Jayden Cox

My name is Jayden Cox, and I'd like to think that I have an infinite imagination. My only goal is to share it with the world.

I developed a love for writing during a very hard battle with anxiety that I still fight to this day. I have found a way to channel my imagination into positive energy (writing) as apposed to negative energy (overthinking, worrying, etc...)

I hope you enjoy my entry and that it takes your mind where it took mine when I wrote it.

Award Category
Screenplay Award Category
Gulchwater, a bog town shadowed and forgotten by the city of Galahan, is a rouges' retreat. If you were to ask if the people of Gulchwater could change, anyone would tell you you're insane. But when a newcomer arrives and catches the eye of Joy-Quarter's criminal overseer, Wrath, anything can happen
The Shadow of Galahan
My Submission

Chapter One

Gulchwater was best described as a bog-town on stilts, shrouded in an eternal fog and forever in the shadow of Galahan City’s mighty towers of arcane knowledge. It was a maze of narrow, railing-less bridges hovering a metre above a huge marsh, held up by weak wooden beams and littered with rotting oak shacks of all shapes and sizes. If it weren’t for the strong magical waste of Galahan flowing into the bog, the town would have sunk decades ago. Unfortunately for anyone travelling to Galahan for studies in the arcane, they had to go through Gulchwater, or what most dubbed ‘Thieves’ Gulch,’ due to the organised and unorganised criminal activity that ran rampant in its streets. For those seeking rest, however, or to simply forget the journey or smell, The Drowning Merman happily obliged. The back door to the noisy tavern flung open, and a man in grubby white overalls waddled out holding a large, heavy pot. He stumbled, but found his footing, then heaved the pot’s contents onto the deck where whatever monstrous remains made up the slop within, slid through broken panels and into the marsh below. The luminescent eels that had been waiting patiently beneath the deck went into a frenzy, splashing and thrashing in the murky water until every morsel and bone was devoured. The water soon calmed, and the eels swam away in a school to find their next meal.

The cook blew out a sigh and set the pot down on the decking. From behind his ear, he pulled a handmade roll of tobacco and placed it between his lips. With a click of his fingers, a small flame spewed from the tip of the chef’s thumb, lighting the roll of tobacco before shaking the flame away and leaning on the rickety balcony with a sigh. A smoke cloud escaped his curled lips as he scanned the foggy bridges that made up Gulchwater with a primal disgust. Even the locals hated their home. But aside from the bog-town itself, something else set a frown on his wrinkled face. A hooded figure stood within the mist down a wide street, handing small vials of glowing liquid to a malnourished beggar: one of many that lay sprawled out around Thieves’ Gulch. The cook made a ‘tsk,’ and after a deep drag, flicked his roll of tobacco into the bog and hurried inside, leaving the cast-iron pot on the deck.

He marched through a tight kitchen of dirty dish-towers and elbowed open the door to the bar. His ears filled with a deep choir of laughter and conversation, glasses clinking and plates clattering, coughing and sniffling. Once he’d made it through the thick fug of tobacco smoke and drunk patrons, he stopped at a rounded booth that sat three scary looking characters, two men and a woman.

“Wrath,” warned the chef, with the tone of a friend. “Dixie’s shitheads are handing out glitter to the unfortunates... Again.”

One of the men, the scariest looking of the three, wore a dark brown hide jacket that housed many pockets, and a belt that gripped a small satchel was tied around his waist. He sat forward. His messy, shoulder-length hair curled down to his shoulders, and Flesh coloured runic scars ran down his cheeks from underneath each observant hazel eye. “Where.”

“Down Slick Street.”

Wrath stood, towering over the chef. “Those fucks never learn.” The cook backed off with a nod and allowed the taller man to step out of the booth and his two peers to stand. “You two check the rest of Joy-Quarter. Ruffle up any glitter scatterers and make sure they know who sent you.”

“Such a bossy boss when you wanna’ be, aren’t you, Wrath?” said the tall and burly Cobble, throwing a hood over his bald, dark-skinned scalp.

