Cycle 11 Stories!

Posted by Kat 09/15/2020 1 Comment(s)

Ready, Set, Write!!

 

We are ready for the next batch of Inanna’s Game stories! What have you created with this cycle's inspirations?

 

This cycle’s stories should be utilizing the inspiration that was posted yesterday. Once you have written your tale and corrected it to make it as readable as possible, please post it here as a reply to this post, so that others can read your work. Make sure to put the snippet, character, and scenario numbers that you used in the top part of the post!

 

Two days before the next cycle starts, comments and voting for the best story will be cut off at EOD Central. The following day, a winner will be announced.

1 Comment(s)

Paul C. Middleton:
09/20/2020, 10:37:50 AM, http://Paulcmiddleton.com
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Snippet 3 Scenario 1 Character 1

The Turkey Revolt

Cassowary in a Strange Land

Conrad, the Cassowary, was in a bad mood. He had been in a wooden box, with an orange plastic dish full of water for days now. It had taken a few pecks for him to realize there was not a delicious mango under the water, and that made him crankier. Sometimes some food had been dropped into the box, but it had tasted odd. With nothing else to do, Conrad had eaten it anyway.

The jostling of his box had gotten worse in the past day. In the past hour, it had become worrying to the large bird. Crouching down, he tried to get comfortable. It was impossible.

Then the box seemed to jump, and Conrad found himself floating in the air for a moment. The box itself was turning around him. Then he could feel himself falling. The Cassowary brought his legs up tight to his body, lowered his neck down against his body. There was a crunching sound as the box landed on a corner.

Conrad found the wooden walls turning about him. Then he was being pushed and spun around by those walls. As holes appeared, a glowing light painted those wooden barriers with the soft colors of the rainbow. Peace briefly clung to Conrad, lasting after the spinning box let in the bright sunshine. More crunching and splintering happened as the spinning slowed down. The Cassowary found himself forced, surprisingly gently, out of the box as one of the walls failed. The transition to real-life was jarring, leaving the Cassowary with a confusing desire to return to that moment of beauty.

Conrad’s body rolled once before his claws managed to dig into the ground. The air smelt funny, and there was a rumbling in the distance, moving further away. The strangeness of everything made his instincts kick in. The Cassowary cautiously rose on his legs, his head turning to look around. As the dirty, almost burning smell disappeared, there were no familiar odors around him.

None of the plants looked familiar, but Conrad saw trees with deep underbrush. Rising up, he sprinted for them. He did not stop running until he could not see cleared land behind him.

<<<>>>

It had taken Conrad several days before he had found food. Several trees dropped fruits he could eat, and berries grew on bushes. All of them tasted strange, but they satisfied his hunger. The Cassowary was very nervous in this unfamiliar landscape. It was during this time that he spotted something creeping up beside him.

It was a wild dog and smelled a potential meal in Conrad. While it knew such prey were hard to catch, the canine had succeeded in hunting them before. As the bird turned to face it, the dog burst from the bushes concealing it.

Conrad saw the predator charge clear of some bushes. He was not afraid. Animals like this had attacked it before. Leaping over the rush, the Cassowary kicked down, its long talons ripping into flesh. The beast stumbled forward, and Conrad landed on the ground, then pivoted to face where he could still hear the dog thrashing against the undergrowth.

Stalking forward, Conrad kicked the predator with his talons until it stopped moving. Satisfaction and a kind of joy built up in the large, flightless bird. There were still some things that he could do, including defending himself.

A movement low in the bushes in front of him attracted Conrad’s attention. Stalking forward, perhaps a bit full of himself, he investigated. Pushing through, he was met with a strange sound near his feet.

“Gobble, gobble, gobble.”

Looking down, he spotted an unfamiliar bird. It was obviously brooding over a nest. Conrad respected that, but he was surprised to hear a hen’s sigh of relief. It caused him to make a double-take.

“Thank you for sparing my eggs,” the bird said. Conrad was now confident the nesting bird was a hen, and that confused him. It was a tom’s job to brood the eggs and defend the chicks. That was what instinct told him.

