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The Last Thing · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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The Pearl
The boy stood over the corpse of the slain griffin and watched its blood foam orange with the water that slicked the floor of the cavern where their encounter had just ended in death. It was bigger up close than he had imagined peering at it from the tunnel which led up to its lair. It lay stretched out, filled with guts and fiber and bearing its hide. It’s neck was shorn of feathers from the fight, exposing the outline of its throat where the bones of rabbits and foxes had passed over decades; a ruff of lion’s mane encircled the base like the specter of a dark mountainside.

For the boy, it had only been a matter of waiting, being patient. He had seen the griffin a few yards up from the narrow passageway that let him through—first, sensing the movement of heat pushing back through the glow of his torch. Then in the shadows he saw a leg, thick with muscle, step and turn outside the entrance. The fervor of its motion sent a sensation down his spine; the griffin, for all its majesty, patrolled as though it didn’t know what to think of itself after the citizenry of the forest and the villages withdrew. It was uneasy on its feet—a mad, helpless fiend.

The only hope for passage was a sufficiently large boulder which could be used to assault the griffin the moment it stepped from its den into the recess leading outside. With enough force, it would be susceptible to having a broken leg or rib, and a fragmented stalagmite could be used to finish the task.

After an hour of waiting, the griffin finally appeared. The boy started up and pushed his stone toward its broadside, but missed and caught it by the neck. It had noticed something with its far vision, and had protruded its head in a quick pursuit, and so became pinched against the tunnel wall by the boy’s attack. He could do nothing but push—letting up would be the end for him. He pushed and pushed as the griffin’s eyes bulged, like great hollow geodes, and its veins grew thick like an old heart choked by the fat of a wanton existence. In defiance, it wheezed a terrible cry at its assailant, then with a gentle give fell sideways, where at last its restless legs found quietude.

The griffin’s body now reposed like one of the ageless rocks of the cavern. The boy was left exhausted by the struggle; his bones and his morale ached for comfort. He had not fully expected his confrontation with the griffin, and the prize he was after, which glowed in the corner of his sight like the disc of the sun behind a gray cloud, only just began to rekindle in his memory. It was a large jewel like a notched pearl, translucent, with a crystalline structure running deep into its core. The object did not so much interest him; he would sell it, once he returned to his village, and use the profit to improve the paddocks on his estate. But the kill had somehow made the crystal branches of the jewel more fathomless; in it he saw pathways leading to all the traders who might have already possessed it, and all those who might yet pay a price to own it.

He left the griffin behind and approached the ledge where the jewel was fixed. It was up high over a ravine which was unseen from the distance of the cavern entry. It might have been a simple matter. All that was needed was a foothold to scale the wall, or a narrow ridge to sneak across the deep. But the boy found nothing. He considered going back—but no ladder he knew, no rope and hook, would get him across the chasm. And all the while he gaped, and dreamed, and pondered what recourse he might have, the jewel shined, oozing an iridescent oil that dribbled down the sheer wall into the unknown blackness, where what wanted was not desire, but means.

All the same, he thought, it would be a waste to have killed the griffin in vain. He set to work, and sold the paws, the talons, and the head of the beast at the marketplace, where he became famous for his courage.
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#1 · 2
Your first sentence is so busy that I don't know which piece of it should be my focus. It's fine to have a first sentence accomplish multiple things, like establish a setting and being to characterize someone, but you still need to make it clear what the reader's takeaway should be before even getting to the second sentence.

That's a pretty weak ending, and the story doesn't do much to try making a point out of it. It's always a risky decision to show how things turn out up front, because then that can disarm the tension of how to get there. It depends on the story, but all the tension here is in the fight itself, which lasts most of the story, and we already know he gets through unscathed. Then he can't get the prize he was after, but he dismisses that without much more than a shrug and finds something of value anyway. It's sure set up like I'm supposed to get some meaning out of that, but I'm not sure what, and the boy doesn't seem to learn anything from it either. It feels more like a pure slice of life scene than a story.