“Soon,” the wizard Abjicnal muttered to himself, “soon my revenge will be complete.” He sat in darkness, a toothy grin plastered across his face. His moment would soon come, and his hated enemies would finally pay for their insolence, their arrogance, and their repeated attempts at his life.
It was a good thing Abjicnal was a resourceful wizard, otherwise his last encounter with his hated nemesis would have indeed been his last. But the protective wards he placed on his scrying pool activated just in time, draining the heavy water out of his lungs before he drowned and whisking him through a secret exit in his lair.
Abjicnal sneered. The nerve of his enemy, trying to drown him in his own scrying pool! Sure, Abjicnal was using it to spy on his hated nemesis, but that still did not excuse his enemy pushing him into the pool of heavy water. But the wizard survived, and that incident would only be added to the long list of reasons his revenge against his enemy would be that much sweeter. He had learned from the incident. He would not underestimate his nemesis again. This time his victory would be complete.
The plan was excellent. The Garland Kingdom his enemies called home kept the rare and beautiful Vurloauk as its royal steed. They were captured and tamed wild, and then bred to the exact specifications of the royalty and noble houses. This was the key to the plan.
It took weeks of arduous work, tracking down the rare beasts in the vast, barren Zoarlands, and carefully studying their movements and habits. The Vurloauks were not only jumpy and quick to run at even the slightest hint of danger, but they were also sensitive to magic, making Abjicnal’s invisibility cloak and concealment spells useless. He had to survey his quarry the hard way, hiding in the dried out thicket the Vurloaks ate, hoping they would not try to eat his hiding place, careful not to make even the slightest sound as he observed the majestic beasts.
But it was worth it. The information he gathered on them was invaluable for his plans. Once he returned to his new lair in the Zerf Ara Mountains, it was just a matter of having his imps collect enough primal clay of Numaal to sculpt his golem, then casting the proper enchantments to bring it to artificial life. Abjicnal beamed. His golem was a masterpiece, almost a work of art. It was completely and totally lifelike, perfect in every way, indistinguishable from the powerful and regal, mighty and wild King Vorloauk, the most beautiful and rarest of the already hard-to-find Spry Vorloauk, a favorite of the Queen Mother. To see such a magnificent creature docile and waiting at your front door as a gift would surely be too tempting an offer to resist. And that was why the wizard placed his golem right at the kingdom’s gates, with a note saying “To Garland from the Far Lands.”
“Then it will begin,” Abjicnal muttered from within the golem. He was not hiding inside it so much as he had become part of it, merging his physical essence with that of the golem’s for easier concealment. Of course, he still had all of his human faculties and was sensitive to whatever sensations the golem felt, but there was no way any human could tell that the golem was not a real Vurloauk, much less that there was a human being mixed in there with it. All it took was for one of the Queen Mother’s attendants to bring the gift beast into the royal stables to prepare to present to Queen Mother Aleka. That night, Abjicnal would dissolve the golem and rematerialize himself, emerging from the stables as the mighty and terrible wizard he knew himself to be, fully powered and ready to destroy anything and everyone in his way. He would storm the palace, taking everyone by surprise, crating havoc and terror with his deadliest, most destructive and most powerful spells. But he would save two very special spells. One was a specially concocted “unraveling” spell which, upon physical contact with his victim, would make the victim unravel and peel apart like the skin of a glenfruit. Within seconds the person would be nothing more than a writhing pile of flesh on the floor. That one he had saved especially for combat with his hated nemesis, the hero of the realm, the champion of Garland Kingdom and the Queen Mother’s protector and lover, Zion.
The other spell was a simple word of command he would use to make Aleka, the Queen Mother herself, his unwilling slave. She would turn rulership of the kingdom over to him at his command, and be his sex slave. She would do so knowing she was under his control and detesting every minute of it, but his spell would make her unable to control herself. “Yes,” he muttered, “a fitting punishment for Aleka for daring to defy me.”
Abjicnal smugly waited, reveling in his genius. Surely the Garland kingdom, Zion and Aleka would never see him coming. The plan was foolproof. All he had to do was wait for the moment to strike.
“Such a remarkable steed…” Said a white-robed attendant as he wiped a hand across the Vurloauk’s mane. Zion walked up behind him, sinewy ebon arms clasped behind his back.
“Yes, it is.” He said as he stopped directly in front of the beast, “And you said it has been standing docile all day?”
“Yes.” The attendant said with a nod.
Zion rubbed some stubble on his chin and returned the nod, albeit more slowly and more directed at the Vurloauk. “Interesting.”
