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Review of October Years  
Review by Starling
In affiliation with Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: E | (4.0)
Review: October Years by Dr. Williams

Plot:
Thoughts of a man looking back on life and hoping for a better future.

Suggestions:
I am not a very political person. I am also in my October years and when I look back I also see a gentler time, but I was also young and didn’t realize what was going on around me, I suppose. When I look back now I see a time when there was no instant communication like today with the age of computers. We depended on the newspapers and the virgining television to tell us what was happening in the world. There was just as much poverty. There was just as much crime. There was just as much hunger. We just as a society didn’t know about it.
We had wars, each which were said to be worse than the last. My father was in WWII and came home injured. My husband was in Vietnam and although he didn’t have physical injuries, his mental injuries were hard for me and the family to deal with. (By the way I was married for 30 years to the same man, before he passed away in 2002)
I think if you were to put your very real statements into a time capsule and open it after another 30 years what you have said would sound like what the world thought was modern day. The only thing we can do is try and change out little part of this world. Make it better and hopefully join it with others trying to do the same thing, making the area bigger.
Thank you so much for posting. Take care.
Jane


Red = grammar mistakes
Green = Comments
Blue = suggestions

I hope I have been helpful. Any suggestions made are my own personal feelings I plan on keeping up with the story.

Ask anyone who has reached that certain age if they are better off than their parents were. In this age when refined etiquette and dapper sophistication are sadly missing one who has attained that milestone of longevity many would be hard pressed to say that they are better off than their parents. The golf cart reality of my generation long for the days of all those yesteryears of long ago. Now, more than a half century latter we find ourselves perplexed, filled with bewilderment of how things have turned upside down.

When I was a young man many of the hopes and dreams I had were diminished by circumstances beyond my control. It is truer today than ever before. Now, that I am an old man with brittle bones I have little hope for those who are just starting out that their hopes and dreams materialize. The world today is filled with tremors of impending disasters. For those impoverished millions their cries of anguish have always falling on deaf ears. Though, I consider myself lucky to have weathered the storms of life. I have aged with some dignity and grace. But, in all my years I am truly saddened by what I see around the world today. For those who could affect change to improve our quality of life too often fall short.

For all that man has accomplished in the fields of technology, medicine and science (comma) millions the world over have yet to be beneficiaries of all that man has developed. Too often the greed of man diminishes the chances that others could reap the benefits of all that man has invented. It never ceases to amaze me that when opportunities to negate the carnage that man and nature continues to inflict those that can influence the changes necessary for the betterment of mankind are too self absorbed in their own greed to implement the reforms and policy directives that would elevate everyone's quality of life.

It is in these October years of my life that many of us find it increasingly more difficult jut (spelling) to make it through another day. I have witnessed great ideals flourish only to have them wither and die on that vine of lost opportunities. The moral compass that guided this nation ever since our founding has been trampled on by a nation that is now so divided. Divided by leaders who continue to defy that moral compass that steadied this nation for over 200 years and through two world wars.

October of 2018 marked a low point in Americas (needs an apostrophe before the *s) history. It only reaffirmed the tragedy of the past two years of an Administration that has transformed Americas (needs an apostrophe before the *s) greatness to one of corruption and intimidation. For all virtues that we have held dear in the past have been striped away by a political process that has become even more corrupt. Never before have we seen such a reversal of fortunes at such an alarming pace. The four principles of our founding Liberty, Justice, Morality, and Education have all been trampled on by our leaders of political expediency and a President who cares not for truth, justice and the American way.

As October gives way to November I can only hope that November of 2018 will bring about the changes we so desperately need. What many of us fear is that an opportunity to effect change will only continue the status-quo. And, for millions their hopes and dreams will continue to wither and die from a self serving government and President. If that happens the America that our grand fathers (one word) and fathers knew will become unrecognizable and our world will forever be darkened. For those of us that long for those carefree days of a time where so many fond memories were made we continue to survive in hopes that better days are not to far ahead.
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Review by Starling
In affiliation with Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: ASR | (3.0)
Review: Tales of Geometry Land by Twiga

Plot:
The Land of Geometry is about to get slimed by the Land of Slime.

Scene/Setting:
Two friends talk without realizing there is danger in the air.

Characters:

Suggestions:
First I want to say I thought this was a cute idea. I can see it becoming some type of life lesson type story.
You seem to be having trouble mostly with punctuation. You will find Writing.com has many place you can go to learn when to add commas and what to capitalize. Go to the Hub page (the opening page) and on the left type into the search bar at the top of the column *punctuation or something similar. You might also try reading your writing out loud to see how it sounds to your own ears.
I look forward to reading more of your writing. Keep trying and explore the parts of Writing.com. Take care.
Jane


Red = grammar mistakes
Green = Comments
Blue = suggestions

I hope I have been helpful. Any suggestions made are my own personal feelings I plan on keeping up with the story.

Once upon a Time there was a Young Square who lived in Geometry Land with her Square Mom and her Square Dad they lived in their Square House with a Square Garden all around it. Squares are normally very boring and pactical (spelling) shapes in the Land of Geometry. Never one to indulge in anything impractical like "Imagination" But this Young Square was differnt (spelling) she was a Dreamer, an Idealist. Her Folks didn't understand this but they were accepting of their daughter nonetheless. One day Young Square was about to take a stroll around town, since their there were large dark grey clouds in the sky Her (lower case) Mom insisted she take an umbrella just in case.

So Square went down the lane quietly thinking to herself. She thought about why Shapes are different and why there was a world at all.

That's when she saw her Friend (lower case) Circle sitting by the side of the road looking down in the dumps.

"Hi Circle." Said (comma not a period and lower case on “said”) Square "What'cha doin?" (you need to either add an apostrophe after the *n or add a *g to finish the word)

Circle sighed deeply "I don't know..." (comma after *... and lowercase on *he) He said sadly (need a period to end the sentence)

Square sat down beside her friend and placed her umbrella so it was covering both of them.

"What'cha thinkin' bout?" Square asked

"I just can't help but think...What's the point?" Circle said quietly (need a period to finish the sentence) "Would it matter at all if I never exisisted? (spelling) How can we sleep at night when there's so much suffering in the world?"

Square was quiet, she didn't know what to say. She wanted Circle to feel better but Circle was speaking the things that she thought to herself in her bed late at night when her Folks were asleep.

Meanwhile, far away from Circle and Square in the Nearby Country of Slime Land, Unlike the Beautiful and Elegant Country of Geometry, Slime Land shapeless and gross and dreary, and the Slimes liked it that way. (this sentence is a “run-on” sentence which has not deffinate meaning. Maybe try something like: Meanwhile, far away from Circle and Square, in the nearby Country of Slime Land, where the Slimes lived, the living glogs of slime were happy. They The Slimes...And they were literal living globs of slime, all dark and dreary in color, they sought to transform all of exisistance (spelling) as disgusting, ugly and dreary as they we were. They hated their Neighboring (lower case) Land of Geometry.

The Leader of the Slimes gathered all the Slimes about him and they intermixed exchanging bits of themselves with the other slimes, The Slimes had no real order in their lives , the (period not a comma and caps on *The) Leader was only the Leader, because he was the largest slime who had absorbed many other slimes into himself to become the largest and the strongest.

"My Fellow Slimes ." Said (comma not a period and lower case on *said) the Leader "We have attempted many times to conquer our hated neighbor of Geometry Land but every time with have been defeated!"

The Slimes murmured in agreement

"However.. ." Said (comma after *... and lower case on *said and comma after *Leader) the Leader "I have a plan...I have absorbed the most slimes out of all of us and I have come up with this Plan....Fellow Slimes! If you all sacrifice yourselves to me! Let me absorb all of you! We will become the Ultimate Slime! And then…Then (lower case) we can conquer all of everything! (need closing quote marks)

The Slimes Cheered (lower case) and oozed into their Leader, eager to destroy the rest of everything. (not a new paragraph, delete the word *And and put caps on *Thus) And thus The Ultimate Slime was created.

Meanwhile Square and Circle sat together in silence for a very long time...Circle was still down in the dumps and Square not only able to help her friend feel better, but also she was starting to fret and worry herself.

Square looked at the sky "It's getting dark." She (comma not a period and lower case on *she) said "We better...You know."

Circle sighed and nodded sadly and then they walked slowly back to town.

Neither of them had any idea of the true storm that was coming.

The Ultimate Slime was slowly Oozing his massive bulk towards Geometry Land. He sneered with hunger as he saw it.

Later that night, Square was having supper with her Family (period after *Family and caps on *They… this is two completely different thoughts) they were having her favorite meal, of Square Noodles. Square barely touched it

"Aren't you Hungry (lower case) Darling?" Asked Her (lower case on both words and add period to end of sentance) Mom

"Hmm?" Square looked up "Oh...I was...Thinking."

Her Mom and Dad looked at each other

"About what?" Asked (lowercase and period at end of sentence) her Dad

"I met Circle today ." Said (comma not a period and lower case on *said) Square "We talked for a while."

"What did you talk about?" Asked Her (lowercase on both words and period at end of sentence) Dad

"I guess we talked about why Circle was feeling sad." ." Said (comma not a period and lower case on *said) Square "And then we didn't say anything for a long time."

"Why was Circle sad?" Asked Her (lowercase on both words and period at end of sentence) Mom

"Circle was sad...Because of...Everything ." Said Squar (comma not a period, lower case on *said, spelling and period at end of sentence)
3
3
Review by Starling
In affiliation with Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
Review: The Crystal Keepers, Chapter 1 by J.M. Arien

Plot:
A young girl breaks out of bondage and travels to find out why her crystal has lost its power.

Scene/Setting:
We find Manie fighting Verica for a glowing crystal. Manie learns there are captive creatures in the basement and she releases them. Then she breaks out of her captivity and heads north to find someone to help her.

Characters:
Manie
Veronica
Danyal

Suggestions:
I have never read a previous version of this story. I like this one. You have a good hook with the loss of the blue glow of the crystal and Manie needing to find out why. Having her eyes turn blue and give off light is a nice touch also. I would like to see a bit more description of the countryside and of Manie. It feels just a tad bit rushed. Thank you for posting.

Red = grammar mistakes
Green = Comments
Blue = suggestions

I hope I have been helpful. Any suggestions made are my own personal feelings I plan on keeping up with the story.

Chapter 1. An Unlikely Thief.

Manie awoke to the sensation of chain sliding between her fingers. She opened her eyes and saw Veronica, standing right beside her bed, the last person she thought she'd ever see again. The teen was staring and smiling at a small, glowing object in her hands. It was Mikhail's Crystal.

"What are you doing?" Manie shouted as she got out of bed.

"Get away!" Veronica said, pushing Manie back. "The crystal's mine, now."

Manie reached out and caught the chain with two fingers. She tried to yank it away, but failed. Veronica unsheathed a blade and drew the edge across Manie's arm in a swift swipe. Blood slung across the floor and Manie stumbled back, holding her left forearm as the pain slowly blurred into focus.

"You cut me," she gasped, her eyes widening in disbelief.

Manie was shocked. She looked to find Veronica again, but the girl was already halfway through the window with Mikhail's Crystal still in her hand.

Manie ran after, ignoring the pain in her arm, and dove, reaching out at the end of her slide to grab the necklace at the last possible second. She secured a firm grip, and the sharpness of the chain's links began to dig imprints into her skin like rows of serrated knives. Veronica's weight began to pull and slide Manie across the polished tile floor--which was now wet and slick with her own blood--towards the window and the very edge of her final tipping point.

"Veronica, stop," Manie screamed in desperation. "I'm the only one who can use Mikhail's Crystal. Giving it to someone else isn't going to change anything!"

"If that's true, then Talmoria will be destroyed no matter what happens tonight! The Grey-Death must be stopped. Everyone depends on us to do the right thing. Now let go of the crystal and let me save the future."

Manie gripped the chain with all her strength. Veronica was hanging by the other end with her weight on one hand, the other squeezing a rope hanging off the end of a large grappling hook, which seemed to have given her entry into Manie's tower in the first place.

"I can't let you have it," Manie said in frustration. "What do you think is going to happen to me if I do?"

"I don't care what happens to you," the girl responded with venomous anger. "I've had enough of everyone worrying about poor, little Manie all the time. If you try and stand in my way, I will kill you. I swear I will! Now just let go!"

Veronica used her grip on the rope to give a few firm tugs on the necklace with her other hand, but Manie held strong, never allowing the crystal's necklace to slip an inch out of her fingers. She clutched the silver chain as if her life depended on it, which it very well might have just then, in more ways than one.

"Veronica, you can't save anyone! Milly can help us find a cure. She can erase everything that's ever happened."

"The only thing that needs erasing is the decision to give Mikhail's Crystal to you. It should have been mine all along. And if you really think Milly is going to help the people who are enslaving Torch-Wings, you're insane."

Manie couldn't believe what she had just heard. The Torch-Wings were being set free. Veronica's words were a lie.

"Use the key," Veronica said. "Find the room marked weapon storage. It's in the basement. That's where your king keeps his pets!"

For a moment Manie paused, wondering if that could be true.

"No," she screamed. "You're trying to give power to the wrong person. Give me back the crystal!"

"I'm not giving you anything! Let go!"

Veronica looked enraged in a way that Manie had never seen before. She seemed like a beast. All those years of friendship, of bonding, and this was how it would end? It made Manie feel almost as angry as Veronica was.

Veronica gritted her teeth and reached towards her belt, hanging all her weight by one hand and the strength of the silver chain. Manie was pulled so far down the outside edge of her tower that the only thing left planted in the bedroom above was her sliding legs and waist.

Once again Veronica wrapped her fingers around the wooden handle of her curved knife and revealed the bloody blade in a swift rip. She pointed the tip towards Manie's neck and prepared to make a deadly strike.

In that single fleeting moment, where time itself seemed halted and visible before her, Manie saw that there was no turning back--not for Veronica, not for herself. There truly was only one thing left she could do, even if she did not want to do it.

Manie slipped one hand free from the chain as Veronica's knife flew upwards to stab her throat. She reached down and caught the girl by her wrist. With a blink and whispering thought, electricity popped through Manie's finger's and surged directly into Veronica's arm, causing the girl to lose grip on the crystal's chain.

Veronica squeezed her eyes shut as a gasp of immense pain tore through her body. The bloody knife slipped from her fingers and started to fall, tumbling towards the ground below. Seconds later, Manie stopped her release of immense energy and let go of the thin girl's wrist, allowing her to begin the descent with it.

Manie watched in horrified anticipation as Veronica fell, hoping, demanding, that she reach out to save her own life. But she never opened her eyes. She didn't try to grab the rope, and never regained consciousness. Seconds later, without a single thing left to do, Veronica's body hit the ground with a deep thud.

"No!" Manie's breath escaped like she'd been kicked in the gut. She closed her eyes as tears filled them and spilled down her cheeks. "Veronica..."

She felt pain like a dagger was slicing her heart. Her mind was buzzing with the thoughts and images of all that had just happened. She crawled and rolled away with the last of her exhausted strength, leaning against the wall beside the window so she could draw rapid breaths of air. Manie felt dizzy. Why had this happened? It didn't make sense. Not now. Not after so many years had passed.

Manie lifted the necklace with the tips of her fingers and let the Blue Crystal hang loosely in front of her face. She studied the rock closely, realizing that she couldn't see anything. There was nothing inside except a swirling black tornado, gently twisting before her eyes.

Manie moved her eyes towards the crystal, bringing the rock closer to her face. The Blue fire was gone. It was gone! How could that be possible? And why had it been replaced with a swirling black cyclone?

Manie scanned the room in a quiet panic, wondering why and how this could have happened. Was it because of Veronica? Manie grabbed the crystal and squeezed, but it didn't react at all.

Sweat poured and dripped from her forehead. She closed her eyes and pressed them tightly together. This was all just a bad dream, she told herself. The next time she looked, the world would return to normal; she would be back in her bed and the crystal's flame would still be burning blue, just like it always had.

Manie flashed open her eyes. There she was, still sitting on the floor, still soaking in her own blood. Her arm was throbbing red liquid and down the end of the stained and torn skin of her forearm, resting snugly between three fingers, was Mikhail’s Blue Crystal, its flame still extinguished.

Her heart seemed to stop as the reflective emptiness met her eyes. Her breath was replaced with icy stillness as she wondered what would happen next. She had to do something, but what?

Manie looked to the mantlepiece and saw the keys that Veronica had left behind. It was the only thing left that seemed real.

* * *

Manie threw her arms against wood doors, causing them to fling open and slap the opposite walls in a loud thwack. On the other side was a dark hallway of moist stone, the bricks dripping and slimy with moss.

One of the keys Veronica left had already worked. Five long years Manie had been locked inside that tower. She was seventeen today, and the last time she had been allowed outside that place was when she was only twelve years of age. And just like that, with a twist and a click, it was all over. Why? Was she supposed to be set free? Or was she supposed to stay trapped, and safe, but it had all gone wrong?

If the crystal didn't work, neither possibility seemed to matter. What chance would she have when King Dukemot found out she couldn't help cure the disease? Questions rang ceaselessly through Manie's mind. She wondered if they would ever stop.

Manie dragged her hand along one of the walls, using it like a guide. She hadn't been down this way in a very long time. But if what Veronica had said was true, the other key would open a room where Torch-Wings were being held prisoner. If that was really happening... No. It couldn't be.

But Manie had to know for sure.

She looked around the dark hallway for a door, her eyes projecting just enough of a dim, blue light to let her see where the entrance was. She remembered how the blue fire in her eyes had ignited when she was still just a child, when the crystal was given to her as a gift, and was glad it hadn't gone out too.

Approaching along the right wall, Manie finally saw the door. It was marked weapon storage just as Veronica had described. It's existence alone was enough to make Manie pause. Again she had told the truth. Manie looked at Mikhail's Crystal, wiping cold blood from the outer surface. She felt a numb tingle beneath her thumb.

Manie inserted Veronica's key into the door's lock and twisted, switching it open with a stiff click. She grabbed the handle and turned, watching in horror as her worst nightmare instantly came true.

Inside the room before her was were tens of thousands of empty jars, stacked halfway to the stone ceiling, sitting upon hundreds of wood pallets with enough room to walk between the rows. It seemed like the hallway went on and on forever, stretching far away into the bleak darkness and flickering orange torch-light.

Tears filled Manie's eyes. She had never felt so stupid, so betrayed, so heartbroken. Here were the creatures she had grown to love more than life itself, kept as prisoners, trapped inside jars, in a dark and empty hallway. How could someone do this? Veronica was right, Milly would never help them now. Not if she knew about this. This was unthinkable.

It became clear in Manie's mind what had to be done. If this was how she was helping her king achieve his goals, then she didn't want to help at all. Even if it meant she had to sacrifice her own life.

Manie went towards the stacks and grabbed a jar. She looked at the contents and saw nothing. It became painfully clear that she may never see the Torch-Wings again, now that the Blue Crystal had gone dark. Her ability to reveal the creatures contained inside the jars had vanished, along with the crystal’s blue flame. It was all because of Veronica’s greed. It made Manie angry. But that wasn't important right now. What was important, was freeing the Torch-Wings.

"I'm going to save you," Manie said to the empty jar. "I don't care what happens to me. Free your friends. You'll all be home soon..."

She turned to the wall, aimed, then threw the jar without a second thought, gritting her teeth as she did so. She watched the glass shatter and fall to the floor with its tin-lid. In the aftermath of the explosion, the room went silent, but to Manie there was no question if something had been done. Within seconds, another jar began to hover, all on its own, then it dropped and splashed to glass as it struck the dense stones. Soon after, another repeated the motion. And then another.

The room quickly became a symphony of bursting explosions, tinkling shards of glass, and cawing tin-lids. Manie felt a wide smile curve across her face; the first genuine one in many years. In an instant, it was almost all worth it.

Manie turned and exited the room, never once allowing herself to look back. She followed the stone hallway back the way she had come until arriving at the bottom of a circular iron staircase, and within moments she was rushing back to the top. It felt like hours had soon passed, but it was only mere minutes by the time Manie had arrived at the tower. Behind a few locked doors that now sat open was Manie's given room, her prison, her home, splashed with red evidence of all that had gone on in this night.

Manie walked towards her fireplace where remnants of a fire were still smouldering. Quickly she began to form a plan. No one had yet discovered what had been done. There was a small window of opportunity for her to escape, and Manie intended to take it.

She grabbed a book and three glass jars, each as empty as the one's in the basement, and began packing them into a brown, leather bag. These jars contained Manie's pets, three young Torch-Wings named Fitzel, Bree, and Julius, the first she had ever helped capture. She couldn't imagine leaving them. And if she was going to find a way to restart her connection with Mikhail's Crystal, she would need a way to test her success.

Manie threw the leather bag over her shoulder and immediately began moving towards the window, passing her red-sheeted bed along the way. She went to the edge and looked down. She could see the body of Veronica laying silent and still at the bottom of the rope's slack in a smoky pile, still undiscovered.

Manie pressed one leg outside and grabbed the window's frame with both hands. She began to descend the same rope that helped a thief into her room. Now it helped a thief escape. Manie cried as she thought about all she had done, all that was currently happening. Her life was changing, now, forever, and she had caused another's to come to an end, forever... Right now it was far too much for her brain to process, but in time, she knew this moment would cut deep. It was terrifying it hadn't already.

Releasing her grip, Manie fell to a floor of soft grass, feeling cool night air ruffle her sleeves and tickle her skin. It stirred pain in the cut Veronica had given her. Manie's sleeve was drenched in blood, but the wound was no longer bleeding, and she kept pressure on it to ensure it would stay that way. She wasn't going to bleed to death after all that had just happened. That she was sure of.

Manie drew her eyes to the sky and saw a bright shining beacon, high in the sky alone. At this time of year it was a compass. An arrow. A guide to lead her North. And that's where she decided she would go. To the North, behind the protection of the Beacons of Black Fire--ancient and powerful statues built as a wall of safety for any seeking refuge from the danger that magic can bring. But first she would have to find a way around them. Her natural bond to the Blue Crystal that once belonged to Mikhail, as well as her bond to the missing Purple crystal, meant crossing the border would be no simple task. An invisible wall would stop her if she tried, and Manie understood that. But she had to find a way.

In the daring days to come, all Manie had left was hope. Hope that her heart would eventually lead her to the place she was supposed to go. The place where the crystal was supposed to go. The place where Talmoria needed them to go. And that was how she set off, with imaginations of success brewing inside her mind.

She left behind the massive stone walls, and wrought iron gates. The wooden towers where guards once patrolled and slept their shifts away--if not for the disease that had killed them all off. Within hours, Manie climbed and descended the half-ring of craggy cliffs that partially encircled Denengear, and never once was she seen by anyone. Her escape was like the shadow of a bird crossing a land without eyes.

