Full Circle
 Jun 5, 2016

In this contest we are looking for a story where the main characters, after a convoluted series of events, end up in exactly the same position they started out in. The more unlikely this is to happen as the story unfolds the better. Note that time can pass, we aren't looking for everything to be exactly the same at the end, just that the characters are in the same position with the same choices to make. Magic or time machine stories are allowed, but probably a bit trite, but there are two items on the hit list:

  • No dream sequences. Your character can't wake up and find it was all a dream, or you will find your story DQ'ed
  • No "Ground Hog Day" type plots. Your characters cannot just be reset to the original position for no reason.

Contest Rules
* Entry Fee: Free
* Prize: Trophy
* Level: Advanced (All members may enter, but judging uses 'advanced' criteria.)
* Word Limits: 1500 - 3000
* Submit period: 14 days
* Voting period: 2 days
* All regular Writing Deck Rules apply.
* Multiple entries are allowed in this contest, however, any entry not meeting 'advanced' standards will be disqualified. So take your time, proofread carefully, and make your entry count.

Good luck!
1st place

The Writing Deck Quartermaster looked at his staff gathered in the conference room. The situation was dismal, participation was dropping off, and they really needed a strong contest theme to draw people in. This crew, regrettably, was not going to be much help. The dwarf was bickering with the elf as usual, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny were swapping war stories, and the Tooth Fairy was listening in, because some of her best customers were clients of those two. Meanwhile the invisible pink unicorn was making a rainbow with its horn as usual.

The Quartermaster sighed. “You know, somehow I think this would work better if all of you weren’t imaginary creatures.”

The Tooth Fairy snickered. “Well boss, most of your writers are too, so it’s fitting.”

The Quartermaster scowled at her; regrettably she had a point, which is why he had called this meeting.

“Enough of that, we need ideas. We have a contest to post, and we need to drum up some interest. Anybody have any good ideas for topics?”

“How about one on Christmas?” Santa Claus suggested.

The Easter Bunny snickered, “In June O rotund one?”

Santa scowled at the rabbit. “You have heard of ‘Christmas in July’ haven’t you?”

Everybody in the room groaned.

“What?” Santa said, annoyed.

“It’s bad enough the stores start getting ready for normal Christmas in September, now you want to push Christmas in July to June? Why don’t you just take over Easter and be done with it!” the Easter Bunny complained.

“Wouldn’t be a bad idea for a contest,” the unicorn said thoughtfully.

“What, Santa running Easter?” the Quartermaster asked.

“I was thinking something more generalized. Holidays run by a character that usually handles another holiday. The Easter Bunny taking the 4th of July, Santa taking St Patrick’s Day, The ground hog taking Easter, that type of thing.”

“Hmmm…” the Quartermaster said taking notes. It’s original enough to be worth a look, I don’t think for this one though. Anybody else have any ideas?”

“How about a mining theme with dwarves?” the dwarf asked.

“Oh now THAT’s original,” snickered the elf.

“I suppose you can think of something better?” the dwarf snapped.

A grin appeared over the chair next to him, “Enraged dwarves are elegant, particularly the way their veins pop out in their necks. The Elf is fortunate your condition is not permanent. You're lucky, too. Red eyes suit so few.” the Cheshire cat said.

The Quartermaster chuckled. “Good to see you again, at least the part that shows. And that is a lovely line; I remember it from the movie. So to what do we owe the honor of this visit?”

“Every adventure requires a first step. But what if the last step is the same as the first?”

“I don’t get it,” the Tooth Fairy said, scratching her head with her tooth brush.

“Do you also brush your teeth with a hair brush?” the Cheshire cat inquired.

“If you don’t mind, can we get back on topic?” the Quartermaster requested. “The first step is the same as the last. What did you mean by that?”

“Everything I said, and not a word more or less,” the Cheshire cat replied.

“Perhaps if we asked that drugged caterpillar instead,” the Unicorn suggested.

“Are you never satisfied with what you have, and only with what you haven’t?” the Cheshire cat inquired.

“You know, having a contest where everybody has to write a story in the style of Alice in Wonderland would be a neat contest,” the elf mused.

