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Mini-Contest Results and Discussion / Re: March 2018 Contest Results and Voting
« Last post by Frost on April 19, 2018, 12:53:15 PM »
Agreed, well done Saryss, and all the other entrants! This was a great contest, and I'm sorry that I'm late to the festivities, but I'll try to be around for the next one. Cheers to all!
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Mini-Contest Results and Discussion / Re: March 2018 Contest Results and Voting
« Last post by Vin on March 29, 2018, 11:33:40 PM »
Congrats on the win, Saryss— hella well deserved— and welcome to the forum.

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Mini-Contest Results and Discussion / Re: March 2018 Contest Results and Voting
« Last post by Saryss on March 29, 2018, 12:01:10 PM »
Thank you!

Vizon is an old friend. A while back I had expressed an interest in getting back into creative writing, so Vizon invited me to join when the mini-contest came up. I had read some of the Redwall novels a long time ago and have always had an appreciation for the world (though Vizon and the forum’s Redwall guides were very helpful in reintroducing me to some of the world’s minutiae).

I love your icon, by the way.
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It's always great to see a new face. Especially one that joins us in such a spectacular fashion. Congrats on the win, Saryss!

What brought you to our little corner of the ROC?
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Mini-Contest Results and Discussion / Re: March 2018 Contest Results and Voting
« Last post by Saryss on March 26, 2018, 06:05:45 PM »
Thank you! I really enjoyed working with the prompt and the the challenge of keeping the story at 2,000 words or less. After writing the story, I feel that I may have to develop the characters of the two dibbuns further, as I see their futures holding some interesting (and potentially awkward) adventures.

I enjoyed reading the other entries as well. Each story was wonderful in its own unique way.

Thank you for welcoming me to your group. I will look forward to the next mini contest!
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Mini-Contest Results and Discussion / Re: March 2018 Contest Results and Voting
« Last post by Vizon on March 26, 2018, 01:17:25 PM »
Congratulations, Saryss! What a way to start your first writing contest!  ^-^
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Mini-Contest Results and Discussion / Re: March 2018 Contest Results and Voting
« Last post by Airan on March 24, 2018, 08:19:02 AM »
The votes are in and a winner has been decided. But before we get to that, I'm sure some of you would like to know some of my own thoughts on your stories and why they were selected as the nominations-

The Hermit and the Monk- by Vizon

I enjoyed this one a lot for the fact that it was self contained and had a clear message. It had distinct characters who are well developed and believable, while still being unique from one another. It was a rather character driven piece as well, with the disaster being mostly a backdrop to the actual story, which is something I appreciated. My only real complaint was that the mousemaid was a bit more of a plot device than an actual character herself, but the other three characters were still well done and interesting.

Where the Wind Blows- by Gordon Hagglethrump

Enjoyed this one quite a lot for the same reasons Vizon said above. There's a lot packed in here in a really short amount of words, and you get a good picture of all of the different characters and their opinions on Aunt Cas. One thing I particularly enjoyed was the writing style, which reminded me of some older classic novels. The subversion of expectations was well done.

And Behold, Seven Ears, Blighted and Thin- by Vin

I enjoyed this one for the opposite reasons than the previous two. While Vizon and Gordon's entries were both more self contained, I found myself gravitating towards this one because of the interesting world and my own want to see what happened next. I found this entry to have the most interesting characters as well, with the more diplomatic fox mayor, the rough guard, and the, honestly, kind of shady abbot. Like with Vizon's entry, I feel the fourth character could have been more important, and I feel the opening was a bit redundant with it saying 'he wanted to go swimming' twice, as well as the exchange between him and the wall guard, but I enjoyed this one a lot and wanted to see more.

The Coming of the Night Monster to Mossflower Woods- by Saryss

Saryss is a newcomer to Redwall and the forum, but I think they did a really good job for their first outing in the world. I personally enjoyed this one for how simple its premise was, the excellent focus on its characters, and thought its writing style was engaging. Not much else to say but that I hope to be able to continue reading your writing :)

Now for the winner! The votes have been counted and the winner of this month's Mini Contest is-
The Coming of the Night Monster to Mossflower Woods

Yay, congratulations Saryss on your well deserved victory. Clearly I wasn't the only one who enjoyed your writing :) As a reward, you'll be getting a little badge on your profile here soon, so keep an eye out for it.

