~~This Time It's Different by Evans Blue~~

Language Barriers?

Friday, November 30, 2012

~~NaNoWriMo Tips and Tricks--Advice Post~~

In celebration of THE FINAL DAY OF NANOWRIMO, I would like to post something that might help you guys for next year--and, if you are like me and feel like doing a Writing Extravaganza during XMAS Break, over the next few months.

What is my Writing Extravaganza, you ask?

Why, a full 24-hour writing session with an end goal of 50,000 words. Just to prove I can. It will probably be horrific, and it won't be very well thought out, but it will probably just be a novel about vampires and emo stuff. Or crazy sadistic Christmas elves. Whichever strikes my fancy.

This will be long my loves.

I will cover: The Best Things to Nom, Caffeine Benefits and Detriments, How to Slaughter your Inner Editor, When You're On a Roll, Don't Jinx Yourself, Writer's Block, Texting and Distractions, Don't Let It Run Your Life, Hand Care, When and Where, and Determination.


Okay guys, if you're like me, you like having something to nibble on when you're writing. Lots of chewing and low in calories sounds good, especially if you like having a lot to eat. I find my mind relaxes a lot more with the regular movements of chewing, and it also keeps you from forgetting to eat. And forgetting to eat can, and does, happen a lot.
So, what should you be eating?

-Vegetables, Fruits and Nuts: They're good for you, and require a lot of chewing and are pretty low in calories. Also, celery is extremely good--it is actually negative calories. I love celery, and if you find it boring, spice it up with a bowl of salad dressing or any of your favorite dips.

-Chocolate-Covered Coffee Beans: Okay, this really isn't that healthy. However, it is delicious and filled with caffeine and sugar. Basically all of the needed substances in one small bit. Basically, this will be my mainstay food and writing companion for every major writing session I do. EMERGENCY CAFFEINE!

-Popcorn: POPCORN! Popcorn is amazing, popcorn is heaven, popcorn is food! Easy to make and nomming heaven. Flavour it any way you like, make it all tasty, make it all good! And you are ready to write!

-Trail Mix: Don't knock it til you try it! It is very healthy and it takes a lot of chewing. Therefore, it is good to keep at your side when you're writing. Just be careful not to spill any, as that stuff can get EVERYWHERE! Trust me you guys. I know. I've done it before, and it was not that fun sleeping when you're lying on a large amount of bits of trail mix....

-Gum: Chew, chew, chew, chew, chew! Endless chewing with not many bad sides and a variety of flavours. Gum is great, but I still will always stick to my incredibly good chocolate-covered coffee beans.

Caffeine is incredible. It keeps you awake, gives massive rushes of speedy energy, and if you're like me it wakes you up oh so perfectly in the morning. I love caffeine, in all its forms: Tea, coffee, energy drinks, and dozens of other forms. I can't get enough of coffee.
However, coffee really does stain your teeth a lot and it's so easy to get addicted. When you get addicted, and don't get it, be ready for headaches and bad moods. I hate it when that happens. Once, my dad god HALF-CAFF coffee, so it was a straight two weeks of me in a bad mood and angry. And then, when I noticed he had bought me half-caff, I almost killed him. He was the reason I was being forced to drink several cups of coffee JUST to make the headache go away!
And....There's also other bad sides to caffeine. You crash. You crash and you get tired and exhausted and you just get crazy. It's not fun, but one quick cup of coffee--or even Emergency Dark Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans--and you are set. The coffee beans have plenty of caffeine themselves, so they do cause you to crash later.

Okay people. this section is probably the most important one there is. You know that little voice in your brain that worries and freaks out and tends to say you're doing badly? Well, writers have them. And writers have the very worst kind possible: The inner editor. Now, this little fella lives upstairs from your Muse, who is that crazy person with multi-colored eyes who always seems to be dancing. The inner editor is boring and might just resemble your high school math teacher, for reasons no one really understands. Mine makes a bit more sense--I have always pictured George (yes, I named him last year) as skinny and dressed in military clothes. He has a three-cornered hat.
What I need all of you to do is follow my instructions.
1. Close your eyes

2. Picture your inner editor. What does he/she look like? Is it human? What does their voice sound like?

3. Picture a cage. Imagine it. Look at the cage.

4. Put the inner editor in the cage

5. Close the door on the cage

6. Put the cage in a large wooden box

7. Put a padlock on the box

8. Set fire to the box

9. Smile

You may need to repeat this process--or variants of it--a lot. I myself need to repeat it every year, and sometimes multiple times before and even during writing sessions.

All of us should know this feeling of high. Your fingers are flowing across the keys, you're writing like mad, and every minute you write more words than you ever deemed possible. Your words are leaping onto the page, flowing from your fingertips and across the screen like black blood on white, and everything you write is perfect.
And.....Your dad calls you for dinner. Your mom says you forgot to do your chores. Your brother needs to know if you'd care to get your butt off of the computer so he could work on the homework he's been putting off when you're writing. Your boss calls and asks if you would like to come in to work--ever.
Here's my advice.
If it is not life threatening, ignore it! Tell them you're sorry, or copy down some of your novel into a notepad and go someplace else, and just keep writing. KEEP WRITING! When you're on a role, stop for absolutely nothing.
And, when you have done what you feel is enough, save save save save save, and go and apologize. If they know you, they'll forgive you for it. Most of my family is used to just putting my food in the fridge, and let me get it after I'm done working.


Okay, this is pretty important. Don't talk about it too much, okay? Really don't. It is a really easy way to jinx yourself. Unless you need advice, talking about it too much will just jinx you. And people just will tend to put a lot of pressure on you. Be safe you guys, and be careful. Once you get jinxed, it is really hard for you to get un-jinxed.


You're writing a lot. Everything is going so well. You have ideas going through your head like they're on speed, and everything is PERFECT! But....Then you get a blank spot in your head. Yeah. I absolutely hate that moment, and all of us know it.

There is no real automatic cure for writer's block.

But...Here's a few tips.

-Take a long, hot shower

-Eat something

-Get a drink of water

-Take a walk

-Write a letter to yourself

-Try thinking of things in a new light


Okay, so what is worth leaving your story for? Nothing, except eating, sleeping, school, and family emergencies. I know all of us have cell phones and forums and things to check and do--but do they matter? Not at all. And that doesn't mean you can't reward yourself with a text every now and then--just make sure it's only one text for a reward, and keep the rewards to only once every few pages. And, if your friends or any other people who are distracting you know what you're up to, they won't mind. In fact, maybe schedule some time to write, and let people know not to bug you then. It'll help a lot, trust me.


Okay guys, seeing as I said in number seven that you shouldn't let NaNoWriMo be interrupted by anything, I just want to make sure you guys don't go too overboard with this. NaNoWriMo is important, but so is your family. And so is sleep. SLEEP YOU IDIOTS SLEEP!

And do homework, too. It is so easy to just get lost in writing and not notice time passing until it's midnight....four am....noon....

And you realize you haven't eaten, you haven't slept, and you have missed work/school/doctor's appointments or never heard the fire alarm go off....

Yeah....That happens a lot, people.


You get so obsessed that people actually avoid you and think you're crazy.

THAT happens even more often.

Don't do that, guys.....Don't be too obsessed. Obsession is healthy, but do not let it get to overly scary levels.....And don't let it interfere with things too much, alright?


Okay kids. Look at your hands. They are amazing things, aren't they? Bones and skin and muscles, all wrapped up into nice and useful hand-shaped packages. What jobs do your hands do? They do a lot. High five, hand shake, open things, crack things....AND TYPE THINGS!

Your hands are amazing things and tools. During NaNoWriMo, they are doing a shit load of work. Be careful and take care of your hands. Make sure they aren't too stiff or sore in places, and maybe even get a wrist brace or do some exercises with your wrists to fend off carpal tunnel syndrome. It is really not good for your hands to be doing so much work without a break.

