Writing Prompt- 3rd March

What is true fear for your character?

Fear is relative. For Suiriane, pure terror was never a stranger. However, from Warden Captain to Whispers Agent- there was one thing she feared above all else. The memory of it plagued her.

“You’re, you’re c- court?” The word almost burned her throat as she said it. The Sister with the dark bark stood in the street, the sun poured between the buildings, painting the cobbles gold and warming the hard stone to an umber hue. The Sister did not look any different and at that distance Sui could detect no aura.

It mattered not. What did nightmare look like? All thorns and fangs? No, she knew that was not the case, that was why Sui was so afraid. The asuran turret on the roof had a good range, but she wanted to make sure and backed up against the door of the townhouse she called home.

The dark Sister taunted her, standing just out of shot. Called her a replacement. Stated that her friend and mentor did not really like her. Sylvana was lost and seeking a distraction. Suiriane was not valued by her, she was pitied.

Sui’s hands shook. She said nothing. Fear raked cold fingers up her spine and made her gut clench. A pain spasmed through her chest.

Sylvana’s former lover. Justicia. Taken, tortured, fallen. The guilt still ate at Sui’s mentor.  Yet, all Suriane could see that day, was a reflection of what she could have so easily become, and it terrified her.

Suddenly the street was gone and she was once more under her Mentor’s desk. Another memory. Days old and too afraid to even speak. A dream corrupted, pieces of a hunt remained that she could not understand. Faces she had known and held dear were now lost to her. She ached with the absence. The waking world was loud, bright and confusing. Most of all she was frightened of herself. Her twisted dream had given her a vision of what she could be.

Her Grove mentor had told her in gentle tones to see it as a warning. It may not be pleasant but she could make choices to avoid turning into what she dreaded. Easier said than done. Later Sui would learn, combat was not difficult for her. She would never be a true blade specialist, but she could hold her own. No, what came very easily was power. A gift for manipulating and directing chaos, inflicting pain, confusing thoughts and ensnaring the senses.

It was too much in the end. She left the Grove. Conflicted, jaded and alone. Unable to identify with her siblings, forever an outsider behind the smile. She left, seeking the familiar. Lion’s Arch had showed her how naïve her choice was. Suiriane had hated that city after, once cursing it to Sprout, wishing it would burn. Prophetic words as it turned out…

Not half a year later she would face Justicia again. There would be no convenient turret to save Sui from fighting. Using all her mother given talents Suiriane would best the Courtier and kill her. That was the day Sui broke her vow to Sylvana, and her Mentor’s ‘heart’ in the same blade thrust.

Even if she had known before that day how deeply wounded Sylvana would be- Sui knew she would still have driven the blade home. The whisper of darkness in her demanded an answer to the Courtiers challenge. It was not pride or honour, she simply wanted to spill sap.

Part of her liked it, and that, most of all, was more frightening than any Courtier threatening her on the streets of Divinity. That darkness had led her to make her great mistake. Had meant she had hurt those around her. All a symptom of the deep fear of what she could be.

February 17th- Writing Prompt

‘Design a scene where tranquillity is unnerving. What makes it eerie? Can you impart the feeling without using the words unnerving eerie or their synonyms?’

OK, gonna use GW2 RP character to try this. 

The silence was complete.

The forest was never quiet. There was always something making noise. Maguuma was alive in a very real sense. Even the chasms in the ground contained vines that were shifting and slithering.

Birds called out in the day, a myriad of rainbow colours. Wild boar and other rooting animals shuffled through the undergrowth. The peoples of the forest were a reflection of the environment. Despite the nightly assaults they found time to sing, dance, play.

The remaining Pact forces in the jungle worked tirelessly during lulls in the fighting to repair weapons and defences. Varicose swarms of pocket raptors brought down screaming prey. Tigers growled and roared to affirm territory and ward off any that might stray near them.

At night, the minions came. Gaining strength in the darkness. The jungle rang with battle cries and fleeing animals caught in the crossfire.

The dragon whispered…

It was all gone… silence, total and utter.

It was wrong.

The tall blue sylvari, hidden in the foliage, edged out of cover. It was night and she was swathed in black and green, hiding her glow from those that may target her. Her footfalls sounded over loud in the night. Her ears twitched and she froze, waiting for the inevitable attack that must come, yet it did not. Her eyes swept over the tree line then scanned the ground.

Nothing stirred, nothing moved. Senses strained. Nothing, oppressive and thick nothing. There should have been relief, but she felt only tension and stain. The jungle was holding it’s breath. Every creature waiting for a monumental- something to happen.

Her nerves began to fray. Pulled taut, they unravelled. The silence in her mind was the most disturbing. What was keeping the dragon so occupied?  The lack of sound pressed round her ears. She could hear her own sap pulsing through her body.

She bolted. Instinct born from hard lessons in Orr pushed her on. Her magic came in a rush, she jumped, blinked and even vanished utterly at times. Anything to get her back to camp as swiftly as possible.

Something was coming and she did not want to be in the open when it-

The roar that echoed through her mind made her fall to her knees. Momentum carried her on, skidding across moss and slamming into a tree.

She screamed, so did everything else around her. The noise thrummed through her, then it came. Wave after wave of wild, raw magic.

Barriers, so carefully constructed round the needy and gaping maw within her, shattered. She remained still, mouth open, now not even able to scream as the reservoir within her was filled and overflowed. She was found insensible and burbling nonsense just outside base camp.

It took a long time for her to come back to herself. Weeks. When she was told the dragon was dead she began to weep. The world was changed for her. The threat was gone but had been replaced by something far more personal, even vindictive. When would she stop having to pay for a mistake made four years past?

A gnarled hand, strong and twisted with age took hers and she looked up at the rugged bark of her dearheart. He had a patch over his eye. When had that happened? She would later learn that the patch was her fault also. More consequences from the death of the dragon.

