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Thread: Writing Contest: A Picture is Worth 1000 Words: VOTING!

  1. #1
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    Gil
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    Default Writing Contest: A Picture is Worth 1000 Words: VOTING!

    Voting!


    Okay guys, sorry for that short delay there. Too much to do for university all at once there ^^ Anyway, it's time for voting! I've decided that as long as there are enough entries for it, there will be a first, second, and third place winner, as decided through voting. Out of the remaining there will also be a "moderator/Fabala pick." In the case of this first contest I received a total of four entries, meaning the fourth place contestant will receive the "Fabala pick" be default.

    Prizes will be awarded as follows:
    First Place: 100,000 points (+ hopefully a winner's banner)
    Second Place: 50,000 points
    Third Place: 25,000 points
    Fabala's Pick: 10,000 points

    Now, I'd like to try something a little different for voting this time around. An experiment, really. I may not continue running it this way if there are problems. Please follow these directions:

    Send me a PM with the entry you think deserves first place, the entry you think deserves second place, and the entry you think deserves third place (so you are nominating three separate entries). Also include a comment as to why you have selected that entry for each place. You'll want to think about all factors that make up good writing while you're reading the entries. Your pick for first place should be the one you think is ultimately the best-written in all regards.

    The PM you send me should look something like this:

    First Place: Entry __ (Comment on the entry)
    Second Place: Entry __ (Comment on the entry)
    Third Place: Entry __ (Comment on the entry)

    General questions can be posted in the main contest thread, or PMed to me. Voting is tentatively set to close on Sunday the 28th, 12:00 midnight EST.

    Now, without further ado, I present the image that inspired the four entries following it. Which do you think tells the story best?


    Last edited by Fabala; 09-10-2008 at 01:59 AM.

  2. #2
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    Default Entry #1

    Entry #1

    He would never come back. Of that, she was very much sure of. She had waited for months for him to return. At first, her friends had tried to get her to forget. They would bring handsome strangers with them as they visited her, trying to make her see that she was wrong.

    She stood, her long gown gently falling to ground and covering her feet. It was dark, and she couldn't see beyond the reach of her hands. She walked slowly, fearing that her dress would cause her to trip. Her footsteps seemed to echo in the deafening silence of the house.

    Her hands touched a shelf, her fingers carefully groping the contents upon it. She became satisfied as she felt a smooth glass object -- the lamp. Her other hand found the small box of matches beside it. There was only one match left. It was the last time she would light the lamp. She remembered that he had bought it for her for their anniversary, its silver base was adorned with carvings of flowers and vines. She struck the match and lit it.

    The room glowed with a soft light, the shadows of the furniture dancing about the walls. As she walked back to the bed, her hand holding the lamp fell gently down to her side. Her grip loosed, but she did not mind.

    She sat down on the edge of the mattress, the pillow feeling soft underneath her. Her thoughts wandered back to him and her mind's eye once again recalled her last memories of his face. It seemed blurred now. She could no longer see his handsome face.

    The light was ever-growing. Brighter and brighter. She no longer felt alone. Cold.

    She simply sat there, watching. Waiting.

    Waiting for peace.

  3. #3
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    Default Entry #2

    Entry #2

    Laura was to be married at sunset tomorrow. All the preparations were complete. The chefs were, at this very moment, in the first floor kitchen, making a flurry of noises and smells rise up through the edifice to the very spot she sat, contemplating it all. The garden beyond the stone walls had been given the attentions of the kingdom’s most renowned florists. Every bit of plant and flower radiated intense care. She imagined that there were men walking about the lines of roses and lilies now, cutting away the choicest buds for use in the ceremony. She imagined she could hear, beyond the din coming to her from below, the clack clack clackety clack sounds of a seamstress hard at work from somewhere above her. Apparently, one must take daily measurements and make daily alterations if one is to have the perfect dress. The rooms of the castle were filled to the breaking point with government officials, waiters, foreign representatives, and high-status well wishers. And all this for Laura’s marriage to a man she did not know nor love.


