Sunday, October 16, 2011

Outside of My Box

The other day whilst catching up on blogs, I came across the fact that Blizzard was having a writing contest. Deadline - October 15th. So, what did I do yesterday? I channelled my inner nerd.

What is Blizzard? It is a gaming company that produces Diablo, Starcraft, and World of Warcraft. I've played WoW for about four years now and I'm not ashamed. I have considered other games, but frankly there are not enough hours in a day. Avadonja wrote that she was going to participate in this contest. Her big concern was how to write fan fiction and keep it clean. My big concern was how to write fan fiction in general.

Well, I did it. I'm more or less happy with the end result. It's just a short story - 3k words. I like to think I inserted my sense of humor appropriately. It was hard not to add romantic elements but I held back as much as I could. Short and sweet. Of course it's absolutely nothing like the past winning submissions (available here) but it made me smile and didn't take itself too seriously.

If you would like to spend a few minutes of your life reading my submission, click below. Be warned, you will never be able to get those minutes back or erase the memory of reading entirely from your subconscious mind.

*Of course, now that the story is submitted, I realize I got my main character's name wrong. I wrote Kristen, and it's actually Kristin. That and Topper is bare foot.  /Sigh

Blame it on the Cheese
“Hi, my name is Kristen and I’m an alcoholic.”
“Hi Kristen,” chorused throughout the dark front room of the Gilded Rose.
“I have been sober for three years and eleven months.” Kristen tucked a wayward strand of ebony hair behind her ear and smoothed a hand over her sleek bob. “This time of year is still hard. Honestly, it’s the only time I miss drinking.”
Allison, the innkeeper and Alcoholic Sobriety Support meeting secretary nodded, looking toward the two hogsheads of Thunderbrew lager sitting by the door. Kristen knew Allison had been very strong through her last six years of sobriety even though her business involved alcohol sales. She didn’t know how Allison had been able to deal with it – it was hard enough handling deposits at the bank.
Glancing around the small group, she smiled, “I just want to say how grateful I am to have you all supporting me. All the excitement of Brewfest makes me want to forget how much better my life has been since I gave up drinking.”
Chilton murmured, “It’s the cheese.”
Kristen and Allison nodded; Dungard just sat staring at his feet. Kristen hoped he wasn’t drunk again.
“I remember my first Brewfest” Chilton continued. Kristen stayed silent, politely watching Chilton talk even though he had interrupted her turn. He sat tall, his shoulders dwarfing the wooden chair. He had a far away look of longing that she could only describe as lust. He probably would have been magnificent in a Brewfest brawl, shirtless and armed only with a tankard. She licked her lips and focused on what he was saying.
“The women,” he added, “the brawling…”
“Don’t forget the puking and the hangovers,” Allison interrupted.
Dungar mumbled, “The wild worpletingers…”
Chilton stopped him with a glare. “Yes, there is all that, but most of all, the food.”
Allison raised her brows, and leaned forward, “You can still eat the food, sweetie.”
“Not without visiting Brewfest,” Chilton finished. “And I don’t know if I’m strong enough to go there without touching the samples.”
“Sorry I’m late. I brought everyone some snacks.” Topper McNabb kicked the door shut behind him as he tromped into the room.
Allison stood, wiping the muddy prints he left in his wake. “Thanks Topper, you’re such a giver.”
Ignoring her, he dropped a package on the table and unwrapped the oily linen. The scent of onion spiced cheese filled the room. Kristen’s mouth watered as Topper pulled his runed dagger from his belt and cut a wedge.
He crossed the room, his sodden steps forming clumps on the bearskin rug. Handing her the savory cheese, he smiled. “I remembered how much you loved this. I took the tram to Ironforge this morning in order to be back in time for the meeting. Enjoy.” He winked before turning back to the table.
Kristen broke off a chunk and brought it to her lips, the scent reminding her of laughter, of dancing. The sensory memory brought her back to a time when she looked forward to what the day would bring. A time when she reveled in the way men looked at her with longing and a little bit of fear.
Before she was numb.
“Kristen,” Allison was a strict timekeeper when it came to meetings, “Weren’t you about to share something? You said that Brewfest made you miss drinking…” Her voice trailed off as she raised an eyebrow in expectation.
Kristen cleared her throat, placing the cheese on the chair beside her.
“I was saying that, but I realize that it’s not the drink that I miss. It’s the…” she fumbled for the word, “Life? No…interest?”
“Exhilaration.” Topper finished and the room went quiet.
Kristen wondered where each of them had gone to in their minds. She knew from their time together that Allison had not always been an innkeeper. She had once been a priestess, renown throughout the Eastern Kingdoms for her healing. Kristen had never figured out what would bring such a successful woman down, but something had – she could tell by the insincerity of her always pleasant smile.