Thanks everyone for participating, reading, and voting in this Mini Contest. I had a lot of fun and enjoyed all of your entries. But the reading isn't done yet! Here are the two entries that unfortunately didn't make the cut.

Spoiler: show
Dark Wind Rising - By Vera Silvertooth

Roe shifted the pack on her back, the sweltering heat of the day weighing heavier than the pack she carried. She trudged along the road, flicking a pesky fly away with one weary paw.

In front of her, her companions, two mice and a mole, toiled similarly under their own packs. Ironbend, the stout mole of the group, had spent the last two seasons at Salamandastron, learning smithing from the badger lord, while Cate and Everton, the mice, had gone visiting some of Cate’s family along the coast, near where Roe herself had grown up among her father’s holt.

Now they were all on the way to Redwall, Cate and Everton to live there, Ironbend to pass on his new knowledge to the Foremole in residence, and Roe to pass on her father’s well-wishes to a relative who’d moved to Redwall seasons before.

Hazy lines rose from the road before them, dust rising in small puffs from the tred of their paws. All around, the faint smell of grasses drying in the late summer heat, similar to that of baking bread.

“How far to Redwall?” Roe asked, her tongue parched in her mouth.

“Oi reckon we’m be thurr boi noightfall,” Ironbend said. “Iffen we’m keep oop our pace.”

Under her breath, Roe grumbled, “Keep up the pace, in this heat…”

Cate smiled back at Roe over her pack. “Just think, Roe. Once we’re in Redwall, you’ll be able to sample all the October Ale, Dandelion Cordial, and Strawberry Fizz you could hold.”

Roe’s mouth moistened again just at the thought. The food and drink of Redwall, infamous as it was, provided her all the motivation she needed to plod on a little more eagerly.

Cate looked back at Roe again, her brow furrowing over her dark eyes.

Roe glanced back as well, then hesitated.

Behind the party, rising from the south-west, a tall bank of dark clouds rolled.

“Looks like we’ll get some relief before Redwall,” she said.

Everton and Ironbend glanced back. They both halted in their march.

“Oi doan’t loike the lukks o’ they cloids,” Ironbend muttered.

“Why?” Roe asked. “They’re just storm clouds, aren’t they? We’re going to be drenched for sure, but what’s the worry with a little water.”

“Spoken like a true otter,” Everton said. “Maybe you see clouds like that on the coast, Roe, but this far into Mossflower, we don’t. There’s something wicked in them.”

Cate laughed, but it sounded forced and weaker than her usual gay sounds. “A cloud is a cloud, my dear. It isn’t good or evil.”

Roe looked back at the building mass of black and gray. She thought of throwing her agreement in with Cate, but even as she looked at the storm, she couldn’t help but wonder if Everton was right. The clouds seemed to take on almost a greenish hue as Roe watched.

Everton turned to Ironbend. “Do you think we should search for shelter before that gets to us?”

Ironbend’s velvety face crinkled in thought. “Moight be we’m could outroin ‘m. Oi’d loike walls ‘twixt oi an’ thurr cloids.”

Cate pushed past her husband, “Then let’s stop the chatter and let the paws patter!”

They started out again with a will, spurred on now by the building storm behind them. Not a breath of wind stirred around them, but still that wall of greeny black seemed to billow up like the rising smoke from a huge fire. The land around them grew darker as the clouds blocked the sun.

The first gust of wind hit their backs with an icy blow. Dust rose from the road in choking towers, filling their faces with blinding, choking grit. Roe sneezed four times in quick succession.

“Foller oi,” Ironbend said, picking up the pace.

Roe checked the storms progress, gaping at the dark mass almost directly overhead now.

The rain began to drum around them, fat, heavy drops that would have been a welcome relief if the terror of their origin hadn’t been so great. Then Everton yelped and clapped a paw to his shoulder. Something white whizzed past Roe’s head, then, as if that were only a warning shot, large hailstones like walnuts began to pelt around them.

They covered their heads with their paws, yelping and shrieking when a hard hailstone hit fur and flesh. Ironbend stopped when the left side of the road fell steeply away into the ditch. He waved with a heavy digging claw for them to go down.

