HWS liaison officer and senior lecturer of English, Faculty of Arts, University of Winchester was our adjudicator for our February competition. With his extensive English language knowledge and keen interest in fantasy stories he was eager to read your competition entries; he had a difficult task with a high response rate and much creativity across the entries.
Write a dark scene in a fantasy world (300 words)
On making his decision, Gary said: “I enjoyed looking through the competition entries. The winner was a good example of competition writing – it’s necessary to ‘make an impression’ straightaway! And Marion’s piece did this.”
Gary’s adjudication was as follows:
First Place: Marion Dante with Dank Kingdom
Second Place: Margaret Jennings with Warning – Little Folk
Third Place: David Lea with Mutatis Mutandis
Highly Commended: Scott Goldie with The Troll
Highly Commended: Gill Hollands with Blood Moon
First Place: Dank Kingdom by Marion Dante
“All the competition entries are very imaginative, as is appropriate for fantasy writing. ‘Dank Kingdom’ is the most imaginative. Also, all the entries break the ‘rules’ of writing, again, as is appropriate for creative writing. This story is remarkably bold in this regard. Very striking. Achieves its effects (terror, horror, etc.) in a direct, almost visceral way. A good example of competition writing, being remarkably bold from the word go, and all in a relatively short space of time.”
Strange! Disorientating. These woods are eerie at the best of time. But tonight. This squalling storm…What’s that? My Go….That shriek. There it is again…uncanny weird screech. Cry. Hawkish. If only I could see. Lashing, whirling rain. Hanging mist and the darkness. So spooky. Rustling, crackling, breaking branches. What’s happening? Soaked through every pore. Saturated. Dripping. Leaking. Unsteady. Swaying. Grasping. Slimy bark. Lightening! Oh no! What’s that? Wren sized. Moving…a creature…. an animal? Moved. Coming towards me. Whipping wind tearing asunder. Whipped beyond Beaufort. Lie down. Mossy soggy leaf bed. Wait for light. Wow! More lightening. Is that a face…. feelers, clawing hands, tentacles reaching out….waving! Was that what was calling? Beady, preying eyes. Who? What? Discerning. ’Hi!’ No answer…disappeared…in a bush? Climbed a tree? Above? Behind? Bewildering. Splash! Swampy ….weird. There’s the thunder. Near? Definitely a cough. Freakishly ghostly…A face? Bearded. Peaked hat! Sprightly. Dancing. I do believe it’a mischievous leprechaun! Why wouldn’t it be? Sure aman’t I in the enchanted wood on the Kingdom of Kerry. A rainbow? Gold?
Second Place: Warning – Little Folk by Margaret Jennings
“This story, about public toilets, is actually very funny, as well as producing the usual effects associated with fantasy writing. An outstanding entry. A wonderful combination of the bizarre (the fairy) and the fearful (the stranger at the door).”
The sign is Harold’s little joke. We live in Little Fork and there are no public toilets.The sign looks like a fairy with crossed legs, arms held back, a half sitting position as though the loo is missing.
Harold says that I’m no fun anymore, but with my knees it’s hard to answer the door to people wanting the loo. They never offer to pay for the bog roll.
‘Buy the harsh stuff,’ he says.
But they only visit once. We live in one of the most beautiful villages in England, if it weren’t for the frosted glass you’d be able to sit on the loo and watch ships go by.
The sign stays up all summer. One day, a weird man comes to the door.
‘ Mrs Patrick?’ he asks.
‘Yes,’ I say and stand back.
‘No, ma’am, I’m not after the loo, I’m looking for my daughter, she’s missing.’
‘Do you have a photo?’
The photo was of that blasted road sign Harold had put up.
‘Very funny,’ I say and make to shut the door. But he is in the hall quicker than that tele-transporter could have moved him on Star Trek.
‘I believe she is in your house. This drawing was done by your husband, he is holding my daughter captive.’
I scream for Harold, try to grab this man. He moves like light.
‘Ma’am, please show me your husband’s study.’
And there sitting on Harold’s desk is this man’s daughter, a fairy with wings that catch the light like a starling’s feathers. She is a trollop. My husband snores in a chair, well satisfied with life. Guilt spreads on his face as he wakes.
As my reward, the strange man builds some public loos. Just as well, for my husband has to live there now.
Third Place: Mutatis Mutandis by David Lea
“A confident and assured piece of writing, with an intriguing ‘non-descriptive’ title. There is an arresting opening as well. So the reader is gripped, through to the surprising ‘twist in the tale’ at the end.”
I never saw my father bleed. I had seen my mother bleed many times: a clumsy knife on the chopping board, the skag of a thorn on her wrist, the prick of a needle, the monthly letting that is a woman’s curse and is now my curse too. But I had never seen my father bleed. He is tall and well made: dark of skin and dark of hair. It falls in ringlets to his shoulders. Big shoulders, big hands that make big fists, long legs made to stride and climb. My father was made, but not by any god.
