Attributes Out

Writing Prompt:
“An Inside Out-esque scenario, but instead of the emotions being personified it’s the stats of an RPG (e.g. S.P.E.C.I.A.L. from Fallout).”

Hidden away in the dark lurked a foreboding room. There was no entrance, no exit. The walls were carved from living stone, intricately detailed and unfathomably old. A ring of carefully sculpted pillars supported the cobwebbed ceiling, depicting fierce battles and legendary treasures. In the center of the room stood a shaft of rowan wood, twisted and ornate but seemingly naturally occurring. Rather than branch out and bloom, however, it ended entwined about a softly pulsating crystal the size of a man’s fist, the source of the soft pink light that illuminated the room. A thick blanket of mist shrouded the floor, appearing to glow with the light of the crystal. It slowly wafted back and forth, swirling slowly about the pillars, as well as the robes of the six dark figures that stood silently arranged around the central shaft.

The largest of the six stepped forward to the spire, swept back the hood of its deep grey cloak, and placed one massive hand palm-down on the crystal. It flashed a deep red and grew suddenly brighter, throwing light around the room and on the face of the man standing before it. His rough, battle-scarred visage twisted into a sinister smile and he turned to his companions to speak, his hand never leaving its place.

“My comrades,” he boomed, “the obstacle before us obviously requires a full-strength offensive! I will gladly take over from here. Allow me to clear the path toward conquest and glory!”

The brute gripped the crystal tightly and focused. As he did, the chamber seemed to rock and shudder, as though the very ground beneath them protested. A second figure rushed forward and pushed the behemoth of a man out of the way, taking the crystal with it’s own more slender hand. It flashed a pale yellow that fell harshly on the angular face revealed by the now absent cowl of the second figure. The tall, slender and angry woman glared daggers at the first man, practically spitting her words at him.

“You fool! You can’t just rush headlong into this, we’ll all be killed! At least let a more dexterous professional such as myself keep us from being shot down before we begin. We have to flank the target, or we don’t have a chance.”

As the severe woman concentrated on what she was doing, the room seemed to tilt from one side to another, threatening to throw the remaining figures off their balance. In the midst of the developing chaos a shorter and much stouter man flipped back his hood and trundled up to the shaft, seemingly oblivious to the rolling floor. He plopped one hairy-knuckled mitt on the crystal and the room took on a sudden emerald hue. He completely ignored the woman who had been there before him and who was now pummeling his thick head with a flurry of impressive, but ultimately ineffective, blows.

“You know,” he said, “we should really leverage our superior constitution. Just prove we can take whatever is thrown at us.” He grinned. “Wear ’em down, that’s what I always say.”

He stood stock still at the rowan staff, not seeming to make any effort in particular. Meanwhile, the room began to develop a faint haziness, gradually obscuring vision and turning the brilliant green of the crystal into a sickly chartreuse. The remaining figures removed their hoods, as though they were having trouble breathing easily. One of them, a young man of very slight build, rushed forward and pinched the simple man’s nose until he was forced to comply and step back from the staff. The newcomer swiftly stepped in and placed his palm upon the crystal almost disdainfully. The light turned a rich and dark purple, and the young man rolled his eyes at his compatriots.

“Have you no intelligence whatsoever? Are you attempting to eradicate the lot of us?” He turned back to the crystal and closed his eyes. “I surmise it’s left to me once again to rectify the situation. Kindly remain stationary while I present our adversary with an indefatigable and irrefutable debate. We will certainly emerge victorious momentarily.”

An elderly woman stepped forward and placed a gentle hand on the young man’s shoulder. “Son, I think it might be wise to hand the reigns over to me. It’s said that discretion is the better part of valor, and that seems quite prudent at the moment.”

The young man hesitated, but eventually bowed to the wishes of his more experienced senior. The crone set her gnarled and bony fingers on the crystal, changing it to a calming indigo color. The haze left the room, the floor settled, and all the figures took a deep breath of relief. All but the last one.

The remarkably handsome gentleman swaggered forward and draped one arm around the wise old woman. “Granny, you do a great job around here. You know that, right?” He aimed a white smile and a wink at her. “But I said it before and I have to say it again. This is a job that requires finesse, appeal, a certain je ne sais quoi. This is a job for… Charisma.”

He wrested the crystal from the woman’s hand, and the chamber was once again bathed in a soft pink light.


Ashley watched in growing confusion. She had been enjoying a drink with a couple of her friends, grooving to the music, when a handsome young man had caught her eye. She had thought to flirt a bit, since he was pretty cute, after all, but that was certainly off the table when he abruptly turned to the stranger next to him and knocked the guy out cold with a wild haymaker. He proceeded to take out three more random clubgoers with vicious blows before the crowd withdrew from him in terror. With a ring of onlookers watching in bewilderment and fear, the young man squared off against a single brave fellow who had taken it upon himself to bring down this strange assailant. The young man had ceased his own attack entirely, dodging and skipping around in a manner completely different from his previous straightforwardness. It was bizarre to watch, but the club’s heroic defender never landed a blow on the mysterious stranger.

