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Dragon Interim

As you might have guessed by the lack of activity on here, things are being a bit hectic in real life. I’ve handed in my dissertation proposal and had the marks back (68%, woot!) so now I’m moving onto the actual dissertation itself, and I still have two other bits of coursework due in at the end of the month that I’m working on. That alongside work and the social/gaming events that keep me sane is keeping me busy. Also less sane then I would like, but that’s stress for you.

I did, however, find a very cute picture that I wanted to share. Credit to Fiona Hsieh, whose deviant art account you should definitely check out since it has Pokemon on there as well.

I have a vague idea to go around my flat and photograph all the dragons I find at some point in the nearish future. So if I ever get so stressed I need a break, lots of photos might suddenly appear here. Or I’ll finish Zelda. So close to killing Ganon, so very close.

Where It All Began

My eyes are still narrowed as I look out across the border, into the land which we’re about to call our own. It’s quite bright, and sunny, and hot. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the weather yet, I’m more used to cold and sunny. And yes, that does make sense when you live up a mountain.

“Hey.”

I turn my gaze from the vast expanse of scrubland to the person who’s just come up to me. It’s Francesca, a noble I’ve been speaking to on and off since I joined up with the wands a little while back now. I like her, we get on well.

“Hey yourself.”

“Nervous?”

“Not so much nervous. More, like, that energy of anticipation, can’t wait to actually get going, possibly slightly too hyper about this whole thing.”

Francesca grins at me. I don’t think it’s indulgent, okay, maybe a little. But on the other hand, I think she gets what I’m saying.

We kick around for a bit more, as people in the massive group triple and quadruple check the stuff we’re bringing with us. No wheeled vehicles to help, they’d be useless in the sandy environment we’re going into, so everything’s being carried. Not like we mind, we are wands after all.

Heh. Feels good to say that.

The entire column turns to look at our Queen as she steps out, looking out into the distance, then she makes a single gesture, and we start moving.

It’s not fast, it can’t be with this many people, but it is a sustained pace. We’re all pretty hardy, invested in working for it, and we knew that this was going to be a bit of a slog. And it’s still scrubland, so it’s not hard going as of yet.

Evening comes, and we spend another hour walking in the cooler air before the halt is called and we can group up and pitch tents. Francesca asked me if I wanted to share, and that’s cool by me. I know a few people around the court now, but I’m as friendly with Francesca as I am with anyone. Probably more so now since we spent the entire day walking together and chatting. Turns out, we joined for much the same reasons: that pride of doing something with your own two hands and skills, not really wanting, no needing, recognition for it, but just taking a sense of pride in having done it. I mean, sure, I’m very capable of showing off, but I don’t really take to it like the Swords do. I have Fuoco, but that’s more just useful for keeping warm up in the freezing conditions of the mountains. Heh, I even admitted to her that a small reason for coming along was the potential for new places to climb. She just seems to be really on board with the court, and to be fair, being part of something new like this is pretty exciting.

Also she’s a damn decent cook. Way better than me, especially considering the small fires we’re having to use. I leave her to it, and get some nice food out of it. Score.

The next day I wake up early, I signed up to the scout group. So I pack up everything that isn’t the roll Francesca’s still sleeping in, and the tent itself, giving her an easier time of it when she does wake up and they break camp, and go join the other people in the early morning air.

Honestly, it’s quite boring. Just scrubland for miles and miles around. Not even any creatures around. I mean, that’s good from a threat point of view, but means we’ve got quite a way to go before we find home. That’s okay, I thought it would take a while. We just have to trust our Queen.

I get back to the column just before midday, make my report, and then amble off to find Francesca somewhere in the column. From there it’s much the same as it was yesterday, and I feel like it’s going to be much the same for most of the trip.

Day three and we’re on stretcher duty. Some of the people who came with us, not nobles, but you need far more than nobles to make a city, have already reached their limit. That’s fine, we all have a limit, and as long as you kept going as long as you could, then the rest of us are here to help you get there when you can’t by yourself.

The women on the stretcher is a cobbler by trade. She’s coming along mostly because she’s heard that there are giant lizards out in this land, and she wants to try her hand with the leather that comes off them, since it’s apparently nightmarish to work with. Sounds like a fun challenge.

Francesca’s in front, throwing back the occasional comment. I’m at the rear, smiling and chatting. It’s easy and comfortable.

Which is probably why the women on the stretcher says “It’s so nice to see two young people starting their lives together in a new place. This is all about new beginnings you know.”

Wait, what?

Francesca almost trips up, jolting the stretcher a little bit. I’m not all that much better, I know I’ve gone bright red and I’m choking on air slightly. We stabilize the stretcher, and then I can’t look at either of them anymore as my cheeks continue to burn bright red.

The women apologises, and frankly, won’t stop apologising for assuming, and then keeps going on and on about new beginnings, and seems to be subtly hinting that we would make a good couple.

I still can’t really look ahead of me. My neck’s going to have such a crick in it by the time we stop tonight.

I’m frankly relieved when we do stop for the night. We pitch the tent, both not quite looking at each other, both being awkward, and frankly, it’s terrible. I’m surprised we can get the tent up with how we’re acting.

I mumble something out, and scurry off to get water for dinner, but find a quiet spot so I can take a breather.

