The 66-Word Story Challenge - with a twist
In March 2007 the 66-Word Story Challenge was revived on The Lost World BBS.
Now the whys and wherefores:
The 69-Word Story Challenge
That said, Zakiyah and DNash decided to have a bit of fun with some impromptu 69-word round-robins. The results, and DNash's individual challenge responses, are below.
Ned looked at her in mild confusion. "Is that good?"
Finn grinned and nodded. "Yeah. It's real good."
"What is?" asked Veronica.
"This smutty story Malone wrote. Wanna see?" She held out the pages.
Veronica looked at Ned, her eyes wide with shock and amusement.
The blond man flushed deeply. He shrugged, embarrassed yet proud. "It's not important what she reads as long as she's reading, right?"
Ned blushed even more, and then his eyes widened in horror as he realized what Veronica was asking. What she was implying. "Veronica, no! I never would!" he whispered fiercely.
"You better not have!" Veronica's reply was equally intense, but not as quiet.
Finn's keen ears heard her friends' words despite their efforts. Curious now, she looked up from her purloined journal. "He better not have what?"
"Nothing, Finn." Veronica smiled too brightly and grabbed for the book.
Finn was too quick and snatched it out of her reach. She ducked behind the dining table. "If it's nothing, why d'you want it so bad?"
"You said I could read it. I wanted to take you up on it." Keeping her voice casual, Veronica stalked her like prey.
"Yeah?" Finn smiled slyly. "Why don't I believe you?"
"Suspicious much?" Veronica snapped sarcastically.
"Nope, just have a healthy paranoia. And I wanna know what you're so worried about." Finn dodged a grab by Malone and kept just out of range of the two agitated blonds. "It's gotta be good to get you so riled up."
With all her attention elsewhere, Finn never noticed Marguerite until the brunette snatched the journal out of her hand. "What's this, hmm?"
"That's mine!" Ned reached for his journal.
Marguerite maneuvered out of range, flipping pages. "Yours?" she asked, although the answer was obvious. It was written in his hand. "Taking a turn at sensational fiction, I see."
He tried to turn her words around on her. "You think it's sensational? I'm flattered."
Marguerite ignored him. Smiling wickedly, she pointed to a passage. "Did you learn this on your solo adventures?"
"My mistake!" Marguerite corrected slyly. "Not solo, apparently." She flipped a few pages, skimming avidly. "No, not solo at all. Rather a lot of company, in fact."
"Ned!" Veronica gasped.
"That's not true!" Ned blustered, beet red with mortification and fury. "I never!"
"It says here you did, that you and a beautiful woman warrior saved her whole tribe." Marguerite smirked at the look on their faces. "Not true?"
"May I?" Veronica held out a hand. Marguerite placidly handed over the journal, open to the page under consideration. Veronica skimmed it swiftly, blue eyes widening.
"It's good, ain't it?" said Finn enthusiastically. "Bad guys, battles, a heroic rescue, and seriously hot sex. What more d'you want in a story?"
"The question remains-" Veronica looked at Ned intently. "-how much is fact and how much is fiction?"
Challenger looked up at the ceiling beams, startled by sneezes coming from an unexpected direction. "Good heavens, Veronica! What are you doing?"
"Uh " Veronica's face twitched spasmodically, and one hand flew to cover her face. "Just housecleaning, Challenger," she muttered.
Before the skeptical scientist could voice any further questions, a high young voice rang through the Treehouse.
"V! I found him!"
"Found him?" Challenger echoed. "Found whom?"
"Say what?" asked Finn, coming into view. Her hands were cupped together as if she carried something gently between them.
"I said, 'Found whom?'" repeated Challenger. "And what do you have there?" He eyed her hands curiously.
"Not what," she corrected. "Whom."
"I'll take him, thanks," said Veronica, descending in a graceful leap and brushing thatching from her hair.
Challenger grew suspicious. "Just what are you two up to?"
