The Commander's Anticipation by CrispyPancake- Winning Story
Varis Lodd, the commander of the venerated Librarian Knights, was dreading the morning ahead of her. It was time to meet the armies of the Goblin Nations and the Foundry Glade in open battle – a definitive end to the conflict once and for all.
Varis thrashed in her covers, whimpering, coated in a sheen of cold sweat. She was in the clutches of a nightmare regarding woodwolves and saving a young boy from a terrible death.
She could hear their gnashing teeth, their blood-curdling howls that produced a chilling sensation in her spine every time. The sound of their brutally visceral barking was backed up with yellow eyes, swimming in pure malice. In the moonlight, their sumptuous white-as-virtue manes shimmered gracefully, contrasting the woodwolves’ menacing presence.
Varis Lodd was in her element. However, in her memory, she was still a callow youth—eager for her father’s approval.
The nightmarish memories continued unabated. A look of abject surprise marked her determined features as she heard the howls echo throughout the valley. She loaded her crossbow with a barbed quarrel, coated with firenettle extract. Varis’s eyes narrowed and her brows furrowed in concentration, before she assumed a crouched stance and leapt down to the forest floor below. Wisps of dank fog wreathed around her, obscuring her vision. Varis relived her dolorous fear. Her heart began to thump rapidly, in life and in the dream. Her piercing eyes darted around her lethal surroundings, frantically scanning for any sign of the accursed woodwolves amidst the foreboding darkness enshrouding the Deepwoods.
A pair of banderbears far in the distance from Varis exchanged heart-wrenching, bellowed yodels that rang solemnly across the lush landscape. A gladehawk on the prowl screeched as she swiftly dispatched her prey, a plump snowbird. The comforting percussive sound of the mating calls unique to woodwasps serenaded all of the denizens of the Deepwoods, lulling them to sleep – and carelessness, for the night was the time of the hunt. The nocturnal flora and fauna of the forests were just as numerous as the predators of the day, and were just as deadly.
In reality, this sequence of events had actually transpired. Varis Lodd—many years before she became the esteemed commander of the formidable Librarian Knights—was on her treatise voyage. She followed the ruckus to a banderbear nest, woven from gladegrass and snagwood, a traumatized lone boy within.
As Varis carried the young child, they passed by the site of the attack of the woodwolves and their master, a vile slaver. The scene was grisly and Varis accordingly made sure the boy saw none of it. If he’d seen it, the image of the innocent bodies of his parents torn to bits would’ve shattered his impressionable psyche irreparably.
The dream then transitioned to unrelenting guilt, resulting from all of the killing Varis had been a party to. In this part of the dream, Varis would be in front of a water trough, hands soaked in blood. No matter how hard she scrubbed, she couldn’t clean them.
After that, Varis woke up with a start, in a cold sweat permeating her quivering body. She was awoken to her heart racing, hours before the rest of the world would rise from the land of dreams. She proceeded to inspect her hands, just to find them to be quite bruised and bloody. In a fit of rage, she muffled a scream with her pillow.
I loved how this story touched ideas not really explored in the books and how imagintive it was. I also thought it was very well written and how it used a flashback to Varis' past.
A Change in Course by Dominic Bell- Winning illustration‘Torg! You have the helm.’
The sky pirate captain was quickly accompanied by his young cloddertrog first mate who assumed his position at the wheel. Relieved of his duties, he headed downstairs and slowly made his way across the deck of the ship and onto the fore hull where he stopped to gaze out over the starboard side.
The sun was slowly descending upon the endless canopy of the Deepwoods, creating a vast silhouette of the sea of trees that stretched as far as the eye could see.
‘It’ll be twilight soon enough.’ he mused.
Twilight. That brief moment that separated day from night, had always given an aura of tranquillity no matter where you found yourself in the Edge. The captain had always found that he could forget all his troubles within that moment of natural beauty, as the sight never failed to calm him and bring him some peace, and Sky knows he could do with some.
Storm Hawk had seen his fair share of battle, and he could recall each one with ease. Before becoming captain of his own ship he had served under Captain Henkel aboard the Fogscythe and participated in the Battle of the Great Sky Whale where they’d fought dozens of veteran hammerhead goblins and delivered a crippling blow to the Leaguesmen. Also skirmishes between league and sky ships were not uncommon, whether they were raiding a ship or being ambushed on return from a voyage. However every time they had been successful and gotten away safe, except for a few injuries and a handful of new scars.
