Tuesday, 1 October 2013

500 Word Challenge: Bastards and Bears | The Eagle And The Moonlight

Since I ran out of time to post a 500 Word Challenge yesterday (it was one of those days where I looked and the clock and thought, "Holy crap! Is it actually 3:45 AM right now??), I got up early today and am going to post two challenges again before I start working on Cursed again. It's a bit slow going right now since Constance isn't trying to slay monsters at this point, but I'm working on my pacing and it'll be picking up again soon. As in today.

So, the first challenge is: The story takes place in the spring. During the story, there is a letter delivered. The story must involve a jar of honey in it.

- - -

    Redeem our village. Save your family honour. Bring us the skin of a bear, the letter said.
    I was one of the only people in the village who could read, since I was raised in a castle by my father. Not that I lived there with him now, since it wouldn’t do to have the bastard of a Baron and a peasant girl in court. When I moved to the village on my fifteenth birthday, everyone shunned me. They didn’t like that they could be seen as beneath me. But they also thought that my being a Baron’s bastard son would improve their standing in the kingdom.
    After I killed the bear, of course.
    The village elder had sent me the letter and a jar of honey, telling me what a great honour I was doing to my village and my father. Killing the bear would restore my family’s damaged honour and make me a respected man in the village. What went unsaid was that if I died, the village would no longer be shamed, and the Baron could make another bastard if he wanted.
    Everyone won in the situation, except for me.
    I wouldn’t have gone, except the letter also included a veiled threat to blackmail me. With no one to stand up for me, I had taken the jar of honey, a spear, a knife, and set off into the spring morning.
    A bear had been plaguing the border of the village for months, eating everything in sight. I was not relishing the adventure. I was scrawny, untrained in combat, clumsy, and a terrible hunter. I was definitely going to die.
    After walking all day, I decided I to sit down and rest. I dropped my pack and plopped onto the uncomfortable forest floor. The jar of honey tumbled away from me, but I didn’t care.
    Until I heard the twigs snap.
    I looked over and saw a gigantic, black bear that was probably seven feet tall and probably had the weight of ten men. It was twenty feet away from me, sniffing the ground. I had frozen. There was no scenario I could think of where the bear didn’t attack me and rip me to pieces.
    Behind the bear I spotted two more black shapes. Bear cubs. The mother was taking her children to look for food. She nudged the jar of honey so her children could have the treat. The bear cubs grunted and whined in joy as they began to lick the honey from the jar.
    I could have tried to kill the bear, and probably the cubs. I could have redeemed my village and saved my family’s honour. But the bears weren’t harming me. A mother simply wanted to care for her children.
    Which was why I didn’t kill them. Like the bears, nobody wanted me at home. But also like them, I could travel. Go anywhere, do anything.
    Being a bastard was a burden once. Now it was a chance to begin again.

- - -

The second challenge is: The story must have an eagle at the beginning. The story must involve a scepter in it.

- - -

    War makes only monsters and corpses.
    We had just lost a third of our men against Boudicca, a Queen bent on revenge, slaughtering every Roman she could find. My leg still bore an ache from the slash it had taken during the battle. Finally, the soldiers could walk no further and our commander was forced to stop in a clearing near a forest.
    My friend Julius dropped down onto the ground in front of me, rolling onto his back and shivering.
    “Trivia’s tits, it’s cold,” he said.
    I glanced around the clearing, which was illuminated under an enormous, full moon. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and I would have appreciated the beauty brought on by Luna, if I weren’t feeling so exhausted. I used the eagle scepter as leverage to lower myself down. Carrying the silver scepter had been an honour, but now it was a weight.
    “You shouldn’t dishonour the goddess of witchcraft,” I told Julius as I polished the eagle.
    When Julius didn’t reply, I looked over to see that he had fallen asleep, just like so many other men. I shook my head. No matter how hard I tried, sleep would not come to me. I regretted the things I had done to the Iceni tribe, but I had been caught up in the mayhem of the slaughter. An easy thing to do when you want your enemies to fear you. Except that now, Boudicca had struck fear into us.
    I don’t know exactly when they struck, if I had fallen asleep after all or if I had just been lost in my regrets.
    But I do know that they took us by surprise, that there were hundreds of them, and that they were not human.
    They were savage looking wolves the size of horses with sharp black claws and angry yellow eyes. One of them killed Julius as he slept, tearing out his throat with its teeth. I got to my feet, swiping at the beast with the eagle scepter. The silver scepter connected with the wolf’s muzzle. It roared in anger as a silver burn was planted on it. I raised the scepter to strike again, when a massive force slammed into my side and knocked me to the ground.
    Razor sharp teeth sank into my throat and began to tear at it. I screamed in pain, my voice joining the thousands of my brothers who were dying tonight.
    The large, auburn wolf pulled back and looked at me, then, began to change. Fur rippled and muscles shivered, receding back into a new form.    The form of a woman that I recognized.
    “Boudicca,” I gurgled as blood gushed through my open wound.
    Her eyes were piercing. She looked at the silver eagle I clutched to my chest, then met my eyes again.
    “Eagle lost, honour lost,” she said as her eyes shone gold, blood dripping from her chin, her skin rippling again as she began to change once more. “Honour lost, all lost.”

- - -

The first story, which I know didn't have any monsters or ghosts in it, came to me as I was brushing my teeth this morning. For some reason, I thought: Bears like honey, and fighting a bear for honey would be stupid if you knew you could walk away and leave it alone.

The second one was pretty easy to think up once I read 'eagle' and scepter. The Legend of the Ninth Legion has always been one of those mysteries writers like to have fun with, and who doesn't like the thought of werewolves wiping out the Ninth Legion? It took me a little longer to do because I was trying to get an accurate setting. I like warrior women like Boudicca, and the thought of her as a werewolf was hopefully a twist you all enjoyed.

Queen Boudicca
Badass werewolf

In other news, I recently started joining more writing groups and blogs:

Writer Unboxed
Nail Your Novel
Writing GIAM
Silver Pen

So far these blogs have been really helpful and I look forward to getting more information from them. Still learning how to do the whole blog thing, but I'm getting there I think!


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