Sorry about last week folks, but we're back and ready to roll.

The Judge

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Our returning judge is the winner from the last Motivation Monday competition, Ryan Strohman. Check out  his website

"I’m an author of two ebooks, Project Utopia and Paradox, that could be classified as Sci Fi Techno Action Thrillers.  I enjoy working out (martial arts, running, and weightlifting), but I also eat too much.  I work as an IT Manager for an employee benefits consulting firm.  I also own a side business, Strohman Technology Consulting Services, that specializes in small-business and residential technology consulting and computer services.  I am married to a wonderful lady named Lisa, and we have a two-year-old little devil named Adam.  I’ve been getting hooked lately on #FlashFiction.  Oh yeah, I’m pretty awesome."

The Prompt

Every year, we remember the sacrifice.
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  1. The story must start from the prompt.  This means the prompt must be the first words in the story.
  2. No more than 500 words (not including the prompt).  No less than 100 words.
  3. Any genre (in fact an unexpected genre will get you more points.)
  4. Entries must be submitted by Tuesday Noon EST
  5. The winner of each week's competition will be invited to judge the following week and post the winner's badge similar to the one on the right.
  6. Have fun!

2/26/2012 10:13:20 pm

I'll get the entries started this week:

"Every year we remember the sacrifice. Dudley this is your year to make the pilgrimage. Remember my son you must deny yourself the pleasures of the flesh while on this journey or certain doom will find you."
Dudley felt the grey eyes of the white haired cleric pierce his very soul.
"I know that you have a reputation for right doing, but this week will test you as never before. You may question your faith before you return. Do not fail Dudley. The price will be greater than you can bear.
###
Silver the bard was singing a ribald shanty about pleasures of the flesh. The patrons of the dark hammer grew more rowdy with every line. When an orc tossed a dwarf into the bottle rack behind the bar, all nine hells broke loose. The dwarven mining buddies of the assaulted fellow swarmed over the orc. A halfling flipped out of the way narrowly avoiding the stampede. The human sailors who rarely required provocation waded into the melee with abandon.
The peal of a gong louder than thunder stunned all of the patrons.

"Closing time," The proprietor said. "You don't have to go home but you can't stay here."

Silver helped the barkeep clean up the splintered chairs and shattered glass.

"Look silver I'm sorry but this isn't working out. You rake in silver and copper but the damages are costing me gold. I know I promised your uncle I'd take care of you." The barkeep sighed. "Take this letter with you to O'Malley's in Emerald Valley. My recommendation should get you in the door and they can afford to hire peace keepers."
###
Bob the fighter noticed a small village to the north and a dark and brooding forest to the south
[Bob the player: I choose south]
[Game master: You know I haven't drawn the maps yet, wouldn't you rather equip some decent armor first?]
[Bob: You're the game master, improvise!]
Where were we? Oh yes, Bob travels south into the woods past the "keep out" "danger" and "no trespassing signs.
[Bob: We get the point.]
The leaves from years past littered the forest floor. Here and there, small breaks in the canopy gave enough light to see by, while still lending an ominous shade.
[Bob: Nice, but your stalling]
Bob saw the log trap but not in time to avoid getting slammed hard and yanked off his feet.
Bob opened his eyes to see a tiny upside-down man frowning with his arms crossed. The man spoke with an Irish accent. "Look what you've done. Can't you read the signs? It will take me a week to set that trap again. No offense, but you don't look all that appetizing."
[Bob: Sorry about that; can you let me down?]
I don't know I'm awful hungry. Maybe with some garlic you will taste all right.
[Bob: I'll help you reset the trap. how's that?]
"You weren't smart enough to avoid it. Doubt you'll do it right but okay"

500 words
@Wakefield Mahon

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Nancy P
2/27/2012 01:58:12 am

“Every year, we remember the sacrifice. Every day, every hour, we honor what those before us have done. They left their zones of comfort and plunged into the unknown. Why? Because it was right. Not because the pay was fabulous, not because they wanted to be famous. They did it because it was right. They could have turned their backs and no one would have thought them less for it. Doing what is right is not easy. It was the rare one who took control of their own fear and used it to stand taller so they could shield others.

“Doing what is right is not about doing what is the glorious thing all the time. It is about being willing to humble yourself and crawl through the mud for someone you have never met. It is sleepless nights, hours spent with your senses pushed to the maximum. It is feeling Death’s kiss on your cheek and still pushing onward to that a wife somewhere may still kiss her husband, that a child can grow up. It is knowing that you may never hear someone thank you for what you’ve done, but knowing they are better for it.”

