No, these submissions aren’t anything like what Flynn just saw, so we’ll have an easy time critiquing today.
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Submission #1 – Child of the Curse by Gabrielle
Another was already here. I did not want to fight, but I needed the food.
He was smaller than many of the other Livyahaks, including me, but he hissed, his grey eyes flashing, trying to protect his food which had not yet appeared. Slowly moving closer, I raised my hands in a gesture of passivity and searched his grey eyes. It did not matter he was small if he could stab his fangs into me. “I only want one loaf.”
He flinched at my whispered voice, but his wings, displaying venom injectors on each tip, folded behind his back. After glancing quickly at the ten others in the room, he seemed relieved that the others were still asleep, an eyelid covering each of their grey eyes. I glanced at him again before shifting my focus to the small slot in the iron door. But I would not turn my back and continued watch him out of the corner of my eye, waiting for any sign of aggression.
It was before dawn, or at least, what I knew as the dawn. All I could guess was the dawn happened when they lit the lamps in the tunnels beneath Black Towers.
For the three days since they put us in this stone cell, the caretakers slipped us six small loaves of bread through a slot in the door, five minutes before “dawn.” Each loaf was just enough to get one of us to live to the next day. But that was the problem: there were twelve of us Syds locked in the room and only six meals.
Pulling down my oily, dirt saturated tunic, I tried to cover up my cold knees as I waited in silence. I waited for the bread, but more than that, I waited for the boy to try to kill me. I waited for the other Livyahaks to wake and try to kill me. I waited. At any moment their soulless eyes might flash open, the wings on their backs might expand, and the venom in the fangs on the ends of their wings would kill me in a few painful hours.
Careful to keep my own dragon wings folded behind my back, I leaned against the stone wall and stared at the sleeping others. We were made for perfection, and I was proud of it. We were the perfect army, unlike the elves. Our first ancestors had been Eshaem elves, and each of us bore some resemblance to the race, whether it was the pale skin and red or golden hair. But none of us had their blue eyes. We were not like them. Instead, we had dragon wings on our backs and a venomous fang on each wingtip. Each of us slept with death in our wings, and each of us knew we had the power to kill.
A small grating sound reached my ears. Jerking my head back to the boy, I noticed he had shifted and seemed more eager than before. With little noise, the food slipped in. As soon as the six loaves of bread were slipped through the cracks in the door, I grabbed my portion and scurried to a corner. While the food kept me alive, it was dangerous to be caught with it. Though I moved away, the scrawny boy dived in on the food without first moving away: his mistake.
A Delwic might have the strength to dare the others to fight him, but I was not that strong yet. I was just a Syd. I was just meant to become a foot soldier. But someday, when I survived this, I would be that strong. I would be a commander or assassin; I would be a Delwic.
It did not take long before the ten others woke up, and I watch the inevitable from my corner. With hideous screeches, the six-year-olds pounced on the food, each of their venomous fangs extended. While I swallowed the last bit of my bread, I watched in repulsion as the boy disappeared in the scramble for food.
The five victors dispersed, hissing protectively over their spoils, and the boy twitched on the floor. The spots from the fangs were just visible, but they did not swell. It was a cruel joke. Though the venom was fatal, the puncture wounds never swell. With the sting on his neck, he would die in a just few minutes. I glanced to the two other girls who had missed out on getting their food for the past days. They would die, too, except they would die slower. There were three others who missed out on the food, but unless they were unusually weak, they would last through the day and die during the night, or perhaps the next day.
It was horrible fate I had. None of the others felt what I could feel—a clutching hand in my throat that showed me the horrors of life. The others mocked the dead boy and did everything in their power to make the suffering of the ones doomed to die of starvation last longer. But throughout the day, I hid in my corner, sometimes sleeping but never crying. If I showed I was weak then they would most certainly kill me, too. And why would I cry? I could do nothing to stop their fate and little to change my own. All I could do was strive to be stronger.
