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One Shot · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Show rules for this event
First they beat him, then they kicked him, then they dragged him to the rock and chained him, and every day the eagle came to rip out his liver.

That's where I met him, years and years and years later, the skin of the Nemean Lion on my back and three golden apples on my mind. Apollo's chariot was cresting the horizon, burning the mist from the Caucasus valleys and throwing knife-edge shadows that sliced blue across the high snow.

"Water?" he asked.

I lifted my waterskin, and dribbled some between his cracked lips.

"Better than ambrosia." His voice was rusty from disuse and beautifully inhuman. I met his gaze, but couldn't hold it; I had faced humans and monsters and gods, but his eyes held the dark beyond the stars, and it unnerved me.

"I'll take your word for it," I said.

His smile was slow, but bright. "So, why are you here?"

"Just passing by."

He quirked an eyebrow.

"My father, Zeus isn't…" I shrugged, uncomfortable. "Even if I don't always agree with him, I can't just act against him thoughtlessly. But I wanted to meet you, at least." My brows furrowed. "My… great-uncle once removed."

He snickered. "Do they still tell of me, then?"

I fumbled at my belt, extracted my firestriker, and held it up.

"Ah." He nodded. "Good enough, I guess."

We stood silent, save for the clinking of his chains and the distant roaring wind.

"How do you bear it?" I gazed across the white peaks, rolling like the sea, like the wake of Jason's Argo. Beautiful but harsh.

"Oh, it's not so bad." He shrugged. "Sure, there's the eagle, but… I dunno, it's not like it's personal, you know?"

"No, I really don't." I leaned my club against a boulder, and sat down across from him.

"Would you believe me," he said, "if I told you this was all a ruse?"

I quirked an eyebrow.

"They call me foresight." He winked. "What if I had this all planned out? I joined Zeus' faction in the Titanomachy," he said, the word echoing with unguessable weight, "and avoided Tartarus. What if being here instead is a scheme, a trick, a long game?"

"Is it?"

"Hah! No." He smirked. "Who wants to get their liver eaten every day?"

I frowned. "People can put up with all sorts of things, if they have to. I'm doing my damndest to fetch golden apples, for a man I wouldn't piss on if he burst into flames."

"Hah!" The Titan laughed. "I like that."

We shared a smile.

"Still," he mused. "Working for your worst enemy, huh?"


"How do you bear it?"

"…Point taken." I shrugged. "But I have goals to meet, directions I'm progressing in. I'm less..." I glanced at the chains. "Tied down."

"Ah, but what comes after those goals? What happens when you reach them? And then, after that? Just how far ahead are you looking?"

I contemplated for a moment. "Far enough, I think."

"Doubtful." He chuckled and his chains clinked. "Take it from someone who's been there."

"So… should I just give up?"

"You might be happier. My idiot brother did that, and ended up married to - literally - god's gift to men."

"I can't live like that." I looked up, and met those strange eyes, the dark behind the stars. They made me shiver, but I couldn't look away.

"Then do your best, and take it as it comes. That's what I did."

"And you ended up here."

"For now." His sigh was philosophical. "I'm not ended yet."

"So, you just do the right thing, one step at a time, all the time, until you're dead?" I shook my head.

"Is there a better option?" He laughed. "We make more than one or two choices in our lives. It's not all-or-nothing, something you can do once and abandon. Besides, the right choice, by itself, doesn't guarantee anything - except that you've chosen as best you can. If you can't live with that..."

"I guess."

I heard a distant call.

"Ah, there's the eagle." His smile faltered. "Best be on your way; I'd rather you not watch this."

I nodded, stood, turned away.

"Thanks for the water."

I shook my head, turned back, and seized a chain.
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#1 · 1
· · >>Not_A_Hat
Very engaging story with an interesting point on the characters' motivations. I would have like to see more of this, but since it's minific, I understand you had to go straightforward. And as it is, the story stands on its own so good job for that.

For the nitpicks, it's a bit heavy on dialog for my taste and, futhermore, I was a bit confused by who was talking at some points (maybe I wasn't paying enough attention).

Anyway, I liked it and should rank it between mid-tier and top.

First they beat him, then they kicked him, then they dragged him to the rock

They'll kick you, then they beat you, then they'll tell you it's fair, so BEAT IT, but you wanna be baaaaaad!
#2 · 1
· · >>Not_A_Hat
Hercules never finds out about how he's going to get the apples here does he? Ah well it was still an enjoyable read from the myth. Solid all the way through.
#3 · 1
· · >>Not_A_Hat
I liked this one. It was basically a philosophical tract, but it was an enjoyable one.