The tom must be off finding food before he returned to do his job, Conrad thought. Some birds mated for life, after all. “I’m glad too. A bird’s young are its treasures. I wouldn’t want to interfere with your and your mate’s care for the young.” There was a look of shock on the strange avian’s face, possibly because such a large creature gave a damn.

Conrad went to walk away, then paused as he heard another “gobble, gobble, gobble.” Turning, he could see the bird was confused. She asked, “What do you mean, my mate and I?”

Thinking that her mate must have been killed, Conrad stopped. Perhaps this bird could be helpful to him. He had no chicks and had not heard or encountered a hen cassowary. Maybe he could help this strange hen with her young.

“A tom looks after the eggs and young. That is how it is among my kind, at least.”

A bitter laugh came from the turkey on her nest. “As soon as a male turkey is sure a hen will have his chick, he moves on to the next.”

Conrad was shocked. In his experience, women were drained after laying their eggs. That the men of these ‘turkey’ avians would so cavalierly abandon their women and young like that appalled him.

Without thinking too deeply about it, Conrad simply offered, “I’d be happy to help you protect your nest and the chicks that hatch. My name is Conrad.”

The turkey first looked up at the enormous bird in front of her, then out beyond him to the predator who had earlier attacked him. With a little trepidation and a lot of respect, the hen answered, “Why thank you, kind sir. My name is Phoebe. I am grateful you would offer to do this.”

Conrad found something almost hypnotic about this strange hen’s voice.

<<<>>

Things went well for the pair over the next six months. Phoebe was only too glad to have the extra watch to protect her nest, and when the eggs hatched, her chicks. By fall, there was a healthy new addition of ten birds to the gathering flock.

The boys split and formed a small flock with those from other congregations. Phoebe and her daughters met up with some of her friends and their surviving nestling. Together, the group had numbers of around a hundred. Conrad was a little nervous around so many others. It only took a request from Phoebe that he stay around, with perhaps a little tail flutter, for him to agree.

It was some time in early October that one of the males Conrad had helped raise found the small flock. The youngster was called Mark and one of the Cassowary’s favorites among the boys. He could see the value in the larger bird’s point when it came to responsibilities, unlike most other toms. The women were shocked to see a male approaching them at this time of year, and some parts of the flock scattered.

Conrad could smell the blood and injury in the young bird. That made him angry.

As the larger bird picked the wound clean, removing a dozen small, hard, shiny orange balls from his protégé, he asked, “What happened, lad?”

“Big predators, with long sticks that sound like thunder without the flash. They got George, sir!”

This made Conrad’s blood boil. “Where?”

Pointing with the wing on his uninjured side, Mark gave Conrad a direction. The Cassowary was off at a run as soon as he was told it had taken most of a day for the injured bird to find them.

Conrad was sure he was nearing the right place. Initially, he had not been sure, but he heard a sound that could only be what Mark had described. Like thunder, but not. Conrad turned slightly and headed for the sound.
He saw something with dark legs and a fluttering bright orange layer over a dark mottled coat. It was carrying a strange, long stick.

With an angry squark, Conrad charged. The figure turned and tried to raise the stick. Conrad jumped. Propelled up and forward, he raked his claws up against the belly of the identified predator. It fell onto its back, screaming, to the ground. Conrad kicked the figure several times as it shrieked in agony. Then booming sounds started sounding around him.

Seeing several more similar beings, with those long sticks raised, Conrad kicked once more, for satisfaction, before turning and running away.
He felt a couple of objects scattering against his feathers as he turned, but none of them hit hard enough to hurt.

Conrad needed more information. These were far larger animals than any he had encountered before that hunted in groups.

The Turkey Army

That winter was busy for Conrad, Mark, and Phoebe. Both Mark and Phoebe’s flocks had heard Conrad’s call after examining the shape and abilities of birds within both communities. Conrad had inspired them with a tale from his own people.

There was a legend cassowaries had heard from their cousins, the emus, about a conflict with similar predators generations ago. The emus had fought them until they gave up. They had done this not as individuals, or in large flocks, but small groups.

But the emus had never deliberately attacked either.