And, as it is cold, keep them moisturized. Just don't let the computer keys get all greasy....


I like writing in bed, or on the couch. All nice and comfy. Curled up and warm, or sitting upright and just a bit bent over. Sometimes, I lie on my stomach and put the laptop in front of me, resting my chin on a pillow. Right now, I'm on my back with my knees up and my legs crossed at the knee, with the front of my laptop on my belly and the hinge on my right thigh. Comfyness.....

Of course, there's no real time or place people can or should write. You can go to coffee shops (yay for Tim Hortons!) or even write to and from work/school. Unless you drive. Then don't write. I usually would go for when you're high energy and there's no real distractions or immediate concerns--after school when I have a fresh cup of coffee to wake me up again sounds good for me, all ensconced in my well-lit room. The most important thing is to write, my loves, whenever you can.

And, if you say you don't have enough time, cut down on what doesn't matter. Like TV, social media....Math homework.....


You need to be determined to write. You need to have a drive and be willing to work, work hard, and work fast. Not everyone can, or is willing to do that. I am. And so I am a writer. My loves, writing for NaNoWriMo is a personal challenge. Do it so you can prove to others, but mainly to yourself, that you can and will write a novel. It might not be good and it will need to be edited, but it is a novel nonetheless.

I wish all of you luck in your search, my loves.

May your fingers always fly across the keys!

Thursday, November 29, 2012


You say so many things
Tell me how good I am inside
Your voice, in the night, seems to sing
When I'm dreaming of the day I can be by your side

You hurt so much
And I know I could
Heal you with just one touch
Even though I believe I'm not good

Every time I swear I'm fine
You tell me the truth I need to hear
Now, as to recovery I start to climb
You're the one who washes away my fear

You make me brave, and love me so
I wish I could show you what you mean to me
I wish you could understand what I would give to know
What a life with you could really be

Every moment I break inside
But every moment you see the light
You make me smile, and show what I hide
Can I ever see what part of me shines so bright?

~~People On My Mind: Life Post~~

As days seem to fade away until they become years, several thoughts spring forth in this colorful mind of mine. About who I am, my past, and the strangely incredible life I seem to be leading. I dream of a future I will need to fight to attain--of a bookstore I will run with my husband Ted, and likely Ian as well.
Yes, I was...serious about wanting to erm.....Marry Ian. I....Lately I've been falling in love with him. He's on my mind as much as Ted is now and I have a lot better conversations with him than I do with Ted. However, it really is Ted that I can be with in any way physically, and it's Ted that also has a few less...issues.

Not that my lovely Glowstone is SANE, mind you. It's just that he isn't exactly...as bad off as Ian.

Okay, one of these days I need to find someone a little closer to sane. Someone who also has Figments as well (more fun that way) but someone who isn't manic depressive, or believing that everything good in his life is going to be taken away one day. And let's also go for someone who doesn't love bugging me so much.

Now readers, let's al take bets on which statement applies to which lovely man!

Does Number One apply to Ian, or to Ted? Why, Ian of course!

Which one does Number Two apply to? Both, actually, but more specifically Ted.

And Number Three! Who loves bugging me? EVERYONE! Yay!

Did you get all of them right?

If so....HAVE A COOKIE, my lovely readers!

If not.....Well, better luck next time loves!

Really, all of you.....

I do need to find some way to make my life simpler....

BUT, if that means losing Ian....

No. I'm not losing him. He is...an amazing guy. And....

And I can't let him go.

Okay....I officially need to stop thinking about this for a while--need to breathe and I need to write. Tonight I have a lot of work to do--a science project, as well as editing my novel, as well as needing to get ready for going over to Ted's house this weekend.

So yes.

I won't be available....

I love you guys, though!!!! Always!!!!!

I will post whenever I can.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

~~I Can't Believe It: Life Post~~

Over six thousand views, my lovely readers!!!!

Amazing, ain't it?

So many days and so many weeks have gone by since the beginning.....

How long?

Really my loves, how long has it been?

According to an online date calculator, one year, one month, and twenty three days--not including today. Or around 420 days....


It's getting old, ain't it? All these adventures and all this pain. Oh my lovely readers, how do you stand me?

I'm dramatic and sucidal and oh so delectably psycho....

But hey, perhaps that's why you come back so much....

Because I'm always honest.

Even if it's only for the sake of the show.

I think a lot these days, about how I wish I could change my life....

Do I really want to?

I wish I could make myself happier. I wish I could train myself to come out of my shell more and be less afraid. I wish I could see what everyone sees in me but I can't and I don't and I never will.

But it's all going to be okay.

Don't ask me how I know.....

Don't ask me how I have such faith in this world, after everything that's happened. After seeing friends break apart, being left by and loving still so very many, don't ask me how I know we can ALL get through this. Don't ask me how I know we're okay. Don't ask me how I know I'm going to be fine.

Because.....I wouldn't be able to answer.

I won't be able to say anything more than this: "Do you question my knowledge of this world?"

I may be only one and a half decades old, but I've lived a lot already. I'm also a special kid, always have been. And I always will be.....So very special.

Yes, I am special in the head.

One of my friends who is also Figmented apparently calls it Multiple Personality Disorder.....

Well.....Even if I DO have it it doesn't surprise me. Most of my family suffers from mental breakdowns.

So I don't think it surprises me......

Or any one else in my family for that matter.

Either way, I doubt it needs to be controlled. I love my Figments--they are...a lot of me.

I don't know where I'd be without them.

This post seems to be a lot of white space and very little text...SORRY!!!

I just...Am thinking.


M-marrying Ian one day and yes he can see this so..so hi and erm I love you very much b-but ummm.......

Imma...stop talking now kiddies.....

~~I Find it Amusing.....: Life Post~~

I find it amusing to shatter the world, to see how different the world becomes. I find it amusing to take TNT, and just go and have fun. At the end of my Minecraft village, I think I'll nuke all of it. Save it first and nuke it, maybe videotape it. I do like my Minecraft village....

WOOZ, need to go!

Monday, November 26, 2012

~~WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: Chapter Eleven--The Final Stretch~~

