Thursday, July 31, 2014

CE Backyard - Bark, Ivy, and Aoril

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It's been raining off and on today, and I've been emptying my room to make room for the loft bed I bought.

I'm making a mad dash for the other house to get out of the rain when I'm attacked. Without warning, I'm on my back in the wet weeds, with a pair of wild brown eyes boring in to mine. I try to swallow, wondering what mad person has attacked me and why.


The girl draws back, and I can see her cropped brown hair, brown scale dress and leggings, and brown fingernails.

"What are you doing here, Bark?" I ask, sitting up.


I'm slammed to the ground again, and this time the eyes boring into mine are green.

"Hello, Ivy."


And she's now off of me. I sit up, rubbing my ears and cautiously get to my feet. The two girls are now roughhousing with each other. Right now, Ivy, with her long black hair, green and black scale armor, and green fingernails, is on top.

"How in Rintaria did you two get here," I mutter, shaking my head.

"They wanted to see you. Someone mentioned you were fun."

I turn to see a man who, despite his young appearance, was gray-haired. His fingernails were the same shade of gray, and he wore silver scale armor. His eyes are brown.

I dip my head in respect. "It's good to see you, Aoril. How did you get here."

"Our Len said they could come visit while Stardrana is at the castle recovering from healing Wendi," he explained. "I came to keep an eye on them."

"I see. I think Stardrana will recover quickly, if the scene can get written," I observe. "Your Len is facing that nasty thing called writer's block."

"She's mentioned, that's why she said we could come see you. I believe it's time for us to get back. Girls!"

Both jump up and run over to him, nearly knocking him off balance with the force of their hug. "Fight!" they chorus.

"Yes, girls, we need to get back to the fight. It was good speaking with you, Anka Kendra."

"And you, too, Winddancer."

"In this form, you need only call me Aoril."

Party Game - Scavenger Hunt

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Because Half-Hidden is based on the premise of hunting, Scavenger Hunt just feels like a natural choice for today. I've hidden twelve pictures from my  around my blog, together with twelve fun facts about the book.

Below are hint for where to find these pictures. The year that the post was posted, and a clue to the post's title. Every picture will be at the bottom of its post, and after it, the fun fact. When you find one, comment on it, and I'll keep track. Every one you find will be an entry for a drawing, the winner of which will read the first few chapters that I wrote for Camp NaNo last year as well as the snippet that I have in my RambleK.

1. 2014. This is not normally a good Combination.
2. 2013. This Dragon doesn't care much for Trees.
3. 2013. I'm an Extrovert, by the way.
4. 2009. The Iliad and Odossey
5. 2011. Gwain and the not Green Knight
6. 2012. Fire and Walls.
7. 2012. Ashes and Wind
8. 2010. An Old Oak
9. 2012. This Spaghetti sounds nasty.
10. 2012. This isn't Snow White, but the title sounds like it might be.
11. 2014. I keep Makilien cool.
12. 2013. They aren't blood brothers ... for one thing, they're girls.

Have fun, and good luck! May your fires burn strong!

300 Dragons - Chapter 1

Chapter 1

In his dreams, Jyson could always fly. The ground would disappear from under his feet and he would soar through the air, the glaring sun not a torment, but a source of energy. But then he would always wake up.
He has often wondered about the meaning of these dreams, and why they were so consistent. Flight was not something he coveted in his waking hours. He was normally quite content with his feet firmly routed on the ground. It was just during the night …
However, this was not a morning given to contemplation. He and his cousin, Samul, had been summoned to the capitol for the first time, and thoughts could not be spared to anything beyond the fact that they were leaving today.
Do you think King Hubert is going to prefer you or me me?” Samul asked, flashing Jyson a grin over the stable partition as they saddled their horses. “Because frankly, I don't see how he's going to resist my charming manners.”
Jyson shook his head as he tightened the girth. “If he can get past your pretentious attitude, I think you'll do just fine.”
It's part of my charm, Jy,” said Samul. “Now you, I really don't know what you have to recommend yourself – unless he's interested in broody young knights given to violent bursts and obsessed with keeping their hands smooth.”
You never know,” said Jyson, frowning momentarily at his gloved hands. “I've heard that King Hubert can be quite the broody man himself. We might find that we have much in common.”
If he can get past your gloves.”
Look, I don't wear gloves because I like it and you know it. It was my father's last order to my mothers that my hands never be seen, and I like to respect that.”
You don't have to get so worked up about it, Jy,” said Samul, daring to laugh. “I just think that it was a very strange request. Did he think your hands deformed or something.”
Jyson tensed slightly, as he thought of the other part of his father's last order – that he never tell anyone the reason. No, his hands weren't deformed, but the truth was almost as bad. “We'd better get going,” he said aloud, opening the stall door. “We have a good two days' journey ahead of us.”
You're right, I have two whole days that I can torment you non-stop. I can spread it out, instead of cramming it all in now.”
Jyson took a deep breath, willing himself to ignore his cousin. He liked him and all that, and he could be amusing at times … but there were other times when he could be just a bit exasperating.
Hey, Jy,” continued Samul. “Do you think there's any chance we might see a dragon on our way there? Because that would be seriously cool.”
It would only be seriously cool if it stays well away from us. Those beasts breath fire, if you'll remember. That's seriously hot.”
What's this!” exclaimed Samul in an incredulous voice. “Jyson cracking a joke? The world must be coming to an end!”
Jyson sighed. This was going to be a long two days.

Hey, Jy! What do you think that is?”
Jyson glanced halfheartedly in the direction Samul was pointing. “I really have no idea.”
Looks like an umbrella bird to me.”
They live further south – in the jungles. You're not going to see an Umbrella Bird in the desert.”
It might be lost.”
If it is, it'll soon be dead. They can't survive without water.”
Then we should go rescue it!”
Samul, if it is an umbrella bird, which I seriously doubt, it can fend for itself. If it isn't, then it can definitely fend for itself.”
You are so hardhearted, Jy.”
No.” Jyson sighed again. “I am just mindful of the fact that this is a path of protection, and Grandfather has strictly ordered us to not step off of it for any reason, lest we get lost in the desert ourselves.”
Ah, he just doesn't want us to have any fun,” said Samul.
I'm more willing to believe that he doesn't want us to not reach the Capitol,” said Jyson. “If we get lost, it's going to be very hard for us to win the king's favor and all that.”
Ah, well, when you put it in that light, I suppose that this path does have a certain appeal ...”
Jyson closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He had predicted that two days' travel in an unchanging landscape would make for a very bored Samul, and he had been right. They were barely half a day away from their grandfather's estate, and Samul was already wondering what the hoped-for adventure had done with itself.
His thoughts were suddenly cut short when a strange feeling spread over him. Not foreboding, exactly, but it was something very similar, causing the hair on the back of his neck to rise. “Something's nearby,” he said, not sure why he was so certain of that fact.
Really?” asked Samul, excitement rising in his voice again. “What? Where?”
I – I don't know,” said Jyson, frowning. “But it's …” He turned his head in the direction Samul had been pointing. “It's that direction.”
That's the umbrella bird,” said Samul. “We've already decided that we're going to leave it alone, boring as the prospect is.”
No … it's …” Jyson found himself unable to speak as the brown creature that Samul had been pointing to suddenly zoomed towards him, becoming recognizable.
That's no umbrella bird,” said Samul. “That's a dragon.”
Jyson was unable to speak as he reigned in his horse and watched the dragon glide over the burning sand. Its eyes were fixed on him, and Jyson had the oddest feeling of familiarity, as if he had seen those eyes before.
Just before the dragon reached the path, it veered upwards and soon disappeared far into the hazy sky, and the feeling was gone.
Jyson shook himself and turned to his cousin, who had stopped several feet ahead of him. “Well, there's your dragon. Do you mind if the rest of the trip is uneventful?”
For today at least,” said Samul. “Can't promise tomorrow. Was it too scary for you? It didn't even blow smoke at us!”
No it was … let's just get going. We're wasting time.” Jyson dug his spurs into the horses sides and he was off again. Samul was not slow to follow suit.
Soon the dragon's eyes were pushed to the back of his mind and all but forgotten.