Its fine, I tell myself. It’s all fine. It’s just an older women, with some opinions. We don’t need to be this awkward. Just breathe and start acting like a normal person again. You’re friends. You can shrug this off and laugh about it.

I get the water, and managed to fool myself into thinking it’s all okay, and that I’m cool and collected, until I duck through the tent opening and actually look at her again, then my stomach’s gone.

Although, there is a delicious smell coming from that pot already.

“Water, hang on, is that?”

Francesca looks down at the bottles I’ve just spotted. One’s wine, and the other looks like it’s filled with coffee granules.

“Yeah. I know everything was done on weight, but it’s just the one. And creature comforts are so nice after all.”

“You sure you want to share?”

“With you, yes.”

And there goes my stomach again. Dammit.

It’s good. Like, better than normal. I’m forcing myself to just be cool. Just, enjoy it for what it is. Don’t get weird. Pretend your stomach isn’t churning or flipping out every time you look over at her. The wine does help with the relaxing, I’ll admit. By the time we get to coffee, I’m pretty chill.

Or, at least, I can pretend to be.

I’m not sure what Francesca’s doing, or feeling. She’s harder to read than I am. But she seems fine. Yeah, let’s go with fine.

“So, I’m just going to ask this, straight up.”

Uh, what?

“Do you think I’m attractive?”

Shit. Thinking. Words. Thoughts. Need to do those.

“Well, yeah. I mean…”

I have more words that are going to get garbled out, possible involving the word ‘obviously’, but I don’t get the chance as suddenly Francesca’s there, on top of me, kind of pinning me to the floor. Kissing me.

You know what?

I’m totally fine with this.

At some point we lose the clothes. Or more accurately, Francesca starts pulling them off, looks at me, and I respond by pulling hers off. I am so fine with this. More than fine. It’s amazing.

We end up lying next to each other, sort of cuddling, a blanket warding off most of the chill of the night. Not that we really need it after working up all that body heat.

I’m mostly just looking at her face. Her eyes are currently closed, and there’s a little smile on her face. It’s kind of amazing to see. I’ve not really had a relationship before, but this feels…right.

Her eyes open, “What are you looking at?”

“You.”

The smile gets a bit wider, and I can see her emotions a little bit clearer through it. There’s delight and pleasure, but also, relief?

“What are you thinking?”

She looks at me, “Mostly that I’m really glad you like me back.”

There’s something in there I pick up on, “Were you interested in me before today?”

She flicks her eyes away briefly, a tiny bit of colour coming into her cheeks, “Sort of. I thought you were cute when I met you. Spending this much time with you, yeah, I was interested. Had no idea if you were back though.”

“Well I hope you have a satisfactory answer now.”

She smiles, and slips an arm around my back, her fingers splaying out over the bare skin.

“What do you want out of this?”

I blink a couple of times, “That’s a bit deep, don’t you think?”

“Not really? I mean, this happened, and don’t get me wrong, it was fantastic. But, what about tomorrow?”

I discard my first, slightly flippant answer, and think about it for a few seconds. It seems like something she’s a bit, not worried…concerned about.

“I like you. I like what just happened. I would very much like it to happen again in the future, with you. I’m pretty sure that’s considered dating, so, I’d like to date you.”

She looks, kind of like she’s holding her breath, but I can hear her breathing, “You sure? It might not work out”

“Yeah I’m sure. And that’s kind of the point of dating. You do it for as long as it does work out, and if it doesn’t, that’s a problem for future us. Present me very much wants to date present you.”

She smiles, and tugs me in just a little bit further, her fingers pressing in on my back as they squeeze tight. Yup, I’m very happy to be right here.

The next couple of days almost seem to blur past, until time slows down again. I’m in the tent, starting dinner this time. Really, it’s not going to be as good as Francesca makes it, but I can at least make something edible.

I look up as she comes in the tent and greet her with a smile, which soon gains a frown.

“What’s up?”

She looks at me, and then sits down heavily next to me.

“It’s just…nonsense.”

“Tell me.”

Her face pulls to the side. I’ve not seen worry on her face before, she’s usually quite confidant and assured.

“I can’t help but think that there’s nothing out here but sand. And rocks. It’s been days since we left the Diamonds kingdom, and there’s nothing out here.”

I leave the spoon in the pot and turn all of my attention to her.

“We wouldn’t have started this journey if there wasn’t a destination out there for us.”

“I know, but…where? Do we have any idea where we are actually going?”

“She (Wands) knows it’s out there. We have to trust her, trust that she wouldn’t lead us into a situation where there is nothing but death at the end.”

“I know, I know. But, all the court is here. And even all the people who follow the court. If we don’t find anything, we’re all gone. The entire court, swallowed up before it could really get going.”

I crawl round a few inches until I’m behind her, and I can slip my arms around her shoulder from behind.

“You trust me, right?”

“Yes.”

“And you trust the Queen?”

“I do. It’s just…”

“Well then, have a little faith that this will work out. And when you can’t, come to me. Trust in me to at least be able to make you feel a little better. I believe that we will find a home out here, no matter how long that takes. If you can’t believe that for yourself, then believe in me.”

Francesca closes her eyes, and one hand closes over mine, squeezing it.

“Is there anything I can do to make you feel better?”

