
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        Oh good…Ken…you’re reading the stories… hopefully that means you’ll vote on time this week 🤣😂🤣😂🤣

        Reply
  • March 25, 2018 at 8:03 am
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    A lovely tale of good triumphing over evil – i think !

    Reply
    • March 25, 2018 at 12:26 pm
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      Thanks, Maud. In fact neither of them really win this time, put it like that …

      Reply
  • March 25, 2018 at 9:22 am
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    The Countess of Mercia

    Hey, it’s me. Peeping Tom. Not your regular neighborhood guy, running around in a raincoat peeking in windows, then flashing unsuspecting old ladies, or some mischievous teenager who is peeking in young girls windows then spanking his monkey, but the real thing. The one and only, the original Peeping Tom. The guy who started it all.

    I’m Tom the Tailor of Coventry, England and I’ve been hearing all the stuff going around about me. I’m here to set the record straight and tell the true story of how it all happened.

    His Lordship, The Earl of Mercia, the main guy of Coventry, was one dirty rotten scoundrel; a real bastard. He squeezed us common folk like a ripe grape. He piled tax after tax upon the good people of Coventry, telling us that ‘idle hands are the Devil’s workshop’, and stuff like that. Get this, we got taxed for paying our taxes late, early or even on time. It was called a “fairness” tax. How’s that for rotten? Like we weren’t pulling our share of the load.

    Of course, him, living in that fancy castle and all, was married to the one who was named as ‘The Gift of God”, the Countess of Mercia, and beautiful she was. The only load he was pulling, was the covers off his bum when it was time to get frisky with her Worship.

    There’s no doubt that many a man were wishing he could take a peek at what lay under all that finery. I mean, if the rest of her looked as good as the parts we could see, then almost any man would like to take a look. I know I sorely wanted to.

    It seemed her Ladyship was a might peeved at his Lordship for his highfaluting ways. Always pinching us poor folk for a few more quid so he could throw those fancy parties and keep that large army of men for security to guard his riches. That is, when he wasn’t pinching a few peasant wenches as they went about their castle chores.

    According to the gossip that runs rampant among castle folk, her Ladyship was always telling him, “Ask not what your people should do for you, but what you should do for your people”. I heard that got popular later on in another realm, but it never took off here. He’d just order more wine and jugs of mead, platters of pork and stuff like that.

    So one day, she comes up to him and says, “If you don’t do something for your people, I think I shall.”

    He looked at her, one eye askance, under considerable effect of the last jug of really good wine he had received from Lord Gallo in Italy, and made the following pronouncement. “Tell you what, Dearie,” – he called her Dearie when he was pissed at her, or drunk, and in this case both – “you do something for me and I’ll do something for the good people of Coventry, if you dare. I’m willing to bet you won’t ride naked through town on your white horse.”

    Well, to his drunken Majesty’s surprise, his beautiful wife agreed that she would indeed.

    So there went out a decree that on Saturday, the 5th of July, 1051, that her Ladyship, the Countess of Mercia, would ride WITHOUT all her finery through the streets of Coventry. And, if everyone followed the rules, his Lordship would lay off on the spring taxes and actually give a refund of the “fairness” tax.

    That’s right, good people, Her Highness was going to ride naked, as in birthday suit, naked as a jaybird, without a stitch of clothing. The only thing she would have on was a garland of flowers in her hair.

    I carefully followed all the rules that were announced in the decree. Well, all but one. On Saturday, at 12:00 noon, all doors and windows were to be closed and shuttered. No one was to be on the street. No one was really going to be allowed to watch as Her Highness rode through town on a beautiful white stallion in all her nudity.

    But I was going to watch, so I bored a really nice little hole in the side of my shop, at eye level, and put a little cover on it so no one would know it was there. When her ladyship came riding by on her big white horse, I would be ready. A quick flick, a long peek and I would be the only man in Coventry who could claim he’d seen her Ladyship in all her God given Glory. Of course, no one would ever know. At the time I believed that.

    The priest from the local cathedral told all the parishioners, anyone whosoever gazes upon Our Lady of Mercia as she rode through the streets without her finery, that God Almighty would strike them blind on the spot. Yeah, well, he’d been telling us fire and brimstone stuff each week for so long without anything ever happening we had trouble believing anything he said.

    There was the time he told all of us in catechism that if we spilled our seed on the ground we would go blind. That God would smite us. We used to get together behind the cathedral, spilling our seed and dare God to strike us blind. Well, going blind never happened, so I figured if we placed eyeballs on the nether parts of her Ladyship it would be just like the spilling seed thing, and decided I’d take my chances,

    And so the big day came. The bell tower rang 11:45 and the town of Coventry was closed up tighter than a chastity belt. Naturally, I was in position and waiting as her Majesty came riding down the street. I could hear the clip clop of the horses hooves hitting the cobblestones; the timing was right. I flipped back the cover on my spy hole, stuck my right eye in place and grabbed a look. There she was, garland riding high, long legs dangling along each side that gorgeous white stallion, and perky breasts bouncing in the breeze.

    Oh, Sweet Jesus, it was everything I thought it would be. Long hair or not, one could see those magnificent mounds of pale rosy tipped whiteness peeking through, and God above, she wasn’t riding side saddle. I gazed up those long fair thighs and could see all the way to London. And that’s when it happened. Everything went black. Lord have mercy, I was struck blind. The priest was right. First time in his life, but really bad timing for me.

    I sat down on a chair in my shop and wondered about my predicament. People would know what I had done. It was too late to try and mend my ways, for sure. The deed had been done. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was how I came to be known as Peeping Tom, the only man who witnessed the ride of Lady Godiva.

    Reply
    • March 26, 2018 at 12:20 pm
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      Haha another irreverent tale. Telling this story from Peeping Tom’s point of view was hilarious. I really thought someone was going to poke his eye through the peep hole, but making it god’s retribution was somehow funnier.

      Reply
      • April 1, 2018 at 8:52 am
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        Thanks, this is one of those tales that when writing, seemed to flow from my fiingertips along the keyboard, I couldn’t write fast enough to get all the thoughts down. It was as if I was channeling Peeping Tom himself. So, I just let him tell his tale.

        Reply
    • April 1, 2018 at 7:10 am
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      And absolutely LOVELY retelling of one of my favorite stories, you capture the peeping tom character without being overly piggish, I loved the retelling wholeheartedly!

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      • April 1, 2018 at 7:14 am
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        Plus I’m a big fan of the Vikings tv show which focused heavily on Mercia. I had to look it up then to see where the heck they were invading.
        Now I feel all smart and stuff since I knew where you were referring to geographically hahahaha

        Reply
        • April 1, 2018 at 8:59 am
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          Loved the first two seasons of Vikings, but I was the only one watching it. My lovely bride felt it was too bloody for her with all the senseless killing. I eventually strayed away. But, a lot of TV shows do that to me. They get so far away from the original story line and what drew me to them, I lose interest.

          Yep, us Vikings loved conquering the English. (I’m one fourth Scandinavian, English, Irish and German, each). Somehow, I’ll bet you are all smart and stuff.

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    • April 3, 2018 at 1:52 am
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      Roy,
      This story flows nicely. I think the writing made the story seem better than it was. Got a number of clever lines and titillating phrases. The writing is great, and the story is fun, lighthearted and engaging. Kind of a ‘You Were There’ in history approach. I think it was a good display of your skills.

      I was a little disappointed that God took his sight away. It seemed too easy. A cop out. (It’s a literal, flagrant deus ex machina, isn’t it?) I was expecting some odd, but natural cause of blindness, or none at all.

      It didn’t detract from the story. But it didn’t help it either.

      Reply
      • April 3, 2018 at 8:31 am
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        Thanks Ken, always appreciate your comments. Truly.

        Regarding the blindness thing, that’s how the whole thing went down according to legend, I just retold the tale in Tom’s own words. In the first draft, I was going to go with him only being blinded in one eye, using the old joke about the catechism kid who said, “I don’t care what the priest says, I’m going to risk one eye”, by elaborating on the spilling seed thing, but couldn’t make it fit because of the word limit, nor make it work because I would have to explain the joke which sort of loses something when you try to explain funny. You, of all people, should be very well aware of that quagmire.

        It was a fun write, I must admit. But, no, alas, it wasn’t a flagrant ‘deus ex machina’. Perhaps I should have gone with the one eye machination and Ol’ Tom could still be running around using his one good eye – if he had the nerve to risk it.

        Reply
        • April 4, 2018 at 1:44 am
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          Hey Roy,

          Quagmire? What quagmire? JKidding.
          You’re right. It’s the opposite of a deus ex machina. God doesn’t rescue him, if anything he punishes him. I’m not sure how I could misinterpret something so obvious. A low I.Q. might explain it, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Could just as easily be an irrational fear of fairy tales, or improper keyboard technique. (Or, I could be using an overly Christian monitor.) I’d like to appoint an investigative panel, Roy, but everyone has fled the site after my last three jokes.

          Reply
  • March 26, 2018 at 9:49 am
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    Pure genius !

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    • March 26, 2018 at 11:20 am
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      Awww shucks, Maud. You made me blush. When I saw the prompt I knew Lady Godiva was going to make an appearance, I just didn’t know how. In researching the story I discovered that legend has it that Lady Godiva’s ride was the supposed cause of the legend of Peeping Tom and tried to give it life. It was a fun write. And, I was able to tickle myself with a couple of lines that I thought were appropriately funny. Such as ‘The priest was right. First time in his life, but really bad timing for me.’ Thanks for your thoughtful analysis. I think you covered it.

