Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Excerpts from the beginning of CAUTION: This is a Book (2007-2009)

    In the yellow mountains of Promanganjubule there are tunnels leading deep into the ground, where short little men with armor dig with hammers to uncover useless sparkly things. The tunnels are small as the little men, sometimes smaller, forcing them to crawl toward their destinations, which are either a) jewels, b) food, c) battles, d) jewels, or e) jewels. It is rumored these little men don’t reproduce by the standard method, simply popping out of the ground and into existence. They are called by most others who can talk ‘dwarves’, which comes from phrases describing the characteristics of the little men, ‘do war’ and ‘dig for jewels’. Other have been known to call them ‘ugly people’, ‘mountain shorties’, ‘weird little mountain guys that wear armor even when underground how do they survive the heat?’ or simply ‘little men’, though in fact they share few characteristics of men, point-in-fact they don’t seem to have any women. It’s further said they’ve evolved out of having eyes from spending so long underground. Dwarves exist in mountains besides yellow ones, but the ones in Promanganjubule are particularly special to this story. The dwarf king at this time, meaning the one dwarf whom the others actually pay attention to, had Thoughts. Bad, bad, thing to do. His evil little mind got a-whirling, devising an evil plan. One dark and stormy night, unfelt by the dwarves in their tunnels, this dwarf king Ramajuju stood in a grand chamber, behind him a giant mirror twenty times his size and a huge lever two times his size.
    “My dwarves!” he called, pounding his breastplate with his calloused hands, “I have a plan!”
    “A plan…”
    “A plan…” the words echoed around the chamber.
    “Tonight, with this Lever-and-Mirror Thingy--“ he pointed dramatically “—we will conquer the world!”
    “Conquer…” echoed his statement.
    “We dwarves have always been stuck underground, away from the sun and treasures of the upper world. Why should other creatures have these things that we do not? Even the mighty dragon gets treasure, caves, and the outside world! Spurred by this indignation, this travesty, this injustice, I have built this mirror to reflect upon the world. When I pull the lever, it will open for us!”
    “Open…” came the calls, lacking any outcry against the use of mercury.
    Ramajuju placed his gauntleted hand on the lever, taking in a deep breath through his beard. “See the glory of the dwarves, and rejoice!”
    He pressed down on the lever.
    … Undaunted, he put both hands on and pushed with all his might. “See the glory of the dwarves!”
    … Still undaunted, he hung from the lever to the satisfaction of it giving a slight creak. “See the glory!”
    The lever came down still more, while “Glory…” sounded through the empty chamber.
    “See the--“ he managed once more to say before the whole thing smashed to the ground, throwing him away with a flash of brilliant light. It was done; this evil could never again be removed from the world, this evil of the Mirror….
Caution: This is a Book.
    I woke up screaming in my bed, sheets wound around my legs, streamy sweat on my brow from thrashing in my sleep. The screams died as coughing prevailed, remnant of the cold I was just getting over. Breathing heavily, not sure how I ended up with any sheets on my bed at all, I kicked them off. I distinctly remember turning on the fan, stripping the bed, going to sleep in nothing but my underclothes. The summer had been brutal, but the last couple days had been the highest temperatures the state ever faced. I was still in my underclothes, which was weird to me and made me feel uncomfortably exposed, but I couldn’t hear the fan. I looked at the clock and read through the sweat dripping in my eyes that it was just past dawn. Dammit. Getting to sleep in this heat wave was near impossible. It was a miracle I’d done it, I’d never be able to do it again....

    Logically the only solution left to me is to watch TV, wasting away on the couch with chips and soda watching worthless shows my mind doesn't even have to process they're so lame. I devised a plan to steal Marn's, it sounded so appealing to me. Unfortunately he's been keeping close guard on the thing, I suspect he could almost hear my motives through the walls. Port and Gina don't have TVs either, which makes me stuck. Already the second day of vacation, and I've done nothing fun. I tried walking around the first day in town, willing my body to not melt, to no avail. That's how I led myself to wasting the first day of vacation: I saw an ugly bookstore and sort of oozed inside, feeling my parts reform as the AC hit me. Holding my hands to the vent in thanks I didn't at first notice the old man sitting at the desk.
    "Whacha read?"
    I jumped about two feet in the air, his voice sounded so much like a bird's squawk.
    "Nothing," I said quickly, only realizing what he'd asked when he fixed his piercing eyes on me.
    I squirmed. "Um... comics and fantasy? But I never have any time," I blurted. "School, you know."
    His narrow eyes got narrower. I strode confidently over to a shelf.
    "But it's summer break." There were worse things than flipping through old books... like going back outside. "Don't you have anything new? All this stuff stinks. It smells like my grandma's old attic."
    Lips pursed in silence, he got down from his stool and stared up at me. In middle school, Kindergartners were taller than me. This old guy was like a dried up bean. I edged away from him, as if his tiny gnarly hands would suddenly shoot out. Instead he reached into his long coat and pulled out a dusty paperback. "This."
    I wrinkled my nose. "Do normal people keep books hidden in their coats?"
    His mouth opened showing perfect teeth... like a hyena.
    I took the book, my tongue sticking out. "It's still old, though not as much as you."
    He didn't change his grin. I looked at the title. "Cookies? What type of title is that? I'm not a baby."
    I pushed the book back into his hands, whence he returned it to his coat. His other hand slid into the same spot and pulled out a different book. This one looked like it had just come off the presses. I snatched it and flipped through. It even smelled new.
    "This is more like it."
    His lips closed, but he was still grinning. It felt like he would growl any moment. Eeew! I had a bad feeling about the whole thing.
    "Ok, I'll take it."

[Wallowing in self-pity, t]he tears kept flowing out of me, cooling my cheeks, cooling my neck, cooling my back... they died down as I felt wonderfully cool, like I was floating in water.... My eyes sprang open to see the floorboards level with my nose. I flailed, trying to grab onto something. All my hands found was that stupid book.
    "What the hell!" I screamed as I slipped through the floor, still in my underclothes.

Don’t try to tell me I could’ve figured it out, that ‘Book’ is an acronym standing for something stupid like ‘Bring Over to Other Kreality’ or whatever word you can think of that starts with K. It can’t be the book’s got anything to do with how I ended up sinking through a silvery substance and landing heels over head at the top of a hill and rolling the way down painfully. Grass is cushy, boney legs aren’t. I’m the kind of person who, by right, should be fat. But I don’t like shopping, cooking, or spending money, so it’s not like I’m thin ‘pretty figure’ thin, probably just malnourished.
    After figuring out how to put myself right up, finding I was still holding the book, I threw it to vent my frustration and confusion. It helped little. Whimpering slightly, I wondered if I’d broken anything.
    “What the hell?” I repeated, rubbing my side and viewing my surroundings. I’m pretty sure there aren’t any hidden plains of grass under my apartment. It was pitch black, the formerly rising sun nowhere to be seen. I looked up, half-expecting to see a ceiling, half not surprised to see stars. For the first time in my life I wished, for a brief moment, I knew some constellations. Ah, that would be too much work. There were too many stars to distinguish anything anyway.
    Around me wasn’t much of anything else helpful. “Grass, grass, darkness, and yes, grass. Just kill me now!” I screamed, falling over on the grass. At least it was nice and cool. So nice and cool, in fact, that I closed my eyes in appreciation and promptly fell asleep.

I started CAUTION in 2007 on a school computer, and continued writing sections here and there until in 2009 I finally sat down, completed the book, edited it a little, and sent it into a publisher (first EVER). It was rejected 4 months later, no surprise. It's just so fun to write! I can't sacrifice that for solid plot and intricate characters, right?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Unnamed (2004?)

(I've realized a lot of these are probably older than I realized.)

It wasn’t morning. It wasn’t even dawn. In fact, only a Nitera could claim it was time for anyone to be moving about the forest. Iela thus felt she had quite the right to be annoyed with whatever it was that had woken her in the middle of this cold winter night. Pulling her cloak around her with a cool expression over her dark-skinned face, she slid herself out of her tree hole and landed lightly upon the frozen ground. Crouching, she listened again for the racket. There it was, that strangely familiar sound. An uneasy feeling stirred in her chest, moving her to slowly open her eyes and blink at the sparkling snow. Light was somewhere near, crackling — fire!
Her panic hit for only a moment before ebbing. It was not a forest fire. Curiosity replaced annoyance, and she crept towards the light and the strange voices around it. Peering through the branches her heart gave a thud. Humans! She drew back with a sharp breath, memories flying through her mind. She had seen her own reflection many times in ponds and lakes, and knew she was different from the forest creatures who had raised her, but she never accepted her own oddity until she saw these beings here. Her eyes flashed. What were they doing in the forest, her forest? In all her years — somewhere more than 10, somewhere less than 20 — she had never seen one. She now recognized the language... her own. Perhaps she had not been in the forest as long as she believed.
“But my prince,” one human was saying, “your stepsister will surely send soldiers after us. We should go—”
“We’ll be safe in the forest for a time,” another one interrupted. This one dressed in clothing frilly like vines and sparkly things. “She won’t expect us to come in here,” he added.
“For good reason,” another grumbled.
Iela drew away again. No, they were humans. She was not — not anymore. Her forest was her home, its creatures her family. Contentment reigned here, settled like a warm fox on her chest. And yet... she bit her lip. Could this be my chance for change? She drew a breath swiftly and turned away. There was time left to rest before her day was to start. Back to her tree hole she would go. The humans would pass, tomorrow she would watch the wolves assemble for their winter snow dance. That thought brightened her eyes as she crept back to her sleep hole.

Errin stuck his head out into the corridor and quickly looked both ways. It was empty. He quietly tiptoed out, shutting the door behind him. His back to the wall, he crept down the hall until he came to a corner. Just as he was about to turn, he heard voices. Uh oh! He would likely get in trouble for being out of his room, so being caught was not an option. He ducked into the room next to him, fervently hoping it was empty. Luck was with him, as there were no people or furniture. He listened at the door until the voices passed, when he snuck again into the corridor. This time he made it to his destination without mishap. He sighed and relaxed against one of the enormous bookshelves. Hardly anyone ever came into the library, and when they did, they only stayed long enough to select a book. Errin knew every inch of the library, and almost every book. It was his goal to read them all before his 13th birthday. He still wasn’t sure if this was a reasonable goal, as he was already 10, in the 4 years since he’d learnt to read he’d made his way through slightly less than half the library, and new books were added all the time. His father collected books, but hardly ever had time to read any of them. Now that Errin was getting older, his father was assigning him more tutors and more responsibility, which left less time for reading. Errin was very determined, though, and lately he’d taken to giving his tutors the slip, and even blackmailing one to tell Errin’s father that he was doing all his lessons when Errin had in fact missed all but one. Errin felt only very little guilt about it. It wasn’t a very important lesson anyway. All the same, he grimaced as he thought of the test his father was likely to conjure up for him. As he moved to a different shelf, a thought struck him. His test, if on schedule, would’ve been held yesterday. His father had missed before, certainly, but only for good reason. He would have to ask him tonight.
Having skipped lunch to learn that oak leaves were edible if cooked in oil — useless information, he grumbled — Errin was quite famished once dinner came around. As he usually did, he took dinner with his father in the king’s chambers. Errin wondered how to broach the subject of the test without bringing it down on himself right then. He was saved, though not in the words he would have preferred.
“We are having company tomorrow night. I hope you will be prepared.”
Errin nodded. “Of course. Who is it coming?”
“The Countess Laina dy Welan, lately widowed, and her daughter Fy’ona. You might recall the Countess’s husband, Count Welan.”
Errin shook his head.
“No matter,” his father went on, “he was a good man, a friend. His wife was young for him, though. How went your studies today?”
Errin started at this abrupt change of subject, then mumbled something about oaks. The king looked unamused, but fell lost in thought and talked no more.
The countess was lovely and charming. Her daughter was rather quiet, but her piercing eyes took in everything. Dinner went delightfully, and Errin was pleased by his fine performance. He was less pleased when, the next day, his father assigned him a new teacher, this time on etiquette. Errin was very much put out, especially when he could find no way of worming himself out of the lessons. After a month, he realized he truly despised his new tutor. The man was a demon sent from the underworld, it must be. Anger grew in him, and a dark hatred of all his lessons began to form. The anger gradually gave way to annoyance, and then to rebellion. He skipped his classes, and after a time he realized no one was punishing him. His father was too occupied with matters of state, and Errin was free to roam. What joy! What glee! He did, however, attend a few etiquette classes, especially when the Countess dy Welan was invited more often for dinner.

