Untitled Fantasy Project – Chapter Seven

A/N: I was intending to get this done yesterday, or even earlier, but alas it was not to be. I probably won’t get much up this week, at least not as much as I was intending, as I have been alternating between playing Fable 3 and watching the Addams Family TV show. Just thought I’d mention it.

Astrid’s heart was beating so hard and fast that she could hear nothing and was almost worried that it would burst from her ribcage. She could feel the energy pouring from her as flames crawled up and down her body, barely even warm. And her teeth hurt.

She had no idea where the crossbow bolt had come from, or why the Corrupted had proceeded to laugh. All she knew was that she had just killed one of the Corrupted and had a knife up to her hands buried in another.

Taking a deep breath she saw from the corner of her eye the armour of flame that covered her flare just before it poured through her knife and into the Corrupted. With a cry she jerked her hand back from a sudden intense heat. Her knife had melted the wound in the creature closed, though the flames sprouting from it indicated the cauterizing would do little good.

She turned in the direction the bolt had come from just in time to be bull rushed by another of the Corrupted. It’s shoulder caught her in the gut and she was lifted from her feet.

The world slowed down about her again and, with as deep a breath as she could manage in a heartbeat, she brought her hands together to send another gout of fire after the Corrupted who had hit her.

It tried to swerve and dodge but its mad dash at her had given it too much moment and it was engulfed, screaming, in the wash of bright flame.

Astrid twisted her head as far as she could to try to work out what she was going to hit and saw the edge of the forest approaching a bit too quickly for comfort. She did her best to turn around so that she could hit with her hands and feet but was only about half way through the manoeuvre when she struck. The tree, which didn’t seem quite so much like a tree up close, yielded, stumbling backward.

It felt like a tree, looked like a tree, but then the Thorn opened their glowing green eyes and considered Astrid. No expression showed on the nearly featureless face as they considered her, then gently set her on her feet, and ran away.

More than one of the apparent trees opened glowing green eyes and sprinted in the direction of the Corrupted, most brandishing some sort of wooden weapon. In total close to twenty Thorns charged past Astrid to join the fray. Though to say they joined the fight would be to understate matters somewhat. They ended the fight. Three of the Corrupted remained and were taken by surprise by the band of Thorns.

Astrid, unhurriedly, returned to the battleground to find Pykah and Ceric sharing a foul smelling pipe, Kahotlo nowhere to be seen, and Cyn crouched by a building not far away, white light coursing from her hands into a familiar looking prone shape.

Her heart sped up and without meaning to she bolted over to the healer. She didn’t actually notice the slowed world until it returned to its correct pace. She had been right, it was Dalylia lying there, blood leaking from the back of her head.

Cyn turned her unsettling pure white eyes on Astrid and smiled perfectly white teeth from pale lips. “She will be alright, no need for worry,” the woman reassured Astrid in her cracked, quiet voice. “Quite brave this one, or perhaps foolhardy.”

Kahotlo dissolved out of the night and peered over the woman’s shoulder. “Foolish perhaps,” he suggested, in an almost neutral tone. “She did not believe in magic. Perhaps she does now.” Regardless of his words he waited with Astrid as the healer worked.

The wound on the back of Dalylia’s head closed quickly, but it took almost an entire, agonising minute for the Lythaz girl to open her eyes. She looked about in confusion until her eyes focused on Astrid.

Dalylia sat bolt upright, or tried, and then tipped over the other way and stayed where she was. She mumbled something in Lythaz, then switched to Engulian. “Why am I not dead?”

Cyn’s entire head seemed to wrinkle when she smiled down at Dalylia. “That would be my doing, dear,” she admitted, pride in her voice. “I am a healer you know.”

“Best in Riverside,” Kahotlo added, melting back into the darkness before Cyn could give him a dark look. Cyn and Ceric had been the only mages in Riverside before the barge arrived.

Dalylia nodded, a very small movement. “What happened to those… Corrupted, were they called?”

Cyn gave Astrid a look before she answered. “The children killed most of them, then some Thorns showed up and got the rest.”

“Thorns?” Dalylia seemed to be getting more confused.

The smell heralded Ceric’s arrival. He handed the pipe to Cyn, who stood with an audible creak and took a long draw. In her absence Ceric explained. “Thorns are magical tree people or some such, mostly they protect us from the Corrupted, but sometimes something like this happnens… happens and us mages have to deal with it.” He shrugged and accepted the pipe from Cyn.

“Get over here, young man,” the old healer called to Pykah, who seemed to have passed out on the ground.

Pykah groaned but got up and approached. “She hit her head and she can’t get up, take her…” she shifted her attention to Dalylia, “where are you staying, dear?”

“The Riverside Inn,” Dalylia admitted.

“Take her there. And Astrid, you go with her and watch over her, make sure you wake her up every hour or so. If her pupils stay dilated, don’t shrink, or she won’t wake up, get me. Got it?”

“Wake her once an hour, if her pupils don’t shrink or she doesn’t wake, get you,” Astrid parroted, mostly out of habit.

The woman nodded and took another long drag on the pipe. Astrid was surprised when no ‘get to it’ was forthcoming. The woman just watched as Pykah hoisted Dalylia into his arms.

The Riverside Inn was not only the largest inn but also the furthest from where the fight had taken place. This did not mean it was far away, only a few minutes’ walk.

