Category Archives: youth fiction

The Chess Master

image by Emille Domschot © 2012

This is the second story in my youth story series. It’s by Eva Domschot, who happens to be my sixteen-year-old daughter. But don’t let that prevent you from giving the story advice or praise, as you see fit. Enjoy!

Nathan pulled a miniature chess set out of his backpack and sat down at the park table. Lauren sat down across from him. Nathan and Lauren both loved chess and had taken to playing chess together after school was out. Nathan arranged the pieces neatly on the board.

“You go first,” he motioned to Lauren.

She nodded, flipping her auburn hair over one shoulder. She delicately slid the pawn in front of her king one space forward. So far, out of the fifteen games they had played, Nathan had won nine and Lauren had won six. Nathan was a very offensive player, while Lauren was a defensive player. She typically won through sneaky moves that Nathan didn’t notice. Nathan slid a piece forward, already forming ideas of how he could win this game. The afternoon passed away peacefully into dusk.

Lauren carefully moved a piece forward: “I should probably go home in a few minutes,” she said.

She looked up as she did so, and then shrieked. Flanking the two of them on both sides were a dozen men dressed in black.

Nathan looked around in horror.

“Where the hell did they come from,” he muttered under his breath.

Come on,” one of the men ordered harshly. “You two are coming with us.”

He grabbed Lauren by the wrist and pulled her away from the table. She pulled away desperately, her face pale with fear. Nathan went on the attack, but six men surrounded him and grabbed a hold of his arms and shoulders. Both of them struggled as the posse of men pushed them towards the back of a dark van and dumped them in.

“Lauren, are you OK?” asked Nathan.

“I’m freaking out,” she said in a strangely calm voice, “but other than that I’m fine.”

They both sat in silence, having no way to figure out what was going on.

The van screeched to a halt, and the men flung the doors of the van open. The guards dragged Nathan and Lauren out into an alleyway. One scruffy looking guard paused at the door of an old, dingy looking tower. He pulled a out a bunch of keys and unlocked the door. The guards herded Nathan and Lauren into the building, where they found themselves facing a stairwell.

“March up,” ordered the scruffy looking guard.

So up they all went. All Nathan and Lauren could hear was the dull thumping of boots for thirteen flights of stairs. Finally, they reached a long, low room with large glass windows along the wall that looked over the city. In the middle of the room was a vast chess board. Nathan had played multi-player chess before with four players, but this chess board had many different sets of chess pieces on it, and far, far too many pawns. Standing by the board, keenly watching the pieces, was an old man with long, grey hair and black robes. He turned now to look at them.

He smiled eerily. “Good job. You brought them. You are dismissed,” he waved his hands at the group of men.

The men left, leaving Lauren and Nathan standing by themselves in the middle of the room.

“What do you want with us?” asked Nathan angrily.

“What do I want with you,” repeated the old man slowly. “I need intelligent children who understand the finer points of chess. I must have successors when I am gone.”

“Successors to what?” asked Nathan, “and who said we would comply?”

The man smiled thinly: “You will be my successor, and you will comply because otherwise I will starve the girl.”

“You’d better not touch her,” was Nathan’s angry reply.

The old man merely smiled: “Certainly not, unless you don’t do what you are required. Step closer, both of you. You see this chess board is the entire world, which I control. It is simply a matter of strategy and understanding people to get the desired outcome. Watch closely.”

On the board, a white pawn stood ready to strike at a black King. The man slipped a black pawn out of a pocket on his robe and set it on the board beside the white pawn.

“Now look,” he said. “The pawn’s attention was on the king and…. now it will go after the pawn. All very simple. All this and more you shall learn.” He grinned: “My time isn’t quite like your time. I am always several moves ahead of the outside world. You may call me Master.”

Nathan looked boldly at him: “I certainly shall not. I have a proposition to make. I challenge you to a game of chess. If I win, you let us go. If you win, we stay.”

The Master sneered at the boy: “You seriously think that with the intellect of fifteen years that you can beat me? Very well. Watching the chess board does get a bit boring. People are so predictable.”

He yawned and continued, “Bring out your chess set. You play white, and take first move.”

Nathan noticed that Lauren had retreated to the corner of the room, and was sitting there with a pensive look on her face. The game began, and it was not long before Nathan could see the chess Master far outranked him, and in fact, was playing him. There were several opportunities the Master could have taken but did not seize upon. Nathan very carefully picked up a piece and moved it forward.

“Check mate,” said the old man in a bored voice, when a loud crash filled the room.

Both of them turned to see the gigantic chess table crash onto the floor, chess pieces bouncing through the air. Lauren was standing quite calmly next to it, a satisfied look on her face.

“I don’t play within your rules,” she said firmly. “I am not a pawn that you can just mess with and use, and I am not predictable!”

Her hazel eyes glinted with anger.

“You stupid, stupid girl,” the old man shrieked. “Don’t you realize how much chaos you are going to cause in the world?”

