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Beyond the Ridge of Tears

Short Story Ambage FFFC Settlement

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#1 Offline Tolkien

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Posted Dec 17 2012 - 02:19 PM

: Beyond the Ridge of Tears :


Far away, beyond the Ridge of Tears, there is a deep chasm. The worms cannot cross the chasm. They never have, at least, and that is good. It has allowed us to thrive, after so much death.


The black-haired woman showed us the way. It was on a night full of storm that she came, a night when the worms hid deep within their lairs beneath the earth, all around our settlement. The last settlement, scarcely a few hundred of us left. I was only a child, and even I knew that much. She came down the pathway out of the fields and stood before the Stone House of my father, and my father went out to her while the thunder crashed above, and the people gathered to watch. It was night, and still they gathered, for the storm was a relief. The worms would not venture out while the sun was veiled.


I watched from the window above as the woman addressed them. I could not hear everything, but I heard some. She spoke of far-off fields, and a country where the devourers could not reach us. She spoke of new life, but it came with a cost:


“You must leave behind this place and all that you have,” she said. “It is a hard journey, for you must pass beyond the Ridge of Tears. Or else, stay, and be devoured. I can give you no more hope than this: on the third day from now, a sign will come, and you must make your choice.”


My father the chief tried to address her then, but she raised her hand and stooped to whisper in his ear, and he fell silent.


“On the third day you will make your choice.”


A noise of wings flapped in the torrent, and for a moment I thought I saw the shape of a bird, crow-like, fluttering up into the darkness. But then it was gone, and the people stood silent and dripping, my father among them. I do not know all that she whispered to him, but I do know that he was a changed man after that night. There was something in his eyes. Something clearer, sharper. I first noticed it when he called the Meeting together the very next morning, once the storm had broken. He stood in front of the people—their chief—and spoke to them of what the woman had said. Many had seen her, and many wondered what her coming portended.


“We must leave this place,” he said to them. “She will show us where to go.”


Many dissented. They did not trust the word of the woman.


“How can we know that this is true?” they said, “It is certain death to cross the waste now.”


“It is certain death, but only a quicker death than we will suffer here. Our crops are burned, our livestock devoured, and the worms grow ever bolder. I know it is hard…hard to leave all this behind, but we must if we are to live on. I may dwell in the Stone House for now, but when I and my son are gone, it will be only rocks piled one upon another, and one day the worms will devour even those.”


Others spoke of the sign. “Let us wait," they said. "Let us watch for the sign. Only then must we choose. We will watch and wait.”


So the days passed. Three sunny days, and the devourers stalked the shimmering horizons, croaking and waiting for their prey to stir, playing their deathly flame over the already-burnt fields. I remember that the water-skin sprang a leak on the first day, and we were thirsty by evening. So thirsty. And yet my father did not care. His eyes were bright. He bade me gather my things from the upper room, and all our tools, and he patched the water-skin as best he could. Then we waited. Two more days of waiting, two more days of thirst, as the worms drew ever closer. Soon they would return to the settlement. Soon they would stalk the streets, and this time not even the walls of the Stone House would save us.


But then the evening of the third day came, darkness falling fast, and the people came forth from their shanties to watch, for they remembered the words of the woman, clinging to that hope as the devourers croaked in the gathering dark. My father and I stood on the path before the Stone House with our packs made ready, and many stood with us, watching, waiting…


Suddenly a cloud of sulfur swept down the pathway, and a child cried out in the crowd as a worm came bellowing out of the darkness at the edge of the settlement. There were no walls now. Nowhere to hide. Its skin was like stone, sloughing off dust and death, and its jaws were full of liquid fire.


The crowd shuddered, and many turned to flee. This would be the end of us. Was this the sign the woman had promised? There was fear in the air, and yet my father stood firm.


“The sign will come!” he yelled, and the people near him stood still once more with newfound determination. The sign will come.


The worm gave a roar as it spilled flame over the hovels nearby, and the smoking stench filled my lungs. Many fell to their knees, choking. The sign will come. Another bellow rang out from the darkness, and many more joined it. A circle of fire springing up around the settlement as the worms closed in—


—And then something changed. Something in the wind, and with one movement we turned our heads toward the north and saw the storm. The sign. Thunder broke over the scene, and the worms writhed and fled as the rain fell in sheets, and then it retreated north again. Northward, it said to us. You must make the choice.


And it was settled.


: :


An entry for the Ambage Fortnightly Flash Fiction Contest. Theme: Settlement.



Edited by Tolkien, Nov 29 2014 - 02:37 PM.

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#2 Offline TahuForever!

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Posted Dec 17 2012 - 09:30 PM

Aw, shoot. Got me some stiff competition here... Short, and yet an epic story of hardship and suffering, endurance, renewed hope, and ultimately... Well, settlement. Nice climax, too. I don't think I stand a chance. :annoyed: Yours could use a sequel, though.

This is actually a rather loose fit for "settlement", although I found it amusing the way you tacked in another link to it in the end. And you even used the raven-haired woman.

Edited by TahuNuvaFan, Dec 17 2012 - 09:31 PM.