I appreciated the speakers you have chosen for this dialogue, it was a nice way to give context and known traits to characters without explicitly telling them in the limited word count.

The story itself is a brief exposition and discussion about choices and consequences and is overall a pleasant read. The dialogue flows well, the characters have distinct voices and it has a beginning and an end.

While the story never reached too deep in the issue it was about, I couldn't really expect more in the amount of words available. It still feels like it just skimmed the surface, and maybe the minific format wasn't the best for it.

All in all, it was a nice read. Thank you for having submitted it.
#4 · 1
· · >>Not_A_Hat
Ooh. Mythology done straight up, no twists, no allegory, no "but in the modern world?" That's some chutzpah. I admire the spirit.

I admire this story, too. It flows well, it fits the mini length and format, pops off the page and holds my interest all the way through. Very nice!

There are a few quibbles to be had. As Fenton noted, the back and forth dialogue can be confusing at some points, forcing me to count lines to verify who's saying what. The main conflict is subtle, perhaps too subtle, and the story overall relies on more in-depth knowledge of mythology than I would prefer.

(For anyone who had trouble: Herakles is internally debating to what degree he should oppose Zeus and act for himself. In most versions of the real myth, he kills the eagle and returns with Atlas to free Prometheus later, while here he appears to decide on freeing him immediately. I think that's an original twist to this story. Can't be certain without the author's notes, though - real mythology, as it often does, has several differing versions, and some gloss over the incident or allude to an immediate liberation.)

How much knowledge of mythology is it okay to assume a reader will have, or require them to have in order to understand a story? I don't have a quantifiable answer to that, but I feel like this piece is a little bit over the line. As a very rough reckoning, I think you can choose either to not namedrop the main characters, or you can drop in a bunch of other unexplained references (the Titanomachy, the god's gift to man, etc,) but I don't like the choice to do both. Some readers are going to struggle to figure out who Herakles and Prometheus are, maybe have to look them up, and they're probably just give up and feel lost when they hit the later references.

Even with those issues, though, I think this is a strong piece. The best of the field I've read so far, in fact. Thank you for writing, and good luck with the rest of the votes!
#5 · 1
· · >>Not_A_Hat
This is a beautiful take on the encounter between those two mythological heroes. It indeed relies on a somewhat in-depth knowledge of mythology, but to me it's a pro rather than a con: literature has also to be a way to expand one's culture. Besides Prometheus's and Heracles's myths are well worth being known.

I have little to say on the very competent prose. I thought the dialogue was right, but maybe slightly misplaced. I would've chosen a different theme of conversation, had I had to write this piece. But I would be at a loss to tell what off the top of my head, and I honestly cannot blame the author for choosing his own path.

In any case, I wouldn't be surprised if that fic medals. Last OF mini, we had Sisyphus; this round we have Prometheus. Who doubts that mythology can still provide a fertile loam for elegant stories to grow on?
#6 · 1
· · >>Not_A_Hat
Nice all around. Good dialogue, good idea. I wish a little more were going on (you get the implication of the conflict, but you don't really feel it).

Careful with your repititions and mirrored actions. While they can have uses, I'm not sure the ones I caught (quirking of eyebrows and repeated mention of the dark behind stars for eyes) actually contributed a lot by either being mirrored or repeated.
#7 · 1
· · >>Not_A_Hat >>TitaniumDragon
I'm of two minds when it comes to the concept of this story. On the one hand, it is certainly a clever way of getting around the constraints of mini fiction be utilizing pre-existing characters from mythology. On the other hand, that same cleverness comes back to bite it terms of the deference I am willing to give the piece, because it is essentially Greek Mythology fan fiction. As a result, I feel the need to grade this story on a bit of a curve because the author has many of the aspects of story pre-built. In my mind, the difference between the story like this and a completely original fiction is akin to assembling a birdhouse with prefabricated parts from Ikea versus buying your own wood, nails, and making the birdhouse from scratch. The birdhouse from Ikea may be more beautiful and practical than most birdhouses made from scratch, but it's not really as impressive as something of comparable quality made from scratch. I'm sure someone could conjure up a response involving Dante's Inferno, Paradise Lost, or hell even Greek Mythology itself to discredit this kind of sentiment, but I would argue that in a contest where comparative merits between works of art are important, this sort of criticism is valid. Some people might also say I'm picking favorites by choosing to be harsher with this story than Off the Top, but they're WRONG .