The attendant reached towards the ground and picked up a harness and leash. “The Queen Mother – may the great celestial eternally bless her beauty – ordered me to pick it up and take it to her royal stables,” he said, “Surely she will be most pleased to take it for her first ride around the kingdom.”
The champion of Garland stretched out his arm and held up a white-gloved palm, stopping the attendant in his tracks. “Have you inspected it?” He asked.
The attendant shrugged. “Is there a need? Look at it, Zion! It is perfection that must amaze and dazzle even your jaded eyes. It has no limp, no brokenness, no sign of disease or malnutrition, no deformity, no mutation. It is an absolute perfect beast!”
“Indeed,” Zion replied, his eyes narrowing, “perhaps a little too perfect. No one saw this steed brought to our gate, and since it has been here, no one has tried to steal it.” He regarded the steed for a while in silence, then turned to the attendant and said, “It does appear hungry, though, don’t you think?”
The attendant agreed. “Well, it has been standing in one place without a meal for almost a whole day.”
Zion nodded, and reached his gloved hand into a satchel he had slung across his side. “I think we should feed it.” Within seconds he pulled out a strangely shaped, green fruit with a giant root protruding from its center.
“This is a normfruit,” Zion said as he showed it to the attendant, “When I heard there was a Vurloauk nearby, I grabbed a few to help us capture it. It’s a rare form of glenfruit that is a delicacy for these beasts. They grow in places that are hard for Vurloaks to reach, and I have heard that a Vurloak who eats one will go for days without eating anything else until it gets back to its pack with the smell of the fruit on its breath. A Vurloak with this scent is allowed the pick of its pack for a mate, even the leader’s mate, or the leader itself.”
The attendant was awestruck at the information. “Amazing, Zion! I never knew of such fruit!” he then cocked his head to the side and asked, “but why are you wearing a fur glove to carry it?”
Zion tossed the green fruit into the air and caught it with the same gloved hand.
“That is because, unlike the glenfruit, the normfruit is poisonous to the touch for humans. Its juices have been used in many of our world’s most toxic and lethal poisons. The core of this fruit is also highly volatile, and will explode violently within seconds of being agitated. The Kensington Empire has been trying for months to harness this explosive property for military use.”
Zion smiled, and slid his ungloved hand into another white fur glove attached to his satchel. “So to us, the normfruit is extremely dangerous,” he then violently ripped the root away from the fruit, tossed the root in a nearby thicket and shook the fruit as hard as he could before adding, “but to a Vurloak, it is just a tasty snack.”
Zion turned towards the beast and tossed the fruit – which by then had started making a strange hiss sound – at the beast. “Here you go, mighty steed, enjoy.”
The vurloauk quickly snatched the fruit out of the air with its forejaws, a brief pause and what seemed like a look of concern crossing the steed’s face before it started blissfully chewing the fruit and swallowing it.
“Interesting,” Zion said, “it seems to enjoy the fruit pretty well.”
“You sound disappointed, Zion,” the attendant said, “Were you expecting something different?”
Zion shook his head. “Not exactly. But it is no big matter. You may gird the beast and bring it in.”
The attendant nodded and thanked Zion, and Zion turned his back to walk back into the kingdom’s gates. He stopped when he heard a strange yelp come from behind him, then an ear-splitting BOOM followed shortly by the shocked and terrified scream of the attendant.
Zion cavalierly turned and returned to the attendant, who was sitting on the ground, his white robe now covered in black soot. The stench of charred flesh filled his nostrils as he fixated his eyes on the sight the now horrified attendant stared at.
“Funny,” Zion said, “I have never seen that happen to a Vurloauk after eating a normfruit.”
“But it just exploded,” the attendant stammered, “I was approaching it, and it made this horrible sound and just exploded. It looked like there was a man trying to crawl out of it, but he was fused with what was left of the golem! It was the most ghastly thing I have ever seen in my entire life!”
A satisfied grin crept across Zion’s face. “Yes, I’m sure it is. Come, let us report this to the Queen Mother.”
A few feet away from the retreating hero, the charred remains of the golem smoldered.
A fun and lighthearted read with great interwoven use of worldbuilding detail.
However, I couldn't let this one get away without a few criticisms, could I?
First: the names. You have "Garland" (English), "Zion" (Hebrew), "Vanda Munda" (Sanskrit-Latin?) and then some tongue-twisters in "Abjicnal" and "Vurloauk." It's frightfully inconsistent.
