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Messages - Baron

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Don't let these naysayers put a lead brick in your inventory, funnyboy044.  Don't underestimate the power of showing up.  Why, some of my most spectacular victories were in competitions where I was the only entrant.  If you wanna to get the win, you gotta BE the win. (nod)


How do you write in words about a spectacle, a quintessentially visual thing?  A spectacle can be something good or bad.  It can be impressive or cringe-worthy.  It can be a thing or an action or a person.  It can be a performance or something impromptu.  It can be used for community building or propaganda, adoration or shaming.  Basically something or someone has to be on display, or at least feel as if they are on display.  Where you take it from there is up to you.

Deadline:  All submissions should be posted by the end of Thursday August 31, 2017, with voting to start the following day.

Possible Voting Categories:  Best Character, Best Spectacle, Best Writing, Most Thought Provoking.

Best of luck to all entrants! ;-D ;-D ;-D

Quote from: Samual Taylor Coleridge: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Ah! Well a-day! What evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the albatross
About my neck was hung.

That's surely just the opium talking.... (roll)

It seemed like a very close contest this time around, and I think that victory could have gone any one of four ways depending on the acuteness of Mandle's jetlag at the moment that he chose to vote. ;)
 Thanks for all the votes, folks!  I'll try to have the next competition up in a jiffy.

Cheers, and sorry... I will read all tomorrow and vote...

Got a bit busy with tidying-up work on a commercial project... Exciting news coming soon!

Pure fiction.  The real reason Mandle hasn't voted is due to the time warp you have to go through to get to or from Australia.  For him it is now last Thursday and he still has three days to vote. ;)

Nice turn out again folks.  And these long voting periods are bliss: when was the last time I had my votes in three days before the deadline?? (roll)

Best Character Arc: I'm going with Rocchinator for Cedric's genuine attempt to make up for his terrible personality in the past.  I thought Mandle's and SilverSpook's characters were well portrayed and gripping (Joe in a relatable way, Jin and Ray in an outrageous kind of way), but they didn't really arc towards redemption.  Joe was trying to redeem himself from a history of violence that never really happened, while Ray was... doing her normal thing (trying to make up for briefly not listening??). :)

Best Setting/World: It's gotta be SilverSpook, hands down.  I love how you portray the insane distopic future of class-conflict, social media obsession, rampant commercialism, and technology embedded into everything.  I've missed you around this comp these past many months, and I want to have your baby. :-*  Mandle had a good idea for a world of vampires addicted to substances in blood, but was unfortunately overshadowed. :~(

Best Writing/Style:  I'm going with SilverSpook again for an almost Shakespearean use of some kind of ghetto vernacular.  I had to read it twice to make sure I understood exactly what was going on, but that's still a better comprehension rate than Shakespeare, so top marks for that. ;-D  Honourable mention to Sinitrena for the complex ABBA rhyme.  I think you intentionally left out details to emphasize the difference between saying what you think people want to hear and true repentance, but for me it was too faceless to really relate to.

The Jolly Abysmal Sinner

   Welcome to the fiery Abyss.  There is the horrible screech of metal rubbing on metal, and then the familiar echoing clang of the bars popping into place.  Some prisoners still scream, especially those out under the whip in the flogging yard, but somehow not with the same manic intensity.  It is now what we sinners in the Abyss call night, though the same garish red glow still emanates from the hell-fires as always.  Some say the Devil invented this downtime to think up new horrors to visit down upon us.  Others think the respite exists just to make the dread of what may come next more acute.  But that's not what I think.  I think the Devil gives us night to be alone in our cells with our thoughts.  I think he knows that the more we dwell upon those wretched memories of our path to perdition the more they will consume what's left of our rotten souls.  Of course, some say I think too much.