Sophia gave a rare, nervous movement, smoothing down the front of her dress uniform with a sweaty palm. Her hair was sleek and precise, drawn into a neat chignon. She was thankful that the microphone was secured to her lapel instead of the podium. She turned and strode slowly from the podium to the single empty chair set amidst the other officers on the stage. Perfectly presented in her pumps and polished buttons, she crouched in front of the vacant chair and laid a white rose on the seat. “Doing what is right is knowing that there’s a chance the next time you hear your loved ones say they love you, how proud they are of you, is after you’re gone, and accepting that.” She laid her hand atop the rose’s stem. “I am proud of you, Daddy. I hope I can make you proud of me,” she said, voice soft, but carried over the speakers courtesy that microphone.

By the time she registered the applause, the noise had swelled to a roar.

371 words
@ModernBard1024
Nancy P

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2/27/2012 02:36:11 am

Each year, we remember the sacrifice. Each year, no matter how different from the year before, we remember.

I read the missive from Father, betraying no emotion when I see the name scrawled in his shaky hand. I nod to the young messenger. “Please tell His Majesty it will be done at once.”

“Yes, Highness.” The boy sketches a quick bow. I hear his retreating steps on the wood floors as he hurries away.

A guard of the King’s best soldiers accompanies me. We move through the hallways unimpeded, the heads of servants and courtiers alike bowing solemnly as we pass. I know the women whisper in relief once I’ve passed. They are grateful not to be the one I seek.

Finally, I spot her.

“Lady Aisling,” I say.

She turns with a bright smile.

“My Prince.” She curtsies.

She notes the men with me and the grace of her movements falters. I offer her my arm and she regards me as she might a snake. Unpredictable and deadly.

“Jaxon?” she whispers, breaking protocol to call me by my given name.

“I am sorry, my lady.”

She understands. The warm flush of her skin pales. Her fingers light on my arm without another word. We walk in silence, neither of us reacting to the surprise and sadness we see in the faces around us.
I have taken this anniversary journey each year since my mother gave up her life to save us all.

We reach the temple at the edge of the Tamm River, far from the sight of the castle. The guards stand at the doors as Aisling and I continue through the building and out to the back. A small boat bobs patiently at the end of the dock.

From my belt pouch, I draw a stoppered vial and offer it to Aisling.

“What will it do?” she asks.

“It will be like falling asleep,” I said. “And when you wake, a new life will be waiting.”

“I wish—”

“As do I.” I cup her beloved face, kiss her once.

She pulls away with a soft cry, taking the draught, coughing when it burns. The potion takes hold of her and she slumps to the ground. I catch her in my arms before she can hit.

At the edge of the dock, I wrap her in rough fabrics. I take her hand and wrap her fingers around the betrothal ring I should have given her sooner.

A second boat slows, not quite stopping.

“Look after her,” I whisper to the hooded figure standing within.

“As I always do, my Jaxon.”

I hurriedly place Aisling on the floor before the boat passes.

“Thank you.”

“Come with us,” I hear. “She loves you.”

“And leave these people to his madness?” I shake my head. “Aisling is not meant for me in this life, Mother,” I say. “Perhaps she will wait for me in the next.”

I light the pyre on the first boat as the second sails away unnoticed.

@caramichaels
500 words

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2/27/2012 07:59:36 am

Every year, we remember the sacrifice – my buddies and I. And I don’t have to write it on my calendar to remember it, even now almost forty years later. I can't say that I remember much of my youth anymore, but that day – February 27, 1973 – is forever branded on my soul.

It had been an unusual winter in Maine with on-again off-again freezing temperatures that made the ice on the lake unpredictable, patchy and dangerous. It was sunny so five of us went skating: Charlie, Don, Greg, Buddy and me. They were my gang, back before gangs were something to be feared. We were 12 that year, an age where our invulnerability was legendary, at least to us. My brother, Sam, and his friends were there, too. They were a few years older and were trying to snag some dates for Friday night.

And then, it happened: The ice broke.

Now, Sam was an Eagle Scout, and I don’t mean just a Scout for the badges or the derbies or any of that stuff. Sam was an Eagle Scout because God wove the Boy Scout Creed into every fiber of his being. When that ice broke and the lake swallowed up a kid, he was the first one there. Sam jumped right in without thinking twice. Goddamn, that water was cold!

His best friend, Darren, slithered up to the hole, and grabbed Sam’s hood to keep the undertow from taking him. But Sam couldn’t find that kid. Not one to give up, he dove under to look deeper. My brother was a great swimmer and he managed to go down and come back up to the hole four, maybe five, times before he finally found that kid and dragged him up by an arm.