Curled up in her trunk, the forest girl tried to sleep, but only managed a half-sleep. Creeping through her usual thoughts of the forest were visions of the things she had seen earlier. It wasn’t long before she saw only the fire-light dancing on the faces of the sparklies. What things were these, that reminded her of sunlight on water? Finally she shot out of her tree in frustration, and plunged her sweating face into the snow... which was stupid. She wiped the snow from her face, wincing at the cuts the ice gave her. It was no use — she’d never been so curious about anything in her life, she had to look at those sparkling ornaments. She crept back to the fire site, to see it only burning embers. The humans were sleeping around it, some of them making horrid snorting noises worse than a horse. The one who was wearing the ornaments was the only one with a cloth to warm him. Iela sat there the whole night watching the sparklies, and she was absolutely hooked on the beauty and mystery they held. When the humans awoke, ate, and departed, Iela found herself staring longingly after them. What were the sparklies? How were they made? Where did they come from? She also wondered who the people were who wore the sparklies, but that wasn’t as important. Could she, dare she go after them? The forest animals never minded her wanderings, in fact they encouraged them. She’d never wandered far before, though nothing physically kept her here. Curiosity was only natural, and seldom fatal. With much less thought that should be given to the start of life adventures, Iela rolled to her feet and sprang to follow the horses.

After following them the whole day, Iela was ready to collapse in slumber. While they were eating their own supper, however, she saw fit to gather herself some roots to chew for her empty stomach. While she chewed and watched, the younger human, the one with the sparklies, took off the jewels to put in a soft bag. Longing to stare at them more, once the humans were asleep, Iela crept into their camp with muffled footfalls. She just wanted to look at the sparklies spilling out on the ground after she’d upturned the bag, which was satisfying, but temptation grabbed her. I’ll just take one. The red one was lovely as fire, the white like a river, the blue as the sky, the green as leaves. After some time she decided on the forest color, and started placing the rest back in the bag. They chimed softly, she glanced at the humans but they still seemed deep in slumber. A moment later, a hand closed about her wrist. Caught green-handed!

I don't know what comes next. Part of me wants to figure that out right now, but I'll resist doing that until I can devote the proper time to it.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Blood Queen Rising (2007(?), Prologue 2010)

I have no memory of any (if any) plot I had for this story, and it's less than inspiring writing, but I may come back to it someday.

Okuzanbe was once free and without borders. The people ran the miles of grassy planes unhindered, following the wild deer and chasing rainbows through waterfalls until they could neither run nor be carried any more. For generations the stories passed down were full of discoveries and the joys found in nature, simple tales woven around simple observations and plenty of good food. 300 years ago, elders from many different clans gathered together, discovering that many people could accomplish much more together, that with one person to weave another could focus on food and another could paint masterpieces with previously unaffordable time. After a generation of planning a government was set to rule over all the clans, and the Parliament of Okuzanbe was chosen. The Parliament split Okuzanbe into 8 Provinces, or Territories, each of which had a king to govern them. The king took care of local matters, and took all matters of law and things dealing with other Territories, such as trade customs, from the hand of the Parliament. For more than 200 years this system was without flaw, and Okuzanbe continued to flourish. No man, woman, or child was in need of food or toys, and most of the population was educated enough to make frequent use of the highly-coveted libraries. Crime was almost non-existent, and most adults could handle a staff well enough to defend themselves against invaders. No one ever invaded Okuzanbe.
In 517, twenty years ago, the king ruling Chatizan Territory died suddenly on a pilgrimage to a great shrine. It was custom for a new king to be chosen by the Parliament, a process which could take months. While the Parliament was considering its options, the widow of this king took up her husband’s crown and set herself upon the throne. She gave herself no title, only authority in command of all her husband’s land and soldiers. At first the people followed her because they had no other ruler and she was wise, learned in the ways of governing. Later they obeyed her because she had shown her true colors and earned the title of the Blood Queen. In these short years she has conquered and subdued three Provinces that now fly her flag above their lands, and she shows no intention of stopping. The Parliament has raised brave soldiers from the Provinces to turn her forces back, but their morale and numbers are breaking. It won’t be long now before Okuzanbe is consumed with the terror and inefficiency that is total rule by arms, rule by the Blood Queen.

Chapter 1: A Sense of Death
(he goes through the elements, fire, water, air, earth, and thought.)

I can’t see. The smoke hurts my eyes, and I am blinded by my own pain. Oh, my Searra. I can swing this sword around, hoping I hit an enemy soldier, but the forest fire is spreading. I must get out soon or I’ll burn. Like my Searra shall. The hurt of my leg, sliced off uncleanly at the knee, is nothing compared to the pain of her parting. We signed ourselves on as soldiers knowing the fates that awaited us, but my wife should not have died. Mere moments have passed since her warm blood splattered across my face, a gaping hole in her chest, but already the emotions — shock, disbelief, anger — have passed through, leaving a throbbing grief. I jump aside, dodging a mace, and plunge my sword through the man’s back, feeling him collapse. A burning branch falls, and I hit it with my sword to send it into the enemy lines. What lines? Everyone is fleeing the scalding heat. The impact of the hit breaks my sword at the hilt — worthless hunk of metal! I take up the mace, and turn to the last man present. On observation, however, I see that might be hard, for I am the last man. I turn to flee, but a glint of something green catches my eye. Searra’s killer, dead by my knife, dropped something as he died, and now I can see it. Searra always wore the emerald around her neck, having refused to sell it even when we almost joined our children in starvation. I pick it up and squeeze it hard, feeling its uncut edges slice into my whole palm. Now I will run. I don’t know if I will escape with my life, especially since I can’t really run — I hop, trying to ignore the pain in my fire-cauterized leg. The mace is sturdy and long, I use it to help me limp along. Fire singes me all around, and I feel as sunburned as a bad day in the field. It’s so hot... everything is burning. My mind is full of the image of Searra’s golden hair consumed by the flames. Tears stream down my cheek, offering some relief to the burns. I will never make it out alive.
Hot, hot, everything is burning. There goes my black hair, which Searra loved to run her hands through. My jacket is full of burned holes, and it saddens me. Julia had sewn it for me, her precise stitching ever meticulous. Anne had helped her with the buttons, using the little stones Benny collected. All gone, now. And soon I will join them. I tell myself I must not, but how can I listen to myself? We lost this battle. Our kingdom will fall now to the tyranny of the Blood Queen. It would be better for me to die here, burned up to a black husk, to become ashes on the wind, flying forever with my Searra. I can not walk any more. I drop to the ground, releasing the burning handle of the mace, and pull myself along the ground. I don’t really want to die, I’m only trying to convince myself that burning here isn’t so bad because that is what is going to happen to me. I’m crawling through bodies, all dead, by weapon or flame. My comrades, all. I wonder if Dan is among them. Good lad... he would’ve wed Julia had she survived. His parents had also died of starvation, just like so many others. My eyes hurt. I can cry no more. I should have stayed by Searra, died by her side. The emerald is still in my hand. What will it be like to die? Besides the pain, I think I’m getting that. I will find out soon. I’m scared of it, but under the fear is a calm acceptance. Everybody died someday. Oh Hades!.. I’m not going to die if I can make it out. I’m crawling, I’m crawling. I’ll not be joining your underworld so soon, Hades. Like everyone else, I will fight to the last to preserve my life. Demeter, I was a good farmer, let me live to see another crop. No... that doesn’t seem right — like Hades I was a good farmer. I failed my children. Athena, I was a good soldier. My warrior goddess, let me live to fight another day. Hot, hot, I’m burning up. My head hurts. They say a man’s life flashes before his eyes before he dies. That would be interesting. I would like to see my life. I can’t remember much of it. Just flames. And Searra. And little Jake, who died soon after birth. I remember holding his little body and wondering why the Fates had decided he must go. Just a baby, a tiny thing, I could hold him with one hand. Melancholy thoughts are mine. I could do more with my life, if more of life was granted to me. Let this pain end soon. May I die swiftly now. Hot, hot, hot! Burning. Like Anne’s first crumpets she tried to make when she was six. Burning. Like Searra’s body. I shall be but a shell, like a tortoise eaten by a hawk. Crispy, like a dead locust. The birds had eaten them, I remember, and we didn’t think of following their example until it was too late. Hot. Burning. Falling, like the rain that never came to feed us. Cold, freezing, like ice. Ice, like the pond that froze up each year. We went sliding on the ice. I am burning. Why do I feel cold? Cold. I can breath no more, my lungs are filled with fire. No. Fire isn’t wet. There are shadows here, but no dancing flames. I’m sinking. Oh! I fight the current, finally breaking surface. Air fills my scorched lungs, air not filled with the taste of ash and blood. I still can’t see clearly, and my senses are still numb, but my brain is awakening. Water! Blessed water! Did I fall into a river? There were no rivers where we fought. Julia, coming home from her schooling. Telling us about underground rivers. Hah! Poseidon, I’ll see your sea soon enough, for the current is too strong, and where would I get out? The rocks are bashing into me, I feel them now. It hurts. And it’s cold. Now I can’t feel anymore, because my sense have been numbed by the cold. What else would I expect from melted snow? That’s where water comes from in the spring. Hah! Death by fire is no longer an option. Death by drowning seems very likely. Now that I’ve experienced both moments, I might have liked burning more. Burning is warm, after all. Hot. No, no burning. Cold. Ah! Cold, cold, cold! How long can this go on? I am too numb. Rushing with the current, I feel like an insect caught in a gale. Swirling, swirling, cold, fast, ah! I can not stand this much longer. How long has it been? Why do I care? It was false dawn when the fire came. I should like to see the sun again. The sun warms, but does not burn. Curse the titan who brought us fire! No, forgive me, Prometheus, without fire I could not have eaten Searra’s food, a joy to me. I can’t remember the taste of food, although I remember the grainy feeling of bread. I am tired, very tired. I sleep now. My dreams are troubled, horror fills them, they smell of ash and are as red as blood.
“I love you, Meagle,” she says to me. I reach my hand to her, but I am falling. Cold! Wind chill? Waterfall. A very, very, big waterfall. I’m falling. If I flap my wings, will I fly? I mean my arms. I don’t have wings. Eagles have wings. Eagles, that which I was named for. “My little eagle,” my mother would call me. “M’ eagle,” she whispered at her death. “Meagle,” my father called me then on. “My Meagle,” Searra called me once we had wed. If I was an eagle I wouldn’t be falling. I would fly, if I flapped my wings. Eagles, for which I was named— I’ve gone over this already. My skin burns. Wind-burn. I never knew wind could burn. I’m falling. Oh gods. That means it will end soon. Ah! I didn’t know cold water could burn, either. Ooah, it hurts. Smack I fell, and I can’t move now. There, my arms can move again, Water again? Oh. The current is slowing. I can’t get to land, though. I’m too tired. Hmm. Blessed unconsciousness. When I’m unconscious, I’m not supposed to be thinking, am I? Oh. Now I’m dreaming. Lovely sight, the gods. They have very peaceful voices. Hmm. Pretty. Ah — blackness at last!

