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Adventure Fantasy Funny

Kal tugged his sodden patched cloak over Esmae's shivering shoulders and rubbed her back. Little good it would do in this weather, but what's a brother to do? He felt the fool, promising so much he couldn't give. Reckoned mother was right - he truly was less than nothing. Although she was as much his mother as he was the Emperor of Everywhere.


Thunder rumbled and lightning exploded, like the gods were moving furniture around, then thought divine redecorating was a bust and burnt the armoire instead. 


Kal couldn't help but think that the deities toyed with them. 


First, their horse, albeit stolen horse, bolted first chance it got, taking all their stolen supplies with it. Then those damned bandits on the Merchants Road took every copper piece at sword point, mother always said never trust men with more fingers than teeth, seems she wasn't so stupid after all. Bloody thieves, they're the worst; no decency left in the world. And now, the blasted heavens wouldn't cease falling. 


Drenched and exhausted, Kal stared through the rain torrenting over the broken edge of the ruined bridge they sheltered under. He shook his head; they’d never get to Danvar at this rate.


"Kal," Esmae's voice floated up hunger weak, she pointed towards the wind whipping trees. "What's that?"


"I can't see--"


Lightning flashed, eyes pierced the gloom, teeth glistened dagger sharp, a spiked tail thrashed the undergrowth. Just as quick as it appeared, it was gone.


They looked to one another then scrambled further into the shadows as snapping branches and squelching footfalls followed.


A bulking silhouetted man shape burst from the brush, spears on its back, an axe in hand. It sniffed the air, turned towards them. Kal touched a trembling finger to his lips, not that it was needed, and squeezed Esmae all the tighter.


The curtain of water parted as a gray bearded face criss crossed with scars glowered at them. Esmae screamed, Kal restrained a whimper but loosed a tiny squirt of pee he was none too proud of.


"Oh hello," the stranger's voice was calm and reassuring, but not enough for Esmae, her pitch rising higher, and higher still as he ambled in, head bent under the moss slick stone.


"Please we ain't got nothin’," Kal pleaded, holding up a hand.


The ogreish man lowered his axe, "Not here to take anything from you, honest, don’t be scared." Squatting, he placed his weapon clinking on the ground, and dangled chain wrapped forearms over his knees. "Ssshhh little one. I'm Ulric, Ulric don'Hurtz."


Esmae quieted, looked from Kal to Ulric, rubbed her sniffling nose.


"I'm Kal, this ‘ere's me sister, Esmae."


"What's two youngin’s doing way out here?"


"Headed to Danvar, going to be rich," Esmae practically shouted, as if the louder the truer. Kal winced.


"Danvar?" Ulric brushed clinging gray hair from his face. "Never heard of it."


"It's a new town, below the Sabres Tooth, some say there's gold and gems so plentiful they roll down the hills when it's windy," 


"That so? Won't your parents be worried?”


“Never knew them. Raised by her Ma, but she done run off with the Baron, she's pretty you see and the Baron hates children, so she…” Kal swallowed.


“Left ye’s behind, what a lovely woman. You really brother and sister?" Ulric squinted as if appraising a horse seller's wares. “You don't look anything alike, tell me, you a farm boy?”


“I was.”


Ulric tugged his beard, "I see. Those accents, the realm of Novelwood?"


They nodded.


"Well, Sabres Tooth's and Novelwood’s both west of here, you've followed the wrong road somewhere, you even know where you are?"


"Not really, been following me gut."


Looking over his shoulder, Ulric drew a hissing breath past clenched teeth.


"You'd best come with me," standing, he slid the axe in his leather belt.


"Why?" Kal asked.


"You've wandered in the Prompts Forest lad, all sorts of half baked Tropes and Notions out here, searching for their endings, resolutions, twists. No place for lost children, especially not one like you. Come now."


"Like me?”


“Aye, this could be a Chosen one situation, or perhaps the girl's a royal heir. You know, that kind of thing.”


Neither Kal nor Esmae did, hence their faces pinched like they’d been force fed lemons and it was all Ulrics fault. 


“Wait, what were you chasing?" Kal asked.


"You seen it?"


"A spikey tailed monster?" Esmae asked.


"Aye, been hunting that beast for months, which way did it go?"


They pointed.


"What is it?" Kal asked, clambering to his feet.