Captain Arnette and a man who was clearly closely related to her were the sole occupants of the taproom when Astrid and Pykah entered with Dalylia. The captain raised her eyebrows mildly in the trio’s direction. “She lived?”

“Cyn was right there,” Pykah replied in a tone that indicated he would have shrugged were he not carrying an unconscious girl at that moment.

“What happened?” the man with Arnette asked.

“The kids killed a few Corrupted and then a whole lot of Thorns showed up,” Pykah replied with a shrug.

“Kids?”

Pykah jerked his head in Astrid’s direction. “Her and my brother killed a couple each, I got one and the mages hall was predictably very little use.”

Astrid looked at her feet, she had been hoping not to get too much credit for the fight. She had been hoping not to get a mention at all, hoping to slip by unnoticed and go about her business quietly tomorrow.

Instead she got appraising looks from Arnette and the man she was with. “I suppose this makes us lucky you came, dear,” Arnette pointed out. “Why did you come here?”

Astrid supposed this was as good a chance as any to get started. “I’m looking for my half-sister, Cauri Hunter, she came up this way about ten years ago.”

“Ten years ago, and you expect to find her still?” Arnette asked, a smirk on her lips that was not at Astrid’s expense.

“She came here to work.”

“She went to the Castle,” the man informed Astrid.

Arnette gave him a dark look, like he had ruined the joke. “One of the many things we got from our father is a perfect memory,” the woman informed Astrid. “She stayed here in Lakeside for close to two years before travelling with Ferleye’s caravan up to the Castle.” She nodded to the man.

“I have not seen her since,” Ferleye admitted.

Review of How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

I watched the film the first time when it came out in the cinema in Australia. The first film is one of my all time favourites, though its standing in my mind has decreased significantly since I started reading the books (a series I will review when I manage to get a hold of the last audiobook, as in next march) but I still like the film a fair amount. This instalment, not so much.

The reality is that I am a fairly massive fan of the whole franchise, the books are definitely close to the top of my list, the first film is one of my favourites and I even really like the tv series. But How to Train Your Dragon 2 just didn’t click for me, for a few reasons.

The first reason I didn’t enjoy it overall (though I enjoyed it far more upon watching it again) is that it is a very close retread of the first movie. It has a giant dragon, an unreasonable enemy, and Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and Toothless save the day after having learnt some sort of lesson.

But the main problem I had with it was the ending. Upon rewatching it I was expecting to spend the whole time struggling not to skip anything, and it turned out not to be the way of things, but then I got to the end. Though I probably should have said so earlier, I will say now that there are spoilers in this review. Toothless is buried in ice, as is Hiccup, and then boom, another hitherto unseen ability.

So basically deus ex machina.

There is a scene earlier in the film where Hiccup’s mother, Valka (voiced by Cate Blanchett) shows Hiccup an ability that he didn’t know Toothless had, and it worked fine, the reason it worked fine? Structure. This is a film with a very long first act, and so, during the establishing of the world that comes with the first act, finding out something new and pointedly useful is not unreasonable. But at the very last second? Less so.

This is an ability that is sprung on us at the last second because presumably the writers of the film couldn’t come up with a better way to have the heroes succeed. The very purpose of Hiccup is that he deals with things thoughtfully rather than violently and really there should have been a bit more effort put into this aspect of the character and the creation of an ending based on such abilities. That is how the first movie and all the books do it.

The least of my issues with the film is Drago Bludvist (voiced by Djimon Hounsou), who doesn’t exist. Imagine, if you will, the same film without Drago Bludvist. All the actions he undertakes were instead undertaken by the alpha dragon under its own initiative and the film makes more sense. I have also heard the complaint that it’s a bit shit to have the only non-white character being the bad guy but I don’t really have an opinion on that.

But all that isn’t to say that there is nothing good about the film, there is, or I wouldn’t have been riveted for most of it (this time). I’ll admit that I was mostly rewatching the film to avoid doing school work, but that doesn’t negate my enjoyment of it.

Firstly the relationship between Hiccup and Astrid (voiced by America Ferrera) is actually really good. They are people who happen to be romantically involved. There are no grand gestures or romantic monologues or any of that shit that usually makes romance nauseating for me. They are people. There are a few specific details about their interactions that really sell the whole deal without forcing the matter at all. First is that they chill together, they are casual and relaxed and they tease and joke. Next is the way they lean into kisses, if you watch it closely (I did because I was about to write this) you see that they both lean into it any time they kiss. Last is something I didn’t notice the first time at all, which is that near the start of the film Astrid idly braids little bits of Hiccup’s hair, and those braids stay there the entire film.

Then there is the whole first act digression with Hiccup’s mother, Valka, though perhaps digression is the wrong word. The portrayal of Hiccup’s mother, half wild, is actually quite well executed. If she had been younger I wouldn’t quite buy it, but because she was already a mother (though who knows what age that was) and therefore, theoretically, a woman (adult) when she disappeared it makes sense for her to not be too far gone even if a fair amount of time has passed. But the mannerisms, like the unusual fluidity of motion, almost perpetual crouch, and tendency for tentative eye contact are all things that someone would likely pick up if they stayed away from humans for long enough.

