Sabrine (Short Story)

1000daymfa-week2

1000 Day MFA–Week 2.

Here’s a 25-word elevator pitch for my current novel WIP:

screenshot_20170225-111338_1

It needed some back story. So I wrote this piece.

I’m not big on writing in first person, but I had fun getting into the head of my 9-year-old main character.

I hope you enjoy.

~ Effy

Sabrine

“I have seen nine winters and I won’t be treated like a child!” I shouted, stomping my foot for emphasis. When Father said “No” it just meant I had not asked emphatically enough.

“A lady has no purpose in the woods on a hunt,” Father said. He had his stubborn face on and his arms crossed over his chest. I’d have to be more convincing. I was more stubborn than him.

“Nadea will come and the knights will be there to protect me as they always are,” I reasoned. Usually, I detested being followed around, but if it got me my way it was worth it. I did not mention Garren, Sir Edhin’s squire, but thinking of him specifically made me smile despite the serious adult look I was trying to give to Father.

“Take her, Victus,” Mother said, her voice soft and smiling. “Why shouldn’t she learn to hunt?”

Father blinked. He opened his mouth and closed it again. Finally, he replied, “It’s unladylike.”

I crossed my arms, preparing a new argument, but Mother spoke first.

“What about your daughter is ladylike?”

I opened my mouth to correct her. I was wearing a dress, as they insisted, though it was dirty and torn from play with Nadea and her brother.

“She is a lady and she should act the part,” Father said, but his voice held less conviction and I could tell he was close to giving in.

“I’ll be quiet as a mouse, I promise,” I said, giving my most convincing smile.

“Very well, Sabrine, you can come today, but you are not to hold or fire a weapon. You will observe only and no more,” Father said. He voice was still stern, but I was nodding as my smile grew and I ran over to throw my arms around his neck. He hugged me back and snickered into my hair.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Good morning, Garren,” I said, giving him my most charming smile. I’d practiced it in the mirror while getting dressed, much to Nadea’s annoyance. I wore tan my riding pants and a white loose-collared shirt, more comfortable than any stuffy dress.

“Good morning, Lady Sabrine,” Garren replied. He didn’t smile. Garren never smiled. His blue eyes did twinkle from beneath the messy lay of his blonde hair, and I told myself it was at seeing me and not just a trick of the light.

I fidgeted with Gwen’s reins for a moment. He was supposed to ask why I was there and dressed for riding. Was I going out to ride through the fields this morning? No no, silly boy, I’m going hunting with you and Father.

I willed him to ask.

Garren looked uncomfortable under my stare. I grew annoyed, but I practiced patience, I practiced being a lady.

“Are you going for a ride?” he asked.

I beamed. “No!”

He gave me a confused look.

“I’m going hunting!” All wrong, silly, silly girl.

Garren tilted his head slightly. It looked boyish on one always trying to be a man. “Hunting? With us?”

I nodded, not trusting myself to make the words in my head come out of my mouth.

“Oh? Does the duke know?”

“Oh, yes. He said I could go today.”

Garren nodded and glanced in the direction of his master, Sir Edhin, with a frown. The old knight looked meditative, praying. I don’t understand asking someone else for things you can do yourself.

Looking back to me, but avoiding my eyes, he studied my hands. “If you’re going into the forest with us, you should ride your horse properly, starting with how you hold the reins.” He gave Florence a nudge with his heels and she pranced forward. She nuzzled Gwen.

Garren reached over and gently took Gwen’s reins. He sat a full head higher than me but with him bent over my hands I could smell grass and dew on his hair. He’d been in his secret place, reading. One day I would go there because he invited me, instead of sneaking along behind him. He placed the reins in both my hands and positioned it with fingers callused by long hours riding and holding a sword.

If mother or father or anyone else had fussed over me so, I would have complained, but I endured it to have Garren close.

“You hold tight to them. If your horse gets startled, you have to hold on,” he explained. “Horses are easily startled.”

I nodded. I had been riding since I could walk and I already knew what he told me, but he was close enough that I could see the flecks of slate in his piercing blue eyes. I imagined leaning forward and kissing him, him kissing me back. The sun set behind us as day and night and years passed in a blink, all in the span of that one kiss.

“Alright?” Garren asked. He had leaned back in his saddle but Florence paced close. He had a hand out to steady me if needed.

“Yes, now that I know how to hold my reins.” I said, smiling. I felt my face flush with silly girl embarrassment.

Garren nodded and studied me for a moment longer. He always looked like he was trying to read a language he didn’t understand.

“Perhaps later you can give me a private riding lesson?” I suggested.

Garren’s eyes widened, easily the most emotion I had seen him display. “I’m not a royal and hardly proper company or protection for a lady.”

I did not understand and started to ask what he meant.

“Sabrine, where is Nadea?” Father came up to us on his horse, Rasher, as he asked the question.

Garren bowed his head and averted his eyes. I sat up and tried not to look like a swooning little girl.

“She was still in the stable when I saw her last,” I replied.

“Well, go get her. Hurry up now. We’re leaving right away.”

