Promptly Friday is experiencing a little bit of downtime right now. So much going on that I’ve not been able to keep up with the days! Last Friday zipped by without my notice, outside of the idea that, “The workweek is over! Yay!!” Then, it dawned on me… I’d say morning, but waking up at 1pm isn’t really the morning to everyone else. Still, I realized it and felt a moment of defeat. I should be picking up the slack soon.
Anyway, this here is the first entry I placed to Rare Elements. I had found the sponsored post in the dawning hours of the last day they had it open. I decided to wing it (as I am prone to do when I write) and churned out the following story. I worked on this from 6am until 11am in hopes that I was not too late in my entry. I decided to leave the perspective alone, continuing from their prompt’s perspective. I am an avid Table Top RPG’er, so the practice of proposing a story in this manner was a welcome exercise! Apparently it was a very successful one as I was one of Three winners (there was only suppose to be One)! I got some nifty prizes for it.
My story picks up pretty much directly after their prompt. Enjoy!
Rare Elements’ Prompt:
You find a shredded parchment along a wooded path. The ink smeared and paper torn – you are only able to make out bits and pieces of what seems like a letter.
“…number of years since we were all together…”
“A shadow has fallen over the Ostroph River Valley…”
“…gnolls encroach further into our forests…”
“…retreated…and has set guards on the…”
“…please come…quickly. “
“…the outskirts of the Lace Forest in a fortnight.”
“Until we meet,”
Letters from the Past
While trying to decipher the illegible bits, memories of a long lost world fill your mind. The Ostroph Valley doesn’t have a river; at least not anymore. The Lace Forest sounds like the Lace Swamp. As you try to wrap your head around the memories and the locations they reveal, you see a great shadow being cast.
A cold chill rouses you. The world around you looks different than when you found the tattered letter. “How long have I been out,” you mutter to yourself. You take a good look around and finally realize this is no longer the area you were in. It is, but it is much different. The trees that surround you are smaller and sparse. The air tastes acrid and the skies are a pale blue-grey color. The trail you have been following is a simple dirt trail, not the bricked road you were familiar with. Your gaze turns back to the letter in your hands, which is whole and legible.
“Dearest Bertram,” the letter begins.
The name strikes a chord in your mind, and you pause at the thought. It is oddly ironic that you would find this letter being that your name is Bertram, but you stifle your laughter and continue reading.
“I feel it urgent to write to you. I know it seems strange that we do not know one another, but I was bestowed a vision of you and feel as though we have been like brothers.
Tragedy has come to our land. My family, my friends, my children have all scattered across the lands, constantly seeking shelter. It has been a number of years since we were all together back home in Dasher’s Dale. I do miss such days but can afford little time to reminisce.
A shadow has fallen over the Ostroph River Valley, Bertram, and the Kingdom has crumbled since it had been cast. The running waters are tainted by the decay and rot. The fetid river held much worse surprises for those downstream. The animals who drank from the Ostroph, if they did not die, were horribly transformed into hideous beasts and monsters the like we had never seen.
The main concentrations of this dark rot and the pools of the dead have since been named the Dross sites. Scores of explorers have mapped out these areas so future travelers may avoid the sites. But those damnable monsters refused to stay in their birthplaces. The ones we have begun to call gnolls encroach further into our forests each week. They find our traps, take our people, and taint our fertile lands.
Bertram, I know we have no right to ask this of you, but we need your help. My party has little time. A horde of gnolls and other beasts we had never seen broke our ranks last night. We thought we had repelled a smaller band of gnolls. We watched as they ran off and then celebrated. They returned with beasts of fire and grinding metal. We were forced into hiding until the dawn.
We have retreated to our secondary camp, the captain is regrouping and has set guards on the perimeters in greater numbers with archers and all our casters with any talent supporting them.
In my vision of you, Bertram, you are our greatest hero against this growing threat. So I beg of you, once you get this please come to our aide quickly. We are leaving our secondary camp to increase our numbers. With any luck, we shall be to the outskirts of the Lace Forest in a fortnight.
Until we meet,
Suddenly you hear the snapping of tree limbs and strange gurgling grunts in the distance. Startled, you drop the letter and watch as it begins to quickly dissolve in a bright blue glow, the final sliver of the note flashing out of existence. You have no time to think about it as you know you have moments to make your escape.
It was definitely not irony that you found the letter, you think to yourself. With a split decision, you dart off toward the Lace Swamp, hoping you’ll find Basil there and learn what’s going on. You need to know more. How could you be the hero of the old legends: Bertram, the Relentless?
© T.A. Rindler “Letters From the Past” Rare Element 2/21/2015
© T.A. Rindler “Letters From the Past” Short Stack Story Time 2015