The single thing about Drago Bludvist that I liked was his backstory and how it contrasted with Hiccup’s. I expect that the point of the character (and the reason why he exists at all perhaps) is a contrast to Hiccup. They come from similar places and have similar fascinations. They are both obsessed with dragons and both fought with dragons for a long time. But Bludvist went down the other path. Though I don’t like the character, I do appreciate this contrast.

It’s really about this point where I get turned off the movie, end of the second act, when (really major spoiler) Stoic (voiced by Gerard Butler) dies. I didn’t mind what happened, but it’s what happens next that I dislike, as mentioned above.

Really, I don’t dislike the movie, but I don’t like it all that much either (I know that sounds contradictory). I would recommend watching it, honestly, but I wouldn’t recommend it with much enthusiasm. If you’re a fan of the franchise and haven’t seen it yet (for whatever reason) you definitely should, but keep your expectations low, and maybe you’ll enjoy it more for that, which is why I think I liked it more the second time.

Untitled Fantasy Project – Chapter Six

Dalylia spent a fair amount of her time over the next three days with Astrid. There were a couple of reasons for this, first being that Astrid talked little and second being that they were closer in age than Dalylia was to anyone but Kahotlo, the boy who had led her to the barge, but he only seemed to come out at night. It was possible that she would have spent time with someone else had there been more than eight other people on the barge.

The only thing that Dalylia learned about Astrid during the trip was that she slept very little and when she did sleep it was lightly and restlessly. Despite this the girl never seemed to be tired.

The township of Lakeside was exactly what it sounded like, a town by the edge of a fairly significant lake. The town itself was fairly small, but there was farmland encircling the lake all the way around, bridges spanning the river on either side provided access.

Despite the relatively small size of the town, it was bustling. The noticeable skew towards taverns over almost any other building made it quite clear why this was, though. People travelled though Riverside but very few people lived there.

Of the twelve people on the barge, eight of them unloaded when they reached the piers of Lakeside. It wasn’t really right to call the four piers and two warehouses a dock after seeing the massive dock of the Stony Bay. Those who did not participate in the unloading of the vessel were herself, who had paid for passage, the captain, who supervised and shouted, and Pykah and Kahotlo, who were both nowhere to be found.

Though Arnette had said there was no reason for Dalylia to stay on the barge while it was unloaded, she did so. The main reason Dalylia stayed was that Arnette was supposed to be organising travel for her to the Castle, but she also had this weird desire to just stay on the barge and go back up the river to Stony Bay.

This, unfortunately, was not an option, she had been instructed by her employer to take something to the Castle and she was going to do it. Back home in Lythazine she had one of the best reputations and she knew that running away from a foreign land would do no favours for it.

So she powered through and followed Arnette from the barge once the unloading was finished, not long after the sun had set. They walked with purpose through the town to the Lakeside Inn, named presumably for being the closest tavern to the lake.

The tavern was fairly full but not quite crowded, in that almost all available seating was taken, but there was barely anyone but the servers standing about. Arnette approached the bar and apparently telepathically ordered a drink.

“You know of anything going up to the Castle?” she asked the tall, familiar looking barman.

“Good to see you too sister,” he replied in a deep and absolute monotone. “The barge has not come in yet and there is no caravan going that way. But I have a client for your next run to Stony Bay.”

“Any word of when the next caravan is coming?” Arnette asked, her similarly deep voice approaching the same monotone.

“Falling Snow is coming, they will not be long.”

Arnette shrugged and turned to Dalylia. “You will have to wait for a few days at least before continuing on your way, unless you wish to travel alone.”

“I will wait,” Dalylia replied.

“Ferleye, give her a room until a caravan arrives, would you?” Arnette asked of her brother.

“Certainly, it is not my money,” the man replied. “Would you also like a meal?”

It took Dalylia a moment to realise that the man was addressing her, his tone had not changed and he had barely so much as glanced at her. She nodded and the man signalled over her shoulder.

A moment later a middle-aged woman in a stained apron disappeared through a door behind the bar and emerged moments later with a steaming bowl of stew and half a loaf of bread.

Stew was new to Dalylia, it was like soup but thicker and tended to be heavier on meat and lighter on vegetables. It was tasty, but not something she had ever eaten before.

The same woman came back some moments later with a heavy iron key and directions to her single room, which was on the third floor of the tavern. Arnette stayed at the bar, talking to her brother.

Dalylia’s room was spotlessly clean, a vast improvement to the Wiley Hunter’s rooms, and surprisingly large. It was also clearly rarely used and Dalylia wondered how much it would have cost had she hired the room with her own, rather limited, purse.

She did not unpack her belongings into the large wardrobe, instead hanging her pack from a hook on the front of the impressive dark-wood fixture. She shirked her coat onto the floor, ditched her boots, and huddled under the heavy covers, falling asleep almost immediately.

Only to be woken what seemed barely moments later by the sound of screams coming from some distance away. Immediately Dalylia was into her boots, quiver strung over a shoulder and collapsed crossbow in hand.

A woman’s voice, captain Arnette, boomed through the inn. “Corrupted. Stay inside.”

Dalylia ignored it. She had been a caravan guard for years before being hired by Herania, apparently to take something to the Castle, several months before. She could handle herself in a fight.