Roe, Everton, and Cate scrambled down to the dry, rocky ditch bed and pressed themselves against the side, barely sheltered by the road’s overhang.

Ironbend slid down beside them, tossed his pack at their feet, then began applying his strong claws to the ground to Roe’s right. Rocks flew as thickly as the hail as he dug out a bit more shelter.

The storm came over them, filling the air with leaves and light debris. As she watched, a flash of lightning streaked from end to end. The air around her tingled from the crack and all of them flinched and covered their ears as the world boomed around them.

Cate’s eyes went wide and she pointed, mouth agape, but no sound was heard. Roe and the others raised their eyes.

From the dark mass over them, a sinuous twisting tendril came creeping down towards the earth. Formed from the swirl of dark clouds itself, it grew, then retracted, then darted back down like a tentacle of a sea creature her father had once shown her. As they watched, things began to rise up around the tendril, flung up high in the air and carried around and around the column of darkness. Trees, Roe realized, shattered and splintered from the wind that rose from that twisting cloud.

The roar that came from it was unlike anything Roe had ever heard. Not just a rush of wind or water, but a constant building roar.

And it crawled closer.

Ironbend stopped digging and shoved them all into the shallow hole he’d excavated. The wind seemed to rise and they huddled there together, clutching one another as the twister came on, closer and closer, it’s narrow end swaying and writhing near the ground like a worm on a hook.

Roe wanted to run from the storm, and might have, if Cate had not been hugging herself against Roe’s strong side, her husband shielding her with his own body. Ironbend clung to Roe’s other side, his dark face gazing grimly at the storm that filled their vision.

Leaves, twigs, and branches pelted them, carried aloft by the winds. Roaring filled their ears. Roe thought Cate was screaming, or maybe it was herself.

In one horrifying moment, Roe felt the air of that thing twining around her. Her back and rudder scraped on the ground. The twister sucked the air from her and her vision swam before her.

After an eternity, the tugging on Roe eased. Debris flung by the storm settled at last. The sounds died down and the stillness that followed seemed more deafening than the roar that had come with the twisting cloud.

The four beasts began to shift. Shattered tree limbs and forest debris lay about them and Roe hisses softly through her teeth at the throbbing ache in her limbs where she’d been pelted.

With tears leaking from her eyes, Cate pulled a handkerchief from her pack and dabbed at a bloody gash on her husband’s face, where he’d been struck by something.

“I’m all right. Just a scratch,” he kept muttering, but let her dab at him anyway.

Ironbend moved stiffly, shaking mud and leaves from his fur before walking out into the small accumulation of water that filled up the bottom of the ditch, amid the big hailstones that lay with the rocks.

Roe followed him out and looked towards where the cloud had gone. The dark mass moved on, lit now from behind by the sun, looking blacker than before. The twisting finger had vanished, though some of the clouds still swirled about as if in memory of what had happened.

The path that the twister had taken left a trail of shattered trees and stripped limbs. Shakily, they helped each other out of the ditch and back into the road, staring in the path the storm had taken.

Ironbend rubbed the back of a digging claw across his snout. “Oi’m thinken et mizzed Redwall. We’m goit most o’ et.”

Battered, bloody, weary, and filthy, the four beasts returned to their slow progress, each one glancing at the diminishing cloud as it worked its way further north.


Spoiler: show
The Fever - by Rascal

“Martin!” The mouse’s eyes were wide with fright as she shook Martin. “Wake up! We have to leave.”

The female mouse’s voice only grew more urgent, desperately trying to wake Martin out of the alcohol induced sleep he was in.

Why was she being such a bother? Martin thought, they just got to sleep.

“Martin!” She continued to plead, right up until the door to the inn room burst open, her blood coating the walls shortly there after.

________

Martin opened his eyes to find a squirrel staring back at him.

“Martin? Are you ok?”

The mouse proved that he was by flailing his arms and shouting with alarm, causing him to tumble out of his stool.

Poppy didn’t seem even bat an eye. “So… yes?”

The mouse sighed, “Fine. Fine! Everything is fine! Just broke my bloody neck is all…” Martin groaned, kicking the stool out of the way to sit up. He hesitated though, at the sight of Poppy’s outstretched paw.

