#WriteAwayJune Days 12-18

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This week’s set of writing challenges included using my chosen characters in a writing prompt, and then writing three different endings to that prompt. For each character. Never fear! I did fulfill these challenges, but since the prompts and their subsequent endings were so long, I’ve decided to post them separately in July. This will give me time to tighten up the stories and make them presentable, and it will also give you time to enjoy each story on their own. The rest of the challenges, however, I have included in this blog post just as I have the last two weeks.

As usual, I’ve divided this blog by character and social media platform, rather than dividing them by the daily challenge. And if you like the characters or want to join in the challenge yourself, feel free to follow me on any of the listed platforms!

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@DragonnessRawr Twitter Profile, Character: Alli Clairing

July 12 – Describe Your Character’s Ideal Day

Alli likes a late October evening, when all of the trees have turned colors, but haven’t yet lost their leaves. These nights are perfect for roasting marshmallows over a fire, and for sitting in the back of a truck, bundled in blankets while you look at the stars.

July 13 – What was Your Character’s Favorite Toy?

Alli discovered her love for the arts and for mythical creatures  around the age of nine. Her older sister, Brittany, latched onto her sister’s interests and encouraged them, even buying a hand-painted dragon matryoshka (nesting doll) for her birthday. Alli loved it! She took special care of the unique doll, not playing with it like her other toys, but setting it out on her bedside table and examining the details over and over until she had them memorized.

July 14 – Complete a Writing Prompt Using Your Character

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*Will be featured at a later date*

July 15 – Write Three Endings to the Above Prompt

*Will be featured at a later date*

July 16 – Coffee, Tea, or Cocoa?

Alli is definitely a coffee drinker. On Alli’s sixteenth birthday, Brittany took her to Starbucks and ordered a white mocha for her. Alli loved the drink, and nicknamed it her “beverage of joy.” Since then, she’s experimented with other coffees, doing cold brew, espresso, cappuccino, and Kuerig. Her favorite Kuerig coffee is called “Dark Magic,” to which she adds killer bee honey and cream. Her all-time favorite “coffee” drink, however, is the Starbuck’s S’mores Frappuccino.

July 17 – Write a Father’s Day Card for Your Character’s Father

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July 18 – What is Your Character’s Pet Peeve?

Alli hates it when things aren’t organized by color. Her closet, art supplies, book shelf, and shoes are all organized in descending rainbow order, then by size, also descending. If Brittany gets too distracted shopping and looses track of Alli (or Alli gets tired of waiting for Brittany to decide on a shirt), Brittany can always find her sister by following the trail of reorganized items.

To learn more about Alli, follow “The Oathbreakers Trilogy” page on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter @DragonnessRawr

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@Dragonnessw – Instagram Profile, Character: Faye Williams

July 12 – Describe Your Character’s Ideal Day

Faye is one of those people that likes rainy days. For her, it’s not so much reading a good book under her blanket or watching the rain drip down the windows, but it’s a sadistic enjoyment of the knowledge that everyone planning on going to the beach that day is going to be miserable.

July 13 – What was Your Character’s Favorite Toy?

Faye’s favorite toy was a stuffed black horse given to her by a cousin on her tenth birthday. It was a floppy horse that fit nicely in her arms, made even more perfect by the fact that Faye was going through her pony phase. Even though she grew out of her pony obsession, the stuffed horse (whom she named Midnight) stayed in its place of honor on her bed—no matter how many awesome Disney plush tried to replace him.

July 14 – Complete a Writing Prompt Using Your Character

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*Will be featured at a later date*

July 15 – Write Three Endings to the Above Prompt

*Will be featured at a later date*

July 16 – Coffee, Tea, or Cocoa?

When Faye was six years old, she asked for cocoa in the middle of July. In FLORIDA. Her mother told her not to be ridiculous and gave her a cup of ice cold sweet tea instead. In a childish burst of temper, Faye threw the tea at a curious squirrel, and she was immediately grounded. Now, Faye makes it a point to drink hot chocolate when it’s 80°+ because it makes her feel like a rebel.

July 17 – Write a Father’s Day Card for Your Character’s Father

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July 18 – What is Your Character’s Pet Peeve?

Faye hates being told what to do. It’s not so much the kind of instructions that are “how to do” like “how to do math,” or “how to diagram a sentence,” but more the instructions of “use a fork when you eat a muffin that large” or “sit like a lady.” Faye hates being told how to behave when it doesn’t effect anything important.

To learn more about Faye Williams, follow me on Instagram @Dragonnessw

Nadina - Colored Pencil (2)

Dragonness Wyverna – Facebook Author Page, Character: Nadina

July 12 – Describe Your Character’s Ideal Day

Nadina loves a day that is just on the brisk side of warm—69°! Then she can be comfortable either in her human skin or her bear fur. She likes to see the sun circled by enough white clouds to keep the heat from rising, while not inhibiting the natural light too much. It’s days like these that she can wander the fields peacefully and take time to relax.

July 13 – What was Your Character’s Favorite Toy?

Nadina only ever had one toy, and it was a little doll her mother had bought for her first birthday. The doll was made from leftover fabrics the tailor had, but he still did a good job making the little doll look nice. Nadina held onto the doll after her parents died, and she used to pretend that her doll was her mother.

July 14 – Complete a Writing Prompt Using Your Character

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*Will be featured at a later date*

July 15 – Write Three Endings to the Above Prompt

*Will be featured at a later date*

July 16 – Coffee, Tea, or Cocoa?

The knowledge of tea has been lost, the plants that produce coffee have become extinct, and cocoa is only for the rich. So Nadina drinks water.

July 17 – Write a Father’s Day Card for Your Character’s Father

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July 18 – What is Your Character’s Pet Peeve?

Nadina hates being judged by her position. She loves being a scavenger, and she has no desire to “trade up” on the social ladder. It drives her insane when anyone–including her brother–talks about scavenging as if its lower than an omega. Scavenging to her, is like finding the pieces of a lost puzzle, and is a great mystery for her to solve. She hates that no one else can see that.

To learn more about Nadina, follow my author page, “Dragonness Wyverna” on Facebook.

Cassie - Buster Ball Gown

Writer’s Unite – Closed Facebook Group, Character: Cassandra “Cassie” Moon

July 12 – Describe Your Character’s Ideal Day

Cassie loves a crisp autumn day—preferably in October. Winter’s chill hasn’t started, but the summer heat is beginning to taper off. She loves the days were it’s about 78°, the sun is warm, and she can lie on a rock or in a field and sleep in the sun.

July 13 – What was Your Character’s Favorite Toy?

Cassie’s favorite toy is her Two Towers Legolas action figure. She collected the entire Legolas set, but the Two Towers Helms Deep armor was always her favorite. And since she never managed to get a Faramir toy, she would pair her Eowyn with Legolas, and together they were unstoppable!

July 14 – Complete a Writing Prompt Using Your Character

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***Please note: I did not write the above prompt. I found it on Pinterest, and I am very aware that “fairies” is misspelled.

*Will be featured at a later date*

July 15 – Write Three Endings to the Above Prompt

*Will be featured at a later date*

July 16 – Coffee, Tea, or Cocoa?

Cassie is a total coffee girl! She drinks hers with a TBSP of heavy cream, and six packets of TRUVIA (not sugar), and her favorite home brew is Folger’s Coffeehouse. When going out for coffee, yes, she likes STARBUCKS. Her order there is typically a triple venti mocha with extra whipped cream. Dunkin’ Donuts is gross.

July 17 – Write a Father’s Day Card for Your Character’s Father

Cassie almost has three fathers. She has Thomas Moon, the man who raised her, loved her, and who, for sixteen years she believed truly was her father. Then she has Chroniclus, an elf who put her in the care of Thomas Moon, and who rescued her from her birth father. After she turned sixteen, Chroniclus is the one who invited Cassie to Mid-Realm, and he looked after her while she was in the Academy. Then there is Cassie’s birth father, the Dragon Earth King, Haldis. He intended to train Cassie to be a weapon, but Cassie’s mother, Agrona, wouldn’t hear of it. So Agrona reached out to Chroniclus, and Chroniclus got Cassie to a loving family.

I decided to write Cassie’s Father’s Day card to her blood father, Haldis.

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July 18 – What is Your Character’s Pet Peeve?

Cassie hates when people are playing with her stuff. Not if they’re playing nicely with it, and it’s supposed to be played with, but when they pick up one of her ceramics or statuettes and start fiddling with it. She developed this pet peeve because her brother had a subconscious habit of fiddling with things while he was talking. His hands always had to be busy, and often he didn’t even realize he’d picked something up until Cassie yelled at him to “Put the glass dragon down!”

For more about Cassie, come back next week for #WriteAwayJune days 19-25

I hope you all are enjoying #WriteAwayJune! Let me know which character you’re enjoying most, and don’t forget, there’s still time to join in the challenge!

WriteAwayJune 2018 Challenge

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#WriteAwayJune Days 5-11

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Welcome back to Blotted Ink for more #WriteAwayJune fun! This year, #WriteAwayJune’s theme is character, and I was challenged to pick one character and take them through each of these daily challenges. But since I don’t know how to pick just one, I did a different character across my different social media platforms. I decided to combine four of those platforms here on Blotted Ink so that my readers don’t have to traverse the internet to see them all. My previous blog post hosted days 1-4, so here are days 5-11.

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@DragonnessRawr Twitter Profile, Character: Alli Clairing

June 5 – Your Character Would Sell Their Soul For..?
Though Alli would never truly sell her soul for anything (she knows better than to do that!), the thing she wants most in the worlds is for her parents to join her on Oran. Alli didn’t mean to leave Earth, but when she arrived on Oran, she never wanted to go back. Despite how welcoming Miaku, Karran, and the Menagerie were to Alli and Brittany, Alli couldn’t come to peace with how she and her sister had suddenly vanished from their parents’ lives. She could only imagine what her mother and father were going through on Earth, searching for their two daughters that no cop or private eye could ever find.

June 6 – Your Character’s Greatest Fear

     The picture pulled out to show a pair of man’s hands gripping a crystal globe. Colors shot out of the crystal toward something beyond her sight, and she heard a horrible scream. It echoed around her skull, absorbing all her senses until all she could hear was the screaming of someone in unimaginable pain.
~ Forged

On one level, Alli is scared of the future because she knows that something terrible is going to happen. On another level, she is scared of the scrying pool that showed her the vision of that terrifying future. But her greatest fear is of that orb she saw, and the scream that came after it. The orb that has some mysterious, terrible power, and the scream that is familiar, and filled with such unrecognizable pain. THAT is what wakes Alli up at night.

June 7 –  A Defining Moment in Your Character’s Life

     Alli regretted not finding some time to grab breakfast. The fight was exhausting, and the constant grumble from her stomach was splitting her concentration in two very dangerous directions. Her legs felt like jelly and were threatening to give out on her. There was a hint of lilacs and honeysuckle on the wind, filling Alli’s senses with calming thoughts. She locked onto the scent, determined to drive away all fatigue.
She heard someone come up behind her and swung around to face the most incredible looking man she had ever seen. She saw his sword glinting in the sun, and brought hers up toward him. He met it halfway, grinding it into a lock. She was panting and felt the sweat trickle down her forehead, but noticed that the man didn’t seem tired. In fact, he was smiling. She liked it.
“Hi,” he said peaceably, pushing at the lock.
Alli found herself smiling back. “Hi.”
He relented, causing her to stumble. He caught her before she fell and chuckled. “Sorry.”
Alli secured her footing and stood. “No problem,” she said, tucking a flyaway strand behind her ear. She glanced up at him, searching for the tell-tale colored band, but didn’t see one. She did note how tall he was, having to really look up to meet his gaze. She wasn’t used to feeling short. “What side are you on?”
“I’m not.”
“Then what are you doing here?”
“Helping.”
“Helping who?”
He glanced over her shoulder, and his arm shot out. She spun to see that a silver member had been sneaking up on her. The man rapped him sharply on the chest, and simply said, “Dead.” The other man stepped back, bowed respectfully, and retreated. Alli spun back around to look at him. He smiled, and straightened. “Never lower your guard.”
“Right.”
He sheathed his sword and held his hand out to her. “Come on. Let’s get off the battle field.”
Alli took a step back. “That’s desertion.”
“This isn’t real, you know.”
“It’d be a strange battle if it were. But this is to prepare us for real battle, and in a real battle, abandoning your teammates is desertion, and treachery against the crown.”
“You’re serious about this, aren’t you?”
“Why shouldn’t I be?” She caught some movement out of the corner of her eye and followed it to the watchtower. She couldn’t make out a shape—it moved too quickly—but it made her uneasy.
He followed her gaze. “What is it?”
“I think there’s something in the watchtower. I didn’t get a good look though.”
He frowned, picking up on her unease. “It won’t hurt to check it out. Unless you’re worried about deserting your team?”
“    No. This is more important.” She started toward the tower, weaving her way through the dwindling battle.

~ Forged

I know, it’s a bit sad that a defining moment in Alli’s life is her meeting a guy, but this is an important moment for her. Karran has just recognized her innate ability with the sword and wants to help her develop this raw talent into true skill. It’s the beginning of her becoming a fierce warrior!

June 8 –  How Would Your Character React to Being in a Different World?

     Brittany was the first one to regain the power of speech, though it took her a moment and a few noisy gasps before she could manage actual words. “Where are we?”
Alli looked around at the lush meadow where they had landed. Nothing looked familiar. She glanced up at the sky, squinting at the bright glare caused by sunlight bouncing off the clouds, for that’s all the sky was: cloud. She couldn’t spot the sun through the thick gray blanket, but it was definitely daytime. On Earth, the sun had already set. Here, it seemed like it had recently risen. “I’m guessing not Kansas.”
Brittany stood, her knees wobbling unsteadily. “We need to get home. Mom and Dad will be wondering what happened to us. And here, you need to eat something.” She fished a granola bar out of her pocket and handed it to her sister.
Alli rolled her eyes at her sister’s strange sense of practicality. “It’s been five minutes! They won’t be missing us yet.” She eyed the granola bar with annoyance but ate it dutifully.
“I’d rather them not miss us at all. We still need to get ice cream. I know I’ll need a pint for myself after that—fall? Whatever it was.”
“I’m going to go with ‘portal.’ Which begs the question: how are you planning on getting back home? I don’t really see us getting back the way we came.”
Brittany glared at her. “It wasn’t a portal. We are not on another world!”
“Fine. We’re ‘dream-sharing.’ And we happen to be dreaming that we’re in another world.” Alli sifted through the grasses, found a little pebble, and threw it at her sister. Brittany yelped in protest when the pebble struck her hip, and Alli pumped her fist triumphantly. “You don’t feel pain in dreams! This is real, and we’re in another world. No use denying it!”
“I’ll deny it as much as I want, but since I can’t get you to use your brain, what should we do?” She looked up at the sky. “Do you think we could find a dragon to get us up high enough to re-enter the portal?”
She decided not to mention the dragon she had thought she’d seen in the woods. “Sorry to disappoint you, Bree, but dragons aren’t really known for being all that cooperative.”
“People ride them all the time in the movies, don’t they?”
“Since when has Hollywood given an accurate portrayal of anything?”
“Okay, fine. Since you know so much, what do you suggest we do?”
“Pick a direction and start walking?”
“Which direction?” Brittany scanned the horizon for any sign of life.
Alli balled up the granola wrapped and shoved it into her pocket as she stood. She pointed her arm and spun, stopping when she was too dizzy to continue. She shook her head and blinked twice to steady her vision. “I guess that way.”
Brittany considered the chosen path. “Well, I guess that’s as good as any.” She began walking in the direction Alli was pointing, assuming the lead and letting her sister walk behind. “What kind of world do you think we’ve landed in, anyway?”
“Considering the lack of any kind of technology, I’m guessing fantasy. Which is potentially more dangerous.”
“Wonderful.”
“Yeah! Hey, do think I could get a sword?”
“Ha, no.”
~ Forged

Yeah, Alli would be excited. I don’t think it’d matter which world she’d ended up on, she’d be ecstatic to be somewhere else, just to KNOW that there are other options out there.

