I’ve decided to take a summer sabbatical from this blog. This season is an insane part of the year for work, life, errands, EVERYTHING. Add a recent car accident that’s left me shopping for a new vehicle…and I rather think these articles can take a back seat for a couple months.
If I find a moment to post, I still may, so keep your eyes peeled. And as usual, you will still find me writing for Geeks Under Grace on a monthly basis. I won’t be completely off the grid!
Thanks to everyone who takes a moment to read these posts and offer a little insightful comment of your own. I’ve definitely appreciated the humble community this blog has started!
Even though I got rid of my “Grab-Bags”, that doesn’t mean I’m gonna forsake my fiction snippets. After all, they’re the easiest posts to do – since most of the time they’re already written. *grin*
Nope, I still don’t have original work for you. You wanted to enjoy more fanfiction anyway, right? (RIGHT?) Here’s a continuation of my last FWF.
*This is not a final draft, so all continuity errors in format should be disregarded.
— OUTSIDE THE PALACE several Nimbusans have gathered around boxes set by the palace entry. One Nimbus boy jumps up and tries to look inside. His mother peeks too.
[The mole, King, and Queen Nimbus exit the palace. Nimbusans disperse and bow to the royalty, but they still talk animatedly with each other. The mother of the peeking boy sheepishly smiles as she pulls her son away.]
(more comfortable now, like he’s in his element) Well! Haven’t had a fanfare like this any other place I’ve sold my wares. Y’all curious to see what’s inside?
[The crowd exclaims several things at once.]
Did you bring these boxes?
Ooh, what’s inside them?
We haven’t had anyone visit from Below in years!
Does everyone from Below look like you?
(child) Are you gonna show us what you brought?
I think it’s clothes. Or food. Ooh! Or dirt! I’ve heard about dirt!
[The mole pulls one box toward him and prepares to lift the lid.]
Y’know, back in my hometown we make most of our livin’ in the mines. But I always kinda hankered for a more intrepid career. And now here I find m’self, clear past the edge of the world!
(He turns back to the King and Queen, and resumes a little of his shyness.)
If, ehm, yer Majesties will permit me…
[The King and Queen motion for him to continue, and so the mole, with a bit of flair, whisks off the box’s top. Inside, there are mounds of fireworks. The Nimbusans crowd in excitedly.]
(pleased with himself) Heh, we use dynamite, see, for breakin’ the tougher rocks. But I thought to m’self, I says, “These boom sticks might work as entertainment, given the right adjustments.”
(He pauses modestly.)
So here I am, tryin’ to make a mark in the business world. If it pleases yer Majesties, I’d like to offer maybe…a few nights’ firework displays? First night’s free, ‘case you have yer doubts about my workmanship.
[The crowd buzzes and turns to their rulers.]
Yes, please, King Nimbus!
(child) Mama, we’ll get to see them, won’t we?
Too bad it’s not dirt…
[Everyone, Queen included, watches King Nimbus for his response. He strokes his mustache thoughtfully.]
(frowning) Hm, no. No, I don’t think that will do at all.
[The Nimbusans look shocked, and there’s a collective sigh. The mole’s hopeful smile droops.]
We simply must pay for the first night as well.
[The mood changes immediately. Nimbusans cheer. The children jump around the mole, who looks happily stunned.]
(aside to the King) You’re too clever, dear.
I do try. And honestly, it’s just proper etiquette. Why, when I was young, everyone knew how to treat a visitor, and I certainly learned…
(while the King rambles on) Yes, dear. Speaking of, shall we arrange for our visitor’s stay?
— Transition to NIGHTTIME in Nimbus Land, same scene. Nimbusans are gathered together, exclaiming at the fireworks the mole is setting off. Nimbus children run around with sparklers. Garro stands near the mole, and we faintly hear him apologizing for his failed escort earlier that day. Valentina exits the palace and approaches the King and Queen—mingling among their people.
(somewhat to herself) What is this ruckus for? It’s like a bunch of pillows exploded, and the fluff’s just flying everywhere.
(turning from the crowd) Ah! Valentina. I didn’t expect you’d join us, what with your tendency to loiter around the throne room while we’re away.
[King Nimbus mentions this with complete obliviousness, but Valentina puckers guiltily.]
KING NIMBUS [cont.]
At any rate, this mole fellow puts on an astonishing show, so I really recommend you stay for the rest of it.
[Garro, now holding a sparkler, is drawing detailed pictures with it in the air. The Nimbus children enjoy this immensely. Valentina wanders through the assembly of Nimbusans, turning a skeptical eye toward the fireworks display.]
(as she approaches the mole) So you’re the cause for all this fuss, hm? Ho ho… This land is so estranged from the ground, its people get excited over the craziest novelties.
(a little taken aback) Well, erm, I think these folks right kindly, an’ I don’t mind the enthusiasm. You…you look a smidge different from the folk here, yerself.
