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03 April 2010 @ 11:35 am
Sagafic/sagacraft contest  
As those who've been hanging out here during my Thief Eyes writing journey know, this book is ultimately a work of Icelandic saga fanfic, inspired by Njal's Saga, which caught my attention from the very first page, when Hrútur, asked to comment on the beauty of his niece Hallgerður, responds with words to the effect of, "Yes the girl is beautiful, and men enough will suffer for her, but I do not know how the eyes of a thief have come into our family."

So, with Thief Eyes due out the end of this month, it seemed appropriate to hold a saga-inspired fanfic contest. :-)

At one point during Thief Eyes, the protagonist, Haley, finds herself trapped in a place where the echoes of Iceland's sagas and history whisper around her. She hears Hrútur's words, and she hears whispers out of other Icelandic sagas as well. These are some of the other things she hears:

  • "Three shells in return for my poem."
  • "I have spun twelve ells of wool. You have killed a man. A fine morning's work for us both."
  • "I already must grieve for my brother. Is it not enough for you that I set a bowl of porridge before his killer?"
  • "My father gone, my brother gone, only this price upon my head remains."
  • "Take me abroad with you, for it is not Iceland that I love."
  • "Though I loved him best, I treated him worst."

So here's the contest:

Using one of the above lines as a prompt, write a fic of up to 1000 words or so. Alternately, write any other word-based thing of up to 1000 words, or create a drawing/art/craft thing if your imaginings run in non-word-based directions.

Your fic (or other creation) need not be based on or related to the sagas, so long as it's inspired by one of the above prompts--though of course if you have read the sagas, you're welcome to use them.

If you have a blog, post the results there with a link back to this page, and drop a comment here linking to your blog post in turn. If you don't have a blog, post the results as a comment here instead. (Facebook and jacketflap users, please come over to the original livejournal post to comment to be sure I don't miss you.)

Deadline is April 18, midnight of whatever time zone you're in. Spread the word!

I'll chose two of my favorites to win a copy of Thief Eyes. (I keep wanting to say here, "The entries I love best will not be treated worst." :-))

Assuming I have my author copies in hand by then, I'll do my best to get copies to the winners on or before Thief Eyes' April 27 release date. If you've already received a copy of Thief Eyes, I won't send you another, but you're still encouraged to create something for the fun of it.

Have fun! I look forward to seeing what some of these lines that have been echoing through my brain the past few years transform into when they have a chance to echo through yours. :-)

ETA: The contest is now closed, but I'm leaving the prompts up. Feel free to still play with them--and let me know if you do!
chloeeepatd on April 3rd, 2010 07:56 pm (UTC)
My Entry!
Here's mine :) I hope you like it!

