I'm hoping it's OK to submit in here. The images are really large and might break your screen, so I put the links as well as the embedded images.
1. Dancing, 252 words.
I love dancing. When I'm onstage, everything is perfect. I choose every detail of my costume. Makeup conceals every irregularity in my skin, transforming my face into a smooth mask under the bright lights. But most of all, each movement is coordinated and exact. I actually have control.
It's not an easy task. Most of the time, my body feels like a marionette with rubber strings my mind struggles to command. I halt, I stutter, I twitch. I can't keep still.
But when I dance, it's completely different. My mind and body aren't separate entities, they're one and the same. I can feel myself — my soul — all through myself. My legs, my feet, my fingers! All are obedient and cooperative.
My mother enrolled me in a dance class when I was little. I guess she thought I just had a lot of energy I needed to express. I learned to express myself through dance, but my everyday clumsiness didn't get any better. At first she was disappointed, but then she attended my class's recital. She saw what I could do when I dance.
I can't really remember the first time I tried dancing. I don't know if I could dance from the beginning or if I had to struggle. All I know now is that the second I start, I suddenly know how to move.
Dancing is hard, but I love it. It's the only time I'm in control, and more importantly, it's the only time I really feel whole.
2. Terrible as Joy. Fanart of the scene in Les Misérables when Javert arrives to arrest M. Madeleine. http://puu.sh/2EMZb.jpg
Overview of Nënt’le
In the Great Western Sea, there lie several islands known collectively as Nënt’le. The area consists of three parts: Greater Nënt’le, Lesser Nënt’le, and the Nyekundu Fjords. Nënt’le is renowned for being a land of mystery, diversity, and prosperity. It is said that the eastern forests of Greater Nënt’le are magical, and the wood elves who live there would heartily agree with that sentiment. On the northwest edge of Greater Nënt’le sits a vast mountain range, home to dwarves and ground elves. Just north of the Southern Delta of the Nehyr River lies Bıv, the shining capital of Nënt’le. One may wonder where the halfling merchants in Bıv come from. They and their underwater neighbors, the water elves, mostly live in the Nyekundu Fjords: halflings on the ground, water elves in the seas. Most of the humans in the area live in Bıv or along the banks of the Nehyr.
Before the settlement of Lesser Nënt’le, the six races kept to themselves, but discovery of resources by the humans drew ground elves, dwarves, halflings, and some more adventurous wood elves to the smaller island, and soon the water elves heard news of a great cultural mesh and decided to join the party. Many tourists come to Nënt’le, attracted by the great natural beauty of the eastern forests and northwest mountains, but most of the locals agree: it’s a better idea to start out on Lesser Nënt’le and get used to area-specific customs and quirks before visiting Greater Nënt’le or the Nyekundu Fjords.
Guide to Nënt’lean Races
The Træboere, known in Common Nënt’lean as Wood Elves, are the most populous race in the area, though one who never visited the eastern forests would never guess that. A large portion of the wood elf population stays in the eastern forests, with only a small segment of adolescents and young adults venturing to the metropolitan areas of Nënt’le. The Træboere who remain in the forest believe that their magic is tied to not only nature, but the specific land on which they live. They fear that their power will diminish should they leave, but most of the adventurous migrants are just as successful out of the forests as they are within them.
Like all elves, Træboere have pointed ears, inborn magical powers, and a sigil on their foreheads. Because of their magic, their technologies are limited, and most devices more complicated than a winepress or other manually-powered tools tend to malfunction when used by elves.
Træboere are the tallest of the elves. Their complexions range from the color of wet sand to the color of coffee, though petite Træboere with lighter hair and skin aren’t unheard of. Most wood elves have thick hair on the dark brown to red spectrum and green, brown, or hazel eyes.
Træboere culture values patience and dignity, and most Træboere are respectful and obey orders.
Mean height: 185 cm (73”)
Mean weight: 75 kg (165 lb)
Tradeoff: +WIS, -INT
Sigil: +3 to checks related to sigil, -3 to checks opposed to sigil
Techbane: see description under Elves (General)
There are almost as many humans in Nënt’le as wood elves, and they thrive in the many cities along the banks of the Nehyr. The most famous of the human settlements is Bıv, the capital of Nënt’le. Humans tend to favor technology over magic, but those who seek out the path of the magical arts tend to have elven blood or rely on rituals.