“Yea, boss, cut us some slack,” added Stone. “This ain’t our first shakedown in Joy-Quarta'.” Stone began tying her long black hair into a knot atop her head with one hand, as her other was missing completely. Cobble leant forward and took an iron pipe from a compartment at his feet and hid it in his long leather coat. With a lousy smile, Wrath patted the chef’s shoulder, said his thanks, and left the noisy tavern: Cobble and Stone not long behind him.

Wrath's underlings turned left along one of the many, rickety narrow paths that made up Gulchwater, and the man himself went right, following the outside of the tavern round until he came across a bridge that stretched over towards Slick Street. An alluring aroma caught his senses. Stood under a pole-hanging lantern at the beginning of the bridge was a young woman dressed in torn, revealing clothing. Fishnet tights hid little of her legs, and her bored, tired eyes had bags hanging from underneath them.

“Dixie’s lot are handing out glitter again,” she warned him, stopping the mobster in his tracks.

“Bod told me already. Best you get inside, girl. I won’t be letting them off with a warning this time.”

“You be careful, too, Mista' Wrath, ya’ hear. Strange folks be strolling Slick Street tonight. And I ain’t on about the scatterers, eiv’er.”

“These are my streets, Cilla. Only strange folk that walk ‘em wear my colours... Thanks for the warning.”

Wrath broke away from her and marched over the bridge to an eerily empty and foggy Slick Street, aside from the unfortunates, of course. The ‘shithead’ Ichabod mentioned was gone. His mark, however, had been left. A beggar was on his belly, crawling his way along the edge of one of the many shacks that lined the rickety wooden pathway. The veins on his hand were faintly sparkling underneath his skin, and soft, euphoric moans crept out with his breaths. Wrath knelt beside them and took their whole dome in his palm and turned the weak unfortunate’s face to inspect it. “Look what this shit does to you,” Wrath muttered, more so to himself since the unfortunate was no longer in the same plane of consciousness. He gently placed their head back on the ground and stood, before making his way further down Slick Street. He was growing more concerned with Cilla’s warning the more he wandered. It was late, but it was never this quiet in Joy-Quarter after dark. Concerned was the wrong word, really. Wrath had no reason to be concerned on his own streets. The only ‘threats’ to his hold on them came in the form of upstart orphans who thought everything was owed to them in lieu of their misfortunes. Them, and Dixie and their ‘shitheads’. It was ever so coincidently after that thought that he heard what he’d expected to hear minutes ago: the sound of several steels leaving their sheathes.

“Wow...” teased Wrath. “Dixie really wants me out of Joy-Quarter this time. Because I can be damned-well certain it wasn’t one of you stupid cuckolds who thought they could gut me.”

Three dark hooded assailants wafted out from the mobster’s front and back and even a side alleyway. Technically he was cornered, but in truth, Wrath was more worried about Stone and Cobble, and he wasn’t one bit convinced that any of these jesters could lay a finger on him. They all charged at once, a chorus of light, leather boots tapping on wood. With a swift step to his side, Wrath grabbed one knife-wielding arm and inverted the elbow attached to it, forcing a yelp from its owner. Wrath's elbow found cartilage in another, knocking them to the deck, and the third was grabbed by his thrusting hand and sent flying into the bog with his own momentum. He'd have been the lucky one, if Gulchwater wasn’t also Gallahan's sewer; the guaranteed infection wouldn’t kill him, but at least the ‘stupid cuckold’ would be impotent. Wrath left his toys to lick their wounds and hurried to search for Cobble and Stone. It didn’t take long. Several narrow bridges away, Wrath heard Stone’s scream. It was more of a battle-cry, followed by the words: “I’LL RIP OUT YOUR BLADDER AND POUR YOUR OWN PISS DOWN YOUR THROAT,” or something along those lines. When Wrath walked out onto Mercy Walkway, Stone had an assassin by the scruff of his neck with her hand. She suddenly turned to Wrath and rose a handless arm in his direction, a small crossbow attached to it.

"Damnit, Wrath! I almost put a bolt through you!”

The mobster smirked. “Did you?”

During the brief interruption, Stone’s captive jolted, but before their escape attempt could become fruitful, Stone had her forearm halfway into the assassin’s windpipe against a shack wall.