And we have arrived intact and without harm,” Samul announced, as they neared the walls of the Capitol. “And in good time, too. We should be able to have a nice, long heart-to-heart conversation with the king, and still have time for supper.”
We might,” said Jyson, impatiently. “But I really doubt that King Hubert does.”
Yes, yes, you're right as always, Jy,” said Samul handing his papers to the guard at the side of the gate. “Well, we'll get supper at least, I'm sure.”
Yes, what a relief,” said Jyson, handing his own papers to the other guard.
King Hubert is waiting for you,” announced Samul's guard, handing Samul back his papers. “You'll find him in his throne room.”
Eh, same for you,” said the other guard, handing Jyson his. “Now hurry up.”
But sirs,” said Samul. “This is our first time to visit our lovely Capitol. We don't know the way to the throne room.”
The main road will take you straight to the palace gates,” said his guard, irritably. “You can ask for further instructions when you get there.”
Thank-you kindly, sir,” said Samul, tipping his hat good-naturedly. “Now, if you don't mind, we'll just be along.”
It wasn't until they were through the gates before he finally turned and acknowledged the look that Jyson was giving him. “What?”
Grandfather told us that the main street leads straight towards the palace gates,” said Jyson. “In fact, that information is pretty much universally known throughout Rintaria.”
Ah, but I wanted to make them feel useful.”
You annoyed them, that's what you did.”
It's good to be among people again, don't you think?” asked Samul, changing the subject, and gesturing to the crowded street spread before them. “The Capitol is certainly a busy place, isn't it?”
Well, this is where the king lives,” said Jyson. “Of course it's going to be busy.”
Slowly, but surely, they guided their horses through the maze of people. No one took much notice of them, except for a beggar or two asking for alms. At last they came to the magnificent palace gates.
Samul whistled as they dismounted. “And you thought that the gates to the city were something to look at! Why, I do believe that these are solid gold.”
Nay,” said the bored guard who stood by this gate. “Merely wood covered with gold plate. King Harold doesn't like people knowing that, though. What's your business, gentlemen, or have you only come to ogle at the gates.”
Papers were again produced and examined, and soon the gate was opened for the pair. No sooner had they stepped in the courtyard than a groomsman approached them and claimed their horses. A moment after that, another servant appeared, bidding them to “follow him.”
And there goes asking for directions,” complained Samul. Jyson just shook his head.
The palace halls were as busy as the streets, but it was an organized busy. Their guide lead them effortlessly though the people bustling here and there, people even pausing to acknowledge their presence. It wasn't long before they found themselves standing before a pair of magnificent doors, solid oak and carved with the most intricate design, which stood open, showing the way into an even more magnificent room.
Unlike the halls, this room was peaceful. The chandeliers glittered on the ceiling, the carpet leading to the throne was pristine, and every step made on the hardwood floor could be heard. The throne itself was on a platform at least twelve feet off of the ground, and was covered in gold and ivory. The throne was also empty.
Well, well, don't just stand there!” a powerful voice boomed and echoed through the room. “Come in, come in – state your business! What do you want with the great and mighty King Harold?”
Because of the echoing, it took a few seconds before Jyson focused on the speaker, who was a powerfully built man just exiting his prime, his brown hair just beginning to be touched by gray, who stood just to the side of the steps leading up to the throne. He wore a purple robe and a thick band of gold encircled his head.
Jyson and Samul shared a glance before Samul took the initiative to step forward and bow deeply. “Your Majesty, I am Samul, son of Lord Elar, Grandson of Lord Garan, Baron of Ridaria, and this is my cousin, Jyson, whose mother was my father's sister. We have obeyed your especial summons and are willing to receive the honor of joining your service.”
A broad smile spread across King Harold's face, and before Jyson could think to join his cousin in obeisance, had already gestured for Samul to stand back up. “Ah, Garan's grandsons. Fine young men! Your grandfather must be very proud!”
Before either young man could respond, a woman's voice rang out. “But why do you not mention Jyson's father? Do you consider it a shame to be sired by my friend Dular?”
Jyson at last noticed the two ladies seated in luxurious velvet chairs on the other side of the throne. They looked to be the same age, one with rich, golden hair, the other with hair whiter than snow, though it did nothing to make her look older.
The white-haired rose and took a few steps nearer. “Yes, you have grown into a fine young man. I'm sure Dular would have been proud.” She paused and turned an inquiring look towards the golden-haired. “Do you not think so, Analyssa, my daughter?”
Jyson blinked, as he realized who the pair were – Queen Blanche and Princess Analyssa themselves! And it seemed that Queen Blanche's famous youth was no rumor at all.
Princess Analyssa stood up, flicking her skirt with her wrist so that it billowed around her dramatically. “I wouldn't know what Dular would have thought of him, for I never met Dular,” she said, her voice sweet, yet powerful at the same time. “And I do not think it is propitious for me to state my own opinion, mother.” With those words, she swept down the carpet and past Jyson and out of the room. The smell of desert roses lingering momentarily after her.
Ah, since we are to be denied my daughter's favored opinion, we may as well get down to business,” announced King Harold. “The two of you will make fine additions to my men, if you resemble your fathers even in the slightest.”

You flatter us, your majesty,” said Samul, dipping into another bow. “We will pleased enough if only our service can bring honor to you.”

Welcome to Rintaria

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I've told you about my cousin, the one who inspired Chris in The Ankulen. That same summer, my sister and I were studying Greek mythology, and I told him all about Jason and the Argonauts.

He was hooked, and the next two stories we did, he was Jason. The first one has become part of Bookania, but it's the second that I'd like to talk about here.

It was a story of a young knight who wants to marry a princess, and had been told by her father that he could - if he slayed thirty dragons. Then he joined a group who were also hunting dragons - though for very different reasons. They informed him that the thirty dragons he hunted were actually the last of the good dragons, and that the princess, who loved the good dragons, would only marry him if he helped slay three hundred evil dragons.

I decided that I wanted the party to be made of seven people, including Jason. But I needed reasons for the others to be hunting. My character was secretly the princess in disguise, so she was easy (This cousin has played my love interest so many times ...). Then I tossed in a pair of siblings whose family was wiped out in an evil dragon attack.