Abruptly the elusive young man ceased his skipping and calmly strode over to the bar, where he began downing the shots that remained there. The defender saw his opportunity, and launched himself at the stranger. As his attacks had no effect, however, he slowly came to a frightening conclusion and retreated.

The violent young man finished his twelfth shot, wiped his mouth, and staggered over to the table where Ashley and her friends sat, trapping them in the booth. He proceeded to present a detailed and convincing series of reasons why Ashley’s companions should, in essence, beat it. They needed little convincing, and as soon as they were fairly certain it was safe to move, they both made a dash for the club exit. So much for friendship.

Ashley was frozen with sheer disorientation, and watched helplessly as the unstable young man turned toward her and took a deep breath to say something. However, he instead abruptly turned around and headed toward the club exit himself without a word. She was just beginning to get a grip on herself when he paused at the door, turned back, and jogged over to her table once more. He sat down next to her and smiled, oblivious to the panic behind him and the sound of approaching sirens.

“Do you like my new jacket?” he murmured.

Falteringly, she stammered, “Y-y-yes?”

“Do you know what it’s made of?” he crooned.

Unsure, she ventured, “…No?”

The young man pulled a pair of sunglasses from his pocket, put them on, and grinned again, coyly.

“Boyfriend material.”

And that is when the police burst in.

 

Original Prompt: Reddit – Inside-Out

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Attributes Out

True Love Realized

Writing Prompt:
“Write me a story with a really likable protagonist until the very last sentence, where he becomes a huge asshole” 

Picce ran as fast as her feet would carry her, her long golden hair and unassuming pale rose frock trailing behind her like a tail through the town gates and toward the shuffling figure cresting the grassy hill. She had spotted him through the morning fog from her perch in the watchtower, where she had remained since the previous night when he had left her. The man’s head hung low as he stumbled forward, dragging a battered and severely bent shield in one hand, the other hanging limply at his side. Picce shouted to him, “Marius!” as she dashed headlong down the well-worn dirt road. The man looked up and caught sight of her, his ashen and blood-stained face splitting into an unsteady grin before beginning a slow arc towards the ground in front of him.

Picce reached him in mid-topple, but he was far too heavy in his piecemeal armor for her to halt his plunge. The best she could manage was to guide his slack form gently to the ground. Tears sprang to her eyes as she looked over Marius, digesting his current state. As far as she could tell, he was unconscious. His armor, which had not been pretty to begin with, was now dented and warped, covered in dirt and a dark red crust. His blade was nowhere to be found, nor any sign of his horse. Worst though, was how he appeared to be bestrewn with rivulets of fresh blood, trickling from more wounds than Picce’s distraught mind could count, matting his thick brown hair and dampening his earthy blue tunic beneath his breastplate.

She had never seen injuries this dire before, and had no idea where to begin treating them. All she could do was stare at the shallow rise and fall of his chest, reminding herself that Marius was still alive, and wait. Thankfully she did not have to wait long, as several men from the town had also spotted the returning man and had followed Picce out, carrying a crude stretcher. As they bent to lift Marius onto the canvas, he stirred and his head rolled toward Picce. His eyes slid open and, upon seeing her again, his grin returned. Faintly he groaned, “I did it, Pi. He is gone. Bozar is dead.”

The overwhelming concern and grief that had filled Picce was now joined by the glow of hope, steadily growing as the implications of what he had just said settled on her. The townsmen lifted Marius and carried him into town to the infirmary while Picce followed several paces behind, falling tears for her love at odds with her inescapable smile.


Marius sat on a simple cot in the infirmary, propped upright against a pile of quilts. Gauze wrapping obscured his abdomen and parts of his arms and chest. A fresh scar marred his ruggedly handsome face, though to Picce it was a badge of honor. Every time she saw it as she sat next to him, bathing the wounds on one shoulder as the Surgeon had instructed her, she was filled with the elation of freedom. Never again would she have to look over her shoulder, fearing that the lustful Bozar would be stalking her, licking his scaly lips and plotting indecent contrivances. The lecherous draconian had been the bane of her existence, as well as a threat to the entire town, for years. No more, thanks to dear, sweet Marius.

Marius had been a traveler from another land, a modest carpenter’s apprentice seeking to establish himself in his craft. When he arrived in town several months before he made fast friends with nearly everyone he met. He was soon ensconced in a small cottage near the market where he both lived and ran a thriving business. The man was undeniably charming in his eagerness and humility, his was practically a master of his craft, and nothing seemed to dampen his good mood. Truly, Picce’s devotion for the man had been inevitable. Of course, Picce was widely regarded as one of the kindest, most intelligent, and prettiest maidens in town, and most would say Marius’s affection for her was just as fated. Their love was the kind that ballads were composed about, and would surely last longer than those.