She opens one eye and looks at me, a tiny predatory glint in there. Excellent.

“Well…”

Time seems to fast forward again, until the distance starts to come into focus again, and we can see a looming rock in the distance. It’s day sixteen, and the laugh of the Queen that echoes out over the column lifts my spirits as she points at the rocks.

“There. That’s home.”

We’re not there yet, and I hear a lot of mumbling and talking as we complete the last length of distance over to the massive rock face. Really? That’s it? Where’s the water? How can we survive out here with no water?

I trust the Queen. She knows what she’s doing. And home is in sight now, I can feel my spirits starting to soar. I reach out and take Francesca’s hand. She’s got that tiny little frown that she doesn’t seem to realise she wears, just pinching her brow together. But it does disappear as I smile at her.

See? It’ll all work out, as long as we work for it.

The rock just juts straight up out of the sandy earth, almost completely sheer on this face. Almost. I’m looking up at it, trying to plot a route up if I was going to climb it. I can’t help it, it’s what I love.

The Queen strides forward, her inner circle of princesses following her as she walks up and down the face, examining it. Eventually she picks a spot, and talks to the princesses. That’s when the work starts. Menders, Troubadours, and anyone else with Shape charms surge forward, following the orders of the princesses as they start digging a huge channel, which then opens out into what can only be described as a reservoir.

I can’t help with that, and instead my attention wanders back to the sheer cliff face that the Queen is standing at the bottom of, looking at it and judging how I would climb it. Not whether I could climb it, definitely how.

It’s only a few hours for them to finish the work, benefit of magic really, but by this point even Francesca has given up and is sitting next to me, leaning against the pack I’m sitting on and my leg.

There’s a signal to the Queen, and she unslings her massive sword from her back and turns to the wall. I nudge Francesca so she can look at this as well, as the Queen carefully chooses a spot, and then stabs the sword down into the rock.

Yeah, her sword wins against rock. Because of course it does.

At first nothing really seems to happen, she pulls the sword out of the wall, and there’s just a massively jagged hole. It seems like the entire court is holding their breath as suddenly there’s a spray.

Dust? No, water.

Abruptly, it starts pouring out, bursting through that crack into the channel which has been packed down and lined to retain the precious liquid. A massive cheer goes up, and I can’t help but join in, laughing and whistling along with the rest of the people.

Francesca reaches out and takes me hand, giving it a squeeze as she smiles at me, a proper broad smile that I can’t help but return.

We’re home.

 

The starts above us glimmer in the night sky. There’s a warm breeze, ruffling our clothes as we sit here, the city splayed out below us.

It’s been twenty years since that day, and we’ve really made ourselves a home here. It’s still a long way from finished, people are talking about crop cycles and dirt and things I sort of understand now after working on this place for so long, but still, we’ve come a long way. The tent city is now almost entirely replaced with rock buildings, and the tunnels extend quite deep into the cliff, although we’re constantly looking for new places to expand into. I’m pretty sure I’ve found some natural caves higher up, it’s just working out how to join them into the existing network and make them useful to us.

The night life of the city below is actually quite active, and there’s a bit of a party due to finding the underground lake with fish in it, but there’s no place I’d rather be than up here with Francesca, looking down at it all, legs dangling over the edge of the cliff, side by side with her.

She leans against my shoulder, “Say it again.”

“Hm?”

“That thing you say. Say it to me again.”

“Now what could that possibly be?”

A smile’s playing around my lips as she thumps me, both us very aware that I’m teasing.

“What I always want you to say. Tell me again.”

I clasp her hand, intertwining our fingers together as I bring it up to my lips and kiss it.

“Take my hand, and I swear I’ll love you ‘til the stars go out and beyond.”

She hums and settles back against my shoulder again, and smile firmly placed on her face. I place my cheek on top of her head, feeling it press into me as I look down, seeing her and the city we’ve helped build.

You and me. Forever and always, my love.

Breakfast Idyll

Alatoria almost felt like she was spying. She wasn’t really, and even if she was, it wasn’t like Melora would mind. And she take a simple joy in just watching her partner, especially when the morning light was coming through the curtains in such a nice way. They were currently eating breakfast, although Melora was somewhat engrossed in her data crystal. It was primarily her diary, Alatoria thought, but in the six years they had been partners, she’d never let her look. It wasn’t a big thing, Melora always told her if there was anything important, but she did wonder what went on in her lover’s head.

Melora reached out for her fork, absently stabbing a piece of food and bringing it up to her mouth. For a second her eyes flicked over to the other side of the table, and caught Alatoria looking at her.

“What’s on your mind?”

She smiled to herself a little, of course she’d caught her.

“Just admiring you.”

Melora lifted both eyes up to look over at her, before smiling, and then going back to her tablet, leaving Alatoria to her admiration.

The slow breakfast eventually came to an end, someone coming in to tidy the remains away as the two of them linked arms and slowly walked through the castle to the throne room where Alatoria needed to attend court.

Entering into the large and ornately decorated room, she leaned over and kissed Melora on the cheek, before her lover slipped her arm out of hers and went to find a space where she felt comfortable. She wasn’t really fond of courtly interactions, and tended to be elsewhere when Alatoria attended. Just one of her idiosyncrasies.

