A… Podcast? “A Tale of Two Queens” Podcast

Uh, so I’ve wanted to do this a bit, and have been toying with the idea of making a read-aloud version of my novels a little bit. But, after listening to one today, I got all excited and decided to try it! Why not?

So me being me, I downloaded the app ‘anchor’ and gave it a shot. I intended to first read just the first two pages of “A Tale of Two Queens”, but ended up doing the whole first chapter. Pfiou! It was quite the amount of work, but it was also super fun! I’m not going to say I’m that great at it, but I definitely enjoyed myself.

So, dear readers, I have a mission for you all! I need y’all to listen to (at least a snippet) of this episode and give me your thoughts (it’s free, don’t worry, and I doubt it’s possible to make money out of it). Should I continue with ‘A Tale of Two Queens’, or should I do “Blue Crow Rising” as well/instead of? What would y’all like? Also, anyone out there use anchor? Any pro tips for little ol’ me who’s just starting out with a new voice (thanks to hormones haha).

Listen to the podcast episode of “A Tale of Two Queens”  HERE

Lots of love y’all!

“Attack of the White Clouds” Chapter Five, Part Two

D- stepped to her side. Her arm passed around the seer’s trembling shoulders and drew her in for a tight embrace. In a low murmur she spoke of how it was the season of the marsh’s red colouring. That in the desert, it was the season for travelling and crossing. How in the plains, it was the season for the first growth. “And it has been nine months since the White Clouds arrival,” she added softly. Her hands now rubbed up and down the seers’ shaking arms. “When do you last remember?”

“Nothing,” the seer said in a hollow voice. “Nothing.”

“You remember something,” CH- said sharply.

“Nothing, nothing. Nothing! No-”

D- shushed her, leaning back to hold eye contact. “We are the season of the marsh now. That is all that matters.”

The seer shook like a leaf in the wind. “Nine months,” she whispered brokenly.

I began stepped back from the seer. In a sidelong glance I gestured to Ch- to come with me. D- stayed, comforting her and keeping her mind in the moment. Ch- followed me, grumpy as she stamped over twigs and underbrush. Her hackles were raised, her fangs bared.

“That seer knows something!” she hissed as we drew to a halt in the clearing of the White cloud. “She must!”

“But what?” the words slipped from me. It took me by surprise. It had seemed so effortless. Now, of a sudden, it felt impossible to speak a sound more. I wrung my hands. I gulped and tried to form the stories, the words to frame every picture and thought. It was hopeless. I shrugged and lifted my hands in the gesture of not knowing.

Ch- scowled. “If I knew, I would tell you! She would have told us! But all we know is that something is not right! She has been missing- how could she not know that the tribes have united? Has she been in league with the White Clouds?”

Or she was one who was taken and now she’d returned. A shiver of excitement ran through me. COuld it be that we had met our first survivor? Wondering this I stared away from Ch-. I took in the trees with their red trunks. Took in the whisperings of the wind and H- stalkign towards us. “Here they come,” he murmured under his breath. we stiffened and turned. Indeed, D- was approaching. Their arm was around the seer, walking her as one would walk a frail or sickly person. As they approached D- beamed with pride and the order for us to echo their happiness. I put on a large grin in hopes that I would be right. Let this be our first revenant. Let this be a surivivor with some clues.

“Welcome the new member of our party, Ale,” D- said proudly, patting the seer on the shoulder.

“Welcome,” Ch- said most unwelcomingly.

“We-w-w-w-,” I nodded and gestured wildly in greeting. H- chuckled and greeted her.

“Welcome. As you can tell, our bravest and best can not talk very well.”

“Hm! I speak just fine,” Ch- muttered savagely under her breath. Somehow, that made me smile. Ch-‘s comment, albeit insulting, felt harmless and boisterous. Charming, even.

“Ale will be travelling with us,” D- said cheerily. “I wish us all to get along.”

“We will,” H- said solemly.

I nodded, once again stuttering through the words. My sweaty palms wrung over my trident as if squeezing the words out for me. “W-w-wwe will!”

“Hnh,” was all that Ch- said. “We shall see.”

D- drew in an exasperated breath at this breach of politeness, but what was to be done? The seer turned pale beneath her scales, but did nothing. if anything she drew closer against D- for comfort.

And so, Ale was added to our group. Little was known of her. She walked huddled in her robes as if cold or frightened. That first day, we left the tracks of the White Cloud and continued onwards into the forest. Our pace was much slower than the frenzied rush our tribe had fled with. Now, we’d not even left the reaches of the mountains and trees by nightfall. As before during the day, we drew camp hastily but not in the marks of the Clouds. This time we nestled the tent in shadowy safety and made sure to light no fire.

The seer was put in the tent to rest wholly through the night. Us others took turns in watches of two to dwell awake. It would have been a relaxing time if somehow it hadn’t been so fearful. The air seemed tinged with danger. The birds refused to sing, and the crickets wouldn’t play. H- was crouching a few feet from me while I stood and looked around for any signs.

“I can’t sleep,” Ch- said as she threw her blankets off her and rose ingratefully. Beside her, d- was sleepign fitfully. With a scowl and huff Ch- rose and walked soundlessly to H-‘s side. There she crouched next to his hulking form. “What’s the matter with this place? THere is no sounds, no breeze, no bugs.”

Indeed, I realized with alarm, even the bugs seemed to have fled in fear. Whatever was wrong?

“We are walking into a trap.” Ch- said. Then, pointing to the tent, she lowered her voice. “It is all since she has arrived. The birds flee our arrival. The animals of four legs turn away at the sight of her. Even the trees don’t want to touch her. Something is wrong, and it is her.”

I tilted my head to the side, but did not know what to think.

“Attack of the White Clouds” Chapter Five, Part One

In that way we passed the night. I was alongside the tent in the last blanket when the seer awoke.

“Come back! Come back!” she shouted, and the tent tumbled over from her thrashings. I startled, jumping to my feet. Seeing the tent tumbled and shaking I pulled it apart as Ch- rushed over.

The Seer began screaming the moment she was visible. Writhing, shielding herself with her arms, she obviously was terrified. I reached gently to comfort her but she darted away like a snake. Stumbling out into the clearing she slowed, turning on herself as she took in her bearings. D- slowly approached and the seer’s eyes rested on them a moment. Yet she was gathering up her skirts as if to run.

