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That Winter Feeling · Original Short Story ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 2000–8000
Show rules for this event
Like the Old World

“Aren’t you cold?”

“What, did ya' want me to steal another sweater?”

“That… that is not what I meant.”

“Well then howzabout you speak clearer next time?”

“I hate you.”

“Ah’ know.”

The skeleton leaned deeper against her companion’s breast and crossed her arms over the two deer silhouettes comically copulating on the front of her neon green, knitted sweater. Yellow and candy apple red squares and circles and spirals adorned her garment in a multitude of patterns that, once upon a time, had reflected folk signs of various origins and meanings.

The skeleton herself sunk deeper into the turtleneck like collar of said horrid garment, colored an appropriate, less blindingly-red, trying to keep the arctic wind from howling throughout her hollow eye sockets. The two companions sat in silence, their only company beside one another being giant snowflakes the size of one’s eyeballs, flittering from the Heavens above, twisting and turning along with the currents tearing them across the pallid landscape all around.

“Oh my Goddess, you are the absolute worst.”

Just as her companion had said that the flesh she had been leaning against grew warm and the snow that had already accumulated around and atop them in a sizable pile began melting at a rapid rate. He snorted and a great plume of smoke billowed from his nostrils, a faint layer of soot settling down atop her head, which she hastily shook off.

“Alright, so maybe I s’was a wee bit cold.”

“Yeah, yeah, keep rattling those bones. Maybe if you freeze thoroughly they’ll jangle better.”

The woman roughly elbowed him but his inky scales prevented much damage. In turn, he simply let out a hearty laugh and she couldn’t help but smile as well. This was one occasion where a smidge of pride was not worth a rattling jaw.

“So,” he spoke up, his deep rumbling voice echoing throughout the white wastes, “mind actually telling me why you dragged us out here to freeze?”

“Ah didn’t drag us to freeze, I dragged us ta enjoy the wonderment of the Deep Frost.” She threw out her arms in a presenting manner. The wind continued whipping around a slurry of grays and whites painting the Stars and the Lands in the same vein, but every so often one could catch glimpses of bright lights deep in the Valley below.

She tilted her head back, almost cracking her vertebrae in the process, to try and gauge the expression of her companion. The Great Dragon, for the most part, simply looked bemused. He pulled back his third eyelid a few times to squint at the horizon but seemed to visibly give up after a few moments. He shook his head to get the pile of half-melted snow to slide off his obsidian scales.

“Alright then.” He arched his neck and pointed his tapered snout downward to look the woman in the eyes. Or at least the points of emerald light in her eye sockets that were considered her eyes. “Deep Frost: enjoyed. Can we leave?”


“For Land sakes, Arial, I might be a walking furnace but that doesn’t mean I like being turned into a popsicle.”

“‘Lright, ‘lright, geez.”

Arial heaved herself up to her feet with the grace of a half-frozen acrobat. The sweater she wore was so huge on her bony frame it hung halfway down to her knees, like some atrocious dress dug out from the bottoms of hand-me-down crates. She kicked around in the snow for a bit before striking something brown. A spark of emerald magic and she levitated the well-worn leather bag, already open, to her waiting hands. She nearly lost a digit while rifling through the Holding, until eventually she yanked out a book far too large for the opening of said bag.

The book itself was plain, with yellowed pages and a hardback cover so worn one could barely even tell what colors it had once been. Arial gently opened it, not to damage the spine any more than time had done, and quickly flipped to the appropriate page.

“See, Obs’, there's this thing ‘ah read about, a bunch’oh stuff that used ta be celebrated in the Old World. And there was this really interetin’ thin’ that happened when it snowed. Since it dun snow down in Elder ah thought we’d pass through the Deep Frost an’ well…”

“Wait.” the dragon cut her off. He held out his index finger, almost half the size of the skeleton he had been shielding with his body for the last half hour.

“Did… Did you seriously drag us all the way up here for some of your dumb Old World garbage?” When he spoke piles of snow slid off the pine needles they had been perched atop.

“We could have been on our way to the Tameria like we were supposed to, but no!” His wings exploded in agitation from his sides, kicking up even more snow than the wind. “Do you have any idea how much I’ll have to eat to regain all the magic I wasted on this trip?!”

“Ya’ didn’t even let me finish!” Arial shot back.