I nodded. I wouldn’t argue with Father in front of Garren or Sir Edhin. Even I knew that was improper. I nudged Gwen’s ribs with my heels and she turned in the direction I indicated with a light movement of the reins.

Nadea was still putting the saddle on Mindalen when I entered the barn. Well, trying to anyway. “Aren’t you ready yet? Everyone else is ready to leave,” I said, annoyed with the whine creeping into my voice. Gwen paced beneath me, as impatient as I was. I watched Nadea struggle with the saddle with growing frustration.

“Sahym left without helping me with this. I don’t know what I’m doing,” she complained, referring to her brother, the stable boy.

“That much is obvious.”

“Hey! This thing is heavy. It’s nearly bigger than I am!”

“You’re a whole two inches taller than me and I got Gwen’s on just fine.”

Nadea stuck her tongue out at me.

I swung my leg over and dropped off Gwen’s side. She looked at me curiously and I patted her nose as I walked past to where Nadea struggled to lift the saddle over her head. I took it from her hands and swung it while stretching to the tips of my toes to put it in place on Mindalen’s back.

“See? Easy,” I said as I did the straps and made sure they were tight. “Come on, let’s go.”

“Yeah, yeah, show off,” Nadea said as her hoisted herself up. “You just want to go ride next to Garren.” She said his name tauntingly and elongated.

“Shh,” I scolded. “Last thing I want is him, or Father, overhearing you.”

Nadea quieted but she grinned at me. The wider her grin became, the hotter my face felt.

“Sabrine!” Father’s voice called.

“Coming!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As the forest enveloped us, I felt at peace. Golden sunlight filtered through emerald leaves, casting a warm friendly glow on people, horses, and groundcover alike. It looked like the background of our family crest, the green and yellow background, the white hart standing proud. The wind was cool and brought the scent of pine needles. Happy bird songs wove in and amongst each other like children singing rounds. I wanted to join in, but I didn’t know the words.

Everyone looked serious, even Nadea. She was always trying to be a serious adult. I wanted to be an adult too, but I also wanted to enjoy myself. What good was it not to? Would Bael turn me away because I smiled or laughed too much?

Sir Edhin and another knight, Sir Jakoen, lead the way, Father followed, then Nadea and I, and lastly Garren and Sir Jakoen’s squire, Anthel, came behind.

The knights carried their swords loosely in their fingers, and I wished I had one. I had been begging Father to let me learn since I could form the words. Apparently, me tagging along on a hunt was more acceptable than a lady with a sword.

What if I needed to protect myself?

I tried not to pout. That wasn’t adultlike.

Father had his pistol tucked into its holster on Rasher’s saddle. I’d never seen the gun up close, Father rarely brought it out of its case. Bullets and gunpowder were hard to come by and only available from one blacksmith far to the west in the kingdom of Raah. He only took it into the forest with him.

I hoped to see him shoot it. But why did he bring his bow as well?

I wanted to ask, but I had promised to be seen and not heard. Later.

A crackling of twigs and dry needles caused all the men to turn their heads to the left. The horses became nervous and quietly I reassured Gwen that it was probably just a deer wandering across our path.

The forest quieted again. It took me a moment to realize it had grown quieter than before. The birds had ceased their songs and even the wind seemed to hold its breath.

“Father?” I asked. He didn’t turn to face me, only held a finger to his lips. His other hand held the bow tightly enough to turn his knuckles white.

I was about to comment on the silliness of being expected to actually keep quiet per my agreement when I heard a noise unfamiliar to me. It was a deep-chested noise, wordless but almost conversational, very inquisitive. On the heels of this indecipherable question appeared a creature I knew only from books. Wide and shaggy, tall as the horses while still on all fours, the bear came forward on heavy paws. It uttered another rumbling query in pleasant tones.

“Stay back, my lord,” Sir Edhin said, his voice barely a whisper as he put himself and his horse between father and the bear. Garren and Florence similarly shielded Nadea and me, Anthel close by.

The creature seemed unhappy with this adjustment and rumbled louder, crinkling its muzzle and showing all its enormous teeth.

I watched Father put away his bow and draw the pistol. The sunlight glinting off the dark metal hypnotised my eyes. The shape of it flowed up through his two hands to a thin, delicate looking barrel, rising and pointing forward.

“Bael, guide my aim,” he whispered.

Nothing could have prepared me for the sound the pistol made. It was like thunder, usually far away and soothing, but banging and echoing through my head. I put my hands to my ears too late, but kept them there, both to ease them and in fear of a second shot. They rang painfully, muffling the rest of the world.

I pried my eyes open. The bear was not dead. It protested loudly, no longer questioning but cursing us in its bear language.

My mouth dropped open in horror at the amount of blood that streamed from the creature’s shoulder, trailing from where it had been to where it stood atop Sir Edhin and his horse.

The horse struggled and shrieked. Sir Edhin was unmoving and quiet.

