The Graft Prologue 3–Fahd

Part 3 of a fantasy pirate novel-in-progress. Parts 1 and 2 can be found on Remington‘s and Denizen‘s pages.



“All hands!” Fahd called. “Storm brewing! All hands on deck. You, too, rookie,” he said to Jericho, son of the late merchant captain Remington. “Go help with the rigging.”

“Yes, sir,” the youth replied. He ran to do as ordered.

Denizen climbed out of the hold. “How are the skies?”

“Blacker than the bottom of the devil’s heart, Captain,” Fahd replied. “I’ve only seen the skies like this in the desert storms.”

Denizen grunted.

Fahd gripped the railing and peered out, trying to see with his night-born eyes what the rest of the crew could not. “The storm is between us and port! Might be we could sail around it in four days–”

“We may not have four days,” Denizen snapped. “Bilge! Get that rookie! Ask him if he knows anything about birthing!”

“Aye, captain,” the rat-like woman replied. She scurried up the ropes to find Jericho.

“Foul time for foul weather,” Denizen muttered. “If that mage would wake, might be we wouldn’t have this problem.”

“You would trust our lives to a half-dead mage?” Fahd replied. “An unknown mage?

“Maybe not.” Denizen shook his head. The wind picked up, and he raised his voice to hear himself over the howl. “I need you down below!”

“My eyes are needed out here!”

“Even if that rookie knows anything of use, he won’t have the eyes to see in this muck. I need you to be sure nothing goes wrong!”

A wave crashed over them, threatening to roll the ship. The clouds dropped down, even as the water rose to meet them, and the wind threw the ship into the darkness.

Fahd blinked at Denizen. “It’s the crew or the child, captain.”

Bilge climbed out of the ropes long enough to shake her head at Denizen before she returned to the rigging.

“Stay to your post, then,” Denizen replied. He growled. “Demons take it!”

Fahd smiled. “That may be what they want,” he said, peering into the clouds. “Why else try to keep us from port?”

“I suppose you think it’s demon spawn?” Denizen growled.

“If it were demon spawn,” Fahd slowly replied, “I’d think they’d want it to live.”

Denizen blinked, then nodded again and returned to the hold.

Fahd did not bellow his orders. The wind had started to roar, too loud now for even Denizen’s voice to carry. But the crew knew its job; even the merchant’s boy did well enough at the ropes.

Fahd simply took over the captain’s place at the helm, stared into the storm, and prayed to whatever gods were listening that they would make it out.

It was impossible to tell how far, or for how long, they sailed in that darkness. There were no stars to judge their position, and the wind blew at odd intervals that even the most skilled could not count.

Their hearts filled with the icy chill of the depths, and the crew began to count, instead, by the waves that threatened to tear the ship apart.

Only Jericho, the lone survivor of his father’s crew, refused to despair. And so it was he who saw the pinprick of light, even before Fahd’s eyes.

“Fahd!” He climbed down out of the ropes to get the desert man’s attention. “First Lieutenant, sir! Look there!”

Fahd looked in the direction the man pointed. The pinprick transformed into a sunburst, forcing itself into the storm. “The Desert Flower–” Fahd whispered. He rubbed at his shoulder, where an old scar reminded him of the last time he’d seen that sign. “Rookie, get the men back to their posts. Beat them if you have to. But tell them to make for that Flower!”

“Yes, sir,” Jericho muttered.

But such threats were unnecessary. Once the sunburst appeared, the chill vanished from the hearts of the crew. They were wary of the sudden light, but eager enough for anything that could lead them from the storm.

Fahd beckoned the large Taur over to the helm to replace him, then ran down to the hold to find Denizen. “Captain!” he called. “The Desert Flower, she comes! She has brought us the sun!”

It was a little after midnight when they saw the first lights of the port town, and the few stragglers foolish enough to be out in the weather.

Fahd called out to the people on shore. “We need a healer!”

A few of the stragglers scattered and ran off in different directions. The rest pushed off in rowboats and struggled towards the ship.

The storm still pushed them around, enough to cause damage and threaten their rescuers if the ship docked too close. Fahd dropped the anchor a little distance away and waited for help to reach them.