   But at night there's not much else to do, alone in a cell not large enough to lay down in, not that you'd want to lie on the sharp stones and accumulated filth of eons.  The only company is three cracked and jagged stone walls too hot to lean up against and the cage of metal down the front.  The walls are too thick to allow contact with the sinners in similar cells on either side, same with the floors and ceilings for the sinners below and above.  Beyond the bars is a catwalk occasionally patrolled by Squealers, half-demonized sinners trying to move up the ladder of damnation by snitching out anybody who looks remotely like they're not suffering enough.  There are no meals, or bowel movements, or even heartbeats to keep the rhythm of time.  There is nothing left but the darkness of the mind.

   Sometimes night in the Abyss is mercifully short.  We shuffle to our cells after a long day of mining brimstone and barely sit down before the gong summons us back out for roll-call, reconstitution, and work again.  But sometimes night drags on, like a broken record of your most loathed song.  There's no such thing as time in this eternity of sameness, when there is no sleep to release the soul and break up the days, but one night this sinner called Davey counted seconds for a thousand hours before we were released again to the relative bliss of burning toil and torture.  Davey likes to spend his nights counting out the seconds.  He says it keeps him from thinking too much.  Some say he's mad, but he seemed saner than most after that thousand hour stint.  I guess to some extent we still get to choose which madness afflicts us.  Me?  I barely stumbled out of my cell in one piece.  If you think the brimstone pits are bad, you should try spending a thousand hours alone in a confined space with one of the most loathsome beings in existence.

   I close my eyes despite myself and see her blood-stained face, staring vacantly up at me.  I open my eyes again quickly.  When the nights are long the first harm I inflict on myself is ripping out my eyelids, but it never really makes the pictures go away.  Every morning we are painfully reconstituted again, making the effort futile despite its cathartic painfulness.   Sometimes the Demons reconstitute us with grotesque mutations, but they are always careful to preserve the eyelids.  I can not count how many times I have been reconstituted, but what I wouldn't give to use that power even once to undo the horrible thing that I did.  Desperately I try to divert my thoughts from the whirlpool of regret and despair down which I am always eventually sucked.  I should ask Davey how many times he's been reconstituted.

   The gong chimes and there is the familiar, spine-tingling sound of metal screeching as the bars open.  Night can not have lasted more than two hours this time, and I have barely dwelt on my wretchedness.  Without thinking I drag my fingernails down my face, leaving great rivers of blood.  To face the morning Demon without injury is to invite a trip to the furnace or the flogging yard.  A second gong sounds and we all step out on the the catwalk for roll-call.  It is a pointless ritual, as there is no escape from this hopeless place.  The only thing it really determines is whether any sinner has hurt himself too much to move or has gone too mad to obey; the consequences for either are The Regimen, a sinister alternation of constant flaying and reconstitution until you learn better.  Most sinners go through it once; no one does it twice.

   I look to my left and right during roll-call to get ideas for future self-mutilations.  It's become something of an academic challenge of mine, a hobby if you will.  This guy called Johny always chews through his cheeks and claws out his eyes so that his face looks like a fleshy skull.  Davey is a hand and arm guy: he chews and burns them on his walls until sometimes he's left with nothing but stubs by morning.  There's this guy down the way who only ever bites off his fingers and toes: no one wants to think too hard on what he does with them for the long hours....

   But now looking more closely to my right I am thunderstruck to notice that Davey is not in position.  I rack my brains: has he not gone through The Regimen before?  The Squealer gets to his name and there is a glaring silence about the place.  All the sinners know what's coming, and it's not going to be pretty.  Most stare at their toes and shuffle awkwardly, thinking of their own flaying.  But I stare at the vacant spot in disbelief.  How could he have lapsed in such a short night?

   Now a Squealer is on the catwalk, strutting slowly down the line, dragging his bludgeon over the bars on his way, singing sweet wake-up songs, clearly savouring the carnage to come.  “C'mon, Davey-boy!  Rise and shine!  Ain't never been a two-time Regimen guy on my block.  I'm right curious to see what comes of it.  Little Dwayne's already gone to fetch Papa-Orc for a bit of sinner-huskin', so get on out here and give us a show!”