She was almost all the way through the door when a large, strong hand gripped her arm and halted her progress. “Do not go out there, child, you know not what goes on in this land, you cannot fight it.”

Dalylia looked up to see Farleye, expression serious. “I can handle myself, sir, I was a soldier in my homeland.”

“There is nothing like the Corrupted in Lythazine,” the man replied, voice gaining some character with the severity of his words. “You should not go out there.” Regardless he released his grip on her arm.

Dalylia, with barely a parting glance, pushed the door open and forged out into the deep darkness of the clouded night. She was not used to such darkness and had left her goggles in her room, but she could make out enough by the firelight coming from the edge of the town to get by.

As she approached the fire and sounds of fighting there was a whoosh and a gout of flame arched into the sky. She didn’t even pause, she had used such explosive devices before, they were more impressive than dangerous.

Then she turned a corner and stopped dead.

Before her were thirteen figures engaged in various forms of combat. Eight of the figures shone in the poor light of the leaping flames. Pure white, there was no colour to them at all. But that was not the worst of it.

Facing these odd people were five figures of various shapes and sizes. The small, padded shape of Astrid was wreathed in dancing flames, which seemed to follow her movements. The massive, luminescent figure of Pykah appeared to have vines growing from his clothes. As she watched, the small, dark figure of Kahotlo seemed to, without moving at all, blend into the darkness, apparently growing slightly in height and breadth. The other two figures Dalylia did not recognise, one was a portly man whose hands were circled by apparently floating icicles and the other was a withered old woman with white hair and blind eyes, whose entire body seemed to be glowing slightly.

Dalylia just gaped as one of the white figures twitched and apparently vanished into thin air, only to appear a moment later in the grip of Kahotlo, who plunged a long, curved knife under their ribcage. The wreath of fire about Astrid flared a moment before, with the same whooshing sound as ealier, another gout of flame blasted towards the white figures, who dodged it effortlessly.

Shards of ice, which formed from thin air, rained down on the white figures and they scattered. The fire around Astrid flared again and she did the same slight twitch one of the white beings had done before, also seeming to vanish only to appear before one of the white beings, hand on their stomach. A burst of flame howled through the white being’s body and from its nose, eyes, mouth and ears.

Dalylia managed a deep breath and, loading her crossbow shakily, loosed a bolt at one of the white beings. With a movement like Dalylia had missed a moment, the being turned to her and caught the bolt, which it dropped with a bloodstained grin.

The world seemed to slow around her as adrenaline pumped into Dalylia’s body. She saw the shifting of stance that indicated the being’s intention and just managed to draw the long knife that had been sheathed under her clothes for almost four years in time.

As Astrid and one of the other beings had done, the creature seemed to vanish and appear just within reach of Dalylia. Unfortunately for it, Dalylia’s knife did not take long to draw and the small time which had actually elapsed had given her time to begin a backhanded slash with the knife, which caught the creature in the stomach and drew dark red blood.

The sound that followed made all of Dalylia’s hairs stand on end and hurt her teeth, but was not a sound of pain, nor did it come from the creature she had struck. It came from the other white creatures, and was laughter. They laughed at their compatriot, injured as it was.

With an almost casual looking gesture the creature backhanded Dalylia with enough force that she was lifted from her feet. Time seemed to slow even further and she had time see Pykah’s vines digging into the flesh of one of the creatures, Astrid with a flick knife buried in another’s stomach, and Kahotlo’s speeding form decapitating yet another.

And then she struck something hard and the world went out.

Untitled Fantasy Project – Chapter Five

Astrid poked Pykah, but he just groaned and rolled away from her. She had never seen another mage and she had wanted to talk to him, but he could spare no concentration when he was working he had said, and now that he wasn’t working he seemed to be unconscious. Astrid hoped this would not always be the case, she needed someone to talk to and Kahotlo had vanished the moment he returned to the ship with that Lythaz girl.

Though she was curious about the girl Astrid had ignored her as she had been ignored. She didn’t actually care enough to stray from Pykah’s side in case he woke up before he had to get back to work.

A young woman sat beside Astrid and stretched out on the deck as if trying to soak up the sun, which was firmly hidden behind the clouds and likely would be for the next five moons.

“He’s alright, you know,” the woman said after a minute or so of silence. “Just wears himself out.”

“I know,” Astrid said. “He uses so much power, why doesn’t he pace himself better?”

The woman managed to shrug while lying flat on the deck. “He gets paid to get us to riverside fast, when the river widens out he does better since he doesn’t have to push so hard, but we barely move up this stretch without his putting so much into it.”

“How much does he get paid?” Astrid asked, mostly out of boredom.

The woman shrugged again. “No one tells me, I’m just a labourer.”

“How long have you been on the barge?”

“Close to a year now, this’ll be my twenty-fourth run.”

There was a gasp from Astrid’s other side and she turned to see Pykah in largely the same position as the woman, eyes open. “Did I miss anything?” he asked, deep voice reverberating through the deck.

“Not really,” the woman on Astrid’s other side sat up to smile at the mage. “You right, dear?”

“I’m fine, Caz, though I’m not getting up for at least half an hour. How far’d I get us?”

Caz looked around. “Couple of K out of Stony Bay,” she said. “We’re poling up for now, maybe you should go back to sleep?”