“Do not cry,” he told her in his gruff tone. “While you live there is hope.” He sounded unsure, was he panicking at seeing her cry?  

Perhaps, but his words, as usual, held wisdom. She was too stubborn to give in. Though it was clear she could no longer serve the order as she once had. Was she useless now? What of her half remembered hunt? Her pride stung.

As if sensing her thoughts, she was abruptly pulled into a lingering hug.
He had never needed words to get his point across. She would endure, for his sake if for no other reason.    

Pain

((Wee warning, adult themes.))

The young woman spat at the feet of the man before her. Saliva, mixed with blood stained the reed covered floor. She grinned up at him, her split lip opening further. She could hardly see the man’s face, combination of dim lighting and one eye being swollen closed from the fist to the face the previous day.

“Aye, I deserved tha,” she admitted with a weak chuckle. “I sorry I called ye wife a fifty silva’ whore.”

The angry guard grunted and the clenched fist fell. Her grin widened, the pain- she was used to it. At least the workhouse had gifted her with a tolerance for it. This was nothing. Scrubbing floors with a broken knee, that hurt. Few punches to the face and guts, easy.

“Nah, she be a twenty silva’ whore, sorry. I was confused like and go the-“ the fist crashing into her sternum stopped the insult. Air rushed from her lungs and she sunk to the ground. She lay there, gasping like a landed fish. She curled round herself. Small as possible, protecting face and arms. The two kicks that followed landed on shins and shoulders.

Nothing to be concerned about. She judged that was enough. The guard was panting and his hand no doubt hurt.

She lay still.

A few inexpert curses were thrown her way and a leer that she would be ugly when her neck snapped in a few days. An ugly corpse among the others who had behaved. They would go to their deaths unmarked.

“Fucking lot of good being pretty is when ye be dead,” she thought. “Unless ye like ya lasses dead… which be fucked up.” She kept that thought to herself and the cell door slammed shut.

Min did not want to behave. She knew what happened to the ones who did. The docile ones who thought if they did as they were bid, and sucked whatever was shoved in their faces; then they would get out.

That rarely happened. Then there were those that were frightened and quiet. She heard their tears and what was done to them. It was not all the guards. Just the rotten few. She had identified them early and had gone out of her way to be obnoxious to them. She took the beatings. They were better than what they did to the other lasses.

Of course, she could not go too far, or might end up getting screwed as a punishment. No, she had to walk a fine line. Annoy them enough to be battered and not be prison candy. Though not so much that she got raped as a way to control her. She was not stupid. Most of knocking boots was about control, anyone that said different was deluded.

Love, tenderness- utter ogre shite. Someone wanted, someone gave and got stuff in return. Protection, respect, money. It was how things worked. Somewhere in the last few moons she had forgotten that. Let herself think she could be respected without having to offer anything. That people liked her, for just being her.

She should thank Garry if she ever saw him again. He’d been right. He was not her family; he was her employer. Things had blurred… food fights with captains and insulting customers… Bandit and the beach… Sylvia and dresses. She had taken it all to mean more than it had. Given her hope that she had finally found ‘her’ people.

Garry had shattered that to shit… and he had done her a favour in the end. She saw that now. A slum rat did not get to be respected or liked.

At the back of her mind she knew she was deliberately ignoring the weak link in her current thinking.

Bo.

He had followed her about like an adoring baby brother. She had wanted to take care of him. He was an idiot; he would not make it on his own. Turns out she was rusty. One failed pickpocket of a labourer and she was arrested. Bo fought to defend her and got a kicking for it. So did Bandit. She hoped they were okay. Her adoptive brother was stupid enough to shout her name multiple times during the arrest.

Records were checked. ‘Min’ was linked to ‘Minnie- Ann.’ Minnie- Ann was wanted for murder.

That had been a shock. Her eleven-year-old self, had acted in fear. Grabbed the first sharp object and- well. She knew she had cut him deep. She had not stuck around to see how deep. It was her chance. She had run.

Freedom was almost as bad as the workhouse, but at least she lived on her own terms. She had been passionately independent ever since. Until she was ‘employed’ in the Bones.

“I thought they liked me,” she muttered into her hands. “We got on well like-” She shook her head and her face throbbed in tandem with a different pain in her chest. A pain that was not caused by any physical blow.

She missed them.

Which was stupid.

A few tears forced their way down her face without her permission. Crying was pointless, but the tears still splattered onto the cold stone floor she was curled up upon.

She was not sure how long she lay there, feeling pathetic and yet still crying like a little girl. The rattle of carts on the street above and the chirp of birds, alerted her to the fact it was dawn.

 

“Happy Birthday Min,” she croaked to herself in the gloom. “T’will be tha last one ye see.”

The waiting game.

Ethan sat back, looking at the half elf upon the bed. His rickety chair was precariously balanced on two legs. His feet irreverently propped up on the bed beside Garrett’s hip.  The Captain was out, said she was going for food, but he was not sure if she had been telling the truth, or just needed a break from watching over her quartermaster.

The former mercenary ran a hand through his cropped hair. The memory of his sister cornering him in the tavern with a pair of shears in her hand and a determined gleam in her eye had him sighing loudly.

He had submitted to her whim, knowing she took comfort fussing over him. He remembered Sylvia’s sly comment about his hair colour and shook his head. Red had been raised in the same place as he, he had been certain before he saw her power. Living on a farm he had only gone to town on market days. He was better known in Altinova than Tarif. If they had met he did not remember.

He glanced back at Garrett. The Quartermaster’s chest was swelling and distorted, purple creeping over bronze skin as the bruising began to show.

The crew was in a sorry state if Ethan was the best healer on offer. He knew enough from watching the vigilantes in Olvia how to stop bleeding and prevent most wounds from becoming fatal.