As a child, Elísabet had always hated her homeland of Iceland. What she saw as a barren, frozen wasteland served to amplify her feelings of ostracism from her peers; they who would grow up to become warriors and storytellers did not wish to associate with the girl who had nothing but contempt for their traditions and legends. The gods had not saved her parents from an icy grave. Like her surroundings, Elísabet was frozen, encased in an icy blanket of sadness, for she feared that if she let herself thaw, she would drown in the ocean of her tears. One summer, however, her bitterness melted away with the worst of the snows. He came. Ljótur, with his easy laugh and sunshine-blonde waves, embodied the meaning of his name: he was her light, her sun, her everything. That summer, against all odds, he and Elísabet became the closest of friends. His father, he explained, travelled across the seas every few years, never content to stay in one place. Like Elísabet, Ljótur had lost his mother to the unforgiving Icelandic environment. However, he was not crushed by his loss as she was. Ljótur made it his personal mission to teach Elísabet how to love Iceland, and all the beauty it held. Ljótur explored every accessible inch of Elísabet’s town and the surrounding areas with her. They discovered a hidden meadow, ringed with delicate blooms, which became their secret sanctuary. He taught her that if she could sit very still, and find peace within her soul, animals would come and keep her company. She need never be lonely again. Slowly, that summer, Elísabet came to be at peace with Iceland. She no longer hated her homeland for depriving her of her parents; she did not even blame the gods or the oceans anymore for her loss. And as long as she had Ljótur, her sun, she would never again sink into the frozen state of bitterness and loneliness that she had lived in for years. Ljótur and Elísabet, he sixteen and she fifteen that first summer, grew closer and closer over the next two years. The summer one year after his initial arrival, they kissed. The next summer, in their secret meadow, he proposed to her. She accepted at once, wanting nothing more than to belong to her light, her sun, the center of her world, forever. It appeared that Elísabet would finally get a happy ending, or, as she preferred to think of it, a happy beginning. Until it all went wrong. Ljótur’s father had set out on an expedition abroad three months previously. A message had just reached the village, bearing grim news: he had suffered a fatal heart attack. As much as he wanted to remain with his betrothed, Ljótur had to go put his father’s affairs in order. Elísabet begged to be taken along, but Ljótur wouldn’t hear of it. Although she had recovered from her emotional frailties with his help, she remained fragile physically, especially with the secret she carried inside. Ljótur wanted her to remain in her familiar environment of Iceland, since she no longer feared it, with people who could take care of her in his absence and see that she remained safe. They shared one final night together, and then he prepared to set sail in the morning with some of the village’s finest men as crew. Elísabet watched helplessly as her one true love made ready to set sail, leaving her behind for an unknown length of time. She whispered to the wind, "Take me abroad with you, for it is not Iceland that I love." As Ljótur’s ship began to disembark, rapidly sailing away from the port, she screamed it to the winds, "Take me abroad with you, for it is not Iceland that I love!” She took one final look at her love’s face before his ship was lost to the horizon, whence she crumpled to the snowy ground, head in her hands, and began to weep.
Janni Lee Simner: Thief Eyes coinjanni on April 3rd, 2010 08:41 pm (UTC)
Re: My Entry!
Awwww ... also, yay, a first entry! :-)
chloeeepatd on April 3rd, 2010 09:15 pm (UTC)
Re: My Entry!
Haha. Yay!
akwilliamsakwilliams on April 3rd, 2010 11:03 pm (UTC)
In the end, my love was not enough to hold him. I found out later that it had not been enough in the middle, either, when he had strayed into the arms of other women, but I did not know it at the time.

At that moment I stared into the bitter winter sea with my chin held high, lips not trembling, my very stoniness screaming louder than words how much tension was within me. I felt each crash of the waves on rock like they pelted my own body, always sturdy and strong, now feeling as fragile as the cliff I stood on. It had stood for hundreds of years, but the pieces of it ripped away by those constantly crashing waves were washed into the sea and lost one fragment at a time. It would look strong and impervious until suddenly, catastrophically, it was not.

I looked at him with tearless eyes, and spoke words that choked me with their useless truth. “Take me with you. It is not Iceland that I love.”

The wind carried away my words, sweeping them away hastily with embarrassment. It whipped them like a servant whisking away a soiled rug, leaving a conspicuous empty space in its absence that spoke volumes, and that we must all pretend now not to notice.

I pleaded with him with my silence, with my rigid body and desperate eyes staring sightlessly at the ocean. Feel my pain. Feel my love. Return my need for you, because I do not know if I can live without you. Please. Please.


I felt a touch of warmth as he took my hand. The only spark of heat in the leeching greyness of the cold morning, our hands were too icy to have any warmth in them but his touch burned like fire.

He spoke no words for the wind to steal away. With that final empty gesture, he patted my hand and walked away down to the ships below.

I did not move again for a very long time.
Janni Lee Simner: Thief Eyes coinjanni on April 6th, 2010 07:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks for joining in! :-)
Vanilla  ... Spiked with Slivovitz: daisy tophatjenna_thorn on April 6th, 2010 06:51 pm (UTC)
Emma linked to your post here, so you may get many more responses than you expected. I'm not a regular here, and I understand if you'd like to keep the contest open for people with whom you regularly interact, but the prompts you gave were inspiring and I thought you wouldn't mind if I shared. (about) 463 words


“Greetings, mother.”

She blinked up at him in surprise. “Such formality, my son? Then be welcome at my hearth, as I would remind a stranger.”

“Should I throw myself at your feet?” he asked.

“And roll with the dog? You did, not so long ago.”