“If I go back to sleep I’ll be out a couple of hours at least, Arnette’ll be pissed.” The mage seemed to notice Astrid for the first time since he’d woken. “Girly, you wanted to talk to me, didn’t you?”

“I did, about magic.”

“Fair warning though, bloodline magic is very different from what goes on around this place,” the man warned. “I met a mage a couple years back, not a Zar damned clue how he did it.”

Astrid felt her disappointment on her face.

“I’ll tell you the trick with magic, though, any magic,” the man continued, voice reassuring. “Practice and patience. Magic, especially the kind you lot have around here, is unique to each person, you’re not going to find someone to teach you how to use your magic. The key is practice, and probably not doing what I do.” Pykah did the same prone shrug that Caz had demonstrated earlier.

Astrid did her best not to let her disappointment show on her face, the notion of practice being the only thing she could do just upset her further. She didn’t want to use her magic, she wanted it gone. She never wanted to wake up in an inferno again, never wanted her dreams of fire to come true again. She wanted the power gone, she didn’t want to use it.

“Sorry that I can’t be more helpful,” Pykah said, misreading Astrid’s reaction.

“He’s not actually very useful,” Caz informed the girl with a grin.

“Quiet you,” Pykah replied, grinning himself. “And get over here.”

There was Astrid’s cue to leave, she’d always been made uncomfortable by intimacy of any kind. Though that left her with nothing to do. She’d fairly managed to explore the barge while she was loading the vessel and so looking around held little appeal.

She was sitting on the edge of the barge, feet dangling over the side, when someone joined her. Astrid looked to find the Lythaz girl giving her a considering look.

“I am Dalylia,” the girl informed her.

“Astrid.”

That was the extent of their conversation for nearly an hour, during which time the polers stopped work and Pykah started propelling the ship again. Upon glancing in that direction Astrid found Caz sitting in the massive mage’s lap, staring vacantly into the sky, her expression almost the opposite of Pykah’s intense concentration.

“Arnette told me that that man is propelling the ship,” Dalylia said, startling Astrid. “But magic is not real, is it?”

Astrid looked at the girl with proper surprise. “Of course magic’s real,” she replied. “What’re you talking about?”

The girl considered her. “There is no magic where I come from, no gods or magical beings,” Dalylia admitted. “Magic is not real.”

Untitled Fantasy Project – Chapter Four

“I just would have preferred that you tell me beforehand,” Dalylia told the captain, hoisting a pack that had been run up from the ship onto her shoulders. “I did not expect to be staying here very long.”

“It will not be so long,” Herania reassured her. “It should only take a month to get to the Castle, less if there is a barge.”

“That cannot be correct.” Dalylia checked her crossbow for the millionth time. “It must take at least a week to get to Lakeside, and many times that to the Castle.”

“Most of the river barges employ Uun bloodline skippers,” Herania did his meaningless shrug. “We will be back here in six months.”

Dalylia’s heart sank. Not only would she be by herself in a strange land, but Herania wasn’t waiting for her. Even if the captain’s calculations of how long it would take were low, as she suspected, she would still have to wait months for his return.

“What does ‘Oon bloodline’ mean?” Dalylia asked, trying to cover her disappointment.

The brothers looked at each other as Herania groped for words, then the captain shrugged. “Uun bloodline are magic…” he paused and used the Engulian word. “Mages.”

Somehow Delylia found that even more shocking than being sent on this unexpected errand. She had heard of the mages of Engul, beings with incredible power. But that was the key word, ‘incredible’. “Magic is not real,” she pointed out reasonably.

“I thought so too, when I was young and fresh out of Lythazine,” the captain shrugged again, a helpless shrug. “You have to see it to believe it, I think, we will talk about it when we see each other again. Until then you need to get to the river bays.”

Dalylia knew a dismissal when she heard one. She checked her crossbow again and pushed the door to their room open. A boy who was clearly not Engulian or Lythaz leant against the wall across from the door, apparently nodding off. He had exceptionally pale skin, even for someone living in Engul, large eyes which were almost completely black, and long, pitch dark hair tied above his head. His nose was flat and broad and his lips thin and pale.

The boy yawned mightily. “Are you Dalylia?” he asked in an accent Dalylia did not recognise.

She nodded.

“Good. Come with me, captain whatsherface wants me to take you down the bays or something.” He yawned again. “Fair warning though, sun comes up I am gone, can’t stand the bastard, ya know?” With that he turned and started walking.

He was roughly the same height as Dalylia, though clearly a bit younger, but he walked so fast that Dalylia almost had to jog at times to keep up. It seemed almost like he glided though the lightening darkness.

The sun was just brightening the horizon when they reached the river bays. What distinguished the bays from the piers was apparently just their location and size. While the docks were set up to take the massive boats that came with traders, all the river bays were the exact size necessary to fit a river barge.

Everything seemed to brighten for just a moment, then the boy who had led Dalylia to the bays leapt about four metres up and onto the deck of the closest river barge, where he collapsed into the arms of a young man who looked about two and a half metres tall.

“Ah, you made it!” The booming voice of captain Arnette sounded from the deck. “We’re almost ready to go, come aboard.”

There were two gangplanks onto the barge, one just wide enough for one person and one significantly wider. The wider plank was currently being run up and down by about ten Engulians of various ages, loading the barge.