That left three more members.

A brilliant idea came to me - what if the last three members were actually dragons - the good dragons - trapped in human form. And they hunted the dragons because it was a way by which they could someday restore their scales. And the reason that the princess loved the dragons so much was that her mother was one of them.

The cousin loved this idea.

(And yes, my intention had been to withhold this plot twist from ya'll until you read the book, but I've realized that it's a plot twist that most of you would figure out, and since there are other somewhat popular books that have the same twist - books I hadn't read until I'd already formed the basic plot, I'd like to point out - I decided that I'd just put it out in the open and let ya'll deal with it.)

The story game we played outside eventually fizzled away, and it's possible that he's forgotten about it. I started writing a bit of it in my RambleK document, but I didn't officially start digging into the story until last year's Camp NaNo.

And by the way, the reason for the change in this Jason's name to Jyson was not because they were too similar (I'm a huge fan of overusing names) but because their love interests have too much in common. Both have two names but go by the second predominately, both are associated with dragons, and both are associated with the color gold. And both have knives as their weapon of choice.

This book is part of the Ankulen universe - basically, if you read about a certain redhead talking about dragons in The Ankulen, she's almost certainly talking about the dragons in Rintaria. It's a desert world, and I would describe its culture as more Arabic than many of my other worlds. I'm very much looking forward to sharing this world with all of you.

Also, check out Robyn Hoode's blog for an interview with Stardrana, the half-Hidden (the name that the humanized dragons gave themselves) heroine of the book.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Party Game: Pin the Tail on the Donkey

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 What's a party without a good game of pin the tail on the donkey? 

Except I don't have any donkeys, so we're going to play pin the title on the book. I'm going to list several snippets from my books, and ya'll have to guess which book or series each is from. And to make things a bit difficult, I will be changing a few names. Send me an email with your guesses (I've disabled commenting for this post), and the person who guesses the most correctly will win a chance to read what I have written for Colinda and the Swan's Secret.

1. “We're still scum to them,” said Matthew. “You might have found some friends, but none of the elves seem to think very much of me.”
     “Well, I'm sure you'll grow on them,” said Anna, encouragingly. “They're just put off by the fact that you work in close quarters with the prince, and that you were his friend once.” She sighed. “They'll soon realize that you're just like them.”
      Matthew frowned. “That's just it. I'm not just like them. And neither are you. You're just better at fitting in than I am, that's all.” He frowned as he flexed his own arm. “Among the humans, I was feared for my strength – but I'm little more than a weakling when compared to my fellow Lornies.”

2. “Ashlyn!” she exclaimed.
    Ashlyn turned to see Linda in the water. “What are you doing here?”
    “Swimming,” said Linda. “I always swim first thing after I get home from boarding school.”
    The man who was with Ashlyn came over. “Who's this, Ashlyn?” he asked.
    “Linda,” said Ashlyn, with an unexcited voice. “My crazy roommate. No, I don't know what she's doing here.”

3. For answer, I was suddenly pulled out of the middle of the road as a runaway carriage rushed by. Oddly enough, no one was chasing it.
“That’s a car,” said Mark.
“A runaway carriage?” questioned William.
“Uh … no,” said Mark. “It’s a carriage that runs without any horses.”

4. “We share much in common with the dragons we ride,” explained Aoril. “Fire is one of those things.”
    “But how does fire cure a burn – shouldn't that make it worse?”
    “Our fire does not work the same way that the dragon's does,” Aoril explained. “Usually we use it only to strengthen ourselves during our battles against the wyrmen and to heal ourselves. Only Tabetha can use it to heal another.”

5. Jane wished that her palms were sweaty. Sweaty palms didn’t burn holes in the upholstery.  No, when she was nervous, sparks leapt out of her fingers … and since she was very nervous …
   Swallowing, she balled her hands into fists and thrust them into her fire-proof pockets. Nothing could be done, however, for the ones in her hair. She could distinctly feel one tickling her ears. It wasn’t uncomfortable, normally she would find it reassuring, but people weren’t supposed to know of her superpowers.
   Closing her eyes to focus, she extinguished that stray flame, feeling heartless and cruel, as she always did when she put them out. She wished she were at home, or in Nightterror’s cave, where she didn’t have to kill her flames, could just be herself.
   “Jane Ramov!” the announcer called. Her turn.

6. This is the road we were supposed to be on,” she declared one morning, jabbing a finger at the map that she had stolen from Andrew's pack. “Isn't it?”
Andrew glanced at the map. “Yep, I guess it is.”
“And this,” she added, moving her finger, “is the road we are on?”
“Yep, I guess it is.”
She shot him a brief glare, then jabbed her finger at a spot between the two roads. “If there was a path here, we could be on the main road in no time, and it'd save us so much time!”

7. “Why do you hesitate?” said the unicorn, “In the days of old, you would be on my back in but a moment, and I would carry you to anywhere you asked.”
“There aren’t any unicorns were I come from,” said Molly, for that was all she could think of to say.
“You are the Fairy Princess,” said Niabi, in assurance, “the Unicorn Princess is your personal steed.” Molly reluctantly got on the unicorn’s back. This reminded her of the time the Lianos had taken her to the horse farm down the street. They had said that she had had an excellent seat, yet was completely clueless as to what she should do with her reins and heels.

Good luck!

The Swan's Secret - Chapter 1

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Chapter 1
Crack in the Wall

It was after her. Colinda could feel It breathing down her neck. It wouldn’t be long, she knew with terrifying certainty, before It had her. But she wouldn’t give in. She couldn’t. She was the last hope. Yet, why she was, she couldn’t remember. Someone ran beside her, someone dear, yet who it was—was forgotten as well. This someone had less chance of escape than Colinda.
She willed herself to run faster, yet she knew it wasn’t enough. She would have to use her last resort. The one someone, she had forgotten this person too, had taught her and had told her to use only if there was no other escape possible. And there was no other escape now.
Her legs were giving out. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the other stumble. Now was the time. She stopped, muttered a few syllables, and then threw something off of her head. As the ground gave in under her feet, she knew they would both be safe from It, for a while at least.