Manie knew that tomorrow would be new and unknown for the very first time. She tried hard not to cry as she thought about that truth. In the close distance ahead was a seemingly endless labyrinth of sharp rock and gravel roads that went on and on for miles. For the first time regret began to appear on Manie's mind. She looked over her shoulder and saw the mansion, her tower, standing high above a town buried in thousands of tall and short buildings, draped in stone, gold, and wood. She wondered in silence if this would the last time she ever saw it. And then she turned away.

* * *

"You can help me cross the Beacons?" Manie remembered her own voice asking.

"No," Another (lower case) voice responded, "Under them."

It was a woman and her son. The woman was the one who spoke. What were their names? Asher, and Fordham... Manie tried hard to concentrate on who they were, wondering why they had helped her get to the North in the first place. She had never understood it. She remembered finding the people in Market-Town, outside the inn. They offered food, and a warm bed, a bed Manie rarely found sleep in. Not a week went by before they departed to find the tunnels that lead beneath the Beacons, but something happened inside those tunnels. In the caves there was a bridge. It collapsed right after she crossed it, seperating Manie from Asher.

"Follow the wind!" the woman had screamed with hands cupped around her mouth. "It will lead you to the surface! Go North and find the Protectors! They are the reason your eyes burn blue!.."

And that was the last thing she ever said before the rumbling beneath the ground became too much for them to hear across.

Darkness swarmed on Manie's vision once again. Her mind was babbling. She understood that she was actually alone, stumbling head-first through a frosty forest in the shadow of a snow capped mountain. There was no use trying to remember the past. Mt. Ven stood over her now, which meant she had made it past the Beacons. This was the North. Her intended destination.

The smell of clean air and frozen pine-trees made it seem like a hidden paradise, but Manie hadn't eaten anything but raw mushrooms and a few out of season berries in six whole days. Starvation was truly starting to affect her body and mind. Every second she wasn't eating, her belly felt like it was being ripped in half by someone with sharp fingernails. She wanted to collapse and roll herself into a ball to stop the pain, but she kept going despite it, moving onwards as if something unseen was guiding her, pushing forward every new step.

Eventually, in her starving stupor, Manie forgot the one rule she had given herself upon escaping Denengear: never to travel by road. Somehow she stumbled back onto the path when her thoughts began to look to the motionless and broken corpse lying dead at the bottom of her tower. She held her breath as she waited and willed the person to move, but they never did.

"Hey! Are you okay! Hey, stop!"

Manie woke from her dreamy stupor and saw a wagon with two horses slowly rolling towards her. She quickly pushed herself into a ditch behind some short trees and tried to stay low, but by the time she had managed to do it, she was so winded and exhausted that all she could do was lie there and hope she didn't get found.

Manie heard the horses come to a stop. Boots crunched and crackled as someone dismounted the wagon. They came towards the ditch, and within seconds Manie felt the warmth of an oil lantern grow close to her face. She put up a hand to block the light, and immediately heard a gasp.

"Please," Manie begged in a rasp of her old voice. "I need food..."

For a long, decisive moment, nothing happened. But soon, with an unsure sigh, the lantern was placed on the ground beside her, and a man stepped down and stood at Manie's side. He reached down very carefully and Manie felt her practically lifeless body lift into his arms. Seconds later she was being carried, then seated onto the driver's bench of the man's wagon, behind two large horses. A blanket was wrapped around her shoulders and cupped to cover her face like a hood. A few strips of jerky were placed into her hand just after.

"It isn't much--that's all I bring with me on these short journeys to Shor-Wood. But the good news is that my tavern in Ferengul isn't too far from here. I was actually on my way back there right now. I'll get you something hot when we arrive."

Manie could feel herself shaking. She started crying just after., though she wasn't sure why.

"Thank-you," she whispered. "What's your name?"

"My name's Danyal," the man said. "Keep yourself covered until we get to town, okay Manie?"

Manie didn't remember telling the man her name.

"Why," she asked.

"We don't want the wrong person to see your face. There are pictures of it nailed all over town... But I'll keep you safe, I promise."

Manie had no idea if she could trust this man. Was this stranger her enemy? Or her friend? It didn't really matter, she had no choice left. Death would have found her if he hadn't. And not much later, with the thoughts of past and present swirling endlessly through her mind, Manie fell completely out of consciousness (period)


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
4
4
Review by Starling
In affiliation with Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: 13+ | (4.5)
Review: Confession of B.B. by von Wahrenberger

Plot:
What is takes to “cure” an insane animal.

Scene/Setting:
Starts in an insane asylum showing methods used. Ends up in a trailer park with the main characters getting together.

Characters:
Dr. Erica Mae Lamb
Mr. Big Bad Wolf

Suggestions:
I found this very entertaining, once I got into the story. I found your use of modern day names and fairy tale stories all intertwined very interesting. I chuckled several times. The whole tale is a good twist. Thank you for posting.

Red = grammar mistakes
Green = Comments
Blue = suggestions

I hope I have been helpful. Any suggestions made are my own personal feelings I plan on keeping up with the story.

Dr. Erica Mae Lamb waltzed with a false air of confidence as she left her office for the processing suite several doors and a floor away. She liked to jokingly tell everyone she was the director for the CIA’s R&D division, but it wasn’t that CIA. It was the asylum for the Rehabilitation and Detention for Criminally Insane Animals. Today, they brought over the Big Bad Wolf from up state. It took mounds of paperwork and even more red tape but she got him into her experimental program. If the therapy worked, she hoped, she could cure him and he’d become a productive member of society. She knew getting through to him would be a daunting task to say the least. She found him sitting behind a table wearing an orange prison jumpsuit and handcuffs. He didn’t look happy to say the least. The session is recorded by a deer from the AV section.

“Well Mr. Wolf,” she introduced herself (she hasn’t really introduced herself, she hasn’t shaken his hand or told him her name, need different word) as she sat across from him. “I’m glad you’re here…”

“Knock off the pretense babe…And don’t call me mister, that’s my dad’s name. Big Bad is fine…” he grumbled.

“Well,” Dr. Lamb exhaled taken back but not surprised. “I’d like to ask you a few questions about a certain lost goose…A Ms. Ida Honker…Do you remember her?”

“Of course, I do…Not exactly, we never met,” he barked. “Hey babe…Lets do some business. How ‘about a cigarette? They don’t let me smoke in the hole…”

She offered him a pack of cigarettes and an ash tray.(one word) The deer looked nervous as she filmed the encounter. Big Bad took a drag, enjoyed it and exhaled satisfied.

“About the goose?” Dr. Lamb probed.

“Never met her,” Big Bad replied. “I got framed for what B.B. did. Lucky whelp…He never had anything stick to him. Just my luck to have a twin brother eh?”

“You have a twin brother named B.B.?” Dr. Lamb asked surmising that Big Bad had descended farther into madness than previously thought.

“Yeah, and two sisters named Big Biter, Big Barker and a brother Big Bruiser,” Big Bad shrugged it off.
“What’s it to you, honey?”

“So, what’s it like having a twin brother that has the same name as you?” she asked kindly.

“My mother’s not a pig!” he exploded and slammed his balled-up paws on the table top. He then yelled, “Where’d you learn about wolfs? I bet you got your degree from the Bahamas! B.B. is short for Bad Breath Wolf. He was driving the car when the goose got whacked… I wasn’t there…”

“Really?” Dr. Lamb seemed genuinely surprised.

The deer nearly had a heart attack.

“Really, babe. Yeah, the car was mine, but I was off on business so I let B.B. drive it. I gave it to him on a Monday (comma) said don’t dent it and went to Syracuse New York…”

“Why were you in Syracuse?”

“I had to bust a few heads at the Elks…They owed O’Wolf a wad so I went there with the boys to collect,” he shrugged and took another drag off the cigarette. “I haven’t had a cigarette this fresh in years…You wouldn’t believe what you have to go through just to get these inside... Any who (my computer says this is one word) came back a week and a day later and I go to the den and get the car. A nice Duesenberg Model SJ…Black with chrome trim…Get up to 104 miles per hour in second gear…What a ride! Think…” he then laughed. “All I had to do was eat that pipsqueak of a mouse that tried to sell it to me!”

“You ate a mouse for a car?” she gasped. “And ‘O’ stands for what? Or is it an exclamative?”

“That’s ‘o’ as in ‘Oh, he’s from Ireland’. As for the mouse, I’m a wolf, sugar…” he retorted looking shocked at her. “What did you expect me to do? Walk in there and buy it?”

“Okay…As in that’s acceptable as opposed to O.K. the abbreviation for Oklahoma,” (this part of the sentence doesn’t make any sense to me as to why it is included) she slowly exhaled not realizing the slip. “Go on…”

“Anyhow I get the car from the den and take it to the pool hall down on the south-side (one word not hyphenated) of Pittsburgh off Carson…I’m aiming to sink this eight ball…I just raked Slim…”

“Slim?”

“Yeah, he’s the cat that aced out Leroy Brown,” Big Bad chuckled. “Should’ve seen him tear up that moose! Can’t say I feel bad about old Leroy, he had a habit of wearing (I think you meant to say ---- weaving ----- here) this big diamond ring he had on everybody’s face. Make enemies that way, no sense of judgement, he was just another stupid moose. I was about to sink it when Jessica…” (I love the way you put Leroy Brown into here. You might get to know ages of your readers by whether they know who it is, lol)

“Jessica?”

“Jessica de Rabbit, not a bad babe but she was drawn out to be that way…What a sorry story. If I feel sorry for anyone it’s her. Poor thing never stood a chance. I mean after what was done to her on the cutting room floor…Who wouldn’t be like that? She’s a onetime (two words) movie star who’s on the down and out. A real jinx though, Slim should’ve known that after what happened to her ex-whatever Rodger…And then Jessica says something like ‘Cheese it! It’s the fuzz!’ but before anything could happen I got four wolfhounds slamming me to the floor. They say I killed and ate the goose mentioned earlier. I tried to explain it to them but the pack scattered…Couldn’t get a corroboration for my alibi.”

“Do you hold any animosity toward ‘the pack’?”

“No way babe,” he shrugged. “Why? They’re wolfs…It’s what we do.”

“Do you know anything about a Little Red Riding Hood?” she asked and made mental notes.

“That’s a trick question darling. That wasn’t Big Bad me…That was my father Big Bad Wolf Sr. Now you want to hear about some animosity issues? Right there! Little Red Riding Hood, now there’s a half pint of evil…Dad’s between gigs and he needs some kindness and charity and look at her. That wench causes my mother to become a widow. That’s animosity,” he wryly smiled and lit another cigarette. He then looked at the deer behind the camera, blew her a kiss and smiled.

The doe then began to panic and after Big Bad licked his lips, she ran from the room screaming.

****

“Now, this is a nice garden salad and these are roasted acorns,” Dr. Jill Elk told Big Bad as she pointed out the cuisine. She sat across from him and tried to hide her nervousness behind a friendly smile.

“And I’m supposed to eat this right?” Big Bad muttered looking it over.

“Yes, and make small talk…Like we’re on friendly terms,” she smiled and cocked her head off to one side.

“Okay I’ll play it your way, deer,” he chuckled as the medication Dr. Lamb prescribed had him seeing things in color.

He went along with it and found it a different experience. Normally he’d run somebody like Jill down and just eat her or maybe bat her around like a toy. However, he went along and found the situation almost agreeable. Afterward as he shook her hand goodbye he slipped back into his natural wolf with a twist. He laid the syrup on thick and stole a kiss. As he did Dr. Lamb walked in, saw it, and began yelling ‘Bad wolf! Bad wolf!’ and worked him over with a telephone book. (This whole paragraph is confusing to me on what is happening. You have him talking to Dr. Lamb then putting down syrup. Cannot figure out what ---- he slipped back into his natural wolf with a twist ---- means. You have Dr. Lamb walking back in the room and you never said she left)

“You call that therapy?” Big Bad asked Dr. Lamb as he checked his jaw line (one word) for missing teeth. He then grasped at the air muttering something about seeing butterflies. “Therapy for what?”

“You’re supposed to be friends with them first!” she screamed.

“Friends? Why would I want to be friends with a dame? I got friends already,” Big Bad replied wondering where he actually was, and who she thought she was talking to.

“Bad wolf!” Erica screamed and wound up with the telephone book.

“I’m a bad wolf! A categorically bad wolf!” Big Bad winced and then said, “I’ll try to change! But I just couldn’t help myself…Her big doe brown eyes! Reminded me of Jackie O.”

“Well work on it!” Dr. Lamb shouted seething resentment.

She then went into the hallway and became furious when Elk said she found Big Bad charming. ‘He’s really a sweetheart once you get past the rough exterior ,’ (need double quote marks) Elk noted. She then said, while exuding a glowing starry-eyed gaze, ‘I think I could get use to a wolf like that…’ (need double quotes at both ends of this phrase) Ironically, a week later, she found herself reassigned in the hospital as a billing clerk’s assistant. (with the apostroph s you are saying she was an assistant to another clerk. If you leave off the apostroph s then her title would be Clerk Assistant)

****
Six months later Dr. Lamb stood before the Clinical Exploration Symposium for the Rehabilitation of the Criminally Insane, on the dais of the surgeon’s gallery. The gathering entailed the notables of medicine and the who’s who of university circles. Mostly sheep, a few elk, and a white elephant, nobody wanted to acknowledge who stood in the far corner. (got a good chuckle out of this) After her introduction, she showed her final film of Big Bad’s conversion. He looked at the camera and plainly stated, ‘I (double quote marks) eat only vegetables now and I like line dancing. Someday I’d like to write a book of poetry…Yes, I feel guilt and shame over what I did in my past…I intend to devote my life to promoting an inclusive world where the diversity of life is respected, where all animals are treated with equality, admiration and dignity. My hobby is ceramics now…My ideal job would be as a florist as it lets me spread the joy and beauty of the great outdoors with aplomb… ‘ (double quote marks) The scene then showed several figurines from the Wizard of Oz, plus a pot of Bachelor Buttons. Big Bad wore a tweed suit with a purple polka-dot bowtie.

After several rounds of applauds (spelling) and an even longer session of questions, Erica and her esteemed colleagues went to the banquet hall. They stayed, ate and Erica played politics. Later that night after taking the long way home to throw off any tails, she pulled into the trailer park off Route 66. Unsurprisingly, she found Big Bad lounging in his recliner chowing down on a bucket of fried chicken watching Saturday Night Live. He belched as she cautiously looked out the front door for any signs she may have been followed.

“It went great!” she said and immediately began to disrobe on her way to the bathroom. “I had them eating out of my hands like only you would believe! Not only did I get the grant money but they gave me a credit line for more ‘research’. What a bunch of rubes!”

“So how much longer do I have on the lamb?” he asked her and cracked a can of cola and lit a cigarette.
we’re off to Albuquerque!”

Big Bad handed her the bucket of chicken and she nosed through it. She then said, “I talked to O’Wolf and his lizard in accounting…the gecko… you know him?”

“Chris? I thought he sold insurance?” Big Bad replied and flexed his eyebrows. (If you leave the question mark then you need to say --- Big Bad questioned and ---; if you make it a statement by changing the question mark to a comma then --- replied is good)

“No…Wrong lizard, I know him too. Chris is on the straight up,” Erica replied and chowed down on a wing.

“Bob…Yeah Bob’s our gecko and in O’Wolf’s pocket, he’ll handle the transfer of funds. O’Wolf gets his cut, Bob gets his and we get the big easy!”

“Smart move you thinking about how we could get paid for it,” Big Bad giggled. (the word --smirked -- might work better than giggled here.)

“Well, the jail break was your idea,” Erica shrugged slinking off to the bathroom with the bucket of chicken. “Finally, a real meal, oh how I hate having to eat grass all the time!”

“I hear that babe,” Big Bad chuckled even louder. “Want to smooch? Nearly a full moon, we could go out back like old times….”

“I have a headache,” she dismally muttered. She then whined, “We’ll smooch and talk later…I need a shower bad. This get-up makes my pelt mat up…Hey want to get with your sister Big Barker and go take in a drive-in theater movie once we got the dough?”

“You know what she’s like around garbage cans! She puts both my cousins Where Wolf and There Wolf to shame! And that’s saying something knowing those boneheads…Figure that,” Big Bad replied with a contemplative tone. “Remember the last time?”

“Sure do!” Erica happily shouted as she stuck her head out of the bathroom. She still had a chicken wing stuffed in her mouth. “It was fun to watch!”

She then took off the rest of her costume, throwing it and the empty bucket for fried chicken against the hallway wall. Erica Mae isn’t a lamb at all, she’s not even a member of the family ovis. (is this misspelled…. Don’t know what the word means) She’s a wolf to the very bone, wearing sheep’s clothing.

The Author has published in soft-cover 'He Came From Earth' and 'Hunters, Killers, Madmen, Part 1'. Available at Amazon.com


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
5
5
Review of Maysie  
Review by Starling
In affiliation with Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: E | (4.0)

Review: Maysie by Jacky
Plot:
The world from a dogs viewpoint.

Scene/Setting:
Maysie doesn't feel well. She goes outside takes a nap and feels better

Characters:
Maysie - Dog
Mum - her human

Suggestions:
Ah this is cute. Flash fiction can be hard because you need a beginning, a middle and an end. You did very well.
Thank you for posting.

Red = grammar mistakes
Green = Comments
Blue = suggestions

I hope I have been helpful. Any suggestions made are my own personal feelings I plan on keeping up with the story.

Maysie

Maysie’s little doggie tummy rumbled. ‘I shouldn’t have eaten that stuff at the park,’ she thought as she tried to get comfortable.

May was not a picky eater, normally she could eat anything. But whatever that was this morning, she should have let it go. Then she remembered how she’d pulled on the leash so hard that she almost pulled Mum off her feet, causing Mum to drop all the stuff she had in her hands then that runner guy came over to help her pick it all up. That’s when Maysie had gobbled up the yummy mess. She’s had to hurry too because there was a fly eying (spelling) it.

May decided she needed to go outside now. Wandering to the door she stood there looking at it. She’d found out early in life that if you look at the door long enough someone comes and opens it. Sometimes you have to “woof” but today Mum came by after just a minute.

“Do you want to go out, Sweety?” she asked, smiling as she opened the door to the yard. Mum often called her “Sweety,” May liked it.

Outside May went to the edge of the grass and ate some. It was the first cure for a queasy tummy, (I would put a period here and start a new sentence) May learned that from her first Mum, at the kennel. After she’d eaten enough, she went to a sunny spot to finish her nap. The tummy ache should be gone by the time she woke up.

Later, when she did wake up, she immediately smelled something new. Getting up, she zoned in on the smell over near the garage. There she found a goopy pile of stuff that smelled weird. She had no idea what it was, but it really smelled yukky. Without another thought she gobbled it up.


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
6
6
Review by Starling
In affiliation with Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: E | (4.5)

Review: Shadows of Tomorrow by Xanion

Plot:
The aftermath of a nuclear war.

Scene/Setting:
A school yard after a nuclear bomb has dropped.

Characters:
Nadia
Rudolph

Suggestions:
Interesting. I loved some of the way you described the landscape. The story kept me reading to the end, if nothing else than to verify you had two ghost talking. You need to really pay attention to your punctuation though. It made for a hard read, because I wanted to make sure I found them all.
Thanks for posting.
If in your original you are adding spaces between each paragraph but it is not showing up in WdC, before you save it go to near the bottom of the page and you will see +Advanced. Click on it and where it says "Default Spacing" click on the arrow and choose "preserve spacing". This will make the program maintain the spacing you want.

Red = grammar mistakes
Green = Comments
Blue = suggestions

I hope I have been helpful. Any suggestions made are my own personal feelings I plan on keeping up with the story.

A sudden gust of wind swept the park, raising clouds of dust and withered grass. The chains of the swing dangled like a hanged man in the last spasms of agony. (I really like the way you worded this)

Wind from the West thought Nadia. She sighed: it truly didn't matter from which direction the winds came from. The elements of nature told the same hackneyed story of a moribund world that she knew too much well. Everything was part of a movie she had already seen. A movie projected around her in black and grey by the rays of a dying sun, struggling to penetrate the festering duvet of dark clouds above her head.

"Oh, heya Nadia. There you are!"

The girl ran a finger through her hair. Same show, same audience.

"Of course I'm here, Rudolph. Wherever else do you think I could possibly go?"

The man shrugged "I don't know. Perhaps...Hawaii? I've heard the beaches are stunning in this season(need period) "

Her hand hit her forehead like a falling brick. "What season? We've got only one season nowadays. You do know this, don't you?"

"You mean the nuclear winter? Let's go skiing then!"

She rolled her eyes (need period) "You know what? I wish someone could truly kill me. At least I won't have to endure your dumb jokes anymore(need period) "

He chuckled, and Nadia watched him trying to tame a wild lock of hair hanging on his face. You really ought to cut your hair, flyboy she thought. The girl flinched. She was starting to sound like her mother. Her mother? What did she sound like? What did she look like?

Nadia shrugged. She wouldn't recognize her mother, even if she met her in the flesh. One couldn't truly tell the difference of features between a radioactive speck of dust and another.
So, she felt she could forgive Rudolph's lack of concern for his looks. They truly didn't matter. Even for her.

Smirking, Nadia gazed at her refined attire: the same, old uniform worn by students of the Muffley High School. And what about her hairstyle? She was certain it would've turned a lot of heads a quarter-century before.

"Rudolph...why are we still here? Just to suffer?"

"This story again?(need closing quote marks) he snorted. (need opening quote marks) We've talked about this before. It's the nukes. Just like that poor sucker at Hiroshima....or was it Nagasaki? You know...the bomb went off with a flash. And then the only thing left of him was a shadow on a wall. Maybe something like that happened to us"

Nadia pursed her lips in a grin (need period) "What are we, if not slaves to this torment?"

For a minute, they just stared at each other in silence. Only the voice of the wind was allowed to be heard.

"Do you remember, Rudolph...when the bombs fell?" she asked, turning her eyes away.

"As if it were yesterday, darling. We'd been at DEFCON 2 for days, and the seat of my plane and my ass had already become best of buddies(need period) "

She gestured in the air, as if she'd been turning the pages of an invisible book(need period) "I was in the library. I had a tough test the next day. Just the thought of failing seemed to me like...like, (need closing quote marks) she let a sad smile blossom on her lips, (need opening quote marks) ...like the end of the world"

"And then DEFCON 1! Boom! Out of nowhere! Scramble all fighters and take down the enemy bombers at all costs!" shouted Rudolph.

"It was almost daybreak. Line after line, paragraph after paragraph, my brain cells were screaming for mercy, (need closing quote marks) she crossed the fighter pilot's jet, (this part of the sentence makes no sense) (you need opening quote marks) And then the sirens. And mankind gets a permanent F in History"

Nadia watched the pilot's smile melt on his face as plastic in a searing heat(need period) "I had one in my sights... almost ready to drop its souvenir on the city. My thumb was getting sweetly closer and closer to the red button...."

"...but the nukes were quicker. And the EMP wave fried all your systems" said Nadia, butting in.
"Oh yeah. I lost control of my bird, plunged into the asphalt jungle, nicely lit by big mushrooms, and crashed...."

