Woohoo! Time for more fiction shots! Our picture prompt today is a colorful piece of artwork by Turkish digital artist Volkan Yenen. I love how colorful and quirky this picture is. Let the adventures begin!
It’s time for a QUEST or three! At least that’s the way I’m interpreting this month’s picture prompt. Tell me if you’ve got another interpretation. Better yet, check out these stories from our writing group, A Drift of Quills, and see if we are all on the same page about this.
Because guess what? We don’t even see each other’s stories until the day we post them. Surprise!
You’ll find the openers to Trish and Parker’s stories near the end of the post.
Fiction Shots #14
I confess, when I first saw this choice, I said, “Oh, boy. This is…challenging.” But that’s kind of the point to these exercises—to challenge ourselves. To stretch. To grow. And to have fun. So after staring at it for awhile, the “have fun” part started some wheels turning, probably off the obvious path. All the better. Yeah, that’s the direction I went!
Flash #1: Hazu Hotfoot and the Orb of Orgrad
By Robin Lythgoe
“We’re here.” Hazu peered over a moss-covered pile of rocks, eyes narrowed. A thundering roar filled the space beneath the towering trees. Gnarled, humped roots rose far over the goblin’s head.
“Can you see the orb?” Pint-sized Morsel rubbed his hands together in anticipation.
Hazu grunted. “Nah. Too much water.”
“Lemme look.” With a shove and a wiggle, he moved up beside her. “Wouldja lookit that,” he breathed, beady little eyes widening. “Miles and miles of dank swamp, and we still found it. Never mind the other guys. Or a half-dozen fire-breathing adrag heading this way. Could be worse. Could be a herd. Could be coming our way. Oh, wait, they are.” Morsel licked his finger and held it up. “The wind is in our favor,” he intoned with a sage nod. “Is that really the Shouting Tree?”
A humongous tree perched on a knoll above the swamp on thick, gnarled legs. Set into its side, the waterfall tumbling out a wide open mouth, was a hideous stone face bigger than either of them. The eyes and mouth glowed an evil sapphire blue.
“I said we’re here, and that’s where here is.” Hazu pinched Morsel’s pointed ear, provoking a wince. “Are these made of cloth?”
“I’ve been told they’re lovely. Like velvet.” He smoothed his enviably long ears. “Oh, hey. They’re here, too.” He pointed.
Sure enough, the Shining Heroes posed on an outcropping high overhead. A very finely carved outcropping, at that. Part of an old building? A statue? Snake-like tree roots held it together. Sunlight pierced through the canopy, illuminating the Darling Duo and winking on their fearsome weapons as they overlooked the Shouting Tree. With their big, hump-backed grim-hound. Ugh.
And there, inching and slithering in the shadows around the base, was Karrgoth’s Kru—Hazu’s former crew (and don’t tell Karrgoth he couldn’t spell). Technically, she and Morsel had still been part of the company when they’d set out after the humans. All part of the plan: Let Karrgoth and the Treasured Twosome do the dirty work while she and Morsel got the credit.
Why, she’d asked Morsel, are only humans heroic? Goblins can be heroes, too. We’ll show ‘em.
The Orb of Orgrad presented a perfect opportunity. The human king wanted it so badly he’d offered a captaincy in the Royal Guard, a house, and a purse of gold.
“Plan?” Morsel inquired, tapping his knobby fingertips together in excitement.
“Right.” Hazu looked one way, then the other. “Here’s what we’re gonna do…”
* * *
It had been a good idea to sneak behind the grazing adrag. And it had been a good idea to herd them toward the Heroes and the Kru. Also a good idea to heat things up a bit, as it were, with a couple arrows shot at the Heroes and a few rocks launched at the adrag.
The plan might have worked a little too well.
Black smoke poured off burning trees and bushes damp from living in a swamp. The plants that gave the adrag their ability to breathe fire smoldered first, then popped into flames, shooting off impossible showers of sparks.
Visibility was nonexistent.
Smoke filled every breath.
Karrgoth’s followers staggered every which way, burning, coughing, and generally running away. That was good.
What wasn’t good were the flames cutting off the approach to the Shouting Tree and the treasure it held.
“Failed!” Morsel choked out, flat on the ground. Smoke curled over their heads. Both of them had wet cloths tied over their lower faces. It helped some.
“Ain’t failing,” Hazu ground out, voice muffled. “We run for it.”
“Through the fire?” Horror took his voice up a notch.
“I ain’t gonna be smoked goblin.” With that, she jumped up and dashed through the burning grass and shrubs. Goblin feet are tough, but she reached the water’s edge none too soon. Her tunic and pack had caught fire. Never had tepid, smelly water been so blissful. No sooner had she surfaced than Morsel barreled into her, screaming at the top of his lungs.
They both went under, then bobbed up again.
“I can’t swim!” he shrieked.
“You can walk, nincompoop.” Except she was taller than he, and the water lapped at his nose. “Grab my pack.”
They’d gone all of thee yards before Morsel piped up again. “Um, Hazu? Hero alert.”
