So, in case you didn't know, which you probably don't. There was a contest that John Scalzi and Wil Wheaton were hosting where you wrote a story about a particular picture. I really, can not, in any way, describe this picture.
See the info for the contest here: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/05/30/fanfic-contest/
Anyway, with three days left to the contest, I decided to finally get off my ass and enter and I figured I'd post my fic up here. It has a few references in it that if you aren't familiar with you might not get, but it shouldn't detract from the story itself. The 2000 word limit really made me edit it tighter as it was about 2,200 in my first draft. I haven't really written anything this long in years and it gets me excited to start work on my big project. Enjoy!
Wil of the People:
Every breath was pollen and salt. The pounding surf on the rocks filled the air with brackish mist as the wind above the green fields overhead ripped feathery seeds from the airplants rooted amongst cracks on the cliff side. Each deep breath filled his lungs with an air so sweet and fragrant there were no delusions that it was anything other than a dream. This dreamscape was no more new to him than the clear water washing over his legs, but they were sensations in his mind for which he had no reference point. Still, this place was no less real or any less a desperate fantasy. Nearly blinding in the sun, he watched as a lone sea eagle dove into the waves and it’s talons crashed into the water with a clang. Blinking away the salt, he watched as the bird raised with a fish grasped tight and with each beat of it's wings the clang grew louder.
His eyes snapped open and were filled with the gray impassiveness of the stone ceiling. The tower bells meant only one thing, the Scalzi had been sighted. Richard arose quickly from the small bed in the middle of the spartan room. Standing there, his mind lingered on the coastline he had never seen. He scratched thoughtfully at a roaming itch through the hair on his chin as he surveyed the ceremonial armor of the Obin Vanguard that many warriors had proudly worn into battle. Wheaton’s Talent, the dark blue short-shorts signifying their unyielding commitment to the recession of the Scalzi horde, and Wheaton’s Rage, the fearsome grin all noble warriors of the Burning Rim wore emblazoned on their chests to show their foes that no emotions, be it fear or shame, would slow their spears.
As he finished dressing the bells ceased and hurried footsteps could be heard outside. The heat pressed in on him as he pushed the thick cypress door open and traces of ash swept into the room. Quickly stepping through he surveyed the sky, finding it gray and amassed with low hanging clouds as the sun’s rays fell short of piercing through. Southward the horizon burned red. As a young serf pressed the long spear shaft into his hands he knew deep inside that he would never return. The somber faces of the other villagers stole glances at him as they passed by speaking in hushed tones. Only the soldiers standing at ready leading to the towering black doors set into the thick stone walls looked his way. Each of them wishing to express everything they knew tradition forbade them from speaking.
Every breath was fire and ash. The rough hewn spear in his hands had been an extension of himself back to days he only remembered through stories others told. The Coral Rraey had been his father’s spear and before that, his grandfather’s standard bearer when they won their first victory over the Scalzi at the battle of Obin’s Peak. It had been held high over the heads of those heroes while the Savage King proclaimed them the Obin Vanguard, forever to watch over the Scalzi. Through the generations it had been wielded in each victory until what was left of the once great horde, now sickly and defeated, retreated into their caves in the Consu, the Burning Rim on the Pyxis border far south. It was set into the earth at this site in the barren wastes where their fortress would one day rise and stood as each stone was drug across the badlands and carved into their home. It watched over them for years and had slain many Scalzi scouts and raiders. He knew that by the time the fires on the ridge were extinguished that evening it would be in the hands of one of the foul beasts.
Shaking off the weight the spear placed on his shoulders, he looked toward the serf who was already making his way toward the stables. Still, he called after him, “Bring me my pussy-horn!”
The soldiers bellowed out their cheer, “Wheaton!”
A smile crept across his lips without knowing it as he ambled toward the gates, “Friends, warriors all. The sky burns this morning for me. Tomorrow it will burn for them and my spear will be there with you.” In unison the warriors slammed their spears against the ground and as he walked, for a moment, the earth shook with each step. He smiled to them until the gates began to spread out before him and he stared alone across the cracked alkaline wasteland leading to the black hills now burning orange. His smile had been for them and he had no use for it anymore. He was the last in a line of warriors who were now a tale told around fires to children who had never known the might of a true Scalzi fighting force. While many would expect to see him return with news of a few beasts slain across the rocks, the more seasoned soldiers knew the fires of war. Still, he smiled for them for he was their strength, the Wil of his people, and tradition bade him to scout the Scalzi alone. Almost alone.
Soft padding mixed with the heavy clomp of hooves caused him to look over his shoulder as the woolly Fussroth trotted toward him with the serf struggling to keep pace. A solemn nod and Richard took the reigns as the boy backed away. He tried not to picture the serf standing on the front line in armor scavenged on the battlefield from warriors far more seasoned, but he knew you cannot banish a thought once it had taken form. As he climbed atop his mount he gave one last look through the closing doors as they made their way south.