Garrett’s injury was almost a mortal one. He had lost a lot of blood and if he moved too much broken bones risked shredding his wounded lungs further. At least he had not drowned in his own fluids. A swift knife to the chest cavity had stopped him dying. Ethan’s knife.

He listened as the man breathed. Still no rattle, that was good. No fever as yet and the last time he had checked his wounded sides the cuts had been clean and weeping clear fluid, another good sign. That however was the extent of his knowledge. He had some leaves the pirate could chew when he woke. They would ease the pain. Sylvia had been to the alchemist for potions too. Garrett had a good chance.

Ethan had been surprised when he had heard the half elf yell. It had not been an angry shout or battle cry. No this was the sound a wounded animal would make. It had shivered through him and before he knew it, he was turning to help the quartermaster. Not because he had to, or the Captain would wish him to, but because he felt compelled to do so.

He did not want to analyse why. It had happened; there was an end to it.

“You are one lucky bastard” he grumbled to the man on the bed. “After the shit you pulled in the brothel, I should have let you die”

Alright, he admitted he had found the brothel mildly amusing. It was not like he was inexperienced. It was just- any of those women could have been his sister. It was what she almost turned to. Crops failed, mother sick, him still a boy. The money she earnt at the tavern was not enough. He remembered watching her one night, head in her hands weeping- another bill delivered they could not pay. He remembered the quiet resolve that settled over her when the tears dried. He had not liked it. She was meant to smile, not have eyes hard as chips of jade.

In the end, she sold herself anyway. Not to a brothel, but to a man. She had deserved better. Leaving the place where she was understood must have been more than difficult. He turned his thoughts from her husband. That was over too, she was free.

He looked back down at the man on the bed. Sui liked this one and Garrett had vowed to look after Ethan because the sailor liked her in return; yet here Ethan was, saving his life. A’al had a sense of humour it seemed.

Yes, Garrett and his sister were friends. That he could cope with, but the half elf certainly did not deserve any more than that from her, though Ethan trusted Sui knew that. Still, he hesitated to contact her. They were in her largest trading hub. The Samara name was on the lips of trade princes. Use it and he could have a witch here or an alchemist. He could hire an entire brothel out to tend to Garrett’s every whim. Yet- that would connect his activities to Sui. They were supposed to hate each other. She the respectable one, he her wayward brother. It was a comfortable lie, gave him freedom and her protection.

The door rattled open and with a burst of sea air and sunlight the captain strolled in, loaf of bread under her arm. He grunted at her. He never knew what to say. It was not her rank or that he was intimidated, but she had a pair of very fine- legs. He could not help but admire. He was not stupid enough to make it obvious. He knew far too many men who thought with their libido first. He was pretty sure the Captain had killed enough of those and had no wish to add himself to the list. That other elf was fine too. All curves and cool professionalism. Made him want to tease and make her blush.  Did he have a thing for elves?

The Captain slumped down in the chair opposite and instead of scolding him for having his feet on the bed, copied his pose.

“No change?” she asked, looking at Garrett and not Ethan.

“No,” he responded, more sharply than he meant to. Silence settled on them. The creek of the Captain’s chair as she leant forward to place the bread on the table seemed over loud. Should he say something? His mind was unhelpfully blank.

“Ye saved his arse,” she whispered at last, sparing him his dilemma.

“Maybe,” he grunted hating the warm feeling that crept across his chest. “He still could die.”

The Captain pinned him with a fierce look, not at all diluted by the white strands of hair that had fallen from her bandanna and over her face.

“He won’t. Ye won’t let ‘im.”

It was an order if he ever heard one. She did not have to be specific. They both knew he could be doing more.

“Aye aye, Captain.” He breathed.

Moments later he was out in the sun, heading for a courier. It did not sit well with him, but he would have to involve her.  She would have to handle how to keep things quiet. Sui would manage, she always did. They were blood, after all. A little Mediahan bureaucracy stood no chance against that.

 

(With thanks to Rhea, for helping me make sure I had Yanna correct and to all who organised and who were at the event last night. Love and sloppy kisses to you all!)

Surrender in the Reach- Opening Chapter

Theo panted hard.

With all his might he lifted his golden shield, grunting with the strain it put on his forearm. His muscles screamed at him to stop, but how could he? The Corporal ordered defence training. If he did not raise this shield again he was going to get a blow to the head.

He really wished he had not been caught staring. Corporal Jin had been out early. He was a renowned and skilled archer and carried an elegant, non-regulation white, double recurve bow with him. An honour granted only to him in the squad. It was whispered he had hobbled four centaurs attacking a Captain with a single arrow.

True or not, Jin was impressive. Theo had watched him in the early dawn breaking over the target range. Armour and padding removed, Jin slimed down considerably, but his tight stomach and chiselled chest were not in the least disappointing. Unruly blond hair moved softly in the chilly breeze. It looked so soft, almost like corn silk and contrasted sharply with the rest of the Corporals hard physique.

Theos mouth had been dry as he watched the piercing blue eyes, normally shaded by a helm, narrow and take aim. Jin’s whole torso tightened as he drew the bow and Theo was mesmerised. The only thing that kept him half aware he was in reality and not some perfect dream, was Jin’s skin.

It was covered in scars. Bullet wounds, blade marks, even what looked like the half-moon cut of an axe to his flank. Theo had the burning urge to touch every one of them. To feel the knotted tissue against the perfect alabaster skin. To hear the Corporal tell of the story behind each mark in his deep, bass voice. Warm and rich…

Theo would then put his lips to every imperfection and tell Jin how beautiful he was…

It was at that moment that Field Medic Erin had turned up and Theo’s dreams were crushed under the gaze of a grinning medic and a very angry Corporal. Jin had snarled at him for ‘wool-gathering’ there was no place in the Seraph for time wasters and even a raw recruit should know that.