   The Squealer reaches Davey's cell, and suddenly the smirk fades from his face.  “Holy sweet mother of -oh shit!” he cries, remembering at the last moment his allegiance.  “He's gone!  The sunnofabitch is gone!”  The enormity of the statement hits the Squealer, as it is his responsibility to account for all sinners during roll-call and his flay-happy boss is already on his way.  I am just quick enough to stare back at my feet before he casts about, looking for a scapegoat.

   In moments Papa-Orc is on the block, gleefully leaping up onto the catwalk to seize his victim.  The Squealer huddles on the floor next to the cell, rocking back and forth.  He knows what's coming.  The whole block knows what's coming.  Demons once summoned don't ever leave empty handed.  The Squealer shrieks as he is dragged off for his second Regimen or worse, and we are ordered back to our cells.  The time passes, but without the usual haunting memories, for there is too much activity on the catwalk to keep my interest.  Demons and imps of various ranks and hues arrive intermittently to study the empty cell, and in their absence the Squealers pour over the empty space with morbid fascination.  They poke and knock at the walls, shake the bars, and use various devilry to search for traces of white magic.  All of them leave, shaking heads, muttering about Redemption and that there'll be hell to pay for this.

   This night is long, but there is much on my mind to distract me from my hateful grief.  How did old Davey do it?  There are only two possibilities, each as unlikely as being hit with a snowball through the bars.  Either he truly was Redeemed, or he actually managed to escape.  Without benefit of conferring with my fellow sinners (no doubt the reason for our extended captivity), I am left to play with the possibilities in my mind.

   Redemption.  We sinners know what it means, but no one's ever seen it happen.  I've always understood it to be impossible: to have one's sins forgiven and ascend out of the Abyss.  Davey never spoke about what landed him in the Abyss - most of us don't – but it sure hell must have been something awful.  How do you make up for something like that?  Gallant deeds?  As far as I could ever tell Davey just did whatever he was told, same as the rest of us.  True repentance?  How can you truly repent when all you ever do is count out the seconds so you don't have to think about it?

   That left escape.  But how?  You never knew how long the nights might last.  Half the time you weren't in the same cell, although force of habit usually brought you close.  Even if you could open the bars there were hundreds of unblinking eyes yearning for a bit of distraction on the catwalks.  That left tunnelling, but how?  Sure we used pickaxes down in the brimstone mine, carving out new accommodations for the constantly growing population in the Abyss, but they were too huge to smuggle secretly back to your cell.  And where would you go, even if you could tunnel?  Left or right, up or down, you'd still just end up in the next sinner's cell.

   As I ponder this, my eyes turn to the back wall of the cell.  In the new blocks that I have carved it is a structural wall, thicker than the others, but solid.  But it's the sinners who do the carving.  Sure, the Squealers patrol lazily and the imps sometimes nose around, and sometimes a Demon swoops down to mete out punishment to keep everyone on their toes, but it's the sinners who actually do the work.  What if you could slip away unnoticed and do a little extra tunnelling?  And what if, through skill or luck or infinite patience you got yourself transferred into one of those new blocks?  They do move sinners around, to keep them scared and the rest off-balance.  If you were around long enough - and we all will be - eventually you'd be transferred to a block you helped to carve out.  I try to remember when old Davey arrived on our block.  Certainly after I arrived....

   I stand and briefly touch the back wall, the flesh at the ends of my fingers searing.  Arms burnt down to stumps indeed.  But how did he seal the hole?  Solid rock doesn't just reconstitute itself -or does it?  I contemplate the volume of brimstone that might be painfully smuggled back to one's cell each day to slowly build a perfectly sized cork for one's tunnel.  The rubble could be smuggled out the same way, or left on the floor of the filthy cells: who would notice?

   But where would you go, even if you did escape?  Surely the imps or Demons would hunt you down?  Or would they?  Losing a sinner is a huge cock-up.  Squealers are flayed by Demons, but even the Demons have bosses.  Maybe it'd just be more convenient to chalk it up to Redemption and be done with it.  Maybe the whole thing would be kept quiet either way, so that no one's head would roll?  Leave the rest of the sinners in their cells so long that they are too mad to remember the details.  Then no one important gets the flay, or worse.