Some of the blood belonged to the knight. Some to the horse. Some to the bear. It all ran together like streams into a wider river, pooling and swirling. I had never seen so much blood. I imaged all of that blood gushing forth from my knee when I had scraped it falling from the garden’s apple tree. It made my stomach churn.

Sir Jakoen’s horse was on its side, unmoving, a trail of claw marks across its stomach split wide, and the knight struggling feebly underneath it. His sword lay several feet away, half-hidden in the grass.

Garren stayed close, but I could see the conflict in his eyes. My heart broke for him as he watched the bear trample his mentor. It rose up and crashed its giant forepaws down over and again until the horse too quieted.

Father fiddled with the pistol. I waited for him to fire it again, to finish off the bear, but he opened and tapped and shook it instead.

The bear lost interest in the unmoving heap beneath him and turned to roar at Father, who still jiggled and slapped the pistol with growing frustration. Rasher neighed and pranced backwards, his eyes wide and rolling. The bear loped forward then rose onto its rear legs, towering over people and horses alike. Giant paws crossed its chest, trailing claws that looked longer than my hand and dripped with red.

It was huge, like a furry oak tree.

Garren pulled a knife from his saddle. I saw what he intended and thought to cry him off. I could not bare to watch the bear stomp the life from him as it had Sir Edhin, but Father was in danger as well. I tangled my fingers in Gwen’s mane and huddled against her neck, peering over her head.

Frozen, I watched as Garren lead Florence forward and shouted taunting words at the bear. I could not make out the words, his voice sounded muffled like he was underwater. Or maybe I was.

I wanted to close my eyes but they were riveted to Garren. The bear’s followed him too. It roared a challenge that made Florence hesitate, but Garren kept her steady.

A giant paw shot forward faster than looked possible from the cumbersome beast. Garren was unflinching and met the paw with his knife. The bear roared again, saliva rolling off snarling, rippling lips.

Garren eased Florence forward, and the bear took a step back, uncertain.

My heart hammered in my chest, a mixture of fear and pride. I had never seen anyone so brave as Garren. No shining armor or flashing sword, yet he still faced the bear fearlessly.

That’s when another crash of thunder tore through my head. My already ringing ears muffled it but not enough to dull the pain of it. I massaged my ears, trying to ease the ringing.

I willed my eyes back open, fearing for Garren. He still brandished the knife in a bloodless knuckled hand, but the bear retreated into the shadowy trees. A trail of red followed it into the darkness beyond my sight.

Father sat in his saddle, the pistol gripped in both hands. The tip of the barrel smoked, curling and twitching with Father’s sharp breaths.

Garren turned. “Are you alright, my lord?”

“Yes, Garren. I am unhurt. Thank you.” Father’s words came out in between pants.

Garren slid off Florence’s back and hurried to Sir Edhin’s side. I tried to sniffle back my emotion but I felt the moisture collecting in my eyes, stinging them. I wanted to go to him and comfort him, but it seemed improper to intrude upon his grief. He looked very much a boy, crying over the old knight who had raised him.

“Are you and Nadea alright?” I had not even heard Father approach, but he was beside me, his hand on my shoulder.

I nodded, unable to form words. Despite how hard I tried to hold them back, how desperately I wanted to be grown up, I began to cry. The sobs echoed in my head, the underwater sounds being replaced by a soft ringing. Father’s arms enveloped me and I collapsed against him, wetting his shirt with my tears.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I doodled with the pencil and paper Father forced me to use during council meetings, slumped down low in my chair. It was the most boring part of trying to be an adult. Serious-faced adults sitting around a table discussing how many chickens Farmer Henrik had lost to foxes this week and whether Merchant Yedra was paying her taxes in the proper amount.

“One last item.” I silently cheered as Father said it. “The matter of the squire Garren.” I dropped my pencil and sat up straighter.

“Garren recently lost his sponsor, Sir Edhin, in a hunting accident.” The table erupted in murmured prayers for Bael to grant him entrance to Elysium. “In the process, he saved my life and that of my daughter. For this, I would usually seek the council’s approval in granting him knighthood, but Garren is not royal, has no lineage or land, and therefore cannot be knighted. Sir Edhin knew this when he took Garren as his squire.” Father paused and let the council absorb his words.

“The boy is eighteen,” Merchant Findlay said. “That makes him too old for another sponsorship, even if he were a royal.”

Father nodded. “But he saved my life. He saved Sabrine’s. There must be something we can do.”

Everyone began talking at once, and Father patted the air with his hands until they quieted.

“If land is what Garren needs to be knighted, Father, then grant him land. We owe him at least that much,” I said. As every eye at the table fell upon me, I wanted to shrink lower into my chair, but I stayed straight and hoped it made me look confident.

“It’s not that simple, Sabrine,” Father replied.

“Why not?”

Father looked down at his hands. When he looked back up at me, the others at the table silent, he replied, “There are royals and there are commoners. A person is born as one or the other. Garren cannot become a royal just as you cannot become a commoner.”

His words pierced my heart more than he could have known.

“These are extreme circumstances, my lord,” Councilor Reedus said. “A grant of land seems an appropriate reward for saving you and Lady Sabrine.”