So here he was. Getting attacked by his Corporal. They had been at this since early afternoon and now the sun was setting on another hot summer’s day. Theo thought he may dissolve inside his armour. Still he managed to get his shield in place just as Jin’s blade came crashing down on his shield. Theo staggered back. The blow had numbed his entire arm and the shield clattered to the ground from his nerveless fingers.

Panting he held his hands up in a gesture of surrender. He was done. His eyes fixed on the ground, defeated. His whole body went ridged and his eyes flew to the Corporal’s sweaty and smirking countenance when he felt the tip of a very sharp blade at his throat.

“You are dead,” Jin purred.

Theo swallowed but could not even bring himself to speak.

“Not bad, for fresh meat,” the Corporal chuckled and returned the blade to his side. Suddenly he was all business again.

“Get cleaned up,” he demanded. “You are on night patrol. It’s been a long hot day so half the city will be seeking ale to slake their thirst. There will be trouble, boy so get out there and help your squad-mates.”

Theo saluted, stiffly. Wincing as he did so.

Jin barked a laugh and tossed a small glass vial at him before marching off.

“Get some whore in Ossan to rub that into your arms, works a treat.”

Theo’s brown eyes looked from the vial of oil in his dark skinned hands; then to the commanders back. He felt his stomach flip over and he bit his lip.

An Ossan pretty boy was not what he wanted.

He wanted what he could not have and burned with the temptation to reach for it anyway.

First Steps

45th Colossus 1327AE

So yes, ‘lost’ my other journal, so starting afresh. New journal for a new life. Nope I don’t believe that either.

Well… There I was, brooding away in my camp, (Yes it was brooding, I admit it. Monumentally unhelpful self-pity,) when who should happen by but Ellros.

He asked after me. Mother, I wanted to hug that little body, he looked like a strong breeze would blow him over.

In his own… rather colloquial way, he cut through the ‘crap’ as he put it and said he had a proposition for me. Really? To open negotiations so abruptly? Had I been still trading I would have been smelling a desperation. Ellros however has very tight control of his aura. Must be exhausting to repress that much without being soundless. I can never manage it for long myself. Or rather I have not needed to in Orr and I am out of practice.

The Risen do not mind if I am sad or angry. They just make me pay if I let the emotions overcome my judgment. Fighting them has done me more than good. I am now more skilled with weaponry than I have ever been. Physically I don’t think I have ever been in such peak condition.

All that time behind the desk as Prime. I got soft. Hunt changed that.

So, I was asked to join the order of Whispers. Better than the Priory at least.

I was not sure… part of me leapt at the chance. I would have something else to distract me, take me from the forest and all that I left behind. Ease my guilt as I was being of use again, not selfishly chasing after the urgings of the hunt.

Yes I know. Valliant and all that, it’s an honour… (Still can’t see it that way no matter how hard I try.)

Part of me backed away. Arren’s trial, I had been asked to be there. Sprout was getting herself into no end of trouble back in the forest. Rhass, Thekrin, Pepper, Clu, Dex, Aggy, Liu, Argyle, Ver… the list of names continued to reel on through my mind. I avoided thinking of the name that sprang first to mind. Thekrin has told me to let him go, to stop hurting myself.

Could I really commit to something that would cause me to let Arren down again by not being there for him? Could I say yes and not be available to any of my former people until I was on leave? My hunt however, the burden would be shared. I would not fight the risen alone when we returned from deployment.

I would have an excuse to stay away from the forest. He did not want me there.

He did not want me.

Ellros did.

That was it, before I knew it I was being told to get into Vigil gear and we would depart at first light.

I was puzzled as I was given the armour by the quartermaster… then I realised.

Ellros was trying to make me stand out less, blend into the crowd a little. My face is well known.

“Good luck with that,” I muttered as I put the armour on. “I’m a giant blue female sylvari with a white glow. Not many around like me.”

I shoved the helm on my head and grumbled. It crushed my bark. I pulled it back off, hoping I could get away without wearing it. Yes…part of me is still a little vain even now.

It was then when I was nearly hit by a dove flopping out the sky. The poor thing was exhausted and the little message canister it carried had been redirected several times. I’m not that hard to find, am I?

“I need to speak with you urgently. Can’t move much.”

It was from Sprout.

My sap stilled. I had only just filled out the paperwork. I was a member of the pact. I could not just dash off without permission. This was the choice I feared I may have to face and it had happened with the ink still wet on my documentation.

Karma is a bitch.

Still, I had made my decision and was willing to accept what that entailed. I went to Ellros who was talking to Explorer Larxas. (The two are on good terms it seems. Yes Lar is Priory but not a stuck up icicle like most of them.) I named no names but asked to go back to Caledon. Ellros was evidently not pleased, but I was granted permission.

Alright that rubbed a little. Granted permission… stupid ego. I am bottom of the ranks again. Suck it up!

I digress.

I rushed back to the forest, fearing the worst. Cathal was in chaos.

One warden in open revolt, another admitting nightmare connections. I almost wanted to start snapping out orders but I bit my tongue. It’s not my job anymore and to do so would be to disrespect and undermine Pepper. She has enough to deal with.

I found Sprout, she was injured but standing. I was not exactly in a good mood having run from the gate in the Grove. Not even Rhass’ aura brushing over mine lifted my glare. The sapling must have run off, I could not find him after.

It was not as I suspected. Sprout had information for me.

She had been attacked by a wolf and under Verruh’s order.

I thought I may fall apart right there. She continued that he was wearing a scrap of silk that came from my clothing… blue… the silk I had bought in DR with Sprout. I dug for details despite my legs having turned to mush. How was she still alive? She was no match for him.

He had spared her. Not followed through on the order.