Starting a moment too long at her offer to help him to his feet, Poppy rolled her eyes. “I bathe after every shift in the infirm, Martin. If you are going to catch the Fever, it won’t be for me.”

Martin was not comforted by this, but the mental image did make his cheeks redden. Accepting her help up he asked, “What did the abbot say, a-about the mission?” He said quickly, desperate to get the image of a bathing squirrel out of his mind.

Though… if her fur flattened in just the right way, Poppy could pass for a mouse…

But she was still a squirrel, thought Martin. Admittedly, an attractive, slender one with bright red fur. And Martin was, and always would be, a very plain, ordinary brown mouse. It was the only trait he shared with the legendary hero other than a name, just like the other thirty mice in abbey named Martin.

Glancing about the Great Hall first, Poppy motioned for Martin to follow. It made sense not to discuss such sensitive matters with him here. Too many ears to listen in after refugees began spilling into the abbey.

So Martin followed Poppy elsewhere, side stepping the belongings of refugees encamped along the walls, and giving the vermin a wide berth. Especially those that would cough or sneeze. There was no telling what was just harmless, and what was the beginning of a long, painful descent into hacking coughs, body aches, and eventually… death.

“I managed to talk some sense into the older beasts of the abbey,” said Poppy flatly. “We leave at the first chance we get.”

“Woo.” Martin’s voice mirrored Poppy’s own enthusiasm. “That might still take a while, all things considered.” The two spoke in hushed tones as they walked.

“This is worth the risk, right?” The mouse asked, “You know what waits for us out there...”

Poppy was the first to find the side exit to the abbey. She stepped out into the sunlight and let its warmth embrace her before saying, “Even with five hundred new souls in the abbey, we have enough food to keep them fat through winter, enough wine to keep them drunk until summer, and a never ending supply of water. But if we don’t get ahead of this Fever, we will lose half our beasts before months end.”

“Some would argue that it would still be safer than going outside.”

“They would, and they have,” Poppy said tiredly, “I managed to convince the elder beasts of the abbey that trading one disease for another, admittedly deadlier, disease was not a good idea.”

“Admittedly deadlier?” Martin laughed, “That’s one way to describe the nightmare going on outside.”

“I know, but as a healer, watching good beasts die to a disease we can’t cure is just as distressing as watching them succumb to a disease we can cure. We just need the supplies to do so…”

Martin shook his head and spat, “One of the refugees probably brought the Fever with them. We are lucky none of them brought the Madness with them too.”

“I would watch your tone, Martin. You will be working very closely with vermin before we are through, especially one in particular if we are to pull this mission off.”

Martin blinked in confusion, then groaned, “You don’t really mean to bring her along, do you?” He looked up to see that Poppy had already moved on, across the open ground, towards the ramparts. “Poppy, you can’t be serious. Charley is a thief and a vagabond. If not for the abbot’s mercy, she would have been kicked outside the walls a long time ago.”

The beasts paused as something crashed against the gate. The chains around them rattled, but the heavy wood held firm.

For now…

The squirrel pointed to the gate, “Like it or not, out of all the beasts in the abbey, Charley survived out there the longest. Longer than YOU.”

The mouse ground his teeth together as the squirrel ascended the stairs. He couldn’t argue with Poppy there. The trip… no, the retreat from the festival in the City took less than a day, with armed guards, and hardly any of them survived.

Charley spent an entire month out there.

Alone.

“Yeah, well, she might not be so keen on being thrown back into the wilderness…” Martin could only hope.

They found the fabled Charley at the top of the ramparts. Two months of Redwall food had done the marten good, and then some. To be honest, Charley was never a picture of pine marten health even before she reached the abbey, thought the mouse, but she didn’t seem overly burdened by her excess either.

“Oh! Well hello thar!” Charley greeted the beasts first, struggling to string her bow as she did. “Fancy a spot of fresh air, did’ja? I imagine you don’t get much in that dreary hospital, do you?” Her tone instantly changed, her ears falling flat, “I’m not going to get sick bein’ around ya, am I?”

“I pity the poor disease that would get into you, Charley. Probably make the poor thing ill…” the otter behind the marten grinned widely. Martin could wish for only half of Talook’s quick wit, and height.