So where are we to go now? We have two out of three Keys, we’re up in a forest currently inhabited by my former master and dozens of Lady White’s men, Anne is pretty much unconscious and I’m uncertain as to whether or not she will ever wake up, and I’m missing most of my left boot.
I sighed. This was going to be fun.
“What happens now? Where do we go?” Joey asks, eyeing me. “You do know where we’re going right…?”
I pause, think for a moment, and then whisper, “Home.”
You should have seen the looks on their faces…!
“Wh-wh-what do you mean ho-home?” Max asks, his eyes wide.
“Lady White has hopefully managed to locate a way for you people to return to your dimension. Not that we don’t we don’t enjoy having you hear, but I believe that you must desire quite greatly to go back home.”
They look at each other, and as one, they shake their heads. “I like it here,” Joey tells me, “And I’m pretty sure Max does, and I know Anne does.”
I just look at them for a while. This just wasn’t making sense to me—why didn’t they want to go home? How bad could their world possibly for them to not want to return to it from here, a place so strange to them?
But then I think….Why not continue this wild adventure? It was a long journey home, and I knew that Lady White wouldn’t be very pleased to see me. She would be quite angry, and I knew the kind of things she did and the orders she gave when she decided she was annoyed with someone.
Sighing, I bit and chewed on my lower lip, looking around me carefully. But I knew that they were right—there was no going home. Not yet at least, and not without the final Key.
Just as I was about to consult my map and begin to locate the next goal, I heard something. A young Magician wandered out of the forest—he was the brother of one of my classmates, so I took an automatic dislike to him. “Avery, Lady White wants you to know that she is sorry for her apparent lack of trust. She did trust you with this mission—she just knew who you would happen upon, and she wanted a few of us to keep our eyes on you in case you needed it. She still wants you to complete the mission, Avery.”
I just start to glare at him, before I sigh and realize that he is right. “I might as well complete the mission. Not like she’d let me come back home.”
He nods at me and smiles grimly. “If you were to turn back now, I would have had to make good on my promise to kill you. Your old friends wanted me to keep them from being forced to torture you to death.”
I just gave him a look, sighed once more, turned my back on him, and led my motley group off on our next adventure.
“We’re going to visit the chocolate factory?!?!” Anne yells, starting to dance around. “Will we see Willy Wonka? Grow huge from eating blueberries?”
I just stared blankly at her. What kind of drivel was this girl spouting? What kind of strange things happened in her weird wild world?
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to think she might have lost her mind. Joey smacked her on the back of the head, glaring at her. “Quit. Anne, just because this place is beyond crazy doesn’t mean the chocolate factory will be inhabited by your favorite pedophile. Anyways….It’s going to be filled with fairies, most likely.”
I slapped my hand to my face and groaned in exhausted exasperation. Why must humans be so terribly infuriating? Was their stupidity intentional, or a trade shared by ALL of the humans of their world?
I eyed them carefully, and decided that yes….Yes stupidity WAS one of the basic human traits.
Now that I had that cleared up, I figured that it was the perfect time to explain to the humans about our next destination.
“Our first job is to get out of this dreamland,” I said, looking around at them, “I believe we may have found ourselves in a different realm. It’s the only reason that Anne could have woken back up so suddenly and that bright yellow dinosaur is over there by the willow tree.”
Of course they all looked over at the yellow dinosaur….
I sighed, pulled out my sword, and wondered when and if the attack would come.
Strangely, the attack never came…….
I watched the rain come. I stood there with the humans by my side, and the rain fell around us, splattering on the ground like soft bells. How could rain sound so musical? I wondered briefly, before looking up at the cloudless sky. How is rain falling without clouds?
“Why do things have to make sense, young Avery? Don’t you recognize this place at all?” a voice whispered in the depths of my mind. I didn’t recognize the voice, and it certainly wasn’t mine….who’s was it then?
None of this was making sense anymore….now my mad adventure seems to have just deteriorated into an odd rambling. But granted maybe that was all they had ever been?
I snapped out of my reveries when the lightning hit the earth a few feet away from me and the others, and we all jumped back, our noses attacked by the scent of burnt earth and grass. What had just happened? There still was not a single cloud in the sky…..
“And, again, Avery, do things need to make sense?” there was the voice again! The accursed voice…..Swearing softly to myself, I rubbed my ears hard and then my eyes, as if that would help me free my mind of the horrific voice. But I knew it would do no good.
Realizing I was being closely watched by the others, I turned to them, and gave them a quick smile, as if assuring them that no I was not losing my mind, and that, yes, we were going to make it out of here okay.
It didn’t seem to do any good, but at least they didn’t bother to complain. I looked around us, and opted to not go in the general direction of the big yellow dinosaur, so I started leading them in the direction of a large rocky hill, where we might be able to find some shelter from the rain. As we walked, I took special care to remain close by Anne’s side, watching her every move. She seemed to be perfectly normal, perfectly fine, but I didn’t entirely trust it….Wherever we were, things happened without any real explanation given, and I had the feeling that, whatever the explanation was for Anne being awake, it wasn’t going to be one I would end up liking.
We reached the rocks, and settled together under a small outcropping, curling close to each other to try and share our body heat. It was then that poor Max, seeming very dazed and unhappy, spoke his first words in a while, “I-I’m c-c-cold…..”
I couldn’t help grinning when Joey replied with, “I-I’m c-c-c-c-c-cold too….” The poor kid’s teeth were chattering so bad that he sounded like he had an even worse stammer than Max!
Anne seemed to agree with me when she rolled her eyes, before she did something I can never forgive her for: She proceeded to toss her head around, shaking the rain from her hair, soaking all of us even more, the chain holding her hair whipping around like a metal snake, leaving a small bruise on my chin in the shape of a metal skull. She shot me an apologetic look, but I simply sighed, and hugged my knees tighter.
A few minutes later, Anne broke the silence by asking in a soft voice, “Where the hell are we?”
I just looked at her, shrugged, and looked away again. I had not the faintest idea, even though the voice within my mind that I refused to admit was there seemed to know. “Don’t you remember, Avery?” it whispered in the depths of my mind, refusing to be ignored. “I know you have had your memory wiped clean, but now that you’re here….It’s coming back, isn’t it? It’s returning….All the things you’ve left behind.”
I refused to acknowledge that voice with a response, and tilted my head back, breathing in and out slowly. I didn’t know what to do, so I opted to just remain here for a while longer.
We ended up falling asleep, and on the next day, when we all awoke, we began to move out. The stone that had helped me earlier in finding the Key was useless, so we were going to just have to walk in a direction of our choice, and hope it was the right one.