“Stay where you are,” D- said calmly as they began sllowly striding towards the seer. To her, they called out. “Do you remember me?”

The seer scuffed the ground, turned, and found one of the symbols that the white clouds left behind. One final glance was turned towards D-, then the seer began stubbornly walking away in the direction towards which the clouds had vanished. I paused, resting my head against the side of my trident. So she could read the paths of the white clouds. She knew of those symbols.

And she was getting away. “OI!” Ch- called to D- as the seer was beginning to walk out of sight. “Do we catch her now?”

D- turned around, ceasing their steady walk. “I suppose! Alright! Run!”

In a bolt Ch- and I were off. I, fiercely determined to not let someone who obviously knew so much get away. She must be our clue! Ch- well, Ch- would never let anything outdo her, even if it had a headstart.

The seer was fast. She leaped over the lip of the cloud’s gouging marks and sped into the forest. Branches whipped around her and for a flash I was frightened that she would be faster than I. Desperation was giving her speed- but we were desperate too. In a burning push I reached her, hands grappling at her shoulders. In a tumble we careened sideways. Rolling int he dirt. Tasting leaves and ducking her thrashing elbows as she – silently – struggled. In a blur of red Ch- was mixed in, pulling the clawing savage off of me with her arms locked behind her. Still silent the seer fought and thrashed, gritting her teeth against the pain.

“Be gentle! Be gentle!” D- called as they caught up to us in a crunch of underbrush. Too late. Ch- forcefully spun the seer to face D-. D- was not pleased. “Don’t hurt her!’ And D- wrapped their long arms around the seer as if to protect her from CH-. Miffed, Ch- released the seer’s arms. Immediately the seer snatched at D-‘s arms and bit them. Surprised, D- shrieked in pain and loosened their grip. The seer broke free, lunging past me.

I flicked my trident to the side. In a trip, stumble, and crash the seer landed in a roll in the underbrush. With a thud she crashed head-first onto a tree’s trunk. Certainly she did not have the grace of a warrior, or the knowledge of how to break a fall. Shaking my head I scurried to her side, trident first.

Already as I reached her side she was trying to get back up on her feet. With a shriek she fell back down. She clutched at her ankle, curling on herself. Already the limb was swelling.

Ch-, useful as ever by my side, drew her sword and stepped over the crying seer. “Don’t frighten her!” D- insisted just as Ch- pointed her sword at the seer and showed her fangs in a magnificent display of intimidation. The seer shrieked and smashed her foot onto Ch-‘s. I had to swing my trident and stop Ch- from hacking back in response.

“My foot!” Ch- howled, hopping in pain.

“Enough!” D- snapped before throwing both me and Ch- aside with a wide gesture. “Give her space!”

“Give her space? Give her space? She tried to run, she attacked us and now we must give her-”

I strode over and clapped my hand over Ch-‘s mouth. She threw my hand off, but I pushed her away from D- by the shoulders.

As Ch- hissed and growled, I turned round to watch the seer’s actions. Tear-streaked and scowling, she still had the nerve to hiss and bare her own fangs menacingly at D-. D- crouched down before her, making no move to touch her. “We found you yesterday,” they said softly. “Do you recall?”

“Leave me be!” the seer shouted, still hissing and spitting. “Leave! Go back to your clans! I must go find them, I must- go away!” and she began scrambling up on one foot. D- did not move.

“Our peoples have taken the boats and left. Whoever you are following has certainly gone with them.”

The seer froze as if plunged through with a shard of ice. “The b-boats?” she stuttered. Then, whispering in dismay to herself, “I do not have a boat.”

“They took the sacred boats, and are fleeing the white clouds across the sea. We have remained to fight it.”

“You are -” the seer turned and seemed to see us anew. She grew frightened. Cowering.

“We are fighting it,” Ch- said slowly, as if she was expecting the seer to react otherwise.

The seer laughed, high-pitched and falsely. Her hand clawed backwards over the tree and she took a stumbling step away. “I – am not a fighter. No use in me. Leave me alone- I must go -” and she seemed to freeze. Her mouth clamped shut tight. her limbs quivered.

Once more, she was the frightened seer we’d encountered last night. I tilted my head to the side, taking in this transformation coming through her. Gone was the brave one who’d kicked Ch- on the foot. Now she trembled. Now she was filled with fear and so pale she was ready to faint.

“We will not hurt you,” D- said slowly. “We are oath-sworn, the all of us, to protect our kinsfolk. We cannot bring you harm.”

If anything, this made her begin to tremble more. More and more until she nodded. “I- but I-” and again, that fearsome laugh. “I do not want to fight.”

“We will protect you,” D- said cautiously. “No one has asked you to fight. But you must come with us. We cannot let you wander alone. The White Clouds may find you, and we would not let them harm you.”

Her claws dug into the tree, piercing its bark. “I,” she murmured “I, I should, I travel alone. I, I do not want to fight.”

“No one asked you to fight,” D- repeated with patience.

Finally, the seer gave in. She slumped and nodded. D- cajoled her some more. “We will protect you as best we can. We are from the four tribes. We can feed you, and will travel you safely amongst us. We will protect you,” she insisted. The seer did not seem confident in the truth of her words.

“From the four tribes? All together?” and then for the first time she seemed to notice our scale color. It obviously struck her and she startled. “What are you all doing together?”

We paused. I wrung my hands over the grip of my trident. Where had she been trapped to not know of the unifying of the tribes? But before I could find a way to put those thoughts out to them, Ch- beat me to it.

“What rock has she been under? The tribes have been unified for months now!”

“A month,” D- said in a shushing tone. “No need to exaggerate.”

The seer blinked as if seeing anew. “I- I- I have been lost. I- I did not know- so they have united. And yet- they have taken the boats you said. And-” she sunk to the floor, her arms shaking. She hugged her knees and drew them to her chest, dropping her head forward. “What season are we?”

Chaos & Kuryo (Novel 3) Chapter One, Part One

“Chaos?” I asked, peering into the bedroom. Oh, they were there alright. Chaos was spread-eagle on the bed, flat on their back and snoring away like a demon. I rolled my eyes and walked in. “Chaos!” I had to shake their shoulder. So much for ‘warrior reflexes’. This lump couldn’t be woken up by a bomb!