In truth though, even if he towered over the mouse and squirrel, Talook was roughly the same height as the marten. However, where Charley leaned towards being shaped like a pear, Talook had no lack of muscle to his arms.

He too was stringing a bow. “What brings you up here, mates?” the otter said in a friendly tone.

“Business,” Poppy said with the air of someone who didn’t like to beat around the bush. “The abbot has agreed to send a group outside the walls. We need volunteers.”

Martin cringed slightly at the squirrel’s bluntness, making a mental note to be the one to ask for volunteers from now on.

“Then I accept.” The otter seemed to stand taller, sticking out his chest and becoming serious. “I won’t let you down.”

Both rodents exchanged glances. Martin spoke first. “Actually,” he said with great hesitation, “we need Charley.”

The pause that followed was broken by Charley’s laughter, the otter’s bravado deflating behind her. “Need, is it now? I didn’t know you cared!”

The marten winked at the mouse in a way that made his fur stand up on end. “Don’t let it go to your head.”

“Oh, it’s too late for that, luv.” The chubby marteness leaned her back to the wall and giggled. “Ohhh!” She mimicked the mouse, “Charley! CHARLEY! Save us Charley! You are our only hope!”

Charley wiped a tear from her eye, “Wow, that was a good natural high, that was.”

“So are you going to help us, or not?” Martin crossed his arms.

“No.” The marten said flatly, returning to stringing her bow. “I don’t volunteer for suicide missions.”

Martin’s ears stood on end, his cheeks growing red with anger. Tulook stepped in before he could act on it.

“You will have to forgive our vermin friend here, she woke up on the cowardly side of the bed this morning.” He chuckled as Charley stuck her tongue out at him.

“Hey, I’ll take the title of coward if it means I get to keep my skin intact. You lot only <i>think</i> you know what’s going on out there.” With her bow properly strung, Charley’s voice became serious. “My home village used to call it ‘The Madness’. I saw a beast afflicted with it once, when I was young. After driving him from the village, we had to burn his hut. We were not even allowed to follow where he had walked...”

Charley breathed deeply, glancing over her shoulder to the world beyond the ramparts. “This disease though… it doesn’t kill you like it should, and you can spread it everywhere you go. I had to be careful what I touched, where I got my water and all it takes is one good bite...” The marten shook her head, stepping away from the wall.

“I want my ration restrictions lifted.”

The mouse raised an eyebrow, “So… you will help us?”

Charley gestured to the abbey behind them, “Fever or Madness, I’m not going to let beasts die from either if I can help it. But I’m not going to help you out because of heroics either. This is going to <i>cost</i> you, and since you lousy rodents don’t believe in money… I want unlimited rations.”

Martin opened his muzzle to protest but Charley interrupted to say, “And wine. I want no limit on wine either. Oh! And a fancy title of ‘Lady Baroness Fluffbottom, savior of all Redwall!’ printed in gold letters over my own room.”

“You have got to be-”

“The first two are doable, the last… no. Because, just. No.” Poppy shook her head, “Just try not to party yourself to death before the mission starts. We leave the first chance we get.” She turned for the stairs, “Martin, time is of the essence and there is much to prepare.”

The mouse slouched. He glanced at Charley as if he had one more thing to add, but chose to be silent. They were going to entrust their lives in the paws of a thief.

As if reading his mind, Poppy placed a comforting paw on Martin’s shoulder as they walked down the stairs. “It will be ok, Martin. We will be ok. The abbey will never fall to vermin.”

The mouse smiled and nodded in agreement, hoping that she didn’t see how fake it was.
‘But these are not vermin they are against,’ Martin thought.

‘They are monsters.’

__________

“How about we make this a little more interesting, Rudder-butt? First to hit ten under a minute wins the others rations!”

“Seriously?” Talook raised an eyebrow, “You just weaseled yourself into unlimited food and you are still betting for more rations?” The otter shook his head in laughter, “You’re diet is going to get you killed… Fluff-butt.”

“Not a bad way to die, given the alternative.” Good cheer disappeared from Charlie's voice. She and the otter both frowned as they peered over the walls of the abbey.

“Do you... think they feel pain?” The otter asked.

“No,” Charlie pulled back on her bow and let her arrow fly, “Not if we put them out of their misery.”