We walked together into the future, hoping we’d find a reason to keep walking, but knowing we wouldn’t. I breathed slowly, but I couldn’t ignore the voice, even though I forced my eyes to continually look around me for hints as to where we should go.
Finally I gave up and followed the voice’s directions, breaking into a sprint as I heard the voice grow louder, louder, louder, louder…..
I stopped when I ran into nothing.
I staggered back, my nose bleeding, my head aching, my mind awhirl. What had just happened? I didn’t know and nothing was making sense.
The others didn’t take too long to catch up to me. “What the heck just happened?” Anne cried, carefully touching the blood coming from my nose, a worried look on her face. “Avery, what’s going on?”
I just shoved her away and leaned against the invisible barrier I had smashed into, listening to the voice, letting my mind drift further and further away….
Until I found myself…remembering. My eyes snapped tighter shut, and my breathing grew shallower, my every facet of heart and soul drew back into my mind. I wasn’t thinking anymore, I was only remembering….
I was remembering my training. I was remembering all the torments, all the pain, all the little agonies. I was remembering everything I had blocked from my mind.
I was also remembering this place….
“It’s a dreamscape, your mind come alive, where you can choose to either realize your dreams—at a price—or choose to learn the slow way.. It’s there that you realize who you truly are. If you can survive there, you can survive anywhere. You’ll encounter the true you, and it all comes down to what he tells you, as it will allow you to realize what you want most.”
That was what Master had told me.
What was it I wanted most? Was it the final Key, and the elves to be at last free of their torments? Or was it perhaps Anne, so beautiful but so unattainable? What was it I desired most?
I fell deeper into my thoughts, until suddenly my eyes snapped open and I found myself in a world of mist, all scenery lost to the soft whiteness. I blinked in surprise before smiling softly—I guess it was here that my choice would be made.
It was then that I heard the voice speak again, and this time it wasn’t from within my mind: It was from behind me. My back tensed, and I turned to confront the owner of the voice at long last, and who would I see there but me?
I was a lot younger—longer, more raggedly cut hair, smaller muscles and skinnier too, a few less scars and smoother skin. He grinned at me—or should I say I grinned at me? “I look good as an old guy,” he commented, and shrugged, “Or as good as an old guy can look.”
“What do you want, young’in?” I replied, giving my impertinent and annoying younger self a glare.
“I just want to tell you the choice you need to make, Avery. Anne’s dying, and the only thing that can save her is the Necklace of Infinity. Which needs to be taken back to Lady White and used in the ritual, which would likely render it useless. You have the choice of saving the girl you love’s life and making her immortal to boot, or saving pretty much everyone else. Which choice will you make?”
I sat down, put my head in my hands, and sighed, before looking up at myself and asking, “Where’s the final Key?”
He pulled something out of his pocket, and tossed it at me. It was a small gold ring, no inscriptions, just gold. I examined it, nodded, and muttered, “So that’s the Ring of Strength?”
He nodded, and shrugged a bit sarcastically, “What, you were expecting a circus ring?”
I glared at him, stood, brushed off my leggings, and stuck him with a cold look, “How do I get out of here?”
“Easy. You just say the magic word and you’re out of here.”
“What’s the magic word?”
I was back in the real world again, and all the others were around me. Leslie, who I’ve been forgetting to mention for the last while, was the first and thankfully not the only one to greet my return by giving me a hard kick in the shin. I glared at her, and then looked over to where the others were, kneeling beside Anne.
She wasn’t moving.
She didn’t seem to be breathing….
I shut my eyes tightly, and pulled out the Necklace of Infinity, letting my hands trace its shape. It was made in the shape of an angel, wings spread wide, and a rapier held high. I cut my thumb on the blade, and tried to keep myself from bursting into tears.
Anne was dying and I doubt I could do anything to save her….
Heartbeat racing, I stood, walked over to her, and bent down to slip the Necklace around her neck.
She snapped awake and kissed me, grinning softly. “I guess I’m alive.”
I nodded gratefully, and hugged her tight. “I think I’m in love with you….” I whispered softly in her ear, and she tensed briefly in my arms, before relaxing again.
“I know I’m in love with you.”
I smiled, and sighed, just happy to be holding her again.
The moment was shattered by an all-too-familiar female voice calling imperiously, “Ah lover, have you done as I asked you to?”
It was Lady White. I turned and stared at her blankly, before my eyes flooded with anger. “What are you doing here, my Lady?” I asked sharply, “I thought you would be anticipating my return back at home, but apparently you opted to follow me every step of the way.”
She smiled widely: “Did you honestly expect me to entrust such a mission to a bumbling fool like yourself? You may be powerful, but not even as powerful as the helpers I sent along to assist you. You would have died a long time ago if it wasn’t for me.”
“So you’re expecting me to just thank you for lying to me about all of this? I even doubt that you love me—were you honestly just using me as a way to get rid of your prisoners and your rich brat daughter?”
“Aw, Avery, you only figured out now that you mean basically nothing to me or to anyone else? You always were just someone we used. You were too weak to be anywhere close to trainable, and you still are. I had just sent you on this mission so I could get rid of you for a while longer, and I must say I’m impressed. You’ve survived a lot more than I thought you could—and yes quite a few of the other quests I have sent you on were attempts to kill you. But now that this quest is done, Avery, why don’t I release you from my service after you, of course, give me the Keys?”
I couldn’t imagine a woman I hated more….
Lady White smiled wider. “It will free your kind forever, Avery. We’re dying, us elves. More of us are drained every second. After you hand over the Keys, you will be able to live out your life with Anne, who will get the Necklace of Infinity right after we use it for our purposes. Hand over the Key, and everything will be okay.”
Not even bothering to speak, I obediently handed her the Book of Journeys and the Ring of Strength, before pausing to gaze at Anne. Her eyes were wide and she looked afraid, holding tight to the necklace that was keeping her alive. I touched her shoulder and kissed her deeply, before taking the Necklace of Infinity from her slim neck and handing it to Lady White.
I caught Anne when she collapsed into my arms, almost dead, and I stared at Lady White while she whispered a few words in a language I did not know, a soft light starting to glow from the Keys that she held clutched in her hands. Suddenly, there was a click¸ and I suddenly felt…fully alive. I could sense the magic all around me, and I knew it was there.
Smiling softly, Lady White handed me the Necklace, and watched calmly as I restored it to Anne’s neck, my beautiful girl snapping to consciousness again the instant it touched her skin. I kissed her deeply, but it was what happens next that gave me the most satisfaction.
Reaching deep into my body, I slammed a single powerful burst of magic straight into Lady White’s heart, using every bit of magic I could draw from the area around me.
She died instantly.
I smiled to myself, kissed Anne again, and decided that maybe this could really be a happily ever after.

