By award creator Ash Warren.
When I was thinking up this award I had, I confess, rather specific ideas in my own mind as to where the type of brief I was making was likely to end up going, what kind of stories it was likely to generate and all that sort of thing. So it was a fascinating wake-up call to see what in fact the talented writers here at NiTH actually ended up doing with the idea, and just how well they do it.
Lavinia Simson in Perchance to Dream brings us her feisty heroine Lady Josselyn in a nicely atmospheric piece:
Slowly, she opened the door, holding her sword low as she crouched down the hall towards the staircase.
The moonlight was shining through the ceiling window illuminating the painting; then she saw it hit the mirror on the side wall. The golden edges shown bright. She heard a creak behind her and snapped back aiming her sword at the dark figure.
Sam Aro takes us straight to the mystery and to the secret code in Of Black and Red:
”Don’t lie to me.” Dan cut her off. ”I caught you carving one of those marks, what do they mean?” A few month ago Dan had noticed markings in various places. At first he had paid them no heed, but with time he had become suspicious.
They were always placed partly hidden, but still fully visible, say only for those who looked. Always a circle with some mark in the middle. Sometimes a crude S, sometimes a number and sometimes something unrecognizable. And they always disappeared a soon after.
And a real surprise for me comes from Morgan Wood, who takes us to medieval Japan (dear to my heart, of course….) in her very atmospheric tale Misty Mountains which demonstrates a very interesting idea in not using a European style setting.
I place my hand on hers, feel her hesitation before she laces our fingers together. With quiet breathes she sings to me, a song from our childhood.
“Cherry blossoms floating in the wind. Misty mountains on the horizon. Clouds so heavy fill the skies. Gentlewoman walk on by. Let us sing of times to come. When the sun shines down from above. Cherry blossoms falling from the trees. Such beauty and grace all around me. Let us sing together friend. Let us sing until the end.”
She repeats the lyrics over and over, gentle whispers in the dead of night. I dig my feet into the sand, let the sound of her voice drown out the world. Her words turn to quiet hums, the tune so sweet it aches.
But our first winner of The Queen’s Cryptographer award is Jessica Seymour, for her very interesting and compelling Viking tale, A Painted Map. Excellent work, Jessica.
Awi leans over Gerwar’s shoulder, intrigued. On the pendant is a long green outline. It curves and dips like waves, with blue pigment cutting erratically along the creases. The painting looks familiar, but Awi can’t place it.
“It’s a map,” Gerwar says, and Awi immediately remembers where he’s seen it. “It looks like one of the ones my da had.”
Solva nods solemnly. “It is, Eskesen. That much I know. What I do not know is where it leads.”
Congratulations to Jessica and to all who participated. Part two awaits…
Editor’s Note: Award winners are judged by a panel of 5 judges. All authors receive feedback from judges anonymously.