“And since it is all in public domain, there would be no copyright issues,” the dwarf said in rare agreement.

The Quartermaster was busy scribbling again. “It does have its possibilities, but I think we need more writers present before we try it, it will be a tough contest. Now cat, about your idea…”

“A story that ends where it starts; or visa-versa, the end is the beginning,” the Cheshire cat explained.

“That could work,” Santa said, stroking his beard.

“Oh bother! That’s an impossible theme!” the Easter Bunny said, disagreeing.

“I don’t see what the problem is, after all I’ve believed at as many as eight impossible things before brushing my teeth in the morning,” the Cheshire cat said as his grin started fading away.

“I imagine that cat spends a lot of time brushing his teeth too – it’s about all of him there is,” the Tooth Fairy muttered.

“So boss, are we going with it?” the unicorn asked.

“Unless anybody has any better ideas…” the Quartermaster said, looking around the room, and by the way everybody quickly lowered their heads to avoid eye contact, he quickly got the idea nobody did.

“OK then, Santa and Rabbit, you take care of posting the contest; Tooth Fairy and Unicorn, you come up with some artwork, and you guys,” he said pointing to the elf and the dwarf, “come up with a forum post. We’ll meet back here in two days to discuss how things are going.

Two days later the group reconvened.

“Any entries yet?” the dwarf asked.

“Sure, we gave them two weeks because they could do a 1,500-3,000 word story in two days,” the Elf sniffed.

“OK, but it doesn’t take two weeks to read the post in the forum, how are we doing there?” the Easter Bunny asked.

“Not so hot,” the Elf admitted. “We only have 17 views.”

“Well that’s a bit disappointing, but if we get 17 entries that would be great,” the Quartermaster said.

“Erm, 15 of those were from me checking the post to see if anybody liked it.”

The Quartermaster did a face-palm. “Any good news?”

“Yeah, the two people who read it ‘hearted’ it.”

“OK, so are either of them regular writers?”

“One is”

“One, so we may be looking at one entry then.”

“They could go for a trifecta,” the Easter Bunny suggested helpfully.

“In a 1,500 word contest? Um, yeah,” Santa said. “Sharpen your pencil.”

“Well one of us has to. We don’t want a no-entry contest. Any volunteers?” the Quartermaster asked.

The unicorn raised its… hoof. “I’ll do it.”

“How are you supposed to be able to write?” the Quartermaster asked.

“I’ll take dictation,” offered the Tooth Fairy.

“Sounds like a plan,” the Quartermaster said. “We will meet back in a week to catch up on how the contest is going.”

A week later the group reconvened. From the glum look on everybody’s face the Quartermaster could tell how things were going without asking, but there was the formality to uphold.

“Any entries yet?” he asked Santa.

“No. I told you it should be a contest about Christmas. Everybody loves Christmas” Santa replied.

“Oh put a stocking in it lardo,” the Easter Bunny snapped.

“I think someone is just cranky because they can only give out candy instead of real presents,” Santa sniffed.

“At least I don’t pig out on all the chocolate like someone else I could name,” the Easter Bunny retorted.

“Can it guys, arguing is the dwarf and elf’s department; speaking of which, any more interest in that post on the forum?”

“No. On the bright side, there isn’t any less either,” the dwarf said.

“Perhaps we should extend the contest to give people more time…” the elf suggested.

“Oh sure, the masses will flock to the contest if we just give it an extra week…” the dwarf replied.

“I was thinking of extending it until Christmas,” replied the elf.

“Hey let’s run it once a year and call it NaNoWriMo” the Easter Bunny said.

“If you don’t mind guys…” the Quartermaster said tiredly. “So, Unicorn, how’s our story coming?”

“It’s coming: about two thirds done.”

“So how does it end?” Santa asked.

“The same way it begins. You did read the contest prompt you wrote, right?” the unicorn snapped.

“OK, OK guys; I understand we are all frustrated; just cool off a bit. We’ll meet back here tomorrow, hopefully things will be a little brighter,” the Quartermaster said.