Whatever fortune had carried them to port was still with the crew, for Kaly herself met them at the shore.

“Kalyptos,” Denizen breathed, bowing to the healer.

She inclined her head. “I’m told you need my services?”

“Yes, my lady.” Denizen turned back to help Fahd, the mage and the woman towed on planks between them.

The townsmen were always ready for a tale, and the sight gained their interest as well as any visitor could. Most returned to the tavern to wait, but for a foolish few, their curiosity overcame their fear of the strange healer, and under the pretense of helping, they followed the pirates into her hut.

Fahd swiftly drove them back out into the weather, where they waited him out. None were curious enough to fight him. Only those few that provided any real help were allowed to remain inside.

Kaly had just finished her first inspection when Fahd stepped back inside. “Now you will tell me,” she said, “how these two came into your keeping?”

By unspoken agreement, Fahd and Denizen began to tell the healer a carefully edited tale about the event.

“And when the mercenaries saw that they were losing, they turned on their own crew,” Fahd finished the story. He did not mention Jericho, the only one who had evaded the mercenaries long enough to surrender.

“My goodness!” one of the strangers, a woman who had called herself Adheera, exclaimed. “Did anyone survive?”

Denizen shook his head. “None but these two.”

Fahd peered at Adheera. “You have a similar look to you,” he said to her, nodding at the mage. “Is he your kinsman?”

She shook her head. “I am of his people’s blood, yes, but I’ve been away from the clans since I was a child. I don’t know him.” She continued to stare hard at the mage.

“Can you restore them?” Denizen asked the healer.

“Difficult to say,” Kaly replied. “Adheera may have brought me too late. Their hearts beat, but their spirits want to flee.”

“But you can call them back,” Denizen insisted. “You can tell us why he was so desperate to murder them.”

“I am a healer,” Kaly snapped, “not a necromancer. I cannot call the ghosts of the dead.”

Adheera tore her gaze from the mage. She watched Kaly with a thoughtful look. “But is it necromancy,” she mused, “if their hearts still beat?”

Kaly opened her mouth to reply, but no sound came out. Finally she shrugged. “I might be able to do something. But not with you lot stinking up the place.”

The pirates and townsmen alike took that as the dismissal that it was and made a swift retreat. Fahd hesitated for only a moment before following his captain out.

The healer continued at her work for a few hours before a voice intruded.

“Miss Kalyptos?”

Kaly looked up to see Adheera at the door. “I thought everyone would be at the tavern,” she said, “to hear the story.”

Adheera chuckled. “They’ll be telling the same tale for weeks, now.” She shrugged. “They’re…they think they’re making it sound more exciting, but they haven’t said anything new.”

Kaly grunted and returned to her patients.

The mage’s heart rate spiked. Kaly frowned, but when she tried to set a spell on him, she found her magic blocked.

“Miss Kalyptos?” Adheera tried again to get the healer’s attention. “I know a little magic of my own. I was thinking, I might be able to help?”

Kaly snorted. “And if I learn anything new, you’d be the first to hear it?” she snapped.

Adheera wilted. “I…was curious…. ”

Kaly shook her head. “I don’t need more magic, girl. With a mage for a patient, I’d as soon use less.” She blinked. “But I should not be quick to refuse an extra pair of hands. Especially not if those hands are attached to a head more sensible than the men, hah?”

“Of course not, miss.”

“So. Adheera. What do you know about healing?”

Adheera hurried through the muck to reach the tavern. “Captain Denizen!” she called out, once inside. “Captain Denizen, it’s time!”

Denizen nodded, chugged down the rest of his grog, and followed the woman back to Kaly’s hut.

Inside, the healer held a knife over the pregnant woman’s belly. Nearby, a still figure was covered by a sheet.

Denizen stopped cold. “The mage?” he gasped, staring at the sheet.

Kaly shook her head. “They passed only minutes ago.” She nodded towards the sheet. “I feel him fighting to awaken, but…my skills are not enough. I cannot reach him.”

Adheera’s gaze sharpened. “Ominous time for a birth,” she muttered. She ignored the glare Kaly gave her.

“Birth?” Denizen repeated. He frowned. “But if the mother is dead–”

“The baby lives,” Kaly interrupted. “But only for a short while. I must act quickly to cut it from her; I will need help.”

