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Welcome to another Writing Challenge!

In line with the previous one, this includes a topic, a prompt, and also a challenge!

  • Topic

    Write about shopping in holiday. Any holiday will do, not just Christmas or New Year! You can even make up a holiday for a fantasy setting!

  • Prompt

    [His/her] hand deftly counting every last bit of money [he/she] has.

    You are free to modify this, for example:

    ... his tentacle deftly counting every last bit of credit he has.
    ... his paw clumsily counting every last bit of bones he has.

  • Challenge

    Use "silver tongue", "woo", and "gallant".

All of these options are optional - feel free to write something completely unrelated as well.


So to enter the challenge, you simply write something, and post it below. It can be a work in progress, and continue working on it while receiving feedback, or it can be a finished work - anything goes.

You can submit your entries until the end of the three weeks. After three weeks, we'll choose the next prompt and put up a new post.

You can either post the whole thing here, or, if you usually post your writing somewhere else, you can put a link here - although I'd advise putting something in to get people interested.

Remember: this is not a contest. This is merely for fun, and for some practice writing. There will (hopefully) be writers of all different skill levels posting - I'm certainly not super good.

You're welcome to provide feedback, but please make sure that it's constructive. And remember: Be Nice.

Remember that the age limit for the site is 13 - so please avoid excessive graphic content or strong language.

I look forward to reading the submissions!

The original meta post - How would having the writing challenges on Meta work out? - that started all this may be helpful. All of these challenges can be seen under the tag.

  • 1
    I'd really love to read alien and medieval shopping spree! – Vylix Dec 8 '17 at 3:58
  • Alien or medieval sound like fun. Alien and medieval? I'll give it a go. – ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere Dec 10 '17 at 10:46
  • @Vylix The prompt limits alien possibilities a little bit, as it involves hands and money. – Bogdan Alexandru Dec 12 '17 at 11:38
  • @BogdanAlexandru if you'd like, tentacles and credits will still count. I'll update the prompt tonight. – Vylix Dec 12 '17 at 11:42
4

A Christmas Present

Jim went out to the grocery store on that Christmas Eve, only to get the last items for his wife's traditional salad. He had no idea he would be the gallant stranger to offer an unexpected present that evening - one that he would never forget.

As he was walking back to his car, holding the large bag with both hands, he suddenly saw it all.

The brown SUV stops right by him. When the window opens, a friendly woman's face smiles at him and asks politely:

"Excuse me, sir, do you have any idea how I can get to the Wally's?"

It is probably too late to buy kids toys with only a few hours to go until Christmas. However, despite the warm sound of her voice, the woman's eyes seem desperate. "I have to get those Formula 1 special editions for my boys, they can't stop talking about it," she continues, while he is trying to figure out the best way to avoid the snowy roads. "You must have heard about them, haven't you?"

Of course he knows the futuristic, two-door, bright red toy-cars. They shove it down your throat all over the commercials breaks, with the silver-tongued guy in a neat driver suit, trying to woo the poor parents who happen to watch TV with their children.

"Well I guess if you take the North 108 and take the first exit, you should get there safely. They've cleaned up the whole area pretty well yesterday. I just hope you're not too late, how many pieces do you need?"

"Oh I need two of them. Billy and Johnny can share pretty much anything, but never a new toy."

"Alright then, good luck!"

She feels both lucky and relieved half an hour later, when she arrives at the store ten minutes before closing time. Four brand new Formula 1's are sitting there on the shelf, clean and shiny, waiting to be picked up.

She takes two of them and heads straight to the checkout counter. There is no line right now, and the last cashier guy ignores her for a moment, his hand deftly counting every last bit of money he has collected today. She hates to break his joy, as she knows he probably gets a nice commission from today's sales, but she is in a hurry.

"Good evening, I'd like to get these two, please."

As she is heading back home on the county road, passing under the highway, her thoughts speed ahead to her little boys. She can almost see their joy, getting up in the morning. They enter the living room, where the small, brightful Christmas tree is sheltering the gifts for the happy family of three. Well, four - if you count Wilma, the old labrador retriever. She too has a quite delicious present lying next to the chocolate santa.

The last image going through her mind is the face of the stranger at the grocery store. If she had not run into him, there is no way she would have reached Wally's in time - only a local knows the county roads in that area, after such a heavy snowstorm.

Then the large truck lights blind her as the road turns left around the woods, and she cannot survive the impact. Her car gets crushed like a tin can, and she dies almost instantly.

Jim was all sweaty, and the woman's voice brought him back in the parking lot, holding a bag of groceries in his hands.