“Hnh?” Chaos opened their eyes, blinking sleepily. They wiped some drool from the corner of their mouth. “Whut?”

I forced a smile on. “It’s your turn to make supper and -”

“Why don’t we order out?” was the oh-so-predictable offer. “My treat-”

“Chaos!” I snapped, suddenly on edge. “I have an exam tomorrow! Charr is busy too! You have to do your part! Cook! Supper!”

“Jesus on a stick!” Chaos was sitting up and rubbing their eyes, hair a mess. “Okay okay!”

“And it better not be those pre made rice cans, those are for emergencies only!”

“Okay, okay,” Chaos grumbled. “Just let me wake up.”

“Don’t spend all night doing that,” I snapped before turning and walking away.

Out in the living room, Charr mouthed me a ‘thank you’. We high-fived silently. I sat back down on the floor, pouring over the books and notes I’d spread over the coffee table. Charr was studying too, but was in less of a crunch than I was. At least supper was happening.

Life with Chaos in it was, surprisingly, not too chaotic. Chaos had taken a few weeks to get adjusted, but now they had a fake ID, worked a job in a coffee shop, and didn’t bust out the ‘warrior moves’ except in a martial arts class they’d fallen in love with. They were aspiring to become a teacher one day, once they worked their way through the belt system. Which, honestly, was fine with the rest of us. Chaos did their thing, and was now a happy and functioning member of society. Did we mention the happy part? Yeah, life was good.

Really, the only hiccup in this whole scheme was getting Chaos properly introduced to the whole poly lifestyle.

Now, polyamory wasn’t exactly the most common lifestyle in the world we were living in. It was quite trendy in student villages, but people tended to say they ‘outgrew’ it. Well our ‘cule was hopefully a little different.

Aaliyah and Jade lived in their own apartment, strictly friends. Me and Charr had been happily nesting together as lovers before Chaos butted in. Now Chaos lived with us (their pile of clothes in the bedroom showed that, really, we didn’t quite all fit in here), but no, it wasn’t an endless storm of threesomes. How would Charr and I get any studying done like that? No, Charr and I were ‘going out’ and Chaos and I were ‘going out’ but so far neither Chaos nor Charr had the slightest interest in each other. Actually, Chaos had very little interest in anyone else in the ‘cule besides friendship. Which, by the way, was plenty. Chaos had a thing or two to learn about keeping friends on the good side of themselves.

“Are they coming over tonight?” Chaos asked as they shuffled out of the bedroom and into the tiny living room. They were dressed in black jeans and a metal t-shirt, somehow making the outfit look as rumpled as possible. Oh, and can we take a minute to applaud all of us in this ‘cule? We’d gotten Chaos to get a decent haircut. Now they had a mess of spikes that actually suited them and wasn’t any outlandish color. The doofus had wanted orange. Orange! But anyways.

“Who’s ‘they’?” I asked, pretty sure I knew the answer.

“AJ,” they said, using that awful self-invented acronym for Aaliyah and Jade. Who, by the way, Chaos shipped as a couple. Chaos was just sure they needed to break the ice and they’d start making out instantly. I told Chaos they were missing the point of friendship and, hey, here we go again. Chaos being bad at understanding friendships. The poor idiot was raised too lonely.

“No,” I said just as Charr said “Yes.” Charr and I looked at each other. We both snatched up our phones and checked our messages.

“Aaliyah said ‘no’,” I said.

“But Jade said ‘yes’?” Charr said, sounding alarmed. “That’s weird.”

Chaos banged a pot, then their head on the cupboard. A bunch of ‘jesus on a stick’s later, Chaos appeared in the living room. “Why’s that weird?”

I typed away at my phone, not answering right away. Charr was doing the same. Both of us were asking how Aaliyah was doing. Being a home-body, Aaliyah rarely went to parties. But she hated staying home alone, was still slightly jealous of missing out on any ‘cule fun, and so she tended to stick around whenever Jade came over. Alright, the two were inseparable in their own way. Jade was all peppy and Aaliyah all sober but they worked, you know?

The apartment door tried to swing open, snagging on the chain. It drew back shut and there was a banging on the door. “Open up!” called in Jade.

Chaos swore as me and Charr yelled at them to stop putting the chain on the door. How was Jade and Aaliyah supposed to get in here with the chain on?

“Demons!” said Chaos. “I’m telling you, someday someone is going to try and break into here -”

“And a chain is not going to stop them!” said Jade as she bustled in. There was snowflakes on her knitted hat and cowl, and she had her backpack on and a bag on her side. “Hey everyone!”

“Hey,” said Charr in her usual monotone as I rose to get my kiss from Jade.

“Hey, we were just messaging you,” I said as Jade nuzzled into my neck happily. I gingerly hugged her but damn, the outside of her coat was cold and snow was about to fall in my face. “Is Aaliyah okay?”

“Uh, well,” Jade drew back and began unwinding her cowl. “You know.” She pulled off her hat, making a fuss of dusting off the snow.

“She’s on her period?” asked Chaos bluntly.

We all shot Chaos looks. Thanks, buddy, for being that ice-breaker. Not. “How’s supper coming?” I asked sharply.

Chaos gave me a murderous look. “In hell we had cooks,” and they slammed a cupboard shut and began fussing in another cupboard.

Jade was now wrestling out of her coat with her backpack dangling on an arm. She writhed and wrestled and I went to help her.

“So uh?” I asked quietly as I helped Jade. “What happened?” Was she hesitant to talk because of Chaos? Maybe I could send them out on a grocery run or something if it was serious.

Jade made a face. Then she shrugged. Then she made another face. “I’m not sure,” was what she finally said.

“Oh come on!” Chaos yelled from the kitchen. Everyone jumped. Then, much quieter, there was a “Sorry. Pinched myself. Nevermind.”

Jade frowned. “You doing okay in there?”

“No,” the oh so great warrior wailed, coming to terms with their mortality when faced with a can opener. I, however, caught Jade by the arm before she could run away into the kitchen.

“What happened?” I asked softly. “Should I be worried?”

Jade made a face.

“She’s coming over!” Charr called out from the living room. “I got to her.”

More like, you harassed her until she gave in, but “Good!” I exclaimed, relieved. If Aaliyah was leaving her bedroom, it wasn’t depression (which she had had before) nor was it a serious period cramp. Maybe it was not that big of a deal?