      Reply
  • March 28, 2018 at 2:25 pm
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    Two miles southeast of Maldon: August 11, 991
    by Robt. Emmett [1200 words]

    My Lady motioned to me forward. I was near the rear of her ninety-eight mounted warriors, and it took me a few moments to hobble forward. As I got close, I could see Æthelflæd was provoked. Upon arriving at her side on the hilltop, I looked down at the scene far below. Immediately I saw the reason for her consternation. There were thirty-five to forty Viking Dragon ships pulled on the sand shingle of Northey Island. I crossed myself. The drooping sail of the largest boat was red striped. Olaf Tryggvason had brought three to four thousand Norse raiders. Land was not their goal, to gather loot was. They crowded the shoreline of the small river called Panta dressed in leather jerkins, chain-mail shirts, and iron helmets. All were beating their swords against their leather-bound willow wood shields. They shouted and taunted her twin brother, Byrhtnoth, and his men three furlongs away on the mainland. I did not need to count the number of Lord Byrhtnoth’s men. I recognized the pennants fluttering in the slight midday breeze. I knew the number of fighting men each represented. His troops, except for his personal household guard, were local farmers and villagers. They numbered less than a thousand. The coming battle would be three or four to one against the Essex militia

    Byrhtnoth would win if he stayed on his side of the river and forced Tryggvason’s men to attack across a narrow causeway, an underwater bridge. At low tide, it was only a few feet below the surface. The advantage to Byrhtnoth was in the narrowness of it. Two or three men could easily defend the crossing. The tide continued to ebb. Soon there would be slack water.

    Byrhtnoth motioned Wulfstan, Ælfhere, and Maccus forward to defend the crossing. They were his personal bodyguards. They would die before allowing a Viking to bring harm to him. Wulfstan sauntered ahead, swinging his battleaxe. This axe cleaved half my foot from the rest. I was fourteen, my first time at the shield wall. Byrhtnoth’s father spared my life. I became a Christian and responsible for Æthelflæd’s safety. She was five years old and as headstrong as her brother. One year later, her mother died. Her father sent her to the nuns at the Monastery of Worcester for care. I went along. While there, I studied and became a priest.

    One evening, about five years after our arrival, Æthelflæd went to the office of the prioress. I waited outside the door until I heard the commotion within. Entering, I found Æthelflæd, sitting astride the chest of the dominative, hawk-faced prioress and holding a dirk at her throat. There was a small drop of blood on the nun’s chin.

    “You tell my father,” Æthelflæd said calmly as she waved the small knife in the nun’s face, “and I will return and fillet you like a fish.” She stood and said, “Come, we are going to my uncle.”

    “But won’t he …?”

    “No, they hate each other.”

    A week later, the uproar in the combat training yard interrupted my explanation to her uncle. We managed to get to her before she could injure another trainee. Her raven hair hung in mats across her face, nearly hiding the blackened eye and mud mingling with the blood from her nose. Her skirt, rent from hem to hip, was filthy beyond repair. She smiled as we pulled her off the hapless lad.

    A month after her sixteenth birthday, word came about her father’s death. The next morning, before dawn, we rode out. She led her troop of twenty-seven warriors. Hrothard, a Christian Norseman, and Caredig, the Welshman, rode on either side of her. They were her bodyguards and the only two she’d never defeated in practice combat. Time had begun to mellow her. Her kinder nature started to emerge, as did her patience with those less skilled.

    Five years have passed. In that time, not only has her beauty increased, but also her sensitivity toward others. Her kindness was unmatched in neither the burh nor surrounding countryside.

    Today, looking down at the impending battle, the juvenile Æthelflæd seethed just below her calm exterior as she sat on her mare. Hrothard and Caredig stood on either side of its head. Only we four were visible to the pagan’s below, not a perceived threat to them.

    The tide neared slack. Wulfstan moved to the center of the river on the underwater bridge. He swung his axe and held shield wide, daring the Viking to send arrows into his exposed chest. They tried, but thunked harmlessly as his shield instantly covered him. Ælfhere and Maccus moved forward to cover his flanks.

    A dozen or so Vikings moved to surround the three, but they didn’t know where the bridge was. Only two remained standing. Weighted with armor, those on the down-stream side drown. One up-stream Viking recovered but lost his sword and shield. Ælfhere gutted him. On the bridge, Wulfstan slammed his axe against the head of one of the two, reversed his swing, and decapitated the other. More raiders ran to join the fray. Maccus’s sword found another’s throat. Ælfhere disemboweled another. The three of them dispatched Olaf’s warriors with ease. More and more tried to cross but failed. The slow flowing Panta ran red with Viking blood, guts, and body parts. The dead count was over a hundred.

    Byrhtnoth, astride his white stallion, calmly watched the carnage. The Viking commander finally stopped sending his men to their death. Olaf requested Byrhtnoth allow his troops to the shore for formal battle. Æthelflæd, realizing what her brother was about to do, shouted at him, “Ofermōd!” Yes, he was a reckless fool. She gathered her mare’s reins. Hrothard and Caredig each grabbed the mare’s bridle. Æthelflæd cursed at them. She attempted and failed to jerk free of her guards. True to her, they wouldn’t allow her to lead a futile attempt to save Byrhtnoth and the other. She bowed her head, accepted her brother’s fate, and prayed.

    Olaf’s men crossed over, formed a shield wall four rows deep, and charged. On contact with Byrhtnoth’s shield wall, the two rear rows of Norsemen swiped left and right. Byrhtnoth, surrounded, fought valiantly. They killed many more of Olaf’s men than Olaf killed of the Englanders. The surviving Norsemen searched the killing ground. As they looted the bodies of coins, armor, chain mail, they killed the wounded they found. Their dead, loaded on ships, then set afire.

    On the morrow’s eve, with everyone gathered in her Great Hall, I will sing my new poem about the valor of those whose blood and innards now darken the shore of the Panta.
    I prayed for her now as we traversed the dark forest under a sliver of moon bearing Byrhtnoth’s headless body back to the burh. She had donned his helmet and armor. She mounted the white stallion and slid the gold-hilted sword into its scabbard. Also, she has taken upon herself, for good or ill, the well-being of the shire and all those who dwell there. Our world now rests on her slender shoulders. I prayed to Him was nailed to a tree, “Please Lord, war no more.”
    — Æ —

    Reply
    • March 30, 2018 at 8:11 pm
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      Your knowledge of that historical period is impressive. (and I don’t impress that easily.) Have you read the Saxon Tales? By any chance? Bernard Cornwell? You either must have, should, or don’t need to.

      I have. I read every book in that series, which doesn’t make me an expert, but I can tell from my reading experience that all the names are grammatically correct, the weapons, the tactics, the behavior of the principals and the strategy. So, you’ve got all the knowledge and ingredients you need for a great story. the people, their names, (these are real people, right? I know Aethelflaed is.) The historical accuracy of this story is amazing. Incredible.

      Unfortunately, familiar as I am with this historical period, I had a hard time following the tale. I did figure it out though. So there’s nothing that doesn’t make sense, It’s just a question of a presentation that’s confusing. I think you need to be more specific about what’s going on. For instance, ‘the odds were three or four – to one, against.’ (Against who?) It’s probably a British expression BUT I”M NOT BRITISH. (I love the English, but I don’t understand a blinking word they say.)

      And who’s Godric? How did he purloin Byrhtnoth’s horse, why did he flee? Who’s side was he on in the first place and why does he matter? Other than he stole Byrhtnoth’s horse. (He’s not a priest, is he?) If he doesn’t matter to this story, and I don’t think he does. He needs to be deleted.
      And Olaf. Who’s Olaf? Is that the Viking leader, Tryggvason?

      ‘Albert calmly watches the carnage astride his roan horse.’ Who’s Albert? (The King? Wasn’t it Alfred?) Are roan horses relevant? Because there are two in this story. One is being ridden by Bryhtnoth, then stolen by Godric, the other by Albert.
      So that information is not helpful, its confusing.

      This story could be improved by getting rid of Albert, Godric, at least one roan horse. Get rid of Olaf, or Tryggvason. One or the other. If they’re the same person, then they should have the same name. Give each Lord two close bodyguards rather than three. That’s what this story really needs, fewer characters. And more Aethelflaed. (That’s the ticket right there. More Aethelflaed. I’m tempted to write about Aethelflaed myself. Now that you got me thinking about her.)

      I can see Aethelflaed riding through the moonlit forest astride a white stallion, armored, helmeted, golden hilt of sword at her side. This is the point of the story. A beautiful, incredible image, (and woman.) I just think you need to get there faster.

      Perhaps, you could be more direct in describing her acts of prowess. (No, don’t do that.) Or, condense the battle scenes. Remove useless characters like Godric and Albert. Focus the story more on her.

      I hope my criticism is helpful. I realize it’s blunt, but it’s well meant. I’ve read some of your other stories and you’re obviously a competent writer, I think this story is too complicated as presented. The concept is excellent, but you’re not finished with it yet.
      It needs culling.

      One typo: She cursed her them.

      Reply
      • March 30, 2018 at 9:47 pm
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        Correction: What I wrote was, ‘Perhaps, you could be more direct in describing her acts of prowess. (No, don’t do that.)’ What I meant was, Perhaps you could condense her acts of prowess. (No, don’t do that. Don’t condense on Aethelflaed.) Condense anywhere else you want. But not on Aethelflaed. I hope that clears up any confusion I may have accidentally created.

        Reply
      • March 31, 2018 at 7:44 am
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        Yes, Bernard Cornwell, I’ve read all of his ‘Sharpe’ and Norse [Last Kingdom Series] novels therefore, I felt comfortable to write this story.

        ÆthelflÆd, Lady of the Mercians, daughter of Alfred the Great. is not THAT ÆthelflÆd, just a name that seemed to fit.