Turkeys were not as large, nor as fast as either emus or cassowaries. That was a problem, the big bird knew. But they could fly, not just jump. Their spurs were a significant weapon, as Mark and twenty males proved after training to swing their legs to strike with them.

This small flock took out a small pack of three wild canines without a loss, working together to harass and strike. Conrad had wanted to help them, but there was no room in the chaotic melee for him to do so until the animals were all disabled.

Once they had the proof of concept, the birds scattered to bring the dispersed flocks. Their first few meetings were small, but they showed Phoebe had an unexpected talent. When she talked, others would listen. At first, it was because she had managed to raise her entire clutch, a rare feat.

As they listened, they found themselves entranced, almost compelled, to listen to her words. To the hens, she gave one speech.

“Conrad has shown me a new way for us. If our toms do not act against the two-legs with those hideous boomsticks or protect us from other predators, we shall not see them. We shall not give them what they want unless they give us what we need.”

To the toms, she gave an ultimatum. The timing was important here. Phoebe waited until some of Mark’s growing flight of training turkeys had taken out a predator. With fresh blood on their beaks or spurs, a flock of hens surrounded them in the background.

“If you want to mate, you must fight,” was her simple demand. The youngest and oldest birds listened to her. But those who were in their prime and most confident in their plumage scorned her. They believed that their looks alone would guarantee them mates.

Winter turned into spring. A few turkeys fell to long sticks that seemed to be flung from a great distance. This was not the time for their fight yet, but an old tom knew the predators who used these were few. He called himself Murphy.

“First come the stick throwers. Then come the boomsticks,” The scarred old tom had warned Mark. Murphy and some of his friends had joined the effort. While they could not train as hard, they had managed to gather a flock of toms like had never been seen before.

When Phoebe had finished her speech, the mixed community behind her had been the perfect counterpoint for many toms. The flock of undecided birds was divided by a debate that grew in volume, which caused the crowd to split. A group of the beautiful toms numbering a third of the gathered male listeners called out against the proposal. Some of the nearby gathered hens agreed with them. These traditionalists interposed themselves between those who wanted to fight against the spring and fall predator attacks and those who did not.

Rather than risk conflict with other turkeys, George, Mark, and Phoebe took their followers and left the forest edge to these birds for now.

<<<>>>

George had been right. The boomsticks soon followed the others, and it was them that took the most significant toll in turkey lives. However, this time the Turkeys were prepared. Even those who refused the call had their place in the plan.

Conrad wanted to join in. He still wanted revenge for the death of George. Phoebe convinced him to hang back for the first part of the operation. The mocking hens drove the beautiful toms and the hens that clung to them deeper into the forest.

These traditionalists were driven to clearings surrounded by shrubs and undergrowth that could hide larger groups of the trained and prepared toms. Some mature hens, who had lost chicks barely grown to adulthood, waited in the trees despite how unnatural it felt.

In the pre-dawn light, they saw one of the two-legged predators set up a strange contraption, like a box. A few of the groups of trained toms moved into place around these places. Later, others like the first started filtering into the woods, taking positions near trees.

Conrad could not help himself. He also crept forward, although he was on the far side of the clearing from the predators and their boomsticks.

As dawn became day, the traditionalist toms started to court their hens. Those two-legs who had crept forward moved closer to the unusually large flock in the clearing. Several booms sounded in a ragged sequence as shots were taken. A scattering of toms and a single hen fell.

The woods around the two-legs exploded with hundred of turkeys falling upon them. Flights of twenty descended on the boomstick wielders. Beaks poked eyes and nose. More gunfire sounded as the unnaturally large flock fell upon the handful of these predators. Spurs stabbed into necks and hands.

As most of them went down, Conrad charged forward. Kicking the two-legs that had fallen, Conrad heard booms from further back. As he closed, he felt a spattering of strikes to his chest, and one of the two legs was fleeing, abandoning the boomstick it had carried. Turkeys chased it, but a more threatening clicking sound drew his attention.

Turning to the noise, the Cassowary saw a blood-covered two legs moving his boomstick. Charging forward, Conrad started raking claws across the body. It shrieked, but Conrad continued until there was silence.