    Don Lafontaine was a French nobleman of twice her years. He had a long pointy beard and wore bright royal colours to show off his great wealth. She had met him perhaps twice, perhaps three times, at the banquets her father occasionally hosted. Royalty and royal hopefuls came from every part of Europe to dine at his table, for King Richard’s palace was known for the delectable delicacies its guests feasted on at such events. Her father had commissioned the best chefs in the world to work in his home, and these were the very same chefs that she heard now making preparations in the lower floors. The Don had always seemed pompous to her during those visits. She could see that he always made to sit as close to her father as possible, so that he may better enjoy his engagement. He laughed heartily at every joke the King told, every line on his face etched with the falsity of it. When he wasn’t doing that, he mingled lavishly with the other men at the table to compare lifestyles and habits. Always he made it out to seem that his was the richer.


    Laura knew why this man sought her hand. It was the next logical advancement of his own greed. It wasn’t enough for Don Lafontaine to have riches, for there was no shortage of that. He wanted to break ranks into which money could never allow him to pass. To become more than a mere nobleman would complete his own arrogance and afford him the respect that came with being royalty. And, being a clever and calculating man, he would not settle for just any princess. He wanted to merge families with the richest and most influential of kings. His visits to this castle, his bragging of the number of servants he paid and horses he kept, and his attempts to gain her father’s favour were about much more than just appearances. He had been working to further his own ego and marry King Richard’s only daughter, the groundwork of which he had carefully began laying while she was only ten years old.


    That was the first time Laura had met the Don. She didn’t always greet the guests that came calling on her father’s estate. It was only on very special occasions, such as the joining of two families in marriage or death, that she was allowed to see the visitors her father was to entertain and house for the night. On her first such occasion, her eldest brother Richard II was marrying the daughter of some rich king in Eastern Europe, the country of which Laura couldn’t recall, nor the girl’s name. She only knew that she was made to stand, by her maid Agnes, in the mouth of the foyer with her mother to await their arrival. Then Agnes had had to rush out into the atrium along with the other servants to take the guest’s coats and hats as they exited their carriages. As the men neared she could smell the sweat and dirt on them. Don Lafontaine had been the sweatiest and dirtiest of all, and she cowered away from him as he gave her a low bow. Her mother had scolded her for it. He only smiled and tried to speak broken English.


    “Now now, eet is alright. Poor leettle girl, I deed not know you ‘ad one. Vous avez juste réservés, n'est-ce pas?


    His French had frightened her. It reminded her of the sad girl in the story Agnes often told her, who was tricked into eating a bad pear by a Frenchman who wanted her as a seamstress. Laura was not good with the needle and cried every time she pricked herself, and so she cowered all the more. But he mistook her fear for shyness and tried further to put his hands on her. Thinking he was going to take her back into his carriage and his country, she kicked and screamed until her mother beat her. And so, had learned to fear Don Lafontaine (the name her mother had greeted him with). She had had to greet the rest of her father’s guest with tears silently falling down her cheeks. She didn’t remember what her brother’s bride had looked like.


    Thinking of it even now made Laura’s eyes sting. Though she was only young then and didn’t understand, she now understood why he had been so persistent. Even in the meetings that followed he had taken special care to greet her loudly and exclaim over her beauty.


    “Oh, mon chéri, you are très beau, no? Come, ‘ow many years are you?”


    “F-five and ten, sir.”


    Je ne peux pas le croire! Monsieur Richard, your daughter is très charmant.”


    And he would go on like that until the next guest would get impatient. Of course, he had never been interested in her looks, which were so plain they turned his exclamations into base flattery. His interest in her age, however, only now seemed to be sincere in light of their engagement. Vaguely, Laura wondered how the Don had managed to convince her father to marry her off before his third and last son had taken a wife. Perhaps, it had involved the changing of hands of quite a bit of gold/


    She imagined the moon was drifting silently past her window now, making its way around the earth so that the sun may follow it. It foretold the coming of her imprisonment, which grew nearer with every passing minute. Of course, she could not see this procession. A couple of parlour maids had been sent up to hang a drape over her window earlier that day so that no one save servants would see the bride the day before the wedding. Someone else, her mother’s maid she imagined, had already been to rub oil and scents into her hair. The girl had been very rough and impatient with her, rather like her mother was. It made her yearn for Anges’ soft and understanding hands.