Am I awake now? I must be, for I am thinking. I do not feel like opening my eyes. My eyelids tell me to sleep while they continue to droop. Well, I’m not dead yet, eyelids, come now, open up. Ow. Go away, birdie. Hey, I can move! I can feel! Is that a good thing? Ooh — no. Everything hurts, and far more than is good for me. The sky is such a lovely blue. The sun is warm, and I am still wet. I will attempt to sit up. Ooh — no. Never mind. I shall simply lie here until I die of starvation. I have washed up on the river banks, and the current doesn’t carry me away again because it has wedges me ‘tween two rocks. They hurt. The river bank is right here, I should get to it. To lie on the soft grass — yes, I have to. Oh, but it hurts as I drag myself over the rocks. Everything hurts, and my eyes are blurring. The grass. How soft it is. I will lie down here, and let the sun dry me. It is cold still, but the sun feels nice. I’ll sleep now.

Am I awake again? No, not really. I am moving. Why am I moving? Oh dear. I think I will sleep through whatever this is.
“Ah!” Hit against a rock! The sound that comes from my mouth is no more an ‘ah’ than a ‘sun of life, feed me with thy grace.’ It sounded a horrid gurgle, and the result is that I am dropped.
“It’s alive!” I hear someone cry.
“I had better get Papa,” a different voice said, and I felt the vibration of footsteps. The other one left too. Are they coming back? I don’t know. They know I’m alive now, however, and that’s a step up. I am going to sleep.

I’m awake again. Oh! I keep interrupting my sleep. Right. I shall open my eyes now. Oh. What a pretty little girl.
“Mamma!” she cries, jumping back, “his see-ers are on!”
What an odd way to say my eyes are open.
“Thank Hera,” a woman breathed. “You’ve been in sleeps for half a month,” she told me.
“Oh,” I say, though it comes much clearer than my ‘ah’... two weeks ago. That doesn’t surprise me. The two weeks, I mean. I feel much better. Except the smell of fire. Er. I shiver.
“You are who?” the mother asks me.
“Me?” I babble, “I hurt. I’m hungry. I’m... Meagle. Right. Searra!” I remember now. Oh, the pain. I turn to the wall and cry. It doesn’t hurt so much. It feels good to cry. Searra, oh Searra!

I’m hungry. Whatever it is that tickles my nose, it smells good. The ceiling. I guess I should expect that is what I would see, lying on my back. A rather pretty ceiling. Stone, like my home was. I’ll not cry again for you, Searra, not right now. Later, then I can cry again. Now I had better let my hosts know I’m living.
“Hello?” I croak. My vocal chords are still half-burned, I shouldn’t wonder. Footsteps.
“Ah, hiya to our living ward, Sah Meagle,” the woman welcomes, pleased. “I am Maria.”
“Thank you, Ses Maria,” I say quietly, “it must be a burden for you to have me.”
She was silent for a moment. “We what we could did,” she murmured, “to Hera we give thanks of your life.”
“Hades ate me then spat me out,” I sigh, tears blurring my vision of the gray ceiling. “If it was by Hera’s bidding, then I shall also thank the goddess for my life.”
“Are you better feeling, Sah Meagle?” she asks gently.
Am I? “I think I can walk,” I offer, though my whole body vetoes the idea.
“We are to sup in moments, you will join us?”
“Please,” I say enthusiastically.
She chuckled. I finally turned to face her, and smile wistfully. Ses Maria is lovely as her daughter, and I tell her so. She chuckled again, her blue eyes twinkling.
“That was my Lara, fifth child of mine six.”
I sighed. “Searra wanted six children,” I say rather blandly.
Her humor turned to a soft pity. “You have lost your wife?”
I nod, then change the subject to ask of when we would eat.
She smiled again and pulled some things over. “First, Sah Meagle, your hand.”
I stare blankly.
“Even throughout your weakness, your fist remained clenched, and nah I nay my husband could open it. Bleeding through, and I don’t wand infection on you.”
I lift my right arm to look at the hand. Clenched about the emerald, I remember. It hurts to open, but ah! an ugly sight! The emerald has dug into my hand, the skin healed around it. Ses Maria looked surprised for a moment, but began cleaning the dried blood away.
“Cleanly healed,” she murmured, tracing the scars on my palm with her finger. She gently lay my arm down, then went across the room. She returned with a small man.
“Sah Ivor,” Ses Maria told me, “my husband.”
“Greetings,” I sigh. Together they helped me to the chair I was to sit on. The rest of the family filed in, the eldest holding the baby boy. The eldest two children are the boys who found me, the other three are girls. The children all looked at me uneasily, and I wonder why I unnerve them so. Oh dear. I should see what I look like, perhaps. Being burned and stoned and flown and swept, I do not imagine myself a pretty sigh. And my half-leg probably scares them. Once we all were seated, we gave thanks to the gods, and we ate. The soup tastes good, but I let it cool more. Hot does not bide well for me. And I feel awkward holding the spoon, as it clanks dully against my emerald. I wish I could give the gem to this kind family, but it seems it has rather grown attached to me. To make conversation, I ask the names of the children. Jake and Jack are the boys, then Lisa, Lara, and Betty. The baby is Ben. What a lovely family! I eat now, and feeling is coming to me again. My head hurts.
Finished eating now, the children leave to play. Silence unnerves me.
“Where am I?” I ask rather abruptly.
Sah Ivor sets down his cup to answer me. “This is the Gaetizan province.”
My smile, if it was there, is gone. Gaetizan. My enemy. Bordering Lefizan, my home.
“Oh,” is all I say. Now I am in a province ruled by the conqueror of terror, the Blood Queen.
I admit, it’s rather strange. This family is happy, their house is large, their crops strong, their fields stretch for acres. They are not in chains nor under guard. The Blood Queen and her soldiers must eat, of course, perhaps that’s why the farmers have free reign. I realize my silence is pressing, so I smile. It was rather like a quick grimace, and I put my head in my hands.
“You should get back in bed,” Ses Maria whispers. For my face feels... I know why the children are afraid of me. Ses Maria gave me a mirror and I look into it. I scare myself. My face is scarred beyond repair. My nose, which used to seem so odd, is now my strong feature. My cheeks are jaggedly red and orange and pale and dark... I look like a demon. It set the mirror down and Ses Maria helps me back to bed, and none of us speak a word.

Chapter 2: Rebirth
When I wake the next morning I have a strong incentive not to open my eyes. I should just die, really. I am a walking horror, with nothing left for me. Meagle, get up. I guess I have a rebellious side — oh, but it know that. There is life ahead of me... and revenge. I will not cry for Searra, not for a long time, but I will avenge her. Ow. I will be no use to kill the Blood Queen if I hurt myself after two weeks of healing. No more trying to jump out of bed. I open my eyes, and see Jack watching me, alarm on his face.
“I am all right now,” I said, feeling foolish, “just... a nightmare.”
He calmed immensely. “Oh Sah, yes. I know what you mean.” He looked a moment at my disfigured face, reddened, then hopped up from his seat and left the room. A moment later Ses Maria entered and came to my side.

later part: Fortune Teller
She grasped his hand in her own, looking into his eyes, a solid stare of mystic. She smiled. “Treasure of your ancestors, you search for all. Look to the songs you sing, they give you clues.”
Dale gaped at her. “My nonsense songs?” he asked, flabbergasted.
Her smile grew and her eyes twinkled, then she gave Dale back his hand and looked to me. Her smile slowly dimmed until it was a ghost of its former brilliance.
“You have great fortune coming your way,” she told me, but she sounded less certain that when she spoke to Dale. “You will wed a lady of beauty greater than the sunset, and...” She paused. “Or? And defeat the tyrant and bring us peace.”
I stared at her, my face impassive.
“Was that an ‘and’ or an ‘or’?” Dale asked, as always pinning down the trivial points.
The fortune-teller focused her eyes on him. “That is Meagle’s own decision.” She sounded so decided, so mystic, so sure of herself, that I could not doubt her. But as we ride away from the tent, I remember the expression in her eyes at the last thing she said, and wonder what she was afraid of.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Frankenstein 'what if' (2007)

I wrote this as an in-class 'think' assignment, a 'what if' in regards to Frankenstein. I chose to write a blurb starting a 'what if Frankenstein hadn't abhorred his monster?' story. This is what came out. I have no idea of any plot, however, and don't plan to write any more.

I finished my creation right as the first sparkle of sunlight crept through the cracks in the wall. It opened its eyes, the first sign of life... then made a horrible sound. My joy at my success simmered down as I was faced with doubt. The creature was not as beautiful as I imagined it to be — in some ways it was even horrifying. I suppose I knew that when I first attempted to bring it to life, but it wasn’t until it made that creaking sound I really understood my mistake. In that moment I was ready to run away, hide in my room, cursing my unlucky self. Something stopped me, an unexpected action: the creature smiled. Not the sort of smile you might imagine, as it was not built that way. But the joy came through, I could see the emotion in its face, and its eyes shone like a happy puppy dog. Despite the horror I had been feeling, moments before, I thought... cute. How such a weird, mis-formed being could look so sweet I still cannot understand, but that is what I felt. Perhaps it was because I, myself, longed to love and be loved, that led me to feel such protection towards my creation. My mind began to battle with itself. Monster. Cute. Horrible beast. Sweet. Disaster. Success. Ah, but that which is sweet always wins against reason. I knew long before, when I first began the experiment, that what I was doing should not be done by any mortal. It is the right of the Gods alone to create life... and there should be no resurrection from the dead, even as a patchwork creation. But my curiosity and desire to learn prompted me to create it, and here it was. I heard sounds on the ground floor, voices above my head. I panicked — what would others do if they found it? What if they don’t see the shimmers of life and joy in its eyes? I created it, it was my responsibility. The protective feeling hit me hard, and I gathered the little thing in my arms. It squeaked in protest, and again I winced at the sound that was something between metal on metal and a dying cat’s yowl. Carefully, unsure of how robust the thing was, I took it to a closet and placed it inside, where I hoped any sounds it might make would be muffled. Then I hurried from the room and ran up the stairs, two at a time, to face the intruders. I couldn’t think of who they might be, as any friends I’d had abandoned me when I started my project. It was only as I placed my hand on the handle did I realize who it could be, but by then it was too late. The door opened away from me, and I fell forward onto the floor in front of glaring, accusing eyes.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Hard Day's Coffee (2008?)

Hard Day's Coffee: A man's progression in the world of fine grounds.