~~WHAT HAPPENS NEXT; Chapter Ten--Not the Only Kiss~~

I leave the cave, my companions by my side, feeling more alone than I have felt in a very, very long time.
I feel afraid. I feel like screaming, like crying, like asking all the gods why my sister was gone from this world. What trick of fate would steal her away so cruelly.
But you could probably guess that’s how I’m feeling.
What’s important about what I feel is how very little I feel like singing.
Ordinarily, that would be an extremely random thing. But you see, it becomes a rather key element of what happens over the next while.
Why, you ask?
We run into a crowd of werewolves.
To be more exact, we run into a crowd of singing werewolves.
“SING FOR US!” one of them howls, “SING AND LIVE!”
My eye twitches. Looks like I was going to sing….
I start singing, but it’s not long before I realized I was really, really, really bad at it.
Anne shoots me a disgusted glare, opens her mouth, and begins to sing.
You know what? She’s even worse than I am.
Same goes for Max.
I groan, and wonder exactly how we’re going to be getting out of this one. Could we fight? Unlikely, they were very big and I didn’t think I could handle using so much magic in so short a time span after all the magic I had used in the cave.
So, unless we felt like outrunning extremely fast werewolves with really big teeth, it looks like our only option was to out sing them.
I look around us.
No way were we running.
I was about to give up all hope when Leslie opened up her mouth and began to sing.
She sounded like an angel….
The werewolves stare, smiling, their long muzzles contorting with expressions of apparent enjoyment and pleasure.  One of them growls, “GOOD VOICE GIRL PUP.”
She smiles with pride, stops her singing, and the werewolves leave us.
And so we’re left to continue our journey feeling a lot more confused than we had before.
But, all in all, it was good that we were alive. Things could have gone a hell of a lot worse than they had.
Leslie smiles at me. Apparently the little brat feels like she deserves candy for that, and I have to admit that she does. I swing my pack of my shoulder, dig around some, and toss her a sweet. She smiles widely at me and sucks on it greedily, her eyes filled with childlike joy.
We continue on, only stopping when I realize that I have absolutely no idea where we’re supposed to be going.
I check my map, leaning against a towering tree, breathing easily. “We’re a few miles away from a town. From there, it’s about a two day’s walk to a mountain clearing, where we should find our next Key.”
They give me a tired look, and collapse to the ground, every last one of them falling fast asleep almost instantly.
It’s then that I feel the exhaustion in my own body, and I decide that we do really need a break. I curl up on the ground, using my arm as my pillow, and drift easily into restless dreams, listening to my companions’ calm breathing.
I wake up the next morning utterly calm. Feeling rather pleased with myself, feeling rather good, feeling okay. I smile, look around. The bright sun doesn’t sear my eyes too badly, so I ignore it and climb to my feet.
Wait…sun? Had we slept the whole night through?
I swallowed. If we had, than we were very far behind schedule.
I wake up the others, and start running, barely caring that they struggle to keep up. I just run hard and fast, following the directions on the map and the tugs of the stone, knowing that if I wanted to manage to do this on schedule we would have no choice but to move fast. We’d slept way too long—and those hours of sleep were definitely gonna cost us.
‘Gonna’….was I starting to sound like a human?
I groaned, slowing down just a bit, allowing them to catch up with me. “Ru-run slo-slower,” Max stammers, the first words he’d spoken in quite a while.
“We need to hurry, Max. And besides it’s not that far from here. Only a few more kilometers before we reach our destination.”
“Bu-but I can’t run that far.”
I give him a look. Sigh. “You’re going to have to, young one. We don’t have any other options. We need to keep moving.”
“Lady White wants these Keys. Therefor we must hurry to fulfill her orders.”
“Can’t she just be patient? Like normal people?” Anne asks, raising her shaped eyebrows at me.
“She isn’t normal people, Anne. She’s Lady White, and I would appreciate it if you treat her with the respect she deserves.”
“What respect can a whore earn?” she responds, sashaying up to me, daring to be near me after such a comment.
I raise my hand to hit her.
But I can’t make it fall.
“Go ahead, elf boy….Hit me.”
I stare at her.
Attempt to force my hand to move.
It refuses to.
I swallow, stare at her. “What kind of magic is this?” I ask her softly. “What are you doing to me?”
“Nothing you’re not doing to yourself.”
I swallow. Breathe deeply. “Anne….I….No. Stop this now. I will NEVER be attracted to you! You are nothing but a lowly human girl.”
She rolls her eyes at me, and then kisses me only once, before stepping back and smiling softly. “Don’t even try to tell me, elf boy, that you didn’t  like that kiss….”
I swallow, turn away from her, and keep right on running.
I definitely did not to admit to her, and to all the others, that I wished deep inside my elfin heart that that had not been the only kiss.
I was, of course, horrified at myself. Was I not an elf? Was I not one of the fairer race? The better race?
So why was I attracted to a lowly human girl? And one from a different planet as well?
I couldn’t comprehend it. There was something so…tantalizing about her fragile and frail form combined with her rough and tumble personality. Something so loveable. Something I could feel myself falling for. But…No! This was not going to happen! I refused to let myself become involved with her. Was I not Lady White’s? Did I not belong to her?
I doubted it. Even though I loved Lady White….Could we ever be? Could I ever be more than a servant to her? More than a second in command?
I knew that I never would be.
So why did I serve her?
I halted right then, where I stood, the thought that had run through my mind keeping me from moving a single inch. My very first disloyal thought, I think to myself, and it was brought on because of Anne.
This was decidedly not good in the least.
I needed to get away from Anne. Get away from her fast before she compromised my mission.
But, of course, where could she and the others go but wherever I went?
And where could I go besides the next Key?
I run. I find myself on a large forest path, well used by many, cutting through the underbrush and the shade of trees that go from scraggly to giants. Before long I’m forced to light the torch, the path dwindling away at my feet, the trees’ shade becoming far too dark to support any vegetation.
The humans look around in wonder, exclaim in desperate breaths at the beauty and wonder of this place.
A strange feeling of kindness overwhelms me and I slow, turning to them. “These trees are older than time. No living elf remembers these woods when they were first beginning to grow. No records exist of this place being barren.
“This is the forest of Darwe. We’re on the edge of the Mountains of Darles, which is where we will find the next Key. In this forest, the first elves started out their lives. This place is where all life began. Where everything first started.”
“Why’d you leave?” Joey asks, looking at me, worry in his eyes.
“Because there’s…something here. Something powerful. Something beyond our comprehension, beyond our control. The only reason we haven’t encountered it yet because we are barely on the outskirts of the forest.”
Anne says slowly, “What is it?”
“To put it simply, it’s evil itself. And it’s guarding the Key.”
They swallow, and Leslie murmurs, “I wanna go home….”
We turn, and just stare at her for a few seconds. In the end, Anne bends down and hugs the kid, saying into her ear, “So do we all, kid. So do we all.”
But all of us know there’s no going home without the Keys.
We give each other looks of sorrow and understanding, before we set off once more, deeper and deeper into the forest, knowing that there would most likely be no turning back.
Not for any of us.
“I’m hungry,” Leslie says, about ten minutes later.
I’m not sure why, but I just start laughing, loud and long into the shadow of the trees, daring whatever might be listening to come and get me.
Come get all of us.