Humans resemble wood elves, though they’re shorter and somewhat more heavyset and have a wider range of coloration. Their skin ranges from pale peach to dark chocolate, and their hair can be anything from blonde to brown to black. Humans tend to have brown eyes, though hazel, blue, gray, and sometimes even green can occur.
Human culture values creativity and leadership, and most humans are individualists. A large number of Nënt’lean artists are humans.
Mean height: 168 cm (66”)
Mean weight: 70 kg (154 lb)
Tradeoff: +DEX, -STR
The Durkadurkastan Mountains along the northwest coast of Greater Nënt'le are home to the Daðtalún, a race of dwarves. Daðtalún are best known for their mastery of technology and the other mechanical arts. As a people, they have made devices complex enough to seem to hold magic of their own. The population of dwarves in Nënt'le is approximately evenly split between traditionalists in the mountains and mechanists in large cities, especially Bıv. Rare is the Daðtalún who pursues the path of the mage, and they tend to be distrustful of elves because of the elves' inborn magical abilities. Many Daðtalún keep some sort of mechanical aid on them at all times, frequently robotic prosthetics.
Daðtalún are short and tough fellows who generally have olive skin and brown or darker hair. Gray and light green are the most common eye colors among dwarves, with brown eyes being present in about 20% of the population.
Daðtalún culture values courage and integrity, and most dwarves are more clever than they appear at first.
Mean height: 140 cm (55")
Mean weight: 63 kg (139 lb)
Tradeoff: +CON, -CHA
Mechanical Master: +3 to checks involving machines
Drewnônen, or ground elves, live under the earth's surface. They favor the rocky, sturdier land of the Durkadurkastan Mountains to the loose, fertile soil preferred by nearly everyone else, for they construct ther tunnel dwellings underground. Despite their close proximity to the Daðtalún and innate magical ability, the Drewnônen get along well with their upper neighbors and handle most trading with them. In the past, the Drewnônen diet consisted mainly of fungi and the surprisingly diverse creatures indigenous to the subterranean caves of the Durkadurkastan, but recently have been importing other foods from the various areas of Nënt'le.
Like all elves, Drewnônen have pointed ears, inborn magical powers, and a sigil on their foreheads. Because of their magic, their technologies are limited, and most devices more complicated than a winepress or other manually-powered tools tend to malfunction when used by elves. Ground elves are similar to dwarves in build, being slightly taller and slimmer, but still easily the shortest and stockiest of the elves.
Because they rarely get sun exposure until adulthood, ground elves have pale skin. Their hair is almost always pastel, with darker, more vibrant hair only appearing in those of mixed ancestry. Their eyes always contain some red, transversing the spectrum from orange to violet.
Drewnônen culture values humility and diligence, and most ground elves are reserved and determined.
Mean height: 142 cm (56")
Mean weight: 59 kg (130 lb)
Tradeoff: +STR, -DEX
Sigil: +3 to checks related to sigil, -3 on checks opposed to sigil
Techbane: see description under Elves (General)
The Nyekundu Fjords are more than they first appear, for a race called the Wodåe dwells in structures elaborately carved into the undersea sides of the steep, rocky islands. Wodåe, because of their ability to breathe water, mostly keep to themselves, though many a water elf enjoys a venture to the surface to sell his or her goods to a member of another race. Though the Wodåe enjoy the company of other races, they look down upon others as less intelligent.
Like all elves, Wodåe have pointed ears, inborn magical powers, and a sigil on their foreheads. Because of their magic, their technologies are limited, and most devices more complicated than a winepress or other manually-powered tools tend to malfunction when used by elves. Most water elves are in the height range of humans, and their thin build makes them look exceedingly fragile, though they're no tougher nor flimsier than the other races. Water elves have webbed fingers and toes and are the most colorful of all the races: their hair, eyes, and skin can be virtually any color, though hair and eyes tend to be similar.
Water elves who wish to remain above the surface for more than a day need to remember to cast an air-breathing spell on themselves once every 24 hours. All Wodåe can cast this spell, but if they forget they go through half a day of dehydration before dying of suffocation.
Wodåe culture values spontaneity and wit, and most water elves are smart alecks.