A silence fell over the woodlands. Conrad found himself looking for more two legs, but there were none in sight. The flock gathered around him, and Phoebe flew up onto his back.

A cheer rose among the turkeys, celebrating what they could only see as a victory.

<<<>>>

Leaders had come forward form other groups of Mark’s training project. Even without Conrad, most of them had succeeded in driving off the small packs of two-legs.

There were still the traditionalists, but those who followed Phoebe, Mark, Murphy, and Conrad’s ideas didn’t really care anymore. They had moved into deeper woods, and no two-legs with boomsticks had followed. The flocks had scattered into smaller groups, and many young males were mating for the first time.

Predators quickly learned to be wary of groups of turkeys.

Epilogue: The Human Reaction

The Governor of Florida was furious. He had three groups of hunters on his back over the situation around Tate’s Hell. There were twelve dead hunters and many more injured over the first two days of the hunt before the game wardens suspended hunting there.

He wanted a firm response. The Parks service and game wardens had told him they did not have the people spare to investigate. The state police had informed him animals killing humans was outside their jurisdiction. The local sheriff told him it was a Parks service or game warden's responsibility and then joked about how the Governor could call up the National Guard.

That was why Major General Kennett stood in front of him. He had a folder in his hand and was paying close attention to his boss.

“I need this problem dealt with, General.”

“Then you need to ask the scientists. Dead birds were recovered by the game wardens and tested. The scientists could find nothing wrong with them. No toxins or illnesses that explained the change in behavior.”

“Damn it, the military is supposed to find solutions to…”

“Situations like this? I am not sure I agree, Sir. If it was a rogue militia or eco-terrorist group killing the hunters, I would have no problems following your orders here. I have seen a couple of these bodies, however. There is no indication that humans were involved at all.”

“Surely, your men would have no problem with this, though?”

The Major-General locked eyes with his elected leader, then sighed and handed over a folder. “I had Major Mallard from Intelligence look for any similar situations in the past. He wrote a full report, including suggestions as to how we respond. He even found a close analog to our situation. There was a ‘campaign’ in Australia between the World Wars called The Great Emu War. It is the only conflict the Aussies have been involved in, that we were not, which they regard as a total failure.”

The Governor took the folder with a sour expression, then shook his head in apology to his adjutant general. With a wave of his hand, he invited the man to take a seat. Kennett followed the instruction but kept a respectful seated attention as the Governor read the forty pages in the document.

The Emu War in Australia had been a disaster. In part because the military had gone off half-cocked, not knowing anything about how emus behaved. Major Mallard had included a costed proposal on gaining at least some of the data the National Guard would need to be successful. It will take a budget of at least two million dollars to gather any of the information the military would need to be successful.

Soldiers simply were not trained to deal with wildlife. An addendum to the initial report included yearly training casualty figures due to animal attacks. It was not zero, which surprised the Governor.

There was silence for a time after he finished reading the report. The summary could be boiled down to five points. First, the ‘Great Emu War’ had been a political disaster. Second, the risk of friendly fire was considerable from the reported behavior of the turkeys. Third, it would not be a zero-casualty operation. Fourth, there were serious legal questions about deploying the National Guard to suppress wildlife. And finally, that both the Governor and the National Guard risked immense reputational damage attempting this action.

“So, what do you suggest we do?” the Governor asked.

“Nothing aggressive. Send in the scientists, so you are seen to be doing something. Ban hunting in the area until we know more. Let the media spin this however they like. In the end, this is not our problem. It is the hunters and their family’s problem.”

The Governor looked out the window pensively. Then, slowly, he nodded his head. Maintaining his position was more important than the lives of a few hunters who let their prey kill them.

In the woods, turkeys on both sides of the battle began to prepare. Tate’s Hell was about to get hotter!

Hope you enjoy. I am trying to finish Hunter's Apprentice this cycle, but we will see. If I finish another chapter or two by the deadline, I may post it here, but it will be a Do Not Vote option. I will not be using any of the writing prompts in it.

If you like this story enough to think it worthy of your vote, go ahead. It has three prompts used, as required.

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