Topper, she remembered from experience, had been quite a mischief maker. A rogue, always daring to do what no sane man would try. That was before his addiction made him sloppy, more interested in the next drink than the next mission.
Chilton’s quiet sobs broke the silence and Allison handed him a handkerchief. “Exhilaration is something I have not felt in four years.” He leaned forward, rubbing his hands over his scarred scalp before looking at the others in the room. He sat up straight once more and offered a weak smile. “I’m Chilton, alcoholic.”
Again, they all responded, “Hi Chilton.”
“I’ve been sober for three years. I am an auctioneer here in Stormwind,” he continued as if everyone present did not already know him. “And I hate waking up every day. I know it will always be more of the same.”
Kristen and Allison both nodded while Topper cleaned his dagger.
Chilton blinked away the tears that threatened, looking toward the timbered ceiling of the inn. “I miss the respect. Knowing I was a leader. Trusted.”
“I trust you Chilton.” Allison leaned closer, meeting his eye.
“You shouldn’t. I’m always just one step away from taking another drink.”
“But each day you have that option and you choose not to.” Allison kept her gaze steady in spite of the defeat in his face. “That makes you stronger than all those other guys that don’t have the urge to drink. I trust you more because life has tested you. You win everyday.”
“Woot.” His voice was dead. “I’m a winner.”
With a sad smile, Allison laid a hand on his knee.
Chilton’s body tensed in response. “Can I help you?”
She simply closed her eyes. Chilton’s eyes widened as a golden glow pulsed through him.
“Did you just heal me?”
“It seemed like you needed it.”
“I…” Chilton paused, blinking in surprise, “I think I did. It was like my body remembered. I felt the thrill of the fight, the relief of success.”
“By the light, I loved the missions of old.” Topper muttered, standing to kick straight the rumpled leg of the bear rug.
Dungar spoke up. “Why did sobriety mean we had to leave the field?”
“Honey,” Kristen turned to him. She could still smell the liquor on him, seeping from his pores “Stopping drinking didn’t take you out of the game, the drinking did that.”
“I got sloppy, dependent. I’m useless now.” Topper fell back into his chair.
“But you’re not.” Kristen turned back to Topper.
“Ask anyone. I’m a homeless beggar.”
“But you brought us cheese because you remembered I liked it.” Kristen did not point out that she was familiar with the accounting in Topper’s bank. “I know the rogue you are.”
‘Were, past tense.”
“No – are.” Kristen held his eye until he looked away.
I can’t reclaim who I was.”
“Maybe not, but why can’t your new you be something amazing.” If there was a chance for Topper to reclaim himself, maybe there was a chance for her as well.
Chilton stepped forward, “Imagine how powerful I could be, a warrior and a leader – without the kungaloosh.” Chilton stood, his shoulders squared. “Maybe it’s time to put myself out there again.”
Allison gasped, “A mission? Are you strong enough?”
“If I can handle idiots poking me all day and setting off their toy train sets, then my nerves are steel. Yes, I am strong enough.”
Kristen made a choo-choo sound and pumped her arm in the air only to earn a glare from Chilton. “Sorry.” She sat back down. “I’ve always wondered how you managed to keep your cool. I heard that Auctioneer Jaxon has started cutting herself.”
“What about you, Kristen?” Allison asked. “Do you love working at the bank?”
“Accounting has been a good use of my skill set.” Kristen gave the answer she always gave when people expressed pity for her. She did not say that managing guild accounts was a constant soul sucking endeavor.
“Imagine how it would feel to fight for the good of the kingdom again. To be the mage you were.”
On instinct she shrouded herself in ice. Even so, she could feel her friend’s concern, their hope. Magic prickled through her skin, her fingers aching to call frost down upon an enemy. The ice shattered and she stood straight again. “What are you suggesting, Chilton?”
“That we take back our lives. Feel alive.” He pulled a discolored and crumbled parchment out of his pocket. Smoothing it, he read, “King Varian Wrynn calls all heroes to Stormwind Stockades to quell the Defias uprising.” He put the paper down. “I say we answer the call.”
“Us?” Allison’s voice was a squeak. “We are out of practice. Our armor…”
“Will be fine against a rag-tag group of convicts.” Chilton finished her sentence. “Remember? We used to train new recruits in the Stockades. Our combined experience and expertise ensures a victory. Besides, this is just a step on the ladder. We will find our place again as a team.”
“Team A.S.S?” Topper laughed.
“When people ask how I know you, I usually tell them it was in a poetry meeting.” Kristen added, smiling. “For the sake of your anonymity, of course.”
“Of course,” Chilton agreed.
“A priest,” Allison gestured to herself, “A warrior, a rogue, and a mage.” She nodded toward Kristen.