For being such an important part of the story, we never actually find out what the bloody Vurloauk looks like. (I personally visualize it as a cross between the Trojan Horse and a chocobo.) A good place to weave that in would have been either the servant's appraisal, in lovingly purple prose (length of tail, sharpness of claws, silkiness of sable hide, etc - think of dog shows), or perhaps where Abby is making the golem. The servant's appraisal itself consists entirely of "Wow, this animal being presented as a gift to our queen isn't crippled or diseased!" Garland must have a lot of politically suicidal neighbors if this is somehow unusual.
The part about Queen Aleka being a sex slave: I know this website is PG-13, but I still think it didn't have to be spelled out. We're reasonably intelligent, we can infer it for ourselves.
Cleverly layered twist ending. Clearly Abby fails at field research.
If I may, as well, I found that the phrase "his enemy" was used a bit too much at the beginning. I understand the suspense element, but it felt too... bland. The way you once or twice referred instead to "his nemesis" was good, and if I were you I would try to change some of those to give it some more fluidity.
Suggestions would be his opponent, adversary, etc. or simply a way of expressing the same idea without a direct reference.
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"Virtue, Jacques, is an excellent thing. Both good people and wicked people speak highly of it..."
Vanda Munda - Ah, one of those light-hearted stories I've been hoping to find. No great calamity, nor depressing details. Just fun. Even when it comes to the end. I'm glad to see one of these. I just wish we had a little more details about the plane. I know that there's a few kingdoms, there's an odd and desirable steed of some sort that eats a special fruit that humans can't have. But beyond that, there was very little for me.
Spelling and Grammar - 9/10. Little to no problems. There were a few superfluous capitalizations, but that's about it.
Characterization - 7/10. Not much for me to see, honestly. We have a mage obsessed with killing his opposite number and enslaving the queen. He's ingenious, for the most part, but doesn't do his research. And... That's it. Zion's knowledgable, and has forethought, but nothing else. no sight of the queen, nothing from the attendant.
Plot - 10/10. There was a full plot here, from the set-up to the finale. Great execution, too. I do agree that there should have been more to it, but there's no issues here. Good job.
Style - 8/10. Fun ideas. I do agree that there needed to be a little more variety in the terms he applied to his nemesis. We also needed more information about this steed. But a failed Trojan horse always works well, especially when its one of those "I explained every bit of it before I used it" bits. So good job here.
Prompt - 5/10. I got a great story, but very little about the plane. You had the space, we just needed it used. Just wanted to hear more.
A short, easy read with almost whimsical characters and a fun plot. But its simplicity also causes some problems.
Adherence to Prompt: 5/10 Not really any description of the plane beyond the existence of Vorloauks and Normfruit. Half credit for plot.
Plot and Tempo: 8/10 The plot moves perhaps too fast, as Jenesis notes we don't even really know what Vorloauks are; it's kinda just like here's an animal and he's gonna pretend to be one. I realize that's the purpose but it's too blunt about it. I do like the simple idea of a feud between wizards, but it isn't overwhelmingly original.
Writing Style and Identity: 9/10 Mechanically, you need a little work. Like I pointed out the alternate ways to say enemy/nemesis, and that Jenesis pointed out with the Vorloauks. I want to say right now I'm not punishing you twice for the Vorloauks: Before I was showing an example of how the plot moves a bit quickly for its own good, here I'm saying you need to be more thorough in your details. That said, the specific ideas you had, like hiding himself in a golem, and the explosive fruit, were whimsical and interesting without feeling forced and annoying. If you just tweak your mechanics a bit though, you should have a seriously solid style.
Characterization: 8/10 - While the characters are simple, this is a very short snippet. The characterization is done very quickly and naturally. We don't learn by description that Abjicnal is clever and devious, we start out seeing him fresh from a failure which he saved himself from. This establishes: #1 His recklessness, as we see later in his golem plan. #2 His guile, also a major part of his character and later plan. And #3 his deviousness, with his toothy grin and sneer. In a manner of a few sentences, you've stylistically established important traits in an interesting fashion. This speaks to both your style and characterization. You do still lose two points because they were somewhat two dimensional characters, though.
Grammar/Spelling: 10/10 - A handful of very minor problems. Still totally easy to understand and read.
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"Virtue, Jacques, is an excellent thing. Both good people and wicked people speak highly of it..."
Thanks for the positive feedback, and I'm very happy for the 3rd place finish.
Mark my words, you haven't seen the last of Abjicnal. This is my second short story starring him, and there will be more. I kind of envision him as a "Wile E. Coyote" of evil wizards, and he's a blast to write.