June 9 – Who is Your Character’s Oldest Friend?

Alli’s oldest, and probably most beloved, friend is Eleanor “Ellie” Black. Ellie was a military brat, but her father had retired and settled in Glen Burnie. He and Ellie started a ranch, and Alli got a job there helping to clean the stables and tend the horses. After that, Alli and Ellie were inseparable, both interested in art, though Ellie’s interests lay more in photography while Alli’s lay in drawing, and they both loved to wreak havoc with how similar their names were.

June 10 – What is Your Character’s Motivation?

Alli has a hero complex. When she arrives in Oran, she identifies the fantastic situation she’s in, and she dubs herself the hero. In her mind, she is immortal, though she accepts that every hero is bound to suffer to an extent. She passes this immortality to her close friends, refusing to believe that they could die or even get hurt beyond repair. She believes that she can save the kingdom and live happily ever after with her loved ones.

June 11 – Where is Your Character’s Quiet Place?

On Earth, Alli’s quiet place is her bedroom. The walls are a painted mural, and she has a desk covered with art supplies. On Oran, she doesn’t find a quiet place until Karran takes her to Rahdebor. Then, she befriends Diah, the daughter of the innkeeper, and her quiet place becomes her room in the Dragon’s Inn. She goes there whenever she’s having problems with Maeridan, and whenever she’s struggling to come to terms with her actual role in the war.

Follow me on Twitter @DragonnessRawr to learn more about Alli!

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@Dragonnessw – Instagram Profile, Character: Faye Williams

June 5 – Your Character Would Sell Their Soul For..?
Faye was born with the ability to see into the future, and when she was five year old, she saw HER future. She saw herself married to her neighbor and best friend, David Jones. She saw them happy and living in comfort. Then her whole world was turned upside down when her parents were killed and she was whisked away to another planet. Suddenly, the future she had foreseen for herself, had relied on, seemed impossible.

June 6 – Your Character’s Greatest Fear
It’s the only glimpse of Cassie’s future that Faye has ever seen, and it was of fire, endless misery, and sorrow. It was explained to Faye later that she had seen the 10th Prophecy of Cassandra Moon. Cassie is Faye’s best friend, and Faye can’t shake the image of her sweet, strong friend destroying ten planets.

June 7 – A Defining Moment in Your Character’s Life
Faye can’t see her own future, but she began to notice that she had disappeared from her friends’ futures. She couldn’t figure out how or why, but she did figure out WHEN. Then, on that fateful day, her mostly absentee parents decided to take her on a trip, and Faye suddenly understood what was going to happen. No matter how hard she tried to get her parents to delay or to take a different route, her immediate future wouldn’t change. Then on the drive, another car lost control and careened into her family. Just like that, both parents were dead, and Faye was whisked away from Earth.

June 8 – How Would Your Character React to Being on Another World?
Faye would more or less roll with it, using her pop culture knowledge to try to fill in blanks. She would ask a lot of questions and she would want to explore. When she appears in MRA, she’s bedridden to recover from her parents‘ at wreck, and she’s mourning as well, so it dampens the excitement a bit. She’s more adventurous on later outings.

June 9 – Who is Your Character’s Oldest Friend?

David “Davy” Jones. It’s a classic tale of the boy next door. Faye and David grew up next to each other, went to the same preschool, elementary, middle, and high school. They were always friends, and though Faye trusted David with the secret of her powers, he never fully believed her. He never teased her about it, or told anyone else, and whenever she talked of the future, he would listen with a slight smile on his face. His favorite vision of hers was of them being married. He thought it was cute, but decided to follow his own heart and date Sheila Matthews instead. Despite Faye’s bitterness toward this decision, they remained friends, and Faye ultimately approved of Sheila.

June 10 – What is Your Character’s Motivation?

Faye wants to know why her parents died. She wants to know why, no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t change her parents’ fate. She wants to know who killed her family, and why her future and all her plans were thrown out the window.

June 11 – Where is Your Character’s Quiet Place?

Faye’s quiet place is outside of the Academy. She sneaks out whenever she can, and she wanders around the fields and forests of Mid-Realm. It’s usually quiet, and she enjoys looking up at the night sky and the other worldly constellations. Plus, it’s as far away as she can get from the controlling manipulations of the Seeress.

For more about Faye, follow me on Instagram @Dragonnessw

Nadina - Colored Pencil (2)

Dragonness Wyverna – Facebook Author Page, Character: Nadina

June 5 – Your Character Would Sell Their Soul For..?

The thing Nadina wants most is answers. Her world is filled with mysterious objects, buildings, and vehicles that people strip for scraps. She loves finding buildings untouched by other scavengers so that she can see each mystery in context and guess what they were used for.
Though perhaps she wouldn’t sell her soul for the answers; knowing the truth would take the fun away from exploring.

June 6 – Your Character’s Greatest Fear

Nadina’s greatest fear is plague without cure. This stems from her early childhood, when she and her brother, Felan, watched their parents succumb to a plague that swept the kingdoms. Many healers tried to find a cure, but the plague wiped out a quarter of the planet’s population–including two-thirds of Wordon’s people. Even after the plague ran its course, there were still strains popping up in villages and town. Whenever Nadina heard of the latest “plague season,” she locked herself and Felan in their hole of a home so that they wouldn’t catch the virus.

June 7 – A Defining Moment in Your Character’s Life

Nadina’s defining moment would be the event I have planned for her first story: the king’s ball! Yes, it is a Cinderella moment, lowly scavenger is invited to the king’s ball and catches the prince’s attention, but it’s a little more interesting when she’s a bear, and he’s a fox.

June 8 – How Would Your Character React to Being on a Different World?

Nadina would be dumbfounded, looking around in awe at whatever alien marvels she saw. If she landed on Earth, many of her questions about her own planet could be answered. She would stare at the cars, barely recognizing the things that she only knows as skeletons, and she would be amazed at the building in good repair, standing tall amidst the trees to scrape the clouds.

June 9 – Who is Your Character’s Oldest Friend?

Nadina’s oldest friend is her twin brother, Felan. Very early on in their lives, they were all they could rely on. Even though Felan is a goofball and LOVES puns, Nadina knows her brother is trustworthy and only wants the best for her.

June 10 – What is Your Character’s Motivation?

Nadina is perfectly content in her life. She’s forced to scavenge for survival, but she enjoys exploring and discovering new places. However, her brother, Felan, wants more out of life–not just for himself, but for Nadina as well. He’s constantly pushing Nadina to marry up, mainly to their mutual friend, Jarrett the Elephant Blacksmith. Jarrett is good to both Nadina and Felan, and Nadina does like Jarrett, but only as a friend. She understands Felan’s worry, scavenging is difficult, and can only be successfully carried out by the young, but she loves it. She just wants to keep doing what she loves.

June 11 – Where is Your Character’s Quiet Place?

Nadina’s quiet place is out in the forest. There’s a sweet little spot by the river. It’s a cliff over looking a waterfall, and it being a prime spot for salmon fishing has “nothing” to do with her love for the place.

To learn more about Nadina, follow my author page, “Dragonness Wyverna,” on Facebook.

Cassie - Buster Ball Gown

Writer’s Unite – Closed Facebook Group, Character: Cassandra “Cassie” Moon

June 5 – Your Character Would Sell Their Soul For..?

     I stuck one foot out of the portal and stood between the worlds, my mind still swirling. I was honestly not sure which was the more idiotic choice: leaving or staying. Chroniclus stepped through the portal and helped me back onto Earth’s soil. He didn’t say anything as I stared at the wide cement building below us. My break ticked away—I could almost hear the clock—but there was still a question I needed to ask. “Why me?”
He looked at me, one silver eyebrow raised questioningly. “Why not you?”
“Because I’m fat. I’m not going to bring anything to the table physically, and I’m pretty sure I can’t bring anything mentally either. So why bother asking me?”
He considered the question, raising his eyes from the store to the heavens. “Because I believe there is a world out there that only you can save.”
“Me?”
“Yes, you, Cassandra Moon. Cassie. You may not think much of yourself now, and I will admit that you are not a prime candidate for the school, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do something great.”
“I could save a world?” I snorted derisively, but I couldn’t deny it was tempting. There was so much about his proposal that I wanted. I wanted to go to another world. I wanted to meet a dragon, and I definitely wanted one to teach me cool fighting stuff. I wanted to live in a castle. I wanted to save the world, but I didn’t want to leave my family to attend a military boot camp. “Is it worth it?”
He was quiet again. “Not at first,” he admitted finally, avoiding looking at me. “Our training program is brutal. Your teachers will push you until you break, then they will patch you back up and break you again and again until you stop breaking. Then you are sharpened. When your training is complete, you will be perfect. The life I’m asking you to accept isn’t easy. Everything is demanded of everyone, and once you join, you cannot leave. Do you understand?”
I glanced over my shoulder at the castle, still visible through the portal. I could see banners flapping in the newly arisen wind. There was a world I desperately wanted to be a part of. “Can I think about it?”
Chroniclus nodded. “Of course. You are scheduled to attend a camp this week, aren’t you? You may have to the end of the camp to make your decision.”

The Dragon Girl

In a way, Cassie starts her story selling her soul. When Chroniclus offers her a chance to join Mid-Realm Academy and become a hero, she sacrifices everything to take him up on the offer. Cassie knows that being a hero is hard, and that she will probably suffer and get hurt, but she wants to be able to defend the weak and protect them. She would sell her soul to save someone else.

June 6 – Your Character’s Greatest Fear

Cassie is scared of being forgotten. It’s not as pressing as being forgotten by her family and friends, but more like being forgotten by the world after her death. She doesn’t want to be just another speck in existence, here and gone. She wants to leave a mark so that her name will never be just another fading name on a tombstone.

June 7 – A Defining Moment in Your Character’s Life

When Cassie decides to swim in a polluted lake to rescue the canoe of her cabin’s luggage. One of the counselors had stolen their stuff and shoved it in the lake as a joke, then laughed when the younger campers started crying. After retrieving their stuff, Cassie decided to leave the camp and its abusive counselors to join MRA.

June 8 – How Would Your Character React to Being on a Different World?

     “Your trees are terrible,” I told him. “They’re not realistic at all.” I stepped away, wondering how he had gotten a double-sided projection to show so clearly in the middle of an open field. I glanced back at the table to make sure I hadn’t missed a camera or projector while I continued to critique his trees. “The colors are completely wrong.”
“They’re wrong for this world,” he agreed, walking around to look at the trees. He consciously kept his distance and kept his hands behind his back as he nodded at the first tree. “He is an Othymti . They’re native to Nundara Five, but we had him transplanted to Mid-Realm so he could help me in the Böchard.”
“He?”
“Yes. He’s a dryad. His name is Tim.”
“Is that reddish tree a dryad, too?”
“No. That’s just an elvel. They’re common in Mid-Realm.”
“Nice.” I forced myself to step back, checking my phone for the time. If I was lucky, I would still have enough time to cram my sandwich down my throat before I had to go back to dealing with customers. “Well, your LARP effects are great. You should talk to someone in Hollywood; you could make a fortune with that tech there. I have to get back to work.”
“It’s a portal, Cassie. You could go to another world, a world with dragons.”
I would definitely deal with dragons over people any day of the week, but I, unfortunately, had to accept reality. “Dragons were wiped out centuries ago. Portals don’t exist. That’s not another world, that’s a high-quality projection or hologram, and you’re wasting it on me.”
Chroniclus stepped backwards into the portal. The golden light swallowed him, then he was a part of the projection. I went back to the portal and walked around it. Chroniclus followed me from within the golden frame, watching me with an amused look on his slender face. The portal had the same width as a penny; there was no way he was hiding behind it, and the hill I was standing on was definitely grass and dirt. I couldn’t think of another way for him to pull off this trick, so I stuck my arm into the glowing circle. The elf took my hand from the other side and pulled me through.
I was standing on another world’s grass, and I was disappointed that it was green. I could see the castle, reaching up from behind the safety of its grand wall. I was at the edge of the forest, in front of the dryad’s othymti tree. I reached out to touch Tim’s bark, then decided that would be weird and touched the elvel instead. Its bark was paper-smooth and a little soft, completely unlike the rough and hard barks of Earth.
“It’s real.” I turned in a slow circle, openly gawping at everything. “It’s real! This is real!” I covered my mouth after an excited shriek escaped it and looked at Chroniclus. “You’re really an elf. Your ears are actually pointy, and they’re taller than Legolas’s.”

The Dragon Girl

June 9 – Who is Your Character’s Oldest Friend?

Cassie’s oldest friend is Rachel, but Rachel is barely mentioned in The Dragon Girl. Before going to MRA, Cassie wanted to be a writer and was writing a story. She met Rachel in a camp, and Rachel asked to read the story. They were tight friends since that moment. Rachel loved the stories that Cassie wrote and begged for more, and Cassie was only too happy to oblige. She thrived on the attention, and together they dreamed of a great future for Cassie’s novels. Then Chroniclus offered Cassie a place at MRA, and Rachel got left behind, but Cassie never forgot her.

June 10 – What is Your Character’s Motivation?

     I decided I was done with the camp. I was covered in lake muck, mustard, spaghetti, and who knows what else, and I smelled like a sewer. My own stench made me want to puke. I tilted my head to the sky to breath and caught sight of Chroniclus in the shadows of the nearby woods. How long had he been there? He looked mad, his smooth face wrinkling as his lips puckered and his brow furrowed. The glare was directed at my counselor, who was laughing at the situation with my sister. I made my final decision.
     I stood and walked to the elf. “I’ll go with you.”
     He glanced at the group of laughing people, all walking back to the cabins, not even realizing I wasn’t with them. “Cassie, Mid-Realm won’t be any kinder to you. This camp was only a week long, and there’s two days left.”
     “I know, but at least there the torture will have a point. It will make me perfect, right? That’s what you said.”
     “Yes, but perfection takes a long time.”
     “How long?”
     “Ten years.”
     I took a breath as I let that length of time process and instantly regretted breathing. I gagged, aiming any oncoming projectiles away from the elf, who watched sympathetically. When my stomach had calmed, I aimed my nose away from my body and said, “Fine. Let’s do it.”
                                                                                                               ~ The Dragon Girl
The perfection Cassie desires isn’t as physical as you would think. She had just been forced into a putrid lake by someone who was supposed to be looking after her, protecting her, and she had watched as that same person bullied others younger than her. The perfection she was is strength, the strength to fight and stand up to bullies, to protect those weaker than herself. More than that, she wants to be strong enough to never be bullied again.

June 11 – Where is Your Character’s Quiet Place?

On Earth, there was a mossy little mound deep in the forest that Cassie was always partial to. She used to walk her dog to the mound and sit there while her dog chased rabbits and squirrels. At Mid-Realm, however, Cassie instantly fell in love with the massive Böchard, the Academy’s archive of books from across the universe. Railix even creates a little “nest” for her to hide out in whenever she becomes too worn out from being around people, or when she just needs an escape.

For more about Cassie, come back next week to Blotted Ink for

#WriteAwayJune days 12-18!