“Humans have a way of surviving,” said Lauren with derision. “You were causing vast chaos to achieve what you wanted. No more.”

The chess Master responded, “It was controlled chaos.”

He gave a sudden shriek and crumpled to the floor. Nathan leaned over him, his chess board in hand from where he had struck the old man a heavy blow on the head.

Lauren said, “I can’t abide being forced into playing by other people’s stupid rules. Now help me throw this chess board out the window. We are several moves ahead of the world, so we have a bit of time before supposed disaster strikes.”

He nodded and helped her heave it to one of the long windows. Together they smashed it against the glass and watched it fall and shatter on the concrete below them.

Nathan pulled a piece of rope from his pocket and tied the old man’s wrists together in a tight knot. Then he dragged him to a small supply closet across the room and pushed him in.

“Come on,” he said. “Let’s go.”

Hesitantly, they left the room, wary that there might be guards around, but there was no one. They exited the tower into the outside world. Nathan peered at his watch. It was the same time as before they had entered the tower.

“See you at school tomorrow, Lauren. And you’d better not get it into your head to start accidentally pushing our chess board off the table.”

Lauren only smiled: “You just never can tell with me.”

Share

A Draconian Error of the Fatal Kind

artwork by Emille Domschot © 2012

I’m beginning a series of short stories written by the under-18 crowd. This particular girl chose to remain anonymous; however, I happen to know she’s fourteen. The story also came in my e-mail without a title, so I made one up. That’ll teach the authors not to leave their stories untitled. As editor, I only had to change a few typos. Enjoy! Oh, and give this girl some feedback, please.

A torrent of flames passes me. The acrid stench of smoke clogs my throat, followed by another bout of fire, even as I dive to the side, sword in hand. Once the blade was shining silver- now it is tarnished with soot and hot in my sweaty grip. For a moment I am given reprieve from the fire-breathing dragon behind me. It blasts the granite rocks that shield me with impotent flames. Their roar fills my ears- or perhaps it is the roar of the dragon. Using my time wisely, I disentangle my arm from my crumpled shield. My entire wrist is numb, and my left arm hangs limp at my side, the result of a foolish attempt to block the dragon’s slashing claws with nothing but a flimsy bit of metal.

What am I doing here? I wonder again. This has to be my stupidest idea yet. But of course, there really was no other option, I suppose. It was either this or let the princess get roasted, which I guess would go against my vows as a knight of the kingdom. Apparently the importance of those vows was lost upon the other “heroic warriors” who watched in disbelief as I took on the job. Kill the fire breathing dragon, and rescue the princess! Oh, and while you’re at it, try not to be roasted to a crisp, cut to ribbons, eaten, or otherwise murdered. Sound good? Haha.

“Come out petty human, and meet your fate!” The terrible, yet beautiful, voice rings in my ears, causing my already aching head to pound. Apparently a dragon’s voice is supposed to be hypnotic. It uses its smooth tongue to lure unsuspecting knights into its claws.

But the dragon’s attempt is lost on me, so I shout back, “Shut you’re trap! You smell like burnt feathers and a dead animal! You should clean more often you filthy slob!”

This seems to surprise the dragon. Apparently, it’s not used to being back-sassed by its next meal. Another wall of flame pours over the stone that I’m cowering behind. Time to move.

I spring away from the rock, almost tripping over the bleached skeleton of some less fortunate victim. A cloud of smoke engulfs me- the dragon seems to be running low on fire at the moment. I scramble to the other side of the cave and spin around, sword at the ready. The dragon snarls angrily and slides after me, its black hide rippling over huge muscles, its scales winking brightly in the light cast by the flames still burning behind it. That’s when I notice two things. One- to my right is a narrow cave mouth, too small for the dragon to enter, but plenty big for me. Two- a huge boulder, perched on a ledge over the cave mouth. It’s probably hopeless, but it’s my only shot.

I dart to the side, just as another plume of flame rakes by me. I feel it singe my left side, but I keep running. I dodge a clawed foot, roll away from a pair of snapping jaws, and regain my feet. The dragon must realize my intent, because it roars and lunges after me. Perfect. No seriously, I’m not being sarcastic. It’s all part of the plan.

A split second before its jaws snap shut on my rear end, I sprint into the tunnel. For a second the dragon continues to follow me. Its neck is slender enough to enter the cave. Suddenly it jolts to a stop as its broad shoulders crash into the rock walls around the tunnel. It starts to recoil, as if somehow it senses its danger. Too late. Disturbed by the veritable earthquake the dragon caused, the giant boulder plunges downward, landing on the dragon’s neck, just behind the skull, and pinning it to the ground.

For a while the beast struggles futilely, its wings battering the air around it, its tail lashing. Finally it desists and sits in sullen silence.

I take my time coming out of the tunnel, and skirt to the side of its head. It can still breathe fire.

“Well?” it snaps irritably. “Are you going to kill me or not?”

“Not on my agenda,” I say with a smirk, which the dragon cannot see, because my entire face is hidden behind my helmet. “I think I’ll leave you here to struggle for a few centuries. Maybe some of this rubble will shift and you can escape sometime in the next millennia.”