Chaos is Back!

Y’all, I am SO EXCITED right now! After writing in the ‘Attack of the White Clouds’, I spent an hour or so trying my very bestest to work on another story I’ve had ideas for. Then BOOM! I realized that this story was a continuation of Kuryo’s story. Ergo -> Chaos’s story too!

BOOM! I pulled out an open office document (because I’m indie like that, I don’t like using word) and began typing. And typing. And now, ladies and gentlemen and folks in-between… Chaos is back! And so is Kuryo! And the whole polycule! And really, I’m just so excited! It seems as if, so far, if it all goes as planned, the whole ‘cule will be there for this novel! YAY!

Anyways, just to drum up some suspense, I’ve scheduled the first snippet to be posted tomorrow. So grab a friend! Tag a friend! Share this post! And get ready for MORE CHAOS!

EEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!

“Attack of the White Clouds”; Chapter Four, Part Two

It took us hours to calm the seer down – but she would not speak sense.

“I saw, I saw,” she hissed then moaned as she hugged her knees and rocked. Her face was buried in her knees and she would not look up. Night had fallen and we were clustered around a tiny fire in the ravine-like path of the white cloud. H- and I rested our backs against the cut edge of the earth. A root jutted out, tickling the side of my head if I moved anyways. It was dangerous to be here, Ch- had insisted. We had all agreed, but the seer was not to be moved. She’d screamed, clawed at us, and began weeping. So now we sat by where she’d fallen and now sat like a trembling leaf.

“I saw, I saw,” she repeated over and over. Now her hands clawed at her own face, pulling at her eyelids. D- hushed her soothingly and tugged her hands away from her eyes by the wrists. The seer looked up, and for a brief moment she seemed to see us and understand what was around her. D- reached slowly down to the bowls of mushrooms and roasted roots at her side. Lifting it slowly so as not to surprise her, D- offered the food. “Here. Eat this.” And she held up a mushroom to the seer’s pale lips.

“No!” she knocked D-‘s hand aside, her voice reaching a terrified pitch as she continued shrieking. “No! No! No!”

D- took her hands again before they could go back to her face. “Hush, hush, it’s over now. You’re here.” And they managed to bring her hands down, resting listlessly in her lap. Once again, the seer stared at D- as if they were an apparition that was piercing into her mind. D- slid an arm around her back and shifted to sit against the seer’s side. “Here, just sit a bit,” as if they hadn’t already been doing that!

But it worked. Little by little, D- calmed the seer down. It was almost possible to see each muscle that D- managed to relax as the time passed. First the ones that held the eyebrows so drawn up and tense. Then the one that held her eyes so wide and stressed. Then something seemed to stretch out in her shoulders. At that muscle, she leaned against D-. Rested her face against D-‘s shoulder. Now her eyes were still listless, but they at least seemed to see the fire’s light. D- continued their work, rubbing the woman’s back soothingly. Murmuring choice phrases.

In the middle of the night, D- held up the roots again. This time the seer opened her mouth and ate. I wanted to cheer and clap, but was too afraid of breaking the spell. Instead I turned to Ch- and H- who were sitting beside me. H- was to my right, and Ch- to his right. Swiftly, I gestured in the short motions Ch- had taught me.

She nodded, muttering a translation. “It is going well.”

H- hushed us. “Don’t disturb. This is important.”

And so we spent the rest of the night watching D- work their skills. We kept our ears strained for any sounds of danger. As our eyes grew tired we took silent shifts to watch for the white clouds and their eyes. But none came. Not a creature approached this strange clearing. Not even a twig or leave fell near us.

As dawn cracked and dew lay around us, the seer had fallen asleep. D- was still holding her and rubbing her back. With the other hand, she gestured to us. “Give me your blankets. We will make her a shelter to sleep in.”

“A tent? Here?” Ch- asked sharply. “We are better off in the woods.”

“Do you not think it strange she will not move? She will not leave the traces of the white wind. We must not move her. Now here! The blankets!” And they gestured impatiently while not moving the seer. I quickly tossed my blanket off and threw it at her. D- caught it, and began wrapping it around the limp shape of the seer. Cradling her head, D- lowered the bundled up seer to the earth. Rising to my feet, I picked up D-‘s cooking knife and went to fetch large branches to fashion the tent with. H- and Ch- shook out their blankets and began gathering their ropes.

It was a short matter of making the tent once I returned. Throughout, we held our silence so as to keep the seer sleeping well. D- raked the coals and burnt incense over it, waving with a broad leaf several gusts of it’s smoke into the tent. They let the blankets fall close, and gestured us to come walk away. We did, curiosity and eagerness rising within all.

Once we were out of earshot it was D- who spoke first. “Something is amiss,” they said, hands on their hips. Ch- snorted.

“Did you learn that all on your own? The clouds have been eating up the earth! What else is new? Tell us about the seer!”

D- shot her a dangerous look. “Something is wrong with her. She is a seer- one bred between two clans- but she is not all right. The clouds have done something to her.”

“Wh-wh-what?” I blurted, gripping at my trident. What could they have done? Wasn’t she alive and well?

D- shook their head. “I do not know. Something is wrong with her. She is affected by it in some way. The way she will not move, the way we found her on the path following the white cloud- wouldn’t you be afraid of it if you were attacked by it? Why would you chase after what you fear most? And she did not exactly seem happy to meet us either.”

“She is in shock,” Ch- said sharply. “I do not think we can guess at more.”

“She has seen,” D- said firmly.

“She is a seer,” Ch- answered nastily. “I certainly hope she saw something.”

“Enough!” D- snapped harshly. “Leave her alone! For now she must rest. Tomorrow I shall try again to make her speak.”

“And we stay here?” Ch- barked. “We are on a mission, we have no time to spare!”

“We have lives to spare,” D- hissed. “and we must care for this one.” Turning, they made to stomp away but paused. Instead they gave us each curt instructions to stand in a triangle around the tent in watch, one sleeping beside the tent in order to rest.

“Attack of the White Clouds”; Chapter Four, Part One

Ch- stayed behind, chattering with the others. “Wasn’t that easy?”

“Only for you,” H- grumbled.