Father put on his stubborn face. “It would set an unsustainable precedent.”

“We would not be here without Garren, Father,” I said, giving him my most convincing smile. I was more stubborn than him. “And I know the perfect plot.” I thought of a secret place, where Garren disappeared to read often, where I had followed him several times. A shady bank at the edge of where the river met the forest.

I put my hand on his much larger one.

Father looked at it, pale and smooth and small next to his. He nodded once and looked up, meeting the eyes of each member of the council individually. “What say you? Let us vote. Those in favor of granting Garren land and title of knighthood, say aye.”

The response was unanimous. My heart hammered in my chest and my smile felt unable to be contained by the boundaries of my face. I hoped Father would let me tell Garren first.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This story and all related material are the original works of Awaiting the Muse and Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti. All rights reserved.
Creative Commons License
Awaiting the Muse by Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Based on a work at https://awaitingthemuse.wordpress.com/.

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Blues (Short Story)

1000 Day MFA -- Week 1

1000 Day MFA — Week 1

As part of my keeping myself accountable in writing and expanding my reading horizons, I joined a Facebook group run by the same lady that runs my Ninja Writers group for a 1000 Day MFA. Basically, we are committing to reading and writing a lot:

  • Daily: Reading (1) poem, (1) essay, and (1) short story.
  • Weekly: Writing (1) short story. Watching (3) movies.
  • Monthly: Reading (1) novel and (1) book on writing craft.
  • Yearly: Writing (1) novel.

1000 days is a huge commitment, but I have a group to keep me accountable.

Here’s my first week’s accomplishments (above), followed by my first short story. I plan to share many more in a near future, but I suppose it will depend on how complete I feel they are at the end of the week.

~ Effy

Blues

Demithyra’s great blue bulk shifted as she roused and she made a mental count out of habit. Seven. No wait, she only counted six. She counted again. Six. Six sleeping dragonettes curled beneath her. No dragonette at her left forearm.

Lazheward was missing. Again.

Demithyra let out a quiet squawk. Edarmos did not reply. He must already be out hunting. She lifted her head and scanned the dim cave. Sometimes little Laz would sneak off and occupy himself with a stone or cavern critter or stalactite puddle, but he did not respond to her soft noises either.

Had he followed his father?

She could only hope that they both returned soon. Six other dreaming dragonettes still demanded her protection.

Demithyra resettled herself, resting her scaled head in the crook of her forearm, but she did not sleep.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Lazheward splashed at the edge of the water and did not see the approach of a furred creature on four hooved legs. The creature approached from the other side of the river, leading toward the grassy plains. It got to the edge, a mere ten paces from the dragonette and gave the oblivious dragonette a cherubic grin. It looked like a human child in the face, except for the small horns and pointed ears that came from a head covered more with fur than hair.

The young dragonette heard a splashing that came from elsewhere and looked up to see the smiling child, his four legs curled beneath him like a gazelle. Surprise was quickly replaced by joy at a playmate other than his clutch-mates. Lazheward squawked, and it was a small bleeting noise. The child giggled and waved a chubby hand.

The water flowed slowly, it being the dry season at this border between the plains and the desert, and Lazheward had no problem loping on all four taloned feet through the low water to the other side.

The two younglings could not speak to one another, but it did not matter. Language was no barrier for play. They splashed and formed shapes from the sandy mud. Together they mounded it together and formed a mud hill, laughing and smiling.

As the two played, a shadow crept. Tawny fur blended into the sandy dunes and pale stripes hid it against the waving grass. It smelled the children before it saw them. Keeping low to the ground, but poised to run, the sand cat moved silently closer.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Edarmos scanned the burning desert sands. He had left again as soon as Demithyra had told him Lazheward was missing. An adult blue dragon feared little but a dragonette of less than one cycle of seasons had many possible predators in the desert.

He glided low over the sands, the heat of the climbing sun reflecting back up from each glinting grain and warming his underside. He needed to find Lazheward before the day got too late and the sun too hot. His scales could handle the heat but Lazheward’s were thinner.

Edarmos smelled the river and shortly after he caught the scent of his missing dragonette. A blue speck appeared along the sparkle of the flowing water and Edarmos bugled a call.

Lazheward made a faint happy noise in return.

Edarmos saw a centaur child sat in the mud beside the dragonette and sighed in a mixture of frustration and relief. He caught movement nearby and recognized the sinuous form of a sand cat mostly camouflaged by the sand and grass. He willed his wings to get him to his little one faster.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Vol’zan returned to the centaur camp early in the day, a gazelle with half an arrow still in its heart slung over his shoulder. He acknowledged his clan members with silent nods. His lifemate, Asa’fre, greeted him with a kiss and took the gazelle to clean it.

Settling himself in the shade of their tent flap, Vol’zan looked around the camp and settled his eyes on his youngling, Cer’ah, playing quietly with her doll just inside the family’s tent.

“Where is Mi’an?” Vol’zan asked.

