June Contest Winning Submission
The following story was the winning submission of our June 2021 First Chapter contest, written by Genesis Conrad. We loved their voice and the story was very well-written. Great job, Genesis!
If you’re interested in submitting your work to Scribbler’s contests, take a look at our contest page for the next opportunity to submit.
We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell.Oscar Wilde
After the rains of May, and after all the world slowly began to stir from its winter slumber, the flowers started to bud and blossom, promising a new chapter of another year. The Earth was heavy with the heat of June, and somewhere in the French countryside, a woman was heavy with her only child. Waddling around her small townhome, anxiously nesting and preparing her body for birth, the woman had no idea what to expect of motherhood or of birth itself. The women of the village offered no peace of mind or advice to the woman, they simply laughed and claimed every good woman knew what to do as soon as the baby was in her arms. Yet, for Anne Lacre, it was not as simple as that. Miss Lacre had lost three children before her husband left her, claiming he had no desire to be with an infertile wife, and he desperately wanted a son to pass on his heritage. He was gone for three months before Miss Lacre realized she was pregnant again, and she sent letter after letter trying to find him. Soon she accepted he was gone for good, and well into her second trimester knew she would have the baby, and have it alone.
With no support or family to lean on, Miss Lacre worked two jobs to buy every necessity for the baby and for herself. The midwife she saw allowed her to slowly pay off every medical expense overtime, and with that she was able to afford her small townhome. She was barely getting by, but she was getting there.
One thing that was for certain was the baby she carried was incredibly strong. The movements in her womb and how she was incredibly sick so often made Miss Lacre wonder if this baby somehow stole all the power from her three previous miscarriages. She never heard any of the women in the village talk about how fetuses moved when they were expecting, but surely it wasn’t like this. Miss Lacre also noticed many odd creatures showed up far more often at her door now that she was pregnant. Peculiar looking birds and frogs hopped around the sidewalk and rooftop, and in the back garden where the flora meets the trees, Miss Lacre saw an enormous red fox, which was very peculiar to see such a friendly fox in this part of France. What was stranger still was the other large shadows she saw in the trees. They never bothered her, so she was not too intimidated, however they unnerved her. She continuously brushed it off as if her pregnancy played tricks on her mind, yet she was unsure.
This particular June day, the lilacs were in full bloom, and the wind brought in the sweet smell through the windows as Miss Lacre finished packing her hospital bag. She fretted over how she could care for an infant and work, not being able to afford a house maid, just as she couldn’t afford to quit one of her jobs. As her anxiety grew, the wind picked up outside, brushing her hair off her face, and Miss Lacre decided to walk away from the nursery if she couldn’t control her nerves. Pouring herself a cup of tea, she walked onto her patio to watch the clouds roll in.
In the woods, loud rustling and growling stirred the undergrowth as a large red fox threaded through his normal path. The air was electric with a storm coming and the faint lines between worlds slowly growing thinner. The fox’s hackles were beginning to stand on end as a faint rolling echoed in his ears. He couldn’t decipher it as thunder, or a grand festival somewhere under his paws. He picked up the pace to get to his destination.
Almost like a summoning, the fox had been beckoned by some force to this tired woman’s house everyday for the past nine months. He watched as her belly grew larger and the bags under her eyes got darker. It wasn’t until one day a few weeks ago, during his routine of sitting in the lilac bush watching the woman wander her home, did he understand why he was there.
As the fox sat in silence, he felt a peculiar presence that made him feel both comforted and uncomfortable. An odd combination of emotions, and so paradoxically felt, the fox knew immediately it was a peculiar creature. A small rustle and squeak above his head in the trees, and a bigger thump as some miniscule specimen fell from the branches. Resembling a large sort of stoat, the creature stood on its shaggy legs, standing almost a foot tall. Small pointed ears poked from an oval head, that was a muddy brown color, and almond shaped eyes shined opal at Ruse. The rest of its body was built in a muscular way, but underdeveloped. A subspecies of hobgoblin, or a sort of hybrid, was the only creature known to cause either great peace or disturbance in humans and animals. However, to those of the Realm, they were more susceptible to feeling confused in emotion than anything else.
“What is it, rodent? You are not welcome in my territory,” Ruse snapped. The hobgoblin sneered at the insult.
“Out with it this instant! Before I eat you for lunch.”
“Bestest ‘eave Squal on da back gravel for mam, en, eh?” The hobgoblin spoke in broken english with a watery accent. Squal, now announced, gave Ruse power of name, and with that Ruse again demanded to know the reason for the beast’s presence. Jutting his head to the house where of the swollen woman, he said, “Mam is carryin’ da parasite. Da end of Squal, an’ home of Squal. Mam brings da lore back ta da worl’, eh?”