He sat, then, at her feet as he’d said, and stared into the sunlight. Her sleeve brushed his cheek as the whirling spindle rose and fell in the same soft pattern that he’d known from birth, the rhythm he’d nursed to, the same whisper of sound that accompanied his first steps and ushered every evening’s rest.

“My hands are bloody.” He spread them before him, showing the lie. The stranger’s body had fallen away, not onto him. Any blood remaining was indistinguishable from the mud and smoke and dirt of their journey home.

“Remember when you fell off the rock?”

“Mother, I was six!”

“Your hands were bloody then. Remember when you sliced open your cheek because you insisted on helping –“

“Setting a foundation is not the same as…”

“As killing?” She waited for him to nod. “I disagree.” Again the spindle fell, pulling the carded wool into line, tight and strong. He did not move away. She wrapped the thread, then set the spindle spinning again. “You were in the council. You were… we were,” she corrected herself, “one in this decision. Hands up.” He obeyed instantly, years of habit. She smiled at him, a man at her feet, doing a child’s chore more patiently than he ever had then. “I have spun twelve ells of wool. You have killed a man. A fine morning's work for us both." He twitched and she rapped the tips of his fingers in reprimand. “Tomorrow I shall dye the wool. Not all of it, but some. Madder, I think, and the last of the woad. And iron, as always. In three days, I shall weave. Tomorrow you shall join the others to give council, to take council, to fight again. In three days, you will pull my loom into the sunshine, because you love me and it’s heavy,” she said and he ducked his head to hide his smile. “Then you shall go away to divide the duties and the rewards of today’s work. This is what we do.”

He twisted the skein into a coil with the ease of long practice and she shook the roving from where it wound around the distaff at her wrist. He stroked the coil of carded wool in the basket at her feet, feeling the fibers catch on the calluses on his hands. “Would you learn to spin, my son?” she asked, her voice low. He could pretend he had not heard. She continued, “I promise you, my shears are heavy, too.”
Janni Lee Simner: Thief Eyes coverjanni on April 6th, 2010 07:01 pm (UTC)
Re: hello
Absolutely share away--I meant for the contest to be open to all, and was delighted by coffeeem and swan_tower's links to it. Thanks for coming by and joining in, and feel free to spread the word! :-)
Vanilla  ... Spiked with Slivovitz: Oops (Mulan)jenna_thorn on April 6th, 2010 07:06 pm (UTC)
Re: hello
Sorry, I was trying to edit it down to just a link to my journal after re-reading the instructions, but you'd already responded.

I've cross-linked from my tiny corner of the woods, so you may get more new faces from unexpected corners, albeit not in any huge numbers.
Janni Lee Simner: Thief Eyes coverjanni on April 6th, 2010 07:13 pm (UTC)
Re: hello
Cool--thanks for the cross-linking, too! :-)
akwilliamsakwilliams on April 22nd, 2010 05:49 am (UTC)
Re: hello
I love this =) so beautiful
Vanilla  ... Spiked with Slivovitz: weaving by winged figmentjenna_thorn on April 22nd, 2010 10:52 pm (UTC)
Re: hello
Thank you very much. I was completely captured by the prompt.
Coraacoraa on April 8th, 2010 06:13 pm (UTC)
I have been thinking of this because I would like to do something for it, but my write has been broken. And then I realized that arts and crafts are included! So I think it's time for some saga earrings.
Janni Lee Simner: Thief Eyes coinjanni on April 8th, 2010 06:15 pm (UTC)
So I think it's time for some saga earrings.


(I probably ought be emphasizing the crafts part more, above!)
thinking outside the next box overbrownkitty on April 10th, 2010 10:48 pm (UTC)
I hope you don't mind that I used two of the prompts. They seemed to fit.


"Three shells in return for my poem."

He nodded, standing next to me but not too close. I stared out the window, not wanting to look at him.

"I already must grieve for my brother. Is it not enough for you that I set a bowl of porridge before his killer? You now want me to make of this a grand adventure? A saga?"

His eyes widened, and he looked as if he could back away. I bowed my head, clenched my eyes as tightly as my fists, as tightly as my heart.

"You know I have no choice. I must ask. My lord demands it."

"You came here, covered in blood. I let you wash. I fed you. Then you told me that it was my brother's blood, that you had killed him, and now you ask this?"