"Who, us?" Finn's face radiated innocence.
"Yes." Challenger's scowl deepened as he saw Finn try to hide what she held. "Just 'whom' do you have there?"
"Ooo, busted " Finn muttered, then reluctantly brought her hands forward.
A large toad blinked wistful eyes at the scientist.
"I didn't mean to let Roxton out, honest!"
"Finn, they must stay isolated until I can find a cure. And if Roxton's out where's Marguerite?"
"Sorry, Challenger." Veronica looked contrite. She took the toad and they trooped downstairs to the lab.
"We were trying to get them back for you," put in Finn, as the other woman put Roxton back in his aquarium.
"Them?!" He looked around frantically. "So she did get out, too?" He peered under the table, behind stacks of beakers, on top of the bookshelves. "Damn and blast! Where is Marguerite?"
"We dunno," Finn confessed. "Roxton knocked the lid off of her cage, and she flew out like a bat out of hell." She winced a bit at her own pun.
"She wouldn't have gone far," Veronica said hopefully.
"Oh, no." Challenger pointed one shaking finger at the reticulated python cage, which was also open. The snake within had a noticeable bulge in its middle. Had snake Malone devoured Marguerite?
"What's wrong?" Finn asked.
Challenger pointed to the snake's cage and the telltale bulge in the reptilian's belly. The great scientist was speechless.
Finn's eyes widened in horror. "You don't think he-?"
"He wouldn't," protested Veronica. She peered desperately around the lab for Marguerite. "He couldn't!"
Challenger spoke at last. "He's a python. He could and very well might."
"Okay," said Finn. "But did he or didn't he?"
"He didn't," Veronica stated confidently. "Even as a snake, he wouldn't do it."
Challenger relaxed. "Of course he wouldn't have."
"How can you be so sure?" Finn wanted to know.
"Because even in his changed state, Roxton's first act of freedom was to rescue Marguerite. He followed his nature - and Malone's no man-eater." Veronica's belief was absolute.
Finn shrugged, and muttered to herself: "Man-eater, no. But a woman-eater ?"
"Very funny," cracked Veronica, still looking around. "There!" She pointed to the small fruit bat hanging from the ceiling beams.
"Gimme a leg up, V. I'll get her."
Veronica laced her fingers together and Finn put her foot into her hands. With a leap and a lift, Finn was airborne. She grabbed the bat, flipped once, and landed.
With Marguerite safely caged, Veronica puzzled, "So what did Malone eat?"
"Who cares?" Ever pragmatic, Finn had lost interest in that particular problem as soon as Marguerite was found. "Let's just get them fixed, okay?"
The snake hissed in disapproval of all the action and curled up into a ball.
"One thing at a time, Finn," Challenger temporized. "Now you said Roxton and Marguerite were listening to Malone read a little Shakespeare from memory in the Treehouse kitchen. And then?"
Finn shrugged. "Then 'poof'. The place is suddenly the creepy-crawly house at the zoo." She wiggled a finger at Malone through the glass tank. He flicked his tongue at her and blinked once.
"Don't tap the glass," cautioned Challenger absently.
Veronica thought hard. "Could he have been quoting Macbeth's witches?"
"There's a theory that Shakespeare didn't write the witches."
"Challenger! D'you really think now is the time?!"
"Of course!" Ignoring Finn's puzzled question, the scientist dug frantically through the detritus on his workbench. "Now where did I put it?"
"Put what?" Veronica was in no mood for riddles.
"The Story Wishing Stone the Crema tribe shaman gave me! Don't you remember what he said about it?"
Veronica's eyes widened. "This stone has the power to make the listeners part of the story," she echoed. "You mean ?"
"I do," affirmed the scientist grimly.
"What?" demanded Finn, looking from Challenger to Veronica and back again. "What?!"
"They've become part of a sorcerous incantation in one of Shakespeare's darkest tragedies."