Yes, I did lose my mind for a very quick second there…..I’m afraid that I’m not really fully sane in the least. Besides, it didn’t matter to me right now whether we lived or died.
I just wanted to be done with this. Done with all of this.
I groaned, shut my eyes tightly, and started trying not to cry.
Why was everything so hard? Why was my life only growing harder? Why was my heart only breaking more and more? I was attracted to Anne, but that was wrong. I loved Lady White, but I would never get her. So what was the right thing to do?
I sighed, rubbed my eyes with clenched fists, and remind myself, No matter who I love, who I care about, I have no choice. All I can do is get those Keys. Once I have them, all else will have calmed down. When I have them, I will be okay, and either Lady White will be mine or Anne will. I just hav to believe that.
But I knew that I would never believe it, and that it would also never happen. So my only option was to just keep right on moving, do this quest, and then get back. No matter what happened afterwards I still had to do this quest.
The others caught up to me then, and looked at me worriedly. “What’s wrong, Avery?” Anne asks softly, looking perhaps just a bit worried. I raised my eyebrows at her, refusing to let myself believe that she cared whether or not I was hurt.
“I’m fine,” I reply, and I keep right on moving, deeper and deeper into the darkness.
The torch was nowhere near enough light for us. We stayed closer and closer together as time went on, our strides shortening and slowing down, taking care to not get ourselves killed by either falling off a random cliff or running into an angry bear.
It was then that I finally noticed the massive lack of animals. Of any kind of wildlife. When I realized it, I sent out desperate flicks of magic, searching for any signs of the animals that had surrounded us when we were still on the outskirts of the forest.
I found none of them.
There was nothing alive here—nothing but the vegetation and a small group of travelers on an impossible quest.
I attempt to figure out what could have pretty much annihilated all animal life, and it takes me less than a second to do so. I take a deep breath, and say to them, “We’re close. Very close.”
A few steps later, I start sensing it. My entire body fills with horror and with fear—I’m far, far too young to die! I’m too weak to fight it. I’m not going to win…
“What the hell is this?” Anne yells, drawing her knife from her boot. “What’s here?”
“Something….” I respond, my heart rate racing upwards. “Something evil. Something we can’t fight.”
“Well…that’s really cheery….” Joey mutters, but they follow me nonetheless.
I feel rather proud of them for doing that. If it was anyone but me, would they be doing this so willingly, or would they run and hide?
Did it matter at all, though? Most likely not.
Eventually, though, Anne screams:
“I forgot to put on makeup!”
I just turn and stare at her for a few minutes, wondering, is she anywhere close to sane?
As if reading my thoughts, Max muttered, “Anne’s lo-lost it.”
“Did she ever have it in the first place?” Anne responds, rolling her eyes. “Look, I need to do this. And god we also need to get changed. Didn’t you buy any clothes when you were out shopping for supplies?”
I blushed furiously when I realized that I had not. I’d spent all of my money on food and on supplies, and the money I had from when I had sold the horses was pretty much useless to us out here.
They just looked at me and sighed. “Way to go, Fearless Leader.”
I glared at her.
And it’s then that something extremely strange happens: A sack flies out from nowhere and hits me in the head.
Well, at least it was a soft sack….
I roll back to my feet a few seconds later, and glare at the sack. It was a plain brown cloth sack, tied tight with a teal scarf. The only weird thing was that it had come flying out of a forest to hit a resistance fighter elf in the head when the magical elf was unable to sense any living things whatsoever in the world around him.
That fact, of course, doesn’t stop me from opening said random sack.
I reach into it, and pull out clothes.
Anne tackles me aside and starts digging through it, wrenching out an outfit that looked to be not far off of her usual skinny jeans, band t-shirt, black leather bracelets, and boots. She grins, and cheerily scampers off into the forest, unafraid, eager to get into more fresh-smelling garments.
The rest of us do the same, thankfully going into other directions than the young girl, and before long we regroup at our random magic sack dressed in our new clothes.
I was wearing a long white tunic belted at the waist with a black ribbon, tight brown leggings, knee-length laced-up boots, and a brand-new wide-brimmed hat tilted merrily sideways on my head. I posed proudly, liking how my muscular form was made very apparent with my new outfit.
Anne was decked out almost entirely in black. Her shirt was a straight black long t-shirt, pulled tight against her body, her leggings looked like they had been custom made to fit her, her boots came with steel toes, and her long red and black hair had been pulled back with what appeared to be a metal chain dangling skulls, her slim fingers had been garnished with rings that looked like they were made for punching, and her forearms and hands were hidden beneath thick black leather gloves.
Joey looked amazingly elegant in his new getup. He was wearing brown leggings, a green tunic belted at the waist with a gold chain, and soft leather boots. He looked rather pleased with himself.
Max was a different story. Whoever had provided us with the clothes had managed to make him into a male miniature Anne: All black and red, thankfully no rings but there was definitely steel on his boots and a skull necklace around his neck. He looked terribly out of place.
Leslie…Well, she looked like a pumpkin. I have to say that I adore whoever gave us our clothing, because she was dressed entirely in orange, and her clothes were fitted so her roundness was emphasized. She, in a sentence, was a pumpkin with legs.
I think we just stood there staring at one another for perhaps a straight minute. None of us could comprehend each other in each other’s new clothes—and I myself could scarce tear my eyes away from how Anne’s neckline dipped rather far below what was considered dignified. She noticed me noticing, flashed me a white-toothed smile—it was then I noticed that she had managed to put on her makeup despite the dark, and do it perfectly—and took special care to let her eyes wander up and down my body.
I have never felt more humiliated, or more excited, in my entire existence.
Not even Lady White could get me to react this much….
There was absolutely no question about it now: I was decidedly head over heels for Anne, the human girl from another world.
And that was perhaps the worst thing that could possibly happen right now.
But, hey, at least we were clothed…..
So we were, at the very least, moving slowly up in the world.
I sighed, turned, and continued leading my ragtag group of companions deeper and deeper into the forest, knowing that right now the only thing that remained for us was to keep right on moving.
But….Moving in this direction might just lead to all of us getting killed.
It’s not like we had much of a choice though, right?
We couldn’t turn around.
Couldn’t turn back.
And, wow, I really needed to stop thinking such disloyal thoughts.
The thoughts stop when I suddenly start hurting. Every inch of my body floods with pain and I scream, halting in my steps instantly. I wasn’t the only one who felt it either—Leslie whimpered, Anne shrieked, Max screamed, and Joey yelled. We fell to our knees, our vision swimming red, unable and unwilling to move.
“What’s happening?” Anne shrieks. “What’s going on?”
I try to force out an answer, but it only comes out as a choked whimper.
But someone answers….
“I’m happening, kiddo. I’m happening.”
I looked up.
And stared into the eyes of my magic teacher Lord John.
“Hello, Avery,” he greets me, kissing my forehead gently. I recoil, my skin hurting even more where his lips had touched me. It felt like he had burned me.
“Turn off the magic….” I plead. “It hurts, Master, it hurts….”
“You were never a good student. If you truly were a student of magic, if you had allowed me to latch fully onto your power, unlock your full potential….How much more powerful you would be! But, no, you had to be weak. Too weak to undergo the most basic of magical training. Too afraid to endure even the simplest of magical torments.” Master stares at me, his deep dark blue eyes daring me to deny him, daring me to tell him I was strong, that I was a good student.