“She can talk now! Now all we have to do is understand what she says-”

“It’s about the same as before, it’s just that now you are listening,” D- said sweetly, like a knife no one saw. Ch- silenced suddenly. The plodding sound of their feet caught up with me. H- and D- came to stride at my sides as if protecting me while Ch- sulked beside H-, then lagged behind. She no longer seemed bursting full of ability.

When we reached the forest’s edge she turned her back to me and began looking away in her own directions. This track of the cloud was large, a wide chasm of nothing that had been torn up from the earth. Bedrock had been bared, and torn apart sections of roots jutted up from its crevices like arms searching for their loved ones.

The damage we stood in was thirty feet wide, the edges cut and jagged like they’d been sawed with a dull knife. There, sometimes several feet deep, the topsoil could be seen from the side. Roots had been shorn clean. Stones had been cut in half. Up above, the canopy had similarly been sliced away. Not even a twig extended beyond the edge of the carnage. Not one splinter littered the ground we now stood in.

It was an aching emptiness. A void unlike any of us had ever seen.

“What can we hope to find here?” H- murmured. “There is nothing.”

Exactly, I thought to myself, crouching to scour the earth. These cuttings, this sharpness- it was the work of those sharp sand-like particles that had blasted us when we braved its attack. And yet- hadn’t it been pushing, not drawing up?

I straightened, the question suddenly strange. If it had blown its attack, where did everything go to? As I looked around, it seemed strange. All this work- it was the work of cutting, of a vicious blade plunging forth- then how had it drank everything up? How had it taken away even the dust of the earth, even the last splintered twig and torn leaf?

Worse, how could i ask this question to my friends? Hesitantly I turned to Ch-. She was busily ignoring me, her back showing her picking at the cut edge of the earth. Her fingers caressed a stone sheared in half. Gripping my trident and wringing my nervousness into it, I called to her. The guttural sound of her name was difficult but short, so it was manageable.

“Ch-!” and it was out. She turned, eyebrows mocking me in their disinterest. I bit my lip, then waved her over. She came, painfully slow and uncaring. Half-way she made a show of looking at the earth and scuffing her foot as if she’d found something. Then she stepped to me with a nod acknowledging me. “What is it?” she asked bitterly.

I began swiftly gesturing. We, earth, white cloud, it all came in a flurried burst that, by the look on her face, wasn’t making much sense.

“Wait, wait,” and she gestured gently. Slower, she signed, slower.

I bit my lip, jittering. They had to know this! I tried again. Ch- watched my every move fixedly, a gaze she certainly watched her prey with. Still, at the end she was not certain. “Try again,” she murmured. “Your hands are all over. Present? Or past?”

I did not know! Biting my lip I tried again. This time Ch- mouthed my words silently, assuring me that she had understood. “White cloud, attacks, earth, takes…. all this,”

I nodded, then took a deep breath. Calmed myself. Then, I set my hands before myself.

But the words evaded me. How could I explain all this? This overwhelming question that seemed so strange and confused- but I tried.

Ch- worded, but already it was not right. “Cloud, attack, takes all?”

I shook my head. No, it took! Took! Again, I tried.

“Everything, to the sky?”

Alright, that was a good start. I nodded, and signed to her that-

“So why?”

No, where! Where! Biting my lip, I stamped a foot. The crawling irritation I’d so long ago chased from myself was returning. I wanted so bad to have them understand- I needed their help- and yet they could not understand! Everything was a simmering mess, locked into my own body.

To avoid screaming in sudden frustration and giving in to the roiling mess, I flopped myself to the earth. Crossing my legs beneath me, I cradled my head in my hands and pressed my eyes shut.

When I opened them, Ch- was crouching before me. Watching me with frowning concern.

“Do you want to try again?” she asked softly. I shook my head. Then nodded. what else was there to do but try?

“Okay, so,” she held up a hand. “Why don’t I try?” and she repeated my gestures, guessing at the meaning. “The clouds come and take all. All, to the sky.”

I nodded. So far, so good. A glow of eagerness came over CH-. “Okay,” she breathed, then held up her hands in the gesture of non-knowing. “So… why?”

I shook my head.

“How come?”

Oh, nearly! The first half! I nodded, then shook my head. Ch- tried. “No? Yes? How-” I stopped her with a hand, nodding furiously.

“How? How.” Ch- nodded proudly. “How.” As if it was a great accomplishment.

Bravely, I continued. Speech felt closer now and I ventured a word forth. Then another, with more gestures. Finally, a sort of conversation was flowing. It was spattered with my occasional words and filled with wild gestures that made Ch- smile and even laugh. What felt like hours later (though it really must have been a short time) Ch – slapped her thigh and stood. “I’ve got it!”

D- and H- were far away, picking at the roots jutting from the wall. They did not turn until Ch- called again. “She has spoken!” then she left me to run towards them, chattering about my question.

All that for one question. Exhausted and tired in some bone-aching way, I rose to my feet. It had taken so long, It made me envy them as they chattered away so swiftly. As they gestured, not to make themselves understood but merely to emphasize. How they could communicate so easily. Their thoughts were hardly trapped within them.

Ch- was still explaining. “The cloud attacks, sending out what seems to be white sand, correct? Yet where is that sand? Not a trace? And look- it has taken away everything. But how? How does it blow out, and that is all we’ve felt when we were attacked by it- and then everything is gone? Where do these things go to?”

D- and H- were interested, throwing approving glances my way as I approached. Gliding into their tiny knot of presence I stood by Ch- and D-‘s side. Hastily, I gestured for us to search. Gloating like a hen displaying her chicks, Ch- translated my words.

“She says we must search. She believes that if we can learn where it takes these things, we may learn the crux of its power.”

“It’s stronghold,” D- said in surprise.

“But it,” H- hesitated, shaking his head. “It has magic and powers beyond our comprehension. We have been searching and it has left no tracks. What can we possibly find? We need to learn how to defeat them.”

“We will find out how,” Ch- said firmly before turning to me. “If your plan does not work, we shall try mine.” Though her words may have been meant to comfort, they did not. Rather, they seemed to be saying that once my leadership failed, she would gladly take over again. I shrugged. The jug came to me. I was certain that whatever I was meant to do, I would succeed.