        Ken said, “The historical accuracy of this story is amazing. Incredible.” [Google] Ken, you’re making me blush.

        Olaf Tryggvason. He had brought three to four thousand raiders. “…villagers of the Essex militia, [INSERT: numbering about a thousand]. The coming battle would be three or four to one ‒ against.”
        I forgot to insert the size Byrhtnoth army after a rewrite.
        I used ‘Against’ signally for emphasis but you are right – it don’t work if the reader doesn’t know the size of both army’s.

        Who’s Olaf? Is that the Viking leader, Tryggvason? [Yes]

        Godric, a good friend of Byrhtnoth, often rode his horse. His’s a coward. Yes I could and should omit him.]

        ‘Albert calmly watches the carnage astride his roan horse.’ Who’s Albert?
        Albert is a LARGE mistake on my part Here is the dump reason Albert ended up in the story. I sent the rough story to three BETA readers who are not familiar with Old English name pronunciation. To help them read the story, I changed the names to the following –
        ÆthelflÆd = Alice
        Byrhtnoth = Albert
        Wulfstan = Curly
        Ælfhere = Mo
        Maccus = Larry
        Hrothard = Pollux [Christian Norseman]
        Caredig = Castor [Welsh, beloved]
        Using FIND and REPLACE, I thought I’d found all of the fake names. Seemingly I didn’t. Therefore, you may thrash me with an organically grown bunch of radishes!

        More of Aethelflaed,as a youngster and in the moon light pondering her future – good idea, thanks.

        “I hope my criticism is helpful. I realize it’s blunt, but it’s well meant.”
        Yes, you are blunt, defiantly not PC. I thank you for that as then I need not wonder what you are trying to say.

        You stated, “BUT I”M NOT BRITISH.”
        Nor I. I live down the street and around the corner from Carrie.
        Robt.

        Reply
        • March 31, 2018 at 3:00 pm
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          Robt.
          Great reply. It explains a lot, and makes more sense that Albert was actually Byrhtnoth.

          So—here I’ve been going through such pains to properly spell almost each and every character in your story to avoid confusion, and your beta readers don’t even have to READ THEM? My, how you do pamper them.

          I had a similar issue with ‘Find and Replace’ just yesterday, it only partially worked. Strange.

          I’m glad we agree on Godric, he’s irrelevant.

          As for the British thing. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve pointed out a confusing or unintelligible phrase, only to be chided by my British cohorts for my parochialism? Those Brits are impossible. They act like they invented English. Oh wait, they did invent English.

          Reply
    • March 31, 2018 at 9:55 am
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      I think that Ken hit up all the points (and more) that I would have mentioned. I love the idea of this story and a battle between the Anglo-Saxons and the Norsemen is just so much my cup of tea. The powerful woman taking up her brother’s mantle is such a striking image, I just wish her story was a little more integrated into this tale. But I’m biased in wanting to see strong women kicking ass.

      Reply
    • April 1, 2018 at 7:17 am
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      LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this story (please see previous comment about me being a huge fan of the Vikings tv show).

      Most stories from that time are hard to follow a bit, because it’s so foreign to us. It took me a second read to really dive into the story and I loved it.

      Reply
      • April 2, 2018 at 7:49 am
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        Carrie,
        Ken demanded I rewrite my store, yes DEMANDED. I did as he, again, DEMANDED. He also said you were a somekindatrixer and very accommodating and I’m sure what he means by that. Also, Ken said, “She won’t give you any trouble at all.”
        So not for me, but rather to get Ken offa my back, would you please delete version one of “Two miles southeast of …” with this version. Thank you.

        Two miles southeast of Maldon: August 11, 991
        by Robt. Emmett [1200 words]

        My Lady motioned to me forward. I was near the rear of her ninety-eight mounted warriors, and it took me a few moments to hobble forward. As I got close, I could see Æthelflæd was provoked. Upon arriving at her side on the hilltop, I looked down at the scene far below. Immediately I saw the reason for her consternation. There were thirty-five to forty Viking Dragon ships pulled on the sand shingle of Northey Island. I crossed myself. The drooping sail of the largest boat was red striped. Olaf Tryggvason had brought three to four thousand Norse raiders. Land was not their goal, to gather loot was. They crowded the shoreline of the small river called Panta dressed in leather jerkins, chain-mail shirts, and iron helmets. All were beating their swords against their leather-bound willow wood shields. They shouted and taunted her twin brother, Byrhtnoth, and his men three furlongs away on the mainland. I did not need to count the number of Lord Byrhtnoth’s men. I recognized the pennants fluttering in the slight midday breeze. I knew the number of fighting men each represented. His troops, except for his personal household guard, were local farmers and villagers. They numbered less than a thousand. The coming battle would be three or four to one against the Essex militia

        Byrhtnoth would win if he stayed on his side of the river and forced Tryggvason’s men to attack across a narrow causeway, an underwater bridge. At low tide, it was only a few feet below the surface. The advantage to Byrhtnoth was in the narrowness of it. Two or three men could easily defend the crossing. The tide continued to ebb. Soon there would be slack water.

        Byrhtnoth motioned Wulfstan, Ælfhere, and Maccus forward to defend the crossing. They were his personal bodyguards. They would die before allowing a Viking to bring harm to him. Wulfstan sauntered ahead, swinging his battleaxe. This axe cleaved half my foot from the rest. I was fourteen, my first time at the shield wall. Byrhtnoth’s father spared my life. I became a Christian and responsible for Æthelflæd’s safety. She was five years old and as headstrong as her brother. One year later, her mother died. Her father sent her to the nuns at the Monastery of Worcester for care. I went along. While there, I studied and became a priest.

        One evening, about five years after our arrival, Æthelflæd went to the office of the prioress. I waited outside the door until I heard the commotion within. Entering, I found Æthelflæd, sitting astride the chest of the dominative, hawk-faced prioress and holding a dirk at her throat. There was a small drop of blood on the nun’s chin.

        “You tell my father,” Æthelflæd said calmly as she waved the small knife in the nun’s face, “and I will return and fillet you like a fish.” She stood and said, “Come, we are going to my uncle.”

        “But won’t he …?”

        “No, they hate each other.”

        A week later, the uproar in the combat training yard interrupted my explanation to her uncle. We managed to get to her before she could injure another trainee. Her raven hair hung in mats across her face, nearly hiding the blackened eye and mud mingling with the blood from her nose. Her skirt, rent from hem to hip, was filthy beyond repair. She smiled as we pulled her off the hapless lad.

        A month after her sixteenth birthday, word came about her father’s death. The next morning, before dawn, we rode out. She led her troop of twenty-seven warriors. Hrothard, a Christian Norseman, and Caredig, the Welshman, rode on either side of her. They were her bodyguards and the only two she’d never defeated in practice combat. Time had begun to mellow her. Her kinder nature started to emerge, as did her patience with those less skilled.

        Five years have passed. In that time, not only has her beauty increased, but also her sensitivity toward others. Her kindness was unmatched in neither the burh nor surrounding countryside.

        Today, looking down at the impending battle, the juvenile Æthelflæd seethed just below her calm exterior as she sat on her mare. Hrothard and Caredig stood on either side of its head. Only we four were visible to the pagan’s below, not a perceived threat to them.

        The tide neared slack. Wulfstan moved to the center of the river on the underwater bridge. He swung his axe and held shield wide, daring the Viking to send arrows into his exposed chest. They tried, but thunked harmlessly as his shield instantly covered him. Ælfhere and Maccus moved forward to cover his flanks.

        A dozen or so Vikings moved to surround the three, but they didn’t know where the bridge was. Only two remained standing. Weighted with armor, those on the down-stream side drown. One up-stream Viking recovered but lost his sword and shield. Ælfhere gutted him. On the bridge, Wulfstan slammed his axe against the head of one of the two, reversed his swing, and decapitated the other. More raiders ran to join the fray. Maccus’s sword found another’s throat. Ælfhere disemboweled another. The three of them dispatched Olaf’s warriors with ease. More and more tried to cross but failed. The slow flowing Panta ran red with Viking blood, guts, and body parts. The dead count was over a hundred.

        Byrhtnoth, astride his white stallion, calmly watched the carnage. The Viking commander finally stopped sending his men to their death. Olaf requested Byrhtnoth allow his troops to the shore for formal battle. Æthelflæd, realizing what her brother was about to do, shouted at him, “Ofermōd!” Yes, he was a reckless fool. She gathered her mare’s reins. Hrothard and Caredig each grabbed the mare’s bridle. Æthelflæd cursed at them. She attempted and failed to jerk free of her guards. True to her, they wouldn’t allow her to lead a futile attempt to save Byrhtnoth and the other. She bowed her head, accepted her brother’s fate, and prayed.

        Olaf’s men crossed over, formed a shield wall four rows deep, and charged. On contact with Byrhtnoth’s shield wall, the two rear rows of Norsemen swiped left and right. Byrhtnoth, surrounded, fought valiantly. They killed many more of Olaf’s men than Olaf killed of the Englanders. The surviving Norsemen searched the killing ground. As they looted the bodies of coins, armor, chain mail, they killed the wounded they found. Their dead, loaded on ships, then set afire.

        On the morrow’s eve, with everyone gathered in her Great Hall, I will sing my new poem about the valor of those whose blood and innards now darken the shore of the Panta.
        I prayed for her now as we traversed the dark forest under a sliver of moon bearing Byrhtnoth’s headless body back to the burh. She had donned his helmet and armor. She mounted the white stallion and slid the gold-hilted sword into its scabbard. Also, she has taken upon herself, for good or ill, the well-being of the shire and all those who dwell there. Our world now rests on her slender shoulders. I prayed to Him was nailed to a tree, “Please Lord, war no more.”
        — Æ —

        Reply
        • April 2, 2018 at 9:46 am
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          Oh em gee……. not you too…

          All the guys in this writing group… YOU’RE ALL DIVAS!

