Week 11: Odd Prompts

Sluggish on what to create? Stuck and need a quick short diversion to get your brain flowing again? Hoping for a few ideas? Seeking companionship and – wait, wrong website. For all but the last, you’re in the right place!

All you have to do is send in a prompt. Trade, offer or grab a spare, either way, just email oddprompts@gmail.com to get started.

PrompterPromptPromptee
AC YoungWandering the forest paths at dusk…Fiona Grey
Fiona GreyThe garden was filled with lampshadesCedar Sanderson
Ray KrawczykThere’s a warm wind blowing the stars around.Becky Jones
Becky JonesThe fire popped and crackled as they stood around in the rain.nother Mike
Leigh Kimmel“Distant Early Warning” by Rush. Video is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrDj5XvZXX4Ray Krawczyk
nother MikeWhen she snapped her fingers, things happened. Tornadoes, earthquakes… and disasters, too!Leigh Kimmel
Cedar SandersonThey thought they were putting a trapdoor into the crawlspace, not…AC Young

SPARES

SparePurple Hair, old lady’s head…
SpareThe snowflakes floated gently upwards
SpareHer bad mood manifested in the physical world.
Spare“I was bitten by a radioactive library, alright?”
SpareThe garden was full, and growling, too…

Check out the comments for this week’s offerings. We’re a friendly bunch.

Header image by Fiona Grey

15 comments

  1. I got involved in a prompt triangle this week, with Cedar Sanderson supplying: They thought they were putting a trapdoor into the crawlspace, not…

    It took a little while to put the rest of the idea together, but then it ran away from me. I’ve definitely given myself a challenge to finish this without boring readers rigid…

    Mary and William had just bought their first house. They had moved in, and were now looking at all the improvements that needed to be made. One of the things that they wanted to change related to the crawlspace. It was fairly deep, and so they thought they would put in a trapdoor to give them easy access to the far end.

    The construction company they had hired had done the job, and appeared to have done it very well. Now was the time to explore the far end of the crawlspace.

    William opened the trapdoor, turned on his torch and jumped down. He moved to one side and Mary hopped down to join him. Then they looked around.

    Something was wrong. The wooden wall should be just to their right, but it was instead to their left, in the direction of the front of the house. To their right was a tunnel, with a set of steps headed downwards.

    The pair shared a glance, then headed down the staircase to explore.

    The staircase headed down and down and down into the ground. A minute after they started going downwards the staircase came to an end, and the pair entered a circular chamber.

    The roof was a dome of rock. Ahead of them was a doorway, with two further doorways to their left and to their right. Awaiting them in the centre of the room were two men – or were they with their pointed ears? One of them was dressed in white robes, the other in silver chainmail with a sword sheathed at his side.

    “Welcome, welcome! It has been some time since we received a champion. And now we have two!”

    “I’m sorry,” said William. “I don’t understand.”

    The other – elf, was it? – responded. “This is the Quest Dungeon of Ethelstan. Those who wish to enter as champions may come down to this chamber to be prepared. Those who succeed will return with a great gift. Those who fail return to the world above as they came.”

    “I’m sorry, we seem to have entered here by mistake.” Mary clearly didn’t want to enter the dungeon.

    “You have already made your choice. All who enter this chamber are honour-bound to become a champion.”

    William also didn’t want to compete. But he swallowed his fear and said “May we descend as a pair, or must we do it singly?”

    “Pairs are permitted under the rules. Do you wish to compete together?”

    Both nodded.

    “Very well. Your first choice. Mage or warrior? You may choose to be the same, but may choose to be different.”

    Mary and William looked at each other. They spoke together. “Mage,” said Mary. “Warrior,” said William.

    “Very well,” said the – elf? – in the robes. “The mage will come with me. The warrior will be guided by my colleague.”

    Mary followed the robed figure through the left-hand door, while William followed the armoured figure through the right-hand door.