The microwave beeped as the kettle started singing in the dimly-lit kitchen of Ecter House. Ecter is not the man moving about the kitchen, nor the one shouting out of the telephone receiver; to all knowledge there had been no owner or renter of the house in all its history with that name. The current owners of the house said 'forget the name, it's cheap' and thus did no background check to see what history the house had, why it was named so, or even why a house just outside an American city even had a name.
"No, it's not!" blared the man on this side of the speaker as he struggled to keep the phone under one ear while pulling four coffee mugs from a high cupboard. Once he had laid them in a row the caller said something nasty before cutting the conversation off in a key that signaled 'I'm right, I don't care what you think.' Faced with such stubborn invincible authority, Patrick Evans slammed his own phone back on the hook and stood breathing heavily, hands on his hips. A little ruffling scratch to his red brown hair and lips pursed sideways told you he wasn't really as upset as he looked despite being interrupted in his morning jog on the treadmill and now the news would be finished. He might be tempted to watch other things as he struggled to keep on his feet, but Ecter House had no satellite and could not get any other TV channels worth watching.
After a resigned sideways glare at the phone, Patrick turned off the stove and opened the microwave. As he was removing the hot milk from the surprisingly clean interior he reached to get the most important ingredient — the instant coffee. An inch of hot milk dripped into the bottom of each mug was followed by a scoop of Fescot's instant coffee. It was cheap, but — having never tasted anything better — it was good enough for the residents of Ecter House. Grabbing the hot water off the stove Patrick hastily dipped the spout in the first cup. Just as hastily he cursed and pulled his hand away from the boiling liquid that bubbled out. Frowning now, he divided the rest of the water between the cups, keeping his now-burned fingers away from the flow.
"Coffee ready!" he called, grabbing two small coffee spoons and stirring two cups simultaneously. The first other resident of Ector House came down the stairs, straightening his tie. Anyone who saw Ronald Wynn in the evening, laughing on the couch with a bowl of chips would think he was a TV couch potato. It was Patrick's theory, however, that the only reason Ronald was overweight was because he spent too much time making money to bother exercising much. A few neighborhood walks a week plus plenty of laughter left Ronald overweight but healthy... despite all those chips he consumed while reading things like 'True Stella Awards' on the couch.
"Work been good?" Patrick inquired when he saw Ronald's happy face.
"Better than ever. I have a meeting with Alex White from Jacknut Cereal this morning about an ad for his new 'sugar free' mix."
"That's good," said Patrick politely as he finished mixing the 2nd set of cups.
"Indeed it is — and it's this morning."
An awkward silence passed while Patrick held still his hand in the middle of using it to pass Ronald his coffee. "Ah," said the wise man, reaching back to pull out man's greatest invention.
"Thanks, Pat," called the businessman as he left the house with his sparkling clean travel mug to drive away in the only car owned by any resident of Ector House.
Patrick was rinsing out the unused coffee cup when the third resident of the house came down, strawberry-blond hair swinging about the shoulders, blue eyes like crystals on a pretty face, slender body dressed in a cute T-shirt and jeans... a pity Van is a guy, sighed Patrick once again. He could never be sure if Van wore his hair long to be a jerk or if he was simply mocking the world and its classifications. But really, no man should be that pretty. Granted, Van was only 16, and could yet grow out of it. The pretty boy rubbed his eyes as he reached the counter. Patrick handed him his coffee then raised his eyebrows.
"Is that a flower on your shirt?"
"No, it's your imagination." Van's voice even sounded like a girl's — at least that he would grow out of... maybe.
"Although thy T-shirt may be tur-ned wrong, I clearly see a blooming flower."
Van almost spit out his coffee. Swallowing hastily, he set the mug down long enough to put a light jacket on. "It was cheap."
Used to Van defending his garage-sale-bought wardrobe, Patrick just sipped his own coffee with a grin.
Van glanced at the remaining cup. "You made 'him' coffee again? Do you think he really drinks it?"
"Do you want to stick around long enough to find out?" Patrick asked, handing the boy a cold piece of toast.
"No," Van agreed, pulling out the margarine. After buttering — figuratively speaking — their brown bread, the two slipped on some shoes and left the house, coffee in hand.
Every morning the two of them walked to the neighborhood park to eat, leaving the house empty for a half-hour while the last resident of Ector House drank his coffee and left. Or maybe he went back upstairs to his room; the other residents knew almost nothing about him from the start and had since learned they didn't want to. Albert Rice was an ill-tempered man who slouched, snapped, glared, and smelled of booze. The others sometimes wondered where he worked — what job would take him — but kept quiet as Albert's payments always made their way to Patrick more on time than their own.
Legally, Patrick owned the house, and was renting out rooms for a small profit. He never picked his tenants, and though he liked a change of pace he hadn't kicked the current bunch out yet. At first it was because he liked Ronald, felt sorry for Van, and was sure that if he got to know him better Albert would be a good person. Now it was mostly because they'd all been there so long. Ronald could surely move out — probably purchase his own house just as or even bigger — but for some reasons of his own he stayed. Patrick found it ironic that this random bunch of suspicious-past people were more loyal than his original partners.
After graduating their junior year in college, Patrick and three of his best buds decided to buy a house together for the money it saved. #1 got a job in Montana and left to finish his degree there. #2 had to go back home to Alaska for a family crisis. #3 just left, and Patrick still didn't know why. All three sold their shares of the house back to their remaining buddy, and now Patrick could see that they had gone about it all wrong anyway. That was 10 months ago, and since then he'd had three sets of tenants. The first set were annoying, but Patrick didn't know any better and let them stay. After 2 months they disappeared, leaving most of their bills unpaid. The second set were annoying too — so Patrick kicked them out and felt good. For the last 7 months it had been the same group, and Patrick imagined at least two of them good friends. Now in graduate school, Patrick was able to offer all kinds of advice to Van, in his first semester. When the boy arrived at the door at first, telling him he was going to start college with the next semester, Patrick was skeptical. But after almost four months of school, Van seemed to be doing fine.
"You a genius kid? Did you home school? Private school?" Patrick had asked him, but Van didn't like talking about his past, short as it may be.
Despite this, Van had opened up to Patrick like a brother — well, not like Pat's other brother — and let his guard down. Any day now Patrick would pry again and this time be successful. People had told him he pried too much into other people's business, but really, could it be helped? After all, it was what he found out about his parents that got him shipped off to Idaho in the first place; and he was more than happy to leave his eccentric family.
Van distracted him from his thoughts by pointing to the park. A family of starlings was taking breakfast from an old woman in purple who smiled as they approached.
"Nice morning today," she said; "you'll have nice days, you will."
"Thanks, granny," Van said, going to the swings.
"Good day, Ms. Fletcher." Patrick and Van sat on the swings, gently moving back and forth, the smell of the coffee drifting up and down. Van at first wondered why Patrick had to worry about him walking to the park each morning when an old woman did it, but Patrick pointed out that a woman who has lived that long alone can take care of herself. "And besides, Van Goe, you're too pretty to be walking alone."
Truth or not, no man likes being called pretty, and Van had refused to speak to him for weeks. After that they started walking together every day, and that was that.
'Van Goe?' you ask? His name must have something to do with what made him run away from home; for although the boy had not said as much, Patrick could think of few other reasons for a boy that young to be living on his own. But Van had a credit card in his own name, so sometimes Patrick wondered if he was really 16.
"You know, she's always right," Van said quietly, tucking his hair behind his ears.
"Ms. Fletcher?"
"Yeah. Every time she gives us a fortune like that it comes true."
Patrick raised his eyebrows. "How so?"
"Well, last week she said to me, 'Your mail will be bad today' and I got a bill."
"Well, that's—"
"Joey's bill."
Patrick rubbed his forehead. "You didn't pay it, did you?"
"I had to. He may be stupid, but he's my friend."
"Yes, but it's his fault. He's the one who broke the table, not you."
"I know. But it's only $50."
"Only? You're wearing a shirt with a flower on it."
Van frowned. "Yeah. Not enough to argue legally over, is it? Don't worry, I won’t forgive him easily for putting my name on the tab, but I'll try 'n get it out of him."
"And if you can't?"
"You've got to be more aggressive, you know."
"Non-committal noise, ya know?"
"'Whatever'," said Patrick sarcastically, and Van grinned. No one who goes more than a couple months around a teen fails to grasp the idea of a somewhat 'off' vocabulary and marks of speech.
"Think he's done?" Van asked, and to Patrick's nod they started walking back home. Ever since their first meeting Van had been afraid of Albert, for good reason. Protective of the boy, Patrick decided not to let them meet ever again if he could help it.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fragments (of a story) (2007?)