(in a brush-off manner) Oh, no no, I’m one hundred percent a resident of the kingdom. Head of the palace workers, in fact—VERY important position.
Oh! You work for the King and Queen? They seem like right nice individuals. Must treat their employees real kindly-like.
(with as false a smile as possible) Why, it’s ALMOST like being royalty yourself. Ah, ha ha…
[They watch King Nimbus play with a crowd of Nimbus children. Queen Nimbus is talking with an animated young girl who seems very pleased with the attention.]
Have to say I like this place. I’ll have to come back once I build more fireworks back home. Want to be able to support a family sometime soon, y’know. Settle down and raise a passel of mole pups. Looks like the King and Queen make fine parents, themselves. Which ones are theirs?
Theirs? Oh, the King and Queen don’t have any chil…dren…
[Valentina zones out as the thought settles in.]
(embarrassed) Oh gosh, I wouldn’t’ve asked if I’da known…Blast a bomb in my face fer bein’ so rude. It’s not my business, is it, ‘specially when it’s royalty concerned. Ohhh, I bet I’ve made a blunder. You won’t tell ‘em I been nosin’ around about their personal lives, will ya?
(blinking out of her stupor) Hm? What’s that? Oh! (chuckles) Don’t worry your little head about that. Your secret is safe with ME. Now, um, if you’ll excuse me…I have to get to some of that…WORK I was talking about…
[Valentina walks away, trance-like. Scene fades.]
[Valentina’s Plan for the Throne]
— Open on the EDGE OF NIMBUS LAND. It’s been a couple of days, and the mole is preparing to leave. King and Queen Nimbus see him off ahead of many more Nimbusans waving goodbye. Before the Mole starts down the vines, King Nimbus arrests his attention and holds a notepad up to the Mole’s face. The Mole smiles bashfully and signs his name on the page—to the King’s immense delight.
It can’t be as simple as that; it can’t! And yet—
— Cut to Valentina pacing her QUARTERS. Dodo and two Birdies are in the back of the room, watching Valentina walk back and forth, back and forth…
(stops abruptly; Dodo and the Birdies get neck cricks) —I’d be a fool if I didn’t take advantage of it. It’s practically coronation on a silver plate.
(tentatively) I don’t get it, Valentina. Just because the King and Queen have no kids, you get to be in charge?
Try to think about this, dimwits; I know it’s hard. Look, it’s not just that they have no kids. They’ve had no kids for years. And they’re getting old. If they planned to sign things over to an heir, they’ve put themselves in a corner. A corner I can definitely FILL.
[The Birdies and Dodo exchange glances. Valentina’s bust coincidentally takes up a whole corner of the shot.]
So, you’re going to be the heir instead? But you’re not even related to them. Why would they give YOU the kingdom?
[Valentina clutches the Birdie’s beak and pushes down so he’s forced to stare up at her.]
(smiling cruelly) Because YOU all are about to make me a HERO to the royal family.
[Scene fades as Garro narrates.]
GARRO (as NARRATOR)
This seems like an appropriate time for me to explain the Nimbus Land “birds and the bees”.
(beat; the screen stays completely black)
Whoa, hey wait, where are you going? No, it’s not like THAT! Just relax and let me explain.
— In a Nimbus couple’s HOME a Nimbus man is saying goodbye to his wife as he heads to work.
GARRO (as NARRATOR) [cont.]
We Nimbusans fall in love and marry like anyone would. But after this things go a bit differently for us.
[The Nimbus man enters the palace and begins his shift as a guard.]
GARRO (as NARRATOR) [cont.]
See, I hear that for others there’s a point where you find out you’re having a baby, and then after you prepare for a bit, the baby arrives. For Nimbusans…there’s no time for preparation.
[The guard returns home, walks in the door, and stops in his tracks when he sees his wife standing there with an infant in her arms.]
GARRO (as NARRATOR) [cont.]
The little one just shows up.
[The Nimbus man wanders over to marvel at the baby as his wife smiles with a “here we go” kind of look.]
GARRO (as NARRATOR) [cont.]
We can’t control it; we can’t predict it. It’s just the way things go. Oh, but we adore our children. When they come, it’s like a surprise party you didn’t know your friends were planning.
[Cut to the Nimbus couple presenting their new child to King and Queen Nimbus, who smile in congratulations.]
GARRO (as NARRATOR) [cont.]
Here’s another particular thing about our children: families usually only ever have one.
[Another family comes to the King and Queen on a different day, presenting their child. King and Queen smile again.]
[The first family returns; time has passed, and their first child is grown, with a second baby in Mom’s arms. King and Queen Nimbus look surprised, but still smile.]
…NEVER three, good lands, no. Something to do with keeping a short monsoon season, I think.
[The new infant begins to cry, and we see rain streak down outside the palace windows. The older child of the family shyly approaches Queen Nimbus and hands her a flower.]
GARRO (as NARRATOR) [cont.]
Now, as a bachelor, maybe I have no idea what I’m talking about. But I think the surprise of having a child is one of the most anticipated events for families. Ours always wait excitedly for it.