"...right into my school. The library, to be more precise(need period) "

Nadia grinned at the pilot, who put an arm behind his head "Oh yes...well. Sorry about that"

The girl giggled "How many times have you apologised (spelling) to me in these years? This will be the hundredth...or the thousandth... How much time has passed?" Nadia felt a shiver in her bones that slowly melted in an uncomfortable sense of warmth (need period)

"I've lost the count, Rudolph. For me, I mean for us, time seems always still. Even the world feels static(need period) "

"You know that's not true, sugar. Last night I saw a pack of those rabid wolves tearing a deer to pieces right in front of the old supermarket. And did you know? The snow's finally torn down the roof of the stadium.(need closing quote marks) He smiled warmly at her. (need opening quote marks) Something's changing in the world. People will one day get out of those bunkers and start rebuilding civilization in no time, you'll see(need period)"

"Is that right?" Nadia said sarcastically. "Humankind will get out of their holes, and start digging holes again for each other. Individual against individual, family against family, group against group, tribe against tribe untile (spelling) one particularly vicious son of a bitch becomes king, or even emperor(need period)" She strut back and forth, waving her right index in the manner of that long-dead History teacher whose lessons used to bore her to death (need period) "Then one day the peasants will realize that a pickaxe can pierce a skull as well as it breaks a rock. Therefore, they'll get a new leader. A president, perhaps, with his nice launch codes suitcase. Then he'll get bored to the point where pressing that tiny button won't seem such a bad idea. And boom! We know the rest"

She stopped, opening her arms like a Pop Star trying to hug legions of her fans(need period) "All of this, just for survival. At least we're out of that s*** now, Rudolph (need period)"
The pilot clapped frantically "Ah ah well done Professor! You see? You can crack a joke if you want!"

Nadia threw her head slightly back and smiled coquettishly. She couldn't deny she felt flattered by the pilot's words. If even a single drop of blood had still been running through her veins, she was sure she could've even blushed.

"But, isn't that good news?" saidasked Rudolph.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, if men come back we'll have someone to scare. Isn't that what ghosts are supposed to do?"
Nadia chuckled and reached out for the pilot's cheek. She felt a sting of sadness piercing her as the fingers met no resistance.

"Rudolph, my good Rudolph. Look around you. Do you really think you could ever be scarier than this?"


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
7
7
Review of This Old House  
Review by Starling
In affiliation with Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: E | (4.5)
Review: This Old House by Trish

Make review NOT PUBLIC and designate who you are writing for (example: The Novel Workshop)

Plot:
An old house sitting on top of a hill is supposedly haunted. A new family shows up to live there.

Scene/Setting:
The Wheaton family show up to live in an old house the husband has inherited. The town is very standoffish and soon the mother wants to leave. When she tries she realizes she wants to stay and goes back.

Characters:
Peggy - Mother
Andy - father
Frankie - son
2 daughters

Suggestions:
Interesting. You have made it scary without any blood, gore, monsters or other being taking over. You have left your audience wondering what has happened and actually waiting for more of the story. Good job! I don't normally read horror stories because of the blood and gore usually involved.

Thanks for posting.


Red = grammar mistakes
Green = Comments
Blue = suggestions

I hope I have been helpful. Any suggestions made are my own personal feelings I plan on keeping up with the story.

This Old House

Every one (one word) in the small town of Arlington knew the old Wheaten house was haunted. It sat at the top of a very high hill overlooking the town. The house was at least 150 years old but really didn’t look it. It still sported a fresh coat of white paint and the shutters were still in place and there were no broken windows. The yard was trimmed and the porches were in good repair.

No one in town would even think of going near the old house. No one had lived there for twenty five years, but someone had to be keeping the old house in good repair. There were the usual rumors that no one who went into the house was ever seen again, but no one in town really knew of anyone that had ever had the nerve to go in.

The rumors also were that an entire family, mother, father and three young children were murdered in the home more than one hundred years ago. No one seemed to know who the house belonged to now and really didn’t care.

The population of Arlington was 3564 and on the first day of October, 1998, the whole town seemed to be watching when a big moving van pulled up the drive to the old house. It was immediately followed by a fairly new Chevy Impala holding a family of five. They watched with much interest as a young man and woman stepped out of the car, followed by one boy and two small girls. People could not believe their eyes. Surely they weren’t planning on living there. They all wondered if the family knew about the reputation of the house. No one in the crowd wanted to be the ones to tell them.

Andrew and Peggy Wheaton were thrilled when they saw the big house on the hill. They had been shocked when a letter arrived in the mail telling them they had inherited a large house in Arlington. It had belonged in his family for many generations. He knew it had sat empty for many years and he expected it to be run down and overgrown with weeds. He was pleasantly surprised when he saw the shape the house was in. It looked as if nothing needed to be done on the outside. He was sure the inside couldn’t look this good.

Andy Wheaten dug the old key out of his pocket and unlocked the front door. He propped it open for the movers and led his family into their new home to look around. He was absolutely amazed. It was not only in good shape, it was clean. The windows were clean, there was no dust and the floors didn’t even need sweeping. He would have to find out who had gotten the house ready for them.

Peggy walked over and flipped the light switch. The electricity was on. It looked like someone had just moved out the day before and left the house ready for inhabitants. It was beautiful. As the Wheaton children tore through the house laughing and happy, Peggy took her time and explored the entire house. She was amazed to see how modern the huge kitchen was. It looked like all the appliances were new. How could that be? She was sure that she had been told that no one had lived there for several decades. She met up with Andy coming down the beautiful staircase and they were both confused over the state of the house.

Peggy and Andy walked out the back door to check on the children and were surprised to see them having a ball on what looked like a new swing set. There was a garage and two storage buildings, all in good shape.

The children were as thrilled as if it was Christmas. They had lived in the city and never even had a back yard to play in. This was like having their own private playground.

The movers had finished their job and the family left to explore the small town and pick up some groceries. It looked like a nice, neat town. They saw a Courthouse, Library, Park, School and just about any thing (one word) you would expect to find in a small town. After driving around for awhile, they stopped at one of the two groceries and picked up necessities for the house. They were rather surprised when everyone seemed to be staring at them, but no one spoke to them. When Peggy smiled at anyone, she could feel them shrinking away from her. She had hoped a small town like this would be friendly. It was Friday evening and she would have to take the children and enroll them in school Monday morning. She so hoped the children would be friendly and they would make new friends quickly.

After dinner, Peggy started making the beds and getting them ready for their first night in their new home. There were four bedrooms and a bath upstairs. She selected the largest bedroom at one end of the long hall for her and Andy. She selected the next bedroom for the two girls and the next one was for Frankie. Peggy walked to the other end of the hall and there was a door. She tried the door and it was locked. It looked like it might lead upstairs to the partial third floor. She would look for the key later.

After getting the children settled for the night, Peggy and Andy sat down in the large living area to enjoy a hot cup of coffee. It had been a good day and she was well pleased with the progress they had made in one day.

Peggy pulled out her cell phone to call her mother and let her know that they had gotten moved in OKay. (lower case on the "k") She flipped her phone open and started dialing. It wasn’t ringing. She looked down at her phone and realized there were no bars showing. She knew it was well charged. Something must be blocking the signal. She walked to every room in the house and could not get a signal. That’s strange, she thought as she put the phone back in her pocket, something else she would have to check out tomorrow.

Worn out from the move, the Wheatens turned in early and spent a very peaceful first night in their new home (not needed). They had a very enjoyable weekend and Monday morning, they took the kids to school and got them registered. It looked like a very nice school and the principal seemed very nice, but they had the odd feeling that people were staring. They decided it was just because they were strangers in a small town.

Peggy loved her new home but still felt that people were staring everywhere they went and no one had come to welcome them to the community. She wondered what it would take to fit into this small community. Peggy had always been outgoing and couldn’t imagine living anywhere that she didn’t have close friends. She had always been able to make friends wherever she lived. The children were sad because they were having trouble making friends too. They said everyone in school backed away from them like they were carrying a deadly disease. Andy was a school teacher and there were no openings in the school in town. He had to drive to the nearest town to find a job. It was twenty miles away and he was hired as a history teacher. It was a town about three times the size of Arlington and was just a nice size town. His family had settled in and loved living where they were, if only they could make some friends.

Peggy was puzzled. The house had been so clean and well cared for when they had moved in and now it was already showing signs of wear. The tiles in the kitchen were scuffed and just wouldn’t come clean no matter how much scrubbing she did. The windows had gotten dirty so quickly and she was always washing them. The carpets that had looked new two weeks ago were looking worn and Andy was complaining that the outside of the house looked like it needed paint already. Two of the shutters were hanging from their hinges and the house was starting to show its age. Had they just been so happy when they moved in that they just saw what they wanted to see?

The children were starting to wake up in the middle of the night and come into their room complaining they kept hearing people talking and it woke them up. Peggy tried spending the night in each of the children’s rooms and heard nothing. The house was looking worse everyday. (two words) The house was so large that she had never even checked the basement or the third floor. She had never been able to find a key and she had asked Andy to try to get them open over the weekend.

The children were still coming home upset because no one at school would play with them. Peggy had gone to the school three or four times to talk to their teachers and she always said she would do what she could but she hadn’t noticed the other children being stand offish. She insisted it must be their imagination. Peggy knew better than that. Even the teachers were unfriendly.

That weekend, the whole family sat down in the living room to discuss what all seemed to be happening since they moved in. Peggy still couldn’t get a signal on her cell phone and had to get completely off the property to make a call. The electricity seemed to flicker off and on much more than usual, even for old wiring. And the house? They had to admit that it was really getting run down fast. How could that happen when it had been in perfect repair when the (spelling) moved in. The children still complained about hearing voices and noises during the night and things were breaking down everyday.(two words) It just was not normal.

“What can we do about it?” Andy asked. “We can’t afford to move and this home belongs to us. We could never buy a house as nice as this.”

“I know,” agreed Peggy, “but can’t you see what’s it’s doing to us? No one will play with the children and not a person in town will speak to me. I’m just not sure it’s worth it."

“It can’t be that bad,” Andy insisted, but he spent all his days in another town where people actually talked to him.

“Okay” Peggy said, “tomorrow morning, I’m going to town for some answers. I’ll start at the library and if I can’t find out something there, I’ll knock on every door if I have to.”

Peggy got the kids off to school Monday and headed for the Library. She started by talking to the librarian . She marched up to her desk and just flat out asked her what was going on in this town and why no one would have anything to do with them, The librarian looked nervous and would not look her in the eye.

“I don’t know what you mean.” (comma not a period) she said.

“Of course you do!” insisted Peggy. “No one will speak to us and no one will play with my children. I intend to find out why.”

Mrs. Grey, the librarian got up and said, “follow me.”

She led her to a section where all the old newspapers were stored. Mrs. Grey went through the stack and picked out several old papers. She laid them on the table, said “read” and walked away.

Peggy picked up the first newspaper and the headlines read:

“Wheaton house claims another family.” The newspaper was dated 1950. Peggy was shocked , but she continued to read.

“Mr. and Mrs. Wheaton and their three children disappeared two months after moving into the old Wheaten home. They were there one day and gone the next. It is such a big shock because their vehicle is still parked at the house, and after the local police searched the old house, they didn’t find a trace of the family. All their belongings were still in the home and it looked just like the family disappeared into thin air. As has happened several times before, shortly after the disappearance, people noticed that the old house had started restoring its self immediately. Within a week, it again looked like the day it was built, a new paint job, new shutters at the windows, new roof and new landscaping. Everyone here is mystified and terrified. It has happened at least every twenty five years since the first Wheaton family were brutally killed in the home.” (if this is supposed to be exactly what the article says then I think you should put it in italics, in order to separate it from the rest of the story.)

Peggy laid the paper down in shock. They can’t really believe this! She thought as she picked up the next paper. It was dated 1975

And the headlines read: “Another Wheaton family has disappeared from the old Wheaton house. Mr. and Mrs. Jackson Wheaton and their three children disappeared into thin air in December 13, 1975, exactly like the family that disappeared in 1950. Not a sign of the family was ever found. Everything was left as if they just got up one day and disappeared into thin air. Their car, clothes and all personal items were left at the house. The names of the family were Jackson and Emily Wheaton and their three children, Andrew 12, Alice 10 and Jenny, 6 years old. That’s strange, Andrew’s father was Jackson. He would have been around that age too. She continued to read. As some of the old timers in this town will tell you, right after the family disappeared, the house started restoring itself again. The police searched the house thoroughly, just like the last time, but not a trace of the family was ever found. No one In this town will even go near the old Wheaton house. They say it is cursed and eats every family that moves in. (closing quotes and italics also if that is the way you treated the previous paragraph)

Peggy laid down the paper. This can’t be, she thought, but that is just what is happening. The house is aging every day. After we disappear, will the house heal itself again? This is nonsense, but she was still worried. She took the two papers to Mrs. Grey and asked if she would run copies of the two articles for her.

“Certainly dear,” she said. “You all look like a nice family. Why don’t you leave that house immediately and never come back. That old house has already claimed too many victims. The men of the town even tried to burn the house down one time.”

“What happened?” Peggy asked

“They poured gasoline all over that house, set it afire, and within five minutes, the fire was out and the house was healed. No one here will go near that house. It’s alive.”

Peggy took the two copies, thanked Mrs. Grey and left to go home. What a superstitious bunch these people are, she thought as she headed home.

When Peggy drove up to the house she sat in the car and just observed for awhile. The house was certainly changing. They had only been there two months, and in that time, the paint had started peeling, shingles were falling off the roof and two shutters had fallen from the windows. The place that had looked new two months ago was looking down right delapidated. (spelling) The same thing was happening on the inside. Maybe there is something to this rumor. How many Wheaton families had disappeared from here? She needed to do more research, but just like her phone, her computer would not connect from here. She and Andy needed to have a talk.

After dinner was over and the children were asleep, Peggy asked Andrew to sit down and talk. She told him what the librarian had told her and asked him to read the articles. He read them all and said, “You can’t be serious!”

“Then how do you explain the change in the house since we moved in, and why it was in such perfect shape when no one would come near it?”

“I can’t explain it, but I won’t accept that explanation.”

“Do you know anything about your family?” she asked.

“No, you know I was picked up off the street when I was twelve years old with amnesia. I was raised by the state and I have no idea who my parents are. The only thing that came back to me is that my name was Andrew Wheaton and my father was Jackson.”

“The name of the boy who disappeared twenty five years ago was named Andrew Wheaton. He would be thirty seven years old. That’s your age.”

“This is pure nonsense!” Andy shouted as he stormed out of the room.

Peggy was sitting there running all the information through her head and trying to figure what was real and what wasn’t She wasn’t the type to fall for nonsense like that, but when you’re faced with the facts…….

Peggy couldn’t sleep that night. The more she thought about it, the more believable it was. Something was definitely wrong here. Both of the last families had disappeared on December 13 and that was less than two weeks away. I have to convince him.

The next morning Peggy was determined to do something. She would start taking pictures of all the changes in the house and he would have to listen. She was sure they didn’t have much time. Andrew had promised to break the locks on the upstairs and the basement, but he hadn’t. Peggy went and got a hammer and stared pounding on the lock on the basement door.

She tried for thirty minutes and the lock would not break. She went upstairs and tried that one with the same results. She finally gave up and put the hammer back.

She went and got her camera to take pictures. It wouldn’t work either. It seemed like nothing electrical would work in this house except what had already been here. I wonder how Andy would explain this.

Peggy kept at Andrew to pack up and leave this house and this town. He just kept insisted that they couldn’t. This was so much nicer than they could find anywhere else and he really liked his new job. They just couldn’t afford to leave right now. She understood, but she was beginning to be frightened. Every night she spent in this house, it felt more malevolent. She wanted to get out of here now. Maybe she would try to burn the place down after the kids went to school and Andy went to work. A house just couldn’t possibly put out a fire. That was nonsense.

The next morning after everyone was gone, Peggy took a can of charcoal lighter and some matches. If she could get the fire started this place should go up like a house of paper. She poured the lighter fluid over a bunch old paint rags in the middle of the kitchen floor, then poured a trail of fluid to the wall and on though the middle of the house. She opened the door, dropped a match and ran out. Whoosh went the fire and it was burning clear to the ceiling. She didn’t think anyone in this town was even brave enough to try to put it out. The fire was traveling and leaping over the contents of the house. She heard fire trucks and looked around to see two trucks sitting out on the road. They weren’t going to come to the house. They were going to just sit and watch it burn. Peggy looked back towards the house and couldn’t believe her eyes. The flames were dying down. They were almost out. “NO, NO, NO,” she screamed. “It can’t be.” She walked back to the house and could see that the floor wasn’t even scorched where the hottest fire was. Peggy sat in the porch swing and sobbed. She must find some way to get her family away from this house,

That night when Andy got home, she told him what she had done and begged him to move.

“There hasn’t been any fire here. I don’t smell anything. If it’s really that bad for you, we’ll stay here for a year and save a nice down payment for another home but it probably won’t be a third as big as this one.

“I don’t care,” she insisted. We won’t still be around next year if we stay here. We have one week left.”

“Don’t start that nonsense again. If you insist on moving, we will but, give me a break! The house is going to eat us? Do you hear yourself?” Andy stormed out of the house and Peggy sat down and cried. I’ve got to get the kids out of here now. There was no more time. Tomorrow was December 11. She started packing her bags with hers and the children’s clothes. If she left with the kids now, maybe he would follow them in time. That’s all she could do.

School was out for the holiday and she wasn’t sure how she could get the children out. She knew Andrew would try to stop them. She had the car packed already and as soon as the sun was up, she was herding the three children to the car. “Where’s Dad?” they all cried. They didn’t want to leave without their dad. Andy was still asleep as they drove away. He came running out the back door after them.

Peggy kept driving and the children kept crying. Peggy reached the turn that would take them out of town. Suddenly, she felt strange. Where was Andy….and where was she going. She suddenly had a compelling urge to turn around and go home. She couldn’t understand why just she and the children were in the car. The children were crying and she had no idea where she was going. She turned the car around and headed home.

As soon as she drove into the driveway, Andy was out the door carrying the suitcases back inside. “Where were you going? Are you crazy?

Peggy took the children back in the house and started putting away their clothes. Somehow, the house looked brighter. It was almost as if she could feel it sigh.

“I’m so sorry. I don’t know where I was going. Let me get these things put back away and I’ll start dinner.” Peggy was humming as she went about her work. Whatever made me think I wanted to leave here? She thought. I have to get the house decorated for Christmas. The next day was December twelve and she had so much to do.

After dinner, Peggy started dragging out boxes of Christmas decorations. It would be so much fun to decorate this big house. The kids were all happy and even Andrew pitched in and helped. They all went to bed that night, exhausted but happy.

The next morning they looked out to see snow falling. It was perfect. They were so happy and the house looked so festive and the snow made it absolutely perfect. The kids couldn’t wait to get outside and play. Peggy made them all dress warmly and she went to the kitchen to bake Christmas cookies while Andrew read the paper. It was a wonderful day.

Later that night, after dinner, they were all getting ready for bed when they heard Franklin calling them. He sounded so excited. “Come quickly,” he said. The whole family ran up the stairs to see what was going on. Franklin was standing next to the door in the hallway that had always been locked. It was now standing open. Andrew walked to the door and glanced in. “Wow” he said as he stepped in the door. At the top of the short set of stairs, he looked around amazed. “Get up here,” he called.

Peggy and the two girls followed Andrew up the steps. The whole upstairs was loaded with suitcases, clothes, toys, books and some of them looked new and some of them looked like they were fifty or seventy five years. Some of the clothes and toys were really old. As they looked around and started going through the things, Franklin quietly closed and locked the door. He went downstairs and put his heavy coat on and walked out the back door. Solitary footprints led away from the house in the snow. He looked back and saw that the house was as white as the snow again and everything looked brand new.

Franklin Wheaton walked away and kept walking until he came to the highway. It was such a bad night and a trucker stopped and picked him up. He was on his way to California. Franklin said, that’s great, that’s where my family is. The further they got away from the house, the less Frankie remembered. By the time they reached California, all he could remember was that his name was Franklin Wheaton.

The next morning, December 13, the residents of Arlington looked towards the Wheaton house. No one was surprised to see that the house had been completely restored. It had snowed all night and no one saw the solitary footprints leading away.


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8
8
Review of Friendship  
Review by Starling
In affiliation with Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: E | (3.5)
Review: Friendship by mistermavin96

Plot:
A short psychological writing on a certain subject. (autor's words)

Suggestions:
You have offered many questions and have invited people to answer. I am taking it for granted here this was written for a contest, but maybe it was just a thought you had to try and find an answer to. I do agree with you that companionship can help and that humans start to break down when it is taken away. One of the reasons brain washing can even take place is because of this failing in the human psyche.

Thanks for giving your thoughts.

Red = grammar mistakes
Green = Comments
Blue = suggestions

I hope I have been helpful. Any suggestions made are my own personal feelings I plan on keeping up with the story.


What is it that makes a man search for companionship? Why is man so incapable of solitude? Is it a weakness, that man must be accompanied in order to keep sane? It truly is fascinating that man can survive freezing temperatures, boiling hot climates, high-pressure locations, and the air-deprived heights of the mountains, but isolate him, and he starts to slowly break down. It also intrigues to note how the common person takes for granted such a thing as idle chatter, mistaking such a necessity for luxury. Many times, you ask someone what they need to live, they shall say "Food", "Shelter", (lower case on both words) or "water". Very few shall admit "companionship" into this list of the essentials. Why is this so? As someone who has been through loneliness, I know it is definitely a unforgettable experience, so why do we let it slip our minds?


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9
9
Review of Sarah  
Review by Starling
In affiliation with Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: E | (4.5)
Review: Sarah by Trish

Make review NOT PUBLIC and designate who you are writing for (example: The Novel Workshop)

Plot:
Young girl goes looking for her lost doll in a dark barn.

Scene/Setting:
Sarah has lost her favorite doll. She remembered playing with it in the hayloft of the barn, so she decided to go and look for it. It was dark, long after her bed time. She heard noises in the barn and even saw eyes staring back at her from the loft.

Characters:
Sarah

Suggestions:
Interesting! You have left several ways to go with this. You can have it just as a piece of how children get frightened by things they don't understand. You can have it as a horror story where the bright eyes shining back at Sarah are some type of monster. You can have it as a science fiction story, because you said the eyes were "bright eyes" looking at her, and you have already said it is dark in the barn with no light, so why "bright eyes". Now yes it could be a night animal because their eyes are meant to take in any bit of light. Good job on possible set ups.
Thanks for posting and sharing.


Red = grammar mistakes
Green = Comments
Blue = suggestions

I hope I have been helpful. Any suggestions made are my own personal feelings I plan on keeping up with the story.

Sarah

It was midnight as six year old Sarah slipped out the back door. She just couldn't sleep without her doll, Daisy and she couldn't find her. Her mother had been rushed when she put the girl to bed and promised to help her find Daisy in the morning.