Mean height: 164 cm (65")
Mean weight: 55 kg (121 lb)
Tradeoff: +INT, -WIS
Sigil: +3 to checks related to sigil, -3 on checks opposed to sigil
Techbane: see description under Elves (General)
Also known as halflings, Núspain live on the Nyekundu Fjords. They get along just as well with the nearby Wodåe as they do with every other race, and most people can't help but think of them as charming. However, if one is not wary of the halfling with whom he or she trades, he or she will very soon learn the sad lesson of how quickly a fool is parted from his or her money. Halflings tend to be ruthless and cunning traders who get remarkably rich remarkably quickly.
Núspain usually have coppery skin and dark to auburn hair. Blue and hazel are the most common eye colors among the halfling population.
Núspain culture values cunning and playfulness, and most halflings are smarmy.
Mean height: 112 cm (44")
Mean weight: 45 kg (99 lbs)
Tradeoff: +CHA, -CON
A little more than one-half of the Nënt'lean population are elves. The three types of elves are very different and have only a few things in common: pointed ears, inborn magical powers, and a sigil on their foreheads. Because of their magic, their technologies are limited, and most devices more complicated than a winepress or other manually-powered tools tend to malfunction when used by elves.
Elves are born with sigils on their foreheads. These symbols are stylized, and some groups of elves form clans based on their sigils, which are not unique to each elf. To cover one's forehead in elven society is a taboo of the highest degree.
Elves cannot operate complex machinery without their magic interfering and suffer a -3 penalty on checks related to machines. This is called Techbane.
Elves do not truly sleep, but they spend as much time as the other races in a meditative state to rest.
Height and Weight:
Each race has a mean height and weight. Roll 3d6 to determine character's height and weight modifiers seperately. Modifiers given in centimeters and kilograms.
Each race has an ability score tradeoff. After rolling 3d6 to determine ability scores, players add between 1 and 4 points to their races' favored scores, while subtracting the same number of points from their races' weaker scores.
Chapter Four of a WordGirl fanfiction I'm working on. 2156 words.
Violet straightened the living room.
Violet messied the living room.
Violet re-straightened the living room.
Violet's mom stopped her with a hand on her shoulder as she headed out the back door.
"Violet, are you all right?"
"Oh, I'm fine. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to straighten all the grass in the backyard."
Violet's mother put her other hand on her other shoulder. There was a long pause as she stared into her daughter's eyes.
"Honey… I'm worried about you."
The elder Heaslip didn't answer.
"I'm bored, Mom. I've been waiting for high school to start since the beginning of ninth grade, and even though there are only a few more weeks…" Violet finished her sentence with a sigh.
Violet's mother returned the sigh.
"Oh, Vi, I understand how it can be when you're waiting for something big to happen. I was just as antsy the summer before I started high school. Have you tried a collage?" Antsy? Something big? Oh, Mom, you don't know the half of it.
"Um…" began Violet, "I dunno about collage. That and origami were always your things. I'm really not sure what to do…"
As if on cue, the family phone rang. Since Violet was closer, she picked it up.
"Hello, Violet speaking."
"Vi!" Becky's voice rang through the tinny speaker. Violet winced slightly. It always felt weird when Becky used Todd's pet name for her.
Still, Violet was pleased to talk to Becky. Yesterday's meeting had been too brief, as both girls had needed to eat dinner.
"You doing anything today?"
Violet had been about to say "yes," but then she remembered it probably wouldn't be the best of ideas to tell people about Seraph. Or magic. Or probably even the paints and brushes. Violet frowned, forgetting for a moment that her mother could see her. Keeping secrets was weird.
"No, not really." She hoped her mom would assume she'd merely been thinking.
"Great! You wanna come play tennis?"
"Oh, I don't know, Becky, you're a lot better than me. I mean, you're so athletic…"
"Oh, no, this would be doubles. It was The— uh, Tobey's idea."
That was right, Becky had started going out with Tobey. Though Violet couldn't deny she'd seen it coming since… well, fifth grade, really, it was still somewhat jarring to see their belligerent flirting transition so quickly through playful friendship to synergic courtship.
"That sounds fair. Who're we playing with, Bob?" The suggestion was a joke. Violet hoped Becky had a double date in mind.