          Just kidding, just kidding!

          I’ve updated the story for you!

          Reply
    • April 1, 2018 at 1:55 pm
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      In the 3rd to last paragraph, you need to change “She cursed her them.” I’m thinking it should be then or just delete the “them” all together. I had trouble keeping up with who was who with all the characters. The story, however, was very exciting.

      Reply
    • April 3, 2018 at 5:54 pm
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      The removal of those minor errors seriously improves and clarifies the story. I can’t be sure, but I think you tweaked it too in a few places. Nice job.

      Reply
  • March 29, 2018 at 7:02 pm
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    DANGER IN THE WOODS (Revised)

    Her velvet cloak dragged in the snow as she walked silently from the palace to the woods. Her father, the King, had forbid her from going to the woods alone as he had enemies everywhere, but Princess Hyacinth loved the woods and frequently disobeyed her father. After all, she was a grown woman of seventeen.

    She came to a clearing where a broken tree trunk provided a place to sit. This is where she had caught a glimpse of a horse with shimmering white hair and bright blue eyes as it galloped through making no sound.  The Princess had returned to this spot several times in hopes of seeing it again. 

    As she had wished, the horse appeared again, standing in the center of the clearing. She didn’t see where it came from. It stood silently, stomping one foot, and snorting, its breath showing in the cold air. Hyacinth stood up and walked towards the horse. She reached out to touch it but the horse pulled away. Just then, Hyacinth heard a noise and turned, when she turned back, the horse was gone. The noise she heard were soldiers talking to one another in a language Hyacinth didn’t recognize. She was afraid these might be the enemies of which her father had spoken. 

    Ever so quietly, Hyacinth got behind some high brush but she couldn’t tell the direction of the voices. Suddenly, a hand was over her mouth, a man’s hand. He grabbed her arm and bent it behind her back then whispered in her ear, “Be quiet or you will get us both killed.” She relaxed, it must be one of her own people. He took his hand from her mouth and released her arm putting a finger to his lips. He hunched with her behind the brush until the soldiers were gone. He then rose and offered his hand.

    “My name is Sir Robert. I am one of your father’s soldiers and am at your service.” said Sir Robert as he bowed.

    ”You are?” questioned the Princess, “Then why do you not wear the royal crest and clothing of the palace?”

    “I have removed them to better blend in with the enemies and hear their plans so that I might report back to the King. Come, let’s get out of these woods and back to the palace, I know a path that will take us around the soldiers” They began to walk.

    The Princess knew several Roberts but there was one rather famous Robert who was not one of the King‘s men. He introduced himself as Sir Robert and he kidnapped women of status, requesting great coin from their family for their return. He would often rape these women and leave them broken and in ruin; or, he would kill them after having his way. If he did set the woman free, he would keep her clothing and make her walk naked and defiled. The Princess wondered which was worse, death or rape, as rape brought great dishonor to the girl and the family. Was this the evil Robert she had heard about or one of the King’s many men? She asked more questions hoping to find the truth.

    “Sir Robert, surely you have something of the palace as identification should you be questioned by our palace guards.”

    “No, it would not do me well to be captured by enemies of the crown and have something of the palace in my possession. There are secret words I can utter should I be questioned by the guards.” 

    “What are the secret words?” she asked.

    But before he could answer, they heard the soldiers again. This time he grabbed her arm and pulled her to a nearby cave. Once inside, he moved confidently to the rear of the cave and started a fire. The Princess noticed there was an opening in the cave top that would draw the smoke. There was also a pile of something in the shadows deeper in the cave but she couldn’t quite see it. It gave her chills.

    “Have you been here before?” questioned the Princess. “You seem to know your way around this cave.”

    “Yes.” said Sir Robert, “I’ve had to hide from enemies many a time. So far, they have failed to find me. It is a safe place. Please relax and warm yourself by the fire.”

    The Princess spread her cloak on the floor and sat down. She was quite tired now from all the excitement of the day and the warmth of the fire was making her very sleepy.  She drifted off. She awoke with a feeling that something was terribly wrong. When she looked to find Sir Robert, he was leering at her near the darkened pile. He had removed his pants and was approaching her swiftly. She tried to get up but he pushed her down and began to lift her dress. She bit, scratched, and kicked him. 

    “I like when they fight. Don’t worry, your family will not be disgraced. Once I’m done with you, I will take your life.” sneered Robert. 

    He lay on top of her, pinning her to the floor as he tried to lift her many layers of dress and spread her legs. She heard material ripping as she continued to beat and scratch him. She yelled, “Help, help. Please, someone help me!” He raised his hand and slapped her…hard.

    “No one can hear you in here Princess. Save your energy for more enjoyable activity.” He laughed smugly.

    Just then, she heard hooves echoing in the cave. It was the white horse. Robert heard it too and stood, thinking it was a mounted man. The eyes of the horse were bright red and fire came out of its nose when it snorted. The horse raised its hooves. Robert screamed and tried to back away. He stumbled on the pile in the dark corner. The horse moved forward and stood on its rear legs, repeatedly coming down on Robert until the Princess heard a large crack. 

    The horse stopped. Princess Hyacinth went over to Robert to see if he was dead. He was. His face was no longer recognizable. The pile where he lay and the walls of the cave were splattered with his blood. The pile was young women’s clothing and, under the clothing, were bones. 

    Hyacinth looked at the white horse. It, too, was splattered with blood, particularly its lower legs and hooves. The horse nudged the body of Robert, as if it was checking to make sure he was no longer alive. Once satisfied, shook its head up and down and then turned to go. It looked back at the Princess to follow. She gathered her cloak and followed the horse out of the cave and through the woods. They walked until they were at the edge of the forest and the palace was visible.The Princess turned and looked at the horse. There was no more blood, it was, once again, a brilliant white and its eyes a dazzling blue. The horse wrapped its head around the shoulders of Hyacinth, then turned and silently walked away, slowly fading until it was no longer there.

    Reply
    • March 30, 2018 at 1:33 pm
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      DANGER IN THE WOODS
      suggestions

      She was afraid these may [USE might, rather then MAY] be the enemies
      Suddenly, a hand covered her mouth, [instead of] All of a sudden [needs a comma]
      I am one of your father’s soldiers [needs a comma]
      He chuckled [needs a comma]
      …as you won’t live, [comma not need]once I’m done with you.” [A]and laughed again.
      The eyes of the horse were bright red and fire came out of [it’s] nose when it snorted. The horse raised [it’s] hooves. Robert screamed and tried to back away. He stumbled on the pile in the dark corner. The horse moved forward and raised [it’s] hooves again.
      The three places I have bracketed are the contraction for “it is.” Say “IT IS” in the three bracketed [“it’s] aloud.

      This time, it stomped on Robert again and again [use repeatedly]
      … splattered with blood, particularly[ it’s] [ the its again]lower leggs and hooves.[ extra “g” in legs]

      [You shifted from third person to first. Tarnation! I thought I was the only one to do that.]

      Reply
      • March 30, 2018 at 6:57 pm
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        Thank you for the comments. Wow! I really did have a problem with its and it’s. I was using Documents to prepare the story but I should have seen this. The extra g in leggs was because the horse wore pantyhose (jk). Since this is my first entry, what did you think of the story?

        Reply
        • March 31, 2018 at 8:11 am
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          I forgot to say I liked the story. It was simple, clear, and direct.
          As to the grammar stuff, I noted them because they are the ones I often make.
          As to the double G on leggs ~
          If you are saying you meant LEGG, the pantyhose, the L should have been capitalized.
          Also, what kind of pantyhose wearing horse wears them on their front leggs? [TIC]
          Again – good story.

          Reply
      • March 30, 2018 at 9:37 pm
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        Hi Janet,
        I liked it. A fine story that rolls along so smoothly I didn’t really notice the errors or missing commas.

        I used to lecture people about their comma usage, but I gave up. People don’t realize how lucky they are just to HAVE commas. Why, back in the old days, (when people used to say, ‘back in the old days’,) we used to have to make our commas by hand. We’d find an old Hickory, or Willow tree, snap a fresh twig off a limb, and whittle us up some commas with a twelve-inch Bowie knife. (Or an axe.) We all did it. This is probably before your time. (Or we would pay the wordsmith to make ‘em.) And they were highly valued by writers of every little thing. Nowadays, people take them for granted. Kids. Pah. What can you do, right?

        There’s very few contractions in your dialogue, but we must presume they are speaking in ‘ye olde Anglish.’
        All in all it’s a very creative and entertaining tale. I enjoyed it. It has a nice fairytale feel, and ending.

        Reply
        • March 30, 2018 at 10:42 pm
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          Your comments are so fun. I’ve been reading a few before I joined. You give a story even in your comment. Thank goodness I’m not old enough to remember carving commas. I did make some mistakes. That will teach me not to wait a day and read again before submitting. Thanks for your comments and making me smile.

          Reply
        • April 1, 2018 at 7:21 am
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          True story – I’m TERRIBLE with commas – Ken will tell you…. TERRIBLE

          Reply
    • April 1, 2018 at 7:25 am
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      Robt. pointed out the commas/tense mistakes so I won’t bother to repeat them.

      At first I was annoyed with this girl who knew who the bad guy was and was still stupid enough to go with him.
      But after I thought about it, a princess may have been kept safe away and be a bit naive so I’ll give her a pass. 🙂

      I absolutely LOVED the white horse as her protector. A million years ago I wrote a few novels about a girl who had a special magical horse (I wrote them in my teens so probably a bi-product of my She-Ra watching days. I mean who DIDN’T want to own a horse like Swift Wind??). So I absolutely loved the ending.