Mother help me, I felt hope. Delicious and fragile hope. I had to leave, or risk weeping. I could not let them all know the extent of my involvement… how far I had let myself slip in his case.

I wrote many a letter that night, including one I left in the forest for him to find.

It’s not in me to give up… and that is more curse than blessing.

I have hope… where I did not before.

I returned to fort trinity tired. I will not be back in the forest again for quite some time. I thought that would be the end for a while.

Of course it was not. New day, new problems.

Ellros… It’s not his real name. So the boss is a liar. Good to know. I’ll keep an eye on him, see what else he gives away. I get the impression though that he is, struggling with something. Having talked to the others, they just recently lost their leader and she will be a tough act to follow.

That is so close to my own experience it is not even funny. When Niu died I battled both grief, the fact I was in charge and people were dependent on me.

It was frightening but I rose to the challenge, never thought I would, but I did.

Len looks like he is at that turning point. He needs support but I am not sure he is going to get it. His team is fragmented and some almost hostile to him. If they don’t have each other’s backs then internal conflict can bleed over into the field. I have seen it happen. Trust is key or how do you know the orders you follow will keep you alive?

I don’t want to overstep the mark, I am just starting out, but I tried to at least show Len that I did not hold a grudge for his little lie and I was willing to learn and be a dependable member of the team. I kept the conversation light, he does not need any more on his back right now.

Abigail is intriguing. A mage that uses her power to see the world around her. Blind since birth she feels the air. She seems one of the coldest to Len but seemed friendly enough speaking to me. We got onto the topic of betrayal. (I guess I joined the right order)… she asked me if I ever got used to it.

“No, it still stings and burns. That does not stop me trusting. I have seen those who close themselves off, even tried it myself. It does not work. You only end up hurting yourself and driving those who do care from you.”

That hurt me to say, but I’m not about to lie to those around me… not unless I am forced to. I slept poorly that night, had much to think of. Got up early to help out at the kitchens. That Charr is appreciative of the help, I can tell by the way he has not hit me with a meat cleaver.

Liu came to see me. I did not expect he would and it was nice to see him. As usual with a case such as his, he already knew what he needed to do, he just needed to see things from a distance to come to the decision himself. By the time we spoke alone he already had an answer, I simply made sure he had thought it through.

This is the third time I had aided him in a crisis. He was genuinely grateful, although I did nothing really. Still, he asked if he could ever repay me. The words were out my mouth before I could hold them back.

“There is a large wolf in the forest. Some call him Verruh’s wolf but that is not true. If you see him, treat him gently. He struggles as you do.”

Mother… I truly am a pathetic creature. When will this end? When will I stop thinking about him and worrying? I have no pride… Liu took my request back to the forest with him. There is nothing more I can do. The wolf has to decide. I can only hope he chooses wisely.

Mother, I never asked for anything before… but I ask this. Get him out of that forest and away from those who seek to corrupt and confuse him. If I had stayed then…

No I can’t think like that. Not anymore. What has happened has happened. I have a new path now. The old may cross it at times but my steps are my own.

If only freedom were not such a heavy burden to carry alone.

I have seen Thekrin and his group. Rhass is also with them. I may have let slip that I was in the wastes to Rhass. He would come out here anyway. Better he does so while I am here to keep an eye on him.

Thekrin was… odd.

Stuttering like a sapling, trying to hide his face. I did not know what was wrong at first. I’ve been away from the forest too long I guess. Time was that many a sapling looked at me that way. Later on he whispered in my ear…

“Sorry to be weird, but that armour… wow.”

I spoke with him and Tea, she is not sleeping well either… eventually it was just myself and the sap… Thekrin (really must stop calling him sapling.)

I put my arm round him as we spoke of our hunts. Again his words gave me pause.

“There might be those who make you question the choices you have made, make you feel ugly inside but not me, You’ll always be beautiful to me, Suiri”

Am I reading too much into this? I know he had a sapling crush on me before but that was months ago and he moved on.

Sooner I get out this armour the better.

A change

‘Don’t focus on any one thing. Let the sounds wash over you. Listen to it all, accept it all.’

The sapling under her hands seemed completely immersed, lost in the sounds of the forest. He knelt trustingly at her feet as she rested her hands over his red leaves. Hands that were  glowing with denial magic. He hardly knew her, yet had accepted her harsh assessment of him and seemed so lost after.

Even she could be altruistic at times it seemed. Perhaps her own sapling self was not as crushed as she liked to admit.  She dipped her voice to a low, lilting tone. Almost a whisper.

‘Now… I will guide you. Follow if that is your desire, if it is not… simply open your eyes and the trance will break.’

Thekrins eye’s remained shut “…Lead me….”

Stupid… she could have shoved any nightmare into his mind. He really trusted her… she felt the burden of responsibility settle onto her shoulders and repressed a sigh. She knew better than this. Being relied upon would chain her down. That was not something she could allow. Still, Anwesu was as good as her word. He wanted direction. She would point the way.

The dusk bloom gave a small nod, though Thekrin could not see her do so with his eyes closed.

‘Everything is darkness. Listen to the earth… it pulses beneath your hands, vibrant and alive. Your sap rises in time with this rhythm. You are part of it. Not a separate creature but part of the whole. Accept this.’

Thekrin seemed to take some time before answering.

“I accept this..”

A good start or this would not work at all. The mind was open but if he was not willing then she could do nothing.

‘Take a moment to feel it. Being told this is not enough. Reach out. Feel the life around you reaching back.’

Thekrin’s arms reached outward, fingers running along the dirt, digging his hands into the saturated soil before putting them back to his knees. Typical noon born response. She had meant mentally not physically. Still the action seemed to have deepened the trance he was in, so she refrained from a biting comment.

‘You are sylvari. The earth cherishes our kind. Feel secure in that when all around you fail or betray you. The mother will always love you; the earth will always accept you. Plant your roots deep. Visualise yourself drawing strength from the ground below.’