Alatoria moved across the court, stopping and talking to a few fellow Flowers, exchanging pleasantries, recent news, thoughts about the upcoming fair, the sort of polite interactions that characterised the court of Hearts.

“Tori.”

The gentle call came over the court, and Alatoria immediately excused herself from her current conversation to present herself to her Queen. She knelt, before being bade to rise, a few words were exchanged, and then she could move over to the side where the Rose Groom was standing.

He had a data crystal in his hands that he was scrolling through, but gave her a smile as she approached and saluted him.

“Good morning Tori, I hope it finds you well.”

“It does, and yourself?”

“Most agreeable. Now, we’ve got you down to patrol out to Dallarn and the surrounding areas, have you done that one before?”

“I know the route.”

“Excellent,” he flicked over the surface of the tablet and a rota came up, “We’ve not scheduled anyone else with you, as usual.”

Alatoria looked over her should, and as expected, Melora was waiting there, near the edge of the room, looking over at the two of them. As she was courtless, she couldn’t be placed on the schedule with her, even though everyone knew that despite her name appearing by itself, she was never alone in performing her duties.

Alatoria did occasionally wonder why she didn’t join a court, but all Melora ever said when asked was ‘I used to, but don’t anymore’. Alatoria wasn’t quite sure what she meant by that, given that there didn’t seem to be enough time for her to have tried joining a court in this lifetime. Melora has always been countless since she’d known her, and that was quite a few years now. But, again, another idiosyncrasy, it didn’t change her she felt about her.

“Thank you.”

“Our pleasure,” The Rose Groom flicked his eyes over to her lover as well, and then back to her with a smile.

“Anything else I need to know?”

“There’s nothing listed. We’ve not had any reports of trouble out that way for a while, so I expect it should all be routine.”

“By your leave then.”

He nodded to her, and she left with another bow, before walking over and joining Melora.

“Where are we going this time?”

“Dallarn,” she said, before taking her hand, and leaning over to kiss her, “thank you.”

“For what.”

“Many things,” Alatoria couldn’t help but be happy that she had a women like Melora at her side, in work and life.

Melora gave her a bemused little smile as the two of them returned to their rooms and then the kitchens to pack a small amount of rations for the trip, before going down to the stables and saddling horses up. It wasn’t even midmorning by the time that they were underway, gentle trotting out the gates of the outer wall. Alatoria looked up, not catching her eyes to shield them from the bright sun in time, and her vision blossomed out into bright spots.

 

The Battle of Alhambra

Finally the gates swung open, and the armies could start moving out from the city. It was easy to see the Queens at the front, Wands and Swords, not quite next to each other. Of course the swords wanted to charge ahead, it was clear to see in the way they restrained themselves, matching the pace of the wands, who were marching forward in a determined sort of way.

Alex rolled her shoulder, her broadsword still strapped to her back. No reason to draw it until the fighting was about to start, and it was much more out of the way there than if she carried it, given how many people were packed into this army.

Her hand just brushed the back of the women walking next to her, and their eyes briefly flicked towards each other, meeting for a bare second, before returning forward. Even though they were going into a fight that they expected to be bigger than anything they had faced before, Alex wasn’t too worried. She was at her side, just like she always was, and that was enough to quell most of the unsettlement she felt.

Of course it wasn’t just the two armies out here, all of the remaining Queendoms had gathered. Cups, Hearts, Diamonds, Pentacle, Spades and Clubs were all around too, although somewhat scattered. Clubs were mostly at the back, along with a good number of Pentacles, setting up field hospitals. Fighters from the other courts were interpreted with the two main armies, as well as a rear guard manning the walls of Alhambra. They didn’t have many catapults, but archers could get quite a range from up there.

Out of the corner of her eye she spotted a mixed group of people, skirting along one of the edges of the field. Probably a skirmishing group, but it caught her eye as she recognised a fellow courtier – they’d only joined last night. Alex hadn’t been watching the circle particularly, more interesting in spending the evening with friends and lovers, and kicking her rival from the swords into the dirt once more, but she did know that a princess of hearts had apparently had a change of heart and come to join them. What a time to join, but, if they felt that wands was the right place for them, then Alex welcomed them.

The Queens had stopped, not too far away from them now, and the armies were starting to form up in a long line, stretching across the field for the better part of a mile. Alex took up her position at the front, her lover by her side. Unslinging her sword from her back, she felt the familiar grip in her hands as she watched the rolling mass of darkness stop a distance away, and then fall away from the centre as a women, a queen even, stepped out from the dark.

Alex frowned, as she felt a warm touch on her hand. She looked over at her love, and took the hand off her sword, interlacing their fingers together and squeezing slightly. She was still concerned about the Queen that seemed to be opposing them. She could see her own Queen’s face, and it looked thunderous. They weren’t quite close enough to hear what was being said, but from the way people were reacting, and the slightly smug smile of the opposing Queen, it wasn’t too hard to guess.

Reluctantly, she let her lover’s fingers go, gripping her sword again as her lover swung her spear round into a ready position as well. This was the worst part, as the moments stretched out a little more, the tension in the line growing. Looking over at the wall of darkness, Alex could see that it was less of a single wall, and more of heaving mass of shadowy creatures, all piling on top of one another, forming and disappearing, a constant writhing mass. Her hands tightened on her sword, the leather of the hilt creaking slightly as she did so.

