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The Howl in the Dark · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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More Like a Kennel of Hounds Than Men
I remember the day I became a man. The new boy they'd taken had finally stopped crying enough to put him to work, and so they brought me out all fine like. It was a devil's life he was heading for, but better him than me. Aye, he turned out a devil through and through.

Cookie shook me hand. "Ya've done your time, boy," he said, that suppertime. Led me out into the mess and sat me down right with the rest of the crew. They was all cheering and laughing. Somehow I ended up with a mug of grog in my hand. By God, I think that was the worst thing I ever tasted. I must've spilled half of it choking.

And I won't lie, I was bracing. But they didn't beat me for it. They all just started laughing.

Then the food came out and, man, I ate as much as I got in a whole week as a cabin boy!

Ah. They was hard men. But I'd done my work for them. I'd taken my blows—and they were a lot more generous with those than food. But I was one their own the minute I stepped onto those boards.

I can still see it: old Rotter jumping up on the table and dancing the meanest jig you ever saw. Then he pulled me up there with him. Let me tell you, nothing like a crowd of drunken pirates cheering you on to teach you how to dance real fast. No I didn't do half bad up there. Heh, it was just a moment and I could hardly feel my bruises. Even Cups was roaring down on the floor.

Then the captain came in...

Fetch me another drink, boy.

He always had a fire in his eyes, that man. And I never heard a breath against any course he charted—from our men. There'll be hundreds who've died cursing him. Well this wasn't a man who quieted his crew when he came into a room, though you can be damn sure every man there was scared of him. He had a type, he did, of man that he picked for his ship. And as soon as we caught sight of him everyone started yelling loud enough to drown out cannonfire.

I'd learned real quick (and I saw then my mates had too) to listen, to tell when he had a plan. "To arms!" he called, "Raise the black!"

Every man jumped to. I won't lie I was frightened. All the raids before I'd been below with whatever work I had. This was one of things I hadn't learned.

I stood there on the table, frozen, as the mess emptied. The captain walked toward me. I stepped off the table. I was watching his hands the whole time. You would've too. You lot are lucky I don't cuff you as much as he did me. God knows I oughta.

He didn't hit though. That devil grinned his big, rotten grin. He handed me a pistol. "Yer boardin'," he said.

Another mug.

We came up alongside them and boarded, whooping and howling the whole time. Those sons of bitches must have been scared out of their minds.

That was the fight I lost my leg. My first time and... I made 'em pay for it. That captain thought he had me good when he sliced me with his cutlass. Well I took that pistol and I shot the bastard right in the face.

They carried me back bleeding, but we routed those bastards after that. Didn't even leave them with socks.

No one beat me after that, or treated me like a boy, let me tell you.

And you oughta listen to that! Maybe next time you're getting whipped, think if it's cause you're not pulling your weight. Now run and get out there and if you don't bring back all the gold you can carry, I swear I'll take your legs myself.
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#1 · 2
· · >>Miller Minus
This seems:

Oddly bloodless for such a blood-thirsty tale. I don't get any sense of how our narrator feels about anything that happened to him. Is he angry about how he was treated? Perversely glad since it made him the man he is today? And what exactly is his position onboard? Is he captain now? Or, like Long John Silver after he lost his leg, is he nominally the cook while still being more captain than any captain could be?

The other thing I found odd was the reference in the opening paragraph to the future of the cabin boy who replaces our narrator. I figured he'd come back somehow at the end since he has such a prominent place at the beginning, but he's never heard from again.

Still, you can't go wrong with a story about pirates, especially this close to International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

#2 ·
>>Baal Bunny

I don't get any sense of how our narrator feels about anything that happened to him.

So I wasn't the only one who noticed this.

The voicing here would be excellent if the narrator were talking about the first time he caught an exceptionally large fish, but the bloody battle and the severed leg don't fit with his emotional tone. Dig in, Author! Show me how this guy really feels! If he's preparing a bunch of lilly-livered, good-for-nothing scallywags for a fuckin' war, then make ME want to go to that war! Or make me cry and wish this guy would stop yelling at me! Or make me want to put my hand on his shoulder and ask if there's a dingy he and I can take off this thing so that we can talk about our feelings!

I don't know! There's a lot of directions to go, is my point. You'll still get points for your unique plot (compared to the other entries) and the setting/voice being done well, it just needs that extra oomph to make it more memorable.
#3 ·
· · >>Hap >>Cassius
Alternate Title: The Bastards of Jolly Roger Bay

I was going through all the entries, from top to bottom, and before I read Kennel of Hounds I thought, "You know what this round needs? A story about fucking pirates." And that must've done it, because here it is.

This is easily one of my favorites, even though I'll somewhat agree with the previous comments about the voicing and overall tonal direction of the thing.

This is not a story that has a twist, necessarily, unless you count the narrator killing the former captain of his ship as a twist, though it's honestly more of an explanation as to how he got here.

It's a reasonably self-contained story about how a guy lost his innocence (and also a leg) and became the captain of a ship filled with uncivilized bros. Clearly this is not the bro-tastic utopia the ancient Greeks had envisioned, hence the title. It's kind of an obvious metaphor, but it's used effectively and is by no means confusing.

It took me a while to figure out that its connection to the prompt is pretty tenuous, though.

Not that we ever judge entries on how connected they are to the prompt anyway.

The funny thing about Kennel of Hounds is that my favorite aspect of it also happens to be (arguably) its biggest flaw, that being the voice of the narrator. At first I though he was meant to be Scottish or Irish (someone from the British Isles either way) but I figured this was a story about pirates and I instantly loved it.

Okay, maybe "loved" is a bit too strong a word; there aren't any entries that come to my mind that I'd say I swooned over, but this did come close enough.

Flawed, but certainly worth re-reading.
#4 · 1
· · >>Cassius
I think you might need to read this one again.
#5 · 3
· · >>No_Raisin

the narrator killing the former captain of his ship as a twist

This didn't happen. Whoops.

It took me a while to figure out that its connection to the prompt is pretty tenuous, though.

I don't get what you think is tenuous, mostly because you don't explain, but the connection to me is pretty apparent in that the captain is "howling" to his men in the form of a tough guy speech to call them to battle. Albeit the time of day and lighting conditions aren't specified (I assume it's in the dark), this is a pretty strong connection, in my opinion.
#6 ·
Seems like a stretch to me, soooo.