Golden Quill Academy
Alanna stood at the bottom of the stairs looking up at the imposing façade of the academy. How was she supposed to survive the next year here? The letter in her satchel had practically burned a hole in her hand when she’d opened it.
Dear Alanna Quade,
Your application has been accepted.
You have been selected to learn the ins and outs of writing competently. You will never have the excuse of “I didn’t know” to get you out of writing that essay, report, or summary again.
If you show promise, you will be allowed to continue in our hallowed halls. You may become a respected historian, play wright or novelist.
Please report for classes on September 1st, 2020
Your mentor and leader,
Dean of Skills
PS: This letter must remain in your possession as proof of enrollment. Loss will result in the immediate dismissal of any student who cannot provide it upon demand.
At the bottom, the official crimson seal shone in all it’s waxy glory, proclaiming the missive as genuine.
“My application has been accepted. I never applied, and they know it,” Alanna thought again as she peered up at the towering spire of the main campus building.
“Hey, are you as scared as I am?” A quiet voice spoke in her ear.
“Not scared so much as annoyed. Why do we have to give up a year of our lives to learn how to write?” Alanna complained and introduced herself to the girl standing next to her.
“I’m Cora, Cora Warner.” The girl had brilliantly pink hair. “Because everyone has to do it. No exceptions.” She wondered what rock Alanna had been hiding under.
“Thanks for talking to me,” Alanna said, “I’m an empath and a healer. I already know how to write reports. This is going to be a waste of time. I’d rather be studying medicine. I want to be a doctor.”
“I had to say something,” Cora said. “I don’t mind coming here, but it means I’ll have to postpone treatment for my eyes.”
“What’s wrong with them?” Alanna’s healer instincts went on high alert.
“I can’t see colors. I’m totally colorblind. I want to see them so much, but there’s only one treatment.”
Alanna could feel the intensity of Cora’s desperation. “I wish I could just go in a fix it for you, Cora. But even I know, that has to be a special genetic alteration. Do you understand it could blind you if it doesn’t work?”
“I might as well be blind. This gray life isn’t much of a loss. Man, that sounds like a downer, I really want to be a scientist so I can find an easy cure for this. But if treatment works? I want to be an artist.” Cora said.
“Let’s go in and get registration over with. Do you have your letter with you?” Alanna asked.
“In my book bag,” Cora said as they started up the endless steps to the big brass doors of the main entrance.
“Hey, do you two know your hair clashes?” The young man who was following them up the stairs stopped them at the same instant. They turned to see who would be so audacious as to mention hair color. Their eyes widened. The young man towered above them, over six feet tall his silver braids swung around his shoulders as he stared at them, taking in Cora’s bright fuchsia locks and Alanna’s deep auburn curls.
Alanna’s heart did a quick flip in her chest. He was gorgeous.
“And who are you?” Cora said boldly. She was breaking her own rule of observing and not saying much to others before she got to know them better.
“Nikolai.” He said it like everyone should know it.
“Nikolai who?” Alanna’s tongue felt a little thick, she hoped her instant attraction didn’t show.
“Well, could you send us to the right place to get through registration?” Cora requested. “We’re kind of lost.”
“Just follow the signs,” Nikolai pulled the massive door open and pointed at the ornate calligraphy declaring registration this way with an arrow pointing down the hall. “There are more of them that will lead you to the big gymnasium. Welcome.”
They stared after him with wide eyes. His hair swung back and forth, tight corn rows of silver braids swinging just above the shoulder blades of a well muscled back. He moved with the grace and assurance of someone innately strong, both physically and mentally.
“I wonder if I’ll see him again?” Alanna whispered, “Oh my God, he’s everything a guy should be, I think I might be in love.”
“Um, really?” Cora didn’t believe in love at first sight.
Alanna blushed. “I didn’t think I said that out loud.”
“You did, but I’ll admit he is great to look at. Pretty amazing actually.” Cora tugged Allana’s sleeve.
“Let’s keep going. I want to know which department we’re assigned to and if we might get the same residence.”
Alanna kept Cora’s fluorescent head in sight as she continued to follow the arrows pointing to registration. The corridors seemed endless and she wondered if there was a floor plan for this building. She was hoping to be able to go home at night, as her family lived only ten minutes away on the underground train. She didn’t want to be confined to a school. She’d have to pack her clothes and books, and they’d probably make her give up her studies toward her medical entrance exams.
Walking into the cavernous room, both of them skidded to a stop. It looked like they were a bit late getting there as long lines of new students stood at most of the tables. The letters of the alphabet were written on placards which hung from the ceiling indicating where they should go to register.