While he was never one to shy away from a fight, Storm Hawk preferred being able to conduct business without having to resort to violence, it made things so such simpler. Yet in their line of work such a concept was practically impossible.
His pondering was suddenly interrupted by a call from the caterbird nest atop the mast. ‘’Ratbird approaching from the west, eight hundred strides!’’
Storm Hawk turned to see a small creature flying towards them, and he was immediately filled with curiosity.
‘What’s happened now I wonder…?’’
‘A change of plans lads!’’ bellowed the captain. ‘’We’re bound for Wilderness Lair, our trade deal with the woodtrolls will simply have to wait!’
The ratbird held a message from Ice Fox, informing them of an important meeting regarding the Leaguesmen. This news came as no surprise given their latest transgressions in Undertown, the crew were deeply saddened when they’d received word of what had happened to the Tarry-Vine Tavern. It was a fine establishment where many a sky pirate would meet to drink, bond and exchange tales; such moments never to be had again. But now it seemed that at last they were going to retaliate.
The ship took a sharp turn as they changed its course, the evening winds were with them and soon enough the dense trees, bushes and shrubs disappeared and they found themselves in that place where so few dared to venture into. The Edgelands.
As they slowly descended into the mists, Storm Hawk raised his telescope from his breastplate and began to search for it. Not ten minutes after they’d entered the sea of fog he heard from above...
‘There! Six hundred strides to starboard cap’n!’.
Then soon enough it came into view, although it was still blanketed by thick fog, the familiar landmarks shape was unmistakable to them.
The story was told in an Edge Chronicles Style way and told the story of a new character. The illustration looked very much in Chris Riddel's Style and could have definately been in the books!!!
Willow Hextree by Gloamglozer- Highly Commended
Even having seen only six summers, Willow Hextree knew what it meant. Her father thought she didn’t see the red shimmer on the wooden planks. But she knew what it was, crimson on the golden ground, like when she had cut her finger when peeling woodapples last year. Blood.Her father would never let her and her friends play at the sumpwood stands, even before the situation tensed. Only once, under his supervision, she and her best friend had visited the trees. The sky had cleared, the otherwise constant rain interrupted by the setting sun. The enormous roots and the trees high above were even more impressive from close up than as the distant shapes in the rain-heavy air she had glanced at from the window of their cabin. The roots were falling like cascades of water, her father said, but to her, they looked rather like hair in long, beautiful curls. It had made her think of the story about the immortal termagant trog girl with the fair orange hair. She was fascinated by the trees. She loved the small grey ghostquarms, closed her eyes when she heard the cries of hammelbirds and refused to believe that lanternjaws could eat the cute little quarms.
Every evening, she begged her parents to tell her more about the sumpwood stands and she fondly remembered those evenings in the golden glow of their warm floating cabin, the rain softly pouring on the roof.
But then something changed. Her father began looking more worried and disappeared late at night, to meet friends, he said.
He had wanted her and her mother to leave the Midwood Decks and flee to Great Glade.
'What about you, father?' she had asked.
'The Pro-Hivers are cutting down the trees‘ roots.' That she knew: The trees would die, leaving empty spots amid the green where hammelbill birds would gather.
'We don’t do that. And the librarians value that, the trees‘ wood is much better for skycrafts anyway, and the Great Glade Council as well, with their laws and import controls. But that share of the market is only so much, and Hive pays three times the market price'. He had noticed her confusion.'They have been here so long, you know. These trees, some grow for more than 500 years. They were seeded long before the sky pirates of your stories were young’uns getting lost in the Deepwoods. And because they were here for so long, we can’t just let the Pro-Hivers let them cut down forever. We can’t just pack our bags and leave just like that'.
That was something Willow could understand. Which was good, because she knew what he meant, but also bad, because she too wanted to stay. So did her mother. She had folded her arms and told her father that she had business to do here at the Midwood Decks, that she couldn’t and wouldn’t give up her life’s work if he couldn’t either.