Ulric cracked his neck, "A blasted Macguffin! Come now, we’ll catch it, then I’ll see you safely to the road to Danvar!"


***


Mud sucked at Kals boots, energy, and will, with every laboured step. But at least the rain had stopped.


“I can walk Kal,” Esmae protested from his back.


“And I’ll be pulling you from the clat every second step,” Kal wheezed, breath misting.


Ulric wadded along up front with ease, pushing away willowy branches and cutting down snatching vines. 


“Found its trail yet?” Kal asked. No answer. “Ulric, I said–”


The big man spun, gesturing to get down. Kal tried, but hunching with a seven year old on your back only ends one way. The mud tasted worse than it looked, and he had seen prettier latrines. Spitting the mulch, droppings, and twigs from his mouth Esmae giggled. She always enjoyed his misery, and he was happy to see any kind of smile on her face these days.


Ulric bolted towards them, face knotted in anger. With little effort he grabbed both by the scruff and hurried into denser foliage.


“What're you—”


“Shhhhh!” Ulric’s stare made his whisper a shout.


Thud thud, thud thud. Kal focused on the noise. Hooves? No, much bigger. Peering between dead trees alive with the tap-tap of dripping water, heart racing, his eyes fell on an armour-clad bear and equally battle-ready man on its back. 


Statue still they watched the ferocious beast crunch and splash through the boggy scrub. Its rider glared over his shoulder at something trailing behind, writhing and thrashing, bound in chains and net it whimpered.


Jabbing his restless quarry with a spear shaft, the rider growled, “Shut your mangy maw or I’ll naw wait till Mistress’ Fortress t’skin you, you hear!” With a spur the bear jolted forward, grumbling a low bowel weakening roar. Before disappearing past bark and bramble, it turned, offering view to a most predictable outcome.


“That's it,” Esmae hushed.


“That's her alright,” Ulric said.


“Who rides a bear?” Kal asked, wiping, or rather smearing, mud from his face.


“A Judge, servant of this realm’s ruler, Queen La Ura.”


“Will they really skin it?” Esmae asked.


“No one knows. Maybe. Skin it, dissect it, analyze it, whatever's needed, I suppose, to see if it's a good Macguffin.”


“And if it's not?” Kal asked.


“Best not think on that,” Ulric helped Esmae up, squinted into the gloom. "We need to keep moving.”


“To where?”


“Mistress’ Fortress of course.”


“How’re we getting into a Fortress?” Kal asked, brow twisted in disbelief.


"Unfortunately, or perhaps luckily, I know a way in. But we’ll need someone stronger than me for that task."


"Stronger than you?" Esmae asked, bewildered.


Ulric grinned, “Yes little one, we're going to need what every good fellowship needs: a wizard.”


“A wizard!” Esmae’s eyes grew big as cook pots, mouth flapping like a landed fish.


“How’re we going to find one of them?” Kal asked.


"You're forgetting where we are, lad," Ulric said, rummaging through the dirt then plucking out two hefty stones. "Let's keep moving, but keep an eye out for anything, and I mean anything, out of place."


***


"Look!" Esmae bounced with excitement pointing towards a leaning hazel tree, its roots protruding the upturned soil like a squid searching for purchase.


"I may have to rename you Esmae the Eye," Ulric ruffled her dark hair then drew his arm back.


"What am I not seeing now?" Kal huffed.


His answer came with a thunk, a shriek, splintering of branches and a burst of purple and blue feathers floating through the air.


Ulric dashed forward, ploughed through the scrub and pulled up a man by the collar of a star embroidered robe, bruise already forming on his bald wrinkled head.


"One wizard," Ulric beamed brighter than the fisherman caught the prize trout.


"How'd you know?" Kal whispered to Esmae.


"Pigeons ain't meant to be Purple."


"Let me go! Do you know who I am!" squawked the wizard


"Either a tourist…or a spy for the Order," Ulric drew a dagger, punctuating his sharpened words. "Why don't you tell me?"


"Would you believe I promised a recently deceased friend I'd visit this bizarre realm?"


Ulric shook his head, "Not in the slightest."


"Tourist, yes definitely a tourist," coughed the wizard, eyes sweeping, mouth twitching.


"Well Mr Tourist, we need your help and you'll oblige, understood?"