“Well, that’ll teach me to have a common letter for a last name,” Cora was disgusted. There had to be at least twenty kids ahead of her in line. “You have two ahead of you, Alanna. Will you wait for me?”
“I’ll do you one better. I’ll get through this as quickly as I can and join you in your lineup,” Alanna said, “Look who’s helping at your table.”
Clara moved to one side of the line so she could get a good look at the staff sitting at the sturdy table. It was loaded in files and three people were dealing with students, efficiently ticking of squares, and getting signatures. Nikolai waited patiently, as they worked and as three more were cleared, he jerked his head, to let them know to follow and headed out the back entrance to the gym.
“Okay, get yourself done, and come over. Maybe you can get another glimpse of him that way.” Cora agreed.
Alanna nodded. Making her way through the throng, she went to the table with the Q written on white cardboard fluttering under the breeze generated by one of the giant fans hanging from the upper rafters. One student had already disappeared, and she waited patiently putting her time to use observing as Nikolai reappeared from the back door he’d disappeared through a few minutes before.
“Hey, you must be Alanna Quade,” The liquid tone of the voice brought her crashing back to reality.
“Yes, I am.” Alanna shook her head dispelling the fantasy she’d been weaving. She approached the table. There was one file left.
“I’m Sapphire. Few Q’s at all this year. Which is the only reason I agreed to man a table at all. Do you have your letter? I’ll need it to verify against our list of candidates for this year.” The woman was as striking as Nikolai. Pure white hair with skin to match, her eyes were peculiar, almost as if they didn’t have pupils. They looked like she’d used gold eyeliner. Weird. Well folks did come from everywhere to go through writer’s camp and training here.
Alanna swung her satchel onto the table and unbuckled the shiny brass hasps. Flipping through the books, she found her letter between an anatomy text and the herbal compendium Chin Chi had recommended. Handing it to Sapphire, she waited for her to scan it.
“This appears to be in order. Read this and sign it. You’ll be assigned to Alpha residence. Your department is the Relevant. You’ll be guided to the department and they will assign you to a room. You’re exempt from having a room mate. We are sensitive to mind readers and empaths.”
“But I was hoping to stay at home.”
“Take it up with your department leader.”
Alanna sighed. “All right. I hope I can convince them. I’ll just go over to wait with my friend. We’ll go up together.”
“I can’t blame you. I’ll slip out the back. Let Nikolai know which residence you’re in. They’ll take care of the rest from there.” Sapphire handed her the letter and winked. She added, “Don’t lose that. It’ll be the one way to prove that you do belong here. Lock it in the desk in your room once they assign it.”
“Why? Can’t it be replaced?” Alanna misplaced things all the time. Privately she wondered how Sapphire had guessed her interest in the tall silver haired young man.
“They’re magically encoded. It can’t be reproduced until they do the next batch next summer.” Sapphire wondered where this empath came from. Her family must have been out of the loop. How would this naïve child do with her assigned major? Did she even know what it was? Mystery/Thriller/Horror. Alanna Quade was a medical fast track healer. Would she even be able to weave a tale worthy of the final assignment? What the heck were the maestros thinking?
“I’ll be careful then. Thanks for the warning and the explanation.” Alanna tucked it back into the satchel, and silently chanted a protection spell. If anyone tried to get into it, they’d get a case of prickly itching rash which would give them away.
Studying the W line, she saw Cora’s bright pink head and started across. This wasn’t going to be as straight forward as she hoped.
This is the first chapter of a science fantasy novella with a good undercurrent of thriller. You can find the rest of it here:
Tam’s Vengeance: A Journey Into Darkness
This story is based on the Reedsy.com prompt “Start your story with a character saying “Listen, …”
“Listen, I am letting you go to the king with no opposition.” The terrified guard protested as he laid helplessly on the ground. “Please spare me!”
“No can do, bye bye.” Tam said as he silenced the guard with a quick slash of his sword. It was a cheap shot killing the guard that had just given him access past the castle gates, but Tam justified his murderous act by reminding himself that less of these people around would make the world a better place. Keeping his sword ready, Tam walked into the royal castle of the country Prosperity.