Her arrow struck true, skewering the fox through the side. It’s body fell and dissapeared into the screeching mass of vermin clawing at the abbey walls. Weasels, foxes, cats, stoats, even a mighty badger or two. Some still had shreds of dirty clothing wrapped about their bodies to prove that they were once civilized.

Before the Madness took over.

Before they tossed themselves at the walls like wild animals, their eyes red as blood and spitting foam from their muzzles...

...And their numbers were endless
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Mini-Contest Results and Discussion / Re: March 2018 Contest Results and Voting
« Last post by Vizon on March 24, 2018, 12:06:35 AM »
Been meaning to write reviews. I know I'm pretty much too late here, but I thought people might still appreciate the feedback, even if it doesn't influence votes. Gonna try to focus on the positives over the negatives here, as I appreciated each of these stories and thought they were all great fun to read and well-written. Like I was saying - a very tough call. To me, it's almost a contest of what type of story the audience likes best as opposed to which is "better" than the others, 'cause they're all good!


The Hermit and the Monk

I enjoyed reading this one, in spite of the bit of "adult content"- uncharacteristic of Redwall, yet not explicit in its details. Overall the story in its entirety is a glimpse of both the goodness and ugliness of humanity, and how we each might face the ugly reality of “people” in all their rawness. In the end it’s as though the hermit has proven her point that the monk should not be saving other beasts, after 2 out of the three beasts he rescued turn on him, yet Mory continues to help others in spite of that proof. Perhaps Hespa herself is his proof that some beasts are worth saving? Hespa admits she is not a good person, but her actions are very different from the others in spite of her curmudgeony worldview.

I like this submission for the philosophical ruminations it highlights.

Where the Wind Blows

This one was really a great read. The story is remarkably full and complete in spite of the 2,000 word limit, and feels much longer (in a good way). Somehow the author built up characters, set them up just right (particularly Aunt Cass not being taken seriously in the end when she tries to raise the alarm), and crammed in an incredible amount of detail and description without it feeling forced. I really liked the way the author played with the fact that the reader would know a natural disaster was at hand, but blindsided us with the tidal wave when we were expecting the volcano as the culprit the entire time. I like the tidbits about Sam wanting to learn to read and go places, so that even when the tragedy happens, you know he will be okay. I love the little bits about Sam’s personality – how he liked to make the adults scream (reminds me a little of Harold from “Harold and Maude”) and valued his aunt’s company in spite of the way others thought of her. Even the dialog from the random townsfolk was entertaining and a fun touch.

I like this submission for the complete, full-circle story-telling it employed.

And Behold, Seven Ears, Blighted and Thin

This too was a fun one to read. Very dark and dreary possible future for Redwall/Mossflower. I really enjoyed the character development, and even moreso on my second read-through as I realized that Brungle is actually maybe not my favorite character even though the whole thing is from his perspective. I am suspicious of the Abbot’s quick decision to carry out a sort of quiet assassination, and I am very curious about the world that has been established, and Lowtail’s role as mayor as well. The politics seem very interesting, as well as the set-up of potential conflict between woodlanders and vermin. For not liking Brungle’s “methods” (beating up vermin to get answers from the sound of it), Lowtail is surprisingly cooperative regarding the Abbot’s decision. I suppose he has to be diplomatic to be mayor though. Most of this story makes me just want to know more – and what the rest of the story is/will be. It’s very much a “slice of life” type of story – a tiny piece of a much bigger world, which is both compelling and frustrating!

I like this submission for the great world-building it accomplished.

The Coming of the Night Monster to Mossflower Woods

The excitement of the series of events that plays out in this story is easy to get caught up in. I like the details about these new parents taking such pride in their first clutch, and was curious to see whether they would survive something as serious as a tornado in a twiggy sparrow nest. It was surprising that they did, and yet not at the same time, as fate seemed to play a large role in this story. In fact, all their expectations are shattered almost right away, and fate gives them a new life and new family, practically handing them babes to replace their own. One does wonder how the wildcat will cope with such a small living space, and what he will learn to eat, but generally, as fate has preserved them through this extreme disaster, there’s not much else to fear for their future.

This submission does an excellent job of playing with the whims of fate to twist the future of what might have otherwise been two (now four) very ordinary lives.
 