“Murderer!” the dragon screeches, in a voice totally devoid of beauty.

“Oh, it won’t kill you. You can survive at least that long without food,” I say. “Might not be much fun, but that’s not my problem.”

The dragon snorts out a puff of smoke and changes tactics. It speaks in a soft, silky voice. “I have many secrets that I could tell you,” it says enticingly. “Come to me, and I can make you powerful among men…”

I roll my eyes. My expression is again lost upon the dragon. “Not working!” I say breezily.

“You know you want it,” the dragon continues in an obviously feminine voice that would snag the hearts and minds of most warriors. Most. Not all.

“Still not working,” I say again.

“Come to me!” the dragon persists. “Be my servant. Release me!”

I let my head loll to the side, and speak in a choked voice, seeming to struggle with my words. “Your wish is… my command…master,” I say, taking half a step forward.

The dragon seems surprised. “Really?”

My head pops up, and I laugh. “No, not really. I’m just pulling your tail.”

The dragon bellows in rage. “Curse you, Small One! How do you escape my charms?”

I tip my head to the side thoughtfully. “Hmmm…well, I think I’ll keep that information to myself,” I say. “Now, cut the chatter and tell me where the princess is hidden.”

“No!” the dragon says petulantly.

“Yes!” I snap.

“No!”

“Yes!”

“No, no, no!”

“Yes, yes, yes!”

“Never! Ouch!”

This last exclamation is torn from the dragon’s scaly lips as I poke it in the eye with my sword. “Tell me!”

“Oh fine! Fifth floor, room 203.”

“Thank you good sir!” I reply as sweetly as possible, and stroll away.

Four flights of stairs later (and these are huge stairs, I mean, this is a dragon’s lair, right?) I arrive panting at a wide stone corridor. I walk down the hallway, looking at the numbers on the doors. 201, 202, ah, 203. I sheath my sword and rap on the door with my armored knuckles.

I might be imagining it, but I think I hear a dramatic sigh from within. There’s some scuffling, and the door is flung open. A beautiful woman stands there, her pale gold tresses swept back from her face, her bright red dress bejeweled with bright sequins.

I scuffle my foot. “Uh, I beat the dragon. Let’s go.”

She looks a little stunned at my direct approach, but she recovers herself neatly and sinks into a graceful curtsy. “Oh Sir Knight, thank you for freeing me from the clutches of my foul oppressor. I beg that you will accept this favor as a token of my gratitude.” She extends one pale arm and offers me a spotless white handkerchief.

“Er, right, thanks,” I say, taking it. It is immediately dirtied by my sooty hands.

“May I ask the name of my rescuer?” she asks, clasping her hands and fluttering her eyelids flirtatiously. “After all, you have gone through so much to rescue me. I am sure my esteemed father will be quite pleased to have you as his son-in-law, but first, unhelm yourself and tell me your name.”

I feel myself go bright red. “Erm, lady, I think you have it all wrong,” I say.

“Of course I don’t!” she exclaims. “Now remove your helm!” Her last statement sounds imperious, so I do as she says, allowing my raven black locks to spill down around my shoulders, framing my slender face and crystal blue eyes.

Her silence seems loud to my ears.

“Um….awkward….” I say. “Marrying you was definitely not in my job description.”

“You’re a girl?” she gulps.

“Yeah, why so surprised?” I reply indignantly. “Now let’s go!”

“But I must be rescued by a prince!” she exclaims. “Not a princess!”

“Well I’m neither, so let’s go!” I snap.

“No!” she says childishly. “Go find another dragon to guard me until a guy comes and rescues me!”

“All your precious princes were too scared to come!” I spit out. “So come on!”

“But it’s not traditional!” she complains.

“Do I look like I care?”

“I’m in charge here and you’ll do as I say!”

“Shut up and save it for daddy!”

“Desist, o foul imposter!”

“Bratty little princess!”

“Ugly old maid!”

“Priss!”

“Tom-boy!”

Our conversation is cut short here as I knock her out with a swift blow to the temple. If I was a dashing knight I would catch her before she crumpled to the ground, but I’m not, so I let her fall.

“Oh and by the way,” I say sarcastically, “my name is Galadarel.”

I hoist her over my shoulder and start down the stairs. Down in the main cavern I meet the dragon again. It’s tapping its claws impatiently on the ground as it waits for me.

“Oh there you are! Got her, have you? Good. She was becoming a nuisance.”

“Tell me about it!” I snap. “I’ll be glad to be rid of her. See you around sometime. Or not.”

The dragon sighs dramatically, but I can tell it’s looking at my face closely. “Wait!” it cries. “You are female! No wonder my voice didn’t work on you!”

I wink slyly. “Bye now!”

Its voice carries after me. “Wait, come back!” it cries. But I’m gone before it can change its tactics and find some other way to control me. Annoying as she may be, I have a princess to deliver.

Share