When the Quartermaster returned to the meeting room the next day he heard the sound of general laughter, and came across his entire staff, arms linked in a circle dancing, the only exception being the unicorn.

“I can’t dance, I’m sort of, and you should excuse the expression, ‘a one trick pony’”.
“So what’s the celebration about?”

“We got an entry.”

“Not yours I assume?”

“No, I still haven’t finished it.”

“You’re running out of time you know.”

“It will be done on time.”

“How do you know?”

“It’s the minutes of our meetings.”

“But isn’t it supposed to end the same way it… ouch. Er, surprise me”

“No problem.”

“Hey guys, time to get serious here,” the Quartermaster said, addressing the group.

They stopped dancing, and took their places around the table.

“Sorry boss, we got carried away,” the elf said. “Hey, did you notice the new digs?”

“Yeah, Devil Moon did quite a job on the place. Now about participation levels…”

“Hey, we got an entry didn’t we?” the Easter Bunny pointed out.

“It isn’t a dream sequence I hope,” Santa said.

“I don’t care if it’s a dream sequence where the subject wakes up on Ground Hog Day, we aren’t going to DQ the only entry,” the Tooth Fairy huffed.

The Quartermaster chuckled. “I haven’t reviewed it yet, I wanted to wait until the unicorn’s story is submitted.”

“Are you going to be finished on time?” the dwarf asked the unicorn.

“Yeah, I can reliably guarantee I will be. Don’t ask how, because you don’t want to know,” the unicorn replied.

“Amen to that,” the Quartermaster mumbled under his breath. “OK, so anyway we have one entry, there’s going to be at least two, and it’s on to the voting. Let’s meet back one day before the voting ends.”

Three days later they reconvened. “So how is our story doing?” the Quartermaster asked. “You did get it in on time right?”

“As always,” the unicorn said. “And we are in second place.”

“Great, so how many entries were there total?” the Quartermaster asked.

“Two, of course,” the unicorn responded.

“Wait a minute, you’re writing this story before the contest ends, how did you know that?” the Quartermaster asked, suddenly confused.

“I am the Invisible Pink Unicorn, I do have predictive powers you know,” the unicorn replied haughtily.

“That and unicorns can’t proof read so there are undoubtedly a suitable number of grammar mistakes included,” Santa added helpfully.

“Hey, watch it tubby, or I’ll turn you into a turnip,” the unicorn growled.

“OK, let’s not get started again. Tomorrow the contest ends, and we need to come up with the next one; until then. Oh, do you have enough words now?” he asked, turning to the unicorn.

“I must have, since it was already submitted,” the unicorn replied.

“I think I’m getting a head ache thinking about it. Let’s get back together tomorrow,” the Quartermaster said, rubbing his forehead.

The Writing Deck Quartermaster looked at his staff gathered in the conference room. The situation was dismal, participation was dropping off, and they really needed a strong contest theme to draw people in. This crew, regrettably, was not going to be much help. The dwarf was bickering with the elf as usual, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny were swapping war stories, and the Tooth Fairy was listening in, because some of her best customers were clients of those two. Meanwhile the invisible pink unicorn was making a rainbow with its horn as usual.

The Cheshire cat grinned in the corner.
1st place

“You aren’t seriously thinking of going down there?”

“Shh,” muttered Hans, giving a hand signal to his brother Franz to get down. If it had been possible to jump from a laying position, that outburst would have sent Hans airborne.

“What are you doing here, and how did you find me?” whispered Hans.

“Well, you really are easy to track,” answered Franz. “Of course I saw you starting the climb up here when you first left the forest floor.”

Now that Franz was lying next to his brother, he could look down and see what he considered the only thing of interest in the ravine was a small waterfall-fed pool. “Hey, that looks like a cool little hide-away. How deep do you think it is?”

“How deep?” asked Hans, not realizing they were not looking at the same thing. “Well it goes into the mountain, but how should I know how far?”

Then Franz noticed that Hans was not looking at the pool, but rather a cave farther down the cliff face. “Wow, cool,” he blurted, and Hans had to issue a “shh” once more.