   So where would you go, if you got out?  I close my eyes to think, but again all I see is her bloody face and vacant eyes.  I open them again, but this time not to forget.  The woman was my victim, yes, but she was no saint herself.  For the first time I contemplate the fact that she may well be holed up in a similar cell in some distant corner of the Abyss.  I've never heard anyone mention the presence of women down here, but where else would the bad ones go?

   An idea spawns in my mind, so radical that I feel dizzy even contemplating it.  What if I could find her?  Making amends for murder would probably be impossible, but making the effort wasn't.  I could seek her out and... what?  Spending eternity at each others' throats again is probably not a good idea, but I could let her have a crack at vengeance at the very least.  Maybe explain how things felt from my end.  Apologize, certainly.  Listen to her side: I didn't do that enough.  Then... set her free, I suppose.  If she wanted to go.  I closed my eyes to try to gauge her reaction to any of this, but the eyes just stare back at me as vacantly as ever.

   Surely there is no Redemption from the Abyss.  There are some sins that are beyond the pale, some things you just can't take back.  But in the flaming eternity that is left to me I could attempt a personal redemption.  Failure was almost certain, but for the first time in a long time I could feel a glimmer of hope inside me.  I scrape my hands down the wall and the flesh begins to sizzle.

I'm working on something, but I'll probably just make the deadline. (roll)

Hopefully I can redeem myself this time around. (roll)

I demand another recount, just to be sure. ;)

Congratulations to all the winners!

@ Sinitrena: My whole idea for a story was that sometimes it is hard to see who truly is the devil.  I'm glad I got at least one person second guessing their first impression! ;-D

There were some seriously good stories this time around, making voting very hard.  In future we should just assume that if there are more than five entrants we can double up votes, unless the contest administrator specifically says otherwise.

My votes:

Best Bargain: Frodo.  It was such a simple thing, tweaking Jacob's vocal tuning, but it made all the difference in the world.  I've got to give a special mention to Sinitrena for trying to tie together five deals at once, but I thought it was more of a gift than a deal for the limping boy, so I've got to give Frodo the edge here.

Best Devil: Mandle.  Another close one, but I just loved the provocateur that Mandle created.  Honourable mentions go to half the entrants. Blondbraid's Old Man Sunshine was creepy, opportunistic, and wielded his devilry to particularly ironic effect.  Sinitrena's Beliar also deserves mention, for being a misunderstood soul collector just trying to give people what they truly want. 

Best Setting/World: Mandle.  What an office!  Quaint little alcoves filled with screaming impaled heads?  Chairs made of the woven genitals of the lusty?  Rugs of dried extruded entrails of the gluttonous?  I thought as a setting it was pitch perfect for the tone of his story.

Best Writing/Style: Blondbraid.  Yeah, some of the rhyming lines had inconsistent rhythms, but the language was phenomenal.  Days "so warm you'd swear hell itself is seeping up through the cracks in the dirt" paints the whole setting and sets the atmosphere for the whole story.  Likewise, "Her tears were gone for good, and forever here on after / When those she loved spoke of their sorrow, she was doomed to mock them with her laughter" sums up the whole story in a tidy little nutshell. 

I think I've left out Rocchinator unjustly, since his story was great; it just didn't seem to be best according to the categories this time around.  If we had a "Best Tempted Category" he would have won hands down, because I could see my own attitudes in Eric's worldly scepticism.  Eric also made the vilest deal, I think, which is what the whole competition was about.  If there was a category for "Best Deal Circumstances" I would have given Frodo another vote: what else would you do if you were tossed out in a dark alley in your underpants?  If there was a category for "Best Diabolical Motivation" I could have cast a vote for Sinitrena, since the sibling rivalry she described goes a long way towards explaining the almost childish rivalry we see in the struggle between darkness and the light.  It kind of reminded me of this movie called Erik the Viking where all the gods of Valhalla are all toddler brats. (roll)