    Agnes was the only friend Laura had in this world, and she imagined the loss of her would hurt rather more than the loss of anyone else. Certainly, more than losing her family would once she was married and shipped to France.


    The thought of losing her father, mother, and brothers and seeing them almost never again was one she contemplated with mixed feelings. She rarely saw any of her father at it was, only those times she passed him in the hallways on their separate ways to different parts of the castle. Her mother was usually out making house calls on other ladies. Her brothers were usually away on some official work for Father. She wasn’t particularly close to any of them, and in fact was often unacknowledged by them, even ignored. This didn’t upset Laura so much as one might think. She was content to be left on her own, silently milling over her few possessions in her quarters.


    Whenever Agnes was without work, she would sit with her mistress. Usually they never said a word to each other beyond what was necessary, but she knew Agnes, like herself, preferred the quiet. The unsaid things between them were mutually understood anyway, they didn’t need to be voiced. Agnes knew, at ten o’clock, Laura liked to sit at her window and watch the gardeners work under the hot sun. At half past noon her lunch was sent up, consisting always of two hardboiled eggs, black tea, and buttered toast. Laura could only stand to eat the one egg, and Agnes knew to eat the other. It was the best arrangement, as it would hurt Cook’s feelings to have anything sent back to the kitchens. Often, as Laura ate her hardboiled egg, she thought of the great banquets that her father hosted for nobleman, and wondered what kinds of good foods were served there. Being a girl, she was never allowed to stay and eat any of it.


    Now, sitting on her plain bed and remembering these things, she began to wonder what her habits would be like once she was married. Don Lafontaine, for all his exclamations over her, she could hardly think would want any more to do with her than what was required. He would marry her only and take her back with him to his home, and there she could do as she pleased as long as it didn’t disturb him. It was her understanding that there would not even be a honeymoon, as the Don would be needed for advisement to the king in this time of “uncertainty”. It sounded more like something he had made up for the double purpose of excusing his skipping this tradition and making himself sound more important than he really was. However, she really did hope that he would leave her to her own devices. She had not voiced a desire to remain unmarried to anyone that asked, nor had she ever attempted to thwart the arrangement. She accepted it, graceful as she could, and said nothing. And everyone, far as she could tell, believed her to be pleased with the eminent marriage. She only imagined that Agnes knew better.


    It had been Agnes that had come to give her the news of her engagement. Her father could not even be spared to do so, for it had been the Don’s desire to be wed quickly, and he had hurried away to make the first arrangements. And, he had had guests from the banquet that he must entertain, and he couldn’t leave them, not for his daughter.


    It had not been very long ago, perhaps a month or so. She had been sitting here, doing something quite similar to what she was now doing (that is to say, nothing at all), when a stir downstairs had caught her attention. She had sent Agnes to see what was going on, thinking it to be some novel thing with which she might distract herself. Perhaps someone had discovered something undesirable in his superb meal. Upon Agnes’ return, the servant looked slightly paler but otherwise unchanged.


    “Agnes, what news is this?”


    “My lady, you are to be wed to Don Lafontaine. Your father says the arrangement will be completed within a few weeks time.”


    Her voice had been flat, emotionless, perhaps stale from unuse. But Laura, who had interacted silently with Agnes since she was very small, could tell there was something changed in her posture.


    “The Frenchman?”


    “Yes, my lady.”


    “And…is it to be grand?” she asked, wondering how much her hand was worth to the Don.


    “He says so. Only, there may not be time for a honeymoon because of the political state of France.”