I knew him too well to do so, though. The torment he would inflict on me if I stood up to him would only worsen, only hurt more. And he, worse yet, would also increase the agony for the others.
And that I could not do.
“What are you doing here, Master? Where is the evil?” I ask instead, forcing the words out between clenched teeth, fighting to remain conscious.
“The evil? Why, evil is all around us, and inside each of us. You’ll have to be more specific, student.” He smiles at me contempt fully, even now finding little ways to taunt me, and show me how much better he is than me.
“The evil…from all the legends. That people say haunt this forest. The ageless evil that cannot be killed.” I tried to go more in-depth, but I could feel the words I wanted—nay, had to say—slipping away from me with every second of this fierce agony.
“Ah, Avery….You haven’t yet figured it out. You never were precisely wonderful  at deducing things, no matter how obvious they should be. Student mine, think for a moment….If I’m here, would I allow anything else as powerful as I to be around me?”
I looked at him in horror as my mind started to figure it out.  “Master….I heard you were dead. How did you get from Koronala to here?”
“Just because they found my body in my mansion doesn’t mean it was me, Avery. One of the spells us trained magicians have access to is the ability to change something’s shape. It was one of the first spells I would have taught you if I could completely train you.”
I nodded at him, “Master, could…could you…gods….let some of the pain up? For the others?”
He shook his head, eyeing me darkly. “Not happening, I’m afraid.”
It was then that something occurred to me. I turned to look at Anne, slipping a bit closer to her. I touched her ring with my finger, looking at her meaningfully. She looks at me for a second, confused, before she nods and slides off her rings, all of them, to release her power to drain the magic.
And, of course, absolutely nothing happens.
My mind wonders at it, even as a part of me starts to comprehend this while Master begins to laugh. “You honestly thought that she was powerful? The Conduits are only elven. They can only be elven. So, my young student, you have been tricked from the very beginning. Did you honestly think that Lady White would send you off alone without a way of keeping track of you? The ring is a tracking device—it’s been a trick from the very start.”
I don’t want to believe it. I refuse to. It just can’t be. She wouldn’t have lied to me—would she?
“She’s been helping you from the start. The supplies. The directions. She even delayed the guards for you when you were running from them in the capital city. She didn’t trust you in the least, Avery. She never did, my student, and she never ever will. And, ah yes, don’t expect any help from her. None of the people she sent are brave enough to enter the pain.”
My teeth clench. I force out the words: “I am not your student.”
Master only smiles and laughs, even as he increases the agony. I scream, and beside me, Anne begins to shake and seizure. “Her body can’t take it,” he laughs, “So it’s shutting down.”
“No! Stop this! Stop this now!” I scream, louder and louder, but the words are lost and morphed into a howl of agony. “Let us go!” Please just let us go!”
“Not until you are taught…” Master laughs, and increases the agony just a bit more.
“What do you want? If you let us do this, there won’t be any more Conduits! Magic will remain free!”
“And perhaps I don’t want it to remain free. Perhaps I would rather it to become something only available to the most trained, the most powerful, so you less trained army of magicians will be no longer able to fight us. And me and my fellows can finally rule over you.”
Can I just insert a brief monologue of mine here? Just to explain some things? I know that I said earlier I was the most powerful magician in existence—well, I’m not. I’m the most powerful magician of my group. Of the resistance, I was without counterpart. But, when you include the Masters and the Viziers (elfin servants of the human king who had turned traitor rather than join the resistance and lose the status and the glorified life that they had once enjoyed)—I was far beneath their level. To put it in terms you might comprehend, my magical strength was the equivalent of an ant picking up a leaf fragment. And theirs…that was the equivalent of a giant picking up a mansion.
And back into the story….
Wait…Where were we?
Oh, yes, Master had just been explaining his evil plot to take over the planet.
It seemed to me to be that this was perhaps far, far too clich├ęd for words.
But, yet, it didn’t matter how clich├ęd my story is right now, as long as it keeps on going.
And right now I honestly wondered if it would or not.
But, no matter what, it truly didn’t matter right now did it?
Perhaps because he sensed my failings at narration, Joey snaps me out of it by tackling Master.
And the pain disappears, Lord John unable to keep up the magic.
The pain disappeared for only a second, but that was long enough.
Long enough for the followers of Lady White to attack.
They blasted him backwards, ensnaring him with their magic, freezing him in place. They laughed and taunted him, even as they yelled at us to run, go get the Key.
And run we did.
We ran faster and harder than we had ever ran, covering the ground in long and desperate strides, the torch blowing out with our speed. I carry Anne in my arms, while Joey and Max carry Leslie between them. For a second I find that sight comical, before I decide it’s far less important than running and running hard.
Following the tugs of the magic stone, we soon reach the location of the second Key. When we reach it, I just stop and stare.
The Key was in a tree.
A really, really big tree.
A really, really, really big tree that glowed.
The others stop beside me, unable to comprehend the extremely weird sight that greeted our uncomprehending eyes.
Anne summed up our feelings when she said, “What the hell is that thing?”
I looked at her, then at the tree, and back at her. I could think of absolutely no answer that would tell her anything. I couldn’t make sense of any of the sights that greeted me, and I realized it didn’t matter at all whether or not I knew what was going on.
All that mattered was getting that Key.
A bit nervously, I approached the tree. I had no idea what to expect—was there danger here? Something unseen?
Why, of course there was. It didn’t take a genius to figure that out.
Trusting my instincts, I grabbed a branch, and hurled it at the tree like a javelin.
It incinerates on contact.
I just stare at it. Think to myself that it was just my luck.
But then I get moving.
I walk towards the tree, and carefully, ever so carefully, begin to send blasts of magic towards the earth. I flew upwards, and, focusing every last part of my mind and soul, began to maneuver carefully between the branches. A part of my sleeve brushes against a branch, and it turns to ash before I have the chance to move it away. I swallowed. I was going to have to be very, very careful….
And I wasn’t really good at being careful.
I gently blast against branches, trying to keep a steady blast of magic at the ground far below, rising slowly, slowly, slowly. My teeth clench, my fingernails dig into my palms, and I start trying to slip around an extremely thick branch. I contort my body, be as careful as I can, but even so my foot grazes against a branch that I pass over.
The scent of burnt leather fills the air.
Come on, Avery…You can do this. Just get that Key.
Right now, I am more afraid than I have ever been. But that’s not all.
I have also never been more determined.
I force myself upwards, flying carefully through branches that blind my eyes, using a rather unstable magic I have limited to no control over.
I honestly think this might be the best time of my life.
An eternity later, I clear the rest of the tree. I reached the top, and looked around. There, inside what appeared to be the concrete nest of a massive bird, lay a single book.
Cautiously, I landed, picked up the book, and flipped through it. It was the Key.
I’d found the Book of Journeys.
Two down, one Key remaining….