[Focus on King and Queen Nimbus as the last family leaves. Queen Nimbus holds the flower, but her smile falls, and she looks to the side. King Nimbus notices and reaches for her arm. She turns, manages a half-hearted smile, and then looks away again. King Nimbus watches her, concerned. Scene fades.]
1.Tall, rail-thin guy with oval glasses and a light-haired army cut. He lived in a cabin out in the mountains with his seven younger siblings. I guess we were affianced, because at one point he told me: “I’m so happy we’re getting married. Oh, hey, will you wash the dishes and babysit all my much younger brothers and sisters while I go out for a walk? K thx bye.” Apparently dream self has not had an equal rights movement.
2. Older dude in his fifties who could best be described as a snake oil salesman with some kind of religious bent. At first I was cordial with him and thought he was an all right sort, just a bit smarmy. That was before he decided I should be his bride and help him make money through a televangelism career. Then things took a Pride and Prejudice turn, and I went all Lizzy Bennett on him and was like, “I would never wed such an odious man.” Fortunately for him, Mary Bennett still thought he was quite a catch.
3. Ewan McGregor as a Russian prince (I’m just as baffled as you are). I was apparently in the role of a princess cursed with constant starvation, so his gesture of affection toward me was ordering a pizza. FINALLY, a dream guy who understands!
Want to read about my other dreamy studs? Click here.
The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to reassess one’s goals. Since I’ve founded this blog and gotten involved with Geeks Under Grace, writing has pretty much consumed my life.
…I mean, however much of a life I had to begin with. #bachelorlifestyle
The writing bug has bitten so deeply, I want to jot down ALL THE THINGS – but there’s only so many hours to a day, and much of my fiction writing goes by the wayside in favor of meeting post deadlines. Hnnnnngh…
Something had to give, so I went back to my planner – just kidding, I don’t have a planner – I went deep inside the dark recesses of my mind and looked at what REALLY mattered to me.
So, day job, food, and sleep still being complete necessities, I decided to give up…the Grab-Bag post. Meaning there will only be three updates on this blog per month, giving me a little more breathing room to work on GuG and fiction. Considering the bevy of ideas I have for video game and faith posts, it was the practical solution. (I’m gonna run out of plant babies to talk about eventually, people. Come on.)
I’ve got one more Grab-Bag scheduled for February, so I’ll let that one play out. I’m sure none of this really changes your life, but I want to keep my twelve loyal readers in the loop.
And perhaps…maybe…you can expect to see a little fiction snippet now and then. 🙂
I had an idea to post some personal fiction that was appropriately “cozy” for this time of year, but searching through my work brought up…very little. In fact, it mostly resulted in me saying, “Whoa, that needs to be fixed. And that. And that… And I definitely don’t write that way anymore…”
So you know what that means: ALL ABOARD THE FAN FICTION TRAIN! I decided I might give a little peek at my year-long project after all. It’s the Christmas present you never always wanted!
No preamble for you. The only thing I’ll tell you is that, yes, this is in script format.
For Part I, in Alphabetical Order
Dodo: Valentina’s slow-witted and subservient henchbird. Looks like a giant black toucan with a metal helmet. Never speaks. He hates working for Valentina but is too dumb/lazy to quit.
The Fireworks Mole: A humble fellow who’s traveled far to sell his fireworks. He’s the first visitor Nimbus Land has seen in many years. Wears green overalls and a green cap; keeps his clawed feet and hands exposed.
Garro: The royal sculptor of Nimbus Land. He sculpts and gilds statues for the King and Queen and is also their close friend. Has a green curl of hair on his forehead and wears typical Nimbus garb: a fez, work vest, and parachute pants. (Hammer time!) He narrates Part I.
King Nimbus: The kindly, if excitable, ruler of Nimbus Land. He enjoys collecting birds, autographs, and statues and is exuberantly playful – if sometimes long-winded. He wears a pyjama set in blue and purple stripes, and has a gold medallion around his neck. His hair curl and mustache are brown.
Queen Nimbus: The calmer monarch; she is sensible and generous and keeps the King in check if he rambles. Can be the more emotional one when grieved. She wears a white head cover with gold embroidery, a pink sari and green wrap that covers her arms and hands. Her hair curl is magenta.
Valentina: The palace castellan (in charge of the workers, though she doesn’t often do her job). She plots to overthrow the King and Queen and rule Nimbus Land. She is not a Nimbusan. Wears a white dress with a slit up one side, and her bust is…voluptuous. Her hair is a parrot. Don’t question it.
[Travel to Nimbus Land]
— Open with running shot of LAND’S END & BEAN VALLEY. It’s midday. The camera pans over the sea cove, beaches, cliffs, up into Bean Valley’s vines. A quarter through the shot, Garro as narrator begins to speak:
If you are any sort of traveler, chances are you have at one time or another determined to visit the end of the world. Perhaps you’ve already been. If so, you’ve likely seen the cliffs looking out to the sea, or the sleeping volcano near the cape, or Bean Valley with all its vines climbing into a blinding bright sky.
