It is my pleasure to present to you the third of three 4th place winners from the March 2018 Word Weaver Writing Contest, “Where The Power Hides” by Anne Marie Andrus.
This was a strong, well sold story, as you will see.
One of our judges gave it a first place vote (that judge voted a tie for 1st place with this and another story), so you know it was good. It also shows again how close the voting is!
Word Weaver Writing Contest Winner
Where The Power Hides
Anne Marie Andrus
The narrow, cobblestone streets of the French Quarter didn’t allow the limousine to invade their labyrinth without a vicious struggle. The engine roared over and over, until an invisible barrier split and the ghostly grey car landed on Rue Chartres with a screech. Steering wide around tight corners and slowing every time a pack of vibrant revelers danced in front of the grill, glossy tires finally crunched to a stop in a lot on the neighborhood’s Esplanade border.
“Are you sure this is right?” Sorcha clicked the map icon on her phone and pounded on a control button until smoked glass disappeared into the door. “I said I missed the Quarter, but actually being here makes me—”
“Ill? For years, not a soul on earth could pry you out of this district.” Draven tossed back his blond hair and frowned at a handwritten note. “Ivori is waiting in the lobby of Le…I don’t know, some sordid hotel.”
“Feels lonely.” Sorcha gazed down the crooked alley at snapshots of a stray parade. “Or empty? Might just be me.”
“It’s positively hollow.” Draven tossed the crumpled paper to the only other being in the car. “Have I deciphered that scribble correctly, Lock?”
“Indeed you have, Your Highness.” Lock kicked the door open and grabbed for Sorcha’s hand. “Leave that dreadful device here.”
“It’s brand new.” Sorcha pulled her phone back from Lock, just to have it plucked away again. “Seriously, Draven?”
“Doesn’t the incessant, social connection exhaust you?” Draven flung it to the farthest corner of the car. “I prefer ravens and wax-sealed parchment. Ominous, yet classy.”
“Nothing feels like those old days, except the weather.” Sorcha peeled off her sweater and glared into the dark limousine at the blinking phone. “But, what if?”
“Anyone you’re looking for…” Lock tugged her across the gravel lot. “Has no need for that contraption.”
Overhead, the lazy scrape of shutters drifting in soggy air, escalated to a rhythmic pulse of wood striking brick.
Sorcha shuffled her feet and gawked into the center of an overgrown patio. “Who paints a pool icky green?”
“Not paint.” Draven gagged into his sleeve and shoved her into the building. “Oh, splendid. Look who we found.”
In the middle of a checkerboard tile floor, Ivori drummed her fingers on the concierge’s desk. Without a word, she spun and motioned them to a hidden door.
“I hate tunnels.” Sorcha swept the hair off her neck and twisted it into a loose knot. “It’s a sauna down here.”
“When you mentioned an Equinox reunion, Ivori, I assumed you meant something spectacular.” Draven touched the muddy wall and cringed. “Or at least, sanitary.”
“Nights of grand balls and one-of-a-kind dresses are history.” Ivori forged into the pitch black. “Y’all took your sweet time getting here.”
“We were in opposite corners of the earth.” Lock scowled as Ivori struck a match and lit her torch. “I was hoping for an enchanted courtyard.”
“Me.” Sorcha raised her finger. “The cathedral bell tower.”
“I’ve planned something way better.” Ivori stopped so short, everyone crashed into her back. “None of your supernatural eyes saw the massive iron door?” She pulled chalk from her pocket and wrote on the rusty surface, waiting for each letter to disappear before she scripted the next. When the jumble was finished, the barricade creaked open.
Draven grunted. “Marginally impressive.”
“The reigning king, a shifter prince and our own duchess.” Ivori deliberately pointed at Draven, Lock and Sorcha, in order. “All that royalty and not one of you can crack a smile?”
“We’re here because people we love are—” Sorcha lunged for Ivori’s neck.
“Easy.” Lock caught her arm. “She’s messing with you.”
“She has a damn personality disorder.” Sorcha’s hands shook like leaves in a hurricane. “Ivori, my husband has been missing since our first anniversary!”