The current king was secretly a young man trapped in a silhouette form that called himself Leftover. Tam’s brother Mirk was murdered by Leftover, and Tam was here to return the favor. Once a member of Hugh’s hero network along with Mirk, Tam now worked alone due to Hugh not being willing to send a team to take care of Leftover’s team of villains, a group of that claimed to be building a hero network of their own. He wore a gold helmet that provided emerald armor and access to various tools and weapons that would appear by thought, and he looked forward to wiping out the inhabitants of the castle with his arsenal. After a walk down the hallway that felt like an eternity, Tam found himself standing in the throne room. There was no silhouette in sight, nor was there anyone disguised in Leftover’s former human form, a man of royal blood named Lenny Overature. However, there was a beautiful woman (on the outside only) in a black dress, greeting Tam with a smirk he remembered all too well.
“Tam, right?” The woman that called herself Anti-Hero said in a tone that was both flirtatious and condescending. “You still think you can beat me in a fight?”
“If I remember right, you didn’t win either.” Tam said with annoyance, smiling under his helmet all the same. “I will gladly destroy you this time, especially after the role you played in my brother’s death!”
Anti-Hero made her sword appear in her hand by thought, quickly countering Tam as he lunged at her with his own blade. A warlock named Glicko had given her the same powers that a hero from Hugh’s network would gain from wearing one of his standard helmets. Tam’s helmet was a slight modification of one of those said helmets, which would arguably make this an equal contest.
Similar to their last battle, Tam and Anti-Hero clashed swords, neither gaining an advantage over the other. One of Tam’s blows came close, but Anti-Hero parried it with her bare arm.
“Awwww, did the poor little hero forget that my body is as strong as the armor from those helmets you wear? I will eventually destroy your helmet, which will make you powerless. But my powers are a part of me forever, and you can’t take them away. Look at the bright side Tam, at least you can join your loser brother in death soon!”
Anti-Hero’s words caused Tam to see red. He snarled, then struck Anti-Hero’s blade with enough force to shatter it. She tried to block with her arm again, but this time Tam’s slash cut deep, stopped only by her arm bone. If it weren’t for Anti-Hero’s upgrades from Glicko, her arm would likely had been sliced off. She fell forward onto the floor, barely conscious from blood loss.
“So you thought you could break my helmet Anti-Hero? Looks like I managed to break you instead. Let’s see how many slices it will take to remove your head from your neck.”
Before Tam could find out the answer to his question, a wooden door rose up from the floor. The door swung open and pulled Tam into darkness, slamming shut afterwards. The door then slid back down into the floor, any evidence that a door was ever present disappearing.
A man wearing a red cloak then walked into the throne room. His features included silver hair, an aged face, and a malicious smirk. Anti-Hero looked up at the man whose mastery of traps saved her life.
“Kari, summon one of your blue grenades, and give it to me.” Hall requested tenderly.
Anti-Hero made a blue grenade appear in her hand right before passing out. Hall took the grenade and pulled the pin before throwing it down next to her. Once the blue smoke cleared, Anti-Hero stood up next to Hall, wide awake with a fully healed arm.
“He’s different from before, eh?” Hall remarked.
“Yes.” Anti-Hero replied. “The last time we fought, we were evenly matched. This time he overwhelmed me quickly. He had a disgustingly heroic aura to him before, but now.... he seems to be driven by hatred and bloodlust. The last time we met, he wanted to send me to that prison dimension my husband is trapped in, but just now.... he truly wanted to murder me.”
“His grief from his brother’s death, and the roles we played in it have driven him over the edge.” Hall said, still smirking. “I would love to see more of his new work, but even if my trap doesn’t kill him, the boss definitely will....”
Tam woke up and picked himself up off of the floor. Once his eyes were focused once again, he found himself in a bland looking hallway. He observed basic hardwood floors, tan walls and a white ceiling. He immediately knew where he was.
“Hall!” Tam yelled. “Show yourself, you coward!”
“Soon enough Mr. Tam, but first you have to survive my Hallway of Peril!” Hall’s voice boomed throughout the location.
Down the hallway Tam observed five orcs, each holding spiked clubs with laser balls charging from the spikes on each one. The orcs looked at Tam and laughed, excited at the prospect of tearing him apart.
“You could always ask Mirk how he survived this very same challenge equipped with only two flash grenades. Oh wait, you can’t anymore! Ha ha ha ha!”
Tam’s vision went red again, and any concerns he had for his own well being were gone. Tam charged at the orcs with his sword drawn, screaming and slashing at the orcs ahead of him. He continued to see red as he continued swinging his sword wildly. He didn’t even notice the defeaning screaming of the orcs over his own yelling. He finally stopped swinging when he realized he was only striking air. He then took a deep breath, and observed his updated surroundings.