"Your brother had gone mad, lady. His mouth ran with bloody foam, and his sword arm was broken in two places. I stabbed him in the heart before he set his teeth in my throat." My uninvited, and now supremely unwelcome, guest swallowed uneasily. He hadn't said berzerker, very carefully hadn't uttered that word that would soil not only my brother, but myself, my children, my nephew.

"I don't doubt that his death was a mercy. The madness struck him hard. But to make a saga of this?" I shook with rage and pain.

One slow, careful step back, then another. Maybe the madness ran in my veins too, maybe I would try to set my teeth where my brother's had missed, maybe one man wouldn't be safe talking to one woman...

One finger at a time I loosened my fists. One deep breath, then another, and I let my rage ebb. It settled into cold hate, but I could work with that. Cold hate had served my family well, more the women than the men. My brother hadn't been the first to have the hot rage bring blood and death.

"Get out."

My unwelcome, unwanted, guest backed to the door. His boots were clumsy on my floor, hesitant and wary.


He stopped. "Lady?"

"Tell your lord the price for this poem is not three shells. It is thirty pieces of silver."

I did not look up until I heard my door shut.
Janni Lee Simner: Thief Eyes coinjanni on April 11th, 2010 03:47 pm (UTC)
I don't mind at all--especially when they fit together so well!

Every time I read another entry here, it feels like I'm unwrapping a present ... thanks for yours. :-)
Tucker McKinnonjazzfish on April 14th, 2010 01:50 am (UTC)
Hi! I wandered by last week via coffeeem and got smacked upside the head by the first prompt.

Three Shells
Janni Lee Simner: Thief Eyes coinjanni on April 14th, 2010 04:19 am (UTC)
Yay! I'm delighted that prompt smacked you (umm, that doesn't sound right, does it? :-)), and I'm glad you found your way over here. Thanks so much for joining in! (And for the nice use of those shells ...)
(Deleted comment)
Coraa: girl with bookcoraa on April 18th, 2010 03:38 am (UTC)
Oooh, this is lovely.
rabid_ravener: jon forking offrabid_ravener on April 18th, 2010 10:18 am (UTC)
Very beautiful indeed and about one of my favorite stories. I love poetry about the old Gods, it quickens my heart!

There are a wide variety of early (Eddic) meters and later (skaldic) meters to write from. If you wish to learn the alliterative patterns, let me know.
(Deleted comment)
rabid_ravener: jon forking offrabid_ravener on April 19th, 2010 10:18 am (UTC)
It is too bad those alliterative meters are lost to the translations! They are beautiful indeed. I don't read or translate ON myself, but I do from time to time practice up a stanza or two for recital, just to hear the flowing form.
Janni Lee Simner: Thief Eyes coinjanni on April 19th, 2010 05:59 pm (UTC)
Poetry is quite welcome, especially in alliterative style. And oooooh, applying that bowl of porridge to Volsunga saga ...
rabid_ravener: isheeprabid_ravener on April 18th, 2010 10:14 am (UTC)
Diving Falcon - a flokk in Dróttkvætt
Raptor sleek and stalking,

Slip from enshrouding clouds,

Hunger soaring on wings,

From sorrowed skies she flies,

Hooks in soul she takes me,

Severed from self forever.

On prey the falcon falls,

And finds a heart to bind.

Now for the explanation of the internal workings of Dróttkvætt and how this flokk was constructed:

The Rules of Dróttkvætt – “Noble-speech.”

o Formed of symmetrical stanzas of 8 lines.

o Each line contains three stressed staves,

o Main stave is the first stave in the even lines,

o At least two staves in the odd line must alliterate with the main stave,

o The last stave in the odd line must precede an unstressed syllable, (I usually dont't keep this rule - it isn't kind to English and is much easier to stick to when writing in ON)).

o Fixed number of syllables in each line, usually 6 – as in this case

o Odd lines must contain two skothending syllables (half-rhymes), one of which must come at the end of the line. Skothendingar contain a different vowel sound but same ending consonant sounds.

o Even lines must contain two aðalhending syllables (full-rhymes), one of which must come at the end of the line. Aðalhendingar contain the same vowel sound and the same ending consonant sound.