“Playing with his sister,” Asa’fre replied, not looking up from the delicate cuts she made with her knife.

“Cer’ah, where is your brother?”

Cer’ah shrugged and did not look up from her doll. “Probably playing in the mud. He’s always getting dirty and trying to get my Kie’lee dirty.”

Asa’fre met Vol’zan’s concerned gaze.

They heard the bugle of a dragon and Vol’zan took off, his limbs a flurry of movement, his bow clutched tightly in his hand, and his quiver slapping against his shoulder. He saw the great gliding blue wings and ran with a stomach heavy with dread like rock.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Edarmos watched the sand cat until he saw another flash of movement coming from the plains side of the river. A full grown centaur galloped through the golden scrub, bow at the ready, heading straight toward Lazheward and his playmate. The blue hesitated, scaly lips peeling back from his teeth, and almost adjusted his descent, but the sand cat must have seen the centaur as well and broke into a sprint.

Fearing he would reach them too late, Edarmos flapped his great wings harder, though he knew each flap made him less able to stop himself. He braced for hitting the grassy sands with all four claws out before him.

He hit the ground. The sand cat screamed. Edarmos felt only sand and scrub grass in his claws, but squeezed anyway. He felt the burning pain of talons along his belly, death throes as the sand cat was crushed beneath him. Then nothing.

Edarmos slid to a stop and his chin fell to the sand with a thump. The form of the sand cat and its claws, along with a thousand tiny pieces of hot sand, all burned his underside. He expelled a great breath that shot a spray of sand into the air before him.

Lazheward was at his nose, tugging a tooth and a nostril playfully.

“Mi’an!” the centaur cried and swept up the child with one arm, the other still holding tight to the bow. He set the child on his back and drew and cocked an arrow in one motion. The centaur held it ready, trembling but his face a menacing growl.

Edarmos rose with an effort, pulling Lazheward upwards with his snout and bouncing the dragonette onto his nose. The babe squawked and grinned. The sand cat still clung to his belly, already growing rigid, and Edarmos flinched as he plucked the talons from the raw, dirty wounds.

The stiffening cat hit the ground and sent up a cloud of golden dust.

Edarmos lowered himself back to the ground, both to protect his vulnerable belly and to make himself less threatening. The sand stung and blood oozed but he fought to ignore it. He tilted his snout in a way that protected Lazheward were an arrow to fly but relaxed the snarl on his face despite the throbbing pain.

The centaur hesitated. His face and arms relaxed. He too positioned himself in a way the child remained hidden from Edarmos’s view. He lowered the bow and the readied arrow a few inches.

The two fathers faced off for several breaths, neither moving.

Then the centaur backed several steps away. When Edarmos did not move, he backed off a few more. Then he turned and galloped away, glancing backwards several times.

When the centaur was out of view, Edarmos plucked Lazheward from his nose and tucked him into his forepaw. The dragonette squirmed but stayed put.

Making a noise deep in his throat, the blue dragon spat at the sand beneath him. Blue and white lightning crackled and melted the sand into hot red balls of molten glass. In his free forepaw, taking a deep breath to steady himself, Edarmos picked up the glass while it was still malleable and spread it across the dripping wounds of his chest and belly. The liquid did not burn his hands, but it stung the wounds, raw and open as they were. He smoothed it around until the wounds stopped bleeding and the glass had formed a tight but effective covering.

Picking up the sand cat by the scruff of its rigid neck, Edarmos sprang into the air to take his dragonette home.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“My precious Mi’an,” Asa’fre wept, holding their child against her.

Mi’an fidgeted and squirmed. Finally she let him down and he rushed off to play. She watched him even as she spoke, not willing to let him out of her sight again. “The dragon just let you leave?” she asked as she wiped her wet eyes.

Vol’zan nodded.

“What was Mi’an doing?”

“Just playing with the dragon youngling in the mud.”

“I don’t understand. They’ve never thought twice about eating our kind. It’s why we follow the herds east in the wet season, to avoid them when they’re more active.” Asa’fre’s face crinkled in confusion as she looked to her mate for answers.

“I don’t know, perhaps it didn’t want to hurt Mi’an. It never made a move at us, just the sand cat. It seemed more concerned with protecting its youngling then with us.” Her mate paused. “I did not see the sand cat in time to stop it before it ran at the little ones. I wouldn’t have been able to save them.”

“Then we will thank Suriya the dragon arrived when it did.” Asa’fre hugged her mate, Mi’an still at the edge of her vision. It was the strangest prayer she ever made to the sun goddess, but watching her child pester his sister when he might have never come home made it the most heartfelt too.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Demithyra nuzzled her precious and frustrating dragonette, making noises that were almost purrs at tiny Lazheward.

“I couldn’t think to harm the child,” Edarmos confessed. “Nor will I hunt when not for food.” He absently shredded the sand cat into the pieces their dragonettes could manage. It pulled at glass protecting his tender chest, but it did not tear the wounds open again.

Lazheward squeezed out of his mother’s reach and grabbed the first piece. His clutch-mates followed after him, but he was munching away on a second piece before they even started.