What to say of the story itself outside of that factor, however? I suppose I'm not fully convinced on the characterization of Heracles. It's minor quibble, but from the onset, his short-lived narrative voice seems a lot more sentimental and thoughtful, more like a poet, than I would imagine the Heracles of legend to be. Not that I am advocating for portraying him as some sort of backwards barbarian, but by how the first person perspective is delivered, he's a bit more eloquent and formal than I feel he should be, and it makes him more difficult to contrast with the guile of Prometheus. Canonically, Hercules was never the smartest person, could be clever, but he was never a hero like Odysseus that mainly relied on his brainpower and tricks to do the work—much like Prometheus.

Another minor irk is Prometheus' comment mentioning Pandora and Epimetheus, which Prometheus somehow spins as an argument for giving up (or maybe it's his intention to provide a bad argument, hard to tell), which neglects to mention that marrying Pandora was a terrible idea that literally ruined the world and I'm not really sure Epimetheus was happier because of that. Prometheus also warned him about that, but I digress. The phrase "god's gift to men" also seems strangely anachronistic and out of place.

From the technical side of things, this story is engaging and has some nice little moments between the two characters, but it's far from flawless. I think relies a bit too heavy on action tagging the dialogue to get across the inflection and the action tags repeat themselves after a while. Lot of shaking heads, raising eyebrows, and shrugging going on here.

Additionally, if there were any particular line that would give away the identity of this author, it is the attempt to use a certain artsy line for repetition purposes. I'm about half-way on board for "the dark beyond the stars" line. It's an ambitious device that you wouldn't see a fledgling author attempt. The idea and the image behind it I think is good, but the verbiage still is not quite there for me to not roll my eyes a little every time I read it. It's sort of hammy in its current state.


The ideas behind the discussion between the two characters are fairly interesting. I can't say that the conclusions they come to is anything groundbreaking, but it's sort of nice in the simplicity of its ethos. The dialogue itself I think could stand to be a little sharper in some points, comes across as a little stilted by virtue of being too wordy, but communicates the ideas well enough and the emotions of the characters. People have brought forth the issue of the untagged dialogue back and forth being hard to follow, which I think maybe one proper noun and a little bit more attention from the reader can fix. I don't find it to be a major issue, but I do find that the talking heads don't give a lot of the beats of the story room to brief or really dwell on the importance of the dialogue.

I can't really say how this would read to someone who didn't know anything about Greek Mythology, though. I suspect they would be pretty confused.

So what did I think of the Ikea Birdhouse? Above average marks, certainly. Looks like a birdhouse, functions like a birdhouse, probably some nice birds living in it. The guy who made the birdhouse knew what he was doing. At the end of the day though, the really nice homemade birdhouses in the competition are a little more charming, I suppose.
#8 · 1
· · >>Not_A_Hat
You did well here. Making use of Prometheus and Hercules was a good choice; it allowed you to fit in a lot of implied backstory in a very small space. We know who these people are and what they are doing and why they are there, in the situation they're in, which gives you a lot more space for the actual plot.

Mythological characters can carry a lot of weight, and Prometheus has always been one of the most sympathetic of the Greek gods, seeing as he is on our side. Hercules is a man who often acted without thinking, but who also did mighty deeds and who sometimes did shit to piss people off.

I liked the overall arc of this - the discussion about making decisions and living one's life, set against such an epic background, works well. It accomplishes what it sets out to do, and we see some character development out of Hercules, as he makes his decision about what he wants to do and what he is willing to live with.
#9 ·
I think the conversation feels tangled because Prometheus is doing tricksy dialogue things, and the two characters don't have very distinct voices. I'm not sure if first-person was a good choice for this; as Ranmilla says, making the names explicit might have been a better choice, given the obscure background references. You have a few more words you could have used to clarify things here, but as-is, this works fairly well. Although I read quite a bit of Greek mythology when I was younger, so I dunno how representative I am.
#10 ·
· · >>Not_A_Hat
Congratulations on the win. I only read a couple of stories this round but I thought this was very strong.
#11 · 2
· · >>TitaniumDragon
Thanks for the votes, guys! And congratulations to Cold in Gardez with The Panopticon, and AndrewRogue with Off the Top!

I was of two minds on whether I'd enter this round, but that first line showed up in my head and would not leave. So I stayed up late and hammered this out, after a little encouragement from AndrewRogue in chat. In the end, I'm glad I did -- and hopefully he doesn't regret it too much. Well, he did try to seal my soul in a card... :P

Thanks! Sorry about the dialogue. I had more words I could have used to make this clearer, but I figured it was good enough; I guess not. Also, thanks for discussing this on the podcast so I didn't have to. :P I, uh, had to discuss my story last ofic mini, and it was terrifying.