He moved deeper as he listened to her, now aware of very little but her quiet voice. Her tones whispering in the comforting blackness in his mind that smothered his other senses like a fur blanket.

“…I am Sylvari…I am not alone…” he whispered.

That was the sense of abandonment taken care of. He needed to rely on himself, not others. Now, to tackle something a little more entrenched and stubborn in his psyche.

‘Knowing yourself. This worries you deeply. You dislike some of what you have discovered and have acted in a way you find to be lacking. This means you wish to improve whom you are… but you need to do so for yourself. Other’s opinions do not matter. Confidence in you and your abilities will sweep all that away. Knowing whom you are overrides any misunderstandings or misconceptions. You will prove them all wrong and you will do so with quiet dignity and positive actions. You will feel better about yourself and ignore what others may think or feel. You will know your own quality.’

Thekrin’s hands dug into the ground again, he was having problems with this concept.

“I….must cast aside my fears and doubts…ignore those who doubt me…embrace who I am become…something better”

His struggles concerned her. That face was never meant to hold such a frown; new strategy.  She quickly took a different approach, less direct.

‘Try reflecting upon your values. What is the most important to you in life? What do you value? Where does your sense of right and wrong come from?’

He seemed to contemplate this. The mind under her hands glancing back over months and bringing up the ideals he had awoken with.

“Truth, honesty and loyalty…I loathe evil, the cruel and any who exploit others…my right and wrong come from no one but myself.”

Progress! She was thrilled. She found herself smoothing her hands over the leaves on his head. Anwesu spoke with warmth now, rather than cool detachment.

‘The values you have been thinking of are part of the core of who you are. If you are being true to your values, these core beliefs will drive your behaviour.

It feels good to behave in ways that are consistent with your values. Think about how your values can be a part of your day-to-day life. If you can embody everything you hold to be good and true, you will be just that.’

He smiled, still within the trance. Yes this one was always meant to smile.

“I will try with all my being to make sure of this.”

Anwesu nodded and stilled herself again. She had carried him so far but now he had to take a leap. The next exercise may be hard on him but his smile encouraged her to push the boundaries. Noon’s appreciated bold action did they not?

‘Now consider what else makes you who you are. Finding your authentic self involves learning who you truly are. The real you, the person you are meant to be. Your genuine self is the person you are at the core, the person you can be if nothing holds you back.’

She paused for a moment, trying to phrase carefully what she needed him to do. Best to visualise in the end perhaps. Give him a solid goal.

‘Imagine the person you believe yourself to be right now. Just picture yourself going about the things you usually do. Imagine that you are watching yourself…observing, going about your usual activities. What do you see?’

“I am walking along…the beach there is…a seagull attacking a crab. I run in trying to pry it away, but then I realise…if I  don’t let the seagull eat it will starve, it’s just trying to survive. I just want to solve the problem, make it so no one has to suffer”

His voice had a chill in it now. This was something that troubled him and she would need to deal with it before moving on that goal she wanted to build for him. She would be honest; he needed to face the harsh reality not be sheltered.

‘There is no solving this problem. Sometimes the world is cruel. Very often there is no ‘good’ side. There is simply survival. You need to accept that you can only do so much. That you cannot solve all the world’s difficulties. You can simply do your best and that is all. If you are true to yourself and your values then this will be something you will be able to understand. You are a good person, take comfort in that. Do what you can, when you can.’

“I understand but…must it be so harsh?”

She almost slapped him. How could he be so ridiculously naive? Was his dream all nectar and rainbows? Anwesu forced calm upon herself, lest her emotion be felt by him and the trance break. Time to form that goal and be done. She pulled nervously at a bloom on her head and winced as a petal came out. She really needed to stop that habit. The dusk bloom placed her hand back upon his head to join the other. No magic needed now. Thekrin was going to do this all on his own.

‘Life is harsh, but that does not mean you have to be. Whom you are is still very much in formation. Picture yourself again. Imagine watching…observe…now imagine you could strip away all the things that hold you back from your full potential. Imagine self-doubt dissolving…being replaced with confidence and quiet self-assurance. Picture this person before you, and imagine all the things that get in the way of success…such as circumstances, lack of understanding, lack of forgiveness, issues from the past…anything that is holding you back in any way at all.

See these problems dissolving…disappearing…going away…Now see yourself again. What is left? Who is this person when all those barriers are stripped away?’

This should be difficult but to her surprise he answered almost immediately. The noonborn knew who he wanted to be, he had known all along. He simply needed to be prompted to remember.

“I see…a brave, strong dependable person, someone who will bend but not break…he has fought hundreds of battles but he still remains light hearted and caring, loving to his allies but deadly to his enemies. He will fight for his beliefs and convictions and will ponder the consequences…that is who I see.”

She almost laughed. It was such a noonish response it could not be quantified. The mother was really enforcing the stereotype when she made this one. Still, he wished to be strong and happy. She could understand that much at least. Anwesu gave a smile she rarely showed anyone and closed her own eyes. Speaking without moving her lips, directly to the young, bright mind under her hands.

‘This person is you. The pure character that is left when there is nothing to get in the way of complete self-expression. Work towards him. Be him. Focus. This is where you want to be. The only one holding you back… is you.’

The mesmer blinked… and was gone. She did not go far. A small bush a few paces away hid her and she clamped down on her aura.

“I am such a dick…to myself…” he let out a rather weak chuckle as he said this. When there was no response he frowned then the bright blue eyes opened. Thekrin spent a moment looking at where she had stood. He reached forward and picked up the petal that had fallen from her head.

“Thanks Anwesu…” he said to himself as he stood.

From her hiding place Anwesu smiled and her orange eyes glowed.

‘Thank me later,’ she whispered to the leaves. ‘I just repaired your self-image.’