Her father had told Willow to be careful, never to talk about the sumpwood trees and never to mention her last name. And he was still trying to convince her mother to leave. Her mother let him talk and went on with her work, disappearing even longer in her study. Blueprints and drawings of improved sumpwood lecterns, floating chairs and objects whose purpose she couldn’t fathom began to fill their home.
Willow knew her mother was just as worried as she was about what could happen to him. She knew his blood could soon be washed away from the planks of the Midwood Decks as well.
I loved this creative piece of writing and it really followed the story of the Edge. I also really loved the fan art.
Sky Pirates at the Slaughterer's Camp by Em Morley- Highly Commended
“There you are Sinew, where’ve you been?”
“Sorry Sirl, Gristle needed me. What’s left, then?”
Sirl sighed, hoisting a crate of bark scraps, hammelhorn-leather strips, and various horns and bones onto the table.
“We’ve got another two boxes to go, and then we’re done. But the ship will be arriving at sunrise, so we’ve not got much time.”Sirl wasn’t surprised that Sinew was late, but he couldn’t help feeling a twist of disappointment in his stomach. He knew that Sinew felt a dedication to help any within the slaughterer camp who asked, but he always seemed to take a back seat. Three days ago, Sirl asked her for assistance getting the final boxes ready for the amulet collection, but as usual, last minute she had found herself needed elsewhere. Often, it was by her brother, Gristle. He was always getting himself into trouble; once he even managed to get bitten by a hoverworm, and was almost lost to open sky, the fool…
“Come on, what needs doing?” Sinew grinned, and Sirl felt the twist in his stomach turn to woodmoths.
“Well, I suppose you’re here now…” He tipped the contents of the crate onto the table. “We need 50 more lullabee amulets, and 70 passionbirds.”
Sinew grabbed a pot of woodsap glue, selected her components from the table, and began to assemble them. Sirl joined in, and soon they had another box filled.
He gazed at the pile of passionbird amulets that had amassed next to Sinew and, for the first time in his life, questioned their potency. He fingered his own amulet of logworm teeth. He always kept it on him to provide protection and stealth whilst out collecting materials. But an amulet for love… Could such a thing work?
He looked up at Sinew. He had admired her for so long, not just for her appearance, but for her bravery and determination.
Aware that Sirl had stopped working, Sinew met his gaze.
He froze, his eyes locked on hers, hypnotised by their deep blueness, like the night sky after the passing of a Great Storm.
“You alright, Sirl?”
He snapped out of it, feeling his face flush. “Oh yeah, want to stop for some food?”
“Sounds good. I’ll just finish this pile.”
Might she ever feel the same way about him?
At that moment someone ran past, shortly followed by another. Hearing a shout, they both paused their work and peered out at the camp.
Another couple came striding past, talking as they went.
“Sky Pirates, she said. Didn’t know we were expecting them so soon…”
Sinew threw down her half-made amulet.
“Come on, let’s take a look.” She marched off, leaving Sirl with little choice but to follow.
They reached the edge of the camp, entering a clearing where the sky ships moored whilst their crew discussed trade with the slaughterers.
As they approached, they could see the masts and sails of the ship that had arrived.
It was true; Sky Pirates were here.
Sirl and Sinew arrived at a gathered crowd, just as the ship began to rise into open sky.
“Sinew! Where are you?” a voice called. Gristle soon appeared in front of them. “Come on Sinew, you’ve got to see this.”
Gristle pulled his sister along, and Sirl followed. The crowd dispersed, leaving only a few behind. Ma-Tatum was crouched over a fourthling lying on a stretcher, pressing a damp cloth to his brow. His face was scrunched up and shining with sweat, thrashing this way and that in a deep fever.
“You’ll never guess who it is,” Gristle grinned.
This story is very imaginitive and explores new ideas. I liked the fan art and how she used dramatic irony in the story.
Artifuce, The Tavern Waif by Henry Haas- Highly Commended
Most people think that my job is an easy one, and I would know, because I’m a ghostwaif, and I hear them think it. But the truth is, people who think that being a tavern waif is easy are dead-wrong.
There is a lot more to my job than sitting in my nicely carved chair up on the pillar all day. I need to listen. Is someone who had a little too much sapwine looking for a fight? I need to hear that. Are the oakelves not noticing someone’s call for more to drink? I need to hear that. Is someone trying to sneakily pay a little less than they owe? I need to hear that. Sergeant Gleep is counting on me to hear those things, and to let him know so that he can take care of them. But listening like that isn’t easy.