After trying for several hours to go to sleep, Sarah remembered where she had been when she last had Daisy. She had been playing in the hay in the barn. She must have left her there. She just couldn't go to sleep till she found her doll.

The little girl climbed out of bed and sneaked to the back door. No one heard a thing. Sarah slipped out the back door. The moon was full and she had no trouble getting to the old barn. When she opened the door, it was dark and spooky and the hoot of a barn owl made her jump. She bravely stepped inside and ran into a spider web. As she tried to brush it away, she heard something running overhead in the rafters and making a squeaky noise. She stood there shaking, trying to decide whether she needed Daisy bad enough to brave going on. She had no flashlight and was too short to reach the light switch, even if she could find it.

Sarah bravely took two more steps inside. She heard the yelping of coyotes outside and a raccoon jumped out of the darkness screeching. She was still fighting the spider web and saw bright eyes staring down from the rafters.

Tears were streaming down her face as Sarah turned and ran back to the house screaming, Mommy, Daddy, a monster ate Daisy.


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
10
10
Review of Twisted Death  
Review by Starling
In affiliation with Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
Review: Twisted Death by MadMan at Large

Make review NOT PUBLIC and designate who you are writing for (example: The Novel Workshop)

Plot:
A game describes real life.

Scene/Setting:
A mother gives her young son a new video game. As he plays it the people who he put in as bad guys die.

Characters:
Adam
His mother
His father.

Suggestions:
Interesting. It is a good spin on the themes of several movies and books. I didn't find any errors. Thanks for posting.


Red = grammar mistakes
Green = Comments
Blue = suggestions

I hope I have been helpful. Any suggestions made are my own personal feelings I plan on keeping up with the story.

Mary browsed through the video games at Gold and Silver Pawn, looking for something that her son Adam might enjoy. He already had a large collection but, like most boys his age, he quickly mastered them and moved on. Mary refused to buy new games for him, because they were just too expensive. Pawn shops always had a large variety of cheap used games though, and Mary had become something of a preferred customer here over the last few years.

A flashy cover caught her eye, and she pulled it out. Twisted Death, she said to herself. Never heard of that one... I wonder why they have to use such horrible names for these things. She saw that it was one of those shoot ‘em up types of games, and Adam loved those. Despite the fact that he was only eight years old, Adam wasn’t interested in games that were created for his age group. Mary had finally given in and started buying him the Teen and Mature rated games against her better judgment, and found that they really weren’t that bad. Sure, they were violent and sometimes bloody, but so was everything else children were exposed to these days, to include real life. She checked to make sure the game was compatible with Adams computer and moved to the register.

When Adam got home from school, he was delighted with his new game. He rushed through his spelling words and math homework as fast as he could, and turned on his computer the second Mary gave the OK; skipping his usual after-school hotdog. Mary smiled to herself. He really was a good kid, and making him happy made her happy.

“Hey Mom, check this out!” Adam yelled from his bedroom. “You can create a profile for the bad guys on this! It even lets you upload a picture for your character and the bad guy character! This is awesome!”

Mary leaned against the door frame in his bedroom. “I’m glad you like it sweetie,” she said. “I’d never heard of it before, but I thought it was something you’d appreciate.”

“I never heard of it either, but it looks really neat!” Adam replied, dividing his attention between the instruction booklet and the installation process. “Hey, do you have any pictures I can use to try this out?”

“Oh, I’m sure we can find something,” Mary said. “Let me look around.” She went to her bedroom and pulled the box of pictures out of her closet. Mary was one of those people who took pictures of every get-together, every party, and every event, so she had no shortage of pictures. She selected one of a young man she really didn’t know that had been at her husband’s birthday party last year.

“Here you go honey; you can use him for your bad guy. I think his name was Donald, he’s some guy your dad works with.” She watched him scan the picture and import the image to the game setup. “You are so smart with that computer. I just don’t see how you can remember all that stuff!”

“Aw, it’s easy Mom!” boasted Adam, handing the picture back to her. “I’ve been doing it as long as I can remember!”

“Well, I remember when there was no such thing as a computer,” Mary chuckled, “but I won’t bore you with those old tales. Have fun with your game!” She returned the picture to the box, and moved to the kitchen to begin preparing supper. She could hear gunfire, cheers and peals of laughter occasionally coming from Adam's room, and congratulated herself on being a hip mom who still knew what was cool. Supper was just about finished simmering a few hours later when Gary came home from work.

“Hey baby, how was your day?” Mary greeted him at the door. She gave him a quick kiss, and went back to the stove and turned off the heat.

“You won't believe this.. hell, I can't even believe it, and I was there,” Gary said, grabbing a beer from the fridge. “You remember Donald, that kid that works over on the assembly side of the plant?”

“Yeah, the one that came to your birthday party last year,” Mary replied. “What about him?”

“Well, when the whistle blew, we all clocked out and headed for the parking lot, like we always do,” Gary went on. “All of a sudden this car comes flying down the street beside us while we were walking out. Some guy leaned out the window and started shooting, and killed Donald. He was right there in the middle of us, but nobody else got touched except for him. It was downright freaky.” He paused and took several swallows of beer.

“Oh my God,” Mary said, her face going pale. “That is bizarre! Was it drug related, or something?” She sat down heavily in a chair.

“Hell, those kids may have been hopped up on something, but Donald isn’t in to that stuff. Remember my party, when he wouldn’t even drink a beer?”

“That’s right,” Mary murmured. “It’s just so strange. I pulled his picture out for Adam and his new game just this afternoon, and now he’s gone...” she trailed off. Adam walked into the kitchen then, and they hastily changed the subject.

“Hey kiddo,” Gary said. “How was school today?”

“It was okay,” Adam said. “I learned a new word in spelling.”

“Let’s hear it!” Gary tried to shake off the thought of Donald, and focused on Adam while he explained his new word and what it meant. Mary busied herself getting supper dished out and setting the table.

“Alright boys,” she said a moment later. “Time to get washed up, supper’s ready.” They ate and chatted about random topics, mostly following Adam’s description of school. When the meal was finished Mary cleared the table, and Gary went into the living room to watch television.

“Hey Mom, can I play my game a little more before bedtime?” asked Adam hopefully.

“Oh, I suppose,” she answered distractedly. “Just keep the volume down so you don’t disturb your father. He’s had a rough day at work.”

“Okay, I’ll keep it low,” promised Adam. He sprinted off to his room.

Adam continued to play his new game every spare moment over the next few days. On Friday he seemed to be running a slight fever, and stayed home from school. Mary found his yearbook from the previous school year on his desk while cleaning up his room, and guessed that he had moved on to making other new characters in his game to play against. It wasn’t until Sunday that she began to wonder what was going on.

“Dear, come look at this,” Gary said, browsing through the Sunday paper. Mary filled up her coffee cup and walked over to see what he was talking about. “Read this article right here.” She sat down and pulled the paper around, and began to read.

Principal, 3 Teachers, and 2 Students Die in Vicious School Shooting
An unknown gunman walked into the Eastbury Elementary School Friday. First fatally shooting veteran Principal Mike Johnson in his office, he then walked down the hall and entered two 1st grade classrooms and fatally shot three long-time teachers. He then moved to the playground, where recess was in progress, and shot and killed two second grade students. Names are being withheld at this time. After the seemingly targeted shootings, the gunman walked away and disappeared. At this time he is still at large. If anyone has any information concerning this horrific incident, please contact the Eastbury police department by dialing 911.

Mary read the article a second time, too stunned to comprehend what it said. Gary sat staring into his coffee cup, waiting for her to finish.

“Did you hear anything about this?” he finally asked.

“No! I hadn’t heard anything! Why didn’t someone call us? I... this can’t be right, right? I mean, this is Eastbury, things like this don’t happen here!” Mary struggled to maintain her composure. “Jesus, what if I’d sent Adam to school Friday? Oh my God.... I just.... what...”

“I think we need to keep him home until they find this guy,” Gary said. “It won’t hurt him to miss a few more days of school, and I’m not willing to risk it over a few spelling words that he might miss.” He took a long drink from his coffee cup.

“Should we tell Adam what happened?” asked Mary. “I mean, do you think it would traumatize him or something?”

“Well, he’s bound to hear about it at school when he goes back,” Gary said thoughtfully. “I’d rather he heard the facts from us instead of wild stories from his friends.”

“Yes, you’re probably right,” Mary said. The telephone rang, and she moved to answer it. “Hello?”

“Hi, Mary?” a trembling voice asked.

“Yes, this is Mary,” she answered.

“Mary, this is Katie Davis, Billy’s mother? We’ve met at PTA meetings once or twice.”

“Oh yes,” Mary said. “I remember you. Have you seen the paper this morning?”

“Well, that’s what I’m calling about,” said Katie. “I know Adam and Billy were very good friends, and I don’t know if Adam knows or not, but Billy was one of the boys killed Friday, him and Tommy Alexander.” She paused to blow her nose. “I’m sorry, this is just so difficult for us right now.”

“Oh no!” Mary wailed. Gary jumped to his feet as she burst into tears. “Oh my God, I’m so sorry,” she moaned. They sobbed together without saying anything for a moment. Gary put his arm around Mary, unsure of what was happening.

“We just... I just wanted to tell you,” she cried. “I’m sorry, I have to go.”

Mary hung up the phone and wrapped her arms around Gary tightly.

“That was Billy’s mom,” she sniffed. “He and Tommy Alexander were those poor boys who got shot. Those are Adam’s best friends,” she cried. “How do we tell him this now?”

Gary stroked her hair and hugged her, too stunned for words. They stood there holding each other for a while, neither saying anything. Adam wandered into the room a few minutes later and looked at them, bewildered.

“Mommy, what’s wrong?” he asked.

“Oh honey, sit down for a minute,” she said chokingly. “There’s something we have to tell you.” She slid into a chair, pulled Adam onto her lap and rubbed his hair lovingly. Gary sat down next to them and patted Adam’s knee.

“Son,” he said quietly, “while you were home sick on Friday, a very bad man went to your school and killed some people.” He paused, and took a deep breath. “This is very hard for me to tell you, and I know it’s hard to understand, but Billy and Tommy were two of the people he sent to live with Jesus.” He stopped then, unable to go on as Adam burst into tears.

“You mean they’re dead?” Adam asked in a wavering voice. “I’ll never see them again?”

“That’s right, son,” Gary trembled. “Go ahead and cry, it makes it easier to deal with. See, even Daddy’s crying,” he said, pointing to his own tears. “It’s a horrible thing, and we’re so sorry to have to tell you this.” He looked away, wiping his eyes. The telephone rang again. “I’ll get it,” he muttered.

“Hello,” Gary said gruffly, trying to hide his sorrow-filled voice.

“Mr. Jackson?” asked the man on the other end.

“Yes, this is Gary,” he replied.

“Mr. Jackson, this is Sergeant Jeff Rhodes, with the Eastbury Police Department. You were a witness to the shooting of Mr. Donald Jamison, is that correct?”

“Yes, I was there when it happened,” Gary answered. “What can I do for you?”

“Sir, I’m terribly sorry to bother you on a Sunday morning, but we’re in a hurry to catch this guy, and I was hoping you could come down and give us a few minutes of your time. We think this may be related to the school shooting, if you heard about that. Are you busy right now?” asked the Sergeant.

“Um, no, that’s no problem,” said Gary. He felt guilty upon realizing that he was relieved to be getting away from the tense situation at home. “I’m happy to help; I can be there in fifteen minutes.”

“Thank you very much sir, we appreciate it.” The two men hung up, and Gary looked at his wife and son.

“That was the police,” he said. “They want me to go give a statement about the guy that shot Donald, and they think it may be the same guy that did the school. I’m going to go see if I can help them get this bastard.”

“Okay sweetheart,” said Mary. “You go do that, and Adam and I will talk about things for a while.” She leaned over as he bent down, and gave him a kiss before he walked out the door. Then she turned back to Adam, and saw that he was beginning to shake.

“Honey, it’s okay, it’s okay,” she said, drawing him into a tight hug. “Mama’s going to take care of you and keep you safe.”

“Mommy?” Adam asked haltingly.

“Yes dear,” she murmured.

“Did any of my teachers die? Like, from last year?”

Mary jerked in surprise. “Um, well, yes, actually, there were three teachers from first grade who did. Did you watch the news or something? How did you know that?”

“I just guessed,” Adam said, wiping his nose on his sleeve. “’Cause I put Billy and Tommy in my game and I beat them, and they died, and then I put my old teachers in there, so I wondered if they died, too.” He began to shake harder, and his crying intensified. Mary sat stunned in horror, wondering if it was possible, this nonsense he was saying.

“Honey, who else did you put in there, anyone else from your yearbook?” she asked, almost in a panic. Adam cried even harder.

“My... my... my principal,” he stammered. Mary’s heart stopped momentarily, then began beating with a ferocious intensity.

“Oh no...” she whispered. The phone began to ring again. “Anyone else?” She hesitated, waiting for his answer.

“Daddy,” he whispered. “I played Daddy this morning.” Mary shrieked and jerked the phone off its hanger.

“Hello!” she shouted, almost hysterical. “Hello?”

“Mrs. Jackson? This is Sergeant Rhodes, from the Eastbury Police Department; I’m afraid I have some bad news...”

(word count: 2413)


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11
11
Review by Starling
In affiliation with Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: E | (4.5)
Review: Aphorisms: This I Believe by runoffscribe

Plot:
The author is giving us some of his/her beliefs.

Scene/Setting:

Characters:
Author

Suggestions:
This is an interesting piece. I can see why it is a work in progress. Keep going. Thanks for posting.

Red = grammar mistakes
Green = Comments
Blue = suggestions

I hope I have been helpful. Any suggestions made are my own personal feelings I plan on keeping up with the story.

Irony is an existential nutrient in a robust diet of ideas.

Voltaire never said, "I may hate what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." That was his biographer's summation.

We are part-time amateur voters up against full-time professional politicians. We have them outnumbered. They have us cornered.

"I" is the shortest word in the English language, and so the strongest. Use it sparingly.

A child can write to anyone, and often get back a straight answer. Do you want to romance an actress? Serve legal documents by mail? Send some ayatollah a Chrismas (spelling) card? Address the envelope in crayon, lefthanded. (two words or hyphenated)

We teach our children rules so they may grow to live in a society of laws. We teach our children fairness so that they may grow to live in a society of justice. (not a new paragraph)
But rules are not laws, fairness is not justice and we are not children.

Write in the first person. Write for a single second person. Review in the third person.

"Schadenfreude" is a four-syllable word.

To every drinking song there are a hundred lost verses.

It can be hard to tell, from a distance, a pattern from a genuine idea.


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12
12
Review by Starling
In affiliation with Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: 18+ | (4.5)
Review: Carver's Hollow, Chapter 31 by Bruce
Plot:
A man has died and his friends attended his funeral

Scene/Setting:
A house where relatives are talking about Gordy who died, the woods where Gorde and Rose are watching lovers, the graveyard after the funeral

Characters:
Gloria
Ellis
Gordy
Rose
Other relatives

Suggestions:
When I get time I will go and read the rest of this story... Only found a few errors.

Red = grammar mistakes
Green = Comments
Blue = suggestions

I hope I have been helpful. Any suggestions made are my own personal feelings I plan on keeping up with the story.


Chapter 31
Sunday morning, Gloria was not expecting to see Ellis after hearing about the tragic news of Gordy's fatal accident and she was surprised when he turned up at the church. "The rehearsal is not until tomorrow," she whispered. "You didn't have to come here this morning."

"I know. I just wanted to be with you."

Gloria took hold of his hand and gave a gentle squeeze. She gave a brief smile, more a message of sorrow and understanding than of happiness.

When the service was over the family left the church and stood outside while Gloria's father stopped to get his breath. "I need a sit down," he said, and plonked himself down on a bench in the churchyard. He took a previously rolled cigarette from his tin, lit it and immediately launched into a bout of coughing.

His wife looked at him and shook her head, but she thought that there was not much point in trying to get him to stop smoking now. She turned to Ellis. "We're all so very sorry to hear the news about your friend."

Ellis gave a nod. "It's hard to take in, (period not comma) I just can't understand why he went there on his own, and why he didn't notice that the water had been drained; though I nearly did it myself once."

Gloria glanced at Ellis, wishing that he had kept the last remark to himself, but to her relief her mother had not taken it in.

"Had he been drinking?" Her (lower case) mother asked.

"No, the results were clear; he hadn't had a drink at all."

They all remained quiet for a moment, listening to Gloria's father's chest. He had stopped coughing, but would start again as soon as he raised the cigarette to his mouth.

"Are you walking back with us?" her mother asked, "or do you have the motorbike with you?"

"I've got a bike; the garage lent me a Bantam while they're waiting for my new front forks to be delivered."

"Bantam, that's a funny name for a bike."

"It a pretty newish one, the older ones used to have a chicken on the side." He thought of his conversation with Gordy and gave a laugh as he looked over at Gloria. Gloria smiled back at him though she had no idea what he had laughed at. "If you're ready, Gloria, we can get off to Lynn's house to make sure the dress fits."

"Fantastic," Gloria said. "She said I can borrow it?"

"Yes, she was quite pleased really, said she's happy for you to make use of it. I've spoken to Brian as well and he said he'd be pleased to stand in as best man."

"Oh good." Gloria didn't wish to pursue the matter further, knowing that Ellis would have been looking forward to asking Gordy. "Come on then, let's go," she said, full of excitement and eager to try on the wedding dress.

* * * * *


The day for Gordy's funeral was just three day's (no apostrophe) before the wedding. Although Gordy had not been a spirit for very long he was already becoming bored with his limited existence. Rosie was also a little disappointed because she had lost a lot of her power now that Gordy was there. She could still wander from the woods, but she could no longer get anywhere near the nightclubs.

An hour before the funeral Rosie followed a young couple to a secluded part of the woods. The couple were soon lying in the grass caressing each other intensely. Rosie guided Gordy over and they stood looking on as the couple hastily adjusted their clothing and began to make love. "Come on we can whiz into them," Rosie said.

"No thanks, we did that with that couple last night. It's not the same, it's fake, there's no feelings there."

"That's a first, Gordy the so-called super-stud talking about feelings. It wasn't fake between us though was it, when we were in the treetops or in the pool?"

"No it wasn't, but it'll soon get boring, like we were married or something and I've never been a one woman man. I wonder if there are any more good-looking young female ghosts around here."

"You even start looking and I'll make your existence here a misery. You'll wish you were dead."

"I am dead."

"Well, you know what I mean." She turned her attention back to the couple making love. "Not much go in them is there?"

"Gordy didn't answer though he agreed that they seemed to be slow and boring lovers, almost clinical.

"Well I'm gonna whiz in anyway. Watch this, I'll liven them up." Rosie dived forward and blended into the girl's body. The girl shuddered and began to gyrate and thrust her hips; she moved her hands under the man's shirt and clawed at his back. He tried to pull away from her, but she threw her arms around him and held onto him, calling out obscenities as she thrashed about wildly as if she were an obsessed nymphomaniac. Rosie withdrew and the couple shot apart like a pair of opposed magnets, both of them in shock at the girl's actions.

"That's made me randy," Rosie said. "Let's drift up to the tree tops and do some of that floating sex."

Gordy looked at her and shook his head. "You're too freaky for me. I'm going to the cemetery."

"You could never get enough when you were mortal, now look at you, a spirit with no spirit. Off you go then, get off to your own funeral, and you call me freaky." Rosie looked at the courting couple who had only just become at ease again and had re-commenced their lovemaking. "I'll whiz into him this time, you watch me make her squeal."

Gordy looked away. "I need a bike. A Triumph Bonneville I think."

* * * * *


Ellis and Gloria made their way from the graveside. They had just left Brenda who was very upset. She had not only lost the young man that she was infatuated with, but she was two weeks overdue, and thought she may be pregnant with his child.

"It's a shame for Brenda," Gloria said. "She's a lovely girl, she didn't deserve all this."

"Oh, and Gordy does, does he?"

"No, I never said that, did I?"

"Well at least she's still alive."

"And you don't have to snap at me. Gordy was my friend as well you know, and I've known him a lot longer than you have." She had never made any mention to Ellis about Gordy's behaviour on the night that he abandoned her in the woods, and knew that she never would. She looked over at Brenda getting into a friend's car, before looking back at Ellis's solemn face. "You can let the tears go if you want to. It's all right for lads to cry at funerals."

"Don't be daft, anyway it's not what Gordy would want. He'd probably appear out of nowhere and take the piss out of me." He laughed, but only briefly. "He was a good mate, I'm gonna miss him."

Gloria took hold of his hand. "Come on, Ellis, let's pop downto the Tavern for a drink before we go back to the house, this place is depressing me."

They walked out to the road and got onto his motorcycle. They were just about to pull away when a man on a Triumph Bonneville overtook them and roared off down the road.

"Did you see him," Ellis said. "That bloke, he looked just like Gordy."

"Just your imagination playing tricks. People often think they see a glimpse of people they've lost, but it's only their imagination."



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Review of Samson  
Review by Starling
In affiliation with Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: E | (4.5)
Review: Back in Time by Trish

Plot:
Samson goes back in time and become the character of folklore

Scene/Setting:
Samson is chained to two pillars and a crowd is yelling for him to break them.

Characters:
Samson
Crowd

Suggestions:
Interesting premise. A bit confusing at first but it has merit.

Red = grammar mistakes
Green = Comments
Blue = suggestions

I hope I have been helpful. Any suggestions made are my own personal feelings I plan on keeping up with the story.

Samson retired this night feeling refreshed and happy. He had finally given in and let his
wife cut his shoulder length hair. He'd always said he never would, but after a hot shower, he had to admit, it felt pretty good. He slept so soundly that when he awoke, he thought he was in the middle of a weird dream. He opened his eyes slowly and glanced around, still half asleep.

Samson's bed seemed to be gone and he was no longer dressed in his cotton pajamas. He didn't see his wife. It felt like everything had changed. He tried to feel for his bed, but was unable to move. Nothing was familiar. He was not in his room. Instead, he was standing and both feet were planted squarely on a large, rock slab and he could not move either arm. He was wearing only a loin cloth and his arms were stretched between two stone pillars. What was happening? Where was he?

As Samson looked around, he could see he was surrounded by a crowd of men and women dressed as strangely as he and they were beginning to get loud. He realized they were all screaming his name. Samson, Samson, Samson!

"Break the chains, Samson." (comma not a period) they screamed. He tried to , (extra space) but his arms were bound with heavy chains. He struggled but could barely hold up the weight of the chains. The crowd got louder and louder as they jeered and taunted him. Samson was getting more and more frightened as he thought. I'm not in Kansas anymore. As he looked around, nothing was familiar and the crowd was getting louder.

He yanked at the heavy chains out of desperation, looked out over the frightening crowd and screamed, "Delilah, where are you?"


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Review of The Writer  
Review by Starling
In affiliation with Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: E | (5.0)
Review: The Writer by Jacky
Plot:
Writer is having trouble with the infamous comma

Scene/Setting:
Writer trying to write and re-write an essay to take care of punctuation mistakes.