“I don’t care what this is about!”

“You cared before ah said it was about ta’ Old World!”

The two beings glared at one another. Arial was hugging the book to her ribs, careful not to get it wet in the flurry still around them. Obsidian, meanwhile, had raised himself into a half-sitting position, his claws planted firmly in the everfrost on either side of the woman, his three tails still coiling near her in a crescent shape.

“Look, it ain’t like the magic stuff I thought worked, okay? This is different!” Arial’s voice was softer than before. Pleading even, not that the dragon cared at the moment.

“You keep saying that every cursed time, and every cursed time we end up in some mess or another.” She wasn’t looking at him anymore. “Why. Why do I let you drag me into this, every Goddess forsaken time?”

Arial was about to try and answer but her attention was draw to the points of light across the obscured horizon. They were… moving?

Her eyesockets widened and she instantly shrank back against her companion. Obsidian, sensing the sudden change in his friend’s demeanour, swiftly turned his attention outward. It did not take him long to spot the same moving lights as they drew closer and closer through the flurry.

“As long as you don’t move yer fat ass they might think yer a rock.” Arial whispered to him whilst the dragon tried to look as unsuspicious as possible.

The lights began running in their direction.

There was a single second of absolute stillness before the two jolted into action. Arial shoved her book onto her bag before slinging it across her shoulder and leaping at Obsidian who had lowered his head to the ground. The moment he was sure the skeletal woman was holding onto him he flapped with all his might and pushed away from the earth. Briefly, all was white as he ascended higher into the atmosphere.

Amidst the blizzard there were shouts and cries and the stray bolt of magic or arrow passing by, but the dark dragon ignored all. Higher and higher they rose and the air grew thinner as they went. Not that either much minded nor noticed.

Eventually, the clouds broke away and the two friends greeted a vast expanse of nothing stretching as far the eyes could see. Gray clouds swirled beneath, forever to pour snow down to the Land beneath. High above, where the Stars begun to change their color to match that of the Great Dragon’s scales points of light flickered into being. Nameless, colorful baubles forming strange lines and images for all to partake in. Well, at least those that did not reside within the Deep Frost or other such lands.

Obsidian straightened his wings and tails, settling himself into a steady flight in the general direction of ‘back’.

“So.” The altitude, what with its currents both natural and magical, had a habit of muting all sounds, yet for some reason the two had never bothered to discover, they had always been able hear one another. “Mind telling me why there was yet another mob after us?”

Arial did not speak, rather she shifted her grip on the scales protruding from the dragon’s spine. A spark of magic and she tethered herself to him as they usually did. Still silent she shifted around atop him like an impatient child before eventually sighing and speaking.

“Well… I did kinda’ steal a bunch’o things. This ‘n that. Like this sweater.” She patted the comically stitched deer with a slight smirk. “An’ I'm pretty sure they noticed I was a skell’, so there's ‘at.”

Obsidian snorted.

“What? They didn’t take Solum money!”

“What am I going to do with you?”

The phrase had always been playful between them as they chastised one another whilst pulling them out of a variety of troubles, yet this time it felt different. It was not a pleasant feeling.

“This thin’…” Arial was the first to pierce the silence once more as she lounged atop the dragon’s neck like a bed, staring up at the points of light filling the Stars. “The thing I read about, well, ta’ bits I could translate, ah’ mean. It was a festival, in the Old World. A buncha’ peoples celebrated it. Like, almost all the peoples’.”

No response.

“They did this thing where they got ta’gether and had a feast and then they sat around an unearthed tree and-”


She did.

“Stop. Just… just… Why. Why do you keep doing this? Every time, it’s some artifact or some book or some tech-y thing and it’s always broken garbage, yet you keep trying to find more even if we all know there's nothing left intact.”

He shook his head in confusion.

“I mean. I get the stuff part. If it works, by some miracle, great, if not, pawn it off. But then you start bringing all this freaky incantation and festival, and science and weird Gods stuff into our lives and…”

“I've been nice Ari’. I have, but I can't keep doing this. I can't keep fueling all this freakish stuff that has no place in our world anymore. It’s the OLD World for a good reason…”

He felt her curl into a ball. Obsidian heaved a great sigh, subconsciously angling his wings downward. As his three tails touched the tops of the never-ending cloudbank they kicked up a trail behind them, swirling and twisting and settling. He couldn’t see any of it, yet he knew Arial had always been fascinated by such simple things. He supposed that was the way she simply was.