And there they were, still atop the broken statue, shooting arrows at the Kru and inching toward the statue’s edge. The gear strapped to the grim-hound’s humped back smoked furiously. He kept trying to bite at it.
“They’re gonna jump,” Morsel predicted.
Hazu cast a glance back. Fragments of the statue littered the water below them, twined with broken trees and roots and rocks. She wasn’t about to wish them luck. Instead, she snorted. “Smoked goblin and skewered humans.”
“Do adrag eat… that?”
“You wanna wait around and see?”
* * *
The pair dragged themselves up the fractured steps below the mask. The roar of the waterfall drowned out every other sound as it crashed onto the stone landing. The water poured off the sides, behind the one-and-a-half guardian statues. The one had lost its head. Uncanny phosphorescence made the water glow, even as it sprayed back up into the air, drenching everything. The stones glowed. Even the tree glowed.
“They’re coming!” Morsel shouted in Hazu’s ear to be heard.
“Well, we’re going.” Hazu slipped past the half-a-guardian and into the arch carved into the tree behind the falls. The water’s glow barely lit a space black as tar. Within, the Orb of Orgrad sat on a carved pedestal.
“Don’t it sound like a goblin name?” she mused. Loudly.
“Absolutely.” He paused as he wrung water from his shirt. “What’s it do?”
“Dunno but it’s gonna make us famous.”
“And respected.” She wiggled her fingers as she reached for the orb.
On the other side of the pedestal, Morsel did the same. The surface was so cold it made them both gasp.
Hazu refused to be intimidated. “Imagine us in the king’s throne room, holding up the prize while he’s gawkin’…”“Surprise!” Morsel giggled.“Halt!” A shadow fell over the entrance. The Heroes had arrived! Heroic or not, they dripped just like anyone else after a dunking. “Step back before you get hurt!”
“Eat socks!” Hazu shouted. “We got here—“
The cavern went from dim to sunny-day bright in an instant. The walls disappeared. A blur took their place, followed by a belly-twisting lurch. When that nonsense stopped, the pair stood on a checkered marble floor in a huge and richly appointed hall. Dripping. And glowing… Dozens of surprised faces surrounded them. Human faces. One of them sported a shiny gold crown.
“—first…” Hazu finished in a whisper.
Morsel cleared his throat. “Surprise?”
For a very long minute, no one spoke. Then the king nodded. “Indeed.” The puzzled quirk of his brow competed with rueful smile. “May I?” he asked, indicating the orb.
Of one mind, Hazu and Morsel shoved it at him.
He handed it off to an advisor, who swiftly wrapped it in a cloth. “You must have quite a story.”
“Yes, your honor. Well, it— You see—“ Morsel couldn’t get the story out fast enough.
Hazu interrupted with corrections, glaring the while.
The king listened intently, then nodded when they’d finished. “I am a man of my word, but I regret I have only one captaincy to offer.”
Morsel immediately pointed to Hazu.
The king smiled. “You do not disappoint, Morsel.”
“Muzzhul, actually. Sir. Holiness.”
“Very well. I’m sure you’ll make a capable lieutenant, and we will sort out suitable honors for you.” He ignored the way Morsel straightened and beamed. Ignored the muted gasps from the courtiers. “Hazu Hotfoot, I hereby appoint you captain in the Royal Guard, complete with previously promised rewards and accommodations. Your duty is to travel behind enemy lines and wreak such havoc that the war will end!”
“War?” She’d heard rumors. Human stuff. And Hotfoot? Well, that sounded pretty good.
A sketchy cheer went up from the assembled courtiers.
“How’m I supposed to do that?” Hazu demanded, incredulous.
“With the orb you so successfully and ingeniously retrieved despite overwhelming odds.”
“Now just a hoppin’ minute here!” she protested.
Some fool banged a staff on the floor and shouted in a voice like thunder. “All hail, Captain Hazu Hotfoot!”
“Hear! Hear!” the courtiers echoed with varying degrees of commitment.
And so began the legend of Hazu Hotfoot, a little goblin who got a lot more than she bargained for…
Flash #2: The Elemental Temple
Author of The Unseen Chronicles
“Over there,” Teddy pointed with the gnarled stick he was holding like a staff. “They’re probably hiding in the shadows – they don’t like the sun.”
Lena wasn’t sure if Teddy truly believed in goblins, or if it was just his highly active imagination embracing the game as completely real.
“Knock it off, Ted.” She tried to sound tough, like an older sister should sound. “Let’s just find the temple already.”
Flash #3: The Screaming Wilds
Author of the Oathtaker Series
The Screaming Wilds spread far and wide, filled with centuries-old trees, the roots of which bulged above ground, ready to trip the weary or unwary. Meandering streams throughout poured into fetid marshes. At the center sat The Crushing Falls, through which flowed The Tears of Beasts, dark-magic infused waters that turned all that entered them from good, to evil.
Storm and Tracer trudged through the Wilds, along with Beowulf, their trusty canine companion.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Want to read more fiction shots we’ve written? This link will take you there.
So did we each do a quest or not? I’m off to find out. In the meantime, have you got a title or a picture to inspire us for upcoming fiction shots? Comment below!