She watched him walk away.

‘You owe me… more than anyone. One day, you shall repay me.’

Now alone the dusk bloom steped out of the slimy leaves, giving the plant that sheltered her an affectionate pat.

‘Perhaps I will ask for his soul,’ she laughed to herself, not all that serious.

Souls were overrated and heavy things anyway.

Random Post

So it’s been a settled week. Two months and a bit into my maternity leave and I am getting used to this double parenting thing. I was fine with having a 3-year-old and the house ticked over just fine in a nice even routine.

Son two has shattered this.

Example, was up from 4.30am to 6.30 am this morning because son two refused to go back to sleep after his early feed. Son 1 decided this would be a fine time to get up as Mummy and the baby was up. Thus he needed a nap after lunch today and this has thrown him off his bed time routine.

Still, I am adapting. It was not this hard last time round I am sure

Up side, writing! Got the best part of 7000 words done this week 😉

 

Thinking back to the heady days where my enthusiasm would pull me through entire nights of writing… I am kind of jealous of my younger self for having the time and energy to write 10000 words in 2 days. The creative juices are flowing again however and I’m slowly starting to gain confidence again.

Other things that have caught my attention this week.

  • Baby has started smiling and burbling at me. SO CUTE!!! Makes up for the sleep shattering 4am parties.
  • Father’s day is this Sunday. First time round that son 1 has had a say in what to get Daddy.
  • Rose perfume. I bought a small bottle of Jo Malone perfume. Pure red rose scent. It’s divine! Really takes me back to growing up in Wales. We had a huge rambling rose in our garden that was bright yellow and smelt amazing. My Gran killed it by pruning it too hard. She thought she was a fantastic gardener, the garden disagreed.
  • Lana Del Rey. I have like some of the tracks I have heard of hers over the last year but her contribution to the Great Gatsby soundtrack has ear wormed me. I cannot stop listening to Young and beautiful! I even wrote an entire scene with this track on constant repeat. Her voice blended into my head and it set the perfect tone for what I was writing. She is also stunningly beautiful. If I swung that way she would so be my type 😉 Also it’s not often that the lyrics of a song strike me. Lana’s songs are more like poetry set to music. Makes a nice contrast to the vacuous pop I also indulge in. Dark velvety chocolate for the ears.
  • GOING ON HOLIDAY! For the first time in 2 years. Alright it’s to a forest one and a half hours up the road but it’s still away.
  • Thinking of doing camp nanowrimo next month. Not sure if I can commit to it but it might be just what I need to get my novel finished. Laz’s idea (best pal) she says we could share a cabin 😉 We may kill each other.
  • Guild Wars 2. Have 3 characters on the go now. Am enjoying it but again have limited time to commit so not joined a guild or anything, just dipped in when I can. Laz may be hopelessly addicted and that’s my fault. I dragged her into it!

Lady Gamer

No, this blog is not dead; I just had far too much work to do on the weekends recently.

Anyway, I thought I would post about the fact I am a gamer geek, have been for years. Was never very good at them, but enjoyed them.

My brother supported me through marathon sessions of Streets of Rage on our Sega Mega Drive, but it was not until I went to uni in the late 90’s that I really got into gaming.

I had my own white brick of a PC and the indi gaming industry was just starting to really roar into life. A game called “the longest journey” was the first game that really showed me games could do more than be an outlet for violent tendencies and stress. They could tell complex and engaging stories.

I was addicted to the story of April Ryan and her life at the end of the 21st century was not that different from my own. Sure more tech and shuttle crashes in hers, also I could not shift to an alternate dimension (not for the want of trying!) but the similarities were striking. Same age, both at the end of a century with all the crap that goes with such a traumatic thing as the date changing… both left home carrying more than physical baggage. Funcom really played a blinder with the character depth the huge amount of dialogue and the art, oh the art!

Even on my ‘strictly for uni’ computer which had a very basic graphics card the art was stunning.

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I had to pull all nighters for essays because I had spent days trying to solve a particularly fiendish chapter. I had no net connection and walkthroughs were something I was completely ignorant of. This was a game I literally had to baby step through and some of the puzzles had me screaming at my computer. I wanted to know what happened and this damn puzzle was stopping me progressing with the story!

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These days I would look up the solutions but the game made me work for the story and for that it is lodged in my brain. Also, the story was not finished! It continued in the next game Dreamfall, which was not really of the same quality. (Bringing in combat was a mistake in my humble opinion.) The games creator has now left funcom and set up his own company and will be using kickstarter to fund the final instalments of the story. I’ll be there with my hard earned cash!

I went through various gaming phases but it was not until Bioware released the dragon age cycle that I realised something else about games. Gaming characters could be hot!

It never occurred to me until that point that romance could find any place in a games plot. Oh how wrong I was.

I don’t know how many times I have played through Dragon age Origins. Since I discovered you could mod the game I had to get the PC version and clog my drive with zip files just so I could screw with hair colours and facelift characters I had never liked the design of. Also to insert power weapons into the game that would make even the most butt ugly brood mother quiver. No this is not cheating, much…

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Something so satisfying about the blood splatter in these games… but even Bioware could not make armour sexy.

I waited with fangirlish fervour for DA 2 and was mildly disappointed. I don’t want to play a boring human, I am one already! Also the plotline and locations left me a bit dissatisfied. The romance won me over though. I have a girlish heart! Besides whoever is in Bioware’s character design team knows what players like me like. Many an hour was spent on Steam chat geeking with fellow DA convert Choptail. I love the fandom attached to these games. Good people and some good fanfiction… not to mention the fanart!

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OK, I know he has a big sword but this is a mod too far! The joke is old people!

My point is… (yes sword, point, I’m the queen of comedy!)