“Cuz’ ah thought it be nice.”


“Why I bothered, why I dragged you all the way out here, ah thought it be nice ta’ do some silly little Old World festival, but ah guess all ah’ can ever be is wrong!

She squeezed her eye sockets shut and crossed her arms again, inadvertently hugging herself in the process.

“I'm sorry.”

It was pitiful, yes.

“I didn’t mean it like that, Arial, I'm sorry…”

No response.

They climbed higher into the Stars again.

“Ya’ know what they did? They gave gifts ta people they cared about.”

She sat up cross-legged and pulled her bag to her lap. Reaching in, so deep she stopped only at her shoulder as she did not wish to stick her entire skull in again. Navigating by touch was second nature to the woman and soon she had pulled out what she had been looking for.

“You an’ I? We’ve spent forever together.”

She turned the item around in her hands.

“And ah mean forever-forever. I dun think ah even remember when we didn’t know each other.”

She got on her knees, item still clenched in one hand, and crawled over to the dragon’s head, laying down right between his four horns. If he crossed his eyes right he could just about see her ghostly form.

“‘Ah thought…”

She held it out in front of his right eye. While his third eyelid muted some of the colors he took in the item being whipped around by the arctic winds. It was a tiny plush, of a soft, round body of two tones. One side soft moss green and the bottom half an off, pale yellow. From its sides protruded four flippers of a mix of green and brown and a tiny little pointed tail at the end. The head of the push was yellow like the belly, with little black bead eyes and an orange-brown bill. It was visibly soft and fuzzy, no doubt full of little beans, and one could admire the way the stitching gave patterns to the plainer parts of the toy.

A tiny, plush, hand stitched turtle-duck.

“Ah thought…”

A single drop a rain rolled down the side of Obsidian’s scales.

There was no rain this high up.


“An’ ah know you hate this stuff. All my moronic legends and worthless trinkets so ah’ve always tried ta not bother you with it, ya know?”

She pressed her cheekbone against the top of his skull, still holding the toy out beside his eye. More droplets ran down the dragon’s scales.

“And ‘fer once ah thought I found somethin’ from the Old World that you might’ve liked and I messed that up too!”

He heard a single pitiful sob.

He waited for something else.

He received the silence of wind in response.

A single burst of magic down his spine and he shredded the magic tether tying them to one another. In one swift motion he flipped and dove. Arial offered no resistance as he plucked her from the freefall and pressed her against his chest, ever so gently.

“I'm sorry.”

Obsidian wasn’t sure that meant much anymore.

Maybe it hadn’t mean much in years.

She weakly wrapped her hands hallway across his chest as they simply hovered in the space between the Stars and the Lands.

“’S okay…”

The dragon scrunched up his face.

“Does… does the gift have to be physical?”

“I don’t think so.” She rubbed her eyesocket with the plush.

“Can I give you my gift?”

She smiled. Just a bit.

“Ya’ got one?”

“I hope so.” he sheepishly muttered.

“Why not.”

“My gift to you is…” He held her out at arm’s length in front of him, precariously dangling her over the vast expanse of gray beneath and above.

“It’s… I’ll listen. About the Old World. It’s been so long I guess I forgot what it was like to have a friend with weird interests… I… I promise I’ll try and be better about this. So you don’t have to feel like you can't like the things you love because of me… alright?”

She seemed contemplative for a moment.

“That is one cheap gift.”

Laughter bubbled up from deep within his chest and all throughout his long neck before spilling forth from his mouth as a raspy ‘hah’ whilst his companion softly giggled in his grasp.

They laughed and laughed, and perhaps there were a few stray droplets escaping their eyes, but neither minded much. Eventually the laughter ran dry and they simply smiled at one another like they always had. Obsidian gently perched Arial atop his head and evened his wingbeats.

“Now can we please go somewhere warmer? I'm freezing two out of three tails off.”

“Yeah, the sweater doesn’t really do much. Ah don’t really know what I was expectin’.”

“If we get colds I'm blaming you.”

“Psch, ah’m blaming myself!”

They laughed one more time.