***

Yes, #WriteAwayJune lasts the whole month, so there will be 30 challenges total! If you are a writer, feel free to join the fun, and make sure you use the hashtag! If you’re not a writer, follow the hashtag on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and here on WordPress, and encourage the participants. Look for these challenges, like, and share!

WriteAwayJune 2018 Challenge

#WriteAwayJune Days 1-4

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#WriteAwayJune is in full swing! I’m pleased to see so many writers participating across the various social media platforms, and it makes me happy to see how excited everyone is to do this challenge. I’m doing my best to hunt down all the hashtags so that I can give anyone using it a”like,” so if you’re participating, make sure you use #WriteAwayJune! I want to be able to find your completed challenge and cheer you on.

I’m completing the challenge through my Twitter (@DragonnessRawr), Instagram (@dragonnessw), and on my author page on Facebook (Dragonness Wyverna). I was also asked to run the challenge in one of the closed writing groups I’m a member of. I’m using a different character on each profile, so be sure to follow them all! Or you can just report back to Blotted Ink each week, because I’m going to be posting my progress right here every Monday!

@DragonnessRawr Twitter Profile

June 1 – Introduce Your Character

IMG_4045Alicia “Alli” Clairing is a 16-year-old art nerd that specializes in drawing mythological monsters. She is the youngest daughter of Thomas and Daisy Clairing, and she has one sister, Brittany. who, even though they’re five years apart, she is pretty close to. Alli keeps to herself at school, focusing on drawing her werewolves, kitsune, and chimera rather than making friends. It’s not until Alli and Brittany find themselves on a new, fantastical world, Oran, that Alli really opens up and comes into her own.

 

June 2 – Share a Recipe Your Character Enjoys

Alli loves macaroni and cheese! Well, ANY form of macaroni and cheese, but frying makes everything better.
https://thriftyjinxy.com/fried-macaroni-cheese-bites-recipe/

June 3 – Take the Meyers-Briggs Test as Your Character and Share the Results

I really thought that Alli would be an INFJ, but Meyers-Briggs deemed her to be an ISFJ. The two personalities are pretty close, so I’m not upset.

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June 4 – Explore Your Character’s World

Alli was born in Baltimore and raised in the suburbs, but she never really considered Earth her home. When she arrives in the fields of Rafferty, Oran, she instantly knows that Oran is her real home. Oran smells of lilac and honeysuckle, though neither plant grows on the planet. The kingdom of Rafferty borders Kísh, homeland of the tribal half-cats called “Zív.” The Zív and the Raffertans hate each other, but when Prince Yuvraj murdered his brother, King Zesiro, and usurped the throne, he signed a treaty with several Zív tribes. Of King Zesiro’s five children, only two managed to escape their uncle’s massacre. Crown Prince Miaku and his sister, Kara, fled to the Gorge outside of Rahdebor, and there they joined with their cousin, Karran, and his small platoon of soldiers. The Gorge is three miles wide and ten miles long, said to be a scar from a fierce battle between the powerful and legendary Valanar. There is a small watchtower at the top of the Gorge, and in the Gorge is a fertile valley and a series of shallow caves. It’s a paradise in an otherwise oppressed kingdom, and Alli loves it.

@Dragonnessw Instagram Profile

June 1 – Introduce Your Character

IMG_1275The only person who gets to call Vanessa Faye Williams by her first name is David Jones, everyone else calls her “Faye.” Anyone that tries to call her “Vanessa” (or “Nessie” as David calls her) is treated to an in-depth explanation of how and when they will die.
Faye is a 16-year-old seeress, and she lives in Gulf Breeze, FL. Her mother is a workaholic, and her father just needs an excuse to have a gambling problem, so the only one Faye trusts with her secret is her therapist. She gets to watch the man she’s literally destined to be with date another girl—a genuinely nice girl that she can’t even hate!—and scare bullies away from her BFF. All while refusing to sit properly in a chair.

June 2 – Share a Recipe Your Character Enjoys

Faye is a sucker for chocolate bits. A Hershey bar isn’t as interesting to her as a bag of chocolate chips for reasons she doesn’t even comprehend, and those reasons are the same as why she prefers chocolate chip pancakes over chocolate chip cookies. Pancakes are her comfort food, and they take her back to Saturday mornings in elementary school when she was still cute enough to earn homemade pancakes. Now, she makes them herself and camps in front of the TV to chow down in a quiet house.
https://www.crunchycreamysweet.com/2016/03/21/fluffy-chocolate-chip-pancakes-recipe/

June 3 – Take the Meyers-Briggs Test as Your Character and Share the Results

I discovered that Faye is an ENTJ! Reading the description on Meyers-Briggs, and it makes perfect sense.

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June 4 – Explore Your Character’s World

Despite growing up beside the white sands of the Pensacola Beach, Faye is not a beach person. Her preferred world consists of four walls that keep the cancerous sun away from her, while trapping everyone she loves inside. Her bedroom is covered with photographs of her friends, but the walls of her living room are bare and pale green. Her therapist’s walls are a pale yellow, but he keeps a loaded bookcase to one side, and a painting of a running horse on the opposite wall. Faye’s world is a group of friends who joke about her “supposed” powers, absentee parents, and a therapist that uses her gift to get rich. Faye’s world is less about the present and more about the future, something only she can see, but can’t yet reach.

Dragonness Wyverna – Facebook Author Page

June 1 – Introduce Your Character

Nadina is a shape-shifter that can turn into a bear, but she doesn’t see this as anything special because everyone on her world can turn into a mammal. Nadina and her brother Felan (a wolf), are scavengers, seeking out scraps of metal to sell in the city. Nadina and Felan live outside the city walls in a hole in the ground, but Nadina is happy with her place in life. She enjoys finding little artifacts and remnants from the previous age, trying to guess in what mysterious ways they were used.

June 2 – Share a Recipe Your Character Enjoys

Since Nadina is a bear, she naturally has an affinity for fish and seafood (though she’d be too embarrassed to admit it). She also enjoys potatoes and sweet potatoes, so I found this recipe on Pinterest that would be similar to a meal Nadina would enjoy.

http://charlotteslivelykitchen.com/salmon-sweet-potato-fis…/

June 3 – Take the Meyers-Briggs Test as Your Character and Share the Results

Nadina didn’t come off as an introvert in my head, but after taking the Meyers-Briggs test for her, I realized it makes sense. Reading the description of an ISTJ, I realized that it is an accurate description of Nadina’s character.

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June 4 – Explore Your Character’s World

Nadina sees her world as shrouded in beautiful mystery. Beneath the rich forests, under the layers of woven vines, is an old civilization that was lost to history. Wordon, the capital city of Minos, is built from reclaimed stone and converted ruins. It is a strange mish-mash of ancient and modern architecture, with the only true modern building being the castle in the center of the city. Nadina only sees the castle from a distance, caring neither for it nor for the people who rule from inside it. Her concern is with the forests and streams outside the walls, because it is they that hide the secrets of the past.

Writer’s Unite – Closed Facebook Group

June 1 – Introduce Your Character

Cassie - Buster Ball GownCassandra “Cassie” Moon always wanted to be a hero, though she thought the only way she could feasibly fulfill that dream is by writing about it. When Chroniclus, the elven Head Chronicler of Mid-Realm Academy, invites her to train at the inter-dimensional military academy, Cassie sees the opportunity for what it is: an obligation. Throughout her training, no matter how many beatings she receives, no matter how many deaths she suffers, Cassie stays strong and determined. She will be a hero.

 

June 2 – Share a Recipe Your Character Enjoys

Every Friday night, Cassie’s mom would make pizza from scratch, and the family would sit in the living room watching a movie while eating it. Cassie loved her mother’s fluffy crust, loved the grease that dripped from the curling pepperoni’s, and loved the crispness of the browning cheese. Whenever life got too hard, all Cassie needed was pizza to make it right.
Crust:
2 1/4c water
2 TBS butter
Heat in microwave for 2 min.
3/4 c sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tsp yeast
Wait for yeast to sponge
5c flour
Mix.
Let rise 30 min.
Roll out into 3 crusts. Add sauce and toppings.
Cook at 375* for 20 minutes.
Eat. 🍕🍕🍕

June 3 – Take the Meyers-Briggs Test as Your Character and Share the Results

This result didn’t surprise me. Cassie has always been a contradictory INFJ.

AUBY8619

 

June 4 – Explore Your Character’s World

Though raised on Earth, Cassie chose to make Mid-Realm her new home. Mid-Realm Academy is the only form of organized government on the small planet, and all citizens of Mid-Realm are also attached to the Academy. The Academy itself is an oligarchy, ruled by both the Head Chronicler, and the Seeress. The Academy is a mixture of ancient and futuristic technologies wrapped together in a large, red castle. The members of the Academy, called “ambassadors,” travel through the castle via portals (though physical passageways between rooms exist), and the food in the mess hall is created through a telepathic interlink with the control panel. Yet the Bochard, Mid-Realm’s massive library and archives, contains a hard copy of every book from every world, and the rooms are lit by torches. Mid-Realm Academy is also home to a variety of beings, ranging from piskie, to sprite, to centaur, to troll. These species manage to coexist through discarding their previous lives and ways and accepting wholeheartedly the ways of the Academy.

~ Fin ~

Those are the characters I have completed #WriteAwayJune with so far. Feel free to share your own characters in the comments below, and follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Then tune in next week for more #WriteAwayJune with Alli, Faye, Nadina, and Cassie!

Twitter: @DragonnessRawr

Instagram: @Dragonnessw

Facebook: Dragonness Wyverna

#WriteAwayJune

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Last year I stumbled across a writing month challenge called “Write We May” on Twitter. The challenges were things like “post a picture of your work space,” and “post a picture of your writing juice,” so they weren’t as involved as daily writing prompts. I spent a couple days following the hashtag and “meeting” other writers and seeing how they worked and lived their writing lives. I was charmed by the comradery, and I was disappointed that I had found the challenge so late. I felt that joining in then, a good two weeks into the challenge, was cheating, as well as trying to catch up on all the challenges I missed. There was another problem: May was the last full month of school. As a teaching aide in a private school, I would be kept busy organizing end-of-year awards, parties, and paperwork, not just for my class, but for others as well. It was going to be hectic and stressful, and even though the challenges were relatively easy ones, my work at school was going to drain me. On the recommendation of a couple family members and friends, I took a weekend to design my own challenge for June.

The first #WriteAwayJune challenge was my third blog post on Blotted Ink, and though the post only got two views and one like, the challenge was more successful than I had hoped. A few personal friends, including one of my college writing teachers, participated, posting their completed challenges on Instagram and Facebook. I followed my hashtag religiously, liking any post that used it in hopes to encourage the people participating. Then I found strangers participating! They confessed they had no idea where the challenge had originated, but they had decided to join in the fun anyway. I was excited by this, even though there were still only ten people participating in the challenge over all. This year, I hope more people will take part in the challenge, even if the numbers only go up by two.

Last year, the #WriteAwayJune was a random conglomeration of challenges very similar to #WriteWeMay. I had things like “what’s your favorite pen” and “your favorite literary character,” things that I hoped would put writers in the mind to write. This year will be different. I have a theme to my challenge, something that will help writers develop their stories and advertise it. I tried to make this challenge something that any writer of any genre at any level can complete with whatever time they have. Writers can also do what they want with the challenge, completing it with a sentence, a short story, or a picture, with the ability to share it on all forms of social media.

The theme this year is “character.” The character can be your main character, side character, background character, villain, or minion—anyone in your story is fair game. Even the animal side kick. This doesn’t limit the challenge to fiction; even if you’re writing a memoir or a biography, the people you’re writing about are characters. If you’re writing about a real person, use this challenge to get to know them better, understand the world about them, and how they see them. Whether fiction or non, whether you use what you discover about your characters or not, it will help your writing.

 

WriteAwayJune 2018 Challenge

The challenges should be self-explanatory, but if you need some ideas of where to take them, here’s my breakdown.