"Actually, would you mind calling Scoops up?" Becky was the only one Violet knew who still used the old nickname.
"Sure, that sounds cool! Where should we meet?"
"You know the tennis courts by the park?"
"I know the park, and I can probably find the courts."
"Great! Is ten too early?"
Violet glanced at the wall clock. 8:46.
"Nah, that sounds about good. See you then!"
Violet hung up, and as she dialed Todd's number, she said, "Mom, Becky wants to play tennis at ten. That OK with you?"
"Fine with me, sweetie. Want me to take you to the courts?"
Violet held up a finger. She could hear the line ringing.
"Hello?" It was Mrs. Ming.
"Hey, this is Violet. Can I talk to Todd?"
"Sure thing, darling." Violet heard Todd's mother yell something in Chinese. The sounds of commotion followed, and soon enough, Todd's familiar voice came on.
"Hey, Vi. Mom said you wanted to talk to me?"
"Yeah, Becky just called me. Wanna go on a double date? It's tennis."
"Sounds like a great idea! What time?"
"Ten. You need a ride? My mom says she can give us one."
"That sounds good."
Violet covered the mouthpiece. "Mom, when will we pick up Todd?"
"At ten 'till, Violet." Mrs. Heaslip seemed amused that Violet hadn't actually asked before offering her services.
"Great!" She uncovered the phone. "Mom says to be ready at 9:50."
"Super, see you then!"
"And Vi?" His voice was tender.
"I love you."
"You too, Todd."
With a wide smile the teenage girl hung up the phone.
"We've got tennis rackets, right?"
There were indeed tennis rackets in the garage, though it took a bit of hunting to find them. Violet had only a half hour left to eat and change into her new outfit from her grubby pajamas.
At 9:50, the Heaslip car pulled into the Ming driveway, and as Violet opened the door to get out and fetch Todd, the teenage boy stepped out of his front door. She noticed that he was wearing his junior high clothes: a lime-green shirt and jeans. Violet glanced at her high school clothes and wondered if she should have done the same. She decided it couldn't hurt. The skirt had plenty of mobility.
"Hey, Todd," she said as the Asian boy climbed into the backseat and fastened his seatbelt.
"Right on time as always, Vi." He set his racket on the two seats next to him, and there was chatter in the small car all the way to the park.
Both Becky and Tobey were wearing summer clothes when Violet and Todd met up with them. Shorts, T-shirts, and sneakers. A matching pair. Did they plan this? thought Violet, and she felt a small twinge of envy toward the other couple. It soon vanished, and Violet was left with an uneasy feeling in her stomach. I'm not usually so jealous… She hoped this wasn't a magical side effect.
The negativity passed as the four friends united and made their way to the vacant courts, and soon Violet was able to put it out of her mind.
"All right, how should we pair up?" asked Becky. "Girls vs. guys? Couples on the same team?"
"Why not rotate?" suggested Scoops.
"Sounds like a good idea," Tobey said. "But whoever's against Becky at the time should get a head start." The blond teen grinned as his girlfriend playfully punched him in the shoulder and smooched his cheek.
"That seems fair, actually," said Violet, and the other three laughed, especially the boys. When Violet realized they weren't making fun of her, she joined in.
The hours passed quickly as the four teens played. Violet enjoyed each of her partners, though predictably, Becky's team won nearly every match, and Violet suspected she and Todd had thrown the one they hadn't.
Tobey was easily the least athletic, so whenever he was with Violet, she let him stand in the front of the court so she could catch the serves he missed. It was kind of funny watching him frantically dash from side to side, and Violet giggled to herself whenever Becky gave him tips. She seemed to like using the standard flirty method of coaching: reaching her arms around his body to position his hands. Violet could tell from his expression — and blushing — that he enjoyed Becky's advice.
Though Todd wasn't nearly as good as Becky, he was Violet's favorite partner. She felt they worked together better than she did with either of the others, even though that meant they lost even more handily to Becky and Tobey's teamwork. It seemed Becky was able to use Tobey's… unique abilities (well, lack thereof) to her advantage, and it was clear the two worked well together.