"So where's the stone?"
"It must still be in the kitchen!" Veronica bounded up the stairs, the others close behind her. They reached the kitchen together and Veronica fell to her knees, searching the floor. "Where is it?!"
"Got it!" Veronica seized a milky, palm-sized stone from the floor.
"Hey, I remember that!" Finn exclaimed. "You mean that's the Story Wishing Stone?"
"You remember it from where?" Challenger wanted to know. She hadn't been with them on the visit to the Crema.
Finn blushed. "Malone said he needed a new scraping stone to help clean out one of Marguerite's baking pans, and How was I to know?"
"Oh, Finn!" Veronica shook her head. "Never mind." She turned to Challenger. "How do we change them back?"
The silence grew until he reluctantly admitted, "I don't know."
"Maybe they'll change back if we just finish the story," suggested Finn.
"No!" the others cried as one.
"I'll explain later," added Veroinca.
Undaunted, Finn tried again. "If they need a story to be in, why don't we make one up?"
"Bad idea." Veronica shook her head emphatically. "We’d risk getting stuck just like they are - and there’d be no one left to try and rescue us."
"Well, we can’t just sit around and do nothing," Finn pointed out impatiently. She hated uncertainty. "Not doing anything isn’t helping any."
Challenger briefly tried to follow Finn’s convoluted English, then refocused on the problem at hand. "Has anyone seen Malone’s journal?"
"Malone's journal?" echoed Finn at the same moment Veronica cried, "Of course!"
Veronica rushed to her room and returned shortly with one of Malone's journals in hand. "I was reading this last night. It has stories from the time I was gone and before Ned went traveling alone. There's one about these witches "
"Dame Alice," Challenger harrumphed, disgruntled at the memory.
Finn frowned. "Is more witchiness a good idea?"
"Definitely not." Still scowling at the memory of Dame Alice, Challenger reached for Malone's journal. "I was thinking specifically of any entries Malone might have written about our visit to the Crema tribe. He was most interested in the stories about the stone "
"And you think he might have written down how to use it!" Finn interrupted. "Cool!"
"I don't see anything about the Crema. Is the right journal?"
"Maybe not." Veronica reclaimed the book and flipped backwards through it. "Keeran raiders; Dame Alice; Arjax It's not here," she said, disappointed.
Challenger's brow furrowed in thought. "We met the Crema shortly after defeating Pierson Rice. Where's the journal that comes before this one?"
Immediately the trio searched the stacks of books that continually cluttered the Treehouse's main room.
"Here!" Finn held up a leather-bound volume. "Is this it?"
"Let's check." Veronica flipped open the journal and skimmed through the pages with an ease born of countless hours of reading Malone's handwriting. Her cheeks reddened, and she shut the journal with a snap. "No, it's not this one."
"How about this one?" Finn called, still rummaging the shelves.
Veronica's face brightened. "Yes, that's the one!" She quickly found the relevant section and gasped. "Could it be that simple?"
Ignoring Finn's query, Veronica handed the journal to Challenger as she rushed to the kitchen.
"Hmm," he mused, reading over the passage. "Quite simple. Yes."
"How simple?" repeated Finn.
"But do we have what we need?" he went on.
"We must," called Veronica. "Neither Ned nor Marguerite could survive without it. I'm heating water now."
"Heating it for what, damn it?" demanded Finn in frustration.
"Yes, coffee. According to Malone's journal, you recite the incantation and then plunge the stone into a boiling liquid of the opposite color. Since the stone appears white..."
"We use boiling coffee." Finn snorted. "Jeez, this is dumb."
"It is certainly unusual, but since all of this is well outside the realm of science, it's definitely worth a try." Challenger looked over at Veronica. "Are we ready to begin?"
"Nearly there. The coffee's brewing." Veronica emerged from the kitchen with a carafe held between gloved hands.
"I suggest we return to my laboratory. We can place a small amount in a beaker over a burner to boil, and then all the necessary elements will be in one place."
