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by The Panda's Federal Republic of Europeia Dispatch Office. . 117 reads.

Short Story Competition - Results & Awards

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Short Story Competition

For the past three weeks, we've been hosting a short story competition to commemorate UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day 2022. Indeed, you can find the original dispatch right here. Over that time, we received many creative and enthralling stories, and I'm certain we would've received many more if we continued. But alas, we can't keep this open forever. All good things must come to an end. There were many amazing submissions, each of which we all enjoyed thoroughly. We even find ourselves wishing that we could've given every single one of the amazing writers that participated an award, but alas, we cannot. Next, you'll find a list of every rule-compliant story we received, along with their authors, and finally, which of them our voters thought were the greatest!

 
Stories

Nestled in a bucolic valley, a clear, sapphire river wound its way between the hills. The morning sun cast its first rays of light to announce the coming of a new day. Lush forests sprawled across the land as far as the eye could see; filled with fauna beyond imagination. They say paradise is an unattainable fantasy, but here was the closest humanity ever got. On the hillside, a small settlement, all but unknown to the rest of China, went by its life: the new days, seasons and years passed as generation after generation inhabited their ancestral homes. Time flowed by for the occupants of this small village, their serene existence uninterrupted for eons. Among the clustered buildings, children ran through the streets, leapt with glee across the river's many tributaries and played for hours in the forest. A mother wound the wool around her spindle and layed it to rest, before turning to the assembled village children inside her home. This array of usually restless infants gathered there in utter silence to listen to one of the wonderous stories she would tell.

"A long time ago, thousands of years before now", began Qin Yang, "there were giants. Man and giant lived in harmony, with all the time in the world. Their lives were peaceful and untroubled, but they had nothing compared to the Gods, who could conjure anything at will. The giants became envious, and desired the power of the Gods. One day, an army of Giants set out to ascend to the land of the Gods and take the source of their power. Meanwhile, man had made their kingdom on the slopes of the mountain to be closer to the deities. When the army of giants approached, the Gods ordered the men to stop them. But our ancestors were worried for their lives, and fled in terror. The giants rampaged up the mountain, destroying the kingdom of men, leaving many villages ruined in their wake. When they reached the top of the mountain, the giants were slain, one by one in a furious battle against the Gods. The conflict was short, with no losses for the Gods but extinction for the giants.

However, man had disappointed the almighty beings: they had to be punished. Thankfully, one God stood up for the rights of men, proclaiming that they were only mortal, and had fled in fear of their lives. And so man was to be deprived of time, to always be rushing to do things with no instance for calm and no moment to spare. Fortunately, the Gods were lenient, allowing one exception to this rule: the most skilled and wise among the humans would become clockmakers, and keep time turning and flowing forward to allow rest and peace for mankind.", Qin paused, a wistful look on her aged face, etched with memories of times long past. Her mother had always told her that storytelling gave life to the community, and that in doing so she was sparking the inspiration of future storytellers in these children. But beyond that she didn't view herself as the all loving, wise woman of the village like everyone else. She looked down: the eager eyes that were fixed on her held the souls of the children, riveted to her tale. "And that is why, even now, the hut by the stream above the village is home to the clockmaker, whose work allows us all the time that we want. It is thanks to him that we can have peace."

Spellbound, all eyes turned as one to look through the window of the storyteller's hut and up the mountain to a small dwelling by the stream, where the clockmaker lived and worked. The entire village adored the clockmaker: whose old, wrinkled fingers worked meticulously away at the most intricate devices. Everyone marvelled at his skill and dexterity, while the children who believed Qin's tale thanked him with all their hearts for the time he gave to them.

Up in his hut, a two minute walk away from the rest of the village, Xi Yuan worked tirelessly. His wrinkled face bore signs of pride every time he put down his tools and stepped back to admire his latest masterpiece. Every time a child passed the age of ten, Xi presented them with his most recent creation. But beyond these generous gifts, Xi was rarely present in the village. He preferred solitude, alone in his hut; he had clocks to make, toys to prepare and his tools to provide him all the company he needed.