A single tutting noise spread out across, overlaying any other noise despite it not being a loud sound. And the opposing Queen turned away, walking back into that wall of darkness. As soon as she disappeared, the wall broke, creatures bursting out of it, charging straight at the armies. Alex brought her sword up in a great arc, cleaving through the first hellhound that had come charging towards them, kicking it’s head away as it started to disintegrate, the body fading away in the grass. But Alex didn’t have time to think about it, as more creatures were already besetting them.

The battle seemed to pass by in flashes. Hard slogs through dozens of creatures punctuated by quick stops to catch the breath, before diving back in again. Falling back again for a quick breath, she swiped her hand across her face, wiping away the blood. A passing healer laid a hand on her shoulder, stripping off the most recent wounds. She gave them a nod of thanks, before looking around for her lover. A flash of the spear drew her attention, and she saw that her lover was currently engaged with one of the larger monsters, almost troll like in appearance. Her lover was quick, just keeping ahead of the troll’s heavy blows, but it was not going well for her. Charging in, Alex used a passing dog as a stepping stone, jumping off that onto the back of the troll, plunging her sword straight through its neck, the momentum of the leap taking her forward. Keeping a grip on the sword, she sheared it through half the neck, landing next to her lover as she twisted the spear round, hitting it so the last part of skin still holding the head on ripped, and the creature slumped over, ebbing away into nothingness as the two of them plunged back into the fighting.

It was exhausting, mentally and physically. All the bodies of the darkspawn, as they had come to be called, were ebbing away, leaving only the bodies of fellow nobles on the floor. Even though they were killing these things, the evidence in front of their eyes made it hard to believe, especially when there was no end to them. Once again she was wiping the blood from her face, stilling for a moment between the fights as she looked around, taking stock of the field.

There were so many dead, and her Queen was growing, dark clouds gathering overhead, different from the darkness which still loomed like a wall over all of them. Alex had to turn and slay a few more darkspawn before something else caught her attention. Over all of the field, the corpses were shimmering, pale spectres rising up from them, and drifting towards the city. She blinked in confusion, before she spotted the Queen of Cups, leaving the field, heading back to the city. Alex felt anger and bile rising up in her throat as the ghosts and cups left them, but that was nothing compared to the fury that she felt course through her next, as a shattering scream broke through the air.

Alex turned her head just in time to see her Queen, now gigantic in size, sprout a pair of glowing wings, electricity crackling from them and her sword, which she raised up into the thunderous sky. A bolt of purple lightning crashed down, striking the blade, and the blast that it created swept over the battlefield, hurling everything backwards, noble and darkspawn.

Things broke, she could feel that much as she landed in the mud. She noticed the mud was warm on her neck, that was odd. Oh, of course, it was blood that was soaking through the earth right now, not rain. Her sword was still in her hand, although she wasn’t gripping it anymore. It was hard to really concentrate, part of her knew that she was dying. She was tougher than most, but even if she hadn’t been fighting for hours, that explosion from her Queen would have been hard to shrug off. And there was that scream, that terrible, awful scream, still ringing in her ears, singing of loss and anger and vengeance.

A movement in the corner of her eye. She turned her head, and could see her lover, getting up onto her hands and knees, coming over to her. That was good, Alex would hate to see them die, although she guessed that was unfair, considering that they would have to watch her die instead.

There were tears in her eyes as she leaned over, mouthing words at her, but Alex couldn’t hear anything apart from the scream. And there was this tugging sensation, not quite a physical one, but the storm, crackling with purple lightning, surrounding the massive figure of her Queen, was pulling at her. The sword she still loosely held was starting to crackle as well, tiny purple sparks running up and down its length.

Her lover looked terrified. Alex felt so bad, she tried to bring her hand up to touch her face. It’s fine, she wanted to say. If this is where it ends, then that’s okay. She thought back to last night – she hadn’t slept for half the night, staying awake, watching her lover as she had slumbered in her arms, just so peaceful and right. I spent my final time here with you, she tried to speak. I got to spend my life with you. I love you, and it’s alright.

Her lover looked up, and Alex could turn her head slightly to see the Queen from earlier, someone she now recognised as the Queen of Many Courts. She was looking down at the pair of them, a sad sort of smile on her face. A couple more tears splashed down, and Alex could see their mouths moving, and a sense of dread starting in her stomach.

No, don’t. Whatever you’re thinking, don’t. Please, don’t do anything stupid. She reached up with her hand, managing to touch her face. Her lover caught the hand, her grip betraying her panic as she looked down at Alex again, and then back up to the Queen.

It’s not worth it. Whatever price you’re paying, it’s too much, I’m not worth it, please…don’t.

She knew she wasn’t speaking, but she was praying that the words might find her, even as something pulled on her soul, and she screwed up her eyes in pain.

When she opened them again, the Queen was there, leaning over her, one finger extended out. Alex flicked her eyes back to her lover, wide and panicked, looking at their tear-stained face.

What did you do?

Then the Queen touched her, and it all went black.