  1. Introduce your character.
    1. Start the month off by picking one of your characters and establish them as the focus for the month. Post a picture of the character (using your desired actor, a sketch, a commissioned piece of artwork, etc.), list their name, and some random tidbits about them, such as their job, hobbies, or what part they play in the story. If you have the time, feel free to write a character sketch or dialogue, and don’t forget to share it!
  2. Share a recipe your character enjoys
    1. Post a picture, post the entire recipe! If you’re writing historical or fantasy fiction, make sure you consider what ingredients might be available to your character. Make sure you follow #WriteAwayJune to find some recipes you might want to cook for yourself!
  3. Take the Meyers Briggs test as your character
    1. Is your chosen character an ENFP, ISTJ, INFJ, or an ESFP? Meyers Briggs may not be a psychologically/scientifically sound test, but it sure is fun to take! Follow the link http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp to take a free version of the test, and be sure to post the results!
  4. Explore your character’s world
    1. If you’re writing sci-fi or fantasy, this may seem a little easier, but historical, romance, and non-fiction writers should participate in this part of the challenge as well. If you’re writing from a historical standpoint, poke around and figure out what the trends were back then, the fashion, the foods, the politics. If you’re writing contemporary non-fiction, think about where your subject lives. What’s their apartment like? Are their neighbors obnoxious? What does their work environment look like? Is their boss a jerk? Everyone’s “world” is different, whether it’s imaginary or real. Share their world with the internet.
  5. Your character would sell their soul for…?
    1. Before you get too offended that your “perfect hero” (if hero you’re using) would sell their soul for anything, realize everyone has a weakness. Also realize that any devil worth their salt would target their prey at their most vulnerable point. If you still refuse to let your hero break, think about what would tempt them the most. The return of their loved one? World peace? Chocolate? There’s your answer. Now share it!
  6. Your character’s greatest fear
    1. Just as everyone has a weakness, everyone has a crippling fear. It could be something irrational, something psychological, or something physical. If you want to write a short bit showcasing this fear and how your character might deal with it, go for it! Or if you just want to post a picture or a scared emoji, that works too.
  7. What is a defining moment in your character’s life?
    1. What put your character on the path they’re on? Why did you character decide to do what they do? If you’re writing romance, why is your character attracted to the one they love? What makes your character who they are? Share it!
  8. How would your character react to being on a different world?
    1. I think this might be the most fun for someone writing non-fiction; you could actually ask the person, get their ideas on it, and then write how you think they’d ACTUALLY react. With fictional characters, they can react however and get comedic results. You could go a step further and pick the world they’re suddenly on, because that would possibly garner different reactions. Are they on Mars? Panem? Gallifrey? Narnia? Share your thoughts!
  9. Who is your character’s oldest friend?
    1. Whether they’re actually old or they’ve been friends the longest, take a moment to name a friend. If you want to go deeper into the challenge, examine the friendship. Why are they friends? How did they become friends? What kind of challenges does their friendship constantly face? Share the relationship on social media!
  10. What is your character’s motivation?
    1. Even a minor motivation such as “complete a 5k” can be powerful to a character. What drives them to keep going? What wakes them up each day? What are their goals? Do they want to rule the world, or do they just want a simple house in the country where they can raise their family in peace? Share it!
  11. Where is your character’s quiet place?
    1. Many people have a place where they go when their world gets too noisy. It doesn’t have to be a large location like Disney World; it could be as small as a homemade blanket, or as warm as a loved one. Where does your character go to find comfort? Write a description, create a moment, or draw a picture, and share it!
  12. Describe your character’s ideal day
    1. Does your character like rainy days when they can curl up by the fire and read? Or do they prefer a cold, snowy day so they can look out on a clean world? Or do they love a bright summer day when they can lounge at the beach or the pool and work on their tan? Perhaps it’s even April 25th, when all they need is a light jacket. Go the next step and spend the day with your character to see how they enjoy the weather, and don’t forget to share.
  13. What was your character’s favorite childhood toy?
    1. The character’s favorite toy can actually show a lot about their personality, as can why it’s favorite. Does your character have a favorite doll that their parent gave them before they went on deployment? Or do they keep that toy sword under their pillow at night to fight off monsters and nightmares. Perhaps their favorite toy is simply the newest, shiniest object on the shelf, or maybe it’s a forbidden toy belonging to a sibling? Share it!
  14. Complete a writing prompt using your character
    1. Find a writing prompt in a writing book, on social media, or on google that fits your character, and write at least 500 words about it. Then share it! Make sure you share the prompt and where you found it, then check out stories written by other challengers and give them a “like”!
  15. Write three different endings to the above prompt
    1. Explore your prompted story a bit more and try out some different endings. Try to make one tragic, one comedic, and one romantic. Shake up your style and explore an ending that’s outside of your paradigm. Have fun and share!
  16. Coffee, tea, or cocoa?
    1. What does your character like to drink, and how do they drink it? Do they like their coffee black, or with twelve lumps of sugar and seven creams? Is their tea loose-leafed, or bagged? Do they drink their cocoa with whipped cream and sprinkles? Instagram it!
  17. Write a Father’s Day card for your character’s father
    1. In honor of the holiday, honor your character’s father! It can be a standard Hallmark greeting, it can be an e-card, or it can be a snarky poem filled with sarcastic remarks about their father’s inept care. Whether the father was caring, evil, or non-existent, write up a fitting card and share it!
  18. What is your character’s pet peeve?
    1. What drives your character up the wall? Do they hate the sound of nails on chalkboard? Do they hate the sight of a full kitchen sink? Or do they hate when someone fiddles with decorations thoughtlessly? And who is the most frequent culprit that commits these heinous crimes? Share the peeves on social media!
  19. Describe a day in your character’s life
    1. When do they get up? What do they have for breakfast? What’s their morning routine? What are their habits and rituals? It might be boring and tedious, but really think about it—especially if they’re students! What classes might they have to suffer through? Share their schedule, and feel free to compare it with others!
  20. It’s your character’s birthday; how do they celebrate?
    1. Do they throw themselves a big party, or do they prefer a quiet celebration at home? What kind of cake and ice cream would they want? Who would they want in attendance? Tell us about it!
  21. Your character’s favorite hobby?
    1. A character can have many hobbies outside of their job, destiny, or duties. Do they like knitting? Cooking? Scrapbooking? Sparring? Hiking? Feel free to explore a few, figure out their competence level on each, and then declare the favorite!
  22. What is your character’s least favorite chore?
    1. What chores does your character have? Is it their job to clean the bathroom? Do they have to pluck and behead the chickens? Or do they have to spend the hottest part of the day outside plucking weeds? Which menial task do they detest? Share it!
  23. What does your character wear on and off duty?
    1. Think about your character’s profession and how they would dress for it. Are they required to wear a suit, or do they have to wear an unappealing fast food uniform? Then think about their homelife and their personalities to figure out how they relax. Do they just need a hoodie and a warm blanket? Share it!
  24. What does your character look for in a friend?
    1. Do they like the fun, party animals that keep life lively, or does your character prefer a quiet listener? Does your character enjoy being friends with a venomous person, or do they prefer to be with uplifting angels? Beyond that, do they look for someone with the same tastes in movies and music, or do they look for someone to push them out of their comfort zones and try something new? Share their list of requirements!
  25. How does your character sleep?
    1. Is your character diurnal, or nocturnal? Do they sleep on their back, side, or stomach? How long can your character go without sleep? How much sleep do they need to function properly? Is your character a lucid dreamer, do they dream, or is their sleep an unconscious void? Can they sleep without a blanket or pillow? Do they have a favorite animal they sleep with, or do they sleep with a weapon under their pillow? Think of all the detail you can and write them down, then share them!
  26. How does your character react to losing?
    1. Are they a sore loser, or are they used to losing? Are they prone to table flipping, throwing things against the wall, and getting physically violent, or do they just sigh and sit back in their seat? Do they even accept losing, or will they somehow cheat their way to victory? Will they force a rematch so the loss doesn’t count? What game or event does your character lose the worst at? Share it!
  27. What is your character’s favorite book?
    1. If your character is fortunate enough to live on a world with books, what is their favorite? If your character is unfortunate enough to live in a bookless world, or is illiterate, what is their favorite story? Who is their favorite bard or storyteller? Is there a hero they aspire to be? Does their world have unique stories and tales? Share a synopsis of one of these tales, or share a synopsis or teaser of your non-fiction character’s favorite!
  28. Your character is granted 3 wishes; what are they?
    1. Maybe they stumbled upon a genie/djinn. Maybe they found a magic wishing rock. Maybe they found a wishing well that actually works, and they got three wishes, what would they be? Would they wish for peace, riches, and wealth? Would they wish for the power to control time and space? Would they wish for health, youth, and everlasting life? Would it make them happy? Write the whole story, or simple list the wishes, and share it!
  29. How does your character deal with tragedy?
    1. This is different than simply losing a game or a challenge; tragedy is more potent, dealing with the extreme loss of something beloved. A meteor fell on your character’s hometown, slaughtering everyone they knew and loved. Do they go numb for days, months, years? Do they scream and cry and rage against the cruel world? Do they seek revenge? Do they go insane with denial? Share their reaction!
  30. Create a quote graphic for your character
    1. Pick your favorite or the most potent quote said by or about your chosen character and show it off. Create a background using paint, photoshop, or your own sketchbook, and share the picture on social media.

 

Congratulations! You’ve completed the #WriteAwayJune challenge for 2018! I hope you had fun, and that you were able to get to know your character better. I also hope you took the opportunity to search out and encourage other writers who were participating in the challenge. If you’re not a regular follower of my blog, then I hope you’ll follow me now, but if not, please do come back next year for another #WriteAwayJune. Thanks for participating!

The One With Many Names

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“ENGINE FAILURE” flashed red on Kajik’s console. He only glanced at it as he struggled to keep his space cruiser level. “Engine Failure” was an understatement; there was no engine. His ship was careening out of control, hurtling toward the planet below. His little sister, Zofie, screamed as another blast ripped through their ship. Kajik snarled and checked the monitor displaying the stars and universe around the ship. Sleek ship hulls gleamed silver in the glow of the planets orbiting in the night sky. They were still being pursued by the class 7 Alaryn Destroyers, though they had stopped wasting plasma bolts on Kajik’s smoking ship. He had already ejected the escape pods, hoping to distract the destroyers. The destroyers had immediately vaporized the pods and continued their pursuit of Kajik’s vessel. The pods only had minimal armor; that was the only reason Kajik hadn’t already abandoned ship. The Alaryn Empire had conquered a galaxy, obliterating any planet that had dared defy them. Kajik focused on the planet below him. If he could reach that planet, the growing Alaryn Empire would be utterly destroyed.

The planet loomed larger in his scanner. Their speed was increasing.

Kajik tried maneuver his ship so that it would crash into what his scanner labeled “The Static Realms.” According to Jon’Arikk mythology, The Static Realms was where the Vala-Nar dwelled. The Vala-Nar were immortals that supposedly lived in a timeless city in the lush forests below.

Zofie screamed again as another shot shook the ship.

Kajik locked the steering into position, praying that his aim was true. He left the cockpit, going to his sister who was covering her ears and squeezing her eyes shut. He sat down beside her and took one hand. She looked at him, a scared little tear escaping down her cheek. Kajik forced a smile and squeezed her hand. “Remember where we’re going?”

Zofie nodded and whispered, “We’re going to find the Protector.”

“And who is the Protector?”

“T-the most powerful being alive.”

“And what will the Protector do?”

“The Protector will save us from the Alaryns.” Zofie swallowed fearfully and looked at her brother. “But what if we don’t find the Protector in time?”

Kajik frowned in mock severity before giving her a comforting hug. “Don’t think like that. The Protector will save us.” He buckled himself in beside her, and he took her hand. She looked at him, eyes wide, fearful, but trusting. Kajik continued to speak over the blaring alarms, “When darkness descends, when monsters awake, when all is lost, seek the one who protects.”

Zofie’s quavering voice joined her brother’s in the familiar legend of their home. “The Vala-Nar keep the secret. The Static Realm keeps the Vala-Nar. Go. Go. Go. Find the Protector, ask for help. You shall not be denied.”

The ship began to quake. Kajik glanced toward the scanner and saw the orange glow of fire. They were entering the atmosphere. He silently wrapped his arms around his sister, offering what protection he could. He was still holding her when they crashed.

 

The next thing he knew, he was waking up in a glass tube buried under hoses and wires. An oxygen mask sat over his mouth and nose, sending cool, clean air into his burning lungs. He could wriggle, struggle, but all of his movements were weak. His whole body hurt, but he was alive. Was Zofie? Where was he? Who had saved him?

Two black, blurry shapes came into view. They milled around the background until Kajik mustered enough strength to tap the glass. The shapes stopped moving for a minute, then they turned to the tube.

“I think he’s awake,” a muffled, feminine voice said. It seemed to come from the smaller of the black blurs.

“It’s about time,” An equally muffled male voice said, coming from the larger blur. “I would like to know why there’s Alaryn Destroyers hovering above my kingdom!”

The blurs got larger, and there was a hiss as the glass lid slid open. Standing over him was the most beautiful woman in the galaxy. Her hazel eyes were bright and large with peaceful happiness, and her smile was overflowing with laughter. Her dark brown hair fell in gentle waves across her heart-shaped face, tickling the dimples that creased her cheeks. She wore a black sleeveless shirt with a high collar, and an equally black skirt that had a matching sheen. She wore a jeweled rose around her neck, and at her hip was an ancient sword.

Standing a little behind her was a tall, lithe man with ragged black hair and an angled face. His blue eyes were narrowed distrustfully, and his thin lips were drawn tight. He wore clothes that matched the woman, but he had no necklace. At his hip was a sword just as ancient as the woman’s, but it seemed to have a deadlier gleam.

“How are you feeling?” The woman asked Kajik as she gently removed his mask.

“Who are you?” The man demanded. “What brought you to Rafferty?”

“Karran,” the woman said sharply. “Give him a chance to breathe before interrogating him.” She turned back to Kajik. “I’m Alli, and this is my husband, Karran. We saw your ship crash, and we pulled you out from the wreckage. Your ship was an Arikk M3 model, right? That’s what our computers identified it as. But Jon-Arikk is so far away. What would bring Arikkonites this far out into the galaxy?”

“Zofie,” Kajik croaked.

The woman frowned in confusion. “Zofie? Oh, is that the girl we found you with? She’s right here beside you. No, don’t turn your head. I think there might be something wrong with your spine. I don’t want you to agitate it unnecessarily. Zofie is resting. She’ll be up in no time.”

Kajik wanted to look at his sister, to see her, make sure she was all right. He also wanted to know how close they were to the Vala-Nar. “Vala-Nar,” he croaked hoarsely. “Where Vala-Nar?”

“Vala-Nar?” Karran repeated, his scowl deepening. “What do you want with the Vala-Nar?”

“Help,” Kajik croaked. “Help find Protector.”

“Protector,” the woman mused. “Do you think he means–?”

Karran snorted. “Who else could he mean, Alli? ZD?”

Alli smiled and shook her head. “Protector isn’t one of titles I’m familiar with, though.”

“Must be a Jon-Arikk thing.” He shrugged and turned away. “Does she even do spaceships?”

“Is there anything she doesn’t do? The least we can do is ask. I think she’d be offended if we didn’t. I’ll call her up on the port screen.”

Alli went over to the fireplace and pressed one of the round stones of the hearth. A computer console slid out from the bricks and flashed red, then the red narrowed into a single dot. Karran came to stand behind Alli, his arms folded over his chest.

Kajik watched them, processing what was happening into information. “You’re—the Vala-Nar?”

Alli turned to give a quick, flourishing bow. “The Eternally Cursed? That’s us. Welcome to the Static Realm.”

The red dot widened again, and this time the image changed to a teenage girl with long black hair and an oval face sitting erect in a black chair. Her amber eyes penetrated the depths of the computer screen, her high cheek bones gave her a noble look, and her thin lips made her look severe. There was also something strange about her skin; it had an inhuman quality to it. She seemed to be too skinny, not properly filling the sleeveless red top she wore.

“Hello, Kenzie,” Alli said. “Is your mother home?”

Kenzie’s eyes flicked curiously to where Kajik lay. “Whatever it is, are you sure it needs my mother? I’m pretty good at stuff. I can heal. I can blow up stuff.”

“He specifically asked for the Protector,” Karran said.

“Jon-Arikk then.” Kenzie sighed. “I’ll patch you through.” Her fingers clacked against a glass keyboard, and the screen split to show a second woman.

This woman was balancing a young child on her hip, and she looked barely older than the first girl. She had her black hair tied back into a simple ponytail, which accented her high cheek bones and large brown eyes. Around her neck was a red jewel that glimmered like fire. The woman surveyed the scene and her heart-shaped lips parted into a large smile when she saw the Vala-Nar before her.

“Alli! Karran!” the woman cried. “How are you doing? It’s been a century or so since I’ve heard from you.”

Karran nodded. “Yes, it has, and it looks like you’ve kept yourself busy. Is that a new one you’re holding?”

“How large was his clutch?” Alli asked.

The woman sighed wearily, but there was love and laughter as she replied, “There were only twelve in his clutch. Zantin says I need to pick up the slack, but I think even Railix is having trouble keeping track of all of our children’s names and locations. I’m pretty sure this is Trey.” She looked at the boy who was contentedly gnawing on his fist. “Are you Trey?”

The boy, who was no older than three, paused in his gnawing long enough to nod.

“Trey,” Alli murmured thoughtfully. “Short for–?”

“Tréjamé. You caught me. After having eighty children, I’m starting to run out of names.” The woman laughed and kissed Trey’s forehead fondly.  “But I’m sure you didn’t call me just to catch up on my growing brood. Is something wrong?”

“Does something have to be wrong for us to call an old friend?” Alli asked mildly.

“An ancient friend,” the woman corrected. “And I very rarely receive social calls. What’s the problem?”

“We have twenty Alaryn Destroyers hovering above our atmosphere,” Karran explained impatiently. “And there’s a man here asking for the Protector.”

“The Protector,” the woman mused thoughtfully. “That’s my name in the Jon-Arikk system. I like that planet. They have red trees and purple grass. Why does he want me?”

“He’s asking for help.”

The woman stiffened and looked toward the other screen. “Kenzie, I need you to take Trey to your father. He should be in the Böchard with Uncle Kryptin and Auntie Drax with the others.”

Kenzie slouched in her chair sulkily. “That’s what I thought you’d say.” Her screen cut out, as did the Protector’s.

A minute later, a red portal opened in front of the fireplace, and the Protector stepped into the room. She looked around for a brief second, spotted Kajik, and went to him.

Kajik watched her with confusion and growing interest. Could this young woman really be the Protector? The legends never said the Protector was beautiful, or that she was a girl.

The Protector stopped over him, her eyes changing from green to brown in sympathy for his plight. She took a deep breath and placed her hand on his forehead. Fire ran down her arm and spread out through her hand. Kajik didn’t feel the heat, instead, he felt his pain leave his body as his bones mended and his wounds healed. He inhaled, filling his lungs easily without aid. It felt good. He wriggled his fingers. They didn’t hurt. He looked at the Protector as she pulled her hand away from his head and smiled.