It’s nice to see something so traditionally male start to cater for the other 50% of the potential market. I like hacking stuff up as much as the next gamer but to keep my interest I need a motivation; be that saving my family or protecting the planet, it’s all good as long as I am involved in the story. Romance is merely another story hook that females are more inclined to take the bait from. Cynical opinion perhaps but it works on me!

Of course, outside of western gaming females have long been catered for.

I ‘acquired’ a copy of harvest moon for the DS. (Thanks for that test case France, me and my TT card rejoiced.) The game ate months of my life. It appealed to the megalomaniac in me, I got to managed EVERYTHING in my characters life including who she wound up making babies with and thus what her child looked like.

Of course these games are banal and inoffensive. They are a warm cup of tea for the soul. I have HM twin villages in my DS these days and I still love to throw my chickens daily. (You need to play to get that ref.)

But… I am not 16 anymore. I may not have read fifty shades of grey (nor will I) but that does not stop me wanting a little more ‘realism’ in the characters interactions and a bit more depth if there is a romance plot. Hell, I write the stuff online so I’m always looking for inspiration and how others approach characterisation.

With that I went hunting for games purely targeted at women in my particular niche market. At first I was disappointed, and then I stumbled on a blog of a walkthrough for a Japanese game.

Alice in wonderland by Quinrose.

The company are virtually unknown outside Japan and there is no translation. I may have picked up some Japanese through my anime addiction but I’m not that good! 2 weeks in Japan did not teach me to read Kanji. I was still remembering characters by shape when I left.

“Half a house and a tulip, that means bank!”

However, I was not alone in wishing to play this game. The art was stunning from the stills and the plotline was rumoured to be very original and far removed from the novel.

I haunted the net and cobbled together what I would need. Could not purchase the game for the PC… found a download. Patched with a fan patch so it would run on my comp. Then install a program called Agth which is basically a screen scraper for the kanji. Set it up with some incomprehensible code so I can switch between my kirikiris when the text size changes…

Then install translation aggregator which cobbles together Japanese -English translation websites and display the results in real time. Set that up to sync with Agth then finally set comp location to Japan so the characters display. (Thank you Brocciligoesmoo for all the instructions.) After much swearing and sweating I finally got the game running. Totally worth it.

The games are HUGE and packed with dialogue. It’s more of a visual novel than anything but I was hooked! High angst and a refreshing take on the storyline. Sure the translation was clunky but I found myself re writing the translation in my head and as the games are voiced so it’s easy to pick up on the tone of the dialogue and I know a little spoken Japanese.

I went through his process 3 times for all 3 games. Now that is commitment to my geekdom!

They are unashamedly aimed at the fangirl and packed with pretty men/women, but the plotlines are uncompromising and do not shy away from difficult issues or even philosophical and moral issues. Here is a quick run down of the themes.

  • What is sanity?
  • Does life have a value, if so how is it valued?
  • Slavery
  • Inequality
  • Sexual harassment
  • Feminism
  • Environmentalism
  • Family ties
  • Loyalty
  • Madness
  • Assassination
  • Murder in cold blood
  • Random violence
  • Organised crime
  • Duty

And that is me having not played through all the plot lines as of yet.

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Shiny pictures are shiny! Yes the guy has cat ears but he is the Cheshire cat!

I feel I am missing some of the nuances in these games however; some concepts just do not translate.

So, the search was on! Were there games like this in English?

I was quickly dragged into the gaming underbelly of the smaller independent companies.

Hanako games do cute plotlines with moments of gut churning plot twist just to fool you into thinking you know where the story is going. (ie Date Warp) but also addictive stat management and fiendish puzzles. (Magical Diary)

Winterwolves is a company with a personality disorder. Games like Winter in Fairbrook are from the Harvest Moon school of gaming with more emphasis on the characters and the development of the main character’s personality. A little kissing behind the green house is thrown in for good measure. Warm fluff!

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But they also has games like Lauren Amazon Princess that leave little to the imagination character design wise (not that I am complaining as the men are just as half naked as the women are) and the complex plot and storyline do not take any prisoners. Romance is not just an add on or sub plot, it’s half the plot! Addictive and immersive and not for children!

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My final sashay into these sorts of games has been on my phone.

Voltage inc and Solmare are both Japanese companies that have taken a gamble that the western market is sadly lacking in representation for female gamers. From their download history on the android market I’m guessing the expense of translation was worth it.

These are simple visual novels. There are ‘bad’ and ‘good’ choices. The more good choices you wrack up the more likely it is that you get a happily ever after.

The translations are clunky in places especially in Solmare games (people in the Henan period should not be saying awesome, get a writer to rescript these things folks!) but the art is again excellent (if repetitive) and there are apps for different ages of gamer.

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Nice ninjas anyone? Hearts of gold to go with the slaughter!

For example the teenaged fan girl may appreciate non-threatening pirates with added slapstick humour. They are all just misunderstood!

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For the older lady gamer there are much harder edged options. How about a game where you have to decide to save your marriage or get a divorce?

Plotline…

Arranged marriage, parents thrilled, Hubbie well respected and will eventually fight his way up the cooperate ladder… but his parents want the player character to stop working and become a house wife. Oh and Hubbie and PC have been married 3 months and Hubbie won’t even give his wife a peck on the cheek, but he is having a fling with some other woman.

So, do you work it out? Or part ways? No right or wrong answers, no heroes or villains.

OK the player character is a bit of a drip and culturally it’s not such a big decision for western players. There is much less stigma around divorce.

“DUMP THE ARSEHOLE ALREADY!”

*cough*

But it’s nice to see the app stores following where the PC lead. I like to play a few chapters of these games before bed. Helps me sleep.

I think in gaming terms we live in interesting times. I look forward to seeing more games that redress the balance, as long as they are not pink and filled with frills I will be happy.

Now, where is my copy of Streets of Rage? I need some retro carnage!