The walls were now splattered with blood. Blocking his path was a pile of dismembered orc corpses. Tam made his laser gun appear in his hand, and he disintegrated the pile with a few blasts. His helmet and armor were now covered with orc blood, but he could care less. He proceeded down the hall until he found the same wooden door that had pulled him in earlier. Tam opened the door and stepped into the darkness within....
The darkness cleared, and Tam found himself in what appeared to be an underground lair. He heard applause and cheering behind him, and quickly turned around to find the source. His “fans” were Anti-Hero, Hall, another orc, and a man with a mohawk, purple eyes behind party glasses, mismatched clothes, and a toothy smile. Still clutching his sword, Tam felt himself boiling up again, but before he could make a move, he heard a voice that was a combination of nobility and malevolence.
“Don’t let the antics of Anti-Hero, Hall, Hypnorc or CCC upset you, my dear guest. I believe I am the one you came here to see after all.”
A dark, featureless silhouette walked past his team and stood near Tam. He held a sword of his own.
“Leftover.” Tam said with as much disgust as he could muster. “You’re the monster that plotted my brother’s death.”
“Ah yes, it was Mirk, right?” Leftover said cheerfully. “And that would make you his younger brother Tam. You have the right to be angry, but keep in mind that Mirk was the one who banished the thief of my body’s features to the Reflection Dimension, leaving me stuck as a silhouette. Hugh and his organization are no longer an effective group of heroes, which is why they must all be eliminated. It’s just a fact of life Tam, nothing against you of course.”
“While I don’t disagree, another fact of life is that you and your freak show need to be eliminated too!” Tam yelled, seeing red once again.
“Hold up, you don’t disagree about Hugh?” Leftover asked. Before he could press further, Tam began slashing at Leftover with his sword, unleashing a guttural scream with his strikes. Leftover had already been prepared with his own sword, and he easily fended off Tam’s attacks. Tam continued to swing his blade and scream wildly, but he did not have the same success that had come from his fight with the orcs. Once Tam’s energy was nearly gone, Leftover knocked Tam’s sword out of his hand with a quick swing, sending the blade spinning into a distant corner of the lair.
“Remove your helmet Tam, you are a bloody mess.” Leftover ordered, pointing his sword at Tam’s neck. Tam followed the order, and his armor disappeared. Despite being defenseless in his t-shirt and jeans, Tam continued to glare at the silhouette.
“You’ve caused quite a bit of trouble today with your fury, and it served you well against my guard, Anti-Hero, and Hall’s latest hallway of peril. Yet you tried the same tactics on me, and even without using my own skill enhancing helmet, you still had no chance! Attacking with merciless rage can serve you well, but as you just witnessed, it can only take you so far.”
“Spare me the lecture and just finish me off.” Tam replied bitterly. “Let me go join my brother.”
“Join your brother?” Leftover laughed. “Are you sure that you even could now? To Mirk’s credit, he died wanting to help me, even though his body had been transformed into a worm. You came here with one intention only, to kill me and everyone in my castle. I hate to break it to you, but the two of you are not the same anymore.”
“Shut up you bastard!” Tam snarled. “I’m the way I am because of you! The blood I spilled today is on your hands! Hurry up and get this over with already!”
“Soon enough, but there’s something I’d like to clarify.” Leftover asked. “Hugh would most certainly not endorse your killing spree that happened today. You also hinted that you don’t disagree with me about Hugh earlier. This leads me to believe that you are no longer working with Hugh, and that you came here on your own?”
“You are correct.” Tam replied, still angry, but calmer. “My aim was to eliminate you and your group, then go back and eliminate Hugh and his organization. Hugh refused to go after you despite all of us knowing that you are responsible for Mirk’s death, and his failure to act makes them useless. The world will be better off without all of you, and I will be the one that makes it happen!”
“A lovely dream, but that dream will unfortunately be ending now.” Leftover laughed, preparing his sword for a finishing strike.
“That man was one of Hugh’s technological geniuses!” CCC shouted out. “You might not want to kill him boss!”
Leftover stopped himself and laughed before lowering his blade.
“My associate CCC can customize anyone’s appearance for an hour, his talents are how most of the world doesn’t know about the real me yet.” Leftover said proudly. “He has many clients, and from these clients he has been wonderful at gathering intel. So tell me Tam, is what CCC telling me accurate?”
“How he was able to learn this is beyond me, but yes, I have been involved with many of the recent technological advances in Hugh’s organization.” Tam answered, his anger briefly subsiding. “Why does this matter to you though?”