Not Writing

not-writingIt’s weird. I’ve haven’t really written anything since the start of the year. Well, that’s not technically true – I haven’t written any fiction since that start of the year. I have been writing a lot, mostly masters work, as I mentioned in the first post of the year. Two pieces of work were handed in in January, I’ve got an essay on Open Access due in this month, the dissertation is ongoing and I’m just starting to sink my teeth into the literature review, and the other piece of coursework is ongoing, ending with a 3,000 words reflective report that is going to reference and build on weekly exercises we’re doing alongside the lectures. So, actually, there is a lot of writing, but none of it has been fiction.

It’s kind of weird so far. And, yes, there is something of a feeling that I am less of a writer than I was last year because I am not writing at the moment. But, on the other hand, it’s a conscious decision because I have something which I consider more important at the moment, and it’s not like I’m giving up writing forever – I’m just not engaging with it at the moment in favour of something else. But brains and feelings are funny places, and just because I know that I will pick it back up towards the end of the year when all this masters work is done and out the way, doesn’t stop me from feeling a little bit remorseful about it.

It’s not like I can’t write either, but a lot of my spare time and almost all of my energy is going on the masters, and energy is something that I have in short supply (stupid anaemia -_-) so even if I do find a spare half hour here or there, my brain usually isn’t in the mood to do anything other than spacing out. And yes, you should force yourself to write even when you don’t want to, but I also need to not burn out, so I am making sure that when I’m not working on the masters, the time is spent wisely, either just relaxing or napping or doing something that doesn’t require brain power because I’ve spent it all. Me rambling on like this is mostly just me trying to convince myself that I shouldn’t feel guilty for not writing. Also partly because a lot of my short fiction ends up on here, and if I don’t write then there is a slight lack of things to post here. Although I do have an idea to photograph all the dragons in my study and show them to you, which is something that won’t take a lot of time, but since there are a lot of them, would probably need to be spread out over several posts. I should really work on that. And I vaguely have the idea of finding another theme challenge to do flash fiction with, as those don’t tend to take a lot of time, and they are good for just keeping up with it on the side.

Also I do have to admit, right now everything is competing against the new Nintendo Switch and Zelda: Breath of the Wild game for my attention. It came out on Friday in the UK, and I am in love with the console and the game. I don’t even care how many times I’ve died, it is a beautiful game and I am so in love with it and all I want to do is play it and play it some more. I really didn’t get much coursework done over the weekend, I’ll confess.

zelda

Unusual Dragon Hoards

It’s a Monday morning, and in an effort to make myself smile, I went and discovered (well, re-discovered) a whole bunch of picture that never fail to make me smile. Artist IguanaMouth has a whole section of their Tumblr devoted to unusual dragon hoards, and here are a couple of my favourites, in an effort to spread the smiles around on a Monday morning.

Absolutely go and check out the Tumblr page, because there are many, many more. And all of them are great.

These also might be inspiration if I ever get to play in a Beast game. You can totally play a dragon with a hoard in there, and I would love to have an unusual hoard. I even have the start of some of these hoards!

Princess 2017

My usual apologies for the lack of posting. This time it was a combination of coursework being due in on the 16th (got both pieces in before they were due, score me) and as soon as I had handed them in, I came down with that rather nasty cold/plague that’s been doing the rounds. Two weeks later and I’m still coughing and sniffling, and I do wish my lungs would start working properly sometimes soon.

However, it has been a busy year so far. Mostly coursework and gaming, with extra gaming since the coursework got handed in (I’ve been playing a lot more video games since then, there was this kind of cool indie one called Stories: Paths of Destiny, and I’ve started Skyrim for the first time ever rather than just watching other people play). Including a Princess crossover game where the two groups actually got to meet up and tackle a really big problem that was kind of threatening to literally rain monsters down on our cities. We tackled it, although it wasn’t easy – I play a front line fighter who has such good defences they are near impossible to badly hurt, and I nearly ended up bleeding out. Although the giant monster did eat me a little bit.

d10-diceI really love this tabletop game (and there’s another session tonight, hooray!), and a lot of stuff has happened since we started playing. I’ve gotten a much better handle on my character, they’ve gone through a court change, and a name change associate with that, and they are currently exploring their own gender identity, transitioning from female to non-binary as I explore them and how they actually act and feel about that area. It’s something that I might have mentioned before, but I see a lot of parallels to writing, because it is telling a story, and telling it over such an extended period of time actually helps to build in these character arcs as I get to build on them with each game rather that it just happening all at once. That, and I love this character so much, it’s really nice to just sit down and play them and have all the terrible things that our GM loves to throw at us happen – the biggest external plot they’ve got going on right now is that someone from a past life (probably past lives, they seem to have encountered each other quite a lot) has shown up again and is being a bit weird around Aegis, who isn’t exactly sure she can trust anything they say given which court they are in. It’s beautiful drama.

And because I love it so much, I’ve started writing fan fiction about it. I call it fan fiction, but since it’s my character in a game I play in, I’m not sure that’s an entirely accurate term, but you know what I mean. So, here’s a little extract of that.

***

 “Come on,” Aegis held their hand out to Keres, looking down at the other princess as they detransformed, their shirt corners settling down over slightly worn out jeans.

Keres sniffed as she looked up, a slightly confused look on her face as she gazed at the hand that was still extended out to her. Aegis wiggled their fingers, obviously expecting the hand to be taken. There were a few more moments of hesitation, as if Keres couldn’t quite believe that it was suddenly this simple, after so much resistance, but then she reached out, and Aegis pulled her to her feet.