He didn’t know how to begin finding an answer. His thoughts were clear from afar, but when he tried to pick one to dwell on they all shifted around to confusion. The question was simple, a mere question of why he was standing in a ballroom. Many answers had been presented to him, but in those instances when his head was clear enough to peruse these answers he concluded they were not good answers. Both Mamma and Leanna had told him he was helping his country. Count Elor told him he was serving his king. His little sister Anne said, “I want to go with you. Court is only a dream to me.” Thinking of her night-blue eyes, Ashtor missed his sister now. He was glad he did not have to shatter her dream with tales of his nightmare in this place so unlike home. In the small border town of Wehla, the people were honest, friendly, helpful, and quick to give you advice when you needed guidance. Here at Court things were far from simple. The women at a glance, blushing behind their fans, offering frilly arms of guidance, hid the darker characters beneath where dwelt greedy hearts yearning for higher places in life. The men took care to offer honest tidbits and empathetic nods, but only to raise their status in the eyes of others. Ashtor watched the progress of the moon outside the large windows, each moment yearning more for the nightmare to end. It would not, however, end with the moon, nor with the moon after. It would only end once Ashtor completed his task and the Baroness Eboche was ripe for assassination. The very thought of his mission disgusted him more than the cool wine swirling inside the twisted wineglass rubbing his calloused hands. Hands that should be working the farm where his father needed him dearly. His father told the king’s men the farm would not suffer, a lie for simplicity as the old man knew they would take Ashtor on or behind a horse.
They would have done much better to coerce a courtier into this role the farmer’s boy now played, but he suspected they needed someone who would disappear without a trace. Dressed in a velvet suit, with a ring on every finger, the lad found the society equally overwhelming as distasteful. No one would think to look for him working a field, not with how he was dallied up now. His finely curved chin was neatly shaved, his bright golden hair clean, cut, and combed, his tanned back hidden behind layers of finery. The result was a shiningly handsome young man the Lady Eboche would surely fall for.
His head stopped spinning; finally he was getting somewhere. Ah, they had drugged him with angor, the effect of which was amplified by wine. He set the glass down on a table and looked to the musicians, seeking their surety and sweet tunes to calm him until he found the true question: Why did the king seek to dishonor Lady Eboche? Or, more to his puzzlement at the moment, if he was supposed to obey them as a drugged puppet, how was he supposed to charm the lady if she wasn’t there? The second question was easier, for he had been assured the lady would come to the party. He settled on the task at hand and moved about the room, his servant close behind. In order to earn her regard, and her trust, he needed first to find the young window. When he came across her, it was the servant, one who knew all the faces of those present, who would inform him.
“Lord Ashtor.” A man moved to his right as he greeted the lad. “All blessings under the White Sky. I am Knelson, Duke of Forshire.”
Ashtor inclined his head in respect for the Duke’s higher status. “Your acquaintance is a blessing, my Lord Duke.”
“I hear you own a collection of farms, and among this collection, the serfs have rebelled but once. I offer my congratulations, and show my amazement at the accomplishments of the young.”
“Thank you, Lord Duke,” Ashtor replied, readying himself for his character spiel. “I have only recently come into power, giving a narrow window for which the serfs to revolt.”
Ashtor lay his weakness straight on the table, which meant to the duke that the lad was either incredibly stupid, brave, or strong, and he wished to find out which.
But they can’t give him that chance.
“Excuse me, Lord Ashtor, a word?”
Ashtor followed General Prince Riley away from the duke.
“Baroness Eboche has yet to come,” the prince said through a gritted-teeth smile.
I noticed. Ashtor nodded. The prince seemed disgruntled. “I will send my spies to find out where she is. Meanwhile, try not to talk to anyone. Except myself or Lord Lent. Yes, go mingle with Lord Lent and his Lady.” Ashtor bowed himself away, and went to chat with the other plotter. There were surprisingly few for a plot that the king headed. Perhaps these few are the only ones he trusts.
It was another hour before the baroness appeared, and the servant made the signal. Ashtor immediately excused himself from Lord Lent’s daughters, who seemed to find him the most amusing thing in the room. Probably because they knew who he was. He headed towards the Lady, but was interrupted by another woman.
“Good evening, Lord Ashtor,” she simpered. “All stars shine fair tonight.”
“Good evening, Madam. The stars shine and you shine with them.”
She held out her hand, fingers sparkling. “Marquess Mulan.”
He bowed over her hand, lips brushing her glove. She chatted for minutes about various droll things, all the while emphasizing her wealth, and Ashtor was dismayed to see the Baroness’s attention taken over by another. When he finally escaped the marquess, he saw no way to intercede in the Baroness’ conversation.
“Sir, simply express a desire to meet the lady,” his servant murmured. “The man speaking with her is the Duke Knelson, whom you met earlier.”
Indeed he had. The faces all seemed to blend. Ashtor went to the duke, the great lights from the chandeliers beginning to swim in his vision. They steadied soon, but he felt worse for it. “Ah, Duke Knelson, who is your fair friend?” Ashtor asked smoothly as he made a quick assessment of the lady. When he had heard she was a widow he expected an older lady, but this was not the case. She was no older than Ashtor himself.
“Baroness Eboche; this is Lord Ashtor. Ashtor, may I present my cousin the Baroness Eboche?”
Using his name without a title... that either showed he wanted to be closer acquaintances, or that he had little regard for Ashtor. Considering the brief and cut-off conversation before, Ashtor suspected the latter.
“Baroness, meeting you has lightened my heart where only a candle once burned.” Holding her hand gently with his fingertips, he leaned over it, smelling a soft perfume on her wrists. She still dressed in black, in mourning these last three months; for the sake of her departed husband, she would dress thus darkly for seven more. A smile lit her face, shadowing the sadness in her eyes.
“And you, my Lord. My candle has gathered strength once more.”
Ashtor was almost struck dumb in appreciation at her graceful presence. Face drawn up into features finely sculpted as an angel, her voice — cool, calculating, polite, amused — was matured with a resonating deepness. The way she stood, the confidence in her every gesture, showed her power and her believe in herself. To cover his awe and admiration he quickly invited her to stroll with him around the room. With an inclination of her head she agree, and they left Duke Knelson staring curiously after them. In the light, Ashtor could see the grace and beauty of her face even without the smile. He was sure his romantic sister would describe Eboche’s skin like ice, or marble, but Ashtor — in a poetic voice that was quite unlike him — thought of it rather as ivory dust. He offered her wine, she took it. The light shone through the glass in a prism affect to glint on her glassy black hair. Despite the general impression that did not consider Eboche a beauty, he had a hard time thinking of her as anything else. It’s likely her coloring is not in ‘fashon,’ he thought wryly as he looked at all the red-haired beauties in the room, most if not all of which probably had dyed their hair.
“You are new to court,” the Baroness stated, taking his arm.
“As a pig from market,” he murmured, pretending to sip his wine.
She turned her head back to him. “What was that?”
“I have just come to age,” he said aloud, “and acquired land and a title of my own.” To steer conversation away from himself — and the precarious subject of his parents — he spoke again. “I am sorry for your loss. When did your...”
“Husband,” she supplied dryly.
“—husband die?”
She handed the empty glass to a servant. “I will wave the insult, but ask you not to continue with that game. Nobody keeps news hidden here.”
By gods — they hadn’t warned him she would be so blunt! “How did he die?” he blurted, regretting his rudeness instantly.
She raised an eyebrow. "Of his stomach cancer.”
“Forgive me for inquiring, I should not have—”
“No, no,” she waved a hand, “I had no love for my husband nor him for me. It was a marriage of state — to benefit the king’s treasury — and everyone knows it.”
“The — the king?” he asked, wondering if he would find the answer to his question so easily.
Her left eyebrow raised slightly, and she regarded him with a keen eye before explaining. “I had a huge dowry from my wealthy family. Baron Legar had been cajoling money from his brother for years; Edward was only getting tired of it.”
“Baron Legar was the king’s brother?” A cough saved him from his surprise. “I knew there was a relation, but I suspected second cousins or the sort.”
She nodded absently, looking up at him from under her half-closed lids. Soon they had finished their stroll. “Your acquaintance will be a boon to me, Lord Ashtor.”
“And you, Baroness, will be a star in my sky.”
She turned away and left without a glance back at him. Now, looking in a mirror at his sunken eyes and trembling hands, he sighed. Things were only becoming more complicated. Of course, he had accomplished more in one evening than he would have thought possible, but he wanted to know why the king wished to be rid of his own sister-in-law. He absently swatted away his servant’s hand and unbuttoned his jacket himself, staring at the clock on the mantlepiece without ever figuring out the time.
“It is almost midnight,” Don said.
“I can read the time,” Ashtor sighed, snapping out of his reverie. “Don, how often will I have to dress in this thing?”
“You will never appear twice in the same suit, sir!” Don said, scandalized.
Ashtor sighed again. “I hate that.”
“Your bath is ready, sir.”
“I had a bath this morning! Do you want me to wrinkle like a prune? I want to go to bed.”
“And tell your master not to drug me with angor. Baroness Eboche won’t believe me if I don’t drink any wine while she downs five glasses. Goodnight.” Surprised at his boldness, but pleased nonetheless, Ashtor went to sleep, blissful sleep.

It was dreadfully warm. He did not know such heat existed. The smell he barely noticed was of his own sweat, mixed with something acrid. Though he longed to get out of it his eyes felt heavy and drowsiness weighed him down. He listened for sounds of life, but it was as if he was deaf. The silence chilled his heart, but took away no heat. He was so tired, he should sleep. But why sleep on his back? Why was he on his back anyway? Lace from his cuff tickled his skin as he gave a great sigh. His head hurt, he should sleep. But in this state? It was too warm. He must find somewhere cooler, or perhaps take off his velvets. To do that, he must open his eyes. Oddly reluctant to do so, he lingered on sleepiness. It’s too hot in here! After taking a deep, stifling breath, and un-stuck his eyes. They flew open... to reveal utter darkness. Blind. He was blind! His scream was loud and clear, echoing around him like a curse.

Ashtor flew up from the pillows, then threw off the blankets and fell out of bed. His eyes were wobbly as he went to the washstand, and he felt better only after splashing water on his face. He put his hands in the water, still hot. It was just a dream. Nevertheless, he lifted his shoulders in unease and went to the balcony, splashing water over his feet. The air was cool and refreshing after too long under those thick blankets. Dreams tended to be scenes of some reality, and being caught under those blankets probably brought on that horrible nightmare. Still, his dream-self waking up to blackness was disturbing, and he took comfort in the steady shining of the pre-dawn stars. It was just a dream. It seemed to send a weight off his chest as he yawned, breathing in the fresh air, and he went back to bed, the dream already being pushed to the back of his mind. He slept easily, untroubled by any dreams, on top of the covers.

Eboche watched out the window... letting the cool air fly over her bare skin.
The young lord offered a puzzle she had only half fit. When he interrogated her at the party, his emotions and questions had seemed genuine, but she could not think of anyone who had not come upon that knowledge whether they wanted to or not. He could be very naive — he must be very naive. A youngest son, perhaps, suddenly come to court because of family death? It might explain his lack of experience and knowledge, but it didn’t explain why he was so troubled at her answers. She had formulated another explanation that was, comparatively, without fault. She would think the king would warn Lord Lent to be more careful, he spoke with young Ashtor far too often. And the way his servant whispered to him! She was a little insulted at their presumption, that she, the Baroness Eboche, would be taken in by such a child. Passing a hand over her face, she undid the wrinkles solidifying around her eyes. Child indeed... and what was she? He could be no younger than 3 or 4 years her junior. Again she allowed regret to course through her, regret at how she had lived her life, at how things were now. Regret that, although he was probably no grand conspirator, she knew the only way to get rid of Ashtor was to manipulate circumstances to lead to his death.

He was walking through a garden. He could not remember how he got there, but the day was sunny and nice, the birds welcoming him to the trees wand the flowers. There were roses all over, and daffodils. How many flowers bloom in the blue? He glanced up at the trees, to his delight seeing them filled with beautiful apples. He was hungry, of course, for he had been riding all day. Saliva filling his mouth at the thought, he reached for an apple, only to whirl around at the sound of a voice.
“You should not eat those apples.”
He was slightly annoyed at the girl’s statement so assured, and looked haughtily down on her. “And why not?”
“My stepmother hates apples.” She lifted her chin. “And she dislikes those who eat them. They don’t belong to you.”
This annoyed him further. “There are plenty of apples. Your stepmother won’t notice if I take one.”
The girl couldn’t be much younger than himself, but she was not very pretty, and her eagle stare was disturbing. “Really, she likes to test people. Those who take what does not belong to them will find a sorry state.”
“A relief from hunger? Go away.”
She snorted, and her square jaw was set firm. “Go ahead then, eat one. I did warn you.”
After finally taking one, his frustration grew unexplainably and he threw it to the ground. “What is wrong with them then?”
“She poisons them. All who partake of even a single bite will find themselves in a deep sleep, for who knows how long. Forever, I think, but Stepmother always comes around eventually and makes a counter potion.”
He stared at her in horror. “Eventually?”
“The longest was only a month,” she said, and her pale-colored eyes glinted with a nasty amusement.

I don't really know what to do with this story. It's a dark Snow White fantasy involving vampires... I think. But it's going in the closet so to speak. It also has no title.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Japanese study moved to Nihonashi page + Update

I've decided it's best I separate my Japanese study into a different blog -- that way it will be clearer for people looking for a certain thing, also that will keep me motivated to keep posting on both blogs (in both subjects).

So please visit Nihonashi!

I'll leave my original Nihonashi posts here for a couple months for sentimental reasons :)

I really need to concentrate on my writing. I've participated in the NaNoWriMo contest for two years now (2008 and 2009), I find it's very effective in getting me to write (a lot). However, I tried out the Script Frenzy in April, and didn't reach even half the goal. That's pretty bad! Also, I submitted a manuscript to Tor, as they were the only publishers I could find that accept unsolicited (meaning no agent) submissions. It took them 4 months to get back with a form letter (sigh). Though I expected it, the rejection still hurt! I really need to work harder.

Wish me luck.

If you are unfamiliar with it, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, where you set a goal with yourself to write 50,000 words in the month of November. See their site,, and participate next year! It's built entirely of your own motivation, and if you finish you know you have the drive to continue all by yourself. That's the hardest part of writing for a lot of people.
Script Frenzy is an associated program where you write a 100 page script in a month. The only reason I even got to 40 pages was because scripts run so... so.. vertically. I'd never written a script, though, and it was fun. It also allowed me to develop a really cool story plot (helped by my sister). I'll tell you about that someday.

See you,

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A respond to a comment :)

So it doesn't get lost in the down-flow of stories, here is a response to my first follower aside from Jikoniau/Ani! (Who is my sister, so does that count?)

Hajimemashite Eden-san!

Pleased to meet you, and thanks for posting on my blog!
So Australia, that's cool, I love the way internet lets us interact with people around the world. I looked up Brisbane, looks like a pretty place (but I can't tell a lot from google images). Are you really close to the ocean? Have you been to New Zealand? My sisters and I were trying to convince our parents to take us to Australia and New Zealand last fall, but they didn't go for it (I think they've both been already, years ago).

I'm glad to hear you like the Nihonashi projects, they are fun to do, and I shall certainly like to do more. (I'll write up the next one today, yes!)
This blog can be multi-purpose, the more the merrier.

Thanks also for your comments about my writing.

Ok, here's my stab at Japanese :)

(I also like things like anime, manga, and ramen. What kind of anime do you like? I live in the American state Utah. Over the weekend I went to a Japanese festival in my town. I saw taiko and karate, it was cool. I think I'll talk about that in Nihonashi. Let's do our best with Japanese!)

Here are some useful resources (which you may know already):
My favorite dictionary: (also has a helpful forum)
Great quizzes:
The best Japanese podcasts: (I recommend getting a free account, then downloading a bunch of audio while it's still free, and then if you really like it you can sign up. I have too much to do and too many other Japanese resources I'm using now, but I think I will sign up in the future, because their podcasts are excellent.)
Free podcasts that are pretty well done:

Thanks again, I look forward to talking and hopefully practicing Japanese,

The Marbles of Patchwork Mt. (2008?)