~~WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: Chapter Nine--The Possessor of Infinity~~

I have no idea how we got from kissing on the rooftop to running all around the streets, searching for a missing boy.
I have no idea how all of this happened.
All I know is that I’m running, blasting the humans that chase me with magic, pumping my legs hard, laughing under my breath. I’m the most wanted elf in this entire realm, I’m in the accursed capital city, I’m running for my life, and the one main problem in my life is that I kissed a human girl and I liked it.
I laugh harder and harder, and send a few brief flicks of magic all around me, searching the minds of the ones around me for any signs of Max. Where could he have gotten to? Why hadn’t the others watched him?
I scramble up the walls again, dash across rooftops, drop and roll into alleyways only to scramble up again and run even harder, even faster than I had before. MAX! my mind shouts into the world around me, reaching into minds, searching for a mind that replies to me anxious scream.
But I hear nothing.
What is going on? What’s going wrong?
Well, granted, this is my glorious world. So of course nothing’s got an explanation and nothing’s going the way it should be.
I whirl at the top of a tall roof, stare at the humans as they attempt to climb up after me. I wait patiently, and they eventually reach me. “You blasted fast elf…” one of them mutters at me, pulling his sword and trying not to collapse from exhaustion.
I shoot him the finger—something humans apparently do—spin on my heel and continue running, feeling rather pleased with myself.
Even though I knew I was only losing my mind more and more, this feeling of freedom was more than worth my sanity. I knew it wouldn’t be worth it, falling in love with Anne. It would only lead to complications in the mission, which honestly was complicated enough as it is.
But onto more pressing things…..
I blast them backwards, gently enough to make sure they don’t fall off the roof, but hard enough to send them staggering. I laughed wildly, loving this, loving this freedom, loving this wildness. I never understood until now what it was to be a ‘rebel’: Utterly free, running fast, going off on psychotic impossible missions to get things enchanted with spells you can’t comprehend, trying to deal with circumstances way beyond you, chained by love and loyalty while somehow remaining free. I laugh and whirl, dancing upon the rooftops, my hair red as rubies in the wild western wind, loving every second.
I ran across what seemed to be half the rooftops in the city, dodging arrows they shot at me, going for blocks without magic when they drained it from the area, or shooting back when they attacked with magic. Loving this, loving every moment, I run fast and hard.
And then I sense him: Quiet, curled up in a corner, a few hundred feet beneath my feet, between us a solid wood ceiling. You have one guess as to what the building was: A library.
Rolling my eyes, I leap the few hundred feet down to the earth, landing in a roll to keep from breaking every bone in my body and softening my fall with gentle blasts of magic. I get to my feet easily and run up the hard marble steps, worn smooth from centuries’ worth of feet passing over them, dodging through a small crowd of pale-skinned humans with large reading glasses perched over pierced noses. I scamper past guards, ignoring their hands as they reach for me, continuing on and on. I find myself in a cavernous room dimly lit by lamps, bookshelves reaching hundreds of feet into the sky. My eyes fill with wonder—I had never been much of a reader, but yet I couldn’t deny the glory of that library. How many books could there be in this wondrous world, if this massive, glorious room doesn’t hold anywhere near close to all of them?
I send flicks of magic all around, sifting through minds as I run, taking care to take the stairs and avoid touching the shelves, not desiring in the least to cause any damage at all to this haven of books.
I find Max in a few seconds of hard running. He was curled up in a corner, knees up, balancing a massive dusty book in his lap as best he can, puzzling over words written in a language he didn’t comprehend. I smile and sigh, before grabbing him, lifting him up in my arms, and carrying him out of there.
The run back was only mildly harder, as even with Max in my arms I was still faster. And the fact that Max was so caught up in his book that he barely noticed anything going on around him helped me out a great deal.
I reach the harbor, Max held quietly in my arms, to see Joey, Leslie, and Anne waiting there for me. “Maxie!” Leslie shouts, toddling over to him.
I groan, and set the kid down on his feet, stretching. The mob that had been tailing me for the past few dozen streets I’d ditched a few corners ago, and it’d take them a while to get here. Which, of course, didn’t mean I could go slowly. I still needed to find transportation out of here to our correct destination.
I pulled out my lucky stone.
It glowed in my hand, and it seemed to pull me to the left, so I go left. I follow its directions in this matter for a couple hundred feet to a horse-drawn wagon, the back of it filled to the brim with hay. “Well, looks like we’re leaving the horses here. We should buy more supplies.”
I grab the horses’ reins, and guide them in the general direction of the scent of manure. Which, oddly enough, leads me to a noble’s household. I glare at it, and follow my nose to where the smell of flowers originates.
It’s a stable.
I refuse to think about it, sell the horses, and follow the scent of rotting food to the market, getting used to following these weird scents. Or, at the very least, learning to expect the very opposite of the expected from this weird city.
This weird city that goes by the name Wild Wind Work City.
In its defense, the people who named it were high…..
High on misery, that is.
Grinning to myself about the weird thoughts going through my head, I purchase as much supplies as I can carry (aka about twice the amount we most likely need) and run back to the harbor, running into very little opposition.
God, this city was depressingly easy to be notorious in and not get caught.
I reach the harbor in a few quick seconds, laughing and smiling. I sling the packs of supplies onto the others’ backs, keeping one for myself, and dive surreptitiously into the hay. They follow me, complaining and decidedly displeased, but willing enough to not have to walk or ride.
We scurry deep into the hay, managing to avoid arousing suspicion from the people all around, hurrying into seclusion. And well we did, as about half a minute after we were fully hidden the wagon began to move.
We spend perhaps an hour buried deep in the hay, barely moving, breathing in the scent of farms, trying not to inhale the lice that swarm over us. Finally, when I feel the stone give a sharp jerk in my pocket, we scramble out and drop gratefully to the ground, gasping for breath and fighting to breathe but unable to. We roll off the road, Anne and me collapsing into the ditch on one side, Joey, Max, and Leslie ending up in a small pile of limbs on the other.
“That was officially the worst hour of my life.” Joey mutters, groaning and raising his head to glare at me.
“I’ve had worse….Try letting a guy who doesn’t know what he’s doing give it to you from behind for an hour. Trust me, that was heaven compared to what he did to me.”
I feel, of all things, a random burst of jealousy. I wasn’t jealous of her—I was jealous of whoever that man had been…..
I scramble to my feet, and I don’t help Anne to her feet as I doubted I could handle touching her skin at this second. It would only make my feelings for her even more confused than they already were.
We gather on the road, stretch, scratch, and our muscles screech with stiffness. “I’m tired!” Leslie whines. “I wanna sleepies.”
I groan, rub my eyes, and examine the packs of supplies. Luckily, not too much was broken or damaged. A few of the vegetables and fruits were damaged, and the bread now was mildly flattened, but otherwise everything seemed to be fine.
“Where to now, fearless leader?” Anne asks, resting her hand on my shoulder. I shrug it off, and step away, pulling the stone out of my pocket. It doesn’t seem to move at all.
“Give me a minute….” I tell them, and sprint into the trees, hoping that maybe Lady White’s other directional tip would help.
Feeling like a fool, I skid to a stop, do a backflip, land, spin in a circle, do a few jumps, flying kicks, mid-air somersaults, all the while attempting to sing the words, “I wanna go, where do I go, I wanna go, tell me where to go!”
I land for the final time, and start doing something humans call the Chicken Dance.  I have never felt more like an idiot than I do at this second, and I have no idea if it will be worth it, but I just have to trust her and try. I just have to trust her and try.
After maybe ten minutes of the infernal torture they call the Chicken Dance, I stop, barely able to breathe. I shout into the world around me, both mentally and physically: “TELL ME WHERE TO GO!”
My efforts pay off.
I’m hit in the head with a rock.
And do you know what?
It was actually preferable to enduring another few minutes of that horrific dance.
I wake up to find a piece of paper lying on my chest. It seems to be around ten minutes or so after the hit, so I know I should most likely be heading back as soon as I feel like I can stand. I eye the paper, and I’m pleased to find orders on it. Well, it looks like Lady White had been telling me the truth: The world was on our side.
I run back to them, and before long we’re on our way once more, our steps lighter despite our heavier packs: We were less than a quarter mile from our very first Key.
We reach the cave where it is in a few brief minutes of running.
It looks like a very ordinary cave. Nothing spectacular, very calm in fact. I didn’t sense anything sentient about it, and the only bats I could hear inside it were ordinary ones. So what could be special about this place to make it a suiting hiding spot for something as powerful and important as a Key?
Keeping the thought of what I was searching for inside my mind, I walk in first, ready for anything, any kind of defense that might be thrown against me and my companions.
But I encounter nothing.
I light my single torch with a snap of magic, and begin walking.
The cave is dark. The scent of must floods my nostrils, my breath hitches in my throat, and I try not to throw up. It’s not an easy thing to avoid doing. Taking my companions’ hands so we form a chain, I guide them into the dark, wishing I had thought to purchase a few more torches.
It’s not long until we hear the chattering and squeaking.
My heart leaps into my throat. I know that noise. I know it all too well.
The puffballs were here.
I swallow, and lead my companions towards the sound, knowing that our chances of victory had just halved.
I stop when the sounds of chattering and squeaking flood my ears, the echoes almost shaking the walls, knowing that now we were right at the edge of a massive pit. I look down, and try to keep from screaming as I make out their tiny red eyes peering back up at me like sparks from a fire in a starless night. Suddenly, a little pink ball leaps into the area lit by my torch, propelled by tiny little stubby legs. I scream and jump back. As I do so, a few hundred other puffballs begin to jump as well, drawn by my horrified scream.
But of course the only place the Key could be was on the other side of the puffballs….
So which one of us was going across? I doubted all of us could make it over, and whoever did go over might not be able to make it back. Who knew was on the other side?
But I was, after all, the only really magical one….
So it looked like I was going to fly over a pit of pink puffballs propelled by power people pretty much never possessed.
I groan, give them one last look, make my companions swear to not leave here unless it was a guarantee that I was deceased, and sent a single hard blast of pure power at the cave floor, hurling myself up and forward.
I fly through the air, blasting at the cave floor and the puffballs that soar up to attempt to eat me, unsure whether I was more afraid or more entertained by this psychotic experience.
I land hard on the other side, rolling several feet until I can halt my momentum, more than a bit pleased to be far from the dangerous pink puffballs in the pit.
Staggering to my feet, I pull the stone from my pocket, and thankfully it works. I follow it, relying on my instincts, as I had been unable to take the torch with me.
I continue walking, getting happier every second that the horrific sound of the puffballs fades away. I start going downhill, but luckily it’s not that steep. I walk into walls a few times, but otherwise it was rather easy to find my way through the cave.
I end up bursting into a run as I become a bit more aware of the passage of time, unwilling to be in here longer than absolutely necessary.
Perhaps ten minutes after landing on this side of the pit, I find the innermost chamber of the cave.
I walk into a room flooded with light, my boots whispering through soft carpet, my hair being played with by the gentle wind. I didn’t know what I was doing, where I was going, how I had gotten here but I knew the Key had to be somewhere around me.
I look around, turning full circle, but I see nothing that seems out of place.
Nothing besides my dear sister, of course.
“Natalie….” I whisper, staring at her. She walks toward me, her waist-length ruby red locks shining in the light, her long legs carrying her elegantly from where she had leaned, posed, in the corner of the room.
“Brother dear,” she replies, “You’ve come for the Key.”
“Yes…yes, I have….Do you, by any chance, know where it can be found?” I ask her, before stammering out, “The-they told me you were dead.”
“I am dead. The only thing keeping me alive is this.”
She pulls at a chain that dangles around her neck, and lifts the rest of the necklace out from between her breasts underneath the neckline of her red dress.
It was the Key.
The Necklace of Infinity was here.
“You have it…?” I ask foolishly, before the full implications of this sink in: If she was wearing the Necklace of Infinity, her body would shut down the instant its magic was taken from her. You see, the name is literally meant: Its wearer is granted an infinite life. They will never die as long as they wear it constantly.
“I have it. And you need it.”
I swallowed. I did need it—but there had to be another way…. “Come with me!” I beg, “I don’t want to lose you again.”
“I died three years ago, Avery. I died giving birth to my daughter on the road. I can’t ever see her, ever tell her I’m alive. There isn’t any reason for me to be alive. So take the Necklace, and let me die.”
“You lost me three years ago, Avery. Even though I stand before you now, I’m still not back. I’m still dead. Still gone.”
“Natalie, I can’t. I can’t take your life. You’re my sister!”
She reaches up to her Necklace with both hands, and gives a sharp jerk.
With a sharp snap, it breaks, and falls to the floor.
Natalie smiles, hugs me, turns, and walks away.
She takes four long strides before she collapses to the floor, her breath leaving her in a single whoosh, her limbs losing all strength instantaneously.
I fall to my knees, gazing at her. Natalie was dead.
I take the Necklace of Infinity, still warm from her skin, slip it into my pocket, turn around, and start the journey back to my companions.