With Kaly’s instruction and Adheera’s magic, the three of them began the messy business. Kaly made delicate passes with the blade, probing as she went. Adheera wiped away the blood, and supported the healer’s efforts with occasional streams of power. Denizen fetched the two women any supplies they called out for, and lent his strength when their magics required it.

And in a time that Denizen could not decide was too short or too long, Kaly had taken the infant to wash him, and Denizen laid the dead woman with the mage and covered her with another sheet.

Kaly’s yell startled him from his gloom.

“He’s marked by the night demons!” the healer hissed, and drew her dagger.




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The Graft Prologue 2–Denizen

Part 2 of a fantasy pirate novel work-in-progress. Part 1 can be found on Remington‘s page.



“What do you seek?” Denizen muttered. He resisted the urge to pace, and he glared out at the other ship as though it were to blame for his present immobility.

Pacing would mean struggling with the gods-damned robe that kept wrapping itself around his legs. Tripping over it, possibly, or simply opening it to expose his scales to the air.

To expose his scales to the sun. The other crew must’ve seen his ship hidden beneath these cliffs. Even in the evening light, only a blind man could miss so large a ship. But they couldn’t know whose ship it was. Not yet. They couldn’t know that The Deep waited for them. Letting that light reflect off his scales would be the quickest way to betray his presence.

“What do you see?” he asked, addressing his First Lieutenant.

“Ierne’s colors,” Fahd replied. “Merchant sigil.”

Denizen glanced at Fahd curiously, but he didn’t question the claim. Not even keeping an eye dark with an eye patch would give Denizen the vision to pierce the dying light like the desert man did. If Fahd said the other ship was a merchant ship, then either it was a merchant ship or it was posing as one.

“What brings them so far from the normal trade routes?” Ian, the large human, or Taur as the man often insisted, asked. “Smuggling?”

“Smuggling’s illegal,” replied Bilge, the crew’s Rigger. She snickered. “Mayhap we should relieve them before the law does it for us?”

“I don’t know,” Fahd said. “Something’s wrong. Their crew is far too large for a ship that size.”

“Slaves?” Denizen snarled, prompting a hiss from Bilge. The little rat-woman and Denizen had both been slaves when The Deep’s previous captain had acquired them.

Fahd shook his head. “Soldiers,” he replied. “Mercenaries, from the look of things. They wear no sigil that I can see.”

Denizen eyed the distance to the other ship and considered his options. Lawmen and hired fighters of any kind could be trouble for his people. Those who wore no insignia didn’t want to be recognized; such as they would either give up with no fight at all, or attack first to eliminate any witnesses.

He signaled for his crew to load the rowboat. Best to be prepared either way.

“Captain!” Fahd said. “They have a prisoner!” He glanced at Denizen, his eyes wide. “It’s one of the Wandering Ones!”

Denizen gave a curt nod, whirled, shed the cloak, and dove into the sea. His scales pulled him through the water like a shark, making quick work of the swim, and his claws let him climb the other ship with ease. He reached the top while his crew were still racing towards the floundering prisoner, and he cut down one of the mercenaries before they knew he was on board.

Then the others turned to face him. Denizen could spare little thought to anything but the fight until his crew climbed up to join him.

The ship’s crew divided themselves naturally — one group, the merchants, noncombatants who carried few weapons and tried their best to keep out of the fray; the other, the mercenaries who attacked the pirates with everything they had.

One of the noncombatants, the ship’s captain by his garb, ran off. Denizen trusted his crew to leave the other merchants be, and he slipped away to follow the man.

He caught up just as the merchant followed one of Ierne’s masked councilors into the brig.

“Get up!” Denizen heard the masked man saying. He crept into the brig after the merchant, silent despite his size. He swiftly moved his eye patch to the other eye, trusting to the darkness and the color of his scales to keep the movement hidden. Neither the merchant nor the councilor knew he was there.

A shape whimpered at the councilor’s feet.

“Councilor!” the merchant yelled. “We’re under attack! Pirates! We need to — ”

The councilor whirled at the merchant’s voice and fired his pistol. The merchant dropped, his words lost in a gurgle. “Teach you to interfere,” the councilor muttered, and turned his attention back to the huddled form.