sarah_createsarah_create on April 18th, 2010 04:40 pm (UTC)
Elayne's Entry
I really liked the prompts, so here's mine (923 words)
[First half]

Most people only see beauty when they watch the Northern Lights slowly glimmer in the dark sky. Most people see just a green slash, some bluish hues, and maybe, on a very lucky night, some reds woven into the mix. Some people claim it looks like a dance, others see no motion at all.
But only the rare and gifted see stories in the sky.
My friend Leif was one of those who saw the stories. Saw them clear as day, without a doubt. But the rest of us were content with beauty.
It wasn't even possible that I could start seeing stories in the lights. It wasn't possible, but it happened.
I was sitting by the ocean the night it happened, watching the waves slowly slide up the sand and then retreat again. I went there often, to be by myself, satisfied to dream or just empty my mind of thought and let the wind fill my head. I looked up at the clear black sky, and was amazed at the reds and yellows and greens coming together. As I stared, the blurred colors became very distinct, until real figures moved through the night sky. I did not believe my eyes, but I could not close them – the unimaginable chained my whole being into the act of observation.
But what I saw wasn't anything I would have hoped for. It was a scene that would give me nightmares.
I saw bears and foxes come on bits of glaciers floating into Iceland's shores. And then more Vikings came. My people's fathers were Vikings, but now we had settled and lived peacefully. But the Vikings who I saw in the sky came and mercilessly plundered the villages and homes we had created. I saw the red hues of fire rising from our green turf huts. The wind gusting into me made the echo of a long, cold, high-pitched scream as I watched the shadow of death and destruction.
It could not be. It must not be true.
But after seeing that, every time I looked up at the night sky, the vision haunted me. Every time I walked outside my hut, the wind assaulted my ears with its continuous screech. The dark of night changed from a peaceful respite to a threatening nightmare.
I spoke to my brothers when they came back from fishing. I tried to tell them what I had seen, but then I had the unyielding sense that I could not. The message was for me, and me alone. The island I had grown up on and loved had betrayed me.
But there was no way I could leave. The waters that led our fathers to this land, and served as an effective defence from invaders, also held me back, as though Iceland was a prison. There was no way I could possibly leave on my own.

continued below
Janni Lee Simner: Thief Eyes coinjanni on April 19th, 2010 08:10 pm (UTC)
Re: Elayne's Entry
sarah_createsarah_create on April 19th, 2010 09:23 pm (UTC)
Re: Elayne's Entry
Thanks for posting the link. It was too long to be accepted by LJ, so we divided it.
sarah_createsarah_create on April 18th, 2010 04:41 pm (UTC)
Elayne's Entry--part 2
I needed someone to go with me.
But I could not explain my need to leave. I could not even think of a reasonable way to bring it up.
My friends noticed my sudden silence, my depressed manner. Leif, who also sees the skies, looked at me in pity, as though he knew what I had suddenly seen. Yet he would not speak to me.
When my brother, Hilmar, began speaking of travelling, of exploring or seeing the world, I encouraged him. I helped him make his plans to leave.
I spoke to him when he was working alone, putting the final touches on the boat. I asked if I could come with him.
He shook his head, not looking me in the eyes.
I could not tell him of the shrieking wind or the colors of the sky. I could not tell him how much I needed to go. But I was sure I could convince him. I may need to say something more drastic. So I let myself, just slightly, beg, "Take me abroad with you, for it is not Iceland that I love."
There. I told him I do not belong here. In the land where I was born, where I had grown, whose language I spoke. The words surprised him enough to look me in the face. For a moment his eyes were full of uncertainty, but then he nodded, “All right. Make yourself ready to leave tomorrow at dawn.”
I did not want to leave. But the memory of blood red in the sky forced me to go. The land had pushed me out.
I helped my brother pack some skate and other foods, as well as nets, and fresh water for our journey.
There were no polite goodbyes as we left. I don't think a tear was shed. But our family stood and watched as our small boat drifted out into the ocean.
The moment I lost sight of Iceland, the wind softened its howls, and we saw some cod swimming by our boat. Some puffins circled above us in the clear, bright blue, friendly sky. I did not know where I was going, but I knew it was right. The ocean stretched around us, its familiar salty smell welcoming a new future.
Sometimes I still dream of the northern lights. Not in fiery reds, but in soft greens and yellows that weave a peaceful story around my house in Denmark, where I've married, and have three sons and a daughter. I have not told them my story, but maybe one day the sky and the winds will sweep them back to Iceland. Or perhaps further than that.