Keeping the hand in their own, Aegis started walking down the street.

“Where are we going?”

“Back to my place. Just a small diversion first.”

There was a tiny frown still on her face as they walked through the city, eventually coming up to a school just as the bell rang out. Soon after floods of kids poured out of the doors, joining the various parents who were waiting outside for them.

“Luca!” The last ‘a’ was elongated as a short person with a long flying ponytail came blasting out of the door and leapt at Aegis.

Aegis easily caught her in their arms and lifted them up in a big hug, “Hey small one. Good day?”

“We got to play with keyboards in music class! Who’s that?”

“That?” Aegis followed the glance to look over at Keres, “That’s one of my friends whose coming to dinner tonight.”

Imogen looked at Aegis and blinked, “You never have friends over.”

“First time for everything.”

“Can we still have fish fingers?”

Aegis looked back over their shoulder again, “You like fish fingers?”

Keres opened her mouth and then shrugged, “Sure.”

“Yay!” Imogen wriggled out of Aegis’ arms and dropped to the floor, immediately going over and inserting her hand into Keres’ as she struck up conversation about her day.

Aegis came the other side of her and took the other hand, walking out of the school with an easy smile on their face as they listened, occasionally commenting, on the small one’s school day.

The flat was on the third floor of the block, as Aegis took out a key and unlocked the front door.

“Who’s home?”

“Me,” A slightly apathetic voice came from the sofa, and Aegis walked over and smiled.

“You go to sleep now and you’ll never get any rest tonight.”

“But I’m exhausted! My P.E. teacher effing sucks.”

“Language.”

“I didn’t swear!”

“Effing is hardly enough of a diversion from the word you were going to say. Come on, up. You’ll need to share the sofa tonight.”

Jake rolled up and over, his uniform rumpled from where he had collapsed on the sofa, and blinked in surprised as he spotted the other person in the flat.

“Whatever,” he grumbled, but shuffling over to free up some space on the sofa.

“Have you got homework?”

“No.”

“The only person who gets punished by your incomplete homework is you.”

He grumbled again, then pulled his bag towards him and flipped out a book onto the table, pen in hand as he slumped over and started scrawling.

Time passed them by, food was cooked and then demolished, even if there was a tiny incident with peas. Soon enough the evening had gone, without a call from Aegis’ fellow princesses for once, and they came out of the bedroom which they had just ushered their siblings into, closing the door quietly.

Keres looked at them, like she was expecting them to say something, but they didn’t as they walked over and sat down on the floor, leaning back on the sofa before dragging a pad towards them and flipping to a new page of paper.

There was a few minutes of scratching, before Keres broke the silence.

“So what was this?”

“Hm? It was dinner. Admittedly simple, I’m not the best cook in the world.”

“No, I mean. You’ve never given any indication that you trust me, and suddenly, you’re letting me into your home? Letting me meet your siblings? I mean, I guess you had some, but you’ve never given anything away about them, and suddenly here I am.”

Aegis continued to write as they looked down at the paper, “You needed it.”

“What makes you think that?”

Their lips twitched up into that trademark not-quite-a-smile, “The collapsing and sobbing wasn’t enough?”

“I was not sob- wait,” she looked at the back of their head, the short blond hairs still in disarray, “You remember, don’t you?”

There was a pause from them this time, “More than I’ve been letting on. Not as much as you claim to. But some things, like how you could sometimes lose your grip.”

“On what?”

Aegis finally turned their head to look at her, “Reality. Tonight was supposed to help ground you. Remind you that’s it’s not all princess business and there is a world here. Sometimes I think you forget that.”

Keres reached out, stretching her fingers out to gently touch Aegis’ cheek.

“Do you trust me?”

Aegis looked at her, those grey eyes boring into her, “I hope I can.”

She sighed, and let herself fall over on the sofa, hand trailing around to the back of Aegis’ head, playing with the short hairs at the nape of their neck.

“I’ll take it.”

She could almost hear the lips twitch up again.

fantasy-shield

2016 Accountability Post

So, another year come and gone. In wider world news, not a particularly good year considering. Close to home in my own little world bubble, things look much better. But, the new year is a good time for reflection, and I did have some goals for last year, so let’s see how I got on with those.

Reading

Reading Resolution #1 – Read a book a week, or rather 52 in a year. How far did I get? 11/52.

Reading Resolution #2 – A 12 item reading challenge. Of the 11 books I did read, I hit four of the challenges I would say. After deciding that one book can only count for one challenge. (If you’re interested, the four I managed were: A book published this year; A book I can finish in a day; A book chosen by my BFF; and A book I’ve read once before)

Yeah, I realise that it’s not many considering what I set out to do. Honestly, it sort of all came to a stop pretty early on in the year. I set out to do the Reading Ahead Challenge (rainbow style), but only got about halfway through the green book before things petered out and I never finished that book, let alone the challenges I had set myself.

Why? Busy year. I’ve got a job, a masters, a social/gaming life, but most of all, I think I didn’t read so much because I was concentrating on writing. Quite a lot actually. Which leads on to the other resolution/challenge I was trying to accomplish in 2016.

Writing

I joined a 365K club, which meant writing 1,000 words every day, or rather 365,000 in the year. How did I end up doing on that? 356,000 words.

