Greetings and salutations. Welcome back to my July Writing Challenge. Today I wanted to do something a little bit fun, so I reached into my bag of exercises and pulled out something I actually hadn’t done yet this month: the dictionary challenge.
Some of you may be familiar with this particular exercise. You open a dictionary (or in my case, use a the random word function on a dictionary website) and find yourself a collection of random words. For today I chose ten. Then you take those words and use them as a framework for a story. These words should help define character traits, setting, problems or conflict for your story. I’ve always said that boundaries breed creativity, so I like setting some for myself.
The ten words I randomly generated were: tactless, suzerain (n; a country that dominates another and makes most of it’s choices for it, though lets it retain a semblance of independence), lupine, blueprint, pucker, disrespectful, persecute, feint, rapier, performance.
Now, just a quick word of warning, I did not get to all of these words in the hour I had to write today, but I intend to. I think I might actually continue this story tomorrow, just so that I can get to them.
The story I decided on focuses on an “ambassador” to a foreign country who is really an agent sent there to squeeze any and all natural resources from the little country and funnel them back into the empire he represents. He’s a brusque, tactless man who doesn’t care much for foreign things. The proposed expansion of the town he oversees angers the local population, but there’s not much they can do because they are effectively second class citizens. The final straw comes when the diplomat decides to start chopping down a section of woods that the townsfolk consider special (i.e. dangerous, the home of something you don’t want to disturb). They decide to invite the diplomat and his cronies to a festival, draw them in to some ancient ritual, and….well I don’t know what yet. Kill them probably, or do something else horrible to them. “Convert” them, maybe.
Anyway, I got about half of the words into the story today, though I tried not to actually use any of them, just hint at them. Tomorrow I’ll try to get the second half.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy.
By E W Morrow
Word Count: 943
Albert squinted and pinched the bridge of his nose. It was only ten in the morning and already he wanted to be home in bed. His home, not the embassy, but just now he would take either. The clock on the wall ticked and clacked slowly, loudly. He could almost feel the gears grinding against one another. Or were those his teeth. It was an ornate clock, hand carved from the dark local wood, and Albert supposed it was quite beautiful, but it’s rustic charm was something he didn’t find appealing and right now it was irritating him.
“Next time I get a gift,” he groaned, “I wonder if it might not be so loud. Damned stupid thing gives me migranes.”
“I believe you would have to speak to the craftsman about that directly, sir.”
Albert opened his eyes and looked at the man seated on the opposite side of his desk. He was a small man, gaunt and gray of hair, and for a moment Albert had forgotten he was there. He’d spoken softly, almost politely, but the men behind him grunted and glared at Albert darkly. Christ, Albert thought, were they there a second ago? A whole pack of them. Albert had trouble thinking of groups of men in this country as anything other than packs. They were all of them lean and hairy, with a hungry look in their eyes, and seemed to have an understanding that went beyond simple speech. Like a pack of—Albert shook the notion away. It was probably just poor diet and adherence to, yes, backwards tradition. That was it. Nothing sinister.
“Right,” he said turning back to the matter at hand. “Might do that. Now, what can I do for you Mr…”
“Lungu,” supplied the little man. “Gregori Lungu.”
“Right, well, what do you want, Mr. Longu?” The little man paused for a moment, but decided to let the mispronunciation slide.
“I would like to inquire as to whether you had given any consideration to the proposal that was submitted to your office last week.” Gregori didn’t wait for the look of confusion on Albert’s face. Instead he produced a slip of paper and slid it across the desk. Albert picked it up and read it. The handwriting was like the man: small, neat, and slightly slanted as to suggest it’s foreign origins. Albert like his letters to stand up straight.
“Oh,” Albert said as he reached the end of the document. “Yes, now I remember. I’m sorry to say that we have taken your comments under consideration but have chosen to go ahead as planned.”
“But sir,” the Lungu said, cutting off the muttering foreign talk from the pack of men behind him, “you must realize that the woods to the north are important to my people.”
“What, sacred or something?” Albert asked.
“You could say that,” admitted the little man. “The people do not worship them, as such. They merely feel that they should be…preserved. Protected. Undisturbed.”
“Sounds like a bunch of superstitious nonsense to me,” Albert said.
“But surely it would be easier to expand the town south, along the river, as opposed to north through the hills.” Albert stood and shook his head.
“Afraid we can’t do that Mr. Longu.” Again, Gregori ignored the mistake. Albert walked over to a cabinet and pulled out a roll of parchment. He laid it out on his desk, revealing it to be a map of the town and surrounding countryside. It had on it many buildings and roads that did not yet exist. It was a map of the future. “Maybe you folk are used to doing things the easy way, but the Empire didn’t get as powerful as it is by doing things that were easy.” He pointed to the map with a pudgy finger. “We intend to press north. Fresh timber, see, that’s what we need. Might even find a few mineral veins in the hills, who knows. But the fact is that we need wood. It’s what your country’s good for.”
There was a fresh round of muttering. Again, it was all foreign to Albert, and he wondered if the men could even speak his language. Probably not, he thought, though they certainly seem to understand it. Gregori hushed them and continued with strained patience.
“The people believe that there are more important things than material wealth to be considered.”
“Nothing’s more important that wealth,” Albert said. “It’s what we’re here for. And remember, what’s good for the empire is good for it’s allies.”
“Allies?” asked Gregori.
“Of course,” Albert said. He thumped the smaller man on the shoulder. “Best damned thing your people ever did. Mighty big of you after the war, too.” He sat back in his chair, the wood squeaking under his weight. Gregori rose to leave. One of the pack stepped forward and whispered something into his ear.
“Perhaps you would be willing to hold off on this expansion until after the festival,” Gregori said slowly.
“What?” Albert asked. “What festival? When?”
“The festival of the equinox,” Gregori said “It is at this week’s end. Have you not noticed the preparations around town.”
“Oh, yes. Yes, of course,” Albert said. “Well, I don’t see why not. Give the men a little time off, eh?”
“Excellent,” Gregori smiled. “You shall be our guest of honor.” The men left silently. The small man’s smile seemed to linger a while after he’d gone. Albert shrugged it off. He poured himself a double measure of brandy from the bottle he kept in the bottom drawer of his desk and drank it, trying to drown out the sound of the ticking clock.