Collie sat straight up in bed, sweat drenched, heart pounding. Would these dreams ever go away? This had been the worst one yet. She shuddered, trying to drive It’s maniacal laughter out of her head. It was in almost all of her dreams, and always something to be feared.
She glanced at the clock. 6:00. She might as well get up now, although no one else would be awake. No one, that is, except Dad, who was probably already at work. She sighed. Why did she have such a hard time thinking of them as her parents? Why, for her, did Mother and Father mean two people whose faces refused to materialize in her head?
She slipped out of bed, silently, so that she wouldn’t disturb Susan, who slept in the bed on the other side of the room. She eased out of the room, and tip-toed down the hall to the bathroom that she and Susan shared.
She flicked on the light, and, for a second, just stared at her reflection. She always stuck out like a sore thumb among the rest of the family. While they had olive complexions, her skin was the color of pale rose petals. While they had brown eyes, hers were the clearest blue. While they had dark brown or black hair, hers was a soft, golden blond. And sore was very much an accurate description, as a white scar on her left cheek reminded her. Even after a year, her scars still pained her, even though she had no idea where they came from.
She had no idea where she came from. She knew that Susan’s parents—her parents she reminded herself—had found her a year before, unconscious in their front yard. But how she got there, but why she had been unconscious, she had no idea.
Her scars had been open sores at the time, and, as she had been told, she had spent weeks in the hospital before she had woken up. Even then, she had been unable to sate their curiosities, for she could remember only that her name had been Collie. Funny thing was, she thought of herself as Colinda in her dreams. At the thought of her dreams she shuddered again.
Susan was a good sister. It was mostly because of her that her parents—their parents—had adopted Collie. Collie did love her new family, but had such a hard time thinking of it as her own. Who were her real family? Where were they? And how did Collie end up in the Liano’s front yard? Questions like these constantly plagued her, but there seemed to be no answers.
She pulled her nightdress over her head, and reached for the clothes she set out the night before. She pulled them on quickly, ran a brush through her hair, and then headed downstairs.
She had the run of the house right now, since she was the only one up. Mr. Liano—Dad—was already gone, as she had expected. She was usually up at this time, for those dreams plagued her. She had been having them as long as she could remember—which was only a year—and she hated them. Yet, somehow they seemed to hold some sort of key to what she had forgotten. She seriously doubted they were memories, for they were all far too fantastic. She did magic in many of them, like the one that morning, and in others, others did magic. They had to be only allegories, at most.
Perhaps something had been chasing her a one point. Perhaps someone dear to her had died, as she had seen in one dream. Perhaps—no, there was no way to explain the ones that showed people being turned into animals, they were just way to weird.
She tried to distract herself with a book. But that only led her to contemplation on the fact that, while she had no memories, or knowledge of science or history, when she had woken up, she was already an advanced reader, and her level in math had been quite high. She had a brain full of hard facts, with no memories to soften it. She threw the book down in frustration. Why couldn’t she concentrate this morning?
She wandered into the kitchen to fix herself some breakfast. Toast sounded good, so she popped two slices into the magical thing called the toaster. No, magic didn’t exist, she reminded herself; toasters were science, not magic.
Why did she do that? Why was she constantly thinking things of science as of magic?
Her whole life was a puzzle, and there seemed to be no solution. How had she gotten into the Liano’s front yard? Why had her dress, though very badly torn, as was her skin, been silk? Why had she spent four weeks in a coma that didn’t really affect her, other than a slight weakness? Somehow she knew the memory blank was due to something else. Why did she have that memory blank?
The toaster suddenly popped behind her, jolting her out of her dismal thoughts. She plopped the toast onto a plate, then scraped some butter onto them and squirted some lemon on top of that. She didn’t know why she liked sour stuff so much, but she personally found sweet stuff unbearable.
When she finished, she could still hear a scratching sound. At first she ignored it and took a big bite out of her toast, but as it grew louder, she had to investigate.
It was coming from the living room, so there she went. When she got there, her jaw fell to the floor in astonishment—and horror. A large crack had appeared on one wall, and was rapidly becoming larger. When it reached the ceiling and floor, the two sections of the wall began moving apart, revealing an enormous chamber that should have been impossible, as it was an outside wall.
Without thinking, she began walking towards it. Before she knew it, she was in it. Suddenly, the grating sound stopped. Then it started again. This time the walls were moving in the opposite direction. They were closing! She tried to run out, but it was closing much faster than it had opened, and her limbs seemed to be stuck in some sort of jelly.
Soon, she was trapped in total darkness.
Okay, she could admit it. Walking into a room like this one was stupid. Why had she done it? She walked towards the other wall, away from the wall through which she had entered, trying to get a feel for the prison in which she had found herself in. It seemed to take forever before her outstretched fingertips touched something solid. This seemed to be a big room, and—this was funny, the wall seemed to be a solid stone surface, rough and unhewn.
This was getting weird, almost like her dreams. But it wasn’t a dream. Her name was Collie. She was never Collie when dreaming. No. There had to be some other, weirder reason for this. She glanced around, and saw a distant flicker of a light, which she hadn’t seen before.
Slowly, she began walking towards this. More carefully this time, unsure of what she might find. Eventually she got to the unsteady flicker that was a sorry excuse for a lamp. All she could see with it was the black frame of the lamp, a key on a ribbon hanging from a hook in the wall, and a doorknob.
She tried the door, it was locked. Then she realized that the key must go with it. So, once locating the place to do so, she inserted the key, turned it, and turned the doorknob. This time it turned easily, and the door swung effortlessly away from her. The scene that met her eyes could never have been prepared for.
On one side of her was a rushing sheet of water, a waterfall, which threw rainbows onto the rock cliff on her other side. Her feet were on solid enough ground, but a lovely lake surrounded her. If it hadn’t of been for a series of stepping stones to the shore, she would have been stranded.
Beyond the lake, well flowered grass stretched for a ways, then was replaced by a forest. Not a thick, foreboding forest, but a pleasant wood, full of singing birds and such. Above her stretched a clear blue sky. The sun was rather low in one horizon.
She removed the key from the keyhole, intending to put it back on its hook, but the door suddenly swung shut. She examined the cliff and didn’t even see a crack to show where the door had been. She shrugged and put the ribbon around her neck instead.
She began to pick her way across the rocks, towards the shore. Suddenly, she heard someone call her name, “Collie!” and she lost her balance and fell in.

Welcome to the Land of Magic

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At one time, my sister's best friend was obsessed with Barbie of Swan Lake. One of our favorite games as a threesome was to make up a story together, and if the two of them didn't bring in horses to a fantasy, Kat brought in Swan Lake.

At one point, Kat and V had something of a falling out, and somehow Kat became something of my best friend. The two of us came up with the stories that have become No Refuge for a Princess, and The Eternal Queen. We drew pictures of fairies.
We came up with a sequel to Barbie of Swan Lake ... and she tried her hand at writing.

I discovered Colinda and the Swan's Secret in her bag. I was looking for her fairy notebook to see the latest ones she had drawn, and found a red notebook with a crown like the one I have in the picture above drawn on it. I asked her if I could read it, she said sure. I was impressed with it, and I asked her where she was going to go next. She confessed that she had no clue, so I sat down and helped her work out her issue. She had the story going too fast. She revealed the Swan's Secret far too soon, and finding the fairy crown had been far too easy.

After talking her through several issues, she finally decided to just drop it. Writing just wasn't her thing. I asked if she wanted me to keep writing it. She said sure, so I took her bare outline, and decided it would work  as the first book. For a while I entertained the thought of a duology, but then I discovered the identity of a third main character, and it became a trilogy.

The Land of Magic is probably my least-defined world. I know things about it, like how it came to be, its ruling system, but I don't know much about its physical rules, which is, I admit, probably what I find hardest about writing it. I know that it's ruled by two queens: the Ordinary or Human Queen, and her sister, the Magic or Fairy Queen. The Magic Queen does not marry - cannot, even, for she is incapable of that sort of love. This was a magic that the first Fairy Queen, Queen Ariana, placed on herself and those who would follow after her as sort of a make-up to her sister Queen Liana, who was supposed to stay behind in the Land of Ordinary (our world) when they left our world at the beginning of the Renascence, but their other sister, Queen Giana, was left behind instead.