"Excuse me, sir, do you have any idea how I can get to the Wally's?"

Jim looked at her in horror, and his eyes scared her. Perhaps she could find the way on her own, she thought, but it was too late. The man dropped the bag he was carrying, approached the car and put his hands on the edge of the half-opened window:

"Forget about the damned toys lady!" he said with a low, but rushed voice.

She felt shivers all over her spine and froze for a second. He seemed to be looking right through her when he continued: "Billy and Johnny need you."

That was the last drop. She shrieked in fright and pushed the throttle all the way down. Jim was barely able to step back fast enough to save his left foot.

They both arrived home that night, spending the Christmas evening with their families.

3

He watched the transaction, the buyer a supplicant holding coins in cupped hands, the vendor very much in charge, his hand deftly counting every last bit of money she had. No pretence here to be gallant, to woo the buyer with a silver tongue. The transactional dynamics were entirely in the vendor’s favour. Eventually he took all but a few coins and separated three of the stock from the herd. The transaction was complete.

This was the way things were done here. He had wondered whether they might have done things differently on the Festival of the Shrieking Bipeds, but that didn’t seem to be the case. In the wooden enclosure behind the small counter where the transaction had taken place, the bipeds shrieked. He couldn’t say he blamed them, and he tried to put out of his mind the similarity between the livestock and himself.

The glyph on the stone wall proclaimed an “unrivalled opportunity to exceed your deepest acquisitional ambitions”, though the crudity of the symbol made him laugh under his breath. Translational oddities had always held something of a fascination for him since, as a student in St. Malo, he had taken the ferry to Plymouth to laugh at the shops proudly proclaiming a word that made sense in English , but in his native French read as “dirty”.

He smiled, remembering. It had always been the ferry – never the flyer or the transit pod. It just seemed the right way to do it. Perhaps even then he’d had an affection - or possibly an affectation - for older technology that the Bureau of Xenophobia had taken into account when making his assignments.

Dirty was an appropriate word to remember. The street was dirty, the mud of the highway mingled with the excrement of at least four species. It confirmed the observed inverse correlation between technological level and the prevalence of dirt. He examined the point where his feet met the ground. The optical diffuser's displacement function was working, shrugging off the cloying mud. He was still invisible.

Invisibility had its own problems, and he moved closer to the wall so no one would walk into him. They had tried systems that mimicked the native inhabitants of the worlds they visited, but they had always failed - it seemed behaviour was more relevant in blending with a crowd than appearance. Ahead, towards the market square, the crowd was thicker and he debated using antigravity to hover above them, but that never seemed right. You were never part of the scene when you did that – you always felt removed from the people you were observing.

The festival seemed to be coming to an end. He checked for a clear path along the street and started to make his way back to the module. It looked like diplomacy was out of the question here – the natives would be more likely to see it as a food parcel than an attempt at contact. The Bureau would be pleased.

  • Alien+medieval! Hmm, was you the Xenophobia agent from our medieval time? – Vylix Dec 12 '17 at 1:43
  • 1
    Near(ish) future - Earth still has nation states, but with flyers, pods and interstellar transport. I can't tell you any more. The first rule of the Bureau... – ItWasLikeThatWhenIGotHere Dec 12 '17 at 8:08
3

I just want to say that this was the perfect prompt for a sappy Hallmark movie. I'm not sorry.


Rachel and Mills walked, unevenly, up the street. Rachel's legs were longer--they always had been--and every ten feet Mills had to jog a few steps to keep up.

Neither had said anything for ten minutes.

Mills' boots hit a pile of gray snow, which she shook off with a grimace. "A trip down memory lane, huh?" she called ahead to Rachel, who was in front of her again.

Rachel increased her pace. "You could be a counselor," she snapped over her shoulder.

"My Aunt Kay's a psychologist," Mills said, bobbed up beside her. "You met her, I think, last year--"

"At Christmas," Rachel said, "I know. My dad came that year." She looked up at the glaring strings of Christmas lights that lined every store on the block. "Your aunt was wearing tweed."

Mills giggled. "Yeah, she's weird. Maybe don't talk to her." One of her scarf ends came undone, and she threw it over her shoulder. She nodded at the mall entrance across the street. "Christmas Eve sale!" she sang, looking at Rachel.

Rachel glanced at it. Holly, ribbon, lights, and fake snow caked the entrance. "Looks like they've really stepped up the ritual this year," she said, dryly. "Still no melted chocolate over the door post, though. I don't think Santa's coming."

"Psh," Mills snorted, "they need reindeer blood." She glanced at Rachel's face. "Ok, too far. Please don't unfriend me."