“Hi,” she said. “I’m the Protector. What do you need?”

Kajik sat up. The room spun slightly, but the vertigo quickly subsided. “I need your help. Legend says you can help.”

The Protector nodded. “I can. What do you need?”

“The Alaryns have destroyed Jon-Arikk. My sister, Zofie, and I are the only survivors.” He started at his sister’s name and whirled around for her.

Zofie was lying under tubes much like Kajik had been, her strawberry blonde hair damp with sweat. Kajik knelt beside her and took her hand, choking back a despairing sob. The Protector knelt beside him and placed her hand on Zofie’s forehead. Fire spread from her arm again, bathing Zofie in a fiery glow. Kajik regarded the Protector hopefully, squeezing his sister’s hand comfortingly. After a moment, the Protector’s fire faded, and she removed her hand. Zofie’s breathing came easy, and her expression seemed to relax.

“It’ll be easier for her to recover if she’s asleep,” the Protector explained. “Now, please, continue. I’d like to be home for dinner.”

“The Alaryns destroyed Jon-Arikk, but Zofie and I were able to escape. There were legends on our world of the Protector, and how he—she—would help if she was asked. The Alaryns pursued us here and shot us down above the atmosphere. The Alaryns are monsters. They’ve destroyed five planets—five whole worlds—because they refused to surrender. That’s why they destroyed Jon-Arikk.”

The Protector frowned, green mixing in her brown eyes. “Why didn’t you contact me sooner? I could have stopped this before your world was lost.”

Kajik’s shoulders sagged dejectedly. “You were just a legend. We tried everything else, but then you became all we had. Please, Protector, I know it’s too late for Jon-Arikk, but it’s not too late for Zofie. She should be able to grow up without being afraid that her planet will blow up. Will you help us?”

“Ask for help, and you shall not be denied.” She stood and faced the Vala-Nar. “I’ll start by clearing the space above Oran. Got a spaceship I can play with?”

Alli shook her head and elbowed Karran pointedly. “The old geezer here doesn’t like all the newfangled tech. He’s still stuck on horses. The only spaceship we have is the one he crashed,” she pointed at Kajik. “I had the wreckage brought into our courtyard.”

Karran shook his head despairingly. “I just don’t see the point in it all. Every time you get used to the new tech, something newer and tech-ier comes out.”

The Protector laughed. “You’re such an old man, Karran! Show me to the wreckage.”

The Vala-Nar led the Protector and Kajik out into the courtyard. His beautiful, proud Arikk M3 was little more than a torn lump of metal. The hull was smashed, the engines were shredded, and the wings were bent into foreign shapes. The only thing he could see his ship being good for was scrap metal. However, the Protector circled the M3 appraisingly.

“What was it?” She asked curiously, looking at the crumpled wings.

Karran looked at her skeptically. “You don’t recognize it?”

The Protector gave him a look and snorted derisively. “You think I have time to memorize every ship in the multi-universe, and what it looks like smashed while juggling a very large family and saving every planet in crisis?”

“It was an Arikk M3,” Kajik said numbly. “The last remnants of my home.”

The Protector looked at him sympathetically. Then she opened the silver dragon head on her black cuff and said clearly, “Display Arikk M3.” A holographic simulation appeared beneath the dragon head and rotated for a 360 view. The Protector studied it for a minute then looked back at the wreck.

Kajik jumped in surprise. Before his eyes, his ship was pulling itself back together. The tears closed themselves, the engines rebuilt, and the wings straightened. Within a matter of five minutes, his Arikk M3 was whole again. There wasn’t a scratch, there wasn’t a seam, nor was there a smudge on its hull. It sparkled and gleamed as if it had been polished. The engine hummed to life, and the door slid open with a quiet hiss. Inside, the lights flicked on smoothly, revealing the sterile sheen of the chic interior. It even smelled new.

The Protector polished her knuckles smugly on her shirt and glanced at Kajik, waiting for his reaction.

Kajik staggered forward and touched the hull. It felt smooth and cool. When he removed his hand, he could see the smudge of his fingerprints. It was real. He looked at the Protector in astonishment. “How did you do that?”

She winked. “With my brain. Now,” she strode quickly up the ramp and into the ship, “shall we deal with those pesky Alaryns?”

Kajik quickly jogged into the ship, but then he glanced back at the Vala-Nar. They remained where they were. Alli’s eyes wandered up wishfully, but she shook her head as she snuggled into Karan’s arms. Karran looked at her, a look of pure love crossing his face. Kajik looked back toward the palace, his eyes trailing to the window where Zofie slept.

“I’ll be back for my sister,” he promised.

“We’ll take good care of her,” Karran returned.

Kajik swallowed hard and closed the door before sitting at the control console.

The Projector was already there, apparently talking to someone over her earcomm. “Don’t worry,” she was saying, “I’ll be home before dinner. I’ll even make pizza. Oh please. Five thousand years is not long enough to get tired of pizza. Pizza is forever.” She laughed and turned to Kajik. “Ready? Then take us out, captain.”

Kajik punched in coordinates. The turbines roared to life, and Kajik pulled back on the wheel. The port screen showed the castle zooming out of sight, the trees getting smaller and smaller, and the Static Realm quickly vanished from sight. He could see the pangea of Oran, the twenty-seven kingdoms blurring into one united landmass, and the only distinction was made by the Ëlonian walls that separated them from the rest of their world. Then all that surrounded them was stars and the hazy mist of the spiral galaxy. And twenty armed Alaryn Destroyers.

The Protector sat up in her chair and studied the display with interest. She pulled a beetle-like gadget from her pocket and placed it on the dashboard. The bug plugged itself into the system, and a holographic projection appeared, hovering over the dashboard. The screen split into nineteen min-screens and one primary screen. Kajik guessed that the primary screen was designated for the flagship. The Protector plugged a sequence into the bug and faced the screens with a confident smile.

“Question,” she said calmly, “just who you think you are?”

Kajik wondered if she understood Alarainian—one of the most difficult languages in the universe—but when the Alarainian captain responded, it was in the common tongue. Kajik glanced at the bug thing and guessed that it was responsible for the translation.

The ship’s captain raised an eyebrow. “If you represent the Oranian planet, then I demand that you surrender it and all your assets to the empire. If you do not, your planet will be destroyed.”

The Protector leaned back and regarded the diplomat. “How many planets have you destroyed?”

The diplomat looked smug. “We have destroyed such prominent plants as Aluqtwar 7, Kalen, CeJarkan, Ozarko, and Jon-Arikk. Do not think that your planet can withstand our might when these planets have not.”

The Protector counted on her fingers. “So that’s one, two, three, four, five planets you’ve destroyed. Amateurs. You’re looking at the monster who destroyed ten.”

The diplomat stiffened in his chair. “What is the meaning of this? There have been no such planets destroyed. If there was, we would have heard of it!”

“It was before your time, but even so, I’m surprised you haven’t heard of me.”

“Who are you?”

She leaned forward. “I have many names, from many galaxies, from many ages, for many reasons. Let’s see if you can recognize a few of them. I am the Protector of Jon-Arikk, I am Stone Fire, Stone Blood, the Catalyst, Earth Breaker, Fire Starter, Curse Caster, Oathbreaker, the Rebel, Bloodwing, the Obliterator, Black Demon, Heart Fire, Defender of the Realms, the Great Healer, the Dragon Queen. I am Kelaino, the Shadow Weaver, the Destroyer of Worlds.”

With each new name the Protector listed, the Alarainian diplomat got a little paler. Even Kajik regarded his companion with a new fear and respect. He recognized many of the names, especially “Kelaino.” She had been an unstoppable terror more than four thousand years ago, but she had disappeared after the destruction of her tenth world. People had hoped she had died. Who could believe that she had merely become a mother and a hero?

Kelaino stood as she faced the diplomat. “There are a few planets that I have taken a special interest in and have placed my personal protection over. You got lucky enough to blast one of them and live, and now you’re threatening to blow a second?” Her eyes were glowing green, and there was a strain of amber spiraling toward her iris. “No one is that lucky. No one gets to hurt the people I love.”

Kajik’s eyes turned to the screen, and he watched in horror as one by one, the crew members turned to stone. It started with the lowest ranking, their feet turning to stone first, then it crept up their bodies until they were solid. The Alarainians began screaming, trying to get away, but how could they run with stone shoes?

The diplomat fell to his knees, weeping bitterly. “Please, Kelaino, I beg of you! Have mercy! Mercy!”

“I am merciless!” Kelaino snapped. “How many children were on those planets? How many women? How many men? How many hopes and dreams, how many loves did you end? No. There is no mercy for you.” She sat back and watched as the last color on the diplomat’s face turned gray.

Kajik felt sick as he looked at the monster beside him, the Alarainian’s screams still ringing in his ears. “How could you pass judgment on them when you admitted that your crimes are so much worse?”

Kelaino faced him calmly. Her eyes were a light brown, gentle and kind. Misleading. “Was I wrong in my judgment? Isn’t this what you wanted?”

“No! —y-yes.” He bowed his head in shame. “But what about all the words that you destroyed? Where’s the justice for those worlds?”

She regarded him for a moment. “The story you’re asking for is ancient and long. Yes, I destroyed ten worlds, but I only ever killed one person.  It has been four thousand years since the shadow of the tenth prophecy was on me. And believe me, I have paid the price for what I have done. The would-be empire builders are lucky.”

“Lucky to be dead?”

Kelaino smiled. “Who says they’re dead?” She glanced at the port screen, staring at the statues. She didn’t seem bothered by the frozen looks of terror and remorse. “I can reverse the stoning at any time, but I think I’ll let them stay like that for a couple of centuries.” She shut off the projector and pocketed the bug. “You have a choice now. You can go back to Oran with Alli and Karran and Zofie, or you can take Zofie and go to another planet. I know several very good ones with good people and dragons. The best worlds always have dragons. Or I can rebuild Jon-Arikk, and you and Zofie can restart your civilization. Well, I can rebuild the rocky parts of Jon-Arikk. The flora, fauna, and aqua—and an atmosphere—will be supplemented by Mid-Realm Academy. I’ll also be having them pick up my statues.”

Kajik stared at her disbelievingly. “You can rebuild Jon-Arikk?”

“Not the people, just the planet, and possibly the buildings. Might take an hour. Just let me have dinner first.” She pushed away from the console and stood.

Kajik felt happier than he had in years. Then he looked at the monster, the Protector, Kelaino. She boggled his mind, standing there, so young, so beautiful, so kind, and so generous. One question burned his soul, and he had to ask before she vanished to whatever realm could contain her. “What changed you from Kelaino to the Protector?”

“The better question is what changed me to Kelaino in the first place.” She fiddled with her ring and looked away distractedly. “That’s another ancient and long story. The short answer is love. There was a man whom I loved very dearly, and I thought I had lost him. It drove me mad. Then he found me, drove the madness and darkness away, and I returned to the name I loved most.”

“And what name is that?” Kajik pressed.

She smiled. “Cassie.”

Then she twisted her ring, opening a portal in his ship. She walked through the portal and into a room filled with books. Kajik could see a large group, headed by a man in red robes. Cassie ran to him and kissed him, before gathering Trey into her arms. She glanced back at Kajik, winked, and the portal closed.

Of Dreams and Nightmares

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Rachel shook her head in amazement. “I wish I had dreams like yours. I wish could remember the dreams I had!”

This is a sentiment I’ve become used to hearing. I tended to dream of having Hollywood-level adventures, featuring magic, romance, and dragons. I also remembered them in vivid detail.

I closed the journal that detailed the most recent dream I’d had. It had been quite interesting; my older brother and I were on the run from my husband, the king of a post-apocalyptic world where all the humans could turn into animals. I could turn into a bear, my brother could turn into a wolf, and we were being chased by a cheetah mercenary. It was the perfect fuel for a cool story, so I had written it down and shown it to a few people for feedback.

This wasn’t the first time I had logged a dream into a journal. I had started writing dreams down when I was a preteen. It was easier to take the time to write them down back then. I was homeschooled, so I had plenty of time in the morning to write down the dream in as much detail as I could. I had a folder dedicated to dreams on my computer, and I would print out hard copies to keep in a binder for easy reading. I’ve lost a few binders and files with these dreams, but the dreams I wrote down back then I still have a firm handle on in my memory. Now that I’m an adult with a full-time job, it’s harder for me to write down my new dreams. I keep a journal as best I can, dating the entries to keep track of them, but these entries are often incomplete because I run out of time. Often, I rehearse the dream in my head, running over details—like finding a McDonald’s Mulan toy in the dirt and cleaning it off, or my sister-in-law serving apple pie in her wedding dress—not because they’re important to the story of the dream, but simply because I liked them. They’re the details that I cling to, and from them I can recreate the entire dream.

Like all dreams, they make sense while you’re in them. Sailing to Ohio? Of course, you’d sail through West Virginia first to get there! Going to the Renaissance Festival? Of course, it takes place the base of Mount Rushmore. Robbing a vault? Of course, you’d be paid with bottles of expensive shampoo. And like all dreams, they don’t have a real ending. You’re woken up at the climax by your alarm, your mother, your child, your dog, and you have no idea how the grand adventure will end.

One of my “lost” dreams ended on a cliffhanger, and it’s honestly one of my favorites. It takes place at the church of my teenage years, a simple, repurposed tobacco barn on sixty acres. I had gotten word that an assassin was coming after my friend Sarah (who had moved away years before in real life), and I knew this assassin’s M.O. His name was Sephiroth (yes, the one from Final Fantasy VII), and he would follow his victim invisibly over the course of three days before becoming visible to them, and only them, to kill them. However, I had a special power: I could see Sephiroth, even when he was invisible.

I tried to warn Sarah of what was going to happen, “An invisible assassin is going to kill you!”

She locked me in a closet. I pounded on the door, screaming a warning and begging for her to let me out, all the while terrified that Sephiroth was going to kill her before I could reach her again. A few hours later, she let me out, her face pale with terror as she hoarsely whispered, “I can see him.”

I knew there was no time to lose. If Sarah could see Sephiroth, it meant he was closing in for the kill. I thought I’d have more time! I drew my sword, spotting Sephiroth walking languorously up the center aisle, and told Sarah to hide. If I could keep the monster at bay for a day, she would be safe. I dueled Sephiroth while Sarah ran, but Sephiroth had a bigger sword and was more skilled. He batted me away like I was an annoying fly, then continued walking out of the church. I wasn’t his target, so I was allowed to live. I picked myself and my sword off the ground and ran outside. They were both gone.

A couple of kids were flying kites on the sidewalks, completely oblivious to our deadly game of hide-and-seek. I looked around. I still couldn’t see Sephiroth, but I thought I saw Sarah hiding on a kite. It was Sarah! But she had transformed herself into a green camo dragon the size of my open hand. She saw me and glided down to the sidewalk, silently asking if it was safe. It wasn’t. Sephiroth reappeared, once again strolling toward us lazily. Sarah ran as I threw myself at him, desperately trying to buy her some time. I lasted longer this time, but once again I was beaten and cast aside, and once again, I chased after my friend to protect her.