Finally, in answer to Mandle's querry:
Add spoiler tag for Hidden:
Yeah, I thought Jesus first.  Then, for some reason, I thought Santa Clause.  When I read Adam at first I thought, wtf?  Isn't that already water under the bridge?  Then I thought, well, there are lots of Adams and clause 15 200 300 905 and/or the devil himself isn't specific as to which one, leaving kind of a legal loophole that the devil himself would love.  Then I thought there was some sort of time travel element, which would somehow impact the whole of human history.  Then I thought that if God had the power to turn back time and make that happen, then he could easily turn back time again and make it unhappen (either unsacrificing Adam, or if that runs against the contract, then going back before the contract was signed and not signing it).  Finally, I thought I was putting too much thought into the deeper meaning of a comedic story and moved on to Frodo's submission. ;)

Diabolus Imperium

   Hyperbolus Ornatus paced nervously around the atrium, the clicking of the mosaic tiles beneath his four inch heals echoing maddeningly through the courtyard.  He rung his clammy hands together anxiously before running them through his sweaty mop of curls.  His cherubic face, normally so poised beneath a thick façade of makeup, now looked a ghoulish shambles of streaky mascara and smeared lipstick.

   “Do stop it, Darling!” called the waspish voice of Lenis Penicius, his Armenian lover, as he lounged on a nearby dining couch.  “You'll burst an aqueduct in your cerebrum!”

   Hyperbolus shook bodily with frustration, causing his numerous bracelets and necklaces to jingle like a cart full of tambourines bouncing over cobblestones.  “Lenis, you cad!” he caterwauled.  “It's easy for you not to be all trepidatious, because you are not about to be murdered!”

   “You mean I'm not about to be emperor, Darling.”

   Hyperbolus scoffed and fidgeted with his penile piercing, wishing to Saturn that time could be turned back and decisions reconsidered.  What had he been thinking?!?  There had been 11 emperors in the last three years, not one of them lasting more than six months.  The shortest reign was that of Ejaculus Primus, who had lasted a mere eight days before being stamped to a pulp by the iron-shod marching boots of his own Praetorian guard.  But even Ejaculus' brief flirtation with the marble throne was an unqualified success compared to most conspirators. How many scores of pretenders had he seen over the years, crucified or garroted, or thrown to the lions, or tied up in a sack with a pack of little sharp-clawed vermin and thrown into water just deep enough to panic them?  Hyperbolus poured himself a cup of wine with shaking hands to calm his nerves.

   “Go easy on the sugary drinks!” Lenis opined hautily.  “You know those calorums go straight to your hips.  And you'll need your wits about you when you meet the Cranky Captain; nobody ever won over the troops with that dancing senator thing you do when you get drunk.”

   “Shut up!” Hyperbolus whined, draining the cup and flinging it at Lenis.  “You can be such a queen sometimes!”

   “Do you want to be called emperor Hyperbolus, or emperor Hippodromus?” Lenis asked cattily, referring to his friend's slight weight problem.    “Have a carrot, fuck!”

   “I'll scratch you!” Hyperbolus threatened, advancing unsteadily on his heels.  “So help me, I'll give you such a pinch!”

   Their impending mêlée was interrupted by the sudden sound of heavy footfalls in the corridor beyond.

   “Oh my gods, oh my gods, it's the Cranky Captain!” Hyperbolus squealed, his hands shaking with tremors.  He danced on his toes in one direction, then another.  “What do I say?  Where do I sit?  Oh my gods, how do I look?!?”

   “Like a painted sphincter!” Lenis exclaimed, sitting bolt upright on the dining couch.  “Come here, you skanky humming bird!  Let me try to fix you up.”

   Frantically the two men tried to compose themselves as the footfalls grew louder and ever more menacingly.

   “Hurry, to the solium,” Lenis fretted, trying to patch up Hyperbolus' eye-makeup while pushing him into an ornate armchair at the end of the atrium.  “Gah!  You have puffy eyes!”