"What? Why?"


"The what is breaking into the La Ura's Fortress, as for the–"


"No please, I beg you, not that vile cretin, she's viler than marmite, or cucumber, or that wretched musical sorceress Cardigan B, or…"


"As for the why," metal clanged as Ulric uncoiled the chains about his arm, dark manacles snapping around the wizards wrists. 


Voice trembling the wizard asked, "Black Star metal?"


Ulric grinned as though he just got the punchline to an unspoken joke. The wizard turned sheet white, good new sheets too, barely used and just out of the wash sheets.


“So,” Ulric began, slow and thoughtful. “As you can see I ain't got time for small talk Tourist the Wizard, you’ll do as I say and then you can go on your merry way.”


Kals' guts twisted, he didn't like this one bit. But what could he possibly do?


****


Black crenulations flickered orange as guards patrolled, torches in hand, crossbows rested against shoulder. Four crooked towers stumbled out from the orderly retaining wall, blue flags adorned with white birds fluttering from broken tile peaks in the cold night air. 


Kneeling amongst the reeds surrounding the fort, Kal considered how in the Never-Realm he'd gotten into such a mess. Why storm a castle with an old warrior, a captive wizard and a seven year old girl? To find the Macguffin of course. But what had that to do with anything?


"Through there," Ulric ordered.


"Isn't that the sewage outlet?" Kal added.


“Sure is, what goes in must go out and vice versa,” Ulric quipped, crouched, then splashed across the turd dappled swamp dragging a trembling Tourist with him.


Ulric pointed to a moist, crusted, slime dripping grate, “Be a good dear and open that.”


“How when you've blocked me?” Tourist held up his bound hands.


Ulric frowned, unlocked one manacle, “One hand will be enough. And if not I'm sure one dagger can finish the negotiating.”


“No need, no need.” Tourist licked his lips, closed his eyes, breathed deep. Thrusting his arm out, fingers twitching as if pulling on invisible threads, Kal's skin prickled, a metallic taste filling his mouth. To Kal's amazement glowing strands exploded from Tourist, wrapped around the bars, squeezing, twisting, until, with an ear gurgling moan they bent and crumpled leaving an opening. 


"Ha, I knew it!" Ulric slapped Kal's shoulder. "You saw that didn't you, the Essences."


Kal pinched the bridge of his nose, "Yes, I saw."


"You're really a wizard Kal?" Esmae asked.


"Can we just do whatever we're here to do, so we can get back on the road to Danvar," Kal hissed with frustration.


Tourist laughed, "Danvar? Is that rumour of prosperity and unending riches still being told."


"Rumour, rumour?" Kal fists balled, ears fury hot, and something else - something fizzy, spicy, just outside his grasp.


"Now, now lad, let's free the Macguffin then see where we stand. Ok?"


Chewing on his anger he pulled Esmae close and followed Ulric and Tourist inside the rank pipe.


***


"Much further?" Esmae asked, stepping through another buckled grate, this time one Kal had even tried to help with. Unsuccessfully, but still.


"I'd say very close?" Ulric pointed to a beam of light stabbing the murk from above.


"So what's the plan here?" Kal asked.


"Let me worry 'bout that lad. Here we go," Teeth gritted, Ulric pushed the sewer cover clear, hoisted himself up, looked about, then pulled Esmae up like she weighed nothing, followed by Tourist.


Peeking his head above the hole Kal scanned the courtyard when that old prickly feeling ran like a thousand ants up his spine. Before he could react, unsheathing steel sang a song of murder, braziers erupted to life bathing countless leering eyes in orange.


Scrambling up, Kal spun, chest hammering. Esmae shrieked and struggled, Ulric's chorded arm crushing her chest, his blade dug into her neck.


Instinct alone made Kal lunge, teeth bared, fist drawn back. He knew he wouldn't hurt the lummox, may punch the shore to wound the ocean, but what's a brother to do?


Ulric smirked, the prickling shifted from ants to a pit of scorpions and Kal froze. Not fear, or chill, but stuck midair like a fly in the jam. Only then did he realise Tourist squirming on ground, clawing where his mouth should have been, now a patch of skin no different than his cheek, there’d be no incantations from him.


Laughter echoed, syrupy thick with treachery.