“And a hunter.” Dungar added, jumping to his feet. “I’m in.”
Allison looked wary. “Are you up for this?”
“You’ve only been sober a short while this time.” Kristen added, not sure if he was sober at the moment.
“Don’t judge me!” He sounded close to tears.
They were all silent while he straightened his tunic and tightened his belt. Walking to the door he called over his shoulder, “I will retrieve Rocky from the stable keeper and meet you at the Stockade.” He gave them no time to answer before closing the door behind him.
“Can we trust him?” Allison whispered.
“We have to.” Chilton answered, his jaw tense. “This is his chance too – he may even need it more than the rest of us.”
“So,” Topper let the word linger in the quiet room, “What is Rocky?”
Allison sighed. “No idea.”
“Right then, all of you gear up. We’ll meet outside the Stockades shortly.” Chilton drew a deep breath and lifted his chest. “This will be fun. Like old times.”
“Didn’t that guy shine your armor the other day?”
Kristen heard the guard mutter as their sad little party strode down the stone steps into the  Stockade. Topper dropped into a crouch and melded with the shadows, unwilling or unable to take the jeers that were sure to continue.
She had not worn her fighting garb in years. Back then it had been the top of the line for mages, boosting her power with the maximum spell protection and aesthetic appeal; she had felt powerful and sexy. Now she felt silly, the cloth hugging her hips and the cut outs on her back leaving her too exposed. She had almost convinced herself that it was all in her head when Commander Coe suggested he had a large deposit for her bank. No one would take a mage seriously in armor three years out of date no matter how much spellthread was sewn into her leggings.
Allison had the same problem. “I feel ridiculous.”
“You are a powerful priest. Own it.” Kristen hoped she could take her own advice and held her head high as she gripped her staff before her.
Commander Coe and his men would hold the bottleneck at the entrance, but once Chilton lead them into the dark beyond, they would have to depend on each other. The sense of danger she felt was…
Her heart beat in her throat as she called her elemental to her side. “Ready when you are, Chilton.”
Chilton stood strong, his shoulders flexing as he stretched his fingers over the hilt of his sword and tightened his grip on his shield.
“It appears that the Stockade has changed some in the years since we were here last.”
Kristen rolled her eyes at his understatement, but stayed silent.
“This does not mean,” He continued, “that we are doomed to failure.”
“I need a drink.” Dungar muttered under his breath, poking his pet fire roc, Rocky, affectionately.
“No, you don’t. You need something to break your apathy. We all do.” Even Allison’s words were soothing.
“We persevere here and it is a new beginning.” Chilton added.
Topper spoke up from right behind Kristen. “What if we fail?” His words made her jump.
She turned and punched his shoulder. “I hate it when you do that.”
“But I love knowing I still have it in me.” He smirked, too charming for his own good.
“And that’s the point here. The blood is rushing through my veins for the first time in years. I am not just an auctioneer; I’m a warrior who has lead men in battle. Kristen is not just a banker, Dungar is not simply a gryphon master, Topper is not…” Chilton’s voice trailed off.
Topper finished the thought for him, “A loser?”
Kristen punched him again.
“My point is that we can’t fail.” Chilton continued, “We’ve already won.”
Chilton’s beatific smile was a little disturbing. Kristen was a little worried he might break into song.
 “Enough of the feel-good speeches.” Dungar spoke up. “This is not a meeting, it’s a mission. We’re here. Let’s take them down.”
Chilton focused into the darkness before them, visibly changing from the emotional alcoholic to the hardened warrior. “There are eight criminals guarding the hall ahead that I can see. Their leader appears to be the vicious thug pacing between them.”
Kristen peered into the corridor before her, her eyes adjusting to the dim lighting. “None of them are casters.” She spoke as she summoned the elements of frost and encased one of the lesser men before her in ice.
Topper snuck up behind a patrolling criminal and knocked him unconscious. Dungar tossed out a freezing trap, capturing another just as Chilton charged at the leader.
The fight was on.
Allison held back, sending pulse after pulse of holy light into them. Kristen kept a constant flow of ice through her hand, pelting the criminals surrounding Chilton.
Rocky joined the fray, spurred on by Dungar’s barrage of arrows.  
Dungar threw down an explosive trap and Chilton pulled himself back toward it, bringing the fight with him.
Kristen felt the pulse of power through her as she channeled her element. Her minion stayed consistent, casting blasts of water one after the other. Topper dual wielded daggers, one of them the one he used on the onion cheese, behind his targets, disabling them while their attention was fixed on Chilton.