      And I friggin laughed out loud at your tongue in cheek pantyhose joke and Robt’s reply. Very funny (probably only to girls who actually have to wear those abominations).

      I’m glad you decided to join our merry band of misfit writers. After reading both your stories you’ll fit in well here!

      Reply
    • April 2, 2018 at 12:15 pm
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      Rereading this, maybe I do like this one more, it’s hard to decide! A couple points – when the horse is first introduced, you mention that it is soundless three times within a few sentences. It seems just a little repetitive and maybe a slight rewrite could help it flow. The second point is just about the horse in general. I wish there was a little more build up of the rapor between the princess and the horse. Maybe just a bit more emphasis on her seeing it in her past or spending time trying to catch glimpses of it. Then it would make just a little more sense to me that it saved her and none of the other noblewomen who were attacked by the evil Robert. These are just tiny mentions however.

      Reply
  • March 29, 2018 at 7:32 pm
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    NAMING A HORSE

    It was early morning when Dad called me to the stable with his loud whistle. It was a special call for me, loud and low to begin with and rising to a high pitch just before he cut it off. I could hear it no matter where I was, in or out of the house. I ran to the barn from our small cottage that sits on Mr. Morgan’s property. It was just Dad and I since Mom had passed away suddenly seven years ago when I was five. I don’t remember Mom as much as I want to, but Dad tells me stories that help keep her alive for me and him.

    Mom and Dad had started working on the ranch when they first got married, then I came along. I love it here. I get to help Dad with all the horses when I’m not in school. And Dad and I take turns cooking and we clean together, singing as we do. It’s fun. Mr. Morgan also lets us ride any of the horses when we want. Mr. Morgan owns most of the property around these parts and gets along great with most everyone. Dad says he‘s a nice and honorable man and I agree.

    As I ran, I could see my Dad unloading the new member of our stable family. I got there just in time to see her peak out of the horse trailer. She was a beautiful white filly, the most beautiful horse I had ever seen. The filly seemed nervous and Dad was having a little trouble getting her to come out. I slowly walked up the ramp. Dad said, “Be careful, June bug.” “I will”, I said. I let her smell the back of my hand and our eyes connected. There was something special about this horse. She looked at me then my Dad and walked out of the trailer like it was no big deal. Dad and I smiled. “Looks like you have made a friend.” I giggled and the filly giggled, too. At least it sounded like a giggle more than a nay. Then we all laughed and even the filly seemed to laugh along.

    “Better get to work” said Dad. I tied the filly to a post and began to get her ready to meet her new owner. I brushed her long flowing mane until it shimmered in the sunlight. Then, I braided her tail and put a pretty pink ribbon within the braid. All the time I talked to the little filly and told her my goals, dreams, and just whatever came into my mind. And she seemed to listen, really listen. When I was done, I stood back and the filly was more beautiful than ever. She actually glowed. I told her “You are the most beautiful horse in the whole world.” She shook her head up and down and stamped a foot as if to say “Yes, I know”. I laughed out loud and the horse nay-laughed with me.

    Just then, Mr. Morgan and his daughter, Daphne, rounded the corner of the barn. Daphne was my age. She came around the corner dressed in a new pink riding outfit of pink boots, pink shirt, and pink jeans. She also wore a pink bandana around her neck, a pink belt with rhinestones and carried a pink riding helmet under her arm.

    “See what I got for my birthday, Willow? A whole new riding outfit!” said Daphne with her nose only slightly in the air.

    “It’s lovely”, I said, even though all that pink made me a little nauseous.

    ”I got a new pink saddle with my name on the back and a new pink blanket to go under the saddle!”

    “That’s really great. Sounds like you are having a great birthday!”

    “So far, so good. Too bad you never get anything nice. I wonder what else I’m going to get today?” For a minute there, I thought I would get by without a Daphne jab but not today.

    At that moment, Dad brought the little filly around the corner.

    “Here she is!” exclaimed Mr. Morgan.

    “Oh, she’s wonderful!” said Daphne. “Willow, go get my pink saddle and I’ll take her out for a ride.”

    “Now wait a minute little lady, this filly isn’t ready to be rode yet.“ said Mr. Morgan. ”She hasn’t been broke. Randy and Willow will break her in then you will be able to ride her. Yes, she’ll be a fine pony.”

    Daphne pouted, “You mean I can’t ride her now?“

    “No, not yet, pumpkin, but soon.”

    “But Daaaad, I’m sure she’s ok to ride. Besides, I have my riding outfit on and I want to try my new saddle. I want to ride her RIGHT NOW!” she growled.

    Daphne could sometimes be a real pain if she didn’t get what she wanted.

    “Daphne, I told you this filly isn’t ready. You can do a lot of damage riding a pony when she’s too young, to yourself and your horse. Now you stop that whining and get to know her. What do you want to name her?”

    “Oh, I don’t care.” said Daphne, still pouting. “In fact, if I can’t ride her now, then I don’t want her. You can send her to the glue factory for all I care.” She glared at her Dad, sure he would give in.

    I gasped at even the mention of harming this beautiful horse. I went up to Daphne and said, “You don’t mean that, Daphne. How about you ride one of the other horses today. You will look so nice in your new outfit. I’ll be happy to saddle the bay for you and you can have your picture taken. I’ll even put pink ribbons in her mane and tail. It won’t take me long.”

    “Don’t tell me what I mean”, she shouted. ”Get away from me.” And she pushed me. I fell to the ground but wasn’t hurt. ”I said I want to ride the white pony not the bay. Are you deaf and dumb?”

    ”Now, just a minute.” said my Dad.

    ”No, Randy, let me handle this.” said Mr. Morgan.” Daphne, I’ve put up with your behavior long enough but you have just stepped over the line. You apologize to Willow.”

    ”Me, apologize to the hired help. No way and you can’t make me.“

    ”No, I can’t make you but maybe I can teach you a lesson. This pony no longer belongs to you.”

    ”Who wants that stupid horse anyway.” And she stomped off toward the house muttering “stupid birthday, stupid horse” under her breath but loud enough for all to hear.

    Mr. Morgan sighed, “Willow, you did a fine job prettying up this little filly. You go ahead and name her. In fact, she’s yours.” Then followed Daphne into the house.

    Willow was shocked. She turned to her Dad. “Did he just say this is my horse?” Dad laughed and said, “He sure did.”

    I can’t believe it, my eyes were filling with tears. A horse of my own, the most beautiful horse in the world is mine! It’s like magic. And that’s what I named her, Magic.

    Reply
    • March 30, 2018 at 1:14 pm
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      Naming a Horse was the first story I wrote for the White Horse contest then worried that a rich Daddy may not meet the requirement of someone of high/nobel/royal birth so I wrote Danger in the Woods to meet the contest requirements. This is my first time ever writing/submitting a short story since high school. I would be happy to have comments, good or bad, to learn from.

      Reply
      • April 1, 2018 at 7:28 am
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        Ken pointed out some interesting similarities.

        You could have easily made this story fit the requirements. It could have been a modern day story and perhaps her family lineage was noble but she was 19th removed or something.

        I liked the story (not as much as the other one), and loved the connection I felt with Willow and the pure happiness a parent must feel being able to give a wonderful gift like that.

        Reply
    • April 2, 2018 at 12:09 pm
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      There are some interesting similarities in these two stories, and I think I might like this original version better a little bit. I think it might be because the MC is less naive than than in the fantasy one. The bratty girl does seem just a bit much to me, but based on reality tv, there are plenty of people even worse than that out there. I think the generosity of her father helps to off balance it. Personally, I wouldn’t have had a problem including this under the prompt since the bratty girl thinks of herself as a princess lol.

      Reply
  • March 30, 2018 at 9:25 pm
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    Hello again Janet,
    Well, the story is in first person until the next to the last paragraph where you write, ‘Willow was shocked. She turned to her Dad.’ Other than that, I didn’t notice any errors. Others may. The story rolls along nicely. Dialogue is pretty good too.
    In the first story, you have a magic horse, in the second, the horse is named ‘Magic.’
    Characters Willow in one, and Hyacinth in the other.
    Interesting.
    I may do the same thing. (I’ll have to use lettuce, tomato, or locusts. That’s easy. Thanks for the help with my story!)

    Reply
    • April 1, 2018 at 1:45 pm
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      Thanks again for the comment. I see where I messed up the first person narrative, now that you point it out. That is one of my hardest things to do, stay in the person I started with. Sounds like I’m going back to the womb. Thanks for the catch.

      Reply
      • April 3, 2018 at 6:03 pm
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        Janet,
        It seems a lot of us have that problem of staying in one tense. I know I do.

        Reply
  • March 31, 2018 at 12:48 pm
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    By Her Grace.
    Final Revision 2.0
    by Ken Cartisano ©2018 Word count -1193
     
     
    She appeared invincible, sitting astride her colossal white horse, as she and her entourage slogged through the mud of the town square. The hem of her lavender cape, fringed with purple and gold, was soiled with flecks of mud. The peasants murmured and kneeled as she passed.
     
    Her escorts wore armor and mail. They rode armored steeds as well. Fifty men and horses arranged in two columns formed an impenetrable clanking shield between the queen and her subjects. Her stern aspect was balanced by fair skin, inquisitive eyes and a fearless nature. Her beauty, abundant as it was, was no match for her tenacity and cunning, nor could one question the loyalty of her royal guard.
     