“Why do we need to be quiet?” whispered Franz. “I don’t see any animals around. In fact I don’t even hear any birds.”

About then, both boys would have become airborne if possible when “Hey, what are you guys doing here?” was shouted out by their sister Lea, who had just come up behind them.

“Shh,” both boys issued at the same time, as they both also gave the hand signal to get down. Looking at each other they almost broke out laughing, but Hans controlled himself enough to continue: “What are you doing here? And how did you… oh never mind, you always were the tracker in the family.”

“What are you guys doing here,” lea scolded. “You should be back home, if you finished your chores. Mom will be calling us to supper real soon, because she and Pa and are going to the schoolhouse tonight.”

“That’s just it,” Hans started. “When I was finishing up my chores out near the fence, I saw the new teacher and her niece heading into the woods. I thought it curious and decided to follow them. I lost their track back a ways, and thought maybe I might spot them if I went to higher ground.”

“So, are they down there?” asked Lea. “I don’t see anyone in that pool.” Then her eyes got big: “Ooh if you were watching them skinny-dipping, Pa is going to whip you good…”

“No, it’s nothing like that,” Hans quickly shot back. “I don’t know where they went. I haven’t seen anyone since I got here.”

He was blushing, but Lea took his word for it. “Well when I tracked you here, I saw there were other prints on the forest floor as well. Franz’ because his are so easy to spot because of his limp, but two others as well, and they were small enough to be the teacher and her niece. Those prints continued on into the forest where yours turned to climb up.”

“Well, now that you’re here, we can go down and track them,” Blurted Franz. “Hopefully they didn’t spot this place, and we can have it all to ourselves.”

“Wherever they went to will have to wait,” said Lea. “we need to be getting home, just as they are probably already back at the schoolhouse by now, anyway, because of the older folks going there tonight. We can always come back tomorrow and follow their tracks, to see where they went if you are that curious. They probably just spotted a nice berry patch.”

“Yeah, I guess.” Pouted Franz at the same time Hans said “Sure, fine. Let’s go.”

Their timing couldn’t have been better. Just as they were nearing their house, their mother leaned out the door to call them in for supper.

Over the evening meal the conversation did not veer to the children’s recent activities, but rather to what the parents would learn that night. They were looking forward to this new experience.
. . . . .
The new King was determined that his people would not remain illiterate as they were under his father’s rule. There would be no more illegal taxing or confiscations as had been done in the past, when the people could not read the papers that were used by those in power to take away their goods.

The first thing Harold did as new King was to imprison the then sheriff along with a number of others that had done the sheriff’s bidding. The next thing was to arrange for a teacher to come to his lands and instruct all in reading and writing as a minimum. Children would spend five hours a day two days a week in new schoolhouses he had built. Parents and other adults could attend night classes once a week, to learn reading and writing, and if the teacher were inclined, could receive further learning at their homes for the cost of a meal and bed a lesson.

The teacher would indeed need to be diligent, travelling between the three schoolhouses, with only Sunday for herself. It was an arduous search to find one suitable and willing to fill the position. Nazeer had agreed to the undertaking, as long as she were permitted to bring her niece along with her. The King gladly accepted that condition, and Nazeer and Bethany became new residents of Harold’s Kingdom.
. . . . .
After supper Hans was placed in charge, as he was the oldest, and the folks headed out to school. “Lea, you wash and Franz will dry the dishes,” He ordered.

The comeback was obvious, and from both at the same time: “And what are you going to do?”

“I’m going to bring in more wood for the fire, so we will be able to see to read of course.” He said through a smile, as he lifted a new book in his hand and walked away.

“Ooh,” yelped Lea, “let’s get these dishes done.” Franz just chuckled.

A few hours later, all three were happily exhausted from studying the new book, and Hans decided it was time for bed. “No, we will not wait up for Ma and Pa. Who knows how long they will be.”

Though in bed, Hans was still awake when his parents returned. He had been too busy trying to figure out what had happened that afternoon. The giggling of his parents, about how much fun they had had, was enough to distract his thoughts, and finally allow him to fall asleep.
. . . . .
When he woke in the morning, Hans could smell two things: that it had rained during the night, and that breakfast was ready. He wasted no time getting to the table. The rest of his family were already there, discussing what the parents had learned the night before.