Becky was a great partner, but Violet really enjoyed, from an artistic perspective, watching her move. There was a grace, an ease, a flair even to her every action, and Violet struggled to figure out the best way to describe it. Eventually, after staring at Becky's perfect form, the way everything seemed to come so naturally to her, Violet concluded the best word was "lightness." Becky carried herself as though her body weighed nothing at all, like the racket was made of styrofoam. She's like an angel… thought Violet.
She almost didn't notice the constant looks Tobey and Becky shared, the smirks, the way it seemed like they were sharing an inside joke. But she did notice, and she felt her stomach sink. Is she keeping a secret from me? Maybe it's just something that happened between the two of them only… but I think I feel a little less guilty about not telling her about magic. She just wouldn't understand.
As the foursome played, the late morning turned into early afternoon, and a few hours after they started, the water cooler was empty.
"Aw, I guess it's time to go home now," said Becky. "Great games, everyone!"
Todd rubbed his chin. "Hey, I think I have an idea for one last match."
"You can't be serious," protested Becky for the last time. But the other three stood on the opposite side of the court relentlessly. Tobey even tapped his foot, though he had a massive grin.
"Pfft, fine," conceded the brunette.
"Don't go easy on us!" teased Violet.
"No, really," said Todd. "If you can beat us, feel free."
Becky crossed her arms.
"OK, OK, let's just start then!"
As Becky walked over to the ball bucket, the three opposing teenagers took their positions. Tobey was in the front center, while Violet and Scoops stood symmetrically in the back. Violet stepped back when Becky got ready to serve.
The serve was a lot faster than Violet had expected, and she barely managed to catch the ball with her racket. The surprising force reverberated through her bones, and Violet saw it land just inside the lines. Becky was quick — almost too quick — to return the tennis ball, which bounced past Violet.
The game flew by quickly at first, but gradually the three humans acclimatized to the stiff competition Becky brought, and her points came slower and slower. They could all tell she gave several points away to increase the drama, but it never felt like she was really going easy on them — just saving her best performance for last. Finally, when everyone except Becky was panting and practically begging for mercy, she ended it with a quick, forceful stroke.
Tobey flopped to the ground, and Todd and Violet hunched over, panting and perspiring more than they had in weeks.
"I don't know how you do it, Becky," huffed Violet between turns at the park's singular drinking fountain. Though anyone could taste the traces of chlorine, they all drank copiously, even Becky.
"Uh… lots of practice?"
Everyone laughed. Todd choked on his water, and Violet had to slap him on the back.
The four walked home together, chatting all the while. What started out as a group conversation eventually splintered into a pair of parallel conversations between the couples.
Todd's house was the closest to the park, and he and Violet shared a brief kiss before he retreated into his house. As the glass door closed and he turned around, Violet could have sworn she saw splotches of yellow-blond hair on the back of Todd's head… but those could easily be reflections on the door.
Tobey's house, though it was next, was more than two blocks away. He and Becky chatted as Violet quietly walked behind.
"See, I told you you were better than the three of us put together! Although I think by the end you were showing off…"
Becky playfully shushed her boyfriend, whispering something Violet was barely unable to catch. What's going on? she wondered.
It was a relief when the threesome arrived at the MacAllister residence and Claire opened the door to let her son in. Finally, alone time with Becky, thought Violet. I won't push her about it, but if she mentions what she and Tobey are joking about, I'll tell her everything.
Unfortunately, Becky began yammering about how excited she was for high school. Violet managed to get in a couple of thoughts, but, as usual, the Botsford girl dominated the conversation.
As Becky unlocked her front door, Violet waved.
"See ya later… best friend…"
"You too! BFF!"
Violet began the solo walk home, remembering a conversation from years ago. "Becky? Are we still… BFFs?"
Becky had proven herself, and Violet knew she was probably being unfair to her best friend, but… she'd never been able to shake the sense that Becky was hiding something big from her.
"Guess I can join the club," she muttered miserably.
Violet could never stay sad for long, and by the time she got home, she was all smiles again. She gushed to her mother about every detail, and announced her desire to do this every Tuesday. She even added a handful of tiles to the Good Things Mosaic. (Usually, each Good Thing only warranted one tile.)
One thing above all others kept Violet on the absolute top of the world through dinner and the dishes, and when it was finally time, she dashed to her room, locked the door, and flicked on the light.
"It's about time," said Seraph with a grin. "Ready to get started?"