“Maybe we should go farther into the desert,” Demithyra said. “Somewhere we won’t run into the centaurs. Family is all that matters now.”

Edarmos nodded. “We’ll have to go farther to hunt, but perhaps it’s for the best.”

“I want no more conflict. I just want to raise our family where no one, dragon, centaur, or otherwise, will trouble us.” Demithyra corralled her dragonettes with her tail and put a foreclaw on her mate’s. The two dragons nuzzled and looked down gratefully on their dragonettes.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This story and all related material are the original works of Awaiting the Muse and Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti. All rights reserved.
Creative Commons License
Awaiting the Muse by Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Based on a work at https://awaitingthemuse.wordpress.com/.

On Writing: My 8 Favorite Worldbuilding Stories

fantasy world

As a lifetime reader, watcher, and writer of fantasy, it always fascinates me to discover an extraordinary new world. The stories with the greatest worldbuilding–worldbuilding that is completely interwoven with the story–seem to be the ones that stick with me throughout my life. Because of that, I wanted to touch on 8 of my favorite, mostly those that have been made into movies.

Many of these stories have inspired certain pieces of my own worldbuilding in my world of Dadreon.

Here they are in no particular order.

Warning: This post may contain spoilers! I will be discussing the specifics of plots in a number of movies/books. I will do my best not to give away any endings or plot points that directly reveal the ending.

The Neverending Story

The Never Ending Story

The Neverending Story is the perfect story of an outsider who enters a troubled fantasy world in the middle of a conflict and learns of it as he goes. The relatable human boy, Bastion, learns about the world of Fantasia as it unfolds before him while reading a story book and seeing it through the eyes of Atreyu, the story’s hero. Atreyu is trying to stop the Nothing, which is eating away his world. But how do you stop “nothing”? Throughout the story, Fantasia is portrayed as a world so beautiful and full of fascinating creatures that you want to see it saved.

This was adapted from a book that I still need to read.

The Dark Crystal

The Dark Crystal

I love this movie. Not only is The Dark Crystal gorgeous and full of Jim Henson’s creations, but the story and the world are incredible, even 30 or so years after I first watched it.

An all-powerful race kept peace until the source of their power, the crystal, cracked. The benevolent race was split into two separate races–the evil Skeksis and the good Mystics. It is prophesied that only a Gelfling can heal the crystal, and so the Skeksis hunt the Gelflings to what they think is extinction. But two remain, and they journey to heal the crystal before their world is plunged into a thousand years of dark Skeksis rule.

Also, I love that The Crystal Method use the opening lines from The Dark Crystal in one of their most well-known songs, “Trip Like I Do.”

Wizards

Wizards

Wizards is a lesser-known movie, and strange in many ways, but fascinating and rich–and a cartoon! It is both fantasy and science fiction, because it is based on a post-apocalyptic Earth destroyed by war and man-made weapons. This war killed most and mutated those who remained. Only thousands of years later has Earth and its inhabitants started to heal, and it has become a world of fairies and elves versus mutants and assassins. Two twin brothers were born–one good and whole, the other evil and mutated–who became the most powerful wizards in the world. Blackwolf, the wicked brother, becomes the ruler of the wasteland, Scorch, leading the rabble of mutants and assassins there. He tries over and over to conquer the fairy land of Montagar and fails until, after searching the ruins of old civilization, he discovers war machines and a projector of Nazi propaganda. The films encourage his mutants and terrify the fairies and elves. Finally, the good brother, Avatar, is forced to journey to save the healing world from his brother, and he leaves on this quest with the fairy Elinore, the elf Weehawk, and the assassin-turned-ally Necron 99 (AKA Peace). The scenery, creatures, and characters are all wonderful, even in the blunt and brutal way they are portrayed. That’s probably why I like it, because the characters are all flawed.

The Last Unicorn

The Last Unicorn

The Last Unicorn is another obscure cartoon movie I’m not sure anyone has seen. It is beautiful and full of wonderful characters. It is about exactly what the title promises–the last unicorn. Why is she the last? Well, that is what she leaves her safe, enchanted forest of everlasting spring to find out. She follows stories of the Red Bull:

You can find the others if you are brave. They passed down all the roads long ago, and the Red Bull ran close behind them and covered their footprints.

On her journey, she discovers a magician and a scullery maid who accompany her. They come to the castle of King Haggard, who is the owner of the Red Bull. There, they discover the old King’s obsession with the sea, a fairy tale romance, and the fate of the other unicorns.

This movie was adapted from the book of the same title by Peter S. Beagle. I have read and very much enjoyed it.

Unico in the Island of Magic

Unico

The cartoon movie, Unico in the Island of Magic, is probably the only Anime I will ever like. (I tried to watch Akira long ago and numerous times, and it still makes little sense to me. It always feels like big chunks of plot and explanation are missing.) This movie is about a little unicorn who was banished by the gods because he had the ability to bring great happiness to those around him, a power the jealous gods felt should be only theirs. The West Wind takes pity on tiny Unico, and instead of banishing him, takes him elsewhere. Because of this disobedience, the West Wind is forced to move Unico whenever the gods discover where he is. So this takes Unico on many adventures, though his memory is erased each time he is moved.