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Mini-Contest Results and Discussion / Reviews - 4
« Last post by Gordon Hagglethrump on March 22, 2018, 09:19:06 PM »
The Coming of the Night Monster to Mossflower Woods

We find ourselves thrown into the world tossed by the wind into a series of responsibilities that we never asked for but nonetheless are obliged to accept. In this story, our two Sparrows find that the wheel of fortune has taken from them the two eggs which promised to be their first young and in their stead provided a most unlikely pair of progeny -- a cat and a mouse. The sparrows do not balk at this newfound responsibility, nor do they waste time at the moment mourning the destruction wrought by the storm, but instead accept their duty with a stiff upper lip, embracing the unusual young as their own, since the duty has fallen (literally) to them and there is no one else to take it.

Of course, we realize that hidden behind all of this there is real grief -- the grief of the lost natural parents of these two children at the very least, but also the destruction of the other life in the woodland, and the sparrows' expected chicks. But these sparrows react just as often people in the real world react to the grief of a natural disaster not by being broken down by it and sobbing, but by pouring that energy into the immediate demands of the moment -- the hurricane survivors who ought to be out of energy but instead find themselves struggling to rescue everybody else who is even worse of than they are.

So, I like the psychology of the piece, the mix of cuteness (sorry, but there is something cute here), with tragedy and irony and fatalism at the same time. Of the four pieces, this is probably the one to which I can most relate with the characters.

The downside of the piece, however, is that there is a good deal less drama felt while reading than the situation they're in would really require. I really like having characters who aren't self-obsessed and melodramatic, but that's because as a reader I should be filling in within myself the various emotions which aren't happening in the scene. There's a potential here for the same story to be told with a little more drama -- not drama from the characters themselves or their reactions, but written in a way that produces that drama with the readers of the story. I guess that's what's most missing to me. But perhaps that's intentional with this piece, so I won't lean on that criticism too heavily -- maybe that's supposed to be how it is.

Anyway, I enjoyed reading all four stories, and was glad to have this one finish the lot of them. Best of luck to everybody and glad there were so many excellent efforts!
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3. And Behold, Seven Ears, Blighted and Thin

This feels the most 'Redwall' of the entries to me, and I like both the polished style and tone of the author and the care which has been taken to make the dialogue feel very natural, with enough 'accent' to give it color while not so much accent as to make it hard to read. I like the description of the Mayor's bodily posture and body language especially; for instance in this paragraph:

“Look,” interrupted the mayor, pacing with exaggerated exasperation. His eyes were terse and narrowed, and his tail flicked back and forth. “We don't have time for this. Let’s get down to business. I realize that this is an awful event. My condolences to you, Sylsley, and all here, of course. A terrible tragedy.” He stopped pacing for a moment to look at the abbot, and Brungle was almost impressed with the sincerity in the air of sadness the fox attempted to adopt. “However, this does put me in somewhat of an … awkward position, you see.”

Now, there are costs to giving this kind of description in the midst of dialogue. First, it costs words, and to stay under 2,000 words with this level of fine description means that this vignette is only a slice of a larger story, we lack the feeling of a full story arc.  Second, this level of description can be taxing on a reader who is still trying to figure out what is going on and dealing with the various new situations, trying to guess the political intrigue behind the scenes, and so on. Those turn out to me to be the main downsides of the piece. But while that's a cost, there's also a benefit from that cost, which is compelling writing that keeps the reader's attention and interest in the midst of dialogue about a fairly complex situation -- weighing the risk of a public trial with the demands of justice, and so on.

By the end, I'm interested in how this detective story is going to turn out and who is going to turn up as the killer; I'm also interested in understanding what sorts of darker forces might be at work inside the Abbey's walls...

Lastly, I like how the natural disaster -- which I understand to be a heat wave, leading to fire, drought, and famine -- forms the backdrop of the story rather than the centerpiece of it. It avoids the sensationalism towards which the prompt otherwise might lead us. The story is sort of a post-apocalyptic vision of how order maintains when everything else is slowly breaking down and falling apart. One underappreciated thing about 'slow' natural disasters as opposed to the rapid destruction of, say, an earthquake is that people begin to adapt to them as though they were normal.
 
So, I think think this is a well-polished and nicely-written story.
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