"Haven't you done well Ulric," the voice strolled clanging into Kal's views. Tall and pale, bristling with spiked and segmented armour, a shock of flaming curls framing her pointed face. 


"Queen La Ura," Ulric lowered his head but not his blade.


"Why did you bring this?" She drove a metal heel into Tourists ribs, his eyes stretching in a silent scream


"After finding these two I spotted a Judge dragging a Macguffin through the forest, but it wasn't my lovely Snuffle-pops. That's when I knew I wasn't the other Hunter you'd given this task too. Figured I'd sweetened the deal so to say."


"You always were smarter than you looked. As promised," she smiled, dropped a red velvet bag clinking into his waiting palm.


"You betrayed us!" Kal roared, trying to ignore the encircling mounted bears, leashed wolves, and chuckling bastards swinging swords. More concerning though were the four red haired teenagers being shoved into the light.


"Not betrayal, a twist lad. Loyalty's a leaf in the wind, but coin stays the same."


"What do you want?" Kal fought red faced against his invisible confinement. 


"Didn't Ulric explain," La Ura clicked her fingers and Kal collapsed, crunching to the ground. "You're a Chosen One, maybe the one, tonight we will find out for sure." She waved towards the four others, weighing weapons in hand and looking none too happy about it.


"No!" Kal shouted.


Ulric whistled, sneered, pressed his blade a little deeper.


"One of you will lead my army, lay siege to the world and usher in my reign of darkness! For one of you is my son!" She cackled to the star punctured sky.


A blade clattered in front of Kal, black and serrated. Her son? No, impossible. Rising he kicked it away, ripped off his cloak, fingers twitching pulling on the Essences. Who he would strike he had yet to decide.


He looked to Esmae, "I got this sister, promise."


The crowd chanted, banging shields and spear, rising to a battling crescendo.


La Ura stretched out her arms, "My minions, look upon your shortlisted Chosen! After tonight we will have a champion, a true winner! Now…fight!"


Kal ran, screaming, flesh burning with unknowable energies. It seemed the gods weren't done toying with him, but what's a brother to do?




October 18, 2023 19:10

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41 comments

Kailani Bonam
21:04 Oct 19, 2023

I love this idea that these tropes have become so common that people in the fantasy world act as if it's totally normal and expected. It's something that could be expanded upon, maybe a whole book. Also "steel sang a song of murder" is pretty fantastic.

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Kevin Logue
21:28 Oct 19, 2023

Glad you enjoyed it, I was getting silly with this and if anything I'd say I was tapping into some Discworld, Prachett always had a great satirical manner of being tongue in cheek and referencing tropes throughout. I liked that line too, sometimes they just pop out ha.

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PM McClory
16:54 Oct 26, 2023

Even as someone who doesn't read a lot of fantasy, I can appreciate all the tropes. The MacGuffin bit had me laughing (especially in the context of dissecting the beast to see if it would make a good MacGuffin). "Why storm a castle with an old warrior, a captive wizard and a seven year old girl? To find the Macguffin of course. But what had that to do with anything?" This reads like the book jacket copy of a Terry Pratchett book to me, and I mean that in the fondest way. Great job!

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Kevin Logue
17:26 Oct 26, 2023

Thank you so much. Sir Prachett has a permanent place in my top five authors, I knew myself I was challenging a bit of him when doing this but that passage you've pointed out is more Prachett than I even realised. You've made my day, thanks again for reading and commenting.

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Michelle Oliver
09:34 Oct 20, 2023

What a laugh. I loved all the tropes and puns. Not sure which trope is my favourite. The Macguffins were perfect, I think that was my favourite bit. Gotta love a good macguffin every now and then. Hehe. I spotted a few typos with Esmae’s name. You left the “e” off.

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Kevin Logue
09:43 Oct 20, 2023

Glad you got a giggle, that's all I was aiming for this week. I'll get a run through again, I wrote it on my phone during lunch breaks at work and my phone doesn't like Esmae with an e for some reason. Cheers for keeping an eye out, appreciate it.

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Michał Przywara
20:44 Oct 19, 2023

Ha! Very fun, and true to the title, very meta indeed :) I didn't see the twist coming, though looking back, we got some clues that Ulric wasn't quite as friendly as he appeared to be, like his initial treatment of Tourist. "stolen horse, bolted first chance it got, taking all their stolen supplies with it" :) "To find the Macguffin of course" :) We're left on a cliffhanger, and I want to know what happens next - but alas, I have a feeling we won't know until next Friday for some reason :) Thanks for sharing!