Collie has no memory of her life in the Land of Magic. She doesn't remember her mother, Queen Tabitha (I have an obsession with the name Tabitha ...) her father, King Siegfried, her aunt, Queen Teresa, or her twin sister. Thing is, however, no one can remember her twin sister's name, save for Gardenia, a talking swan, and she cannot tell it. No one has seen anyone in the royal family in two years.

It's a very interesting book, even though it will probably end up not being very long. I'm considering, for a NaNo some year, just writing all three books, and then publishing them one right after another. It would be interesting.

Oh, and swing by Abby's blog, where she will be interviewing Collie.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Rockwall Castle - Chapter 1

My cover Concept based on this picture
And since I made my sister offer up some of her writing, I thought I'd offer up some of mine. This is from Cayra the only one of my Mikada stories other than Infiltration, which has already been featured, to have earned a first chapter. It actually only has two chapters, introductions for the two main characters, because I really wasn't sure where I wanted to go next with the story. I had an ending for it, but until then ... nothing. However, now that I know that it's part of the Mikada series, I can pull a few strings.

Also, I used the original title for the title of this post. I'm not sure why.

Chapter 1
Cayra Princess

Alinda knew almost every twist and turn in Rockwall Castle’s many passages. She knew, almost as well, every twist and turn in its court intrigue. And she was tired of it.
It wasn’t as though she wasn’t grateful that the three princesses had agreed to finish her training after their mother had died, but she personally would have preferred a castle that had had a queen. It used to have a queen, Queen Ilana, but she had disappeared mysteriously many years before.
She would miss this place once she reached her sixteenth birthday in a few months, but she would not miss Princess Atrina’s repeated attempts to assassinate her. Princess Rebicca and Princess Nessica were nice, but Atrina was downright awful.
As Alinda swam into her room, it appeared as though there were six of her. Her room was called the mirror room, and for good reason, every wall in the room was a highly polished mirror.
Alinda was a pretty Cayra princess, with thick dark brown hair streaked with emerald green, that was currently twisted up to prevent tangles. Her eyes were emerald green, too, as was her tail, although the fin part at the end was a few shades lighter. Right now, she was wearing a long, mint green dress. On her head was a gold and seashell tiara, and around her neck were two long strings, one of pearls, and one of emeralds.
She settled into a large, mother-of-pearl chair, and pulled a book off the shelf. It was entitled, “Legends of the Eamals,” and was Alinda’s absolute favorite book on the shelf.
She was fascinated with Eamals, the strange creatures who lived on land, who unlike the Cayra, walked around on legs that were the same color as the rest of their body. She wondered how they could breath air instead of water, as Cayra did. She knew that if Cayra took a special pill, they would be able to breath air for short periods of time, but how did the Eamals breath air?
Personally, Alinda had never been able breath air, even though she was a princess of considerable rank, a crown princess whose only bar from the throne was the fact that she was still a month and a half from her sixteenth birthday. She had had one pill once, but had almost died as an effect. Her brother had been the same way, and she had never heard of her father trying to breathe air, although her mother, when she was alive, had had no problem with the air-breathing pill.
She guessed that her father was unable to tolerate it as well, and that was why he had never tried, and why she and Aaroon, her brother, had never been able to tolerate it. Still, she thought unfair that it was she, a girl fascinated by the Eamals, who couldn’t breathe air.
Boo!” said a voice, causing Alinda to jump a bit. She glanced in the mirror in front of her to see that Ashla, the eldest daughter of Princess Rebicca, had swum into the room.
Yes, Ashla?” she asked.
You jumped!” Ashla exclaimed, “I got you to jump!”
What are you doing in my room?” she asked, rolling her eyes.
“‘Legends of the Eamals,’” read Ashla, noticing the title of Alinda’s book, “You shouldn’t read that, you know. Eamals are what killed Aunt Ilana.”
No one knows that for sure,” said Alinda with a sigh, “all anyone knows is that Queen Ilana is gone. We don’t even know if she is dead.”
Aunt Atrina says she is,” said Ashla.
Do you always believe everything Atrina tells you?” Alinda asked, raising an eyebrow at Ashla’s image in the mirror opposite them. Ashla has blond hair, streaked with pink. Her eyes were Kelly green. Her tail shimmered prettily with both pink and green.
Well,” said Ashla, “In this Mother and Aunt Nessica agree with Atrina, and you know how rare that is.”
But they don’t know for sure,” said Alinda, “Now, what are you doing in my room?” Although she was only visiting, Alinda’s rank was higher than Ashla, as Ashla was not only a whole year to young to be queen, but she had a mother and aunt who were ahead of her in the order of ascension. Then there was the fact that the crown of Rockwall Castle was missing, and had been ever since Queen Ilana disappeared.
I came to ask if you would like to explore,” said Ashla, “Will you?”
Maybe later,” said Alinda, “I’m reading, and you insulted me.”
I did?” said Ashla, giving Alinda an innocent look, “Very well. I’ll go explore by myself.” She swam out of the room.
Alinda gave her head a toss as she returned to her book. Usually she jumped at an opportunity to explore, but not right now. She was reading, another pass time she didn’t often have opportunity to indulge in. Not that she was able to indulge in much exploration either, but it happened far more often than her reading time.
She closed her eyes and tried to picture what the Eamals might look like, with their legs the same color as the rest of them, and their drab, one-colored hair. They sounded so funny.
She wished she could take the pill and be able to go on land and see them for herself. It was said that they built floating land that they could use to cross the water. It was said that it was on one of these that Queen Ilana saw the Eamals that stole her heart and caused her death.
Disappearance, Alinda reminded herself. The queen had merely disappeared. It had to be true, since the queen had taken the ancient crown with her, and it was only with it that her successor could be crowned. That was Cayra custom. Every castle had its crown, and it was always with it that the queens were crowned. To be crowned without it was a serious breach of custom that would never be done. It was said that Princess Atrina wanted to do so, but her sisters consistently forbade it. It would never be done. It was better for a castle to crumble into ruin than to have its queen be crowned by anything other than the ancient crown.
That was why there was no queen in this castle.

More than a Reflection

First off - my 600th post here on Knitted By God's Plan! Whoo! Another milestone to celebrate!

Now for the title. I thought I'd share the opening that my sister had so excitedly written all those years ago. The story has come a long way since then, as has her writing, but since I just happen to have it on my computer (I rescued all of the files that had been on that old computer and moved them over here), I'll let ya'll see it.
Via Pinterest
Oh, and by the way, most of the planets have changed their names since this was written. I'll be writing the post about the worlds and cultures when I get home from work today, so you'll find out what they are now. 

Chapter 1

In the Garden.