    This spectacle of regal power was compromised when the queen flinched in shock and jerked the reins while her horse danced sideways. A red blot blossomed on her chest. Peasants shrieked and cried out, some fell or fled in terror as Guardsmen rode into the crowd. The nearest guards formed a protective circle around the stricken queen, while others dismounted with swords drawn. The peasants retreated in fear.
     
    There was a collective gasp as it became apparent that the queen was unhurt, her white silk garment stained with the juice of a ripe tomato, thrown by an anonymous hand.
     
    These were her peasants. She owned the land they farmed and lived on. She taxed them heavily, but protected and nurtured them too. She stood in the stirrups and drew her sword. “Hear me, rabble!” She waited a few moments for absolute silence. “I will kill one peasant a day until you bring me the man, or woman, who threw that rotten fruit.” She brandished her gleaming sword slowly above the crowd. “Does anyone doubt me?”
     
    You could hear the leather creak as one of her guards shifted in his saddle. “Very well,” she said. The Royal Guard reformed their lines and resumed their steady pace to the castle even more sedately.
     
    Before noon the next day, the Captain of the Guard informed her that a farmer had confessed to hurling the tomato. “Shall we flay him, My Queen?”
    “Not yet. Throw him in the dungeon.”
    “Yes, My Queen.”
     
     
     
    That night, the young farmer was awakened by a commotion among the guards. He heard the queen’s distinctive voice. She sent the guards scurrying in all directions but his, then approached her prisoner and glared at him thru the iron bars of his cell.
    She was lovely. He bowed, “Your Majesty.”
    “You threw a tomato at me.”
    “Yes, Your Grace.”
    “Why?”
    “My brother has been abducted by Lord Rancid, My Queen, and you’ve done nothing.”
    “Lord Rancid demands payment for your brother, and your brother’s land.”
    “Will you not pay, Your Majesty?”
    “I cannot. I will not.”
    “But we are your subjects, My Queen.”
    “Lord Rancid demands too much.”
    “Does Her Majesty not enjoy the milk from my brother’s cows?”
    “Your brother has milk cows?”
    “Aye, Your Majesty. The most fruitful cows in the county.”
    There was a long silence.
    “What makes them so fruitful?”
    “We let them roam freely, m’lady.”
    The queen sighed. “I was resigned to forget the matter of the flying food, but you’ve confessed and surrendered to the guard, you must be punished—you should be punished.”
    “Yes m…”
    “You should be hanged, for such an abuse on my person.”
    “Yes My Queen.”
    She began pacing back and forth in front of his cell, thinking. “If only you had some special power, or gift, besides your stupidity…” She stopped pacing, ‘then I could be more lenient.’
    She called for the guards. “Get this man a bath, some clean clothes, no—fit him with a weathered robe instead, and transfer him to modest quarters, but keep him under guard.”
    “At once, Your Majesty.”
    “If you have wits, farmer, you may yet live.”
    “Yes, Your Grace.”
     
    The following day, the farmer was clean, enrobed and escorted to the Royal Court for an audience with the Queen. He was instructed not to speak unless spoken to. By eaves-dropping on the guards, the farmer had learned that Lord Rancid, a vain and superstitious man, had the audacity to intrude upon the Queen’s Court under truce, to test the queen’s resolve. This was the same man who had abducted his brother.
     
    The Queen addressed him first. “You Lord, will have to wait your turn. I’ve an important matter to address beforehand.” Lord Rancid bridled at the insult. “Where is that sorcerer?” The Queen inquired. “The one who threw the tomato at me?”
    The room grew silent, even Lord Rancid forgot his anger as the farmer was brought before the queen.
    “Kneel before me, sorcerer. You may look upon me.”
    “Yes, Your Majesty.”
    “I understand you have a certain gift.”
    “I do? Your Grace?”
    “Well, don’t you?”
    “Ah yes, of course I do, Your Majesty.”
    “What is it? Something to do with dry cows, wasn’t it?”
    “Dry cows—yes, Your Grace. I-can-make—cows, uh—give more milk.”
    “Right, that’s it. More milk. And that tomato was some kind of omen. Am I correct?”
    “Yes, Your Majesty, the tomato was an omen.”
    “I thought so, but—an omen of what, exactly?”
    The farmer swallowed. “Of more milk, Your Grace.”
    “Splendid. Where?” She looked at Lord Rancid, who gazed in frank admiration at a man who would throw a tomato at the object of his thwarted aspirations. “Where will there be more milk?”
    “There will be more milk in the North, Your Majesty.”
    Lord Rancid’s attention shifted to the queen.
    “How will that happen, sorcerer?”
    “I will go there and perform rituals, Your Grace, with Lord Rancid’s permission.”
    “And mine.” She shifted her attention. “What say you, Lord Rancid? Do your villagers fancy milk?”
    Lord Rancid was surprisingly receptive. “I fear they may have forgotten how much so. I would consider it, Your Ladyship. What would you wish in return?”
    “Release this man’s brother, and relinquish his land.”
    Lord Rancid conferred with his advisor, a man whose head never ceased shaking. Even after a decision was arrived at.
    “Very well, Your Ladyship. I agree. We will provide him with a suitable escort. If he fails to perform his miracles, I can always reclaim the land, and send you his head in return.”
    This insult earned grunts and hisses from Royal officials and courtiers.
    But the Queen extended her hand, Rancid pretended to kiss her ring, then promptly departed with his men.
     
    The farmer, astonished at the turn of events, wished to express his gratitude, but was forbidden from doing so.
    “Tell me farmer,” the Queen said. “How exactly does this ritual work?”
    “I…” The farmer hesitated. “I wave a staff perhaps. A wooden staff, over the cow’s head, Your Majesty.”
    “That sounds sufficiently magical to induce trust in your counsel. Which would be?”
    “To let their cows roam and graze freely, Your Grace.”
    “Very well then.” She motioned for him to approach her. “You are now a sorcerer, and committed to go North. Set their cows free, farmer, be observant, remember what you witness. I will grant you a private audience upon your return.”
    “May the saints bless you, Your Grace.”
    “If you return.”

    Reply
    • March 31, 2018 at 4:23 pm
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      The grandeur of the moment was broken by the Queen herself, could be written as – The Queen herself broke the grandeur of the moment

      Capitals on the Y in Your.

      Why do you use an em dash rather than a hyphen?

      One of the problems with English is that it is thirty percent French.

      Other than the insignificance noted above — great story.

      Reply
    • April 1, 2018 at 7:41 am
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      A fun tale Ken, I loved that they duped Lord Rancid who has the most perfect name of course.

      Wondering about the paragraph structure, I wasn’t sure if that was intentional.

      I really enjoyed the fact that it all hinged on milk!

      Reply
      • April 1, 2018 at 12:12 pm
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        Thanks for the comments Robt. and Carrie,

        Robt.
        I took your advice on that ‘grandeur’ sentence. Your version was much less tortured. I’m not even sure I like the word ‘grandeur’ in this instance.

        Capitals on the Y in ‘your.’ Good eye. I found it. Oddly, there are no instances of the word ‘your’ on the first page, but 22 instances on the second and third page.

        ‘Why do you use an em dash rather than a hyphen?’
        I don’t know. Why shouldn’t I? Am I using it incorrectly? If so, I’d like to know more about that. As it is, I’ll look into it, but you’re not giving me much to go on. But it concerns me as little things like that can be off-putting to a discerning reader.

        ‘…English is thirty percent French.’
        Is that true? My father and one of my sisters speak French, and it is one of the most aggravating languages I don’t speak. Half the letters in their words are silent, and a fourth of them do not conform to the sounds that we English associate with them. For instance, they lived near a village called, (if I remember correctly) Givrins. The pronunciation of which was Sju-vr, or Ja-vre, (depending on who said it) …with the ‘r’ sound being severely truncated. Seems as though they just keeping adding vowels to a word until they all become unpronounceable, and therefore silent.

        Carrie,

        Thanks. Now I’m wondering about my paragraph structure. I don’t remember any specific rules about paragraphs, other than that they should have some commonality of subject, idea or purpose. So I’m making a best guess effort. Could be mistakes too. I sometimes start a new paragraph without leaving a space after the preceding one. This is due to uncertainty, about whether it should be the end of the previous paragraph, or the beginning of a new one, and so far, my method only guarantees that it’ll be wrong all of the time. (Sounds like a cry for help.) I should probably skim through my ‘Strunk & White’s again. (I just searched the entire house and can’t find it. We have books in every room, hallway and closet, in both cars, the garage and the boat.) I’m kind of annoyed that I haven’t found it yet. What the hell did I do with it?

        Thanks to both of you though, for pointing out the flaws in the compost-ition.
        I’m re-posting it with your corrections and suggestions in mind, but you two need not re-read it as the changes are all minor.

        Reply
    • April 2, 2018 at 12:40 pm
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      I like the turn this takes with the queen conniving with the farmer to pull one over on Lord Rancid. The way the opening scene is set with such majesty and drama and then turns into a tomato sniper is funny. I like the detail of the leather creak setting off the silence of the moment.

      As for the hyphen conundrum, I’m a huge fan of ellipses to connote a stuttered pause in speech. But then again, I add them willy nilly all over the place sometimes…

      Reply
      • April 2, 2018 at 1:00 pm
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        I’m a huge fan of ellipses also. Wikipedia has a nice article on ellipses,

        Reply
        • April 2, 2018 at 2:06 pm
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          Thanks Wendy. (I’ve spent more goddamn time on this story than I did on first marriage.)

          Robt. (Will we ever get to call you Robert?) I’ll look up that article. I’m know I’ve read up on their use, but maybe I’m remembering it wrong. Not looking to annoy the reader. Maybe I’ve got it backwards. I use ellipses when the sentence ends abruptly but isn’t continued. When the dialogue or sentence continues, or I want a pause in the dialogue, I use the em dash? I’m pretty sure I only use them in dialogue, for that reason.
          I’ll use an ellipsis after a pause followed by exposition.
          Anyway–….–I’ll look it up.