“Nazeer told us all about the different kinds of dragons, and how most are beneficial to mankind,” related his mother.

“I must have missed something,” broke in Hans, as he was piling a plate with eggs and bacon. “What have dragons got to do with reading and writing?”

“Oh,” replied his mother, “maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned it, if she hasn’t taught you children about it yet. Maybe you’ll learn it in school today.”

“Go ahead and tell them Ma,” said their dad. “Maybe that’ll give ‘em a reason to look smart, if Nazeer asks anyone if they know.”

“Yeah, tell us!” chimed in all three kids in unison.

“Oh, all right,” conceded their mother. “You see, it turns out that dragons were the ones that actually introduced writing, in the first place. It’s the way they have always conducted business with rulers. When they agree to keep a land safe from predators, or outlaws or whatever, they want to make sure they will get paid when there is nothing left for the ruler to worry about. It seems long ago, some rulers weren’t inclined to pay their dues. And the dragons had no recourse but violence, which if they used, would make ordinary folk fear them, and consider them their enemy, even though they were responsible for removing the folk’s actual enemies.”

“So that’s why we always hear that dragons are bad?” piped in Lea.

“That’s why,” continued her mother. “But once they created writing, and had signed documents, they had the proof they needed that they did what they did under contract, and if they were not paid for their services, they had the right to resort to violence. The big problem they had then, was that most ordinary folk, like us, were illiterate, so didn’t know what the papers really said.

“They still try to educate the world, so there are no misunderstandings, but many rulers still prefer to keep their people in ignorance. Just like our old King. Did you know the reason we have no wild animals around to bother our stock, is because of a deal he made with a dragon when he was but a lad himself?” Watching the kids shaking their heads, she continued: “Well, he did. At least according to Nazeer. And he never did pay that dragon. We’re just lucky that nothing bad came of it, and Nazeer says that is because there was no one in this Kingdom that could read the contract. Anyway, I’m sure she will tell you the whole story in school. Now finish your breakfast. You don’t want to be late, do you?”

Three heads simultaneously shook their heads while gobbling down the rest of the meal. After that, it was off to school with big grins on their faces. No one had actually ever seen a dragon of course, but it sure was a good tale for their amusement. Hans had even forgotten about trying to track where the teacher and her niece had gone the day before. Of course his mind might have realized that the rain would have destroyed their chances of that anyway.
. . . . .
Sure enough, in the coming weeks, the children learned that story as well as many other interesting facts. It seemed everyone in the kingdom was enjoying life more while illiteracy declined.

Hans was especially happy, since they had the teacher and her niece for dinner a few times, and it was obvious that he was smitten with Bethany.

King Harold could not have been happier as well, until one day a dragon named Razer appeared with a contract. It was the contract that his father had made for the removal of predatory wolves, at a cost of 10 gold pieces per wolf. At the time of the contract there were so many wolves in the Kingdom that getting rid of them all would cost the King a small fortune.

Of course once the wolves had been vanquished, the King immediately lost all knowledge that he had made a deal with anyone. Razer was not happy at all with this, but left, giving a warning that one day the debt would be paid. The King just laughed it off, and continued with his strict rule until his demise. He had never even shown his son and heir the paper he had signed.

“It is time for this debt to be paid,” said Razer. “I will agree to settle for the sum of 10,000 gold pieces.”

“But that would bankrupt my Kingdom,” stuttered King Harold.

“I am patient, and will give you until the summer solstice to raise that amount. If you require more time after that, I will require the services of your daughter as my servant until you have my gold. You may read that in the contract, the King will forfeit his oldest child if he reneges on his debt. And now your citizenry can also read this contract. So I would say I am being lenient.”

After Razer had departed, King Harold brooded with the knowledge of what his father had done, and tried thinking of a way to raise the gold. He finally summoned the most knowledgeable people in his Kingdom for their advice. Among those present was Nazeer, who suggested he hide the Princess until he could raise the gold, just to be on the safe side.