Elayne J (posting on her mom's LJ account)
Janni Lee Simner: Thief Eyes coinjanni on April 19th, 2010 06:16 pm (UTC)
Re: Elayne's Entry--part 2
Say hi to Elayne from me, and thank her for entering! :-)
Allison!keylimetruffle on April 18th, 2010 07:48 pm (UTC)
PROMPT: “My father gone, my brother gone, only this price upon my head remains.”
Hello! I found your Livejournal by sheer happenstance -- or rather, a lucky stumbling-upon courtesy of Amazon.com. Usually, I let this account stand stagnant, but the prompts you provided were too enticing to pass up! Please let me say that writing this was really helpful for someone who's going through a writing slump at the moment. Go figure that a mount of stress might actually kill your word-crafting mojo, right?

But I digress -- I can already tell that this is going to be lengthy, so I'll have to split into two parts (which, fortunately, were built into the piece):


Eventually, the sunrise bled between the cracks and fell across my tingling limbs. Thirteen minutes left and they would call for me again, call for me to drop the gun from my hands and to give myself to the authority as if I had the authority to do so in the first place. The sunrise bled and stained us all, whether we were still in this land or bereft of breath, and I held out and waited.

“And how are we to bury them?” Maria whispered, her hand not quite ready to leave its place on Patrick’s cold shoulder. “They have every intent on starving you out – starving us out, even.” Her addition was hasty, mumbled, hardly made a point to catch anyone’s eye, much less my own. The silence mixed with the sunrise, made the colors sharper against the shadows within the nooks and crannies of our twisted limbs. Whether I closed my eyes or left my gaze vacant, the angles stuck there and stabbed into the backs of my sockets. They say this is how Oedipus went in senior English, I think, until he made it true.

“I’d be one hell of a target, it’s true.”

“I didn’t mean it that way,” she started. Her grip on Patrick’s forearms was unmistakable, left over from shadows of arguments they’d had in the past that I’d have to counsel him on afterwards in the inky black of our clouded nights. Her hands never fully realized this, even as she recoiled once she computed that the muscles were too far gone via rigor mortis to spring back. They still hovered, gently, reluctantly. Given the cramped conditions, of course, it was hard to not forgive.

“Shit, Maria, it’s just the truth.” Given that my cigarettes were in absentia, a stick would have to serve as surrogate for the sudden need of something to chew between the fronts of my teeth. “We’re cradling the best damn leaders we ever had in our laps because The State ain’t about to let us out to bury them and it’s all because they want the prettiest little jewel in their crown. Sure, she ain’t Trujillo Junior or Senior, but wasn’t she the mouthiest little chit – the one that stood up and proselytized everything her daddy and big brother ever said, who planned every ambush the Sun Bowl ever saw, who played the prettiest pawn in their grand plan? They’d love nothing best than to take the greatest follower the Trujillos ever made and brainwash her stupid. And if they couldn’t make a cheap piece of sow’s ear into a silk purse up at pretty Washington, then they’d sure as hell be able to shoot her dead for all the masses to see on the Jumb-O-Tron and we’d be set.”

Sidney!” Maria managed, albeit barely, “Stop! Stop right this second, stop right now, because I’m not—”

“Shut up,” and now the jigsaw of sunrise and shadows held fuzzy edges and gummy bits of things I forgot I held inside coming up the back of my throat. “Shut up and stop acting like it’s not true because the last time we were acting so optimistic, look what it got us! It got the best people I ever knew shot in the chest like it was nothing! Because what? Because Patrick, for some Godawful reason, thought he was better than mortality and Pops was wise enough to know better but hardly fast enough to stop it! He actually—he actually thought he was going to get out of that negotiation, you know.”

We let our tears dry as I rose, straightening out the cut of my pants and shoving the firearm in the waistband. Maria’s last words to me were quiet, stifled, possibly against a shred of my brother’s favorite shirt:

“I already lost one best friend; I’d appreciate it if I didn’t lose two.”