Yeah, I know. Considering how little away from the goal I was, and the fact that I didn’t actually do much writing over the Christmas break, it is a tiny bit disappointing. Entirely my own fault, but, actually, I did learn a lot from doing it.

2016-summary

I managed to write every day from January 1st to June 4th. June 5th was the first day I didn’t write a word, and that’s pretty good going. But as you can see from the summary, I was a bit up and down after April (and April was largely boosted by taking part in the A to Z challenge). NaNoWriMo in November also helped, but about halfway through the year I sort of lost the steam a little bit.

Half of the point of the challenge is to write every day, and I’ve sort of learnt, that although I write a lot more now than I did at the start of the year, it’s not always writing itself that I do. I mean, of course that’s the aim, but I often do a lot of re-reading, thinking up new plots, re-imagining chapters and sections, and of course editing. All of which I think are part of the writing process, but don’t exactly lend themselves to a word count. (For instance, right now I’m trying to work out whether an alternate idea I had for Archmage is better than the one I’ve got currently. Major edits are so much fun to play around with, this one could change the entire third part/book.)

I’m also bad at habit forming. I wrote every day for 5 months, yet come the end of the year, I certainly think about my writing everyday. Opening up the document and putting the words down? Not so much. Especially when most of my free time is being devoted to the master’s degree, and that’s a heck of a lot of work.

But, focusing on writing so much was fun. And I certainly have a lot more words now that I did at the start of the year. It was good, even if it was challenging. But I have learnt a bit more about myself, and how I write, and that’s very useful information I can use going forward.

2017

So, what challenges am I doing this year? None. I’m not promising to read a certain amount of books, or write a certain amount each day. I am officially divesting myself of any and all obligations/challenges.

Why? The masters degree. This year I have to do a dissertation. We’ve already started thinking about it (and the initial proposal is due in the next couple of weeks) so there’s already a fair amount of internal screaming going on. That is only going to get more stressful, and since I want to do well in the degree, I’m prioritising that over everything else this year.

I would like to read more than I did last year, and I certainly plan to keep on writing, if not daily then certainly multiple times a week. What I’m not doing is setting any goals to do with those hobbies, because then I won’t feel obligated to spend time on them when I should be doing my masters work (if I end up doing them instead of the masters work then that’s procrastination and is an entirely different problem).

Hopefully by cooling off everything else, all the stress that comes from the masters will be somewhat balanced out, and I can look forward to a really free end of the year, since I hand in my dissertation in September, get the results back in October, just in time for NaNoWriMo in November! I’ll probably have calmed down by then. Maybe.

So that’s my 2017 – the year of the degree. I hope that whatever you are planning for the next year is off to a good start. Mine could be better, I managed to leave the book I need to read round a friend’s house!

 

Bastion

Another Christmas come and gone. And it was alright, got some really good presents, lot of dragons. But the thing that has brought me most joy is the present I bought myself.

I say present. I’ve been planning this for over two years now.

Meet Bastion.

He’s my gorgeous little Hermanns tortoise. He’s 5.2cm, and 5 months old. I’ve barely stopped grinning since I picked him up Christmas eve. He’s absolutely my new distraction/reason for not doing anything 😀

Hibernation

If I was a dragon, I would very much hibernate. Although I might do it in the summer to avoid the heat. Or just for a hundred years, because sleeping is the best thing to do any time of year.

The Sleeping Dragon by shimhaq98

The Sleeping Dragon by shimhaq98

You probably know what hibernation is – a long sleep over the winter months to help animals get through the period when there isn’t much food available. You basically slow everything down (breathing, heart rate, temperature) so you don’t really need much to survive, just the leftovers from the stuff you ate all summer long.

Do dragon hibernate? Yes, but they tend to do it on the scales of years or decades, rather than just the winter months. Do they do it for similar reasons? Yes and no. Yes, it can be useful when there isn’t much food about, hibernating doesn’t require a lot of energy, so if there isn’t a handy village full of sheep/cows/people nearby, and the adventurers have stopped coming into your lair to defeat you/steal your gold, then sleeping until the human and cattle populations have built themselves up again isn’t a bad choice by any means.

However, it is not the only reason for dragons to hibernate. They are also said to have pretty good healing when they slip into hibernation. It’s not regeneration, so if they’ve lost a limb, then it stays lost, but rents in scales and other such injuries can be healed with a hibernation. Also good for if you need to get rid of some scales and grow some new ones because they’ve gotten old or tarnished. A dragon doesn’t really want to be out and about when there’s a gap in their armour.

An interesting point that has been theorised is connected into the hoards of gold that some dragons collect. If a dragon breaths on the gold, not enough to melt it but enough to heat it, then the dragon has a very good blanket in which to sleep in or on for the hibernation, with occasional top-ups of heat required. This part is thought to depend on the species of dragon, as some dragons do not like heat (frost dragons) and may instead bury themselves in snow to pass their hibernation in.

Mostly I am just slightly jealous, since I love sleeping, and doing it for a number of months/years sounds like a dream. That, and the weather is just about horrible enough that getting out from the covers each morning is a draining experience. I’d much rather be sleeping under a horde of gold. Or blankets, I could very much hoard blankets.

sleeping-dragon-horde

“There He Lay” by Justin & Annie Stegg Gerard

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