    “You have one further choice to make. You must select two of the five elements of magic: Air, Earth, Fire, Spirit and Water.”

    Mary thought for a while. Spirit? She had no idea what sort of spells fell under that particular element. Air and Water didn’t appear to be very useful. So she said “Fire and Earth.”

    “Interesting choice.” The robed figure took a large tome from a suitably placed table, and handed it to Mary.

    No sooner than Mary laid hands on the book than knowledge of a set of spells flooded into her head. Some were fire spells, such as ‘fireball (small)’. Some were earth spells, such as ‘tunnel digging’. Some required both, such as ‘mend chainmail’.

    Before her head stopped spinning at the new knowledge, the figure continued. “As you progress through the dungeon you will be given the opportunity of learning new skills and developing existing ones further. If you add abilities in another element of magic you will also obtain knowledge of the basic spells of that element. If you develop your skills in an element of magic you will obtain knowledge of the spells that require that additional level of elemental skill.

    “One final thing. Casting spells is costly. Initially every spell has the same cost, and you will be limited to five spells per level of the dungeon. As you develop your skills in an element the lower-level spells that require that element will become less costly. This will enable you to cast more spells per level, but beware, for multiple-element spells diminish in cost more slowly than single-element, and once you have run out of power you will be unable to cast spells until you complete the level.”

    Mary gulped. Keeping track of how many spells she could still cast sounded like a huge responsibility. If she cast too many spells too early then she wouldn’t be able to cast a spell they needed her to cast near the end of the level. Yet if she didn’t cast spells early they might fail before they’d progressed very far through the dungeon.

    “I’ve taught you all that you need to begin. We shall now return to the main chamber.”

    Mary followed the robed figure back through the doorway. As she passed back into the main chamber she was suddenly wearing a set of mage’s robes.

    Awaiting them were William and the other guide. William was now dressed in chainmail with a sword in its scabbard on his left hip.

    “Before you enter the first level of the dungeon there is one final piece of instruction you both need to hear. You do not need to learn only the skills of your chosen discipline. Mages can learn the skills of a warrior, and warriors can learn to cast magic. And these can be useful in the challenges to come. However, casting spells often requires specific gestures made by specific hands, and this may not be possible if carrying certain weapons or wearing certain armour. So be careful what skills you choose to learn outside your primary field.”

    Both champions looked at each other and nodded.

    “You may begin.”

    The pair of champions stepped through the doorway opposite the stairs, and started the first level of the Quest Dungeon of Ethelstan…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Becky Jones introduced…

    The fire popped and crackled as they stood around in the rain.

    Hum. Who are they, and why are they standing in the rain? What’s burning? Hum…

    [rough cut…]

    The day had been long and hard. Prying at the rubble left from the quake, digging through it, finding crushed bodies, and here and there, when they were lucky, someone who had been caught in a small cavity and could be saved. Mostly, it was slow, agonizing work, trying to clear the huge blocks of concrete without crushing anyone who might still be alive underneath.

    Now, in the dusk, it was starting to rain, and they lit a fire using wood dug out of the piles. They stood around it, too tired to do more than stare at the flickering flames. The fire popped and crackled as they stood around in the rain, trying not to think about what they had seen that day.

    [that’s kind of dark]

    [how about a western?]

    Henry tilted his hat back and mopped the sweat off his forehead. He had a bandanna stretched across his mouth to try to keep the dust down, and he reached back and yanked at the knot, finally getting it loose. Then he looked up.

    “Hey, tenderfoot! How’d you like your first day on the drive?” The big cowboy leaned down from his horse as he looked at Henry.

    Henry lifted his hat, and smiled.

    “I liked it just fine, Scott! So what do we do now?”

    The cowboy laughed, and pointed at the nearby campsite.

    “Head over there. We’ll talk a little while the sun sets, and then settle down for the night.”

    Henry nodded, and walked over to the fire. Most of the cowboys were already there, and Scott joined them soon enough.