* * * * *
The dry season came and went, the rains began flooding in and time flowed on in the secluded valley. Two months after Qin's story was first told, however, the focus was not on stories and games, but instead a sombre melancholy hung in the air: the village was in mourning. Last night, Xi Yuan had died; the following day a funeral was held. His body was set afloat on a raft adorned by lanterns. It was set alight, so his soul would rise with the fire to the heavens above. The river procession moved slowly home: it wouldn't be until the next day that the problems would start.

Gengxin Lee arose before dawn, stretching at the sound of a rooster. He leaned over to look at his clock; the time was quarter past two. 'Quarter past two for the cockerel!", thought Gengxin, shocked awake. He ran out through the door of his hut, burst into the village square, and there he found the large pendulum underneath the central clock in the middle of the village was unmoving, and the clock's face also displayed quarter past two. It was unearthly, the stillness of the morning filled him with an unnerving sensation. It was then Gengxin remembered Qin's story about the clockmaker. At the time he had dismissed it as myth. However, now he was not so sure; could it be that Xi Yuan had controlled time all along, and now that he was gone, time would stop forever?

Meanwhile, in Qin Yang's house, her clock too was frozen. She frowned. Her story was not true, or so she thought. She had heard it from a travelling monk who had chanced upon their settlement many moons ago. But now...
Qin tried to remember how Xi had become the clockmaker, but it evaded her memory. Xi had been the clockmaker for as long as she could remember.

* * * * *

Outside, a female elder cried out in despair: "O, what have we done to displease the Gods?" And indeed it seemed like there was no other explanation. As Gengxin wandered through the streets, he saw chaos begin to take hold of everything. All were subdued with anxiety. Before long, the storehouses ran dry. Supplies that should have lasted years seemed to have disappeared, as a frantic rush began to secure more food. Just as the situation began to look dire, the inhabitants of this small settlement, hidden away in a secluded valley, became aware of a faint ticking sound. At first, it was barely noticed, but soon it got louder and before long the first hints of hope returned to the villagers' eyes.

Shouts of relief and joy could be heard as the machines that told the time suddenly sprang back into life. Eight mighty chimes of the bell in the central clock brought many villagers into the town square, where the mighty pendulum was swinging back and forth at its regular rhythm. The head of the village elders mounted a platform and addressed his people. He proclaimed that Xi Yuan had told him, before the clockmaker had died, that the clocks may occasionally become stuck, and it would take one and a half revolutions of their mechanism to begin again. He assured his people that there was nothing to fear, and that all could return to normal. Before long, most of the villagers had come to accept this explanation. As the elder descended, he whispered to his wife: "I made that up - I really haven't any idea what happened".

Despite this, he persuaded himself that it was just by chance, and that he had witnessed an event so very unlikely, but which had happened nonetheless. And so, life began again in the village, and time passed as it had for centuries.

However, if someone had been so curious as to wonder what had become of the clockmaker's hut, just a couple of minutes walk from the main village, they might have made the short climb and looked inside. They would have rounded the side and peered through the window to see, in the ambiently lit workshop, a small boy of no more than six years of age, fiddling with the tools of the old clockmaker. He had heard Qin's tale, and though there were parts he had not understood, he made his way to Xi Yuan's hut. There, he took up the old man's tools and, slowly but surely, he began fixing a clock.

"As a young man I never lost a moment's sleep concerning myself with waking up in the dark," he once said to me, by way of introduction, "I was as sure as anyone that the next day would follow in due course."

Of all the lies Galloway ever told - and he told many - perhaps the one I admire the most is his audacious assertion that neither the dusk nor the dawn, and by extension neither night nor day, are absolute or assured in the experience of human kind. You perhaps suppose he meant that each sunrise should be a blessing and each sunset a blessed relief? I too assumed as much as I heard him speak it the first time, but then of course I did not know what a gifted and prodigious liar he was; nor did I realise he was rehearsing upon me his latest skit; nor could I know, having just recently made his acquaintance, that Galloway was an unpretentious teller of tall tales - if such a thing is not a contradiction of states - and that his lies were so much more digestible for lack of metaphor; and I was yet to learn that the art of true deception is the interwoven tapestry of truth and fiction so finely needled that to stand back and admire it one might be overwhelmed with the simple beauty of its apparent veracity and not see - amidst the harmonies it writes upon one's instincts - the fine threads of enchantment and misdirection that hold such visions in place.