"That silver tongue is going to lick the wrong icicle one day," Rachel said. "Be thankful I'm so callous."

Mills nodded sagely. "Yep, you're just one big ol'--" She stopped short. "Uh," she stammered, "how about the mall?"

"Fine," Rachel said, "you've wooed me." She sniffed. "You'll have to carry me across the street, though. It's a blue salt minefield and I'm wearing my cream booties."

With a gallant leap, Mills' boots landed in the black and blue slush next to the curb. "Anything for a freshly-single..." Her voice trailed off as Rachel's face darkened. Mills pouted. "I'm trying to lighten the mood, girl."

Rachel sighed. "I know. I forgive you, I guess." She stepped up to the curb and hopped on Mills' back. "Off with you!"

Mills staggered across the street, grinning all the way. She almost made it to the other side before she had to unceremoniously slide Rachel off, panting. "God, you're heavy."

Rachel tip-toed to the sidewalk. "They're called 'grief pounds,' peasant."

They approached the mall's front entrance. Rachel opened the door solemnly. "If we never return," she said, "tell them to light a candle on the clearance aisle."

Inside, they waded through the last-minute shoppers and fallen decor. Sticking close together, they headed towards the back. They found the returns aisle near the rear entrance, and they started to browse.

Mills wandered off for a while, but circled back after a few minutes. Rachel was staring at something on the shelf. Mills looked over her shoulder. "What'd you find?"

A tiny, wooden ornament of the Capitol Building was nestled between a jumbo teddy and a half-opened nativity set. "We went there last year," she said, quietly.

"Hey," Mills whispered, gently pulling her away. "C'mon, let's go."

Rachel shrugged her off. "Stop." She reached for the ornament, but Mills tugged at her arm again. Rachel whirled on her. "Stop it!" she snarled.

"I-I'm sorry." Mills' lip quivered. "I just thought--"

"Stop trying to fix it! I'm not broken!" Rachel blurted.

Mills stood there, trying to say something, but nothing came out. Rachel gave her a defiant glare, grabbed the ornament, and set off towards the registers. She heard Mills behind her, stuttering some kind of apology, but ignored her.

There was one register with a short line, and she cut off an elderly man to get in. Mills couldn't get around him. "Rachel!"

Rachel kept her back turned to her friend. When she got the cashier, she slammed down the Capitol Building, her hand deftly counting every last bit of money she had: four dollars and eighty-seven cents. "How much?" she asked.

The cashier, some stubbly highschooler, blinked. He turned the ornament over in his hands. "There's no tag," he said slowly.

"What? It was in the returns, there has to be one," she said. "Maybe it fell off." She looked behind her, thinking of going back for it. She caught sight of Mills' bewildered face, and turned back around. "Whatever. How much?"

"Five dollars."

"I have four eighty-seven and it's got a scratch." She held out her hand.

He didn't budge. "I-it's five dollars without a tag."

Rachel erupted. "I want it!" she yelled.

The kid looked like a deer that had just been shot. His eyes bulged. "S-store p-policy, ma'--"

"I don't care!"

"If it doesn't have a barco--"

She let out a shrill growl of disgust, took her money, and stomped, loud as she could, to the exit. Mills was on the other side of the registers, shuffling along, trying to find one that wasn't blocked. Rachel got to the exit and left.

Outside, the tears welled up and she broke down beside the 8th and Main stop sign. A couple minutes later, Mills found her. "Rachel, I'm so sorry." She held her friend; Rachel let her. "I'm not trying to fix you," Mills said. "I really promise."

"Then what are you trying to do?" Rachel asked.

"Here." Mills let go of her for a moment, opening a plastic shopping bag she had with her.

Rachel saw it and actually laughed, out loud, between the tears. "Did you buy the ornament?"

Mills laughed, too. "No, dummy." She pulled a Kleenex travel pack out of the bag and opened it, handing her a tissue.

"Probably better." Rachel took it, blew her nose, and dried her eyes.

Mills curled her lip. "That's disgusting."

Rachel laughed again. "What?"

"Your snot's in there and you just wiped your eyes with it," Mills said. "That's ok, though." She gave Rachel another hug. "I still love you. Just don't touch me with it."

Rachel smiled.

  • 1
    Love this! Thanks for posting! – Vylix Dec 12 '17 at 1:42
1

(Warning: there's a little light teenage profanity)

Happy Union Day

A metallic clang rang through the air when the goblin cashier let the last armor plate fall into Myra's shopping bag.

– The total is two gold and twelve silver coins.

– Thank you – said Myra, fumbling for money in her purse and finally setting it into the counter. – Happy Holidays!