And so we walked on, I leading the way and choosing whenever we would pause to search for the minutest detail that may hold the key. In this way we stopped often, as I wanted us to investigate the slightest difference in the cuttings. Anything may hold the key- and yet one came running straight at us. Hardly a subtle sign.

It began at first as a cawing of birds, strange and hoarse. D- rose from a pattern she’d been investigating upon the rock. We’d been finding signs of these all over, in broken ways. It was as if a seal was stamped, but only parts of it remained. And now this strange bird-

“That is no bird!” H- said as it grew louder. Instantly we lifted out weapons, stepping together for safety. The sound rose, hoarse and shrill. Warbling, even. It came from the south, and a staggering sound akin to the loping of a wounded animal came with it.

A black figure appeared, stumbling through the woods- and it fell into the carnage. Straight upon its face. The wailing, now discernible as that, continued. We struck our fighting poses- only to see the figure of a seer rise before us. It was one from the drier planes, clothed entirely in black with metal bracelets- and it wailed as it ran.

“A vision! A vision!” she screamed, plunging towards us. “I see them!” Half-way towards us the poor fool tripped and fell on her face. Sobbing, she cradled her head and did not move. I lowered my trident and stepped towards her carefully. As I reached her side I cleared my throat.

“Hello,” I managed with surprising ease.

The figure scrambled up. Her face was delicate and pointed, blue scales shimmering over her hued with red- a half breed. I recoiled in shock. Where were her wings then? Any born of the red hue had wings, yet hers were gone.

Her slate blue eyes were huge, the pupils tiny and slitted as she shrieked at me. “A vision! A vision!” and in a flash she drew a blade and plunged towards me. Easily I deflected her and tossed her aside, flinching as she collapsed again.

“A seer?” Ch- said as she stepped on the poor woman’s hand to stop her slicing anyone. “Left behind?”

I shook my head. “Survivor,” I whispered.

40,000 words so far! Yay!

Yes! “Attack of the White Clouds” has reached 40,000 words! As of today, critical events have happened and (I think) the White Clouds are nearing their defeat! But who knows, really?

I have to say that writing the “Attack of the White Clouds” has been quite something. It’s not a story in the way I usually write them. Usually I feel like my stories are pushed forward by outlandish characters, humor, and even more outlandish happenings. This story – not so much. The main character (who I just realized recently, 30,000 words later, is nameless) is calm, pensive, and not at all over-the-top. There is no exaggeration to her character. She is very sensible. Plus I hit the first battle scene only recently, around the 38,000 mark. What?! How can that be? It’s all just – suspense. Mystery. At least I like to think so. It’s a very calm yet grim story.

I tend to like this story. It really compelled me when I first wrote it years ago and again now, I find myself getting all caught up in the characters again. The story feels more ‘mature’ and less ‘foolish’. There is a seriousness to it all, a heaviness to the story.

What does this mean? It means it really doesn’t feel like something I’d come up with. I am rather mystified by this story some days. It feels like a gift, like someone else’s story that I’m being asked to write. I feel very much like I’m part of the audience in this story, except I happen to be the transcriber. Usually I feel like I know so much behind a story but in this case, it feels like the story is behind a veil, like it is reaching out to me but that it doesn’t quite belong. I’m not sure how to describe it, really, but it’s strange. I know so little of this story yet it is deep and built up in its own way. The characters feel more profound than mine usually are (I think).

Oh, and let’s take a minute to discuss the naming of these characters. For the life of me, when naming them, I just couldn’t give them actual names. I think Ch- was the first one I actually ‘named’, and was like ‘that’s not a name, its a sound’. Well. The name hath stuck and I don’t know what to do with it. I mean, after learning a bit about ancient languages and how sounds were guttural sounds were used, I guess it’s not the most outlandish names ever used. But still. It irks me.

But hey, I’ll survive. Another thing for the editing board to take care of (as in, I’ll deal with it later!). How is everyone finding the story so far? What do you think of our main character? What do you think of the villainous Ch-? Tell me all!

“Attack of the White Clouds”; Chapter Three, Part Two

It would take us a week of steady and swift marching to retrace our steps back to my tribe’s lands. Another week’s walk to maneuver the marshes and find the way to Mara’s hut. There, I was certain we would find something.

For now we retraced our people’s fleeing tracks. They were dispersed, scattered through the rocky plains. Yet as we crested a tall hill, we saw what had become of the forest.

I let out a cry of surprise. H- sucked in his breath in horror. D- cursed. Ch- remained silent, but her skin turned a hue paler, then flushed with anger.

When we had left, the tall forest had been plunged through by the one cloud that had attacked us. Now, it had been ravaged. The great trunks were snapped all throughout and great holes pockmarked what had once been a great canopy.

“They were searching for us,” Ch- said bitterly. “They knew we had rested there, and they hoped to find stragglers.”

I nodded. That meant they may return to find us. Stragglers. Good. If we could pick them off in scouts, or even learn how to defeat them one at a time, that would be a great boon. To learn more of them, we would have to scour these tracks. As horrific as this wreckage was, it was a treasure trove of information waiting to be read.

Now how could I say that to those around me so they understood? I tried with words as we walked. Pictures of discovery came to mind, ideas and stories of what we may discover and how- but none of this was easy to express. The more I tried to speak, the more they grew confused. Even D- was getting frustrated. Ch- peered at my mouth as I sighed.

“Her tongue is normal, why can’t she speak?”

I twirled my staff and grunted in irritation. They couldn’t say I wasn’t trying!

“Look, we just do not understand,” D- said patiently. “How can you say this is good? Look at the carnage-”

“Tracks!” I protested, monosyllables being all I could manage. “Good! Food-” no, no, not food! I’d meant forage! Cursing inwardly, I pressed a hand to my forehead and smacked my palm there lightly. We were nearing the forest and now they needed to understand. In a final desperate attempt, I waved them over to a mud puddle. Ushering them all to stand around, I tried to draw my plan.

“C-c-clou-,”

“Cloud?” Ch- suggested as I drew one. Nodding, I tried for the forest. They understood that. Then I tried to do spots of things, clues! Clues was the word I’d been searching for.

“Clue!” It burst from me. “Clue, clue-” and now I had a hard time stopping it. I did by biting my lip and pointing to all of us, then the forest. “S-s-sea-earch,”

“Search for clues? You want to search the forest?” H- said eagerly.

