Literary Maneuvers May 2020: Give War a Chance!


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    Literary Maneuvers May 2020: Give War a Chance!

    Literary Maneuvers, May 2020

    "Give War a Chance!"

    650 words, deadline 23:59 GMT / 18:59 EST, Saturday, 16 May




    Introduction

    This month you will be following the prompt:
    Give War a Chance!
    Pick your own title, write about whatever you want, as long as it fits the prompt. You have 650 words of fiction in which to do this.

    If you win, you'll get a badge pinned to your profile, plus the chance to write for our Feb 2021 Grand Fiction Challenge which carries cash prizes.


    Judging

    The judges this month are undead_av, velo, and H.Brown. For those interested in judging, let me know via PM or in the new Coffee Shop. If you wish to know more about scoring, take a look at the NEW JUDGING GUIDE which also includes a template to use for your scoring. Please use this template for consistency.


    Additional

    All entries that wish to retain their first rights should post in the LM WORKSHOP THREAD.

    All anonymous entries will be PMed to myself and please note in the PM if you want your entry posted in the workshop

    Lastly, why not check out this ancient text on how to best approach this task.


    Rules



    • All forum rules apply. The LM competition is considered a creative area of the forum. If your story contains inappropriate language or content, do not forget add a disclaimer or it could result in disciplinary actions being taken. Click here for the full list of rules and guidelines of the forum.
    • No Poetry! Nothing against you poets out there, but this isn’t a place for your poems. Head on over to the poetry challenges for good competition over there. Some of us fiction people wouldn’t be able to understand your work! Click here for the poetry challenges. Play the prose-poem game at your own risk.
    • No posts that are not entries into the competition are allowed. If you have any questions, concerns, or wish to take part in discussion please head over to the LM Coffee Shop. We’ll be glad to take care of your needs over there.
    • Editing your entry after posting isn’t allowed. You’ll be given a ten minute grace period, but after that your story may not be scored.
    • Only one entry per member.
    • The word limit is 650 words not including the title. If you go over - Your story will not be counted. Microsoft Word is the standard for checking this. If you are unsure of the word count and don't have Word, please send your story to me and I'll check it for you.




    Everyone is welcome to participate, including judges. A judge's entry will receive a review by their fellow judges, but it will not receive a score, though some judges are happy to let you know their score for you privately. Please refrain from 'like'-ing or 'lol'-ing an entry until the scores are posted.


    Judges: If you could send the scores no later than May 30th it will ensure a timely release of results. Much later than that and I will have to post with what I have. Again, please see the Judging Guidelines if you have questions. Following the suggested formatting will be much appreciated, too.
    My novels Hidden Content , Hidden Content and Hidden Content are available from Amazon

    Hidden Content Hidden Content Hidden Content

    You can find me on Twitter: Hidden Content

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    A Man's Worst Curse [650 words]

    My mother once told that when she was expecting me, one night Freyja came to her in a dream and asked what blessing she wished for her child. My mother answered that she wished her child to be born with a kind and gentle heart.

    17 winters have since passed. As I sit amidst a burning Saxon village covered in the blood of its denizens, a defiled maiden sobbing at my feet as she tries to cover up with her torn dress, I realize that it might as well have been a curse. Truly speak the wise gođar that one should beware asking for favours from the gods.

    The air is full of smoke and embers. I see my fellow warriors carry bagfuls of loot from the burning houses, others chasing the screaming villagers. Wailing women and girls, some as young as my sister Gyda in her thirteenth summer, are dragged from their homes by their hair to be defiled and put to the sword or in chains, whichever strikes the fancy of their captors. Babes too young to be put to work as thralls are taken by the feet to have their heads dashed against trees to the jubilant roar of the onlooking warriors. My brothers are among them, covered with blood and and already drunk with ale and wine taken among the spoils.

    So this is what a glorious victory that the legends and sagas speak of looks like. Like all the boys, I grew up hearing men recite them, and hoped to one day be like the heroes of legend - fearless warriors who come home with their longships loaded to the brim with treasures. That I aloned cried whenever a pig or other beast was slaughtered in our house, much to the ridicule of my brothers, and that I alone pitied a crying village boy roughed up by them did not keep me from hoping that one day I too would become a worthy man, a warrior. But Freyja's blessings are ill-matched with Odin's. As I watch the triumph of our warband unfold before me now, my heart knows no joy like it should, feeling only horror and revulsion. I fought in the shield wall alongside my brothers, but found the lauded battle-lust absent. I felt only terror and unbridled fear of death. Heroes of legend laughed as they fought, but I felt only anger and sorrow at seeing fellow warriors, young men I had grown up with, fall to Saxon spears and swords. No valkyries came down from the sky for them, and they just died crying for their mothers in pain, trampled in the mud, their own blood and piss. It was this sorrow and anger that lent me the heart to put a family of peasants just like my own waiting home to the sword, and defile a fair maiden but few summers above my sister with the blood of her kinsfolk still hot on my hands. I ravaged her with the primal fury of a young bull who mounts a heifer for the first time, and yet found no joy in it, the pleasure of release being as bitter as Niđhogg's venom.