The sunrise flooded the room as I opened the door, like a regular old deluge. “I know.”
Allison!keylimetruffle on April 18th, 2010 07:50 pm (UTC)
PART 2: Now with more resolution, perhaps?
“Good morning, gentlemen!” The slam of the door was a nice punctuation, as was the sudden start of half-slumbering militiamen clambering to attention. They had two minutes left before The Call, after all; why not spend it cat napping?

A few rifles perked up, but the commander whistled low and held his arm out. “Headquarters wants the girl alive at all costs unless otherwise provoked. Hold your ground.”

“And what a lovely morning it is, gentlemen,” I drawled out with flashy grins and the pistol suddenly dangling from my index finger, “simply gorgeous!” If one strained, crickets could be heard making commentary in the background. The sun continued to rise, uninterrupted, and soon a thousand beams of glinting flint started to blind our eyes as the crickets made their commentary in the background.

“And what’s your business here, Trujillo?” The commander’s trigger finger was looking itchy, but given the time of day, one couldn’t tell if it was due to exhaustion, legitimate twitching, or the usual excuse of pure and unadulterated irritation. “We’re only prepared to speak on negotiation terms between that of the purported Independent and Indigenous People of the Sonoran Basins and that of the New and Independent States of the Americas, as you well know.”

“Shit, Commander, I’d reckon you’d know that by now.” When I saw myself in the surface of the barrel as I loaded the clip, it even shocked me a bit that I managed to grin. “Let’s put it this way: dad’s dead. Brother’s dead.” The bullets clicked and I felt the smile crease my cheeks and stretch to my ears, although Lord knew that the eyes were nothing but dead ducks in the water. “Only thing I got left is a damn bounty on my head, sir, so how ‘bout you add that up in that big old head of yours?”
Janni Lee Simner: Thief Eyes coinjanni on April 19th, 2010 06:20 pm (UTC)
Re: PART 2: Now with more resolution, perhaps?
Oh, very cool that you found this journal in random wanderings -- welcome, and thanks for entering!

It makes me very happy that the prompts were helpful for breaking out of a slump. :-)

Edited at 2010-04-19 06:22 pm (UTC)
Matthew: Diatomskutay on April 19th, 2010 01:53 am (UTC)
I can't put the journal entry link in because my writing journal is part of a private writing group thing (first_rewrite), so I hope you don't mind that I just post it here. I swear I posted your link there, though, and I hope some of my friends have entries to post as well! :D

Anywho, I hope you enjoy my little story. I had a great time writing it. By the way, your book sounds really interesting! (I stumbled on your contest link on Emma Bull's journal)


"Stag's Head"

My hair crackled as I ran my hand through it. Frozen sweat had turned the already ragged mess into tiny icicles that irritated the back of my still healing hand. I rubbed softly over the image of the stag’s head. It branded me as dangerous Prey.

I thought of how my family had lived freely for generations. We knew how to avoid the vicious men of the city, how to make our crops blend into the forest, how to hunt without disturbing the balance, how to move so quietly that even the birds didn’t start at our passing.

The city men who ventured into our lands called themselves Wolves, yet were nothing like the noble creatures they had hunted until they were all but gone from the island. This done merely for the privilege of hanging a wolf’s tail from their belts. They thought this proved them strong. To my mind, they were Mongrels.

Once they had the title of Wolf, they were free to hunt my people. Those who did not live in the city were thought to be too ignorant to deserve freedom. Many of our friends were taken, but my family was too clever, too quick.

Some of the mighty Wolves-to-be are too cowardly or too lazy to track and fight a wolf themselves, so they set traps throughout the forests. It was the fault of such a one that our freedom was lost.

My brother, barely out of childhood, caught his foot in the rusty blades of a trap. None of my father’s healing way could do more than ease the pain for a short while. If my brother had been taken as Prey or killed outright perhaps grief would not have taken so strong a hold on my father.

I could hardly look him in the eyes -- the flow of rumbling volcanic rage to the pure stillness of wintery cold grief and back again was more frightening than my brother’s screams as the rot traveled from his leg to his heart.