[This story is based on a dream. When I wrote it down I probably didn't have any idea of the overall plot, or I would've written myself a note. I like the idea though, so someday I hope to develop the plot.]

I reached with all my might, straining my will to believe there was nothing I wanted more in the world than to get to that point one foot above where I was. For three or four feet this will held, and I entertained the thought that, finally, I was going to rise a good distance above the ground. I could use this power!
...Or not. My will failed, my eagle wings started to fail, to blink out as their absence sent me plummeting toward the ground. It was all right, I knew; I summoned the wind to my command so that it blew me sideways, making my fall less abrupt. What I didn’t count for, stupidly, was the patchwork cliff. My wind sent me right to the edge of it. I screamed, suddenly afraid of falling. What a joke. Me, the manipulator of air, fire, and my own pair of beautiful golden-white eagle wings, was afraid of falling. It didn’t matter if I couldn’t use any of these skills. My will lessened even more in despair. My wind wasn’t strong enough to catch me if I fell off the cliff, I could never use my eagle wings while I was falling, and my fire wings weren’t strong enough to hold me in the air. My legs slipped off the edge of the cliff.
“Help me!” I screamed in an inhumanly loud voice as my fingers frantically grabbed the black felt strands on the edge of the cliff.
“Hmm?” I faintly heard an interested tone from one of my sisters.
“I’m falling!” I was crying now, too afraid to even think of anything more to say that would convince them to rescue me.
Inaar, user of water, and my youngest sister, crept to my side. She was drenched, telling me she had been playing in Button Lake, almost 40 yards from where I was. Unlike me, Inaar was getting good with her power; she must have used the water to propel her over here. One of my elder sisters, Yimi, who controlled fire and earth, let out a long sigh as she held a hand out to me. Together my sisters pulled me back over the edge of the cliff, until I was comfortable enough to scramble away from the edge on all fours.
“You’re the one with wings,” I was reminded by a quiet voice. Nernul, who had chosen the single silver marble, with power over the metals of the earth.
“Thank you,” I said, ashamed that I’d had to ask them for help.
Yimi had taken two balls just as I did, but I was the one who’d ended up with a greater power of fire than she, and the eagle wings. I hadn’t known, when I took a blue and golden ball, what they meant. Neither had my sisters. But when Inaar started causing water to shoot up from the glasses we figured blue was water. Only when we went off to practice our new powers for ourselves did I find that my ball was actually indigo. Inside the blue ball was a tiny red one; air and fire. The golden ball was brighter than the one Yimi had chosen; she got earth, I got wings. Why I ended up with the two special marbles we don’t know, just dumb luck, but it made my sisters feel bitterly towards me. Neither Hinle, Caivu, or Jorba ended up with air or wings either.
“We’ll just have to find some more marbles,” Caivu insisted, refusing to speak to me.
“And this time, you don’t get any,” Jorba said angrily, glaring at me. Jorba glares at everyone, but this time I felt she was using her fire to burn my very skin. I knew she would never do such a thing — we sisters were sworn in our search for power to help each other gain as much as we could, until it was enough for us to band together in order to accomplish our goal. Still... sometimes, it seems they’re beginning to forget our goal, concentrating more and more on gaining power. I love the power I have, that makes me feel the most amazing things, but this can’t continue forever. I decided that, while my sisters were practicing, I would find them more marbles. I didn’t want any more, really, I just wanted them to feel better so we could work together equally. If I could have given them my marbles, I would have... but that was impossible. We gradually learned that at first we needed the marbles physically, to hold them in our hands our mouths, to use the power. Once we figured out the basics, had gained the knowledge of how our power flowed and where it was coming from, the marbles began to disintegrate, like they were getting very old very fast. Inaar swallowed hers right as it began to flake, reasoning she’d have it with her always that way. She was just being funny, not careful. Hinle forbid the rest of us from swallowing our marbles, but we saved the dust. When nothing bad happened to Inaar, except a stomachache, the rest of us swallowed the dust anyhow. It was at that point I not only got a stomachache but a great pain in my back, and the next day my sisters told me they saw the outline of wings behind me. I knew I hadn’t been able to manipulate earth, and had put the golden marble down as a dud, but I’d swallowed the dust of it anyhow. Maybe this made me feel more powerful, strengthening my will, or maybe it was whatever was inside the marble that I needed for the wings. We don’t know. We really don’t know anything. The cause of what sent us searching for power, where the marbles came from, what they were, how long our powers will last... we have no idea. All we know is that my powers are different from the others, and I hate it. I love the powers, but I hate the seclusion. If Inaar had been even near a cliff, all my sisters would have come rushing to her aid at once. Oh... that’s unfair, I suppose, as she is the youngest and cutest of all of us. Everyone loves her best. Me... whatever chance I had of being loved disappeared.
I’ve decided to combine my powers. What if I use the fire wings, my eagle wings, and the wind all together? I might be able to rise higher that way. But I’m scared to practice, especially because of what just happened. My sisters are still standing around me, looking rather like they disapprove of me. Three of my sisters didn’t even listen to my plea for help.
“Thank you,” I repeated, and we all walked our different ways once again.
We’d been practicing on Patchwork Mt. for a long time now, and no one was willing to stop. We were supposed to stop when we were ready, when we’d learned to use our powers, but what did that mean? We all knew how to use them, and could use them pretty well. I think I know... we all want to be as powerful as we can be, but we will continue to believe we’re getting more powerful because around us our sisters are. No sister will stop first. I fear we’ll continue until we all die of old age... or just die, I don’t know. Playing with water and fire around cliffs isn’t the most surefire way to long life. Especially when every moment we sit here is another moment for them to gain power. They might find us first.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Scaled Down (...or something) (2008?)

(Note: This story comes after a story I've already finished, it's kind of a side story to a plot that comes after. Jerald Dinian is a prominent character in most of my Ignolopi stories. If you look to the map included in the blog, Istoti is the red, Ignolopi the brown, Jarismel the black. Vrigle lies east and south of Istoti. Jarismel consists of a bunch of warring clans loosely ruled by a royal family.)

“My life wass polluted by a human scaled Jareld Dinian.”
I froze in my seat at that awful voice rising from directly behind me. I turned around slowly, dreading what I might see. The Wisle stared up at me from under a thick hood, and I shivered despite myself.
“I’ve been told you’ll pull in any job that iss offered to you,” it said in its slippery hissing voice.
I struggled with myself. Usually I do, but I also try to avoid taking jobs from part-fish-part-dog[-part-whatever-else] creatures. Wisles used to be extremely rare, residing only in the small mystical land of Vrigle, but during the last few years they’ve spread throughout the lakes and rivers of Istoti, consequently streaming into neighboring Ignolopi. It wouldn’t be long before they ebbed into Jarismel, and I shuddered as I wondered who would come off worse in the land of my mother’s people.
I opened my mouth with a sigh. “For how much?”
“60 trecavs.”
I almost couldn’t stop my grin from growing or my eyes glinting with sudden interest. “80 trecavs.”
The Wisles shook its head. “60 or nothing. There are more mercenaries in this bar alone.”
I nodded, then struggled some more. Servicing a variety of cliental had thus far put me well ahead of my competition. Finally I was decided. “All right. You want me to kill this guy?”
“Yess. I will give you 20 trecavs now, and the rest when he iss hooked. Undersstood?”
I held out my hand. “You have a — wait.” I pulled my hand away hastily. “Suddenly that name sounds awfully familiar.”
“You would never be able to carry this job out on your own. That iss why I will accompany you.”
I thought hard. “No,” I decided. “I’ve heard that this former Scribe is learned in magic, and he has many friends. In high places.”
“120 trecavs. I am learned in some magic myself.”
He knew from the beginning he’d be paying me more than 60, and there I almost fell for it. I really, really hate taking assassination jobs, I just as much hate having anything to do with important people, but this sum was giving me hallucinations of grandeur. “A job’s a job, I guess,” I said, holding out my hand.
We shook on it. For some clouded reason, I felt as though I had added a layer of danger to my life, a layer that was looking like it would leak. Now I’m not a superstitious person, but it was a prominent feeling of unease that rippled over me. The Wisle smiled, showing his many pointy teeth. That didn’t do anything to dispel my little pool of doom, and I very much wished I hadn’t ever gotten out of my bed that morning.
I took a swig of my ale, turning back to my table. The Wisle stood from its seat on the nearby table and sat again, this time by me. It only stood for a second, but that was all I needed to see it was easily 7 feet tall, a foot of that going towards its tall head. I felt very small. I don’t like feeling small.
“Ssince we are to be migrating together, we sshould exchange scales,” it said. The other patrons edged away from us.
“Yeah, I guess so,” I sighed, resigning myself to the fact I was stuck with it.
“I am Keyper.”
“Charmed,” I said tonelessly. “Call me Stheno. That’s my name. But I don’t think you’ll help my job. I can’t exactly travel inconspicuously when I’ve got a 7-foot fish with me.”
“That iss not a problem,” he said, and in a moment I was looking at a pale, dark-haired man; older than myself, but twice as ugly.
I wrinkled my nose. “No, take off the illusion, you’re less ugly that way.”
He looked surprised.
“Never mind,” I grumbled, “it was a joke. Just — stop staring at me.”
He looked away obediently. Suddenly my mood rose. I might have some fun with this. It wasn’t wildly known, but female Wisles are the ones who rule, even though their ‘king’ plays the part. As a result, it seemed being female gave me an unexpected influence.
“It must’ve taken a load of guts for you to work up the courage to get me for the job,” I said, grinning.
“It has been 9 yearss, 4 moonss, and 3 tidess since Jareld Dinian desstroyed my home and sspeared many of my comradess. I had time enough to think of revenge.”
Not exactly quick, are they. “This one guy took out a bunch of you guys?” I asked. “I’m impressed. He’s not supposed to be much of a warrior. More of a scholarly type.”
“He used a spell.”
I could tell Keyper wasn’t keen on giving me his life’s story, so I let it go.
“I’m ready to go with the glow,” I declared, standing up. “The sun isn’t up all the way yet. Let’s get an early start.”
He stood, too, this time coming only to my chin. Jarismelians tend to be tall, and everything felt right again.
“He was lasst sspotted in Isstoti, to my knowledge,” Keyper told me as I put my pack on my back.
“You don’t know where he is?” I asked, moaning inwardly. I wanted this to be a fast job, please.
“We will find him.” He sounded convinced, but I kept on moaning. Call me a hypocrite, but I hate working with monsters.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Earth Angel (2008?)

