I'll be honest, I'm not quite sure what kind of resolution is going on here. Well, I'm not really sure at all what's going on here, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing.
The insistent specificity of this piece actually adds to it, purely because I know that I'm missing something. "All but two then five" has to reference something important, even though I have no idea what it is. The Norse mythology is clear, and I can at least understand a few parts of it without having to seek reference: Odin and Thor, obviously, and the tree's roots might refer to Yggdrasil, but everything else is kind of blurry. Perhaps that's what you intended. I respect it.
My only other comment is that, in a story so short, you really need to watch for typos. I noted "presuers," unless that's another mythological reference that's somehow evading me. With so little content to peruse, just one typo is almost 2% of your story. It's kind of jarring.
But if your goal was to leave the reader curious about the situation, you have succeeded. I'd love to hear more.
This reminds me of one of the 12 Labors contests, in which the protagonist had to be famous or esteemed for something they despised. I think, anyway. I've never attempted one of those because I'm a coward.
The first person POV is a good tool for reaching the audience. I sympathized with the narrator. His situation, dire as it is, seems futuristic or mythological given the description of his throne and the time that has passed while he ruled, which is always fun to imagine. I'm a sucker for specifics, but this story didn't really need them.
I kind of saw the whole thing as an analogy for religion; something that was created with the greatest of intentions by a powerful being, but manipulated and used to achieve terrible ends by terrible means. Perhaps that's digging a little too deep. In any case, the "resolution" was clear: right the wrongs that [the protagonist] has witnessed.
I was skeptical on my first reading. Such a simple topic as the recitation of several New Year's Resolutions in a dismal setting seemed like it would fall flat in the short length you provided.
But, as it often happens, I was dead wrong.
I had to read the story twice to really enjoy it, but boy was it worth the wait. Your description of setting in the beginning was bare-bones but potent; each sentence was rigged with vivid imagery and universal themes. The dialogue, too, at first came across as bland, but it was the tiny details that saved it. The trembling hands yearning to plant a garden. The wounded eyes wanting only to see the world. Such details made me far more sympathetic to these undeveloped characters than I could have expected.
And, of course, the ending. On my first reading, I was like "meh, who cares," but the second time I had a diagnosable case of the feels. These tiny little characters, plain and unembellished, had such simple needs, simple desires in a war-torn world. And they'd never achieve them.
My hat's off to you. This may be my favorite entry.
It's nice to see some characterization, given the general progression of stories thus far. (Winky face). Your descriptions throughout the story were cute and exquisitely detailed, which should never go unappreciated in my book. Having specific details to work with (e.g. Dr. Bansing's ponytail, t-shirt and paper cup with coffee) helps me break by habit of using the same dozen or so character images in my head for every story I read. It's also just a good habit to get into, as it's characteristic of strong writing.
The adherence to the "resolution" theme was clear, and the content was playful, but the story fell kinda flat for me. Perhaps I'm too fond of twists and turns and suspense and action, though I certainly take my own predilections into account. Either way, it was a sweet slice-of-life piece, and probably a shoe-in for the "Superstition" bonus category.
Where to begin?
First of all, and what sticks out to me most: fantastic writing. Your dialogue is spot-on; I could hear the characters' voices in my head as I read each line. Your descriptions were vivid and specific. Even more, though, congratulations on raising such a magical and intricate world out of nothing. I respect the approach of minimal exposition and maximum references to subjects within the story's universe. That way, it's more natural and less jarring. The reader feels like they caught a glimpse of a parallel world. Your countries, concepts and leaders were imaginative and well-developed.
I appreciate your use of religion as one of the overlying themes, alongside war and loss. It was deftly handled in a way that mirrors the uneasy companionship between zealots and nonbelievers in the real world. It was more interesting still to see the god come to life, personified as the ambitious remnant of fallen pantheon.
And then the protagonist kills it. Ballsy.
Overall, a superb piece whose length didn't detract from its quality. This might be a winner.
The first thing that stood out to me about this story was the fantastic characterization. You took your time with the writing, meandering through Estella's personal life and blending it well with the developing intrigue. I felt I had a solid understanding of the peripheral characters as well; Gordana, Pamela, Lartius and the rest.
Your details and exposition were also deftly handled. My only negative comment is that I couldn't really bring myself to root for the protagonist. Hell, maybe I wasn't supposed to, but for some reason that connection just never formed.
Besides that, you've got a strong, original story here. I'd love to know more of the lore.
Actually, first I just want to know: how do you pronounce "Dubhloach?"
Perhaps I'm a little biased towards the last entry I read, but damn. This was probably the best written story here.
I was skeptical at first, for a few reasons. First, the length. Honestly, the longer the better, but that doesn't mean I wasn't a little reluctant to sit down and sample the whole thing. Nevertheless, you pulled it off. The arc of the story was clear and powerful.
The only other real reservation I had about this story is that it felt (at first, at least) really, really derivative of Game of Thrones. The books, not the show, but maybe both. Marik was the strong, silent young man inspiring loyalty from his brothers -- Jon Snow. The Pack felt a lot like the Night's Watch, wearing furs in the icy north, swearing their oaths before a giant tree. The shift of the rebellion from hated to revered was much like that of the Wildlings; Aurin could've been Mance Rayder, righteous turncloak. The themes, setting and language were just inextricably comparable to Game of Thrones.
That's where my criticism stops.
Your dialogue was spectacular. The character of Gael annoyed me at first, but the quick quips and realistic stutters you equipped him with made him a pleasure to read. I found myself waiting for his next line. The other characters each had their own way of speaking as well, something you deftly distinguished.
The arc of the story was really, really good. Following the party as they traveled along the roads was a stellar way of acquainting them with the reader, and the conclusion was satisfying and emotional.
There wasn't a single entry this time around that I didn't really enjoy reading. It's fantastic to know my anticipation was well-warranted. Unfortunately, I still need to pick a favorite.
I can narrow it down to "34 Seconds," "A Reason to Go On" and "Of Oaths and War" without hating myself too much, but from there it gets hard.
After much consideration, I confidently cast my @vote in favor of "34 Seconds."
The stories were all fantastic, but "34 Seconds" was true to the brief implications of its title. The author skillfully packed a tiny piece with fragile yet explosive details that demanded an emotional response from the reader. Simply put, it accomplished its task magnificently and efficiently.