“I apologize. And, if you repeat that to anyone, I’ll turn y’all into toads.” Ivori strutted past and snapped her fingers. “Step lively, my undead allies.”
Draven growled as she disappeared into the maze of shadows. “Just lovely.”
“Humor the witch.” Lock jammed a wisp of dark hair behind his ear and urged them forward.
“Bar noise, coffee-shop racket.” Draven pointed to the corridor’s grimy ceiling. “Is that traffic?”
“We’re under Decatur,” Ivori said. “Clueless fool.”
“Your bizarre friend has gotten nastier over the years.”
“Draven, she is not my—” Sorcha howled and dropped to her knees.
“It’s the railroad tracks.” Ivori scampered back and yanked Sorcha to her feet. “Suck it up.”
Sorcha took a deep breath and slammed across the barrier. She turned back to see Lock and Draven stroll past the same spot, unaffected. “What the hell?”
“That steel is the boundary of your city, girl. Not theirs.” Ivori hauled her forward. “Now that we’re on the fringe, maybe we can send some messages.”
“If you don’t stop touching me…” Sorcha clamped her hands over her ears. “What’s the infernal drumming?”
“Even I can hear that.” Draven clenched his jaw. “Can we get to the bloody point before we all go deaf?”
“The river. The giant, muddy, tourist attraction.” Ivori sighed. “Just swallow to equalize the pressure—like in your private jet.”
Their tunnel flared into a dry chamber with a polished floor. Carved benches surrounded a round fire pit.
“This is unexpected.” Lock ran his fingers over glittering gems set at regular intervals in the stone walls.
“Sit down, it’s nearly midnight. The currents are whispering.” Ivori loomed over the fire pit and emptied her deep pockets. She arranged a display of sachets, vials and boxes onto a low altar. “Sorcha, center bench.”
Draven whispered in Sorcha’s ear. “Creepy enough?”
Sorcha choked back a giggle and Lock smacked her shoulder.
“Smiling now? Inappropriate.” Ivori glared at them until the room dropped into silence. She tipped her head side to side and motioned to Sorcha’s hair. “Take it down, glamour girl. It’s where your power hides.”
In the muggy cavern air, Sorcha’s auburn curls puffed with freedom as if stirred by a devilish breeze.
“That draft is our cue to begin.” Ivori’s eyes flashed every color of the rainbow as she chanted peculiar lyrics in a foreign tongue. Smokeless fire erupted in the circle of rocks.
Lock crossed his arms. “What, exactly, are we summoning here?”
“Not what. Who.” Ivori rubbed her palms together. “All of us are searching for someone. Picture that person in your mind.”
“My Gwyn, murdered and not avenged.” Draven exhaled frost. “Not yet.”
Sorcha brushed away a pink tear and slipped back to a night in Nepal, the eve of her own tragedy. “Vir.”
“I can’t say his—” Lock flashed his brilliant violet eyes. “Who did you lose, Ivori? Your pet snake?”
Sorcha squirmed and searched the floor around her feet.
“Never mind me. Memories equal pain.” Ivori played an invisible piano with one hand while pouring the contents of a sachet in a perfect square with the other. White dust wafted around her head. “No need to speak names aloud.”
“Is that—” Draven choked and held his nose. “Bone?”
“Teeth, actually.” Ivori dumped a vial of black syrup in the center of the square. “From a shark, who is still very much alive.”
“What a comfort.” Lock watched Ivori’s finger thrust toward a metal box. “May I help?”
“Just with the latch.” She waited while he jiggled the mechanism and sprung the lid open. Inside, a twisted, rusty arrow lay next to a perfectly polished dagger and a sapphire candle.
Sorcha rolled her eyes.
“Oh, it gets weirder even before I cut you…and myself.” Ivori deflected angry stares. “First, everyone needs to clear their minds and recall the moment in history when you were strongest.”
“My apologies—no.” Draven bolted up. “This sounds preposterous.”
“I want to hear her plan.” Sorcha reached out and grabbed his arm, wrenching him back down to the bench. “We’ve had no luck doing this on our own.”