The kid must have swallowed a bunch of water. He wasn’t breathing when they got him up, his skin icy and pale. Sam and Darren tried to get him out of the water but the worst was yet to come. Just as they got his limp body up on the ice, the ice under Darren gave way, throwing him in, too.

By that time, the rescue squad came with their ropes and life vests. They crawled out to the hole which was getting larger as the two older boys struggled. One rescue worker dragged the kid to shore and got him breathing again. I don’t know how that was possible after all that time underwater. It was a damn miracle. Darren got out, too. But not Sam. Somewhere in the cold dark water of that lake, they lost my Sam. He was the best brother a boy could have and not a day goes by I don’t miss him.

I live in California now, but I fly back every February 27th to visit the lake where Sam died. And no matter how my mind wanders with age, I will never forget that day because I was the kid Sam died to save.

497 words
@Rowanwolf66

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2/27/2012 08:44:53 am

Sacrifice
“Every year, we remember the sacrifice. This year it’s your turn Aria, you have been chosen to go forth and honour your people and the sacrifice. It is a great honour for our family .I hope you realize the honour.”
“Honour and sacrifice are just words Father.”
“Words until they are put into action.”
“I don’t want to do this.”
“I will book no argument. You will not dishonour your family.”
“Please Father .If you ever cared for me don’t make me do this.”
“The tribe has honoured you and your family .You will not deviate from your chosen path and bring shame on your brother your mother and I.It is your destiny”
“But Father I want to marry and have children.”
“Aria you are to be married. You have been chosen to be his bride it is a great honour. Come now you must prepare for the ceremony.”
My mother bathes me in fine oils and fixes my wet hair until it gleams. She puts the jewelled combs in my hair tucking them above my ears. She holds out an under dress bejewelled and form fitting. A robe is thrown over that modestly covering every part of my body. Lastly the hood is put over my head.
“She is ready Kael.” My mother says to my father as I kiss them goodbye.
The soldiers wait outside and come to attention when Father opens the hut door.
“Mistress Aria, we are honoured to be your escort.” the head soldier says as he helps me into the adorned cart.
I sit on a chair high in the cart and watch the people waving as we go by like I am a Queen. The wedding party takes place and the priest says the words that make me his.
I am fed the finest foods and wine laced with a drug to make this less painful and then it is time to mount the donkey.
“From the pit we come and so it shall be. Each year we make a sacrifice to our God, Hêphaistos, and so we give you your bride Aria.” The priest said as he bound my hands and feet and then pushed me into the volcano.
I seem to fall forever and then I feel molten hot liquid and it seemed to burn forever. My nerve endings quit pulsing and ?I felt no more. Then I saw it, a sprout in the side of the cliff. It was near where I had gone over. I closed my eyes and gave myself to him. I was the bride of Hêphaistos, spring would come to my people. I had fulfilled my destiny.
@SweetSheil
441 words

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2/27/2012 09:19:27 am

“Every year, we remember the sacrifice…”

Yeah, sure they did. After Kinsey watched her sister die from anemic shock when the stupid guy who’d done the sacrificial cutting nicked her femoral artery, Kinsey wanted to “sacrifice” them all. Celia had bled out in less than five minutes and all they could talk about was how wonderful the crops had been that year.

Well, this year it wouldn’t matter to them so much. Kinsey would make sure of it.

She checked the night sky, waiting for moon rise, and inhaled the scent of burning pine. She’d hated that smell ever since the night of her sister’s death. Her gaze sought the light at the edge of the ridge. As soon as the silvery, celestial disk cleared the canyon walls, the entire village would go up in flames, consumed by their own bonfire, and their disrespect of their own people.

She didn’t need a timepiece to tell her when to set off the charges she’d placed around the clearing. She’d wait until the moon rose completely then ignite the fuse and watch the bastards burn.

This is for you, Celia.

The chanting began and Kinsey’s anger simmered, her palms sweating as her excitement rose. Each pious sound grated against her ears. They’d pay with all they held dear. Just like she’d paid.

As the moon crested the canyon edge, she struck her flint and watched the tiny flames lick along the waxen fuse like hungry ants. Joy flickered within her as they spread quickly. When the first charge went up in a glorious explosion, Kinsey’s grin flooded her face. More charges blew in sequence and the screams swelled above the roar of the fire, a balm to her soul.