"I recall a time when the sun set on a Tuesday, early afternoon, and didn't rise again until well after Lent," - thus introduced to me, he sipped his pint and set it upon the bar, and launched into the recounting of his long days in the Arctic Circle.

"I saw such things... such lingering days... such relentless nights... but I never imagined a day that just wouldn't come. It's no certain thing, the day. No certain thing at all."

"Well what do you mean," I wondered, presuming this a reference to the Scandinavian condition of melancholia under the long twilight of the north. But, as I've already said, this was no allegory on his part - a particluar Wednesday morning, some years ago on the island of Gr?msey in the Arctic Circle, had failed to arrive and after a long and uncertain wait a Thursday finally dawned to the relief of all. Galloway made a lengthy evocation of his purpose on Gr?msey - his occupations, his accommodations, the food he consumed, the comfort of his bed and his writing desk, his routines and timekeeping, the weather, the coming and going of ferries to Horn and Reykjav?k, the bleakness of flora and fauna, the lack of birds, the various qualities of various mosses, the hospitality of locals, the complexities of Icelandic grammar and all manner of other details to colour the descriptions of passing time in the Arctic before the day that did not come, and then, the days after it. Of the Wednesday that did not arrive, he found himself short on detail, and yet was most insistent nonetheless.
"I believe the new day was a Thursday... perhaps Friday... no no, Thursday, yes, Thursday," he asserted uncertainly, "but certainly, I am sure of it, there was a Wednesday that never came. And if it wasn't a Wednesday, so what? We missed one day in Gr?msey, upon my soul no doubt about that."

"Missing a day and a day going missing are two quite different things," I said and we fell into a discussion about drunkenness and veisalgia and narcotics and narcolepsy and insomnia and amnesia and the many reasons why a man should think that a day had been lost when in fact it most likely the man himself had been lost.

Galloway would not concede however, being sure of both his health and his clarity of thinking at the time; he next described the data, denouements and proceeds of his long years since Gr?msey engaged in the practical observation of linear time for fear that his days were numbered intermittently. He had apparently amassed a wealth of anecdotal evidence on the matter and seemed limitlessly generous in disseminating his conclusions that evening at the bar. I will not say that he was not entertaining, for he was; and his evidence was both comprehensive and compelling. But for all that, I had no feeling for this phenomena and I could not bring myself to accept it. His grand deceit - as I now know it - was foundering.

"What were you about last week, on Thursday," he asked me, suddenly, "where did you go and what did you do?"

A master liar of Galloway's standing may tack close to the wind and skirt the rocky shallows, risking all, yet still have about them a stroke or two of mastery to bring home the bounty of their fantastical voyage. Here then heaves toward port the captain of the rotten ship Beguiler to land his mendacious cargo.

"Well of course I was at work... no, wait, not work, I had a long weekend of leave... so I must've had a lazy day at home... I went to the town market for cheese, that's right!"

"Town market's Friday," said the barmaid, helpfully. The evening was slow and she'd enjoyed Galloway's recounting of his adventure in the Arctic Circle whilst buffing glasses and pulling the odd leisurely stout for the bar's only other customer, an old farm hand perched at the far end of the long counter.

"Yes, you're right, Friday. Then... let me think... Thursday... did I go to the allotments?"

"Did you?" wondered Galloway, "did you do your house chores? Did you visit the library or the museum or the theatre? Did you refuel the car or service the bicycle? Did you visit a neighbour or go for a long walk or read a book or even a chapter of a book or a newspaper or magazine or did you go for coffee or watch a film? Did you breakfast in town, or lunch in town, or dine in town for tea or dinner? Did you meet friends or phone them, did you write a letter or a postcard or a list of important things or a cheque or a nonsensical story about soup or frogs or sailors or the meaning of temporality or the evolution of eyes as a proof of God? Did you come to the pub? - "

"He didn't come to the pub," interrupted the barmaid.

