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Iron Quill - Clockwork Giant - Eyes on the Prize


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1308 words, Ingredients used: Theme, Item, Phrase

As the sun left the edge of the bayou for the day, Buford nervously watched the old gremlin hobbling back and forth in front of him and his best friends Buck and Mildred. The old man wore his severed thumb on a string around his neck, a reminder from a brawl he had had with a gator, and a notice to others that he was still a force of nature. Buford could feel the excitement of what they were about to do bubbling inside of him like shine through a still. Buck, Mildred, and he had been working their way up the ranks in quick fashion, and today it was finally going to pay off. The old man tapped the butt of his shotgun on the ground before beginning to speak.

“A-ight youngins.” The old man’s thick drawl seemed to hang in the swampy air like a musk. “You listen good an you listen savvy! Them Three Kingdom folk have a word for just about every kinda thought you can have, every kinda thing what happens. The word they have for whut you gon do today is may-yoh. ‘Whuzzat mean?’ you ask… well it means that today, we gonna show them Ortega squirt-stains that the Lacroix ain’t just some skeeter you can swat at. We gonna show Somer and his kin that his big hat’s starting to droop a bit! If the Lacroix can’t climb to the top, we knock the tree down and take the top anyways!” The old man winced a bit stepping on his bad leg before continuing walking.

“Now I know y’all are right nervous, and with good reason. These ain’t some bee nests we’re trying to knock down, this here is an out an out raid against some bonafide monster hunters. We all know what the score is with Ortega’s an gremlin-folk. But ‘Feela’s gonna change that today. Her an the kin are gonna put us on the map as gremlin-folk what fight back. And y'all…” the old man paused to motion to the other three. “Yall have a mighty particular part to play in this here role. Gunslinging for Ophelia LaCroix is serious bidness. You ain’t doin chores out there, you’re in the midst of a brawl. ‘Feela’s counting on you to have them guns loaded an ready when she needs 'em. Not a second before or after.”

The old man paused, his otherwise stern face softening for a moment. “Now I don’t want y'all to think it’s only doom an gloom. Y'all just have a good hoot n holler an nobody panic! I KNOW basic fightin and basic shootin and I've stayed alive all these years." The old man pointed to each of them. "An I taught each of you what I know. 'Sides, 'Feela wouldn’t take you if she didn’t think you was useful. Just remember: “Hooch”, “Jug”, “Boomer”. She throws over an you throw under. You’re in till 'Feela gets what she's after, you’re out.” The old man gave them a gap-toothed grin. “Now, go swing that Lacroix name around, see if you like the feel. Cause mark my words, you gon earn them names today.”


It felt like they were waiting a lifetime for the signal to begin the raid. Ophelia paced back and forth, trigger fingers idly tapping out a rhythmn on the pistol handles to each of her sides. Buford turned to look at the giant rifle up in the trees and the kin who was going to fire it. Buford had always hoped he could be like Rami ever since he heard a tale about how that huge rifle of his dropped a Guild gunner at 30 yards who didn’t even see it coming. Buford didn’t mind the combat up close, it was just that something about those big guns and their reach seemed so much better. Buford turned back as Ophelia whispered, “There we are. Took Pere long enough to get em there.”

Buford could see a couple piglets nuzzling the ground in front of one of the barns, each carrying what looked like a jug of moonshine with various gadgets and strings running off it. Buford instinctively plugged his ears as he watched, still remembering the first test of Pere’s new hooch igniter and how it nearly killed three gremlins and took two boars out of commission.

The world flashed whites and blues as most of the door and one of the sides of the barn were demolished, the wave of noise from the explosion washing over Buford as he and Ophelia ran towards the main house. Mildred and Buck broke right as several humans were rushing outside to see what the problem was. Off farther north, Buford could hear the whooping and cussing that could have only been the second distraction, lead by the most ornery of the Lacroix, Raphael. Buford actually felt a little bad for anyone who got into Raphael's sights tonight.

Ophelia ran up to the main house and flattened herself against the wall while she waited, Buford following suit. “Thinkin they know it’s us by now?” Ophelia whispered, giving Buford a smirk as she carefully peeked around the corner. Buford could feel his heart trying to break a rib, but he forced himself to keep his cool, to keep thinking on the old man’s words. Buford was going to be the one helping Ophelia the most, so he needed to keep focus. “Jug.” Ophelia finally said, her head tilted slightly as she looked to the horse pen off to one side and tested the wind with a licked finger. Buford had the gun loaded in a flash, handing it to Ophelia right as she got finished testing. “I spy, with my little eye, something that starts with Lah-tee-go.” Ophelia muttered as she held the gun at a high angle, adjusted slightly, then fired. The jug rocketed into the air and came sailing down, the explosion revealing flashes of a dead pistolero in between the frantic stampeding of the horses. Ophelia barely paused to admire her work before turning to Buford and motioning to the window of the house behind them. “Gimme a boost.”