Sarah had fled to the Sunday School building, a second repurposed tobacco barn a few yards away from the main auditorium. Sephiroth was nowhere to be seen as I climbed the steps to the cramped upper level. The room was lined with open cubbies, all filled with talking cold-cut sandwiches. They didn’t have any eyes or faces; instead, they heckled from the space between the bread, with a leaf of iceberg lettuce for their tongue. Sarah crawled out from behind one of the sandwiches and looked at me. Then the door opened and in walked Sephiroth and his henchman, Spike, an enormous penguin that wore a leather aviator jacket and had a blue mohawk. They blocked the exit, and Sarah dived behind the sandwiches as they continued to mock and joke. Sephiroth batted me to the side with a single blow as Spike’s giant flipper snatched Sarah from the cubby. Sephiroth raised his sword to strike as I lifted my hand in a final, desperate attempt to save her…

And my mom woke me up and told me it was time for school.

I suppose some people could interpret that dream as a nightmare, but I’d never seen it as such. To me, it was always an adventure, and I was sure that, had I been able to continue the dream, Sephiroth would have run out of time to kill Sarah, and she would have been allowed to live by default. Plus, any dream that features a penguin with a blue mohawk is bound to be more of a comedy than a nightmare.

My nightmares are different. They don’t feature monsters I can chop into bits, and they don’t have talking sandwiches. The earliest nightmare I can remember was when I was eight, and I dreamed that my family boarded a flying saucer ready to leave Earth, but I wasn’t allowed to come. My dad told me “good-bye,” then he climbed into the UFO, and my family left me. I had a similar nightmare a few years later that was no doubt triggered by the Biblical account of Noah’s ark. The flood was coming, and my family boarded the ark, but I had run back to get something. I remember running up a river of stairs, only to see the ark sailing away without me. I screamed and cried for them to come back, but they couldn’t hear me. I was left to drown.

That wasn’t the only nightmare I had about drowning. A few days after the theatrical release of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, I had a dream that my extended family was having a crab feast on the beach. My cousin, Amanda, was swimming in the Bay when she was suddenly dragged under. I was the only one who saw her go down, so I ran off the pier and dived after her. I saw Amanda being dragged down into the depths of the murky water by a familiar creature that I couldn’t remember seeing before. It was like the spirits in The Lord of the Ring’s Dead Marshes, but it was different, more grotesque. It stared at me through hollow eyes, grinning a skeletal grin as its wispy green hair swirled around its shrunken skull. I pulled Amanda free, and we swam to shore, but not before we both heard the monster promise to return.

On the safety of the shore, Amanda kicked sand at me and screamed her rage. She blamed me for what had happened! She told me she never wanted to see me again, and she stormed down the beach to tell our families what had happened. I stayed where I was, dreading my next encounter with the creature in the water.

That creature still haunts me when I close my eyes. I’ve given it form in sketchbooks, trying to gain some control over it, but I can still its eerie laughter rippling through the dark water. It was so familiar, and it knew me. Even though it’s been over a decade since I’ve had that dream, it remains crisp in my memory.

Sometimes the ability to remember a dream is more of a curse than a blessing.

My #1 Fan

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“Mommy, I want to be a veterinarian when I grow up.” I was eight years old when I announced to my mother my dream career. I loved animals—especially dogs and horses—and I wanted to be around them all the time.

My mother smiled at me and shook her head. “Debi, you don’t want to be veterinarian. You don’t like to see animals in pain.”

I frowned, remembering that veterinarians also had to put down sick puppies. I did not want to do that. I changed my mind. “Then I want to be a farmer. Farmers have doggies and horses, right?”

She nodded. “Yes, they do. But,” she picked up a green folder containing a story I’d written and illustrated and handed it to me, “why don’t you be a writer instead?”

I looked at my book. I didn’t know you could do that. I didn’t know you were allowed to write books for a living. I was just writing a story because I liked writing. My mother had realized my passion before I had a clue.

Throughout my life, my mother has been supportive of my dream. She has never questioned the story I decided to write, no matter how fantastical or illogical the content. If I wrote a story about a Native American tribe making a verbal alliance with a herd of horses, she went along with it. If I wrote a story about a “street cat” named Doug Ash and her friends that sing like soured crocodiles, she would help bind it so that it would look like a real book. My mother even let me kill whole towns and tribes worth of people in my stories, even though my father and sister protested the literary massacres.

My mother supported my writing by more than just going along with my stories. When my siblings would complain that I have spent more than my allotted hour on the family computer, she would tell them, “Leave Debi alone. She is working on her book.” They hated me for hogging the computer, but my mother wouldn’t let them kick me off. She would, however, remind me that I should be thankful to have access to a computer since all the writers I loved had to hand-write or use a typewriter to write their stories.

My mother was also my personal editor. Every draft of every story I have handed to my mother she has taken and read, red pen in hand. The drafts were never “light reading.” It was not uncommon for her to have to delve through a hundred and fifty pages line by line to catch all of my grammatical errors and typos. As I grew older, my stories grew longer. I reached two hundred pages in my early teens, then four hundred in my mid-teens, and then I graduated to trilogies. My mother read everything I handed to her, no matter how many pages or volumes it had, and no matter how many words she didn’t know were words she encountered.

When I was sixteen, my first trilogy began. I was granted my own desktop computer so that I could work on it in the comfort of my own room while freeing up the family computer for my mother to work on. My mother bought all the black ink I needed, brought me reams of printing paper, and let me use her computer to print out all three-hundred-ninety-eight pages of the first book in the trilogy. She bought me twin red two-and-a-half inch binders to hold the massive manuscript and then went through it for me. She did the same for the following three drafts and never complained about the gallons of ink I used or about the immense time it took for her to edit my work. She only ever complained about my grammar.

My mother didn’t stop supporting my dream even during college. She was proud when I decided to follow my passion and major in writing. Her daily encouragement kept me from giving up as I struggled through Advanced Grammar. She constantly supported me by proof-reading the first, second, and third drafts of my reports, stories, and essays. And fourth draft. And fifth draft. Many times it felt as if I was writing six college papers a month, but she read them all, in addition to the short stories and novels I wrote for fun in my spare time. She never got tired of reading whatever I wrote—though she was probably relieved when I reached the haiku portion of my creative writing class.

There was only one story I ever deliberately kept from my mother. One of my graduation requirements was a portfolio of twenty of my original works written during college, as well as five pieces unique to the portfolio. Upon completion, I was to select two pieces to read aloud to my peers. Both of my parents were planning on traveling down to watch my performance, but I wanted one of the pieces I read to be for my mother. My goal was to make my mother cry. I worked the hardest on that piece, knowing that my trusty editor wouldn’t be allowed to see it until after it was polished to a shine and read aloud for her to hear. My fellow classmates helped me proof-read it, and they all assured me that it was one of their favorite pieces. Even my teacher was intrigued by its content. It was a fantasy story about my main writing character, Cassandra Moon, and her first birthday away from her family. When I stood at the podium in front of my parents and peers, I was able to read it with confidence. I wasn’t truly worried about my mother liking the story; she loved all of my stories. I wanted her to cry because that story illustrated how I had felt during my first birthday away from my family. It showed how much I missed her. The story almost made me cry as I was reading it; I was only able to control myself by looking to my mother. She was bawling. It cheered me up.

All my life, I have been shoving story upon story at my mother, and all my life, my mother has been telling me that I need to get published. There has never been a doubt in her mind that publication is within my reach. She has always known that I will be great someday. When I am scared of rejection, of mockery, and of degradation from agents and publishers, I remember my mother. I remember the hours she spent editing my work. I remember the money she spent on ink and paper. I remember the red pens she bled out across my typos. I remember that my mother is my number one fan, eagerly waiting for the day that she can hold the very first copy of her daughter’s book and have it signed by the author. Then I take a deep breath and click send, because I don’t want to keep my number one fan waiting.

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The Echo Chamber

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When you walk into an empty room, you can hear everything. Your footsteps are frightfully loud, your breathing sounds heavy in your ears, so you sit, and while you rest, you think. Some of your ideas sound good, so you say them out loud. You listen to your own voice encircling you with your own ideas, and the more you hear it, the better it sounds. You invite others of similar minds to come to your empty room to listen. They love your ideas, and they begin to share their own. They’re brilliant! They have all the same thoughts and reasoning as you, so you all sit there and enjoy listening yourselves talk. Then, one fateful day, a stranger comes into your midst, listens to your ideas, and dares to point out the glaring flaws. Even worse, they dare to share their own ideas, which are vastly different than yours. Enraged, you chase the intruder out, screaming to keep from hearing their arguments. The abomination safely banished from your room, you go back to sharing your identical ideas, ignoring that flaw the stranger pointed out. You have to ignore it, because if you look too long at it, you’ll be unable to deny that your entire argument is wrong.

So many people live in echo chambers like this because the very idea of being wrong is abhorrent to the average human. Yet every human being is wrong about something, whether it be the age of the Earth, or the surface temperature of the sun. And rather than face their glaring errors, the majority of people would rather shame, mock, and decry whomever had the gall to say they were wrong. And abusing anyone like that is incredibly wrong. You don’t have to like being wrong, but when you are wrong, you need to accept it.

I grew up in an echo chamber church. The pastor would tell the assembly to think for themselves, but if anyone disagreed with him, they were wrong, and he would call them out and mock them. I remember the pastor pulling young men up to the platform, teasing their dress and mannerisms. When he found one brace enough to serve in the church leading music, he would frequently stop the singing and make the young man “do it right.” It would take ten to fifteen minutes for the pastor to be satisfied with the young man’s behavior, and the congregation would continue their worship. When a visitor dared to stand and speak out against this behavior, the pastor quoted a perversion of I Timothy 2:12 and ridiculed her and her friend right out of the church. I don’t remember anyone condemning how the pastor treated that woman, but I do remember several members shaking their heads at the audacity of a woman questioning the pastor. I hadn’t liked how the pastor had been publicly humiliating that man, but all of my peers and elders were condemning the woman, so I stayed quiet.

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Silence was my specialty. It’s how I stayed under the radar and avoided the men and women who wanted to turn you into a member of their personal echo chamber. The only time I can remember dissenting is when it came to the pastor’s beliefs about the movie theaters.

My pastor was of that generation that equated movie theaters with pool halls, and both were evil. If someone saw you, a “good Christian,” going into a theater, they would have no clue what kind of wicked movie you would be seeing. And the vile, “pornographic” posters lining the wall were the worst! I thought this thinking was ridiculous. Most worldly people didn’t think twice about the “wickedness” of the movie theater, and even if they cared, anyone that knew you could figure out which movie you were going to. As for the posters, they were pretty tame when compared to the Victoria Secret posters hanging out in the mall for all to see. If you were going to outlaw movie theaters, it only made sense to outlaw the entire mall, and good luck with that! Since no one ever spoke up, I thought my family were the only ones who had the sense to see the ridiculousness of that belief.  I finally broke my silence when one of my friends bragged that his family got pirated copies of the movies still in theaters. This way, they could still see the movies with everyone else, and not commit the horrible sin of going to the movies. It galled me to learn that a fellow Christian would break the law—commit and participate in a felony rather than just go to the movies. The theater is evil? Fine. Then wait for the movies to be released. Don’t break the law! We got into a heated argument that only ended when my sister pulled me away and told me not to bother.

Though I didn’t subscribe to the entire echo chamber of my childhood church, there was one area that had me completely brainwashed. Deuteronomy 22:5 says that a woman shouldn’t wear men’s clothes, and I was raised to believe that pants are men’s clothes. For others in my church, this was the part where they rebelled, and though no woman dared to wear pants on church grounds, everyone knew who wore pants in “secular” company.

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I grew up wearing skirts and dresses. They didn’t inhibit me at all, and I felt quite comfortable in them. However, if the occasion absolutely called for it, I would wear culottes, a weird style of capris that were never comfortable but were, for some reason unknown to me, considered modest. I knew that wearing pants wasn’t a mortal sin, but I believed that wearing skirts was a mark of holiness. I had many girl friends, in church and out, who wore pants. If they weren’t members of my church, I dismissed their “immodesty” as the ignorance of the unsaved. If they were members of my church, I silently judged them. I wasn’t verbal about my self-righteousness until college.

Like a good little fundamental Baptist, I went to a Christian college that had strict dress codes. Everyone dressed like me all the time—only, they didn’t. I soon found out that all of these other “good Christian girls” wore pants when they were at home! I not only judged, I got preachy, and then I got a chance to get on my soapbox. One of my writing classes had an argumentative essay assignment, where I got to pick a controversial subject and persuade people to side with me. When I announced my topic, my teacher warned me that I would be facing a lot of opposition, so I had better make sure that I had a solid argument. Honestly, I was so convinced that I was right that I didn’t put much work into that paper. When I presented my argument to the class, my peers tore my argument to shreds. To add insult to injury, I received the lowest grade I had ever gotten on a paper: D+. Humbled and confused, I sat back down to figure out where I went wrong.

Through the rest of my college years, I listened to my friends’ opinions on the pants versus skirts debate. I met two boys who believed that women should wear skirts, but the other men I talked to about it didn’t really care either way. It was always the women that cared. A lot of girls I talked to seemed offended if I suggested wearing skirts, and most didn’t have anything more than personal preference to back up their opinions. Then there were those who had solid reasons for wearing pants, such as doing yard work, going for runs, and keeping their legs warm in the winter. Though personally I had no problem doing any of that in a skirt, I could at least understand that some people would have an easier time maneuvering in pants. It wasn’t until after college that I started gaining more intellectual insight. This came from my sister, who had been discussing the subject with her husband. She pointed out how clothing styles vary from country to country, such as kilts, kimonos, and hijabs. She also pointed out how clothing styles vary from decade to decade, and I compared what I considered to be modest to what would be considered modest back in the days of Jesus, and even further back, Moses. Then I actually looked at my friends who wore pants. There were true Christians among them, who walked closer with the LORD than I could claim. I had been imposing my American culture on the Bible, and that is very, very wrong. I was very, very wrong.

With this new understanding, you’d think I’d be wearing pants now. I don’t. I still wear skirts, but not out of any “I’m holier than thou” attitude, but because I like them. I love the feel of yards of fabric swirling around my ankles, and I love how a full skirt looks on me. I also love how skirts allow for bigger pockets. (The skirts I wear are homemade, and I make sure to put in pockets large enough to hold my 24 oz. water bottle.) It’s nothing spiritual, just preference, and I smile with relief whenever my friends tell me that they don’t feel judged by me.

Echo chambers are incredibly dangerous. Listening to only one side of the story will only stunt your growth and make you ignorant. If you surround yourself only with people who echo your own beliefs, not only will you brainwash yourself, you will also be unprepared to defend your beliefs when someone finally comes along to challenge you. You need to know why you believe what you believe, and why your opponent believes what they believe. Do you believe in evolution? Learn about creation, not to criticize, but to understand. If you want stricter gun laws, study the laws already in place, and try to figure out how new laws will change life. If you’re pro-choice, study the reasonings of the pro-lifer. But whatever you do, don’t look at the people who believe in either side. People will always give you a reason to rebel. Look at the argument alone and, no matter what side you’re on, try to understand.

Get out of the echo chamber.

Knife Work

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You would think that, with my experience with the brand, I wouldn’t be such an avid fan of the Cutco kitchen knives. This isn’t a paid sponsorship or promotion or anything, I’m just weirdly attached to these high quality knives.

Cutco knives aren’t sold in stores; you have to subject yourself to a physical salesman coming to your home. They’re also extremely expensive. It’s annoying, but it’s worth it. They’re “forever” guaranteed, meaning you can pass the knives down as family heirlooms and the company will continue to keep them sharpened and polished, replacing them if anything should happen to the blade or handle.  The knives have a patented “D-blade” designed so that you can cut efficiently forwards, backwards, and straight down. They’re incredibly sharp, something I learned the painful way.

