Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Prompt: Practical guide, magic, fever, cubes, war, abundance (Use at least three)

I stumbled against a root and dropped my bag, spilling the contents. “No!” I cried in horror.

The men around me froze in dismay, all eyes locked on the cubes tumbled like a child’s blocks on the ground. I dropped to my knees and pulled them to me, checking each one quickly as I tucked them back in the bag. None appeared to be damaged, and I breathed easier as I reached for the last one.

Before I could stand, shiny black boots strode into my field of view. I looked up, and Commander Gordon stood looking down at me, his arms crossed and his eyebrows raised to the brim of his marshal cap.

“That’s an abundance of fever you have there, son,” he said in a stern voice. Did I imagine the smile behind it?

“Yessir. It is, sir.” I stammered up at him, still kneeling.

“You might want to be a bit more careful with it,” he continued, stretching out a hand to help me up. I hesitated to take his hand, having grown used to the physical isolation imposed by the other men. He kept his hand out and raised his eyebrows even further, and I quickly decided I risked offense if I didn’t act. I slipped my hand into his and jumped lightly to my feet.

He didn’t jerk his hand away as any of the others would have after even such a brief contact. He actually tightened his grip for a moment and looked in my face with some intent I couldn’t decipher. The others watched in uneasy silence. I knew they wondered if their commander would suffer for having touched me. I pulled my hand away and drew the bag closed again, lifting it over my shoulder.

He turned and started walking again, and I fell in step beside him. He glanced over to the bag, and I self-consciously shifted it to my other shoulder.

“Are they heavy?” he asked, and I sensed his genuine interest and curiosity.

“The fever cubes? No sir. Each one weighs less than a pilsgit. But altogether, they somehow weigh more than the some of their parts.”

“Really? How heavy is the bag, then?”

I thought for a moment. “I guess it’s maybe three and a half or four pilsboch.”

He sucked in a breath and then whistled his surprise. “Son, you couldn’t weigh more than two pilsboch yourself. But you carry that sack easily.”

I ducked my head. “Yessir. It’s part of the fever magic. When we learn to handle the cubes properly, we adjust to their weight so we can carry all we need. I doubt I could lift a similar weight of stone or water. Or weapon.”

He snorted and lifted the book he had tucked under his arm. “You might just be carrying our greatest weapon, son, no matter what this book says.”

I knew the book before I saw the title. There wasn’t a commander on the field who hadn’t memorized it. The only surprise was that he still carried his with him. Tachzen’s Practical Guide to War Strategies. I groaned inwardly. He looked surprised, and I realized that hadn’t been as silent as I’d intended. “Sorry, sir. Tachzen didn’t believe in magic. I’m surprised you requested the fever cubes at all. Many of the commanders refused our help altogether.”

He snorted again, derisively. “They’re fools not to take advantage of every strategy, every tactic, every weapon available. That’s why I hope you’ll be more careful with those cubes and deliver them where I direct, not among our own men.”

I blushed and stammered, “Yessir. Absolutely sir.”

“Good. And I’m impressed you know Tachzen. Most of these knuckleheads don’t. Now, I’m going to meet with the quartermaster. I understand you haven’t found an empty seat at any of our campfires on this march.  Why don’t you join me for dinner when we make camp.” It wasn’t a question, and he didn’t wait for an answer. He touched the tip of his cap with his finger and cut to the right towards the quartermaster’s train.

I kept facing forward and walked on, ignoring the current of resentment I felt from the men around me. They didn’t seem to appreciate that their own behavior had drawn the commander’s notice to me, as much as my own. I looked down at my hands, clutching the burden I carried so easily, and shook my head in disbelief. It had been a long time since someone touched me without flinching. And even longer since anyone seemed to actually appreciate me for any reason at all.

Dogs in house:

Jesse Cook, Freefall

Time writing:
~40 minutes

April word count:


  1. Prompt: Use at least three of these words or phrases: Practical guide, magic, fever, cubes, war, abundance

    I pushed the polished cubes around on the spell table, bored. Before I became an apprentice magician, I thought magic was exciting, adventurous, and well, everything a middle son of a family of dyers could ever dream. Now I found myself reflecting that watching the dye vats boil was more exciting than this.

    "Are you done?" My master poked his head into the room and frowned at the disarrayed cubes.

    I pushed them back into formation. "Almost," I lied.

    "Good. Get me when you're done." He vanished.

    I didn't really want to work, but now he would expect something soon. I pushed the cubes into the next formation, closed my eyes, and intoned the spell. I opened my eyes. No change. Not that one either.

    Eight formations later, I started wondering if I could just claim I had done them all and nothing had happened. Yet that could not be true: whatever the abundance of possible formations, there would be one--and just one!--that would unlock these cubes.

    Following a whim, I skipped ahead to the three dimensional ones, and stacked all the cubes on top of each other. The key couldn't possibly be so simple. But I closed my eyes and said the spell anyway.

    I felt the heat before I opened my eyes. The cubes had transformed into a pillar of fire. Well, that was at least mildly interesting. And even useful.

    The pillar turned to face me, and it was a miniature woman. She lifted her flaming hands and mouthed, "Help me!"

    1. Nice world-building! I like adding in the dyer family background, and I got a sense of Rubicks Cubes in the patterns, Very nice hook at the end! What a great start to an adventure!

  2. You've developed a quite interesting world! Fever cubes, hmm. And very vibrant characters in that short space already, too.

    1. Thanks! I think these characters have more story to tell, so they may reappear. I might have to choose/sacrifice a world-build to the blog to work on something longer. Of course, that might not work for you, but perhaps we will figure something out. For now, I look forward to your entries and seeing how they are similar or different from my own!