          Reply
  • April 1, 2018 at 8:45 am
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    Horse Lords by Carrie Zylka (Revised)
     

    Danica doubled over in pain. The fire coursing through her veins brought her crashing to her knees. Taking short, gulping breaths, she waited for the pain to subside, ignoring the whispers and the gasps around her.

    Her mother pushed past the noblemen and visiting dignitaries, crossing the room with impressive speed in her elaborate gown. Ignoring her finery, she kneeled next to her daughter. “Danica?”

    Danica squeezed her eyes shut. “It’s happening too frequently mother. I need to go. Tonight.” She said softly.

    The Queen wiped sweat from the young girl’s brow with the sleeve of her dress. She nodded shortly and then cast a curiosity quenching gaze to those gathered around. “We’ll go tonight.” She helped her daughter to her feet and they made their way towards the door leading to their chambers. She exchanged a glance with her husband who needed no explanation. The sadness in his eyes spoke volumes.

    That night Danica, her mother and her father rode from Whitestone Manor, leaving the guards behind they dressed indiscriminately and rode common dun horses. Their destination was a mere two hour ride but the journey for the young girl was pure torture. She felt as if someone had poured molten lava down her throat and set her skin on fire.

    The Queen reigned in her horse as The White Fields presented themselves. The moon was full, and the night was cold, mist and fog shrouded everything in a ghostly blanket. They waited until soft wind stirred, and the fog parted, revealing the field ahead.

    The King helped his daughter from the saddle and supported her as her legs nearly buckled from the pain. Taking a deep breath Danica stood on her own and looked at her parents. These two strong people full of goodness and light, these two who would defend their people against worldly threats. These two people who could never defend her people against otherworldly threats.

    Soon that would be her job.

    “Do you know why we’re here Danica?” Her mother spoke in that soft voice, like warm honey.

    Danica drank in the sight of her parents. Burning every detail in her mind. “I do mother. I sought out the old history books many years ago. I know the fine details of the First Born Claim, that every royal first born must join them. To fight the Fae. I still remember reading the book over and over and thinking how a such a threat could bring together all of the rulers, and I couldn’t believe how they could all agree to give up their first born child. I remember thinking it was awful. But I was young then. I am much wiser now to the ways of the world.”

    Her father, pride gleaming in his eyes, suddenly grabbed her and held her close in his strong arms. “You will be of legends my beautiful daughter. They will cringe before your strength and your glory.” She felt the wetness on his cheeks.

    “Yes father, I will make you both so very proud.” Tears sprung to her eyes. She knew once the change was complete she’d barely recognize them, if she ever saw them again.

    Her mother moved to do the same. “I would like to come and visit. Every year beneath the Hunters Moon I will come to this place. If you can remember, I will be here.” Her mother touched her cheek, wiping the tears away.

    Danica’s heart broke. She wanted to scream at them, she wanted to ask them to keep her safe from this task, she wanted to break free and run from this unknown destiny she’d been charged with. She was terrified and exhilarated and confused all at once.

    Her body stiffened at the distant sound of a horse whinny. Her heart lurched into her throat and she shivered as she realized it was time.

    One more hug and murmurs of love and she turned away from her parents.

    Without looking back, determination set in her shoulders, she headed into the field. Cold, wet grass dampened her boots. She flinched when she heard horses galloping. In the darkness she could barely see, the moon was partially obscured, and she feared she’d fall and break her neck.

    The sound of thundering hooves grew louder, and she stopped, realizing they were all around her, circling her. She clenched her fists to stop her hands from shaking as she saw the hundreds of ghostly figures weaving in and out of the darkness.

    Strange cries and horses whinnying and galloping and figures out of a nightmare rode here and there, creating a cacophony of sounds and confusion that became overwhelming.

    Danica dropped to her knees, the noise and the pain too much for her, she sobbed. She fell forward and her head hit a particularly sharp rock, she felt hot moisture on her forehead, and touched it. Her hand came away with a frightening amount of blood.

    The heat inside her was unbearable, she thought she’d pass out.

    The wind shifted, and the moon suddenly filled the glen with ethereal silver light. She realized the chaos had stopped, and when she looked up she saw she was ringed by a hundred ghostly figures sitting atop horseback. Each one silver in the moonlight. They parted as a huge white horse came charging into the circle. It skidded to a stop before her, great black eyes drinking in the form that lay in the grass. It’s mane and tail long and wavy, feathered ankles and a dappling on its rump that looked like dark stars in the moonlight. It stepped closer, head low as it came. It snorted loudly, and she jumped. It moved closer, sniffing loudly, taking in her scent as she sat up on her knees.

    The burning in her veins made her swoon and she reached out with her bloody hand. Her hand touched the soft flesh of the horse and she screamed, throwing her head back, the pain consuming her from the inside out.

    The horse screamed with her, throwing up his head…and then there was nothing.

    ~

    The King and Queen shuddered at the sound of the shared scream. They knew what it meant.

    And it wasn’t long before the figure riding the horse materialized from the shadows. Danica was completely transformed. Her entire nude body was covered in white mud, her hair pulled back into a severe tail, matching her horse.

    She rode with confidence, the sword in one hand, they knew she carried the flame magic in the other.

    Danica and the silvery beast she had soul bonded to, stopped at the edge of the field and looked at her parents with black eyes. The Queen wept as another figure materialized beside her daughter, Rodnor, the Queens’ older brother, first born and subject to the First Born Claim forty years ago. The two mortals raised their hands to their now lost family members. Danica nodded curtly, militantly, before melting back into the darkness.

    The King held his wife tight. “I am both devastated and proud this day.”

    The Queen nodded and buried her face in her husband’s jacket. She agreed with him, devastated to have lost one of her children, but fiercely proud that her first born daughter had become a Horse Lord, bound to ride and defend the kingdom for eternity from the evil Fae that threatened to consume the world.

     
     

    Revision Notes:

    • Removed “, everyone knew of the First Born Claim created generations ago, but none had seen it happen in their lifetime”
      Changed “liquid molten” to “molten Lava”
    • Inserted royal – “I know the fine details of the First Born Claim, that every royal first born must join them. To fight the Fae.”
    • Changed “she was ringed by a hundred mounted horses” to “by a hundred ghostly figures sitting atop horseback.”
    • Added: {after “that every royal first born must join them. To fight the Fae.”} “To fight the Fae. I still remember reading the book over and over and thinking how a such a threat could bring together all of the rulers, and I couldn’t believe how they could all agree to give up their first born child. I remember thinking it was awful. But I was young then. I am much wiser now to the ways of the world.”
    • Changed: “Her father suddenly grabbed her and held her close in his strong arms.” to “Her father, pride gleaming in his eyes, suddenly grabbed her and held her close in his strong arms.”
    Reply
    • April 1, 2018 at 9:31 am
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      A great tale that leaves me wanting more. Well written, Carrie, and I’m serious about wanting to learn more about Danica and the fight against the Fae. Love the First Born Claim concept.

      Gotta few things. I’m fuzzy on the First Born Claim. These two sentences not too far apart in the story confused me.

      ‘everyone knew of the First Born Claim created generations ago, but none had seen it happen in their lifetime – AND – I know the fine details of the First Born Claim, that every first born must join them’. Or am I too understand that only First Born Royalty are claimed? ‘Cause otherwise the two sentences are in conflict.

      In the story you say – She felt as if someone had poured liquid molten down her throat and set her skin on fire. It just sounds wrong to say ‘liquid molten’, an oxymoron I think, since liquid is a melted solid, you could say it differently. Even ‘molten liquid’ sounds better to my senses. But, it’s kinda nit-picky, but I don’t have a whole lot of incorrect bones to pick over and gnaw on.

      This also jarred me a little, ‘when she looked up she saw she was ringed by a hundred mounted horses. Each one silver in the moonlight.’ I realize mounted horses is probably correct, but I envisioned a horse mounted, not a horse mounted by a fighter. So, writing – when she looked up, she saw she was ringed by a hundred horses, silver in the moonlight, mounted by First Born warriors – might be more descriptive.

      I think a little clean up with some stray commas, and a couple of clunky paragraphs, and this is on its way to being a fine fantasy novel or novelette, as you so choose. One I’d like to read more of.

      Reply
      • April 1, 2018 at 9:47 am
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        Thank you for the feedback!!
        Yes, a little clarifying may go a long way.

        Ironically I threw “everyone knew of the First Born Claim created generations ago, but none had seen it happen in their lifetime” in at the last minute, trying to convey a sense of people at a party who know what’s going on but still had a healthy sense of morbid curiosity. Like seeing siamese twins, you can’t help but stare and gossip even though you know it’s wrong. I think I’ll take it back out. It really doesn’t enhance the story.

        Yes, only first born royalty of every ruling family must give their child to the service. I’ve actually been sitting here trying to figure out how to inject that little tidbit. That the Horse Lords are made up of first born royalty, growing with each generation. Obviously 1 daughter/son every twenty years or whatever won’t fill the ranks very fast. So I thought maybe there are lots of kingdoms, each submitting to the First Born Claim some wizard crafted many moons ago to fight the evil fairies or some such.

        Hell IDK.

        “liquid molten” good point (you sound like Phil! He always points out those little “Carrie there’s being descriptive for the sake of being wordy” moments.)
        Changed to “molten lava”

        I do like where this story went, and might expand on it a bit, backstory on how the Fae came to be, the wizard that crafted the First Born Claim, how all the kingdoms put aside their differences to fight this unseen foe. Why horses instead of dragons or lions, could be a fun little ride!