In the Island of Magic adventure, Unico is taken in by a girl named Cheri. Cheri’s old brother, Toby, is the apprentice of a powerful and evil magician named Lord Kuruku. Toby’s job is to change people into living puppets and lead them to Lord Kuruku. When Lord Kuruku changes Cheri’s and Toby’s parents into living puppets, Cheri and Unico go on a quest to find Toby and beg him to stop. I mostly remembered this for how much Lord Kuruku scared the crap out of me as a kid, but also because of the strange land the story takes place in.

How to Train Your Dragon

How to Train Your Dragon

I love cartoons. Maybe that is obvious from this list. I also LOVE dragons. So I really wanted to sit down and watch How to Train Your Dragon, and I’m really glad I did. The Viking fishing island of Berk is constantly plagued by dragon attacks. Hiccup, the bumbling son of the Viking leader is a disappointment to his father, who thinks his son will never be a dragonslayer. Hiccup, however, is more of a tinkerer than a warrior. After a raid on the village, Hiccup follows an injured dragon into the woods, but he can’t bring himself to kill it. He later befriends it, helps it to fly again, and learns more about the dragons and why they are raiding his village.

This was adapted from a book that I still need to read.

Avatar

Avatar

I was far more impressed with Avatar than I expected to be. The story is good, even though it is a standard humans versus “primitives” story, where the humans try to come in and take whatever they want because they feel they deserve it more than the indigenous species who belongs there and lives with the land instead of destroying it. It is the worldbuilding of this movie that pulls everything together and makes this well-known story different and gorgeous and new all over again. I love how seamlessly the Na’vi live and interact with their world of Pandora. They communicate and work with the animals of the planet through fascinating symbiotic relationships. They also speak to their goddess, Eywa, through their beautiful groves.

Ender’s Game: Speaker for the Dead

Speaker for the Dead

This last one is not a movie. The book Ender’s Game (which was recently made into a good, but mildly disappointing movie) is my absolute favorite book. It is the follow-up book, Speaker for the Dead, that contains some of the best worldbuilding and alien/creature creation I have ever encountered. Ender is asked to Speak for a dead man on the colony planet, Lusitania. He discovers people there who are walled into their village in an attempt to avoid any more interaction with the local culture, the Pequeninos (the Piggies). Ender finds out that the Piggies killed a few of the local xenobiologists who were trying to teach them to farm, among other things. It seems the Piggies are an intelligent race, happy to learn the things the more advanced humans want to teach them, and so Ender has to unravel the mystery of why these seemingly friendly aliens have killed some of their human teachers.

The life cycle of the Piggies unfolds during the course of this and the two following books (Xenocide and Children of the Mind), and it is this life cycle that I find so fascinating. It has inspired me in my own work. I hesitate to say more, for fear of ruining the story for others.

Read them. That’s all I’ll say.

In Conclusion

When writing and especially when worldbuilding, the more you read and watch the more you have at your disposal to spark your own ideas. I honestly feel the movies above that I enjoyed as a child, and continue to enjoy as an adult, do this because they are fascinating and original and thought-provoking. I have obviously added to them in more recent years, and these newer stories have only broadened my ideas of what COULD BE or what MIGHT BE and most importantly, they have sparked the all-important phrase: WHAT IF?

And that simple phrase–WHAT IF?–is the basis for all we do as writers of fantasy and science fiction.

Never stop asking: WHAT IF?

~ Effy

What story worlds inspire you?

WoW and Women

WoW and Women - Effy

I may be late to the party, but I am ready to rock!  As usual, I am inspired to comment by the profound and honest, Navimie.

Defining Fantasy

WoW and Women - Dragons

Let me start with an honest question: At what point did we ever get led to believe that WoW has ANY basis in reality?  Fantasy is the big word here.

Fantasy (noun) – The faculty or activity of imagining things that are impossible or improbable.

Fantasy equals:

  • Magic – Arcane, Divine, Fel
  • Magical creatures – Dragons, living oozes, Qiraji/Nerubians/Mantids, Demons, Elementals
  • Aliens – Draenei and Orcs
  • Other Non-Humans – Tauren, Goblins, Elves. Pandaren, Trolls, Gnolls
  • Gods – Titans and Old Gods
  • Unrealistic world events – Exploding planets, Cataclysm, space travel, time travel, the dead coming back to life

So, with a stark reminder that WoW =/= reality, why should the machinations and relationships and even outfits of the characters in this fantasy world be any more realistic?  Unrealistic worlds lead to unrealistic interactions and reactions we can only guess at.

I mean, to even try and truly empathize with a fantasy character is a delusion.

To empathize requires sharing the feelings of another.  Because I can never put myself into the situation of watching the Burning Legion enslave my race and destroy my planet and chase my renegade family through the cosmos for thousands of years, I can only make guesses at what this would feel like.  Therefore, I can sympathize, I can imagine, I can create fiction, but I cannot empathize.