    "Why so dour, little brother?" Skjalli, my eldest brother, speaks as he brings a spare wineskin to me, "We gave these Saxon dogs a good whipping today!"

    "I am not cut out for this, brother!" I shout out, almost crying, "If this pleases the gods, then they are truly the cruelest monsters of all!"

    "Don't pity these wretches, brother - given chance, the bastards would have done the same to us!" my brother sits down to comfort me, "I know, the first battle is always rough, and out here a kind heart like yours can be a man's worst curse. But you fought well today. Give this war a chance, and it will make a proper warrior of you yet!"

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    My Tongue Shall Become Iron
    (649 words)

    The heat of the forge dried Caleope’s tears. She wove through the throng of men who were taking up sword and shield - boys believing that simply by arming themselves they became warriors. She would have pitied them but there was not enough space in her heart. She found her husband, cast in a red glow, hammer beating death upon an anvil.
    “So it’s true, you mean to join them in battle.” She raised her voice above the din.
    “The elders have spoken,” Butacides replied without looking up.
    “And that’s it? They say do and you say die?”
    “What would you have me do?” he asked between beats of hammer on flaming sword, “would you have me a coward?”
    “I would have you alive! And what of our children?” She placed a hand upon her swollen belly and felt the kick of life. Butacides plunged a sword into water, hissing a tortured lament. He handed it to a young warrior who cradled it as a newborn.
    “I am doing this for you. For everyone.”
    Her heart flared with the roaring of the forge. “Don’t pretend this is for my good. If you die, what will become of us?”
    “And if they come what will become of you?”
    “Talk to them again, offer peace and understanding. Surely they will take tribute, they just want more.”
    “They will always want more.The elders are right, there will be no end to it if we do not ourselves end it.”
    “Then let us all flee, far from their filthy axes,” Caleope said, though she knew it was futile.



    Butacides said nothing, taking a new sword roaring from the forge, lost to its birth song. It begged to be hit, calling to its hundred sisters in the coldest state of their existence.
    “You are no warrior. This doesn’t have to be our fight, flee with me.”
    Her words bit into Butacides and he hit the sword too hard, creating a fault that would require refolding. He cursed and regarded Caleope. But the fire in his belly was quenched by the tears in her eyes. He returned the sword to be reheated.
    “I will talk to them Caleope.” He raised a finger as she straightened with hope.
    “But they only understand the language of the sword. So I will let my blade do the talking and my tongue shall become iron.”
    He embraced her, allowing her to slump in his arms and cry until her tears were spent, taking each one as sustenance, a reason to live.
    “Truly Athena blessed you,” she said at last, “damn your honour.”
    “Would you have me another way?” He stiffened, preparing himself for what was to come. “Go now, prepare with the other women.”
    She held him a while longer, but his heart was elsewhere. He could not allow it to soften, not while battle loomed. For him to have any chance of living, he must choose to face death. She let go and watched him from a corner, shadows dancing upon her face. Butacides returned to the anvil, taking up hammer and sword.
    He beat the sword tentatively, retuning himself to the rhythm of Hephaestus and the beat of fiery creation. Caleope was right, he was no warrior. It had been many suns since he had fought in battle.
    He hit the sword firmly and in the shower of sparks saw it dance across the battlefield in a morass of red rain. He found the rhythm, the gods’ gift that had made him a renowned smith. A lullaby of transformation. Devastation. Obliteration. Regeneration. In the forges fires he saw a blazing sun rise that melted away all moons, that made the sacred fires of purification look like dying embers. And in that divine anger he saw hope. He looked up to his wife - a reason to live, a reason to die - and said, “I shall be reborn in fire.”
    My novels Hidden Content , Hidden Content and Hidden Content are available from Amazon

    Hidden Content Hidden Content Hidden Content

    You can find me on Twitter: Hidden Content

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