— The shot slows as it swivels through BEAN VALLEY. you can see the ocean off the cliffs glinting in the sun.
Yes, these are wondrous sights, it’s true. And I’m supposing you took in these sights, breathed the air of adventure, and then…
[Scene cuts to black]
…promptly turned yourself around and went back home. (pause) My friend, don’t you know that there’s more when you travel…up?
— Cut back to BEAN VALLEY. Camera soars upward, weaving through corkscrew vines of all colors. The running shot moves faster and faster until it bursts through thick, fluffy cumulous clouds.
(enthusiastic) THIS, my friend, is Nimbus Land! See what all those travelers have missed for years and years?
— Pan over NIMBUS LAND: shows homes made from the vines poking through the clouds. There is a palace at the east end of the kingdom. It’s a middle-east inspired building with rounded turrets, and the vines seem to grow all through it. The palace itself is a mix of white marble and pink stone.
[The citizens of Nimbus Land are cloud people, and everyone is nice and plump and smiling.]
We’ve been STARVING for guests. It’s not easy, you know, being so far out of sight and never getting a chance to really host someone.
— Enter the MARKET AREA of Nimbus Land, where shopkeepers and the hotel proprietor bustle about. The shops show off colorful garments, bright accessories, and art creations.
We’re a social people, us Nimbusans. It’s a shame no one can find us, since we’re famed for being extraordinarily hospitable. But I suppose I can understand: it’s a hard climb from Bean Valley, and we don’t have many ways of announcing ourselves to everyone living Below.
[Nimbusans busy themselves at the market]
Of course, there was that time the mole found us. We thought maybe that would open the way for more visitors, but after the baby Prince… Well. This certainly isn’t the time for me to talk tragedy with you.
What would you like to see first? The market? Maybe our five-star hotel and accommodations? Wait—of course you want a tour of the palace. King and Queen Nimbus still keep it open, after all, and despite the melancholy air it’s as beaut—
Hm? No tours, you say? Oh, you want to know what I mean about melancholy and tragedy.
— Transition to GARRO’S WORKSHOP. There are gold statues on display everywhere—on the floor, on shelves, half-made on a stage at the back of the room. Garro stands by his gold vat; he’s in the middle of gilding a statue.
(sighs and shakes his head) Well, it’s a long story, and it’ll only demoralize you before you’ve had a chance to enjoy our kingdom. Are you sure you want to begin that way?
(Garro looks deliberately into camera, then shrugs and looks away sadly.)
I guess I won’t change your mind. Ah, who knows? Maybe sharing the story will help us with the grief at the King and Queen’s loss.
[Scene gradually fades.]
Let’s see…I think maybe it’s best to start our story…
[Valentina Deserves Attention]
— Close up of Valentina’s face. Her wide mouth is pursed, and her eyes shift left to right. The parrot hangs glumly on her head.
— The shot zooms out and shows Valentina sitting in the Nimbus Palace THRONE ROOM. She’s stretched across the royal settee and has a martini glass dangling in her right hand. The throne room has rose walls. The floor is lapis lazuli. The tail ends of vines have crept through the room’s open windows, and birds are perched in them everywhere. Stairs lead from the settee down to the hallway door.
[Valentina languishes over the settee’s armrest.]
So much that needs to be changed! Where do I start? More curtains over those windows. Think of the awful sun rash I’d get on my flawless skin! All along those stairs…
(She waves toward the hall door)
…I’d put rows of statues that reflect my lustrous beauty. In fact, why just by the stairs? Let’s fill the palace with them. But most importantly—
[Valentina’s thin but heavily-glossed lips twitch as one of the birds in the room chirrups happily.]
(speaks through gritted teeth) MOST IMPORTANTLY I’ll throw out all these BEASTLY twittering noisemakers! It’s enough to give me a headache! Birds are meant to serve, not sing.
[Valentina holds her martini glass up for a drink, discovers it’s empty except for an olive rolling around the bottom. She reaches her other arm back and brings her knuckles down on Dodo, who is slumped behind the settee. Valentina hits his beak with a crunch, and Dodo stumbles back on impact.]
Lunking idiot! It’s your job to keep this full. Now…FILL IT!
[Dodo pours drink from a shaker into Valentina’s glass.]
It’s enough to drive an illustriously beautiful person mad, not receiving the attention one deserves. Or the riches. Or the authority. It’s almost as flummoxing as having a vapid feather-covered lard ball as your henchman.
[Dodo bristles, but knows better than to retaliate. He screws the cap back on the martini shaker.]
(sighs) I could just stage a coup. It’d be easy enough fooling these gullible cotton-heads. But I’d have to risk…angering them. (Her eyes widen.) And it’s not a good idea to anger them… GUH!
[Valentina flings her head dramatically against the settee. Her parrot hair squawks.]