In the quiet of the Nightwoods of my youth, listening to the thoughts of another was like spotting a Nameless One in the daylight, not difficult at all. But in Hive, boisterous, bustling Hive, it isn’t like that. Tens of thousands of thoughts are clamoring inside my head, all at the same time, so making out the ones I need to hear is like looking for a blackwood twig on the forest floor on a moonless night, very difficult indeed. And even after I hear the right thoughts, there is yet more subtlety to my task.
The sergeant is a busy gnome, and he can’t afford to waste his time. When I hear an aggressive thought, I have to decide rather or not the sergeant is needed, rather or not I need to tell him about it, or if the situation will calm down on its own. If I go wrong one way, a fight starts, and if I go wrong the other way, then Sergeant Gleep’s valuable time is taken up needlessly. Being a tavern waif is not nearly as easy as most people think.
So, what I’m saying is, next time you hear about how many hivers I make each day, pause and consider for a moment before you start complaining about what an easy time I have to make that much.
This story fit the brief best out of all the entries I got. It is also told in the style of the Edge Chronicles and it makes sense.
The Armada of the Dead by Shawna Fox- Highly Commended
Captain Deadbolt Vulpoon closed his eyes and leaned into the wind, using just his sense of touch on the bone-handled flight-levers to guide his ship. He breathed in the cool mist floating up from the Edgelands and listened to the familiar creaks and whistles of not just his ship but dozens of sky pirate ships, flying together in loose formation towards the Mire. He knew this would be the last time the Edge saw such a magnificent sight.
Vulpoon had finally made the decision it was time to scuttle the fleet, inevitable once the stone-sickness struck. He’d taken it on himself to convince the other captains it was their only option, but even after the most salty, stubborn old sky-cur had relented, Twig still had to have his own way. He’d listened silently during the meeting and with only a short speech to wish the rest of them luck, he’d sailed off towards the Deepwoods. Though some of the other sky pirates looked after him with longing and jealousy on their faces, none had joined him. They understood it was time.
The stench of mud filled his nose. Vulpoon opened his eyes to see the edge of the Mire, glowing white under the full moon. His chest ached as they drew closer to their final destination and the reality of their crumbling, diseased flight-rocks sank in.
As they glided over the vast Mire, his thoughts were interrupted by an unintelligible gasp from his first mate. “Captain…” he said, his mouth hanging open in awe.
“Earth and Sky,” Vulpoon muttered as thousands upon thousands of ratbirds flooded the sky around them, pouring out from every ship in the fleet as they approached the soft, sinking surface of the Mire. The ratbirds knew these ships would never fly again once they landed so they flew, filling the sky with their squeaking, flapping, gray bodies and blocking out the moon and the stars and the Mire below. For a few minutes each ship was on its own, forging through the living cloud that undulated and danced through the night.
Then they were gone, and Vulpoon could make out the prow of the Skycrasher off the starboard bow and the Galerider off the port. The fleet drew closer together and prepared to land, and Vulpoon tried to ignore the dread in his stomach at the eerie quiet of so many empty ships. They still creaked and groaned, the sails still flapped, and the crews still shouted to each other in gruff voices. But the absence of the low murmurings and rustlings of the ratbirds, so quiet and constant that Vulpoon had rarely noticed it, seemed to scream in his ears. The ships no longer felt alive as they reached the ooze below and the white ravens that called this place home flew into the air in consternation.
Now a white cloud surrounded the fleet, shrieking in voices that chilled Vulpoon to the bone. This was the sound that heralded the death of Most High Academes in Sanctaphrax of old. It was almost as if the white ravens were mourning the death of flight, the death of the sky pirates themselves.
We’re little more than skeletons now, Vulpoon thought as his own ship touched lightly down on the mud and began sinking. The hull was half-submerged by the time it stopped and Vulpoon ventured to gaze over the new settlement they had created, a network of decks and rails and masts stretching out over the Mire. Vulpoon gave a wry smile at the unnatural sight of the grounded ships.
An armada of the dead.
This story is really well written. I like how it explains Deadbolt Vulpoons feelings at the end of the First Age of Flight.