When Marius learned of the trouble that the dragon-man Bozar had caused the town–raiding storehouses, killing livestock, stealing valuables–he was incensed. He argued loud and long for the formation of an extermination party. Why should they put up with his tyranny, he said. The townspeople deserved happiness, he said. The townspeople may have deserved happiness, but they were far too terrified of the vicious and powerful creature to pursue it.

When Marius finally learned of the particular attention Bozar had paid to Picce, and the nature of that attention, he became very quiet. He calmly recovered his savings from a hidden chest in his small home and took it to the blacksmith to purchase a mismatched set of armor and a cheap sword, the best he could afford with a carpenter’s earnings. He saddled his horse, the one that had carried him into this town, and prepared to set off, that very evening. Picce knew where he was going, knew exactly the foolishness he was pursuing, and tried to stop him. When he saw the concern in her eyes, Marius’s face softened into his customary smile. He held her tightly and whispered into her ear, “He’ll never touch you again. This ends tonight.” Before she could protest he was on his horse and riding off into the failing light. That was when she had gone to the watchtower to await his return.

Now that he had come back safely, there was a part of Picce that wanted to thrash the man for risking his life the way he had. But mostly what she felt was devastating love and exhilarating freedom. She spoke to him as she redressed his shoulder. “I still cannot grasp that you have faced and slain a draconian for me, Marius! Why would you do such a bold and reckless thing, you simple carpenter?”

Marius turned to her, a grimace of pain at the movement briefly wresting control from his usual grin, and held her head in one hand. He kissed her lightly, and softly replied, “You are the only star in my sky. I would give anything, do anything, to keep you safe from harm or distress.” He kissed her again, and Picce melted in his arms.

Following this moment of tenderness, Picce felt compelled by gratitude and ardency to speak up again. “Marius, I can never fully express how grateful I am for you and for this gift you have given me. With that lascivious beast hounding me, my world was a nightmare. You’ve freed me from that. If only I could indemnify your suffering on my behalf.”

Marius grinned. “My dearest love, queen of my heart…” He brushed Picce’s flaxen hair lightly, savoring the silkiness of it for a moment. Then he glanced downward meaningfully and quipped, “How ’bout a beej?”

 

Original Prompt: Reddit – Likeable Asshole

True Love Realized

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Writing Prompt:
“You come from the long line of sorcerers who deem themselves defenders of the earth. Sadly, you didn’t really get hang of this “magic” thing, but you have a different talent.”

My father was a Red Mage. His father was a Grey Mage. His father was a Purple Mage. I can trace my lineage back through twenty-eight generations, covering hues from all over the spectrum, every last one of the geezers a Mage.

Me? I’m a Green Nothing. Not a shred of magic in me. At least, not as far as I can tell. And I’m still a damn hero.

I’ve had to sit back and watch countless times as Pops whisked away to save the world from Demonic-Emergence-This and Elder-God-That. I’ve witnessed Gramps banishing Wights, Shades, Lichs and more. I can’t even ignore it and try to be normal, because the two of them insist on making me sit in on Mage Council meetings, hoping something might ignite the gift in me. I tried to tell them it’s a waste of time, but their need to save face is just too strong. So I would slouch in the council chamber, trying to ignore the floating screen displaying whatever current magical heroics were occurring in the world.

Things were different when the Ma’le’gas invaded.

They were nigh invincible. It happened so quickly. One minute the skies were sunny and clear, and the next they were filled with gargantuan spacecraft, each miles long from end to end, looking like circuitry-covered bricks ready to fall and crush the world. Their weapons were devastating, reducing every major government center in the world to rubble faster than the human eye could detect it. Not even a flash of light to accompany the destruction.

The council immediately threw everything it had at the invading aliens, to no avail. Every spell bounced harmlessly off their shields. Our human magic was no match for their extraterrestrial technology. After an hour of fruitless labor, the council reconvened to argue over their next course of action. It struck me as odd that there had been no further aggression from the intruders.

Then, booming across the sky all around the world like an unfathomably large PA system, came The Ultimatum.

“HUMANS. BRING FORTH A CHAMPION. UNLESS WE WITNESS A SWEET 360 NOSCOPE COD RAMPAGE IN THE NEXT TEN EARTH MINUTES, WE WILL DESTROY YOUR WORLD. 420 BLAZEIT BITCHES.”

The council was dumbfounded, but I knew my moment had come. I stood up in the following silence, put on my shades, cracked open a Mountain Dew, and said, “I got this one.”

 

Original Prompt: Reddit – Different Talent

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