“Hey, uh, can you hold onto Turts for safekeeping until we get somewhere I can land?”


“The plush. Ya’ know… For the turtle part?”

“What about the duck part? Ah spent a lotta’ time makin’ it.”

“I’ll think of something.”

“Ya’ll better, or I'm takin ‘im back!”

“*Gasp* You wouldn’t!”

“Try me.”

“You are pure evil, you know that, right?”

“‘Course I do.”

“Heh, the worst of the worst.”

“An’ ta best of the worst. Forever, right?”


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#1 · 1
This one had a rough start for me. There was a lot to convey, and it took a while (and some rereads) for me to understand the scenario.

That one was a skeleton was clear earlier and the differentiation in voices was useful, but it took me a while to identify who was who. It didn’t help that ‘breast’ made me think one of them was a female human, which turned out to be completely wrong.

There were a few grammar goofs, but nothing too major

Also, how would a skeleton even get cold? Does not compute.

There were places that felt a little tell’y: for example ‘exploded in agitation’ – I felt that the ‘in agitation’ was clear from context.

The worldbuilding was interesting; it didn’t seem small, and from what we saw contained an interesting mix of old (presumably our) technology, and magic. Some variations as well within that; third eyelid and multiple horns/tails

The message of the story was sweet, but even though ‘this time it felt different’ the rift between them seemed relatively shallow and easily mended. Another factor was that I didn’t have enough of an emotional connection to the characters for it to really resonate with me.

It might have helped if we’d had more context; some time to get to know them – scenes that show their normal interactions. Maybe show Ariel making the gift and all the effort she expends, so we’d know her hopes going into it.
#2 · 1
Thick phonetic dialogue, ‘ah’ in particular, is one of my pet peeves. It did help differentiate the character voices though, so I’ll give you that.

I had a hard time visualizing the beginning. Is this character an actual skeleton or just bone-thin? What is the other speaker? Wait, scales? I would’ve liked a clearer visual sooner, as well as stated character names. I know asking for names upfront might sound petty, but as I read I’m mentally reassigning the speaker titles from he/she to Obs/Arial to Obsidan/Arial, which is mental energy that isn’t being spent on deep-diving into the world you’re creating, and what we get to see of it is pretty interesting.

The character sentiment here is sweet despite its mundane roots, and makes excellent use of the prompt in my opinion. I do wish there was a more worldbuilding here, especially in light of the odd pair of characters you’ve chosen.
#3 ·
The beginning of the story needs reworking--the narration there consists mainly of monotonous run-on sentences, some of which can make a reader's eyes glaze over, such as this one which I had to re-read a few times:
Just as her companion had said that the flesh she had been leaning against grew warm and the snow that had already accumulated around and atop them in a sizable pile began melting at a rapid rate.

A couple of commas, splitting some of the sentences, and removing unnecessary details would go a long way towards fixing the rougher parts.

Arial's dialect gets a bit annoying at times, as well as unrealistic ("'lright"?--it seems very awkward to actually say out loud; "bunch'oh"? "interetin'"?) I can't even tell if some of these are typos, or deliberate choices. Sorry if these are actual bits of dialect that people use.

When he spoke piles of snow slid off the pine needles they had been perched atop.

This confused me at first, since I thought "they" referred to Arial and the Dragon. o_O Anyway, the last five words are unnecessary here (if the snow slid off the needles, of course it was on top of the needles first). Also, you can't really perch "piles" of snow on top of tiny "needles".
#4 · 2
It's a sweet little story about dealing with the weird idiosyncrasies of your partner, painted over with a thick layer of weird. Not a bad choice by any means, and definitely a hook with the right audiences. There is just a smooth flow from initiation of conflict through resolution.

You should tie the start of the narration into the same paragraph as the dialogue,. As written, readers will naturally assume the non-accented one is Arial because of the line beat sets it up that the skeleton acts after the last line of dialogue.

Some of the things you do with the characters is odd: primarily doing oddly unnatural things with them (e.g. Ari's eyesocket movements).

Honestly not a lot to say here. I'm a big fan of shorts that are just short character arcs. I do think the fantasy baggage actually detracts a little bit here. While it's neat and gives a unique twist, it asks questions that draw focus away from the actual core of the story. I'd try to pull it back just a bit to really let the character interaction shine while the weird is just flavor.