“You’re not leaving without a dagger in you!” she threatened, her words like searing hot irons.

Wrath could see the poor man struggling for his life, and Stone had a bloodthirsty glare in her eyes. She was genuinely about to kill him, and Wrath wasn’t about to let her. “Let him go, Stone. We’re mobsters. Not monsters.”

Stone didn’t listen. Her prey’s escape attempt had stoked a dark fire in her. “You saw what they’re doing to the unfortunates! These punks don’t deserve the air they breathe, even Gulchwater’s!” Stone’s anger grew steadily harsher through a clenched set of yellowed teeth, her eyes never straying from the struggling assassin.

Getting slightly worried for his friend’s sanity, Wrath warned her again and took a step forward.


A few seconds passed, and just as her prey’s struggles began to weaken, she released him, and he fell to the floor on his hands and knees, coughing and crying - too weak to flee.

“Thank you,” said Wrath. “Dixie’s the one to blame for this. Not the sods they send our way. We'll get them one day; we just need to be patient. Where’s Cobble?”

Another assassin immediately came tumbling out of the fog and sliding along the wooden street towards Wrath and Stone. From the same direction, Cobble strutted his way toward them with another hooded vagrant being dragged behind him by their cloak, a metal pipe in his other hand resting on his shoulder. With a heave, Cobble threw the vagrant at the other two and spat at their feet.

Wrath nodded, then turned back to check on Stone. Her anger had calmed, but the kill-hungry glare was still deeply etched into her eyes.

“Come on, you two. We've had enough excitement for one night. Back to the Merman.”

Chapter Two

The arcane city of Galahan was a wonder. Perhaps one of the greatest wonders on all the celestial spheres combined. Many cylindrical pillars of cut white stone soared into the sky with pointy, blue tiled roofs. At their base, lay a perfect utopia for the rich and pompous, with flower beds lining silver cobblestone streets filled with a variety of intertwined merchant stores and housing. Just metres above them, balconies hung drying laundry from one to another, wafting the scent of fresh morning dew all throughout the city. Children ran and frolicked. Finely dressed citizens talked and laughed. Soldiers patrolled the streets with muskets strapped to their backs and sabres hanging from their belts, bringing a sense of real security to the tax paying residents of Galahan. To them, it was paradise. Although it was a desirable place to live, and security was tightknit, it also meant the calibre of crime was far higher. Criminal activity was low, yes, but the criminals that did operate there were more daring, cunning, and equipped. So, when crime was committed, it was usually by professionals: career criminals who made a living solely off robbing the rich and wealthy. And when professional thieves went into action in Galahan, a higher calibre of force was needed to stop them.

On one particular street of Galahan, a high-end alchemist had a walk-in store filled to the brim with labelled elixirs of all different and wonderful colours; bright blue sparkling vials for easing allergies; dark purple ones for back pain; crimson for headaches, and many, many more. Beyond all the shelves and tables of potions, way at the back of the store, was an archway with a shimmering blue barrier of arcane energy blocking the way. A metal sign had red engravings written on it saying: LICENCE REQUIRED FOR ENTRY. An older woman was stood at the store’s main desk reading a book on alchemical ingredients when the front door opened, ringing a bell and thrusting the merchant into sales mode.

“Welcome to Remedees! Name your ailment and I’m sure we’ll have something for it.”

The patron was oddly wide eyed and wore a smart white shirt and black waistcoat. He smiled eerily with unmoving eyes and walked up to the desk. Then he turned away from her to inspect the store and its contents. “I’ve been having terrible nightmare’s lately, Doc. I was hoping you’d have something to help me sleep better.”

The door went again, and another patron waltzed in with a ding. Her eyes were wide, too, but the merchant didn’t take any notice.

“Welcome to Remedees! Please browse a moment while I deal with this gentleman! I’ll be with you in just a moment. Now, Sir, nightmares, was it?” the merchant went to place a hand on his back to guide him, but he flinched.

“Please, ma’am, I do not like to be touched. Take no offence.”

“None taken at all. Do forgive me. Right this way.”