Characters:
Writer

Suggestions:
I really liked this piece. I have a major problem with commas. I have taken courses on Writing Dot Com which centered on commas and still have trouble with them. When I found out there are well over 40 rules stating when you should and shouldn't use them.
Hope you have better luck than me figuring it out.

Red = grammar mistakes
Green = Comments
Blue = suggestions

I hope I have been helpful. Any suggestions made are my own personal feelings I plan on keeping up with the story.

The Writer

Looking at my essay, I assumed it had a comma problem. As usual when I wrote I’d tossed in commas like confetti. Then on re-write, I’ll often change whole sentences on the spur of the moment, forgetting to pay any attention to the commas and ending up with commas in even more inappropriate places. By then I’d be out of time, and the quick re-read tended only to catch sentences that didn’t make sense, missing words, and ideas that seem to have gotten stuck in my head and never made it to the page at all… It’s true, I’ve been known to change the name of a character three times in a piece, then on re-read, mentally just have gone with the flow (strange: the teacher, not so forgiving.)

And commas are so darn small. I preferred to think my mind is moving too fast to see them. Sometimes after the teacher reads it, it seems that it’s all about the punctuation. I honestly had to wonder at times if she was just showing off. Where’s the “good idea” or the “nice ending?” Was it so pathetic that all she saw was the flock of commas hiding in little crevices hoping to avoid the final cut? One of my teachers actually accused me once of making up my own rules. (I was eight, and did I get any credit for prodigious innovation? No.)

I’d gone over the stupid assignment again. Unfortunately, by then my mind was racing ahead on an idea that just popped into my head during a peanut butter commercial. I have ideas all the time, I can barely get through them. I had to get it on paper before I forgot. I intend be a famous writer one day.

I can’t wait to get out of middle school.


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15
15
Review of Bottled Love  
Review by Starling
In affiliation with Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: E | (3.5)
Review: Bottled Love by The Phoenix Scribe

Plot:
A teenager receives a strange bottle as an inheritance from his grandfather.

Scene/Setting:
We are taken through the summer months with Thomas learning how to handle a genie

Characters:
Thomas August
Lazuli
Various family members

Suggestions:
I corrected all the ones I could find you need help learning punctuation, especially conversational punctuation. You also want to try and not use the word "said" as much as you can. You can show who is talking by what the person does, or even who answers them. I tried to give some examples.

It is an interesting story and there are a lot of directions you can go in if you want to expand on it.

Red = grammar mistakes
Green = Comments
Blue = suggestions

I hope I have been helpful. Any suggestions made are my own personal feelings I plan on keeping up with the story.

My name is Thomas August, and this is the story of how I met the love of my life.
You may think this like other stories of the sort, I met some girl in high school and after a few bumps we eventually got married and lived happily ever after. Well... you'd only be half right. This story actually begins at a funeral, specifically my Great Uncles funeral, (new sentence, period not comma and caps on "My") my family and I were attending the reading of Great Uncle Seamus Patrick O'Brien, c:blue} (new sentence, period not comma, caps on "He") he was a rich man, c:blue} (new sentence, period not comma, caps on "When") when I was a kid I liked him but as I got older I disliked him. Not as much as Grandpa but still, I loathed the guy. Anyway my family, consisting of me, my younger sister Rebecca, my dad Robert, my mom Amber, and my Grandfather Walter, sat down to hear the reading of the will.(caps on Will, you are talking about a specific item)
The lawyer had a giant mustache, this made up for the fact that he was a lawyer. (I don't think this sentance is needed. I have suggested a different place to put it in) "To my Grandnephew, I give this," the lawyer , with the giant mustashe, produced a bottle from the desk. "This is my most prized possession, and despite our growing distance between each other, I have decided that you should care for this. It has been the key to my wealth, it was found along the coast of Israel. As I am sure that you all know, I have never been to Israel. To make a long story short, I stole this lamp to sell it on the black market to help my family (add comma and remove parentheses) (which includes you, Walter). But instead I kept it; it has given me nothing but luck to my financial well-being ever since." The lawyer said read .
It was a fairly normal looking lamp. Sort of like the one on 'I Dream of Genie'... what? There are worse shows to watch then supernatural sitcoms from the dawn of colored TV. At any rate, at the time I thought that the lamp was just some manner of curiosity. Though it did strike me as odd that he would consider something lucky, I mean he's Irish but that's a whole other matter, but he was more than a little skeptical about most things. I did think that the bottle looked pretty... though I did feel cheated as the lawyer continued.
"To my dearest niece Amber, as I have no children, and you're my brothers eldest child you'll receive my vast wealth, and to my son-in-law Robert I grant you control of my holdings, my brother Walter shall receive my estate. You've told me nonstop how much you hate that home you were living in, so now that I'm dead you'll be free to live in it."
"It's about time that lazy half-wit gave me something!" Grandpa Walter said, interrupting the lawyer.
"And to my sweet granddaughter Rebecca, I'm giving you my late wife's collection of porcelain dolls. I know how much you loved them, and I've never really had much use for them since my dearest Rose passed. Just be careful with them, they're extremely fragile." The lawyer said finished reading. , and on (remove comma, caps on "On") the ride home (comma) after the will was read (comma) any admiration for the bottle pretty much disappeared.
Dad gets Grandpa's businesses, mom (caps) gets the money, Rebecca got those dolls, (I didn't much care for them in the first place but that's beside the point) and Grandpa got the mansion, but me...? (not needed) all I got was a dumb decanter! When we got home I was just furious, so out of spite, I kept that thing out of my sight. Things were fairly normal until my mom (caps) asked me to clean my room. Now I normally I keep a tight ship in my room, the point is I don't do much in the way actual cleaning. So I went about dusting... and my OCD (In this day and age everyone knows what OCD stands for but in writing you never give an abbreviation first thing; you spell it out and put OCD in parentheses; the second time you use it in a work you can just put the initials) went nuts when I noticed there was a smug on the lamp.
"And for the big question, when was Rebecca in here to get chocolate on this thing?" I said to myself as I took a cloth to the smudge... then my life was forever changed as the lamp shook, and smoke shot out of the top. Eventually, the magical chaos from the bottle stopped... and on my bed sat a girl. She was clad in what could best be described as a blue belly dancer outfit, she looked about my age, had dark brown skin, black shoulder length hair, and blue eyes.
"Alright kid, I suppose you're my new master. My name is Lazuli, and I'll be your genie." She said bluntly, I was a bit put off. Not only by a pretty girl sitting on my bed but... well, she just said that she was a genie. That kind of raises some questions.
"I... what... who... when... I have no idea what is going on here!" I said.
"Really...? wait (caps) , what happened to that Shamus guy? Who are you, and how did you get my lamp?" The (lower case) genie asked suspiciously.
"WHAT ARE YOU-?! My-my name is Thomas, and I inherited this thing from my grandfather!" I said as I picked up the lamp.
"Is that true? I was wondering why that old paddy wasn't bugging me about magical lore for the last few months. Not a day goes by where he doesn't pester me for knowledge on how to get more wishes." The genie said.
"Wait... if you're a genie, and grandpa Shamus said in his last will and testament, that the lamp gave him good luck. Does that mean-"
"That he used me to wish for fortune, luck, and a couple other things. Yes, that he did ." The (comma not a period and lower case on "the") genie said sardonically.
"I... this is incredible! Magic is real! I..." I said in awe as I tried to grasp the situation before me.
"Dude, take a deep breath and calm down {c:lred), do (period not a comma, Caps on "Do") you have any wishes you'd like to make? Or are you going to keep stammering out questions?" The genie saidasked; it (lower case on "the"; remove semi-colen and replace with a period, Caps on "It") took me a while to calm down.
"So... you grant wishes?" I asked.
"Yep, pretty much anything you would want." The (lower case) genie said.
"How many wishes do I get?" I asked.
"Just the three, though I've heard of a few that stick to just one." The (lower case) genie said.
"Okay... is there any catch I should know about?" I asked.
"Well, there are a few things you can't wish for. Not because I can't grant them of course, but more because of ethics and because our wish-granting powers can be a bit... imprecise." The (lower case) genie said.
"Like what, that I can't wish for someone to fall in love with me, to kill people, or bring back the dead?" I asked... well yes, Aladdin was the first place where I thought to ask about it.
"Well... yes actually. Good guess, also you need to be really; REALLY specific with what you want, otherwise, the wish could backfire horribly." The (lower case) genie said.
"Well... that's kind of the problem... I don't know what to wish for."(comma not a period) I admitted.
"Well take your time... I could use some conversation that doesn't involve wishing. Maybe get out of that blasted lamp, and stretch my legs for more than a few minutes a day."(comma not a period; lower case on "the") ." The genie said.
"Thomas, are you done cleaning up there? Are you skipping out on cleaning so you can watch videos online?" My mom said asked (lower case on "my"; upper case on "Mom") from downstairs.
"N-No mom (upper case}, I'm just... talking to myself!" I said. maybe use another word beside said; try "...shouted back..." or something along that line)
"So you don't want your mother to know about me, ashamed to have a genie about?" The (lower case) genie asked sarcastically.
"Okay, now I got an idea for my first wish. I wish there was a plausible reason for you to live here that my family will accept. You're an exchange student and that as far as they're concerned you're a completely normal teenage girl!" I said.
"Really...? (remove question mark) a chance to live a normal life again. Very well, your wish is my command master." The genie said, she (comma not a period after "master"; lower case on "the"; period not a comma after "said"; caps on "She") then snapped her fingers. She then disappeared in a puff of magic smoke.
"Thomas! There's someone new that's going to be living with us." My mod (comma not a period after "us"; lower case on "my"; misspelling on "Mom" and don't forget to capitalize it) said.
"It isn't Aunt Loreto and Uncle Terry again is it? I only just now got their hair out of the bathtub drain." I said as I left my room and went downstairs. There at the front door was the genie, still wearing her belly dancer get up.
"No, her name is Lazuli. She's an exchange student who will be living with us, and she will be starting school with you next year." My mom (comma not a period after "year"; lower case on "my"; uppercase on "Mom") said, apparently oblivious that the girl was wearing a belly dancing costume.
"Oh... nice to meet you... Lazuli, was it?" I said asked awkwardly to the genie .
"Likewise, now where will I be residing?" The (lower case) genie asked.
"Well, Thomas's room has plenty of space. You wouldn't mind, would you?" My mom (lower case on "my"; uppercase on "Mom") asked.
"Yes... I would not mind having her sleep in my room." (comma not a period) I said awkwardly.
"Now son don't be- wait what?" My mom (lower case on "my"; uppercase on "Mom") said in surprise.
"What? It'd be nice to have someone my own age around... and whom I'm certain is a fairly normal person. Want to come up to my room?" I said asked .
"Don't see why not." The genie said as she followed me upstairs.
"Okay, how doesn't mom (caps) notice that you're a belly dancer?" I asked.
"Magic... really not that hard to understand; besides it was part of your wish, so as far as your family is concerned I don't look any out of the ordinary." The genie said. ( (we know it is the genie talking so you don't have to specify. You want to keep as many of "I said", "she said" and others out of your work as possible. If you have them doing something you don't have to specify someone talking)
"Okay... but will others notice?" I asked.
"Well yes, of course, you didn't wish that no one at all would notice. Please tell me you're not going to waste a wish trying to correct the holes in your first wish? I've had far too many masters who wished to correct a wish before the third one." The genie said. (
"No, no that's fine, I don't know about you, but I want to save my wishes... preferably not on something like make making people think you aren't dressed like a belly dancer... why are you dressed like one anyway?" I asked.
"It's standard for female genies. Though I don't know why trust me I asked around and I've never once got a straight answer." The genie said. (
"Well, then there are two things I've got to say. We need to get you some new clothes and your abs look quite magnificent... seriously! I bet you could grate cheese on those abs of yours!" I said, noting the genies midriff. I'm not even joking, her abs look like an Olympic champion.
"Why is that the first thing people note in regards to my midriff? Even before I was a genie, now what do you suggest on getting clothes?" The genie asked. (
"Not really sure, you might have to talk to mom (caps} about that," I said.
"Your mother's name is Amber, right? I'll go and talk to her. Though... why haven't you already burned through your wishes? Almost every master I ever had burned through the three wishes as soon as meet me." The genie asked. (
"That's... I don't think that's an easy question to answer.(comma not a period) " I said nervously.
The truth of the matter was that... I don't have much in the way of friends. At least not in person, but that isn't really my point. While I'm certain that you think that I found Lazuli attractive... and you'd be right, but I wasn't in love with her, not at first. Heck, I barely thought about her romantically when I first saw her. I was just amazed that magic was real. It was just nice to have someone around who I could rely on... even if she was apparently an ancient magical being that could warp the fabric of space and time on a whim.
Anyway, I think I'm just rambling. It wasn't long before my mom (caps} and the genie returned home from clothes shopping. "Well, it took longer than I thought. But, I got some up to date clothes." The {comma not a period; lower case on "the") genie said.
"Well... where are they?" I asked the genie then snapped her fingers and her belly dancer costume was replaced. Specifically, she was now wearing, a grey shirt, dark blue leather jacket, jeans, and boots.
"Wait... can't you just use magic to make clothes from thin air?" I asked.
"You'd think so, but anything that currently exists on mass and can be bought... well, it can also be magically stolen, and eventually, that theft would be traced to me. Or more specifically you as my master, and besides, this is the first time in decades I've had the chance to acquire my own clothes!" The (lower case) genie said with a happy look on her face.
"What's the other set?" I asked, the genie then snapped her fingers and... well, let me put it this way. She would not have looked out of place... at a discotheque anyway. It was all I could do to not fall down laughing with tears.
"Yeah, yeah, laugh it up; Shamus thought it was hilarious too." The genie said in resignation as my sides started to ache as I howled with laughter at how ridiculous the genie now looked. "I swear, I express a mild interest in disco and that old paddy never lets me live it down." The {comma not a period; lower case on "the") genie said bitterly as she snapped her fingers, returning to her modern clothes.
"I-I'm sorry, it's just... that has to be the most absurd thing I've ever seen!" I said as I got to my feet.
"Changing the subject, you want to make another wish? Or are you going to wait like you said?" The (lower case on "the") genie asked.
"I'm going to wait, you have my word. For now... let's try to have some fun." I said, thankfully (though not for my uncle) it was the beginning of summer vacation. So we had about three months to enjoy ourselves, and let me tell you it was great!
The first thing we did was play video games. Though showing Lazuli how a controller worked was a bit... time-consuming. "So, you jump with this button?"
"Yes."
"And I use power-ups with this button?"
"Yes."
"That everything I need to know? It seems simple enough."
"Well yes, for now. Let the games begin."
And thus began our time playing video games. It was a simple enough game for us to play, and we played that game for most the week in fact... not all at once of course. Then we spent another week playing a different game, and it sort of went on like that for at least a month. It was pretty fun to have someone to play a video game or two with... that wasn't my sister, and I'd spend the entire time trying to get her to not goof around and effectively sabotage the actual fun.
Then we went out to see a movie one night, just me and Lazuli, the two of us alone. "So, this is how courting works these days?" The (lower case on "the") genie asked.
"What, you thought this was a date?!" I asked in surprise.
"It wasn't...? oh well it was a good movie anyway." Lazuli said, and then we were caught off guard by an armed mugger.
"GIVE ME ALL YOUR MONEY!" He shouted; Lazuli quickly disarmed the thug.
"Oh, you'd like more than that wouldn't you?" Lazuli said bitterly as she magically conjured up a sword.
"LAZULI...! no! We do not kill!" I said.
"What? I wasn't going to." Lazuli said as the mugger shrieked and ran into an alleyway.
"What was that all about?" I asked.
"I... may have lost a master or two to craven criminals a long time ago. And I was not going to risk losing another master like that again. Besides, I really like you kid." Lazuli said as she dissipated her sword and we continued on home. We told mom (caps) and dad (caps) about what had happened, but replaced, 'created magic sword' to, 'Lazuli has extensive knowledge of martial arts'.
"So... anybody interesting that you've had for a master?" I asked as I got ready for bed. As a genie Lazuli obviously didn't really need sleep, so she spends most of her nights meandering around town... this wasn't one of those nights.
"That's a bit of a personal question to be asking." (comma not a period) Lazuli said.
"I'm just curious," I said.
"I'll bet, doesn't mean I'm going to tell you everything about everyone who's ever had my lamp." Lazuli said.
"Can you really blame me?" I asked.
"Not really, first time you've ever actually asked me about former masters." Lazuli said.
"Well, I want to know now," I said.
"Well once upon a time my first master was a king who I loved very much, even before I was made into a Genie." Lazuli said.
"You used to be Human?!" I said in surprise.
"Yep, when that was and who that king was I'm not going to say a word." (comma not a period) Lazuli said.
"Well... anyone else?" I asked.
"Not really worth going into detail. Some were half-way decent, others were bad, and some squandered wishes as soon as meet me on dumb stuff. Seriously, one of my masters wished for a sandwich... three times, with three separate wishes. Not even the handful of children I've had for masters ever wasted wishes like that." Lazuli ranted.
"Huh... well, goodnight Lazuli. See you in the morning; maybe pester you further about former masters tomorrow." (comma not a period) I said.
"Yeah... you remember that we're going to Shamus's beach house tomorrow right?" Lazuli said, (period not a comma) I had completely forgotten about that, that we were going to stay at Great Uncle Shamus's beach house. The next day we were there.
"Oh come on, surely you can have fun outdoors Mr. Grumpy," Lazuli said as she pinched my cheeks.
"It's just... the beech (spelling)is really hot, and I'm not fond of salt water." I said .
"You can't swim can you?" Lazuli asked , (period not comma) I just sheepishly muttered yes.
"Well I can help you, if not to swim, then to at least enjoy swimming," Lazuli said supportively.
"Thomas got a girlfriend! Thomas got a girlfriend!" My (lower case) sister sang teasingly... she wasn't wrong. I mean we were effectively dating anyway. It just wasn't official... not even sure how having a genie as a girlfriend would work anyway. I mean, could that even be done in the first place?
Well anyway, shortly after we arrived Lazuli and I were in the sea, with Lazuli helping me to keep my head over the water. "You know you can wish that you can breathe underwater. That's within my power to do... and even if my back is technically non-corporeal. You're surprisingly heavy in the water." Lazuli said.
"No, I'm fine, REALLY," I said as I struggled to get onto Lazuli's back.
"Come on! It's just that simple. Just say something to the effect of. 'Genie, I wish I could breathe underwater.' Something like that... please... it's getting harder to hold you up." Lazuli said... that was when the fins jutted over the water's surface. "Oh good... sharks and today was going so well." Lazuli said.
"Okay got to keep it together, the-There not inherently dangerous animals. Sharks aren't as dangerous as they're made out to be... doesn't stop them being dangerous all the same." I said nervously, then we got a better look and saw that they were Great Whites... and they had blood around there faces, that really meant only one thing.
"Okay... as long as we do this calmly. They won't harm us, just need to fly out of the water, and hope you don't fall." Said (comma not a period, lower case on "said") Lazuli as she slowly floated out of the water and dragging me up.
"Well... now I have another reason to avoid the ocean." (comma not a period) I said as we flew to the shore.
"Come on, it was at least a freak occurrence." (comma not a period) Lazuli said.
"You... fly?" Said (lower case)Jenifer... who was standing near where we had landed, and looking perplexed.
"What? Flying? That's just crazy." I said.
"Alright, you figured it out kiddo... the secret is out. I'm actually a powerful Vampire, and we're actually all immune to sunlight. In fact, I made your brother a Vampire, weird isn't it?" Lazuli said lying through her teeth. Then she ran back to the beach house screaming.
"I've been wanting that kind of power over her for years!" I said.
"Yeah, kids are really easy to lie to. Of course, you have to be careful with what you lie about." Lazuli said, over (period after "said"; Caps on "the") the next two weeks the time at the beach house went by normally... well except now Jennifer (you used a different spelling here than you did above) was trying to prove to mom and dad that we were Vampires.
So from then on, that summer followed a pattern for me. Lazuli and I played video games, and go out and see a movie. Put simply... it was nice to have someone to hang out with and do things with. Rather than attempt and fail to do things with Jennifer that just leave left me infuriated.
Yes, my summer with Lazuli was one of the best of my life... but as I'm sure I don't have to tell you. Summer Vacation doesn't last forever. It was a tense affair as we were both being registered for High School. "So it's been centuries since I've been exposed to an education system. Got any idea what we're in for?" Lazuli asked.
"No idea... though I can't help but feel terrible." (comma not a period) I said frankly as we were getting our ID cards made.
"Don't worry about it... you could just wish to not have to go." Lazuli said.
"No... no this is something I need to do. If I really want a wish, it'll be for something unique." I said. Thankfully the matter with the ID cards was a brief matter. And then the fateful day came... and it was an exhausting nightmare from the first class. By the time we got home, I was burnt out, and it took all my energy to get to my bedroom and fall on my bed.
"Thomas? Are you sure you don't want to make another wish? Like something that makes High School easier?" Lazuli suggested.
"I don't know... I don't want to wish for anything selfish. Besides, why are you so anxious for me to make more wishes?" I asked.
"That's... a fair question. You remember that movie we watched, the cartoon one with-"
"Yes... you have great power, but you're bound to your bottle, and you can't really use the full extent of your magic unless it's granting wishes. You can't actually use your powers for your own benefit. I said that I'd use my last wish to free you." I said.
"I know... but it's more than just that. Look, how about I do your homework tonight; I'll magically transfer the information into your brain?" Lazuli said, I just mumbled something under my breath. I then heard her mumble something about someone named Solomon. Anyway, the rest of the week went by in a blur. The only things I can really remember is that I ping-ponged back and forth between blind rage and depression.
"Okay... I think I'm ready for that second wish." I said Friday afternoon as we returned home.
"And what would that be my master?" Lazuli saidasked .
"Well... I want to turn into a dragon. But I have no idea how that would turn out if I just ask for it. Will I be stuck as a dragon forever? Will I be forever a giant reptile? Will I only be able to breathe fire, or other elements and powers?" I said in exhaustion.
"You mean... you want to BRAINSTORM A WISH?! It's been so long since I've done that! I'll draw up some parameters to your wish!" Lazuli said, and thus we began to brainstorm my dragon wish in further detail beyond, 'I wish to turn into a dragon', and possibly have it unintentionally backfire on me.



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16
16
Review of Second Honeymoon  
Review by Starling
In affiliation with Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: 13+ | (4.0)
Plot:

Scene/Setting:

Characters:
Marie Jenkins
Carl Jenkins
Matt Jenkins - Marie's father
Detective Luke Turner
Tara

Suggestions:
Very well done. I love the way you build the story to the point we know Carl has staged his death and then you kill him off. Only found a few mistakes. Thanks for writing.

Red = grammar mistakes
Green = Comments
Blue = suggestions

I hope I have been helpful. Any suggestions made are my own personal feelings I plan on keeping up with the story.