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Kevin Logue
21:02 Oct 19, 2023

Cheers Michal. Happy to hear there was a successful twist of any description. I was just getting stupid with it this week, blow up some steam so to say. An earlier version even had a Mage called Purple who only spoke in over the top purple prose, but it dragged it on too much : )

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Sara Thomas
13:19 Dec 29, 2023

Would love a whole book of this! ✨

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Marty B
05:41 Nov 13, 2023

A great story for a community of writers. I'm always up to follow the Macguffin! Ah, this is Reedsy? ;) 'all sorts of half baked Tropes and Notions out here, searching for their endings, resolutions, twists. No place for lost children'

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Ken Cartisano
22:53 Oct 30, 2023

This is just absolutely brilliant, and hilarious. All of the writing references are ingenious. I knew I was in for some fabulous stuff when I read the words, 'I see, those accents, the realm of Novelwood?' Then the 'Prompts Forest' and the rest of that bit. That MacGuffin line made me laugh right out loud. (I love it when that happens. And it's a rare event.) And that was just the beginning. The description of Mistress' Fortress was fabulous. 'bound in chains and net it whimpered.' (Somebody hand this guy a comma, already. Or a per...

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Kevin Logue
08:22 Oct 31, 2023

Ken I really hope that story is true because not only is it marvelous, but I can now see you scaling the walls of Kings Landing in full backfilling boiled leathers to kill the boy king Joffrey. Go on ya good thing ye! I live in Derry, also known as the Walled City. People here like to pretend it's the only intact set of medieval walls in Europe, it's not even the best, I'm looking at you York. Although now no longer being part of Europe we will have to rephrase our unverified braggart vernacular. Best walls in Ireland, Northern Ireland, per...

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Ken Cartisano
15:53 Oct 31, 2023

What? Kevin, Kevin, Kevin. Of course it's true. Who would invent (other than you) such a disgusting victory over adversity? We (me and another guy named Ken) were so daunted at the thought of turning back and retracing our steps around that city wall, that we were willing to tempt fate, or prosecution to avoid it. The use of this medieval 'convenience' in your story was extremely gratifying to me, as I'm sure that very few people on the planet know about them. While I, my friend, have traversed and utilized that very thing. Glad to hear ...

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Kevin Logue
09:28 Nov 03, 2023

The 5k comparison is spot on. It's just to get into the habit of writing, always wanted to write a novel and tried a few times but always thought my chapters were too long. Hence coming here to practise shorts in the hope of making better chapters, time to see now if it worked or not ha. A city bred tender foot is great phrasing, in fact I'm going to repackage that but you will receive full credit when the character that says it is called Ken.

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12:39 Oct 26, 2023

This story reminds me of many an adventure with magical fungai. Very fun and whimsical

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Kevin Logue
12:57 Oct 26, 2023

Hahaha, brilliant. Hopefully a good trip?

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Danie Holland
13:24 Oct 25, 2023

Lots of fun names and quite an adventure. My favorite thing is how our protagonist is thinking only of his sister through out the story. You can tell how much he loves and cares for her. Especially since all they have is each other. He's a good boy! Facing all the heavens keep throwing at them, and never giving in. Fun story, Thank you!

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Kevin Logue
14:24 Oct 25, 2023

Thanks very much Danie, was a quirky fun one to play with. Kal is a good one no doubt, even considered calling it "what's a brother to do" Thanks for reading and commenting, it is much appreciated 👍

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Shirley Medhurst
12:55 Oct 24, 2023

Great stuff, Kevin. This definitely sounds like a snippet of a much longer story... Are you going to post a follow up soon?

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Kevin Logue
13:06 Oct 24, 2023

I hadn't intended too, but doesn't mean I won't. Was just having a little fun with this but I do have a tendency to leave a lot on the table with these shorts, I've two other stories on here that people what more from the same worlds. I'm just going to have to write a novel one of these days haha. Thanks for reading and commenting, glad you enjoyed it.