If only take-overs were as simple as your marble-sized brain seems to be, Dodo.
[There’s a sound of footsteps approaching the throne room door. The guards outside greet someone.]
(panicking, downs her drink and shoves the glass toward Dodo) The King and Queen! I thought they wouldn’t be back for at least another hour! Dodo! You cranial cavity, get out of the room!
(Dodo scuttles down the stairs.)
No, not through the door, idiot; use the windows!
[Valentina shoves Dodo toward the closest window. She gives him four good heaves before his bulk finally squeezes through, and he flaps away clumsily.]
(whips around as the door opens, prepares to greet the King and Queen) Majesties, I took the liberty to prepare the hall for recei – Oh! Garro! My, how…relieving to see you standing there.
[Garro stands just inside the throne room door. He appears to be puzzled at finding Valentina here.]
Oh, Valentina. You weren’t who I expected to see. The King and Queen are out, I’m guessing? It’s not really receiving time yet, I suppose…
(sugary-sweet) Garro, pardon me if I’m speaking out of line, but with the…dazzling work you do for the King and Queen, shouldn’t they be more considerate and punctual when you come to deliver your statues?
(laughs) What a bizarre thing to say, Valentina! I have no deliveries today. I was looking for their Majesties so I could inform them – Oh! (suddenly VERY eager) I should tell YOU! Valentina! You won’t believe this: we have a VISITOR from Below! Isn’t that wonderful? It’s probably been decades since our last one! And he’s right here, ready to be introduced!
(looking over Garro’s shoulder) ‘Right here’…where?
Why, behind me where I just came…through…the door.
[Garro turns around and realizes he’s entered alone.]
Oh dear. I seem to have lost him.
[The Mole Meets Royalty]
— Panning through a hallway in NIMBUS PALACE. The scene design looks very much the same as it did in the throne room. The Mole appears as he turns into the hall. He wanders around and looks very lost.
GARRO (as NARRATOR)
Yes, It’s true what they say: a Nimbusan would forget his own face if it wasn’t stuck to his fluff. But I hope you don’t blame me. I promise you we pride ourselves on our hospitality. It’s just that…with so few guests to entertain, our hospitality can get a little rusty. And we might accidentally LOSE our guests.
[The mole approaches a couple tending to the birds in the hall. It’s the King and Queen, but the mole hasn’t realized this yet.]
(slightly exasperated) Beg pardon, are y’all workers in this palace? Call me lost as a carrot in a crowd of potatoes, but I just got no clue where I’ve gotten myself.
[King and Queen Nimbus turn to greet the mole. The King is holding a light blue bird.]
I say! You’re certainly an unfamiliar face. I don’t think I’ve seen you before. Need a bit of direction, do you?
(scratches under his cap) Well, see now, I come from a place where our mazes are all underground, so this cloud stuff’s got me all dizzy and confused…
[King Nimbus turns excitedly to the Queen]
Do you hear that? He’s someone from Below! I can’t think how long it’s been since we’ve had such a visit. (leans conspiratorially closer to the mole) Might I have your autograph?
[The mole blinks back, stupefied.]
(patiently) Perhaps we should try to help him first, dear. (She turns to the mole.) Where do you need to go?
Eh…well, I came fixin’ to speak with Their Majesties about an enterprise of mine, and that statue-makin’ fella said he’d right take me to the throne room. But I lost sight of ‘im ‘bout ten turns back, and I got not even the faintest where I should look nex—
[He takes in the crowns that rest on both King and Queen Nimbus’s heads. His mouth widens.]
(hushed) Cake my nails in dirt an’ call it a manicure. (He flattens himself to the floor in an exaggerated bow.) Your most illustrious…er … magnificent… SUPERLATIVE rulers. Thousand pardons; I had no idea this hall would lead me bargin’ in on your Worships all rude-like. Don’t take no offense at my manners, just an earthy mole like m’self—
(interrupting) Offense? I say, you’re being a tad excessive, don’t you think?
[The mole peeks up from his supine position.]
No need, dear. Nothing wrong with having a pleasant conversation, after all. Now, what’s this enterprise you wanted to show us?
I’m getting lazier by the year when it comes to decking the halls. My four-foot tall, fake Christmas tree lies stuffed in a corner of my apartment’s storage unit, inaccessible due to the giant couch also taking (vertical) residence there. Same can be said for most of my ornaments.
Thankfully, my year-round greenery steps in for the save every year and helps me eke by with just enough festive presentation to prevent me looking like a Grinch. Here are the champions of the season:
TWO Christmas cacti, you exclaim? Isn’t having more than one of the same plant a bit of a cheat for a houseplant mama? To which my response would be: why are you trying to put any kind of rule or reason on this already-mad obsession?
Besides, their flowers are different colors. It’s totally fine.