...No fish tonight.She’d (need space after period) been surprised ...

...Feeling neglected,She thought,t (space after comma, lower case on "she", space after comma, missing the "i" in it, also since you have this in italic you can leave out the words "she thought") would be ...

...It had been at least two years since they’d spent the weekend in the old cabin that had belonged to her parents. I given it t had been given to the young couple as a wedding present (the first part of this sustenance does not make sense) and...

...started to the dock.” (do not need these quote marks) ...

...window. Now, (I would take out the word "now", caps on "It") it was completely...

see? (I would write this as: The boat had no lights. Why had he stayed.....)

“I’m detective (caps) Luke Turner,” ...

...looking at Jenkin’s (since you have an "s" on the end of Jenkins then the apostophy goes after the "s" = Jenkins' ) small boat. ...

...for him!” and she (caps) stormed off to stand on the dock and watch for her father....

...What was he thinking?(not a new paragraph)
She thought about the jovial mood he had been in since he came home from ...








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17
17
Review by Starling
In affiliation with Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: E | (5.0)
Plot:
Written for the 7/6 flash fiction contest. Theme: a treasure hunt. (Author's words)

Scene/Setting:
Father and daughter hunting for buried treasure in their yard.

Characters:
Noah Lilly - father
Brooke Lilly - daughter

Suggestions:
This is priceless. I laughed out loud when I got to the last line. I sure hope you won something for it. The story moves nicely and is easy to picture. There were just some minor errors.

Red = grammar mistakes
Green = Comments
Blue = suggestions

I hope I have been helpful. Any suggestions made are my own personal feelings I plan on keeping up with the story.

Nine-year-old (all lower case)

Her (lower case)

She (lower case)

sunburnt, (two words)

it.” (comma not a period)


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18
18
Review by Starling
In affiliation with Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: ASR | (4.0)
Review: Unspoken Part: A Place to Belong by JSWriterGirl

Plot:
A story of tragedy, loss, and finding yourself in a world where it seems impossible (Author's Words)

Scene/Setting:
Starts out with the Author in High Schoole. Then Author goes to boot camp.

Characters:
Author
Mother
Aunt
Military Personnel

Suggestions:
I like the way this is written. Diaries have always been very popular with many people because they show a slice of life not normally visited by others. It would be interesting to know the feedback you get when you get the story completed, feedback from others in the military, those thinking of joining and even parents of the people who have joined. Keep going because it is a good story and will help someone someday, I just know it. Sorry to hear about your mom. Take care of yourself.

Jane

Red = grammar mistakes
Green = Comments
Blue = suggestions

I hope I have been helpful. Any suggestions made are my own personal feelings I plan on keeping up with the story.

Corrections in Chapter 1:
tv (I would spell this out as television) .


ASVAB, (when you use an abbreviation for the first time you spell the full name out and then add the abbreviation in parenthesis afterward: example = Lots of Laughs (LOL) )

MEPS (when you use an abbreviation for the first time you spell the full name out and then add the abbreviation in parenthesis afterward: example = Lots of Laughs (LOL) )


MOS, (when you use an abbreviation for the first time you spell the full name out and then add the abbreviation in parenthesis afterward: example = Lots of Laughs (LOL) )

PT (when you use an abbreviation for the first time you spell the full name out and then add the abbreviation in parenthesis afterward: example = Lots of Laughs (LOL) ) every weekend with my recruiter and took practice PT (since this is the second use of the abbreviation it is correct to leave it as it is) tests.

...except, tell my mother that I had joined the Army. (LOL, what did your mom think you were doing all the time you were working at figuring very thing out on the weekends. I never would have been able to keep it from my mom. It's good you were away at college.)

"Hello", (comma goes inside quote marks) a quiet voice answered.

Corrections in Chapter 2: (needs to be relabeled)

a... and ruck (is this a misspelling or a name for something military?) a twelve mile...

AIT, (when you use an abbreviation for the first time you spell the full name out and then add the abbreviation in parenthesis afterward: example = Lots of Laughs (LOL) )


























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19
19
Review of Touch  
Review by Starling
In affiliation with Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: ASR | (5.0)
Review: Touch by Fountainpen (Anthony Kelly)


Plot:
A Journalist from the future writes about a curious Alien Species. (Author's Words)

Scene/Setting:
Either a classroom setting or a paper written for publiction.

Characters:

Suggestions:
This was excellent. I had no problem picturing the creature or its methods of surviving. It was interesting the way you explained it as an infestations of Earth, that Earthlings were taking in stride and attempting to handle. I found no errors. Thank you for writing. I was wondering if you have taken this farther and written a complete story about the worm and Earthlings.

Red = grammar mistakes
Green = Comments
Blue = suggestions

I hope I have been helpful. Any suggestions made are my own personal feelings I plan on keeping up with the story.


*Gold* My review has been submitted for consideration in "Good Deeds Get CASH!.
20
20
Review by Starling
In affiliation with Novel Workshop Group  
Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
Review: The Flashes, Chapter 4 by Bruce

Plot:
Morgan decides to settle in town as a guard and Baldwin returns to the Flashes

Scene/Setting:
Morgan and Baldwin go into town to check it out. They help carry some of the food items Dunstrum hopes to sell. Morgan decides to stay and be a guard. Baldwin decides to return to the Flashes to be with Erica. By the end of the chapter Pirates are coming ashore to attack.

Characters:
Baldwin
Morgan
Dunstum
Erica
Anabell
Flora - barmaid

Suggestions:
After the first two or three chapters, you have really gotten into the flow of the story. Everything seems to be a bit smoother. I think you could probably add some internal dialogue if you like to do that sort of thing.

Red = grammar mistakes
Green = Comments
Blue = suggestions

I hope I have been helpful. Any suggestions made are my own personal feelings I plan on keeping up with the story.

Chapter 4
When Baldwin returned from his ablutions at the cascading spring, Erica woke Morgan and began to poach some eggs leaving the two men to chat amongst themselves. They had just finished their breakfast when the family returned from the shore. They The family warmed their hands by the fire and Elfwine went to a shelf and brought out the two swords and daggers and gave them to Morgan and Baldwin.

“I feel dressed now,” Morgan said. “If you direct us to town we will leave you in peace.”

“Me and Elfwine are taking our produce to town,” Dunstan said. “You can come with us.”

“I want to go to town,” Erica said. “I haven’t been for weeks. Can I go instead of Elfwine?”

“You will struggle with the load?” Dunstan said.

“No I won't, (missing closing quote marks) Erica said. "And even if I do, I am sure Baldwin will help me with it.”

Morgan laughed. “And I will help you, Dunstan.”

“I don’t like it,” Elfwine said. “You will be at risk on the way back.”

Dunstan laughed. “I am old, Elfwine, but I can still handle my sword.”

“And I have my sword too,” Erica said.

Elfwine gave a sarcastic laugh. "Your short sword is no more than a large dagger."

"It could still kill a robber," she replied. Elfwine shook his head and walked through the cave to the small bay.

They set off with Morgan and Dunstan at the front chatting. "I must apologise if I seemed a bit mistrusting last night," Dunstan said.

"No need," Morgan said. "You have three women to think of and you invited two strangers into your home. You needed to be a bit cautious as I would have been myself. We are grateful for your hospitality and for saving us from the sea. Had the tide taken us out again we would have surely perished. Thanks to your family we live to fight another day."

"So you really are soldiers?" Dunstan asked.

"You could say that. But we do not belong to any particular force. People pay us for our skills and when our job is done, we move on. Or at least we used to. I think we are both looking for a less adventurous occupation."

"So you want to settle down."

Morgan laughed. "I wouldn't go that far."

Baldwin and Erica followed behind with Baldwin amusing Erica with tales of his adventures. He told her of the disaster at Pavillion but she was more interested in the rescue of Lady Margaret. She suddenly took hold of Baldwin's hand and he responded with a kiss on her cheek, nearly dropping the basket of seafood in the process.

The route started through marshland, then began rising through some woods before opening up as a pass that went through the twin peaks. After that, it started to drop down again through another wooded area and out onto a clearing where the town of Mossley came into view.

The town was protected by a deep ditch and a post fence with the main gate on the landward side, and a smaller access gate on the seaward side. The gate at the seaward side of the town was small, just a people gate. The group stood at the ditch and Dunstan called across. “Come on then, put the walkway out.”

“Only the two of you can come in. The two strangers have to go around to the main gate.”

“They are my guests, I can stand for them.”

“I don’t care,” the guard shouted back. "To get in they must report to the main gate and get checked in by a senior.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“No, that’s security, that's the safety of the townsfolk.”

“It’s okay,” Baldwin said. “We’ll go to the main gate. But can you two manage with the produce?”

“Yes, we can manage," Dunstan said. "It’s not far to the market from here. Farewell then and don't forget to come and see us some time.”

“I will definitely call in soon,” Baldwin said.

“I’ll look forward to that,” Erica said. “Don’t leave it too long.”

Baldwin and Erica smiled and kept eye contact for a long moment. He took her hand and kissed the back. “I’ll be thinking of you until we meet again.”

The men walked off around the perimeter towards the main gate.

The guard put out the walkway and opened the small gate for Dunstan and Erica. It was a small town of a couple of hundred people. Most of the buildings were single storey with thatched roofs but in the centre there were a few with two floors. The town hall being one also had a spotter's cabin on top where the alarm was sounded in the event of a probable attack.

Dunstan looked at Erica. “It seems that you have a soft spot for our warrior friend.”

“No, just being friendly.”

“It looks more than friendly and you could do a lot worse than Baldwin.”

Why, whatever do you mean, Father?" Erica grinned. “Is it that obvious?”

Dunstan laughed. "It is now that you have called me father. You haven't done that since you were six years old."

Baldwin and Morgan arrived at the main gate. The bridge was down, but the gate closed. They walked up to the gate and were let in by two guards and taken to the guard master’s office.

“What is your business here?” the guard master asked.

“Looking for work,” Morgan said.

"Where have you come from?"

"We were guests down at The Flashes," Morgan said.

"I know Dunstan well, but you couldn't have been there that long. Where were you before?"

"We were guards for The Duke of Lovat," Baldwin said.

“Very impressive. There is always work for good men like you. You look strong and fit. Have you had much combat experience, though, by the look of your swords, you probably have?”

“Yes, and my friend here started his career with the Advent Militia. (remove the space before the quotes and add it after the quote marks) ”Baldwin said. “But we have done our time now and we just want work.”

“I’m looking for men like you. More guards are needed. The pay is good, meals provided and you’ll have sleeping quarters in the guard’s compound.”

“Sounds good to me,” Morgan said.

The man looked at Baldwin. “What about you?”

“I’ll think about it.”

“Put your names on the visitors’ list for now. You can get a bed at The Bull Inn tonight, and let me know if you want the jobs in the morning.”

The men got to The Bull Inn and stood outside. "So this is the famous Bull Inn," Morgan said.

"What's famous about this?"

"I don't know. When I was at Advent the men there used to talk about The Bull Inn at Mossley."

"Maybe there is another Bull Inn." Morgan followed Baldwin into the Inn. There were a few men in there of differing ages and an old woman sitting alone. A fire was blazing with some dry logs in the hearth and the place seemed warm and inviting. "It's a clean place anyway," Baldwin said.

They walked to the bar. A serving girl was filling a jug. "A jug of ale and two mugs," Baldwin said.

{c:lred) (missing opening quote marks) Sit down somewhere and I'll fetch them over," the girl said.

They sat down, the girl brought their ale and Baldwin paid her.

Morgan stared at her as she walked off. "Now that's a woman," he said.

"Your observation skills are getting better then," Baldwin said.

Morgan laughed at the comment. “What do you think then Baldwin? Guarding this place seems the ideal job for us for a while.”

“No, it’s not for me. I think I’ll go back to that cave tomorrow and see if they have work for me.”

“Picking periwinkles! You’re a warrior Baldwin, not a winkle picker.”

“Like I said, I just think it’s time to settle down.”

Morgan laughed. “Who are you trying to kid? It's obvious you are after Erica, but when you have had your way with her a few times, you’ll get fed up and then you will come and work with me.”

“Maybe.” Baldwin drank a large amount of ale from his mug.

Morgan laughed. "Not maybe, Baldwin. It happens every time your heart flutters for a young wench. But the flutter always lasts about as long as a summer butterfly."

"What do you know?"

"I know you, Baldwin."

“Anyway, are you are taking the guard job then?”

“I think I will, but only if he gives me a bit of rank. I’m not being a skivvy." After a pause, he continued, “or a winkle picker.”

"He won't give you rank straight away."

"He is struggling for men by the looks of it. He is desperate and if he wants people with our skills, then it has to be on our terms."

"You mean your terms." Baldwin laughed. “The jug is empty, your turn to get the ale.”

"Wench," Morgan called across to the serving girl. "Fetch us some more ale."

"My name is not wench," she called back.

"Then what is your name?"

"Flora, and if you can't be more civil then you can fetch your own ale."

"Can you fetch some more ale for me and my friend then please, Flora?"

"That's better. I'll be with you in a minute, you great lump."

She brought the jug over. "Why do they call this place famous?" Morgan asked.

"About twenty years ago an old woman went mad and stabbed five men before she could be restrained." She saw Baldwin looking at the old woman sitting alone. "It' (missing an 's') all right it wasn't her. She only stabbed two. Any other silly questions?"

"Can I see you when you finish work," Morgan said. (need question mark in place of the comma after 'work', delete 'said' and replace with asked or some other word denoting a question.)

"That's even sillier than the last question," she said and walked off.

The following day Morgan went to see the guard master and despite him trying to coax Baldwin to join him, Baldwin had no interest in becoming one of the town's guards. Morgan negotiated an immediate promotion to leader and Baldwin set off for The Flashes.

* * * * *


When Baldwin arrived at the cave the tide was in and the cave was cut-off with the waves crashing against the cliff face. He called out and Elfwine’s wife Arabella came to the gate, opened it, and walked out.

“Didn’t expect you back so soon,” she shouted across.

“Oh!” he called. “I don’t want to be a nuisance.”

“Don’t be silly. I didn’t mean it like that. I thought that you might have spent some time in the comfort of the inns after your encounter with the sea.”

“I could have done, but the company here is much nicer. So, Arabella, is there another way in or should I wade across?”

"There's no other way in. If you wade across it can be dangerous. If the waves lift you they could throw you against the jagged rocks at the cliff face. It's best to wait.”

Baldwin just laughed and then jumped into the water and forced his way across before following Arabella into the cave.

“There is a nice chicken broth cooking in the pot, so you are welcome to join us later. For now, you might want to stand by the fire to try and dry your clothes a little.”

“No, I’m used to getting wet. My body heat will dry my clothes soon enough. So where is everybody?”

“Matilda is having her afternoon sleep, and the others are crafting and tending to the crops outside.”

“That end of the cave never gets cut off then?”

“No, it’s too far away from the shore.”

Baldwin walked out to the small bay and was greeted by Dunstan. “Good to see you again my friend, but what brings you back so soon?” He briefly looked over at Erica. “Apart from the obvious.”

Baldwin chose not to comment on his feeling for Erica at this time. “I like the life you have here. I would like to settle down and this seems the ideal place for me if you would allow me to stay. But if you want me to move on I will respect your decision.”

“You are very welcome to stay as long as you please and we can always use an extra pair of hands.”

Elfwine and Osbert made their way over and they both welcomed him. “What of your friend Morgan?” Elfwine asked.

“He has become a guard at the town. He’s happy with that.”

Erica was pulling weeds from the crops and vegetables but was continually glancing over.

Dunstan called out to her. “Erica, don’t be so rude. Come over and greet our new member of the family.”

Erica walked over. “It’s good to see you again, but I’m sorry I look so scruffy.” She tried to brush the dirt off her gown and hands.

“You still look pretty to me.”

“Leave the field, for now, Erica,” Dunstan said. “Take Baldwin round the shoreline and see if any logs or timber have been washed up.”

As the couple walked off to the shoreline, Osbert looked at his father. “We have plenty of logs. Why are you trying to pair Erica off with the stranger?”

“He is a fine specimen of a man and it is time I had grandchildren.”

“But...”

“Enough, you just carry on sharpening the blades.” Elfwine looked at Osbert and grinned before going off to continue making his arrows.

Baldwin and Erica had not walked more than a few steps along the shore when Baldwin took hold of her hand. "You don't mind?" he said.

"I didn't mind before, why would I mind now?"

"They can all see us now."

"I'm not a child, I can do as I please." She surprised him by throwing her arms around him and giving him a long and passionate kiss. Just as suddenly she pulled away and led him by his hand as she continued to walk.

"Well I wasn't expecting that," he said. "You seem like my kind of woman."

"And we will have to wait a little longer to see if you are my kind of man."

Baldwin spent another night on the cave floor. He was comfortable but frustrated knowing that Erica was lying only yards away from him.

It was early morning when Elfwine woke him. “I’m going out to get some rabbits if you want to come along?”

Baldwin jumped up. “Of course.”

Elfwine looked him up and down. “You look about the same size as me. I haven’t seen you out of those same clothes since you came here. I have a lot of clothes that the women made. We’ll sort you some out when we get back.”

They set off through the marsh and into the wooded area. It was not long before Elfwine spotted his first target. His aim was true and the kill was instant. They walked over, Elfwine retrieved his arrow and dropped the rabbit into a bag. A little further on Baldwin whispered, “there, over by that broken branch. It a good way off but we can creep up on it and hopefully, it won’t run off.”

“No need,” Elfwine said and he took aim.

“You’ll never hit it from here.” No sooner had the words left Baldwin’s mouth when the rabbit was killed.

“That’s amazing. Where did you learn to shoot an arrow like that?”

“My father taught me, bless him. He was the best archer in the land. He could shoot an acorn out of the mouth of a squirrel.”

Baldwin was not sure that was true but he kept the thought to himself.

“Two more then we have enough,” Elfwine said and he soon made the number up. "I have a spare couple of bows, Baldwin. Perhaps next time you can have a try at getting some game?"

"I'll look forward to that," Baldwin replied.

Baldwin settled in well with his new friends and his desire for Erica grew ever stronger.

A month later Osbert was sent out to gather some eggs for breakfast. He soon came running back in. “Pirates!” He shouted.

"Don't be silly," Matilda said.

Dunstan looked out from the cave. “It's pirates all right. The pirate ship is in the bay flying their flag and two longboats are heading for the shore. Probably sixteen or so raiders. We have to move quickly.”


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Review: The Flashes. Chapter 3 by Bruce

Plot:
Baldwin and Morgan arrive at the Flashes

Scene/Setting:
Baldwin and Morgan are able to get away from the land where there is fighting. The get into a boat and barely survive days at sea, mostly floating around. Their boat is washed ashore and they are found.

Characters:
Baldwin
Morgan
Erica
Elfwine - Friend of the family
Dunstan - Erica's father
Osbert - Erica's brother
Matilda - Dunstan's wife
Arabella - friend
Sherrif men

Suggestions:


Red = grammar mistakes
Green = Comments
Blue = suggestions

I hope I have been helpful. Any suggestions made are my own personal feelings I plan on keeping up with the story.

Chapter 3


A few hours after they left the inn the men reached a fork in the track. “Which way?” Morgan said.

"The right track looks more used," Baldwin said. "The left track might lead to a dead end through some farmland." Baldwin put a hand up. “Shhh. I can hear some horses. It might be the sheriffs.”

“If it is they will want to question us,” Morgan said. “We'd better hide in the bushes to be on the safe side.”

The two men hid in a ditch behind the bushes. When the riders stopped at the fork they were within yards of the men. “The two fleeing rebels must have passed this fork. But which way do you think they would have gone?”

“There’s only a beach that way and a few fishermen's dwellings. The fisherfolk will let us know if strangers turn up there. No, they must be heading for the port. The defeated foreigners will be trying to flee the country by getting on a ship.” The riders set off on the right fork.

“We go left then,” Morgan said.

“Yeah, but I think it would be better to rest here and only travel when it gets dark.”

"I think we could have taken those two sheriffs."

"Can you ride a horse, Morgan?"

"No."

"Not much point then is there. And if two sheriffs went missing there would be a big manhunt after us."

They rested in an oat field and managed to get some sleep in the sunshine. When the sun was setting they set off and in the early hours they stood outside a small fishing settlement. “Have you ever sailed a boat, Morgan?”

“No, but how hard can it be? Easier than riding a horse I'll bet."

“One way to find out I suppose. But we must be quiet. They are probably all sleeping at this time of night and we don't want to wake them. I don't think that their menfolk are back yet. The women won’t be happy with us taking one of their boats and it would be wrong to kill them.”

"No more talking; we need to be extra quiet. They might have dogs and the slightest noise will set them off barking.

They crept through the settlement extra vigilant. They decided that if they were discovered then they would flee if they got the chance. Killing unaccompanied women was to be avoided at all costs. But they made it to the shoreline undetected and waded through the water to the nearest boat. They clambered aboard but the movement rocked the boat and the oars clattered together.

As was expected, a dog was alerted and began to bark, quickly joined by two others. The men rowed fast and were soon clear of the sheltered cove before raising the two sails. “Which way?” Morgan said.

“We are heading straight out to sea, so it must be the right way. Straight across."

Morgan looked back to the shore. "It doesn't look like they are following us out. Might have been different if the men were back from the battle."

"Then with their sea-skills, they would probably have caught us up." Baldwin said.

"In that case, they would die. Unless one of them was a skilled archer, then we might have had a problem."

"Well it's not a problem now. This time tomorrow we should be on the other shore."

However, two days and two nights later, they were still at sea and they encountered a storm which ripped off their sails, almost overturned the boat and took the oars into the sea. They had run out of food, their two pouches of water were dry and they were starting to weaken.

"I don't understand," Morgan said. "We should be there by now. It only took a day to cross on the ship."

Baldwin looked at the water lapping at the boat. "Can't we drink sea water?"

"No, it'll just make your thirst worse."

"Are you sure," Baldwin said. (need question mark after 'sure', remove the word said and use --asked-- or any other word you think might designate a question)

"It'll kill you quicker than not drinking it. We were taught that at the Militia survival training."

The following day they could just make out the land in the distance.

"If only we had managed to keep hold of the oars," Baldwin said. "It's much too far to swim. So we can either try to swim to land and drown, or we can die on this boat with no water, but surrounded by water. This has not been one of your better ideas, Morgan."

No," Morgan said. "And it gets worse. There is a fog drifting over so we won't see the shore soon and by the looks of those clouds there might be another storm on the way."

Their luck changed though when the following day they were washed up to a beach, but their health had deteriorated and they were only semi-conscious. If they didn't fully regain consciousness there was a chance that the tide could take the boat back out to sea again.