"Are you sure he didn't? Were you here?"

"I was definitely here," she confirmed, after checking last week's rota on the staff noticeboard, "though come to think of it, I can't remember the shift. I can't remember him being here anyway, or you for that matter."

"Who was here?" pressed Galloway.

"I expect he was," she said, thumbing over her shoulder at the old farm hand, the pub's most devout regular.

"I don't remember," called out the old man.

"No, nor do I, come to think of it," said the barmaid.

"Does anyone remember last Thursday?" asked the master liar.

Does anyone remember last Thursday? I certainly couldn't. Galloway shook his head slowly, took a draught of his pint, and concluded mournfully, "another one gone missing then."

THE SQUIRE
Twas once a squire, little in coin, and little shelter. He was taken in by the squires at a young age, and was sent on many a dangerous mission. But this would be the most treacherous mission as of yet. The King had ordered an expedition into the Reaper's Forest a month earlier. No one survived but the scaredest of the knights, who would too die later of shock, understandably of course. The Squire was nervous, clutching his worn down sword. He walked with his cohort of squires, led by a knight. Suddenly, a black sphere emerged, and the knight called a retreat. The squire, however, was disappointed in the seemingly cowardly cohort, he went up to the sphere and plunged his sword into the sphere. The sword disappeared, and turned into a reaper. The knight stepped forward, and tried to defend the squire, but was cut down by 1 hit of a reaper's scythe. In a stroke of evil mastermind, he ran towards his cohort and slaughtered every single one of the remaining squires. The reaper, seeing his treachery decided it was best to leave the squire alone. The Squire navigated the forest and reached the safety of the King's castle. The King knighted him after he delivered his story of how the reaper had killed all but him, the king grew suspicious of the squire but knighted him.
THE KNIGHT
The newly knighted knight was this time sent to a grassy field, where a wild bear was rumored to be killing farmers. A brown figure dotted the horizon, the knights lunged forward, but were thrown off when a strong gust of wind came. Now the knight, who had not joined the original charge, lept off boulders and sliced the beast open. While the knights relished their victory, the knight killed them all, as he would know the gain of social status. After returning to the king's court, the king, already suspicious of the knight, asked what happened, and the knight delivered the story of how the billed had killed the knights but he had pierced its head. The King decided that if the knight was crowned the new king, he wouldn't lose as many precious warriors, so the coronation commenced and the knight was now king.
THE KING
The king had the initial kingly problems of winning over the support of the people. With his power base secured, he decided to win a big victory for some glory. He sent innumerable amounts of cohorts into the Reaper's Forest and it ended up blowing up, along with the half of the castle that miraculously did not have the king in it at the moment. The king lost all his knights, and got some glory! No knight for rivalling him, and no reapers, and he had lots of support! All was perfect until an old lady and farmer boy declared independence. With no knights, the king sent the 100,000 squires that were recently knighted at the old lady. Somehow, the farmer boy sent a stampede of animals, ending with chicken reaching the throne. Now the king was furious and conscripted crazy amounts of warriors to regain authority over the land. The Old lady and farmer boy yielded, with their military stampede experience helping him with his reign until the farmer boy was crowned the new king, then the king died.

Personally, Seraph wasn't much of a fan of loud music. When it was played in public with no headphones or in classroom situations it made everything harder. Hard to concentrate. Either on the test or math problems in front of him, or to be more specific the wall he had 21 seconds to climb. It took 21 seconds to sing happy birthday, especially to a rich spoiled girl who decided it was okay to invite pretty much everyone in the region and somehow her richer father, who somehow was elected a mayor in a country that was beginning to become more and more of a threat to ASTO and LLyudi alike, thought it was okay and gave her permission AND RENTED OUT A PARK BUILT FOR REGIONAL EMBASSIES. WHY THE HECK DID PEOPLE ALLOW THIS. Additionally, the rich person had a region-wide famous band perform there with the volume set to max. It was irritating. Even a good distance away he could still hear the screams and cheers as the band was about to play.