   The footfalls stopped, and the great wooden doors at the front of the atrium exploded inwards like a burst dam.  A short, burly man in full military regalia had burst through the gates like a Hun looking for plunder.  He was so short, and so burly, that he appeared to be broader than he was tall.  He had a thick beard shaped in the Scythian style, and a large scar cutting across his left-eye from forehead to cheek.  But for his height, he looked every inch a warrior of the fiercest calibre.

   “Where's Hippocampus?” the soldier barked, looking around the atrium.  “Is it you!?” he asked Lenis, sizing the silk-clad dandy up and down.

   “By Ganymede's shaved legs, No!” Lenis protested.  “Hyperbolus is right here behind me.  Well, not right behind me, of course.  Ha, ha!  No, that wouldn't be very, er, regal of him.  Say, is all that chest hair regulation, hmmmm?”  Lenis impulsively grabbed at the tuft of chest hair erupting over the Captain's breastplate, but before he could his fingers were severed by the flashing blade of the Captain's sword.  Lenis stared momentarily at the stumps at the end of his hand, his face contorting into  a visage of pure disdain.  “You beastial barbarian!” he spat, scurrying off to gather his severed digits.

   “Aye!” the Captain retorted, stepping past Lenis to address the potential emperor-in-waiting directly.  “That I am, a barbarian, through and through.  My mother was the most diseased whore in the Roman army, and my father was the most vicious brute in the barbarian horde that killed her clientele.  My breast milk was human blood, and my school was the whip.  I am the weed that has been mowed and burned a thousand times, only to come up again stronger than before.  I am Virilus Indomitus, Captain of the Praetorian Guard!  And you are Hymenus Opennus, my would-be emperor.”

   “Actually, point of clarification,” Hyperbolus began pedantically, “it's actually Hyperbolus Ornat-”

   “I don't fucking care what your name is!” Virilus barked, licking Lenis's blood off his sword.  “I've made and broken eight emperors, and it will be nine in half a heartbeat if you cross me, boy!  You can play dandy or scholar or priest, it doesn't bother me.  Womanizing, sodomizing, cannibalizing, incestisizing: for me it's water off a Spartan's shield.  There was even that one guy who did freaky things with shaved chickens; whatever!  But don't.  You.  Ever. Cross me.  Your name is what I say it is!  Do you understand?”

   Hyperbolus barely hesitated.  “Er, yes sir!”

   “Good boy!” the Captain roared approvingly.  “You've already made it further than my last four applicants.  Now, listen carefully.  I've got ten thousand of the most elite storm troopers the world has ever seen willing to slit open their own mothers at my command.  Do you know why?”

   Hyperbolus squirmed in his solium.  Lenis had promised him that there would be no difficult questions in the interview.  He closed his eyes to stop his body from shaking, but all that achieved was focusing his mind on his failed bladder.  Suddenly the answer came to him: “fear?”

   “Ha!” the Captain shouted, smashing a priceless marble sculpture with the haft of his sword.  “No!  Well, in part, yes.  Their fear of me keeps me alive and in my position, but why do they obey the commands of the Captain of the Praetorian Guard?”

   Hyperbolus squirmed in his puddle, intensely aware that the moisture was slowly wicking up his toga.  He wished he hadn't thrown the wine goblet away.  Now Lenis was quietly using it to gather up the ends of his fingers.

   “Well-” he began, stalling for time.

   “Shut up!” the captain commanded, continuing to strut about the atrium like a puffed up rooster.  “I'll tell you why: silver!  They love silver, more than life, or love, or liberty.  Your job,” he jabbed a finger in Hyperbolus's direction, “your only true function in life, is to provide a vast and every increasing stream of silver.  Your soon-to-be-predecessor is late in his silver payment, as was his predecessor before him.  I need that cash,” Virilus said in an uncharacteristic whisper, making him seem suddenly all the more menacing.  “Can you provide it?”

   Of course there was only one answer that Hyperbolis could realistically give at this point, regardless of his actual ability to come up with the money.  He was about to seal the deal when Lenis piped up from a safe distance across the atrium.