“Now, I’ve heard of shooting the messenger,” Denizen said, “but that’s the first I’ve ever seen anyone do it.” He stepped out into the light where the masked “councilor” could see him.

The councilor stared at him for just a second before he raised his pistol again, but it was just a second too long. Denizen lunged, moving with a speed belied by his size, and the weapon clattered to the deck before the councilor could reach the trigger.

Denizen inspected the form huddled in the corner, all but ignoring the one writhing and gasping in his grasp. “Fahd!” he called out, his voice carrying above the sounds of battle. “Get your hairless hide down here!”

“Already here, Captain,” Fahd called back. The leaner man leaped down seconds later, ignoring the ladder entirely, and rolled to a stop in front of Denizen without a sound.

“Show-off,” Denizen grumbled. “Has the crew finished their report? What sort of goods does your merchant carry?”

“None, that I can tell,” Fahd replied. “We’ve found no goods on board.”

“Odd,” Denizen replied. “They’ve sold their cargo, then?”

Fahd shook his head. “No gold, either. And no cargo here worth taking a merchant ship.” He shrugged one shoulder. “Not unless they’ve rid themselves some other way. Crew’s salvaging what they can.”

Denizen grunted. What crew would rid themselves so quickly of their cargo, unless…. but no, Fahd would have mentioned finding signs of living cargo.

Fahd jerked his head towards the huddled form, but his eyes never left the councilor. “What of them?”

Denizen let the councilor fall and peered more closely at the huddled form. “Have a look.”

Fahd glanced at the councilor again, nodded, and bent down to inspect the shape.

The councilor…. It was hard to tell with that damnable mask, but Denizen thought the councilor was watching them. No, watching Fahd.

The form whimpered and cringed away. “Please,” the form sobbed. A girl… a woman, and frightened by more than their presence. “Please don’t hurt me, I swear I didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Hold still,” Fahd ordered, and the female froze. He grabbed her by the chin and looked her over, tilting her head to look at her face more closely.

Denizen left Fahd to his examination, confident the desert man would see anything worth finding in this dim light. Denizen didn’t need to see the girl to make his own conclusions. The scent of her blood overpowered nearly everything, stronger than even the scent of her fear. Gods only knew what damage she’d suffered before they’d arrived.

And yet, there were other scents to read. Denizen glared at the councilor gasping on the deck.

Fahd released the girl and turned to stare at the councilor. “Captain….” he said, but his voice came out sounding strangled.

Denizen caught Fahd’s expression, and chuckled. “No goods, huh?” He watched the councilor from the corner of his eye as he spoke. He grinned, his mouth open just enough to let the dying light reflect on his fangs. “Little jewel here will fetch a handsome price at the right market.”

The mask was still turned in Fahd’s direction, following the desert man’s every movement. The councilor ignored the girl entirely.

“Or that mage you fished out,” Denizen continued. “Anybody would pay a fortune for the likes of him.”

The mask swung around so that the councilor appeared to face Denizen.

“Aye, Captain,” Fahd muttered. He watched the councilor, and absently tousled the girl’s hair.

She trembled.

“Just got to clean them up some…” Denizen added. His eyes traveled down to her stomach. “And rid her of that baby.”

“You won’t be rid of demon spawn so easily, pirate,” the councilor rasped. “They turn on their masters.” He climbed, shaking, to his feet. “Best send them back to Hell while you still can,” he spat.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Denizen replied. He pulled the girl over his shoulder–whatever she’d suffered, she was too weak to fight him, and too mindful of her stomach to try–and climbed back to the upper deck.

Fahd climbed out after him, and Denizen handed the girl to the smaller man before turning back to look down at the councilor. “By the way, do you know how to sail this ship? Alone?”

“Er…no.”

“I’ll leave you with a day’s store of food. I suggest you use that time to learn.”

The councilor’s eyes widened. “It took us three days to get here!”

“Learn quickly.”

The councilor rushed toward the ladder. “You can’t do this to me! I am a high councilor of Ierne; you’ll have a price on your head for this!”

Denizen chuckled. “I already have a price on my head, you fool. Haven’t you ever heard of Denizen of the Deep?” He waited until the councilor was almost up the ladder before slamming the door.