They each filled their roles to perfection. Chilton took the majority of the damage, never loosing his footing as the lead of their party. Allison’s healing was timely and strong. Kristen’s own casts had easily done the most to bring down the enemy. She never wavered, never mistargeted; each pulse of power through her was familiar and exciting. It was the missing piece.
Topper took a red bandana from one of the fallen to clean his blades. “Excellent work everyone.”
Apparently, the simple praise was more than Chilton could take. Sobbing, he fell to his knees.
Allison was beside him in an instant. “What’s wrong? You were great just now.”
“I was!” His voice echoed in the stone corridor. “I was awe… awe… awesome!” He howled the last word.
“Um…” Topper glanced at Kristen, then back at Allison. “What is he doing?”
Holy warmth of renewal surged through Chilton. “I’m crying.”
“This was too much all at once…” Allison started.
“No, it’s that it’s so long in coming.” Chilton hiccupped on a deep breath, his plate armor rattling with each sob. “Why, why did I only try this now? Why not last year, or the year before?”
“Maybe it wasn’t meant to be. Maybe you weren’t ready.”
“I was ready!” Chilton roared, raking his fingers along his scalp. “I longed to do something more than survive, but I thought that meant drowning again in a bottle. I wished I could just wake up. Instead I just smiled as I auctioned off twenty pound catfish. All day, every day. When I could have been alive with rage fueling me.”
“So, you are happy right now?” Topper sounded so confused.
“No.” Chilton wiped his face on the red bandana Topper handed him. “Yes. I mean, I am alive again. I’m just angry that I waited so long.” He wiped his eyes once more, unknowingly smearing blood over his brow.
He dropped the cloth and turned away.
“He’s wallowing in regret.” Kristen whispered.
Topper took her hands, standing before her solemnly. “One thing I learned today is that regrets have taken up too much of my life. I’m not wasting any more time.”
She stood speechless, not sure if there was a message she was missing. After a moment, he let go and knelt down to rifle through the pockets of the fallen enemy. Triumphant, he turned back to her holding a pulsing crystal orb in his hand. “Think you can use this?”
She took the orb from him, feeling the instant connection. It was a caster’s trinket. What the thug had been doing with it was irrelevant. It was hers now. She could feel her capacity for channeling expand the minute she pinned it to her robes. Kristen no longer felt quite so vulnerable or naked. Well, she did feel a little naked, but with the appreciation in Topper’s eyes, it wasn’t a bad thing.
Yes, she was definitely living life again. She smiled and heard Chilton’s relaxed sigh.
“So, are you better now?” Dungar asked, no real concern in his voice.
“Yes, thank you for caring.” Chilton muttered, unsheathing his sword once more.
“Hey, I care plenty,” Dungar was already walking away, “but crying is for meetings.”
Allison skipped to catch up with the hunter and his pet, Chilton followed suit.
Topper looked up from looting the bodies, a leather doublet and jeweled short sword in hand. “Oh, are we ready to continue?”
“Definitely.” Kristen walked behind, ready to take on whatever came next.
“Hi, my name is Chilton and I’m an alcoholic.”
“Hi Chilton,” four voices replied in unison.
“I have not had a drink in three years…” His voice trailed off.
Kristen, for the first time since she started attending meetings, had no idea what he was going to say next.
“And last night I got my butt kicked by Hogger.”
Kristen nodded along with everyone else, and, just like the rest, was unable to contain her smile.
Chilton stood, showing off his new plate hauberk. “Tonight I plan to return the favor.”
Kristen’s face hurt from smiling, but she couldn’t stop. Topper sat beside her, clapping softly. Dungar, obviously sober and bathed, joined in. Then they were  all on their feet and cheering.
“This does not follow meeting protocol, but under the circumstances I’ll allow it.”
“I’d say this is the best meeting ever. Anyone here want a drink? Didn’t think so.” Topper laughed, wrapping his arm around Kristen’s shoulders. “Now, who wants to join Chilton?”
Everyone raised their hand. Kristen raised both.
“Let’s go then.” Chilton led the way out of the Gilded Rose, toward the canals.
None of the guards lining the steps to the Stockades laughed this time, but if they had, Kristen wouldn’t have cared. She was a mage. She was made to fight.
“These have been the best Alcoholic Sobriety Support meetings ever.”
Topper smiled and winked. “Who knows? Tomorrow may bring something even better.” He crouched and turned himself invisible, ready for the fight.
She summoned her minion and whispered. “I never thought I would look forward to tomorrow so much.”



Anonymous said...

Nice one. I really liked it. I gave up submitting stories to competitions. Mine are too different to the norm. There must be masses of good stroies out there that don't make it to a magazine or win a prize.

Erin Kane Spock said...

Did not win/place/finalist. Winning submission can be read here:

Avadonja said...

Just found this. Hilarious. RT a link. BTW, not enough hardcore swearing for an AA meeting.

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