   “How does the illustrious Hyperbolus know that you will fulfil your end of the bargain?” he asked piercingly.

   Virilus growled like a blood hound at a biting fly, but continued to pace nonchalantly.  “I don't show good faith, if that's what you mean.”

   “Typical,” Lenis sneered.  Hyperbolus suddenly became aware of a very prominent vein bulging in Virilus's forehead.  Undaunted, Lenis continued.  “You could just steal the silver and dump poor Hyperbolus's murdered corpse in the Tiber.  We might as well just be murdered now and save the expense,” he added haughtily, carefully placing the cup containing his fingers on the side table.

   “What do you want?” Virilus rasped, swinging his sword at the air.

   Lenis took the precaution of pacing the captain's speed on the opposite end of the atrium to keep a safe distance.  “You can kill us now, and get nothing,” Lenis reasoned.  “Or you can kill us in a week and have your money.  You need the money.  The troops are restless.  Aren't they, Darling?”

   “Restless.  Yes.”  Hyperbolus only dared to agree because Virilus was currently on the opposite end of the atrium from him.

   “You need the money,” Lenis repeated.  “We need Hyperbolus to be emperor to secure the funds from his ...backers.  You make him emperor, and then you shall have your coin.”

   “How long?” Virilus barked, stroking his chin in thought.

   “Three days,” Hyperbolus replied before Lenis could jump in.  If he was going to be emperor, he might as well pretend to be in charge.

   Virilus sniffed disdainfully, but after another quarter circuit of the atrium he sheathed his sword.  “Gentlemen, I think we have an accord.  Vengeus!” he bellowed.

    There was the clatter of iron-shod boots in the hall before a lone guard appeared at the door.  He was taller than Virilus, and his scars were arranged differently, but otherwise the two appeared to be cast from the same mold.  “Yes sir!” the man shouted.

   “Vengeus is my second in command.  The men follow Vengeus because they know he has my absolute trust, and he has my absolute trust because he is unswervingly obedient.  Hail the new emperor!” Virilus commanded.

   “Hail Caesar!” Vengeus shouted unquestioningly, punching his chest and raising his arm in salute.

   “Go tell the men to kill What's-His-Face, the current emperor, and have Hippopotamus here declared emperor by all the heralds and criers in the imperial bureaucracy.  He is now emperor, and any man who dares to question him must answer to me.”

   “Yes sir!” Vengeus cried.  “How shall we kill him, sir?  The current emperor?”

   Virilus gestured magnanimously towards Hyperbolus.

   “Oh, um.... Oh my!  So many ways to choose from....  Can we have him launched from a siege engine into a prominent monument?  I've never heard of that one before.”

   “Excellent choice, majesty!” Virilus smiled, waving Vengeus off on his way.  “You have a ruthless streak that will serve you well as emperor,” he declared, grabbing the goblet full of fingers as he passed by.   “A toast is in order!” he called, filling the goblet from the amphora.  “Gentlemen, to power!” Virilus drank the cup in one great gulp, then leered a grin at Lenis with one of the severed fingers between his lips like a pipe.

   “One must always be careful with cylindrical objects in one's mouth,” Lenis commented dryly, coming to stand behind the new emperor.

   Virilus spat out the finger and tossed the cup aside.  “You know,” he frowned pensively, “I need him to be emperor, not you to be his smart-mouthed advisor.”

   “You know,” Hyperbolus chirped in, not able to contain himself now that the sands were flowing in the glass.  “We need Vengeus to declare my rule law, not you to get in the way of imperial authority.”

   Virilus's brow furrowed, and the throbbing vein was suddenly apparent once more.  He reached for his sword, but his hand lingered on his stomach, whence the poison was now spreading through his body.  He made to shout something, but all that came out was a disturbingly frothy gurgle before he collapsed in spasms upon the mosaic floor.   

   Hyperbolus rose and pranced merrily around the atrium in glee.

   “Quickly, you dainty princess!” Lenis cried.  “Help me rinse the toxins from the fingers.  And summon a Greek physician and a manicurist!”