It took about half an hour for the barge to set off, by which time the sun was properly up and the boy who had guided Dalylia was nowhere to be seen. The giant who the boy had collapsed on sat by the rudder, expression intense, and sitting not far from him was the odd red haired girl in her massive hide coat.

Dalylia decided to ignore them both and find out what she should be doing.

Arnette shrugged. “Nothing for us to do while Pykah is working,” she said, nodding in the direction of the skipper.

“What is he doing?” Dalylia asked. The man seemed to barely be moving at all.

Arnette gave her an odd look before understanding dawned in the captain’s eyes. “You don’t have magic in Lythazine, do you?” she asked. “Boy’s propelling the ship is what he’s doing, Uun bloodline are good with water.”

Dalylia didn’t believe the woman, but she didn’t say anything. Instead she decided to look around the ship to try to work out what it was that was actually powering the apparently self-propelling vessel. They were going against the current, which came down from the northern peak of Engul, so there had to be something fairly powerful propelling the ship so quickly.

Two hours of searching turned up nothing.

“I heard that there was no magic in Lythazine,” a familiar male voice informed Dalylia.

She turned to see the boy from earlier, looking much more awake. “Magic isn’t real,” Dalylia told him, surely he was young enough to have not accepted the superstition completely.

He smiled an exceptionally condescending smile. “Not where you’re from,” he replied. “Just like your magic isn’t real where I came from. A crossbow is a figment of foreigners’ imaginations, a firestarter some madman’s dream. We’re from different places, you and I. The difference is that you don’t see what is in front of you.”

With that the boy seemed to melt into the shadows.

As Dalylia was climbing out of the cargo hold there was a jolt that almost knocked her over. Emerging into the cloud-filtered sunlight she saw the skipper lying flat beside the rudder, the red-haired girl sitting beside him watching the clouds calmly. The boat seemed to have stopped propelling itself.

“Polers!”

The shout almost deafened Dalylia, coming as it did from over her shoulder, where captain Arnette was standing. Four burly looking men and women jogged to the back of the barge and took up spectacularly long wooden poles, which they plunged into the water.

“You can’t row up the river,” Arnette confided. “Not wide enough. It’s slow going when we have to pole, but Pykah will be back up in an hour at most and we’ll be alright. The river widens further up and he passes out less.”

NaNoWriMo is over?

So, where I am at least, it is currently the 1st of December, meaning that NaNoWriMo is technically over. I am going to keep posting writing for at least this week and next week, mostly just because I am quite enjoying what I am working on. Hopefully I manage to keep writing after that but I never really know with my mentality.

Something Something

Just a little note that probably doesn’t matter all that much. I was going to put that review up yesterday but, obviously, did not. I was busy again, but I will not be so much next week and hopefully I’ll manage to get up even more story and a review on time.

Review of The Addams Family (1991)

Being a weird person, and having been all my life, I tend to gravitate towards representation of weird people, up to this point my favourite has been Daria but I think I may have found a new favourite.

The best thing about The Addams Family is the family themselves. They’re all weird, and there is no problem with that. It’s all the so called ‘ordinary’ people who are the problem. I identified so strongly with this, it is ridiculous I’d never seen the film before.

Wednesday (Christina Ricci) is dour and sarcastic, great, Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) is loveable and violent, brilliant, Thing (apparently portrayed by the hand of Christopher Hart) is a disembodied hand with an amazing range of ability, so cool. The list fairly goes in. The best thing, in my mind at least, is that Gomez (Raul Julia) and Morticia Addams (Anjelica Huston) couldn’t care less that their children spend most of their time trying to kill one another. They support their children’s oddities, even encourage them. One of my favourite scenes is one in which Morticia walks in on Wednesday about to electrocute Pugsley and her only concern is that they are running late.

The story concerns the Addams’s lawyer, Tully Alford (Dan Hedaya), being in debt to loan sharks and concocting a plan to impersonate the Gomez’s long lost brother Fester in an attempt to steal all the money. The twist (though not the ending twist) basically being that Gordon Craven (Christopher Lloyd), who is impersonating Fester, actually grows to like the Addams Family better than his own family, which basically consists only of his psychopathic mother.

Oddly enough, Fester liking the Addams Family is actually the main issue with the film. I didn’t mind the way it was done, but I did not like the way it was initiated. Gordon has spent about half the film being incredibly awkward around the Addams Family, who are clearly growing more and more suspicious of him, and then suddenly he is deeply invested in the children’s play fighting. Of the way this part of the film could have been initiated, this is one of the better ways, but it comes across as incredibly (and I mean that the way it sounds) sudden.

Of course, in the end, Gordon turns good, which oddly enough means siding with the Addams Family, who are all totally evil, and everything is sorted out. Possibly that sounds sarcastic or something, but I actually quite liked the ending, except for the twist at the very end, which I won’t spoil (though it is an old movie and given that it’s October there are probably a fair number of people rewatching it).

Basically it is a film with brilliant and, for me, relatable characters, hilarious character dynamics, basically no character development and a fairly dull plot. But, really, the plot doesn’t really matter because the characters are just that much fun to watch.

Untitled Fantasy Project – Chapter Three

Astrid had run up into the upper tier for the first time in nearly a month, telling the third mate’s wife that he had arrived but would still be a while as he was needed for some business. This, as far as Astrid knew, had been a lie, but it didn’t matter to her as long as she was paid. The woman had paid her and sent her on her way and she had been up in the upper tier.