When the little girl came to our town, no one knew what to make of her. Her dark complexion, brown skin and black hair, was so unlike us that we could only stare in wonder. She rode no horse, and had no companions. Her only possessions were her little knee-length frock and a small bag around her neck. She wore no shoes, and did not wince as she walked the beaten road. After our first initial shock, whispers arose with theories quicker than the wind arose with leaves.
The elderly people, from the generation who worshipped the Immortal Snifle, were convinced she was one of his Earth Angels. The next generation down, who had worshipped many Immortals, thought she was a dark angel, or a demon. The new adults of the town, who worshipped no Immortal, thought demons and angels were poppy-cock, and called her a witch. The younger apprentices were frightened of her, and the children were half-frightened and half-delighted of her. Us older apprentices, however, thought nothing of her at all. We were at the stage where we knew that strange things never happened, but were struggling with the varied beliefs of our elders. So we contented ourselves with joking about the ‘little sprite,’ though we didn’t believe she was any type of faerie.
By the time the little girl had traveled through town, opinions were firmly based. It was almost a disappointment when it seemed she wasn’t going to stay at all. But then she purchased a room at the smallest inn — which belonged to an elderly couple — and took a stroll about town. Although whispers followed her and her green eyes everywhere, no one was willing to talk to her. She didn’t seem to mind, but took everything in with those walnut-shaped eyes. Mothers drew children inside, and dogs growled — the useless things — but the cats (our rats of the town) were quite content to let her pet and scratch them. The purring could almost be heard by me across the street, where I sat watching the horse-shoes cool as my master hammered away at a new plough piece for farmer Willens. The cats tended to gather in front of the blacksmith shop anyhow, because they were used to the noise, and I often fed them parts of my meals. My two fellow apprentices started whispering about the quiet little girl — again — and finally I was tired of it.
“If you think she’s a witch,” I sighed, “go and ask her yourselves.”
They laughed at me, and in a moment had dared me to go and ask her. So I did. I left the horseshoes in their change and strolled out of the workshop.
The little girl did not look up when I approached, nor acknowledge me at all. Now, I had quite a reputation in town for being the most daring lad, so curious eyes followed and watched me, and a few windows opened.
“Hello, little girl,” I said bravely, “I have here a question to ask you.”
“If asking me question, I am listen.” Her voice was quiet and calm, though her speaking pattern strange, and she looked up from her cats. How funny, that even then I thought of them as her cats; how little I really suspected.
“What is your name?” I asked, blundering.
People began to trickle around, gaining courage now that I’d made the first move.
“That question all you ask I?” she said, eyes twinkling. “Then am, I, Vivesnesh.” She spoke the word in an old accent, and struggling to say it I pronounced it “Viv-nish?” for I did not have the quick tongue needed to say the almost-silent ‘es’. She smiled, her face a heart, and nodded. Caught in the wonder of her sudden adorableness, I for a moment forgot what I was there for. “Go on!” I heard one of my mates call.
In remembering I again squared my shoulders and said, “Vivesnesh, are you a witch?”
Now we had a full-fledged audience. The little girl slowly rose to her feet, her head coming to my chest and looking at me appraisingly. Then she grinned. I was completely taken-aback, and almost stepped away from her. The rest of the townsfolk were of the same mind.
“Answer his question, girl!” a voice — sounding suspiciously like the baker — from the crowd cried.
Vivesnesh turned towards the voice, and then spoke. “I not deny being witch — but — nor I say I am one. Before I tell which one is, you tell me what is wrong about being witch.”
“Poppy-cock, just tell us!” someone said. “Who cares about that?”
“Because if you are convincing enough in reasons against witches, then I shall not want be one at all. But if you are not convincing, then I shall be one just to spite you.”
This declaration was met with silence, but after a length Mary Enton — the old carpenter’s wife — stepped forward. “Witches hold Keys to the Hells of this world,” she said harshly, “and they, in darkness, strive to bring others into these fiery pits. Witches are evil.” Mummers of ascent went through the crowd, and I found myself being pushed back.
Vivesnesh shook her head, her grin not faltering. “Then definition you of witch is evil thing who which wears of ring keys around her waist?”
Mary grew red as a few scattered chitters arose, and opened her mouth again. “Witches are women — or girls — who behave strangely and seek to drive us from our ways,” someone tried.
“Your ways strange,” Vivesnesh said. “Paths you don’t really follows. You drive yourselves from your ways, why a witch do for you?”
This caused many angry mutters, but again a few laughs.
“Witches mingle in magic,” someone finally said, “and magic is evil in its corrupting ways.”
“Magic? Evil?” Vivesnesh said, her grin finally wearing down to a shadowy smile. “Why do you so say?”
“Things of abnormal degree are for the Immortals,” the person — Edme the tanner, I think — said, “for mortals to mingle in the abilities of the Immortals is in that the mortal is greedy for power.”
Vivesnesh appraised the tanner with a curious eye. “Reason, finally,” she said quietly, “and you have points. Truths many are your statements, but twisting truths. Those greedy for power are evil. But because one can something do, not means he sought to do it.”
“Even if you are born with the power, you are evil,” Edme insisted.
Vivesnesh bowed her head. “You make wonderful things,” she told him, “your skill is great. But you were born not with. Was it a crime for you to obtain and nurture yours skill?”
“Tanning is no magic,” Edme scowled.
Vivesnesh shook her head. “Ah. If were I give you sweets, you would make sick on them, and blame me for upset stomach.” Then she laughed, again startling us. “Silly people,” she said. “If the Immortals give you gifts, why no use them? Magic can be used for evil, but so can everything else! A cook can poison foods, or get people addicted them without notice. A candle-maker can make faulty candles cheat to his customers. A noble can order death at snap of a finger, but never have I heard of fire-burning for nobles.” Her statement was met with another silence, as people absorbed her words and tried to puzzle them out.
“Enough with this nonsense!” a guard commanded gruffly. “A witch is a witch. Burn her!” The chant almost started, but Vivesnesh was not finished.
“I never said was I witch,” she exclaimed quite calmly.
“You don’t deny it!” came a response.
“Because I couldn’t know I was,” she said sweetly, “because I might have been born with magic and know not. Any of you could have!”
Edme had said so, and even the pig-headed could see she was right.
“If you wish, test me for a witch,” Vivesnesh said cheerfully.
“Do you think you are a witch?” I asked.
She laughed. “No, I don’t! If but you treat all your strangers way this, I must easier make for them, or you would them burn!”
I finally laughed at her cleverness, but I was one of few who did. It looked like the little girl was in for a burning, but the couple who owned the small inn intervened.
“She has paid us to stay at our inn,” the husband said, “and we will keep our side of the bargain!”
“Shame on you, terrorizing this poor little one,” his wife scolded, taking Vivesnesh’s hand. The crowd did not bother them, and we did not see Vivesnesh until the morning, when she came by to pet the cats. People were afraid of her, so they stayed away, and our master forbade us to even look at her. My fellow apprentices joked about her some more. I joined in a little, but my mind kept wandering back to her gabble with the crowd. Who was Vivesnesh, really? When she made to leave, my master was too busy to notice, so I slipped away to her.
“Viv-nesh,” I called softly, “where are you going?”
“Another place,” she said, shrugging, “tell, more things, to.”
“Who are you?” I asked.
She smiled again. “Curiosity not always a virtue,” she said, echoing some of the few of my mother’s words I remembered.
“My father always said elusiveness is worse,” I challenged.
She shrugged. “I am Vivesnesh. Good-by, boy.”
“My name is Pietter,” I blurted.
She looked back at me. “Good-by, Pietter.”
I stared after her, thoughts running through my head. “Wait!” I finally called, running to catch up with her. She kept walking.
“I want to come with you,” I said quickly.
She stopped. “You what?” she asked, finally startled.
“My apprenticeship is almost over,” I said bravely, “and I have always wanted to go on an adventure.”
“Life is an adventure,” she said, “go home. The road no easier.”
“I don’t want easy, I want a challenge!” I cried.
She paused and bit her lip. “Oh, all right,” she sighed, “but you are never to complain.” “Of course not,” I said bravely, but that promise would be a hard one to keep, and it would be a long time before I understood why she so easily allowed my coming.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Nightshades (or ShædoWævre) (2008?)

He froze when I entered the room. “Y-you.”
He made a dash for the window, abandoning the last of his intended targets. With a push from my mind I made an illusion of the window a foot from where it actually was, covering up the real window with a simple cloak. In his mad dash for escape he did not notice the change and charged right into the wall. As he fell backward I finished the spell that barred him from leaving. I had pursued him as prey, and I had captured him. From the floor he looked up to me, terror in his eyes and in every tense muscle of his body.
“Shædo Darkshad,” he whispered, his mind no doubt rushing through all the terrible things he had heard about me.
“Wævre... Eriiku, wasn’t it?”
His terror froze his voice as his body trembled. My eyes softened at his fear, and I put my kodachi, the traditional weapon of the Nightshades, away. He could not have been more than 16 years old, a year older than I when I became a Shædo.
“Do you know your victims?” I asked softly, waving a hand over the bloody carnage. Surprised by my question he could only shake his head numbly.
“The Kano family,” I stated, keeping my eyes off the corpses. No matter how many times I had killed, no matter how much blood I’d seen, I still detested the sight of slaughter.
He looked at me blankly.
“Kano Faramaru was an only child, married Tesene Nami at age 18; both their parents died, leaving them the last of the Kano and Tesene names. Now they and their son are dead. Their son, Kano Yama, was planning to marry Nite Mara. You have left her alone and heart-broken. Their daughter Kano Tesene just turned 14, and had to watch her family slaughtered before her eyes. Do you know why?”
Eriiku finally composed himself to defend his murdering group. “Tesene Nami’s father was accused of treason 10 years ago, escaping with the help of traitors!”
I waited impatiently for him to continue, though I knew he would not, and finally cooled my frustration. “I used to be one of the Daybreakers,” I told him quietly.
“Impossible!” he blurted.
I knelt down beside him. “Let my submit my consciousness to you, so that you may see for yourself why I became one of the Nightshades.”
Murmuring my technique under my breath, I placed my hand on his clammy brow. His blood-spattered hands clenched, he was unable to react more quickly than that. He was unexperienced, naive, not adept at the skills of the assassins. Just as I had been, when I didn’t understand how similar and yet how very opposite the assassin bands, the Nightshades and the Daybreakers, were. Closing out the world around me, I entered his mind.

I was born 8 months after conception, like all assassin children are. Do you know why? It’s not being an assassin that makes the mother die from giving birth at 8 months, it is that event which makes a child fit to be an assassin. Born early, I was frail and weak like we all are. My father was not the kind that clings to the child as a memory of his wife, instead kind that curses the child and leaves him alone. I was brought up by the Eclipse assassins, the neutral ones who performed very little work themselves. They spent their time instead creating new techniques and raising assassin children to test them. Despite their motives, they were not unkind people, and I was treated the same as most other children aside from the training. I trained hard to become an assassin; not because I particularly wanted to, but that was that they told me, all I knew, so that was what I did. The Eclipse guild had pacts with the Nightshades and Daybreakers, giving them each an equal amount of assassins each year, keeping few for themselves. It was thought by many then there was only one difference between the Nightshades and Daybreakers, that one group worked by night, the other solely during the day.
When I was 10, that all changed.
The Eclipse guild was destroyed during an eclipse, when it was neither night nor day and the blame would not easily fall on either group of assassins. I was taken by the Daybreakers at that point to be one of them. They told me, and the world, that the Nightshades had done the horrid deed and were a group born from evil. The Daybreakders also told most of the children that it was the Nightshades who killed our mothers. Frantic for a reason for this madness, no one doubted them, and the Nightshades became horrors in bedtime tales. I trained harder than ever before to become a skilled assassin now that I had a purpose: I was going to kill all Shædos for my mother’s death.
I was sent on my first mission at 14; like you, I asked no questions and doubted naught of what they told me. I killed. I killed so many, I can not even remember them all. I was a killing machine taking orders from a group everyone believed in. But people tend to believe in things they can not prove, because they want the easy way of it all.

I was not terribly skilled for my age, but I was ahead of most of my classmates. Thus I was not surprised when I was ordered to go almost alone on an extremely important mission. If I succeeded in this mission, I would be ready to go against the Nightshades. But something happened that day, something I saw and did not like. My partner was a much older assassin, sent mostly to observe my actions, and to step in if things got out of hand.
They got out of hand.
When I reached the estate in the afternoon, the family who was my target had gone out. I was ordered to search for them, and I did. By the time I found them it was nightfall, and I expected to be pulled out. I was not. I reasoned that, since the Nightshades weren’t doing only night work anymore, the Daybreakers must clean up after them. Part of me doubted this, but I went ahead anyway.
The family had hired guards to protect them, and I got careless. I managed to finish off the primary target, the father, but swooned from loss of blood and fell to the ground. My partner jumped in, then, finishing the guards. I was ready to continue, but he stared me down with a sneer. I had never had any friends, and known none who did, but I felt a chill down my spine at what my partner thought of me. While I sat there, trying to heal myself, he slaughtered the rest of the targets until all who were left was a young boy holding his infant sister. The boy was frightened but held his ground, trying with all his might to protect his sister. Against trained assassins he had no chance, but my partner didn’t kill him. Instead he grabbed the infant from his arms and slit her throat before his eyes. The boy went mad and charged at the assassin, who slit his gut but did not finish him.
“He’ll die in a few minutes,” he said, grabbing my arm and jumping out of there with me. Nothing was said of this, but I never forgot that boy’s mad eyes as he wriggled in agony on the floor, soaked in his own blood, spending the last moments of his life in a pool of moonlight. He never screamed, not even once.