Submission #2 – Chiron in the Woods by Kaci
Still shaking from the spirit’s indwelling, Chiron followed his brother and sister through the trees surrounding their house. They were still south of the lake, near the Archive, doing their best to ignore the chill in the crisp night air. He drew his cloak tighter around him, drawing in even his staff-hand. But it was more than just the cold night that stole warmth from him; the spirit’s words, he confessed to his soul and to his master, frightened him.
“Your heart is going to break.”
His heart already felt like it might break. The spirit’s invisible hands chafed against it and against his heart; every sinew in him felt as if someone were running sharp fingernails across, and, even worse, twisting and pulling. The burning sensation drove straight down into his bones and marrow, leaving him short of breath. “I don’t understand,” he whispered, too soft for the twins to hear him. “I thought you brought power and life and energy. This . . . I feel ill.”
“This is different from the ancients.”
The spirit prompted him to look up at the moon. It was a bright moon, and made him think of an old saying: I am your moon, casting your reflection to earth. It was an old Secondborn saying, drawing on the Firstborn as the sun–true of all the Secondborn, the second guiding proverb. He, the moon, reflected the light of the Firstborn to all the earth during the darkest of hours; the Secondborn carried no light of their own, nor warmth, nor comfort. They could only receive from the Firstborn and extend it into the earth so distant from him, chasing back shadows wherever they willed. How that reconciled with the spirit coming inside of him, he wasn’t sure, and he kept glimpsing at his brother’s back as though the answer might lie there.
A soft squeezing of his heart answered him. “A bright sun in the middle of the night would blind, if not destroy you, wouldn’t it?”
Chiron balked. “I . . . suppose that’s true. But the sun is still external to the moon.”
“The moon stands between the sun and the earth, maintaining seasons and tides. It also eclipses the sun so that one might look at it.”
“But you still don’t see the sun; you only see the outer edges that the moon can’t hide, and the sun is just behind the moon.”
He could’ve sworn the spirit laughed. “That’s true, too.”
What did that make Anya, then? Another moon? A planet? A distant star with her own light?
Wind chilled his skin.
The spirit prompted him off-course from the twins, deeper into the woods and off the dirt path. The twins were out of sight, soon out of sound, and the night grown darker, trees casting shadows, wind stirring trees. Miniature clouds of air puffed in front of him, blocking his few of the ground. Chiron gripped his staff a little tighter and setting his hand on his knife. This direction led west of the Archive, and, if he went far enough, to the old cistern out on the edge of his family’s property. He didn’t worry about trap lines on Batson land–at least, not until Dad’s militiamen had caught a few dealers trespassing the other day. Those dealers had chased Ethan, Anya told him, and she’d helped him get away.
Even with all the trees and seemingly nothing to mark his position, he realized he was extremely close –Beo and Gwen were extremely close–to the spot. Chiron stopped where he was and turned slowly, prodding the ground with his walking stick. Dad’s men had killed three in pursuit and taken the remaining two for questioning. They hadn’t come back, but he wasn’t taking chances.
“Why am I out here?” he whispered. The others had always teased him a little for wandering off, but the spirit would compel him, and before he knew it he’d be miles away without any real explanation as to why.
The moon must always move to the beat of the sun.
That’s an odd thought.
He should not be afraid, not with this spirit within him. And perhaps that was his answer. Anya had been Ethan’s light, for a minute, while chasing the moon. No, it should be the sun. Moon doesn’t make sense. And yet, somehow the correct way of thinking was that Anya chased the moon because by this way alone she could see the sun.
But what did that mean?
This time the spirit didn’t answer. A little frustrated, Chiron crept forward, still poking for animal traps and watching the ground. There shouldn’t be any dealer trap lines – only a foolish dealer would dare try that – but Dad had told them to be cautious all the same. He had barely gone three steps when he felt a gentle squishing under his foot and jerked it back, hopping sideways out of the way.
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