As the two got inside, Buford froze in a panic as he and Ophelia were squarely in the sight of the Ortega that gremlins feared the most: Perdita. The only thing keeping Ophelia and him from dying was a dining room table, fully laid out for supper. The next few moments were an explosion in their own right. Perdita bringing her pistolas to bear on each of them, Ophelia diving for cover while shouting “Boomer”. Buford dodged and dove through a near blizzard of shattered china and wood splinter as he loaded guns and tossed them to Ophelia, using his lack of height and what furniture was left to avoid the more deadly shots. Ophelia finally worked her way to a good position, then lunged at Perdita’s face as she was reloading, nearly knocking Perdita over with the force of the contact. “MOVE!” Ophelia shouted before making a frantic scramble through the window to the outside. Buford felt a shot graze his arm as they made a dash back to the Bayou, Ophelia shouting out “SOOEY!” to let the others know the raid was successful.

Buford's legs were a blaze of fire as he ran in a haphazard fashion, the one corner of his mind not overrun by terror focusing him on making it to the safety of the bayou. He could see the flash followed by the crack of Rami's rifle firing. He could hear bodies slamming into the ground behind him. As they reached the edge of the bayou and safety once again, Ophelia paused and turned back, putting one last bit of salt into the wound as she waved goodbye with the hat of Perdita Ortega.

Edited by Brewmaster
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I really like this. The ending is fantastic.

I don't think you need to capitalise NEEDED; the rest of the sentence does the emphasis for you.

In the fourth paragraph you've dropped the apostrophe from 'Fella

Buford was loading as fast as his arms could while using his height and the furniture to avoid most of the dangerous shots

I think you can drop the "arms" here, and you need to qualify that Buford is short. The mention of heigh made me think tall, rather than short. It took me to the end of the sentence to work out what you meant.

The only other changes I would make, are ones I would make, and so are to be ignored.

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The ending is very catchy! So good!

"still remembering the first test of Pere’s new hooch igniter and how it killed nearly three gremlins"

Should that be "nearly killed three gremlins"? It reads a little funny now, like maybe it killed two and a half gremlins or something.

I'd suggest maybe looking at simplifying the first two sentences. The sentences are long and a little bit too complex, and I suspect that simpler sentences would catch the reader more.

I love the little detail of "Young LaCroix throws low, Ophelia throws high."

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Having reread the Gremlin section of the M2E rulebook, there are lots of great little references in here that I really like.

What follows is a mix of personal preference, editing tweaks and praise. I hope it's of use.

As the sun left the edge of the bayou

Being picking, it isn't obvious if you mean sunrise or sunset here.

a force to be respected

This phrase rings off somehow. Force to be reckoned with would be more usual.

his severed thumb hanging from a string around his neck

I get the idea but it took me till the end of the sentence to realise what had gone on.

excitement in what

excitement of?

bubbling inside of him like shine through a still

Really nice visual. Fits so well with the Gremlins.

The old man’s thick drawl made anyone listening strain for each word.

You nail the drawl in the way you've written the speech, so you could drop this. By the same token you could go heavier with it in the Three Kingdoms bit ('perience). Also watch out for missing the apostrophe in y'all. Likewise an', 'em, 'Cause etc.

Thinkin' further down when Ophelia speaks.

Nice use of the Line.

all these years." the

Capital for the


Missing a space here.

gets the package

I'd use something other than package here. "Gets what she wants"?

Buford could feel the intensity coming off of Ophelia’s stare at the Ortega huts.

Like the bit with the necklace, I know what you mean, but it's slightly awkward. I'm not sure huts is the right word, as it threw me off when you moved to barn and house later.

look at the giant rifle up from its vantage point

up from its vantage point?

that huge rifle of Rami's

Not sure you need to mention Rami again, that it's his rifle is implicit.

as most of the door and one of the sides of the barn were smoldering wrecks

"were reduced to smouldering wrecks?" I'd also end the sentence here.

the current focus being drawn on Pere’s distraction

The humans' attention being drawn to Pere's distraction?

lead by the most ornery of the Lacroix, Raphael. Buford actually felt a little bad for anyone who got into Raphael's sights tonight.

Like this.

Buford could feel his heart trying to break a rib with how fast it was beating

I think you could end this at rib. It's such a good phrase that the meaning gets across without the explanation.

so he needed to keep focus.

Repetition of focus here. "Keep his head"?

starts with Lah-tee-go.”

End this with a comma, not a full stop.

came sailing down

Sailing seems very passive. Smashing?

and briefly revealing the corpse of one of their pistoleros trying to sneak around for a good hiding spot

Why briefly revealing?

As the two got inside, Buford froze in a panic as he and Ophelia were in the dining room

This sounds as thought they freeze because of the presence of fancy tableware.

"squarely in the sight of the Ortega gremlins feared the most

Capitalise Gremlins. I'd be tempted to make it "the Ortega that Gremlins" just to smooth the sentence. I read "Ortega gremlins" as one thing until my brain caught up.

"Everything that happened next seemed to slow down."

I wonder if you could use a Gremlin specific metaphor here? Slow down seems too passive. Be ware of any tense change if you do.

"Buford dodged through a near blizzard of debris as he loaded guns and tossed,"

You've lost one of your best lines here, about the snowstorm of china and wood splinters. Where is he tossing the guns?

As they reached the edge,

The edge of what?

There's a lot of good stuff here, and the above is the result of going through with a very fine toothed comb. My first reading skimmed past much of this because I was caught up in the story, so don't loose that momentum.

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