“Take my offering, my sacrifice, Dark Lord of the Dead, and my humble thanks.” Kinsey bent at the waist to the flames, her hands folded before her in prayer as the voices slowly cut off into crackling silence.

325 dark words
@SiobhanMuir

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2/27/2012 11:37:01 am

“Every year, we remember the sacrifice.” Noah bowed his head, hands clasped. “The sacrifice my mother and her companions made so that we could be free.”

The assembly was cramped, though not as crowded as Noah would have liked. Ten of them sat around the steel table in the underground bunker. Down from thirty this time last year. His voice caught in his throat, but with all eyes on him, the unnaturally fair man just managed to make his request.

“A moment of silence, for those lost to us.”

The silence in the bunker was already oppressive, stifled and grave-like. The shriek of Burckhardt’s chair as the large man stood suddenly was almost welcome. The protestation of a man unwilling to just wait to die.

“F- your whore of a mother and her worthless companions!” Burckhardt bristled. “Look at the mess they left us with! This war isn’t winnable! What kind of super-heroes lose when the fate of the world is on the line? Failures is what they were!”

Noah met Burckhardt’s glare levelly. His own tears had run dry years ago. The other eight watched Noah to see how he would respond.

“Their sacrifice bought us a precious six months, during which time many were able to go underground and our Resistance was organized. If it weren’t for them, Martel would have conquered the world in an instant and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

Noah’s words were met with many solemn nods. Since Maria was taken he had become the rock holding everyone together. Burckhardt wasn’t backing down this time.

“I wish we weren’t having this conversation! What has this Resistance bought us? Four years of suffering; losing ground every day! This could have been over four years ago! We should turn ourselves in and get it over with!”

Noah closed his eyes, “Do what you believe is right, Burckhardt. I’m not Martel; I won’t force you to do anything you don’t believe in.”

The portly older man glanced at the stairs to the exit. Slamming pudgy fists into the table he sat back down before breaking into desperate sobs.

“This war isn’t winnable! What can we possibly do?”

“There is a chance,” Noah opened his eyes. “We’ve found the information nexus for the world. If we shut it down it will interrupt her surveillance and propaganda, giving us a window to reclaim captured allies and recruit a larger force.”

Silence. Everyone knew what Noah knew. This would be it. The mission that would turn the tide in their favor or mark the end of the Resistance. Noah had been there when his mother had given her life, helpless in spite of the powers he’d inherited from her. His own daughter was too young to be present at his moment of truth—but it was for her that he had to try.

474 words
@DavidALudwig

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2/27/2012 10:22:13 pm

“Every year, we remember the sacrifice. Those who lived close to the areas where the meteors hit were wiped out, no sign to indicate that they had lived there at all. And then the changes came, where things that had once been part of the legend, were a lot more real.” Brynne frowned and glanced over at the older man sitting next to her in the motor cart. “That’s it, right? What the books say?”

He smiled and reached up a hand to stroke at the trim goatee that was as white as his hair. “Indeed it is. There is more but I have given you a lot to take in. Continue with what you know.” He nodded to her, gloves hands resting on his knees.

“The areas that used to have special significance are now showing a resurgence of powers. Ley lines. So when people talk about the fae around Stonehenge, they are probably going to show up. The Aztec temple gods have been glimpsed. The spirits in the Tibetan mountains walk there. This has caused a resurgence of religion for the devout as well as some sacrificial times with the more primitive cultures.” Brynne paused and frowned, glancing at her teacher. “Has it really?”

“It is said to not go into the jungles of the Amazon or Old Mexico. Some expeditions have gone in and come out far lighter in people than it had. And those that came out were mostly mad. So I would hold that fact up and not suggest attempting to go into the darker areas. You don’t know what you will come up against.”

“Have the spirits of those who were in the impact areas seen?”

“Some theorize that what happened caused them to be vaporized. That any bit of life force that would have existed, was pulled together and they are the foundation of the dead areas. That they are the doorways for the spirits of old to step through. Other’s feel that like any world catastrophe, they were wiped out and burned to ash. Men have different ideas of what might have happened. It just depends on who you ask and how religious they are.”

She thought about that. “Is it true then, about the Highbornes? That they are a mix of both worlds?”

“Those..” The old man paused. “It is difficult to say whether they are or not. If they are a mix, than their rate of growth is far faster than a normal humans. It is hard to tell. They haven’t been around long enough for anyone to really say and they are very private. I would advise that if you met one, to turn around very quickly and don’t come in contact with them again. They make dangerous deals and the stakes are too high for you and me.”

“Yes, Professor.”

472 words
@solimond

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