        Reply
        • April 1, 2018 at 10:35 am
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          You could clarify the First Born thing with a sentence or two, simply by saying so. Such as, Every First Born from every Kingdom must be Claimed. In your own words, of course. And that would clean it up nicely, I think. I hope you expand it.

          Reply
    • April 1, 2018 at 1:13 pm
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      I don’t mean to seem like a comma-nazi, cuz I’m not, but …
      Her mother pushed past the noblemen and visiting dignitaries, crossing the room with impressive speed in her elaborate gown [add a comma], [change to a lowercase i] ignoring her finery, she [change kneeled to knelt] next to her daughter [add a comma], “Danica?”
      Danica squeezed her eyes shut. “It’s happening too frequently mother. I need to go [add a comma], Tonight.” She said softly.
      Question for all ~
      Do any of you find it easier to find the mistakes you make in the writings of others people?
      I sure do. If I can easily see them in the writings of others, why the hell can’t I see them in mine?
      Interesting story.

      I find a lot of mistakes bu simply turning on “Spell and grammar” check.

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    • April 2, 2018 at 12:49 pm
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      Oooo, I like this one Carrie! The world is well formed and there is just enough foreshadowing that you know something big is happening (I admit I thought she would shift into a white horse) The idea of the geas placed on all the royal families to provide their first born to fight the fae is super cool and the imagry of the white painted warriors is haunting. Good work!

      Reply
  • April 1, 2018 at 10:08 pm
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    ‘Do any of you find it easier to find the mistakes you make in the writings of other people?’

    Oh hell, are you kidding? Absolutely. Totally. It must be a bio-physiological law of nature. (If there is such a thing, Philip is somehow immune to the effect.) Although, if a story is smooth and engaging, I find that I’ll ignore a few minor errors for the sake of enjoying the story. (I probably won’t tell you about them either.)

    Once I feel done with a story, I have to wait at least a day. (Unless the story’s really bad.) When I return to it, I’m much more cynical about what I’m about to read. And I find my errors with greater ease.

    But I still struggle with sentence structure, as you pointed out, over-writing, (under-writing), excessive cleverness. I’m amazed at how much I change and delete—(dramatic pause) after I’m more or less satisfied with the story. It’s unbelievable.

    I’ve made so many changes to this story since I posted it. (Thank you Carrie.) Not sure the story’s any better, but it certainly is different from my first version.

    I’m not trying to change the subject but, speaking generally, my best stories are the ones I don’t give a crap about. There’s nothing special about them. I just get an idea, a plot and an ending, I want to write it, edit, and post it and do something else. And I don’t really give a crap. Those are my best stories.

    By the way Robt. you should correct the errors in your story. Get rid of Gaucho the coward, and change Albert’s name to ‘Brightknot’ there, (at that key point in the story), add a number for the combatants. (It was a zillion to one when we…)You make the changes and send it to Carrie and she would be able to put your corrected story in place of the original. It wouldn’t take that much effort. I think the story deserves it. Fix those errors.

    Don’t leave your story out there like that, all defenseless, with its shoelaces untied, shirt on inside out. Helmet on backwards. Have a heart, Robt. Forget the commas for a minute and pay some attention to your story. Give it a fighting chance, man. Viking Stories Matter! Make those changes. Carrie is a very accommodating moderatrix. (Or modulator, whatever she’s called.) I’m sure she won’t give you any trouble at all.

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  • April 2, 2018 at 1:00 pm
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    A Tale in Three Colors by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin ©2018 [word count 1028]

    As it once was told, there was a queen beloved by her people. Her hair flowed long and black like the river to the north. She moved among them giving every ounce of herself, like all good rulers do. She even chose a consort from their number; a son of the head elder. She lived and breathed her people and loved her husband with all her heart.

    For the wedding, her husband gave her a horse as red as the blood that pumped through her heart. It was the color of life, of love, of motherhood. They would ride together racing across the plains. She bore him three sons and three daughters, each lovelier and smarter than the next. The people felt their love and the land thrived.

    As always happens in these sorts of tales, jealousy must interfere. To the west the queen’s land was bordered by mountains, to the north the long black river. To the south, a cold, flat desert isolated the realm. But to the east the rolling hills and fertile farmland gave way to thick bamboo forests which marked the territory of their only neighbor. They saw how the queen’s people and land flourished and they wanted it for themselves. These rulers were crueler by far, loving neither their land nor their people, just what gold could be squeezed from both. Their greed brought war to the queen’s land.

    The queen wanted to fight alongside her people, but her youngest daughter pleaded with her to stay. Her sons went to war. Her two eldest daughters organized the supplies and training of the new soldiers. The land had become fat and happy during her reign and the art of war needed to be relearned. The cruel neighbors pushed ever westward, their greed and ferocity fueling their fight.

    First her eldest son was killed. They say three spears ripped him from his saddle. Then his brother died while trying to parley for peace – his tea had been poisoned. When her eldest daughter went to claim his body, they stripped her and forced her to drag his corpse from their frontline to her own. Before she reached her soldiers, she had fallen dead alongside her brother from exhaustion and shame.

    The queen’s consort had returned to tell her himself about the fate of their children. She pleaded with him to stay, to let her go in his stead.

    “A queen belongs to her people; you must stay here to give them hope.” He leaned in to kiss away her tears. “The land thrives with you – it was always my burden to fight in your name.”

    “Take my horse, he is older but surefooted. As you carry my heart into battle, let my heart carry you.” They embraced and he mounted her gift steed. He rode back to join their remaining son at the front.

    The queen did her best to rally her people, but each messenger brought news of the eastern border shrinking further inward. The farmland fell fallow as it was plundered for rations. More and more people were conscripted for soldiers. The queen grew thinner and thinner, her long black hair now striped with grey.

    Then came news her daughter’s supply train was attacked. She had fallen fighting to protect her last group of citizen soldiers. This drover her brother mad and he ran at a battalion swinging his sword as he was swallowed by their ranks. It is said he took twenty enemies with him into the afterlife.

    Every night the queen locked herself in her chamber, but every morning she went back into her city, helping her people where she could. Her last surviving daughter often joined her and the people took strength from them both.

    Seasons had come and gone since her neighbor’s greed had driven them into the queen’s demesne. She had lost all but one of her children, the land was withering and her people were dying. On one long, cold night she woke suddenly and felt her heart ripped apart. She didn’t need the messenger to know that her husband had fallen. The enemies had sneaked into his camp and plunged a knife in his heart while he slept. The blood red horse he had given her and she had sent with him began kicking and biting everyone who approached it until finally someone shot it with an arrow to the heart.

    The queen’s daughter, who loved the land and the people as much as her mother approached the grieving widow, whose once black hair now flowed white.

    “I will marry the leader of our enemies. It is the only way to save our people.”

    “I cannot bear to lose you. They have taken your brothers and sisters. They stole my heart and love.”

    “If you don’t let me go, our people will be slaughtered, our land will be burned. Everything you worked for will die. This is my burden to bear.”

    The queen looked fondly on her daughter through her tears. “You are every inch my daughter. You put your people’s needs above all else and your heart beats strong with the blood of your father. Very well, I’ll make arrangements for your marriage.”

    * * *
    The two realms became one and with time the greed of the old queen’s enemies was softened by her daughter’s love for her people. It was time for the once raven haired queen to choose a new mount and move on.

    She went out onto the plains where the horses run free and waited for one to approach her. A white mare with grey nose and fetlocks cautiously circled toward her. The woman with the white hair breathed in the smell of the horse, crying her tears into the short, bristled mane. She swung herself onto the mare’s back and moved toward the mists and the mountains.
    As it is sometimes still told, when the clouds roll in from the west, the thunder is the sound of a white horse’s hoof beats. The rain that falls is thought to be the tears of a heartbroken queen still trying to wash the blood of her people’s suffering from the land.

    Reply
  • April 3, 2018 at 12:54 am
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    Wow, what a story! That reads like an old American Indian legend. Only better. A sad but wonderful story Wendy. Beautifully written.

    Reply
    • April 3, 2018 at 1:29 am
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      I forgot to help out with some better name suggestions.

      A Tale Of Two Peoples.
      The Queen Of Heartland.
      The Colors Of Love.
      Stop, You’re Making Me Cry.
      Please, I’m Serious.
      Quit It.
      The Plains Of Ethereum. (Why not? Is it something dirty?)
      A Tale By Any Other Name. (Would sound as sweet.)
      Terminator Six.
      Remember, Evil Always Wins, But At Least Good Survives.
      The Borg of Mercia. (Resistance is few-tile.)
      Red Warf Child Planet Reverse Love Story Barbarian Horse Flower. (Word Cloud.)
      You’ll Love This Story.
      Anything But A Tale In Three Colors.

      I really enjoyed that story Wendy. Pick a name, any name.

      Reply
    • April 3, 2018 at 10:28 am
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      Thank you, Ken. I was going for a kind of storyteller thing so I’m glad that worked out here. Plus bonus points for both a Terminator AND a Star Trek title reference. I think I’ll go with “Red Warf Child Planet Reverse Love Story Barbarian Horse Flower”

      Reply
  • April 4, 2018 at 10:55 am
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    Ok people time’s up for this bonus contest!!

    You have 24 hours to read the stories and cast your vote!
    Anyone may vote, but in order for your story to qualify you must vote, you can vote only once and cannot vote for yourself.

    The voting page is here: http://fiction.wwocz.net/blog/voting-2018whitehorse/

    Good luck!

    Reply
  • April 5, 2018 at 9:08 pm
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    Congratulations Wendy and to all the other writers. There were some excellent stories and very good writing.

    Reply

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