* * * * *


Erica, a twenty-year-old woman walked out from the entrance of her family’s cave dwelling to take in some of the fresh sea air. Inside her family were sitting at a table in the room-sized cave eating bread and some rabbit broth re-heated from the previous night. The fire in the hearth was burning nicely with the smoke dispersing through the roof of the cave. Further along, the sleeping area had alcoves cut into the dark red rock to accommodate bed spaces. It was a comfortable place and as good as any of the better houses in the nearby town of Mossley. Erica loved her life here and felt she could stay here forever. She looked towards the shoreline and saw a boat bobbing on the water. “Elfwine, come quickly,” she called. “There is a boat in the bay.”

Elfwine, a family friend, ran out with his bow slung over his shoulder and a sword in his hand. “Get inside, Erica, it might be the pirates.” But Erica had no intention of getting inside and she watched as he ran across the beach towards the boat.

Her father, Dunstan, soon followed with his sword also drawn. “Be careful, Elfwine," he shouted. "It might be a trap.”

As Elfwine got near the boat it started to drift out and he had to wade into the water to pull the boat back in again. “There’s two men in here," Elfwine shouted. "And they look in a bad way." He turned and called across to Erica. “Fetch some water, hurry."

Erica rushed through the cave and came out at a back entrance to a smaller bay where a spring ran out of the rocks. She filled a jug and hurried back while the two men hauled the front of the boat up to the dry land. She poured water onto her hand and rubbed it on the men’s faces. They responded to her care and she lifted Baldwin’s head and gave him a drink, and then the same with Morgan.

The water and care from Erica seemed to revive the men and after a few minutes, Baldwin was able to stand." Erica and Dunstan helped him across to the cave. Elfwine tended to Morgan until he too was able to walk and he helped Morgan across to the cave as well.

Soon the pair of them were sitting by the fire with bowls of hot broth and fur blankets around their shoulders.

“Where are we,” Baldwin (need question mark not comma) saidasked . “What’s the nearest town?”

“This bay is called The Flashes,” Erica said. “The town of Mossley is just a few miles away.”

“Mossley Town. I’ve heard of it." Morgan said. "The people there are paranoid and have a stockade type fence and a moat as if they were in the Middle Ages."

"It's not a moat it's a ditch," Elfwine said. "Have you ever been there?"

"No," Morgan said. "But I heard about the place when I was living in Advent."

"Well, if you do visit you will find that they are not paranoid. They are good people but have been plagued for a long time by Vialian raiders. They did ask for help from the Militia at Advent, but were told that they were too busy."

"I apologise," Morgan said. "I didn't wish to be rude or cause offence."

“So, have you come round the coast from Advent in that boat?” Dunstan said.

“No, we've come across the sea. We were fighting at the Pavillion uprising.”

"That's some distance," Dunstan said. "No wonder you looked weak, you are lucky to be alive."

“Are you real soldiers then?” Erica said.

“Well, more like paid fighters," Baldwin said. "Anyway, that uprising is finished and the wrong side won. So, Vialians, do they ever bother you here?”

"No," Dunstan said. "There's nothing here for them and it's probably too far for the little that we have. It's the pirates we have to watch out for. We sometimes see them out at sea, but luckily they have not ventured ashore here for years. Even then they were only interested in going to raid Mossley"

Erica's brother, Osbert, came running in. “Elfwine, we are losing the boat.”

Elfwine ran out and looked out to the sea. “It's too far out now. The sea is too rough and if I try to swim out to it I could be dashed on the rocks. Shame, but I’m afraid it is lost.” The two men returned to the cave.

“I'm surprised at how you have adapted this cave to live in," Baldwin said. "It's better than a lot of houses I have been in. This huge fire is great and I like the way that the smoke disperses through the roof of the cave. And the space you have inside here is as good as a palace.”

“Yes, I agree,” Morgan said. “But surely you would all be better off living in the town.”

"But you wouldn't," Elfwine said. "If we weren't here you would be drifting back out to sea by now."

“My family have lived here for generations,” Dunstan said. “This is where we earn our living. This is my wife, Matilda, and my daughter and son, Erica and Osbert. Elfwine and Arabella are friends who have moved in with us. Over the years we have dug out the alcove shelves to sleep in so we are comfortable.”

“But are you safe?”

“We have gates which we close up at night and if they are broken we have another defence.”(spelling?)

“And what is that?”

“I'm afraid I can’t tell you that but it keeps us safe should we be attacked from the land or the sea. Anyway, we have an early start tomorrow so we are turning in for the night.”

“I’ll fix you somewhere to sleep,” Matilda said. “I’m sure you could use some rest in warmth and comfort after that sea journey.” She found spare blankets and furs and made the bed spaces up on the floor.

“Our swords and daggers; where are they?” Morgan asked.

“They are stored safely away,” Elfwine said. “You can have them in the morning.”

“Your people have nothing to fear from us, Elfwine,” Baldwin said.

“I know, but we don’t know you well enough.”

“I understand, and I thank you for your hospitality. We will leave for Mossley in the morning.” Morgan was eager to bed down(comma) but Baldwin was more interested in Erica as the rest went to their bed spaces.

“You don’t have to leave so soon, Baldwin,” Erica said. “Why not wait a few days until you have built up your strength a bit? It's a good three-hour walk to Mossley.”

Morgan pulled the fur cover over his head, knowing her words were more for Baldwin than for him.

“Our strength will be fine in the morning and I am sure that you have not seen the last of me if you will allow me to call back to visit you that is.”

Erica gave a broad smile. “Of course I will. I would love to see you again. Good night, Baldwin."

“Good night,” Morgan shouted out from under his cover.

Erica laughed. “Oh, I’m sorry, Morgan. Good night.”

“Erica!” Matilda called out.

“All right, I’m coming.”

Dunstan walked over to Elfwine's bed space. "These men are very tired and I don't think they will give us any trouble. But keep your dagger close tonight," he whispered.

"You should have sent them away after they had been fed, whether they were tired or not. Remember, these men are professional killers, (missing closing quote marks) Elfwine said. But their fears were unfounded and their two guests slept soundly." (remove these quote marks)

Baldwin woke the following morning and looked over to Erica who was loading some logs onto the fire. She had her back to him and he could see the curvaceous shape of her body through the thin gown she was wearing. He smiled as he imagined what was beneath the gown. The logs began to catch alight and the flames gave a flickering light around the cave. He sat up and on hearing the rustle of his covers Erica turned to look at him, smiled and then sat on a bench next to the fire.

“What a wonderful sight, your pretty face picked out by the flickering flames,” Baldwin said. He threw the covers off and stood up, still fully clothed, and walked over to sit beside her.

“Don’t tease me,” she said.

“I’m not teasing you. I have been attracted to you ever since I opened my eyes on the boat yesterday and saw you. I thought at first that I had died and that you were an angel looking down at me.”

Erica laughed. “And I looked down at you thinking what a scruffy sad looking man. Now let’s stop being silly. Would you like some wine and some cooked eggs to start your day?”

“I’d like to freshen up first. Maybe take a swim in the sea.”

"You can if you like. But that's not how we do it here."

He looked around the cave. “Where is everybody?”

“They are out on the shore, harvesting.”

“Harvesting what?”

“Fruits of the sea my father calls it.”

Baldwin laughed. "What sort of fruit is that?"

"It's not real fruit," she said. "Cockles, mussels, winkles and we also get a lot of edible seaweed. Even the odd crab, though most of the shore crabs are too small. She stood up and took hold of Baldwin’s hand. “Come on, if you want to clean up.” She led him out the back exit of the cave where the freshwater spring was flowing from halfway up the cliff. “Get yourself cleaned up and then come inside and we will wake up your friend for breakfast.”

He looked at the cascading water. "I could stand under this and wash my whole body."

"Help yourself, that's what we do," Erica said. "No one will bother you."

"Maybe you could join me and scrub my back."

Erica laughed. "Another time perhaps."

"I'll look forward to that."

Erica gave another laugh. "And so will I."

Baldwin took off his shirt and Erica seemed transfixed on his bulging muscles and his highly developed chest.

"Are you sure you don't want to scrub my back, Erica?"

Erica grinned widely. "I think I'd better go and prepare the eggs," she said. Without another word, she turned and walked off but could not help but to turn her head for another glance (missing period)


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Rated: 18+ | (4.0)
Review: The Flashes. Chapter 2 - The Duke's uprising is lost by Bruce
Plot:
Baldwin and Morgan are trying to make a living as mercenaries.

Scene/Setting:
There is a battle with the Duke looses because he didn't wait for intelligents from Baldwin and Morgan. Now they are trying to head home.

Characters:
The Duke
Baldwin
Morgan
Other soldiers

Suggestions:
Nice touch with the pigeons. I have stopped some of the spell checking because you are using British variations to some of the words. Sorry if I have over done it before this point. Also you need to watch when you ask a question. I have used the word "asked" but there are other words you might consider.

Red = grammar mistakes
Green = Comments
Blue = suggestions

I hope I have been helpful. Any suggestions made are my own personal feelings I plan on keeping up with the story.

Chapter 2


Baldwin and Morgan stood up and began running back up the bank. The enemy warriors pursued them but had no chance of catching the two very fit men. Baldwin glanced back. "There's only four of them, they are struggling and I think they are about to give up. It's a good thing they don't have an archer with them or we could have been in trouble."

Morgan looked back. “They're not gaining on us but it doesn't look like the fools are going to give up; it's a big mistake they're making. If we're not going to lose them we might as well slow down a bit and let them catch us up. Do you think they have tired enough yet though?” Morgan said asked .

“Yes, they don't seem very fit to me. We can take them.”

They slowed their pace until the four men were almost on them. “Let's do it then,” Morgan said. “Time to get these fools off our backs.” They both turned and hurried towards their startled pursuers.

One of the pursuers stopped, stepped back in panic, stumbled and fell. Morgan’s sword went through his throat and he turned his attention to another of the men. Baldwin was keeping two men at bay and laughing loudly which further unnerved them.

Morgan's sword connected a heavy blow across his adversary’s wrist and was able to easily to run his sword through the disabled man’s chest. “Having trouble, Baldwin?” he shouted.

Baldwin’s sword struck one of the men’s neck and he dropped. The other turned and ran but Morgan threw his dagger and struck the man heavily in his back. The man ran another few steps before he fell.

“That’s three one to me then, Baldwin.”

“You picked the weakest two. Best hurry and get your dagger, (period after 'dagger and caps on 'we') we need to tell the duke what we’ve seen.”

The two men set off back towards the camp. They were just approaching the outskirts of the camp when Baldwin put his hand up to stop Morgan. "Look," he said. "The sentry guard is asleep against that tree."

Morgan crept over and wrestled the startled man to the ground before holding his dagger to the man's throat. “Not very good is it?” Morgan said. “If I were the enemy you would be dead now and the whole camp would be at risk because of your stupidity.”

The man recognised (spelling) Morgan when he let him go. “I’m sorry, sir,” he said.

“You have a job to do,” Morgan said. “The enemy is only a couple of miles away and you need to be alert all the time. If I catch you asleep on guard again I’ll kill you myself.”

“It won’t happen again, sir.”

The two men walked off. “How come so many men call you sir, Morgan?”

“Authority, Baldwin, authority.”

“I have the same authority but they don’t call me sir do they?”

“No, sir,” Morgan said. And they both laughed.

They walked out of the woods and into the camp, a large area in a clearing dotted with tents. So many tents that some were erected amongst the trees. "I wouldn't like to sleep in a tent amongst those trees," Morgan said. "An ideal target for a hit and run terrorising (spelling) raid. Especially if the sentry is asleep."

"Or dead," Baldwin said.

They got to the Duke of Lovat's tent in the centre of the camp. The duke's {caps) bodyguard greeted them and took them inside.

“Ah, my two finest warriors,” the duke's {caps) said. “What news do you have of the enemy?”

Baldwin spoke first. “Down through these woods, there is an open meadow that leads down to a brook. Past the brook, there is some denser woods before it opens out onto a large plain. The enemy is setting up on that plain."

"How far is it to their camp?"

"I should imagine it is about two miles away and they look to be about two hundred strong. (missing closing quotes)

“Not that far then. And if they are about two hundred men, then according to figures from our agents planted in towns around the land, that must be his whole army. We have two hundred men as well. We could launch a dawn attack on them from out of the woods and catch them by surprise But we need to be quick. I don't want them coming out of the woods here and surprising us first.”

“You could attack their camp,” Morgan said. “But it may be costly. You can bet that they have scouts out the same as us and they probably know that we are here. Half our men are archers and it would be best if we let the enemy attack us when we are at the edge of these woods. After they cross the brook and come up the open meadow our archers have the advantage of height and could devastate their numbers before we engage in close combat.”

“You might be right, Morgan, but I think a surprise attack on them would be our best option. Go back tonight and let me know if the situation is the same. If it is, we will launch our attack at dawn. In the meantime, I'll put some more lookouts in the woods, just in case.”

Baldwin and Morgan had some hot food from the cook’s tent and went to their tent to get some sleep. "What do you think of the duke's (caps) plan?" Morgan said. asked.

"It has its good points, but the element of surprise would be lost pretty quickly and then they might come under a counter-attack from those young fit warriors. Even if he wins the battle he could lose a lot of men."

"We'll have another look later but for now let's catch up on some sleep," Morgan said. "It's been a long day."

One of the night guards woke them at one o’clock and they set off into the dark woodlands. They worked their way around the enemy camp to get into a copse that overlooked the camp. They were surprised that the enemy numbers seemed to have trebled. Many more were turning up as the night went on and the men remained looking down from the copse until the sun was about to rise.

“We have been misled,” Morgan said. “There must be almost a thousand warriors out there now. And over the back, there's about twenty horses. Those riders though are not soldiers. They belong to the sheriffs. I wonder why they are here.”

“With such a build-up of men, they must be expecting a victory,” Baldwin said. “So the horsemen are here to hunt down and kill any stragglers in flight after the battle. Our camp has lost any advantage we had with our archers and if we engage in close combat our two hundred men will surely be overwhelmed.”

“We'd best get back and tell the duke (caps) that their numbers have swelled overnight. It's best if we withdraw and the duke (caps) may have to have a re-think of his plans. ”

“You go, Morgan. I’ll stay here and watch for any movement. If it looks like they are preparing to attack, I’ll need to try and alert our men.”

Morgan set off but had not been gone long when Baldwin heard a disturbance behind him and thinking it was his friend he called out. “What’s up, Morgan?” But as he turned, he was shocked to see two men with swords drawn and an archer with an arrow aimed at him.

“Well, what have we here then? A rebel spy. And by the looks of it, a foreign fighter working for the enemies of our land.”

“I’m no fighter just a traveller,” Baldwin said. “I stopped for a rest while passing through.”

The stoutest of the men laughed. “You have a drawn sword lying at your side and it looks to me to be a warrior’s sword, and you look more like a warrior than a traveller.”

"I keep my sword by my side because I've heard of all the trouble here."

The man laughed again. “I’m sure you have some information for us, like who is this Morgan you spoke of? Another traveller, perhaps?"

"Just someone I met on the way. He's gone on his own way now."

"We are not fools. In our camp, we have people who will have the skills to make you tell us what you are doing here. Or if you chose, you can die slowly in excruciating pain. Stand up, and don’t touch your sword. My archer has the ability to cause you pain and suffering without killing you.”

As Baldwin stood up a dagger hit the archer in the back causing him to yell and fall to his knees, his arrow flying wildly off target before he fell forward onto the ground. Baldwin swiftly scooped up his sword. Morgan rushed forward and the two friends engaged the enemy swordsmen. The swordfight was soon over; the enemy being no match for these battle experienced mercenaries.their battle experience.

“Thanks, Morgan, I thought I was in trouble there, and I could have been if that arrow had hit me."

“But it would have been the better of two evils had I not returned. I saw our friends heading for the copse and I thought I would follow them, just in case.”

The men were startled when the archer began giving out a large blast on a horn. “I thought he was dead,” Morgan said. He dashed over and kicked the horn out of the man’s hand before running his sword through his back. “Do you think they heard him, Baldwin?”

“Well, there's a dozen or so men rushing towards us. Best get away from here.”

They had just started to make their escape when they heard the sound of multiple horns sounding off and they stopped running. “What’s going on?” Morgan said. “Surely they are not sending hundreds of warriors after us.”

Baldwin ran back and looked over at the camp. “Something’s going on, those men are heading back to the camp and all the others are running out of the tents.”

Morgan joined him. “Look the duke's (caps) men running out of the woods. They are attacking. They're attacking without the use of the archers first. The idiots think they are attacking a few hundred men. Why the hell didn’t the duke (caps) wait for us to get back.”

"I can't see the duke (caps) . No doubt he is leading from the back as always."

"It's a slaughter," Morgan said. "They are swarming over our men in great numbers. They have no chance; most of our archers have no experience in close combat."

"We have some good friends out there and we can only watch," Baldwin said. "There's nothing we can do for them."

The duke (caps) soon realised his error and sounded a retreat but the enemy was amongst them and would pursue them through the woods until they had killed or dispersed them all.

“I feel so helpless, Baldwin. So what do we do now?”

“We can do nothing. It's time to leave this land and go home. The duke's (caps) war is lost and, to be sure, we will not be paid this month.”

"We won't get paid, but we are better off than the men down there," Morgan said.

Reluctantly, the two men set off towards the coast. They passed woodland and farmland and tried to avoid being noticed from the farmhouses. It was late afternoon when they came to their first village. “You know, Baldwin, despite the duke's (caps) uprising this is a much more civilised country than our own. Look at this place, It's pretty isolated but it has nothing to protect it.”

“Not much to protect anyway. A dozen ramshackle buildings with a blacksmith's forge that looks like it doubles as an inn."

"It’s a different culture, Baldwin. They have the horsemen to keep order but more importantly, every single young man in this country is made to serve some time in the army. I think the horsemen rounded up the retired soldiers to re-join the ranks again and fight. I did notice that when there were only about two hundred most of them were young men. Later the ages were more diverse, some of them even seemed to be quite old.”

“So if there is trouble anywhere, the horsemen go to all the nearby towns and mobilise all the men to take up arms with the army. That would explain the surge in numbers because I am sure now that the two hundred figure was right, at the start of the uprising. Whereas the duke (caps) was a paid man, paid by a cousin of the country's ruler. Very few of our men were from this country, so it would be difficult to add to our numbers.”

“Pity we didn’t work that out earlier,” Morgan said. “All our work and now we won’t get paid and a lot of good men have perished.”

As Morgan had guessed, there was a small inn attached to the blacksmith's shop and the men went inside. A woman was behind the serving counter and two older women sat around a blazing log fire. Morgan hit his head on a low bean causing him to curse and Baldwin to laugh. But there was no response from the women. Morgan ordered the ale. "Do you have any food?" he asked.

"Bread and cheese," the woman said.

"With some butter and onions?"

"Just bread and cheese."

"All right we'll have a plate of that, and it better not be stale."

"The thick straw on this floor can hide many things," Baldwin said. "It looks like a stable and smells of horse manure."

"The smell is more likely to be coming from those two old women toasting themselves by the fire," Morgan said. " But going by the size of that back door, it probably is used as a stable as well." He looked at the fire. (missing opening quote marks) It's a wonder this place hasn't gone up in flames by now."

The woman started to fill two mugs of ale. “Strangers round here,” she said. asked.

“Yes, just passing through,” Baldwin said.

“Come from the battle have you?”

"The battle," Morgan said. "What battle?"

"North of here, some foreign invaders tried to take over our country. You must know about it."

“No, we don’t.”

“Our men folk were victorious and they will return soon. So, where are you headed?”

“Too many questions,” Morgan said. “Just serve us the ale.”

The two old women looked over on hearing the remark. They looked away again and began whispering to each other. The serving woman stared at the men and when they looked at her she looked away only to stare at them again a little later. The men sensed the unfriendly atmosphere and soon ate their food and left the inn.

“How does she get the information so quick?” Morgan said.

“Maybe the two old girls are witches,” Baldwin said and they both laughed.

"Evil ones," one of the old women said after they had left the inn. "Up to no good. I think that they are a couple of defeated enemies fleeing from their evil deeds."

"Don't worry," the bar woman said. "They won't get far. I need to let the sheriffs know." She went out to the back of the inn and to a line of pigeon coops. She tied two bits of red ribbon to the legs of a pigeon from one of the four coops and let the pigeon fly off.


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Review by Starling
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Rated: 18+ | (3.5)
Review: The Flashers, Chapter 1 by Bruce

Plot:
The lives of two Mercenaries

Scene/Setting:
Moves through a battle to save Lady Margaret, to taking a ship to help fight against one man trying to take a thrown from his brother.

Characters:
Baldwin - Mercenary
Morgan - Mercenary
Sir Foxley
Lady Margaret
Several fighting men
The Count

Suggestions:
Story seems to be moving along nicely and in a logical order. Does come across as a bit choppy in places. I think you are trying to put too much into one chapter. This feels like two to me. One about Lady Margaret and the other about the two brothers. I did enjoy the chapter though and will be continuing with others.

Red = grammar mistakes
Green = Comments
Blue = suggestions

I hope I have been helpful. Any suggestions made are my own personal feelings I plan on keeping up with the story.


Chapter 1.
Morgan advanced and struck Baldwin’s sword. Baldwin swung his sword out of the deflection and blocked the next blow(comma) but he had to take a step back as Morgan advanced. “It will soon be over,” Morgan said.

Baldwin laughed and blocked two more blows and then with a mighty upward strike knocked Morgan’s sword from his hand. “You’re dead, Morgan.”

Morgan pushed Baldwin's sword aside and swept his leg before pushing him over. Making sure to avoid the blade, he dropped onto Baldwin’s chest and held a dagger to his throat. “I win, I think.”

“You cheated,” Baldwin said. “Had this been a real fight you would not have got near me.”

Morgan laughed. "Cheated! You can't stop a fight on the battlefield because you think someone cheated." He laughed again as he stood up. “Don’t be such a bad loser. Let’s get to the inn. It’s your forfeit to get the ale.”

Sir Foxley had hired these mercenary fighters for a specific task and after seeing them practising (spelling) again, he walked over. “I pay good money for you two. If you injure each other, or worse, in this silliness, you will be of no use to me.”

“You are paying us for boredom,” Morgan said. “We sat in a field for three days before coming to the village. When are we to get on with the job?”

“Tomorrow the Count will be crossing the Old Wintown Bridge and that is where we will stop him. We must rescue the woman. He has kidnapped her and is asking the Baron for a huge ransom. We need to make sure no harm comes to her when we rescue her. So keep sharp and don’t drink too much ale tonight.”

“Thinks he’s our dad, Morgan.”

“With that unblemished chubby face, he looks more like my mother.”

“Very funny. You will be roused just before dawn.” Sir Foxley walked off to his tent which was located on a green behind the village inn. There were three other tents for Sir Foxley's men but the two friends paid for beds at the inn rather than share Sir Foxley's tents again. The inn was the only one in this small village which was no more than a cluster of houses on a through track-way. There was a dilapidated barn at the end which served as the village store selling everything from vegetables to tools and animal feedstuffs. The inn seemed a more modern place and its tiled roof stood out from all the thatched roofs of the other buildings. The locals congregated in the side rooms leaving the boisterous duke’s (caps) men in the large room drinking their ale around a blazing log fire.