– Happy Union Day! – said the cashier, dropping the anti-weight charm in the bag.

Myra left the store, Jared strutting beside her and peering into the bag every once in a while. The kid had always liked sports and spent the last months pestering his parents for an armor. They sat in a table in the food court and Jared took his gift out of the bag. Myra smiled at the six-year-old's excitement.

– Did you know the national team uses this model? – Asked Jared. She definitely knew. He had told her many times. Still, she pretended she didn't.

– Really? And why, sweetie?

– 'cause it's the best – the kid pointed at the small hammer engraved into the shoulder plate – It's Hefaestus, you see? Hefaestus makes the best armor, they have this special charm that gets the heat out, so you can run for longer without getting tired and also...

She let him ramble for a while before interrupting.

– And what would sir Jared, my brave and gallant armored knight, like to eat?

The kid eyed the food court, looking at the restaurants.

– I think I'll have Kantak Fried Cockatrice and some magical shake.

– What flavor?

– Barbarian Strength. – he looked up at her, making big eyes – Pleeease?

– No way. Last time you had that you punched a hole into the wall.

– Unicorn Rainbow, then?

– Fine. I'm going to have some mandrake tea at Astrabucks, meanwhile.


– Kaester, can you feed the owls for me? – Kaester's father yelled from somewhere within the house.

Kaester let out a big sigh, put down his smart-parchment and left his room slamming the door. The “do not enter” signal dangled.

The owls were kept outside the house, in a small yard. The birds were roosting half-asleep, but got lively as soon as he threw a bag of food in the ground and opened it with an annoyed swing of his wand.

The owls flew around the food, little whirlwinds forming as they flapped wings. Kaester counted the birds, trying to remember their names. John was the oldest one, with white feathers. Ursula and Joanne were the females. There was also an owl he not seen before, bought when he was away, but Jared had told him his name was Brandon. That made four birds. One was missing. Where was Patrick?

Kaester looked around for the missing owl, but saw nothing. A sharp cry above made him realize the bird was just arriving with a letter. Patrick perched on Kaester's shoulder and the boy grabbed the letter, absentmindedly petting the bird's ruffled black feathers.

– Always late, huh, Patrick.

Kaester picked up his smart-parchment, hoping to see messages from his boarding school friends. There were none. Something oozed down his shoulder. He looked what it was to realized the owl had shat on his robe.

– Patrick, what the fuck?!

The boy startled the owl away, tried to magic the droppings off his robe with little success and entered the house grumbling.

– Done, dad. You got a letter. Why do we even use owls? You should just keep up with the times and send me magical messages through my parchment. Anyway, they're fed. Stupid birds.

– Great – Kaester dad's voice spiraled down the stairs, from the office in the tower – Can you come up real quick, Kel?

– Don't call me Kel! – grunted Kaelster going up the stairs. – What's the matter?

Irno was sitting in front of the crystal ball, a troubled look on his face.

– It won't connect to the magic web. I was trying to look up a nice recipe for salamander legs and–

– Just change the router's battery. Seriously, dad, that stuff is, like, technomagic 101. Just because I went to magical boarding school, now I'm the one who's supposed to fix everything?

Kaester deftly opened the small wooden box with a crystal antenna, extracted a dull grey capsule as big as his small finger and put inside a new one, bright pink. The crystal ball buzzed and showed an image of self-roasted salamander legs.

– Why are you looking up recipes, dad?

– Well, you always liked salamander legs, and I wanted to cook something special for you. Me and your mother... well, it's your first year in magical boarding school. We last saw you six months ago. We'd like this Union Day to be special.

There was a small moment of silence.

– That's... That's actually real nice, dad. What about I teach you how to fix the router later?


– I don't know, they're expensive.

Jared was glued to the vitrine, trying to absorb all the cuteness at once, barely hearing what his father had said. Unicorn colts, dragon pups, jinns, a playful cerberos and many others competed for his attention.

– How about we get in and see them up close? – suggested Myra.

– Please, please, please, please – Jared was jumping with excitement.

– Whatever – Kaester was trying to fake boredom, but Jared had seem him smile to a jinn a little before.

– Sure, let's get in.

With the father's approval, the whole family entered the pet shop. Jared immediately ran for the pups and Irno went to the owl section to buy some treats. Kaester sat still for a while, looking at his parchment, but soon dropped the facade and started playing with the jinns. Myra grabbed a phoenix chick and stroked the warm feathers.

– Can we keep it? – Jared had the cerberus pup on his arms. One of the heads was asleep and the other two played, nibbling at each other's ears. Myra smiled at the small paws and big begging eyes and rubbed the dog's belly.