A young blond headed girl sat in her garden crying.
“ Why do I have to be a Mix breed Reflector? Why could not I be stronger in something else like Swicheroo, or a Chef! Or maybe even Healer, or Blender, or something else, not Reflector?” She sobbed.
She had once again gotten into a fight with the castle guard for no apparent reason, they had just been talking and she asked if he had seen Rayelm, her personal guard. He had had a bad day. And got mad, and said that if he knew where everybody was he wouldn’t be a guard, and she got mad and said that was no way to address the princess and well that started a fight, and she ran to her garden to hide. She was the princess of the planet Gildiware she should be able to control herself but because she was so strong Reflector she was forced to reflect whether she wanted to or not. She was able to reflect others feelings and if you were being stubborn, then she would be stubborn. If you were grouchy, then she would be grouchy. But then again if you were in a good mood, then she would be in a good mood.
Oh why, Oh why ,OH WHY,” she continued to sob.
Just then her identical twin sister walked into the garden “Why what, Kathie?” she asked.
Why could We not be stronger in something else than reflector?” She answered.
Kathie you are doing a good job of being a blender right now. Besides Reflector isn’t all that bad.” She told her. “ You can take pictures of books with your mind and read them whenever you want. I cannot do that, I only know where I saw the information and see the cover. You can see the entire book.”
Kathie stopped crying “ That is true.” she sniffed. “Katie you are wonderful.” She added smiling.
Well think that for as long as you like but Dad said he wanted us to have supper with him for our Birthday in the Royal Quart.” Katie said
Kathie groaned. The twins hated the prying eyes of the court. They expected them to act like princesses. They hated the fact that they could do nothing without the entire solar system of Soynee knowing.
Oh well.” Kathie sighed “ I guess we had better turn in to Sarah to get ready for the entire world to know we turned fifteen,” she said sarcastically
Katie laughed “At least we do not have to worry about this our entire lives we soon will be having fun with the stars running the Eagle and her crew around the universe for the next 400 years of our lives. Discovering new life forms and keeping the peace with the ones that we already know about.” She said
Kathie smiled, “I cannot wait, but… race you to Sarah.” She yelled over her shoulder as she half ran, half flew to the castle. Literally.
No fair, you got a head start, and can fly.” Katie said as she took off running at a speed that would of easily passed up even the fastest horse.

Chapter 2

Getting ready for a Banquet.

I won.” Katie shouted just loud enough for Kathie to hear a few steppes behind her.
“ Runners can always beat flyers when going up stairs.” She said as soon as she had landed.
Girls, what would your father think if he saw you racing like a couple of tomboys?” A tall, young looking woman with fire red hair and spectacles opening the door.
Both girls looked down. “Yes Sarah.” They chorused.
In you go, you Both will need a bath, and your best dress Ironed, and your hair done up. Before I will let you down to the Banquet you father the King has planned in celebration of your fifteenth Birthday.” Sarah said shooing them inside their room to be turned into Princesses.
Kathie was the first to speak up “Sarah, do you think that Daddy invited the entire galaxy, or just most of it?”
Sarah laughed. “ You know your father, He probably invited quite a few people just not the entire galaxy. I know that I saw at least six of the seven planet’s royal families arrive today.” She said trying not to laugh while saying it.
Both twins groaned. “As long as he did not invite the creatures from the planet Aama,” She said
Aama was the planet closest to their sun and it is hot there the only creatures that lives there are the Hamons which are a type of dragon.
There were actually eight planets but only seven had what we would call human life on them. There was Aama which was the first, then came Baliga, then Gildiware, then Delphie, Eron, Calpa, Homon, And the last was Zan. These eight planets orbited their star Soynee which was a lot like our sun just a bit smaller.
The twins knew all this stuff they had visited all the planets many times already while practicing flying the Eagle, their Personal space ship… well not exactly Personal but they were the captain of it as soon as they turned sixteen they would be able to leave their solar system behind and discover new ones. Kathie fingered her uniform a black strait skirt that went to her ankles, a light pink polo shirt, and a pink scarf that acted like a force field, and a pink daisy with a ruby in the middle of it. This she picked up, and twisted the gem.
Goat girl to Eagle come in Eagle.” “ It responded.
Katie ad Gave Kathie a look that said what are you doing. Kathie Ignored it. And responed in to the flower “ Which of the Planets have not arrived yet to the Banquet?”
the Planet of Zan.” The Ship informed her.

Was it invited?”

Blog Party - Keep the Balloon in the Air and Don't Pop It

Via Pinterest. This is appropriate -
Elsie's love interest is named Moon.
When I was a kid, I liked to to invent new games. And one day, while at a birthday party for one of my friends, they had run all out of games, so I invented a new one. You see, there were LOTS of balloons, so I started tossing them in the air, and declared that we were playing "keep the balloon in the air" and, amazingly enough, everyone joined in and played along. (Honestly, I'm not sure what the mother was thinking, letting me run the party like that, but, hey, it makes for a good story.)

The next day, after thinking about how many balloons were popped, I added a rule to the name "Keep the Balloon in the Air and Don't Pop It."

Fast forward a few years to my sixth birthday. For unfinished-school-related reasons, I wasn't getting an official birthday party, so we brought a cake to wednesday night church and the teens blew balloons and threw something akin to one.

And they got the same brilliant idea as I had all those years before - but they refused to listen to my declaration that I had already invented the game and that it had a name - even though it was MY BIRTHDAY!!! (Yes, I am sore about this event to this day.)

Anyways, that tidbit about my past aside, today's game is the opposite of yesterday's. Instead of everything going wrong, everything has to be funny. And the funnier, the better.

The winner off the drawing today ... will get to read everything I have written on Cayra, and what I wrote for NaNo this year. Which means that you will know my top secret plot idea.

(Hey, and don't forget that you can keep playing the games from past days - does no one want to read Nine Gems - I haven't seen a single Rover!)

And to start ya'll off:

Stacy woke up that morning with carrots growing out of her ears, which was a bit confusing, as she had planted celery.

Welcome to Mikada

Via Pinterest
I am a fantasy author. For the longest time, I didn't even like Sci-fi because (a.) it usually involved aliens, and I had issues with them and (b.) I honestly believe Jesus will return before we get good and into space.

But then two things happened. First, I discovered Lewis's Space Trilogy and the wonderful non-alien sci-fi's that some of my lovely friends have written. And then my sister discovered Star Trek. Mom was actually trying to introduce me to the TV show, but, sigh, I just don't have to commitment for a TV series. But my sister, she does. (Although it did clear up my confusion of the fact that Captain Picard was not Kirk without hair. For some reason I thought they were the same person)

Now I'd been trying to get my sister to use her imagination again - she has a wonderful one, but she allowed a Polystoikhedron to get in it or something. And one day she proudly showed me a document she had started on the Win'95 laptop we shared at the time. About a girl crying in a garden. An alien princess crying in a garden. Whose name was Kathie (And that's why I call my sister by her initial, don't want to confuse her with her character.) and she was also the captain of a starship.

I was a bit skeptical, but - hey! - I was all for her using her imagination again so I encouraged her to keep writing. Which she did. She kept growing and develloping this world ... and she added in elvings ... which I was very skeptical of, since I had had inverted-sphere plans for them, but since, as she pointed out, the elvings were hers first (even though I did most of the meaty worldbuilding) I let her put it in that universe. The story kept growing and changing. I pointed out that since she had her best friend (more on this lovely person tomorrow) as Katie, Kathie's twin sister, she ought to have her bestest big sister in there somewhere as well. And, not to be outdone, I had to be a twin as well.