Six more days....  Six, six, six.... :P   My soul for some inspiration!  Or, barring that, a really good jelly doughnut.(nod)

I want a 497 word limit, just to be difficult.  What if brevity is our devil? :P

I can't see anything in my records for the last 5 years.  Go for it! 8-)

While I'm still disappointed that you didn't take me to task over my refusal to climb the learning curve for Al-Quest 1, I still thought it was a hilarious idea.  I look forward to my next opportunity for vengeance the next competition! ;-D

Asterix!  No, no, no, no....  I think not. (wrong)  How about:

You changed the requirements after I submitted my entry. I changed the conditions necessary for winning a trophy after you declared the winners. :=

I humbly accept my third and a half place trophy and congratulate the other winners. :cheesy:

You're misconstruing the facts after I rightfully misconstrued them first! ;-D  We'll just have to let the lizard-people minions sort this all out with their scythes of judgement.... (nod)

Asterix!  No, no, no, no....  I think not. (wrong)  How about:

And voting is now closed.  Except for the hanging chad variety, which will dangle over the results indefinitely. (roll)  I think I can say, without even a hint of hubris, that this was the best writing competition in the history of ever. (nod)  If you don't believe me then you're obviously a commie spy who enjoys clubbing your own fuzzy animals to make ostentatious fur coats. :P  But let's step away from the truth for a bit and stray in to the soft quagmire of facts for a moment.  The fact is that we have a bunch of votes, some of which might have been cast by legitimate AGSers.  Not to cast doubt on the process, but I forgot to check the papers of everyone who showed up to the polls, so the whole thing was probably rigged anyway. :undecided:  But whatever, these are the results we've got, and I'm too tired to tamper with them any more than I already have, so let's just call it a day and go watch some boxing. :=

Winning the Golden Hairpiece of Alternative Wisdom with an alarming 7 votes is the thoroughly discredited reprobate kconan of Outer Moldavia.  Clearly his Bat-Boy-esque good looks charmed the electorate, distracting them from his track record of yellow journalism and blatant character assassinations.  Well done, sir! ;)

Winning the Silver Hairpiece of Probably Would Have Won If The Other Side Weren't A Bunch Of Cheating Scum with an almost-too-close-to-call 6 votes is the virtuous and beautiful Sinitrena.  We can only hope that in the balance of time the courts will exercise their benign tyranny and restore her to her true place as reigning queen of the FWC. (nod)

Winning the Bronze Hairpiece of Third Party Wilderness is Frodo and Mandle.  Ponch would have shared in the glory too if he could have resisted using the T-word in his entry, so he was docked one vote as per the constitution, that revered document in the OP that I will unswervingly uphold as long as it seems to support my agenda.  Excellent writing all around!

And so here is the point in the process where I'm supposed to step down gracefully to make way for the new guy.  Unfortunately, I regret to inform you that I am hereby unilaterally suspending the FWC constitution by appointing myself president for life.  My lizard-people minions will inform you of the details with the ends of their whips and halberds.  BUWUHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!

...And that's a wrap folks.  We have five alternative entries to vote on:

Truth Bomb by kconan
You Really Want the Truth? by Frodo
AGS Today Vol.69 Issue 8008135 by Ponch
Thoughts Are Free by Sinitrena
The Scent of Victory by Mandle

Voting will be by the following categories.  Given the number of extremely meritorious entries (and kconan's) there will be a maximum of two votes per category.  Your categories are:

Best Alternative Truth
Best Alternative Truth Spouter (or best character)
Best Alternative to a Plot
Best Alternative Writing (think 90s grunge lyrics ;-D)
Best Alternative Thought Provokingness  Which entry really made you think a bit?

There are going to be some seriously glitzy faux-hairpiece trophies, so make sure you are generous with your votes for the entries you liked the best.  (You could also throw a vote or two to kconan so he doesn't feel bad. (roll))  Voting goes for three days and will tabulated at some point on Friday June 23.  Good luck to all participants!

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