"Good idea." Veronica led the way downstairs.
Challenger found a beaker and carefully decanted some coffee. "Who has the stone?"
"I don't. I carried the coffee."
"I've got it." Finn bounced it casually in one hand.
"Careful!" Challenger exclaimed. "You'd better give it to me, child. I should be the one to read the incantation."
"No," Veronica objected. " I'll do it. If something goes wrong, we'll need you to figure out another plan."
"What are these magic words, anyway?" Finn asked, trying to read the journal. "Walah walah turnip???"
"Hardly, Finn," chuckled Challenger. "I'm sure it's just Malone's handwriting giving you trouble." He took the journal. Scanning it, he frowned. "Well, undoubtedly he wrote it phonetically. The Crema words must have sounded like 'turnip'."
"So read, already."
Book in hand, he released the stone into the boiling coffee and read the strange incantation in a sonorous tone.
A tense pause.
"So how long until it does its mojo?"
"Its 'mojo'?" Challenger blinked.
"Mojo." Seeing both Challenger and Veronica giving her blank stares, she went on. "Hoodoo, shazam, bibbity-bobbity-boo...you know. Magic."
"I have no idea," the scientist confessed. "Perhaps we said the words incorrectly."
"Gee, ya think?" Finn rolled her eyes. "No way is 'turnip' a magic word!"
"It only looked like 'turnip' to you," Veronica pointed out. "I know Malone's writing best. Maybe I should try it?"
"Hmm, yes. I think that might be best." Challenger relinquished the journal and stepped aside.
Veronica skimmed the page. "It's not 'turnip'. It's not anything English." She cleared her throat and read the incantation.
Immediately the boiling coffee frothed up and over its vessel, hissing as it splashed the blue flame beneath. A deep rumbling shook the Treehouse from root to leaf.
"Is this enough 'mojo' for you, Finn?!"
"Look out!" Veronica shouted as around the room three cages shattered into fragments. Challenger hastily retrieved the stone from the boiling coffee and hastened to their three restored companions.
"Marguerite?" The hunter instinctively sought the heiress even as he struggled to his knees.
"Here." Marguerite's voice was a dazed whisper.
Veronica helped Malone sit up. "Are you okay?"
"Ooh," he moaned. "I think so, but wha what did I just eat?"
"What the--?" Finn blinked twice and corrected herself. "Who the hell are you?"
The green-scaled man's eyes narrowed. He smiled. Finn shivered.
"I'm Tribune," he leered silkily and licked his chops. "And you must be lunch."
She raised her crossbow, leveling it at him. "I don't think so."
Roxton's shout reached their ears. "Finn! Tribune! No!"
The lizardman looked put-upon, muttering, "Why must he always spoil my meals?"
"That's amazing!" He moaned with pleasure. "I've never felt anything so-" Words failed him.
She smiled up the length of his body. He was enthralled. Her thumb circled, strong and gentle. "You like that?"
"Mm-hmm." His eyes closed and his head lolled back as she worked her magic. Pulling himself from the delicious reverie, he smiled at her. "Wherever did you learn to give such fantastic foot massages?"
Roxton shuddered. The chill of the unexpectedly cool night breeze made him shiver. It's got nothing to do with the fact that I'm being stalked by a werewolf, he told himself firmly.
The full moon hung low in the dark sky. He looked at Challenger and signaled him to stay close and ready. In the distance a wolf-that-wasn't-a-wolf howled mournfully.
Damn it, Malone. What have you gotten us into?
"Say it." Two pairs of intense eyes flashed at one another electrically. Her voice was deep with animal emotion. "I want to hear you say it."
Ned swallowed once, coherence lost to the heat and tension of the moment. "I--"
She relentlessly backed him up, pressing him to the wall with her body.
"I want you. Now!"
Veronica smiled and kissed him deeply. "There. Was that so hard?"