Of course she had gone to see her old house, one of the few in the burned out street that was not being rebuilt yet, one of the few that no one made it out of. As far as she was aware, none of her old neighbours even knew she was alive, but she didn’t care. She had wanted to see her house.

Then they have come, the blackies from the Falcon had come by, casual as you please, and she had panicked. She had leapt to her feet and sprinted away down the street. She turned and twisted through streets she still had memorised as if she were being followed by the Corrupted, not by foreigners who didn’t know her.

But she wasn’t being followed, she knew it without checking. Those blackies had no reason to follow her and certainly wouldn’t have known the place well enough to do so regardless.

Soon enough she was on the rooftops, soft boots and lack of ability to gain weight meaning she could go almost completely unnoticed. She trailed the Lythaz as they wandered through the upper tier, clearly looking for something.

The Wiley Hunter was a fairly small tavern, two stories and barely broader than the houses around, but it had a very good reputation and was where Astrid had been headed. The latest barge down from Lakeside was in and everyone knew that captain Arnette stayed at the Hunter.

Astrid wanted to talk to the captain, see if she could get passage back to Lakeside, but she didn’t want to go in there. She didn’t want the Lythaz to ask what she had been doing, in case there was someone who knew.

She was sitting outside the tavern, considering her options, when a buxom and scantily clad woman sat down beside her.

“You on a wait, dear?” she asked.

“Got no job. You want something, yeah?”

“Cut that shit, girly, I’m no docksy. I need something run in there.”

“Sure thing, ma’am, but why not do it yourself?”

“None of your business girl.” She handed Astrid a note. “Give it to the barman and don’t dare read it, got it?”

“Give it to the barman, don’t read it. What do I get?”

“How ’bout the bloodying you won’t get?”

“I get that every run, it isn’t what I mean.”

The woman gave her the best serious look of the day. “One iron round.”

It wasn’t too bad an offer, it wasn’t that great either but it would be a minute of work at most and getting paid at all was more impressive than Astrid let on.

“Get to it,” the woman snapped.

Astrid did not take off at a run, but she did hurry inside. She was greeted with the customary “get out” that accompanied her entering any upper tier establishment, but she ignored it.

She walked up to the bar and offered the note to the man there. “Some woman asked me give you this, wanted me to bring some response.”

The barman took the paper, unfolded it and started to read, dread creeping into his features as he did so. Astrid took the opportunity to scan the room, the blackies  were nowhere to be seen, but captain Arnette was easily identifiable.

The man scrunched up the paper, face red and hands shaking. “You tell her she’ll get nothing from me.”

Astrid nodded and wandered over to Arnette. The big woman looked at her suspiciously. “Looks like you’re a bearer of bad news, girl, what do you want?”

“I want to go to Riverside, but I’ve no money,” Astrid replied, wondering if she should have added a ‘ma’am’ in there or a ‘captain’.

“Not bad news at all,” the woman smiled an almost complete set of stained teeth. “You’re hired, be at bay three by sunrise to help load the boat or you’re going nowhere.”

Astrid barely managed to suppress her grin until she got outside. The woman waiting for her gave her an odd look.

“You should have seen him read it,” she told the woman to cover for her grin. “All the mirth left him instantly and I got to watch the dread build and be replaced by anger, he’s probably burning the note right now.”

“What did he say?”

“He said to tell you that you’ll get nothing from him,” Astrid admitted, expecting a poor reaction.

The woman broke into a massive, toothy grin. “Brilliant, that’s brilliant.” She pulled a purse from somewhere on her person, the where made difficult to guess by the woman’s scant clothes, and handed over the promised coin.

Astrid didn’t wait around to see what came of the grinning woman. She headed for the river bays at a run, they were fairly at the opposite end of the city. She wasn’t running for fear of being late, sundown was barely three hours gone, she was running because she wanted to run.

Untitled Fantasy Project – Chapter Two

It was an hour past sunset when the Falcon finally reached the massive dock of the Stony Bay, two hours behind schedule. Ropes were tossed down to waiting figures who seemed almost iridescent in the near darkness of the lamp lit dock, five or six adults and a fair gaggle of children, none of whom could have been older than twelve winters.

The gangplank was lowered and the third mate, a native of Engul, descended to talk to the people gathered there. He handed something to the people who’d secured the ropes and most of the children dispersed. A small child, bright red hair hacked fairly short and clad in a heavy leather coat, did not leave, they talked to the mate for a moment, then shrugged and sat nearby.

It took all of half an hour for the crew to disembark, pay jingling in pockets or purses. The child was still waiting after nearly an hour when Captain Herania and the first and second mates disembarked, Dalylia close on their heels.

“You’re captain Herania?” the girl asked the appropriate man.

“I am,” the man replied in his massive, gravelly voice, “what’s it to you, child?”

“I have a message for you, from a man named Norry,” the girl replied, looking him in the eyes.

The captain’s eyebrows went up enough to be noticeable, but no more. “What is it, child?”

“He said to tell you he’s at the Randy Bastard, not the Salty Fisherman, and to give you this.” She fished a piece of paper out of her coat and handed it to the captain.