The littler one is named “Dickens”, which of course is a reference to the great writer of “A Christmas Carol” (among other excellent works that I definitely don’t love with an unhealthy passion). The name has a double-bonus, since it also serves in my ongoing rivalry with the friend who bought the cactus for me. (Hiiii, Haley. DICKENS IS STILL BETTER THAN SHAKESPEARE!)
The large cactus’s name is “Liszt”, and you’ll likely only know that reference if you’re familiar with this guy’s work.
(Wow, I have a lot of boy plants in my abode. I wonder what that says about me…)
I could go from here into some deep allegory about how the cacti represent life and color in the coldest, bleakest season, but…I’m out of deep juice for the month. Why don’t y’all go enjoy your families around your own Christmas greenery this weekend, huh?
As previously promised in my last post, here’s a special treat related to Dragon Quest IV.
When I want to practice a writing style or technique, I like to do so through fanfiction (when there’s other, more important things I should be doing with my time). This is a rewrite/interpretation of one scene in the game.
In case you’re wondering, Meena and Maya are the most fun to write. Torneko is the most difficult. Who knew an Irish lilt would be so hard to accurately portray?
Solo stood before the room door, knuckles poised to knock. He tilted his head to look at Maya and Meena waiting expectantly behind him.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Should we really bother someone in their own room? I mean, even if he is a Chosen.”
“If it is truly fate, he will not be annoyed by our visit,” Meena said. “You must trust the prophecy’s guidance.”
“Yes, but does the prophecy say specifically that we should knock on strangers’ doors?” Solo persisted.
“Oh, for pity’s sake!” Maya bustled forward. “What is the worst he could do? Smack you with his walking cane? Just be letting me handle this.”
She bumped him roughly to the side and rapped three times on the door. From inside the sound of shuffling feet neared; the door swung open, and there stood the old man, leaning on his staff. He looked Maya over and squinted.
“You are not chambermaid,” he stated. “But perhaps they send you with cloths?”
“Arey? Why would I be sent with your dirty dirty cloths?” Maya said. “We are here to be talking to you about destiny and other such nonsense.”
“Sis!” Meena protested from behind.
The old man looked from Maya to Meena and then to Solo, who attempted his best ingratiating smile.
“I am not interesting in such prattle,” he said. “Please to leave without further pesterings.”
He began to shut the door, but Maya quickly wedged her wrist in the gap.
“Wait! Just be listening for two seconds. The world is going kaput in so many ways, no? What if you could be stopping all the mess and bringing back peace? That is being worth your time, surely.”
Meena couldn’t help gaping as Maya finished. “You…you have said such a beautiful thing, sis. I am stunned speechless! Maybe you are able to be serious after all.”
Just as she gave her praise, Maya wiggled her hips coquettishly. “Besides,” she said to the old man, “Such selflessness is bound to make you famous and rich, which is reason enough, no?”
Meena groaned and glanced heavenward in a silent plea, maybe asking for a new sibling. The old man, for his part, was unmoved.
“I am regretful,” he said, “as you are appearing sincere with desire for to change world. But request is currently inconvenience for me. I am waiting only for cloths, which hotel staff seems tarrying to supply.”
A clatter of bagged merchandise announced Torneko’s ascent up the stairs. As he came round the corner toward Solo and the others, he held out a tray clasped in his hands.
“Sure an’ it’s odd, but when the concierge gave me the key to our room he asked would I bring up these damp cloths fer your man stayin’ next door. Figured I might as well do a good turn as ‘twas on my way.” He took in the scene: Meena and Solo standing to the side, Maya’s hand still barring the doorway, the old man peering through the gap. “Aye, ye’ve gone an’ had a craic without me, have ye? I get the feeling this’ll be common fare in our travels.”
“Unnnngh…” came a groan from within the room.
The old man looked over his shoulder and turned brusquely away, leaving the door to swing wide open. Inside, a young fellow lay doubled up in one of the beds. His face was ashen and blotched with green, like mold on white bread. His brow shone with perspiration and kept furrowing in distress.
He swallowed between belabored gasps and seemed to be trying to speak. The old man rested a hand on his shoulder and mumbled some words to him, which seemed to calm him down, at least somewhat. He kept clenching the bedsheets near his stomach.
Torneko peered into the room and whistled.
“Japers, that fella’s sick as a small hospital, so he is. Reminds me of the time my own Tipper went down with the measles. Had a right go of it for weeks against the disease, he did.”
“The man is doing poorly?” Meena said. “Sis, Don’t be standing so close to the doorway! You will catch his awful awful sickness!”
“Ugh, it is not like he is breathing on me, silly-billy,” Maya retorted. “Besides, things are now just getting juicy!”
Meanwhile, as though he completely understood what needed doing Torneko sauntered in toward the bedridden fellow and set the damp cloths on a stand close by. He cheerfully handed one cloth to the old man, who took it, bemused.
