I entered a short story contest last month. They’ve announced the finalists, and I’m not one of them, so I’ve decided to put the story here for your enjoyment. Or at least for you to read; as it didn’t get very far I have no idea if it is enjoyable! I had fun writing it though.
The rules were the story must be less than 750 words and include the prompt of “Was I ever embarrassed.” My comments follow the story below.
Robin smiled when Valinda glanced at her, as did the other ladies the higher ranking woman had managed to attract. She could have snuck into the king’s castle, but attending the party proved more efficient. The daintily clad nobles annoyed her, but etiquette demanded she remain until Valinda finished. Making a scene would impact her mission to the stables.
“I had assumed the servants put the forks in the right order.” Valinda’s voice reminded Robin of an excited child spying a dragon egg for the first time, only less adorable. “Was I ever embarrassed! Jared didn’t notice, thankfully.”
The other women nodded their heads, but gasped as the first dragon thundered past the massive open windows lining one side of the hall. Glassware rattled, and at least one goblet crashed to the floor as a second dragon’s flight path sent a gush of air into the room.
Valinda caught her gloved hands to her chest before she moved toward the viewing windows. “Oh, they’ve started!”
Robin waited as the others scurried away to watch the first of the demonstrations. A bead of sweat rolled down her head under her dark hair, wrapped tightly in a bun. The ankle length ice blue dress had enough volume to hide her vials just under her waist, but didn’t impede movement. The hair and the dress were both too warm though, and she ached to go outside into the breeze.
She pulled the skirt up slightly and turned to the back of the room. The dragon display meant the stables were empty.
Servants attended the grand hall through several discreet hallways and doors. She kept her eyes straight ahead as she walked into one of the service halls and left the roars of the dragons and crowd behind.
“My lady?” A servant in black paused when he saw her.
“I’m looking for my mother’s attendant,” she said. “Have you seen Solea?”
“I’m sorry but I haven’t. I’ll send him to you if I find him.”
“Thank you. I’ll continue myself.”
She strode away without glancing back. You can go almost anywhere if you look like you know what you’re doing, the prioress always said.
The prioress had many sayings. The Order overlooked her odd mumblings due to her skill in alchemy. You can get away with annoying quips if you can make a poison absorbed through the skin, Robin thought.
Torches lit the first set of stairs down, throwing light on the immaculate steps and highlighting their wear from over a century of use. At the bottom she headed right and ducked into a room as she heard two voices from the hall.
“I don’t understand why he didn’t hire more staff,” a passing woman said. “With all the houses here, we need hands.”
After the servants passed, memory directed her through another hall and down another set of stairs. Maps rarely changed for a stone building, and the Order had several. She lifted her skirt further to avoid the increasing grime.
The stench rising in the stairwell confirmed her path. She sped down the final few steps, excited to find her target.
“Can I help you, my lady?” A dragonhand leaned against the stone wall next to the stairwell opening.
She lifted her skirts up higher and scrunched her nose at the hay below as she turned. Robin attempted to emulate Valinda’s high pitched speech. “I’m looking for Lord Jared. I’d hoped to wish him luck before take-off.”
The dragonhand paused, but young noblewomen did ridiculous things to catch their men. “I’m sorry, he’s already left.”
She huffed and stared out the stable doors.
“You could wait for him. Fourth one from the back, third row.”
“I will.” Robin blessed the gods for her luck. Jared’s stall was only one row from Lord Barry’s.
Lord Barry’s dragon, Taston, whirled above the King and nobles outside. His stall remained empty except for hay and the buckets of water dragonhands would use to wash the beast down after his flight.
Robin pulled a hidden vial sewn into her dress waistline and poured the contents into the largest bucket. Once on Taston’s skin, it would seep into the dragon’s blood. He’d cramp on his next flight, sending him and his rider to the ground.
Enemies of the Order ought to be careful, the prioress also said. She replaced the vial in her dress and smiled; another job complete.
I did not expect to win the contest. This was the first contest I remember entering. It may also be my first attempt at a short story since college when I wrote some terrible fanfiction. I don’t read much short fiction, so have even less knowledge than I do about longer stories. 750 words were probably too few for this plot. I had not yet learned all the fancy comma rules I’d forgotten since school. In short, I didn’t know what I was doing. Additionally, I knew the judges (members of the writing group) aren’t normally fantasy readers. This story was the wrong genre for the audience.
The best way to improve my writing is to actually write, so regardless of the story’s standing in the contest, this exercise was productive. It was also a lot of fun, as my work in progress doesn’t include dragons. Who doesn’t like dragons? Productive + fun = success.
I also learned I have no idea how to paste in a story to WordPress and retain all the formatting. This seems a good topic to Google for next time.
Let me know what you think down in the comments. Have a wonderful week, readers!