    Then they said nothing. They had returned to their silent milling about Laura’s sparse room. Hence, they had spoken no more of the arrangement, and their habits had not changed, save for the daily need to be measured and fitted for her dress. Otherwise, all was the same: they idled in her rooms until lunch, after which they ventured out into the gardens for entertainment until dinner. Often Agnes would have to leave her mistress in the afternoons on some business in the house. Sometimes she had nothing and could stay. Their entertainment consisted chiefly of observing the flying insects about the flowers. Laura liked to watch them take flight and mingle with each other before rising higher and moving on. She half wished she could move on. She half knew she was going to move on.


    But move on without Agnes, she could not stand.


    Though they had not spoken of the marriage since the one time, Laura did allude to it once, and even then she felt it was something she ought not to have done, like she was breaking their social contract.


    “Anges…” she started one day, about a week before the day.


    “Yes, my lady?”


    “When I leave here…what will become of you?”


    “I…suppose the king will find other work for me here.”


    Her voice was still flat. Laura tried to decipher what it meant. She looked over at Agnes, who was tugging lightly at a loose string in her skirts. She had not looked up.


    “Should you like that?”


    “No, my lady.”


    “Should you miss me?”


    “Very much, I believe.”


    “Would you come with me?”


    And then there had been silence. Agnes ceased her pointless tugging and remained still, perhaps in thought. Laura wondered if the decision really required so much thought. Perhaps she was much more attached to Agnes than Agnes was of her. Perhaps maids were used to changing mistresses so often, and Agnes was bred to the task.


    “If you will it.”


    Agnes wasn’t with Laura right now. With the wedding only a day away, she was downstairs on some cleaning business in one of the usually empty sitting rooms. The whole castle needed to be spotless for the great influx of guests that were not important enough to stay in the castle the night before. They would come in the morning, and need places to rest before the ceremony began.

    Laura felt Agnes’ absence like the loss of hair after one has just gotten a haircut. Something was not quite right, not quite comfortable. She wrapped herself more snuggly in the sheets she had draped about her shoulders, hoping this would help. The sheets were spotless, yet creased. She imagined the spotted and creased sheets she would be laying on tomorrow night, her wedding night. The blood from a virgin would come, surely, and she would have to lay upon it as Don Lafontaine moved against her grotesquely. It wasn’t a pleasant thought. But she knew she would not go from this place alone. Agnes was going with her, she had made sure to tell her mother’s maid as much before she left. She had given Laura a grimace, but said she understood and would make the necessary arrangements. The only thing left to do was marry. Then she could move on from her father’s home and become…what? Something more, definitely, for she could not become anything less than she currently was. And Agnes would be at her side. Agnes would fill her days with silent comfort from the absolute neglect the Don was sure to perpetuate. And Laura smiled to herself, thinking she would be somehow better off than she was now.

  4. #4
    Just Some Color Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala's Avatar
    Gil
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    Default Entry #3

    Entry #3

    Smiling shyly, Mary looked up at the man she had invited into her room. Feeling awkward and unsure, she just sat on her bed staring at him from across the room. He didn’t seem so comfortable with himself either, as he was lingering at the door. Feeling that he might bolt at any second, she tapped the bed next to her signalling him to sit down. He quickly crossed the room and sat where she had indicated, casually putting an arm around her and then jerking it away. Coughing nervously and laughing a little he admits, “I’ve never done this before.”

    She hadn’t realized she was holding her breath until just then, when she let it out in a loud exhale. Feeling relieved she told him, “Neither have I…”

    He turned to her, looking shocked. Why would a girl so young and beautiful resort to something so dirty? He didn’t want to confess on how that made him feel, but he couldn’t help but wonder why.


    “You don’t have to, if you don’t want to Mary.” He said carefully. He wanted to, but if this was her first time, if she was…


    “I want to. I’m just scared.” She whispered. He had already paid her after all, and she needed that money for her siblings. She was the only one left to provide and at Thirteen there wasn’t much she could do aside from be a man’s mistress.


    “Have you never… Are you a virgin?” He asked, hating himself for asking. Even more so hating himself for getting so wound up over it. She just looked away and nodded slowly. Wondering if he would ask for his money back. She needed that money. With the Plague having taken her father and weakening her mother, there was no other option. They were out there, cold on the streets waiting for her. It was her job now, her mother had told her. To bring the money home.