Ierne’s navy found the ship drifting a week later and pulled it into harbor. The councilor was half-mad and nearly starved, and though he recovered, the Council never could learn exactly what had happened to him.

All anybody knew was that he, alone of all of the crew, had survived an attack by the notorious pirate Denizen.




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The Graft Prologue 1–Remington

The merchant Remington shifted his feet. He tried to keep his eyes on the ship’s course, but he found his gaze pulled towards the straits.

He didn’t know why he was here. He had no business along this stretch of coastline, no dealings with the things that sailed these parts.

He was no coward to run from danger, but right now he wanted nothing more than to return to the island. To see his son safely back with the boy’s wife and daughter.

But his esteemed passenger had other ideas.

“Steady, captain,” the councilor said. “You can sail those cliffs, can’t you?”

“The cliffs aren’t the trouble,” Remington replied. “Sir,” he added after a moment. The merchant captain outranked all but a very few of Ierne’s political leaders, but their tradition of going about masked and shrouded in public made it difficult to identify his passenger. Even the councilor’s gender could only be guessed at.

Always best to treat the office with respect, Remington’s father had often lectured, no matter who held it or whether that respect was deserved. Be as tactful as they professed to be; hide his contempt where he felt it better than they hid theirs.

“Pirates infest this region,” Remington continued. And not all of them sail under the black flag. He shuddered at the memory of another of his father’s frequent lectures. Some even wear masks and shrouds in public.

The councilor gave a quick nod. An acknowledgement, nothing more. “We can leave once I’m rid of my cargo.” He put his hand out. “The spyglass, captain?”

Remington handed it over without a word. He didn’t need the spyglass. He could see the other ship just fine, waiting in the shadows of those cliffs.

The merchant ship sailed closer, perilously close to the cliffs, before the councilor spoke again.

“I see no reason to move closer,” the man finally said. He gestured to his soldiers.

Remington eyed the other ship, and wondered if he could afford to feel relief just yet.

Then he heard the struggle.

Remington turned to see two of the councilor’s hired muscle leave the brig, dragging a younger man between them.

Their prisoner looked beaten, half-starved, and three-quarters dead. But despite the damage marring his face, he looked oddly familiar.

Remington frowned, and watched the struggle out of the corner of his eye. The prisoner was young, perhaps half his own age. Like enough to Jericho’s age as to nearly make the captain’s heart stop; he caught himself checking the crew to ensure that his son was safe among them.

The prisoner’s face, where it was visible beneath the bruising, gave him the look of one of those wanderers the council had been in long discussions with. And those tattoos marked him for a mage…

The details clicked together, and Remington recalled reports he had seen over the last few months. He drew his rapier and yelled out a battle cry, startling the mercenaries into dropping the ambassador.

But the young man was far too weak to use the distraction. A blow to the side of Remington’s head sent him tumbling to the deck before he could offer more direct aid.

“Do not interfere with me,” the councilor said. “Captain.” He smiled as he returned his own rapier to its scabbard. “You are not in command here, you or your crew. You are in my employ. The soldiers fight on my orders.”

“The ship sails under mine–” Remington growled. He slowly climbed to his feet, ready to launch himself at the councilor at the least opportunity.

“I suppose it does,” the councilor mused. “And it was your ship that brought the ambassador out here. How will you make your trade when the council finds out? Skulk about like some pirate?” He sneered. “Or perhaps you and your son would rather join my guests?”

Remington shot another look at the ambassador, then clamped his mouth shut.

“I didn’t think so.” The councilor gestured to his mercenaries again, and they picked up the young ambassador and threw him over the side of the ship.

The councilor disappeared into the brig, while his mercenaries remained above deck to intimidate the merchant crew.

None of them watched for the shapes swimming below, and one of the mercenaries was cut down before they even knew they were under attack.

An enormous man, black as a shadow in a midnight storm, launched himself over the side of the ship. The other mercenaries turned to face this new enemy before he could free his blade from the corpse.

The pirate gave up on the blade and lifted his arms, one to block the mercenaries’ attacks and the other to strike at anyone foolish enough to get close. The light glittered off of his scales, long and jagged weapons as sharp as any blade, and three more mercenaries were dead even before the other pirates joined him.