Now, I would have been content with being the librarian princesses at a planet that Katie and Kathie visited, but instead, she made me (us ... Elsie and Elyse ...) the elder half-sisters of Katie and Kathie, and the librarians of the Eagle (their ship). And since I wanted her to write me correctly, I started giving her tips for the development of their mother's people.

Now, I might have stayed content with letting my sister putter around writing these stories, if it weren't for Anne-Girl. She has this habit of posting plot ideas with no warning or explanation, and I misunderstood one and thought she was suggesting a contest. And so I started thinking about the second one, and how perfect it would be as a bit of Silivock history, and by the time she straightened me out about the fact that it wasn't a contest, I really didn't want to let this inspiration go. So I changed it up a bit, made it something of a reverse Princess and the Sage (Another of Anne-Girl's book), and Silivock born. Then we realized that Cayra was part of Mikada culture and then I came up with Sing, Aling. It was decided that Infiltration and its sequel would be better marketed as part of this series, and when all was said and done, I had five books! And then my NaNo last year ended up being part of this universe, and it was even better!

So, yeah, that's how I've morphed from pure fantasy to being partially sci-fi.

Since this post has gotten so long with this explanation, I'm going to give you a post about the culture of Mikada in another post. In the meantime, pop over to Abbey's blog, where you can read an interview with Elsie and Elyse, the twins version of myself, and then over to Miss Melody's to read about Lillillil, the princess that poor Rikkard is stuck teaching in Silivock.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Twelve Things You Didn't Know About Coluna

1. While most of the four main characters were quick to find names, I tried three or four before I finally settled on Alistaar. I also tried Kwinten, but it just didn't fit his character.

2. Even though I haven't described them in the book, I do have pinterest pictures for the four necklaces that the foursome wear.
Via Pinterest
The Nila - Alistaar's

Via Pinterest 
The Diza - Melisza's

Via Pinterest
The Tak - Tabetha's

Via Pinterest
The Koy - Jaqob's
3. Arden Orphanage will also be the opening setting for book two of Rizkaland - though in present day, and it will no longer be an orphanage. 

4. My concept cover is a division symbol turned on its side, with the title and my name as the bar, and the two moons of Coluna - Lilnai and Harshai - as the dots.

5. There aren't many other fantasy books that I find myself comparing The New Division to. Mostly I pick on historical fictions about the early Christian era, the most notable being The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas, and The Shadow Things by Jennifer Freitag.

6. Besides the travel between worlds, there is no magic in Coluna. Superstition, yes, technology, yes miracles, yes, but outright magic, no. 

7. In the original version, it began in present day, and their parents were with them in the real world as well. However, the girls were separated from the boys. Melisza and Tabetha were raised by their moms, Jaqob and then-Kwentin were raised by their dads. They didn't know about each other until they ran into each other in Coluna.

8. I collect strangely spelled names to use for this book.

9. The main characters of Rizkaland book 2 will show up briefly at the end of the book - though I can't tell you how.

10. Like in Nine Gems of Virtue, in the original version, Melisza and Tabetha were going to get into Coluna while doing a writing assignment from school. They were writing a story about two boys named Jaqob and Kwentin.

11. To make Kiri smile: I see the four main characters as color more than their actual appearances. Jaqob is dark green and black, Tabitha is red, Alistaar is a royal blue, while Melisza is a very pale pink. Melisza shows up very brightly against the dark background of the book. Such a sweet character to write with, and I hate doing what I must do to her.

12: The Harshia train and ride dragons. Not intelligent dragons like in Half-Hidden, but still. Dragons. They also worship them, which isn't so great.

The New Division - Chapter 1

Chapter 1: A Home

     Mrs. Arden frowned at the four children who sat stoically in front of her. “What am I going to do with you?” she said at last. “A day doesn’t pass without Tabetha or Jaqob getting into a fight, and I don’t know half of the words you say.”
     “We tell them to not fight, it not worth it,” said Alistaar, the first of the four to speak since they had entered the room. “Yet, their tempers … very dilay.”
     “Dilay?” Mrs. Arden paused to give Alistaar a long look.
      “Quick, hot, unmanageable,” Melisza quickly provided. “They do not think before they act.”
      “What do they have to say for themselves?” questioned Mrs. Arden, fixing her gaze on Jaqob, who had been the one caught in the fight that day. “Why are they intent on making this orphanage unfit for children?”
       Jaqob grunted, but said nothing.
      “They say mean thing! They want  us fight!” exclaimed Tabetha, her eyes flashing. Those words seemed to exhaust her English vocabulary because she then launched into a torrent of meaningless words.
     “Tabetha!” Mrs. Arden admonished. “Stop it!”
     Tabetha did not stop, however, until Melisza leaned over and whispered something in her ear. Then Tabetha turned her eyes sullenly towards the floor, and folded her arms over her chest.
     “Jaqob, Tabetha,” said Mrs. Arden carefully, “I understand that the other children sometimes say unfavorable things about you, but that is no excuse for lashing out so violently. You are different from them, that is obvious, and they …” She sighed and shook her head. “What they do isn’t right either, but you don’t need to make things worse by trying to kill them. Honestly, if you would stop isolating yourselves from the others and get to know them, perhaps they would start treating you better.”
     “They do not understand our ways,” said Alistaar, his voice calm and even. “We don’t understand theirs. We have tried, but their words confuse us, and we can make no sense of their games.”
     “And they can make no more sense of you,” said Mrs. Arden.
     “But we do not torment them about their differences,” said Melisza. “For differences are inevitable. It is no excuse for Tabetha and Jaqob to lash out in anger, I will admit, but as I’ve said before, Tabetha and Jaqob’s tempers are very quick.”
    Tabetha shot Melisza a reproachful look, and muttered a few words that Mrs. Arden couldn’t understand.
     “However,” said Mrs. Arden, deciding that she had had enough of this conversation, “I did not call you in here to talk to you about your tempers.”
     She gained three surprised looks. Jaqob was still glaring at the floor.
    “You … didn’t?” questioned Tabetha, giving her brother a kick in the shin.
    Jaqob shot her a confused glare, which lead Tabetha to say a few words to him in their language. Of all of the children, Jaqob was the one who understood English the least.
    “No, I didn’t,” said Mrs. Arden, once she had Jaqob’s attention, and, she hoped, his ears. She drew in a deep breath. “You four have been incredibly hard for me to find a home for, and increasingly so as you have gotten older.”
    “The people who you select for our families understand us less than you do,” said Alistaar.
    “Your desire to not be separated doesn’t help things,” continued Mrs. Arden, noting, but not commenting on Alistaar’s remark.
    “We are alone in a strange place,” continued Alistaar. “If we were to lose each other, we would have no one who understands us.”
    “But you cannot remain with us forever,” said Mrs. Arden with a shake of her head. “In a mere two years, you will be eighteen, and you must venture out into the real world. On your own. The real world is a cruel place to things it doesn’t understand.”
    “We will face that day when it comes,” said Alistaar, after drawing in a deep breath. “It is inevitable, but we do not see why we should worry about it.” He gave Jaqob a sidelong glance.
    “Yes, but you can prepare for it,” said Mrs. Arden. “Get to know people, learn how to manage households and money. You and Jaqob should find yourselves jobs. Jaqob, perhaps, can go into the army, and Alistaar would do well as a teacher.”
    “We will consider your suggestion,” said Alistaar. “As long as they do not require than any of us are isolated from the others.”
    Mrs. Arden frowned. “I do not understand you four.”
    “And we do not understand you,” said Melisza.
    “Well, I would like you to talk it over,” said Mrs. Arden. “For now, you are dismissed, but I would like to see you back here tomorrow, understood.”
    Melisza and Alistaar nodded. “We understand.” They cast a glance towards the other two, “And we’ll make sure they come as well.”
     “Very good.”
     Mrs. Arden sank down into her chair and put her head in her hands. It wasn’t that she didn’t love those children, she did. Miss Pearstean sometimes accused her of favoring those four over all the others.
    But they were so strange, so different.