“But how could I be sure the dragon would not find her?” questioned the King.

“In my travels,” answered Nazeer, “I have seen some places that might work. Let me take her to one. I won’t even tell you where, so the dragon can’t find out from you.”

Her argument was so persuasive, that King Harold readily agreed, and bit farewell to his daughter as she and the teacher made their leave.
. . . . .
The King, still ashamed of his father’s actions, posted proclamations around the Kingdom, explaining his need, and asking the citizenry to pitch in and help put an end to his dilemma. He did not mention the Princess though, as he did not want anyone trying to find her, even just out of curiosity.

The people were glad to help their King and worked harder than ever in hopes to raise enough gold to pacify the dragon. Apart from that extra labor though, life continued as normally as possible.

After one night that the teacher and her niece had been quests at their home though, Bethany managed to slip Hans a note while saying goodbye, without Nazeer noticing. After they were out of sight, Hans went to his room, looking forward to what he assumed would be a love letter from Bethany. Was he in for a shock!

I know I should not write this, because if Razer finds out, I’m sure I will be her dinner. Yes, Nazeer is Razer the dragon. I have been her ‘servant’ for over a year now. Ever since my father did not pay her for a deal he made. My real name is Mary, and my father is King Brian. I don’t know if he is even looking for me anymore.
What I needed to say though, is that Razer is keeping King Harold’s daughter prisoner in a cave in the mountains. We go there whenever she needs to go out alone, and leaves me there. She doesn’t tie me up or anything, because she knows I’d never try to escape, even if I knew the way out of there, because my father didn’t make good on his deal with her.
But now with the Princess, I don’t know what her plans are. There are human bones in the cave, so I think she must really eat her prisoners at some point.
You need to warn the King. Maybe he can follow us on one of our trips to the cave, and rescue his daughter. I don’t know how you beat a dragon, but I’m really scared. Love

Hans rushed to show the letter to his father, and they agreed that they must show it to the King.

In a larger Kingdom, it might be hard to gain audience with a King, but not in their small Kingdom, at least not now that Harold was King. They showed the King the letter, and Hans told him of the long ago day he had tried following them through the forest. “I lost their trail, but from the top of that mountain, I did see a cave in a ravine, and at least that was in the general direction I think they went.”

King Harold thanked them and sent them on their way, saying he would find a way to make that rescue happen.
. . . . .
The King did come up with a plan, and set it in motion. He had Nazeer sent for from the school when he knew Bethany would be with her. When they arrived, he asked Bethany to leave the throne room while he discussed an adult matter with her niece.

“Enough now with the games,” he said when the door closed behind Bethany. “You have deceived me, and that breaks any contract my father made with you. Will you now return my daughter to me now, or must I take action against you?”

“I know not how you figured out who I really am,” laughed Nazeer, “but you dare to threaten me? Your daughter will be my dinner!”

“I take that as a no,” said the King, which was the phrase to let everyone come out of hiding. The room was now swarming with angry citizens. “I’ll be returning Mary to her father as well. I now banish you from my Kingdom, never to return. You know the penalty of breaking that proclamation!”
. . . . .
While that confrontation had been taking place, Hans once again found himself in a prone position atop that mountain, looking down into the ravine.

“You aren’t seriously thinking of going down there?”

“Shh” answered a jumpy Hans, as he motioned Franz down. “No, we’ll wait until I’m sure it is safe, and the dragon is gone. Look there are the King’s guard helping the Princess out of the cave.”

“How’d they find the place?” asked Franz. “And why do we still need to whisper?”

“Lea was their guide,” answered Hans. “She really is a great tracker. Oh, and we aren’t supposed to be here. No one was sure what might happen when the King confronted Nazeer.

“Anyway, Lea knows the way, and we won’t need to worry about climbing down steep cliffs to get to our new hide-away, once it’s been cleared out.”

“Yay,” shouted Franz, and clasped his hand over his mouth, hoping he had not been heard.

The only one below that seemed to look up at the outburst, was the Princess, and she had a smile on her face.