Ruse stared at Squal with hungry eyes. If what he said was true, then it wouldn’t be long until the Realm sensed the return of her. Ruse growled and lurched toward the goblin. Backing away with grunts and pants, Squal was backed up to a tree in an instant, where Ruse batted him down with a large white paw.
Stooping to the creatures face, Ruse bared his mouth of large and sharp teeth, spitting in the hobgoblins face. “If you are lying, I will hunt you until I can eat your tongue,” Ruse snarled.
“Squal falls afta da mam! Mam created Squal, Squal is servant to mam! To lore!”
Ruse growled and pushed harder down on his chest. “Speak of this to no one.”
With that, the fox lifted his fox and allowed the weasel to sprint away. Blinking back to the present, he sensed the change in the world. The wind blew harsh, blowing open the windows to the house, where Ruse heard a sharp cry of shock. A thunderclap shook the world as the sky was illuminated by lighting, rain beginning to pour all around him. Another cry of pain, and he knew- the time had come. The wind blew sharp once more, whispering incoherent nonsense. Ruse’s hackles raised once again. The Realm would soon discover the return of their rival.
Not quite below or above, but in some peculiar in between place, the Fae realm was alight with music, wine and celebration. Dancing and mischievous endeavors were occuring all throughout the realm, where poor mortals caught in the crosshairs would be lured to their end- or a splendored night. The summer Solstice was the resolve of the year, much like mortals have their New Years, summer meant beginnings and endings. Spring brought abundance and new life, yet it was Summer that caused it all to flourish.
There was a strong storm in the world above the Realm, strong enough that the wind could be heard all throughout the kingdom. Sentries of the kingdom listened intently as it seemed there was a peculiar change in the way the wind blew. One of the sentries ordered absolute silence on the guard, carefully listening to what the wind was describing. The wind was the Realms greatest weapon and spy. If it shrieked this loud, something must be happening.
Unable to transcribe the jumbled message, the sentry granted the force access to the castle. The wind went straight through the Kingdom to deliver its message to its master. The castle doors opened, welcoming their friend, and the wind swirled through the walls into the court, slicing through the jubilee music and shrieking of the party-goers. It carried its message to the Queen, who upon hearing its voice silenced the deafening noise of the carnival simply by standing. She tilted her head towards the surface, listening intently to the airy messenger. A malicious grin broke apart on her face, and she flicked her fingers. The silver talons she wore on her fingertips clicked loudly, dismissing every carcass in the room. When every last Fae had left her presence, she rose to her feet with haste, floating down the steps of the Throne. She bowed to the wind and dismissed it with a wave of her hand. Turning on her heel, the Queen glided to a small door off to the left hand side of the court, flying down the halls until she came to a heavy red door. It was engraved with filigree and small insects, with a brass door knob ornately decorated. No other door looked quite like this one, however the Queen’s chambers were well decorated. This door belonged to someone important.
The hinges gave way under the Queen’s touch, leading to a darkly lit room, only a few candles illuminating the tapestries on the chamber walls. A king size bed rested in the corner of the room, with two bodies laying in its center, tangled limb to limb.
The Queen never understood human emotion or lustful needs, and most nights it irked her to find women sharing the bed with her heir.
Tonight was no different.
“Awaken, fool! She has returned,” the Queen commanded, her voice like thick silk, heavy and cold. The room quaked with the authority in her voice. The whore in the bed jolted awake and began to tremble at the sight of the Faery in front of her. The Queen was of unearthly beauty, even in the realm of unearthly beings. Long black hair cascaded down to the Queens ankles, her porcelain face without blemishes, red lips full and plump, and olive shaped eyes so deep and dark they seemed violet. Violet, and filled with violence as she stared into the eyes of the naked girl.
The young mortal turned to her casual affair, gently tapping his shoulder. “Um, you told me you weren’t seeing anyone? Is this your, I dunno, mom or something?” The man sleeping next to her snapped awaked. She had no idea who she was speaking of, or how she was to speak in the presence of her master, and there was going to be hell to pay if she continued to speak. The young Fae rolled over in the bed, away from her, and waved his hand dismissively. “How insolent. Do not insult me in front of my Majesty. Find your way out, whore.” The girl’s eyes widened in disbelief. “If I’m just a whore to you then you need to pay me, first!”