He felt a firm tap on his shoulder.
"You good?" Uclosa asked, glancing back and forth between the stage and his partner in espionage.
"Eh... I could be better." Seraph replied with a smirk and a shrug. He began getting into position to scale the wall. One foot on an empty flower pot for an extra boost, one hand on the many handholds the wall provided. For an embassy building, it was kinda easy to break into.
"Hah! Well, get ready because the lights should turn to the stage in a few seconds--"
And then total darkness, aside from the sliver of a moon illuminating the once quiet park. Everyone and every possible witness was focused on the stage, and now was his one and only chance to successfully carry this mission out. Seraph wasted no time climbing higher and higher, though it proved a difficult task in the low lighting. 10 seconds at the most had passed now, the band was halfway through the song. He jammed his thumb against a windowsill and pain crackled throughout his hand. He successfully choked down a curse before starting to close the rest of the distance. The band was dragging the end of the song out, he would have a few more seconds now. Seraph hoisted himself up onto the roof, laying flat on his back and trying to catch his breath. The song ended, and he had made it. His earpiece, which was disguised to look like a regular earbud, crackled to life.
"Are you okay? I saw you pause for a few seconds."
"Uh... yeah... I made it." Seraph sat up now and inspected his swelling thumb. He sighed and winced as he put on the gloves that would avoid him leaving any trace of his visit and was equipped with the pathetic mayor's fingerprints to get in. When Uclosa and Seraph were given this assignment, Uclosa noticed the huge fireplace and which usually meant a huge chimney, and suggested Seraph should become Santa Claus. Seraph shot it down instantly and suggested the door to the roof's helipad instead. Upon further inspection, it required fingerprint access, and that was no problem to a bunch of technologically advanced spies.
"Let me know when you're about to enter so I can freeze the security cameras." He could hear Uclosa typing away at his laptop, probably hacking away at some other things in his spare time.
"Sure. I'm going in now."
"Okay. I've frozen the cameras. I can still see what's going on through the windows so I'll let you know if anything happens. Good luck."
It was sort of difficult to get in from the lack of light, but it opened without a sound thankfully. The door opened to a set of stairs that Seraph descended quickly and quietly, taking two at a time.
"I'm in the office," Seraph whispered, thankful for the completely sound absorbent shoes he crafted so he could walk around without a care, stomp if he so wished to.
There on the mantle of the fireplace was a treasured item, an egg completely fabricated out of precious metals and jewels, but quite small so it could fit into a pocket. This mission was to switch out the original with an exact copy, but equipped with a small microphone for ASTO purposes. Seraph approached the mantle and pulled out the ASTO copy of the egg when Uclosa suddenly spoke.
"Just so you know, there's someone coming down the hallway--"
"&#%@" Seraph cursed to Uclosa's amusement. He quickly snatched the original egg and placed the ASTO copy, having no interest in whether it was positioned entirely correctly and scrambled into the fireplace and up the chimney. He felt like Spider-Man, back against one wall of the chimney and his feet pushing against the other. He could hear a baritone voice humming a cheery tune. Seraph breathed through his mouth to keep from sneezing from all the ashes and dust while his eyes watered from being pricked by such particles. The figure tossed something onto a desk where it slid and teetered on the edge, there were a few receding footsteps, and finally, a door clicking closed.

Seraph waited a few more minutes and after he deemed the figure was out of earshot, released a quiet, pent-up exhale of relief and scrambled up the chimney just to be safe (and extravagant).

