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.”

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!

Review – PC Game – Cinders

OK, first review on my new/resurrected blog and it’s a great one to start with.

As always I remind you this is my personal opinion only.

Cinders

I’ve recently plunged into the world of indi games and quite liked what I have found. While I wait impatiently for the expansion of one of my favourites (Loren Amazon Princess- which I will talk about in another post…) I have been looking for quality alternatives.

Cinders immediately got my attention for its artwork. I saw the advertisement pop up in my inbox and knew I had to give it a try. So I played the demo and decided to get the full game within five minutes.

Cinders is a retelling of the famous fairy tale Cinderella. You remember that one? Girl with ugly sisters and harsh life (for no apparent reason) catches royal Hubbie and lives happily ever after.

Cinders is not like that…

This is more a visual novel than a game. The artwork throughout is stunning and reminds me strongly of baroque oil paintings. It seems to be set around the same regency type time period too. The images are not static however; there are subtle touches of animation in the background. Doors and windows swing open, candles flicker, water sparkles and birds fly. The characters themselves display varied facial expressions that suit the dialogue. I must admit the moving eyes creeped me out a little at the beginning… it was like the eyes in a painting following you. Gave me flash backs to many a bad horror film… So apart from bringing out a little of my paranoia the art is one of the strongest features of the game.

Cinders attempts to get to the people behind the fairy tale. Why was Cinders treated so harshly by her family? Why were her family so desperate to catch themselves a Prince? Why the hell was a ball held in the first place? Royalty should not need to go fishing to catch a wife, right? The game addresses all of this and much more. At the heart of the game is the story of a family in crisis. The player is presented with a mind boggling variety of choices that not only decides the fate of the family but forms the overall character of Cinders herself.

You can make cinders a dreamy idealist who simply wants to skip through fields of sunflowers hand in hand with her one true love… or she can be cunning and more manipulative than her scheming stepmother… or she can be a lazy whiney girl who blames her woes on everyone but herself…She can be angel or demon depending on player choice or any of the shades of grey in-between.

The plot line and dialogue flow nicely and there are quite a few twists and turns in the storyline. There are four main endings you can work towards, but many variations of each. Also with each ending unlocked a trophy image is added to the main menu meaning that to see the main menu image properly you have to complete all the endings. It’s a clever little idea that certainly had me furiously trying to figure out how to get a certain ending just so I could add a glass slipper or candle to the menu.

That leads me to the one frustration I have. The lack of save slots. Perhaps I am being dense and there is a way to increase them but I have not figured it out. 8 save slots is simply not enough for a game this complex. I found myself restarting more than once as I realised I had made a wrong choice some time ago and had already saved over that part of the game. This is a minor niggle but one I feel needs addressing.

I normally play games like this with a bit of cynicism. They are usually geared to whichever romance option you choose. Again Cinders surprised me. The story is the main focus for this game and on my first two play throughs I felt no compulsion whatsoever to settle on any of the available men. Again this deviates from the fairy-tale, Cinders can end up alone or with someone other than the Prince. I liked this feature and enjoyed exploring the other possible routes. I must admit the banter between Cinders and her childhood friend Tobias had me giggling at the computer. I felt a bit sorry for the poor Prince. He misses out on the same amount of screen time as the others, but perhaps that is the point. He is the traditional choice that we all know from the story so the other options would have been at a disadvantage if they were not well developed as characters.

I found myself truly pitying my “ugly” sisters even though they were vile to me/cinders. The game slowly peels away the layers and shows you why the other women in Cinders life are so hostile. You can choose to mend relations or choose to get revenge. In all honesty I could relate so strongly to the sisters I always found myself trying to do right by them. The Stepmother was another matter. I could sympathise with her, but I resented her for constantly chipping away at her daughter’s self-confidence. The fact I became so protective over “the girls” shows just how far this game pulled me in.

Next, the music. It fits the game beautifully but never was so intrusive that it would pull me from my reading. A little haunting oboe here, saxophone there but never once did it clash with the game events. The ticking sound that indicates dialogue speed can be annoying but it is easily turned off. I found myself turning it back on because I eventually decided it added to the game. It’s hard to convey tone in a game that has no voiced dialogue. The dialogue sound gives an indication if someone is speaking quickly, drawing out a sentence or even at times I found myself thinking a character was whispering or shouting and it was all down to a little ticking noise that can be heard as the dialogue is displayed. This is another subtle feature that shows how much thought has gone into this game.

Finally the price. I have heard whinges that the game is too expensive for an indi game. To those people I say you clearly have no idea how much work goes into a project like this. A game such as Cinders requires a mind boggling amount of time to put together. Artists, writers, composers and coders etc need to eat and deserve to be paid properly. A complex game with so much replay value deserves to ask for a fair price to cover the expenses. Also the developers need to stay in business so they can make other intelligent games that shine amongst most of the dross out there.

If we have to boil this down to something quantifiable I would give it 4.5/5. Not quite full marks because of the save niggle but otherwise this is a beautifully crafted game that has consumed my PC time over the last week and a half. I even took my lap top to work so I could play it at lunch! (Of course I did not play it when I was meant to be working! What are you implying?)

If you wish to buy the game then it is available at

http://moacube.com/games/