The Queen had heard enough. With two brisk steps she had the girl’s fragile neck in her taloned grasp, squeezing them into her jaw. “If you have any sense of survival, mortal, you will leave at once and never return to my territory.” The Queen threw the terrified girl across the room to the door, where upon landing vanished, being transported back to the Upperworld by Her Majesty’s will.
Turning on her heel, the Queen stared down at her son in disgust. “You must find other ways of entertainment, it’s revolting to find you this way in a time like this,” she spat. The man rolled his eyes, scooting to the edge of the bed. He was built, also slender and elegant like his Majesty, but with rippling muscles that looked like they were painted on. Shrugging and brushing his hair out his eyes, he simply asked, “Why create an unnecessary disturbance? I was enjoying myself,” he purred. “The question is, why do you find yourself here in my room and not enjoying the party?”
“Because,” the Queen drew. “She has returned.”
“She who, Majesty? There are thousands of she’s in my life, be specific.”
“Do not speak to me like your mortal sluts,” she retorded, irritation making her lips white. “Your sleeping beauty has awoken, birthed a mere hour ago, and there have already been disturbances in the kingdom and on the surface. Did you think she would never be alive again, Kieran?”
The heir paled. He stood slowly, narrowing his eyes at his creator. “You mean to tell me she has come back from the dead?”
“Aye, the Wind has just arrived to bring the news.”
Kieran let out a long breath and began to dress himself, muttering things as he collected every small and transportable weapon into his satchel. “The Wind came to tell us an hour ago the end of day was born and you didn’t think to tell me immediately?” The Queen stood, watching his anxiety grow as she grew more entertained.
“My apologies, child, if I recall correctly you said you were enjoying yourself.”
Kieran growled. “No whore in my bed is worth wasting time to deliver this news, Majesty.”
“And what were you planning to do? Kill her?”
“Her creations can kill our kind, Majesty. She is a god among us.”
The Queen laughed, a rumbling and evil cackle. “She is an infant! The last threat she had to us was thousands of years ago, in her prime, at the height of her power. There is no god to necromance her imagination, and we are her creations, one of the only ones left. You overestimate her. She was always weak.”
“Then why are you afraid?” Kieran stared the Queen in the eye. “You came in here, kicked out my wench, and now you stand before me speaking ill. She made us, she can take us out, her god dead or alive. I will kill her before she gets the chance.”
“I am not afraid,” speaking softly, her voice blended in with the crackling candles. “I simply remembered you loved her once.” Kieran’s breath escaped him, and he blanched for a sliver of a second before securing the satchel over his body. He grabbed a vial off the cluttered oak desk and compelled it to fill with a deep cherry liquid.
“Aye, once,” he replied, pocketing the poison. “And then she tried to murder me, before her decision to stupidly mourn. I won’t take any more chances on protecting you, my Queen.” He took three steps to clear the space between him and the Queen, tucking her hair behind her ear. He kissed her hands, and got down on his knees. “I love no one but you, Majesty, no matter how many I bed.” The Queen smiled, and ripped her hands from his.
“Then you will stay here, and you won’t kill her. Not until I say. I have grown stronger, and more patient. I will wait the years until she fully awakens from her hibernation. Then, you may kiss her again- with death.”
The Queen turned on her heel and strode out of the room, letting the door slam on its own.
Kieran ripped the satchel off his shoulder and threw it across the room. He paced back and forth once again, before grabbing a bookshelf and hurling it to the ground, a deep cry of rage tearing from his throat. He threw his fists against the wall until they bled, before slowly collapsing to the floor.
Breathing uneasy, he closed his eyes. Why? Why now? Why would she come back to this world? Her kind hasn’t been seen for centuries, what is the purpose for her return now? It made no sense. Even her death was inexplicable. Her actions were inexplicable.
She was unforgivable. Kieran still held on to the pain. Dropping his head into his hands, Kieran promised himself. This time would be different.
All throughout the Realm and Earth, all sorts of odd creatures rose from their places of hiding. Every cryptid, monster, creature of fairy tale and nightmare, crept out of the rotted woodwork. Their eyes glowed for the first time in a millennia, and they felt the power gifted to them returned. They found themselves completely renewed and stronger than they felt in their prime. It was baffling, that after all this time, their goddess had returned.
It was a heavy june night, and all throughout the lands and oceans, the thunder hid the howls of monsters.
Victoria Scott started Scribbler in 2017 after traditionally publishing an impressive number of books with companies like HarperCollins Harlequin Scholastic and Macmillan. Victoria is an Uber-hailing city girl who is passionate about writing and helping other writers find their voice.