“Clues for what?” Ch- said excitedly.

I faltered at the monumentous task before me. There was just so much to be said. I sat down in defeat, cradling my head. So much to be said.

“Listen, no, look here,” and Ch- crouched before me. Scowling, I dropped my arms to my sides so they trailed in the dirt listlessly. She held up her hands between us as if in preparation for battle. Or to demand I focus. “There is a language that my people use, used,” and she faltered, biting her lip. “If you could use it, maybe it would help.”

“The problem is not with her tongue,” H- snapped. “Leave her alone.”

Ch- waved at him in dismissal. To me, she continued. “It is used in hunts, for silence. You speak with your hands.” And she motioned hers around her chest. “Here, for the present. There,” a little farther away “for the future. Near for the past.”

I blinked, mind whirling with possibilities. Slowly, i nodded for her to continue. With a face that said she wasn’t sure she ought to be doing this, she began miming gestures. “I,” pointing to herself with one hand, “think,” a flurry beside her head “that you think,” pointing to me before resuming that flurry, “that we,” pointing to all of us in a circular motion “can catch,” she made a snatch and hauling motion akin to hauling in a net from the sea “the white cloud.” and she gestured as if forming a soft fluff above her head.

I nodded, but that didn’t satisfy her. She flopped a hand towards me, all energy gone into dull disenchantment. “Try it now.”

Hesitant, I puffed my hands above my head. White cloud! Catch! I snatched with my hands, then pretended to search the earth.

A huge grin split Ch-‘s face. “The white cloud catches the earth?” Then she turned that grin to the others. “She is talking! Look! She can talk now!”

It was not talking, and she had not understood me at all, but her good humor was contagious in a way. I chuckled, plopping the twigs down that I’d picked up. Ch- held up her hands again, excited. “I’ll teach you some more! More words!”

I nodded, certain that this still would result in me stuttering. It would just be with my hands. I’d look like a bird flapping its wings.

Yet I tried. It made Ch- smile. Finally, in a stutter, I asked her “C-clue?”

Proud as could be, Ch- mimed picking something up and holding it in a revelatory motion. I copied it and she beamed approval.

dusting off my hands, I prepared a sentence. “White cloud,” Ch- read aloud as I signed. “Caught… clue.”

I nodded eagerly, then pointed at all of us. “We,” she added testily.

A sigh erupted from D-, who was sitting nearby with H-. The pair were watching, chins resting on their palms dismally. “She can’t do it,” H- said as if this was tiring for them too. “Can we just move on? We have to gain ground today-”

i shook my head. Words felt nearer now, yet this was easier. I didn’t need to struggle with sounds, and anything that made speech easier was a huge weight off my shoulders. Again, i tried.

“We,” Ch- said, raising her eyebrows. “Catch, clue, of the cloud?”

I nodded, beaming. That was it! Didn’t it make sense? It was so much easier!

And yet they did not think so. They pursed their lips, and Ch- looked defeated. “I don’t understand,” she said while dropping her arms into her lap. As if to make sure I understood she shook her head and listlessly signed that she did not know what I meant.

I tried. Clue! Catch! Clue! Cloud! Clue! We!

No amount of combination seemed to succeed. It seemed beyond their minds that we could find a clue on how to catch the cloud. Ch- guessed everything else under the sun. Until finally-

“We are looking for clues on how to catch the cloud!”

I nearly danced with joy, nodding and holding out my arms in approval. Ch- laughed and jumped up. “I got it I got it! Hey! You two! We are looking for clues on how to catch the clouds!”

The two were impressed, but not exactly happy either. “That only took about two hours,” H- said dryly. “Why didn’t you just let her speak?”

“Are you sure that’s what she means?” D- asked.

I nodded eagerly. D- pursed their lips. “And what would these clues look like?”

Who knew? I held up my arms in the gesture of not knowing that Ch- had taught me.

Ch- translated that too, eager as ever. “She doesn’t know!”

D- heaved a sigh. “So all this, to know that she does not know what she wants us to search for.”

Clues! Clues!

“We are looking for clues,” Ch- said, and that seemed good enough for her. She was puffing in pride, so much that her armor couldn’t seem to stretch any more.

H- and D- smiled pitiably. “Alright,” H- said. “We are looking for clues.”

In the tracks! I motioned for tracks, scooping towards the earth. Ch- gasped. “In the tracks! That’s it! The clues will be in the tracks! That’s why she was so happy about the forest! We have tracks to find clues of it in!”

Yes, yes, yes! I jumped to my feet, urging them to come. That had been surprisingly effortless. Yes it had been long but my mind was not tired. I did not feel like curling up and crying from exhaustion. Rather, I was sparkling with the burst of victory. Urging them up again, I began to walk first towards the forest.

“Attack of the White Clouds”; Chapter Three, Part One

Without a single question H- and D- followed me. They even seemed happy. Ch- was a different story altogether.

“So that is it? We are just going wherever she points?”

“You don’t have a better idea,” D- said sharply. H- chuckled.

“Well what about the food? Does she know what we are going to eat out here?”

I pointed her way without bothering to look. She squeaked. “Me?! We’re going to eat me?!”

The rest of us laughed heartily. When he was done, H- said “She meant you were in charge of that. I think. I mean, we could try and eat you for supper if you want. Your idea, I suppose,”

“Oh, very funny!” Ch- snapped.

“It was your idea,” D- said smugly.

And so the day wore on.

Tirelessly we retraced the lands we’d just crossed that day. Night was falling and still I did not want to rest. It grew dark around us and H- suggested we rest but I felt deaf to his words. The jug now strapped to my back I felt the tug, the pull, ad followed it relentlessly.

“Are you going to walk us to death? We need to eat!” Ch- called out bitterly from behind. As I turned I realized they all were behind, lagging in exhaustion. A bolt of fear ran through me. I’d been too caught up in myself to guide them properly. So I rushed towards them, shaking my head. D- smiled wearily at me as I took them by the shoulders in a silent plea for forgiveness. The purple lips chuckled and their warm hands patted my arms. “You look so worried. We are not that tired. We can keep walking if you feel the need to.”

I shook my head vehemently. Looking around, I took in the lands around us. Curving pillars of rock that jutted up from the bedrock. here and there it lay bare in cresting slices like waves. moss grew over it, red in hue and determined. Bitter, too. Not good to eat.