    The sky rolled on forever out here, over the flat billows of land. As the sun set, the clouds scattered across it were glorious gold, red, and orange touches, making the blue stand out even more. The herd was quiet, although there were occasional grunts and moos as the cows rested after walking all day.

    As the cowboys started to talk, a light rain began. Just a mist, but it was a relief after the heat and dust on the trial, convincing the herd of cows to go where they wanted them to go. He’d always heard that cows were almost as stupid as pigs, and now he knew it. Heck, pigs wouldn’t get stuck in spots where those cows managed to wander into.

    So, the fire popped and crackled as they stood around in the rain. It washed the last of the dust off them, and they happily lifted their faces to it, just like young kids enjoying the rain.

    [that reminds me… Indians?]

    Ahanu looked at the adobe house where he had been born and grown up. He knew what they had to do, but it was still hard. Inside the house, his mother lay, her well-worn hands at last quiet, her eyes closed.

    The family and friends were gathered around the hut, all waiting. Ahanu looked to the sky, and saw the sun just touching the ground. It was time.

    He started the chant, raising his voice as the others joined in. The boys who had been charged with setting the fires did their job, and the hut started to burn.

    Then, the clouds that had been scattered around blessed the funeral fire with their own gift. A fine mist fell on them.

    The fire popped and crackled as they stood around in the rain. As the tears of heaven caressed his face, he knew that his own tears joined them. And he knew that his mother was gone.

    [hum, that sketch probably needs a bit more detail, but…]

    [what if… a little more meta?]

    They gathered from near and far, each carrying something. Some had thick piles of notes and papers, while others just had a bag full of crumpled and balled up sheets, but they all had something.

    As the leaders started the fires, they all shook their heads. Then they started adding their own bits and pieces to the flames. And stepped back, giving everyone room to toss those stories that hadn’t quite made it, those character sketches that just didn’t work, those notes and plots that weren’t going anywhere, all that rubbish into the fire.

    It seemed fitting that there would be a gentle rain that evening. Maybe the heavens were crying for the lost directions, the missed opportunities?

    The fire popped and crackled as they stood around it in the rain. And as those notes burned, they felt their own spirits grow lighter, and knew that now they could start again, and tomorrow… tomorrow they would write again!

    With new prompts, and even more words!

    [there you go!]

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Just a snippet this week. Leigh Kimmel suggested Rush’s “Distant Early Warning”.

    A gust of wind blew a sheet of rain against his windshield and pushed his car closer to the edge of the road. Neil Lee fought it back, tacking against the wind to keep it centered in the lane as best he could. An ill wind was blowing tonight.

    It had been blowing like this all night, even inside his house. His daughter Alex and he had gotten into a shouting match during dinner. She was eighteen and chafing at the unfair restraints he imposed on her. She was an adult now and she wanted freedom. Freedom to date who she wanted, freedom to do as she wanted.

    Freedom to make mistakes.

    Since her mother had died, he’d been afraid. Afraid of messing up their daughter. Afraid of failing to raise her in a way that would make her mother proud.

    His job at DAMA, Defense and Monitoring Agency, hadn’t helped. Officially, DAMA existed to keep an eye out for roaming celestial objects. They did do that. But they also existed to keep an eye out for objects under intelligent control.

    He checked in at the guard shack, drove his car to the main building’s parking lot, waited for a lull in the rain and dashed inside. He made a cursory nod to the guard inside the lobby, stopped by his office to drop off his overcoat and briefcase, then walked to the command center.

    It was a SCIF, a Secure, Compartmented, Information Facility. He dropped his phone in the rack outside the door, and badged into the room. Inside, he took the change of shit report from the previous shift commander, Terry Broon.

    One of the Busybody satellites orbiting out past Pluto had gone offline. The run book said for a single satellite failure, to contact the closest Watchdog base to check it out. Considering that the Busybody satellites were five light hours out, and the Watchdog a touch over four and a half light hours out, they didn’t expect an answer from Watchdog Twenty-Two for another forty-five minutes.