Thousands of years ago before humans ruled the world there was a society of dragons that ruled the world. They had medieval human-like society's stretched across the world ruled by 7 dragon tribes. The Icewings, Rainwings, Nightwings, Sandwings, Seawings, Skywings, Mudwings all ruled by their own queens. These dragon tribes have trade routes, farmers, shops, hunters, and soldiers. Though these dragon tribes are advanced, they still have many wars against other tribes. The current war that is happening is a civil war between the Sandwing queen who was overthrown and gone into hiding, and the revolutionaries who have control of the throne and set up a dictatorship.
A young dragon named Boa walked through the desert market. She looked at all the items for sale. Berries picked from the mountains, fresh fish, and alligator meat roasted to perfection. Camel hide pouches, and leather bags for storing water during a drought, but then she saw what she is looking for poison cactus. Boa quickly asked the merchant how much, the merchant responded 2 gold coins for 5. Boa gave him 12 coins and stuffed them in he bag. She needed these cactuses because they were the only thing to stop venom from spreading. Which was frequent because of the amount of venomous snake bites in the kingdom of the sand.
A random merchant stopped her in her tracks then asked if she wanted to purchase a magical coin that could grant any wish. Boa was confused, she knew there were magical dragons out there who could cast spells but they were extremely rare. It seemed highly unlikely that this trader had one, and if he did, why was he selling it to her? Boa, who was a curious dragon agreed, and in exchange for one poison cactus gave her the coin. She wondered how the coin worked, when another dragon approached her. He had many scars across his wing and body looked at her and asked if she was liking the way that the new queen ruled or if she wanted something better. Boa realizing that this was a revolutionary spy, quickly flew off. The spy who was not surprised at all quickly flew after her.
The scarred dragon, along with two others that were in the crowd, flew after her. She was able to out fly the other two but the scarred dragon quickly caught up to her and pinned her to the ground. As the other two approached the scarred dragon told her that she was under arrest for collaborating with the queen in hiding, and the current president had ordered her arrest. As they flew south Boa realized that they were heading to the palace, and tried to ask what was going to happen, but she was told to be quiet. As she arrived she was greeted by the president. He said that for planning to overthrow the great new government, she was under arrest. Boa tried to say that she was innocent, and that she didn't do anything wrong, they ignored her. She was escorted to the dungeon; the guards threw her in the cell and locked the door. Boa thought that the new government was overreacting, and she wished it didn't exist, just then a noise inside her backpack happened. Then her wish came true, Boa realized that the magical coin was responsible, and the random merchant wasn't lying.

Long ago

The world as we know it didn't exist.

There was no light,no magic and no sound.

Then there arose out of the darkness light and it filled the void.

This light also gave birth to a race of beings known as Angels, they began to craft the world and fill it with magic.

Soon they created two races of beings to inhabit the world, humans and monsters.

In turn the beings gave each race magic, the humans used the magic to become warlike and used the magic to dominate each other.

While the monsters used the magic to live in peace with each other, they also had the ability to absorb a human soul and become a beast of legend known as a boss Monster.

Soon in the heavens there arose discord between the angels, one side wanted to keep the balance of peace in the world and the others wanted to completely destroy the world and recreate it.

This led to a very very long brutal war between the two factions, no side could gain the upper hand on each other sense the angels themselves where matched in ability in magic.

Finally the two sides came to an agreement, the fate of the world would be decided by a human and an angel. On that prophesied day the fate of both humans and monsters shall be known, the angels then withdrew from the world and left behind objects known as deltarunes, each rune corresponding to an angel.

While the warlike angels retreat to a realm devoid of light known as the dark world, there they stay along with the monsters that choose to follow them.

 
Results & Awards

Now, without further ado, it's time to announce our winners:

 

The second runner-up, receiving the Bronze Story Globe...
Is none other than Pathonia! Whose story, The Squire, the Knight, and the King, received 12.5% of the vote. Feel free to display your new award wherever you see fit!

 

The first runner-up, receiving the Silver Story Globe...
Is none other than Delte! Whose story, As Day Follows Night, received 25% of the vote. Feel free to display your new award wherever you see fit!

 

Finally, for the champion; the Storywriter Supreme, recipient of the marvelous Gold Story Globe...
Europeia's very own Dracondra!!! Whose story, The Clockmaker, received a whopping 62.5% of the vote! Feel free to display your amazing new award wherever you see fit!

 

Congratulations to our winners, and to all, Gemeinschaftsland and Europeia wish you a happy three weeks after World Book and Copyright Day!!!

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