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#3 Offline SkyLandOceAnna

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Posted Dec 18 2012 - 09:55 AM

I thought that was a great story. At first I didn't realize you were makign the worms out to be such a bad thing until the end of the second paragraph. It was very original in how you used the word settlement for this ambage, but you used it well. As TahuNuvaFan mentioned, this definitely requires a sequel. Thank you!

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Wordsmith <3

#4 Offline Jean Valjean

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Posted Dec 19 2012 - 02:19 AM

:kaukau: [color=#0000ff;]I've never read anything by you before, save for a glimpse at your write-off piece about thrones, from which I gathered, in conjunction with praise from Velox claiming that you were the best writer on BZP, your username, and your linguistics major, that this was what I would expect from you.[/color]


[color=#0000ff;]Good story.  I was very pleased, but then I realized that this was being restricted to a thousand words or less (I believe the exact number is 997) and that the style and pace you had going here would force it into an early ending.  If it wasn't for where it had to end, I would have loved this read.  As it is, what I walk away from this is that you certainly know how to deliver soundly a sense of drama, even with a simple, traditional idea such as this.  The pacing is right, and you mix showing and telling in just the right ratios for this type of tale.  Could there have been a little more exposition?  I think just a little more, but only by the margin of an additional sentence, and you only had three words left in this piece.[/color]


[color=#0000ff;]This is a very conventional style, and I like it.  I think that the reason you don't see this too often is that people are subconsciously afraid to try and pull it off.  Maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe it genuinely is just plain difficult to write.  Whatever the case is, you carry out this traditional voice quite well, like a poll-vaulting gymnast who sticks it.  I would suspect that the style would change had the story carried out to a full book length once the character settled down and you got past the prologue stage, but as is stands, I think this is the perfect voice for a prologue.  The only thing it really needed to complete it was a trip to the other side of the chasm, because from my observation on how to tell a great story, prologues are good for things that happened long ago in the past, tragic and dramatic things, before life settled down to be at the relative peace at the present.  This is, of course, purely inspiration I take from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, in which the stories start out with dramatic statements about Middle Earth's history before switching to the shire, where a casual life is interrupted by a need for a dramatic quest.[/color]


[color=#0000ff;]What you have so far as far as story goes is just right, too.  You have the dramatic worms (which some people might just see as an unoriginal use of monsters, but you pull it off), the faithful father, the child narrator, and a mysterious lady who, according to my interpretation, turns into a raven.  These are all good elements to a good fantasy, and I think with its polish it transcends the style one might expect of fan fiction and other nonpunishable material.[/color]


[color=#0000ff;]So in other words, since I am claiming this to be good enough that it suggests a publishable story, this is perhaps one of the higher compliments I have with regards to writing quality and style for a BZP writer.[/color]



Edited by Jean Valjean, Dec 19 2012 - 02:20 AM.

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#5 Offline Zaxvo

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Posted Apr 04 2013 - 04:41 PM

Hey, it's Zaxvo here from the SSCC! Your story has been selected for a free review!I wouldn't really classify this as a story, per se. It's more of a scene, really. In technical terms, I guess you can conceded that it fits the definition of a story: you're sharing the story of how they left their home. But that doesn't really do justice to the spirit of a story. You've got the necessities: introduction, rising action, climax, and denouement yes, but there's no true protagonist who over the course of the story changes and overcomes some challenge.Everything that happens is completely out of anyone's control. The woman comes, talks to the townspeople, tells them they should leave. They reject her. And then three days later, in the midst of an attack, it begins to rain and kills their attacker. So they interpret that as a sign that they should leave. Nothing ever happens due to the actions of the protagonists: they begin the scene powerless and end the scene just as powerless. So powerless, in fact, that they don't truly overcome the obstacles in their way: they just flee.And they flee due to what they perceive as a sign, but here's the thing: signs should be total miracles, things that could not happen by chance, and in a world in the midst of a drought, rainfall at the opportune moment would be a sign. The problem is that this isn't a world in the middle of a drought; it rained twice within three days. And that in no way suggests that rain could be a miracle... especially since you've already established that the worms don't like the rain. What could be a miracle, perhaps, is if a worm got struck by lightning and died. IF this group of people have never seen the worms die, if they regarded them as the immortal demons that would inevitably come to kill them, and then saw one of them actually die, well then that would be a sign.I'm also surprised the townspeople were so resistant to leaving; from your description they're last living humans, living in the knowledge that the devourers will come and kill them. That would make for some pretty desperate people, and desperate people would leap at the chance to a safe life forever. There's an implication that they do not want to leave their city but, it's never really fully fleshed out. Why would they want to stay, even if it means that they're certainly going to die?I've spent the entirety of this review so far criticizing your work, but it's not all bad. Underneath the surface, there's actually quite a bit that rather excellent. You've laid the groundwork to an amazing world, with engaging characters. Tell us more about them. Your descriptive talents are also very high calibre: you manage to convey the bleak, isolated feel of the settlement in very few sentences. Totally efficient, and extremely effective. You hit all the crucial elements: an important, powerful father figure, a mysterious prophetic supernatural guide, and an innocent yet observant narrator. And compellingly horrific villans.All of these elements are tantalizingly laid out, and to be honest I want more of this tale. I'm quite certain you'd be able to tell us about their journey Beyond the Ridge of Tears. And in fact, I'm certain there's an amazing story to be told there.
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