Thanks! He doesn't; I originally intended to use that more, but I lost it in writing. I thought it worked well enough as a signal to who the character was (because I think he's known more for the apples than the Nemean Lion,) but maybe putting it in the beginning there makes it feel too Chekov-y.

Thanks! I didn't intend to write philosophy, but I guess it kinda turned out that way? This does feel somewhat 'stoic'. I tried to ground their discussion in their characters and give it meaning in-world, so hopefully it wasn't annoyingly reader-facing.

Thanks! I'll be honest here; I didn't try too hard to make this similar/different from any one myth. I just started from the idea that they'd met, and tried to write an interesting character interaction that wasn't complete nonsense. I knew there was a 'Herakles frees Prometheus' somewhere in the myths, but I don't think I've actually read it. I'm glad it worked for you!

You make good points about required backstory. I debated using names explicitly, and actually decided against it, although now I can't remember specifically why. Heracles/Herakles/Hercules was part of it, and I think it they didn't feel natural until a ways in, and then seemed annoyingly revelatory? Perhaps if I hadn't been so married to my opening lines, I could have done better… Mmm.

Also, thanks for your comment on the Radio Writeoff survey. I wanted to let you know I'd gotten it, but I wasn't sure how to contact you besides posting here. :P Radio Writeoff may be a bit up-in-the-air over the coming summer, but I'll keep you in mind!

Thanks! I like mythology a lot, but this is the first time I've actually tried using it much in writing. It was pretty fun.

Thanks! Yeah, I tend to favor action tags over dialogue; I would probably have been better with more dialogue tags and less action tags here, because several people felt the dialogue was difficult to follow.

Thanks! I'm honestly surprised I didn't see more of this sort of reaction. I realized after submitting that I was essentially doing fanfiction in an ofic round, but the more broadly-known nature of mythology seems to have made it acceptable enough for most people.

This comment set me thinking about the nature of tropes. I've used very stylized characters in my work before, including characters with little-to-no delineation; but what exactly is the dividing line between 'mythological' and 'archetypal'? I could have probably used the forty-something words I had left and made this a functionally-equivalent non-fanfiction, but I'm not sure I would have liked it as much. It's an interesting division to consider... perhaps fine-tuning my own world would have made things feel a bit more cohesive? Apparently, trading off breadth of audience for depth of backstory worked alright here, but I really should have considered the stakes before gambling.

I'm not sure I'm happy with the eyes bit either, but I wasn't sure what to replace it with that still would signal Herakles internal conflict early in the story.

The anachronism was somewhat intended; I wanted this to play their down-to-earth tone against the grandiosity of their backgrounds. But perhaps I went a bit overboard… Prometheus' 'I dunno' line also feels a touch too casual to me.

Thanks! I'm glad it worked for you. I do like my grandiosity, and playing with gods as characters is a good way to get at that. I originally wanted to bring in something to do with the idea that Herakles eventually does end up becoming part of the Pantheon, but it didn't really seem to fit in here.

Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)
#12 ·
Incidentally, I didn't comment on this before:

The rules for the original fiction round specify that the story be a piece not based on materials which are under copyright in the US. As such, I wasn't bothered at all by the use of Greek mythology. If someone writes something based on Greek mythology, or Native American stuff (we've had a previous round where someone used Raven and Coyote), or Cthulu, or the Bible, or Sherlock Holmes, or whatever, it is fair game under the rules. Making use of powerful cultural tropes is a useful shorthand in a story like this, but while it saves you on some things, it also requires you to write with a different set of restrictions. So I see it as a trade-off.

I thought this story did it effectively.

Of course, I wrote historical fiction back in the first original fiction minific round, as well as a political parody at another point, so maybe I'm a bit biased. :P
#13 ·
· · >>Not_A_Hat
I like the story, felt I should read that since I'm abusing its comment section, but alas I didn't see a way to PM you directly so here we are now.

Just wanted to say that it is indeed not a hat, but rather an elephant that has been eaten by a snake.
#14 ·
Indeed it is. I like in-jokes and childlike optimism in fiction. :)

Yeah, the writeoff site doesn't have PM's. Some of us are in the Discord channel, which can be reached by the 'chat' link at the top of the page, if you like. Some of us are on FimFiction.net (although I'm not there super often.) Dunno if either of those are easier than just leaving a comment on a story, though.

And I'm glad you liked the story. too. Thanks!