It wasn’t surprising that my father disappeared soon after, though I did not want to believe it. I did not move our camp for much longer than was safe, waiting for him to return, praying that he was only hunting game... But I knew he hunted Wolves.

Eventually I made my way to the city. They may have called us Prey, but the wooden palisades showed they feared us. A series of cages surrounded a small pen near the city walls. This is where Prey were taken and trained before Wolves sold them as slaves to the city people. I knew that if my father lived, he must be here.

When night fell and lazy Mongrels slept, I crept to the cages, knowing that my father’s spirit was too strong for them to allow him into the pen where only the most broken Prey were allowed. They were so broken they would not climb the short fence that separated them from freedom.

When I didn’t find him in any cage, I almost left, but doubt made me check the pen as well. I stared in horror at the Rabbit brand on his back. It meant he had been caught easily and with little danger to the Wolves.

I could not understand it. Why had he not taken his vengeance? I quietly made my way back to the Mongrels and saw that he who snored the loudest and smelled most of wine had the keys. It was quick work to ensure his sleep was unending and I was soon headed back to the cages with keys muffled in my hands.

We reached a whispered agreement on how best to escape and then I made my way to the pens, fearing that grief had fully doused father’s fury and he had accepted slavery. I gently woke him and tears came to my eyes when I saw the fear in his.

Matthewkutay on April 19th, 2010 01:53 am (UTC)
(Part 2)

Suddenly, there were shouts and torchlight blossomed around the pen. Three Mongrels came towards me. Even if my fully clothed body and the knife in my hand had not shown me to be the intruder, the way the awakened Prey immediately rushed from me and the Mongrels would have set me apart. Even father scurried to the back of the pen, leaving behind the knife I tried to give him.

I am not so skilled that I could defeat three Mongrels, even as poorly trained as these were, but with the death of one and the wounds to the others I earned my Stag brand. Their leader considered branding me with the Swan, telling me my beauty could give me an easy life as a lord’s mistress. I spat in his face. He only laughed, saying that I was probably too dangerous to set amongst the rich and the weak.

I do not think that I could have escaped on my own, but late in the night, I heard movement outside my cage. I thought a Mongrel must have come by to gloat because I could not hold my back my screams when the hot metal seared my hand, despite the vows I made. “Anna,” my father whispered.

I stared into his face in shock, but when I saw his eyes, I understood. The fires were back. He tried to hand me my knife, but the pain from the Stag’s head made me unable to grip it. I might be lucky, fighting with my right hand, but it was likely that I would be the useless one this time.

My fears proved to be right. I still feel the guilt for surviving when my father did not, though I knew in my heart that he had never planned to live past my escape.

Now I stood and brushed the snow from my legs, thinking , "My father gone, my brother gone, only this price upon my head remains."

I trudged northward, hoping that price would keep me moving until I found victory.

Edited at 2010-04-19 01:54 am (UTC)
Janni Lee Simner: Thief Eyes coinjanni on April 19th, 2010 06:31 pm (UTC)
Posting here is fine -- and I'm really glad you had fun with the prompts! :-)

(And thanks for linking it, too!)

Edited at 2010-04-19 06:35 pm (UTC)
Matthewkutay on April 19th, 2010 08:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the contest. It was really a lot of fun. :D
Janni Lee Simner: Thief Eyes coinjanni on April 19th, 2010 08:56 pm (UTC)
It was fun for me, too. :-)

And I enjoyed the world-building of this story -- kept thinking it had room to be the world of something longer, too!
Matthew: Shaman Dancekutay on April 20th, 2010 07:00 am (UTC)
I was thinking the same thing too. I have so many ideas around it. Who knows? Maybe it will become something! :D

Also, I'm quite excited to read your book -- it sounds so fascinating! I've only read the Vinland Sagas (for a Scandinavian Archaeology course) At any rate, I've got your novel on preorder now!
Janni Lee Simner: Thief Eyes coinjanni on April 20th, 2010 06:52 pm (UTC)
Hope you enjoy it!

The Vinland sagas are interesting ... they seemed oddly disjointed than me when taken together, almost as if something were missing ... there's a site in Newfoundland, isn't there, that might be linked to the Vinland colony?