My mother bought a single Cutco knife through one of the members of our church. I was still a preteen at the time, and didn’t pay much attention to the new knife. One afternoon, I was making a sandwich, and I didn’t notice the knife sitting un-sheathed on the counter beside the peanut butter. I put all the ingredients away and tossed my dirtied butter knife into the sink, carrying my sandwich out to the living room for lunch.

Before I stepped off the linoleum onto the carpet, my mother yelped, “Debi, your toe!”

I looked down. My right big toe was bleeding so badly, I could see my knuckle bone. I hadn’t even felt my toe being cut, but now that I could see the cut, I could feel the pain. I began screaming, and my mom quickly swathed my toe and took me back to the kitchen to wash the wound. That’s when we saw the bloodied knife on the floor. I must have accidentally knocked it off the counter onto my toe when I was making my sandwich. I had to go to the hospital to get my toe bandaged, and I don’t remember ever eating that sandwich.

After I graduated college, I began looking for a job that would support me until I could get my career in writing launched. I applied for several, then found an opening at a business called “Vector.” I got an interview, and, even though I got lost and arrived fifteen minutes late, I got the job. I learned that Vector is the name of the company that creates Cutco, and that it was now my job to sell them.

During training, I was shown how the Cutco blades are made, and how they compare price-wise to blades bought at Wal-Mart. I was fascinated by what I was learning, even before we started the product testing. We used the knives to cut thick hemp ropes, to slice grapes so thin they looked like contact lenses, and to cut through leather. Then my boss pulled out the scissors. They were all-purpose scissors, cutting through pizza, raw broccoli, paper, and fabric, and like all the knives, its patented handle fitted comfortably in both your left AND right hands. But the most impressive thing about the scissors was that they could cut a penny in two. It wasn’t easy, you had to use a little leverage, but it could do it. My manager showed us how to make “penny art” by cutting nicks and notches into the coin, transforming it into a swan, a flower, or a snake. It was really cool, and the scissors quickly became my favorite thing to demonstrate.

Once my training was complete, I was instructed to go through my contacts and call them all to set up an in-home demonstration. I was assured that my paycheck wasn’t dependent on sales–I only had to go through the appointment to get paid–but my paycheck would increase significantly if I made good sales. As an added bonus, for my first two weeks of selling I would get a new knife of my own for every sales level I reached. It was quite possible for a salesman to acquire the entire catalog through this two-week incentive, but I fell short of the goal. The scissors and standard knives automatically came in my standard set, but I did gain the petite chef, the meat cleaver, the spreading knife (another really cool item), the cake knife, and a few other utensils. I bought my selling kit for a steal, and I was very happy with the product I was pitching. The only downside was that I hated my job.

As you can see, I believe in the product 250%, and I liked my manager, but I’m an introvert. It would take a lot for me to call a friend or a relative up to schedule an appointment. I felt like I was a nuisance, and I couldn’t stand bothering my loved ones even though I really loved these knives. I was really good at selling them, too, climbing to the top of the salesman bracket easily, but I couldn’t last with the gut-wrenching self-loathing I was subjecting myself to. After a month of selling, I quit.

My manager begged me to stay, but when I refused, settled for transferring me from sales to the phones. My official title was “receptionist,” but a more accurate description would honestly be “telemarketer.” My manager insisted that we weren’t telemarketers because we weren’t selling anything, we were offering people jobs. It didn’t feel any different to me. When you are accepted by Vector, you write down the names and phone numbers of people you think would be interested in the job as well, getting a little bonus if you “recommend” at least five people. I recommended a church friend who did ultimately get hired by Vector, but I knew the majority of the people on the list would just consider the phone calls a nuisance. They didn’t apply for a job, they didn’t ask for a job, and they didn’t want to be called by random people soliciting jobs. Naturally I hated this job, too, and after a few nasty phone calls, I stopped calling.

I’m usually proud of my work ethic. I’m usually a good, hard worker. I show up early, I do the best work I can at my job, and I try to be responsible. I’m a little ashamed to say I didn’t do my best as Vector’s “receptionist.” Vector had a file of old phone numbers that we were supposed to consistently go through. These numbers were frequently five years old, and they belonged to the people smart enough to not answer unknown numbers and telemarketers. I decided to work through this list, but instead of calling the numbers listed, I would call my own number, let the call go to voicemail, then labeled the number “uninterested” so they wouldn’t be bothered again.

Around the same time, I picked up a second job that I actually enjoyed. I started working with a Before and After School Care program with great people and greater kids. The morning shift started insanely early and didn’t cut into my receptionist job with Vector, but the afternoon shift did. I was supposed to work 10-4 with Vector, but schools let out at 3, so I had to leave Vector around 2 0’clock in order to arrive at the school in time to take attendance.

My Vector manager felt a little betrayed when he found out I had picked up a second job that cut into my shift on the phones. I found another job at a childcare center and put in my two weeks notice at Vector. My manager told me to go ahead and not come back, telling me that he didn’t appreciate how I hadn’t told him I was looking for other jobs and how I hadn’t given him time to find a replacement when I couldn’t fulfill my duties on the phones. I hadn’t realized I needed to tell my manager I was looking for jobs; I thought the two-week notice was the only thing I needed. I understood how cutting work early to go my second job would upset him, even though I had reported and cleared my schedule change with him before doing so.

When I walked out of the Vector office for the last time, I wasn’t sure if I had technically been fired, but I wasn’t upset. I had a set of awesome knives I got cheap because I worked for the company, and I had gotten a friend a job he was excited to have. I already had another job for myself lined up, and a two week break between jobs sounded great! I walked to my borrowed car and drove home for a rest between shifts.

Pippin’s Return

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*FOR BEST UNDERSTANDING OF TEXT, PLEASE READ “PIPPIN” POSTED 4/16/2018*

Puppy Meet and Greet (24)Pippin is my dog. When I first adopted him, I was told he was a German Shepherd/Boxer mix, and as a puppy, that’s what he looked like. I did a ton of research on German Shepherds and Boxers, trying o learn as much as I could about their behaviors and personalities in preparation. He was everything I thought he would be and more, and I adored him. Then around his first birthday, me and my family began to notice some things.

IMG_5341Purple spots were appearing on his tongue, he had tufts of hair around his hair, and he had a thick undercoat. None of these were overly alarming; one of our previous dogs, Bodoso, had purple spots on his tongue, and it was completely natural. In fact, we were beginning to notice that Pippin looked a lot like Bodoso. We didn’t want to pay for a blood test to determine exactly which breeds had mixed to bring him into my life, but we were all fairly positive that Pippin was part Chow Chow. This wasn’t alarming since Bodoso had also been part Chow Chow, and he had been a sweet and friendly dog. Pippin was very friendly and loving as well, but we soon discovered that he was only that way toward our family.

At first, he only growled and barked, but then he started tearing pant legs. I knew this wasn’t good behavior, and I began to research Chow Chows to figure out how to break him of this habit. What I found out worried me. Chow Chows are guard dogs, much like German Shepherds, and they’re very hard to train due to their stubborn personalities. It was also very important to socialize them and keep them socialized or they become very hostile toward strangers. As a puppy, I had taken him to several social gatherings, but I was an introvert, and socializing myself was chore enough. Still, I loved this dog with all my heart, and I would do my best to help him.

I enrolled him in the Petsmart training program for the beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. Pippin already knew all the basic commands and several additional tricks, so I wasn’t going to learn how to train dogs. I knew that. I had learned when Bodoso was a puppy and he had gone through the same program. Pippin and I were going so that Pippin could be exposed to people and to other dogs. It took him to the end of the beginner course to warm up to the place and the Petsmart trainer. He didn’t act out or misbehave, and he obeyed all my commands, but he didn’t accept any of my treats. However, he impressed the trainer with his obedience skills, and for a while, everything was okay.

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Then came the idiot solicitor.

Our yard looks open, but it is surrounded by an “invisible” fence. Our door has a dog-door so that our dogs can go in and out whenever they need to. All of our dogs are well-trained on the boundaries of our yard, and they don’t break that barrier unless they’re on a leash going on a walk. There’s a big sign out in the front garden that warns: BEWARE OF DOG. Pippin, Stardust, and Divet, all three of our dogs, were out in the yard that day, barking at the man in the street. My mom and I looked outside and saw the solicitor, but before I could go out and tell him not to come in the yard, he wandered back up the street. We both assumed the man had gotten the hint from the dogs. A few hours later, that same solicitor walked up to our porch and knocked. I spotted him a split second before Divet sounded the alarm and Stardust and Pippin charged outside to confront the intruder. I rushed outside and dragged Pippin to a bedroom and shut ourselves inside, but the solicitor had already paid for trespassing. That night, I began to research personal trainers that specialized in aggression.

I found one that had a lot of good reviews, and the reviewers all seemed to have dogs with behaviors similar to Pippin. I contacted her and scheduled an interview. When she came to our house, she confirmed that Pippin showed several Chow Chow characteristics, and she began teaching us a version of the command “place” which I renamed “namaste.” That one trick alone did much to help Pippin. If we knew we had visitors coming, we would put him, Stardust, and Divet into “namaste” until they calmed down enough to greet our guests civilly.

Unexpected guests were still a problem. We tried to ask visitors to text us before they arrived so we would have time to get the dogs settled, but they didn’t always listen. Delivery men would also appear without warning. Pippin kept charging the dog door to defend his territory, so we blocked it. That was only a temporary solution, so I began searching for something more permanent that would keep my Pippin safe.

My sister and her husband had found a “doggy daycare” called Premier Dog Training for their Australian Shepherd, Arya, and that daycare had a boarding and training program. My brother-in-law always did extreme research into any place he recommended, so I trusted them enough to check the place out for myself. I looked at their Facebook page. I looked at their Instagram. I followed their Twitter. I liked what I saw, so I asked for a tour and scheduled an evaluation for Pippin. The trainers at PDT were all very friendly, and their love for dogs was obvious. The facility was nice as well, the grounds almost completely cleaned of feces (an impressive feat for a place that welcomes forty dogs daily), and the only thing I didn’t like was the fact that I had to leave Pippin there for three weeks.

They did have an option for two weeks available for standard training, but since Pippin struggled with aggression, he was only eligible for the three week program. I understood the logic in that; aggression is a difficult behavior to overcome. I also understood the logic in another condition, even though I hated it: I wouldn’t be allowed to visit my dog during his stay at PDT.  Pippin is very protective of me, and I am very attached to him. If I were to visit him during his stay, he would get distracted and excited, and then I would have to leave him again and we would both be messed up. I also knew that I didn’t have the strength or the skills to train him myself, so I had to give him up–but only for three weeks! I signed Pippin up for the boarding camp and resigned myself to three weeks of misery.

Before I dropped him off at PDT, I took two days off to spend a bit of quality time with him. I got him a puppy birthday cake, we played in the snow, and we went to Bruster’s for a doggy ice cream sundae (vanilla ice cream with a dog treat on top). We played, we cuddled, but the days had to end, and I dropped him off at PDT for training.

I dropped him off on a Saturday, making sure I took my mother with me when I did. I already knew that I wouldn’t be able to drive home; I’d be too busy crying. When we went into the PDT office, Pippin was weighed, processed, and a trainer was called to lead him away. Pippin clung to me as the trainer knelt and used the “come” command. Pippin, of course, refused to obey the stranger, growling deep in his throat, but then the trainer asked for his leash. I handed it over, and promptly felt betrayed when Pippin trotted off obediently with him. Another trainer, Ben, the one who would become Pippin’s primary trainer at PDT, took my mom and I to another room and walked us through the paperwork and how they operated. Most of it I knew already from my previous tour, so I had few questions. Then when Ben said we could leave, I realized I hadn’t told Pippin “good-bye.” The other trainer had just taken him! Ben went out to the reception area and had Pippin brought back down for me. When Pippin saw me, he ran to me, pulling against the leash the trainer was holding. He clung to me again, covering me with kisses, and silently begging me to take him home. As much as it broke my heart to leave him, I knew I had to. PDT had a good facility, and I could tell that Ben and the other trainers truly loved the dogs in their care. I couldn’t break Pippin of his mistrust, so I had to entrust him to professionals. Three weeks without him was better than losing him completely. My mom and I walked out of the office, listening to Pippin’s crying, and I couldn’t stop crying.

The next three weeks were terrible. I was fine when I was at work. The twenty students in my class kept me distracted with their three-year-old games, but I couldn’t stay at school forever. I would have to drive home, and then I would sit in my car and watch the yard. When Pippin was home, he would come charging out of the house, bouncing onto the green grass as he eagerly waited for me to get out of my car and into the yard where he could greet me. It was always the highlight of my day. But that first Monday, I pulled into my parking spot and waited. Pippin didn’t come to greet me; neither did Stardust nor Divet. The lack of excitement at my homecoming emphasized my missing dog. Dinner time was just as hard. My family would normally sit in the living room, watching some show on Netflix together while we ate, and our dogs would lay on the floor by our chairs waiting for scraps. Pippin always had the most adorable way of begging. He would rest his head on my knee or on the cushion nearby, and stare at me silently. It may have been poor manners to allow this, but it was just too cute! But now, there was no brown dog with amber eyes staring at me. There was no dog at all by my seat, no dog to pass my plate to. Then at night, I went up to my room alone. Pippin would always snuggle with me before bed before jumping off my bed and curling up on his own. His soft snoring would lull me to sleep. Sometimes, he would have nightmares, crying in his sleep and waking me. Whenever that happened, no matter how late or early, I would crawl out of bed and pet him until he settled. He would often wake at my touch, and give me a sleepy kiss as a “thank you” for saving him from his bad dream. Now, however, my room was silent. I had to turn on an audio book to help keep my tired mind from focusing on the lack of breathing, though even that distraction didn’t help me sleep. Even with two other dogs in the house, even with my parents there, I felt so lonely.

PDT assigned Pippin his own hashtag on Instagram, and I followed their page like mad. But unfortunately, of the twenty-one days Pippin stayed at their kennel, they only posted six pictures of my Pippin to Instagram. They never promised to post pictures regularly, and I understood in my head that they were IMG_9220more concerned with training the dogs than photographing them, but six pictures wasn’t enough for me. The second week I went a little mad. Whenever I wasn’t at work, I was in my room. My heart felt heavy, yet hollow, but I was numb. Once, my mom even found me curled behind my little dish chair, Pippin’s corner when he was home. I hadn’t even realized I had crawled back there. Stardust was almost as bad. She slunk around the house, looking very depressed, and she would go out to the yard every morning to poke about, as if looking for Pippin. The only thing that kept me going was the countdown I had left in Pippin’s bowl, and I would comfort Stardust as best I could. The final seven days I perked back up, watching excitedly as the days ticked own to zero. Then the twenty-first day dawned.

I was bouncing off the walls with excitement. My dad kept teasing me, saying that we should leave Pippin there for another week! But I knew better. My dad had missed Pippin, too; he had been keeping as close a count of the days as I had. We piled into the car and traveled to PDT.

We met with Pippin’s trainer, Ben, and he gave us Pippin’s training and care report. Most of it I already knew; I had been bugging the facility with calls and emails and passive-Pippin Comes Home (5)aggressive comments on their Instagram pictures begging for more pictures of my dog. I was a helicopter dog-mom, and I knew it. Ben said it had taken three days for Pippin to warm up to him, and but that Pippin had been a very passive and sweet dog. Ben then took us through an abridged version of the training, telling us how he had been working with Pippin and how we were to continue with that training. Then he kept us in the waiting room where we could see the training room through the two-way mirror. Ben took Pippin through “place,” “wait,” and “come,” and then put Pippin in “stay” while he left the room. He popped into our room and told us we could go in and see him now.