I pointed to Ch-, and desperately tried to speak. Guilt pressed heavily over me. How long had we walked? The night was very dark and the moon treacherously high in the sky. “F-f-f-”

“Food?” Ch- asked with a sneer. “How am I to find that?”

“I think that any hunter worth their salt can find that, even in this dark,” D- said smoothly as they took my hands from their shoulders. “Why not cast camp? I will go find flowers and the good moss. At least that can ease our hunger.”

Ch- made an unhappy rasping sound at the idea. It was not a filling supper, certainly, and for that I felt guilty. But as D- walked away H- shook his head and smiled at me. “You are certainly a very motivated leader. I am glad I followed you.”

I nodded firmly, courage returning. Once more I knew that I would lead them. It was in the pull, in my destiny. Fated.

Then D- came running back. A thick chunk of moss peppered with flowers was clutched in one fist, and the other pointed to the sky wildly. “The eye! The eye! Look-” and we all did.

It was nearly invisible in this dark. The sky, already hued with a gentle covering of clouds, was now bearing a swiftly moving blot. That’s all it was, a blot that moved with a silver hue to it. It glistened, and those sparkling shards moved amongst it. What gleamed the most, and could be seen clearly when the moonlight struck it a certain way, or when it blinked, was the eyes. Those monstrous things.

Ch- made an angry noise, her horns and fins rising along her face. Her sword drew with a hiss- but I held out a hand. We were tired. The fight was not for now.

Crouching to the ground, I urged the others to follow. Like when a violent storm came, I lay down flat on the earth. In a crevice of the rocky plains, so that I may blend in.

Hesitantly the other followed. Ch- did so with much more noise. “That is all? We are lying down? Is this your idea of a fight?”

I clapped a hand over her mouth and forced her head down into the earth.

Overhead, the cloud was passing. The eyes were fixated upon the horizon as if still seeing our people far away. My stomach churned, first with fear, then with anxious realization as its tail wound through the air above us and it progressed towards the ocean. It would follow them. They were not safe. It soared on as if the waters were no barrier for it- and only once it grew faint over the sky did I try and rise.

Three pairs of hands yanked me down. Ch- muttered in a low hiss, the only one daring to speak. “Look, you idiot! Look before you move!”

Forced to, I did. Horror seized me. The urge to scream and run was overwhelming as I saw more clouds than ever before. This was more than any storm could furnish.

They were layered three high, piling over each other. They filled the sky now, from the horizon and beyond and now this army was passing over us. Gliding oozily on, they moved like oil over water. They would merge as the winds pushed them together then they would part in different ways as they drifted on. Each eye was special, different from the others in its shape or color. Some were purple, some shimmered and others gleamed with the power over fire or light itself. Yet they never stayed still. Restless, agitated, they would shift with the moving of the wind and pass from one cloud to another, then back again and perhaps on to yet another cloud. It was senseless and strange. Terrifying in how unlike it was anything natural or correct in this world.

It seemed like an eternity we lay there, breathing heavily and yet trying not to breathe from fright. It was senseless to fight this many- and was there even a point to try and keep fighting? To my horror I realized that now was the time we could confront them and yet it was impossible. Not that many. We were but four and they- thousands!

Thoughts jumbled and fear came in waves as I saw eyes blinking and glancing down at the earth occasionally. Yet we were not seen. Mercifully, as the sun began to gleam on the horizon, the sky was clear once more. Stars sparkled as if to comfort us.

We rose, achy and trembling. “Well that was mighty brave of us,” Ch- said with sarcasm. Irritated, she brushed dust and dew from herself.

D- scowled and looked down at the moss and flowers they still held in their hands. H- shook himself off and readjusted his scarf. “What do we do now?” he asked softly. “They have passed us and there is no way we’ll ever fight them all.”

I rubbed my neck and looked at the sky. fear seemed to have loosened my tongue. “We- south, still,” I nodded with determination. “Fight them later.” They would come back, something told me. They were hunting our people, and soon they would realize some had escaped. They would chase after us.

“How exactly do you plan on killing all of those things?” Ch- said sharply. “There were three thousand of them!”

I startled. So did H- and D-, who said what I wasn’t thinking. “You counted?” D- asked.

“Well someone had to,” Ch- said bitterly. “I counted the eyes. There was a lot, but only so many per cloud. Roughly, there was three thousand.”

I plucked at some dirt stuck to my arm. Three thousand… “South,” I insisted. “We go south. Then, we go north.” And I nodded to Ch- in deference. Once I’d led, then it would be her turn. We would try every plan we could think of.

Ch- seemed startled by this. She paused, looking me over as if expecting this to be some trick. With a certain amount of caution she nodded while crossing her arms. “What do you expect to find down south? Do you think they have built a stronghold?”

Their lands are the wind, and beyond the sea. They swept down from the stars- why would they have built anything upon the land that is so fragile to them? No, I did not know what I was searching for. But the jug tugged me home.

I tried to say all this, that in their tracks we may find how to destroy those white eyes that we’d only ever been able to turn away- but all that came out was a garble. In my haste my tongue was not even making words.

Ch- seemed to deflate. Scoffing she looked away. “We’re following a babbling fool,” she muttered before H- smacked her on the back of the head.

“She’s not a fool,” he hissed “she just can’t talk.”

“But children can do that! Even infants can speak more than she- ” I turned my back and pointed to the moss that D- was sourly still holding. We needed to eat, then we needed to rest. I gestured to my mouth, then to the earth and feigned resting.

“Good idea,” D- said swiftly before Ch- could interrupt. “We ought to at least rest a little. I will take the first watch.” And they set about pulling utensils from their bag to grind up the moss and soften the flowers for eating. I plopped to sit on the earth, taking the jug from my back and setting it into my lap. It’s blue glaze sparkled at me, bumps glistening in the early sun’s rays. What message did this jug now bear? As I pondered that, Ch- sat near me. For a blink of an eye we looked at each other, then she looked away as if offended. I returned to contemplating the jug.

Once we ate we lay down to rest. D- took the first watch of an hour, as they had said. H- took the rest. Ch- and I would take the watch when we next rested. For now, we slept a precious few hours before it grew too hot to sleep. Then, we wrapped the scarves around us and plodded on.