I was an assassin, expected to forget my experience and move on. Part of me did, training with new vigor. Part of me did not.
Finally the day of my 15th birthday arrived, and I was promoted to a 2nd class Wævre. I was so proud, so full of myself, so ready to take on the whole population of Shædos. I requested a Nightshade mission, and my request was granted. I was going to infiltrate the Nightshade hideout and kill all members of a ‘meeting’ they told me was being held in an inner room of the complex. I asked no questions, and left at daybreak. The Nightshades, struggling to get by since their reputation was ruined, were in a sorry state. I snuck into their hideout with relative ease and found the room in under an hour. That’s when everything changed. This room, this special room with cherry-wood doors and a silver handle, this room was not a meeting room. It was not a family apartment. It was not a kitchen, an eating room, a bathing room, or a gameroom. No., this room was a nursery. More than 30 Nigthshade children were playing harmless assassin games with each other. The eldest was maybe 6, the youngest not even crawling. It would only have taken me a few minutes to finish this ‘meeting’, I could’ve returned in no time and been promoted to 1st class. But I couldn’t, I couldn’t. I remembered the baby girl killed before her brother, and I could not do it. I might’ve come around in a minute or two, but I stalled long enough. Six Shædows caught me with my claw half out of my pocket, the children still played happily. I was drugged immediately.

When regained consciousness I was not where I could’ve expected to be. All stories of the Nigthshades go on and on about small dark rooms with spiders or snakes and hot irons. Instead, I was in a run-down wooden room, with dust floating freely and sunshine pouring in through cracks in the walls. In front of me stood a tired-looking old man with sideburns who folded his fingers around each other and asked me, “Why didn’t you kill them?”
I was as shocked as you were a moment ago, and could not answer.
Someone behind me tapped me with the blade of their kodachi and I jumped a foot in the air, landing hard on my behind. Someone snickered, but the old man did not move. He still expected an answer, and I couldn’t give one.
“Are you a Wævre or a Shædo?” he said after some time had passed.
I swallowed, finding my mouth very dry. “May I ask one question?”
“You may ask.”
I swallowed again, about to express in words what I had always been too afraid to find out. “Where are the surviving members of the Eclipse guild?” It was a question many of the Daybreaker students had discussed, but never dared ask the teachers, who always looked stern whenever the name of the Eclipse came up, and a stern assassin is not a friendly assassin.
The old Shædo regarded me thoughtfully, finally answering in his dry tone, “I am one, Echomaru is another, and another two were spared by you.”
I could not doubt his words, for I saw the moon mark on his neck and had seen it on the two little ones who had been practicing advanced illusion spells in the corner of the nursery. That meant one thing to me right then: if the Nightshades had slaughtered the Eclipses, why would the survivors seek refuge here? It meant the ones who destroyed the Eclipse was not the Nightshades, but the Daybreakers. No, do not argue. You only believe what the Daybreakers always told you, but you never bothered to find out if it was the truth. You are angry, but you can not deny it. No normal assassin can show false memories in a mind link. But wait, there’s more. That’s not all the Daybreakders did. Do you want to hear more? Silence. All right, I’ll continue then.

I thought about what I had heard for many long minutes, but nobody moved a muscle. I realized I was in the presence of the most skilled assassins in the country, and they were all Shædos. I was in awe of their power, and wanted it too. But more than that, I wanted to stop the sick crusade of the Daybreakers. I didn’t know why they had done those thing, but it seemed to me the Shædos did. I made up my mind, and lifted my head to look squarely at the Eclipse leader of the Nightshades.
“I am not a Wævre anymore.”
His stern look softened, and then he smiled a little bit. “You stopped being one the moment that ugly claw of yours froze. No true Wævre would ever hesitate in killing anyone, especially the defenseless.”
I knew he was right.

As a member of the Nightshades, my training was very different. In the bad years the Nightshades experienced they had perfected what skills they could, including those of teaching. I learned much, more efficiently than ever, and I’d never had so much fun. Echomaru, the Eclipse survivor, was only a few years older than I. Despite the cruel prank he’d played with his kodachi my first day, we became friends, sparring with each other every day. He was a practical joker, and though I preferred training to being in on one of his games, I never ceased finding them amusing. I also befriended Daichi, one of the many friends Echomaru had. Yes, friends. The color and the feeling you are getting from me are unknown to you, I’m sorry for that, but that is how the Daybreakers work. The Nightshades are different We are more like one big family constantly growing and losing members. I’ve grieved for many since I joined 2 years ago, but I’ve never been so happy. I rose quickly, until my level was the highest (10) and I had earned the name of Darkshad amongst the Daybreakers. I learned what I wanted soon after my arrival, before I learned the real hideout of the Nightshades. I won’t tell you the location of our hidden base, but I will tell you why I hate the Daybreakers more than ever.
Their atrocities started some years, 3 or 4, before the end of the Eclipse. The Daybreakers had been getting increasingly lax in their skills, lazy in their training, and snub-nosed in their missions. They got so bad that they were forced to carry out missions at night so they wouldn’t be detected. This led to anger against the Nightshades for owning the night, making it ‘easier for them’ in the eyes of the Daybreakers. They started killing off Nightshade assassins randomly. Then a new leader was elected after bringing forth the idea of getting rid of the Eclipse ‘nuisance’ and at the same time framing the Nightshades. It took some time to work that plan out, but your leader is a genius, and the plan was executed exactly how he wanted it.
Since then the Daybreakers have dominated the assassins’ market, taking all and any jobs. From anyone as long as the price is high. Ethics? The Daybreakers chew the very concept and spit it in the mud to trample. Assassins used to have codes and rules. The Nightshades still do.
This girl’s grandfather was never arrested for treason. The truth is far simpler, a fact of human greed; a neighbor was extremely jealous of the family. This neighbor, consequently, would inherit the Kano fortune. The Daybreakers knew all this, you are responsible for your own ignorance. The government doesn’t have the funds or backing to afford many assassins. Do you still think ‘treason’ is why you kill so many people? Even the government is loath to part with yen for ‘treason’ no one remembers. The Daybreakers train mass-murderers, not assassins. The Wævres are killing for nothing but money, and they don’t only stick to specific targets... they enjoy it. Decide for yourself if you think that is right.

I broke the connection, knowing that if I went on any longer I would become dangerously emotional. Assassins must be stable on a mission, and right now my mission was to kill this young Wævre. Really, though, I wouldn’t if the boy said the right words. His fate was in his own hands, he would decide if he lived or died. I waited for him, giving him five minutes. Then I drew my kodachi and held it before him.
“Any last words?” I asked.
He lifted his head to reveal a tear-stained face and mournful eyes. I knew then what he would say. “Take care of her,” he said, in a voice barely above a whisper.
“You would join us,” I said softly. I knew he would refuse.
“I want — my father must know I died in battle,” he said, gulping more tears back.
For a moment I regretted forcing the knowledge and emotions on him in such a way he would have no control of himself. “Death is no grand adventure.”
“I know. That is why I deserve it.”
I nodded, and then I killed him.

The girl awoke before I could decide what to do with her. She saw my face, saw my bloody kodachi, and screamed.
“Damnit!” I swore, wiping my weapon and sheathing it in one fluid motion.
“Shut up,” I told her, walking to her. She saw her dead family and screamed some more, unable to do anything else in her state of shock. I walked closer, and saw her tense as if to jump away.
“Shut up or his companions will come for you too,” I ordered, pointing to the claw marks on all the bodies.
She stopped screaming abruptly. “Oh,” she whispered, and her unclenched her fist. A dagger fell to the floor.
“Oh,” I said, realizing that she might have killed me. I was stupid for letting my guard down.
“I don’t understand,” she murmured, putting a hand on the wound in her side. “You are the legendary Nightshade, are you going to kill me?” Her voice was steady and stern, but it didn’t fool me. She was acting rationally because she was in shock: if she came out of it I would be in trouble.
“No. Shædos must have reasons to kill.”
She got to her feet, then gazed at me, her eyes level with mine. “I understand. I listened on. Sort of.”
“Impossible,” I said briskly.
“But so is being skilled as an assassin when I was not born as one and am not short and small.”
I bristled, despite my training. Of course assassins are small, they have to be. “It’s impossible.”
“It’s not. You assassins think you’re so wonderful, but you never look anywhere else for comparison. My family were experts in the assassin arts.”
“You mean magic.”
I stared at the big-eyed girl, unsure of what to do.
“Take me with you or I’ll die,” she said quietly, her eyebrows curling.
She was about to snap: I had no other choice. “Swear to me, now,” I commanded.
“I swear to you, I will be a true Shædo, I will follow the ways of the Nightshades, I will not endanger them — I swear to you, cousin Kano Jaisukeru.”
I could not tell if her words were truth or not, but right then I had to believe them. More than that, I wanted to. I picked her up, and a split second later we were gone. The Wævres would find the mess, and take care of Eriiku. I regretted killing the boy, it hurt especially after sharing a connection. I would not forget him.

Tesene passed out before we reached Nightshade headquarters, which was just as well, because I should have drugged her anyway. Without fuss her wound was treated, only then did Eclipse question me.
“She says I am her cousin,” I said tonelessly.
The reply came a moment later. “That is correct.”
I clenched my teeth. “Did you know before you sent me?”
“Didn’t you?”
“I thought you might be the son of her aunt, but I did not know.”
“You could have found out.”
“I could have, and I am sorry. We should have been able to save more of your family.”
“My family,” I echoed. It was strange, being able to say those words and finally have them mean something. “How did she know?” I wondered aloud.
“That, you will have to ask her yourself.”
“Is she going to stay?”
“You know the answer. Do you want her to?”
“Yes. She is intelligent. And skilled.”
“Then I am sorry.”
“Why not?”
He looked me sternly in the eye, with no answer and the inability to hear any more questions. I left the room with no idea of what to do with my cousin.
“I say we keep her,” came a familiar voice on my right.
“You heard him, Echomaru.”
“I mean in secret. She’s cute.”
“She’s my cousin.”
“And the poor girl has nowhere to go, no profession to take but that of an assassin taught to her by her daring cousin... and his dashing friend, of course.”
“We can’t.”
“You never like breaking rules, do you?”
“This is too important to.” Echomaru frowned. “I know. That makes all the more reason for us to do it.”
I stopped to face him, unused to seeing him this way. “You’re serious, that’s unusual.”
“Why shouldn’t others get the chance to be assassins? We need to recruit more anyway, as the Daybreakers are still taking most of the newborns. We could use at least one tall person on the team.”
“She’s not taller, she’s the same height, and we don’t work in teams.”
“Can’t we give her a chance? Preventing her from doing this would be just like the Daybreaker way.”
“How so?”
“They don’t let anyone choose.”
I closed my eyes to think. It was a hard choice to make. There weren’t many female assassins as it was, and there had never been a normal child raised as an assassin. Most of the facts were against me, but my feelings played too much into it. I opened my eyes, and nodded. “All right.”
Echomaru grinned triumphantly. “Yes! Finally a cute girl in my squad!”
“This isn’t an army, and if you get anywhere near Tesene I’ll whip you.”
“You’ve never beat me before!”
“I will now,” I assured him, but he only laughed.

We didn’t let Daichi in on the secret, because he had problems keeping them. This was something I would regret later, but at the time it was the logical choice.