Denizen! Remington realized with a shock just who was attacking his ship, and he turned and ran. He was no coward to leave his crew, or his son, to a pirate’s dubious mercy, but he’d need every fighter he could gather against this creature. He fled to the brig where the councilor had disappeared.




Readers, do you like what you see? Do you want to read more?
You can!
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NaNoWriMo Character Sketch–Fireweed

Shame on me for forgetting to put this up. ^^;

Some number of months or more ago, Jess Owen, self-published author of Song of the Summer King and Skyfire (reviews to be added to my main site) and sole proprietor of the Five Elements Press publishing company, had held a contest of sorts to promote her book.

The contest was simply this: Tweet about her book, post about it on FaceBook, or otherwise put up a mention of it somewhere online, show her where you mentioned it, and be entered for a chance to win a drawing of one of your characters.

I had a hard time choosing which character I wanted done, but I finally settled on one of my created species, the tentatively-nicknamed “Fireweed,” a plant-themed fox-like being from another universe with a built-in perception filter.😉

Now, this drawing is of a species rather than an individual. Even when two such individuals look similar, I don’t expect them to look alike, nor do I expect anyone to be such a mind reader that they capture the version in my head perfectly.
Artists like Ms. Owen certainly have some leeway in interpreting the description I’d provided. While I hope to some day improve my own art enough to show off my mental version, I am quite satisfied with her interpretation:

Fireweed by ElementalJess

You can find a general bio of the species on my secondary deviantArt account.
(Details may have been changed since I originally posted it, or since Ms. Owen provided that drawing. Other details may still change as I continue to work on my novels. I do that sometimes. Or a lot.)
Please note that I’ve put Ms. Owen’s version up there as a preview image.

She had also created a Pokemon version, in deference to the creature’s origins as an old and extremely short-lived attempt on my part to create a new Pokemon species (as mentioned in my own original sketch).
However, given the choice between the two versions, I opted for the one that I could relate to my original works. And, perhaps, my not-so-original, as the creature even found its way into my Doctor Who fics.

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Doctor Who rewrites

Also known as: Doctor Who Disclaimer part 2.

I have, for the most part, worked out which of my recurring and other characters can replace the various Doctor Who characters in my fanfiction-to-original-fiction experiment.

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Disclaimer Draft for Doctor Who

I have an… experiment, of sorts, that I would like to try.

Specifically, I would like to try rewriting some of my Doctor Who stories–here’s an early are attempt at writing pitches, if anyone would like to look–to make “original” fiction out of them.
The reason I consider this an experiment, instead of Continue reading

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Rite of Passage for sale

You may recall a post about a year ago saying this story was complete.

Or perhaps you’ll recall another post a few months later, saying I’ve submitted it to Writers of the Future.

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Doctor Who Prologue–Rough Draft

An early draft of the prologue to my set of Doctor Who stories… as well as the prologue to one particular story within that set.
This draft serves not only as a prologue, but also as a chance to play around with some of my pet theories. If/when it ever comes to publishing, it will be edited, and some of that content will be cut down or removed…notably, the parts dealing with imprinting.

But for the time being…. Continue reading

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Doctor Who “pitches”

Here we have some of my earliest attempts at writing pitches for the Doctor Who stories I’m working on.
Of course I expect to work on these if I expect to publish any of these stories; these were my first attempts, nothing more.

These pitches are here on the Shattered Waters site, instead of my main site, for one very specific, and likely very odd, reason:
I’d realized, after getting rather far into the character creation process, that the “black diamond” theme used by a certain parasite in my Who fics was also in use by a certain recurring character in my other work.
And since the Shattered Waters theme has a great deal to do with travel between different universes, or at least the connections to be found, it seemed appropriate to include the Who fics and that “coincidence” as an example of such a connection.

They should be posted in the general order that I would like to publish them. That is, the order that (with one very specific exception) the Doctor would experience them.

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Short Story has been submitted to WotF–and other ideas

Naturally, with typos that I didn’t notice until after I sent it in. *facepalm*
I’m mostly sure the few I’ve found are all there was, and I’m hoping it doesn’t influence any judging, but… yeesh.

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