Avatars

WoW and Women - Iree

Video game avatars are the face we present to others when we are in a gaming world.  They can signify ourselves or they can signify an ideal we strive toward (a role model) or they can be complete fiction of a character that grows with us.

Avatar (noun) – An incarnation, embodiment, or manifestation of a person or idea.

My favorite race is the Draenei.  Not because they are sex-on-hooves, but because they are completely different from myself in real life.  (And they are blue and have tails.)  Effraeti, and her adopted daughter Ireenia, have become my projection of my fantasy-self, my avatars.  Fantasy is a step away from ourselves, delving deeper not into what COULD be (that’s Sci Fi, ie. the possible future), but into what COULD NEVER be (Fantasy, ie. worlds and characters bore completely of imagination).

Heck, that is why Ireenia is a dragon – because I could never be a dragon (or even meet one – sigh) IRL.  🙂

So though I may project my own personality upon my characters, they are in no way 100% me.  They are fantastical representations of myself.  Not even an ideal, because I believe they still have flaws.  Therefore, their outfits and actions are also fantastical.

Because even though I am a t-shirt, jeans and sneakers girl – Draenei don’t have feet, they cannot wear sneakers.  😉  Draenei “shoes” are more appropriately categorized as leg-warmers.

Female Role Models

WoW and Women - Alexstrasza Humanoid

Role Model (noun) – A person looked to by others as an example to be imitated.

The other night, Navi asked me if I consider any WoW female story characters role models.  Well, personally, even in real life I don’t really have any role models.  Being that a role model is someone ideal to look up to and imitate – I have my own standards and ideals that I strive for, some even I cannot live up to.  heh  I could say my mom, because she is selfless and loving and has always been there for me, but there are things I would do differently and I have different goals than her.  But my mom is probably the closest I would go to naming a role model.

So trying to name a role model in WoW is even more difficult for me, personally.  But I will say there are some women in WoW I find fascinating and inspiring.

Like people in real life, or the personas I create in my WoW characters, WoW storyline characters have pros and cons, ideal characteristics and flaws.

Alexstrasza

WoW and Women - Alexstrasza

Alexstrasza is a very powerful female character.  She is the leader of a matriarchal society, being the both the leader of the red dragonflight and the Dragon Queen of all the dragonflights on Azeroth.  She has faced many trials, certainly not limited to the defection of her friend and ally, Neltharion, the death of her mate, Korialstrasz, and the loss of her immortality and Titan-given powers.  Despite all this, she is still a strong character with morals and actions that can be commended.

Ysera

WoW and Women - Ysera

Ysera is another dragon and leader of the green dragonflight.  She has long been the keeper and protector of the Emerald Dream, and led a powerful defense that drove out the corrupting forces tainting the Emerald Dream.  She has also been through many trials, similar to her sister, Alexstrasza, and thought she is not as prominent a figure as her sister, she has stayed strong and true to herself.

Lorna Crowley

WoW and Women - Lorna Crowley

Lorna Crowley is an important story character in the Worgen start zone.  She is a Gilnean and daughter to Lord Darius Crowley.  Your first encounter with her is her saving your life when you are bitten by a Worgen and infected.  Throughout the rest of the storyline, she proves to be a strong and valuable ally to you, leading many attacks fearlessly in the defense of Gilneas.

Lady Liadrin

WoW and Women - Lady Liadrin

Lady Liadrin is a Blood Elf and the leader of the Blood Knights.  Originally, she was a character seeming to be driven by the same addictions that threatened to destroy her people.  After the perversion and destruction of the Sunwell by Arthas and the Scourge, the Blood Elves were desperate to find an alternate source for feeding their magical addictions.  Lady Liadrin was one of the driving forces in binding and leeching away the very life force of M’uru, a Naaru, to pervert the powers of the Light and create a group of Blood Knights, similar to the Paladins.  It was after the betrayal of Kael’thas that she threw herself at the mercy of A’dal in Shattrath City, swore allegiance to the Shattered Sun Offensive, and became, with her Blood Knights, an integral player in the rekindling of the Sunwell.

Moira Bronzebeard-Thaurissan

WoW and Women - Moria Thaurissan

Princess Moira was to be the heir of Ironforge and the Bronzebeard legacy.  She defied her father and left Ironforge to marry Emperor Dagran Thaurissan of the Dark Iron, another powerful but rival dwarven clan.  At first, Moira seems a fairly flat character, seeming more like a hapless prisoner of Emperor Dagran than anything else.  But after his death and the unintentional petrification of her father Magni, Moira returns to Ironforge with Dagran’s son, seeking to claim the leadership of the Bronzbeard clan in addition to that of the Dark Irons.  A period of civil unrest followed, and Moira settled for a joint leadership in the Council of Three Hammers.   Most recently, Moira has proved she is more than just a tyrant and is most interested in gaining the approval of her people and the Alliance.

~ Effy

Who are your role models in WoW (female or male)?