“Because I have a business proposition for you.” Leftover asked. “I have been training heavily while building my organization. At this point, you do not have the ability to kill me. But fight alongside me, and use your talents to mass produce those power granting helmets. This will help me grow a team that can not only compete with Hugh’s organization, but dismantle them as well. I am confident that working for me will improve your abilities. And when we take Hugh down for good, I welcome a rematch from you should you still want to kill me.”
“Work for you?” Tam laughed. “You killed my brother, now you expect me to work for you? You’ve lost your mind more than I have!”
“You may not be wrong, but why not think about it as a temporary alliance for mutual gain? We can get rid of a common foe, increase our powers, then settle our differences when the time comes. Or I could just kill you right now, since you have no chance of defeating me in a fight at this time. What will your next move be Tam?”
Tam stared at Leftover in silence for what felt like an eternity, then finally broke the silence with maniacal laughter.
“Very well Leftover, I will mass produce helmets for you, and I will help you annihilate Hugh and all he stands for! But make no mistake, I hate you with all of my being, and I will never forgive you for what you did to my brother. I will make your organization powerful, but I will also be using you to become more powerful too. And once Hugh and his team are dead, you and yours are next. My plans remain the same, I will just be killing Hugh first instead of you!”
“Very well, I accept your terms of employment!” Leftover laughed. “For what it’s worth, welcome to our team Tam! Until our blades cross again, I expect great things from you!”
Tam began getting set up in his new state of the art laboratory within the castle, preparing to mass produce helmets that would function similarly to the ones Hugh’s associates used. He would of course, add special touches to them. But first, he took the golden urn that held Mirk’s ashes and set it up on a shelf that would overlook everything Tam would be working on.
“Brother, please forgive me for assisting the man that killed you. But I swear to you, I will avenge your death by ridding the world of Leftover, Hugh, and anyone else involved with them!”
It was a warm day on Valtor, a subtropical planet five light years from Earth. Zak Mebow, a kind-hearted teenage Valtorian, yawned and slouched as he sat on a bench in the city center looking at his phone. The savory aroma of fried aglar wings from a street vendor was making his stomach growl, yet his crypto-wallet was empty, just like his stomach. He sighed, combed back his antennae and looked up with his one central eye as the digital billboards all switched to display NEWS ALERT on giant color screens. ‘Giant’ is a relative term here since Valtorians are precisely 1/32nd the size of Earthlings.
As the theme music began, a female Valtorian with crisp hair and blue-green skin appeared on screen. Her central eye was blue, the same as Zak. The chyron scrolled the words Breaking News, in Valtorian across the screen.
"I’m Meko Nabote with our top story here on the Global News Network. The Earth mission was a success, so today we bring you a GNN exclusive: the first ever photo of an Earthling. In a related story, this Earthling saved the lives of our astronauts.
So here it is, the FIRST ever image of an Earthling…"
“Eeeee!” Zak exclaimed, in Valtorian, overwhelmed by the cuteness. Everyone knew that Earthlings were an ugly warlike tribe, but nobody had seen one, until now. Zak was surprised to learn that they were, in fact, a furry creature with expressive brown eyes and a prominent snout. To Zak they looked harmless, even playful.
Rival’s Kingdom ( It’s a bit weird... )
Rival looked down at the town below the castle, smiling. Everything looked perfect... No chaos, no sadness. Everyone was happy. The little kids outside of the schoolhouse were happy to listen to the elder's stories of "battle," the women by the river were happy to have new arrivals coming soon, the new parents were happy to be holding their new child in their arms, everyone was happy. Rival sighed with relief as he turned towards the door. A servant had just opened the door, looking at him with a small, forever smile.
"May I help you, miss?" Rival asked.
"Your highness, it's the queen."
Rival found his legs moving towards the door.
"Which room is she in?" He asked, faltering to find out where she was.
The servant smiled. "Your highness, she's in the west wing."
Rival quickly ran to meet his wife up in the west wing.
'Everything is perfect, everything is perfect, everything is perfect,' he reminded himself with a big smile.
He soon got to the west wing, bursting through the door to see the queen, his wife, holding a baby. But... Something was wrong with them. They were smiling, both more perfect than the beautiful sunsets that repeated every night, more perfect than the village below. He paused, noticing his wife's cheeks. They used to be so full of blush, now they were pale. The baby and her were as still as the stone on the table.
Everything is perfect. All smiles, no visible pain, everything was perfect and the same every day. Everything is perfect until that day, when the queen decided that she had had enough of perfectness...
Now nothing is perfect. Nothing in the world is perfect, and Rival finally new that. Having learned the hard way.
Everything was perfect...