The day I left home he came back with blood on him. Not his blood. But he leaned on his stave as he passed by the table where I kneaded the dough. He did not look at me. He did not see me. He passed by my mother and she turned from the spit with her face flushed from the heat and beaded with sweat, but he did not greet her. She looked at me, puzzled, and then turned back to the fire.
I slid from my bench and followed him to the bathing chamber where he sat with his back to me, wreathed in steam from the geyser. His right ankle was on his left knee and I could see the sole of his foot as he drew a finger over his heel and half way up his calf. It opened like a fruit and he used both hands to peel back the skin. Underneath, there were bright metal rods that caught the lamplight as he flexed his ankle. A screw fell and skittered across the floor. He turned to follow it and saw my shadow. He stopped and looked up. He did not smile.
Highly Commended: The Troll by Scott Goldie
“Very well written, with short, taut sentences. The suspense is sustained in a skilful way. Strikes a nice balance – is scary at the same time as being written for children.”
Barb awoke to near-blackness. What had happened? Where was she?
Where was the troll?
She pushed herself up, groaned, her muscles protesting. She fumbled around, grabbed at something wet and sticky, dropped it in horror.
I control my fear. The words steadied her. She took a slow breath. An awful smell, a terrible stench, filled her nostrils, threatened to overcome her.
Barb reeled, nearly fell. She blinked to clear her vision.
A faint grey light came from somewhere. Beneath her feet was a great pile of bones, chewed and split open. Skulls stared emptily at her.
She was in the troll’s lair.
Barb’s breaths came quick and ragged. Her heart pounded. All her training, those hours spent in the Arena, were forgotten. Now, her only thought was escape.
The silence was broken by a nasty crunching behind her, the cracking of bones. Barb span, a cry escaping her lips. A huge shadow lumbered towards her.
It was the troll. Toadbreath. He gave a horrid chuckle. “Goblin. Good, you’re awake. Just in time for lunch!”
He leered at her. “Where to start? What should Toadbreath eat first? Foot? Ear? An arm?” His thick black tongue licked at his slobbering lips.
Barb couldn’t move.
A taloned hand shot out, grabbed her around the neck. “Muscles….chewy. Flesh, young and tender. Bones, strong and full of juice.” She clawed at his hand, tried desperately to loosen it, but it squeezed tighter, an iron vice around her throat.
Her head swam from his stench. Only her fear kept her conscious. Any moment now and he would choke the life from her.
There was no one to save her. She fought to catch a breath, just the tiniest mouthful of air, kicked out and flailed with her fists. Her efforts lost strength and the world became dim…
Highly Commended: Blood Moon by Gill Hollands
“An impressively imaginative piece of science fiction fantasy writing. The narrative action is skilfully compressed. The reader is in a position of always wanting to know more about what is happening. Artfully disorientating, fascinatingly intense.”
‘Wow.’ Giddy from the height, Tad gawped as the wan, third moon sank behind the city spires.
‘Here it comes…’ Fog chuckled, swinging his legs over the parapet.
The final, huge moon soared, seeming to eat up the midnight sky. Its pocked and fissured bulk loomed above, staining the spires and the sleeping rooftops with bloody light. Tad rubbed a prickle on the back of his neck.
‘Time to go.’ Fog hopped off his perch, scrambling through the open window.
Tad hesitated, fascinated by the scene beneath his dangling feet. From no-where, night creatures swarmed, a plague sweeping through the city, swirling clouds of them roaring rage. His fingers twitched.
‘Come on! Quick!’ Fog tugged his hand as a million claws scratched against the ancient stones. The sound shivered down Tad’s spine. Dry mouthed, he leapt inside.
Fog swung the heavy shutters in. Tad caught a glimpse of the first creature to reach the edge. Silhouetted crimson, their eyes met. A blade of fire seemed to pierce him, as Fog slammed it shut.
Its beast breath lingered in the air. He sucked it down, savouring it on his tongue.
‘Don’t!’ He had to stop Fog sliding the bars across.
Hungry shrieks filtered through the cracks. Tad clamped his lips shut, fighting the heat flooding through. A thump against the shutters sent a drift of dust into the room.
‘It’s true!’ Hoarse, Fog punched him down, slid the bars ‘You’re cursed, Tad.’
Thumping escalated, frantic scratching.
‘Your idea.’ Wiping his sore lip, Tad smeared blood, frowning. He became suddenly aware of the tang of sweat in the air. His mouth watered, the room swam.
Under attack, the timbers of the shutters bulged inward.
‘I see it in your eyes…’ Whispering, Fog lunged for the door.
Afire, Tad gave chase, suddenly ravenous…