The two men entered the inn and sat with some of the other warriors. "Two more tankards of ale, wench," Morgan called out to the serving girl.

"Yes sir," the girl said and soon returned and put the tankards on the table.

Morgan slapped the girl's rear. "And a fine well-built buxom wench you are too. I'll wager you like your oats."

"I do, sir," she said and walked off wondering what they were laughing at.

"Always having an eye for the serving girls," Baldwin said.

Morgan looked across to the girl who was smiling at him. "Well, Baldwin, unlike you, I wont (spelling) be sleeping on my own tonight."

"Oh, so you've changed your mind and decided to sleep with the men in the tents after all then?"

Morgan grinned and shook his head without comment.

“So, Morgan, who is this woman we are to rescue?” one of the men asked.

“I don’t know. It’s all very secret. Must be someone special though, we don’t come cheap.”

“What if she is killed in the fight? Will we still get paid?”

“Probably not,” Baldwin said. “You have had half of your pay but you could forget the rest if she dies. Bear that in mind, a dead woman will cost us all.”

Early the next morning the men got to Wintown Bridge just as the sun was rising. The bridge was an ancient high single-arch stone bridge. It was only wide enough for one cart and it ran over a stream. The stream could become quite fierce in times of storm but at the moment it just meandered through. Six men went to hide under the bridge and Sir Foxley, Baldwin, Morgan and two others were hiding just off the road. A wooden barrier had been erected at the foot of the bridge but could not be seen from the other side until the travellers (spelling) were on the bridge.

We've been here over two hours," Baldwin said. "It seems your informant may have got it wrong, Sir Foxley."

"No, they will cross here soon, I'm sure of it."

"Glad we're not under the bridge like the others," Morgan said. "I don't like getting my feet wet. If they have no big stones to stand on their feet will be all wrinkled up, and a bit cold."

"What, like your serving girl partner at the inn last night?" Baldwin said.

"At least I had a partner for the night."

Baldwin laughed. "I think I'd rather do without." he said.

"Quiet!" Sir Foxley said. "I can hear someone coming."

"Well, let's hope it's them then," Baldwin said.

As the horses stopped at the barrier Sir Foxley's men came out from hiding and Sir Foxley drew a pistol. "Just stop there," he shouted.

There were two riders. A woman who was tied to the horse and the Count, a well-dressed man, on the other. Eight armed men followed behind on foot.

The Count also pulled out a pistol as his men came forward. Sir Foxley was quicker to raise his pistol and he shot the Count. The Count took a mortal blow and fell from his horse as the woman's horse bolted and jumped the fence. Sir Foxley managed to hold onto the Count's horse. He mounted the horse and chased after the woman.

The men under the bridge arch came out onto the bridge behind the Count's men. Morgan, as was normal, straight away took one of the men out with his throwing knife. The remaining seven men stood little chance against the ten professional swordsmen. They were blocked in and were quickly put to the sword with only the loss of one of the Sir Foxley's men, though two others had been wounded.

Baldwin looked at the dead Count. "A lucky shot. But I don't think these new-fangled things will catch on. If you fire at a swordsman and miss, by the time you have messed about reloading the thing you'll be run through."

Sir Foxley returned with the woman. He had already untied her and they dismounted. "This is the Baron's daughter, Lady Margaret. She assures me that there will be a reward for all of you on top of what you are owed. Baldwin and Morgan you can accompany us to the Baron's castle. The rest of you get back to town with the casualties and we'll meet up at the inn tomorrow night."

They had been walking for two hours and Sir Foxley asked the two men if one of them would like to ride the horse for a while. Lady Margaret also offered but the two men declined saying that they would rather walk, neither of them ever having been on a horse. It took the rest of the day to get to the Baron's castle getting there just before dusk. The Baron was overjoyed to see the safe return of his daughter and they dined well in the main hall with the Baron and his family and slept that night in luxurious beds. The next morning they left one of the horses with the Baron and they set off on their way back.

They were passing through some woods just before Wintown Bridge when four bandits stepped out from the trees and stood in their path. Three of the men were holding swords and the other had an arrow aimed at Sir Foxley.

"Our lucky day," one of the men said. "A nobleman and his two servants."

Morgan and Baldwin looked at each other. "Servants!" Morgan said.

Sir Foxley stopped just in front of the men. "If you wish us to pay a toll to pass through your land I will accommodate you."

"You will accommodate us by giving us all your money. Pass that satchel down and you can be on your way."

"I need to dismount to unhook the satchel strap from under the saddle. But I'll not do it while you have an arrow pointed at me. And if you shoot me now the horse will bolt and gallop to town and you will see none of the gold."

"Gold, we are lucky today." The man motioned to the archer to drop his bow down. The archer responded by moving the bow to the side and off target. As soon as he did Sir Foxley raised his pistol and shot the archer in the head. The horse reared up and bolted and the three swordsmen scattered in panic. Morgan took the opportunity to throw his dagger taking another one of them down.

Morgan retrieved his dagger and he and Baldwin faced the remaining two bandits. "You have two choices," Morgan said. "You can go back in the woods and live, or you can stay here and die. I can drop one of you with this dagger before you even see my arm move and that would leave two of us onto one. Also, our horse rider has re-loaded his pistol and is on his way back. So what's it to be?"

The two bandits looked at each other and turned and hurried off. "That was very generous of you, Morgan."

"Generous indeed, Baldwin. Like they said, this is their lucky day but not for the other two."

Baldwin struck the archer's bow three times with his sword and then snapped it in half. Sir Foxley came back. "Good work, men," was all he said and they set off once more for the town.

* * * * *


Morgan and Baldwin collected the rest of their payment and went to rent a room at a tavern in the nearby coastal town. It had been a week since the battle at Winton Bridge and Baldwin and Morgan were starting to get bored. “Not much going on in this country now that the crooked Count is dead,” Morgan said. "The Baron said he wasn't even a proper Count."

“Maybe we should go to the dock and see if we can get a ride on a ship to Advent. Worst ways we could do a bit of bounty hunting for the Advent militia until something else comes along.”

They got to the dock and there were three ships in. “Look, the one at the end is flying the Duke of Lovat’s flag, “Morgan said. (remove space before quote marks and add space after quote marks) “Worth a look.”

They walked up to the ship and two of the men who had been with them at Winton Bridge were on their way ashore.

“What’s happening?” Baldwin asked.

“The duke’s (caps) leaving tomorrow for the Pavillion Uprising. He’s got fifty men on board and another hundred and fifty at Blouton near the border of Pavillion.”

“Pavillion Uprising, what’s that about?” Morgan said.

“The president died without a son to take over so it fell to his brothers’ sons. One of two cousins took over but the other cousin is not happy and wants to overthrow him. Families eh.”

“Sounds good,” Morgan said. “We’ll go and have a word with the duke (caps) .”

“We will all be pleased to have you two with us.”

The two men went aboard the ship and after clearing it with the duke (caps) , a seaman took them down to the duke’s (caps) cabin. “Good to see you again. I was wondering where you two were.”

“So!” Morgan said. “Were you going to leave without us?”

“I didn’t even know you were here. Nobody told me. But you can be sure that I am glad to have men of your calibre (spelling) with us.”

“So, what is the uprising about?”

“Two cousins, one country and they both want control. Now, one is no better than the other in any way but we are being hired by the one who is not in control. It is our job to defeat the other cousin’s army and appoint our cousin to the presidency.”

“So there is no good cousin and bad cousin?” Baldwin said.

“No. Just that one is paying us and the other is not.”

“So it is just about money,” Morgan said.

“As always, Morgan,” the duke (caps) said. “As always, you should know me by now.”

“What about our payment?”

“Eight gold coins each. That is a lot more than the others are getting so keep it to yourself. Four now and four when the job is done. We should be back here in no more than two to three weeks.”

“I’m in,” Morgan said.

“And me,” Baldwin said. “So are you the captain (caps) of this boat?”

“No, and it’s a ship, not a boat. The captain's (caps) in the main cabin. I just hire the ship when I need it.” The duke (caps) poured some wine into three goblets. “Let’s drink to our success.”

* * * * *


The ship arrived at Blouton two days later. The duke (caps) and his men marched twenty miles to a large residence where the rest of his troops were camped in the grounds.

“Has the man got no warriors of his own,” Morgan asked the duke (caps) .

“Only about twenty and he likes to keep them around him.”

“So his cousin has two hundred men and he has twenty. Are you sure we are on the right side?”

“Morgan, we are on the side that is paying us. When we have dealt with the other cousin’s ramshackle army our man will take control of the country. I am going to see him now to make sure there are no changes or developments. You sort yourselves into one of the spare tents. We will march out at dawn tomorrow.”

Baldwin and Morgan walked out amongst the tents. As they walked through they acknowledged some of the men (comma) all of them private warriors hired for their fighting skills by The Duke of Lovat. Some were skilled swordsmen, some were archers and a few were good at both. Some of the men were friends, some they knew only vaguely and some were strangers.

“There’s the cook’s tent,” Morgan said. “Let’s get something to eat and turn in for the night.” He looked at some of the tents in rolls on the grass. “The duke (caps) said that there were plenty of tents but he didn’t say we had to put them up ourselves.”

They were woken the following morning when it was still dark. They dressed and gathered their belonging and made their way to the cook’s tent. As soon as they left the tent men began taking it down to load onto a donkey cart. There was a mass of men around the cook’s tent. “Might give this a miss,” Baldwin said.

One of the leaders saw them and called across to them. “Baldwin, Morgan, come over here.”

The old friends shook hands. “Don’t queue up with that rabble the leader’s tent is round the back. You can sit in comfort and get served at the table.”

The men chatted about old conflicts and a short while later the duke (caps) walked in. “All you leaders gather your men together ready to move. Baldwin and Morgan, you can come up the front with me.”

The men set off and after half an hour Baldwin turned to the duke (caps) and asked. “Do you know where the enemy is, Duke?”

“Yes, and they know we are coming as well. I have it on good knowledge that they are marching straight to meet us.”

“And when will we engage?”

“Probably a couple of days. We went over the border nearly as soon as we left camp, so we are in their territory now.”

They marched until near dusk with a few little breaks and then set up the camp in a clearing in the woods.

“Can you two scout ahead later and see if there is any sign of the enemy?”

“Yes,” Baldwin said. “But we’ll grab a couple of hours rest first.”

Two in the morning they were roused by a warrior and they set off into the woods. It was only forty-five minutes later when they walked halfway down a bank and were looking across at the enemy camp. “Looks about the same size as our camp, Morgan. By the number of tents, probably about two hundred men.”

“Yeah, and they have plenty of sentries out. Let’s hope the few sentries the duke (caps) has put out is enough.”

“I’ll count the tents,” Baldwin said.

Morgan laughed. “Don’t you trust your own estimation?”

“Yes but...” Baldwin stopped mid-sentence. “I heard something.” The words had just left his mouth when some armed men started running out from behind a line of bushes. Not knowing how many were following, the two men decided to make a hasty retreat back up the bank.


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Review by Starling
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Rated: 18+ | (4.0)

Review: The Flashes, Chapter 5 by Bruce
Plot:
Group of people protecting a cove from pirates.

Scene/Setting:
Some of the cove people have gathered their important belongings and are holed up in a small cavern, blocked off by a large bolder. Pirates raid their cave area then leave. Time passes and a few of the men take mussels and other shell fish into the local town to sell. While they are there the pirates return.

Characters:
Elfwine - male, archer
Dunstan - male, old man
Osbert - male, young boy
Baldwin - male, warrior
Matilda
Erica - Osbert's sister

Suggestions:
Coming in the middle of the story, it is sometimes very difficult to figure out who is who. I didn't have this problem. I was able to figure out who the main characters were and even know a bit about them. It was a very good chapter. I plan on looking up the first four chapters.

Red = grammar mistakes
Green = Comments
Blue = suggestions

I hope I have been helpful. Any suggestions made are my own personal feelings I plan on keeping up with the story.

Chapter 5


Dunstan closed and secured the gate and the women climbed up onto a hidden ledge and went through a tight tunnel ten foot long leading to a small cavern. Elfwine had gathered up weapons and tools in a bag and he threw it up to Osbert. Osbert tied the bag to his foot and set off down the tunnel. Elfwine and Dunstan filled three more bags with goods and clothes.

Dunstan was the next up and Elfwine passed the bags to Dunstan who tied his bag and joined the others.

“Let’s go,” Elfwine said.

Baldwin was still at the gate looking out at the pirates. “Why are we hiding?“ Baldwin said. asked (or another word to designate a question) “With your archery skills you could take half of them out, and that would only leave about eight. Not impossible for the four of us.”

“Not that simple, Baldwin. They are not fools and if I didn’t get to them before they landed they would run at us, but not in a straight line. I might get them as they got close, but probably only about four of them before we were in range of their pistols.”

“Then we could weave about as well.”

“Then I would hit even less. They would be on us. A warrior, an archer, an old man and a young boy.”

“We would have a chance,” Baldwin said. “We might beat them.”

“And if we don’t, and if the women can’t get the boulder in place, and if they find the tunnel.”

“If, if, if!”

“Just get up on the ledge and go down the tunnel. There is more at stake here than your pride and ego.”

“I’m new here and I’ll do as you bid," Baldwin said. "But I’m not happy."

Elfwine followed Baldwin up to the ledge and through the tunnel, pulling their bags behind them. Matilda had taken a lamp and it lit up the sphere shaped cavern. The wine pouches and all the spare tools utensils and other items were stored in there. When they were all in the cavern they pushed a large boulder in place blocking the tunnel entrance.

It was not long before they heard loud voices and the smashing of the gate. Shouting and laughing, the pirates took anything of use to them and smashed things for the fun of it. They were there a while searching for valuables but everything of value had been taken into the cavern. They stole vegetables from the plot and any chickens they could catch. Then it went quiet.

“I think they have gone,” Dunstan said.

They rolled the boulder back, but Dunstan stood over the entrance ready with his sword in case anyone tried to get in.

“I’ll take a look,” Elfwine said.

“I’ll come with you,” Baldwin said. “There is enough hands here to move the boulder back."

Elfwine gave a nod and they set off through the tunnel. They lay on the ledge at the top for a while, looking and listening, but all was quiet.

Baldwin looked at the devastation in the cave. Clothes and other items strewn about the floor, the table broken, and smashed pottery lying amongst some spoiled leftover food. “What a mess,” he said.

Elfwine climbed down, drew his sword and Baldwin followed. They moved slowly towards the cave entrance and looked out. One boat was a good way out and the other was just leaving the beach.

“If they decide to come back off that boat we can possibly take the eight of them,” Baldwin said.

Elfwine laughed. “They won’t come back. They have what they want.”

“And what is that?" Baldwin asked.”

“Fresh food, Baldwin. And I think that now they know they can get supplies here, they might come back another time.”

"They wouldn't be able to come back if we'd have killed them all," Baldwin said.

"So now it's your turn to use that if word," Elfwine said. "He saw the second boat heading for the ship. “I’ll go and get the others.” He looked at the mess around the cave. “We have a lot of work to do.”

* * * * *


Time passed and (period and caps on 'the') the women were tending to the crops, the chickens and the geese. The birds had started to recover their numbers after the pirates had found the way through the cave and taken half of them. This small bay was inaccessible from the sea due to the treacherous rocks. The sheer cliff face also made it inaccessible from the land. The only way in was through the cave from the large bay and even that was cut off when the tide was in.

However, on this day the tide was out and Baldwin, Dunstan, Elfwine and Osbert were collecting winkles, cockles and mussels on the shore of the larger bay. When they had filled the small baskets they gathered edible seaweed in the bigger basket. They occasionally checked out to sea in case the pirates were returning and landward in case some of the Mossley townsfolk were coming to take their seafood. They would only allow them to take small amounts for their own use. They were not happy about it but at least the smaller bay was exclusively theirs. They also had to look out in case of a raid by the raiders known as The Vialians. Even though the raiders had never needed to venture past the town.

When the baskets were full the men returned to the cave and sat by the fire with the rest of the group enjoying some re-heated broth. "Your broth is excellent, Matilda, even on the second day," Baldwin said.

"No one can argue with that," Dunstan said. "I think it is even better the second day. But the tide is coming in fast and you had better get going before you get cut off."

Baldwin and Elfwine took up the produce baskets and set off for the five-mile trek to the town. When they left the cave the waves were lapping their ankles as they crossed to higher ground. Elfwine, an expert archer, also took his bow and arrows, and Baldwin took his sword. Then they each had a dagger which they kept with them at all times.

Dunstan, the elder of the group, stood watch at the cave entrance for a while before closing up the pole gate. Osbert went through to the small bay to help his sister, Erica and the other womenfolk, but their tasks were done and the eggs collected. Osbert sat on a rock with his sister as the other two women returned to their home in the cave.

“What do you think Baldwin and Elfwine will get from the market?” Erica asked. “We could do with a goat, I keep telling Baldwin, but he won’t listen.”

“It would take a lot more produce to get a goat."

"They could take some extra coins from the chest in the bolt hole," Erica said.

"Anyway if we had a goat and the pirates return they would be sure to slaughter and steal it.”

“Not if we took it with us into the bolt hole.”

“Don’t be silly,” Osbert said. “It is a struggle enough for us all to crawl through the tight tunnel. You’d never get a goat through. Anyway, one goat is not enough. We would need at least two to breed.”

“Osbert, do you think those pirates will return?”

“There is nothing here for them except food. If they need food as they are passing then they will return.”

Erica thought of the bolt hole tunnel leading off the cave to the small cavern. “I was so frightened listening to those pirates yelling and laughing as they smashed and looted our home. What if they found the tunnel and moved the boulder? We would all be killed.”

“It takes a few of us to get the bolder in front of the cavern entrance. One man cramped in the tunnel would struggle to shift it, no matter how strong he was and the gap would be enough to run a sword through. Come on, let’s get inside. We have chores to do.”

When they got to the cave Matilda had already built up the fire, giving them light and somewhere to cook a meal for when the men returned from Mossley.

* * * * *


It was a three-hour walk up through the twin peaks before they got to the town of Mossley. They walked along a foot wide plank over the ditch to the locked gate. During the hours of darkness the plank would be withdrawn, so if they remained in the town too late they would have to exit by the main gate and walk around the ditch.

"Come on, Morgan, open the gate," Baldwin shouted.

Morgan had already recognised (spelling) them and (period after 'them' and caps on 'he') he unlocked and opened the small gate. "Good to see you again, Baldwin," he said. "The mussels look good as usual. I'll get some from the market later."

"Take some now."

"Okay, but I'll pay you."

"Don't insult me," Morgan. "What's mine is yours."

"And what's mine is mine," Morgan replied and they both laughed but Elfwine did not find it funny. "I'll take a break and meet you in The Bull in about an hour," Morgan said. "Save me the mussels and I'll get them in there."

Baldwin and Elfwine set off for the market square. "We all work hard for our living," Elfwine said. "It's not right that you give it away to your friends for nothing."

"Sorry, I didn't think. But I'll pay for his mussels out of my own money."

They went to the food stall that always gave them the best deal. The stall owner, a stout and pleasant woman greeted them.

"Always good to see you two, especially with that lovely fresh food you bring me from The Flashes. But tell me, Baldwin, how is Erica? She has not been to town for weeks now."

(missing opening quote marks) We are all busy at the moment, what with the crops and that raid by the pirates, destroying our home. But what about you, where is Alfred today?"

(missing opening quote marks) He is out at our plot gathering some more vegetables for our stall. But down to business, let's see what you have got for me. (missing closing quote marks) They left the stall with Morgan's mussels, a leg of goat, a pouch of wine and some coins.

"So we still have a few coins," Elfwine said. "Let's call at the inn (caps) and have a drink with your friend Morgan."

"We all work hard for our living," Baldwin said. "It's not right that you spend it on ale."

Elfwine looked back at him and just shook his head and grinned.

They walked into the inn (caps) and up to the bar. "Flora not in today?" Baldwin said toasked the innkeeper.

"You've just missed her. She gone to meet one of the guards, I think. You'll have to carry your own jugs."

They were not there long before Morgan walked in with Flora. He turned to Flora. “These are the friends I was telling you about. And this is Flora.”

“Hello, Flora. We have met before when we first called in here," Baldwin said.

“Yes," Flora said. "And how are you Elfwine?"

"You know Elfwine too?" Morgan said.

"Yes, he's been in here a lot with an elderly man. When I was a young girl I had a bit of a crush on Elfwine." She smiled at him. "Didn't I?"

"And I on you," Elfwine said.

"Well he has a wife now," Morgan said.

"I know that. Arabella was a friend of mine. Do I detect a hint of jealousy, Morgan?"

"Don't be silly. I'll go and get some ale, as the serving wench is not working at the moment."

His friends laughed as he walked off.

"So you and Morgan are friends now?" Elfwine said.

“More than friends. Morgan lives with me.”

Morgan returned and put the jug on the table with two fresh mugs.

“Didn’t like the barrack room then, Morgan?”

“No. They wouldn't let me take Flora into the room. So because Flora was continually pestering me to move in with her, I moved into her dwelling, just over the road. It’s only small but it’s cosy.”(spelling)

"Bloody cheek," Flora said. "It was you that was pestering me."

"Which one of us do you believe, Baldwin?" Morgan said.

"Flora, of course."

Morgan only had one drink and then he had to set off back to his duty at the small gate. Flora took Morgan's mussels across to her dwelling and then went back to serving at the inn.

Baldwin and Elfwine had just started on their second jug of ale when the warning horn sounded across the town. The innkeeper took a huge sword from a cupboard and laid it on the bar.

"What is it?" Baldwin called out.

"Looks like a raid," the innkeeper said. "Probably Vialians." A man looked in and called out something to the innkeeper. The innkeeper then turned to Baldwin and Elfwine. "They are coming from seaward, so they must be pirates. That's good. Their inaccurate powder pistols are no match for our arrows, as they found out to their cost the last time they paid us a visit."

The two men grabbed their goods and ran out and across town back towards the small gate.

"Pirates would have been to the cave," Elfwine said. "The flimsy pole gate would not give our folk much time to get into the bolt hole, especially if they had not seen them in time?"

"There were no pirates in the bay when we left," Baldwin said. "So the tide must have been high when they got there and the cave would have been cut off," Baldwin said. "But there again they do have small boats."

"They would probably leave it because the waves are strong in that channel. Let's hope that they are planning to raid the cave on the way back when it will be easier to get in."

"We must get back there before them, Elfwine."

"But how do we get out of here if the pirates are at the gates?"

"It depends how many there are," Baldwin said. "Pirates are not the fittest of men. If we can clear them from the gate, we can leave our goods with Morgan and we may be able to make a run for it. They would never catch us."


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I liked the pace of this piece. It moves you quickly through a lot of action but doesn't leave you breathless in the end. I had no problem picturing everything which was happening. You got your "blackmail" idea across very nicely. Thanks for posting.

Jane

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