I pushed my way through my parents, casting a look at Pippin waiting patiently in his spot for Ben to come back, and then I opened the door and stepped in the room. At first, Pippin just raised his head and stared at me, as if he wasn’t sure that it was really me. But as I came closer, he saw that it was me, it was really me, and he ran off his place jumping and licking, his tail wagging at an erratic speed. We were both so happy! Then my parents joined us, and Pippin ran to greet them, still jumping and licking joyfully. Ben followed after them, and we got Pippin calm enough to run some practice commands so that Ben could see that the commands had transferred correctly. Pippin clung to my legs as we worked, licking my hands whenever I reached down to pet him, and he would wander over to greet my parents if our practice came too close to them.

When we took him to the receptionist to sign him out, the receptionist grinned and told me, “I had to poke my head back there to watch. I knew he loved somebody–not me, but somebody. That was the cutest thing I’ve seen all year.”

Of course it was.

When Pippin came home, the first thing he did was go around the yard marking his territory. It wasn’t quite the reaction we had expected, but I thought it was hilarious. It surprised us that Stardust was unsure about Pippin’s return, yet Divet, the grumpy and resentful Jack Russell, was over-joyed to see him again. Divet followed Pippin around the yard for a good hour, his stumpy little tail wagging his entire backside. After going around the yard, checking for squirrels and changes, Pippin wandered inside and collapsed on the tile floor, exhausted from all the excitement. I followed him inside and forced myself to camp on the couch and not smother him. It was good to see Pippin home again. All the emptiness I had felt in his absence was gone, and we spent the rest of the day hyper aware of each other.

A week later, I was noticing that Pippin was much friendlier toward people. I took him to my granny’s birthday party, and he obeyed sweetly despite the crowd. He had never met my Aunt Kim before, but when she cooed and called to him, he nudged her hand and let her pet him. He let my two cousins pet him as well, though he did growl a little when all three went to pet him at once; I figure he was overwhelmed. Later in the week, I went on a little walk with my sister-in-law and infant nephew, and we passed a stranger on the sidewalk. Pippin wagged his tail and nudged the stranger’s leg, something he never would have done before PDT. Finally, another one of my aunts came to the house to pick something up, and Pippin jumped up to greet her. Though she didn’t entirely appreciate the jumping, I was delighted by the excitement of the greeting. This behavior makes me optimistic about Pippin’s future.

Dog training never ends, and neither does human training. It takes a lot of discipline on both sides to maintain control, but I’m determined. I still have a kennel and a house visit with PDT as part of his training program, and I still have Petsmart’s advanced program for socialization. Pippin is my dog, and I will do everything in my power to make sure it stays that way.

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Pippin

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IMG_0423I was born into a very dog family. My family got their first dog, a Keeshond they named Tocoro, when my mother was pregnant with me. For the first ten years of my life, he was a big, fluffy poof I could cry into. He loved me and my three siblings, and he was excellent at protecting our yard from drunk drivers and mailmen. Then in 2001, Tocoro got a blood clot and died in the middle of the night. I remember my parents calling him, going out into the yard to look for him that night, but he was a black dog, and they didn’t find him until the next morning, dead at the base of our slide. My dad buried him before we woke, and my parents broke the news to use over breakfast. I still remember the pain of that heart-rending devastation.

We got our next dog later that year. His name was Bodoso, and we rescued him from a IMG_0424flea-infested family home. He had scars from those fleas the rest of his life, but he was a sweet Dingo/Chow Chow mutt. His first night in our home, my siblings and I all camped out on the floor to sleep with him, and he roamed from sleeping bag to sleeping bag to snuggle with us. Since I was older when we adopted him, I remember more about his quirks. I remember he had a strong tail that would swish back and forth whenever he was happy (which was all the time), and it wasn’t uncommon for him to clear the coffee table with the strength of his tail alone. He was also very slobbery and loving, coating your face and arms with drool whenever he licked you. He would play soccer with ice cubes and empty detergent bottles, and he would attack the swings on our playset whenever they moved. He was a good dog, and sadly died a few years ago.

IMG_0422Two years after we adopted Bodoso (or “Bodie” as we called him), we rescued a second dog, this time from the county animal shelter. This dog was eight weeks old, black and white, assumed to be a Dalmatian/Pointer mix. We named her Chocolate Chip. She was a beautiful and sweet dog, and she and I bonded. During the day, she would curl up in her cage and nap, snuggling up next to the heating vent at the back of her cage, but at night, she would cuddle up in my bed next to me. If I shifted in my sleep, she would automatically adjust her position so that she was right next to me again. Then, one Sunday morning while my family was at church, she was attacked and hospitalized by an escaped pit bull. She survived with help from Bodie, but she was never the same after that. She remained devoutly loyal to my family, but any strangers would be in danger. My sophomore year of college I got the call that my family was being sued for a dog bite, and we were forced to put Chocolate Chip down. It broke my heart, and I cried for days.

Blizzard 2016 (198)The next semester, my mother adopted a new dog, a pure-bred Jack Russell Terrier, just as she’d always wanted. When I came home for the summer, the new dog, Divet, didn’t particularly care for me. He was never aggressive toward me, but neither was he particularly friendly. I felt Chocolate Chip’s absence with all my heart.

Bodie died, I graduated from college, and my parents adopted another rescue, a snow-IMG_5905white Husky/American Shepherd mutt we named “Stardust” for her habit of shedding all over the place. She had been abused by previous owners, and it took a while for her to warm up to us and to stop flinching whenever we raised a hand to pet her. My parents hoped that she would eventually bond with me, and while she showed me more affection than Divet, I still missed Chocolate Chip.

Once Stardust understood that we wouldn’t hurt her, and that we loved her, she became quite energetic. My mom couldn’t keep up with her, and Divet wouldn’t play with her, so my mom and dad decided to let me to get a dog of my very own. I was still living at home, despite having a full-time job as a teaching aide, and I was lonely. When they told me the news, I was ecstatic and began to hunt for my dog.

There were several things I knew: I loved German Shepherds, I didn’t want a pure-breed, I wanted a boy, and I wanted to adopt from a rescue. My parents’ only stipulation was that I couldn’t adopt a Pit Bull. Considering our family’s history with Pit Bulls, I was fine with that condition. I started scouring the websites of local shelters, searching for a dog with a breeding mix I liked. I originally found a beautiful mutt named “Rocky” at Howard County Animal Shelter, and I applied for adoption, trying (and failing) not to get my hopes up. I went up to the shelter to play with him twice, and my mom took Divet and Stardust to play with him, to make sure they would all get along–these were all requirements for adoption from the shelter. Unfortunately, it was not to be. There was a waiting list for Rocky, and I was number four on the list. Numbers one and two fell through, and I felt my hopes rising–then number three fulfilled all adoption requirements and took Rocky home. I was dejected.

Puppy Meet and Greet (24)A week later, I found a listing for a puppy at MAS Rescue. They believed he was a German Shepherd/Boxer mix, 10-11 weeks old. He had been found on the streets of North Carolina with his ten brothers and sisters, and had been shipped up to Maryland under the name “Mars.” MAS Rescue renamed him “Clooney,” and placed him and his sister “Sasha” with a foster mother. When I saw his picture, I fell in love. He had HUGE fluffy ears, and his head was cocked as if he was contemplating some mischief. I worked on an application of adoption for a few hours, stressing over its perfection, and begging for a recommendation from my sister’s boyfriend. Again, I tried not to get my hopes up, but I couldn’t help it! I had already picked a name of my own for him: Pippin.

Five days later, I was contacted by MAS and asked to schedule a meet and greet with all the members of the household, people and dogs. I scheduled the meet and greet for the earliest time available, and I waited impatiently for the appointed time to arrive. The foster mother had to push the appointment back an hour because of traffic, but then it was finally time to load everyone into the cars and drive out to Ellicott City. I was nervous. Stardust was still a little shy around strangers, and Divet was just generally grumpy. What if one of them snapped at the little puppy, and I wouldn’t get to take the puppy home? My parents controlled our dogs as the foster momPuppy Meet and Greet (78) took us into the fenced area where Pippin was playing with Sasha. Despite my fantasy being the puppy taking an instant liking to me, Pippin was more interested in the large Stardust and the older Divet. Divet was just as indifferent to the little puppy as he was to me, but Stardust and Pippin got along pretty quickly. After a few confirmation questions about our yard and home life, my family was approved. I signed their contract, swearing to return him to their care should anything happen and to get him neutered as soon as he was old enough, and I scooped up my new puppy, Pippin. He joined my family June 9th, 2016.

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Pippin was only ten pounds when I adopted him. He ate well, and I wasn’t shy about giving him scraps from my plate, but it took him a few months to get to a healthy weight. I got him to the vet and on a healthcare plan, and he was declared healthy–other than his weight. I took him on walks, I worked on training him, and I even took him to a few  church events to help socialize him. He was thankfully easy to house-train, and he picked up on his training commands fairly quickly. Since I had named him “Pippin” after my favorite hobbit in The Lord of the Rings, I decided to use some alternative commands: “noro lim” for “run,” “Say something nice”  for “speak,” and “avada kedrava” for “play dead.” He and Stardust’s bond grew stronger, and they were rarely apart from each other. We noticed that when they played, Stardust would grab Pippin’s collar to tackle him, while Pippin used his tiny form to “attack” her ankles. This behavior transferred over to us. Whenever we would play, he would grab the hem of our pants and skirts. That was how he earned the nickname “ankle-biter” and “Nippin’ Pippin.” It was cute . . . until he grew up.

Pippin is the perfect dog for me. He doesn’t get annoyed with my abundant snuggling, his fur has remained soft into adulthood, and he’s pretty chill. Whenever he’s not playing, he’s napping. He doesn’t bother you when you’re working, and he doesn’t have any problems stealing food or destroying things. He’s sweet and affectionate, even though he frequently has nightmares. I don’t know what makes him cry in his sleep, but whenever I go to him, he wakes up and gives me a few sleepy kisses before settling back down into a peaceful sleep. He’s quite attached to me, and he’ll come barreling out the door whenever I come home from a long day of teaching. If I take too long getting out of my car, he’ll run around the yard, barking at all the squirrels and making sure it’s “safe” for me. I never get tired of his big grin and sloppy kisses, or the way he leans against my legs for cuddles, and I will be forever blessed to have such a dog in my life.

 

Sidetracked

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I love when Railix programs the portals to set me a couple miles away from my destination; it lets me spread my wings and enjoy the scenery. Since I have to spend most of my time at Mid-Realm Academy as a human, it was nice to have some time to be a dragon and fly. I soared over a river nestled sweetly in a green valley, a glory of unicorns nibbling at the tall wildflowers, and several couples picnicking in what they thought were deserted grasslands. I inhaled the clear, upper skies, letting my eyes drift shut as I drifted on the cool wind.

“You’re upsetting the locals,” Railix’s harsh, gravelly voice said in my ear.

Railix is my guardian and my chronicler—or my “baby-sitter” as Faye calls him—and though he is lightyears and worlds away, he’s never far. That is due to the MRA tech called “earcomms.” When I’m human, my earcomms are a pair of mismatched earrings that allow me to hear and speak to him, and while their appearance doesn’t transfer to my dragon body, the connection remains. Railix also projects my image and location on several monitors in the Academy using his own power he calls “vision.” It’s annoying, but useful.

“You’re upsetting me,” I told him.

“Reports of a black dragon flying over Dimesh are already being filed with the king. Bounties will be placed on your head, and there will be an army on your tail within the month.”

“Sounds fun.”

“Cassandra Moon, you are on a time-sensitive mission. You do not have time to play with a battalion of armed knights.”

“Don’t full-name me! This mission isn’t that time-sensitive.”

“Nevertheless, there is a forest two miles from your destination. Change to your human form at the border and continue on foot.”

“Fine. But I get to keep flying until then. Deal?”

“Agreed.”

I swooped down and puffed a little fire at the next couple I saw picnicking on the greens. It was definitely mean, and it may have even been wrong, but it was so much fun! Of course, I had to listen to a short and pointed lecture from Railix, but that didn’t stop me from doing it again. Then Railix pointed out the approaching forest, and the fun was over. I landed and became your average five-foot-eight human girl. I shoved my hands in my pockets and followed the main path through the forest, already missing the view from the skies.

The woods were pretty and peaceful—or they were until I reached the crossroads. I stopped in my tracks and tried to process what I saw. A man was standing there, flanked by two large, slobbering wolves. He had huge muscles, was clothed in fur from head to toe, had a long, unkempt beard, and a big, chipped sword. His expression that was lost to the shadows of his skull hood, and, for a moment, the world was silent. Then he whistled, and his wolves charged, their master a few steps behind them with his sword raised to take my head.

I jumped aside, surprised by the wolves’ eagerness to eat me, and ducked as the man swung.

“Who’s trying to kill you now?” Faye asked as I rolled aside.

The man whirled and snarled, whistling to signal his wolves. They turned slowly, hackles raised, drool dripping from their jaws.

I backed off the path, pulling my buster sword from the dimensional rift in my pocket. The black diamond blade glinted in the speckled light, ready to block the man’s sword. “No idea. Just like I have no idea why you’re on the earcomm instead of Railix. Railix!”

“I’m here.”

“Why is this man trying to kill me?” I brought my sword up, easily fending off his attacks. He was relying on sheer muscle, no brains; all I had to do was hold my sword still and let him wear himself out. The wolves were pacing in the background, waiting for a command from their master.

“He’s a random thief. Take him out.”

“No!” Faye wailed. “I’m bored. Drag it out a bit. Consider it practice.”

Railix told me not to bother with him, muttering something about the pointless fight. A part of me wanted to turn the thief to stone and move one, but Faye was my best friend. I felt obligated to entertain her. “Just the thief, or do you want me to play with the dogs, too?”

“Go for the trifecta.”

The thief roared in frustration as my arms and sword refused to yield, but that roar turned into a scream when I kicked his groin. He fell back, clutching himself and spewing obscenities. I raised an eyebrow, leaning on my sword as I waited for his next move. He called a command to the wolves, and they pounced obediently. I caught the first one’s head with my hand and flipped him over my back, while I brought my sword up to block the second. His head smacked right into the flat of the blade, causing him to bounce off with a yelp. The first wolf was limping behind me, his ears laid back, his eyes flicking to his master. The thief cussed them out and commanded them to attack again as he picked himself up. The wolves whined, then snapped at my ankles as they circled me. I felt a little sorry for the overgrown dogs; I could no longer bring myself to hurt them, which left me with how to break the thief’s control over them. I created a fireball in my hand, letting it grow until it was the size of a basketball. The wolves backed away, half growling, half whimpering with fear at the leaping flames. Even the thief cried out at this slight exhibition of my powers. I threw the fireball at the wolves’ feet, and they predictably ran away.

“Monster!” The thief accused, backing away. “Demon! Devil!”

“Dragon,” I corrected, turning toward him so the firelight cast shadows across my face. He was shaking, but skeptical, so I proved it. I unleashed my second form, a black dragon with red wings, a single bent horn, and a golden collar with a red jewel. He screamed, tripping over his own feet in his rush to get away. I laughed and belted out my best, draconic roar. He couldn’t get away fast enough.

“Boo,” Faye complained in my ear. “You’re no fun.”

“Eh, he wasn’t enough of a challenge.”

“Good. That means you can get back to your job,” Railix snapped impatiently.

I shrank back to my human form and extinguished the fire before it wiped out the forest. “Fine. Fine. I’m going. See? This is me, going.”