Herania read the note, then gave the girl a considering look and dug out a purse.

“Before you cheat me, I can read, I know what it promises, yeah?”

Herania actually laughed, digging out three square iron coins and handing them over. “You got ounlaatz, rare in a whitey,” he informed her with a grin. “Where’s this… Randy Bastard.”

“Up near one-twenty-eight,” the girl replied, secreting the money somewhere on her person. “You want me to show you, you got to give me something, yeah?”

The captain grinned his massive, white, grin. “You have a deal, child, show us.”

The girl grinned back, stained teeth. “You got it, cap.”

It was not so far to the Randy Bastard and there was no doubt that captain Herania had known where it was. Dalylia wondered why he had agreed to the pay the girl if her service was unnecessary.

The girl gestured grandly at the three story building that looked almost as if it had grown from the planking of the dock. The sign that hung above the door did not leave Dalylia with high expectations of the place.

The captain again extracted his purse and handed over a smaller, circular iron coin. “For services rendered, yes?”

The girl pretended to consider the coin. “Services rendered, yeah. Got to get to it.” And with that she was gone, pounding off down the dock.

Dalylia watched her go with some confusion. There were no children like this back in Jatourma, no one who wore such ragged clothes and waited for a boat to arrive.

“It is a bit of a shock, yes?” the first mate, Tarouic, asked in Lythaz with a raised eyebrow. “Things are not the same here.”

Dalylia shrugged and replied in Engulian, “we are not in the same place.”

Tarouic grinned his stained teeth at her. “We are not.”

The inside of the tavern lived up to Dalylia’s expectations. It was crowded and everyone seemed to be shouting, and also missing at least one tooth. There was even a man with a tooth sticking out of the back of his head and Dalylia had to resist the urge to pull it out.

In one corner a massive Engulian man with a heavy tan sat silently, taking up a large table. The captain nodded to him and turned to Dalylia, handing her the purse. “Buy us food and drink and sit with the mates, this man and I have business to discuss.”

Surprised, Delylia did what she was asked.

Sitting at the table with the mates she watched as a child, possibly even younger than the girl who had led them to the tavern, scampered in through the door, ignored the barman’s shouts, handed someone something in exchange for a coin, and scampered right back out.

“The…” the second mate, Sarouic, started in Lythaz, then stopped and switched. “They use the homeless children here as runners. You will find that they are not so civilised here.” He switched back to Lythaz for that last as a middle-aged and unhappy looking woman placed several bowls of stew in front of them and a steaming loaf of bread in the middle of the table. She gave the table a sour smile and wandered off.

Dalylia nodded and started eating. The food was odd, not at all like what she was used to after four months at sea or a lifetime in Lythazine, but it was tasty nonetheless.

It was not long before the captain joined them, the big man he had met nowhere in sight. They all nodded to him and muttered “captain” at almost exactly the same time. The man grinned.

“We’ve been educating our young guard,” Tarouic told his father in Lythaz. “She seems quite shocked.”

“It is not so civilised here,” Herania pointed out with his white grin. “They can be quite odd.”

Dalylia shrugged. “Did your business go well?”

The captain shrugged back, an artful gesture that managed to mean exactly nothing. “Well enough.”

“Does this mean we can leave, father?” asked Sarouic.

The captain smiled. “Time we head for higher ground, I think.”

Higher ground meant simply to leave the boards of the dock. Once they were off the dock, the ground sloped up significantly, the houses all seemingly cut into the ground to remain level. The further up they went the easier the slope became and the nicer the buildings.

The ground was nearly flat and the buildings almost well constructed when they came upon a row of burned down houses. Some of the houses were in the process of being rebuilt but a couple were nothing more than burned-out husks.

Sitting on a fence, staring at one of the houses that had gone unrepaired, was the red-haired girl from earlier. She sat on a stone fence, knees under her chin, and stared fixedly at the charred shell, eyes red.

A shoe scuffed against the cobbled street and the girl’s head snapped to face them. In a moment there was recognition and then she was on her feet and sprinting off down the street, boots making almost no sound against the cobbles.

“That girl is odd, yes?” Dalylia asked, watching the small figure disappear down a side street.

“Most likely she used to live in one of these houses,” Herania pointed out. “But she does seem odd.”

They continued in silence the short distance to a tavern called the Wiley Hunter, a fairly small establishment that did not have the same sort of noise coming from it that the taverns lower in the city had.

The taproom was not crowded, but it wasn’t deserted either, it was not so empty as to imply that there was an issue with the place, but only just. For the most part people talked quietly to who they were sitting with, rather than shouting across the room at everyone.

In one corner was the single very noticeable type of person. A tall, broad and slightly overweight woman sat with her booted feet on the table, talking and laughing with two younger men who looked like relatives, if not so close as children.

Oddly, Herania made a beeline for this woman, who gave him a gap-toothed grin. “What can I do for you, captain Herania?” she asked in quite a deep voice.

“I need passage to the Castle for my friend here” – Herania indicated Dalylia – “she is transporting something for me.”

“I don’t usually go as far as the Castle,” the woman admitted with a shrug. “Best I can do is ensure her passage, I can’t take her.”

“What is going on?” Dalylia asked of Tarouic in whispered Lythaz.

The young man shrugged. He didn’t know.

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