“I am marveled at kindness of pure strangers,” he remarked. “It is no use to hide more longer, I judge: As you are seeing, my compatriot is severely ill. We are arriving at town in hopes to procure medicines, but…”
He tapped on the rounded top of his staff, seeming to mull over how much more he should reveal. “I am Borya, esteemed court magician,” he continued. “My hapless compatriot Kiryl is priest-in-training. We are residents of most excellent castle Zamoksva, in the country of Maestrel.”
Solo edged inside the doorway and finally spoke up.
“Zamoksva? Isn’t that the kingdom whose inhabitants mysteriously disappeared some time ago? But you somehow escaped.”
Borya nodded. “We are final remnants of once-glorious castle: Kiryl and I…and our Tsarevna Alena, whom we have responsibility to escort.”
He laid a cloth across Kiryl’s fevered brow and patted it in place. “I am concerning for her safety also,” he said more to himself. “Yoy… Such trouble Kiryl has caused by his infirmity. I am sure to give him sharp reprimand for this inconvenience when he is again healthful.”
“Listen,” Solo hedged, “could we help you in any way? We’ve had our own share of…troubles, so we understand the value of a hand in hard times.”
“Tch! Solo, you are so very confused, no?” Maya said. “I am personally only understanding the value of a nice gold co- Yowch! Why do you pinch me on the arm, sis?”
Borya studied Solo and then glanced around at the rest of the party. “This is exceeding kindness. I cannot to impose own problems upon you. But…you say I am meant to join your band of travelers?”
“Yes,” said Meena. She lifted her glass ball and gazed into it. “You, and the sickly sickly priest, and also the Alena girl, who is not here.”
Borya still seemed to hesitate. He looked down at Kiryl, who moaned and flopped over in bed.
“I am of mind to trust you,” he finally said, “as other options are few. Very well.” He turned sternly toward the group. “Tsarevna Alena is gone to procure feverfew root, which local commoners say is cure for Kiryl’s condition. It is said to be grown in neighboring village, but Alena has been gone so many days without word. She is like stubborn and reckless goat, and I fear she has come into some peril. I cannot depart Kiryl’s side else he expire from improper care. You see how I am jammed by current circumstance.”
“Well, since there are four of us and only one of you, we’d likely be better help in searching for your…ehm…Tsarevna.” Solo tried to cover his unfamiliarity with the title by slurring it quickly. “We’re seasoned travelers and would be able to rescue her should she be beset by monsters.”
“Agya, she will more likely need rescuing from own self, I mind,” Borya grumbled. “But is no matter. You have my complete gratitude for this offer.”
He bowed shortly over his cane, then turned to change the cloth on Kiryl’s forehead. Solo and the others took it as a cue to take their leave.
“I am hoping we can assist them quickly quickly, so our band of Chosen can become more complete,” Meena said as they exited the room.
“I am hoping this Zamoksvan princess will reward us with great riches since we are being such excellent help!” Maya added (to her sister’s consternation).
Torneko brought up the rear. “Don’t suppose I might sit this one out, fellas? Give an old man some rest? …Aye, I thought not.”
When I was but a wee tot in my parents’ care, I would have this recurring nightmare where my favorite blankie/stuffed bunny hybrid – Bubby – would get flushed down the toilet. It was usually done by some phantom force not explained by my dream, although on occasion my brother or parents would be at fault.
These dreams were more terrible and frightening to my six year-old brain than any nightmare that might have included a ghost or monster (or animatronic). I would often creep into my parents’ room after such a dream and beg my dad to let me snuggle with him. (He was a bigger softie than my mom. Hehe.) Sometimes Bubby would get flushed on a nightly basis, so you can probably imagine how exasperated my parents got with my strange fear.
Fast-forward 20-some years, and somehow bathrooms are still the subject of my most horrendous nightmares. (Bubby has long stopped being the object in crisis, however.) They’re so prevalent, they’ve actually become a marker for knowing how stressed out I am. If I’m under no stress, I actually dream about luxurious bathrooms. Such as:
As the stress increases, however, the bathrooms begin to look more like:
They run the gamut, let me tell you. From restrooms with cramped stalls and clogged toilets, to public showers where the walls are covered in mildew and the floors in wet toilet paper. I’ve had a few dreams where I wanted to wash up, but discovered I basically had to stand on a grubby toilet in order to get near the shower head. It’s the worst.
I’m not sure what causes these nightmares. I don’t freak out at less-than-stellar bathrooms in reality. Maybe it’s part of my subconscious wish for a grander bathroom in my own home, since apartments lend little space for that sort of luxury.
…Or maybe it’s Bubby communicating to me from the beyond, never letting me forget all those times I let him go down into the sewers, seeking his revenge for everything he suffered…
With all the focus on villainy this month, you’d think my Fifth Week Fiction would follow suit. But, uh, to be honest…I don’t have any great antagonist material. It’s something I, too, need to work on.
Instead, I’ve been given the request to present a scene focused on building the setting and making it feel real to the reader. I’m not sure how well I do with all of that, either, but I’m willing to share what I’ve practiced.