– I'm sorry, Jared, but I don't think the owls will like her. She may try to eat them. Try to find something that eats plants.

Jared looked disappointed, but did as she asked. Myra did not worry much. She was sure the boy would find something else he would like.

– What about this one? – Irno had joined Jared, and both pointed at what looked like a big green blob.

– And what is that?

– Giant snail. The shell must be somewhere around. Eats plants, as you asked.

– And this is a baby? It's huge! If this grows like regular snails, it's going to be bigger than our house. No way we're–

– Snails are boring – Kaester interrupted – Check this out.

He led them through shelves of animal food to the very back of the store, where something looking like metallic ore rested on a terrarium.

– That's just a stone – Jared sounded disappointed.

– Not at all – Kaester pointed at the glass – I've seen those on school. See the veins? This is a dragon egg. And if I'm not mistaken, this one will hatch anytime soon.

– Dragon egg? For real?

– I hate to be the one to ruin the night – said Myra – but we agreed on herbivores.

The egg shook a little. The family turned their heads to the terrarium. The egg shook again. Small cracks spread through it. The four watched in awe as a thin clawed paw first appeared through a crack and weakly began to tear down the shell. After about a minute the small head was finally free, with eyes already open and small teeth. The newborn dragon fought bravely with its eggshell, finally breaking out after about five minutes. The creature, no bigger than Irno's hand, stretched it's long neck and tail, flapping undeveloped wings and yawning to reveal a silver tongue.

– It's a Silvertongue – said Kaester – Probably female, judging by the color. She eats rocks.

– Can we keep her? – Jared clung to his mother's skirt – Did you know that if one in ten people rode dragons instead of brooms, we'd halve our pollution index in two years?

– Did she hatch? – an orc employee of the pet shop came around a corner, hearing the noise – Wow, she is beautiful, isn't she? Can I help you in any way?

– Yes, we want the Silvertongue! – Jared answered before any of the parents could protest.

The orc put his hand into the terrarium and gently pushed the dragon onto it.

– Here she is. Happy holidays! – said he, dumping the cub into Myra's hands.

– Wait! We're not buying, we're just– Myra looked down at her hand and saw the dragon curiously smelling her rings while the children petted it. The cub started licking her hand, leaving silvery stains where his mouth passed – Fine! We're keeping her. As a special Union Day gift.

Irno took some coins out of his wallet and handed them to the orc, his hand deftly counting every last bit of money he had.


A big fire had been lit for Union Day. Big tables circled it, with plenty of space for the whole town to sit and eat comfortably. After all, this was what Union Day was all about. Celebrating, everyone together, the day many millennia ago when a team of mighty heroes, one from every race, had put their differences aside and fought the Dark Lord as one.

Once a year, honoring the champions, all of the town forgot their differences and fears and put together a huge feast for everyone. Humans, elves, dwarves, centaurs, orcs, goblins, golens, wind spirits, merfolk and many, many more brought food and drink and jokes and games and sat in the tables without bothering with who was his neighbor. Even the bloodfolk, usually so recluse, showed up and had fun together with everyone else.

This year, Irno's family sat between a family of amber and magma golens, a talkative vampire and a very old centaur. Jared had brought the small Sinvertongue dragon, recently baptized Singer, and she wandered across the tabletop, nibbling at some gravel Jared had collected for her. Kaester was further away, sitting with his old friends. He seemed a little uncomfortable with all the drinking and wooing going on on his table, but was having fun after all.

Irno looked at Myra, his wife of twenty-five years. She looked gorgeous tonight, as she always did. He leaned and kissed her.

– Happy Union Day, honey.

– Happy Union Day, sweetie.

– May many more come.

– And may we get ever closer to those we love.

The night went on. The fire burned, the drinks disappeared and the food was delicious. Irno shared his food with the golens and they told him stories of the underground. Myra overcame her fear of vampires and asked her neighbor what she did, to which the vampire replied she was a nightshift policewoman. Jared played all night with Singer, trying to teach her how to hum a song he had invented. Kaester, for the first time in many months, saw his childhood friends, caught up with what was going on in town and impressed them with his magic. And everyone was happy, enjoying their time together, because it was Union Day.


Author's remarks:

This challenge fit perfectly into some worldbuilding I needed to do, so here it is.

As always, here is the obligatory "English is not my native language" excuse. Ring me up if something seems amiss.

Last and not least, if you have thoughts, opinions, suggestion and doubts over the worldbuilding, I'll be glad to discuss them in this chat.

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