“I’m shocked. Amateurs.” Ivori dipped the blue candle’s wick in the fire and set it on the altar. “If you can evoke your soul at its most powerful—the instant when you embodied the best of your dreams—that force, can summon anyone across all realms of the universe. I think.”
Sorcha threw her hands in the air. “You think?”
“So,” Lock said. “I just picture that occasion in my head?”
“Project the vision in front of you, like a widescreen television. Once you’ve got it, raise your hand.” Ivori waved her candle over the puddle of syrup, directing liquid outward into the border of bone dust. The mixture ignited flames that crawled until the circuit was complete. Ivori looked up to see three raised hands.
“All ready with my…” Draven faked a smile. “Vision.”
“Perfect.” Ivori grabbed the dagger and raced around the fire pit. “This next part goes pretty quick. Don’t do anything until I tell you to, but keep concentrating.”
Draven and Lock each hissed when she sliced their palms. Sorcha didn’t flinch when Ivori cut both her hands at once.
“Good, good…awrite!” Ivori ran back behind the fire. “Men, squeeze a few drops into this square.”
The moment Draven and Lock’s blood mingled, they were knocked back onto the benches.
Ivori sliced her own flesh over the flames and snapped her eyes to Sorcha. “Your turn.”
When Sorcha’s blood touched the flames, the ground quaked violently.
“Be ready to join hands with her when this metal pierces wood.” Ivori raised the twisted arrow over her head and drove it toward the altar. “Now!”
The three slammed their hands together and the blood of ancient dynasties filled the air with black and gold sparks.
Sorcha looked to the weapon in Ivori’s hand and then into the girl’s inky black eyes. “Uh-oh.”
A menacing groan escaped Ivori’s lips. Visible ripples of power leapt from her chest and plunged into the earth under their feet. The chosen images of each vampire swirled overhead, until their solid bodies flickered and distorted.
Lock’s appearance dissolved first. Instead of the black t-shirt and jeans he arrived in, he now wore his full military uniform. Royal insignias lined his shoulders and medals covered his broad chest.
Draven’s shift solidified next. His modern suit became a classic, midnight tuxedo. In his fingers, a velvet box sat open with a glittering ruby ring perched in the center.
Sorcha dropped her gaze and changed last. Her eyes blazed with blue fire and her long hair became a chin-length bob. Her porcelain skin melted away, replaced by the snarling face of a tiger.
Ivori flung her arms out and threw her head back to a cacophony of drunken notes. “By the power of a lone trumpeter’s call, the roar of a warrior’s charge, and the murmurs of phantom saints that prowl our legendary streets—I summon all the lost souls home!”
What did I like about this story?
What spoke to me?
DAN ALATORRE: This was a fun one. These characters have appeared before in some of Anne Marie’s stories, so readers of her novels will know them, but for those meeting them for the first time, nothing was lacking. The characters interact well, like they’ve known each other a long time, and we feel at home with them – even though it is a strange world they live in. Anne Marie’s style is fun to read because she is a fan of the genre so she doesn’t waste time getting to the good stuff.
ALLISON MARUSKA: The undead characters are compelling. The magic was easy to picture. It was fun to see the characters again, especially Sorcha.
JOHN WINSTON: Show not tell: Perfect! All show no tell = 10. Grammar and Punctuation: Great! No typos, very clean MS = 10. Authentic Dialogue: Spot on and flowed pretty well but I would have loved to see a few tags mixed in with all those beats. It made it a bit choppy having to process action through all the conversation = 9. Character development: Great job of character development with all four characters through their dialogue and actions = 9. Setting and description: Great literary paragraph at the beginning to set the scene and great descriptions throughout to paint the rest of picture.
This was a terrific story, as I’m sure you agree.
Join us tomorrow for the 3 profiles of our three 4th place winners, and
Friday will feature our two Honorable Mention stories, then
Saturday will be the profiles of our Honorable Mention winners.
Right now, please join me in congratulating our third of our three 4th place winners, Anne Marie Andrus.
See you tomorrow!