The other patron was already on the far side of the store by the restricted archway, and when the merchant was fully distracted, they quickly took something from the small satchel at their waist and stuck it against the wall next to the humming blue barrier. After a few seconds, a small explosion shook the entire room, knocking vials onto the floor and splashing their contents into mixed pools of browns and yellows. The merchant screamed and was struck by the male patron with a handheld shocking device, rendering her unconscious. The two patrons looked to one another across the room. Their clothes and emotionless faces wobbled like the surface of disturbed liquid, slowly phasing away until tattered tunics and masks were revealed underneath: smooth, shiny red metal face covers with a purple handprint spread over them. The pair moved silently into the restricted room where the small explosion had blasted a hole in the wall. Whatever they used had blow outwards so that nothing inside was harmed. They started loading up, placing unlabelled vials into the small, bottomless bags on their belts.

Outside the store, the commotion had alerted several citizens. None of them knew what happened within, but the light rumble of the explosion was enough to make them cautious and seek out the authorities. Not long after, a squad of musket wielding guards jogged lightly to the store’s front, where they aimed their weapons at the entrance and windows. A small crowd had gathered, too, but they knew to keep a good distance on the side-lines.

“This is the Galahan Guard!” There was no response. “Is everyone okay?” Still nothing. “We’re coming in!”

“We’re going inside?” whispered one of the other guards. “What if it is a robbery? What if they’re armed?”

The superior officer glowered at him. “What if someone’s hurt?”

“We should wait for an Arbiter!” another guard insisted.

“If someone in there needs our help, I’ll never forgive myself for being too late,” resolved the officer, and he crept forward with the butt of his musket against his shoulder.

Two steps were all he managed before a hissing cloud of smoke tumbled out of the store, sending the guards into a coughing frenzy. The heavy patter of sprinting feet rushed through the cloud as the guards stumbled out of it, waving their hands in front of their faces.

“Someone... get an Arbiter!” spluttered the officer, clutching his chest in discomfort.

Someone else ran through the cloud then, disturbing it in their path. An ocean-blue hooded and cloaked figure in a smart, grey waistcoat exited the cloud in pursuit of the perpetrators. His nose and mouth were tightly covered by the inner collar of his cloak like a half-mask, and his convictive blue eyes were dead set on the fleeing crooks as he ran with an unyielding stamina.

The crowd let out a gasp as they parted for the thieves, shortly followed by the cloaked crusader. Some cheered and others clapped while muttering to each other.

“An Arbiter’s already on their tail,” one said.

“That’s Galahan’s finest for you,” added another.

The guard officer had recovered with his squad and ordered two of them to check inside the store before taking the other two with him to aid the pursuit: more so for damage control than to actually help catch the thieves. If anything, they’d be a hindrance if they tried to get involved. Further down the street, the cloaked law-bringer was gaining on the crooks. The one who set the explosive was lagging behind, and her pursuer capitalised on it. With a gloved hand, they pulled a small black wand out from the inside of their cloak and came to a sudden stop. A small granite sphere hovered mystically at its tip, and with a sudden blue spark, the sphere fired forward with unbelievable speed. The Arbiter wafted the wand right, then left, and the granite sphere, about the size of a marble, slammed into the lagging crook, thrusting them against a stone wall. Sparks briefly surged from the sphere and the thief collapsed to the ground.

“I’m leaving them with you, Captain!” said the cloaked law-bringer, who continued his pursuit.

His voice was abnormally distorted, changing in pitch as if something was aiding his vocal cords.


Jenni Harrison Tue, 21/06/2022 - 14:19

I imagined Gulchwater really vividly, a sign of great worldbuilding, and the prose draws you into the story. I was left wondering how the characters from the two places will end up crossing paths, so I would read on.

Keith Garton Sat, 25/06/2022 - 14:03

The first two paragraphs are brilliantly written. All the way through these first pages, there's an amazingly vivid picture created. Excellent writing and very well-crafted! Keep it up, you've a great talent for story-telling.

Annette Crossland Fri, 09/09/2022 - 20:08

This piqued my interest. A great imagined world, and liked the premise of the Arbiters. Well-written and held my attention, would definitely read more.