    Broon wished him well and left the command center. His shift members filed out after giving their opposite numbers a shift handoff. Other than the one Watchdog that was offline, there was nothing untoward.

    A half hour later, the six Busybody satellites in a concentric ring around Busybody 2112 went offline. They went offline at the exact same time tick. Neil reviewed the pages in the run book for loss of contact with one satellite. Just as Broon had said, contact the nearest Watchdog station, and have them check it out. The protocol was the same for two Busybody’s down. For more than that it said to suspect hostile action, notify the Crystal Palace, got to Defcon four, and lock down the SCIF.

    But Alex was out there, she’d stormed off after their argument. Driving her elderly economy car out into the rainy night. Contrary to protocol, he went to the single entrance, opened it, retrieved his phone, and returned to his command station.

    He lifted the Lexan cover over the lockdown button and pressed the square. It illuminated to show it was active. Yellow strobes began flashing in the corner of the room. All over the allied world, military forces were waking up and getting ready, just in case.

    He dialed Alex on the phone. After four rings it went to voicemail.

    The time for Watchdog 22 to respond came and went. At the exact time tick when they should have responded, if they were following protocol, their carrier lock went out of contact. He checked the run book for Busybody and Watchdog down Hostile action assumed, remain on lockdown and go to Defcon three. The military forces were now stirring to life. Fighters and Bombers were going to ready five status and off-duty personnel were being recalled.

    He rang Alex’s number again. Again, it went to voicemail.

    He was going to be disciplined for having a phone in a SCIF. He might be fired and face punitive action, such as loss of his pension. He was surprised to find that despite his recent anger with his daughter’s rebellion, he still found her more important than his comfort in old age.

    A half hour later, thirty-six more Busybody satellites when offline and six Watchdogs. All without a peep of warning. He elected to send and advisory to all of the Watchdogs and he sent the command to put the remaining Busybody satellites into active scanning mode. He also updated Crystal Palace and the joint chiefs at the Pentagon. It was worth the effort to put the satellites into an offensive posture, even if the command wouldn’t reach the survivors for another five hours.

    Once he was done briefing the brass hats, he dialed Alex again.

    This time, mercifully, she picked up on the fourth ring. “Jesus Christ, old man! I told you I was done with you!”

    “Alex, listen to me. I know I screwed up, and you probably hate me…”

    “Ya think? Why didn’t you just lock me up in a nunnery?”

    “Honey, something is happening. Do you still have your go bag in the trunk of your car?”

    Alex’s tone changed. “Yeah, I think so.”

    “Check to make sure it’s there. If it isn’t, get home, get it or the spare in my bedroom closet. Then get on the road. Get to your grandmother’s. Can you do that?”

    “Dad, you’re scaring me.”

    “Good. Because I’m scared. Something is happening, we don’t know what. I could get prosecuted just for telling you this. Just, get out of town, lie low, I’ll contact you if I can.”

    “You don’t get to just drop this on me and not give me the chance to…”

    Neil jumped in to cut her off. “Honey, you are the most important thing in the world to me. I love you. Now, I have a job to do. And I can’t do it if I’m worried about you. Get to your grandmother’s. Stay inside and only listen to receivers. Nothing that transmits. Got it?”

    Alex voice sounded like she was holding back tears. “Ye-yeah. What about you?”

    “I’ll be fine. It’s you I worry about. Get yourself safe so I can do my job without worrying about you. I love you. Good luck.”

    “I love you too.”

    He hung up his phone. Shutting it off for good measure, he turned back to the crisis.

    Like

  4. A week later, but I finally got something done.

    Another peek into the back story of the 4 Winds detectives: Adrian comes home with a request for the still inexperienced Robin to look into something. Is the young Adept ready to strike out on her own?

    Consultation

    Liked by 1 person

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