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14:29 Oct 22, 2023

The shout outs to prompts & the mcguffins and chosen ones tropes were v funny. Will add this story to my list of meta stories about reedsy... A Scandal in the Lapland Art Contest: https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/jajrot/ Yellow Dot Fever: https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/u0mcjb/

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Kevin Logue
15:49 Oct 22, 2023

You keep lists, that's very organised! Cheers from checking it out, I'll get a read of these later tonight.

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Marty Logue
11:41 Oct 22, 2023

Excellent. Loved this

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Kevin Logue
13:07 Oct 22, 2023

Cheers : )

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Josephine Harris
01:27 Oct 22, 2023

Oh those gold and gems just there for the taking after they make it through the hinky forest. Love this Kevin. This is a whole world of make believe and then some. More please.

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Kevin Logue
07:00 Oct 22, 2023

Glad you enjoyed. Thanks for the positive feedback and encouragement for more! 😊

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Mary Bendickson
23:21 Oct 21, 2023

So rich for being eked out at lunch breaks. But what's a brother to do...? Keep at it, you are so good.

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Kevin Logue
06:50 Oct 22, 2023

Ha, yeah I could change that to what's a father of an eighteen month old to do, but it ain't got the same ring. Genuinely this is how I do most my writing. I'll get a few hours between Saturday and Sunday when the daughters napping but whatever I write there is normally a warmup where I'll take some elements and turn them into a different story by the mid week. Someday I hope to write something in one sitting, until then five fifteen minute breaks will have to do, an the odd hour during the weeknights. 😊

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Robert Egan
22:19 Oct 21, 2023

The "chuckling bastards swinging swords" got me. Nice job with poking fun at the genre and the prompt while still crafting a successful story with great action. I think a sense of humor is essential, and you've got it Kevin!

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Kevin Logue
06:45 Oct 22, 2023

Cheers Robert, I'm genuinely trying to let a bit more humour through. I tend to lean towards the dark side of things, and the wife's always asking - why do you have the go gross or murdery? I'm wondering if she's suddenly worried twenty years in ha. I was genuinely worried that it didn't have much of a story beyond poking fun at things so your feedback makes me happy. Cheers.

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AnneMarie Miles
21:31 Oct 20, 2023

What an adventure! I loved the world you created around the tropes. I should have seen the twist coming, but you still managed to do that trope justice, since I didn't see it coming! I really enjoyed the wizard character and how simple a solution to a problem can be just by casting a wizard. His enslavement says a lot about how we've sort of siphoned the value out of the wizard trope. He's only valued for his powers but perhaps we should remember that wizards are people too and worthy of their own journeys and character developments. You h...

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Kevin Logue
15:48 Oct 21, 2023

Thank's very much AnneMarie, you've hit the nail in the head with the wizard thing I was trying to go for. I watch several book review YouTubers and if there is one thing the all agree on is that getting to the end of a story and the resolution or revelation simply being "a wizard did it" sucks. My favourite wizards are Bayaz from the First Law series , who is just a horrible ancient power hungry manipulator, and Rinsewind from Discworld, a powerful wizard that can't remember spells making him appear the dunce. Wizards should be more than ...

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Chris Miller
13:16 Oct 20, 2023

Very entertaining, Kevin. "Turd dappled" is brilliant. I will be stealing and recycling that one!

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Kevin Logue
13:17 Oct 20, 2023

Steal away my man haha. Glad you enjoy.

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M.A. Grace
18:26 Oct 19, 2023

Good fun read. Suggested new title - Ulric Sucks

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Kevin Logue
18:30 Oct 19, 2023

Haha, not a bad title but it may give it away. I was considering, The Chosen Fun? Cause I want it to be a rip on my beloved genre and let people know its a bit of fun. What do you think?

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Karen Corr
16:40 Oct 19, 2023

Here's to hoping Kal is the one! (:

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Kevin Logue
16:43 Oct 19, 2023

Fingers crossed..although then he'd be the dark prince or something ridiculous. Thanks for reading and commenting, much appreciated.

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20:42 Oct 18, 2023

Turned out well Kevin! Loads of fun and tomgue-in-cheek laughs, I challenge anyone from these here parts not to be entertained by this!

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Kevin Logue
21:04 Oct 18, 2023

Thanks Derrick, not perfect but I'm glad I broke my rut of not completing pieces. Still think I'll keep my Purple Mage who only speaks in purple prose for another time haha.

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