He remembered bright blue lanterns hanging from the eaves as they celebrated the W00tstock festival just one full moon before. Children ran and squealed in delight as an elder dressed in green stained cloth and an impish mask chased them with nasally growls. The children would run until they mustered their courage and turned towards the “Scalzi” and shrieked out their battle-cries. They giggled as their vanquished foe writhed on the ground. The door to the inn was propped open to let the sounds of boisterous laughter fill the night sky ever darkened by clouds, but lit by the shining blue stars hanging from the walls. Guitar strumming could be heard as the travelling minstrels Paulina and Tempest regaled them with songs of forbidden love and discouraged pirates. The redheaded innkeeper gazed longingly at the duo playing as he reflexively polished bottle after bottle only breaking from his own thoughts long enough to call orders to a dark young man who flashed a charming smile to every woman he served.
It seemed so long ago for a memory so recent. He remembered each dark, thick stout they drank and how with each empty glass he tried to grow the courage to talk to the beautiful woman at an empty table. Her friends had left so long ago he wondered why she hadn’t left yet when she flashed him a smile that quickly sent him into another frothy drink. For all the fearlessness he had in battle nothing made him feel small and fragile like Anne’s smile. Later that evening when he sullenly made his way home alone she grabbed him and kissed him before rushing off into the night. No amount of time could bring sleep and he feared to eat or drink in case he would never taste that clean jasmine on his lips again.
The next day he had felt just as lonely and lost when she was nowhere to be found. For weeks he would seek her out, like grasping at smoke, only for her to appear when he would give up looking. Her absence made him realize how lonely he was and memories of when his father had died in distant battle would surface. The king had summoned the great warrior of Wheaton to a fatal search for the missing Prince Leander (who had escaped from the walls of the capital in search of adventure and found more than he had ever wished).
His mother had passed during childbirth, so all he had was his grandmother who raised him as any warrior should with him carrying his spear from dawn to dusk as she told him of his forefather’s adventures. When he skirted his duties to sneak off for mischief, as all boys do, she would make sure to find him only when it was too late to train. She would drag him home with a smile on her lips as she swatted him between his ears and chided him the same simple way she always had, “Be not of thy crotch appendage.” She would be proud of him. His ancestors who had died in glorious battle would smile upon him as he fought for the honor to gain eternal rest in the halls of Pax.
Every breath was hopelessness and regret. A shrill chirp from the furry Fussroth caught his attention and they lifted into the sky as it's great wings beat against the ground, filling the warm air with dust and ash. As they climbed and gained speed, the hot wind weathered his grim face as he squinted to look through the acrid smoke to the lava flats below. Scanning back and forth he again thought of Anne and hoped she would smile at his memory. Her fiendish grin and laugh filled his stoic life with something that he felt had been missing; something he thought others must have known every day. As he spotted a single figure weaving between the rocks below, the figure of Anne in his mind vanished, and he knew what it meant to love. He would have walked barefoot through the blistering badlands with nothing but his empty hands against the horde if it meant she could be spared pain.
The wind tore at him and flecks of flint and obsidian ripped tiny jagged lines across his skin as they fell like a stone. Before the sharp, glossy crags could stop them the Fossruth spread it’s wide wings. They landed on the ground with an earth shaking thud that sent the Scalzi in front of them into a screeching panic. It spit and thudded the flat of it’s axe against it’s wooden shield as if trying to scare off some beast. He banged and roared until he looked down in horror at the thick spear protruding from his sternum. He flopped backward lifelessly, the spear pinning him to the black rock, but fearsome cries still carried on the biting winds.
“Go home Bast!” Richard shouted, but the massive creature merely tilted it’s head to one side as if looking at something that defied comprehension and let out a questioning mew. He wrenched his spear from the putrid beast that began to bake on the ground. “Go and they will know what the Burning Rim brings. Go and they will send everyone to the safety of the capital.” Now the head turned the other way, it’s long green eyes seemingly immune to the acrid winds as the pupils narrowed into thin slivers. “Go now!” he pleaded and his old friend took to the skies with a great caterwaul.
His eyes began to sting as glowing embers sparked against his face. Dark stains streaked down his cheeks before running into the thicket of beard which had grown gray with ash. As he scanned the glass-like black rock the howls and cries grew and surrounded him in a cacophony so loud it drowned out the wind, but as the swarm began pouring from the rocks, too numerous to say they had a beginning or end, the only sound to be heard was his battle-cry. He was the Wil of his people. Every breath was courage and honor. Wil’s voice rang true and proud, “WHEATON!” Current Mood: accomplished