Today, we announce the winner of our sixth and last category. Next, we'll let the Final Round judges go to work reviewing all the year's genre winners. They'll have the tough job of determining which of those talented writers should be the winner of the crystal rocket trophy. Finally, in December, we'll announce who wins Grand Prize: not just a trophy, but an opportunity to place his or her winning entry on the desk of a specially-selected agent or editor, bypassing the slush pile.
Making that choice will be a challenge. This month, however, the judges had no difficulty choosing a winner for the Speculative Fiction category.
"Creating a believable narrative in a novel is challenging," said one judge. "Creating one in a speculative novel is even more arduous. This entry accomplishes this, and more. I was drawn in by the compelling characters and a richly layered plot that left me wanting to read the rest of the story."
The other judge agreed. "This entry had fantastic movement and compelling characters. It’s a rare treat in a contest to find an entry that makes you forget you’re judging and supposed to be commenting. The author has done their work in honing their craft! Very imaginative and fun! Well done!"
I guess they liked it. And we're happy to present to you this month's winning entry, Wyrmholes by Amelia Grimstad of Richland Hills, Texas.
Steam rose as the flame-colored gem that allowed her to take on physical form sank. Ripples reproached Tambre from three different locations on the surface. Oh firmament above, had it skipped?
Some steadfast and stalwart Interraphym she was. No wonder her sovereign had not yet assigned her a ward. She fled when startled.
The only thing that could make this more embarrassing would be having to manifest underwater.
She looked past the shimmering silver mist of her involuntary dispersal to where Ovryn stood, half-concealed in the shrubbery along the island’s shoreline. His shoulders shook with silent laughter while the echoes of his triumphant, inarticulate cry raced across the water.
“Beloved?” he finally managed. “Tambre, are you all right?”
Was she all right?
Was she all right?
He was lucky he was immortal.
She wrapped her essence around him and leaned in. Come on, honey. Pick up the stone. I dare you.
Ovryn stepped into the gentle current, retrieved her touchstone, and with his burden extended in a way that suggested she was getting better at projecting, returned to the rocky shore. He held the glowing firedrop out between his thumb and index finger, and she reached for it, materializing one hand that cupped the rounded bottom of the stone and another that gripped the sword hilt that flowed upward as soon as her essence touched the physical anchor.
The rutilated quartz hilt felt cool beneath her fingers, even as its needle-thin gold inclusions blazed and flames licked the edge of the forming blade. As she continued to manifest, she focused on sheathing the sword so she would not have to meet Ovryn’s eyes. She had trusted foolishly, and she was not sure with whom she was madder.
He sleeked the silver-tipped feathers that bristled at the apex of one of her folded wings. “Beloved, are you—?”
“You should flee now.” She loved him with the ferocity only an Interraphym was truly capable of, but right now, she hated him just as intensely.
Her fingernails dug into her palms. “Now.”
He nodded and took flight, skimming over the water toward the western shore. Good choice. Her mate had more experience in the human lands than she did. He just might be able to avoid her until she calmed down.
A slow count of five was all the head start her fury would allow, and she touched down on the shore right behind him. Ovryn had retained his neutral form—visually similar to a human—but had modified his wings to resemble a cloak. Tambre compressed her being into that shape as well, rather than a grizzly or a snow lion—something with good speed and nice, sharp claws.
Time settled over her, thick and viscous, and in the moment she took to adjust to being fully mired in time and trapped in one shape, Ovryn ran. His usual good sense must have fled in the other direction, because he grinned and called over his shoulder, “Catch me if you can!”
Brilliant. Her mate was simply brilliant. And it was too late to choose the snow lion form. She settled for a human growl and sprinted after him.
Faint strains of late summer’s lullaby crooned to her as she passed. Slow down. Rest. All is coming to fruition…
Yes, it surely was. Fruition and harvest. Too bad her mate had not sown more carefully.
She lost a pace on him as she veered around the tiny sparks of life flaring from a field mouse nest. He gained another pace when he fluttered his wings to avoid trampling an oak sapling that would shelter a human couple’s picnic in four generations. However, when he glanced over his shoulder and flashed her an expression of unbridled delight, she put her head down and found a new level of speed.
She kept her sword sheathed—she didn’t want to hurt him; not really—but as she tackled and pinned him to the ground, she figured any bruises he took were only justice. Break a promise to her, would he? Insufferable male.
He twisted beneath her until they lay chest to chest and she could see the mirth still dancing in his eyes. “Oh, beloved, you should have seen the look on your face.” He paused to giggle—giggle—like a human child. “You haven’t looked like that in—”
“In twenty generations? Since the last time you startled me, and I promised to never forgive you if you did it again?”
His smile fell a little.
She gaped. He hadn’t remembered. The Creator did not make mistakes, but why, oh why, had He made females’ memories so much better than males’?
“I’m sorry,” he said, meeting her eyes briefly. “I simply—” He snorted and made suspiciously laughter-like noises again. “Could not help it...”
Could not help it.
She considered demonstrating that she could not help a fist to his gut, but he knew as well as she did when an act of the will was involved. If his prank had been inevitable, she would have foreseen him jumping out at her like sunrise on the day after the feast of Ceadamhain. If she could not help retaliating, he would be poised to block the punch she wanted to throw.
Sometimes she wondered if free will might not be too great a responsibility.[Click here to continue reading.]
When she's not coordinating the Launch Pad contest, Yvonne Anderson writes fiction that takes you out of this world.
Looking for a fun fiction getaway? Fly through the Gateway to Gannah series for some serious sci-fi adventure!