    He slowly put his arm around her again, lifting her chin with his hand. Slowly raising her eyes to his, she saw kindness and compassion. Something she hadn’t thought she would see.

    “I’ll pay you extra.” He whispered, “Since it’s your first time… Most men would kill for that opportunity.” He tried to explain, not sure if she even knew how it worked. She just nodded again.

    He slowly helped her undress and laid her out on the bed. There would be no sweet kisses. No gentle embraces. Nothing about this would show her that she was loved, wanted or adored. Blowing out the light so he wouldn’t scare her, he stripped himself of his clothing and climbed in next to her. Closing her eyes, clenching her teeth and clinging to the bedding below her. She wondered just how much her family really meant to her, as this man roughly took away her one virtue.


    A few hours later, he left. Leaving her far less than he had implied he would have. As she sat up in the bed, wrapping a sheet around her. She stared at the floor through glazed eyes. Feeling as if her father were judging her and her mother for what she had done. Ashamed and alone, she wondered if she could do this again. But she knew she would, they were counting on her. Getting up and staring at the stained mattress, she didn’t feel like a woman. She still felt like a girl, abandoned. As she cleaned up the remains of her innocence she thought about how she would do it again.
    Last edited by Fabala; 09-09-2008 at 11:51 PM.

  5. #5
    Just Some Color Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala has a reputation beyond repute Fabala's Avatar
    Gil
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    Default Entry #4

    Entry #4

    They had told her to wait. Not “man the towers” like they told the other servants; not “tend to the wounded” like they told the other women; not “defend this keep to the last man” like they told everyone else. They told her to wait, and so she waited.

    At first, she had waited by the entrance to the keep, in plain sight of all the defenders that manned the wall and gates. She had waved at them, said a few words of comfort and even had time to give her blessings to all of them until she had to move inside the keep because the lookout had sighted the first units of the advancing horde.

    Then she had to wait by the dining hall, where all the women of the keep had gathered with their medical supplies and children. She had helped them prepare for the inevitable rush of wounded bodies, consoled a few of the crying figures with messages of hope and bravery and, when the wounded did start to come in, had helped tend to a few bodies until one of the men insisted that she move someplace safer.

    And so for the rest of the night, she had been pushed deeper and deeper into the keep for her own safety until, at last, she couldn’t go any deeper. She was in the dungeons, with only a bed for company and a couple of basic amenities. Her keeper had locked the gate after her, with a promise that he would “be back in no time at all”

    That was more than two hours ago. Now the castle was eerily silent and, in the distance, there was an odd lurching sound to be heard. She could not go out and investigate if they had won because she did not have a key with her, as well as because the door was bolted from the outside. All she could do was stare at the door and wait for her attendant to come back. Hopefully he would.

    It would be another thirty minutes before she heard any signs of activity from outside of her door. It came in the form of that steady lurching sound, and it seemed to be coming from more than one source. It stopped in front of the door to the cell and, when she heard the bolt sliding, she stood up warily.

    “Thomas?” she called out. “Thomas is that you?”

    The door opened and, in the light of the lone lantern in the room, she saw that it was indeed Thomas, for the figure was wearing his uniform.

    “Thomas!” she cried happily. “You can’t believe how worried I was. I thought we wouldn’t make it through the night”

    She ran forward, barely able to contain her happiness. She wanted to thank him, hug him, and
    she was about to do so when she noticed something didn’t seem quite right. There was something wrong with Thomas.

    Slowly, her whole body trembling, she took the lantern and bathed him in its light. She could barely stifle a scream. Whoever in front of him might have been Thomas in the past, but he was clearly not him now. He still possessed all his features, but it looked like the life had fled from his eyes, and his bloodied neck was evidence of how he had met with his demise. But how could he be standing there when everything pointed that he was supposed to be dead?

    “T-Thomas?” she asked, her voice faltering.

    The figure turned slowly to look at her, opened its mouth, and said “Braaaaaaaaiiiiiiinnnssssssss…”

    And then she dropped her lantern, and all was darkness.

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