In our previousFifth Week Fictions we got to know Tainock and Jazz (oh, whoops, gave away her name). In this snippet, I’m switching gears and looking at characters from another series in the works. Enjoy these darling little kiddos and all their mental illness quirks.
(I’m sorry, I have no picture this time. You’ll just have to use your imaaaaaginatiiiiiooooon…)
Past the harbor and into the town proper, covered by its grand trees: Xavier was gawking up to try to find their tops. The trees towered higher than Frenlang’s walls, higher than its clock. They shielded Manara like umbrellas, with branches fanning and interlocking. Their leaves almost completely obstructed moonlight, so paper lanterns guided the way—strung in rows between Manara’s buildings and splashing the streets in paint-like pink, orange, and purple.
The roads branched much like the trees did: abruptly and tangled. When several forks in the road had confused Jaitoph’s already feeble sense of direction, Rahrei and Lau stopped before a squat building with oblong windows boiling out candle glow. Rahrei reached into the pockets of her bag and retrieved the folded check. She tapped her nose twice with the paper.
“I won’t take long,” she said.
When the bank’s double doors had closed behind her, Lau reached into her bag and retrieved the book he’d stuffed in there earlier. He turned to a page marked by a ribbon and began to read under the lamplight.
Xavier hadn’t stopped staring at the trees, his head tilted at the most extreme angle to study them. “En’t none of ‘em fallen?” he gawped.
Lau looked up from his book. “Not in my lifetime,” he replied.
Xavier snapped his head forward. “You very old?”
“Thirty-two,” Lau said.
Xavier pondered the age a moment. “Guess ’at’s long enough.” When he saw the book in Lau’s hand, the trees no longer seemed to interest him. “You like those?” he asked.
Lau’s reply was bemused. “You mean books? Well, this one’s a little dry and self-absorbed. History can be touch and go.”
“History? En’t that for learnin’? We used to trade stories on the street an’ try to tell the toppest one. I heard some books’re made that way, too.”
“Yes, there are also those kinds of books,” Lau answered. He replaced his bookmark and tucked the book back in Rahrei’s bag. Then, reaching over to rub his horse’s neck, he said, in a sudden change,
“Are you making a friend?”
His eyes were on Wren; she had, due to an itching curiosity, crept out from behind Jaitoph to watch the horse. Lau gently tugged the reigns to bring the animal’s head down, but he made no other move. Wren shrank back at first, but the longer she studied the horse, the more she edged forward.
Jaitoph was surprised at her bravery. Maybe she liked the horse the same as she liked birds or the crippled goat on the road to Frenlang. The horse was colored pale as her, dappled in gray. It watched her approach with black eyes. Wren stretched out a hand and let her fingers wait just centimeters from the horse’s nose. The horse nudged her arm. Wren started back and clutched her hand to her chest.
“She’s inquisitive about you,” Lau said. “Her name is Pear, after her preferred treat.”
Wren reached again for the horse’s face and this time made contact. Tentatively she stroked the velvet muzzle. Pear answered with a satisfied huff.
“What…what happened to her leg?” Wren asked, staring anywhere but at Lau.
“Just a stumble. She’s old, and her muscles aren’t so strong anymore.”
“Did she break it?”
“No, it’s a sprain. Nothing serious,” Lau said. He nodded toward Jaitoph. “How did your friend break his arm?”
Jaitoph reflexively cradled his splint.
“I-in the ship wreck,” Wren replied, still caressing the horse’s lowered head.
“I see,” the man said. “He looks pretty tough. Does he look after you?”
Wren glanced at Jaitoph and seemed to realize she wasn’t as close by her friend as she’d thought. When she turned back toward Lau, her answer was a bashful shrug.
“That’s all right,” Lau said. “Not everything has to be my business. Jaitoph…is it?”
Jaitoph startled at hearing his name and momentarily forgot his surly attitude.
“Ah. Not to surprise you. Rahrei let me know your names at the dock. But you aren’t the one whose ribs were injured, I think.”
“That was me!” Xavier offered, for once relieving Jaitoph for cutting in. “Xavier. That’s my name. I got bit by the Murkie. Did Rahrei say it was me?”
“She did,” Lau said. He might have been smirking, except his scar made it look more like a wince. “It’s…unusual for anyone to survive a Murkie attack.”
“Well, I did ‘cause…” Xavier’s boast diminished as he looked at Wren. He ended with, “I’m just that good.”
“Mhm, really,” the man said. “Someone as puissant as you shouldn’t have even worried about the trees falling.”
While Xavier mumbled and mangled the word “puissant,” Lau continued, “So we have Jaitoph, Xavier…” He peered down. “And Pear’s friend.”
Wren blushed madly and stared hard at the horse. Then, to Jaitoph’s great surprise, she squeaked out, “Wren.”
Lau nodded and spoke solemnly: “Be sure to remember her name, Pear; she’s trusted you with it.”
Pear tossed her mane and kept her face right where Wren could reach.
(Kinda dropped you into the middle there, didn’t I?)