    “She is right,” said Alistaar, as the four settled themselves into their corner in the yard. “We can’t stay here forever.” He was speaking in their own language since it wasn’t necessary for any of the other children to understand what he was saying.
     “I don’t want to stay here forever,” said Jaqob, smacking his palm with his fist. “And I know that none of you do either.”
     “But there is nowhere to go beyond there and here,” Tabetha pointed out. “There are no other options.”
     “We can’t be the only people like us in the world,” argued Jaqob. “Even I can figure that one out. We had parents once, didn’t we?”
     “Once,” agreed Melisza. “But they abandoned us. They obviously didn’t want us, since they haven’t come back to get us either.”
     “Maybe we were too strange for them,” said Tabetha. “Maybe they got rid of us because we were deformed …”
     “Four of us on the same night?” Alistaar pointed out. “If it were only one of us – or perhaps one set of twins, it would have been plausible … but we Lilnas are obviously not related to you Harshas.”
     “Two sets of twins cannot be coincidence,” said Melisza.
     “Then where is our family?” questioned Jaqob. “Why did they leave us here?” He punched the wall in frustration, which only resulted in sore knuckles.
      “I would appreciate knowing that myself,” said Tabetha. “When you figure it out, would you please tell me?”
       Their conversation would have gone longer, but, at that moment, the supper bell rang, so they had to file into the building. They ate in silence, then they went to the bedrooms.
       Tabetha found herself unable to sleep. There was an energy to the air that whispered of things that were about to happen.
      For a while, she just laid in bed, staring at the ceiling, but at last she threw off the blanket and went to the window. She shivered as she gazed across the lawn. Something was happening.
      “You feel it too?”
       Tabetha almost jumped, then glanced over her shoulder to see Melisza standing behind her. “Yes, but what is it?”
      “I don’t know,” admitted Melisza. “But … something’s happening tonight, and I have to find out what.”
       “I wonder …” muttered Tabetha.
       “Wonder what?” questioned Melisza.
       “If the boys feel it too.”
        Melisza frowned as she considered that possibility. “Perhaps. But we’re not allowed to leave the girls’ room at night.”
      “Tonight’s important, Lisza,” said Tabetha, turning to her friend, her face dead serious. “Something’s happening. I, for one, don’t want to miss it.”
       Melisza decided that she might as well go along, to do what she could to keep Tabetha out of trouble. Silently they crept through the halls, towards the front door. They met with no one, which they thought odd, since someone was usually keeping an eye on things in the hall, even at night.
When they arrived at the front door, they found Jaqob and Alistaar already waiting for them.
      “You girls felt it too?” asked Alistaar.
Melisza and Tabetha nodded.
     “Something important is happening tonight,” said Tabetha with conviction.
     “We know,” said Jaqob. Without hesitation he put his hand on the handle of the large door, and, to his surprise, pulled it open with ease. Normally, it was locked.
      His surprise at an open door, however, faded as soon as he saw what was behind it, for it wasn’t the orphanage lawns that they looked out upon, but a field of red grass with dots of blue here and there. The doorframe, too, was different. On their side, it looked the same as ever, but on the side where the field was, it was rough, and covered in black bark.
      For several minutes, the four just stood their, motionless, speechless, but at last Melisza broke the silence. “It looks familiar.”
     “I’ve seen it in my dreams,” said Alistaar.
      “It’s home,” said Tabetha, and without hesitation, she stepped into the field. None tried to stop her, but they didn’t follow, either. She took several steps, relishing the feel of the grass against her bare toes, then stopped, and turned back to face the others. “It’s a tree.”
     “A tree,” repeated Alistaar, not as a question, but as a restatement.
     “With two trunks,” continued Tabetha, “that share branches … and red leaves. Everything is so red here … so pretty.”
     “What are we waiting for?” questioned Jaqob. “That’s where we belong, even I can tell that.” He followed his sister. For a  few minutes, he just stood on what used to be the orphanage steps, then he walked around the two-trunked tree that the doorframe had become.
     “There’s nothing but empty air on this side,” he commented. “Nothing of that horrid orphanage.”
     “And yet you can still see it from this side,” said Tabetha.
     “Where do you think this place is,” said Alistaar. The Lilnas were hesitant about following, not being as bold as their Harsha friends.
     “I haven’t a clue,” said Jaqob, circling back to the side where the orphanage was visible.
     “But it feels right here,” said Tabetha. “It feels like home.”
     “It’s better than the orphanage and the prospect of having to be separated,” Jaqob added. “Come on, what are you two waiting for?”
     “Do you think it’s safe?” questioned Melisza.
     “Is anywhere safe?” returned Tabetha.
     Melisza looked down and bit her lip. “Come on,” said her brother. “We’ll go together. Tabetha and Jaqob don’t look any the worse for the wear, so it can’t be that bad.”
       Melisza’s pale blue eyes met those of her brother. “All right,” she said. “If you think we should.” Hand in hand, the Lilna twins stepped over the threshold into to the red world.
      Tabetha and Jaqob gasped.
     “What is it?” asked Melisza, a wave of panic washing over her.
     “It’s … nothing …” said Tabetha. “Only … the orphanage just disappeared.”
     “It did what?” the two Lilna’s exclaimed, whirling around to the tree they had just stepped through. Sure enough … there was no sign that there had ever been an orphanage there.
    “It’s gone,” said Jakob. “I guess that means that there’s no going back!” He looked quite pleased.
    “But … what are we going to do here?” exclaimed Melisza, her panic rising.
    “Why don’t we do some exploring?” suggested Tabitha. “Wouldn’t that be fun?”
    “But is it safe here?”
    “We’re here,” said Alistaar, squeezing his sister’s hand. “It’s irrevocable now. We may as well explore.”
    Melisza bit her lip and stared at her feet. “Very well.”
    So they began their journey. Tabetha took up the front, Jaqob the rear, and Melisza and Alistaar walked hand in hand between them, hoping that their Harsha friends would be able to fend off anything that might attack them.
    It was a strange world they explored, but, as Tabetha would remind them, it felt right to be there. It felt like home.
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